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  • Writer's pictureShannon

Open your third eye - How about drilling a hole on your skull to stay high forever?

Weeks ago I was on YouTube, having some trashy self-time, when I came across a documentary named A Hole in the Head, for which the cover picture was a skull with a hole. I thought it was related to archaeology, so I clicked in. Shocking… The first image that came to me was of a lady in a virginally white dress, heavily stained with blood. Her head was wrapped with a thick layer of bandage, and of course there was blood on it. She was looking into a mirror, smiling, and gently wiping blood off her face. It frightened me but I was curious – in the same way that we love horror movies, for that rush of excitement. I learnt that the documentary was all about drilling a hole in the skull. There were a lot of graphic scenes in the documentary that I could hardly bear to look at.

Trepanation: the procedure of drilling a hole in the skull and leaving it to heal naturally. Eventually it turns into a small bump on the head. The reason for undergoing trepanation differs with time and from culture to culture. Generally, trepanation is said to produce a prolonged positive effect on the trepanned individual’s mood and achieve a higher state of consciousness.

The procedure of trepanation was first introduced in the Stone Age. Up until the Middle Ages, people believed this ancient surgical technique could liberate demons from the head of the possessed. These demons were said to be the cause of mental illness, or any kind of sickness that could not be cured at that time. An apparatus called a Trepan was used to make a hole in the skull, then the skull was scraped using a sharpened stone, such as flint or obsidian, until a chunk of the skull was extracted. Some of the earliest trepanations could reach three to four inches in diameter, and patients had only about a 40% survival rate. Trepans evolved over time from just a sharpened stone to hand-cranked augers and finally to the electric drills used today, in the 21st Century. Obviously, trepanation is not a bygone practice.

Trepanation is still a common surgery today in the Western world, although the motives for it have shifted from the mystic to the scientific. The survival rate of trepanation nowadays can reach up to 99% if the area is sanitised and cleansed properly. Believe it or not, some people actually trepan themselves at home, using anaesthetic, and they live a healthy life afterwards, or even, allegedly, a better life. (However I DO NOT recommend you try it at home!)

While I was researching the scientific base for trepanation, I read a really interesting theory proposed in 1962 by Dr Bart Hughes, the founder of modern trepanation. He also appeared in the documentary A Hole in the Head.

‘Humans have been robbed of a high range of consciousness, because we began to walk upright, putting the heart below the brain. This state of affairs could be corrected by standing on one’s head, or taking various drugs to let more blood flow to the brain. When we are born, our head are unsealed. We have all heard of the soft spot on [the] top of a baby’s head. The way to gain back the state of imagination and perception that one experiences as a child is to open a hole in the now-sealed adult skull.’

The justification of Dr Hughes’s theory is that, with the skull unsealed, more blood is allowed to circulate freely to the brain, which can help to maximise its function.

The most common benefit I found online from people who got trepanned or self-trepanned is that they claim to have achieved a new state of consciousness, such as an increased ability to concentrate and an improved ability to listen. They also claimed that the trepanation cured chronic headaches, and one person even described having trepanation done as a way to ‘stay high forever’.

A British couple, Joe and Jenny Gathorne-Hardy, were profiled in the documentary. They trepanned for the sake of enlightenment:

‘If an adult is zero, and acid is 100 and, say, smoking is 50 or 60, then trepanation is perhaps 30,’ Joe said.

It is impossible not to mention Amanda Feilding while talking about trepanation. She is the lady who scared me at the beginning of the documentary. Amanda is a British artist who made her own documentary in 1970, entitled, Heartbeat in the Brain, in which she trepanned herself in front of the camera. She is the director of the Beckley Foundation, a trust that has been carrying out research into consciousness. From cannabis and LSD to Buddhist meditation, their work spans the whole mind-altering range.

Although I would very much love to watch Amanda’s documentary, Heartbeat in the Brain, there is no way for me to watch it now, even via any illegal online site. The entire film has never surfaced online and was only screened twice. The first of these was in 1978, at the Suydam Gallery in New York, during which at least one audience member fainted; the second was in April 2011, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. I think the reason why Amanda chose not to screen it often or upload it online is that self-trepanation is a practice that she strongly advises against.

Despite what pro-trepanation advocates claim, many scientists believe trepanation cannot bring any tangible benefits to human beings. Neuroscientist Dr Louis Sokoloff, who was interviewed in the The Hole in the Head, said,

‘There is no evidence that, under normal circumstances, the brain function is limited by blood flow. Even if you increased the volume of blood going to the brain, the result is only temporary, as it would reach a new state, unless the space under the scalp just keeps swelling. You can’t keep increasing the volume of spinal fluid under the skin’. He laughed hysterically as he finished.

Being high forever without taking any drugs might be fascinating for many people, but are you willing to go through all the pain, and the risk of dying from drilling too deeply into your skull? I am not, at least any time soon…


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