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Auto-trepanadores: drilling the head to experiment with the conscience

Auto-trepanadores: drilling the head to experiment with the conscience

September 10, 2022

In 1967 Joe Mellen, a British citizen of 30 years, He tried to drill his skull with a manual trephine (resembling a corkscrew) while he was drugged with acid. After failing in his first attempt he repeated the procedure the following year with the same result. Finally, in 1970 he managed to make a hole in the upper area of ​​the forehead with an electric drill. But the story does not end there.

In that same year, his wife, the artist Amanda Feilding (27 years old), also pierced her skull, she did it with an electric dentist's wheel. The procedure was recorded by Mellen, resulting in something currently considered a cult video. "Heartbeat in the brain", which is what the tape is called, can be seen on Youtube and is material that is not apt for apprehension. The motive is the supposed potential that this absurd practice has to do with the will to "expand the mind" , in the same way that you usually experiment with certain types of drugs.


This story is one of those many examples of the extent to which magical thinking, irrational experimentation and the desire to go through supposedly catharchical experiences can lead to defend a philosophy of life based on a mixture of suggestion and the risk of dying in strange circumstances.

  • Related article: "This is how LSD creates sleep states while awake"

The origin of the story: Bart Huges

Both were influenced by the Dutch physician Bart Huges, an expert in psychoactive substances (mainly LSD), who in 1962 had claimed that the blood volume of the brain conditions the person's state of consciousness. According to Huges's theory, the adoption of the erect posture in the evolution of hominids had a negative impact at a cognitive and even physiological level : when standing, the heart of humans must deal with the gravity force to bring blood upwards, in the direction of the brain, which ultimately resulted in a reduction of blood flow in the brain. Or at least, that thought Huges.


It is for that first reason why Huges advocated trepanation: piercing the skull (without going through the meninges) to supposedly increase the amount of blood that remains in the brain. The second reason is the sealing of the skull that takes place in humans between 18 and 21 years. According to the author, before that period the infantile skull is only partially closed, presumably favoring a greater blood supply to the brain, and greater irrigation would favor greater awareness and creativity in the individual by making the brain work with a better performance.

What Huges's theory summarizes is the concept of Ego, which for him was the system that distributes blood throughout the body. Blood is not sent evenly , and from his point of view the fact that the part of the brain that receives the most blood is the area of ​​speech and abstract thinking makes other regions of the brain receive less.


This has to do with the fact that evolutionarily speaking is the part that has monopolized the most recent development of the brain in evolutionary terms. Always according to the author, making a hole in the skull would allow a greater flow and a more balanced and homogeneous irrigation throughout the brain.

The cases of Mellen and Feilding

Returning to our story: Joe Mellen met Bart Huges in 1965 in Ibiza, in the midst of the whirlwind of the Beat movement and the beginnings of acid consumption. At that time, Dr. Huges had already climbed his skull himself. When Mellen got to know her ideas, I was experimenting with LSD and other potent drugs .

On the other hand, when Amanda Feilding met Dr. Huges, she came to study the religions of different countries and historical periods, as well as the mysticisms of the initiatory rites of various cultures. It was not until 5 years later that the members of the marriage decided to practice trepanation, thus mixing the will to live new altered states of consciousness, and a fascination for the ritual moments.

Both Amanda Feilding and Joe Mellen come from well-bred English families. Feilding was born into a family of English aristocrats and Mellen studied in Oxford and left her postgraduate studies (and a practically resolved life) to devote herself to live a life free of a good part of the typical responsibilities of western adults .

The experience

When asked about the experience in interviews in year 70, both agreed that it was an operation with satisfactory results; Amanda relates that the whole process did not last more than half an hour.When finishing the task he wrapped his head with a scarf, ate a steak to recover the lost iron and went to party. Literally.

It is precisely Amanda who describes in more detail what one experiences when they pierce his skull: just when he finished making his hole, he experienced it as "the arrival of a tide". He said he noticed a feeling of growth, slow and smooth.

Joe's experience was somewhat more uneven because during the procedure he broke the cord of the drill and had to go down to have it fixed with a towel on his head. In the course of a few hours, after having finished, he felt a sensation, according to him, of lightness. He tells everything in his memoir, Bore Hole.

In several interviews, both coincide in pointing out that The ultimate goal of trepanation is to open the brain "to the heartbeat" , heartbeat, which is what according to them is deprived the brain with the sealing of the skull in adolescence.

How do they live now?

Feilding currently runs an art gallery in London and is also director of the Beckley Foundation, a Think Tank dedicated to the study of consciousness and all those tools to alter it, both psychoactive substances and meditation, among others. The study of physical mechanisms to achieve altered states of consciousness, in short.

Joe Mellen holds conferences in which he gives the testimony of his youth, gathered in Bore Hole, recently updated. Said book is an authentic plea in favor of the use of psychoactive drugs and the practice of trepanation . Although both Feilding and Mellen are openly supporters of that practice, they strongly recommend that no one perform this operation on their own. Feilding itself submitted to the British Parliament elections with the promise of guaranteeing free trepanation for social security in its program. It is not a joke.

What we can learn from all this

Those who defend trepanation as something recommendable they argue that it is a practice that has been taking place since the dawn of civilization and that therefore it has to be necessarily beneficial. The experts in the subject place the beginnings of this operation in 5000 a.C. and even before, and there is archaeological evidence that it was a fairly common practice since the Neolithic. Needless to say, this argument has little to do since there are much older traditions such as stoning, animal abuse or domestic violence and should not be maintained. The classic argument of "we must continue doing it because we have always done it that way" is ruled out flat.

Regarding the improvement of health that may have, the release of the mind and consciousness, it should be remembered that no evidence has been found in any scientific study that supports this thesis and that modern neurology states that this operation lacks medical basis, besides being evidently a very dangerous practice, and potentially painful or even deadly , especially taking into account that people who practice self-trepanation do not do it for medical purposes.

The suggestion, the fact that thinking that trepanning makes change the way of experiencing things make us effectively notice different (in the best case, just that), acts as a motor of a series of totally irrational beliefs. That's why it is important not to launch practices contraindicated by medicine in regard to a set of organs as important as the brain.


Catherine Mohr: Surgery's past, present and robotic future (September 2022).


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