|10 June 1983
||New Dimensions Radio
(*Note- this may not be the complete talk or the actual title of the talk!*)
Terence McKenna in conversation with Michael Toms
Terence McKenna: The human imagination, in conjunction with technology, has become a force so potent that it really can no longer be unleashed on the surface of the planet with safety. The human imagination has gained such an immense power that the only environment that is friendly to it is actually the vacuum of deep space. It is there that we can erect the architectonic dreams that drive us to produce a Los Angeles or a Tokyo, and do it on a scale and in such a way that it will be fulfilling rather than degrading. So yes, I think we cannot move forward in understanding without accepting as a consequence of that that we have to leave the planet, that we are no longer the bipedal monkeys we once were. We have become almost a new force in nature, a thing of language and cybernetics and an amalgam of computers and human brains and societal structures that has such an enormous forward momentum that the only place where it can express itself without destroying itself is, as James Joyce says, "up n'ent!"
Q: So long long ago in the far away gala
TM: Well, it's in our present I think. Our future is probably almost unimaginable because I think the transformation that leaving the planet will bring will also involve a transformation of our consciousness. We are not going as 1950s style human beings. We are going to have to transform our minds before we are going to be able to leave the planet with any amount of grace. This is where I think the psychedelics come in because they are anticipations of the future. They seem to channel information that is not strictly governed by the laws of normal causality. So that there really is a prophetic dimension, a glimpse of the potential of the far centuries of the future through these compounds. No cultural shift of this magnitude can be unambiguous, i mean the very idea that as a species we would leave the earth behind us must be as rending an idea as that a child would leave its childhood home. Obviously it's a turning away from something that, once left behind, can never be recaptured. However, this is the nature of going forward into being, a series of self-transforming ascents of level. And we now simply happen to be at that moment of ascent to a new level that is linked to leaving the planetary surface physically and to reconnecting to the contents of the unconscious collectivity of our minds. These two things will be done simultaneously. This is what the last half of the 20th century, it seems to me, is all about.
Q: Well by and large psychedelics have really not been accepted into the mainstream. Do you see a change in that?
TM: Well, not particularly. They hold a certain fascination for a persistent majority, and in that way they do their catalytic work on society, which is to introduce new ideas and to release a certain kind of creative energy into society. I certainly would not like to see a return to the psychedelic hysterias of the 1960s. I think it's fine that these things are now the subject of interest of a much smaller group of people, but perhaps a group of people with a greater commitment and a better idea of exactly what these things are. And it's really the same people. It's just a smaller group of them, and they have accumulated experience over the past 20 years. However I certainly don't think all psychedelic frontiers are conquered. One of the things that I write about and speak about are the phenomena that many people confirm with the psilocybin family of hallucinogens that no one has included in the standard model of psychedelic drugs, and by that I refer to the Logos-like phenomenon of an interiorized voice that seems to be almost a superhuman agency, a kind of genus loci. And I have been writing recently about alien intelligence, which is what i call this, where you have contact with an entity so beyond the normal structure of the ego that if it is not an extraterrestrial it might as well be because its bizarreness and its distance from ordinary expectations about what can go on is so great that if flying saucers arrived here tomorrow from the Pleiades, it would make this mystery no less compelling because I believe that the place to search for extraterrestrials is in the psychic dimension. And there the problem is not the absence of contact, but the volume of contact that must be sifted through because the fact of the matter is shaman and mystics and seers have been hearing voices and talking to gods and demons since the paleolithic and probably before. That doesn't mean that we can rule out this approach to communication. It seems to me far more likely that an advanced civilization would communicate interdimensionally and telepathically. That amounts of time available for intelligent species to evolve these kinds of communication are vast. So I think that it's very interesting then that the tryptamines, psilocybin and DMT, at the 15 milligram level, very reliably trigger what could only be described as contact-like phenomena. Not only the interiorized voice in the head, but also the classical flying saucer motifs of the whirling disk, the lens-shaped object, the alien approach. This seems to be something hard-wired into the human psyche, and I would like to find out why. I think it's a very odd fact of human psychology, and I don't buy any of the current theories ranging from that nothing at all is happening to that this is in fact another species with a world around another star that is getting in touch with us. I think it's something that's so bizarre so that it actually masquerades as an extraterrestrial so as not to alarm us by the true implications of what it is.
But I suspect it is something like an overmind of the species, that actually the highest form of human organization is not realized in the democratic individual. It is realized in a dimension none of us have ever penetrated, which is the mind of the species, which is actually the hand at the tiller of history. It is no government, no religious group, but actually what we call the human unconscious, but it is not unconscious, and it is not simply a cybernetic repository of myth and memory. It is an organized entelechy of some sort, and human history is its signature on the primates, and it is so different from the primates. It is like a creature of pure information. It is made of language. It releases ideas into the flowing stream of history to boost the primates towards higher and higher levels of self reflection of it. And we have now reached the point where the masks are beginning to fall away, and we're discovering that there is an angel within the monkey struggling to get free, and this is what the historical crisis about. And I'm, for no reasons in particular, very optimistic. I see it as a necessary chaos that will lead to a new and more attractive order.
Q: Terence you were talking about extra-ordinary realities. It occurs to me that there's an enormous amount of prejudice against the psychedelics and the use of hallucinogenic substances. It's almost as if there's an inordinate fear to open up the door to the closet that these substances reveal. What about that prejudice? What do you think, how's that going to be resolved?
TM: Well I think it's more complicated that a prejudice. it's a prejudice born of respect because most people sense that these compounds probably actually do what their adherents claim they do. It's possible to see the whole human growth movement of the 1970s as a wish to continue the inward quest without having to put yourself on the line the way you had to when you too 250 gamma of LSD. And I think all these other methods are efficacious, but I think it's the sheer power of the hallucinogens that puts people off. You either love them or you hate them, and that's because they dissolve world views. And if you like the experience of having your entire ontological structure disappear out from under you , if you think that's a thrill, you'll probably love psychedelics. On the other hand, for some people that's the most horrible thing they could possibly imagine. They navigate reality through various forms of faith, and I think that the psychedelics, the doors of perception are cleansed and you see very very deeply. I spent time in India, and I would always go to the local sadhus * of great reputation, and I met many people who possessed wise old man wisdom. But wise old man wisdom is a kind of Tao of how to live. It has nothing to say about these dimensions that the psychedelics reveal. For that you have to go to places where hallucinogenic shamanism is practiced, specifically the Amazon Basin. And there you discover that beyond simply the wisdom of how to live in ordinary reality, there is a gnosis of how to navigate in extra-ordinary reality. And this reality is so extra-ordinary that we cannot approach what these people are doing with any degree of smugness because the frank fact of the matter is that we have no viable theory of what mind is either. The beliefs of the Wetoto shaman and the beliefs of a Princeton phenomenologist have an equal chance of being correct, and there are no arbiters of who is right
So It's the power of these things, the fact that here is something we have not assimilated. We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean, the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that here is where all the contradictions flow together. And the same prejudice against psychoanalysis that characterized the 20s and 30s when it was thought to be a superfluous or some kind of fad attends the psychedelics now. It's because it touches a very sensitive nerve. It touches the issue of the nature of man, and people are uncomfortable with this, or some people are uncomfortable with this.
Q: What is the value of exploring the extraordinary realities?
TM: Well I guess it's the same value that attends the exploration of ordinary realities. There's an alchemical saying that one should read the oldest books, climb the highest mountains, and visit the broadest deserts. I think that being imposes some kind of obligation to figure out what is going on. And since all primary information about what is going on comes through the senses, any drug or any compound which alters that sensory input has to be looked at very carefully. I have often made the point that chemically speaking, you can have a molecule which is completely inactive as psychedelic, and you move a single atom on one of its rings, and suddenly it's a powerful psychedelic. Well now, it seems to me this is a perfect proof of the inner penetration of matter an mind. The movement of a single atom from one known position to another known position chances an experience from nothing to overwhelming. This means that mind and matter at the quantum mechanical level are all spun together. This means that in a sense the term extraordinary reality is not correct if it implies a division of category from ordinary reality. It is simply there is more and more and more of reality, and some of it is inside our heads, and some of it is deployed out through three dimensional Newtonian space.
Q: Most of us I think just simply accept the everyday reality as the only one, and you're talking about journeys into the nether regions, far beyond most peoples' conception or even wanting to conceive of such a reality.
TM: Well I think there's a shamanic temperment, which is a person who craves knowledge, knowledge in the Greek sense of gnosis. IN other words, knowledge not of the sort where you subscribe to Scientific American and it validates what you believe, but cosmologies constructed out of immediate experience that are found always to be applicable. You see I don't believe that the world is made out of quarks or electromagnetic waves or stars or any of these things. I think that the world is made out of language, and that this is the primary fact that has been overlooked. The construction of a flying saucer is not so much a dilemma of hardware as it is a poetic challenge. And people find it very hard to imagine exactly what I"m talking about. What I'm saying is the leading edge of reality is mind, and mind is the primary substratum of being. We in the West have had it the wrong way around for over a millenia, but once this is clearly understood, with what we have learned in our little excursion through three dimension space and matter we will create a new vision of humanity that will be a fusion of the East and the West.
Q: Well a world being made of language, and I think of these extraordinary realities which are totally beyond any language that we use in any ordinary sense
TM: Yes well they are beyond ordinary language. I always think of PHylojudeas writing on the logos. He posed to himself the question: What would be a more perfect logos? And then he answered, saying it would be a logos which is not heard, but beheld, and he imagined a form of communication where the ears would not be the primary receptors but the eyes would be. A language where meaning was not constructed through a dictionary of little mouth noises, but actually three dimensional objects were generated with a kind of hyper-language so that there was perfect understanding between people. And this may sound bizarre in ordinary reality, but these forms of synesthesia and synesthesia-glossolalia are commonplace in psychedelic space.
Q: Terence could you identify Phylos for us and tell us who he was?
TM: He was an Alexandrian Jew of the second century who made it his business to travel around the Hellenic world and discussed all the major cults and religious and cosmogonic theories of his day. So he's a major source of Hellenistic data for us.
TM: How would you relate to Socrates' view of the world.
Q: Well, I think that it's hard not to be a platonist, but it's something perhaps we should struggle against or at least struggle to modify. I think of myself as sort of a Whiteheadian platonist. Certainly the central Platonic idea which is the idea of the ideas, these archetypal forms which stand ouside of time, is one which is confirmed by the psychedelic experience. And Plato's formation of time as the moving image of eternity is another one of these aphorisms that the psychedelic state confirms. And certainly Neoplatonism, Plotinus and Poriphry, and that school are psychedelic philosophers. Their idea of an ascending hierarchy of more and more rarefied states is a sophisticated presentation of the shamanic cosmology which is the cosmology that one experientially discovers when they involve themselves with psychedelics.
TM: What I think most of us don't understand or don't really know is the fact that Greek cultures and Elucinean * mysteries incorporated the use of something very akin to psychedelics. That essentially Western civilization is based on the culture that had at its core root an experience and a ritual that used something akin to psychedelics.
Yes well for over two thousand years, anyone who was anyone in the ancient world made the pilgrimage to Eleusis, and had this experience which Gordon Wasson and Carl Ruck * have argued very convincingly was a hallucinogenic intoxication on ergot. But of course, as soon as the church solidified its power it closed these platonic academies and moved against pagan, so-called pagan knowledge and heretical knowledge and not only the platonists, but all the gnostic sects. All of these people, all of these viewpoints were repressed. I like to think that the end of that repression came in a very odd way when in 1953 I guess it was, Gordon Wasson and his wife Valentina in the viliage in *Hwuads in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, discovered the psilocybin mushroom cult. It was as if Eros, who had been martyred in the old world, was then found sleeping in the mountains of Mexico and resurrected. And the experience of the mushroom is very much the experience of a genus loci, a God on the Grecian model, not the God who hung the stars in heaven but a local god. A pre-Christian bacchanalian nature-power that is very alien and yet resonates with our expectation of what that experience would be like.
Interesting that the mushroom also is a symbol in our culture of death and destruction, being the symbol of the nuclear explosion.
TM: Yes well my brother has made the point asking what mushroom is it that grows at the end of history? Is it the mushroom of Fermi and Oppenhimer and Teller, or is it the mushroom of Wasson and Hoffman and Humphrey Osmond?
Q: Somehow I think the latter is safer (laughter)
TM: Well it may not only be safer, it may open the way to escape from the former. It's like a pun in physics that the force of liberation and the force of destruction could take the same form. It's what the alchemists call a coincidencia oppositorum.
Q: It is an amazing synchronicity it seems, that. Also I was interested, I was talking with Andy Wile some time ago about the fact that there are a new genus of mushroom appearing that have psilocybin in them that had never been seen before, never been tracked before, and it's almost as if they're appearing now.
TM: Well it's amazing how many have been discovered since people have bent their attention to it. There have been psilocybin mushrooms reported from England, France, localities where so far as we know there is no cultural history of usage at all. However it's interesting that cultural usage seems to disappear very early in human history. Hallucinogens are hardly even welcome in agricultural societies. I think it was Weston LeBar made the point that once you learn how to grow plants, your god shifts from the ecstatic god of the hallucinogens to the corn god or the food god, and it no longer is about divining the hunt and weather through the ecstatic use of hallucinogen. It's about being able to get up every morning and go to work and hoe the crop. So you mentioned earlier the prejudice against hallucinogens, I think it reaches back to the beginning of agriculture. This competition among plant gods which exemplified lifestyles that must have seemed very alien to each other.
Q: Is psilocybin illegal?
TM: Oh yes, it's a schedule 1 drug. Without any public debate it was placed on the list at the same time that LSD was, and yet the issue was always couched in terms of LSD being made illegal, but actually at that point in time a whole bunch of things were made illegal. And there was never any public debate. All psychedelics were viewed as the same drug, and LSD was used as the model. Actually, these drugs, there's a spectrum of psychedelic effects and certain drugs trigger some of them and certain ones others, but yes, psilocybin is illegal.
Q: Are the mushrooms illegal?
TM: The mushrooms also are illegal as they contain psilocybin.
Q: I got a call from Andy Wild saying he walked down a downtown Seattle residential street picking up psilocybin mushrooms from the front yards of residential homes.
TM: (laughing) Well English law took the view that it was preposterous to try and outlaw a naturally occurring plant, and they took the position that only the chemical was illegal which I think is a very wise position. But I noticed that Canada recently chose the American interpretation over the British one.
Q: Interesting. Turns out, going back to the Andy Wild story, that the reason that these mushrooms were in such plenitude in various locales in the northwest was that their spores were contained in a mail order company's mushroom growing product that they sent out mail order. And so...
TM: Yes, this is an interesting phenomenon. You see, the spores of the mushroom are not illegal because they do not contain psilocybin. They only contain the message and the DNA of the mushroom for the production of psilocybin, so it's a kind of bizarre catch-22. The mushroom spores can move anywhere legally, can be bought and sold, but they are the sine-qua-non for the production of mushrooms of course.
Q: Terence the kind of knowledge and the kind of information you're putting forth is not generally available. It's not the kind of information or knowledge that one would find in the typical academic anthropology curriculum. And yet it seems to be a knowledge that is ever expanding, but somehow it's outside of the cultural institutional entities in some way. Number one, why do you think that's the case- of course there's a logical answer to that one. What do you see as the future of this kind of information, this kind of knowledge.
TM: Well I think in a sense it signals the rebirth of the institution of shamanism in the context of modern society, and anthropologists have always made the point about shaman, that they were very important social catalysts in their group, but they were always peripheral to it, peripheral to the political power and actually usually physically peripheral, living at some distance from the village. And I think the electronic shaman, the people who pursue the exploration of these spaces, exist to return to tell the rest of us about it, that we are now coming into a period of racial maturity as a species where we can no longer have forbidden areas of the human mind or cultural machinery. We have taken upon ourselves the acquisition of so much power that we now must understand what we are. We cannot travel much further with the definitions of man that we inherit from the Judeo-christian tradition. We need to truly explore the problem of consciousness because as man gains power he is becoming the defining fact on the planet in the near space area. So the question that looms is, is man good? And then, if he is, what is it he's good for. And the shaman will point the way, because what they are are visionaries, poets, cultural architects, forecasters, all these roles which we understand in more conventional terms rolled into one and raised to the nth power. They are cultural models for the rest of us. This has always been true, that the shaman has access to a superhuman dimension and a superhuman condition, and by being able to do that he affirms the trans...the potential for transcendence in all people. He is an exemplar, if you will. And I see the attention that's been given to these things signaling a sense on the part of the society that we need a return to these models. This is why, for instance, in the Star Wars phenomenon Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Skywalker is a direct translation of the word 'shaman' out of the Temgusik which is where Siberian shamanism comes from. So these heroes that are being instilled in the heart of the culture are shamanic heroes. They control a force which is bigger than everybody and holds the galaxy together. This is true as a matter of fact, and as we explore how true it is, the limitations of our previous world view will be exposed for all to see. I think it was J. B. S. Haldane who said 'the world may not only be stranger than we suppose, it may be stranger than we can suppose'.
I think that the character Yoda describes a sort of shamanic character.
Very much so
As we talk about shamans and shamanism, again that brings up cross-cultural currents. Do you see the shaman taking on a new...certainly you don't see Indian shamans walking into the metropolitan areas...but do you see the shaman taking on a new form?
Well I believe, along with Gordon Wasson and others, but in distinction to Merciliad who is a major writer on shamanism, that it is hallucinogenic shamanism that is primary, and that where shamanic techniques are used to the exclusion of hallucinogenic drug ingestion, the shamanism tends to be visciated it is more like a ritual enactment of what real shamanism is. So that the shamanism that is coming to be is coming to be within people in our culture, people who feel comfortable with psychedelic drugs and who, by going into those spaces and then returning with works of art or poetic accounts or scientific ideas are actually changing the face of the culture. I connect the psychedelic dimension to the dimension of inspiration and dream. I think history has always progressed by the bubbling up of ideas from these nether dimensions into the minds of receptive men and women. It is simply that now with the hallucinogens we actually have a tool to push the button. We are no longer dependent upon whatever factors is that previously controlled the ingresion of novelty into human history. We have taken that function to ourselves, and this will accelerate and intensify the cultural crisis. But I think in the end it will lead much sooner to its resolution.
Q:So as we continue to move towards the further exploration of the spaces. We can expect that social change is a result?
TM: Tremendous social change. I see in fact what is happening is a tendency to what I call turn the body inside out. We are through our media and our cybernetics, we are actually approaching the point where consciousness can be experienced in a state of disconnection from the body. We have changed. We are no longer, as I said, bipedal monkeys. We are instead a kind of cybernetic coral reef of organic components and inorganic technological components. We have become a force which takes unorganized raw material and excretes technical objects. We have transcended the normal definitions of man. We are like an enormous collective organism with our data banks and our forecasting agencies and our computer networks and the many levels at which we are connected into the universe. Our self image is changing. The monkey is all but being left behind, and all but will be left behind. The flying saucer, again, I take to be an image of the future state of humanity. It is a kind of millenarian transformation of man where the soul is exteriorized as the apotheosis of technology, and it is that eschatological event which is casting enormous shadows backward through time over the historical landscape. That is the siren at the end of time, calling all mankind across the last ten millenia toward it. Calling us out of the trees and into history and through the series of multilevel cultural transitions to the point were the thing within the monkeys, the creature of pure language and pure imagination whose aspirations are entirely titanic in terms of self transformation, that thing is emerging, and it will emerge as man leaves the planet. And i's not something quantized and clearly defined. It is in fact what the next fifty or so years will be about. But at the end of it, the species will be off-planet and transformed, and fully wired from the depths to the heights.
Q: Are we just talking about another version of the Christian death, resurrection, ascention, and heaven?
TM: Except that it is coming into history. What is happening is that the paradise promised the soul is actually going to enter into history because technological man took the apocalyptic aspirations of Christianity so seriously that we are going to make it happen. It has become the guiding image of what we want to be. And I'm reminded of the poem by Yates. It's 'Sailing to Byzantium', where he speaks of how after death, he would like to be an enameled golden object singing to the lords and ladies of Byzantium. And it's the image of man transformed into eternal circuitry and released into a hyperspace of information where you are a thing of circuitry but you appear to be walking along an unspoiled beach in paradise. It is that we are going to find the power to realize our deepest cultural aspirations. This is why we must find out what our deepest cultural aspirations are. Again, another way of phrasing the question 'is man good.'
Q: What about the idea that the spaces that we've been talking about that you've been illuminating are spaces that can be achieved without the use of psychedelics.
TM: Well, again I scoured India and my humble personal opinion is that it is highly unlikely. I have always approached people of spiritual accomplishment with the question 'what can you show me' because as I said earlier this 'wise old man' wisdom is one thing, but only the hallucinogen-using shaman of the Amazon seem to be able to go beyond that. There may be techniques for doing this, but the efficacy and the dependability of the hallucinogens seems to me to make them the obvious choice. It would only be a series of cultural conventions that would cause one to want to engineer around that. It is the obvious path to transendence. People must face the fact that at one level we are chemical machines. That doesn't mean we are that at every level, but it does mean that that is a level where we can intervene to change the pictures that are coming in and going out at higher levels.
Q: You're not suggesting that people should do this by themselves?
TM: Take hallucinogens? Well I don't know about take it by themselves, probably not, though I always do and I seem to prefer it. What I am suggesting is that they take it in a situation of minimum sensory input, lying down in darkness with eyes closed cannot be surpassed, and people want music, they want to walk around in nature, they want all these things. But nature and music are beautiful in their own right. They are the adumbrations of the psychedelic experience that we deal with in ordinary reality. In confrontation with the psychedelic experience, these things are hardly more than impediments. There are very interesting things happening in the utter blackness behind your eyelids, lying still in darkness. And that is where the mystery comes from and goes to.
My question had to do with with or without a guide.
Oh, I don't think people should do it without a guide unless they feel very confident from experience that they don't need a guide. Because I like to have these ideas get out. I think it's important that we discuss all this in a way that is only now becoming possible because of how it was in the 1960s. Now we need to shed all that and look back, and look forward and try to make a mature judgement for our culture based on the facts of the matter.
0:42:08.9 Well someone asked when we first went around to try and talk about the furture. I don't know if I made the point strongly enough. I wasn't sure I felt it click, and I think it's a strong one and it's somewhat new with me. It's this idea that our...that we represent some kind of singularity, or that we announce the nearby presence of a singularity, that the evolution of life and cultural form and all that is clearly funneling toward something fairly unimaginable. I mean I really don't think we can imagine our future because when we try to project some little science fiction scenario of our future, we inevitably select a very small number of trends and then we propagate them forward without integrating the forward propagation of everything else that is going to be happening simultaneously. You know there are options such as nanotechnology, the building of super tiny machines. Space migration was once an option- this seems to be fading,it seems to have been written off the menu by the powers that be as the Soviet Union cracks to pieces, the human race's ability to leave this planet becomes a memory of ancient times. I mean, we could not return to the moon in less than fifteen years if we committed ourselves to it tomorrow, so the space thing seems to have been taken off the agenda. There's nanotechnology, there's virtual reality. The present solution seems to be this enforced larval neoteny on the consuming blue-collar masses, in the high-tech societies, and triage through epidemic disease and mismanagement in the third world. It's a huge mix, this problem of saving the world or halting the forward thrust into catastrophy. People say, well why do you worry about saving the world, you just said it's going to end in 2012. I don't see that rap as any sort of permission for political irresponsibility or a lack of attention to world problems. If it's true, great, we're golden. If it's not true, and what a long shot it is, then we should still keep our eye on the ball with all of this stuff. It is overpopulation is what's driving us crazy. All other problems, toxic waste disposal, epidemic disease, resource extraction, degradation of the environment, collapse of the atmosphere. Inability to satisfy third-world aspirations. All of these problems are population problems. And capitalism doesn't want to talk about it because capitalism is not a human being. Capitalism is a Moloch, a god, a god of bloody sacrifice that sees human beings as ants. And the more ants there are, the more offerings there can be to Moloch, but this is not a good situation for us ants. Capitalism is a gun pointed at the head of global civilization. If you read the theoreticians of capitalism, Adam Smith and so forth, capitalism assumes an unlimited exploitable frontier. There is no such creature, so it has turned pathological. The only frontier now left to exploit is not a frontier in space, but a frontier in time. We steal the future from our children by plunging massively deeper and deeper into debt. But this frontier, the end is in sight, and when we hit that wall we will join the Eastern Bloc in a fundamental reappraisal of our situation. Democracy I believe in. I think democracy is the psychedelic form of government because I don't see it as a product of rational thought. I see it as institutionalized anarchy. Democracy is biology managed for human purposes. It honors the biological unit, it takes the biological unit and gives it a vote, and that's a way for mother nature to then enter into human history. I mean I'm fairly mystical about democracy, sort of like William Blake.
Q: So how are you preparing for 2012 yourself?
TM: Well, by going way out on a limb, I guess. People ask me 'what will you do if nothing happens in 2012'. Well, by god-sent coincidence, my 65th birthday occurs a month before the date, so then I think I'll just steal away in disgrace and find myself a girl on an island who runs fish traps and disappear forever.
As to what I do in the meantime, I don't...I should make it clear. I don't believe this stuff. I find believing in these high-flown complicated synthetic systems to come off sort of like pathology, so I entertain ideas but I don't give the leaf over. I'm very amazed by the timewave. It continuously surprises and delights me. Very few people are obviously as into it as I am, but it's proof enough as far as I'm concerned. I mean, it's all I ever would have asked for. It's the gem from the other, it's aladdin's lamp, it's what I wanted and I got it. At one point in La Chorrera naturally this question arose in our group. Why us? Why are the aliens revealing the unified field theory to us, and the mushroom just replied without hesitation 'because you don't believe in anything.' And that apparently is what's required.
Do you all know that Van Morrisson song about 'no guru, no method no teacher, just you and me and nature, in the garden, in the garden.' I think that's actually where it's at. So what I do between now and 2012 is I'm a meme spreader, a mean replicator, and the purpose of these teaching things is to turn you into fellow replicators of the meme, I mean I see it all in the metaphors of molecular biology. I have a new sequence of codons here, and I want to insert it into each one of you without error in copying and you should go forth and tell other people and copy it into their head, and this meme will spread because we cannot evolve faster than our language. The edge of being is the edge of meaning, and somehow we have to push the edge of meaning, we have to extend it because if we appear to be confronted by insoluble problems it's because we have the wrong language for dealing with this problem. You learn that with computers. Certain languages are good for certain kinds of problems. We have to constantly evolve language and push it forward, and the way I think of the psychedelics is they are catalysts to the imagination. That's what they were back a hundred thousand years ago. The imagination, which was just this glimmering, this iridescence on the surface of ape cognition, was under the influence of the reciprocal feedback of self reflection, you know, that is created by watching your own mind because it has suddenly become interesting, because it has suddenly been flooded by a psychoactive aiming. That iridescence has been coaxed into language, art, architecture, music, poetry, the whole ball of wax. But now we know these things. It's no longer a sort of haphazard process. We can, by analyzing different kinds of cultures existing in the world today and cultures that existed in the past, we can uncover, reveal, unravel the lost secret of our origins. I haven't talked too much this weekend, but I'm very keen for the notion of what I call the archaic revival, and the archaic revival is this overarching metaphor that is the way for us to go to save our necks at this point. When a culture gets into trouble, instinctively what it does is it goes back through its own past until it finds a moment when things seem to make sense, and then it brings that moment forward into the present. The perfect example is when medieval Christianity no longer made sense to a major proportion or percentage of the people of Western Europe because of the rise of new kinds of classes, new forms of wealth, new information about the world outside Europe, when the medieval vision lost its power, the intellectuals of that time instinctively reached backwards into the past looking for a stable model, and finally they reached the golden age of Periclean Athens. And there they found Plato, Aristotle, the dramatists, so forth, and they created Classicism. Notice that we're talking here about the 1400's. Classicism was brought to birth in the 1400's, two thousand years after the death of Plato, and we are still to a tremendous degree, we are the children of this classical revival which we call the renaissance. Our theories of law, our theories of government, our notion of justice, our notions of city planning, of architecture, military planning and so forth, are all drawn from classical Greek and Roman models that were brought back from the dead five hundred years ago by a bunch of Italian investment bankers who thought that this was a good model to build on, to hang their civilization on. And now this has run out. The contradictions are too extreme. This classicism, I don't want to say it's failed, but it has just taken us as far as it can go. So now we again, we confront great existential confusion, we confront cultural values completely different from our own such as rainforest aborigines and so forth. We confront the toxic legacy of modern science, the retreating species counts of the earth, the decaying atmosphere, all these things. So we must now reach far back into time for a new cultural model. Our crisis is so great that we have to reach back to the high paleolithic, to the moment immediately before the invention of agriculture and the creation of the dominator ego. People talk about the new age and the new paradigm and this and that, well it's larger than that. It's been going on throughout the 20th century. The discovery of the purification of mescaline in Berlin in 1987, Freud begins to publish at the turn of the century, Jung....they are discovering the primitive unconscious. They are revealing to Edwardian and Viennese ladies and gentlemen of great culture and breeding that they have inside them brawling, incestuous, violent, lust-driven animal natures. In other words, they are reintroducing an awareness of the primitive into this tremendously constipated male dominated late 19th century post-Victorian cultural milieu. And then, following hard upon them, the impressionists in the 1880s giving way to analytical cubism and all that. Cubism arose as the result of the fascination of a few artists with primitive African masks. Picasso and his circle, and when they brought this stuff back to Paris in 1905 through 15, nobody had ever seen this kind of thing, and these guys began to try to reconstruct the pictorial space of people like Degas and those people into the pictorial space of the primitive mentality. Meanwhile anthropologists were bringing in..and Frazer published The Golden Bow, which laid before the European intellectual community this vast repository of integrated mythology. National socialism, surrealism, all of these things- some negative, some positive- are all aspects of the 20th century fascination and re-vivification of the primitive. Rock and roll, the rise of sexual permissiveness, the rise of styles of dancing which were not the minuet and so forth. All of this signals this fascination with the primitive, but at the center of it stand two phenomena, or two integrated phenomena: the personality of the shaman, and the fact of the psychedelic of experience, and we've come late to that. The 1960's is when this theme was first announced for any large number of people and I think that we have to consciously deconstruct the constipated, classical, industrial, linear, dominator civilization that we're trapped inside because it's a vehicle we can't steer. It's glued to the tracks which run right over the cliff. If we cannot alter the assumptions of this society, if the George Bush's and Helmut Coles of this world are going to continue to run things, then head for the bunkers folks and pray, because the bunkers aren't going to be any consolation.