You know, I come before you with all of this stuff unfinished. This is not a teaching or a system or an anything. It's an eyewitness account of a hyperdimensional automobile accident or something. We're not seeing what the conclusions are. We don't know what the conclusions are, but this is big news. And when I first encountered this kind of stuff, I was a young art historian at the University of California and I assumed that any motif, no matter how autre or bizzare, you would be able to look at the painting, folklore and sculpture of somebody on this planet and find a trace, and it seemed as though this defeated that idea. It was almost counter the idea of the collective unconscious because it argued that you, Joe anybody, Sally somebody, can break through on your own, an ordinary person, to a place that Verrucio never saw, Michaelangelo never anticipated, Yates didn't know, Blake hadn't a clue, Melville wasn't briefed, and yet there it is, you know.
I assumed that any motif, no matter how autre or bizzare, you would be able to look at the painting, folklore and sculpture of somebody on this planet and find a trace, and it seemed as though this defeated that idea. It was almost counter the idea of the collective unconscious because it argued that you, Joe anybody, Sally somebody, can break through on your own, an ordinary person, to a place that Verrucio never saw, Michaelangelo never anticipated, Yates didn't know, Blake hadn't a clue, Melville wasn't briefed, and yet there it is.
And this is, to me as an intellectual, it was very confusing because I think, as intellectuals, we always assume that progress will be built on the shoulders of the giants that have preceded us. The idea of something actually 100% brand new and unexpected is pretty daunting. And here it was, 30 seconds away, simply by the act of ingesting this natural neurotransmitter. Well those of you who've been there know exactly what I'm talking about. Those of you who haven't been there, I can't imagine how you can even sit through this kind of thing because, you know, it makes the folks from the Pleiades and all that other stuff out there seem mundane by comparison.
We assume too much that progress will be built on the shoulders of the giants that have preceded us. This is partially because the idea of something actually 100% brand new and unexpected is extremely daunting.
0:02:09.1 The other thing is, we're not talking about camping out in cornfields night after freezing night with your eyes glued to the stars in one hope. This is a no-fail method for plunging deeper into the spiritual realms than the tantric yogas or the practitioners of x, y or z dare scarcely suppose. It's repeatable, it's on-demand, it does not depend upon your state of moral purity or, you know, tantric accomplishment. It's something that is our birthright as much as our sexuality, our language, our eyesight, our appreciation of music. It's an innate human thing, and, you know, to try to return to the premises of your question, I tried to formulate theories about 'what could this be?'. Well, the first impression that I had based on a reading of how weird this all was, was this must be a parallel continuum a la Philip K. Dick and like that, that just apparently over some kind of neurological energy barrier that's all around us all the time, these things are there, and they are not made of matter, so the laws of physics don't apply, and, mm, you know like that.
This is a no-fail method for plunging deeper into the spiritual realms than the tantric yogas or the practitioners of x, y or z dare scarcely suppose. It's repeatable, it's on-demand, it does not depend upon your state of moral purity or, you know, tantric accomplishment. It's something that is our birthright as much as our sexuality, our language. It is a parallel continuum a la Philip K. Dick. All that needs to be done is to overcome a kind of neurological energy barrier to access a dimension of ability- a hyperobject that is around us all the time. This thing is there- it's a state of mind, just like running enough releases the endorphins. This is not made of matter, so the laws of physics don't apply.
And then, and then I entertained different possibilities, and I still entertain different possibilities, because, you know, I haven't got it figured out yet. One possibility is that these things are actually human beings from the future. I mean if you take the content of the experience seriously and say 'I am apparently in contact with diminutive English-speaking creatures of some sort', well then, they have got to be either intelligent beings from another part of the universe, or humans from some extraordinarily advanced future world where human beings are now made of language and are only two and a half feet tall, so I would put it rather far in the future.
I still entertain different possibilities, because, you know, I haven't got it figured out yet. A form that this idea/hyperobject has assumed in the past is a representation of it as human, as the ancestor spirit. It is literally the non-physical presence of what you can become, the timeless realm is in the imagination, and where there is timelessness
Time travel exists on a continnuum. Getting somewhere faster than before represents a small degree of time travel. When there is no space, there is no time, so traveling to any point is instant because you exist in all points. Less space does not mean fewer possible experiences. The human mind is an other-dimensional object that can navigate space by mapping in intricately to a physical object.
Psychedelics give you experiences of meaning and value that don't take up space. How can you commodify that? Psychedelics are extremely inimical to commodification.
Or, and I just simply offer this in the spirit of intellectual completeness, if you ask a shaman what these things are, they don't hesitate, they just say 'Oh well those are the ancestor spirits.' This is what it's all about, is ancestor spirits. Well, it takes a while for the implications of this to sink in. They're talking about *dead* people. That's what an ancestor spirit is. They're suggesting that the dearly departed do not evanescence into sunlight or something cheerfully non-specific like that, but that this actually is simply one level of a cosmic system of some sort where birth and death are transitions from level to level.
Well this is just exactly the kind of thing that I'm intellectually set up to doubt, and to feel a kind of scorn for because, you know, people have been running around since time immemorial claiming this sort of thing with an incredibly underwhelming body of evidence to back them up. And yet, if you try to approach the problem scientifically, I think you would agree that in terms of likelihood- although operating in this realm, what this means, I'm not sure- but that in terms of likelihood, it's more likely that these are human souls in another dimension than that we are being contacted by extraterrestrials, or even that we share the earth with an invisible race of syntacticial, tribal elf legions of some sort.
But I think that this conclusion is one that we would tend to resist most strenuously. I mean, I think it's the most intellectually challenging position to take vis-a-vis Western thinking to claim that we have to reopen the question of life after death in a serious way. Not the cheerful round of reincarnation that haunts some of the zanier offshoots of Eastern religion, but actually say, you know, you are going to die, and when you die, you are going to undergo a metamorphosis of some sort that is not particularly going to be designed to preserve your humanness, what you call your humanness, or to set you on a cloud with lyre and gown for the rest of eternity, but that actually, the greatest adventure, the greatest adventures still lie ahead, and these things, intimations of immortality, are vouchsafed by these plant hallucinogen.
Why this should be, why it should be possible to get a look over the great divide? I have no idea. I think about these things constantly. My life is mostly questions. My friend Rupert Sheldrake, who some of you know his books, he and I have talked about it. He thinks that there is a chemistry of dying that in the same way that there is a chemistry of giving birth, there is a chemistry of dying, and that DMT parallels and anticipates this. He calls it not a hallucinogen, but a necroptic substance. It actually anticipates the death state itself.
I once had the fortunate opportunity of being able to turn a very prominent Tibetan lama onto DMT, a name that you would recognize, although not one of the top five, but a more wizened, older, stranger character. And, you know, he did it and I said 'so, what about it?' You know, these people, these Tibetan Buddhists, they have a pretty good map of the territory. He said "It's the lesser lights." He said "you can't go further than that without breaking the thread of return." He said, you know, "beyond this, there's no returning." And so in a very real sense it's a look over the edge.
But then even that doesn't solve all the mysteries. I mean what is it about this wish to convey a language which is seen? What's that all about? Is it that...perhaps language has always been a gift from the other. We dont...it's a little hard to picture how the kind of language I'm using right now ever got started. I mean, notice that language is a behavior. It's a behavior, that's all it is. It's something, it's a complex activity having to do with small mouth noises and the neurological processing of same. We must have been essentially as we are before language. It's like breakdancing or something like that. You're fully set up to do it, and people have been for millenia, but until somebody actually does it, it only exists as a formal possibility in the organism.
And I wonder how many of these things there are. I mean breakdancing is an interesting example, albeit somewhat trivial, but it shows that after five, six, seven thousand years of civilization you can come up with a behavior that nobody has ever seen before. I've spent a lot of time thinking about language and how what a limited tool it is, and yet how our whole world is held together by nothing more than small mouth noises. And it's incredible, the entirety of global civilization is held together by small mouth noises and symbolic notations of same, which have an even more rarefied level of abstraction. Our separateness, our notion of self and world, of self and species all rest on the carrying capacity of these small mouth noises.
One of the things that has interested me, some of you have heard me talk about this, is I think good psychedelic trips inspire a lot of homework, which usually means reading in curious areas, and I discovered that octopi, cephalopods which, in case you're not up on your evolutionary biology, these are mollusca, they're not even vertebrates. They're related to escargot and banana slugs. I mean you can hardly imagine a form of life more alien to ourselves. I mean, you know, we broke off from the other primates three million years ago, but the invertebrates and the vertebrates separated from each other about seven hundred million years ago. Well, an interesting thing going on with octopi, most people have heard that they can change color, and most people I think assume this means that like certain lizards and certain butterflies, they camouflage themselves against their background. That's not what's going on. Color and texture, for octopi, are the medium of language. It's- you could almost say that an octopus is a naked mind because as the octopus goes through certain internal changes, hunger, sexual need, whatever, color changes accompany these shifts of internal state and appear on the surface of the octopus. It is almost though it wears its language like an overcoat. It is clothed in its own meaning.
Well, obviously in that kind of situation you have always been suspended in an ambiance of language. Unlike ourselves, where apparently language was invented one bright summer day, or series of bright summer days. And if you have a language such as we have, small mouth noises with culturally assigned meaning- if, in other words, I say 'where can I get a taxi', if I don't say this to a person who speaks English, it means nothing to a Ukranian or a Chinese- octopi don't have this problem. There are not culturally localized languages. There's only a language of the body, the genes. It's unambiguous.
You see, even those of us in this room, if you were to check, our internal dictionaries are different. We have only the assumption of one to one mapping of meaning. I mean, if I ask you 'where is the restroom', this is fairly unambiguous, because it deals with ordinary situations. But as soon as conversation leaves the main and well-trodden path of discourse, ambiguity enters in to a tremendous degree. We overlook this as a courtesy to each other. I mean you almost never hear one person say to another 'now would you explain to me what I just said?' The reason you don't hear this said very often is because the thin illusion of communication would break down completely if we actually demanded of our listeners that they repeat back to us. The only situation in which that happens on a regular basis is the pedagogical mode, where the teacher teaches and then by test and recitation determines that the pupil has understood. But in polite discourse among adults, we consider this an imposition if not an insult.
So somehow these creatures are elves of language, catalysts for the concrescence of cognition, and I don't know if these things can be understood, after all, we're embedded in the world created by our own meanings. C. D. Brod, I think it was C. D. Brod, wrote a book called The Meaning of Meaning. Or, no, it was F. H. Bradley actually. Brod's book was called The Mind and It's Place in Nature. Probably these two should be read back to back just to see how positivists handle these kinds of problems. The meaning of meaning is a real problem but it also tends to be solipsistic or tautological. Can we expect brain to give a full accounting of brain? Can we expect mind to give a full accounting of mind? Anybody who's studied logic for ten minutes can tell you that that's impossible because it is tautological.
William Blake used to say 'nothing is lost.' Nothing is lost, and this seems literally to be true. It seems as though, you know, something once articulated, a statement, the reverberations are unto the last syllable of recorded time. Somehow it's all there. Now, when I said these things approached and spoke in English, I didn't mean to make it sound as mundane as it might sound. You know Greek religion was characterized by what was called the logos in the hellenistic period and the logos was an informing voice, and all the great thinkers of Hellenistic times- Plato, Socrates, Xenophon, Thucydides- all of these people were in contact with the logos. It was the sine qua non of hellenistic religion. And it was a speaking and informing voice that tells you the right way to live. Well, we don't know what to make of this, and at a certain point in the evolution of the Western mind, judging by the writings of people who were contemporaneous with those times, the Logos fell silent.
There was actually a date. Some of you may know the story of the fishermen pulling their nets off the isle of Rhodes, and they heard a voice from the sky say that great Pan is dead. And this was at the change of the eon, the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. It was almost as though there was something in the ancient world that has gone latent, that we can no longer touch or imagine.
Gordon Wasson who discovered with his wife Valentina the mushrooms, told a very interesting story in one of his books about how in Mazatecan, the people who are speakers of Mazatecan, when they chant what the mushroom says, they have created a special form for this, which goes like this: 'zabaz zabaz zabaz *tse*' This word 'tse' means 'says.' Daba daba daba *says*, dada dada dada dada *says*....
I didn't know this at the time I took mushrooms the second time, and in my head I heard the mushroom speaking in English, but adding the word says to the end of the sentence. So it was almost like, you know, this thing could speak in Mazatec it could speak in English but it always kept its cadence and its structure. Another thing about psilocybin and the DMT thing is that it seems to be a catalyst for glossolalia. This is why I think it must have had something to do with he evolution of language. I mean, when you take psilocybin you can fall spontaneously into states of glossolalia. Sometimes on DMT it's almost impossible to control. It just spontaneously comes out.
Yeah. (question from the audience)
Oh, what is glossolalia? Glossolalia, well, here's an example of it, then I'll define it. Zee ding quap makti kipitech kving hwade molde ruuf nobokehingiet efapsti tulch kfem bedegene hekengte techkt.
Its language-like activity in the absence of meaning, and it's a very interesting thing neurologically because, notice that speech, ordinary speech, is this highly variable stream of data. We are set up to make these small-mouth noises. As a public speaker, I am very aware of the fact that one can speak without tiring almost longer than you can do any other major human motor activity. And...but the glossolalia such as I just did, it is clearly under the control of the rules, but it is not - there is no meaning conventionally conceived of there, but there is syntax, and I think probably that language was invented millenia before meaning, and that you could almost call glosso- you could almost call language toneless singing, and that people used to sit around the campfire and amuse each other by making funny noises. As a kid I used to do this. And then it was only much much later than anything approaching linguistic conventionality was imposed on this and that that's a lower function.
The other thing I want to say about this glossolalia thing is you may say 'well you're just making it up' when I do that, but really, the experience I have when I do it is that I stand aside, then this variable data stream comes out through my mouth. Well now, it has to reflect something about me. It's a statement about my internal situation in that moment. And it's evolving and changing as rapidly as if I were saying 'you know I had a migrane headache last night and i got up about 4 and took an aspirin and ....' You know, I'm telling you about my situation, but the glossolalia must be speaking to something about my situation, or it wouldn't be possible to do it at all.
Not only is something not real unless it can be said, but the contrapositive of that is that once that something can be said, it becomes almost too real. It displaces other possibilities. I mean, so we're living in a set of constructs, some architectural, some ideological, and they can be very oppressive. I mean, how do you get rid of the notion of linear time and space? Very easily. It's the slow work of consensus. One of the things that I feel that I am doing very consciously in these kinds of meaning is we're trying to launch and replicate memes. You all know this concept? A meme is the smallest unit of an idea in the same way that a gene is the smallest unit of organism. And so these things, DMTLs, transcendental object at the end of history, these are memes, and in the same way that genes are copied and spread around and that fidelity of copying is the key to genetic success. Fidelity of meme replication is the key to communication. I mean, if I give a speech on something and then you hear it and then you go out and somebody says 'so what did he say?', and you give a completely cock-eyed account of what has been said, well then the meme has been betrayed. But if you can actually transfer the meme to somebody else's mind, and then they can copy it and pass it on. It's almost as though the ideological environment were like a rainforest, or a coral reef.
Evolution is taking place. Stupid memes, dumb memes have short lifetimes, and they disappear, you know. And memes of great power are able to thrive in many intellectual and ideological niches and to make many marriages of convenience with other memes. And so they are stabilized and passed along. Somehow we have to become hip to the fact, the power of language, and instead of just willy-nilly creating linguistic structures sort of ad hoc, we need to begin to consciously engineer our linguistic intent. So far in the 20th century this has not been a program with a very happy history because only jerks have gotten ahold of it- Nazis and people with narrow social programs that say 'we're not going to call each other 'mister' and 'misses', or 'hey you'. Everybody's going to call each other 'comrade' and then this will create the notion of comradeship. Which, to a certain degree, it does. But, you know, manipulating these things for political ends. The Jews - it was OK to put Jews in ovens because the official language for talking about Jews was that they were 'untermensch' subhuman, not like us, whoever 'we' are. So one the definition was changed, people said well, it's okay for us to mistreat Jews, you know, they're not even really people. And this kind of thinking goes on all the time. It's called stereotyping, and it always is an easier substitute- it's a cheap substitute for clear thinking.
David Brown asked me the question 'what about life after death', and I was- somewhat of a sidebar- Buddhists at the folk level in India do say you cannot attain enlightenment unless your mother is dead, which is a kind of an odd notion seeming to imply that she had to precede you into hyperspace. When you die what you do is you literally, as appears to happen, you dissolve, and where you go is forward and backward into time, not like a gas released into time, but along the tracks and trails of the genetic machinery. In other words, you flow into your children and you become, well, let's make a very simple model and say at the moment of death you become your children and your parents. A few moments later you become your grandchildren and your grandparents. You're spreading down. It's almost as though the thing that you were, which was this focus of ego and individuality- then it dies, and it's almost as though the mountain begins to slump back into the generalized pool of consciousness and being.
That's why I have somewhat less patience maybe than I should have with the idea of channeling and come-as-you-were parties and that sort of thing because it seems to me the key to understanding the idea of reincarnation and past lives is that you were everybody. Of course that's who you are. Here comes everybody. You weren't just that shepherd girl or that Roman Emperor or that Greek philosopher- you're everybody, and you can find your way into the great genetic telephone system and ring anybody's bell in history. Well then it would be absurd to claim you
were that person. That would be as absurd as claiming that anybody that you could call on the telephone is who you are. No, it's that we are everyone. And, you know, the great turning object in hyperspace that is the genetic trans-dimensional object, casts off glinting reflections of this personality, that personality. And astrology has a role to play here, and other things, but the bottom line is we are all drawn of the same stuff.
I think one of the most profound insights you can have on psychedelics, and I certainly have it, is that we are all interchangeable. Anybody could do my job, and I"m pretty confident I could do almost anybody's job. We define ourselves otherwise, but in watching the rise of my own career, it's a kind of being deputized, chosen for the job. They said "Well him. He can do it, he has the gift of gab so give him the credit line." But it could have been anybody. Our uniqueness is real on one level but on another level it's fairly illusory. It's sort of a
coincidencia oppositorum. You have to hold these two antithetical things in your mind at once in order to correctly perceive the proper level of ambiguity that's resident in reality. It ain't simple, folks.