||Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA
Terence McKenna (TM): There's so much, uh, concrescence of time and compression of historical development going on in the world right now that you can, uh, you can hardly, uh, pick up a journal in your favourite field without seeing that all paradigms are being challenged and this is happening regardless of, you know, the area you are working in. It may be the design of solid state circuitry; it may be quantum mechanics or cosmology; or, um, uh, information theory. There are simultaneously now going on so many breakthroughs in -- in, uh, the investigation of nature and mathematics that one of the themes of these discussions will be how unpredictable the consequences are of all this knowledge flowing together. No one is planning how these various technologies, insights, uh, and tools are going to fit together and in a way it creates, uh -- it creates, uh, opportunity because there is so much chaos because very small forces can exert major changes.
I'm sure you all know the cliché about the butterfly whose wing beat starts the hurricane. I got a fax the day before I came down here saying that Interpol had put out an all points bulletin for that very butterfly [Audience: laughter] and was attempting to corner it and halt the hurricane season [Audience: laughter] so they do take this stuff seriously. So, um, it just, I mean, I would, just to review some recent developments that may or may not be related to each other but they are certainly related in the sense that they are all occurring right now. Uh, some of you may have followed the detection of the top quark in, uh, recent series of experiments at CERN in Geneva. Well, this essentially ends an entire program of, uh, nuclear and particle physics that's been carried on since the '20's. Now the quark model of matter is essentially complete in its more modest, uh, formulation.
All the predicted particles have been detected. There is good agreement between theory and theoretical formulation, and this represents, um, the culmination of an effort to come to grips with matter that's been underway since the Greeks and it essentially, you know, in 1994, the general sense is that it's now pretty well nailed down. Uh, this is astonishing and ends a whole intellectual effort that, as I say, began with the Greeks, gained momentum with Newton gained incredible intellectual focus throughout the 20th century and is now completed. It's equivalent of the sequencing of the human genome in biology which is the next subject that I wanted to mention which is this project which was slated to be finished around 2020. It is now probably going to be finished well before 2000 because once they got into it, they discovered it's like riding a bicycle: the more you do it, the easier it is to do and very, very sophisticated computer-driven chemical simulation techniques have been invented and the human genome is just filling up like a crossword puzzle day-by-day, week-by-week, as we speak.
Q: Could you explain what that is?
TM: Oh, well, every organism in nature is specified by a unique sequence of, uh, chemical, uh, labels, called nucleotides and they are stored in the DNA and this nucleotide message in the case of human beings is like up to, uh, 20 million units long and it's basically the script for a human being. Now whether you get you or me depends on whether the switches are set up and down but all human beings have the same, uh, uh, gene sequence called and so if you can sequence, if you can determine the human genome, you can, uh, predict the occurrence of all kinds of hereditary diseases and, you know, have a kind of utopian approach to medicine where everyone throughout their entire life knows what they are at risk for and in contemplating any possible pairing for procreation you know just down to a gnat's eyelash what the child's genetic predisposition for various diseases and enzyme deficiencies, and this sort of thing. Well, so this is happening and, uh, at a startling pace.
Q: Can I ask you something?
Q: Um, so if this is - if you say that this is predetermined, is that like -- do we have anything to say about it? Can you, like, prevent them?
TM: Oh, yeah. You can definitely prevent because you see locate where on the genome the defective gene is...
Q: How do you spell "genome"?
Q: Thank you.
TM: If you can locate on the genome where the problem is for any genetic defect then you can design a repair gene that can go in there and actually just scissor out the bad piece and put the good piece in. This is not science fiction; this is being done in the laboratory now, uh, and it will, it's happening. The main point of what I'm talking about tonight is that all these crazy, far out, Flash Gordon things are well advanced and yet and the other point highly ignorant of each other so that the cross-fertilization process that is really going to make all this come into a kind of new paradigmatic order hasn't yet been revealed.
Okay, other items, uh, and some of these range toward the "Oh! Wow!." Remember, ultimately this is just a laundry list of things on my mind. The events that will occur in the vicinity of Jupiter, uh, in the third week of July of this year are extraordinarily interesting from all kinds of points of view. Are you all aware of what I'm talking about?
TM: Okay. In January an object was detected, uh, breaking up under the tidal forces of Jovian gravity and this was named Shoemaker-Levy 9 and it has, is now in about 25 pieces that are about 3-5 kilometers in diameter each and the Newtonian mechanics of this decaying system of orbits dictates that between the 19th and the 26th of July of this year these objects will smash into the planet Jupiter on the dark side, on the side turned away from the Earth at the moment of impact, but because -- well, it's a fascinating event for many reasons. First of all, it's going to churn up an enormous amount of material from deep below the cloud tops of Jupiter and within six hours the parameter will turn into view of Earth-based telescopes. The other thing is these planet-crushing events, these collisions of large objects in the solar system, have a very interesting and not fully understood role in, uh, the formation of our own Earth and the way the history of life has developed on it. For example, and this is the next new thing I wanted to talk about.
There has been a sudden coalescence of agreement in, in, uh, planetary geophysics over the past six months over a problem which may not have been bothering you but [Audience: laughter] bothered me which was where did the moon come from (laughter) and there have been for hundreds of years, different theories, I mean, clear back to Laclos. In one theory, Laclos noticed that galaxies and solar systems, everything condensed down out of dust and he put this - and this was in the 1770's - put forth the very plausible theory that the Moon simply was an aggregation of material the same that the Earth was an aggregation of material that formed around the Earth. Well, then there are problems with this, technical problems. It just doesn't check out. So then another theory that had its vogue was that the Earth was spinning very rapidly in its early history and a blob actually - it just separated off - a hot blob of stuff which went off into space, uh, suddenly new techniques for analyzing Apollo rocks and stuff brought back from the Moon and all kinds of conferences, and so forth, they figured it out, and the answer is extraordinary and none of the above. The answer is that 4.1 billion years ago, the Earth was struck by an object the size of Mars and that in the -- this catastrophe enough ejective went into orbit around the planet to condense as the Moon. It's remarkable that such a catastrophic and dramatic theory could get unanimous acceptance in the field of planetary science where all this stuff is most haggled over, um.
Q: What was the planet the size of Mars that hit the Earth? Was it Mars, or...?
TM: No. It wasn't Mars. It doesn't exist. Its core has now sunk into the core of the Earth. It had an iron core. It is now part of the Earth and the light-weight, pyroxene ejective formed the Moon and if you're interested in this, this month's
Scientific American has it on the cover - a photo of the event.[Audience: Laughter] So, just extraordinary revolution in theory, you know, in a very fundamental manner because some people claim that the Moon was captured and that it was captured as recently as 65 million years ago and that the complexity of mammalian phylogeny is related to the presence of the Moon and now, all that's out. The Moon is very old. It emerged in this catastrophe basically at the moment of the solidification of the surface of the Earth. It was a climactic event that came at the end of a series of asteroidal infalls that basically built, uh, the planet. So then other things.
Q: How does this tie into this thing with Jupiter then? Is that just to give us an idea how that happened?
TM: Yeah, that we've never had an opportunity to observe anything like this. The extinction event which killed the dinosaurs and created the beginning of the Mesozoic era, uh, 65 million years ago was not as entergetic an event as this thing that's going to happen in July. It was very interesting to watch how the scientific press played this thing because the Shoemaker-Levy 9 was discovered on January 9 and the bulletin of astrophysics on the 12th broke the news to everybody who wasn't following it on email or something and they called it a once in a hundred-million-year-event which interesting that this once in a hundred-million-year-event would occur at a moment when human beings have instruments on their way to Jupiter. So then they, within the month, they had it down to a once in a million-year-event [Audience: laughter] and now I think they're saying nobody has any idea. This may be once every hundred years it happens. But, it's very interesting. The explosion will be so large and since it can't be directly seen by Earth-based telescopes, the energy release will be measured by measuring the flash of reflected light off the moons of Jupiter. In other words, they will rise in luminosity and then fall very suddenly as this explosion takes place on the back side. So, that's that.
Sort of in line with all of this and with a kind of Esalen spin on it, something every interesting that's been going on if you're a fan of the history of science and ideas is that in the last six months, there's been a very interesting effort to, uh, look again at David Bohm's work. David Bohm is now dead and I believe he taught here or he visited here many times and, in any case, his ideas are well known here and he was sort of always our physicist, "our" meaning the slightly flakier end of things and for that reason, he was not taken seriously as seriously as he should have been in the halls of physics. Well, then I think he died about 18 months ago. Well, now in
Scientific American and in physical review letters, there have been long editorials saying that a problem which has haunted quantum physics throughout the 20th century could be solved by admitting that the Copenhagen School which is Niels Bohr and all -- Heisenberg and all those untouchable and god-like figures to admit that they were actually wrong about something fundamental and that David Bohm's quantum physics which gives the same numerical results as theirs is, in fact, a more elegant formulation and what it is that is at issue here is something that everybody who concerns themselves with quantum physics for ten minutes has encountered which is the famous uncertainty conundrum.
Every school child knows by now that you cannot determine the velocity and the absolute position of an electron at the same time because as you bring velocity into focus, absolute position smears out. As you bring absolute position into focus, velocity smears out. This is called the uncertainty principle and probably more muddle-headed prose has been generated around this problem in physics in the last 70 years than any other. Well, it turns out that if you go with David Bohm, there is no uncertainty. You can know the position and the speed, the velocity, with perfect certainty at the same moment of time. The problem is, and the reason why he was never taken seriously, is that all these quantum formulations carry with them certain metaphysical baggage that is hard for other theorists to accept and the impossible baggage that Bohm's theory carried was, uh, what is called non-locality. Non-locality. This is the peculiar feature of nature which is built into Bohm's formulation of quantum physics. Any true particles ever associated with each other at some time in what we call the past maintain a magical and instantaneous connection with each other no matter how far apart they are for the rest of their existence and that this is not subject to the inverse square law that determines that slows the speed of light; this is some kind of magical property which is instantaneous.
Well, this seemed so outlandish that it was just thought to prove on the face of it that Bohm was wrong because they said, "Well, look at the consequences if you were to accept this insane thing would be built in " but now, because of what's called Bell's theorem, they are actually doing experiments which demonstrate in the same way that the charge of the electron or the speed of light, they are actually doing experiments which demonstrate that non-locality is real. You associate two electrons. Uh, you pass them through a grid of some sort which separates them. You capture one of them, determine its charge, flip it to its opposite charge and having captured the other one, you notice that when you flipped the charge on one, the charge on the other one automatically reverses instantaneously and that these things behave as though they never left each other's presence. Non-locality. Well, this sets the stage for a staggering realization because if the universe is non-local in terms of information then all the raving over the past 30 years about holographic universes and psychedelic plenomes and the monadic facto higher dimensional akashic "who-ha." [Audience: Laughter], all that suddenly begins to gain vindication. And, okay, so that's all happening. [Audience:Laughter]
Meanwhile, three doors down the hall in the branch of things marked "Information Theory," they're realizing that there is a way to analyze physics, so that what you get, what we call matter, is simply information in association with energy; that information associated with energy
is matter. So then you go back to this other branch of understanding and they're saying that, uh, that information is non-local and then what that begins to sound like then is that matter also is non-local in some sense and if you could download that into a technology, you could walk from here to "Zevercanoobie" without ever going through high vacuum and that would be big news. Do you understand what I'm saying? [Audience: Rumbling] Good. Yes, it would be reasonable to ask a question at this point.[Audience: Laughter] [TM: Laughter]
Q. So how does the principle of non-locality come in to prove that you can determine position and velocity at the same time?
A. Oh, it doesn't. It simply that, as a consequence of accepting the parts of his theory which allow you the absolute prediction of velocity and position you get, as a kind of you-can't-not-order-it side dish, this non-locality thing and when really a way of talking about non-locality is to say and then this goes to a whole other branch of knowledge that's also just boiling at fever pitch which is to say what we're really saying is that the universe is fracto. that it's an infolded set of values such that you can extract the whole story from any sub-set, uh, and again this - all of this: complexity theory, chaos dynamics, fracto mathematics - what's happening is that the computer is allowing us to go beyond the mathematical objects of Greek philosophy which were -- you know, what did we have? We had, uh, the cube, the perfect circle, the dodecahedron, and so on and so forth and then through the genius of Newton and Leibniz and that crowd the infinite set of ellipses that we could extract from the section cone that allowed us to do calculus, that allowed us to do modern science but that's sort of where it ends, you know, with Newtonian mechanics and then statistical mechanics to handle the quantum, but now, with chaos dynamics and fracto mathematics and complexity theory, we are actually producing mathematical models of nature that are more like nature than anything we've ever seen before and it's in a sense the culmination of the holy grail of a certain branch of human thinking that out of numbers and their relationships which are after all objects in the human mind, whatever that is, comes this incredible close correspondence to nature which is the most remotely removed and ontologically independent thing we know vis-à-vis the human mind.
Um, okay, so that was a little paean to David Bohm and then moving through that, um, and going further, Ilya Prigogine who has also been to Esalen and had an influence on many people who taught at Esalen and me among them although I was just sort of, like, sharpening his pencils at that stage who has already established his track record by winning the Nobel Prize for physics by destroying the second law of thermodynamics which was no small accomplishment believe me because there was no law of nature to emerge in the 18th -- in the 19 century more tenaciously believed in than the second law of thermodynamics and Prigogine just showed that, you know, it was a generally true statement of a rather complex situation in which actually sometimes it was bugged and he secured that mathematically. That was twenty years ago. Now Prigogine is coming forward with a theory that I modestly suggest sounds somewhat like my notion about time, that time is, first of all, not a construct of the human mind; it is, in fact, a property of the universe like energy, like matter. It's a "thang" [Audience: laughter] is what we're trying to say here. It's not an abstraction and this is not the first time science has had to make this leap, I mean, the curved field, the electromagnetic field was at first thought to be some kind of weird mathematical contortion you had to go through to understand electricity but couldn't possibly actually have anything to do with what it was and then it was realized, you know, that it was actually a point-for-point description. So, Prigogine is beginning to say that time is a thing and that therefore it has an arrow and that complexity is conserved as you approach the present which is what I've been saying year in and year out here for a while. I didn't call it complexity; I called it "novelty" and used Whitehead's vocabulary, but there is, you know, a very exciting convergence of intuition theory that seem really to hold the possibility of a whole new way of thinking about time and determinism and novelty and the, uh, the buildup of structure in time. Yeah.
Q: Your theory of novelty was that it was not conserved but increasing.
TM: Well, what I mean by "conserved" is that its general tendency is to never slip back. In other words, once novelty is achieved, it is tenaciously retained and it becomes instead the foundation for new novelty and that's how novelty increases over time by building on pre-established levels of novelty so that, for instance, um, molecular structure very novel at its inception becomes ultimately the pre-condition for biology a later arriving phase of novelty and then culture builds on biology and so forth, like that. Yeah.
Q: But when you said that, what was the other, not novelty, but...
TM: Oh, complexity.
Q: ...is maintained as you get closer to the present?
TM: Yes. That complexity seems to be clustering near the present.
Q: Meaning this present or any present?
TM: No, this present. In other words, what he's saying, part of his breakthrough is, he is saying the arrow of time is real. It is, the universe is from end to end oriented in one direction; it isn't an artifact of human perception. This is a break with ordinary physics which insists that all these transforms can be run backward in time as well as forward. He says, no, and that's what I've been saying. My conception is that the cosmos isn't what I call a novelty-conserving engine and that it, through sort of a one step, two-steps-forward-one-step-back process marches ever deeper into novelty and ever faster. That's the other thing, uh, that interests me because I am -- I am now, I have a very palpable sense that time is accelerating and that the convergence of some of these things we've been talking about is going to eventually lead to a discussion of what is the nature of time and experience that, in fact, history does seem to be ending. This vague and murky intuition of religious ontology is now respectable in physics laboratories and, uh, uh, the presence of human culture on the planet in this incredibly advanced state of acceleration and novelty seems to indicate that, you know, we are making it impossible for ourselves to go anywhere but into another kind of, uh, cultural dimension.
Well, which I guess leads me on one level to one of the other things which I wanted to talk about which is in a sense the illusion of stability in social space, if there is one, if you're able to maintain the illusions of stability in social space, it's because, uh, the exciting thing that's going on is invisible and what it is is it's the growth of the Net, it's the rise of the Web which hour-by-hour, day-by-day, is reaching around the planet. Deeper and deeper and deeper. The number of people getting email has doubled every six months for the last five year. It's doubled every six months. If this goes on at the current rate, every man, woman and child on the planet will have email before the year 2000. And, of course, there's nothing to see, nothing to touch. I mean, there's some appliances involved but they're quiet and in the background, and yet what it is is that the human neuro-net, the unconscious of the species is actually being hardwired as an artifact. We're pouring glass and gold and silicon down the micro-tubules of the racial imagination and as it were making a kind of casting of the state of the human imagination at the close of the millennium and to what degree this imaging of ourselves in silicon will ever reach a limit is hard to tell. I mean, we've begun with the past.You know, we're archiving it. We're virtualizing it. We're creating databases that allow us to stroll around in it, but more and more, time will be consumed and eventually the only choice will be to allow it to flow over into the present and, you know, prosthesis is already practically a way of life.
What's coming is very hard to imagine and Prigogine to loop one of these concerns back to another, Prigogine got his start studying traffic theory on freeways. Well, it's now thought by the complexity people that when you get somewhere above 6th to the 9th entities operating in an environment of connectivity that you get and now we switch philosophers and vocabularies what David Bohm called emergent properties and what you and I would call "anybody's guess" [Audience: laughter] and that's what an emergent property is.
Q: What is an emergent property?
TM: It means something utterly unexpected, something completely unexpected. For example, and I mean he used very simple examples. For example, if you have five gold atoms, you don't have the colour yellow. You don't get that until you have hundreds of gold atoms. That colour is an emergent property. It requires a large number of gold atoms for the fact that gold is yellow to begin to be part of the picture. Similarly, wetness. If you have a water molecule, it is not wet in any sense that you can relate to. Wetness is a property of thousands of water molecules. It's an emergent property. So, there's obviously nothing magical about this unless you have to be conscious at one of these phase transitions and you actually see an emergent property come out of a species and clearly what we are trying to do is overcome our differences. Our "thing" is a curious dichotomy between our individuality and our drive toward community and technology is facilitating the drive toward community at this incredibly accelerated rate.
Q. Traffic is accelerating.
TM: Traffic is accelerating and, you know, my enthusiasm for psychedelic states of mind I see simply as a kind of aboriginal precognitive anticipation of this state of electronic data fusion and information transparency that is being put in place. Essentially what we're doing is we are realizing our cultural ideals whether we are conscious of them or not and one of our conscious ideals is a Gothic Christian love or transparent telepathic sharing and so our technology becomes this, you know. I mean, that's why we invented printing presses and clear windows and lingerie and the computer and all of these things facilitate.
Q. Do you think that anybody viewing "The Celestine Prophecy." What do you think about that? [Audience: Laughter]
TM: Well, you know O'Henry said, " Never read a book 'til it's five years old" [Audience: laughter] and I don't always follow his advice, but in the case of "The Celestine Prophecy," I have to ... I am kind of weird. I was very embarrassed, a couple of or a week ago I was in New York City and I was with some friends of mine are they're in a rock and roll band and they were on the Letterman show so I went with them to the Letterman show for the taping of the show. It was the Spin Doctors and I had never seen the Letterman show [Audience: laughter] so I kept thinking, "Is that Letterman?" The janitor would go by and I would 'cause" we were there an hour ahead of time and I was not
au courant with these cultural icons. I wish the author of "The Celestine Prophesy," he, she, them or it, whoever it may be - a he - what I've been able to glean from the either about "The Celestine Prophesy" is that it is a species of, of, um, anticipatory, uh, visionary breakthrough, right? saying that the world is going change beyond our possibility of recognizing it. I think this is absolutely true.The details are where it gets tricky.
Part of my notion of how we should all behave as we move toward this attractor or this transcendental object that is the telos of the historical process is to just try and just spread calm and good vibes so that people, you know, it's like a roller coaster the signs says, "Do Not Stand Up." [Audience: Laughter] You know, people should not... just keep your mouth shut, keep your hands on the handlebars. You can yell your head off if you want but do not stand up, please. Um, just a word about this, I mean, to the immense boredom of half the people in the room who've heard me say this before but this question about anticipations of the millennium, the way I think of it is that huge events have a kind of, um, backwash into the past. They are not cleanly divided from the time which precedes them so that before they happen, you can almost feel the certitude of their arrival, uh, and so, this thing that lies ahead of us now not very far in the historical continuum is the grandmother of all of this kind of thing and social theories, philosophers, psychedelic trips, visions had in the desert, all of these things will just organize themselves like iron filings around the presence of this object ahead of us in time and so, in a sense, all of history is an anticipation of the end of history and the closer you get to the end of history, the clearer the anticipations become, so, you know, when you're two thousand years from it, it's something about how God and man will be fused in one body and the messiah will take a chosen people into a land of milk and honey, and that's the best anybody can do, that's the clearest image anybody can get of what the deal was.
So, then circa 1948, you're up to, you know, the Rigellians will come with enormous ships and advanced medical techniques and teach us how to clean up our Earth, to love one another and grow food from the sea and so forth and so on. It turns out that, no, that isn't it either and as we get closer, the amount of prophetistic, um, speculation is just going to grow exponentially because all the old systems of thought are failing and all the old systems of thought are capable of doing is denying the obvious which is that the Earth is on the brink of the greatest change since the end of the Mesozoic, you know, and -- but people don't like to think about that because all they can think about is, you know, the possibility of personal extinction. Technology, religion, psychedelic drugs, archaeology that could at any moment spew something out of the ground that could completely scramble everybody's notion of what really did go on or something and I'm not a "face on Mars" guy or some malarkey like that. Let me make that clear. But still, you have to be open to the fact that something might come along. What else do we want to say about that? Let me see if I've covered my list.
I think we were talking about the Nets and the Web. Uh, yeah, this collectivity that is coming into being, is coming into existence more rapidly than anyone can chart or clock or understand. Uh, you know, I have a protocol that goes on in the middle of the night and searches databases all over the world for key words of interest to me and when I get up in the morning, these files are just stacked on the screen ready to be gone through and, you know, it can be trivial, but it could be, you know, a heresy, a Greek Orthodox heresy of interest to fully a dozen people on the planet, and, you know, if the information is out there, the computer will eventually winnow and winnow and winnow because it is so tireless and so, and so deeply dedicated to my wishes. [Audience: Laughter] I mean, what else does it have to do? It doesn't know.
Q: What keyword?
TM: Well, the word I was thinking of is "Mandaean" which is a religious cult that I'm interested in that has existed continuously for about 2800 years.
TM: Mandaean. And they are now down to a few hundred people in the swamps of Iran and Iraq and, uh, I wonder about the state of their community. I wonder how they came through the Gulf War. I wonder if they were able to preserve their very strict kosher laws and a bunch of other things. I mean, you may wonder why do I care. I have a lot on my menu. [Audience: Laughter]
Q: Did you say, "kosher"?
TM: Well, they had, what I mean by "kosher," they had rules as a religious community that would be almost impossible to follow in the 20th century. For instance, one of their rules was that if your eye fell on a non-believer, if you're a Mandaean and your eye fell on a non-believer then you had to have six days of purification. Well, since there are only a few hundred Mandaeans on this planet, it was tough to not occasionally encounter a non-believer. You can imagine. So, then huge amounts of community time and energy were being taken up in these ritual ablutions and cleansings to try and make it okay, and I wonder how they fare under Saddam Hussein. Well, so then you go on to the Net and program this word and you discover that in Pennsylvania there's a committee of people who are concerned about the Mandaean community and then in Germany, there are people who are preserving Mandaean liturgy and at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, there's a guy who can read the books. You know, Tim Leary said a wonderful thing years and years ago. He said, "Find the others." "Find the others." And the computer is the tool for finding the others and it was never intended for folks like you and me. It's one of those things that fell off the military vehicle as it rumbled by and we peasants pulled it out of the bushes and discovered what [Audience: laughter] we could do with this thing. But you can find the others. There are hundreds and hundreds of conferences going on on Youth Net. If it's a work of literature, if it's a sexual preference, if it's a complex programming problem, if it's an issue of historical research or diet or anything else, there are 50 or 60 people just
waiting to talk to you about it. [Audience: Laughter]
So, uh, you know, I sort of believe that the psychedelic revolution is beginning to bear fruit and that we shouldn't have thought of it as the 60's revolution; we should've thought of it as the 30 years war and, you know, victory is now within sight. No one can run or program these vast networks except guys with ponytails and the suits who are depending on all of this stuff to hold the world together are entirely beholden on, you know, guys with one earring and ponytails and all that, everything that loathes and revolts them is interposed between them and the technology because print heads can't hack it, literally, they can't hack it. And as Thomas Kuhn said in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," you know, um, the way you really make revolutions is by waiting for the old guard to die off and they are dying off and, uh, and then the synergy that comes from all of these fields melting together. I mean, it is like -- my intuition was always that the psychedelic experience was a fracto anticipation of human history, you know, that it starts out the same way, everything's normal, you're just cooking your food around the fire and then it builds and then there's structure and then dissolution of structure and then technical accretions and vast downloading of ideas and so forth and so on and it's happening. I mean, the unitarian mind is being created. It is in fact in existence. The autonomic functions of the human super organism are already in place and what do I mean by the autonomic functions? I mean, uh, the daily pricing of gold, the computer transactions that characterize the banking system. This is all going on all the time; machines are talking to machines moving billions of dollars around, setting the value of currency and precious metals and commodities, I mean, most of this is on automatic. Human operators are only called in when unexpected fluctuations are picked up inside the system and, and yet, it's not clear, you know, what is being maximized.
The top most level of control is only assumed to exist. This is very exciting. We all assume that if you follow these trees of control up and up, finally at the level of the IMF, the World Bank, the National Security Council, someone is running it, but it's actually not true. It isn't a tree. It doesn't lead to focal nexus of control; it's a net; it's a web and, you know, when you realize this, you realize that a very large amount of power is in your hands. Uh, the people in this room, even if a couple of homeless have crept in here this evening, which is not likely, the people in this room probably represent the upper five per cent of the most powerful manipulators on the planet because if you just have a telephone credit card, you are in the upper ten per cent of the powerful manipulators [Audience: laughter] of information on the planet. Yeah, a calling card. And if you own a powerbook and an email address, you know, you are a member of the 20 million elite that is running the planet through the cyber net and talking to those people, changing their minds, interacting with them is the way to steer it and they are not the suits, they are not the guys chewing the black cigars; they're a much more malleable and open crowd. It's harder to pass a capitalist denominator through the keyhole of cyberspace, you know, you have to be young and lean and mean [Audience: laughter] and tatoos help.
Q: You said something about artists and, say, religious or spiritual sages who might look at the technology that you've been talking about and would say, we have known this all along, this is sort of old hat, um, and how you integrate that into the state of consciousness is much different from the scientific way of seeing things and where these people...
TM: You mean, like, yogins or something like that
Q: Yogins, yeah. Shamans have no need for these ideas or...
TM: Well, shamans, I think, are a good case in that apparently they have no need of these ideas and what I mean by that is their societies are at dynamic equilibrium. Left alone, they seem to do fine so forth and so on. India, I would argue, shows no such ability to deal with its problems. I mean, socio-politically, it's a mess. They should be and, in fact, are very interested in this kind of technology. You see, the difference between eastern and western religion, I mean, there are many differences, but the important ones for what we are seeing here this evening.is that Eastern religion is basically timeless. When time is invoked, it's either in the Hindu system of chiliocosms of eternity and there are just cycles upon cycles or it's the time of Taoism which is the time of the moment and the insight.
The weird thing about western religion: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and all the cults that they have spawned, is the insistence that God will enter history which is a crazy idea. That God will enter history at a given moment, it will be redeemed and the hell of toiling for our daily bread and the whole thing will somehow be made right by God's direct manifestation at a certain point and this idea finds just no support in the East so then when you ask about how these religious teachers relate to this technical thing, to me, the more interesting, um, relational approach to is through somebody like Teilhard de Chardin who I take as my direct inspiration. I never read de Chardin that carefully when he was hot, but since I've come out where I am about all of this I've looked back at it and he and I are in 100 per cent agreement except I go further. I say the date and he is crafty enough in his Jesuitical way to stay away from anything so likely to expose you to scorn and ridicule. But what he is saying in "The Phenomenon of Man" is that we are now generating what he calls the noosphere and the noosphere is the atmosphere of technical accretions on electronic information transfer and electromagnetic fields VHF, UHF, so forth and so on, and that this is part of evolution. His great insight was to see geology, biology and sociology as a continuous spectrum and, you know, well, McLuhan talked a lot about Teilhard de Chardin.
With McLuhan, you never knew whether he was being entirely serious or just going for the good line, but he maintained -- he said that the age of the Holy Ghost which was to occur immediately before the end of the world, that the age of the Holy Ghost, we had Edison to thank for it and that the spread of electricity around the world was the direct descent of the Holy Ghost and that as cities turned to oceans of electric light, he saw it as an epiphany of the third person of the trinity. This is an argument for keeping Catholics far from machinery and power; they're clearly screwballs of some sort.[Audience: Laughter]
Um, but it seems to me that if consciousness, if you make a religion out of consciousness which unconsciously we in California have done that this is what the New Age is about. We worship mind. We worship mind. Well, if you make consciousness your religion then clearly the -- the body of consciousness is the technical accretion, the super highways, the computers, the colour, the fibre optic networks, all that is how consciousness manifests itself. Consciousness wants -- it's as though we're still involved in the alchemical, uh, concerns of the 16th century, that consciousness achieves its fullest perfection through the fusion with matter, you know, that the union of spirit and matter which in materialist scientific terms is crazy talk. It doesn't happen. But, in the terms of the magical pre-cartesian attitudes toward matter, this is what they were going for and in a sense, you know, Mircea Eliade said this, he said it's ironic that the 20th century with its score for the magical notions of the 16th century has achieved the full program that those notions set forth. In other words, changing of lead to gold. We do this. It costs a lot of money, but we can do it in our reactors, our cyclotrons. We turn lead into gold.
We sequence the genome, the secrets of life and longevity are unfolded before us and then this final thing in the computer. I mean, the computer is the union of spirit and matter and, you know, five or six years ago you used to hear a lot of talk about how computers could never do all kinds of things and they were simply adding machines and this and that. Well, that's a kind of computer, but those voices have grown strangely muted as massive parallel processing and neuro maps and stuff like this. So, I don't know where all this stuff rests. You know, James Joyce said man will be dirigible which is like the flying saucer phase. I would like to think that the philosopher's stone is a suitable goal for human evolution, that we are actually downloading ourselves into a solid state realm where all that moves is ideas in a kind of electronic collectivity of mind and then the earth is left to itself. But how this is to be accomplished, I'm not sure. But on the other hand, it's not up to me. I mean, if you read people like Hans Moravec, his book. What's it called? "Mind Children: The Future of Machine and Human Intelligence" and there are ideas in there that's so bizarre and far out and yet, you know, being discussed by someone with a tenured position at Carnegie Mellon University that it -- all that really holds us back as these boundaries dissolve is our imagination. The difference between the psychedelic experience and history is that history is real and at the end of it, you're going to be able to stay there, wherever there is, if you want and do those things, and I think it's coming very, very quickly. Even the wildest things that we've said here today to save certain theoretical constructs such as time machines are now being talked about in the popular scientific press. There was an article about time travel three issues ago in
Scientific American. So does anyone want to say anything? Yeah.
Q: Can you make a distinction between understanding/knowledge and consciousness or do you see those as one and the same thing?
TM: Well, this is a hot and complex thing that's being debated right now. The materialists who hold the high ground in neuromolecular physiology, what they like to say, they're very happy with this formulation, they like to say that consciousness is short-term memory plus attention. This is the new buzz word: short-term memory plus attention. Actually, Henry James or William James said this first, but it's just been brought forward and if you think about it, that's a pretty good, uh, working model. If you say that consciousness is short-term memory plus attention then it's probably a characteristic of most animals, uh, and so then you get a seamless web. Um, where it gets complicated is where we seem to be able to build very, very flexible models of future courses of action and this may be a relationship to long-term memory. The relationship of higher animals between long-term memory is not clear. In other words, a mountain lion hunting, does she retain a memory of an incident with an important learning embedded in it months and months after it occurs? And in what way does she retain it? Does she retain it as a reflex or does she actually, as we do, recall and when we say recall, we mean picture a scene in our minds from the past and run it forward.
How, again, well, this leads to something that I wanted to say, that memory if you wanted to point to an incredible and significant failure, I've been talking about all these far out things that have been going on. The greatest disappointment in science, I would say, in the last 35 years is the utter failure of science to make any progress on the question of memory. I mean, I've been following it for almost, well not 35 years, but 30 years and they're nowhere. They have not gotten beyond the kind of stuff that Karl Pribram was talking about in "Languages of the Brain" which was published in 1973, for crying out loud. Uh, Walter Freeman's work, creative, brilliant work, no conclusion. The hard-core materialists have gotten nowhere and this is a central thing for understanding consciousness because where are the memories, you know? Karl Lashley was the first person to ask this question and it's never been satisfactorily answered and, you know, now there are new theories about interference patterns in the brain and this sort of thing, but, you know, when the telephone was new neurophysiologists like Raymond de Kahal (?) said the brain was like an international telephone network. Now, suddenly we have a hot new metaphor and we apply it to the darkest area of our ignorance which is the brain, but -- and then, you know, you have the hard-core mystics who say the effort to understand consciousness is intrinsically doomed to failure, that brain cannot elucidate brain and there's something to be said for that. You know, Gödel's incomenserability theorem and that whole thing.
I don't exactly understand what it means to say to explain consciousness. Understand, what would that mean? Would we start with, start with, uh, a synaptic event and end with an experience and be able to trace the transition from synaptic event to experience all the way through? I would like, you know, it's a free enough field. You can say anything you want. I like the idea that the brain is an antenna; not a storage device and that seeking memory in the brain is like tearing transistor radios apart looking for little men. You know, there aren't little men in there so what you have instead is a quantum mechanical antenna. That would make sense because I really believe nature is a kind of seamless self-regulating oscillator of some sort and so it's much more important to be in tune with the larger sects of what's going on than to be isolated from that and somehow inwardly cognizant of what philosophers call an interior dimension of transcendence. I don't believe that. I think, uh, you know, that we are the most existentially isolated of all animal species as a consequence of language and that part of our difficulty in correctly picturing the mind and its place in nature is the fact that we assume our uniqueness and our isolation and the strength of the ego boundary, but if you saw the brain -- that's why my idea -- the regulation of culture through the psychedelic experience is not the there is something magical about the psychedelic experience in and of itself, but that what it is is an attunement to natural harmonics on many levels that we could call, I do call it, the Gaian mind. It's a higher intentionality, but it's not mystical mumbo jumbo; it's biology. But there's a level upon level of pheromones, oscillations, chemical oscillators, all kinds of things that regulate biology besides the gross activation enzyme systems inside the wetware of an organism. When you're in the jungle like the Amazon, you see that, you know, this is seamless.This is one thing. It's only my, my style of knowing that tells me this is a palm tree, this is a crocodile, this is a butterfly, but the way it's all working it's just genes and gene exchange and life and death and procreation and symbiosis and so forth and so on.
Q: I was thinking of Rupert Sheldrake. I was thinking of idiot savants, too, with their minds like an antenna taping into some incredible knowledge. There's no way they could ever learn.
TM: Yes, well I count myself among their numbers[Audience: laughter] without a doubt. No, that's the only way, that's how I explain my career because it has, you know, fundamentally a mathematic basis that's very solid and beyond reproach by all of the most stalwart and yet clearly I'm a kind of cannabis-smoking lunatic. How did that happen? Well, it's the principle of the idiot savant, I think. And that nature is knowable. You know if you're God's fool, the secret will be given over to you. I mean, it's everywhere. It's in every drop of water, everything has it in it. That was the alchemical phase and it's the fracto phase as well.
Q. I have a question about the antenna thing. As I understand it, you know, in terms of picking up certain ideas or whatever, but when you talk about receiving specific memory that you as a single entity have experienced, so you as an entity would experience this thing and now it's just floating out there.
TM: You mean, does it actually call you up and say, "Hey, you." Is it like that?
Q: What is it that produces that. I mean, I can imagine receiving certain things that are cultural, diet or whatever. But when you receive, you're talking about your own person memories of stubbing your toe eight years ago, you know, why is that floating around?
TM: Oh, I see what you're saying. Well, this is the great problem for all theories of memory. We know that if you live to be 70 years old that every molecule in your body will be exchanged approximately 10 times. Well, then how is it that a 70-year old woman can remember what it was like to be taken in the arms of her grandmother and the smell of the perfume that the old lady wore. I mean, that is just an absolute mystery and the hard-core, if you're a hard-care materialist and God knows they're around somewhere, probably not here, but if you're a hard-core materialist the you say, "Well, something must persist and if we could figure out the one thing that persists then we'd have it nailed." Well, it turns out that there is something that persists. It's the, the neurons do not cycle over. You are born with a certain number of neurons and you die with a few less depending on your drug-taking history and they are never replaced and they are never cycled out. Well, we -- but then the materialist break down because this magical substance which you would think would help them solve their memory problem, the theories necessary to turn it into the story side of memory are too fantastic for them to swallow. You would have to go to something like the invisible landscape, plug, plug [Audience: laughter] to find a theory radical enough to account for that because you would have to hypothesize molecular storage almost at the speed of a tape recorder of theoretically an entire lifetime. So, 70, let's make it 35 years because presumably you don't retain your dreams very youthful, so let's say 30 years of continuous tape recording being downloaded into something under eight angstroms in diameter with no degradation of the data stream and so --n and so forth. It becomes insupportable and fantastic in their mind but perhaps not. I mean why is, I mean, nature has a peculiar way of using redundancy like once nature finds a way to do something, she will tend to use that technique over and over again in different applications.
We see that the problem of storage of information and retrieval of information and non-degradation of that information has all been solved in the functioning of DNA. Uh, but the information that is stored in DNA, if you talk to an information theorist, they will say, "Well, it's not like memory. It's not like they're people's faces or their addresses or telephone numbers; it's just protein synthesis. It structures for protein synthesis and you mustn't be so naive as to confuse this with real information" with a pat on the head and so forth and so on. But, here we have the DNA, the central molecular machinery of life and for reasons known to nobody vast sections of it are what are called silent DNA. What does that mean? It means those parts of the DNA don't code for protein. Well, but maybe they code for something else. Maybe they code for memory and maybe the so-called random or trash arrangement of nucleitides in those sections of the DNA are, in fact, our memory. I mean, memory is very mysterious and the mechanism which explains it may involve principles at the edge of or beyond the grasp of current science. I mean, think of it. You know, I have memories going back to eight months and many people report memories under three years and often these are in their movies, you know. The most highly degradable and data-dense form of image storage there is. I mean, that's why it's so maddening to store images, you know, videotape on computers today because it's so memory-intensive as they say in the biz, and yet this seems to be how we store our, our memories.
Oh, let's see. What else has to be said? Well, again, this is simply a laundry list of things, cutting edge concerns and ideas in the realm of what I've left out and I'll mention it and then maybe we can knock off our top political ideas. I've talked to you guys before about the idea of one woman, one child. I've slightly modified it recently or made an addendum to it which is, uh, I think it would be very interesting, if 75 -- if every woman had one child. We talked about that and the social consequences of that, but how interesting it would be then if 75 per cent of those children were female and that the feminization of society, I think, should not proceed through the feminization of men; it should proceed by dialing down the overall number of men in the society and I think probably with a 50/50 sexual ratio which is actually an artificial ratio maintained by craved monogomites and their dominator stooges not to judge it, of course, but [Audience: laughter] and that in usually, in large, uh, mammalian social animal groups, males are more at a premium and so that's something I've been following and talking to people.
And then lastly and in somewhat a lighter vein, I want to urge you all to consider the zippies and their crusade to save the soul of America which you may not have heard of. Well, that is how it is with crusades. [TM: Laughter] The zippies are a bunch of English bohemians who are trying to launch a third British cultural wave following in the model of the Beatles first and Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols second, and now come the zippies and they exemplify a certain kind of syncopated house trance dance techno music and, um, what I like about them is that they operate under the banner of what they call "pronoia" and pronoia is the creeping idea that people are plotting behind your back to help you [Audience: laughter ] and I see pronoia as part of the phenomenon of boundary dissolution. you know, things are going to get better and better. And what a zippie is is basically a freak who has their shit together. You know, zipppies are freaks, but they don't have large amounts of garbage in their apartments.[TM: laughter] Freaks who recycle. That's your typical zippie. And so they'll be making their way across country and if you get a chance to attend any of their raves, um, you should do it. Raves are very good for the soul. There's a lot of youth bashing going on in this country and it's very weird and directed from large glass and aluminum boxes along Madison Avenue in Manhattan. You know, there is nothing wrong with people under 25. They're fine. Thank you. It's the culture that they're inheriting that is so toxic and weird that they don't know what to do with it. Somehow the response of that culture is to stigmatize them and to lay down all sorts of horse shit trips about Generation X and this and that and the other thing. I really think the zippies are the real, um, youth culture and it's psychedelic and its experience based. That's the other thing. Something we've preached here over and over again that the primacy of direct experience is what life is about. Now
Time magazine is telling you but, you know, how you feel in your body, right here, right now and, you know, the drugs you take and the sexual acts you participate in and the things you do with your mind and body in real time and everything else is highly abstract and not to be trusted, I think.
In New York I gave a talk for the zippies trying to formulate what it is and it's mostly what it isn't. You know, it's about not believing, not consuming, not following. Uh, it's about taking back direct experience. If we could feel our circumstance, if we could feel what we're doing to the earth and each other, we wouldn't do it. It's that simple because it's too horrible, but, you know, you can anaesthetize yourself with ideology, with wealth, with distance, with religious obsession and so forth and so on, and then you can't, you know, tell shit from shinola, but pain is pain, agony is agony, uh, there's plenty of it out there so I think the precondition for any kind of response to that, any kind of like political or reforming response to it is to feel and that means taking back your own social space from the machinery of media and domination and value manipulation and and so forth and so on. So, I live life with an immense sense of intellectual excitement and hope. That's the thing. I think there's a whole bunch of, uh, cards on the table that permit intelligent people to hope. Intelligence and cynicism which have gone hand in hand throughout the 20th century are no longer good company with each other. It's inappropriate. Cynicism is now inappropriate. It's déclassé. It's not chique, my dears. Something else is on the horizon and so, permitting smart people to hope, that is the goal.