|27-29 August 1993
||Esalen, Big Sur, CA
So, one of the things that's really important, I think, about psychedelic get-togethers, uh, however marginal and contrived, is that everybody gets to see who else is in the community. Most of the time we’re fairly deep in the closet and can’t be told from a typical convention of investment bankers or sports car enthusiasts or anything else. I won’t keep you too long tonight because as I’ve said, a lot of people came a long distance. I always think about these things before, because I wonder - is it changing? What’s my role in relationship to it? Have I sort of fallen into being some kind of gatekeeper, or in a worst case, a dancing bear? This issue of infotainment…recently I found myself in clubs at four in the morning raving at people at high decibel with the perfect knowledge that they couldn’t understand a word I was saying. I wonder - this is a strange thing to happen to a philosopher. Is this what my daddy raised me for?
[Question]: What clubs are you raving at?
Blow my cover! Well, not in LA yet. In San Francisco we did a rave at Paradise Club down below market. In the Fox Warfield, I appeared with a shaman, which was insane. They give you a microphone and just push you onstage. Just breathing on one of these microphones makes the walls move back. Megatripolis in London - I appeared there and Knowledge. The point being, I keep trying to understand where to put the psychedelic experience in terms of the available cultural pigeonholes. Is it to subvert academic thinking? Is it to ignore all that constipated bourgeois dominator malarkey and go for the kids?
I’ve been here as scholar in residence for a week and so I’ve given a couple of lectures, which naturally, some of the themes we’ll talk about and some of the themes have been anticipated. I think, what is the point of thinking this way? The way I’m willing to purvey rather than some other way? What is so great about this point of view? I decided the final defense is that it’s the most fun. This is not normally how we evaluate ideologies. Normally the concern, which is true, and then whatever is decided is true, no matter how dreary and depressing that may be, then somehow because it’s true, some enormous morale obligation descends upon you to believe in it.
I remember this from my own intellectual journey when I was 14, 15 and 16, the world looked very bleak. So I read Camus, Sartre and the lesser lights of that dreary French existential school and because it was true, you had come to terms with it supposedly. You know, life is a drag! But as you mature intellectually or as you spiral off the track into madness, whichever my particular development can be described as, you discover that truth is philosophical coinage for the naïve. The banks of philosophy do not trade federal truth certificates. That’s for the hoi polloi. What’s going on among the professionals is something very different, a sense of the limitations of knowledge. Cogito Ergo Sum, I think therefore I am, appeared to be a kind of axiom, a kind of bedrock statement. I – think – therefore – I – am. Now somehow in the 17th century this appeared to have some kind of incontrovertible logic about it. Like – I am I. But when you analyze it, it’s an incredibly complex statement embedded in assumptions that can barely be languaged. Just look at the connector ‘therefore’ and try to wrap your mind around what this actually means. What are the limits of the meaning and what is implied? It’s a profoundly intuitive concept not easily languaged. All knowing is incredibly provisional and this is something which is hidden within in the context of a culture. Cultures don’t run around announcing how they haven’t got their acts together. That’s not what culture is about. Culture is all about announcing how we do have our act together. Look at this Gothic cathedral, look at this Stone Henge or look at this wonderful human sacrifice we just put on here. We know what we’re doing. We know how to run nature and ourselves.
In the 20th century, at last the evolution of philosophy has become sophisticated enough to sort of question this search for truth. I studied philosophy from somebody some of you may have read or personally known, Paul Feyerabend, who was a wonderful philosopher of science and essentially an anarchist. He wrote a book called
Against Method and he talks in there about the provisional nature of knowing and how naïve we are in the ways in which we manipulate data about the world. Just as an example, we imbibe without question the very complex philosophical assumptions that lie behind probability theory. For instance, talking about averages poses no intellectual problem for us. If you want to know how much current is running through a wire and you take 10 measurements, you add them and you divide by 10 – we then say this is how much current is running through the wire. Strangely enough, when you go back to your original 10 measurements, no one of them may be the value that you now announce to be the true value for the current running through the wire. All of our epistemic enterprise, all of the effort to understand the world, is hedged about by this uncertainty. Wittgenstein was once asked if a particular proposition was true and he said it’s true enough. This is the voice of modern philosophy, where at last enough simple common sense has sunk into the philosophical enterprise that we’re now talking about things being true enough rather than the revelation of God’s truth.
I mean, good grief, if you met a termite wandering across the floor of the jungle and interviewed him on his life’s work and he announced that it was the discovery of certain truth, you would be fairly condescending on how you would relate to that. But do you believe that you are greatly different in your cosmic positioning than that termite? Monkeys are better at this that insects? I don’t think so!
I spend a lot of time trying to make my ideas seem rationally apprehendable but in a way that’s just sleight of hand. Their attraction for me and I hope for you, is not their rational apprehendability but that they’re fun. You can’t top this for fun? If you can, I’ll convert to your way of doing it. The phenomenal world is delightful. It’s humorous. It has locked within itself all the adumbrations and reflections of its aspirations, its past and its unfulfilled possibilities. I really think this is what the psychedelic thing is about, or at least for me; it’s a kind of sensual glorification of multiplicity. That’s why if we we’re to look at spiritual traditions and try to categorize them into great or weaning categories, then I think what you would get are the minimalist schools which are all about white lights, nirvanas, satoris, sunyatas, and things largely unsayable that discourse despairs of describing. Those ontologies that glorify the phenomenal world - and that would be Paganism, psychedelic thinking and shamanism - notice that these are more nitty-gritty positions not driven by a thirst for abstraction but driven by a thirst for sensation.
To my mind, the centerpiece of the experience of being and the centerpiece of the psychedelic experience and the point around which the great issues of modernity revolve is the issue of the felt presence of experience, the relationship of the individual to the sensorium of the body. We see it in all kinds of subtle ways and unsubtle ways. Unsubtle ways, the whole issue about a woman’s right to control her reproductive processes. Subtle ways, the way in which the entire society is an engine for producing certain behavioral outcomes in the marketplace. Everybody is being programmed and manipulated and I think the antidote to that in some sense is this wider appreciation of complexity and experience.
The reason the psychedelic thing is so powerful and can touch so many people of so many classes and outlooks is that it’s an experience. It’s not an ideology. So we’re not talking something which competes on a level with say Marxism, behaviorism or deconstructionism. This is something more operating on the level of sexuality, emotion, devotion; it’s a feeling and it’s a birthright of the organism that has been socially restricted and controlled in a very weird way. We are literally a schizophrenic species. We are at war with our own nature. Civilization, whatever that means, is felt to be so fragile an enterprise that it’s constantly refusing to come to terms with the context in which it finds itself, which is the animal body, sexuality, emotion, pain, desire, elation, and ecstasy; so we go outside of those things and create a generalized abstraction and reason backwards.
The reason psychedelics are so frightening to the guardians of social order is because they represent a direct addressing of experience. For a very long time, I mean one millennia, five millennia - choose a number - experience has been hierarchically distributed in human society from the top. You get a Christ or a Hitler or a Pope. It’s a leader of some sort or a visionary, and then the exegesis of the vision is passed down through and we imbibe it as a product coming with the sanction of social correctness. This has had a kind of neotenizing effect on us as human beings. What I mean by neoteny is the retention of juvenile characteristics. We have allowed ourselves to become more and more childlike to the point where now some considerable percentage of us allow ourselves to be warehoused in a larval condition most of our waking lives watching television. Consumer object based fetishism and the cycle of production of money for the acquisition of fetish material, then the inevitable disappointment, the reformulation of the fetish, so forth and so on. This is what occupies us. It was William James I think who said, ‘if we don’t read the books with which we line our apartments then we are no better than our cats and dogs.’ I guess I say - if we don’t take the psychedelic plants that are in the environment that we can avail ourselves of, then we are no better than our cats and dogs.
There are doorways open to us but they are all experiential and personal. They lie in the realm of sexuality and I guess what you would call experimental psychology. These are areas where we get very nervous and want to follow rote, follow tradition and be assured that we are not deviant, that we are not strange and that we are not violating any canons of the tribe. I think because of the social crisis, meaning this vast generalized sense that everyone has that things are out of control, we are going to have to go back to first principles. What that means is a return to the authenticity of the body. You know McLuhan wrote how media distorts human self-images? One of the reasons I’m involved in virtual reality and electronic media and all of that sort of thing is because I think that the age of the distortion of the human self image by media is coming to an end. That the medias of the future will be largely transparent and that this is very important because it’s going to allow us to discover who we are. A person who can read is a person who possesses an ability that is tremendously distorting of their essential relationship to their humanness. I mean if language is a bizarre activity, and no question that it is, reading is orders of magnitude more bizarre yet because abstract signs are being manipulated at close to conversational speed and in some cases faster than conversational speed.
So much of culture is complex behavior and I think that what the psychedelics show - that is a secret that some people don’t want told - is that we can redesign our behavior. We can change very, very quickly the image of ourselves as somehow the rigid inheritors of evolutionary programming and therefore doomed like lemmings or Monarch butterflies to enact a programmed pattern of behavior and destroy ourselves. This isn’t what I see happening at all. The whole history of humanness is a history of unexpected, adaptive response to unusual circumstances and I believe that’s because the imagination has played such an important role in defining who and what we are. Whatever the imagination is, psychedelics catalyze it. Psychedelics enhance it. The thin bandwidth of interior self-monitoring that goes on in normal consciousness becomes much more clear, three-dimensional and intensified under the influence of psychedelics. These things used to be called consciousness-expanding drugs; it was just a good old phenomenological description. Well consciousness, or the absence of it, is what’s pushing our species towards some kind of crack up.
So if there are factors in the rainforests, in the Arctic tundra, in the toolkits of preliterate and aboriginal people that can act to transform consciousness then this is where we have to put our attention. If we could feel the consequences of what we are doing, then we would stop doing it. The reason we don’t stop is because we are partially anesthetized to the consequences of untrammeled population growth, unregulated capitalist market oriented behaviors, so forth and so on. We are semi conscious. This is our problem. We’re like someone half awake inside a burning building.
Are we going to suffocate and become a crispy critter? Or are we going to sufficiently integrate the situation and grope ourselves to an entrance and call 911? In our case, I don’t know who comes when you call 911, but it’s something like that. During the weekend, we’ll talk a lot about human history because I think human history is something that we are far too blasé about. We take it for granted because our own lives are so ephemeral, last seventy years or something - we think of history as something that was installed with the rocks but in fact it isn’t. It to is a behavior very recent like language, another behavior very recent. Physically, human beings have been about the way we are for 100,000 years, and much the way we are for half a millions years. But the behaviors have changed radically. From nomadic partnership, from societies based on shamanic intoxication, orgiastic sexuality, and no fixed abode, to a massive integrated global electronically based civilization. These are extraordinary modifications of behavior. It’s as though hummingbirds were to begin assembling locomotives. That’s the kind of radical transformation that we see inside our own species.
Well then, the question is – what’s it about? What we are doing, by replacing one behavior after another, never resting, never satisfied, is in practical terms – we’re accelerating the entire temporal continuum. We seem to be pushing process towards some kind of dimensional apotheosis of some sort. We’re not content to let things rest. Human history is the record of this process, which begins as a kind of random walk across the epigenetic landscape of culture. The random walk finds a compass heading and this compass heading has many names. You can call it unity. You can call it God. You can call it a chicken in every pot. You can call it completion. Whatever it is, freedom seems to be its central feature. We want freedom. We want freedom from the constraints of the cycles of the sun and the moon. We want freedom from drought and weather, freedom from the movement of game, the growth of plants, freedom from control from mendacious popes and kings, freedom from ideology, freedom from want. This idea of freeing ourselves has become the compass of the human journey. That which doesn’t free doesn’t serve.
This has become almost a kind of universal ideal. No one on Earth preaches the virtues of slavery. There may be people who practice slavery but they have the decency to keep their mouths shut about it because the defense of slavery has become impossible in polite company. I think over time, the growth of an ideal of what human perfection is – first worked on by the great religions and then some time I suppose around the time of the Italian Renaissance handed over to secular forces – who began to say freedom was more than the right to wear wool and pray twenty-four hours a day. Freedom means the acquisition of property, of the visible manifestations of wealth, the acquisition of information. Freedom with the publication of the first books becomes associated with accessing the database of the culture. Well, what we’ve learned through Freud and Jung is that the database of the culture goes deeper than we may have anticipated and that the final keys to the deeper levels are in fact plants that were part of our shamanic heritage millennia ago. So freedom has become basically a project in the Blakian imagination. Blake called it the divine imagination and we now dream of transcending the constraints of matter, space, time and energy themselves.
I mean this is what stuff like nanotechnology and virtual reality and this sort of thing is about. We wish to find ourselves in the imagination. Well, I maintain that this desire is a kind of nostalgia for a paradisiacal possibility that actually existed in the past. To understand the human predicament, we’re going to have to come to terms with the idea, which has been around for a long time, but not given much coinage recently, history is a fall. That this is a lesser state than we have known in the past and that all this material culture and all this exhibition of energy control; these are the toys of lesser gods. Being integrated in nature, at peace with the rhythms of life and death and co-indentified with the eternal organisms of community, that these were actually higher and nobler ideas that somehow became compromised with the fall into history.
It has to do with the relationship to the lost continents of our own minds. That’s what this psychedelic this is really about. I think it’s a profound as the European discovery of the lost half of the planet 500 years ago. It’s that half of the human mind became disconnected from the ego and for a thousand years or more, these things have drifted in such profound estrangement from each other that when reunited, the only thing that we can map it to is a flying saucer invasion or a descent of angelic intent, or something, because we have become so alienated from the collected images of the soul.
While it’s true that shamanism has existed forever and ever and that people, midwives, shamans, visionaries, schizophrenics, have been doing this in all times and places, nevertheless it now has a special poignancy because the official philosophy of our civilization – capitalism, materialism, reductionism; I guess that’s it, maybe misogyny is in there somewhere – has played itself out. It’s failed! Modernism has failed! Modernity has failed! The rational analysis of matter has led to the revelation of the irrationality of matter. The attempts to create systems of perfect deterministic prediction have lead to the revelation of the chaos that haunts all systems and makes all prediction in principle impossible. The prosecution of the dream of a formal edifice of logic to explain mathematical structures in truth has given way to Gödel’s incommensurability theorem, which shows you that basically nothing makes sense. Everywhere where reason has shown its light, the greater darkness has been revealed.
I think a turning point has come in the human enterprise. Childhood’s end is upon us. We have to drop the naïve assumptions of certain truth and perfect understanding; the conjuring rod of reason turns out to be a fairly weak magic after all. We have to begin to cultivate a sense of mystery, a sense of living without closure because that, in fact, is how the world is. The world is a mystery. It’s not going to yield to the fragile constructs of the human mind. Some portion may be rationally apprehendable but the basic facts of the matter are that we do not know where we come nor why, nor where we’re going, nor according to what plan. Instead of seeking a flawed communication with the intentionality of deity, I think the psychedelic religious agenda, if that’s how you want to think about it, is a more modest one. It’s a cultivation of a sense of wonder in the presence of something, which obviously cannot be encompassed by the human mind. It can no more be encompassed by the human mind than the ocean can be emptied into a thimble. Once you get that straight you can go back to getting high, staying tight with your friends, making love, growing your garden and appreciating the felt presence of experience and realizing that the abstraction game, the high-modeling game, is in fact simply a game and that there should be no emotional investment in these structures.
What I’ve learned from the mushrooms ultimately is that ideas are for play. The final payback from all of this is a sense of fun, a sense of humor. The truth for sure, when it arrives, will make you smile. If it doesn’t you should seek a deeper truth. For a long time it troubled me, this question of truth and falsity. Now I think that it’s more like this: that the person who has the best idea, or the let’s put it this way, the best idea and that means the funniest idea, the idea that brings the small smile to the corners of your mouth, that ideal will win. It will win! It’s twee the cheerful. Twee treads on the tail of the tiger, no blame. No blame because the cheerfulness of twee overcomes the inherent reticence of the world. The light touch is the right touch and if psychedelics don’t give this to you, you may be an incurable case. There may be no hope for you but Martin Heidegger in high doses or whatever they do with people who have displaced funny bones.
The world is truly a strange place and getting stranger all the time. It’s more the character of a pun or an optical illusion than it is the world of humorless, scurrying, grey atoms and invisible forces that we inherit from nature. The laboratory of being is your own body, your experience. Everything else is going to come as an unconfirmable rumor so fraught around with epistemological problems that you might as well toss it out at the beginning and not even bother with it. The basic thing is the empowerment of experience. That’s why sexuality has always raised such a ruckus among authority freaks. It’s why the psychedelic is so unsettling. It’s why youth itself is unsettling because these things cause symmetry breaks. They cause a shift in perspective but this is in fact, at this point in time, exactly what we have to it.
It may be that we’re going to rack and ruin but it’s not an unconscious process. There are the technologies, the information retrieval systems, and the engineering capacities to fight like hell against the dying of the light, if that’s what’s going on. But the will has to be activated. The problem is, the people creating the problems, which are the people in the high-tech industrial democracies – people like you and me – are the furthest from the consequences of the problems. Here we anticipate the apocalypse and it’s a theological discussion. You go to Somalia and the apocalypse is well under way. It’s moved beyond the planning stage in many parts of the world but these are the parts that we don’t go to. Yet we represent, for all our humility and financial difficulties, whatever they may be, we represent the five percent of the world’s people who have some ability to contact control and direct the resources and the technologies that are available on this planet. If you’re able to sit here at Esalen this evening, then you automatically are in that five percent classed as the world controllers, you and your friends.
[Question]: Why can’t if enough people lock into that space of undeniable unity that cause almost an epidemic on the planet?
Well I’m not worried. I think that what is happening is a transformational process, not the bankruptcy of ideology. Not the spin down of technical civilization. I’ll argue through much of tomorrow and tomorrow evening that history is not our fault. You no more can blame us for the shape of human history than you can blame a fetus for the unfolding morphology within the womb. That history is the necessary distortion of an animal species to lead it to the brink of an ontological transformation. When we get into this issue of politics, it’s a very tricky issue I think, to handle from a psychedelic point of view. This is because the psychedelic point of view as I read it from a fairly deep level is that it’s a done deal. It’s OK! Basically we’re going to make it. We’ve been on a straight line vector for millions of years with this transcendental attractor that has shaped us, called us out of matter, and is revealing itself through us. But knowing that is not permission for sitting on your can or ceasing to participate in the struggle to create a just and caring society. It does mean that you shouldn’t worry, that worry is off the menu. That you don’t know enough to worry is one of the arguments to be made.
So it’s basically a case of: we need to act locally and think, not simply globally but cosmically. In our cosmic ruminations, struggle to erase boundaries and to see that the difference between us and the next species in waiting in the evolutionary elevator, and the difference between life and death, and the difference between pre and post history; these are differences that can be easily erased. When they are, what comes through is this lost sense of unity, purpose and rightness that we’re trying to recapture.
Well that’s all I really wanted to say about that tonight. I didn’t want to keep you past 10pm. We’ll get together here tomorrow morning. Get a good night sleep. The baths are open twenty-four hours a day. Thank you very much. Bring your questions, controversies and whatever, and we’ll dig into all this with great gusto on the morrow. Thank you very much!
It’s only 10am and already it’s been mighty peculiar. Did anybody have any particularly strong reaction to last night or feel that we were started off on a wrong direction, or a right direction? Is there any feedback from all of that last night? I’m beginning to have the feeling that the need to stoke the furnace of psychedelic information is a task that is being generalized into the culture. It is a relief for me because it frees me to discuss to my own megalomaniacal concerns, which are this mathematical effort to model history that will probably be mentioned on and off all day then dealt with in detail this evening.
Strangely enough, the novelty wave or my theory about how history is structure, normally leads me into a situation of whipping the horse ever faster towards apocalypse and millennium. Very recently we’re entered into a phase where you should get out your lawn chairs and learn to play solitaire or something. Because at least by the expectations of the time wave, the next couple of years are going to be incredibly repetitious, mundane, pattern bound and ho-hum compared to what we’ve just been through. From our close perspective it’s hard to tell it, we’ve been through one of the most profound decades or five or six years of the 20th century. The whole slow, catastrophic collapse of Marxism and what it’s meant for Islam and capitalism. It’s all in the past but very dramatic.
I like talking about my chaotic notion of time because it seems to me that the scientific data that is arising week by week is supporting my originally somewhat far-fetched contention that the universe is getting weirder and weirder and weirder at an extraordinarily asymptotic rate. Just two examples in the last six weeks, both bizarre. This ice-drilling project in Greenland has brought up 325,000-year continuous record of snowfall and because of the decay of isotopic oxygen, there’s some mumbo-jumbo by which you can determine the temperature of the air at the time the snow fell. So what they’re getting is a continuous temperature record over 375,000 years. They can hardly believe what it’s telling them. It’s telling them that the climate and the weather has been nuts for tens of millennia. There are five-year periods where the world temperature fell twenty degrees, remained there for seventy years and then bounced back. A picture of completely chaotic climatological fluctuation has emerged just in the last two months. I mean – they’re holding congresses and flying people in and drilling a second core to try to understand this because it’s always been thought that the planet’s climates were fairly stable, except that the human factor was capable of perturbing it. Now it looks like these glaciations are merely macrophysical reflections of micro-reflections in the climate that are extremely dramatic. So that’s one piece of data that’s arrived in the last six weeks arguing that the universe is a strange and chaotic place on an accelerated trajectory toward novelty.
The other is much more peculiar and in fact it’s at a level in the scientific literature where panic has not quite broken out. Are you all aware of this very large object, which has entered orbit around the planet Jupiter and which has broken up into between seventeen and twenty-five objects? This is not coming to you from the Fortean Times and The Star; this is Astronomy, and Sky & Telescope. It’s apparently a cometary body but it’s very large. It has broken up and gone into Jovian orbit but the orbit is decaying rabidly and the whole situation is explicit enough that they can say with reasonable certainty that next July 22nd, these objects are going to encounter the Jovian surface with greater release of kinetic energy than the extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
The impact as presently calculated will occur on the side of the planet turned away from the Earth but within six hours, that side will swing into view of terrestrial telescopes. The amount of energy released in the impact, it will be possible to calculate it by studying the reflected flash off the Jovian satellites. So what we’re talking about here, in the words of Astronomy magazine, a once in a hundred million year event. But that’s the clue that something weird is going on. Once in a hundred million year events don’t happen in the lifetime of a single human being. What are the odds of that? We also had Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedy assassination, the landing on the moon. How many once in a 100 million year events can you cram into a single lifetime. Well, I don’t know what this thing going on out at Jupiter is about but it’s bizarre.
It’s bizarre that in science now, things like chaos theory and non-linear dynamical systems and these kinds of things, these intellectual tools arrive just as the assumed stability of reality, established by Newtonian gentlemen in powered wigs working through their brass instruments, that all flies apart and there’s just the heaving oceans of the spaghetti of ambiguity as string theory and non-localization stretches you from here to Zebu Gonubie and back again. The feedback between the perceiver and the object perceived is tightening. I don’t know if this is a psychedelic theme but it’s the theme of my psychedelic explorations. I think of the shamanic model as inherited from classical aboriginal shamanism worldwide, which is a model of levels that the universe is somehow made of distinct levels. Energetic, geographic, but that there is an access, an elevator that allows you to move from level to level. This is usually some extraordinary technique of physical stress production or in the hipper societies, a pharmacological intervention of some sort.
The information is deployed differently on each level. They’re like defined perspectives on the stuff of being, the raw perceptual input of experience. I really think that and I don’t understand, you can’t quite wrap language around it, it has something to do with the fact that we’re physical creatures at all. The mind at its deepest organizational level reflects the geometric principles of the organization of space and time. The mind as present in us at this moment has been folded and sculpted and shaped into a tool for threat detection in three-dimensional space because the body is a fragile thing born along by the vicissitudes of matter. But when you take a psychedelic or when you perturb ordinary brain chemistry by any means – illness, high fever, lightning strike, hunger, prolonged drumming, grief, all of these ways – then there is a transition of level, or what Mircea Eliade in this wonderful phrase, called the ‘rupture of plain.’ The rupture of the mundane plain – isn’t that great…you’d almost swore you’d have to smoke DMT to get together a phrase like ‘the rupture of the mundane plain.’ But then the organization of the information on these different plains has hitherto been largely thought to be somewhat expressionistic, or haphazard ala the Jungian maps of the unconscious or something like that.
I think that there is actually more to be gained by making a strict mathematical model and saying that the shaman is a person who penetrates to a literal informational hyperspace of some sort. To take it literally in terms of a geometric explanation because think about it for a minute, shamans are primarily in their aboriginal setting, they function in three roles. They predict the weather. Weather prediction is very important in shamanic cultures. They tell where game has gone. In other words, they monitor the food source of the group and direct the hunting and gathering activities according to the availability of the food. Thirdly, they cure disease and this is very important and they are incredibly adept at choosing patients who will recover. This would be a cynical way of putting it. They are very adept at choosing patients who make miraculous recoveries. Some of you may know the tape recordings of Maria Sabina’s mushrooms Velada made by Wasson, where an eleven year old child is brought to her and she says she wont shamanize for this case – that this kid is not going to make it. He doesn’t make it and dies within three weeks.
Well if you’re a materialist of the modern stripe, then the only way you can deal with this testimony about shamanism, about the precognitive knowledge of weather and game movements and the miraculous ability to cure is to deny it. To deny it and say that this some kind of sleight of hand or they are very closely observant of nature. In other words, some ‘only this’ argument that denigrates the thing. I think when you actually look at the ethnographic data from all parts of the world collected in the field by people who spent time with the Azande, and the Kikuyu, and the Witoto and the Kyrgyz and so on; the body of testimony of what we would call paranormal phenomenon is sufficiently impressive that another model has to be called into play. I think it’s that there are ways to push the mind by extraordinary pharmacological encounters or stress into a kind of higher dimensional space. This would be sort of like the idea that the indeterminacy that adheres to matter at the quantum mechanical level, the fact that it displays itself as particle or wave depending on the questions being asked – that that fundamental indeterminacy apparently has to be amplified through every level of nature, including the human level. So that when you get to ourselves, the mystery of ourselves is the particulate, finite and dissolving body and the intuition of the unseen wave like infinite spirit, the indwelling entelechy that creates the cohesion of the nexus of actual occasions that is the coordinated prehension of an organic system, right? We’ll just stop there…
[Question]: Let me see if I’m getting this right? Somehow I’m getting the image of you mathematically decoding the language of the gods in a way?
Well except that it isn’t actually a language. It’s more like a point of view. What I’m suggesting here is that the magic, if that’s the word, or the grandiosity, the power of ecstatic excelation that resides in the psychedelic – is because it is literally a change of dimensional perspective. I hope this isn’t too an obscure an example – in the 14th century Petrarch climbed a mountain somewhere in Italy and wrote a passage about it and invented the observation of landscape and nature in this single work of art. People had never done that before. It was an entirely new thing to climb a mountain and look at nature and feel the unity and the grandiosity of it, and write about it. It was part of Renaissance humanism. It was part of getting people out of those dreary, urine stenchy cathedrals that they’d been hanging out in for far too long.
So what I’m suggesting is that in a sense, the shaman is someone who climbs an inner mountain but a real mountain, a geometric mountain, and then has a higher perspective. It’s a shift of awareness. We all are body, soul/spirit but to the degree that we concentrate on one, we occlude the other. I don’t really like the sound of that because it sounds like you could turn that into some kind of asceticism, which in principle I am against. I think the key is paying attention to mental life without bias. One of the things I’ve been talking to the staff here because I’m scholar in residence is Finnegan’s Wake. We’ve been taking it apart and looking at it and noticing that part of the genius of Joyce in the way the Wake is composed is that all terms are transparent. Every word you can see through it to other words, to other associations, to other connections. Nothing is explicit and overt and defined. It’s a mental universe.
The novel can take two directions. It can try to create what’s called realism, which is in a sense an attempt to duplicate the laws of optics on the printed page in narrative, so that you have lord and lady so-and-so moving about their country home with the crisis of daughter and servants, or whatever. But then that’s not the world those people are living in. That’s the world you would see if you were a camera watching them. The world they’re living in is a much less crystalline and temporally defined world. It’s a world where memory and anticipation are in a disystolic relationship as the attention of the characters ebbs and flows, focuses and merges. This is what a great deal of modern literature is about.
[Question]: Are we trapped?
Well, trapped in artifice. Trapped in art. In a sense, yeah. That’s why Proust and Joyce, who are so different, can be seen to be essentially about the same thing. A true rendering of experience is very hard. This is the great challenge. I think that’s why somebody asked me recently – what was I doing with myself or where was I going? It seems to me that once you work your way into all of these places, the real test of your psychedelic authenticity is the ability to write a novel because what you have to show to yourself, not necessarily to anyone else; what you have to show to yourself that you can put yourself into the mother giving birth, the fascist interrogating a prisoner, the child at play, the gangster plotting the advance of his career. In other words, the human experience is open to you. You know what it’s like: hooker and priest, saint and sinner. It’s all accessible to you. That’s the sign to me that a person has really dissolved their boundaries and done their inner work because the quintessence of understanding is the ability to occupy other people’s points of view. I certainly make no claims in this area. In fact, I’m very weak in this area. I learned a long time ago but watching how I play chess, that my emotional immaturity is right on the surface because the way I play chess; I make brilliant plans and then I attempt to carry them out as though there was me and nobody else there. Meanwhile, coming at me across the board is this bewildering series of interruptions of which throw off the plan.
This is the Via Dolorosa, the street of tears. I think there’s a crying tradition among North American Indians. Stress is what we’re talking about on one level. It may be that there are two ways to attain these places, stress and psychedelics. And then we could have a discussion about whether psychedelics are a subset of stress or not. I mean that’s sort of like whether you think of surfing as stress. Obviously it’s strenuous and it can kill you but some people think of it as exhilarating. There are many ways to perturb the mind. The reason, when we talk about psychedelics, we fall automatically into a vocabulary of travel. We talk about journeys and tripping and that sort of thing. This is because travel is how people normally attain this if they don’t have pharmacological means and that’s always been respectable. Even among very Bourgeois societies like the 19th century England. The summer holiday in Italy was de rigueur and if you saw room with a view, this was where Eros and the dark Latinate unconscious was expected to swarm over these pale English women and initiate them into unspeakable pleasures and debauchery. It doesn’t sound half bad, does it?
[Question]: You talked about…I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it but my question has to do with one of the topics of the weekend, which is ethos vs. politics, inner vs. outer. Psychedelics are a way of experiencing other planes of reality or reality in a different way but it seems as if you’re also talking about a way of using that requires – I don’t know if there is inner discipline – how do you use it so that it’s not just a distraction or a drug?
[Question]: The fetishes? The fetish objects?
I think the simple answer to how do you do it without trivializing it is that you doses that scare you. These things are not physically dangerous and yet they are terrifying at what are pharmacologically completely harmless doses. The LD50 for psilocybin is hundreds of mgs per kg, yet if you take anywhere about 25 mg, I think strongest wayfaring soul reaches for the break pedal somewhere in there. It’s amazing how we just skim the surface of this and we can’t go very deep because language fails. Most of you who have done committed doses know that you go into a realm where it gets weirder and weirder and weirder, and finally the very machinery of explaining to the observer what is happening begins to melt. Then you are there with it for a while and then you descend out of that and the language mechanism reactivates and says, we are now leaving the utterly unspeakable behind.
It’s an extraordinary thing, the motivation of my career is I just can’t believe how this much strangeness could lay that close to the surface and the enterprise of human history be conducted for 10,000 years with people running around trying to do weird things, writing polyphonic music, the Rudolfian court, Hieronymus Bosch, and all this stuff. Right under the surface, just a Niagara of peculiarity and strangeness that makes no sense to me when I put on the hat of the biologist. Why should an advanced animal of some sort have this curious relationship to an invisible river of imagery running collectively through the brains of all and each? What is that about? The beauty of it, and as in Blake’s word, the futurity of it. The fact that in the glistening of the flowing waters of the unconscious, you glimpse not only the square topped towers of Ilium, the ruins of Carthage, Petra and all that – but you also see the intimations of some kind of magnificent future. Is it in the imagination? Is it directly ahead in the time stream? Is it lost in dream? The whole circumstance of being alive and being a self-reflecting, thinking human being is just too peculiar for words.
[Question]: Would you say that, as far as the terror of this goes and what makes people hit the off button, to push the breaks to the floor board, something that you were saying last night about lost continents – it seems that this psychedelic experience isn’t new in the sense of a cultural endeavor, that’s called out the discovery of the unconscious, and Freud attributed that to the Romantic poets, so I think what you say, that one could see the whole modern and post modern era of this progressive discovery of this lost continent, the unconscious, and perhaps it is as the Native Americans would put it, the purification in the sense that psychoanalysis, the analysis of the unconscious brings to light hidden aspects of truth of peoples lives, or their collective lives, that no one wanted to face. But these things have been layered into the unconscious so it’s a process of bringing things to light, or as Carl Jung says, enlightenment does not consist of visualizing figures of light, but making the dark unconscious?
Well, I’m not sure I understand the question. If you’re saying how derivative of…I mean I basically agree with the premise, I would just push the thing further back into time. I think where this all…it’s fun to find various break points. I mean, was it Tim Leary, was it Alfred Jarry, was it Lenormand, or was it the French symbolists. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I think that what’s popularly called age of the marvelous indicates the real descent of the western mind towards the psychedelic confrontation. When we look at the time wave tonight, maybe we’ll get around to talking about this but basically with the inventing of printing in 1440, I now see books as obviously a psychedelic drug of enormous power. The early books were manufactured with chains on them so they could be bolted to tables so that addicts would not tear them loose and take them home. The invention of printing and the seizure of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks set off an age of scientific advancement, exploration, so forth and so on, that lead to the discovery of the new world only 500 years ago. And this had the impact on Europe that flying saucers on the White House lawn would have on us. It was an alien planet that had been discovered with trackless jungles and temperate forests and people clad in gold practicing strange religions and enormous trading. It was an alien civilization, and at the same time, the grip of the medieval church was breaking down and people had a fascination with the bizarre and with the phantasmagoria of natural existence. They were bringing back birds of paradise form Bougainville. They were bringing back carved Incan and Mayan material, codices and all of this stuff. This is the period shortly then into it of the great flowering of European magic. The establishment of the Rudolfian court in Prague and all of that.
It was the age of the Wunderkammer, the wonder cabinet, where you collected together stuffed birds, amanites, gnostic gems, bits of archaic detritus, large insects, narwhale horns, all of this stuff. It was pre-Linnaean, it was before the categorical mind had stepped in and the whole thing was just a maelstrom of individuated data collections. I think that’s where the psychedelic thing in the west became explicit.
[Question]: Back to this man’s question about the actual taking of a psychedelic, I think it’s real important that it be done with an intent and to kind of ask for or put it out there what you need or want?
Yes, you have to talk to these things. You do it on an empty stomach in silent darkness in a situation where you feel secure, which can mean in your apartment with the phones unplugged and the door locked or off in some jungle. It’s very important, empty stomach and silent darkness and intent as you say; then, not a reckless dose but a committed dose. Not to see if it works - it works, other people have established that. You don’t need to do research to confirm that it’s psychoactive – you just do it! There are techniques for navigating through there. The best is a pure heart but since we can’t always come up with that, sweating blood also helps.
In terms of actual, physical techniques, singing – this is what I learned in the Amazon. You don’t always have enough presence of mind to breath but if you will sing, the breathing will take care of itself and the body is an instrument. The Yogis, they got that right. The body is an instrument for tuning through these dimensions. I don’t know what it all confirms. I don’t rush to embrace any particular esoteric school; in fact, I’m fairly scornful of all of that because I see how it’s used to promote priestly hierarchy and mumbo-jumbo and that sort of thing. Certainly science doesn’t have the whole story. The human body is an incredible esoteric instrument. It’s just that I think you need to self teach yourself.
[Question] The shaman’s perception, I guess that’s what you’re trying to get to, on the subconscious level. Their minds aren’t cluttered. They don’t have to overcome the knowledge, the facts, because they don’t start with that. How do you get past that? It would seem to me in this case, the more you know, the more difficult it would be to reach that pure second conscious level where it’s just a matter of knowing through the vision of your consciousness will do.
Well I don’t know about that. I see the logic of it. I had a shaman tell me once in the Amazon, he said, ‘it’s not easy for us to do this.’ It’s no easier for us to do this than for you to do it. I imagine, giving shamans pure DMT and stuff like that, and watching them go through it – they’re macho, they do it but at the core are as sensible and afraid as anybody would be. Everybody comes down to a local language structure and a local set of cultural myths. The shaman’s job is to be outside, behind and under that. He’s sort of an archetypal plumber. He sees and he knows where the shit goes. He knows how to repair the system that is invisible to everybody else. I think it’s very challenging to do this stuff in any cultural context. One thing you find that you may not expect when you go to the Amazon is not all shamans have the great zest for going as deep as possible. There are a lot of shamans whose attitude is, you get in, you do the work and you get out fast. You take only as much as you need to…
[Workshop Day 2]
It’s a question - which is more important to the content of your psychedelic experience? The books you’ve read in your life or your genetic heritage? That kind of thing. Teasing this apart, the only way we’ll ever know and this is why I tend to encourage and hang out with the technical crowd on one level, virtual reality is a technology that might allow you to show somebody the inside of your head. If I could spend six months building a virtual reality, which was my DMT trip, then escort someone into it and show it, then they would say – that’s exactly what happens to me or they would say, you know that was the damndest thing, no where does that come tangential to anything familiar to me. Well then this would be wonderful in either case. You would either have confirmation of a generally recognized reality or a breakthrough to an immense domain of potential creativity where every individual could create their own equally personally compelling metaphysical joy ride of some sort.
I think on one level what we’re doing here is something that’s never been done before in Western society that I’m particularly aware of, which is, we are talking about the psychedelic experience. This is the first step towards understanding it. I guess the first step is having it but then, so many people have had it who don’t attempt to English it and it’s quite respectable to do that. Too much has been made of the indescribability of it. I mean it’s fine to say that but then decency demands that you go forward and describe it. You’re pushing there against the envelope of language.
The culture cannot evolve faster than the language. The language is the flashlight that shows the path and so if we don’t talk about something: race, homosexuality, drug experiences, then no cultural progress takes place on that front. It’s like it just doesn’t exist. So part of what we’re trying to do here is create a dialogue that is not necessarily politically confrontational. Too much of the public dialogue about drugs is whether they should be legalized or not. You can take care of that in one sentence. Yes they should and they won’t be. So now let’s move on with that.
Experience, this is probably the richest domain of experience that we have. I mean, you may go on your vacation to
Benares and I may go to Argentina, and we will get back and talk about the restaurants, national parks and museums that we visited, but far more interesting conversation could take place if I do psilocybin and you do mescaline and then we get together and talk about the places that we’ve seen. In other words this psychedelic universe, whatever it is, is the major datum of experience. It’s larger than this planet. Nobody knows how large it is. The further in you go, the bigger it gets. We don’t know what to make of something like that. That’s the reverse of our expectations.
[Question]: You seem to use sound a lot as a key issue. You were mentioning in South America, you sang songs. Were those songs ayahuasca songs, Inca songs or little ditties you were doing your own self?
They were in some cases ayahuasca songs that Don Fidel taught and in some cases just taking ayahuasca, I learned and called them songs. But one of the things that’s so interesting about ayahuasca is that it promotes a synesthesia that’s very dramatic. You see sound and when you make it. You have an experience, which is beyond English by several leaps. The experience of generating colors out of a vibration so that you go ‘onnnnnnnnn’… and a chartreuse line like a neon light descends and hangs there and then you can move it off and it goes from chartreuse to lemon yellow. Then you just begin playing with this and within 30 seconds you’re doing something that seems to you only intelligent insects on other planets do.
[Question]: Is it true of everyone who you’ve talked to about ayahuasca?
I think if you can come through. You have to sort of get your wits about you because ayahuasca sweeps over you. There’s stomach stuff. There are waves of hallucination but once you sort of get your sea legs, you can do this. It’s very clear when you’re with these shamans that these performances are pictorial. Originally the active principle of Banisteriopsis Caapi was called Telepathine when Theodor Koch-Grunberg and those people went in there in the early years of the 19th century, they collected samples, took it back to Berlin, characterized it and called it Telepathine. Then it was later realized that the compound had been earlier isolated from Peganum Harmala and called Harmaline and the rules of chemical nomenclature give the early discovery precedent. But it was called Telepathine because the tribal groups using it seemed to have this extraordinary group mindedness. This is one of the things that I’m keen to talk about, is the fact that telepathy of a sort we didn’t conceive seems to lie very close to the surface in these states. I think most people think of telepathy as you hear what I think, that’s telepathy. That is not what psychedelic telepathy is. Psychedelic telepathy is you see what I mean. You see what I mean!
There is a way to use voice, inflection and tonality to edge people’s transduction of the language experience out of the audio, out of the ear mode and into the visual mode. This is something which is neurologically very fragile in us. It’s as though the land is very flat and the river flows one way through the audio processing channel of the neocortex but just a very slight shift of the inner stratigraphy and the river would flow another way. It would flow into the visual cortex and language would become a thing beheld. One of the things that’s so interesting about ayahuasca is that it contains DMT and Harmaline and these are both brain neurotransmitters occurring in normal metabolism, suggesting that there is simply a one or two gene mutation or the intensity of the expression of a gene already present that would switch brain chemistry toward visual processing. Meanwhile in the culture, simultaneously there is this tendency going on, the culture is becoming more and more imagistic. The invention of photography, high-speed color printing and film, we see and we relate through the image much more. So I think psychedelics, media and the predisposition of the neuro-landscape is setting us up for a kind of ontological transformation of the project of communication. Yes?
[Question]: As you’re saying this, I’m observing the way that I’m listening to you and I’m seeing what you mean. Your language, like when you say neurological, I see a picture. It goes really fast but I’m seeing what you mean. That’s how I’m comprehending you.
Yes, well you’re embarrassing me by turning the magnifying glass upon the current project of communication but that’s the name of the game.
[Question]: Maybe it evolves as we evolve, that seeing what you mean?
Yes, one reason some people have criticized me is because I use big words. But I’ve always had the feeling that if you use big words right, your listener understands perfectly what you mean. I don’t know how that works exactly or it may just be an illusion of mine, but it’s a very satisfying one.
[Question] It seems like in a way you’re working with sound and you’ve got in touch with that sound on different levels but you express it in conscious communication, which anyone’s consciousness is somewhat a lie. It becomes more conscious and they hear communication or understanding and it all clicks right.
I think language is a behavior. It was acquired 50,000 or 100,000 years ago and I think people don’t use it enough. Ninety percent of spoken communication is trivial. It’s very interesting to try and use the descriptive blade of voice; it’s like Manjushri, the sword of discriminating wisdom. Communication is about discrimination. It’s about finely delineating difference. With this sword of discriminating wisdom, you make your way into the world and, granted, it’s an image of penetration and cleavage and so one but what your left with is the cognitive enterprise.
[Question]: After all these years, what is it these days that would make you want to hit the breaks?
Out in the state you mean? Well it does this thing on me occasionally, which I call going all ‘halloweenish.’ And I say, ‘why are you doing this to me?’ It’s scary. It’s probably just my own inner demons. I ride this stuff through but I always feel like you should never take the sea for granted. The metaphor we’re dealing with here is the sailing of small ships over great and turbulent depths. I’ve also noticed, my god, if an iota of pride lodges in your character it can rub your face in it like you just don’t want to know from. So I respect it. I fear it, the strangeness of it. Somebody near and dear to me - I won’t name them - but just recently described taking ayahuasca and the dose was somewhat low, so after a couple of hours they smoked some DMT on top of it. With your MAO inhibited like that, this is a pretty hairy chested thing to undertake. Don’t try this at home folks! With your MAO inhibited like that, it just settled in and he said ‘it is strange!’ When you get the tabs trimmed and you get the focus right and you can just look at it - it just says behold if you can, oh mortal, the essence of Freg-Youg-Maglama-Glock and you just say oh my God!
It is clear that it presents itself through a series of veils. It’s so kind to first timers and second timers. It’s like a series of Disneyesque images, but god, once you’re into it, it begins to part the veil and you realize that the human mind is just like the mind of a gnat falling into the sun of peculiarity and then you come back and try and talk about it.
[Question] – I have two questions. After all of your psychedelic experience and these experiences of other capacities and abilities in the brain, when you come back to the mundane plain, have you found yourself developing the ability to use your brain in the mundane plain in the same way that you have experienced its capacity in a psychedelic plain? And also, do you think all of this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of leaving this dimension, like maybe a near death experience, leaving the body ultimately through death and is all this just kind of like the beginning of that? You seem to feel that the fear component is important to you. Is it more like a fear of dying when you go too far?
I think in my case, it’s a fear of madness. I’ve convinced myself that dying is highly unlikely. The madness question is totally open book. Who knows? And you do get into places where the only reassurances that it won’t last…as far as the tip of the iceberg question, and death and all that – I have a lot of intellectual resistance in this area myself. I was raised Catholic, I fought my way free of that, as I said toward Camusian existentialism and then I got hooked into all this and then was just swerved back into a more spiritually teeming universe than I ever would have thought possible. It’s hard to talk about. It may be that what the psychedelic thing is, is that it is some kind of look over the edge. Out of let’s say, 50,000 years of conscious human experience; 49,500 of those years has been lived in the assumption that something survives physical death and only in the last 500 years in Europe has this become a gradually less and less popular assumption.
We don’t understand what biology is. We understand some of the details of how form maintains itself but we don’t understand the mystery of the descent of form into matter. We don’t understand where mind fits in to the loop of causality. So the testimony of DMT for me is that there is a nearby dimension teeming with intelligence that from one perspective – and one of the more conservative perspectives – seems like an ecology of souls. It seems as though that what the shamans always said they were doing was in fact precisely what they were doing. They always said ‘we do it by ancestor magic.’ We go to the realm of the ancestors. The ancestors exist in some kind of super space. But ancestor is a sanitized term for a dead person. What we’re talking about here is apparently beyond the train of mortal care; there is this super-space where apparently everything is made out of mind. And so, in James Joyce’s wonderful phrase, “if you want to be Phoenixed, come and be parked, but up n'ent, prospector, you sprout all your worth and you woof your wings.” Is that perfectly clear?
Well, if you want to be Phoenixed, come and be parked means if you want to be transformed and reborn as an angel, you have to die. And up n’ent prospector, prospector means rock hunter, as in searching for the philosopher’s stone, you’re a prospector. You sprout all your worth and you woof your wings meaning you make your own body out of the imagination and I don’t know what this means.
One of the things that interest me is the fact that we seem to be moving towards a transformation more radical than any that has ever occurred to our species before. So radical that in the interest of intellectual fairness, one of the possibilities that has to be put on the list is that we’re about to go extinct, 100%. We don’t know what that means because we don’t know what death is. When you look at the record of biology on this planet, 95% of every evolved species that has ever lived are now extinct. This is what nature produces, fossils of extinct species. And the question then, we’re down here to ultimate values. Are we trying to have what the Catholic Church, with an utter lack of irony, calls a happy death? Or are we trying to seize the levers of the cultural machinery and pull out of the power dive at the last minute and get this baby back up to altitude and sorted out here? What’s going on? Or are there in fact any controls in front of us at all? Are we the hapless passenger on this strange vehicle that is…
[Question] Doesn’t it seem with all the soul searching and people getting in touch with what you might call the source - that the messages will be coming down with what you might call ‘the way to go?’
Well that’s what I think. It’s what I think and it’s also possibly delusional, so be forewarned, but it appears to me that history is ever more rapidly vindicating the notion that it is building towards some kind of apotheosis, some kind of apocalyptic, apocatastasis. Anyway, something in Greek! The people who project the human future thousands of years they don’t understand the asymptotic speed. You talk to somebody in; lets just take a field, gene transplant. You talk to somebody who is tops in gene transplant, they tell you things that drop your jaw. Then you walk over here another laboratory and talk to somebody in parallel processing computation and they tell you astounding things. Well, you realize these two people don’t know each other. All of this information is vectoring together and the connections are being made and it’s out of control – no company, no government, no religious group – nobody is in control of this and yet there is a plan. It isn’t a chaos. There is a morphology being expressed that won’t wait and we all are simply the cells being directed into this archaeological expression of mind.
[Question]: When you were talking before about the enlightenment period where artifacts were being brought back, displayed and enjoyed, I’m wondering about the Time Wave 1996, what sort of cultural manifestations we might be involved in? If that makes any sense?
No that makes sense. It might make more sense to other people this evening but the answer to the question is: the parallel resonance between now and then, or between 1996 and the past was the great flowering of Umayyad Caliphate at Baghdad, which was the birth of modern science through the codification of Algebra. So two things to keep your eye on in 1996 are the political fates of Islam worldwide and breakthroughs of a major sort in abstract systems of description like Algebra and that sort of thing.
[Question]: Or virtual realities?
Well certainly there were technological breakthroughs under those caliphs as well. They were the great patrons. They preserved all this. They don’t get any credit. We talk about our heritage from the Greeks but we never talk about how that heritage comes through the Arabs. There’s a great book called
How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs.
[Question]: You said this last night and I want to see if I’ve got this straight. You said that the mushroom said, ‘don’t worry, everything is going to be OK?’
I think worry is preposterous. That was Wei Po Yang; a 6th century Taoist sage said that. Worry presupposes that you understand what’s going on and I think it’s safe to say that we do not have a clue as to what is going on. We can’t even tell whether it’s a happy ending or a catastrophe. We can’t tell whether we’re slamming into the wall of our cultural limits at 50,000 miles an hour or we’re about to go hand in hand off to the galactic center with the human soul as companion and vehicle.
We just do not know what’s going on. I think it’s safe to say that we’re approaching a symmetry break. That whether you’re a horrified pessimist or a gung-ho optimist, everyone can see that the make or break point is coming up because life is either going to get a lot drearier suddenly or there’s going to be some kind of a breakthrough. I don’t think cosmetic management of the cultural crisis will work much past the current Clinton administration. This is apparently the last go at spin doctoring the apocalypse.
[Question] – I just wanted to ask how you feel about the technology behind the AIDS crisis?
So what do you mean exactly by the technology behind the AIDS crisis?
Well, in a sense, I see AIDS as the inevitable consequence of the ocean-crossing airliner. Always sites of pilgrim were sites of disease conveyance. Any virus worth it’s salt would jump into this situation and exploit it. Now as to the darker side of the AIDS thing, in terms of was this a product of human engineering or human intent or so forth or so on? That’s an interesting question but in a way it really doesn’t matter. It’s a product of human behavior and I don’t mean simply sexual or homosexual behavior; I mean such behaviors as travel, pilgrimage and the wish to mix it all up. Think of the gene streaming that is taking place in the 20th century. I mean I know a Tibetan married to an Egyptian woman. Stuff like that’s going on all over the map so there are all kinds of crisis. When we were a nomadic community the transmission of disease was retarded by the fact that human groups didn’t really come into that much contact with each other. When you’re in a place like Terminal One at Heathrow and you just look around you – my god – Muslim priests, Tibetan Lamas, Botswanan Dignitaries – people are just swarming and swarming and swarming and using the bathrooms and coughing. In these airliners when they fly over the ocean - when they fly above 30,000 feet - they recycle the air in such a way that if there is one person who has a problem, 275 people are having their immune systems on red alert by the time you get to Tokyo or New York. Not to rave but…
[Question] I’m not sure but it sounds like your talking about early Christianity, the abstract, that all sounds hallucinatory, a look back towards paradise or something like that?
Well, one way of analyzing Christ if we keep pretty much to the strict orthodox and accept the Gospels and so forth – it’s as if he presents a shamanic figure. The unique claim of Christianity was this bizarre doctrine of the resurrection of the body. That was the part that was the jaw dropper. Christianity, working from the primary text, looks very much like some strange kind of biological magical invocation of some sort. There is that amazing passage in one of the gospels where the three Marys: Mary the mother of James, Mary Magdalene, and the other one, go to the tomb and Christ is standing outside the tomb and one of the woman starts toward him and he says, ‘touch me not for I am not yet completely of the nature of the father.’ Well good grief, what’s going on here? He is resurrected. He has overcome death but he says touch me not, I am not completely of the nature of the father. My interpretation - it’s maybe too much to get into at this point - but my notion of what religions are, is that this dwell point at the end of history, which is acting as an attractor for the temporal process and drawing and sculpting and shaping everything as it is brought into its light, as it were, has a kind of reverse causality operating. And what Wordsworth called intimations of immortality haunt time like a ghost. So if you’re a Buddha, a Mahavira, a Christ, a Mohammad, you get essentially a geometric theory. You’re simply geometrically positioned vis-à-vis the object at the end of time that you become a false reflector of its light and these false reflectors always distort it in some way. It’s the nature of it. It’s no rap on them; it’s just the nature of it that they distort it and some distort it horribly – a Hitler, a David Koresh – and some distort it maybe we like to think less – a Buddha, a Mahavira – but the point is they all distort it. Marshall McLuhan said, ‘you know – our mistake is that we’re driving the vehicle of culture into the future using only the rearview mirror,’ and that’s sort of what we do.
But each one of us you see, we are like Christ, Buddha and Mahavira. We also have a perspective on the transcendental object at the end of time, on the divine, and we work it out in our life in our psychedelic experiences, our sexual epiphanies, whatever it is that moves us. It’s just what Blake said: psychedelics are window washing equipment for cleansing the glass of perception that allows you to then perceive the world as infinite. Because this transcendental object lies ahead of us in time, to know it is in some sense very ‘woo-woo,’ very tricky to English – in some sense to know the future and that this is where I think the existential power or the quality of nmenosisness, of realness, comes into the shaman’s personality.
The shaman knows the future in the same way that I as a 46-year-old man can advise my 12-year-old daughter and have an immense kind of position of existential authenticity in her world. It’s because I know the future. I know that the first love will not be the last love and I know that heartbreak lies along the way and all this. I am wise from her perspective. Well a shaman is a wise person and they are wise because they know the future, not of the individual only but also of the culture. That is why when the TV cameras arrive in the Ecuadorian village and they boot the medicine man out of his thing – they say – well Jose, what do you think of the fact that the forest is being cleared? The usual reply is: eh?
[Question]: Blake also said religion and politics are the same thing. This is a political seminar and I’ve been waiting to ask you this. I’m wondering if you would entertain a question on what religions are in viruses? I want to talk about the dark side of Christianity and if I could get you to frame it in this way? On psychedelics with books, Christianity – I think a better word is Christianism – as a spiritual ideology looks like a warfare, a protracted warfare if you will against the Earth, against the body, against our very humanness, and I think we accept that there are these invisible things called viruses that attack the physical body. But would you be willing to entertain the possibility that there can be a spiritual virus that attacks the planetary body, in fact attacks Gaia? The reason I ask that, you remember Porphyry long ago when Christianity was on the rise, a Neo-Platonic philosopher said that he thought Christianity was a disease of the soul and I think Freud and Jung has pretty much proved the same thing.
Well long before the viral metaphor, somewhat before the viral metaphor became
au courant, Jung talked about what he called psychic epidemics. He, in I think 1934, wrote an essay on the return of Wotan as an archetype of the German soul and very presciently picked up on what National Socialism was all about.
[Question]: I’m talking about monotheism when I say Christianism. Patriarchy and monotheism and Christianism as the apotheosis – I get to use that word too – in western history of western society, Christianism being the apotheosis of the patriarchy.
Well, I’m on one level not keen about monotheism. I think it gives a distorted map for the psyche to emulate but I also see Christianity as a pretty radical betrayal of the monotheistic agenda. Monotheism, whatever its social consequences, makes sense. It’s a drive towards philosophical economy so you get down to the idea of not many gods but one God and it works like this. Christianity is a gnostic cult of physical redemptionism grafted onto this Jewish theology by Alexandrian controversialists who had a very curious notion of what they wanted to do. I see Islam as a reclaiming of the pure intent of Judaism to conduct a philosophical discussion of the consequences of monotheism and that all becomes really murky with the mystery of the Trinity and the nature of the Father and the Son. Christianity is an incredibly exotic religion. Other religions are just absolutely straight ahead, they’re metaphysical systems with morale consequences. Christianity is about the absolute worship of the irrational and the incredible. Origen, who was one of the patristic writers, great Christian fathers – they said ‘your religion is absurd, it’s preposterous.’ And he said,
credo quia absurdum. I believe it because it is absurd. That’s the foundation of the Western mind. All this mumbo-jumbo about reason and evidence, when you strip it away it’s ultimately faith in the absolutely, incontrovertibly incredible: the resurrection.
All three see the permission of this belief, its true, comes out of the earlier stratum of Judaism where an earlier unlikely promise is made. The promise that God would enter history. That’s what set them up for this later deal. God will enter history they were told. So then if you’re a theologian of this faith, the question obviously arises, how will God enter history? And you ruminate on that for 500 or 600 years and eventually what you come up with is, he will send his own son. He will send a divine manifestation that will be an absolute union of spirit and matter. There will be a descent of the Paraclete into our midst and the idea of the messiah is born, which is an incredibly peculiarly western idea. Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mencius, Confucius – these were guys, you know. A messiah is a horse of a different feather. A messiah is not exactly a human being you know. A messiah is a convalescence of historical force of great energy. So, I don’t know, where are we with all this?
[Question]: I don’t want to argue; I just think there is another way of looking at it. These are the same guys that we have to remember, the white, male guys – we see the Pope over here, we see the medieval picture. These are the same guys who burned Giordano Bruno, the great poet, visionary and scientist of the state because he wouldn’t recant, probably because of a stubborn Calabrian; I’m not sure about that though…
But look at the reputation they gave him! Bruno without the pyre is a whisky priest laying waste to the maids of Umbria. No, I mean here is my point on this: I agree that history has been a nightmare and if it could have been any other way, then probably there is some answers have to be given and some debts paid.
[Question]: But I’m saying there might have been another way if they hadn’t burned all the libraries, sought to destroy knowledge to the point in the middle ages, when the Christians so called liberated places like Toledo and found these Arabic writings about the Greek lost science, they couldn’t even translate it because they didn’t even have a concept of zero. It’s like the barbarians won in this society.
Well, yeah – they won.
[Question]: Would they have won if they closed down the philosophical schools and didn’t destroy all the knowledge? Would it have been different? Well, we’ll never know because we didn’t have the chance…
Well, what I hear you saying is: life is tough.
[Question]: Especially for Pagan philosophers…
Yes, you have to make your career choices carefully here.
[Question]: Is your belief in this one dwell point to which history is moving, a form of monotheism?
Is it a form of monotheism? Well, I guess it’s a form of Neo-Platonism. I had digested all that - Porphyry, Proclus, and Plotinus – I do feel the power of the argument that when all boundaries are dissolved there will only be the plenum, the one. It’s an idea with a very long history in western philosophy. It goes back to
the Timaeus. My idea of how this thing is working is that boundaries are dissolving. If you want to make one prediction that you can take to the bank, that would be it. Boundaries are dissolving so any scheme that involves setting up new boundaries is probably doomed.
Well, yes, so it is a kind of impressionistic pastiche that we are trying to anticipate. The other thing is and this goes slightly more to the guts of the mathematics of my theory but I think that time is wrapping itself in an involuting spiral, where each spiral is 1/64th as long as the cycle that preceded it. If you accept that premise then you have a cosmogonic scheme where half of the unfolding of the manifestation of the cosmos will occur in the the last hour and 35 minutes of its existence. So attempting to anticipate what it will like as we go down the maelstrom towards the lapis at the end of history, it can only be conceived psychedelically and wordlessly. I really think history is a psychedelic experience and this old saw about how ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. If you carry that through to completion then all organic process ends in the big question mark of death and we individually recapitulate that journey. We each will end in death. One of the things that always amuses me is that people are always so resistant to the idea of the end of the world. Never apparently having noticed that it’s a fairly academic question when played against the fact of the certainty of their own death. Their world is going to end so what’s with all this altruistic concern about all the rest of us? We’ll take care of our own apocalypse, thank you! You just need to come to terms with your own because it’s inevitable.
[Question]: What do you think will happen to Islam when the east hits the west and fundamentalists are struggling to survive and reclaim their old territories?
Well I think that as this post modern, post communist thing unfolds for several reasons, Islam is poised to make the greatest steps forward since the 10th century. For two reasons: first of all because out there in central Asia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kirghizia, an enormous chunk of real estate is poised and rightfully toward moving toward fundamentalist Islam. If those states becomes Islamic states, Islam will effectively double the amount of land that it controls on this planet. The other thing is, as time accelerates, as the weirdness spreads, the global networking, the simulacra, the teledildonics, the virtual reality, as all this stuff becomes more and more prevalent, a lot of people are going to freak out and reach for the button marked ‘return to traditional values.’ And on a global scale, this is Islam. Christianity is a whore to capitalism. Christianity is not traditional values. Islam is not kidding. I can imagine millions and millions of people alive today who can’t imagine that they would ever entertain conversion to Islam who will before the end of their lives make it part of what they’re about because there is no other traditional system available. It’s either that or what I call consumer object fetishism: which means the Mercedes, the house in Trent St. Tropez, the Rolex watch, all of that.
[Question]: The weekend seminar!
Diamonds on the souls of her shoes, yeah!
[Question]: What about Judaism.
Judaism is not a converting religion. You say you want to become a Jew, they send some guy three times to convince you it’s a bad idea. You’re not going to.
[Question]: In between, you have the Islam and you have Christianity but in the society it doesn’t seem like you have what you would call the word of truth coming out of the music or out of society. It’s like bits and pieces and fragments but there is no basic word of what you might call hope or truth.
You mean out of popular culture?
[Question]: Right, there is nothing really coming out. You hear fragments in music…
This is why I associate myself with rave culture, house and ambient music, and all that – you all know what this is right? Well see that’s part of the problem. For years and years, youth has just been wondering in the desert of neolism and industrial noise, bands and that sort of that. So now out of England there is a new kind of music which has different kinds of names: it’s called House, it’s called Ambient, it’s called Rave, it’s called Trance Dance, Tribal rap; it comes out of hip-hop. It doesn’t come out of Rock & Roll. It’s quite consciously not Rock & Rock. It’s very optimistic. The people who are eighteen to twenty-eight are the most with it generation in a while and they are not buying in to the consumer object fetishism and they don’t seem to be converting to Islam in large numbers either. So I think that you’ll be amazed that popular culture will take a very positive turn in the next few years. There’s immense energy under the surface. Most of these bands produce CDs in pressings of 2 or 3 thousand copies but it’s a very vital and alive thing.
[Question]: Are you seeing that they might come out with a wave of conscious lyrics that are true, and like somehow in the 60’s, you had Pink Floyd and The Beatles, and all the groups but there was a basic movement and everyone at that time could relate to those words?
Well I think we’re just slightly premature. If the 90s are the 60s turned upside down, then we probably have to wait until 96 and that the energy is gathering. I’ll show you on the Time Wave tonight, not that that’s gospel, it does appear there is a kind of gathering charge under the atmosphere of Southern white-boy eschaton that’s attempting to be created, but when that’s all over and the hard lesson is learned that Christ himself couldn’t right the American Government as presently constituted, then I think we’ll get down to a more serious dialogue. It probably involved electing a fascist president but what’s new about that?
[Question]: The media likes to pull the popular cultural mass movements and what sort of distortion happens when people start looking in that mirror. How do you plan to avoid the Timothy Leary syndrome wherein you allow something good and a few people in the know become trivialized, banal and totality commercialized? How do you plan to escape that?
[Question]: Yes, if you’re connected with the rave moment.
I will pursue what I call the Salinger-Pynchon strategy. This is where I’m going to become progressively more remote, hard to reach, legendary, and sort of just fade off…But I don’t really have any complaints about the media. If I could get to the kind of consideration from Mondo 2000 that I get from the New York Times, all would be rosy in my world. It’s your friends who scare you to death in the media.
[Question]: I think it was Colin Wilson who said when he published The Outsider who said there were two ways that the society could totality destroy ones creativity. One was by totality ignoring you and the other was by recognizing you.
Yes, that’s right. You become a cliché.
[Question]: The 18-to-28 group, my concern is, what’s going to happen to them?
Well what’s going to happen to all of us? We’re all in the same…
[Question]: Doing for them, so that what happens in the 60s doesn’t happen to them. Being particularly aware of the incredible kind of resistance, brain washing and cult snatching…
I don’t think we want to get into a wrangle with the establishment over some life or death issue like the Vietnam War. That permitted an incredible penetration of the underground. The great middle class who was maybe not interested in the war but who was also not interested in tearing their clothes off and smoking pot in the panhandle; they were willing to stand by and watch while the establishment really did a job. I think also a stealth strategy is best. You don’t want to manufacture ten million hits of LSD in the dormitory on the weekend and then go for the jugular of society. Obviously this alarms ordinary people. Remember when Ken Kesey used to tour the country with the bus, ‘Further.’ Well they had a big banner, which was on the front of it which said, ‘we have come for your daughters.’
Now this is great for a laugh but it doesn’t reassure the folks out there in Baboon Wassu when you roll into town.
[Question]: Kind of teaching discretion since the general tendency of youth is to be kind of…
And a lot of survivors of the 60s are now in position to help. A fifth column within. All the years of guilt you’ve built up over how you betrayed the revolution could be redeemed in a single moment down the road a few years because you can intervene at some crucial point.
[Question]: Does that include stoning Bob Dole?
Stoning Bob Dole? Dosing Bob Dole? No, I think the Republicans; their only hope of survival is to nominate Perot, which they probably will do.
[Question]: I wish I believed in your writing off of fundamental Christianity but I kind of see it as such a strong irrational force that I worry about it. I’m wondering why you think it’s not?
Well, again, when we look at the Time Wave tonight, you’ll see that we’re in a period, which has a very strong resonance with the Dark Ages. You probably noticed anyway. I think that fundamentalist Christianity is rising in its power but that that power doesn’t extend much beyond the turn of the century. There is going to be a last gasp and a final bubble in their attempt to influence the political agenda, but in a sense, their gripe is already broken but there are enormous battles which lie ahead. By the turn of the century, I don’t see it as particularly a problem. It’s only in America that this horrible business goes on. Europe is a truly secular society. They are just absolutely baffled that our political agenda can be influenced so strongly by what they perceive as crazy people. Rattlesnake handling ecstatics from the hills of Tennessee, I mean, you have to go to Bengal to get stuff like that.
[Question]: They’re taking apart our sacred constitution. You’re talking about crypto fascism; won’t you also admit that there is Christo-fascism that we need to be worried about that just as much?
Well for instance, this Supreme Court decision on animal sacrifice is alarming to animal rights people but the larger issue to my mind is that it’s an invitation for eccentric religious practices to get constitutional protection. The Supreme Court even re-invited the submission of the Oregon Peyote case based on that. I think that the election was about this and that, cut it how you may, those people got their asses whooped. They just keep screaming about it because they’re bad sports. The election basically turned into a referendum on this family values crapola they assumed everyone would rally around and instead, that was the final evisceration. So I think they are very poor sports but that they not controlling the political agenda of this country.
Of course, give the democratic party enough rope and I’m sure they can sufficiently fumble the ball to get Hermann Goering elected…
[Question]: I’m just wondering if anyone is in such disbelief as I am that in the anti-papist country of Thomas Jefferson, the Pope could come here and draw a crowd that looks like The Beatles visit in the 60s. You know, a stadium full of all these people crying and tearing at him. This is supposed to be a secular society – why does this guy get this kind of reaction from the American populous? Doesn’t that disturb you?
Well what disturbed me about the Papal visit, I could see that some very, very sly public relations people are going for the same demographic I’m interested in. The way in which it was presented as an outreach to youth and how he’s in the hood, he’s our guy, he’s my man! The pope, my man! I just thought this is bizarre but also a measure of desperation. I just think this too will pass away. Let’s check the Time Wave, I think it has something more to do with the captivity at Avignon than the politics of Denver, I think. Help me out here somebody, where are we?
[Question]: The second-generation are very beautiful kids. They’ve gotten good spiritual training over the last 18 to 20 years. They don’t have anything to do with the institution and they have a nice appreciation for drugs and chanting, dancing and feasting. I think when the raves get with the second-generation Hare Krishnas, it will be nice combination.
Well, see in a sense, the rave is an attempt to be second-generation freaks; to actually learn from the 60s. I’m pretty positive about it. It’s just going to be a smorgasbord. The evidence is going to come in faster and faster, supporting all positions. Things are going to get a lot worse and a lot better and it’s all going to happen simultaneously. I really believe that from 1945 to 2012, we are reliving in a compressed form about 4300 years of human history. Very literally, this is not a metaphor and if you take that seriously then we have reached 765 AD. That’s as far as we’ve come from 1945 and ahead of us lies the establishment of Gothic Europe, the Black Plague, Newton’s laws, the Italian Renaissance, the machine age, the European Enlightenment, the discovery of atomic power, DNA – all that lives beyond the turn of the century. So when people are frustrated by the fact that we can’t see what the transcendental object at the end of time is going to look like – I can’t say here is what it will be like on the great day when it comes – it’s because it lies literally below the horizon of rational apprehension.
But that doesn’t mean that when you look east the sky isn’t streaked with the blush of rosy dawn. It is! It has been for centuries. We’re moving toward this thing. It has to do with the idea of human freedom. It has to do with the idea of the inherent dignity of human beings. It has to do with the idea that everybody should have four square meals and a roof over their head. It stretches from the sublime to the mundane. It’s an idea of how it should be and sometimes it resides in the secular domain through the schemes of Marxism or even of National Socialism and sometimes it resides in the domain of religion as some kind of great cleansing or the descent of the glory or the coming of the Maitreya. But human history is the outer shell of the phenomenon, that’s one way of thinking of it. So if you find yourself inside of human history, then you are inside the attractor field of the transcendental object and then you just have to find where you are in the historical galaxy. Are you just about to escape it’s influence and drift off into the interstellar darkness or are you closer into the core and therefore irrevocably locked and irrevocably being moved slowly but with great certitude towards the confrontation and revelation of this thing? And of course it happens to us individually with death. There is no escaping it!
Then we choose, in the same way we’re a little dodgy about facing our own death; we’re even more dodgy about thinking about the fate of the species. Science has tried to tell us that human history is purposeless. Well this is a very odd contention because if it is purposeless, it’s the only purposeless and disordered process that’s ever been observed and there it is right smack in the middle as the sum total of the activity of the most conscious entities known to exist in the cosmos. A strange place for purposeless to crop up with such a vengeance.
[Question]: You talk about how psilocybin mushrooms are responsible for the big cranial leap from the proto-hominid to the Homo-sapien. Do you think its possible that again the psilocybin mushroom can play a role in the next evolutionary leap or some form, it may not be physical…?
Well that’s a good question. I don’t think I’ve talked too much about this because it has a sort of funny vibration to it. But sort of following Isaac Asimov’s style of writing
Foundation and Empire,
Second Foundation if you haven’t read these books, these are huge science fiction histories of the future. It seems to me that you could make a case that there is something called the Strophariad. It’s great that this Latin word works out this way. The first Strophariad was established on Earth half a million years ago and lasted until 12,000 years ago and then it ended. Then there was the historical era, the imperial era, the era of ego, kingship, phonetic alphabets, exteriorized technology, standing armies, urbanism, architecture, hierarchical structure, forced social role playing, so forth and so on.
Then beginning in 1953 - that would be the year zero of the second Strophariad when the Abraham and Sarah of the new order, Gordon and Valentina Wasson, discover the mushrooms in the mountains of Mexico. And then of course in the 70s, the brother’s McKenna propagate the method for cultivation, which turns it from a rare tropical endemic into a denizen of every attic and cellar from Nom to Calcutta. The symbiosis between human beings and the fungi is reestablished and it’s a symbiosis that leads directly back to a connection into the Gaian mind of the planet. It would be great. It’s a little grandiose for me to claim it but it would be wonderful if technology would miniaturize itself, if sexuality would generalize itself, if nomadism, electronically sustained through universal issuance of power books and fax/modems, were to come into vogue and an entirely new social order – isn’t that what it says on the dollar bill, a new social order for the ages would be born and we could all become an eye floating above our own pyramidal database of uniquely sculpted virtually real personal brick-a-brack.
I think that the mushroom has an immense role to play in the human drama?
[Question]: What do you mean symbiosis? What do we give the mushroom?
We give it hands. It has no power to manipulate the environment. It touches the environment as lightly…
[Question]: Are you saying that you think it’s an intelligent thing that needs expression through human mind and body?
Well that’s one idea that I have entertained – that it’s some kind of thing that blew in here a long, long time ago. As I was saying earlier this morning, we will come to live in the imagination. If you look at the mushroom, it looks like an organism that engineered itself that way. It said, ‘let’s deemphasize our bodies, let’s reproduce by spores, let’s be primary decomposers, let’s get out of the food chain, let’s spread ourselves as lightly as cobwebs through the ecosystems we inhabit.’
[Question]: And see who eats us first?
And see who eats us first! But it seems to have like a database of intelligence that is transplanetary. We don’t know what kind of a barrier space represents to the drift of life. We’ve only known about DNA since 1950. Presumably any civilization with a full understanding of DNA could design itself and create a karmalous body, an eternal style and an enormous telepathic capacity. Mushroomhood may be something that we’re headed for or at least it may serve as a natural model for a new style of organic existence as the shedding of the monkey begins to be progressively accelerated.
It’s perfectly clear; I don’t think that we can go to the stars as hairless monkeys. It’s just bad packaging. It was great for the conquest of a terrestrial environment but if we’re serious about taking our place in the hegemony of galactarian civilization then I think a considerable downsizing and repackaging is going to be necessary for that. The spores offer a good blueprint for that.
I see that it’s noon. To your scattered bodies, go. We’ll meet back here at 4 o’clock and I’ll probably be in the tubs part of the afternoon. I’ll be giving an interview part of that time but I’m happy to talk to you anytime that I’m around untrammeled, feel free.
Well let’s see. It was suggested to me that maybe we should confine questions to designated periods so as not to break what was perceived by some as the forward thrust of rhetorical momentum and perceived by others as the unmitigated exhibition of megalomania. Ho-hum for that! So maybe we’ll do that. I was sorry to hear that because questions are such an easy way out!
Let’s talk a little bit about any loose ends of this morning and then I’ll talk for a while and then we’ll entertain discussion at the end of that. Is anybody disappointed? Are we not getting to your favorite subject or somehow slighting some side of it that you’re afraid isn’t going to get its full treatment? Any comment on what went on this morning?
[Question]: I was just talking to some people in the bookstore and I thought pretty much everyone had the same experiences but with me and mushrooms, I had profound teachings and teachings of things that I was unconsciously aware of. I was given very good advice and sometimes instructions as well as awarenesses, so I don’t know if this would be boring since you do it a lot but I would like to hear about stories.
So you like stories? I agree. I just never know. I’m always trying to calculate. There’s just such a limited number of hours. Is it OK to swap stories and never mention the Paleolithic? What gets sacrificed for what? I think stories are great and I certainly don’t discourage them.
[Question]: As you were talking about before, the intelligence in these substances, the intelligence that seems to be in these substances.
So that’s what interests you? Well yeah, it’s what interests me. What I keep going back to is how confounding it is. How confounding it is to rational expectation that a plant can, exactly as you say, it gives you specific advice. It can color coordinate your wardrobe if this is a major concern of yours. It has no snobbery in what it will deal with. It’s eerily like a companion. No other psychedelic does that. It’s in a sort of a category by itself as an entelechy. On DMT you encounter these self-transforming machine elves or the gnomes of hyperspace but these things are drenched with the peculiar or the au pre.
Often in the mushroom thing, it’s very approachable, friendly and manageable at least on a certain level. It’s like anybody, any personality. It has depth. I never know – is this news to people or is this ho-hum and we’ve been over all this many times before? The mushroom as mind, the mushroom as historical – something which is penetrating human history and changing what it means to be a human being. In my book
Food of the Gods, I argue that it actually shaped human organization out of primate organization. Our bizarre situation in nature, that of being half primate and half arch-angel, is explainable only if you assume some extraordinary catalytic agent coming into our environment around the time when we were descending from the trees and becoming omnivorous and switching over to becoming nomadic grassland animals. The human brain size doubled in two million years, the most extraordinary transformation of the major organ of a higher animal in the entire paleontological record. This, under any circumstances, would be an extraordinary challenge to the theory of evolution. The fact that the theory of evolution was generated by this very organ under discussion makes its inability to explain it particularly embarrassing if you follow my logic.
So there was some extraordinary catalytic action that in terms of the geological record was like a bolt of lightening. A species, a primate, an arboreal creature transformed into a grassland forager suddenly stands upright and begins to perform symbolic activities. Our peculiar relationship to our sexuality and to dominance hierarchies has to do with the fact that as primates, we are genetically scripted to have male dominate hierarchies. But for a very long time, the presence of psilocybin in the human diet pharmacologically interrupted that maladaptive behavior and created an orgiastic social style that was very strong glue for group consciousness because men could not trace lines of male paternity under those circumstances.
So a very old primate behavior was for a couple of million years perhaps overwhelmed by a dietary factor. Then fairly recently with the drying of the African continent, the mushroom religion and the society that had gathered around it and the social and sexual style that had gathered around it, collapsed. These ancient people around 10,000 BC migrated in yet another wave of migration out of Africa into the Middle East and established the early human stratigraphy that we see in the Nile Valley and at Jericho and at other places. That is the fall into history! Because in the absence of the mushroom, the old primate program reemerges and it’s right at that moment as we break with the African grasslands and as we become sowers of cereal grain across Asia Minor. It’s right at that moment that a whole series of maladaptive institutions spring into being simultaneously. Male Kingship, standing armies, urban concentrations, canonized law, suppression of a goddess religion in favor of a religion of male warrior figures, the age of Gilgamesh, agriculture – all of that comes at once. I think it represents a break with the Gaian mind previously maintained through this quasi-symbiotic, shamanic, psychedelic, mushroom connection; a break with that and a profound alienation from the natural world that issues into history.
Gilgamesh, for crying out loud, the earliest piece of literature out of that area that we have is a story about a guy who gets a hold on the loyalty of the shaman and co-opts his loyalty and gets him to help him cut down the world tree. They go off into the wilderness, Enkidu, the shaman figure and Gilgamesh, the wily king figure, and they cut down the world tree. This is the earliest piece of literature out of that area. Just to leave no ‘stern untoned’, in our own liturgical tradition, a story of that antiquity is the whole Bible story of Genesis, which is the story of a drug bust essentially; a whole hassle about a forbidden plant, a plant that conveys knowledge, that the owner of the garden has decided that this knowledge is not for the human beings and then the woman - the woman, the gatherer - the one who represents the old religious strata, now being suppressed heretical, fungal connection. The woman eats the plant then she corrupts her roommate, the landlord goes berserk, the lease is cancelled and in the final fade on that story, what we get is ‘and God set an angel at the eastern gate of Eden with a flaming sword that they might not find their way back.’
Well that’s simply an image of the desiccating African sun driving these people out of the cradle, the Saharan cradle, of this mother goddess, psilocybin based, nomadic, cattle centered religion, which was a kind of style that had arisen there and flourished for a 100,000 years. And then the fall into history is real. We are like the children of a kind of a dysfunctional relationship. There really is a trauma of some sort in our past. History really is a kind of pathological bereavement because we were dropped on our heads 12,000 years ago and we’ve been trying to sort it out ever since. It explains to my mind, our fascination with drugs. It is true that many animals, elephants trample down fences to get to rotting papaya and butterflies hang out as dishes of sugar until their little legs are clawing the air but human beings are of a different order when it comes to addictions.
We physically addict to several dozen substances, psychologically addict to dozens more, addict to behaviors, political ideologies, each other, and art works, you name it! People go bananas in some cases if deprived of any of these things and show all the symptoms of heroin withdrawal: insomnia, palpitating heart, irritability, irrational decision making, delusion, so forth and so on. The extraordinary confluence of events necessary to call us into being as a thinking species was this kind of quasi-symbiotic relationship that evolved between us, cattle and fungi, where the fungi became or is for some mysterious still to be discovered, a pipeline into a mind, an entelechy, which we can only image as feminine and can only associate somehow to the environment, to the ecosystem. This is the Gaian mind. This is what the goddess really is! The goddess is a network of connective intelligence that is operating on this planet.
I think it’s not in its essence mysterious. It’s simply that what the psychedelic does is it dissolves boundaries. One of the boundaries that it dissolves is the boundary between community, which is a behavioral boundary maintained by the convention of language and therefore not as set in concrete as you might wish to be congealed. Between that boundary and nature there comes a dissolution and then there is, low and behold, not the barren howling atoms of Democratian materialism, but instead, nature. Pulsating, minded, alive, caring, threaded into the human enterprise, willing to advise you on your fashion choices and your investments. It’s an astonishing thing. We were the great celebrants of that in the Paleolithic world. We were its chief acolytes if you will because our glory was the neocortex. The language processing capacity that we brought into the game because we had been primates in the canopy of trees with a pack signaling repertoire at the level of dogs, or something like that. Then under the stimulation of the glossolalia brought on by ecstatic doses of psilocybin in this context of orgiastic boundary dissolving sexuality, this mystery was connected with. It is exactly the same mystery that you hit at five grams in silent darkness and it’s still mysterious. Thomas Aquinas, Heidegger, they don’t really shed much light on this. We haven’t in 25,000 years learned anything that makes this trivial or dismissible. It still raises the hair on the back of your neck. It still feels like the true indwelling of a metaphysical essence. It turns out that all the careful deconstruction of living nature by materialism was in vain. I mean – nature is alive and minded! I don’t know what this means.
I myself, as I sit here not loaded particularly, cannot grasp the implication of a minded nature. It means that we’re living in a world much closer to the spirit of early Greek mythology than the spirit of our own materialist philosophies. I suppose that’s why there’s an argument for being
au courant in your philosophical biases because from places in our cultural canon like quantum physics and chaos mathematics, places that are very like early Greek philosophy. Heraclitus speaks for chaos and I suppose Parmenides or Thales speaks for some of these other points of view. Quantum physics, the discreet nature of the world; these things, if you can assimilate them are very close to what is perceived with psychedelics but very, very far from the models that are being inherited from the past. At the very center, you put your finger on it to bring it back around to it, at the most confounding center of this mystery is the presence, the voice, the companion, the ally! It’s crazy! It literally is impossible within the context of the cultural expectation and yet it’s real. This is what got me onto it all this years and years ago because somehow I had friends early on who said these plants talk to you. And I just thought, my god, they’re losing their marbles.
I would take LSD and smoke cannabis and do these things and have all kinds of strange experiences but I never got what this thing was about and how the plants talk to you until I got to psilocybin. But you have to invoke it! You have to speak to it. It doesn’t speak until spoken to. They’re shy. They’re like fairies – hell, they may be fairies, who knows? You have to coax it out and then it will just come forward. It’s the damndest thing. As I sit here, a man of 46, earning a living by telling people how you coax fairies out from under invisible bushes, I wonder myself at what the cultural crisis has come to. Nevertheless, it’s true! It’s as true as anything and it’s more confounding than most things.
I don’t know what it means. I’ve been through the possible explanations: Jung, autonomous psychic entities escaped from the controlling influence of the Superego, yes, but when you’re talking to a gnome, saying that to them is absurd as suggesting to a Javanese person that they’re an autonomous portion of the psyche that has escaped from the control of the Ego. It doesn’t wash. I think that somehow we, unlike shamans, we haven’t taken these worlds seriously enough because we have a materialist basis. One of the things – this is maybe a point worth making then I’ll stop raving about this – one of the things that quantum mechanics has secured is the necessity of the observer for the ongoing enfoldment of phenomena. To me, that means that hallucinations have undergone an ontological shift of status. If hallucinations are now part of reality, they are primary data for theory making in the same way that the movement of the stars is or the changing of the tides. Quantum mechanics secures the mind as the necessary agent in all process and so hallucinations are no longer off the table or out of evidence in terms of trying to understand what’s going on with reality.
[Question]: That brings up the question that I’ve heard posed before, sometimes it’s on people’s minds and they don’t want to say it. That is, why should people believe this Irish raving tale-tell of human evolution? After all, I have to admit, I am in awe of your intellectual prowess. I figure everybody knows this guy talking about stories. A guy who can convince his girlfriend to bring his lover down the Putumayo could talk a whole generation into anything. Your powers of persuasion are fantastic.
Thank you! I appreciate that. Are you saying…what is your question?
I mean I agree, I think the best idea will win. In a sense you’re right. The person who can tell the best story, that story will win, but best story is a complex concept. It also means best formal mathematical underpinning. You get high points for that and most people come up rather short in that department. I come out of the Berkeley tradition of all-night conversations. I think, often in arguments, you don’t make progress until the 9th hour and I’m willing to debate all this stuff. As far as my theory of evolution is concerned, first of all you might suppose there is a large and established body of theory that has to be exploded – what the straight people say about how we doubled our brain size and got culture and mathematics. It turns out no, they haven’t got a clue. There is no big theory, which has to be blown up. The best shot the straight people can give it: they say we were puny and small in a world of the large and the lumbering and so we learned to throw rocks with great precision and accuracy. They would essentially make the big league baseball player the pinnacle of human evolutionary development and then say, once we had done that we had so much brain capacity left over, the plays of Shakespeare and modern mathematics were no problem.
I say that this is hokum. Obviously they’ve done these experiments where they raise identical rats in environments which are very rich in experience and then others poor in experience and the ones raised in the rich environment when – hang on folks – sacrificed, exhibit in the brain slices a much more complex arborization than the ones that were in the learning poor environment. So I think one way of thinking about these psychedelics and especially the psilocybin family coming out of these mushrooms were that they were catalysts for the human imagination. They catalyze cognitive activity, whatever it is. Counting your toes, painting on your friend, playing around in anthills, making funny noises in your off hours, arranging the roots you’ve collected in different categories – it just promotes cognitive activity, which you then take back into the group.
[Question]: Is there a different effect from the fresh mushroom, the mushroom picked fresh from the dung patty and the dried mushroom?
I don’t think particularly. You mean like is the spiritual intelligence present in the dried stuff?
[Question]: Is the effect more potent?
Well the fresh ones are definitely kickeroo simply because the psilocybin isn’t bound up in dried cellulose matrix. It dissolves much quicker. That’s probably what that’s about.
One of the things that I think happened. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand this scenario of transition from what I call the mushroom partnership paradise to the historical bummer that came down when all that blew up. I can imagine, as Africa grew drier, the mushroom would have perhaps over millennia slowly faded in availability. Instead of being all the time everywhere; it would go to being seasonable and then to be only in the rain shadows of mountains and stuff like that. I’m sure a certain amount of cultural specialization would take place, i.e. you would appoint shamans to be the people who take the mushrooms in order to keep the connect open. The other thing that would go on, there would be anxiety about preservation, to keep a supply available for human use. Well, perversely, the most obvious method of preserving mushrooms or any other delicate foodstuff in that kind of an environment is to desiccate it in honey; put it into a crystalline honey and the sugar will draw the water out of it. This is why you hear about the Romans eating hummingbird tongues pickled in honey. It’s because the honey made the whole process possible.
The problem there in our scenario where we’re talking about how drugs shape culture is that honey itself has the perverse ability to become a psychoactive substance to ferment into mead. If you’ve ever been in the tropics and experienced aboriginal honeys, they have a much higher water content than what you are getting at the A&P and they do quickly ferment. When you’re offered honey, it’s often a completely baffling and horrible thing that you can’t really associate to what you know at home.
As an example there of how drug styles shape cultural styles, alcohol, the fermented meads in early cereal beers of the ancient Middle East, they create a different set of cultural values. Gone are the orgies, gone is the connection to the Gaian mind; now what you have is an increased sense of verbal facility and the lowering of sensitivity to social queuing. The kind of behavior you see in singles bars on a Friday night. A lot of negative imprinting goes on around alcohol or in the past has gone on around alcohol. This thing I was talking about earlier, the itch we can’t scratch – this fascination with drugs. Once the umbilical connection was broken to the Gaian mind in this African situation then it was just a series of insufficient substitutes. The early beers and meads, opium appears to come into the picture shortly after this time. Cannabis we have no idea how old it is. To my mind, cannabis is the closest substitute for the social glue and provides the same kinds of social functions that the mushroom may have provided. It may have later across central Asia played a somewhat similar but subsidiary role.
We have explored nature frantically in search of intoxicants of all kinds. This continues to this day. The old style primate dominance hierarchy reemerged and what it brings with it is moral cruelty and insensitivity to suffering and a willingness to sacrifice others for grandiose political schemes and a willingness to let dogma rule over common sense. And 10,000 years of letting that run rampant as an engine of cultural destruction, it can’t be beat. The pygmies in the rainforest are no match for it, nor is anybody else. After 10,000 years of letting that run rampant over the landscape, here we are. Strangely enough then, here we are gathered for the deathbed scene of western civilization and as every text is published, every archeological site excavated, every occult system explored, every drug injected, so forth and so on – comes the news from ethnography, this minor branch of anthropology, that people are taking these drugs, these plants, in the rainforest and making extraordinary claims about its ability to transport you into other dimensions and heal and so forth. It’s like the Ouroboric snake taking its tail into its mouth and the energy just runs around the circle.
History is somehow redeemed by this return to the archaic. The question of what history was for, I’m not sure, but what caused it, I’m pretty clear on. It’s a pathology or a series of behaviors that are responsive to the tremendous trauma and stress of the break up of this symbiotic relationship with nature. It’s like a crisis of adolescence or a temporary psychosis or something like that. Now strangely enough, we have gained through the peregrination of history, vast knowledge about forbidden and dark subjects – the control of matter, the control of the genetic units of life itself, the building of instrumentalities that can survive flight to the stars – but to this point this has all been in the service of some weird Faustian conqueror complex. Now all these tools have to be put at the service of a kind of ethos of planetary care giving and ecological maintenance. It has all fallen into our responsibility.
In a sense, we have come of age. Child of the Earth, now here is the inheritance. There are a few dents in the Ferrari from some of the little episodes that we took before we settled down but it’s all ours to make of what we will. Then behind that, what is it that Andrew Marvel says in his poem: the graves a lovely quiet place, but none do, dare I think embrace, for always at my back I hear, times winged chariot near. Of course, behind this level I’m talking about is time’s chariot hurrying near. The fact that rising over our world is the black sun of the incomprehensible event of our cultural transformation that has been built into our cultural mythology since Abraham hesitated to slay his son. This is our thing. The finite apotheosis of the world and all these yet un-integrated but soon to be integrated technologies, control languages, understandings are leading to the transformation of the human self-image.
Really the psychedelic experience is just inoculating yourself for the onslaught of transformation that is going to be rolling towards you through 3D. It’s not going to come entirely through drugs you know. It’s going to come through the cultural. It already is. It’s batshit weird out there. You don’t have to have a bone through your nose to pick up on that.
[Question]: I read a theory that primates from four legs to two, exactly why I don’t remember, but once up in the higher air the brain enlarged and prospered more rapidly and the number of neurons in the brain increased so that we now have 100 billion neurons and that was the real origin of civilization.
[Question]: No mushrooms.
Oh I see what your saying. Well it is true, if you’ve ever observed even squirrel monkeys, which are a fairly primitive primate. Squirrel monkeys, if they want to run quickly, will rise up off their front legs. There’s a lot of question about bipedalism and when it came in. Some people think it didn’t come in until we leave the trees. We were a complex animal, there’s no doubt about it when we were in the arboreal canopy. But we were probably no more complex that the Prosimians that exist in the world today. You see the real challenge for evolutionary theory is not that the human brain could evolve at all – that seems reasonable and somewhat inevitable – but the speed is really shocking. A transformation of a major organ like that when charted in some other animal order occurs on a scale of 50 million years. In the human beings, it occurred in a million and a half years. If you’re just going to limit yourself to the rules of normal evolutionary theory, then when you look at that transformation of that major organ in a million and a half years, you have to say there was an extraordinary selective pressure operating there that apparently operated on no other species at no other time in the history of the Earth.
I think to generalize a bit here, that the un-discussed dimension of evolution is diet. If you study evolution without great depth, what they tell you is that mutation is acted upon by natural selection and that mutation is caused by gene breakage and that gene modification is caused by radiation - cosmic radiation reaching the earth. Now that part of the story is a gross simplification. Gene breakage is actually caused by stress of all sorts. Incidental cosmic radiation reaching the surface of the Earth is only one kind of stress. Another kind of stress is the chemical toxins in the environment, especially chemical toxins in the diet. So if you have a species, which comes under nutritional pressure, it has two options. It can either go extinct or it can begin experimenting with its diet. If it begins experimenting with its diet, there is many a slip before it gets it sorted out.
Many exposures to toxic and poisonous substances or quasi-toxic substances skew the ovulation cycle or affect expression of body hair or cause the retention of juvenile characteristics. So when an animal is undergoing dietary transformation, it’s in a situation of extraordinary of mutational flux. An example that I think makes this perfectly clear, sweet potatoes are a big part of human diets in many tropical parts of the world and many primates are keen for sweet potatoes. But Ortho-Novum and birth control drugs like that are made from those same sweet potatoes, from dioscorea vines which are grown on huge mechanized plantations in northern Mexico. That’s where the birth control hormone comes from.
Well now, here’s the scenario: a hungry band of foraging primates comes upon a big patch of what looks like our favorite food – sweet potatoes - and everybody chows down. It turns out it’s jammed with these hormones and lactation, ovulation, menstruation, fertility, fetal formation – all of these things, you just shuffled the deck folks. You don’t know what you’re going to get out of that. If the animals are sensitive enough to the situation to stop eating it, well then it’s just a localized catastrophe. But if they persist they will be mutational or extinct within several generations. So I’m suggesting that at this moment when we left the trees, there was a great deal of dietary experimentation going on and psilocybin was a factor in there.
Looking at us and trying to understand our relationship to the other primates, one of the things that evolutionary primatologists have always noted is that human beings exhibit was is called neoteny. Do you all know what this is? Neoteny is the preservation of juvenile characteristics into adulthood. We all do this. If you look at our skull proportion to our bodies, it’s an infantile proportion when you compare us to other primates. Human adults look like the fetuses of other primate species. Our hairlessness, that is a fetal and juvenile characteristic in other primates that fades in adulthood. We retain it and so forth and so on. This is the kind of thing that we see in other species that are reacting to toxic episodes in their earlier evolutionary history. We are a funny looking monkey, you have to admit. Ugly suckers too! Thank god the estrogen reddening of the bottom was suppressed before we got down to the business of civilization. Public masturbation seems to be under control but otherwise if you’ve ever looked at those Prosimians and the proboscis monkeys of Southeast Asia, they’re just like very ugly people, you know. Anyway, enough about that.
[Question]: We’re there other predators that were likely to happen upon this psilocybin?
No. Well possibly. See the thing is, animals tend to specialize their food supply. An animal will not explore a new food unless it’s under nutritional pressure. I don’t know if there were other animals being pushed out of that same environment. A sort of parallel family that if the primates hadn’t seized the golden ring might have gotten somewhere were the raccoons. The raccoons have a pretty advanced optical system, a pretty adaptable hand, a reasonable level of socialization and would make a cute movie I supposed.
[Question]: Maybe bears, weren’t they omnivorous?
Bears also have been suggested as one of the lines from which an intelligent species might emerge.
[Question]: When these mushrooms in the wild die, do they just decompose eventually or do insects eat them?
Well, they persist. They are not the kind of mushrooms that auto-digest. Some kinds of mushrooms just turn into slime. Most of the psilocybin mushrooms, especially the more palatable ones, persist. Well, you should understand, the mushroom that you see which mycologists call a carpophore is just a small part of what a mushroom is. A mushroom is really a very fine network of spider like material, cob-webby material that’s under the soil. It can stay like that for decades, no problem, growing, vegetatively propagating itself the way a houseplant is vegetatively propagating. No sexual reproduction involved there, just an individual getting bigger and bigger.
Last year, you may recall, they reported some of these mushrooms clones that were acres in size and weighed more than a sperm whale and were in fact the world’s largest organisms, and were these enormous fungal individuals sleeping in the Oregon forest for unaccounted eons, dreaming nightmarish dreams that were….
[Question]: They were 30 miles big?
I know. The mind boggles to the point where I lost my thread in the thing.
Oh, the natural history of the mushroom! So what I was saying, the mushroom is like something that happens when this fungal mat, this mycelial network gets in the mood for sunbathing and sexual thrills and so then it undergoes dikaryotic self expression. The genetics of fungi are somewhat complex to the point where I never really have understood it myself. They’re not like you and me, let’s just put it like that. Then it fruits! It fruits, that’s what the carpophore is; it’s also called a fruiting body. In the Stropharia Cubensis mushroom, a single mushroom can shed up to 3 million spores a minute for six weeks. So you know it’s a truly astonishing deal and they’re at the bottom of the food chain. They’re primary decomposers. If you were a Buddhist with a hyper degree in molecular biology and were trying to design a karma free body, you would have to become a fungus because they are the only blameless members of the food chain because they exist on dead matter. They don’t destroy anything. They don’t live off living material. The spore is this tiny microscopic capsule of genetic material that is surrounded by an organic layer of material that is as electron dense as many metals.
I maintain that these spores in fact percolate through space and that they can survive the conditions of extraterrestrial environments. If you want to store mushrooms spores, you essentially store them in liquid nitrogen. It’s about as outer space as it gets. You can calculate, if a single mushroom sheds 3 million spores a minute for six weeks, heh, I’m telling you – there are a lot of spores being shed into the terrestrial environment and then they percolate and some percolate into the outer atmosphere where they become involved in highly energetic events that actually detach them from the terrestrial environment. I think one of the easy predictions that you can make - it’s like a knockoff and yet it would be the cover of Time magazine - it’s perfectly obvious that space is no barrier to certain viruses and spores and that one of the future revolutions of biology will this will somehow be proven.
It’s always puzzled me, and some of you have heard me talk about it, that psilocybin is an indole which is phosphorylated in the 4 position. This is chemist talk but the important thing for our discussion is, it is the only force-substituted phosphorylation of an indole on this planet and that’s very weird. Why? The way it would expect chemical evolution to work is if you have ‘molecule A’ then you should find molecule ‘sort of A’ and ‘nearly A’, and ‘A+1’ and ‘A+2’, but here’s a molecule that has no near relatives. I think one kind of mentality looks for extraterrestrial life by shifting for radio signals with a telescope. I think one way to look for an extraterrestrial thumbprint would be to make a thorough molecular categorization of the molecules on this planet to see if there’s anything that looks like blew in from somewhere else. Psilocybin would be a strong candidate. What is it doing in some forty species of mushroom? There are hundreds of species of mushrooms, which do not contain psilocybin proving therefore that psilocybin is not somehow a necessity for fungal existence. Well then, if you believe that evolution operates with a certain economy then why do these forty species furiously dedicate a major portion of their metabolic budget to making a metabolite that seems to have no purpose?
I think when we finally, if we ever, tease apart this psychedelic thing, what we’ll discover is it’s an interspecies communication system; that life is a seamless web of signal transduction and that we somehow have become isolated from this process by our historical pathology. So for us the voices have grown mute. We can’t get the signal and consequently it’s a pretty grim row to hoe. There’s a curve with the introduction of every drug of great expectation. I mean once it was Milltown and then Valium, then something else and usually once as your data sample swells, you begin to see the negative effects of these things.
I’m very sort of not the person to ask this because I’m very…some people have said blindly prejudiced in favor of plants but I just think human beings have evolved in the presence of living systems and that that’s a very good filter to pass drugs through. The question: do they occur in living systems? I mean God knows there’s enough stress built into modern life. It’s like a stress production machine. I’m constantly trying to tell myself that we’re having a good time now. But this is what it’s all about.
If I may go off on a tear here. I followed with interest the crop circle phenomenon in England and recently a book has been written by an American called
Around in Circles and it basically buries the crop circle phenomenon. If your metaphysic was hanging on this, you better head for cover in a hurry. The most interesting figure to me in the controversy was this British meteorologist Terence Meaden, who at the beginning, his position was this is the wind. These things are vortices caused by heat convection and they’re capable of swirling the wheat into these patterns. He was, you see, a reductionist. He was saying there’s nothing unusual going on here, so forth and so on. Then as the phenomenon got rolling, the circles became more and more elaborate and Meaden, always being asked by the media to explain these things, came to insist…he eventually electrified his vortices and they became plasma vortices, a rare natural phenomenon disputed by some whether it even exists or not. Once he had in place the concept of the plasma vortex, no matter how elaborate the crop circles became - the straight lines, triangles, triangles in triangles - Meaden could always explain that if you were cognizant of the higher mathematics which ruled the world of plasma physics, this was all perfectly straightforward and in fact predictable from theory.
This went on until the BBC made a crop circle and then took him out to it and got him to certify it as genuine and to lecture on the various features, which made it impossible for human beings to create such a structure and then they revealed to him that it was in fact artificial.
Now if you’ll repeat your question, I’ll connect this up to it.
Well that’s an interesting question. So far we’ve had this cheerful little scenario where the monkey descends to the bottom of the tree empty of tummy and lo and behold, here is this mushroom. I called it, I think, an extraordinary confluence of events or some weasel term like that. What I was skirting around is the issue of: was this simply a wonderful fortuitous confluence of events or was this a thickening of the plot? Was this a bringing together of two elements that had been designed to meet each other in the councils of the Galactarian eons before somewhere else? I don’t know. It does appear to be a viral catalyst for technological civilization. You give it to a monkey and 15,000 years later they’re landing instruments on their nearest planetary neighbor.
I had a professor in college who said what he thought it was all about was that someday flying saucers would visit the Earth and they would take all the fissionable material away and they would just then explain that human history was a project to concentrate fissionable material for their purposes. ‘Thank you very much, you people can go back to picking fleas and beating each other brains out as far as we’re concerned.’
You know, we do that. There’s a technique for extracting gold out of very low-grade gold ore where what you do is, you crush the gold into a watery slurry and then you infect this muddy gold laden water with a kind of bacterium that concentrates gold in its body tissues. Then you stir this up and cook this up and then you just skim off the bacteria and harvest the gold out of their body tissues.
I actually lost the thread of that. My point was that if you’re committed enough to a hypothesis, no matter how the data can twist and turn, you can fit it to the hypothesis. I find it possible to entertain the idea that the mushroom actually is some kind of extraterrestrial thing. After all, we don’t really know what the nature of the cosmic situation is. We don’t know whether life arises wherever conditions are OK. We don’t know how chaotic the universe is. Do most planets get ten hundred million shots at stability where they can get higher animals together before some comet or geomagnetic reversal or something flips it over? I do think if you were an extraterrestrial and you had an ethos of non-invasiveness and you wanted to have a very low key interaction with an intelligent species, the way to do it would be to come at it through an intoxication. You don’t appear with trillion ton beryllium ships over major cities. “We have been studying you for 50,000 years.” I don’t think it’s done like that. I think it’s more like: you find a dimension in the cultural world of the species you’re trying to study where weirdness is sanctioned, then you setup your lemonade stand in that world. In this case the world of psychedelic intoxication.
I’m not sure it’s all about their purpose. Everybody assumes their purpose is to communicate with us. It seems to be that if their purpose is to communicate with us, they could have just communicated with us. The purpose appears to be to influence or to observe. My purpose is to tell all secrets. I’m at war with the keepers of the secrets.
It’s one way of looking at it. I don’t think they’ve done it to another species. It seems that what they are - they’re mean traders on one level. They’ve blown in here and they have this intentionality to communicate. The content of the DMT experience is where this contact becomes much more explicit, more puzzling, more alien and more strange. What’s happening with psilocybin usually is a voice and a voice you can handle - because if it doesn’t speak in English, you can’t understand it. So it must operate within a certain narrow band of rational apprehendability or you lose it and it makes no sense. On the other hand, a visual input can go off the beam of rational apprehendability and you’re still looking at it. As it loses coherency and tentacles sprout and ciliary snap and exogonal eyeballs roll by and then it gets its fix back on. Oh excuse me for a moment; I merely lost my face as it were.
The content of the DMT thing is really puzzling. One of the motivations for my career is to get other people to check it out because here is truly confounding data. That you don’t have to make an expedition to the heart of the Amazon or battle your way through hours of waves of nausea and dark spaces chanting your mantras obsessively. When you smoke DMT, thirty seconds later you’re in the presence of the unspeakable and the show is going full blast. These tyke-like self-transforming machine elf things that rush forward to exhibit their rhetorical skills in a three-dimensional language that you look at rather than hear and they offer you the technological artifactory of another dimension. Faberge eggs and Ming Dynasty orreries - just the most amazing fabricated objects, which they make out of language. They demonstrate language in another dimension. That’s why I really think that part of what we’re moving toward is technological only in the most fundamental sense. It’s going to arise out of the body. The project of language in human beings is only partially completed. It doesn’t have to stop at little mouth noises. There’s a way to pass over into something more grandiose, more enclosing, more boundary dissolving, more emotionally intense.
What I always tell people who are really dedicates and it’s deep advice – go to the Amazon. The mere act of placing yourself in the Amazon is pretty psychedelic in and of itself. As you make your way through these colorful personalities that are the Peruvian people and their medical practitioners, all kinds of adventures happen and then eventually if you’re lucky, you actually get to the good brew and it will sweep you…just knock your pins right out from under you. Sweep you screaming into the cataracts of perturbability.
Well it may be. It may be. You have to take a number if you want to accuse me. You can’t just elbow your way to the front of the line like that. I don’t have any problem with the idea that dance is a primary language. Cognitive activity is the term that I prefer. Clearly we had an animal existence of a very limited number of concerns: not to be killed, to feed our children, to get sufficient sex and like that. Then we broke through to something else and self-expression. I think people danced for each other, did glossolalia for each other, body painted, made faces; did all of these things and for a long, long time before meaning was invented. The reason language got a special position in all this is that it’s easier to make small mouth noises than it is to dance. It’s easier to make small mouth noises than it is to make faces or gestures. So it was an energy economy thing.
That self-expression comes out of the body and dance, you’re probably right, very well was primary. I think where my fetish lies, if there’s a genuine accusation in all of this – but like any fetishist, I will defend it – is for the visual. People say, why do you always insist that you always have to have hallucinations? Why are you so bent about the visual connection? Well the answer is, a voice in the head or a funny bunch of thoughts - like for me that’s what LSD was, it was for very odd kinds of thinking. All of these things could be generated out of my own psyche but I’m pretty familiar with the inventory of my psyche as far as its image bank is concerned because it’s drawn like yours. It’s from the culture. It only stretches so far from Hieronymus Bosch to Andy Warhol and all the themes in between. Well so then when you turn on psilocybin and you get these bursts – I’ve never seen anything like that before’ – then that convinces me that this is the real McCoy.
So the fetish for the visual is pretty real I think. The object fetishism; these things aren’t exactly objects. You have to understand that we download through many levels of compression in order to sit in this room and talk about such outlandish things. I describe them as objects like Faberge eggs made of agate, chalcedony and ivory but I could just as easily have described them as puns, interlocking in a dance of casuistry; reflexive meaning and teleological entendre of great satisfying depth. Something like that, you see, because they’re both/and. These things exist in another dimension and I don’t do the best job. If I could make it weirder for you, I would. People say ‘you evoke images very well.’ Sometimes that’s the defeat of rhetoric because what we’re really talking about is in fact so hard to invoke. We’re really pushing the envelope of language. It really frustrates me when people have psychedelic experiences and don’t talk about them, because to me that’s what they’re for. They’re to fertilize the enterprise of communication. It’s to be talked about and if it’s not talked about - it’s sort of like seeds which fall on sterile ground.
Well, I’ve heard it. This is also said about the Maya. It was said even about the dinosaurs, which doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I don’t know if I believe it ever has happened. Obviously I believe in principle that it can happen. It’s always seemed to me that this used to be the motivation for my LSD taking. It seemed to me that you could sit down in a room with someone and begin – this is maybe what I’m trying to do with you but we never get there – sit down in a room with someone and begin to have a conversation that would take it apart. Take it apart and leave nothing there! You know? At the end: no guru, no method, no teacher and no nothing else either. I think that the world is held together by a misunderstanding and that if you could overcome that misunderstanding, it would just fold up and deconstruct. In a sense this is what the concept of enlightenment is. It’s a series of insights or thoughts or revelations, ones that project forward into another, which lead you to just say – ‘oh, it’s not this and it’s not that, and it’s not this…’
Well I guess the mundane plain is the misunderstanding. I guess if we analyze the mundane plain we see what constitutes the misunderstanding; a belief in three dimensional space and time, a belief in the finite life of the organism. And then the rupture of the mundane plain leads to this kind of platonic super space where there seems then to rest incontrovertible truths. They are not truths approached by logic and argument, they are self-evidently true so they’re either true for you or they’re not true. Shamanism sort of views all this very optimistically – takes the existence of this trans-mundane world as a higher world. A world in which healing can be done and the community can be made to cohere. The shaman is essentially a technician, wiring and repairing and moving behind the board of culture, keeping all these lines open and together. Is that where you’re interest lies?
Apparently, it seems to me; it looks like mind is something that if we were to make an analogy, it’s somewhat like sulfur in that sulfur has this weird quality of having two melting points. You have solid yellow sulfur and you heat it and it melts, but then you keep heating it and it turns back into a solid. You continue heating it and it melts again. This is a curious property of sulfur, but not magical. The human mind seems to me to be like that. It’s something that in the mundane plain, it has collapsed down into a tool for threat detection and social account keeping basically. But when you go alone or with your nearest and dearest to wilderness, or places where you feel secure and you perturb the chemical foundations of consciousness, then this is the equivalent of heating the sulfur and low and behold, a new geometry is cast out of the fluid mercury of the psychedelicized mind.
I think I said this morning; I really favor a geometric model. I think that the shaman’s power comes from the fact that the shamans really are seeing things from a higher dimensional perspective – that’s not a metaphor or analogy; that’s the voice of mathematics speaking. As I analyze the history of biology and higher animals and culture and so forth, what I see as a continuous theme from the very beginning is the conquest of dimensionality. Life conquers dimensions. Life begins as a fixed line in one place with no eyes, no ears, no nothing, and it evolves tactile awareness. Then it slowly becomes, through the sequestering pigment sensitive cells on its surface, it acquires the notion of a gradient of light and darkness. Then through the formation of lens, it’s able to stabilize an impression of the exterior world. It evolves progressively more advanced forms of locomotion. Eventually it evolves memory and complex cognitive interior maps for anticipating the future. This is a description of a strategy for the conquest of dimensionality.
I think really the shamans are the people among us who represent the next evolutionary level. They’re people who have learned to do what we can’t do, to come and go from hyperspace, whatever it is. An informational super space that exists inside the psychology of the individual and the group that we can’t even see because we’re materialists, fixated on the topological surfaces of the three dimensional manifold, which is only one level in the onion of reality. These shamans have moved over to another level but I think they are the paradigm for a new authentication of the human experience and it’s all about experience. This is what we clearly have wandered to far from. We are too in our heads. The consequences of a phonetic alphabet, monotheism, modern science, Greek aesthetics is just to move us too far from experience. So then this compensating thing is coming back in and the shaman is the paradigmatic figure and when you analyze what shamanism is, the psychedelic experience is revealed to be the sine qua non of this lifestyle. I’ve fiddled with screenplays. My objection to most visions of extraterrestrials is people don’t understand extraterrestrials are not mundane. They don’t want our beautiful women; they don’t have a fascination with our gross industrial output. The real trick with an extraterrestrial is to know when you’re in the presence of one because it’s going to be so strange and of such a different order of magnitude in many parameters that the trick is recognition I think.
I mean eventually we may come to see that many life forms - that we are not all to be traced back to one blob of germplasm, the warm pond theory. I think the warm pond theory is in for serious revision. I think interesting genes have blown in here every once in a while over the millennia as the Earth has ground forward and of course those genes get embedded in living systems. The mitochondria, which power the animal cell, were originally free swimming bacteria that got into a symbiotic relationship with some kind of membrane-like matrix and before they knew it, they had been incorporated as sub cellular organelles of a larger system. Mind that this doesn’t happen to you.
Well isn’t it the role of the artist? It’s to stretch the envelope. It’s to bring the music from the edge. The musician, the shaman, the smith, the physician; these were all originally combined, you know. Because the mystery of creation and the mystery of the human body, this was all spun together. That’s why when people say, what is the proper response to the culture crisis? I think the response is to shamanize. That means to help with the healing, to explore the invisible world and to make art; to try to make art. To try and anticipate the revelatory process by which the transcendental other is drawing the historical matrix into an ever clearer reflection of its identity – whatever it is. It’s going to come through us somehow. We invoke it. We’re boring toward it through the mountain of human history. It’s boring toward us. We can anticipate it. It senses us. This is a real relationship here but it’s a relationship where illusion must be shed and shed and shed about what the other is.
Well it’s not clear as I say; it’s not clear what the intent is. After all, what we now take to be the great canon of western art were basically a fairly self-indulgent bunch of courtly types spiraling around, producing public relations flackery for royal families. There are different ways of looking at the artistic enterprise in each time and place.
Well I maintain history is a self-limiting process and that you can see the end from here. You have to have a pretty complicated rap to deny that we are in some kind of unusual situation here folks. Well that suggests to me that this is awfully close to the surface of ordinary metabolism considering what a shocking shift of consciousness it is. Millions of people go to the grave without ever having a DMT trip unless they have it at the brink of the grave that we don’t know about. But the idea that in a dream such a shockingly extreme physiological response could be elicited means, if we could do human work with DMT unfettered in an environment of biofeedback and that sort of thing, that you could teach people to have this experience. Well that may be what it’s all about – a non-invasive, non-drug technique for just opening up a portion of your brain that somehow cultural abuse has closed off to us and that if we could access it that would be the dream time and that would be the entry into the domain outside of history. Yeah?
The Seth Material. I used to say if you can do this without drugs, you’re probably mentally ill. I tend to take a hard view of it. I don’t exactly understand the razzamatazz that surrounds it. I’ve talked to many entities; I’ve never felt the need to establish the spelling of their English name. This wish to name the entity puzzles me.
But I didn’t then write a book and then go on opre and say that I was channeling Dorothy and that the world should pay attention. It seems to me a curious relationship to your own mental life that you would say you were a channeler. It’s just these are the things we think and it’s a way of casting it. For instance, it never occurs to me or doesn’t seem to me a very interesting question to say of the mushroom – is it the same person each time? What a joke. It’s some kind of enormous intellectual agency. It’s not a human being, that’s the thing. The channeling – I guess my take on channeling and it will come out maybe tonight when we talk about the Time Wave, is that the real skinny is that you have a connection to everybody whoever lived. There’s a way of tuning your internal machinery in such a way that here comes Marie Antoinette or here comes Beethoven but it isn’t that Beethoven is a relative of yours, or still less, that you were Beethoven. How likely is that for crying out loud? It’s simply that they’re all there in some cultural super space and can be reached and called down. I mean they’re an idea. Beethoven is an idea. His grumpiness, the hands behind the back, the da-da-da-dah – we know Beethoven so he lives in some kind of super space and I think people are much too literal.
I have this trouble with channeling and flying saucer people and with the fans of great Atlantis and the people who believe that lantern job Neanderthal visages ten miles high that are gracing the deserts of mars. All of this, the attraction of this kind of thing completely puzzles me because it’s so hokey. If you want the real thing, it’s just five dried grams away. The real thing! So that you will be done with anecdotes by the denizens of trailer camps in Florida or all of this other stuff – it’s not that the woo-woo isn’t out there. It’s that it’s so much more woo-woo than the beady-eyed peddlers of it assume. They just have no idea with what they’re playing with.
The New Age generally I find somewhat obnoxious because it’s a flight from the psychedelic experience. What you can safely say about the New Age; if a technique doesn’t work, they’ll proclaim it. I’m very much in favor of anything, which breaks down the conceptions of ordinary medical practice. That’s the most important part of the New Age, the attack on the medical fascism of the hierarchy. But people confuse science with reason and think that if you’re anti-science then you’re somehow just permitted to go bananas. No, you can be anti-science but nobody gets released from stuff like the rules of evidence. You have to make sense. Your position, whatever it is, just can’t be sky blue and you should then expect to be treated with the same respect as somebody who’s gotten themselves epistemologically together and ontologically oriented. There are flaky ideas in this world.
People associate with me with the New Age because that was the only place where I was originally tolerated but I really want my ideas to be tested in the ordinary way, by the ordinary methods. I offer a mathematical formalism and then surrounding that, a bunch of arm waving verbal exegesis. The core thing is the mathematical algorithm to be tested by the ordinary rules of evidence and falsification. You can read Karl Popper to figure out what all that’s about. I love science. I just think it’s just incredibly pretentious and has claimed too much. Its methods are great but its constipated conservatism is maddening because what it deals with is the most interesting thing there is, nature. Nature is very, very interesting, complex and permits all kinds of radical speculation about what has happened. It’s just that science is also a business and a priesthood and also a men’s club; also the plaything of certain classes – so all that has to be overcome.
My method, if method is the word that I would share with you since this question about the New Age came out, is not to embrace things that are simply to outrage bourgeois sensibilities but to explore edges. To test edges yourself, that’s the important part. Yourself! You don’t learn about Tantra by reading about Tantra, or ibogaine by reading about ibogaine. You have to go and do these things. What you will discover is you will be fleeced a few times in your youth with this method. You’ll get in with some flying saucer cult or some beady-eyed guru and his fanatical devotees but eventually you’ll learn the neighborhood and you’ll become street smart. You won’t be a mark – that’s the goal of real spiritual method – is to not be a mark. Then when you get that together, lo and behold, you would think this would lead to cynicism because you say, well I went and stayed with Baba Ji and he was a jackass and then I joined the Unitarian Uniformitarian Unifunctionalists and that was just a scam and so forth and so on. You would think it would lead to cynicism. Not if you keep to the edges because eventually you’re going to come to psychedelics – and then lo and behold – jackpot! The real thing! Weirdness beyond all possibility to comprehend. You have just won the publisher clearing sweepstakes of peculiarity.
I had this happen in the 60s. I got into a place with LSD where I had this LSD and I would give my friends one and I would take one and then I would excuse myself to the bathroom and take five more. And then I would end up holding their hand all night long and I felt weird about it. Where is all this stuff going? It’s like it’s not working and when that happened to me, I just said it’s time to dry out for a while. And I did and then everything worked normally later. One of the weirdest things I’ve encountered is about one in twenty people don’t react to DMT and it looks genetic to me. I can’t believe you could resist that if it’s coming at them the way it comes at me; nothing could stop it. And yet, they will do it and take enormous inhalations and then say – ‘is this it? I don’t know, it’s kind of strange but it doesn’t seem’… and you’re just like, ‘oh my God, what is this?’
One thing to bear in mind in all of this is that we talk a lot about the mental effects of drugs but these drugs are tiny objects. They are molecules and they won’t work unless they find their way to your synaptic cleft and find waiting for them there, what are called drug receptors. Think of them as little outlet holes into which the drug can plug itself. How many of these little receptors you have is part of your genetic inheritance and so some people have a lot and some people have a little and some people have some for some and some people have some for others. You have to learn what works for you and what the right tool is. Yeah?
[Audience] – Toad?
Yes, toad is 5-methoxy-DMT. It’s an exudate of Bufo Alvarius – a large southwestern toad.
[Audience] – So it is DMT?
No, no, it is not DMT. It is 5-methoxy-DMT. It doesn’t cause the same thing that DMT causes. It causes an intense void-like emotion that is very dissolving but it is not accompanied by the kind of visual activity that DMT has. The visual activity on DMT is astonishing. It conveys you into a world more complex than the world we’re living in, a world of brilliant colors and faceted surfaces.
Yes but on ayahuasca, unless it’s really horrendously strong, you will never reach the kinds of places that you reach on a DMT flash.
[Audience] – Smoking it?
Smoking it. No, there is nothing like that this side of the yawning grave I hope. I don’t know, is everybody cognizant of what that’s like? About how fast the world can be rearranged and how totally replaced it can be by something that you not only hadn’t imagined, until thirty seconds before that, you couldn’t imagine. And now here it is and you just gaze, you gape in slack jawed disbelief at what has happened to reality.
Oh no, it doesn’t induce. Somebody asked, is it dangerous? The danger with DMT is death by astonishment. This is an entirely possible outcome of your involvement with it, especially if you’re intelligent. I think the more intelligent you are, the more at risk you are at death by astonishment because you just say, good grief!
But I see that it’s 6:04 and time to knock off. We’ll do the Time Wave tonight. It’s a kind of indulgence of me because it’s the only original idea I’ve ever had. So, you’re forewarned if you have something better to do. The hardcore will assemble here at 8pm and will there be a technician to boot the disk or is there somebody here is DOS?
Well I’m pro-virtual reality, just in the sense that I don’t think it should be made illegal and stamped out. I think it should be a legitimate area of research. I certainly don’t think that most people should plan on decamping to virtual reality land for the rest of much of their lives. That wouldn’t be a good idea. I see it primarily as a tool for studying language and communication. You never know where a technology is going to lead. When Edison invented the phonograph record, his sincere belief was that it’s major application would be in the making of wills because you would have an incontrovertible record of the person’s voice speaking and so it wouldn’t be legally contestable in court. Well I don’t know if anybody has ever made a will on a phonograph record. It clearly had an entirely different use and application.
So here we’ve arrived at Sunday morning. This is basically loose ends, complaints, resolution, that whole bit. So let’s work our way into it and then if need be, I’ll harangue. So anybody have anything they want to…
I like understanding. Whitehead said that understanding is the apperception of pattern as such. That’s all, as such. So you can look at any situation and see different patterns. I mean like in this room. If we were sociologists, we could analyze where the women are and where the men are and that would be a pattern and we could talk about that. Then we could switch our field of interest and talk about where the men and women over forty are and the men and women under forty are; an entirely different pattern. Where the people wearing socks are and the barefoot people are. You realize that in any assemblage of objects, there’s an infinite number of patterns of connection and the more of them you see, the more you have this feeling, which we call understanding. It’s a feeling of having assimilated the object to yourself. The great mysterious assemblage, the mother of all weird assemblages, is history you know? The peregrinations of our species is through time and the detritus of that journey – I have a friend in London who is a rare book dealer and when I’m in London I’m usually able to contrive a situation where he has to have some errand out so that then I’m left alone for hours with the books inside these multiple concentric circles of security and I can open up all the cases and pour through this stuff and it’s astonishing.
I mean, just the cul-de-sacs into which the human mind has wandered - Phlogiston theory, the Chaldean oracles, the Wunderkammer, the hollow Earth thing and then all this literature of exploration. I mean, the stratigraphy of the human experience is maps and machines and diaries and blue prints and out of all this, if there can be a pattern, then there’s a kind of epiphany – a sense of order, of ah-ha, it does make sense. It isn’t simply a chaos.
Well that’s a Hindu notion of this same thing essentially. This Platonic super dimension where all and everything is suspended and in place. If you ever want to have a very bizarre sub-psychedelic experience when you’re in Oxford – go to the Pitt Rivers museum. Everybody goes to the Ashmolean, and of course you should, to see the Uccello’s and all that – but on the kinkier side, the Pitt Rivers museum. Pitt Rivers was an early ethnographer in England and into one of those Victorian caste metal and glass ceiling buildings; he gathered hundreds of millions of objects classified by category. So you know there are like 50,000 needles from all over the world in drawers. 10,000 pairs of pliers from all over the world, from all times and places, and on and on and they’re in drawers which you can open. The stuff is stacked up twenty feet high and you realize that it’s a concentration of manus. It’s a concrescence. There’s one section where there are over two hundred drawers labeled magical amulets. You open these drawers and magical amulets, southern Iraq, magical amulets Syria, and on and on. Very bizarre. That to me is searching for patterns through the detritus of human history because I really think that we are caught up in a relationship with something very, very mysterious. I don’t like religious vocabularies but an epiphany is taking place.
Something…consciousness is really important and it is using the stuff of biology to create some kind of new order in nature, and technology I’m convinced has something to do with it. Machines are more than they appear to be and the machine as we have known it - is to a possible technology what the chip flint is to the technology that we possess today, in the concept of a machine which is downloading of a function into matter – is a concept of immense profundity. Life may be able to extend it’s career by orders of magnitude through this means and life is now seen to be clearly central in the evolution in the career of the universe. Most stars gutter out of existence after 500 or 600 million years. That’s the average lifetime of a star. We happen to be on a planet around an extraordinarily slow burning and smooth burning star that has lasted a long time. But life on this planet has been here for at least 2 billion years. That’s three times the life of the average star. Biology is persistent. Biology is a major player and biology is not entropic.
A star, no matter how smooth burning and self-sustaining is on a downward energy curve toward heat death and extinction. Biology, on the other hand, pumps itself to higher and higher levels of complexity, faster and faster. It uses the dying stars as stepping-stones for one to another. You know for instance, in the Hawaiian Islands, there’s thirty million years of evolution visible but no island out there has been above water more than six million years. The islands keep slipping beneath the sea and rising at the western edge of the complex and the life keeps stepping from island to island and perpetuating itself. Hans Moravec has done calculations of the kinds of computational simulations that could be carried out if you had a computer where every atom was a switch and the computer was the size of the solar system. With a computer of that size you could resurrect every DNA sequence that has ever existed on this planet and he feels that you would feel a moral obligation to do so and that the resurrection of the dead would become a social project pursued with government funding.
Well I don’t think Rupert would agree that biology is entropic. The way biology works is by being what’s called an open system far from equilibrium. You see a closed system like a star or a fire will always drift towards equilibrium, which is entropic. But the miracle of biology is that by taking in matter, by being an open system and allowing matter to come into the system and then breaking down that matter and extracting energy from it – the biological organism achieves the miracle of evading equilibrium. It hovers off the main curve of equilibrium so people who talk about the third…what?
Well this is debatable at the highest level. There’s a problem there because for some weird reason, the identifiable amount of matter in the universe falls so close to the cusp of either ‘it’s open’ or ‘it’s closed’ that they can’t tell. And why this is probably means there’s something wrong with the theory. You know P. W. Bridgeman said ‘a coincidence is what you have left over when you apply a bad theory.’
But I want to go back for a moment to this question of the open system far from equilibrium. The second law of thermodynamics, which was thought to be inviolate, states that all systems run down into entropy. But in practical terms, given the facts that I just stated about how life is three times as persistent than the average star and that if you view life on this planet as a single unified system of genes, then we have to say that there has been a dissipative structure far from equilibrium for 2 billion years. It’s been able to maintain itself well off the entropic curve. So I think the second law of thermodynamics looks much more provisional from that light.
But you see it’s been the third law that’s been the downer. I mean the second law because it seems to dictate some existential terminus to everything. See that’s when you view the universe as matter. Here’s another thing you have to lay over this; that all comes out of a materialistic view of the universe. If you view the universe as information, the picture becomes much more complicated. We don’t really understand what this process is of symbolic signification, of arbitrary assignment of significant association, and it’s not simply something done in human language. The codons of the DNA that code the three nucleotide codons that code for a amino acids that build proteins are arbitrarily assigned at the molecular level. There is no inherent logic that says that guanine/guanine/guanine, that codon should code for what it does. It’s entirely arbitrary and yet out of that leap towards arbitrary signification comes life itself.
So we shouldn’t assume - and it’s a natural tendency to fall back into it - that we know what we’re talking about. That our intellectual journey through time has taken us to the level where we can actually glimpse what the basic ordering principle is. It may lie in language, not matter. Yeah?
[Audience] - I keep waiting for you to get to the political implications of all this.
Oh, well I think I passed through it lightly but let me take another stab at it. If my picture of things is correct or even close then the future is going to become considerably more dramatic from the middle 90s on. What we have directly in front of us is sort of the long golden garden party afternoon before the news arrives. As the world gets more and more and more peculiar and improbable - and given the kind of things going on out at Jupiter that I talked about – this seems to be arriving on schedule, all this chaotic activity. There’s going to be various political stances arise in relation to all of this stuff. For instance, one faction will say that nothing at all is wrong. This is I think what we see going on now. That there’s a kind of collusion by governments and institutions to manage apocalyptic awareness and to say, well you don’t need to worry about the fact that ozone is disappearing from the atmosphere because by 2000, we will have a 7% reduction in output of CFCs and by 2050, we’re planning a further 7% reduction. And you say, ‘no, no – these are crazy people obviously.’ There’s a lot of arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic going on.
But I think eventually as the fluctuations become more violent, they will burst through and political dialogues will start on various fronts. It’s hard to say where it will come. For instance, historians of the break up of the Soviet Union can reasonably argue that what actually was the hole in the dike there was the Chernobyl explosion and that actually set off a series of thought of awareness – people’s minds changed. It was like a psychedelic drug, this radiation spreading through Soviet society because they realized, my God, this was a power plant. It was at ground level. It wasn’t even a designed explosion and eight days after it happened above Auckland New Zealand you could sample the radiation in the air. There was a whole crisis of faith in the command economy, in everything. This will happen. The one thing you can be sure of is that the 90s will be shaped by the unexpected. It could be anything. A hot day in August in Mexico City and a million people die when finally all of these toxic levels come together as they potentially could. Or it could be a nuclear failure, or it could be an assassination, or it could be the outbreak of a synthetic disease. Or anything.
What this will bring home to people is that the meta-stable nature of society is beginning to break down. That the shock waves of the future are building up. In engineering an airfoil, engineers have to take account of what is called Q-forces; vibration. If you don’t design the airfoil correctly, as you approach the speed of sound, the wings of the airplane will be torn off. So you have to redesign the airplane to move through this barrier. What we have to do is redesign the cultural airfoil so that we slip…
What? You mean that it shouldn’t support wrecking the third world? Pardon me?
No, see I think that kind of thing is like talking about closing air bases near Sacramento and whether western civilization can survive the shock of this loss jobs. We’re turning into an information society and managers are trying to meet the crisis but if my faith rested with human managers, I’d be frantic. The main thing is that the design process is being imposed by nature itself. Just in the way that a supersonic aircraft has it’s design imposed by nature itself. The nature of the medium is dictating the shape of the society that is coming into being. The main thing is to try to make this through with as little bloodshed and hysteria as possible. It’s very hard call. Looking at something like Bosnia, you know, the impulse to use F-18s to correct the problem is very great. Yet in the past this has not brought joy and thanksgiving where it was used. Also the hubris of thinking that your job is to separate these people. On the other hand, we can’t have people running around trading nuclear weapons in the red light district of Frankfort, which is going on. This is actually going on.
There is a great potential for chaos on the Eurasian landmass right now. How should that be managed? A lot of people have nuclear weapons that have no business having nuclear weapons. I think we need to disarm from the top. That’s a political agenda and one thing that has to be understand is that what is going on is a process of fragmentation. That is what is supposed to happen at this cultural stage I think. McLuhan talked about what he called electronic feudalism. Wherever fragmentation is resisted, violence and war and horror will break out. For instance, five years ago there was great anticipation of a federal Europe. That ran against the current of dissolution and now we see there won’t be any federal Europe. I mean there will be something on paper in Brussels to keep the diplomats shuffling back and forth but there will be no unified psychology. They’re going tribal. The great political force shaping the 90s on one level is ethnicity and turf battles. As these huge ideologies withdraw their imperium, all these local satrapies and warlords begin to exercise their historical claims.
Islam is set to make enormous gains. This has to be accepted in the West. It shouldn’t be resisted. The historical momentum is too great and you know, it’s 700 million people and it represents the only reservoir of tradition of significance left on the planet. In terms of a political agenda, it’s pretty clear. The psychedelic thing speaks to freedom, so you can shine that on a number of issues: women’s rights, abortion, legalization of drugs - but not absolute libertarian anarchy because I don’t think we want to get rid of the Food and Drug administration. We may want to execute the top echelon and replace it – but the concept…
I’ve lived in a country without a Pure Drug Act and it’s a nightmare. In India, you can’t buy pepper without being afraid that it’s been contaminated with lead flakes to make it weigh more when you buy it in the market.
But none of us ever had a psychedelic experience in a safe environment. We come out of the nightmare ages. I took psychedelic drugs under the aegis of Richard Milhous Nixon. I’ve stared at archetypal danger in the face. I took psychedelics under Indira Gandhi. That was…
Well see here’s the bottom line on this. It’s exactly - and I’ve said this ad nauseum but I can’t think of another metaphor for it - it’s exactly like a birth. So what you have when you have a birth, it’s going to happen. The only option you have is you know: is it going to happen smoothly and with skillful pain management and quickly brought to a conclusion or is it just going to be an opera of agony and hysteria and pleading and so forth and so on. The way to ease the historical crisis is by spreading awareness. You’re right, the psychedelic is the primary catalyst and then what follows along is this vocabulary of ‘relax’ for crying out loud.
If hearing the word relax is enough, then so be it. If you have to have the Time Wave and all this mathematics to prove to yourself that you should relax, then that’s fine too. But the bottom line is we’re in the roller coaster. The little pipe has now been dropped into your lap. Please do not stand up, scream if you want, hang on and we’ll come through it. But we have to reassure people and the way you reassure people is by getting them to transcend the systems that are spreading the anxiety. I mean if you’re a fascist, if you’re a capitalist, if you have some vested interest in the system, then you’re going to be sweating blood. You have to divest yourself of a commitment to the system because it’s in the process of transformation.
Here’s a hard psychedelic truth actually if you want to boil it down to the bottom line. This is the one thing I’ve learned, maybe, from psychedelics which is - and this is the message of the Time Wave and this is the message of your life and my life - it’s that nothing lasts. Heraclitus said it,
Panta Rei. All flows, nothing lasts. Not your enemies, not your fortune, not who you sleep with at night, not the books, not the house in Saint-Tropez, not even the children – nothing lasts. To the degree that you avert your gaze from this truth, you build the potential for pain into your life. Everything is this act of embracing the present moment, the felt presence of experience and then moving on to the next felt moment of experience. It’s literally psychological nomadism is what it is. That’s what evolve to do and that’s what we’re happiest doing. But we’ve fallen into this object fetishism, sedentary agriculture based style and then we’re frustrated. So a recovering of this ability to surrender and release, it’s very hard for me and it’s very hard for anybody who has an ego and it’s why the psychedelic experience is so challenging…
The Maya established their own civilization in a not very interesting part of their own calendar. Not at the beginning but sort of two thirds of the way through. It looks as though they counted forward to an end date rather than just had an establishment date. How they were able to count forward that many thousands of years to a solstice without losing and time or being off even by a day is hard to figure. I made an interesting discovery just a few weeks ago with a program called Voyager. I don’t think we discussed this, did we? There’s a program called Voyager, which lets you view anywhere in the Solar System from 10,000 years in the past to 10,000 years in the future. So I typed in the longitude and latitude of La Chorrera, December 21, 2012 AD. I knew that the exact moment of the solstice is 11:18am Greenwich, so I knew then that this was 6:18AM local time at La Chorrera. I put in all these coordinates and saw that the sun, if you turn and look east along the equator, the sun has risen about 12 minutes before. I went up to the menu and chose the ecliptic and it slashed down through it as it would because the sun defines the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the path the sun follows. But then I went up and chose define the galactic ecliptic and it drew a line, which made crosshairs that exactly caught the sun in the crosshairs.
Now this is very interesting. Those of you who aren’t astrologers or astronomers let me explain what’s going on. This is what’s called a heliacal rising. What is happening is the galactic center, which is where the plain of the ecliptic and the plain of the galactic ecliptic cross each other at 28 degrees Sagittarius at the cusp of Capricorn. There that point, the galactic center is rising at the exact moment of the rising of the sun – that’s called a heliacal rising and this heliacal rising is in this case occurring on the winter solstice. So then you ask yourself as you do of any such astrological configuration, how often does this occur?
Using Newtonian mechanics where you simply propagate Newtonian laws backward through time infinitely – the answer is it happens once every 26,000 years because it’s a phenomenon that depends on the equinoctial great year of precession. You all know that this happens? OK! Now if you use modern mathematics to calculate how often this happens where you put in the chaotic factor into these orbits, you discover that this doesn’t happen once every 26,000 years. It happens once only in all eternity because in orbital calculation back beyond 20,000 years, uncertainty accumulates in these calculations and they are not reliable. The solar system itself is chaotic.
‘Loud child screaming in the background’
I think someone is processing as they say.
Just the last thing on that. If any of you are interested in that and its an area I’m interested because I don’t quite understand what all this means but there is a book called
Hamlet’s Mill, which deals with this old, old myth of galactic world wide myths of the galaxy in the Paleolithic era. There’s a lot about this notion in many cultures that there are these gates – conceptually gates – which need to all align themselves and then there is some kind of straight shot…
[Question]: And you felt that they made the Mayan calendar out of that line up so accurately?
Well they end their calendar on this particular solstice. Oh I know what I wanted to say about this because I don’t want to leave it. It’s a real question because the galactic center as a concept was not defined for Western Science until the early 1960s, so how could the Maya have locked in on a concept so abstruse? It means you would have to know there is a galaxy and so forth and so on. The only explanation I can come up with for that, which maybe shows my ability to explain everything by one hypothesis, is that perhaps there is a drug that allows you to see at the far infrared end of the spectrum. So that instead of hypothesizing that the Maya had a super advanced mathematics and radio telescope and all this fancy equipment – maybe it was simply that they had a drug that when you look at the night sky in the direction of Sagittarius, there’s an enormous pulsing thing in the sky which you then could - because you can see it in this drug state - calculate when it would be eclipsed by certain bodies. It seems to me a more economical…because it’s a real thing to try to explain how they would have known this.
Then the question, what does it mean? There are in many cultures, the Norse Culture, the Hindu culture and so forth, this idea that the world exists for a finite time and then the stars return to like an original setting. It’s sort of like an alarm clock after it has gone through one complete cycle and it returns to the original setting, then the world disappears, is destroyed or the gods come. Anyway, it points to the end of a cosmic cycle. You haven’t known me my whole life so it’s hard for you to deconstruct it; this is not my style of thinking. I’m repelled by the particularity, the messianism, the counter logical nature of it and yet attempting to objectively describe the content of the psychedelic experience and the map of the human mind that it makes visible. This is the message that I get.
It’s as general or as specific as you want. It’s as general as ‘everything is going to change soon’ and it’s specific as ‘these computer programs that not only show you not only the exact moment when it’s going to change but the exact numerical valuation of every moment in the entire history of the cosmos back a trillion years preceding it.’ So it’s as though in the plants, in nature or in the human mind, depending just on where your depth of focus is; this pattern which can be as generally stated as I said – everything is in the process of transforming or as specifically stated as a mathematical formulism. We’ve lost it!
History has been the pursuit of a false god: the god of stability, the god of permanence, the god of the unchanging and we’ve become just neurotic on this subject.
[Question]: You mentioned last night one of the big things is that our thinking process is wrong. This morning, I have nothing last. That’s a basic truth but we all cling to building visions, projects and ideas that we can cling to and hold onto. We try to make reality more structured and solid and what’s happening around us is that it is falling down in a way. The structured society if 1996 will start crumbling. It is crumbling now but all that solidness that everyone has built – security in a way – all you realize is that nothing does last and you’re just experiencing life.
Well in a sense the bottom line of this from a feeling and a heart place is that what’s being said here is: reclaim experience. Do not dwell in the mistakes of the past. Do not lose yourself in the castles of the future and do not give your authenticity away to experts, gurus, government commissions, bosses, wives, mates – take back your mind and your body and begin to engage with the fact that you are alive, you are going to die, nobody knows what being alive is and nobody knows what dying is. You’re involved in a mysterious engagement where every living moment presents you with mystery, opportunity and wonder. There is no mundane dimension, really. If you have the eyes to see it, it’s all transcendental. Every object, a leaf, a bird, a pebble, everything leads back to the basic questions. Everything is the stone. The stone is present. It’s a matter of you being present for the stone.
[Question]: I’m not a great spiritual searcher but I did a vision quest once where you traumatize yourself to get into vision. One of the things that I realized that hit me home was that life is chaos and that in human mind, even our walls are built to give us a sense of stability, to protect ourselves and our foundations, we create a sense of stability that really doesn’t exist. It’s our name.
Well, the quest for permanence. By having children, this is a pretty good way to do it because you’ve actually got a shot at a billion years with a lot of luck. But building houses on the slopes of Hawaiian volcanoes is probably not something…
[Question]: It’s a whole different dimension. That’s how you imagine it?
Well yes, I’ve imagined it many different ways and according to how recently I’ve been loaded, I take different positions. People are pushing, I think, because they don’t want me to disgrace myself towards a soft version. Something like - that we all make nice and clean up the Earth, you know. No, no! I’m convinced and I think the Time Wave argues for this and looking at the prediction of the cometary impact on Jupiter next July, how can you argue then that this wave is generated out of human biology or culture? It’s not. It’s not even generated out of biology if it’s predicting a cometary impact on the Jovian surface. Presumably no biology is involved. We’re talking about what we’re seeing is the laws of physics themselves beginning to go into some kind of crisis. It’s not no blame for human beings. We are the witnesses and we were somehow called forth by all this but the laws of physics are going into crisis. This is why I urge people to look at Alfred North Whitehead, who was a very scientific and mathematically grounded thinker and who talked about what he called sudden shifts of epochs. His philosophy made a place for sudden shifts of epochs and what that means is the speed of light drops by half over twenty-four hours or the charge of the electron is rearranged. One of the peculiar properties of a fractal universe is almost all the transitions are very smooth but every once in a while you come around the corner and there is a transition that just side winds you because you’re crossing over one of these nodes at the highest level of the structure then profound things occur.
[Question]: The shamanic ethos that you talked about in the description of this weekend, is that what you mean by the commitment to direct experience?
Yeah, the commitment to direct experience and then the commitment to build a language for this; to build a culture. The suppression of psychedelics has had the unfortunate affect of making it impossible for us to build a linguistically coherent community and have a shared body of experience. Because you know – you just cant say this stuff to everybody. To put it in very simple, understandable terms, coming out of the closet on psychedelics should be part of the political agenda. Psychedelics should not be classed with other drugs and certainly the Schedule I category, which seems to be reserved only for very hard narcotics and all psychedelics. That’s just a cockamamie categorization and the whole society is phobic of the mind, terrified of the unconscious, terrified of dissolving the ego, very anxious if you dissolve your ego – it’s a real issue. It’s a taboo, very thoroughly a taboo.
[Question]: Does the commitment to direct experience preclude a metaphysical perspective for you?
No but the direct datum for metaphysical speculation should be one’s own experience. If you’ve studied modern philosophy, I think you discover that it’s very clear that all you can rely on is your senses. You can’t rely on what anybody tells you. The real laboratory bench for philosophy is you looking at your mind and examining it and trying to make judgments about it. Reclaiming experience and the political consequences of reclaiming experience are: that far more than we realize we’re embedded in a hierarchy of declension where information is distributed over Macneil Lehrer, Time magazine, CNN and we the serfs down in the valleys are the grateful recipients of the news! ‘And now for all you jerks out there – the news!’
So we don’t believe anything of our own experience. We wait to be told that a White House commission or a Blue Ribbon group….
[Question]: How does this affect history?
Well I think of history as this prison. I would go with Stephen Dedalus who said, ‘history is the nightmare from which I’m trying to awaken.’ That’s the consequence of bad metaphysic.
[Question]: Earlier you called it a misunderstanding and I’m saying that you have to deal – in this sense it’s all about metaphysics.
Well but that works. If you think of it as a misunderstanding then the dissolving of the prison of gnostic confinement was an act of contact with the higher hidden order of things behind appearances. That was the gnostic epiphany. I would say if history is the prison then the psychedelic experience is the epiphany of dissolution that frees, and then you see eternity. You see the Platonic. You see time as the moving image of eternity. The mystery is revealed. That’s this whole thing about how a shaman is somebody who has seen the end. That’s all and that’s what confers this wisdom is having seen the end. It’s kind of ultimate experience and then you take your place. You go back to your group and take your place and perform your function.
[Question]: I’m wondering if you’ve had experiences of talking with other shamanic teachers who also talk about this. I know Henry Taylor, who is an Arapaho medicine man, has that 2000-year-old shamanic tradition. He says that there is time coming, he doesn’t say 2012, but he says soon when life will not be like we know it at all. We won’t eat the same food…
I made a list of them once. There are about five or six different sources of this 2012 thing. There are some Hasids in Israel who have decided that July 2012 something is going to happen, the Mayan calendar, my thing, something else and some of these Indian prophecies. Of course you see my theory would explain this because what’s happening, it would say, as we get closer and closer to the transcendental object, it gives off what I call scintilla. They’re like sparks or little reflections that ricochet backwards through time. So you take a psychedelic or you have a dream and then you say I had this dream, there were flying saucers and it was the end of the world and they were taking millions of people of off the planet while there was some kind of an adjustment. Well I would call that a typical transcendental object anticipation dream where your dream is not true – that isn’t how it’s going to happen – the human mind cannot encompass how it’s going to happen but that’s a little fable about how its going to happen.
Some of you may know Arthur C. Clarke’s wonderful book,
Childhood’s End. If you’ve never read this, it’s wonderful. It’s about the end of the world, a believable scenario for how it could in fact be transformed and its just spin chilling – it’s wonderful. It too is simply a fable. The real thing will be beyond your wildest imaginings, literally. It’s messianic return, it’s flying saucer invasion and it’s Gaian revelation. It’s all that and more and more because eventually the machinery of anticipation fails and you just say, it’s more than we bargained for. It’s the jackpot.
[Question]: I’m interested in your thoughts on psychedelic drugs and levels of maturity. In children for example, to your knowledge are there cultures at a particular age – not three, maybe it’s five, maybe it’s fifteen – when are humans who are allowed to be exposed to these chemicals and socially indoctrinated?
Well among the Augaruna Jivaro in Ecuador, they put ayahuasca on the mother’s nipple the third day after birth. So they quickly establish at least a chemical recognition in the immune system. It’s an important question, what do you tell your kids about drugs. I thrashed around about this. I have two kids, a 15-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl and this question comes up in the family and at these groups a lot. I think all you can do; you have to tell the truth. You have to just lay it out and educate them. It’s the one place where you can actually function as a parent because the schools are lying and you just say, this is part of life. You’re going to have to make choices, there are dozens of drugs, they are associated with different lifestyles, risk levels, sensations, kinds of people and the main thing I think to avoid is hypocrisy. I think it’s really weird, people who say, we can’t smoke dope until the children go to bed. This is weird! First of all, the children know and what they know is that you’re conflicted and giving off different signals about it. If there are drugs you do that you wouldn’t want your children to see you doing, you shouldn’t be doing those drugs! That’s a perfect litmus test.
[Question]: When do they get to? Is age twelve the age, talking about mushrooms?
Well the first thing to recognize is that it’s not up to you and that if you wait too long then they’ll just present you with
fait accompli. So if you say, you know I think it would really be good to wait until your fifteen to do mushrooms, they say – right ok and then you found out it was done. Sometime between thirteen and sixteen, they’re going to sort it out. It’s right up there with sex. The thing to do is to really say, this is very adult business and you can get into trouble of all different kinds and here’s the kind of trouble you can get into. My son is surrounded by cautionary tales and I try to warn him that the great age of hashish smuggling lies in the 14th century and shouldn’t be duplicated.
Oh I’d say we’re pretty tight. We live together as sort of bachelor roommates and try to not get into conflicts over women. We like the same kind of music and it’s done me no harm with my son to get into this rave club, staying up all night, London, New York, Frankfort scene because he just loves that. It amazes me. When I was a kid, I was socially terrified and I remember I used to never go to the canteen dances because I knew there were these enormous guys who would just stomp me. I used to lurch in the park across the street and watch them going to and from the canteen because I couldn’t socially show my face. So it’s a late flowering adolescence that it perfectly in synchrony with my son.
[Question]: Do you believe that theory that some people in the 60s will tell you, that because they were heads, their children have more of a chance to be heads, and do you think it’s a social thing?
Well to me that’s this issue. This is a real hard issue for parents and to some degree deeper even and harder than the drug issue. And that is, I think I can speak for most people here and say – we are alienated intellectuals of some sort. Alienation is ipso facto not such a cool thing to be. It means that you’re constantly aware of the failings and the betrayals – it’s alienation and we’re alienated intellectuals. So then you have kids and you see that there seem to be only two paths open. They can become nitwits or they can become alienated intellectuals. Which do you want for your children? Do you want them to be perfectly satisfied with a house on the cliffs, two cars in the garage and their position at the advertising agency? Or do you want them to be like you – haunted, always in conflict and never able to come to terms with what? That’s a big problem…
[Question]: I want to come clean and say I have a 15 year old daughter who hears all this stuff about it. I’ve had to come to terms with it. I’ve said this to her, do you want to be another stupid American or do you want to be alienated like your father?
And she says I’ll take stupid!
Well my daughter is not conservative exactly but she looks upon me differently than Finn does I think. Although she’s only twelve, so we’ll see what it does to her to go through all that. But that’s a real problem. I don’t regret my alienation. It’s hard for people sometimes to understand where I’m coming from. Like a lot of people will go through a weekend like this and one of the rare resistances I get is people say, your vision is so dark, which is completely puzzling to me because it’s the most optimistic vision conceivable, not only by me but by anybody. I say that heaven is eighteen years away and they accuse me of pessimism? What that tells me is that the world transformation is so threatening to some people that no matter how much you talk about how great it’s going to be, all they come away with is: ‘
oh boy – big change?’
[Question]: Maybe it’s the way you describe certain analogies. When your talking about some guy falling through a black hole through eternity, it kind of sounds like shit!
No it’s the Silver Surfer?
Well this is the question that gets down to an all-Catholic catechism classes. Sister will there be sex in heaven?
[Question]: The end is going to be an individual thing. Whether it’s 2012 or the end of Pompeii, for everybody who it was the end in Pompeii, for some it may have been ecstatic and for others it may have been terrible but we all face it individually.
So what you’re saying is that it’s the accumulation of fate. It’s really what you did before that ultimate moment…
[Question]: It’s all going to be individually and it depends on what your situation is at the moment because it’s going to be a grand moment. You may have a beautiful high; someone else might be in the depths of depression.
Well what you’re saying is that it will come like a thief in the night, unannounced. This is what Christ told Nicodemus. He said, I will come like a thief in the night. No man will know the moment of my coming. Blake talks about this. He says, though Satan’s watch fiends shall search through all eternity for the moment, they will never find the moment. Apparently the moment is a very big deal. That’s why it’s interesting that this all devolves down to a moment. If you’re interested in this kind of thing and want to keep your psychological wits about you, read
When Prophecy Failed. It’s a wonderful book about a flying saucer cult that comes to expect the end of the world and has been infiltrated by two Stanford sociologists who then observe what it is like for this very, very devoted cultish group of people to be disappointed, to have an extraordinary disconfirmation of their theology and what they do about that and how they react to it.
[Question]: You mean December 23rd, 2012?
Well people ask me, what will you do if nothing happens? I am not a believer. I want to keep this tar baby definitely at arms length. I think it’s very interesting that I have this idea, very interesting that the Wave conforms to history. It’s all weird I grant you. It’s like being trapped inside a science fiction novel. But I could go through December 21st, 2012, have absolutely nothing happen and say, well, that blows it off – let’s go have some coffee. My 65th birthday will occur thirty days in front of the date, so I will just gracefully retire. I think that would be the decent thing to do at that moment! Just say, it’s been nice…surely you didn’t take it seriously?
[Question]: One of the things that have impressed me this weekend is your encyclopedic knowledge. One of the things I’d like you ask you, what do you read to get the news? How do you get all this information?
Well for instance, the best thing to read to keep abreast of science is Science News. It’s totally unpretentious. It’s nuts to subscribe to Nature or Science – they cost a hundred dollars a year and you can’t understand a word of it. So you read Science News, which comes out once a week and tells you things months in front of everybody else. I subscribe to Archeology magazine, Astronomy magazine, On Our Backs just to keep in touch with the lesbian erotic literature front…very important!
And let me, what else? For twenty years I’ve been a member of the Society for the Study of Alchemy and the History of Chemistry, so I get Ambix. I don’t know. A lot of information flows my through my scene. People send me stuff. There’s a very lively underground press: Psychedelic Illuminations, Reactor out of Chicago, Talking Raven out of Seattle – a very lively English press, music press and psychedelic press. You shouldn’t read mainstream media particularly because there’s a much more interesting strata of information under the surface.
[Question]: In the question of practicality, how reliable are street psychedelics?
As reliable or as unreliable as the street chemist who made them. That’s the problem. When you’re confronted with an off-color powder, all bets are off because the motivation for making this powder is nine times out of ten to make money and corners can be cut. That’s why if you really want to liberate yourself from the illegal and toxic cycle of drug production, you should grow mushrooms. My brother and I wrote a book called
Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Growers Guide. If you want to get into alchemy, this is real alchemy! The formula is rye to mold, mold to gold. You can take a twenty-five pound sack of rye, which costs $19.99, and you can turn it into $22,000 worth of mushrooms. Not that you would want to do that of course, you would want to turn it into an enormous number of mushrooms which you would give to everybody in your apartment building and neighborhood. It was one of the most satisfying things about my career, it doesn’t happen much any more because that book is long in the past but when I first started public speaking, people would come up to me and say we just want to thank you for writing the mushroom book, you kept a family of six off welfare for eight years.
So growing the mushroom is a wonderful, satisfying thing. The mushroom is an incredible workhorse organism. It will take dry weight of rye and transform it into dry weight of mushroom at 12% efficiency. That’s just amazing! And it’s short supply these days, like cleanliness, punctuality, attention to detail, responsibility, sensitivity to small shifts of parameters – it teaches you, it literally teaches you to be the kind of person that it wants to take the mushroom.
[Question]: Is it out of print? Can it be found?
No it isn’t out of print. It can be found. It can be ordered from a place in San Francisco called Quick Trade. They’ll even take a credit card number. Quick Trade has it!
[Question]: Is there anywhere in LA that carries it?
Yes some very hip bookstores keep it.
[Question]: What about the Invisible Landscape?
The Invisible Landscape, which has been very hard to get for ten years or so will be reprinted next year from Harper on the 15th of April with considerable new material and revision. When that’s done, when
Invisible Landscape, Archaic Revival and the Time Wave Software in the Mac and MS-DOS version – when all that’s out there, that’s essentially the bit. I may be considerably less inevident because I don’t see myself… as it is I’ve given every one of these raps sixty times and Paul has archived it. I would like to go off to some jungle or island somewhere and get back into stretching the envelope with these plants and substances.
[Question]: Could you give us a sense of what’s going on in Europe?
Well what’s going on in Europe is that this very large intelligent, postmodern youth culture is sustaining itself and growing. It has more than the dimensions of a fad. The house music scene has been around since 1988 and it’s growing still and innovating still. It’s a very tribal, positive message and it’s very critical of establishmentarian values. It started out as an MDMA based club thing and it’s turned much deeper, much more towards psychedelics. I’ve given talks like this in Megatripolis – which is a London nightclub in Charing Cross. We turned out three hundred people. I talked from ten to midnight and then we dance until 4:30am. And this kind of thing Sasha and Ann Shulgin took London by storm. There really is a fertilization going on. There is a similar scene in Berlin, a similar scene in Frankfort and I think common cause can be made. The Europeans have a different attitude towards all this drug problem. They see it as a social problem to somehow be studied and solved, not that you have embraced Satanism if you smoke a joint, which seems to be the American attitude. Eventually European attitudes will just shame us into changing our…
[Question]: Is there a drug hysteria there?
No there is not a drug hysteria there. In a very good Berlin restaurant after dinner, make a splif and pass it around and the waiters bring you a silver ashtray as they’re clearing the table.
[Question]: I thought that the legal punishment for illicit drugs was a lot more intense in Europe.
No, no! The Swiss are talking about giving Heroin to seven hundred addicts and they just concluded this free needle thing. They’re open to experiment; both social experiments with large numbers of drug users and clinical, medical work is being done there. It’s being done in Switzerland; Hanscarl Leuner is doing work.
[Question]: I know of one in Amsterdam, where they take about two-hundred people, some inmates, some college students, some working class people, some hippies, various groups of people – and they give them all ecstasy and somebody will talk and sort of work the whole program, the whole communication into a oneness where everyone experiences that together and they say profound things happen in the psyches of all those people.
Yeah, a lot of things are happening. The hemp movement is very strong in Germany and getting stronger in England. But I believe that the boundary dissolving quality of these psychedelics makes them social dynamite and that the policy makers figured this out long ago. This is not a simple, straightforward issue like it’s trying to be presented. They just can’t allow these drugs to be legal. They will shift social values too much. They know that alcohol, tobacco and sugar are much more detrimental than let’s say, mescaline, psilocybin and cannabis – but this is not an argument about detriment, this is an argument about what social values shall be affirmed and what’s suppressed. Alcohol keeps a dominance in place. A very rote like, machine like, assembly line society can be maintained based on alcohol, red meat, tobacco and caffeine. They don’t want people philosophizing and kicking back and getting people in touch with their feelings about the system.
So I predict that at the very best, there will be a kind of permissiveness but no legal revolution is insight I think unless it comes through the hemp argument. Simply that we can’t afford to let the tax revenue go by and the resource base that hemp would represent so we have to change our attitudes on this.
[Question]: I’d like you to talk about the emergence of women?
We didn’t talk too much about woman this time. Sometimes we talk a lot about all that. The major difference between historical society and this archaic thing that I’m so enthusiastic for was the position of women. Nature is imagined as feminine and that in the partnership society there was role appropriate behavior. Obviously women represent the unconscious, the untamed and the wild side of things and that’s why the control of woman is so high up on the agenda of everybody who is trying to hold the line on what’s happening.
The more rapidly that women can find their place, the better it’s going to be. Then the question is, what is their place? I think feminism, understandably but nevertheless, did itself no good by deciding that what liberation meant was that 50% of the country CEOs should be women. It meant nobody examined the system into which all these people were going to be liberated and noticed that it was a horribly repressive system itself deserving of radical reformation. But I think the agenda of women seems to be now being reexamined and thought about. I’m amazed at how powerful misogyny is and how politically incorrect the 90s are from the vantage point of say the mid-70s.
In media, women have clearly lost ground. The bimbo is back big! How this is to be addressed, I don’t know. I think it’s all related to – well here this opens up a big issue but let me just mention it – Esalen is one of the places which promoted the idea that you can heal various conditions through visualization and imaging, you know? But one of the consequences of that that has never really been dealt with anywhere is, if there are images that can heal then there are images that can sicken. There are images that can make ill. Our terror of psychedelics and anxiety over sex have lead us to substitute for those legitimate domains of human experience, an incredible plethora of images of violence. I am very, very strong first amendment person. I don’t think anybody should be restricted in anything but I’m troubled by the obvious affect of images of violence on society and women. The woman question is right in there.
As long as we tolerate an unrestrained outpouring of violent images, we’re undercutting any chance women have of moving their agenda forward. I don’t know how you do anything about this. It’s a very difficult problem. Violence without violence to women is like a circus without lions. Violence is code word for violence against women.
[Question]: Violence is no fun without women?
It doesn’t sell particularly.
[Question]: The connection of sex and violence?
Well, the number of images. See we try to pretend we’re not being shaped by our technology but an average evening of TV brings you three hundred fifty images of violent death and dismemberment. Well in a lifetime of hunting people down and hacking their heads off, you wouldn’t see that much violence if you were in a media free world.
So what the hell is going on here? It’s that somehow we’re anxious about sexuality, so no; no there can’t be any of that. We’re anxious about drugs, that’s not even on the agenda. So the only pizzazz left is this violence thing and it’s like a drug, in that you build up very rapid tolerance and so there has to be just more and more piled on. It’s amazing to me that this is all done in the service of the ideals of the marketplace. This is all done so people can make lots of money. It’s an extraordinary abdication of responsibility on all members of society that we tolerate this kind of iconoclastic behavior. Anyway, that’s why I think of television as a drug and a very insidious drug, a drug you can program. I mean, a drug you can buy time on for your message. And yet millions of people are being larval states of mind for years and years out there in the flats just getting those sixty channels, nine hours a day.
[Question]: It’s voluntary!
There are so many levels of programming. See what happened is, this is just my take on it – but it was a very traumatic thing for my parent’s generation to go through the depression and then the defeat of Hitler in Europe. All that science fiction stuff about eugenics and what was done with the Jews – people were just fed up with the 20th century by the time the atom bomb arrived. What they wanted and what they had been promised by the New Deal Democrats was a paradise. Well the only way you could deliver paradise in that political context – it has to be an ersatz paradise. A paradise of stucco and TV, TV dinners and tube furniture and that’s what they got. They got an ersatz paradise and out of that come the discontent of their children who see that Howdy Doody and a water sprinkler on the front lawn doesn’t feel like paradise. That is what has driven American society deeper and deeper into artificiality – the need to supply this synthetic, manufactured paradise. That’s why the cult of the celebrity and the intense media saturation and all of this is diversion; it’s a substitute for a life. That’s what ‘get a life’ means – go get stoned, go get laid, go climb a mountain or kayak a river but somehow take back your own authenticity from the people who are peddling you canned experience with laugh tracks, caffeine augmentation and so forth and so on.
The real message of psychedelics I think is to reclaim experience and to trust yourself. Your perceptions are primary. Your feelings are correct. Everything must constellate out and make sense and parse with what you know. If you don’t start from that assumption then you are off-center to begin with. The psychedelics will dissolve the cultural programming that has potentially made you a mark and restore your authenticity. That’s what it’s all about. Whether the only transformation in life is the personal dying that awaits each of us or whether there is a grand opening and opportunity just ahead at the end of history. That’s all folks!