We Are at the Cutting Edge

August 1991


This talk does not have any transcribers

… conference on virtual reality and, you know, on one level you have the gun hold technocrats who just see this as the greatest form of entertainment ever, but it does raise certain fairly profound questions.

I mean if you can put on a glove and some eye-phones and go into a synthetic world, let’s say a lavishly furnished mansion on a hill, but in that mansion a painting hangs over the fireplace, and by pointing your finger at the painting you go through it and breakthrough onto a pine-dotted plane with a fountain in the centre of it, and then by going to that fountain and walking through it emerge back in the kitchen of the mansion, you know, where does reality begin and end?

And how can we at this moment satisfy ourself that we are not in some kind of solid state matrix of some sort?

How can we satisfy ourself that this is not itself a simulacrum? And the answer is: you can’t! 
We only assume it isn’t because that’s called Occam’s razor.

You all know what Occam’s razor is right? It’s the idea that hypothesis should not be multiplied without necessity. A simple way of saying that is: the simplest idea should always be preferred. But notice that this will lead you to deep error in most human situations, if you prefer the simplest situation to what’s going on you will never understand what’s going on. I mean, you see two people and they’re falling in love, if you assume they’re falling in love because they like each other you are probably missing the fact that one just inherited 10 million dollars and the other one is a rat and, you know, one was abused as a child and the other is able to manipulate people all over the map, so Occam’s razor is fine in the formulation of physical theory but it doesn’t take us far in understanding human motivation.

What the psychedelic seems to me to argue for is that reality is not reality. There may be no reality. but certainly this is not it. This is some kind of highly provisional, culturally sanctioned hallucination that we are all participating in, and whatever it is it yields ultimately to non-entity. I mean our realities are sustained by our being and from looking at what happens to other people we know that eventually you get laid into the cold cold ground. And then what is your reality worth?

So, reality, whatever it is, is temporary and yields to non-existence. That seems to be the primary ground of being. Yeah over here

Audience: Well just in putting out something that’s quite a question to be explored as the week goes on, I mean, I’ve had experience of, you know, “reality” being this very subjective thing. My question is: even if it’s not real how could we use that fact to create a reality that’s more enjoyable? When it occur to me was, he talked about these amazonian tribes and how, you know, what’s happening on wall street isn’t real there, yet you know at some point that whole seemingly infinite forest could be cut out from under them because of what’s happening in wall street, so I’m interested in how looking at this sense of reality not being real, how that all plays out with one reality intruding on one another?

Well I think that what it points us toward, and this is where modern philosophy and large measure is gone, is realising the primacy of language that it’s up until fairly recently people have accepted the idea that you’re born into the world and that’s the world and then you make the best of it. It’s the hand you’ve been dealt, but what they didn’t understand was that this is a card game where you never have to show your hand, so you can claim to be holding 8 aces, you can claim any damn thing you want, reality is made out of language. Some people understand this and use it to bully the rest of us. I mean, we think you have to show your cards and they know you just claim to have aces and eights and everybody gets out of your way. So as a culture, what we have to do, I’m definitely not big on this whole French thing, but nevertheless there is something to be said for this deconstructionist method we have to get down to the bedrock of reality, which appears to be words, memes and ideas, and then build back up from that. We can otherwise, what we get, is the momentum of past error. We think of people in the past as tremendously naive relative to ourselves, but it’s their intellectual world that we are living in. Because they thought up all this stuff and then we are acting out the consequences of it. How can we take control of the reality creating machinery and then direct it in a way we want to go? No culture on earth has ever done this, or even conceived of the idea so far as I can tell. There’s a lot of fun poked at feminism for its preference for words like chair person and stuff like that and these examples seem somewhat trivial, but in fact the effort to reconstruct to reconstruct the language is very genuine because thought can’t go where the roads of language have not been built, so you decide where you want to go and then you build a linguistic path there. This whole thing with the psychedelic experience, the way cultures loose touch with it is by not being able to say anything about it you know, and then eventually it gets so unsayable that if you start babbling about it they throw a net over you and say “oh well he became schizofrenic, he had serious delusions, had to be locked up, didn’t understand that the universe is, you know, a half sphere on the back of a turtle being carried by a dwarf” or whatever the sanctioned cultural reality is. So our political dilemma and our cultural dilemma is a linguistic dilemma and we need to take hold of language and build it consciously. Now so far the only people who’ve understood this very thoroughly have been bad people: fascists and other people with some hideous agenda that they wanted to displace the ordinary haphazard way of doing cultural business with. But it is not intrinsically compromised. It’s simply that the sly among us figured this out ahead of all the rest of us, but we can learn from them and can begin to sanction realities that never existed before. You’ve probably all heard me talk about memes and how, what the reason I teach, the reason I write, the reason we all get together is because we are trying to launch new memes. You all know what a meme is right? A meme is the smallest unit, this is how I define it, somebody told me recently you define it wrong, it’s all right, my definition is better, a meme is the smallest unit of an idea, in the same way that a gene is the smallest unit of organismic existence. So the meme of marxism is made up of some memes of class struggle and return of the memes of production to the workers and so forth and so on, these are marxist memes.

Audience: I don’t understand why you sort of kinda getting to the point where it is language based, why can’t these memes be visual?

Well I define language so broadly that it can be visual I mean what it is it’s the signifier for cognitive activity and I don't want to get off into this kind of linguistic vocabulary about this stuff but, but language means there's sculpture, painting, poetry, song, it means cognitive activity. I mean, the glory of our species this is what we do so much better than whoever is in second place I mean I guess the gorillas and the dolphins are a mile and a half behind in doing whatever they're doing but I just don't buy the notion that there is any other species on this planet with the possible exception of mushrooms that is involved in this language making enterprise in quite the way we are, and it's how we escaped the iron constraints of organic existence. Culture is a kind of environment, that we have learnt how to interpose between ourselves and what is really out there and we don’t know what it was because we invented culture 50000 years ago and nobody’s seen anything else since. But there was something there that was so frightening and so alarming to us that we invented culture as a membrane that we would place between ourselves and then there’ve been other membranes invented since, urbanisation: let’s all crowd into cities and jabber to each other. That would even hold it more at bay, and so forth and so on. I mean we really as though we fear something tremendously toxic or something which has a dissolving force over our being that lies beyond the frontier of language and this relates to the ego. The ego is this cultural invention that we have created. People don't need egos. I mean, need one in this culture because everybody else has one and so you have to use yours to navigate through it but it’s not a necessary concomitant to be human. We could operate without them but somehow we became traumatised by the experience of law and language nature and we created this strategy and it’s no different, you know, some creatures create nests underground, and some creatures coat themselves in toxic slime. We also did that by the way. Because there’s something that has to be held back and suppressed that’s very alarming.

Audience: It seems to me you know that at one point your saying that we are way ahead of the dolphins cause we created this linguistic based you know, vein. and on the other hand I see this you know I mean you’ve also just that we’ve created this linguistic based hallucination to isolate us from a perceptual based you know we hate to use the word reality but whatever you wanna call it, and so why is this what is this cultural improvement.

Well I’m not saying it’s an improvement, it’s an experiment of some sort. No other creature ever took this particular tack, now evolution seems to have it’s own set of values. What evolution is seeking to maximise is expression of the individual genome. In other words there are two ways that a species can be successful. It can either evolve into an unoccupied niche of some sort that it then can tenaciously take hold of. Or it evolves strategies for generalising its existence so it can occupy all sorts of niches and this it’s what we’ve done. And when you look at the two possibilities you see that creatures that follow the maximise adaptation to single niche strategy usually become blocked. Cockroaches are a good example. Evolutionarily we could say that they’re tremendously successful. but all they do is persist.They haven’t modified or changed themselves in 150 million years

Audience: By your definition if there’s more cockroach genes out there than human genes they’re more successful than us.

Well not my definition but the definition of biology and cockroaches are always held up as this tremendously successful evolutionary adaptation. We’ve set out on a different course. and it’s a course of continual redefinition. We can re-tool our culture very quickly. We have thrown away the mechanism of genetic change and natural selection through modification of mutation, which was very very slow and apparently a random walk, it didn’t have any kind of Tilos. But cultures can actually set up goals and move toward them. I mean even very large and unlikely goals. I mean like the third Reich. Their decision that is would be a good idea to eliminate jews from central Europe, this is a crazy idea that would never happen. Nothing like that would ever happen in a situation of organic evolution but in a situation of cultural evolution the idea becomes the guiding image for the society and then outrageous thing are done and the consequences of that are played out. I would like to think that we have not escaped from the yoke, the controlling yoke of nature. In other words we aren’t off on some demonic tear where we are just like evil incarnate but that actually requires species such as ourselves basically to harness energy. We are on a higher level doing what the mitocondria did in the abiotic oceans of the earth a billion years ago. We’re energy storage and release mechanisms, sanctioned by nature for some purpose, which will be visible somewhere downstream in the flow of time. But which is opaque to us, for us history seems a kind of a nightmare, but it must I think have a happy ending or it would never have been allowed to happen in the first place. I just don’t think that a monkey species had the wherewithal to evade the mechanisms of control and constraint that guide and direct everything on the planet. There is a purpose to history and you know I don’t wanna go into it tonight, but as many of you know I spend a lot of time thinking about this, trying to figure out something good about the human race, something that can be said of us that will redeem the sins that we have visited upon the planet and it isn’t easy but some of our best people are working on it. know what I mean?

[18:00] Audience: in fact part of what we are is the unveil of the world or nature as you’re referring to now.

Well, maybe what is going on is that nature, you see, we as individuals can remember the past and model the future, but it may be that nature operates in an entirely different way this harks back to our discussion of Platonism. Nature may have a kind of viewpoint in eternity. Nature may actually see what needs to be done and can plan on a scale of a million or a hundred million years so that, well this is slightly afield, but it keeps coming up so it’s worth talking about, every body in the solar system, all the inner planets, all of their moons, all of the solid bodies that orbit around the gas giants around the solar system, every piece of rock in the entire solar system has just been hammered to pieces by asteroid and planetesimals in full and we prefer not to think about this. As recently as last January what’s called an Apollo asteroid crossed within a half lunar distance of the earth, this is hair-raisingly close and there’s this crater out in Arizona, it’s only 50 thousand years old, whatever came down there was only 30 feet across and everything within 800 miles died instantly when that thing came down. There’s a scar on the canadian shield larger than the crater copernicus on the moon. Now this crate is over billion and a half years old, the point being: the universe may be fantastically chaotic and dangerous place and so our cheerful models of what biology is about is that you know we’ve evolved over a billion and a half years and we have a billion years more and there’s no hurry and it’s all fine and man has thousands of years to work out the problems of civilisation and so forth and so on, but it may actually be that nature senses some kind of danger and that a species like ourselves is a response to this danger, our most astonishing feat as a species to date besides language i think, is that we can, though we are made of mush, we can summon to the deserts of this planet the light which burns at the centre of the stars themselves, not bad for anthropoid apes. I mean, granted as soon as we do this we then plot and scheme on how to bring it down on the heads of our enemies, that’s not our noblest trait but the fact that we could go into matter and rest a secret like atomic fusion from it and then carry that out is astonishing and it may be that history, that lasts in the technical phase 25000 years, something like that, I mean if you go back just 15 000 it’s a pretty bare wire scene, so the whole thing is a wink of an eye you know, a geological instant from somebody getting the idea that you could flake flint off a core to the idea that you could send a starship to zeta reticuli you know 25000 years to do that, and so I think that we have a destiny and probably our destiny is to save the planet and you know, it would be the final irony if we spent a huge amount of time hammering on each other to get rid of nuclear weapons and stop cutting the rainforest and stuff like that and then one of these planetesimals contacted the earth and we all died instantly this thing that passed by at a half lunar distance in January it was not detected until five days later had it actually impacted the earth you would never had known what hit you. This thing which killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago it raised a tidal wave 5 miles high that moved out from the impact point at five times the speed of sound. Can you picture a tidal wave five miles high moving at Mach 5? I mean, we’re talking major smush here and the evidence is there that this happen, that these things are not rare, that it will happen again, I mean if you take a long enough time span they say it’s a certainty. Take it to the bank.

Audience: but still the earth survives

Well it survived. This thing which killed the dinosaurs, nothing larger than a chicken walked away from it, on this planet nothing larger than a chicken, ok so that’s the bad news, the good news is the flowering plants evolved in the wake of that catastrophe, the mammals got their purchase, they were eggs stealing weasels up till that point and then this opened up and opportunity for them to rush in and exfoliate all kind of different forms the earth has faced outrageous crises in its history at a very distant point in the history of the earth anaerobic life dominated the earth and then it began to produce oxygen as a toxic by-product. Oxygen was as toxic to the early lifeforms on earth as plutonium is to us and yet strategies were evolved and this huge problem was gone around and we then are the result of this so yes there is no moral, there is finally no moral judgement there’s just you know shit happens that seems to be the rule and then you can think it’s good or bad or indifferent, but that’s not the human point of view, the human point of view is that we have something very precious here that we want to conserve that we want to carry through any conceivable catastrophe and so you know technology may be a strategy for this. This is why is very important for us to think about reality on different levels. I started out by talking about philosophical reality, something for you know, elderly people to discuss in book line parlors, but there’s also stuff like what is the reality of our circumstance in this star swarm in this galaxy. Are we safe? Or are we imperilled? What should we be doing? Is it ok, should we be worrying about saving the rainforest or is that preposterous in the light of what we’re facing and how can we know? What is to be done, the Tolstoian question, what is to be done. You can’t answer that question until you have some notion of what reality is and at this stage in trying to understand what reality is all processes seem to me to be deconstructive. We need to take apart our languages, our cultural assumptions, the geological history of this planet, the biological history, the astrophysical nature of the structures in which we are embedded in, we need to awaken to our true circumstance. The dreams that culture gives us, that we should be good nazis or good Buddhists or good witotos, these are just illusions that are temporary delusions which make possible the business of culture, but something now is happening that is different. We are becoming a global civilization. Power is been given into our hands that is truly power on a cosmic scale. What difference did it make when bronze tipped spears were the heaviest thing anybody could bring to bear on any problem? But once you can blow the earth apart like putting a stick of dynamite in a rotten apple then you actually become actors on a cosmic scale and this is the situation in which we find ourselves, this is why there’s a certain urgency I think. Because I totally disagree with people who think that human history, you know, can be seen wandering aimlessly into the millenia of the future with faster spacecraft and better packaged foods and more effective forms of psychotherapy and so forth, it seems to me preposterous. Obviously human history is some kind of self-limiting process that is seeking to maximise something and if you look over the what we’ve been doing it seems like what we’ve trying to maximise is an ability to release energy, well there may be more exotic ways to release energy than thermonuclear fusion, but thermonuclear fusion is a huge leap in the order of magnitude of the kind of energy that you can release I mean before thermonuclear fusion the biggest explosion the biggest release of energy that anybody could create with some kind of conventional bomb of some sort which didn’t amount to zip except in the place where it happened to be dropped. Nuclear weapons are a whole other thing I mean all our dreams all our religious fantasies about the end of the world that was harmless enough stuff when all we could do is split each other’s heads open. Well ok so that’s perhaps enough about the point of view of straight science because I doubt there are very many people in this room who actually practice that kind of science. A point that should be made about reality that comes slightly close to what the experience of each of us is: for society to work for “reality”, alway in quotes, to work we have to assume that we are sharing the same reality and there are different levels on which this assumption operates, for instance many of you have heard me talk about the slippery vicissitudes of language that in fact we are communicating, we are most in agreement when we are silent with each other because then our assumptions about how we’re in agreement are able to fully unfurl themselves, but all it takes is somebody breaking that silence and stating the contents of their mind for the assumption of our shared reality to completely collapse upon us because it turns out you know, I think it’s one way, you think it’s another, I believe we’re doing x you think we’re doing y, I think we’re serving so and so and you think we’re serving somebody else and this is why you know I think great relationships are built in silence, because then nobody ever finds out what’s really going on. Did you wanna say something?

Audience: when you’re talking about science are you talking about science because science where in order for it to be science you have to repeat this certain situation has to be repeated and you have to get the same response so that that proves out to a truth

Yeah I mean that’s a good definition of science

Audience: after that when you’re talking about reality in the moment that that never proves out true if you’re in that artistic moment then you never get a repetition you’re getting a synchronicity where your reality is in tune with a flow that the word I use is like miraculous, that people start showing up when need to chop chop and when I let go of my ego and my need for specific thing than that flow starts to happen, and in the scientific world you need that same thing repeated several times in order to get it to your truth

That’s right I mean a good definition of science, not one that any scientist would be comfortable with, I mean they think they’re doing God’s work or something, but the fact of the matter is what science is is the study of those fenomena so crude that a return to initial conditions will cause the phenomenon to repeat it self, well if you think about your own life there is nothing like that, in your own life love affairs, careers, disappointment, nothing that we experience as human being has that quality, so science, this is the problem with science that in the pursuit of explanation it has cut itself off absolutely from making sense of anything in our own life, that’s why the efforts by science to move into the domains of our own life have not been happy: sciences like psychology and sociology are pseudosciences as far as I’m concerned because the objects they seek to explicate, personalities in one case, and human-group interaction in another, are not scientific phenomena because they don’t fall under the rubric of restoration of initial conditions allows the same situation to unfold. But I wanna point out, go further than this. Well first of all let me say one more thing about that.

Audience: maybe what you just said is not quite true because if you were able to provide the whole set of same initial conditions, which is impossible to provide, but if you were able to provide exactly the same circumstances there is a chance that it may happen. The problem is that you’re not able to understand what all these initial conditions are.

No I think that since the invention of the probability calculus that’s not even believed anymore. In other words the idea used to be that if you could, if you think of the universe or history as a film that if you run it back to the beginning and if you hit the start button again everything will happen exactly like it happened before and I will be born in poor but humble circumstances in a Colorado mining town and it will, but I think now the understanding is that only generally would the same things happen and that even in Orthodox science probability allows for slight deviation from, so it isn’t an absolute determinism.

Audience: well I don’t believe that. because my thing is that what we are just saying is that we don’t understand what’s happening and the probability is just saying “more or less I guess it’s going to be around there. I just have some idea of what’s happening, but - say - I’m not understanding the process really well and therefore I can guide you approximately”.

So do you think that if we could return to the initial conditions of the big bang and have it happen again that 5 billion years later I would be sitting here with the same amount of change in my pocket as I have right now

Audience: I don’t believe we could do that

Well you brought it up

Audience: we could go back to the big bang and be back there but what I’m saying is that the fact that you’re saying that if you go back to the same initial conditions that is going to repeat it self that statement is not true, is not true either

Well you see the problem is that there’s only one set of initial conditions that are truly initial, which is the big bang. all other sets of initial conditions are embedded in some larger surround where everything has change I mean for instance if we say, you know, well we can never restore initial conditions, the planets have moved, the starts are older. How can we restore the initial conditions? Everything only happens once and then it never repeats itself. But plowing toward this thing, but I wanna say one more thing. I’ll subvert myself. That is: in order to do its work science had to, and this happened with Decarte, it had to take the things that are most dear to us, colors, taste, feeling, tactility, and it defined those things as what it calls secondary qualities. Basically this is a way of saying they’re not important. None of that is important and what is important are primary qualities: spin, velocity, angular momentum, charge. Strangely enough, things none of us have a very intuitive grasp of nor do we ever encounter these things in any naked form, they’re always embedded in matter. So science in order to do its work basically had to define the universe of feelings, emotionality and immediacy as somehow peripheral, derivative, epiphenomenal, unimportant and we all live with this legacy, unconsciously or consciously, you know, we are the victims of this kind of denigration of what intuitively feel to be important. Which is immediate experience. And immediate experience is not an object for scientific inquiry. Never has been, never will be. I mean these pseudosciences fiddle with it a little bit but the first thing they do when they study for instance human behaviour is they don’t study, they set up an experimental situation which is not like any human behaviour you’ve ever dealt with before, you know looking at screens and pushing buttons or receiving electric shocks if you get right answers and stuff like that, I mean how many times do we find ourself in a situation where if we get a right answer we avoid an electric shock, it’s absurd. However then, there is a further distancing from reality that takes place that takes place, that is not to be laid at the feet of science although to discuss it we have to use scientific terminology, and that is, it goes like this: we all assume that if we are, I just stated how a great thing silence was for building shared assumptions, so if we are all silent and we look around us in this room we do tend to make the assumption that we all see the same thing. That we are all sharing the experience of the room. But when you analyse perception you discover a very weird thing about perception. For instance let’s tale the primary sense in human beings which is sight, we trust our eyes, we believe that it’s telling, that our eyes tell us something about immediate reality, however if you analyse what light is, it’s that light reflected off surfaces pours into a sensory organ and then it’s transduced through a series of neurological transforms into an interiorised model of the immediate surround. The problem with this is that the light which enters my eyes is entirely mine. You don’t get any of it. And the light which enters your eyes is entirely yours. Not a single photon is ever shared by two people. If it’s my photon it can’t be yours, because photons can only be in a very discretely defined area of space, in this case in my retina. So, everything I’m seeing is entirely opaque to you, hidden, occult, and everything you’re seeing is entirely opaque and hidden to me. We are truly prisoners of our unique perception. So it’s a miracle that we can build models where we can get any sort of shared consensus out of it at all.

Audience: may I say something?

Sure, you’re driving but take it

Audience: The twin photon experiment show’s in fact that there’s no way that a photon can be considered as a, as an individual object. I mean what the experiment demonstrates is that every photon fills the entire universe

Well it demonstrates that by the fiat of a fishy formula don’t you think?

Audience: no i think

Well why not?

How do you explain the interference pattern?

Well I think that explaining it it’s not really explainable. In the sense of if you mean how do you reduce it to a linear logic, you don’t. It’s pretty mysterious

Audience: yeah well it does come out of a linear, I mean it ends up you have to assume that the photon goes through both slits and you get the interference pattern, that’s a linear superposition of the, so it is in a sense linear, but what I would argue is since the photon is not a little particle, it’s something else. I mean at least one of its properties is this, that is fills the entire universe and can interfere one could understand that we are all receiving back the same photon, every photon that goes in my eye goes in everybody else’s eye

Well but when you say it fills the entire universe, it fills some parts of the universe much more than others

Audience: that’s the probability

Yes and that’s what gives it its particular nature, it’s that it tends, it is technically everywhere but it’s only technically everywhere, in any practical sense whenever we carry out a measurement on it and seeing is the kind of collapse of this quantum vector than it appears to be particulate

Audience: that’s absolutely right. We’ve only ever observed photons as particles, but the effects that we observe, like the interference pattern, it’s not particulate you can’t explain in terms of

That’s right

Audience: So even if that photon that goes through your eyes mostly goes through yours and then only a little bit goes through mine, you can’t ignore the little bit that goes through mine because there are lots and lots of examples of quantum

But don’t you think that the experiments which prove this, this kind of thing, are, depend on such a vast chain of assumptions that they, that the experiment itself becomes highly questionable? I mean first of al, the first assumption that’s made that is absolutely outside the realm of proof is that mathematics has something to say about reality, and we could actually have spent the entire on this except that it probably would clear the room of all but the most hard-core, but no one has ever, no one has ever shown why operations with numbers, which are after all entities only met within the confines of the minds on anthropoid apes, should somehow have this overwhelming relationship to reality. What is the relationship of mathematics to what we call reality? Fact is: nobody knows it’s a deep mystery. Well then when you talk about experiments, the assumptions, the hidden assumptions behind any experimentalist approach, are usually so great that once made explicit the experimental method is seen to be simply the servant of a formal theory and can’t be seen to serve truth at all, do you agree with that?

Audience: yeah I do I mean that what you end up facing is the fact that it’s our concepts that are creating the reality and so even the assumption that there’s a surface out there that is reflecting light is not an assumption that a physicist will make. Because if you made that assumption you wouldn’t get anywhere I mean it just doesn’t work

That’s right, I think the purpose of this night is to show that reality is a naive concept and should probably be abandoned as quickly as possible

Audience: reality from this, what I hear is reality from a stand point of physical explanations, which always, which seem like red herrings in some way to me is that if there’s, speaking from what would be more spiritual viewpoint the sort of physical plane and things falls out from more archetypical or something that has a less, a more spiritual meaning, which I don’t have so much of a reality problem where other words

That seems more real to you, this invisible dimension of eternal objects that are casting a lower dimensional shadow into the stream of time and giving rise to appearances.

Audience: yeah the experience

Well I think this why Greek philosophy was able to do business so successfully, is that this seems intuitively true to most people. It’s sort of like campfire philosophy, if you just sit down and try to figure it out, most, there’s something in the human mind that, I mean I suppose it’s self referential if we call it archetypes, but there’s something in the human mind that causes us to gravitate toward this platonic point of view. The problem is it’s very naive and the naivité of platonism has never seem to erode its success, I mean it’s beeb converting sophomores for 3000 years almost, but in a way the great victory of modern thinking, and I’m amazed to hear me say this because I’m a platonist through and through, but you have to be a modified platonist or you will end up running against impossible problems with it. For instance, you know, if the, if these archetypes are eternal, well then what was there, if the archetype of the human is eternal, then are we asked to believe that the archetype of the human love affair existed before the big bang? Is the, did the law of gene segregation before the big bang? This is what Rupert’s always at such pain to talk about. Natural laws! I mean what is the status of these natural laws? before the appearance of the universe? Is there a kind of hyperspace of eternity? And then why are these natural laws as they are? It seems much more economical and intuitively less problem fraught to assume that the so called laws of nature are actually habits of nature that are changing through time as the universe evolves and changes and, I mean I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about the law of gene segregation before there was organic life. I mean how could there be a law of gene segregation I mean it just gets to, to patch together as a theory, don’t you think?

Audience: I think you’re introducing a, those are a load of problems that you’re, to talk about the big bang itself you know, and the whole time etc.

Well what do you think the status of these archetypes is? Do they require a universe? or are they there whether there is a universe of spacetime and matter

Audience: I don’t know. Well it seems that that’s only a problem if you’re thinking of time as a normal type of progression and normal types of causal relationships, you know so if you refute the idea that eternal archetypes because you know well do they exist before this

So you want to substitute a boolean logic here. Well we could say for instance that the platonic objects exist at the end of time and that they cast their influence backwards through time. We could even define an archetype as that class of objects whose casuistry runs counter to the ordinary arrow of time. I never thought of that before, it’s probably fraught with epistemic peril but somebody might want to work out the consequences of that. It’s the idea, you see, that is now very hot in chaos theory that that there is an attractor rather than an impeller. That it isn’t that there was a big bang and everything is moving out from the big bang and physics is the unraveling of the consequences of this initial improbability. It’s rather the idea that there is a Tilos of some sort, a purpose that is driving phenomena into some kind of concrescence that occurs not at the beginning of the causal process but at its end. And I tend to lean toward that but not in so hard a fashion that I would want to locate the archetypes at the end of history. I think, you know, I think platonism is a naive view of reality and that it’s something we pass through in our intellectual process of maturation and that it, you always want to maintain the idea of the archetype but it has to be severely modified to meet some of the problems that have been discovered in the last couple of thousand years doing that kind of philosophy. Sure go ahead

Audience: In all the altered states that I’ve been in when returning to a more ordinary state I have the sense clearly that everything is of, all this material all the events and everything is a fallout from some drama that I’m a part of. All my ideas, I mean, all mine including you know whatever I might construct about time and the whole thing and so then I’m left with a sort of quandary about no matter what what I construct and what experiments might [unclear] physicists it’s all to just confirm this other drama that’s that’s happening. It happens an infinite number of times and with infinite variations etcetera

it’s sort of the point that I would like to make is that, is the point you’re making. That reality if explored at all, if stressed if pushed, it breaks apart. The concept isn’t viable. The first thing to realize is: where is it written large that anthropoid apes should be able to reach the bedrock of reality. Why should we imagine that beings like ourselves are somehow divinely charged with the opportunity to perceive the truth of the matter? This is what modern philosophy has come to understand. This is why Wittgenstein could come up with the notion of what he called true enough. That’s a much more reasonable approach to things, I mean after all we are monkeys and so what we need is models that are true enough and leave God alone in his or her heaven, and just work with the things that are rationally apprehendable to us. You mentioned altered states, and I think if it weren’t for altered states our epistemic naivité would be much greater because we could all just fall into the culturally sanctioned hallucination that this is in fact reality. But we all know, from experiencing altered states, that this is just some kind of agreed-upon socially sanctioned construct, that when you lean against it with drugs or philosophy or insight, it breaks up under the pressure of that. What we really are, what we call reality, is in fact nothing more than a culturally sanctioned and linguistically reinforces hallucination of some sort, and we can go outside of that hallucination either by using drugs or physical practices like yoga or simply by going outside of our reality. I mean when you go to an Amazon tribe, all these things that you think that are so important, you know, how the giants are doing or what’s happening on Wall Street, or how the democrats are getting their act together, nobody knows what in the world you’re talking about, it is literally not real. And what’s real is you know, how the fish are spawning in the river and honey production that year. They have their own culturally sanctioned hallucination. Well then when you take psychedelic drugs you seem to dissolve the, sort of the software of neurological processing and and language is that software that has been created to handle certain kinds of cultural modalities. Well then you penetrate beyond the screen, if we think, if we wanna use a computer metaphor, and instead you discover there’s assembly language in the machine and it’s deep in the machine and it’s rarely encountered except by hackers and that’s what you’re doing when you’re taking psychedelic drugs is you’re opening the cabinet you’re going into the machinery, all those areas where it says the warranty will be voided if you remove this plate, those are the plates that you’re unscrewing and poking inside of, voiding the warranty of your model of reality and and we don’t know to what degree this can go on. I recently was approached by the publishers Underwood Miller and they asked me, some of you may know the science fiction writer Philip K Dick, he came in the last five years of his life to believe that he was in a sense trapped inside one of his own novels, and he was the master of the parallel universe novel, he worked this theme so many ways I mean he was brilliant at it, and he underwent a series of experiences that we can’t really judge, I mean it’s too facile to call it a psychotic break, and he and he spent the last 10 years of his life trying to understand what was happening to himself and he reached the conclusion that the years AD 70 was followed immediately by the year 1948 and that the intervening couple of thousand years were like a textual interpolation by a demo urge and that none of that ever happened, that we’re actually living in the last years in the roman empire, that we are living in patristic time and he saw superimposed over ordinary reality another reality which he was fully engaged in and living in, he was a person in this time. Well, is that is that a serious delusion or a breaking through?

Audience: something that cursed me as you’re talking that might be interesting to pursue a little bit is so that’s when we were just starting an arts program and [unaudible] tomorrow we’re having an auction for a dance platform and I’ve heard you say that you think that VRs, creativity is certainly an answer and so that might be a topic for comments at least something about what you have to say about the VR, how VRs are gonna be any answer.

I mean how can doing art save the world

Audience: well or a smaller version of that

Oh no we always go to the top, if it doesn’t save the world why bother even discussing. Yeah well it’s an interesting question I mean, in a nutshell, and I’ll go back to it, but the reason I think it’s so important is because when we grapple with the problems that our you know, many and complex around us, the tendency to is to go for rational solution but you might bear in mind that the consequences of rational solutions are what we are dealing with at the present. Rationalism has been the dominant paradigm for problem solving for about 500 years and it has led us deeper and deeper into you know, contradiction, resource mismanagement, dehumanisation, misperception of each other, so forth and so on. That’s why in a way I think that the art reflex is more important or more efficacious because if we act from the point of view of wanting to create art, what we’re really saying is that reality has outrun apprehension, we can no longer make rational sense out of reality so the ego is set aside and the logos or the muse is invoked and then we produce art and the, the almost the distinguishing of great art is that it not be fully comprehensible to its creator. So we then act as agents of the logos when we create art and the art that is created is then put out into the cultural environment of meaning and then is then subject to a kind of natural selection similar to the kind of natural selection that goes on in a biolog[ical], in an environment where org[anisms], biological species are competing. The short way of saying this is the best idea will win. But it won’t win unless it competes, you know, you can’t win the race unless you run the race. So, rather than beating our brains against the end of history trying to create rational solutions to what is essentially an irrational situation in the first place, it would be much better to become servants of the logos, servants of the Gaian mind and then to let, sort of let the chips fall where they may, let the selective pressures of intellectual history sort out among the many option and those that are important will will come to the fore, does that get it as a brief path why it’s important? it’s important because it’s anti rational, because it’s anti ego. Because it says we are vessels and agents of the solution but we can’t, it doesn’t spring from out ability to integrate data and reflect it back, it’s much more irrational thatn that. This sort of goes to what I thought I would talk about a little bit tonight. I used the frase a few minutes ago, reality outruns apprehension. This is actually a phrase from Moby Dick. Not the part of Moby Dick that I will end up reading to you tonight, but what I thought would be interesting to talk about basically because of its intrinsic interest and its recent intensification, is sort of the question what is reality? Number one. And then what’s so great about it? And

Audience: why bother?

Yeah, why bother? I mean we really have a bee in our bonnet about reality when you get out of touch with it this is considered not a good thing. Reality is the, the unmoving reference point in a universe of flux in which we are always supposed to go back and re-reference ourself and it’s a funny concept. First of all it is a concept it’s not, it’s not an object with it’s own interior Ontos. In other word it doesn’t have being outside of the cultural assumptions about it. This is the first big news about reality. The reality of Witoto is a completely different reality from the West European or the Canadian and yet the reality we assume that there is a kind of bedrock. And we call that reality and then everything is referenced back toward that. Well I wanted to talk about it tonight because it’s an incredibly slippery concept, I mean I would say getting your hands on reality is about as likely as getting your hands on true love. You know you’re always going toward it or going back at it but you rarely have it in front of you in the moment. And yet the moment is where we spent most of our time. So we’re kind of run ragged by the nostalgia for something we never knew is what it almost comes down to. So. first of all whenever we wanna talk about something seriously and profoundly we have recourse to science. However reality is a term that if it’s used at all it’s used in philosophy in ontology and epistemology. It not a concept that you heat very often on the lips of scientists. Well why is this? Well it’s because science which is the enterprise which seeks to carry out a complete investigation of reality has quickly satisfied itself that the beast can’t be caged. It’s very hard to actually come up with something concrete. And that’s an interesting notion, that any discussion of reality will tend to come back to. It wasn’t until the 1930d that Alfred Whitehead in his book “process and reality” created the great phrase that has now entered the language: “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness”. You’ve all probably heard this phrase or maybe you haven’t heard this phrase. But anyway, the fallacy of misplaced concreteness is the belief that there is something somewhere which is real, which can be dependent upon, which everything else can be referenced back to and as long as you are victim of this fallacy you are philosophically naive and probably not at easy psychologically because, you know, it’s like as I said, nostalgia for something you never knew. The way science’d method which worked really well for the first 450 years, and by science I don’t mean science going back to the Greeks, I mean science since the Renaissance, mathematically based Cartesian materialism is basically my notion of science. Its method is what’s called reductionism. This is the theory that if you want to understand something, a plant, the society, a geological formation, what you do is you take it apart, you deconstruct it, you dismantle it and catalogue its parts, and then define their relationships to each other. And then somehow when you recombine all these maps of this deconstructed object you then somehow possess it. And this worked very well up until well into the 20th century, because it was assumed that matter, which was taken to be somehow primary constituent of reality, that matter was made out of tiny billiard balls that were called Hamiltonian atoms and that these distinct and concrete billiard balls could be located absolutely in time and space and their relationship to each other defined as charge, force, momentum, spin, so forth and so on, and that out of these primary qualities adhering to these elementary particles, notice these word primary, elementary that are telling us we’re getting close to bedrock, out of this you can reconstruct the world. The problem is, and I won’t bore you with this because so many people have, is quantum physics shows that these hard little billiard balls were a, the most tragic example of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. They don’t exist, there isn’t such a thing. When you go down and down and down suddenly everything becomes paradoxical. Ordinary logic no longer apply. And you know, without beating a dead horse I would remind you that quantum physics, quantum electrodynamics, which is always held up as the greatest intellectual edifice ever constructed by the mind of men, is a complete miss in terms of the aesthetics of its logics, because it requires two logics operating simultaneously. You have what is called ordinary logic. The logic that we as animals intuitively gravitate toward logic which says things such as if it is A than it is not B, if it is now then it is not then, if it is after it is not before, this is the kind of logic that assumes concrete objects in a linear time stream, but quantum physics the to solve the problem it sets itself it requires another kind of logic, and extremely exotic logic called the boolean algebra and so what you get when you look at a quantum mechanical explanation of nature is you get what I call eyes of Bool embedded in ordinary mathematical logic. So, you there actually transition zones, very distinct transition zones where you simply switch logic in mid stream, literally in mid stream, in order to solve the problem. Well this then gives you a nice set of numbers in an experimental situation where you’re trying to calculate the charge of the electron or the displacement value of particles or something like that but it rests on this completely unelegant switching back and forth from one logic to another as the case requires. Which means the human observer is brought in and you get to decide which logic to use and then you can use one for a few minutes and then switch back to the other and go back and forth and upon such shifting sand as this the entire edifice of science rests. OK well that’s really all I want to say about the scientific view of reality, it’s just too, yeah go on

Audience: I just wanted to say that I don’t see science that way and i think i mean maybe one has to s[] science and physics because … in the 19th century there were many physicists realize that argued against the possibility of a mechanistic universe and quantum mechanics was final death toll on that point of view but it was argued for a hundred years maybe 300 before that mechanism can’t exist, reality doesn’t exist

You mean are you thinking of vitalism?

Audience: no no I’m just thinking that that it was clear to many physicists at least in the last century [] this notion of atoms was very clearly understood to be just a model. People, some physicist didn’t confuse the notion of a model or concept with reality. In fact I did quite clearly these concepts aren’t reality in fact we will never find a mechanism for

Yeah well the great enlightenment of 19th century physicists occurred around the issue of fields because until James Clerk Maxwell and Lorentz and these people wrote the equations for the electromagnetic field it was denied that such a thing was possible because it had this quality, this apparent quality of action at a distance, and and that completely freaked out 19th century’s expectations of how nature should behave, we take this completely for granted, I mean there is a radio sitting in this cabinet we could flip on and if we weren’t in such a benighted geographical situation we could hear hundreds of AM and FM radio stations. Well those are wave mechanical systems that are are filling this room, that are invisible to ordinary perception. To the 19th century mind this was completely occult and astonishing, we take it for granted. Marshal McLuhan at one point suggested that the worldwide electrification of the planet through the spread of radio and television and electrical systems, was actually the descent of the descent of the holy ghost into history, that electricity was the holy ghost to control and to understand because we can do it, we don’t need the second coming of Christ, we don’t need divine intervention to destroy this planet we can do it well enough on our own thank you. So huge responsibility evolves upon people within the global culture to try and come to terms with what is possible and what is to be done, and I think we have to doubt everything that we are told. All ideology that we have inherited served a different kind of world. I mean don’t forget as recently as a hundred years ago people believed that the earth was created on September 15th 4004 BC. I mean the steam engine was the most powerful form of technology that existed. In the last hundred years we have gone more than half of the distance that we traveled in the last 50,000 years and you can actually begin to see the outlines of what it’s all about as caretakers of the earth, as caretakers of intelligence, because this is all intelligence that we know of. We need, we must in fact, come to terms with what is being ask of us, what is it that we are supposed to be doing? How can we rationally order our societies to maximise the values that we inherently and intrinsically feel to be worth saving?

Audience: why did we create culture?

Why did we fall into history?

Audience; why did we create culture?

What were we afraid of

Audience: what were we afraid of. I’ve been reading Camille Paglia she says this is the [] well you know what she says

Oh I know what she says

Audience: so the chaos, the underworld, that quality, the violence of nature, the disorder

[1:18:20] Well, we were, I think what happened, and you’ve all heard me talk about it in operational terms, that we were as embedded in nature as the fox and the leaf-cutter ant and the polar bear until 100 thousand years ago or something like that. And then this ability to signify it has something to do with our relationship to shamanism and psychedelic drugs. You see when you look at primates of all types going clear back to squirrel monkeys you always get male dominance. Male dominance was not invented in the Middle East 3000 years ago. Squirrel monkey have alpha male primates and anthropoid apes and all the primates have this problem, but I really believe that we temporarily overcame it about from let’s say 25,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago we temporarily overcame the tendency to male dominance to occur as natural part of our being social animals and this happened because shamanism evolved as an institution which relied on psychoactive plants to dissolve the male ego. And it’s not only, I mean we don’t have to call it the male ego, that polarizes and genderizes the thing, it’s the ego. The ego is this strange transference of loyalty from the group to the self, the individual body. And then we call that the self. The reason this, so that psychedelic shamanism, specifically the use of psylocibin on the planes of Africa, was like a chemical inoculation against the formation of the ego. And under the influence of psychedelic compounds we evolved language and you know, social roles and rudimentary agriculture and nomadism, all of these things. But then the psychedelic substances which made all this possible began to become less and less available. This is simply because of climatic change in Africa. You see the Sahara, what is now the Sahara desert was a veldt of grassland throughout pre-history. As late as Roman times, the roman historian Pliny referred to north Africa as the bread basket of Rome. It means that climatologically it was entirely different and in that African theatre we emerged out of animal organization and into a world of language, cognition, ritual, ceremony, so forth and so on. And it was a style of psychedelic shamanism complexed with an orgiastic religious style. Now the reason this is important, this orgiastic style, is because it makes impossible to trace lines, excuse me, lines of males paternity. Women know who their children are because they see their children come out of their bodies but men couldn’t know that and so all values were group values. The tribe was as identified with true being as we now identify our ego. So people were altruistic. Not in any holier than our pietistic way it’s just simply how they were in the same way that the members of an anthill are altruistic. I mean, ants don’t flee from a problem because they’re trying to save their own necks, they hurl themselves at the problem until it is solved because conservation of the group values is the most important thing. Well, when

Audience: but wait, so could why instead of being a male society why couldn’t this be passed on by the female, I mean the female does [] offspring.

But the female has built into her physiology a boundary dissolving experience in the form of the birth experience and in these African tribal societies, you know, it didn’t happen once or twice in a woman’s life it happened a dozen or twenty times. So women by virtue of giving birth and by virtue of this experience of seeing another person come out of their body can never get so firmly embedded this notion of their inviolate and unique self. So it’s just biologically scripted into femaleness that several times in your life you’re gonna be melted down in this situation and it’s it’s it’s you know, very deep imprinting. In the absence of psychedelic plants or drugs a male can go from birth to the grave and never have this experience. And millions of people do that. Millions of people go from the birth to the grave without ever discovering the relativistic nature of the ego. They entirely identify with the self, when in fact it isn’t that at all. When we were, now the mystery of all this is the fact that it’s kind of reductionist that taking these psychedelic plants dissolves the ego because there has to be something then which rushes in to this now empty space where the ego previously held sway. What rushes in to that liberated space is what I call the Gaian mind. That there is actually a hyper intelligent being on this planet or in this planet, or perhaps is this planet, but it is sentient, it thinks, it can communicate. We are like atoms inside the body, or cells inside the body of this enormous organism which is the cause or our religious obsessing. The reason we are always running around looking for God almighty is because we evolved on a planet inhabited by a super-intelligence that we have lost contact with and so we deny its intelligence. We at this point even deny its vitality. I mean, you know the Judeo-Christian shtick is that nature is at, to be at the service of man and you know, this is a complete inversion of the idea that human beings should be the active hands of the Gaian mind. And when, this didn’t happen for any, there’s no bad guy in this scenario. It’s simply that the climatological conditions which allowed this social mode that was characterised by nomadic pastoralism, orgy, and psychedelic shamanism was gradually replaced by, because of drying of the African continent, these psychedelic substances were no longer available. And an intermediary, an intermediate, phase were the psychedelic substance, if it was the mushroom, was preserved in honey. So that the great festivals became further and further apart in time and the ego enters then like a tumour. It begins to form in the personalities of human beings. If you’re engaging in psychedelic intoxication and orgy at every full moon there is no chance for the ego to get a hold. I mean it’s just an aberration that everybody jumps on is gotten rid of. But if these ceremonies become yearly or less frequent then these funny notions get going in the more powerful males. Why shouldn’t I control more females. Why shouldn’t I have more of the food supply. Why shouldn’t this area in fact be for me to hunt in alone. You get all these concepts of mindness that arise out of the growth of this tumorous, cancerous, maladaptive self defining, because that doesn’t serve. And we have committed ourselves to this thing so whole hog for the past 5-10 thousand years that now we’re so deep into it that it’s not clear that we can ever extricate ourselves from it except, and this is the raison d’etre for my career, is we have to go back to the archaic solution which is, it can’t be orgy, that can’t be the archaic solution that we implement because we’re not a nomadic tribe of pastoralists only 70 or 80 human beings, we’re a global culture of 5 billion people, if we try to resuscitate lunar orgies we’d have a wave of social and sexually transmitted diseases that would probably finish us once and for all. So the orgy thing is not the answer, but the psychedelic option still exists, it still dissolves the ego and it still puts you in contact with viable group values. So this is what we, this is perhaps an answer, and I don’t advocate it because I think it’s a sure thing. I advocate it because I think it’s the only game in town. Hell, if hortatory beating on people could have worked than we would have solved all our problems thousands of years ago because Buddha and Christ and all these other people they had the right idea, it’s just that ideas don’t cut the mustard. It has to be an experience. A real experience. And a boundary dissolving experience is so corrosive to all the institutions of dominator’s society, that no religion in the west since Er has been able to come to terms with psychedelic experience because it mitigates male dominance, hierarchy and all the other things that are the methods by which we do business.

Audience: why do you think that [] that there would be this window of opportunity to develop an ego to begin with. What, you know

Well it’s, it was that we had a chemically mediated symbiosis with the Gaian mind and it was a, it wasn’t a locked symbiosis like you get in lichens or something like that, it was a kind of flirtation with symbiosis. It was that we took these psychedelic plants and contacted this hyper-dimensional mind of nature and discovered that because it was hyper-dimensional, because it wasn’t constrained in space and time the way we are, that it had useful information. Information very practical information. Where has the game gone. This is what shamans are good for, is to tell you were the game has gone. How will the weather be next year. Classical problem for shamans. Well how do they know this stuff? How can, you see, shamanism is essentially a going to a higher dimension, to obtain information that then feeds back into the group destiny. Well how can these shamans know this stuff, how can they attain to this super-human level of understanding? It’s that they get in touch with a different kind of intelligence. An intelligence to whom where the game will be next year is as transparent as were the game was last year because past and future don’t exist for that intelligence and our relation to that intelligence was one of devotee to Goddess or supplicant to mystery, but eventually the connection was broken and meanwhile the ego was arising and the ego is like a mirroring of this larger psychic function. In other words the ego is our pathetic attempt to create God on our own. This was Julian James’ theory. He thought, you see, that up until as late as Homeric times which is 800 BC, that if you got into a tight spot, and were about to be offed or something, miraculously a voice would appear, would come on, it would just turn on in your head and it would say “You should get our of there” and people thought that this was a God. It was a God. But eventually they were able to assimilate this psychic function into the personality, and then they said well that’s not God talking, that’s me! That’s my self! And this is the idea where God is then located inside my body and I take orders from this inner God that I call the ego. And if it’s allowed to develop, and it’s strange it always develop along these patriarchal line you know, it brooks no babbling, it’s no interested in argument. It know what is to be done and then the only time you get a problem is when you place one ego in contact with another and then of course they go at it hammer and tongs, but originally what we had was a symbiotic relationship with this Gaian mind and this is the mystery that haunts this planet, haunts our history, haunts our psychedelic experiences and our dreams it’s that there really is a controlling, super-intelligence that can be contacted through psychedelic drugs, presumably religious practice when you see how long they’ve been making the claim although it must be a high noise signal when you do it that way because they seem to get it always skewed off in some weird direction that then reinforces paternalistic institutions, but this is what all this goddess talk is about. Is either we are becoming more sensitive to the presence of the Gaian mind, or the Gaian mind under pressure of the approaching apocalyptic crisis is beginning to raise its voice louder and louder and louder. So that now you know when you go into nature loaded every rock every tree every stream is saying “Awaken, awaken, awaken! There’s minutes to go!” as William Burroughs likes to say, you know. So we have to connect up and so we are in a sense the hands of this diffuse super mind that is spread through nature and our presence as thinking, reflecting, culture building individuals is not simply and amazing but meaningless set of circumstances, our presence as a global technical civilisation signifies the onset of the final crisis. It’s as though, you know, you watch a pond and the surface is smooth, mirror smooth, well then the surface of the pond begins to churn. This is the signal that something huge is about to come out of the pond! And human history is that turbulence on the still surface of nature. Nature would have never have allowed a phenomenon like human history to get going were it not in response to a deeply felt planetary crisis that is approaching at ever accelerating speed and I have enough faith in nature to believe that when the moment finally is upon us we’ll be ready. But the tool are being laid up right now. The ultimate tools, not the prototype. The bow and arrow, that was a prototype. The catapult, that was a prototype. The B17, that was a prototype. But thermonuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, this is not the prototype, this is the actual instrument by which you could save a planet as well as destroy it because you’re at last dealing with the levels of energy necessary to make those kind of changes and I think the evidence is all around us that the historical mode cannot persist. It can’t. Just draw all the curves. Output of petroleum distillates, output of energy, population growth, proliferation of weapons, when you draw all of these curves, they can’t be propagate 500 years into the future, sometime in the next 50 years we’re going to have to make or break what history was all about. And the rising of global culture, the rising of an integrated electronic awareness, high speed computational machinery, tremendously powerful weapons, spacecraft, all of this stuff looks to me like the raw material for a salvational exercise, and notice that it’s not only a way to save the planet, it’s in a sense a way to save not only ourselves, but to save our ancestors as well. This, if we can, if we can act in a moment of great crisis to preserve the planet from ruination we will redeem human history. Then it all makes sense. The pogroms, the migrations, the brutality, the stupidity, it was all toward a purpose and then somehow those lives that were lost in those pogroms and invasions and migrations and so forth, are given meaning. A meaning which they will totally not have if we simply blow the planet apart and wreck nature and ruin the oceans and blow off the atmosphere. Then it just looks like a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury that signifies nothing. So it’s as though the meaning itself is in our hands. What shall we make of this. Is it just as James Joyce said “atoms and ifs” or is there a plan, a process, a plot, and a role for us that will give us some dignity in this situation which otherwise up to this point as far as I can see we totally lack. I mean it’s all very well to spend an afternoon wandering around the Louvre but on the other hand you know, spend the next day wandering around the slums of Culcutta and you just really have to wander what the human enterprise is about. Now I will read you this little quote from Moby Dick which sort of get to some of this. Are you all familiare with Moby Dick? Are any of you familiar with Moby Dick? You should be, I mean, this is the greatest work of prose ever written by an American without contest I think. I mean I like to think that when human history is written America will be remembered for two things, they went to the moon and they were the people who produced Moby Dick. I mean this is our Odyssey and our Iliad. Nobody had ever gone past it. Ok there’s a scene early on. You all know that it’s a whale hunt, right? Ok so there is a scene were the captain who is running this show and driving this thing, this hunt for this whale to a truly apocalyptic conclusion, because for him this is no hunt for an animal, this is a confrontation with an alien God and he is determined to murder this thing because as he delicately puts it dismasted him. Meaning bit off his leg and destroyed his sexual machinery. And his first mate who function as Christian right reason, wimpy little Starbuck says: “vengeance on a dumb brute” cried Starbuck “that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing captain Ahab seems blasphemy!” and Ahab says: “Hark ye yet again, the little lower layer. All visible objects man are but as pasteboard masks, but in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the moulding of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there is naught beyond. But is enough, he tasks me, he heaps me, I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy. I would strike the sun if it insulted me, for could it do that, then could I do the other since there is ever a sort of fair play.
And that was the point I wanted to make about two points: striking through the mask to achieve reality and that we can do it, because there is ever a sort of fair play. The field is levelled, the cards are not stacked against us; if we play our hand right we can take the whole game. They wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s right. By the way I’m giving into that book by Camille Paglia called sexual persona and it’s definitely the read of the season and I didn’t realise the publication date is listed as September 1991, so it’s hot. And I read the section on Moby Dick which comes very close to the end and if all of it’s as good as that then it’s really something, I mean there hasn’t been as much fun between the covers of one book since Marshall McLuhan wrote the Gutenberg galaxy, so you know if you think of yourself as a feminist and art historian, literally critic and egghead, all these things she’s just outrageous, I think we have to get her hear as fast as possible cause she’s really freewheeling and makes a lot of people mad which is always a good sign I think.

Audience: []

[1:45:45] It’s called Sexual Persona by Camille Paglia. Maybe some of you saw about a month ago in the Image magazine which is the insert in the Sunny there was an article about her and they put her on the cover and she’s very controversial and says lot’s of provocative things and the article stressed her dumping on Derrida and Lacan and Foucault and that whole crowd and saying, you know, all of them put together were, were not worth one page of William Burroughs basically and, you know, not that we care about this but in academia this is bin new because they’re in awe of all those people. I tried to read Darrida I couldn’t make head or tails of it. It seemed to me like anti-thought. All of this is inspired by a number of papers that have been recently called to my attention - I can get this the way I want it - And one of them is called, and I recommend it to your attention, it appeared in the June 1989 issue of Zaigon and it’s called the omega point as eschaton, answers to Panemberg’s questions for scientist. And this is by Frank Tipler and this is a very interesting article which tries to argue for the reality of Christian eschatological hermeneutics in the light of information theory and actually makes a number of points that I thought I would be alone in making for my entire life and and now I see that I’m actually an infant in this department and that these people have thought more deeply and more widely and with more stunning commitment to more radical ideas than I could have even conceived of. I mean it’s humbling stuff, I mean they’re talking here about a computer strategy to resurrect the dead. Not some of the dead, all of the dead. And a number of ideas I confess were completely alien and exciting to me. I also have a correspondence between Frank Tipler and Hans Morathic, the author of this little thing I just read you. And a paper by Morathic that apparently has not yet been published called “Time travel and computing” and time travel is what I wanted to talk about this evening. From a certain peculiar perspective one of the ideas that I’ve had to embed in my system fairly uncomfortably, because I think of my self basically as a skeptic and a rationalist, is the idea that the world is on the brink of a tremendous transformation. A transformation on a scale such that it can really only be compared to the events which created the universe in the first place. This is what ties this series of notions to Christian eschatology because the unique preoccupation of western religion wether it be Judaism, Islam or Christianity is this weirs insistence on the end of the world, the collapse of reality as we know it. You don’t get this in eastern thinking. As you probably know Hinduism is a theory of what is essentially a steady state. There are cycles of outpouring of phenomena and then regressive cycles when everything re-condenses, but the universe is basically thought to be ethernale and this then poses no problem for rational expectation, cause it’s very easy to imagine an eternal universe. In Christianity to preserve the rationality of expectation the eschatological event, I guess I should explain that term, all these esch- words, eschaton, eschatological, so forth and so on mean we’re refrencing the final things, the branch of theology that is called eschatology is the study of the final things, the end of the world. And the way Christianity has handled it to preserve rationality, at least superficially, is by setting it far far in the future, then it doesn’t irritate or, you know, demand a great deal of thought and consideration. My notion has against my own intellectual gravity, has put me toward the conclusion that is near, which puts me in the same category as all those people in cartoons carrying sings which say, you know, repent for the end is near and I I, it’s the thing, I mean I feel shy, I don’t know if I have the decency to feel shy but I feel always reluctant to talk about it because it is the most counterintuitive position in the system that I’ve tried to elaborate because not only do I thing it’s near but I think that we can say when it is. And just so you aren’t kept hanging in suspense.

Audience: tomorrow

Close, close! December 22nd 2012 at dawn Eastern Standard Time the universe will roll up like one of those blinds, you know? It will just roll up. The start will fall from heaven, reality as we know it will completely disappear. Now would anyone think such a thing, I mean what set of rational premises could lead to such an irrational notion. Well I have this idea that there is a counter entropic principle built into the universe that has not been described by science at all. It may have been noticed but never in its inclusive nature. And I call this anti-entropic principle novelty. Novelty has been increasing since the very first moments of the birth of the universe. Whether you subscribe to the orthodox cosmology of the Big Bang which I would like to sit on the fence about, it seems to me, I mean my notion is unlikely, but you should remind yourself that what science believe is that the universe sprang from nothing in a single instant from an area whose diameter was less than that of an electron. It seems to me this is almost like the limiting case for the incredible. I mean if you could believe that, what could you resist believing? If you’re believing that you may be interested in a large bridge over the Hudson River that my family has had for generations and that we’re willing to sell you for a dollar. But this is what science believes, this is what most scientists believe although in all fairness in the last five years this has gotten more shaky, not everybody now believes in the Big Bang. Well what I would like to substitute for the Big Bang is what I call the Big Surprise, and the Big Surprise it doesn’t come at the beginning of the universe, it comes at the end of the universe. Which seems to me, you know, the battle of the singularities, orthodox science says the entire universe sprang from a tiny area in a single instant, the notion that out, I mean it sprang from pure nothingness, it sprang from a point-like dimension that was, so far as we can tell, utterly without any quality whatsoever. This seems to me the least likely environment in which to seek a singularity. I mean, how can we imagine, unless we call upon God almighty, a perturbation in a flawless nothingness that would usher into, you know, ten high 47 particles of many types streaming outward cemetry breaks so forth and so on. It seems to me if you, that all cosmological myths require a singularity of some sort, but some singularities are more likely than others and so in my notion and I called my notion because so many people have told me I’m completely welcome to it, in my notion the place to look for a singularity is in the most complicated circumstance imaginable, but a world where you have atomic chemistry, polymer chemistry, organic chemistry, advanced animals and plants, languages, cultures, technologies, information coding and regurgitation systems, in other words the more complexity that you can pile into a situation, the more likely you’re going to get what is called an emergent property, or a singularity, or the Big Surprise. And so as I look back at the history of the universe, over any scale you care to name, the last five year, the last 500 years, the last 500 million years, the last 5 billion years, there is a generality which seems to hold which is complexity once come into existence is retained and folded back into this interstices of being to produce yet more complexity. This is linked, or at least appears linked to the cooling of the universe. At the Big Bang the temperature of the universe was trillions of degrees and there was no, there wasn’t even atomic chemistry, there was just a plasma of electrons and then after some time measured in nanoseconds, the temperature of the universe fell sufficiently so that stable orbits could be established around atomic nuclei, and then you have the emergence of you know, simple organic chemistry. Well then after a further fall in temperature and much longer period of time, you get the thermal disruption of chemical bonds falls below the limit where you can get complex molecular structures and then a whole new set of emergent properties building on the levels which preceded until finally you get the birth of stars and that is basically huge lumps of condensed hydrogen, the simplest of all elements. The hydrogen aggregates into stars in such amounts that tremendous pressures are set up at the centre of these hydrogen masses sufficient pressure for a fusion to begin to take place and fusion cooks out iron and other heavy elements including carbon and carbon then becomes the key to the next level of emergent complexity and from there to us it’s only a series of these declensions. But what’s interesting about these declensions into complexity is that each phase happens more quickly than the phase that precede it so that the, and we actually are not peripheral to this process we are at the centre of this mandala. In several. by several different ways of thinking about it the most convincing I suppose is that the density of connections in the human cerebral cortex makes the human cerebral cortex without contest the most densely ramified material in the universe. We carry within ourselves then the most complex organisation that has been laid on to the material universe and it seems to me this is a strong argument that we are at the cutting edge of this process of emergent novelty. Now up until a million years or so ago we were just one more animal wandering around this planet, albeit a sort of weird animal. Bipedalism, binocular vision, complex pack signalling. But on the other hand wolves and dogs and ants have complex pack signalling. But then we bagan to elaborate, notice that up to that point the most sophisticated information storage system that novelty had evolved was genetic storage. Storage in long polymerized molecules that templated other molecules to reproduce themselves. Well with the emergence of human language you get what is called epigenetic storage and conveyance of information. In poetry, dance, ritual of all sorts, artistic endeavors of all sorts, this is the unique domain of human beings and it represents a vast acceleration in the rate at which this kind of informational business can be transduced. Well then so ir flows forward and then about 12,000 years ago we really get going by building cities, beginning to knotch wood with the our observations of lunar cycles and stuff like that and then you know the rest of the story, I mean it’s just a jump from as I said the other night, chipping flint off a core to hurling an instrument outside the solar system so that it can look back at our planetary system …

[2:03:54] An elf told me that, now there’s a fine thing for a scientist to say, an elf told me that time travel is possible but it is constrained in way which are not normally part of our expectation of time travel. The way in which it’s constrained is once time travel is discovered you can travel as far into the future as you wish, but you can’t travel into the past any further than the moment of the invention of the first time machine. The reason for this is that before the invention of the first time machine there were no time machine and how could you take a time machine in a domain were there aren’t any? You see it’s just to preserve logical consistency.

Audience: it looks like you can’t drive a car where []

That’s right, you can’t take a car where there are no roads. When cars were first invented the main objection to them was: what are you gonna do with this thing? you know there’s nowhere to you know it can’t go where a horse can go, so what good is it? 
So here is a fantasy scenario, which for a while I liked very much, it’s that quantum physics and nanotechnology and all the malarkey is refined and focused toward the notion of building a time machine so that then on the morning of December 22nd 2012 at the world time institute in the Amazon the first time journey is about to be taken and the whole world is watching on holographic television as the lady temponaut is strapped into the machinery that will hurl her centuries into the future and there’s a countdown and a button is pushed and off she goes. Now most people’s interest would be to follow this woman wherever she’s going, but let’s forget that for a moment, the point has been made, she disappears, we assume she went off into the future, but what happens right there, right then, it seems to me in the very next millisecond, thousands of time machine would arrive from the future simply because they had driven to the end of the road. They had come back in time to witness the first journey into the future. It’s as though you could take you Piper Cub and fly it to Kitty Hawk North Carolina in 1906 to see the right flyer take off. Are you all with me so far? Oh yeah all right. Now there’s a problem with this, which some of you I’m sure are thinking, which is the grandfather paradox which is the old conundrum that hunts all time travel schemes which is: if time travel were possible you could go back in time and kill your own grandfather, well then you wouldn’t exist. So then this sets up a logical impossibility, either you exist or you don’t exist. And some science fiction authors that somehow massive influxes of synchronicity would preserve your grandfather. You know, you would approach him with you Saturday night special but it would blow up in your hand or it would ricochet off the st. Christopher medal he always wore, or something like that because he cannot be killed by you because in that case you couldn’t exist in which case you couldn’t be killed by you. And this troubled me for a long time, then what exactly would happen in this situation if a time, because the the according to Hand Moravic of the Robotic Institute of Carnegie Mellon University I mean time travel is no big deal, the first paragraph of this paper, the last few years have been good for time machines, Kip Thorne’s renowned general relativity group at Caltech invented a new quantum gravitational approach to building a time gate and in an international collaboration gave a convincing rebuttal of the grandfather paradox arguments. Another respected group suggested that time machines that exploit quantum mechanical time uncertainty the technical requirements for these suggestions exceed our present capabilities but each new approach seems less onerous than the last, there is hope yet that time travel will eventually become possible even cheap. So I then saw another possibility, and this is the way we can fulfil the expectation of Christian hermeneutics and but not require the second coming of Christ or the intercession of God almighty into history or all these other extreme unlikelihoods and to understand it we have to have recourse to a physical model in a very simple realm of chemistry and physics which is the Bernoulli gas laws, some of you I’m sure are familiar with these and they are very intuitive and easy to understand. We have a, we have a cylinder and it’s a vac, it contains a vacuum and at one end of the cylinder we have a valve and the valve is connected to a line which is connected to a tank of some inert gas, say nitrogen, so we open the valve to let the nitrogen rush in to the cylinder that previously was a vacuum. Now, what happens inside that cylinder? I think is intuitively obvious to all of us, the pressure equalizes over all points equally. In other words you can’t have 50 pounds of pressure at one end of the cylinder and 5 pounds of pressure at the other, we understand that in a gas, pressure distributes itself evenly in order to achieve equilibrium. Okay hold that notion in your mind, now think of our world in the late 1990s as a sphere or a cylinder of that sort and think of cultures as gasses at various pressures and let’s assign low pressures to the berasked folks in the Amazon in eastern Indonesia and let’s assign high pressures to the folks in Manhattan and Caltech and Cambridge and Los Angeles and London. Well then we can predict, correctly in fact, what is happening sociologically on this planet. What is happening is that the high tech cultures are totally overwhelming the traditional cultures. The values of Manhattan and Los Angeles are flooding everywhere and in spite of the tiny lip service we give to shamanism and body painting the truth of the manner is Amazon cultures are not really making a major contribution at this point to the evolution of high tech global information-dense electronic culture. Okay that’s the second level of this Bernoulli metaphor. So now let’s go back to the situation where we sand the lady temponaut off into the future. I’m not familiar with how they overcame the grandfather paradox so we’ll pretend that the grandfather paradox is very strong

Audience: []

Okay, I’m close to question time let me press forward relentlessly, because the coffee is running out I can feel it, the equilibrium density is dropping. Okay so we send the lady temponaut into the future but now with what we now about the equalization of high cultures versus low in a temporal medium what happens from our point of view is that the rest of the history of the universe happens instantly. That even if it’s billions of years of of human culture and downloading into machines and claiming star system after star system and so forth and so on, somehow the state vector of those event systems collapses, I call this the God whistle principle it’s that we can actually call God into history, we can summon the end state of human evolution to appear a millisecond after we successfully achieve the implementation of this technology of time travel. In order to avoid all the paradoxes that would prevail if there was any extension to the post time travel era beyond the moment of its inception. So this is a, this is a way in a sense of forcing the evolution of the universe and it creates the phase transition of the eschaton and is to my mind a practical, it creates the basin of attraction within the domain of our own lives. Now, is there any kind of precent for something like this, even metaphorically in our own experience? Well it turns out yes there is in a kind of bizzare anecdote which should sober us considerably as we think about these things. When the first atomic weapon was built by the Manhattan Project in the desert of New Mexico, Fermi and Oppenheimer and all these people got together the night before the test at Trinity and Fermi had a pad like this on which he had scrawled some equations and he had reached the conclusion in the week before that they were not sure how high the temperature would go when they triggered this device and Fermi had some back of the envelope calculations which caused him to believe that the nitrogen in the atmosphere of the planet would begin to burn if they tested this thing and that they would in effect ignite the atmosphere of the planet and the whole, and the fireball would spread around the entire planet and destroy everything and they spent half the night going over these things and they finally decided that the information necessary to make the decision was not available and so they said well, hell, throw the switch! You know, at least it’ll get to show those Japs and Germans that we mean business so. And then of course the test was carried out, the nitrogen was not burnt and instead we were ushered into the glorious era of weapons of mass destruction. So let me see I’ve got some notes here, I think I covered everything. What’s interesting about this is that for the first time in this article by Frank Tipler called “the omega point as eschaton” he seems, and this is why Paul is here and I couldn’t really get into it cause it’s crazy to repeat what you can’t understand, but by by an analysis and interpretation of quantum mechanics Tippler reaches the conclusion that there is an omega point and that it does represent the funnelling together of all the, what are called world lines, and he, for purposes of mental comfort, sets it far in the future, but in principle there is no reason to do that. 12 or 13 years ago the Swedish cosmologist Hans Alfven wrote a wonderful little book called “Worlds and Anti-Worlds” in which he made the suggestion that, that the entire universe is what’s called a vacuum fluctuation. Ex nihilo, literally out of nothingness. However there’s a caveat which is this creation ex nihilo can only occur if what’s called parity is conserved. Now what this means is that these particles which come into being out of nothingness must come into existence paired with their anti-particle and so it comes into being let’s say the, an electron and an anti-electron and they divide on separate trajectories and then they reconnect and collide with each other and parity is conserved. In other words, nothing really happened, no laws of physics were violated because they annihilated each other. Now for a long time, a while, this was thought to be entirely a kind of theoretical construct, but then it was noticed that the theoretical models of black holes which we referred to a few days ago seem to imply that no radiation could leave a black hole and yet certain kinds of black holes were observed to be giving off hard radiation in the form of x-rays and it was realized that what was happening was virtue, vacuum fluctuations were taking place in the vicinity of the black hole and because one particle went one way and one the other, the black hole interfered with the conservation of parity and one of the particles was being sucked into the black hole and the other particle was flying off into the ordinary universe and being seen by astronomers as hard radiation. So the the fact that this process goes on has now been confirmed. Well now an interesting thing about these vacuum fluctuations is that quantum physics places no upper limit on the size of a vacuum fluctuation. What it says is that the smaller the vacuum fluctuation the fewer particles that are involved the more likely the vacuum fluctuation is and obviously from observing black holes we can se that very small vacuum fluctuations occur quite frequently. Well Alfven took all this and said well then is it not possible that the entire universe, our entire universe is simply a very large vacuum fluctuation? A vacuum fluctuation in involving something like 10^50 particles and they have poured into the manifold in which we find ourselves and an antimatter universe invisible to us, because it’s in another dimension, was born at the same time. And so one universe went off into a higher dimensional manifold this way and the other one went off in the other direction and what this sets us up for is the possibility allowed by this interpretation of quantum physics that the entire universe could disappear instantly. Not gradually. You wouldn’t see the stars going out but the, because this is all happening in a hyperspace of some sort which treats this manifold as a point-like entity, so what you would have is just click! And all particles in the universe would disappear and the original unflawed nothingness would be restored. Actually no, there a further caveat to all this, which is: all particles have their antimatter anti-particle twin except, except the photon. The photon is this mysterious particle which is different from all other particles. It either has no antiparticle or somehow it has its own antiparticle embedded within it. So what would happen in the case of a universe which was a vacuum fluctuation which encountered its ghost image and conserved parity and cancelled all particles except photons is that you would suddenly have a universe made of nothing but light. Nothing but light. And we have then to model the physics of a universe where the only kinds of particles that exist are light. Well it’s interesting that all these human traditions of transcendentalism make a big deal about light. I mean, light is the metaphor for spirit and the supposition is that the rarefaction of matter and of the flesh releases us into a realm of light and I’m not a physicist enough by a long shot to say what the behaviour of the universe made of light would be but I do know enough to say that if you or I were made of light, our subjective experience of the universe would be ruled by relativistic physics and we would have the impression that we could go anywhere instantly and we would have the impression that the universe was ageing around us at a tremendous rate because, you see, the time dilation of the general theory of relativity says that as you approach the speed of light time slows down. Now it’s assumed that you can’t reach the speed of light because as you approach the speed of light your mass asymptotically increases so to push a single atom to the speed of light would require more energy than there is in the entire universe because this particle would have become so massive that there isn’t enough energy to propel it. But a photon never moves slower than the speed of light. It never moves faster than the speed of light either. So the photon, if you were made of photons and you went from here to Zubenelgenubi, let’s say, a star in our galaxy with a wonderful name, your impression of the travel time would be zero. You wouldn’t, and so again here is a way without invoking God almighty where physics seems to lay into our hands metaphors for the anticipation of the of the eschaton. Paul you wanna say something at this point?

Paul: It is fascinating, in your favourite physics, you know everything has to be conserved, not just parity in the vacuum fluctuation, I mean matter/antimatter charge whole parity is just one of the conserv, one of the dozen conservations who has to be conserved in those phenomena and they’re happening all the time from the point of view of physics, inside our bodies there’s trillions of these virstual reactions occurring all the time and they can’t be deceptive I mean you can you can have a gamma-ray break into a particle and antiparticle and you can intercept them before they come back together again and that’s how that’s how to detect it on photographic plates of cloud chambers, but everything you say it’s right. One thing I don’t think that this notion of the Big Bang I’m not sure whether I subscribe to the Big Bang model but it’s not so farfetched because if if there was something in the universe then we have a real problem explaining how it got here. So you see the simplest thing to assume is that there’s nothing here

You mean that we are in a vacuum fluctuation?

Paul: Oh no just that there’s nothing here. I mean there was nothing before the Big Bang, there’s nothing after

This sounds like buddhism

Paul: That’s right there’s vacuum fluctuation includes everything: good and evil, male female the whole thing added together is a zero. Just like it always was.

Well then what is the, what are the complex appearances that impinge upon our sense and what are we then?

Paul: Because we only choose to pay attention to only half of the situation but if we could if we will let ourselves be and experience the whole than it all, it’s all unified

It cancels

Paul: It all cancels to zero

Well this refers back to something you and I were talking about it at dinner. We all assume that there is one past and one future. But it’s not clear why we assume that. I mean, think about it for a moment. We’re all here gathered in this room sharing this moment, but we all have different pasts. Not one of us has the past of another and so what we have in this room is a convergence of pasts and when this meeting is over we will go our separate ways into a variety of futures. So the assumption that there is one past and one future is just some kind of convenient mental bookkeeping. We could and we are tremendously under the spell of this illusion, I mean we worry about The future all the time. Well notice that you could just move to an island somewhere and get a brown-skinned girl and then you wouldn’t have to worry about anybody else’s future because you would have made your own future. We can’t step out of the assumption of a universal history in which we are trapped and I think realizing this is the beginning of a kind of liberation. Our assumptions are the edges of our worlds and this is one of our strongest assumptions. The assumption that there is a past and a future and our destinies are all caught up in that, but actually you can, a word that rarely passes my lips, you can deconstruct that assumption and then you’re given back a whole different way of looking at the experience of being which is empowering because somehow when we are embedded in The future we feel we have no control whatsoever. We’re like corks in a raging river. But in fact that’s a false model I think. Anybody what to get in on this? Yeah

[2: 30:45] Audience: Sometimes when I’m listening to you I had sort of the troubling thought that I think Terence hasn’t done enough psychedelics, I think, that you’re too straight in some way and when you get onto some of your scientific tracks and as you put it you’re a rationalist, I started thinking why get lost? I started thinking, I start referring to experiences I have, have had of being altered where a lot of this seems incidental to the experience, one experience of eternity or which I know you had and how you reckon with yourself sometimes I think, when you say doubt yourself and think this is just my ego concocting things to make me feel good etc, whatever, would be the worst-case scenario for you. I, it’s hard for me to express this well, but there’s something about when you, the way that you often refer to a sort of what seems to be a scientific model that is very linear even as you talk

Well I would certainly agree that I haven’t taken enough psychedelics. Reading these people it seems like, I mean, I doubt these guys are real psychedelic heads and and they’re much further out then I am. The real truth is, and I’ve said it many times, that the world is not only stranger than we suppose, it’s stranger than we can suppose. And in a way that’s either permission to suppose anything you want or to just stop supposing, you know? These things are models. Real, nowhere is it writ large that bipedal apes should be able to understand how the universe works. Still less likely is it written anywhere that Terence McKenna should be able to understand how the universe works. Were you here the other night when we talked about the black hole theory of enlightenment? It was two night ago.

Audience: I was here

Yeah. Well that’s the idea that the real truth can’t be told. I’m very aware that all of this is just stuff to support me, to make a living in other words. You know? That in fact what’s really going on defies rational apprehension. I hope! I mean I would hate to think that we could understand what’s going on. Nevertheless there’s something to be said for this modelling process. And I agree, I think I’m getting old. You can only push yourself so far. I mean when I read one of these things today and he was off on some tear and I just realized, you know, it struck fear in my heart and I said “my God!”. And I actually did it mirror mirror on the wall who’s the weirdest one of all? And it said “Hans Moravic is the weirdest one of all!” Said “Shit!” You know, what what am I. I should bring him here and sit at his feet. I don’t know am I talking about what you’re talking about? Oh good.

Audience: I mean I find a fantastic [] between the psychedelic experience and physics. I mean I haven’t found anything in the psychedelic experience that would be any problem to to relate to the point of view of physicists and actually I think that all the stuff in physics that got out of the bag because of the psychedelic, you know, breakthroughs in the 60’s, [] and others had psychedelic experiences and then started to parrot about from, I mean, in 1920 people were puzzling about these things and having the spiritual crisis and throwing away all of their assumptions about reality and having these stuff of breakthroughs and it got lost because we started to bag physics to use for the military and it was only with an environment that opened up because of the psychedelic that seemed sort of come out.

But I don’t think that science, that the purpose of science is to understand reality, this may go to what you’re saying, I think the purpose of science is to advance technology, which is a heresy. I don’t think reality can be understood and that its absolute hubris for science to, you know, cloak itself in the mantle of philosophy. All it’s for is to make better toys, or if you’re nuts, better weapons. Ultimately there is not going to be any closure in in the effort to understand and I think that the real, the thing that you take away from psychedelics finally is that all models are provisional. That there is no truth. We talked at one point in here about Wittgenstein phrase “true enough”. True enough. True enough to get to the gas station, true enough to get your taxes paid, but there’ll be no, there’ll be no closure on this stuff. We have to live in the light of the mystery. But I think we also said in here, you know, it’s the death of conversation if we glorify the mystery too much cause then you know I’ll be just like anybody else here and I’ll announce that we’re going to have a meditation. Which I’ve never done to you I wanna point out. Somebody wanted to say something?

Audience: Oh with that in mind, I wonder how you can project an end to eternity at a certain time

Well I didn’t mean to imply a nothingness. Beyond. It isn’t like that, I think it’s it’s an everythingness. That when I talk about what I envision it as, is boundary dissolution. If all boundary dissolve, then you know I am you and you are me and we are all together. It’s an exfoliation of the human experience. I mean the great boundaries are, no the small boundaries are man, woman, self, world. And then the big boundaries are life, death, past, future. All of these will be dissolved into something like William Blake’s divine imagination. And we will become, you know, our grandest dreams. And so the whole challenge is to dream a dream worthy of that dimension. I mean it’s a very interesting exercise, I don’t know if you’ve ever done it, God it comes close to being a visualization I’m sorry to notice, but but have you ever play the game what would I do if I could do anything? First of all, you have to wrap you mind around the concept anything. What would I do if I could do anything? And I used to think about it in terms, for some reason for me it takes the form of an architectural fantasy. You know, first I just locate myself in the house featured in last month’s architectural digest, then from there I would begin to work it out. Well if you could do anything, within a few minutes of entering that exercise you’re unrecognizable to yourself. I mean you don’t even have to exist in a forward flowing casuistry of three dimensions. You can be a number of species and all possible sexes, you can be translocated at many points in time, you, you begin to realize that you are tremendously limited by your assumptions. And this is sort of what I imagined death is. It’s releasing to the divine imagination and if you’re, you know, blown up in an airliner or something then immediately after dying you’re just a dead person, but then you begin to unfold and test the boundaries and, you know, as James Joyce says in Finnegan’s Wake “up n'ent, prospector, you sprout all your worth and you woof your wings” and that’s just in the first 30 seconds that you woof your wings, and the you are able to assume you to divide your consciousness, to assume any form, to be any place, to know anything. All, anything recognizable as human I think would quickly drop away or would just become a tiny and familiar touchstone that you would occasionally return to to touch. And somehow the dying, which occurs to each one of us, that’s the microcosm of the planetary and historical process that we’re caught up in. It’s the thing that we hate most of all, we fear it, we really get agitated when death is raised as an issue, James Joyce called it the Grim Reaper, a blessing in disguised, if you want to be Phoenixed, come and be parked, meaning you know, you have to die to fully exfoliate in this dimension and sometimes I think, and I don’t often say it to groups because I fear I misunderstood and I don’t want people to go out of here depressed, but sometimes I think that what human history pushes for is the extermination of all life on the planet for the simple reason that we’ll never be free ‘till then, that we are in some kind of Hell world and we are locked in a world of matter and energy and space and time and that it is not, my God that sounds like you know southern baptists, but we are living death at this moment and that we must die in order to be born again. In other words what we are has become trapped in a lower dimensional matrix and our greatest delusion is to cling to this most tenaciously. Jorge Luis Borge in one of his stories has this idea that the species, any species, is somehow not completed in eternity until the last member of that species dies. And it is interesting that if you think about biology 95% of all species that have ever lived on this planet are extinct. This is what happens to species. Is they go extinct. And yet you know we’re driven to pursue immortality. It pains us greatly to imagine that death of all life on this planet, particularly the death of our individual self or our species, but the fact of the matter is we don’t know what death is. When, I mean, one of the puzzling things about the DMT trance is, you know, these creatures made of light in the mind, that are so different from us but have such affection and love for us, they seem like relatives. They seem like dare we whisper the word. They seem like ancestors and yet, you know, we would rather believe that they’re aliens from Zeta Reticuli or elves in a parallel continuum. The apply Occam’s razor to the phenomenon and say “since we are the only intelligence entities that we have ever contacted in this universe, these things which we contact in our minds in the centre of the DMT flash, they must be human beings of some sort”. But they don’t look like human beings. But they love us so much and understand us so well. Well is it possible that the kind of human being they are is a dead human being? That we’re actually breaking through into an ecology of souls. I mean if we say that the psychedelic experience is an experience of boundary dissolution and if we say that DMT is the strongest of all psychedelics then may it not be that it is dissolving the most resistant of all barriers, which is the barrier between the living and the dead. And that what you actually come into is the anti-chambers of eternity for a brief glimpse. If you were to take that rap and properly translate it into Witoto and Muinani and go to the Amazon and query those folks they’d say of course. I mean your own Marceliad tells you that shamanism depends on the spirit ancestors. And for all the credit we give shamanism we’ve never actually come to grips with the possibility shamans really do work with the spirit ancestors. That there really is an ecology of transmaterial human beings in a nearby continuum that can be approached by a boundary dissolving drug. And it’s because, you know, we and certainly I and certainly proven by this rap tonight are obsessed with technological explanations of it. And how it’s gonna be the flying saucers, it’s gonna be the time machine or the collapse of the quantum vector or something like that. But because the forward thrust of our technology is towards immortality. I mean that’s what’s gnawing at the back of our minds and yet what may actually be coming toward us, orthogonal, meaning at right angle to the historical process, is the dissolving of the barrier between the living and the dead. Which is so unsettling and mind-boggling to use that we’d take a flying saucer invasion any day over having that happen to use. And yet is very very late in the game. You know, human nature is going to have to undergo a radical, vertical translation of some sort if we are to avoid the extinction of ourselves and all life on the planet. Well so then you know, maybe that’s what it was for. If we believe that we were always embedded in the machinery of nature, that we could never act outside the purposes of nature, then this must be what it’s for. It’s very interesting in embryology, I think most people think of a foetus in the womb as, you all know we begin as very fish-like creatures in the womb and then out of what are essentially little paddle mitts, the human hand appears, and I think most people think that the tissue retracts tightly and that the human being emerges. But if you’ve seen foetal stages in bottles in medical schools what’s actually going on is that cells die off. A massive amount of dying goes on in the womb in order that the human form may emerge out of the foetal form. The webbing between the fingers doesn’t retract, those cells die and are released into the amniotic fluid. The growth of the foetus involves the death of millions and millions and millions of cells. So we are born, we are you could almost say sculpted into life by the hand of death. I, I don’t, I mean I feel as nervous about all this as you must, but you know this is what we are here for right? To stretch the envelope. Yeah

Audience: Ehm Terence I would like to go back to something that you said about the beings of light and the shamanic capacity to see and interact with these beings and they could be the ancestors. Thinking in terms of those individuals who refined their senses to being able to see more than the average ability to see and be able to hear more than the just normal ability to hear, where there’s a growing awareness almost like in a penetrating planes, beings that are actually coexisting with us but we just can’t hear them of see them cause we haven’t refined those senses enough and and the more psychicly sensitive the individuals have an increase in ability in the non-drugged state to be aware. It’s just that they can see more and hear more and I haven’t heard you say that.

Well yeah, I mean that’s a very good point. The perfect example of it in terms of a cultural tradition is Fairyland. Fairyland is the pre-christian Celtic peoples believed that dead souls stayed around in the immediate vicinity and that there were thousands of them all around. The accumulated dead, very much in the way that when you smoke DMT then there are thousands of these things and it raises the question where they always there or what’s going on? Saint Patrick who brought Christianity to Ireland found this belief and also I need to make the point about sensitivity, in Irish folklore there’s the idea that if you have the eye you can see these things and no drugs are required. It’s a psychic ability which the country Celtic people have sometimes claimed. So when Patrick came to Ireland on his mission of conversion he found this belief in Fairyland so powerfully entrenched in these people that he invented purgatory. Purgatory was invented by Saint Patrick to convert the Irish and then when word was carried back to Rome, that Patrick who was this great Bishop of the early church, that he had made this doctrinal confession to Celtic folk thinking, the Pope thought it was such a fine idea that they just wrote it into dogma. So purgatory, which as you all know is neither heaven or hell but a place where you expiate your sins for some amount of time before you pass on to heaven, is nothing less than a cleaned up version of Fairyland written into Christian theology. Now I don’t know why the Celtic people would have, not a monopoly, but a firm grip on this, I mean it may be their innate gloominess, their obsession with death, the it’s called the Agenbite of Inwyt, it’s just that we chew on ourselves till we dissolve, but there was something about that character that set it up for perceiving these entities. Although in all traditions all over the world if you dig deep enough you can usually find the tradition of small people that live in the hills or under the hills, meaning graves right, under the hill, and they are the ancestors and the best that straight folklorists can tell is they have some weird law that as the people recedes into time they shrink. Which seems to me preposterous, I mean I just don’t understand that. I think that the evidence is pretty good, that this is going on. The fact that DMT is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter is very suggesting. Rupert Sheldrake has made the suggestion that dying is a unique chemical experience and he calls DMT a necrotic hallucinogen. That you actually, if you are truly dying your brain will be flooded with DMT and then you will see the ecology of souls waiting to receive you. I once questioned a very well known Tibetan teacher about what was going on in DMT and he said “Yes! These are the lesser lights. If you go further than that you will break the thread of connection and be unable to return.”. And, you know, I think this is the most challenging idea to us on the conscious and unconscious level because we may, you know, I mean I’m only speaking for myself, but it seems to me true that we really have at a profound level accepted the scientific lie that death is non-entity. You know, and it, it gives us, it’s a permanently weakening idea because it makes us each such a finite being. I mean, it mean that no matter what you do eventually, you know, it will all end in the cold cold ground. You know, alway at my back I hear times winged chariot hurrying near, this coyness lady would be no crime had we but world enough and time, the graves a lovely private place, but none do there I think embrace. Well maybe Andrew Marvell was wrong, maybe there’s more fun on the other side than you might wish to be congealed. Anybody, save me from myself.

[2:56:42] Audience: I was wandering, I have the impression which comes in mind is a world that you project where everybody is schizophrenic, so that today I can be Napoleon, tomorrow Jesus, and then I can meet somebody else who also believes that he is Napoleon, Jesus, Buddha, or whatever, and back and forth in time. I was just wandering what kind of place that’s going to be.

Well I would buy into that. I think schizophrenia is the absence of cultural expectation. You know? In the most profound sense. I mean, the casuistry doesn’t even apply. I mean, I speak I consider myself schizophrenic and I have observed schizophrenia in other members of my family, close up, in great detail, and what it is is it’s simply the breakdown of casuistry. And then ordinary people, imprisoned in the hallucination of culture, language, and linear time, lock you up and put you away because you’re reporting from outside of the cultural envelope and carrying information that terrifies, alarms, disturbs, and just you drive other people crazy. It’s what it is. I’m talking now about process schizophrenia which is the spectacular kind where you bring back information that is absolutely incommiserate with the models of your culture. No, I think it’s been said that the world is becoming more schizophrenic. Well that’s just because they didn’t have the word psychedelic. Psychedelic experience is essentially a kind of schizophrenia and people who in the early phases of psychedelic research they wanted to call it a psychotomimetic, meaning it mimics psychosis. It doesn’t mimic psychosis it’s a schizomimetic of some sort. Psychosis is a whole different pathology. But schizophrenia is simply a category for behaviour and insight that the rest of society is unable to do anything with I think. Yeah no that doesn’t trouble me at all. I like I like talking about I’m schizophrenic, maybe this answers your criticism that I’m linear and running down and old, I can always go nuts. You know, if all else fails, you can go bananas I suppose. The schizophrenic returns with the great aesthetic visions and the scientific breakthroughs and the poetic understanding, I mean, and it’s almost as though they have been aided by the demon artificers. They have taken into their retinue supernatural helpers and a shaman would say of course. Allies, and I’m sure you all know the way schizophrenia and shamanism map together, I mean, our own Julian Silverman is the great pioneer in the one to one mapping of shamanism and schizophrenia and years and years ago when I was completely bananas, every time they would approach from three sides with nets I had Julian’s papers called Shamanism and Schizophrenia and I could quote it chapter and verse and back them off because what is called the initiatory crisis is nothing more than a schizophrenic break with ordinary reality. The problem is we freakout completely and rush to drug people and give them electroshock and tie them down and slap them around. Well so then the unfolding of the process is interrupted and it’s as though you were to, you know, perform surgery on a foetus or something and then be amazed when it turns out a monstrosity when, if you would just have left it alone for crying out loud, it was unfolding along it’s own criods of morphological development. This is why people like our Dlang seem to me to be the ones who thought most deeply and correctly about schizophrenia. To become schizophrenic is a wonderful opportunity, the trick is to make sure that you’re nowhere where straight people can get at you. My schizophrenic episode occurred in the Amazon basin and, you know, it was 5-days-march to just a mission and I’ve always felt that evading modern mental health facilities saved my mind absolutely. And in a traditional society it’s supported. You know, if someone shows signs because they’re dreamy, or they hallucinate, or they’re epileptic, or something like that, than this is encouraged. And they’re put under the care of shamans and drugs are used to initiate the crisis in some cases and and it’s cause for great rejoicing to have these personalities because, in the culture, because they’re the antennas for the culture tat are contacting the raw stuff of real being and transducing it down into cultural artefacts and institutions that then are useful. Anything else? Oh yea what did you wanna say?

Audience: I don’t think. Your idea of the end point makes perfect sense to me, I don’t think the grandfather paradox is an objection. It’s not really a paradox

No I don’t think it’s a paradox

Audience: I mean it’s a self consistent universe. You’re here so you can kill, if you killed your grandfather you wouldn’t be here to ask the question

I think that’s the way to handle that. I think when we finally really understand time travel we may find out that it’s common as dirt and it’s been going on all around us in all kinds of physical processes.

Audience: we have to make up a story, I mean the human, the mind likes to make up stories so if you came back and killed your grandfather and you’re still here than we have to make up a story like somebody else got into your grandmother.

But since that isn’t how it works

Audience: well it may be working that way I mean people disappear mysteriously and all sorts of things happen and we just fit them into a framework that makes sense to us and when we’re in a realm of time travel and maybe we’ll have to reinterpret all that with weird stuff that occurs in physics.

That’s an excellent point, that all kinds of stuff goes on around us that may be in fact the collapse of paradoxical situations like, you know, all these well-documented cases of spontaneous human combustion and stuff like that I mean, unless you just flat out deny that this goes on, which is a kind of cop-out I think, because it just means you don’t believe large bodies of evidence, I mean not everything weird that’s claimed goes on but on the other hand I don’t think God is a republican, I think there’s plenty of weird shit flying around, and as I said nowhere is it writ that anthropoid apes should understand reality and every culture that’s ever existed had operated under the illusion that it understood 95% of reality and that the other 5% will be delivered in the next 18 months and from Egypt forward they’ve been running around believing they had a perfect grip on things and yet we look back at every society that preceded us with great smugness at how naive they all were. Well never occurs to us then that maybe we’re whistling in the dark too. That the universe is stranger than you can suppose and that that openness that that perception imparts is a great joy, a great blessing, because then you can live your life not in service to some fascistic metaphor but in service to the living mystery, the fact that you’re not going to understand it. It is not going to yield to logic or magic or any other technique that’s been developed. It’s bigger, you know, the novelist John Crowley has this wonderful aphorism, the further in you go the bigger it gets, and I think this is true of most things. That’s all folks, we got through another one of these. Okay thank you all for coming. I do not understand why you put up with this, but I appreciate it, I do appreciate it.