Well, as you know, then, I’m an inveterate talker and it doesn’t take much to set me off, and it takes quite a bit to turn me off. So it seems to me these things are always more interesting if they’re driven by the concerns of the audience. And if the concerns of the audience aren’t sufficient to fill the time, well, then I have a whole laundry list of obsessions that we can work our way through until the last syllable of recorded time—since that’s not far away in my opinion…! Very little of what I planned to say last night got said, because whenever I discover that I’m going to have to stand at a podium rather than sit in a chair, I can’t—because of my contact lenses—glance down at my notes comfortably. So instead I just sort of rave. So I appreciated the enthusiasm of the audience last night. My personal assessment of the talk was that it was an even more than usual meandering diatribe, and a critic who charged me with basic incoherence would probably get my blushing acquiescence. Maybe we can do better today. Are there questions from last night?
At the time I wasn’t aware of any kind of discontinuity, but I was thinking about it later.
Mmh, me too.
Yeah! And I wanted to know—the continuity between what you were saying at the beginning about changing the way we are in relationship to the Earth and consuming less resources, and then what you were saying toward the end about the coming of the millennium and moving out of the birth canal into a new reality.
Right. No, I think that there is, if not a contradiction there, at least it’s some kind of coincidence of opposites. What I don’t want to say is that there’s nothing to be done, that there is no moral or political imperative, and that we can just continue with this mindless potlatch civilization until everything is ruined, because I don’t believe that and I think it’s socially irresponsible to say that. On the other hand, what I don’t want to fall too much in the other direction toward is saying that it all depends on us, and that we must raise enormous levels of anxiety in ourselves, and act as though the salvation of the planet depended on us. What more is happening is that the most important political work that needs to be done is for each of us to raise our own consciousness about these issues, and then to create a community based on the sum-total of our personal acts of reformation. So, you know, it is very important to bring help to people in the Third World who are struggling to raise families and preserve their environments, and this sort of thing. But if I were a rationalist I would be completely despairing. So we are more in the role of, like, midwives of this new order.
And I guess it’s useful, then, to return to that birth metaphor. The birth of the new humanity and the new Earth is going to happen. But in the same way that a midwife or an obstetrician can ease a birth—make it smoother, make it less painful for all concerned—that’s the role that political activism needs to take. So I think we should act as though the salvation of the Earth is on our shoulders, but feel as though it is an automatic unfolding that we need not have anxiety about.
You know, the Chinese philosopher Wei Boyang said: “Worry is preposterous.” And I think that’s true. We don’t know enough to worry. And to worry is, in a sense, a kind of act of hubris, because you are claiming complete knowledge of the situation, and then you worry. And so what is much more empowering and what makes the process of historical ending easier, I think, is to act from your heart and to individual acts of caring are more important than giving your energy to grandiose political schemes. I mean, it almost comes back down to the Gospel admonition to heal the sick, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead. But there’s nothing there about grandiose political reform and all that sort of thing. That, I think, arises out of the Zeitgeist of the collectivity.
And I’m very hopeful. People sort of hear my rap differently. I mean, I’ve had people (after what I thought were inspiring panegyrics) come up to me and say, “But it’s such a dark and horrifying vision.” It means that I failed as a communicator in that situation. Because I’m the gonest and most irrational hope-freak I’ve ever met. I mean, I think everything is fine. Everything is going toward the purpose for which it was intended, but it’s an act of conscious awareness on the part of each of us that carries us toward that.
So, you know, often in what I say there is, if not the fact of contradiction, then the appearance of contradiction. This is because, to my mind, life is complicated enough to admit of contradiction. Was it Oscar Wilde, or who was it, who said, “I contradict myself, I contradict myself!” Logical consistency is one of the prejudices that we’ve inherited from the scientific attempt to describe the world. But, in fact, even science at its basic level has now abandoned that as an ideal. In quantum physics, the way it’s done mathematically is: you have an ordinary causal logic, an if-then logic, but in order to handle what quantum physics is attempting to describe, you also have to have what are called islands of bool or islands of boolean logic, which is embedded in the standard logic and which is a logic of both-and. And you cannot reduce this to a non-contradictory description.
The great thing about the rational program of science is—pushed far enough, it reveals the irrational foundations of nature. And that’s really what the crisis in science now is. The cutting edges of physical science have contacted the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in the twenties, the anthropocentric principle in the eighties and seventies, and we are realizing that, somehow, the notion of an observer outside the system, with a godlike objectivity and zero input into the situation, that was a necessary fiction for the more naïve program of description of nature. But as we move into the more sophisticated description of nature, we have to place the observer in the picture, and then there is going to be a reverberation of contradiction that probably can’t be gotten rid of.
I mentioned—or I referred to this in the talk last night, where I said we shouldn’t push for closure. We should accept that it is, in principle, mysterious. And so we are never explaining life or relationships or economies, or whatever we’re looking at, we’re describing them with ever more prescient accuracy. But we cannot eliminate the unknown. One of my teachers years ago, West Churchman, wrote a wonderful book called Planning on Uncertainty. And I think we all need to plan on uncertainty, and it’s the one thing that is left out of most models because the model-builder has such faith in the model that he would never build in a trapdoor into the realm of uncertainty. And yet, life is composed almost entirely of these kinds of trapdoors, you see?
Does that do it?
So do I understand, then, that in your vision we really don’t know anything about what it’s going to look like once we’re out of the birth canal, but what we can do now is behave with integrity toward the world that we’re in today. Is that right?
That’s right. And it’s not that in principle we can’t know what it’s like out beyond the birth canal, it’s simply that it’s too early. I used the metaphor last night that the transcendental object is below the event horizon. It is. And so all we can see is the rosy glow of its promise at this point. But give us ten years and the actual edge of the transcendental object will rise above the event horizon. I mean, I don’t think that we are marginalized or part of fad and fashion. I think this is actually the rising modality necessary for the future if we’re going to make it through. In other words, I suspect that, ten years from now, fifteen years from now, the things we are talking about today will be the general metaphors and concerns in society. Because I just have a very strong intuition based on a lot of journeying into those hyperspatial modalities that this is the path. And I’m sufficiently convinced of that to submit it to a kind of intellectual plebiscite.
I mean, I believe that ideas compete with each other the way animals compete in an environment, and that the best ideas, the most fitting ideas for the human adventure, will eliminate their competition. And that’s what we’re experiencing now in the political domain, is a competition between ideological systems roughly comparable to dinosaurs and mammals. And, you know, you can decide which is which, but the two are incommensurate, and one is in the act of eliminating the other. And so it’s a matter of observing this process, understanding it, and being comfortable with it. If you’re right I don’t think you need to feel any urgency, because that will quite naturally percolate out in the mix.
Many of you have heard me quote William Blake. It’s always worth repeating. He said: “If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed.” In other words: understanding compels belief. You don’t have to hammer on somebody. Your task is to refine your message into an understandable form, and then let the dynamics of intellectual competition decide what is the best model to follow.
I had a question related to what you were just saying, and then I had a chemistry question. What keeps me optimistic is that information seems to be spreading more rapidly, and some futurists have said that, by the year 2011, that information will be doubling every second. I was wondering if you could comment on that.
Well, yeah. I mean, part of what I was going to talk about last night and didn’t get to is: I’m the purveyor of a very formal mathematical theory about how history unfolds itself and what time is, and to your great good fortune you’re not going to be exposed to this today. Had we two days, I would flay you with it on the second day. But here’s the thing that’s going on. Since the very first moments of the universe’s existence, novelty (as I call it) or complexity (as someone else has called it) or connectedness has been increasing. So that the early universe was very simple. It was a plasma of free electrons. There were no laws of molecular physics, still less laws of biology or gene segregation or something like that. As the universe has aged it has become more and more complex. We represent the culmination to the present moment of that process.
Well, I don’t think that’s particularly big news. It’s sort of a stating of the obvious that the universe has grown more complex through time. But what is interesting is that each advancement into complexity that has built on the previously established foundation of complexity occurs more rapidly than the stages which preceded it. So if you were to draw a diagram of that it would be an involuting spiral. So that after the big bang and things settled down after the first few nanoseconds of the universe’s existence, well then, for a long time it was very boring. And all that happened was that temperatures fell very gradually. Eventually they fell to the point where atoms could settle down into stable orbits around nuclei. And then, as the temperature fell still further, eventually these atoms could aggregate into molecular structures. Again, each advancement into novelty proceeding more rapidly than the stage which preceded it.
Well, that’s why, to my mind, human history is not a radical break with primate biology, it simply represents an acceleration of primate behavior into a more compacted temporal domain. And high technology, electronic data transfer, the erection of global society—which has built on the previous levels of cultural attainment—has happened even more quickly, so that these eras (or epochs, you could almost think of them as) of complexity are now of such short duration that instead of taking millions of years, or perhaps billions of years, to transit through one of these, we now are moving through them at the rate of one or two a decade. And beyond that, one or two every two or three years. And beyond that, one or two every few months. And I see no elegant reason for assuming that this process will ever cease its asymptotic acceleration.
Well then, if you picture what I’m describing, it’s a funnel of some sort which begins with an extremely wide mouth, but which has now narrowed to an extremely small and fast-moving kind of situation. And this is why history is a self-limiting process. It isn’t that we have broken away from the slow-moving processes of ordinary nature, it’s that we represent nature at a different time frame. And I think this is why history is ending. Because it’s going so much faster than it used to go that it’s going to finish very soon. There may be as much experience ahead of us as there is behind us, but we’re moving through it so much faster than we used to that we are literally approaching the end of time at a faster and faster speed.
And this is something built into the structure of the cosmos. It’s the answer to the question, “Where did we come from?” We were called forth out of biological organization by the continued acceleration of the expression of novelty. And this is why I count myself as a proponent of what I call “the big surprise” rather than the big bang. The big surprise lies ahead of us—not billions of years or millions of years or thousands of years in the future, but within our lifetimes, potentially.
And it’s interesting—I think I said this last night—the people who run the world now possess curves which, when they draw these curves and try to extrapolate them fifty years into the future, it makes no sense at all. You cannot extrapolate the ozone hole, the AIDS epidemic, the spread of plutonium—you cannot extrapolate these things a hundred years into the future because they all go asymptotic and reach infinity. So it means the oceans boil, the atmosphere blows off, everybody dies, and that’s the end of it.
But I don’t think that’s what’s happening. I think novelty is the saving grace, and that the historical adventure is essentially coming into the finale of the third act, and it is our great good fortune to be spectators and participants in the phenomena that for all preceding generations could only be anticipated and prayed for. It’s a screwy position, I understand. I mean, boiled down to a bumper sticker it’s a bearded guy on the corner with a sign which says, “Repent, for the end is nigh!” Or maybe just, “The end is nigh!”
But I think all the evidence is that the soul is about to collectively leave the body. The human imagination married to technology has become a force too powerful to be unleashed within the fragile ecosystem of this planet, so we must either carry ourselves elsewhere, or the planet’s homeostatic drive to preserve ordinary biology will eliminate us through epidemic disease or climatological upheaval. There are many possibilities. So I think we are being propelled somewhat reluctantly into a new human modality that is as radical a shift as birth is to the individual or as the original entry into history was for our species. History cannot be conceived of as proceeding another thousand or ten thousand years. I mean, it just can’t be. So it must be that it’s a self-limiting process.
And it only lasts 25,000 years. I mean, if you go back 25,000 years, the Earth was in ecodynamic balance. Human beings were fully established as intelligent, as caring, as creative as you and I. Theater, poetry, dance, love, hope, tragedy, religion—all these things were in place. But history represents Gaia hitting the fast-forward button on the evolution of the primates. And it seems of long duration to us because we (at the level of the expression of the individual phenotype) are as ephemeral as mayflies. You know, a person lives seventy years, ninety years, and then they’re gone. But on a scale of 25,000 years, clearly what is happening on this planet is the emergence of an entirely new kind of order within the natural order. It is natural, but it is new. There is no contradiction in this. Once, atoms were a new invention. Once, molecules were a new invention. Once, polymers were the cutting edge of what’s happening. Now the cutting edge of what’s happening is large-scale primate-machine integrated societies based on the movement of information.
Did that do it? Yeah. Yeah. Oh, you want to follow on? Oh yeah, I’m sorry.
Is 5-methyloxy-N-N-dymethyltryptamine crystalline illegal to possess, and if one was going to mix it with harmine, harmalo, haraline, or harmaline?
That was a word salad! Well, I think you’re asking about 5-MEO DMT. 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine. The toad foam of recent fame. As far as I understand, I think that it’s legal. However, it would probably depend on the length of the fangs of the local D.A., because there is what’s called the congener law, which says that structural near relatives of hallucinogens can also be prosecuted as illegal compounds.
As far as the question about the harmine alkaloids—harmine, harmaline, tetra-hydra-harman, harmalo I think is apocryphal, specious. But the notion which must lie behind your question is: harmine alkaloids inhibit monoamineoxidase, which is an enzyme system in the human gut that tends to inactivate amines, monoamines, of which these hallucinogens almost all fall into that category. You could attempt to inhibit your MAO with a dose of harmine or hamaline and then smoke 5-MEO DMT, but I don’t recommend this unless you are a pharmacologist with hours and hours of psychedelic flight time on your log. This is certainly nothing for the ingénue to attempt. Once you get out into the realm of synergies—that means what happens when you run two metabolically active compounds at the same time, and some people do three and four and five—you know, you’re definitely on your own. Because pharmacology doesn’t study drugs like that. They study them in isolation; their activity. And some people say of the smokable tryptamines they’re so quick that wouldn’t it be logical to inhibit your MAO in order to freeze frame the experience, and instead of having it last three minutes, have it last thirty minutes? Yes, that’s a fine idea, but what if it lasted thirty hours instead? A miss is as good as a mile in this game. So you should have your mantras ready before you push off into that.
—you comment in that regard [???] Lynn Margulis’s theory that all of life, all of plant life, is a reorganization of bacteria, and all of animal life is a further reorganization of bacterial life? Just to get bacteria moving around from place to place. And the cerebral cortex is just a lot of modified [???] that have organized themselves in a certain way. In my reading the [???], the way you put human beings in this picture, is that we’re just an experiment and a waystation in bacterial life, which may or may not work. Whereas our destiny is not really in our hands. To think that we control our fate is really hubris or illusion.
Well, it’s certainly illusion. I mean, it’s pretty clear we don’t control our fate. Yes, you see, one way of looking at evolution—I mean, I just offer this as a heuristic insight—is that life achieved absolute perfection with the first organism. And then this first organism underwent mutation (that’s a kind of damage), which it then repaired the mutation through a strategy of complexification. And then there was more mutation and more repair through complexification. So what we represent is a massive chunk of scar tissue, the culmination of billions of years of repairing the perfect first lifeform. And all this complexity that has been added on since the first achievement is simply a response to the damage done to it by incoming cosmic radiation. I don’t believe that. You see, that’s a theory where you assume everything is driven by the past.
I think that what is really hanging up modern biology is its unwillingness to entertain the possibility that life is driven by purpose. This is an old chestnut in the philosophy of science. It’s called the issue of teleology. Teleology is a fancy word meaning “purpose.” And what happened, you see, is: it’s just simply a legacy of our intellectual history. When Darwin developed the theory of evolution in the nineteenth century, English intellectual society was under the sway of Christianity. And it was possible as recently as 150 years ago to claim yourself to be an intellectual and to actually maintain in polite society that the Earth was created by god at 9:00 a.m. on September the fourth, 4004 B.C.—150 years ago in England people believed this with perfect confidence that they were at the cutting edge of intellectual understanding.
Well, Darwin wanted to overcome deism, which was this all-pervasive belief in an interventionist creator who was literally guiding the flight of every atom and the fall of every leaf. And Darwin said we don’t need this kind of invasive deistic plenum. Let’s just take the process of mutation—a random process driven by he-knew-not-what; we now know largely driven by incidental cosmic radiation reaching the surface of the Earth—let’s take mutation and natural selection (another random process), and when we run these two random processes head on, lo and behold, out come flamingos, cockroaches, hummingbirds, coral reefs, palm trees, and ourselves. But I think that—and, you know, the co-discoverer of evolution who (if I believed in reincarnation I would claim him as my own), Alfred Russel Wallace, was unable to agree with Darwin, and he said: no, that accounts for minor change in organisms; natural selection. But how can you use those processes to account for something like, for instance, the metamorphosis of insects? A caterpillar changing into a butterfly involves the chemical coordination of hundreds, if not thousands, of genes doing a perfectly integrated and flawless ballet of transformation. How incrementally could you ever get a situation where a caterpillar undergoes mutation into a butterfly unless there is some third factor at work in evolution? And Wallace thought that it was an appetition (an appetite, a tendency) toward an end state. And that compass-notion of evolution means that you’re steering toward a goal.
Now, in common speech, when we use the word “evolution,” we usually mean this. But orthodox biologists—I remember when I was studying evolution, I had a professor who said, “Do not use the word ‘evolution’ unless you are talking about a process involving genes.” In other words, don’t talk about the evolution of the novel, or of abstract expressionism, or the evolution of society, or the evolution of a political viewpoint—this is all bad thinking. Well, people like Ilya Prigogine, West Churchman, Erich Jantsch have reclaimed evolution as the notion of progressive motion (movement) toward higher and higher states of development. But nineteenth-century evolutionists refuse to talk about advanced and less advanced, or higher and lower, when they talked about evolution. They just saw it as a random process playing itself out. I don’t think so. I think we are called; that nature is hyper-dimensional in its architectonics, and that we are flowing toward a culminating purpose—probably the shedding of matter as the vehicle of our becoming.
Yeah, I just wanted to ask you a question about: do you think the information that is contained in psilocybin, DMT, all the hallucinogenics—do you think that the information is self-contained, or is it actually more a way of tuning our brains into a more cosmic frequency that exists? [???] in the psilocybin, or is the psilocybin just a mediator, a drastic way of tuning into a more cosmic broadcast?
Well, it’s hard for me to imagine that it could be in the psilocybin, because psilocybin is a very simple molecule. I mean, it’s a small molecule, it’s a planar molecule. It seems to me what must be happening is that we are embedded in an ocean of information, and psilocybin somehow changes our channel slightly. You know, ordinary consciousness is created by a neurotransmitter called serotonin. 5-hydroxy-tryptamine—suggestively a very close relative of psilocybin and DMT. And it seems to me—I think I mentioned this a little bit in the talk last night—that we have evolved a neurotransmitter which has the effect of narrowing the focus of consciousness to what is operationally defined by the body as the here-and-now. In other words, the body is very fragile and sight-dependent, and must be protected from high levels of radiation, inundation by toxic or life-threatening chemicals like water. I mean, you don’t want to have the ocean wash over you or it’s a problem. But that these pseudo-neurotransmitters—which are hallucinogens—have not been integrated into normal metabolism because they don’t serve the body’s need to preserve itself. But what they do serve is an expansion of mental function. And it may be, you know, that these neurotransmitters are in the act of evolving. We no longer need to fear the immediate environment—well, maybe that’s a cheerful overstatement. But one would like to think that we no longer need to fear the immediate environment as much as we did when we were locked in competition with other animal species.
Now it’s, to me, highly suggestive, the fact that we contain and metabolize DMT in the course of ordinary metabolism. What does it mean that the most powerful of all psychedelic hallucinogens is a part of normal human metabolism?
—metabolism. The pineal gland—whose function is very mysterious—is doing a lot of chemistry that looks like psychedelic chemistry. It’s elaborating harmine-like beta-carbolines. So it’s possible that, literally, when we take these tryptamine hallucinogens, we are, as it were, dressing up in the mental furniture of the distant future, that we are experiencing a state of consciousness toward which we are naturally evolving, and that over time and through natural selection the serotonergic neurotransmitters are making way for these more powerful psychedelic compounds. And the fact—well, something like imagination looks to me like a self-generated internal involvement with compounds which at some point in the future might replace the compounds of ordinary metabolism and shift our mental life, literally, into another dimension.
[???] uses organic psychedelics for a period of time as a daily dietary supplement, like every day for an extended period of time? Nobody really talks about that, and I’m just—
How much do you use?
A gram, a gram and a half.
Yes, well, one can do that. I’ve sort of thought that maybe this isn’t such a good idea, because I’m interested more in spectacular episodes of intoxication—with the exception of cannabis, of course—rather than integrating it as a lifestyle.
[???] only one that’s doing this as a lifestyle, and I feel really alone right now.
Well, is there anybody who wants to join this gentleman in his isolation? At times I’ve done that, but I found it to be—well, here’s the thing. You have to get the dose. The dose is very critical. If you take, say, I would say a half a gram to a gram every day, my experience of that was simply a kind of anxiety, a kind of being set forward as speed type effect. If you say, well, I don’t want that, so I’m going to lift the dose slightly, and you go to, say, two and a half grams, the problem I had with that is: life quickly evolves into being so strange that I couldn’t handle it. In other words, it’s very important for me to dip into these places and then to get out, towel off, and think about it.
However, there is a streak of the chicken shit in me, I think. If you really want to leave us all behind—you know, bourgeois values, and your job, and Bill Clinton, and the ozone hole, and all of that behind—then if you start taking psilocybin (let’s say four grams every three days), I guarantee you, within a month there will be very few people that you will have much in common with, and you will be very happy. You will be very happy with your circumstance, generally, I think, but you will have evolved a point of view, a set of values, an expectation that most people will find a lot of difficulty relating to.
[???], let’s say, fresh [???] ice a gram. You’re looking at what, maybe three to five hours of time? So that leaves twenty hours left in the day to do everything else you need to do.
You do—no, but what is the dose again?
Say a gram.
Huh. Well, I don’t know. See, it may be just a matter of personal styles. When I take psilocybin I give it 110% of my attention, so I can’t do it and work at the computer, or make phone calls, or shop, or deliver my children to lessons and stuff like that. So my idea with it is to completely come down between doses, and then you’re virgin again.
Yeah, you don’t keep hallucinating. No, it becomes something else. See, I don’t want you to feel P.A., but I think that what people do with drugs that is probably a bad idea is: they take too little too often. And that the best way to do drugs is to take very challenging doses rarely. I mean, I used to say to my groups: if you haven’t taken enough that you think you may have done too much, then you did too little. In other words, you really want to dissolve the boundary. You don’t want to integrate it into this world, you want to have an experience which you can then integrate into this world after the trip.
But you’re the one who always talks about language and thought processes, and I feel as though most of my best work is under that period of one to one and a half grams of dosage. And I just don’t understand how the recommended experience much more than what I’m doing, obviously. And—
Well, have you taken large doses? Well, isn’t that much more interesting?
I guess it comes down to what it is you’re looking to do while you’re doing it. It’s not a matter of interesting, it’s a matter of what your purpose is, what your intent is, what your trip is.
Right. Well, at these higher doses you can’t do anything.
Of course. That’s my point.
You know? I mean, hanging onto the floor is a major program to be executed. Yeah?
[???] parallel universe; kind of person exists in a parallel universe?
You mean for days and days?
Well, yeah. I mean, could you live?
You can live, but you alarm your friends and quickly become an object of community concern, because for ordinary people you are what is called nuts.
[???] almost like a three-dimensional TV? I mean, [???]
No, I think you underestimate how strange it is. I don’t think you could ever get used to these places. You know, sometimes people ask me if DMT is dangerous, and the honest answer is: only if you fear death by astonishment. And death by astonishment is a real danger in these places. I mean, these places are not simply strange or amazing or highly peculiar, they are absolutely confounding! I mean, that’s what I’m trying to get across, is: this is not going to require just some minor adjustment of our worldview, these are the things they said were impossible, the things they promised, assured, were impossible are possible.
The greatest secret that has been kept from us is that the world is a thousand times, a million times, stranger than your wildest supposition. And how they keep the lid on this stuff—I do not understand. I mean, I don’t understand why I’m the only person saying this, because I’m completely convinced of my own ordinariness. I am only a human being. I represent all of you. What happens to me would happen to you. There’s nothing special about me. Well then, my god, how do they keep the lid on this stuff? It’s weird. It’s more—if a fleet of flying saucers were to land on the South Lawn of the White House tomorrow it would not change the fact that the weirdest thing in the universe is the DMT flash. Flying saucers landing on the South Lawn of the White House is a positively mundane possibility compared to this thing which is real. It’s here, it’s now, you don’t have to go to Babaji, you don’t have to go to the Himalayas—it’s three tokes away. And yet we argue: is it possible? What does it mean? Is it this? Is it that? It’s amazing to me. I mean, it is the new world. The Europeans eventually discovered the new world, but they had to sail galleons three months through hell to get there. This is three tokes and thirty seconds away, and it is the absolute confounding exhibit of the whole structure of Western civilization. How can they keep the lid on it? I don’t get it!
[???] individual spiritual development fit in without the use of hallucinogens in your world, or into your scheme of thinking? And two: last night you talked about the business of being should be the cultivation of love, and I’d like to hear more about that now or later. And then, third: I’d like to know what do you think you would be doing today in life if you had never used any psychedelics?
Well, first to the spiritual question, which is an interesting question to me. Everyone casts the psychedelic experience in terms of being a sub-category of the spiritual quest. I’m not exactly sure about that. I’ve taken lots of psychedelics over nearly thirty years now, and, you know, I have a marriage dissolving, I have people who will tell you I’m a terrible person to negotiate a contract with. I feel myself to be a moral paragon of nothing. And I’m not sure it has anything to do with the spiritual quest. It seems to me true spirituality is a very here-and-now matter. One should visit the sick and imprisoned, clothe the naked, bury the dead, care for orphans, feed the hungry—that’s what the spiritual life is about. It’s very down-to-earth, straightforward.
I’m very puzzled—and I put more than psychedelics in this category, like mantras, yantras, practices—do these things really ameliorate the suffering of the human condition? They may be good for something, the question is: what? Perhaps indirectly the psychedelics synergize the spiritual life because they just show you that life is to be taken seriously, and there is a great deal of it to be assimilated. But in terms of suggesting that you are a more spiritually advanced person if you take psychedelics—I don’t really see any evidence for that. I do think that you cannot take psychedelics without losing a portion of your ego, because it’s too hard for the egomaniac to take psychedelics. The egoist will turn away from it; will have such bad trips that they will put it down, I think.
This is an interesting question, this question of—like the question I ask myself: here we are, we are psychedelic people (presumably by some high percentage). Are we in any way morally superior to people who don’t take psychedelics? Maybe we’re a little bit gentler and more open-minded, but probably in any mud wrestling situation we can be just as down and dirty as the next person to some degree. So I see it more—that’s why I don’t think of myself as a guru, I think of myself as an explorer of a geography, the purposes of which are probably multiple. In other words, I suppose we can use psychedelics to shape personalities and brainwash people and control them. And I suppose we can use it to lead people to make peace with death, mortality, their own limitations. It seems to me it’s a morally neutral dimension, and it can be used for good and ill, and maybe slightly edging toward the good because it’s very hard for egomaniacs to do anything with this stuff.
The CIA’s involvement with LSD is an instructive situation. The CIA got on to LSD well ahead of everybody else, and the first notion was—and if you’re interested in this you can read Jay Stephen, no, the other one, Acid Dreams, Martin Lee’s book, and Shlain was the co-author. The CIA’s first assumption about LSD was that it was a kind of super-truth serum, and that they could kidnap KGB agents and give them LSD and they would spew out all their contacts and so forth and so on. So a year of researching that possibility convinced them they were on the wrong track. And so then they decided it isn’t a truth serum, it’s an anti-truth serum. We will give our agents this drug, and if they ever fall into enemy hands they will take it, and then it will be impossible for the enemy to get any coherent account out of them of what is going on. So then, a few months of that and they discovered: no, under some circumstances, our people just tell all under LSD.
So then they decided that they could program a Manchurian candidate type situation with it. Well then, that was abandoned, and I think largely they have lost interest in this stuff. I asked in the Amazon, I asked the mushroom at one point—because I could see that we were going to carry it back to the world in some form—I said: can’t this be perverted? Can’t it be misused? And it said: only the good can come near this. Well, maybe good doesn’t mean exactly what we think it means. You know, it isn’t a kind of piety worn on your cuff, it’s something else. It’s a sincere wish to understand. That’s the motivation that the psychedelics will turbocharge.
As to your question about what would I be doing if I hadn’t taken psychedelics—well, I don’t know. What I assumed I would end up doing before I took psychedelics was hopefully teaching art history in a very exclusive eastern girls’ school somewhere for a long, long time. It was a kind of Nabokovian lectury, was my life’s plan.
And what was your—oh, and love. Love. Well, my analysis of what psychedelics do—if you think not about my trip or your trip, but thousands, tens of thousands of these experiences—what can we say that would be true of every high-dose psychedelic experience? What can we say that would be a general truism? What you could say is that psychedelics dissolve boundaries. That’s what they do. The boundary between nature and society, between mind and body, between self and other. They dissolve boundaries. And this is what love does when it is working right. I mean, you are able to place yourself in the second position for a child, for a lover, for a cause, for whatever it is, you know? You take second position. So I see them essentially as aphrodisiacs of a strange sort. They empower not genital prowess, but real caring by showing that all differences are illusions; that what is real is the unbroken, seamless plenum of being.
And this is what we need to learn, because our whole social construct has been based on the establishment and maintenance of boundaries. I mean, we are the most boundary-obsessed human society that has ever existed. You know, when I go to the Amazon and spend time with the upriver people, the hardest thing for me to get used to is that I never have any privacy—ever. You know? I hang my hammock in the longhouse, and people are fighting and giving birth and having sex and arguing and doing all these things. And even the act of defecation is not necessarily private. So boundary-dissolution and boundary maintenance is what really—anxiety about these things is what characterizes our society.
I think—and I will mention it briefly here before the break; that some of you may have somehow escaped being exposed to my theory of human evolution, which is contained in Food of the Gods—I think that we achieved a kind of perfection in human relations and in the relationship between human beings and nature some time in the last million years, and that we maintained that relationship until as recently as 15,000 years ago. And we achieved this through a quasi-symbiotic, or (let’s put it this way) an incipiently symbiotic relationship to psilocybin.
You see—I’ll give this to you in the short form, because probably most of you have heard it—all primates organize themselves using male dominance hierarchies. You go clear back into lemurs and squirrel monkeys, and it’s the hard-muscled, sharp-fanged, young males who set the agenda, and everybody else (women, children, weak older males) have to dance to that tune. This is a characteristic of primate organization. It is also a characteristic of our society today, as we sit here. And we know that the suppression not only of women as individuals, but of the feminine itself as an idea, has blocked our potential and made us tremendously neurotic.
Well, I think that when we came down out of the trees we were male dominators, hierarchically organized creatures, and then we encountered psilocybin as an item within our diet. And without anybody realizing what was happening, it constituted a chemical intervention against hierarchical organization. An orgiastic (means sharing of sexual partners) style arose in the wake of accepting psilocybin into the diet. Psilocybin promoted (in low doses) increased visual acuity—this is an established fact—and that allowed the psilocybin-using members of the species to outbreed the non-psilocybin-using members. And human consciousness, evolving, had been evolving, continued to evolve, and through the augmentation of psilocybin fell into a relationship of direct experience with this goddess-like Gaian totality: the mind of the Earth. And then there was a dynamic, satisfying balance between the expression of human events, cognitive faculties, and a human sense of our place in nature and our roles vis-à-vis each other, and so forth and so on. In short: paradise. And it persisted for—who knows? Let’s say a million years. And it only faded when the mushrooms became (through climatological change and migration) unavailable.
And when the mushroom became scarce and scarcer and unavailable, after a million years of chemical suppression of the primate tendency to form dominance hierarchies, the old behavior (which had never been genetically removed from the picture) reemerged 12,000 years ago, no more. And it must’ve been like hell itself. People suddenly no longer were caring for each other. Suddenly, men wanted to control the sexual and reproductive activities of women. The concept of territory emerged. This is at the precise moment in time when agriculture was invented. Agriculture put an end to the nomadic yearly wanderings of the human family. It put an emphasis on sedentary lifestyles. The problem with agriculture, especially in the early phase, was that it was so phenomenally successful—you can imagine farming the eluvial detritus of these river valleys that had never been touched—that surpluses were created. Surplus in the presence of a dominator or hierarchical attitude must be defended. And so suddenly you have haves and have-nots, us and them. The most advanced structure on this planet 11,000 years ago was the grain tower at Jericho. It was a storage area for grain, and it was a tower so that you could beat back attacks by hungry neighbors that you no longer identified with sufficiently to share your food.
And in the absence of psilocybin this structure emerged in the psyche which we call ego. If you have psilocybin in your diet, the ego—it’s like taking chemotherapy or something. The calcerious tumor of ego is never able to form in a situation where psilocybin is being taken, group sexual experiences in a religious context are being orchestrated at the new and full moon, sharing of food, sharing of childcare, sharing of sexual partners. All that is ended when the ego is born. And the ego is the boundary-establisher par excellence, because it establishes “me” and “mine” as opposed to “you” and “yours.” And with the invention of agriculture, the establishment of large sedentary populations (that means cities), the establishment of specialized roles (that means kingship), the emergence of male dominance, the emergence of warfare—these are the institutions that are fatal to our higher aspirations, to our hopes, even at this moment as they were 10,000–15,000 years ago.
That’s why I think we have to chemically intervene, because we have fallen into a dysfunctional relationship toward the components of our own psyche. And it’s fine if monkeys want to dominate each other, but when you have—in the space in which we existed in the psilocybin-maintained partnership mode we developed language, symbolic representation, dance, theater, so forth and so on, and we acquired and empowered the tremendous imagination that has allowed us to build the cultures that we see around us. That kind of power is only safe in the hands of collective community-minded creatures, and in the hands of ego-driven creatures it leads straight to Auschwitz and the hydrogen bomb—as it did. So I think history is a state of chemical deprivation that allows ancient animal patterns of behavior that degrade and confuse us to reemerge and stabilize themselves.
[???] what would the response be to that?
You mean in the present situation?
The assumption is that they’re [???] what would that involve? It’s surplus—
Well, what it invokes is ever greater distance between those at the top and those at the bottom of the social pyramid, and an emergence of ever more brutal behavior patterns, which is what we see happening. I mean, our world is getting uglier and meaner and more mean-spirited by the moment, because those who have are so anxious about the fact that they might be asked to share it. I mean, what we’ve gone through in the last twelve years in this country is tremendous transfer of wealth to the upper two percent of society, and concomitantly a tremendous spread of anxiety, alienation, and a dehumanizing of the entire social enterprise. I mean, if we don’t get hold of ourselves, the next century, most of the world is going to be a toxic desert, and then here and there there will be very well-defended pleasure domes in which a very small number of incredibly wealthy people will live out lives of utterly self-indulgent hedonistic fantasy in denial of the moral catastrophe that they participated in in order to achieve that hedonic state of isolation. I mean, that’s clearly happening. Metaphorically, that’s what we have already. I mean, not to freak you out, but that’s where we’re sitting right now, you know—I mean, compared to Bosnia and Haiti and Somalia.
[???] then what is the alternative?
Well, neither create defensiveness except in the presence of the ego. In other words, what we have to do is teach people to care for each other as a primary value—not something you do after you pay for your Mercedes and all that, but as the primary value. We have to have community. It’s very simple. We don’t have community. We have a free-for-all where the devil takes the hindmost, the most brutal and most ruthless among us rise to the top, and everybody else has a foot on their neck. We are now in a hell of a fix, because we’ve waited so long to address these problems. There is not now enough gold, aluminum, iron, so forth, in the planet to raise everyone to a middle-class standard as it’s enjoyed in southern California. And yet, we have unleashed these expectations in everyone by flagellating people with images of material wealth and comfort.
The whole—we must reempower the individual and the quality of individual experience. In other words, you have to convince somebody that you are a richer person on five grams of psilocybin than you are if you live in a five-million-dollar house and are spending 50,000 dollars a year on psychotherapy because you’re miserable, you see? We have allowed ourselves to be tremendously disempowered by allowing our values to shift toward the material domain. You can’t take it with you, folks. But the soul is the vehicle that you do take with you into whatever dimensions of continuity exist beyond this mortal coil. So instead of balancing and replacing the tires on your Porsche, you should be balancing and replacing the tires on your after-death vehicle. After all, that’s the one that’s going to have to serve you well in the clinches, you see?
[???] terror in society on your journey. I don’t know if you’ve worked with the terror in dissolving the ego boundary.
Well, you’re right. There is a component of terror in this kind of work. You know, the Rolling Stones song “you don’t get what you want, you get what you need” is never more true than with psychedelics. But in terms of practical suggestions, fear has many aspects, but one aspect of it is: it has a chemistry. And the chemistry of fear is fairly short-term. You’ve probably all experienced driving on the freeway, and somebody cuts right in front of you, and it feels like your body temperature must rise about five degrees in about a third of a second. It’s an incredibly fast chemistry that goes on there, and then in about five seconds you fall back down to within normal parameters.
One way to deal with fear is: sit still and wait. In other words, the psychedelic terror is usually fairly unfocused. It is simply raw terror. Well, just sit still and shut up, and watch the chemicals in your mind tear those molecules apart. And rarely can the fear sustain itself more than five or ten minutes, because it has the force of a blow. But then you can sustain the blow and chemical equilibrium returns.
The other thing—and this is very good advice; don’t forget it, it’s hard for Western people to keep it on their plate—sing. Sing. The way we relate to terror is: we crunch, clench, withdraw, and hunch over in some kind of fetal position, like you’re being beat on. What you want to do is sit up straight, straighten your spinal column, open your air passages, and begin to cycle oxygen through. And if you sing, in a very few minutes the chemical foundations of the fear will be washed away. So that’s very practical.
The mantra can be practical.
It doesn’t matter. Mantra, yantra—you know, everything becomes profound on psychedelics. I mean, I tend toward, “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”
Oh yes, what a heart-sinking assumption. My assumption was that we could skate by on questions alone. But what is your question?
[???] were no questions.
Okay. So an oblique request to override questions. Basically, what happens is: I end up saying what I want to say anyhow, because you may have noticed a certain logical gap between some of the questions and some of the answers. That’s not a failure of your own understanding, that’s what’s going on, as a matter of fact, you know? But you had a question.
I just wanted to kind of introduce a new idea here. I mean, it’s probably an old idea, but also a new idea. This was years ago that I played the Ouija board a lot, and one strange evening I was playing, and I asked the question, “Who are we talking to when we speak to the Ouija board?” And the reply was, “In your future, man will be able to speak with his ancestors”—ontrary to popular belief that you are speaking to your ancestors. Which meant basically that in our future we’re going to discover ways to talk to the past and deliver messages to the past. And in connection with the UFO experience I was wondering if quite possibly that the extraterrestrial was actually us in the future coming back, you know, discover the technology of traveling through time, you know? And I was just wondering if you had anything to say about that.
(Now watch how this question is perverted into an episode of speechifying on my part!) I’m glad you asked that question. Well, I mean, I’ve thought a lot about this. I suppose, in order to get into it, what I should do is just take a moment or two to actually describe for you my idea, or my account, of what it is that lies at the very center (or at least as far in to the center as I’ve been able to push) of these experiences.
To my mind—I mean, I mentioned here this morning that DMT seems to me the most powerful of these things. What “powerful” means in that context is that more of the motifs are present at greater energy than they are in some of these other compounds. And at the risk of repeating myself, what happens to most people, I think—if they are able to remember it—what an actual DMT flash is like is: this stuff, it’s vaporized in a glass pipe. It’s smoked. It comes on in about half a minute or less, and is immensely stronger than any amount of psilocybin or LSD could conceivably be, I think. And what happens is—and I’ll speak in the first person just to make it manageable—what happens is: I break into a space. First of all, I am fully myself. In other words, I am exactly who I was before. That’s why, on one level, I say DMT doesn’t affect your mind. You are not euphoric, ecstatic. You are exactly who you were before. But there is a sense of pushing through a membrane of some sort. There’s actually a sound as though someone had wadded up a cellophane breadwrapper; that crackling sound, which some people assumed erroneously were brain cells frying in your cerebellum. A friend of mine said it’s your soul as radio entelechy leaving your body through the top of your head.
Well, whatever it is, you burst into a space—I burst into a space—that is inhabited. That’s the first shocker, is: there is no ambiguity about it, because there’s an earsplitting cheer as you break into this space. It’s an elf nest of some sort. And there are hundreds of these self-dribbling jeweled basketballs—sort of. I mean, that’s a heavy download into English of what they are. But they are autonomous, separate from the background, and they bound forward screaming hello, basically. And for someone who expected insight into their relationship or their financial circumstances, this is a fairly astonishing and rapid turn of developments.
And they are intently focused upon you. I mean, when it happens to me they yell, “Hooray!” And then they are like long-lost acquaintances. They literally pour over you. They crawl over you. You’re being hugged by a troop of hyper-spatial machine elves. And they say, “You stay away so long! You send so many but you come so rarely!” and “We’re so happy to see you!” And there is a sense of being somehow, without being able to cognize the logic of it, you’re underground. You can tell that you’re far underground.
And these things, the main thing going on in this place is that these things are creatures of language. They are elves of syntactical intent. They appear to be made of language, not matter. And they are in a process of continuous semantic transformation. Meaning is crawling across their surfaces in a state of continual metamorphosis. And they are emitting sounds roughly analogous to some kind of music or language, except that this is like no music or language you’ve ever heard, because what it is is something capable of being visibly apprehended. It’s sound which you can see. It’s linguistic structure whose syntax is visible in three-dimensional space.
And they use their voices to make objects which are, in some sense, the central focus of the experience, because out of the air, out of their bodies, out of your body, they condense, create, and pluck these objects which they offer for your inspection. And as you lean forward to look at one of these things, midst this clamor of elf-hysteria, you—as I said, are fully yourself. Your judgment is not impaired. And, in fact, they are saying to you, “Fight excitement. Do not abandon yourself to amazement.” In other words, they’re telling you: stay down. Don’t just go off on some arm-waving rave about how this is impossible and outlandish and outrageous. Try to stay focused on what we’re doing.
And what they show you are objects that are intrinsically and inherently impossible. So that these things made of jeweled gold, ivory, cut stone, flesh, music, hope, odor—I mean, it’s hard to talk about. But when you direct your attention towards these things, you can tell by looking at it that if you could get it into three-dimensional space, if I could suddenly whip one out of my briefcase and display it to you, our world, our intellectual constructs would collapse upon themselves, because this is impossible. Impossibly beautiful, impossibly constructed, defying of the laws of physics and of chemistry.
So do you think there is a multi-dimensional life force that is the same for these higher-dimension [???] that’s a higher dimension, actually; maybe from the future, maybe—I mean, as far as three-dimensional time is concerned there is no such thing. It’s like what we’ve created. So are they actually trying to tell you that, okay, everything you see as impossible is not really impossible? Introducing to you that nothing is impossible, and that that is our future way of thinking; is that nothing is impossible? Otherwise, we’re doomed.
Well, I have a sort of an—I almost said rational—but let’s say at least orderly kind of mind, so I try to understand: what could this be? So you make a list of hypotheses, and then think about each hypothesis and test it against the evidence. Okay, hypothesis one: DMT is not a drug, it is an extraterrestrial communication device. These are creatures somewhere in the universe who are so different from us that they come to us not in starships the size of Manhattan, but in drug molecules that are dinky. So we are in contact here with some kind of extraterrestrial technology, and these are true aliens of some sort. And god knows, the weirdness of the situation supports the hypothesis.
Okay, second hypothesis: there is a parallel universe, unsuspected by most human beings. It’s right here all the time. It’s inhabited. These things have their own hopes, fears, problems, so forth, and somehow this drug just erases this boundary, and then you find yourself in the elf nest.
Okay. Next hypothesis: these things—because they have great affection for me, because they seem intent on the task of communicating—perhaps they are human beings from the distant future. Perhaps this is what we are fated to become. You know, there’s always, since we were kids, the cliché “beings of pure energy.” Well, it’s always been a little hard to wrap your mind around what that would look like, but lo and behold, here appear to be creatures of pure energy. But there are a lot of problems with hypothesizing a future human technological breakthrough which would allow them to actually manipulate the past. Logical paradoxes and that sort of thing.
Well, so then here’s another possibility: they are human beings, but they are not in the future in the ordinary sense, or in the past, they are in the pre-natal and post-life phase. In other words, these are either the unborn waiting in some limbo-like dimension to descend into matter, or they are in fact people who have had a sojourn in the domain of organic existence and now have moved on. Let me not kid you—we’re talking about dead people here in that case. Well, if you go to the shamans who access these places through ayahuasca or the [???] or something like that, they will say: well, these are ancestors. Didn’t you read Mircea Eliade? Don’t you know that shamanism works through ancestor magic? Well, ancestor is a tremendously sanitized term for dead people.
And if what is actually happening here is that the much-argued-about soul is actually made visible by this pharmacological strategy—I mean, god knows why, but god knows why anything else is the way it is—then this is truly big news. This is the confounding of rationalism. If what is happening here is that, by pushing the frontiers of pharmacology, we discover a way to even momentarily and temporarily erase the boundary between the living and the dead, then this is a 180-degree turn on the evolution of culture that not even the most technically infatuated among us are prepared to assimilate. I mean, it’s no challenge on that scale of things to expect visitors from Zubenelgenubi or Zeta Reticuli or some other distant piece of real estate. But to expect visitors from beyond the grave, that’s a little confounding.
And over time I’ve sort of come to incline to the idea that this is what is in fact going on. And the reason it’s so hard to bring anything out of the DMT flash is because at the center of the flash you find out something so unexpected, so appalling, and so existentially convincing in the moment of confronting it that you simply immediately block it out and obliterate it. And these things are very focused on getting you to do what they’re doing. I mean, they say, “You can do what we are doing. Do it. Do it!” And what they want you to do is use your voice to make objects appear in visual space as though language—admittedly the phenomenon with which we are involved in a way that no other animal species on this planet is—but that language as practiced by human beings is an incomplete enchantment, and that, pushed to its limits, language becomes not something heard with the ears but something seen with the eyes.
—on the brink, potentially, through pharmacological reengineering of ourselves and through studying of these shamanic states of mind—about to move into a domain where we see each other’s thoughts. Now normally, when we conceive of telepathy, we think of it as you hear what I think. Telepathy is: you see what I mean. You see, telepathy is a function which goes on in the domain of seeing, not of hearing. And why this is important—rather than just some weird psychic ability—is because our boundaries are based on our relationship to our language. If you could see what I mean, in a fairly profound sense you would be me in a much more profound sense than when you hear what I say.
Because think about it for a minute. Analyze what normal ordinary communication is: I want to communicate with you. I consult my internal dictionary and I carefully choose words out of my dictionary, and I string them together according to the rules of English syntax. I then activate—if I’ve done things in the right order—I then activate my vocal apparatus. I impart a vibration, an acoustical wave, unto the surrounding medium, which is air. This vibration moves across space. It enters through the holes on both sides of your head as a pressure wave. You then, analyzing this incoming waveform, rush to your dictionary, and you break up this incoming wave signature and attempt to map it to words in your dictionary. Now, if your dictionary and my dictionary are the same, then you will—lo and behold—reconstruct my thought in the confines of your brain-mind system. But notice the caveat that was slipped in there: if your dictionary and my dictionary are the same. But they never are! I mean, maybe they are if you ask, “Can you tell me what time it is?” or “Would you please turn down the stereo?” But if you’re talking about anything of interest, depth, ambiguity, or complexity, then chances are your dictionary and my dictionary only generally assimilate to congruency with each other. So then, ambiguity creeps in. You think you understand. I think you understand. And on that shaky foundation we begin to build further semi-understandings. And then we drift off in the general direction of misapprehension eventually.
Well, if you could see what I mean, there would be no ambiguity in our communication because the intention of language would be established in visual space with an existential modality about it similar to sculpture. I would make it—but having made it, you and I would both examine it, walk around it, and have the faith that we were looking at the same thing. And this would tend to erase our boundaries. So it’s very clear that communication (of the ordinary sort; small mouth noises transduced across acoustical space, and symbolic notations thereof) has created the global civilization that we’re living inside of—but how much more collectivist, how much more community we would have if we could see what each other mean.
And so I’m beginning to assume that the proper way to think about these hallucinogens is as catalysts for language formation, as catalysts for the project of communication, and that the end result of the project of communication is that we become what we behold. In other words, there is not the sense of the observed and the observer, these two polarities of an experience are merged in the act of pure perception. And this is something emerging out of our biological organization. It’s not a cultural development, the way a new invention or a new mathematical algorithm or something like that would be. It’s an evolution of our neural capacity.
And then let me just say one more thing about it, and then we can talk about it. There is a model for this in nature that makes clear, I think, what I’m driving at. As many of you know, octopi change colors. We learn this from wonderful television programs about nature that keep us from being in nature, but nevertheless inform us of the details of nature. Octopi change color. They have a very large repertoire of dots, blushes, spottings, ripples, and so forth. It was for a long time thought that this was camouflage. Now it’s been understood by people who study animal communication that this is not camouflage, this is language. The octopus does not make small mouth noises that move through space, because in the aqueous medium there are certain physical problems that make that an improbable way to do business. What the octopus does is: it is its own syntax. It doesn’t generate syntax, it becomes syntax. So the mind of the octopus is worn on its surface. Its thoughts ripple across its geometry as color changes. It is, in effect, operationally, a naked mind—not a naked brain, a naked mind.
So when one octopus encounters another, by the mere act of looking it can tell how long it’s been since the other one has eaten, how long it’s been since it’s had sex, what its general attitude toward the world is at that moment, so forth and so on. It is able to visually apprehend the mental universe of the other. This is why octopi extrude ink into the water: it’s because it’s the only way they can create a private dimension for themselves. Because for an octopus to be beheld is to be understood. So you can think of octopus ink as correction fluid for misspoken cephalopods, if you like.
Well, in a sense, this is what we, I think, are headed for. In a way, we can already do this in a very crude way. We have faces. No other animal has a face. Other animals have fronts to their heads, but we have faces. It’s an area where a lot of musculature is under the control of the intent to communicate. So by scowling, squinting, rolling one’s eyes, looking away, so forth and so on, we communicate. Imagine if that communicative ability, rather than being confined to a few square inches on the front of the skull, were to spread out over the entire body. And, of course, for the octopus in an aqueous medium, it can fold and unfold itself, it can reveal and hide parts of its body very quickly. It can, in fact, communicate faster than we can communicate with small mouth noises. And this ability to communicate is so important to the biological foundations of octopus existence that, when the octopi—all of whom (or all of which, I’m not sure) evolved in the shallow waters near coastlines—when those environments became evolutionarily crowded, the octopi evolved into the benthic depths; into the parts of the ocean where no light ever reaches. But in order to maintain lines of communication, over long periods of time they evolved phosphorescent organs on their bodies, and eyelid-like membranes covering those phosphorescent organs. So in the benthic depths of the sea, all that one octopus ever encounters of another is its pure linguistic intent. Nothing else can be seen. So I think that the DMT elves—I mean, all I can figure is that they are trying to catalyze us to move up the scale in the refining of the bandwidth of our communication skills.
[???] expressing [???]
You mean do I feel more able to do that?
Yeah. Do you feel that you’re any closer, or is it otherwise just maybe an entertainment instead of an enlightenment? If we are to actually reach it.
Well, no. I mean, they urge one toward a kind of glossolalia, a kind of ecstatic verbal activity that is devoid of attachment to the culturally contrived dictionary. And for a long time I could hear them do this. I could hear this stuff, this DMT gibberish, flowing through my mind. And then eventually I became able to do it. And it’s immensely satisfying.
This relates back to what we discussed this morning about how there’s DMT in the human brain being produced for some reason. You see, we do tend to connect successful linguistic activity with the visual cortex. In other words, if somebody successfully communicates something to you, you say, “I see what you mean,” “Now it’s clear to me,” “You’ve painted a picture.” Why is it that when we want to say that language is succeeding, we reach for visual metaphors? It’s because we trust our eyes. We don’t trust our ears. The world is defined for us as something seen. And the ambiguity of ordinary communication—which is culturally defined, and for each of us defined by basically where on the surface of the planet you first saw the light of day. You know, the French speak French, the Dutch speak Dutch, why can’t the English learn how to speak? Or, no, that’s something else. But what I’m talking about is an Ur-language that you don’t learn from a culture, but that you learn in the same way that you know how to breathe, you know how to eat, you know how to grasp. It’s in the organic structure rather than in the cultural software.
But is it communication? Can you communicate with others? On this level.
Other human beings? You can if you’re both loaded on DMT. But that’s such a chaotic environment in which to sort this kind of stuff out. That’s what drove me to the Amazon in the first place, was: the DMT flash is so maddeningly short. I mean, you’re trying to sort all this out and assure yourself you’re not dead as a doornail in about two and a half minutes. And I thought we need to slow it down and stretch it out. Why does it have to be like a Bugs Bunny cartoon run backwards at five times normal speed? I mean, you just cannot get a grasp on it. And over the years, judicious manipulation of these substances and all kinds of special conditions, eventually you see what it is. And it’s almost as though language is trying to be born out of matter. The pure energy thing of fifties science fiction may in fact be a fairly accurate take on where we’re headed. We are headed toward becoming pure syntactical intentionality, just shedding the monkey, just shedding any umbilical cord into matter. Matter is becoming a fairly uncomfortable dimension for us to be in, and I dare say matter would probably be highly relieved to have us just move on, so that the rainforest, chipmunks, glaciers, and schooling salmon could go back to doing what they do best.
Well, this could be. I mean, all I’ve ever seen of that other universe is an area smaller than this room, and yet I assume that other universe is probably equal in size to our own. So I’m not exactly Ferdinand Magellan where it’s concerned. Yeah, I think our materialism has focused as so entirely away from these more rarefied layers that we cannot see them at all, that we in fact deny their existence. You know, in a way, what science—as practiced over the past 500 years—has come down to is: it has been a relentless despiritualizing of the world. Until finally, you know, they tell you there is no soul, there are no spirits, what you see is what you get. We have risen to the surface. Well, a shaman looking at a person with that kind of a mental map of things just pities them their simplistic stupidity. He just says, “My god, you’re like a halfwit or something.” Because everything interesting and complex you say it doesn’t even exist.
I agree. But that doesn’t mean that, because we, as a culture, are now at a point where we do need to go back to these forgotten lands.
That’s true, but also, eventually you get into a situation of diminishing returns. For instance, it was a great step forward for van Leeuwenhoek to grind his lenses and to see little animals cavorting in a drop of water. But, for instance, now, ordinary science is going to Congress and saying, “In order to take another step deeper into the understanding of matter we want 20 billion dollars to create an instrument 17 miles in diameter that will take 30 years to build and that will allow us to at last confront the bottom quark,” or something like that. I heard these guys on NPR, probably some of you heard them, being challenged—particle physicists—being challenged by someone who said, “Well, you want America to commit 50 billion dollars to building the supercollider. Can you name a single spinoff from particle physics that has trickled down into the lives of ordinary people?” And they were absolutely stymied.
I kind of go with Peter Russell’s theory that, perhaps, from our technological culture we did get something. First of all, none of us would be here if it was not for technology, because today we have close to five billion people on Earth. That might be a curse, but that also might be—do you want to be the one who is not born?
A tricky question!
So in that fact of life explosion, there is one thing that happened is that we do now have a conscious of ourself as one planet, as one whole being. I mean, even with the technology of going to the Moon, through the physicality we have a view of ourself from the outside. I mean, to me I look like maybe in the evolution of humanity it’s like being seven years old, you know, and you suddenly say, “Hey, I am me!” You know? I am somebody. And I can decide to say no or to say yes. But there’s something there, there is an entity. And so the planet—that’s what we did when we went to the moon. And the Indians, you know, I go down to [???] every week and I participate with the Indian community down in San Pedro, so I’m trying to learn a bit of what they think. And a lot of thing I enjoy [???] other things I don’t agree totally. For instance, with the Moon thing, they say, “Well, we’ve been to the Moon many, many times before, and we go to the Moon through the dream world.” See, like you went to the elves. But a lot of people go to the stars. There is a lot of other realities out there. And it’s not the future, and it’s not the past. It’s just life [???] rich—
But do you think that it’s simply that there are a lot of realities? For instance, what puzzles me about these encounters with these elf-things is the urgency from their side. You know, I could imagine just breaking into an elf ecology and seeing them busy making shoes and putting the blush on strawberries, or whatever elves do. But they seem intently focused on a project that has consequences in this world. And that puzzles me. I don’t think history has been a waste of time. I think probably it’s served its purpose, and that what we now have to do is take what we’ve learned—it’s the prodigal son, I mentioned that—and now return to the archaic family with the ability to move to the Moon and to etch micro-circuitry and to define the protein coats of viruses, and these fancy things that we can do. All that is good knowledge, but it has to be linked to a coherency of self that we somehow have gotten so strung out on this scientific descriptive binge that we forgot why we’re doing it and what this is all for.
The basis of my criticism of science is not the science that it does—which it does very well—but the metaphysical pontificating that it claims to be able to do based on nothing more than its assumption that all competitors are naïve. I mean, science should not be telling us what we should think about astrology, because astrology is not a proper object for scientific judgment. In other words, science is simply one method of understanding the world. But the people who practice science think it’s a meta-method, think that it’s somehow the arbiter of truth and that we are supposed to take any proposition and lay it at the feet of science and it will tell us whether it’s kosher or not. And that means that the scientists are completely out of their domain and should be sent back to the workbench and the test tube, and stay out of the domain of metaphysics and philosophy, which is not properly their area.
That’s part of the [???]
Well, if it’s all nonsense, then we’re in a hell of a fix.
Well, that’s where we make [???]
Wittgenstein had a slightly different notion that I think is more serviceable here. He said what we want to do is we want to make statements that are true enough. Now there’s a monkey concept! That’s what we want. We want to say things which are true enough. That means serviceable in the circumstance in which they are being applied. And that—
Yeah. Or whatever, you know. If you’re solving tensor equations of the third degree, then in that domain. But the idea—you see, it’s so crazy to think that talking monkeys could get anywhere near truth. I mean, do you think a sea urchin possesses the truth, or a macaw? Well then, why you? And especially when you realize we do all this business in English, and we’re utterly naïve about the limitations of language. You can’t even—I mean, take someone like Derrida, for instance. Whatever the man’s truth is, it can’t even be exported into English without becoming gibberish, because when you read him you can’t understand him.
And as you suggested, these elves that you’re talking about have a medium of pure language.
Or a purer language. Yes, well, language—you know, if you were to look at this planet and seek the thumbprint of a higher intelligence (god or the goddess or whatever), language is the thing to look at. I mean, this is the thing we do that is an incredible symmetry break with the rest of nature.
You think a dog can [???] those stairs and that floor, or the rug and that, or even the flowers and that? He sees it as a continuum that simply is a texture. Like we look at this rug, we don’t identify that spot from the rest of it, we just simply say it’s a rug.
Well, an animal intelligence is suspended in the here and now. We have—language seems to be a strategy for binding time. And notice that the entirety of evolutionary advance is a series of time-binding strategies. Once you possess language, and especially once you possess writing, the past is not so past as it used to be, it hangs around and we begin to create a database of experience larger than any community of living people could ever have. And the past stays with us. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Notice that we have industrial cultures as a result of the accumulation of written language. That there’s a simultaneousness between written language and agriculture, et cetera, and industrial culture.
Oh yeah. I don’t have any problem with that. You know, somebody said language was created to lie. Yes, but it does it so elegantly and so well that the half-truths it tells are all that we can communicate. The truth cannot be said.
It may even be possible to chart the evolution of a single individual from an infant all the way to his maturity as one who takes the journey from the right side of his brain into the left side of his brain, crossing a certain membrane there where he switches his dominant from right to left, and then going full circle, and then once again becoming “spiritual” by adopting and integrating the right once again.
Well yeah, these are all metaphors and analogies for a process which is essentially incomprehensible. There is no reason to expect reality to be rationally apprehendable. This is the basic fallacy: that we so confidently assume the world is for us that we assume that we should also therefore be able to understand it. When in fact what we’ve done is just carved out a very limited domain of repetitious algorithms that don’t have fatal consequences for us, and then the rest of it lies in the realm of the great who knows. But since there’s very little percentage to be made out of that, people prefer to keep their faces turned inward toward the campfire, not outward toward the immense darkness revealed by the campfire. And the bigger you build the campfire of metaphor, the more darkness you reveal outside of its domain. So if ever there was an argument for open-endedness and a defocusing on closure, it would be the linguistic enterprise, I think. Yeah.
[???] it may—language may be the carrier or the virus that in fact causes consciousness. There may not be any consciousness without this infection of language.
Yeah, well, I don’t have any trouble with that. I mean, William Burroughs said language is a virus from outer space. And, well, it may be. It does have—you know, it self-replicates itself, it spreads through a population, ideas mutate, they compete with each other, ideas become extinct, new ideological forms that are more adaptable squeeze out other forms. I mean, the whole evolution of organic life may be simply a lower-dimensional rehearsal for a kind of syntactical evolution that is going to go on in a domain that we can barely conceive of.
Yeah, over here?
Myself, I’m not so concerned with what truth is, but what in fact works in one’s life, and how one uses the word or uses the ideas to manifest in the reality that we’re swimming through. In light of that, I was wondering about the mushroom morphogenetic fields, the plant community in terms of allies that one can become connected with as an eclectic community that we’re all participating in. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, I’ve talked with Rupert a lot about this, and sort of different things can be said. I mean, one way of thinking about what the psychedelic experience is is that psychoactive compounds amplify the morphogenetic field to the point where it becomes a potential object for inspection by the conscious mind. In the same way that we know right now that this room is filled with radio, VHF, UHF signals, but we also know that we would have to have a radio or a television set in order to tap into them, the morphogenetic field is ordinarily damped by experience but becomes overwhelmingly present when we jack our neural physiological receptors up to the point where these previously invisible influences become visible.
The other thing in terms of the morphogenetic field theory and how it relates to psychedelics is to realize that when you take a plant, the plant takes you. And so, for instance, one of the reasons I prefer shamanic hallucinogens to synthetics is that they are so much richer as databases, because they have inside them all the people who’ve ever taken them. I mean, when you take psilocybin, you leave something behind in there that every subsequent user of psilocybin will encounter. So you know the way Tibetans leave little cairns of rock when they cross high mountain passes? Well, this is what we’re doing in the psychedelic experience. And really, the character of psilocybin is the cumulative superimposition of the character of the thousands and thousands of people over the millennia that have taken it, plus something else—its own unique nature.
When you take a drug which induces an altered state like ketamine, for instance—ketamine is a drug that has not been around very long, hasn’t been taken by millions of people, and is oddly empty. The building is there, the architecture is there, but where are the hurrying secretaries, the watercoolers, the executives, the buzzing? Nothing, you know? It’s empty real estate. It’s for rent. And if you want to move in, well, then you can live there. But it’s the difference between a modern office building and a fourteenth-century Italian villa when you contrast a modern synthetic with a well-used shamanic organic.
A lot of times, when I first take like five grams or something, I get this—this is kind of a simple thing—but it’s a yawn. I’m wondering if… does anybody else get that yawn?
No, the yawn is a physiological response to psilocybin that is part of it. And so is the runny nose in the first hour. This is—you know, every drug has a spectrum of effects, and some are dependable and some are not. I mean, for instance, LSD, you could almost say 100 percent of the people who take LSD it dilates your eyes. That is an effect of LSD that it would be impossible to eliminate. But I wouldn’t say 100 percent of the people who take LSD encounter the good lord, or something like that. That’s a more selective effect.
Okay. The second part is: after I take five grams and after I get the buzzing sounds in my ears. And then, this last time I took it was in a darkened room, laid on the bed, got naked, and just laid there. And for the first time what happened—usually I close my eyes and I’m able to get visions, kind of a passing vision, almost like a film going through my head. I’m wondering also, does anybody get it where it’s coming from the right to the left, or from the left to the right. Sort of a film coming across?
Terence, how about you?
Well, I think that the number of ways these things can present themselves is practically infinite. I mean, I’ve had really weird experiences with information. For instance, you know these flashers on buildings where the news goes by? I’ve had hallucinations where it became a textual hallucination. In other words, what I was seeing was an illuminated page of print, and then as I looked at it every fiftieth letter would invert, and then suddenly every twentieth, and then every tenth, and then every fifth, and I literally watch a page of text go from being readable to being gibberish, and then watch the meaning come through again in a loop. I mean, I think anything you can conceive of it can do, and many things you can’t conceive of it—
[???] the gift of bringing our own ideas.
But still, you have to be able to make general statements about it, or you would have to say that it’s all and everything. One of the—
If it were exactly the same it would be boring.
Well, though how would you know, since you would never have any trip but your own? One of the things that happens on psilocybin and on ayahuasca that really puzzles me that I just go back to again and again is: you can be having these volleys of hallucination, and then you can say to it, “Art deco,” and click, and suddenly there will be thousands of cigarette lighters, limousines, candy dishes, stuff rolling in black space in front of you. Thousands of these things perfectly exemplifying this very narrowly defined aesthetic domain. Say “Italian baroque,” click, altar pieces, saints with their eyes rolled back, dripping gold, the whole thing. And so you say, “Boy, that is really strange.” We click through aesthetic epochs like points on a dial. But then you can say to it, “Surprise me!” [Audio cut] and Baroque, not [???], not dynastic Egypt, not North American Indian, Maya, or Fujiwara Japanese, but something never seen on this planet, but equally coherent as those other styles. And I always think, you know: my god, if I could just grab hold of this, I would be Yves Saint Laurent or Klimt or somebody like that.
And then, you know, the most puzzling one of all is, you can say to the mushroom, “Okay, enough of surprises, Art Deco, Italian Baroque. Show me what you are for yourself.” And then it’s almost like there’s a roll of drums, and black curtains begin to rise, and there’s a cold air that sweeps through the room, and you realize after about 45 seconds of that you have to call a halt. Because you realize this thing had clothed itself in so many levels of visual reassurance for you, as a human being, that the request that it reveal its true nature sets off a cascade headed in a truly appalling direction. And usually you say, “Okay, that’s enough of your true nature. Let’s go back to dancing chipmunks and the little candies in the dark.”
You mean a machine that could be driven by the imagination? It’s pretty—well, it raises a bunch of questions. I mean, the first question is: where is thought generated? The straight people believe that the brain makes thought. Makes it. I think that the evidence is overwhelmingly against that. That that’s as naïve an approach to thought as—I remember when I was little I once tore apart a radio looking for little people inside of it. And there are no little people inside the radio, the radio transduces vibrations that surround the planet and turns it into a recognizable experience.
I don’t believe thought can be located in the brain. I think the brain is an amplifier and an antenna for something that’s everywhere. But the phrase “my thought” is the complete misnomer. You don’t own thoughts. You don’t generate them. All you do is tune into an ocean of thought in which we’re embedded. This is the morphogenetic field about which so much shouting and arm-waving is going on. To my mind, the proof of this position is the fact that the psychedelic experience unleashes visions in your head which you could not possibly have conceived of or imagined. It doesn’t come from you. If we say that the content of the psychedelic experience comes from the self, then we have defined the self in such a way that it’s unrecognizable to us. And if yourself is unrecognizable to you, then it isn’t your self, you see. So these things are proving that we participate in the world of mind, but that we don’t generate it.
[???] same thing. It’s a universal thought.
Well, it’s—that’s like saying: when we swim in the ocean, why don’t we all see the same fish? Because the ocean is enormous. Because we all enter it from different angles of attack.
[???] swimming together, we’d experience the same fish?
Yes we would. And on psilocybin one of the most stunning experiences you can have (if you wanted to make a believer out of you) is to sit with somebody and describe what you’re seeing, and agree that after three minutes you’ll shut up and they’ll start up, and you discover that you just hand the baton on. They see what you see, you see what they see. This is confounding. You see, if we could do legal research with this stuff we could overturn the paradigms of normal science in a number of areas within eighteen months. I’m sure of it! I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen states of group-mindedness that was so specific that there was not possibility, there was not happening, was no shit, one-on-one, real-time telepathy.
Well, there are countries in the world where psychedelic research is tolerated, is the only way to put it. But it’s in the hands of scientists and people of the imagination-impaired are largely in charge of these research programs. They’re asking the wrong questions, you know? I mean, if you get a—well, that’s enough.
[???] They just released their new newsletter. And what this newsletter said, basically, is that a recent convened meeting with the FDA, and a couple days after that with the National Institute for Drug Abuse, they worked out an arrangement now where MDMA at least, and they say in another article here that possibly LSD testing will be undertaken very seriously in the near future. And this is going through MAPS, and working with the FDA to get certain types of permits for the more intensive research that should be done in this field.
There is, I think—the resistance to psychedelic research is beginning to weaken because an entire generation of people—people who were three and four years old in the 1960s are now entering the medical research establishment as postdocs and so forth. And there is no good reason to be given for not having a research program on psilocybin, for example. I mean, it was never a social problem. It is a valid object for scientific research. It is amazing to me, the gutlessness of the scientific establishment on this matter. I mean, we hear about the omnipotence of the AMA and so forth and so on. Why has the scientific establishment lain down like a dog and let politicians set the research agenda for human research on psychedelics? The last time this happened was in the fourteenth century when the Pope and his cronies tried to make it impossible for people to dissect corpses, because they didn’t want people to understand human anatomy. Well, in that situation, instead of swallowing it and instead of putting up with it, medical students would steal bodies off the gallows and trail along behind armies to look at the freshly killed in order to create a compendious understanding of human anatomy. And they did.
In the twentieth century, science—which would have you believe that it’s absolutely unbiased and it goes wherever curiosity seeks without prejudice or deference to anybody’s social values or anything—is in fact a sycophantic slave to the agenda of these frightened politicians. So it’s a real disgrace. Because I lived through the first psychedelic revolution. And the news about LSD swept over the psychoanalytic community with the kind of force that the splitting of the atom swept over the physics community. And people involved in treating mental illness and studying brain function and mapping the brain said: this is amazing. A tool has been put into our hands that will throw open doorways in the practice of psychology we couldn’t dream of. And instead it was absolutely slammed shut.
Imagine if Galileo had smashed his telescope after there was a little bit of whining from the Vatican. Had that happened we would still be living in a universe defined by the Aristotelean stellar shells. A little courage on the part of these almighty scientists would go a long way toward overwhelming the fearful strictures placed on by politicians who are trying to maintain a social equilibrium that is fairly odious anyway.
[???] organized enough for you to answer. Your remarks about the telepathy—after some extremely intense boundary-dissolution experiences with my wife, we had gotten to the point where using straight [???] we routinely had each other’s visions. I’m wondering if it isn’t as much a matter of a learned response as anything else.
No, I think it is a learned response. I think it requires psychedelics usually to plow the channel. But once you open the groove, then there are ways to reinforce it. And one of the underrated tools in this game is the power of acoustical driving and the power of sound to synergize subtle chemical reactions. I mean, music is so compelling to us because it is essentially brain massage of some sort. And the pleasure we derive from music is at some level a chemical pleasure. And I think trying to get to these places with yoga and drumming and fasting and all that is a pretty thankless task unless you clear the way with psychedelics. And then you can really get somewhere.
If you use psychedelics in combination with any of these traditional techniques for working in these areas, suddenly these traditional techniques (previously found to be maddeningly ineffective) become very, very powerful tools. So mantra with psychedelics works like magic. Yoga, breath control, drumming, visualization, simple prayer—it all works amazingly well in the presence of psychedelics. And in the absence of psychedelics entirely it’s a pretty frustrating get-go. And unfortunately these non-psychedelic spiritual techniques are very quickly co-opted by the beady-eyed priests among us, who then peddle it back to us with a menu of moral do’s and dont’s stapled to the front of it, and that’s entirely discouraging.
Yeah. My other question kind of ties together some things you’ve mentioned earlier in the day. You mentioned way back when about no one else having the experiences that you have. And so my question is to the whole issue of community and lifestyle. The issue that I’m wrestling with right now, I think part of what I’m experiencing is my own drive for wholeness or insight or whatever. Part of it is perhaps the transcendental object on the event horizon. But what I’m wrestling with is how to follow my muse, how to live the life that’s drawing me, and at the same time able to function and pay my child support and not live in the woods. And if you could maybe give some guidance to me and some others of us sort of wrestling with that issue.
Well, this is the tension between the transcendental and the mundane. What do you do about it? I don’t know. I experience it as a real tension as well. Because, you see, all these other spiritual techniques—yoga, breath control, diet, you name it—the way you pursue those is with the pedal to the metal. In other words: full on, full court press. The way you relate to psychedelics is entirely the opposite: with your foot on the brakes all the time. The people who are using these non-psychedelic techniques are endlessly frustrated by the fact that they’re not able to get where they want to go, I think. The people who use psychedelics spend a huge amount of time trying to keep from overshooting the goal and losing themselves in the incomprehensible who knows what.
I think that if you have a genuine desire to leave us all behind, and to go up on cold mountain and to become a Taoist immortal, and to clothe yourself in a hare shirt and eat roots and contemplate the One forever—hey, there’s nothing stopping you. It’s just that that’s an easy goal to annunciate when it’s practically impossible. But in the presence of psychedelics is quite realizable. But then you have to think: but wait a minute, what about child support? What about my love of double cappuccinos? What about—and then you say: well, I could leave this world. I could become an ascended master. But is that what I really wanted all along? And I think this is a tension. I mean, I feel it in myself. Basically, I do what I do, and it’s a chickenshit response to what I could be doing. Because what I could be doing is becoming utterly incomprehensible to everybody else on the planet, and living in a tree somewhere, and happily staring into space every waking minute. But I am not ready to kiss off my library, my children, my friends, my vices.
And so people in our position have to balance these things. And I think the real spiritual frontier lies in the community; that we must—you know, it’s sort of the bodhisattvic ideal: we must somehow carry everyone with us. It’s not about bailing out of history, it’s about sticking with it until we can end it for everybody. But I’m not saying that’s the only point of view. If you want to become an arhat, I don’t think there’s anything stopping you. See, once you get to the place where you find out by some set of peculiar circumstances about these things—psilocybin, DMT, and so forth—you have crossed a real frontier. This is not simply another spiritual technique for picayunish advancement; one more small step down the path. This is—in fact, this works. And maybe you never thought you would find something that works.
Well, so the entire—you see, the attitude, it’s a naïve attitude to quest. It’s the attitude of the ingénue, the fool, the Castaneda figure seeks. Once you reach the psychedelic plateau, the tool has been placed in your hands now. Now you have to figure out whether you were really serious about all this transcendental yearning that you indulged in when it seemed so far out of reach. Because now it’s just a dose away. And we all come to that very differently. It’s a different dilemma from the rest of the spiritual community. They just need more and more power. We need more and more insight and wisdom in order to know what to do with the fact that we can now achieve whatever we conceive of. So now is a moment to take a deep breath and decide where we really want to go with this stuff.
[???] I just wanted to go back to you talking about the AMA. I know I’ve heard Dr. [???]’s talk about how to use LSD in treating autism. I knew a guy that was autistic and regained his hearing [???] LSD when he was twelve years old. I believe the AMA does not want us to be healthy. They do not want us to have the tools. There’s a book called Chacrik Psychology about how psychopharmacology is actually making people braindead. If you go back in time, the original healers who used plants and herbs were burned at the stake for being witches because of the medical [???] had back then and [???] had been the original healer. And like now the FDA is doing this in trying to outlaw plants and herbs for healing and anything. And vitamin, food supplements, everything. I myself, I don’t teach pharmaceutical drugs because they make me sick. And the only thing I have to use for my PMS is hemp. And it’s the only thing that works. And we all have to be somewhat political and make statements to people and enlighten them and educate them as to what’s really going on, because there’s a whole world that could be opened up if we started using our plants and herbs for healing again.
Yeah, I agree.
There’s a lot of holistic centers opening up all over. I was just in one in [???], north Washington, and it was really rewarding and wonderful to see physicians actually reaching out and searching other healers, shaman, and also herbalists. Everybody practiced. So it is coming, and it’s very slow, but it’s coming around.
And faster and faster.
I think that’s why we have [???] right now is trying to do away with it, because it is growing. If you knew the legislation that is going on right now, they are raiding health food stores with guns and taking things out of there, like aloe vera products. [???] we haven’t approved of it, and they’re taking—I guarantee you, this is happening right now. And that’s why you have to be aware and you have to educate people about it.
But, you see, at the same time they’re granting the first IMDs for psychedelic research in thirty years. So instead of taking a paranoid view that “they” are against it and us, I just think that if you dissect these human institutions, what you find always are individuals, and usually these institutions are fraught with internal conflicts about what they’re doing. There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of mistrust, and very few people go around rubbing their hands together and cackling over the fact that they’re committing acts of pure evil. Most people have some kind of internal story that tells them that they are doing the very best they can. It’s just that there are also a lot of jug-headed misconceptions about what the “best we can” actually means. This is why dialog is so important, why free speech is such a powerful notion. Let all ideas compete on a level playing field, and the correct points of view, I think, will emerge eventually.
That’s why we need people like you out there.
Backing up a little bit to the journeys of elfdom and other places. Most shamanic journeys seem to be almost, even when they’re begun as a group thing, end up being a solitary journey. Whether you’re the octopus with the colors displaying yourself, and you’re out there. Very rarely do you hear of people [???] with another mind being. Not the body being, but a mind being. So in these journeys, whether you’re in elf realm or another realm, is there a reading between these other entities and you in your journey to their world or their space? Is there a communication at all? And also, can you go with somebody from this realm out there, but on a mind plane, or as you described the octopus thing where you’re communicating not with words or a dictionary?
Well, it’s hard to say. You know, Plotinus, who was a neo-platonic philosopher, he described the mystical experience as the flight of the alone to the alone. And there’s certainly an element in the psychedelic element of its being so large a dimension that, when you go into it, you not only see things that you have never seen before, and not only do you see things that no one else has seen before, but you see things which no one else will ever see again. So I tend to—and this is just my personal preference, and I’m a double-Scorpio and a number of different things that push me in this direction—but I really like to do the deep work alone, and then try to bring it back, and this is the proper domain for sharing and community.
We know that the psychedelic that behind five grams of psilocybin lies a psychedelic world. But how can we create a psychedelic world here and now on zip? And the answer is: by becoming ever more psychedelic ourselves. And so it’s a tremendous empowerment for eccentricity. And basically my whole career is based on eccentricity. One of the most fearful questions to come my way was when I’m riding on airplanes to some situation like this, and someone sits down beside me and says, “So what do you do?” And I usually try to escape. I say—and this is all a horribly weak thing—I say, “Oh, I write books.” And then they say, “Oh, well what do you write books about?” And then we move into the realm of pure lie. I usually say, “Travel.”
So I think if you have—I mean, to return to your question—if you have an extraordinary heart connection with someone, you can voyage together a certain distance. But this is a unique kind of thing. And probably many a relationship has experienced unnecessary strain because somebody thought they had that kind of connection, and then when they got out into the incoming psychic surf they discovered one person forgot their tanks back on the beach.
[???] you said earlier, and I heard you say before, that behind five milligrams of one thing and five hundred of another there is a little green elf or something else. Is that a consistence picture for you—not that the experience would not be new in terms of communication—but is that consistent? Do you, yourself, find that same image or that same level of [???] mushroom at that point? But then, secondly, in terms of the people that you communicate with who do measured quantities, and who do it similarly—say, Rupert Sheldrake—have other individuals communicated that they see those same type of creatures, for lack of a better word?
Well, I mean, the answer is: if you send ten people to Paris and then you interview them about their experience of Paris, one of them stayed with the wife of the prime minister, somebody else stayed in a bordello on the wrong side of town. Their notions of Paris are rather different. However, if you interview them closely enough you can tell that this must’ve been the same place in some sense. I mean, for me the DMT experience is remarkably consistent. It always is this dome, underground, filled with these self-transforming elf-machine creatures. And then, when I talk to other people and interview them about it, what I’ve come away with is the notion that an archetype is like a series of concentric circles. And to the degree that you reach the center of the circle, the accounts become more and more consistent.
For instance—and in thinking along those lines—what I’ve come to see about, for instance, DMT is that it has an archetype. And the archetype is—and god knows why—the circus. DMT is the archetype of the circus. So you give it to someone who is not psychedelically sophisticated, and you give them a low dose, and then they come back. Then you say, “What was it like?” This is a direct quote from a woman a couple of years ago—she said: “It was the saddest carnival I’ve ever been to.” She said, “All the rides were closed. Nobody was there. There were just gum wrappers blowing between boarded-up tents.” I said, “Interesting.” Then you give it to someone else, and they said, “It was full of clowns.” And I said, “You mean elves?” And he said, “No, just clowns.” And as the dose rises, the familiarity of the image is stripped away, and it migrates more and more toward this thing behind the mask.
Well now, if you think of the circus, it is an interesting archetype. First of all, three rings in constant activity. And it’s a wonderful thing for children. Children love the circus because there’s light and color and music and animals, and clowns. But then there’s also a side to it which children don’t see. I mean, you lift your eyes from the center ring and there is Eros in the form of the beautiful blonde woman in the tiny spangled costume who works without nets hanging by her teeth far above the center ring. And twisted into this erotic image is death. Because she works without nets. The whole point of her performance is the fact that she could fall and be killed. Well, then there’s yet another aspect to this circus archetype, which is: away from the lady in the spangled costume and the clowns climbing out of their little cars and the powdered elephants of many colors are the side shows that snake off into the darkness. The two-headed lady, the goat boy, and the thing in the bottle. They’re all there, too, to be looked at. So it’s this incredibly rich amalgam of light, color, humor, childhood memories, cotton candy, joy, Eros, death, the thing in the bottle, the wild animals, so forth and so on. And as you make your way toward it, different layers fall away.
[???] highly consistent with the [???] consistency with LSD and psilocybin. If you could make it clear as the consistency that you find with DMT.
Oh yeah. I think that—see, one of the great confusions about psychedelics is that they’re all the same. Like, in some textbooks, if you look up psilocybin it will say: a hallucinogen derived from fungi which causes LSD-type hallucinations. This is nonsense. This simply means that LSD arrived first on the workbench of Western civilization, so everything is referent back to it. If you’re going to take these things, you need to take enough that you can tell the difference. And at low doses all psychedelics are the same. It’s just the experience of agitation and psychic inner turmoil—sort of like speed, you know. But as the doses increase you begin to hit the bifurcation point.
And these things have distinct personalities. For instance, DMT: the elf playroom reception area. That seems to define it. The amazing thing about psilocybin and its distinguishing characteristic is: it speaks. It speaks in English to you. It conversationally approaches you, and you talk to it in your mind. I mean, this is an amazing thing. If you’ve never experienced it, there’s something out there for you. Try it.
That’s what was behind asking you that question. Because I don’t have any DMT experience. I’ve never taken it. I’ve taken psilocybin just in the form of the mushrooms themselves in a botanical garden. And I don’t have much other experience. And what happened was quite transformational in the long term because it put me in touch with the plant world. But I didn’t close my eyes. I had no other realm. It was the realm that was there in the garden. A communication—you said it last night—with the mind of that botanical area. The mind of that plant world that was there. It talked to me. I guess it got translated into English, so it was kind of saying everybody should have very close to them a realm like this to be in, and people would be okay. Do everything you can to support that.
That’s the message! And, for instance, the mushroom has a personality. And like all personalities, it excludes some things and includes others. The mushroom personality is a radically eccentric personality. The mushroom talks about transforming the planet. It says, “I come from a distant part of the galaxy. I have 500 million years of galactic history in my databanks. I have seen 50,000 worlds come into existence and pass out of existence. I’ve seen ships the size of Australia depart for Andromeda. I’ve seen this. I’ve seen that.” It’s willing to show you the news reels of it. That kind of—and it says, “Your world is ending. Put your furry paw into my hand, and together we will march out to the stars.” It’s this dumm-dumm duh-daaah.
Well, so then you take a compound or a shamanic hallucinogen like ayahuasca. Chemically this is very, very similar to DMT. Experientially it could hardly be more different. Ayahuasca does not show you images of enormous machines in orbit around alien planets and that sort of thing. Ayahuasca, first of all, it doesn’t speak, it shows. You become like the eye of a camera, flying through a world. And what it shows you, it’s much more feminine. It shows you water flowing over the land. It shows you plant life growing and dying. It shows you the movement of glaciers over the surface of the land. It shows you people burying their dead. It shows you archaic civilizations. It shows you women nursing their children. It shows you meat. It shows you the stuff of this world on every level. And it moves you to tears. I mean, it’s emotive. It’s not about our cosmic destiny out there in the starry blackness. It’s about coming to terms with the Earth and our past and each other. And you say, “These are personalities. These are visions.” And the idea is to fuse all of this into a single unitary perception that does honor to all and limits none.
—the scientific community that we are devolving rather than evolving.
Well, you’re referring to the Burgess Shale and whatshisname’s book, Wonderful Life, right? Yeah. I sort of differ with your interpretation of it. It wasn’t that these things were more complex than any lifeforms on the Earth today, it was that they represented a large number of phyla, none of which exist on the Earth today. So the point that was being made by the paleontologists is: apparently we started out with many different phyla, and then it narrowed at some point into just a few phyla, which then re-radiated out into all the forms we possess today.
So I think—other people have brought this up, and it’s a troubling example because it tends to throw a railroad tie against the onrushing of my rhetorical freight train, but that’s the name of the game, folks! It probably is true that, at an early point in the evolution of life—I mean, it’s obviously now established—there were these many, many different phyla. And for unknown reasons certain phyla became extinct, and then the phyla which were left radiated and filled all the abandoned niches that had previously been occupied by these now extinct organisms. But nevertheless, we have to look at this question of: for reasons unknown they became extinct. Why did some phyla survive and others not? It would be inconsistent with the theory of evolution to suggest that this happened entirely by chance. There must have been some adaptive advantage possessed by the phyla that made it through whatever these narrow evolutionary necks were, and then the phyla which survived these climatological crises (or whatever they are) radiated into an incredible number of complex forms that nevertheless could be traced to a small number of earlier phyla.
More in line with the thrust of your argument, a more difficult to answer objection—that I don’t know why I’m telling you this, because it erodes my own position—but I was preaching this “the world complexifies through time” rap at Esalen one time, and a guy was staying with me there who was a professional Russian translator. He was a Russian, and a linguist. And he said, “You know, there’s a major exception to your rule that all phenomena complexify through time, and that is language.” He said as we go back into the past, languages become richer. And I am still puzzling over this. I don’t think it’s an inherent property of language, I think it’s because, as we go back into the past, languages become more and more localized. And local variations develop in small confined geographical areas, so that then, when you pour all these languages together, there tends to be a certain leveling. And this probably results in a general fall in the total number of words being used in a language. In other words, if in Canada they call a windshield a windscreen, and in England they call it something else, well then, as long as Canada, England, and the U.S. don’t communicate, we have three words for windshield. But if these three cultures communicate frequently and deeply, probably a couple of these words will become obsolete or colloquial, and one term will dominate. So language is not evolving in a vacuum, you have to look at the effects of modern transportation, migrations of people, and that sort of thing. I agree that this is not—this complexification through time thing has the characteristic of a general tendency, but it’s not an ironclad natural law.
We can see that now, for instance, communism in the Soviet Union acted as a deep freeze for traditional cultures. Wonderful traditional cultures exist out on the steppes of central Asia, in Kyrgizia, Turkmenistan, Nagorno, [???], and these places. Well, these wonderful traditional cultures are probably now all trading in their colorful garb, vocabularies, and technologies for transistor radios, subscriptions to Time magazine and Der Spiegel, and generally lining up with the global leveling of culture that we see in the twentieth century. So these are complex issues, and you’re right, it isn’t entirely straightforward.
Do you mean the one to Prague or the one to Italy?
Well, I went to Prague to the ITA Conference—International Transpersonal Association Conference—in June, and I had never realized until I went there (it was my second trip to Czechoslovakia), but, you know, as children we grew up with a wonderful story of an emerald green country farmed by happy munchkins and ruled from a beautiful capital city built around a splendiferous palace, presided over by a wizard. And I realized Czechoslovakia is Oz for grownups. And the morphogenetic field of the place is such that it might be a place we should all consider as a good venue for an archaic revival. I think Prague in the nineties could be what Paris in the twenties was. It is, after all, the capital of old Bohemia.
You may not know why we are called bohemians. You don’t have to have a Slavic gene in your entire family tree, and can claim yourself as a bohemian. It’s because Bohemia stood for individual freedom, eccentricity, the magical arts, the practice of the arts, and a science which more gently approached the union of spirit and matter. And this whole potential alchemical civilization based around Prague was destroyed by the Thirty Years’ War. If you’re interested in all this you should read Frances Yates’ book The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, in which she shows that, at a certain point in Western history, there was the possibility of a Protestant alchemical revival in central Europe that was bungled by a series of diplomatic and cultural misunderstandings, and led instead to the Thirty Years’ War, which then—you know, before the Thirty Years’ War, Europe was thoroughly medieval in its character, really. And at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, modernity was launched. I mean, the absolute power of kings had been replaced by parliaments and people. And Prague, when the people who won the Thirty Years’ War got down to redraw the maps of Europe, they made sure that Prague fell on the wrong side of the language line and became a place that spoke a language spoken nowhere else in Europe—Czech—instead of the language that had been spoken there before the Thirty Years’ War by the court, which was Italian. So it’s a whole lost episode in Western history that not too many people know about. But we could all return to our bohemian roots and create a community under the gentle aegis of Václav Havel and similar philosophically right thinking people that might be a window of opportunity.
You know, it’s very important when you’re trying to make social change that you find the proper resting place for your fulcrum, or proper fulcrum for your lever. And the best place is outside the system that you’re trying to move. And if we’re serious about carrying on a major critique of American society, Prague might be an excellent place from which to do it—especially if, by some nightmarish fluke of fate, the knotheads currently in power are able to hang on.
Sorry for that brief foray into politics. That’s what Richard was trying to bait me into. Yeah?
Can you comment on what your feelings are in terms of our planet being colonized by extraterrestrials in terms of Atlantis and Lemuria and the land of Mu?
Yeah, I can. I’m not sure how much comfort it will give you. It seems to me an underwhelming proposition. In other words, if this happened, where is the evidence? You know, there have been fabulous civilizations existing in the past, but their artifacts, their buildings, their earthworks are available to be visited and seen. It seems to me—you know, in trying to build models I try to follow Occam’s razor. You all know what Occam’s razor is? Hypotheses should not be multiplied without necessity. And I just find the lost continent thing an unnecessary hypothesis. I think there are lost civilizations, but I think we do a grave injustice to our dilemma and our accomplishments by thinking that anybody ever stood in this position before.
To me, you see, there’s an impulse that’s very old in the Western mind to—and strangely enough I trade on it to some degree—it’s called the nostalgia for paradise. And it’s that we’re always looking back to a lost golden age. And I think there was a lost golden age on the plains of Africa 15,000–20,000 years ago. I discussed it this morning. But I don’t think high technology has ever existed before on this planet. Well, there’s just no evidence of it. And the Atlantean people and the enthusiasts of Mu and Lemuria are always trying to fiddle with the dates and say, you know, the Great Pyramid is 25,000 years old, and there’s a ruin on the Nazca plain that’s 50,000 years old. First of all, the evidence is absolutely unconvincing. And second of all, the miracle is not how old the breakout into language and technology is, but how recent it is.
I agree with you. I think that if you were to go scuba diving off of Bermuda and Bimini islands you would find what many people believe are artifacts from Atlantis. You can hike in [???] canyon, and most of what is to be found is underwater because of the shift in the continental plates 10,000 years ago or more. But many people believe that the UFO involvement in that civilization is still very active today. I know someone who you met last night, Robert Stanley from [???] magazine, who takes people on these expeditions in [???] canyon. He took somebody at the beginning of the summer, and a raw film was shot. The person was from the east coast, I believe in Boston, and he stayed, filmed it out, [???] just forgot about it. And he decided: okay, I might as well get this developed. And sure enough, hovering in the distance over this part of the canyon were twelve saucers. And it was a pretty obvious picture. I saw it last night for the first time. I was just curious, because I think that a lot of us don’t really feel with a lot of the information that’s coming out right now because it’s overwhelming. It’s almost like… wow!
Well, I am prepared to be convinced, but I’m not willing to buy in without a fair amount of evidence. As far as UFOs are concerned, I’ve thought a lot about it, I’ve seen them far away, up close. And it’s not what people say it is. And the problem—there are two phenomena. The UFO: who knows that that is. And then: the UFO community. And, my god, these people are much weirder than UFOs. I mean, they—the whole slew of them. And the whole problem with the UFO community is: apparently these people have never heard about the rules of evidence. I mean, they’re just full of revelation after revelation with absolutely zip to back it up. There are so many—I mean, you look at these UFO magazines. Well, do you want to believe Master Chen’s book of the Nubungi system, or do you want to go with the Billy Myers crowd, or what’s coming out of Brazil? I think Jacques Vallée in one of his books estimated that if you don’t believe UFOs only appear where there are witnesses, and take the number of sightings seen by people, and extrapolate that by the area of the surface of the Earth, you have to conclude that UFOs are coming and going from this planet at a rate of 12,000 a month! Well, my god, what kind of extraterrestrial contact is this at 12,000 a month for fifty years, and never a definitive piece of evidence!
I was talking to one of the researchers on the fetal abduction thing—this guy was all excited. He said to me, “I’ve talked to five hundred women who claim surgical removal of fetuses.” And he said, “And you know the amazing thing? There’s not a single sign of physical invasion of these womens’ bodies.” And I said, “Well, Dr. X, doesn’t this suggest something to you?” And he said, “Yeah, advanced surgical techniques of which we have no knowledge!” And I said, “Well, yeah. But give me a break.” So I think they have to operate in the light of the same evidence as everybody else. And their problem is that they claim to know too much. They’re just willing to tell you: 125,000 years ago they arrived to grow sweet peas, and then 100,000 years ago the project changed and the eleventh planet did something. Too much! Too much. That is too Jack Armstrongish.
Do you believe our government has a technology to travel in ships to other stars? Do you think we’re doing that today, or do you think that’s our future?
No, I don’t think we’re doing that today. I mean, we have a government that can’t knock off a loudmouth in Baghdad, let alone travel to other stars.
[???] program is limited to [???] reality [???] what’s going on [???] underground, and a whole network of societies, organizations within our government that are involved in researching technology?
Well, obviously there is a black portion of the government where research goes on and probably fairly kinky things are carried out. But these people are no different from us. I mean, some of them may be here today. And I don’t mean cops, I mean there may be NASA scientists here today—that we are not so different from the people we’re talking about. Human beings can not keep a secret. You may bank on it! So the idea that somebody possesses a technology thousands of years in advance of us—I mean, then, when you actually tear the lid off some of these government black operations, you don’t find superscientists and brilliant minds, you find people like Gordon Liddy and John Dean. Halfwits, clowns, seem to lie behind most of this.
I believe that no—I am not a conspiracy person. I believe that nobody is in control, and that the people who seek control are the most misguided of all, and that there’s a great deal more that we don’t know than we do know. And I would love to be convinced that something really far out were happening, but it just always seems to come apart in your hands. I consider stuff like the UFO phenomenon (popularly commercially available UFO beliefs) as basically viruses of language, diseases of understanding. If you could teach people about the laws of evidence, and how you build a case, and stuff like that, then people wouldn’t be troubled by this. The same fuzzy thinking that permits people to believe in UFOs permits them to believe in the eminent expectation of the second coming or the face of Christ appearing on tortillas, and all of this stuff.
Terence, may I stop here for a second? Is there a lot of people still with questions? Because we still have a lot of time—well, at least until six o’clock, supposedly. Can I have a show of hands? Okay, there’s a few more. Because we want to sort of limit the questions to one question per person, and sort of one rebuttal from that, so that everybody can get a fair share before we make a final….
This is a gentle hint to stop raving!
Oh, I see. Well, I say to the UFO people the same thing: what can you show us? Drag it forth. Everything has to be judged on the same field. If you’ve got something, spill it. But to claim—I don’t want to use names here, but stories like: well, we met the UFOs, and they gave us a message for mankind that, when we got back to our car, our tape recorder had miraculously erased itself—well then, be quiet! Don’t tell anybody this! Don’t you understand how lame that sounds to the doubter? It’s not the believer you have to convince. They’re a pushover. What are you going to do about your skeptics? That’s the problem.
You want me to tell you a story? I was in the Amazon, I was in a state of considerable psychic turmoil, and I sat up all night. This is told, by the way, in the book True Hallucinations, which will be published next year. And at dawn I looked across this lake, and there was a thin line of clouds on the horizon. And I watched this line of clouds. And then suddenly I noticed that they were turning in place like a pencil spinning on its axis; in one place. And then this line of clouds broke apart into four perfectly identical lenticular clouds. And then the four lenticular clouds merged into two lenticular clouds. And then the two merged into one. And as they merged into one, I heard the whee-whee-whee sound of Hollywood science fiction flying saucers, and I realized this thing was coming toward me across the lake. And it was absolutely convincing. It was a flying saucer. The real thing. And I was absolutely convinced that it was going to take me at that moment. And as it passed over only about 200 feet above my head, I could see it clearly enough that I could see rivets on its underside. I could see its running lights. I could see it. But you know what I saw? I saw the end cap of a 1932 model Hoover vacuum cleaner. It was the very same flying saucer that George Adamski suspended from a piece of mylar fishing line in 1953 and photographed in his garage; one of the most famous UFO hoaxes of all time. I saw it, a diameter of forty feet over the Amazon basin, and I knew what I was looking at. It was more disturbing than if it had been a ship from Zeta Reticuli, because it hat built-in cognitive dissonance.
Well, see, I believe you completely. I don’t have any problem with that. It’s simply an enormous leap to say that that was a craft from another star. It’s much better to just say it’s a who-knows-what-it-is. The world is full of weird stuff.
Just briefly, here’s my best theory on flying saucers, and a whole bunch of other stuff. This tries to solve all problems of this sort simultaneously. The transcendental object at the end of time—let’s drag it in here, and let’s imagine that it is like those mirrored balls that they hang in discos above the bar and spin. So then, I think that definitely there is a forward movement of causal necessity which propels us from the past into the present on into the future, but that there is also (and necessary to account for precognitive visions and stuff like that, which happen all the time) a flow of information from the future into the past. And the transcendental object at the end of time is casting reflections of itself backward into the past. And if you are struck—whatever that means—by one of these scintillas from the transcendental object at the end of time, then you begin to cure and teach. And if you really got a good hit, possibly raise the dead. I mean, I’m not sure how far it can go.
Now, also, these images from the transcendental object at the end of time haunt the skies of this planet in the form of spinning vortices of contradiction. This is what Jung said. He said the UFO is an image of the self. And I don’t mean the little self, I mean the collective self of humanity. So a story like Jim’s story—I have no problem with it. I take it as true. It’s the people who say, “And they revealed the nature of the fall of Atlantis and the world planet,” then it’s too much. Because it’s coming through human interpretation. The horrible thing about the UFO people who claim contact is that the aliens they present to us are so incredibly mundane. So much more mundane than what you would encounter on a DMT flash that they’re just like the neighbors next door.
I think that alien intelligence—the trick is not to find it, but to recognize it when it’s in front of you. Intelligence is a very slippery concept. Sometimes we can’t even identify it in the person sitting next to us on the bus. So how can you expect to identify the intelligence of an alien? It just seems incredibly unlikely to me. I think the world is a lot stranger than we suppose without evoking benevolent aliens who prefer vegetarian diets and who come from the stars. I mean, why do they so fit our preconception of what they would be? I mean, silvery humanoids! Alien intelligence and alien life, when and if you meet it, you’ll know you’re in the presence of the real thing because you’ll be barely able to wrap your mind around it.
[???] You know, maybe there’s a certain sense of reality about it. Maybe there is—
It could be a holographic projection out of the Gaian mind. It could be a race of intelligence saurians that rose and fell before the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. It could be all and everything. The trick is to try and get some kind of evidentiary hold on it.
Terence, this is a nuts-and-bolts question. But first I’d like to preface it by saying that I haven’t used psychedelics in twenty years, and I haven’t used marijuana in seven, and have been considering a return to the use of psychedelics. And when I stopped, the last experience which I had, it wasn’t a terrifying experience and it wasn’t a bad trip, it was similar—it presented similar insights that I have heard you mention and speak of. But there were times in which my psychedelic use left me rather shaken and terrified, dealing with fear of death and crossing over the line. But I have to say that my very first psychedelic experience was one which contained a death and rebirth experience. So I don’t know why after that, but that’s the nature [???] I suppose. So the question is—it’s a nuts-and-bolts-question—it’s how does one proceed with the use of psychedelics after a long absence from it, and not make mistakes, not run into the walls that I came into? And/or deal with, how to get around them, so forth and so on.
Well, I think the best protection against unpleasant experiences on psychedelics is to do it with care and attention in environments that are safe and low on sensory input. In other words, you don’t take it and go to a crowded singles bar, or even a rock’n’roll concert. I mean, if you have to combine psychedelics with rock’n’roll, do it with low doses.
I took it [???]
Well, this is the way to do it. It isn’t always going to be ecstatic, but it’s almost always guaranteed to be educational. There’s no way you can seal yourself off from shock, because shock may be what you need. But you can… attention to it—I mean fasting going into it, cleaning yourself up, creating a safe space, not going to it if you’ve just been highly agitated by some emotional upheaval in your life—and then take a long time to integrate it and think about it. It’s basically in the best sense of the word a religious activity. And the intellect or whatever it is that lies behind it is very sensitive to your needs and your limits. And unless you approach it with a cavalier attitude, it will usually be very gentle with you.
Now, this fear of death thing, though, is a hard thing to come to terms with because we are going to die, it’s scripted into the human experience. Culturally, there’s a great deal of anxiety around this. And basically, I think what one has to do is simply ride it out. In terms of advice as to what you do once you are in the middle of an unpleasant revelation—you can sing your way through that, you can smoke cannabis to shake up the pieces on the board, and you can just wait and put up with it.
The real issue, you see, around fear on psychedelics is a surrender issue. The ego plays a trick on you, because the ego begins to dissolve under the influence of the psychedelic. And the ego sends you the message: you are dying. This is its last, most desperate ploy to halt what is happening. Because the ego is dying. And to the degree that you identify with the ego, you’ll be driven into a state of panic. A joke about the lone ranger and Tonto are surrounded by Indians, and the lone ranger says, “Well, it looks like the end of the trail for us, partner.” And Tonto says, “What mean ‘us’, paleface?”
And you can sing. It will respond to [???] I am always—I am terrified of psychedelics. I never take them without a sense of sickening dread [???], because I figure I stand up in front of people and preach this stuff. And if it wants to get me, it will really get me good. And what I say to it when I take it, I say, “I am surrendering, I am surrendering myself to you completely. Do what you will with me. Please don’t hurt me. And if you must kill me, please do it quickly.” But I know people who have tried to order it around—heavy male dominator types who want to beat information out of it—and my god, they have bad trips so terrifying that they never come back to it again. If it decides to turn on you, it has resources that would make your hair stand on end. So you do it gently, reverently, and with a great deal of attention.