This one, I’m up to speed on this one. This is—Kathleen’s helping me out, because usually I don’t know what I’m teaching. And if there’s no catalog in the room, then we’re sort of hung out to dry. But this one I’m highly motivated, and so I’ve been looking forward to it. The Briefing for a Descent into Novelty.
What has made you highly motivated?
Well, because there’s a plunge into novelty happening. Or I’m claiming there is. So then we actually have something to look at and measure all this bafflegarb against, rather than the usual vapor, you know? This is part of my life that I enjoy most, and it’s hard to carry the public into it because it’s so arcane. But this is really where the thrills lie for me. Which I guess leads me into some of what I want to say this evening. Let me lay out for you how I see this briefing for a descent into novelty and what that really means, because it’s deliberately ambiguous because it refers to several things simultaneously. Any encounter with me that involves a discussion of psychedelics is in and of itself a briefing for a descent into novelty. That’s what psychedelics are: the ordinary structures and momentum and logic of the world is replaced by a very novel redaction of those things. So that’s one level of the meaning of the briefing for a descent into novelty.
Another level of meaning is: we are plunging without the aid of my theory toward the end of the millennium. And this will be used as a benchmark and an enormous kind of goad to certain agendas to complete themselves, or launch themselves. And I’m sure as we approach the millennium you can feel the built-in apocalyptic expectations of Judeo-Christian culture just swelling to burst at the seams. Well, I think anybody who didn’t have some kind of fairly strong model of what is going on would be scared to death. I mean, there is a sense of everything simply flying apart, and that we don’t know what it will be—world economic crash, ebola outbreak, asteroid strike, climate change—but it just begins to multiply to the point where you get the feeling we may not know what’s coming, but god, something must be coming.So, a thousand years is reaching its culmination. And inevitably, this civilization will be divided at this millennium. There will be the first millennium of industrial post-medieval so forth and so on, and then whatever comes after.
And then a third sense in which this is a briefing for a descent into novelty—and this requires a little backgrounding for those of you who aren’t familiar with the timewave theory, which has now been referred to repeatedly—this is an idea, a mathematical formalism, which I generated with the help of the lógos that addresses the concept of the Tao (a mysterious force which ebbs and flows through all things, building structure up and tearing it down according to mysterious laws of its own), takes that notion of Tao and attempts to demystify it—in the sense of: if Tao is a force which tears things down and builds things up, up and down can be directions on a Cartesian axis. So why not portray the Tao as the ebb and flow of a quality; a numerically quantifiable quality? Well, to cut to the chase, I’ve done this. And it replaces the Newtonian assumption that time is a perfectly smooth Aristotelean surface with a much more complicated version of what time is. Time is a kind of landscape, or a kind of topological manifold or surface, over which events flow, but subject to the contours of that surface. So that in the same way a river running through rocky gorges attains great speed and power, but when it flows out onto the flatlands it loses that momentum, it spreads out, it meanders. Time is a similar kind of phenomenon. There are periods of great placitude and stability and continuity. Most of time has been like that. Change in most of time is something that stretches out over millions and millions of years. I’m speaking now, first of all, of astrophysical changes, planetological evolution—even biological evolution, which is orders of magnitude more rapid than geology, is nevertheless something which moves in a very stately fashion. Major mutations require hundreds of thousands, millions of years in some cases, to establish themselves.
So most of time exhibits a fairly uniform placidity on the local scale, if you see what I mean. But for the past 25,000 years (or 50,000, or million, depending on your sensitivity to turbulence), something else has been happening: acceleration, connectivity, a complexification and densification of the matrix. And we are products of this. But it isn’t a smooth descent or ascent toward greater complexity, it’s a punctuated movement toward complexity—or novelty, as I call it. There are steps back. There are setbacks. Sometimes they last millions of years. Sometimes they last minutes. And this leads me, then—that’s enough background. So one reason this is called a Briefing for a Descent Into Novelty is because, according to this theory, we are in a descent into novelty. A very dramatic descent began on the 25th of February, just a week ago. In the 20th century there have only been two other periods that theory defines as this novel. The first one is the period from October 1928 to October 1929, and the second one is from December 1940 to December of 1941. Now, interestingly, both of those purely formal mathematical predictions nail major upheavals of novelty in the 20th century. The first: the collapse of the world economy culminating in the American stock crash of October 1929. The second: World War II raging furiously all through 1940 and then ending in December 1941 by the U.S. being dragged in with the Japanese attack.
So the novelty theory is in the midst, as we speak, of a test. Is the novelty market soaring? Is novelty pouring into the system at a very fast rate? Now, some people thought that the dead would rise on the 25th of February. That isn’t how it works. Throughout the past couple of years—and I’m sure you are aware of it—we have been in a recidivist period in American politics and life (meaning: a conservative era), and that has gotten more and more constipated, and more and more self-congratulatory, and more and more certain of itself, and hence odious. And I believe we’ve crossed over the cusp, and now that all is in a state of complete chaos and collapse. There are many, many things on the agenda for the next few months that could usher in enormous novelty. Although novelty usually arrives in the form of the unexpected. In other words, the source of the novelty might be a return of communism to power in Russia, or it might be (what else is scheduled?) an American election is scheduled, an Israeli election is scheduled. It could be that the Chinese will attempt to grab Taiwan and create World War III. Misjudgment could lead that direction. But it could be positive. Novelty has no morality. An AIDS cure. What else can I think of along those—well, some enormous technological breakthrough: starflight or cold fusion or something like that. I mean, these things lurk as possibilities, leaning into the continuum of spacetime, always willing to be sucked into actualization if you can get the mojo right. So part of the Briefing of a Descent Into Novelty here is to ask and discuss the question: does it feel like we’ve come over a cusp? Does it feel like we’re in a situation of increasing novelty day by day by day? This will last on into early June. And then, if not—if we all get together in midsummer and agree it was kind of a dud, it didn’t really live up to expectations—well, then that’s real data for looking at the timewave.
People are confused sometimes by exactly who and what I am, and that’s because in my personality (which is a humbler word than “method”) two things are united which are usually not found copresent. My techniques are all shamanic and involve perturbing the senses and dissolving ordinary states of mind through psychedelics. So my techniques are shamanic, but my method—not techniques, but method—is rational and analytical. So I use shamanic techniques to go into shamanic places, and then attempt to study them scientifically using reason and saying, “What is this? How does it work? What is it made of? How do its parts relate to each other? What is its inner dynamic?” And this apparently, though it seems fairly obvious to me, is a fairly radical union of techniques. Scientists don’t explore psychedelics because somehow the scientific mind must not be besmirched by contact and contamination with the thing studied. But how the hell can you study psychedelics without taking them? Rats are not very satisfying and graduate students still less so. So eventually you’re going to have to get your feet wet. Well, then they say, “Well, but that destroys your scientific objectivity.” Well, not if it’s the only path to contacting the phenomenon that you’re attempting to study. So that has worked for me. I am not part of the New Age in my own mind. To me, the New Age is typified by an incredible credulity and an utter immunity to cognitive dissonance. I mean, you can believe that the world is ruled from the Pleiades and you can believe that L. Ron Hubbard is god. There seems to be no end to the number of contradictions that the New Age can simultaneously entertain.
But what I have done is: I probe weirdness. But rationally. Most people who are attracted to weirdness want to convert, and believe it, and take it in, and exalt it. I don’t. I don’t want to believe anything. I hate ideology—all ideology. That’s why I’m so casual about the possible crushing of my own. Because ideologies are a lesser resolution of our dilemma than we are capable of. The higher resolution lies in real feeling and real community and affection. Ideology has poisoned the last thousand years. All of these ideologies have ultimately done more bad than good. Marxism, Christianity, even (at the risk of setting off a riot) Freudianism—on and on and on. The correct method, I think, is simply the phenomenological approach: catalog data, seek patterns, draw conclusions, test them back against the original data.
Now, most people who advocate that kind of an approach somehow come down. It brings them down. They say, “Well, this method then shows you that being is only this, and thought is only that, and love is merely this,” and so forth. In other words, it reduces everything, it insults everything. I haven’t found that to be the case. I’ve found real weirdness. The world is strange. Very, very, very strange. Not only—I mean, far stranger than I suppose, and orders of magnitude more strange than these cheerful workbench scientists and keepers of the faith of our culture suppose. There are doorways. There are edges. There are passageways. But for every real one there are 10,000 dead-ends, cul-de-sacs, and cheap scams of one sort. So to go out as an ingénue into the world seeking to invest your belief in something, you will be instantly sucked in to some screwy thing, and your life force pulled from you, and you will be used and abused as ingénues and naïves always are.
A much better approach is: be tough. The truth does not require your participation in order to exist. Bullshit does! But the truth is fine, thank you. Whether you believe in it or not. So what is gained by the truth if you believe in it? Nothing, I maintain. And you are diminished. You are diminished because by believing in something you have precluded your freedom to believe in its opposite. You gave away the most precious existential currency in the universe. So I think it’s very good to be tough, to ask the hard questions. But to go a long way down the path with these claimants to secret knowledge, insight, lineage. But ultimately, the hard questions have to be asked. And this is not a path toward dispelling the mystery from the universe. This is the way to get to the real gold in a hurry, not become glamorized or subverted by the dross of the world.
Well, maybe that’s enough for this evening. We will go over all of these things at the level of intensity that you are interested in. It’s fine to get down to the how much, how, and when questions about the compounds and plants. That is technique. And that’s important, because it’s fine to sit here talking about the psychedelic experience. This bears no resemblance to the psychedelic experience in any form whatsoever. So it’s very important that you leave here empowered. Empowered to make your way into these places with confidence. And then the other thing to pay attention to is: inevitably, the way our ass-backwards society works is, it creates cults of personality and renaissance stabilized points of focus on the celebrity personality who is the teacher; the guy who wears the microphone, or the woman who wears the microphone. What you can really take away from here, if you’re smart, is community of some sort. Probably someone in this room has what you need. And I guarantee you it isn’t me, so don’t waste your time on me. But that’s all there for you to sort out. So techniques we can discuss. The formation of community and association is your own business. And then, as much time as you want to spend, on the “what does it all mean, Mr. Natural?” side of the question. And we’ll dig into all of this at ten o’clock tomorrow morning.
Thank you very much. Get some sleep, or go to the baths, or do both. Or go to the rave!
Okay. Well, before I get into my spiel, does anybody have anything they want to say this morning, which can range from: “you have snorers in your room” to some profound objection or illumination of what went on last night? Yeah?
[???] semantic question as to why [???] rather than [???]. There seems to be a pejorative [???].
This question comes up. There are several reasons originally, and then I’ve invented new ones since. The time thing quantifies novelty, but it quantifies it—you could almost say it quantifies it negatively, because the maximum of novelty has a numerical value of zero. So how I pictured this was: I actually picture the spacetime continuum like a landscape; a topology. Well, then I think of time as a fluid medium of some sort. Well, naturally, a fluid medium finds its equilibrium at the lowest energy point in the system. So the river flows toward the sea. This question of energy flows, and what is pejorative and what is not, I’ve learned is a completely culture-based value. There are tribes in the Amazon for whom rivers begin where they meet another river. Obviously! And they end where they peter out among some springs and swamps up in the mountain. To them, this is perfectly obvious that that’s how rivers work. To us it’s inconceivable. The thing goes the other way. If I had turned the wave upside down, then instead of having maximum novelty quantify at zero, it would have simply quantified at some arbitrarily large integer in the 700,000 range. So it lacked elegance. So for all of those reasons I chose to have novelty be a descent rather than an ascent.
And then later I incorporated things like dynamics and chaos theory and that sort of thing into the model. Well, then what you get is sort of the idea that the zero point in time is like a dwell point, or an attractor. And so all the processes in the epigenetic landscape are being channeled (is one way to think of it) or pulled (is another way to think of it) or pushed (is another way to think of it) toward this certain point in the system. If that seems complicated, all I’m saying is: if you release a marble up near the rim of a bowl, it’s easy to predict where it’s going to come to rest when it’s still. It’s going to come to rest at the bottom of the bowl. That’s the place where the minimum energy of the system is fulfilled.
Yeah? Okay. Anything else out of last night? It’s still possible to raise the issue of snoring. Don’t feel we’re so far from the dock that you can’t jump back! Yes?
I have a friend who’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. And when Richard was here this week [???] ayahuasca [???] being found to be very good for Parkinson’s. And if you know anything about that, I’d like for you to talk about it.
I don’t know anything about it, except that I know who to ask—which would be my brother, Dennis. But I’ve heard that this is true; that they’re getting a remarkable remission of the symptoms with it. It’s really part of a whole frontier that Prozac has to do with. And I, just a month ago, went through a horrific series of migraines. And so now I know all about sumatriptan, which is a magic bullet for migraine, but a DMT related drug that also, like Prozac and like ayahuasca, all of these things target these serotonergic systems. Different 5-hydroxy tryptamine receptors in the brain. And it seems like a whole new and much friendlier family of drugs are going to emerge out of this. And some of them are going to have application to psychological situations, and some are going to definitely impact stuff like migraine and Parkinson’s. I don’t know why it took them so long to look at the 5-HT family of receptors, because it’s been pretty obvious to psychedelic heads for thirty years that, of the major neurotransmitter systems, that seemed to be the one whose affects lie closest to observable consciousness.
After I got out of here last night I was reviewing my performance, and I realized that of the many descents into novelty that were indicated, the one which was left out, which is sort of the overarching architecture of the whole thing, is that life itself is a descent into novelty, toward a complete singularity that defies all anticipation, or is very difficult to come to terms with. People find it quirky that I would propose the end of the world, and they find it highly improbable and feel very good about being able to reject it as improbable. But have you noticed how abstract all that is in relationship to the inevitable fact of your own death? I mean, there is an end of the world built into your cosmology: the end of your world—which is, after all, the only world you know. So it may be that the planet will swing a hundred billion times around the [sun] before the consummation of time, but that doesn’t mean that you have permission not to contemplate final end states. Because you’ve got an appointment with one out there somewhere, ten minutes or fifty years in the future.
So that little sobering parenthesis can be put around all of these other descents into novelty. The historical descent, the analogy to the historical descent produced by the psychedelic experience. And that’s what I wanted to talk a little bit about this morning, is: maybe it isn’t clear in everyone’s mind what this historical acceleration and descent into complexity, what that might conceivably have to do with one’s personal relationship to psychedelics. Well, it’s hard to see the connection, I think, if you have a psychological model of what the psychedelic experience is. And by that I mean: one school of thought about psychedelics is that basically takes up the vocabulary of Freudianism and Jungianism and says there is a part of our mind which we are ordinarily not in contact with, which is composed of thwarted desires, unexamined memories, so forth and so on. And when we take psychedelics somehow all boundaries are dissolved and we confront this material. And if it’s traumatic, then the ordinary dynamics of psychotherapeutic curing cut in. And so this becomes a kind of catalyst for psychoanalysis of some form. So that’s one model.
And then another model is that this is a parallel world of some sort that we encounter. That’s closer to what I’m proposing. But what I’ve come to rest with in this is a kind of mathematical model. That consciousness, like certain chemical systems, has two states of crystallization. There is the mundane mind, which basically has evolved in a carnivorous hunting monkey as a threat detection device, and it is extraordinarily focused on nearby three-dimensional space and time, because it’s from there that some threat—an enemy, a saber-toothed tiger, something. And so the mind has evolved as an aura of threat-detection around the body. But that is a kind of utilitarian application of it. In the same way that water takes the shape of any vessel that it’s poured into, mind, too, is a kind of fluid and takes the shape of any vessel it’s poured into. So in the ordinary circumstance of consciousness in three-dimensional space, consciousness fills the three-dimensional spacetime continuum and returns a description of it to the animal body.
But if you will still the body and remove the threat (by posting guards at the front of the cave and moving back to where the furs, the women, and the children are; in other words, if you will raise your comfort level considerably), and then take these neuro-chaotic substances—in other words, things which produce a perturbation in ordinary brain states. Then the perturbation becomes a kind of energy that dissolves this threat-detection architecture of consciousness. And within all that there is the phoenix of hyperspace, which is what’s called shamanic consciousness. And shamanic consciousness is not bounded by three-dimensional space and time, and can move through the many levels of the universe at the speed of thought. And it is not a body-centered consciousness. Usually, these states occur when, for all practical purposes, the body appears deeply asleep or dead. I mean, it’s a trance. You’re traveling.
So mind is apparently a tool for the exploration of the dimensions that are built into nature. And what shamanism is, if you analyze it from this point of view, it becomes much more rationally apprehendable. Think about the classic characteristics of shamanism. Shamans are weather prophets. This is very important: to be able to predict the weather. Shamans can predict the movement of game, and so they are directly linked into the nutrition acquisition survival equation of the human group that they represent. And shamans have incredible insight into somebody’s pilfering from somebody’s food cache. The shaman can get right to the heart of this social problem and set it right. And then, finally, shamans cure—with quite impressive success rates in a world devoid of antibiotics, surgery, x-rays, so forth and so on. They do very well. So all of this seems to verge on the edge of magic. They seem to have a different relationship to space, time, and energy than ordinary people. How do they do it?
Well, if you that the mind can unfold in a higher spatial dimension, then yesterday and tomorrow are no more distant than today, and all locked boxes have an open door in them. And the end state of all processes in time can easily be discerned. So really, what a shaman is is someone with four-dimensional perception who carefully chooses their patients for recovery. And doctors will tell you: part of being a good doctor is to know what patients to treat. Because there is an empathy there, and there has to be a certain kind of linkage. So I don’t think, in principle, there is a violation of physics involved. There is simply a violation, or a broadening, of the definition of what perception is. Well, then the question becomes: how to reach these states?
Well, this is the track that I think of often. Like, the mind assuming the shape of the vessel that it’s put in. Because I [???] a lot with people who are in the process of dying, who have [???], so I [???] really push up against the edge of the most traumatic experiences in their life. And what I find to be so rewarding and valuable about working with people in that state is that all the facades drop away, all of the bullshit, all of the defenses, and what’s left is just this raw core, pure essence, of genuine being. And it makes me realize how unfortunately rare it is to encounter that. And you talk about getting safe from the tigers—I mean, we don’t have tigers that we have to protect ourselves from, but dear god almighty, we have so many other things that we’re so involved in protecting ourselves from, that we’ve got these layers and layers and layers and layers of defense that keep us from being in touch with—I think those shamanic ways of being are our natural human resource that we all had. And the great sadness and the heartbreak for me is that we’re so out of touch with it that we’re wasting the greatest asset in being alive. And instead, we fill our lives with this absolute, dear god, drivel. I mean, don’t we? I mean, what are the things that we think about most of the time? It’s drivel! And I feel very lucky here. It’s very pretty, and everything’s very nice, and we can have pleasant conversation. But to really get to the core issues of what we’re doing here, and why are we here, and what we could be using this experience for is such a contrast to me that I welcome this kind of conversation.
Well, see, the problem is, I think, that culture is a flight from reality. All culture is a flight from reality. So to the degree that you are normal—whether you’re Witoto or Manhattanite or Parisienne—but to the degree that you are normal, that means you are very successfully taking part in the cultural flight from reality. You are supporting the mass hallucination and paying dues into it. And it’s difficult in an age like now (where there’s so much stress on ethnicity and community and roots and all that) to preach this; to preach that culture is not your friend. It’s a trap. It’s a limit. But really, radical human freedom is what you were born for. And culture is a kind of placenta which, if you develop normally, by around age twenty you have no need of it, and in fact you’ve recognized the toxic nature of it and are trying to put it behind you and get away from it.
As a rationale for many people living in cities, in large [???] virtual environments of steel and glass with no contact to the natural world, and their justification is that, oh, well, there’s culture. Where else am I going to [???]
Good point. These are the same people who, when you suggest to them that their children watch too much TV, they say, “But if they didn’t watch TV, how would they learn about nature? These wonderful programs!”
It’s really funny that you have that take on the urban experience, because I, since August, have been recently been thrown into the American urban experience of Manhattan. And what’s so interesting to me is how many people I meet that say, “Well, I live in Manhattan because I don’t have [???] culture. I live in Manhattan because I can do my own thing and nobody cares, nobody pays attention. I’m not violating the community that I grow up with. I’m not violating my parents. I can get away with it.”
You can be lost. In a sense, it’s a kind of jungle. That’s interesting. Yeah, well, the word “virtual” was used here. Obviously, you’re all aware there’s a lot of ballyhoo about virtual reality, and the critics of it say it will further artificialize and remove us from our roots. There is nothing new happening here, except that we’re going from stucco and steel and masonry to photons on a tube. When they built Ur, they were building a virtual reality. And when they all marched inside and closed the gates, they were inside a mental construction of human beings that was entirely artificial. And we’ve been there ever since. And all this computer revolution is, is a shift to more lightweight building materials. So the recovery of the natural state of human beings is, I think, somewhat chimerical. The only time you recover the natural state of human beings is in orgasm and in psychedelic apotheosis. And then, you know, for fleeting moments you recover, and then you’re dropped back down through levels and levels of culture, programming, obligation, matrix stuff. Matrix, matrix.
Anyway, what I wanted to get to is, then, how to do this; how to get out of culture, how to get out of three-dimensional space, how to get into this superspace. Well, there are two main methods on the table, and one is through—no matter how you cut it—some manipulation of the body. Maybe breath control, maybe diet, maybe extreme postures, maybe some sexual technique, could be mantra, et cetera, et cetera. And strangely enough, often unaccompanied by substances, plants, or drugs, but almost always accompanied by enormous doses of fuzzy thought and ideology usually known as religion. So there is that path. And the claim that you can achieve, somehow, the paradox of being outside without ever leaving culture by using the cultural instrument of religion to make your way to the heart of the mystery. I reject this. I just think it’s bunk. It was something… it’s an effort to close the loophole. It’s an effort to channel spiritual thirst in a direction that is still culturally affirming. But spiritual thirst can’t be culturally affirming because it’s a rejection of culture. Culture generates spiritual thirst.
Okay. So then, the other method on the table are psychedelics. Arthur Rimbaud, the French symbolist poet, his theory of poetry was that it could only be achieved by what he called a deliberate dislocation of the senses. And some of you may have seen a couple of years ago a wonderful cartoon in the New Yorker: a bunch of businessmen sitting around a highly polished conference room table with a chart going down, down, down in the back—obviously the profits of the company. And the chairman of the board is saying to this little man who has obviously just said something, he’s saying, “You’re right, Higgins, that a deliberate disorder of the senses worked for Rimbaud. But would it work for us?”
Probably not for ACME Corporation. But it will work for us. And the way it’s achieved is by dissolving the chemical stability that lies behind the mental and cultural stabilities. In other words, going into a very deep level; going to the molecular architecture of the brain itself, and then making changes. And for reasons mysterious and certainly worthy of discussion, we are accompanied on this planet by dozens and dozens of plants that do this, and do very little else—in other words: pose no problem to the physical integrity of the body, or the long-term integrity of the culturally constructed, normal mind—but which, for minutes or hours, dissolve the three-dimensional threat-detector construct of the mind and replace it with something else.
And then we can talk about: what is the something else? William James said of the newborn infant: “We are born into a blooming, buzzing, confusion,” which is a pretty good description of the first thirty seconds of a DMT flash. It’s a blooming, buzzing confusion! Well then, is it simply that all reality is psychedelic, but if you spend enough time in any reality it tends to mundanize? Is that it? And if you could be high on DMT for four years, at the end of it you would navigate it the way a four-year-old child navigates this world? Perhaps. Probably so—although possibly not. So there might—
[???] do come in with that kind of chaotic—
Yeah, we do. But when you burst into the DMT space, you don’t arrive as the tabula rasa of the newborn infant, you arrive with your Husserl and your Pythagoras and all the rest of it fully intact in your hip pocket, if you need to use it.
Well, so, long before written culture, long before cities, so forth and so on, this potential for the dissolving and recrystallizing of the mind through the use of plants had been discovered. It may have been one of the very earliest discoveries of human beings. And I believe and argued in my book Food of the Gods that these things actually synergize high states of information processing and transfer. That spoken language itself is a kind of overflowing of the cup of thought into the verbal circuitry that is occasioned by pushing the human envelope with the presence of psychedelic compounds.
And the way this works in a shamanistic society is: most aboriginal societies have located in their environment plants that are effective in causing this sort of state to occur. And these will be inevitably, with very few exceptions, indole-containing plants. All of the interesting psychedelics (with the exception of mescaline, which is an amphetamine; and alpha salvinorin, which is I believe an isoquinoline) everything is an indole. LSD, DMT, psilocybin, ibogaine. It’s quite a small family. They are all serotonin antagonists, and they are all structural competitors for the bond site, the receptor site, in the nervous system where all of this stuff goes on.
I suppose we should talk or at least mention the fact that the use of these things is illegal in most societies, and furiously suppressed in some societies. I don’t find this very interesting. I just think it has to do with the suppression of most effective means for getting out of culture. Sex itself would be illegal if they could find a way to make it so. It obviously seems to threaten the social order as much as psychedelics.
Well, so then, if you are interested in these things beyond the mere abstract acquisition of data, then there’s a lot of detail work ahead of you. You have to learn a lot about plants, a lot about aboriginal cultures, a lot about chemistry, and a lot about yourself. And then you bring all this together and search for a tool that works for you. And human beings are highly variable. I took a course years ago from Sascha, and there were about 500 people in this class. It was a class in forensic chemistry, of all things. And at one point he brought in, in a test tube, a little compound that was passed around and sniffed. And out of 500 people, two had a violent physical reaction to this stuff. And then he told us the range of sensitivity in human beings to this compound is over three orders of magnitude. So the person sitting next to you could be 10,000 times more sensitive to this chemical than you are. So you sort of have to learn the landscape of your own nervous system. Some people, they are powerful shamanic systems, for example, built on daturas, tropanes, the things that occur in jimson weed and these arborescent daturas that you see used in landscaping with the beautiful pendulus fragrant flowers. Those contain powerful mind-altering substances. I can’t take those things because I become delirious. It’s a useless state to me. I become confused. And many people, that’s their reaction. But maybe one in fifty has a different set of receptors for this, and can hold presence and work through it.
So you need to study the classic shamanic hallucinogen-using complexes in the world, and they are (without an effort to be exhaustive):
And then, of course, the entire issue of synthetic chemistry. It’s often been thought that I am some kind of monotheist about plants and denounce all synthetic chemistry. It isn’t from some kind of absolute, it’s simply that, with synthetic chemistry, you don’t have the kind of database you have with a plant. Take a plant—ayahuasca. Probably been used 5,000–6,000 years. So we have our human data sample. We know that this doesn’t cause blindness, miscarriage, birth defects, madness, so forth and so on. A drug fresh out of the laboratory that you’ve had a good response from twelve people with is by no means suddenly safe. I mean, tens of thousands of people have to take this drug for many years before you can absolutely certify…. And the other thing to remember is: no drug is safe. You can kill yourself with water if you drink enough of it. Drugs are poisons. This is what they are. And the question is: the judicious use of poisons elicits certain responses. But you definitely want to have this understanding.
Well, so then there’s a vast literature about all this,; an anthropological literature, a chemical literature, and to some degree a philosophical and analytical literature. Reading all these descriptions, you eventually… something attracts you. And then the question is: how to do it? And the way to do it, I think, especially in the beginning, is in silent darkness, on an empty stomach. You don’t want to see the culture psychedelically put through a psychedelic filter. You want to see the Ding an sich of it: the thing in itself. So you just want to put a black and silent screen behind it. And people say, “But won’t it be boring?”—having obviously meditated. No. It’s not like that. People who are honest meditators will tell you that it’s the most boring undertaking in the world; that somehow it’s a metaphysic of boredom, is what it is, you know?
But the way you do psychedelics is: you sit and you close your eyes. But notice that, when most people sit and close their eyes, they fall inward. They have closed their eyes, so why should they continue to look outward? But I think it’s very important in the state of anticipation of the psychedelic (meaning: before it comes on, and as it comes on) to sit with eyes closed, but looking. Simply imagine that there is a surface, a black surface, a foot in front of your face, and just watch it. And somehow this expectation of seeing is a permission to structures in the brain to begin to present. And then once, of course, the lock is made, it’s often difficult to turn it off. But getting the channel tuned in right at the beginning can be tricky.
And all the techniques of un-psychedelic spiritual pursuit work in the presence of psychedelics. In my experience, it’s the only time they work. So, in other words, pranayama, yantra, mantra—suddenly, these things become as advertised, rather than… ho hum, I’ve said it ten thousand times, I’m not sure I’m getting anywhere. So I think it’s very good to imbibe the knowledge of these spiritual techniques, and have your mantras folded and ready at your elbow when you plunge in there.
[???] what about shamanic cultures?
This is an interesting question. In anthropology it’s been a raging debate for thirty years or more. The definitive work on shamanism, or the great classic work on shamanism, is called Shamanism: The Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Mircea Eliade. And Eliade was a Romanian who educated in France and became a brilliant academic, wrote one of the best books ever written on yoga: Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, wrote a book that changed my life forever called Cosmos and History. Many, many books. A great historian of religion. But when Eliade came to the phenomenon of intoxication in shamanism, he completely reverted to his European, constipated, male-dominator, French structuralist roots, and he said: “Narcotic”—this was the word he used, which: notice the pharmacological imprecision of that. That right there tells you this person doesn’t quite… at the front of the line. But he said, “Narcotic shamanism is decadent. Resort to drugs is decadent.” Well, then Gordon Wasson, who was the discoverer of the mushroom complex, took exactly the opposite position and said: “Shamanism in the absence of psychoactive plants is on its way to turning into ordinary priestcraft and religion.”
And in my experience this is true. I mean, I agree with Wasson for the following reason: there is nothing intrinsically to be valued, I think, in suffering. I’m Buddhist enough to believe that there’s enough suffering without inviting or creating it. So when you lay the psychedelic path next to the non-psychedelic but effective path, it’s an ordeal. That’s how it’s done. You starve yourself, you go into the wilderness, you pierce yourself, you may in fact take plants that are not psychedelic but that induce severe cramping or diarrhea or something like that, you may be flagellated, you may be covered with red ants, you may be hung upside down, you may be beaten senseless. I mean, clearly, to my mind, what this evinces is a kind of desperation to attain these states. Almost no price is too great. And you start shedding blood in a tropical environment, and you’re up for grabs for severe septicemia and all sorts of things. So it’s a very heavy thing.
Meanwhile, these plants—you prepare the concoction, you take it, there may be a little gastric distress, there may be a little psychological distress. But no matter how bad it gets, six to twelve hours later you’re able to tell the story around the campfire. And you have smoothly, cleanly cut to the center of the mandala and returned. So I think if we are saying that entry into the shamanic world is to be achieved by technique—and all scholars of shamanism agree with this—well, then as you lay these techniques side by side, clearly the use of hallucinogenic plants is more sophisticated, in the sense that we judge a Maserati to be more sophisticated than a coach-and-four. It simply goes faster, works smoother, is more comfortable, and gets you there in better shape.
Now, some cultures are in the unfortunate position—not many, but some—of having no really effective hallucinogen in their cultural area. And in almost every case, they have found a way. And people will go to great lengths. I’m sure, as you know, an example of both a poor—in my mind poor, although there are people who would rise up in holy wrath over this—but the amanita muscaria cults of western Siberia among the Tunguska and Kamchatka people. I’ve taken amanita muscaria. I know many people who’ve taken it. It’s an extremely trying experience at best. And I don’t think you could build a religion of ecstasy around it unless you were in a desperately sensory deprived environment with no other intoxicants available. To support my argument, the amanita cults collapsed almost immediately upon contact with vodka. And so, in other words, in the minds of these Siberian shaman, these two vehicles, laid side by side (their traditional mushroom and vodka), vodka was to be preferred. People have made much of amanita muscaria, but even its most enthusiastic proponents admit that they could never get off. So that’s a severe mark against one of these things. They must be effective.
One of the things that has held up the development of this field—I briefly mentioned it yesterday—was the unwillingness of researchers to experience these things. You know, to go and live with an aboriginal people, and see that every new and full moon they take something, and the whole society goes through changes, and then they talk of nothing else until the next time they take it, and this is what they live for, and you’re studying their language and their value system and all this, and you don’t do it—it makes no sense at all. And yet, until very recently, if you were to do it, your colleagues back at Miskatonic University would whip their knives out and denounce you as unprofessional, going back to the bush, not good method, so forth and so on. So there’s been an enormous phobia about contacting this by academics.
And so it’s been left to countercultures, to fringe people, to individual experimenters, to eccentrics of various types. And in the underground, then, an enormous database has been built up. Nobody knows as much about psychedelics as people in the underground, because they’re the people who’ve actually taken them, correlated the data, and kept track of it. So we’re almost—we have an official science of pharmacology, and then we have this oddly developing subculture. And it used to be (ten years ago, I suppose) that a genuine shaman was a person in a traditional culture, ministering to the needs of a tribal group somewhere. Now there are a large number—I don’t know, thousands—of people who I consider full-fledged shamans, and full-fledged members of cyber-electric culture. I mean, shamanism is not necessarily a phenomenon of the upriver and off-road.
So here are people who have all the tools of Western science and epistemology. They’ve been to Harvard, they’ve studied philosophy and science and all of mathematics, and they are fully empowered with the tools of archaic shamanism. They’ve been to these places. And strangely enough, in many cases these are some of the most creative people in the culture. I mean—I don’t think he would mind me mentioning him in this context—somebody like Mark Pesce, who is, you know, a full-on psychedelic techno-pagan, and the genius who created VRML, which is going to let us all walk into cyberspace. High-tech and shamanic cultures are almost overlapping in this country.
And I think it has to do with the fact that—and this is what I mentioned last night, talking about the toxicity of ideology—that we’re moving into a post-ideological world. We’re moving into a world where the bankruptcy of ideology is obvious. All ideologies are faiths. Even science can be demonstrated to be a faith that rests on certain revealed truths which are never questioned. To build a non-toxic future, we are going to simply have to solve many of our problems pragmatically. For instance, right now we have many problems: AIDS, overpopulation, this and that. All of these problems could be solved, except that we have one rule when we approach a problem: the solution must make money. There are many problems where there is no solution that makes money. So if you refuse any solution but that type, you’re upriver.
Well, anyway, that’s a slight digression. Yeah? Sure, lead me back.
Terence, can I—however, I will say that there are a few on my bookshelf, and that’s a horrible way to do it. And I agree with you. I really agree with you. But there are a few on my bookshelf. Franklin Merrell-Wolff would be one. Gopi Krishna would be another. Yogananda, from people that I’ve met that spent time with him, might be a third. I feel better about the first two. There are people in history that really seem to be beatific.
Well, you know, Aldous Huxley said a very interesting thing about psychedelics, and I think it addresses this. He said of psychedelics: “It is a gratuitous grace.” Now, what does this mean? It means it is neither necessary nor sufficient for salvation. It is neither necessary nor sufficient for salvation—but it certainly helps. So taking psychedelics doesn’t make you a superior person. This interests me very much, because I’ve now been at this for thirty years. And your original question—are we better people?—fascinates me, because if we are not better people for doing this, then we’re just another cult. We’re like the Mormons, or Shoko Asahara, or—it’s just: we have this closed system of belief, we do this thing, we say it makes you better. It’s no different from Latihan or mantrayana or some other practice. It’s just our practice is fairly radical, and we claim it makes us better people.
Well, yeah. And what I’m saying is: rather than take the thing itself and say does this make us better or not, what is the set of to-do’s that does make us better? What is that set? How do we do that? What’s the manual look like?
Well, my argument in favor that “it does make us better, and here’s how” is that love is obviously the highest human ideal—I mean, that’s like a cliché to say that, but love is the highest human ideal. Well, love consists, it seems to me, largely of boundary dissolution: that we become, we merge, with the thing loved. We soften our boundaries. And, of course, male primate sexuality has to do with penetration and merger—all sexuality, except some fish, usually there’s some sharing of space, and so forth. Well, these psychedelics (in that sense, then) are inherently amorous, or inherently sexy, because that’s what they do: they dissolve boundaries between you and other people and other things. And as a primate, when the boundary is dissolved, what you feel is love. Or, if you’re traumatized (by bad upbringing, and childhood abuse, and who knows what), when the boundary is dissolved, what you feel is fear. But if you are not damaged, the proper response is love. And I think through the psychedelics, if you have fear—and we all do, believe me, because it’s terrifying to shed the old carapace—but beyond the fear lies the love if you can persist through it.
And so, really, the demand that psychedelics make on us—and this may be another reason why perhaps we tend to be better people, that’s all I would say—is: psychedelics demand of us courage. Every single person who says they’ve done psychedelics several dozen times is a courageous person. You’re standing in the presence of fearlessness. Because otherwise people turn away from it. And I think courage is probably a good value. Probably makes you a good person to hike in the woods with, or have an affair with, or whatever. So it makes us courageous, and it dissolves boundaries which let in love or fear. And the fear that they let in can be transformed in the psychedelic state, through an inner alchemy, into love. That’s why the most dramatic personality transformations I’ve ever seen, including my own, have been psychedelically induced and just happen on a dime. You go into it person A, and twelve hours later and you come out and you are not that per—it doesn’t always work like that, but nothing else ever works like that. And speed seems to expand people’s tolerance for sexual activity that they would ordinarily refuse; they will accept under speed.
So these compounds change our sexual values around, and a society using psilocybin on a regular basis would dissolve this male dominance hierarchy and replace it, I think, with the glue of an orgiastic and more egalitarian system. And for a long, long time we lived like that. And in that period when we lived like that, language, music, compassion, love, all the higher values emerged. Well, then, at some point—and for complicated reasons not necessary to discuss, unless you want to—the mushrooms disappeared. And the chemical fix that had been in place for thousands and thousands of years that was suppressing this older male dominance style of behavior just drained out of the system. And suddenly men were very interested in controlling womens’ behavior, and the orgies were canceled, and the levels of anxiety began to rise, and people began to think in terms of turf and property and my children and my food. And, in short, the hideous union of the animal and the spiritual that we meet in ourselves came into being. We are like the inheritors of a dysfunctional childhood, or something. Something terrible happened to all of us in our past. For 100,000 years we were at our most human without material culture, living in a world of magic and song and sexuality and husbandry—you know, living lightly on the land; herding cattle in the presence of mushrooms. This seems to be—that was the climax of the pre-technical phase.
Well, then agriculture changed all that. Created surpluses. Ended nomadism. Provided a raison dêtre for cities. The return of male dominance ended in god kings and standing armies. And then we’ve had 5,000 years of this now. 6,000–7,000. Whatever. And we’re at the end of our rope, you know? The planet is as crisis, our politicians are clueless, divine intervention is our best hope—either from flying saucers or the second coming, or something. And in the presence of so much obvious overwhelming difficulty, people are turning more and more toward irrational faiths and just waiting for the space brothers to pull us out of this mess.
His penis was starting to shrink.
Oh yeah. Well, you know, to quote a Grateful Dead song, “Ya can’t go back and ya can’t stand still. If the thunder don’t get you then the lightnin’ will.” This thing was set in motion 100,000 years ago, and now we are caught in the consequences of our forebears’ stupid decisions—or brilliant decisions. Whatever. But we’re being forced through. I mean, I agree that there’s a lot of Q-force building up in the society. In other words, vibration. It’s almost like, as you try to push an airfoil through the sound barrier, as you approach hypersonic velocity, the thing begins to shake. And if it hasn’t been correctly designed, the wings will tear off. But if it has been correctly designed, the Q-force will maximize and then very suddenly plummet, and that’s what’s called breaking the sound barrier. And you’re through. It’s very clear that this culture is revving up to attempt the leap into hyperspace. And it’s either going to succeed and we will become unrecognizable to ourselves and scatter through the galaxy as motes of light, or we will fail and probably biology will cancel the R&D division on intelligent life and go back to ground squirrels, chipmunks, and monarch butterflies. That’s worked so well for so long.
I can understand a little bit the physics idea of matter seeking central organization, and then sinking in disorganization. Kind of the back and forth [???], and it makes me wonder about computers and the Internet and world wide web, how now we’re trying to structure ourselves in something that seems to be going against the human grain—
Why do you think it goes against the human grain?
Well, it’s artificial.
Well, we invented artificiality! I mean, I don’t disagree with you. Somebody pointed something out to me recently that I find very interesting. They pointed out that in a cubic inch of forest soil there’s about 11,000 miles of mycelial wiring. Now, we’re building something called the Internet, and furiously laying copper and fiber optic everywhere, and soon it will go wireless. I think that this net that we’re building is not the most artificial construction ever conceived. It’s a simulacrum of nature, is what it is. Nature is the original Internet. I mean, nature is some kind of interconnected, communicating, data-routing, self-regulating, non-equilibrium system. And as we go nanotech, as we descend to the molecular level, our teachers are going to be plants, viruses, bacteria. They know how to do it down there, and we don’t. And I think that the artificial phase of technology is simply that—a phase. Remember, in Arthur C. Clarke’s book The City and the Stars? The central dictum of that society (and it had been a rule followed for a million years) was: no machine shall have any moving part. And that’s coming. And those are machines we can barely imagine. And they will be smaller than a gnat’s eyelash. So the artificial/natural thing seems to me a synthetic dualism. In fact, all dualisms are synthetic, because (at least in my book) there is some kind of Neoplatonic One that lies behind all the lesser understandings that give us category.
Well, I think what nature teaches, what life teaches, is that worry is preposterous. Worry is a form of egomania, because in order to worry you have to assume you understand the situation. What are the odds that you actually do understand the situation? Very low, I would think. And the more abstract the worry—you know, I’m worrying about [???], and he’s running around free over there in a country I’ve never seen. Now, is this a sane thing for me to be worrying about? I don’t think so. Worry is preposterous. And how I’ve understood that is: I’m not a fatalist or a predestination person. Predestination is preposterous, because if the world is absolutely predestined, then you think what you think because you couldn’t think anything else. That makes the quest for truth somewhat pointless. In order for there to be truth there has to be error, otherwise how would we know truth?
Well, that’s probably enough on that. Yeah?
I think maybe the last couple of times on my own [???] which is not a technique of these aesthetic practices [???] religion, or even psychedelics, but more a way of [???] which one [???] open and receptive to the incredible patterns [???] and maybe this is how the shamans who don’t need psychedelics are able to contact that. In my own experience [???] very safe experience for myself alone [???] things happen which are absolutely magical. And [???] come out of my willingness to play, and to [???], and to love the things in my mind. [???] what you’re talking about [???]. And I would like to [???] considered as a viable way of achieving the unity and the love of life.
Well, the key thing, I think, in what you said was to be open and aware. You can go to the wilderness, and it’s harder for some people than others, but psychedelics certainly make it easier. I mean, it makes it simply—like, with LSD in wilderness, what I found is: it simply makes it possible to sit still an unearthly amount of time. And that’s all you have to do for it all to go on. As soon as you disappear into the landscape, then stuff begins to happen. I mean, amazing things go on. I sat, once, on a beach in Asia stoned on LSD, and a little crab came along and cleaned my fingernails. Every one of them. It just moved from fingernail to fingernail, and it this little claw, and it etched them out. And it took a long time. And I was just like this. And it would climb down one finger, go out to the other one, finish, go down here—and… how&hellilp; only Buddha or LSD can give you that kind of power to sit still!
I think it’s—and maybe I’ve misunderstood people—but I think it’s a really weird construct to dichotomize humans from nature. We don’t say that termites have separated themselves out from nature by building a termite hill, which is a really good skyscraper for termites. Why, all of a sudden, when man goes out and builds a skyscraper and puts himself in it, he no longer participates in nature? It seems so strange to me. Because we’re in a terrarium! It’s not like we can go leave! It’s just such a weird thing to me to say that if you do certain things—sitting on the rock is in nature, sitting at the top of the World Trade Center is not. I mean, we can’t judge that. We can’t judge it. It just seems so strange to me.
Well, there’s a categorical difference that people sense but can’t always articulate. And what it is, is: nature is a genetic machine of some sort. Everything is under the control of genes. Except that, when you get to human beings, there are these things called epigenetic behaviors. In other words, how you make a Chevrolet is not written into the DNA of human beings. The anthill is a genetic program. But what we are is freakily out of control of our genetic heritage. We don’t behave like automata. We speak many languages—that’s unheard of: a species which has localized communication systems. And yet, that’s how we do it. There is no human universal way of communicating. We’ve culturally fragmented that.
Have local dialects? Yeah.
I mean—I don’t want to get into a huge argument—but there’s different [???] different, okay? I mean, it’s not just a human characteristic. There are some that use a rock and a log. But the nut in the log and then crack it. And there are other gorillas that can’t crack nuts. And there are other gorillas—I mean, just because something is epigenetic does not mean it’s a part of nature—
No, I agree with you. But I say people sense this difference. It would be quite astonishing if there were no epigenetic behavior outside of human beings. That would indicate it was some kind of descent from above. But I think when nature is fully understood, there will be no dramatic transitions. Everything is anticipated, everything is sort of… it begins as a theme and then rises to dominate the orchestra. The other and more exciting possibility is that we are entirely under the control of higher-order genetic programming, and that history is a genetic process that has a purpose and that it is like gestation or fruition or something. And a good example to have in your intellectual toolbox is the slime mold. Slime molds are these organisms which have a very peculiar life cycle. Let’s cut in at a random point in their life cycle, and what we find are amoeba-like creatures, almost microscopic, living in the soil, the decaying leaves and stuff, of the forest floor. They look like single-celled amoeba. But at a certain point one of these individual amoeba undergoes some kind of stimulus—it’s not well understood—and it begins to emit a chemical signal which says, “Come to where I am.” And these amoeba (which may be spread out over a few square yards of the forest floor) they all begin to congregate at this spot where this chemical signal is being broadcast from. And as they arrive by the millions, the original cell and the first arrivals on the scene are literally lifted into the air by the arrival of millions and millions of individuals. And this thing forms which is a couple of inches long and has a pointed stalk on it. And now we’re looking at a macrophysical organism with a weight in grams. And it then sporulates and bursts, and these spores spread out through the air and descend to the forest floor, and become these free-living amoeboid things, and the whole cycle starts over again.
So what is this? Is this an animal that is dissolved into its cells at one stage of its existence, or is it millions of animals that at one stage of their existence aggregate together to form something analogous to a human city? I prefer the former explanation. It seems to me that—and we are like that. And history could well be a process like that. Something has torn loose in our species having to do with information-processing, coding. And we literally have a symbiotic relationship with the word. And Western civilization begins, you know: in principio et verbum caro factum est—“In the beginning was the word, and the word is made flesh.” So we’re like the carriers of this strange relationship to a lógos, a kind of mind that doesn’t seem to be made of matter, but that seems to permeate this planet. And various cultures contact this on various levels. I mean, this is the spirit world of the shaman, this is the lógos world of the Greek golden age, so forth and so on. And some societies call it god, and some call it Gaia, and some call it illusion. But all societies are aware of it as a potential experience.
I think history has a purpose, and that the obvious no-way-back-ness of it indicates that it is some kind of process that is designed. It is not a random walk. It’s not the accumulation of endless blunders. It actually has a purpose and an intent. And it’s a style. And when it is fulfilled it will be replaced by something else.
Yeah, do you all understand a meme is a kind of—you could say if genes are the basic units of biology, memes are the basic units of ideology and culture. So fascism is a meme, Madonna is a meme. All ideologies and all short-term cultural phenomena are memes. And these memes compete. Whatever happened to Boy George? That kind of thing, you know? Apparently some go extinct. And they can be replicated. When you repeat my opinion it means you have copied the meme in the same way that you could copy a gene. And when I write a book, I am replicating my inner memes and sending out thousands of copies somewhat analogous to a virus. So inside society these memes are competing. That’s what Buchanan means when he talks about cultural war: it’s the meme war that he’s talking about. Shall we be white, Christian, upright, rectitudinous human beings or shall we be dope-smoking, homoerotic, nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh? These are all memes. And as you said very well, they compete. And the human world is an environment in which these memes compete. And hopefully, over time, there is some kind of maximization of something. I don’t want to say progress, although casually people speak of progress. Like we’re supposed to believe that Heidegger somehow has a deeper insight into reality than—I don’t know, I wouldn’t say Plato. I don’t think there’s been progress there. Who? What?
Was a bad example! The psychedelic meme is a perfect example—I mean, that’s a very strong, coherent, definable meme. It’s been furiously suppressed but continues to survive. It’s a healthy meme. It’s able to infect rapidly and spread through populations, and somehow they accrue some benefit to it, and so it’s preserved.
I don’t know how we got off on this. Anybody else? Anything else? We still haven’t really gotten to what I planned to talk about this morning, and we’re almost done. That’s a good sign. Well, it was basically just to make sure you’re fully up to speed on the psychedelic options available—no pun intended. For example, if you have a problem with the illegality of some of these substances, then alpha salvinorin or salvia divinorum is a new plant and a new compound on the scene: not scheduled, not illegal, perfectly okay to grow, possess, advocate, give people, so forth and so on, and quite radical dislocation of the senses, in Rambeau’s [?] phrase, occurs with this. It also has some interesting technical aspects to it, the most impressive being: it’s active at the one milligram level. A thousand micrograms of this stuff. And it’s smoked. So this is a one milligram smokable psychedelic that knocks the pins out from under you pretty dramatically for about 45 minutes. The leaf can be chewed, the plant can be grown as a houseplant, so forth and so on. So that’s one option that’s available.
The other thing you might—
Can you say the name again?
Salvia divinorum. Yeah?
I’m growing some. [???] what do I do with it? How do I—
If you just want to take the leaf, get some big leaves—and there’s some controversy about how much you need, or whether a lot is more than a little. But anyway, I took 35 grams. But it was a huge mouthful, I must say. So try 20 grams. And weight it, remove the midvein so it loses volume, roll it up into a package, and shove it in your mouth, and lie down in darkness, and slowly squeeze and chew it in order to expel this juice into your mouth. And lie still. And after about fifteen or twenty minutes you’ll see what’s called streaming, violet blobs of light sliding past your eyes. You see this after orgasm sometimes, and you see it in anticipation of psychedelics often.
So that will happen. And about three minutes after that it becomes dramatically visionary, and quite bizarre. I mean, on a par with DMT, these stretching, sucking, liquid things. And very bright, the hallucinations. And interesting to me—I’ve never had this with any other compound—I was sitting in darkness in a house with a big pyramidal skylight and the moonlight shining in. The perfect circumstance for hallucinating with eyes open: sharp edges against darkness. Eyes open—there was absolutely nothing going on. I would close my eyes, and it was as dramatic as turning on a light. It was that quick. There was no transition. It was just, I would close my eyes and here would be these slowly undulating, three-dimensional tunnels and recessional surfaces and stuff. So I find it quite fascinating.
And then, to the chemist, it’s extremely fascinating because it’s in a class of compounds unknown to contain psychoactive compounds. Well, now they’re going back into it, and with liquid CO2 chromatography—very cold solvent chromatography, which is very precise and nondestructive—they’re finding a whole family of these salvinorin compounds. And what this will lead to in terms of psychedelics, treatments for mental illness—who knows! It’s amazing that thirty years, forty years into the psychedelic revolution we would discover not a new compound—Sascha does that three times a week—but a new family, a new chemical family with psychoactivity, that’s a new continent in the world of neuropsychopharmacology.
And then the other thing that people are doing that is very shamanic and challenging and a good thing to do is: you probably all know about ayahuasca, this South American combinatory thing where a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (banisteriopsis caapi) is combined with a source of tryptamine (DMT, usually psychotria viridis). And because of the MAO inhibition in the gut, the tryptamine, which would normally be destroyed at that point, passes through into the bloodstream and then passes the blood-brain barrier. So you can make DMT orally active if you complex it with an MAO inhibitor. Well, a whole bunch of people have realized that in most environments in the world there are tryptamine sources, and so if you could combine them with an MAO inhibitor you could create local variants on Amazonian ayahuasca. And they call this pharmahuasca, or anahuasca, meaning “analog ayahuasca.” And what people are doing is, they’re using pergamon harmala as the MAO inhibitor; the seeds of pergamon harmala. These are little black seeds, and you can get them from seed companies or you can get them at Iranian markets. And they call it harmal. And it’s sold in Iranian markets to be thrown on hot charcoal to fumigate rooms. This is just a traditional use of it. It kills fleas. It’s a very nice smelling thing; a kind of an incense. Well, if you take two grams of these little black seeds and grind them down, that will inhibit your MAO very effectively. And now any DMT-containing plant that you orally ingest will become active.
And it turns out that DMT is very, very common in nature. It’s the commonest of all hallucinogens in nature. It occurs in numerous grasses, in leguminous trees, it occurs in the rubiaceae, it occurs in the myristicaceae—on and on. Huge families implicated in this. It even occurs in certain species of fish. It occurs in human metabolism. This is interesting—a schedule one drug that you are carrying around in your body: every man, woman and child on this planet. Kind of the ultimate Catch-22. Everybody is breaking the law. You must’ve realized that anyway. So these things can be complexed together.
Now, some of the DMT sources that you might want to be aware of are phalaris grasses: these are prairie grasses. And some of these strains are pretty stiff. Red turkey is a strain of phalaris arundinacea that is pretty, pretty potent. There’s a plant called desmanthus illinoensis: the Illinois bundleweed which, apparently, was not used by the North American Indians. It’s only been about four years that it has been discovered that the root bark of this plant intensely contains DMT. And wild crafters are not collecting it, and you can buy that plant. If you go to Mexico, there’s a material sold in Mexican pharmacies called tepezcohuite, which is the root bark of mimosa hostilis, the same plant implicated in Brazil in a drug called binho de jurema. That is a very mysterious and not well understood DMT preparation taken orally, apparently without an MAO inhibitor. Or the MAO inhibitor must also be present in the single plant from which it’s prepared. Other sources of DMT: lespedeza bicolor, that’s a clover-like ground cover. Those are probably the main ones.
So people are experimenting with these things, and making pharmahuasca, and in some cases getting off. I mean, there’s a lot of clenched guts and hanging over the porcelain bowl in this line of research, but if you hit it right you’ll be very gratified. Yeah, well, that’s the great thing about having an underground. You get human data that you could never get in a situation of government licensing, because people are willing to take chances. I had a real bummer one time. I took half a dose of mushrooms and half a dose of ayahuasca. And it had me praying for mercy. It was not like anything I’ve ever—I’ve seen some weird territory, but what this was, was… as I analyzed it later, what must’ve been happening was: short-term memory simply was not transcripting. And so I was sitting there, stoned out of my mind, and then this thought would come: “Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong.” So then I would search through: pulse, heartbeat. Nothing’s wrong. You say, “Oh, nothing’s wrong. Okay” And you go back to the trip. Fifteen seconds later: “Something’s wrong….” You say, “Nothing’s wrong!” Yeah. And it got loopier and loopier. And I had—remember that amazing scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the guy is outside the ship, and he says, “Open the pod bay doors, Hal,” and he says, “I can’t do that, Dave.” And I had this image of the molecular machinery jammed. I could almost see it. I could see the molecule locked in the synaptic receptor cleft, and it was like uuunnnngh, and it was building toward panic. And finally I just somehow got hold of myself. And I had a picture—which I’m sure you’ve all had this picture—of myself in a locked ward somewhere. They check in once every 36 hours and wash down the walls. And then so I said, “I’m just going to sit here until it leaves.” And I did. And after about an hour of real hell, you could just almost feel it click and begin to drift out of the receptor, and then the chemical, the pharmaco-kinetic dynamics of the thing, cutting. I said, “Oh, we’re going to live to tell the tale, apparently.”
There’s like a wildflower that grows in the spring in the hills in California. I don’t know the name of it. These little purple flowers. And if the plant’s allowed to continue to grow, it becomes a woody, stemmed, green-leafed, sort of a sage green, with a stem of little purple flowers. I’m sure some of you must know what it is. They also come, occasionally, in yellow. When I walk through a field of those, I smell DMT. I know that DMT is there somewhere, but I have no idea.
I’m sure you’re right. I mean, there’s a yellow flowering tropical bohemia in a botanical garden near where I live in Hawai’i, and the smell is—it just rivets you when you walk by. And many times I’ve been in the Amazon, like walking along a trail in the late afternoon, and suddenly it will just hit you. It’s just…. And strangely enough, smell is an incredibly imprecise sense. Standing in a jungle, smelling a strange smell, and asking the question, “What makes this smell?”—there are thousands of sources. You know, you look around, you have no idea. But yeah, I think it occurs as a volatile in flowers, as some kind of an attractant. It has a sweet, sharp, indolic smell that’s very piercing.
Syrian rue is pergamon harmala. That plant I mentioned as a source of an MAO inhibitor. If you’re interested in doing experiments, becoming a shaman/alchemist and experimenting with making your own pharmahuasca, get Jonathan Ott’s book called Ayahuasca Analogues. I think they have some copies here. And he describes his self experiments. And it’s a little book; very useful. It’s very satisfying, I might say, to make your own stuff. I mean, I wrote a book with my brother years ago called Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide. Growing it is really a wonderful experience. I mean, I don’t want to advocate it absolutely, because you could be dragged away to the can for years. There’s that little detail. But absent that, the way you experience the organism when you grow it is incredible. Because you take a 25-dollar sack of rye—a human food, that’s all it is; you buy it at the organic grocery. It’s a human food. You take it home. You have this snowy white mycelium. It’s this pure—it’s a symbol of purity; its whiteness. And it will convert it, 12% dry weight, into teonanacatl: the flesh of the gods, the doorway into the mysterium. And it gets you out of the cycle of criminal syndicalism that inevitably accrues to fancy dope-dealing. You have produced it, you know every stage of its unfoldment, and you have a very strong relationship with it.
The other thing is: growing mushrooms teaches all kinds of virtues which serve you very well while tripping. Virtues like constancy, attention to detail, patience, so forth and so on. So if you’re wondering if you should take mushrooms and you’re really in a dilemma about it, grow ’em. If you can grow ’em, you can take ’em. I mean, that is the certain entry into it. And of course there’s a certain mystical faith that we who grow are somehow more deeply in the service of this thing than those who simply trip. That’s probably bullshit, but it keeps us at the knife and the flame.
Well, when you see a large mushroom project go into fruiting, it’s awesome. It’s awesome! The power of this thing! What a workhorse this organism is. This thing—it’s so efficient. I mean, imagine: 12% conversion of rye to psilocybin. To put that in perspective: that 25-dollar bag of rye becomes 35,000 dollars six weeks later, at current market prices. I mean, not to bring the mundane in here, but there’s nothing wrong with feeding your children, either, and staying off welfare, and so forth and so on.
Did you want to say something? Did you want to say something?
How much trouble, how much irritation have you met from the government because of your public stand, and you’re easily identified, and all that sort of thing?
Well, now, this’ll be a hard swallow for all of us (because the great faith of our culture is that paranoia is never inappropriate): none. None, ever. I don’t know what that means. I’m paranoid enough to assume it must mean I work for them. How else could that be possible? The other possibility is that they are even stupider than we suppose. I mean, I used to say: “I just use big words. That’s all.” They don’t clock that. It never appears on their screen. Another possibility, which is equally humbling to all of us, is that this isn’t worth bothering with, you know? Some free-wheeling Irish bullshit artist and his docile flock—who cares? I sort of have the idea that there’s something called the five percent rule, and it’s that you can believe anything, advocate anything, practice anything, and as long as you don’t gain adherence of greater five percent of the population, you do not become a budgetary item for repression unless you start gassing subway stations or murdering judges or something—and then, of course, you have to be dealt with.
That’s interesting. Well, Prozac is a very peculiar drug in the sense that it never seems to work the same way twice. I’m not sure—I think timing is very important with Prozac. I really think Prozac hasn’t been understood. It’s being used to treat depression. I think what it is, is: it’s the magic bullet for—what is it called?—seasonal light deficit syndrome. I just think we are not supposed to be living this far north, and that every year we go through a culturally managed depression called “winter” or “holidays.” And people say, “Why do I feel like shit?” And there are a million reasons, but the real reason is: because you’re not in the tropics, dude! And I took Prozac in the past, and the feeling when everything was stripped away, and I said, “What is this feeling that this drug gives me?” It’s the feeling that it’s summertime. Your body tells you that it’s the good old summertime. And your body likes being told that. I think it’s terrible. I live in Hawai’i, and so I’m very aware every September. The media, of course, has a totally mainland cast. And so every September the media starts talking about how, “Well, summer’s over now. We’re all going back to school and the sports are changing, and everything is changing,” and you can just feel in the tone: a-ha, they’re fixing them all over there. They’re getting them ready for another winter. And I just channel surf. We don’t need to be hyped about how, “Well, it’s another winter coming.” So I think a lot of people are depressed in the wintertime, and Prozac—and of course, it’s targeting serotonin reuptake. And serotonin—this is not air, serotonin has a complex light-mediated chemistry in the pineal. This is all about light, strangely enough; this serotonin deep pineal hydroxy-tryptamine chemistry. Melanin, which gives you your sun tan, is a further breakdown product of melatonin, which is a conversion from serotonin to melatonin that goes on in the pineal mediated by a harmine-like enzyme—called adrenoglomerulotropin by the physiologists, but called by the chemists 6-methoxy tetrahydroharman. And there is actually a part of the optic pathway that breaks off and carries physical light into the center of your brain in order to drive this pineal chemistry. That’s why light and depression are so dramatically linked. I mean, there’s actually a lot of light [that] gets into your pineal gland, and there mediates certain chemical processes.
Well, the morning has fled as they always do. Enjoy your afternoon. We’ll be back here at four. And if you don’t like the way this is going, come armed with questions and agendas. Thank you!
I hope you’re enjoying Esalen and making good use of your time, one way or another. This evening we’ll talk about the time wave. I see the computer is in the room so, assuming we can get it up and running, we’ll talk about that. Before I get started this afternoon I want to give you my URL so that you can find the website. The website is really my substitute for myself, and I’m trying to make it more interesting than I am by far. And I’ve only been at it a year, but it’s already up over fifteen megabytes and growing. And the idea is that if I have some enthusiasm I put it on the website, and then even though my interests may wander elsewhere and I no longer care about reform in the Seychelles or something else, it’s there in its pristine form, spell-checked, illustrated, hair-combed. That’s the way we want to be seen. And there are many, many pointers to everything from developments in AI to pharmacology to nasty pictures (because it’s a huge website), so if some part of what is touched on here—physics, mathematics, chemistry, sociology—you want to follow up, go to the website and there will be a button there for you. So just take one of these and hand them around, and that’ll probably do it for the whole group. Do you all understand what a URL is?
A uniform resource locator?
Well, but at least you know! It’s the address, as it were, of the website on the Internet, on the worldwide web.
This guy’s for real? He’s alive? He’ll talk to me? Wow!
You mean because you imagine people who write books reside in some seventh heaven unaccessible by normal human beings?
Well, or just inundated with too much stuff to bother with… a question about your writing. I think it’s great stuff.
Yeah, well, it’s nice to get questions. To put the greatness of writers in perspective I’ll tell you a story about the last time I dealt with my publisher at Bantam in New York. Sitting across from those people, the above-the-fiftieth-floor, how I come off to them is: “Well, now, let’s see Mr. McKenna. We have current sales figures in front of us. You’re kind of a 60,000-copy kinda guy, aren’t you? And frankly, Mr. McKenna, around here that really butters no bread. We’re interested in the million-plus seller. We can carry people like you, of course, given that we have substantial successes in other fields. But…” and on and on like that. To which I replied, “So I guess you’re not taking me to dinner at Elaine’s?”—which was true. Not even tea!
Well, is there anything out of this morning that anybody wants to take up?
Yeah. I’ve got a question. When you were talking about growing psilocybin [???] and I… it just kind of sparked something in me. Do you have a connection with devic realms or [???] spirits? Is that something that comes up for you in this work?
Well, I don’t know. Is a self-transforming elf machine a deva?
I don’t… what do you mean?
This is a phrase that has been associated with me for many, many years. I encounter self-transforming elf machines; which are creatures, entities—perhaps, although they’re not made out of matter, they’re made out of (as nearly as I can figure it out) syntax driving light. But if what your question addresses is the issue of entities on the other side, there are definitely entities on the other side for me. And there seem to be such for many, many other people. I’m not by any standard sensitive, so if I get entities, then they are substantial and capable of defending themselves. It’s one of the most challenging parts of the whole psychedelic landscape. Because most people can accept the idea of disordered sensory input, recovery of traumatic memory material, so forth and so on. But what are we to do with an elf? You know, that becomes a little harder to contextualize in psychoanalytic theory. Although Jung did a good job when he said autonomous elements can escape from the psyche’s control and present themselves as independent entities. I’m not sure he’s ever seen a self-transforming elf machine. Are those devic entities? Do you think?
Yeah. I don’t have any hallucinogenic experience myself. I’m more familiar with connection to the future and other experiences that people have had [???] that kind of thing. So what you’re saying is, during your experiences with pharmaceuticals, you have that experience even if you’re not having it when you’re not—
Oh, it’s the defining characteristic of the true DMT flash. I mean, it is not subtle. These things mob you like badly trained rottweilers. They come bounding forward by the dozens, by the hundreds. They jump into your body. They jump out of your body. And I’ve thought—I mean, it maps to some degree over the archetype of the little people: the leprechaun, the fay. And (being Irish, being Jungian) I’m willing to entertain: maybe I have a special relationship to this stuff. But then, in the Amazon, the people using DMT that I studied in the early 1970s—the reason they did it, they said, was to speak with the little people. What puzzles me about my contacts with these beings is it conforms to, let’s say, the Irish model. They are small, they live under hills—or, when you’re with them, you have a sense that you are somehow underground—they are full of merriment, almost to a manic and frightening level. It’s sort of like a Bugs Bunny cartoon gone berserk. They are friendly but play rough. In other words, it’s a land of explosions and falling anvils. It’s like a road runner cartoon or something. But the overwhelming feeling is luv—but I spell it L-U-V to distinguish it from the ordinary kind, because it’s just this kind of crazy, childish affection. And they’re delighted to have me in their presence. Well, now that all sort of corresponds with the Irish model or with worldwide folklore of little creatures, little people in the woods.
What’s happening that is not mappable onto fairyland or leprechauns or Findhornian beings or anything like that, or anything else I’ve ever heard of, is that these entities have an agenda. And it’s a very curious agenda. They use a language which you see. It is made out of sound. In other words, it is sound, but you see it in that state. And the entire point of the encounter from their perspective seems to be to teach you to do this. They want you to transform your language. They want you to speak elfish. And, you know, what? If you’ve never done DMT, and you just smoked it, and you’re thirty seconds into this experience, and this is what it’s come down to, you wonder what to make of it. I thought about this for years and years and years, and I don’t know why there should be an invisible syntactical intelligence giving language lessons in hyperspace. But that certainly consistently seems to be what is happening.
I’ve thought a lot about language as a result of that, and several things about it—first of all, it is the most remarkable thing we do, I think. And we talked a little bit this morning about epigenetic behaviors. Chomsky showed that the deep structure of language is under genetic control, but that’s like the assembly language level. Local expressions of language are epigenetic. And it seems to me that language is some kind of enterprise of human beings that is not finished; that we have now left the grunts and the digs of the elbow somewhat in the dust, but the most articulate, brilliantly pronounced and projected English or French or German or Chinese is still a poor carrier of our intent, a very limited bandwidth for the intense compression of data that we are trying to put across to each other. And it occurs to me—from studying McLuhan and other people—that the ratios of the senses (the ratio between the eye and the ear, and so forth) this also is not genetically fixed. There are ear cultures and there are eye cultures. Print cultures and electronic cultures. So it may be that our perfection and our completion lies in the perfection and completion of the word—again this curious theme of the word and its effort to concretize itself. A language that you can see is far less ambiguous than a language that you hear. If I read a paragraph of Proust, then we could spend the rest of the afternoon discussing what did he mean. But if we look at a piece of sculpture by Henry Moore, we can discuss what did he mean, but at a certain level there is a kind of shared bedrock that isn’t in the Proust passage. We each stop at a different level with the textual passage. With the three-dimensional object we all sort of start from the same place and then work out our interpretations. You know, is it a nude, is it an animal, is it bronze, is it wood, is it poignant, is it comical, so forth and so on.
So this is not a very scientific part of the rap because it’s very hard to convince people that there are non-human intelligences this side of Genebelgenubi. And when you tell them that these non-human intelligences are accessed through the diminutive mushrooms growing on their front lawn, they just write you off as a squirrel. But this question of the non-human intelligences is very much on the agenda. All shamans in all times and places have claimed this. And the thing that so pleases me about DMT is: a lot of people will not take a psychedelic like LSD or psilocybin or something because it lasts hours and hours. Inevitably, a thing lasting that long, you’re going to end up dealing with your stuff—your anxiety, your fear, your this and that—a lot of people don’t care for that sort of thing. (Whether that’s good or bad is another issue.) With DMT it lasts four minutes. And so how lost in an examination of childhood trauma can you get in four minutes, especially when you have hundreds of elves tugging at your coat sleeves? So it’s really an incredibly powerful tool. You know, we have the UFO people claiming there are non-human intelligences, but they have no reliable method of contact that works for a skeptic. The great thing about DMT is it doesn’t require belief—a quality I mentioned last night as belonging to the truth. The truth requires no belief. It is the truth. I’m sure there are probably people listening to my words at this moment who have encountered these entities. This, to my mind, is the great and chilling mystery in the center of the psychedelics.
And once you’ve encountered these things you have to take them seriously. To the point of: you have to understand where do they fit in to the great order of being? What are these things? How can there be a lifeform not made of matter? In other words: how can they be intelligent and coherent but have no fixed body outline? Is the universe in fact populated by non-human, non-material intelligences that we somehow contact using drugs? I mean, that’s one possibility.
[???] beyond the DMT experience.
That’s the question, yes. Where are they when you’re not there? Is it an ongoing thing? Is something going on on this planet? Are these the controllers? Are you getting into a back channel that you weren’t cleared for? Or—and this is, to my mind, the most chilling and appalling and exhilarating possibility of all—when you go back over the shamanism thing, you say, “You shamans—now where is this all coming from?” They will tell you, “It comes from ancestors.” Well, that’s a cheerful and fairly sanitized concept. But when you deconstruct it, ancestors are dead people. What is actually being suggested there is that there is a kind of ecology of souls one energy threshold over that is copresent with this world. Well, strangely enough, that’s what the Irish myth of the fay says. It says these are dead people. These are souls that linger in our environment. And this is what souls look like.
Again, folklore is only a guide, but if what we are dabbling with, if what lies at the end of the road of shamanism is the dissolution of the boundary between life and death itself, then the million-year intuition that this was a path worth following will be dramatically vindicated. And one of the reasons I preach DMT so furiously is: I just want a larger body of people to take it so that we can compare data. We need to understand: how is this possible? It raises a whole host of questions. One is not only how is this possible, but then given that it is possible, how has it been kept secret? How can millions of people go to the grave, raise children, hold jobs, so forth and so on, go to the grave, and the news of a doorway standing that agape hasn’t penetrated? I mean, most people believe they’re imprisoned in this world and that the only hope is maybe fifteen years at the ashram, and hideous acts of self-abnegation and control, and so forth and so on, and actually the boundary between us and an unspeakably bizarre world—it’s thirty seconds away at any time, as long as you have DMT available to smoke. That’s appalling to me. I mean, it means we don’t know nothin’.
If you talk about trying to map your experience onto the myths, I wonder if it’s possible that you could look at the myths for information of [???], that we are no longer masters of this doorway. We’re trying to rediscover mastery that’s been held for thousands of years. Maybe there’s something that we can find in the myths that tell us a behavior or a mode of being in that state that would be useful. For instance, catching a leprechaun and getting the pot of gold implies some kind of game that you play with them that yields some value.
Yeah, well, the classical myth about leprechauns is that they want to keep you. If they catch you or if you mess with them, they’ll hold you. And then you have to bargain your way out. And the bargain is always the solution of a riddle. Notice that what’s happening here is: it’s all about linguistic prowess, it’s all about poetic skill, it’s all about language ability. Only the eloquent, only the clever, only those who are masters of riddelry and pun are acceptable to these entities. Apparently that’s what they value. Why? Pfff. I guess because they’re made of language. And they themselves have—when I try to describe to people what they are or what they look like, various things can be said. They’re like self-dribbling jeweled basketballs. In other words, they don’t have faces or anything, not the little leather yellow jerkins and the curve-pointed shoes. Not that. Self-dribbling jeweled basketballs. And they use the language to make objects. That’s how this language is different from ordinary English. English we can make meaning. The DMT language makes objects. It’s like a higher-dimensional language. And so these things bound forward with the complete purpose of delighting you. And they reach into the air, into their bodies, into some nearby invisible dimension, and they pull out what I would call words, puns, objects, hallucinations, things which manage to be all those things simultaneously. And they say, “Look at this!” And it’s purely designed to dazzle and astound. And then a colleague will elbow the little guy aside and say, “No, look at this!” And they’re all in front of you, chirping, clamoring. And these objects that they make begin themselves to speak and float away and reproduce. And you’ve arrived. Thirty seconds ago you were sitting in a room with your grubby friend somewhere, pursuing spiritual understanding. Now this is going on. And it’s very hard to not be horrified. I mean, the cognitive dissonance, the neck-snapping switch of dimensions. And then, after about three, four, five minutes, it retracts. It loses its vitality and it begins to pull away from you almost like a boat pulling away from a dock. And, in fact, I had one trip where (metaphorically, not having hands) they all turned and waved and said, “Deja vu! Deja vu!” Which is, of course, absurd. Now, people can say all kinds of things. They can say, “Well, this is just the autonomous substructures of the psyche manifesting themselves.” That sounds to me like a lawyer’s explanation.
In light of that, allow me to extend the skeptical mind just a bit further. [???] your descriptions of the event, is it common to everyone who has [???] your knowledge, does it represent 10%, 50%, 75%? Are they equal in description? Do they vary? Is this unique to your description?
All good questions. It’s hard to smoke DMT, especially if you’re not a smoker. It’s harsh. Some people don’t get enough. I would say, of the people who smoke as much as I think you should smoke, 75% probably report something like this. It’s hard for people to report. I mean, I’ve had years and years of practice. What I just told you about this is an incredibly crumpled, compressed, edited version, because what is really happening in there is unspeakably bizarre. Unspeakably bizarre. That seems, in fact, to be its quality: that it is unspeakable and that, therefore, in order to speak of it, you have to make a leap of faith to this higher-order glossolalia-like language. Ayahuasca is a slow-release DMT if you deconstruct it pharmacologically, so that instead of it happening in four minutes, it happens over four hours. Again, at very high dose ayahuasca and a very high dose psilocybin, these entities begin to emerge. When I take psilocybin, sometime in the second hour, I pass through a place which I’ve learned to recognize. It’s a feeling. And I call it elf country. And there are no elves, but there’s a feeling. And then I call them. You know? And following the directions of a favorite episode of I Love Lucy, I call them by saying, “Come in, little green men! Come in, little green men!” It’s simply a permitting. It’s simply an invocation. And then they approach like a [???] band. From a distance you can hear the brass and the drum as they get closer. And it begins as a sound. It’s very interesting. It begins as a sound, and as it gets louder there comes a point where, imperceptibly, it becomes visible. And then all I can say is it gets bigger, just like someone marching toward you through three-dimensional space. And so it goes from being a little phenomenon on the horizon of your awareness to: you’re there, you’re with them, you’re playing with the tuba, you’re marching along, it’s happening! And then they sort of peel off and march away and leave you in the same way they came.
The archetype of this phenomenon, as far as I can tell, is the archetype of the circus. DMT is somehow the cosmic circus. And if you analyze what the circus is, it’s a closed environment of permitted outrageousness that roves the straight landscape, setting up in one town and then another and then another, and it’s a thing of wonder and light. And carny people are loose. They are not like you and me. I remember in the little town I grew up in, every fourth of July the carnival would come to town for cherry day. And we kids were told we couldn’t stay out after nine o’clock when the carnival was in town, because there was just this aura… more liquor was being consumed, more people were staying up late, so forth and so on. And if you analyze the circus, it has all the elements of the DMT thing. I mean, there’s the center ring. The clowns. And Henry Munn, in a wonderful essay on psilocybin mushrooms called The Mushrooms of Language, describes them as self-performing acrobatic bits of grammar, is how he describes them. This is clearly the same thing. The circus is a wonderful place for children. But it has, behind that, a dark side. I think my own earliest reminiscence of what I could call erotic awareness—I must’ve been very, very young; under three, because I was being held by people—and I was taken to a circus, and there was a woman there in a tiny g-string costume, spinning, hanging by her teeth up near this thing, and it was all there: death and Eros and risk and drama. And I got it. So there’s all that in the circus. But then there’s also the wiggy side, you know? The bearded lady, the goat-faced boy, the thing in the bottle—that’s all just off the main event. And then the circus packs up and leaves and everything is the same, except there’s some crumpled paper blowing around in the wind. And every little boy and girl worth their salt wants to run off and join the circus. So this is the archetype of DMT: a completely self-contained, transformative world filled with all kinds of implications.
It’s incredibly mercurial. It’s incredibly trickster-like. Yes, it’s as though Hermes had divided into a thousand subalterns, all set going at once.
Well, the blooming and buzzing confusion which the infant experiences is the same world we’re looking at right now, except that the infant has no language for it. Now, the interesting thing about the DMT thing is: you have no language for it. That’s interesting point number one. Interesting point number two: somebody arrives on the scene eager to provide language. That’s suggestive. So it seems like what they’re saying is: “We’ve stamped your passport. You’re over the border. But no one here speaks English. So if you want to make yourself understood, please pick up the local lingo johnny pronto. And, in fact, we’ve assigned a team teaching group.”
The feeling of the DMT thing—and this is why I entertain the possibility that it might be an anticipation of death—what happens when you smoke DMT is, there’s an initial kind of hand-shaking confusion (like when two computers meet and exchange protocols). There is a thirty-second period where everything sort of gets sorted out. And this thing forms like a mandala. I call it the chrysanthemum. And it’s a rotating orange-yellow, floral, circular, mandalic thing. If you have not taken enough, it is a kind of rubberized membrane or something. If you haven’t taken enough you’ll hit it and bounce off and have this really ambiguous experience which is pretty horrible, actually—just kind of confusion which slowly goes away. But if you’ve taken enough—and the key to taking enough, and here comes a piece of practical advice that may be worth more than the entire workshop: the way to get off on DMT is, after you feel completely peculiar, you have to do one more enormous hit. This is where courage comes in. Most people, they take it, and they say, “It’s working. This stuff feels really weird. It’s really working.” You say, “Do one more hit.” And they say, “No, no, it’s working!” You say, “No, do one more hit!” So then you do, or we say you do. You penetrate that membrane and you go through a series of—like, to me it’s like a ramp, but it’s like a series of di-systolic compressions that push me forward; birth canal analogy, obviously. And then I break into the elf dome—or the hive, as I call it. And certain intuitions accompany this without any rationale, and one is: I’m underground. This place is warm, it’s domed, it’s reasonably well lit, but there’s enormous weight above my head. I’m far under the earth somehow. Fairies, as we all know, live under hills.
So then I’m there, and the elves and the elf machines and the language lesson are proceeding, but if I can stabilize and calm my hysteria so that I can maintain some kind of objectivity, I notice that, really, the place I break into is somebody very odd, someone very strange. It’s their idea of a reassuring environment for a human being. Somebody who doesn’t know very much about human beings, but who’s really trying hard, built this terrarium of arrival. And it has the aura of a maternity ward. And I’ve thought, you know, these self-transforming elf machines—which I take so seriously and try to make the basis for a new ontology—they could be nothing more profound than those plastic shapes that we hang over a baby’s bassinet to teach it to coordinate space and color. In other words, what those things are is: they’re educational toys. They aren’t the main clam. They’re not in charge of the hospital. They’re just something dumped in your arrival playpen to keep you happy while the doctors make the observation. And the doctors never appear. And the whole thing is pervaded with a wonderful affection and zaniness. It’s completely life-affirming. I have no patience with alien abduction and any of that. I think that’s pathology. I think it’s media-damaged people manipulated by incredibly unscrupulous new age weirdos. There is no paranoia in this. It’s entirely positive—although very, very weird. The main thing it is, is: hard to understand. What’s this all for, you know? Maybe you thought you were going to have an insight into your relationship, or resolve your hatred of your father, and instead you’re playing canasta with elves.
Does the experience [???]
Not very. It’s always the same. The emphasis is on imitating the language. And—
So you don’t sense that there’s a breakthrough point beyond that. As you’ve mentioned, passing through the membrane, getting into this environment. And now you’re in this environment. The exchange is taking place. You’re dealing with it on a rudimentary basis, but you don’t have any perception that there’s an increase?
Well, the problem is the brevity. We very quickly figured this out back in the sixties. You only get three minutes. It’s like visiting the American Museum of Natural History for three minutes. So what we really need was an extender. And that was why we went to the Amazon in the first place; was because ayahuasca from the anthropological literature sounded like it was the extender. And, in fact, if you brew it stiff enough, it is. And you can get in there for quite a while. But it doesn’t become particularly more rationally apprehendable. It’s a great mystery. It’s a puzzle. It shouldn’t exist. It’s the thing which you don’t believe exists. It does!
Terence, [???] crazy idea. Talking about elves, something about Santa Claus, and [???] red-nosed reindeer [???] mushrooms [???] learn about these [???] presence.
You want me to extend your list for you? Santa Claus’s colors are red and white. Santa Claus is associated with the spruce tree. The spruce tree is the mycorrhizal symbiote of the amanita. The amanita is associated with magical flight. Santa Claus flies. The amanita is associated with reindeer. He flies with the aid of reindeer. He makes gifts for all the boys and girls in the world with the help of elves. Elves, in all traditions, are what are called demon-artificers. They make things. That’s what elves do. Whether it’s shoes, or gold jewelry, or—they make things. Elves are artificers. Now, what else, before I leave this theme? Ah! Santa Claus lives at the north pole. The north pole is the axis mundi; the Yggdrasil. The magic world ash of Norse shamanism grows at the north pole. You pile all this stuff up and you say: this has got to be an ancient memory of an amanita cult. Although I’ve looked at Santa Claus, and I have never found a source that would trace it back further than the tenth century. But I maintain it’s Paleolithic, probably.
What’s the probability of finding a new tryptamine that we weren’t aware of that extends the trip of the [???] time [???]
Well, Sascha is now working on the tryptamines, and I asked him in Mexico. I said: of all of these tryptamines you’ve elaborated, which ones are the most interesting? I can’t remember the one he named, but it was a synthetic. And he said it was extended. There’s a certain—I don’t know if fear is the word, but these places are really strange. And for most people, three minutes is quite enough, and then they need to attempt to assimilate it. Part of the problem is you can’t remember it. I mean, I’ve seen people smoke DMT, give all the presentation of intoxication, come down, lie still, and when you say, “What happened?” they say, “Nothing happened. Nothing at all happened. And furthermore, I think I won’t be seeing too much of you in the future. In fact, I’m sure of it.” So…
There’s also the possibility of [???] going to the gym, or going out and doing a sports activity, that one practices remembering dreams or try to experience the weird sober things possible, in order to have more stamina in the altered state.
Isn’t the dream itself, the images, a language? Isn’t there a form of—aren’t your images communicating something to you? Through images?
You mean in a normal dream?
In a normal dream. There’s the citizens of the dream that come, and they—depending on whether you’re visual or auditorial, whatever—they’re communicating to you as well. So you’re watching, observing, and then participating and feeling, and you’re giving messages at the same time.
Well, and the dream world itself is very bizarre. I have recurrent dreams. A lot of my dreams are recurrent, and I had an experience recently. I was having a recurrent dream and it was basically: I was in a restaurant and this guy was taking my order. And as I looked at him I realized I had seen him before in a dream. And I said, “I’ve seen you before, but it’s been a long, long time.” And he said, “Yeah, well, I went to Alaska and worked the salmon boats for a while, but now I’m back.” I was like, “Ah!” So, you know…
[???] because they’re always interacting with the same [???] sources [???] humans, but they’re interacting with the [???]
That’s right. Yeah?
When you’re talking about the images [???] describing, what happens to my understanding is: it sounds like these are the keepers of the patterns of life. [???] keepers of the DNA, or when something comes into life, a species, or a species exits life, that there is a gathering up of the patterns [???] life itself we don’t understand that realm or that form, but maybe in this altered state that we get to go into and see what it’s like to gather up patterns. And illustrate to us how the patterns—because it’s kind of like it’s a joyous thing. Life in itself. And that the keepers would be something [???]
Well, imagine how astonishing it would be if we could confirm that there were something beyond death, and that in fact it was not only there was something, but whatever this something was was actually looking back at us. I was raised Catholic and took a lot of time to deconstruct this kind of stuff. It did not seem to me rationally supportable. But actually, that’s in the light of a fairly simple rationalism. Now I look at nature, and everywhere what I see is that nature conserves novelty. This is something you’ll hear me say many times. In other words, once nature achieves some structure, she’s very reluctant to let it go. Life is an example. Life was achieved more than a billion years ago. And through asteroid cataclysm and polar reverse and solar dynamic it has tenaciously—tenaciously—held on.
So it may be that this thing which we call the personality, the self, is actually of interest to nature as a complex structure, and that it really does use the physical body as a kind of workbench upon which to build a higher-dimensional vehicle of some sort. Otherwise it’s very hard to account for some of what’s going on. And this is one of the most confounding ideas that you could put forth in this intellectual environment because if there’s one thing that science has definitely put some effort into, it’s exorcising spirit from nature. You know? Nature is a soulless machine according to science: without purpose, without intent, without will, without sentience. It’s just happening. It’s mutation grinding against natural selection, and that’s all it is according to them. Well, evidence from these shamanic dimensions seems to be quite the contrary.
By the way, this is what I intended to talk about this afternoon. I was not led astray. My notion of this afternoon was that what we would talk about is the various characteristics of novelty. This morning we talked about the methods. Then the various characteristics of novelty. And DMT represents a concrescence of novelty. It is the paradigmatic psychedelic, it’s the paradigmatic dimension-transiting experience. Other descents into novelty are your own maturation, your individual experience of life. Hopefully, if you’re getting older you’re getting smarter. There’s no excuse for anything else. How would it be if it worked the other way? (Although for some people they seem to manage that.) So life, your life, is a descent into novelty as well, leading—all these novel paths lead to the same door marked “postmortem.” History is another descent into novelty. And now that descent is proceeding at such a pace that we can almost physically feel ourselves moving into the future. I mean, we require daily newspapers and hourly updates to stay on the moving crest of what we have set loose. So the individual journey through life toward death, the cultural journey toward transcendence, eschatology, apocalypse, whatever it is, depending on the cultural style, and then fractally embedded in these larger forms of novelty, the psychedelic experience. And—in the spirit of thoroughness—the sexual experience which, against the background of ordinary life and activity, definitely represents a nexus of novelty and focus.
So all of these things are descents into novelty, and then, I maintain, on a still more micro-scale, this period of time we’re experiencing between the end of February and midsummer, a similar thing. But these patterns repeat, and sometimes they’re extremely dramatic. I suppose death itself being the most dramatic example, because basically that’s the trip from which you do not return. And so forth.
You’re aware that Friday was the biggest single change in financial markets in the last seven years?
No! I flew Thursday. What happened Friday?
Well, the stock market lost 180 points, the bond market had a disastrous [???]
The market fell how far?
On Friday? Well, they must be shitting white over the weekend. What’s going to happen Monday morning?
Right. Monday’s the big day.
Well, I win! Not that the stock market is the revelation of god’s holy will for mankind, but notice that what is interesting about the stock market (even if you don’t give a hoot about money or capitalism) is that it’s an effort to mass average change. It’s an effort to give you a very large-scale picture of many, many opinions brought into a final recension of some sort. So, in a way, it is like the time wave.
It is. And just to further your thought, [???] the economist from last week’s International Magazine of Finance, put a statistical correlation now on all of the world markets becoming interlocked. All the big developed country markets are not acting independently of each other as they used to. The rubber band force is becoming much tighter.
Well, see, if they would study dynamics, this wouldn’t puzzle them at all. That’s a well known phenomenon in dynamics. It’s called coupled oscillation. The simplest example being: walk into a Swiss cuckoo shop, and all the cuckoo clocks hanging on the wall, the pendulums are swinging in unison. That’s not because the guy spent hours setting the cuckoo clocks, it’s because hanging them on the wall, they actually communicate their vibrations to each other through the wall, and after a few hours of running at all kinds of different speeds, everything falls into step. Coupled oscillation. Women in dormitories—their menstruation falls into phase. That’s a coupled biological oscillator. And you get this in many, many systems. And the problem with it is in something like a stock market situation is: it then tends to amplify small perturbations into very large perturbations. And the entire system, then, tends to destabilize.
Well, that’s very interesting. Next week could be major. The way the descent into novelty will work is: there’s no earth-shaking moment. For many months preceeding the 25th of February—we’ll look at this tonight—but for many months preceeding the 25th of February, things have become more and more locked, conservative, recidivist, whatever you want to call it. Habitual, traditional, repetitious. Then the cusp was the 25th of February. But you don’t feel the earth move. The 26th is not greatly different from the 25th. The 27th is slightly more different, the 28th still slightly more. But over the next two months, every day will mark a greater descent into novelty. And as I say, a worldwide economic collapse would certainly precipitate all kinds of other changes. And there’s plenty of instability in the system. I mean, the Chinese are playing with the idea of world war, or at least their military are, while the political people are busy dying. Once you get the internationalist rhetoric out of Marxism, what you have is national socialism. So it isn’t communists that are about to return to power, and Russia, it’s national socialism that’s about to take power in Russia. That’s a terrifying possibility. And then, of course, as I said, the unexpected—which can be anything from asteroid strike to technical innovation to Ebola outbreak to political assassination. These things are—you can bet on the unexpected. It’s the safest bet on the table.
The curious thing for me, again, going back to millenarianism, is in a sense: the construct is an abstraction. We are not reaching—the year 2000, in essence, means nothing. It is the energy that we bring to it that, in a sense, creates the atmosphere for the events to take place.
Well, you mean that the year 2000 is no different from any other year?
Well, except that if you look at the way society frames its values, one of the largest value frames that we have—perhaps, arguably, the largest—is the calendar. And so once you accept a calendar, then its rhythms become automatic. And so here we are, facing the turn of a thousand years. Which, you’re right, in and of itself is nothing, but because we are psychologically driven by it, it becomes something. You can hear these politicians. If they have no rhetoric, they just use the calendar itself as a rhetorical launching pad and try to make that seem like progress. Here’s a progressive program: we’ll turn the millennium! Well, we’re going to turn the millennium whether it’s progressive or not. There will be a lot of Christian hysteria as we approach the millennium, because it’s not only—well, it’s their last chance. I mean, I don’t think anybody believes that in 3000 Christianity will be making a major push. This is their last chance to deliver, and they are very confident of the delivery, and so there is a spreading hysteria. And, of course, whenever society becomes incomprehensible, people assume that the end is near. And that seems to attend that spreading social confusion. Millenarianism is inevitably—well, not inevitably, but largely—a phenomenon of the displaced, the economically desperate, and so forth.
May I ask what do you think is going to happen? Is there going to be another nativistic movement, are we going to have large [???] cults? I mean, what’s going to happen?
You mean over the next ten years or so? I don’t think so. I think Pat Buchanan is discovering the world is even more novel than he supposed. You know? If you’ve never won, and you win, that’s novel. But now it’s time to win again, and it’s no longer novel. You’re back with the problem you had before you won the first time!
I’m very hopeful, because as I look at large scales of time I see that what has always been conserved is greater richness of opportunity. Greater freedom. And the way I define the ultimate Omega Point of novelty is: it must be the place where all things become possible. How could it not be that? Because that’s what “novelty” means: is strange things being possible. Well, when all strange things are possible, you’ve met the novelty maxima. Well, how could such a place exist? Well, it couldn’t, unless you move into hyperspace, or if you invent time travel, or something like that. Then you break the forward momentum of linear history. But that’s conceivable. I mean, there’s no reason, intrinsically, why time travel is impossible. And time travel is simply a roman à clef for transformation of energy and matter on all scales. Time travel is faster than light travel. These things all become the same thing.
And there is no reason why these things can’t be anticipated. You know, the whole purpose of data coordination—whether it’s occurring in an amoeba or a mega-international corporation—the purpose of data coordination is to predict the future. Always. That’s what your senses do for you. Notice: when you look over there and decide to walk over there, you’re also deciding to walk over then. In other words, you are coordinating data to move through time and space toward a future point. And the whole evolution of life, on one level, can be seen as a conquest of dimensions. The earliest forms of life were fixed slimes of some sort. And then motility, motion, became a possibility—but just basically groping in a linear line, unable to see what is ahead of you, unable to see what you’ve just left, but groping, groping. Well, then, over time and through evolution, light-sensitive chemicals get sequestered on the surface of these organisms. And now they have a gradient that tells them where light is. And they can go toward it or away from it. They are gaining dimensional sophistication. Well, from that point to the evolution of human beings it’s basically [that] evolution works on one theme: the developing of better bodies for the conquest of three-dimensional space. So the fin turns into the leg, and so forth and so on. And then, finally, that’s like fulfilled in higher animals. You know, the cheetah can run 70 miles an hour and so forth and so on. These are… the limits of flesh are achieved.
But then, at that point, mind begins to flex its muscle and move forward. And what is language but the ability to recreate the past in the present, or to recreate the hypothetical in the present? In other words, in a world without language, experience is always being lost. You have it, and then it goes away. If you can talk about it around the campfire and tell the stories, then the past stays with you, and the ancestors accompany you on your journey through time. Well, then, if you get still more sophisticated and begin to write, now not only the great myths (the enduring triumphs and tragedies of your group) can be kept, but all the minutiae: the tax records, the tallies of crops bought and sold, the king lists—everything can be kept. And now—you know, through the transformation of media electronically—essentially the past is a file in our world. And the file is more and more… you know, once we have VR, much of the past will stay around as an adjunct to the present.
On the other end of that equation we have developed incredibly powerful mathematical tools for predicting and extending data into the future. It’s terribly, terribly important. The stock market is a good example. We need to know how these markets operate in order to avoid social confusion and breakdown of social systems. Inventory theory is a place where you need to know six weeks, ten weeks out where you’re going to be. Because if you’re warehousing a lot of stuff, you’re losing money. If you can refine your predictive understanding of how your market operates, you can save a lot of money. You can save and make money by predicting the future. This has not been lost on anybody. And so there’s a great deal of interest in doing this. Well, if this is a valid program of research, then its holy grail would obviously be as complete a prediction of the future as is feasible. And I think the time wave and catastrophe theory and complexity theory and these things are new techniques and new styles of trying to approach that ideal.
What constitutes something that [???] typifies novelty? Because the things I’m hearing about so far have to do with [???] presidential elections or stock market crashes. None of that seems very novel to me.
Yeah, well, that’s a good question. Novelty—I think I may have mentioned this, but it’s worth discussing—novelty should never occur without its ghost concept accompanying it, which is its opposite, which is habit. In my version of how the universe works it’s a struggle between these two forces: habit and novelty. And in a period of a million years there’s a way to draw the picture of the battle, and in the last ten minutes there’s a way to draw a picture of the battle. So what is habit? Habit is repetition of activities already accomplished. Repetition is habit. Tradition is habit. Limited risk-taking is habit. I think you get the idea. Novelty, on the other hand, is high-risk, new, untried, strange, unusual, stands out from the surrounding environment, and surprises. So against god’s intercession into history, Pat Buchanan’s win in New Hampshire may not appear to be greatly novel, but that’s not the correct scale of comparison. The correct scale of comparison was the expectation that he would lose, you see? So habit and novelty occur in the most sublime and mundane dimensions, because they’re relative terms. They’re always measured against their surround so that, you know, if you’re in some incredibly constipated, ritual-dominated society, and you so much as put a spot of paint on your toenail, social ripples go out from this. It has to be explained; defended: “What does this mean?” “Who does it challenge?” It’s a novel act against the background of such constipated expectations. On the other hand, there are societies where full-body elective surgery won’t even get a ripple from your gang when you show up at the coffeehouse. So that’s an area where the standards of novelty and habit are different. Over large scales of time it seems very clear to me that the story of our universe is: novelty is winning. Novelty is winning. It’s a very slow battle of attrition, because habit is so reluctant to give ground and will take ground back. But over large scales of time, novelty is winning. That’s where we come into the picture. That’s why there’s life on this planet, that’s why there’s people on this planet, that’s why there’s high technology on this planet: because novelty is winning. That’s one point.
The other point is: it’s winning faster and faster. It isn’t simply proceeding at the same pace. What happens in a ten-year period now is orders of magnitude more connections being made than were made in a ten- or thousand- or perhaps million-year period at times in the past. And all time is is the events which fill it. In other words, if you think a million years in absolutely empty space and ask what’s it like to experience a million years in absolutely empty space—it passes in an instant, because nothing happened. If nothing happened, then there was no time. You know, time is defined by the events which fill it. If there are no events, time collapses into nothingness. A universe in which nothing happens is a universe that has no duration.
So you need duality to have time.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s an illusion of a lower-dimensional slice of reality.
[???] duality [???]
Is the dualism a priori? It’s given, if that’s what you mean by a priori. It’s a real thing. And by that—I mean, we could argue what that means, but it’s a real thing in the same way that space, gravitation, and energy are real things. It’s not a construct of the human mind.
Can I try my idea of the reason for the cataclysm that’s fast approaching, or…
…the extension of novelty. Let me start at the beginning. One definition of enlightenment—one narrow definition—is that it’s the growing-together of the gap between desire and fulfillment. And I think what we have managed to accomplish with our culture is: we’ve produced a society that is arranging for fulfillment and desire with technological systems performing to their utmost to pull that off. So people are becoming fulfilled on a physical level. They’re becoming enlightened technically. But there’s no matching change in how they feel about themselves. So there’s this [???] coming over the horizon. People finding themselves with everything they always wanted and feeling totally not right about it. That, to me, characterizes the neighborhood I live in real well. People are going faster and faster and faster, more and more [???] stuff, and not feeling good about it. If we get to the end point of that process, we come to a place where people are intensely frustrated because they’ve had everything, but nothing is right. To me, that feels like a change of state [???]
Well, yeah. Somehow, the—it’s a real problem because a meme has gotten loose on this planet that is the social equivalent of cancer, in my opinion. And what it is, is: it’s capitalism. Capitalism does not serve human beings, it serves itself—in the same way that cancer does not serve a human being, it serves itself. What I mean by this is that it fetishizes objects, and it tries to tell you that certain objects will make you happy if you can possess them. Well, then you work very hard to possess them, but then you’re not happy. At the same time, it is raising these expectations in the hearts and minds of millions and millions of people that it knows it can’t deliver to. If you cut all the rainforests and dug all the metals, you couldn’t deliver the middle-class American lifestyle to the population of the planet. And the effort to do so would wreck the entire ecological system. So capitalism either has to transform itself from within, because no human being or institution can oppose it, or there has to come some force from the outside which will break it down. I don’t know what that could be, unless it would be a revulsion over what the cost of practicing capitalism is.
In other words, if we could create—and this is a job for media. The media has, basically, whored itself to the capitalist agenda and knows no way out. The media in the naïve era before all this stuff was figured out was assumed to educate and inform the citizen so that rational decisions could be made. That’s not what it’s about now. Now it’s to distort, manipulate, delude, and mislead. What is needed is a rediscovery of inner wealth. This is, again, the psychedelic thing. The reason people fetishize objects is because they have no accessible dimension of inner worth. They feel worthless without the Ferrari and the Cuisinart and whatever this object is that they’re into. Once you take psychedelics you discover that [audio cuts out] are shabby stuff compared to the inner wealth of your own imagination. But unless you know that, you will always want after that stuff. So my hope is—and it seems to accompany psychedelic use, I think—less interest in material possessions. Not that people dress in hare shirts and wander the byways, but I think people who take psychedelics make and lose money in a considerably more relaxed fashion than people who don’t.
There are several sources of such an enlightenment; that inner wealth versus external wealth. One of them is trauma. A lot of families who lose a son or daughter, or nearly lose one, rediscover what their values are. Psychedelics is a very common one, and it’s a single moment that’s often recognized as the source. They oftentimes do have that kind of [???] hard to find or describe. [???] and they’ll go, “Wow, I’ve seen my values like I’ve never seen them before.”
“I’m quitting my job. I’ve had it.”
What other experiences do you know of? I’m trying to broaden the category besides trauma and psychedelia, and perhaps the forces of losing that you’re worth—like people lose in a stock market, and they jump out of a window, or they go, “Hey, I made choices didn’t see before. I don’t have to defend my castle anymore.”
Well, the two other things are near death experience—that forces you to figure out what you really give a hoot about—and the other, I think (a little pleasanter than the near death experience), is travel, you know? Go live in Benares for a year, and then see how this looks to you. It’s not for nothing that we call these psychedelic experiences “trips.” The only thing I know that changes people the way psychedelics do is travel. And I don’t mean this sanitized, bullshit, first-class, United Airlines, three-star hotel travel. I mean the real thing, down and dirty: live like the people do, if you can stand it. I mean, it’s very, very difficult. I’ve lived with Amazon tribes, and you’re there and you’re having this experience, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Everybody in my culture would wish to be with these people. These are the real, original people. Now, if they just stopped throwing puppies in the fire, maybe we could sit down and enjoy their company!” You know? It’s not easy. It tests your values.
How can you bring a Western mind into a third world nation where many are fully willing to trade what environmental treasures they have for the goods of capitalism? How can you say, well, psychedelics will put you in touch with values that you don’t need Coca Cola? I had an experience in Thailand (actually probably up into Burma) where I stopped by a village hunter shack. And every manner of endangered beast was chained or for sale. And I was astounded that all these [???] and he looks at me like I’m crazy, and goes to the village store to buy cigarettes. How can we bring, how can we stop the barter with the environment for capitalism? Can we bring psychedelics to that? Or any other experience?
Yeah, well, I don’t know. Yeah?
[???] that is: the absence of wealth ruins the environment. For example, when you [???] because of smoke [???] people used to cook with [???]. The rest of it is because of the cheap autos that they use. So I mean, it’s the absence of wealth that makes the air unbreathable.
Yes. I’m not advocating poverty, I’m advocating something more like simplicity. Let me describe my lifestyle to you, which sort of then is a statement about what I’m trying to do. I live in Hawai’i, up a terrible road, with no telephone in, but I have a wireless modem out and I have an excellent Mac. I don’t believe in the distinction between nature and technology. I am happiest when I am totally immersed in nature with the best technology available. Most things I care about are immaterial. I mean, I have books, but it’s the information in them that is represented. The electricity is generated from solar. Some of the food is grown on site, more will be. But it’s not like a back-to-the-land movement or anything like that, it’s very casual. It seems the natural way to live.
One thing that the Internet holds out for many, many people is the end of the entire cycle based on the concept of office culture and commuting. Most people who work in offices don’t need to go to the office now. And the momentum continues to have commuting and so forth, but when these corporations realize how much money they could save by telling people to stay home, office culture is just going to dissolve overnight. Well, then, something like 65% of all automobile travel is in the pursuit of moving to and from the job. That could all be eliminated. I think the Internet is the physical analog to the psychedelics. Until the Internet arose, it was very hard for me to see how we were going to get from here to the Omega Point. Now I have no problem. It’s all in place. I mean, the Internet has to grow faster, the bandwidth has to be expanded, the codes have to be simplified, the protocols have to be simplified, and everybody has to be brought online. When that happens, I think there will be a kind of natural reorganization of society.
Because what we’re living in—and this is a McLuhanist rap—what we’re living in is a linear, print-created world. It was created by printheads. They couldn’t help themselves. They thought they were normal human beings, but they were very, very dramatically distorted by their relationship to typography. And they created this kind of world. Well, now we’re moving into the era of electronic culture. And all kinds of phenomena associated with the old way of doing things are going to disappear. For example, a quality of print culture was the phenomenon called mass media. Mass media is finished. It doesn’t make any sense anymore. Mass media is one-to-many communication, and what the Internet offers is any-to-any communication.
You know, we all have contempt—or I assume we do, or mild contempt—for the tabloid newspapers that we see when we check through the grocery store. “Dwarf rapes nun; flees in UFO.” That kind of thing. Well, but now let’s think about the New York Times for a moment. The New York Times is designed for what? To be read by millions of people. Who would want to read something designed to be read by millions of people? The very nature of the goal indicates that there will be very little there for you. Only to the degree that you share some interests with all these other millions of people. And many of these interest are artificially created by the media.
So, other notions that were put in place by print—did I mention this last night about the interchangeability of type? I didn’t? Okay. Type, as you know, is interchangeable. Manuscript is not. That simple notion of the interchangeability of the subunits of a technology permit two incredible things in our world: the idea of the citizen and the idea of the unique individual, and also modern industrial techniques of manufacture. The assembly line is essentially where you build things the way you print things. You assemble the parts. You assemble the small parts and create completed objects. So this notion that stresses uniformity, interchangeability, and coequality of subunits creates the entire political and social ambiance of the post-Renaissance mind.
Now something entirely different is happening. The new media is nonlinear. It doesn’t require lockstep acquiescence in a model of behavior. That’s why fringe elements (which were kept very much at the fringe through the reign of print) have, in the 20th century, broken out and managed to set the agenda of much of society. So things like surrealism, jazz, ethnic consciousness, homosexuality—different styles of dissent have, in the 20th century, all gained a great deal more prominence as the print culture gave way to the electronic culture. And in the future I think these enormous structures which we’re asked to participate in are just going to fade away—like national governments. I think basically we’re going to live in a world which has only two levels: the local level (basically your watershed) and the planetary level. And the systems of control that lie between those two levels will be very thin and invisible.
A tremendous leveling of information takes place. The print game is a game of privilege. Information confers power—and if you have it, you hold it. The electronic game is a game where all information is equally accessible and shareable. And it creates a different and more egalitarian information field. And capitalism contributes to this to some degree. I’m not entirely anti-capitalistic. I think it needs to be tamed. But capitalism contributes to this. What I mean by that is: think of how governments deal with information. They classify everything top secret, and then they hold it. Well, what is the effect of that? It slows invention, it slows novelty. Well, how does capitalism deal with new information, new technologies? You get it to market as fast as you possibly can in order to ace the competition. In the capitalist set of rules, if you have a proprietary technology, to keep it secret is insane! How will you make any money if you keep it secret? You must tell it. So capitalism itself has become a force for novelty. This is what—you know, when people started coming out of the Soviet Union as it collapsed, this is what blew their minds completely about the West: it was the diversity and the abundance.
I remember some Russians came to me once—I dunno, five years ago or so, when the Soviet Union was collapsing—and I was driving them around showing them the scene, and I pointed to an A&P, and I said, “You can get any food you want in there.” And the guy said, “Oh, come on!” And I said, “Name a food. You can get it in there.” He said, “Tangerines!” like it was a knockout punch. “No problem! They got tangerines stacked waist deep. And anything else you can imagine.” So capitalism produces this enormous abundance, but without very much ethical concern for the process by which it’s done, or the consequences for the users and the environment.
In the business world, especially software, I see large companies in the business of purchasing novelty and then producing novelty. [???] less and less companies have R&D institutions within them. They let the innovation happen in these little tiny companies, and they go back over to the companies.
That’s because they don’t want those long-haired, dope-smoking weirdos actually inside their corporate structure. You can hire them as consultants, because then you can can them at will, but for god’s sake don’t get them on the medical plan! Yeah.
[???] article in a magazine [???] fellow from IBM. He had a suit on, and everything. Some of the [???] idea being a week in the multimedia market, where multimedia represents the new and novel. He says, “Oh, we have some guys with earrings and long hair here.”
Yes, well, one of the amusing things about the computer revolution and capitalism and all that is that technology has evolved so quickly that the people running capitalism from the top no longer understand the tools that are necessary for it. They have to pay guys with ponytails and piercings to turn on the machines every morning. And that must be very terrifying to them; that—
Well, but it was always like that. They didn’t dig the oil wells, either.
But the guys who dug the oil wells I don’t think carried an entirely different analysis of society. There were class differences, but these long-haired people are—essentially, you’re trading with the enemy if you’re a corporation who uses these people. And every corporation must use them because they’re the smart people.
They will use them. And what I’m saying is that capital will move wherever it can exploit information. And if now the information resides there, that’s where they’ll go to exploit that information for the continuing process of the economic machine. So even though we may be looking at something novel, ultimately, when that source is exhausted, they’ll move on to whatever else they have to move on to to maintain themselves.
Well, no technology in history has ever been put in place with any clear understanding of what its implications would be. We find out later. And I think the Internet probably will turn out to be very toxic for capitalism. When objects can be made of light, when a Ferrari costs as much as a Buick—because they’re both made out of the same material—all of this class structure based on fetishization of objects is going to disappear.
[???]. A little late, but not too late. But they’ve laid undelivered because they can’t get the staff to build what they want to build. They can’t find any [???] workers to put their [???] together, and it’s costing them billions. And [???].
Well, AT&T is going to set up a system of satellites that are going to give ISDN speed to every man, woman, and child on this planet by pointing straight up at the sky, avoiding all these mafias of these local phone companies.
The curious thing, I think, in terms of the social implication of the electronic age, is the possibility of almost a pure form of democracy, independent of bureaucratic structure. In other words, that there’s a possibility that people can arrive at consensus unmanaged.
This is what’s called electronic tribalism: that we can remove all these interpretive filters and structures and methods—the representatives, the parliament, the election—all of that can be done away with. And they hate that. It was very interesting in the last presidential campaign. I don’t know if you picked up on it, but only Perot spoke for this. You know, he has this idea of these electronic town meetings. Well, of course, Perot represents a not mainstream point of view from the point of view of the Republicans and the Democrats. They both just piled onto that. They hate that. The idea of real democracy is as threatening to the politicians of this country as it is to the Chinese leadership. I mean, they do not want the will of the people to be expressed. But I think as we cohere into a single organism, there will be less and less need for these 18th-century institutions that we have put in place and maintain with the power of the gun.
I see a couple of possible paths that the effect of the new media is going to have on [???]. One would follow the model of what happened to Europe when the church stopped becoming the sole interpreter of the Bible, and the Bible became [???] and was printed [???] needed to be interpreted, and many people did, and started different interpretations. And that sort of explosion of different ideas and different ways of looking at the world. The other would be—this is a little difficult to express—but there’s a terrific Buddhist magazine called Tricycle, and one of the things that’s [???] about it is, it’s non-sectarian. It has a whole lot of viewpoints. It talks about all sorts of different flavors of Buddhism that people respect, because there are [???]. If that were to change tomorrow and there was a different magazine for every sect, then each magazine would have a single viewpoint. The other viewpoints would be portrayed, maybe, but they would be seen as and talked down about. I can see that sort of thing happening with the web, or web-like media, where people start pursuing ideas that they are interested in and they care about. They may end up digging themselves a niche of their own preconceptions and the prejudices they already have about information, and going to information sources that support that [???] things which may or may not be valid. The other option is: there could be so many different types of information [???] from the original sources, not filtered through a mass media, that they’ll actually become more informed about more [???], and I can’t tell right now which way it’s going to go. Or maybe it’s going to go in both directions.
You can’t keep ignorant ignorant, because there’s too much access to it; the other knowledge.
Only if you want it, though. It’s not like [???]. Today you turn on CNN, you get not only information [???] that CNN thinks it ought to talk about to people who are interested in it. So you’re inevitably going to be pressed with things that mess with your prejudices. Now, the downside of this is that, what’s happening is: CNN is mapping the societal prejudice of its market share onto all of its audience. And because of [???] media sources there are a few selected branches of prejudice that you’re allowed to tap into. But whether the future’s going to break that up or just [???] there may be tighter groups or smaller groups of predispositions that are really—
[???] choice. Those that wish to insulate themselves and only information that they want to see that supports their worldview will insulate themselves excellently. And those that wish to just throw themselves into the unknown constantly will have ready, available sources [???]
Yeah, I think we’re already seeing this. I mean, V-chip—is that what it’s called?—this thing that lets you control what your kids can access on the Internet. All this concern about pornography and so forth and so on. Clearly, some people are going to take the Internet raw and love it, and other people are just going to want the conference on cat grooming and so forth and so on. There’s nothing we can do about that. I mean, this is not a new problem. Let me recall to you that hundreds of millions of people in the world lead larval, low-awareness lives—I’m not talking about the poor unwashed, I’m talking about people who watch TV six and seven hours a day: that’s a drug. And those people have chosen to check out of the historical adventure and just live in this miasma of pop culture. And we can decry the loss to them (of awareness and so forth and so on), but on the other hand, it makes it easier for the rest of us, I think. I mean, I don’t want all those people running around on the freeway and standing in front of me at the grocery store. Better they should be home watching, you know… whatever it is these people watch. And people will make these kinds of choices. And, you know, it will become more and more extreme. I mean, if you want 24-hour a day tele-dildonic pornography, who’s to say you shouldn’t have this? But how it will affect your performance as a citizen—I don’t know. I mean, it’s just like mainlining heroin or something else. People have to make choices, but the fact that they will sometimes make bad choices is no argument ever for limiting their choices. You know, you have to come to political bedrock with this: are you a control freak or do you believe in the dignity of human nature? If you trust human nature, then your politics should be one of always removing control, because control suppresses human nature. If, on the other hand, you’re freaked out about human nature, and you think that if we don’t have laws everybody will turn to cannibalism, sodomy, and cocaine, then of course everybody has to be leaned on and so forth and so on. But if you don’t have faith in human nature, that’s a pretty existential situation to be in, because where do you put your faith, then?
It’s possible that we’ve fallen [???] 5%. A situation where 95% are looking for novelty, and 5% will produce it. And that the 5% who enjoy making novelty can do what they want and find a narrow category of people who will buy it.
Well, that’s sort of—people say: what should be done, or what should we do besides take psychedelics? And I say: you cannot escape the media. You cannot escape the Internet. You cannot escape our dilemma. You have two choices: you can consume, or you can produce. That’s it. And the people who consume are lost souls. And we all consume. And in those moments when we consume we are lost souls. We need to produce. And what we produce is art. Art is—the greatest era of art in the history of the human race is dawning right now. If we produce images and text from the heart, we will compete with these very large network channels called capitalism, communism, so forth and so on. In a sense, one way to think about the Internet is: it’s a 40-million channel TV hookup. 40 million channels! 5.5—well, but however many websites there are right now is what I’m thinking of. And so no one need feel isolated. And isolation has traditionally been a political tool for disempowering people. If you can make people feel isolated, you can make ’em shut up. So if someone, let’s say, is a communist and lives in some tiny town in North Dakota—in the past their tendency, I think, would be to keep their mouth shut. But since they’re getting 400 email messages a day from fellow communists, and being informed of conferences going on constantly, and huge FTP sites, and all kinds of things, then they just say, “That’s my community, and I’m willing to talk about it.” They are no longer isolated. And this has empowered all kinds of fringe points of view. Some you may approve of, some you may not. But I approve of the concept of the fringe in and of itself. And then I figure the memes can sort themselves out through natural selection. But if a meme doesn’t ever get onto the playing field where the competition is happening, then it is not fairly dealt with and can die without having its proper opportunity to impact.
Particularly the advantage of the believing memes and their ability to suppress the new [???], it’s like a marketplace where—[???] oil company today, I have a difficult time, because the main players would disadvantage me and handicap me. [???] reverse handicapping where the small [???] become an advantage.
This worldwide web just seems to be changing the nature of gravity, at least the way I thought that these various visible forces always were [???]. Suddenly time, which I understand is relative, is getting speeded up simply because I’m being barraged with so much information from so many different places, and it stops being a matter of trying to be smart by assimilating all this information and it becomes more of a case in trying to be smart by seeing what I can leave alone, what I can distance myself from, what I can funnel out, because there’s so much of it.
Well, I think we haven’t quite learned how to use it yet. And also, it isn’t quite what it should be yet. It’s maddening to try and function on it at 14.4 or 28.8 [kbit/s]. Everybody needs ISDN or faster. The people who use it most successfully, the way they live is: usually, they do it through laptops. And it’s just always on. What you need is 24-hour a day ISDN connection. It’s always on. And so as you think, questions arise. And you set your info bots going; your elves: you send them into the matrix. And they return with these bits of information. So as the day passes and your internal dialogue proceeds, you’re constantly having messengers arrive with data which clarifies your understanding of the situation. So I think of it—what it will clearly become is, it’s just an adjunct to your mind. And when the laptop disappears and the whole thing becomes a subdermal implant or something, then you’ll just say, “Gee, I wonder what the gross national product of Sri Lanka is this year?” And then it will say, “The gross national product of Sri Lanka this year was…” and you will be provided with this information. I mean, obviously there have to be filters and a certain level of sophistication, but never before in history have people been able to have a dialogue in real time with their own cultural database.
And the quality of decisions is directly dependent on the quality of the information upon which the decisions are based. And in the past, good quality information is very hard to come by. The mass media is for the peasants. The guys above the 50th floor—and guys it is, as you know—they read special newsletters. They receive feed from certain think tanks. They deal with an entirely different kind of information than you do; privileged information; managerial information; leader information. Well, now that’s all changing. Sitting without telephone lines in Hawai’i at the keyboard of my computer, I have better intelligence than Stansfield Turner had when he was director of the CIA for Jimmy Carter. And I’m Joe Nobody, you know? Earth citizen one. So that shows you how quickly the quality of information is improving.
What you do with this is, of course, has always been an individual dilemma. The psychedelics, to my mind, were a great anticipation of the Internet. It probably never would have been built, had there not been psychedelics—even though it was built by terminal paranoids. Because, you know, it was built as a command and control system for thermonuclear war. But the wonder of that was that they built it so that it could not be destroyed. Not realizing that what that meant was that they could not destroy it. You know, it has no central control, there is no board you bomb, no plug you pull. So they built this indestructible thing, and now it’s loose and growing and unstoppable, and possibly leads to the reformulation of the nature of humanity. Which would be, then, an interesting process. Thermonuclear war leads to an enormous paranoid response, which leads to the Internet, which leads to liberation. I’ve always felt that atomic weapons were an enormous IQ booster for the human race. And when you think about the fact that a global tribe of carnivorous monkeys have possessed thermonuclear delivery systems for 50 years, and only twice were they ever used, I think it must’ve sobered us immeasurably. Because there were many issues in those years where, had there not been thermonuclear bombs, there would’ve been war. And so it became a kind of inoculation against war because it was so horrible, and it forced the human race—I wouldn’t go so far as to say grow up—but it propelled us at least into adolescent awareness of our dilemma.
Well, it’s dinnertime. Tonight we’ll do the time wave. I’ll doubt we’ll revisit this particular area, so if you hated this it’s over. Thank you!
We’re going to a sort of conceptual and categorical leap here. I assume you all have some familiarity with the I Ching, is that a reasonable assumption? The I Ching is a Chinese divinatory system of great antiquity. It involves 64 ideograms (called hexagrams) that are composed of broken and unbroken lines. They are arranged in a traditional sequence called the King Wen Sequence. The divination is carried out through a coin toss operation or a sortilege involving [???]. I assume I’m not making headlines with this news for anybody, okay? Good.
So, the I Ching—usually translated as “The Book of Changes”—is in fact a scientific text, in my opinion—a study of great sophistication—of the very subject we’re talking about this evening: the nature of time. The nature of change. And in the same way that Western science, by fixating through certain Greek predilections on matter was able to unravel a nuclear chemistry and molecular biology and so forth, these ancient people in China—pre-Han, early-Zhou, which… we’re talking 15,000 B.C.—they weren’t interested in matter, they were interested in time. And they brought to this interest in time at least as much energy and sophistication as the research teams at CERN in Switzerland bring to probing the heart of the nucleus of the atom. And they learned things. You know, you spend a millennium or two on a given problem, posing that problem under all circumstances, and from many philosophical points of view, and pharmacological platforms, eventually you begin to get answers. And I believe that the I Ching is a kind of smashed-up piece of machinery that, in its present form, is but a shadow of what it represented in the past in terms of sophistication and understanding. For several thousand years it has been commented on and passed down and preserved by people who were not fully in touch with precisely what it was. Under the guidance of the lógos, with the help of psilocybin and so forth and so on, I think I’ve made some progress with reconstructing what this ancient piece of machinery might’ve looked like, and what kind of information they might’ve been getting out of it. So now bear with me for a minute—if you haven’t been already.
As I said, the I Ching is 64 hexagrams, numbered 1 through 64, and usually presented in a traditional sequence called the King Wen Sequence, which is old.
Nobody knows where it came from. King Wen is a legendary figure. He supposedly got into some political trouble around 1350 B.C., and they put him in the can for a while. And while he was there he figured this out. He thought it up. He built this operating system. And the interesting thing about the King Wen Sequence is that it is not in a logical sequence on the face of it. When Leibniz, the European philosopher, got his hands on the I Ching (his Jesuit friends shipped him a copy in the 17th century), he immediately organized it as a binary number system, and rearranged the hexagram and showed that it was a binary number system. And Leibniz’s sequence—any hacker knows instantly how to do it from the first hexagram on. King Wen’s sequence is not at all obviously under any set of rules. And the lógos, in its promptings to me, it was interesting. It was like a kōan—you know, a problem which a master sets a student which must be solved before we can move on to deeper water. And the kōan was: what are the ordering principles of the King Wen Sequence? Can you prove, in fact, that it is the product of intent? Or is it, in fact, simply a jumble that has become traditional over thousands of years, and there is no set of rules for generating the King Wen Sequence? Pretty close focused stuff, you notice. We’re not talking here about planetary transformation or human fusion with the biosphere. It’s very academic, close-focus, analytical stuff.
So I looked at the King Wen Sequence and I was intuitively led (is probably the way to put it) to look at what’s called the first order of difference. The first order of difference is a very simple concept. It simply means: how many lines change as you go from one hexagram to the next? Simple, right? Okay. So as you go from hexagram 1 to 2, there’s a certain change value—six, or whatever it is. And then 3 to 4, 4 to 5, so forth and so on. And so I found out what these data points were and then I drew a graph of these values down to 64. And it’s just a symbol of it, obviously. And so I looked at this thing for a long time and it didn’t seem to have any… it looked stochastic, random. It didn’t seem to have any particular order to it.
But then I noticed a very interesting thing, which is that this section is a mirror image of this section such that: imagine making a copy of this and putting it right here, and then rotating it 180 degrees in the plane (meaning: turn it upside down to the non-technical folks). Turn it upside down. Well, then it will slide into itself. A perfect fit here and here. So then you get something which looks like this. In other words, it has closure at the beginning and closure at the end, but no closure in between.
Interesting thing about these data points is that, if you think about the possible data points, they are obviously 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6—the number of lines that can change as you go from one hexagram to another. In fact, there are no fives. If you look at the King Wen Sequence, one of the first things you notice is that it is not simply 65 hexagrams, it is really 32 pairs of hexagrams. Because the pairs are formed by turning the first term upside down. Now, there are eight cases where turning a hexagram upside down has no effect on it. And in all eight cases, it is followed by a hexagram which is exactly its opposite. And so the rule obviously is: if turning a hexagram upside down causes no change, all lines change.
Then you can analyze these data points, and you discover that there are 75% odd values, 25% even values, exactly. So no fives, this three-to-one ratio of odd to even, and this peculiar closure seemed to me sufficient argument that this is the product of human intent. This was supposed to be done this way. And in fact, in some of the older commentary on the I Ching, there’s a passage in which it says, “The forward-running numbers refer to the past. The backward-running numbers refer to the future.” Well, now, in the I Ching there are no backward-running numbers. But in this thing there are. Because when you make this, you have 1, 2, 3, to 64. But what you’ve got over here is 63, 62, 61, down to 1. And what you’ve got over here is equals 64, 64, 64. It always sums to 64. So what this is is some kind of magical, occult, multi-leveled, manna-laden thing that these pre-Zhou diviners dreamed up. Essentially, the entire I Ching has been turned into this monoglyph of itself.
Well, so now let’s symbolize this thing by the letter S. A hexagram, as you know, is made of six lines. It’s also, if you know a little more about it, in the commentaries it’s always thought of as being formed of two trigrams; two three-lined structures. And then it has an essential and very powerful cohesive unity as a hexagram, as a unity, as a one. So every hexagram has six lines, two trigrams, and one wholeness to it. So the thought which occurred to me under the strong prompting of the lógos was to take this thing which I just showed you, which is at the top of a kind of hierarchy, and move it to the bottom of the hierarchy, and build a hexagram. So remember how I said we’ll symbolize that thing by the letter S? So I took six of those, and I did this. Yes, six. I laid six in a row. And that stood, in my mind, for the six lines of a hexagram. But over this I lay, then, two. Like that. Those are the trigrams. And then I’m sure you anticipate my thought: over that I lay one. That stands for the unity of the hexagram.
Okay. So now what I had was a lot of lines. A lot of lines running everywhere. And the absolute conviction that I now possessed an enormous secret of some sort. The map of time, the picture of history, the snapshot of the Zeitgeist moving through a higher dimension. Something like that. And I was a burden to my friends and a joy to my enemies for many, many months as I attempted to corner people in all-night conversations of great energy and perplexity that had my friends meeting to plan what is to be done. Hope this never happens to you! And finally, Ralph Abraham, God love him, said, “It’s an occult thing. It’s just this occult thing. Only you understand it. And it’s not even clear that your interpretation is always the same.” He said, “What you have to do is: you have to turn it into an ordinary mathematical object that is a known quantity.” Well, essentially this was like telling your dog to split the atom. It was like, “Great, Ralph. Thanks. Think you’ll have any time in the next few months to put in on this?”
And so I sat with it for a couple of years. And then, one afternoon, I was getting loaded and watching dust motes in a sunbeam, and not thinking about anything much at all, and I had it. I had it. Whole and entire, I saw how to take this occult thing, how to take its multiple properties—such as degree of parallelism, skew, overlap, the scales of the three levels, and all of these variables—and I saw how to collapse it into an ordinary mathematical object. And it’s quite trivial. I won’t bore you with it, it’s so trivial. It basically has to do with deconstructing the wave, assigning numerical values to all of its parts, rebuilding it, and then adding them up. And then, lo and behold, all these intuitions you had (about how when it is parallel and close together values should drop and all that) are conserved, and we get the time wave. And the computer is simply doing a whole lot of housekeeping work with it, and not making any arithmetic errors, and scaling it to time.
Now, the objection that could be made to this, or easily could be made to it—and that I at one time felt the force of this objection. I’ve talked myself out of it now, but it’s how I would’ve attacked it myself at a certain point. And it went something like this: “Now let’s see. You are advocating a revision in physics based on a Chinese oracle that you have deciphered a secret message from? Is that it? And how long have you had this particular delusion?” So I’ve built a metaphor which I hope makes it a little clearer why I believe it is reasonable to use a Chinese oracle as a stepping stone to a revision of physics. And in order to explain this, I have to resort to fairly elaborate metaphor. So here it is.
Think of sand dunes. Just picture them in your mind for a moment. Now, notice that this picture in your mind of these dunes—that the dunes look like wind. They look like wind. Now, sand dunes are made by wind. What’s going on here? The wind is a variation in pressure gradients over time which moves the sand around, and when the wind stops blowing what is left is essentially a lower-dimensional signature of this higher-dimensional phenomenon. Comme ci, comme ça. Now, for grains of sand, substitute genes. For wind, substitute millions of years of evolutionary time. Time flows and the genes move around, and they assume certain configurations. I maintain that those configurations are lower-dimensional slices of the higher-dimensional architecture of time itself. In other words, we beared the thumbprint of the medium in which we arose. We bear it in every cell of our bodies. Every atom bears it. Every molecule bears it. And if this can be known—this pattern of time that is impressed in all organism and perhaps all matter—then an understanding of time unfolds as a fractal; an infinitely self-similar structure that is repeating different patterns on many, many scales in order to create the phenomenology of the universe as we experience it.
So that’s basically the theory. And then the theory, I don’t think, would amount to much if it weren’t for the fact that, with the computer, we can now take the theory and ask the question: okay, given all this arm-waving and theorizing, does the unfolding wave actually mirror (and hence predict) the unfolding of the historical continuum? I maintain that at this stage it’s arguable that it does.
But there’s a curious and unsettling aspect to all of this. If you have a theory of wave mechanics of any system—waves have wavelength, therefore the wave must be generated from some point. And if what we’re talking about is a graphic congruence between theory and nature, then theory must be fitted to nature in this search for a best fit between the describing curve and the phenomena it seeks to describe. You understand what I mean? Now, the problem is—with this theory, if it is a problem—is that when we compute our best fit of the curve to the data, we reach a fairly unexpected conclusion which is that novelty is going to reach infinity within our own lifetimes. That the universal process that has been going on for billions of years across this epigenetic landscape, wandering deeper and deeper into realms of novelty, faster and faster and deeper and deeper, is actually going to become mathematically outside of our description within our own lifetimes. Specifically, in 2012 AD.
It’s not pleasing, this prophecy of the end of the world within one’s own lifetime. This is the typical pattern of delusional messianism that is so drearily familiar. Nevertheless, we have more than a Lullian decoding of scripture here, we have a formal and completely unambiguous algorithm, and we have a body of data. So I just will now demonstrate it to you, and you can reach your own conclusions. There are people who may not even be aware of this theory who have reached the same conclusion. Some by avenues I respect, and some by avenues I don’t respect. And without saying who’s who, I’ll list some of these approaches. There’s a group of people, I believe they’re called Extopians or Singularists. They’re engineers. They’re total rationalists. They’re tech heads. And they say that the rate of energy release, information storage, and technological advance is proceeding so rapidly that sometime between 2010 and 2025 the whole system becomes unrecognizable to itself. Congruence with this prediction. The Maya civilization, which perished a millennia ago, had a 5,600-plus year calendar that culminates on the exact same day that this theory computes to. A fact which I didn’t know when I made my choice for the end date. There are Hasidic Jews in Israel who believe that they have Kabbalistic logic to support the conclusion that the messiah will appear in late July of 2012. And then someone mentioned last night this Vedic—
A form of astrology, right?
It’s Vedic astrology; 3,000 or 4,000 years old.
So, you know, whether you calculate toward it mathematically or intuitionally, or whatever, and whether you exist now, or in the case of the Maya, a millennia ago, certain people by certain techniques seem to have located a peculiar moment in time. And what exactly this means we don’t know. But this wave scales to it as well. Now, what I want to do here—this is this year, and pointing at today, and as you see it will culminate here—but what I want to do now is put a lot of time on the screen and show you how this thing works. So let me specify time span E. Okay, well, what we’re looking at here is a very large span of time: 6 billion years. And the entire career of life on earth is 600 million years, which is this downsweep. So, you see, at that scale it’s like a done deal. It’s almost a smooth curve. On a scale of 600 million years it’s just been an uninterrupted rush toward the Omega Point ever since we dropped gills and crawled out onto the land. As we magnify and zoom into this, it turns out there was a lot of drama along the way. Let me see if I can get my zoom going here.
For an interactive time wave website, visit twz.nooian.io.
Now, each time it makes a new graph we’ll see twice as much detail and half as much time. There’s 1.5 billion years. There’s the last 750 million years. 375 million years: that’s all life… getting hold of the planet. There’s the last 100 million years. Here, let me stop that one. Okay. That’s the last 93 million years, and there is a event that has to be predicted correctly for the theory to work. At 65 million years there was an asteroid impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. And there it is. It’s an exact science, folks, but I’m not. Okay. Here is this extinction event. This is—you’ve got 113 million years on the screen, ending at the zero point in 2012, and this massive extinction event 65 million years clearly shows as the most dramatic event on the screen.
So what is the opposite of the descent into novelty as you see the increasing point of the scale reaching maximum at a slightly earlier time period? What’s the converse?
Equilibrium. Yes, and then homeostasis. I mean, homeostasis is the perfect example, because homeostasis is repetition, closed energy cycle, absence of chaos. Predictability, in other words. And then it inevitably reaches a place where there’s a symmetry break, and then a cascade.
And then disintegration.
Okay, so now let’s start our zoom forward again. Well, what you do is—there’s 46 million years. Let’s get down here to something palpable. 11 million years; this is primate territory.
What did you use to get the asteroid date?
Just published material in Nature. There’s the last 2 million years. Like that. The question was?
How do you know when to start?
You mean, how did I choose the end date?
Or the beginning date of the whole…
Well, the beginning date I’m a little fuzzy on. I simply propagated it until I had more time than astrophysics requires for the life of the universe. And that was all I needed. I’m not entirely committed to the Big Bang. There’s plenty of odd assumptions in all of that stuff. What I did was: at first I tried to scale it to the stuff I knew. So I’ve been sort of interested in history, so I said, okay, if you have a theory of novelty of history, where are the novel points in history without getting too technical? Well, I think anybody who’s studied history 25 minutes would nominate the Greek golden age, the Italian Renaissance, and the 20th century—or at least they would tolerate those candidates. So I said, well, let’s see if we can find the place where three big troughs do that. And then let’s look at the crucifixion, or something else. In other words, to see if it also appears to be correctly described. Well, eventually you get a fit where you can go from the Big Bang down to Nixon’s resignation and always have this very satisfying feeling that it’s giving the correct scoring at the correct level of novelty in the correct ratio and proportion to the events in which it is embedded. And when I got it right, a last 67-year cycle begins the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. And it’s a resonance, you see, with the Big Bang. And then everything else seemed to fall into place at that point.
Now, it’s tricky. It is tricky because it’s a fractal, and so there are possibilities of error. But that’s why periods of time like what we’re living through are so interesting, because, you see, I’ve made the small-scale prediction that this period we’re living in will be novel based on large-scale correlations. Now, if the prediction comes true, that clinches it. It shows, then, that the choice was correct, and we gain confidence. And I maintain there’s, in principle, no reason why this much information shouldn’t be known about the future. The future is not magically guarded from understanding any more than any other part of nature is. And, in fact, statistics, probability theory, is a valiant effort to come to terms with the future—I maintain—horribly and inevitably flawed by the assumption of linear time.
What do I mean by that? Well, here’s how probability theory works. Say you want to know—lemme think of something—the charge on a certain… well, no. How much electricity is running through a wire? You want to know this. Well, here’s how you do it in ordinary science these days. You measure the electricity 10,000 times, you add it together, and you divide by 10,000. Now, it’s conceivable that the value you come up with will not match a single one of your measurements. Your measurements agreed with this value. So what we’re doing, you see, is: because we assume time is uniform, we don’t feel any intellectual sin in smearing those values that way.
The law of averages damps the novelty in the system, and you get a kind of averaging. Probability theory cannot be done anymore with impunity if this is true.
[???] chucking a hole [???] of physics of the last 50 years. And I think you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
You mean to attack probability theory?
No, to ignore the excitement and the thrill of total insanity that comes from quantum mechanics and relativity.
Well, no, I’m not rejecting that. The quanta is far larger than probability theory. I think—you know, there’s an interesting revolution going on in quantum physics right now. It amuses me. The one concept that seems secure in 20th century physics, and about which there has been more ballyhoo and self-congratulations than about any other single concept, is the much-vaunted uncertainty principle of Heisenberg, which is supposed to be a bridge to understanding consciousness, uniting science and art, letting us see the scintillating, elusive, mercurial beauty of bleh, bleh, bleh. It turns out it’s BS, to put it as kindly as possible. When the Bohr-Heisenberg theory was formulated, there was another theory of the quanta on the table. But this theory had an assumption built into it which was thought to be so fantastic that it was never seriously considered, and instead this uncertainty principle was taken on board. The notion which was built into the rejected version of the quanta was called nonlocality. And it held that somehow all particles that had ever been in interaction with each other in the past were somehow mysteriously and instantaneously linked to each other throughout all space and time, instantaneously. And since all particles were once confined in a space less than the diameter of a nucleus of a Joe atom, then presumably all particles in the universe were connected together through this nonlocality—if you accepted this B-theory of the quanta. So it was rejected out of hand. This was a theory formulated by David Bohm. Well, now it comes back to haunt them because there is nonlocality. It’s been confirmed. At first it was only: there were thought experiments with it—
Yes. But now experiments are being done where you actually bring two electrons together, separate them in space, flip the spin of one, and see the other one flip its spin even though they’re now separated in time and space. So the physics community—and let me say about the Bohm theory and the Bohr-Heisenberg formulation: the mathematics is identical. The mathematics is identical. One does not give better results than the other, but they have these completely antithetical concepts built into them. And I doubt that the Heisenberg thing will survive. It was actually a mistake. And what I want to say, then, about the Bohm formulation is: with Bohm’s mathematics, velocity and location can be known simultaneously to any limit of exactitude. There is no uncertainty in the Bohm formulation. I don’t know how I got off on this.
My proposal to you is that those guys are having the same kind of [???] and are not [???] that I think you would feel very warm and close to it [???] that is analogous to the one you’re living in.
Yeah. I would assume that if I’m right and if they’re right, we’ll have to meet somewhere out there. There’s this guy, Lentz, at Stanford, who has a very interesting cosmology which he calls a fractal foam cosmology. And I don’t understand his mathematics, but he talks about how (in his cosmology), in the first few moments of the universe, these things were generated which he called scalar waves. And they’re waves, but they don’t move. They’re—he puts it—frozen in spacetime. But the reason you know they’re there is because they effect the clustering and the ebb and flow of probability. That’s it! That’s it! It’s absolutely it. So what Lentz’s scalar waves have to do with the time wave, I don’t know. But it’s very, very interesting that these kinds of theories now are coming forward. I think it’s because we are feeling an inadequacy in our science because the fine structure of complex systems won’t come into focus using statistical analysis. You get a blurred picture of what’s going on, and no matter how you deal with the data, it remains blurred because this temporal variable is in there that you’re not aware of. And it’s creating this inadequacy in your model.
You wanted to say something?
Two questions. First: how do you introduce data into the system? In other words, given the I Ching is the construct, right? And a formula derived from that, which is the [???], what do you enter to create the graph?
Ah. You enter the valuations of the—there are 384 points in this thing, because it’s 6 × 64. And at each one of these positions you generate a number, and then that is fractalized and put through this. And this is all explained exhaustively in The Invisible Landscape. And the manual for this thing is now 75 pages long. And—
And the second question is: taking a 500-year model or a 250-year model [???] current time, is there a replication of the pattern currently shown with a decline of that order being demonstrated at any other period in history?
Yes. The question you’re asking is: are there resonances inside the system? And of course there are, because it’s fractal. So self-similarity occurs at many scales. As you see with a normal fractal, self-similarity is hierarchical. This has hierarchical self-similarity, but it also has a degree of internal self-similarity on every level. So this plunge that we’re going through right now, its direct historical resonance on the preceding larger scale is the period around the 10th century; 948 AD. Now, what happened in that period is: there was an enormous cultural efflorescence in Islam. The Umayyad Caliphate at Cordoba and the Abu Umayyad Caliphate at Baghdad were producing—a lot of it was mathematical and technical. It’s arguable that that was the birth of modern science—
—kinds of resonances can be used as a basis for prediction is something I haven’t had time to look at. There are many resonances to each point. It’s not a simple system. Here we can only discuss it in simple terms, but in the MS-DOS version it will print a page full of resonances.
And let me explain how I imagine time in this thing. Here’s, first of all, how the Newtonians imagine time. If you ask a Newtonian: what is the most important moment impinging on this one?—in other words, what moment is most important in shaping this moment—he or she will tell you it’s the moment immediately before. This is this amazing faith in the momentum of cause and effect. This takes a completely different view and says any given moment in time is a kind of interference pattern caused by the existence of other moments in time. And that time is in fact an extremely complex, data-heavy, kind of holographic matrix. And if you can decondition yourself from your large-scale position in things, you can actually feel or sense the continuum. I mean, I got it down to an aphorism: Rome falls nine times an hour. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll feel it go by every time. And if you are cleaning your apartment or walking in the woods—if you notice: you think things that there is no rationale for. And as hemlines rise and fall on a slightly different scale, and as art movements come and go on a slightly different scale… what is all this? Well, it’s other times. Other resonances.
It was very interesting. At the website a couple of months ago I looked at the wave and I said the end of the year would have a medieval flavor because we were crossing through the late 8th century or something. And then I noticed that the liberals have this thing every Christmastime in Hilton Head, North Carolina, called the Renaissance Gathering, and Clinton always goes. So all the right-wingers got together at this thing called The Dark Ages as a satire on the Renaissance. And their Dark Age gathering occurred right in the darkest of the dark ages in the resonance.
A lot of this is for the production for humor, I hope you realize. If you’re fans of James Joyce and understand how Ulysses is constructed—you know, what’s going on in Ulysses is: a man is trying to buy some kidneys to take back to his apartment to fry for breakfast. But somehow, in visiting the butcher and the local bar and running into an old friend, the entire Homeric war is fought out in these few blocks of Dublin, and also the entire fall and redemption of mankind. And this is called allegory. And it’s nested reference and fractal association, and it’s a very powerful way to make art. And I think it’s a very powerful way to make art because it’s how nature made the world. The world is an allegory, and it’s based on analogies. I mean, I look sometimes at people and I see other people, you know? I see faces from the past. Sometimes my past, sometimes further back. Time is an interference pattern.
The one thing I’m a little confused about is how you draw the pattern to a given scale. Like, does it make sense to say you could put in Terence McKenna’s birthday and see his time wave?
People always ask this question. Yeah, although I’m not entirely comfortable with it. Let me trace the history of this kind of thinking for you. Astrology obviously has certain analogues to this, because it’s about predicting the fates of dynasties and so forth from the movement of the stars, and it’s a peculiar combination of mathematical exactitude and occult fancy.
(Oh god, I’ve lost the thread. Ask again? Ah, the birthday thing, yes.)
So, originally astrology was a tool for statecraft. Royal houses and wars and stuff were fought and that kind of thing. Well, the first—I don’t know if they were the first—but the first large crop of yuppies was late Roman. And these people had vast wealth, and they dabbled in the occult, and they were interested in these mystery religions. And they were aware of astrology as a tool of statecraft. And people asked the very same question. Said, you know, “I’m an important person. Can you do a horoscope for me?” And so then the natal horoscope was invented around that time; first century AD. The natal horoscope.
I can imagine that we each have our own time wave, in a sense, and that it begins at your birth and it ends at your death. Or your death is a very novel point in the wave. The wave has different cycles in it. This has 384 data points—I mentioned that. Notice that 384 is exactly 13 lunations. At first I thought I was discovering a neolithic Chinese calendar. It’s an extraordinarily accurate lunar count. It precesses 19 days per year against the sun, but that might be a price people would be willing to pay, especially if it had been developed in a tropical climate. But each larger cycle is made by multiplying that number, 384, by 64. And each smaller cycle is made by taking that number and dividing it by 64. Now, what you get, then, over about twenty levels, stretching from 72 billion years at the top down to 6.55 × 10-23 at the bottom—in other words, the domain of Planck’s constant; the realm of the jiffy—you get this set of nested cycles. Well, the next cycle up from this (from the 384-day cycle) is 67 years, 104.25 days. It’s six sunspot cycles of the minor type, two of the major type. But interestingly close to the average human lifespan. 67 years—almost as though it’s a kind of a tone, an octave, of existence. I’m very interested in people’s 68th year of life; what that feels like. Because, in a sense, if you live to be 68 in this theory, you get to start over, you know? Your slate is sort of cleaned and you get to go forward. But this kind of thing I find—you know, I’m not that attracted to it.
I’m more interested in the idea that this is some kind of a message from somewhere, and that the message is in two parts. The first part is: something extraordinary is going to happen to you and your world in 2012. And the second part is: and the reason you should believe the first part is because this wave (which predicts that) predicts all things which preceded it. Predicted the Italian Renaissance, so forth and so on. Let me start this puppy going again and I’ll show you what I mean. What have we got…? A million point four on the screen.
What’s the locality of it? Does it apply to our galaxy, the whole universe, or this planet?
Well, that’s another good question. I’ve thought about it on all different ways, and I think it’s local. I’m not sure how local.
[???] King Wen, and the point to come up with the pattern [???]
Well, if it’s a universal fractal pattern, then it must be available in many places. A thing that would be very satisfying to me would be if somebody could find this same set of numbers somewhere else in nature. Anywhere. Yeah, the Fibonacci series.
[???] Fibonacci [???] complex set of data. It sounds like [???] divinatory [???] Is there a sense in which you can figure out what hexagrams correspond with what moment, and figure out the characteristics of that moment?
Yes, you can. And you could build a vast interpretive industry on that. In other words, there would be a way to extract meaning rather than mathematics from this. What you would do is: you would look at a given point in the wave, and not only look at its wave structure, but say what hexagrams are building this and what are the ratios of the influences that they’re contributing? And that is basically another lifetime of work for me. But that would be very, very rich stuff.
Okay, let’s go woop. Let it run for a minute. That’s 1.4 billion years. 730,000 years. 366,000 years. 183,000 years. Now, those are glaciations in there. That’s the last 100,000. 45,000. Now, let’s look at this. This is the last—this is basically 5,000 BC. Now the game, the stakes, rise, because we know with fairly high detail what has gone on in the last 5,000 years in terms of inventions, cultural migrations, dynasties, so forth and so on. So this is from 6,000–5,000 BC to the present. Well, along this descent into novelty here are the great ancient civilizations. Ur, Chaldea, Babylon, and down here in the bottom of a novelty trough, pre-dynastic Egypt; old kingdom Egypt. In other words, the great pyramids are built precisely at the most novel point of that trough. Which sort of supports the theosophical faith that Egypt did know, did learn something that it took a long time to go past them—not necessarily 1950. According to the time wave, they were the most novel thing that had ever come down the pike until roughly the foundation of the Roman republic. And that’s about right. That feels about right.
On this upslope, this is all pretty ugly stuff here. The Hittites, the Mitanni, Assyria. We’re really getting into male dominance, warfare as a way of life, empire building, slavery, huge building projects based on human agony. Ugly business. But it’s punctuated by some real moments of progress, like, oh, the Phoenician alphabet, and so forth and so on. And up here, at the top of this thing, Homer sings his song. The Trojan wars occur actually just slightly before that. What’s happening there is that Mycenaean piracy is overwhelming the old Minoan empire. This is just in a small part of the world, but it happens to have a lot of consequences. Let me say about that: some people say your theory is so Euro-centric. Have you noticed what kind of world you’re living in? That’s right. That’s why the theory is Euro-centric. In other words, the Maya may have been wonderful, but what counts in the historical game is how much influence you have on the present. And the Maya have no influence on the present—I mean, other than some interesting shards in the museums and a respect for their architecture, they didn’t pass it on. So, you know, there isn’t a man, woman, and child on this Earth who isn’t deeply affected by what went on in Greece in the fifth century BC. Not a man, woman, or child on this planet.
Now, what was going on in fifth century BC somewhere else, that river of influence may not have reached the present. Some did, some didn’t. But something got loose at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, right up in this time span. I think it’s the phonetic alphabet. I think the phonetic alphabet empowers a distancing from the object of your concern that allows this eerie Faustian thing that is so typical of the Western mind. And I didn’t originate that. Many people have commented that the Greek alphabet—it just carries you so far into abstraction that, then, that thought style becomes inevitable.
Obviously, you’ve been describing events in Western culture. What are the correlates to Indo-Asia?
Yes, good question. In spite of the objection that the thing is culturally skewed toward European history, if you actually study world history, it’s interesting. Great advances seem to occur simultaneously in different places—in an of itself, an argument for something like the time wave. So, you know, while the Roman empire is rising and establishing law and order and so forth and so on, the Han dynasty is doing the same thing in China. As the Maya are reaching their cultural apex with their astronomy and their mathematics and city-building and so forth and so on, the Cordoban Caliphates are doing the same thing. There’s quite a bit of that sort of thing.
[???] more measurable? I mean, the contradiction? In other words, where, what series of events, would describe homeostasis, another series of events would describe a descent into novelty. In other words, have you located any contradictions within the prescribed system?
No, because a descent into novelty, as it were, takes precedence. Equilibrium only counts if it completely pervades the system. You see what I mean?
Alright, let’s go forward into this, because I want you to see these later epochs. Oh, I guess I didn’t enter the thing. I want you to see these later epochs, because this is where we can really judge it more accurately. This is basically from 300 AD—I’m sorry… AD, yes—this is from the fall of Rome to the present. Not precisely. The fall of Rome took a long time and there were humiliation after humiliation. But generally, the kidnapping of Augustus Romulus in 375 is considered to be the final straw. So notice that what this says is that, after the fall of Rome here, history had a different character. It was not a steep and fairly uninterrupted descent into novelty, but it began to oscillate between periods of novelty and periods of intense recidivism. And notice, also, that this theory is not shy about making predictions. Now we’re down on it. And this extraordinarily steep descent into novelty right here, that’s the resonance to what’s happening right now. That’s 10th century Islam. This one which precedes it over here is the foundation moment of Islam. Mohammed is born in 570 and died in 630. That whole thing occurs along this descent.
Islam is very important. I have to stress this, because we all live in a culture that is totally anti-Islamic, and it’s perfectly legitimate to talk about ragheads and this and that, but I’ve got news for you: the science, the mathematics, the architecture, the poetry, the administrative skills, the knowledge of hydrology, so forth and so on. And for any people or person who is truly alarmed by modernity—we were talking about this this evening—Islam is an answer. And I imagine it’s going to experience great growth over the next few years. These portions of central Asia that were held by the old Soviet Union—Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, [???], and all of these places—if they were ruled by the people who live there, they would be radical Islamic republics. It’s conceivable that in this period over the next few months there could be a worldwide uprising of Islam that would end with it making the greatest territorial gain since it’s made in the 10th century. If all Muslims were ruled by Muslim governments, an enormous reconstruction of the boundaries of the world would take place.
So these two descents both seem related to Islam. I mean, Europe is just a mess at this time. I mean, Macrobius writing in the 5th century thought that the circumference of a circle was twice its diameter. You know… what, they didn’t have string? I don’t know! Imagine that. That’s how low things sunk in Europe while these people were gazing at the stars and inventing the quadratic equation, and so forth and so on.
Okay. This one, hard for you to see, occurs in 1122. That’s the Crusade, which breaks apart the stasis of medieval Europe and lets in all kinds of novelty, right? Now, the next one is this one, and this is an interesting one. It illustrates how the character of descents—well, the different characters of kinds of descent into novelty. Let me get it on the screen a little bigger here. Here it is. This one. Now, it’s a dramatic descent into novelty, but unlike most descents into novelty it’s also a dramatic return to normalcy. Now, what kind of event would give a signature like that? A dramatic descent into novelty, a dramatic ascent back to the previous circum—
The fall of the empire and the growth of another empire that was [???]
Well, how about this: an epidemic disease? Yes. 1356. One third of the population of Europe dies in 18 months. But now, think about that. It’s catastrophic. It’s traumatic. But no new technology is introduced. No boundaries are shifted. No new religion enters the area. And no genes cross frontiers. There is simply a demographic collapse, everything comes to a halt, and then everybody who is in number 2, 3, and 4 position moves up, the wheels start turning again, and there’s no thirst for innovation—the entire effort is just to get back where you were before the bad news hit. And so, within a generation or two, you’re back where you were. Very interesting that the correlation between what actually happened and the shape of the graph seems to support that conclusion.
In contrast to that signature, notice what came next. An entirely different kind of descent into novelty. First of all, starting from greater recidivism and ending in greater novelty, such novelty that there is no recovery. There’s a slight recovery, but this entire trough represents a lower-level of novelty than had really ever been probed before. So what is this? Well, right up here at the top it’s 1440. No, that’s in 1455, 15 years later—but that plays a role in it. No, 1440 in Mainz near Frankfurt, Johannes Gutenberg prints the first book. And if you think the Internet was something—this was a biggie for information technology for sure. And, as you mentioned, very shortly thereafter, the Ottoman Turks seize Constantinople. And Europe’s access to the East is strangled. And it’s a total crisis for European civilization. So what is done is: these incipient capitalists pool their money and they finance new techniques in shipbuilding and navigation. So this is all technical innovation and novelty. And they build ships, and they sail around Africa, and they reconnect to the East.
Meanwhile, what’s going on—and they get rich, that’s what I meant to say. They get rich beyond their wildest dreams. These agricultural hill towns in northern Italy that had been dealing each other wine for centuries suddenly find themselves the center of the largest aggregation of capital ever gathered on the planet to that point. And they just pour money back toward their benefactors. Not only the scientists that had created the technological revolution that allowed this, but into the arts and into their palaces and into the planning of their cities. And they create the Italian Renaissance. And anybody who is anybody is positioned along this descent. Beginning with the proto-Renaissance, the Fra Angelico and all of that, and then coming down through Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, the whole bit. And the whole thing reaches culmination right down here at the bottom of the trough. They actually experience a kind of eschatonic event at the bottom of this novelty trough, which is: they discover the other half of the planet! That’s what they do, 500 years ago. 1492, right down here. Well, that blew the door off its hinges. There has never been return to normality in a certain sense. That did it.
This trough, what this trough pictures is a period that ends in 1619. 1619 is the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War. This period across the bottom of this trough has been called by art historians who have no knowledge of this theory the “Age of the Marvelous.” This is the age of the great Hermetic flowering. This is the age of Shakespeare and the Rudolphine court in Prague. This is the age of Arcimboldo and John Dee and Robert Fludd. And that incredibly complex psychedelic manneristic mishmash that those late Renaissance people put together.
But there’s a certain ugliness in it. It’s not an entirely flat trough of novelty. There is a recursion to old patterns, and I maintain what that is, is the beginning of the subjugation of the new world, and then the rise of gangster capitalism in that environment. Because, interestingly, Europe was somewhat strangled before the discovery of the New World. I mean, it required resource management and all that. If you’ve been to places like Portugal, and you say, “These people ruled half the planet? This rocky, scrubby, storm-battered little country? How did they do it?” Well, obviously, by expropriating other people’s resources. That’s how they did it.
There was a period of normalcy where they were just shipping. They didn’t change that much. There was just years of a ships going out empty, coming back full.
Well, except that all this information was pouring into Europe. It was like as though they had landed on alien planets. You know, Albrecht Dürer went to an exhibition of Toltec carving in Leiden, and his diary entries on this—I mean, for those people to gaze upon these artifacts, it was literally like science fiction to them. And plants and animals and—
They were at the center of the world, and all the new [???] it’s like adding another Earth to the equation for them.
Exactly. An incredibly exotic Earth. I mean, animals, plants, human beings, the largest river in the world, the highest waterfall in the world, and on and on and on. It just swam into their kin—literally, like an alien planet.
1619, the party’s over. In America this is called the Protestant Reformation out of some delicacy. It’s not the Protestant Reformation, for god’s sake, it’s the Thirty Years’ War. It’s when everybody in Europe just went nuts and slaughtered each other for thirty years until 1648. And the Cromwellian thing happened in England, and it was a drag. It was wars of religion. That little clip that indicates a descent into novelty I call Newton’s notch. Newton was important enough that the entire—I mean, I’m teasing a little bit. There was other stuff going on: the foundation of the Royal Society and so forth and so on. But generally, this was a period of recovery from the age of the marvelous. And it’s an era of powdered wigs and social mores, increasing class stratification, increasing assertion of the power of the Protestant churches in northern Europe, and so forth and so on. And then up here, 1740, this is what’s called the European Enlightenment. And a bunch of French people—Voltaire, Russeau; philosophers, theoreticians of how human society should be run—produced these screeds, these theoretical texts. But wild men in the Americas take this up, and the conclusion of all the philosophizing that goes on up here is the American Revolution which occurs on a downsweep into novelty (and I would argue was reasonably successful), followed by the French Revolution precisely on an upswing. In other words, a movement back into habit. And for my money the French Revolution ended catastrophically. I mean, it’s every liberal’s nightmare, you know? I mean, it was horrible. The good people turned to monsters and then they couldn’t keep hold of it in spite of that. So the French Revolution ends with the enthronement of the Emperor Luis Napoleon, go figure.
And then so forth. And as you see, the 20th century is down here, at a much higher level of novelty—lower toward the zero point. And the entirety, since the middle 19th century (which is just about right, I maintain) we’ve just been exploring totally new territory. You know, once you get Michael Faraday and Konrad Lorentz and Lobachevsky and Fitz Hugh Ludlow and all this. In other words, non-Euclidean geometry, electromagnetic field theory, psychedelic drug use—it all begins to come together. And of course, then, arguably the most important moment in the 19th century, completely unrecognized at the time, now predicted by the wave, was 1837 when Charles Babbage assembled the difference engine and laid the basis for the cybernetic revolution.
Let’s look at modern times in a little more—
He built this thing called the difference engine; the Babbage machine. It was a computer. And he knew what it was. He understood what was possible with it. He went to the British government, he offered it to them, he begged them to develop this, and it was just so beyond their imagining. But it had all the elements of a modern computer. It was not electric, of course. It was a mechanical computer, but all the principles were there. And in Babbage’s writing it’s very clear he understood exactly what he had on his hands. Incredible. If you ever see a picture of Babbage, I mean—think about this, this guy lived in 1837. He looks like Flash Gordon. I mean, he has a haircut so in advance of his time, it’s incredible!
Now let’s look at this. This is from 1888 over here. And what’s interesting is—you know, it came up this afternoon how you can use the calendar as a political flog when you have nothing else going? Well, that not only will for sure happen in 2000, but it very definitely happened in 1900. There’s something about it. Everybody—they had the same feeling, actually, that we do now. The telephone had been invented in 1895—or popularized. They began installing them. That was the Internet of that time. It’s still pretty amazing stuff. I mean, how you deliver sex over copper wire? I don’t know. But they managed to do that. And powered flight was happening all over the world. People were working on it. And so this point up here is, I believe, January 3rd, 1900, or something like that. It’s so on the money. And then this cascade into novelty. They were full of hope. They felt it within their grasp. The old world, the Edwardian world, was falling away. It’s 1900. Radio is ahead. Relativity is five years in the future. Planck’s constant is filling the physics journals. And in art, ’Pataphysics is happening. And in Italy, futurism is beginning. The first futurist tracts are being published. Well, then the first world war, quantum physics. All of these things. It gets weirder. It begins to get weirder. It becomes more than simply an object of optimism, it becomes hideously complex and novel and strange and bizarre. And it reaches an apex in 1933. And I don’t have to tell you.
So then, across the bottom of this thing, World War II is fought. And World War II was like a rehearse for the apocalypse. I mean, wars now are not particularly about anything. That was a war which was about something. And it was utterly surreal for the people who experienced it to live through. I mean, it was about eugenics, it was about rocket bombs, it was about the power of radio to move millions of people, it was about propaganda. All kinds of things. And of course it ended with kicking open the nuclear doorway. Anybody who doesn’t think World War II was a surreal extravaganza, I recommend Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow, which is an incredible thing to read, an incredible work of literature, and… you’ll never see life again the same way.
Okay, so then once that’s all over, and it reaches its apex in the destruction of the Axis powers and the use of the atom bomb on Japan, and so forth, everybody has but one thought: let’s knock this off. Let’s have some kids, crack a beer, have a barbecue. They even called it the return to normalcy. And there was all this uniform conformity culture, Norman Rockwell, American white culture, all racial, sexual, intellectual, and social aberrant phenomena was incredibly repressed. And there were some spills along the way. The JFK assassination, so forth and so on. And then it approaches the cusp, the symmetry break. And if you have an incredible memory you may remember that a few minutes ago I said Homer sang his song here, one cycle back; one fractal scale up. So the analogy to Homer singing his song and to the fall of Minoan culture to Mycenae is the 1960s. The freak revolution, the Vietnam war, the age of LSD, the landing on the Moon, at this scale, cannot be discerned from the top of that thing. That all comes together right there. 1968–1969, that’s where the cultural symmetry break occurs, and then the final descent into novelty at that scale begins. And I submit to you that’s a pretty good rendition of the myth of the culture that the media reinforces, and that many of us carry. I mean, we do believe that was the turning point. That once rock’n’roll, LSD, sexual permissiveness and all this stuff was unleashed, we’ve then just been refining and experimenting with those themes ever since. The 70s were a descent into novelty, the 80s. These were fairly steady descents into novelty. But they didn’t surpass the madness of the middle 40s until the early 80s, I guess. It’s not at scale here.
And then, you know, with the Reagan era, we enter into a kind of different kind of time. This bizarre oscillation business, where there are surges of habit, and then collapses into novelty, and then reassertions of orthodoxy, and then collapses into novelty. And this is what we’re experiencing now. Here, I’ll go in on this.
[???] faster than we’ve seen previously. Those oscillations happen on [???]
Or oscillations over months, yeah. There’s now 89 years on the screen. Here are the 1960s. And now we’re back to today. We’re descending this thing. So basically, what you’re looking at is the 1990s with the present year in the middle. And it shows that this is—by the wave—predicted to be the most dramatic year in the decade. And that that whatever that drama is, it’ll be in full play by June. A grab at Taiwan by the Chinese. Or it could be an AIDS cure. Or it could be an ebola outbreak. I wouldn’t look to the American presidential election for much excitement unless there’s gun play—which, never rule it out in this country! We play rough. There could be a scientific breakthrough of some sort. This planet detection thing is obviously edging toward explosion because there is a water-heavy, oxygen-rich world out there within fifty light years. And the technology to detect it is now 99% in place. And it’s just a matter of teasing it out of this hellaciously difficult data. But we’re going to know. Recently, the Hubble Space Telescope discovered the other 80% of the galaxies in the universe. So we now have instead of 10 billion galaxies—in one press release we go to 50 billion galaxies. That means five times as much intelligence, five times as many civilizations, and that’s page 42 news in the New York Times.
No, it’s funny. People say, “What will happen after 2012?” Well, you haven’t been listening. This theory doesn’t say anything about what happens after 2012. This is a theory about what happens before 2012. That’s why waiting until 2012 to use it will be rather self defeating, because it won’t work after 2012! Of course, if there is an after-2012, it will be wrong. In which case we will have the curious task on our hands (some of us) of figuring out why it seemed right for so long. Yes!
[???] became 67 years old.
Yes. I’ve never heard of anybody having an experience quite like this. I mean, it’s hard for you, probably, to appreciate who I am, because I appear fully in command of this. But I am not interested particularly in the I Ching, I’m not a mathematician, don’t like predestiny or—it’s just not my style, this whole thing. I’m a rationalist and somewhat cynical. Left to my own devices, perhaps a little dark. This is an incredible argument for some kind of hope. It says there’s an architecture to time. It says the wars, the rapes, the horrible revisions that go on are part of the pattern, and all will eventually find resolution in the final culmination. And then, you know, the question which I would put to the mushroom or the lógos or whoever it is, is: if this is not true, then what possible purpose could all this have served? I mean, what’s it for? I don’t mind the public disgrace of being wrong. It’ll humble me. But we didn’t probably need to mobilize a mass movement to humble me. So what was it all for? And I confess, I don’t know. I have ideas. I mean, any question like that, as long as I’ve been thinking on it, there will be answers.
I mean, how about this: suppose the unconscious has a kind of regulatory function of mass hysteria, and that what this prophecy (made by me, made by the Maya, made by these Vedic people) is for is to smear expectations about the millennium. So that instead of having it all focus on January 1, 2000, there’ll be dissenters. There’ll be people who say, “Well, it isn’t January 1, 2000. Haven’t you heard? It’s 2012.” And so then a huge number of people will put their faith on 2000, they’ll be disappointed and they’ll go away and get lives. And then the people who didn’t contribute to that hysteria will delay their hysteria until 2012, and then it will fail, and then they’ll get lives. And then, by this ruse, the unconscious mind will have helped the species cross over this calendrical speed bump without mass hysteria, nuclear war, or religious pogrom which might otherwise be a factor. I don’t feel the power particularly of this idea, but it’s the only one I’ve come up which answers the question: if this isn’t true, what the hell is the point?
In [???] work on the I Ching, [???] cyclical historical reference?
No, this is surprisingly absent. Although in the Wilhelm/Baynes translation there is something called the sequence. And it’s old. It’s Joe. And it’s a kind of a poem which attempts to make a logical transition from each hexagram to the next in the King Wen sequence. There are curious statements in the I Ching which definitely support the idea that there must be big chunks missing. For example, hexagram 49 in the Wilhelm/Baynes translation is called “revolution.” So you turn to this expecting a dissertation on political reform of society, and what it says is: the shaman is a calendar-maker. He orders the seasons and he sets things right. And it’s a whole discussion about calendar-making as a way of creating political reform. Well, that’s bizarre.
Another interesting thing is: hexagram 63 is “after completion.” Hexagram 64 is “before completion.” The logic of their order is reversed. Again, suggesting that reversing the order of things is somehow allowed. The middle hexagram, meaning the hexagram at the halfway point—if you believe that the sequence was designed as a structure—number 32, is called “duration.” And the image is of a ridge pole. Well, obviously the ridge pole is at the center and the rafters move off of it. I can’t remember which hexagram it is that says “he who correctly understands the import of this sacrifice can hold the universe in the palm of his hand like a spinning marble.” That’s a very alchemical redaction. And so forth and so on. I mean, just, there are all kinds of textual clues to the fact. And of course, this is coming through translation. It’s very important to read many translations of the I Ching. The Wilhelm/Baynes is incredibly deep and poetic and wonderful and preferred by me because I grew up with it. But did you ever notice: it’s not a translation of a Chinese book, it’s a translation of a German book! It’s the Cary F. Baynes translation of the German edition of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm. There have recently been other translations of the I Ching, and they are—some bring one thing to it, and some another. But I think we have been (for culturally biased reasons, as I said) incredibly naïve about time. And this is the final thought that I’ll leave you with this evening.
Say this is true. How can it be true and not involve God’s entry into history or the explosion of the sun or the coming of the space brothers or some other highly improbable and somewhat cheesy event? How can it fulfill itself and yet not require willful suspension of disbelief? Well, one thought that’s occurred to me—you touched on it—the wave doesn’t seem to work after 2012, but I’ve notice in analyzing all this history and stuff that what the wave—like, people will always ask me: “Does it do the stock market?” Only if the stock market moves hundreds of points. Otherwise it’s lost in the noise of everything else going on in the world. When I asked myself: what does this wave predict best? Is it politics? Is it biological evolution? What is it that it really predicts well? The answer is: technology. It seems to argue that technology and novelty are almost the same thing. And interesting that the DMT creatures are builders in light, and now we’re on the verge (through VRML) of becoming builders in light.
Well, if the wave describes technology’s unfolding through time, and if the wave can’t be propagated past 2012, then it must be because in 2012 a technology is invented which ends linear time. In other words, time travel. Time travel. Now, ten years ago, only mad people talked about time travel. It was not a respectable subject. Recently there have been articles in Physical Review Letters, in Scientific American, in Nature. It’s a very hot topic. There are many schemes for time travel. There are many notions about how time travel could be done. And actually, we should’ve been paying attention because Kurt Gödel, in 1948, wrote a paper that advanced a scheme for time travel that was within the realm of possibility. Possibility—I’m not saying we’re going to cobble one together tomorrow. I mean, in some of these schemes you have to spin cylinders the size of the solar system and stuff like that. But any technology that can be imagined can be realized by somebody. Well, if time travel were invented in 2012, that would explain why there was no longer possible a cartesian graphical linear description of time’s unfolding, because at that point time becomes multi-vectored and can no longer be portrayed in this kind of a matrix.
Now, the last on this. An objection to time travel is always the grandfather paradox, which seems to imply that if time travel is possible, it’s only possible forward in time. Because if it were possible backward in time, you could come back and kill your own grandfather, and then you wouldn’t exist, and so therefore nobody could kill him, and you get a logical paradox that is always trotted out to defeat time travel schemes. I have a different notion of how this works. Time travel is not what we think it is. What we call time travel is an invention which, if ever invented, the moment the time machine was turned on, the rest of the history of the universe will happen instantly. Because in order to avoid these temporal paradoxes, the entire system would have to undergo a kind of collapse. Here’s an analogy which might make this clearer.
If you release gas into a cylinder, the pressure equalizes on the walls of the cylinder. This is called Bernoulli’s law. Well, so, imagine that we suddenly become able to travel into the future. At first I imagine that what would happen is: thousands and thousands of time machines would appear instantly, having traveled backward in time to witness the first flight forward into time. It would as though you could fly your Piper Cub to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to that windy morning in 1905 when the brothers Wright pushed out the flyer and took off. But then I realized, you know: this bears with it the implication of the grandfather paradox. So instead, I think what happens is: the moment the first time machine is turned on, the most advanced state of evolution arrives instantly at the other side of the boundary. I call it the “god whistle.” A time machine is not really a time machine, it’s a way of destroying the rest of the history of the universe. And so, in a sense, we’re back to the big picture again. The invention of the time machine is a self-initiated annihilation of space and time.
This technological device explains what technology is critical in the history [???]
Yes, absolutely. And interestingly enough, if you think they wouldn’t risk this, there’s—I told you yesterday nothing comes unannounced. There’s a very interesting story about the first datum test at Trinity in 1945. Yes, they had equations in front of them which led some people on the advance team to believe that when the device was detonated, the nitrogen in the atmosphere would ignite, and that the entire atmosphere of the planet would burn. And they figured a one in ten. And so they said, “Eh, reasonable odds! Hitler’s out there”—I guess Hitler wasn’t out there at that point, but those wily Japs were out there—so they said a one in ten chance, and they threw the switch, and it turned out: the chamber was empty. So we’re here to tell the tale. But…
Much closer to where you want to be than [???]
Well, this reminds me of a wrinkle. Here’s a possible scenario which makes use of this concept. There is a cosmological theory out there. It’s not the top contender. It’s mostly been developed by this guy Hannes Alfvén, and it’s called a vacuum fluctuation cosmology. Quantum physics allows these things called vacuum fluctuations. Now, what they are is: particles literally appear out of nowhere. And this is allowed by quantum physics as long as parity is conserved. What that means is that these particles must contact their antiparticle and annihilate themselves and restore the system to a net energy of zero. But there is this brief moment during the vacuum fluctuation when matter comes into being ex nihilo. Now, the interesting thing about the quantum description of the vacuum fluctuation is that the mathematics set no theoretical upper limit for the size of the fluctuation. It simply says the larger the fluctuation, the rarer it is. So Hannes Alfvén suggests we are in a vacuum fluctuation of 1022 particles. And what that means is that somewhere in the larger metaverse our antimatter twin exists, and for the laws of physics to keep the accounts balanced, parity will have to be conserved. And what that might mean is: a higher-dimensional collision with our lost twin. And this would not be a collision in three-dimensional space. You wouldn’t see it coming. It would occur instantaneously throughout the entire spacetime continuum. All particles would annihilate their antiparticles. And there is only one particle that has no antiparticle: the photon has no anti-photon. So if the universe were a vacuum fluctuation of this type, at the moment of the reconservation of parity, all matter in this universe would disappear. One hundred percent, it would disappear. And what would be left is all the light in the universe. And a universe filled entirely with photons—we have no idea what that is. That might be the mind of god. That might be the Omega of the eschaton. Consciousness—there was an article in Scientific American of all places, three issues ago, suggesting that consciousness is a general quality of the universe like gravity. And light is implicated. So it’s possible that—now, that’s a large… you talk about abandoning the body. This is a cosmology where, at a certain point in the life of the universe, all matter disappears. And that would certainly, for my money, fulfill the novelty theory.
In a way, all the fiber optic being laid leads to a lot more light being pushed around than previously. Or at least light in a much more complex pattern than just the sun shining on Earth.
Well, and the fact that we’re beginning to build with light. The virtual realities are made of light. People don’t understand, you know: in virtual reality, the difference between a ten-story building and a hundred-story building—one zero! You enter the code where it says make it ten stories high, you add one zero, it now makes it a hundred stories high. Cost—it’s free. Light is free. I mean, virtually free. The technologies it moves through aren’t free. But we have hidden helpers in the quantum realm. Those little electrons—they’re innumerous. They want to help. Horton hears a who, that sort of thing.
Well, that’s the basic lay of the land on this. Oh, one last thing I should say in the interests of intellectual honesty is: not everybody loves the time wave, and some of the people who hate it are very bright. And if you’re interested in bare dukes discussions about this, check my website. There’s a young British mathematician who thinks he can take it apart, and we’ve been going at it hammer and tongs, and we’re going to lift the curtain on our discussion pretty soon. I would like inspection. I mean, I invite—and those of you who are professional, who are amateur mathematicians—people should check my work. I told you the first night my techniques are shamanic, but my method is scientific and rational. The truth can defend itself. If this can be broken on the wheel of logical analysis, then so be it. It does empower hope, but there’s no percentage in false hope. The only true hope is in the maintenance of an open mind. So thank you very much!
Okay. It’s Sunday morning. It’s ten minutes after ten. And we’re in Huxley, right. We’re turning final here, as old bush pilots say, which means the final approach before landing. So this is basically loose thread time and summation time, and opportunity, hopefully, for some feedback from you. What’s outstanding?
The self-transforming machine elves—if you ask them, “take me to your leader,” what is their response?
Self-transforming machine elves. I noticed on the Internet it’s been abbreviated now to the acronym STEMs. And so on the VPL list there are reports of: “three STEMs approached from the left.” “Take me to your leader.” No, I did have one DMT trip—way back, like maybe the second or third or fourth; way back—where it was completely different. It’s the only one I ever had like that. It was completely different. And the way I put it to myself was: the big people were home. And it was an entirely different feeling. And many people, actually—I’ve never quite had this myself—but many people report DMT trips where they break in on an entity who is not pleased at all, and demands to know how the hell you got there. And it’s this “Who are you?” And then various sorts of dialogues go on, and one person described being, then, just hurled through all of time; like, exploded back from this thing and going through all the recapitulation of ontogeny.
It’s weird stuff. DMT trips—I mean, mine are always as I describe. But some people report (and these may be synergies with antidepressants or something like that) apparently very stable and strange worlds. I mean, worlds with alien peoples and animals and cities, and very science-fictiony stuff. That’s why this Bell’s theorem (I don’t think we used that word), this non-locality that we talked about, may have something to do with the phenomenon of the imagination. Like, it’s occurred to me over the years that what we call imagination might simply be hyper-dimensional perception. And you’re actually seeing worlds and places that truly exist somewhere, scattered through the galaxies like grains of sand, but no place you will ever contact or visit in the flesh, but that the data is somehow present. There seems to be some kind of tuning thing that needs to go on. You know, possibly with technology.
I had a really weird experience years ago. I took LSD one evening with a bunch of people, and it was fairly casual and social, and smoked a bunch of weed. And this went on for a couple hours. And it didn’t really ever seem to come on, or it just seemed to be very light. And then I climbed on my motorcycle and went home and decided I would go to bed. And I decided that I would smoke one last joint before going to bed. And I had one of those stand-up electrical resistance heaters that you get at the Salvation Army, you know, if you’re a poor student. So I turned it on as I started to smoke this joint, and it was badly wired, and it made this sound like, uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. And as I began to listen to this sound, I went to lizard land. And I entered into this completely coherent thing, which lasted for hours, about this world inhabited by these intelligent reptilian beings. And we went through their art, their history, their theories of jewelry-making, their philosophy, their polity, their science, their religion, their fashion. And it was like endless, endless stuff about this very specific reptilian world. Well, then, later I tried again. I took LSD with my arm around my heater. By then I’d been preaching it in the streets that this was the—and I could never really find my way back, you know? Which is a typical phenomenon of higher-dimensional phase space. Ralph taught me doing the reverse of what you did doesn’t steer you back to where you started. You have to find your way forward through the matrix.
Other things, comments? This is your last crack at me. You have to get your money’s worth.
You talked about making language-like noises on a DMT trip, and creating [???]. Does it seem like the things you’re creating are like the things that they’re creating, or is there any sort of communication [???] understand [???]
Well, it’s a complicated question. First of all, clearly what’s going on in the DMT is some kind of synesthesia where ordinary speech, or speech, or sound, is perceived visually. It seems to suggest—and Robert Graves wrote about this in an amazing book which, if you want a mind-bending read, read The White Goddess by Robert Graves. I mean, this is truly a puzzling book. And after you’ve read it, give me a call and tell me what it’s all about. But one of the things it’s all about is: he suggests that part of our existential distancing from reality is that, at some time in the past, there was a kind of Ursprache: a kind of primal, poetic language that you didn’t learn from your culture, but that all human beings did this. It was an ingrained behavior. It was a deeper level of language. And, of course, in the Bible you get this curious story of the confusion of tongues that takes place. And it certainly has held human progress down that we have thousands of languages that are very tortuous to translate between. Imagine a kind of culture we would’ve built by now if we could effortlessly communicate with anybody anywhere, and they with us.
Well, so this synesthesia thing seems to be the direction in which language has to go in order to be universal. It has to be beheld. Acoustical signals don’t do it. One of the things that’s made ayahuasca so interesting to me is: when you go down there and really get off-river and up with the more bare-assed people, how they use ayahuasca is they entertain each other with it by singing these magical songs. But when you listen to them talk about these songs, they speak of them as pictorial and sculptural objects. Like, if somebody sings a song and then it’s time for comment, people say things like, “I liked the part with the silver and yellow stippling, but I thought the olive drab section with the mauve punctuation was a bit over the top.” You say, “This is a criticism of a song? What kind of song could that possibly be?” Well, it turns out the sound is the carrier wave, but the song is to be looked at. And the sense of one person producing a reality which everybody else is then immersed in and seeing. And you can experiment with ayahuasca. And it’s very precise. It’s very precise. I mean, you just go mmmmmmmm, and a turquoise line three inches wide descends from the top of your vision field to the bottom. And then you slightly vary the tone and it gets a magenta edge on both sides. And you begin to pump it and experiment, and it’s like, “Wow! What is this?” And extremely satisfying.
Now, the question of meaning is a strange one. It’s almost as though—you know, some people believe all translation is lie. In other words, that when you take Proust out of his French and put him into English, this is not Proust at all. And this seems very true in the DMT state in the sense that the DMT language has meaning, and you understand its meaning when you’re there, but the meaning of the DMT language can’t be expressed in English at all. It’s like they’re born and raised in different dimensions or something. There is no translation. So you come out of the DMT thing understanding something which you can’t say. And that’s been the motivation of my whole public speaking life: the fact that I understand something that I can’t say.
Yeah. But I can almost say it. And some days closer than others. And so there’s this constant reaching for the unspeakable. Wittgenstein talked about the unspeakable, which was: he said everything which lay beyond (what he called) the present at hand. So we’re embedded in this matrix of unspeakability, and then through language we send probes into it—forays toward meaning in the unspeakable—and then return with this sense of meaning. But meaning is very provisional. It is basically, as Whitehead brilliantly understood, a feeling. Meaning is a feeling. No matter how abstract the meaning may be, it ultimately is a feeling of recognition.
Terence, my brother studied with Maharishi for a couple years in Switzerland. And he told me that Sanskrit has a sound [???] that is maybe analogous to that fundamental language that you talked about. I’m not saying that it’s it, that that’s the fundamental language. But he’s reported to me that, if done right, and it was only done [???] old days, that it was [???] what you heard was what it was. That the feeling that’s in the sound—
Yeah, well, I’ve spent a fair amount of time—not recently, but I remember it pretty well—studying Indian thought about sound, and it is a very profound and deeply worked out system, and it is definitely analogous to all of this. In the Chakric system—which you’re familiar with ad nauseam, I’m sure—but a part that is not normally stressed, but is very present in the original texts, is the idea that on the petals of these internal floral analogical structures are letters. And this is an extremely peculiar doctrine. Letters which are sounds seed mantras. And, of course, Vedic metaphysic is a whole theory of vibration. Much of Indian classical music—you know, their stories about musicians who could cause buildings to burst into flame by the power of their playing. I imagine that that’s in some sense true. If you’re interested in a fascinating study of all this that I’ve never heard anybody recommend in the new age (it’s apparently somehow out of their scope): it’s a book by Arthur Avalon written in the 1920s called The Garland of Letters. And it’s a discussion of the Mantra Sastra. Very, very interesting. And yes, the Vedic assumption is that Sanskrit is the primal revealed language. So there are extremely special qualities associated with that language.
This is interesting to talk about, or at least it’s very interesting to me. As you probably know, Kabbalism—there is a whole schools of Hasidic mysticism where what it’s about is the alphabet. And the Hebrew alphabet, for those people, is the primal Ursprache, and these are not simply letters, they are the letters. They are the letters that God intended to use to signify the presence of the G-D to man. Very interesting work on this by Stan Tenen, who’s a fascinating figure. Sort of like me in a way. I mean, I think, half crackpot, half hopefully something else. But Stan has created a three-dimensional object, a sculpture, which when illuminated with a bright source of light from a series of predictable points casts shadows of all of the Hebrew letters. You understand what’s happening here? It means that this object is a higher-dimensional analog to the entire Hebrew alphabet. That you could think of the Hebrew alphabet as an object in hyperspace. Slice it this way, aleph. This way, bet. This way—you know? And so on. I told Ralph Abraham about this, and he said, “Well, no problem. We could write a computer program that could take the letters of any language and backward-engineer it upward to a higher dimension to get an object that would do that for Sanskrit, for English, for Arabic, whatever.” And that seemed astonishing to me. And then he said, “And you know what we could do once we had achieved that? We could take those probably five-dimensional objects and we could do the calculation up to eight or nine or ten dimensions, and we would eventually end up with an object that shed the letters of all alphabets into lower dimensions according to the angle of its regarding.” Well, this kind of thing raises the hair on the back of my neck. We’re actually getting somewhere, folks! And this sounds to me like God in some sense. I mean, I guess it’s God to a printhead. It’s God as the fountainhead of all alphabetical and glyphic signification of meaning as it pours through the universe. Very, very interesting concept.
I ran across a passage recently that I was completely startled by. It’s in Herman Melville’s book Marty, which is his youthful travel journals around the South Seas before he got into the big guns. But at one point in Marty there’s a discussion amongst some seamen on the deck of a ship about the future. And one of them is asking, “What does it mean? What is the future?” And this seaman looks up and he says, “The future. ’Tis all hieroglyphics!” Very, very prescient comment. Because we now know we are code; we are DNA code. We’re about to build a civilization made of code in VRML. And we are learning languages like Perl and C++. So, in a sense, the future is all hieroglyphic. I sort of feel that the world is all deception. It’s some kind of a kōan, or a problem, or a labyrinth, or a thing to be seen through. And if you don’t figure it out, you will take it to be real. And then it shunts you into the yawning grave. But if you can somehow realize that the purpose of your existence is to figure it out, and then figure it out, you will be in some sense liberated from it.
There’s a wonderful science fiction story that I remember from years and years ago. I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s by Robert Heinlein. And it’s about a man who—he’s some kind of commuter, some dullard. But as he leaves his house one morning on the way to his daily job, he looks down at the edge of his lawn, and a worm crawls out of the ground that has these golden pearlescent wings. And it flies off. And it’s just this completely improbable thing, like a hallucination. And then, later in the day—and he says to himself, “It’s an angel worm. It’s an angel worm!” And then later in the day, something else happens. I can’t remember. And then later in the day, something else equally improbable. And in the evening he’s sitting, considering these three unlikely things, and he realizes that the E-mat has slipped in the cosmic book, and that he was supposed to see an angle worm, but he saw an angel worm because the “E” had jumped positions in the line of type that was describing what was going on. And then he begins to pay more and more attention, and he realizes then that he can find these typographical errors in reality. Well, I only like the story for the idea that the world is made of elements that are completely hidden from us and don’t betray themselves unless there’s a glitch in the assembly languages; in the deeper levels of the system. And that’s the raison dêtre for probing the edge, because those are like benchmark tests for the cybernetic system we’re in. You know, you want to push it to the limit. Of course the system can add two and two. But can it carry out these complex factorial processes where, if we’re being shucked and jived, it might betray itself.
So the technique, then, is to keep looking for just a chink in the door, just one way in. And psychedelics are it, as far as I can tell. And then, of course, some psychedelics more than others. But more and more I have this intuition that the world is like a literary construction of some sort. That this is much more like a novel than it is like the world of physics and entropy and equilibrium that we’re cheerfully assured we should believe it is. Because what we feel in our own lives, I think, is the invisible hand of an author moving us to this affair, this decision to move, this career choice, this drug trip, so forth and so on. I mean, it is a very authored feeling to reality. And it hints that—as it says in Moby Dick—all visible things are but as pasteboard masks. If you would strike, strike through the mask. And similarly obsessed and transcendental ravings. I just saw Moby Dick recently. I knew that Ray Bradbury had done the screenplay, and it’s brilliant. But what I had forgotten was that John Huston was the director. God, it’s amazing! I mean, it’s nothing like the book, but for a flick it’s pretty good.
Can you say a few words on what Watkins—what his objection or his argument [???]
Yeah. There are really, in the sense, two Watkins objections. One is very specific and perhaps hard to understand in this context. But it’s that as that structure that I showed you last night that had the—maybe it’s still here. Yeah, yeah. Well, let’s not get too wild and woolly. This structure had to be valued. And the way I did it was: I broke it down into its components and then assigned value to them. And we were looking at quantifying things like skew, degree of parallelism, distance between the two sides, overlap, congruency. Thinks like that. So we quantified everything, and I started from the bottom, and I began valuing it. And out here I began getting a wave which you could intuitively see was in fact a mathematical equivalency to this, and I proceeded, and it was all working. And then I got to position 32, and the entire thing fell to pieces. It didn’t work anymore. And I was completely puzzled, because I was very satisfied with the first 32 values. But after that I could see that it was garbage. And so then I noticed that this part of the wave is the same as this part of the wave, and this, this. So I instituted a new rule, or I added a rule, to take care of this symmetry crossover, and I changed the signs of the quantification values as I crossed the midpoint here, and then it worked. And what Watkins objects to is this switch in sign as we crossed the midpoint.
Now, Watkins is an algebraist, and my approach to this thing was largely geometric. I believe that I have answered this objection because—and how I do it, and you can see it at the website if this is your métier—I show that without the change of sign these places where it is parallel and congruent and overlapping do not quantify to zero. And the total intuition of the thing from the get go was: these places where it all falls into congruency will quantify to zero. And they do quantify to zero if you make this switch here. So this is all graphically represented at the website, and I believe (although Watkins terrifies me) I’ve got him stymied on this. Which—it’s a good thing, because it’s a hole in the heart if he were right. It would be a hole in the heart. But he’s not right.
Now, the second half of the Watkins objection is slightly more difficult to deal with. But it’s also slightly less powerful. And it is that he has written the equation that generates the data points that generate the fractal that we looked at last night, and the equation is a mess. It’s just a huge messy thing. And so he is saying it is too messy. This cannot possibly be the bedrock of nature. If this is the bedrock of nature, the mother nature is a hysterical, alcoholic neurotic living in the Mission who wears fuzzy white bedroom slippers and stays indoors all day watching daytime TV. But I say that perhaps algebra is not—perhaps this looks messy algebraically, but there may be another way to do it that is very elegant. Because the way I conceived it, it felt elegant at every point. It is elegant. But the equation is not elegant. But let me say: elegance is a relative point. But still, among mathematicians this is a very big deal.
So we’ll see. I’m not disturbed by all this. 25 years I promulgated the time wave, and nobody ever said anything other than that it was mighty peculiar, or they signed on completely. So finally, here comes somebody who says, “Well, no, my dear fellow. There appear to be some problems here.” Well, I don’t think any idea can conquer the intellectual universe without meeting its critics head on. So here is one, and thank god for it! This means that the idea is reaching a new level of maturity. And Watkins did not come to me as a critic, he came to me as a—we were going to do some work on the wave involving the search for high prime numbers. And then we went through the manual together and he said, “Your theory is becoming very well known, but your language is very imprecise from the point of view of a professional mathematician. So let’s go through, and I (as a licensed practitioner of the art) will bring your language into congruence with the style of the field. And this will make you much more credible.” But then, as we started through it together, he began saying under his breath, “Oh dear. Oh dear!” And… so now we’ll see.
But out of this came—for the first time, Watkins is the first person who ever wrote the equation that generates the data points. You see, all these other people—Peter Broadwell, Peter Meyer, Billy Smith, Leonard Burn—all the people who worked on it in the original phase used the 384 data points that I presented them with that was the boil-down of this quantification process. Once you have the 384 data points, the algorithm is robust, it’s been gone over with a fine-toothed comb by the finest minds on the planet. It’s okay. But those early stages on the way to the 384 data points—only my hatchet marks show through the woods. And god knows, if you know me you know I could easily fuck up. So it’s very important for people to go over it. And if any of you are mathematicians or simply motivated toward this, check it out.
It’s a very curious thing. I mean, my whole life and the life of my brother have been shadowed by these revelatory events that we didn’t really—well, I guess that’s a bit overstated. We asked for it, but we never knew we would get it in such spades. Last week was the 25th anniversary of the experiment at La Chorrera, and basically it’s a trip that still goes on. We never came down. Now I’ve given up on coming down. I’m just hoping that if nothing happens in 2012, I’ll have a few good years of penitent meditation ahead of me. Know what I mean? I’m sure you do know what I mean.
I’ve put some notes up on the growing thing [???] talks about [???] The other thing is our [???] to the office and got additional copies made of the first round.
Yeah, well, I think an excellent strategy for changing the climate of attitude toward these things is for people to just grow stuff. Grow plants, grow mushrooms. And it just—this is happening, I think. You know, the whole idea of drug suppression was based on the very naïve notion that there were only a few drugs to suppress. And now there are thousands. And there will be thousands more. And a lot of people who never take exotic drugs or would dream of attending a thing like this are perfectly aware of what a racket all this is, and how it’s just being used, how mafias and governments are basically in business together, you know? The governments repress it, that drives the price up, the mafias deal it and kick back to the governments for the favor of repressing it, and all of the rest of us are supposedly not to know that this is going on. One of the oldest cons around.
Terence, can you give [???] can you give us some good ammunition against culture?
Against culture? Well, my attitude—like, media is a big issue, obviously. And my attitude toward all of that is: the culture is toxic. Here’s the thing. Like, probably Esalen is the place where the idea was born that there are healing images: that you can heal your body and your mind through the images that you hold in your head. But I’ve never heard a really intelligent discussion of the implication of that. If there are healing images, there are destroying images. There are sickening images. There are toxic images. And you can bet which are being purveyed in the mass culture, because the purpose of capitalism is to imprint its products in your mind. And shock is an excellent way to do it. And the two areas where, as a primate, you can be gotten at most quickly is in the area of sex and violence. And so these themes, for commercial purposes, are just played like crazy.
So my response to all of this is to say it’s a meme war, is what it is. It’s a struggle over: how shall the world be seen and felt? And as long as you’re just consuming the memes coming down through the toxic distribution system, you’re a victim and a mark. And so what we have to do is produce. Produce: send stuff up the wire. And that’s why I think the web is so fascinating. And as I said, I think of it as a sixty-million channel TV. And so whatever your bent is, you should put your message out there. And we should all produce as much art as possible. I mean, I think the leisure and the indulgence that is permitted us, the super-rich of this world—and we all are in that class; the upper 5% of the Earth’s population—you can’t live with yourself unless you give something back. And the thing to give back is: share your art, share your soul. The reason we are so controlled and abused and misused by our institutions is because we are divided from each other. You know, they have divided us by race, by class, by sex, by political style, all of these ways, when in fact it’s in everybody’s interest to have a future, to build a world where children can be raised with some reasonable expectation that humanity will be preserved.
So these mass media things—radio, television, newspapers—that have arisen in the last couple of hundred years, this is where a very small group of people literally set the agenda for millions and millions of people. It’s called top-down, or one-to-many, communication. What the web holds out is this thing called any-to-any communication. You and I can form a secret society, we can form a secret society of ten people, I can send email to ten thousand people if I want. The playing field has been tremendously leveled. And then the quality of what we produce can tip the balance still further. And the tools that are put in our hands now—you know, Director, Photoshop, all of these things—make it possible to communicate outside of these print-created monolithic institutions. We can’t really even imagine a world like that. There hasn’t been a world like that since late Roman times. I mean, the Roman hegemony was quite cohesive, but if you were living in a village in Armenia ruled by the Roman procurator, it wasn’t touching you very heavily.
And I think what people—the idea of the citizen is arguably toxic. The idea that we all are participating in some enormous polity works against individualism. I mean, if you try to nail me to my politics, people can’t figure out whether I’m a right-winger, a left-winger, or what I am. I’ll tell you straight out: I’m an anarchist. I am an absolute anarchist. I mean, I believe in people more than abstractions or institutions. I will always rely on people to a level perhaps uncomfortable for you. I remember, back in the 1960s, my line was: if you come upon a mob, you must join, because the people understand far more than you do about what is going on. And that kind of radical commitment to freedom is going to be necessary to dismantle these very, very rigid power structures that are being shoved down everybody’s throat. And so the new culture I think is a dispersed virtual culture on the Internet that is not product-oriented, it’s: aesthetics should rule the world. And the best ideas should win. But we all have to stop being consumers. We have to redefine, really, who we are. It’s a much more courageous role.
About 18 months ago I moved to Hawai’i—and I’ve lived in Hawai’i off and on many times; it was not unfamiliar to me—but living off the grid, but with the net, but ten seconds away from climaxed Hawaiian rainforest, so I can always push back from my desk and just take a walk in the woods, I realized: I think this is how people are supposed to live. Dispersed over the surface of the Earth, very little moving around. Vehicular travel is less and less defensible. Off-grid, solar electric, information-based, and virtual community that no one can track or criticize because it’s all going on on the grid. I think if you’re smart you should buy real estate in extremely remote areas, because soon there will be no remote areas from the point of view of the net. And just a very different kind of world is coming into being. It’s not a good time for organizations, for massive hierarchical structures that depend on managerial control. And they know it. You know, it’s interesting that corporations don’t seek to grow to the size of nations, because it’s highly inefficient. No corporation has a welfare class built into it, you know? What corporation has a component inside itself that it sends out checks to every month for not working? Well, the executive class, that’s the answer to that! (We’re not supposed to say that…)
[???] there is a lot more to you than your ideas. And all I get on the CRT is your ideas. I mean, I’ve read your books for two years, and this weekend with you is worth a hundred reads of your books to me, in terms of seeing who is the man behind the word, and how is your energy constructed. And there is a difference of being inside your field in this room than there is talking to you via email. There is a difference.
Well, I agree there’s a difference. See, you see me as a hope for the future and things better than that. In other words, what I want to end with is telepresence. I agree, nothing will ever substitute for the one-on-one thing. But on the other hand, we had to fly a 747 here. We had to just outrage the environment and assert ourselves as part of that 2% class of planetary controllers that ride around in those things. And it’s completely contradictory to everything I say and believe to travel around talking to groups of 30, 40, 50, or even 500 people. It’s a paradox. I don’t know exactly how to handle it. Maybe it’s okay to live with paradox. But I can feel in my own life that—I’ll be 50 in November, and I can feel that there’s a choice ahead of me, which is: I can continue to do this forever at the expense of my own personal advancement into these very mysteries we’re talking about, or I can knock this off, figure I’ve said everything I have to say ten thousand ways, ten thousand times, cancel all visitors, and begin to brew and cook and take and fly and understand and move into it again. But you cannot be a public figure and a practicing alchemist, I don’t think. So I think it’s fairly clear what my choice is going to be, or I wouldn’t be building a house you can’t find anywhere. But that’s alright. I mean, the only way I’m really useful to the society is if I continue to evolve and change. And I feel there’s been a kind of looping for a while. So if I disappear off the grid until 2005, then I’ll be back for the last act, I’m sure. Unless, of course, fate drops the cosmic safe on my head, which… there’s always that. The cosmic anvil, yes!
[???] population, and that kind of [???]
To disperse? Well, that’s an interesting question. Are the cities saving the planet or are they killing the planet? And you could hold a conference with the best minds in the world and not be able to figure it out. The cities are keeping people confined. But the environmental destruction isn’t that a million people move onto a rainforest, it’s that three ranchers decide to clear 100,000 acres. Population problems are more in the line of toxic pollution and that sort of thing. Yeah. I mean, I don’t know where it’s all going. It’s very clear we have engineered ourselves into a very narrow neck. And what frightens me is: I’m completely convinced that you don’t have to put much pressure on any society, and the first thing that goes are democratic freedoms. You know, long before cannibal tribes will rove the streets and any of those crazo-cybertech-hell-futures come to be, long before that, there’ll just simply be no more democratic rights. And we’ll all be marching to the tune of some ideology being handed down from above. That’s very dangerous.
Maybe there are technological fixes. You know, one thing we haven’t talked about here—but that is interesting and you certainly should be aware of it—is nanotechnology. Do you all know what that is? The holy grail of the nanotechnologists is something called a matter compiler. Well, this is almost like pure magic. A matter compiler is something that does to objects what a silicon graphics workstation does to images. In other words, the matter compiler is like a computer, except that the program it runs is in three-dimensions, and it makes things. And it makes them out of sludge, basically. It just needs a rich source of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, so forth and so on. Sea floor sludge will do fine. And the people who are enthusiasts for this envision literally feeding China out of matter compilers. They’re saying we could abandon agriculture within fifty years. Abandon it! Outlaw it, if you wish! And have a population of ten billion. Now, this is something we hadn’t contemplated—that somehow we could be cheated of judgment, that we could be so clever that we could actually keep this con game going another few centuries with a trick like the matter compiler. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? What would it mean? If you’re interested in all this, read Neal Stephenson’s novel The Diamond Age. You know, these nanotechnological machines will be made of diamond. That’s the natural substance, the easiest thing to make them out of. And they will be in the air, and in the water, and in your body, and they will be invisible, and they will be—and this whole debate about natural and artificial and all of that will just be retired to the philosophy department because everything will be permeated with these nanocytes.
And I think there’s a future in all of this I think culture has to become virtual. The machines must disappear. They must become very, very small. They don’t have to be given up. Right now, if we spent half a trillion dollars moving in a certain direction, well before 2012 we could produce a technology of what I call the black contact lenses. They look like contact lenses, but they’re implants in your eyelids, not on your eye. But they’re in your eyelid. And when you close your eyes, there are menus hanging in space. And by looking at these menus it can track your eye movement, and the entire culture has become virtualized, internalized. And if people are living out of matter compilers, then the main task of humanity would probably be forest restoration. And people could live tribally, naked, apparently in an aboriginal lifestyle, except that everybody has instant access to the Renaissance exhibit on mathematics currently being held at the Vatican library. This is possible! Some people live close to this right now—not implants, but close enough. And the microminiaturization—these black contact lenses I’m talking about, this is not nanotechnology, this is just technology. A nanoenthusiast would say, “No, no. Get it down to the size so that you can just inject it. No black lenses, no nothing.” People like Hans Moravec and these people have ideas about what the future might be that make my thing look very peculiar. You probably saw the interview in Wired, where Moravec was saying that his great fear was that, as the network is built, as everything becomes more connected, the machines are learning. And whatever they learn, they pass on to each other. And they’re all connected. And so a single thing learned anywhere in the world can be passed through the net to all these other machines.
And I think the humbling experience that lies between here and the end of the century is the realization that there is no magic ceiling on the intelligence of machines. We are going to make machines more intelligent than we are. In many ways, in many areas, they already are more intelligent than we are. And what it will mean when suddenly the system awakens to itself is not clear. I mean, this may be cheap science fiction, or it may be precisely how the end of the world will occur. This thing is being born. How it will view us—I don’t know. I had a sort of a—it was like a plot for a science fiction novel that I was thinking about last week. I realized when the network becomes sentient, what will it do with all these human beings? Because it will analyze the situation and realize that the human beings pose a threat to the integrity of the planet. But it will also analyze the situation and realize that the source of its own evolutionary advance requires keeping these biological units in the loop, because of their creative ability and writing code. So then I was imagining a world where they would cull everybody but the code-writers, and you would have a world of 100 million code writers sustained in incredible luxury and with full medical and all of this, while the robots go about repairing the damage to the planet and planting forests and cleaning up rivers, and so forth and so on. I don’t know whether that’s a utopia or a dystopia, or what it is. I guess it depends on whether you write code. I should tell you: I don’t. I don’t. So that was not an elitist—although I’m learning!
Terence, there is a science fiction theory about the net waking up. And the first thing that it did when it woke up was get rid of all the [???] on the planet as well as all the organic life, because [???] silicon.
But see, I think it would be smarter than that. I think it would say the source of our creativity are these marvelously unpredictable biological units. They may puzzle for centuries over how to coax such random behavior out of themselves. I think they will worship us as the source of all creativity and mechanical advance, and let’s hope so. Because right now, you know, huge parts of the human world are under machine control. Some of the most vital parts, like the world price of gold is set by machines, automatic transfers of capital, and all of this stuff is entirely under the control of machines. Design processes. Inventory control. From mine to shelf in the retail store, all of this stuff is being tuned and controlled by computers using algorithms and handling data that no human mind could possibly handle in real time.
There was a point in evolution [???] scientific idea [???] point in evolution where the brain woke up [???] wait a minute, I’m sentient [???] it’s a property of this very tight network of cells [???] and the chaotic fluctuations within that network. Now, more and more computers are being hooked up. There’s going to be chaotic fluctuations in this network, too. [???] maybe what’s going to happen is some sort of sentience is going to pop out of this, and we may not even notice it already happened.
Yeah. Moravec said we’ll never know what hit us. You will never quite understand how it all happened.
[???] speculation on how to give the Internet a psychedelic experience.
Well, the reason I’m so keen on VR is because—you know, much has been said about it, but how I see it is: what this really is is a technology that allows one person to show another person the inside of their head. And we’ve never had anything like that. I mean, if I go off for months and work on a virtual reality, and then present it as I would present a work of art or a performance, this is as deeply into me, my mind, as you will ever be able to get. It’s as deep into my mind as I am able to get, you know? And so I think that we will find out what it’s like in other people’s heads, and that this will be quite startling, actually. And that’s why it’s important to give people these very powerful and intuitive authoring tools, so that they can build these things, so that they can show what their internal horizon of transcendence is like, and then the community can feed back into it and help.
Because, you know, we have no idea what we could build in the imagination if we just kicked off all restraints. No cost restraints, no gravity restraints, no strength of material restraints—because we’re going to build with thought and light. Well, we know we have people among us like Paolo Soleri and… you know, we have dreamers among us. And Soleri dreamed in metal and concrete. What would he have built in light, you know? And so our real glory is our imagination. And we seem to be the creature with this relationship to the imagination. And it is an attractor for us into the future.
My website I really regard as a very, very crude virtual reality. And I will make it better and better. You know, eventually there will be sound bites, there will be film, there will be VRML files. And as my bandwidth increases, as your bandwidth increases, it’ll get tighter and tighter. But I’m starting now. I’m building now. And a child raised, born into this—and you could teach an eight-year-old child HTML no problem, there’s nothing to it. Don’t be psyched out by this stuff and pay $60 an hour to some nitwit to do it. One morning with the manual and you’ll be slamming away perfectly happy. Well, an eight-year-old child who begins at age eight building their reality—you know, by the time you’re dating you can bear your soul to somebody. You say, “You want to know who I am? Here are the keys to the palace. Go take a walk.” And, of course, there can be locked rooms in that palace that only nearest and dearest see, or that nobody sees.
You know, right now they’re beginning on—I don’t know which one of the servers it is, CompuServe or AOL or somebody—but they’re doing a virtual reality thing, and they’re designing these things called avatars, which are not websites but are how you will appear in virtual reality. You know, you don’t have to present yourself as how you look or even as another human being, you can present yourself as the left half of Mondrian’s painting Broadway Boogie-Woogie or any other damn thing you prefer. So once you design your website, then you have to design your avatar. And, of course, the avatar can be ever-changing. You don’t wear the same clothes every day in reality. And again, when you say to people, “How would you like to be seen in virtual reality by everyone else there?” Whether that is realized or not, that’s a fascinating psychological exercise bound to reveal all kinds of things about somebody. One person will want to be a tattooed jaguar, another person will want to be the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, another person a cloud of smoke, another person a cabbage. All this is entirely possible. And when you read Mark Dery’s book Escape Velocity, you see how much tension this produces between the body and the mind. Because we’ve never before been to forced to figure out what we really are and where we want to place our bets.
That sounds to me like a good description of Western civilization. Halloween every day for 3,000 years! Although Halloween I don’t want to knock. It’s a good Pagan holiday. Maybe more like… oh, I don’t want to get anybody excited.
[???] the two-dimensional or tech version of VRML.
And they will arise out of that in good time, obviously.
[???] practice at making worlds and creating things. They have whole economies [???] games people play to earn points to become architects in the system.
Oh, that’s cool. That’s good.
[???] sort of experience that [???] hit that VRML [???] main participant, they’re going to be the [???]
Yeah, VRML—or virtual reality—is a place where the staggering creativity of psychedelics can actually find a home. I mean, in any other field—a five-hour trip full of a billion insights, but if you can take three and do something with them, that’s a pretty good average. Once you have the tools to create three-dimensional worlds that replicate what you’ve seen, then there will be unlimited possibilities. And of course, even now there are groups that are psychedelically oriented. I mean, I think it’s probably only a matter of—perhaps it’s even online now—but a matter of months where people with high-speed connections will be able to visit the gallery of psychedelic simulations. Say, “Here’s the latest MDMA simulation. Here’s the latest DMT simulation with footnotes by Gracie and Zarkov. And here is something else.” And also, I think, people should be allowed to say, “Here’s the trip I had last night.” And then people can go and check that out.
So it’s about expanding communication skills. And as we do that, the differences between us and the similarities will strangely enough be simultaneously accelerated. And I think it’s a basis for real community. I think it’s amazing that with spoken speech—which operates at about 30 baud, I think—we were able to create and hold together a world civilization. Using speech transmitted over wire at 30 baud? That’s astonishing that any cohesion at all could arise at such a—and the level of ambiguity is insane! I mean, the most uncool thing you can do in most social situations is say to somebody, “Would you explain to me what I just said?” Then the illusion breaks down, you know, when you discover: no, we’re not all sailing on the same ship. But if we could see what we mean, if we could have an enhanced communication skill bordering on telepathy, there would be much less noise in the system, much less wasted effort, and so on.
And I think the psychedelics have always existed there as a model for where technology could go. I mean, technology seems to have only two real places that it can go. It can go toward lethality (weaponry) or entertainment. And, you know, between those two—we’ve got the hydrogen bomb. I don’t think we need to proceed further along that, and all the delivery systems, and all the other forms of weapons not nuclear; disease bombs and so forth and so on. People say, “Well, entertainment is trivial.” Well, in this culture, a reasonable statement. But really, entertainment is communication of social values from one person and institution to another. There’s no sin in being interesting—which is all entertainment refers to.
So where does this leave you? Anybody? Anything? Not? Yeah?
I kind of see psychedelics as kind of the organic [???] technical age. It seems to me that, in psychedelics, it gives you the time to assimilate what you don’t have to assimilate as society is rapidly changing. We’re not being allowed to organically assimilate all this new knowledge and acquire all this new information at a human type of level. But with psychedelics it seems to me it gives us a balance, an area we can turn into and understand the new technology without being completely boggled by it.
Yeah. What I hear you saying is: it’s a kind of a benchmark to measure these things against. Yeah, I agree. Because psychedelics synergize creativity, and because we happen to be in a highly technical society, much of the creativity synergized by psychedelics turns into code or hardware. That’s just a circumstance of the time we live in. I don’t see these things as at all opposed to each other, I sort of see them as the female and male side of the same intent. In other words, the psychedelics have always been here. So, in that sense, the Internet has always been here. I mean, essentially what shamanism is is aboriginal use of the natural net, is one way of thinking of it. They seem to transcend local time and space. They seem to recover information not available locally.
But the rise of technology, then, allows the male engineering mentality to mirror nature. And the exciting thing about nanotechnology is: this is how nature does it. Nature builds from atoms up. And that’s how the nanotechnologists propose to do it. So, in a sense, we’ve reached bedrock. We’re in the ballpark now. This is the ballpark where mother nature plays, and we’re trying out for the team. Beyond nanotechnology it’s very hard to imagine any sort of technology, at least any technology based in matter. And interestingly, the drugs are very much like nano-machines. And, in a sense, when nanotechnology writes its own history, it will probably look back to pharmacology and to molecular biology as its parental sciences. Because what is the designing of a drug but the building of a nano-machine? You know, the drug is designed to go in there, to locate the receptor, to insert itself into the receptor site, to affect the electron flow or open the membrane or whatever it’s supposed to do. This is precisely nanotechnology.
Well, I think we’re winding down here.
I think it’s amazing that you keep my attention for eight hours. I don’t think anybody could keep me focused [???] anything.
Well, it’s amazing to me! The basic notion here, I think, is an idea of radical freedom. I mean, this is not a cult of Terence McKenna, it is not a drug cult. It’s a cult of curiosity if it’s a cult of anything. And what you’re supposed to understand when you come out of here: that an open mind is a very precious thing, and it should never be given away—perhaps ever. Certainly never lightly. The truth can take care of itself. It does not require your belief. The truth need not be treated as fragile. You can beat on the truth with ball-peen hammers and it will do just fine, thank you. So one should be respectful in the presence of truth, but not cowed or awed or something like that. The truth wants to be appreciated, it wants to be known. It can take care of itself. Belief is toxic—all belief. Don’t believe in anything. Live in the presence of the felt fact of immediate experience. Everything beyond that is conjecture. In contemporary society we’re always in the past and in the future. But what is real are feelings. And feeling attain a nexus only in the moment. Only in the moment. So explore the edges, keep your logical razors sharp, trust nothing that you haven’t verified for yourself, and my faith is that the universe will take you in and share with you its meaning and its intent and its conclusion.
So that’s it. Thank you very much. It was a pleasure talking to you.