History Ends in Green

September 1990

The coming together of dream, film, and psychedelics in the twentieth century set the stage for the archaic revival. McKenna gives us a look through the window of our potential as humans. He helps put the hysteria of our time into perspective and gives a path that could help us to deal with this strange and wonderful world we live in. A must-listen seminar for those interested in human potential.


Part 1



I’ve been traveling a lot and speaking a lot to different kinds of people, and most recently in Europe, where it was a tremendous kind of bridge-building thing to get everything rhetorically lined up and squared around to where I could even introduce the subject of psychedelics. So I see that I’ve returned to the home congregation here. Because, you know, this seems to be the overwhelming focus of this group—which is interesting. It’s even sometimes sort of confining to me, because I would wander maybe in other directions. But every prophet is the captive of his earliest ideological expression. You know, I mean, Lenin couldn’t do much about Leninism once it had passed a certain point.


So in hearing what people’s interest were, trying to think about it in new ways, you know, the uniting thing in the twentieth century, I think one of the things that sets the twentieth century completely apart, really, from previous times—if not ontologically, then by degree—is the focus on the moving image and the role that this has had in shaping twentieth-century culture. And it comes really in three forms. It comes in the natural and available form of the dream, which always, to some degree, has shaped human culture. But for Freud and Jung in the early twentieth century and their followers, the dream took on a whole new significance that it had never had before. It was seen as a cryptic messenger from a hidden world.


And as these things seem to work out, concomitantly a technology of the moving image was developing, which was film. And film and the dream then become almost the two defining poles of the evolution of the aesthetic of the twentieth century over the first half of it, we’ll say. And then, in 1953—because that’s when Gordon and Valentina Wasson discovered the mushroom, or earlier if you want to date it to Hofmann’s discoveries in Switzerland or the German work in the twenties, or later if you want to date it to the discovery in 1956 of DMT by Szára—but at any rate, at some point the third triad is introduced, which is the hallucinogenic or psychedelic experience. And all three of these areas of concern have adumbrations in the primitive—the stress on dreaming, even the magic lantern and prestidigitation feats of Renaissance magic have a relationship to early film. And of course the psychedelic experience is absolutely archaic.


Nevertheless, the coming together of these three concerns in this particular fashion in the twentieth century set the stage, I think, for an important part of what I will call during this weekend the archaic revival. And the archaic revival is nothing less than a strategy for cultural survival on a global scale. And it’s a strategy that is taking place in the animal body of mankind. It’s not an intellectual strategy or a rational strategy. This is what happens whenever a society is slammed to the wall. It unconsciously reaches back through its history or its mythology for a steadying metaphor.


Now, the last time this happened in the West and worked was at the time of the collapse of the medieval Christian eschatology, at the time of the rise of urbanization and banking and secular society. The model of the Christian universe was no longer serviceable, and very suddenly philosophers, politicians, social planners reached into the past for classic models—and this was in the fifteenth and sixteenth century—and they created Classicism: the revivification of Roman law, Greek architecture, Greek polity. All of this happened 1,000–1,500 years after these things had been completely abandoned. But then they became the basis for modern secular civilization, and our laws are Greco-Roman, and our architecture and our aesthetic and so forth and so on.


Well, the way this is happening in the twentieth century is, number one, at a much more deep and profound level, because it’s a global reflex. The entirety of modern civilization has shot its wad in some sense. You know, from the perspective of five hundred years, a society that cannot put bread on its grocery shelves—such as the Soviet Union—and a society such as our own that is three trillion dollars in debt, the difference is negligible. Both of these societies are functionally bankrupt.


So we’re living through (and have been living through throughout the twentieth century) an experience of the dissolution of boundary and form. Everything has been in a state of flux throughout the twentieth century. I mean, it opens with the concept of the Edwardian gentleman and lady firmly in place. Class structure, class privilege, race privilege, sex privilege—the entire structure of the assumptions of the post-medieval world are in place and functioning. Now, ninety years later, none of this is in place.


And to my mind the major factor working to achieve this end has not been the two world wars, or the exploration of the unconscious by Dada and surrealism, or the breakdown of classical design mores, or any of this stuff, it’s been the psychedelic experience. The psychedelic experience is a genuine paradigm-shattering phenomenon. We claim that we want this. This is what lies behind the love of flying saucers and the Loch Ness monster, and all of this. We want a paradigm-shattering object, piece of evidence, body of testimony, something like that. But what we don’t realize is: we have it. We have it—as somebody over here on this side of the room said: it’s a matter of courage. And this places it in a special mode. It’s not something where we can just validate it, and then found an institute, and appoint experts and expect them to issue a report. It’s something actually at the center of our being.


And my motivation for talking to audiences like this is simply that I cannot conceive of mature human beings going from the cradle to the grave without ever finding out about this. I mean, it’s like not finding out about sex or something, you know? It’s just too weird. It’s a part of our birthright. It’s not a cultural artifact. It’s not like being able to ride a bicycle or something like that, where you can imagine that pygmies or Amazonian Indians go from birth to the grave and they never ride a bicycle, and they never miss it. But this is a little more existentially front and center than that. I mean, this is (as far as I can tell) the dimension in which we most fully experience ourselves as ourselves.


Well, we have to be very careful about the corrosive effects of culture. Some of you may know about these—it was reported in Time magazine a month or two ago—about these forms of salamanders that never (if the conditions of alkalinity in the lakes are at a certain level) mature into the adult form. They actually can reproduce in a juvenile form. So there can be generations of these salamanders that don’t even suspect the existence of an adult form that lies beyond the sexually mature functional adult form.


And this is how I sort of think of what the effect of human culture has been on us. Starting about 15,000 or 20,000 years ago (for reasons that we’ll discuss tomorrow) ego began to emerge as a factor in human societies. For the moment, let’s just say it had to do with the concern for tracing male lines of paternity. In other words: once men had it enough together to understand the role that sexuality was playing in childbearing, then there became this concern to trace male lines of descent, and suddenly sexuality had to be very carefully controlled, and the concept “my children,” “my women,” “my food,” “my territory” came into being.


Before that there was a kind of orgiastic polymorphic sexuality that did not promote this kind of boundary-formation at the edge of the body’s effectiveness. You know, in other words, the ego was not a concept as rooted as it is in us. And I think the shift from this boundaryless, group-oriented consciousness (which was psychedelic) to the egocentric, materialistic consciousness that typifies Western society clear back to Sumer, that this is the neurotic wrong turning. And that when we look back into the causes of it, we can see and argue fairly persuasively that it has to do with an abandonment of this relationship of ecstasy induced by plants; that there was almost a kind of symbiotic relationship between early human beings and plants—specifically psychedelic plants. And that this relationship is not something airy-fairy or unclear or operationally undefined for its participants. [???] yourself lined up with and arranged correctly in relation to this thing by taking psychoactive plants, and that this is how human societies were regulated over, let’s say, a million years. And there was nothing magical or untoward about it, it was simply that these evolving primates had a population-regulatory mechanism that integrated them into the larger body of nature. And this is what has been lost in historical process, so that human culture has become (charitably) a random walk, (uncharitably) a kind of cancerous exponential cascade of unstoppable effects.


Now, the thing is that we are in a position to understand this now, if not actually do something about it. H. G. Wells said history is a race between education and catastrophe. Well, never more so than today. Because the world is set on a course of catastrophe. The emotional constipation and rigidity of the past thousand years that has set us up as territorial apes with thermonuclear arsenals—all of that is just set to go critical. Nevertheless, we are minded creatures in the presence of an evolving and rapidly shifting landscape of problems. And I think that it’s a very hopeful sign to look around and notice that the only barrier to the solution of our problems are intellectual barriers—barriers in our own mind. We have the money, the technology, the mass communications, the scientific expertise, the remote sensing telemetry. What we don’t have is the will to self-direct all of this technical apparatus toward a rational solution of our problems.


But that means that the solution to our problems lies almost entirely in the human domain. And the human domain is the area where we observe the highest rate of unpredictable perturbation. So I don’t see the situation as terminal or desperate at all. The mushroom’s take on the chaos at the end of history is: this is what it’s like when a species prepares to depart for the stars. It is chaotic, but it is not disordered. It is more like a birth than anything else. I mean, there is rending of tissue, there is a sense of crisis, of unstoppable forward motion. But it turns out all according to plan all to good end.


The trick is to somehow attain this vision of the ordered correctness of what is happening when it seems so chaotic, and then to template it, to strengthen it—each for ourselves—and then to replicate it and communicate it as a meme. Because there is no percentage in paralysis here at the brink. The only possibility is some kind of forward escape. You know, a forward escape is when you attain the goal by simply rushing through the gauntlet. And I think that this history that is a race between education and catastrophe is going to turn out to be a forward escape. There will be a moment of complete abandonment to the irrational.


And we will look tomorrow at the time wave, and look at Saddam Hussein and his role in all of this. But he is not the final act. This is somewhere late in act one, all this malarkey that we’re having to put up with. But up n’ent—which in this case means downstream in time—we will sprout all our worth and woof [???] fly through before we get there.


I guess I should say just a little bit about how I got into this, and I think curiosity is probably the ultimate value in my cosmology. It’s what’s gotten me anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s the only impulse that I trust completely. And it’s alive in most people as children, but it gets somehow squelched or misdirected or something. And so when I look back through my own life, I see this psychedelic impulse before there was ever a word or a name for what it was. And I’ve tried to think back as far back as I can—and I have very early memories, like to the eighth month, but they don’t seem to relate to this—but I remember… it must’ve been—I was born in 1946—it must’ve been in late 1948, I found a magazine of my father’s which I now [know] must’ve been the October 1948 issue of Weird Tales, and it had these illustrations in it, and one of the illustrations was of a hooded figure gazing into a cradle. And I got this, somehow, as an image of the strange, the other, the outré. And I think this is the other thing that, for me, was the hook into the psychedelic; was a kind of deep Irish love of the weird from the very get-go. So curiosity and a love of the weird, the edgy, the bizarre.


And this led me into—and I guess maybe a certain degree of obsessive character. I mean, I’m spending time on this because I’m trying to understand the psychedelic personality generally. But I did have a tendency to really focus in on whatever I was into. And I think the first thing was rocks. And this was, for me, an introduction into the size of time, because it wasn’t just any rocks that interested me, it quickly became clear that it was fossils. And I lived in western Colorado, and I could go out into these dry arroyos and bring back datable objects 170 million years old, you know, and stack them up and look at them. So then I got this dizzying sense of the depth of time. And, you know, there are those little museum pamphlets where it shows a billion years, and then the last million years is up here, and then it goes down here and spreads out, and then the last ten thousand years? I got that. I assimilated this notion of deep, deep time.


And then it was almost like an intellectual ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny. Because the rocks, the inanimate mineral world, soon couldn’t confine this restless imagination. So then it became about insects—butterflies, specifically; moths especially as an excuse to be alone in the middle of the night around bright lights, you know, with cyanide. And I don’t know if any of you have ever been touched by this particular obsession, but because we’re insectivores, because our food-getting habits are wired into a brain 50 million years old in the insect-gathering habit—this is a very deep, almost orgasmic response that you can touch in the human organism. And I pursued it again and again in life to the point where I did it as a professional in the jungles of Indonesia and the Amazon. And it’s horrifying to tell in Buddhist company, but when you come upon one of these long-winged, iridescent ornithopterids of the sort that Baron Guy de Rothschild sent his collectors out for in the late nineteenth century, and you come upon one of these things hanging under a leaf, looking for all the world like it weighs at least half a pound, and wrestle it into your net, it’s as close to having a heart attack as I ever want to get.


And then this thing, at some point—I did a lot of reading—and at some point I discovered that I had defined myself narrowly, and that I was turning into a scientist, and was reading people like Henry James and Aldous Huxley, and they were sneering at what I was becoming, and talking about a mysterious realm of human thought called the humanities—which I had no notion of what this was; I couldn’t even figure out what it possibly could be. Well, then I discovered it meant music, painting, architecture, dance, philosophy, design—in short, the human world. The human world as opposed to the natural world. So then I just turned upon that with a vengeance, left off the bugs and the minerals, and became about Henry James and Fragonard and mannerism, all of this stuff. But the transition, because I was hitting adolescence at that point, was rocketry. And the pineal joy of launching potentially semi-fatal projectiles into space at twice the speed of sound—a whole gravity’s rainbow cycle that (I was very consciously aware) was about the thrill of liftoff. All this tormenting of mice and cutting up of aluminum chaff into stuff to be dumped out at the top of a trajectory was just to satisfy physics teachers and anxious parents and all that, and the real thing was this amazing moment of launch when these potassium perchlorate and sugar fuels would just propel these things with ear-splitting intensity.


And then, at that point, all this curiosity, all this edge work, led me—because I fancied myself also developing as a novelist—to read all of Aldous Huxley. Well, as you know, it moves from a spectrum of these polite novels of English society—like Crome Yellow and Antic Hay, and through works like After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, to then the sexual dystopia of Brave New World, and then finally to The Doors of Perception. And when I read The Doors of Perception, I knew then that this was something huge. Because he was claiming… you see, what was happening to me as an intellectual—and I think it happens to most people—is: exploration of reality was leading to the conclusion that it was a no-exit situation. It was some kind of rational labyrinth from which there was no exit. No exit meaning no magic, no possibility of a miracle. That there weren’t 25,000-year-old cities under the sands of Arabia, there weren’t flying saucers under the Greenland ice cap. It didn’t work for me. For me, rationalism was more powerful than sort of menopausal fantasy as it’s currently practiced. And so there was drying up: the miraculous was just turning into ordinary reality.


And then I discovered psychedelic plants. And it was like the descent of an angel into a desert of reason, because—which, that’s an interesting sort of metaphor: the descent of an angel into the desert of reason. As you probably know, when Descartes was 21 years old he shipped out in a Hapsburgian army to kick some ass in Eastern Europe and learned some manly soldiering skills. And he was in Ulm in southern Germany in August of 1620—Ulm later to be the birthplace of Einstein—and Descartes (who was completely wet behind the ears; didn’t know anything) had a dream. And in the dream an angel—this is a propos of the metaphor—an angel appeared to him and said, “The mastery of nature is to be achieved through measure and number.” So what’s interesting about that, then, is that he went on to found modern science, which was to be the very temple of rationalism and reason. But it was based on the revelation of an angelic being who spoke to him from another dimension.


Well, this was the kind of impact that the psychedelic experience had for me. It was as though there was a doorway—a literal doorway—out of the completely otherwise flawless set of cultural assumptions that kept me a Catholic altarboy in a small Colorado town in a Western democracy in a context of anti-communism, religious fundamentalism, consumer capitalism, so forth and so on. The whole bag of tricks and illusions was suddenly exposed for that. And beyond that you see—like that traveler sticking their head out through the world system and seeing a whole different set of rotations and revolutions—you see another dimension of some sort.


And then, for me, the question became: of what sort? What is this? Number one: what is it? Number two: how did they manage to keep the lid on it? And number three: what can you do with it? Well, coincidentally, upon all this—or let’s call it coincidentally—society was just going bananas around somewhat similar issues. Because I was born in 1946, so that means in 1966 I was 20 years old, and somehow fate had conspired to put me in Berkeley, California. So I happened to be at like the ground zero of the cultural explosion. But I had been following all this stuff for years. It just seemed to me a weird parallelism that my internal growth and obsessions were now somehow becoming the obsessions of society generally. Being 20 years old, I just thought it was a kind of vindication, you know? I knew I’d been right since I was 16, so here was the payoff.


But then, you know, it didn’t exactly work out like that. These concerns moved through society like a wave. And then other, stronger—what the I Ching calls pre-potent systems of arrangement—reasserted themselves. And instead of a kind of psychedelic utopia, there was a kind of anti-psychedelic dystopia. And everything that psychedelics had tended to call into question—which were the great sins of the twentieth century: the misuse of propaganda, the abuse of imagery, the distortion of information. I mean, these are all uniquely modern new sins, if you will. And I talked last night a little bit about the connection between dreams, the unique province of twentieth-century psychological theory, film, and the psychedelics. All of these things—and I see it also active in art. That as soon as you move beyond impressionism, the whole history of art in the twentieth century is about the dissolution, deconstruction, and attempt to reconstruct the image, so that movements as different as analytical cubism and abstract expressionism all are seen to be struggling with the dissolution and reemergence of the image.


Well, what all this constellation of cultural effects is saying is that the previously assumed to be—oh, I don’t know how to say it—existentially pre-potent order of linear society is actually an illusion, and that we can move beyond it. We can dissolve it. Not only we can, we cannot not do this. So then the goal becomes—and this is where McLuhan is important—to try and raise into consciousness the process that we’re undergoing before it is a fait accompli; before we are in the act of looking back, then, at a historical event.


Because I’m convinced that the impulse that I feel in myself and that I see in other people toward the psychedelic experience has to do with its potential historical impact. Even though—god knows, we’re all aware—this is how religion has always been practiced, you know? Yet, somehow, this million-year-old sociological phenomenon—orgiastic, group-minded shamanism in a context of nomadic pastoralism—this phenomenon was only interrupted 10,000–15,000 years ago, and is apparently the fate of dynamic equilibrium where we function at our best, where we feel at our most human.


What has happened to us is a kind of false bottom in our social dynamic. It’s a series of self-reinforcing situations of dis-ease. It begins with what I talked about last night, about concern for male paternity. But once men wanted to trace the descent line of the male genes, previously self-expressive orgiastic group-minded sexuality became compartmentalized into concerns of territoriality, ownership, so forth and so on. But then that wasn’t the end of it. Then the rise of hierarchical kingship, the amazing—you see, the problem with human beings is that we ride very close to a kind of bifurcation point in terms of whether our loyalty is transferred to the group or to the individual. And this can be sent either way. I mean, if there were to be landslides at both ends of highway 1 and a food shortage, we would coalesce marvelously into a survival machine where we would all place group values higher than our own needs—and nobly so. This would happen. But in situations of abundance and non-scarcity, it’s like a slime mold without the formality of coherency. We just then dissolve into this sort of every-man-for-himself egocentric style.


And then, you know—another bad break along the way that may or may not have been fated, may have just been a bad break—is the evolution of the phonetic alphabet, which creates a tremendous distance between cognition and the objects of linguistic intentionality. And this gives permission, then, for all kinds of forms of brutalization. It actually gives permission for ideology. Ideology, to my mind, is the denial of the obvious and the substitution for something else, where you say, “No, that’s not how people are. We have a Marxist model,” or, “We have a Freudian model,” or, “We have John Stewart Mill’s model.” Who knows. But somebody’s model. So ideology—someone said language was invented in order that people could lie. And in large measure this is true: that we proceed by deception. I’ll defend this at some point in this weekend, because another word for it is “modeling.” You know, we model. But we also fall in love with these models. And it’s the falling in love with the model that then turns it into an agenda, where it was not a free-form projection of a flow of facts towards a conclusion, but then it becomes instead an agenda, a synthetic creode, high walls down which you would expect to see a process poured and confined.


So, okay. So in spite of the fact that this phenomenon has been around for a long time, why then does it appear so important? Well, it’s because this small-group, group-minded, sexually amorphous psychology—the psychology, not the model itself—is what we have to recover, I think, in order to survive. And I’m not so interested in talking about the odds of making it. It’s just this is the only thing that will work. And I said last night the good news is that the domain in which we must operate is all within our own minds, you know? If we can change our minds we can take hold of this process and halt it. I believe that the presence of these psychedelics in the plant metabolism, in the biosphere, allowed a kind of informational symbiosis between human beings with highly [audio interruption] capacity, and the biosphere generally. And that we have no word for this that we’re comfortable with. The closest word we have for it is somehow tied up with the concept of religion: religiō. But for us, religion is some kind of abstract dialogue carried on with a philosophical principle. That’s not what it is. Religion originally was the dimension of the self that directly interfaced nature or the over-self. And this happened through the use of psychedelics.


So the reason the weekend is called History Ends in Green, and what this whole Gaian awareness thing is to my mind, is: it’s not an airy-fairy attempt to recast a new image for religious ontology, it’s the actual discovery of the minded presence of the planet which has always been here, which is real—it’s an existential fact like chlorophyll or the moons of Saturn. The planet has a biological mind of some sort. Once you articulate this notion, it doesn’t seem that unlikely. After all, the planet is clearly a boundary-defining topology. It’s had two billion years to make itself metastable, undergo all kinds of autopoiesis. We see the evidence of this around us in the form of the climaxed biome of the planet. We see that biology and water chemistry has been very active. But what we don’t see is that, as active as the chemistry of water or electron transfer, have also been the invisible alchemies of… call it spirit, call it mind, call it the morphogenetic field—whatever it is—and that that is the frontier of our awareness.


Every society in history has had the erroneous belief that it just required six more months and five percent more data, and then they would have a full picture of reality. But the fact of the matter is: our society at its present state of sophistication, the only science we have that can be given any serious creditability at all is physics. The most primitive of all sciences. The science of momentum and moving bodies in three-dimensional space. When you move on to biology, essentially what we have are a series of interlocking fables and a few bright spots of light in certain areas. When you move on to psychology, what you have are shouting charlatans, each claiming domain over their own special area. It’s like a medieval fair. So the belief that our intellectual maps are somehow adequate is just whistling past the graveyard.


And the way we have achieved this illusion of good maps is by tossing out all the disturbing and unintegratable phenomena. For instance: dreams were trivialized and ignored for centuries. Madness was something that you confined away like criminality; it was not to be looked at. Sexuality—I don’t have to remind you that, as recently as 120 years ago, people were putting bloomers on piano legs to preserve youth from impure thoughts. I mean, you talk about a rejection of style toward reality. We have just begun to open our eyes to what is around us.


Well, so then, front and center, when we begin to explore—let’s take a conservative position toward exploring the universe. Let’s explore from the center outward (that means from within the confines of the mind–body system) before we generalize about tectonic plates or the motion of the rings of Uranus, or something like that. Just start from the body out. Well, immediately you discover total terra incognita. Psychology gives us a flickering model of ordinary consciousness under ordinary circumstances, and everything else is up for grabs. And then we discover that at the center for human concerns is this weird itch about invisible worlds and higher-order entities and sources of hidden knowledge, and we discover that people have been at that for 100,000 years, and the centerpiece technique—which is to trigger these non-ordinary states of consciousness—with all our sophistication, we have no better grip on what this is than people in the late Neolithic. They knew more than we did, because they’d logged more time on in the real modality. I mean, we have models. We say the drug molecule is translocating to the synapse and displacing ordinary neurotransmitters and raising therefore the endogenous level of electron spin resonance—this is not any kind of explanation about what’s going on. This is just the chant, the incantation, you know? But the people who are logging time in there, they come back with maps of reality that fit very uneasily with our cheerful Cartesian, Democratean, atmoistic, causal, entropic models. And they say: no, no, the universe is an infinite honeycomb, each honeycomb ruled over by different spiritual forces, each commanded through different languages, magical techniques, gestural repertoire. Everything is language. Everything holds information for man. Everything is somehow constellated on the presence of observing mind.


Well, in the West we felt we got rid of the cosmogonic myths with the Ptolemaic universe, you know—even before Copernicus. But now it turns out that the centrality of mind gets reintroduced—not only by the evidence of the psychedelic experience, but for instance the philosophy of science around L. L. Whyte and people like that have pointed out that, if you use as your index complexity, then you suddenly discover that human beings have moved back to the very center of the universe: that the most complex physical material in the universe in terms of density of connectedness is the human cerebral cortex. That if novelty and density of connectedness is what is being conserved, then somehow we are central.


Well, so then other issues are raised. If we are central, then the modern model of history, which is—I don’t know if it’s ever been explicitly stated for you—but the modern model of history is that it is trendlessly fluctuating. This is the largest structure in which we find ourselves embedded—call it the last 10,000 years—and the best guess of the people who spend the most time looking at it is that it trendlessly fluctuates. That means it’s like a drunk on a random walk. [audio cut] You see that processes are channeled toward conclusions, that in the evolutionary—well, leave that aside for a minute. In the realm of physical chemistry you see that the progressive cooling of the universe allowed more and more complex chemistry. First electrons could settle down into stable orbits around atomic nuclei. Then molecular bonds could form. At still lower temperatures polymerization could form, and therefore templating-type molecules like DNA.


The universe seems to be an engine for the conservation of complexity. Until we reach the social sciences, where they want to tell us that history is just dropped into this process willy-nilly, is not fractally modeled on anything that precedes it, does not express an internal coherence, and is a completely trendless process. Yet notice that this completely trendless process is atomically composed of the most complex material organization of the universe: the human cerebral cortex.


Well, I mention this because part of what I’m interested in this weekend is trying to get a handle on: what is history? What does it mean? It began only 1,500 generations ago—which, if we were fruit flies—would be three weeks ago. So it’s not something really basic to human beings. But it’s a process that got started about 1,500 generations ago, and it’s clearly a cumulative runaway process. It’s going on outside the realm of ordinary genetics. Ordinary genetic change is very conservative and slow. This is a cancerous-type process, but in the cultural domain. It’s an epigenetic process—meaning it’s not scripted in the genes, but (like writing and TV and painting) it goes on outside of the genes. Well, where does it go on? Well, it goes on in the domain of language.


And to my mind, language is the critical area to focus on in terms of where the psychedelics are operating, and how—if our interest is to trap them doing their elven work—then the place to look is in the domain of language. Why? Well, first of all, look at what language is. It’s a weird kind of ancillary add-on process to the human organism. No other monkeys do it in quite the same way. And I don’t argue that there is not linguistic and grammatical activity in monkeys, dolphins, termites, what have you, but it’s very different from what goes on in human beings. Obviously—for instance, you probably know that the soft palate of the human being drops lower in the fetal form than in any other primate by 40% or something. The embryological interpretation of this is that the human animal is hardwired for language.


And if you notice what it is: it’s small mouth noises; rapidly modulated small mouth noises. And it’s a highly conventionalized style of behavior which allows transduction of thought. It’s a form of telepathy; a striving toward a crude telepathy. Because if you analyze what’s happening in the linguistic act: it’s that we’ve all gotten together, and we agree that there are these small mouth noises, and we agree that a given set of small mouth noises means a certain thing. And we’ve spent so much time together, and so conventionalized our responses to each other, that your dictionary of small mouth noises is theoretically supposed to match my dictionary of small mouth noises. So the words going through the air impinge upon your ear, you make a rapid search of your dictionary, and you come up with (what you assume is) a one-to-one match. And we rarely get together to check out just exactly how good a match it was. Occasionally someone will ask a question, and we will see that they understood the match, and so the match was good. Because I see a lot of transcripts of my talks. I know that typists hear the most amazing things, and without ever questioning what they hear, they type these things that, when I read them, they’re complete malapropisms. But this is what was heard.


And as the level of discourse rises, or the density of the technical language increases, it becomes much, much shakier. I mean, I just had the experience of lecturing in Czechoslovakia, in Prague, to the film academy, and you can go a long ways on sincerity. But there’s a long ways still to go. Just nodding and smiling doesn’t do it—especially when the concepts are fine-tuned. And it’s where they’re fine-tuned that they’re always interesting. It’s in the nuances of it.


Well, I think probably that this activity was originally stimulated by the use of psychedelics. That, in fact, most of what is human about us has to do with the presence of psychedelic and mutagenic compounds in our diet when we made the transition from being fruitarian, vegetarian, arboreal tree-dwellers to becoming nomadic pastoralists. If you think about it, you can see how this would work quite neatly. The reason why animals specialize their diets is to hold down the amount of exposure to mutagenic chemicals. So most animals have highly specialized diets. That’s because then they can develop pathways to sequester mutagens or to just avoid the exposure to them initially. But if you put pressure on an animal, on its original food source, where it’s actually facing a situation of possible extinction or dietary transformation, it will begin experimenting, expanding its repertoire of foods. Well, this brings exposure to mutagens in a very steep curve. And this means, consequently, more expression of mutagenic genes become available for natural selection. And so this is the situation in which you might then see a sudden punctuated movement forward in the evolution of adaptive traits of the organism.


Well, how this worked in the early human situation was: drying up of the African continent forced proto-[???] types onto the grassland, where they began foraging for—and insects had been part of their diet in the canopy situation—they began foraging. It’s also a fact they began perhaps predating on carrion kills killed by larger carnivores like lions. In any case, they began forming a relationship that had them following along behind these evolving ungulate herds of mammals on the African veld, and in that situation they encountered the coprophilic mushrooms—the mushrooms which grow in cow dung, preferentially. And many of these contain psilocybin.


Well, psilocybin, once encountered in the diet, acts very quickly to outbreed non-psilocybin using individuals. Because, like many indoles, if there’s a small amount of psilocybin in the diet, visual acuity is measurably increased. And Roland Fischer did work on this in the early 1960s. Well, you can see that if an animal that is living by predation—and also it’s thought by the people who disagree with this theory, the people who do not think that mushrooms played a major role in human evolution—believe that the throwing arm is the unique human capability, and that when you see a pitcher get a ball across a plate—how far is it from the pitcher’s mound to the plate? 60 feet—that kind of control on an object hurled at that speed, no other animal can do anything even approaching that. And that this hand-eye coordination gave us our leg up, literally, or our arm up, to be able to knock out large animals at a distance. Well, even if you believe that theory, you see, it too depends on a very close coordination of hand and eye. Well, if you bring into this a chemical factor in the diet which increases visual acuity, animals that are allowing this item in the diet will very quickly outbreed the non-mushroom users. And I submit that this happened.


Then, further accelerating the tendency toward preferential use of mushrooms is the fact that, at higher doses, but still sub-psychedelic doses, these same mushrooms will trigger arousal—general central nervous system arousal. But this also includes, then, sexual arousal and erection in males. Well, so what does this mean? It means that it’s a party drug at that dose. It means that there is this impetus to copulation in a situation in which the better hunters had been more successful at getting food, so this increased copulatory activity and subsequent increased number of births is happening in an environment with an increased food supply. So, you see, all these factors are converging to outbreed the non-mushroom using individuals.


Well then the final culminating factor in this is: at yet higher doses, the mushroom ushers into the boundary-dissolving ecstasy that we call the psychedelic experience, and that, in that kind of a social small group situation, would have led, I think, to primitive religious observance, ritual, group sexuality, food sharing, mate sharing, so forth and so on. And I really believe that this lifestyle, if you will—of nomadic pastoralism, goddess-oriented religion driven by psychedelic indoles in the diet—that for 50,000, approaching 75,000 years, this is how people lived. And they were fully realized people. I mean, there was tremendous oral poetry, epic works of art and theater, a complete realization of human potential in the dynamic context of this nomadic relationship to nature. I mean, this was Eden. This was when we were at peace with our humanness.


Well then, you know, what happened? Is there a search for scapegoats? Who’s to blame? And the answer is: nobody is to blame. The very process which brought this paradise into being—which was the drying up of the African continent and the forcing of our proto-human ancestors onto the veld and into the bipedal, nomadic, tribal, language-using mode—the very forces which created that destroyed it. Because eventually the great grasslands of the Sahara, the huge water holes, the vast herds of game gave way to encroaching dunes, shrinking water holes. The mushroom festivals—which I imagine at one point were probably lunar festivals—became then yearly festivals because of scarcity of the mushroom. And there became, then, anxiety about availability of mushrooms, and therefore a certain cultural pressure to find methods of preserving them. And this need turned naturally to the preserving powers of honey. And so there was a transitional phase of not fresh mushroom festivals, but preserved mushrooms in honey. The problem is: honey itself has the capacity to turn into a psychotropic substance. Through fermentation it becomes mead. But the imprinting that takes place in a mead culture—mead cultures are cultures of male dominance, repression of female sexuality, hierarchy, warfare, wheel chariots, the whole shtick. And this all happened over thousands of years; this very gradual transition. There was never a conscious moment of tragedy.


But, you see, what was happening was: a new psychic function was taking hold in the human animal. In the situation of the monthly boundary-dissolving group mushroom festivals, ego was not allowed to form. And I really view psilocybin as almost an inoculation against the formation of ego. It is an egolitic compound. So notions of male dominance, of possession of property, children, domesticated animals, or women—none of this went on in this situation where the boundary dissolution was reinforced by frequent mushroom use. But as soon as the mushrooms become less available, this thing begins to grow in the human personality—literally like a cancer or a tumor. It’s a calcareous growth on the psyche that, if we do not have this embeddedness in the vegetable matrix of Gaia, then anxiety arises, a lot of it sexual and related to self-identity—and I don’t have to discuss this with you, just refer you to Freud and the whole gang. Everybody understands how bent we are. The question is: why. And I think this is why. Because we have been in a permanent state of neurotic disequilibrium for 15,000 years. And every move to attempt to correct this has pushed us further away from the goal that we want to have.


So now we arrive at the late twentieth century, nuclear arsenals fully in hand. We have made since the fifteenth century a demonic pact with matter that has allowed us great insight into the destructive properties of matter, made us handmaiden to the devil, and yet we are still completely dark about our own motivations, how to educate our children, how to put in place a set of values that don’t loot the future. And all of these problems appear to be getting worse. So I don’t know—well, my response to this is to advocate the only thing that I think will work. But it’s not a political position, because a political position always implies willingness to compromise and negotiate with the other side. And there really is no willingness to negotiate on the part of the psychedelic position, because it’s pretty non-negotiable.


We’re at the end of a process—call it 2,000, call it 5,000; you know, choose your date—but a long process of denial of human nature, first, and then war against human nature. And it goes so deep into our culture that we don’t even know where the basement level is. I mean, for instance, to my mind, monotheism—which is the great intellectual edifice of the West, it touches the three major religions of the West that have developed in a continuous strain since Abraham—monotheism is the institutionalizing of this egocentric model. And it has a certain philosophical appeal—one god, you know? All roads lead to Rome. You can trace everything back to the ur-source, the Urquelle. But that anal-retentive appeal in itself takes place within a context of values of male dominance, print-created linearity, uniformity, so forth and so on.


And I think what we have to get into is real permission for sloppiness, for loose-endedness, for the abandonment of any myth of closure—that there is no closure. There are models and there are questions, but all models are provisional. And anybody who says they have answers is highly, highly suspect. Too many people claim answers. What’s being claimed here is a technique, and then you figure out your own questions and your own answers. And it’s different for everybody. There really is no ideology associated with psychedelics. I mean, if you look at the people who’ve been involved with it, they’ve said completely different things, and contradictory. And some are rationalists and behaviorists to this day, and others are spiritual visionaries, hierarchical shamanic types.


The main thing is to reclaim the experience as the first step toward being politically empowered in order to act. In other words: we’re in—and I indicated this last night, although more gently—that we’re in a state of enforced infantilism about the capacity of our minds; that the culture we are living in is an infantile culture. Now, we look back at the Victorians putting pants on the piano legs, and we just shake our heads and say: “Those poor, misguided people.” Well, but that’s only four generations ago. We have similar weirdness going on in our own culture, but about the mind. I mean, we look askance at the mind in the same way that a Victorian nanny is uncomfortable in the presence of bare furniture: we fear it, we don’t want to look at it. And, to my mind, most of the techniques that come out of the New Age are based on a guaranteed lack of success. That’s what they offer. Because the last thing anybody wants is real change, because real change is uncontrolled change.


The issue that hovers around the psychedelic experience—it was mentioned last night; it’s strong in my life, I haven’t found any real solution other than “hold your nose and jump”—but the issue is surrender. This is something real. You don’t find people going into the ashram in the morning to meditate with their knees knocking in fear because of how terrifying and profound they know that meditation is going to be. But if they were going in there to smoke DMT, you know, they would be fully riveted on the modalities of what was about to happen. I mean, we can tell shit from shinola, it’s just that we don’t always prefer shinola.


And I don’t advocate it—you know, sometimes there are people who are disappointed, because they say, “Well how often do you do it?” Well, the answer is: not very often. I mean, if I can get it in a couple or three times a year, I feel like I’m hitting it pretty hard. And the more successful it is, the less often you have to do it. I mean, I know people who say DMT is their most favorite drug, and when you say, “Well, when was the last time you did it?” they say, “Well, 1967.” It only lasted four minutes. They’re still processing it. And they are still processing it! They’re not just whistling Dixie. I mean, it is (to my mind) just the most—well, I mentioned this earlier; the question: how do they keep the lid on this stuff?


And I suppose here I’m preaching to the converted, because many people last night said they had an interest in this kind of thing. But they don’t keep the lid on sexuality. No society has ever had it so under control that people didn’t have sex. I mean, they may have had sex under weird conditions and under ritual strictures, and this and that. But we are like this salamander that has the option of never developing into its mature form. And to my mind that’s a tragedy. Because this is our birthright, and somehow our inability to get a grip on our global problems has to do with this immaturity about our mental state. The two, I feel very strongly, are linked, and that of course we can’t get control of the world, because we are children in some profound way. And we don’t like being children. But the culture has reinforced a form of infantilism.


And the way I explain it to myself is: it’s a kind of unwillingness to go it alone on a certain level. I don’t know how many of you remember, in Brave New World (Huxley’s brilliant dystopia), but there’s a scene in there where Bernard—who is the guy who’s out of it in the novel, because in his fetal fluid they got an alcohol contaminant, and so he’s different from everybody else in this society, and he occasionally has original thoughts—and he and his assigned girlfriend for the evening, or whatever she is, are in a helicopter, and they sweep out past the crematoria where they’re recollecting elements for reuse. And he suspends the helicopter over the black bay, and she immediately becomes very agitated, restless, anxious, and pleads with him to return to the city. And what it is is: it’s her anxiety over being alone in the presence of nature. She literally can’t take it. And I think there are a lot of people in our society—and each of us in our own way at different times—who have within us this neurotic and infantile creature that can’t face it alone. And that this going it alone thing is very important.


You know, Plotinus, the great neoplatonic philosopher, he spoke of the mystical experience as the flight of the alone to the alone. And in the psychedelic experience there is this issue of surrender. Because a lot of people want to diddle with it. They want to be able to say they did it, but they don’t ever want to face an actual moment where they put it all on the line. And yet, the whole issue with this stuff is to let it lead, to let it show what it wants to show. So somehow, individually, we have to reclaim our experience.


The real message—more important even than the psychedelic experience—the real message that I try to leave with people in these weekends is the primacy of direct experience. That, as people, the real universe is within your reach, always. Everything not within your reach is basically unconfirmed rumor. And we insert ourselves like ants or honeybees into hierarchies of knowledge. So we say: “Well, what’s going on in the world?” Well, turn on CNN. You know? And then, somehow, we’re ordered. Then we say, “Aha. Okay. It’s 85 degrees in Baghdad and the wind is out of the northeast at 15 miles an hour,” and we feel somehow better now because we’re getting the information. But what we have done is sold out direct experience. And all institutions require this of us: that we somehow redefine ourselves for the convenience of the institution, and this redefinition always involves a narrowing, a denial. So that, you know, if you want to be in Marxist society, if you want to function in Marxist society, you have to define yourself as a Marxist human being. Well, it turns out in a Marxist society there are no homosexuals, because that just happens in decadent societies. So then, if you happen to notice any tendency like this in yourself, you have to deny its existence because this just doesn’t happen in a Marxist society. And similarly, every society has this. In our society, if you hear voices, we have mental hospitals for you. If you have vast visions of the future, we have drugs that can help you and make this go away.


So then, somehow, in modern society, the discovery of psychedelics is the discovery that all of this cultural machinery is just Wizard of Oz stuff. Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the curtain is swept back and they see the little guy there, and he says, booming out over the loudspeaker, “Ignore the little man pulling the levers! Ignore the little man pulling the levers!” Well, the little man pulling the levers is what sweeps into view with psychedelics, and you discover: aha, culture is provisional. Whether we have nine wives or three, whether we tattoo ourselves blue, whether we eat insects or not—all of these things are just decisions that we make, and then we congratulate ourselves on our wisdom, and we live within that, and we hunt down and kill all the people who disagree with us, and that’s called having a culture, having a way of life, being somebody.


But with—you know, I don’t see history as a wrong turning. I see it—the metaphor that I like is that of the prodigal son: that there was a reason for this long descent into matter, this peregrination. It was a shamanic journey of some sort. You know, the shaman goes into the world pool or ascends the world tree to go to the center of the axis of the cosmos, to recover the pearl—the pearl or the gift or the lost soul—and then return with it. And this is what history was, I think. It was a descent into the hell worlds of matter, energy, space, and time for the purpose of recovering something that was lost. It wasn’t lost by us, it was lost by the breathing, the disystole of the planet. Just climax of climate moved us into paradise, and then moved us out of paradise.


And the story of Eden is the story of history’s first drug bust. I mean, it’s the story of a whole lot of tension over who’s going to take or not take a certain plant which confers knowledge. And Yahweh, wandering in the garden, says to himself: “If the man and the woman eat of the fruit, they will become as we are.” The issue was co-equality, co-knowledge with the creator. Well, where do we stand in man’s existential march? How does that work? Can we always accept the subservient infantile position? I mean, is knowledge to be dispensed by gods? And if not gods, then the institutions that appoint themselves as gods over us? Or is it actually that maturity begins with somehow claiming this birthright? And it is a birthright.


And I don’t know if a society can survive the claiming of this birthright by a large number of people. Certainly in the 1960s, when this was attempted, everybody got very agitated, and then it was frozen out. In so-called primitive or pre-literate societies there is the office of the shaman. And the shaman is deputized to act for all of us. In the same way that we have airplane mechanics to fix jet engines, we have shamans to explore these hidden and fairly terrifying other dimensions. The people who self-select themselves into a group like this in a society like that would be the candidates for this kind of shamanic voyaging.


Well, so then what is it finally all for? Or is it for anything? Is it just maybe my problem that I think it’s for something? Well, it is and it isn’t. See, we have real problems. We could perish from this planet in some kind of radioactive petroleum war or what have you, and it wouldn’t change the fact that shamanism did exist, that these dimensions were there and were explored by courageous high-minded people for thousands of years. But I think that the scientific mind—and maybe even the American mind—can bring something special to it. That somehow, technology has a role to play.


And I think maybe what this has to do with is—I’ve talked a bit in the past, a lot in the past, about what I call visible language. Visible language is something that I encountered in psychedelic states. Could never have dreamed it up by myself. Encountered it as an existential fact, then had to sort of reason backward from it to: what would it be good for? Well, what is visible language? Well, it’s very simply language which you look at rather than hear. And don’t ask me how this can happen. It obviously has something to do with synesthesias in the brain, with swapping neuro-processing units and somehow shunting a stream of data which would normally be audially interpreted. Instead, it goes to the visual cortex. And this occurs often in DMT intoxication. And it has a long and noble history in the Amazon in ayahuasca shamanism. Ayahuasca, as you probably know, is a combinatory drug made of a vine combined with the leaves of another plant, and it makes DMT orally active. Normally, DMT is destroyed in the gut. But you take it in combo with this other thing, a beta-carboline, and then it’s active.


Well, in the Amazon, these people sing what they call icaros: “magical songs.” And these magical songs are given to them by the spirits—whatever those are; invisible entities. But the magical songs are invariably criticized pictorially and sculpturally rather than musically. Nobody ever talks about how these things sound, people only talk about how they look. And I had read about this and heard about it, and went down there and spent time again—curiosity is the only method—poking around. Finally got somebody who knew how to brew this stuff to make this happen. And I had seen it before on DMT, but on DMT it’s somewhat out of control. It’s as though your entire syntactical engine has sprung out of your chest and is rattling around on the floor in front of you.


Well, first of all, notice: ordinary language, what a weird thing it is. And yet, we do it with such facility. Almost all of us can do it. It’s a very severe impairment on your humanness if you are language deficient in any very serious way. Blindness is as nothing to being seriously language deficient, so forth and so on. So it’s really the defining thing for us. And yet, you know, it’s almost like a half miracle. I mean, you can study it. There’s no problem with getting vast samples of it. Tape recordings, we can analyze it syntactically. There have been many theories of syntax, philosophies of syntax. And yet, what is it? How can we make meaning with such facility when the rest of nature seems totally unconcerned with this? And what is meaning anyway? Why is it so important to us? We say if there is no meaning, if life has no meaning, it’s not worth living. Well, how do ants and bees and scallops stack up on that opinion? Do they also feel that meaning is the quintessential aspect of reality? And yet, we make it. We make it out of ourselves. And then we get together with somebody else and we try to make meaning. We say, you know: you and I could have an affair, or you and I could start a business. This will have a lot of meaning for us, and we’ll make money and buy more meaning.


Well, whatever it is—and C. D. Broad wrote a book called The Meaning of Meaning,1 which deals with it in about 400 pages—but whatever it is, it’s very important to us, and it seems to have different modalities. For instance, dance can have meaning, painting can have meaning, spoken or textual words have meaning. But because of biases in ourselves as an organism, what seems to have the most meaning is what we can see. Our visual—we have a tremendously rich sense of visual input.


Well, for some reason, under the influence of these psychedelic drugs—and certain exercises, and who knows what else it takes to shake you out of your cage—but suddenly, syntactical organization which has been invisible in the background of the program of meaning becomes visible, and you actually see the engines of syntax. You actually behold the machinery of meaning itself. And for some reason this is very satisfying. It’s like an ecstasy. It’s like an affirmation of some sort that is transcendental. There is a recognition in it that transcends the felt apperception of ordinary meaning. You know, in other words, that you’re gazing somehow on the naked face of truth and beauty.


Well, it seems to me that what all this suggests—and by all this I mean the human capacity for the psychedelic experience, the human facility for switching these linguistic channels from the beheld to the seen—what all this must mean is that history is nothing more but the transition phase from felt intuition, the mute intuition of the animal body, to fully expressible three-dimensional meaning. And that the descent into matter that technology represents is because you can’t do this entirely on the natch. There has to be a certain augmentation of the human organism in order to do this. It may be pharmacological, it may be neurological, it may be nano-technological and then some part of the other two. But whatever it is is: we are coming up under the underbelly of meaning, boring from beneath, and that we’re just about to hit the jackpot. And this is what the historical process is. And the proliferation of media, of the discovery of perspective 500 years ago, oil painting, airbrushing, digital sound—all of these techniques are this summoning of the image.


So we are actually moving toward a kind of self-fulfilling process. It’s something that we’re defining for ourselves as it approaches. And it is defining itself for itself as it approaches. You actually experience this on psychedelics sometimes. I mean, the way it works for me on mushrooms, or sometimes DMT, is: there is a black space, and then I hear what I call the elf music or the Irish band. And it’s far away. And as it comes closer, I, like, see light. And as it comes closer it both gets louder and the light fills the stage of awareness until, finally, the sound is subsumed under the visual impression of the thing, and then it’s all around you and it is this domain of self-transforming language. I mean, I call them language elves, but what they may be is nothing more than self-reflective compound complex sentences. It’s hard to tell what they are, because we’re not used to having our sentences stand up and embrace us.


But nevertheless, the nature of reality is fractal, and it can’t have been lost on any of you that in a fractal universe text is composed of characters—the characters of a given alphabet—but reality is also composed of characters—the characters like you and me who live out some kind of plot. Well, when you get characters into a text—in other words characters made of characters—then you begin to feel the textual richness and the linguistic richness that seems to be not in the forefront of reality, but actually to lie behind it. I mean, the final conclu—I mean, not the final conclusion. That would be preposterous. But the most recent conclusion that I’m coming to, looking at the psychedelic experience, is how phenomenally text-like reality is. I mean, it’s more text-like than one should decently say. This is much more like a work of art than anything recognizable from my physics class. I mean, my physics class was about atoms and electrons and momentum and conservation of energy. My literature class, on the other hand, was all about personality, motivation, history, precursive active, anticipation of action, willful suspension of disbelief. These are the things that I see actually going on around me.


And so it’s strange, as we decondition from being sold from the top world view of Time magazine and Scientific American and the Wall Street Journal, what we discover is ourselves active as art in a work of art. This is what the reclamation of experience seems to give back to us: is ourselves as very complex objects. You see, in the institutionalized world we are defined always in ways that stress our similarity. We hear about voters—and I’m a voter. And we hear about women—and many of you are women. And we hear about yuppies, and we hear about the middle class, and we hear about those with liquidity and their portfolios. But everything is presented as a member of a class. We are always presented to ourselves as members of some class. And yet, we experience ourselves as unique objects. But there is no reinforcement for that experience of uniqueness. I mean, you have a lover and they say, “I think you’re wonderful and very special.” That’s about all the reinforcement for your uniqueness you get (and your mother also tells you this).


But then you take a psychedelic plant, and you discover: hey, I’m Christopher Columbus, I’m Magellan. I could be anybody. I’m not defined in these narrow ways. There are doorways in my reality to areas of experience as large as the area of experience that Christopher Columbus or Magellan took as their province. But this new freedom is achieved by directing attention back at the individual. So, you know, a lot of the debate and talk that I hear is about saving and restructuring institutions and that sort of thing. I’m not very much interested in saving and restructuring very many institutions. I think institutions have done us about all the good we can stand at this point. But then they wave the black flag of anarchy in front of you and say, “Oh, well, you’re just an apostle of chaos and madness.” Chaos, yes. Madness, maybe. But disorder? Never!


You know, this surrender issue—when translated out of the realm of the individual and into the realm of the collectivity—we all as a society must also surrender to what is happening to us. Because I think history is some kind of psychedelic experience. And it isn’t—there’s nobody around who has the right plan. So it isn’t about how we need to locate the people with the right plan, and then give them a lot of money and get out of their way. It doesn’t work like that. The right plan will emerge almost simultaneously in everybody’s mind at the same moment, and in the meantime we all are going to have this sort of half-baked plan that we can’t articulate, that we can’t quite bring out. It’s a quality of the time. I’m going to talk this afternoon more about the quality of the time.


But we can’t think any more clearly than we’re thinking at the moment when we’re thinking at our best. Part of what history is is a clarification of the human situation. And I think you have to press the envelope, you have to keep your nose against the glass, forcing the definitions into ever new territory. But not anxiously. It’s like a growth process. We can’t evolve any faster than our language evolves. The language is the thing in which we’re embedded. So the use of technologies like virtual reality, or drugs like psilocybin and DMT, or practices of various sorts if they prove effective, to put pressure on the evolution of language. All spiritual disciplines, properly analyzed, can be seen to be language courses. You know, to get you to think a certain way, to get you to carve out of the background of undifferentiated data certain things which you previously couldn’t see—auras or acupuncture meridians or states of disease. I mean, it can be anything. But the mind sensitizes itself to phenomena by following language into the forest; into the forest of the unknown.


And most people have no stomach for this kind of thing [audio cut] prefer to stay back in the village and just kill time grinding wheat and drying meat around the fire. But you can almost make a kind of a fractal quasi-reductionist argument and say that people are like electrons, and you don’t learn what electrons really are until you get just one of them off by itself somewhere in a magnetic field in a vacuum, and then you see what electrons are. If you have millions of electrons, then you have an electrical current. And an electrical current operates according to laws and rules and constraints completely different from an electron. And what we have done very perversely as a society is taken the laws of large numbers—how a million people act, how ten million people act—and then we have applied it back to ourselves as individuals and said: well, why am I not happy? You know, seventy percent of everybody does X, and I don’t, and I’m not happy then—you know, trying to redefine yourself as against a very large body of statistical data. All of this is dehumanizing, all of this is bad mental hygiene—usually quickly cleared away by psychedelics.


Because what they show you is that you are unique—that you are unique—and that the confluence of space and time that you’re operating in is unique, and that any model that is put forward is, number one, provisional—provisional means it can be abandoned at any moment—and then the second and most important thing is: any model you can’t understand is useless. So most of us can’t understand most of the models. I mean, who here would care to walk to the blackboard and begin to describe the first stage of quantum electrodynamics to us? And yet we all know that our world is supposedly hung on this very well thought out theory that experts are in charge of. But notice—no pun intended—but notice that, if experts are in charge of it, you’re not. It’s absolutely useless to you. You know nothing about it.


Well, so when you start peeling away and saying, “Well, what do I know?” you know, it turns out it gets into things rather quickly. This is no cause for despair. This doesn’t mean you should go back to night school and study quantum physics. That’s the wrong conclusion. It means that all of things stuff that you thought were the high walls of reality are just smoke blown by somebody else. These constrains are not binding upon you at all. Somebody said to me once their father had been a professional scientist, and he said once: “I never would’ve seen it if I hadn’t known it was there.” And we all are in the habit of seeing all kinds of things, because we know that they’re there. And in many cases they’re not there, and you just walk through and you discover all kinds of things. I mean, I am convinced that anybody who has a major psychedelic trip, at some point in their trip, their eye falls on things no human eye has ever seen before or ever will see again. You know, it’s that big in there. It’s not at all clear that we’re mapping a generalizable reality. It may be that it’s just so huge in there that never do we pass through the same matrix twice. Well, that means you can give up on closure. You can give up on any theory that will ever give you very much of a more than provisional handle on what’s going on.


And I think this is probably a good step to take: to open ourselves to the freedom that lies beyond culture. Culture is a kind of prison, and the only way that we know to get beyond it is to dissolve its boundaries. Now, you can do that with psychedelics—and then you really explore the baseline of being—or you can dissolve it with travel. But then you dissolve your own cultural programming only to discover you’ve fitted yourself into somebody else’s cultural programming. And this, while definitely educational, is like a psychedelic drug I’m not that fond of. I do a lot of traveling, but it’s not the same thing as replacing space and time with some kind of alternative. That comes from doing the hard work on five grams in silent darkness.


And really, what you see, I think, is the morphogenetic field, the invisible world that holds everything together, the knit of it all. Not the knit of matter and light, but knit of casuistry, of intentionality, of caring, of hope, of dream, of thought. And that all is there. But it’s been hidden from us for centuries because of the exorcism of the spirit that took place in order to allow science to do business. And that momentous and ill-considered choice then has made us the inheritors of a tradition of existential emptiness, really. But that has impelled us to go back to the jungles and to recover this thing. It’s all of a piece, you see. I mean, these people in the Amazon and whatnot were keeping this cultural flame burning. But these cultures are now all dead. They are either dead or in a state of advanced suspended animation. I mean, the best anyone hopes for when they go to a rainforest culture is that it be somehow resisting the change all around it. There’s no rainforest culture that is elaborating new forms and thriving on its own terms.


So all the things that were learned, the legacy of the ancestors, is now laid basically at the feet of this high-tech electronic society. And the question is, you know: can we dream a dream sufficiently noble that we give meaning to the sacrifices that have been made to allow the twentieth century to exist? I mean, my god, the amount of bloodshed and infectious diseases spread around, metals ripped out of the Earth, mountains moved, railroads laid across continents—all of this stuff as the means to reclaiming the human birthright that science hides from us.


It’s a very strange enterprise. I mean, it’s hard to put it across, because the thing is: it’s real. You know? And we’re in the habit of thinking that the mind can move unobstructed from one edge of the universe to the other, that there are no secrets. But actually, there are secrets—at least these are secrets; and hard to tell. I mean, I tell them and you hear them, and we seem to have been allowed a cosmic dispensation. But why that is is very hard for me to understand. I would’ve thought that this would’ve been headline news 20,000 years ago right up until the present. Instead, it’s very tentative. Apparently this is very threatening to us. We are not as eager to sail over the edge collectively as we think we are.


So then it becomes the function of the shaman, the gadfly, the go-between, to carry information back and forth between these worlds. I’m convinced that if there were no shamanic pipeline, there would be no human life as we know it on this planet. I mean, there could be climaxed animal life. There was no need for this higher-order linguistic style of self-reflection to come into being. It’s that something is plotted, something is working itself out in us. We are the cells of a much larger body. And like the cells of our own body, it’s very hard for us to glimpse the whole pattern, the whole of what is happening. And yet we can sense that there is a purpose and there is a pattern.


Well, the way you connect the pattern with the lower level is by dissolving the boundaries of the ego and the self into this larger thing. And then it’s found to be there, reflective on many levels. It doesn’t require a mechanism. Everything is obvious. If things don’t appear simple to us, I think it’s because we haven’t thought about it long enough.


Well, so that’s sort of a survey of some of this stuff. Thank you very much!

Part 2



So there were questions outstanding when we parted this morning, so why don’t we just take that up, then?



[???] in the sixties [???] thousands of hippies [???]



[???] call them [???] Is it our fault?



Well, I mean, as somebody who lived through all that, I guess it was the hardest lesson that we had to learn was: how big a revolution you can have, and how quickly they can toss water on it and have business as usual. Erich Jantsch introduced me to the term metastable, and it certainly is true that many, many things are metastable. You think it looks easy to push it over, but when you start pushing you discover that the Leaning Tower of Pisa goes 800 feet underground or something, and it’s not moving anywhere.


I don’t know. I think that there’s a real constipation in the historical process. We talk about how the twentieth century is this century of tremendous change and innovation, but actually they’ve been remarkably successful in forestalling any true outbreak of the future. I mean, the most science fiction moment in the twentieth century—or one of the most science fiction moments to date—is probably 1939. I mean, if you think about 1939, if you think about the V2 rockets raining down on London and Germany in the grip of a leader with a genetic race theory that he plans to establish for a thousand years—this is science fiction style talk. Rocket bombs and master races and robot armies and all that stuff. Well, so then it was quenched. Fascism was sort of quenched. Actually, it infected everybody who got near it to the point that everybody was a fascist. But also, everybody went back to work, realizing very self-centered ideals. In the United States what had happened was that paradise had been promised the generation that would defeat fascism. But because it isn’t easy to deliver paradise, it had to be tacky. So then you get Levittown and the suburbs and modular building and Bauhaus styles of design. This is an effort to create a proletarian paradise. The Marxists talked proletarian paradise, but the American middle class actually created it during the fifties.


Then, in the sixties, what happened was—well, the precondition for social upheaval seemed to be an extremely unpopular war being prosecuted thousands and thousands of miles from home. And then LSD—which was a unique phenomenon, because so much could be made so easily. I mean, there are few weapons on Earth. Even gas. It’s hard to create enough poison gas to kill a million people. A guy with a small bathroom can create enough LSD to stone a million people. But I think that the lesson I drew from the sixties is that history can’t be rushed, and that history is not made by individuals—even righteous individuals. You know what Shakespeare said: all the world’s a stage, and its people merely players. They have their entrances and their exits. And each man, in his time, plays many parts. It is a work of literature somehow. And the sixties—for all of what it was—it must be that it was only prelude. And they managed to get the lid back on. But I think at great detriment to themselves. Because the change is like a gas, you know? If you plug the keyhole, it comes in under the door. If you plug under the door, it comes in over the transom. There’s no end to it. And forestalling it makes it more violent.


I mean, what I would like to see would be a conscious engineering of change, where you actually anticipate social change and try and make it easier. A perfect example is the stupid situation now in the Middle East. It’s been known since the early Carter administration that we should put policies in place which deemphasize our need for Middle East oil. So for twenty years they looked at that situation and never did anything. Now they say they have to fight a world war because of that. Well, it’s just bad management, is what it is.


But I think that this crisis in the Sovient Union and in the East Bloc countries, which was presented as a crisis of Marxism, is actually a crisis of centralized institutional control everywhere, and that a lot of America’s assumptions will be swept away. It came first to places like Czechoslovakia and Poland, but do you think that the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and places like this can be far behind? I mean, these are oligarchic states ruled by single families, dynastic lines. It’s the most reactionary form of government you can have.


So what I see happening in the world is fragmentation on a vast scale—to be applauded in all cases. This is not a bad thing. This is what McLuhan said would happen. It isn’t going to be a world federalist state ruled from Geneva with a spaceport in Antarctica and all that malarkey. It’s just going to be thousands and thousands of local—and somewhat integrated. Like, the European model is interesting because there it’s simultaneously falling to pieces and integrating itself at the same time. Integration of currency and economics, but preservation of cultural diversity and that sort of thing seems to me to be what’s happening. But nobody has to shout and nobody has to go into the streets. It’s much bigger than that.


And as far as the thing in the Middle East is concerned, I think probably—well, I’ll talk more about it this afternoon, but it has an inevitability to it that is huge. The United States is in the process of playing a fairly desperate hand. They could just stand so much of all that disarmament and troop reduction stuff, and then they just finally couldn’t stand it anymore.


But I think it’s good news that nobody is in charge of the historical process. Because even the best motivated people have the wrong idea. You know, more faith in the unconscious. It’s gotten us this far, god knows. Yeah?



[???] syntax and language and being able to go back on the other side and look at it [???]. And Chomsky, I think, wrote some books about what that syntax looks like. I was just wondering what you saw when you went on the other side?



Well, Chomsky’s idea, which he called transformational grammar, was: he eventually dreamed of being able to write the rules not only for English, but for all rationally apprehendable languages. And he felt there were fifteen rules of deep structure. I never could really understand the fine print on Chomsky. It seemed pretty tormented to me. What I discover most spectacularly in the DMT state is: there are these entities there which I call self-transforming machine elves, and they look sort of like self-dribbling jeweled basketballs. And they have a linguistic intentionality. They want to communicate. The songs that they sing condense as objects in three-dimensional space. I’ve compared them to the eggs of Fabergé, but that does them—they’re much more interesting than that. They’re like crystalline, jeweled, semi see-through, opaque, movemented things which look like sculptures, but you can tell while you’re looking at them they’re actually sentences. And the sentences are saying themselves in some weird way. And in the way that a good, long sentence has all its clauses operating, and its articles rotating smoothly, and its gerunds running up and down their tracks and everything, you know, in the same way that a good sentence does that, these little objects have this same kind of linguistic coherency.


Well then, what the entities in this space are doing is: they’re urging me, the precipient, to explore this and to do it, to sing these songs, to make these objects condense. And I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what this possibly could be about. In terms of new ideas about it, the only new idea I’ve had about it is: it’s occurred to me with some force over the past year and a half or so that the conclusion that I never looked at carefully—because my mind tried to shy away from it—was that maybe these things have something to do with the dead. That if you were to ask a shaman what these entities were, he would just say without hesitation: “Oh, well, these are the ancestors. These are the spirits of the ancestors.” There’s a hair-raising quality to contacting these things. They are both very familiar and yet somehow freakishly bizarre. And the presence of the familiarity with the bizarre creates a kind of cognitive dissonance that’s very—well, there’s just nothing else that feels quite like that.


I wrote an introduction recently for a reprint of Evans-Wentz’ book The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, and I discovered when I reread that book that the doctrine of purgatory—which is good church doctrine—it’s a realm where souls go to be cleansed for a few millennia. They’re not so sinful that they go to hell, but they go to purgatory for a few thousand years before they enter heaven. Well, I always assumed that this idea came out of the Roman contact with gnostic ideas. But I discovered in writing the introduction for the Fairy-Faith that St. Patrick invented the idea of purgatory, and he invented it when he was converting the Irish to Christianity. He did it as a way to Christianize the notion of fay, of fairyland. And the Celtic pure belief is that the dead go to a realm that is copresent all around us. We can’t see them. But that all around us is just jammed with souls in wild states of activity. And that if you have the eye—you know, a certain talent—you can see these things.


Well, Patrick, in order to have an appeal to these Celtic peasants, made purgatory part of the Christian cosmogonic scheme. But when you actually smoke DMT, you burst into a space which seems very much to fit the description of this elven-inhabited space. Because if you think about: what is the gnosis of elves? Elves are artificers. They make things in metal and jewels and glass. This is the archetype of the elves: that they are underground craftsmen. And they are humorous. But their humor is highly unpredictable and sort of not necessarily not running in your favor. They’re somewhat cruel and boisterous, and like that.


Well, when you break into this space you discover that you’re in fairyland. You’re in fairyland as much as Darby O’Gill or any of the rest of these people who ever made it across. And the secret of the elves, what they really fabricate, is language. This is why, in Irish mythology, if you can get elves on your side, you can make great poetry: because they’re the keepers of linguistic artifice. And getting elves on your side makes you into a master poet.


Well, it’s interesting, then, that in the Amazon, where there’s a tradition of taking DMT, there are these things called hiruke, and they’re actually described as bouncing demons. And the hiruke, they come into being when you’re stoned, and you’re supposed to get them into your chest, you’re supposed to invite them into your chest somehow. Well then, the number of these things you have inside of you determines what kind of a real man you are. And this is generally a male practice.


Well, I noticed that these DMT tykes, as I call them, they jump in and out of your body, too. They seem to be trying to teach you something about the body image, or their relationship to your self-identity. And all the time they’re saying, “Make these objects. Do what we’re doing.” Well, then you go down to the Amazon, to the icaro-singing ayahuasceros, and they are using voice to make objects. So what we’re on the track of here is a physiological ability, or a pharmacologically-driven physiological ability, to transduce language as something seen.


Well now, you see? If you could see what I mean, it would be as though we were the same person. Seeing what I mean is a much more intimate relationship to my intent than hearing what I mean. You can hear what I mean and go and look it up in your little dictionary and get it all wrong, if your dictionary and mine are different. But if you see what I mean, we will be in agreement. Because I see what I mean, too. So if meaning were something that one could sculpturally command in three-dimensional space, and we would walk around and look at it.


Well, part of what I was doing in Linz in Austria was trying to get these virtual reality people hooked into this as a concept. Because, you see, with the present virtual reality tech—do you all know what virtual reality is? Everybody knows what it is. Virtual reality is a technology where you put on a helmet, and you have the little [???], and then you think you’re in this place, some other place, under engineering control. Well, what you could do is: you could slave the parts of English speech to geometric objects. So that, for instance, every time you used the word “and” a rotating turquoise dodecahedron appeared over your left shoulder. Similarly, all the parts of the dictionary could be slaved to visually beholdable objects. Well then, as I would speak, this thing would be happening over my left shoulder; a kind of self-constructing grammatical tinkertoy.


Well, I maintain that, very quickly, people would stop listening and start looking, and that they would be getting it. In fact, they would be getting more than if they were listening, because the way in which these syntactically visible parts of speech can be connected and shaded and presented and emphasized and italicized and underlined and brightly colored and set in different fonts, and so forth and so on—in other words: many more dimensions to the intent to communicate can be brought into play. And I think this is what technology is probably driving for, and what the psychedelic experience will inspire—is this kind of sculptural linguistic modality, where meaning is something that we behold.







Well, we have to find out whether there are visual types and audio types, or whether there are generalized human biases embedded in cultural conventions. You know, McLuhan talked about how, at the inventing of printing, there was a shift from the eye-culture (as he called it) to the ear-culture. That before printing, if somebody gave you a piece of manuscript, it was incunabula. It was written, it was manuscript, and therefore you had to look at it. After printing was invented, every “e” looked like every other “e,” and so print acquired uniformity. And uniformity—when we read, we do not look. You don’t look at the page, you read it. And your eye rips through it. You don’t linger over each letter and try to piece out how it’s different from the other “f”s on the other line, and stuff like that. But in manuscript culture you do.


Similarly, print created an expectation, then, of uniformity—in the way that the eye expected the letters to always present the uniform appearance, there began to be the idea of uniformity of social appearances. And previously, the largest social class had been the guild. But suddenly you get people talking about the ruling class, the middle class, the lower class, white collar, blue collar. These are linear uniform terms for describing lots of non-linear non-uniform phenomena.


And finally, of course, with the machine age you get the idea of interchangeability of parts. This is an idea that could only emerge in a print culture. Because in a print culture the interchangeability of the parts of print becomes an established convention. So then you say, “Well, we want to make tractors or hay mowers, so let’s not just make one hay mower, let’s make fifty of them, and let’s make them all at once, and let’s lay out the pieces, and then let’s assemble them in teams,” and this kind of thinking arises out of the bias of a technology. McLuhan talked a lot about technological biases.



Isn’t this going back to the Chinese idea [???] where they had 50,000 symbols at one time, and now they have only about 5,000 in newspapers, and the average person only knows that much?



Well yeah, language is becoming more glyphic. Reality is becoming more iconic. When you travel in Europe you’re aware that you’re skating along on a thin surface of icons that, if you’re careful, will never break through and let you down. You know, you can read all this international jargon about where the dog can poop, and not to smoke, and not to open the window, and so forth and so on. Yeah. We need an iconic language, and we’re tending back toward it. Now, an iconic language like Chinese has also undergone huge amounts of local conventionalization. So I don’t think we’re all going to end up learning Chinese unless it’s going to return more to its ancient form.


Mayan is an interesting case, because Mayan is a rebus language, where you use icons not to symbolize things, but sounds. Do you see the difference? So, for instance, in rebus language you would put a picture of an eye, a saw going through wood, an ant running across the ground, and a rose, and that would be a sign which said, “I saw ant rose.” The icons symbolize sounds, they don’t symbolize meaning. This makes it hellishly difficult to reconstruct a lost language that is written this way, because what you have are the symbols of sounds—and you don’t have the sounds anymore, so how can you reconstruct the language? This is the problem Mayan decipherment has had to grapple with.




When you’re talking about [???] I keep thinking of [???] or deaf people [???] hemisphere [???] and they interpret language in a different spatial way, And when they try to teach you sign language they keep saying, “Think in pictures. Stop thinking in words. Think in pictures.” Have you ever had any contact with deaf people or the deaf community?



Not with the community. I’ve known deaf people, and yes, you’re right. This thinking in pictures, this is something that happens at a certain point in most psychedelic experiences. You realize that the quality of our ordinary thought, or at least in my case, it is language. It’s a stream of words. And then it can become this much richer, fuller, imagistic type thinking. This is very elusive. I mean, it’s so close to the level of human organization that probably there are some people in this room who are doing it right now, there are art movements like the pre-Raphaelites or the romantics that put great stress on this kind of thing, even had exercises to elicit this kind of thinking.


I mean, I think that we’re—and McLuhan is trying to get at this by talking about the effects of technology. It’s that we haven’t realized just how fluid the mental modality is. You know, Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages was thought to be a great saint, and he would prove his sainthood by—they would come to him with a Bible or a work of theology, and they would open it in front of him and let him look at it for a few minutes, and then close it and question him about it, and he could answer questions. And they thought this was a proof of his sanctity. And all he was doing was silently reading. He was the only man in Europe who could silently read, and everybody else had to sound the words. Well, we can’t quite wrap our mind around that, because for us this is just something you do, you know? It’s not even as hard as riding a bicycle. Well, how [???] are there where we are down between narrow walls of expectation, and just a little tweak of our programming would make a real difference?


One of the things that fascinates me about the psychedelics that we haven’t talked about at all this morning, because it’s kind of on a technical bent, is how close the interesting ones are to ordinary brain chemistry. It isn’t that the strangest, weirdest drugs give the strangest, weirdest experiences. No, the drugs that are most like what you have in your brain at this moment give the strangest, weirdest experiences—the ones that are just one tweaked atom away from ordinary consciousness are the ones that give the profound world-dissolving experiences.


So this suggests to me that what we deal with when we deal with psychedelics is future chemical states of mind, future ratios of neurotransmitters in the human brain. Is it that the 5-HT2A receptors for serotonin are slowly, over time—centuries?—being swapped out for a receptor that will accept a more energetic molecule like DMT? We know that DMT occurs in ordinary human metabolism, but we don’t know why. Is it increasing over time? We don’t know, because we’ve only been measuring it twenty or thirty years. I mean, the place where evolution is going to be visible is in consciousness, because this is where the chemistry is most delicately poised to augment or suppress function. So we’re very well set up to observe evolution and shift in conscious modalities. And this is no neutral, cooled-out scientific endeavor. The rate at which we can do this probably determines the rate at which we can save ourselves and the planet from ruin.



Music. You hadn’t mentioned [???] non-linear communication [???]



Well, music is this very old form of art which appeals to this thing I’m talking about—not quite with the linguistic specificity that maybe we would desire ultimately. But music is a language of emotion that hovers between the seen and the heard pretty ambiguously. I mean, for the Romantics, they were one of these groups of people who talked about synesthesia. This is this technical term for the senses moving from one modality to another: tasting colors, feeling music, hearing light. And a lot of the talk in the nineteenth century amongst Symbolists and pre-Raphaelites and Romantics was about these synesthesias, and how to trigger them. Strangely enough this led to the first bout of “psychedelic” drug experimentation. It was the Romantic pursuit of synesthesia through opium that created the first wave of opium addiction in literate English society. I mean, Coleridge and De Quincey and these people were quite consciously trying to use drugs to create and push the definitions of art out further.


Somebody said architecture is frozen music—from which it must follow, then, that music is unfrozen architecture. Liquid architecture. The architectonic quality of hallucinations when they’re driven by music is very striking. And the way in which all these things come together, it almost has a kind of Gothic elegance. The way tone can be used to create impressions of large vaulted space and this sort of thing. It’s really an unexplored thing, and I think technology is going to teach us a lot about making that kind of art in particular.




You talked about being [???] opportunity to [???]



Václav Havel couldn’t see me because he had Margaret Thatcher. It’s true!



Frozen architecture.



Frozen architecture. No. I mean, Czechoslovakia is an interesting case because you can see: Prague’s reputation before the revolution was that it was the gloomiest city in Europe. And you can certainly see that it would have been a gloomy city if people had been marching around in uniforms and there’d been bread lines and fear and loathing. With communism gone, people stay up all night and dance in the streets, and suddenly it just looks charming and unwashed. And we just need to get the soot and industrial grime off all this Jugenstil and Art Deco architecture, and it will be just fine.


The thing about Czechoslovakia is, you know: if you scratch a Czech you find a Celt, because the Celts were there a long, long time ago building fortresses on all the hills. And when you look at the people in large crowds—of which, my god, do they know how to get crowds together! There are crowds of them everywhere. They have that same Celtic cast that you get at a West Coast Grateful Dead concert. Everybody has brown hair.


Czechoslovakia was exciting because all these places have an opportunity to redefine freedom, to be even more free, to push it further. And what I was doing there, to have a mission, to have a reason to be there, was visiting the National Museum Department of Mycology and leaving off sporeprints and grower’s guides with people in the department who I thought might like to grow psilocybin mushrooms. And, being good Slavs, they were very open to this, and very excited by the idea of growing mushrooms. You know, cultures can be divided into mycophilic and mycophobic. And mycophobic cultures are like the English, for whom all mushrooms are toadstools, and you should put it down because you don’t know where it’s been. This is the basic English attitude. Well then, Slavs and Celts, there are hundreds of words in these languages for mushrooms. And mushroom outings, and people go out on Saturdays on mushroom forays. In Czechoslovakia, a national bestseller is a guide to the mushrooms of Czechoslovakia. No home can be without it. So you can imagine that it’s a different attitude.


Prague is further west than Vienna. It’s the real center of old Europe. And of course, because of the court of Rudolf II, it was the court of all this Protestant alchemical political plotting and lots of intrigue. That’s why we’re called Bohemians—is because that radical style of free thought began in the principalities of Bohemia, with people deciding nobody should wear clothes, or we should get rid of money, and then everybody would do this until the local bishop would get an army together and come and kick some sense into everybody. But over and over in Bohemia this kind of outbreak of radical free thought was typical.




[???] glorious visions [???] sudden shift in perspective, and I realized suddenly that the visions were all taking place in [???] projected on the skin [???] visions of snakes, too. [???] almost all of them have snakes in them. Is that a common thing with ayahuasca?



Well, it’s an interesting question: why do drugs have identities like this, and do they have them? Well, the answer is: yes, they certainly do. And it’s one of the puzzling pieces of information that I always keep in front of myself when trying to understand these things—that it’s irrational that, for instance, no matter who you are (you know, Viennese Jew, Icelandic ski instructor, Irish pub owner), if you take ayahuasca you will see large snakes, large cats, and dancing black people. In this order of statistical frequency, with black people being not as common as cats and snakes, cats being not as common as snakes, snakes being the most common. Well, what’s going on here? How can it be that a chemical compound that can be defined down to the quantum-mechanical positions of the atoms nevertheless seems to carry informational content of some sort?


Well, I don’t know. But here is one possibility, and maybe there are others. Maybe this is support for Sheldrake’s hypothesis of formative causation. That actually, around the drug a complex of ideas has accreted itself in some kind of psychological hyperspace. A pattern has been worn in hyperspace which is the pattern of how this drug works. And it’s really in some sense a composite of all the trips, of all the people, who ever took it. Well, since for the first 20,000 years all the people who ever took ayahuasca had snake and jaguar fear as a major source of anxiety, we discover that upfront. But of course, now: why the dancing black people? This becomes less easy to understand.



[???] the consciousness of the plant [???]



Well, this is the other possibility, see? That the reason these things are so message-specific is that this is the plant. This is its presentation. Like with ayahuasca particularly, its language is visual. I mean, after a strong ayahuasca session your eyes are bugging out of your head. It’s like a visit to Madison Avenue to buy prints. I mean, you just looked at so many prints, and looked and looked, and compared the Bruegel to the Bosch and the Bosch to the bouffant, all this stuff. You know, look, look, look. But then, for instance, with mushrooms it’s actually verbal. It speaks, it tells you things in plain English in a conversational mode. I don’t understand. The more I live, the longer I see of all this stuff, the less I feel that I understand what is going on.



Don’t you think there’s a consciousness in the plant?



You mean a psychedelic plant like that?



Well, maybe all sorts of plants. I mean, [???] it depends [???]



Yeah, but why would it have one presentational mode over another?



Because it’s a particular chemical composite that becomes [???] own unique life force or composite biology or whatever. But that [???] has its own consciousness.



Well, I guess this is what we’re left with—that these are the masks by which we understand these things. What happens with the mushroom is: it always has a presentational personality. But then, when you inquire, you discover that this presentational personality is created for your convenience, and that behind it lurks god knows what. And when you begin to talk to it about that, that’s when the trip turns off to the left and begins to get peculiar. Because you’re inquiring into its inner nature. I mean, with the mushroom you can actually say, “Show me more of what you really are.” And immediately the trip will take a turn away from the dancing mice and all that cheerful hypnagogic riffraff towards something wooo! You say, “Okay, that’s enough of who you really are. Reassure me now!”


So yeah, these things are like personalities, minds. But the question for me is: it’s such a strange way to communicate. That here is a life form that it can’t communicate unless you eat it, unless it’s inside you. And then somehow the moire of its being and your being mesh together, and then these images spring into being. But it is in the very act of passing away, being consumed in your metabolism. It’s like some kind of act of love or something.



Did you ever ask it what it’s like [???] eaten you and being digested?



What is it like to take a person? Well, I asked it once what it wanted to be called, and it said, “Call me Dorothy.” And I said, “Why?” And it said, “Because this seems like Oz to me.” I just report these things. I don’t know why it wanted to be called Dorothy, yeah.



When you say it turns [???] when you take that [???] inquiry [???] and then you had [???] Could you say a little more about that?



You mean how to steer it through these places?



Well, or why they want [???], or what [???]



Well, it’s a very complex feeling when you deal with the other. It’s your friend—sort of. And it’s predictable—sort of. But everything has this vibe about it where you don’t want to push too much. I mean, I’ve given a lot of thought to trying to think about where I’ve had this feeling that I have when I meet the DMT elves, and it’s a feeling of exhilaration but caution, accomplishment but doubt. And I decided that where I knew this feeling from was [audio cut] my dissolute youth as [audio cut] in the back streets of Bombay [audio cut] these labyrinths where these guys with shining eyes and deformed limbs would take us back into these warrens of streets, and they would know that we had enough money on our body to ransom them all for five years’ income, and we would know that they knew, and yet we would be there to conclude a business deal over a psychedelic substance.


And this feeling of meeting the meme-traders—and they would always say; they had this wonderful line calculated to put you completely at your ease. They would say, “I am your friend. I am not like all the others!” “Oh great! Wonderful! I feel so much better now.” And that’s what these elves are saying. They’re saying, “Don’t listen to him or her, I’m your friend. I’m not like all the others.” And, you know, you’re clearly the new kid in town. I mean, you can barely sit up, and they’re able to pick your pocket from ten dimensions you don’t even know exist. So you try to sort this out in good order.



Terence, I wanted to go back to [???] idea of simulations; that in order to [???] process of digestion and [???]. And that really is true [???] to that consciousness, or whatever you want to call it. And that fact could be true of all experiences one has. I mean, if you’re reading a book, if you really want to get into it, you have to totally digest it. [???]. But anyways, everything that you do, it has [???] digestion [???]



Well, maybe this has to do with the notion of boundary dissolution; that to be digested by something is to actually become it. It becomes you. And Yeats said we become what we behold. And yeah. I mean, it’s fairly profound when you think about it. I didn’t really lean on this thing this morning. Well, I mentioned it about the diet and the copulation and the religion and the psilocybin. But the notion here is that feminism is actually a state of dietary neuro-regulation in the species, if you want. Because the feminine I associate with this state of boundary dissolution, or potential state of boundary dissolution, because feminine sexuality is based on the acceptance of penetration, and the experience of giving birth is the experience of heavy boundary reorganization and so forth. So the Earth actually talked to the human beings through the diet. I mean, it’s crude and awful to say it that way, but, you see, because the psilocybin was in the diet, because the people were tribal, because there was pressure on hunting success and sexual success and all this, the people were in a state of maximum attention directed toward the environment. And coming at them out of the environment was a mind—not an abstract mind, not as we imagine god an old man with a beard and [???] and all of this, but actually a friend and a comfort, a feminine thing, not remote at all: not the creature of theology, but a creature of experience. And these feminine values were the values of the human group, and they were a kind of objectification, realization, of the values in nature itself. And getting away from that broke this bond that was very real. And this breaking of this bond traumatized us. I mean, you can even use the language of dysfunctional relationships, childhood trauma, abuse, that sort of thing. That in the infancy of the human species there is a tremendous traumatic event: the carrying away of the human tribal family from this embeddedness in larger vegetable nature. And then, once that happened, we had to make it up by ourselves, and we did a botched job of it. I mean, religion just became a way of berating people, ethics became control, government became coercion, education became the inculcation of past mistakes, so forth and so on.


Understandably, because you could almost think of us as an ant society whose queen had been killed, but we don’t notice it because it’s not part of our species. We actually were an incipient symbiot to this invisible thing, and it still exists. It still exists in whatever dimensions are its own. I mean, is it the mushroom? Is it the sum-total of organic life on the planet. Is it an extraterrestrial mind somehow here so long that it’s as old as the continents? Whatever it is, it’s still there.


Well then, what human history and outbreaks of messianic hysteria and the prompting of visionary dreams, and all of this stuff which gets us sitting bolt upright in the middle of the night is: this thing can reach into the human world—haltingly, hesitatingly, but pointedly, problingly, trying to bring us back, calling us to some kind of return, trying to reconnect the broken circuit of history. And this is what is the cause of all the nostalgia for paradise—you know, the belief in a vanished Eden, a lost Atlantis, so forth and so on. And all the utopian yearning—the belief that the extraterrestrials will come and kiss it and make it well, that we will somehow be rescued from our own folly, that dead Galilean politicians will walk again among us—all of these ideas that are overthrow of natural law for the purpose of saving us in a drama of cosmic redemption.


Well, it’s like a psychological process. It’s like somebody digging into their stuff. And, you know, we all start out with the assumption that our childhood was perfectly normal and our parents were fine people. And then you start digging and separating and working and looking, and then the picture becomes much more complicated. And I think the human attitude toward Drugs, the fact that we can addict to forty or fifty substances and do—I mean, yes, other animals form addictions of various sorts, but nothing like this. I mean, clearly we are in a state of permanent chemical disequilibrium. I mean, we will gnaw door handles, sniff paint thinner, tobacco, heroin, you name it. Thousands of alkaloids. Dig up stuff the pig wouldn’t eat, and then pick all that, and then eat that.


I mean, all this anxiety and disease around the problem of food is that we’re looking for something. Well then, every time somebody finds it, then a huge shriek goes up from the body politic. That it’s illegal what you’ve found. It’s unacceptable! This behavior cannot be tolerated. People who smoke joints of marijuana, the Chief of Police in Los Angeles wants them shot like dogs in public places in order to keep public order. Well, what would god hear, folks, is a lot of serious anxiety around states of mind. Clearly. And—



[???] it’s a rupture from the organic creating totally synthetic realities [???] separated from the organic.



You mean a rupture into history of this material?



Well, I mean [???] separated from psychedelics and from [???] being separated from nature from themselves, and then they’re open to synthetic realities—



Well, it’s an extreme case of alienation over, like, a thousand years. I mean, yes, we’re so alienated, we don’t even know how alienated we are. I mean, things built into our language like the subject-object dualism, the assumption of science that spirit exists—this is what they’ve been busy at for the last 400 years: is exercising spirit. From the late medieval cosmology we inherit a world entirely animate [???] and angelic beings running up ladders and performing all kinds of miraculous tasks.

And then Descartes—you know, you get this grudging admission that well, maybe the soul touches matter at just one place. In the pineal gland of each one of us there’s this magic trip hammer, and there the little angel performs the forbidden transduction. And then, fifty years after Descartes, they say, “Well no, no. That was the naïve part of his thinking. We’re going to get rid of that. And now we understand that spirit was an illusion of the ontologically naïve mind, and there’s only force and momentum.” And then you have permission to commit all kinds of atrocities against nature. Although the permission to commit these atrocities has been present in the Western tradition for a very, very long time. I mean, you go back to Gilgamesh and you discover that what’s going on in Gilgamesh is that Gilgamesh rejects the goddess, and the goddess sends the bull as her emissary to Gilgamesh, which I take to be a symbol of the mushroom, obviously. And Gilgamesh rejects the cosmic bull, rejects the goddess, and then he gets his shaman friend Enkidu, who’s very reluctant about this enterprise, and he says, “You know what we need to do? I have a great idea. Let’s go into the wilderness, and you’ll help me, and we’ll cut down the tree of life.” And this is what they do. This is on cuneiform tablets that are dug out of the Ur-level of our civilization, and what they’re plotting and scheming is two clowns want to cut down the tree of life.


So this alienation goes very deep. That’s why the psychedelic experience is illegal and repressed and suspect. It’s because nothing less than the whole kit and caboodle of this civilization hangs in the balance against it. It is forbidden to know that the dynamics of the mind have such depth and breadth. We are supposed to live in a narrow canyon of consciousness, walled in between awake and asleep, and anything else is considered pathological. And we make a little place for artists as long as they don’t get too uppity or obscene, and otherwise it’s all closed off. Well, you know, breaking into this, breaking through this, is this recapturing of the birthright that I’ve been talking about.

Other comments? Yeah?



Every time I eat mushrooms there’s three things that happen to me that inadvertently happen; physical things. [???] One is hearing. I always hear, [???]. And then yawning [???] play with that sound a lot [???]



Well, even in the pharmacology textbooks the yawning gets in for psilocybin. It makes you yawn, they say. And it certainly does make you yawn. It also makes your nose run a little bit about at the 40-minute mark. The tearing I associate with the actual moments when the visions are occurring. It seems as though your eyes produce a lot of water. And the tone is… yeah, pretty basic to the presentation of these things.


The way it works for me usually is: I take it on an empty stomach in silent darkness. And at about the hour-and-ten-minute mark there’s visual streaming. Nothing much before. I mean, runny nose, restlessness, need to go to the bathroom. One of the things you don’t want to do is: once it begins, I think it’s very important to stay still. And you will get into loops where “It would be better to be downstairs,” “It would be better to be on the other side of the room,” “It would be better….” This is the small tinny voice of true madness trying to push you off your point, and you just say, “No, no. It wouldn’t be better downstairs, and it wouldn’t be better across the room, and it’s better right here.” And then, at an hour and twenty minutes, you get visual streaming, which are these—I’ve also noticed they occur after orgasm. They’re like purple afterimage, kind of amorphous jelly bean shaped lights that are passing by. Not very interesting. But they indicate the onset of something is happening. The synapse is coming to the potential for the thing.


And then I usually smoke cannabis to sort of push it over the edge. And at a certain point I know that if I now will take a huge hit of cannabis, the whole thing will just come apart over moments. And then it does. And it usually is—you sort of see it coming, like a sand storm or something. I mean, it’s ten miles high and a hundred miles wide, and it just rolls toward you and there’s nowhere to run. And I usually just have a few moments to lie down, is what I basically do that seems a good strategy at that point. Lie down! Ah, a plan! Lie down!


So then I do that, and that sort of helps a little, and it just hits. And you would swear that everybody from Vancouver to San Diego just hurled themselves underneath their desk, because it’s like an asteroid striking the Earth or something. I mean, everything gives way. You have these images of: first there’s light, then there’s heat, then the instruments which record light and heat themselves disintegrate and vaporize and begin to move outward, and it’s just a linguistic zero zone where language will not operate. It’s like ground zero. And then this goes on for a long, long time. And the viewpoint keeps telescoping back until, finally, the viewpoint is outside the blast zone. And then you can begin an inward description of it and say, “Oh, it’s like this, it’s like that. It’s telling me this, it’s telling me that.”


Other times it’s this Irish elven band thing, where they come literally tiptoeing through the tulips, and you hear it far off like the tinkling of bells. And then it just gets louder and louder, and nearer and nearer, and then you see it, and then it’s around you. And it’s like… well, it’s like a Bugs Bunny cartoon directed by Tristan Tzara or something like that. I mean, it’s quite zany, unpredictable.


The thing that always impressed me about psychedelics was the way in which it could convince you that you could never think of this. You know? And that was the stamp of authenticity: the fact that it was moving faster than your own imagination, astonishing you, making you laugh, frightening you, leading you on, teasing you. It’s very strange. I mean, there’s nothing else like it. It’s like, you know, the Arabs used to say of the city of Isfahan in Iran in the tenth century that it was half the world, because of its vaulted domes and minarets. But if you hadn’t seen Isfahan, half the world laid before you. Well, it’s literally true of psychedelics. I mean, half at least of the world lies over yonder in these strange dimensions. And they’re not inaccessible, you know? They’re very accessible. You don’t have to spend twenty years around the ashram. And yet, my goodness, we maintain decorum around them, and don’t break protocol, and behave ourselves in the presence of it. I mean, even those of us who are supposed experts or accounted great explorers of it spend nine times as much time talking about it as doing it, you may be sure.


So it’s just a kind of a cultural blind spot [audio cut] and to a person like myself very important; to someone else extraordinarily trivial. I mean, there was even a book published on the drug problem recently, called America’s Great Drug War by Treadwell—who’s a good guy. He wants legalization. He’s a good guy. But there’s no entry for psychedelic drugs. No entry for LSD, no entry for mescaline. It’s not what they’re talking about, not what they’re worrying about. Even the people who want drugs legalized do it with this kind of… “Okay!” This attitude. “We’re defeated. We’ll legalized drugs. Screw it, that’s it. Go ruin yourselves now.” There’s no notion of hope, no notion of a pharmacological engineering of consciousness to any reasonable end. It’s just: if you’re not willing to go it alone with god’s grace, well then you’re just consigned to the road to hell.




I had [???] MDMA with ketamine and 2CB, and I was wondering if [???]



MDMA with mushrooms? Let me see if I can remember. I can’t really remember anybody specifically doing that. All these things get done. I sort of try to warn people off of these things and am a terrible party pooper, because I’m just such an obsessed person that all I really care about is this very narrow psychedelic effect. There are a lot of weird altered states of consciousness around—many of them drug-induced, and a whole spectrum of them alcohol-induced.







How was that?



Well, I felt that, right away, the mushroom was just [???] what is this doing here [???]



“Who is this cheap trollop that we’ve got here?”






Yeah, synergies are a sort of unexplored area, because there’s so many of them. You all understand synergies are what happens when you rub two drugs or more together. And very weird things happen, but they’re not very controllable or repeatable. What I always say to people about choosing drugs and strategies for bringing drugs into your life and your program of spiritual development or self-exploration or whatever is: the most interesting drugs are the ones that occur in plants. That the occurrence of a drug in a plant shows that it has a certain affinity to organic life. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hellacious toxins in some plants. I mean, there’s curare, there’s strychnine, there’s cyanide. These are plant byproducts as well. But nevertheless, as a first pass it’s important that a compound occur in a plant.


Well then, the next thing is: does it have a history of human usage? And the interesting ones almost all do. Psilocybin, used in Mexico for millennia, other parts of the world it’s probably for a very long time, although the evidence is less clear. Peyote has a long history of usage in the American southwest. Cannabis goes back millennia. So does opiate use. So then, do these things have a history of human usage, and even specifically, shamanic usage? And then, to my mind, the really interesting question: do they have an affinity to ordinary brain chemistry? Do they—because (and I mentioned this this morning) the strongest drugs are the ones most like ordinary brain chemistry. The most extreme case being DMT. DMT only lasts seven to ten minutes, and yet it’s the most profound dislocation of reality that you can undergo.


Well, why is it that it is both so profound and so quickly quenched in the organism? It’s because in the human brain bio-pathways exist which recognize and degrade this very readily because they are there all the time performing this function on DMT. So to my mind it isn’t that you sail out toward the most synthetic or complex or chelated molecules, but that in fact these things are highly suspect. That what we’re trying to do is actually tweak consciousness—do reverence to the physical brain, but tweak consciousness as little as possible to get the desired effect.


One of the really fascinating things about DMT, I think, is that once someone has smoked it, once someone has had this experience, you can have a dream in which it is introduced into the dream as a theme—DMT—and then you actually smoke it in the dream, and it actually happens in the dream. And I don’t know of any other drug that this is true of. And what it says to me is that, even though this is an extremely radical psychedelic experience, apparently the chemistry that is the precondition for it is just under the surface, almost within reach of conscious awareness. I mean, when I’ve sat down at times and thought about smoking DMT and tried to invoke it, and never succeeded the way I’ve succeeded in a lucid dream doing that. But it shows, I think, that the chemistry is very close to ordinary metabolism.



[???] knowing about DMT [???]



Yes. It’s closely related. In the chemical families of the hallucinogens you have the indole family, which is a fairly large family, and it includes the lysergimides that are the LSD-type drugs, the beta-carbolines, which are MAO-inhibitors and occur in banisteriopsis caapi, and the iboga alkaloids, which are psychedelic aphrodisiacs from West Africa, and then the tryptamine group. And the tryptamine group is the largest group, and it comprises psilocybin in the mushroom and DMT in the leaves of certain bushes and in the barks of certain South American trees, and then it also occurs in other plant genera, but not in very high concentration.






5-methoxy-DMT occurs in toads. 5-methoxy-DMT is interesting. It’s recently had a kind of vogue, because people discovered they could collect the exudate from the toad and dry it on their windshield and scrape it off, and then smoke it up or sell it for about $80 a gram.



It’s a big thing in Florida.



It’s a big thing in Florida.






Well, nobody actually licks toads. That’s just a slander. What you do is you milk the toad onto the glass of your four-wheel-drive vehicle windshield and then let it dry in the sun, and then scrape it up and collect it in a film canister. I know people who really like 5-MAO DMT. I don’t care for it. I find it weirdly empty. It’s not visionary, like DMT. DMT is a chaos of hallucination. It is the most hallucinogenic compound there is. I mean, it’s just hallucinations stacked on top of each other. I mean, in every angle tiny demons are seen to be performing elaborate calisthenic exercises. And much else is happening. But when you do 5-MAO DMT—for me, at any rate—it was like this feeling, yes, it feels like DMT, yes, my heart is racing just like DMT, yes, yes, yes—no! No. Nothing happened. It didn’t do the thing.


The other piece of information that I feel obligated to pass on to you as a spoilsport is that 5-MAO is fatal in sheep. They just fall over with their little pointed feet trembling in the air. And I guess it’s a way to tell whether or not you’re a sheep, but it’s a little alarming that a mammalian species of so substantial and woolly and so forth falls over dead when exposed to this stuff that you and your friends are furiously smoking up in the den.


Why? They don’t know exactly. It’s neurotoxic. These neurotransmitters fall into narrow ranges. Sheep are sensitive to a lot of stuff. That’s why they’re always dropping nerve gas on them and stuff like that—because they seem to have a fairly narrow tolerance to neurotoxins.






It’s somewhat alarming. Not 5-MAO DMT, not DMT.






Well, it’s the difference of that methoxy group in the five position. But this is why sheep get staggers and die, because they’re eating phalaris species, grass species, with low amounts of 5-MAO in them. And they’re always getting staggers and getting problems with that.

Anything else? Yes?






Physical side effects from the mushrooms. Well, one of the things you have to understand is that research on psychedelics is illegal and not even encouraged among professionals. So a lot of what’s known is anecdotal. Whenever you talk about the side effects of any drug you have to realize that people are highly variable. And drugs are the area where these differences between people show up dramatically. Generally, psilocybin is thought to be a fairly safe compound. In terms of crude measures of its safety it’s very safe. I mean, for instance, the way pharmacologists talk about drugs is: they talk about what’s called the LD50. This is the horrible concept of: if you have 100 mice, how much of this drug do you have to give these 100 mice so that 50 die? The LD50; the lethal dose 50. Well, for psilocybin it’s huge. I mean hundreds of milligrams per kilogram of body weight. So that’s not a possibility.


That’s the cheerful news from the world of reductionist pharmacology. The problem is that when you get out there, the whole religion of taking these things holds that science doesn’t know what it’s talking about. So when you get out there, and you have the complete and total conviction that you’re dying, then you have to grapple with this. And the thing is: it’s always completely convincing. And this is just something that it seems to put one through occasionally. You don’t get much sympathy from straight people. I mean, they say, “Well, psychedelic drugs. Isn’t that the bit? You think you’re in heaven, then you think you’re dying, then you think you’re god, then you think you’re dying. I thought that was what is supposed to happen.”


Well, as we know, you try to steer around that. If there are episodes of fear, the only thing you can do is sit it out and breathe it out and sing it out. The one thing people shouldn’t do is clench up and hunker down and just go into the fetal position. What you want to do is circulate a huge amount of energy and oxygen through your body by singing. This is what shamans do when they get into difficult places, is they sing their way through it. And it is ambiguous. It is complicated to go into these places. I don’t think anybody voyages repeatedly into these psychedelic spaces without getting into some fairly weird stuff.






What kind of songs do I sing? They’re usually based pretty much on the tonality of the situation, and finding a tone that I can ride out of the situation. And they’re synesthesic. I mean, a tone like ooooooooo-uuuuuuuuuuuh-oooooooooooo-nnggggggg-ooooo, you know, you’re feeling it’s doing something to you, and you can steer your way through weird stuff with this. Then, usually, you become distracted by the act of making the sound itself. Because the sound, first of all, you either have or have the illusion that you have tremendous control over the production of tone. Your ear gives you a tremendous ability to differentiate these tones. And they’re appearing in front of you as colors if you’re loaded enough. So this is the modality in which you can experiment with the visible language. You try to syntactically construct out of tonality and glossolalia some kind of convincing modality.


Most of you have probably heard ayahuasca songs. I mean, [sings]. They’re driving, is what they are. They’re repetitious and they’re driving. And you discover in yourself the capacity for glossolalia—which you can ride. You can lift the meaning governor off of the language machinery and just let it spin. And it’s indefensible as art, but ecstatic to do, you know? I mean, I tend to do glossolalias, which are more conversational. And I like them because they play with meaning. So that kind of stuff sort of sounds like: eh deh jegemowai huaxi kepipi ung efnui dem whau hede eeh kepoah mang whua whee de wheejeebegudikin vindik ek






Yeah, I do this alone in the dark. And what it is is: it places an edge for the light to follow, and you discover meaning in the absence of context, and you discover the source of meaning before it is contextually located. Don’t ask me what these kinds of words mean. This is how I learn to talk hanging out with these semiotics people. But it’s something like that, you know? And I think people did this for hundreds of thousands of years for each other as a form of performance art long before somebody got the nuts-and-bolts notion that you could connect an action in the world or a linguistic intent to a sound. That we’re just set up for this; these small mouth noises. And it’s tremendously—under the influence of psychedelics, you know, you can make language get up and walk around. I mean, you can literally peel it off the ceiling and set it dancing in your presence.


If any of you have read Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess, he talks in there about what he calls an Ursprache: a visibly beheld language of primal poetry. And he thinks our anxiety has to do with the fact that we have lost the true speech, and that if you speak the true language, the Ursprache, it’s a beheld language. It doesn’t require the conventionalization of dictionaries. You know what you mean. And that the loss of this genetic language is what made us so maladaptive and at unease with ourselves.







I don’t know. I mean, I always go into it with knees knocking, and it’s terrifying to me. I know somebody who says the attitude they take mushrooms with is that each time they pray that they can stand more. And then some people don’t feel that, and say that it’s easy, that it’s silly-cybin. But it isn’t all silly-cybin. I mean, it isn’t all dancing, bunnies, and all that stuff.






Oh, it’s very complex. It’s almost an X-ray of your horoscope, it’s your own expectation, the time can be wrong. I’m convinced that if the time is wrong, you can be a saint and it will shake your teeth out, you know? And yet, what is the wrong time? How do you find it? I used to always throw the I Ching going into it. And if the I Ching said don’t do it, I just wouldn’t do it. There’s psychic weather, there’s low energy, there’s personal anxiety. There’s also even, I think, the state of the collectivity. That, you know, go into it when half the world is on the brink of war, and it’s complex. And it’s getting complex in there because of all this knitting-together stuff.


So it’s delicate. It’s like skin diving or sailing, or one of these things where you have to carefully judge the initial conditions. The initial conditions largely determine the end state. And then this is what shamanism is, is this ability to judge those conditions and call it right.







Yeah, I think that what Ken’s referring to is: in the areas where ayahuasca is a happening thing indigenously, the shamans say that the diet is the real precondition for doing it, and how long you’ve kept this diet. And yeah, I think that shamanism, psychedelically practiced, is the art and science of human physiological transformation, you know? And that by manipulating indoles and manipulating growth hormones and all of these things, a kind of superhuman condition becomes available. And this is what these people figured out in these climaxed rainforests. They had nothing else going. They weren’t into metallurgy. They weren’t into the purification of chemical elements. These other directions that we followed were alien to them. And what they gained was a tremendous facility with natural chemistry and diet: using the human body as the primary retort, the baseline, the alchemical furnace in which all these transformations were going on.


I’m convinced that, in its native setting, ayahuasca is a telepathic drug. I mean, small groups of tribal people are taking this thing, and making group decisions based on group hallucinations based on the collective database of the tribal group. They’re seeing the information from a higher-dimensional space. But this is a kind of telepathy.






Well, we talked a little bit this morning about the relationship of these ideas to death, and how shamans claim that they’re seeing into a world of souls. I don’t know. I find it—the thing which really got me is the presence of these English-speaking entities in the trance. I mean, that I did not expect. From Jung and from Freud you expect residual memories, but not these entities, these beings. And then the question is: where are they? Who are they? Well, the possibilities are fairly limited. They are either dead people—because they are clearly more like people than like animals. They, after all, speak and communicate and have intentionality in a purely intellectual realm. So that means they’re like people. But they’re not like anybody you’ve ever seen. So are they dead people? That’s one possibility. Or are they extraterrestrials? Well, that’s another possibility. But the problem is we’ve never seen an extraterrestrial. We’ve got dead people all over the place. We know of the dead people, but we don’t know if anything survives bodily death. Well then, the other source is: are they from the future? Are they future people? We see people now, so we can extrapolate there must be people in the future. They might be different from us. Perhaps they could come back.


So those are the fairly uncomfortable and limited choices. They’re either an advanced state of humanity, they’re the souls of the dead, or they’re some kind of extraterrestrial dwellers in a parallel continuum. Well now, you’re supposed to generate hypotheses conservatively. That means that the dead lead by a mile, just by logical deduction. So the strangest hypothesis turns out to be the most likely; that these are the souls of the dead, and it’s possible that reincarnation is something where, at a certain point in historical time, we find out about it. We learn literally the secrets of death. This would be big news. It would be quite a surprise to the forward thrust of scientific rationalism, if what it was going to lead to was opening a communication line to the ancestors.






Well, where it’s most enduring, I think, this is how it ends up being done. People do the work on their own, but then they tend to form into circles. This is how I think the serious psychedelic voyaging gets done, because the circle gives people permission and courage. If we had an unbroken cultural tradition, we would be initiated by master shamans. As it is, we’ve had to sort of reinvent the whole of the world’s oldest religion. And we haven’t done that bad a job. I mean, we shouldn’t feel that we have to fault ourselves. The anthropological literature of the world is vast, and if you spend time with it you will know more about these things on a certain level than most people in a traditional culture.


It was very interesting being in the Amazon. You would go with the people and they would show you their plants. And it might come up that would say, “Did you know that the Conibo—who live fifty miles away from you—also use this plant, and they call it X?” And they would just be astonished and say, “How do you know this?” Well, you couldn’t explain that you had read it in a Harvard Museum botanical leaflet. But that was how you knew it. You knew it because you’d done your homework. So what they had was tremendous vertical initiation into one culture. But what you can bring to this that is very useful and respected is a tremendous general knowledge about this. You say, “Well, did you know that in Africa people use this same plant, and they do it like this?” Or, “Did you know that in Indonesia similar practices are going on?”


And so we’ve reconstructed a shamanism. But from then, spending time with ayahuasceros in the Amazon and other kinds of shamans in other places, I really see that it wasn’t as formal as we thought. There are rituals and songs and techniques, but the spirit of shamanism is open-minded and open-ended. And these people are really doing this out of curiosity, to find out.The mythological structures created by any kind of shamanic system are largely for the consumption of the client, not the shaman. The shaman knows that this is all provisional. And what we found with the shamans in the Amazon was great curiosity, great willingness to try out novel concepts, to integrate weird ideas into their own cosmology. Electromagnetism, viruses, computers—they loved all these things because they saw them as metaphors that they could integrate into their visions. The flying saucer is a metaphor like this very strong in the ayahuasca mythology.

Viv, did you want to say something?



Terence, you said earlier today [???] the domain in which we operate lies within our minds. And I’d like to know how that [???] real or not real, all these realities that you’ve been describing with little elves, et cetera, et cetera, is that what’s in your mind, and it’s in English because that a language you’re most familiar with?



Well, I think what I meant when I said the domains in which we operate are all within our minds is that, inside culture, it’s all whatever we say it is. In other words, other than that it’s day and night, nature doesn’t say much to us. We pursue our activities all inside a construct of culture that comes out of language. So that’s what I meant when I said that it’s all within the domain of our minds. I mean, it’s all within the human world, and potentially affected by the human mind. The problem of real and unreal—which is supposed to be a naïve problem—is one I have, too. I think that the real world is so strange that it’s just almost too freakish to suppose.


You know, I quote all the time J. B. S. Haldane, who said the world is not only stranger than we suppose, it’s stranger than we can suppose. This is a tremendous liberation once you grab on to it. It’s really true. I mean, how many of you know that—that it’s really true that the world at any moment could come completely and utterly apart? And have you seen that happen? That’s really what I’m concerned to communicate: is the provisional nature of reality. It does have a certain momentum—and thank god for it, because who could stand it if it were always coming unglued? But on the other hand, if you’re an edge runner, if you keep poking, there are these things that you can do, and then it just springs to pieces. And I don’t say it’s all lies. It doesn’t seem to operate in the domain of truth and lies. It’s just that this is all just such a limited slice to what’s possible.


That was very liberating for me to find out. I remember the first time I smoked DMT, and when I came down they practically had to hogtie me. And all I could say was, “I can’t believe it! I cannot believe it!” And I couldn’t. I still can’t. I mean, the whole impetus for my career is to convince myself that somebody else has seen the same thing, and that they can’t believe it either. Because it’s so weird that it always floats to the top. It always calms down and turns back into this. You know, rooms full of people, sitting, listening. But beneath that is just this really unspeakably bizarre thing—not as we’re told it should be. In fact, as we’re told it isn’t. The one thing they tell you it isn’t, it is! It is! It is made of magic. Anything can happen. I mean, to have elves by the thousands pouring into your apartment—what is a person to do with that? You know?


Because it’s that what happens is that, in a single moment, in the privacy of your own reality, it’s revealed to you that all of history is a mistake, a delusion, a horrible misunderstanding. But you’re given no evidence, only the conviction that this is so. And then you’re set down among your fellows, and they don’t know what you’re talking about, can’t understand why you’ve become so agitated and addled. And I think this is what we all, as psychedelic people, live with. And we suspect each other. We can’t be sure that anybody has ever really seen the true naked heart of the stone but ourselves. And so then it’s this tremendous catalyst to language to try and build metaphors, to try and get the nod of recognition so that we are satisfied.






It is the real world.



I mean in the so-called real world. [???]



Well, it’s more brightly colored. It’s moving faster.






Why is it so brightly colored? Why is it moving faster? What I’ve noticed in my DMT experiences—and when I realized this it was with a certain amount of horror—was: you break into this space. It’s dome-like, it’s warm, it’s diffusely lit. There are all these self-transforming machine elves and their toys, which also are singing and condensing and making objects, and so forth and so on. The whole thing triggers just wonder; cascades of wonder.


But then I realized, after seeing this several times and trying to pay attention and hold my mind steady, that this is someone’s idea of a reassuring environment for human beings. It is, in fact, literally a playpen of some sort. Well, that means that I’m not seeing who’s ever on the other side, I am emerging into an artificial construct of some sort, entirely their creation. Well then, it just begins to lift this veil, and this howling begins, and you just begin to fall forward into it, and you realize it is the Sefirot and the [???], is the howling between the worlds—but is approached through an infinite number of veils that reassure, coddle, control, confine. You can move toward it as fast as you dare, but it is entirely transforming and entirely real.


It was a great realization for me to understand that there was no limit to how far you could go; that we all make a certain choice. Once you discover psychedelics, always before that, spiritual progress is ungh, you know? Gruntwork. Suddenly, you’re standing on ice cubes in terms of spiritual progress and how you make it. How do you control it? The answer is: most people go a certain distance and then give up, get off, stand there and talk about it. But there’s nothing holding any of us back from becoming unrecognizable not only to our friends and loved ones, but to ourselves.


You know the stories told of the Taoist guy up on cold mountain, and he’s been up there 25 years, and occasionally see him—and yes, he’s still alive? Well, any one of us could become that person, could march off into a dimension of magical narcissism so alien to the concerns of other people that we would have to go and live up on the crags and in the mist, and eat bird nests or whatever they do up there, you know?


Well, so then that puts a whole different light on the spiritual quest, because it means that we’re holding it back rather than lashing it forward to ever greater exertion. And I think that’s the proper attitude, because the depth of spirit is infinite, and in its benevolence towards suffering humanity it has made itself available in infinite amounts. So then it’s for us to somehow come to terms with this. It’s like having a living religion—it is having a living religion, because it’s having an infinite source of gnosis, of understanding, available.







Well, it teaches you to sit still, which is a precondition for psychedelics. I mean, you know, keeping still is one of the hexagrams of the I Ching. People often ask the question you asked, or in slightly different forms they say, “Well, isn’t there another way to get there? Is it so narrow? Is it so specific to these plants?” And the truth is: I don’t know. I’m not an expert. All I know is based on my experience. In my experience, these things can only be approached [audio cut] and who would want to approach them any other way? I mean, we don’t want this to become so generalized that, by closing your eyes and ripping off a few om tat sats you fall into the kind of states I’m talking about. I mean, that would be extremely unwelcome and nearly pathological.


I don’t understand this problem with how you achieve it. To my mind, obviously you can’t do it by yourself. Obviously you can’t do it on the natch, because it’s a meeting with another entity. There has to be an other, and it has to be objectified—even if it’s as a plant or a mushroom. So basically, how I read these meditation texts is: they teach you about psychological phenomena. They teach you what you may see when you close your eyes and sit for days and watch. The thing about meditation (in my own experience) is that it’s just tremendously boring. However, everything you’re doing will be very useful to you when you take a psychedelic. Then it works. Then there is this flow of imagery.


I am maybe a very lumpen person. But that’s alright, because a lot of us are lumpen. And I wish to speak for that slice. There may be supreme aesthetes balanced on such razor’s edge of metabolic peculiarity that, at every moment, they are at one with the mystery. But that butters no bread for the rest of us, you know? We’re trying to create a kind of democratic consensus here about this stuff. And it seems to me the plants were put there for this purpose. And they achieve it so easily. I mean, I practiced yoga at times in the past, and had some amount of success with triggering exotic states. Difficult and time consuming. And then they always told you that wasn’t what it was about anyway, and you were becoming distracted by phenomena. Well, why bridle, then, at just chowing down on five grams of mushrooms with the knowledge that you’ll be fine in twelve hours?


So it’s really a matter of using the tools. There are all kinds of altered states, weird states, states of sexual abstinence, and states of various kinds of agitation, and this and that. But what I’m interested is just this very specific set of phenomena, and I don’t really make any claim for it; to say this is the spiritual path. I don’t say that. What I say is: this is the most interesting thing around. But it’s very specific. For instance, I don’t like drugs which mess with your mind—in the sense of that distort your value-assessing ability. The drug which comes to mind is ketamine. Ketamine is an extremely powerful synthetic drug that creates an experience which, if you haven’t had ketamine, you don’t know what this experience is. It’s that specific to it. But, hell—the house could burn down around you, and it would arrive as an unconfirmable rumor on the dark side of your metaphysical imagination with this stuff. I mean, you would never lift a hair, it would never enter your mind that there was a problem. Datura is like this, too. Datura severely distorts reality. The day I knew that my experiments with datura had come to an end was one day in Nepal. I was talking to a friend of mine in the market about his datura experiments, and how much he’d been taking recently. And in the course of the conversation it came out that he thought we were in his apartment. And I [audio cut] this poor sap that there had been severe degradation of core information processing, and that we had to get back on the wagon or we weren’t going to get out of there.


But so, then, let me describe for a moment the state of mind on DMT is: if you keep your—there is a tendency to give way to absolute astonishment. But if you can hold that back and pay very close attention to what’s going on, you will discover that it didn’t do anything to you. That here you are, suddenly in the midst of a raging universe of hallucination, and you are you. And you are who you were before. And it has not in any way inflated, repressed, suppressed, distorted, or skewed anything. You’re just saying, “Aha. Wow! Mmh. I’m really smashed.” The input is reaching overload. But there must be this core observer who’s never overwhelmed. And this persists with most of the tryptamines.


Now, sometimes it is overwhelmed. But when it’s overwhelmed it’s the last thing to be overwhelmed, and the first thing to pop back into existence at the end of the period of overwhelment. So sometimes on ayahuasca you just lose it for a period of time—twenty minutes or something—but then you reconstruct, and you’re there like a little cork popping up to the top of the ocean and saying, “Oh, here I am. It’s me again.” So this is very important to be able to observe. With DMT, the reason it’s so fascinating is because the input, the content, seems to be almost entirely confined to the visual cortex. It’s something that you look at, and it comes toward you, and it relates to you. There is a weird distortion of body image, but it’s small potatoes compared to most of what’s [audio cut] and you can dive out relationship.


So my tastes may be narrower than some people’s. Some people just like to get fucked up, and they go one way, and then another, and a few reds, and a shot of this, and a hit of that, and… yeah?






They could be. They’re demonic. They’ve never done anything bad to me. It’s their humor. It’s like being trapped in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I mean, we all know how funny a Bugs Bunny cartoon is, but have you noticed that the humor is all based on explosions, falling anvils, and agony? And so imagine if you were actually in a Bugs Bunny cartoon! You know? I mean, it’s a parody of that situation.


I don’t know. The vibe of these creatures is very strange. They’re knowledge-holders. Like, I’ve often thought that what they were was meme traders, because they had the same feeling that I associated with the Indian hashish traders. They’re meme traders. They are—when they spread out all this stuff in front of you, and they’re saying, “Look at this! Look at this!” These marvelous jeweled objects, these are things they are selling. They want to trade. They’re asking, “What’ve you got? What can you show us? Your Rolex? Your fountain pen? Your political beliefs? Your sexual orientation? What do you want to trade?” And so they’re sort of like cosmic pack rats. You know, pack rats will take something, but they always leave something? Have you ever dealt with pack rats? Oh, pack rats are fascinating, because if one finds you, it will leave an object in trade for whatever it takes. And the trick [audio cut] you also give it a paperclip, it gives you a fountain pen. And there are stories in the gold country of Colorado and California of people having relationships with pack rats where they were trading its thumbtacks and it was bringing them gold nuggets until, you know, they had enough gold nuggets that they could leave off trading with varmints and get a life.







Do psychedelics always make people kinder and gentler? Do they make us kinder and gentler? Well, it’s an interesting question. I mean, as I get older, I ask it slightly differently of myself. I ask the question: if this stuff is so great, what is so great about us that we’re any different from anybody else? Or are we just like holy rollers and Taoists and Hasidic Jews and everybody else who thinks they’ve found the final answer? What is so great about it?


The answer to your question is: I don’t think so. I think of the Yanomami culture: certainly from the exterior, this looks like a fairly brutal culture. It’s the only culture where DMT is a regularly abused drug. And the men blast it up each other’s nostrils with these hollow tubes. And then the name of the game is: two guys square off, and you plant your feet flat on the ground, and the guy who goes first hits the other guy as hard as he can with the flat of his palm in the chest. And the game is to knock the person over. So you absorb this blow, and then it’s your turn. And you get up, and you do it. And these two guys [???] alive and to the four winds will stand and do this until somebody is knocked off their pins.


Well, so then you ask them: what’s going on here? Is this like the Superbowl? Is this fun for you guys? And they explain that they have demons that live in their chest, and they collect these demons on their psychedelic trips. And the more demons you have, the harder it is to knock you over. So they’re doing this thing. But they’re also lacerating each other with clubs and this sort of thing.


I think that it’s fouled up. I have the faith that if you have psychedelic religious ritual in combination with group sex in a small tribal group whose economy is based on nomadic pastoralism, that then it will be very, very hard for these people to maintain a neurotic lifestyle. But that if you interfere with any of this, then you’ll get anxiety. And so you have psychedelic cultures. But the Yanomamo, this is the culture of male dominance and sexual anxiety and a lot of tweaked stuff. But I think that the main thing is to be—that the cultural group must take the psychedelic frequently enough that the ego does not form. And that the specific manifestation of ego that you want to watch out for is concern for male paternity: that once it’s gone that far it’s lost, because then there’s male–male rivalry for women and territory.







I remember that article.






The Celtic faith—or The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. Well, it would be very interesting to prove psilocybin use in ancient Ireland. The people who have been to places like Ionia and like that say they’re just overrun with mushrooms. And yet, it’s not explicit in any Celtic source. There’s a lot of psilocybe in Europe. I mean, I was surprised. I thought that it occurred rarely. And so you could make the argument that it was possibly there. But last year, when I did a speaking tour of Germany, and we were from Hamburg clear down to Munich and into Switzerland, everywhere there were mushrooms. And we would talk like we’re talking here, and then have lunch recess, and people would come back two hours later with small grocery bags full of these things.


Well, I don’t understand the peculiar—there must be something we don’t quite grok about why the mushroom image is taboo. Maybe because it looks like a penis, but that doesn’t really sound right to me. But why is it so rarely portrayed in all these areas where it must’ve been used? For instance, in the northwest coast of Oregon and Washington there are something like 22 indigenous species of psilocibe. No anthropological record of mushroom use by the northwest coast Indians—who were clearly paying attention. I mean, when you look at their carving and painting they were paying attention. Where is the record of the mushroom use? In ancient Ireland—and throughout the Celtic area into Germany and Bohemia—no visible use of [audio cut] in the old Europe that [???] talks about, again, prohibition of the image.


So this is puzzling. Not easy to understand. I would like to believe that in Africa 15,000 years ago the primary religion of humanity was goddess-worshiping pastoralism based on sacramental use of mushrooms. But again, the physical evidence is just a few petroglyphs—drawings on stone. And it isn’t a strongly proven case, so it’s not well understood. It’s hard to believe that the Irish weren’t mixed up in this somehow. I mean, it seems so basic to the Irish soul.




How many grams of mushrooms do you recommend taking?



Five dried grams. And you should weigh it. You should invest in a little scale and weight it. Because people eyeball it, and they inevitably choose much less than is the correct amount. And if you’re taking fresh mushrooms, you should take like sixty grams, you know, because it dries down by a factor of more than nine-to-one.






Cubensis. We’re always talking about stropharia cubensis, because that’s the one people cultivate. Some of the wild ones are stronger, can be taken in smaller amounts. But I think it’s good to take stropharia cubensis, because then you know what you’re getting. Because, you know, some of these small psilocybes look physically very much like galeorhinus species that have irreversible liver destructive toxins in them. So if you eat a galeorhinae, you’ll have a very bad experience—or maybe a very good experience, but none of us will ever know.






Well, this is a very controversial mushroom [???]. You all know this mushroom? The red one with the white dots on top of it? The toadstool of European mythology. It’s used in Siberia and places like that as an intoxicant. And Gordon Wasson thought that it was the basis of soma. But it now looks like it probably isn’t the basis of soma, and that it’s very variable—seasonably variable, geographically variable, genetically variable. So you never know what you’re going to get. It’s very hard to obtain a reliable, desirable intoxication from that mushroom. It’s another one of these—there are a lot of these things that are sickening, and distorting, and that after you’ve gone through a night with them you feel reborn because you’re so damn glad you lived through it. But they’re not really psychedelic, you know?

Any other que—?






Oh yeah. What about it?



[???] just because they’re dead, it doesn’t mean they’re smart. [???]



An IQ test to your ancestors?






Well, that’s great. We’ve needed that for a long time! Just the simple test for grammatical correctness would eliminate….



[???] When you take a psychedelic that powerful [???], you make sure you put yourself in a situation where you don’t have to worry about your physical surrounding [???].



True, but the thing that I noticed about ketamine is: the first thing that happens is you stop worrying. The very first thing, before there’s any manifestation of any symptom whatever, you go kind of, “Oh, what the hell!” And that’s the [audio cut] but you’re not paying attention like you should.



[???] scared that I was dying. [???]



Well, I think it also depends on the dose. How much did you do?






Yeah. Well, see, I didn’t do it that many times, and each time I did it quite a bit. And it was reality-obliterating for sure. I’ve noticed that people who get into ketamine tend to dose downward rather than upward; tend to settle in somewhere around 50. And this is probably—I shouldn’t even be speaking about it, because I don’t know what 50 is like. I know what 150 is like.






With the DMT, the main thing is: at first you think, “My god, how could anyone ever retain or remember any of this?” But it’s really that you have to learn to control your own astonishment; that it’s like having a heart attack of wonder. And after you’ve had the experience three or four times, you just learn to be cool and say, “I am not going to give way to a bunch of exclamations about how amazing this is.” And they tell you to do that. They say: “Don’t start raving about how amazing it is! Pay attention to what we’re doing. We know that you’re blown out. We know that you’re amazed. Yes, yes. Now pay attention to this.” And then they try to convey this linguistic thing, this visible language.


And I don’t understand what this is all about. Has this always been what they’ve tried to convey? Is the message always the same? Is there a new urgency about visible language? Or is it—how much of the message is already present in me? Is it a message tailored for me? Like this question of whether or not these things are ancestors. Then you get into questions like: what ancestors are they? Like, I do not feel when I break into the DMT space that this is my dead mother or my grandparents. I feel that it’s more, that it’s just sort of local spirits.



[???] self-transforming machine elves [???]



Yes. Who would’ve thought? A little white-haired old lady. And then sometimes I think that the reason it’s so hair-raising is because the chief soul in this weird place is actually your soul, and that the hair-raising aspect is: it’s not just any dead person, or a dead relative, it’s you dead. And that’s the one thing that causes the whole thing to shimmy and fall apart and go into a tailspin of cognitive dissonance—when you realize that the entity you’re dealing with is yourself beyond the grave, then you just flood out in the amazement, wonder, horror, and disbelief department, and lose the focus and come down.

Back here.






Small people.






Well, five grams is what I think would destroy most of the resistances of 145-pound person. A person who weighed 90 pounds could take far less. But a person who weighed 90 pounds who took five grams should be in no physical danger. You can play with it. But at higher doses it gets stranger and stranger and stranger and stranger. I mean, anything above eight, you’re definitely a pioneer as far as I’m concerned. But it’s a good point. If you weigh 90 pounds, you maybe don’t want to chow down on five grams [audio cut] to do more rather than less, because otherwise you can miss the point, you know?






Yeah, well, I think where the trouble comes is in the sub-threshold doses where you’re neither fish nor fowl, and you’re thrashing around in it, and you get into these loops of abrasive psychological self-examination and stuff like that. And what you want to do is you just want to blast through all that. It’s hard.



Can you sing through that?



Yeah, you can sing through that.






Yeah. Singing and cannabis are my techniques, and together seem to be able to move it around.






Oh, well, for me—I mean, you have to understand I’m a double Scorpio and a kind of reclusive type anyway. The reason I don’t particularly like tripping with people is because I just worry. I’m a worrier. And if I’m stoned and somebody else is stoned, then I worry, and I listen to their breathing, and I wonder, and I wonder how they’re doing, and I wonder if I should ask how they’re doing. I just lose all spontaneity and I become completely the victim of my imagined concern for this other person. And then the other thing that happens is: people are the weirdest objects in the universe. And if you’re stoned and you come upon another person stoned, they can just unleash something you could never have imagined or conceived of.


I remember—I think I learned this lesson the hard way in India, but years ago once, at Sarnath. And it happened many times, but this was typical. Sarnath is the place where the Buddha taught his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. He walked from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath. So I took mescaline there with these two women who were friends of mine, and it’s all nicely green and sculpted, and we were sitting there under a tree. And I swear, 500 yards away there were these two Indian guys walking across my field of vision, and I was sitting there, and I was loaded, and I was watching the traceries. And then I looked out across my field of vision and I saw these two Indian guys stop dead in the center of my field of vision. And then they said something to each other, and then they turned ninety degrees, so they were now facing me, and they began walking toward me. And I was horrified. And I looked down. I was so horrified that I said, “I can’t believe this is happening. I refuse to believe this is happening. I will just look at the ground in front of me, like this.” So I started looking at the ground in front of me, and I looked and looked and looked until two pairs of brown feet appeared in my field of vision. And then I looked up at these guys, and they had caught the vibe, and they wanted to know what was going on. And several experiences like this caused me to believe that you should really bury it deep before you take it into public.


The other thing I’ve noticed is: if you’re stoned in a confined space, there’s a certain amount of control of synchronicity. I mean, there’s rustling in the corners and batting at the windows and so forth, but this you can handle. But if you take it out into public—god! It’s just absolutely uncontrollable. I mean, you could be struck by a meteorite. You could be abducted by extraterrestrials. A safe could fall on you! Anything could happen. Because the statistical disruption of ordinary probability is so great.






[???] Oh, I remember what I said. I looked up and I said, “I cannot be interrogated.” It was good, but it didn’t work. They say, “How long have you been in this place? You’re coming from which place?” No, what I found in India was: people were telepathic, but it didn’t make them like you any better. It just gave them a fantastic kind of in.


But I think group psychedelic taking is very promising, and people who can do it—groups that can do it—and stick with it over years log amazing experiences. But it’s very hard, because what immediately emerges if you have a group of people doing this stuff is: it will veer off in some weird direction. One person will get a “funny idea,” and then the funny idea, everybody polarizes for and against the funny idea. And then they have to decide: well, so-and-so is losing their mind, they’re in too deep. But they say: no, no, this is the answer, and we’re building…! And quickly cognitive dissonance builds up, and it’s very, very hard. I have a correspondent in the Midwest. A group of psychiatrists who, over six years, took mushrooms once a month together. And they went through amazing contortions of wife-trading and not speaking and speaking and denouncing and abrasing. Because it just unleashes this stuff, and then it crawls around. So I prefer to do it by myself, and then get all combed and pinned back together before I present myself to the troops in the morning, because in the hype of the thing you could proclaim anything.






It’s hard to anticipate. The way the mushroom works is: it reads you perfectly, much better than you can read yourself. And then it comes at you with the one thing that you are vulnerable to. Because it knows you like an open book, and can lead you practically any direction that it wants. But I think group work is interesting and should be pursued. And couple work is very interesting and should be pursued. I’m very conservative. I mean, my approach to it is: I basically turn it on, and then I back off and watch. That’s all I ever do. And I’ve seen—I don’t have the magical mentality. I don’t want to get something, or take control of someone or a situation for good or ill. But people who do make great progress in all of these areas. People who want to design electronic circuits or play Bach on the piano. But I don’t do anything. I’m interested kind of in the essence of the thing—what it is; the Ding an sich, the “thing in itself.” And that’s why I don’t listen to music. This horrifies some people. They say, “You don’t listen to music?” No. I mean, I have listened to music. I know what it does to music. It makes it the best thing in the world. But without music it also can do that. And so I sit in silent darkness. And I maintain that’s where the essence of the thing is. Then it’s not colored by sound or light or expectation. I’m trying to see beyond the mask and see what this thing is in itself, for itself.

Anybody else? Anything else?



What about food?



You mean in terms of in the proximity to the trip? A lot of people like to fast. I don’t particularly say you should fast, I just say you should have an empty stomach—five hours without eating is good. You should just be cleaned out, you know? Bring a certain amount of attention and respect to it, and it’s very, very kind to beginners. The complexity comes later, in the unfolding of the kinks of the personality. But I think it’s very gentle to beginners.






You mean actually what does it consist of? It’s no sugar, no alcohol, no salt, sexual abstinence. It’s basically a diet of manihot and certain fish, and I don’t think many greens. Is that it, Ken?






Bananas. Plantanos. It’s probably—analyzed nutritionally—it’s probably a serotonin-loaded diet, because of the large amount of plantanos in it. But it’s a bland diet. It’s just setting you up to be sensitive, I think, to the uptake of the alkaloids.






That’s an MAO-inhibiting—yes, ayahuasca works through inhibition of MAO. Good point. You see, normally DMT would be destroyed in the gut. But if you inhibit monoamine oxidase somehow, then it passes through the gut, and is absorbed and passes into the blood. This was not known by Western pharmacology until the mid 1950s. But it’s always been known in the Amazon. So the strategy—you see, what ayahuasca is really is a slow-release DMT trip where you take a plant that contains DMT, and you combine it with an MAO-inhibitor. And then, when you take these together, the DMT slowly releases and you get the equivalent of a DMT flash, but stretched out over about an hour and a half. And so you can watch it more carefully.


And some people say that I overstress the visual side of things, but all kinds of things go on on psychedelic drugs—insights, conceptual breakthroughs, weird distortions of body image and this sort of thing. And this is all true. But to my mind the visual thing is the most striking, because it is so other. It is so highly organized, so demonstrably the product of intelligence. I mean, it’s not a feeling, some weird feeling—nausea or sub-threshold poisoning or all of these things. These are feelings. But it’s simply the release of understanding, and somehow visually processed understanding.







Yes. Well, that’s the other possibility. Carl Jung had this wonderful phrase in talking about elves and fairies. And he said, “Autonomous psychic components escape from the ego’s control and present themselves as independent beings.” Well, that’s just a description of a pretty twisted-around state of mind. It’s the idea that you see the self in the mirror, and then you bring the mirror down and shatter it, and suddenly there are hundreds of selves—each fragment of the mirror reflects a self. This would be a conservative theory of what these things are, except that they don’t look very much like the self. The shock in DMT is: if this is myself, then I don’t know who I am.


But yeah, one thing I’ve thought of in an effort to explain it is that they are fractally parts of the personality. That an elf is—you know, you put ten elves together and you have a personality, or something like that. And so these elves are literally autonomous psychic components that have broken free from the control of the ego. We say we’ve fallen to pieces, always talking about the psychedelic as a boundary-dissolver. Well, maybe what happens when you smoke DMT is the boundary dissolves so quickly that you can say of the situation: that’s me all over. Because you’re literally bouncing off the walls and visible to yourself. The illusion that you are stitched together within a body has been shattered, and you’re several and multiple personality components are jumping around the room.


I think the most extreme case of that that I ever saw was: I used to smoke—I don’t recommend this—but in my vanished youth I used to smoke DMT, and I smoked the DMT, and it was wild. It went on for a long, long time, and it was very intense anyway. And suddenly, right in the middle of this trip, this woman came back from Easter vacation, came charging up onto the front porch of this house, and threw open the front door, and ran into my bedroom door, and started beating on my door furiously. Well, being a double Scorpio and secretive anyway, I just had a heart attack, and I jumped off the bed right out of this DMT flash. I jumped out and I landed on my feet in the middle of this room, and something about moving so suddenly had, like, shattered the distinction between the two continua, and I carried it all into the room with me. And so the room was then filled with elves, and they were hanging off my arms and spinning me around, and there was this geometric object in the room that was spinning and clicking. And every time it would click, it would hurl a plastic chit across the room that had a letter in an alien language written on it. And these elves were screaming and bouncing off the walls, this machine was spinning in the air, these chits were ricocheting off the walls, and I was trying to deal with Rosemary in the middle of this. And it was a too-muchness. It was a case of seeing too deeply into it. And you have too many of those stacked up, and then you become reluctant. And this is why I’m very cautious with it.


The notion of having enough hutzpah or will or something to want to try and use this stuff—I can hardly imagine using it. I mean, every time I encounter it, my wish is to not be destroyed by it. And the idea of using it for anything just seems like blasphemy, you know? And probably is blasphemy. It’s probably a good way to get cut down to size.







Well, no. That’s the basic notion that somehow our future lies in our past. And shamanism—well, the particular path that I wanted to concentrate on was this period of time after the melting of the last glacier 20,000 years ago. And for the 10,000 years following that, when there were pastoral populations in Africa, and leaving Africa, that had ecological balance and this shamanic doorway to nature. See, at every—oh, the computer’s in here—at every glaciation human populations were bottled up in Africa during the time when the ice pack was thick. Nobody was getting out. But only the last time was pastoralism developed in the intervening period. So it was 20,000 years ago, those people leaving Africa were herders of domesticated cattle, and all previous radiations out of Africa had been hunter-gatherers.






Yeah. The Minoan civilization. See, Çatalhöyük ended in 6500 BC, but what’s interesting is: this is when you get the earliest Minoan settlements. And they carry the pottery motifs and building styles of central Anatolia to Crete. So it appears that what happened was: Çatalhöyük was like the last outpost of this goddess culture, and when these wheeled chariot Indo-European folks came down, the survivors of that actually went to Crete, and Crete became this weird institutionalized backwater where literally, for three millennia, the fossilized social forms of the previous matrilineal society were kept intact while, on Asia Minor, on the mainland, it all became about kingship, male lines of descent, and all that. It wasn’t actually until that turning point at the top of the wave in 980 BC that the last vestiges of this goddess culture were crushed in Crete. And even then, you see, the strain of deep psychedelic mysticism that enters Greek religion is all imported from Crete. The northern Thracian strain in Greek religion is rational and airy and oriented toward physical space. But out of Crete came rites 3,000–5,000 years old. And it was always said, even up into classical times, that the rites that were celebrated in secret at Eleusis were celebrated openly at Herakleion and Gnosis. So that’s the connection.


My fantasy about all this is, you see: Çatalhöyük represents such an advanced civilization over anything else existing, and it can be traced back a 1,000 years to Jericho. The people who built Jericho built a round tower there that was the absolute glory of the engineering world of 8000 BC, and it was a grain storage tower. But then these Jericho people—it’s hard to trace where they came from. What I think happened is that, when you look at the stratigraphy of the Nile valley, you discover that actually there weren’t people in the Nile valley much before 10,500 BC. Then, suddenly, these people appear who are called Natufian, and they build under the overhanging lips of cliffs and have a certain style of fetal burial in a honey pot, and certain other characteristics. Natufian: they appear out of nowhere. Well, anybody who’s studied them has wanted to connect them to the culture of old Europe that Marija Gimbutas talks about, simply based on the fact that they were so culturally advanced that the bias of all these scholars is to say: well, they must’ve come from the Balkans. But when you look at them as a cultural horizon, you see, to my mind, that they are unmistakably African. And that when you go to the Tassili Plateau in southern Algeria, you find the same style of building of living under the lips of caves, and the same coarse-grained pottery called Sudaneseware. The pottery, the animal motifs, the fixation on the vulture, the jackal, and the cow—these are all African animals—that occur at Çatal seems to suggest that there was actually a sweep of African civilization out of Africa into the Middle East around 10,000 BC. These people built Jericho a thousand years after that, and settled southern Anatolia a thousand years after that.


Well, what this suggests, then, is that you could go out to the Tassili Plateau with sufficient resources and conduct an archeological survey, and the ultimate payoff in this fantasy is that you would unearth the archaeological equivalent of Eden. In other words, you would discover the Ur-spot from which the Çatal civilization came; the site of this mushroom-using, goddess-cattle civilization. And when you read the accounts of the Tassili Plateau, there’s every reason to think that this strategy would work. It’s a windswept sandstone escarpment. And Henri Lhote (who did the preliminary exploration out there) said that, in these arroyos where the sand has been cleared away by the wind, there would be neolithic stone chippings and detritus sometimes up to half a meter thick, indicating thousands and thousands of years of continuous habitation when this was all green. There is an enormous unexcavated tell out there that has never been dated that is just carried on the archeological surveys as “presumed pre-Islamic.” It’s enormous.


So digging out there might be a very useful thing to do. It’s from that area that we get these 9,000-year-old images of shamans with mushrooms sprouting out of their bodies, shamans carrying mushrooms over their heads and running in long chains with strange geometric motifs trailing along beside them. So it would be a kind of recovery. I think archaeology will play a big role in the archaic revival; that part of our cultural dilemma and our political infantilism comes from the fact that we don’t know any history, so we’re easily led. And we don’t even really understand the history of the twentieth century. I mean, you know, you ask somebody who Joseph Goebbels was, and they think he served in the Nixon cabinet. I mean, so—hardly to speak of who was Suleiman the Magnificent, and just exactly what was Frederick Barbarossa’s role in European history, and so forth and so on. But recovering this is like waking up, gaining control. And I said yesterday: it’s only been 1,500 generations of people that have walked us into this dilemma.


But the archaic revival is a huge paradigm shift. You can imagine—remember the example I gave about the shift from the Medieval to the Renaissance, which really was a giving up of the universal power of the church, the philosophical certitude of giving your allegiance to the Holy Father in Rome, and setting out into the pure existential universe. I mean, Marsilio Ficino said man is to be the measure of all things. Well, this sounds like old hat in 1990. But in 1480 this was such a dizzying notion that it can hardly be imagined. You know, Giordano Bruno went to the stake, was burned at the stake, for insisting that the universe was infinite in all directions. He said: no, the stars and planets go on to infinity. And they just said this was off the wall. Only a demon could inspire a thought like this.


But the transition that we’re asked to make—that was a transition, you see, from the certitude of dogma to secular existentialism. The transition that we’re being asked to make is somewhat similar, but to my mind deeper, more challenging, more profound. It’s the shift from scientific certitude to a complete embracing of non-closure, to actually begin—it’s a kind of maturity. You know, what we’re being asked to do is to grow up and realize that there ain’t no free lunch, there aren’t always happy endings, note very story ends with the German shepherd running in and licking grandpa’s face and everybody laughing, and so forth and so on. You know, hard truths. And this lack of closure thing—I mean, I feel it in myself, and I assume, you know, that ontogeny recapitulates and so forth—so that the struggle to become a real human being is the struggle to give up having it actually make any sense, ultimately. Where I think it was, of all people, Robert Frost who said that the secret of a happy life is learning to enjoy people you don’t approve of. Well, you know, what that means is: you’re surrendering to life. You’re just saying: it’s bigger than I am. I may not like drag queens, but there they are, and I should get used to it. I should make the adjustment. This kind of thing. In other words, recognizing the complexity of the situation.


And science has been like a centuries-long bender to exorcise precisely this kind of uncertainty from life, and to reduce it all to atoms blindly running under the control of mathematically describable fields of force. The problem is all the higher-order phenomena—sociological, political, aesthetic, human organizational—got shoved off to one side, and just sort of festered there for a long time while technology perfected itself, mass-production, mass media, information transfer. But the human dimension lagged. And now there is this tremendous imbalance between the technological descriptive power of the culture and its moral and ethical power to direct itself toward any kind of rational goal.


Well, when this happens in a society (or even in a personality; you know, you can sort of make a Jungian model of this), you get what’s called compensatory phenomena—or at least that’s what it used to be called. It means eruptions of material from the unconscious that is organized and constellated like a message, like an attention-claiming thing. In a personality it ruptures as a symptom. It may be an attention-getting symptom to then bring other people to the care-giving loop or something like that. In a society like our own—a scientific society—it takes the form of the irrational: the irrational appearing in strange forms.


A good example of this in the past is the birth of Christianity in the center of the late Roman Empire, or the early middle Roman Empire, where the people who were administering the world at that time were Romans educated by Greeks who were epicurean atomists, not Platonists, not followers of Heraclitus or Pythagoras or any of the flashy folks we’re into. They were democratean atomists, rationalists, materialists. It would’ve been very comfortable in a modern chemical engineering company. And they could not conceive that the irrational could hold any threat to their world. Meanwhile, they had dark-skinned servants in the kitchens and in the gardens: Jews, Greeks, Phoenicians, people brought from the eastern Mediterranean. And among these people—specifically the Jews—this rumor began to tear loose about a Galilean politician who had somehow tweaked the Romans and been risen from the dead. Well, any Roman administrator listening to his illiterate cook or gardener babble out this story would just think: these folks is gettin’ stranger every day! But what was actually happening was: a message was being enunciated which, within fifty years, would be hammering at the gate—well, make it ninety years—would be hammering at the gates of Rome with all the power of an invading army.


In a similar way, the kinds of eruptions from the unconscious that characterize the twentieth century are trying to serve a similar function. The—well, I don’t know where you want to put it, but for instance the eruption of the beast man in the episodes of persecution that happened in Europe during the twentieth century—persecution of Jews and gypsies and Slavs—this was tremendously shocking to the sensibilities of so-called civilized people. Because people said: my god, we thought that ended with Frederick Barbarossa, or we thought that ended with Nero. How can twentieth-century people, the neatly clipped and manicured cities of prosperous intellectual Germany, how could it spawn a thing like this? Well, the answers are complex and multi-leveled, but from a very broad perspective, what is happening is: the unconscious is erupting into history, leaping onto the stage of history, claiming the undivided attention of people in a way that surrealism—which was a limp-wristed artistic movement by comparison to fascism—never could.


Similarly, you get that under control, the beast is supposedly suppressed—by making, notice, a pact with a greater beast—that a demon can be summoned from the heart of matter with the purpose of wasting the cities of Germany. But then it arrives too late for that, but then it’s good for the Japanese. So it’s this opera about how evil begets greater evil, and people are reaching for ever-greater weapons.


Then the intrusion of the atomic bomb into history sort of halts that cycle. Everyone stands back and goes for a middle-class existence, and suddenly the skies of the planet are filled with the craft of meddling extraterrestrials who are obligingly dying in the desert and turning up on blocks of ice for Eisenhower to inspect, and this whole crazy story.


Well, clearly what this is is: the unconscious will not go away in the twentieth century. Now the wheat fields of England lay down in hieroglyphic patterns to try and shake awake the dreaming primates. It’s as though the whole of nature is infused with a linguistic intent to communicate. I mean, I think this is one of the things you learn on psychedelics: that everything has a story, everything has a lesson. And it’s not abstract or remote or removed. I mean, to the degree that you can hold your ego aside, nature can teach you almost anything you want to know. I mean, you can learn hydrology by staring into a mud puddle, you know? I mean, it is all happening right there. But ego is a very subtly interfering factor.


I always think, in my own experience at one time in the Amazon, when I was at my most illuminated, I could walk into the jungle and invite butterflies to come down and settle on my outstretched hands, like St. Francis of Assisi, you know? And I would do this, and it would bring tears of joy and affirmation to my eyes. And then it would go on and on, and the tears of joy and affirmation would clear from my eyes. And in the midst of this pure, unadulterated ecstasy a tiny thought would form, which was: wouldn’t it be nice to show this to somebody else so they could see how great I am? So then [audio cut] I scurry back to the camp, gather up a skeptical colleague, bring them back to the clearing, and march out into the clearing with outstretched hands, to just have nothing happen, except people just turn away and just… my god, you know, what an embarrassment you’ve become! That it’s all going to end like this. Better you should be eaten by termites. It’s a better story.


So, you know, it’s weird. Tao is like that. You can’t push it, you can’t use it. Somebody asked me once: was I worried that the mushroom could be used for evil somehow? And actually, early on, this occurred to me, and I put it to the mushroom. And it basically said: you can’t grasp it. It isn’t even there if you have wrong intent. You can’t even perceive it. It’s very selective. And it must be so, because one of the puzzles for me (being in the communication business) is how it spreads, how the tree of information spreads, where it’s tolerated, where it’s repressed, where it’s embraced. It’s very interesting.


You may have noticed mushrooms get extraordinary good press or none at all. Even in the height of drug war hysteria, the image of mushrooms is largely neutral: unformed in any direction, otherwise viewed as rather comical, harmless, humorous. It is somehow hardwired into our consciousness, connected into an archetype that we are inherently friendly toward as primates. Probably this has to do with this deep food programming that went on for a long, long time. We literally cannot bite the hand that feeds us, so we have a kind of intellectual blind spot to this. Nevertheless, of course, it is a highly repressed schedule 1 drug, viewed in the same category as heroin, cocaine, and what have you. This is because it has “no recognized medical application,” you know? I don’t know. Depends on what you think of as mental health. I would argue that it’s an enzyme for the imagination without which—as the sign says on the blackboard—you’re not yourself. I don’t know who wrote that up there, but they must have heard an old, old tape of mine. This was a graffiti on a wall in Cali in Colombia. Without this you are not yourself-elf. The elf, the self.

Part 3



Well, this is sort of—I regard this as the freebie lecture that you could sit out if you had a massage, because it’s just sort of something which I discovered (is one way of putting it) or dreamed up (is another). And if nothing else, it demonstrates the slippery nature of ideas. And I—depending on the audience I’m talking to—I present it different ways. Like, sometimes I present it as god’s truth. And then, like in Austria at this art thing, I presented it as a work of conceptual art. So—yes, safer. Right. And it’s a concept, it’s an idea, that small computers such as we’re looking at came along just in time, or about five years after I first needed them. And so I’ll just sort of talk about it a little bit and feel my way into it. It’s more fun to play with than to discuss the theoretics of. But if you don’t have some appreciation for the theory, then it doesn’t make any sense at all.


The basic notion is—or the way in which this idea parts company from ordinary science—is: there is the idea that there is something which has been overlooked in the categorizing of the forces which shape and maintain the cosmos. Something has been overlooked. And I call this something novelty, following Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy as put forth in Process and Reality. So novelty. And one way of thinking of it, if you have a background in Eastern philosophy, is Tao. What we’re talking about here is pretty much something like the Tao, but we’re going to call it novelty. And it comes and goes in the world according to mysterious and unfathomable rules. And it builds structure up—dynastic families, corporations, nation-states—and it pulls structure down according to some whim or some unimaginable algorithm (or previously unimaginable algorithm).


And part of what got me started thinking along these lines was simply trying to make mathematical models of Tao. In other words, taking the statements at the beginning of the Tao Te Ching, and taking them as mathematical formalisms, and then seeing what the constraints were on the system that operated along those lines. Well, eventually that led me to look at the I Ching, which is sort of the text par excellence relative to this idea that time has qualities. And this idea of the ebb and flow of novelty that I was playing with, I discovered, was a notion that was very old in the East. It’s not a notion that’s even tolerated in Western thinking, because science—in order to do its business—must have the assumption that experiments are time-independent; that whether you do an experiment on a Tuesday or a Saturday, this is not a valid parameter of the experiment.


However, this idea is suggesting something else. It’s suggesting that time actually does have a quality, and that this quality so far introduced as novelty and its opposite. And I used to call its opposite entropy, but at Rupert Sheldrake’s urging I now call it habit. And so this is a kind of Manichean cosmology in which habit and novelty are in a constant struggle with each other, one gaining dominance for a period of time and then the other gaining dominance in an endless dynamic relationship.


The result of which, over long periods of time, is that novelty is conserved. I think I used this phrase last night in the introductory talk, but without explaining the ideas which lay behind it. But the idea is that, from the psychedelic point of view, or from this point of view, the universe is perceived as a kind of engine for producing and distilling and maintaining novelty, and passing novelty on to yet higher states of novelty. Each level of novelty somehow allowing the emergence of properties previously forbidden at more constrained levels, so that the whole thing is a bootstrapping process to greater and greater novelty and self-reflection.


Well, so that’s the basic notion. Then the idea is, following the statement of the Tao Te Ching that the Way that can be told of is not an unvarying Way, and following the ideas implicit in the I Ching that time is a succession of irreducible elements, that time in some way is made of irreducible elements in the same way that matter has been discovered by Western science to be made of irreducible elements—so, somehow, time is not simply a plenum, a featureless, homogeneous surface upon which the experiments of Newtonian causality can be carried out, but actually, when we look at the fine-grained level of experience within the context of a love affair, or a dynastic family’s rise and fall, or something like that, we see, then, that it’s permeated with qualities. And in the West these qualities were identified by the Greeks and called fate, and said: to be is to be fate-laden. Somehow, the fates impinge on our lives and lead us to our destinies. Science got rid of all this, and then we just had flying atoms whizzing around in nothingness leading to some inevitable causuistry dictated by mathematics.


Well, okay. I don’t want to say too much more about the theoretics of it. But inevitably the question comes up once we get into the wave: where did you say you got this wave again? And the answer is: it arose from fairly stoned circumstances, but a fairly dry problem. Meaning: I was quite swept away and in the grip of the mushroom, and so forth, on a scale of weeks and years, not days. But it posed a conundrum, a kōan of peculiar and confined problem, which was: what is the nature of the order of the King Wen sequence?


Now, background. The King Wen sequence is a certain arrangement of the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. And this particular arrangement is very old, found on shoulder bones 3,500 years old, and so forth. So it was simply asking a formal question: what are the rules which produce the King Wen sequence? It’s always called a sequence. It’s always revered as one of the oldest of human abstractions. But what in fact is the sequence? Well, in looking at that—and I won’t try to lead you through it tonight unless, in a question-and-answer period, some maniac insists. But what it boils down to is that, in the King Wen sequence of the I Ching, there is embedded a fractal algorithm. A fractal algorithm very much like the fractal algorithms that have been discovered in just the past seven or eight years by modern mathematics using high-speed computers.


But the interesting thing about this fractal algorithm inside the I Ching is that it actually appears to make good on the claim which the I Ching has always been so concerned to make, namely that it was a piece of prophetistic machinery for mapping future time. In other words, that it was a predictive engine for knowing the future.


So what I brought out of it, or what I was led to find within it by the promptings of the mushroom genies, was a certain pattern. A certain pattern that I was able to mathematically nail to the wall and define. And then all the computer does here is time scale this pattern. And then I will become the devil’s advocate for this thing, and I will claim to you that this undulating wave on screen actually describes the career of novelty in time—in all time in all places throughout the history of the universe. And we will look at big pieces of time, little pieces of time, and you will quickly get the idea that, whether this is “true” or not, this is some kind of weird heuristic device that has about it the ozone-stench of otherworldliness. I mean, it was not thought up by the unaided human mind. There’s a kind of seamless completedness to it that marks it not as a discovery or an invention, but as an artifact of some other order.


Well, so now let’s look at the screen, and if I can come up with a pointer, and even if I can’t… and I’ll show you how this game is played if the software will cooperate. The software is very good. It was written by Peter Meyer. The idea existed before the software. But before the software, these screens that you’re going to see, it took an entire day to make one of them. And it just left you red-eyed and tremoring, and there was the possibility for hundreds of arithmetic errors, any one of which would throw off the signature. So, the invention of small computers in 1977 really opened this up for us. Before, we ran telephone directory-sized lists of numbers, which we could then look up and go off and then produce graphs somewhat like this.


Okay. Now, I know it’s hard to see, but the main thing you have to see is the line and what it’s doing. And then I’ll try and explain everything else and make sense of it. These are novelty units along this axis, and we’ve never named them. But you can think of them as eschatons or whatever—Whitehead-ons. But this is the important axis, and this is the time axis. Now, what’s being portrayed on the screen right now is six billion years. Six billion years. In other words, a timespan longer than most people require for the life of this planet. The Earth is thought to have condensed around 5.5 billion years ago. And that very fact is portrayed here, because this—now, here’s a convention that you have to internalize, or nothing from this point on will make sense. It’s very simple, but it’s somewhat counterintuitive. It’s that when the line moves down, novelty is increasing. When the line moves down, novelty is increasing. When the line moves up, habit or entropy or recidivistic tendencies are increasing.


Okay. Well, so then, looking at the life of the universe on a scale of six billion years, you see why I say it’s an engine for the conservation of novelty: because novelty—though there have been some severe setbacks, like here—generally, novelty has been conserved. And right now we’re down in here, in this stochastic noise and damped oscillation at the very end of the cycle, so close to the zero value, which is the maximum value for novelty, that, for all practical purposes at this scale, we can be said to be next to the zero value. And this is, I maintain, what accounts for the chaotic and highly novel nature of modern history or the twentieth century. It’s that we are so near the zero value, the maximum value for novelty, that it’s actually like there’s an anticipatory image seeping through which contorts the twentieth century into a kind of apocalyptic, image-riddled social space that it is.


Well now, let’s see, god willing, we can make this thing zoom in. Zoom? Yes. So now we have 750 million years on the screen, and what was previously previously stochastic noise lost near the zero point is beginning to emerge instead as a repetitious landscape of deep lunges toward novelty. So now, how to interpret this? This is about 500 million years ago. So that big downsweep was the emergence of very simple lifeforms. But the major career of biology has gone on along this sawtoothed edge that is about 500 million years from here to here. And this is in good accordance with the fossil record. This is where the great speciations and extinctions took place after the establishment of the chordata about 500 million years ago.


Okay, now I’ll restart the zoom. Do you begin to get the idea of what you, as the viewer or the jury or whatever, should be asking yourself is: does the wave fit my personal interpretation and understanding of novelty as we move through time? Because we’re obviously, at this scale, it’s pretty much up for grabs because we’re talking about such generalized events as the emergence of life and so forth. But we’re going to get down on it. We’re going to enter at some point the cognizable domains of known history—I mean, let’s say since the fall of the Roman empire, or since the fall of Richard Nixon, depending on how long your memory is.


Okay. Let me get this thing going again here. Here is the last 100 million years. Now, I stopped the screen here because there is an event in the last 100 million years which this thing would have to successfully predict in order to proceed further as a successful theory. It’s that 65 million years ago, either there was an enormous volcanic eruption on the surface of the Earth like nothing anybody has ever seen or imagined, or there was a planetesimal impact on the north Atlantic ridge, which seems to be the more probable candidate for what happened. And this laid down the so-called iridium [anomaly] here. 65 million years ago. It’s a perfect hit. In other words, the two cannot be dated precisely enough that we can’t say that one is not precisely the other. So this is our first candidate here, at 65 million years ago.


And actually, there was one earlier—I think 170 million years ago—which it also picks up. But we’ve shot beyond that. And that was the event which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Nothing larger than a chicken walked away from this event on the entire planet right here. And it gave the permission for the emergence of the mammals, and the whole phyla of the Earth took a sudden different turn, which was explored along here until about 45 million years ago. Then there was some kind of carrying capacity problem, or who knows what it is. This is really approaching the height of the speciation of the age of mammals occurred about 35 million years ago, at the bottom of this trough.


Okay, so what we’re looking at here is 100 million years, and this is the period in which we emerged as a species out of arboreal primates, out of bipedal protohominids on the grasslands of Africa. We come out of this. But most of the action for us as a thinking species is on this period here, toward the very end. This perfect kind of volcanic looking cone, which I call history’s fractal mountain, and which is sort of the signature of the whole wave as you’ll see as we get into it.


Okay. Now let’s again start the zoom. 5 million years. And let’s look at this, because now what it’s saying is that, suddenly, 5 million and slightly further back, there’s large punctuation in the novelty on the planet. And we know a lot about this period. And strangely enough, what we know about this period confirms this model very closely. Because what these things are known to be are glaciations, which begin on this timescale. And these low points here correspond very closely with the interglacial periods. You see, what’s happening is: populations of human beings and animals are being locked up when the ice moves south. Then, during the interglacials, these islanded populations are mixing, and you’re getting movement, progressive speciation in the fossil record, along at the bottom of these gradients. And it’s a technical matter to match the glaciations in different parts of the world with this, but the agreement is pretty close. Or, you know, a case can be made.


45,000 years, and let’s look at this. Okay, this is a period of time where we actually begin to get artifacts; human artifacts of an interesting sort. And it’s very hard to date the emergence of language, but it’s interesting that one school holds that it occurred about 33,000 years ago, and that we get this very steep movement into novelty here, right there. This is probably the heyday of the Neanderthals, because this is where the populating Neanderthals seemed to be the highest and found in the largest areas. But this is a glacial period. The last glacial period. And when the interglacial arrived about 19,000 years ago, you get what’s called the beginning of the Magdalenian era. And this is a tremendous explosion of creativity, painting, ochre burials, ritual, [audio cut]—all of these things are up here on this end. And this is, I maintain, where this partnership paradise, this mushroom, pastoral, feminized, ecologically dynamic and balanced society existed: along this gradient here.


Then it broke up around 10,000 years ago. Drying and the factors that we discussed shattered it and there was a carrying capacity problem or something like that. Here, let’s see this in a little more detail. But we’re now closing distance with the cognizable domains of known history. So if the theory is going to fail, it should fail as the data accumulates and the dates become more precise.


We’re looking at 45,000 years. 22,000 years. 11,000 years. Let’s look at this. Okay. Now, what it’s saying is that, after this carrying capacity problem around 10,000 BC, it was somehow overcome, and there was a very steep descent into novelty, which reached its culmination around 6,300 BC. Well, this corresponds very well with the dates for Çatalhöyük in Turkey, which is this Anatolian town 9,000 years old that achieved a level of civilization that was not seen at any other site until a thousand or more years later. In other words: until there were civilizations establishing themselves along this gradient. This was the last bastion of the goddess, partnership, mushroom symbiosis. And what destroyed these people we know. Çatalhöyük level 5 was destroyed in 6,500 BC by wheeled chariot people from the north. In other words, this spells the Indo-European bad guys who came from north of the Caspian Sea. And then you see this tremendous reestablishment of traditional pattern.


Well then, along this gradient here, you know, when I went to school, what we were taught was: history begins at Sumer. This was what we were always told: that it went Sumer, Ur, Chaldea, Babylon, Egypt. And in fact, those great patriarchal river-based civilizations established themselves on a gradient down here with Egypt right here at the bottom, establishing a new high water mark for novelty; a high water mark that would not be surpassed until the establishment of the Greco-Roman civilization over here. Along this upswing what you get are a series of meathead civililzations—the Hittites, the Mittani, the Assyrians. These are all kick-ass, chariot warfare, warrior caste, that rigamarole. All that’s going along here.


Then there’s the great turning point. I mean, here again you’re seeing the signature of the algorithm, and I call it history’s fractal mountain. Notice that what I’m saying is that allow history, from the building of the great pyramids to the present moment, is portrayed by that much of the screen. And now we can go into this and explore parts of it. Let’s look at it a little closer.


11,000 years on the screen. There’s history’s fractal mountain. 5,000 years. Let’s look at this for a minute. Okay, this is 5,000 years. We’re still targeted on today. And what it’s saying is that there was clearly a great moment, a single great moment, of shift at some point in the past, when a series of conservative tendencies, habitual patterns of activity, were in a sense overthrown once and for all. And even though there was plenty of shit to be slogged through from here to here, the plot was inevitable.


Okay. Well, so what is that point? Well, it’s about 980 BC. So what was going on then? This is the shift to—it’s essentially that moment when Mycenean piracy overwhelmed the goddess religion, and the Greeks stopped being fishermen and pulled their boats up on the shore and started to talk philosophy. And that set off a cascade of cultural effects that then reverberate to this day. It comes down along this gradient. Then down here you get the fall of Rome. Then, since the fall of Rome, you get this series of wildly oscillating cultural effects until as recently as the European enlightenment in 1740, when the wave then drops to yet lower levels and begins to explore forms of novelty related to the human machine integration and electromagnetic technology, and so forth and so on. We’ll look at this, but I just wanted to call your attention to this.


And for another reason. There’s a concept here which I haven’t talked about yet, but which is good to introduce now, and that is the concept of resonance. Because this algorithm is fractal, because it is self-nested on many levels, you encounter the same topological manifold over and over again. Well, since we’re looking at history, it’s natural to make the analogical assumption that these repetitious topologies are somehow related to each other. So that there’s suggested in this theory a series of natural nested cycles where, for instance, every 67 years all the themes of the previous 4,306 years are somehow condensed and acted out. And it’s the interface and interference pattern set up by these times. These times in the past and in the future sliding against each other, that create phenomena like fads and fashions and outbreaks of hysteria and weird taste things, and ripples in the collective mind.


Okay. So this is the signature of history’s fractal mountain. Greco-Roman civilization and its spectrum of effects are this long cascade down here. Now let’s look at it a little more. 1,430 years. And this I wanted you to see because this is the period of history that we all know the most about. And, strangely enough, the wave is very willing to make predictions in this region of history. This is one of those levels of magnification where the ebb and flow of novelty is predicted as very radical and highly punctuated. So… he looks for his crib sheet here.


So when you go through this and you’re trying to understand what’s going on, you’re supposed to have novelty occurring at the bottoms of these troughs. Well, this one, in the 930s, in the tenth century, is the culmination of Islam, the creation of the caliphates of Baghdad. This was the one where Europe gets left out. All this mathematics and poetry and alchemy is being created down here. Then there’s a series of bounce-offs, recidivist tendencies, until you get over to this one, which is about 1119. And what this is all about is: it’s the height of the Gothic revival and the Crusades. The people who were active in the bottom of that thing are people like Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Lombard, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Thomas Becket, Pope Adrian IV. All those folks famous from Masterpiece Theater. They were all happening right there.


So then, the next deep descent into novelty is this one, here, in 1355, 1354, 1356. Well, this is the greatest demographic catastrophe Europe ever experienced. It was the Black Death. A third of the population of Europe died there. Okay. Well then, this one, this very steep plunge into novelty, the top up here is 1440. Gutenberg is inventing printing in Mainz, near Frankfurt. And by the time you get to the bottom down here, it’s 1492. The entire Italian Renaissance lies on the gradient of that plunge. So, you see, what the argument is—and it seems to emerge with more clarity as we have more data—is that history is actually some kind of process on a vast scale that is under the control of this particular mathematical algorithm for some reason. I mean, this is the fractal dimension of the historical unfolding of the experience of the species.


What you get down here is the discovery of the New World; the lost half of the planet. And that sets off a round of discovery and exploration that keeps things novel for a while. But then slavery gets reestablished, and a whole bunch of bad social habits take root. And it pushes it clear back up to here. But then this is the beginning of the European enlightenment, and it descends very rapidly with, then, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic restoration all down in the bottom of this trough.


Well then, let’s go forward just a little bit more. The twentieth century is coming up. Now, there it is. Now, remember how I called it history’s fractal mountain, and we looked at it on a scale of 4,000 years? Well, it was this signature. Something very like it, with just slight scaling differences. Within the twentieth century, from 1945 to 2012 we’re recapitulating in some weird way all the themes of the previous 4,306-year cycle. So, for instance, the way this game is played is: remember I said that we had the old Riverine empires down, coming along this gradient, and that down here we got the Egyptian cultural manifestation? Well, now we’re looking at the twentieth century, we’re seeing the resonances of the Egyptian cultural manifestation, and we see that they reached their culmination in 1933 to 1936. So what this is saying is that the quality of this trough is a millennarian cult based on the deification of a leader figure, coupled with a hysterical obsession with tasteless architecture. And we see this as a theme played out both in Pharaonic Egypt and in the Third Reich, of course. And once you see that one is the resonance of the other, you see of course, of course, that’s clearly what was going on.


Well then, remember I said that the great turning point in human history was when the Mycenaean pirates squashed the Minoan goddess-loving folks and set off the cultural cascade of Greco-Roman civilization? Well, in this scheme of things, that moment happens right up here in early 1967. And of course, if you lived through that moment, you know that there was a kind of pagan revival right there, which then got smashed, and then we rode our way down into this long set of cascades into, then, the wild oscillation of the present.


And one of the things that I wanted to talk about a little bit tonight is how we’ve actually entered into a new kind of time. It began about three or four years ago—three, two years ago—depending. What it has to do with is: for a long time we were on a descending gradient into ever greater novelty as we approached this asymptotically increasing novelty. Now we are so close to it that we have begun to oscillate around a mean. And this explains the end of the Cold War, the breakup of the Soviet Union, a number of things. And we’re going to live in this kind of time unto the culmination of the time wave itself, which occurs in 2012. The time wave is unable to make predictions past 2012 AD. [audio cut] is its self-limiting property. Because, as a fractal description of a datafield it only works if you assume that the whole thing wraps itself around itself and disappears up its own gullet. On December [???] 2012 AD—only 22 years in the future.


Now there we could talk about how could this be, and what does it mean. What I think it means is that the presence of self-reflecting organisms—people—on this planet indicates the nearby presence or the potential immanent emergence of some higher state of organization. We are not simply the startled witnesses to this emergence of a new level of organization, our presence here is the first indication that it’s going to happen. It’s almost like you can think of a pond. When the surface of the pond begins to churn, the smart money knows that something is moving toward the surface and is going to burst through. Well, human history—all this dream exchange and information trading and lying and so forth that goes on—is the churning of the surface of the pond. And the smart money should know that there’s a momentous hidden force moving beneath the surface that all this is presaging.


And so I think this is that kind of thing. That, as we approach the hyperdimensional meltdown point or the chronosynclastic infandibulum, precursive images of it will be thrown off. I think everybody’s visions now tend to take the form of totality symbols. And this is because it’s constellating itself into a totality. We are so close now to the transdimensional object that it invades our dreams, our advertising, our waking fantasy, our art, our mathematics. Everything is contorted by the attraction of this transcendental object. Blake talked about this kind of thing.


Anyway, now, let’s go in a little closer there, because, well, to humor me. 44 years. Here’s 1967. It’s pointing at today, remember. 22 years. 11 years. 5 years. Now let’s stop and look at it for a minute, so we can see how we’re doing.



This is the last time [???]



Well, it’s not so much the last five years. It’s pointing at today. That’s today. And what we’ve got is two years, nine months, and sixteen days on the screen. Okay, well, what’s it saying here? It’s predicting a high-novelty maxima here, here, here, and then here, which we haven’t gotten to yet. But we’ve been through all of this. So let’s see how we’re doing.


Okay. To the day, this high-novelty maxima corresponds to the business in Tienanmen Square. Not the massacre, which is slightly off the trough and up on this side, but the day they put a million people into the square peaceably is right at the bottom of that thing. Well, okay. So then we know that ended unhappily. There was a reassertion of traditional patterns, i.e. shooting students. What could be more traditional than that? So there was a lot of that. And then that sort of peaked out, and then there was another try at a novel maxima, and at the bottom of this one the Berlin Wall is torn down. Right at the bottom of this one. So there’s two hits in a row.


Now, you remember that, after the Berlin Wall was torn down, there were a series of revolutions. Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, and then finally Romania going over the top, and that they became progressively uglier, progressively more in the traditional mold—meaning costing more life. And that week between Christmas and New Year’s of last year when the footage was coming in from the radio station in Romania it was fairly grim. Well, that was as we went over the peak of this anti-novel or habitual thing.


Then we started a long, slow meander downward, which was fairly gradual, and a lot of stuff seemed fairly irrelevant to us. It was all about the new German order, and the S&L scandal. But then we got to the bottom of this. It’s not quite as deep as this, but we reached it on the third of August. We reached it when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Now, let me see if I know what I’m talking about. Let’s see if I can move this arrow a little. Yes, there’s the 27th of July. At that point they’re massed on the border and so forth. And then the invasion takes place just a few days later.


Well, what can we say about the prognosis for the future based on what we’re looking at? Well, number one, I think, probably everyone would be advised to stay fairly liquid in their portfolios, because this crisis is being very carefully managed, but only up to a point. And at that point it goes over the lip, and this—the Tienanmen Square massacre point—is the previously most novel point ever tested in the history of the cosmos. So at some point late December or early next January we’re going to push through that, having been on this long slide down.


So it’s not a very good prognosis unless you’re in the novelty business. In terms of an absolute prediction, what this is saying is that—the big change to watch for is around the 20th of November: the elections will be over, the week between Thanksgiving; the end of there. And you can tell. You can tell. You can feel the momentum, the inevitability of it. I mean, they’ll be very hard-pressed to hold it together until then.


If we focus in there—let’s take a look at that. See how it ripples? See how, at the end, it begins to come apart? You can’t even tell where the top of the peak is, because obviously they just get it all piled up, these shitloads and shitloads of bombs and gas and all this stuff. And then it rattles out of their control, and then there’s a bifurcation, a phase split, and down she comes.



That’s what? November 20th?



Let’s—yeah. November 20th. So then I thought that this was pretty interesting. So then I want to show you something else. I want to completely change our target date and everything. Let’s use the command C. Yes, okay. What we’re looking at now is 200 years. And these 200 years are from 499 AD until 699 AD. Now, why are we looking at these years? Do you remember how, in what we were just looking at, I said that we came down, that I said that the Berlin Wall was here, the Romanian revolution was here, then the S&L crisis and all that, then Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait here at the bottom of this, and that I expected war to break out at the top of this. Now we’re looking at the historical resonance of what we were just looking at before. We’re looking at a much larger span of time, and what I want to show you is that when we put it close to where Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, that’s where he invaded Kuwait, it tells us that the resonant date is 579, the date for the birth of Mohamed is 571. So when you move it to 571, it’s only off by that much. So what this means is that this situation in the Middle East, we have chosen to confront this guy at a period when the resonance which backs up what he is doing is the resonance of the birth and career of the Prophet himself.


Now, when you move it over to the date, the resonance which corresponds with the 25th of November, it’s 599. The Hajira was in 622, down there. And then Mohamed didn’t live much longer after that. But the gains of Islam were all put in place. I mean, this is the great gradient along which Islam made its major territorial and ideological claims over the last millennium. What does this correspond to in terms of next year? It corresponds to the 30th of March. The 30th of March corresponds to the Hajira and the subsequent death of Mohamed. So what it mans is that, in the way that history is both a plotted and unconscious process, we have managed to stumble in to a situation where we will probably be sacrificed to the engine of historical inevitability. It’s no moment to confront Islam. I think probably Allah will be very merciful to the armies of the Caliph. But then there’s the faction which is saying: oh well, so is this the end of the world? And is this Armageddon? And yak, yak. No, of course not. All this is practically a memory by 1996 or 1997, and whole other problems loom. I mean, no, it’s just some kind of crazy militarian adventure cloaked in the form of a World War II and a half, or something.


There will be a lot of this stuff if this wave is correct as we move toward the millennium and beyond it. Because, you see, what’s happening is: all these historical themes—the birth and expansion of Islam, the rise of medieval Europe, the birth of the machine age, so forth—all of this stuff is going to occur in a compressed form between now and 2012 AD. I mean, this is my hypothesis. This is the truly odd notion that the mushroom wants to put forth: that the universe is not going to exist for billions or even hundreds of millions of years into the future, but actually the historical process signifies something loose in the informational domain that is very strictly self-limiting. And so history doesn’t go off millennia into the future. History—because of the way in which it feeds back into technological development—history is some kind of self-limiting process that transforms the material that it works upon. And the material that it works upon are human lives, human destinies.


I would never have come to this idea myself. I mean, it’s too irrational for me. But when you think, you know, you can then, once it’s articulated, make a case for it. I mean, after all, what is the counter case? What do straight people have to offer? Well, what straight people have to offer is that the universe sprang from nothingness in a single instant from an object whose diameter was less than that of a single electron. Well hell, if you can buy into that, what couldn’t you buy into? It’s like the grossest series of imponderabilities and unlikelihoods that you could string together.




[???] years before the big bang?



You mean, where does this go?



You started at 6 billion years. What if you had started it at 20 billion years ago?



Ah. Well, the duration of the wave—it has… no. The wave has no defined physical duration because it’s a mathematical entity. It does have convenient break points at 72 billion years and 1.5 billion years. And because we know there are things that’ve gone on that take 1.5 billion years, but we don’t know of anything that’s gone one that’s taken more than 72 billion years. We’ve sort of rested with the assumption that 72 billion years is the duration. Do you see how the idea of the resonance works? It works in a very literary fashion, somewhat in the way that James Joyce wrote Ulysses. You know, Ulysses is the story of a man who seeks to buy kidneys for his breakfast in Dublin. But in so doing he manages to be Ulysses, and to visit all the ports of call that are listed and mentioned in the Odyssey. In other words, it’s allegory, it’s internalization of a scheme of action in one time and place, an transferring it to another. But I think that this is how life is really put together, and that this is what psychedelics teach you on one level. One way of putting it is: Rome falls nine times an hour, and you just have to be paying attention nine times an hour to see it go by. And everything else happens nine times an hour, and three times a day, and once a week, and twice a month, and four times a year, and eight times a millennium, and so forth and so on. And we’re stacked up inside this system of resonances, historical references, ghosts, scattered mirages, images, the memories of the causuistry of past events.




So when you say 2012 [???] saying then we no longer resonate [???]



Well, yeah. I sort of fudged. I didn’t say what happens in 2012. I don’t really know. I imagine it to be this fairly grandiose event that has to do with—you know how I said the universe is a machine for the conservation of novelty, but that it conserves and produces novelty at an ever faster and faster rate, and that the presence of human history actually indicates that we have entered into what Whitehead called the short epochs—meaning kinds of time that are coherent unto themselves, but that may last only a few centuries or only a few decades; the way in which the twentieth century is a time unto itself.


Well, I see this speeding up an speeding up until the point where nobody will be unaware of the fact that the whole spacetime continuum is somehow collapsing on itself. It’s a fairly literary idea, because we’re accustomed to thinking of spacetime of just sort of hanging around. We’re not accustomed to the idea of it migrating toward a point. But I think that the whole human species is involved in birthing some kind of alchemical object or some kind of transcendental something, and that the reason our history is haunted by messiahs and prophets and wild-eyed characters preaching doom and redemption is because, in our dreams, in our visions, we’re picking up like 5% seepage from the transcendental object in hyperspace. And it’s what gives history a kind of direction. You know, I said that the academic theory of history was that it was a random walk—






Yes. And it’s giving history a kind of compass, so that we keep correcting our course. We’re not even aware this is what we’re doing. But we are actually stumbling toward and defining into narrower and narrower areas this thing that we’re after. And when we finally grab onto it, it’ll be wonderful according to me. It’ll be flesh made word, or the year of the jackpot, or something like that.



How is the year 2012 arrived at? Is that what the algorithm pointed towards?



Yes. The algorithm pointed toward that, in that when we saw it best fit between the curve at a point toward 2012, then what was a good confirmation or a curious coincidence (depending on where you stand) is that the whole Mayan calendrical axis turns out to rotate on the same day—the exact same day. For some reason, the Maya, who had a calendar 5306 of 13 baktuns, 13 cycles, made the winter solstice of 2012 AD the axis point of their whole calendrical machinery. Now, the only thing I have in common with the Maya is: we both have this affiliation with the mushroom. Is it conceivable? It’s barely conceivable to me that the message in the mushroom is specific enough that, no matter in what time or place you take it, it directs you toward a specific solsticial event in a particular annual journey of the planet around the sun? Then the question becomes—well, there are a number of questions, the least of which is: how did they do this? And then the major one is: why? Why do this? What does it mean to encode a prophecy into a psychedelic plant? And then to have people dig it out so close to the attractor event that they’re really helpless to do anything other than witness it anyway? No, this is the stuff of pathology. It fills the back wards of our private mental hospitals. But something’s going on. You just have to wonder.






Well, that’s a good question. Yes. Why the I Ching, which is what you’re asking. Isn’t it a little quirky to hang your whole theory on a mathematical sequence derived from an ancient Chinese book of divination? I mean, how dillettantish can you get? But the answer is: no. Because what they were trying to do with the I Ching was: they were trying to create a general topology of categories, or a general typographic list of temporal categories. And the way they did it was by looking into their minds, by stilling overt physiological functions like breathing and heartbeat, and looking into their minds, and seeing phenomena which we might call mental, which they might call physical, which somebody else might call quantum-mechanical. But the ontological status of this phenomenon is not ultimately what’s important. What’s important is that careful observation be carried out on it, and that it be correctly categorized.


And what they saw was the organizational rules of time itself. And what put me on to the idea that this was not so strange was: I noticed a year or so ago, I was looking at sand dunes. And I noticed that sand dunes look like wind. And this is a fairly trivial observation, except for me it wasn’t because I’d never thought it before. This always is tugging at the edge of your mind when you look at sand dunes, but for me it wasn’t overt. Okay, so sand dunes look like wind. What does this mean? It means that a physical phenomenon—sand dunes—takes its form from its interaction against a wave-mechanical phenomenon—to wit, the pressure fluctuation of wind over time. And I said; aha, sand dune looks like wind because it was made by wind. So then I said: well then, everything in the world bears the signature of the time wave within it, because everything in the world arose within the context of time.


So it’s no more odd that we have within ourselves the time wave than that pebbles are round from being rolled in the ocean. It’s just a consequence of being in time is to carry the signature of what time is etched upon you, within you. And so these Taoist yogas were looking at the organization of mind and seeing the archetype of organization itself. Because mind is some kind of fractal energy phenomenon that arises within the larger fractal context of organic nature, which arises within the fractal context of electromagnetic forces, or whatever.


So what starts out looking like a miracle—that the King Wen sequence could have a magical wave inside it that would describe human history—ends up looking like a kind of unavoidable and trivial fact writ large over the face of all existence. That all objects in time have internalized within themselves images of the larger process in which they are embedded.







Yes. There are sequences other than King Wen and there are systems other than this, and I think it’s a groping. We’re trying to see pattern. And no pattern is wrong, but no pattern is all of the pattern—at least not yet. One of the quotes that I’m fond of using vis-à-vis this and the psychedelic experience is something that Alfred North Whitehead said about understanding. He said: understanding is apperception of pattern as such. That’s all. As such. So if you look at this room, and you look at women and where they’re seated, you learn something about the people in this room. Because there’s a pattern to how the women are seated. If, on the other hand, you look at the pattern of people who wear glasses, that’s a different pattern. It also tells you something about the room. And there is just pattern upon pattern upon pattern. The people with blue eyes, where the Jews are sitting, where the Irish are sitting, the older people, the younger people. There’s no limits to the number of patterns that can be extracted from a situation, and each one somehow gives us more control over the situation.


So what this is is the pattern to process. We know that there’s a pattern to process because we have a very simple model like this in English and in most languages. It’s that most of us agree that most things have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And if we’re in the beginning, we look for the middle. If we’ve passed the middle, we’re looking out for the end. This means we have a theory of process. And in a way, when you look at history’s fractal mountain, it looks like the single discharge of a nerve. All it is is a beginning, a middle, and an end. And process can probably be broken down to that simple a level.


But then, of course, as William Blake said: attend the minute particulars. It’s all in the details. This is what psychedelics teach, I think—is: it’s all in the details. Getting there is half the fun. The experience of life is in the fabric of it; the actual tactility of the passing moment.







Between now and 2012? Let me see if I’m still together enough to get such a thing together.






Oh yeah. Different people have looked at it. Let’s see… specify target date. Let’s say the first month, the first day, of 1995. Let’s say of 2000. Okay. And we’re over here. We’re poised up here. See, we’re about to make the big descent. This would give you an idea. This was a good one to look at. This both gives us the perspective—it’s hellish. Now there’s—okay, that’s January, February. That’s the second of February 1992. That’s when all of this stuff is maximized. It’s a long way in the future. All of 1991, see, is down along here where we are now. Well, there’s the projected date when the war goes over the hump. We’re down here. September 29, 1990. But approaching this extremely low level of this huge expansion of the power of Islam, and probably not so much good for the American banking industry. But then we have to live through all of this stuff, a huge series of fluctuations, well past the turn of the century, before finally we get on a long slide. And it’s fairly spectacular.


It’s an effort to explain the sense of time speeding up, the sense of the acceleration into deeper and deeper connectedness. It obviously can’t go on for centuries. It has to halt at some time in the past. But what our attention is going to be riveted on for the next little while is this, because this is the deepest level of novelty ever explored to date. There’s where we are on the 10th of January, having come from clear up here as recently as the 25th of November.






2012? Oh well, then it all comes together, see? Like, in late 2011 we cross over into a 384-day period in which all these themes are re-condensed again. See, here it shows that what we’re progressing through, we still have to go through the medieval period. We’ll do that in 1996, 1997. The discovery of the New World occurs up here in 2005. And then the industrial revolution 2009. So forth and so on. So it’s a very steep compression. And then the way it works, actually, is: when you get into these final epochs, you get a 384-day cycle in which everything is re-compressed, then a 60-day cycle, and then a cycle that lasts an hour and a half, and one that lasts 135 seconds, and so forth. And the speed is the principle.


It’s exactly the principle that’s used to explain the birth of the universe by straight people, except they put it all back in the first half nanosecond of the universe, and I want to put it at the end. And the reason mine seems more logical to me is: what we’re talking about here is an outlandish singularity. Well, they say the singularity sprang from empty space. Seems to me the least likely medium for a complex singularity to emerge from is a high vacuum. More likely that a singularity would emerge from a teeming world of human beings and machines and psychedelic drugs and jungles and ecosystems, and that, in a super-rich informational matrix like that, something might suddenly crystallize out that would be absolutely improbable and fulfill the need for an attractor; a vector for novelty.







Well, the way the software is set, it’s set for the dawn line at La Chorrera in the Amazon, which is also the dawn line for New York City. When we were doing our most crazed thinking on this subject, the fantasy was that it would take 24 hours. That it would follow, as you call it, the dawn line, the terminator of the planet, so that as the sun rose, it was hypothesized to have something to do with, actually, the geomagnetic strum, or what we called the helio-magnetic strum of the star. And so as the sun rose over a 24-hour period, this implosion would occur.


It’s interesting. I don’t understand this theory in the sense that it seems to me it should be fairly easy to overthrow. It’s making such highly punctuated predictions. It’s not fudging its bets with a smooth curve. And yet, attacks upon it have been unbelievably weak. But yet, it’s a curious thing. It’s very hard to imagine how anyone could “figure this out.” It seems that you would have to find it all at once, done somehow. There’s no way into it where you could start to figure it out. So it has this curious completedness. And as a person who was not even that interested in the I Ching, and certainly less interested in diddlying around with graph paper, that I should be the John the Baptist of this new dispensation is pretty peculiar. I’m not even into long division!







One of the strengths and weaknesses of the theory is that it’s pretty non-specific. You know, maybe astrology tries to say too much. Maybe this tries to say too little. But the inquisition happened down—well, actually, it was stretched out over time, so it depends on what you’re actually talking about. But the great novel century, the fifteenth century, the 1400s, occurs along this gradient. Yeah, novelty is a kind of morally neutral term. I mean, is an invading army raping and pillaging and mixing its genes with the local populace—does this come out as a plus or a minus on the novelty scale? I don’t know. I confess I’m puzzled by this. It’s a pretty powerful concept. I mean, I think we do feel in our own lives the ebb and flow of this quality, and that when you’re hot, you’re hot, when you’re not, you’re not. That’s what that’s saying.







Oh, new things like generally people in this room would like. No—






Oh no, I don’t think so. I think a world war here will do just fine to fulfill the novelty requirements of the situation. What amazed me about it was: when I was sitting up here after the Romanian revolution and looking at this hole here, I was saying: boy, something outlandish is going to have to happen, or we’re going to have to toss this sucker right out the door. Well then, lo and behold, with this weird sense of deja vu and startled amazement and yet vindication and yet horror and disbelief and so forth it all comes to pass. It fulfills an impossible prophecy. How many times can it do it? Check this out. We’ve got to get through this. But this thing occurs over a three-month period in 1995. From March to May of 1995 we have to undergo a descent into novelty that makes what we’ve been through and are going to go through look like peanuts.


So there are built-in tests in the wave so that, if it’s junk, we should be able to get rid of it long before we’re anywhere near 2012. And yet, we’re meeting now the first of these difficult tests, the first prediction of a steep descent into radical novelty. And, you know, the armies and chancelleries of the world are just rushing furiously to fulfill the prophecy.







Well, except that that’s a kind of fart at the opera. If what you believe is happening is a conservation of novelty, a knitting-together, an ever-deepening and enriching and connecting kind of thing, and then they drop the bomb. The only way that could redeem it is if our real destiny is in another dimension and sort of like that wonderful scene at the end of Dr. Strangelove, where they sing the song “We’ll Meet Again Someday, Somewhere.” I don’t think it is nuclear holocaust. I think nuclear holocaust is the shadow of the [audio cut] is somehow a way of coaxing the human soul into physical manifestation. I mean, the flying saucer, the extraterrestrial visitant, the philosopher’s stone, alchemical mercury [audio cut] really realize our dreams. I mean, I think that that is really the promise of the psychedelic experience. The thing you find out at the core of the psychedelic experience that you cannot believe, no matter how hard you try, because it’s so liberating, is that dreams are real, apparently. History—there is a way out. It isn’t the high walls, all that. It’s an illusion. There’s some tremendous act of intellectual apprehension or courage or something, and then you break through. You penetrate beyond the mask. There is a mask, there is a beyond the mask. But most people go to the grave without ever even making the effort.







Yeah. I mean, the way I think of it is: all phenomena are describable within this wave matrix. And when I was at my most illuminated or loaded, or however you want to put it, I could actually see it overlaid over reality. I could actually see that people knots of novelty in local genetic space. The local space is largely empty, and then there are these knots of spacetime where genetic expression and protein transcription is going on. And these are people. And they represent this extreme compressance of novelty. Well then, if you’re in a city or something, you see that it is a larger, yet more diffuse knot of this same kind of novelty. And I don’t know whether you’re losing your mind or assimilating a wave-mechanical way of looking at things, but it comes close almost to some of the ravings of Carlos Castaneda. That there’s a way of shifting perception and processing information, and then you see that people are interlocking networks of light, they are confluences of causuistry, both in space and time as well as in matter. No, I was quite into all of this. And it sort of sticks with me. It’s model-building.







Well, it’s rigid on one level and free on another. What’s rigid about this is that it says where the novelty will occur. What’s open about it is: it never says what the novelty will be. So that Saddam Hussein could probably avert a world war by just announcing that he’s going on a world ballet tour, and that would be so novel that the wave would be fulfilled and the war averted, and his touring ballet company—what?






He could be assassinated, although in his situation that wouldn’t exactly be absolutely startling. It would be a fairly traditional pattern asserting itself. But you’re right. Assassinations are interesting, because history comes to such a micro-pivot there. I find assassinations very interesting. They’re very little wear and tear on innocent people, you’ll notice. That’s why it’s so little favored as a way of settling political problems.


But I have a German correspondent who has taken this between the teeth and run with it, and he sent me a bunch of assassination printouts on a scale of thirty days. The assassination of John F. Kennedy, Wallenstein, Himmler, a bunch of people. And it’s tantalizing. I mean, I don’t know what to make of this. It’s reasonable that large-scale phenomena like history, like glaciations, would be under the control of recursive laws, algorithmically expressible laws. The hard swallow is to think that you’ve actually figured one out, and that this is it, and that to the exclusion of all other values these values somehow define it.


But I think that thinking of history as a novelty-conserving journey of return to the green mind is a much more helpful, existentially anchoring notion than to think of it as a chaotic trendless fluctuation toward self-immolation; just a drunken person wandering around in a dynamite storage area—which is sort of the other model being peddled. Because I believe that there is a purpose, that there is some kind of telos working its way out. I don’t get all dewey-eyed about it. I don’t even know why or what for. But I just know that statistical models of how human reality works are completely inadequate. I mean, the way most people experience magic in their lives is through the phenomenon of falling in love. And it’s highly statistically improbable. The way it works—I mean, you can be the guy who sweeps up in the mail room, and every day you see the boss’ daughter alight in her Rolls-Royce to be swept into the executive suite, or some nonsense like that. And by merely forming the wish to be with this woman, then coincidences begin to move, promotions occur, deaths occur, mountains are moved, and before you know it the princess is delivered into your arms—for better or worse, one might add! I mean, you need to be very careful about what you wish for, because you usually get it.


The rule about wishing seems to be: it’s kind of a quantum-mechanical process, and no jerking is allowed. The key to having your wishes fulfilled is slow, steady pressure. And if you can hold an image for two or three years, it hardly matters how outlandish it is. It will probably be delivered unto you in fairly good order.



I was struck by [???]



Yeah. But this goes right down from the level of Planck’s constant right up to the size of the universe. And it’s saying: the same patterns, the same processes, are recursive and are nested. And basically the alrightness of everything. Because what it shows is: this is a fairly chaotic wave. It looks stochastic. But it’s manipulated in such a way that out of its disorder emerges a very elegant self-reinforcing self-refining order. And that’s what I see in the universe. The universe is this same kind of thing, saving novelty, refining connectedness, streamlining itself for further journey into time.

Well, that’s enough of that, I think.

Part 4



Well, what else is hanging for anybody this morning?



How about the feeling [???]



Well, shamanism—we tend to lose sight of the fact that, for the people who actually practice shamanism as a day-to-day thing, healing is what it’s always all about. And the shaman isn’t making these journeys for his own education or so forth, it’s always to heal. I don’t really see the mushrooms as specifically a cure (in the ordinary sense) for X, Y, or Z condition. It’s more that, in the psychedelic state—this is kind of hard to articulate and sounds like mumbo-jumbo, and maybe it is—but I’ve noticed that, in the psychedelic state—it’s as though within the parameters of the body the ordinary laws of physics are somewhat in suspension. And there’s a great deal to be learned by somebody about touch and light and sound—especially sound, I think.


Sound, to me, is the key to understanding and going deeper with the psychedelic thing—not only in the healing modality. And in that case it’s about sound directed into the body. Because we do have extraordinary senses on psilocybin and on these other tryptamines. And I’m not mystical or woolly-eyed about this, and I don’t make any claims about what senses. But if you sit down with a person (or a watermelon, for that matter) when you’re stoned and sing into it, the quality of the hallucination is such that there is a way of thinking about it where you could say this is an acoustical hologram of the interior of their body. I don’t say that. I just say: my goodness, isn’t it strange that I seem to be able to see the inside of the watermelon when I’m doing this?


Touch. I’m not an aura man under ordinary circumstances. I’m not sensitive to these things that you have to be sensitive to. If you have to be sensitive to something, that’s not for me because I’m basically insensitive. But nevertheless, there do seem to be qualities of density to the energy around the body. And I suppose—see, I’m not really an experimentalist in these areas. Like, I don’t immediately grab somebody and start kneading them and working them over. I tend to just sit and watch. But I do see all these possibilities. Sound has such—I mean, sound does pierce non-dense objects and return an echo. And we may have neurological processing capacity that we’re unaware of or that is ordinarily suppressed. For instance, I have quite a good ability to navigate in darkness. I always have been able to do this. It doesn’t seem that strange to me. I mean, I’m pretty good at it to the point where there have been times in the Amazon when I’ve gone for water at night and literally forgotten to take the flashlight, and gotten there and gotten halfway back before I noticed that. And it’s a combination of projective memory, so forth and so on. I noticed in the Amazon when I was quite keyed up that I had a sense that I’ve never heard anybody talk about. It was a kind of geometric sense that told me the shortest distance between any two points in terms of energy expenditure. It was something which I could see that aboriginal people would just absolutely have to have. It’s a whole thing about following the edges of ridges, and never descending unless you have to, and always keeping to the high ground. And my mind would just tell me this stuff, draw these lines through space.


The fact that ayahuasca—which makes possible this visual language that seems to me the evolutionary compass for language and culture—the fact that the compounds which allow that occur in the ordinary brain suggests, you know, that we could be as close as a one-gene mutation away from different styles of neuro-processing. And we don’t know to what degree technology pushes these things around. Did the people of manuscript culture have the same serotonin ratios as we have? How much, to what degree, is culture a chemical feedback mechanism operating on us as a species? I mean, we’re like fish trying to discover water. These are fairly subtle issues. But the payoff is being able to design our way toward a more humane culture.


Because what the psychedelics are teaching on one level, I think, is that our prison and our palace is language, and that, to date, we have just allowed it to grow like topsy because it was like an unconscious function. But it no longer need be an unconscious function. After all, we are now writing languages like crazy for computers, defining for them what concepts they can and can’t think, what forms of logic, what algebras shall and shall not be permitted.


We need to also think about taking control of the design process of language. Up to this point, the only people who have gotten onto this principle have been fascists of one sort or another—either Josef Goebbels and his crowd or advertising weasels or people like that. Everyone else has been sort of the victim of the linguistic agenda of those cliques. It’s like the Bob Dylan song of the strongmen make the rules for the wise men and the fools. Well, if the rules are syntactical rules, then nobody even realizes [audio cut] and held up. It’s just that you can’t think any other way, so why do you have this itch that you can seem to ever scratch? Well, it’s because it’s freedom calling out to you from the unconscious.


I’m don’t really talk about all this with any sense of urgency. One of the issues that often comes up in these groups is: am I saying it’s all okay? Is it all okay? Is there a political agenda? What should be done? It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “What you do has very little importance, and it’s very important that you do it.” And I think that’s how we have to act. We have to each choose a small area, and then act in that limited area with all the existential commitment we can muster. But not with anxiety, you know? Anxiety—Wei Boyang, the Chinese Taoist alchemist, said: “Worry is preposterous.” Worry is preposterous. You don’t know enough to worry, you know? Do liver cells worry? Do skin cells worry? It’s just a complete waste of metabolic energy. The better thing is to function well in place, and then to wonder, you know? Wonder is sort of worry without animal anxiety, but it’s living in the light of non-closure. We’re not going to get this thing wrestled into a box. Not positivism, not Islam, not the Kabbalah. No, no—all these things are very good tries, nice efforts. We set them on their pedestals in a long row in the museum of noetic good tries, but it isn’t in that. It’s in the moment; in the recapturing of direct experience.


My publisher in New York for this new line of books he’s bringing out has coined the battle cry “take back your mind.” And I think that’s a pretty good way of putting it. Take back your mind. Because we have transferred our loyalty to mythical structures—you know, structures about sexual politics, about what a man is supposed a be, what a woman is supposed to be, how much money a person is supposed to have, how much art they’re supposed to produce, how many times a week they’re supposed to get laid. We have all these images that we’re supposed to live up to; very complex, all being sold down to us through a culture whose motivations are very murky and highly suspect. I mean, culture is not your friend. All these people who want you to smell good and drive the right car and have your extra facial hair removed and all that—these are not your friends, these people! It pays to remember that, you know? That there’s a struggle on for loyalty; that you look much better to the institutional structure if you work hard, consume quietly, choose from the political menu without a lot of fuss, and that sort of thing. But, in fact, this kind of business as usual has led to the sort of lethal crisis we’re in.


Our real problem—well, it’s two things which are two sides of the same coin. It’s ego and an inability to emotionally connect with the true outline of the situation. Because the true outline of the situation is fairly horrendous. It’s that somewhere around 1945 or you name it, but that seems alright, we began to loot the future as a strategy for survival. Some kind of ethical norm was shattered in the same way that, in early mercantile civilization, there was this horrifying moment when, even though slavery had been dead for a thousand years, they realized that if they brought back the wholesale and transport of human beings, they could make millions in sugar. And it was like the heart of darkness reared up and they went for it. And our circumstance is somewhat similar. We have embarked on a similar kind of descent into an ethical dark dimension by looting the future. And this is going on at a faster and faster rate.


I mean, this current situation in the Middle East—much could be said about it. But any moral justification seems preposterous. I mean, what’s happening is: 8% of the world’s people use 35% of the world’s petroleum and are ready to blow everybody off the map to keep it that way. This is nothing more than a manifestation of junkie psychology on a mass scale. It’s: we’re addicted, they’ve got it, we’re happy to pay for it. But if they won’t sell it, we’ll break into their house and take it. Because, by god, it will go into our good right arm. That’s the plan.


It’s the culmination of the whole machine-age metaphor. I mean, this is the Golem of Metropolis. This is the robot mind run amok. This is Frankenstein. This is Brave New World. It’s a world where lethal habitual activities can nevertheless not be controlled. And it’s a perfect example of a culture with lockjaw of the mind. I mean, we’re just going to march off the edge of a cliff, apparently.


Three days ago, in the New York Times, the American estimates of casualties in the first thirty days of successfully invading Kuwait and Baghdad were published. 50,000 American casualties in the first thirty days if we win. This is the number of people who died in the Vietnam war over the whole stretch of the war. Well, so then, if you win means standing in the middle of a sea of fire with 550 million enraged Arabs looking to cut you down. It’s a complete misunderstanding. And I mention it not only because it looms large in our future—I mean, I think we’re arranging the deck chairs of the Titanic sitting here talking about this. It’s basically June of 1939 and everyone’s planning their summer vacation in the Catskills. But it’s also an example of how these institutions can’t save themselves. I mean, everybody knew in 1973 that this moment would come, that policies needed to be put in place, a dollar-a-barrel tax on oil—some minor [???]. But no, it’s just a mindset that is self-destructive.


And the fundamentalists are in anticipation of the end of the world and so forth and so on. There isn’t going to be any end of the world. There’s no easy way out like that—and you’re hearing this from the prophet of 2012. All of these infantile fantasies will be acted out. So if you want your mini apocalypse, you can have it and we can bomb Baghdad and gas Tel Aviv and fire the oil sands and kill millions of people on both sides. And you know what? It ain’t gonna bring the guy from Galilee, and it ain’t gonna bring friendly flying saucers from Arcturus. All it’s just going to bring is a deeper, bigger mess for the human race to try and clean up. Anybody who thinks that you’re going to save the world by setting it on fire is going to be sadly—it’s a rare moment for the collectivity to try to anchor itself in larger visions.


You know, the reason human society is haunted by messiahs and tin-horn visionaries preaching on every corner and people waving little books of different colors is because there is no full development of the individual. There’s this kind of arrested, prolonged adolescence—and it’s created through institutions. Institutions are a demonic force in human life, because they give permission for us to cease developing and to put our loyalty behind some weird creed that has been worked out (usually by a bunch of guys wearing dresses), and then they hand it down to the rest of us.


Anarchy and chaos—you know, anarchy is always just: oh, surely not, my dear fellow! That’s so awful to contemplate. But what it’s coming down to is a real make-or-break revelation on what is human nature. You know, the French cartoonist Moebius asks the question in one of his books: is man good? And he answers it sufficiently seasoned and marinated: yes. But we’re actually going to get the chance to answer this question. Because all barriers to the expression of our will, our vision, our dreams are falling away. And are we some kind of anti-life, sadomasochistic, suicidal contradiction? Or can we break through the millions of years of primate programming and alpha-male hierarchical dominance and so forth to actually uncover the angelic force that we glimpse within ourselves; that we glimpse with high-definition? I mean, it’s really there. If there is a demon in human nature, there is surely equally an angel of equal power.


So then it’s just about breaking this free. And I don’t think it can happen in the monkey body on the surface of this planet. Somehow there has to be an act of surrender to our own nature. And then, concomitant with that, a kind of making of a peace with nature as it is. And I don’t know how to envision the future. In the past year, you know, there’s been a lot of flak about virtual reality. Does this hold any hope? And if we think of the virtual reality thing as a wave, six months ago I would say it was very up. Now enough people have done it to be disappointed, and a bunch of people are saying, “Holy shit, you must be kidding! This is going to save us?” Because it is hokey and crude and mechanistic, and surrounded by a clique of visionary weirdos with a strange light in their eyes that you probably wouldn’t want to leave alone with your chickens. But nevertheless, I count myself one of these people, so…!


But still, there are some interesting ideas. The thing is: there is going to be some kind of fusion of technology, spirit, and mind. I mean, the drugs of the future will be more like computers, the computers of the future will be much more like drugs. And we’re beginning to see this. When you crawl inside a virtual reality rig and discover that it’s taken $200,000 worth of equipment to make you think that you’re walking around in an unfurnished office of a third-rate bureaucrat somewhere, it looks pretty grim. But on the other hand, when Henry Ford built his automobile, the main objection people had as to why it would never catch on was: there are no roads, you know? And he admitted this was a barrier, but clearly had a grander vision than everybody else he was talking to.


Maybe this is where we should sort of lead the discussion and then leave it. Because I think this is the toughest issue for groups like this. This is where we sort of divide. And it’s not easy to hold it all together. And that is: is the psychedelic agenda somehow the preservation, nurturing, caring for, and completion—and even reconstruction and recovery—of what we have destroyed and ravaged and mauled to get where we are at this moment? Or are we stuff of a different nature, and is our destiny to weave webs that hang between the stars, and leave forever behind this small, wet, humble, life-infested place, and go and live in the constructs of our imagination forever in silicon, and so forth and so on?


And this is—at least in my personality—these things are almost equally balanced. I feel very torn. I don’t like the gnostic Manichean need to say, well, there must be a total split; that man and nature cannot coexist. Man, for the sake of humanity and for the sake of nature, must go into our own dimension; that the imagination is our cosmos and we are to inhabit it. I don’t know. I’d be interested in what people think.


The psychedelics go both ways. There seem to be psychedelics that vote one way—like the mushroom, which has a vast extra-planetary, almost galactic-scale, vision of interrelated intelligences and information-transfer between species, and a scale of time where the coming and going of suns is just something which is going on. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, claims you for your humanness; pours you into your body and puts an oar in your hand and sets you out on a black river in the middle of the night to hunt catfish, you know? And you just feel life, human life, what it is to be born, to die, to have relationships with people, to make and lose fortunes, to have and lose dreams. All of this tremendously emotional stuff. And then there’s a gradient in between.


So the psychedelic quest, then—or the psychedelic life—becomes ultimately a meditation on what is human nature, you know? Is it these titanic aspirations to the techno-organo-metallo-immortal kind of existence, or is it some kind of Tao-like, Zen-like acceptance of place and position and destiny? Or can it be both? I have fantasies where I see a world—and I don’t know how we get there. I mean, don’t ask me how we get there. But a world of many, many fewer people. And people live basically as people lived 25,000 years ago: basically naked, except that everybody has a little thread—like Brahmans have in India—a little thread that goes around your shoulder and around your waist. And on this thread are—you could get maybe a couple of thousand small beads on this thread. Well, each one is essentially a menu, an interface into a piece of software which is hidden in hyperspace. And by just moving this thread around and touching these beads you navigate into mental dimensions. I mean, I can imagine the person of the future would look like a rainforest primitive, but when they close their eyes there would be menus hanging in space, and you select and navigate and move through these things.


But, you know, then there are issues, different aspects of this same issue, of the human split with nature: what do we do with the human monkey body? Is it a monkey animal body that drags us down into territoriality and violence, or is it somehow the glory and the purpose? Where do you put the body in a psychedelic value system? If we’re talking about more and more ephemeralization, depersonalizaiton, decentralization, electronic diffuseness, well, then where is sexuality in all that? Still more, where is biology in all that?


It’s very—we are the generation of people who actually will take the reigns of the human dream in a way that it’s been never been taken before. As recently as a single generation ago, there were insoluble problems of a technological and resource-delivery type. Now it’s basically—I think I began this weekend by saying this—all problems have become problems of human psychology. Everything can be done, it’s all about: how do you convince people in a democracy to pay for it, how do you convince people in a whatever to follow along? All problems have achieved a human dimension. The state of the atmosphere: it’s a human problem. The temperature of the ocean: human problem. Everything has to do with changing and reengineering the human mind.


Now, the real barrier to doing this as I see it is the cultural momentum of the past—and that’s a very nice and sanitized way of saying: fundamentalist religion. Fundamentalist religion goes into a tizzy when you start to (they would say) tamper with human nature. This is why drugs, abortion, homosexuality—notice that what these things all have in common is: they slightly seek to tweak or define human nature. And this is extremely unwelcome. But if we’re all god’s children, how come we’ve rigged the Earth with dynamite and are flipping coins to see who gets to set it off?


We have been infected with the idea of original sin, and this is part of what keeps us infantile. We actually believe, I think—every single one of us at some level—that we are flawed, unfit. And this is paralyzing, because if we start talking about redesigning human nature, people say, “Oh wow, this is what Hitler was talking about!” As soon as you start redefining human nature, you redefine it worse. The beast returns. It means we have no faith whatsoever, and we believe that the given situation is the best of all possible worlds is what that’s saying. And I don’t believe that. I agree there have been horrendous misapplications of the wish to redesign human nature. But on the other hand, the style which lets it just develop like an untended weedy lot has produced a fairly weedy lot of leaders with no great apparent commitment to the salvation of the human race either.


What it comes down to is responsibility. Politics without responsibility is fascism. And politics responsibly practiced is the only other option available. All this goes back to this theme of the primacy of experience: recapturing the primary importance of yourself first of all, and then your affinity group—the people around you. McLuhan said that this would happen naturally, and from what I see over the past few years it seems to me this is so. He called it electronic feudalism and said that the nation-state would dissolve under the impact of electronic media. His time table was a little too short. This is really a problem for prophets. But he was perfectly right. What happened in Tienanmen Sqaure, what happened in eastern Europe was entirely the product of information technology just conveying images. Just conveying images from the West dissolved the whole myth of Marxism, which relied on a false view of reality.


The thing is: these images are value neutral. They’re corrosive wherever they move. The same forces that destroyed the communist party in eastern Europe will destroy the ruling families of the Arabian peninsula with equal ease. Because what it is is: it’s an anti-oligarchic virus that has gotten loose in the language ocean of the planet. The thing that happened in Tienanmen Square, you could feel every government on Earth heave a sigh of relief when they got that under control. Because the nightmare of every government on Earth is a million peaceable people assembled in the main square of your capital city demanding that you pack up for Switzerland. I mean, that is it. And if it happens in Bucharest, you go. If it happens in Tehran, you go. If it happens in Washington, you go! Nobody says no to a million people in the streets. That’s what the Shah of Iran found out. He made a decree that if more than three people gathered in any place they would be shot dead. The next day, two and a half million people marched screaming beneath his window for his head. You look at a scene like that and say, “Hey, it’s time to retrench. It’s time to seriously cut a deal here.”


Well, this is a long-rambling answer to the question: what is to be done? How can we make a difference? I think the way that it’s to be done is by empowering individual discourse and recognizing the power of the individual. Huge amounts of global civilization are operating on automatic pilot. You know, you think that if you were to walk into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon or NATO headquarters in Brussels that there would be smart people furiously running things. There are idiots everywhere, at every level of organization. If you were to attend a cabinet meeting, one guy will be asleep with his face in his plate, I swear! It makes no difference. And we, the little people down in the labyrinthine streets of the city looking up at the castle as the great ones come and go, we believe that they’re all about the fine business of humanity. But it’s just a fiction. It’s an absurdity. And to the degree that we proclaim it so, the meme spreads, and the dream of the oligarchs, the autocrats, the programmers is dissolved.


This is why the psychedelic thing is so controversial, such political dynamite. Because ultimately, it dissolves the linguistic structures that it finds preexisting—whatever they are. I really believe this. Talking to shamans in the Amazon, ultimately, when you get to know them, they will tell you: you think this is easy? You think because I am a Witoto, you think because I wear a gourd on my penis I’m somehow more able to do this than you are? No. Every time I go I know it may be the last time, because it’s so hard. It’s so challenging to who I am. It always is. It’s a real edge. It’s not an edge that you go and map, and then the next time it’s not an edge. It’s that every time you go you discover this edge. It’s the great gift, the great challenge.


The great miracle of human existence is that within each one of us there is this dimension to access which is a constant challenge to our existential modality. You don’t have to mush your way up jungle rivers and rip jewels from the eyes of idols and stuff like that. You can—on a Saturday evening, in the privacy of your own living room—become your own Magellan. And you are no less courageous than Magellan. Maybe Magellan is a bad example, since he didn’t make it all the way around… your own Columbus! And this dimension of freedom has always been 95% of what the human experience was about in terms of risk and thrills. And religion is not the mumblings of men wearing dresses. It just isn’t. Nor is it all of this philosophical mumbo-jumbo that arises out of rational discourse and brain specialization. It’s that, somehow, part of the package of being a living, thinking being is that you get a universe inside of you. You get a galaxy-sized object inside you that you can access. And there there are the mountains, the rivers, the jungles, the dynastic families, the ruins, the planets, the works of art, the poetry, the sciences, the magics of millions upon millions upon millions of worlds. And this is apparently who we each are. We’re a little bit of eternity sticking into three-dimensional space, and for some reason occupying time in a monkey body.


But when you turn your eyes, then, inward, you discover the birthright, the existential facts, out of which this particular existence emerged. And without going dewey-eyed, without lining up with all the religious people, it’s more real than religion, because it’s apparently rooted in biology. And it’s a great secret. A great secret and a great comfort, because it means mystery didn’t die with the fall of Arthur or the fall of Atlantis or the fall of anything. Mystery is alive in the moment, in the here and now. It just simply lies on the other side of a barrier of courage. And it isn’t even that high a barrier. It just is a barrier high enough to keep out the insincere and the misdirected. But for those who will claim it in the midst of the historical chaos of the late twentieth century, they become the archaic pioneers. They become the first people to carry the ouroboric serpent around to its own tail and to make a closure. And to the degree that any one of us has this connection back to the archaic in our life, it makes where we have been make a lot more sense, and it makes where we’re going seem a lot more inviting—which it really is, I think.


Well, that’s all I have to say. I think we can probably—it’s a little early. Does anybody have anything they want to add? Yeah?



You’ve been talking about the ego a lot, and its dissolution [???] the boundaries of it. And it sometimes sounds like ego has a pejorative connotation. On the other hand, you’ve been talking recently a lot that it’s up to each of us in our own unique individuation to claim what can be claimed, and that even small individual little ego can virtually change the world if it has the right place to stand. It seems like these—



So how do you balance these things?



Yeah. I just, really, the question is: what is the future of the ego as we know it? After, say, post-2012, will the ego really be more of a group ego or a transformation of our ego, or is the ultimate goal to shed our egos completely and become some form of individuation which we can’t even dream about?



Well, you’re right. There’s a dynamic tension there. Sometimes, when this comes up, I answer it by saying that you need an ego. If you didn’t have an ego, you wouldn’t know whose mouth to put food in when you have dinner with someone at a restaurant. So ego is necessary to keep straight whose orifices are whose. And that’s the main function of ego. But then there is a deeper level to it. Somehow, the way I imagine it is that the ego is—the correct expression of ego is when there is ego present, but it is perceived as Tao. In other words, Tao is this state of where you just go along and somehow get along. And ego is a state where you’re somehow pushing the river, and that’s how you get along.


I think the ego of the future will be much less possessive, and that it’s the possessiveness, the projection of the domain, really, of the ego outside of itself—specifically the control of other people. You know, sexual partners, children, parents. The way I imagine this pastoral situation of 12,000–15,000 years ago to work was: people simply had group values, because the children were group owned. And that made such a tremendous difference in how the society imaged itself. People lived for the group, and that the core of the group were the children, and people always put them first. So everyone identified with the children, everyone was willing to face risk to preserve the core of the younger gene pool, and that that was what made the difference. This concern for male paternity is really a poisonous factor.


See, when you look at primatology generally, it’s pretty clear that, as a group of species, primates do tend to male dominance; that even the apes and the squirrel monkeys and the new world primates, in the wild, there’s usually an alpha male that’s dominant. So this symbiosis between human beings, cattle, and psychedelic plants that allowed the feminine to emerge was something that was emerging against the grain of primate organization. So really, what has happened is: we have returned to a more animal kind of existence. We are more like beasts than the people of 15,000 years ago, because they were using psychedelics to artificially (you could say) or pharmacologically inflate feminine values. And this allowed them to become civilized people.


I mean, I have a somewhat elaborate theory about this, but I think that women are responsible for the emergence of language, because I think that the division of labor that we know went on very early because of the males’ larger body size in the upper half of the body that the males tended to specialize toward hunting. Hunting puts a premium on physical strength and stoicism—meaning sitting a long time with your mouth shut. And then you have a limited number of commands—and bladder control is very important, where women fail that test. So then, what the women were doing was: they were specialized as gatherers of plants and roots and insects and stuff like that. Well, this is a tremendous pressure to develop descriptive taxonomy. Because gathering is the art of descriptive taxonomy. You want to know that you want the little bulbous root with the yellow flowers that grows down between the shattered granite boulders near the creek. It’s all language, language, language. And the pressure is life and death. If you eat the wrong plant you become very sick, or you abort your fetus, or you die. So those who were well able to describe [???] of the gathering side of the economy quickly outbred those who weren’t.


And language may have even been a kind of secret ability of women at some point. You see, psilocybin synergizes language-like bursts of activity, and may have been the thing which set it over. But what happened in this woman-situation with language is a good example of what often happens with cultural innovation. The women possessed all this knowledge about the gathering of plants and the magical use and preparation of plants, but at a certain point the database became so huge that it underwent a collapse conceptually, and some brilliant woman realized: we don’t have to know about 600 plants and all these locations and seasonal variations and all this. We just have to concentrate on five plants and really learn all about those plants, and then we can dispense with all this stuff. And this was probably because, in the nomadic cycle, they would encounter their own middens from the year before, and there there would be cereal grains sprouted, and you quickly put it together.


But the specialization represented by agriculture—that was the beginning of the end, as far as I’m concerned. Because at that point there was retraction away from nature. It was no longer about letting nature guide you to gather and find what you needed. It was a kind of paranoid, a kind of rip-off attitude. It was: let us exploit these five plants. This means tilling the ground, it means the end of nomadism, because now we’re going to settle in one place and we’re going to redirect the flow of water, and we’re going to become agriculturalists. It’s an entirely different psychology. Weston La Barre said that psychedelic shamanism died when it became important to get up in the morning and go out and hoe the corn. And then people replaced the psychedelic gods with the gods of wheat and corn. Tammuz, the corn god of ancient Babylon, then appears. And gods of agriculture and male dominance go hand in hand. The previous religion at the edge of the high Neolithic was this religion of the great horned goddess. And it was a religion of nomadic pastoralism, orgiastic sexual activity, psychedelic drugs, and tremendous emphasis on cattle.


Cattle were the great bridge to all these concepts. We start out as a baboon-like creature wandering behind these herds of ungulate cattle. I’ve seen baboons do this in Kenya: flipping over cow pies, looking for carrion beetle grubs as a source of fat and protein. But then we went from predation on carrion (the kills of larger animals) to slowly actually domesticating these things. And the milk and the blood and the manure and the meat and the mushroom would all be seen to be things which came quite naturally from the cow. The cow was like this supreme, feminine symbol. And all over north Africa and the ancient Middle East you get this late Paleolithic great horned goddess. The cattle religion and the emergence of consciousness seem to go hand in hand.


One time I was waiting for a load of mushrooms to come on, and it was very strong. I had sort of miscalculated, and I had gotten too much, and could see this thing just coming at me—huge force. And I heard a voice. It was actually the Swissair stewardess from Federico Fellini’s . But it was that voice. And she said, “They say it helps to lay down, cowboy!” And I was amused at the time—or later, when I had time to be amused, I was amused. But then I realized: this mode of address, “cowboy,” is probably typical of the mushroom, because for 95% of its existence, most of what it’s dealt with are cowboys and cowgirls, because these are the people who follow along behind the cows. These are the people who invented astrology from watching the stars. And many people—myself included—have reported the experience of looking at the stars stoned on psilocybin, and having the mushroom supply dotted lines between the constellations. I mean, there it is. There’s the map.


Yes, pastoralists, herders. They invented the calendar from watching the horizon. And you know what we looked at last night was partially a calendar. It’s very interesting. If you want a meditation on shamanism, politics, time, and so forth, look at hexagram 49 in the I Ching, which is “revolution.” And you might go to this expecting a treatise on political upheaval, and it says instead, “The magician is a calendar-maker. He measures the seasons and sets them right.” And it’s this idea of reconstruction of time.


The message that I get out of the psychedelics is that we need to reframe the largest frames in our linguistic cosmology. It means reformation of the calendar, reformation of language—that we cannot evolve any faster than the languages that we are imprisoned within. We are linguistic creatures, somehow. And so we need strategies, catalysts, enzymes, whatever it is, practices, that force the evolution of language along conscious lines. If we don’t do this, the old styles of thinking, the old concepts, are just going to pull us down.


Well, to my mind, this makes psychedelics central to any political reconstruction, because psychedelics are the only force in nature that actually dissolves linguistic structure, lets the mechanics of syntax be visible, allows the possibility for the rapid introduction and spread of new concepts, gives permission for new ways of seeing. And this is what we have to do. We have to change our minds.

Well, that’s it. Thank you very much! I enjoyed this.

Terence McKenna


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