This Counts, Somehow It Matters
I should say, I guess, a little bit about myself since this has sort of, over the years, turned into a kind of a one-man band. I grew up in a small town in Colorado under extraordinarily ordinary circumstances. And for some reason—I don’t know, genetic or something in the water or something—I was always very prone to obsession. And one obsession gave way to another. So that rock collecting gave way to butterflies, which gave way to rocketry, which gave way to girls, which gave way to drugs, which gave way to politics. On and on and on. Fascinated with the world. And as a rock hunter and butterfly collector, it was fairly aesthetically driven and irrational. What interested me was the iridescence in certain agates, certain pyrites, certain tropical butterflies, certain kinds of reef fish. Something about the light, the visual thrill of the world. And this took me through many places by the time I was fourteen years old, and read Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, where he gives a very restrained and gentlemanly description of a mescaline experience. And I took it at face value and said if this is even partially true, it’s immensely important. And I began to pursue this vast area of interlocking disciplines that really has no name, but we can name the disciplines. And you know what I’m talking about: botany, ethnography, chemistry, DNA function, cultural dynamics, shamanism, linguistics, theories of natural magic, relationship of man to the environment, so forth and so on. The nexus of concerns that clusters around the question: what are we? Where did we come from? And where are we going? And as a fourteen-year-old, sixteen-year-old, when these questions first form in your mind, a reasonable response is to seek the cultural database. Surely there are answers to these questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? And where are we going?
Well, if you have any kind of intellectual filter at all, you quickly can satisfy yourself that our best efforts are nothing more than half-completed stories told around the campfire. We don’t actually know what our predicament is. I mean, we are up against a phenomenon which we can barely bring into focus in our cognitive sphere, and it’s the phenomenon of our own existence! What does it mean? What does it mean, first of all, to be a biological creature, to be as an animal? What is that? And then: what is it to be that, embedded, then, in a culture with histories and languages and aesthetic canons and literatures and scientific hypotheses about the cosmos, so forth and so on? And my personal journey, if you want to put it that way, lay through a successive series of—I almost said disappointments, but awakenings could be another word—as I realized that nobody has their finger on what’s going on. These religions that are so freighted with their own pomposity are no better than inspired guesses. And science works its miracles by turning its enterprise into a kind of parlor game confined to the category “matter and energy.” So you can live and die inside these intellectual structures if you choose to. But people of curiosity, people of unusual or traveled circumstance, usually find themselves unsatisfied with the conventional answers.
And then, on top of all that, you can add the fact that, over the last hundred years, what has come into the toolbox of thinking Westerners is a whole array of consciousness-altering substances that were not there before. And they accelerate, accentuate the dissolution of sanctioned paradigms, basically. In other words, all these things you might cling to—catholicism, democratic ideals, Hasidim, Marxism, Freudianism, you know—all of these things are exposed as simply quaint cultural artifacts; painted masks and rattles assembled by people of good intent but clearly not great grasp of the situation.
Well, I thought that that process of deconstruction of cultural reality would end in a kind of liberation of cynicism, where you become sort of really street smart. You know, nobody can put anything over on you. You’ve been there, you’ve done that. It turns out that that existential phase, which I reached at about age eighteen, is itself simply a place along the way, and that persisting, then, with pushing into altered states of mind and alien cultures, I began to see that there was a landscape of meaning. But it was not the meaning that I had ever been told. And this was fairly shocking to me, because part of my intellectual journey had been through the psychology of Carl Jung. So I was very prepared for the idea that all dreams, all religious mythologies, are seamlessly connected to each other under the surface. And liberalism takes the generous position that everybody has a piece of the action. You know, the Buddhists understand something, the Taoists understand something, the Kabbalists understand something. I was getting a different message. I was getting the message that nobody understands anything, that the entire cultural enterprise is 180 degrees cockamamy to the truth, that we have it absolutely ass-backwards. That, to date, the enterprise of thinking has moved us radically away from understanding anything.
And over the years I’ve tried to make room for this alternative explanation, and I suppose this is the proper place in all this to make my standard declaimer against squirreliness. There’s a lot of squirreliness in this world; a rising tide of it. Some of it has been fomented not far from where we sit this evening. And I represent to myself—and I hope to convince you of this—radical ideas, innovative ideas, even peculiar ideas, but not loose or preposterous ideas. And it’s sort of as supreme court justice Douglas said of pornography: it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. And as sanctioned paradigms break down—science and religions, which certainly are breaking down—into that vacuum rushes an incredibly exotic menagerie of intellectual freakery of all sorts. And so what you have to call into being to deal with that situation are rules of evidence. Tools for telling shit from shinola, in other words. And though what I will say here may sound peculiar, none of it is beyond the realm of testability. And none of it is riddled, I hope, with contradiction.
So these weekends serve different functions for different people. Just in the course of doing what I’ve done with my scene, I know a lot about plants and anthropological use of psychoactives and chemistry and anecdotal stuff, and I’m very happy to share all that with you right down to recipes and how to do it, because that’s very important to empower people’s personal toolkits and technology. At first I had great enthusiasm of that part of the teaching process, because I felt I was alone in trying to get people to take high doses of psychedelics and pay attention. You know, that this was not a party experience, this was something at the edge of metaphysical profundity. It now appears that psychedelic exploration is alive and well, enshrined in the culture as a three-percent minority to be tolerated approximately with the same level of toleration granted to advanced S&M practitioners. So that has been taken care of. And so what interests me more now is: for me, what all these years of psychedelic taking came to was a new model of how reality works. A new model of what the world is. And several people, in going around the circle, referred to it tonight—as the time wave, or talk about time and the I Ching.
I represent—remember when we were kids (or it still continues today), but there is a genre of cartoon of the bearded, corpulent man in a robe carrying a sign which says something, usually “The End Is Near” and “Repent!” Well, how a rationalist and a platonist and an admirer of all kinds of evidentiary veracity could find their way into that position, I don’t know. But that is the position I’m in. I really am quite convinced—I wouldn’t say 100%—that what we are experiencing here at the end of the 20th century, which we call chaos or cultural speed-up or globalization or just the concatenation of multiple social crises, is in fact something far more profound than a mere crisis in our politics or our management styles, or something like that. It is that the cultural world—the world of human culture and history—is reaching some kind of climax at the same moment that the biological, evolutionary process (which has been working on this planet for four billion years) is also reaching a climax. And both of these simultaneous trajectories toward breakthrough are occurring in a yet larger context where the very laws of physics itself are undergoing some kind of a local phase shift or transformation.
And I am completely aware of how nutty this sounds at first. I mean, any problem you have with this, I had in spades. First of all, all apocalyptic theory always centers on a moment not far in the future. There’s never been any percentage in saying the Earth is going to end in 50,000 years. There’s just no juice in that. Nevertheless, when you begin comparing ontologies—you’ve got to always remember: this is not a free-for-all. There are only a certain number of intellectual products on the market. What is science selling? Science is selling the idea that, some time ago, for no reason, the [universe] sprang from nothing in a single moment. Well, now, whatever you may think about that idea, notice that it’s the limit case for credulity! Do you understand what I mean? I mean: whether it’s true or not, it’s the most outlandish explanation for reality possible for the human mind to conceive of. And that’s step one with science.
So what does this do? What is the consequence of this scientific world view? A progressive marginalization and deemphasis on what it means to be a human being because the universe is enormous in space and time. Our galaxy is utterly ordinary: one of billions. Our star is utterly ordinary: one of trillions. Our planet is presumed to be of an ordinary type. And biology is presumed to be a necessary consequence of certain chemical regimes at certain temperatures. And on and on and on. So what you get, then, as the human role in this scientific scheme is virtually nothing more than to witness: to carry out certain measurements that cause the collapse of the state vector and to witness. And the universe is an accident, and all subsequent processes are accidents, and we are an accident, and value is conferred, and meaning is an illusion of the naïve, and on and on and on. This is the legacy of positivism, materialism, the thinking that has gone on in the last 200 years in Europe and now dominates the planet.
The problem is that it runs completely counter to the primary datum, to use a philosophical buzzword. The primary datum. And what is the primary datum? It’s the felt presence of immediate experience. In other words: being here now is the primary datum. And it doesn’t tell you that this is a series of accidents, and that you are irrelevant, and that your pain is not pain, and that your hope is not hope. It tells you something else. It tells you: this counts. Somehow it matters. I matter. My life matters, my family, culture, the human enterprise, this planet, its biota—this matters. It all matters. Meaning is intrinsic as a primary datum. And yet it’s denied by the philosophy which rules this planet and sets its agenda. How this happened we can talk about tomorrow. It’s an interesting story of historical malapropisms and bad calls and lost opportunities and just bonehead stupidity at critical junctures.
But this evening what I want to evoke for you is: what are its consequences? We need a metaphor that can contain the demon of the future that we have conjured into being. Fine-tuning the institutions built by powdered wig guys 200 years ago is a long shot at holding the whole thing together. The world is entering into a phase of progressively more chaotic oscillation. This is not a consequence of what human beings have done, it’s part of the dynamics of the human-biological-geological matrix that represents the planet. Biology never stands still. It moved from the unicellular phase into the multicellular phase, it occupied all niches, it left the oceans, it occupied the land. It then entered into linguistic phase space: it entered into the domain of meaning, and there it erected conscious reflecting societies and individuals. Now, through the catalytic interaction with technology, the human species is getting set to redefine itself. And these phase transitions are major. In the life of this planet, which is four billion years, we can probably look back to no more than half a dozen of these kinds of phase transitions.
Well, now I want to return to a point, which was the unlikelihood of apocalyptic transformation in our own time. Using a kind of reductionist argument that there is so much time, and a life is so short, that the odds that your life would fall on the golden moment is very slight. But that’s not true if the dice are loaded, and the dice are loaded. This is melting-together of technology, this globalization of culture, this creation of an electromagnetic sea of information—these are phenomena that only happen in the terminal moments of the planetary breakthrough. History itself is the shockwave of eschatology. This is the slogan that I’ve been building to deliver to you: history is the shockwave of eschatology. If you don’t know what eschatology is, it’s a good old theological word. It means “the final things,” “the last things.” And what I have learned from psychedelics—and I’m convinced of this to the bone, whether my own mathematics can stand the test or not—but time is not necessarily driven from the past. Time is not like an unfolding avalanche of causal consequences. Time is more like a process drawn toward an attractor. And the reason evolution happened on this planet in such a short amount of time, the reason the emergence of consciousness happened without following all the blind alleys that were open to primate evolution, is because it isn’t a random walk toward nowhere. It is, in fact, a trajectory defined by the field through which we are moving. And the way to think of this is like a topological surface: that time is not featureless, it is not invariant as Newton insisted and assumed in order to build his calculus. I mean, it may appear invariant when you’re calculating the orbits of the planets, but anyone who has ever gone through a bankruptcy, a divorce, a love affair, the death of a loved one, something like that, knows that these things are unique phenomena. Millions of people have died, and nobody has ever died the same way twice and left the people standing there feeling the same way. The things that matter are imbued with uniqueness, and that uniqueness is imparted by this invisible medium that science, in order to function, has had to deny. That’s what it basically comes down to.
And as we unpack this weekend we’ll talk some about the I Ching, talk about how cultures become obsessed with certain aspects of nature, and then, in the act of exploring that obsession very creatively, other aspects of nature are completely overlooked or forgotten. For instance, in the West we are the masters of matter and energy. I mean, when you think that a hundred thousand years ago we were chipping flint, and that we can trigger fusion—the process which lights the stars themselves—that we can trigger fusion in our laboratories as an experimental process, that’s absolutely hair-raising. I mean, that is a long, long journey into the heart of matter, to be able to pull off a trick like that. Meanwhile, our understanding of time is infantile. We have no theory of time. We say that it is in most cases to be treated as invariant, and if you’re working with special relativity then, in the presence of massive gravitational objects, you impart a very slight curvature to the spacetime continuum, and that’s it for time. And yet, time is the dimension that hammers at us most persistently, because it’s upon the back of time that you ride into the world and it’s grasping for more of it that you sink into the blackness of death itself.
Somebody had a question? Yeah?
[???] I have to ask: do you believe in evolution or development?
Oh yeah. One of the words that hasn’t escaped my lips tonight by accident is “novelty.” Novelty is a concept that I’ve elaborated over the years, taking it from Alfred North Whitehead. But as I see it, being the cosmos—whatever you want to call it—is a struggle between two implacable forces: novelty on the one side and habit on the other side. And let me describe them for a moment, and then you can see that this is true, I think. What is habit? Habit is doing things the way you’ve always done them. Habit is tradition. Habit is circular behavior. Habit is following the creodes that have already been laid down by past activity. It’s what Sheldrake calls the morphogenetic field. What is novelty? Novelty is self-explanatory: it’s what breaks the pattern. New connections. New possibilities. And the universe is in a state of dynamic tension between these two tendencies. Novelty surges forward—new art movements, new technologies, new inventions, new social mores, new classes—and then habit reasserts itself—close the theaters, kill the Jews, reestablish the old order. And this goes on over and over and over again.
But! The good new is this is not a Manichean struggle, this is not an eternal struggle. Novelty is winning. Novelty is winning, inch by inch, iota by iota. Over millions and billions of years the universe grows more novel, more connected, different temperature regimes, new domains of physical law. Because at first the universe was very hot. You couldn’t have organic chemistry. You couldn’t have societies. Well, now, if novelty is—in a sense, what I’ve described to you is what we could call a novelty-conserving engine. The universe is a novelty-conserving engine: it produces novelty and then it acts to hang on to it. And it uses that novelty to build the next level of novelty. So upon matter it builds long-chain polymers, DNA molecules, it builds organic molecular structure. Upon that animal life is organized. Upon that complex sentient higher animals. Upon that technology-using humans. And upon that the global society that we live in.
Well now, notice: something interesting has happened by making novelty our value to be conserved. Suddenly the human enterprise is not peripheral. Suddenly the human enterprise is what it’s all about! The cosmos has been moving its eggs closer and closer to one basket for eons. You know, the action is not now in the bryophytes or the coelacanths or the reptiles, the action now is in a single species of primate. All of nature has halted its activity to turn and watch as Homo sapiens sapiens, the double-thinking monkey, takes the stage and begins to work with novelty on a scale like nothing that has ever been seen before. And this tool-building function—and I use the word “tool” in the broadest possible sense: language is a tool, social organization is a tool—that this is what we do. We build tools. And McLuhan very wisely observed: these tools are extensions of who we are. They are only distinct from us in our opinion, but in fact they represent extensions of our humanness.
And now—well, for some time; obviously for about 10,000 years—something really weird has been going on. Because before that, time had an entirely different character. Even in an era when there were people using fire and practicing rituals and chipping stone, my god, the monotony of it! I mean, try to imagine 10,000 years where what happens is: you go from flaking on one side to flaking on both sides, and this is hailed in the archaeological record as a staggering cultural advance. We’re talking major boredom on one level. About 10,000 years ago it began to quicken, and people moved into cities and they began to elaborate specialized social forms, so forth and so on. Well then, about a hundred years ago, this went through an order of magnitude of acceleration. And about fifteen years ago it underwent another order of magnitude of acceleration. So we are now living in an entirely different kind of time. Our cultural toolkit is being replaced approximately every eighteen months. There was a time when it was not replaced every 18,000 years.
What do you mean, “our cultural toolkit?”
The tools by which we make our way into the world. For instance, in August I was told the Earth has moved. Mosaic is the most powerful tool ever created for moving human minds around on the web. Three weeks ago I was told: junk Mosaic! Who needs it! Netscape is the most powerful tool ever created. And you play with Netscape, and you compare it to Mosaic, and you have to admit: yep! It’s better. Orders of magnitude better. But the rate at which these tools are being replaced is phenomenal.
The other thing which is going on is that all kinds of specialties are making breakthroughs that are not being integrated to other specialties. The cultural enterprise is not being managed, it’s out of control—which is good news, I think. Because if it were under control it would probably be under the control of someone with plans not terribly pleasant for the rest of us. I think the great good news is that the cultural process is expressing its own dynamic. I’m absolutely phobic of conspiracy theory, I just think it’s a silly way to think about reality. God help anybody who tries to seize control of this tiger, because—
I don’t understand. Why [???] even development? This is a premise of yours: that there is time, that there’s development for an evolution. Why [???] that?
Well, because I think the historical record shows a progressive movement from simpler to more complex form. And then the question is: how does it happen? And there are different theories about that. But to my mind it’s pretty clear that, as you go back in time, the universe becomes a simpler and simpler place.
[???] make clear if you’re thinking if there’s time or if there’s not time. We should make it clear.
Well, this is sort of the question of: is there absolute time or is time defined by the systems embedded in it? It’s a philosophical question. I suppose if I were pressed I would say it’s defined by the systems embedded in it. But I am saying—you see, for science, time is not exactly a thing. It becomes somewhat thing-like in relativity because it’s mated with space, which is more thing-like than time. But I’m suggesting that time is a real thing; as real as electricity or electromagnetic fields. That time—well, I didn’t really intend to get off into this, but briefly, here’s the bit: science uses probability theory. That’s actually what science is. It’s a kind of expansion of probability theory. And probability theory says that… you know, the first thing you learn when you study probability is that chance has no memory. They drum this into you. So they say to you: if you flip a coin fifty times and it comes up heads fifty times, what are the odds it will come up heads the fifty-first time? And the correct answer in probability class is: fifty-fifty. The odds are always fifty-fifty. But a gambler who had flipped that coin fifty times and seen it come up heads would bet heads and win, because there’s something funny about that coin. If the odds were really fifty-fifty of a coin coming up heads or tails, then the most common outcome of a coin toss would be for the coin to land on its edge. And that’s the rarest outcome there is in a coin toss. You can hang out in bars your entire life and never see a coin toss land on its edge.
So probability theory is flawed, but the flaws are of such a nature that once you accept probability theory you will never be able to detect the flaw. Because, in a sense, the theory has preceded the observation. And what I’m saying is that complex systems—human systems, biological systems—do not operate probabilistically. They operate according to a different rule, which up until recently the best description we had came from Chinese philosophy. It was called the Tao. And the idea there is that there is this invisible force which builds things up—empires, powerful families, you name it—and it tears these things down according to laws which are very, very mysterious and part of the Tao. Well, this time wave thing that I’ve developed is essentially the Tao without mystery. It strips away all that metaphysical bafflegarb and says: here’s an algorithm entirely formal and explicit that meets all the criteria of Tao. And the point that I want to leave you with tonight is that the entertaining—you don’t even have to accept these ideas—just the entertaining of these ideas is an empowering experience because it places our historical era and each of us individually at a very critical juncture in the alchemical process of cosmic salvation, if you want to put it that way. In other words, a lot is riding on how this all comes out.
You talked about primary experience; one of the things you mentioned. And one of my primary experiences has been, I guess, what you would call communicating with nature. That which is not cultural. And I’m wondering how the way you see development and how you see globalization, and all that, ties into what I assume is similar to that experience that I had, that you mentioned, which is the archaic revival. It seems that there’s some kind of opposites going on there, and I want to know how you tie them together.
Well, yes. I mean, what’s happening is that we are headed into a kind of super-technology—a global information society, so forth and so on—but strangely enough (and you have to go back to McLuhan for this), the sensory ratios that are being reinforced by the new electronic technology are like the sensory ratios that were in place 15,000 years ago. In other words, if print is in fact a cultural disease—or, no, a condition: print imposes a condition on the human mind, which is now lifting. And as the cloud of print-created conditioning and institutions is lifted, we discover that we are not Victorian ladies and gentlemen, model citizens in the Jeffersonian state, but that we like to trance dance and mess around sexually and get down and dirty. In other words, there is an archaic impulse that comes into this as we reclaim our senses. Some of you may have read Morris Berman’s wonderful book called Coming to our Senses. Well, I’ve never met Morris Berman, but I absolutely subscribe to everything said there. History was an incredibly damaging experience. And now it’s over, in a sense, and we’re like the victims of a very prolonged bombardment of some sort. And now it’s over and we can begin to pick up the pieces and say, well, what Christianity did to our sexuality, what monotheism did to our gender relationships, so forth and so on—now we can fix all of this. But it is this paradoxical enterprise of a neo-archaism taking place in a cyberdelic hyperglobal society. That’s why body piercing, tattooing, trance dance, drug experience, drumming experiences—all of these things I take to be very healthy signs of this archaic impulse coming out in society. I mean, what was created by the era of the proper gentleman was excellent table manners and genocide over most of the surface of the planet. However, all of this, all of these changes that are going on, each one must give way for the next. Like, we are never going to reach any kind of equilibrium between here and the concrescence; this point ahead of us some eighteen years in the future, where all these biological, cultural, and physical vectors move into phase and create a phase transition. Because, in a sense, history is being forced to repeat itself at an incredibly accelerated rate.
And I mean this not as a metaphor, as is ordinarily said. I mean, literally: that, as we approach the Omega Point, there are a series of recursive reflections, almost like passing through shockwaves, where we reiterate past historical episodes. Right now, I take us to be somewhere in the late 800s. You know, Rome has fallen, and the hard claw of the Christian church is just about to close itself over our jugular for about six years or so. If you’re of our persuasion, your best bet now is to probably move to Tartory until the Renaissance, which comes in 2004. The point being that we are living through a kind of mini Dark Age that is actually related to the Dark Ages that descended over Europe at the fall of Rome. We could not have one without the other. Time is speeding up, but nevertheless we have to live through these resonances.
Do you think that we can change history, or what we call the past?
If you couldn’t change history, then you would have a determinism. The problem with determinism is that it makes philosophy impossible. Because if the universe is determined, then you think what you think because you can’t think anything else. And that makes the notion of truth rather curious. For truth to exist there must be the possibility of error. But! But! I think that the future is more determined than most people think. What is determined in the future is the levels of habit and novelty. They are already set, out there ahead of us. What is not set are the events, the people, the inventions, the catastrophes that will fulfill those abstract levels of novelty and habit. In other words, the future has not yet undergone the formality of actually occurring, but the surface on which whatever occurs must be laid over already exists. That’s why, when we look at the time wave, you’ll see people say, “You’re trying to predict the future.” Not exactly. We’re trying to predict where in the future the novelty should be expected. But we understand that you can never predict what the novelty will actually be. But if you could predict where to expect it, you could remove a lot of the anxiety from people’s experience of the unfolding of history. Right now, history is an incredibly anxiety-producing process. I mean, people are just in despair over where we go from here.
I might be getting a little ahead—because I know you were going to talk about the time wave tomorrow night—but it occurred to me that, when you devise the time wave, what it says is when, basically.
What it says is when. Yes, it answers the “When?” question. I’ve recently gone through a kind of funny change. I mean, this is more addressed to the people who are fairly familiar with this material, but we’ve put a huge amount of emphasis (when we talk about the time wave) into the end point, which will occur on December 22nd, 2012 AD. And we all discuss, you know: what will happen at the end point, and so forth and so on. But I’ve noticed that the curious thing about the time wave is that it will put itself out of business at that moment. That, regardless of what happens then, the time wave will be—I hate to use the word—history at that point! So in a sense, we misuse the time wave if we stand around waiting for 2012, because where the time wave is useful is between here and there. Because it gives us an accurate map of what I guarantee you is going to be the craziest eighteen years this planet has ever seen. And if you don’t have a map of some sort through what is about to begin to unpack itself on our doorstep, you will think that it’s the last days. Because I think everything that is presently in place will be swept away, and then whatever replaces that will be swept away.
So, part of my motivation in all this is to put the time wave in front of people and say: look! It’s worked for thousands and thousands of years. And it only has eighteen years to go. So what intellectual justification is there for denying its efficacy in the next eighteen years when it has 4+ billion years of success under its belt? And, you know, this’ll all be thrashed out in the cultural marketplace of ideas, and I’m completely convinced that best ideas win. Because god is betting on novelty. And so if you bet on novelty, you’ll be carried along in that process.
Am I correct that you predicted the Republican win in the House?
Well, I said it looked like a good time… yeah, yeah, yeah. As far as the election is concerned, I don’t know. Hawai’i gives one a different perspective. I’m living out there now. Suddenly, we all discover that we were born-again Democrats just because they all got kicked out. Before that, a lot of time was spent lashing the Democratic party as a bunch of jerks. I think probably both impulses were good. I think the election just proves that the world corporate state has made national governments irrelevant because, you know, while everybody’s yakking about the election, the real news is lowest unemployment in four years, continuous growth into—what?—the 27th month. I mean, Lloyd Benson retired three days ago and said if he could write the numbers, they wouldn’t be any different than the numbers he’s able to retire on. Economists are going berserk. And I think that what has happened very quietly over the past ten years with chaos theory and fractal mathematics and this sort of thing is that economics has come out of the woodshed. It is not voodoo anymore. And the world corporate state is running a very tight ship. And look at the changes that have gone on just in the past five years: Marxism has been liquidated, apartheid has been liquidated, the people in the Middle East have been told to get their stupid act together, the Irish question comes up for review, world trade barriers are dropping everywhere. These are all things on the agenda of the world corporate state, because the world corporate state likes happy, well-paid consumers. War, an instrument of policy by nation-states, is abhorrent to the world corporate state because it busts up assets and requires reinvestment. So I think if you have a United States senator threatening the life of the president, this tells you that these people are a bunch of irrelevant yahoos. It’s like the parliament of Tonga or something. It means they can get up and say anything they damn well please. The president doesn’t matter, the senate doesn’t matter, none of it matters. It’s a road show, and we’re all incredibly focused on it. And why is that? Because an instrumentality of the world corporate state, called the media, makes very sure that we speak of nothing else. Meanwhile, in the background, large changes are being put in place. And I am not doctrinaire on this. What we need to find out at this point is not what the Republican party wants, we need to find out: what does the world corporate state believe? Is it simply a slash-and-burn operation and we’re going to peddle ourselves into toxic environmental chaos, or are there smarter heads in there somewhere who realize that the whole thing has to be managed, otherwise it will turn on itself and be inoperable? But this is what happened a few hundred years ago: the church lost its steam and nationalism arose with a whole new vision of the world, and politics, and polity, and power. Now the world corporate state.
And the most exciting thing going on at the moment—to my mind extremely psychedelic—is the creation of the web and the net. This is potentially what can change the culture. And yet, the web and the net is a wholly owned asset of the world corporate state. However, the net was created by a Cold War mentality and designed to be indestructible. That’s why it is indestructible, otherwise they would’ve destroyed it, you may bet your bottom dollar! But in the year of thermonuclear warfare, they designed it to be indestructible. And now no one can stop it. And I’m in favor of all these runaway processes. I think wherever management is enslaved to ideology, human values are just stomped on. I mean, that’s what happened with Marxism, that’s what happens with piratical capitalism, so forth and so on. But I think the psychedelic position to take on all this is that it’s one hell of a show. And don’t get your heart set on anybody, because they’ll be swept away as fast as you can say Jack Robinson. We are not going right or left or any place so conventional. Processes have been set in motion that no political theory can come to terms with, I think.
Well, we could go on. Yeah, last question.
[???] so what is your theory? Is it chaos or it’s organized?
Oh, I think probably there’s a real war going on inside the world corporate state; that it hasn’t actually gotten itself together yet. Victory came with unexpected swiftness and very few people, even inside the Fortune 500 or the World Bank or the IMF, actually understand that degree to which the corporate mentality is now in charge of the planet. I imagine that what it is, is: it’s a struggle between dinosaurs and a more ecologically recycle-minded kind of mentality. I’m not a Marxist, but I know enough of Marx to know that in classical capitalistic theory you can’t have capitalism unless you have unlimited exploitable natural resources. And fifteen years ago I would have said capitalism’s salvation is space-based resources. Apparently the people who manage the money decided not to put money into that, and now there is no infrastructure for the delivery of space-based resources. So apparently we’re going to try what is called closed-cycle capitalism, and that may be morally dubious because as far as I can understand it requires a permanent underclass somewhere. You can’t raise everybody to the level of first world consumers because somewhere there have to be somebody working for peanuts manufacturing all this junk.
Anyway, these are issues. To me, none of this is far afield. I mean, to me the psychedelic experience is the experience of trying to make sense of reality. And it used to be—although I can’t remember when—that psychedelic self-exploration was presented as a kind of do it yourself, courageous psychotherapy; as a personal voyage. It is only if you don’t take it seriously. If you take it seriously, then this is not your personal stuff. This is the stuff. And that’s how shamans approach it, you know? They wouldn’t be able to conceive of what you mean by a personal vision. There are only visions. And if psychedelics are on any level to be taken seriously as catalyzers or expanders of consciousness, then we need them. Because it’s an absence of consciousness that is making this historical transition so excruciating. And to the degree that we can raise consciousness—our own and other people’s—we can go through this without a lot of yelling and hollering. But people who do not understand what’s going on—and their numbers will multiply as the chaos spreads—are going to require a great deal of reassurance.
Well, on that thought, I’ll send you to bed. Let’s get together tomorrow morning here at 10:00. Thank you all very much. It’s a good group. I’m happy to be here.
A Higher-Dimensional Sectioning of Reality
I’m not very keen on the whole abduction shtick. I think that one of the symptoms of cultural disintegration is simply that people lose the ability to distinguish between dream and memory, and that somehow one’s past (one’s real past and one’s dream past) simply become one’s past. And then, under certain circumstances, what was basically dream material is presented as reality. You know, just because you have a nut theory it doesn’t mean that you agree with other nut theories. In fact, it often makes you very hostile to them. After all, there’s a limited pool there that we’re all….
My idea with psychedelics throughout my whole career with them was that they were—the purpose was to go out into mindspace and hunt ideas, and bring something back to show the folks around the campfire. Something that would astonish and amaze us all. Well, you know, it’s a narrow keyhole; the mind. You can’t bring back a flower like the time traveler does in Wells’ story. So I found the only thing I could bring back—not being graphically endowed—was ideas. It’s a very mysterious business, the revelation to mind of the world. Since the last time I talked to any audience I finally understood an argument of my enemies that I had never understood before. Enemies in the friendly, collegial, ideological sense. In other words, “enemies.” The countervailing theory to the evolution of consciousness, how it came to be so rapidly as opposed to the idea that it was stimulated by psychedelic compounds in the early human diet, was—and I’ve ridiculed this idea to you before—the idea that human beings throw things. And because we were small and weak, and we hunted very large animals, we learned to hurl rocks with great accuracy. And that this is a behavior not observed in the animal world. I mean, monkeys hurl feces in a generally downward direction to indicate displeasure, but their aim is lousy, which is a very fortunate thing if you’re an Amazon explorer. But human beings can hit, with considerable force, an object up to 120 feet away. And evolutionary biologists have fastened on tis as requiring so much coordination of neural material that there would be enough left over to invent Western civilization and explore the planets once you had this thing down. Well, it always seemed somewhat preposterous to me. And I pointed out that it would make the big league baseball pitcher the paradigm of evolutionary accomplishment in the human world if that standard were accepted. But now I understand the argument a little better, and it’s slightly deeper than I thought because here’s what they were trying to say the first time.
This neurocoordination which is going on is really about planning. That it is an extraordinary thing to look at a rock in your hand and to make the calculation into the forward vector of the future: “A-ha! If I hurl back and impart a certain energy and a certain direction with a certain intensity, this thing will follow a path through space and will land somewhere with benign consequences to me and my side.” And the key concept in here is: plan. This is a plan. And animals don’t do this. There are no plans in the animal world. Their consciousness is of the moment and doesn’t involve this complex triangulation out of the moment toward future consequences in quite this way. Because, you see, what happens when you let go of the rock is that you can no longer control it. It isn’t like hunting or beating something to death with a stick, where the strategy is being readjusted moment to moment. No, once the projectile is released from your hand, that’s all the planning you get to do. So it represents a concrescence of intent. And this building toward a concrescence of intent—this plan-making—then, is the tiny flutter of the butterfly’s wing that ripples out through the chaotic universe, and the next thing you know, the kings of Babylon are issuing their codes of law, and slaves under the lash are erecting cities, and the stars are being brought into a mathematical model, so forth and so on.
Well, I just wanted to mention that. I’m also working on a second book at the moment where we’re going to to back into the psilocybin theory of the origin of consciousness and actually attempt to make a case that will demand attack. In other words, to actually marshal all of the anatomical, paleontological primate data. Because the more we research, the more it appears true that by looking at the psychedelics, in fact, they become a kind of key to understanding the entire phenomenon of human emergence by looking at the larger issue of food as an environmental dimension. In other words, our food has shaped us. As omnivores we have exposed ourselves to a very high input of mutagenic material over the course of our omnivorous behavior. And this has accelerated the rate of mutation in our species. This is why there are so many cancers. Those cancers are maladaptive mutations—most are. Most mutations are non-productive. But by being a creature of the jungle canopy who underwent a forced migration to an entirely different nutritional environment, the grassland, we opened ourselves up to this mutagenic influence. And it’s only the spectacular effect of the psychoactive compounds impacting on neural organization, cognition, and social organization that I focused on originally. But now the realization is beginning to ripple out through the evolutionary community that, yes, this is the hidden factor. The mutagenic diet and the forced shift in environment.
There are also ideologically unexpected twists and turns in all this. I’ve recently met a very interesting person—he’s going to be my coauthor on this evolution book—Philippe De Vosjoli. Some of you may know him. And he is a lover of animals. This guy has made a fortune in publishing books on reptile care. If you have a broken iguana he’s the man to see. But he pointed out something to me very, very interesting, which goes against prevailing political correctness for sure, which is that browsing ungulate animals have absolutely no interest in the behavior of other animals. They couldn’t give a hoot. Who’s interested in the behavior of other animals are hunting animals. And that in order to successfully hunt an animal you must, in a sense, be able to become it: you must be able to transfer your consciousness into it and imagine its motivations, its behaviors, so forth and so on. And so Philippe has convinced me that on one level the earliest human consciousness was not human consciousness at all, it was primate ability to enter into the behavior patterns and psychologies of other mammals in the grassland environment that it was predating upon. Following vultures as a basis for the beginning of nomadism and this sort of thing. Obviously, predator animals are aware. And their evolutionary success is based on environmental awareness and being able to act based on inputting the behavior of other animals. This is a very complex mental world compared to the world of the fruitarian, leaf-eating canopy browser that we came from.
And then it appears that, in a series of coalescing involutions of culture and neural organization driven by the spatial coincidence of human beings, cattle, mushrooms, our original primate programming was restructured. And I’ve talked a great deal about this. I think this is they key to understanding at least our sexual politics. All primates have what are called dominance hierarchies. And this is where the hard-bodied, sharp-fanged, young males arrange everybody else to suit themselves: the elderly, the sexually available females, the young, homosexuals, the sick. Everybody gets told where to stand and what to do. This is how primates operate. This is how we operate. However, I think that for a long period in human beings this was interrupted by nutritional factors and drug factors in the environment. That, in a sense, a human society that is using psilocybin on even a lunar cycle of use is suppressing the ordinary pattern of male hierarchical dominance. It’s not genetically touching it, it’s still there. But in the same way that if you give a population of aggressive people a lot of opium, aggression disappears; if you give a population of people a kind of psychedelic, boundary-dissolving aphrodisiac that promotes group bonding and erodes monogamy and so forth, then you get a different social ambiance than if that weren’t present.
And I think the secret to understanding our curious relationship to the angelic and animal worlds has to do with the fact that, under the influence of this hormone/enzyme which was suppressing ordinary patterns of male dominance, consciousness underwent an extraordinary series of bifurcations. And language, theater, poetry, magic, religion, dance, music, ethical values, altruism, everything emerged sometime between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago—the paleolithic; the pre-agricultural era. An extraordinary period of novelty being expressed and conserved in the biological world: the primate species, the hominids, suddenly just take the stage, and through an amazing series of cultural transformations become a planet-ruling species by 10,000 years ago. And then, not content with that, the process doesn’t slow down. It accelerates. And this has to do with the fact that we have somehow created through language a kind of adaptive strategy that is so flexible that, unlike most adaptive strategies which sooner or later run into a blind box canyon and are just simply trapped there butting their heads against the wall—you see it everywhere: the muscles down on the rocks; and most evolutionary developmental lines are dead ends—but somehow we broke free of that by ceasing to be defined by the physical body (which is the stuff upon which evolution works) and placing between ourselves and our environment a new thing called culture, we began to mediate evolution. You know, evolution says the infirmed, the idiot, the lame must die. Culture says we have different values about this. Maybe yes, maybe no. But we will decide. Evolution says you must be a scattered species, nomadic and moving across the surface of the planet like an animal. Culture says no, we have strategies for food sequestration, and common defense, and we will build cities, and so forth and so on.
And so, since about—pick a number—10,000 years ago, evolution has not been the dominating factor; biological evolution. Instead there is something else, which the word “epigenetic” has suggested, meaning change not driven by genes. Our genes are the same. If you were to be with a group of people active 10,000–15,000 years ago, they would look just like you and I. We haven’t changed that much. We’ve mixed the genes, but we haven’t particularly added new ones or lost genes. But in the epigenetic realm, how many languages have been generated over the past 10,000 years? How many world religions have come and gone? How many systems of government? How many theories of polity and society? We just furiously cast these things off. And, beginning about 500 years ago, this phenomenon was embraced as a permanent aspect of human existence in Western Europe and the concept of progress became enshrined. And progress is the idea that this process must go on, be extended and accelerated, everywhere. And now it seems to be happening. I think—and, as a consequence of this acceleration of process, all the contradictions in the old system—and I mean reaching back to Egypt—all the contradictions in the old system are now on the surface.
And because I believe psychedelics are a kind of higher-dimensional sectioning of reality, I think they give the kind of stereoscopic vision necessary to hold the entire hologram of what’s happening in your mind. The old paradigm is gone. I mean, we can talk about how different parts of it died. Maybe not everybody knows the story of how physics, the paradigmatic science of reason, turned into a place where nothing makes any sense at all, you know? And where stories are told so wild that a surrealist painter would flee from the gathering, just shaking his head. That’s physics! The very bedrock of the whole Western shtick has turned into a place of utter psychedelic contradiction and chaos. And the news hasn’t reached biology and psychology. They’re still operating under different paradigms. But what is keeping science alive at this point is the fact that it is able to whore itself to the marketplace. But in terms of the old program, which was providing some kind of metaphysical restation of the nature of the universe, it’s pretty clearly out of reach at this point. I mean, the universe has been discovered to be stranger than you can suppose.
And what this means to the troops—which is you and me, the citizens of these linear, print-created, scientism-ruled, democratic-industrial states—what it means to us is: you get your mind back. They have no need of it anymore. It’s actually become a burden to them. I mean, yes, they struggled like hell to take it, but then they discovered that it really wasn’t worth all that much anyhow. The great thing about living in the twilight of an imperial decline is the permission that exists. You know, incredible resources lay before us. And very few people are looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do. I mean, the fact that this community has been able to persist and exist, this is the Orphic community. This is the tradition of dissent, ecstasis, sexual ambiguity, so forth and so on, that reaches right back to chalcolithic Greece and beyond. Shamanism is about shape-shifting. Shamanism is about doing phenomenology with a toolkit that works.
And no religion, no philosophy, I think, has ever gone very far down the road of understanding. Understanding is not really a collective enterprise. Understanding is an individual enterprise. And you can read Husserl, and you can become a Hasid, or you can assimilate these group understandings that are forms of wisdom, but ultimately those are platforms for intrepid exploration. And now, at the end, I think, of this entire enterprise—I mean, I don’t know whether I’m changing or the world is changing (or both), but it has gotten so rich recently that it’s like an enormous meal at some over-reviewed restaurant where you just have to push yourself away and say the spectacle is endless and amazing, and apparently it’s all going to come true. My impulse is to distance myself from it all. I mean, it is… well, the mushroom said to me once, it said, “This is what it’s like when a species prepares to depart for the stars. This is not unusual.” I mean, the earth quakes, the oceans boil. The planet came into existence for this. All life for over a billion years has been pointed toward taking this step, you know? Leaving the oceans for the land was dress rehearsal for what will now be done. And it’s chilling, because it’s so huge. I mean, you don’t even know—well, it’s just enormous. And yet, apparently, when you look back through the history of the universe, this is how it proceeds. Incredibly gradually over staggering scales of time, but then every once in a while you come around the corner and there it is: a continent sinks, an asteroid impacts, a star explodes, two intelligent species meet somewhere out in the cosmos. And these things, then, set ripples going for eons.
I’m curious what this has to do with scientific evidence, because it seems to me that when you use psychedelics to break down perceptual barriers, that’s one thing. But there’s such momentum going on in the world today that things are breaking down without psychedelics—although it may appear psychedelic in terms of the way you’re seeing it. Do you see what I’m getting at?
Yeah, I do.
So at this juncture, can we transcend the psychedelic?
Well, my idea is that the psychedelic recapitulates on the personal scale this universal meltdown that is going on without the need of psychedelics. But this universal meltdown is very frightening to people. Most people are pattern-oriented and nostalgic and it scares them. And I think psychedelics are a way—it’s sort of like doing calisthenics in preparation for the marathon at the end of time. You know? People who have taken psychedelics should be in a better position to reassure everybody else. They’ll just say, well, you know, people say, “The laws of physics are breaking down!” You say, “Look, I’ve seen it before.”
And in a way this thing, this event which wants to emerge—we think of it as quantized in a single moment where the shift will happen and it’s like the glory or something. But in a way, our job—if we have a job, and I’m not sure we do—but if we have a job, then our job is to anticipate this and to live it out before it happens. Somebody very dear to me said to me 25 years ago, “My god, I don’t know how they…” actually, it was in the same conversation where they said history is the shockwave of eschatology. How anybody could say that in 1975 I do not understand. Anyway, he also said we should live as though the apocalypse has already occurred. That’s the only way to transcend the historical hysteria. Because the historical hysteria is about this thing, which, it might happen, it won’t happen, it will happen! No, you say it did happen! It did happen. So, enough about that already! And we are building, you know—each thing that we do anticipates this deeper fall inward into the dream. The dream is what awaits us at the end of history. The dream—and you can call it hyperspace or cyberspace or the trans-death realm—but what it really is, is: it’s a going into the Dream. And what is the Dream?
Well, the Dream is a place where the laws are set by the imagination. The imagination is God in the Dream. And if there is a way for us to mirror our highest aspirations—in other words, to inculcate the God image in ourselves—then by becoming the masters of our Dream, and then creating (through drugs, technology, magic; who cares, the details come later) creating a way to share that. So that we each, then, are a god with an open office doorway to all the other gods who wander through, looking at the cosmogonies that we produce as art. I was thinking about this this morning, because I was thinking, “What am I going to say to these folks?” And I was thinking about the platonic triad of the good, the true, and the beautiful. And sometimes people have dissed me and my obsession with hallucination because they say, “Well, LSD doesn’t really cause hallucination. It causes insight and complex thoughts. But why are you so focused on visual hallucination?” Which I am. I mean, if it doesn’t do that I’m not interested. And then I thought the way into it is: Plato talks about the good, the true, and the beautiful. But the key concept is beautiful. Because good—it’s abstract. True—it’s abstract. But beauty is felt; perceived with the senses—as music, as painting, whatever it is. And so the bridge to the metaphysical absolutes of truth and the good is through the palpable realm of the beautiful.
And to my mind this is what these psychedelics achieve. You know, they—as Huxley said—they dial open the valve of consciousness. Or as Blake implied: the window of perception is cleansed and then you see through into an infinite holographic recursive world of mind and affectionate intelligence. And somehow this mystery is in the body, and therefore outside of time, and therefore beyond—in some sense—the reach of culture. Sex is like this to some degree. Sex is in the body and outside of time, and culture spends a huge amount of its energy trying to reach sex, trying to contort it, push it one way or another, and has produced some pretty bizarre themes and variations, but generally speaking has failed. I mean, no society certainly has ever gotten rid of sex, even though there have been societies ruled for a thousand years by men wearing dresses. But it gave us some of the most ribbled minstrelsy around.
So there is this mystery in the body—I’m now returning to the subject of psychedelics—beyond the reach of cultural manipulation. And discovering this and exploring it is somehow the frontier of maturity. Culture is a form of enforced infantilism. It’s the last nursery. And most people never leave it, and they are perfectly happy to interpret the world through the reassuring nonsense of their cultural values, whatever they may happen to be. The reason psychedelics are so politically dynamite is because they cast doubt on this final cultural envelope of insulation. And they do it very democratically. It doesn’t matter what your cultural conditioning is, it falls into question under the influence of the psychedelic. And then for most people that’s frightening—frightening enough that they not only don’t want to do it, but they are also keen to see that other people don’t do it, because they realize this is some kind of a doorway through which demons come: disruptive ideologies, strange forms of music, bizarre behaviors, unpleasant fashions. It’s all coming from this place where these people are messing around, and so there’s an impulse to close it off.
And so there is a tradition 50,000 years old of shamanism/bohemianism: people who are deputized to be weird and are told, “Okay, you be weird. We’ll give you a hut at the edge of the village. You be weird. And if we need you, we’ll call.” That’s basically the role. “No, we’ll call you!” you know? I mean, the political position of shamans is fascinating in these societies, because they share it, but they are not of it, and they’re only asked in when things are really desperate. And I think bohemianism—this Orphic tradition I’ve talked about that goes way, way back—is the continuation of that. And so we, here, represent to some degree a self-selected group of these Orphic eccentrics who carry this charge of otherness. In many languages the word “shaman” means “go-between.” Go-between. A shaman moves between levels. And the mythologies differ. Either into a spirit world, or an ancestor world, or an animal world—but: the go-between.
And—now let me see if I can tie this all up. Oh, I know. I wanted to follow this thing out about the suppression of male dominance through chemicals and diet and psilocybin and all that. The reason that is fascinating to me, aside from the fact that it answers some real conundrums in hominid evolutionary arguments, is that it then has an implication for the present. Because we are the damaged heirs of a damaged cultural style which has been practiced now for about 7,000 years. And there have been various corrective measures—all failures, I think. Christianity: Christ, a corrective measure. Somebody who comes who says, “Don’t do it that way.” And they get rid of him, and within fifty years the church he founded is dealing real estate. And then you get it in Islam; another corrective effort. But these things have not worked. The cultural style has been too toxic. And with the rise of modern science and the acceleration of the toxic consequences of bad ideology we now come to the 20th century. And throughout the 20th century there has been an impulse—
What means that ideology [???]
Ideology that has consequences that are bad for the environment and the gene pool.
Who knows what is bad for the environment?
Well, nobody knows absolutely, but when you think about things like plutonium and nuclear weapons stockpile—I mean, I agree with you that in the largest picture moral relativism makes it impossible to say anything about good and bad, but I’m not that morally relativistic. I think biology should be preferred over its absence, and that intelligence should be preferred over its absence. Because I think the universe wants to preserve novelty. I mean, that could actually be the basis of a kind of ethic: bad is that which destroys novelty, and good is that which promotes it. It sounds awfully progressive. I remember the first time I was in Pakistan and I caught this rickshaw into Lahore, and this guy was being pulled by a human being—you know, muscle power. And this guy said, “Oh, you’re an American,” this and that, and he said, “This country is screwed up! This country is really screwed up!” And I said, “Well, what’s wrong with it?” And he said, “You want to know what’s wrong with it? Progress! Too much progress!” And this was a man who made his living pulling people around in a rickshaw. So, you know, it’s a relativistic thing.
But what I wanted to say was: there is an intelligence in the species that is deeper than the societies and the systems that we erect to rule us. And this wisdom of the species can make enormous changes in the evolution of the mass psyche, such as the Renaissance, for example. And in the 20th century this has taken the form of what I call the archaic revival. And one of my books is called The Archaic Revival. The 20th century—which is a vast stage crowded with different kinds of competing social phenomena, art movements, so forth and so on—nevertheless, I think the entire thing is illuminated by the notion that what it is about is an impulse toward archaism. That in the sciences, the arts, everywhere, the archaic ideal is raising its protean head. And it begins with Freud in the early years of the 20th century, discovering by interviewing these Viennese bourgeois housewives that human beings were brutes, and that incest, rape, all this stuff was right below the surface. The rediscovery of the beast. And, certainly, Germany developed that theme up into the 1940s. Meanwhile, people were bringing African masks to Paris, and cubism was basing its early theory on the deconstruction of primitive art. Meanwhile, people like Erik Satie were abandoning the canons of classical composition in music, and the twelve-tone row was being experimented. Jazz was being given new attention for its primitiveness, its rhythm, its sense of something beyond the reach of civilization. Meanwhile, the deconstruction of painting that had begun with impressionism—which, you know, impressionism is simply twenty minutes into LSD—had gone deeper; had developed, first of all, into the deconstructive spirit of Dada, where people tore up telephone directories and rang bells while they did something else. In other words, the absurd appears for the first time. An enormous theme in 20th century life: just the incoherent idiocy of it all. And then surrealism, taking up the Freudian tune, begins to portray these worlds of distorted association, and so forth and so on.
Well, all this is about boundary dissolution. It was happening on the bohemian left, it was happening on the fascist right, the rise of Marxism is a collectivist theory of society very concerned with collectivism, so forth and so on. And then enormous changes—Auschwitz, the atom bomb, spaceflight. And now where we are is: for 10, 15 years there has been this awareness that it is about direct experience of the numinous. And it’s been hideously marketed and raped by the entrepreneurial instinct and peddled back to us as dozens of new age cults diced up and presented as different from each other. But the impulse toward this authentic dissolving experience is real. It was there in theosophy, it was there in the Beats, it came up through the hippies, it survived the trivialization of the New Age, and it has now found its way into the youth culture, into rave and house music and that whole thing. And it’s healthy; healthier than it ever was.
Well, the central figure in all of this, when you get it down to the idea that a culture must have a culture hero—meaning a paradigmatic ideal to constellate around. The central figure (it has been realized) is the shaman, who is this person of indeterminate depth. Everyone else has a determinable depth. They are the linear cardboard people walking around. But the shaman is of indeterminate depth. That’s the secret of Carlos Castaneda’s magic: he creates a literary character that in any other culture would be deemed mythical. But because of our attitude toward the depth of the shaman, we can’t tell. We can’t tell. And we deputize this kind of depth in rock stars, in culture heroes of various sorts, and worshiped that for the past twenty years or so. Well then, slowly it has dawned that the position of worshiper is not the most satisfying position. The only position that satisfies is to be that thing. And then, at that point, you’re at the psychedelic crossroads, I think. Because you will either make a—how can I put it?—well, a conservative decision, and seek a guru of some sort, and be lost in that, which is a whole shell game, or you will simply cut through the human domain and make a pact with a plant, a substance, and then you will at that moment be at the threshold of your adulthood, you know? That’s leaving home. Home is culture, home is this fabric of imaginary values that have been created and maintained by a pathological culture. And so it’s a personal thing, ultimately. Very controversial. Not easy to do. And then, once done, it has to be integrated, dealt with, thought about. And that, as far as I can tell, is a task that extends well beyond the yawning grave.
You talked about the dream. It reminded me of the aboriginal cultures, and that’s kind of how they lived their lives; in the dream time. Is that what you’re talking about? Living in the dream? Being in touch with—
Yeah, to some degree. I don’t know that much about aboriginals. I’m interested. I read Bruce Chatwin’s book Songlines, and I found it absolutely fascinating. And if you want an exam—I mean, I’ll talk about it for a minute, because it bears on something I’m very interested in.
Part of the transformation that I think is going to happen to us lies in the way we deal with language neurologically. Because under the influence of psychedelics, especially short-acting tryptamines like DMT, you experience phenomena which seem to be transformations of the language modality. And I’ve described this stuff as visible language: that you can actually sing meaning into visible existence. And I’ve seen this on ayahuasca. This is what ayahuasca is about: the famous group states of mind that anthropologists talk about. What they really are are three-dimensional acoustical sculptures that are made by groups of people who are loaded. And it’s an extraordinary thing. It’s an experience you can’t have any other way. And it’s not quite telepathy, or perhaps more than telepathy. And the key concept in communications is bandwidth. Bandwidth. The more bandwidth you have, the more detail, color, tone you can impart to your signal. Well, a very low bandwidth channel is the small mouth noise channel. I mean, this is about as primitive as it gets. Short of doing it in Morse code, doing it by voice, it’s amazing that we understand each other at all. And, in fact, you may have noticed one of the most uncool things you can do is ask somebody, “Would you explain to me what I just said?” And they say, “Oh, well… oh dear, I’m afraid I was… well, generally…” you know, and a lot of floundering around. In these ayahuasca states what you see are group-generated acoustical hallucinations. And because ayahuasca is composed of psychedelic compounds which occur in normal brain chemistry—in other words, nothing exotic to human brain tissue is present. It raises the question: well, how close is normal metabolic chemistry to having an ability to do this? And the answer is: nobody knows. But very, very close. The pineal gland produces adrenal bruminal tropane, which is a β-Carboline, 6-methoxy-tetrahydro [harmine] occurs—or maybe it is adrenal bruminal tropane, I can’t remember. Anyway, there are active β-Carbolines produced in brain metabolism.
And language is such an odd phenomenon anyway in our species. I mean, notice that you have to have two people to do it, which raises a real question about how you get that coordinated the first time out. And it’s a behavior: it isn’t an organ; it isn’t like my arm, my nose. It’s a behavior. And a learned behavior. And yet, a behavior so much more complex than any other behavior you ever, ever learn. I mean, if the average person could walk like the average person could talk, they would be a prima ballerina of the Russian ballet. It’s very interesting that we have such facility for the linguistic enterprise. And how it evolves—it’s changing all the time. And, well, is it just changing in a kind of forward lateral direction, or is there some kind of vertical gain here? I mean, can we actually describe things better to each other than the ancient Greeks could describe things to each other? Can we say things which they couldn’t say? Or anything of consequence? And I maintain: yes. I maintain that culture—you know, freeways, international airports, so forth and so on—that’s just the trailing edge of evolving language.
Well, so, here’s a story which relates to this that is in Bruce Chatwin’s book Songlines. There are these things called songlines, which cross Australia, and they can be thousands of miles long. And if you’re a shaman and one of these things crosses your territory, then you are the keeper of the song of that part of the line. You must learn and keep this song. There are 137 aboriginal languages in Australia. So these people did the following thing: they went to a place near one end of the songline and they recorded a shaman singing his song of that place. And then they went 2,000 miles to another part of the same songline, and they found the songkeeper of that place, and they played the guy’s song for him. And it was in a language he didn’t speak, and he had never been away from his own home. He had never been to this place. So he listened to the song, and after a while he began to sing with it. Not the words, but the melody. And he sang with it the way you could sing with Green Sleeves if you didn’t know the words but you heard the melody. And then, after it was over, he said, “The man who sang this song, his place is a beaut with three mountains, and eucalyptus filling the valley, and a red rock like a lizard over here.” So then, they tried to analyze what is happening here. Is this telepathy? Is it magic? What is it? And I think the key to understanding it lies in—I’ve recently seen you can actually buy for $600 a piece of software where you glue electrodes to your head, and sit down in front of your computer, and you see an undulating landscape of neural readouts that look, lo and behold, like mountains, valleys, escarpments. It’s like a visit to Utah. And I am convinced that what’s happening is that, when the shaman listens to the first shaman’s song, he does not process the sound the way we do. He processes it the way this computer is processing this neurological input. And what he’s seeing is an acoustical environment of sound. And he can see the place. The song is the way it is because the song is not a song, the song is a hologrammatic acoustagram of the topology of the land through which the songline passes. These people are called the most primitive people in the world, remember?
So I just recently became aware of this. It’s very exciting to me. I’m interested in this software. But this is the kind of thing that lies out there. Because, you see, the world arrives at the surface of your skin as one thing, but the senses bifurcate the incoming signal. The light goes to the eyes, the acoustical signal goes to the ears, the tactile signal is conveyed through the skin. And so then, when we reconstruct the world the welds are showing rather prominently in the model. And what happens with the psychedelics is: it seems as though somewhere deep in the brain there is an organ or a program that can take all of the incoming sensory data and actually recombine it into a synesthesic whole which is neither seen nor felt nor heard, but which is holo-grokked or something. A sense which unites all of the other senses. And that’s what I call going into this informational superspace. That’s what the psychedelic experience is. It reunifies the sensory datum of the world—and I might add: the whole world, not the surface of the world, which is what is conveyed to us by light, but the internal dimension of transcendence which is in the world is also present.
It’s very interesting that you mention that binding together of the senses. I attended a conference earlier this year called Toward a Scientific Basis for Consciousness in Arizona, and a number of the presentations focused on the way in which the brain operates when this binding takes place. And it turns out that different cortical groups start to talk to one another by oscillating together in phase. And when they’re phase locked like that, then they bind this information into a whole. And I’m reminded of the research that Michael Persinger directed at Laurentian University in Canada, who has been focusing on the electromagnetic field of the Earth and its effect on the brain. In particular he’s been interested in the correlation between earthquake activity and ghost sightings, and such like. But he’s pointed out that the Earth’s magnetic field is ringing like a bell, and that the main power of oscillation is around 10 Hertz, which is half the speed of the alpha rhythm in the human brain. And he’s postulated that in some cases brains can phase lock the geomagnetic field, and that the geomagnetic field oscillations can serve as a kind of carrier frequency to bind these cortical resonances together for brief periods of time. And has speculated that this might be the source for ESP-like activity. Are you familiar with that theory?
Yeah. He wrote a wonderful book called Space-Time Transience and Unusual Events. He’s been very creative with using the electromagnetic field as an explanation for all kinds of things, and I’m totally open-minded to that. His work is very interesting. It does seem to be true that along earthquake faults you do get piezoelectric buildup and release. The world is full of bizarre phenomena. Some of you may have seen in Science News last week, for the first time they have confirmed these enormous blue and red lights above 75,000 feet in the atmosphere. Airline pilots have been seeing these things for years. There was no theory, nobody knew what they were. Now NASA dedicated an expedition, one of their aircraft, to looking at this, and they got thousands of images of these things. And it’s an electrical phenomenon [which] theory doesn’t account for. Nobody knows what it means.
On one level, I’m sympathetic to Persinger and that approach to explaining some of these things, and I do think the place has been overlooked in importance. On another level, this is a very hard thing to talk about, but there is like what I call linguistic viruses which infect the effort to communicate. And they’re very hard to catch at work. It has to do with: how can people believe things which are absurd? And it’s very interesting to spend time with people who believe something which is absurd. A lot of people bring raps to me that they want confirmation or disconfirmation on, and I passed this way last night when I talked about the rules of evidence—that the standard of discourse has decayed to the point where it’s very hard to get any kind of consensus about anything, because most people participating don’t know how the game is played. And linguistic viruses really are responsible for much more of reality than we suppose.
I suppose I can’t really talk about this without stepping on somebody’s toes, so let me pick… well, for example, crop circles. Crop circles are important, and what was going on at the England end was: these things were absurd. I mean, you had only to see one to understand what was going on and to see that a confluence of British eccentricity, ripe grain, a certain ambiance in the air was allowing these things to come into being, and then the media was fanning it into existence. Well, now, how does this work? Talking of couped oscillators and Persinger, and all that—
Could you repeat that law?
Oh, that the paranormal phenomenon has an impact in an inverse square relationship to the distance you are from the event, you see. Because here’s how it works: the media is reporting the onrushing phenomenon of existence. Stock markets, wars, diplomatic meetings, gangster killing, so forth and so on. Then something weird happens. Now, I have a job, you have a job. We note that something weird has happened. But it doesn’t affect us. But, scattered through the society, there are people who, when they open their paper and it says, “Strange Pattern in Wheat Field near Wiltshire,” they say, “A-ha! I knew it! This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is the sign!” And they jump in their car and they drive to Wiltshire to look at the crop circle. And they get there first. Well, then comes the press. And they say, “Well, what is this?” You say, “Well, the farmer doesn’t know. And everybody standing around.” And finally the weird person takes courage and says, “Well, actually I’ve been studying a peculiar form of biological energy for some thirty years, and my theory—” and you’re off and running at that point. And so weirdness attracts weirdos, who then interpret the weirdness very weirdly! Because they came with sharpened axes to grind, you see? And the crop circle thing was a test case for this. This is why I spend so much time on it. It did no credit to anybody. The occult just went sailing over the edge. And science hardly behaved any better, because there was this guy—if any of you are interested in this, there’s a wonderful book called Round in Circles by Jim Schnabel that goes into all this. But there was a fellow named Terence Meaden who was a meteorologist. And when the first crop circles appeared and the weirdos began talking about telluric forces, messages from Atlantis, and so forth and so on, he jumped into the fray and said, “Nonsense. Nonsense. This is a meteorological phenomenon. In the warm days of summer, on the lee side of these certain kinds of hills, a kind of circular low-pressure wind can get going. And this is nothing to get excited about, and we’ve got the statistics,” so forth and so on. And the press loved him. They loved him as much as the screwballs. And they would put him on. And first they would interview the mad people, and then Terence Meaden would come on and poo-poo it away.
So that was the first year of the crop circles. The next year the crop circles became considerably more elaborate, with arrows coming off of them and zig-zags and so forth and so on. Bring Terence Meaden onto the scene. And he says, “Well, you know, the new field of dynamic instability indicates that the mathematical solutions to these breakdown states are very complicated and unusual patterns.” And so then, the next year, it was inconceivably complex; the crop circles. Meanwhile, you know, crop circle time is in the springtime. It’s dead in the winter because the fields are empty. So Meaden had used the wintertime to go to the Institute of Electrostatic Physics in Nagoya and came back full of talk about plasma, roving plasmic fields and this sort of thing. And armed with the roving plasmic fields, no crop circle was too bizarre to not be proclaimed the product of natural forces. And this went on. And finally, BBC2—and, you know, you can think about this what you’d like—but they made a crop circle in frustration with this whole thing. They made a crop circle. And among the crop circle cognoscenti there are certain moves that are the favorite moves, that are the authenticating moves: the “no human being could possibly do it” moves. And so the BBC2 people made a very good crop circle, and they brought Terence Meaden out and said, “Terence, we’ve just spotted one over here. We’ll get you right to the scene before the tourists get there.” And they toured with him, and he pointed out the distinguishing characteristics. No doubt about it! And then they sat him down in the center of this field and they said, “Terence, we made it.” And it’s a horrible thing, actually, to see a grown man cry. Because he is devastated. And then—and this is just one of moments—you know Rupert, my comrade in arms, Sheldrake was one of the people who sponsored the contest that basically put the crop circles out of business, because the claims were fantastic, you know? No person could do this, so forth and so on. So what they did is: they got farmers to donate ten-acre tracts of English corn, which is wheat, and for fifty pounds you could enter. And everybody had to make the same crop circle, which was one chosen to have all the difficult little shmiggies in it. And you could use no lights, you had to go into the field at 10 p.m. and be out by 4 a.m. And at dawn the helicopters flew over with the video crews, and then the crop circles were toured on the ground and awards were made. And this guy, Jim Schnabel, who wrote this book I mentioned, by himself, in total darkness, in 2.5 hours, made the winning entry. And it was a very close tie between him and a helicopter crew from a nearby air base who also made one. And yet—and this is to some degree the whole point of the story—and yet, there are people whose eyes fill with tears when I do this rap, because they haven’t heard. And it will never die now, I’m convinced. It’s an informational virus, loose in the world. And crop circles will occasionally appear. But it was really a breakout that was so predictable from the unconscious that it amazed me while it was going on how many friendships were strained over this thing.
But isn’t that also a recapitulation of the history of the Catholic church?
And the fall of the Ming dynasty, I believe!
But I think that it’s like a virus embedded within the virus here, because part of what happens when these sorts of things erupt onto the media scene—and this is true for UFOs, you know? That, whenever one of those outbursts take place, it’s that there’s this incredible elaboration and complexity that emerges in the kinds of stories that people are telling. The abduction thing would be the latest. By the way, Persinger’s involved in that too by showing that electromagnetic fields to the brains can induce these weird out-of-body experiences. But in the case of crop circles, they have been reported for many decades, but they’ve not received much attention. They’re just little circles that have a spiral pattern in them, and they’ve been seen around the world. And my personal view is that there’s probably a series of different phenomena that have been shoveled into one category, but when the media gets a hold of them, all crop circles are the same. And when fractal design starts showing up outside the University of Kansas—the Mandelbrot set, which is one of the most ridiculous of the crop circle patterns—the media presents the image that these are all the same. They’re all the same phenomenon. And so, consequently, probably, I wouldn’t be surprised if Meaden might be right at some level that there are dust-devil-like phenomena—
No, I agree with you completely. I mean, they track down a 1733 account of something called the Devil’s Mower. And I grew up in western Colorado, and part of my rite of initiation into manhood was enforced elk hunting on horseback every autumn. And we would come upon these places in the forest that had been whirled down. And the explanation was just: these are dead falls from whirlwinds. But it always seemed to me… had anybody ever seen one of these things occur? It was a very odd explanation. Yes. It’s about informational distortion and decay. You’re quite right. I went to a flying saucer convention against my better judgment, and I learned more—my opinion about flying saucers evolved more over that weekend than in the previous thirty years of being interested in flying saucers. And I was read all the books, all the special cases. I knew the data and all that, but I had never hung out with flying saucer people. And it was so obviously a private Idaho that I just couldn’t wait to get away.
And I think—I don’t know. There are two impulses in the human psyche. I mean, at least two in this case. And I just don’t resonate with believers in anything. I mean, I get insulting to Buddhists, for god’s sake! I mean, there’s just something about their smugness and their whole bit that I just want to squash it! So you can imagine how I behave in the presence of scientologists and the rest of it. Belief is—again, it’s a form of infantilism. There is no grounds for believing anything. And the flying saucer thing—I went to this conference imagining that what I would meet would be a whole bunch of really interesting, sincere people who wanted to discuss the phenomenon of unexplained things in the sky, and contacting human beings. And what I found was booth after booth of people who had all the answers! All the answer. Learn how a nearby planet reduced crime by 500%! I got news for you: not even God can reduce crime by 500%! Once you’ve reduced it 100%, you’ve got it! So this was the quality of thinking that was going on. And then there were a lot of really scary people in brown leather shoes with thin smiles and cheap suits who were clearly third-rate semi-retired intelligence hacks, who were there to keep the flock headed in the right direction. And people wanted to talk about experiments on human fetal tissue that go on in underground laboratories out in Arizona through the connivance of the CIA and the Pleiadean High Command, and you just think, “Uh, well, I’ve got to call my broker. I’ll get back to you on that.”
I mean, I don’t know. To me, if you can’t—well, it’s an aesthetic thing. It’s an aesthetic thing. I believe that great weirdness stalks the universe. That’s not the issue with me. But it’s not tacky. It is not tacky! And people who wear low-cut gowns with a lot of sequins on them, and tiaras, and pass out flying saucer shaped business cards—that’s tacky. And so it’s can’t be so! I know this. I’ve never been wrong. If intelligence fails, aesthetics will pull you through. And people don’t like this part of me. I don’t make it comfortable for other squirrels. I don’t share the branch very generously. You know, a place where I’ve gotten into lots of trouble is with the face on Mars. I mean, I just have not got enough unpleasant things to say about the face on Mars, everybody connected with it, the very idea. I mean, talk about something which should never have been let out of the box. That’s it. I mean, the idea of a tchotchke 17 by 11 miles in size just gives me the heebie-jeebies. I don’t want to know those aliens. They should go back where they came from and take their tchotchke with them. We need people who can build in light and balance planetary ecologies and do really cool things. Massive earth-moving projects is… we’ve been there, we’ve done that.
We never went to the Moon, either. Books will appear on these subjects. One of the interesting things about UFO experience [???] other kinds of phenomena you’re talking about is the potential for the manipulation of belief systems. And this is something Jacques Vallée talks about in his books. That there is a kind of sinister undertone that the military is bringing people in who are UFO die-hards and saying: “Look at these documents. We can prove that there’s this majestic group.” And then snatching them back, and the UFO enthusiasts go out and tell the world about it, and long stories about aliens under the desert in Nevada collaborating with the military. And the newspapers pick it up, they’re completely poo-pooed. Meanwhile, the tests of a new spy plane called Project Aurora that travels six times the speed of sound and leaves this blue—it’s like a traveling blue ball of light—that’s clearly a UFO. And if anybody sees it traveling over the desert and picks up the phone and calls the paper, nobody will report it. They’ve managed to—
No, it’s clear that those black projects—and Aurora is the one—is being run out there. And that’s very exciting. I mean, a plane that can fly to orbit… yeah, yeah.
Terence, what is your opinion on the Biosphere? Did you get into that at all? And John Allen and the whole shtick there?
I knew those people in the early 1980s. 1981, in the Amazon, they said they were headed for Mars. I don’t know. They are derivative of J. G. Bennett’s school of Gurdjieff. And I have a rule which is: I’m against any group that keeps secrets. And Gurdjieffians keep secrets. I’m not against Gurdjieffians per se. In fact, it’s kind of too bad they get into the category. But secret-keeping is a bad habit. And if you tell me a secret, I’ll probably tell it. Nobody ever told me not to say anything. So I’ve followed them with interest over the years. It’s too bad it’s another thing led by a middle-aged white guy. But, you know, they seem to have the pull.
But I want to return to something you said. I mean, this can be the last thing about flying saucers. But let me give you my conclusion from this weekend of how the whole flying saucer thing worked. I mean, this is just one person’s opinion. But this is how I explain it to myself. As you know, in 1947 the Rainier lights appeared. And that was the first big, modern flying saucer sighting and set off the whole modern flying saucer phenomenon. Well, cast your mind back to the ambiance of 1947. The atom bomb was in 1945, the defeat of Germany. The H-bomb was under development. Einstein was advising Truman. I mean, people were on the brink of things they could not understand. Nobody knew what it the H-bomb really meant. What does it mean that we can do this? And they said, “Well, we don’t know. Maybe the universe is monitored. And what we’re doing is so outrageous that maybe it will bring those who do the monitoring.” And then they began to get these reports of these things in the sky. And they said, “My god, this must be it.” And there were very high-level government, secret, secret, secret commissions set up, and they began to study the flying saucers furiously. And they penetrated all those groups. And they penetrated this flying saucer thing from one end to the other. And I’m talking 1947 to, say, 1954. And they studied, and they studied it, and Carl Jung was brought in, and all kinds of people were brought in. And at the end of that period they concluded that, what it was, they actually understood it. They concluded that it was the cosmic giggle. They concluded that it was that unreducible nub of nuttiness that haunts reality. And that it was not a threat to the security of North American air defenses. That was their question: is this a military problem for us? And by 1954 or so, they had decided whatever this is—a linguistic virus, a mass hallucination, a whatever it is—it is not a problem for the military defense of North America. But! They had spent millions infiltrating and completely taking over the weirdest group of screwballs you can imagine. The flying saucer hardcore cultists. And these people will believe anything. We know that because we’ve been to their meetings. We’ve read their publications. What should we do with them? Shall we just withdraw all our agents and let them go back to whatever they were doing? And the answer was: no. These people will become a pool for experiments in manipulation of information, control of belief systems, response to propaganda. A whole bunch of black-box psychological and programming and informational kinds of research will be done on this pool of people, because they’re so weird, if they start telling their relatives that they’re hearing voices in the head or something like that, their relatives and friends are just going to say, “So what else is new? You’ve been talking like this for years.” And I think it was kept like that right up until the present moment. But I think it’s very low-budget. This is not high priority for the CIA. They’re sending, as I said, semi-retired guys in scuffed brown shoes who are definitely over the hill. But they shepherd the group along. And as you said, they release these outlandish documents, and then they pull them back. And some guy comes forward and says it’s all a fraud, and I know because I was on the inside, and I was the one paid to tell you all these things. And then somebody else comes forward and says, “No, he’s a walk-in and has an implant. And it wasn’t that way at all.” It’s sort of like the JFK assassination, you know? There is no bedrock there. There is no ground zero. And I find these things sort of spooky. I think it’s bad mental hygiene to spend too much time with squirrels.
They can infect you.
Yeah! You don’t know—put down that groundhog, baby Lizabeth! You don’t know where it’s been!
What Is Truth?
What is truth, Terence?
Well, that’s an easier question! What one is sure of—very little, I would think.
Well, I’m gettin’ ready to say nothin’! I guess that’s what it is: everything is provisional. I mean, what I believe in is what I called—and I mentioned it last night—the felt presence of immediate experience. The primary datum. I’m very aware that everything else is a construct moving out from that. And so the primary datum is the first level of being. But to say I believe in it—you know, in Western philosophy, Descartes (and that would be in like 1625) said: cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am. And that seemed to make sense for 200 years. It was an effort to get back to the most basic statement you could make: “I” (the given) “think” (the datum of immediate experience). But then, the “therefore” is an enormous abyss of assumption that may have made sense to Descartes, but it does not make sense to modern people. I think what we can say is: “I think.” If you’re not thinking then you are no more than the onrush of your metabolism, and not greatly different from your cat or your dog. Well, thinking. We’re not making, here, a distinction between thinking and feeling. What I mean when I say “thinking” or “the felt presence of immediate experience” is more like what most people call feeling. It’s the awareness of being, you know? In its most simple sense.
Now, then there is this curious congruency which is not well understood—by anybody, I mean—between mathematics and nature. So we have now a couple more things to play with. We have the felt presence of immediate experience, the “I” which feels, and then we have (as mental objects in the given datum of experience) both mathematical structures and the given natural world. And there is some deep and profound congruence between these two, and the relationship is not understood by anybody. I mean, to me this is really the question: why does mathematics describe nature? That’s a deeper question than most. And so I live by questions. I don’t see how you can live any other way. I mean, you have to remember: we’re animals, we’re meat, we’re specks of replicating organic chemistry on the surface of a planet. If we can make a model of our environment that seems to us a sufficiently clear mirror, that is probably about as far as you can go. The idea that we can actually cognize the dynamic of being is… well, it’s a noble hope. I try to do it. I mean, I actually try to create a complete explanation. But I always call them models because you have to throw them away. You have to keep adding to the model, and then throwing it away. The real justification for psychedelics is that they feed new data into your model.
You know, what we’re doing is triangulating points in some kind of phase space. And if you go to Paris you know more about reality than people who don’t. And if you smoke DMT you know more about reality than people who don’t. So the idea is to triangulate a sufficiently large number of data points in your set of experience that you can make a model of the world that is not imprisoning. That’s why, second to psychedelics, I think travel is the most boundary-dissolving educational enterprise that you can get mixed up in.
I think one of the problems is with everything. We experience an outside [???] with psychedelics [???] the experience can only more or less what are believing with some variables. So maybe we can see: yeah, there’s a possible other world. There’s something more. And maybe that’s all. Maybe I can understand the experience in my personal life, but I can’t take it for real. It’s in some way real, but I have to check out if I’m producing this if I believe that. For example: “The world is bad.” And I will experience a bad other world. Something like this. So I never can be sure of this cause of my belief system producing this.
Well, in what you say there’s a strongly expressed dichotomy between “self” and “world.” I mean, this question of reality, non-reality, and so forth. But you can perform a kind of philosophical reduction and satisfy yourself that the self-and-world distinction is not primary, you know? That who looks through your eyes is the world. Yeah, I would probably buy into that; that it shows us that there is something else. Although I do think that the way ideas emerge into culture—which happens naturally without psychedelics—is probably accelerated by psychedelics. I think the experience over the past thousand years is that ideology is poisonous. You have two kinds of ideologies that we’ve experimented with over the past thousand years: unsuccessful ones (where I would nominate, I suppose, Christianity), and successful ones (like science), and it turns out whether they’re successful or unsuccessful, the consequences for the rest of us are pretty horrendous. The world seen through the lens of ideology is a very limited world, and the great catastrophes of the past thousand years have been brought on by ideological errors. That’s why I’m very suspicious of this thing I talked about last night that I called the world corporate state. But on the other hand, the world corporate state seems to be less ideological than any organizing entity that we’ve seen in a long time. It has no real ideology other than it wants to do business—which is hardly a cosmic vision.
Yeah. We’ve had a major, major shift that, as far as this corporate state is concerned in the last 10, 20, 30 years, and that is that the shareholder is wanting more than dividends now. The shareholder, who is also consumer, wants responsibility of the corporate state. So the management of these corporate states are having to adapt themselves to provide what their shareholders and consumers want.
Yeah. Well, so what you’re saying is: it’s being modified from the bottom up.
Yeah. But I think that what electronic culture permits is incredible diversity, and that what the print-created world demanded and created was tremendous suppression of diversity. Print-created concepts like the citizen: that’s a print-created notion. It created concepts like the public. There was no public before print. That idea didn’t even exist. So we now define ourselves as “I’m a member of the public,” “I’m a citizen.” These are very curious categories where you discover yourself a member of very large organizations that you never remember joining. You just sort of were born into it. What the electronic culture empowers is diversity, eccentricity, and a pluralistic kind of mix. And that’s very threatening to the print mind, because the print mind is all about controlling through having groups of people that you can deal with. That’s why, in a sense, television served a print agenda for the first twenty years of its existence. Because it was used in the network form, which is only one way to do TV. In that form the real impact of television could be masked for a long time, because by having millions of people watch the same TV programs there is a tendency to overcome the deconstructural impulse in TV, and it begins to act like print. Now, of course, that’s breaking down, and the only people who watch network TV live in trailer courts. But there was a time when—
You see, that’s what happened. What was everybody’s media 25 years ago has become the media of the lower middle class. And then everybody else—the lower class has fallen into its own media: underground radio stations, boom boxes, and this, and then the upper echelons of society have gone to computer networks, email, fiber optics, and view on demand TV. Television is, to my mind, the most insidious drug that the 20th century has had to deal with, and it is a drug. It’s the first of the electronic drugs, and its impact—if it were heroin, people would be alarmed. I mean, that people are on average watching six hours a day of TV? And I don’t even think it’s a content problem. I think television itself is toxic. It’s not how many murders you witness, it’s the actual physical—this is what McLuhan was always trying to say, that people couldn’t understand what he meant when he said that the medium was the message. The message is not the message, the medium was the message. And the effects it had—I mean, we have millions of people who are warehoused in almost a larval state in their apartments, watching TV, paying for their medical plans, and glued to this mindless opera of cultural decay that is recited day after day in front of them. I mean, it’s horrible to imagine. And this is a creation, to some degree, of the world corporate state that probably has to be addressed.
I haven’t read that. I know Doug. His other book, Cyberia, is a nice look at cyberculture. Yeah, yeah. Interesting.
[???] What do you think’s going to happen with this video-TV whatever?
No, I think—well, no, I think that the most important cultural event happening right now is the explosive growth of the Internet and the web. I mean, the idea that with my $1,200 Powerbook I can access 3,000 computers around the planet by just plugging into a telephone jack is staggering! I mean, this is a revolution of orders of magnitude that has happened completely invisibly. Nobody’s windows had to be rocked out, no camps had to be estab—nothing appears to have changed. The people who are not switched on don’t even know anything has happened. To them the world looks exactly like it looked five years ago. To the people who are switched on, Earth is becoming a distant memory!
[???] message you got [???]
Of the Internet?
Well, the Internet is the global brain; the cyberspatially connected, telepathic collective domain that we’ve all been hungering for. I mean, it is so powerful. And it has arisen with incredible speed and by a very insidious fashion. I mean, first of all, as I mentioned last night, the Internet was originally called ARPANET: it was the Advanced Research Projects Agency. It was this super-secret military-industrial thing that they wanted to survive a thermonuclear attack. And so they designed it to be unkillable. It has no central switching zone. If you blow up a part of it, it just flows around the part you blow up. It is unkillable. So that was ARPA. And now it’s become public domain. And it’s incredibly empowering for any minority, because you can find your peers. It doesn’t matter what you’re into, you know? You can play the shehnai and join the shehnai-playing society. So no matter how eccentric your interest, you can find common ground out there.
Then the other thing is: information that—I’m not kidding you—ten years ago, the director of the CIA, sitting at his desk in Langley, Virginia, didn’t have the information processing capacity that you now have plugging into your Powerbook at any phone jack in the world. Because these databases are there. And if you know how to surf the net, if you know how to program your know-bots so that, while you’re sleeping, they’re sorting through and visiting various sites and downloading and looking and looking, you cannot believe what’s out there. I mean, the entire planet has been turned into a local telephone call. And not to talk to people, but to talk—when you go onto the NCSA main page in Batavia, Illinois, it says, “available resources.” You click on that and 1,500 computers come online; the names of them. And you just point and click, and now you’re talking to that computer. And it tells you that the really interesting thing is being stored on another computer: not in Madrid, but in Singapore. And you point and click. Now you’re talking to the main menu in Singapore. You go out onto the net—in the course of an hour of moving on the net you may circle the planet ten times and talk to fifty computers all over the world. And you’re downloading files. And you’re tracing your path so that you can go back. This is happening. It’s been happening for quite some time; 30 million people are out there. And because it requires literacy and technology and money, those 30 million people probably are among—probably only 10 percent of the people who rule the planet are not on that net. And it’s where the cultural architecture is being put in place now. And it’s this invisible space which is where we should have been building all the time. So I think this is the doorway into the new dimension into which we’re going, and that these technologies (put in place for no reason other than to facilitate bank transfers and do incredibly mundane things) are turning out to be the seeds of our electromagnetic body in hyperspace.
Yeah?[The Internet] is where the cultural architecture is being put in place now. And it’s this invisible space which is where we should have been building all the time. So I think this is the doorway into the new dimension into which we’re going, and that these technologies (put in place for no reason other than to facilitate bank transfers and do incredibly mundane things) are turning out to be the seeds of our electromagnetic body in hyperspace.
Can you elaborate on your understanding of virtual cities being designed using computer nets?
Well, it’s simply that you want to create an interface with a bunch of data. And a very crude way to do it is to have a page with a list of computers, and you click and you go to the computer. That works, but it’s not very sexy. Well, but what if we made a three-dimensional landscape and put buildings in that landscape so that the large red rectangle is the AT&T database, the low violet group of integrated triangles is the National Medical Database? In other words, you simply make the icons three-dimensional and analogous to buildings, and then you can build datatown, where instead of a list of computers they appear to be a long line of skyscrapers lining a broad avenue in which your driving down in a Ferrari or something. All this will come. I mean, the engineers will do it. How it looks is immaterial. It’s that it can be done anyway.
From what you’re saying it feels like this is going to be very intellectual, snobbish; it’s going to be elitist. Because there’s only going to be a certain—for a long time—a certain level of intellectual capacity, illiteracy, literate, educational. So it’s going to absolutely pull apart and make the class system even more—
No, I think you’re absolutely right. That this is happening. This is part of the problem. That what is happening, you see: part of the illusion of the political history of the past forty years was the illusion that we were all Presbyterians, we all ate white bread, and we all lived in the suburbs, and we all were white folks. And now the society is fragmenting. You’re right. There are people who can’t read by the millions in this society. Meanwhile, other people are reaching for informational technologies so powerful that they can barely be conceived of. And this is the consequence of political mismanagement. I think the American union is flying to pieces because the notion of polity was betrayed in the 1960s, and that since the middle of the 1960s this has been a police state of some sort. You see, after World War II—and they kicked Hitler’s ass and all that—then everybody came back full of idealism: to raise families, to build America. They’d been through the New Deal. There was a modicum of social responsibility and consciousness hammered into the middle class. And everybody came back, and then the American political system went haywire—basically because we lost our nerve. My generation—I’m 48. I went to the University of California at Berkeley in 1965. My generation was the beneficiary of the idea that you should give a universal education to everybody. And they discovered that if you do that—if you take everybody and make them read Plato and John Stuart Mill and Voltaire and Hobbes, as we did—that you can’t rule such people! They take it too seriously! They become ungovernable! They pour into the streets screaming about their rights. And so in the aftermath of the suppression of the counterculture of the 1960s it was decided that the goal of universal public education and the building of a population intelligent enough to run a democracy—that would all be abandoned, and the universities would be turned into trade schools, and people would be given MBAs and incorporated into the corporate state. But no more John Stuart Mill! No more of that! And the consequences of this have been to create a historyless and illiterate lower middle class where, before, the lower middle class was the pool of our intellectual creativity. That’s where John Steinbeck came from, and Henry Miller, and all of the people who drove the evolution of cultural values. And we could talk endlessly about what went wrong in the 1960s, or why we were turned into a police state, but now the impulse of those kinds of repressive states is to forestall change. And change has been forestalled in America to the point where now, when it comes, it’s going to be explosive, uncontrollable, revolutionary. We will be lucky to get through this political cycle ahead of us without having to hang some of these people!
Isn’t this part of the whole point of what’s going on right now?
You mean that now we’re going to have the change—
Yeah. The change which should have been spread out over thirty years is now going to come in the next five, no matter who it hurts, no matter how chaotic it is.
Well, I don’t know how we got off on that. The role of psychedelics in all of this is that it erodes loyalty to the models of the tribe, and so we are the people who can see—and there may be others, I’m not claiming exclusivity for the psychedelic community—but the psychedelic community loudly proclaims that the emperor has no clothes! That this is all a con game! That this junk-dealing, hyper-media-obsessed, nitwit society is an unfit environment for delinquent fourteen-year-olds, let alone for the rest of us. And this is news they don’t like to hear.
Well, I think these things are always more interesting if they’re driven by the agendas of the people here. You got a fairly long hit of me this morning. If there are any areas that you want to bring into focus, this is a good time to suggest it. Otherwise I’ll just launch into another meandering diatribe like that.
I’m interested in more on the ayahuasca.
There’s a book which… I’m not sure it’s been published yet, but you should all watch for it. It I hope will make a revolution in ayahuasca awareness. It’s called The Three Halves of Ino Moxo, and it was translated by a good friend of many people in this room. Ken Symington translated it. And it’s by the Peruvian poet César Calvo. And it is a book about ayahuasca that could easily win the Nobel Prize for literature. It’s not some panting anthropological reportage. It’s art, and incredibly rich. And if you get a chance you should read it. If you’re interested in this subject, another book about ayahuasca that is no easy read is a book with the unlikely title of Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man by Michael Taussig, and it is an intellectual journey to places you never thought you’d pass through.
Could you spell the title of the first one? The three halves of what?
I-[N]-O M-O-X-O. The Three Halves of Ino Moxo.
So I don’t know how much more there is to say about ayahuasca. From a phenomenological point of view, what’s interesting is that it seems to hover on the edge of being a telepathic drug of some sort. And, in fact, for the first thirty years of the 20th century, the active principle was actually called “telepathine.” And these German chemists and Theodor Koch-Grünberg and people like that were very interested in this, and then it was realized that it was actually harmine, a previously discovered substance. But it isn’t the kind of telepathy where you see what other people are thinking or hear what they’re thinking, it’s more that you actually see what is meant. You have an experience of meaning related to seeing that is like wisdom. It’s hard to explain. But whole societies are guided by people who are intoxicated by this material.
Terence, have any experiments been published that actually demonstrated those telepathic powers, or was it some purely subjective…?
Well, no. I think it’s slightly in a different realm. I don’t think it will show up on, like, a card-turning test or something like that. It is not telepathy… it’s a different modality of mind, is what it is. Through song and sound the boundaries are dissolved. But I don’t know if you can set up a scientific scale that can detect this.
I think it’s more like painting on the mind of nature rather than psychedelics [???]
That’s right. It’s that there is a shared state of mind, but it is not a sharing of states of mind.
I think I understand.
You see what I mean? Yeah?
Have you done any comparative studying on other substances and other cultures, for example like Haitians and the Voodoo, and the substances that they work with, and I suppose other people all over the globe?
Well, see it’s really a very complicated question, because cultural values enter into the definition of what is an acceptable or desirable intoxication. And there is a whole smörgåsbord of possibilities offered by nature, from things which are incredibly pleasant and—oh, I don’t know—aphrodisiac and so forth, through a range of things which nobody would ever do more than once. But then there’s a kind of an intermediate range. I mean, if you can recall your first shot of scotch, you know, this is a shocking thing to your system. I mean, your body does not readily take to that. And voodoo is operating on these substances called tetrodotoxins that come from pufferfish that are much closer to being poisons than to being psychedelics, where people are taken out in the bushes and given something, and their stomach cramps, and everything turns yellow, and they fall down on the ground and they twitch and they vomit and they beg to die, and they want to die, and then, ten hours later, they’re fine, and they’re brought down to the river, and slapped around, and washed off, and given a piece of white cloth, and told, “Now you’re a full-fledged member of society.” That’s an ordeal poison. And it acts in some ways very much like a psychedelic, because if the purpose of a psychedelic trip is to get you back to your foundation, thinking you’re going to die like a dog in the ditch is also wonderful for doing that.
But, see, I think different cultures have made use of whatever was available to them, and we (as a global culture) can look over the entire set of options and say, “Well, here’s a plant which makes you see visions but also sterilizes you for five years. And here’s something else which does something else,” and we can actually choose the best of these tools. This is the great leg up that we have on the aboriginal cultures. We are, as it were, a kind of clearinghouse for all of that information, and out of all of those many, many options it turns out there are easy ways in. Not totally easy, but easier ways in. And so you have to learn which are the easy ways in; the paths which can be followed at all.
You had said something to me over lunch about ayahuasca and vomiting, and it made the idea of vomiting more tolerable. I don’t know what it was, but I have a lot of resistance to ayahuasca because as a child I vomited every day when my mother forced orange juice down me. So…
Well, I think what I said was: it gets easier. As you take—like, the second ayahuasca trip is easier than the first, generally. And what that implies is that this vomiting that you’re doing is actually a shedding of toxins. And this is certainly how they view it. They call it la purga: the purge. And they culturally value and encourage vomiting.
Another interesting thing about ayahuasca is that there’s nothing in it that doesn’t occur in the ordinary human brain. There’s just more of ordinary brain chemistry there. So that implies that these extraordinary states of mind—group-mindedness, three-dimensional hallucinations, and so forth—are nevertheless not that far removed from ordinary states of brain chemistry. And, you know, in an enlightened environment of medical research these things would be studied. As it is, it’s all very messed up by politics.
But what about the tradition? I know that in these cultures they have mythologies, and they have a tradition. So if you transfer these things to, for example, to the States or Europe, there isn’t any mythology; the common mythology.
No. Well, you can never escape your own identity. I mean, you can never experience what they experience. Conversely, they can never experience what you experience. I mean, I’ve been up against this, where you’re sitting around in a hut on your haunches, covered with pig grease and waiting for something to come on, and inevitably my mind would drift to Husserl’s general phenomenology of ideas. And I would try to perform the eidetic reduction. And then it would just make me burst out laughing—the idea that, you know… “I wonder how many people in the room are performing the eidetic reduction at this moment?” Not many.
So I—you know, people have criticized me because I don’t ally myself with anthropology. I’m really interested in these things as tools for understanding experience. The cultures that have discovered them often have very narrow interpretations of them. Another thing is: some cultures are afraid of the unconscious and encourage going only a very short distance in, you know? And I think once you get the idea that it can’t really kill you—and sometimes it’s hard to talk yourself into this—but if you can convince yourself of that, then, you know, just the thrill of it. And in a way that’s possible because we’re deprogrammed from ideology. Anyone else except a secular late 20th century person would take a look at this and assume it was God almighty and behave appropriately. We look at it and say, “Well, it can’t be God almighty. It must be something else,” and then explore it in an experiential fashion.
So you talk about ayahuasca as almost like a joyride on some level, like it’s a…—but one question I have is: what are (when you take ayahuasca and psilocybin and acid, those three things) what does each one specifically, if you can take in a nutshell, but what direction each one goes, what could you say if you made a sentence for each one of those? To understand the difference—
Well, a sentence. A-ha. A boundary I may not be able to tolerate. Well, just roughly: the feeling with ayahuasca is that it’s Gaian. It’s Earth-oriented. You feel the river. You feel the jungle. You feel the drama and pain and nobility of life and death. And it’s visceral. You know, it’s about the meat and the jungle. And it’s feminine. And then, the character of the hallucinations is: it’s as though it’s like a camera eye. It’s largely silent, but it’s just an eye that is moving through a vast matrix of visual information. And after a good ayahuasca trip you just feel like you want to rub your eyes. You say, “I’ve just been looking and looking!” It’s like a trip to Madison Avenue with money in your pocket. You’ve just been looking and looking and looking and looking four hours at this stuff. And it’s almost invariably beautiful, in a jeweled, filigreed, multileveled, transparent, glittering, flowing kind of way. And it almost always takes place against a black background for some reason. It goes on against a black background.
Okay. Then, psilocybin—which is just an atom’s twist away—is a very different creature. The most astonishing thing about psilocybin—and you’re hearing this from a materialist of some sort—is that it speaks. It has a voice. And if you don’t think this is confounding to the rational mind, to come upon this in the detritus of your mind’s attic: it can talk to you and astound you with its insight, humor, ability to connect and make insightful inclusions, and so forth and so on. And the whole thing, the whole psilocybin experience, is imbued with this eerie energy which has different names, but elven, gnomic, extraterrestrial. They’re shiny-eyed and small, and there’s chattering. And the other thing is: there are machines. The psilocybin visions have a tendency to drift toward technoscapes. Enormous machines in orbit around alien planets and strange architectonic forms where you don’t know whether you’re wandering around inside somebody’s cathedral or their television set. And the whole thing has this off-world, “we are the galactarian civilization, we hold the key to the history to this sector of the chiliocosm,” we, we—it’s this kind of thing. Almost blast of trumpets and the ringing up of cosmic curtains. It’s very, very dramatic. Wagnerian and forward-looking. It’s about the destiny of the race, and why planets are put in place, and what it’s all for. Could hardly be different from ayahuasca. And yet, you know, an atom’s twist away.
Then DMT, you know, rests in some even weirder domain of triangulation. DMT you don’t only hear the voice, but if you get a sufficiently heroic dose it’s like you break through into the control room where all the secrets are being run from and built. And there’s this unbelievable sense of finding out. Finding out beyond your wildest dreams of ever finding out. And it’s an inhabited mindspace of some sort that is so unexpected and so convincingly real that you actually—I think a person who doesn’t fear for their sanity has already lost it at that point. Because it is without a doubt the absolutely last thing you ever expected to have happen to you. That you would burst into some place; somewhere where there would be these chattering, self-transforming, linguistic creatures that are made out of light and punning intentionality, and are trying to get you to perform some unimaginable task that is somehow caught up with the unravelment of the spacetime continuum and the destiny of the species, and so forth and so on. And, you know, this is at thirty seconds into a trip that lasts a minute and a half. And then you’re returned to you and your friends and your concerns.
LSD is not animated in this way. It is more like the classical expectation people have, I think, who have not taken these things of what a psychedelic drug should be. In other words, you think clearer, you see connections, you can hold very complex ideas in your mind and rotate them and look at them from many angles, you experience emotional abreactions, you recover childhood memories, you are able to straighten your karma out with people, you are undergoing rapid psychological growth under the influence of LSD. But it doesn’t… the reason I am not so keen on LSD is that I’m really a plant guy, not a drug guy. And it’s something about these substances that have been carried along in the genomes of these plants for (in some cases) hundreds of millions of years. And why?
You know, what are these things doing for the plants? And then, how can a molecule so simple—this is another puzzle in all of this: these molecules are planar. That means they’re flat, they’re simple. Sometimes twenty, thirty atoms. And yet, they totally transform your entire consciousness. This is the equivalent of a red ant who can rip down the Empire State building in an hour and a half. I mean, why is mind so delicately poised that such a tiny amount of pharmaceutical material can create such vast changes? And then another puzzle (as long as I’m listing my favorite mysteries), and this is the one that really got me into this in the beginning—because my early inclination was toward art history—and that is a very simple question: where do the images come from? Where does this stuff come from? I mean, it is so unreferent to the ocean of commercially produced imagery in which we swim. You know, we are constantly bombarded by the images of television and Hollywood, and so forth and so on, and yet the psychedelic species of visual beauty is not—we don’t see it in our furniture styles and our architecture. It seems to be coming in literally from another dimension. And yet, it is undeniably moving. It’s beautiful!
And I am puzzled why I, as an ordinary person under the influence of (let us say) thirty milligrams of psilocybin, can see more art in an hour than Western civilization has produced in the past thousand years. And that tells you how little we’re getting from the art river back to the village where we can drink it. Niagaras of beauty are flowing by untapped by ordinary consciousness. And would that we could send robots who could film these psychedelic realities, perhaps virtual reality will develop into a technology where we are able, finally, to reconstruct and agree upon the content of the psychedelic experience. But to me that’s almost like the metaphysical stamp of approval on the psychedelic experience: the presence of so much beauty is an argument to me that truth cannot be far away.
Are you aware of any spontaneous trips without the plants?
Well, you know, there’s a whole vast area of human endeavor called mystical religion. And there’s a whole other vast area of human endeavor called madness. And many stories abound and come out of these areas. I think that what we’re talking about here (whether we’re talking about madness, mysticism, or psychedelics) is a brain state. For the schizophrenic it is uninvited and terrifying. For the mystic it’s achieved by excruciating acts of asceticism in most cases, which certainly have profound physiological consequences on the neuro-ecology of the brain. And for the smart money, I think, you use a shamanic technology. I think organized religion of the high classical sort—you know, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and so forth—is very anxious about this whole issue, precisely because religion is always anxious about the issue of direct revelation. That was what shattered religious consensus in Europe. That’s what the Protestant reformation was about, doctrinally. I mean, there were many things going on, but the doctrinal argument was: is it the job of specialists (called theologians) to study scripture (called revelation) in order to tell the rest of us what God’s plan is, or is it better for each of us to look within the confines of our own souls and have our own dialogue with God and figure it out? And that was basically the Protestant position. And it went against hierarchical theology.
I recently read about a mushroom called fly agaric, and can you comment on its role in history?
Oh, these are amazingly complicated questions. Either that, or I’ve overeducated myself! Could be, huh?
Well, there is a whole domain of controversy and discourse about the role of mushrooms in human culture, because it was noticed by Gordon Wasson in the 1950s that, invariably, there are two kinds of cultural attitudes toward mushrooms. One is called mycophilic. And if you want to know what mycophilism is, go to Russia, go to Poland, go to Czechoslovakia. Go where people have hundreds of words for mushrooms. Several holidays a year are set aside to collect mushrooms. Children are named after mushrooms. So forth and so on. The Slavs are into mushrooms. Well then, if you want to know what a mycophobic culture is, go to rural England where there are no mushrooms, there are only toadstools—and don’t touch them, please! They’re highly poisonous. That’s the general English attitude toward mushrooms. So Gordon Wasson wrote about this all through the fifties and sixties, and he decided that—you all probably have seen, if not the real thing, a plastic cast or depicted in schmaltzy European illustrative style the famous mushroom of fairy tales: the red mushroom with the white dots. Well, that is amanita muscaria. And it grows in a symbiotic mycorrhizal relationship to spruce and birch trees, and is used by the shaman of the Yakut language group, and the Amur river basin. Now, it just happens that those people in the Amur river basin were the first people studied by the new science of anthropology when it wanted to study shamanism. By chance, this was. And so ever since, the science of shamanism—whether we’re talking about the shamans of the Amazon basin, central China, south India, or Tierra del Fuego—has had to labor within the categories created by the people who studied the shamanism of the Amur river basin. And the use of the amanita muscaria was tremendously overstressed by Wasson, I think. He wrote a book called Soma: The Divine Mushroom of Immortality, in which he argued that amanita muscaria was the soma of the Ṛgvedas. You may not know it, but the Ṛgvedas are largely these hymns composed in the Vedic phase of the Hindu religion to a mysterious intoxicant: soma. Nobody knows what soma is, but much scholarly ink and blood has been shed on the question. And Gordon Wasson argued that it had to be amanita muscaria, and made a case which impressed some people and not others.
The most damaging evidence against him was: it’s hard as hell to get off on this stuff! And when you finally do get off, the experience is extremely ambiguous. I mean, shivering and salivating and thinking you’re losing your marbles is not my idea of the ecstatic ascent to the presence of the Pleroma. And a lot of other people thought so, too.
So then there was lots of hassle about—well, then, it did seem that Wasson had secured the case that the Vedic hymns were about a mushroom. That was his breakthrough. But his mistake was: he got the mushroom wrong, and then created an entire false cultural history based on this error. And I’m not interested in flaying you with my theory, but if you’re interested, it’s told in the book Food of the Gods. Because, as I mentioned this morning, I think psilocybin was the catalyst that triggered the emergence of self-reflecting consciousness in human beings. And so my mushroom story is not a story of a subarctic toxic mushroom cult that carried itself into India along with the Indo-European invasions. My story is an older story about a mushroom that contains psilocybin and flourished in the grasslands of Africa, and was present as nomadism slowly evolved into the domestication of cattle, and (as we talked about this morning) the suppression of gender dominance with the addition of psilocybin in the diet created a partnership society that existed up until the invention of agriculture and climatological change made the mushroom difficult to obtain. And at that very critical juncture, after perhaps 50,000 years of mushroom-induced suppression of hierarchical dominance patterns, the withdrawal of the mushroom from the human diet allowed the old pattern to reassert itself. But at this point, you know, we had language, we had agriculture. And what did we do? We quickly organized monotheistic religions, city-states, warrior castes, god-kingship, the world of the lash and the god king, basically. And we are the unhappy inheritors of that circumstance to the present day.
And that’s why our situation is so bizarre and why we are so neurotic, if you will. It’s because human consciousness evolved in an entirely different cultural milieu than we now exist in. It evolved in a world in which the Gaian lógos was absolutely real to every man, woman, and child in the society. And I believe that the tendency in the hominids to form monogamous pair-bonding was eroded by the presence of psilocybin because it promoted an orgiastic sexual style. And the social consequences of that were that men could not trace lines of male paternity. And so you have an intense impetus toward collective bonding in a group like that, because the children are our children, the children of the group. The nuclear family is, I think, a somewhat maladaptive fragmentation from all of this. And this is important for us to understand, because we have practiced a neurotic style of culture for a long, long time. It has permitted the conquest of matter. But that now is done. I mean, once hydrogen fusion—you can put it in a bottle at Yale. Well then, you’ve been there. You’ve done that. And now we have to swing the thing back into balance. The tools that we acquired on the journey of the prodigal son through the world of matter—you cannot redeem the moral cost of that unless those tools are brought to bear to now redeem the planet. I mean, if there is any justification for history at all, it must be that it secured a longer evolutionary life for intelligence on the planet.
And as far as how the psychedelics fit into this in the individual scheme: psychedelics are not flashlights into the chaos of the Freudian unconscious, they are tools for mathematically unpacking your mind into a higher-dimensional space. In the Newtonian and print-created social space that we’re walking around in, you are like a self-extracting archive that hasn’t self-extracted itself yet. And then you take psilocybin and you self-extract and unfold. Because think about it. I mean, I’m very serious about this. Think about what the shaman’s functions are in the classical Paleolithic model. The shaman’s functions are to predict weather, to anticipate the movement of game and enemies, and to heal disease. Well now, how could you do those three things? Well, the answer is: if you could see into next week, that would be helpful. That would allow you to do all three of those things: predict the weather, see the movement of game and enemies, and make very astute choices about who you accepted as your patients. Uh-huh, you see?
And so what we see here is that there’s a kind of selection going on for an ability to triangulate complex systems into the future. And I think that, now, the reason the psychedelic experience is so compelling to me is because I took psychedelics for years with the question: what is it? And then I never could understand what it was, and said this is the wrong question, and on and on. But finally I realized: I see what it is. It’s everything. It’s—you know that piece of doggerel: “I saw eternity the other night, an endless golden ring”? Well, that’s it. You just rise out of the Newtonian spatial plane, and you look back, and there is eternity hanging in space like a galaxy. And that’s what the psychedelic experience is a sectioning of.
The Amazing Thing About Psychedelics
I’m trying to phrase the right question. It essentially goes: do you manufacture this stuff at whole cost in your mind? Is it there in the beginning, or is it something you’ve taken in? Is it new information or something that the brain is remarkable at processing and creating images [???]
Well, see, my original bent was: I wanted to be an art historian. And so the job of an art historian is to understand the evolution of motifs, and how styles are transformed at the hands of certain artists and over time and in different places. So it’s this kind of specialized thing with a visual vocabulary. And I thought you could go into the psychedelic experience and you could perform an art historical reduction on it and say, “A-ha. Well, that’s a Tibetan treatment of a line, and that’s a Maori way of….” And it was not like that. It was like the art that is made on another planet, art that arose completely in the absence of human conventions or values. And that convinced me that it wasn’t being generated from myself. And then I read Jung and I realized that there was a way to define the self that would allow it to produce that kind of thing. But it’s really accomplished by a rhetorical trick, because the word “self” means “that which is most familiar to me.” Well, if that which is most familiar to me can generate something completely unrecognizable to me, to call it the self is to betray the notion of the self.
So what I’ve called it over the years from the very, very beginning—I can’t even remember how long ago we incorporated this nomenclature—is: I called it “the other.” And the German historian of religion, Rudolf Otto, defined God as the wholly other. The wholly and totally other, he said. This is somewhat like Nicholas Cusanus’s theology of the 14th century, where he said God can only be defined by negative statements: “God is not this,” “God is not that.” The wholly other. And the experience of DMT seems to be that. And I don’t know if it’s just that we are neurologically set up—that there’s a button in us (the equivalent of a reset button) that just clears all the registers, and that’s why it’s wholly other. It’s wholly other because you just dumped your entire memory load off your disk and you’re now looking at a clean disk for the first time in your life, and you don’t have the faintest idea what it could possibly be. It’s something like that. Language fails. Anticipation fails. And naturally, because we have this sort of metaphysical openness in our ideological systems, we identify this wholly other-ness with God, with the transcendent force in our lives. And so it seems to be, in fact.
You, and then you.
I’m interested in the idea of an other that talks to you. And you’ve talked before about the fact that the mushroom talks. So I have two questions. One is: is your experience only with the mushroom talking, or are there other psychedelics that have had that effect? And secondly: can you remember some things that it said?
Can I remember some things that it said?
Or your favorites, or something?
Well, first of all, yes. This idea of an other that you can relate to—it’s interesting. It’s fascinating how, if you really go to bedrock with these things, there’s some really interesting Christian theology that relates to all this. You know, the existential theology of Søren Kierkegaard—Kierkegaard said the defining relationship in life is an I-thou relationship to Christ. And the I-thou relationship—and Martin Buber made a great deal of this as well. So it’s a profound thing to relate to an other, even if that other is an other human being. It’s still an abyss of ambiguity. I don’t know who you are, where you came from, what your agenda is, what your plans are for me, whether they’re casual or intense, and so forth and so on. So then, meeting an other that is not a human being, that is somebody who sits up in your mind and says, “Heeey, big boy! What’s cookin’?” is… it opens up the possibility for a relationship. And it can be explored. And I always thought that you could somehow trap it, that it was sort of like a game in a fairy tale. That, if you were clever enough, you could ask a series of questions where you would then have trapped it into revealing: “A-ha! So you are my amygdala!” So forth and so on, this kind of thing. I have never (in the presence of the thing) been able to do that.
As far as what it has said, basically it’s told me everything I know. As far as boiling it down to the aphoristic level… you’ve heard these all through the years. Well, you know, “death by astonishment:” all the best lines come from the thing itself. My talent seems to be that I’m able to relax and allow this very ingratiating lógos to take over. It’s a kind of low-key demonic possession from the point of view of my critics. To speak about this other way of looking at things in terms of what it has said to me: it’s this revelation about the nature of time. And it’s a puzzling revelation, because it’s mathematical, it’s formal, it will either be proven spectacularly true or spectacularly false; there is no escaping this incredible, definitive test built into it. It’s not something I would ever have thought up. And it’s just something I was given. And I was sort of at a dead end. I mean, I was a good person to give it to. I didn’t really have a job in life.
And it’s like a talisman, or a key. You know, you meet people who are into astrology, and for them it opens up all doorways. Everything can be explained. And I’m not belittling it, I’m making an example of it. The time wave is like that—for me, and I would maintain for anybody who sufficiently involves themselves in it. It’s a Rosetta Stone into the structure of reality that has an uncanny correctness about it. And I’m more aware than most of my critics of where the weaknesses lie, but nevertheless I’m also more aware than most of my critics of where the weaknesses lie in the competition as well. The whole thing is pretty provisional.
Robert, did you ever get to say what you wanted… there you are.
When you were talking about the wholly other, and you were talking about entities’ messages, one of the things that happened to me in my early experiences with DMT was that I was totally in awe. I was flabbergasted. And until I stopped feeling flabbergasted and paid attention, I didn’t get that they were signaling me to do something. You know, they wanted me to participate in what was happening, rather than just sit there and go, “Wow! Isn’t this incredible!”
No, they say to me, “Do not abandon yourself to amazement.” You know? Don’t give way to astonishment. I mean, “Try to hold it together, fella!” Which is a strange thing to being told by an alien entity inside a hallucinogenic flash. It’s not encouraging you to let it all go, it’s saying: pay attention. And then, in my case, what they’re trying to do is: they can make things out of sound, or their words are three-dimensional modalities. They’re operating in a linguistic domain where words are sculptural entities made of light. And they’re singing objects into existence which are like puns, or mathematical formula, or small machines that are cycling through various kinds of changes. And they’re singing this stuff into existence, and insisting that you attempt to do the same, you know?
And this is so startling, because you have to understand: these trips only last three to five minutes. So there’s not a lot of time to get used to this. I mean, there you are, sitting in a room with your friends, talking about consciousness exploration or whatever rhetoric you use to get yourself to the edge of these things. You fire up the pipe, you take one enormous hit, and the next thing you know—you’re surrounded by screaming elves by the hundreds that are speaking in this alien language that is causing objects to hang in the air and ricochet off the walls. And these things come—you know, it’s a scene of wild confusion. It’s like a Bugs Bunny cartoon running backwards. And these things come bounding up, and they say, “Look at this!” And out of the air, out of their guts, out of nowhere they pull objects which are the most astonishing things you can imagine. Literally the most astonishing things you can imagine. Jeweled, filigreed, machined, turning things. And you look at it and you say, “My god! Anybody from my planet looking at this would not have to be told what this is. This is an alien artifact.” And you’re looking at it and they say, “Forget that. Look at this one!” And then, “Here’s another one!” and they’re tossing them up. And meanwhile, the objects themselves are able to sing other objects into existence. And there is this aura—the word “zany” comes to mind. It’s like a Mack Sennett comedy or a Marx Brothers cartoon. I mean, it’s a land of explosions and falling anvils and surprises are popping out of everywhere, and you’re just trying to hang on. Now we’re a minute and a half into it, at this point. And this intense effort to communicate something. And, you know, we have talked in the past, we can talk now if you want, about Celtic fairy land and the worldwide tradition of gnomes and elves. But when you’re there it doesn’t look like that. It’s much more pointed-ear, shining eye, strange machine. It’s much more off-planet. I mean, we’re not seeing leather jerkins and pointed-toed little boots and the plucking of fairy harps. It’s not quite like that. No, no, no, no, no.
What about children who seem to experience the phenomena that you’re talking about; these people who come into their bedrooms in the middle of the night and communicate with them? Children aren’t…
Well, I think this is where the abduction thing is coming from. That I don’t know what these entities are. When you burst into the DMT place there is an incredible sense of place, and yet the things that you’re witnessing, matter is not capable of—any matter! I mean, aliens can be one thing. They can have tentacles, they can do this, that, and the other thing. But when there’s no defined form, then you say, “You are like an idea,” I say to the entity. “You are like an idea. You have no defined form. You’re continuously amorphous.” And, you know, it then replies, “Yes. I am who am,” or something like that. It’s the face of the abyss. I mean, I’ve had conversations with it where I’ve, after a more zany episode where you then begin to feel a little confidence with it, and then you say, “Show me what you are for yourself. What are you really? I can tell that you’re coming to me through a series of filters and presentations and masks. What are you really?” And it’s like the temperature falls ten degrees in the room and a black curtain begins to rise, and there’s an organ note like that thing in the Bach B Minor Mass. And after about fifteen seconds you just say, “Call it off! I’m not ready for it. Let’s go back to the little fuzzy bunnies and the alien invasion scenario. But I’m not ready.” And it very obligingly says, “Okay, you asked for it.”
So there is this sense of: what is this? I don’t know. I think that this is the most important fact about our situation on this planet. And it’s discovered over and over again over the past 100,000 years that there’s somebody else, something else, somewhere else here. And anybody who says they understand it is bullshitting. The Theosophists don’t understand it, the Catholics, the Kabbalists, nobody understands it. But it is real. And I don’t know what it means to find this out. You see, the amazing thing about psychedelics is: it doesn’t depend on a state of grace. It doesn’t depend on allegiance to a leader. It doesn’t even depend on a special diet or theological predilection. The astonishing news about these psychedelic experiences is: you don’t have to go to India for ten years, you don’t have to be chosen by Babaji. This works for most people, and would probably work for you. And if you think the world has no surprises, if you think that you’ve got it all figured out, and you haven’t ever had an intense boundary-dissolving psychedelic, then you’re absolutely out to lunch. You don’t know what’s going on. It’s like the opinions of eleven-year-old boys about sexuality, you know? What do they know that they should hold such opinions.
Sexuality provides a good metaphor. We cannot forestall our sexuality. You know, eventually the roar of hormones through the bloodstream pushes most people over the edge, some sooner than others. This capacity for the psychedelic experience—which is built into our soma, our body, as well—you can actually go from birth to the grave and never experience it. If you are sufficiently sold out to a sufficiently idiotic culture, then it’s possible to evade this experience of maturation. It’s like having a Mercedes, and there’s a certain button on the dashboard, and you never pushed it. You don’t know what it did. And yet, it’s as profound as sexuality, it’s as profound as the forming of relationships, the birthing of children, birth, death. This is the thing. And many, many religions have come to the conclusion that life somehow needs to be a preparation for a passing on to some other place. And the metaphor of light vehicle is used in many different traditions. And I think that there is some truth to the notion that the reason we are alive is to learn the path out of the labyrinth, and that shamanism is a rehearsal for death. All this talk about hyperspace and other dimensions and eternity—what we’re really talking about here is the cultural and personal enterprise of leaving the body behind.
Terence, you started talking about [???] and children, and never really got back to that.
Oh yeah. Let met do that. Well, it’s simply that we share this planet with some other kind of entity, and culture is a way of sealing us off from this fact—which… children are not fully acculturated. Children are barbarians of some sort. And then, as they become acculturated, their invisible companions fade away and they become as dreary as the rest of us. The abduction phenomenon, I think, is simply an inability to tell the difference between dream and memory. Dream is the fascinating dimension, and I don’t demean these experiences by associating them with dream. I think that, probably, when we fully understand DMT, we will realize that every night in deep sleep most people go to the meltdown place and actually experience a DMT trip. But the essence of the core of the DMT trip is: you cannot remember it. A really good DMT trip has a part—always, in the center—where you do not lose consciousness, you are conscious while it’s happening, but you can never ever talk about that part of the trip. Because within twenty seconds of its ceasing to be the present, it’s gone. It lays down no memory trace. And that’s the moment where you really find out what’s going on. They show you—you get the hyper-masonic initiation of the local galactarian lodge at that point. But then you come out of it and you have no trace of it. You have the sense of having been in the presence of the pleroma, but what that means you haven’t the faintest notion.
I’m curious about common elements from person to person that are repeatable in some way in a particular trip. For example, you’ve talked a lot in past lectures about your experience with these self-replicating machine elves, and I’ve never met them myself under DMT. I go to a vast crystal cave. But there’s some experience that repeat with mushrooms for me. Like a crystal ball coming down from the left. And if I can tune it in just right, I pass into another dimension. I’m wondering if you have, in speaking to lots of people, found common elements that show up in the entities, or whatever?
Well, my—yeah. My approach to that is sort of Jungian. And I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve done DMT, and tried to build up a composite image of what is happening. And a great deal—it has a lot to do with what you bring into it: your past education and experience, obviously. And it has a great deal to do with just your descriptive powers, and your ability to stay calm. I mean, some people just go nuts and yell for it to end and carry on. From talking to a lot of people, the archetype that rules DMT I would say is the archetype of the circus. And think for a moment: the circus is about a focus on a well-lit central area filled with chaotic activity. First of all, the clowns. And the clowns are the self-transforming machine elves. They arrive in their tiny car, and fifteen of them get out, and they have big noses and rubber shoes, and they dance around. Clowns. But in the DMT thing there is a weird and very strong erotic component. And I believe (from my own work on myself) that I became of Eros—I wouldn’t say had my first erection, but maybe the first one I was ever conscious of, or something like that—in the presence of a lady acrobat at a circus wearing a tiny spangled costume and hanging by her teeth way up. And I got it. Death and Eros, and this incredibly dynamic. So you have the clowns, the death and Eros thing, at the circus.
And then you have this kinky undercurrent, which is the sideshows. You know? The rat-faced boy, and the thing in the bottle, and the two-headed lady, and all that. Just, just off the main ring, folks! The hoochie-coochie dancers and all that. And then, when you think about the concept of the circus generally, you realize it’s a perfect metaphor for DMT. Because I grew up in a small town in Colorado where every first of July the carnival would come to town. And we were told we couldn’t stay out after 9:30 at night playing when the carnival was in town, because these carnie-people, they were just a different stripe, you know? Some of them probably drank heavy, they were of racially questionable origins, so forth. And they brought immense excitement to this little town, unpacked their wonders, built their ferris wheels and rides, bilked all the rubes of their cash, and packed it all up, and went away. And of course, every kid worth his salt wants to run off with the circus. And Ray Bradbury and his book The Circus of Lao used these motifs. Fellini, in his films—over and over again: the circus is a motif for the unconscious.
And I’ve had people say very interesting things. I saw a woman do a sub-threshold trip on DMT, and unprompted (and never having heard this rap) when she came down she said, “It was the saddest carnival I’ve ever been to.” She said, “All the rides were closed, and there were just those little square ice cream papers blowing in the wind and getting caught up, and I was the only person there.” Well, that’s about as down a DMT trip as you can have. And basically, as you do more of it, you just dial it up until it becomes Barnum and Bailey Ringling Brothers, and then it goes on to become the Star Wars bar, and then it goes on to become something from which English cannot even begin to wrap itself around. But I think that’s the archetype.
What do you consider the importance of venue or place when you’re ingesting psychedelics? Do you pick up the energy that has been left in that place? Is that an important component to it?
I think the main thing is to be in a situation where you’re not interrupted and where you’re confident. I do not take psychedelics outside very much, because I’ve noticed that the synchronicity thing is uncontrollable. I mean, if you want to have adventures, take 200 micrograms of LSD and step out into, say, the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s terrifying. And I learned that lesson very early. So I unplug the phone, bolt the doors, tell everybody I’ve left town, and then do it. Sometimes I do it outside, like in the jungle and stuff like that. But the main thing is I have a real horror of interruption. I guess since you brought this up I should say: there is a technique for doing these things correctly. The way to do them is on an empty stomach in silent darkness. And then also: do a good, stiff hit. Don’t piddle around with it. It won’t hurt you.
Have you heard about the Monroe Institute in Virginia?
The out-of-body people, yeah.
And they’re exploring these worlds. So what you’re describing, you can read it in the descriptions of their journeys. But for me, I prefer the [???] and with an intoxication I haven’t any control on it.
No, you’re absolutely right.
But, for example, it’s the same like lucid dreaming. From lucid dreaming can easily go into a [???] journey. The way to get to this subject is to control yourself—feelings, thoughts. For example, to be able to be playful in your life you have to change totally to get prosperity in this area. So, have you ever seen the connections between your work?
I—yes. I mean, I read the Monroe Institute books. I was not sure what the connection was, exactly, because many of the worlds that they describe are very much like this world except just slight details have been changed. The psychedelics seem to land you in much more radically transformed places. This is a big controversy: the “can you do it on the natch” controversy. And my position is that I wouldn’t wish to, simply because I like—to me, the ultimate control is the decision, yes or no, to take the substance. You really have control. I mean, everybody here has so much control over the psychedelic experience that you could have one this evening if you wanted, for sure. So that’s control. But where there isn’t control is: once you start down the chute, then you have—and I associate this control issue with the boundary dissolution. The boundary dissolution is alarming to the ego. It doesn’t like that feeling. And it tells you that you’re dying. And psychedelic voyagers have to learn to just… when that red switch goes on, you just reach out and turn it off and say, “Oh no, no. It’s set wrong. I’m not dying.” But it tells you that you’re dying because the ego very strongly identifies with the equilibrium of the physical body. And as the physical body begins to slide into the intoxication, the ego is saying, “What’s happening here? Wait a minute! I’m losing coherency! This is not good! You made a mistake, Joe! Joe?! We need help, Joe! It’s coming apart!” And you say, “Chill. Chill. It’s going to be alright.” And so you have to discipline yourself that way.
The dissolving of the ego—that is the dissolving of this maladaptive behavior pattern that has made our sexual and social politics so complicated. In other words: the ego is not a good thing. Its existence in each one of us and so expressed to form is a symptom of neurosis; a cultural neurosis. And the psychedelic dissolves the ego, but the ego protests noisily while this is going on. And then people who are very ego-dependent—if they have a psychedelic experience, they usually only have one, and then they say, “Well, that was like going nuts! I hated it. I just hated it. It was awful.” Because they are very strongly identified with the ego. Another person who isn’t so strongly identified with the ego could look at the identical experience and say it was a wonderful liberation, it was just the quintessence of freedom and light and openness.
So when I say we are pathological and that we need to take strong medicine to fix ourselves, I don’t mean the kind of medicine where you can’t feel it working, I mean the kind of medicine where you can feel it working. And the suppression of ego has… basically was permitted by monotheistic religions and promoted by the phonetic alphabet, and there were just a whole bunch of cultural decisions that had the unfortunate effect of reinforcing the ego. And this is why we have such a problem now, because intellectually we’re united if we’re enlightened liberals or whatever, but we can’t feel the agony of each other. If we could feel what we were doing, we wouldn’t do it. You know? And yet, because each one of us identifies with our own body very strongly and checks no further, so the attitude is basically: “Well, I’m alright. And if you’re not… too bad.” And it’s a very abstract case to move people off of that. But in these early nomadic societies, which probably every new and full moon were taking psilocybin, and everybody who was capable was having sex in a heap with everybody else, and then the children were being reared in this environment under the sky with no material possessions—it was what we were meant for. It’s when we were happiest. It’s when our poetry was at its peak, and our dance was at its peak, and our drama and perhaps our philosophy, and certainly our storytelling, and all of those things were at prime 14,000 years ago.
You mentioned the Great Attractor earlier in the conversation, and I’ve been observing that there’s a lot of interest in society again, it seems, and popular science as well, in hyper-dimensionality: the superstring theories, Michio Kaku’s book on hyperspace became a bestseller. What these new theories seem to be predicting is that this universe that we’re embedded in is actually just a cross-section in some sort of a hyper-dimensional structure that may have originated with the big bang or whatever. And there’s this proliferation of these hyper-dimensional theories. And, of course, in quantum mechanics there’s this many worlds hypothesis floating around. So my question is: is this attractor that you’re perceiving embedded in this space or in a hyper-dimensional space? In which case that particular attractor might only be one outcome. We’re steering our way towards or away from that attractor depending on what’s happening from moment to moment.
Well, I’ve always—before I adopted the vocabulary of chaos dynamics, which uses this term, “attractor”—I always called it the concrescence, following out of Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy. And he said a concrescence is a nexus of events, or he also called it a nexus of actual occasions. And so I regard the temporal surface as a kind of undulating topology, and you could think of the attractor as the lowest point in the temporal landscape. So then, if you think of historical systems as marbles rolling across that landscape, where are they all going to end up? They’re all going to end up in the low point, because that’s where the attractor lies. And they’re all concentrated in this.
What I’m suggesting is that the spacetime continuum has an attractor for novelty, and that for a very long time the universe of process has been circling around the rim of this attractor, and then, several hundred million years ago, it began to make its ever more rapid descent toward the dwellpoint. And now novelty is extraordinarily concentrated, and the collapse of the state vector that moves us into hyperspace is sort of this umbilical point in the historical process.
See, the most evident fact in nature that science has overlooked—totally overlooked!—is that nature is speeding up. It always has been. And yet, you will never hear this discussed. The early life of the universe—there were no stars, no planets, there weren’t even complex elements. There was only helium and hydrogen. And, you know, talk about dull. It was dull! And over time, helium and hydrogen aggregated together and formed masses of such size that the temperatures at the center of those masses triggered fusion. And then, out cooked iron, sulfur, carbon, and the process of star formation began. The point being: the further back in time you go, the less events there are. And as I said last night: we are the inheritors of this process. If nature loves novelty, then nature loves us above all else in the cosmos, because there’s more novelty in our domain than anywhere else. And we work around the clock to elaborate novelty; human society is almost a pure novelty-production process.
And what all this novelty—one way of thinking of novelty (and Whitehead suggested this) is: density of connectedness. Well then, if you define novelty as density of connectedness, then you can predict what the ultimate novelty would be: the ultimate novelty is when every point is connected to every other point. That is a mathematical definition of a superspace: where all points are cotangent you have a superspace. So apparently, not only culture, but biology, and perhaps even simpler systems, seem to be imbued with a strategy the result of which is the conquest of dimensionality. The earliest organic life was fixed on clays. It was like lichen. Like. It was lichen-like and fixed. And then the whole history of the evolution of animal life is the history of the evolution of better senses and better organs of locomotion. What are we talking about? The conquest of dimensionality.
And in the human world this reaches a whole new level, because we are advanced animals. No doubt about it. Our binocular vision, our grasping hand, our running speed—we’re a very advanced animal. But we then add on to that language. And what is the purpose of language? I would submit to you that, in evolutionary terms, the purpose of language is to talk about the past. That the past ceases to be what it was when you have language, because you can pull it back: memory. Memory does something to time. It causes the past to remain in the present as a residuum. And as your memory storage technology advances from story-telling to writing to optical disks, the percentage of the past that you’re able to hold on to increases. And now, with virtual reality and all that, we dream of holding on to as much of the past as we want. So culture has become the servant of this conquest of dimensionality.
And I think that, inevitably, this leads to a bifurcation, because dimensions occur in quantized form. In other words, there is a cusp and then a phase transition. And so what has been going on on this planet for the past 10,000 years is an edging toward the cusp. And the vector that is being sought is greater novelty. So the system keeps automatically correcting itself to seek ever greater novelty. The end result of this will be a kind of instantaneous phase transition where everything passes into another modality. And exactly how this will occur is not a problem at this point, because we’re too far in the past. Ask me that after 2005 and I should have an answer for you. But at this point in the historical continuum, nobody knows. Is it going to be nanotechnological? Are we going to all become piss-ant size and go live in a stratocumulus cloud somewhere over South America? Are we going to invent the Banducci Spindizzy engine and build ships the size of Manitoba and set out for NGC 354 or something like that? That’s a possibility. I mean, technology has held surprises before. Or are we going to do something very unexpected and discover that plants are doorways into dimensions as alien as other planets and as nearby as the grass growing at your feet? We don’t know. But our best people are working on it, and long before we get to 2012 it will all be made clear.
Did that answer the…?
Good. I hate to think that we…
What happens after 2012?
What happens after 2012? Well, that’s an interesting question. I’m thinking about it in a different way than I have before. In the past we’ve spent a great deal of time talking about what happens at and after 2012. Yet, strangely, my theory only addresses what happens before 2012. After 2012 the time wave is kaputt, and you’re back to existentialism again. I think that—well, it depends on how loaded I am, what I think will happen in 2012. Because I can imagine it all the way from that the laws of physics fail, that the entire universe rolls up like a window shade. It’s unlikely, or it appears unlikely, but on the other hand, who’s estimating the odds and what do they know?
It could be—I’ve noticed that what the time wave seems to track best is the tool-making process. And so one way I think about concrescence and this enterprise that we’re involved in is: we are trying to make a tool. Not just any tool—we are trying to make the tool. Now, what is a tool? A tool is something that lets you do something. What, therefore, would be the ultimate tool? It would let you do anything. And as William Burroughs says: a-ny-thing! That’s what it would let you do. The flying saucer comes into the discussion at this point. The flying saucer, I believe, is an image of this tool that haunts the human experience of historical concrescence. It haunts the psyche of human beings and the skies of Earth. Because, like the bar ball spinning in the club, it is a precursive reflection of the tool at the end of time. The people who got this right are the alchemists of the 15th and 16th century, who believed that out of matter you could coax a universal substance that would be a perfect panacea. It would be all things to all people. It would cure all diseases, confer immortality, change lead to gold. You know, the blind would see, the halt would walk, the dead would rise. And this ideal was immediately in place before the birth of modern science as the goal of the exploration of matter.
And I think that we are possibly looking at a technology which the newspapers will call time travel, but which the people who create it will explain, “Well, it’s not that at all. You see, it’s actually a redactive doubling of hyperspatial feedback and a heteroclinic situation, but it comes off as time travel.” Because one way that I can imagine linear history ending is by it just simply ending. You know, linear history depends on the past staying what it is. If you have time travel, it’s possible to imagine a cultural domain where the past is constantly being changed, in which case you can’t describe the ebb and flow of novelty with a simple Cartesian graph. So it could be something like that. Or it could be something somewhat of a metaphysical type. I mean, here’s the Steven King version of what it could be: imagine if, on the day of concrescence, the sun exploded. Well, now that would certainly put rainforest activism in a quandary. The explosion of the sun would kill all life instantly on the Earth. We don’t know what death is. You know? Our secular materialists cheerfully assure us that it’s a big nothing. But that’s just their guess. Nobody knows. Nobody knows. But a mass die-off like that would instantaneously propel the entire biota of the planet into death—whatever that is. And that might be part of the dynamics of the solar system. I don’t like that idea. It’s rather morbid. But there are some problems with the sun. There are some curious disjunctures between measurement of solar radiation and nuclear theory that suggest that the sun may not be as healthy as we would like it to be.
Psychedelics catalyze the imagination, inform the population, and allow people to entertain larger perspectives than the completely piss-ant perspectives which they’re being given by the popular media. I mean, the popular media exhibits no imagination at all. That’s why we have no space program, that’s why we have no advanced research project agency, no commitment to explore the solar system, and so forth and so on. It turns out that really was all being done to beat the Russians. All that fine talk about spaceflight and the outwarders, that was just Pentagonese horse shit so they could dig into our genes and build intercontinental ballistic missiles. We who believed that we were headed out into the starry universe were, as usual, shafted.
Well, that’s a little coda on that. I see it’s time to knock off for a while. We have time for one more question, though. Is this working for people? I mean, I wander one way and then another.
What you just said about all this space program stuff—there seem to be this incredible influx of sci-fi in the media, as far as their programming, and television, films. What’s your comment on that?
Well, I think that virtual reality—the entertainment industry, I mean—if you look at the figures, if we spent as much money trying to save the planet as we are spending trying to develop advanced systems of electronic entertainment, hell, we’d fix it overnight. That would just be a done deal. I’m suspicious. I’m a techno-fan, and I use technology and I’m into it, but I was with Howard Rheingold one night, actually here at Esalen, when we achieved a kind of apotheosis together. And he said to me, “My god! I just realized what virtual reality is for!” And I said, “What’s it for, Howard?” And he said, “It’s to keep us from ever leaving the planet!” And I see in the game design and in the website design and in the look and feel of the net how it’s to be a simulacrum of the great frontier, you know? It’s going to all be virtual: the trip to Pluto and the conquest of Mars and the journey out to Andromeda.
I think that—you know, I don’t fault technology, you just have to be very aware. But it’s like heroin. And we must not consume, we must produce, as a community. A psychedelic community must produce art, not consume it. If they get it flowing the other way and we begin to consume it, then we are depotentiated. So what I’ve said: the millennial program is to put the art-pedal to the floor. You know, in virtual reality the difference between a 10-story building and a 100-story building is one zero! Enter the zero, and it’s now a 100-story building. We can build with light. The constraints of material and the constraints of capital investment that have limited us in three-dimensional space are not going to be present in VR. And I think we’re going to be able to build those castles in the sky.
And that what—I’ve said this many times. As I see the late 20th century cultural enterprise, what we’re trying to do here is turn the human body inside out. We want to take the mind (which is this invisible hyperspatial organ with its teeming imagination) and we want to make it literal, or virtual: we want to bring it into existence. Meanwhile, the body has become (because there are so many bodies) a real drag on the political system. So the body wants to become something freely commanded in the imagination. And it’s literally like we are turning ourselves inside out. And this is an alchemical process.
So now I’ve spoken of the alchemical process as something happening to the body, as a cultural enterprise building a tool, as an irresistible motion toward an attractor which can be glimpsed through the hyper-dimensional vision conferred by psychedelics. And then it merely remains to unpack and download these ideas into the popular and mass culture, because I think they assuage anxiety. People feel better about themselves and the fate and direction of the world. But we have painted ourselves into a hell of a situation here. The momentum of our past mistakes is staggering! The good news is: we primates love a good fight, and we don’t really get our dander up until the last possible moment. This is it. This is the last possible moment.
As old pilots like to say: I think we’re turning final here. These weekends tear past with amazing rapidity, and I was lying in bed last night thinking of everything that was not said, and it seemed like hardly anything was said. I don’t know what that means. In myself, personally, I’ve noticed in the last year or so a sense that the vision, or the thinking about our circumstance, has become almost, for me, like a full-time job. I really don’t want to go anywhere and I don’t want to do anything. I just want to hold the understanding in my mind. And I don’t know exactly where this is leading. It’s probably leading to writing more books and doing less traveling.
In terms of launching various memes, I think they’re pretty well launched. The idea that the psychedelic experience needs to be given a place in the social toolkit, the idea that we need to seriously revision our relationship to nature and the future, I think all these things have come a distance.
I’m really curious about one thing. Why is it important for you to do this?
I wonder myself. You mean, am I the alien ambassador whether I like it or not? Well, often, when asked this question, I’ve said it beats honest work. I mean, my brother is a Ph.D. in three subjects and works in hard science, and I don’t think it’s brought him immense happiness—not that he’s despondent. But I was always kind of a slider, you know? And certainly, when I reached La Chorrera in 1971, I had a price on my head by the FBI, I was running out of money, I was at the end of my rope. And then they recruited me and said, “With a mouth like yours? There’s a place for you in our organization.” And I’ve worked in deep background positions about which the less said the better. And then, about fifteen years ago, they shifted me into public relations and I’ve been there to the present.
I think ideas get me high. And I like the feeling of understanding. And I love diversity to the point of weirdness. I mean, I—
It seems that there’s more to it than that [???] because, you know, being tuned into ideas and turned on by ideas is one thing, but you can keep those things to yourself. The sharing of it is something else. That’s what I’m getting. [???]
Well, one thing is: I’m think of myself as a pretty savvy person and not easily led into false dogma. And yet, this is such a strange idea. And so it’s basically a plea for help. It’s not a cult. It’s not that I want you to join me in believing in this. It’s that this is so outlandish that “join me as a scientist would join a research team, and let’s cut it to pieces and show that it was simply a misunderstanding of information theory coupled with bad mathematics spliced onto a weak ontology,” or something like that, you know? Because I could live with the time wave if I only had to read about it in Time magazine, and that it was being developed by Negroponte and Prigogine. The thing that sets up the cognitive dissonance for me is that I (from the point of view of most people) thought it up. And I am so aware of my limitations that, to me, that’s the strongest argument there is that it’s malarkey, you know? And yet, that’s not a fair argument against an idea. In rhetoric that’s called the ad hominem argument: the argument to the man. That’s when you get up and say, “Well, we shouldn’t follow Jesse Helms because he’s short and ugly.” That’s not allowed. That’s a below-the-belt move.
And then I read books like Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and it says this is how it happens. Some guy—marginal, not at the center of the field, and somewhat at loose ends but usually with a broad education—gets it. I mean, it happened to Einstein: he was a telegrapher. It happened to Alfred Russel Wallace: he was a surveyor who couldn’t make a living, and so he went to Indonesia to collect butterflies for the British Museum. And we could multiply these examples ad infinitum.
But I have spent a lot of time educating myself about what it would mean if this were true. In other words, how big a revolution is it? And it’s an enormous revolution. The implications are staggering. For example, if it’s true that time is a fluctuating variable as this so strongly argues, then science as practiced for the past 500 years is out the window, because that kind of science is based on the concept of experiment. And experiment has built into it the concept of what’s called restoration of initial conditions. That means you can go back to the start and run the experiment again. This is saying—as Heraclitus said, you never step into the same river twice. And consequently, the idea of repetitive experiment is shown to be intellectually bankrupt. You could almost say—pardon me?
It’s not just a warning. I can recognize that.
Well, some have and some haven’t. The idea that you would specify in a physics experiment that it should be done only when the moon is in Scorpio to obtain the correct results would get you—
Social experiments are primarily Newtonian in orientation, are they not? I mean—
Well, give me an example of a time-dependent physical experiment recognized by science.
I mean, dropping a ball out of the Tower of Pisa.
It doesn’t matter what time you do it.
That’s my point. That’s my point: that we could almost say of science that it is the study of those phenomena so crude that the time in which they occur does not affect them. And so falling balls, gas diffusion… simple things—it doesn’t matter where in time they occur. But things like the building of an empire, the waging of a war, the evolution of a species, the conquest of a biome by a new set of genes—these things, timing is everything and dictates success or failure.
Did you want to say something?
Yeah, but that’s a very interesting point, because the weak anthropic cosmological principle argues that life evolved at about the right time. If things had started up a little bit later or a little bit sooner—at least around this sun—it wouldn’t necessarily have gotten a kick start. The conditions were no longer quite right. The incubator was set to just the right temperature when the gases were at just the right concentrations and so on. And Steven Gould has pointed out that we couldn’t even play the tape over again. If you started off with life at one of the early conditions 3.5 billion years ago and then ran it forward again, we wouldn’t have ended up with people and we wouldn’t have ended up with the kinds of species we have. There are too many bifurcation points that can take place along the line. So there’s actually two points there.
Yes. Well, this is essentially what this is saying. Ordinary science says that evolution proceeds by the random mixing of genes, then subject to natural selection dictated by environmental parameters. And out of that you do get a creative advance, or an advance into morphological complexity, but very slowly. And I think that what the time wave shows is that the cosmic deck is stacked in favor of novelty. So that it isn’t a 50-50 every time you throw the dice that it’s going to go toward entropy or order. Actually, order is favored. And so order emerges and is conserved over time—or novelty; I prefer the term “novelty” because, to me, “chaos” doesn’t signify disorder, I view it in the new way.
Well, anyway, maybe that’s enough about that. I didn’t intend such a long opening statement. It must be this coffee.
What you were saying sounds like—I think it was just recently, a couple of months ago, about the Hubble constant. The Hubble telescope is throwing things in question. And I think—have you pursued that?
Yes, I follow all that very carefully. I touched on it in my lecture by implication last night. It was in my mind when I said how so much of science recently has been about answering the question, “When?” When? There is huge controversy raging at this moment in astrophysics, because—well, here’s the background. In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble studied variable stars, and in an effort to establish what are called absolute or reliable candles for measuring cosmic distance, knowing that if he could very accurately calibrate the radiance of this certain type of star, that then he could calculate how that radiance would diminish at distance. And there is a number involved with Hubble’s name called Hubble’s constant. And if you set it high, the universe is young—did I get it right? And if you set it low, the universe is old. And furious battles are now raging because there is data coming in both from the Hubble telescope (ironically; named after Edwin Hubble), there is data coming in there that is supporting the idea that, using standard mathematics, the universe is young. In fact, paradoxically, younger than some of the oldest stars in it—which doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Conversely, from a different set of instruments looking at a different part of the electromagnetic universe, low Hubble constant values are coming in, implying that the universe is 18–22 billion years old rather than 6–8 or 8–10.
And as far as the time wave is concerned—I was looking at this and I realized I should issue a press release and make a prediction and say that, according to my calculations, the age of the universe is precisely x, and then see where these other people come down. I think the time wave favors the idea that the universe is about 17.5 billion years old. And that is agreement with the data that does not contain an internal contradiction. I find the idea of a universe 8 billion years old almost as unlikely as a universe 4,306 years old. I feel real cramped in a 10-billion-year-old universe. That is not enough.
Well, I was just thinking that if the Hubble constant had a variation in time, that would probably describe it. Maybe your formulas might point to how it might vary in time. Or we have a locally varying Hubble constant—
Well, yes, you raise a whole bunch of interesting issues here. Look at how presumptuous science is. First of all, all of modern physics is based around the concept of constants. And some of these are non-dimensional constants, but some are not, like the speed of light. Well, the speed of light has been measured on this planet since 1906: just under a hundred years of measurement in a multi-billion-year-old universe, carried out on one planet, and from this you make the grand statement that the speed of light in all times and all places will obey this law of velocity? Give me a break! It’s just a kind of a joke. And yet, to admit that there is a problem here would seriously undermine the premises of science. Things are worse than that.
Throughout the 20th century, of course the speed of light has been measured many, many times. Now, the same value is rarely obtained. Now, all of physics depends upon this being a universal constant. So when you point out to them that the same value is rarely obtained, they wave their hands and say, “Ah, well, this has to do with the limits of the instrumentality”—a term which will not be further defined. This has to do with the limits of the instrumentality, and they’re just hitting around it, right? So at first you, the uneducated layman, think, “Well, that makes sense. I suppose they’re just hitting around it.” But then you go back and you look at these measurements of the speed of light, and you know what? They don’t cluster around a point. Since 1906, successive measurements of the speed of light seem to imply that it’s incrementally going slightly faster. The set of data points is drifting slightly across the thing.
Well now, how—if it’s at the limits of the instrumentality—can you possibly explain that? Well, this became such an issue in the astrophysics community (and check this out!), that what they did is: in 1972 they defined the speed of light. And they said this is the speed of light, and all future calculations should use this number regardless of what the instruments are telling you. A momentous turning point in the evolution of scientific thought. At last, nature itself is deemed no longer necessary for the study of nature, and in fact it just gets in the way!
Anyway, I can go on at great length about the foibles of science, but… it’s just fun to rid them. Yeah?
We’re back to scholasticism, I guess. But by this same argument, couldn’t you say: how long is a year? Especially when you’re talking about births of universes in which Earths revolving around suns haven’t yet evolved to measure the year? That we’re now measuring the whole smearing?
Well, you mean: why—I’m not sure I understand you—do you mean: why do we place so much emphasis on the year count in the theory?
Well, how can you, in a way? Because—
Well, it doesn’t, really. What it depends on is a 384-day cycle. Which, if you were to press me (and I guess you are) as to why is it a 384-day cycle—well, it’s thirteen lunations, yes, but there’s something mysterious going on there, and probably a good Newtonian could explain it to us. They do these studies, these geo-chronological studies, using coral fossils, and they believe that the year is slowly shrinking, and that about a billion years ago the year length would have been about 384 days. And I suspect that the evolution of DNA—that the fact that the DNA runs on 64, and the I Ching runs on 64, and this number 384 keeps coming up in relationship to the lunation and the possible solar year length—I think that, essentially, the DNA must have frozen in itself a kind of picture of the various orbital and geomagnetic resonances that existed in the solar system, or in the terrestrial environment, at the time it came into existence. I mean, that’s just my guess, but it would fit. Do you see what I mean?
And then, the fact that it’s 13 lunations—the Moon is tidally de-spun. That’s why we always see one face locked on the Earth: because it makes one revolution in the time that it makes one orbit. And that’s the consequence of that. And it may be that—well, I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, but that there was a coupling of some sort between the Sun-Earth-Moon system a billion years ago that made a 384-day year possible.
But my point is: when we’re talking about the time between the big bang and planets, how long is a year?
Oh, well, my assumption is that the real formative cycles are quantum mechanical in dimension. In other words, we talk about a 384-day cycle, then we talk about a 6-day cycle, then an hour-thirty-five-minute cycle, and then a minute-and-a-half, or something, but it’s the cycles below, say, the 10-12 seconds. In other words, the whole universe, I assume, is some kind of amplification of quantum-mechanical instability. And you and I have talked about how biology seems to be a chemical strategy for amplifying quantum-mechanical indeterminacy so that it leaves the subatomic realm and can be present in a 145-pound block of meat.
I mean, that is what it is. The phenomenon of free will is quantum-mechanically amplified determinacy in this complex chemical system that we call organic life. So the year-thing isn’t important. What’s important is probably something down in the realm of Planck’s constant, some slip in the cosmic machinery at a very basic level that was then exploded and amplified out into the phenomenal universe. I mean, the real question is why there is anything at all, you know? Why this state was preferred over a state of pure nothingness, which would appear to be the bottom of the energy well.
You’ve done a lot of thinking about morphological resonances of different sorts. There’s one I’ve encountered that I really can’t shake loose. I wonder if you have a comment on it. You know, reading about the brain, the estimates of the total number of synapses is about 100 billion. And as you read about cosmology, you read that the average spiral galaxy is thought to have 100 billion suns in it. And the total number of galaxies in the universe is estimated to be around 100 billion. And I recently encountered the estimate that the total number of biomolecules in a cell is about 100 billion. And it seems like this coincidence keeps coming up, and maybe it’s related to Paul Dirac’s idea of the large number.
Well, I think it is true that emergent properties come out of large aggregations. Always, the textbook example is, you know: if you have two H2O molecules—that’s water, but you don’t have wetness. Wetness doesn’t emerge until you have thousands of H2O molecules. And so the wetness of water is a property which only emerges when you have millions of these molecules together. And it does appear that complex neural nets have to be above 9 billion operating subunits. So, you know, it may be that—I mean, definitely, we are pushing toward criticality in any area of measurement. For example, if you look at the curve of energy release, or the population curve, or the curve of information production, or the curve of advancing velocity, you see that many of these curves will become asymptotic in the near future. And that’s what I mean when I say we’re headed into this domain of boundary dissolution and hyper-novel inflationary evolution, you could almost call it.
Isn’t that—well, “asymptotic” is when it’s not doubling every time you measure it, it’s being squared. Isn’t that it? Each time? So it goes logarithmic, asymptotic, and then there’s another term for an even more rapid expansion.
When I read futurist books, you know, several things like that, they’re similar to what you’re saying about the radical changes that are coming. That they’re looking at all the dominators of what they feel would cause this. And their sense of payoffs is what you’re talking about in a different way: economic chaos, health chaos. Our Earth is heading toward a tremendous upheaval. And the cities, the concentration.
Some of these people began to [???] these megalithic centers of humanity, and they’re so disconnected with who made it, that they’re saying the same thing that you’re saying. In a different way. I mean, they are saying the same thing.
Yes, well, you see, they feel that they own the planet. And so they’re very alarmed. I mean, wouldn’t you be if it were your property? You say, “My god, what is going on? We have to get hold of the neighborhood!” But my faith is that the horse knows where it wants to go, and we’re all being carried along for the ride. And Mitsubishi, the Catholic Church—whoever wants to try and control it is welcome to try, but it’s a perverse thing. I mean, we (who think of ourselves as little people) imagine that owning the Earth must be a great pleasure, but actually, the number of ulcer tablets being consumed in the chancelleries, burses, and embassies of this planet seems to argue that thinking you own the world is an enormous headache and aggravation.
The chaos is roving through the system and able to undo at any point the best laid plans. All kinds of things are happening. First of all, there are all these fields of research ranging from cryogenics, nanotechnology, psychedelic pharmacology, disease control, machine-human interfacing—you know, you could just list these things endlessly. And at any moment one of these fields could make a breakthrough so fundamental that everything would be changed. And we have fifty of these irons going in the fire all the time. At the same time, because the planetary culture is becoming ever more closely knitted together, all its parts are becoming codependent. So, for instance, an earthquake which destroys central Tokyo would ruin the economy of Belgium, because the retraction of Japanese capital from world markets would set up reverberations that would be felt everywhere. The system is being slaved ever more tightly to various portions of itself. Crop failure in Russia causes strikes in Argentina, and so forth and so on. And this will accelerate. Well then, the task of management, somehow, is to bring this coalescing system through this transition period without the whole thing getting so much vibration built up into it that it falls apart. And so it’s very alarming to see barbarism uncontrolled in the world, to see people being pushed into boxcars on their way to extermination camps, and all this. This means that the global control systems are in danger of breaking down.
And I think that the world corporate state is running hard to keep up. National governments do not understand what is going on. National governments are underpaid, understaffed, and under-talented. World corporate divisions of various sorts do understand what is going on, but they are in the process of taking power from the national states as rapidly as possible in order to use that power to manage the planet in a somewhat less ideologically hysterical fashion. I mean, they want to make money, you know? But that’s a different thing than wanting to convert everybody to Islam, Marxism, or National Socialism, or something like that.
I’m fascinated by management because it’s the large-scale understanding and integration of human systems, and that’s the real challenge. I mean, it’s all very fine to take these mathematical models and describe the behavior of the dripping faucet—as was done very creatively—but the purpose of all this modeling is to eventually take control of our own relationships to each other, and to the world, and to the future, and to future generations.
It’s somewhat paradoxical, though, because management would appear to be key, yet what we’re talking about managing can’t be managed.
No, but what can be managed is our anxiety about it. In other words, I think of it as though what we’re in is an aircraft, a cultural airfoil moving through history, and the challenge is: change your Sopwith Camel into an F-18 in flight. Because we’re going faster and faster and faster, and Q-forces, vibration, are beginning to build up on all the airfoils. And so what we have to do is transform the cultural engine or the forward acceleration into the temporal medium will burn the wings off and rip the airfoil apart.
What you’re talking about is metamorphosis. Would you comment on examples of metamorphosis in nature, to what’s going on there?
Well, the perfect example is, of course, insect metamorphosis, which—if you read my book True Hallucinations, and I think it’s mentioned in The Invisible Landscape—there was a great deal of talk about insect metamorphosis at La Chorrera. And I’ve never received a satisfactory answer to the question put to evolutionary biologists: how do you account for the metamorphosis of insects, where (like in the case of butterflies) hundreds, if not thousands, of genes have to be coordinated perfectly to take a caterpillar, dissolve all its body tissue, and have it completely reconstruct itself as another kind of organism? Trying to imagine an evolutionary scenario of gradual mutation that would give you that is—I can’t do it. It must have happened largely instantaneously in a single massive rearrangement of hundreds and hundreds of genes. And we don’t see that much in animal life. We see large-scale poliploidian plants, so maybe this happened in animal tissue only once or twice in the life of the planet. But it gave this insect adaptation, which is astonishing.
And, in a way, what we’re doing is repeating that metamorphosis on a metaphorical as well as physical plane. I mean, we are rather like worms, and we have built a society that is somewhat—might ungenerously be described as a carrion pile. But there is apparently in us the capacity to evolve to this other form. And there is—as long as we’re roving through exotic biological metaphors here—there is a phenomenon in biology called neoteny. Neoteny is the preservation of juvenile characteristics into adulthood. And we, as a primate species, exhibit advanced forms of neoteny. This is why we are hairless to adulthood. This is why our skull-to-body ratio remains infantile (compared to other primates) throughout life. It’s why we require such a long period of physical upbringing. Well, there are certain animals that will remain in the juvenile stage their entire lifetime unless certain environmental parameters shift. And what I mean by that is: say you have a kind of salamander. Well, it exists as a kind of a tadpole its entire life. And for generations it can do this; living as a tadpole. But if the pool dries up, the organisms in the pool at that time suddenly discover that they have the capacity to develop lungs and crawl out onto the land. And they do, even though, perhaps, this hasn’t been done in that neighborhood for generations.
And I think we are sort of in that position. We have a capacity inside ourselves that we have not yet unfolded, and we may not for a while. When things really get nutty, part of the getting nutty is that we will discover present in our human population all the time were mutants of certain types that had no evolutionary advantage as long as bourgeois society and Judeo-Christian ethics were in place. But when that begins to shake and shimmer, then these mutant types will emerge to the fore. This is how evolution works, by the way, in animal populations: mutants are always present, but they have no consequence unless the environmental parameters shift and give them, then, a special advantage. And I think being able to see hyperspatially is the special adaptive advantage that psychedelic plants confer upon the people who use them. It is literally: you see the world with different eyes, and it’s going to make it possible for you to find your way through the future in a way that will be very difficult for people who are looking at the situation through the eyes of materialism, Newtonianism, positivism, and so forth.
That’s a question, I guess, that keeps coming up to me: what are we supposed to do?
Yeah, I keep thinking that, too.
Well, I keep saying: de-emphasize anxiety, reassure people. You meet people who say, “I’m really scared. I’m scared about my job, I’m scared about my relationship. I’m scared, scared, scared.” The answer is: don’t worry! You don’t know enough to worry. That’s God’s truth. Who do you think you are that you should worry, for cryin’ out loud! I mean, it’s a total waste of time. It presupposes such a knowledge of the situation that it is, in fact, a form of hubris. You know? No, what you do is just pay your bills and pack heat if you need to, and don’t worry! That’s all.
Someone once told me: don’t worry, don’t take it so seriously, because none of us are going to get out alive.
Well, no. That’s a more dismal conclusion. Worry is praying to the devil. That’s great. Worry is betting against yourself. You know, Wei Boyang, a great Chinese Taoist who wrote many, many commentaries on the I Ching, he was asked at the end of his life: what was his conclusion of a life of studying the I Ching? And he said, “Worry is preposterous.” That was it. If we are serious about who we are, and not ashamed of our dreams, then we have to build on the scale of solar systems. I mean, we have the imaginative power to be a galactarian civilization, it’s just that we have a piss-ant control of energy at the moment. But if there’s somebody out there who needs consulting, somebody who does have hyper-light drive and time travel, but just doesn’t know what to do with it, ask us! We are very creative.
And I’ve tracked this very closely in the literature, and up until about five years ago, time travel definitely—if you were writing about that, you were a squirrel! Nobody was talking about that. And since then, Scientific American has devoted an entire issue to it, Nick Herbert (who I do not consider a squirrel) wrote an excellent book about it, there have been articles in Physical Review, and it’s gone from “It’s completely impossible, don’t even think of it!” to “Well, certain thought experiments can be imagined which do seem to imply…”. Well, that’s how relativity got started, you know? Talking about trains passing each other at the speed of light, and what would happen if.
It’s so hard to make people understand, because we’re in this new age environment of fishy thinking, but the entities inside the DMT trance are real entities. I mean, they’re as real as you and I are. You would have trouble proving your own ontological validity if pressed by a skilled philosopher. So they’re as real as we are. Well, this, then, has to be taken seriously. Questions like: where are they? Who are they? What do they know? Because they’re intelligent. And we’re intelligent. And we’ve been yapping about space people and all this malarkey. You know? They are here! If flying saucers landed on the South Lawn of the White House tomorrow, it wouldn’t be as weird as what happens to you when you smoke DMT. It would just be a news story, something for NASA to take over. Chomsky would explain it to us—the linguistic side, I mean. But you, personally, can meet the alien anytime you want. And the culture can meet the alien anytime they want.
Well, are these things here for no reason? Are we just sort of… they’re on their trip and we’re on our trip? Or have they come for us? Is there a message? Is there a purpose? And why does this seem so drenched in super-technologies and intimations of time travel? I mean, are these things dead souls? Are they a future state of humanity that’s come back a hundred million years to the dawn ages of intelligence to observe the discovery of starflight? What is happening? It needs to be looked at. And, you know, I went into this very deeply with shamanism. But shamanism is a set of culturally sanctioned explanations for people who didn’t know how to ask the kinds of questions we ask. And so you can only go so far with that, and eventually you realize that Jung won’t help you, or Mircea Eliade, or…. You have to make sense of this on your own terms.
It’s very unexpected that this would happen. I always assumed I would be an aeronautical engineer or something like that. I never thought, and I never thought that the culture would turn 90 degrees and discover in, you know, the biology of the planet an alien intelligence. I mean, that’s what the 20th century will probably be remembered for. And very few of us can even articulate it to ourselves. In the way that the 15th century discovered the new world, the 20th century discovered the parallel continuum. It begins with Freud and noticing something about the fantasies of these Viennese housewives, and then Jung splicing in the myths, and then the surrealists, and Eliade, and the the drug people come along, and Huxley, and so forth, until finally people say—as that wonderful line in Rosemary’s Baby—“My God! This is really happening!” You know? Yes, what did you think?
I had a question. [???] from what I understand—and I’m not a mathematician—but you’re using formulas based on double-pyramids that are tetrahedric?
Yeah. Well, I think that these kinds of occult calculations—this is a legitimate way to proceed. This is how Kepler modeled the solar system, you know? It was by putting the Greek perfect mathematical forms inside each other. But I am really aware, from having worked twenty years on the time wave, how woolly it gets out there in the numbers. When you’re looking for correlations, you know? There are a whole bunch of these things. There are the people in New Zealand with the world grid system. There’s the whole José Argüelles cosmology. Ouspensky was an early one: In Search of the Miraculous. Yeats’ book A Vision is a complex mathematical thing explaining the cosmos.
There seems to be something in us that we are systematizers. We produce systems. And these are integrated systems of memes. And the only thing you can do is lay them before your fellow monkeys and see what goes on. And I usually am a reluctant participant. I’m not much fun when it comes to weird ideas because I just pour cold water on them. For instance, right now my mail is running pretty heavily toward people who want to inform me about and convert me to the works of Zecharia Sitchin—do you know who I’m talking about? Well, this is a complex cosmology. It involves five or six books. It involves a lost planet which comes into the inner solar system every 35,000 years or so, which was responsible for Jesus and for…. And it’s a whole thing. And people (who I, up to that point, had considered sane) found it very interesting. And I was just… it was, you know… uuuugh! So I think the only thing you can—and I am in this same position. I mean, someone could certainly react phobicly to my thing. So I think what you have to say about these ideas is: they just have to be dropped out of the nest, and you see what can fly and what can’t.
However, then here’s a piece of advice which you may not need or want to hear, but this has worked for me—and it’s not an orthodox piece of advice. But if you hear a claim that fascinates you or interests you, like a claim—well, just as an example, the face on Mars or the time wave or Zecharia Sitchin’s thing—yes, you should read the person’s book and you should think about it on that level. But what you should also do is try to find out as much about this person as possible. It’s very hard for people to hide their pasts. And if it turns out that your particular revelator did some time in Tennessee for auto theft or was last seen fleeing Germany with a velice of cash, then you know. And this was very effective for me with the crop circles: an investigation of the histories of the major personalities was a journey into—well, I can’t even find words to describe it. But that’s the thing to look at. Look at the people. Look at their lives, their credit histories, their bank accounts. And then judge their cosmogonic visions.
Some people would probably say that’s unfair. But in a sense it goes back to what I said a couple days ago about aesthetics. You know? The revelation of the mystery—one thing is for sure: it will not be tacky. It won’t be tasteless, you know? It won’t be wearing sequins, for god’s sake! It won’t pass out 10% discount coupons.
Will it charge at all?
Will it charge at all? Where I pulled out is: I was at one of these expos—you know, that are around? And I toured the thing. And if you ever go to one of those things, they are horrendous! I mean, moldavite suppositories and just the damnedest stuff! And I was making my way through the booths, the various therapies, channelings, and revelations, and this young woman in a short skirt rushed out and took me by the elbow, and she said, “Excuse me, sir, could I interest you in elective cosmetic surgery?” I said, “No!” And she said, “Well, how about the drawing for the Camaro?” I said, “No. No.” But that’s alright. The marketplace has always been a noisy place.
This is just sort of to illustrate an example of this time stuff we’re talking about. Two years ago I was driving a city bus, and when you drive a city bus you have a computer printout that tells you exactly what minute to be where. Now, there’s not many jobs like that, so you always have to be aware of time. I had driven this route for three months, and I’d left the terminus at the same time I’d always left. This is a trolley bus. It has a speed governor on it and goes on wires. You can’t go more than sixty clicks. It always takes within thirty seconds to get to the next timing point.
One day, I was meditating at work. (My mother told me not to do this…) And I left on time, and I got to the timing point six minutes early, and I picked up ten people. Now, I don’t know how that happened, or what happened, but it seemed to me it was a slip in time. The next day I’m sitting in the cafeteria. I have to go out to this bus, inspect it, and leave at a certain time. I’m eating a sandwich. And I go up at fifteen minutes and look at the clock, it’s five minutes after I’m supposed to leave. So I freak out, run out, get on the bus, leave ten minutes later than I ever have, and get to where I’m going ten minutes earlier.
Now, at the same time—and I had thought this was peculiar, so I started asking everybody I knew—and I found four people who had a routine such that they knew at what time things happened. One guy always took an hour and twenty minutes to get to work, for example. He left one morning and he got there 45 minutes early. And I just offered this as an example of the fact that this idea of physics being constant has to do whether you believe it or not, and pay attention to it. And if you change your own relationship to time and space, well—I took a whole busload of people with me!
It’s an example that something is slipping as people’s minds open up.
I think there are roving discontinuities called cosmic giggles that are definitely there.
The same thing happened to me twice. I gained, once, twenty minutes that I couldn’t have possibly gained, and another time an hour and fifteen minutes. [???]
That’s very interesting. Too bad this is a population with such a high incidence of drug abuse!
Terence, is there a parallel to the Eastern concept of the big mind, and the network system? There seems to me to be one.
Well, yeah. One of the things I think that’s happening—
Maybe there’s something going on there that may be relative to all this?
The male engineering mentality always is trying to duplicate in technology what already exists in nature. So, you know, back 15,000 years ago, when the partnership society was in place and everybody was rigged out with psilocybin, they were participating in what I call the Gaian mind: the flow of energy and information between the human population and the rest of the animal and plant and natural world. Well, then we fell away from that into the existential condition of history. But it’s always stuck with us. And our desire, you know, to string wires to talk to each other over distances, and send pictures, and be integrated—our faith that data is somehow important—is all part of this effort to mirror in our technology the Gaian mind. It’s sort of like: they say men always seek in their mates the image of their mother. Well, this was sort of happening for us on a cultural scale. In our technology we’re always trying to create a path back into nature. And many people think of the Internet (or think of computers) as masculine and so forth. They are not at all. It’s an incredible feminizing influence.
McLuhan understood this very well: he believed that the worldwide rise of electrical networks could be correlated to the descent of the Holy Ghost. He thought we were living in the age of the Holy Spirit; that electricity is the Holy Spirit. And that’s abstract when you’re talking about telegraphs and that sort of thing, but when you’re talking about the Internet you realize, you know: we really are mental creatures. And so we are apparently creating a shamanic dimension that is culturally sanctioned, because we say we don’t have to take a drug. Because we’re so phobic of drugs. But the smart people know—the pharmacologists and the electronic, the nano-technological engineers—know that the difference between a drug and a computer is that you can swallow one and you can’t swallow the other one. And that’s the only difference, and they’re working to correct that problem. The drugs of the future will be computers. The computers of the future will be drugs, you know? They’ll be patches that you paste on your forehead or the back of your thumbnail.
So really—and the other thing that keeps us calm is that we can see the electronic infrastructure. We can see the phone lines, we can see the boxes and the keyboards. But that’s all about to disappear. A very active frontier now is mind-machine interfacing where, you know, basically, by wrinkling your brow and squinting and squirming, you run your software. And the boxes can disappear, and will disappear. And we’ve talked in these gatherings many times about a very obvious future coalescence of technology, where what you have (when you’re eight years old or something) is: you have a very small operation which puts something like a contact lens not on your eye, but on the inside of your eyelid. It’s like a black contact lens. So that, when you close your eyes, there are menus hanging in space. That’s your interface. That’s your doorway to the Internet. And then you just take off from your jumpsite into cyberspace. This is not out of reach. Believe me, if it mattered as much as blowing up little brown people somewhere, we would have it in our hands today. It’s just a matter of committing capital investment and resources to it.
Where’s the keyboard?
The keyboard is run by looking at the screen, and the thing is tracking your eye movements. There is no keyboard. Huh?
It’s like biofeedback, basically.
Yeah, it’s a biofeedback control of machines, but not little PCs, but world-spanning data networks that are in three dimensions and with graphically rendered environments that are extremely high-density data that cannot, in fact, be told from reality, except that it’s been put through such an outlandish design process that you could never mistake it for reality unless you were raised in international airport arrival concourses.
The advertising world has equipment in play that they can monitor where you look at certain products on a screen. Certainly, that would be easy to do [???]
Oh yeah, this is all coming. And so then the question is: as the Internet fades away (in terms of boxes and flickering screens) and becomes more and more transparent implants in your body, then your identification will be total with this global environment. And you will think of yourself as a person with two minds: the individual mind and the collective mind—previously called the unconscious—and previously unaccessible except through psychotherapy, dreams, or drug use, but suddenly put online as a 24-hour-a-day utility for those who need to use it. Bizarre? Yes. But what isn’t?
I just wanted to mention that if anyone wants to get further into these ideas, William Gibson’s novels are a good place to begin. Neuromancer, for example.
Yeah. And I notice there’s a new virtual reality novel out, called Rim, that I haven’t read, but it’s published by my publisher, Harper, so I’ll plug it anyway. But yeah. And so what I see, really, is that there was a bifurcation, almost a gender-based bifurcation, and this male-dominant thing—which is all about controlling matter and energy and mathematically formal descriptions of nature, and so forth—what it’s going to do is: it’s going to deliver us back to the high Paleolithic. But it will be a totally established and hardwired technology. And so then, you see, history will be revealed to have been, of all things, a viconian recirculation, a return back to our origins. That’s why I say Western man, the parable for Western civilization, is the parable of the prodigal son. That’s who we are. We left the family fold, the flocks, and the filial obligations, and we descended into matter and made a long, long journey of understanding which is meaningless unless we return to our origins. And then it can be used to enrich and broaden the human experience.
Something so extraordinary is happening on this planet. I mean, you know, for hundreds of millions of years biology flowed across the surface, and species advanced and retreated, and sensory organs were refined and redefined, and so forth and so on, but about 35,000–50,000 years ago, language broke loose. And language is the sheer will of information itself to transform itself. I mean, our medium is meat, but we are made of information, you know? And that information could be fed into a computer, crystallized into a virus. What we are is a long message that is being typed out in proteins by thousands of ribosomes coordinated over time. We are sort of like a phonograph record. And when you’re young, you know, certain enzyme systems, certain genes, are turned on. And then you pass into midlife, other genes are turned on, certain genes are turned off. It’s like a melody: theme and variation being brought back. The theme being enriched and worked. And then, finally, the whole thing builds to a crescendo, and then one by one the genes are turned off, and the audience tugs on its overcoats, and cabs are hailed, and people go home for the evening. But that’s what you are: you’re a story, a piece of code being run in the great computer of the world. And like the self-transforming machine elves in the DMT trance—who can make things with language—so, too, we can make things with language. We can coax ideas into matter and make engines, and dynamos, and transmitters, and oscillators, and all these things.
We’re truly like—you haven’t mentioned at all about relating all this in terms of health, of medicine. Because there’s so much of that going on now with Chopra’s work, and so much [???] consider that hoochie-coochie?
No, no. That’s different.
But you know what I’m saying? There’s so much now going into the holistic, or not just—I’m not talking about systems, I’m talking about the cell. Like, Chopra talks about the cell and its ability to hear. And—
Well, I think there’s a general spreading awareness of awareness in biology. And the old ideas of a system of integrated organs has given way to a holistic model. So much can just be done with information, in terms of, like: if you eat right, if you behave right, if you monitor yourself, if you exercise. We can know a great deal more about ourselves than we ever could before. The whole thrust of novelty is toward a kind of platonic perfection. And it means perfection of the body as well. How this will look, I’m not sure. Maybe the body can become superconducting. That’s a claim I would have to see before I believed. I’m sure we’ll have people coming down the pike who claim they’re superconducting—essentially breatharians claim that. But then they were cornered down at Baskin Robbins and…
Well, [???] human body can live. I mean, they’re talking about, in Chopra’s view, that their age is limitless. That there should be no real end of life.
Well, I think that that’s quite within reach, but I’m puzzled by the ethics of it.
That’s what I’m saying.
I mean, I think that if you don’t die, you miss the point. So…
Oh, that we can live for a long time? Well, that’s true.
[???] tongue-in-cheek when we hear him talk. He says that.
Well, but there certainly are immortalists running around. People who have wild hopes. To me, that’s an incredibly egomaniacal wish, because death is nature’s way of getting rid of worn out… I mean, part of what’s wrong with our society is that people aren’t retiring and moving on. We’re becoming a society ruled by octogenarians and older, because medicine has made that possible. And it’s paradoxical that, in an age where there is so much impetus for change, people hang on so long at the top.
And that they’re hanging on longer and longer and longer, sadly.
Yeah, which frustrates more and more generations building up behind. I mean, it’s called the Charles Windsor problem.
Some of the immortalists that I’ve talked to plan on ascending the body in 2012. Or thereabouts—as opposed to dying.
Yes, one thing that’s going to happen that my theory predicts, but that doesn’t make my job any easier, is that as we get closer and closer to 2012, hysteria will build and claims will multiply. And it’s just going to become a circus. I’ve already, in my life, realized that, apparently, I’ve become involved with or set in motion something that will probably outlast me. And I’m looking for high ground. I am very happy to be a cultural commentator from the side of my volcano in Hawai’i. But I don’t want to move among the seething masses preaching the approaching apocalypse, and anointing bishops and that sort of thing. I think that’s absolutely nuts.
For me, I’d want to treat it as a kind of event in the world of physics. Sort of to say: well, the Earth is on a collision course—not with an asteroid, not with a black hole, but with a very large question mark. And this will impact in December 2012. But I can tell that, probably, my ideas and these kinds of ideas are, in fact, going to get more than a fair hearing. They’re probably going to become the kernels of obsession for many lightly, delicately balanced people. And that’s why I stress, you know: the scientific approach, evidence, what can you show me, everybody stay calm, no wild claims. And then, if it turns out to be all malarkey, nevertheless we will have navigated one of the most narrow necks in the history of consciousness. And perhaps these faiths are like crutches: once you are able to hobble forward without their use you can fling them away and think no more about it.
But, you know, even the most rational among us can hardly fail to notice that we have backed ourselves into one hell of a position. And how are we going to get through this, and maintain our human dignity? I mean, are we going to allow millions, billions of people to slip into starvation and disease? Are we going to practice triage on entire sectors of the planet? And withdraw resources so that the white industrial democracies can ride through the waves of chaos? I mean, it’s very important we not only preserve the human genome, it’s important that we preserve human values through all of this. And I think realizing that we are caught in a process of metamorphosis and transformation not of our responsibility is the basis for the attitudes of confidence and anticipation that will be necessary, and that will allow us to be exemplars for the society.
And then, at the core of all of this, is, of course, the evidence which lies (to my mind) in the psychedelic experience. I mean, you know, people can say we’re bananas or misguided or whatever, but if they haven’t been there, it’s hard to understand the basis of their criticism. Because to explore our mystery you don’t have to sweep up around the ashram for twelve years, or kiss the feet of some beady-eyed weasel in a dhoti. None of that. Our thing is accessible, you know? You make the decision, you take it, you shut your mouth, and it happens! And anybody who criticizes that without having the experience is in a curiously unbalanced position, I think.
This is a dependable mystery. This is what I sought my entire life. I mean, this was not in the church. This was not in India. This was not to be found until I was willing to submit myself to the experience of eating something which grows in dung. And then it was there. That’s the humbling that has to take place. And the huge emphasis in the new age on doing it on the natch, you know, is a form of spiritual materialism. I mean, what is the cent—
What do you mean by that?
“Naturally.” To say: “I don’t need to take drugs.” Well, this is a form of spiritual materialism. Because what is the central faith of the new age? “There is no inside and no outside.” Well, until you mention drugs, and then suddenly this distinction has the dovecote all in a flutter!
This state’s not possible to reach through meditation process, [???]?
I don’t think so. If I were able to reach it by any other means than pharmacology, I would check myself in somewhere. You do not want these states to be—we’re not talking about… I don’t think people understand how entirely radical the psychedelic flash is. It is not something you want spontaneously hanging around as a consequence of your good works and clean diet. I don’t think so.
What about the age-old problem: you always come down. You know, you get high, you have that great experience, and then we come back to reality.
Well, sex is like that, youth is like that, going to Venice is like that. The law of unfolding seems to be: good times, bad times. Ebb and flow. Nothing lasts. I mean, if you want a piece of psychedelic truth that is somewhat sobering—I mean, this is what I have taken away, and I guess I should leave you with this thought—
—I think you apply it in your life. And I also think that you look back on it and you understand. You know, Proust said nothing is understood until it is remembered, and that’s certainly true of psychedelic experiences. But nothing lasts, you know? Not your friends, not your enemies. Nothing lasts. And we deny this. And yet, that’s the great psychedelic truth. And if you can face it in every moment and live it, you will have a very, very complete experience of existence. You will ride the Tao toward the concrescence and be able to live in the light of its anticipation. And this, I believe, makes for a healthy life full of lots of laughs, and that’s basically what we’re striving for here. The best idea, the truest idea, will feel right.
So thank you all very, very much for coming to this. I appreciate it.