Everyone’s fond of saying that coastlines and forest distributions and all this stuff are fractal. Well, doesn’t this imply that there is, then, a global fractal? That there is a fractal dimension which, when you feed it into your computer and wrap the data around a sphere, the continents and oceans of Earth should appear? And in principle—again to the absurd level—you should be able to, then, telescope in on that portion of this data that is wrapped around the sphere that corresponds to northern California. And on your computer screen should appear Esalen, hung on the cliffs of Big Sur, with us sitting in a room inside discussing the matter.
Rupert. Terence. I’m Ralph. Creation, imagination, my mask is chaos.
In my early LSD experiences I seemed to see motifs and structures that gave me an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. And I went to India with the intent of studying the Tibetan language, and quickly found that the whole thing was just overwhelming and that I was just a human atom in this sea of India, and that the notion encompassing or understanding what this was was clearly the task of a lifetime. And several times in my life I have acted out this sort of ricocheting relationship between the humanities and the sciences. At times, losing myself in the study of certain schools of poetry or literature or painting, and then at other times spending years reading philosophy of science and epistemic basis of physics and this sort of thing. Always trying to get a resolution on the content of my experience, my lived experience, which included the psychedelic experience. Which, for me, from very early on, was this kind of tremendous mystery or conundrum which was set down in the middle of my being. And it still continues like that. I keep returning to that testing all the ideas against the fullness of experience.
The main difference between our world and the world that science tells us we’re living in is that science denies the quirky, freaky, cosmic giggle, high-plottedness, completely improbable, totally quirky humor that binds everything together and that makes it something other than an engine in which atoms blindly run, in Whitehead’s phrase.
Schrödinger brilliantly anticipated the discovery of DNA, and then Joseph Needham and L. L. Whyte—well, Erich Jantsch should be mentioned, actually, as a precursor of us all, I think. I mean, Erich Jantsch was a great pioneer, a great soul, and he saw very deeply into whole systems, as did Ilya Prigogine, the Belgian thermodynamicist. I think all of what we’re doing comes out of that. What Prigogine showed that just brought down the house was that there could be perturbations of physical systems that were unpredictable, and that would cause the whole system to actually move to a more ordered state than the initial state. And this perturbation to higher states of order looks suspiciously like a violation of the supposedly inviolate second law of thermodynamics. So that looks like a doorway into an energetic hyperspace.
Well, when A New Science of Life came out in 1982—in America; it came out a year earlier in England—I came to California because it was published in Los Angeles. I found myself here at Esalen. I found an extraordinarily new range of things going on I hadn’t known about. And when I was in San Francisco, a friend who I knew from Europe said to me just the day before I left, “There’s somebody you must meet. He’s called Terence McKenna.” I didn’t know much about Terence. So I went up there. And in this large, 1956 Buick, we headed off into the woods in Sonoma County, where Terence lives. And there I met both Terence and Ralph, who was there for the day.
I found that part of my interest in these other realms of reality. Of course, like, many people in this room are stimulated by experiences with psychedelic substances. This was before I went to India. When I arrived in India, I found that India is a kind of psychedelic realm anyway. You know? It’s just an amazing place. So in Terence I found somebody who knew about that whole realm, who shared with me an interest in India—since it played an important part in his development—and who had views about the nature of reality which complemented my own in an extraordinary way. My own theory is about memory and habit in nature. Terence, I found, developed a theory about novelty and creativity in nature. A theory about the quality of time and the creative process as it is related to the ongoing flux of events. And Ralph had a kind of mathematical theory which was just the kind of thing that the view of nature I was trying to develop needed: the idea of nature being drawn by goals or attractors. In the mathematical science of dynamics there’s this model of reality being pulled from ahead by things called attractors. It’s a teleological, animistic view of nature dressed up in the guise of mathematical models, which I found most fascinating.
And so for me the meeting with Ralph and Terence was a step further towards seeing how one could begin to dream of a world in which nature was seen as alive, in which the imagination permeated all reality, in which animals and plants are seen as part of the living texture, the living components, the cells, and the life of Gaia, and Gaia in the life of the cosmos as a whole. In fact, a view of the world as alive which recalls, in some respects, the old cosmologies of the ancient world where the cosmos was seen as a living organism, where they thought of the whole cosmos as having a soul: the soul of the world. It was the anima mundi.
I was brought up in a field of music, but I was attracted to mathematics early. And when I was 14, I played in the state symphony. After that I started mathematics. And I became a professor at Berkeley when I was 23. I had an easy way in mathematics, and the way the system works, the carpet is unrolled in front of you. You know, you have a few choices, but basically before you even know what’s happening, the carpet is unrolled and you’re down the runnel into whatever you can do that’s useful to the system. In this process I lost nature. But there was a great gain, because I love it out there. I love to be off the planet. I always did. And to this day I spend very little time on planet Earth.
So when I’m in this way—and by 1967 I was a professor at Princeton, I had written three books on mathematics that you need a microscope to read—and I had been studying for a long while chaos. But we didn’t call it chaos then, and we didn’t see in it any role in the natural world or in social transformation or in the evolution of consciousness, because we didn’t think about anything out there. So one day, after my third book was done and I was exhausted, and I looked up, and all the students were out in the courtyard demonstrating about the Vietnam war, and to open the university to women students, and so on. I said, “What exactly is going on?” “Here,” they said, “take this.” And so, like many people in that year or around that time in 1967, my career had a bifurcation. So I went off the track with psychedelics, with meditation, but especially with searching. With trying everything. Eventually I was living in a cave in the Himalayas.
And when I returned to California I was standing on a street corner in Santa Cruz in white pajamas, and a car stopped, and an old friend from a previous lifetime said, “There’s somebody you have to meet. Get in the car.” I had nothing to do. It sounded okay. And in that time I believed that everything goes perfectly. You just go along with the flow, as they said. I didn’t know it would be a two-hour drive. So I got in the car, there was the two-hour drive to Berkeley, and I was literally dumped out of the car on Terence’s front step. I never heard of Terence. 1972. And I went in. And what happened then, I would still say—although we’ve had many wonderful talks and exciting, thrilling, and nutritious times in the meanwhile—that that was quite a miraculous chat. Many subjects came up: how to grow mushrooms, outer space, I don’t know. Anything you could think of all passed by in the course of an hour or two. In this way we became friends. And this habit we had, this activity that we do—I mean, we never go for a hike or something like that. We sit in the evening and talk. And what happens is scientistic, miraculous growth, evolutionary.
And in this revitalization of my work, and eventually the whole field of mathematics, my conversations with Terence were, as I think we thought of them, just good fun. That they did have a really fundamental influence on everything I’ve done since. So I would say fun is insulting. I mean thrilling, because of going to the edge, going beyond the edge, having company there, finding things which you can bring back and they work, and become part of everything you’re doing. So it’s opened up these complex phenomena characterized by chaotic, irregular (that is to say, not well-ordered in the previous paradigm) spacetime structure, for example. Relationships among people. The states and change of states of society. The whole proc— [audio cut]
The intimations of mysticism, the intimation of a possibility of transcendence is all firmly grounded. We just have to—now, it’s almost as though mathematics is the extreme cutting edge of human understanding. How can we quickly export these new understandings that release us from a need for closure, that free us from an either-or universe? How can we quickly export these models from the realm of research mathematics into the realm of daily life?
I really see it as politics almost at the viral level. That we are trying to create new languages and new concepts, and not only create them, but teach them to you. And we ourselves repeat them over and over again, and you feed back into this, and then we refine the meme. And then, a meme is like a gene: it can be replicated. And we have not seen language as the playing field of the creation of the new paradigm, but that’s really where it is. We can transform ourselves no more quickly than we transform our language. And the way we transform our language is by really pushing on the envelope of the act of communication. You know, the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland says, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” I do.
I’m a biologist by background. I studied biology because I was interested in animals and plants. And when I was studying it at Cambridge, I began to have terrible doubts about what I was doing, because everything that really interested me about animals and plants somehow vanished when i got into biochemistry laboratories. I was majoring in biochemistry, and I did a PhD in biochemistry there. But there’s a curious thing about biochemistry. You’re doing biochemistry to study the molecular basis of life. Yet, the very first thing you do in the laboratory is kill whatever you’re studying, grind it up, extract the enzymes, and then in a test tube study the properties of some of these molecules extracted from this killed organism. And it began to occur to me that perhaps this wasn’t the best way to understand life. But I didn’t quite know what to do about it, because everybody else thought it definitely was the best way to study life, and in fact there was no other valid way.
So this set me thinking, and I began to see that the science of biology could be reformed. That this idea that living organisms are truly alive, rather than being just machines—that’s the official doctrine. The mechanistic theory says living organisms are just complicated machines. Believe it or not, still the official doctrine of academic biology and academic medicine. These ideas went on developing. I then saw how I could bring them all together in a synthesis, into a new way of seeing how biology could be done. And I wrote a book whilst at an NGO called A New Science of Life. In it, the basic idea I’m suggesting is that there’s a kind of inherent memory in all kinds of animals and plants. Each species has its own collective memory. So each member of the species draws on this collective memory, and in turn contributes to it. The instincts of animals, for example, the behavior of cuckoos, the spinning of webs by spiders are like a memory, a habit of the species.
This inheritance takes place by the process I call morphic resonance; by a kind of invisible, intangible memory. A kind of resonance between present and past organisms of the same kind. The same theory helps explain how our own memory works: by a resonance between our own past and our present states leads to the idea that our memories aren’t stored in our brains, but that we’re tuning into them by this process of morphic resonance.
Rupert’s notions revision causality. That means: induct you into an entirely new way in which things happen. And this is, after all, where we’re all spending a lot of our time. The models that Ralph is working with show that the world is not an engine running down toward a heat death, but a tremendous kaleidoscope of unpredictable, creative, open-ended activity on every level. I mean, it’s really a dazzlingly kaleidoscopic vision. It’s like a Sufi hierophany or something. But we’re seeing it on the screens of computer simulations of this mathematical domain that is also the neural domain, that is also the social domain, that is also the eco-planetary domain. This is not error. This is not mysticism. This is the real facts of how it is. How the world fits together. It fits together through the infusion of its indivisible soul.
If nature is evolutionary, if all of nature is evolving, what about the eternal laws of nature which scientists have taken for granted for so many centuries? Concepts going right back to Pythagoras and the ancient Greeks. Were all the laws of nature there before the big bang? Well, if they were there before the big bang, where could they possibly be? There was nowhere to be. There was no universe. So if the laws of nature were all there before the big bang, then they must be nonphysical, idea-like entities dwelling in some kind of permanent mathematical mind—be that thought of as the mind of God or just the mind of a kind of disembodied mathematician. They were thought to be permanent and all there before the universe. This assumption is still held by most of our modern cosmologists. It’s something that physicists have not yet begun to question seriously.
But as you can see, it’s like an idea that’s had the carpet taken from under it. It’s sort of hanging over an abyss. Because there’s no real reason why we should assume the laws of nature are permanent in an evolving universe. If the universe is evolving, then the laws of nature could be evolving as well. And, in fact, the very idea of the laws of nature may not be appropriate. It may be better to think of the habits of nature evolving. The big bang is like the cracking of the cosmic egg. That’s its mythological correlate: the notion of the ancient mythological idea of the cosmos beginning through the hatching or the cracking of an egg, followed by the growth of the organism that comes out. It’s an embryological metaphor. And we now have a kind of developmental model of the whole universe. It’s like a developing organism. It’s not like a machine at all anymore. The universe is a growing, developing organism, which is differentiating within itself, forming new forms and patterns. An evolutionary process that, on Earth, has given rise to all the forms of animal and plant life, all the different kinds of microbes, to ourselves, and to the many and varied forms of human culture.
A theory of evolutionary habits demands a theory of evolutionary creativity. How can we understand the creativity that’s given rise to new ideas, to Beethoven’s symphonies, to theories in science, to new works of art, to new forms of culture, to instincts in birds and animals, to the forms of flies and plants and leaves, to the many kinds of rocks and crystals, and to all the forms of galactic and stellar and planetary organization? What kind of creativity could underlie all those processes?
One is the materialist view, that says the whole thing is entirely due to blind chance. That there’s nothing but a kind of darkness, of blind material processes going on. And then, by blind chance, new things happen. The other model for understanding creativity, I think, is provided by our imaginations. Our imaginations are not full of fixed, platonic ideas which are always the same, like platonic minds. They’re ongoing, changing, dynamical processes with a kind of creative richness that always surprises us.
So the question is: if nature is alive rather than dead, if the universe, if the Earth have a kind of mind or soul of their own, if living organisms are in some sense mind-like, or if there’s a mind-like process at work in nature, then how does this express its creativity? And so then the question is: could this creativity in nature be a product of the imagination of Gaia, of the Gaian mind? Could it be a product of the cosmic imagination? Could there be a kind of imagination working in nature which is similar to our own imaginations? Could our own imaginations be just one conscious aspect of an imagination working through the whole natural world—perhaps unconsciously as it works underneath the surface of our dreams, perhaps sometimes consciously? And could this ongoing imagination be the basis of evolutionary creativity in nature just as it is in the human realm?
How would it be, or is it credible that, perhaps, what the universe is is a kind of system in which more advanced forms of order actually influence previous states of organization? This is what is emerging in Ralph Abraham’s work with the chaotic attractors. They are attractors—that means that they exert influence on less organized states, and pull them toward some kind of end state. And for me the key to unlocking what is going on with history, creativity, progressive process of all sorts, is to place the state of completion at the end, but to see it as a kind of higher-dimensional object which casts an enormous and flickering shadow over the lower dimensions of organization, of which this universe is one.
So that—for instance, in the human domain—when we look at history, what we see is an endless series of anticipations. The Golden Age is coming. The Messiah is immediately around the corner. Great change is soon to be upon us. These are intimations of change. It’s almost as though the transcendental object that is the great attractor in many, many dimensions throws out images of itself, which filter down through these lower-dimensional matrices, and actually are the basis of the appetition of nature for greater expression of form, the appetition of the human soul for greater immersion in beauty, the appetition of human history for greater expression of complexity. So when I think about these terms—chaos, creativity, imagination—I see them as like a three-stroke engine of some sort. Each impels and runs the other and sets up a reinforcing cycle that then stabilizes organisms—processes that are caught up in this—in the phenomenon of being. The phenomenon of being is this self-synergizing engine out of chaos, through creativity, into the imagination, back into chaos, out into creativity, so forth and so on. And it operates on many levels simultaneously, so that: the planet is undergoing a destiny.
Deep time, the time of geology, was only really discovered around the turn of this century. And it is cosmically ennobling to think of the universe as a thing of great age, but I think that it’s time to put in place next to the notion of deep cosmic time the notion of chaotic, sudden change, cusp flux, and sudden perturbation. Because what deep time has revealed as we’ve pushed our understanding of the career of organic life back 65 million years, 270 million years—what we see is tremendous punctuation built into the universe. In the case of the Earth, in the form of asteroidal impacts. This thing which happened 65 million years ago—nothing larger than a chicken walked away from it on this planet. So there’s a strange paradox where, taking deep time seriously, the message of deep time is: you may not have as much time as you thought. That the universe is dynamic, capable of turning sudden corners.
So then, the imagination becomes a kind of beacon. The imagination is, as it were, a scout sent ahead, or something which has preceded us into history and, in fact, is a kind of eschatological object. It is shedding influence—the morphogenetic field, if you wish. If the morphogenetic field is not subject to the inverse square law of decreased influence over distance, then I (as a layman) don’t see why, Rupert, we couldn’t locate it at the conclusion of process. Because, you know, one of the things that’s always puzzled me about the big bang is: it’s a singularity. This is the term physicists use for it. This means: theory cannot predict it. And yet, it is necessary to make everything which follows from it happen. So you just say: there’s no reason for this, we have no argument for this, but the rest of the theory needs it. So it’s a singularity. And the immense improbability which modern science rests on but cares not to discuss is this: the belief that the universe sprang from nothing in a single moment. Well, if you can make that leap, to believe that, it’s very hard to see what you couldn’t believe. That is almost the limiting case of credulity, I would think. You know? So…
So in order to save the phenomenon, I would propose a different idea: that—and I think it is eminently reasonable—and it is that, as the complexity of a system increases, so too does the likelihood of its generating a singularity, or an unpredictable perturbation. So the preexistent state of the universe I imagine to be extremely simple. An unflawed nothingness. In other words, the least likely situation in which you would expect a singularity to emerge. But now let’s look at the other end of the historical continuum of the history of the universe. Let’s look at the world we are living in, which is full of 106 elements, tremendous gradients of energy ranging from what’s going on inside pulsars and quasars to what is going on inside viruses and cells. Tremendous organizational capacity at the atomic level, at the molecular level, at the level of molecular polymerization, at the level of membranes and gels, at the level of cells and organelles, organisms, societies, so forth and so on. In other words, the universe—at this moment—is a tremendously complicated, integrated, multi-leveled, dynamic thing. And every passing moment it becomes more so. This is what evolution, history, compression of time—what all these things are attempting to indicate is the increase in complexity of reality.
If a singularity is necessary to explain this universe, that singularity must emerge rather near the end of the complexification process rather than its beginning. You see, we simply have to reverse our preconceptions about the flow of cause and effect, and then we get a great attractor that pulls all organization and structure toward itself over several billion years. And as the objects of its attraction grow closer to its proximity, they somehow interpenetrate. They set up standing wave patterns of interference. New properties become emergent. And the entire thing complexifies. Well, to my mind this is the divine imagination. This is what Blake called it. this is the only way I can conceive of it. Time is the theater of God’s becoming. But it’s also (from the point of view of a higher-dimensional manifold) a kind of fait accompli. And this is no contradiction—or if it is, it’s alright, because in these realms of higher ontology you’re always asked to avoid closure and hold the notion of a coincidencia oppositorum; a union of opposites. The thing is both what it is and what it is not. And yet, it somehow escapes contradiction. And that’s how the open system is maintained. That’s how the miracle of life is possible.
So I sort of think of the divine imagination as the class of all things both possible and beautiful. It’s a kind of reverse Platonism. The attractor is at the bottom of a very deep pit into which all phenomena is cascading. What is taught in modern universities these days is that these tracks in the snow are going nowhere. The technical term is trendlessly fluctuating. And we’re told that history is this kind of process: it’s trendlessly fluctuating. It goes here, it goes there. It’s called a random walk in information theory. It means you just wander around. Well, it’s very interesting. Now we begin to see—through the marvel of the new mathematics—that random walks are not random at all. That a sufficiently long random walk becomes a fractal structure of extraordinary depth and beauty. So you see, really, what has to happen is for us to see chaos not as something that degrades information and is somehow the enemy of order, but rather chaos is the birthplace of order. Chaos is not the problem, chaos is the answer.
I think a factor which changes everything is the discovery of dark matter. The fact that 90–99% of the matter in the universe is utterly unknown to us. This recent discovery effectively tells us that the whole cosmos, and every material thing in it, has a kind of material unconscious; an unknown dark realm which conditions everything that happens. The shapes of the galaxies, their interactions. Is Gaia, as it were, awake on the side that’s in the sunlight, and, in the side that’s in the darkness as it rotates, dreaming? At night, are the plants, the animals, the whole ecosystems, the oceans in some sense in the dream state when dreams and spontaneous images of what might be possible come to them? So is there a kind of Gaian dreaming, and does it happen on the night side of the planet? What would the Gaian mind feel like? What form would a Gaian dream take? What form would a Gaian psychedelic experience take?
The psychedelic experience—it’s preposterous to attempt to analyze it in terms of human motivation. At its intense levels it seems rather to be an ontological reality of its own that the human being has simply been privileged to briefly observe. But your deep psychedelic experiences say no more about your personality than that the continent of Africa is making a statement about your personality. They are, in fact, independent objects. To my mind, the divine imagination, or the imagination, is the source of all creativity—in our dreams, in our psychedelic experiences, in the jungles, in the currents of the ocean, in the organization of protozoan and microbial life. Wherever there is large-scale integration—rather than simply raw physics, but integration of laws of physics, integration of properties of membranes and electrophoresis and this sort of thing—it is the creative principle.
So do you think, then, that in psychedelic experiences you are actually tapping into, tuning into, or experiencing something of the Gaian or the cosmic imagination?
Absolutely. And I think that psychedelic experiences and dreams are only different in degree; that they are chemical cousins somehow. And this is why I could see human history as a Gaian dream, because I think every night, when you descend into dream, you are potentially open to receiving Gaian corrective tuning of your life state. The whole thing is an enzyme-driven process. We are like an organ of Gaia. We are the organ which binds and releases energy. I mean, a liver cell doesn’t need to understand why it binds and releases enzymes of the liver. We bind and release energy for reasons perhaps never to be clear to us, but which place us firmly within the context of the Gaian mind. We have been chosen out. And this is not something to have great hubris about. I mean, indoleacetic acid has been chosen out in plant metabolism to play certain roles. We have a role. But our role seems to be a major one. We are like a triggering system. Out of the general background of evolutionary processes mediated by incoming radiation to the surface of the Earth, and then natural selection—suddenly, we come with an epigenetic capability. We write books, tell stories, dance, sing, carve, paint. These are not genetic processes, these are epigenetic processes. And they bind information and express the Gaian mind very well.
As an example of how willing I am to entertain this idea concretely: I’ve been talking to a lot of people about ecological crisis and the fate of the world and this sort of thing. Well, imagine, in hindsight, the wisdom that we would impute to Gaia if we were to suddenly realize that what is happening on this planet is that nature knows that the sun is going to explode. And what we are is a kind of response to the anticipation of a wounding. That, 50,000, 5 million years ago, the geo-heliocentric relationships began to vibrate out of tune. And as a consequence of this, a species was called forth that could organize an escape. And we are it. In other words, we are in a divine play.
In line with this, and what made me even entertain these ideas, is: I had a very bizarre experience recently. I was in Hawai’i, and in our botanical garden there is a very large dead tree. And one limb of this tree sticks far out over the land. And banisteriopsis caapi, a large hallucinogenic South American vine, is planted at the bottom of this tree. And it just has swarmed up this tree and covered it with greenery. But it wouldn’t go out onto this one limb that stuck out. And it bothered my sense of symmetry that this vine would not completely cover this tree. And I even thought about trying to climb up into the tree and thread it out onto this limb, to get it to do what I wanted. So I was sitting, looking at this tree and this situation, and actually thinking about it. And suddenly the limb fell. It broke off. And I thought the vine sensed that it was unstable. It would not invade this domain that it sensed was structurally unstable. Well then I said to myself, “But how could it? What is the mechanism of this sensing of instability?” And a friend of mine said, “Well, perhaps the wind impacts on weakened wood differently than on unrotted wood. And perhaps rhythms in the tree tell it to stay away from it.” And then I realized: if one plant has that kind of sensitivity to the entering into of a domain of danger, what must the ecosystem of this planet be doing in reaction to what we are doing to the planet?
So the reason this relates to the imagination is because I see ourselves in communication with the imagination. It is sending images back into the past to try and direct us away from areas of instability. It really is—the Gaian mind is a real mind, its messages are real messages, and our task (through discipline, psychedelics, attention to detail, whatever we have going) is to try and extract this message and eliminate ourselves from the message, so that we then can see the face of the other.
This is the field of chaos. [???] emerged out of the chaos, and where this happens reliably, we’ve explored the [???] and we found a few favorite regions. They’re called the Apache Cliffs, the Calico Mountain, and the Scroll Reef. So the submarine is driving around at a thousand iterations depth in the ocean of chaos. Comes across these regular patterns. This is the first wing of the Apache Mountain going in another field of chaos. Next, this is Calico Mountain. See, these are just snapshots of different starting positions, if you like. Later on we drew a deep hollow in this area and all the other interesting areas.
Why does it have this quaternary structure?
That is the question. This is the Scroll Reef. Now, it’s a little presumptuous to call this chaos theory, because there is no theory. We’re in the exploration phase now. And this is experimental mathematics that we are doing with supercomputers.
This video was made out of these simplest possible dynamical systems called the logistic equation. And it just produces a series. It’s very similar to a dripping faucet. So you could just as well imagine that we have 16,000 dripping faucets in an array of 128 × 128, and the time between drops is represented as a color on the screen. Now, do you think if you had 16,000 dripping faucets you could get out of them a pattern like Calico Mountain? It relates to waterfalls; for example, when the spray comes off the waterfall, here’s another example of a chaotic system. Could you write some equations and obtain a computer program that simulated the spray from a waterfall. I doubt it. [Curator’s note: Au contraire! It’s possible now.]
And from this totally chaotic data, viewed in this particular way—which is called a chaoscope—you get these points in the planes that, if the data was really random, the dots would be all over the plane. Instead they lie on a curve; a smooth curve. And that is called the chaotic attractor.
Well, it happens. I mean, there’s a lot of theory behind this; enough to suggest that it’s not some kind of artifact. No matter what kind of artifact it is, it’s an interesting artifact. And I guess I’d like to call this a mathematical law. It has to do with the emergence of form from a field of chaos. We don’t know what else to call it. It’s not a mathematical law that was known to Pythagoras. And I don’t know if it was always there since the beginning of time long before the big bang, or if it just emerged into the evolving field of the Gaian mind through the fact that computers make it visible. I mean, I don’t know.
But the theory can tell you certain transformations you’ll expect and others not. For example, Terence had pointed to the punctual aspect of evolution. That many transformations are saltatory, they are catastrophic, they are abrupt. As, for example, in the emergence of form. As, for example, in the neolithic revolution. As, for example, in the crystallization of the planets.
As the temperature drops in the developing universe according to standard models, more and more form comes into being. First you get atoms, then stars and galaxies condense, then you get solar systems. And through the cooling of matter you can get planets. The planets are the cooled remnants of exploding stars. The elements in us and in our planets are stardust formed from supernovae. One way of looking at this is to see the expansion and cooling process, and indeed the flow of events, as thinking of it in terms of the flux of energy. And one of the great unifying concepts of nineteenth-century physics is a unified conception of energy. It’s not entirely clear what energy is. Energy, in some sense, is the principle of change. The more there is, the more change there can be brought about. It’s, in a sense, a causative principle. And it’s a causative principle which exists in a process. And this process—the energetic flux of the universe—underlies time, change, becoming. And the flux process itself seems to have an inherent indeterminism to it.
This flux process, the universal flux, is organized into forms by fields. Matter is now thought of as energy bound within fields; the quantum matter fields and the fields of molecules and so on. And I think there are many of these organizing fields; the morphic fields. And nature is the theater of these habitual fields organizing the indeterminate flux of energy in the fields themselves, by having this energy within them. THey have this indeterminate quality, too.
So even organized systems of a high level of complexity still have this probabilistic quality. The fields that organize this energy to give rise to material and physical forms are themselves probabilistic. Chaos is never eliminated. There’s always this indeterminism or spontaneity at all levels of organization. So there’s a formative principle which is fields, and there’s an energetic principle, which I think has the chaos inherent in it. It’s a kind of change which, left as pure change, would be chaos. One way of thinking of these is in terms of the Indian notion of śakti as the energy-indeterminate principle, and Śiva as the formative principle, working together in a kind of tantric union to give the world that we know.
All creation begins in chaos, progresses in chaos, and ends in chaos. And in Hesiod, this word “chaos” appears in a piece called Theogony, which is a theogony—that is to say, more or less a creation tale, but the stories of the creation of the gods and goddesses one by one. Well, they’re not gods and goddesses, really. They’re abstract principles. The three main ones are chaos, Gaia, and Eros. And they’re the most abstract, earliest, proto-concepts of sky, earth, and the creative tension in between.
Now, the meaning of “chaos,” the first time the word appeared in literature, has got nothing whatsoever—apparently, superficially—to do with what we mean by “chaos” in the English language and in ordinary life. It meant only to Hesiad, according to the lexicon, “the gaping void between heaven and Earth out of which the creation came.” So creation out of chaos, yes. But the chaos did not mean disorder or anything negative, it only meant this “gaping void.” Well, after understanding that, you look up. You think of these different interpretations of sky-god concept, the gap in the opening. And when you look at the sky, the most obvious chief characteristic feature of the sky is the Milky Way. And it does appear as a kind of a gap between this and that. The royal road of the gods traveling between the underworld and the overworld.
Understanding that, you can then connect the word with an earlier word concept, or god or goddess, meaning the same thing as what you visually see represented in the Milky Way itself, and that is in one of its most popular representations: Tiamat, the goddess of chaos—from Enûma Eliš (𒂊𒉡𒈠𒂊𒇺), the the greatest epic poem of Babylonian literature discovered in the Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh. Recent discovery. There was this story of the origin of the gods, and the creation of the world by Tiamat and Apsu, the god and goddess of chaos who lived in the water. One more sweet water and the other salt water. And they created, then, the whole Pantheon and the whole world and so on. But eventually, along came Marduk. Marduk was a younger generation of gods, in the next generation. And there was a conflict between the older and the younger gods over how the world ought to be run. And apparently this conflict was taking place in the form of a social transformation. A transformation represented, in the mythological, by the demotion of Apsu and Tiamat from the Pantheon of the city of Babylon, and the replacement by Marduk—eventually became the god; Mr. Big of Babylon around 2,000 BC—coinciding with the sweep of patriarchy over that city, propelled on a new type of war chariot with spoked wheels instead of solid wheels.
Am I digressing too much?
No, you’ve reached the wheel!
Well, I’ve reached the spoke-wheel. And its association with—is this accidental? I don’t know. With the patriarchy. And the fact that the wheel itself, as a mathematical model, is the paradigm of order. A divine mathematical form according to Plato, as the planets were supposed to move before Kepler, who introduced the ellipse. Fantastic transformation. A punctual catastrophe in the history of consciousness.
In short, according to this epic Enûma Eliš, Tiamat was killed in the most violent way: ripped to pieces, creating the world, creating a new order by our hero of Babylon, Mr. Marduk. Also, [???] and so on. His new year’s celebration was honored at the new year time all over old Europe, including at Stonehenge. At the new year’s festival this epic poem was read. So annually was the reminder that chaos is bad, chaos has been killed, chaos has been replaced by order, and order associated with perfect, periodic, the wheel, the cycle, the perfect roundness, and so on. Whereas in Minoan Crete, you find, according to the evidence of the excavators and all who have examined the artworks that remain, a long-lasting florescence of partnership culture with no domination by a male god. It’s established that there’s the diffusion from Crete to Greece. And the last remainder of Cretan culture, which is a very interesting one, must have been the last vestige of the garden of eden. We’re talking about a tremendous happiness and florescence of beauty in all aspects of life.
The importance of the chaos revolution now is that chaos has recovered from being demoted from being banished to the unconscious in around 2,000 B.C. or so, from then up to now 4,000 or maybe 5,000 years of the repression of chaos. I mean, “chaos” is, to this day in our culture, a bad word. We have to watch out for chaos. It ruins your love life. It has to be replaced by order. Scientists most especially hate it. And so on. The fact that scientists, of all people, in the temple of science, that Tiamat has to be accepted as a friend and replaced upon her throne. This is big news.
I believe that the importance of the psychedelics is primary here, and that it doesn’t simply have to do with the fact that they synergize cognition—which they do do. And the synthetics as well as the natural ones. But it’s deeper than that. It’s that we have a secret history, knowledge of which has been lost to us. And only is now recoverable in the light of the kind of mindset that becomes possible to us if we accept the new paradigm. And what this secret history is and has to do with, and how it relates to the Gaian mind and the world soul, is that we are the victims of an instance of traumatic abuse in childhood, as a species. Because a symbiotic relationship with the world-girdling intelligence of the planet which was mediated through plants, through shamanism—I mean, it wasn’t an abstraction, it was an experience—was eventually broken up and disrupted by progressive climactic drying of the Eurasian and African landmass. And so this is literally the fall into history. The expulsion from Eden. All these primary myths of a golden age found and lost have to do with the fact that once we lived in dynamic balance with nature. Not as animals do, but as human beings only could, but in a way that we have now lost.
Well, how have we lost it, and what have we lost? How we have lost it is: the way in which these psychoactive compounds that were being brought into the diet were acting is: they were psycholytic upon the formation of the ego. They literally suppressed the formation of the ego, and promoted instead collectivist, tribal, partnership values which were operating intuitionally in a resonance relationship with the feminine vegetable matrix of the planet. In other words, nothing was verbalized, everything was felt, everything was intuited. And regularly, at the new and full moon, these small groups of hunter-gatherers (later pastoralists) gathered and took these hallucinogenic plants, and dissolved boundaries, and engaged in group sex, and annealed—a new word that we’ve brought in here—the irregularities that had cropped up in people’s personal self-imaging in the interval since the last session. And this kept everything grounded on the plane of that which is important, i.e.: the values of the group, of the species, of dynamic balance with the ecosystem, and so forth and so on.
Well, when this was disrupted, and the supplies of these plants were diminished, new religious forms arose. And the time between the great festivals grew longer and longer. The ego begins to take hold. First as a kind of cancerous aberration, but then quickly becoming a new style of behavior, which quickly then eliminates all other styles of behavior by suppressing access to the chaos. And this is the point I want to make: that there is, between the ego and full understanding of reality, a barrier, a problem. The fear of the ego to surrender to the fact of chaos. Chaos is what we have lost touch with. This is why it has been given a bad name. Because it is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is the ego, which clenches. Because its existence is defined in terms of control.
And the furious modeling process—and this will now sound like a knock on modeling—the furious modeling process that the ego endlessly carries out is an effort to fight the absence of closure. The ego wants closure. It wants a complete explanation. The beginning of wisdom, I believe, is the ability to accept an inherent messiness in your explanation of what’s going on. Because nowhere is it writ that human minds should be able to give a full accounting of creation in all dimensions and on all levels. You know, Wittgenstein had this idea that philosophy should be what he called “true enough.” And I think that’s a great idea. Let’s just make it true enough, because that’s as true as it can be gotten.
So the imagination is chaos. New forms are fetched out of this chaos. For me, the creative act is the letting-down of the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended, and the attempt to bring out of it ideas, to bring out of it sometimes—and this is part of my model for the psychedelic experience: that it is the night sea journey. That it is the lone fisherman on a tropical sea with his nets. And you let these nets down, and sometimes something tears through them that leaves them in shreds. And you just row for shore and put your head under your bed and pray. And at other times, what slips through are the minutiae, the minnows of this theological metaphor of idea-chasing. But sometimes, you know, you actually can bring home something that is food for the human community, that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward.
So we haven’t talked that much about art and aesthetics, but I think in the human world the appetition is for beauty, to my mind. And this is another place where the Platonism shines radiantly through, you know, because Plato held that the good was the true, and that both were the beautiful. This is a very quaint idea from the point of view of modern philosophy. But I think it’s in the bones when you actually connect yourself up to the planet. That’s why chaos is capable of being the tremendous repository of ordered beauty that it is: because there is no chaos—in the old definition, which is to say: that which by any definition or any test is found to be disordered. That is just a kind of a hell notion, a kind of hypostatization of an ultimate state of disorder. But nowhere in the world that is deployed through space and time do you encounter that. Instead, what you encounter is embedded order upon embedded order. This fractal thing.
And then, finally, for me the imagination is the goal of history. I see culture as an effort to literally realize our collective dreams. And it’s on a very crude level when it’s: “You make your mask and I make my mask, and then we dance around together.” And it’s even at a very crude level when it’s: “You design your shopping mall and I’ll design my World Trade Center, and we’ll put them on the same piece of real estate.” But we’re coming, now, into—through media, I believe; through virtual reality and human-machine integration and this kind of thing—into a situation where the imagination is going to be something that we can share. That the path of mind through its own meanderings will become something that can be recorded and played back. We will have the possibility of living in our own past, or creating and trading realities as art.
And art, as life lived in the imagination, is the great archetype which rears itself up at the end of history. Life in the imagination. The imagination is this auric field which surrounds the transcendental object at greater and greater depth as you approach the transcendental object. And as we now close distance with it, all of our cultural expression, all of our self-awareness is taking on this curiously designed quality. I mean, you must’ve noticed this: that the world is very heavily designed in a way that it never was before. Morphogenetic fields of great size and scope which are international schools of architecture and design touch whole continents. Entire cities are given certain ambiances. This is the summoning of the imagination into the human scale. It’s like a god that we wish to call down and draw to Earth. I mean, this is why William Blake called it the divine imagination. Because it is the four-gated city, it is the flying saucer.
We are on a journey to meet this great attractor. And as we close distance with it, it is more and more a multifaceted mirror of our images of beauty. So it’s like an ascending learning curve that becomes asymptotic. And at that point you’re face to face with a mystery. A living mystery that is within each and all of us. It’s the imagination that argues for the divine spark in human beings. It’s absolutely confounding if you try to get biology to produce it for you as a necessary quantity. It isn’t that. It’s an emanation from above. It is literally a descent of the world soul into all of us. We then become the atoms of the world soul. And our channel to it is by closing our eyes and obliterating our immediate personalized spacetime locus and falling into the imagination, which is running like a river through all of us endlessly, driven by the hydraulic momentum of the cataracts of chaos which usher into the creativity with the imagination. I mean, these river metaphors are just endlessly applicable to this. The flowing of forces over landscapes, the pressure of chaos on the imagination to create creativity. And it’s looping back into the same. These things are the icons for the world that wants to be. But the key is surrender, and dissolution of boundaries, dissolution of the ego, and a trust in the love of the goddess which transcends rational understanding. There will come a moment which will be an absolute leap into space, and we will simply have to have the faith that there is something waiting there. Because the dominator style has left us no choice.