Table of Contents
The Mystery of the Mind
Friday Evening, June 23, 1989
Well, first of all, as is always appropriate, I want to thank Esalen Institute for providing a forum of this kind of interchange. There are very few places, and fewer and fewer places, in the country where an absolutely unconditional discourse can take place. And they not only tolerate what I do here, they encourage what I do here. I’ve been here since the first of the month as the scholar-in-residence, which is a new program at Esalen where they bring in people who have been here many times before and just let them live for a month here and interact chiefly with the people who work here. So I’ve been warming up for you for a good three weeks, and I think I’m ready. I hope I’m ready.
I don’t know. I think tomorrow, when we let it settle out, I will get feedback from each of you. Because so many people are not here right now. I should introduce myself. There may be people here who have never been exposed to this stuff. Some people come to Esalen and decide after they get here what they will take based on examining the catalog. And to those poor souls we say: welcome and hang on!
Well, I’ve been off the talk circuit for about six or seven months because I’ve been writing a book that was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Now, this evening, really initiates the beginning of a new series of public lectures and travels. Those of you who are old-timers to this material, if you look closely, there are small new wrinkles. Those of you who aren’t familiar with it, this is the state of the art to my ability to put it across.
Tonight I just thought I would go over the themes, or the memes, or the concerns that this weekend will orbit around. Looking at the number of people who are familiar with this kind of thing, I assume that the dialogue or the event will be largely driven by questions. Because all these graduate students know that if they don’t ask questions, I will just repeat myself—and they’ve heard it already. So feel free to ask questions, feel free to interrupt. If you’re signalling that you want to interrupt and I’m not noticing you—I’m noticing you. I just have to somehow put it together in a certain way before I can stop and let you get in. So, you know, I do see you. But sometimes I get up ahead of steam, and then I can’t pull out of the power dive immediately.
Well, we meet (as we always have) in an atmosphere of deepening planetary crisis. Each time we meet, the planetary crisis appears to have been notched slightly tighter. What we now have in tatters behind us is any naïveté that we may have built up about the potential for large masses of people to force nonviolent social change. We’ve had a thorough lesson in the foolishness of entertaining that idea in the last month. Even since the last time I spoke to most of you, the assessment of the state of the atmosphere, the amount of pollutants being pumped into it from tropical burning of forest and grassland, has been drastically increased. They dangle the chimerical hope of cold fusion in front of us, and I didn’t even have time to publicly gloat over it before it was snatched away from us again, and we were returned back to the world of real energy politics.
So: planetary crisis. And I’m going to talk a lot about this. What is happening in my own evolution as I try to refine this over and over for audiences like yourselves, and try and write it now into book form for larger audiences, is a sense that what were disparate obsessions of mine were in fact a unified whole that only my unconscious mind fully grasped, and that slowly I am trying to raise it into consciousness with your help, so that we can see how such disparate things as planetary crisis, shamanism, hallucinogenic plants, higher-dimensional mappings of complex phase spaces—how all of these things somehow feed into each other and create a new position from which to carry out a critique of planetary life and society, which is what we need.
So I’m just going to run down this list of themes, say a little bit about each of them, and then leave you to cook that overnight. And then, tomorrow and the next day, we’ll try to tease this out. I’m either sinking into delusion or I’m figuring it out more and more, and what I need to know from you is: which is it? I’d rather hear it from you than the New York Times book reviewer, let me tell you! So this is where we do the prototype.
Okay, planetary crisis heads the list. I can’t remember what this thing was called in the catalog, but I write these things so many months in advance that it’s just a hook anyway. What I have thought of this month’s dialogues at Esalen, of which this will be the culmination and the distillation, is: Understanding the Chaos at History’s End. Now, there are different contradictions and adumbrations of meaning in that. The old understanding of chaos was that it is that which cannot be understood. That’s what chaos means. It was thought of as the antithesis of cosmos. And in Greek these two things are perceived as opposites: kháos (χάος) and kosmos (κόσμος). Kosmos means “order,” kháos means “disorder.” However, taking a page from my friend Ralph Abraham, I sort of propose that we think of this as a meeting of the Henri Poincaré Anarchist International brigade and take as our motto: chaos is order. This is the great truth under which anarchy has always marched, and I think it’s never truer than today.
So the goal of the weekend is to understand chaos, to understand that which cannot be understood within the confines of the old paradigm. And then I called it Understanding Chaos at History’s End to shock us into examining the notion of history’s end, into thinking about the possibility that this huge context in which we have been embedded for thousands of years now is, in fact, provisional, temporary, and about to be superseded by an entirely different order of being. And we’ll talk about: how can this be, what could it be, and what can we do about it?
You see, primitive as our level of epistemic description of the world is, nevertheless, if we were to arrive on this planet and find it exactly as it is except empty of human life or artifacts, then, with our chemistry, with our physics, with our biology, with our systems theory, we would feel comfortable with what we found, and we would say this is a living planet; a planet with biological life on it: great herds of ungulate animals and climaxed rainforests and indemnified island biota and so forth. In other words, we can understand a planet covered with life—or at least we have the illusion of it. But what we confront in the phenomenon of our own planet is a planet covered by intelligence and swarming with information-transfer that is not genetic, but epigenetic in the form of books, code, statuary, dance, ritual, electronic signal transfer, so forth and so on.
And, sophisticated though we may imagine ourselves to be, we have no basis for understanding the circumstances that we confront on our own planet. You have to really be able to make a leap to faith, I think, to believe that human spiritual emergence—the emergence of human consciousness as practiced by ourselves—is something that could emerge in 50,000 years out of selective pressure on a population of anthropoid apes. I mean, this is the great leap to faith that science asks us to take: to see ourselves as somehow emerging in an orderly fashion out of the background of nature.
This is highly trying to credibility. And the more we study evolution, the more unlikely this scenario appears. Because evolution proceeds extremely slowly and in response to selective pressure from the outside. But something happened to us in the past million years that caused our previously stabilized brain size to double almost overnight. The coordination of bipedal motion, binocular vision, complex pack-hunting systems of signaling, so forth and so on, is not entirely sufficient to explain the peculiar presence of self-reflecting, epigenetically coding, philosophy- and art-producing human beings on this planet.
So there is a puzzle, and the puzzle is ourselves. We don’t seem to fit in. We seem to be the unique construct in the natural world. Why is this? Number one: is this so, or is it a product of misperception, ignorance, or false interpretation? Or, if it is so, then what does that mean? What is history? What is it that is acting on us to propel us in such a short time out of the matrix of organic nature and into a matrix of our own creation, the world of culture and epigenetic coding systems and the human imagination as created by the modality of language? What is it that is pushing us in this direction? Well, mostly tonight I’m going to pose questions, and then we’ll work our or work toward answers tomorrow.
One of the things that I think—I don’t know how many of you are sensitive to the subtler issues of evolutionary theory—but one of the things that I’ve come up against in writing this book I’m working on is that something very fundamental has been left out of the theory of human origins, or the picture of the situation that surrounded human origins. And this was the impact of an omnivorous diet on the human genome. You see, we had been fruitarian arboreal primates who, because of climactic change on the African continent, were forced down onto the grasslands, which were spreading as the forests shrank. And a number of changes were in play at that point. But the one that I want to mention here now is the fact that we began to experiment with our diet. We needed to expand our repertoire of foods.
Well, most animals eat only a very few kinds of foods. The omnivorous adaptation is quite rare. Why? Because an animal with an omnivorous dietary habit is exposing itself to untold numbers of mutagens, toxins, and poisons in the environment. And exposing yourself to mutagenic influences is usually a bad evolutionary strategy, because what it does is: it causes mutation, it causes a sudden expansion in the number of mutations available for natural selection to do its work upon. And the number of mutations available to the process of natural selection is going to—that number is going to have a direct effect on a number which comes out of the equation over here: the number of successful mutations. True-breeding mutations which actually confer an adaptive advantages. And one of the great puzzles about looking at human beings against the background of the other higher primates is: why the hairlessness? Why the prolonged adolescence? And why language? What was the pressure on this?
And what we will talk about is the influence of psychoactive compounds in the early human diet, the kind of society that that may have put in place—which I will argue, and this is for me a step forward. I now am absolutely convinced that what is happening is that we had a relationship to psychoactive plants in prehistory that was so tight, so necessary to our own social organization and wellbeing, that for all practical purposes we have to think of it as a symbiosis. Not simply that we used a plant, but that this plant became scripted into our life in a way such that, when climatological change and migration and this sort of thing broke up, made that relationship impossible, we fell into history. We became neurotic. We are, in a sense, the children of a dysfunctional relationship that we have forgotten all about.
And I will talk more, I think, than I’ve ever talked about it before this weekend about addiction and bad drugs. Because in working on this book I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that bad drugs have been a major part of the human story. What is it about human beings that sends them searching frantically through the natural world for a fix? And it’s an expanded adaptation. We don’t only addict to plants and chemicals, we addict to each other, to ideas, to patterns of behavior, to things. We just addict—actually, there’s nothing you can think of that humans do not form addictions to. And this peculiar tendency to have behavior patterns become locked in such a way that their disruption causes a negative feedback into the physical organism is something that we’re very uncomfortable with.
You know, it’s only in the last hundred years that we’ve overcome our discomfort about the fact that we are sexual creatures and that we live a life of highly evolved and ever-present sexual fantasy. This was very, very hard for the Victorians to come to terms with. I mean, they, after all, put trousers on their piano stools. And you can imagine—if you’re coming from that to a full examination of the contents of the human psyche on the subject of sexuality—that it’s going to be quite shocking in the same way now with talk of drug wars and destroying the Constitution so that people won’t be able to smoke pot and all this stuff. Clearly, we are in a state of high agitation over a part of ourselves that we can’t come to terms with and integrate, which is the fact that we are such addictive creatures.
Well, I will try to convince you that this has to do with this trauma in prehistory when we underwent a withdrawal from the primary symbiote that was holding us in a kind of social equilibrium with nature that we now can only dream about and call paradise or a golden age. And I’ll give you the terms and the details on all of this tomorrow.
The other thing—and remember I said these things may appear disparate and disconnected, but I now see them as a seamless manifold—it’s written on my pad as: unraveling the presence of the transcendental object. Now, what this means is: I don’t simply advocate the use of psychedelic plants because I think they make us feel good and break down social barriers and patterns of habit and so fort—although they do all that. But I believe that perception itself tends to take the shape of its vessel. You know, the alchemists visualized mind as mercury. And mercury, being a liquid, will always flow to the lowest level and take the shape of the vessel. And I think that, in the potential multiple-dimensional space of being, mind has flowed to the lowest levels of the vessel, and that what happens when we perturb the mind-brain system with hallucinogenic indoles is: it’s as though we were to vaporize the mercury, and instead of taking the shape of the vessel at its lowest levels as a liquid, the mercury fills the vessel as a pressurized gas.
And what this experience is, is a seeing of higher dimension—literally, not metaphorically. This is what has to be understood: that you literally are seeing a higher dimension to reality. And Ralph Abraham was here yesterday suggesting that, because the world is such a complex system, it has many, many variables. Dimension, which seems like a word that people shrink from because it has some aura of mathematics about it, is not a difficult concept at all. Think of a dimension simply as a variable. So if I tell you that we have eight variables, then we have an eight-dimensional phase space in which whatever we’re talking about is going on. Well, obviously, the number of variables in the natural and human world is very high. So the degree to which we can perturb the mind out of its slovenly tendency to flow to the lower dimensions of the lattice and instead urge it to expand into the higher orders of the phase space, then we get a fuller picture of reality. Because it seems quite reasonable to me to say that what we call reality is a lower-dimensional slice of a higher-dimensional phase space, and we slice this higher dimension with the knife of language. Well, then we get a cross-section like slicing through an agate or slicing through a fruit. Then we see the interior of it. But we do not see the seed from which it came, the tree which grew it, the death of that tree—in other words, the temporal dimension (to name but one) is not visible in the lower-dimensional slice made by the knife of language. So we have to either create a higher-dimensional language, or use more than one language at once, or create some other strategy for handling all these variables.
What shamanism is, is a person who can go into these higher dimensions and understand enough of what they’re seeing that, for them, it functions as a map of the lower-dimensional world into which they are going to return. Many of you have heard me say a shaman is someone who has seen the end. Well, this is just a kind of cute way of saying that the shaman has experienced the temporal dimension as a totality. The shaman has seen the beginning and the end, and that’s what gives the shaman his or her peculiar psychic equilibrium. Because they’re not like you and me, groping along down here in four-dimensional space trying to figure it out. For them it’s all of a piece. And this feeds back into their personality as a tremendous kind of authenticity.
Well, we need to shamanize to save the planet. We need to create higher-dimensional mappings of our world and the crisis in which we are in in order to plot a way out of the cul-de-sac that the phonetic alphabet, monotheism, and print-created linear monoculture has shoved us into. So the psychedelics are not ancillary, they’re not peripheral, they’re not secondary. They are the way to propel ourselves into these higher-dimensional phase spaces. Eventually we will drag our computers with us. But you can’t push the computer first, because the computer must be programmed by people who have seen these things and know what they are shooting for.
What this process will inevitably become is pressure on the evolution of language. Because, you see, even though in the last few minutes I’ve presented it to you in a kind of imperative mode—where I’m saying this is what we need to do, this is what we should do, this is what we will do—as a matter of fact, this is what we have been doing, and for a very long time as well.
In fact, the entire progress of biology and culture, anthropology, can be seen as a kind of conquest of dimensionality that has occurred at an ever-accelerating rate. So that, you know, the earliest organisms just literally groped their way through life. They couldn’t see light or darkness. They rubbed up against something and that’s how they knew it was there. And then, through evolutionary selection, light-sensitive pigmented spots appeared on the surfaces of these things, and that gave them a gradient of sensation that told them the difference between light and darkness. Well, a further coordination of this ability, a further differentiation of this light-dark gradient, gives eyes and the visual world. At the same time that this is happening, organs of motility are evolving, meaning that animals can move around more freely, they’re not like algae or something stuck on rocks. Well, notice that an animal that can move is already master of a whole set of dimensions that are completely invisible to a creature which cannot move—let’s say a sea anemone. What do sea anemones know of the fear of flying? You know? They don’t know anything about it, because for them the world is not put together that way. But a gazelle coordinates itself in a higher-dimensional space than the sea anemone.
Similarly, once you reach the place in evolution where language appears, language is a way of destroying the primacy of the moment—in other words: pushing out from this very narrow domain called “now” into an anticipation of the future based on an extrapolation and analysis of the past. This is a conquest of dimensionality. Adding variables, you see? And then, when you go into the realm of epigenetic coding—huge databases, so that nothing is ever forgotten—in a way, the past ceases to fall away. The past is copresent with the present in a world where there is high-speed information and data retrieval.
So, similarly, in our present circumstance, then, what we are pushing against is the envelope of the dimensionality of language. Language has hitherto been allowed to grow like Flopsy or Mopsy, or one of them. In any case, it has not been thought of as a process which could be guided by cultural engineering. But I think this has to be done if we are going to make the changes necessary to be made in the time that we have to make them. So we’ll talk a lot about language, and the evolution of language, and what it actually is.
And then, finally, to bring it all together and to try and tie it up, we will try and understand how this symbiosis that was lost in prehistory can be regained from where we are without shattering the entire print-created, dominator, phonetic alphabet, Judeo-Christian shtick. Because we’re in this funny place. It’s like a cusp. Visualize a surface which looks like a cross-section of a curling wave: you walk up this surface and you get to the top of the hill, and you walk here, well, right here, this is the lip of the wave. You can’t walk any further. You fall down to a surface down here that is a completely different part of the manifold. This is called a cusp in dynamics. And you move along, and it’s a smooth curve, and a smooth curve, and then there is a perturbation; what René Thom and his school called a catastrophe. And at the catastrophe point you fall off the manifold and you fall through god knows what, and then you land somewhere else on the manifold. And this is how stock market crashes occur, how unexpected anythings occur.
And it is the kind of situation that we are in. We cannot extrapolate the future hundreds and hundreds of years. That is the least realistic of all future scenarios. And anybody who talks about how we’re going to take care of X, Y, or Z in a hundred or two hundred years is just living with a seventeenth-century model of how historical processes work. Because history, for thousands of years, has pushed toward the kind of super-self-transforming momentum that we now have. We are up to takeoff speed and, in fact, the end of the runway is ahead of us. We don’t have a choice about takeoff, we have reached takeoff speed and now there is nothing left to do but grab the stick and pull it back and close your eyes and hope. Because if we don’t make that commitment to the planetary process, the end of the runway is 35 years in front of us. I mean, that’s it. There is no more. So there has to be a perturbation, a Thomian catastrophe that hurls us into an entirely new cultural milieu.
Well, I maintain that the catalysts for this have been present on the Earth for eons, and that culture has taken a vacation into dominator models and egocentric models and materialistic models, and models which flatten and simplify and distort and suck life out of reality. That, you know, we are seeing what the Faustian price we had to pay for the terrific understanding of matter that the tools of Greek science have betrayed into our hands. Yes, we can bring the power which lights the stars and ignite it in the deserts of our planet, and if necessary ignite it over the cities of our real or imagined enemies. Yes, we can generate the bare-bottomed quark in machines a mile and a half across that use as much electricity as is produced in the entire United States for a few seconds. We have gained a tremendous facility over matter. And in our naïveté, when we made that Faustian pact back there around the time of Thalos [?], we didn’t realize that the price would be to lose contact with our souls. And this is what we have done. And now we cannot find it, and now we need it. We need some kind of larger vector field into which to cast the human situation so that we can see a way out of the mess that we have created.
Well, I maintain the only way this can be done is by a return to the situation in prehistory. This is what I call the archaic revival: that history is to be seen as the peregrination of a kind of prodigal son, and that now the peregrination must end. The prodigal son—who is Western humankind and the epistemic tools that we have developed—must now return to the human family outside of history, which means the people who have been in the rainforests and on the arctic tundra, they never left it. They kept the knowledge of this hyper-dimensional phase space, but for them it was always a domain of magic, mystery, and uncertainty.
We actually bring something new to it. I am not saying that we must simply return to the old ways. I think we have something which can enrich the old ways; that what we have learned about languages, about mathematics, particularly—this is what we perfected. Our pride is not in our science, which is destructive, toxic, and childish. Our pride is in our mathematics, which is an intimation of the trans-dimensional object that is outside of historical phase space, and that casts an enormous flickering shadow over the human enterprise. It is through mathematics—through, first of all, the probability theory, more recently things like fractals and dynamic modeling—it is through these things that we are able to give a kind of empirical grounding to our visions.
Because what we see in our visions is not hallucinations, what we see in our visions is the higher truth. And we have never faced this—in fact, this is what we repress. Hallucinations are devalued. The phenomena of the mind are called “subjective.” This is a knock. You know, when you call something subjective it means it’s inconsequential or it’s a matter of opinion. We don’t realize the primacy of mind. So our value systems are in need of reconstruction. I think what lies ahead for us as a planetary culture, once the agenda of the archaic revival is fully in place (as it must inevitably be), is a culture reared in the imagination. That this is what the appetition for completion in the realm of epigenetic coding and art and engineering and thought and poetry—all this will coalesce into a domain of art.
This is what hyperspace is, you see. Novelty becomes so concresced that there can be no more of it in historical spacetime, and so it begins to pour into an orthogonal dimension nearby in the same way that matter in the center of a black hole forces its way into another universe. At a certain level of compaction of the novelty it can go nowhere else but into a new dimension. Anticipating this is not easy, because we are constantly operating in this lower-dimensional slice. But as a community of many minds that have taken many snapshots of this other world, made many journal entries, scrawled many crude maps of the terrain, I think we can put it all together and begin to get a feeling for what this thing is, for how it works, for how it can feed back into the historical crisis.
I have the faith that there is no situation that can be viewed as a problem in which the solution is not immediately to be found present at hand. And before hallucinogens were called hallucinogens or psychedelics they were called consciousness-expanding drugs or consciousness-expanding substances. If there’s any iota of truth in that notion that these things expand consciousness, then we have to have it—because it is for the dearth of consciousness that we are going mad. We have the money, we have the technologies, we have the understanding of ecosystems and natural chemistry and the atmosphere. What we lack is the moral will to do anything about it. We are, like, frozen; we cannot seem to reach into the control mechanisms of ourselves as a species and have any impact. I mean, how do you get George Bush trotting on this agenda? It just doesn’t seem to be possible.
Well, it’s slow work but I think we’re making progress. Some of you may know the concept of a meme. Do you all know this idea? No. A meme is the smallest unit of an idea. It is to an idea what a gene is to protein.
—to understand about what we’re doing here is: we’re spreading a meme. These are the meme wars of the nineties that are looming. And at last I found an argument for—
—was just like a gene. It can be copied by telling somebody something, by telling a bunch of somebodies something, or by repeating yourself. This is how you copy a meme. You spread a meme by leaving the copies of it around in the form of books and tapes and conversations.
Well, these memes—the phase space of ideology can be conceived of as an environment just like a rainforest. So these memes run around and furiously compete with each other. And natural selection acts upon the competing populations of memes, and some die, and some occupy niche after niche and adapt themselves so that they’re comfortable with managers and psychiatrists and priests and go-go dancers. And that’s a successful meme. It’s making itself useful to everybody.
For instance, there is the meme of a free press: the idea that free press is a good thing. This meme is now very popular and spreading wildly. At the same moment, the meme of Marxism is shriveling and melting and just dissipating in the presence of the free press meme. Clearly, the Marxist meme cannot compete in an environment where free press memes are running around. And I believe that in the same way that natural selection upon genes produced levels of integrated organization and beauty that human beings can never hope to surpass—such as a rose or an orchid or a volcano—that if we simply launch our memes into the environment of ideological competition that natural selection will do its work.
Some of you may remember last fall I went around saying the best idea will win. Well, this is why. I mean, I usually get the end first and then the mechanism follows. This is why the best idea will win. So the obligation on us is to communicate. You know, the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland says, “Say what you mean and mean what you say. I do!” And I think this is excellent advice for all of us. We want to spread memes among ourselves. This is the opposite of safe sex. People say enthusiasm is infectious—well, so is understanding. It can be taught, it can be shared, it can be replicated.
And I believe—and I hope not erroneously—that the psychedelic meme is going to have another replay. It almost died in its form as an LSD rock concert that would wrest power from the establishment and beat it over the head with it. In that form the psychedelic meme met very large fish that were completely capable of gobbling it down, and its population shrank accordingly, and it almost was in the background. But mutation has now taken place in the psychedelic meme. It has a new face and a new form. It no longer exhorts crowds of hundreds of thousands of people to march out of their offices and universities and copulate in the streets. Now it meets in small groups like this and urges psychotherapists to consider the possibility that shamanism might have a model that would be useful in delivering mental healthcare to people. The meme has grown smarter. The meme has adapted itself to the larger environment of competing memes. And, at the same time, memes which were suppressing the psychedelic meme have themselves grown old, tired, slightly atrophied in their responses, slightly exhausted with their own successes.
So as we go through this weekend I want you to think of it as I do, very consciously, as a process of meme replication and infection. And the idea is that, when we’re done, each one of you is to be a kind of ideological Typhoid Mary who will go back to Cleveland and Kokomo and wherever, and talk to people and get people replicating this meme, wondering, and thinking. Because I’m convinced, on a level playing field, in the presence of a free press, this thing has a great potential to just break away and remake the world.
And the reason that it has that potential is because the situation is now very desperate. Even the establishment memes are willing to negotiate if there’s a possibility that there are any new answers here. The establishment feels much less confident of its own meme than it did in the 1970s. So what I’m going to present to you over the weekend is an argument from prehistory toward posthistory that tries to make sense of what fell between, which was this lightning-strike of religions, inventions, works of art, outbursts of poetry, cruelty, genius, mysticism, and humanity that precedes our fusion with the transcendental cultural object which we will create, which we will summon, out of the collectivity of human imagination and the Gaian mind that rules the planet so ably and so well.
For the moment, however, I urge you to have a soak in the baths and get some sleep, and we’ll meet here tomorrow morning at 10 am. Thank you very much, I hope you enjoy it!
It’s a little bit early. If anybody has any questions, other people should feel free to leave. A lot of people have come a long way. But is anybody just absolutely burning with a question, or can you cook it? Yes?
At some point I would like to hear your thoughts on people—I have found some people from my generation [???] mind-expanding drugs, and now I have a child and children that I know that are in their late teens and early twenties and have done the same thing. And the connection between us as people and what I see happening to them, to their awareness of what is going on on the whole [???] consciousness that I didn’t know.
Yes, I will talk about this. I mean, I have two children of my own. They’re both within range of my stentorian voice at this moment, so there are no secrets. But this is a real question in a society that has completely lost any contact with tradition: how do you pass this thing on? I mean, we all feel it to be tremendously important to our wellbeing. It’s very much like sex. I mean, how do you pass that on to your children? You’re not going to be there when they do it, but you hope that you set them up for it.
Yes. And all the rest of you should feel free to follow this woman’s example. If there are areas that you want concentrated on—feminism, fractal mathematics—all of these things have a part to play in it. Like, guide me, because I can always use it. I enjoy these things most when they are driven by the questions that it all raises in the audience. It should be interactive and it should be very good. It’s coming out of the collective, and we all are both antennas to and broadcast stations for the collective.
One other thing I just might say. I suppose it’s obvious, but from my point of view, the importance of these meetings—much of it rests in how you relate to each other. I mean, look around you. We cannot be told from the rest of them. We look just like the rest of them. So the only way we can ever recognize each other is by self-selecting ourselves and crowding into a room to hear one of our number speak these forbidden truths. So take this opportunity to get to know the other people who cared as much as you did about this to be here, because I’m sure you can (without any aid from me) plan all kinds of mischief among yourselves—after you leave here! Got it? Okay.
See you in the morning. Oh, Richard. Yeah?
[???] about society?
No, but I’m told I should and I shall.
You definitely should.
I shall. Have you seen Baron Münchhausen? You should and shall!
Okay, we’ll see you in the morning. Enjoy Esalen. I don’t know if they told you this in orientation, but down by the Big House is a staircase that goes down to the beach. They aren’t really afraid of the sea here. There is a way down to the beach and it’s spectacular. There’s a little round house with a dolphin made out of abalone shells on top of it as you go down toward the bridge over the river—that is a meditation chapel. You can go there and meditate anytime. It’s open to everyone. I’m just mentioning these two places because they’re good to know about and they’re not particularly stressed. Don’t miss this walk down to the beach down this staircase; I mean, it’s really spectacular over there.
[???] the staircase?
You go across the bridge, through the garden, down the hill, across the bridge, and then you’ll see a large house. That’s called the Big House. Go there, and then just go around to the other side of the Big House as though you were exploring its gardens, and there are a series of descending levels that will channel you down to the beach. And we’ll begin here at 10 am tomorrow morning. Thank you all for coming! It’s a pleasure to see so many old friends—and new friends.
Individual and Collective Trips
Saturday Morning, June 24, 1989
So to sort of truncate all this profanity, Ken will explain what these things are, and then we’ll play with them just for a few minutes, and that will settle our breakfast and settle our minds and set us up for what is to come. Ken, what can you say about these? This is Ken Symington, the best psychedelic CEO on the west coast.
Well, Terence is always talking about the influence of sound on the brain, so I thought that this would be a good thing that he would want to try. These are replicas of Chimú pots, and they were made in northwestern Peru about 1000 BC to about 1000 or 1500 AD. So they’re very, very old, and they found these things all over excavations in Peru, and the net result is: nobody knows what they were used for. But they’re hollow pots, and it has been found that if you blow on this end, and the air comes out of the little hole on this one, it creates a very peculiar sound. And I’ll skip describing it, but I would like you to try it. And if you blow, and especially if you blow the sevenths, you begin to hear a lot of things which are very peculiar sounds. And people who have been using them have found that it affects in some way their psyche. And even if it doesn’t affect your psyche, the effect of the sound is very peculiar. And you hear it right away. You begin to hear all kinds of different levels of sound. And you begin to hear it immediately. So if you’d like, if Terence will blow one and I will blow one, and if we can have five other people to just blow on them for about two, four minutes. And the effect is most noticed among the people that are blowing, but not only that. I think it would help if you were to play all close, you know?
Yeah, we’ll make a circle. This is what’s called acoustical driving. You’re familiar with it from drums, but this is a technology of which we have nothing comparable. This is an example of a culturally state-bounded psychic technology. You have to imagine that you’re stoned on San Pedro or ayahuasca and that we’re going to do it for several hours—but we’re not. Ken, you stand up and dance when we’ve done it long enough, okay? Or something!
Well, the important thing is you just start all at once, and obviously you run out of breath. So you take it easy, you just take another breath and keep on going. You just blow one right after the other. Don’t blow too hard, because then the sound distorts. Just blow naturally in it so you can get the whistle in, and then when you run out of breath you take another breath slowly. And that’s as simple as that. And we’ll see what happens.
Why don’t you start, and you come in, and you, and you, and you, and then we’ll all sustain the tone for a while.
[Chimú music omitted]
That’s the biggest tune I’ve ever jived!
Think we can take it on the road? Well, that was pretty interesting.
Where should we go for our hearing test?
That’s what it sounded like!
You don’t need one now.
I had never done it before. Ken told me about it last night. Well, that’s pretty interesting. I don’t know how many of you have heard it, but when you smoke DMT, the sound that comes through, the previous association that I’ve always made to that sound is the standard whee-whee-whee of flying saucers in 1950s science fiction movies—you know, that nyymmmmm. This is clearly the same kind of thing. And I don’t know what this rising—I don’t actually know enough of the vocabulary of talking about sound to know how you distinguish and talk about this—but it’s clearly very neurologically. It’s almost like tinnitus; ringing in the ears, but much more intense. The other thing that I hadn’t anticipated that surprised me is: this is a natural sound in the ecosystem where it came from. This is what the night insects sound like. It sounds like this comes from the northeastern deserts of Peru. That would be a San Pedro area, where mescaline is what’s being used by the people. But there’s fair evidence of trade back and forth between the Amazon and this area. I think this would be dynamite if you were stoned. In fact, it might even be a bit much.
This is one of these areas where I think, you know, probably in six weeks, inspired hearing specialists, neurophysiologists, could figure out what is this driving and why does it affect these drug states? Very, very early this was discovered. Drumming is the classical way to do it. But now, an interesting thing about the Amazon cultural area is: the humidity is so high that a stretched skin drum is impossible. It can only maintain its stretched state for hours at most, sometimes minutes. So the drums of the Amazon are the huge kind of drums where you take a hardwood log and burn out the center of a period of weeks, and then you get this very low resonance because of the cavity inside the log. This may be, in a sense, a substitute for the skinned drum. I think it’s a much more effective one. Drumming has never particularly done it for me, except that it induces a kind of state of withdrawal from sensory input from the environment. You know, you just kind of sink into it. So if any of you are experimentalists or headed for a career in medical research or something like that, these are the kinds of things that lie right on the surface that need to be looked into before we go deeper.
Do things like this imply perhaps more advanced technologies? What can you do with a synthesizer? We don’t know what values they were trying to achieve with their sound, so we don’t know whether they regarded these as a perfect instrument for what they were trying to do or an unfortunate approximation. We’ll probably never know, because the people who made these things did no writing.
But sound as the synergy of thought is a very general principle, and it also has the very specific concrescence into language. Language is sound that stimulates thought. So this is very interesting. Interesting the worldwide reliance on sustained tone in spiritual exploration. I mean, whether you get Tibetan chanting, Gregorian chant, the Keening that typifies Arabic music, the multi-layered weaving of sound that characterizes the Amazon rainforest ayahuasca songs, or something like this, or a Shehnai. All of these are techniques for creating a wall of sound onto which, then, mind is for some reason easily projected; almost as though there is a carrier wave necessary. We don’t know.
I mean, there are hints in the ancient literature that a technology, a sensitivity, to sound and resonance was part of a kind of lost science that existed in antiquity. This would be a point of view that would see Pythagoras not as the founder and discoverer of music and proportion and number, but would rather see Pythagoras as rather a late manifestation of a way of knowing that involved sound and resonance and proportion and using interference patterns to create all kinds of effects in the human mind and the human body. So this is an example of a culture-bound technology directed toward affecting and driving a mental state.
Can I ask a question?
I’ve had some experience [???] in the last couple of years, and some of my friends had the same thing, where there was this tone that comes in here—
During the mushroom experiences?
No, just walking around during the day. It would come in with a real high frequency tone, and it almost sounds exactly like that. It feels like it goes through the middle of your head. And I know, if it’s something people talk about, but it doesn’t seem to be something wrong with my ear. Because some of my other friends have been having these things, and it seems to be happening a lot more often.
Well, as we get older…! I mean, you all know about this stuff called tinnitus, right? This is literally ringing in the ears. If you’ve ever gotten into a deep flu or something and abused aspirin—if you take six or ten aspirin over a twelve-hour period, your ears will ring like crazy. I mean, you can’t even hear what people are saying to you.
Quinine. This was the big problem with quinine until chloroquine and these more fancy things like fansidar were invented for malaria. Yes, British colonial administrators condemned themselves to a life of gin addiction and ringing ears in order to be in these quinine zones. There is a whole medical literature on tinnitus. I don’t quite understand what it is.
Another phenomenon that I don’t think has been described in the literature that puzzles me—and it’s hard to talk about or confirm with people, because it’s extremely brief and ephemeral. But since this is a sophisticated room full of travelers, maybe there can be feedback on this. I’ve noticed this thing in mushrooms, above five grams, where there is what I call the zinger. And the zinger, it feels like a cosmic ray that your body is detecting. It lasts only about that long. It lasts a fraction of a second. And it’s like an electrical reset of your whole body, and it’s a zing. And it goes through, and it’s very intense, and it lasts a fraction of a second. And about the only thing you can say about it is: it would probably be quite alarming if it lasted even slightly longer. But it never does. It feels like a high-speed particle just passed through your frontal lobes or something. Do any of you know what I’m talking about? So this is not me advancing into senility. This is—and I don’t know what that is.
Again, if you had somebody fully wired up to an EEG and everything else, this would have to show up. This is clearly a gross neurological phenomenon. This is not a hallucination in the ordinary sense. Well, again, because no legal research can be done on human beings and mice cannot report these kinds of phenomena, we’re just at sea. And throughout the weekend, whenever there’s an opportunity to indicate a place where experimental strategies might be helpful, I’ll try to mention it. Because my fantasy is that some of you are the neurophysiolgists, neuropsychopharmacologists, psychotherapists of the future, and that once you get your five-million-dollar NIMH grant, you’ll remember what old Professor McKenna said and create protocols to look into some of these things. I mean, it is not for want of experimental approaches that experiment floundered, it was for want of courage on the part of the scientific community to carry out that kind of work. Obviously, the people who built these things had no such qualms. They were going for it.
Terence, can I say something? I’d like to address your comment of [???] by basically going in and practicing [???]. And my experience is that [???] sounds come in [???]. And I think that that’s what crows do as well. I worked with a client who [???] down about six years ago for the first time. And my sense is what they do, literally, is: hey open the auditory voice channels and [???] channels, which [???] receptors. And that the phenomenon of suddenly hearing this high-pitched frequency when you don’t have a cold, you don’t have a sinus condition, and you’re not taking aspirin, generally, from my experience, has indicated that someone is accessing [???] communication and comes in. And this vibration [???] we’re beginning to pick it up, but can’t fine-tune to hear [???] Can you [???].
It’s actually the hypothalamus.
Do you mean that they’re accessing you in the sense that they’re leaving a message in your psychological electronic mailbox?
I never check mine. I should go…!
You really should [???]
Well, for three months all that was there was ads for cheap, blank tape, so…! Yeah?
There might be some [???] common way to feel the pain now is to create a sensation on another part of the body through electronic circuits [???] this could be just a way of strapping the mind [???]
Well, or not so much distracting it, but focusing it upon itself. Because I noticed—Ken didn’t give a lot of instructions, but I immediately closed my eyes, leaned into it, and there seemed to be a set of reflexes not specifically associated with just blowing on it.
Yes, anything which can lead us into these places. And tone is very important. I mean, I wish I had a vocabulary for music, because I’ve had experiences with music that were just so freaky that I could barely put up with it. But I’m not a musician, so I couldn’t come down and discuss what had happened in terms of the quality of the shift. But I remember a couple of years ago, in Hawai’i, a friend of mine had made recordings of Afghani tribal people. And it’s drums and high-pitched flutes. It’s overkill on the shamanic instrument thing. It’s this hard-driving drum, and then these wandering, high-pitched flutes. And I could not stand to listen to it. It was so freakish in some way that I couldn’t talk about, because I don’t have the vocabulary. But even to this day when I listen to that music, I hear behind it, I hear into something, and I felt that these guys were not human beings, that nobody could do what they were doing, that that was all a mask and that there was something coming out of the caucatious, central Asia, 20,000–50,000–60,000 years old that was really bizarre
[???] any kind of [???] matrix such as white noise or rushing water, which is a form of white noise. Is there a perfect background on which to hear voices?
To project? Yes, although this is not white noise. This is almost the antithesis of white noise.
[???] could be to serve the same purpose.
Yeah. For those of you who don’t know, white noise is wide-spectrum sound. It sounds like this: shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. You can always hear white noise if you need to on a trip by turning on the FM radio and off-tuning a channel, if you don’t have automatic lock. Off-tune it. And then, to the side of a strong channel there will always be white noise.
I had a strange experience when I was in the Amazon. There’s a Celtic saying that poetry is made at the edge of running water. I think Robert Graves discusses this in The White Goddess—which, if you’ve never read The White Goddess, that’s basic reading for psychedelicos. And so he talks about this Celtic saying: poetry is made at the edge of running water. Well then, I was in the Amazon, and I was quite saturated with psychoactive tryptamines, and there was a waterfall. And I noticed that as I walked toward the waterfall, my thoughts fell into rhyme. And this is something—I don’t write rhyming poetry. It’s not my métier. And I don’t suppose it was great poetry, but it was pretty astonishing to not be able to break out of the rhyme scheme. I remember there were things like “the clone’s mode is a stoned load.” That was one of these things. And I went to the waterfall and I sat by it, and as long as I would sit by it my most trivial thoughts would organize themselves into this doggerel, this rhyming cadence. Well then, when I left the waterfall, subject to the inverse square law, these rhymes fell away. Well, this is mighty, mighty peculiar. I mean, what’s going on here?
First of all, what is rhyme? What is the thinking mind that it can slip from rhyming to prose? And then what does this have to do with white noise? You see, I think a creative, psychedelically inspired acoustical and linguistic laboratory, could put pressure on these things. It seems as though the coding and encoding and the production and interpretation of these codes is very close to the surface. It almost seems as though there is no transformation of language that you can imagine that doesn’t happen on these things. I mean, I had a trip a few months ago where something happened that I had never seen happen before, which was: my thoughts were proceeding along in front of me, and I was in pretty good shape, and then—you know the news flasher in Times Square with the news running across?—well, my thoughts shifted into that. It was like a teletype output. It was printed and flowing along. And so I’m no longer thinking my thoughts, I’m reading my thoughts as they flow past my eye. So I’m thinking that’s pretty weird.
And then I notice that some of the words are misspelled. I am not a good speller, but I noticed that some of the words that I know how to spell are misspelled. And then, as I watched, certain words were so misspelled that I couldn’t figure out what they were. Well, then I noticed more and more words were slipping into this mode. And after about a minute and a half, what was going by my perceiving mind was gibberish—but printed gibberish. And I had watched my own thoughts degrade into chaos on this ribbon. And I just thought, “My god, what is this?” Meaning works its magic, and then it lifts its magic hand, and meaning falls into chaos. And it’s all showing it to me within the context of the phonetic alphabet. Weird stuff! Degradation of meaning. Visible degradation of meaning.
The babbling brook.
The babbling brook. I used to have an English teacher who began each class by saying, “I’ll brook no babbling!” Must’ve had the Joyce meme.
Well, these things are very suggestive and very important to the larger interpretation of all this stuff, which I’m trying to get to. Because transformation of language is somehow critical. This is what these things are working on. This may be entirely the domain in which they operate when it’s sufficiently broadly defined. It always seems to present and offer metaphors about meaning. And I think some of you have been present when I’ve told the story about the time years and years ago when I was in the habit of taking LSD and then smoking DMT at the top of it. I don’t recommend this. This is a young—you have to have a young body for this, or be crazy or something. But anyway, this was a strategy I used with the LSD in order to prolong the DMT flash.
Well, in a particular instance—it was Christmas vacation in Berkeley in the house I was living in. Everyone had left and no one was due back for a week. So I had perfect confidence that I could do this and not be interrupted. So I took the LSD. An hour and a half later I got the DMT pipe and I did it. And it did prolong it, and it was spectacular, and I won’t say too much about that. But right in the middle of it, the woman who lived upstairs returned unexpectedly from Christmas vacation and ran up the rickety front steps and started beating on the glass door, just shaking the house. Well, I’m a basically paranoid person anyway. I mean, if I’m 300 miles up the Yagua Ciasu [?] in Colombia and I’m out in the jungle smoking a joint, and a twig snaps, the first thing I do is hide my dope and then see what’s going on. So when this beating on the front door began, I suffered probably a minor coronary thrombosis.
And I jumped up off my bed, I was propelled off my bed, and landed on my feet in the middle of the room, and then—to my horror and disbelief—realized that I had somehow ruptured the plane, and that this stuff had all come with me. And these self-transforming elf machine hyperdimensional things that I call the tykes were in the room with me, and it was no longer behind closed eyes in darkened space. They were interposing themselves between me and the bookcase and the window and everything there, and turning me around. And there was a machine hovering in the air—one of these DMT Faberge carved ivory eggs with the interlocking and all colors and jewels and metal and liquid crystal thing in the air—and it had a projecting facet coming off of it. And this thing was ratcheting with this clicking sound. And every time it would ratchet (and it was doing this very quickly) a small plastic triangular chit would be hurled off of this thing. And each chit had a character on it, a letter in an alien language. And these things were flying across the room and hitting the wall and bouncing off the ceiling, and the whole room was full of these flying letters in this alien language. These squealing elves running around, and I was spontaneously speaking in some kind of glossolalia which was itself causing objects to condense in the room. And it was just, you know, too much—clearly.
And I was able to go to the door of the room, slide open the door. By then this woman had found her keys and was standing in the living room. I took one look at her. I spoke a very high-volume paragraph in Martian B, and slammed the door and just went back and put my head in the corner. Well, it was an extreme example of its involvement with this linguistic domain. It’s always trying to say something about coding, and symbols, and sounds, and language, and intentionality. This lies very, very close to the surface in these places. So if you should ever find yourself in these places, experiment with meaning and voice and song and acoustical driving as we did here this morning. I think that’s really the fertile dimension.
And I mentioned The White Goddess—what Graves is saying in there is that there was a kind of poetic language in our racial past; in our species’ past. That there is a kind of language which is in the bone. It isn’t culturally conventionalized. You don’t have to take three years to learn it as an infant. It simply proceeds out of animal organization. Well, it may well be that that language is the only language in which we can really communicate our feelings, and that our blocked access to communication of feelings has to do with the fact that we’re using a lower-dimensional language to try and describe them. They are, after all, higher-dimensional objects, our feelings. And when we just slice through them and say rage, lust, disgust—you know, it’s much more complicated than that.
Well, we sort of got out in front of ourselves here this morning. But it’s okay. Now you’ve seen the end, so now you’re all shamans, so now we’ll go back into the matrix. What I would like to do is go through this historical scenario—some of you may groan inwardly because you’ve heard it before, but there’s more data. And my goal is to make it as rhetorically tight as possible so that it can resist attack which is sure to come. Because what I want to say, ultimately, is that the program of understanding human origins that begins with Darwin in the nineteenth century has only proceeded about halfway. What outraged the Victorian mentality so much was the suggestion that human beings are descended from the apes; the anthropoid protohominid line. This is now fairly well accepted—and to my mind, to a degree, too accepted.
Because the Darwinian scenario cannot account for the emergence of mind over so short a span of time. Either something has been left out or we’re on the wrong track entirely. So I will go over this, some of it fairly quickly—parts that I’ve lectured a lot in the past—and then some of it more slowly; new stuff that I’ve unearthed in the process of writing this book for Bantam. I believe what I’m about to tell you, but notice that whether you believe it or not, it is a political argument for our position, for the position that psychedelics, especially psychedelic plants, had a tremendous impact on human origins and are shaping the human present and future.
It begins (like so many things that have happened on this planet) with climatological change. Glaciation—which has happened (I don’t know) six, eight times in the last three or four million years—is a new phenomenon in the life of this planet. Glaciation wasn’t happening when the dinosaurs were around, it wasn’t happening in the Devonian. It is something new. So after five billion years of existence, the planet Earth brought forth a new phenomenon; the repetitious descent of glacial ice from the poles. Now, this probably has to do with an accumulating planetary instability—and we’ll talk about this more. There is an accumulating planetary instability: the last hundred million years have been the most dynamic in the history of the Earth since its formation. Of that hundred million years, the last ten million has been the most dynamic. Of that ten million, the last million; of that million, the last ten thousand. So the planet is fluctuating.
Now we’re on the scene. We are causing planetary fluctuations of a sort never before seen. I don’t know how many of you saw the article in the New York Times, but 1987 was the warmest year in 44 million years, they estimate. And 1988 was slightly warmer. Now, the scientists are waiting for a trend to establish because they can’t believe that with such a small data sample you can make these extrapolations. Nevertheless, it’s anecdotally understood in the scientific community that we are now in a process of human-generated planetary changes.
Well, we emerged in a context of planetary change. For a very long time, the warm tropics of the Earth were covered by climaxed rainforests. And then this glaciation thing began, and when ice concentrates at the poles, grasslands appear in the tropics because there is restricted rainfall. There are also theorists who hold that human burning then contributes to the appearance of the grasslands and stabilizes them. Carl Sauer of the University of California at Berkeley, eminent geographer, takes the position that there are no natural grasslands on this planet, that all grassland is an artifact of human impact.
In any case, our previous many millions of years had been spent in the trees as insect-eating, fruit-eating, arboreal primates with a tribal habit, a small but growing repertoire of pack signals, and developing binocular vision in order to coordinate this swinging from limb to limb mode that we had. When protein got tight, when pressure got on, we were forced out of the trees and onto the grasslands where we adapted an omnivorous dietary habit out of necessity, because there was not enough to eat. So you either test new foods or die. This is the choice. Well, in that process, many individual creatures become extinct. But certain fortunate individuals actually discover new sources of food. This gives them an opportunity, basically, to continue existing.
But—and I mentioned this last night—the problem with wide-scale testing of new foods in a species is plants evolve what are called secondary byproducts to protect themselves from insect predation, to buffer incoming mineral salts, to make themselves attractive to pollinator insects. A vast panoply of secondary byproducts are evolved in plants. Well, if you’re an organism testing plants as food, you’re going to be exposed to these things. And many of them have mutagenic influence. So a sudden shift from a very focused and specialized diet to a broadened diet will show up in the fossil record as a sudden evolutionary spurt because so many mutations are being offered up to the process of natural selection.
Well, this happened to us, and all kinds of changes went on in the human form—not only the brain changes, which we’re interested in, but, for instance, the loss of body hair. Why did we lose body hair? Why did we only retain it on erogenous zones and on the tops of our heads? Well, the theory about the top of the head is that (one theory, not necessarily mine) we evolved near the sea shore, and that mothers could keep hold of their babies by the hair, and so hair is something that we need to have in order that we don’t drift away from each other. As far as genital hair is concerned, the best guess anybody has been able to come up with is: hair is a strategy for expanding surface area. Surface area is something that is important in a situation where chemicals are volatilizing into the air. And the idea is that we retained genital hair in order to be able to pheromonally connect with each other. This is a whole aspect of human relations that is not well understood: that we are embedded in an ambiance of human pheromones; that the smell of rage, the smell of maximum security prisons, all of these are odors of fear, sexuality, desperation, so forth and so on. There are psychiatrists who claim to be able to diagnose schizophrenia by sniff. They just take a whiff of you and then they say you’re okay, you’re not okay. These same theorists claim that when you walk into a room everyone involuntarily takes a breath of air. This breath of air is communicating to them on an unconscious level where it’s at in that room. And you know when you walk into a room, and there are two people in that room, and one of them has just told the other to take a flying leap into hell, there is what we call an aura of tension. Well, this is very deep psychological cueing that we process on an unconscious level, and much of it may be pheromonal. Most social animals regulate themselves with pheromones: bees, ants, even these weird hairless mammals in Morocco that form these huge hives under the ground. They shed pheromones as well. If we are not a pheromonally-regulated social species, we are probably the only one.
And this bears directly on the hallucinogen question. A professor of mine, years ago—Ralph Audy [?] at UC Med Center—his theory was that hallucinogens are what he called exopheromones. A pheromone is a chemical message that is passed around within a species. He thought of hallucinogens as exopheromones, meaning they were message-bearing chemicals that moved between species. And I will more or less advocate that view in a slightly circuitous form.
Anyway, here are these monkeys on the ground, testing foods, and these foods usher into mutagenically induced changes in the humans’ body-mind system. Our loss of body hair, I mentioned that. The prolongation of adolescence—which is called neoteny—this is something that is peculiar to the human species, not well understood. It’s thought that because we have culture, we have to keep our children with us in order to teach them culture. We don’t just turn them loose when they’re eighteen months old, and they can’t even take care of themselves. You know, a calf or a fawn stands up and walks four hours after birth. A human infant can take a very long time. So the prolongation of adolescence, the loss of body hair—all of these things may have been the effect of random mutations induced by diet—remember that mutations are always random, but they are given cogency and order by then undergoing the process named by Darwin natural selection. That means the mutations which confer adaptive advantage are retained, the mutations which don’t confer adaptive advantage, those individuals are not successfully able to reproduce, and they die.
Well, how this relates to psychedelics is that one of the foods tested in that environment—because there were large herds of ungulate animals developing at the same time, and they clearly represented the major concentration of protein in the grassland environment. I mean, all that was there were a few poor cereals, a few root crops, and a lot of meat on the hoof. So there was tremendous pressure to be able to utilize that meat. And that meant not only an omnivorous diet, but a slow shift toward a carnivorous diet. Well, that meant trailing after these ungulate herds, probably driving lions and large predators away from fresh kills. This is probably how early human populations got meat before they had sufficient hunting strategies, weaponry, and language to coordinate their own live kills.
Well, trailing along behind these ungulate animals on the African veldt is a perfect situation for encountering the coprophitic psilocybin mushrooms which grow in the manure of these animals. And the mushroom is a very noticeable object in the grassland environment. I mean, I’ve seen them in the Amazon the size of dinner plates. Well, if you’re looking out over twenty acres of pasture, you can see every mushroom of that size in the pasture. I mean, they just call you to them. They are totally anomalous. And I’ve seen in East Africa baboons—they love to flip over cow pies, dung, because they find carrion beetles there; insect protein. Well, in the period I’m talking about, insect protein was not so far behind us. And even to this day, in the Amazon, certain groups of people, up to thirty percent of their diet is insect protein. I mean, it’s very disconcerting to be chatting with a Witoto and have one of these big buprestids—these metallic, wood-boring beetles about four and a half inches long—one of these guys, with a tremendous metallic sound, will slap against a tree, and without missing a beat a Witoto person will just reach out, grab it, rip the wing cases off, and gnaw on it like a popsicle while they’re talking to you—and may even offer you a chew. They love to insert grass stems down into anthills and then pull up the ants clinging to the grass stem, and then put all the grass stems and the ants in a little calabash of water, and grind it up with a stone. And because ants are social insects and release pheromones, and because pheromones necessarily must be volatile to work, you get this weird—it’s like camphorated cool-aid. And it’s an insect pheromone cool-aid refresher. Delicious!
Anyway, the mushroom was soon noticed and inculcated into the diet of these now pack-hunting, semi-carnivorous, highly omnivorous primates. Well, quickly, the first advantage that psilocybin confers on an animal or a human being is increased visual acuity. This is just something which it does, and Roland Fischer did experiments and showed this quite elegantly in the late sixties—although that research, too, should be duplicated. You know, does it confer increased visual acuity? Do other things confer increased visual acuity. How rare or common is this?
Well, in any case, you don’t have to be an evolutionary biologist to know that if there’s a plant that gives you better vision, you’re going to be a successful hunter. Therefore, eating a plant which impacts on visual acuity is going to favor those animals using it. They are going to be better hunters, they are going to kill more meat, their children are going to have more food, women are going to find those hunters more desirable, therefore they will have many women. Many women means (in a world where fairness operates) increased opportunities to copulate, that means increased opportunities for conception, that means more children, that means successful reproductive strategy. So that single aspect of psilocybin would feed back into the human experience as a good adaptation. It’s a good idea to eat mushrooms, especially if you’re a hunter.
But they quickly discovered that if you eat more mushrooms, a general state of physiological arousal follows upon the increase in visual acuity. All CNS stimulants will cause a general kind of arousal. On one level, what that means is a kind of restlessness that is usually channeled by the organism into sexual release. So psilocybin, at slightly higher doses, promotes sexual activity. Again, this is a tremendous enhancer of the reproductive success of those individuals participating in this increased sexual activity. And there is very little doubt—just looking at the earliest stratum of religion that we possess—that prehistoric religion was orgiastic and communal and so forth and so on. I mean, there may have been pair bonding and all that, but clearly boundary dissolution through orgy and boundary dissolution through hallucinogenic plant use were, I think, in the minds of these early people so commingled that they couldn’t even be teased apart. Is that the phrase?
At higher levels than that, at higher levels than the level at which psilocybin induces sexual arousal and restlessness and that sort of thing, it breaks out into the trip. Hallucinogenic affects the higher cortical functions. And this, then, is this thing about which we, sophisticated as we are and with ten thousand years of history behind us, we are in awe of this, of what happens above twenty milligrams of pure psilocybin. For all our sophistication, we are no more able to come to terms with that than these pack-hunting protohominid ancestors of ours.
So, you see, it was a very gentle, three-step seduction. Increased visual acuity pays back in more food, more women, more children. Slightly higher doses pay back as increased sexual activity; that also means more access to women, more children, more reproductive success. And then, at a third and higher level, it feeds back as a transcendental experience with a peculiar bias toward language, toward spontaneous vocalization, toward neurological perturbation that expresses itself through small mouth noises, through the modulation of sound.
You see, we are uniquely set up to modulate sound. We can do it for hours without exhausting ourselves. I prove this in front of you every time we do one of these things. I mean, what other human activity could we sustain at this level, and then we don’t even discuss—are you exhausted from giving your talk? Are you kidding? No. It’s just talk. We all do it. And yet, there’s a lot of muscle work going on here, a lot of breath work.
So I think that the primate situation in the trees set us up for code use and pack signaling. And we observe arboreal primates to this day with complex repertoires of pack signals. And then the hunting situation on the veldt, further pressure on pack signaling. But by the time we get down onto the veldt an interesting thing has happened. There is division of labor now, because women—who are recognized to be of smaller stature and smaller bladder than men—are therefore maladapted to hunting. Because hunting requires a certain degree of physical strength, bladder control, so forth and so on. So there was a spontaneous division of labor. Also women, by having children—and probably these women we’re talking about always had at least one or two hanging off of them—they were not highly mobile. So it fell to them to stay near the camp, to prepare the food, but more importantly, to gather the food. And this is an area that we haven’t talked that much about.
To hunt you must find, kill, gut, and return to camp with the game. I don’t want to denigrate it as much as I have in the past, because it gets people’s hackles up. I mean, there is an art to hunting, to knowing the lay of the land, to positioning your people downwind, and to moving game toward them, and so fort. But I submit to you that the linguistic pressure on early protohominids in our line, the linguistic pressure would really have been on the women. Well, now why is this? It’s because the task that naturally evolved for the women was to gather the food. And what this means is extremely careful differentiation of minute physical differences. We’ve lost touch with this in the last couple of hundred years, because first metal engraving and then photography made it unnecessary to create absolute languages for describing plants. But if, for instance, you look at an eighteenth-century botany book—or even a modern botany book—every plant has what is called a taxonomic description. And the taxonomic description will appear to you, if you’ve never seen one, as though it is written in another language. I mean, it reads like this: leaves crenellate, globescent, apical bracts rotated laterally, trichomes present. What this is is an extremely technical language for describing minute differences in structure. And this is what you have to be able to do if you’re going to gather plants for food. You have to be able to say to someone, “It’s the little plant with the red berries and the white peeling bark with the gray underside to the leaves and the roots shallow.” This is a complex linguistic exercise. You are distinguishing this plant from all others in the environment. Not only are there physical distinctions to be made, there are edaphic factors—this means soils. You know, is it in laterite, is it in sand, is it in loam, is it in limestone? There are seasonal factors. And there may even be factors that we, as moderns, have lost touch with; factors involving the feng shui, the geomantic energy of the land.
So women were under tremendous pressure to develop advanced vocabularies, which they did. And to this day among native peoples what anthropologists always mention without trying to seem sexist is the chattering of women. Women chatter. Women are more socialized than men. Women are more comfortable with women than men are comfortable with men or women. I mean, women talk about internal states, they talk about feelings, they talk about all kinds of things. I think that language was probably early on a prerogative of those who gathered food in order to make all these distinctions.
Okay. So then, what came to be out of this confluence of forces was what I call—following Riane Eisler—the early partnership society. It was a society of pastoralists, because once it was understood that cattle could be domesticated, it was much more efficient to domesticate cattle than to hunt. Because cattle then could provide meat as needed rather than the feast/famine cycle of the hunters. Milk then comes into the picture, which is not something you get a lot of if you hunt and kill wild cattle. And the mushroom, by domesticating the cattle, the mushroom supply was also ensured. And human beings, cattle, and mushrooms poured themselves together into a unique confluence of mutually reinforced need and intentionality that we call symbiosis.
This is where there is mutual benefit to all parties. What human beings gained—I’ve spent some time telling you—what cattle gained from this deal was increased reproductive success, protection from predation, greater likelihood of continuous food supply, so forth and so on. What the mushroom gained from this is not entirely clear. It does become semi-domesticated then. An interesting thing we’ll see again and again in talking about these hallucinogenic plants is how many of them are related to domesticated plants. I mean, the ergot of rye. Even you could stretch it to include the intoxicating mead made from honey. Bees are a domesticated creature very early in the Middle East. So there’s something a little eerie about the way these hallucinogens cluster right where we will find them. This isn’t true in all cases—peyote, banisteriopsis caapi, tabernanthe iboga—but in the major cases that have impacted human beings it has been because they were associated with foods.
Okay. This partnership society that had this long association with these plants and this orgiastic religious thrust was producing a completely different ratio of psychic dominance in the individual members within the society than we have in our society—specifically what was being held down was the ego. The ego is a neurotic response to separateness. And you cannot maintain your ego in the presence of strong hallucinogenic plant patterns of usage. We saw this in the 1960s. It isn’t writ in adamantine that if a million people take LSD a third of them will want to join communes, you know? And yet, this is what we saw. Somehow it had an impact on images of community. It mitigates against separateness. Well, it does this in a way which is very easy to understand: if every Saturday night throughout your entire life you and the seventy people in your tribe have gathered into the longhouse and taken a strong hallucinogen which dissolves all boundaries, floods your mind with vision, impels the whole group into group sexual activity, and so there’s just energy being shed on every level, it’s very hard on Sunday morning to come out of that and get together your projects, your wants, your needs, so forth. It’s a tremendous force for social cohesion. And I believe that the so-called dominator ego was not able to form in that situation.
Think of the ego as a kind of a tumor or a calcareous deposit in the personality which, if you keep taking large supplies of plant hallucinogens, this ego can never form. Just as it’s about to form or start taking hold, here comes another dose of ego-dissolving hallucinogens, and it goes away. So we were kept from our lower nature by our symbiotic relationship to the mushrooms. They were actually enforcing the impossibility of the formation of the ego. Well now, is there anything in the world that we can look at that would support a wild-eyed argument like that? Is there any instance where a pathological condition is being masked by plant use?
Well, it so happens there is such an example. Would I have set myself up like that if there weren’t? In Zaire there is a tribal group of people who appear to be very much like the tribes surrounding them. They don’t seem to have any particularly culturally distinguishing differences. They eat the same diet, so forth and so on, and this diet largely consists of plantains. Plantains, as you may know, are these huge, rough bananas that you don’t eat raw because they’re too starchy, you have to fry them. They’re a chicano food item, and you can buy them in good markets, and it’s a big food throughout the tropics. Well, this tribe in Zaire which was eating this food just like all the other tribes, a peculiar factor was noted: that when people from this tribe left it and went to the city, they inevitably and very quickly (like in the space of two or three months) became mentally ill—seriously mentally ill. Not most of these people or some of these people, but every single one of these people that left the tribal group became ill. Well, they were studied, and people said it was a strong example of cohesive group values, and these people were just sick. But they were made so sick that it didn’t look like a neurosis, it looked like a problem of some sort. Well, eventually it was understood that what was happening was: these people have a defective gene for serotonin production. And in the presence of the diet that they were used to, this defective gene was completely masked. As long as they were eating lots of plantinose they were getting lots of serotonin, and they never developed any mental illness. But when they left the group and went to the city, they became crazy.
And this is our story. This is our story. We are a tribe of pastoral mushroom-users, and when we abandon the use of mushrooms we become neurotic as a historical phenomenon. We become neurotic in a particular way. The ego—which, the ordinary use for the ego is that, when I’m having lunch with you, I need to have an ego so I put food in this mouth, not that mouth. In other words, ego tells you who you are in the spacetime locus. But it isn’t designed to tell you how great you are, or how important you are, or how central you are. It’s just that part of your neurophysiological processing that locates you to a spacetime locus, a certain 140-pound deposit of meat—that’s yours. You can walk around in it. But the ego is some kind of—it has a tendency to grow uncontrollably. It is a cancerous, tumorous kind of psychic tissue that requires a lot of hallucinogens to hold it down.
Well, when climatological change got going in Africa, this partnership paradise was disrupted. And I think we’re all familiar with the story of Genesis. The story of Genesis is the story, as told, of a drug bust. Somebody was told that something was illegal, and that person broke the law and ate the drug that was forbidden, and then God was pissed off. And it’s very interesting why God was pissed off. If you read the story you will see that God (thinking aloud) says, “They will become as we are.” They will become as we are. And so Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, and God set an angel at the eastern portal of Eden with a whirling sword so that no one could make their way back, and our remote ancestors were condemned to a life of work and travail.
Okay, my interpretation of this is, first of all: this is a story told by a dominator culture. It’s the Yahweh culture; the volcano storm god Yahweh. So it’s being told from a dominator point of view. But what it is, is: it’s the story of the disruption of paradise, and the fall into history, and an abandonment and a movement eastward. So what I think is being talked about here is this original partnership paradise in the then much wetter central Sahara, and the mushroom religion finally being disturbed by increasing aridity in this area. So that the story of the fall from Eden and the fall into history is the story of the breakup of the original partnership symbiosis between human beings, cattle, and mushrooms.
Okay. In the Middle East what you see in the Nile valley and in Palestine is that, before 9500 BC, roughly, there is about 2,000 years where there is no habitation either in Palestine or in the Nile valley. We’re talking thousands of years before Egypt. There’s a complete lacuna there. And then, around 9500, a new kind of people come into the Middle East, and no one knows from where. And the reason no one knows from where is because they assume they came from what Marija Gimbutas and her group call old Europe. This is Greece, Mesopotamia, southern Turkey, where a very advanced civilization is in the process of getting going. And if any of you are interested in this, Gimbutas’ book The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe will just open your eyes to the world of 15,000 years ago.
But there are problems. These people coming into the Middle East and the Nile valley do not culturally match—either skeletally or in the physical…you know, the flint—what we would expect from a migrating group coming out of old Europe. Instead, they have striking similarities with the people who were existing in the central Saharan situation a couple of thousand years before. These people are called Natufians, and they are a mysterious people. No one knows where they came from. And they are much more advanced than anyone who preceded them. Well, in the central Sahara there is this place called the Tassili Plateau where there are extensive rock paintings, some of them showing shamans with mushrooms sprouting out of their bodies holding mushrooms. There’s more than one such depiction of mushroom use.
So what I would like to say is that these Natufian people coming into the Middle East are the scattered remnants of the disrupted partnership Eden. And, in fact, they build first under the incut escarpments of cliffs, is where we find the Natufian sights at El Wad in Israel, at Ein Shalan in the Negev: big overhangs, and they built their camps in front of them. Well, this is exactly the same situation in which the late Tassili people were building, and the painting styles and the colors and the techniques are very clearly the same. Read Mary Settegast: Plato Prehistorian, or James Mellaart’s book Çatal Hüyük: Neolithic Town in Anatolia, and you see that—even a kind of burnished ware called Sudanese 3B that comes from above the first cataract in Egypt is found in the Natufian graves in Palestine.
Okay, that’s the early Natufian wave. A thousand years later, by 8500, Jericho is being razed. And Jericho is the glory of the civilized world. There is nothing like it at 8500 BP. It is an advanced culture apparently springing out of nothing with a tower that was—nothing like this has been seen previously. It’s very clear that the Natufian people who were building under the rock shelves transformed themselves into the people at Jericho. A thousand years after Jericho, these same people have established a number of urban centers, the most important of which is Çatalhöyük on the Anatolian plane of southern Turkey. At 8500 BC, Çatalhöyük is what Mary Settegast calls a premature burst of complexity and brilliance. I mean, it is something. You should take a look at this book by Mellaart. I mean, this is a town 9,000 years old. The pyramids lie 4,000 years in the future from when this thing was built. And yet, there is glass beadwork, there is sculpture, there are elaborate burials, it was a Taos-like structure of adobe, apartment buildings, many, many levels of habitation indicating sedentary lifestyle. In the adobe bricks we find large-grained cereals that are now extinct, which indicate that these people had a whole cereal technology. We find animal pens: we know they had goats, they had sheep, they had cattle. They had goldwork. And it was all a religion of women, a religion of the great goddess. It was, I believe, the last outpost that had any connection to this earlier partnership thing in Africa. And, you know, had we the time and the wherewithal, we could look at the pottery and the flint chipping and the charcoal data. I mean, there’s plenty there to chew on to make the case.
Eventually, around 6500 BC, as Çatalhöyük is reaching its climax at what’s called Çatal 7F (that’s the level in the stratigraphy), wheeled chariot people sweep down from the Lake Van area, the Caspian Sea, the Zagros Mountains. They have wheeled chariots and they have domesticated the horse. And an argument about when this happened is rampant, but the date continues to be set back. Well, the horse is the very antithesis of the cow. The cow connects you into that which feminizes, which nurtures. Pastoralists tend to confine themselves to a range, they are semi-nomadic but they have a range. What happens when you get on the back of a horse is: you see that you can run away from the consequences of your actions. And you say, “Why should we plant emmer wheat? Why should we hunt and gather food? We can plunder. We can take it away from the people who don’t have what we have. We can take their women, we can take their food, we can take their land.”
Suddenly you get all over—from Denmark to Iran, from the central Ukraine to Morocco—you get what is called the Tanged Point Technocomplex. The Tanged Point Technocomplex simply means that suddenly there are vast amounts of chipped flint and arrowhead, greater than at any other point in the entire Stone Age—even though the Stone Age is now over and people have a bone antler and a primitive technology working in other materials, this proliferation of these Tanged Points means war has come to the human world. And suddenly, sites where no walls were built for 2,000 years, walls begin to rise all over the world. And it’s clear that there are now haves and have-nots. And the pastoral civilizations that are devoted to the great goddess retreat behind high walls. In 6500 BC these chariot people sweep down and they destroy Çatalhöyük. That ends it. That ends the great goddess as the unchallenged icon of the human image of the sacred in the Middle East.
Now, there are a series of goddesses, then, but progressively through time their consort becomes more and more important. And then, by the time you get to what I was taught in school were the great early civilizations—Sumer, Ur, Chaldea, Babylon, and Egypt—by the time you get to those civilizations it’s a total ego trip. A god king. Everybody has hierarchically oriented themselves toward the ruler who is the visible manifestation of god. He owns everything. And it’s always a he. So what has happened here is that, in the absence of the mushroom, agriculture rather than pastoralism, city-building rather than nomadism, and the aggrandizement of the ego have put themselves in place. And then the last remnants of Çatal go to Minoan Crete, where they carry on for a few millennia a unique islanded partnership society. But what’s going on throughout the rest of the world is this ego, male-dominator style of which we are the inheritors and the perfectors—because there are other wrinkles which come along through time.
This clash between these wheeled chariot vehicle people and these pastoralists creates, then, the Indo-European amalgam, which is the inspiration for the Avestan literature, the inspiration for the Rigvedas. And what I want to say is that at this point begins a frantic search for substitutes for the original connection to the goddess. And what also begins is the sense of abandonment, the sense of existential embeddedness in history, the sense of loss of control. And plants like amanita muscaria (Wasson’s candidate for soma), pergamon harmala (David Flattery’s candidate for soma)—this book that I asked Cameron to look at, some of the rest of you may be interested, this is the most recent important book about drugs to be published. It’s called Haoma and Harmaline, and it’s by David Flattery. It’s Near Eastern Studies Publication number 21. You can order it from UC Press on your credit card if you need a copy. And it will argue that soma was not amanita muscaria, that it was pergamon harmala. And it makes a strong case. I mean, I regard now the whole question as totally reopened. Gordon Wasson was a lovely person and a great explorer, and his accomplishments in the Oaxacan highlands can never be gainsaid or naysaid. But he was slightly overeager on this amanita muscaria business.
Throughout the world, this dominator model triumphed. The only place where it didn’t triumph in the threads that lead into our cultural heritage was in Minoan Crete. And in Minoan Crete the mysteries continued to be practiced. But over thousands of years it retreated into ritual, and then mere symbol. One of the peculiar features of Minoan religion is what is called pillar worship. The aniconic pillar that occurs in the center of every Minoan shrine, I believe, is the aniconic image of the mushroom. In the same way that the Shiva Lingam becomes an aniconic image of the male sexual organ, the aniconic image in Minoan religion is an image of the mushroom. In the late phase of Minoan religion there is no question that opium was the drug of choice. And in fact the linear B tablets that Michael Ventris deciphered, they couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the scale of the opium production.
Well, if you know anything about opium and junk, you know it is what you take for pain—cultural pain, group pain, personal pain. The drugging of late Minoan culture is, I believe, a response to the slow death of the partnership society. Even at that it is from Minoan religion that the mystical wellsprings of Greek religion spring. The Pantheon of the Thracian Greeks, they were pretty hard-headed types. The mystical element in Greek religion, the Orphic element, the Dionysian element, the celebration of Persephone and Demeter and all of that, those are Minoan threads brought into Greek religion. And that’s the last time in our cultural line of development that there was access to the mystical tremendum.
Wasson made an interesting case that what was used at Eleusis was ergotized beer. As you know, ergot is a smut that can grow on domesticated grains. And ergotized beer would be heavy with LSD-like alkaloids. As I read Wasson’s work to write this book for Bantam, I was frustrated. Why, if you believe ergotized beer was the mystery of Eleusis, why don’t you brew some ergotized beer and take it? And the answer is, I think, that this would be pretty scary. Eleusis operated for 2,000 years. Every September several thousand people were exposed to the mystery in an inner sanctum called the Telesterion. I find it hard to believe that you could give ergot beer to a couple of thousand people once a year and not have the mystery get a certain reputation for being dangerous, because ergot is dangerous. In the Middle Ages there were outbreaks of ergot-infected rye. In fact, there was one outbreak in France in the 1100s where several thousand people died.
Well now, there are arguments to this, and people can say: well, there must’ve been a strain of ergot that produced psychedelic alkaloids in great quantity and didn’t produce toxins very much. Can anybody come up with a strain of claviceps (this is ergot) that won’t kill you if you miss the mark? He talks about it, but they never got down to the acid test, you know? They never brewed it up and did it.
Now, Robert Graves —who was the guy who turned the Wassons on to the idea of going to Mexico to look for mushrooms—he had an entirely different idea which Wasson mysteriously fails to even mention in his book on Eleusis. I think he should’ve at least denounced the guy’s position and showed what was wrong with it. What Graves argued was: he said at these mystery sites they’re always drinking something, and they always publish the recipe of what they’re drinking, and the ingredients are always the same: water, rye, sugar, couple of other things. And he said that this recipe was an ogham. Do you know what an ogham is? An ogham is where you have a list, and the first letter of each item in the list spells a word. It’s an old Irish trick, and it’s a mnemonic trick. He said that the recipes for ergot were an ogham. And if you arranged the ingredients, you could always spell the Greek word μύκης: “mushrooms.”
So he said all this stuff about barley and all that, that’s just nonsense. They were eating mushrooms. Evidence is thin, but there is some evidence. In A. B. Cook’s book Zeus there’s a picture of Triptolemus, who was a figure in the Demeter mysteries, holding what seems very clearly to be a mushroom. Of course the mushroom has a phallic aspect, and you do get disembodied phalli both in Greek and Roman art. So it’s ambiguous. You can’t tell: is this an autonomous male member running around, or is this a small pointed-cap mushroom?
In any case, whatever was being done at Eleusis, that is the last contact we had with the mystery. And by that time opium was a drug that was used in the ancient world. We view opium as virulently addicting. However, it wasn’t noticed that opium was addicting until 1600, when John Playfair, in a book of his, mentioned the addiction syndrome. It was used for 3,000 years with nobody noticing that you could get hooked on opium. So the virulence of the addiction is somewhat overstated. I mean, I myself have smoked opium many days and weeks in succession and then gotten on an airplane and flown to some benighted country where they didn’t have opium, and it was no problem. I mean, you just forget it. Addiction to natural substances (with the exception of tobacco) is something you really have to work at.
But the abandonment of this partnership society in Africa set us up with a longing, an itch that we have to scratch. And this is why we are the addictive creatures that we are—why I said last night we are the children of a dysfunctional relationship to the past. We were literally torn from the bosom of a relationship that held down pathology in our species, because the ego is a pathological state. Extreme ego inflation. Once the medication was withdrawn, once the plant was no longer accessible, we developed all kinds of substitutes and all kinds of neurotic expressions of this situation of incompleteness that we feel in ourselves. And this has gone on until the present day.
I can talk some about that this afternoon; the way in which, for instance, the fermentation of fruit juices and of honey to make mead created the alternate path of alcoholic intoxication. But, you see, beers and wines can never be more than 17% alcohol by volume, because when a fermentation process reaches 17% alcohol, the alcohol kills the organism that is doing the fermentation. So unless you have a technique for distilling alcohol, you cannot make it stronger than 17%. Well, we don’t know exactly. There seem to be notable exceptions to this where we don’t quite understand what’s happening. For instance, the Roman historian Pliny describes Roman wines so strong that when they were thrown onto fires they burned. This seems to indicate some kind of distillation process. And it has been speculated that with a simple bell-shape apparatus you could put wool in the top of it and very laboriously rain distilled alcohol out of wool. But the standard method of putting it into a condenser to get it out was not developed until an alchemist—Ramon Llull—figured this out in the fourteenth century. Once he had figured it out, Llull believed that he had discovered the alchemical elixir of life. On the basis of his invention of distilled alcohol and his drinking of a large amount of it, he proclaimed the eminent end of the world. He felt that when you have dope this good, can Christ be far behind? And he urged other people, friends of his, alchemical colleagues, to also experiment with this, which they did very successfully. And this is the basis for the cordials and the brandies and all this stuff that we’re familiar with.
There is something really insidious about synthetic drugs, about concentrating what is a vegetable essence and very diffuse. Opium was no problem until morphine came along. Morphine appears hardly a problem in the context of heroin. Heroin was invented to cure morphine addiction. That was the idea with it. Coca, as you know, has been used for thousands and thousands of years without a problem. Cocaine very quickly develops into a problem. The enthusiasts of cocaine in the nineteenth century—Freud and his school—were riding on the great wave of optimism about cocaine that clustered around it when it was found to be a local anesthetic.
The other thing is: peculiar routes of administration have been created. The enema is a natural route of administration that was created by Amazonian Indians thousands of years ago because they had rubber, and they figured out that they could avoid vomiting and toxicity by using enemas. The hypodermic syringe was invented in 1856, just a few years after the invention of morphine, and just in time for the American civil war and the Franco-Prussian war. Just in time to inject a lot of morphine into wounded soldiers and then release them into the American and European population as morphine addicts. That was the beginning of that. It came out of the simultaneous wars on two continents. Coming into the twentieth century, amphetamines were invented in the late nineteenth century. All of these synthetics. And they seemed to push our buttons in a way that these natural compounds don’t do, and you get serious addiction syndromes, especially when you use these new routes of administration.
Well, simultaneously with all this development in pharmacology coming out of German successes in molecular chemistry in the nineteenth century, a vast amount of ethnographic data is being collected. The modern science of mythology and anthropology is born. So in the twentieth century we suddenly get a huge amount of anthropological data about strange plants being used by strange people in far-off corners of the world. Mescaline becomes very interesting to Kraepelin and Havelock Ellis and Clouver [?]—all of these people. In the thirties, forties, and fifties, the mushroom story slowly breaks. Albert Hofmann invents LSD, it doesn’t really make itself known in the scientific literature until the late forties.
A very interesting thing about our particular area of interest that astonished me—all the talking I’ve been doing about it—is the brevity of window of research. What I’m particularly interested in are the indole hallucinogens. Ibogaine is an indole hallucinogen. It wasn’t known before 1850, it wasn’t characterized by the turn of the century, it has never had any vogue as a social drug in the United States, it has never been used significantly in psychotherapy, no human studies have ever been done on it. That’s ibogaine. LSD—the one member of the family that got a lot of attention—it was announced in the scientific literature until 1947; by 1967 it was illegal to do human studies on it in the United States. That’s a twenty-year window, and that was the longest window any of these things ever got. Psilocybin was characterized by Hofmann in 1955, I believe; by 1967 it was illegal. DMT was discovered by the Czech chemist Szára in 1956; by 1966 it was illegal, and the amount of human studies that had been done in that time were very brief. So one of the ideas that I think we have to disabuse ourselves of is that science knows anything about these things. The human studies were never done.
I was talking to somebody who was involved in all this stuff the other day, and they were telling me they got a protocol to study LSD. They were going to have a hundred subjects. It was a big project. Set and setting was under control. It was being run by sensitive psychedelic people, it wasn’t the white coat and clipboard set. It was all set to begin Monday morning. Saturday afternoon, Art Linkletter’s daughter takes LSD and drowns herself in a swimming pool; by Monday morning the LSD project was dead in the water. So this thing—you may have the notion that we are a minority that feels this is important and there is a majority that feels that it’s unimportant. That isn’t the case. We are a minority who feels this is important, and there is a majority that knows nothing about it whatsoever, has no data, and no realization of what it is.
An interesting case, an interesting example, of how science misses the boat—I’ll tell this story and then I’ll let you go. DMT is a very powerful, short-acting hallucinogen; the most powerful. We’ll talk more about it in terms of its content. But what I want to refer to here is: you smoke DMT. This is how you do it, this is how everybody does it. Now, it can be shot. But I think that’s really something. I don’t think you should shoot anything, because I just think it’s a way of transmitting diseases, it sets a funny psychology toward the integrity of your own body, and it’s just a kind of bad habit to get into. Nevertheless, scientists love to inject things into people. They love the injection. Why do they love it? Well, aside from the fact that you get to stick somebody, the reason they love it is because you can absolutely control the dose. You see the barrel of the syringe, you see that there’s thirty milligrams of X there, you watch it go into the muscle, and you write in your clipboard “30mg IM.” What they object to about smoking is: you can’t be sure that the person got the whole dose, you can’t be sure that the whole dose crossed the blood-brain barrier, you can’t be sure. Nevertheless, this is how people do DMT.
Funny thing is: when you shoot DMT, it’s not as impressive. It’s slower to come on, it’s slower to come away from. It lasts about 45 minutes, and it’s a low hill, not this mind-shattering spike of activity that drops you down. So if you look up dimethyltryptamine in Goodman & Gilman or the Merck Index or the physician’s whatever, it will say, “short-acting hallucinogen, 45 minutes to 1 hour in duration.” This is not what DMT is at all. DMT lasts seven to twelve minutes and is spectacular. Well, finally now, a project is getting started to study DMT where the people will actually do it the way human beings do it. For the first time science will lower itself to administering a drug in the manner in which it is actually used by the user in society. But it’s taken thirty years to get them to understand something that simple.
So what this means is that people such as ourselves, we are the cutting edge of neuropsychopharmacology. Because the content is the frontier, and these scientist types know very little about it. I mean, occasionally the most daring of them will take a trip. But the great names that you associate with the psychedelic movement (with certain notable exceptions) are fairly cautious users. I mean, people who have their names written all over this stuff, when you actually pin them down, they say, “Well, I took psilocybin four times. And I took X and Y a few times.” This doesn’t—it’s not to take it and prove that you can survive it, it’s to take it and embrace it and be part of it. So science must stand aside unless it’s willing to get its feet wet. This still belongs to courageous individuals who are willing to put their body-mind system on the line, and then draw conclusions from it.
So, in trying to inspire you to do research, to think about ways in which whatever your specialty—if you’re a medical researcher, a neurophysiologist, a therapist, a chemist, an anthropologist, a linguist; whatever you are—don’t be in awe of science. Science has nothing to say here. Science is a puppy dog lagging behind the train. This is an issue where the people are forcing the focus.
Well, I think that’s enough. The time slipped by. You weren’t violent enough in insisting on interrupting and asking questions. We’ll go through more of this. This is the basic notion that I want to put across: that a disturbed symbiosis in prehistory is what makes the hallucinogens so important in the present, because now, knowing what we know, we can restore that symbiosis. We can take up where we left off at Eleusis, at Çatalhöyük, and at Jericho. We can reclaim what has been lost since Eden. We’ll meet here at four. Thank you!
Evolution of Consciousness
Saturday Afternoon, June 24, 1989
Okay. Is it working for you, Paul? Well, this morning I made sort of a three-dimensional rational argument from anthropological and archaeological and pharmacological data toward trying to convince the listener that hallucinogens were involved in the origins of human consciousness, that behind the abandonment of that lies our neurotic relationship to nature, and so forth. So it was like an analysis of the phenomenon of millennia of hallucinogenic drug-taking and then millennia of being away from it. What I thought might be—this is sort of the case that we have to make to our critics. This is the information that has to be marshaled and argued from if we are serious about a psychedelic theory of the origin of consciousness. But what I thought it might be interesting to talk about this afternoon is something which is, I think, dearer probably to each of us as an individual, which is just maybe to talk a little about the actual phenomenology of these states, and what seems to be going on there.
In writing this book that I’ve been working on I’ve seen how the image of the unconscious perceived through drugs has been—it’s like an archetype that has been evolving over at least three or four hundred years. And the strong formative influence on the archetype of the psychedelic experience comes from two directions. It comes from the hashish vision and the opium dream. These are the two sources of pre-twentieth century psychedelic insight that the Western mind had access to. Well, for reasons too complex to go into here, hashish did not have a vogue in Europe the way opium did. It was left for Americans to seriously explore hashish as a vehicle for visionary hallucination, specifically Bayard Taylor who, in a book called In the Lands of the Saracen, wrote a marvelous account of eating hashish in Damascus in 1840. I mean, it’s just a scream. And, of course, the irreproachable Fitz Hugh Ludlow, who ate hashish and attended Yale teas for young ladies as a freshman at Yale in 1853, and describes having to excuse himself from various faculty-student functions when, as he puts it: “The wallpaper began to crawl and Chinese mandarins burst from the umbrella stand, then I made my departure least I betray myself.” The earliest recorded instance of someone concerned about losing their cool!
But the stronger of these two currents of thought was the opium dream. And the opium dream—laudanum was tincture of opium, an alcoholic extract of opium—and everybody was into this stuff from about 1795 through much of the eighteenth century. Not only the great names associated with it, Coleridge and De Quincey, but Byron and Shelley—all of these people dabbled in opium.
Well, what comes out of the English romantic imagination’s contact with the reveries of opium is a world of desolated ruins, and pale women wailing beneath a demon moon, and black oceans sucking at crumbling rock where mordant vegetation tumbles down to storm-whipped shores. Right? This is the romantic imagination. And it has this morbid stillness, the stillness of morphia, the stillness of the god of dreams. And this influences the Gothic conception in literature, so forth and so on.
This thing about the history of how people image drugs and drug states reminds me—I will digress briefly—of this thing that happened to me that always amused me. I was on an ocean liner headed for the Seychelles from India in 1969, and we were furiously smoking hash, smuggling hash, eating hash. And there was a South African mercenary on this boat, and he didn’t know anything about cannabis, but he was very interested. And so he was questioning me about hashish. And he asked this wonderful question. He said, “Like a seance?”
What did you say?
“Sort of.” This question told me a great deal about him and didn’t give me a lot of hope that he would turn into a hardened hash-head. See, what this is saying is that our images of the transcendental realm that we inherit from the past inevitably color whatever manifestation of it we encounter in the future. So for him the transcendental realm meant table-tapping parties that his mother used to hold in J-Burg. So this prompted the question, “Is it like a seance?”
That’s right! So coming into the twentieth century, that was it. The hashish and the opium thing. Well, then Freud—and behind him, Jung—began to look at the products of pathological fantasy, and the products of folklore and alchemy and the aroused imagination in its many manifestations in religion and shamanism, and they proposed then: there was a widening of the notion of this other realm. And as LSD was developed, this was what was in the minds of most of the people who were dealing with LSD. They saw it as a searchlight that could be turned on to illuminate the dark regions of the unconscious. And I suppose if you were Freudian and you used LSD, you searched for oedipal traces and all this stuff, and if you were a Jungian you were seeing alchemical motifs and transformative motifs drawn from folklore and that sort of thing.
Well, this worked for LSD—for reasons that we maybe don’t have to talk about. My take on it would be that LSD is like a mirror. It’s like a perfect mirror. It magnifies whatever is held up before it. But unlike some of these other indole hallucinogens, which are demagogic in their wish to convey information—I mean, LSD is like perfect mind, perfect mirror. And the mushroom is like a street corner preacher who’s just haranguing you with some visionary epic. So LSD was a fortuitous or a synchronistically important choice, then, because it confirmed that Jungian expectation, and they reported remarkable success with the treatment of neurosis and so on.
What then came on after all of these things were made illegal in the seventies was: a much larger population began to be exposed to psilocybin. Not to psilocybin the compound, but to mushrooms. And it’s a very interesting point that the people who took psilocybin around the Harvard Psilocybin Project in the sixties were completely unprepared for the difference between that and fresh mushrooms. The difference is considerable, and there is no rational reason (from a scientific point of view) why this should be. So it’s confounding. Psilocybin and the mushroom should be the same thing, otherwise you must be a mystic of some sort, because you’re hypothesizing there’s something better about the mushroom.
Nevertheless, this seems to be experientially confirmable, so that the establishment picture of psilocybin was flawed in the literature. In fact, the literature of hallucinogenic drugs up to 1970, let’s see, all revolves around the notion that hallucinogenic drugs are more or less like LSD, last half as long as LSD or twice as long as LSD. It’s all measured against this. They were completely infatuated for some reason with LSD, as was the entire culture. Probably, from the pharmacological point of view, because it was active in the nanogram range, in the range of millions of a gram. This is still, to this day, astonishing that any drug should be active in the nanogram range, and that a hallucinogen should be active, for me, confirms the quantum-mechanical connection of consciousness. Because so little matter is in play in that situation where you take 500 gamma, one five thousandth of a gram. It’s pretty amazing.
So the official version of what can happen with these hallucinogens is very limited. And there was never stress on content. The individual content of the psychedelic trip was treated like the ravings of a psychotic. In other words, it was never examined from the point of view that this person might actually be a reliable witness. If you read the literature of what psychedelic drugs do—like if you read a book like Hoffer and Osmond’s book Hallucinogens, you will get the idea that what these drugs do is: they cause pictures before the eyes, colored shapes, moving grids, lattices, spontaneous laughter, confusion, anxiety, and hysteria. This is the range. What they’re not telling you is what it feels like to be in a situation where you experience spontaneous laughter, anxiety, little pictures, and hysteria all at once, you see? I mean, it’s a complete dissolving of your personality, of the boundary constraints, everything.
And so then, what was offered after Freud and Jung by Aldous Huxley (and people like that) to model it was some kind of confirmation of eastern philosophy. It was embraced that way. And it was said that we should read Meister Eckhart, and the Upaniṣads, particularly the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, and that we should sleep with The Tibetan Book of the Dead at our elbow, and a lot of thought given to ego loss and the white light and this kind of thing. Well, this now, to me, seems fairly superficial. In a way, it spawned a whole renaissance in Far Eastern studies. But those people are not very psychedelic. And the people who used those metaphors seem not to be present in the field anymore.
So then, in the seventies, I tried to launch a meme based around the idea that these things were extraterrestrial pheromones; that they were in fact highly engineered message units from intelligent species that, by some strategy, had penetrated this sector of the spacetime cosmos with a technology that allowed them to essentially engineer a virus-like, information-bearing, biomechanical device which could be bled into the ecology of a planet and would summon out of that planet intelligent organization after a million years or so. And I’m still not entirely uncomfortable with this idea. I mean, there are reasons to wonder. More recently a counter-meme has come forward that offers another possibility. That is that, somehow, the planet itself is an organized entelechy. And that, somehow, we are within the geo-cognitive field of some kind of planetary mind that is orchestrating history.
Well, now notice what these two theories have in common; the Gaian mind theory and the extraterrestrial intervention theory. They are theories that come forward out of a need to account for the presence in the psychedelic experience. This is not something that LSD ever talked much about. If people were encountering aliens, they were doing so in a highly idiosyncratic and non-repeatable way. But I don’t think the flying saucer was a serious part of the original Haight-Ashbury ethos, you know? I think the unicorn and the rainbow, but the flying saucer was a later understanding. It arose in the mid-seventies with the mushrooms. I mean, it would be interesting to trace the evolution of these motifs. You know, the butterfly was in there too as a kind of unconscious understanding of metamorphosis. But what the extraterrestrial theory and the Gaian mind theory are both trying to come to grips with that neither the Freudian nor the Jungian nor the romantic theory needed to take much account of is the presence of the alien mind. What is this?
Well, I’m not sure. I think this is really the question for high-dose trekkies to put to themselves. You know, why is the human mind haunted? This is a way to put it. Why, when we go in there, are there these information-bearing, unbelievably peculiar, familiar-yet-alien hyperdimensional creatures? What are they? You know, several possibilities have been kicked around over the years. Are they a state of human development in the far-flung future that is working with some kind of psychotronic technology to communicate with the ultra-primitives of the twentieth century through some kind of… you know? This is possible, but somewhat labored, I think. Are they extraterrestrials able via, again, some unimaginable psychotronic technology to tear open a mental dimension in which they can communicate with us? Well, I don’t know. Another possibility that has a certain kind of eerie charm is that they are the grateful dead, if you will. They are the dead. It’s interesting how much shamanism worldwide focuses on the notion that shamans come and go from the land of the dead. Is there an ecology of souls in hyperspace that you can perceive for four and a half minutes on DMT and then the barrier between that dimension and this dimension closes over? I confess this idea (maybe because it’s recent) has a certain attraction to me. I know I’m warm when I have the “Oh no, it couldn’t possibly be that” response, which I have very strongly to this idea. It boggles my mind to think that, because it’s heart. Heart, heart, heart, heart, heart. It doesn’t take heart to face the extraterrestrials, you know? You become captain James Kirk of the Enterprise, and you move toward this diplomatic rendezvous. But the idea that it might be your dead family, and that in fact what you are seeing is what you will become, and that in fact this is an intimation of your personal immortality is just, you know, hair-raising!
And as someone pointed out: hair-raising is the quality that Robert Graves associates with the near approach of Leukothéa. Leukothéa is the white goddess. The white goddess is the goddess of death. Many, many people come out of the DMT place and say it feels like death. There’s something about it. Yes, it does. It does. It feels like more than death. It feels—I had this trip recently which really alarmed me. It was… oh wow, there was some kind of compression going on, and this sense of slippage, and I came out in the parlor of my grandfather’s house in a certain sunlit afternoon in 1948. And I was in my child’s body, and I was facing my circus, my little circus of figures that I had. And I had little tigers in cages where, when you move the bars this way it’s a tiger, when you move it this way it’s a lion. And I had all this stuff. And I was there. And then I was there, and it was just freakish beyond belief. And other people have said about DMT that you only have one trip on it, and you go to it again and again, and it’s a stitch in time. It sews it all together and you flow back through these places. But the feeling of… not death, exactly, but just the skewedness of it all, what was happening to time and space and mentality and association and my psychic relationship to all these intervening events—I mean, it felt like time travel. It felt like the real thing. I hate to have it be more real than that.
In contrast to the ordinary DMT flash, where what happens is: you break into this space where these things are that I sort of facetiously call the tykes. The tykes are these child-like self-transforming jeweled basketballs that run around you and jump through you, and are like autonomous portions of the surface of your own psyche or something. I mean, you can’t tell what is going on except that they are offering these things which are like toys or machines. They’re like these Chinese ivory balls that are carved with many levels. And you look at these things, and the immediate emotion is astonishment bordering on heart attack. And then they just take it away and they show you another one. And they’re showing you this stuff and trying to convey something.
Well, after having this experience a number of times I came to the conclusion—which, again, was shocking to me—that this is somebody’s idea of an environment that is reassuring to human beings. This is the equivalent of a playpen where you hang brightly-colored plastic things above the crib so that the baby will hit at them and learn hand and eye coordination. So that, when you come through to this place and there’s the elf hooray, which is the thing that greets you as you come through. There’s this YAAAY! and then they have you, and they say, “Okay, now we have you. Okay, don’t freak out. Don’t be amazed. Pay attention. Look at this! Look at this! Look at this!” And you’re just saying, “What happened? A minute ago I was somewhere, we were talking about a drug, we were thinking of doing it, somebody had a match. Now what is happening?” And they’re saying, “Forget about that. Look at this! Look at this!” And they’re singing in this rhyming language which you see. You do not hear it, you see it. The entire geometry of the space in which you’re in is confirmational syntax that is contorting itself through these fractal regressions. There’s no time, there’s no space, these things keep moving in and out of your body. They keep telling you they love you, they keep telling you to pay attention, to remember, to remember, to remember. And at that point you’re just falling out of it, falling backward. Everything melts, everything collapses, everything turns to slush, it falls away, there’s eidetic revisionism, and you’re….
And then you can’t remember. And you say, “What happened?” You know? What happened? It’s not like being—it’s like being struck by lightning. It’s like what this room would be like if a fighter plane came through the roof. It’s that all hell breaks out for three and a half minutes. And you cannot make any sense whatsoever out of it. You cannot correlate it to a drug. A drug? Are you kidding? The other thing is: it hasn’t affected you. You are yourself. You are saying, you know, “Holy shit! What is this?” You’re not blurred. You don’t have all kinds of problems. But what has happened is the sensory input has gone hyperspatial, one hundred percent just ziiingg, and there you are. And this doesn’t fit into any of these models about the cheerful probing of the layers of the unconscious racial or personal. This is a breakthrough into some kind of parallel continuum, somewhere, somehow, that is so beyond the paradigm of the cheerful men in white coats who run our world that it just absolutely, as I said, makes your hair stand on end.
This is repeatable. I’m not leading a flying saucer cult where we wait in cornfields with high hopes. All you have to do is have the guts to push the button, and the floor you’re sitting on will disappear, and you will fall through into this place. How do they keep the lid on this stuff? This is what lies behind this cheerful historical recitation of argument this morning: that the human world is tangential to some kind of appalling mystery unexpected. Not even clear that this has anything to do with spirit and love and being good or any of that, it’s just some kind of weird thing that our languages, our culture, our religion, our perceptual biases have caused us to not see, not see at all. And so then we’ve constructed a fantasy world, a world based on empiricism, three-dimensional linear rationalism, and above all a world constructed on not getting stoned. They say, you know: just stay away from that! That is the edge of the world. There there be dragons.
They’re right! They’re right! We are no smarter than the people of thirteenth-century Europe who feared to sail west because they knew that the edge of the world lay there. I mean, the edge of our world, the defeat of the scientific paradigm, the absolute confounding of a thousand years of rational philosophy and science is experientially available to every one of us but for flimsy laws! Flimsy laws—again, made by men who wear dresses. Wherever there’s bad stuff being done, these guys wearing dresses are to be found highly active. Why is this? Why is this? The church and the judiciary are, you know, in this weird lock on the evolution of the human mind.
It has to do with new ideas. New ideas are bad news if you’re a control freak. They spell trouble, some kind of trouble. And it doesn’t even matter what kind of new ideas. I mean, to the Roman Catholic church, Protestants loomed like a psychedelic revolution: the notion that people should seek in their own hearts for guidance from God? What kind of heresy is this? This is what we have the church fathers for, this is why we have ecclesiastical counsels, great universities. God’s ways are obscure. The unaided human individual, uneducated, cannot be expected to know God’s ways. We will explain it to you. Well, Protestantism then was the cutting edge of something happening. Now, a somewhat different situation prevails. Each thing becomes its own antithesis. Each thing kills the thing it loves.
So what needs to be central in thinking about this, I think, is how unassimilatable it is, how very, very different it is to be stoned on DMT than it is to be sitting here in a room full of people talking about it. That it’s different, lots different. There’s nothing else in our spectrum of potential experiences that can come close to it.
Well now, DMT is interesting. It occurs in the human brain. Naturally, every single one of us is holding—the law has not yet dealt with this, but the fact of the matter is that we are elaborating DMT in our brains. Why? We don’t know. What does it mean that the most powerful of all hallucinogens occurs naturally in the human brain? What does it mean that the most powerful of all hallucinogens is the shortest acting? Because, you see, speed of recovery is a measure of the toxicity of a drug. A drug or a compound or a plant that you can feel 24 hours or 48 hours later is toxic. That’s what that feeling is. If you have to lie around the day after a trip, this is because there was a trailing toxic edge to whatever you did. DMT, you are returned to the baseline of consciousness within seven to twenty minutes—unfailingly.
Well, this means, then, that the human brain is completely set up to degrade, depotentiate, deanimate, dealkalate this compound and shunt it into harmless byproducts like indoleacetic acid. It means that the brain is familiar with this, has many pathways to deal with it, and can degrade it quickly. So that’s an argument for safety. Well, this is beginning to work us into a corner. Here’s what we’re having to face: that the strongest hallucinogen is the shortest-acting hallucinogen, is the safest hallucinogen, and is the most natural of all hallucinogens. The reasons for not doing it are just disappearing right and left, and yet it remains an absolutely taboo aspect of even the psychedelic culture. Because it succeeds where all else fails. And it raises questions that are not psychological, that are not philosophical.
It seems to imply that our entire model of the world is not slightly flawed, but absolute baloney. That we are living in a dream, we are living in some kind of one-dimensional surface of some hyper-dimensional object, and questions like: is there life after death? Are there extraterrestrial intelligences in the universe? What is the meaning of human history? Who am I? All of this is a product of lower-dimensional language unable to conceive of this object which we are now in a position to explore. This is some kind of thing which we are discovering. It’s so large a discovery that it takes a century or so to even figure out what this is. I mean, while we’re dredging the Bermuda Triangle for flying saucers, while we’re training our radio telescopes on Zeta Reticuli, while we’re doing all this stuff looking for the message, the message is exactly where you would expect to find it: present in the human mind as the transmission of some kind of entity for which the laws of physics and the confines of matter mean nothing. And life and death seem to be nothing.
Two or three centuries ago this would’ve just simply been called God almighty. I don’t know. I don’t think that it is the god that hung the stars like lamps in heaven. That is a very large god. The stars are vast. But something is going on on this planet around the issue of biology. Something has broken through here. Some kind of higher-order organizational process is in play that is larger than the human species, larger than the historical damage we have done to the planet. Something is going on. And I think that we are reaching the cultural stage where, if we can sufficiently decondition, we can understand what it is. It’s something about the biological integrity of the planet and cognition and ourselves as instruments of something that wants to manifest itself through the release of energy and the control of matter in some form. I mean, it’s not clear whether we are preparing to build spacecraft the size of Manhattan that’re going to go off to the stars and win an empire along the Milky Way, and that is our destiny, or whether we can go inward and place our entire world in a single grain of sand and leave that grain of sand on an Indonesian beach somewhere, and just retreat from the planet into some other dimension that we will create. You know, perhaps we can build a module and bury it on the Moon, and then radio transmit ourselves into its interstices and live in a simulacrum of a real world forever as a penance for what we did to the planet.
I mean, these scenarios are endless, because the cultural dimension that opens ahead of us is the imagination. That’s what all this stuff is, that’s where all these things are living. It’s something that we have only a taste of. In terms of imagination, we are living in a one-dimensional world. But the curve of imagination’s ingression into the world of human culture could take a sudden asymptotic—
—vegetable mind is reconnected to the human mind, which then is given the integrity to control the machine mind. Everything epigenetic becomes hardwired, it becomes quasi-genetic. The whole thing is then seen as an expansion of the genetic repertoire by an infusion of epigenetic information. And human beings (as agents in that process) are released into some kind of dimension of their own making.
Culture is a mirror of the mind. To this point it’s been very crude, because to this point we have been very crude, very incapable, only able to do low-definition models of mind. But with psychedelic drugs, with dynamical mathematical theories at the frontiers of mathematics, with very high-speed computational engines, computer graphics—all of this stuff—a mirror of mind is coming to be. Culture is more and more reflecting what we are. We are going to be the horrified witnesses of the revelation of the true nature of the human soul. We are going to find out what everybody else only wondered about, which is: who are we really? What will we do with ourselves when we are freed from the constraints of gravity, energy—and, yes, morality and politics? What are we when we begin to take off our cultural clothing? What kind of world will we build in the pure imagination?
The engineering fantasies of those who would build spacecraft the size of Manhattan, hollow worlds with tilled fields and swaths of rainforests and savanna in their insides, that is the first step. The imaging of the mother world to prove that one cognizes the situation. But human beings are creatures of art, and whether this art is erected in massive structures in orbit around Jupiter or whether it is erected in some kind of fractal and syntactical electronic simulated space that is somehow quantum-mechanically sustained, it doesn’t matter. The point is: the lineaments of the imagination, the projection of human hope and creativity.
And the psychedelics are the way in which this has always been done—up until now unaided. What we know of culture, what we have of culture, has come to us in this way. I mean, without psychedelics we’d still be flipping over cowpaddies on the plains of Africa looking for beetles. What we have been given through this symbiotic relationship is slow but widening access to hyperspace. We call it culture, but we’re having difficulty maintaining the illusion that it’s something we create as it moves faster and faster clearly of its own accord.
Something is loose on the surface of this planet that replicates information—that replicates it first genetically, then epigenetically through codes and signaling systems and languages. This thing is striving for some kind of self-reflection, some kind of self-definition. The motion of the continents are its playthings. The volcanism of the mid-Atlantic trench is a part of its breathing life. And we have been called forth into this process as catalysts of something. In the same way that you use bacteria to concentrate gold in the process of mining very gold-poor ore, the Earth is using a higher primate species to concentrate information, to concentrate symbolic structure in a part of the environment. Bees gather honey, human beings concentrate and gather and elaborate symbolic structures.
Why? We don’t know why, except that when we look into the psychedelic dimension there seems to be this sense of a process: that the Earth is not devoid of teleology, that there is some kind of purpose. Something is being maximized and great chances are being taken in order that this process of maximization be allowed to continue. History is, after all, it’s like an epilectic fit on the geological scale. I mean, you just fall down and kick around, and then you die—or you don’t; you get up and you feel better. And this is the dilemma that we confront. We are in a 10,000-year fit of informational excrescence, code-transfer, syntactical elaboration. Everything is feeding back into everything else.
Some kind of super-autocatalytic hypercycle is taking place in the realm of information leading toward what I call the transcendental object at the end of history. That in this higher-dimensional space is the completion of this process as a kind of platonic fait accompli. And it is casting a lower-dimensional shadow into process. In other words, history is the shockwave of some kind of eschatology. The presence of history is this very transient phenomena that occurs immediately surrounding the ingression of the transcendental object into ordinary spacetime.
And we sense this thing. It drives our religions, it fills our psychedelic visions, it inspires our messiahs—all of them. Because what people do is: they section the cone, they section the hyper-dimensional object with the language skills of their historical time and place, and then they come back with a story about what it is. Buddha says it’s this, Mohammed says this, Christ says this. These are lower-dimensional slices of this transcendental object at the end of history.
What it is cannot be known. It exceeds description. It is trans-linguistic. It is the confounding of language. And yet, language—in an effort to describe it—seeks greater and greater differentiation, greater and greater approximation to this object. So that, then, technological innovation, religious ontology, outbursts of poetry, painting, dynamic personalities—all of these processes are lower-dimensional slices, lower-dimensional processes, driven by the presence of this transcendental object.
So then, what shamanism is, is leaving the plane: leaving the plane and grokking this higher-dimensional mapping of what we call the here and now. And then you see into it to as great a degree as you can assimilate, to as great a degree as you can create the language for it. And that’s why it’s pressure on language, why the memes have to be artificially constructed, why I push with concepts like self-transforming machine elves, you know? That’s a chunk of the place. We get it out over here, and we let it go and watch it dance around, and we all like it. So we remember it. If the simile is too outlandish it will be forgotten, and then it goes back to that other place. So the effort is to sort of try and burst the dam of hyper-dimensional language. This is another way of thinking of the transcendental object.
You see, the notion is a simple one. It’s that if the word can be made flesh, the flesh can be made word. That’s it. That there is some kind of emanation into phenomenal existence. The word becomes flesh. There are the declensions of being that you get in Hindu philosophy, and the tattvas, and all of this stuff—the big bang, the condensation, the appearance of phenomenal beings, a phenomenal existence. And then the appearance of self-reflecting consciousness which constitutes the turning point. And then the epigenetic coding begins of what has previously been genetic, and everything begins to funnel toward this teleological Omega Point. And a few tens of thousands of years before the Omega Point is reached there is a stirring in the primates. They feel the eerie nearness of the Thing. And this eerie feeling of nearness of the Other slowly acts as a vector on the animal mind and points it toward the transcendence. And sexuality, and the hallucinogenic plants, and all this stuff feed into this thing, and we begin the quest. We don’t even know that we’ve begun the quest, but the disruption of the unquestioning animal here-and-now-ness is finished. That’s over. And the itch must be scratched. The restlessness comes in. We begin to elaborate culture. Certain things please us, certain things do not. We begin to have a notion of an ideal. We don’t know where this notion of an ideal comes from. Well, it’s coming from this intuited higher-dimensional mapping of this object which is acting like an enormous attractor, throwing out a field of attraction that reaches out a million years and begins to pull us toward it.
And now we’re very near this thing. The whole last thousand years has been just a flirtation with this wild dance with the coming and going of the mystery. I mean, people throw up Gothic cathedrals, then they tear them down, then they have alchemy, then science trashes that. All of this stuff, this frantic elaboration of ideas, indicates that we are now in the ineluctable and unbreakable grip of this huge attractor. And as it pulls us toward it it compresses information, it compresses the phenomenon of culture, it speeds things up. You see, history is a kind of psychedelic trip. that’s what it is. It’s the big trip. And what we’re approaching is the place where the previous structures that have been able to maintain a metaphor as the pressure of this thing built in the collective psyche are going to suffer meltdown, and we’re just going to have to admit: yes, the Earth has been invaded by archangels. Pentagon sources now confirm it’s the end of the world, basically. But the world that ends is this lower-dimensional slice. Somehow there is a subsuming into this higher-dimensional object. All time on this planet flows toward this one point.
This is, I grant you, a peculiar idea. But to show you how language, culture, and media work on ideas to make something seem odd or ordinary, let’s look at the ordinary version of reality that straight people profess. Straight people believe—white, Anglo-Saxon, well-educated, science types—believe that the universe began with what is called the Big Bang. What this is, is: you are asked to believe that the entire universe sprang from nothing in a single instant. This is the scientific explanation of where the universe came from. It sprang from nothing in a single instant, and was originally an object so dense that it was smaller than the inner orbit of the electron around an atomic nucleus. And out of that eentsy-beentsy, very highly energetic, extremely heavy—I mean, in other words, this has got to be a fairy tale. I mean, if you can’t prove it, it certainly is a fairy tale. It just piles one preposterous notion on another in an effort to solve all intellectual problems in one stroke of suspension of disbelief.
Well, what I’m proposing is also a singularity; a singularity where everything is pulled into a kind of ultimately complexified, super-dense state of connectedness. But the singularity that I propose emerges out of a very complex situation, i. e. the evolving cosmos as we know it—which, as we see, has many states of chemistry, energy levels ranging from that of quasar to flashlight battery, so forth and so on. It seems more likely to me that a singularity would emerge out of a background of complex event systems than that a singularity would emerge out of absolute primal nothingness. And so when you look at these two theories, you know, you can pick whichever one suits your aesthetic. But the notion that one is preposterous and the other the stuff of reason and empiricism is just nonsense. At every end of the scale we are surrounded by myth.
And so I think that this kind of a singularity solves a lot of problems for us. It explains the evolutionary thrust of development on this planet, it locates human history in nature as a force that has been called out of nature by natural processes on the planet, it reassigns human beings a role in the unfolding of the planet other than its simple flat-out rape and destruction, and it places ahead of us an object of hope. Because the transcendental object that is doing this is pleasant to experience. I mean, I don’t want to make a moral judgment on it, but it is god’s love or something like that. It is real. And I think this is what history moves toward. This is the intuition of religion that is so severely flawed and compromised by the limitations of religions and the deals that it cuts.
Well, maybe we should stop for a couple of minutes and stretch, and then have questions.
—doesn’t make sense to do, it doesn’t make sense, period, probably. So are there questions, comments, clarification? Yes?
I wanted to ask you on your DMT experience [???] the way you were describing it, it sounded as if other people had experienced similar types of beings as you have, or [???]
No, I would say I get pretty good results. Of the people I have been able to turn on, I would say half get elves and entities. I don’t take responsibility—you can’t know what’s going on. I mean, people botch it. They don’t do enough, they do it on grass, it wasn’t made right, all these parameters. But people that I’ve been able to satisfy myself that it was done right, about half get it. And not everyone gets it as strongly. It seems to be a kind of archetype through which you cut deeper and deeper, and the deeper you go the stranger it gets, but it keeps its character.
For instance, I saw one woman take DMT, and it looked to me like a sub-threshold dose. It looked to me like an insufficient dose. One way that you can tell that people are in fact getting a sufficient dose is that there will be rapid eye movement under the eyelids. It’s because they’re watching all this crazy stuff. If you don’t see their rapid eye movement happening, then you have reason to wonder if they actually did enough. Well, so I didn’t think this woman got quite enough. So she came down and she said, “It was the saddest carnival in the world.” It was a sad carnival. And it’s the circus. It has something to do with the circus. The circus is the archetype of DMT. What do we have in the circus? Well, we have lions and tigers, and beautiful women, and slapstick comedy. But an aura of darkness. I mean, the circus, if any of you have seen Les Enfants du Paradis—in fact, I’ve had LSD trips which were entirely about that movie, and replaying it in my head and trying to understand it—the archetype of the circus. This is why Fellini uses this. God, there are scenes in Giulietta degli spiriti where she opens the triangular door and the burning bed is there. I mean, these scenes are drenched with this tryptamine kind of consciousness.
Other people say of DMT there are clowns; it’s about clowns. Well, these are progressive approaches to the self-transforming machine elves. Maybe I’ve done it more, or maybe I just have some power of observation, but I saw behind the mask of the clown and behind the mask of the meme and behind the mask of the marionette and behind the robot mask to more of what I feel must be the essence of the thing, because it was more replete with strangeness. It was more like, you know, “We’re letting you see. We’re lifting the veil.” So the circus. Does that do it for you?
What about the relationship between mushrooms and DMT?
High-dose mushroom psilocybin is 5-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine. DMT is N,N-dimethyltryptamine. I’m not saying that psilocybin becomes DMT as it crosses the blood-brain barrier. There seems to be a problem there which Shulgin explained to me, but I didn’t quite understand it. But it’s something very, very close to DMT. And at the peak of a high-dose mushroom trip you can come into a place where you say, “I cannot tell the difference. This looks like DMT to me for sure.” But instead of it appearing with crackling immediacy fifteen seconds after you lay down the pipe, you work your way there over an hour and a half with breath control in absolute silent darkness. Ayahuasca, same thing. Ayahuasca, sufficiently pushed, will usher into this place that is snap-crackle-pop land, you know? I mean, just that electric immediacy. But these are high doses.
What would you say are higher doses of mushroom?
Five grams and up. Five dried grams and up.
I feel that if you take more than ten grams, your powers of reportage will be damaged and you’re useless to the rest of us. So I don’t advocate more than that. Ten grams is a hell of a wallop. I mean, I don’t advocate that—only if you’ve taken five and were bored to death, you know? But it’s not about just how much can you bolt down. I mean, a friend of mine says his goal with mushrooms each time he takes them is to stand more of it. And you can have this relationship to it, because it does veil itself. If all you can handle are leprechauns, it won’t push too far beyond that. But if it pours on leprechauns and you scream for more, it can get rid of leprechauns and give you more. I mean, I have had conversations with it where I would say, “Okay, we’ve been looking at Baroque altarpieces, or we’ve been looking at Kandinsky’s later period.” The mushroom and I; it’s showing me this stuff. And so then I say, “Well, what turns you on? Be a bit more yourself.” Well, god, then it just begins to migrate. And I say, “Okay, that’s enough more yourself.” Because requested to reveal its inner nature, it will begin to do so until you just say, you know, “I’m a human being, stop that! This is as much as I feel capable of handling of your self image.”
[???] directly related to [???] sphere?
I—yes. This transcendental object probably is more like a being than an object. I just call it a transcendental object to keep those issues out of it when we try and think of it as an attractor. No, it’s a mind. It’s an organizing entelechy. It is the mind. It’s probably—the mind that you call “your” mind is probably a small chunk of this mind. Yes. When you go into these high-dose places you are seeing a local map of this thing toward which all creation moves—at least this is my take on it.
How do you feel emotionally about that?
When you see the transcendental object? Well, it makes you weep. I mean, it just dissolves you emotionally. It is the peace which passeth understanding. This is the burning bush. This is, yes, grace. This is descent of the holy spirit. It’s all of those things. It’s tremendously emotionally touching, because there is an absolute confirmation of unity, you know? And also, you are seeing it. You are confirming that it exists. I mean, your whole being is thrilled. You say: it exists! It exists! It’s not a matter of conjecture or faith. It exists! This is very close to the religious ecstasis of Mother Teresa or Hildegard of Bingen or Meister Eckhart or Thomas Traherne, or any of those folks, except that they were apparently exceptional personalities who achieved this after tremendous self-discipline and acts of great spiritual control.
It’s a birthright, though. Why should it be restricted to mystics? It belongs to all of us. It is an essential part of yourself. You would no more want to miss out on this than you would want to miss out on sex or ice cream or anything that makes life worth living. This informs and empowers and enriches existence. The twentieth century model is that life is a desert. You know, Man has abandoned by god, life is a desert, all ethics are provisional, all values are culture-bound. Just bum, bum, bum, bum, rap. This is the modern situation. Everything is completely disensouled and dead and pointless, and then you discover that this is just a condition of cultural ennui, a state of mind that the mystery is a right. And I don’t think it’s something to be done once or twice in a lifetime. I don’t think we should run it into the ground. I think every time you take a psychedelic you should take enough that it frightens you; that you should never grow confident in its presence—it will destroy you. That is the one thing it will not tolerate, is cockiness. I mean, it just takes that—funny word, huh?—it just takes that and will not put up with it.Because it’s a sin against the goddess, obviously. It’s the sin of hubris. It’s the sin of pride.
You were going to talk about the dangers [???]
The danger. Well, the drugs I advocate I regard as not dangerous unless recklessly used. Psychedelics are not dangerous. We’d love to convince ourselves they were dangerous. Then there would be no reason to take them. The danger, to my mind, is—and this is my personal opinion, and you now come up against who I am and my hangups—what I always fear is madness, not death. Death probably wouldn’t hurt my reputation at all. But madness… madness would be a disgrace! An embarrassment. Yes, how embarrassing! But I think you should gain confidence and do it with a sitter. I don’t like the term “guide,” because these guides know nothing. But a sitter is somebody who’s together enough to call an ambulance or just calm you down, basically.
Somebody told me a wonderful story which you should know, because you might draw comfort from it. This guy was pretty experienced. He’d taken fairly high doses of mushrooms before, and he took a six-gram dose on a Saturday evening in his apartment in L.A. And this heart thing began to develop that he identified as a fibrillation or something. So he tried to hold it back and keep not noticing, and it kept getting stronger and stronger. It never lets you do that, by the way—the not noticing. It’s a paradox. You didn’t take this to not notice. So eventually he becomes thoroughly alarmed and he tries to call a couple of his friends. Well, it’s Saturday night; nobody’s home. So then, just this tremendous sense of abandonment settles over this guy. His friends aren’t there when he needs them, he’s going to die here in his apartment and be found days later, so forth and so on. And he gets this ball rolling, see? So finally he despairs. He’s a psychotherapist, an M.D., blah, blah, everything. He despairs. He calls 9-1-1. So they come, they get him, they rush him to the hospital, they put him in a ward. And by the time all this has happened and he’s gotten all this attention—and probably a little Seconal—he’s feeling pretty good about it all. So then he says to the guy on duty, “I feel like I have to tell you: I took psilocybin mushrooms. Do you think that that brought this on?” And the guy said, “No, you had an anxiety attack. We get people with this all the time. I don’t know anything about psychedelic drugs.”
So, you know, it isn’t the drug you have to worry about, it’s yourself. You have to discipline your hind brain. You have to be able to say: “Listen: shut up! We’re going to come through this. Just shut up about it!” Because it’s saying, “But don’t you think we should call somebody, and… uh…,” You know? We shouldn’t treat it with such levity, because it is a serious issue. I mean, I’ve been in many circumstances where vital signs seemed to have fallen so low in my own perception that I just was saying to myself, “Keep breathing. Keep looking. Keep breathing. Keep looking.” And I felt that I was in a submarine five and a half miles down. “Easy does it through here. Breath. Attention. Breath. Attention.” Because you have the feeling that if you don’t keep your attention on your breath you will simply stop breathing.
Well, now, it’s interesting. People who don’t worry much about psychedelics, you tell them a story like that and they say, “Well, isn’t that the bit that you take these drugs and you think you’re dying, and then you get straight, and then you don’t die, and then you’re really happy? Isn’t that what it’s supposed to do? I thought that’s what it was about.” Well, in fact, if you go back into the literature, in the 1960s, The Tibetan Book of the Dead crowd was saying you will be flung from hell to paradise and back again on about a forty-minute schedule for several hours. And they prepared themselves for these bad trip situations by anticipating it. And I don’t really think there’s that much to it. I think your mind is very fragile in that state, and a bad thought quickly becomes a cascade, and you have to know how to stop these cascades. A very practical technique that I use is: I take a hit of cannabis, because that seems to shake up the deck again. So if I’m having these visions, and it’s orchids and ruins and machines, and I’m grooving this, and then suddenly it becomes about meat and surgery and excrement and this and that, and then I just say, “It’s time for a J!” Now, Stan Grof would say you should go through these things and that this is important for your process, but I’m squeamish and enjoy steering it.
Also, it’s good to be informed—to know when you get in there: how dangerous is this drug and how much did I take? And if you know that you took fifteen milligrams of psilocybin, and you know that the LD50 of psilocybin is some astronomical figure, well then you can tell yourself this cheerful little story about how you can’t possibly die because you took so little. But the main thing is: it teaches you discipline. And thinking you’re going to die, at least for me, is not all that rare. I mean, if somebody invites me to go sailing with them on the bay on a Sunday afternoon, at least twice in the afternoon I will sign off completely and just assume that’s it, you know? Maybe I’m a little paranoid, or maybe I have crazy friends.
Terence, we were talking about extending the feeling, the connection that you have, during the trip, and straight life. I’m not verbalizing this very well, but do you feel that after years of experiencing psilocybin that you can touch that feeling at straight times? You can [???], you can get the information?
Well, I can’t hear the lógos in the sense—well, not always—but I can invoke it. I mean, I have a sense of it. It’s where I talk from. But my public career gives me so much permission to spend time with this stuff. And I think about it all the time. I mean, I image everything. It’s just cognitive activity, is all that the psychedelic experience is. It’s accelerated cognitive activity. So if you run around—I urge people to think. It’s sort of an anti-several-other-positions position. But I think it’s good to think. I don’t preach stilling the mind or any of that stuff. I think that the glory of human beings is cognition, and that if you paint, if you sculpt, if you write, if you sing, if you dance, if you weave, if you act, if you cook—whatever we do, cognition can follow through it. And that what psychedelics lead to is appropriate activity. Appropriate activity is the way to be straight with the psychedelic vision. Do what is appropriate and it will resonate with the vision. Because the vision is a vision of what is appropriate. And then, if you have to do terribly inappropriate things—you know, if you contact the lógos on Saturday night and go back to designing the stealth bomber on Monday morning, it’s going to be difficult to act psychedelically because that is not appropriate behavior. Appropriate behavior is a self-explanatory concept. Everybody knows what that is.
Yes, you had a question?
Ram Dass talks about his gurus, like in India, like, taking ten times the dose of LSD that normally [???] as if the thought being that they’re always being in that state. What do you feel about that?
No, the thought is that they will never attain this state.
Well, by being beastly little priesties, basically. No, I mean… I regard all organized religion as a plot against free thought. Because, you see, everything in the world seeks to disempower direct experience, and that is obscene. We mustn’t let that happen. So these people who have techniques and lineages and ashrams and all of this stuff—the first million years of religion was psychedelic. And then, when these dominator societies got going, they said, “Well, we need religion. But we need religion at fifteen percent power. These orgies bust up the community rhythm. Nobody wants to get up in the morning to go hoe the fields.” Suddenly, not psychedelic plants but agriculture—corn, Tammuz—all of this comes into play. Food plants gain importance in agriculture. It’s really the nomadic pastoralists and the hunter-gatherers who seem to be able to sustain the psychedelic lifestyle.
Your question touches on this issue that always comes up in these things: is there another way to get there, and is this the same thing that the geishas and roshis and rishis and gurus and babajis are talking about? I’ve spent a lot of time on this question and I can’t yet convince myself that it’s the same thing. They betray themselves. They’re too blasé. This is the problem with all of these other paths. They don’t raise their voice to tell you how weird it is. I mean, I’ve never heard someone say about yoga, “This is really weird. Do this and you will feel weird, and you’ll see weird things, and bizarre thoughts….” No, they say, “Do this and energy will rise.” The thing which pervades the psychedelic experience is this sense of weird, sense of closeness to a bizarre secret of some sort. I don’t even claim that the psychedelic experience should be put on the spectrum of spiritual experience; somewhere between moral rectitude and Buddha. You may be able to pass from moral rectitude to Buddha and never get near the psychedelic experience. That’s one of the reasons Flattery’s book about haoma is so fascinating, because he makes the point about Iranian religion that it’s thoroughly matter-of-fact about this other dimension. It doesn’t call it higher or lower, it doesn’t say you’re a better person if you can go there, it just says that it’s there. And that, to me, is more characteristic of the psychedelic approach.
I’m puzzled by the relationship to moral goodness and to spiritual advancement that the psychedelic experience has. It does seem to bring to the people who immersed themselves in it—like the shamans of the Amazon—a certain kind of moral suasion. They’re impressive personalities. The good ones won’t screw you, the bad ones will. But once you find a good one and follow him around for a few months or so, you become quite convinced that this guy is a morally superior human being. In all of his dealings with people this guy doesn’t lose the thread. He acts from a very real place.
But I think just in the presence of so much transcendental wonder one is inspired to try and get one’s act together. And also, I think that if you are a “bad person,” your unconscious mind will attack you in the psychedelic state. This is why these certain kinds of personalities know instinctively that they shouldn’t get near it. And so they stay away from it. It doesn’t mean that if you take this stuff you’re a great person, all it means that you can put up with what a bum you are when seen through that lens. In other words, I mean, it humbles everybody. It really rubs your nose in it. And it doesn’t let you escape. And if you’re willing to put up with that, then there’s also riches. But I don’t think any technique or any religious ontology is in possession of a technique that can carry us anywhere close to this place. If they could we would know about it.
In the back, yeah.
Thanks Terence. Do you have any ideas about other forms of life being sensitive to the same sort of realm that you describe from the human standpoint? Say, for instance, insects or other beings?
Well, insects are bizarre, especially social insects. And trying to imagine, in a way, a social insect hive is a kind of living brain. I mean, it is a loosely pheromonally connected nervous system that can have millions of individuals in it. As far as speculating—I mean, if the depths of the human mind are unrecognizable to me, I don’t know what I would make of the ontology of a termite hive.
You mean these forms of animal awareness? I don’t know. I think that there’s some premium—you have to be able to freely code. Now, certain animals can freely code to a degree. Then we have to define freedom. Monkeys have a degree of freedom in their coding. The octopi have a greater freedom in coding than almost any other species. And you’ve probably heard me talk about octopi as an example in nature of a visibly beheld linguistic modality. Because octopi communicate their internal states by changing the colors and the surfaces and the display of their skin. So that, in a sense, the surface of an octopus is what it’s thinking. It is a visual manifestation of its internal processes. Its thoughts appear as pictures on its skin, which other octopi can read. Now, this is a form of free coding that approaches or exceeds our own, and in fact might provide a model for future evolutionary evolutionary developments in human language. I’ll talk more about that, since on the face of it it’s a puzzling statement.
Why don’t we knock off for today, and if anybody needs any of this we can help them out. It’s ten of six. We’ll meet here at eight o’clock tonight.
Time Wave Tutorial
Saturday Evening, June 24, 1989
Many times today I’ve used this metaphor about lower-level languages mapping higher-dimensional spaces. Well, one of the approaches that has driven me and my involvement with psychedelics is the belief that this is a domain of ideas, and so it’s very important to me to try and bring something out of those spaces. And I think in the way that every Jungian patient is supposed to be able to produce a mandala accompanying the individuation process, in the same way every psychedelic voyager who keeps their wits about them should be able to produce a map or a sketch or a diagram of the territory. Well, this—which I’ve been working on since 1971—is the most original part of my thing, and so I’m sort of shy about absolutely laying it on you because it’s also, in some sense, the most demanding part of my rap intellectually. I mean, you just have to pay attention and be smart to start with for this to, I think, make sense in the time we have available. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a whirl.
The notion is generally this: that there is a quality in the world that has previously been left unnoticed and undescribed, especially by science. Science is interested in spin, velocity, momentum, charge, so forth, but a fundamental aspect of reality has been ignored. And I call this fundamental aspect novelty, after Alfred North Whitehead’s metaphysics as set forth in Process And Reality. Novelty—another way of thinking of it is density of connectedness. And what is being said by this idea is that density of connectedness, or novelty, comes and goes in all situations. It’s an ebb and a flow of probability, if you want to think of it that way. In other words, that time is not simply a dimension of pure duration, as Newton thought, but that time is actually a topological manifold over which events meander as they find their way to lower energy gradients or more novel states of organization.
And this fairly abstract idea I have been able to construe into a formal notion. Formal notion means: mathematically formal; that, if anything, what this idea suffers from is being not too abstruse, but too concrete. And it is the notion that density of connectedness, novelty, is something which the universe over long periods of time conserves, but that over short periods of time it appears to be in a state of flux. So that there is more and more of it as you approach the present moment in time in the life of the universe. There wasn’t very much novelty immediately after the Big Bang, there was only the chemistry of pure plasmas. Then, with cooling, more organization. Further cooling, more organization. I mentioned this the first night, but I didn’t explicitly connect it to this idea.
Well, this is a mathematical idea. It emerges out of the I Ching, which might seem an unlikely place to seek for a datafield from which to launch an empirical description of nature. But I submit that it isn’t, because what the I Ching (properly understood) represents is a kind of understanding of time based on the evolution of a cultural worldview within a completely different linguistic Venn than our own—an understanding of time, the subtleness and sophistication of which exceeds our own. And what the basic idea of the I Ching is—well, first of all, let me review for anybody who doesn’t have in hand the fundamentals.
The I Ching is a Chinese system of divination of great age. It uses 64 ideograms which are called hexagrams, and they are composed of six levels of broken or unbroken lines. The sum-total of this set of six levels, broken, unbroken, is 64. These 64 ideograms are felt to be symbolic of states of change. And then there are various ways of consulting this as an oracle, and a lot of Chinese philosophical speculation has gone into it, and so forth and so on.
My idea was that the I Ching is a piece of broken machinery; that even as we inherit it at the earliest strata of commentary (which is the early Han dynasty) that it is a broken piece of machinery. The simple coin-tossing oracle or yarrow stalk oracle that has been used throughout the historical life of China is a late and syncretic adaptation to the I Ching. What it was before the Han dynasty, I believe, was a kind of perfected philosophical-mathematical system for understanding time, understanding the ebb and flow of this quality which we’re calling novelty.
Well, you may recall there is this notion in Eastern thought of Tao. Tao is the ebb and flow of some kind of informing spirit which makes things happen or holds them back according to the mysterious inner workings of its laws. So in a way what this is, is: this is an effort to mathematically model Tao, to take the statements about Tao contained in, for example, the Tao Te Ching, and to take them as mathematical axioms and then see what kind of a system you get if you carry through with this research. For instance, the Tao Te Ching opens with the words, “The Way that can be told of is not an unvarying way,” in the Wei Li translation. Okay, if the Way that can be told of is not an unvarying way, then the Way that can be told of is a varying way. It means it’s a wave of some sort. It’s describing a stream of variables, so forth and so on.
Well, by conserving the intent of these statements about Tao, and by studying the internal mathematics that operate inside the King Wen sequence—and inside that sentence is an hour of excruciating explanation which you will be spared—by doing this I was able to construe what I at first took to be a calendar. I thought that I was in the process of discovering some kind of Neolithic lunar calendar. But then further reflection led me to realize that what was happening for me was the answer to my prayers. And that an idea—over months, over years—encountered in dreams and vision and so forth was slowly surfacing, like being born in my awareness, and that it was—well, as a proud parent I almost said “perfect.” No. It was elegant. Elegant. It was this peculiar elegant idea that, though its outlines were completely unexpected to me, it had the curious quality of answering a lot of my questions.
And so what it is—and I’ll show it to you in a minute—is: it’s the idea that a way to model Tao, a way to model the flux of novelty in the world, is to treat it as a fractal waveform, to write an equation for a recursive fractal curve with certain qualities which, when placed against the historical records, will confirm its accuracy by giving a map of the vicissitudes of historical development in time. See what I mean? And this wave will have the present positioned in it at some point. And that means that at all points to the left of that point will be data points in the future. So this is not only a theory of history—time which has undergone what Whitehead calls the formality of actually occurring—but it is also a theory of the future: time which has not yet undergone the formality of occurring.
Well, there are different ways to try and convince somebody that this notion is true or has a chance of a snowball in hell of being true. And I’m not going to argue from the I Ching or from the elegance of construction this evening. Instead, I’m going to try and demonstrate its application to modeling history. You see, if we take seriously the notion of mathematical modeling of processes—and this is what chaos theory, dynamics, catastrophe theory, all these things which I recognize as psychedelic domains—this is what they’re interested in. Well, if you really believe you have a model of process, then you have to model human history.
Now, there’s a problem here that we should deal with right off the bat, which is: if you have a wave-mechanical theory of time, then a wave is a phenomenon in time of ebb and flow of amplitude that comes to an end. In other words, all waves have what is called a wavelength, and on the largest level this wave is what’s called a soliton, meaning it has only one energy crest in it. So you have to assign an end to the wave, and the way in which you choose the end date for the wave is by fitting historical data against the wave in an effort to see if the historical data, where the clots of novelty occur, occur in the low spots of the wave. If you get it so it fits perfectly, then you just simply look at the end of the wave and see what the end date is, and you know then what the end date is.
When we did that, the end date emerges as startlingly close. And this is the part of the theory that defies the momentum of reason. It’s that, for it to work, it seems to imply that the emergence of the transcendental object out of hyperspace and into three-dimensional history has to happen somewhere around 2012—specifically, December 22nd, 2012. So, having told you the hardest thing you have to swallow about this, let’s now take a look at it.
Now, the way the game is played, this is software called Time Wave Zero, and it’s like a microscope or a telescope. It allows us to look at the wave against any timescale. So if, for instance, we find that we have among ourselves a prominent historian of the late Roman period, we can throw the late Roman period up on the screen with the waveform equation for novelty solved, and then interview our expert about whether it fits his intuition of when the important turning points, high points, and low points of the late Roman period were. Now, we have to specify certain parameters. One is: how much time are we going to see on the screen? We can see as much as 135,000 years on one screen, or we can see as little as three days. I’ve chosen 50,000 years, and I’ve chosen a zero date, as I told you, of December 22, 2012. And there’s a little pointer that points at what is called the date of interest. And just for whimsy’s sake, I have chosen as the date of interest today.
So then, when the program is activated, an excruciating set of arithmetic computation swings into action. And it used to take me a day to make one of these screens, and it involves thousands of calculations—any one of which if you botch, then you skew the whole thing. So in spite of the fact that this takes quite a while, it ain’t nothin’ like the old days, lemme tell you! What it’s telling us in the upper corner there is that 51.67 millennia are on the screen. The zero date is 12/22/2012, and this is the wave. Ignore the bi-coloration, that’s something having to do with the transfer to the monitor.
Okay. Now, how do we interpret this wave? What are we looking at here? Okay, what we’re looking at is a picture of the ebb and flow of novelty over time. When the wave moves downwards, novelty is increasing. When the wave moves upward, toward the top of the screen, the counterflow to novelty (which Rupert Sheldrake suggested to me I call “habit”), habit, is increasing—or entropy, or disconnectedness, or recidivist or conservative tendencies. So this is a push-pull theory of an underlying wave of Tao that distorts ordinary probabilities either toward the novel or away from the novel depending on temporal variables. See? Temporal variables: something which was always excluded from science.
Okay. So how do I interpret this thing in terms of depicting the career of novelty? The purple line points at today. And clear over here it’s 45,000, nearly 50,000 years ago. Now, this first steep decline into novelty has—first of all, these dates are very broadly determined for things so far back. But this is thought to be the height of the Neanderthal radiation; the fire-using, tool-using species that preceded us. Then this second, deeper stab into novelty that’s quite extreme here occurred about 35,000 years ago. This accords very well with the current estimates of where language emergence seems to have taken place. And, as you see, a very deep level of novelty was probed in the aftermath of whatever this breakthrough was.
Then there was again a recidivist, conservative movement. And then up here, at about 18,000—and what this is, friends, and what this is too, are glaciations: highly punctated movement of ice southward from the poles of the planet, freezing out the migratory access of Africa to the ancient Middle East, because these glaciers came as far south as Sidon in Lebanon. So these glaciations show as highly punctated negative or anti-novel episodes in the situation. What happens here at 18,000 B.P. is what’s called the Magdalenian Revolution. It is the invention of bone antler technology, the cave paintings as Lascaux and Altamira, the sudden proliferation of religion, artistic forms, painting, so forth and so on.
Well now, with one command we can slash the screen in half and explode the data. And it won’t be dramatic at this point, but notice that the end point is retreating slightly from the other side. So what we’re going to be seeing now is more data about less time as we zero in on the present. In a sense, we’re looking at frames of a movie as we fly closer and closer toward the present symbolized as a kind of fractally expanding landscape beneath us. Okay, 25,000 years ago, there’s the Magdalenian Revolution. That’s Çatalhöyük. The pyramids are there. This… okay. Here’s what we’ve got. This is this Magdalenian thing, where art, religion, so forth and so on. Then there’s a carrying capacity problem. This is this desertification thing that I’m talking about. The partnership paradise is down in here, on that saw-toothed edge. That’s where the symbiotic relationship with the mushrooms first comes into being. This is where all these forms related to partnership society that have been accumulating in the primate adaptation to the mushrooms and so forth and so on are all brought together. This is where hunting and gathering turns into pastoralism, so forth and so on. Then dryness in the Sahara. Cultural disruption. Migration. Then the Çatalhöyük episode. I talked about Çatalhöyük earlier today; this premature burst of complexity and brilliance. Now, with 13,000 years on the scale, you can see how sharply the theory kicks it up.
Now, do you understand that what’s happening is that this wave is—in my opinion, and you are to judge each yourself—this wave appears to be giving an accurate description of the ebb and flow of novelty into the human world on a scale of millennia. But yet, this wave is a mathematical object elaborated by myself out of the I Ching. In other words, there is no logical reason why there should be this correspondence, and yet there is. I am suggesting that it’s because there is a correspondence between our intellectual organization and the organization of the syntax of our languages, a correspondence with what we call the outer world of space and time, and that this is scripted in at a fairly profound level.
Okay. Here is the breakup of Eden, the dryness. Then the Çatalhöyük deep penetration here. Its destruction by the dominator culture that came south is indicated by this upward swing of this thing. And then, on this descending slope here, you get the great civilizations of early human history. In descending order, from the top of that little spike down to the bottom, you get: Sumer, Ur, Chaldea, Babylon, and Egypt. Egypt is right in the bottom of this trough, okay?
So what this screen is showing is that all time since the pyramids were built—and I, by the way, don’t use diddled dating, I use real dates. The pyramids were built in 2790 B.C. Sorry, Atlantis fans! So you see that all time since the building of the great pyramid is represented by this little sweep up, and this little sweep down, and then a little choppiness at the end. And remember, the purple line is pointing at today. This is 13,000 years.
Here’s half that. Now see, we’re getting closer and closer to epochs of historical time about which we have considerable amounts of data. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about when language appeared, but we’re pulling even here with periods of time where we have dense amounts of historical data. And we’re going to go right up into the twentieth century with this process. To my mind, this is what an extraterrestrial or hyperdimensional being would communicate. This is a hyperdimensional map of the world. It’s somebody’s way of saying hi, you know? I mean, a very complex somebody, but nevertheless it’s somebody’s way of saying hi.
Okay. I love this screen. I call this particular place in the wave history’s fractal mountain. And I may call this book I want to write about this “History’s Fractal Mountain.” You’re looking at it. Beyond Mt. Analog, this is a mountain to set your sights on climbing. The great pyramid is right down here. We are here. Okay, what’s here? Homer. Homer is at the top of history’s fractal mountain. In other words, 11,000 B.C. Okay, what was the primary turning point there? What happened there that changed this upswing that is characterized by Assyria, the Hittites, the Mitanni, all these wheel-chariot, more and more warlike, more and more kingship—and even at that, looking back enviously at the grandeur that had been Egypt, what changed up here? Well, it was the Mycenaean pirates laying siege to an opium-addicted, late Minoan civilization, and conquering it and beginning to import into Greek religion the ecstatic, mysterious, mother-based mysteries that become the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis and the other Greek mysteries. In other words, as we’ve always been taught, the Greeks were the key. And this certainly confirms nineteenth-century thinking on that: that the Greeks broke through to something. I mean, we might speculate what it was. I think it was realism; that, you know, if you’ve ever seen the marbles that are displayed in the museum at the Parthenon, you realize this is different than masks and this is different—these people wanted to make marble into flesh. They had an aesthetic that is exactly, so far as we can tell, like the highest expression of our own.
Okay, so then there’s this turning point. Then there’s a steep descent into novelty on the slope of this thing at the Greek renaissance; the renaissance that included Plato. And this is not, let me say, Indo-European specific. At the very same moment that Plato was teaching in Athens, Ezekiel was active in Israel, Mencius and Lao Tzu were active in China. This was a moment of tremendous creativity. Well then, notice that down here, from about 500 A.D., there’s been a different kind of time. Oscillation around a meme very close to—recall that when the line moves down novelty is increasing. So since 500 A.D. there has been oscillation around a meme very close to the maxima of novelty. And I maintain that this explains, to some degree, the obsessive, haunted, neurotic character of civilization since that time. It’s because the transcendental object is so imminent that we sense it. Our artists, our prophets, our seers sense this thing.
Now, there is an aspect of this that I haven’t mentioned, which is: because it’s fractal, certain parts of the wave are like certain other parts on higher and lower levels. So that, for instance, the wave reveals that Nazi Germany—a racial cult, a leader cult, a bunch of order freaks—has a, in this theory, geometrical relationship to pharaonic Egypt. Leader cult, order freaks, so forth and so on. That the ebb and flow of what we call fashion and fad is under the control of a wave like this.
Now, here you see from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill. And one reason I mentioned the resonance thing at this point is because you will see this screen again in the future. This screen is describing 3,200 and roughly thirty years. But there is a place in the twentieth century where this screen will repeat itself. The turning point—you see, there are these nested cycles of time of various durations. And one of these cycles begins in 1945. It’s the terminal short cycle. It runs from 1945 to 2012. And when you look at that cycle, the topology of it, you see that the change in that 1945–2012 cycle came in 1967. So it perfectly confirms the nuttiest political dreams of those of us who went through that period.
Looking at this screen as though it were not 3,230 years, but a period from 1967 to 2012, I could tell you that we are, then, right here, roughly. We have come through a period of steep descent into novelty since 1967 punctuated by various recidivist and neofascist and counterflows. Nevertheless we’re down here where we are beginning to experience this oscillation around the mean very close to the ingression of the transcendental object. And this will go on until 2012.
Okay, now we’re only seeing 1,614 years, from 509 Julian (that’s 509 A.D.) to 2124 A.D. It’s interesting. This is basically also the period of time from today, roughly, to 2012. So when you look at this, know that the scaling and the valuations could be different, but the topological manifold would stay the same if you were looking at from today to the end of the cycle.
Now this is interesting. It’s not shy about prediction as we approach what I call the chaos at the end of history. This is what I said we should’ve called the weekend. You’re looking at it, folks. There’s the chaos at the end of history. It’s a series of wildly punctuated gyrations as we come down through the last 1,500 years preceding the emergence of the transcendental object.
Now I have to crib slightly. At a certain point it becomes impossible, and if you’re interested in accuracy you have to… okay. Down in the bottom of this thing, what we have over here is the fall of the Roman empire is just on the screen. In terms of the resonances with the cycle we’re living through, the fall of the Roman empire occurred early last November. Living through the fall of the Roman empire, we are down in here. We are at the beginning of the Dark Ages. This is the beginning of the Dark Ages. This is Patristic Christianity is creating a new religion here. Then you get the Dark Ages. Then you get this extremely steep descent, one of the steepest on the graph. It falls coincident to the life of Muhammad, which is interesting, because I was surprised that Muhammad got such a steep fall. You know, one of the great events of human history. Christ is nothing like this. Well, then my New York editor for Lyle Stuart sent me a book that his company publishes called The 100, and it’s somebody’s opinion about who the one hundred most important people in human history were. He said, “You’ll love this. Look at number one.” I turned it—Muhammad, number one in the opinion of not myself, but someone who made a very careful study of this matter and published a book that you can barely lift.
So, okay. This is the triumph of Islam. A tremendous surge into novelty. Why? Because mathematics, philosophy, science, the preservation of the lost literature of Greece—all of this was in the hands of Islam at a period of time when Europe was a rat-infested hole. I mean, Toledo in Spain had street lighting and modern-style sewers at a time when Paris was a muddy village where people dumped their waste in the streets.
Okay, going forward, this stab here around 1182—let me see if I can pick it off exactly… 1135, okay. This is Bernard of Clairvaux, Adrian IV, Peter Lombard, Thomas Becket, Eleanor of Aquitaine. That’s the clue for me. All that other stuff is fine. Crusades, yes, all for that. But Eleanor of Aquitaine participated in a very interesting episode in the history of Western consciousness because, as I’m sure you all know, she the queen who was the great patron of the troubadours and who encouraged the importation of the ideal of romantic love into the Angevin courts. In other words, it was an outburst of goddess consciousness that laid the basis for the later Mariological outbreak that built Chartres. So Eleanor of Aquitaine is a very important figure in the evolution of human consciousness and the troubadours. I don’t have time to go into this in a general lecture like this, but this is a very rich subject: the relationship of the Sufis to the troubadours; the way in which, at this time, Sufi ideas—the legacy of the earlier Islamic breakthrough—are penetrating both southern Bengal and southern France at the same time, creating both the heresy of Chaitanya in Bengal and the whole phenomenon of courtly love at the edge of Agincourt of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Okay. So that’s there. This next—and then, you know, Gothic Christianity and all that is represented in a fashion pleasing to me, which is as a consolidating recidivist and conservative movement. Then there is a steep plunge right there in 1355. Let me see how close, exactly, it is. 1359, 1357. Okay, here’s what’s going on. First of all, it’s a direct hit on one of the most appalling incidents in Western history, which is: in 1355, one third of the population of Europe died, consumed by the Black Death. Truly, a civilization’s shattering blow. And aside from that, what was going on—1355, the actual bottom of the trough occurred in 1359—what has happened is, besides the Black Death, the first phase of the 100-Year War ended then, Giotto is painting, Meister Eckhart is writing, William of Ockham is formulating his philosophy, Tamerlaine, Chaucer, Wycliffe, so forth and so on right there. So this is the full flowering of the Middle Ages.
What’s happening here, in this steeper descent into novelty that begins around 1445? Up at the top of this thing is 1445. The printing press is invented. Only forty years later we’re down at the bottom of this trough: 1492. What has happened? The Italian Renaissance has occurred. Printing has begun to work its tremendous impact on the Western mind. New techniques of navigation have created the possibility of Columbus discovering America. And this has happened in perfect concert—consort—with the fall of this line. I mean, to me this is eerie. I know the argument about how you see pattern everywhere, and I know all this. But it only works if the thing is keyed to 12/22/2012. If you move the wave, not a single one of these correlations that I’ve pointed out to you works. It just becomes a mishmash. It only works in this alignment.
Okey-doke! The Italian Renaissance, the discovery of America, the consolidation in the New World, and then the negative consequences of that colonial thing; the detriment to consciousness, the rise of slavery, so forth and so on. Okay. What’s happening at the top of this pinnacle right here is—let’s slice it and I’ll look at it. 1740. So the next change that it picks up is what is called the European Enlightenment. The next great wave of novelty after the Renaissance. The great period of change was 1445 to 1500. Then let’s call it 1740 to 1800. And it picks these up perfectly. Here, now you’ll see… okay, that’s the top, that’s 1741 up here. Now, what you get down here on this saw-toothed thing is the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic restoration. All right here, as a consequence of this outbreak of ideas, scientific techniques, philosophical breakthroughs, and so forth and so on, that happened as a consequence of the European Enlightenment.
Then there is the nineteenth century, here, with the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian war both appearing as portions of this period of recidivism. Wars are not (in this theory) progressive or novelty-creating. They break apart structure. And we’re beginning to see the little fractal mountain of history appear again at the end of the wave, because we’re closing in on the next level of the fractal.
Now we’re just going to see from 1804 to 2006, with the purple line pointing at today. You see, the notion is that somehow psychedelics allow us to either see and record these higher-dimensional mappings in ways that we can convey, or else this is a message, this is the characteristic of the message—that, for me, it is this series of condensing metaphors, so many of which I’ve shared with you today. But at the core of it it becomes formal and mathematical. It is trying to make a statement about the organization of reality that we have completely missed, and it’s willing to do it in this extremely rigorous and formal way. I mean, whatever you may say about this theory, it isn’t fuzzy-wuzzy. I mean, we’re going to tell you to the day where to look for the change. These predictions are to the day. I haven’t demonstrated this part of the program to you, but you do understand (do you not?) that we could pick any point in the wave and blow it up and just see detail, detail, detail.
Okay. Here’s the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War. Then a steep descent here in 1888—and what that is, I’m not sure. I’m not really a historian of the late nineteenth century. Then a rise. And this pinnacle here, this little pinnacle, is almost exactly 1900. So that from the top of that pinnacle down, this is the career of novelty since 1900. 1933 is at the bottom of the trough. 1967 is at the top of the wave. We are the purple line.
Well, it’s interesting. I think the wave does give remarkable fit to technological innovation. But wars—I’m not sure whether it feeds into the culture of the rest of us, or whether military technological breakthroughs simply feed into further military technological breakthroughs. I would almost argue that, more accurately than anything else, what this thing portrays is the history of technology, and that this may argue that this thing which happens in 2012 is a technological breakthrough. It’s like the ultimate artifact is what we’re trying to build, and the ultimate artifact is the human soul. We’re trying to condense the soul. We have not given up on the alchemical dreams of the sixteenth century, essentially.
Okay. So here you see this. 1900, the end of the Edwardian thing. Descent into novelty. World War I. The twenties. Further descent into novelty. 1933, Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany. World War II is fought down in this trough. Now, the tendency coming out of the postwar period was for everybody to go conservative and hang on to whatever they could, and stasis. The Cold War: a great standoff, a great freezing of the evolution of cultures in a mental state of military siege.
You see, what the idea here is, is that we are lower-dimensional creatures with a great deal of anxiety about the value-dark domain that we call the future. This thing—whatever it is—is offering, like, a map of the future that you don’t take on faith, you confirm that it works by seeing that it mapped all previous time with perfect accuracy, and so it is somehow then reasonable to conclude that it can be extrapolated forward. Now, here’s a beautiful shot of history’s fractal mountain. And now you see it not as Minoan Crete falling to Mycenaean piracy with Plato here and Jesus here and the fall of Rome here, but you see it as 1967 up here, and the present down here. This is the period that we have traversed since 1967. That’s where the switch was thrown that set us into this last cascade. And in a way, a fairly profound way, since 1967 we have been reliving in a rapid and condensed form the themes and concerns that have preceded since 1000 B.C. In other words, we are acting out (in speeded up and condensed forms) previous historical epochs. That’s why we’re on the brink of a dark age. But the dark age will be over by 1993. Then there is this Muhammad analog. And in 1996 the analogous event related to the discovery the New World: the Columbus moment comes. And then some time after the turn of the century we hit the Italian Renaissance. Some time after that, around 2009 or so, we hit the European Enlightenment. And then, very quickly after 2009, we live through the entire flowering of industrialism, modern science, the nineteenth century, the twentieth century, and we are sucked into the trans-dimensional object. This is it. It’s like an onion of ever more condensing levels. We’re inside the transcendental object at this moment. We call it the twentieth century, and we’re inside a larger shell of it which we call human history. But we are going to migrate into more and more realized, densified, compacted, connected expressions of this fractal pattern which just seems to be the signature of creation in this spacetime matrix.
As Sogyal Rinpoche says, “D’you understand what I mean?” D’you understand what I mean? Well, maybe. I don’t know if I understand what I mean. This does explain why we have such a hard time cognizing what’s going on. We’re in 500 A.D., for god’s sake! How much can we be expected to understand? They haven’t invented the calculus yet, you know? They haven’t invented computers yet, they haven’t invented navigation yet, there are no telescopes, we don’t know from radio. I mean, we’re just rummaging around. We’re like Macrobius. He lived in 500 A.D. He believed that the circumference of a circle was twice its diameter. That’s the quality of thought that’s going on in our world. He really did! He really did. He wrote it.
Well, let’s do something slightly different, and then I’ll take questions. I’m going to change some of the parameters, and let’s look at the present in a little more detail. Hopefully this will show us the future. It will show us the present and a little bit of the past, and then everything up to the emergence of the transcendental object. At that point the graph doesn’t work anymore because novelty becomes so dense that it can no longer be portrayed in the Cartesian coordinates. It begins to move orthogonal into the dimension that I’ve been calling hyperspace or the divine imagination.
[???] your definition?
Of hyperspace? The divine imagination? Yeah. From William Blake. Okey-dokey. Okay. Let’s see what’s happening. Yes, alright. So you see what lies ahead. We are deeper into novelty than we have ever been before. Ahead of us lies a little bump that will be less novel than what we’ve experienced. But when you think that the Tiananmen Square freakout occurs right in the bottom of this little trough, enough is enough. Then, in 1992, you see we probe deeper levels of novelty. Then there’s a recidivist movement. There’s the Muhammad thing in late 1995. These are the real dates. There’s the New World thing in 2005. And then in 2009 the European Enlightenment. And everything since the European Enlightenment has to be crammed in between 2009 and late 2012. We’re back here. I’ll have it so you can—we’ll lose the end of the graph here, but see how the graph runs down to zero? Where the graph touches zero, that’s where novelty soars to infinity. That’s where the novelty is maximized. That’s the point where the bit goes hyperspatial and the Cartesian coordinates become inadequate to the cast of portraying the phase space. That’s what we’re trying to do: trying to transcend the phase space here. So now we’re going to see fifteen years from 1985 to 2001, very conveniently.
Is this all in your book too; your new book?
No. Bantam won’t pay big money for this. I have to sell 100,000 books for them before they’ll let me do a book on this subject. No. But this is very dear to my heart. I love this. I just think it’s so kinky. It’s like a psychedelic thing. It’s like a toy. It’s as though those jeweled metallic twisting-turning things that they were offering to me, this is one of them, except it’s made out of ideas. They did understand that the only thing I could take back that it had to be an idea. That I couldn’t bring back a thing, so they gave me an idea.
And one of the things I think about these little tykes, these self-transforming elf machines, is: I talked today about how it had the aura of a playpen or some kind of reception area for human beings. Well, it has another aura. And I talked about how it was like the circus. Well, you know when you were a kid and you went to the circus, one of the things your parents said to you if they were like my parents was: be careful you don’t meet a pickpocket! So I’ve noticed that in the DMT flash there is this slight concern—it isn’t a fear that they will be violent with you, or a fear that something truly bad would happen to you—but there is this slight suspicion that these guys are not entirely your friend, that they’re too tricky, too zany; their sense of humor too out in front of your own for you to be able to fully trust these guys.
Well, I thought, I went into my mind and I meditated: where have I had this feeling before of I can’t trust them, they’re probably all—and then I realized it was in my itinerant smuggling days in India, and that the vibe is that of traders. These guys are sharp. They’re there to make a deal. And all this stuff that they pull out and show you—“Look at this! Look at this!”—these are trade items. These are goods.
What are you offering them?
That’s the problem. Too often we go into the psychedelic state and people say, “You should think of a question.” These guys say, “I’ve got questions of my own! You bring me questions? Why don’t you bring me an idea? Why don’t you bring me something I might want to have?” I sort of believe that the reason I was given this is because they took something from me. What they took from me was everything I knew about the I Ching. I mean, I can just imagine them turning it over in their hyperdimensional hands and saying, “Crude, but the workmanship shows a certain sensitivity. Put that up on the shelf, and why don’t you give this poor fellow something in return.” And they said, “Well, how about a hyperdimensional map of spacetime?” They said, “Good. Give him that.” So, you know, here it is. Fair trade.
Okay. Here we are: so close to it that it’s hard probably for you to see, but remember the purple line points at today. Can you see that the bottom of the trough has already happened? That’s the day that they put a million people in Tiananmen Square. It’s just 25 days in the past now, but we’re already on the recidivist upswing. You can see this period that lies ahead until early 1991 is going to be of a different character than the time that we’ve come through. Well, we can focus in—we could go down to three days. We could get it so you could see hourly fluctuations.
Yeah. I should make it clear. I don’t think I said this in the theory. The idea is that this stacked hierarchy of vibrations passes through these cycles that are shorter and shorter. We’ve been looking at the 4,306-year cycle with a little bit about the 67-year cycle. But there’s also a 384-day cycle, a 6-day cycle, a 135-minute cycle, and so on down to the range of Planck’s constant. This thing is—we’re imagining the universe as a temporal hologram whose fractal dimensionality matches the contours of this wave. So we’re suggesting that time is a kind of very complex interference pattern, standing wave, or resonance pattern where certain times reinforced trends, in other times on different levels across a schema of relatedness that is not linear, but related through the topology of this particular manifold.
Okay, so here is Tiananmen Square filled with a million people, here we are. I can tell you that this upward swing becomes flat on the thirtieth of June. Then it sort of runs along flat for a couple of weeks or so, then there’s a little descent, and then an upward fluctuation, and then this. And this all goes on through 1989 and most of 1990. And then, in early 1991, a new level of novelty is not only tested, but explored for a long, long time. I mean, this looks like wild stuff down in here. And then so on, and it proceeds into the future and runs to ground in 2012. Well, this is just a demonstration of a mathematical effort to take a snapshot of the hyperspatial mind from a different angle than we’d looked at it before. So that’s it.
Are there questions?
Can you talk about the end date? Did you just do that by trial and error, or did you have some…?
Yes, actually I did just—well, not exactly trial and error, but by intuition. And the funny thing about the end date that I haven’t mentioned tonight yet, I think, is: this end date is the same end date as the end date of the Mayan calendar. The Mayan calendar is composed thirteen cycles called baktuns. They’re about five hundred and some odd years long. And the thirteenth baktun ends on December 22nd, 2012. Now, I didn’t know that when I fit this wave to this. The only thing that I have in common with the ancient Mayans is that we both use psilocybin mushrooms for vision. Well, is this, then, an objective map of a higher-dimensional space that they somehow with their linguistic and intellectual equipment were able to find their way to the same conclusion by different means? It seems to me a bizarre coincidence. Nevertheless I can’t account for it. I achieved this alignment of the wave without knowledge that that was also the end date of the Mayan calendar.
Do you reduce this to a day situation and you watch it to see?
Oh yes. I can show you just thirty days, or I can print out a month time map for someone, or a weekly time map for someone, and—
And have you looked at [???] last month when all was going on in China and the storm monsoon?
Oh yes. To my jaded view it’s always right. I need help, you know, of one sort of another for sure, because to me it appears to work. And I use objective chronological databases, these reference books that you can buy, like A Chronolog of History and Technology or A Chronology of History, and just look back into all of this. See, I think that—somebody was asking me: how do you teach people about this? And I was saying: you need a mnemonic shell. You need a file system of some sort. Well, this is a wonderful filing system. Once you get to know this wave you know that the same distance from Charlemagne to Henry Ford as from Amenhotep to Hannibal. And you’re able to see these distance-time relationships. You understand history. It wants us to understand our own history. We are partially amnesic because we don’t understand our history. It’s a weird kind of ignorance. It’s sort of intolerable from the point of view of whatever is looking at us. It thinks we should know our history because our history is somehow our present. That’s the message here. The past is making the present, not in the good old way that everybody always says that, but in an entirely different way. The past is actually making the present.
So [???] foretelling the future, and that you can say you don’t know what’s going to happen, but tomorrow at noon something’s going to happen that’s [???].
That’s right. That’s right.
Does that indicate to you [???] a certain inheritance?
Well, a certain preparedness which I read negatively. I say it’s the end of anxiety. Yes, because you look ahead and you say, “Aha. The big changes this year will come in August, the tough time will come in April between there and then. It’s like this.” And then you live through it and it’s confirmed for you. So then the next time you make a similar projection you have greater faith in it. And it’s important to notice: this is not a determinism. This does not interfere with free will. This isn’t some kind of mathematical predestination trip. It’s not saying what will happen, it’s only saying what the level of novelty will be that whatever happens fulfills. So it’s not predicting events, it’s predicting levels of novelty in whatever events come to be at that point on a global level. And then there is a way to adapt it to individual lives, to treat individuals, to treat this as an equation for a global environment, and to treat each of us as particles within the global environment with our own end dates and beginning dates, the sum-total of which average out into this contour, see?
On an individual level—I’m not welded to this part of the theory. I’m experimenting with it because it has slightly, to my mind, the aura of hokum about it. But there is a 67-year, 104.25-day cycle. Well, if you take a person’s birthdate and add 67 years, 104.25 days, and enter that as the end date, and then look at their lives, they achieve remarkable satisfaction with this—including myself, although it’s not in the canon. You know, I don’t claim that it does that. But it’s fascinating to watch. I mean, sometimes it’s very amazing. Somebody will tell you their birthdate, you make the calculation and run the graph, and you say, “My god, what happened to you in 1972?” And they say, “Well, I attempted suicide and nearly succeeded, and this and this,” and, you know, it’s often very right on.
This is eerie stuff. Don’t think that I am not Dane Rudhyar or anybody else coming from those places. I respect astrology because I know nothing about it. But this seems quite strange to me, that this works. Whitehead said a wonderful thing. He said, “Understanding is the apperception of pattern as such.” And I think this illuminates a lot of what is going on in the psychedelic experience. You look at a situation, you see a pattern. That aids you in understanding the situation. But now, if you shift your view and look at the same situation again and see a different pattern, your understanding further deepens. If you shift your viewpoint again and achieve a third pattern—so understanding is the apperception of pattern as such. What we feel comfortable with as understanding, what we call understanding, is nothing more than the apperception of pattern as such! This is why these hallucinations are so absolutely beguiling, because we cannot help but perceive them as understanding. You know, in gazing upon such complex and self-transforming beauty, we perceive pattern. And the feedback of that into our psychology is a sense of meaning. So it isn’t mysterious, the way in which psychedelic plants may have synergized consciousness. They simply allowed patterns present to be perceived. And this is what we’re constantly in the process of discovering: the patterns already in place that we had overlooked.
Addictive and compulsive patterns. Yes, well, extrapolating out of what I said today—you know, who was it, Ludwig von Bertalanffy (the guy who invented general systems theory) said, “Human beings are not machines, but in every situation in which they are given the opportunity to behave like machines, they will so behave.” So what I think is going on is: this has to do with this broken-up symbiosis in prehistory. In the same way that the children of dysfunctional families are high-probability candidates for addiction, so are all of us, because we are all inheritors of this original dysfunctional relationship to the symbiotic family, the inter-species family that we come out of which is the human beings, the cattle, and the mushrooms. Only in that triad can we achieve peace of mind.
And the disequilibrium of psyche that we feel—having been expelled from that cultural context—leads us to try every single thing we can to assuage our disequilibrium. And so opiates, cocaine, alcohol, all of these things are a frantic effort to restore a feeling that we feel capable of, but that we just can’t quite reach it.