What psychedelics do, if you look at thousands of these experiences, is: they dissolve boundaries. They dissolve boundaries between you and your past, you and the part of your unconscious you don’t want to look at, between you and your partner, between you and the feminine (if you’re masculine) and vice versa, between you and the world. All the boundaries that we put up to keep ourselves from feeling our circumstance are dissolved. And boundary dissolution is the most threatening activity that can go on in a society.
The whole name of the Western game is to create boundaries and maintain them: the church and the state, the poor and the wealthy, the black and the white, the male and the female, the young and the old, the gay and the straight, the living and the dead, the foreign and the familiar. All of these categorical divisions allow a kind of thinking that is completely cockamamie. After all, reality is in fact a seamless, unspeakable something. And we understand that to perceive it separately is a necessary adjunct to the act of understanding, but it is not the end of the program of understanding. The particulate data has to be recombined in a paradigm; a seamless overview of what is happening.
Every labor contract on this planet—at least in Western civilization—contains a provision that all workers shall be allowed to use drugs twice a day at designated times, but the drug shall be caffeine. Now, the reason caffeine is so welcome in the workplace is because the last three hours of the workday are utterly unproductive unless you goose everybody with two cups of coffee, and then they can go back to the word processor, the widget-tightening machine, or whatever they’re doing, and mindlessly and happily carry on. If it were to be suggested that there be a pot break twice a day… you know, you would think that civilization was striking the iceberg or something!
There’s a lot of tension in society between the great exploring soul and the assembly-line citizen.
I think of history as a kind of mass psychedelic experience, and the drug is technology. And as technology gets more and more perfected as a mirror of the human mind, the cultural experience becomes more and more hallucinatory.
I don’t think you could discover consciousness if you didn’t perturb it. Because, as Marshall McLuhan said: whoever discovered water, it certainly wasn’t a fish. Well, we are fish swimming in consciousness, and yet we know it’s there. Well, the reason we know it’s there is because, if you perturb it, then you see it. And you perturb it by perturbing the engine which generates it, which is the mind/brain system resting behind your eyebrows. If you swap out the ordinary chemicals that are running that system in an invisible fashion, then you see. It’s like dropping ink into a bowl of clear water: suddenly, the convection currents operating in the clear water become visible, because you see the particles of ink tracing out the previously invisible dynamics of the standing water. The mind is precisely like that, and the psychedelic is like a dye-marker being dropped into this aqueous system. And then you say, “Oh, I see! It works like this, and like this.”
Technology has this weird tendency to transcend itself, to bootstrap itself. You know, if you have a cart, then it implies better wheels, better bearings, better structure, and then higher speed, more control, more feedback from the machine—that means we need gas gauges, RPM readouts, so forth and so on. Technology—strangely enough, created by a biological creature—has itself this self-transcending quality.
If we attempt to propagate technological development forward fifty years, it becomes unmanageable as an intellectual task.
If, in fact, what the universe is is a novelty-producing and -conserving engine—and if we define novelty as density of connectedness—then guess what: the human neocortex becomes the center of the cosmic drama, because the human neocortex is the most densely ramified and connected material object known to exist in the universe.
I defined myself as a spectator rather than an actor. And we are all doing that far too much. You can get a get a lot rowdier than you are. You can make a lot more waves. There’s been too much politesse and too much parlor etiquette exercised recently by the counterculture. It’s perfectly alright to mix things up.
Suddenly you go from being a chessman on the board to the chess master looking at the board. It’s empowering. It’s self-control. Now, people who don’t know this are, like, made of denser stuff than the rest of us. You can just part them like wheat and move through them, because they have no sense of the nature of the game. They are still embedded in the old Newtonian paradigm and are completely powerless to control their own lives.
That’s what it’s really about. All these disparate physical elements come to nothing if they don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. And the more than the sum of their parts is this transcendental element which we call love. That is the part of the eschaton that has never left us, that accompanied us across the African grassland and into history. I mean, granted, bloodied and battered by the experiences of sexism and racism and so forth, but never lost as an ideal, never lost as a guiding light and an experience. And I really think that when we dissolve all the boundaries, this is what we will discover: is an unconditional caring, an unconditional affection, that flows through all life and all matter and gives it meaning. And you don’t have to wait for the end of the world to get this news. You can just short-circuit the collective march toward that realization by accelerating your own microcosm of spirituality through the use of these hallucinogens. They are the doorways that the Gaian mind has installed in the historical process to let anybody out any time they want to, provided they have the courage to turn the knob and walk through the door.
All of biology is in a sense a conquest of dimensionality. That, as we ascend the phylogeny of organic life, what animals are are a strategy for conquering spacetime. And complex animals do it better than simpler animals, and we do it better than any complex animal, and we twentieth-century people do it better than any people in any previous century.
They talk about virtual reality as some future technology that’s going to change everything. We’ve been living in a virutal reality for the past 6,000 years. I mean, look at cities like New York and London and Los Angeles. I mean, nature has disappeared. Everything you see is a human idea downloaded into material existence. It’s entirely virtual.
When you look for guidance, direction, mentorship, we always look toward institutions: “Well, I’ll go to the university,” or, “I’ll go to the army,” or, “I’ll do something. Somebody will tell me; will give me a larger purpose.” But it’s really yourself that is the final arbiter. And if you keep yourself as the final arbiter, you will be less susceptible to infection by cultural illusion. Now, the problem with this is that it makes you feel bad to not be infected by cultural illusion, because it’s called alienation. You know? But this is—I can’t solve all problems. The reason we feel alienated is because the society is infantile, trivial, and stupid. So the cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation.