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The Terence McKenna Wiki
words and wit of the alchemical bard
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An Interview By James Kent
Before and Beyond History
Gaia, Eros, and the Archaic Revival
Gaia, Psychedelics, and the Archaic Revival
Having Archaic and Eating it Too
Leprechauns, Elves, or Dead Souls?
Making and Unmaking History and Language
Morphogenic Fields and Psychedelic Experiences
Mushrooms, Sex and Society
Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines
Terence McKenna's Trip
The grammar of ecstasy — The world within the word.
(aka This Counts, Somehow it Matters & A Higher Dimensional Section of Reality)
A Better World (Toward The End Of History)
A Conversation with Terence McKenna and Ram Dass
A Necessary Chaos
A report on crop circles with Abraham and Sheldrake
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(aka This Counts, Somehow it Matters & A Higher Dimensional Section of Reality)
aka This Counts, Somehow it Matters & A Higher Dimensional Section of Reality
Day December 1994
Location, City, State
Audio Link (Psychedelic Salon Part 1)
Audio Link (Psychedelic Salon Part 2)
Audio Link Youtube (Full)
[ONLY PART 2 TRANSCRIBED BELOW...PLEASE TRANSCRIBE PART 1--LINK ABOVE]
I’m not very keen on the whole abduction shtick. I think that one of the symptoms of cultural disintegration is simply that people lose the ability to distinguish between dream and memory and that somehow one’s past, one’s real past and one’s dream past simply become one’s past. Then under certain circumstances what was basically dream material is presented as reality.
Just because you have a nut theory, it doesn’t mean that you agree with other nut theories. In fact, it often makes you very hostile to them. After all there’s a limited pool there that we’re all…
My idea with psychedelics throughout my whole career with them was that they were the purpose. It was to go out into mind space and hunt ideas and bring something back to show the folks around the campfire, something that would astonish us and amaze us all. Well you know it’s a narrow keyhole, the mind. You can’t bring back a flower like the time traveler does in Welles’ story. So I’ve found the only thing I could bring back, not being graphically endowed, was ideas. It’s a very mysterious business, the revelation of mind to the world. Since the last time I talked to any audience I finally understood an argument of my enemies that I had never understood before - enemies in the friendly collegial ideological sense, in other words enemies.
The countervailing theory to the evolution of consciousness, how it came to be so rapidly as opposed to the idea that it was stimulated by psychedelic compounds in the early human diet – and I’ve ridiculed this idea to you before – the idea that human beings throw things. Because we were small and weak and we hunted very large animals, we learned to hurl rocks with great accuracy and that this is a behavior not observed in the animal world. I mean, monkeys hurl feces in a generally downward direction to indicate displeasure but their aim is lousy, which is a very fortunate thing if you’re an Amazon explorer. But human beings can hit with considerable force an object up to 120 feet away. Evolutionary biologists have fastened on this as, requiring so much coordination of neuro-material that there would be enough left over to invent Western Civilization and explore the planets once you had this thing down. Well it always seemed somewhat preposterous to me and I pointed out that it would make the big league baseball pitcher the paradigm of evolutionary accomplishment in the human world if that standard were accepted.
But now I understand the argument a little better and it’s slightly deeper than I thought because here’s what they were trying to say the first time. It isn’t this neuro-coordination. It is really about planning. It is an extraordinary thing to look at a rock in your hand and to make the calculation into the forward vector of the future. Ah ha, if I hurl back and impart a certain energy in a certain direction with a certain intensity, this thing will follow a path through space and will land somewhere with benign consequences to me and my side. The key concept in here is plan! This is a plan and animals don’t do this. There are no plans in the animal world. Their consciousness is of the moment and doesn’t involve this complex triangulation out of the moment toward future consequences in quite this way. What happens when you let go of the rock is that you can no longer control it. It isn’t like hunting or beating something to death with a stick where the strategy is being readjusted moment to moment. No, once the projectile is released from your hand, that’s all the planning you get to do. So it represents a concrescence of intent and this building towards a concrescence of intent - this plan making - then is the tiny flutter of the butterfly’s wing that ripples out through the chaotic universe and the next thing you know, the kings of Babylon are issuing their codes of law and slaves under the lash are erecting cities and the stars are being brought into a mathematical model.
Well I just wanted to mention that I’m also working on a 2nd book at the moment where we’re going to go back into the psilocybin theory of the origin of consciousness and actually attempt to make a case that will demand attack. In other words, to actually marshal all of the anatomical, paleontological primate data because the more we research, the more it appears true that by looking at the psychedelics, they become a kind of key to understanding the entire phenomenon of human emergence by looking at the larger issue of food as an environmental dimension. In other words, our food has shaped us as omnivores. We have exposed ourselves to a very high input of mutagenic material over the course of our omnivorous behavior and this has accelerated the rate of mutation in our species. This is why there are so many cancers. Those cancers are maladaptive mutations – most are - most mutations are non-productive. But by being a creature of the jungle canopy that underwent a forced migration to an entirely different nutritional environment – the grassland – we opened ourselves up to this mutagenic influence. It’s only the spectacular effect of the psychoactive compounds impacting on neuro-organization, cognition and social organization that I focused on originally. But now the realization is beginning to ripple out through the evolutionary community that yes, this is the hidden factor - the mutagenic diet and the forced shift in environment.
There are also ideologically unexpected twists and turns in all this. I recently met a very interesting person. He’s going to be my coauthor on this evolution book - Philippe De Vosjoli. Some of you may know him and he is a lover of animals. This guy has made a fortune in publishing books on reptile care. If you have a broken iguana, he’s the man to see. But he pointed out something to me, which is very, very interesting which goes against prevailing political correctness for sure, which is that browsing ungulate animals have actually no interest in the behavior of other animals. They couldn’t give a hoot. Who’s interested in the behaviors of other animals are hunting animals and that in order to successfully hunt an animal, you must in a sense be able to become it. You must be able to transfer your consciousness into it and imagine its motivations, its behaviors, so forth and so on. So Philippe has convinced me on one level, the earliest human consciousness was not human consciousness at all. It was primate ability to enter into the behavior patterns and psychologies of other mammals in the grassland environment that it was predating upon. Following vultures as a basis for the beginning of nomadism and this sort of thing. Obviously predator animals are aware and their evolutionary success is based on environmental awareness and being able to act based on inputting the behavior of other animals. This is a very complex mental world compared to the world of the fruitarian, leaf eating, canopy browser that we came from.
Then it appears that in a series of coalescing involutions of culture and neuro-organization, driven by the spatial coincidence of human beings, cattle, mushrooms; our original primate programming was restructured and I’ve talked a great deal about this. I think this is the key to understanding at least our sexual politics. All primates have what are called dominance hierarchies and this is where the hard bodied, sharp fanged males – young males – arrange everybody else to suit themselves; the elderly, the sexually available females, the young, homosexuals, the sick. Everybody gets told where to stand and what to do. This is how primates operate. This is how we operate. However, I think that for a long period in human beings this was interrupted by nutritional factors and drug factors in the environment. That in a sense a human society that is using psilocybin on lunar cycles of use is suppressing the ordinary pattern of male dominance – hierarchical dominance. It’s not genetically touching it. It’s still there. But in the same way that if you give a population of aggressive people a lot of opium, aggression disappears. If you give a population of people a kind of psychedelic boundary dissolving aphrodisiac that promotes group bonding and erodes monogamy and so forth, then you get a different social ambiance than if that weren’t present.
I think the secret to understanding our curious relationship to the angelic and animal worlds has to do with the fact that under the influence of this hormone/enzyme, which was suppressing ordinary patterns of male dominance, consciousness underwent an extraordinary series of bifurcations. Language, theatre, poetry, magic, religion, dance, music, ethical values and altruism – everything emerged some time between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. The Paleolithic, the pre-agricultural era; was an extraordinary period of novelty being expressed and conserved in the biological world. The primate species, the hominids, suddenly just take the stage. Through an amazing series of cultural transformations, they become a planet ruling species by 10,000 years ago. And then not content with that, the process doesn’t slow down – it accelerates and this has to do with the fact that we have some how created through language a kind of adaptive strategy that is so flexible that unlike most adaptive strategies, which sooner or later run into a blind box canyon and are just simply trapped there butting their heads against the wall. You see it everywhere, the mussels down on the rocks – most evolutionary developmental lines are dead ends. But somehow we broke free of that by ceasing to be defined by the physical body, which is the stuff upon which evolution works and placing between ourselves and our environment a new thing called culture, we began to mediate evolution.
Evolution says the infirm, the idiot, the lame must die. Culture says ‘we have different values about this.’ Maybe yes, maybe no, but we will decide. Evolution says ‘you must be a scattered species; nomadic and moving across the surface of the planet like an animal.’ Culture says ‘no, we have strategies for food sequestration and common defense and we will build cities’ and so forth and so on. Since about…pick a number, 10,000 years ago, evolution has not been the dominating factor; biological evolution. Instead there is something else, which the word epigenetic has been suggested, meaning change not driven by genes – our genes are the same. If you were to be with a group of people active ten to fifteen thousand years ago, they would like just like you and I. We haven’t changed that much. We’ve mixed the genes but we haven’t particularly added new ones or lost genes.
But in the epigenetic realm, how many languages have been generated over the past 10,000 years. How many world religions have come and gone? How many systems of government? How many theories of polity and society? We just furiously cast these things off and beginning about 500 years ago, this phenomenon was embraced as a permanent aspect of human existence in Western Europe and the concept of progress became enshrined. Progress is the idea that this process must go on, be extended and accelerated everywhere. Now it seems to be happening and as a consequence of this acceleration of process, all the contradictions in the old system – and I mean reaching back to Egypt – all the contradictions in the old system are now on the surface. I believe psychedelics are a kind of higher dimensional sectioning of reality. I think they give the kind of stereoscopic vision necessary to hold the entire hologram of what’s happening in your mind. The old paradigm is gone.
We can talk about how different parts of it died, you know? Maybe not everybody knows the story of how physics, the paradigmatic science of reason, turned into a place where nothing makes any sense at all. Where stories are told so wild that a surrealist painter would flee from the gathering just shaking his head. That’s physics, the very bedrock of the whole western shtick has turned into a place of utter psychedelic contradiction and chaos and the news hasn’t reach biology and psychology. They’re still operating under different paradigms. What is keeping science alive at this point is the fact that it is able to whore itself to the marketplace. In terms of the old program, which was providing some kind of metaphysical recitation of the nature of the universe, it’s pretty clearly out of reach at this point. The universe has been discovered to be stranger than you can suppose.
What this means to the troops, which is you and me, the citizens of these linear, print-created, scientism ruled, democratic, industrial states – what it means to us is you get your mind back. They have no need of it anymore. It’s actually become a burden to them. Yes, they struggled like hell to take it but then they discovered it really wasn’t worth all that much anyhow. The great thing about living in the twilight of an imperial decline is the permission that exists. Incredible resources lay before us and very few people are looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do. The fact that this community has been able to persist and exist, this is the orphic community. This is the tradition of descent, extasis, sexuality, ambiguity, so forth and so on, that reaches right back to Chalcolithic Greece and beyond.
Shamanism is about shape shifting. Shamanism is about doing phenomenology with a toolkit that works. No religion, no philosophy I think, has ever gone very far down the road of understanding. Understanding is not really a collective enterprise. Understanding is an individual enterprise and you can read Husserl and you can become a Hasid, or you can assimilate these group understandings that are forms of wisdom but ultimately those are platforms for intrepid exploration. Now at the end, I think, of this entire enterprise – I don’t know if I’m changing or if the world is changing or both – but it has gotten so rich recently that it’s like an enormous meal at some over-reviewed restaurant where you just have to push yourself away and say ‘the spectacle is endless and amazing and apparently it’s all going to come true.’
My impulse is to distance myself from it all. The mushroom said to me once. It said, ‘this is what it’s like when a species prepares to depart for the stars. This is not unusual.’ The earth quakes, the oceans boil, the planet came into existence for this. All life for over a billion years has been pointed toward taking this step, leaving the oceans for the land was dress rehearsal for what will now be done. It’s chilling because it’s so huge. You don’t even know. It’s just enormous. Yet apparently when you look back through the history of the universe, this is how it precedes. Incredibly gradually over staggering scales of time but then every once in a while you come around the corner and there it is – a continent sinks, an asteroid impacts, a star explodes, two intelligent species meet somewhere out in the cosmos. These things set ripples going for eons.
[Audience] – I’m curious what this has to do with psychedelics because it seems to me that when you use psychedelics to break down perceptual barriers, that’s one thing. But there is such momentum going on in the world today that things are breaking down without psychedelics – although it may appear psychedelic in terms of the way you see it. Do you see what I’m getting at? At this juncture, have we transcended psychedelics?
Well my idea is that the psychedelic recapitulates on the personal scale this universal meltdown that is going on without the need of psychedelics. But this universal meltdown is very frightening to people. Most people are pattern oriented and nostalgic and it scares them. I think psychedelics are a way…it’s sort of like doing calisthenics in preparation for the marathon at the end of time. People who have taken psychedelics should be in a better position to assure, reassure everybody else. People say the laws of physics are breaking down and you can say ‘I’ve seen it before.’ And in a way this thing, this event that wants to emerge. We think of it as quantized in a single moment where the shift will happen and it’s like the glory or something. Our job, if we have a job and I’m not sure we do, but if we have a job then our job is to anticipate this and to live it out before it happens. Somebody very dear to me said to me twenty-five years ago – actually it was in the same conversation where they said history is the shockwave of eschatology – how anybody could say that in 1975 I do not understand. Anyway – he also said we should live as though the apocalypse has already occurred. That’s the only way to transcend the historical hysteria because the historical hysteria is about this thing, it might happen, it won’t happen, it will happen. No, you say it
happen so enough about that already.
Each thing that we do anticipates this deeper fall inward into the dream. The dream is what awaits at the end of history. The dream, and you can call it hyperspace or cyberspace or the transdeath realm, but what it really is, is it’s a going into the dream and what is the dream? The dream is a place where the laws are set by the imagination. The imagination is God in the dream. If there is a way for us to mirror our highest aspirations, in other words to inculcate the God image in ourselves, then it’s by becoming the masters of our dream and then creating through drugs, technology, magic - who cares the details come later – creating a way to share that so that we each then are a god with an open office doorway to all the other gods who wonder through looking at the cosmogony that we produce as art. I was thinking about this, this morning, I was thinking about what am I going to say to these folks – and I was thinking about the Platonic triad of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Sometimes people have dissed me and my obsession with hallucination because they say, ‘LSD doesn’t really cause hallucination, it causes insight and complex thoughts – but why are you so focused on visual hallucination?’ Which I am. If it doesn’t do that, I’m not interested.
Then I thought the way into it is: Plato talks about the Good, the True and the Beautiful, but the key concept is beautiful. Good, it’s abstract. True, it’s abstract. But Beauty is felt, perceived with the senses as music, painting, whatever it is. So the bridge to the metaphysical absolutes of truth and the good is through the palpable realm of the beautiful. To my mind, this is what these psychedelics achieve. They as Huxley said, they dial open the valve of consciousness or as Blake implied, the window of perception is cleansed and then you see through into an infinite, holographic, recursive world of mind and affectionate intelligence. Somehow this mystery is in the body and therefore outside of time, therefore beyond, in some sense, the reach of culture. Sex is like this to some degree. Sex is in the body and outside of time. Culture spends a huge amount of it’s energy trying to reach sex, trying to contort it, push it one way or another and has produced some pretty bizarre themes and variations but generally speaking has failed. No society certainly has ever gotten rid of sex even though there have been societies ruled for thousands of years by men wearing dresses that gave us some of the most ribald minstrelsy around.
So there is this mystery in the body. I’m now returning to the subject of psychedelics beyond the reach of cultural manipulation. Discovering this and exploring it is somehow the frontier of maturity. Culture is a form of enforced infantilism. It’s the last nursery and most people never leave it and they’re perfectly happy to interpret the world through the reassuring nonsense of their cultural values, whatever they may happen to be. The reason psychedelics are so politically dynamite is because they cast doubt on this final cultural envelope of insulation and they do it very democratically. It doesn’t matter what your cultural conditioning is – it falls into question under the influence of the psychedelic. For most people, that’s frightening. Frightening enough that not only do they not want to do it but they are also keen to see that other people don’t do it because they realize that this is some kind of a doorway through which demons come; disruptive ideologies, strange forms of music, bizarre behaviors, unpleasant fashions – it’s all coming from this place where these people are messing around. So there is an impulse to close it off.
So there is a tradition 50,000 years old of shamanism/bohemianism. People who are deputized to be weird and are told, ‘ok you be weird, we’ll give you a hut at the edge of the village – you be weird and if we need you, we’ll call.’ That’s basically the role. ‘No, don’t bother, we’ll call you.’ The political position of shamans is fascinating in these societies because they share it but they are not of it. They are only asked in when things are really desperate. I think that bohemianism, this orphic tradition I’ve talked about that goes back – way, way back - is the continuation of that. So we here represent to some degree a self selected group of these Orphic eccentrics who carry this charge of otherness. In many languages the word shaman means go-between. The shaman moves between levels, and the mythologies differ but either into a spirit world, or an ancestor world, or an animal world – but a go-between.
Let me see if I can tie this all up. I wanted to follow this thing out about the suppression of male dominance through chemical and diet and psilocybin and all that. The reason that is fascinating to me aside from the fact that it answers some real conundrums in hominid evolutionary arguments is that it then has an implication for the present because we are the damaged heirs of a damaged cultural style which has been practiced now for about 7,000 years. There have been various corrective measures, all failures I think. Christianity, Christ – a corrective measure. Somebody who comes and says don’t do it that way, and they get rid of him and within fifty years the church he founded is dealing real estate. You get it in Islam, another corrective effort. These things have not worked. The cultural style has been too toxic. With the rise of modern science and the acceleration of the toxic consequences of bad ideology, we now come to the 20th century. Throughout the 20th century there has been an impulse…
[Audience] – What makes bad ideology?
Ideology that has consequences that are bad for the environment and the gene pool.
[Audience] – Who knows what bad ideology is?
Well nobody knows absolutely but when you think about things like plutonium and nuclear weapon stockpiles… I agree with you that in the largest picture moral relativism makes it impossible to say anything about good and bad, but I’m not that morally relativistic. I think biology should be preferred to its absence and that intelligence should be preferred over its absence. I think the universe wants to preserve novelty. That could actually be the basis of a kind of ethic. Bad is that which destroys novelty and good is that which promotes it. It sounds awfully progressive.
I remember the first time I was in Pakistan and I caught this rickshaw into Lahore and I was being pulled by a human being, muscle power. And this guy said, you’re an American and this and that – he said – this country is screwed up, this country is really screwed up. He said ‘you want to know what’s wrong with it? Progress! Too much progress!’ This was a man who made his living pulling people around in a rickshaw, so it’s a relativistic thing. What I wanted to say was there is an intelligence in the species that is deeper than the societies and the systems that we erect to rule us and this wisdom of the species can make enormous changes in the evolution of the mass psyche, such as the Renaissance for example.
In the 20th century, this has taken the form of what I call the archaic revival. One of my books is called the Archaic Revival. The 20th century, which is a vast stage crowded with different kinds of competing social phenomena, art movements and so forth and so on, nevertheless I think the entire thing is illuminated by the notion that what it is about is an impulse towards archaism. That in the sciences, the arts, everywhere, the archaic ideal is raising its protean head and it begins with Freud in the early years of the 20th century discovering by interviewing these Viennese bourgeois housewives that human beings were brutes and incest, rape, all this stuff was right below the surface. The rediscovery of the beast and certainly Germany developed that theme up into the 40s. Meanwhile, people were bringing African masks to Paris and Cubism was basing its early theory on the deconstruction of primitive art. Meanwhile people like Eric Satie were abandoning the cannons of classical composition in music and the twelve tone row was being experimented. Jazz was being given new attention and for its primitiveness, its rhythm and its sense of something beyond the reach of civilization. Meanwhile the deconstruction of painting, which had begun with Impressionism - Impressionism simply is twenty minutes into LSD, had gone deeper, had developed first of all into the deconstructive spirit of Dada where people tore up telephone directories and rang bells while they did something else. In other words, the absurd appears for the first time, an enormous theme in 20th century life – the incoherent idiocy of it all.
Then Surrealism, taking up the Freudian tune, begins to portray these worlds of distorted association. All of this is about boundary dissolution. It was happening on the bohemian left. It was happening on the fascist right. The rise of Marxism is a collectivist theory of society very concerned with collectivism, and then enormous changes. Auschwitz, the atom bomb, space flight and now where we are is for ten or fifteen years, there has been this awareness that it is about direct experience of the numinous and its been hideously marketed and raped by the entrepreneurial instinct and peddled back to us as dozens of New Age cults diced up and presented as different from each other. But the impulse towards this authentic dissolving experience is real. It was there in Theosophy. It was there in the Beats. It came up through the hippies. It survived the trivialization of the New Age. It has now found its way into the youth culture, into rave and house music and that whole thing and it’s healthier than it ever was. Well the central figure in all of this when you get it down to the idea that a culture must have a culture hero, meaning a paradigmatic ideal to constellate around, the central figure it has been realized is the shaman, who is this person of indeterminate depth.
Everyone else has a determinable depth. They are the linear cardboard people walking around but the shaman is of indeterminate depth. That’s the secret of Carlos Castaneda’s magic. He creates a literary character that in any other culture would be deemed mythical but because of our attitude toward the depth of the shaman, we can’t tell. We deputize this kind of depth in rock stars, in culture heroes of various sorts and worshipped that for the past twenty years or so. Well then slowly it has dawned that the position of worshipper is not the most satisfying position. The only position that satisfies is to be that thing. At that point, you’re at the psychedelic crossroads because you will either make a conservative decision and seek a guru of some sort and be lost in that, which is a whole shell game, or you will simply cut through the human domain and make a pact with a plant, a substance, and then you will at that moment be at the threshold of your adulthood. That’s leaving home. Home is culture. Home is this fabric of imaginary values that have been created and maintained by a pathological culture.
So it’s a personal thing ultimately; very controversial, not easy to do and then once done, it has to be integrated, dealt with, thought about – and that as far as I can tell is a task that extends well beyond the yawning grave.
[Audience] – When you talked about the dream, it reminded me of the aboriginal culture and that’s kind of how they live their lives – in the dreamtime. Is that what you’re talking about, living in the dream and being in touch with?
Yeah to some degree. I don’t know that much about aboriginals. I’m interested. I read Bruce Chatwin’s book
and I found it absolutely fascinating and I’ll talk about it for a minute because it bears on something I’m very interested in. Part of the transformation that I think is going to happen to us lies in the way we deal with language neurologically. Because under the influence of psychedelics, especially short acting tryptamines like DMT, you experience phenomena that seem to be transformations of the language modality. I’ve described this stuff as visible language; that you can actually sing meaning into visible existence and I’ve seen this on ayahuasca. This is what ayahuasca is about, the famous group states of mind that anthropologists talk about. What they really are, are three dimensional acoustical sculptures that are made by groups of people who are loaded and it’s an extraordinary thing. It’s an experience you can’t have any other way and it’s not quite telepathy or perhaps more than telepathy.
The key concept in communications is bandwidth. The more bandwidth you have, the more detail, color and tone that you can impart to your signal. Well a very low bandwidth channel is the small mouth noise channel. This is about as primitive as it gets short of doing in Morse code; doing it by voice. It’s amazing that we understand each other at all. In fact you may have noticed that one of the most uncool things you can do is ask somebody – would you explain to me what I just said? They say, ‘oh well, oh dear, I’m afraid I was generally’…a lot of floundering around. In these ayahuasca states what you see are group generated acoustical hallucinations and because ayahuasca is composed of psychedelic compounds which occur in normal brain chemistry – in other words nothing exotic to human brain tissue is present – it raises the question, well how close is normal metabolic chemistry to having an ability to do this?
The answer is, nobody knows but very, very close. The pineal gland produces adrenoglomerulotropin, which is a beta-carboline. 6-methoxy-tetrahydro-harmaline or maybe it is adrenoglomerulotropin – I can’t remember. Anyway there are active beta-carbolines produced in brain metabolism and language is such an odd phenomena anyway in our species. Notice that you have to have two people to do it, which raises real question on how you get that coordinated the first time out. It’s a behavior. It isn’t an organ. It isn’t like my arm or nose, it’s a behavior and a learned behavior, yet a behavior so much more complex than any other behavior you ever learn. If the average person could walk like the average person could talk, they would be a primo ballerina of the Russian ballet. It’s very interesting that we have such facility to the linguistic enterprise and how it evolves. It’s changing all the time. Is it just changing in a kind of forward lateral direction or is there some kind of vertical gain here? Can we actually describe things better to each other than the ancient Greeks could describe things to each other? Can we say things, which they couldn’t say, or anything of consequence? I maintain yes, that culture – freeways, internal airports, are the trailing edge of evolving language.
So here’s a story that relates to this that it is in Bruce Chatwin’s book
. There are these things called song lines, which cross Australia and they can be thousands of miles long. If you’re a shaman and one of these things crosses your territory, then you are the keeper of the song, of that part of the line. You must learn and keep this song. There are a hundred and thirty-seven aboriginal languages in Australia, so these people did the following thing. They went to the place near one end of the song line and they recorded a shaman singing his song of that place. Then they went two thousand miles to another part of the same song line and they found the song keeper of that place and they played the guys song for him. It was in a language he didn’t speak and he had never been away from his own home – he had never been to this place. So he listened to the song and after a while, he began to sing with it. Not the words but the melody and he sang with it the way you could sing with green sleeves if you didn’t know the words but you knew the melody. Then after it was over he said, the man has sang this song. His place is a ‘Beaut’ with three mountains and eucalyptus filling the valley and a red rock like a lizard over here.
So then they tried to analyze, what is happening here? Is this telepathy? Is it magic? What is it? I think the key to understanding it lies in…I’ve recently seen, you can buy for about six hundred dollars a piece of software where you glue electrodes to your head and sit down in front of your computer and you see an undulating landscape of neuro readouts that look, lo and behold, like mountains, valleys, escarpments. It’s like visit to Utah. I am convinced that what’s happening is that when the shaman listens to the first shaman’s song, he does not process the sound the way we do. He processes it the way this computer is processing the neurological input and what he’s seeing is an acoustical environment of sound and he can see the place. The song is the way it is because the song is not a song; the song is a hologramatic acoustigram of the topology of the land through which the song line passes. These people are called the most primitive people in the world, remember?
So I just recently became aware of this. It’s very exciting to me. I’m interested in this software but this is the kind of thing that lies out there. The world arrives at the surface of your skin as one thing but the senses bifurcate the incoming signal. The light goes to the eyes, the acoustical signal goes to the ears, the tactile signal is conveyed through the skin and so then when we reconstruct the world, the wells are showing rather prominently in the model. What happens with the psychedelics is, it seems as though somewhere deep in the brain there is an organ or a program that can take all of the incoming sensory data and actually recombine it into a synesthesic whole, which is neither seen nor felt nor heard, but which is hologrok’d or something. A sense which unites all of the other senses, and that’s what I call going into this informational super space. That’s what the psychedelic experience is. It reunifies the sensory datum of the world and I might add, the whole world, not the surface of the world, which is conveyed to us by light, but the internal dimension of transcendence that is in the world, is also present.
[Audience] – It’s very interesting that you mentioned that binding together of the senses. I attended a conference earlier this year called ‘Towards a Scientific Basis for Consciousness’ in Arizona and a number of the presentations focused on the way in which the brain operates when this binding takes place. It turns out different cortical groups start to talk to one another by oscillating together in phase and when they’re phase locked like that, they begin to bind this into a whole. I’m reminded of the research that Michael Persinger up at Laurentian University in Canada, who has been focusing on the electromagnetic field of the Earth and its affect on the brain. In particular, he’s been interested in the correlation between earthquake activity and ghost sightings and such but he’s pointed out that the
Yeah, he wrote a wonderful book called
Space-Time Transients and Unusual Events
. He’s been very creative with using the electromagnetic field as an explanation for all kinds of things. I’m totally open-minded to his work. It’s very interesting. It does seem to be true that along earthquake faults, you do get piezoelectric buildup and release. The world is full of bizarre phenomena. Some of you may have seen in Science News last week, for the first time they have confirmed these enormous blue and red lights above 75,000 feet in the atmosphere. Airline pilots have been seeing these things for years. There was no theory. Nobody knew what they were. Now NASA dedicated an expedition to looking at this and they got thousands of images of these things. It’s an electrical phenomenon; theory doesn’t account for them, nobody knows what it means. On one level I’m sympathetic to Persinger and that approach to explaining some of these things and I do think that the place has been overlooked in importance.
On another level, this is a very hard thing to talk about, but there is what I call linguistic viruses that infect the effort to communicate. They’re very hard to catch at work. It has to do with how can people believe things that are absurd. It’s very interesting to spend time with people who believe something which is absurd. A lot of people bring raps to me that they want confirmation or disconfirmation on and I passed this way last night when I talked about the rules of evidence. The standard of discourse has decayed to the point where it’s very hard to get any kind of consensus about anything because most people participating don’t know how the game is played. Linguistic viruses really are responsible for much more of reality than we suppose. I suppose I can’t really talk about this without stepping on somebody’s toes so let me pick…for example, crop circles.
Crop circles are important and what was going on at the England end, these things were absurd. You had only to see one to understand what was going on and to see that a confluence of British eccentricity, ripe grain, a certain ambiance the air was allowing these things to come into being. And the media was fanning it into existence. Well now how does this work? Talking of coupled oscillators and Persinger and all that. Pardon me?
[Audience] – Could you repeat that law?
Oh, the paranormal phenomenon has an impact in an inverse square relationship to the distance you are from the event. You see? Here’s how it works. The media is reporting the onrushing phenomena of existence – stock markets, wars, diplomatic meetings, gangster killing, so forth and so on. Then something weird happens, now I have a job, you have a job, and we note that something weird has happened but it doesn’t affect us. But scattered through the society there are people who when they open their paper and see ‘Strange Pattern in Wheatfield near Wiltshire.’ They say, ‘ah ha – I knew it. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is the sign.’ They jump in their card and they drive to Wiltshire to look at the crop circle and they get there first. Well then comes the press and they say, ‘well what is this?’ The farmer doesn’t know and everybody standing around and finally the weird person takes courage and says ‘well actually I’ve been studying a peculiar form of biological energy for some thirty years and my theory…’ You’re off and running at that point. So weirdness attracts weirdos who then interpret the weirdness very weirdly because they came with sharpened axes to grind, you see?
The crop circle thing was a test case for this. This is why I spent so much time on it. It did no credit to anybody. The occult just went sailing over the edge and science didn’t behave any better. If any of you are interested in this, there’s a wonderful book called
Round in Circles
by Jim Schnabel that goes into all this. But anyway, there was a fellow named Terence Meaden who was a meteorologist and when the first crop circles appeared and the weirdos began talking about telluric forces, messages from Atlantis, so forth and so on – he jumped into the fray and said, ‘nonsense, nonsense!” This is a meteorological phenomenon. In the warm days of summer on the lee side of these certain kinds of hills, a kind of circular low-pressure wind can get going and this is nothing to get excited about and we’ve got the statistics. The press loved him. They loved him as much as the screwballs and they would put him on. First they would interview the mad people and then Terence Meaden would come on and pooh-pooh it away.
So that was the first year of the crop circles. The next year the crop circles became considerably more elaborate with arrows coming off of them and zigzags and so forth and so on. Bring Terence Meaden onto the scene and he says, ‘well the new field of dynamic instability indicates that the mathematical solutions to these breakdown states are very complicated and unusual patterns…’ So then the next year, it was inconceivably complex, the crop circles. Meanwhile, crop circle time is in the springtime. It’s dead in the winter because the fields are empty, so Meaden had used the winter time to go to the Institute of Electrostatic Physics in Nagoya and came back full of talk about roving plasmic fields and this sort of thing. Armed with the roving plasmic fields, no crop circle was too bizarre to not be proclaimed the product of natural forces.
This went on and on and finally BBC2 - and you can think about this what you like - but they made a crop circle in frustration with this whole thing. They made a crop circle and among the crop circle cognoscenti, there are certain moves that are the favorite moves that are the authenticating moves that no human being could possibly do it. So the BBC2 people made a very good crop circle and they brought Terence Meaden out and said, Terence we’ve just spotted one over here and we need to get you right to the scene before the tourists got there.’ They toured with him and he pointed out the distinguishing characteristics, no doubt about it. Then they sat him down in the center of this field and said, Terence, we made it.
It’s a horrible thing actually to see a grown man cry. He is devastated. This is just one of many moments. You know Rupert, my comrade in arms? Rupert Sheldrake was one of the people who sponsored the contest that basically put the crop circles out of business because the claims were fantastic, you know? No person could do this. So what they did was they got farmers to donate ten acre tract of English corn, which is wheat, and for fifty pounds you could enter and everybody had to make the same crop circle, which was one chosen to have all the difficult little smiggies in it and you could use no lights, you had to go into the field at 10pm and be out by 4am and at dawn, the helicopters flew over with the video crews and the crop circles were toured on the ground and awards were made.
This guy, Jim Schnabel, who wrote this book I mentioned, by himself in total darkness, in two and a half hours, made the winning entry. It was very close tie to him and a helicopter crew to a nearby airbase who also made one. Yet, this is to some degree the point of the whole story, there are people whose eyes fill with tears when I do this rap because they haven’t heard. It will never die now I’m convinced. It’s an informational virus loose in the world. Crop circles will occasionally appear but it was really a breakout that was so predictable from the unconscious that it amazed me while it was going on how many friendships that were strained over this thing.
[Audience] – Wasn’t that kind of also the capitulation of the History of the Catholic Church?
And the fall of the Ming dynasty I believe?
[Audience] – It’s like a virus embedded within a virus here because part of what happens when these sorts of things erupt onto the media scene and this is true for UFOs, whenever one of those outbursts take place, is that there is this incredible elaboration and complexity that emerge in the kinds of stories that people are telling. The abduction thing would be the latest. By the way, Persinger is involved in that too by showing that electro-magnetic fields to the brain can induce these weird out of body experiences. But in the case of crop circles, they’ve been reported for many decades but they’ve not received much attention. They’re just little circles that have a spiral pattern in them and they’ve been seen over the world. My personal view is that there is probably a series of different phenomena that have been shuffled into one category but when the media gets a hold of them, all crop circles are the same. When fractal designs start showing up outside the university campus there – the Mandelbrot set which is one of the most ridiculous of the crop circle patterns, the media presents the image that these are all the same. They’re all the same phenomena. So consequently, I wouldn’t be surprised if Meaden might not be right at some level that there are dust devil like phenomena…
No I agree with you completely and they track down a 1733 account of something called the Devil’s Mower. I grew up in western Colorado and part of my rite of initiation into manhood was in forced elk hunting on horseback every autumn. We would come upon these places in the forest that had been whirled down and the explanation was just that these are deadfalls from whirlwinds but it always seemed to me – had anybody ever seen one of these things occur? It was a very odd explanation. Yes, it’s about informational distortion and decay. You’re quite right. I went to a flying saucer convention against my better judgment and I learned more…my opinion about flying saucers evolved more over that weekend than in the previous thirty years of being interested in flying saucers. I read all the books, all the special cases, I knew the data and all that but I had never hung out with flying saucer people. It was so obviously a private Idaho that I just couldn’t wait to get away.
There are two impulses in the human psyche, at least two in this case. I just don’t resonate with believers in anything. I get insulting to Buddhists for God’s sake. It’s just something about their smugness and their whole bit, I just want to squash it. So you can imagine how I behave in the presence of scientologists and the rest of it. Belief is again, it’s a form of infantilism. There are no grounds for believing anything. The flying saucer thing, I went to this conference imagining that what I would meet would be a whole bunch of really interesting sincere people who wanted to discuss the phenomenon of unexplained things in the sky and contacting human beings. What I found was booth after booth of people who had all the answers! Learn how a nearby planet reduced crime by 500%! I got news for you, not even God can reduce crime by 500% once you’ve reduced it by 100%; you’ve got it!
This was the quality of thinking that was going on. Then there were a lot of really scary people in brown leather shoes with thin smiles and cheap suits who were clearly third rate, semi retired intelligence hacks who were there to keep the flock headed in the right direction. People wanted to talk about experiments on human fetal tissue that go on in underground laboratories out in Arizona through the connivance of the CIA and the Pledian high command. And you just think, I’ve just got to call my broker. I’ll get back to you on that. I don’t know. It’s an aesthetic thing. I believe that great weirdness stocks the universe. That’s not the issue with me but it’s not tacky. It is not tacky. People who wear low cut gowns with a lot of sequins on them and tiaras and pass out flying saucer shaped business cards, that’s tacky. So it can’t be so! I know this. I’ve never been wrong. If intelligence fails, aesthetics will pull you through. People don’t like this part of me. I don’t make it comfortable for other squirrels. I don’t share the branch very generously.
A place where I’ve gotten into lots of trouble is with the face on Mars. I just have not got enough unpleasant things to say about the face on Mars, everybody connected with it, the whole idea. Talk about something, which should never have been let out of the box – that’s it. The idea of a chachka 17 x 11 miles in size just gives me the heebeegeebees. I don’t want to know those aliens. They should go back where they came from and take their chachka with them. We need people who can build in light and balance planetary ecologies and do really cool things. Massive earth moving projects – we’ve been there, we’ve done that.
[Audience] We never went to the moon either. Books will appear on these subjects. One of the interesting things about UFO experience though and the other kinds of different phenomena that you’re talking about, is the potential for manipulation of belief systems and this is something that Jacque Valay talks about in his books. There is a kind of sinister undertone that the military is bringing people in who are UFO diehards and saying look at these documents, we can prove that there is this majestic group and then snatching them back and then the UFO enthusiasts go out and tell the world about it. They launch stories about aliens under the desert in Nevada collaborating with the military and the newspapers pick it up but completely pooh-pooh it. Meanwhile there are tests of a new spy plane called project Aurora, which travels six times the speed of sound and leaves a trailing ball blue of light and if anybody sees it traveling over the desert and picks up the phone and calls the paper, nobody will report it.
No, it’s clear that those black projects and Aurora is the one, is being run out there. That’s very exciting. I mean a plane that can fly into orbit.
[Audience] – Terence, what is your opinion on the biosphere? Did you get into that at all? John Allen and the whole shtick there?
I knew those people in the early 80s - 1983, 1981, in the Amazon. They said they were headed for Mars. I don’t know. They are derivative of J.G. Bennett’s school of Gurdjieffians and I have a rule, which is, I’m against any group that keeps secrets and Gurdjieffians keep secrets. I’m not against Gurdjieffians per se; in fact it’s kind of too bad they get into the category. Secret keeping is a bad habit and if you tell me a secret, I’ll probably tell it. Nobody ever told me not to say anything. So I’ve followed them with interest over the years. It’s too bad it’s another thing lead by a middle aged white guy but they seem to have the pull.
But I want to return to something you said. This can be the last thing about flying saucers but let me give you my conclusion from this weekend of how the whole flying saucer thing worked. This is just one person’s opinion but this is how I explain it to myself. As you know in 1947, the Rainer lights appeared and that was the first big modern flying saucer sighting and set off the whole modern flying saucer phenomenon. Well cast your mind back to the ambiance of 1947. The atom bomb was in 1945, the defeat of Germany, the H-bomb was under development, Einstein was advising Truman. People were on the brink of things they could not understand. Nobody knew what the H-bomb really meant. What does it mean that we can do this? They said, we don’t know, maybe the universe is monitored and what we’re doing is so outrageous that maybe it will bring those who do the monitoring. Then they began to get these reports of these things in the sky. My god this must be it. There were very high-level government – secret, secret, secret commissions that were setup and they began to study the flying saucers furiously.
They penetrated all those groups and they penetrated the flying saucer thing from one end to the other and I’m talking 1947 to 1954. They studied it and they studied it and Carl Jung was brought in, and all kinds of people were brought in, and at the end of that period, they concluded that what it was. They actually understood it. They concluded that it was the cosmic giggle. They concluded that it was that un-reducible nub of nuttiness that haunts reality and that it was not a threat to the security of North American air defenses. That was their question. Is this a military problem for us? By 54 or so, they had decided whatever this is – a linguistic virus, a mass hallucination, whatever it is – it is not a problem for the military defense of North America.
But they had spent millions infiltrating and completely taking over the weirdest group of screwballs you can imagine, the flying saucer, hardcore cultists. They said, these people will believe anything. We know that because we’ve been to their meetings. We’ve read their publications. What should we do with them? Should be just withdraw all our agents and let them go back to whatever they are doing and the answer was no. These people will become a pool for experiments in manipulation of information, control of belief systems and response to propaganda. A whole bunch of black box, psychological, programming and informational kinds of research will be done on this pool of people because they’re so weird, if they start telling their relatives that they’re hearing voices in the head or something like that, their relatives and friends are just going to say what else is new. You’ve been talking like this for years. I think it was kept like that right up until the present moment.
I think it’s very low budget. This is not high priority for the CIA. They’re sending, as I’ve said, semi-retired guys in scuffed brown shoes who are definitely over the hill. But they shepherd the group along and as you said, they release these outlandish documents and then they pull them back. Some guy comes forward and says it’s all a fraud and I know because I was on the inside and I was the one paid to tell you all these things and then somebody else comes forward and says no – he’s a walk in and has an implant and it wasn’t that way at all. It’s sort of like the JFK assassination. There is no bedrock there. There is no ground zero and I find these things sort of spooky. I think it’s bad mental hygiene to spend too much time with squirrels.
[Audience] – They can infect you.
Yeah. Put down that groundhog baby Elizabeth. You don’t know where it’s been.
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