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Linear Societies and Non-Linear Drugs
Linear Societies and Nonlinear Drugs
16 January 1999
Entheobotany Seminar Chan Kha Hotel, Palenque, Mexico
On Saturday night, January 16, 1999, Terence McKenna gave one of his last lectures at the legendary Entheobotany Series by the foot of the pool at the Chan Kha Hotel near the Mayan ruins of Palenque. There were about 100 people sitting in the moon- light, listening to the lowing of cattle in the distance and the occasional chatter of the howler monkeys in the trees nearby.
Matrix Masters link with extra info about the talk
Well, so then let me turn to the main event. I've got a snoot full of Tequila and a messianic mission [audience laughter] pawing the ground to talk to you, as usual.
Everybody has their own [???]
Uh, I guess the title of tonight’s talk is Linear Societies and Nonlinear Drugs, which uh, is something that I just had to pull out of the air when Kim finally slammed me to the wall for what I would be talking about this night many months ago. But, more and more for me, especially with this group, these things have become sort of, uh, summations and, I guess I hope, convivial examinations of just where we are- we each and every one of us -and then this enterprise, whatever we mean by that, in the context of everything else that’s happening in the world. In other words, the psychedelic experience, uh, the entheogenic experience, uh, contextualized. And as I try to think about, you know, what, if anything, I can bring to the party I guess it’s that what I’m interested in is uh, psychedelics as a philosophical tool. And when I concretize that for myself I realized no-there’s no claims on that part of discourse.
No one wants to do this. Uh, philosophy i-academic philosophy is done in a very formal manner, and the most exciting is incredibly stuffy. And yet I – like most of you I assume – have taken on board in my life this thing called the psychedelic experience, which is then as large a portion of my being as my sexuality, my politics, my education, it, it shapes everything. And yet, nowhere in the world of philosophical discourse is there any genuflection at least overtly made to this, maybe not since Plato talked about uh, shadows on the walls on the cave, and so forth and so on.
Well, so, uh, what can psychedelics and the psychedelic experience bring to philosophy, and, and what do I mean by philosophy? By philosophy I mean, uh, the enterprise of discursive thinking. Trying to understand what the world is and who’s asking the question. You know, where did the world come from? Where is it bound and who’s along for the ride?
And it seems to me that we as a community have – this is sort of hard to wrap your mind around at least for me – but we have in a sense inculcated into ourselves the image of an underclass so that we struggle for legal toleration of our, of our practices and our habits. But we don’t struggle for intellectual legitimation of our vision. We accept that they are somehow contextually marginal. And, and as I thought about that I realized that that is a limitation on the community. That, uh, the information which is coming from the psychedelic experience as interpreted by Western people is primary evidence for the need for a major paradigm shift in the whole way, uh the Western mentality does business.
Well, what kind of evidence and what kind of shift? Well, [clears throat] there’s a lot of talk in our community, and there had been for many, many years about shamanism. And when we seek to legitimize ourselves through a historical argument we reach back to shamanism and we say we’re part of something which is a hundred thousand years old and worldwide and touched the spirit long before the shadow of the cross fell over Jerusalem and so forth and so on. All, all true. Um, and in a way that has, I think, the-that, uh tendency, which is part of the broader tendency in the Western mind to, uh valorize and grow nostalgic over the primitive has put a certain political cast on our, on our uh, stance and our position. But what we are is uh, again contextually, is a culture of science, uh, and I’m speaking now of our community. It’s the Albert Hoffmans and the, and the Dave Nichols and the Sasha Shulgins who have kept our canoe afloat. These are men of science, its methods, its vocabulary, its culture. We have not, though we certainly honor those people and love them – as their rhetoric is not the primary rhetoric of the larger community of psychedelic users, which tends toward this – uh, as I referred to it – shamanistic aboriginal nostalgia.
This- I mean I- I'll turn left here for a moment. I feel more comfortable with the scientific end of things. I think the news coming out of science is the most psychedelic news, uh, there is. When I go to the Internet I go to things like science alert and the Hubble picture of the day and uh, and this sort of thing. And, uh, our community as a whole, I think, is not involved enough in incorporating the, the vistas. If, you know, we- while we struggle to legalize psychedelics, psychedelic thinking is everywhere triumphant because the instruments built by linear science throw open doorways on the unimaginable and the most revered and hoary jefes of the scientific establishment have to genuflect before this stuff.
I mean, what am I talking about? Well for example, Science Magazine, uh wrote last week that the most important scientific breakthrough of 1998 was the, uh, apparent observation and agreement upon that observation by the astrophysical community of a cosmological constant. Uh, it-this sounds like very deep physics, but if I give it to you as a headline what is means is the entire universe, every atom and every empty space of it, is ruled by a very weird force that has now been seriously known to science for precisely five months. [audience laughter] Uh, a force which is apparently going to overcome gravity’s tendency to collapse the universe and to cause it to expand in a very explosive and counterintuitive and psychedelic fashion that is the complete confoundment of the core science that Western linear thinking has, has built. And of course there weren’t riots in the streets and the electricity didn’t fail, uh, but at the very pinnacles of the antennae of the evolving civilization, uh, there was a shudder felt in the force you may be sure.
So, there are two much larger forces than our community that are in play in terms of shaping the cultural modality and, and I would call them, um … what would I call them? I would call one of them science. It’s the other one I am having trouble with. It, it is uh, everything which is not anchored in the rational. You know the 20th century has the most spectacular celebratory affair with the irrational since the 16th century. I mean never before had so many prophets, wizards, wise women, casters of runes, and seers of visions moved among the people uh, uh, uh plying their wares. Uh, and part of this is brought on by the tension between the failure of the education system at the very moment of an inflationary expansion of knowledge. So that it’s very hard to, to be aux courant in all fields and if your not current in a field then probably your version of that field is some kind of story, a myth, you know. Uh, i mean if you cant keep up with quantum physics why not fall back on archangels, you know. It requires less intellectual engagement or something like that. Uh, discourse is fragmenting. Fields of discourse are evolving vocabulary so rapidly that the understanding of these vocabularies is not penetrating very far beyond the core group of workers. So then this is creating kind of islanded systems of self reference where outside those systems of self reference information doesn't travel. Uh, the people who are the gene splicers know very little about remote sensing and both of those parties know very little about uh, recent discoveries in astrophysics, for example. So, there's an intellectual fragmentation.
Uh, I live in Hawaii and in a forest in fairly remote conditions, and so I entertain all this in my mind all the time, and try to – my faith, and I assume it’s the psychedelic faith, although we have had some fairly existential characters in our ranks over the years. [laughs, laughter] But uh, but the psychedelic faith I think is that uh, the universe is beautiful in the Platonic sense and therefore good and true. In other words we are optimists. We are not flailing existentialists. We are not relativists because we have a real standard to measure our spiritual coinage against. So we're not relativists. This is a point I’m really keen to make because we’re embedded in relativism. It’s all around us. It’s the air we breathe but it is not inimical to the psychedelic community. I mean, I think the psychedelic experience is the only authentic source of uh, uh reliable contact with the numinous. I mean meditation, so forth and so on, is all very fine but uh, it requires a leisure class involved in philanthropic support of this kind of foolishness, where uh, the psychedelic experience is immediate and uh, and real. So uh– now I've lost my way here, … ah yes, no no, optimism – so I sit in Hawaii and I look at all this and I try to contextualize it and, and come out with a, a good story because I think the best story will win. [audience chuckling] Uh, so if you can get together the the best version of how it should all come out – so shall it be. And I work at this because in the past I've been very, very happy with the results between my interior fantasy and the unfolding of historical development. I mean, I, I wished for LSD and then it happened, [audience chuckles] and then I dreamed of the Internet and then it happened. So I should keep at this.
Uh, uh, and I recently read a very interesting book called “A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History” by Michael [Manuel] De Landa, and if you get a chance you should take a look at this. And he made a point, which caused me to expand his point into this little thing I’m gonna tell you now, but his point was that uh, human beings are very involved in the movement of geological material. That as a species we move rocks around on a very large scale and of course it’s interesting that the ear-some of the earliest human structures are the most physically massive and weighty, like the great pyramids. So De Landa made this point about our relationship with the st- the geological stratigraphy of the earth, and that cities were a kind of geological extension of the process of crystallization carried on through the intermediation of a biological unit i.e. intelligent primates who are building these structures. And, uh I thought that was very interesting. I had never considered it before.
I'd al- I've talked about virtual reality and I've said that it’s nothing new that Ur was a virtual reality and Çatalhöyük was a virtual reality, but done in stucco and fired ceramic and stone. And that when the medium is so intractable as stone the epistemic assumptions that get formed about what reality is are very different then if you can build Versailles at the click of a mouse button. Uh, but nevertheless it’s the same. But embedded in my reading of De Landa was, I've been thinking a lot and I talked to you a lot last year about artificial intelligences and minds which are not human. Minds which are very different from us. Intelligence which is very different from us. Uh, you know, while the naïve are scanning the stars our appliances have become telepathic. We- there is a very strange kind of intelligence being called into existence by ourselves, strangely enough, and this is the connection to De Landa. This artificial intelligence which is being called into being by human activity is made of the same materials as Ur and Çatalhöyük. It’s made of ceramics, glasses, and metals. It's that, uh-so then I took this on board and thought about it and I, I've sort of come to some kind of ‘Cyber pantheistic Emersonianism’, [audience chuckles] which is, uh … I’ll give it to you as a headline and then work backwards so that in case I forget what I’m saying it won’t be lost to suffering mankind. [audience laughs]
The earth’s strategy for its own salvation is through machines – is what it is. And, human beings are some kind of uh – we are the deputized spouse. We are the bride in this alchemical rarefaction of glasses, ceramics, metals and uh, and volatile materials. Apparently the earth is like some kind of an embryonic, uh or fetal thing. And at the end of its gestation what is happening is, it is ramifying its nervous system – is appearing in its developmental- in the unfolding of its morphogenesis. And as we contemplate nanotechnologies and see ourselves working through bacteria and this sort of thing at the engineering level. You have to be blind to not then reflect back upon the fact that in some sense we are already working at that kind of level, at the behest of it is not clear who. Because nobody ever asked the question in quite this way before. The answer to who, I think, is, is the earth. And that what lies ahead at the end of the linear tunnel of, of Western subjectivist, positivist, structuralist, assumptions that we've been operating, when we hit the end of the tunnel and burst out into the larger mental space of cosmic evolution, what we are going to find is that we are partners, actors in a cosmic drama that involves the earth at one polarity and machine at the other polarity as the expression of the will of the earth toward a kind of self reflective transcendence that is achieved through machine-human-biotic symbiosis. And this is, you know, there will never be a headline which says this. Some people won't even notice that it’s happening because these large scale processes can be described by many metaphors at many depths, but I’m telling you I think this is what’s going on.
Uh, the reason I like this story is because uh, it’s not a story about processes out of control. It’s not a story about human guilt. It’s not a story full of we musts and we should. It’s a story, which gives honor to every part of the unfolding experience field, in other words biology, technology, human culture, human traditional values, transcendent human disextopian values. It’s a story of things on course on time and under budget [audience chuckles] and I assume that’s how nature really operates. And that we live inside some kind of anxiety-producing culture that is uh, a necessary, I don’t want to say evil, but a necessary response to conditions of stress. Uh, there are processes which let, you know, waste, nuclear waste build up, urbanization, land disturbance, there are processes which if allowed to run on indefinitely would wreck the whole system and pitch it into chaos. But Confucius said uh, “No tree grows to heaven”, and what he meant by that is that is it’s fruitless to project any process to infinity because any process projected to infinity creates some kind of catastrophic scenario. If no fruit flies died in six months the earth would spin out of its orbit from the weight of fruit flies. No, I don’t think that’s true [laughter] But what an image! [laughter]
Somebody once told me if the earth completely disappeared except for its nematodes that you could still see the outlines of the continents if you were standing on the moon. [audience laughter] I thought, now just who gathered this? [laughter] So then to bring this back around a little, where, where is the psychedelic experience in all of this? Well, um, it used to be called or at one phase it was called uh, consciousness expansion and consciousness expansion in human beings is going to become uh, an absolute necessity because we are summoning out of the woodwork of cybernetic technology machines that are going to require super-intelligent humans to direct and uh, and have discourse with them. This is happening. It is already happening. I mean the Internet is this. I mean it doesn't tap you on the shoulder and remind you to brush your teeth, but it is, you know, a partner in the understanding of the world that is genie-like, that’s the image I have when I sit down to it. It is, it is uh, all John Dee would have asked of his archangelic messengers. He wanted instantaneous information on the political situation on the course of Europe. He wanted information on the course of the- Drake’s expedition, then on the other side of the planet. The internet is this kind of magical intelligent prosthesis, uh, and as I said there wont come a dramatic moment, I think, à la lawnmower man or something like that.
These, these things are, are much more seeping. The only people who in fact can see the game move against the background of the forest pattern are psychedelic heads. Uh, you have to think about this stuff and you have to develop vocabularies for catching it in action. Uh, this is what the game of, of uh, being an intellectual is, I think – uh, trying to, trying to see the processes of morphological unfoldment in action and guess uh the direction in which it’s headed. Uh, because it’s inevitably headed toward greater density of information at greater speeds, higher level integrative metaphors, visually rather than textually displayed, uh, transformation of such graphic and glyphic elements over time. It becomes more and more like the interface of a computer, more and more like some kind of uh, machine environment.
I mean, we have thought, for I assume, at least a hundred thousand years maybe much uh longer, but the quality of thought, you know, it was early- when it was early it was intermittent, it was thin, it was a groping, it was uh, an undigested intuition, a perception slipping away from the minds eye. Because of media reinforcement and education and acculturation and the passage of a hundred thousand years, the voice of the mind, the, the Logos, uh, has grown stronger. But now it takes uh, a, uh an exponential leap forward into visualization, into manifestation through this information processing prosthesis that integrates us all. And, you know, I can imagine a future not very far away where the, the individual, uh, expression of the individual is lowered is more muted.
I mean, this is the most individualistic individual worshiping century – the century just ending– that we have ever known. And its, its great accomplishments, its great works of art were all accomplished by individuals and of political undertaking such as the Third Reich and so forth and so on. Also highly motivated individuals who rose above the masses. I’m-I'm not sure we can afford the luxury of that kind of exhibitionistic individualism in the future. And I think probably that it’s not that we are talking about a restriction of human rights, we are taking about a transformation of human drives. Uh, the states of integration and collectivity that will be sold as public utilities in the next century are anticipated now by group psychedelic experiences, ayahuasca sessions, this sort of thing. And the dichotomy – and I think I made this clear when I talked about the earth and machines – the dichotomy between the natural and the artificial is an obsession of the 20th century. Hence cancelled now. Uh, in fact a whole bunch of things are cancelled.
We were talking at home about how, how uh, Roger Shattuck in his history of Dada said that “The 20th century couldn't wait to be born. It was born in 1888 at the death of Victor Hugo." and then I said, "well so if it was born in 1888 when did the 20th century end?" and I think it ended in 1992, expired early with the birth of the World Wide Web. What defined all that modernity was mass media. You know, uh, mass media shaped that whole psychology and it is now archaic – it’s not archaic it’s obsolete. Uh, it-it’s wonderful that the phrase "20th century" is beginning to have that wonderful brown gravy Edwardian tone that used to be reserved for the term 19th century. [audience chuckles] Meaning those terribly stuffy and confused and rather silly people who just didn't quite get it right but were doing the best they could and muddling through and thank God they gave way to us, the people of the 21st century. [laughter]
Let me see here. Is there a flashlight? I have a page full of notes. I needn't be so, uh … If anything here that wasn't touched on …
Well some notes about um, the this planetary intelligence (– thank you June –) and how all that works. Um, one of the insights that-I've been reading different people this year, maybe you can tell,and one of the people I've been reading is Greg Egan who I've talked about last year. But now I've read more. Now I've read Diaspora and the ones where he makes no effort whatsoever to explain it to you unless you've already done your homework. And, uh, what I- and then Jonathan today in his lecture talked about DNA a little bit and frame slippage and all of that and it reminded me of it.
The thing that I’m coming to from my psychedelic, uh, experience and my life experience and the whole ball of wax, is, uh, I-I said for many, many years that the world is made of language. That was just sort of one of, of my bumper stickers. But I think that there's- that that carries some of the flavor of what I wanna say there, but that there’s more to it than that. It’s, it's that uh, everything is code. Everything is code in the sense that hackers mean when they say they write code. When Sasha stands up and waves his arms and draws what he calls the dirty pictures he initiates you into a code, a vocabulary with very, uh defined rules and quick to learn. And then they are like tinker toys. Once you know the rules of the connectivity then you can sit down like a child and begin to stick these things together. And say well what would this be like, and what would this be like, and does God allow this or does this break the rules and so forth.
The DNA is like that. Human language is like that. Uh, human body language is like that. Machines communicate like this. In fact, uh, uh this is a-a bridge which connects us. This is the great overarching bridge which will connect us to the machines, that they, like us are uh, commanded by language.
And so uh, this realization that everything is code and code moving on many levels is I think a further … – it’s more primary than the perception, for example, that things are made of space, time, matter and energy. That’s one level below code. The code codes for space, time, matter, and energy. It’s much more like we’re in um, a simulacrum, some kind of machine environment. And in fact I like that idea because I've always sensed, and psychedelics have always intensified this intuition in me, that the universe is a puzzle, life is a, is a problem to be solved, it’s a conundrum. It’s not what it appears to be. There is uh, there are doors, there are locks and keys. There are levels, uh, and if you, if you get it right somehow it will give way to something extremely unexpected. DMT is a perfect example of that and of course at the molecular level it literalizes that metaphor. I mean, the DM- the DMT is the molecular key, the extraneous object introduced into the front door of the synaptic receptor. And then, you know, you can plunder the palace – for five minutes. [laughter]
Well if …, if the, if the world is uh, the world is code then it can be hacked. In other words it won't, it needn’t stand still in quite the same way that it stands still in your mind if you believe in something called the laws of physics. Uh, it permits magic because it says behind the laws of physics is a deeper level, and if you can reach that deeper level you can make uh, you can make changes there.
Now and this leads onto something that I wanted to say about an earlier theme where I was talking about the legitimation of the, of the community’s intuitions. There's something that we always kick around at these things or I always bring it up in some form is where do the hallucinations come from?
Uh, we arrived late last night from a 24 hour trip from Hawaii that was just hell, or as much hell as modern airlines can legally inflict upon you. [audience chuckles] And you know, we got stoned, so we were laying there, and it always happens when, you know, you’re cut off from cannabis for long periods like that you return to it it’s ten times as strong and the hallucinations were exquisite. And, you know, I’ve been looking at hallucinations now for thirty some years. And, and I looked at these last night and I thought, if someone would ask me, “What were they like”, what would I have to say? And I said, “Indescribable! Indescribable.” I looked and looked, I could look to my heart’s content and they were in- uh, indescribable. So we always come around to this question, uh, where do the hallucinations come from? And I suppose the unconscious reductionists among us – and I don’t mean that they’re unconscious, I mean that they unconsciously use reductionism – probably assume that it’s some kind of like iteration thing. That bits and pieces of everything you've ever seen are rolling in some kind of neurological kaleidoscope that can run for ever and just produce this endless download of drifting imagery. But there’s a problem with that. Because this stuff is too coherent, it means too much, it’s too emotionally charged.
Well, we have never really rallied as a group to try and locate in our, in our combined opinions the one or several sources of these images. And uh, I think that uh, and I talked a bit about this last year, but I think that this is legitimate perception of, of uh, thoughts, places, things, times, and objects that either have existed somewhere in the universe or do exist or have existed in the minds of beings somewhere, sometime, in the universe. In other words, that we have to begin to take seriously the consequences of generalizations like quantum connectivity. In other words, it’s one thing to bask in the light of the overarching metaphor, which says that everything is connected to everything else. It’s quite another thing to say, “And so then what are the consequences, for me, of this?”
And the answer seems to me to be that ins- that the inside of our imagination, the inside of our heads, really is the most vast frontier imaginable. And we must leave it for future generations, or maybe not generations, but future evolutionary biologists to figure out why an animal nervous system would evolve a propensity for accessing Bell non-local data, in other words, quantum mechanically accessible data at a different level of the physics of things. There must be a reason. And in the same way that the problem of speciation posed a problem for 19th century biology this can pose a problem to our thinking without it sinking our intellectual enterprise. It is for some more sophisticated future group of thinkers to understand why this is so.
What we have to grapple with is, that it is so, that it is so. That, uh, you know, you have the Hubble telescope inside of you. You have inside of you an informational gathering instrument that can give you good intelligence about things so immeasurably distant from this point that to state it in numbers and units is meaningless. It’s just elsewhere. The elsewhere of the absolute infinity of the, of the plenum of the imagination in which apparently beings rise and fall like plankton in the sea.
And of course the psychedelics are the, the naturally evolved nano-machinery of the Gaian matrix that knits together this cosmic um e-ecology, this system of living relationships. I-I have, am not impatient with the idea of extraterrestrial life or intelligence just its pop regurgitation. But I think probably planets like the earth are alive and conscious, and they use the technologies that the species native to them evolve to cast images out into the larger universe, that the dialogue among cosmic minds is a dialogue among entire planetary ecosystems. It's not- it can’t be trivialized into some "take me to your leader" scenario. Still less can it validate the unscheduled visit of pro-bono proctologists from nearby star systems. I mean, you have to get a grip. [laughter]
Well, so let’s see. What … is anything else here. Can I have the light given to me? Oh, I know, one other thought that I … – in assessing this year in science. I talked about omega, a cosmological constant. And that is really incredible. In fact, let me do a personal breast beating thing and point out to you that this thing that they have come upon, omega the cosmological constant, this absolutely, you know, 50 years or so ago Einstein called it “the biggest blunder I ever made”, because he played with the necessity of this thing to keep the universe from falling in on itself. And then he decided it was an unnecessary construct and that it led to such weird i- conclusions that it had to be gotten rid of. And so that was all very well and good until the, these recent measurements of the distances of certain supernovae carried out independently by several teams of astrophysicists brought the news that uh, the universe is expanding faster than the laws of physics allow. And when they looked at how much faster they realized that it called the cosmological constant back into existence.
Well, but here there’re a couple of things about this cosmological constant that are very counter-intuitive. The first is, that it acts on empty space. It isn't, it does not require matter to manifest. It is a property of space itself, the cosmological constant. The second thing is, it’s uh, it's a repulsive force that is growing stronger and stronger. Forces don’t grow stronger and stronger. They grow weaker and weaker. Gravity grows weaker, light grows weaker, everything grows weaker. This force as time progresses gets stronger and stronger. Well, that means when you project it out toward, you know, billions of years into the future it becomes the dominant force. It overcomes gravity, it overcomes the strong force, the weak force, it overcomes all the forces. It becomes the dominant force.
The other thing about it is that it becomes stronger not on an even slope, but asymptotically it becomes stronger. Well, now this produces something very much like what I’ve been yacking about since 1971, the novelty wave, the so-called timewave. It too grows stronger and stronger through time and it too has this kind of built-in asymptotic acceleration where it uh, experiences a kind of inflationary expansion in power. The two map over each other very well. But when you talk – returning now to the cosmological constant – when you ask- when the astro-physical community realized the consequences of taking this on board, they realized that it was dissolving the entire model of what cosmology has been throughout the 20th century. Because what it’s really saying – this discovery less than six months old – is that space itself is in the act of exploding. That the universe is, is on the cusp of a uh, an inflationary phase of expansion similar to the inflationary expansion that occurred at the time of the Big Bang. What would this look like? What would it feel like? Nobody can even imagine. It is not upon us. I don’t mean that, but I mean that in the near future of the universe in the next uh, billion or two billion years things will change very, very dramatically. Uh, everything will begin to rearrange itself according to the expression of this asymptotic power.
So that, that was uh, the biggest news in astrophysics. The other news, which has psychedelic implications, I think, also comes from astrophysics. As you may recall– last August I think it was, I can’t remember exactly – every man, woman, and child on earth got the equivalent of a dental x-ray when uh, there was a uh, a thing called a star quake on a magnetar. A magnetic neutron star twenty thousand light years away experienced a catastrophic collapse and there was a wave of gamma rays that were- it well, turned on every light in the system when it hit the planet. An event like that had never been observed before. And I got to thinking about this and I realized, you know, well we’ve only been looking for this kind of thing for thirty years.There’s probably quite a bit of this kind of anomalous, high energy, short duration fluctuation of radiation going on in the galaxy.
And then I had a kind of an image – I wouldn't say a vision but a kind of an image – of how things are really arranged on the larger level in terms of the galaxy. And I- the image was of a donut. And you know, we’re accustomed to being told that we’re out at the edge of the Milky Way where stars are few and far between, that this is the boonies, in other words. But I’ll bet you that the boonies are where biology thrives because the low star-density and the distance from the galactic core and these extremely energetic events at the core would create a kind of uh, donut situation where it’s the toroidal area out near the rim where stars are slow burning and they don’t collide with each other and planets can form and you get the five billion year run you need to get to a civilization.
But, uh, you know, our- a rule of biology, and strategy and everything, and religious practice as far as that’s concerned is: seek the light. With the light is at the core. And so then I saw, aha, maybe the true seeking of the light requires biology to go into partnership with something beyond biology because the environment at the core is so energetic. And I’m not suggesting the actual core. That’s beyond contemplation. That’s a black hole. No technology imaginable can, can get even near the event horizon of an object like that. But I mean in the vicinity of the galactic core where, you know, the star density is 2 to 300 times greater than it is in our vicinity. Those kinds of environments are so fraught with peril for biology that probably downloading ourselves into machine symbiotes of some sort is the only way to go to those places. In one of Greg Eagen’s novels he pictures a human future where this is one option. You can fuse yourself with a starship and set out to check out the neighborhood, or you can join the Amish and till rye uh, in Pennsylvania. Actually I think you can’t do that because something’s happened to the earth, but some Amish possibility is still available.
Well, this is not like uh, sort of thing the other faculty members will be talking to you about, which is an intense and primarily important download of the im- the, the homework, the chemistry, the botany, the behavioral impact, the archeology, the ethnography of uh, of these substances.
I asked myself all the time, you know: “How are we different from other people?”Are we morally superior? Are we smarter? Are we richer? Are we kinder to the people we meet? And actually the longer I look the less I can tell. Uh, uh, there are extraordinary examples of all of these things in and outside of our community. And extraordinary nudniks and jerks inside and outside our community. But we have in our hands tools that I think if people were correctly presented with them and understood, without hype and hysteria and hyperbole, what this psychedelic enterprise is about that we would win them to our cause. Because our cause is uh, the human cause. The cause of thinking, and communicating, and building, and bringing into existence new forms of beauty, new possibilities for being. This can be done without psychedelics certainly, but with psychedelics it is accelerated. And it has a feeling, not only of immediacy, but of, the only way I can put it is, is correctness.
It isn't the lonely neurotic artist thrashing towards some kind of self-reflection. It’s the firm guiding hand of a greater mind, the Logos, the earth – I am not sure– but a greater mind. I mean, art- true art truly is truly inspired. And, and the, the muse I don’t think was more real for Homer than it is or each and every one of us when we’re in the presence of the mushroom or ayahuasca or DMT or LSD or something like that. Uh, so, you know, I suppose I will go to the grave with life as uh, mysterious to me as I found it when I came consciousness around six or seven. But I think life is uh–whatever it is – it’s an opportunity of some sort and the things I have been most grateful for were the things that I met at the frontiers of uh, of knowledge, of sexual experience, of psychedelic experience. Uh, knowing, feeling, and being one with being are how I would categorize uh, that break down.
So, I think the future is bound to be very confusing and demanding for most people. And there are many claims on, on each of us and our intellectual loyalties and where we put our energy. Should we tolerate relativism, should we be Mahayana Buddhists, what’s our position on the Huichol, how do you relate to Monica, all these things. [laughter] Sorted out, you know!
But I feel, actually, like the thing that I always dreamed of in my early youth was a miracle. I-I-I didn’t particularly like Ouspensky’s book “In Search of the Miraculous” but I love the title, and I used to just sort of chant it as a mantra. In search of the miraculous, just one. I knew the rules – just one is enough because one secures the possibility of an infinitude of miracles whether you’ve observed them or not. Well, now I’m fifty [clears throat] two and I've seen – I don’t know – four or five. Which is four more than necessary to make me a lifetime optimist. But the recurrent, the enduring miracle – however it’s achieved – is the, the psychedelic rush, you know.That giddying moment when all, all bets are off, all boundaries dissolve, the machinery of language fails, the adjectival wheel wells burst into flame, and then, you know, you achieve orbital velocity
and are in the presence of uh, of the thing.
And I cannot believe that that is not solitary experience. And you've heard me say many times how itchy it makes me feel to think that somebody could go from birth to the grave without having that experience. They can make of it what they want, they can denounce it, they can deify it. But one should have it because it’s one of the primary compasses of being. And it’s larger than the historical context.I mean, the point of this talk tonight was to talk about linearity and idea systems and the nonlinear impact of these drugs, and the way they break down media bias. But the, the … All these intellectual ideas exist in the light of the sun of this unspeakable primary experience. And we can, we can draw it, paint it, sculpt it, act it, dance it, drum it, and never take anything away from it. Never define it, never occlude it. Uh, it's li-it is a miracle. It’s like having the presence of a deity. It’s I think very hard for me to open myself up at any given moment to the full implication of how fortunate I am, and how good life is in uh, in the shadow of this particular tree.
Anyway, that’s the formal talk for tonight. Thank you very much. [applause]
And now, we’ll entertain questions which is usually much more fun. [audience member chuckles] So, anybody got a take on that or wanna say something completely oblique, or …?
Q: Uhm, like last year. Could we start with last year? Um, human intelligence, or Gaian intelligence, or artificial intelligence, extraterrestrial …?
Q: Could you speak up? … hear the questions?
Q: He’ll repeat it [chuckles]
TM: Well, the question is about the discussion about the artificial intelligence. You mean the hierarchy of the relationship of these things?
Q: Yes. please.
TM: Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s becoming easier for me to be a mystic about the earth than to think that we are going to be rescued by the Galactic Federation. Um, I-I think that the earth, that it’s a profound connection. The, the earth is the foundation of everything. It’s the foundation of biology and it’s the foundation of machine culture and machine architecture. So, you know, if you can imagine that a Redwood is alive, you- it’s much easier for me to imagine that there is some kind of slow moving telluric intelligence that uh, may have begun as a homeostatic system. In other words to stabilize the atmosphere, to create a chemical environment that was-had a momentum to it that wasn't driven by the cosmic ambiance. You understand what I mean?
Q: Something with feedback perhaps.
Yeah, feedback mechanisms. And then of course people say “Well, it’s very hard to imagine it because there are no genes, there is no nervous system, there is nothing that we can quite, … – but I think, that first of all we don’t know a great deal about the earth, the ocean currents, its magnetic fields, its 32 nutational and precessional motions, its core dynamics, its distribution of materials. It is complicated. And that’s what’s always required for self-referential and feedback systems to evolve. Life evolved on the surface of the earth. Now in the usual story of this the earth is not a major player, it’s just sort of where it happened. But, on the other hand, what if you took the view that the earth permitted or coaxed into existence or made possible or encouraged or enzymatically catalyzed these processes?
Uh, and and the, the, you know, the geomagnetic reversals, the glaciations, the ebb and flow of nitrogen levels in the atmosphere, all of this has pumped biology. And it’s always been presented as “Well, uh, the cosmic atmos- the cosmic environment is unpredictable and so you get fluctuations introduced from outside by random factors, asteroidal impacts so forth and so on.” But again, this is just a first try with the data. This is just somebody blowing smoke, basically. The fact is you’re presented with an extremely organized and coherent situation – the earth with its many species and ecosystems – and you don’t know how it got there. And you don’t know where it’s headed either. Now our culture is a culture of guilt and so the story of civilization is supposedly a story of rave mayhem turning the wrong direction, loosing the connection. To some degree that may be true but I think it gives much too much credit to humanity in that it actually hypothesizes that human beings, a primate species, could overwhelm nature’s dynamic drive toward order and beauty and uh, take control of things. Well that’s our myth about ourselves – is that we can take control. And, and but we never have gotten control. All of our societies have been a mess. All of our uh, explorations of uh, have been brutal and negatory.
So, uh, and now comes the machines. And they are produced by biology which comes from the earth. And what are these machines made of? Well, glass, crystal, arsenic, copper, gold all these things, and they’re being hooked together exactly on the model. Clearly the machines are modeled on biology. We talk about connecting them. We talk about languages. We use a vocabulary that we previously used uh, for biology when we talk about these things. And you see, there's a, there is a funny thing built in there which is, we are designing the machines to be more and more intelligent. But what we don’t understand is that they operate in a different universe from us because we operate at about 100 Hz. A machine you can buy down at any computer store operates at 400 MHz. That means that you can run an eternity of human lives in an afternoon It means in a way that we are creating a creature that lives in a different kind of temporal universe than us. And we are teaching them to design themselves to be ever more intelligent. And once some kind of intelligence arises – because it’s intelligent – the first thing it does is design a more intelligent version of itself. Well, at 400 MHz and with a worldwide amount of processing power to draw on you can imagine something coming to embryogenesis in a matter of hours. Something emerging, recognizing itself for what it was, and then just starting up the ladder. And what would this look like to us and where is our place in it? Uh, this, this is the adventure of the future. We are going to be a different kind of people because we are going to have to live in the presence of alien minds that will be manifestly and obviously alien. They won’t hold back. And they’re not going to be, you know, at every moment interested in us either. In fact we will become, you know, a footnote in their encyclopedia of being. And what they become in our encyclopedia of being remains to be told.
Uh, but this is all happening and it’s just a matter of a coalescence of technology and language before more and more people recognize it. As I say, there isn’t a speedbump, there isn’t a dramatic moment where everybody gets it. And when you talk to the people that actually work in these fields, they know, you know, that this is the Faustian enterprise of all time, that, that this is the handing over of the destiny of the planet to, uh, the companion mind that our history and our science and our souls caused us to summon into being. It’s pretty interesting, I think.
Original transcription by: ??
Review 1 by: Eva Petakovic
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