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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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The World Could Be Anything
The World Could be Anything
Location, City, State
We closed last night, or we discussed yesterday, a bumper sticker that I saw driving down here, and the bumper sticker said, uh, “Man thinks. God knows.” And, then, someone had bought a second copy of the bumper sticker and cut it apart and reversed it and put it under it, so it said, “Man thinks. God knows. God knows Man thinks.” [Audience laughs]
Now, it seemed to me there was a lot going on in [audience laughter] what was attempting [Terence chuckles] to be expressed here. First of all, something about God, that God knows, that God exists in a superior state of intellection. Plato said, "Time is the moving image of eternity." My notion of God’s cognition is simply the regarding of all points in the spacetime continuum with equal clarity. God
The limited program of knowing is thought, cognition. Man
This is what man can do in imitation of the all-knowing and omniscient example of God. But, implicit is that this is somehow in a- a limited undertaking, this thinking of man. And some of you may recall the famous comment of Pascal that, "Man is a reed bent by the wind." And then, Pascal added, "But a thinking reed."
So, then, the second half of the conundrum was that, “God knows. man thinks.” Now this, I thought, was very interesting, because it seems to imply a relationship between the limited project of knowing, which is human thought, and the completed project of knowing, which is omniscience.
God knows Man thinks
. In a way, what this is saying, is that God knows that man is making his way toward God. God knows man thinks. God knows that man is participating in the same project of being, that God regards from this higher dimensional space. And, so, then, this meditation on these four lines closes with a
which returns you then to this realization that what we are talking about is 'the project of knowing', Heidegger called it, carried out on two levels: on the level of omniscience and on the level of limited being.
So, then I th-- meditated on this after we discussed it yesterday, and I thought tonight it might be interesting, then, to [takes drink] talk about the thinking project of– that is the essence of humaneness on one level – the thinking project which has as its vector, um, I call it 'concrescence' following Whitehead's Neoplatonism or one could call it "God." Teilhard de Chardin called it "the Omega point." But, the, the, the, um, process by which knowing transforms itself from, uh, some kind of k- aboriginal, uh, apperception of the possibility of God into union with God, and the process that lies between these two points, is the story of the evolution of human consciousness, or more properly speaking, human history.
And, the interesting thing, I think, about, uh, the Western religions, generally, is their insistence on, um, the tangentiality of God and history, that God was something to be realized in the life of each individual, but that there was also somehow a collective drama of redemption, that was stretched out over a very large period of time, and history then becomes the theater, you see, of the struggle between good and evil, for the redemption of the human soul. And, from the modern point of view, or – let’s be more frank, from
point of view [Terence laughs; audience laughs] – this is, uh, primarily something to be analyzed within the context of language, and our myths about it, and its evolution, and its potential future evolution.
So, I -- and this is in my personal life, the, the great mystery to me, because I feel that I’m -- my intellectual style is that of a scientist, and I take very seriously science, and yet my – not only my faith, but my, uh, experience – has led me to believe that the world is not a construction of space and time and matter and energy. That that mapping is, uh, insufficient. That the world is instead some kind of a, uh, linguistic construct. It is more in the nature of a sentence, or a novel, or a work of art, than it is in the nature of these machine models of interlocking law that we inherit out of a thousand years of rational reductionism. That the world only behaves as science says it should when we confine our engagement with it to information that is at a great distance from us, like reading the New York Times every day.
If you read the New York Times every day, few miracles will occur while you are engaged in that activity. Essentially, what is happening is you are getting your cultural programming for the day, all your switches, if any need being- need to be reset by cultural values, are reset at that point, but when we recede into what I call 'the primacy of immediate experience', the, the rules and models that we’ve been handed by science, and, uh, what’s called, common sense, are just totally found to be inadequate.
And, I don’t mean when we perturb ordinary consciousness with psychedelic drugs. I’ll speak about that in a moment. But, I simply mean when we go into solitude, when we go into wilderness, when we endure great travail in our lives, or when we put ourselves in extraordinary, alien circumstances, then, it’s as though the membrane between the ego, and... something else, which we could call our guardian angel, or the Jungian unconscious, or the Overmind, something like that, the membrane grows thin, and the world loses its, um, – [snaps] what do I want to say? – its mundane character. And, instead, things previously mundane, begin to become charged with psychic energy. They become carriers of meaning.
They become carriers of meaning.
This is very peculiar. A- At a low level, it’s not so astonishing. It’s a kind of a generalized opening to the world, because everything is imbued with significance. That tree, that person, that greeting, that conversation, is imbued with a kind of depth and significance that is satisfying. It's like living deeply. Living deeply. But, this phenomenon can proceed to a deeper level of introspection and relationship to the exterior. And, in that case, then, this significance which everything was previously seen to have, begins to concresce or densify, and the world begins to dissolve into animate intelligence.
Now, at this point, um, if you didn’t bargain for this, you're probably very concerned about your mental condition, and if you aren’t, your friends are, because what you’re saying at this point is,
the rivers talk to me
the trees whisper in my ear
. What you’re recovering is the meaning, that’s all. The meaning that is self-evident in nature, but that we blocked. The meaning is so pregnant in everything that it can actually articulate itself in your native English tongue.
And, uh, you know, talking rocks, talking trees, talking boulders, we define this as, uh, pathology. It means, uh, in technical jargon, a severely diminished ego is in danger of overwhelm-ment by, uh, material from the inchoate and disorganized unconscious. Well, but what’s actually happening, is that, for the first time in somebody’s life or experience, they are
the resident meaning in reality, with its force un-blunted by, uh, conditioning and denial.
And, um, this is some kind of a linguistic process. We and all nature, I think, swims in some kind of sea of signification of which we are in the same way that the amphibians were able to drag themselves out of the primitive oceans of this planet on- into air and exist in a completely different dimension;
whether grandly or perversely - the verdict is not yet in - we dragged ourselves out of the sea of telepathic interconnected signification that united all life, and we exist, panting and pop-eyed, in this other dimension called History.
Ego awareness, presence of self, sense of loss, anticipation of gain, all of these, uh, dimensions of experience, really, have been added to what was previously the animal Tao - just the howling at the moon Tao of animal existence. And to this, we have added, you know, a dimension of future anticipation: a dimension of regret, a dimension of: how do I make choices? and so forth and so on.
Um, there is not a -- I don’t put a- a moral, uh, judgment on this, but it has to be said, that in the tradition of the West, this has been viewed classically as the "Fall." This is the Fall into names instead of realities, into, uh, constructs of reality rather than reality itself. And this has now been, uh, inculcated into each and every one of us, as, you know, both the glory and the, and the trauma of human existence which is our extraordinary ability to reside in and be in language. [Takes drink]
So, for instance, you know, I’ve made this example before: a child lying in a crib and a hummingbird comes into the room and the child is ecstatic because this shimmering iridescence of movement and sound and attention, it’s just
I mean, it is an instantaneous miracle when placed against the background of the dull wallpaper of the nursery and so forth. But, then, mother or nanny or someone comes in and says, “It’s a bird, baby. Bird. Bird!” And, this takes this linguistic piece of mosaic tile, and o- places it over the miracle, and glues it down with the epoxy of syntactical momentum, and, from now on, the miracle is confined within the meaning of the word. And, by the time a child is four or five or six, there- no light shines through. They're- they have tiled over every aspect of reality with a linguistic association that blunts it, limits it, and confines it within cultural expectation.
But, this doesn’t mean, that this world of signification is not
still existent, beyond the horizons, the foreshortened horizons of a culturally validated language. Well, so then, classically, the path through this has been through use of psychedelic plants, or, uh, some form of ascetic practice, or fasting, or prayer and meditation... whatever, some way of breaking through. And, it is literally presented as a breaking through, a penetration to another level, that culture is an imprisoning bubble of interlocking assumptions, that are like, a, um, a collective hallucination. I mean, I hate to say it because it’s a recursive metaphor, but culture is like a delusion of some sort. Because, it isn’t true, of course. It isn’t true, if you’re, uh, a Witoto. It isn’t true that you came from the piss of the anaconda god when he had to get out of his canoe at the first waterfall. That’s not really
But, that’s your cultural myth and you live inside it.
Our cultural myths, that the world is made of things called mu mesons and anti-protons is, of course, not true either, but it’s a linguistic construct that we culturally validate and live inside, and these cultural myths give permission for certain things. F- Basically, they give permission to ignore certain kinds of realities. So, our language is uniquely set up to ignore, for example, the suppression of femininity. It’s also uniquely set up to suppress the statistically, um, uh, infrequent. We really have no patience with that. We have an assembly mind mentality. What we’re interested in is that things run smoothly. One can imagine a completely different mentality that cared nothing for statistical norms and
pursued the miraculous. I mean, India, in a way, is that society. They don’t give a hoot for, you know, how it works on the humdrum level, but the alien, the peculiar, the other, the unexpected is revered, adored even.
So, these kinds of cultural values shift. But, now,
we are in a global culture with the combined understandings of five, six, seven hundred language groups and half that many literatures being poured into a global database where
are assimilating enough of this to begin to play their part in the creation of, uh, a kind of global meta-program for language. And, uh, I think it’s interesting to talk about the form that this may take, because I see this as our, uh -- this is not our salvation, but, this is the angel of our salvation. If we can transform and remake language, then we can have the conversation that we must have in order to save ourselves. But, we cannot save ourselves until we have a language adequate to the problem that we're facing. And, uh, English just won’t do it because English is a language of subject opposite, uh, subject/ob-object opposition. It’s a language of a past, present, and future, and the kind of world we’re living in is not that kind of world.
Now, toiling in the background, misunderstood and, uh, unnoticed for centuries, have been mathematicians, laboring to create, what they call, meta-language of de- of description, that seem to them very satisfying, to the rest of us, very bewildering. And, a question worth asking is: why is it that this language, mathematics, which we have so much trouble understanding, seems so
powerful when it comes to the description of nature? This is not a trivial question. Why should numbers, in a sense the most abstract quintessence of the human mind, have anything whatsoever to say about the topology of three dimensional space and time? It isn’t clear.
What I believe is happening - and we talked about this last night, generally, in the form of a conservation of novelty throughout the history of the universe, but I tended, last night, to present the universe as a material thing. I spoke of atoms compressing into molecules into organic creatures into thinking beings with civilizations and so forth. But, another way to think of this is a kind of take a spiritual x-ray of the material universe, and then say, "If matter is merely the vehicle of the transformations that we call the life of the universe, well then what is the inner dynamic composed of,
what is it
that is striving, what is it that bootstraps itself forward, what is it that self reflects?"
Well, I think what it is is it's actually information. Information is some kind of, um, ontological modality that is capable of organizing
system, in which it inhabits, into self-reflection. So, you pour information into matter and you get back DNA capable of making life. But, you know, there is a persistent spiritual tradition backed up by psychedelic and shamanic experience that says that there are also hierarchies of incorporeal and disincarnate intelligence that is nevertheless highly organized.
Well, until the advent of the computer, I think we were just pretty much at loss to form any conception, whatsoever, of how you could have consciousness without, uh, a body. But, e- the computer shows us that you
have large scale systems which have degrees, and then, you know, there's a long philosophical wrangle which we can just stamp as 'for another time', degrees of sentience in operating systems. So, then, it seems to mean that information is the thing which uses matter, uses light, uses spirit, uses whatever it can put its hands on to organize itself into higher and higher levels of self-reflection.
Well, then, to what end? I mean, what is all this? Is it just an innate drive toward totality? Or, is it a process which exists completed in some higher dimensional space and
in a lower dimensional matrix and we have to go, uh- we have to endure the illusion that it is incomplete? I mean, I don’t have answers for these things; this is the business of theologians, basically, to tell us where we are in this universal machine. But, I think that, uh, what
can do to enrich our, uh, experience and to feed data into our heuristic models, is to begin to think in terms of language as the material that we need to work with instead of, uh, public opinion or matter or even energy. It’s
that we need to coax into our lives, number one.
As meaning enters our lives individually, we became- we become more capable of raising our voices, both in joyous song, and in political protest, if necessary. My whole shtick, and the whole shtick of the psychedelic experience, I think, is:
reclaim immediate experience
. Realize that
out-vote all parliaments, police forces, and major newspapers on the planet, because, who knows, they may be illusions. Complicated phenomenological forms of analysis can be carried out to show that their existence is in considerable doubt. But, if you carry out this phenomenological reduction, you will discover that it reinforces the notion that
must actually exist and be real. So, therefore, you start from
that nub of immediate experience and real being -- and extrapolation outward should be very provisional.
I mean, I don’t know, uh, how Buddhism handles this, my- I, I, um, I grant you all a strong possibility of existing, but I’m not nearly as sure about you as I am about me. [audience laughs] And, I don’t think any of you should be any sure- more sure of the rest of us than yourself. I mean, the world could be anything, you know? It could be a solid state matrix of some sort. It could be an illusion. It could be a dream. I mean, it
really could be
a dream …
So it, uh, it pays to stay on your toes, I think. In practical terms, what does all this come down to, besides that we should speak from the heart, clearly, and with our minds engaged? Well, I th- I think that, remember I said we should see language as the stuff with which we work, rather than matter, and that means, uh, creating a technology of the say-able, making the complete understanding of new puns a national priority on a par with weapons development, it means exploring, uh, the real implications of substituting
for the Constitution, this sort of thing. Because, what we’re doing, you see, is-is-is pulling the beard of the linear print-heads, who really believe all of this stuff, who really are lost in the labyrinth of the political errors of the last 500 years. It isn’t going- we can’t, uh, overwhelm them by the force of arms, nor should we wish to. Uh, they can actually be
out of existence, because they themselves feel their position to be so ridiculous.
It’s very interesting how, uh, the way the collapse of our enemy in the Soviet Union has exposed the absurdity of our previous positions. All our previous positions are now exposed as absurd, but n- people don’t draw the obvious conclusion. It must also mean, then, that our present position is absurd [
]. And, so, it’s tremendously liberating. Our culture is ruined. It’s, uh, it's a disgrace from which we can now simply walk away. Well, then, the question is: into what? And, I believe that our persistent fascination with psychedelic states of mind since prehistory forward has been because, in the psychedelic state, from the, you know, from the very beginning, there was an anticipation of the very end. And the very end still lies ahead of us.
What it is is that our nervous system is in the process of evolving us through a linguistic transformation where language, which at the beginning of the process was something that you heard, at the end of the process becomes something that you actually
And, this simple shift from seeing to hearing is the key to our being able to finally recognize each other and communicate.
Print and linearity and what’s called 'ear bias' for language is what has shattered our sense of ourselves as a collectivity. A positive way of putting it is to say, it’s also what created the idea of democracy, individual freedom, labor unions, the vote, all of these atomized notions of human obligation and political participation arise out of print. But, so do ideas like that we're all alike, because letters from printing presses on pages are all alike. The idea that products should be mass-produced out of mass-produced sub-units. This is a print-head notion. It could never have occurred to anyone outside of a printing press culture and never has. These ideas have imparted to our existence a tremendous material opulence and intellectual poverty and spiritual uniformity. And, now,
we have to illuminate our civilization. We have to take its shoddy, spiritually-empty, Bauhaus skeleton and illuminate it, psychedelicize it, let a thousand paisleys bloom [
]. Uh, in other words, release the design process from a commitment to material values. Well, how can you do that, because the bottom line of material values
the bottom line? It costs.
The reason we build in the Bauhaus style, for whatever reason we got into it, we now build in that style, because it’s the cheapest around. And, once you start adding filigrees and changing things, costs soar. How can you do that in a civilization with a cult of democratic values, individualism, and print-created linear uniformity? Well, the only way you can do it is, you have to drop design costs to
The only way you can do that is if you build virtually.
This means, you build in an electronic dimension that is added on to ordinary cultural space like an orthogonal dimension. In other words, it’s like a TV that you walk into; it’s called cyberspace. And, in cyberspace things are built out of light. So, it costs as much to build Versailles as it costs to build a hamburger stand, because Versailles and the hamburger stand are just two programs that, uh, look exactly the same on disk. So, what this means is that the previous set of class-created values, based on the acquisition and control of matter, begin to break down. This is already happening in America, on one level, where, you know, to live as a middle-class person is to live on a better level than the mogul emperors ever dreamed of. I mean, what mogul emperor could stride to his refrigerator and see cases of French mineral water [audience laughs], juices from the South Seas , pomegranates from South America. Eat your heart out, Mogul-deli! No chance!
So, um, in a sense we’re beginning to create this leveling, but we have created them by looting the material resources of the rest of the world. Conceivably, it can be created in a virtual space, where we would all, uh, live, in
world, a rather monkish existence. But, you know, there’s that wonderful passage in
where he says (he’s speaking of the red light district in Dublin which is called Moicane), and he says: “Here in Moy Kain we flop on the seemy side, but upmeyant Prospector you sprout all your worth and you woof your wings. If you want to be phoenixed, come and be parked.” Well, he was advocating death as a solution for life’s problems, so if you want to be phoenixed, come and be parked. Uh, my solution is not so radical. I think if you want to be phoenixed, come and be parked at your local virtual reality arcade. And, then, you can be phoenixed in, in several ways.
Well, some of what I’m saying here, is, uh, is facetious. We talked last night about Stan Tenen’s "wonderful object
For those of you who weren’t here, this is a man, a cabalistic scholar, who has developed a piece of sculpture such that when you illuminate it from a certain angle, the Hebrew letter
appears as a shadow. And, then you move the light slightly and
and then you move the light slightly, and so on.
his sculpture produces all of the Hebrew letters as shadows from this beautiful form, which he calls "the lily." And, uh, uh, it ties in with, uh, an experience I had, but, well, first let me talk a little bit more about this "lily" thing that Tenen has discovered.
He also made one for Demotic Greek, which, you know, for those of us who thought it was proof positive that Hebrew was the language of God, this was a real blow to the chest. But, because he did one for demotic Greek, too, and it works just as well -- implying, and, uh, he's working on Arabic -- implying that perhaps such forms exist for all alphabets. And, so then I was thinking about this last night, and I said, "Well, if there’s a sculpture in four dimen- in three dimensions that throws the two dimensional alphabets, then obviously, in a higher dimension, there must be a form which throws into lower dimensions the sculptures that make the alphabet."
So, that means all alphabets, all letters, lead back to a hyper-dimensional surface of some sort which can probably then be described with some kind of weird fractal algorithm. And, so then I thought, 'Wow! This is a pretty Hebraic vision of what’s going on here'. We have the alphabets of local languages being generated from higher dimensional objects that are three dimensional that are then referent to still higher dimensional objects that- through which the light of God’s love passes, scattering out into the radiance of what can be said. And, uh, in a way, this is sort of my vision of the millennium, that we will be re-soared into the Word. You know, the whole story begins
in principio et Verbum, et Verbo caro factum est –
- in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was made flesh. The
whole cosmic drama
is the mystery of what it is for the Word to be made flesh.
is seeking to birth itself into the domain of concrete existence. That’s,
what "the Word made flesh" means! And, uh, it seems to me, that if the Word can be made flesh, this implies a reciprocity; It implies that the flesh can be made Word.
And, this brings us back to, what I was talking about at the very beginning of this evening, which is the curiously literary nature of reality. That it’s much more like a- a novel by Thomas Pynchon than it is like an equation by Ilya Prigogine. And, why is that? Is it because, in fact, the flesh
Word? And that understanding this, is the real task of uncovering our spirituality? Somehow, it’s a riddle, it’s a conundrum, it’s a koan. If we could correctly understand this, if the world did not disappear immediately, at least it would roll around in a palm of your hand like a spinning marble as the I Ching promises. It’s something about the recognition of the primacy of the Word, that history is the process of the descent of the Word into concrete expression - I didn’t say matter - and that our relation to this retro-flexive process is an ascent into the Word, a going toward the approaching mystery, and a meeting there, in a domain of unknowability, essentially. I mean, this is the 'casting into being' that Heidegger talked about, this is the ‘going to meet the stranger’. This is ‘the flight of the alone to the alone’, that is the driving force of Plotinus' mysticism.
Well, that’s really all I have to say about that, so [
], uh, let me see what time it is. How am I doing?
[Other voice: Ques- Question and Answer]
Yes, let’s take some questions, if there are any.
Question: Do you know how to use
medicinally and shamanistically without killing yourself? [audience laughter]
Terence: I can tell you were following my argument with bated breath [clears throat]. Carefully! Because, it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because it’s seasonally variable, geographically variable, and genetically variable, and that’s enough variables that you should be very careful with what you’re doing.
Uh, generally, I don’t recommend it. It's v- the attention that has been given to that mushroom is, to my mind, entirely out of proportion to its cultural importance. This is because Gordon Wasson fastened in on it with a tenacious will as
He decided that it was
Are you all up to speed on what we’re talking about here?
was this mysterious, ecstatic, hallucinogenic plant that the Rig-Vedas were basically composed about. The major subject of the Rig-Vedas is
The ninth mandala of the Rig-Vedas is a paean of praise to
that exalts it above all the other gods, and no one knows what
was. And, the descriptions are puzzling. It seems to have been -- it's didn’t have leaves; it had yellow flowers. It grew in mountains. And, they speak of pressing it. It was prepared some way. It was pressed, it was filtered, and then they talk about this golden liquid which they drank.
And, Gordon Wasson, because of the importance of the Indo-Aryan people who wrote the Vedas for connecting up all of the history of what archeologists call Old Europe with the Neolithic middle-east and India, it was very important to try and understand what
was. But, the problem that has bedeviled everyone who was an enthusiast for
is that it’s a bad trip. It is not
an ecstatic intoxicant. In fact, it’s fairly reliably a bellyache. And, uh, people have pounded it with milk curd. There was a whole school of thought which said that the enzymes active in raw milk will decarboxylate
the poison, into
the hallucinogen. But, you know, this didn’t stand the test of human trials. It didn't appear to be true.
Then, other people said you have to dry them for months or smoke them over a fire. Again, this is- doesn’t seem to be reliable. So, Wasson went to the grave. He, in his last book,
, he referred to
as the supreme entheogen of all time, which was just a completely wrong-headed judgment, I believe. And, this was from the man who discovered the true psilocybin mushroom cult in Mexico! There was an angle on all this which Wasson completely overlooked because of his bias towards certain languages, and
that along with all this Indo-European Vedic Hindu material, there was a Zend Avestan literature, based around
the same stuff, same word. And, from there, Flattery argues that, uh, it was
, that it was harmaline, that it was not a mushroom, that it was a higher plant in the, uh,
. And, uh, I think, probably, he’s right, actually. It’s a very interesting book. Apparently, uh, w-uh, in the Avestan classical period, no one would have dreamed of having a spiritual experience without resort to drugs. They just put it very plainly. They’re the most ‘matter-of-fact’ people. These texts are fascinating! And -- but, they don’t devaluate it. They say, you know, "Here’s our map of the spirit world entirely based on our drug experiences. And, here are the drugs we use. And, to see these angels, you must use this drug. And, to see these angels, this drug," and so forth.
We don’t really know what these drugs were, because the-the etymologies are lost, but harmaline figures very strongly in all of this. And, of course, harmaline is a, uh, neurotransmitter present in human metabolism. In fact, I didn’t get into it tonight because I was trying to keep it off the biochemistry and that sort of thing, but, this transformation of language from something heard to seen that I was talking about, I believe, is a one or two gene mutation. That’s all it would take.
Because, in the human pineal gland, there is a compound called adeneroglumerotropine [sic--adrenoglomerulotropin)
that’s what the enzymologists call it. But, when you show it to, uh, a plant biochemist, he says it’s 6-methoxy-tetrahydro-harmaline. And, so it is! Adeneroglumerotropine [Adrenoglomerulotropin] and 6-methoxy-tetrahydro-harmaline are the same thing. Well, it’s a psychedelic harmine alkaloid similar to what’s in
It, uh, could be converted to DMT by a simple methylation! Well, a one gene mutation would make a methylation possible!
Attention, consciousness, cultural values, we don’t know how many times
the invention of language there have been significant mutations in the n- in the, uh, chemistry of the nervous system that have created significant changes in cultural programming. I mean, doesn’t anyone find it a little odd that the laws of perspective were discovered less than 400 years ago? I mean, what the hell was wrong with people before that? How can you
the laws of perspective? I mean, I find that not credible for somebody to say that the laws of perspective were
. It's always seemed weird to me! It’s as though, uh, you know, there was a shift, a very subtle tweaking of the processing of visual space itself necessary to be able to do that. Yeah?
Q: Um, you had spoken about the Word, and the Word made flesh, and, um, Dorothy Sayers wrote a book called
The Mind of the Maker
, in which she discusses the Trinity, as, uhm, really an image of what the creator process is all about. And, where the father is having, like, a great idea for a play. He’s the Father. The Son is making the thing happen on the stage, bringing it into the world, and having it ‘made flesh’. And, then the Spirit is the response that you have to that completed product, and how all three of them really beget one another and they nurture one another. Um, and she talks about people who have these problems with scalene trinities where there is someone who, let’s say, may have only the Father, only have a
idea, but be unable to make it into something that's physically real on a stage. And, I wondered if you could pick that up, uh, that story.
Terence: Well, yeah. I mean speaking to it, generally, I think if you think of history, as this kind of a process, Western history, as the manifestation of, uh, the demiourgos, Ialdabaoth, Jehovah, and then you get this middle-declension in the Christos, and then this peculiar and misunderstood promise of the redemption by the Holy Ghost. Uh,
, who's a very interesting figure, a-as, you know, a radical thinker in communications theory and a devout Catholic, believed that, uh, the Holy -- the manifestation of the Holy Ghost was electricity. And, and to him the ringing of the planet by electronic media was the unfolding arms of an archangel.
I mean, he literally saw electricity as God’s love made manifest, and-and he may not -- he hasn’t been proven wrong yet. I mean [woman laughs], it may yet knit us all together, and make us one, and lift us off and send us to the stars. It’s a wonderful stuff, electricity. You know, for, uh, I-I like to talk about it, because for
thousands of years,
electricity was this stuff which some people knew about, and what they
was that you skinned a cat, and you--and you dried its skin in the wind, and then you got an amber rod, and you -- a polished rod of amber, and then you would go into a dark room with your cat skin and your amber rod, and you would rub it back and forth like this, and then you would pull the amber rod away from the fur, and you would see miniature lightning storms of static electricity. And, that was
; for thousands of years that was it.
And, then, in the 17th century, make it the 18th century, uh, people invented what we called Leyden jars, which were this tricky way of storing this stuff, so that you could store up a lot of it, and then in a dark room you could discharge it across a gap with this snap, and from
you know, I mean, you talk about a shamanic invocation [some laughter], from
you know, we light cities, we smelt steel, we sink shafts miles into the earth, and it’s just this little elemental, that we were able to coax into becoming our friend! Well, who knows how much of this sort of thing there is.
According to McLuhan,
that’s the major thing
, and 'the electrification of the body', you know, this is a theme you get as early as Whitman: ‘
I sing the body electric
’. You get it in Steven Vincent Benét in his poem ‘John Brown’s Body’ where he says, ‘
I see the human body cold electric rage
’, and he-he pictures it as a superstructure. Uh, electricity as information, as the Logos, as the freeing and re-ef--rarefaction of thought. It all, uh, it’s credible. It’s credible. I mean, when you think about electricity,
in and of itself
, uh, as modern inventions go, it must be the most benign there is, because other than seating criminals in electric-wired chairs, it is not a weapon of mass destruction. You cannot rain it down on your enemy’s cities. Uh, it’s, uh, pure energy in the service of light, one thing, and information. And, it’s generated--I don’t know how many of you know this, but it’s generated out, uh, stable magnetic fields.
When-when we were in the 5th grade, we made engines by wrapping, uh, nails with wires and setting them, delicately balanced between permanent magnets, and, you know, you coax this stuff into being.
take it for granted, because
don’t understand it, but if you’re down close to where it’s coming into being, it’s like coaxing some kind of demon out of the matrix and into the service of thought and light.
Q: So, how do you see the body being coaxed back into the Word?
Terence: Well, I don’t know, It’s a hard thing to picture, isn’t it? Um.
Q: Well, maybe it’s like those Tibetan letters that start becoming real and vibrating…I don't know.
Terence: Well, there are a number of -- I think we have like pieces of the puzzle, but we don’t know quite how to arrange them. One is, Virtual Reality. Do you all understand this concept? Because, I’ve mentioned it and it’s quickly becoming central to my references. Virtual reality is this technology now being developed where they give you a helmet and a body glove, and when you look in the helmet, you see another world, and you’re in it. And, you can walk around and pick things up and open doors and -- and it’s all sustained by computers, but the illusion is very real, and they’re only at the beginning of the process of creating this illusion.
Okay, so that’s a technology sitting off there with a potential application. Another is nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is making things very small. And, there’s a whole enthusiasm for this. And, people who, uh, you know -- I talked yesterday about, uh, being down at the
, and watching the stratocumulus clouds move over the ocean, the number of water droplets in a stratocumulus cloud exceeds the number of people in the world! Therefore, if we were the size of water droplets, we could simply exist in that kind of a, of a cloudscape! Well then, okay, so that’s another technology that’s sitting there.
Another is,uh, this wonderful fantasy that I told you, some of you about a few days ago, where we see a man walking on a beach, and the man -- his planet is perfect. Its oceans and its atmosphere and its glaciers and its -- and its equatorial forests are all in balance. And this man is naked, except for a thread, like a Hindu thread that crosses him. And on this thread, there's sufficient space for as much as a thousand or more small beads. Each bead is a doorway into a technological potentiality that is entirely suppressed in three dimensional space. In three dimensional space, there is just man and nature. But, when this man closes his eyes, there are menus. And, these menus lead to other menus. In other words, the culture, the entire culture, has become virtual.
This is one possibility, that the culture be made virtual. Another possibility, which is sort of the reverse of that, and there’s a company on the peninsula trying to do this, is to place a textual reality behind apparent reality. So that everything is a button, you know. It’s, it is what it is, but it’s also a button. So, I look at this, the question forms in my mind: ‘What is this?’ The ‘What’ pushes a button, and textual accompaniment informs me that this is cypress wood, cut three years ago. [
]. Do you see how -- what this would do to the world? Now, we’re well on our way in the project of making the Word flesh, and the flesh Word. We, at least, have them lined up with the Word behind the flesh, and in some cases, the flesh behind the Word. Embedded. Embedded. Ontologically arranged in a situation of mutual reinforcement.
Oh, okay, another, uh, technology is, um, some kind of, uh, some kind of, uh, severing from the physical connection. And, then there's a lot of debate about is this possible: the old consciousness without an object riffraff? Well, it has to be explored. It can’t be known. The other thing is, the persistence of the intuition of non-material worlds inhabited by self-organizing entelechies of one sort or another seems to imply that some kind of dematerialization is, at least, theoretically, possible.
Uh, I’ve talked a lot in these circles about the-the questions raised by the ecstasis that comes with DMT, where you actually break into a world where there are, what I call, 'autonomous self-transforming machine elves
, but what we have discussed in terms of are these the 'sprites' of classical European mythology? Are they dwellers in some parallel continuum, unsuspected by any of our sciences or ontologies? And, then, still more unsettling possibility, are these--is this somehow an ecology of souls? Is the eerie connectedness to the human dimension that these thing have, because, in fact, this is a stage of some sort, in human existence? If, what God coming[?] tangential to history
is human beings unraveling the mystery of physical death, then, I think that would be a sufficient fulfillment of the, uh, sort of dramatalurgical [sic] demands of a dénoument: that
stride towards the mystery, the mystery strides towards us, and everything is resolved in a revelation of the understanding and meaning of death.
I--this kind of thing makes me very uncomfortable, uh, perhaps because it’s fairly feeling-toned and emotion-laden. Uh, I can ima--I- it doesn’t trouble me to imagine contacting, uh, informational beings in a parallel continuum. But, the notion of encountering an ecology of souls, I think, is hair-raising if you take it seriously, because, uh, even the most spiritual of us are so deeply programmed by the assumptions of scientific materialism that I think something like that on the short term here and now really gives us pause.
Brother David …
Q: Yes. In this process of, uh, great return to the Word in flesh, where do you see the function of the poets?
Terence: Well, you know, people have talked, Robert Graves and others, about what he called an
an original speech, and Celtic poetics somewhat assumes this. I think this language that is seen, is the project that the poets should take very seriously. We need to not simply make better poetry; we need to make poetry of an entirely different order, and we will recognize it when we see it - not when we hear it. It will not be heard. It will be seen. To carry language from three -- from two dimensions into three is the task of the poet and the rebel in the 20th century.
And, there is a model for this which I will explain to you so that it doesn’t seem so outlandish and so we can see that nature once again has sanctioned this move, and that is: A long time ago, 700 million years ago, more or less, the great Tree of Life made a primary division between the vertebrates, the creatures with backbones, and the invertebrates. Evolving along the invertebrate line and reaching the greatest, uh, brain size and complexity of nervous system on the invertebrate side of things, were the cephalopods. These are the squids, and the benthic octopi, the eight-armed ones and the ten-armed ones. You may not realize that that they were actually mollusks, related to escargot. So, they are an extremely primitive creature from the point of view of those of us with backbones and binocular vision and frontal lobes, and so forth and so on
Nevertheless, the interesting thing about benthic octopi is that they can change their color over a wide range. Now, you may have heard this fact and assumed that it had to do with camouflage against their surroundings so that they can avoid predators. This is not what it’s about at all! Octopi change color, and they can also change the shape of their skin from smooth to rugose and wrinkled, and then what’s called pileate, little points all over it. They can go through all of these color changes and texture changes. And, octopi have extremely well-evolved eyes. In fact, evolutionary biologists always compare the eyes of octopi to human eyes, as an example of what is called ‘parallel non-convergent evolution' because clearly the two are not related. But, the argument is made. You see, they solved the problem the same way in two different places, so it’s a very neat example of convergent -- non-convergent evolution.
Um, but what’s interesting for our discussion is the mode of communication of these things. They become their linguistic intent. This repertoire of blushes, dots, stripes, traveling fields, color changes, and then, because they are soft bodied, they can quickly reveal and conceal all parts of their body very quickly. So, if you watch an octopus in communication, its surface texture is changing, its color is changing, and it is hiding and revealing, it’s dancing! And it’s a dance of pure meaning perceived visually by the object of its intention which is other octopi. So, compare this for a moment to our method of communication. We use rapidly modulated small mouth noises. As primates, we have an incredible ability to make small mouth noises. We can do this for up to six hours at a stretch without tiring. [A
No other thing that we can do approaches the level of variation with low energy investment that the small mouth noises do. A person using a deaf and dumb language is exhausted after 45 minutes. But, the problem with the small mouth noises form of communication is: I have a thought. I look in a dictionary that I have created out of my life experience, I map the thought onto the dictionary, I make the requisite small mouth noises, they cross physical space, they enter your ear, you look in your dictionary which is different from my dictionary, [audience laughs] but, if we speak what we call ‘the same language’, it will be close enough, that you will, sort of, understand what I mean.
Now, if I don’t say to you, "What do I mean?," you and I will go gaily off in the assumption that we understand each other. But, if I say to you, "Did you understand what I said then?" You say: ‘Yes. You meant that you don’t want to sit with Harry and Sally because their pending divorce makes you uncomfortable." So, "No, that’s not what I meant ." So there’s a misunderstanding because the dictionaries are not matched.
Now, notice what’s happening with the octopi – there is no dictionary. Both parties are seeing the same thing because my body is my meaning. I become my meaning, and you behold the meaning I have become. I am like a naked thought. Not even a naked nervous system. More naked than that! I am like a naked thought, in aqueous space, unfolding in time. I maintain, this is why octopi eject clouds of ink, it’s so they can have private thoughts! [Audience laughs]. Because, if you can be seen, you can be understood! Well, uh, this is a perfect model, uh, condoned by nature for the kind of transformation that we want to lead our culture toward. And I don’t think it’s that outlandish.
Our previous animal totems were chosen unconsciously, and were rather unfortunate, I think. I take the totem of the 19th century to be, um, the horse, expressed as the steam engine. And the totemic animal of the 20th century is the raptor, the bird of prey, expressed as supersonic high performance fighter aircraft, which is just, you know, the leanest, meanest machine you can get together these days. But these, uh, mammalian and avian images are too close to the rapacious heart of the primate inside us. Embracing an image of the soul, like that of the octopi, is a permission for a strange and alien kind of beauty to be led into our lives, and these things are strange and alien, let me tell you.
The situation I describe with these octopi was, uh, coastal, shallow water octopi. So called circolittoral octopi. But, they have also evolved into the depths. The so-called abyssal octopi that exist below 1500 meters in the sea where there is absolute darkness. And to carry their intention to communicate into that darkness over the past 700 million years, they have evolved phosphorescent organs, and have covered themselves with lights, with eyelid-like membranes that can be rapidly blinked and flickered, so that when you descend into the abyss, you then see pure linguistic intentionality among the cephalopodia because they have become what we aim to become under the wise leadership and stewardship of George Bush; namely, a thousand points of light! [Audience laughs] [Terence laughs]
Is this guy for real? Was it Flanders Fields, armies clash by night and that whole business?
Q: Was it only beholding one another, or is there, maybe, a mechanism at work, like when yawning is contagious, that it’s not only watching, but actually, perhaps what happens to your body has transmitted it to mine?
Terence: Well, this is fascinating stuff to study. The biologists who are studying these things are actually creating a grammar, and a syntax, and they are beginning to understand what certain things mean. And the level of meaning. There’s a wonderful book called "Communication and Non-communication Among the Cephalopods", and it makes the point that, communication is a very double edged thing. You want to communicate to somebody, but usually, you -- your message, it’s also important that your message not be picked up my other somebodies. So, there can’t be just a full-on drive toward apprehend ability.
There also is a counter-veiling force toward concealment, obscurantism, double entendre, so forth. You know someone said that language is invented to lie. Well, in a way, that’s true, because of the problem of non-communication. As soon as you have something to communicate, there are places that you don’t want the message to go. And so this creates a very interesting problem. If I were 20 years old, I'd go back into marine biology just to spend time with these things. They're quite amazing and they have very large brain capacity. I’m -- could be -- I think John Lilly was all mixed up to look for a mind in the water in that it was mammalian chauvinism, that drove them to dolphins and, and whales. That, maybe they are intelligent, but the language feats, when you see videotape of these cephalopods, you realize you are in the presence of an opera!
Q: What kinds of things are they communicating, besides maybe fear, or…
Terence: Well, they are communicating -- they have elaborate sexual displays, and it’s a very tricky thing, sexuality among cephalopods because the male usually doesn’t survive the encounter. So, a lot of time is spent getting it right, before you commit yourself [
]. So, they have very complicated courtship thing, and, and one of the things that’s always said about them, is that, uh, you know, I mean, every child’s book will tell you this about octopi – they’re shy creatures. Well, guess why! It’s because they wear their heart on their sleeve! Everywhere they go, other octopi can tell exactly what they’re thinking and feeling, so they live alone, and they only get together on special occasions - for communication, basically. And, uh, and the repertoire is as complex as human language. So that they could be discussing the equivalent of, uh, Spencer’s epithalamium or something. I mean, we don’t know what they’re talking about!
Q: Do we have a sort of Rosetta Stone you know about?
Terence: We have a primitive grammar, but, uh, it’s only for one species. And, uh, I’m not really interested in what they’re saying, because I think it would only make sense if you were an octopus. But I’ll be that, uh, -- you see it’s a model for us. Wouldn’t we like to dance for each other and be perfectly understood, and we -- wouldn’t we like to see someone dance and to know that this was their mind and their body, somehow at one? In a way – God, does everything go back to everything? – in a way, this is the theme of skinny legs and all! This is the theme of the Dance of the Seven Veils! Octopi do it. Nubile Hebrew princesses do it. Everybody dances toward the truth, dropping veils as they go, and then, of course, the ‘nakedness of truth’ is a cliché.
Q: You mentioned, um, bringing it to a practical level.
Terence: Do that, yes!
You mentioned the hallucinogenic experiences, in one, in one way, that um, I don’t think I accelerated anything in my life; I feel that I just have just aligned with it, moving a freer way, so, I wouldn’t -- I wouldn’t seek out a kind of hallucinogenic experience in order to accelerate or to get more transforming; I do it because it’s enjoyable. It’s, um, it’s truly exciting and passionate, and I do seem to transform in the process and grow. Are there any ways, or other ways, that you might suggest? And also, I’m interested in sound which is -- you're talking about going from sound to light.
And I have a way of starting to where I am or, again, following my excitement which happens to be making tones. And I’ve reproduced experiences such as, uh, very simply, like a hot tub, where I make a tone and another person has an experience of being in a hot tub. They go from being very cold, to being very comfortable, very vulnerable, very open, very loving. And, uh, it occurred to me that I can reproduce a mushroom experience or, um, you know, somebody’s drugs you mentioned earlier in the Amazon …
Terence: ‘That you could reproduce it with sound?’
I could make tones and, such as in Tibet, they can, you know -- tones are, you know -- can bring physical objects into being, and move energy and such… That’s my exploration, I was wondering if you had any ideas on them.
Terence: Well, something sort of along that line, um, that I've worked with for years and observed for years, and I find very interesting is, you know, in South America there is this drug, plant-drug of shamanic tradition of great age, called ayahuasca
And what seems -- it’s -- it’s chemically a little different from anything we’ve discussed, and so, consequently, neurologically a little different. When this -- when this drug was first discovered in the 20’s, they called, uh, they isolated a white crystal from it, and called it
. Because they believed that these deep forest Indians were having some kind of state of group-mindedness behind this. Well then, and that was all very exciting that there was a drug called telepathine, but then later they found out that the drug had already been discovered in another plant, in the Peganum harmala, the
plant I mentioned, and had been named harmine, so that the rules of nomenclature went back to precedent.
But, persistently, since then there have been reports of group states of mind caused by this drug. So we explored this in the 70’s fairly thoroughly. In ’71, ’72, again in ’76, and again in ’81. And, um, different things were going on. First of all, the people down there who take this drug, are into what they call,
Icaros are magical songs, i.c.a.r.o.s., icaro, and the accomplishment of a shaman is judged by how many of these magical songs he has. And they're taught to you by the spirits, they say. But the interesting thing is, is that the icaro, within the culture, is criticized as a work of visual art. It is not thought of as a song. It is not listened to. It is looked at. And when people criticize it, they criticize its form and its color. And in taking this drug, we discovered that there is something about it, it -- it seems to dissolve the cultural barrier between the synesthesia of sound and light. So that you can make a tone, like mmmmmmm and it emerges as a streak of cyan blue,that just stands there in space as long as you… and it clearly, this stripe is related to the sound. When you stop the sound, the stripe disappears. Well then you discover that when you modulate the sound, the color is modulated. Well, then you begin breaking it up and you discover that voice has become transformed into an instrument for manipulating light.
And, again, it has to do with these drugs which are very close to neuro-transmitters, just one gene away from being naturally produced. It’s as though, this is a biochemical place where, what we experience as the evolution of language and our abilities, our cognitive abilities to integrate and express language are happening. So that, uh, you know, I think this should be looked at. I think maybe the path to the to the kind of visual lang -- visually beheld form of communication that I talk about, is to look at shamanic cultures Where this may have been happening all along, and people assume it. It is true. When you go up these jungle rivers to the really bare-assed people, that um, they, the elders really do get together and take this stuff. And they do have a collective, complex collective image of what should be done for the good of the group! It’s not exactly a vision of the future. It’s more complicated than that. Because they also have a vision -- a three dimensional vision of the kinship structure of the village, of a whole bunch of clan and sib-group associations to the plants and animals in the forest which are hidden from the eyes of the casual visitor.
They are -- it isn’t that so much that they predict the future as that they go into the higher dimension of their own cultural information space, and from there they make decisions. Where should we hunt? Who should we make war on, or not make war on? Where should we move? Um, you know, and even decisions about triage of children, and that sort of thing, since that does go on. So, uh, you know, how much of human navigation through history has been done by processing ordinary cultural information on a higher dimensional level by perturbing neurological functioning? I mean, if there is any angle that would have given us an edge, we would have found it, and we would have used it. And I’ve discussed in other lectures, the way in which small doses of psilocybin improve vision, and how this would have fit back into primitive hunter-gatherer system. Very simply, they would have just outbred everybody not using mushrooms because a pair of chemical binoculars, in a hunting environment is an adaptive advantage that could not be ignored! And so forth, and so on. Yeah.
Q: By, copying your hand movements, it helps me see what you were talking about like in a virtual reality, and that’s what they do in neuro-linguistic programming and the people who’ve made fire-walking popular, like, Tony Robinson’s country where neuro-linguistic programmers...
Terence: Maybe neuro-linguistic programmers could study octopi? If I had eight hands I could really get gestural. I, I… a funny experience involving octopi. I know a woman, I’m sure she would not begrudge me this description of her. She’s a very frank exhibitionist. I mean, this is the woman who at every party takes her clothes off and dances on the table tops and so forth. She’s an inveterate exhibitionist and she’s totally frank about it. And I, uh, I had been to the Monterey aquarium, and seen the octopus there. They have a giant octopus. Well, most of the time this guy just hunkers low, and he’s a sort of off in the corner, one beady eye checking you out. But, of course, because octopi have this mode of communication, uh, they're very set up to respond to visual display. So, this woman walked pass this tank and this octopus practically leaped into the air. It came down out of the tunnel. It was pressing against the glass. It was beating against the glass and what it was, was one exhibitionist recognizing another [
]. I mean, it was just clear across the species’ lines. The power of neurosis knows no barrier [
Terence and audience laugh together
Q: But she also had almost orange hair, very red, bright hair that the sunlight …
Terence: That’s true, it was probably sending a message to this octopus that was, uh, obscene, in the very least.
Q: Was she dancing?
Terence: No, she was just trying to be unobtrusive, but this woman being unobtrusive is a show stopper.
Q: Terence, when you talk about language, or the word use in the way people talk, to me that sounds like a whole body language. And, and when you go into print, I’m making all these unconscious assumption values of what you’re saying is true partly based on your body language?
Terence: True, but body language is probably, is --, has really faded for us. Probably because of the telephone. And the telephone really staunches that. And, uh, yes, it would be… there… we probably were much more linguistically rich in the past. We muted ourselves.
Q: Terence, just to let you know what happens when you discover sparks nowadays. When I was a kid, I was a science buff, and I made a Tesla coil and so on. Before that, I accidentally induced a spark in a transformer. Unexpectedly, the spark jumped and it was sort of my first religious experience. I saw this spark and all sorts of things burst loose in my ten year old head. Two years later the F.C.C. triangulated my house for admitting a spurious radiation because, you know, you have to regulate that sort of thing. And, I felt sort of like someone put a big pot lid over my head, and between that and being suckered into that moody vital institute with their big Tesla coil movie,
Terence: Yeah, right?
just left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m glad we’re onto other things now besides sparks and amber.
Terence: Oh, okay!
A bitter experience.
Terence: There is a notion, you know, in Latin spark is as, is
. This word exists only in English in the legal phrase ‘there was not a scintilla of evidence against him’. But in alchemy, this idea lived on for a long, long time, and there’s a whole literature of causing the scintilla and seeing it like you did, so you were unconsciously caught up in an alchemical archetype.
Well, why don’t we knock off, I think that’s enough for this evening …
Original Transcription by: [Nenad Djordjevic aka junglewizz]
Review 1 by: P.C. Lansdown
Review 2 by [admin only]: Kevin Whitesides
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