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words and wit of the alchemical bard
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Making and Unmaking History and Language
Morphogenic Fields and Psychedelic Experiences
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Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines
Terence McKenna's Trip
The grammar of ecstasy — The world within the word.
(aka This Counts, Somehow it Matters & A Higher Dimensional Section of Reality)
A Better World (Toward The End Of History)
A Conversation with Terence McKenna and Ram Dass
A Necessary Chaos
A report on crop circles with Abraham and Sheldrake
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aka Nothing Lasts
aka Nothing Lasts [Psychedelic Salon Title]
Day February 1994
Location, City, State
Audio Link (Psychedelic Salon)
[Audience] - I had this experience of dreaming that I smoked. It was very futuristic and it looked like little pellets, like something out of a star film and out of a little metallic pipe. It was like DMT when I went up on it. It lasted about 45 seconds - intense. I wondered if this was common or do you have any theories about what happened?
That’s an interesting question. It relates to some of the properties of DMT. I mentioned DMT occurs in human metabolism. It does, and its concentration in cerebral spinal fluid fluctuates on a circadian or daily rhythm. The most intense concentration of DMT is about four in the morning and this is when the deep REM dreaming is going on. When you give DMT to somebody – as an index of how loaded they are – what you look at is, with them stretched out in front of you, you look at their closed eyes. And, if their eyes are darting wildly back and forth under their eyelids then you assume that they have in fact become successfully intoxicated because they are then in the realm of the self-transforming elf machines and they’re watching all this stuff.
Many people who have smoked DMT report that, later, they will have a dream where a glass pipe will be introduced into the dream; they will smoke it and this will happen. This is really interesting to me because it argues that the physiological capacity for the DMT flash is present, at least, in deep sleep, maybe all the time. It seems to me that an inspired biofeedback program of research ought to be able to teach people how to do that. One thing I’ve talked to my brother about in terms of orienting the research programs of these pharmaceutical companies is, you know, how about a drug which just allows you to remember your dreams. That, alone, might throw open a whole new world of possibility. Kathleen?
Yes, so, if you could get in there, uh, we might solve our drug problem, uh, because I think that probably every night we go deeper than we can remember and that the dreams we remember are basically at the surface. And even the deepest dreams we remember are fairly near the surface. But, that the dissolution back, into some kind of primal swarm state, is part of the daily cycle and why the top level can’t remember is a real question about our physiological and psychological organization. I mean, maybe there is simply no efficacy to it. But, uh... Yeah.
[Audience] – Does it have something to do with the brain waves? If you’re down in theta, you can still witness what’s going on. But, when you go down to delta, it’s just a total absorption. Within the process, you remember it felt nice afterwards, but you don’t remember.
Well, what seems to be happening is, there is no transcription of short-term memory. DNA - I'm sorry - RNA activation of short-term memory isn’t happening. All of these things ave physical mechanisms which could be studied, but, you know, we spend money in unusual ways. I doubt that any drug company would put money into a dream recollection drug.
[Audience] – Are their no futuristic drug companies at all?
Drug companies are the most bottom-line gang around. It’s a very cutthroat business and research curves are short because you’re in constant competition. Uh, I don’t know, but, you know, long-term research, this could be done. If we spent as much money on this as we spent to dig the hole for the now cancelled supercollider, we would probably have the thing in hand.
[Audience] – I’m curious about the parallels you drew between the DMT flash and orgasm, um, or the non-parallels that you said. You said that you were baffled about that. I guess my question is, have you experienced or do you know the orgasm to be potential for that kind of a powerful mind consciousness expansion, or is it just what you would term the post-coital fog?
Well, the fog comes afterwards.[Audience laughs] Well, um, orgasm is an interesting phenomenon. First of all, it’s not necessary, uh, and it’s not expressed in lower animals. Sex, as you descend the animal phylogeny, becomes more and more mechanical, less and less intimate. You know, finally, it’s all about eggs that are deposited somewhere and then males come along and fertilize them and there’s not even contiguous activity by male and female. So then what is it that, as animal complexity increases, there’s this concentration on this bust of boundary-dissolving pleasure in the central nervous system. I don’t exactly understand what the function is there. Obviously we’re all interested in sex, but are we interested in sex because we pursue orgasm and the, you know, is that the payoff? Couldn’t you build in a more gentle gradient of interest based on biology which must be happening with these other animals?
Uh, there’s a book to be written about all this. I have all the questions; I just don’t have any of the answers. I can see that sexuality is related to consciousness and to the psychedelic state. But I can't and I’ve thought about it for years and years, but I just haven’t gotten anywhere. When you have sex on psychedelics, you know, there’s an incredible enhancement and reciprocal feedback into that, but, um, I don’t know. Kathleen?
[Audience] - I’m thinking of the Tantric practice where that energy, that regenerative energy is conserved. So, at the moment of orgasm, to concentrate your energy at the base of the spine and let it wash the nervous system internally. It seems like an evolutionary….
Well, I was going to mention that. One of the things that’s always puzzled me about Tantra is that, if you analyze it, it’s a -- it's a frustrating of the biological drive toward ejaculation in the male. How strange then that at the top of animal organization, there would evolve a physiological response that is contra the biological momentum of the species. I mean, you know, a hanging man ejaculates but a yogin doesn’t, apparently. And so, I’m skeptical, not of the phenomenon, but of the interpretation of the phenomenon.
[Audience] –Actually there’s a good description of why that’s encouraged in a book called, "The Jewel and the Lotus" by Bodhi Avinasha and Sunyata Saraswati. What it is - is that it transmutes that energy whereas that orgasm would send that energy out the bottom of the man, that it would come up the spine and accumulate in the medulla and activate the third eye and promote a superconscious state. That’s actually the physiological thing but you were questioning the philosophical end of it. But conserving sperm is something that, uh, a tradition in many martial arts and spiritual traditions and does seem to have in my observation and practice a good effect on spirituality and on states of altered consciousness.
But that means that people with vasectomies should be enlightened.
[Audience] – No, no! It’s a physical practice that comes about…
[Audience] – That’s a cutting of the circuitry too with the vasectomy.[Audience] – It’s not the sperm, it’s the energetic. You know, men have had accidentally dry orgasms that have gotten them to the same place mentally as a wet orgasm. Um, I think it’s a mistake to concentrate of the physiological part of it and the pleasure center part of it and look at the wider context of where and why and how it’s been practiced. And There is a lot there. I’ve studied and practiced that a lot so I think it might bear looking at is what I'm saying.
I agree with most of what you’re saying. I’m not so in agreement that it’s not important to understand the physiology of it. The way to bring these things forward is to get some kind of handle on it so that it can be raised off the level of metaphor.And, I suppose they’re trying to do that but it’s freakishly elusive considering how radical the claims are. I’m very suspicious…
[Audience] - Actually it’s not. It’s like anything else once you get interested in it. There are a lot of teachers and there is a lot of literature on it. It’s not freakishly elusive at all. It’s just…
Well, I mean to demonstrate to someone who is not pre-committed to believing it. That’s what I mean by elusive.
[Audience] - Well, it’s been called the secret teachings for a long time but with what tools and media we have now, these methodologies and explanations are available.
Well, yeah, we’re in a situation where all boundaries between knowledge systems have dissolved in the past hundred years. Take something like Dzogchen. You know, when I studied Tibetan, you didn’t even mention this until you’d been with them for years. It was inconceivable. Now it’s pedaled on every street corner, which I think is a good thing.
[Audience] – What is Dzogchen?
Oh it’s an advanced Tantric-Shmantric something or other. I’m using it as an example of the fact that there are esoteric idea systems have all been brought together and we’re sorting it out. Over the past hundred years, this has been going on. I have been underwhelmed by the accomplishments of Indian spirituality personally; overwhelmed by the accomplishments of Amazonian spirituality. I suspect priestly hierarchies of unspeakable acts and intentions and always try to avoid that. I’m also very suspicious of secrets.I mean, if you tell me one, it’s finished as a secret.[Audience laughs] I took a pledge long ago to tell all secrets as quickly as possible, um, because I think that everybody is a lot stupider than you might think. Uh, that nobody has a leg up on this stuff.
[Audience] – The only secret in Dzogchen is not to tell it to somebody who’s not interested. [Terence laughs] The idea of a secret has nothing to do with a secret. It’s keeping the energy and not going around telling it.
Well what I found though is that…
[Audience] - It’s a technique. It has nothing to do with a secret. I tell you not to tell anybody and the hard part is not to tell. The secret is irrelevant. It’s only a technique for the student to hold energy. That's all.
Well, real secrets can’t be told, period. So that’s not an issue. And then secrets, which can be told, are not secrets. Secrets are a way of controlling other people.
[Audience] - What is your best guess as to what is the outcome of this experience? In other words, are there any conceivable other choices besides a reversal or a going upward. Could time go backwards? I mean...
By this process, you mean this historical spin down that we’re caught in? Um, well, there are different ways to think about it; um, like a whole smorgasbord of ways to think about it. It could be that we are simply in anticipation of our death as a species. This is the downer possibility. That what the 20th century is - is like a terminal delirium. We are sinking into coma. All philosophies, books, teachings, points of view, are now swirling around the deathbed of human culture. You know, we remember the shattered affairs, the failed crusades, the ruined dreams. We’re looking back over the wreckage of the last 10,000 years and trying to make peace with it and sinking into coma.
Another possibility is, um, you know – I mentioned that the Time Wave seems curiously appropriate to technology. That what we’re calling novelty, the evolution of novelty seems linked to the evolution of technology. Uh, a technology that would fulfill this whole scenario without requiring the intervention of God almighty or something like that would be time travel. Because if -- if it were possible to travel in time, then you would understand what it meant that this linear wave of novelty terminates on December 21st, 2012. It just literally means that’s the day history ends because after that day, you have a different kind of time. You have a kind of time that is like space. Notice that when we look at the evolution of life and human culture, it’s a conquest of dimensionality. You know, we started as some slime on a rock somewhere and slowly through the coordination of our senses, our eyes and then our limbs, we have conquered space. Notice that when you decide to walk over yonder, this is a journey through space that is volitional, but the time is not volitional. No human being has ever traveled an inch in time or a moment in time.
[Audience] - We just can’t change the rate. We travel in time constantly but we go at…
We’re in the river and the river has a speed and we’re carried along. But, in principle, if it were possible to travel in time, uh, you could create an entirely different kind of sociological domain and I have talked to the mushroom about this. And, it says, you know, that time travel is possible, but only of a certain type. The type that is like this: you can travel back in time, but you cannot travel further back in time than the invention of the first time machine because before that there were no time machines. And, if you took a time machine there, you would introduce a paradox.
[Audience] – Is memory traveling back in time? Like a vivid memory of something that happened a while ago. Isn’t it a sense of manipulation of time in that way?
Well, that’s what’s called "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness." I mean, the mind can travel in time, but the mind -- time is a domain of non-mental objects. It’s a domain of real objects. So, the mind traveling through time is fairly ineffectual. If you could actually move matter through time and there’s reason to think you could, then – and if you could travel back in time than no further than the first time machine – then the moment the first time machine is created and turned on, time machines will appear from all points in the future visiting the most interesting place in time, which is the beginning of the era of time travel. [Audience laughs] It’s as though -- if you have an airplane that you could fly to Kitty Hawk to December 17th, 1905 to witness the first flight of the Wright flyer. So, in a sense, what we call a time machine is not a technology at all and certainly not a technology for individual travel through a temporal medium. What we call a time machine is a kind of switch which, when pushed, collapses the entire notion of future history down into a single moment. It causes, in a sense, the rest of history to happen instantly.
[Audience] – Is this time machine mechanical or non-mechanical?
Well, it's a -- it’s a concept at this point. I mean...
[Audience] – But I mean if there were a time machine, would it be mechanical or non-mechanical.
I think you can visualize it any way you like. I mean, it’s probably more like a drug than a machine.
[Audience] – I guess maybe that’s true too. I’ve often thought about this time travel thing about the fact that we couldn’t fly at least in a physical sense until a few years ago and I’m thinking that maybe we can’t time travel until we get a mechanical prop to help us along at first. But then later on maybe we’ll learn how to do it without a mechanical prop.
Although we’ve never learned to fly without mechanical props. In fact the more we learn about flying, the less likely it seems you know.
[Audience] – Because it’s so easy to fly with a mechanical prop…
And 50 years in – or 70 years in – to the history of powered flight, we still haven’t a clue to how you could fly without mechanical augmentation. Yeah.
[Audience] – I’m thinking that each time you do a really deep psychedelic experience in some ways you travel to the first time that shamans interacted with the plant world because you’re experiencing basically the same connection that takes you out of present time and into something more ancient and more circular. The other thing that occurred to me is if we were slime on the rock, we were pre-historical then maybe up to 2012 we become post-historical and maybe what that means is that we’re living life so much that we don’t have time to sit down and record it.
Well, post-historical existence would be non-linear, you know. People would live in time the way we now live in space and would spread out. What was the first part of your thing?
[Audience] – If you’re on psychedelics and…
Oh, yes. Well that’s how I think of psychedelics.I mean, when I say boundary dissolution, the real boundaries I’m talking about are the boundaries of dimensionality.That the way a shaman is able to do what shamans do is by transcending Newtonian space and time. Here is my model of it. The mind is like a crystal growing under pressure and the pressure is the pressure of Newtonian space/time. And, so the crystal grows and takes the shape of it’s confinement, but when you liquefy the crystal matrix with a psychedelic, it has another preferred geometry and it unfolds into this second geometry and the second and alternative geometry is more hyper spatial. Culturally, our minds are confined by cultural pressure and cultural phase space to, uh, reflect cultural concerns, you know. How am I looking? How much money do I have? Are my social relations in tact? Is my behavior falling within acceptable and so forth and so on?
Uh, when you take the psychedelics and you dissolve the social confinement, the intellectual confinement, the ideological confinement, then the mind -- it's like taking it out of it’s box and it can configure itself in a most comfortable geometry, and it’s free. And, uh, the reason shamans know what the weather will be, know where the game has gone [clears throat], know who will recover and who will not recover from serious illness is because they have a relationship to the future that ordinary people lack. They can see the vectors of possibility and propagate them, uh, into the future. In a sense, chess is like good practice for shamanism because good chess players see deeply into the future. That’s how you win chess games. It's the person who can see the most moves ahead without obfuscation who inevitably wins the game. That’s all that chess is about. So, it's, uh -- And, if you’ve ever played chess on LSD, uh, you know that it’s, uh, ridiculous. [Audience laughs] [Terence laughs] Yes, Cheryl.
[Audience] - Spending time and being liberated from that -- when you talk about transcending time and being liberated from that, is that also being liberation from the body? Because so much of our sense of time is wedded to our embodiment.
Yeah, I mean, this freedom in time usually comes in a state of trance. The I-Ching says, "Keeping still." Trance…
[Audience] –But even after 2012 when there’s this radical transformation of what we know as time, is that also a radical transformation of what we know as body?
Well, at other times we’ve talked about this. There are factions who want to do away with the body. Who believe that somehow in some kind of electrical simulation of the Ketamine space, we will all flow like amoeboid energies from one orgasmic nexus to another; and genital consciousness, body image consciousness, all of this will be left behind. I - I suppose I should have an opinion about all this, but I really don’t. If it feels good, do it, is my motto. The choice between extreme artificiality and extreme naturalness, I think we talked about this the first night, didn’t we, about the gnostic choice? On one level, it’s a choice about the body. I mean, Is the body the glorious instrument of, you know, our interfacing with the miracle of creation or is the body a bag of rotten guts dragging us down ever deeper into Tartarus. Uh, these are just shifts of perspective and people have vehemently argued, uh, both ways. I like the idea of taking the body with you into cyberspace and creating a virtual body. I mean, obviously the body is a product of many millions of years of evolution and generally seems well adapted to the mind that inhabits it. It is meaty, fleshy and perishable. If that could be overcome…
[Audience] – Ok, so the perishability …
The perishability I think is what I think. What I’ve said at times in the past is that the task of history is the inversion of the human being. Our goal is to get the soul outside in three-dimensional space and the body folded inside in mental space. Now we have it all wrong. The body perturbs into three-dimensional space. The most important organ, the mind, cannot be seen. It’s harder to find than the pancreas, uh, because simply by opening the body and looking around, you can find the pancreas. Opening the body and looking for the mind won’t give it to you. It’s obviously in another, uh, dimension. Many religious traditions have this idea of building what’s called "a light body". They say, life is a preparation for death, you’re building an after death vehicle. It’s a -- it's a simulacrum of a living body, but it’s made of light and it’s under the control of your higher intentionality. Uh, there may be something to this. Certainly, you know, we all do build our images according to how we cut our hair, according to how we dress, what particular reconstructive surgeries we elect to have, so forth and so on. We sculpt, uh, the body and when the body is made of light, this will become much easier. I mean, you know, rather than a boob job, you can become a canary if you want [audience laughs] or whatever else is your particular….yeah.
[Audience] – Does the idea that time is compressing contradict the idea that the universe is expanding scientifically?
Well, there’s a lot of argument about whether it’s expanding or contracting. The measurement seems to show that it’s incredibly close to the limit case, to the place where you can’t tell.I mean, it’s either just barely expanding or just barely collapsing and why it’s so close to the limit case isn’t clear. Yeah, this contradicts all of that. See, the scientific theory says, the universe appeared from nothing for no reason, 14 billion years ago. It exploded outward. It’s cooling. It’s slowing down. Complex processes are appearing. Eventually, it will reach the limits of gravitational expansion. If it reaches the limits of gravitational expansion, it will then re-collapse. If not, it will just go forward until entropic heat death. The model that I’m proposing is a little different. It says that the big singularity lies not at the beginning of the universe but at the end. So, I call it not the big bang but the big surprise. What’s happening is that process is complexifying. The scientists want to say that the entire universe burst from a point smaller than the electron for no reason. As I said yesterday, this is the limit case for credulity. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.
[Audience] – I have a feeling, you, know I’m not a physicist but it sounds a little strange.
Yeah, how is that different from ‘and God said, "Let there be light." It’s not different at all. It just uses a personal pronoun in one case and not in the other. I think that there are singularities but that they arise in complexity and that history is the shockwave of the approach of an animal species toward such a singularity. In other words, when monkeys walk toward the mystery, they begin spouting poetry, solving quadratic equations and manufacturing instruments to measure the charge of the electron. It’s a sign that you’re getting close to, uh, the source of gnosis. That the noetic point source radiates understanding with such an intensity that the closer you approach it, the more you understand. And the closer a species approaches it, the more it manifests cognitive activity. So, we dance, we paint, we sculpt, we poeticize, we construct complex architectonic structures because we are close to the source.
And, the way we are narrowing distance between ourselves and the source is by moving toward it through time. It exists at a point in time and we are slowly wandering across the epigenetic landscape of becoming and it’s a steep hill. So, we are wandering down into this basin of attraction unconsciously being drawn closer and closer to the dwell point. And now the walls are so steep, the momentum so great, that there’s no doubt where we’re headed. We’re headed toward the point of, uh, maximum equilibrium within the system. Yeah. Somebody over here.
[Audience] – A few minutes ago, you were kind of laughing at the ridiculous claim of playing chess under LSD. I was wondering why it would be ridiculous? What would happen?
[Audience] – The pieces would melt in your hands!
Well, the thing is, it depends on how seriously you took chess. If you took chess very seriously, it would be perfectly possible to do it. Like everything else under LSD, the implications have to be kept under control. So, if you could just look at the chessboard and see it as a chess problem, you could probably play chess. But, unfortunately, everything will become symbolic of other things and -- and you will, you know, it’s very hard to keep your eye on the ball. You would have to have incredible powers of concentration. You would have to really love chess. Some people can do this. I mean, I know people who cross country ski on psilocybin. I find that unimaginable. I mean, I can’t cross-country
open my eyes
on psilocybin. [Audience laughs] So…something?
[Audience] – I’ve noticed in chess that what disappeared was the complete lack of desire to beat the other person.
Yes, I think that the killer instinct declines. But, if you were looking at it as how deeply can I see into it, it’s good probably -- probably the way to take acid and play chess is with a computer. Then you don’t get into the personal issues of, you know, what is it on the other side of the board. What I find with psychedelics is, it’s always people that are the most confounding. I mean, people, as nexi of complexity, are orders of magnitude more complex than anything else in the universe and can always throw you for a loop if you're -- I mean
throw you into a loop, there’s not if or anything.
[Audience] – This is totally off the wall. Have you ever pointed a video camera at a TV screen and observed what happens?
Sure, that’s called a Hopf bifurcation. That’s a standard thing in chaos theory to demonstrate. That’s just a feedback loop. That’s the equivalent of audio feedback but that’s visual feedback.
[Audience] – Extraordinary huh?
Well, if you’re making a metaphor to the act of self-reflection, yeah. I mean...
[Audience] – It seems like you’re seeing into the particle matter or something; forms getting deep, deep between the molecules. It’s very strange. If you mess around with the contrast and the light button at the same time, you can get it just right to pointing in the middle of the screen on a tripod, and then mess around, you can actually video it, too. You can record an empty video. You can make a light show out of that. It’s extraordinary.
Well, Ralph Abraham when he was studying dynamical systems built a device, which he called a macroscope. And, what it was - it was two sheets of glass with a liquid like gel or something in between and there was a frequency knob and an amplitude knob. And, you play with these two knobs; you illuminate the glass plate with Schlieren Optics, which is a polarized light system, and project it on a screen. And, you discover, you know, that there is this pulsating pattern, but as you steer with the amplitude and frequency knobs, you can stabilize the pattern. But, what’s interesting, when you leave the pattern and try to steer back to it with the same series of moves again, you can’t find your way back by repeating your previous action in reverse because it’s a dynamical, uh, system. This is what chaos theory, complexity theory and dynamics is studying now. Very new mathematical tools are emerging for studying complex systems and this is precisely what we need. You see, all of modern science up until 1980 was done as an extension of Greek mathematics. You -- you had the perfect Aristotelian solids. Then you have the multivariable equations that come out of Algebra as it evolves into Calculus.
[Audience] – Pi was interesting because it couldn’t be computed exactly.
Right. Well, there were all kinds of problems in nature and mathematics that were called pathological or a less dramatic term is, incommensurate. Meaning that you could tell that there was a mathematical solution, but nobody knew how to carry out the millions of operations necessary to do that. Well, now, with computers, computers are making a revolution in mathematics that's very unwelcome among some mathematicians because, you know, with computers, you can perform hundreds of millions of iterative operations a second. The computer becomes an eye into domains of complexity that previously could only be vaguely indicated.
As an example, fractals. Fractals have been known since the late 19th century. They were not called fractals; they were called pathological curves: uh, the snowflake curve, the piano curve, the anti-snowflake curve. These things were known, but you could only calculate them to the 3rd and 4th stage of expression. Now, with a little program on a PC like Fractasketch, you can calculate the 8th, 9th and 10th level of these complex objects and it only takes ten or fifteen minutes for it to draw them for you. So, this is, you know, using technology, specifically technologies that mirror mental functioning, to push us deeper and deeper into the mathematical realm. Yeah.
[Audience] – There was a composer named Cornelius Cardew and he came up with this one composition called "Paragraphs." It was in a John Keats style. It was not musical notations. It had a series of written instructions and there would be forty people that would perform it. Anyway, for instance an instruction would be: sing the word "if" in any note that you hear personally for the duration of a breath. So there would be forty people who would go ‘aaaa’ and so what they would do, he had, at that time they had all over the country, Europe or America, all these groups of forty people doing it. The variables would be that they had five trained musicians and thirty-five people that just walked in and read the instructions. Anyway, each piece was maybe twenty minutes long with a series of instructions and when you played all of these back to back, there was rarely a difference in the way it would sound and be performed. People would have a tendency to hit A for instance. You know..
You mean it reveals an underlying organization that is not known to be there. Well, this is how the world is put together it turns out. I mean, a story that I occasionally tell that illustrated for me how this works that was very interesting was, I was on a beach a few years ago in Southern California, a very long beach with no people on it. And, uh, I came upon a black round rock that was just deposited there and I noticed, uh, this rock and I, uh, kept walking along the beach. And, then I came to another black rock exactly like the first one like about five hundred yards further on. I had for some reason, probably because I was loaded on mushrooms, had the prescience of mind to go back to the first rock I’d encountered and count off the steps between the two rocks. It was like 650 steps. So, when I got to the second rock, I began walking continuing down the beach and I counted off 648 more steps and there was a third black rock as I knew there would be.[Audience laughs]
So, you see, what’s happening here is that you have a huge bay with this endless beach. Some kind of incredibly complicated equation is being continuously run on the bay as computer. And every 648 to 656 steps, it’s solving this equation by depositing a small black rock on the beach. Well, now, if I’d have had a naïve person around, I could have predicted that we would encounter the third black rock and then they would have deified me or offered sacrifice or something at this proof of a prescient knowledge of the future. But it wasn’t prescient knowledge of the future; it was knowledge of how fractals work in space and time. And, you know, if you get this attitude, it’s a firm basis for a kind of warm-hearted cynicism. So that when people do something wonderful or terrible to you that has been done before to you, over and over again, instead of expressing outrage and amazement, you just notice that ‘aha,’ it’s happening again [audience laughs] as it happened in the past and it surely will in the future. This is how Finnegan’s Wake is written. It’s just within the great fall are suspending many little falls and spread through that are many tiny falls; an infinite regress of repetitious pattern. This is how the world actually works. Yeah.
[Audience] – Science would have said it was incorrect because there was a difference of three or four paces between the distances between the rock, therefore, nothing was proved.
Well, that’s Greek science that is trying for a kind of exactitude. But, it turns out, you know, nature is not deterministic. That’s why they used to have the idea that you could run the universe backwards and that all the particles would eventually rearrange themselves as they were in the original, uh, situation.
[Audience] - They’re slipping back to, isn’t it?
Yeah, that you could run it back to the big bang. But, this is an incredibly naïve and simple-minded understanding of how the laws of nature work because the laws of nature are not absolutely determined. I mean, you can run time backward and it will sort of return to where it started from, but, you know, Columbus will not sail the ocean blue in 1492. It doesn’t work like that. Once something has undergone the formality of occurring, it is, uh, never to be repeated. It’s unique. I mean, that’s what’s happening. There is this moving wave in front of the class of the possible that slowly at the point of interest, called the now, translates itself into what is actually occurred.
[Audience] - But just now you said, the way things are. It’s repetition – the fractals - you know, like, it happens to you again and again but now you say that nothing is ever repeated. On one level it’s a contradiction and on another level it's not. I don’t understand.
In a fractal, there is no contradiction. These two statements are both true. Here’s the first statement. Everyday is like every other day. That’s generally true. Here’s the second statement: but, occasionally, amazing things happen. That’s also true. You have to round one of the big corners in the pattern. So, everyday is like every other day. Every century is rather like every other century and every million years is sort of like the million years that preceded it. But then at the fine scale, there are incredible surprises. So, everything oscillates between its sameness and its uniqueness. And, it is co-temporaneously both unique and part of a universal plenum. I mean, this gets close to some kind of Buddhist idea. Uh, uniqueness is the thing that hasn’t received enough attention. That’s why, you know, I’m a Whiteheadian. I think Whitehead dealt with uniqueness with more care and attention than anybody else has. Yeah.
[Audience] – You have to follow this path. Take that first step and you’re good.
Well, yeah. Boolean algebra, which is both/and logic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, so there was this long, long period where you had to make this choice. This is again what’s called "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness". The idea that ideas are things therefore they have to be A or B. They don’t have to be A or B. They can exist in a both/and situation. I had a professor who seriously advocated, he said, "You want to know when the world went wrong? It went wrong when the Greeks stopped being fishermen and pulled their boats up on the sand and starting talking philosophy," and the road to hell was paved broad and straight from that point on.
In alchemical thinking, which existed like a counter-cultural alternative to all this Aristotelianism, there is what’s called the
. I found this very useful. It’s a psychedelic idea, a Jungian idea and an occult idea. It’s the idea that you have to practice thinking, holding two contradictory thoughts in your mind at the same time. Uh, this is a way to snare the mind and it’s truer to reality. So, like, it’s also a great way to name books, by the way. If you ever have to title a book – this was advice from a New York editor. He said, "You have to have a title that contains a contradiction." "True Hallucinations" [audience laughs] or "‘The Invisible Landscape" [audience laughs] or "The Archaic Revival" [audience laughs] or "Black Neon" – a book I haven’t written that will be my foray in pornography, uh, if I haven’t made it already.
This is the way to do it, to oppose these things. That’s called a
. That’s what life is really like, you know. I really love you and if you really knew me, you would know that I don’t. You can depend on me for the next thirty seconds, and so forth and so on. I mean, this is what life is really like and people hate it because they want to extrude this residuum of the uncertain. They say, I want you to be dependable or I want you to be X, Y, or Z. When, in fact, everything is shifting and changing.
I see I’m over time. This leads me to my final point. First a question I’d like you to think about. We can’t discuss it here, but it’s, uh, "Are we psychedelic people different from anybody else?" We make the claim that we have found the answer. That it is suppressed by an ignorant and intolerant world. We sound very much like the kind of whining that goes on among Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses or anybody else [audience laughs] who has some screwball theory that if the world would but listen then everything would be fine. So, I’m very interested in this question, you know. Are we morally superior? Are we intellectually superior? Do we treat our children people better? Psychedelic users, that’s what I’m talking about, uh, because that’s the bottom line is, you know. Does it inspire better lives, more love, greater care – that’s the question? And then the last thought I want to leave you with which is sort of a
thought because it will bum some and exalt others is the one thing that I’ve learned from psychedelics that seems secure over all the decades and the, you know, embracing one idea, one ideology after another. The one thing that seems secure is a truth that is hard to hear in the context of a dominator culture with an obsession with the material world. And that truth is that nothing lasts. Nothing lasts.
You know, your enemies will fade. Your friends will fade. Your fortune, your poverty, your disappointments, your dreams - everything is in the process of changing into something else. So, your agony is about to be assuaged. On the other hand, your happiness is about to be destroyed. So, the obligation that comes out of this realization is an obligation to the immediate moment, to this thing that I’ve been calling "the felt moment of immediate experience." It isn’t who you were or what you were or who you will be or what you will be; it’s the felt moment of immediate experience and this has been robbed from us by media and by our tendency to denigrate ourselves, to see the world in terms of the great ones not here, whoever they are. Aristotle, Madonna or Jesus – whatever your particular bent is. Um, the overcoming of neurosis, of unhappiness, of toxic lifestyles is, uh, the felt presence of immediate experience in the body, in the moment And, you know, psychedelics, sexuality, gastronomy, sport, dance – these are the things which put you in the felt presence of the moment.
And, that’s really all you ever possess. Your memories are eroding away. The futures you anticipate will mostly not come to pass and the real, uh, richness is in the moment and it’s not necessarily some kind of ‘be here now’ feel-good thing because it doesn’t always feel good. But, it always feels. It is a domain of feeling. It’s primary. Language is not primary. Ideology is not primary. The propagation of future and past vectors is not primary. What's primary is the felt presence of experience and that is the source of love and that is the source of community.
And, if you get that together as people always have in the past, or we wouldn’t be here – they to some degree succeeded with this enterprise – if you get that together, everything will flow with considerably less resistance and you will find it in yourself, I think, to have enough inner equanimity and peace of mind to triumph over whatever life throws your way, whether it be, you know, poverty, obscurity, wealth, fame, power or the absence of power. All of these things should be dealt with equanimity because all are ephemeral. All are in the very act of coming into existence, uh, passing away. "
," Heraclitus said. All flows. Everything is both simultaneously coming into existence and dissolving away to make room for something else. Clutching doesn’t work. Fearing doesn’t work. The only thing which works is a kind of affirmation to the process. And, uh, psychedelics, to my mind, are the medicine that clears away the obstructions that make it difficult for us to touch this existential core and that’s what life is all about.
And that’s the end of the weekend. Thank you very much.
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