I’m a firm believer in individuals and groups under capitalism escaping whatever feels to them like fate. Wasn’t it Werner von Braun who, in the epigraph that launches Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, states, “Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death”? A beautiful early evening drive filled with falling leaves leads to a food truck dinner (a shot of sriracha in a bowl of Shoyu Ramen: so good!) — on what for me is a night of perfect autumn weather. From there, Sarah and I head to Berlin-based eco-philosopher Andreas Weber’s talk “Matter & Desire: An Erotic Ecology.” Matter is not only matter, but also desire, he begins. Bodies, both human and nonhuman, contain both an outside and an inside — a sense of interiority. Writers must honor the earth, while also honoring their existential situation as authors. Conjure for readers swarms of swifts arcing and darting through their element. Subjectivity, it seems, equals for Weber being a center of life amidst others who are themselves their own centers. Oikos, he explains, is inextricable from Eros. Yet we face a huge problem today, don’t we? A crisis in sense-making, a problem with aliveness. Elizabeth Kolbert calls it “the sixth extinction.” As a thought experiment, try attending for a few moments to your breathing. Exhalation of carbon, Weber observes, is a giving of part of one’s body to others. Or consider the incorporation that occurs via eating. Before my mind’s eye, Weber becomes slightly mozzarella and slightly tomato, just as I become slightly ramen. What we need, however, are acts of breathing and acts of eating that are also reciprocal imaginings of self and other. Not just a using of the one by the other. “To use,” Weber notes, is the opposite of “to imagine.” Perhaps we Psychedelic Marxists ought to incorporate some of these ideas into our thinking. What is smoking, after all, if not a reciprocal imagining? Inhalation, that basic transformative act, leaves neither side unchanged.
Trust the inner healer. Support what is happening. A voice on a cassette weaves a matrix of synchronic and diachronic histories connecting archetypes and astrology. Holotropic states and planetary transits. Metaphysical reasons for the slowness of the psychedelic renaissance. The intensification of the birth problem can have healing effects. Humans show malignant violence with no parallel in nature. We have seen the realm of archetypal paranatal passage through a tunnel. An hourglass where we go through life: a tunnel experience. In birth, we lose the connection with the transcendental. Existence is a “virtual” reality that we’ve developed in response to this trauma. “Model agnosticism” holds that any grid we use to organize our experience of the world is a model of the world and should not be confused with the world itself. There is a fundamental gap. Chemicals can give rise to the way the world orchestrates experiences since “things” are constructs assembled out of energy by our nervous systems. Stanislav Grof suggests the program each of us is running right now is the equivalent of a broadcast, coming from somewhere else. Some people are high all the time because of the way they breathe. With the right instructions, one can accomplish anything. An ideal version of my psychedelic lit course would include Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger, and Doris Lessing’s The Sirian Experiments. But my sense is that capital doesn’t permit thought to occur anymore. It’s like the Middle Ages again. The knowledges that emerged from the failed global revolutions of 1968 are no longer accessible to current Internet-molded forms of capitalist subjectivity. In fact, I expect most of those post-68 discourses to go silent and disappear, at least temporarily, only to be rediscovered sometime in a distant, maybe post-revolutionary future. And much of this thought — post-structuralism, especially — was shaped rather directly by experiments with psychedelics. Both attempted to challenge the effects of Western imperialism through decolonization of consciousness. Foucault dropped acid in Death Valley; Deleuze and Guattari were deep into Carlos Castaneda territory. This is also why the section on mid-twentieth-century CIA-funded research into shock treatment is IMO the section of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine with the most relevance today. Capitalist subjects have been receiving direct and indirect forms of shock treatment en masse since the early days of the Cold War. That’s what Mark Fisher meant when he argued that capitalist realism is all about consciousness-deflation. Hence the radicalism of psychedelics as self-administered counter-therapy or counter-treatment from below.
Let’s put the revolution back in crazy talk. Grab people by the collar, get up in each one’s face and shout, “The revolution begins now, motherfucker!” Or (to remove any suggestion of aggression): “The revolution, an event of super-humanization affecting the one and the many, begins now, with chemically-assisted transfiguration of consciousness.” Mass exodus from participation in the social sacrifice of life via labor. “Capitalism ain’t getting shit from me,” smirks the narrator as he starts his break. Marx was at his most Marxist in his hatred of work. “Fuck wage labor,” he’d say, “I’m gonna go hang out all day in the British Museum Reading Room!” The anti-capitalist martyr remains an important latency in my political identity. An impossible self I’ve at times admired, a fatal temptation to which I may yet succumb. Weed is very much for me an example of “appropriate technology.” A tool for creative self-experimentation with consciousness. Peter Mortensen investigates a similar such view in his essay “Tripping Back to Nature: Aldous Huxley, Psychedelics, and Pro-Technology Environmentalism.” Earl Hooker’s “Lucky You” scored yesterday’s venture into the psychedelic unknown.
Stoned at a local outdoor music festival. Relaxing sunlit on a grassy hill, while bands perform below. Could this event have served as a turning point? And if a turning point, away and toward what? The vibe was surprisingly negative at first, as if festival-going were the performance in an evacuated church of a belief-less ritual. I still believe in these gestures, however, says the participant, my vomit reserved only for poor execution of ceremony. Beautiful out here under the night sky. The universe arranged for me. And on the date of my parents’ anniversary, no less: my locale, assembling itself in celebration. Spider Bags speak to me, testifying, “I found inner peace by ignoring things.” Is that what I want on my tombstone? Shit started to feel exactly that existential as I stood there afraid of slipping down a hill. “That’s a long, long way to roll,” sang the band. I could see stars above as they chanted, “Who will I be next?” The self must avoid destroying itself for those it loves. Particularly affecting was a song the band performed with NC blues singer extraordinaire Reese McHenry.
The night melted into super chill vibes, though, with level-up conversation and synesthetic animation, once headliner Washed Out took the stage.
Paranoia subsides, and the crowd sways like wind-blown grass. This is how it begins, the participant thinks to himself. This is how you educate desire. This is how heads are turned.
I tumble out of the workday to the sound of Bastian Void’s Three Sides of Consideration.
Music rotates through space like a holographic projection. I race on account of low memory capacity. Catch the mind’s formulations before time dissolves their presence. Mind at play is both fast and flighty, while words assume form and assemble ’round one another only haltingly, as if the creator-self has to pause every few steps to consult unsayable rules and unreadable guidebooks. What is “language” again? Refresh my memory. Remind me how it works. Bastian Void, by the way, is Massachusetts-based Moss Archive label founder Joe Bastardo. We are of the tribe raised as much by TV as by parents. The Nintendo generation. My allies among this generation are those who have begun to flirt again with consciousness expansion, therapeutic madness, and the creation of alternative realities. We operate experimentally and pragmatically, but could benefit from engagement with precursor theorists like Theodore Roszak. An Acid Marxist avant la lettre. I close my eyes and a clear gelatin tablet splits open in my hands, spilling forth its insides: tiny multicolored micro-plastic spheroids. The 1960s and 1970s countercultures were somehow neglected, an absent thing remembered wistfully, but as an unambiguously unrepeatable past, during the years of my schooling. Roszak, however, speaks directly to my concerns of late with a rousing defense of visionary experience in a chapter from The Making of a Counterculture called “Eyes of Flesh, Eyes of Fire.” (These trance-scripts, by the way, are written for “Eyes Turned Backwards, Belonging to Heads of the Future.” Picture them sitting there with their Whole Earth Catalogs, in their nomad-architectured, “full communism now” communes, all watched over by machines of loving grace. Why can’t others view this as beautiful with me — that way we could go out and do it?) How hard it would be, though, what obstacles we would need to overcome, in order to assemble a national, international, global economy of networked communes, encampments, all servicing each other’s productive needs in a non-profit, price-set, steady-state system of systems. Could we network them, perhaps, and thus establish dual power, under the guise of a religion?
I admire the lyrical persona who sings raw and afloat amidst lonely journeys westward. That was a story some imagined community used to tell itself. The nation imagines itself through its heroes. When these heroes hail us, we become sutured, stitched up in selves until, with desire for change, the cycle begins anew. What would it take to make the imagination over again into a genuine threat to capitalist reproduction? Isn’t that what we’re getting at: selves who, like Melville’s Bartleby, would prefer not to? I’m so far gone, thinking up here. Reality refracting into inward-regressing, multi-dimensional nested sinkholes. It gets messy. A small giggling reverbed spazz-voice floating in the void of a recording studio soundboard. New aesthetics rupture into the realm of the known all the time: just look at Netflix Original Neo Yokio. Bored prep school anime existentialist tells his robot bodyguard / handler, “I’m simply too blue for lunch.” The future is an interminable pool of wackness, he says, thus provoking the wrath of bank fees and debt collectors. Poor Bartleby. No more than a ghostly riddle, an exception-state — a martyr whose death would surely have gone unmourned, were it not for the intervention of Melville’s narrator. Invisible forces tug at the edges of a branded, logo-covered object-world. May a great wind sweep down and lay waste to the Empire and its effects. Following up on a recent recommendation from a friend, I spent my commute yesterday to and from work listening to a special episode of The Discourse Collective podcast titled “Psychedelic Politics.”
As much as it pleases me to witness LSD’s rising fortunes again among certain folks on the Left, hippie-phobic, 60s-bashing podcasts like this one illustrate the persistence in our time of some profound misunderstandings about the past. On the whole, a disheartening experience. But also a reminder: it’s time to correct some of these misunderstandings. If I don’t write “Notes Toward a Theory of Psychedelic Utopianism,” who will?
Check for blockages. Free oneself from what Christian theologian John Howard Yoder calls “the Powers.” Like Sartre’s “practico-inert,” the Powers name a given form of the world, a “mode of production” that produces individual subjects addicted to that mode’s reproduction. We must try to model for others another way: a life that, through psychedelic resistance to interpellation, sheds its determination by the Powers, thus allowing an improvised, moment-to-moment stepping forth of something new. (Yoder himself, by the way, failed terribly in this regard. He usefully reframed the story of Christianity in countercultural terms, with Christ serving as the preeminent example of how an individual’s refusal to be determined by the Powers can prompt “the creation of a distinct community with its own deviant set of values and its coherent way of articulating them.” But when Yoder himself attempted a similar refusal, positing “intimacy” as a means by which to challenge the world as given, it appears he did so without seeking the consent of others, his legacy thus marred by multiple charges of sexual abuse.) I stare at walls and wonder, what shall step forth today? What new mode of being shall cross through the cracks as we alter the constitution of the given? As Robert Masters and Jean Houston note in their book Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, “Man is still something to be realized” (5). From this point forward, I will attempt to assume my role as “guide.” I will bring back from each day’s trance something of value to enrich other heads (and through them, the General Intellect.) Becoming fully aware means becoming one with all that is. Should make you smile. What we’re trying to escape is a cultural trance where, as Masters and Houston note, “we all dream the same dream, more or less, and call it: reality” (13). I feel infinitely more well-provisioned after grilling myself a couple hot dogs. I care about consensus reality only inasmuch as it is there where I get to care for those I love. I care, too, though, for their entire life-body relation, their full organic and inorganic being. Where do we draw the line between that and the whole of nature? Perhaps these experiments need to be performed in groups, each member becoming for the others their Ezekiel.
I’m feeling super down at the moment. My hope, however, is that by writing, I can pull myself up. Evacuate the current narrative. Bleed out into another. Lemme just get myself adjusted, as with the ludicrous prog of Gong’s “Master Builder.”