Although much of it remains of an order and kind I can’t define, the information I receive while under the influence of psychedelics hints at hidden cognitive capacities. Thought acquires an important ally. Fed with new perception, even if just of the entoptic kind, the brain responds accordingly, adjusting itself through a process of neurogenesis in the hippocampus. One learns, for instance, that psychedelic shaman Terence McKenna studied under Austrian philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend. Is there a “correct” way to generalize? Mind is the only true Subject, emanating upward and outward through the biosphere, inventing new forms for itself. Sidewalk cracks rhyme with frets on the neck of a guitar, in a place where the biosphere exists only as distant memory, herbal remedy, “supplement.” How fares the cause of “epistemological anarchism” in the age of the Anthropocene? How fares the cause of personalism in the age of AI?
I wish I could pull it all together, assemble the pieces of an intellectual history of the psychedelic revolution. The history I have in mind extends far beyond the figures and materials covered in recent books like Jesse Jarnow’s Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America. Jarnow’s book uses the Dead as its connective thread, whereas I’m more interested in telling the stories of head culture’s organic intellectuals: those “technicians of the sacred” who attempted to interpret and make sense of psychedelic experience. A bee zooms into view — and alone remains, when all is through, the day’s iconic residue. In the meantime, a glimpse of the moon:
Imagine reality evolving into the unthinkable of existing sets and disciplines. Call the results of this dream-work The Ones Who Follow: A Modern Mythology. The Jonestown Massacre lies on the outskirts of all ventures of this sort, utopian communities of joy derailed everywhere, cursed, denounced, undone. How might we again induce a change in people? How might we together achieve self-actualization, group-realization? As opposed to just repeating over and over again history’s pattern of conquest, domination through separation of people from their lands. The “altered state” is what we’re after. That phrase, in its various senses, is what we mean by our Utopia. Lovers as hemispheres, fused at the mouth, as in John Donne’s “The Good Morrow.” We’re trying to raise consciousness, awaken the sleepwalkers from their deadly slumber — beginning with ourselves if necessary.
Passive Status’s “forest” uses sound to transport consciousness to an elsewhere. A murky cosmic dungeon.
The beam of the mind’s eye blanks in and out during vertical retrace, at the end of each scan of the proscenium and the great beyond. Aldous Huxley called this beyond a “luminous living geometry.” The self in its cat’s cradle, its Metatron’s Cube. The god-mind as it precipitates into objects. Forms appear as clear as daylight, awaiting incorporation into being. Bands, spectrums, vibrational fields. Clusters of energy. Patterns. Particles communicating across the Planck length. Seeds of life spinning into tube tori. “Mentation in s-sleep,” writes Ursula K. Le Guin in her novel The Lathe of Heaven, “is like an engine idling, a kind of steady muttering of images and thoughts. What we’re after are the vivid, emotion-laden, memorable dreams of the d-state.” What if, from this point forward, however, ancient rules of epic narration were to be faithfully observed? Answers would have to come with their own questions attached, with the whole designed to reveal reality for what it is: stroboscopic, multi-sensory class warfare.
What is Psychedelic Marxism’s aspiration amidst the near-universal degradation and subsumption of consciousness via capitalist rationality: to dream differently, or to wake up? I support either of these goals, so long as the attention economy is usurped of its current title as “The Only Game in Town.” Wannabe critical theory types, meanwhile, pull back a curtain exposing mind-manipulation plots involving mundane villains like Mark Zuckerberg and former “Google Design Ethicist” Tristan Harris. Perhaps that’s why I’m loaded with debt, an expert only in the production of methodologically incoherent mappings of cultural trends. I have in mind here the kinds of authors who publish with Zero Books. Performance artists who specialize in blank parodies of cultural theory. Can’t we just arrange for ourselves to be possessed, captured by a mad rush of communication? A cartoon lab scientist steps back in surprise as a ball of twine, become animate, takes to the air flapping parts of itself up and down, as if it were a bird and those parts were its wings. A bust of Shakespeare reassembles on a desk out of colored Olympic rings: blue, yellow, black, green, and red. All I can do, however, is peer from a window and listen, the world around me arranged as prison.
Is consciousness just an illusory emanation of language? Or does it possess some sort of agency, some prior existence independent of language? A voice interjects, says “Grant it said agency and it does.” The subject, a kind of ghost, sits in darkness, manipulating symbols with its thumbs. One evolves by updating one’s code. Sensibility is an interface one can adjust by burning and inhaling sacramental plant matter. The interface undergoes what Franco “Bifo” Berardi calls “mental mutation.” It escapes some of its determination by image regimes and techniques of representation. “The repertoire of images at our disposal,” he writes, “exalts, amplifies, or circumscribes the forms of life and events that, through our imagination, we can project onto the world, put into being, build, and inhabit” (After the Future, p. 133). Must there be a nucleus of identity, a single author-function at the unviewable origin-point of the projection? How far can imagination abstract itself from historical reckoning? Can’t it sometimes float blissfully, no longer self-possessed?
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.