Richard Brautigan’s “machines of loving grace” possess eyes and stare down at me. I make this thought manageable by assuming a single consciousness operating both parties — observer and observed — through use of selective memory. Temporary acts of forgetting. Aimless, undifferentiated units of time. One has the game in one’s entire body, remember — not just in one’s mind. Weakly interacting massive particles. Massively multiplayer. Let something else take over.
Soggy bamboo hut versus cardboard cutout. Suboptimal work-life synthesis. Walk it off. Beware of laws that march ever onward, urged by unthinking decree. Like remaining always in pursuit of points and dollars. The future as highly suspect temporal form. Think instead of the means of production internally, “pulsating and available, like a brain-sprawl in waiting.” Is it, as Franco “Bifo” Berardi would say, as simple as clearing the head of any further illusions of the future? Berardi’s book After the Future offers suggestive commentary along these lines — particularly the section of the book titled “Zaum and Technomaya.” The best parts of my day, though, are when I put aside such things and walk. Parks, neighborhoods: I enjoy them all. Upon receiving word from on high of my fate, I bow in darkness and give thanks to the ones I love. Parts of narrative click into place. Parts of my childhood begin to make sense. A paper waits to be written on science fiction and the psychedelic revolution. Ahead of me lies the mystery of an unexplored, newly-unlocked segment of the gameboard.
I sense my heart beating as I listen to Overscan’s “The Narrows.”
My mind’s eye cycles through a sequence of images. Time stolen for sensation rather than narrative progression. An octopus swims in a giant underground tank. Beams of sunlight pierce the rafters of an abandoned factory. By conjuration, I acquaint myself with Andrew Weil’s The Natural Mind. The subjective universe continues its slow, bit-by-bit expansion. Marijuana lets me use time to step back from the Agora, the marketplace — the business of everyday life under capitalism. I scatter into platters, platelets, matter: shrinking man, dissolving into panpsychic, object-oriented bliss. I can move up and out, release myself of gravity, transform into a thought bubble floating in a world of sound, as in 15 Corners of the World, a documentary about Polish electronic music composer Eugeniusz Rudnik. Teaching, on certain days, with the right students and under the proper conditions, needn’t be a burden. We’re like electric ants in that regard. We can change three-dimensional reality by reprogramming ourselves internally. It’s a matter of explaining three dimensions in two-dimensional terms.
No sense of self, no consciousness of time. Rapt, attentive, hypnotic. “Take notes,” I tell myself. “The one you woo is you.” Synthesized sound effects. Others in this society see that I’m struggling, see that I’m caged, yet none lift a finger to free me. I long for the day when this country is wiped from the face of the earth. Where are the activities and environments that used to give me joy? What became of happier times of yore? Kyle Landstra’s new tape Within/Without from Muzan Editions helps to calm me, abstracts me from matters that don’t matter.
The universe is only as accessible and as comprehensible as we allow it to be. Music can seem made by chance to arrive at one’s doorstep at the precise moment in one’s progress when one needs it. “Sometimes, when I have been high,” writes William Novak, “I have felt like a visitor to another land, a land both familiar and new at the same time, only inches and moments away from the land I normally inhabit, but also remote — and uncharted on any map I have consulted” (High Culture, p. xii). He describes wanting to take notes and send postcards back to the world he normally occupies, thus counteracting the head’s tendency to forget certain parts of the experience upon reentry. So, too, these trance-scripts.
Listen, friends, as tones evoke a cosmos. Let them bring to thee word of Wade Davis’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. One can retrace Davis’s footsteps with an episode of Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia called “Investigating the Haitian Zombie.” Maroons, Bizangos, revolutionaries, secret societies: this one has it all. Stoner blank parody of Western imperialist gentleman scientist exotica. Let us also save for later a dose of Hildegard von Bingen. Listening, one pictures colors streaming from a neck. Senses arrive as packets or parcels. A mossy wooden bench passes in and out of view to the left of me, the moon to my right. On days like these, I stare across my classrooms wondering if I’m speaking to bicameral minds. Their gazes digital in a way that seems vaguely reptilian. Is capital a god who whispers to students as I speak?
Operators were warned early in the game that their minds would one day melt under the pressure of neoliberal operant conditioning dispersed across the gameworld through takeover of the phenomenon known as work. Foreknowledge of a danger lacks consequence, however, when one is powerless to change one’s course. Several well-received monographs have already been written on the subject. Yet here we are—integrated into the narrative despite ourselves. An enterprising young cartoon skateboarder rolls up and says, “Feel free to customize the pipes on your virtual persona!” Practicing a few simple laws, our overseers have grabbed and conquered. “Just like that,” says the skater, fingers snapping. His friends arrive and line up beside a food truck. “Welcome to Biscuit Town,” mutters one of them. We roll our eyes and look grimly upon the scene ahead. To a rhythmic interplay of xylophones, triangles, and cowbells, they tie us up, they weigh us down. Their employer, from another hemisphere, gives a command like so. Push/pull. A scuffle. “Nobody move,” shouts a man in a mask, “it’s a stick up.” And like that, they rob us blind.
Lines in a VHS reproduction of a motion picture waver in and out of focus. Let us demand from Charles and Ray Eames an ascent by powers of ten. We are bodies containing within us outer orbits. Passing between scales causes us to lose familiarity with our surroundings. Skulls appear, each of them covered with microscopic pollen: bits of ancient thistle, spiria, and hollyhock. The most complex structure in the known universe looks about itself in awe. I lean forward and whisper, “I am ready to embark on l’avventura.” Sarah and I walk through a distant neighborhood, her recitation of the Norse creation myth interrupted by and postponed on account of other inputs: yipping dogs, passing cars, the buzz of a circular saw. I despise all forms of imprisonment, but long for silence and solitude. Otherwise we’re just organizing behavior in pursuit of points. Dumb competition, a brake upon potential, stripping us of right-of-way.
This place is a kind of test, present only inasmuch as the “rat,” the possessor of consciousness, is aware of it. Occupants of the test say, “Please don’t forget us.” Consciousness knits itself over its time gaps and appears to itself as an unbroken continuity, a single being. I reassemble into a self, calling together into formation as Multitude my pharmacologically-enhanced body politic. We collect ourselves before a past life guided meditation tape: Curious Margie Meets Sunbirthed at the House.
Plastic cups dance before my eyes. I cross a bridge; I enter a house. But when coaxed to enter a doorway and recall a past life, my awareness dips and takes leave and I merely fall asleep.
A bearded face smiles amiably, energy crackling ’round its head. Hear it as it discourses, only to the length necessary, of dimensions unfathomable to heads that lack pools of reflection tucked into the interiors of their fortresses of solitude. I find most contemporary theories of consciousness, particularly those of the neuroscience sort, deeply disappointing. Far too reductive, and deflationary in their aspirations. Scholars of mind ought to be proponents of mind, in the vanguard among proponents of joy and of weird sensations. I have to say: in his role as character in the psychedelic drama, Hamilton Morris troubles me, worries me. I much prefer the truthful attentiveness to subjective experience that informs the work of an older era’s thinkers like Julian Jaynes. The modern mind consists of an internal narrative longing for direction from a higher power. Despite his many errors, Jaynes was at least conscious enough to strike notes of wonder in its presence. “The intellectual life of man,” he wrote, “his culture and history and religion and science, is different from anything else we know of in the universe. That is fact. It is as if all life evolved to a certain point, and then in ourselves turned at a right angle and simply exploded in a different direction” (The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, p. 9). Let us know ourselves, in other words, as eaters of forbidden fruit containing alien DNA.
“There are a lot of minds in here,” says one invented voice among many. A hound pants and howls. A witch gasps and cackles. Consciousness interrupts itself, stops watching itself, and for once actually listens. Linger on natural delights, I tell myself. Bits of media detritus float past, signaling that inner setting menus are now accessible. With binaural metaprogramming, black magick’s principled ideal of godhood inches this side of attainable. The image confronts me, though, of two roads diverging in a yellow wood: the Left Hand Path and the Right. Am I ready to enact the praxeology of divination, evocation, and soul travel? The so-called “Three Godly Powers”? Or would I prefer to live as if watched over by a machine of loving grace?