A low robotic voice speaks to me in another language. I imagine myself riding around behind set in a golf cart as crew members arrange backdrops for upcoming scenes in my life narrative. One of these crew members, watching me read David Toop’s Ocean of Sound and knowing that this book contains a reference to a famous London music venue of the 1960s called The Roundhouse, places in my path in a bin at Goodwill a VHS recording of a Doors show at The Roundhouse from September 1968. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and their crew Thee Temple of Psychick Youth bequeathed to heads the concept of “occulture,” referring to “anything cultural yet decidedly occult/spiritual.” It is by way of occulture, then, that I intuit meaning of some sort, evidence of a sentient other, in whose possession is held the torch of enlightenment. I now have a receiver station, above which may open portals out of which may drop gifts, each one a vessel or talisman containing instructions, tools for self-actualization. Access to unconscious powers. I watch myself escorted down into a state-run institutional facility housing the holding cell of the Id. Shadow-dramas of past eras play upon the walls. Under neon lights, we speak.
I imagine myself away in a psychic hideaway, garlanded with wreath beside Bay of Biscayne, spying unseen, like the reason-mad royal society scientists of Bacon’s New Atlantis, antennae out, receiving signals, telescopes trained on the world. I gather around me work that suits me. Using wireframe models draped in polygons, I build new objects. Mechanical Turks. And I do this not by exploiting teams of artists made to sell themselves piecemeal in an unwinnable race to the bottom. I do it, rather, by way of consciousness modification. Reverse behavioral economics. Hypnoses, trances, collective lucid dreams. What constitutes crime in the absence of democracy? Criminality is a response to the wrongs of a society. Mindhunter makes me nostalgic for when universities were universities. Spaces of critical dialogue, where students and professors began from an agreement that established narratives were lies.
A curving rainbow path extends from a tiger’s eye viewed in profile against a starry background. In the time it would take for these stars to blink, the eye’s lower half morphs into the Millennium Falcon, out of which emerge tentacles composed of rows of cutouts of mechanically reproduced bees. This more fundamental language—visual signifiers assembled from scraps of pop detritus—is the one we think with. A conspiracy of forces, however, has stolen from us the various alternative modernities of our dreams. Our tastes as a culture have led us instead to remake reality into sequences of Apprentice episodes, Disney films, and bleak first person shooter franchises. How do we return to futures of nomadic tribes of ‘peace pipe’-packing hippies, hitchhiking and trucking along networks of cybernetic socialist settlements and encampments?
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?
The apparatus in the chest of the Electric Ant structures light. It gives birth to some objects while causing others to disappear. Dick calls this apparatus the Ant’s “reality-supply construct.” “Tampering with it would be risky,” he writes, “if not terminal.” Imagine the process whereby an avatar acquires knowledge of its player. The latter would have to send the former clues. The gasp of recognition, sure — but where does one go from there? What does one do with this force in the universe that makes things happen? It provides one with a kind of drowsiness, a deep-dream state, this living within a fable, where things aren’t what they seem. “It’s hard to see the city from the buildings,” as F.J. McMahon sings on “The Road Back Home.” It’s like getting lost in a crowd and having to think one’s way out. Facts and figures float by as we wait for morning sunshine. Amnesia aids the merging of the soul with the brain.
Like Mayakovsky, I “see the one no one sees / crossing the mountains of time.” Consider this imaginary friend of mine — hovering, approaching, possessing me as I meditate. Marx’s spectre, pricking on the plain. It matters not where we land, I tell myself, as my boot bottom settles on an oil slick at the base of a gas pump. The important thing is to reopen the case of language and its relation to consciousness. The important thing is to track thought with thought.