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?
People that do it, do it. They map a new territory in an act of psychic reinvention. Lounging, relaxing, living pleasurably: one should always build time for these into the 24 hours of one’s day. Get a glimpse of it, man — the waves as they mass on the horizon. “I haven’t been entirely well lately,” coughs capitalism as it climbs into the ring. I shall steal from under it the ground on which it stands. Trees rise up around me, their bare branches bathed in yellow sunlight. As pleasant as the weather has been locally these last few days, I still look forward to the coming rebirth, the arrival of spring and summer. Would acceptance of Rich Terrile’s “reality-as-simulation” hypothesis prompt any changes in terms of everyday interactions with others and with nature? The more I watch Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, the more I’m put off by the show’s disrespectful treatment of indigenous people and their medicines and traditions. Perhaps the series acquires some critical self-awareness along the way? We’ll see.
The mind, invested in a sound or a state, pursues a path, awakening afterwards free of memory. Ash & Herb refer to this process, and in doing so give it shape, on tracks like “Root Awakening.”
Ash Brooks & ML Wah take heads even further into the beyond on their brilliant slow jam, “Deeper Than the Sea”: a long pan along an ever-evolving plot of concrete. Sarah strides beside me wearing her new backpack, reminding me for a moment of Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a character from a series of fantasy novels I read as a kid. Night-walking reveals a different kind of city, one to which I’m more amenable. A space of mystery. Whereas by day, I’m performing ganzfeld experiments, trying to separate psychic signals from mental noise. Suddenly Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia blooms into consciousness, mapping an otherwise invisible community of mind-opened peers.