Writing requires as its precondition grounds on which to relax and listen. Words appear — enter perception — in some domain ontologically different from, but nevertheless coextensive with, embodiment amidst being. This domain is what I’ve elsewhere called “consciousness.” Raymond Williams, by the way, neglected to include that term in his book Keywords. Do I need to review debates within Marxism regarding materialism and idealism? How else would one assemble a theory of consciousness? We who wish to advocate on behalf of acid communism need such a theory, for consciousness serves as the heavily trafficked bridge connecting the otherwise radically distinct discourses of Marxism and humanistic psychology. (Along with the latter, I should add, we also need to consider its successor, the field of “positive psychology.” About this more recent field, I remain conflicted, particularly given the current, ongoing appropriation of its concepts — “eudaimonia,” “human flourishing,” etc — by paid ideologues working on behalf of capital.) “So I sing these words,” sings Kevin Ayers. “Let them fly around like birds.”
Voices from my inner cast of characters tell me I’m living a depressingly subdued existence. Hush, we don’t use that word, they say. We’ve just got something on our mind. Green, orange, and streetlight-yellow balls of light flash across my field of vision. Do others all have their own peak experiences? Or are they too absorbed in neoliberal pastimes like compartmentalization and time management? I ponder these questions during a brief respite from the demands of the nine to five. I imagine myself reconstituted as a child again, lying on my stomach on the floor of a room, playing with a set of anonymous, faceless action figures. I don’t care about job security or the rest of it. My path is my path no matter what. Rushing to dinner with friends last night, Sarah and I talked about bars in our neighborhood and marveled at massive yellow-and-green-lined leaves of plants in neighbors’ gardens.
Sarah used to be (and to some extent remains) a race walker, so I permanently trail behind her whenever we make our way along what a friend of ours calls “the upside-down cone of uncertainty.” A vague discomfort in my sinuses. Friends were all supportive as a fellow instructor and I explained to them the crisis we’re facing at work. When I asked them how they accounted for the way everything was all of a sudden turning to shit synchronistically, all at once (by which I mean job cuts, friends’ cars breaking down, all of us sick with colds or the flu, another university in town accepting the poisoned chalice of strings-attached funding from the Koch brothers, hurricanes, wildfires, the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, the threat of nuclear war), everyone laughed and nodded: ha ha, point well taken, apocalypticism FTW. But part of me had also asked the question in earnest. Are the usually semi-autonomous levels of the totality collapsing together now, base and superstructure merged through crisis into a form resembling an infinite regression of homologies for Trump’s America? As the National Enquirer used to say, “Enquiring minds want to know.”
My favorite works of art are psychedelic, and usually partake of what I like to call an “inner-cosmic epic” aesthetic involving ego death, ascension, discovery of hidden realms, humans becoming gods, gods become human — essentially, journeys inward to the edges of the known and beyond. I encountered formative works of this sort as a child: Marvel’s Secret Wars comics, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Legends trilogy, adolescent geek culture seeded with radical cosmic fallout from the psychedelic art of the 60s and 70s. Are there similar works available today, readying the soon-to-be heads of Generation Z? “Work,” though — that source of all blues. Let me just say, “What a fucking drag.” My blood boils. I can’t even look at anything having to do with it. And now I’m going to have to run around wasting consciousness — and by that I mean creative labor-power and labor-time — hustling for some alternative form of it. My time was to be used on a project of self discovery and collective redemption. Not on this bullshit. The philistine capitalist devils among the ranks of my countrymen have succeeded. They’ve stripped me of the right to determine my own life practice and life product. They’re fucking with my daily ritual, my devotion to my chosen craft. If you want me to educate, then allow me time to read and write. And let the writing be the teaching. That is the life I want. And fuck anyone who tries to guilt me for that. Fuck my employer, too, though, for threatening me with non-renewal of my contract. That’s right: my job and the jobs of some of my coworkers are now in jeopardy. The chair of my department called an emergency meeting midweek. “I regret to inform you,” he announced, “but our provost has been ordered by administrators higher up the food chain (either the president or the board of trustees) to cut instructor positions in departments across the campus.” Looking ruefully at my colleagues and I, he predicted that, among the half-dozen faculty holding these positions within our department, several of us are likely to be let go Apprentice-style by schoolyear’s end, with letters announcing the university’s decision to can us likely to arrive in our mailboxes sometime in October. So a pox on those country-club cornbread motherfuckers. Job market, here I come.
A friend of mine gave to me as a birthday present Twig Harper’s sublime Music For Higher Dimensional Consciousness, so I’ll begin my day with that.
Psychedelic to the max, and with some editions featuring airbrushed cover art by the inimitable Robert Beatty, the album is certain to inspire in listeners a kind of divine terror, especially when heard in darkness. Each blip and pulse dials me down into a deeper, source-reality level of consciousness. Neon light-beams hover in the sky above a 4-bit Castle Grayskull. A ghostly Leviathan stretches its finger-bones across the horizon. “Get sucked into a realm of pure, disembodied forms,” suggests a voice as low as a didgeridoo. The Right, in its pursuit of power, I realize, colors and distorts the gameboard, making it unreadable to humans. The pieces are put back together only when we realize that AIs are the ones disseminating fake news and signal-blocking our attempts to build successful cognitive maps of our surroundings. The angels in our nature, in other words, are disabled by beams of light. A kind of mental radiation poisoning. Dupes accept bribes and thus inadvertently advance the corporate AI agenda of global conquest of consciousness. Turn enough of humanity from the good, and we all turn bad. The problem, however, is at least in part a consequence of humanity’s lack of memory. The map of the territory shrinks or contracts, edges and peripheries crumbling away into the recesses of consciousness. Capitalist subjects understand the totality about as well as our neurons understand our brains. Brains, though, are precisely the difference that makes the difference as we ascend the scales of being. Evening now. I cough a bit and enjoy a burning sensation at the back of my throat. Twig Harper blows my socks off, makes my toes unfurl, rewinds or reverses my beard back into my face. A true living breathing homesteading-on-the-cognitive-frontier psychedelic radical. Lightning quick, highly evolved. He claims we can contact beings from other worlds by taking substances like DMT and Salvia. Experiences of a mystical sort, he says, are ones that have to be unpacked and decoded afterwards, in the days and months that follow. These experiences imprint into the mind traversable virtual architectures. Perhaps Twig has arrived in my life to instruct me to go deeper. Don’t radical times demand radical measures?
Moon recruits: board your cruisers, man your battle stations, rev your engines. But lose the metaphor, dig? Let the monkey self swim a bit. As René Daumal notes in Mount Analogue, a book he left unfinished at the time of his death, “the view one has from a high peak is not registered in the same perceptive range as a still life or an ordinary landscape.” Just so we’re clear: I equate the latter with non-turned-on beginner’s consciousness. The Demiurge plants throughout that realm demons disguised as humans. They want us to go out there and earn points, remember? These trance-scripts, meanwhile, serve as “souvenirs” of our daily ascents. Look around, up and down. Navigate around tables, militaries, game boards. For those of you interested in attempts to articulate a theory of Acid Communism, be sure to eyeball Jeremy Gilbert’s latest, a piece called “Psychedelic Socialism: The Politics of Consciousness, the Legacy of the Counterculture, and the Future of the Left.” While Gilbert’s stance here strikes me as being too timid in its discussion of psychedelics, and too fierce in its critique of selfhood, there’s still plenty in the piece that he gets right, particularly when he gets around to skewering the contemporary Left’s knee-jerk “hippie-phobia.” The Left’s lack of charity in its historical memory when it comes to the 60s counterculture pains me greatly. Of course, this is why the battle must be fought also at the level of form, as the latter serves as the linguistic-material anchor-bed of consciousness, while itself being the product of a practice. Hence the method I employ here: trance-scription keeps faith with the experimentalism of the 60s and 70s freak-left. It makes the practice of writing into an act of utopian prefiguration of psychic liberation. I mean, if Psychedelic Marxists are serious about wanting to raise consciousness, then for fuck’s sake: start here, start now. Getting high is one easy and reliable way to do so — especially when one does so with others and among an Internet public. Wasn’t it Funkadelic that sang, “Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow”?
All of us contain within ourselves fragmentary shadow selves. Drink it up, knock it back. If illustrations of butterflies are not your thing, turn instead to Search For the Vanished Heaven, an at-times-morose, at-times-pagan 2016 triple cassette by Irish multi-instrumentalist David Colohan, performing under the alias Raising Holy Sparks.
The plague, the Black Death: perhaps some future version of our side went back in time somewhere ‘Carmen Sandiego’-style and planted it. As of this moment, the Capitalist State has already broadcast two failed reality TV shows where participants are tasked with building a new society: Utopia, which FOX pulled from the air in 2014, and Eden, which ran for nine episodes last year on Britain’s Channel 4. Of course they failed, right? How else would such texts arrive at a sense of closure? All the same, though: are there lessons of a more productive sort we might draw from these ventures, like “hey comrades, don’t entrust television production companies with the power to select the members of your intentional community”? Of course, this assumes that we have some choice in the matter, which we don’t. Regardless of my views about utopianism, for instance, I’m still stuck showing up to my classes on Labor Day and having to perform for shitbag conservatives who slouch in their chairs at the back of the class and sneer, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” I squeeze below the bridge of my nose in an I attempt to relieve some pressure. Life of a wage slave. We must despise and resist all enslavements. “The Reagan Show!” announces my cellphone, as if to troll me: “A CNN Film, Tonight, 9PM Eastern.” And elsewhere, like a little bee in my ear, dueling AI predictions tossed between Elon Musk and Vladimir Putin via Twitter. Words don’t do justice. They’re distractions. The two figureheads of large entities are just drumming up attention to attract investors for competing ventures. Capitalism is thy name, thy will be done. What a fucking shitshow. My partner and I, meanwhile, sighing and groaning. All we do is work, as our bodies decline and falter. The cars beneath the screen at the drive-in look like carefully stacked rows of coffins. Oh shit — PHINERY just dropped some cassette-tape craziness. Jesse Sparhawk’s What Winter Was?
Hit that. Get on that pronto. Lever harp is a great instrument, I say determinedly, as if wanting to give a fist bump, or some similar symbol of approval, before soaring clean out of sight.
Heads need to spend more time exploring being “out of tune” together. We can begin by playing for one another Harry Partch’s Delusion of the Fury.
Up step them, the members, and me, the leader of the Rubber Band. “We’re the members,” sing the members. “I’m the leader,” sings the leader. Why have I faltered (for there’s always a side door) when advised to read “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”? The sky darkens and teen culture mutates accordingly. Next door at the bar, my theologian friend recommends that I read Deleuzian theologian Daniel Colucciello Barber’s book, Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence. What do we think? Is our aim to evaluate? Do we wish to classify worlds, or aspects of worlds, in terms of good and bad? At some point, the bartender leans into the conversation. He, too, recommends a book I’ve never read: Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B. When I arrive home from the bar, I read the Le Guin story, in part because my mind is racing, and I don’t want to soil these recommendations with unnecessary comments and presuppositions. Of course, I would walk away. A grifter god who demands of us a theodicy in exchange for luxury communism in the hereafter is a pathetic god indeed. Or no god at all, really — for the being we’ve imagined remains placed amidst scarcity, and subservient to a logic of exchange. Nature as pointless engine — garbage in, garbage out. Even when this grand “system of systems” invents for consciousness an imaginary telos of the not-yet, it does so solely to prolong its own dumb metabolism, its balancing act atop scales of cosmic justice, with its components all still bound to their crosses in the name of some distant whole. God is only ever an invented persona anyway, a voice by which the self speaks to itself. God are you there? Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Like the Judy Blume novel. Except in this case, God replies, quite convincingly, with Meet the Residents.
A cool wind sweeps over me, reminding me on this eve of another birthday that, as always, I’m headed north of the wall. One year closer. Local villains, I’m told, are acting out again. A conversation over beers takes a turn toward the fantastic when a friend and I catch ourselves imagining a character named Johnny Apple-Semen who, like a tall-tale, weird-porn version of Sven Birkerts, fights to win a future for books by rubbing inklings of himself over the exteriors of editions in libraries. We also, this friend and I, imagine the quarry here in town becoming the setting for True Detective, Season Three. At some point in the conversation, the friend leans forward and says, “Check out Cibo Matto’s ‘Sugar Water.’” Make sure, though, he warns, that you watch only when your head is elevated, and your consciousness is well on its way toward bliss. The point of “Johnny Apple-Semen,” we assure ourselves, is to imagine an alternate reality where violence is taboo rather than sex. The most questionable aspect of the project, however, is its presumption of an audience. But that, too, is the point. Critique is always an exercise of hope, however bitter, as it assumes first and foremost that one can conjure an audience through naught but the magic of speech. Anyway, following that advice, stoned I get, and (hello? “Sugar Water”?) watch I do. And it’s a doozy, temporally and perspectivally, little by little. Brilliantly multi-dimensional in ways similar to Michel Gondry’s video for The Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be.”
Sweet lord, those late 90s Chemical Brothers videos. Psychedelic to the max. “Out of Control,” for instance, anticipates the Glorious Acid Communist Revolution of the Future by almost two decades. We must look, though, not just toward that which is coming into being but as well toward that which is. “And we affirm,” as did Socrates in Plato’s Republic, “that this is the good.” Except on some days, less so. Obligations pile up and feel like terrible impositions. Should the wage slave in me up and seek a new employer? That would require mesmerization and ventriloquy, wouldn’t it? It would require a voice and a presence speaking outward to a roomful of its peers, at the very least. Then again, perhaps it’s just a matter of smiling and nodding one’s way to victory, with a “rest upon thy laurels” finish.
Darkness pays me a welcome visit. I become absorbed in particular parts of my body, consciousness narcotized through repetition. We experiment on our selves with rhythmic object exploration, all parts deliriously looped. Can’t I become helplessly far out for a change, as with Stopped Clock’s “A Bed & Breakfast”?
A movie/videogame soundtrack splinter array of bits of beeping honking consciousness. Tracks like that can knock you into flower-sprouting head-space. From there, we’re marched through the thrilling nightmarescape of Tanked’s “Car Crash.”
Just so long as we avoid that this evening, we’re all good. Their song “False Start” is worth a listen, too — as is the rest of the cassette on which those tracks appear. A darker, deeper successor to Lightning Bolt. These are spaces the psyche reaches toward: “the old fight of man against gravity.” Whose voice is it that reads the eulogy? One finds a whole other palette of psychedelic voyaging when one tunes oneself to recent releases from Portland’s Never Anything Records, like Fletcher Pratt’s Selected Works (2015-2016). And let’s not forget Tombed Visions.
The world of head culture is fit to burst these days with things of great beauty — more than anyone could singly contemplate, given the shortness of life. Nevertheless, any one of these, but especially Ex-Easter Island Head’s Two Commissions for Cassette Tape, can stage for us a deeply personal ritual of sound and remembrance. Yesterday’s drive to dinner felt like it took forever. Sky grey. Needle pricks of rain. I felt bad for Sarah, as she’s been sick with pneumonia recently — a string of ill health over the last year or two, really. It worries me. I wonder aloud to her, “Is that an appropriate thing to include here?” She nods and says it’s fine. One needn’t fear: I shall build a pyramid or a sweat lodge in which to heal us. Welcome to the augmented reality videogame known as consciousness. Camera swoops down and surveys a virtual terrain. Don’t stress about work, don’t allow it to occupy any more than a minimum of thought. Use the rest of your time to roam free. Where are we when we enter a fiction? And why need we fear it if the fiction is to our liking?