We live in the time of the last, tiniest bit of light. So it seems, this moment in history. Exhaustion conspires with hunger. Together, they guide me through an exchange with a robot, navigate me into position for receipt of a hovel-shaped sign on the table of a booth in a McDonalds: “Archways to opportunity.” Is an archway to opportunity an example of a Door in the Wall? Not if opportunity just means arranging “skills” and “artifacts” in an online portfolio and marching at capital’s behest. Again, that always and forever tragic phrase, “so it seems,” dehumanization being the apparent inclination of the universe — unless we scheme, dream green, swap beans, gather heads together. Carve doors out of space-time. Launch what Aldous Huxley called “chemical vacations from intolerable selfhood and repulsive surroundings” (The Doors of Perception, p. 64). Let these vacations arrange constellations, trails of clues, destination unknown.
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.
There is a long silence as the author engages in self-therapy while reading Aldous Huxley’s underappreciated but highly worthwhile final novel, Island. Receptive heads agree. Let us climb up, they chant excitedly. Let us redeem ourselves. We can do what we want. We can drift apart from history into an eternal present. It’s as simple as listening meditatively to “Parallel Drift” by Insect Factory.
Stoke up rows of fiery pinwheels by breathing deeply. Acquire temporary being as a pulsing cloud of energy, before retracting, the self a spectator separate again from experience, a will-less will borne outward, reimagined as sentient co-creator of its own body-projection. “Mind” (if we wish to call it that) need not be confused with its synchronized audiovisual avatar-body. In fact, this confusion can cause great delay. Dislocate the symbol-maker from the sign-system or one will lucid-dream oneself into a system of representation without exit. Unless the self is the root and ground of the universe — which of course it may well be. What voice-box, what menu, what catalog allows interaction with “feelings” or “experiences”? How are these things made? I have been climbing up the signpost instead of following the road.
I hope to reset my emotional matrix in the days ahead away from anger and depression. It helps to sit and talk with Sarah, the two of us true, loving life companions, helping each other pass the time as one and then the other of us endures another run-in with the flu. We rewire our brains by submitting to the oscillating tone progressions of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Alfred Bruneau’s “Requiem: Dies Irae & Tuba Mirum.” We laugh at the thought of the residents of utopia waking and greeting one another in the streets each morning through choral performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah.” They prep themselves, though, with Margo Guryan’s “Someone I Know.” One ought to keep one’s eye out, I tell myself, for The Eye in the Triangle, a book about Aleister Crowley by Crowley’s secretary Israel Regardie. Christmas trees topped with stars resemble the emblem of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Robert Anton Wilson, talking ’til blue in the face, introduces me to a synchronistic phenomenon known as the “23” enigma. In pursuit of “deliberately induced brain change,” I turn to Sarah, lying beside me reading in bed, and ask her, “What page are you up to?” gesturing with my hand toward her copy of Aldous Huxley’s Island. “223,” she replies. When I explain to her the story of the enigma, she adds, “It’s also my birthday: April 23rd!” There is magic in the woods, if you know where to find it. So sayeth the Robert Redford character in Pete’s Dragon. Smoke rises from a votive dedicated to Lady Columbia, appearing before me in the form of a giant wall of light.
There’s no overhead; next thing you know, I’m staring at my life from above. Imagine translating texts by higher-dimensional beings into languages understood by lower-dimensional beings. The characteristics of what Fredric Jameson calls postmodern “hyperspace” (its dislocations, its denial of history, its blurring of distinctions between simulated and real) require that subjects consume drugs in order for such spaces to even seem comprehensible, let alone open to critique and transformation. Time-space compression makes a mockery of our inherited categories of perception. In response, we have a tradition dating back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, with writers like Blake already urging fellow moderns to de-reify experience. Remove the categories, they shout, cleanse the doors! As Foucault notes, “The stability of a thing is only its movement indefinitely slowed down” (“Of Other Spaces,” p. 23). If the self, the observing subject, is no more than a temporary amalgam bounded by interpellation via language, then what remains when we open this subject to outside influence? When Aldous Huxley borrows Blake’s “doors of perception” metaphor and, under the influence of Henri Bergson, likens these doors to a “reducing valve,” a faucet one can adjust so as to regulate the mind’s exposure to raw being, one begins to detect the co-presence of a spatial metaphor informing Huxley’s intervention. This spatial metaphor — involving, in its simplest form, a distinction between inner and outer — enables Huxley’s individualized ethic of chemically-aided perception to perform double duty as a secret analogue of sorts for nation-states. Just as individuals should use drugs like mescaline to throw open their “doors of perception,” thus exposing themselves to authentic experience, so too must the imperial metropole open its borders to enable exposure to the “Perennial Philosophy,” i.e., the cultures and teachings of the periphery. Afternoons have been kind of lovely these last few days. Air crisp, shadows long. Perfect for small outings in the hours before sunset. The grim national reality intervenes now and then, especially in conversations with others. “Preppie ex-frat-boy douchebags are corporatizing and Swiss-cheesing higher ed,” we rail, on our way to a farm to pick pumpkins and pet goats. What scares me, though, is my sense of helplessness. Honestly, I’m at a loss as to how to fight off this latest assault on the humanities. I used to follow Michael Bérubé‘s work in the early 2000s, his interventions into the culture wars, his defenses of the humanities, his navigation of the so-called “canon debates” — but I lost much of my respect for him during the tail end of the Bush years, and I grew too demoralized to keep paying attention once I completed my PhD and landed in non-tenure-track debtors prison hell. Why spend what little leisure time remains in one’s possession reading about one’s dismal circumstances, if reading about those circumstances won’t change them?
Try to imagine yourself from the perspective of a spider cricket. Like a building, but with a face in place of a penthouse. I need to develop another chance-based, abstraction-generating practice, a compliment to and content conduit for each day’s trance-script. Imagine if I could bring into my classroom a language for speaking about “Kou Kou” and other forms of abstract animation!
I don’t mind mortifying the body with smoke inhalation, so long as it opens doors onto other ways of being. “Most contemplatives,” Huxley writes, “worked systematically to modify their body chemistry, with a view to creating the internal conditions favorable to spiritual insight” (155). I’ve never used Uber, but perhaps I should start doing so — that way I can travel out on solitary adventures while baked. I love to walk, don’t get me wrong; but I’ve about exhausted the radius of walkable space around my home. What is psychedelia’s relationship to blindness? Huxley, for instance, is thought to have been nearly blind for most of his adulthood. “I can hardly see at all,” he told Brazilian journalist João Ubaldo Riberio, “And I don’t give a damn, really.” Recalling details of my life, I’d say I’m a bit like that, too. Capitalist society requires me to “correct” my vision and to do so gladly. If one persists in viewing psychedelically-derived insights as distortions, then so be it; but they’re systematic, trans-historical distortions, leading multiple minds toward the same conclusions: the world as seen when informed by the teachings of plants. And sometimes we zombie-subjects want to be led. Encountering a reference to Francis Thompson’s short film NY, NY (1957) in Huxley’s Heaven and Hell, for instance, I go ahead and watch it.
Despite what I wrote yesterday, let it be said that, in his book Heaven and Hell, Aldous Huxley sometimes manages to get things remarkably right. Describing a “jungle” painting by Henri Rousseau, for instance, Huxley exclaims, “I look at those leaves with their architecture of veins, their stripes and mottlings, I peer into the depths of interlacing greenery, and something in me is reminded of those living patterns, so characteristic of the visionary world, of those endless births and proliferations of geometrical forms that turn into objects, of things that are forever being transmuted into other things” (128).
Call it the Koyaanisqatsi effect. And while contemplating (or what our friends of the past used to call “grokking”), get picked up and blown away to the psychedelic brilliance of J Dilla’s Donuts. I also admire Huxley’s discussion of art that adopts a “non-human” point of view, humanity a mere blip amidst some vast uncharted wild. The de-individuation that occurs when we occupy that point of view is for Huxley a kind of peak experience. Thought abstracts itself into that which the ancients rendered in arabesques and frescoes of gardens. Better by far, though, I think, to remain a self or a person surrounded by “the country of lit-upness” (le Pays d’Éclairement), a kind of forest-world rich with meaning, inhabitants half-paranoid, half-mad, enchanted with abstract shapes and patterns. With faith, we can ensure that this country of the mind surrounds us in a way that is blissful and not appalling. More and more, I find myself wanting to put the kibosh on technology. Especially cars and social media. But of course, by that I probably only mean technology shaped and deployed by capitalism. Do away with banks, nation-states, militaries, businesses. I don’t know the particulars of what the alternative would entail, but I know what gives me grief. Maybe I should investigate decentralized crypto-currencies, nevermind their association with right-libertarian assholes. And perhaps I should start showing my “Utopias” students episodes of Outliers. In the meantime, I prefer to watch “Elise” by Blondes.