A new semester approaches. Altered states of consciousness and perception: let us consider religious raptures, drug-induced ecstasies, “peak experiences” and the like as phenomena central to human activity as evidenced by literatures of many cultures and historical periods. A narrative forms as we travel Bill & Ted-style among ancients, medievals, and moderns. We detect patterns; the texts of different places and periods constellate in a kind of cyberspace of meaning, speak to one another as allegories of a transhistorical process or project: the attempt to get free. Confronted with the disruptive power of gnosis, we’re left wondering: “Red pill or blue pill?”
Drums played aloud outdoors in a land officiated by bells and chimes becomes for the allegorical imagination shorthand for assertion of religious difference, assertion of an alternative path to ekstasis or peak-experience. Language is already present in nature’s abstraction of itself through song. Rhythm and bass evoke embodiment, as melody and tone evoke transcendence. Neon flashes hover as after-images against the backs of my eyelids. Overhead I spy a woodpecker — a Northern Flicker, perhaps. Moments later, a plane with red wings. The Deep Listening Band adds to, overlays atop the experience a work recorded in Oregon’s Fort Warden Cistern called “The Ready Made Boomerang.”
The sound’s vastness inevitably suggests mystery. Remind others of this. Echo it. Alter aural perspective. Induce awe through cavernous resonance.
In need of silliness to preserve my sanity, I clown about, I launch a study of Operation Mindfuck, a Discordian reality-hacking practice that entered counterculture consciousness in the 1970s via Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy. I refuse to grant more than a bare minimum of attention to burdens and distractions, interference with my pursuit of peak-experiences. Walking beneath cherry blossoms, for instance, head tilted back to observe petals in popcorn profusion aglow with sunlight. Peaks of this sort give way eventually to what Abraham Maslow called the “plateau-experience”: “a serene, cognitive blissfulness which can, however, have a quality of casualness and of lounging about” (Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences, pp. xiv-xv). A voice recommends The Rock Warrior’s Way. In it, I find a sequel of sorts to René Daumal’s Mount Analogue, but with all of the chewy metaphysical implications drained away, leaving a miserable earning regimen measured out in increments of exertion, irritated into being by promised pearls. Let us instead coast blissfully, attention unleashed to happen where it may.