A proper theory of psychedelic utopianism requires a reassessment of past and present theories of psychology. In particular, it requires a critique of contemporary cognitive-behavioral approaches (not unlike the Frankfurt School’s critique of positivism), and a revalorization of certain elements of the “humanistic psychology” movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Jessica Grogan’s Encountering America provides an entry-point into the history of the latter movement. I’m thinking here of figures like R.D. Laing and Abraham Maslow, but also encounter groups, Esalen, and the so-called “human potential movement” more broadly. Finally, this reassessment would also have to engage with humanistic psychology’s successor, the field of “positive psychology.” Among contemporary scholars operating in this field, I’m particularly interested in the work of Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner and the UC system’s Greater Good Science Center. On the other end of the political spectrum, however, we have figures like Martin Seligman and American Enterprise Institute president Arthur C. Brooks. (This latter figure, by the way, also serves on the advisory board of Charles Koch’s Well-Being Initiative.) For more on positive psychology, check out Daniel Horowitz’s book Happier?: The History of a Cultural Movement That Aspired to Transform America.
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.”
I listen in a reclined position to a train across town and the ocean-like repetition of cars headed to work on a distant parkway. Before long, a fire truck joins the fray. And beneath it all, creating a sense of tonal continuity, a chorus of crickets. What remains of consciousness as it passes intermittently between states? Is there an internal reckoner, a memorized self-same self? Picture this self as the Pugilist, whose nature (so I hear) is to lose and rise again. Borges bestowed on this figure the title “Funes the Memorious.” “Perhaps we all know deep down,” he wrote, “that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things.” Perhaps, I murmur back, slipping in and out of consciousness of the many brown and yellow leaves lying dead upon my deck. Must I sweep them? What’s the point? Mosquitoes will continue to haunt these grounds regardless of my effort. Give it a little push at the start, though, and the whole thing begins to glide. We no longer need our sunglasses, for instance, do we? Nor do we need our helmets. Just tree-lined, solitary inner wanderings. We conduct our trance-scripts at a picnic table in a park. And if you don’t mind me saying, it feels magical: a beam of sunlight carves a face on a tree directly across from me. In its features, the face is sometimes ghost from Pac-Man or poor Yorick, sometimes ancient-wise-benevolent. There are occasionally people who walk past, and we tense a bit; but it’s all good, the locusts shift their motors up a gear and we’re staring down into a distant puddle or a sinkhole. Therein lies the psychic mortuary / compost heap. Do we want to take a look? Of course we do. We are in some sense seeking to establish a rapport between Marxism and psychedelic human-potentialists and positive psychologists. Ours will be a communism “articulated,” in Laclau and Mouffe’s sense, with projects of self-realization and personal well-being. I want to be able to camp out in empty fields, even after the revolution, apart at a safe distance from my fellow humans. “Family of man” mustn’t become a curse hung ’round the necks of particular, living-breathing humans. Can we respect that? Non-human Nature, I congratulate thee: that sunlit field looks fantastic. Well done. Lay back in the grass and gaze up at the sky. That ought to be part of the Left’s promise: high-quality, de-commodified (though psychedelically enhanced), authentic lives of leisure. A Marxism that robs individuals of the right to design their own paths toward understanding is an abomination. Nor is there anything in Marxism that demands such a robbery. Why, then, is today’s radical Left so square? If holding these views implicates me in natural theology, then so be it.