It is for declaring their difference, their exceptionalism, that selves are punished. That is the Law, my friend, from here unto forever. I’m all about sensing, having an awareness of my body, but only in a fleeting way, feeling — but I rarely know my wants and needs enough to go after them. Perhaps I should teach myself Socionics. Anything to avoid living at a lower level of consciousness. Rabbit holes, rabbit holes. Optical illusions. (Just kidding, by the way, about Socionics. Though I like for use in a piece of fiction the idea of a psychedelic autodidact survivalist character obsessed with Socionics, seeking relationship advice from its teachings, classifying personalities of customers in terms of its typology at the convenience store where she works.) Here I am, traveling around stoned while reading Lindsey Michael Banco’s Travel and Drugs in Twentieth-Century Literature. The world’s about to get a whole lot warmer. Beams of light shining through windows strike the narrator, prompting momentary blindness. Freezer joint, meat monstrosity. The jerk trail beckons. An article on Bandcamp points me to some really cool head music out of Mexico City: netlabel releases like Outworld Music by RITUALZ, HYPNOSYS by Upgrayedd Smurphy, and Desterritorialización by AASSP.
After listening to a recent episode about it on Erik Davis’s podcast Expanding Mind, I’m hoping to grab a copy of Rachel Nagelberg‘s debut novel, The Fifth Wall. While reading an excerpt from Nagelberg’s book in 3:AM Magazine, I stumble upon a scholar named Lindsay Jordan, who it just so happens (in classic synchronistic fashion) delivered a talk at the Breaking Convention conference last month titled “‘Unprofessional’… ‘Irrelevant’… “Fascinating’: A Story of Academia and Psychedelic Pride.” It’s as if the totality wants me to happen upon this stuff. As for instance the other night, when I settled into the futon in my “meditation room” (that’s right — I have a “meditation room”) and began listening to an 8-cassette recording of a lecture delivered at Naropa in the early 2000s featuring LSD researcher Dr. Stanislav Grof. Show of hands: how many of you have experienced “non-ordinary” states of consciousness? The room laughs when it sees hands up among nearly everyone. The tapes had washed up in the bins at Goodwill earlier that day, like gifts willed to me by the universe. I suppose I’m being guided toward Grof’s book Psychology of the Future. “We shall find there the answers we seek,” says a self-created mentor or guide. For native people, Grof claims, these states of consciousness are just accepted parts of the spectrum of human experience. One person’s mystical psychosis is another person’s holotropic episode.
Have others noted the weirdly apolitical, careerist vibe that seemed to permeate the Psychedemia conference? I keep returning to that documentary I posted about yesterday. What gives? When scholars begin to study this material in the academy, do we (I include myself in this category) run the risk of “co-opting” the psychedelic underground? “Mystical experience,” “psychology of religion”: some of the research presented at Psychedemia seems worryingly pseudoscientific: as in, some of it resembles the type of academic hot air balloon that the “Sokal Hoax” tried to puncture in the 1990s. But then again, several figures featured in the documentary seem genuinely legit. (Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics is a similar forum, by the way, held each year in New York.) One catches snippets of language: “neuro-chemical art,” “radically singular worlds.” Australian philosopher David Chalmers, author of The Conscious Mind, enters the frame, commingling amid a cast of quivering neuroatypicals. What is the relationship between the mental and the physical? Ask Alfred North Whitehead. Mind, whatever it is, possesses a degree of freedom. It can produce out of itself mystical experiences of oneness with the universe, about which the most we can say is probably something like, “What do all metaphors have in common?” Jane Roberts, author of the Seth books in the 1970s, might be an interesting figure to consider as a producer of texts “received” through trance. Why have I never read Edwin Abbott Abbott’s book Flatland? Perhaps because I live in a monstrously truncated, self-absorbed universe. I no longer know how to behave like a proper host or guest. My horizons are monoculturally constrained. I don’t see my mother very often. I’m basically a lousy person, having plunged into my personal opposite. No, this is a re-centering. No, this is a property. I want to imagine cinematic vibrations folding me downward into a past. A minute had passed when I emerged, no longer a mere commodity. You see, it’s all about bran in your oatmeal. So many other regions of linguistic activity, meaning inscribed in practice. But I’m heartbroken. My dog betrays neither recognition nor affection. She no longer lets my eyes hold her eyes. Of course, Wu-Tang were the ones who said it best: “Life for a shorty shouldn’t be so rough / But as the world turned I learned life is hell / Livin’ in the world no different from a cell / Every day I escape from Jakes givin’ chase / Sellin’ base, smokin’ bones in the staircase.” In an interview about those lines, Inspectah Deck said, “At that point, you’re just thinking, ‘I’m about to go head-first into whatever it is I’m doing.'” Here goes.
“Stop! You’re embarrassing me!” says the exasperated mall-inhabiting eighties teenager to his mother. “Ma, get away from me!” There were just these ludicrous situations. She was like a little kid, dancing to the radio in her punch buggy blue Volkswagen Beetle. Always with the perm and the giant sunglasses. I miss those early years of childhood; I remember much of it with great fondness. I loved strolling invisibly back then through bits of the visible world. Others probably think of me as one who dwells too much in the past — stiflingly so. Keep tossing, a voice advises, until you get to one you know. There used to be a thing called leisure-time — though it was never entirely free of fears of bombs and missiles. How foolish it now seems to have believed in theological niceties like “progress.” Whereas now, things that matter are being gunned down by police, pulled out from under me. I fixate on grievances, I harbor grudges. Like, permanent 24/7 hex against those who delete my comments — that’s right, my evil eye is trained on YOU, motherfucker. Good for a minute, next bit. You’re done. And like, my dog, who pees on the hardwood floor just to spite me. There was once a time when words had meaning. I lived in their midst. The best medicine, though, is to “relax and let go.” Dance a bit, loosen limbs and neck muscles, allow oneself to be drawn upward toward reconciliation with the dog. When I see her lying in bed, I feel panic: what if she’s given up, what if I’ve lost her? I also learn about “chemical poetics” and studies of trip report literature.
Go to archives, I tell myself. Explore correspondence between early psychedelic pioneers. Watch as faces get photoshopped in, reporting hypnotically from other dimensions instructions for the evolution of consciousness. “Come here: I found it, see?” proclaims an onscreen scholar. Look up Beat poet George Andrews and his letters to Leary in the 1960s. Leary, too, is an important figure to study. There’s a rich, vast psychedelic literary network to add to our histories of late modernism and postmodernism. A whole field has begun to coalesce around the study of this network. By which I mean, check out Psychedemia
, a documentary about a “Psychedelics” conference held at University of Pennsylvania in September 2012. Neşe Devenot appears to be one of the field’s leading scholars. Should I start calling myself a psychedemic?