The Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky argued that inner speech, much of it motivational, develops as a silent imitation of external or “social” speech. Although accompanied by and thus correlated with tiny muscular movements of the larynx, and brain activity observable via functional neuroimaging in what cognitive scientists call “the left inferior frontal gyrus,” or “Broca’s area,” inner speech as phenomenological datum remains qualitatively distinct from, not at all reducible to, its correlates. Much the same is true of the self, which we come to know, as Patricia Waugh notes, “not as an endocrine system but an experience straddled across body, mind, environment, language, and time.” After spending more than half a century denouncing inner speech as an invalid object of study, psychology as a discipline is beginning to swing back around again, utilizing “Descriptive Experience Sampling,” for instance, as a method for exploring aspects of inner experience.
Our method will be: shine light onto darkness and find keys. One person’s projection is another’s evocation. Radical action groups, experimental microsocieties. “Flicker”-induced visions and voices. Among these keys is the story of the Transmedia Explorations commune, initially called the Exploding Galaxy. Fall, tumble, head over feet, like Alice down the rabbit hole. The psychological “science” of Mindhunter, the way it attempts to depict the theorization of deviancy, fails to fill the show’s void of meaning as its shit-bag state-actor protagonists hunt its non-state-actor villains. The mind, bombarded by a rush of images from its glory days, succumbs to sadness and pathos. It returns to old riddles, old haunts. Helicopters, push notifications. The riddle of revenge.
A bearded face smiles amiably, energy crackling ’round its head. Hear it as it discourses, only to the length necessary, of dimensions unfathomable to heads that lack pools of reflection tucked into the interiors of their fortresses of solitude. I find most contemporary theories of consciousness, particularly those of the neuroscience sort, deeply disappointing. Far too reductive, and deflationary in their aspirations. Scholars of mind ought to be proponents of mind, in the vanguard among proponents of joy and of weird sensations. I have to say: in his role as character in the psychedelic drama, Hamilton Morris troubles me, worries me. I much prefer the truthful attentiveness to subjective experience that informs the work of an older era’s thinkers like Julian Jaynes. The modern mind consists of an internal narrative longing for direction from a higher power. Despite his many errors, Jaynes was at least conscious enough to strike notes of wonder in its presence. “The intellectual life of man,” he wrote, “his culture and history and religion and science, is different from anything else we know of in the universe. That is fact. It is as if all life evolved to a certain point, and then in ourselves turned at a right angle and simply exploded in a different direction” (The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, p. 9). Let us know ourselves, in other words, as eaters of forbidden fruit containing alien DNA.
Think about processes of identification. A temporary forgetting occurs when we confuse awareness with either a body or an object or some sign derived therefrom. As from a dream we awake remade. Shopping carts clang into line with their brethren. A winning performance. Conjuring up another semester’s characters is great work. My students come out of my classes on the whole better people. This I do believe, despite my occasional disappointments. Those at my present institution, for instance, are never quite as cool or as smart as I want them to be. I want the universe to work. I want to believe in myself — so I do. In the moments, in the seconds. In the on-off binary interval between mind and creation, our two alternate personas. All of it a playful game or dance. Real travel requires a maximum of unscheduled wandering. That is what today makes possible. The individual with the colossal external nervous system. Become awake. Become alive. It’s time to level up.
Trust the inner healer. Support what is happening. A voice on a cassette weaves a matrix of synchronic and diachronic histories connecting archetypes and astrology. Holotropic states and planetary transits. Metaphysical reasons for the slowness of the psychedelic renaissance. The intensification of the birth problem can have healing effects. Humans show malignant violence with no parallel in nature. We have seen the realm of archetypal paranatal passage through a tunnel. An hourglass where we go through life: a tunnel experience. In birth, we lose the connection with the transcendental. Existence is a “virtual” reality that we’ve developed in response to this trauma. “Model agnosticism” holds that any grid we use to organize our experience of the world is a model of the world and should not be confused with the world itself. There is a fundamental gap. Chemicals can give rise to the way the world orchestrates experiences since “things” are constructs assembled out of energy by our nervous systems. Stanislav Grof suggests the program each of us is running right now is the equivalent of a broadcast, coming from somewhere else. Some people are high all the time because of the way they breathe. With the right instructions, one can accomplish anything. An ideal version of my psychedelic lit course would include Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger, and Doris Lessing’s The Sirian Experiments. But my sense is that capital doesn’t permit thought to occur anymore. It’s like the Middle Ages again. The knowledges that emerged from the failed global revolutions of 1968 are no longer accessible to current Internet-molded forms of capitalist subjectivity. In fact, I expect most of those post-68 discourses to go silent and disappear, at least temporarily, only to be rediscovered sometime in a distant, maybe post-revolutionary future. And much of this thought — post-structuralism, especially — was shaped rather directly by experiments with psychedelics. Both attempted to challenge the effects of Western imperialism through decolonization of consciousness. Foucault dropped acid in Death Valley; Deleuze and Guattari were deep into Carlos Castaneda territory. This is also why the section on mid-twentieth-century CIA-funded research into shock treatment is IMO the section of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine with the most relevance today. Capitalist subjects have been receiving direct and indirect forms of shock treatment en masse since the early days of the Cold War. That’s what Mark Fisher meant when he argued that capitalist realism is all about consciousness-deflation. Hence the radicalism of psychedelics as self-administered counter-therapy or counter-treatment from below.
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.”