Tuesday June 12, 2018

“The instrument of evolution now is culture,” murmured a middle-aged Julian Huxley to a 10-year-old Oliver Sacks during Sacks’s childhood in Hampstead Heath. How does the universe order itself? A poet might say, “Through memories unlocatable in time.” Macro quantum events. Insides becoming outsides. Deterministic chaos. Self-organization. Sudden transformation. Everything can be generated from within. My evening self, for instance, orders my daytime self to look for D.S. Savage’s book The Withered Branch and for Sacks’s essay on “the Odd.” Look as well, it says, for info about Gerald Edelman and his theories about “recategorization.” Floating cell structures, floating synchronic portraits of games of Go. The world fires back, though, with news of a TV miniseries based on the life of Jack Parsons, and two recent biographies by Spencer Kansa: Wormwood Star: The Magickal Life of Marjorie Cameron, and Out There: The Transcendent Life and Art of Burt Shonberg. Beaches are parts of the labyrinth strewn with the bones of our predecessors.

Sunday October 1, 2017

Big discovery today: Richard M. Doyle’s Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Noosphere. Doyle also blogs at mobiused and wrote an “Afterword” to Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis. Dick’s exploration of Gnostic beliefs and teachings in the Valis trilogy proved to be of great importance to me in the months following my initial encounters with psychedelics, so I’m excited to see what kind of sense Doyle makes of these themes.

Lana Cook at MIT is another scholar to watch. She recently completed a dissertation at Northeastern titled “Altered States: The American Psychedelic Aesthetic.” Along with studying more canonical texts in the psychedelic tradition, like Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, Cook’s project also sheds light on works by early female psychonauts. Adelle Davis, for instance, writing under the pseudonym Jane Dunlap, published a book on LSD in the early 1960s called Exploring Inner Space. That’s about as far as I advance with my research when the dog enters my office begging for food. “No! No food! Stop with the begging!” I tell her. She lies on her stomach and stares up at me, breathing heavily, continuing to whine — at which point I promptly cave to her demand, and then hustle across the street, where my neighbors are screening Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on a sheet in their backyard. Walking beneath trees amidst shadows and streetlights. A videogame offers me work as a courier. Kids play with green, pink, and blue glow-stick bracelets and say, “Wow, trippy, man.” They make such a satisfying “pop,” those glow-sticks. And with floor speakers and a stereo amplifier, it’s quite a set-up, here inside the neural net of a catch-22 fungus from outer space. The activity feels vaguely utopian: a weird sovereign fleet, neighbor-stranger gathering, each of us remotely piloted. Are the characters we play in videogames posthumans? Is my marijuana-enhanced self an empath? The jerk who doesn’t trust anyone is a show that, for fear of bad ratings, never gets made. Young People’s Socialist League versus the planet-devouring Boomer Ego.