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.
Houses, cars, restaurants: all are inhospitable and lined with icicles. Clad with love, though, one can despite it all still have it made. But lo and behold: what kind of fascism is it that parades the Rolling Stones in front of inert, stadium-sized masses in Hal Ashby’s 1983 rock-doc Let’s Spend the Night Together? The film is a cruel parody of rock’s once joyous, raucous, incendiary stirrings. No consciousness-expansion takes places there whatsoever. Arena-rock of that sort served in the fashion of an experimental prototype, a formalization of what has now become our permanent social relation. I admit moments of beauty, however, when the band slows down for “Beast of Burden.” If we try real hard, sings Mick a few songs later, we get what we need. Keith Richards, for his part, manages by way of drink and drugs a kind of sleepy-eyed authenticity in the film’s punked-up version of “Little T&A” — that, too, I admire. The film is ultimately about industrial workers doing what it takes to make it though their shifts as America becomes a bomb-dropping monstrosity. We witness this, for instance, in the haunting use of Hendrix’s “Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of the film’s closing credits. Cinema enables and makes use of a variety of narrative models, meanwhile, in an unrelated 2013 Belgian film called Violet, producing fluctuations across several realities at once. Sonics and visuals reveal a multi-layered ontology: interiors and their external substitutes. Sound sculpted variously around a muted center, as in the song of that name by the band Deafheaven. Consciousness inhabiting different sound-worlds and temporalities. Every reflection also a distortion. As Robert Anton Wilson reminds us, one should always juggle several. Never commit to just one.
I hope to reset my emotional matrix in the days ahead away from anger and depression. It helps to sit and talk with Sarah, the two of us true, loving life companions, helping each other pass the time as one and then the other of us endures another run-in with the flu. We rewire our brains by submitting to the oscillating tone progressions of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Alfred Bruneau’s “Requiem: Dies Irae & Tuba Mirum.” We laugh at the thought of the residents of utopia waking and greeting one another in the streets each morning through choral performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah.” They prep themselves, though, with Margo Guryan’s “Someone I Know.” One ought to keep one’s eye out, I tell myself, for The Eye in the Triangle, a book about Aleister Crowley by Crowley’s secretary Israel Regardie. Christmas trees topped with stars resemble the emblem of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Robert Anton Wilson, talking ’til blue in the face, introduces me to a synchronistic phenomenon known as the “23” enigma. In pursuit of “deliberately induced brain change,” I turn to Sarah, lying beside me reading in bed, and ask her, “What page are you up to?” gesturing with my hand toward her copy of Aldous Huxley’s Island. “223,” she replies. When I explain to her the story of the enigma, she adds, “It’s also my birthday: April 23rd!” There is magic in the woods, if you know where to find it. So sayeth the Robert Redford character in Pete’s Dragon. Smoke rises from a votive dedicated to Lady Columbia, appearing before me in the form of a giant wall of light.
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.