I share my couch with my friend’s dog, a cute half-lamb, half-poodle puffball named Stevie. Out in the yard across the street fly a pair of bluejays. Perhaps I should listen again to the birds. Everything else just looks like hype seeking freedom to spend. I wonder which version of London will appear in my coming journey. Will it be one I’ve read about, one I remember? Or will it be a visionary London, an occult London? Will the corporate pentagon of power sour the hour, or will we ascend, rise up, learn about heikhalot literature and Merkabah? For now, let’s assume the “latter” is above our pay grade and seek a third option. As Teilhard de Chardin reminds us, “The outcome of the world, the gates of the future, the entry into the super-human — these are not thrown open to a few of the privileged nor to one chosen people to the exclusion of all others. They will open only to an advance of all together, in a direction in which all together can join and find completion in a spiritual regeneration of the earth” (The Phenomenology of Man, p. 244). Soon I’m coasting along, Erik Davis serving again as guide, recounting for me the account of Indra’s Net from the Flower Garland Sutra — a “cognitive map” if ever there was one! Reading it makes me think for a moment of the here and now, the ground of Being. We are all sustaining and defining one another — so we might as well get good at it. Sunlight, birdsong, subreddits full of horse girls and rats that wash themselves with soap — find room for it, get it in there. Everything in a blog post. Everything on a sheet of paper. Evoke the world as a bird that flies over and tweets. Followed by another, followed by another. Davis explains it well. “Indra’s net is an image of totality,” he writes, “but unlike Teilhard’s vision of the Omega point [the moment when matter evolves into convergence with mind], this holism does not depend upon some apocalyptic moment of future synthesis. In the Hua-yen view, reality is already a totally interdependent matrix, and this unity does not and cannot cancel out difference, the blooming multiplicities that compose each individual event” (TechGnosis, p. 339). With this image of totality set as our map, we become more mindful of our angelic companions. “Buzz, buzz” go the bumblebees. “Buzz, buzz” go birds, cars, pedestrians as we attend to our craft: Self as it attempts to voice, sound, and sense the multitude.
Having received what seem like signals, what is one to do? We’re approaching a new chapter, an episode called “London,” wherein we live happily a month abroad exploring, learning, growing. In the meantime — spring-time, cardinals, squirrels. Mulberries dropping their bounty from on high. These are lovely days during hours free of work.
Face pained joyous, I put some flowers in my hair and go to San Francisco. San Francisco, here I come, a copy of Charles Perry’s The Haight-Ashbury: A History splayed out in my lap. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” leads me back to Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising, an album I’ve only just now learned to appreciate, as it was always in the past, in the shadow, way out in the yonder. As a sculpture I sit beside in Golden Gate Park suggests, we could be like cherubs playing amid a harmless, loving nature, even here in our urban surround. But then I get turned away from the Academy of Science and the Japanese Tea Garden for lack of money. In response, I imagine turning myself on Halloween into Shelley’s “The Masque of Anarchy.” After the park, Sarah and I catch Juliana Spahr at City Lights Books, reading from a new work called Du Bois’s Telegram. During the talk, she mentions a piece by George Mason Murray of the Black Panthers, written in the midst of the San Francisco State Strike, called “For a Revolutionary Culture.”
Tao Lin floats an interesting alternative history in his new book Trip—one that begins with worship of goddesses among our hunter-gatherer ancestors approximately 7,000 years ago. He relies for this account on controversial works like Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade, where historical societies are of two primary kinds: those organized according to principles of either domination or partnership. Upon my return from Los Angeles, I plan to make regular use of my new employer’s library. Along with Eisler’s book, I plan to grab Gary Lachman’s new book Dark Star Rising, a collection from Pluto Press called Voices of 1968: Documents from the Global North, and Marshall Sahlins’s Stone-Age Economics. I’m interested in the Pluto Press collection for its section on ‘60s Dutch “provo” Ole Grünbaum. Teenage boys sitting across from me at the airport brag about “roasting” some “random person” who has logged more than 5,000 hours in a single online video game. Together they resemble the cast of Stranger Things. The chaperoning mom rouses to deliver a “parenting” speech, the gist of which is to remind the boys to make smart choices; otherwise, she warns, she will “bring out the whip and bring down the hammer.” The boys chuckle at this, aware already of sexual innuendo, but still discomforted enough by it as to feel the need to mock it. “Wait, ‘the whip’? What’s ‘the whip’?” “Don’t cross me,” the mom fires back, “or I’ll be your worst nightmare.” “Ask this guy,” she ends, pointing to her son. On the plane afterwards, thousands of feet above the earth, my thoughts collect around the history of Enochian Magic. “Check out Sex and Rockets,” I remind myself, by which I mean a recently updated book on occult rocket scientist Jack Parsons. Make sure as well to read Kathleen Harrison’s essay in Sisters of the Extreme. Following Harrison’s ex-husband Terence McKenna, Lin posits fractal geometry as an important feature, an important characteristic, complement, or component, of psychedelic experience. Several hours later, I sigh deeply and the plane begins its descent. Back to the rainy, grey, fallen reality of the East Coast.
Alien sirens heard from the depths of a hypnagogic state. The clock reads 10:04, like the Ben Lerner novel, as Sarah and I discuss our plans for the day. “Reviewing the itinerary,” copiloting with Google Maps: these activities bore me, but the structure of Los Angeles demands them. Upon exiting the Westin Bonaventure, Sarah says offhandedly, over her shoulder, “seems like a death trap.” We agree that, in many respects, Jameson’s discussion of the Bonaventure in his famous “Postmodernism” essay captures the phenomenological reality of the building perfectly: the ride in the elevator especially, rising up on the exterior skin of the building to a height above the city, followed by the delirious descent down again, the elevator plunging through the glass roof of the building’s atrium before coming to a stop atop a glimmering pool of water at the base of the building’s depths. Athanasius Kircher enters our thoughts as we continue our journey through the city. We encounter accounts of his accomplishments at the Museum of Jurassic Technology on our final afternoon in LA. Afterwards, at our Airbnb, I observe that our tiny home has been enlivened, made beautiful by play of sunlight, flower- and leaf-patterned pillowcases stacked casually at the head of the futon by the floor, windows beside the entrance to the home opened vertically to allow in vast, multi-sourced birdsong, the music of the host couple’s garden.
Leaves rustle under the furtive gestures of shadow-hidden animal neighbors. I sit and smoke beneath Christmas lights strung through the low-lying branches of a bottlebrush tree the evening after my arrival at my second Airbnb in LA: a stucco-walled proto-“tiny home” / poolside cabana in the hills above Silver Lake. This vacation has been wonderful. Sarah and I wake each morning as we usually do, excited to embark on new adventures, only more so. Days allow for unanticipated surprises, course corrections, getaways from routine—and with these, learning and growth: insightful conversations with fellow psychonauts, one an ayahuascsa user, another a mushroom enthusiast; breakthroughs on the research end; delicious meals at restaurants like Joy and Dune; time to swim, time to drip dry while lounging in the sun; cool discoveries in the occult sections of bookstores. If our careers can be made to allow it, I think, we should move here. Demand the impossible. Grow toward the light.
Before arriving to the thing itself, I instruct myself to regard the 9-acre suite of Japanese gardens on the grounds of the Huntington not only in cynical terms, as a tourist site and a marker of social status, but also in more hopeful terms, as a site for encounter and self-actualization: manifestations, in other words, of Amida Buddha’s Western Paradise, enabling rebirth on a path toward enlightenment. Our observations, these gardens teach us, are always contingent, based on changing points of view. In the library itself, I request access to the “Aldous Huxley Oral History Papers, 1985-1990” and several rare books by Huxley’s friend and fellow mystic Gerald Heard. I also browse old issues of a journal called Aldous Huxley Annual. Consciousness airdrops into an altogether different Earth, however, some postindustrial world, an Earth of a different geological period, once the Subject exits the library and actually enters, sets foot into, the desert garden. Curvilinear profusion, flesh of the Earth thorny, prickly, and hairy. Morning doves and amber-bellied fox squirrels in the trees, lizards scurrying up the torsos of cacti. This is my Utopia, my garden at the end of time: this hot, wet, earthy, noisy, citrusy, fruit-bearing, sun-absorbing, multi-scented surround. I’m swept with the conviction in this moment that, whatever the details of this Utopia (apart from “full communism now”), our presence in it should be airy, minimal — an attentiveness to life’s formal richness that nonetheless remains light in its imprint. Let us be great lovers, tending only to our role as gardeners, nurturers, machines of loving grace, I’s who preside over the self-presentation of being. In these gardens and their surrounding bungalow heavens, this gift, this experience my love has given to me, LA prefigures its nickname “City of Angels.”