Having enjoyed my stay in Borges’s Labyrinths, I hasten to board another of his books, The Aleph and Other Stories. Before long, I find myself there again at the House on Shady Blvd, imagining it now as an Aleph, or what Borges’s friend Carlos calls “the only place on earth where all places are — seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending” (23). Hence also a kind of time machine. Is that not the ineffable core of my story? There I am again, sunlight shining, moonlight glinting amid stained glass windows, glass chandeliers, large mirrors. “I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance,” writes Borges. “The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors of earth and none of them reflected me […]. I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon — the unimaginable universe” (27-28).
I recline on a couch and observe spontaneously generated eidetic imagery. The Eidetic Image, as Heinrich Klüver notes, “has been identified in psychological literature as a vision, as a source for new thought and feeling, as a material picture in the mind which can be scanned by the person as he would scan a real current event in his environment, and as a potent, highly significant stimulus which arises from within the mind and throws it into a series of self-revealing imagery effects.”
Compose mildly, humbly, yells a voice from ahead on the line. We of the chain gang. Every breath a guess, a near fumble. Conversations, dialogues, words assembled from channel-surfing, dial-turning snippets of televisions and talking radios. It’s as if the larynx, a highly sensitive vibrational surface, were suddenly set aquiver, collaboratively operated by self and other, floating among oceans of sound. Songs for breakfast, songs for lunch. Rapid montage sequences flit past. Like horseshoe crabs, we possess receptors useful for sensing changes in moonlight. I imagine a fictional universe, perhaps I’m programmed to do so, I’m not going to delve into agency, will, all that David Copperfield kind of crap. Rice Krispies crackle loudly as the childhood self leans his ear to a bowl of cereal. The inner voice speeds up, acquires greater proficiency. “My environment,” I tell myself, “has been carefully designed to draw me to this state of mind.”
Using an app designed to replicate the stroboscopic “flicker” effect of Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville’s Dream Machine, I begin my journey. I pass a semi-translucent energy field shaped like a dog. Trails lead to experimental grammars and readings in phenomenology. Friends and I over drinks speculate about socialist strategy in light of the strike in West Virginia. During brief lulls in the conversation, or while friends and I renew our drinks, I wonder about non-player characters and the representational challenges posed by collective subjects. Tools, remember, enable a prosthesis or “doubling” of the self. While Cluster & Eno’s “One” keeps me awake and hopeful, Jack DeJohnette’s “Aho” is what finally takes me beyond my skin.
Aggressive, utilitarian: the commodities that populate today’s indoor capitalist shopping malls no longer possess an erotics. Fonts and signage aim for instant legibility, leave nothing to the imagination, all artifacts and all actors of this world turned exclusively toward securing of utilities. Yet hypnotic props remain essential to the mall’s magic. Mirrored surfaces, confusions of scale, multiple conflicting pop songs played simultaneously: these and other methods induce a trancelike readiness to consume. Thankfully, “I AM THAT I AM” can escape these self-made confines. We can teach ourselves to race at lightning-quick speed up the inner canal of the optic nerve, thus allowing consciousness to awaken in the space behind the eyes a new era of sensitivity and interior vision, somewhere between heaven and earth.
Using directional keys to navigate, I sit down at a drum set and unleash sprays of knocks and clicks, as if to initiate a ceremony. Strange voices enter my headspace, lecturing incoherently about Peter Pan, Pinocchio, archetypes, and DMT. Mental reprogramming sends me down stairwells, through lovely gardens, to an ancient sea below. Instructions appear in bubblegum font. Consciousness dwells sequentially over details spanning several levels of being. Object permanence bids farewell, leaves us momentarily to contemplate selfhood as extrapolation or device. The average lifespan of a ladybug is 2 to 3 years, announces a voice outside ours. Wilderness spaces are spaces of diversity, pluralities of plural worlds. Out of the folds of these worlds emerge previously obscured items: books like Ludic Dreaming: How to Listen Away from Contemporary Technoculture by a group called The Occulture, Steve Goodman’s Sonic Warfare, and François J. Bonnet’s The Order of Sounds: A Sonorous Archipelago. Let us engage in creative rather than merely receptive modes of listening. Like Cordelia in King Lear, let us exclaim, “All blest secrets, / All you unpublished virtues of the earth, / Spring with my tears!”
An illustrated snake crawls across a two-dimensional background and forms a magic circle. A title sequence: a dolphin’s head punctures the surface of an ocean oranged by a setting sun. Guitars and drums kick in. Fireworks light a night sky. “No more clouds, no more rain,” sing Lal & Mike Waterson, as if to invoke a triumphant god on their pagan masterpiece, “Bright Phoebus.”
Let us interpret these deities, at least for the time being, as guiding passions that produce distinctive outcomes and inner states. Let us associate one such state with medicine and healing: to this, we sing our paean. Doors open onto an endless regression of doors.
Sun Ra appears, says “Time is officially ended. We work on the other side of time.” A plant sprout seeks sunlight against a blur of browns and grays. I run my hands through my hair and sense around me to gauge my whereabouts. A desert island — or rather, a detailed simulation of one. Wind chimes, palm trees: a beachside cottage. Purple clouds above a tree line steeped in shadow. Archetypes guard the gates between levels and worlds.
Prayer will take us there. We might as well call it that, this act of turning inward, even if there aren’t any mantras involved or words addressed to a higher power. Much of my learning occurs these days through concentration on letting the mind go where it may. I hang back a bit and wait to see what stirs. Hands meet with fingers and thumbs arranged to form a triangle. I hold up to my eyes an inverted, upward-pointed Merkel-Raute or Triangle of Power, tolerating it the right to expand slowly across my field of vision, the gesture crossing outward beyond my peripherals. No more aristocracy of moneyed corporations, I declare to potential comrades. But few heed the call. They look at me askance, shake their heads reprovingly, and return to their sullen pursuit of property, most of them declaring themselves for business, without ever having been taught how else one can be. The Real is that which one feels deeply in one’s mind. Let’s do it, sings the chorus. Now is the time for love. The world has never felt itself so much a totality as it does today — so let us raise glasses instead to the visions in our minds. Let us imagine for one another how else the world may be. We have become more or less completely, more or less obviously, more or less miserably, the dependents of capital — so let us change that. Wildlife, like wildfires, rise up and appropriate thy appropriators! Humanity’s running down the clock, one way of being having come to dominate all the rest. And there’s no longer any imagined purpose to any of it. One is tempted to wish for some chance intervention, some upwelling of otherness. Cast over the soul a luminous spell, craft for it a key that opens doors onto possible worlds. Passion destines its victim, writes de Rougemont, “to contest with every breath everything that officially regulates social life” (73). Weed grants me such a passion; it fills me with words and metaphors, interlacing symbols through which to enunciate a mind in its refusal to adhere to the as-is.
Possessed with identity, the Self — once like a hand, now like a street fighter — learns to dodge the effects of painful emotion on awareness and performance. To itself it murmurs, “You are special. The world is not twin to itself yet.” So begins a mantra I recite to myself in my sleep. If we observe our emotions, we can change them. Or at the very least, we can endure them with a mix of detachment and curiosity. Old trees serve as stations for rest and reflection along a way of sorrow. How sad it would be to live life without walks through allegorical gardens. Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream is one such garden. I burned right through it, couldn’t put it down. Psychedelic in the sense of two voices dialoguing in inner space. Electromagnetic signals. Fake worlds in their simplicity are reassuring. By clumsy political theater, life is overwhelmed by overpowering bureaucracy. While we doze, the money creeps in. History devolves into constructive ambiguity amidst demonic fury. A world where lies are perpetrated by actors who believe only in themselves. Occultists who exploit popular belief in the importance of ritual. People cooperate with the system, and the rest of us are screwed. The fear among the cooperators is that otherwise, shit would go psycho. Better, they think, to just retreat into an alternate reality. What are we to make, for instance, of that ancient document from the early days of Wired magazine, John Perry Barlow’s “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”? What, too, should we make of Adam Curtis’s use of it in the film HyperNormalisation? A script is being read to us, no? An attempt to capture imagination. Iron filings reform in response to magnetic fields. Perception management. Reality is made a thing one handles with codes, algorithms, numbers — for it is by money that they program minds.
The author, taken with the desire to quit his current job, relents in his pursuit of this objective due only to lack of means. It is of no matter, though. This lot of his, arranged for him by capitalism, fades into the background the moment he smokes some hash. Psychic antennae reach tentatively, for purposes of experiment, toward Jon Porras’s Tokonoma.
“I wish unto myself many stochastic returns,” comes a voice. By what occult means, it asks, might consciousness improve its aims and guesses? Must we always set grammars to ourselves and then keep to them? Must we proceed through life with caution, or can we tread through life with care? Must our voices remain trapped in jars? File under impassioned plea and book back to headquarters. This is your captain speaking, over. Roger that. Our flight lands, we disembark from the plane, end of story. Got it. On days like these, I find myself needing to go for walks. It helps to feel overwhelmed now and then by the world’s beauty, its shocking mix of colors. Others dictate thoughts to me by strobe light. Better, I think, to absorb Wanci, an album by Bandung duo Tarawangsawelas.
My inner camera-eye breaks filmmaking’s 180-degree rule while performing a zoom. Leviathan waves at me with palms made of seashell. I witness internally an image of gears rotating. I manipulate fractal patterns across an inner screen by closing my eyes and moving my hands symmetrically, each fingertip a point of light. Words appear made of cut-out letters filled with rapidly changing video imagery. “This is how we want it,” moans a maudlin violin. Thought races ever-changing through all inherited forms, modes, and media. I picture myself as a virtual subject, a spectator floating in an inflatable theater filled with amniotic fluid, rotating around an invisible axis, all-knowing in an endless present. Why do certain traditions venerate time before birth, inventing in this nowhere a utopian somewhere, hallucinating in its name radically different forms of consciousness and awareness? It’s all, I suppose, part of the story the subject tells itself of its origins.
Detritus of old media. Layers of illegible ancient signage. A fairy tale about the wind. Up from it rises a mirror image of old age. I resolve to feed my head so as to forestall the end of time. The latter also an ingredient in a canticle. An overlay of voices, as with Paul Simon’s and Art Garfunkel’s, gives word of revolution. This is a game, says one. Bonus rounds are added whenever shit gets tight. Keys appear thanks to invisible algorithms. The game-board eased ever so slightly of its obstacles. The realm of the known is known to expand outward, adding continents. There is a magic performed on homes involving flowers. Imagine for once the immensity of that kind of universe, where others know such words and such things. We are of a priestly class, we keepers of words. We run free of the barriers to speech put upon others. As Psalm 139 reminds us, “the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” In other words, stop worrying about the future. Whatever will be, will be. And besides: “marvelous” are the lord’s works, “and that my soul knoweth right well.” So reside again in the brightness of day, even when winds seem heavy. Do so even toward day’s end, sun sinking into treeline. Thought detaches from self-conscious behavior. The self becomes joyfully dissociative, recognizes itself as an expanding universe on the verge of a phase shift. The back catalog from Astral Spirits weaves through the experience like a narrative thread, especially a pair of tapes by The Gate and Bouchons d’Oreilles / Warsaw Improvisers Orchestra.
Why must our thoughts remain in line with the thought-systems of others? How dare the capitalist state intervene in development of consciousness through compelled education? This is the great riddle posed by Rousseau, the great inexplicable evil: “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.” There is, as Wilhelm Reich notes in The Murder of Christ, “something in operation that continuously and successfully diverts attention from the carefully camouflaged access to where attention should be focused.” Confess, writes Reich to his readers. Come now, admit it, he adds. You and I? We’re in prison. Admit this, and the Trap begins to become comprehensible.