Western Phobia of Psychoactive Plants
Shamanism that is specifically rooted in the kind of experiences that
are induced by psychoactive plants ... is an area that our society is
extraordinarily phobic and nervous concerning, and the reason I think
is not far to seek. Because modern institutions depend on the transmission
of a certain world view and then willing acquiescense in the truth of that
world view by the populations into which it is being exported. In other
words a kind of cultural brainwashing is necessary for modern cultures to
work at all. The consequences of the acceptance of this situation of
brainwashing is further acceleration toward catastrophe.
Apparently there is a great discovery or insight which our culture is
deliberately designed to supress, distort and ignore. That is that Nature is
some kind of minded entity. That Nature is not simply the random flight of
atoms through electromagnetic fields. Nature is not the empty, despiritualized
lumpen matter that we inherit from modern physics. But it is instead a kind
of intelligence, a kind of mind.
Years ago before the term 'psychedelic' was settled on there was just a
phenomenological description, these things were called 'consciousness
expanding drugs'. Well, I think that's a very good term. Think about our
dilemma on this planet. If the expansion of consciousness does not loom
large in the human future, what kind of future is it going to be? To my
mind the psychedelic position is most fundamentally threatening when
fully logically thought out because it is an anti-drug position - and
make no mistake about it, the issue is drugged. How drugged shall you be?
Or, to put it another way, consciousness, how conscious shall you be? Who
shall be conscious? Who shall be unconscious? Imagine if the Japanese had
won World War II, taken over America, and introduced an insidious drug
which caused the average American to spend six and a half hours a day
consuming enemy propaganda. But this is what was done. Not by the
Japanese, by ourselves. This is television. Six and a half hours a
day! Average! That's the average! So there must be people out
there hooked on twenty-four hours a day; or I visit people in L.A. who
have one set on in every room so they're racking up a lot of time for the
rest of us. You see what is needed is an operational awareness of what we
mean by drug. A drug is something which causes unexamined, obsessive,
habituated behavior. You don't examine your behavior, you just do it. You
do it obsessively. You let nothing get in the way of it. This is the kind
of life we're being sold on every level. To watch, to consume, to buy.
The psychedelic thing is off in this tiny corner, never mentioned, and
yet it represents the only counterflow toward a tendency to just leave
people in designer states of consciousness. Not their designers,
but the designers of Madison Avenue, the Pentagon, so forth and so on.
This is really happening.
The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse
has arrived in major portions of the planet and it's only because we
live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we
still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse. If you go to Bosnia
or Somalia or Peru or much of the third-world then it appears that the
apocalypse has already arrived.
To a large degree I think the sixties were probably misplayed. But on the
other hand it seems to be the last decade when anything happened. The lid
has been utterly on ever since. It's an illusion all this change. There is
no change. We're living in some sort of weird eschatological hiatus while
the people who rig the game try to send out for new batteries or something.
I don't know what's going on. There's energy for change building. I think
that when it ultimately comes it will be fairly spectacular. It's astonishing
actually the way in which change has been halted. Everyone is running around
saying "change change change" but on the other hand there is a curious sense
in which things have become eerily dreamlike and still, while we just teeter
on the edge of the end of history; and the same personalities, the same
design elements, everything has looked the same in the galleries for twenty
years. There is an eerie suspension.
We're playing with half a deck as long as we tolerate that the cardinals
of government and science should dicate where human curiousity can
legitimately send its attention and where it can not. It's an essentially
preposterous situation. It is essentially a civil rights issue because
what we're talking about here is the repression of a religious
sensibility. In fact not a religious sensibility, the
religious sensibility. Not built on some con game spun out by
eunichs, but based on the symbiotic relationship that was in place
for our species for fifty thousand years before the advent of history,
writing, priestcraft and propaganda. So it's a clarion call to recover a
We are so much the victims of abstraction that with the Earth in
flames we can barely rouse ourselves to wander across the room and look
at the thermostat.
A woman on the upper east side of New York or in Malibu ... has a child.
That child will have between eight hundred and a thousand times more
negative impact on the environment of the Earth than a child born to a
woman in Bangledesh. Where do we preach birth control?
For monkeys to speak of truth is hubris of the highest degree. Where is it
writ large that talking-monkeys should be able to model the cosmos? If a sea
urchin or a racoon were to propose to you that it had a viable truth about
the universe, the absurdity of that assertion would be self-evident, but in
our case we make an exception.
Business as usual is no longer an option. There is no middle way.
There is no Ozzie and Harriet third millenium scenario. The
choices are either a hideous, nightmarish world, a Soylent Green kind of
world. A world where people of privilege defend that privilege with
tremendous establishments of armament and propaganda and the rest of the
world slips into poverty, starvation, desparation and death. This is the
kind of world that rationalists fear, and it's also the only kind of
world they can imagine because they are bankrupt of inspiration and
ideas. So the entire effort of the Establishment has become one of
holding down panic, keeping the ball in play, keeping ordinary people and
ordinary populations quiescent through drugs which are not psychedelic,
through forms of media which are not transcendental and inspiring,
but which are narcoleptic and deadening. This is the fiction that we
live in. This is why our situation feels so schizophrenic. Of course as we
go through this presidential election the contradictions are heightened
almost to the point off nausea because what is under discussion is what
manner of fine-tuning shall be applied to the social machinery in order
to make it possible to hold together the illusion of business as usual -
and the answer is there is no such fine-tuning, it's all finished.
Instead what is needed is a radical openness to new ideas of all sorts.
It is now very clear that techniques of machine-human interfacing,
pharmacology of the synthetic variety, all kinds of manipulative
techniques, all kinds of data storage, imaging and retrieval techniques.
All of this is coalescing toward the potential of a truely demonic or
angelic kind of self-imaging of our culture... And the people who are on
the demonic side are fully aware of this and hurrying full-tilt forward
with their plans to capture everyone as a 100% believing consumer inside
some kind of a beige furnished fascism that won't even raise a ripple.
It's only in western civilization that you get this steady focus on
this monotheistic ideal, and working out the implications of what is
essentially a pathologial personality pattern. The pattern of the
omnicient, omnipresent, all-knowing, wrathful male diety. No one you
would invite to your garden party.
Ego is a structure that is erected by a neurotic individual who is a member
of a neurotic culture against the facts of the matter. And culture, which
we put on like an overcoat, is the collectivized consensus about what sort
of neurotic behaviors are acceptable.
In the Amazon and other places where visionary plants are understood and
used, you are conveyed into worlds that are appallingly different from
ordinary reality. Their vividness cannot be stressed enough. They are
more real than real, and that's something that you sense intuitively.
They establish an ontological priority. They are more real than real, and
once you get that under your belt and let it rattle around in your mind,
then the compass of your life begins to spin and you realize that you are
not looking in on the Other; the Other is looking in on you. This is a
tremendous challenge to the intellectual structures that have carried us
so far during the last thousand years. We can do tricks with atoms,
there's no question about that, but these tricks immolate us. The
higher-order structure of molecules, let alone organelles and that kind
of thing, is intellectual incognita to us. We have no notion of how these
things work or what is going on. Yet it is from those levels that the
constituent modalities of reality are being laid down.
We have wandered into a state of prolonged neurosis because of the absence
of a direct pipeline to the unconscious and we have then fallen victim to
priestcraft of every conceivable sort.
The continuous exposure to this tremendum represented by the
hallucinogenically induced ecstacy acted to continuously dissolve that
portion of the psyche which as moderns we call the male ego. I don't mean
that it only worked on men. I mean that wherever in human personalities this
certain catch began to form and build like a calcarious tumor in
the personality, the psycholytic presence of the undeniable fact of the
tremendum tended to dissolve this back into Tao, psychic health, however you
wish to style it.
My dream from the time I was eight or nine was to encounter a UFO because
I always had the impression that if you would encounter one you could
understand it. It was maddening to realize that it seemed to have a
great affinity for people who live in trailer courts, but very little
affinity for anybody I knew - and so you had to constantly filter these
eyewitness reports by people you wouldn't send to the corner store to
Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around. An extremely
yang solution to a peculiar problem which they faced.
I can't preach Scientism cause I don't believe it. I can't preach Buddhism
cause I can't understand it. The only thing I can preach is the felt
presence of immediate experience which for me came through the
psychedelics, which are not drugs but plants. It's a perversion of language
to try to derail this thing into talk of drugs. There are spirits in the
natural world that come to us in this way and so far as I can tell this is
the only way that they come to us that is rapid enough for it to have an
impact upon us as a global population.
DMT is a pseudo-neurotransmitter that when ingested and allowed to come to
rest in the synapses of the brain, allows one to see sound, so that one can
use the voice to produce not musical compositions, but pictoral and visual
compositions. This, to my mind, indicates that we're on the cusp of some kind
of evolutionary transition in the language-forming area, so that we are going
to go from a language that is heard to a language that is seen, through a
shift in interior processing. The language will still be made of sound but
it will be processed as the carrier of the visual impression. This is
actually being done by shamans in the Amazon. The songs they sing sound as
they do in order to look a certain way. They are not musical compositions as
we're used to thinking of them. They are pictoral art that is caused by audio
If you really wanted to study an aboriginal race and you really had a
hot technology, what you would do is study their social psychology and
you would say, "are there any chinks in the armor of their expectations
about how reality behaves?" and you would discover in studying us - this
species intoxicates itself and it has a curious attitiude towards it's
intoxications: anything goes. So if someone drinks a bottle of stolichnaya
and announces that they see pink elephants we are all amused. We say of
course you do you're drunk out of your mind.. Isn't it obvious that an alien
would hide its presence in an intoxication? This is the non-invasive,
tasteful, respectful way to have intercourse with another species. ..you
put yourself into a plant, You put a barcode into a molecule. Then the
shaman intoxicates himself and he says 'aha it's an ancestor spirit' or
'it's the soul of the plant, but whatever it is it's giving me good
information. It's telling me where the reindeer went..what the weather
will be next week..who stole the goose..who slept with who..and which of
the ill members of my tribe will live and who will die..'