Jun 28 2011

The Interwingularity Is Here! Sex & Psychedelics & Interconnection

By R.U. Sirius

an Interview with Richard Doyle, author of Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants and the Evolution of the Noosphere


Books that offer novel perspectives on psychedelic drugs and evolution are a rarity; and those that enclose densely complicated, multiperspectival themes in language that virtually leaps about with acrobatic joy are rarer still.  And perhaps rarest of all is a book about psychedelics (or as the author likes to call them; “ecodelics”) that embraces the experiences and insights provided by LSD and ayahuasca, by Psilocybin and 2cb, by Ibogaine and Ecstasy; and that gives some respect to Dr. Leary and Dr. Shulgin, Aldous Huxley and Bill Burroughs, the counterculture and the rigorous scientists. Anyway, you get the picture.

I interviewed Richard Doyle about his books and about these mind altering substances and how they relate to sexual selection and Darwinian evolution via email

R.U. SIRIUS:  Let me start off by asking something simple: what you mean by your use of two different words.  The first word ― which is probably not familiar to my readers ― is ecodelic.

RICHARD DOYLE: Well, there is a good reason why your readers would not be familiar with the word “ecodelic” ― I made it up! I am a “neologista” ( I made that up too, at least in English), meaning that I practice the strategic invention of new words (neologisms) and the careful construction of their contexts in order to help map different aspects of our reality. Following Robert Anton Wilson (who methinks your readers will indeed know very well), I am trying to help readers break through their “reality tunnels”, the tiny sliver of reality we live within most of the time ( although less than readers of those Other Blogs). These reality tunnels are made up of our habitual modes of thought, and the language we use is one of the most powerful ways we construct our reality tunnels. The good news is that we can make different reality tunnels with different scripts.

So “ecodelic” is, to paraphrase Wilson, a word. But it is a word I offer to help alter our conception of these plants and compounds we usually call “psychedelics.” We are very much living in a reality tunnel when it comes to these plants and compounds, one forged by the drug war and a torrent of misinformation.

Now I like the word “psychedelic.” It was invented in a poem by scientist Humphrey Osmond in correspondence with the writer Aldous Huxley, and it means “manifesting mind” or, intriguingly, “manifesting life.” Huxley’s name for it was “phanerothyme,” and both of them were trying to come up with a word that was better than “psychotomimetic” (meaning “simulating psychosis”), which they found down right inaccurate. Earlier, the German Louis Lewin used the term “phantastica.” Later, Carl Ruck, Jonathan Ott, Gordan Wasson and others suggested “entheogen.”  All of these terms give us slightly different maps of the reality of these compounds and the experiences they can occasion, especially because the experiences themselves are so sensitive to “set and setting” ― the context and intention with which we use them. “Ecodelic” is a way of amplifying the way many people have found these plants and compounds to help them perceive their interconnection with the ecosystems of our planet. The book suggests that this may be part of the evolutionary legacy of our use of these plants. Our usual reality tunnel insists that we ‘really are” separate from each other and our environment, when in fact nothing could be further from truth – we are an aspect of ecosystems, not separate from them. “Ecodelic” is a way to remind us of this.

RU: The second word, then, is transhumanist, which you use differently than most of the denizens of the transhumanist movement use it, and yet I sense they ultimately intersect.

RD: “Transhumanist” comes from “transhuman,” a word that seems to have received its modern meaning in correspondence between Julian Huxley (Aldous’s brother!) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit paleontologist and theologian. I found a letter in the Rice University Archives where this occurs. Teilhard distinguished the ‘transhuman” from the “ultrahuman,” with the latter meaning a kind of souped-up version of the human, and the former indicating an actual transformation ― evolution -― of who we are. For Teilhard, this transformation was evolutionary as well as spiritual. The challenge of the transhuman is to actualize our unique individuality within the much larger planetary collective he saw emerging. Teilhard was really one of the early theorists of globalization, among other things, but he insisted that planetary “communion” could only come about through the difficult work of individuation: In order to evolve, we each must become who we are, together. Let’s get on with that epic, shall we?

Now most recent usages of “transhuman”, it seems to me, have forgotten most of this, and mistaken the “transhuman” for the “ultrahuman” ― a kind of upgrade to the same basic model, still denying our connection to each other and the environment. We are trapped in a reality tunnel again, souping up and “enhancing” who we already are rather than really evolving. My usage of “transhuman” goes back to Julian Huxley’s 1957 “Transhumanism”, which had the rather pointed subtitle “New Bottles for New Wine.” Huxley, a biologist, very much intended “transhumanism” to indicate a change in who and how we are, and this change centered on a recognize of our radical interconnection with the cosmos, a perception of unity. His essay opens with “As a result of a thousand million years of evolution, the universe is becoming conscious of itself.” The astronomer Carl Sagan repeated this with his notion that “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”  Now “transhuman” etymologically suggests “beyond the human”, and in my view much of what we call “transhuman” these days ― the technological enhancement of our already existing nature to cling to life and deny the role of death, for example ― is, as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “human, all too human.” It is an individual ego’s vision of evolution.

Now this does not mean I think we should just give up enhancement or that we ought not be grateful and amazed at the capacities of modern medicine and technology to extend and improve our lives, only that we need to rethink the maps we are using to plot our epic quest of evolution. Because like it or not, as Huxley points out in 1957, we are now steering the starship. “Whether he wants to or not, whether he is conscious of what he is doing or not, he is in point of fact determining the future direction of evolution on this earth. That is his inescapable destiny, and the sooner he realizes it and starts believing in it, the better for all concerned.”

What I call the “transhuman imperative” is this necessity for humans to take the next step in evolution, and that begins with experiencing and acting on our interconnection with the planet and each other. Ecodelics seem to help foster that recognition through what the psychological literature called “ego death” ― the recognition of structures much larger than our individual egos. Sometimes, as in the 2006 Johns Hopkins experiments with psilocybin or the Native American Church use of peyote, those structures feel divine. This links us to the much older tradition of “transhumanism” ― the yogic quest to become divine. Transhuman indeed!

RUS: There are layers upon layers of dense interconnecting scientific and philosophic and experiential tropes in the book.  It seems like, ultimately, all one can do is evoke ― rather than explain ― the ecological connections of everything with everything and what psychedelics (or ecodelics) have to do with it all.  And this seems to relate to your exploration of the claims made by many psychedelic commentators that what is learned can’t ultimately be languaged… and at the same time, that psychedelics can evoke a very affective sort of rhapsodic oratory.  I’m not sure there’s a question here, but would you untangle or further tangle these thoughts in terms of your book?

RD: Well, the book is participatory. You have to engage in an epic quest to understand its twists and tropes and turns, and it is hoped that by engaging these layers, readers will come to understand themselves and their active role in interpreting the world.  We have become accustomed to language and discourse that approaches pure information that requires nearly zero interpretation. To paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, it means what it says and says what it means. Now the problem with this is at least two fold: First, there is a relatively small subset of phenomena and processes that are so simple that that they can be taken out of their context and rendered in this fashion. It’s not just ecodelic experience that resists languaging in this way ― family life is practically built upon the unsaid, and highly intricate premises (unspoken maps) within which we live and work. How often does one hear “What’s that supposed to mean?” in such a context? Love and courtship call forth poetry and song because of the importance of ambiguity as well as communication in creating a relationship. The second problem with this use of language to approach pure reference (besides the tiny sliver of the universe for which it is appropriate, such as “stop!”) is that we become incredibly lazy and incapable of reworking the labels we use to organize the world, and we take them to be the world.  We accept the default language, such as “conservative” or “liberal” and squeeze an incredibly dynamic world into it. So I am offering my book as a kind of “pilates for your head” towards discovering the creative freedom we have in mapping our world. New maps for new realities! Reality is a verb!

Besides, it’s sublime fun to play in the interconnections of language. Wasn’t this Terence McKenna’s specialty? I doubt I ever recovered from reading James Joyce.

Now clearly there is something rather special about ecodelics, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have spent nine years writing a book about them. As you point out, many commentators on psychedelic experience have discussed the “ineffable” nature of their perceptions ― my favorite is 19th century psychologist and sexologist Havelock Ellis’s use of the term “indescribeableness” to describe his encounters with mescaline . Now, on one level that is certainly true. But, then again, who among us can truly describe the taste of  a piece of cheese? We can’t.  There are the words we use, and then there is the experience. Now, some can do a better job than others, and it is worth nothing that even our description of said cheese has recourse to non-referential language ― such as the synaesthetic trope of “sharp” cheese, where the modality of “taste” is mixed with the vocabulary of “touch.” What seems specific to ecodelics is that we persist in noticing the distinction between the language we use to describe an experience and the experience itself, what Korzybski called the “map and the territory.” This may be part of the key to their effects. Psychedelics can help remind us of the very existence of our reality tunnels by persistently refusing to conform to our maps of them. Language is such a powerful lens for shaping reality that we frequently forget that it is a tool at all, and take it for reality.

And it gets curiouser and curiouser. For as I mentioned above, it is also the case that the language we use to describe a psychedelic experience becomes part of the experience. So our description feeds back onto the experience itself. Hence “ecodelic” ― it is time to explore our interconnections with our ecosystems, and the book offers readers intensive experience in interconnection through the rhetorical entanglements of the book. Most everybody has had the experience of looking at a mandala, where layers hold our attention and somehow connect us to a visual whole. I seek to do the same thing with argumentative prose. Some people report that they practically “trip” while reading it.

RU: So I feel like we’re dancing or skating around the core of your books theme… your essential thesis, if you will.  Can you give us the short version?

RD: The book puts the human use of ecodelics into an evolutionary context. The human use of ecodelics is very old. Many researchers have wondered how psychedelics could be such a persistent part of human culture given the evolutionary pressures of natural selection. The idea is that it might be difficult to deal with the tiger at the edge of the village if it seems to have six heads or a thousand pairs of eyes. My argument is that we need to take a broader view of evolution to include the crucial and now recognized role of symbiosis and what Charles Darwin called “sexual selection” ― the competition for mates. The book argues that ecodelics likely played an integral role in the development of human consciousness through these two vectors of evolution.

Why “Darwin’s Pharmacy?” In The Descent of Man, Darwin describes watching birds engage in competitive singing, and determined that the best singers usually left more progeny as a result of success in these singing “duels.” In the next chapter he discusses the evolution of the human voice in oratory ― he was arguing by implication that our capacity for speech and reason evolved through courtship. A more recent book by Geoffrey Miller argues that our oversized brains are essentially courtship devices. I argue that ecodelics likely functioned as “eloquence adjuncts,” aids to our capacity to generate discourse that capture human attention, creating the capacity for seduction and the generation of group bonds. A bow greatly increases our capacity to launch projectiles; Ayahuasca induced researcher Benny Shannon to sing. Mushrooms make many people perceive an inner voice or “the logos,” which seems to speak through them in what researcher Henry Munn called “ecstatic signification.” Peacocks display their fan of feathers to capture the attention of peahens, and mandrills eat Iboga roots (which are psychedelic) before engaging in highly ritualized combat that determines mate pairing. I just drank a double espresso to write this up. Are we still dancing?

RU: The book quotes intellectuals and discusses people who use psychedelics (or ecodelics) for serious purposes and at the same time it’s an expansive look at the effects of these plants and chemicals on human kind.  How would you weave the mass use of psychedelics by people at, say, heavy metal concerts or the sort of terroristic uses by people like the Manson family or Aum Shinriko into your vision?

RD: Well, it’s true that I look closely at the work of  people like Aldous Huxley, Henri Michaux, William Burroughs, Dennis McKenna, Kary Mullis, Alexander and Ann Shulgin, Francis Crick, Lynn Sagan, Albert Hofmann, Arnae Naess and other great minds that have commented on psychedelics. I think it’s crucial to balance the drug war distortion that suggests that the careful and intentional exploration of our minds is somehow inherently idiotic or self destructive. The near total prohibition on psychedelic research means we know much less about our minds than we should. We have become a culture that is downright afraid of inquiry, let alone inquiry into our own minds. But I also write about plenty of less famous and often equally impressive psychonauts who post on places like ― archives of open source cognitive science of self exploration. And the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s were very much a mass affair, arguably akin to other Great Awakenings ― religious revivals ― that have occurred throughout US history. It is often forgotten ― though I doubt by you ― that when Timothy Leary urged people to “drop out,” he was following the same advice as contemplative mystics throughout the ages: “Complete dedication to the life of worship is our aim, exemplified in the motto “Turn on, Tune In, Drop Out.” (as he wrote in “Legal Papers,” League of Spiritual Discovery, in 1966)

Now, as for the Manson Family and Aum Shinriko, let me just say first that as you know millions of people who never had anything to do with anything like the Manson family took LSD or ate psilocybin mushrooms and smoked plenty of ecodelic ganja, so the continual invocation of Manson when the topic of LSD comes up is rather propagandistic.  I know you have to bring it up because others will. So here is my answer: Yes, these are tools, and human beings have the creative freedom to misuse tools. Somebody just sent me spam ― Damn computers?! ― and I just drank another espresso, though I probably shouldn’t have. But hopefully when we bring up the space program ― something I think this country should be immensely proud of ― we don’t just show the Challenger blowing up over and over again. Almost by definition these kinds of tragedies are just that ― tragic ― and they resist easy explanation even if they have some contributing causes ― such as criminal individuals or a flawed O-ring. (BTW, you probably know that it was that dope smoking and LSD using physicist Richard Feynmann who figured out the cause of the Challenger explosion. He also invented nanotechnology in 1959, well before he received his Nobel Prize in 1965. According to the NSF, nanotechnology will be a one trillion dollar industry by 2012. Do we need more stoners to help the economy?)

That said, at first glance the Manson “family” would seem to fit the hypothesis of psychedelics and sexual selection very well indeed. A group bond was formed with a very high ratio of women to men: How? I don’t recall the specifics of their use of psychedelics, though, except that they dosed somebody to keep them from becoming a witness. I have a feeling good old-fashioned violence and intimidation played a more important role than psychedelics, and I believe one of their victims ― a Folger heiress ― was on a psychedelic when she was attacked. So not the attacker, but the victim, was using a psychedelic.

I don’t know enough about Aum Shrinko to really comment except to say that sadly the terroristic uses of all manner of compounds ― I believe alcohol is the number one date rape drug ― is likely as old as most of the compounds themselves. Mescaline was used at Dachau as an interrogation tool, and of course, we know about the CIA’s use of LSD in MKULTRA. I am proud to say that it was here at Penn State that psilocybin mushrooms were first mass cultivated by Ralph Kneebone in 1959, but sadly the security state seems to have later wanted metric tonnage amounts for chemical weapons purposes. Don’t blame the medicine, blame the irresponsible user.

And as for using psychedelics at a heavy metal show, I guess there is no accounting for taste, but the effect of set and setting would probably cause a good deal of negative reactions. I guess more research is needed. Most shamanic traditions that are experienced with these plants include strictures on their proper use.

There is something dirge like and darkly religious about some heavy metal, and I think that a good social contract for the decriminalization of these plants and compounds would be to agree to collectively treat them as sacraments ―  as many of us already do. This would probably mean treating them with respect and with clear intention, and with respect for those around us. We don’t seem to really have a problem agreeing as a society that unless you are in the desert or on a closed track, you probably shouldn’t go much over 80 miles per hour in a car or on a motorcycle, so probably we could come up with some agreeable common sense guidelines for the legal use of ecodelics. After all, cars kill over 40,000 people per year in the US and are involved in around ten million accidents, and I know of no one suggesting that we prohibit them. We do require training to drive that (at least implicitly) includes informing drivers that they should not  drive around at heavy metal concerts 🙂 We could, and should, offer similar guidance in the use of ecodelics, but please don’t let the DMV handle it.

RU: Sex and drugs and evolutionary competitive advantage? A new motto for the 21st Century?

RD: Well, I love mottos, but I don’t really like this word “drug” ― it seems to be word that is used to describe things that other, usually very bad, people use. It reminds me of the “freedom fighter” versus “terrorist” debates around Nicaragua in the 1980s. Everybody “knows” that alcohol is a drug by any sense of the term, but still the term is reserved for other inebriants, some of which are obviously less toxic and more interesting (to many of us) than the default intoxicants of alcohol, tobacco and coffee (though I love coffee).

In the very early stages of this project, I got the opportunity to travel down to Peru as part of an audio documentary about ayahuasca tourism. The contract actually read that I was to travel down and “trip balls.” I had honestly never heard the phrase before, but I had a good sense of what it meant. I went down expecting to experience a drug, and this no doubt shaped my initial experience, but what happened instead was that I was healed. I remember speaking out during an ayahuasca ceremony and saying, in my broken Spanish, that ayahuasca was not drug, “it is medicine.” It might seem like a minor distinction, but as a result of these ceremonies and a good deal of introspection and practice, I was healed of life long, severe asthma and whole body eczema. You can see why I had to write the book and try and share and understand what I perceived to be a healing through plant intelligence.

And healing (if you will forgive an English professor) comes etymologically from “to be made whole.” Perhaps I got just a glimpse of reality undivided by our mental labels. It definitely feels infinitely better.

As for “evolutionary advantage”, the book is suggesting that we recall the evolutionary advantage found through interconnection. Our cells have a nucleus as a result of what biologist Lynn Margulis called the “long bacterial embrace”, the endosymbiotic evolution of eukaroytic cells.

RU: It seems that Ayahuasca has become the sort of signifier ― and the source ― for serious psychedelic exploration in recent years.  Is there
an evolutionary and/or cultural difference between an Ayahuasca oriented culture and an LSD oriented culture?

RD: For me at least, Ayahuasca culture is quite distinctive. There is a palpable and unmistakable sense of being taught by the plant. I had formerly considered the notion of a “teacher plant” to be “just” a metaphor, and nothing but. But to my utter astonishment I learned otherwise. This also se ems to be true of cannabis, but it is subtler and most people do not seem to potentiate this “teacher plant” aspect of the plant… more reality tunnels. Because of this feeling of being “schooled,” my experience has been that the cultural contexts of ayahuasca are perhaps slightly more intentional; the very difficulty of taking part in an ayahuasca ceremony, either in the US or elsewhere, seems to alter the interface with the plant. One is doing something very specific in seeking out this plant brew, and that specificity may sometimes sharpen the intention. One of the things I learned in my first experience was that I was totally free to explore the experience in any way I wished. How did I want it to go? I had never felt so totally free in my entire life even as it was clear that I was not completely in “control” of the situation. I was free by necessity. Subsequent experiences continued the teacherly and healing theme, though I knew nothing about the healing aspects of ayahausca before I journeyed, and was seeking it out because I was following up on some research on the writings of William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in The Yage Letters.

Now the very characteristics that helped LSD become such a revolutionary force in the 1960s ― the ease of transporting it, even, the ease of its ingestion ― lends it a wonderfully technological feel. It approaches Arthur C. Clarke’s notion that “every sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” We can see why Leary, through McCluhan, saw it in cybernetic terms; it  is as “easy” as flipping a switch, dropping a tab. “Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out”: The triplet code of the psychedelic revolution.

Make no mistake ― Albert Hoffman’s discovery was a phenomenal one. It was also timely. An increasingly technological culture found “better living through chemistry,” and the fact that you could carry an enormous number of doses in a mayonnaise jar made it difficult to interdict even after it was prohibited. Ayahuasca’s magic feels, and is, much older. It roots us in the ancient shamanic practices that we in some ways participate in through re-enactment. We connect across space and time with the practices as well as the experiences of ayahuasca. Of course, with Hofmann, we connect with the ancient alchemical traditions, and he spoke of LSD, too, as if it were an organism. He thanked LSD itself on his 100th birthday. It too can seem to have a teacherly agency. So I would say that these subtle differences translate into a different “vibe” in cultures of the vine and “dose nation” ― the plant and compound are respectively part of the set and setting for ecodelic experiences. The medium is part of the message. But, of course, there is plenty of overlap, both demographically and experientially.

When I started this project, I was struck with a kind of sci fi hypothesis that “Psychedelics are chemical messengers from Gaia to remind us that she is here.” Now this is just a map, a tool for exploring ideas. It came in an early morning instant at Harvard Square ― I couldn’t sleep and went out for a walk, and I had this idea out of the blue in totally “ordinary” consciousness. I think for me, ayahuasca was more in tune with this “Gaian messenger” theme, but that could very well be an attribute of my experience rather than something essentially different about the two ecodelics. It is interesting to recall that in fact “LSD culture” as it emerged at Harvard was deeply informed by ayahuasca ― Ginsberg brought his experiences in Peru into play as he was helping Leary figure out how to manage and “program” psychedelic experience.

RU:  So is anything unusual going to happen on December 21, 2012?

RD: Yes! If we learn to focus our attention on any particular moment, we can experience its utter “fullness.” That will be unusual indeed. I think the discourses about 2012 are fundamentally about the need for a qualitative theory of time. Both the calendar and the clock divide time into discrete units, all allegedly equivalent to each other. This is both an incredible triumph of technology and, from the point of view of living experience, a bizarre fiction. As finite beings, time has, for us, qualitative attributes as well as quantitative ones. When I read the late José Argülles many years ago, and again more recently, this is what struck me: we seek an account of time that does justice both to the blind ticking off of moments and to the specificity of this moment and that one.  Sometimes, this perception is unavoidable: The moment my son was born was not just any moment ― a new world emerged, for my family, with him. When my daughter was born ― yet another singular moment. The Greeks had words for these two aspects of time ―chronos, or quantitative time, and kairos, or qualitative time. Having a sense of timing means knowing that all moments are not, despite the calendar and the clock, equal, and 2012 feels to me like a more or less unconscious realization that both of these aspects of time are equally actual. The possible limitation of even the Mayan’s precise map of time is a veritable announcement that “the map is not the territory.”

Now the qualitative difference between one moment of time and another can’t be measured by the atomic clock in Colorado, but it can be perceived by consciousness if we will focus our attention on the “thisness” of any particular moment. Think Ram Dass, Leary’s colleague: Be Here Now. If we will focus our attention on any particular moment, we notice that of course it is always Now, and that “always Now” characteristic feels like a connection to eternity ― it is now, Now, just as it was for the ancient Mayans or our contemporaries, Jesus, or George freaking Washington. Maybe that is what will happen in 2012. We’ll notice that it is still Now, and that all the maps and calendars are just extremely useful reality tunnels that we ought not be stuck within, except by collective choice. I think it was Buckaroo Banzai that said ‘Wherever you go, there you are.” A temporal corollary might be: “Whatever time it is, it is always Now.”

In other words, something unusual is always happening, and this “always” is Now. When Camper recently predicted the end of the world, again, I told my friends that he had it only half right. Yes, the world was going to end, as it does each instant, but so too was it going to begin again. Each moment, a version of the world passes and a new one comes into being. Change, samsara, never ceases. This too shall pass! When we focus our attention on the qualitative as well as the quantitative aspect of time, we attend to both the unique creation and destruction that inheres in each moment. As George Clinton might put it: Once Upon a Time Called Right Now! Our culture, in love with apocalypse and narrative closure, forgets creation. My understanding is that the Mayan elders describe December 21, 2012 as a time of transformation. To a culture such as ours, with no sense of qualitative time, it is understood as apocalypse.

Two more things that may be of interest to your readers regarding 2012: The National Science Foundation and Reuters both estimate that nanotechnology will be a one trillion dollar industry by 2012. Is this the flash of the transcendental, utopian other at the end of time Terence McKenna seems to have glimpsed? And when I asked ayahuasca about 2012 way back in 2003, I was “told” that it was merely storms, “just some storms.”

RU:  In Leary’s future history series, he tried to puzzle out the evolutionary purpose of psychedelics in the future.   One thing he indicated was that psychedelic experience was rather in conflict with an industrial culture but provides evolutionary openings to future cultures that would be very different. Have you explored those metaphors?

Let me add that one thing I’ve been thinking about is this idea that he used in his book, What Does WoMan Want? He kept on talking about “Brain Reward Drugs” ― which sounded Orwellian to me and seemed to conflict with the subversive tone of the rest of the book.  But now I think I understand that we have neurochemical patterns and releases that make us feel rewarded when we win. And these patterns are associated with ambition and success and accomplishment.  But there seems to be this other rewarding psychedelic possibility built into our neurology that offers other ways to feel and experience something marvelous. Any thoughts on that?

RD: Well, in the book I argue that ecodelics are transhuman in yet another sense: they put our sense of “human” ontology into disarray. When the maps are found wanting, ecodelics put the ontological question of what we are to us. This is a utopian question, because even asking the question illuminates the degrees of freedom we have as well as our creative responsibilities for the planet and ourselves. What shall we become? For Leary, a good deal of the utopian vision for psychedelic – mind manifesting – evolution involved a journey to the stars. Starseed: “Evolution is concerned with nervous systems and the sexual attractive efficiency of bodies, the expansion of consciousness.” This is a sexual selective theory of consciousness all right: Not only the Psy Fi vision of  “What does Woman want?” (the question to which life is the answer), but the scaled up “What does Gaia Want?”: the question to which evolution is the answer. Let us speculate just a bit for the sake of our imaginations and our possible futures: Gaia wants to get galactic in scale. It seems like we have turned our back on space. But another thinker from the Fourth Great Awakening, Bucky Fuller, reminds us that we’re already on the journey.

Now Spaceship Earth has not achieved escape velocity and is now finishing up a stint as Prison Planet coincident with the Great Prohibition of Psychedelic States. Epic plot twist: It’s time to free the inmates! Wikileaks Sez: Information wants to be free, and people – over a billion of them – need clean water, electricity, and the education to achieve our birthright: the collective evolution of the noosphere, the rather obvious transformation that is taking place as we live and breathe. Tweet this: Nanotechnology is yielding new technologies of water filtration and solar cells that can deliver on Fuller’s vision for Spaceship Earth. Will we “make it so”?

Whether or not we achieve our evolutionary epic quest depends upon our experience of each other and our ecosystems in, yes, marvelous interconnection. We are wired for ecodelia. It’s hard to avoid the tug of the stars, if we’ll gaze upon them with awe. We are indeed stardust. Tat Tvam Asi. And if we’ll look with marvelous ecodelic adoration at each other, all of us, and perceive what Ted Nelson called our “intertwingularity”, we’ll behold One planetary life form on the brink that thrives on, needs our conscious individuality Now in loving, collective action. How then will we resist the tug of nanotopia and beyond? Singularity? Get a late Pass ―the Intertwingularity is Near!

  • By Samuel, June 28, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

    Fantastic interview! Now, if only our local library would acquire a copy (or several copies) of this book.

  • By {i}Pan~, June 29, 2011 @ 10:15 am

    Great stuff.

    I will share this at

  • By alan2102, July 1, 2011 @ 11:40 am

    “What I call the “transhuman imperative” is this necessity for humans to take the next step in evolution, and that begins with experiencing and acting on our interconnection with the planet and each other. Ecodelics seem to help foster that recognition through what the psychological literature called “ego death” ― the recognition of structures much larger than our individual egos.”


    And, after having had such experience, the desire and
    “need” to avert physical death has a way of vanishing.
    After having had that realization, physical immortality
    becomes quite unnecessary, and beside the point, and
    even a tad stupid. Who needs it?

    I wish that all of those who seem so obsessed with living forever could experience the perfection of edodeliatic

  • By Mi Shi, July 1, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    I’ve never read a book that so obsoletes so many others! Finally, Doyle , reviews Huxley (56+ years for a review of Doors?!) & Leary and so many other psYchedelic pioneers. And it’s as if their work is being reviewed for the First Time! Especially , discovering, V. I. Vernadsky, Dr Noosphere! Stigmergy, imbrication, immense, stupendous, FPS-First Person Science, Gaian Science, the new mineral science, H2O as a flexible mineral, mescaline sulfate oozes out of humanity.

  • By evil_rocks, July 2, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

    re: the blog post’s title

    if you read the last paragraph carefully, the neologism in question is “intertwingularity”. With a “t”.

  • By Michael Garfield, September 30, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

    Every time I read or listen to Rich Doyle, I feel less alone. Who knew that there was someone else both intrigued at the role of attention and culture in evolutionary dynamics AND passionate about the distinction between the legitimately “transhuman” and the various presentist fantasies of progress-lusty über-fashion masquerading as transhumanism? AND quotes Buckaroo Banzai?

    Rich. I don’t want to move to Pennsylvania but I DO want to be your student. How do we solve this?

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  1. Richard Doyle’s New Book “Darwin’s Pharmacy” Explores Fascinating Links Between Sex, Evolution, And Psychedelics | FEELguide — January 4, 2012 @ 6:05 pm