Jan 24 2012

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #3)


 As I close in on the evolution of Mondo 2000 History Project book content to the point where I have to consider what the final thing will be — it becomes clear that it will be about 1/3 collective memoir; 1/3 my memoir and 1/3 scrapbook.  The challenge is to have all of it somehow fitting into my grand (or perhaps grandiose… apparently candidate Gingrich now think grandiosity is something to brag about politically and who am I to argue.  Well, actually, I would argue were I to take the time… but grandiosity in art/artifice can on occasion strike paydirt) scheme to have it all somehow fit together and read like a very dense and complex novel (but who would believe in these characters?)

In this context, some of the work involves me retrieving origin stories from my past to illuminate the influences that brought me to High Frontiers and eventually to Mondo 2000 and the cyber counterculture.

Recently, Boing Boing had me contribute to their marvelous weeklong tribute to Robert Anton Wilson — and only as I sat down to write something for them, I remembered that “The Timothy Leary/Robert Anton Wilson trip” was at the unfinished top of my outline of things I need to write for the book. I had put it off as a big challenge and had moved on to other stories and observations.

I originally imagined that this entry for the book would be largely about the philosophy or Reality Tunnel that some call the “Leary-Wilson Paradigm.”  I would — of necessity — interrupt a narrative flow that leans towards storytelling to explain ideas, since the “Leary-Wilson Paradigm,” more than anything else influenced the magazine I wanted to create.

But as my story about discovering the Illuminatus Trilogy emerged for the Boing Boing contribution, it became clear to me that I needed to explain my fascination with Leary in a somewhat similar style — ultimately merging the two stores into one short section of the Mondo book.

And it was while thinking about my initial fascination with Leary that this entry took a dangerous turn towards “confessing” my mid-70s fascination with famous pariahs…  outcasts from outcast culture. I have a touch of trepidation about presenting these thoughts in these knee jerk times… that people will think I’m speaking to today’s politics rather than the complicated and sometimes contradictory impulses that motivate activity  — and also wonder, often, if I’m going to be telling the MONDOids the stories they want to hear — or if I should care about it.

As to the stuff about Leary maybe being “a fink,” yes… I leave it hanging, as it will always be hanging.  I would say, though, that one of my favorite moments in Mondo history was when I began editing the conversation Leary had taped with William Gibson  (not knowing it would ultimately be transcribed for print) and came across Tim casually talking about being thrown into “the hole” in a Minnesota Prison because the feds were dissatisfied with his testimony about the Weather Underground. (You won’t find it in the linked segment, but you will find it in the magazine… if you have a copy.)

Anyway, for your reading pleasure… a possible fragment from the Mondo 2000 History Project book, tentatively titled “Use Your Hallucinations: A History of Mondo 2000 and the Cyber Counterculture.”

Pariahs Made Me Do It: The Leary-Wilson-Warhol-Dali Influence

As you already have surmised, I came up through the New Left Revolution years.  From 1968 – 1971 — during and just after high school, I knew that the revolution had come.   Some as yet inchoate mix of left anarchist radicalism and newly psychedelicized youth mutation was simply taking over the world by storm.  As Hunter Thompson famously rhapsodized, “There was madness in any direction, at any hour… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.… Our energy would simply prevail…We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”  Right (or left) or wrong, it was exciting and energizing to be a part of it.

But by the mid-70s, people on the left radical countercultural scene had become — at best, mopey and quarrelsome — and, at worst, either criminally insane or very tightly wound politically correct environmentalist/feminist/health-food scolds.  People were either bitchy; or in retreat — smoking pot and listening to the mellow sounds of James Taylor and Carole King.

I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but I needed to create a space within my psyche that liberated me from the constancy of moral judgment and eco-apocalypse mongering — and one that also didn’t represent a retreat into the mediocrity of middle class liberalism.

Thus, I was attracted to flamboyant “hip pariahs” who were very un-left, politically incorrect… even, in some cases, right wing.

There was the glam rock rebellion against blue denim hippie populism. These performers insulted egalitarianism by dressing and performing in ways that set them apart from their generation’s rock audiences . (Naturally, good old Mick Jagger was the major rock god who didn’t need to change to be a part of it.)  David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed all nipped — in interviews and lyrics and musical styles — at assumed countercultural values while also mocking, at least, cultural conservatism by their very androgynous existences.

I gobbled up materials on, or by, Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali — each, in their way, pariah outcasts from political decency — particularly Dali.

By being an unsane solipsistic monarchist, loving money, supporting the fascist Francisco Franco, Dali seemed to me to be the purest of surrealists, running with his subconscious atavistic impulses against the earlier sympathies of the surrealists with the left and developing an utterly inexcusable (sometimes when I say — as I do at the opening of this book — that aspects of my story and my mind are inexcusable, I’m not just using colorful language. I mean it literally) but original persona.  His autobiographical and philosophic texts defied logic in ways that seemed to me to be more genuinely playful and funny than his former fellow travels in 20th Century Surrealism who had long since denounced him.

Warhol played an even more important role in liberating my soul and psyche from the depths of resentment and rational piety since his very role in art and culture was to create a space free from judgment.  While Andy was nominally a liberal, his deadpan consumerist art and aphorisms had a Zen quality — it could, paradoxically, cause you to embrace the flow of frozen moments and artifice for artifice’s sake by inducing silence in the chattering, protesting, judging brain.  To properly experience Warhol was to almost stop thinking… in the best possible way… while still hanging on by a thread to a sense of humorous irony.

And then there was Dr. Timothy Leary. There was the legendary Leary…  all that stuff about turning on tuning in dropping out the 1960s.  I had read and enjoyed his book High Priest, but actually thought of him as something of an old guy who seemed to be trying too hard to fit into the youth culture.  It was the Leary of the ‘70s that fascinated me.  During the height of my own romantic infatuation with “The Revolution,” Leary had made a heroic prison escape. He had been spirited away by the guerrilla warriors of the Weather Underground and had shown up in Algeria with Eldridge Cleaver’s exiled Black Panther chapter, pronouncing unity between the psychedelic and leftist and black revolutions and promising to help Cleaver form a revolutionary US government in exile.  At that time, all of these people — Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, Eldridge Cleaver, Timothy Leary, Stew Albert — who led a contingent of Yippies over there to cement the alliance — were icons to me, more or less on a par with The Beatles and The Stones (or at least, the Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix).

Then, after conflicts with Cleaver — and just as the buzz of the revolution was souring, he had disappeared, showing up only in a few gossipy pieces that portrayed him hanging out with fellow exile Keith Richards and issuing bon mots that were more of the flavor of Oscar Wilde than Che Guevara.

Then, he was caught in Afghanistan and shipped back in chains to the USA facing a lifetime in prison.  And not long after that, rumors circulated that he was ratting out the radical movement.   This was very depressing.  But at the same time, occasional interesting signals emerged — usually published in the underground press — from Folsom Prison where he was being held.  Strange little quotes about being an intelligence agent for the future; about “offering the only hopeful eschatology around today;” about dna being a seed from outer space; about “going home” to galaxy central and human destiny being in the stars; about how he was writing a  “science faction” book.  Odd signals not fully formed — nevertheless somehow intriguingly differing from the dour vibe emitted by the rest of those publications at that particular time. I couldn’t help myself.  My mutant brain was already starting to find the apostate Leary’s signals refreshing.  I was doomed to become a “science faction” mutant.

[ insert Robert Anton Wilson section here ]

It was several years later, in 1976, that I came across an edition of Crawdaddy, a very cool rock magazine with regular columns by William Burroughs and Paul Krassner that contained an article about the recently released Dr. Tim.  The writer hung out with Tim as he wandered around NYC rattling off his ideas about SMI2LE — Space Migration Intelligence Increase Life Extension — sending up the first coherent transhumanist flare of the 20th Century. There was a picture of Leary in a business suit standing between the newly built twin towers wearing a smile that laughed out loud and pointing, almost violently, with his right forefinger upward to outer space. This was something new.  The picture took its place on my wall in between the cover of the first Ramones album and the picture of Squeeky Fromme being arrested after her attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

My final “conversion” to Learyesque proto-transhumanism came in 1977.  It was summer and my mother had the intuitive sense to hustle me away from Binghamton, where my friends were becoming junkies, and moved me early to the college town of Brockport New York where I would start school that fall. The town was empty and there was nothing to do. But the town’s bookstore was open.  I walked in and there — on prominent display — were two books by Timothy Leary, Exo-Psychology and Neuropolitics. The latter also credited Robert Anton Wilson.

I read those books frontways and back and inside out.  And then I read them again. It all resonated.  It all made sense to me.  It was a way of interpreting the world that respected my psychedelic experiences and my times within the counterculture and gave them a new context — one that hadn’t yet failed!  These were now the evolutionary experiences of a premature mutant breaking at least partly free of the programming of an unhappy, repressive civilization so that I could move it towards a bright and expansive future.  The expansiveness that had so energized and delighted me during the late 1960s and early ‘70s would now be — at least partially — a science project to literally expand our space and time and minds perhaps unto infinity.

I was excited, but I was also tentative. I paced around my small one room apartment.  Was I crazy?  Was I wrong?  By now, self identifying as a 1977 spikey-haired hipster who liked to put his cheap punk nihilism unapologetically front and center (yes, trendiness haunts all my days), could I tell anybody about my philosophic attraction to the upbeat pariah and possible fink Dr. Leary?   Actually, that’s something I still ask myself today, although it is clearly too late.


Jan 08 2012

2012 And The Failure Of Imagination


Advocates of psychedelic drugs often claim that psychedelics expand consciousness and stimulate the imagination. To demonstrate this point a few famous examples are often repeated, such as Francis Crick envisioning the spiral shape of DNA while high on LSD; Kerry Mullis coming up with his Nobel Prize winning PCR DNA replication method while high on LSD; or Steve Jobs seeing a world of people connected by Apple computers while high on LSD. There is some truth to these few examples, enough truth to make hipster comedian Bill Maher exclaim that taking LSD makes you a genius in a rant about how putting LSD in Halloween candy might actually be a good thing. After decades of bad press and public mockery, it seems that psychedelics have finally escaped the fringes and are ready to be embraced by the mainstream as miracle cures. More and more average people are reading about the healing properties of psychedelics, and more public figures are warming to the notion that psychedelics can create powerful and lasting spiritual experiences. Scientific publishing in psychedelic research is at an all time high. And then there is something about Mayans and 2012.

Whatever else you have to say about psychedelics, the meme of 2012 is now inseparable from psychedelic thought. Just like the term “entheogen” has replaced the term “hallucinogen,” the meme of a catastrophic or epic evolution in human culture has now replaced peace, love, and unity. Concepts of freeing your mind and seeking inner peace have morphed over the decades into dramatic tales of impending apocalypse and revolution, ending in a singularity that will engulf and change history forever. And this event may or may not happen on December 21, 2012, which happens to be at the end of the great cycle of the Mayan calendar, which coincides with our sun aligning with the galactic equator during the winter solstice, which only happens once every 26,000 years, or so the mythology goes. But the exact science doesn’t matter. What matters is that instead of eating mushrooms and having a good time, or imagining a cure for cancer, or visualizing a cleaner car engine, you instead get pulled through a singularity and come out thinking your an immortal astral shaman waiting for reality to fold inward on itself at the end of time. And then you think you have discovered the biggest secret in all of human history and you call yourself a genius, and become obnoxious about how prescient you are. And then you think you might be crazy, but then read a dozen trip reports just like yours on Erowid or The Shroomery and you wonder if everyone else has already taken mushrooms and seen this movie. And the answer is yes; we have already seen this movie.

It is easy to point to Terence McKenna as the originator of the modern psychedelic 2012 myth; his Timewave Zero idea was first introduced in “The Invisible Landscape” in 1975. McKenna’s idea came from a mushroom trip in La Chorrera, Columbia, in 1971, and was mostly ignored as insanity for many years. When McKenna’s popularity peaked twenty years later in the mid 1990s, the 2012 meme had already been adopted by Jose Arguelles and John Major Jenkins, and the Mayan connection kicked the meme out of the psychedelic underground and into astrological and New Age subculture. By the time of McKenna’s death in 2000 the 2012 mythology had become so firmly embedded in fringe culture it was even mentioned in the 2002 X-Files TV finale as the date of the impending alien invasion, the hidden secret root of all evil government conspiracies. Even though the details of the 2012 singularity, or the Eschaton, were never well defined, the apocalyptic tinge of the mythology took on a life of its own. The doomsday prophecy is a common theme in human history, and the 2012 myth fit easily into recycled bits from other ancient doomsday prophecies that people are still waiting for. 2012 is a fascinating piece of modern mythology, fascinating enough to be taken seriously by a large group of people. Fascinating enough to become a global meme.

Popular psychedelic mythology may be fun and exciting, but analyzing the worth of the 2012 meme poses some hard problems. For instance, instead of studying physics or biology or computer science and making Nobel prize winning breakthroughs in biochemistry, like the examples mentioned above, many geniuses in the psychedelic underground turned instead to studying Mayan calendars, UFOs, and crop circles, and look everywhere for signs of the end times. This is what I call the first failure of imagination. Instead of following the paths of the few rare individuals who took psychedelics and produced discoveries of great scientific importance, young psychedelic explorers turned instead to tales of stoned apes, machine elves, mushroom aliens, Mayans, 2012, and the transcendent hyperdimensional object at the end of time, as if these were matters of great importance. If taking psychedelics is supposed to turn you into a genius, then all the geniuses taking psychedelics should have been able to distinguish scientific reality from the quasi-spiritual historical fiction comprising the 2012 mythology. It’s not enough that psychedelic imagination starts with the discovery of DNA and ends with everyone connected by iPads — that is not enough. There must also be a global paradigm shift. We won’t be happy unless we get our global paradigm shift. And the global paradigm shift must be so dramatic that it renders all previous human history as obsolete. And we want it to come on an exact date, in an exact year. And it will play out just like revelations with famines and floods and plagues and catastrophic global upheaval.

Which brings us to the second failure of imagination, which can be blamed on the media and popular culture in general. Of all the memes to come out of modern psychedelic thought none has gotten more popular traction than the meme of 2012 and the “end” of the Mayan calendar on December 21st, 2012. Talk shows and news programs run stories on 2012 and the Mayan calendar; conspiracy theorists pick up whatever thread they want and tie it to 2012, and prophets point to 2012 as a time of transcendence, when the impoverished illiterate masses of the world will spontaneously realize we are an enlightened tribe of mushroom children all dancing to the same cosmic drummer. There was a movie about 2012 called 2012 that was horrible, and all the documentaries on History or Discovery channel are so obsessed with apocalypse its hard to tell which end-time prophecy they wish would hit us in the face first. What does this say about the quality of intellectual property coming from the psychedelic meme pool? Of all the progress that has been made in psychedelic research, of all the shamanic exploration through the rainforest, the thing that gets the most imaginative play is how we will destroy ourselves when the big dial on the Mayan calendar clicks over to the next pictogram? Pinning your mythology on an arbitrary, rarely occurring cosmological event seems like a desperate move to me, the kind of thing you pull out of your ass when you’ve run out of good ideas.

If you remember back to the early days of psychedelic experimentation, there was a period of time before McKenna where taking psychedelics was for fun. People turned on, tuned in, dropped out, listened to music, partied, had sex, freaked out, had bummers, got crazy, and found their inner freaky flower child. Now people take psychedelics and get serious; they seek the shamanic cure to every modern malady, or that hole at the end of time where all of history collapses and everything happens all at once. Earnest psychedelic advocates preach about the coming evolution in global consciousness where paradigms shift and the planet transcends into utopia or chaos, or the technological singularity ushers in dystopia or immortality, or something along those lines. For a group of people who used to be so focused on “being here now,” the psychedelic community morphed into a group of New Age future watchers always getting hooked on the next big hype that can never quite live up to its promise. And the biggest hype of them all is 2012. We’ve lived with the promise of 2012 for so many years, how can anything less than elves of chaos erupting out of fractal wormholes possibly satisfy us? Is there any way 2012 can possibly deliver on the outlandish promise of the prophecy?

When McKenna first presented the Timewave Zero meme it was a novelty, it actually came in a package marked “Novelty Theory.” And for many years the 2012 meme was fun and interesting because it was like a thought experiment; it was something you could fiddle with like an algorithm or a piece of software. The 2012 meme allowed all kinds of people to have quibbling discussions over the i Ching and mathematics and Mayan prophecy and Bible prophecy and ancient aliens and so on. The 2012 meme lived on past McKenna’s death and was recycled by New Age writers looking for a new hook into astrology, spirituality, prophecy, movie screenplays, and so on. The 2012 meme was such a convenient hook that people didn’t need to use their imaginations anymore — the screenplay for the future had already been written. That is fine for a thought experiment or for a whim of the popular imagination, but now it is actually the year 2012 and it will be the year 2012 all year long. I was sick of the year 2012 fifteen years ago. I’m not sure how much more 2012 I can take. The closer the December date becomes the more fixated the public consciousness will become on what it all means. The inventory on the shelves of our modern mythology cannot move forward until then, our imaginations are stamped with an expiration date, and we will be forced to eat the same old 2012 apocalypse transformation meme over and over again until it expires at the end of the year. No new memes are allowed until then. There is a singularity in time blocking any planning forward into 2013. It is a blurry space clouded by the dark side of the Force. All we can do is ride out this disaster movie until it’s over, and then its over. When 2012 passes without major incident the public imagination will be bankrupt, our modern mythology will be devoid of meaning, and we will be forced to think about what happens next. And that is scarier than having to deal with any singularity.

Latching on to a science fiction end-times prophecy is not genius. It is not expanded consciousness. And it is not a triumph of imagination. 2012 is lazy thinking and empty ideological fatalism with no hope of delivering on its promise. The 2012 meme represents the most infantile aspect of psychedelic thought; the wish to get something for nothing, believing that major change will happen by doing nothing more than waiting for a date on the calendar. By adopting the 2012 meme the psychedelic community went from being that tie-dyed hippie saying “Peace and Love” to that tattooed burner with a sign reading “The End is Near” in under two decades. That a group so fascinated with love and peace would adopt such a nihilistic and grandiose mythology and that the public consciousness would be attracted to this meme over any other offering from the psychedelic community demonstrates a fundamental failure of public imagination. It is impossible to say how many millions of people have taken psychedelics in the past few decades, but if the 2012 meme is the fittest idea to come of the psychedelic community since 1971 than we are in trouble. The mushroom’s gift to humanity has trapped us in an end-time prophecy awaiting the impending singularity. That is just embarrassing. The mushrooms clearly need new writers. But that’s too bad, because new ideas are embargoed until 2013, when our imaginations can go back to work. We’ll need a bunch of new memes for the rest of the 21st century. Our old memes have expired.

Jan 04 2012

Commandeering the Inner Space Shuttle: Silence and Ecstasy in the Sensory Deprivation Tank


I recently began a series of experiments with the sensory deprivation tank as developed by John C. Lilly, M.D., a device that most have heard of but few have tried. (Yes, that’s the one from the 1980 movie Altered States.) It took me a decade and a half of self-directed experimentation on consciousness to finally get around to using one. Luckily, when I was ready, I found that there was a facility five minutes from my workplace. I booked the time. I got in.

The sensory deprivation tank is exactly that — a large, soundproof, lightproof tank filled with shallow, warm, buoyant water, all designed to completely shut off all sensory input.

The tank itself is heated to exactly 93.0º, a temperature that feels warm without being intrusive, so that your body quickly tunes it out. The water — just shallow enough to lie in — is saturated with Epsom salt, which means that you float effortlessly on the surface. It also means any cuts or scratches that you may have gotten before going in will start viciously burning; for this Vaseline is recommended to cover over them and keep out the salt.

The inside of the tank is remarkably spacious — big enough to sit up in, even stand up while crouching. (The model I used was the Samadhi, the original developed by Lilly. There are other versions; tanks in Europe, apparently, are often much smaller and pod-like, offering very little room to move about in, limiting the size and weight of the occupant.) The inside of the tank is about three and a half feet wide; consequently, I spent a lot of time sliding from one side to the next until I figured out how to stabilize myself. (Hint: Stick your arms out and hold the sides until the water calms down, then hold yourself completely still and breathe slow and deep enough that you don’t disturb the water. Breathing slow, of course, will also help stabilize your body and mind faster.)

One’s experience in the tank, as I was told, is highly susceptible to suggestion. For this reason, the owners of the venue I visited told me they’re very careful about not telling people anything but the basics when they get in, in order not to pre-load their trip.

I found I had some of my own pre-loading to get rid of after getting into the comforting darkness of the tank. Foremost in my mind were the experiences of the tank’s founder himself, Dr. John Lilly: born in 1915, Lilly was raised on a rigid scientific track, developing the tank in the early 1950s while studying neurophysiology for the US Public Health Service Commissioned Officers Corps—work allegedly connected with the CIA MK-ULTRA program, though he broke with the US government almost immediately thereafter. His own experiences were nothing short of revelatory. He later went on to do research trying to communicate with dolphins while on LSD, became involved in SETI, and continued using the tank until his death a few weeks after 9/11.

Lilly reported some mind-stretching tank visions in his books. At one point he believed he had come into contact with extraterrestrials, or “Earth Coincidence Control Organization (ECCO),” as he called them. He also spoke forebodingly of a potential period in the future where “Solid State Intelligence (SSI),” an entity that he believed was composed of the entirety of electronics on earth, would take over and dispense with human life. (Facebook anyone?) But then again, Lilly wasn’t just going in cold: he extensively experimented first with using LSD in the tank, then with Ketamine, both substances he had easy access to as a member of the medical establishment.

These are the images I had swirling in my mind as I climbed into the tank; not surprisingly, nothing happened as long as I continued expecting fireworks on-demand. It wasn’t until I consciously let go and decided to see what the tank had to offer on its own terms that I started to get something. And at least for me, what I experienced wasn’t “psychedelic” at all—far from a mental experience, what I discovered was a drop into a deeply physical, embodied state; once this had happened, the boundaries of the body, tank and space itself just seemed to fall away. Thereafter I seemed to enter into a primal infinity, from which perspective I could comfortably see not just my rational mind but the entire mental bandwidth of Western culture as a tiny, almost inconsequential pinprick in a vast field of mystery. Not “the light,” not “the void” or other shorthands for the unthinkable… simply an endless mystery.

I’ve tried innumerable meditation techniques over the last decade and a half: I’ve learned to sit inhumanly still for hours, slow my breath down to one inhale/exhale per minute, learned the original kundalini yoga of the Himalayan adepts up at 13,000 feet in India, studied a bit of Zen and Tibetan forms of meditation like Samatha or “calm abiding.” But no matter how you twist, prime or calm yourself, the same problem always remains: the body just won’t go away. Even if you’ve “mastered” your awareness of the physical and can sit like a rock with little to no breath, you’re still going to have awareness of the body, and it will continually remind you it exists. Which gives you two options: suppress it as much as you can, or work with it.

But with the tank, the body is just so free of external sensation, and so contented with its literally womb-like surroundings, that it just kind of blips out.

Well, let me rephrase that. First, it fidgets insufferably. Adjusting to the tank can be so initially frustrating that the center I visited gives the first hour for free. Once you “get it,” though, your body remembers the right position and will enter that state rapidly every time you get into the tank from then on.

After the initial learning curve I ended up in place more relaxed, more contented, more free, more expanded than I have after years of meditation — in a few minutes. So much of the discipline of yoga and classic meditation manuals like the Hatha Yoga Pradpika is concerned with “turning the body off” with proper physical postures; a sensory deprivation tank does it almost immediately. The classic instructions for yoga all seem to continue to apply to the tank experience — stilling the body and breath, offering the in-breath into the out-breath, and so on — but one is immediately put into an ideal state physical state, the kind it presumably takes years of yoga practice to get to, if it is even reachable at all without the tank.  

For that alone, I’m a new convert. Take away all the spiritual woo, the promises of inner experiences, and at the very base level you have a tool for relaxing more deeply than perhaps previously thought possible, identifying and then releasing muscle tension you weren’t even aware was there. You feel it. And then you let it go, bit by bit. And then you float. The applications for health alone, when so many physical problems are caused by chronically holding tension, are obvious. Of course, as the physical tension goes, so does the mental tension. I found myself getting insights into, and letting go, of long-standing mental cramps, deep unsolved indecisions or confusions, that I’d forgotten were even there, as they had been embedded into the background noise of the mind for so long.

Of course, that was just the beginning. Beyond the relaxation of the body, I observed a secondary effect: the body enters what I can describe only as an orgasmic field. Here we enter into the domain of Wilhelm Reich’s orgonomy or even of mysticism but, put simply, the message was that nearly all mental and physical tension is the individual attempting to suppress its natural orgasmic state. By orgasmic I don’t specifically mean orgasmic release through sexual contact — I mean that when the body’s energy becomes unlocked it, itself, becomes all-over orgasmic. One releases into infinite “bliss,” the body-as-orgasm melting into the universe-as-orgasm.

Lilly experienced something similar, writing in his autobiography The Scientist (in third person) that “The tank experiences gave him new access to bodily pleasure which he found difficult to integrate with his rather… Calvinistic conscience. His conflicts with sexual expression, sexual transactions, took up a good deal of his time. The resting body accumulated positive energies that were expressible sexually to an almost intolerable level. He began to recognize the intrinsic nature of sexual drives. His parallel studies in neurophysiology revealed the sources of the sexual energy within the central nervous system. He began to see that these sources existed in himself, in his own brain.”

The next level was the seeming heightening of “psychic” phenomena such as telepathic communication (with people who could be dozens of miles away) and the intrusion of “energies” or imagery from the collective unconscious, or simply the individual unconscious depending on how much one gives credence to the idea of transpersonal mind. As these phenomena are entirely subjective, unverifiable and largely deeply individualized to those who experience them, I here pass over details of any specific content, leaving this to individual experience.

The usual tank session is an hour. One returns to “normal” consciousness immediately and seamlessly after exiting the tank. There is no hangover or disorientation. I found rush hour traffic while leaving the facility slightly more aggravating after the peaceful tank experience, but beyond that there were no noticeable side effects. More importantly, one feels as if one has just awoken from a deeply satisfying and relaxing sleep, even if one didn’t sleep in the tank, and even, as I experienced, if floating after a long and hectic working day.

It seems that, when separated from outside stimulus and given free reign, the bodymind knows exactly what it needs to do to restore health and equilibrium to itself, and goes about doing it, quickly and precisely.

For these reasons — and more I’m sure I’ve yet to discover — I recommend the tank to all.

It’s a technology that has largely fallen by the wayside, though it’s recently been making a comeback thanks in part to the highly enthusiastic publicity the comedian Joe Rogan has given it. I suspect that it probably has more to offer us now than it did when Lilly invented it. Silence is a rare commodity in our overstimulated world.

We owe it to ourselves to give ourselves back to ourselves.

Find a place near you to float here:

Jason Louv is the author of Queen Valentine and editor of Generation Hex, Ultraculture and Thee Psychick Bible.

Dec 04 2011

Psychedelic Transpersonal Photography, High Frontiers & MONDO 2000: an Interview with Marc Franklin


I met Marc Franklin (aka Lord Nose) in 1984, when I was putting together a little magazine called High Frontiers (with our first issue, we declared ourselves “the official psychedelic magazine of the 1984 Summer Olympics” — no one else rose up to challenge us for the title).  High Frontiers would eventually become Mondo 2000 via Reality Hackers.  After seeing the initial edition, edited and designed primarily by myself and Mark Frost (who christened himself Somerset MauMau), Franklin gave us a call, telling us that he loved what we were doing but that we desperately needed some design help.  Which we did.

Cover, High Frontiers #2

Marc ended up designing what — for me — may be my favorite edition of the entire 13 year “Mondo” publishing experience — issue #2 of High Frontiers.  As he tells it himself, each spread in HF #2 is a visual feast — a “poster.”  On the cover of the big hot pink “17” x “11” magazine was the mutated face of Art Linkletter saying “Kids do the darnedest drugs,” along with a three-eared Mickey Mouse holding up a blotter of CIA LSD (along with a few other design elements.). Although we only published 2,000 copies, this edition had both elegance and street cred and put us on the map with alternative periodical distributors and newsstands alike.  It also caused at least a few perturbations within the psychedelic community, but mostly, people were bowled over by the sense of art and fun that emanated from its pages.

Employing a uniquely personal and revealing photographic style, Marc went on to work on an amazing project photographing nearly all of the still-living psychedelic explorers in the 1980s and ‘90s.  Now there is a gallery showing in Los Angeles that includes these photos — some of them blown up into 24’ x 36″ prints — as well as some very unique “nature photos” that add to the aesthetic of the presentation.

If you’re in or near LA, make haste — go right now to SPF:a Gallery where the exhibit will be up until the end of 2011.  You’re in for a consciousness expanding experience.

In the following interview, I do two things. In Part 1, I reminisce with “Mr. Nose” about our experiences with High Frontiers.  Some of this material (and more – we’ll be doing further conversations) will be used in the Mondo 2000 History Project book and website that will tell the story of that historic “psychedelic cyberculture” publishing project through the voices of as many of the contributors as I can rope in.  And in Part 2, I talk with Mr. Franklin about his amazing photography project.

Incidentally, if you follow all the links from this conversation, you can get a full education in the worlds of psychedelic research along with these colorful anecdotes.


MARC FRANKLIN (LORD NOSE):  I found High Frontiers #1 in a head shop on San Francisco’s Haight Street called Pipe Dreams. I grabbed it immediately and began reading it and then I bought it. I discovered that you had put a little notice in there about people that wanted to help to contact you, so I hurried home and immediately called the number listed. I realized that it was an opportunity for myself to kind of assist a nascent publication that had amazing potential. I thought: this is a hot idea! I love the idea.

You and Somerset MauMau came over.  I was living in a house on Broderick Street close to the bottom of the Panhandle in San Francisco with my wife Betsy that we shared with the owner, Don Emery.  Don had bought a wonderful 1906 Queen Anne that had been completely renovated. It was just totally luxurious.

I remember very vividly you guys arriving.  I’ll never forget what you said to me the very first moment we met. I had opened the door and you said, “We don’t look like what you’d expect.” (laughs). It’s funny also because nine years later someone else said the very same thing when I first met her…

I had designed numerous publications before then in New York. I had been working professionally doing that. I had also worked as a photographer. I had done the photography for the 1974 Mobil Annual Report. Back then, Mobil Oil was the fifth largest corporation in the world. However, photographing a phosphate strip mine operation in Florida really radicalized me. I thought: whoa, that’s the wrong direction. I’m not going in that direction. I’m going as far away from that as possible.  So High Frontiers was the perfect vehicle — the perfect opportunity.

Anyway, after we met, we had agreed to get together and hang out. We wound up going one day out to Tennessee Valley in Mill Valley. It was MauMau, myself, you and Betsy. We had quite an experience with trying out for the first time “ecstasy” (MDMA) and — we sort of all bonded. That is, with the exception of Betsy.

MDMA was a change from every psychoactive I had previously experienced. It was certainly different and, of course, it was not a psychedelic. It was where we dropped the “I/Thou” and suddenly we’re all these big amorphous fingers on one hand. We all felt so damn good. And, then there’s Betsy off alone. Betsy was dealing with the fact that she needed to leave me. And this experience gave her the space she needed to deal with that. So the three of us were tight and Betsy was dealing with her own stuff. And I felt really strange about that, but at the same time, it was perfect.

RU: You were having a good time anyway.

MF: Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t that it was a bad time for her… but it was a difficult time for both of us, generally.


MF:  The subject matter was something that was quite dear to me. I had come out to California to continue my study and practice of shamanism. I mean, that was the end-all, be-all for what I was doing. I was really learning about healing modalities, and divination. One of the aspects, of course, was psychedelic shamanism. So it was just like hand-in-glove. It was like here the universe is providing me with an opportunity that I could not pass up. Looking back, at the time, that it was a very good fit.

We all seemed to have that same kind of spark. There was some spirit there that really grabbed me immediately. I thought: this is beyond a job… this is not a job. This is a lifestyle. It was beyond anything one would normally consider. It felt so good. And right.

At the same time, I was undergoing emotional turmoil with the breakup with Betsy.  So it was a pretty interesting sort of rebirth — a death of one aspect of myself and the birth of another. It was quite a challenge to shift — to sort it all out. It was almost like a landlubber suddenly getting onto a ship. You have to get your sea legs. You’re kind of walking along and suddenly you’re thrust out onto a moving vessel in the throes of a storm. It’s either sink or swim. You’re either going to be able to do it or you’re going to fail. And it was not a matter of failure. It wasn’t in the cards. There was some important reason for it all happening.


MF: At first, I didn’t have an idea of what I would do with the design of this new magazine. I mean, I had some thoughts about it.  I had taken advanced graphic design classes with Milton Glaser and Henry Wolf and Clay Felker from New York Magazine when I was in New York. I was really crazy about publication design.

When it came time to conceptualize the magazine, I decided and told you and MauMau that what I wanted to do was create something where each spread was like a poster.  Each page would be — in and of itself —something really inspired. I said, “When you enter into that non-ordinary reality, it’s not tepid. That is so dramatic.” So I wanted to kind of utilize the knowledge I’d gathered to do something that was really aesthetically grabbing. At that point, psychedelics had such a bad rap… you know… had a lot of baggage because it was all over the map in terms of how people were using them and the results. And I felt it was really important to do something in terms of the neopsychedelic notion.  It had to be strikingly different. To boot, we had no real budget, so I had to rely on my ingenuity. Hitting upon the Xerox copier—like the Punk fliers that were around then — allowed for a cheap workaround. Especially when the sympathetic clerks realized what I was doing. Most times they would not charge me for each copy I had made… usually because I would spend hours on the machine, selecting, resizing, cropping, collaging and experimenting all before them. The creative process is not linear— and I am definitely not a left brained sort… without intuitive spontaneity the results look quite dismally plain. Ordinary. Our magazine required exceptional graphics.

Choreographer and dancer Lucas Hoving in High Frontiers #2

RU SIRIUS:  It really pulled off a new aesthetic that was really hip and really irreverent and appealing to young people.

MF:  At the same time, it was different from the then current design standpoint. None of the stuff I do is ever trendy. Actually, there’s a certain inherent classicism so the project looks as fresh today as it’ll look thirty years forward.

RU: And yet that second issue sort of fit in with the punk vibe that was around.

MF:  Oh, yeah.  Living close to the Haight — and what with all of the punk bands in San Francisco and that graphic look that they had — I wanted to take advantage of that because I liked it. There was a freshness to it. A certain rawness. A haphazard spontaneity. At the same time, the Punk aesthetic was generally pretty rough edged. So I took a pinch of that influence and morphed it into something else. Kind of thesis, antithesis… and then you get your final product — a unique synthesis.


MF: Every weekend we went out there to that cove and spent the entire night there.  It was the most extraordinary period of growth, because we were getting to know ourselves from a very different point of view. And we were getting to know each other—plus, we were getting to know other people as well. I could not help but think we were pretty mindful of the fact that we were doing something important with the magazine… without feeling self-important. Carol (High Frontiers attorney) had said to me one day: “You’re dreaming for the rest of us.” She was correct.

RU: Usually it was you, me, and MauMau… and we’d sorta pick out one or two people and bring them out… (laughs)

MF: Yeah… and totally freak them out. (laughs) They were never the same after that.  Reflecting back on it — that was really ballsy. But at the same time, it was done with such a good intention and good-heartedness— and a sense of humor. But mostly, in innocence. I know we were genuinely innocent because we were never trying to impose ourselves on these other people. I’ve had so many weird, peculiar experiences with some of those strange people who had come through the doors — especially those power trippers that came through.

RU: You mean during those times, or at other times?

MF: Yeah, during the High Frontiers period. One day I had an unusual experience with some psychologist that I met through the magazine. We went out there to the Valley together.

This I’ll never forget:  I had driven over from Berkeley. As soon as we had gotten high, suddenly this other entity appeared on the scene. Now, it became abundantly clear I was in danger. Psychic danger. This became a battle. It turned really weeeiiiird… I mean really, really weeeiiird…

Now when I say weird, I’m talking like vampire weird where I knew that there was something extraordinarily wrong with his intention. I recall that we split up during this experience. A bit later, when we met on a trail, he said to me something along the lines of: “thanks for the ride.” It was clear he meant he had somehow… I don’t know what he done to me psychically. I have no idea what happened, except that… it was very, very, very weeeiiird. Suddenly, still out in the ozone, I’m leaving the place alone. How he got back, I have no idea. And I never ever heard from him again. (An analogy today: he downloaded files without permission… a “sneak and peek” rummaging through my mind.)

RU:  (laughs) Yeah, there were some spooky times there.

MF:  There was one time, you and I came back to Mill Valley, and it was the same kind of stuff.  This insanely weird stuff going on. You can’t talk to someone about this because they’ll think you’re absolutely bonkers. Guess we were/are?

RU: Was that the day we came back to Mill Valley and there was a guy in the burrito shop in front of us who was naked?

MF:  No, I don’t remember that.

RU:  (laughs) I think that was you, me and MauMau…  but you had split back to San Francisco already. And it was one of the most intensely strange excursions. We were back in Mill Valley, and we were like: Are we in a Philip K. Dick novel? Is this the same universe we were in before or a parallel universe? And then we walk into the burrito shop and there’s this guy in front of us completely naked. (laughs).  Then I knew we had come down to a different universe.  I went to a phone booth and called Terence McKenna about it.

MF: I remember one.  I think it was the first time that we had spent an evening with LSD, and fortunately at that time we were able to get some really clean stuff and it was one of those spectacularly diamond clear experiences. And at the end, we had been given some DMT to experiment with… the first time that we did that. And that was… a remarkable revelation. I love DMT.

RU: I think we had actually sort of been debating — (both laugh) — earth vs. space or something like that. And then we sat down and smoked the DMT and that just kinda splattered rational argument into a zillion pieces. None of it mattered.

MF: That was when we began the quest. The quest for using multi-molecule routes.

RU: Synergy.

MF: The synergies.  I told Sasha (Shulgin) that the best combination I’d found was 2cb and DMT. He was amazed…. couldn’t believe it. For me, that was the best one. I liked that combination the most… of all the trials run.

RU: Yeah. They both are highly energetic.

MF: We both really liked the DMT.

RU:  Yeah, that was a real love affair for me.

In the process of designing the second issue, I remember you doing excursions for inspiration almost like for every image. Is my memory false, or…

MF:  (laughs) No. It’s very true. You would bring me an article. And I’d read it and then try to get a handle on it. What was it exactly that had to be brought forth visually to make it worthwhile — because it couldn’t just be a simple illustration. That’s not what it was about. It was more a matter of finding the essence of the story and then bringing that out visually. Like the amazing story we had by Ram Dass gotten from Peter Stafford’s  “Magic Grams.” [unpublished book manuscript] It was a terrific piece and I think the illustration really, really worked on numerous levels.


MF:  I’d split with Betsy in July.  I was living in a loft in the Tenderloin. I had no money. You said, come to the San Francisco Symphony with me to sell season tickets. Here I am — tongue-tied, totally introverted… but flat broke. When I began with High Frontiers; I was about as insular as you can be.  My wife had been working in the world.  I very much liked being quiet, being in the wings, and not having to assert myself. And suddenly, I’m thrown out there to the lions. I’m out of money.  I said, “Well, I’ll give it a shot.”

High Frontiers #2 Centerfold

For the first two weeks, I didn’t make one sale. Not one. It was strictly commission. I was determined to succeed. It was important for me to learn how to communicate verbally. As you know, I have this enormous capacity to persevere. Finally, on the 15th day, I made my first sale… and then I started making at least $200 a week! You know, that was not bad considering we only worked four hours a day. Suddenly, I learned how to speak with strangers, how to get them to see my point of view. I realized that I enjoyed it. It was like learning that while all my life I had never played baseball — but when I was forced to play, that I loved the game, and was good at it to boot.

I remember that you and I moved into a house in Berkeley, a duplex.  We were gathering the material for a magazine with lots of people coming around. It was coalescing into quite a scene.

That certainly was fun because at the same time it was during the reign of Ronald Reagan and here we’re doing something so completely opposite to mainstream, conservative America. How could we not just adore what we were doing?

Here we’re working towards a lofty goal — the excitement was really, really palpable. Creating this magazine was worthwhile. There was finally a reason for being…

I had set up a studio in the back bedroom. You were living in the living room. Your mattress was a simple piece of foam rubber that you slept on.  No furniture at all. Then, suddenly, you got together with Alison (Kennedy aka Queen Mu) and began living in the antique-laden lap of luxury up in her place in the Hills.


RU:   Not long before we had the issue printed, we went down to LA.  That was a great trip!

MF:  I remember when we interviewed Timothy Leary — we finished interviewing him and we were talking afterwards. His wife, Barbara, came out and she said she was going to the gym. And he said, “Can I join you?” And she said something along the lines of… “no.” And we realized Barbara ran the show. Tim was just completely shot down. “No, you can’t join me.” I was shocked. Here’s the great Tim Leary and look at the way he’s…

We went to see Tommy Retitg [ed: he was Timmy in the TV show Lassie] That was the fun one. We went to his house — his apartment in Marina Del Rey… He was a nice, kind person. And he turned us on to some guy that had created a little booklet of materials for replenishing your neurochemicals if you use these miraculous molecules. We published some of it.

And then we went to see the publisher Jeremy Tarcher in Beverly Hills. In another wing of the house, his wife Shari Lewis was having singing lesson. We were talking with Jeremy, when Shari comes out and says: “You weren’t here, were you?” She was so embarrassed.

I remember driving down to Manhattan Beach to meet Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw. There was a heavy, low fog. Looking up, one could see the arcs running between the insulator and the wires as we passed Los Angeles Power and Light’s generation plant.  Just like in Blade Runner. It looked like we were entering Hell. Arriving in their neighborhood, in the street, there was Sandy screaming into a two-way radio… announcing our arrival. Apparently she’s deaf.

RU: Wasn’t she dressed in…

MF:  Black leather.

RU: I remember they were in army fatigues… camouflage. Sandy screams into a walkie-talkie: “They’re here!”

MF:  They had this green pallor about them… oh, my God. I have a photograph of them with him opening that refrigerator filled with all those hundreds of nutrients.  What a strange couple they were…

RU: They had, like, the strongest weed I’d ever smoked and then we all sat down and watched some weird Masterpiece Theater spy show that they were really into . (both laugh).

Remember what happened when we returned from LA?

MF: Oh, yeah. We came back and suddenly the house was transformed. I remember that the guys who were living in Marin… MauMau and Amalgam X and so on had brought over all kinds of pillows and coverings. But first they had destroyed the house. It was sort of like destruction and then creation.

RU: MauMau had basically eaten all of the magical molecules that we had in the refrigerator… everything at once.  I think he drank a jug of wine first.

MF: …Then just completely destroyed everything. And then they came back and they fixed everything.

RU:  Things started to split up in various ways pretty quickly even before the publication of that issue.  There were a lot of really different characters involved.

MF: Right. Mau au and X sort of split off and stayed mostly in Marin while we were in Berkeley.  (Amalgam X!  What an amazing character! What a genius for comedy!)

We stayed in Berkeley and they were doing their craziness over there. It was very interesting. From a sociological standpoint, the difference between what was happening in Marin and what was happening in Berkeley was pretty interesting. Berkeley was much more cerebral, more intellectual.

RU: (laughs) Yeah, we were like two tribes. We were all Jews over in Berkeley. (both laugh) We tried to keep it together. (both laugh).




RU:  So you started this almost lifelong project of photographing individuals who were involved in psychedelics in some way. Describe how that came about.

MF:  Well, I bought my first Nikon F, an SLR, in 1961, while a sophomore at Pratt. I worked in a paint store. For 75 cents an hour. So you can imagine how long it took me to make $200 to buy the camera. I scrimped and I saved, but I bought this camera. When I discovered the “camera,” I realized that I no longer wanted to be an industrial designer. No longer was I interested in designing racing cars. Thus began my lifelong love affair with creating two-dimensional images.

In 1988, I spent the entire summer in Europe. I called Albert Hofmann… it being the 50 years since the first time that he created LSD-25… I called him and I told him that I wanted to visit him to do a photograph. He said he would welcome that, but he couldn’t do it then.  I think he was having a health issue. I knew he was coming to Santa Rosa that October for the Association of Transpersonal Psychologists annual meeting. (Stan Grof’s group).

I arranged to meet him there.  I photograph him on a Sunday before the event began to catch him fresh. The next day I had the film processed. That evening, I made a print — went back up to Santa Rosa, presented Albert with the portrait, and I explained to him that I plan to photograph all of the living psychedelic pioneers.”

Albert Hoffman, photo by Marc Franklin

At this time, the US government was running a stupid ad campaign, truly asinine propaganda: “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs.” Showing a fried egg. Preposterous. Lumping psychedelics together with speed, opiates, and all the myriad other drugs of abuse. I thought, “You know, that’s such a load of horseshit. I must do something about that!”

Knowing full well that so many wildly creative, intellectually robust, well-rounded individuals had seriously and irreverently undertaken working with psychedelics as healing agents, for divining the future, for creativity, for re-creation… they weren’t the burn-outs, the walking wounded, riff raff, that the government would have you see — but rather they were society’s most intelligent beings. These were the leaders in every field —  visual art, music, science, literature, religion, human consciousness… the crème de la crème! “I’m going to portray these people how they are. I’m going to dismantle that poisonous propaganda lie visually. That is what I do best.” Thus began this multi year project.

That Monday, I called Richard Evans Schultes at Harvard explaining my plan. He agreed to sit for me. I quickly made arrangements to get to New York. Then I phoned Allen Ginsberg, who I had known from my Yippie days in NYC.

Turned out that Ram Dass just happened to be in New York City, so I called him. From Manhattan I drove up to Cambridge, spending a marvelously insightful day with Schultes at Harvard’s Botanical Museum. That was quite something. All RES did was rail against Michael Dukakis, who was then running for President. I mean, this guy was not a Republican — he was a Tory! [Laughs] What a character.

RU: Your photos have a particular look, a particular sort of framing mechanism that brings out something.  Did you have that in mind right from the start?

MF: Before I even went to photograph Albert Hofmann, I knew immediately that this project was going to be a matter of capturing… delineating the soul. The photographs themselves had to be “psychedelic.” But certainly not like anything heretofore seen, and not obvious. As a point of departure I used the cliché: the eyes are the gateway to the soul. I love clichés. Why? Because that gives me much ammunition to work with. Employing a strong vision with hackneyed, trite, severely overused clichés, but in a new manner — suddenly you’re a genius, you know… because everyone before has attempted to do this before, but failed. So if one can achieve it in a different way—then there is that satisfying “ah ha” moment.


What differentiates my portraiture from the mass of snaps is that I photograph the inner person… not the exterior husk.  I’m able to “grok” people… instantly. That’s what these transpersonal portraits are—a concise distillation if you will. A symbol. More than anything else, without the person’s active participation in perpetuating their ego bound mask.  Suddenly, without their intervention, it’s the most precise liberation of that individual — a distillation of their vital essence, visually. No need for words of explanation, either.

Generally I would just call someone and say, “I want to do a portrait of you for this ongoing project” or simply,  “I want you to come over.” Like, I phoned Wavy Gravy, all right? Wavy and I have known each other for many years. He is familiar with my work. So he came over to San Francisco. The result of this collaboration: I have a portrait of Wavy that is unlike any others taken of him. Curiously, some particular but crucial element of the portrait had escaped my scrutiny. It had eluded me for 23 years! Only when I had these 24 by 36 inch prints made, did I discover that there’s a teardrop running from his eye! Wavy’s particular expression — the quintessential bittersweet clown image, smilingly sad. But with a tear drop. Each one of us has an inherent sadness that is overwhelmingly obvious if one is sufficiently perceptive.  This is the human condition.

About the framing. No, it is not at all arbitrary, but rather the closest I can get to someone’s face with a particular lens that I have chosen to use. It is a 105mm lens — a portrait lens — to avoid facial distortion. Use of a shorter focal length lens in close would make the sitter’s nose become the size of a basketball, their eyes like peas. To emphasize the eyes meant I needed to crop out a portion of the face. Since hair is the least important personal feature, it’s outside of the picture frame in these images. The sitter’s chin is so much more important. But it is the eyes that are of paramount importance.

RU:  Right. Those are real clean pictures.

MF:  Of course. After these many years my technique has become painstakingly perfected.  One would hope so. [Laughs] Also, as one stricken with the curse of perfectionism, I knew that with black and white photography, especially these close-in portraits — that the most important item you have is the photographic negative. Not having had my own darkroom since 1972, I always had to have a pro lab process my film. Always I sought out the best possible lab, paying top dollar to have my film processed. Because I knew that in the future, the only thing I would have to work from is what I had created in the past. I’ve got to have good material. If I’m going to spend the time to do it; it’s got to be done well. Likewise I’ve also always sought out the best equipment. I found the best lab in San Francisco when I was working with the Nuclear Freeze movement in 1983. Not inexpensive, but hang the expense if they do a great job. In the grand scheme of things, film costs and processing expenses are trivial. I was not looking to save money. I was looking to have impeccable negatives to print from.

This summer, I needed to have the negatives drum scanned.  Fortunately, I was introduced to a superb craftsman, Steve Philips. He lives here in Santa Cruz. Steve works with many of the National Geographic photographers, along with the world’s top wildlife photographers represented by Minden Pictures, a stock agency in Watsonville, of all places. Publications require high quality input. Minden uses a high-resolution Heidelberg drum scanner to digitize the film images of their photographers. Steve provided superb scans of my negatives at a very reasonable price. (One reason was the cleanliness and quality of my negatives—a result of having chosen properly years ago.) His work is exceptional… His long term printing expertise was what allowed me to make 24 x 36 inch prints from my 35 mm negatives, with ease. It’s amazing when you consider this: we’re talking about a 35 mm negative that is one inch by one and a half inches. That means it’s a 24 times blow-up. That’s pretty extraordinary when you think about it. Can’t be done readily with analog photography. The image would disintegrate. But these digital images are absolutely sharp edge-to-edge. With judicious editing in Photoshop, they are totally clean of unnecessary artifacts. Dramatic. Majestic.

RU:  Let’s talk a little bit again about some of the people you photographed.

MF: Claudia Naranjo was the second person that I photographed. Afterwards, I flew off to New York to see Allen Ginsberg.  From Northport, NY I called him. “Oh yeah, come on over. Of course. Of course, come over.” When I got to New York City, I called him again to arrange a specific time. Allen said, “I can give you five minutes.” I said, what are you talking about, five minutes? When I arrived, he says, “I’ve got five minutes for you.” “Five minutes? It’ll take me more than five minutes to unpack my camera.” An hour and a half later, I was finishing up.

A year later, after I gave him a print, he asked, “Why is it so sharp?” I said, “Allen, I’m a photographer. I know how to focus. And I use Nikon lenses.” “Oh…”

To preclude the sitter’s preconceptions about what was about to happen, rarely, if ever, would I show them a finished portrait from the series. Not until the session was completed. I didn’t want them to know what I was about to do. All I asked of my subjects was to look directly into the lens, to not smile, and most importantly — to continue breathing.

Fast forward to December 1988 and I realize, “Oh, look who’s going to be playing at the end of the year — The Grateful Dead.”  I called upon Dennis McNally, their publicist, to make the needed arrangements. After seeing the portraits I had with me, Dennis remarked, “You can only go in alone. You can’t bring an assistant.” (You can’t do this. You can’t do that.) And I’m saying, “But I typically have been photographing everyone with available light, using daylight.” He says, “You can only photograph them at the concert just before the performance.” Despite the conditions, I got exceptional portraits of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. The other band members did not see fit to sit for me. To this day I do not know if Dennis ever mentioned to them that I was doing portraits.

Nearly everyone I contacted agreed to sit. The only exceptions were Mountain Girl and Ken Kesey.  Caroline Garcia (Mountain Girl) did not want me to photograph her, but she brought me to a Dead show as her date…

Seems like Ken Kesey, his wife Faye and I danced for months. For hours on end, I would be on the telephone with them. Eventually I managed to photograph of Ken in SF when he was drunk on sloe gin… but it’s not the same. You know? I didn’t want to show that side of him, the Trickster that he was.

Following a peyote hunt in the Mexican desert along the Tropic of Cancer with the Huicholes, in March of 1989 I went to see Oz (Oscar) Janiger in LA. He said to me, “Make my house your house. Here’s my Rolodex. Consider it yours. Who do you want to meet? I’ll call them for you.” Oz was so generous. He was very excited about the project. He loved the portraits.

During that visit to LA, I went to Nick Bercel’s house. Nick Bercel was the psychiatrist that gave LSD to spiders. He was apparently the first individual on the west coast to take LSD. Actually, not to take LSD, but to administer LSD. This was 1949. Nick told me a really funny story of how he got an unnamed divinity student as his subject, he broke open the Delysid ampoule and he put it into the distilled water. Back then, like nearly every adult, he was a cigarette smoker. Sitting back across his desk from his subject, the man remarked, “Every time you raise your voice, you get larger, and every time you lower your voice, you get smaller.” And he tells the subject that the same thing was happening to him. He said he must’ve spilled some on his hand and that transferred when he was smoking the cigarette. So he said the next day, he took LSD to discover the effects for himself….

Later, I went up to Tim Leary’s house. Arriving early, I waited in the driveway for Tim to come back from the gym where he was going to be with (his wife) Barbara. I dozed off. She honked the horn. I wake up and make my way to the house. She said, “Do you have any photographs to show me?” I made the mistake of showing the portfolio of portraits that I always show afterwards. Barbara then said, “Hold on a minute, please.” About 20 minutes later, Tim comes back freshly shaved, now dressed in a suit jacket and tie… he had been in a Nike running suit.

I asked, “Barbara, will you allow me to photograph you?” She said, “Absolutely not. Your photographs show everything.”

But Tim loved his portrait. He became one of my biggest fans.

Timothy Leary, photo by Marc Franklin

After the session with Tim, I’m leaving to go back up north to my home in San Francisco. Earlier I had made arrangements to drive up to John Lilly’s house in Malibu. It was March, so the sun is going down fairly early. For these portraits I’m using available light… Driving up the coast along the ocean, just as I am about to turn onto the road to get to John’s house, a humpback whale spouts! Greetings from Malibu.

Arriving at John Lily’s house, I spy John standing in his bathrobe, pajamas and slippers. With a weeks’ stubble on his face. He’s got a cigarette dangling from his mouth. John says to me, “Where do you want me?” “John, we better hurry up, because we are fast losing the light. Let’s do it right here.” With that, he opens his mouth, and the cigarette tumbles out. “Oh, this is going to be a very interesting time, very interesting.”

Well, I photographed him in the driveway. My three exposures. Boom it’s done. Afterward, we go into the house. He introduces me to his daughter, Nina, and the others that were there. At a certain point, he looks at me and says, “Now, you’re the psychedelic photographer. Do you have any drugs on you?” I said, “Well, John, as a matter of fact I do. Some liquid peyote that I brought back from Mexico. You’re welcome to have some.” At that point Nina pops up, and she says, “John, you just had a steak. Let it digest.” (laughter)

Back home in San Francisco, I compiled a master list of the individuals all around the country I wanted to include. I mapped out an itinerary, starting with a second trip down south to LA. I decide May was time to begin this major road trip. Seven weeks, eleven thousand miles as it turned out. Oz Janiger assisted me in LA, arranging appointments with all the locals… From LA, then onwards to Tuscaloosa AL (Humphry Osmond) to Tennessee (Stephen & Ina May Gaskin), Maryland (The Spring Grove Hospital crew), NYC (Joan Halifax, Harry Hermone, Howard Lotsoff), Boston (Grinspoon and Bakalar), Toronto (John Beresford),back down to Pittsburg, and out to Lawrence, Kansas to stop and see William Burroughs.

In the process of setting up my itinerary, I called William Burroughs. His secretary, James Grauerholz – we had known each other for years —  said, “You know, we want to see you, but we’re going to be in Switzerland in May. William’s shotgun paintings are going to be on exhibit. But we really want to see you. Instead of coming and seeing us on the beginning of your trip, come and see us at the end. We do want to see you – definitely. Come by. However, you know, William hates having his picture taken. And he hates psychedelics. But we want to see you, so please come by.”

I didn’t think anything much of this conversation… I just marked it down that I had to go see William Burroughs in June. The real trip began when I went to see Humphrey Osmond, who lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was to go all through the country, eventually driving up to Toronto for John Beresford. It was his insistence and acid that Michael Hollingshead used to turn Tim Leary on to LSD (before that he was sticking with psilocybin). I motored up to Tennessee to The Farm. While I was at the Farm, Ina May Gaskin asked, “Aren’t you tired of photographing only men? This is a project primarily of men.” I said, “You’re right!” “Would you like to photograph midwives?” I agreed, “I’d love it.” So concurrently, I would be photographing midwives. It was a beautiful balance for me.

Enroute to Baltimore, I stopped in North Carolina to photograph Weston LaBarre. In Baltimore, I photographed Rick Yensen and all of the people, except Stan Grof, that were at Spring Grove Hospital… This group of psychiatrists and psychologists had done ground breaking work, legally, with psychedelics at Spring Grove Hospital.

Then I drove to Manhattan. “Joan Halifax wants to see you,” my friend Jeff informed me. “Joan Halifax wants to see me?” Last time I had seen Joan Halifax, it was to interview her for High Frontiers magazine. When Joan had opened the SF hotel room door — she bit my head off. She snarled, ‘You came in here thinking I was an advocate for psychedelics? Well I’m not!'”

At the Open Center, there’s Joan at the back end of the space. She sees me, she pops up, comes running towards me, throws her arms around me and gives me a big wet smooch! “What do you want? What can I do for you?” I said. “Joan, uh… I’m here to photograph you.” She asks, “Where shall we do this?” I said, “Well, we gotta do it outside quickly. Again, the light was fast fading. “Let’s take two chairs outside on Spring Street and we’ll do this.”

Sitting across from Joan, I’m ready to take the first exposure. Now you have to understand, when I photograph, I take two or three snaps. That’s it. I don’t use the shotgun approach. I’m very mindful… four photographs, at the most. I’m selective. Very very judicious. I use the full frame of the camera. So, I’m ready to fire off the first exposure when suddenly someone’s tapping my shoulder. He inquires, “What film are you using?” [Laughs]

I arranged to photograph Lester Grinspoon at Harvard. I said, “Lester, I’m going to be here during this particular weekend. I’m going to get to New York and then I’m going to drive up to see you.” He says, “No problem. I’ll be there.” I drive all the way up to Boston — 200 miles — a four hour drive, right? He’d gone to Portugal! I had to drive back to NYC empty handed. I arranged to return the following week.

On to Toronto where I’m going to see John Beresford, MD. Talk about a character!  He was such a sweetheart. I go up to his office on Young Street into this modern high rise building. He’s dressed in a three-piece suit with a tie. “Where do you want to photograph? I answered, “Well, I’ve been using available light outdoors. Let’s go down to the street.” In the elevator, he starts disrobing! Takes off his jacket, takes off his tie, takes off his vest, takes off his shirt. Takes off his t-shirt! “I want you to see something.” He’s got this ‘happy cross’ hanging around his neck. You know, a Christian cross with a smiley face? He put the smiley face on a cross. John told me, “What’s wrong with the cross is that it’s a symbol of death and destruction. We’ve got to put a smiley face on it to make it happy.”  He gave me one. I have it. Sterling silver. What astounding eyes this guy had. What a heart…

From Ontario, I drove to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to photograph a midwife there.  Continuing my quest, I headed out to Lawrence Kansas to see Burroughs. 26 hours straight, I was on the highway. I get there at 11:00 am. I bound up the stairs to see James Grauerholz. He’s there. I show him my portfolio. We chat and catch up. “Hold on a minute.” James is on the phone. He looks at me and says, “Would one o’clock be good for you?” “Yes, point me in the direction of a health food store, I’m starving…”

We have a little caravan of cars heading off to William’s house. Me, in the California plated car, I was followed by a local police cruiser. [Laughs]

William’s tiny house is threadbare, literally. He’s got a small wooden table, no carpet… nothing on the walls. No furniture in the house beyond the chairs we were sitting on. It’s 98 degrees with 99% humidity. We were sitting at the table and talking. I show him my portraits, because I knew that I was not going to photograph him. We’re talking about all sorts of wide-ranging, interesting subjects. “Would you like a drink?” he says, as he walked over to his refrigerator. “What are you going to have?” ” A Cuba Libre.” I noticed he had a Dos Equis on his refrigerator door. “I’ll have that Dos Equis.” I knew that I could sip on that for two days if need be… appearing quite social enough. Because if I drank any alcohol to speak of, I would fall over and collapse from the sheer exhaustion of the crazy drive…

William belts back several of these drinks faster than I could blink, right? He takes his bony finger and he points it in my face. “Tell me something. How long do these photographs of yours take?” “Oh, approximately a sixtieth of a second.” “You’re on.”

William S. Burroughs, photo by Marc Franklin

RU: So let’s talk about this show down in LA.

MF: The show is an experimental mix in a non-subtle manner of large-scale transpersonal portraiture and events, countered with portraits of the natural world. All my work is essentially psychedelic portraiture, be it hydrogen-bomb scientists, harbor seals, redwoods or ticker tape parades. All the same. Brute force is required to bust through the din… Today we are swimming in a veritable stew of images, an onslaught overwhelming our visual sense gate, each vying to be seen, to inform us. Beautiful images are healing. Aesthetically uncompromising photographs allow me to speak directly to their “being” introducing to the beholder novel concepts that verbally would never be considered, accepted… let alone understood.

Nature as healer. That remains the guiding concept of mine… A number of years back I began photographing plants and trees seriously as healing images for hospitalized veterans. (Neuropsychoimmunology: images used to heal.) I began with the process of looking carefully—and seeing. Seeing the world, interconnected, interdependent, not as separate “things”—but as process.

When first viewed, the large-scale prints of the exhibit look weird, “unreal” to the uninformed.  Because they’re not as sharply focused throughout as one normally views this consensual reality. To bust through deeply embedded prior preconceptions, shallow focus is employed for emphasis — to delineate particular aspects of a flower. It’s essence. The “isness” of the flower.

The trees flow, they sway, they shudder, convulse, shake, spin. Animated, yet are captured within a “still” frame. This contradiction serves well to help one in questioning “reality” — acknowledging just what we do not know. Disorientation causes one to feel: “Wow, what feelings come up from seeing these images.” Each a little miracle.

The psychedelic pioneers’ portrait series meshes well with the images of nature, because all of my work is that of a portraitist.

People, animals, plants, events. All the same, really.

Employing XYZ, the concept of dominant, subdominant and subordinate, each visual element fits perfectly within the rectangle formed by the camera. This elemental underlying concept, XYZ forms the basis for all works of art: painting, sculpture, graphics, poetry, film, music, literature, photography… 

The Marc Franklin  Beyond: A Transpersonal Photograpy Exhibit  at SPF:a Gallery in Los Angeles until the end of 2011

Nov 29 2011

The Impatience (And Genius) Of Jobs: An Interview with Walter Isaacson


I never felt a particularly intense curiosity about the life and personality of Steve Jobs until the night he died.  Oh sure, he was a sort of hip entrepreneur from the baby boom, so there was always a glimmer of interest — somewhat along the same lines as the vague interest I would have in the life of Richard Branson.  But my tastes in favorite biographies would tend to the more extravagant; a Timothy Leary or a Keith Richards or an Antonin Artaud or a Salvador Dali (and I must confess to a taste for the occasional bio of a power mad dictator).   Entrepreneurs, however extravagant or autocratic in their realm, would come up short in terms of satisfying whatever perverse delights in abused privilege, eccentricity, cosmic ambition and/or mighty flame-out I might hope to find in my favorite biographies.

But on the night Jobs passed, I took a look around my home and realized that my world is intimately suffused with the ghost of Jobs’s creativity — all those beautifully designed complex and total-package mechanisms for communication and creation are deeply woven into the proverbial fabric of my life.  Plus, he was one of those successful acidheads whose embrace psychedelic veterans like myself like to wave as a banner against the clichéd assumptions the mainstream has about those who have dipped their psyches in that font of lucid vision and/or sensory overload (depending).

I immediately contacted Walter Isaacson to find out if I could get a copy of his then-upcoming official Steve Jobs biography for Acceler8or and interview him about it.

The bio did not disappoint.  While no one reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson would come away comparing Jobs’s excesses and temperament to, say, an original dadaist or a major 1960s rock god, by most lights, he had personality and artistic sensibility to spare — and his visionary sense of self and determined refusal to do anything any other way than his own — makes for a lively and compelling read.

Isaacson lets his own prose sparkle as never before — including a use of playful titles and subtitles.  It’s fun.

I conversed with Walter Isaacson via email.

RU SIRIUS: At the halfway mark in reading the book, my most prominent thought is…. nobody could emulate this guy – his behaviors or even his business strategies and methods — and expect to succeed in business.  More likely, someone else would get punched in the head fairly frequently.  So I guess to formulate this as a question: what do you think about this observation…  and… is Jobs the most unique dude you’ve ever covered as a writer and journalist? Would you compare him to anybody?

WALTER ISAACSON: Steve is by far the most intense person I ever met, and he’s filled with contradictions. Who can I compare him to?  NOBODY! He was more inspiring than anyone I ever met, and also the least filtered. “I’m a black-and-white kind of person,” he told me when urging me not to use a color picture of him on the cover of the book, and he even thought in black and white: You were a hero or a shithead. He could taste two similar avocados and proclaim one to be the best ever grown and the other to be inedible. Most of us have a filter, so that if our first reaction is that something sucks we pause or temper our words. Steve was brutally honest. That made him seem like an asshole at times. But it also ended up making him charismatic and someone who could create a loyal team.

RU. I’ve never seen Jobs’s acidhead hippie aspect foregrounded to this degree, particularly in the early part of the book.  It’s sort of a weird contradictory relationship to counterculture.  I have my own thoughts about this, but let’s start with yours.

WI: Steve represented the fusion of many strands. One was the hippie, counterculture, anti-authority, drugs, rock, rebel spirit of the late Sixties. Another was the hacker, wirehead, phone phreaker, geek hobbyist culture. You melded both of these when you launched Mondo 2000 in the 1980s. To these two cultural strands, Steve also added the entrepreneurial, startup, business mentality that was arising in the 1970s in Silicon Valley, especially after the advent of the microchip. He embodied a lot of contradictions. A seeker of Buddhist enlightenment who becomes a billionaire businessman. A misfit, acid-dropping, counterculture rebel who is a tough businessman. Someone with a new age and alternative spirit who also is a believer in technology and rational science. It all seems a bit weird, but it’s also kind of cool.

RU: Did you see any interest on his part in the political aspects of counterculture… aside from loving Joan Baez?  Did he ever reference the antiwar movement or civil liberties struggles or environmental issues or even the war on drugs, to your knowledge?

WA:  He didn’t seem all that interested in politics. His main interest was education reform. He really thought the school days should be longer; teachers should not have tenure, etc. He wanted to make ads for Obama in 2008, but wasn’t on the same wavelength as David Axelrod.

RU:  One area where he contradicts most countercultural sensibilities was in his making Apple very much the opposite of open source and free software and all that.  What intrigued me in the book was that he seems not to be motivated so much by greed as by artistic sensibility.  He saw himself as an artist and he was the director of these creations — almost like Hitchcock making a movie.  It had to be just so.

WA: He really looked at himself as an artist. And he had the temperament of one. He was demanding, a perfectionist, and sometimes a control freak. He said he cared more about making beautiful products than about making a profit, and I believe him.

RU: For those of us who were around in the early days of digital culture, you could say Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in one breath… sort of like Lennon and McCartney.  So was Wozniak a fluke?  Did Jobs ever imply that he viewed it that way?

WA: Woz was not a fluke. Steve Jobs said he was 50 times better than any engineer he had ever met. He was particularly brilliant at a very specialized thing: designing circuit boards using the minimal number of chips. But the importance of that talent waned, and he did not care about the other aspects of Apple.

RU: Did he have a Sancho Panza… a partner outside of his family who sort of stuck by him?… or at least some career long accomplices about whom you could tell us a bit about their relationships?

WA: One of Steve Jobs’s longtime mentors was Mike Markkula, the first real investor in Apple. He became a mentor. He taught Jobs about focus and marketing and packaging. But he sided with John Sculley in the showdown of 1985, and when Steve returned in 1997 he asked Markkula to leave the Apple board.

RU: You were surprised that Steve asked you to write a biography and gave you free reign over it, given his love of privacy and control.  Did he ever waiver?  Any freak out moments when he tried to shut you down… or where you worried he might do that?

WI: The one thing I could never fully understand was why Steve Jobs did not insist on more control over the book. He kept saying he didn’t want to see it in advance. He said he knew I would write things that would make him mad, but he wanted me to be honest. He said he wanted to avoid any perception that it was an in-house book. He wanted it to feel independent. The only time he interfered was when he saw a proposed cover design and thought it was ugly. He asked for input into the cover. I agreed.

RU: What did you learn that surprised you most about his personal life as you researched the book?

WI: What most surprised me about his personal life was how it was connected to his professional life. He was intense and emotional in both. In both cases, he had a romantic new age side and a sensible, technological, rational, business side. These two sides ended up connecting in both his personal life and business life. In his personal life, the two strands connected in his marriage. It was both a romantic and rational marriage.

RU:  I indicated at the beginning of this interview that Jobs was so unique that no budding entrepreneur could benefit from emulating him.  But I wonder, what lessons are there in this bio for people who want to make world changing art or technology?

WI: The most important lesson is to have a passion for connecting art with technology. It was the lesson of the fusion of the hippie and tech geek of the early 1970s, as reflected in Mondo 2000, and it’s embodied in Steve’s life.

RU:  Have you had any interesting responses to the book — for example, was anyone shocked or dismayed by the LSD references… or anything else?

WI:  Some people responded to the book by focusing on, and being shocked by, his petulance. That misses the point. I tried to make the narrative a tale of how the petulant personality was connected to his passion for perfection — and how eventually he made that inspiring rather than off-putting.

RU: Do you think Apple can keep up the magic without Jobs?

WI:  Apple has been infused with Steve’s belief in connecting art to technology. Tim Cook and Jony Ive get it. So do the other members of his top management team. They can make it work.

Nov 04 2011

Shpongle & Psychedelics: An Interview with Simon Posford



“There’s a particularly commercial band who sold a lot of records in the 80s and early 90s, and I made the terrible mistake of listening to their music while trying to have a psychedelic experience in my parent’s house when I was a teenager. I put on this CD while I was tripping, and truly heard it for the bland potbellied corporate, insipid, vapid nastiness that it was.”

To follow is an excerpt from an interview that I did with Simon Posford for Spring, 2012 MAPS Bulletin, which is a special theme issue devoted to psychedelics and the arts. Simon Posford (a.k.a. Hallucinogen) is a British musician and producer, specializing in psychedelic electronic music, spanning many genres from psychedelic trance (psytrance), to rock, to electronica. Posford’s first studio album, Twisted, was released in 1995 under the artist name “Hallucinogen.” Twisted is considered one of the most influential albums in the genre of psytrance and Posford’s connection with psychedelics was evident from the title of the very first track — “LSD,” which, to this day, remains the defining sound of a form of electronic music that originated during the late 1980s in Goa, India called “Goa trance.” In 1996, Posford and Australian musician Raja Ram created one of the most popular electronica music projects of all time — Shpongle.

Arguably, not since The Grateful Dead has a brand of popular music been so lovingly associated with psychedelics. Psychedelics have played a huge role in the creation, performance, and experience of Shpongle’s music, which is extremely popular among members of the psychedelic community. Posford is generally responsible for coordinating the synthesizers, studio work, and live instrumentation, while Raja contributes broad musical concepts and flute arrangements. Shpongle’s unique style combines Eastern ethnic instruments, flute riffs and vocals, with contemporary Western synthesizer-based electronic music, hyperdimensional alien space acoustics, and sound clips from television shows and spoken words.

Truly genre defying, Shpongle contains elements of Jazz, Classical, Dub and Glitch, among others. Shpongle performs live with different musicians, dancers and other performers, while Posford masterfully controls an electronic sound board, alchemically mixing and remixing the music, engineering, tweaking, and orchestrating the highly textured, multilayered music that emerges. Shpongle’s studio albums include: Are You Shpongled? (1998), Tales of the Inexpressible (2001), Nothing Lasts… But Nothing Is Lost (2005), and Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland (2009). Posford also frequently tours as Hallucinogen. To find out more about Posford’s work, see:,, and

I interviewed Simon on July 26, 2011. Since Simon’s music has served as the soundtrack for numerous personal psychedelic experiences, this was a special interview for me. It was great fun to–as Simon put it — “intellectualize the abstract” and “muse over the ineffable” together. There’s a delightful eloquence to the way that Simon expresses himself and a vibrant sense of creativity continually comes through his words. We spoke about how his psychedelic journeys have effected his creativity and his experience with music.

DAVID JAY BROWN: What inspired the name “Shpongle”?

SIMON POSFORD: The name “Shpongle” came from my partner Raj. One day he had taken some acid, and… (Laughter heard in the background.) My girlfriend is just laughing. (Explaining to girlfriend.) This is for a psychedelic site; it’s for MAPS. I guess all of these drug references are okay? My girlfriend is just laughing at me.

Girlfriend: Cause I’m on acid now!

SP: She’s on acid now, driving the car. (laughter) – not really, don’t worry. Anyway, Raj was tripping one day, and he said, “Oh Si, I’m feeling really shpongled.” This word was a mixture of a lot of other words that we were using at the time — like “spangled,” “stoned,” “monged,” and “mashed” — and all of these came out as one word: “shpongled.” So I said, that’s a great word. Maybe we should use that as a band name or track name as it captured the essence of the message we were trying to get across without a tired history of associations and expectations that existing words are weighed down by.

DJB: That’s appropriate, since your music blends so many different styles together. In general, with Shpongle, how would you describe your creative process?

SP: Raj will turn up, sometimes with a load of samples or recordings. One time he went to Brazil and recorded some stuff there. Otherwise, he’ll record stuff off of TV shows, some spoken words, or bamboo forests creaking in the wind… something like that. So that might spawn an idea for a track. Raj is a very visual person, and he’s a fabulous painter, so he might come up with a visual image that, in time, I’ll translate into music. Over the years he’s come up with some inspiring imagery, such as a lake shimmering in the sky. Our most recent one was about CERN, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and about the idea of particles colliding at high velocities, neutrinos protons and neutrons smashing into each other, creating black holes explosions and new universes. Stuff like that.

So we’ll have a visual image. Then, when I can finally get him to shut up, Raj will sit on the sofa and do a thousand drawings into his notebook, while I’ll sit at the computer and get about translating our images into sound. I generally do the programming, playing and production because Raj can’t work the computer or any of the equipment, but he’s the inspiration and the muse, and will play flute or jabber strange vocals into the mic (being the cunning linguist he is). We start with just a blank canvas, an empty computer screen, and just add more and more sounds–until it’s time to go home, I’m either sick of having him in my house, or he’s sick of sitting on my sofa, listening to me torture him with various obnoxious instruments. Then we stop, and later we mix it. Then we give it the acid test. He’ll take some LSD and put the headphones on when I’m ready to mix. Then I’ll play it to him at high volume, and–judging by the state of his eyeballs and his face afterwards–I’ll know whether we’ve got a good one or not. (laughter)

DJB: I love it! This leads right into my next question. How have psychedelics influenced your experience with music, and how has it effected your creativity and your performance?

SP: I would say massively, and on a profound level. In fact, so fundamentally that I didn’t even really like the type of music that I now create before I took psychedelics. I liked bands and music with singers and stuff. I never got into Kraftwerk, or Depeche Mode or any of the well known electronic bands that my friends would listen to. Then, once I took psychedelics, I really went off that for awhile, and only wanted to hear the alien, otherworldly, futuristic sounds of electronic music, and it’s what inspired me to start making the music that I’m doing now. In a way, it’s foundational to what I’m doing because it pushed me down this path.

Also, it changed my appreciation of music in general. I think that listening to music in an altered state of consciousness can either magnify the music or it can really leave you cold. Hopefully, it will enrich the experience, and, hence we have what we call “psychedelic music,” which is designed to do so. I think that electronic music can certainly enhance a psychedelic experience.

I probably shouldn’t mention the artist, but there’s a particularly commercial band who sold a lot of records in the 80s and early 90s, and I made the terrible mistake of listening to their music while trying to have a psychedelic experience in my parent’s house when I was a teenager. I put on this CD while I was tripping, and truly heard it for the bland potbellied corporate, insipid, vapid nastiness that it was.

So our only concerns now are, what do we need to do to make this sort of kaleidoscopic music that really expands the brain, in the same way that, I think, psychedelics do?

DJB: I think that’s really important. One of the reasons that I love your music so much is because I feel really vulnerable when I’m tripping and it seems just so vital to have the properly supportive music. I was listening to some of your music recently, and was thinking that some of it reminded me a bit of Pink Floyd, one of my favorite bands in high school. They developed sophisticated acoustic techniques for beautifully heightening consciousness with their music. But much of it feels so sad to me, like I’m floating all alone in outer space, haunted by loss of cosmic proportions. You seem to have developed similarly layered acoustic techniques for heightening consciousness with your music, but much of it has an upbeat, joyful exuberance, which I totally love and appreciate immensely.

SP: What’s amazing about Pink Floyd is that they managed to capture it with lyrics as well, which I find quite hard to do — because lyrics often distract me from the exact feeling that you were describing. This is why I never got, for example, The Grateful Dead, or some of the jam bands over here that were touted as so psychedelic. The Grateful Dead weren’t as big here in England, but they certainly weren’t around me and my friends when I was growing up. So when I finally did have an experience with them, and then someone told me, “oh, that’s The Grateful Dead,” man, I was disappointed. To me it was just blues-folk music. I just didn’t get it… apparently it sounded best from the car park, which I could understand!

DJB: Trippy, blues-folk music… but yeah, it’s pretty old fashioned compared to electronic music. There’s such a rich tapestry of acoustic variation and so many dimensions to your music, that it really comes close to capturing the multidimensional state of consciousness that one is in during a psychedelic experience. I’m sure that’s why so many people love it.

SP: You know the old cliché about gazing at your shoelace for ten hours when you take psychedelics? I always like to have a similar experience with music while I’m tripping, where I really get into each and every guitar note. Each note will be analyzed, effected, and tweaked out, with layer upon layer of instrumentation… tambourines turned into liquid drops of nectar, vocals converted to voices of the cosmos.

DJB: Right, and there’s such an incredible sense of time dilation. Everything seems to slow down, and there’s a lot more going on in each moment, so you can analyze every detail more easily. Normally, it all just flies by so much more quickly.

SP: Yeah, I guess that’s why it takes me so long to make an album. I like to spend a lot of time on each track. I think that you should be able to listen to a good track many times, and hear something new in it each time. It should be composed so that you hear something new in it if you listen to it on headphones, or on a good sound system or in the car, alone or with friends. It’s got to keep you interested and tickle the brain cells as long as possible.

DJB: How have psychedelics effected your audience, and your interaction with your audience?

SP: I don’t know if I can really speak for my audience, because the psychedelic experience is a very personal journey. But I would say that quite a large percentage of our audience appears to have certainly had that experience, and I think that it provides a way to relate. Our music creates a common thread and instant bond of alliance to other people who have had a psychedelic experience, in the same way that, say, traveling might. I think that I get on better with people if they’ve done psychedelics and traveled, because it opens your mind up in a way that is unequivocal. It makes one adept at relating and interacting in a playful, intangible, broadminded way that perhaps you don’t have with people that maybe haven’t had those experiences.

DJB: I think that’s there’s something very similar about traveling and tripping because they both help you to become more culturally transcendent. They allow one to dissolve and transcend the boundaries of culture. Most people don’t even know that culture creates limitations until they are free of them.

SP: Yeah, so it does mean that then there is a bond with the crowd, and my interaction with them. I only really make music that I want to hear myself. Because I want to hear that tricked out, tweaked out, psychedelic, trippy sound, I hope that many other people will want to hear that as well, and that my personal taste isn’t so weird that no one else will like it.

DJB: You’re definitely tapping into something that’s really hitting a chord with a lot of people.

SP: A lot more people might have done psychedelics than, perhaps, we might imagine. It’s also a lot less taboo just to talk about it now than it used to be.

DJB: Could you talk a little about some of your most significant personal experiences with psychedelics, what you learned from them, and how they affected you?

SP: You  mean like tripping tales… that kind of thing?

DJB: The experiences that have influenced you the most.

SP: I guess sometimes the greatest influence has not always come from the best trips. My friend says that there is no such thing as a bad trip. When you’re absolutely terrified, in a complete state of jelly, then it may be hard to agree with that. But I think that when I view my experiences with a regard for what I’ve brought back from them, I see that sometimes the bad trips have been the most productive and the most mind-expanding, in a way… because they taught me the most about myself.

Like that trip at my parent’s house, which I just mentioned, listening to the bad 80s music. It was super-weird, and, at some point, I realized how someone could even prefer death to this, but I just chose not to go that route. Then, after I came down, it really gave me a new joy for life and a fresh perspective on everything. I was able to think, “I’m so glad to be alive and not on acid!” for the next six months. I had heard music that sounded terrible, and curdled my blood, and I had imagined music that would elevate me to the stars and stir dormant neurons into life.

But then there’s also peak experiences on psychedelics, like with DMT, which for me, I think, is by far the most profound of all the psychedelics I’ve tried. With DMT it was just revelation after revelation, both personal and universal stuff. I had “time” explained to me.

DJB: Did you do it with harmaline, as ayahuasca, or on it’s own?

SP: No, I vaporized it in a pipe. Raj was with me, and a lot of my friends had done it. I was scared to do it. It had been around for a long time, and I knew that it was going to be a big experience. Having done other psychedelics, I was nervous to do it so I waited awhile. Then, suddenly, I thought, you know what? The time is right now! I was in my house with my dear friend. All was quiet. It was just before dawn, and — because it was summer — the birds would come out and start singing as i returned to reality.

So I did it. We did a little meditation first and approached the experience very much as a vision quest. I was a little scared going in to the experience. As Terence McKenna said, “If you take a psychedelic, and you don’t think, oh my God, this time I’ve really taken too much, then you haven’t done enough!” Supposedly, the DMT that I did that day was from Terence McKenna’s personal stash. Although I’m sure that there’s a lot of DMT from “Terence McKenna’s stash,” the experience that I had with this particular material was certainly the strongest that I’ve had out of all my DMT experiences.

With one toke, I was already possibly higher than I’d ever been before, and was hurtling through the universe hanging on by a mere thread. Then I took another toke, even though I’m already feeling like I can’t take any more — I mean, I couldn’t even see properly, by this point! I held it in for a really long time, and when I exhaled, I hear this voice echoing through the ether, saying, “Have another one, Simon.” So, as I feel the pipe hit my lips, I inhaled really deeply on it again.

By this point, I’m beyond my body, so it’s really easy to take in that mothbally, acrid, chemical taste. I could just suck it to the depths of my lungs and my soul and really hold it for a long time. Then, I got to the third toke that McKenna talks about, and just laid back on the sofa in silent darkness.

First of all, I had that initial rush, which is fiercely intense. Then I sort of plunged into this portal, about where my 3rd eye was, and yet out in deep space, where I was met by these entities. I can only describe these beings  as “entities” — they were without bodies or physical features, more like a collection of intelligent energy continually shapeshifting that communicated with me through a variety of mediums, not all of them language, sometimes color, sound, or a form of telepathy that I cannot describe with mere words. One of the things they said to me was, “Oh, we’re so glad to see you! You made it! You’re here.”

Then they started examining me in a very frivolous, excited, joyful, and playful kind of way. When I say “examining me” I don’t mean physically or medically, which would be horrible. Rather, it was like all of the information in my brain was accessible to them. The hard drive was open, so to speak, and they were rebooting me. They were feeding me information, nourishing me, and then they asked, “What do you want to see?” For some reason, I thought “time.” I don’t know why I thought “time,” but they replied in a slightly ominous way, “okay, we’re going to show you time!” Although I can’t conceive of it in my head now, or transcribe it with such a limited form of language (maybe that’s what music is for?), but in that moment, I totally understood time.

They showed me the universe without time, which was the clincher that made me think, okay, I get it. If I’m able to step outside the universe, I see the cogwheel of time and how it fits into the larger cosmic machinery. My memory of it is that it’s a method, or a required construct, to keep us in this dimension — while we are here, with our bodies, on planet Earth — in order to witness the universe that we see every day. Or possibly nature’s way of preventing everything from happening at once. Haha!

With that, they also reminded me that I’m really so lucky to have a body for this transitory period of, what?… eighty years if you’re lucky. And really, you should be making the most of it. You should just be experiencing everything in life, all of it — love, joy, pain, anger, sorrow, bliss, enlightenment — everything that you experience. That’s really why we’re here, because at some point you’ll return to the Source, and we won’t have these bodies to be able to savor these experiences from the Garden of Earthly Delights. It was just revelation after revelation. It was very much like a near-death experience, or an out-of-body experience.

People speculate that a chemical very similar to DMT is released in the brain when we die, and it felt a bit like that. In a way, it felt like I was dying. I was communicating with what might be souls or something. There are definitely energies out there that communicate, and see stuff that I have achieved in my life, and will, perhaps, reprimand me for the bad things that I’ve done. It tied in with the Christian idea of Heaven and Hell, where you’re there for eternity. When you die, your heartbeat stops, your body is still and you have no reference to any time whatsoever and yet this chemical might be coursing around your dying brain. At least during my DMT journey I had my breath, and my heart was beating, although I wasn’t really aware of how long I was out there.

If your brain is active after you die for between five and fifteen minutes as some medical professionals suggest, then you’re effectively there for eternity, experiencing what could very easily be your own personal private Heaven or Hell in this psychedelic state. So it raised the question to me: is consciousness chemical in nature? Really, the whole experience raised far more questions than it answered — although it provided me with a lot of personal revelations about my life, including behaviors I could perhaps improve — even down to the song that I was working on.

I could see the music we had been working on leaving my head as a flowing liquid mercurial stream of holographic colored symbols, and these “machine elves,” as Terence McKenna calls them, appeared to be getting off on it. They were dancing, laughing and enjoying it. There was a little flute riff in there, that we could all see, it was red and blue and melting like one of Dali’s clocks. These creatures suddenly turned serious and told me, “You have to go back and find this particular flute riff. It is the divine riff, and this is the one that you have to use.”

So when I came down, I went through one of Raj’s takes to find it. When we make music, Raj will just play and I’ll record him for around twenty minutes. Then I’ll edit it, and find the juiciest chunks to put into the track. So I was searching very specifically for this particular bit that the entity explained to me on DMT, that I should use, and sure enough, there it was. But he fluffed it a little bit in the playing, so I tried to get him to replay the melody. Raj is a very improvisational player. He can never play the same thing twice, so to get him to be specific, and really try and play this riff, was very hard. But he got pretty close, as close as we could get. The tune was “Behind Closed Eyelids” and the flute riff that appears in that track was an imitation of the riff we had been instructed to use by the alien creatures we encountered on DMT.

It affected me so deeply, on so many levels- — from what I was working on right then, down to my core beliefs and all of the paradigms of the universe that I’ve encountered, from Buddhism, Christianity, religion, science, and the various different interpretations that people make in trying to explain the world. It provided a model of the universe that could fit comfortably — or relatively comfortably — in my small human brain.

DJB: That’s extraordinary that you were able to bring so much back from such a powerful experience.

SP: It has taken a long time to assimilate it. I still think about it everyday. Initially when I came down I thought I would never speak again. What’s the point? Words… they are so inadequate, lifeless and stultifying. I spent a day in silence, before admitting that I have to try and express myself and share these experiences.

Even this single moment made the whole experience worthwhile: I received the message to “Just Be.” Amongst all these crazy hyper-dimensional visuals, universes being created and exploding around me, suddenly a phrase I’d maybe picked up somewhere about an aspect of Enlightenment is to “just be.”… And suddenly I “just was!” I literally had no thoughts. There was no “me.” There was obviously no ego remaining, but really there was no thought, no body, no universe… no thing. It was like thirty years of yoga and meditation practiced every day to try and get to that point, and suddenly there I was.

All of the visuals up to that point had been very intense and this was just white light. It was just “just be,” and it was just white light, with no “me,”… nothing. I realize I’m gabbling now, but I can’t even really put it into words. I would imagine that that’s the closest that I’ve ever come to some kind enlightened bliss state, which people have described. Then, suddenly, I had the thought, “Oh this is it! I’m just being!”. But by then, of course, you’ve lost it… because you’ve got a thought, and you’re already analyzing your own experience.

DJB: Did this experience influence your thoughts about what happens to consciousness after death and your perspective on the concept of God?

SP: It raised more questions than it answered. I mean, I’m still thinking about what happened during that experience now. I’m still wondering, as I said, is consciousness chemical in nature? Is God chemical in essence? Here I am, a load of chemicals, and I believe in science. I take another chemical, and then suddenly, I’m in this other universe which is so real, so convincing, so familiar in a way, and yet also so alien. But certainly as authentic as the universe I witness everyday without chemical assistance. That experience still confuses me, in that, I’m not sure if I particularly believe in God. But it’s hard to say that when you’ve met some kind of — what appeared to be… God. Or maybe more like a goddess, as it was a more feminine energy.

DJB: What type of relationship do you see between psychedelics, music, and shamanism?

SP:  If you had a Venn diagram of the three, there’d be this huge overlap, because shamanism obviously uses music and psychedelics. It’s heavily based in ritual, and music and psychedelic plants are often a part of that ritual. There’s obviously music without shamanism and psychedelics, but I would say maybe avoid some of that music. (laughter) Psychedelics make music sound great, and they work really well with music. But then, there is a whole spiritual side to shamanism. I think that psychedelics probably help you to connect in some way to the shamanistic spiritual side of the sound and music. To articulate how they all interact is probably a little bit difficult; that’s probably more up your alley than mine. I’d have to think about that a little bit more. There’s clearly an overlap between all of them.

In pictures of shamans around the world — from Siberian, Native American, Russian to South American — they are usually depicted holding a drum, so there appears to some kind of connection of a beat to the spirit world. When a Shaman wants to communicate in the voice of the spirit world, he/she will often use music or glossolalia (speaking in tongues.. .wow i’ve always wanted to get that word into a sentence!) instead of language. Taking psychedelics clearly is a gateway to the spirit world, but to weave all these elements into a cohesive Unified Theory should probably be the subject of a book. I’m not qualified or knowledgeable enough. I’m just excited to be able to use the word glossolalia, a word i learned from the English TV show QI !  I guess TV isn’t all bad, despite how it seems whenever I switch it on in the USA.

DJB: How do you envision your future music evolving?

SP: I don’t know. I guess my taste changes throughout the years, along with the influences that I have, so it’s hard to say. All I can say about my music is that I will only ever do something that I want to hear at that time — and that’s all I really think an artist can do. If you’re trying to do something to please other people or to appease the myriad cast of characters that one inevitably has sitting on one’s shoulder while you’re making a tune — judging you, as I’m sure any artist has — then I think that you’ll run into problems. When you’re doing it, you have to ignore them, and basically just do what you like and what you want to hear and hope there’s a resonance with your audience. As I mentioned before, I just have to hope that my taste isn’t so obscure and off the wall that no one else will like it, and that there will be a few hundred souls that will relate to it and enjoy it.

DJB: And isn’t that just so beautiful when that happens?

SP: Yup.

DJB: Is there anything that we haven’t spoken about that you would like to add?

SP: Yes, I’d like to think a little bit more about psychedelics and art, generally. What might be interesting to examine, which we haven’t really discussed is how the psychedelic arts also seems slightly bound to the culture from which they originate as well — even though there is a common theme. If you look at Aboriginal art and that Hoichol art that they do with the beads…

DJB: do those brightly colored yarn paintings of their peyote visions.

SP: Yes, exactly. They also make these very colorful masks with tiny beads and sculptures. But there’s an overlap. Both share themes common to psychedelic artwork such as fractal style patterns and spirals or concentric circles. I’m pretty sure the Mexicans took peyote, but I don’t know about the Aborigines. Did they take psychedelics? Certainly it seems like the ancient Egyptians did, or those who made the mushroom drawings in the Tassilic caves. Also it would be interesting to look into the hallucinogenic effects that laudanum and absinthe had on those poets we so revere today. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize psychedelics have probably had a huge impact on art and artists. When will it start to affect our governments and politicians? That’s what I’d like to know!

DJB: Me too! There’s definitely something universal and archetypal about many of the recurring psychedelic motifs in art and music around the world. Not long after I had my first psychedelic experience as a teenager, I realized that, when looking at a piece of artwork or hearing a piece of music, I could tell, with a high degree of accuracy, whether or not that artist had ever had a psychedelic experience or not. People who have experienced psychedelics seem to pick up on signals that may be completely invisible to others.

SP: Yeah, it really is like lifting a veil to another world. I think that once that veil has been lifted ,you can never really put it back. Maybe that’s what scares people who haven’t tried psychedelics… what if it changes me?

DJB: And it will! (laughter)

SP: But, I think, generally for the better.

DJB: I do too. Is there anything else you that you wanted to say about psychedelics and art in general?

SP: On a slightly sad footnote, it’s such a shame that Bill Hicks isn’t alive?  To be able to speak to him about it would be amazing. You’re familiar with Bill Hicks, right?

DJB: Bill Hicks is my very favorite comedian of all time. Absolutely brilliant and totally hilarious.

SP: He pops into my head when I was saying that I think perhaps more people have taken psychedelics than you realize. That famous last film show that he did at the Dominion Theater in London was the big venue, and he’s up there as a standup comic, talking about psychedelics and the experiences of taking acid. As a comic, you’re going to want to be able to relate to your audience. And I think his confidence in doing that just shows that there are plenty of people out there who have had the experience that unites us. I’m glad that MAPS among others are reminding us it’s ok to experiment with our minds. In fact, for the spiritual evolution of mankind and art it might even be a requirement. So to finish up I would just like to quote Bill, “It’s just a Ride. We can change that ride anytime we choose… a simple choice between Fear and Love.”

Oct 14 2011

Is Stiff Academia Killing Mental Evolution?


One thing I have noticed about the Transhumanist community is that there is a division between the academic crowd and the consciousness expansion crowd. Previous Transhumanist movements have battled on idealistic grounds for the notion of what Transhumanism was really about. Was it the hard scientific outlook with the academic credentials and PowerPoints or was it the consciousness expansion outlook with the mind altering psychedelics and technological revolution? Was the hard academic current stopping the freethinking cyberpunk current from being viewed as Transhuman and was the freethinking cyberpunk current stopping the hard academic current from being taken seriously?

I used to say that the stiff academics were killing mental evolution and I completely sided with the freethinking cyberpunk current. Yet I have recently come to the realization that both currents of Transhumanism are equally important. As freethinking cyberpunks we need hard academics to build a sustainable movement or we will simply come off like a bunch of techno-hippies.

I do, however, wish to address a part of academia that has been upsetting me for a while. I’m talking about the anti-philosophy part which states that philosophy is irrelevant to Transhumanism because we now have technology. The “why have discussions on philosophy when we can build new machines?” people. They are the ones who are killing mental evolution because they dismiss philosophical discourse on the future as all talk and no action.

The last time I checked it appeared that philosophical discourse was required for action to exist in the first place. Would we be able to build new machines if we didn’t philosophize about technology? Why would we want to live in a society of robot builders if we couldn’t even theorize about what we were building? All talk and no action is a definite waste of time but all action and no talk is a cold society devoid of free thought and revolution. I feel that we need a mixture of both. We need the talk and we need the action. We need the techno-hippies who have just discovered LSD and Robert Anton Wilson to throw the raves and we need the MIT graduates to advance genetic research and throw the conferences. We need each and every person in this movement.

Transhumanism has split off into a bunch of different currents and in 2011 this has reached a level so meta-meta-meta that there are at least 30 different groups on Facebook for different currents of Transhumanism. Recently someone in the Singularity Network group asked a question to the effect of “why was I just added to 15 different Transhumanist groups?” Can we blame the hard academic elite or can we blame the petty infighting that every movement inevitably has to deal with? Should we be placing any blame in the first place or should we be embracing the splintering off of so many new movements?

In the end, I believe every MIT graduate was once a freethinking cyberpunk or — at the very least — they embraced these ideals in their youth. I also believe that every freethinking cyberpunk would benefit from a more academic education so they could turn their visions into realities via technology and scientific theory. The only thing killing mental evolution is the idea that ideas are no longer important because … “Hey! Check out those robots over there… and stop talking.”

Jun 28 2011

The Interwingularity Is Here! Sex & Psychedelics & Interconnection


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!