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Sep 11 2012

Greatest Hits Of The New Age From High Frontiers Issue #2, 1985 (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #28)

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strange things goin’ on, down in peru / people flyin’ through the sky / they might come down in a year or two  / then we all shall know the reason why . . .  

from “everybody’s movin’ to the andes” 

somerset mau mau, live larynx album        

just what the hell is going on, anyway? what gives, with the sudden emergence on the scene of so many emergency insurgents? from the psychedelic shamans to the lifespringers, from silva mind control psychics to the rainbow tribe, werner erhard to jane roberts, scientific occultists, pyramid seers, neopagans and subgenii; they all vie for a slice of the consciousness pie. men’s empowerment workshops are proliferating at a phenomenal rate (a sticky mess, for sure!) while the pop culture celebrates the age of the androgynous idol on screen and vinyl.

everyday life in the new age can be kind of spooky, with friends sitting closer to the door and such. in that spirit, i present a primer for operating the biocomputer in some of the tweakier manifestations of our popular brain, in this, the golden age of human potential.

best training — take control of your life by taking control of your bladder. pee freely, but only if you must.

neuro-linguinni programming — students are taught to make their own fresh pasta with tasty clam sauce, all under the watchful eye of a facilitator trained to interpret in storybook fashion, each student’s private psychodrama enacted in the noodle therapy, each student must share their noodles.

shamans without shame — is a support group for frustrated medicine men and women. through methods similar to those used successfully on agoraphobics, city-shamans are taught to shake their rattles and beat their drums, without feeling like assholes.

common groins — is a men’s group that strives for a “crotch consciousness,” achieved through regular empowering exercises such as chest-beating, heavy drinking, swearing and grab-ass. weekend seminars are held in wooded areas, where the students can shoot things and do more heavy drinking.

windspring lovecreek heartfelt bucksnort school — learn how to massage your toaster; find edible and downright tasty treats in a public john; train your kundalini to fetch the paper. fasting, slowing and nibbling programs are available.

a course in amazing — “everyday, in every way, i’ll do what someone else tells me to.” this powerful mantra contains the crux of the amazing teachings; a collection of 365 different things to think about; one for each day of the year. after a couple hundred days of amazing, you won’t want to think about anything else. good for you!

the nietzschshi’ites of north america — this group combines the philosophy of nietzsche with the wisdom of the Shiite muslims. one can consider the will to power while cleaning one’s sphincter with a small pebble.

the alexander the great technique — this is not an exercise system. students become aware of how they can learn to run, walk, talk and solve problems, just like alexander the great. successful graduates express feelings of “total power, “genuine impulses to “conquer the world,” some vague “sexual tweaks” and sudden proclivities to “ride horses with sweaty men. ” this one is hot!

ralphian massage — a big, muscular diesel mechanic comes to your home and rips your lips off.

church of the glowing swiss account — trade your luxury car for peace of mind and a grass mat in kildeer, north dakota. sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? the reverend jack dinero, ascended master and former cpa, has organized a permanent retreat for those ready to take the big step toward total self-immolation. act soon; jack says he has a big surprise in store for his next 1,500 devotees. don’t be left out on all the fun.

these are just a few of the opportunities awaiting the true seeker in the new age. save your money and choose carefully, if none of the above strikes your fancy, consider sending a donation (be generous) to the   somerset mau mau institute of meta-flux programming and tweak crisis center, we will do the rest.

For real, today, 2012!!!    Check Out Mau Mau’s Golden Tweek sale! RIGHT HERE! 

Jul 08 2012

Sexual Healing; Fear & loving At A Weekend Tantra Seminar

Years ago, I began dating a young woman I was crazy about. I desperately wanted to prove my worth to her as a lover, but it wasn’t helping my cause that I was hopelessly wet behind the ears where lovemaking was concerned. So I figured I’d give myself a leg up by reading a book about Tantric sex, an ancient form of erotic yoga based in Eastern spirituality. During my third encounter of the close kind with my new companion, I decided to try out one of the practices I’d been reading about: a set of straightforward, easy-to-follow instructions for locating and stimulating the female pleasure nexus known as the G-spot.

I was wholly unprepared for the results. This idiot-simple technique, which I’d spent all of 10 minutes studying up on, sent my partner slow-motion bliss-leaping through golden meadows of eternity. Afterward, as angels, stars and butterflies haloed her head, she told me with unmistakable sincerity that she’d just had the single greatest sensual crescendo of her life. “You should write a book!” she swooned, apparently under the very mistaken impression that I was some kind of high-level sexual sorcerer. I tried my best not to shatter that illusion, but inwardly, I was dumbfounded. It was like rubbing a magic lamp and finding out that it isn’t just a story — a genie really does appear.

Why, I wondered, weren’t the sex ed teachers of the world furnishing every human being on Earth with a map to the G-spot and a “Things to Do While You’re There” brochure? How could so many well-respected doctors and scientists straight-facedly claim that this very real erogenous province was no less a fiction than Narnia or Atlantis? Why were countless people suffering from sexual frustration and marital turbulence when they could be having cosmic ka-pows that would make them want to join hands with their neighbors and sing “We Are the World” in the streets?

I’m still asking those questions. To this day, this precious knowledge remains underground, like buried treasure being sheltered from coarse, clutching hands; an occult secret etched on a forgotten temple wall, waiting for gentle fingers to carefully rub away the dust that obscures it.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, the technique that had yielded such explosive results that night was called Sacred Spot Massage, a term coined by Charles Muir. Having almost single-handedly imported Tantric practices to the United States, Muir has been working for 30-plus years to bring skills like Sacred Spot Massage up from the underground and into the hands of the populace.

Knowing firsthand how Sacred Spot Massage can turn a rookie into a Wizard of Ahs in minutes flat, I jumped at the chance to attend a weekend Tantra seminar that Muir and his lover Leah Alchin presented at a golf and country club in Boulder Creek, California.

Hold on tight, my darling. I’m going in.

 

6:30 p.m. Friday 

Inside the golf club’s conference and reception room, 34 people—relationship counselors, professors, psychiatrists, scientists—sit on blue back jack-style floor chairs adorned with lotus emblems. Colorful chakra diagrams and tapestries of Eastern deities hang on the walls and ceilings, and at the rear of the room are some tables loaded with Tantra supplies for sale: DVDs, books, tapestries, lubes, body oils, herbal hard-on pills, relationship runes and a crystal G-spot stimulator.

The group is comprised of eight couples and 14 singles, plus four CTE (Certified Tantra Educator) Assistants. They’ve come from all over: California, Virginia, Texas, Florida, Finland. Most attendees express an interest in healing from past traumas, while some just want to be better lovers or to improve their relationships.

Though there is no nudity or explicit sexual activity in Source School of Tantra’s seminars, students will be given optional “home play” assignments to be completed behind closed doors. In the interest of giving all attendees an opportunity to complete the assignments, the seminar has an equal number of male and female singles. Single people will pair up as study buddies in “Sadie Hawkins” style: Those women who choose to participate will ask the men to dance, so to speak. Under different circumstances, a single guy like me would be thrilled by the large number of beautiful women at this workshop, but as a journalist, I have every intention of remaining a passive observer this weekend. And Snoop Dogg invented calculus.

Any fears I’d had that this workshop was going to be overly New Age-y or phony-holy are demolished when Charles and Leah begin their presentation: They not only talk like real people, but are playful and funny. The cute, ebullient Alchin is about half the age of Muir, who is in what he calls “the third year of my seventh decade on the planet.” If the tall, auburn-haired Muir’s surprisingly youthful appearance is any indication, perhaps there’s truth to all the claims about Tantra’s rejuvenative power.

As an example of repellent sexual behavior to avoid, Charles paws at Leah’s breasts, shouting “Tits!” He then caresses her “heart pillows” (Leah’s wording) in a more loving way, though no less enthusiastically. “You can be noble about it,” he tells the class.

“Oh, noble,” Leah teases. “I love that you’re being noble.”

Using a light-up wand to represent the lingam (penis) and a large vagina-shaped puppet to represent the yoni (yeah, you guessed it, ace: vagina), Muir and Alchin demonstrate some alternatives to the in-out motion of typical sex. Leah gives a live-action demonstration of some Tantric undulations, which, along with being informative, is pretty hot. I think I’m starting to see why a pre-seminar group email suggested that we wear “non-binding” pants to this workshop.

In an exercise designed to teach us various “modalities of touch” such as static touch, moving touch, squeezing and tapping, I trade arm massages with Aurelia, a beautiful, gold-maned goddess from Sausalito. (By the way, all people in this article are called by their true names. And O.J. Simpson is the Easter Bunny.)

I leave the seminar for the evening with an eight-mile smile. I think I’m gonna like it here.

 

10 a.m. Saturday 

After getting no sleep whatsoever (nothing new for a born insomniac), I bomb my guts with caffeine and rejoin the group, wondering if tonight’s full moon will make for some Tantric wildness. And holy nectar of the Goddess, does it ever.

In the early part of the day, Charles leads us in some White Tantra (yoga postures, breathing techniques, visualization and chanting) and a tearful, heart-opening puja (worship ritual) in which the men and women give each other healings and show off for each other like birds doing mating dances. We also learn a simple breathing technique for extending the orgasm from the typical five seconds to 20. “Twenty seconds doesn’t sound like a lot more than five seconds, but it’s 20 seconds of timelessness,” Charles states.

There are, however, alternatives to coming. Charles and Leah tell the males that they can learn to “surf” their sexual energy: Rather than getting wiped out by a single wave, they ride the wave of orgasm, oftentimes not ejaculating at all. Tantra teaches men to redirect their orgasmic energy upward, thus conserving their vital essence and, in Charles’ words, “imprinting the sexual energy with visualizations, with affirmation.” Muir does not recommend that men never ejaculate, however. Rather, he advocates that they learn control over the ejaculatory reflex, thus enabling them to choose whether or not to do so. Eventually they will learn to have orgasms without ejaculating.

At lunchtime, I join a large group of singles at a Chinese restaurant called The Red Pearl — a comically appropriate name for a place where a bunch of Tantra students are putting their mouths to good use. (I’m a little surprised not to see any paintings of little men in boats.) When we crack open our fortune cookies at the end of the meal, many of us find fortunes so eerily resonant with the material we’ve been learning that you’d almost suspect this restaurant of keeping special fortune cookies just for Source School of Tantra students. My personal favorite: “You can’t stop the wave, but you can surf it.”

The excitement mounts in the evening as we’re gearing up for tonight’s home play assignment, in which the men will be pleasuring the ladies with Sacred Spot Massage. While Leah talks with the women about how to receive, Charles leads the guys to his house up the road to teach us the skills that will transform each of us into Señor Amor himself.

Once adequately armed with Sacred Spot knowledge, the men rejoin the women at the reception room. The couples are dismissed to put the day’s teachings into practice, and the singles are encouraged to stick around for the Sacred Spot Massage selection ritual.

As the nervous energy builds, Charles tells the men, “Guys, it would be perfectly normal to leave the room at this point—maybe have some dinner with a couple of our staff members, maybe go back to your room and try out the orgasm extension technique while pleasuring yourself. That would be the normal thing to do.” His delivery is deliberately flat. The subtext is clear: But normal kinda sucks.

After a short pause, he speaks again: “But normal kinda sucks.”

The man has a point. Like the rest of the men who choose to stay (most of us, if the truth be told), I sit closed-eyed and cross-legged with my hands in prayer-like Namaste position, inhaling the raw intensity of this ceremony. I am still and silent, but my blood is boiling. What if I’m not chosen? What if I am?

A soft, slender hand slips into mine. At Charles’ request, I remain motionless, trying to guess which of the dakinis (female Tantrikas) this might be. When the men are given permission to open their eyes, I find myself gazing upon the beaming face of Grace, an East Bay seminar veteran in her thirties. But there’s a double-take-weird twist here: Grace’s right hand is with me, but her left hand is with Antonio, an amiable, wisecracking 62-year-old Granite Bay businessman who was part of the singles lunch earlier in the day. This woman has chosen both of us. The word to describe this situation would be “novel.”

Grace explains her plan, and suddenly I’m feeling ex-awesome: For time conservation purposes, she’d like the three of us to converge in one place rather than arranging two one-on-one visits. Antonio and I will be giving her Sacred Spot Massage in shifts, as it were. Yep, it’s official: I’ve lost my happy. The prospect of sexually stimulating someone I’ve just met is already pretty far outside my comfort zone, but when you add the fact that a dude who is roughly my parents’ age will be watching, I start feeling like this bus is headed out there where the dwarves in tutus chase after the masked ponies.

There’s a tennis-match hush as Antonio and I scan each other’s faces: What’s it gonna be? Antonio is the first to speak: Yeah, this is weird, but he’s in. Which means that if I bow out, then I, a thirtysomething rock musician/artist/oddball, will have been out-wilded by a man who gets two dollars off the Belgian Waffle Slam at Denny’s.

Screw it. Charles is right: Normal sucks.

After a surprisingly comfortable conversation over a meal at the Boulder Creek Brewery (“The way the veins stand out in your neck is really interesting,” Antonio tells Grace admiringly), the three of us repair to Antonio’s plush three-bedroom villa by the golf course. As Grace bathes, Antonio and I helplessly scan the bedroom for accoutrements to help turn the room into a temple worthy of a Goddess. Destiny isn’t on our side here: Because of time constraints and other limitations of this three-person setup, neither of us has had a chance to go to the store for room adornments such as rose petals or incense. Is there a handkerchief we could throw over the lamp to dim the light a little? Maybe a CD of some soft music? Finally admitting defeat, we stand near the doorway, absurdly making small talk about golf as we await the return of the woman we’re about to take turns pleasuring. The phrase “How did I get here?” doesn’t even come close.

We don’t need to go into detail about all of the evening’s activities. Some things are a little too explicit even for an article about G-spots and vagina puppets. Suffice to say that everyone present is respectful and cordial, and the experience of helping bring Grace to bliss is actually fairly moving—which is really saying something, considering that this three’s-a-crowd state of affairs has made for a scene so strange that my mind is going to need a chiropractic adjustment afterward. It’s impossible to imagine tomorrow’s festivities being anywhere near as memorable as this.

Then again, some things are beyond imagination.

10 a.m. Sunday 

Sunday begins with a group tell-all of last night’s adventures. The overwhelming majority of participants have experienced unforgettably beautiful rhapsodies of rapture. Several couples shed tears of joy.

Two women cry for different reasons, however: Their Sacred Spot Massages have triggered painful emotions. As Leah explains, “It’s the Sacred Spot that holds all the emotional qualities: Any trauma, any crisis, any bliss, all get stored in the cellular memories.”

In other news, Charles and Leah inform the group that this evening, the guys will be doing some receiving of their own: The women will not only treat them to some exotic wand-fondling, but also dare them to accept a finger in what one student calls “the Chocolate Chakra.”

Last night, a three-way involving another man, and now an experiment in guy-necology, I think to myself. Is Tantra trying to turn me gay? I have no problem with anyone, straight or gay, who feels otherwise, but I have to be honest: My own preference is for my backside to remain an Exit Only zone.

The morning class ends, and I shuffle off to have lunch with some singles, this time at Ironwood’s. (Man, why do all these Boulder Creek restaurants have such Tantra-appropriate names?) Angelica, an attractive, middle-aged lawyer/attorney-mediator from Santa Cruz with whom I connected on Friday evening, stops me at the door. “Are you going to be around tonight for the closing ritual?” she asks.

“Sure.”

With a hint of a mischievous smile, she shoots back, “Just checkin’,” and disappears into the crowd.

 

See Spot Hide 

Leah’s gyrations on Friday night might have been spicy, but this evening, she and Charles raise the bar by demonstrating some elegant sexual positions. Technically, Alchin and Muir are sticking to their “no explicit sexual contact” rule, but let’s not kid ourselves here—these naughty kids are making love with their clothes on.

Like last night, Charles takes the men to his house. This time the roles are reversed: While Leah teaches the ladies the various secret handshakes they’ll be using to please the men in tonight’s home play assignment, Muir instructs the guys on how to receive. Part of this, of course, involves the intimidating Sacred Spot Massage for males. Charles asks us to try to open our minds (etc.) to this part of the ritual: Not only might untold pleasure be waiting for us in this forbidden zone, but because the male Sacred Spot holds a great deal of tension from survival anxiety and other such “first-chakra” issues, having it massaged can help the recipient become literally less “tight-assed” and thus more lighthearted.

According to Muir, this practice also greatly minimizes risks of cancer and/or enlargement of the prostate. What’s more, by putting himself in a position of vulnerability, the man gains a far better understanding of what females go through during sex, their fears about rushing into intercourse, etc. Gotta admit, Charles talks a mean game.

When the men rejoin the women for the puja that will bring the seminar to a close, Angelica immediately asks if I’d like to be her ritual partner this evening. Looks like the excitement isn’t over yet.

The grand finale of the seminar commences. The men form a ring around an inner circle of women, and Charles informs us that we are now letting go of the past and stepping into our new lives of joy and contentment. One by one, the women in the inner circle pair off with the men.

Ember, a fiery-haired tigress from Sacramento, stands before me, her face an uncanny composite of feminine softness and kickass Amazon power. As Charles instructs the men to tell the women with their eyes how incredible they are, I lean toward her a little, making sure she can’t shrug off the message I’m about to send her, and broadcast, I’m not just going through the motions here. You. Are. Fucking. Amazing. A dam bursts behind her face. Tears pour from her eyes. The message has been received. My eyes, too, glaze with tears, mirroring hers.

Now I’m face-to-face with a blonde Russian bombshell named Valentina. For the first time, I become aware of something I’d apparently been too dazzled by this woman’s good looks to fully appreciate: She is stunningly, mind-blowingly beautiful. I tend to be mistrustful of ridiculously pretty women, expecting to find ugliness behind the mask of beauty, but this woman’s sleek gorgeousness reveals itself now as the physical manifestation of divinity itself.

An elder named Rosemary peers into me unwaveringly as I place healing hands over her heart. Etched on her face are tales of moonlit forest gatherings; bonfires on star-haunted beaches; deep loss giving way to calm surrender.

Charles has the men and women sit facing one another, hand-in-hand, and lean toward each other until our partner’s eyes appear to be a single eye on his/her forehead. Marina, my partner for this exercise, morphs into a Cyclops before my eyes. The illusion is truly freaky. When Marina makes a tweaked face that perfectly expresses the weirdness of the effect, we both get a fatal case of “church laugh,” fighting with all our warriorhood to stifle our hysterics.

I stand face-to-face with goddess after goddess, seeing each one’s true beauty and strength as never before. Once the puja is complete, Charles and Leah invite us to sit on the floor and scooch in close. Laughter abounds as our hosts say their farewells.

“I understand there may be an article,” Charles says.

“There will be,” I assure him and the crowd.

Several voices ring out:

“No names!”

The participants disperse to gather their things, make dates and exchange contact information. As I’m getting my stuff, Marina, who cried while I held her at yesterday’s puja, approaches me to explain the reason for her tears: This was the first time in three years that a man has deeply embraced her without wanting anything from her.

As I hug Grace goodbye, she suggests that I type my article with my right hand while drawing energy from a yoni with my left, the better to charge my writing with Tantric juju. As it began, the workshop ends with laughter.

Happy Ending

Driving away from the seminar, I have a gut feeling—no, a knowing—that my learning has just begun. Tantra has chosen me. Bliss and adventure have chosen me. After years of dabbling, I’m about to be initiated as an honest-to-Goddess Tantra Man.

After stopping at my place to freshen up and drop a few things off, I give the dude in the mirror a quick once-over. “OK, let’s get going, Tantra Man,” I think to myself. I head to Angelica’s place, where we enjoy a lavish dinner. She then leads me up the stairs, where I bathe by candlelight as she prepares her room for our ritual. My body fills with the holy hum of erotic electricity. It knows something special is happening.

Angelica summons me to her bedroom, where a single candle burns. A bed covered with plush pillows is surrounded on all sides by treats for us to enjoy while we celebrate: fine wine, dried fruit, mineral water, cocoanut chocolate.

What follows is beautiful and sweet and unspeakably delightful and hilarious and sumptuous and sacred, and for the six and a half hours that this woman and I play together, we are in love. I call God’s name so many times, you’d think I was in some kind of sex church… which I am. “You are a GENIUS!” I cry out as Angelica gives to me in ways that make life, with all its pain and difficulty, extremely worthwhile.

As for this business about the male Sacred Spot… well, if there’s any of that to be had—and I’m not saying there is—then I suppose this is what I’d have to say about it: It’s nowhere near as painful as I’d feared, and I can certainly see its therapeutic value, but it doesn’t feel any more sexual to me than a bowel movement… which, in case you were wondering, I do not find sexual.

Things start getting hot when Angelica and I are spooning to close the ritual, and it couldn’t be clearer that the Goddess is feeling frisky. My gratitude has put me in a very giving mood, so I make it known that I’m more than happy to reciprocate her gift, if she will so allow.

“We shouldn’t,” she says, not altogether convincingly. “Charles said if we’re tempted to do that, we should set a date for another time, because tonight’s ritual is all about helping you learn to receive without feeling that you have to give back.”

“I have found an escape clause!” I retort to the attorney with mock seriousness. I proceed to plead my case to the Cosmic Judge: What would please me most is to please this woman, so the best way for her to honor me is to let me honor her, Your Honor. Besides, it was Sunday when we started the ritual, and now it’s Monday, so technically this is a different date.

The logic checks out, at least to the dopamine-engulfed mind. A new Sacred Spot Massage rite begins, and in what can accurately be called no-time, Angelica is howling and writhing in a manner more commonly associated with exorcisms than with sex. Her wails are of such loudness and intensity that at times I honestly wonder if she is screaming in agony. But suffering this is not—it is ecstasy of a greater depth and duration than most people dream possible.

Blissed to high heaven, we collapse together in a pile of loose, oiled-up limbs and tangled hair. “The next time somebody makes a lawyer joke, I’m setting him straight,” I say, giving her neck a little kiss.

Smiling sweetly, Angelica runs her finger across some scratch marks she’s made on my back. “You know what I wrote on your back?” she asks, then giggles and rests her chin on my shoulder. “Tantra Man.”

Jun 12 2012

The New Edge At The New Age Convention (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #19)

 

The origins of the term “New Edge” may be under contestation.  I recall John Perry Barlow claiming the coinage and I’m sure Mondo Publisher Queen Mu has claimed it as well.   I think maybe Morgan Russell has also claimed it.  I have a fairly strong impression that its first usage was in Mondo 2000 promotional rhetoric, which would give the advantage to Mu.  In an interview for the Mondo book, Joichi Ito indicated that the Japanese professor and media philosopher Mitsuhiro Takemura and he coined the term for a Japanese magazine. But when I mentioned the other people who claimed to have coined it, Joi thought maybe they were just the first to spread it in Japan.

I secretly think I came up with it (yes, irony noted). Not that it matters much.  Changing Age to Edge is not exactly an accomplishment on par with feeding the poor and hungry or writing Crime and Punishment or “The Special Theory of Relativity.”

But what are — or were — the implications of the “New Edge.”   Was it the “new age” plus techno?  Was it the avant garde of the ‘90s?  Was it some Mondo hype that we only intended to feed to potential advertisers before deciding — what the hell — it’d be a good title for the book.  Or was it, as noted by Wikipedia, “a styling theme used by Ford Motor Company for many of its passenger vehicles in the late 1990s and early 2000s.”

The audio file below contains a brief talk I gave in 1990 at a Whole Life Expo titled “The New Edge” and gives my take on it at that time.  I opened with an audio collage that was organized by Don Joyce of Negativland, although I don’t remember exactly how that happened.   Those of you who saw the film Cyberpunk will recognize that much of it is appropriated from that blockbuster.  It’s included in the file and is pretty cool and fun.

 

Listen to the audio now:

 
Mar 28 2012

New Edge & Mondo: A Personal Perspective – Part 1 (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #8)

We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub.”

As I explore Mondo 2000 History, I find myself unreasonably surprised by my own recollections — particularly by the degree to which “new age” influences flowed through both the scene and the magazine.  My own exploration of this cultural and memetic milieu  is shaping up to be fairly critical, but in this commentary sent to me for use by the Mondo 2000 History Project, Dutch writer, publisher, and entrepreneur Luc Sala eloquently embraces Mondo as “a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art”… while also noting our distinctions from some of the more formal “spiritual” practitioners.  I’m always happy to have inspired anything… well, just about anything.

Luc sent us a long ramble… a mini-memoir for the project, which he has graciously consented to my publishing here.  I’m going to run it in two parts — today and Friday. I think it provides one of the many flavors of Mondoid reality.

R.U. Sirius

 

Mondo 2000 has been, for me, a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art. I believe the magazine and the scene were at the root of the development of the late twentieth century cyberculture and have helped bridge the gap between the more traditional new age (fairly conservatively focused on eastern traditions, health and body; somewhat negative and Luddite about technology) and the computer/information wave.

My involvement with the actual magazine was limited, I sponsored with money and was international distributor (paying in advance helped to print the magazine). My involvement with the people of and around Mondo was what was most important for me, those contacts opened a door into the world of cyberspace, cyberart, psychedelic (ontological) philosophy, design and counterculture. The Mondo scene was where one would meet the great alternative thinkers and writers. They were easy with their contacts and networking; opened many, many doors for me and I am very grateful for what I took home — not so much in material things, but in thinking for myself. Mondo inspired me to publish a similar magazine in Dutch, called Ego2000, and has been a source of contacts and new ideas for my activities in the nineties. Apart from writing and publishing. this encompassed my broadcast television station in Amsterdam. This Kleurnet channel (colored net) produced some 8000 television programs between 1995 and 2001, covering a wide range of subjects, many with a similar focus and taste as to what Mondo offered.

Mondo 2000 was a focal point where the counterculture, psychonauts and mind-researchers met, physically in Berkeley, and at various events in SF and elsewhere. They met in person, but also communicated via the then emerging email and budding internet communications of the times such as The Well. It united the greatest out-of-the box thinkers and change agents of the era, but was not a commercial success. Money to pay the printer had to be found every time. Lack of commercial talent and financial savvy hampered its development so that the newer Wired was able to capture the flag of the cyberculture. Wired was more of a hit, but remained more gadget-oriented and lacked the heart and zeal of the Mondo initiative. Funny enough, founding publishers Louis Rosetto and his partner Jane Metcalfe (after their Electric Word venture in Holland) contacted me in early 1990 to ask for funding for a new magazine in the US, which later became Wired (1991 trial, 1993 first issue). Jane was a great networker and organizer and I actually employed her for a while. She set up the seminal September VR-party in my house in Hilversum, near Amsterdam. I always considered Wired as overly commercial and not so ethical and was proven right when Wired tried to go public and failed because their data were not very honest, to say the least. While many contributors wrote for both magazines, the Wired-Mondo dichotomy; the difference in focus taught me a lot about the soul, the root energy of a venture, how the initial thrust kind of shaped its future. Wired in a sense was a cheap market oriented venture, it lacked the quality and integrity of the Mondo format.

In the early Eighties (1982) I started my computer magazine publishing company, after working as a launch editor and roving reporter for Pat McGovern of IDC/IDG, before that being employed by Fasson, Bruynzeel and Philips. As a then new journalist (I never trained as such) I travelled extensively to the USA, as the rise of the home computer (Commodore, MSX, Apple, PC) was partly a European thing with English makers like Sinclair, but obviously the USA was the motherlode for computernews. I went to shows like the NCC, the Comdex and the CES shows, often in Las Vegas, where I hooked up with the Californian crowd of computer journalists, afficionado’s and hobbyists. Those were exciting years, the computer spread from the highbrow DEC/IBM scene to the home, hobbyists became involved, the Commodore 64 opened a new world of low level ICT. I rode that wave with magazines, end-user shows (PC Dumpdag), books and even a retail operation. I was familiar with computers already during my studies (Physics at Delft University and Economics in Rotterdam), in my early career followed trainings in Industrial Engineering and was groomed by Philips for an executive commercial position in telecom in a year-long worldwide training program. When the personal computer emerged, I jumped in with a 16 KB Philips P2000 unit I used for my first books about home-computers, computer games and programming and then gradually developed my publishing and writing activities in telecom, the home computer field and later in more general ICT. I am happy I went through the rigorous mathematical and physics programs at university, because it taught me to think straight and systematic; this being in line with the slight Asperger syndrom behaviour I sometimes display. Apart from that I have always read extensively and my journalistic and media skills were acquired and learned by doing and supported by some guts, I was always in for a new venture.

Homebrew computers

In my travels for the computer press I met people like Lee Felsenstein, Jan Lewis, Mary Eisenhart (Microtimes), and of course Allan Lundell, Amara Angelica, Saint Silicon (Jeffrey Armstrong) Dusty Parks and friends. We were hanging out together; meeting at the computer shows in the press rooms. We joined the insider parties at these events with what then were budding entrepreneurs like Gates and Philippe Kahn (Borland), and opinion leaders like John Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle. I felt part of the new wave of ICT for the masses, but as an insider. I wasn’t only a journalist and writer, but invested a bit, started trading computers and basically used my publications to get in touch with interesting people. This is something I have always done, even my Kleurnet TV station was a kind of front, a mousetrap to catch the inspiring and interesting ones, the change-agents, the mavericks.

However, in those days it was all very straight; computers, ICT, business, the alternative wasn’t on my mind, but I was connected. This all changed in 1989. I got in touch with new age thinking, had some deep and life-changing personal mystical experiences and opened up to the  alternative side of computers, like brain machines, mindware (Bruce Eisner’s focus) and saw the much broader horizon opening with multimedia, pictures, video. There were visits to Xerox Parc, contacts with fringe scientists, hackers, game-developers… I realized that the days of alphanumeric number-crunching were over. Another notion that dawned upon me then was that data and information are not the same; “a bit is only information if it bytes” was the keyphrase I used and use to make that clear.

GHC

Then around the first big Hacker Conference august 1989 in Amsterdam (Hack-Tic/Paradiso),  I was approached by my friend Allan Lundell (his book Virus was just out… and the famous Captain Crunch — John Draper — was there too) who proposed to me that I support a new magazine which was to be called Mondo 2000 and showed me a mockup. It looked fantastic, desktop publishing really applied to creative publishing, in color, with visual effects that were, at that time, revolution in action. At the closing day of this conference (The Galactic Hacker Conference/ICATA) we had a party at my house in Hilversum (25 km from Amsterdam), where many showed up. The hacker folks, the Chaos Club people with Wau Holland, the local hack and Digitale Stad luminaries like Rop Gonggrijp and Caroline Nevejan came. It was a nice party, that cemented many connections made at the hacker conference, which was in itself a major networking node in the pre-internet times (we had some email, but no web then). Allan and I dropped acid, sitting in the bathtub of my house. We talked and tripped. I decided to know God at any price, but when I came down and found some 10 Chaos guys spread around in my living room snoring and shouted, I greeted them as God, but he was with so many! We also discussed the Silicon Brotherhood idea while sitting both in that bathtub. Allan has some video from that party.

Locally this GHC stemmed from Hack-Tic and resulted in what later became XS4all and De Digitale Stad, but I personally had little empathy for what then was labeled as technoanarchistic hacking and focused myself on the USA and international side of things. However, this GHP brought together ‘the crucial network’ as Caroline Nevejan describes this and certainly influenced the cyberculture and cyber-counterculture. She, in a way, sees this as a consciously staged and orchestrated process, bridging the incommensurability (see 1962 Thomas Kuhn ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’) between participants. I tend to see it more as an autoconspiracy (again a notion Barlow inspired), an energetic exchange that fits the times and the place, and kind of inevitable happens. Maybe this is because I always more liked less staged parties and the mixing of people, ideas and disciplines that can then happen, more the be-in philosophy (Michael Bowen 1967). We come together because we had to, and for an outsider this might look like a conspiracy, but it is more a play. There usually is a spielmeister or facilitator, who sets the stage, but does not know or plan the outcome. This all of course has to do with my understanding of time, future and energy and how things come to pass,. The malleability of reality and the laws of nature is a major issue in my further work and development.

These events, like the GHP and the 1990 Linz Ars Electronica were pivotal events. The people that mattered in what later was coined the new edge movement met and started to make it happen.

Mondo

As a result of meeting the Mondo people in Amsterdam and my promise to help them out financially, somewhat later in 1989 I went to the USA, partly because of my regular visits to computer shows and Silicon valley as a journalist/entrepreneur, but also to renew contact with Lundell and the Mondo crowd. That late summer many things happened in my life. I discovered spirituality and had some amazing mystical experiences, got in touch with the Esalen new age crowd and began to see computers in a much wider and more spiritual context. Before, I was already interested in what computers could do for psychology, like with brainmachines and even started a small shop called Egosoft. There I was selling all kind of mind-enhancing devices, the early smart drugs, and all kinds of brain-tools, hypnotic audio, isolation tanks, even some magic mushrooms — stuff that was totally legal then. But in the late summer of 1989, there came the interest in the more esoteric, even the mystical aspects, like in techno-paganistic work of Marc Pesce (the VRML guy) and how information is a dimension in itself, related to consciousness. These thoughts and notions have kept me busy ’til today, with Infotheism and the legality of Cyberspace still on my mind. Information in that sense is a path, the Silicon path, as in the Silicon Brotherhood Creed from 1989 (see adendum).

In the USofA

In the USA that autumn I got more in touch with the Mondo house and the Mondo crowd, even stayed there for some time. I wasn’t so much working on the magazine but just being helpful, paying for the first Apple Postscript laserprinter, for food and many things — as cash was rather scarce in those days.  R.U. Sirius did have the most amazing collection of weird psychedelics.

It was an old house, above a creek and fairly complex of structure, with offices and rooms tucked away here and there. Alison Kennedy aka Queen Mu and Ken aka R.U. Sirius were living there. Jas Morgan was running around and the whole house was full of rubble, books, stuff, ideas, notes and half-worked articles. Mu and R.U. then were in a strange quasi-relationship. There were lovers and would-be lovers (a guy kind of lived in a van outside); many guests and some people working on the magazine. One of them was Linda Murman, then with Allan Lundell, who did some admin and money chasing. I had a great time there, not doing much apart from sending editorial articles back to my magazine staff. I remember that as the place was messy, even filthy, with rubble everywhere, I tried to clean here and there.

One day I decided to clean out the big fridge in the kitchen, and kind of put aside or in the bin the weird little packages there that I thought were just old pieces of meat or something. This caused a panic, as there wasn’t only a bear’s penis, but also spider venom and a few other outlandish ingredients, related to Queen Mu’s work/hobby. Anyway, I met amazing people there, among them John Perry Barlow, whom I liked and had many and deep conversations with. He had an apartment on Potrero hill in SF, but his family was living in Wyoming. One day he went to visit them. I hitched a ride across the bay, and then our conversation was so animated, that I stayed with him (I could always take a train back was the idea) for the whole trip, some 15 hours through snow and ice, to his family house in Wyoming. I flew back after a nice meeting with his wife and kids. On my 40th birthday, the Mondo people, always in for a party, especially as I was paying for the food and drinks, threw a great birthday dinner for me. Timothy Leary, Barlow, Claudio Naranjo and his wife (Enneagram); the weird professor of Asian religions that Queen Mu was more or less married to (a great dinner entertainer), R.U. Sirius , Linda and some more.

There was a catch, however, as Mu, in her role as grand witch, had secretly decide to match/couple me to Linda. As I was not very experienced with psychedelics at that time, the kind of concoction they half-jokingly slipped me caught me by surprise. Before that summer I had never taken anything, only one toke of a marihuana cigarette when I was 16 or so.

Her recipe in a way worked, I ended up with Linda in bed and for the next few months that was it. She had a house in Boulder Creek, full with Allan’s stuff and took me there. As I had no car, I was kind of stranded for the week out there. I remember how I sifted through Lundell’s gear. He was a writer for electronic and AV magazines, not a great organizer, but assembled the most extensive collection of video gear one could imagine, most lying around in the Boulder Creek house on the hill or stashed in a shed outside. I cleaned out a lot of rubble, read, and watched video’s (no web then!). Sometime in the spring of 1990 I decided to go back to Holland and pick up my activities as publisher. My company kind of ran itself, while away, I just wrote articles and editorials and emailed (complicated procedure in those days with modems and 12kbps connections) them, for the computer magazines we produced, In those days there were magazines for specific machines like Commodore, Atari, PC-DOS, MSX and one about general computer news.

I was (at that time and still) an outspoken and somewhat obnoxious journalist, publisher and entrepreneur and I made money in ICT, and therefore I was a bit the “enemy” of the alternativo’s in the Dutch hacker scene. When the hackers sold out for big money a few years later (Xs4all), I felt they had betrayed their original creed. I however always believed their stance was worth protecting, and the Silicon Brotherhood Creed at the end of my Virtual Reality book (written in 1990, but this creed evolved in and from meeting with Lundell in 1989) acknowledged the importance of the deviant, the alternative, independent hacker).

Barlow was, in those days, a good friend and inspiration. He spent quite some time in SF. We travelled and tripped together, he got me backstage at the Grateful Dead new years concert, we visited trade shows and discussed the world, copyrights, God and psychedelics. His thinking inspired me a lot. I had used so many of his ideas and visions in my VR book, that I decided to put his name on the cover too. We differed in opinion in some ways. I never sided with his belief that copyrights don’t matter, that information should be free. His Cyberspace Independence Declaration/Manifesto was, in the context of his EFF work, a great statement and has been very influential; one of the few articles that really address the need for clear cyberspace rights and laws. It was, at the same time, somewhat naive, expressing a belief in the power of information and freedom that didn’t reckon with the traditions and forces concerning copyrights and the fear of institutions and governments for total freedom. I think Barlow was also inspired by Leary’s Declaration of Evolution (1968). The whole subject of cyberspace rights, legislature and freedom has been the subject of many articles I wrote in Dutch, also in the context of Infotheism and my personal notion of evolution as “a remembrance of the future” and what DNA is (an antenna into the future).

Sacramento 3220

The San Francisco scene in those days had (for me) two poles. One was Henry Dakin’s outfit on Sacramento 3220 (Henry’s Playhouse full with nonprofits and a secret Apple multimedia lab, the SF-Moscow Teleport, Jack Sarfatti and, later, Faustin Bray). The other was the Mondo House, up the hill a bit in Berkeley. Henry was a humble and softspoken millionaire, heir to the Dakin Toys fortune but fascinated by the alternative; be it waterbirth, East-west bridging, dolphins, new physics (Jack Sarfatti), Damanhur or psychedelics. He facilitated so many and was so helpful in organizing, promoting and financing the new, the different, the small and great innovators, I always liked him and his gentle approach. He was easy, slept in the back of my Egosoft new-edge shop in Amsterdam. He was an inspiration for me and many.

The Mondo house, with Queen Mu in charge and at the purse (and the editing!), was a different story. More egocentric, Mondo wasn’t about helping the world. It was an ego-statement by what my kids called catch-up hippies, flippo’s obsessed with the new, the different, who saw the potential of the new technology, as a mind changing and world changing tool. The spirituality that Henry Dakin lived was part of the Mondo culture too, but more as a tool, an experience, as part of the psychedelic awareness, the transcendental in action. Of course the house was full with esoteric art and books. All present were very well read. With people like Claudio Naranjo (enneagram), Barlow and Jaron Lanier around, philosophy and spirituality were part of the daily smorgasboard of discussions and exchanges, but not in a formal way. Although all had some deeper understanding and awareness of the mystical, the transcendental or deep contemplative was not on the agenda. Many had (had) contacts with Alan Watts or John Perry and the beat-generation poets like Ginsberg were not far off, but Mondo was more worldly than that. It made connections with the New Physics crowd via Nick Herbert (and Fred Wolf); dabbled in whatever was new in arts and music, but kind of stayed away from the health scene, the new age body work, Gaia folks and soul searching. But there was enough; the connections from Mondo with what was happening in the Bay area and beyond were fascinating. I really laid the foundation of my network there, which became the basis for my later work (writing, television, esoteric studies) and inspires me till today.

Counterculture

Before Lundell and friends made me aware of Mondo and got me involved, I was familiar with the technological side of things, the ICT industry and its outgrowth into brain machines, mind technology, but was not really hip to the general counterculture of those days. I was more a new age person with an ICT interest. Of course when I got to the Mondo house, I caught up. I have seen and read the earlier publications that R.U. was involved with — High Frontiers and Reality Hackers, but those were more traditional in appearance and layout. It was Mondo (and of course Bart Nagel and Heide Foley who made that jump in layout perspective happen) that really opened up to PostScript and the integrated layout possibilities that so markedly made Mondo 2000 a new wave in publishing.

When the Mondo people asked for support, I donated money to help print the first issue, as did John Perry Barlow and I also subsequently helped out here and there with some funds and became international distributor, not with much success. It came down to preordering and prepaying for some 800 issues (and that helped to get it printed anyway) every run, and having them shipped to some distributors in the Netherland and England. However, I never made money out of Mondo and ended up with serious stacks of Mondo’s, still in my cellars.

As R.U. was not only a keen observer and gifted writer, he also supplied all kinds of things to the Bay area cognoscenti and therefore had a real interesting network. Psychedelics were the not so secret but illicit link between the various subworlds of art, literature, music, new age and technology. Morgan Russell, R.U., Queen Mu, St. Jude (Jude Milhon/Hippie) were all broadly interested, but in different directions, with different networks and it was this convergence that was the hallmark of Mondo. They covered the whole gamut of alternativity, with a distinct “highness” underlying the meetings, events and discussions.

As this was the Bay Area and Silicon Valley was close, the link with the computer industry was easy and logical, There was the money and the excitement, in those days everybody looked at the new possibilities, whether it was in music with synthesizers; in broadcasting with digital media; in entertainment with the emerging computer games — and virtual reality was definitely the magic potion that would free us from the limitations of space and time, the ultimate trip, the electronic drug. Most of the people involved had a sixties background, although there were also the catch-up hippies like myself, who missed out on but were fascinated by the likes of Leary and the Zeitgeist of the sixties.

Part 2 will be published Friday, 3/30

Adendum

The Silicon Br/otherhood :

` We acknowledge the Silicon Path ‘

By Luc Sala and Allan Lundell
Hilversum, August 14, 1989

The computer and information technology, with the word Silicon as its main symbol, is one of the identifiers of the 20th century. This has challenged some to explore its possibilities beyond the mere superficial, utilitarian aspects of it. In arts, media, psychology, Artificial intelligence, consciousness projects, religion and creative crime, new applications are discovered and new interactions mapped. As has happenend in the history mathematics, the quabala, martial arts, building technology etc., such powerful new knowledge is first applied to the relatively mundane fields of economics, warfare and the suppression of people before one acknowlegdes and then explores the transcendental possibilities.

All through the ages people have concentrated on parts of the reality to gain access to the greater or even ultimate reality in themselves and the perennial wisdom of our species and the earth, our Silicon Mother Goddess.

The computer offers us new, and at the same time, age-old, possibilities of concentration and expansion, of communication and isolation, ego-discovery and letting go, that are largely untapped. Those who are now so deeply involved in the computer are, even unconsciously, part of a new tradition, the Silicon Path.

Now we, the initiators, explorers, guardians and even exploiters of the Silicon awareness revolution are concerned about its uses and abuses, and above all, acknowlegde its potential for growing awareness and human transcedence. We owe today’s hackers and whiz- kids, and ourselves, the opportunity to follow the Silicon Path, becoming the magi(cians) and mystics of our times. If the computer is nothing but another way to get in touch with the ultimate reality (and what else could it be), it needs some `small’ br/others to safeguard that path.

 

 

 

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 02 2012

An Insufficiently Advanced Technology For McKenna’s Magical 2012

By now, everybody knows that there’s a big crowd of folks who think something really big is going to happen this year because the Mayan Calendar allegedly ended in 2012 — specifically December 21, 2012

Less well known amongst the masses that are vaguely familiar with the meme is the fact that psychedelic/cyberdelic philosopher Terence McKenna was the original primary source for this notion and for this particular date. (If my memory serves, Jose Arguelles — the recently deceased new age guru perhaps best known for 1987’s “Harmonic Convergence” — originally set a different date for this Mayan-influenced ending of all endings, but if you try to google for data… at least to the limits of my patience…  you’ll find that any notice of this is buried beneath the now unified meme that December 21 is the hot date with destiny.)

Both men envisioned not an apocalypse (as per the current dominant meme) but some sort of transmutation of the human condition (a positive apocalypse).  While Arguelles’s perceptions were largely influenced by mystical esoterica, McKenna’s vision was much more a hybrid of the mystical and the technological.

Like Ray Kurzweil, McKenna foresaw a world in which technical evolution (he liked to use the word novelty) would keep doubling at an exponential rate until we would hit a singularity.  Only McKenna originally envisioned this constant and ever-quicker exponential doubling not by charting technical evolution but by “channeling” the “logos” behind huge quantities of tryptamine hallucinogens in the Amazon.

In McKenna’s singularity, we would unite with “the logos,” after which all of human history and materiality itself would be seen platonically as an idea space and everything — including all proceeding time and human experience — would become, in some sense, our plaything.   And this would happen on December 21, 2012.

While McKenna divined much of his theory from such mystical sources as the i Ching and ideas taken from psychedelic shamanism as practiced in the Amazon, he was also an astute student of developments in hard science, technology and culture and his sense of this drive towards the singularity was at least somewhat “grounded” in how he saw real material and cultural developments.

Thus, when McKenna described his upcoming singularity as a place where the boundary between the exterior and interior collapses and what you imagine “simply comes to be,” it was not just mystical intuition. He would also be following movements towards technologies that allow us to control other technologies with our minds, he would be getting excited about K. Eric Drexler’s prediction of molecular control of the structure of matter; and he would be thrilling to predictions of desktop manufacturing (If you put those three things together, you get something like a world where what you imagine “simply comes to be.).  He also jumped on the Virtual Reality train in the early ’90s, as that would be a kind of ecology of mind where this vision would be even easier to realize.

McKenna’s technophilia — to the extend he was a technophile — was not without its ambiguities. He believed technological advance without the intervention of spiritual, psychedelic consciousness and values would be both ugly and lethal.

Still, it would probably be a mistake — one that seems to be made by many current McKenna-philes — to think that Terence would feel confident that this grand transmutation based, only in part, on the Mayan Calendar was going to occur on time despite the fact that the technological training wheels needed to boost us into this platonic state have not yet sufficiently developed (if ever).

McKenna never took his role as a prophet as seriously as some of his disciples now appear to.  As a self-admitted “carnival barker” (and how self righteous and humorless have we become that many reading this will find this reason to dismiss him entirely?), there’s a pretty good chance that he would have hopped aboard the 2012 circus for purposes of livelihood and as a context for spreading other aspects of his philosophy, and he probably would have been available to be propped up on a hemp-woven throne at the stroke of midnight at the 12.21.12 global rave, but I feel certain that he would have been much more surprised if December 21, 2012 turns out to be a day of magical transmutation than he would have been disappointed if it does not.

 

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.