Slow Life: Where Underwater Creatures and Psychedelic Journeys Meet
If you go to New South Wales, you will see marsupials hopping about the countryside. And if you go to the antipodes of the conscious mind, you will encounter all sorts of creatures at least as odd as kangaroos. You do not invent these creatures any more than you invent marsupials. They live their own lives in complete independence. A man cannot control them. All he can do is go to the mental equivalent of Australia and look around them. Aldous Huxley
It’s been just a century since time-lapse videography first opened up a new horizon of the living world to human eyes, and only scant few decades more than that since we first glimpsed the creatures of the ocean floor. Watching corals move at speeds that we can understand is new enough that it’s still alien to us. A symptom of our powerful estrangement from the biosphere, the vast majority of life appears to most of us as if it’s from another world. It’s hard to grasp that this is what supports the oceans – and, in turn, the human world – so far removed are we from the anatomy, ecology, and time scale of the barrier reefs. But that is changing.
We’re waking up to our relationship with crucial oceanic ecosystems, foreign yet essential, at the very moment in our evolution that we’re starting to explore the inner landscape of the human mind. The great unconscious and the underwater are, in metaphor and myth, aligned. Like ocean floor, the mystery beneath our egos bridges us as islands. It’s full of strange discoveries.
There’s awesome symmetry between our dive below the waves and into archetypal depths, between our robot subs and neuro-imaging machines: one shows us creatures we cannot believe are fellow earthlings, and the other humbles us with evidence of just how little of the self is truly conscious.
It’s no accident that the two frontiers retreat in synchrony like this. In truth, they are the same, the east and west horizons of a question that connects beneath our feet. The “psychedelic,” or “mind-manifesting,” nature of our century expands us all in both directions: outward, into ever-deepening embrace of our relatedness; and inward, toward the Ground of Being, from which all distinctions flow.