A Dialog Between Robert Hunter and Terence McKenna
Copyright 1996 by Terence McKenna and Robert Hunter
This is an Email dialog between Robert Hunter and Terence McKenna, dating back to 1996. Its not an Article but its a very interesting read. It covers a wide spectrum of topics, including DMT. We have divided each email reply with a separator to make things easier for you to read. Enjoy reading this my friend.
in reading your books I was struck with how closely your DMT experiments paralleled my own. I wasn’t surprised by the confirmation, as you might guess. I considered myself a serious DMT explorer between 1967-69. I stopped only because I was told to, in no uncertain terms, by the Boss of that place. Three times, in fact, to my dismay. Disobedience was costly. I was informed that I’d been shown all that was mine to know, to use that, and not try to extract more. I’ve written of the classes and varieties of DMT experience in a chapter of my journal, memoirs, and will send it along at some point. The experiences were commanding and altered my grasp of reality. DMT invokes the various dimensions of its domain through pathways characterized by brisk rhythms.
I was interested in what you had to say about being an explorer of the DMT world until the management told you to stay away. I have heard several tales of psychonauts toking DMT and then seeming to break into a place where they were not only unwelcome but also unexpected. One person in particular, a composer, was literally thrown back to the beginning of time by an astonished and irritated Jabba the Hutt type who he surprised at its meditations. I have never been told that I am not welcome but I find that it is harder and harder to get up the raw courage necessary to make the trip. It is almost as though a secret hides in and behind the DMT state and that secret is both real and so unexpected that it would leave nothing of reality intact. The secret cannot be told of course, or I would have told it. But it is something like: We are all gods, with the knowledge of gods, we are all omniscient, except for the fact that we are so damn stupid. It is interesting that you were told “Use what you have been shown, don’t seek for more.” It uses us, some of us, to transfer information into the world, but with very little concern for what we, the carriers of that information, think about it. It is a kind of hyperspatial muse. We become carriers of some force we don’t understand, bearers of the Logos I would say, other see us as the Typhoid Mary’s of meme pathology. But left unanswered in all of this is the question why. Why does the alien presence intrude in DMT, why does it appear as it does? Is that how it wishes to appear? Why? etc. etc.
I enjoy the idea of a slow moving dialog, I hope this can continue.
I suppose the “facts” of DMT might as well be written in cunieform on our breastbones for all the good it does to know about it, as opposed to “dwelling in the know of it.” And memory, of course, cannot serve, at least not in its normative form. The moment you go back to bflbfzdxqitenamaton South of sprshguiekefwom (sp?) your memory is again a living parchment and complete, all events self-referencing, co-incident, current, and existing in eternity. To be there is to be where “that” is and “this” isn’t, except metaphorically. We are metaphor, that is — where it is almost painful to write or say “is.” Bumblebees, aerodynamically too heavy to fly, rise, it could be, on the word “is” — We don’t take DMT; DMT takes us.
My personal take on the “secret” of DMT: it was long, hard work making this world real. It was, and is, done for a purpose. To have others. To believe in them fully in order to experience love. It goes against common sense to try and see through it. Ignorance is the primary condition of Eden. But entropy is at work and a world made for love is not satisfied with the transformational edict “eat and be eaten” but kills and does not eat. A sense of ultimate unity is lost and the delusion of fundamental diversity breeds alienation. This is not Eden. Yet the monad doesn’t face itself and subsume Its creation. The failing would be eternal. Therefore, doors are opened and enough of the plot is “made flesh” to allow orientation regarding the surface gist of the matter. Collectivism is a wrong approach to nostalgia for the purity of the monad. Healthy diversity perpetuates the rationale of the creation, such as it is. Healthy men, women, races and nations evolving gladly to a recognition of the source, rejoining it in a gradual and rejoicing manner, “bringing in the sheaves,” would be a better solution to the human aspect of this work, and is the substance of sacred ceremonial.
My take could be way off base but anything more Gnostic is off-putting. Phil Dick fell down that sink. And Lovecraft, I wouldn’t doubt, though he professed no belief in what he wrote.
In saying any or all of this, it’s only sane to assume I’m dead wrong since I’m speaking in polar terms. But it raises issues and generates metaphor. The emperium is neither philosophical space nor information repository but a nexus of rhythms. (nexi?) It’s rhythm that transports us to the possibility of xing tangential to eternity with no fixed point of reference, including ” I am.” I say xing, rather than: being, moving, exisiting – because of wanting to be as exact as possible. A lot of DMT lore can’t be expounded because our verbs and prepositions correspond to realities of four dimensions or less, gainsaid. To catalogue conditions where one accelerates at warp speed to stand still in one place / where transfer among interconnecting universes is instantaneous / where we connect, with full memory, into other lives we’re in the process of living, for example, the land of living armchairs and laughing sunshine (or the heartbreaking Tuesday Afternoon Ballroom in the Rain at the end of time) we must understand the nature and limitations of our grammar and be self-motivated to think beyond it. To avoid the condition of pathological meme-ing, we must not over-state our experiences, or mis-state them for easier referentiality. We may, however, talk around them and establish communication based on mutual recognitions. A language begins in this manner.
If your calculations about Omega point are KoreKt, it should be a matter of mere months before the language evolves, like a flu virus, to allow western discussion of living items of eternity. I mean, we’re doing it, aren’t we? And, if we feel mysteriously driven to do it, I presume it’s because the time is ripe for it. There was a time when I felt the DMT lore was critical information. I don’t entirely disbelieve it yet.
We need a few verbs and prepositions to explain ourselves. “Trip” & “farout” aren’t going to do it. Suggest “xing” as the verb of standing/moving in relation to an eternal scenario from no fixed reference point, psychic or positional. We could say “evolve” to a “transdimensional viewpoint” but it would be clunky with accumulated baggage. I’d as soon say “xing to Unity One” to describe the place of 360 degree spherical vision. The Visor, I call it, but that would be private slang. The visor goes back and you see behind and above you, where the sky is infinitely deep and Summer blue. Scientific language, with its distaste for adjectives, is useless here. But not later, back home, with a case of the post-extasis blues, having just conversed with Eve and missing her already.
I don’t want to sell this stuff, DMT. It’s damned well not for everybody. Fortunately, its abuse potential is rock bottom. I, who loved it, have only taken it twice in the last 20 years and that was too much. It’s like jumping on or off a speeding train. Omni-dimensional fact finding is not a very high priority among the “kicks” crowd; they’re better off with gas and its infinite fractals of memory, or airplane glue. DMT is for those with a desperate need to know, and, among those, for only a small percentage whose neural wiring happens to be heavy gauge with appropriate sheathing. Nobody ever got rich peddling DMT. It was only always passed from hand to hand outside normal “drug ring” circles. It is, to LSD, as 198 proof rum is to hot milk with a few drops of brandy. I feel it’s important to say this, since I don’t want our public discussion to be seen as advocacy. Nor do I say it shouldn’t be tried. For some, its the key to the lock. One good hit should tell you where you stand with it. The fact that’s it’s generally unavailable indicates that demand is wanting. I thoroughly understand your comment about the difficulty of summoning the “raw courage” to experiment further with DMT.
DMT is self-selecting. It knows who it wants, for whatever reasons it wants them, and scares the bejezus out of anyone else. Those who ought to have it will find themselves in possession of it, like anything else. The human brain secretes it. In miniscule natural quantities, it’s the fuel of fantasy, dreams and visions. The alien-ness of many of the realms of DMT is striking. The mechanical “pixies” as you call them, for starters. I call them the klaxton men, with their klik-klak box joints and inter-dimensional warp and woof, though “men” they are not. Or the “firemen” those beings of fire who inhabit one of the closer to home stations on the way “out.” They seem entirely unconscious of us. The “pixies” know we’re there. They’re not much interested, though. And then there’s those elemental forces that descend on your room in a vortex and whirl all your property around your head, rattle your windows, even set your curtains on fire and leave your nerves jangled for days! Ah, the memories . . . And the critters, such as you pointed out, who wonder what the hell you’re doing in their room! There’s no time to explain, even if you could form words. And besides, who are you anyway? Anyone who has been surprised by heavy surf, whirled helplessly and slammed on the sand, has a reasonable metaphor for the power of DMT. Control isn’t even in question here. Who controlling what? Caveat emptor is the byword for this empress of psychotropic substances.
Naw, you don’t do “research” with DMT. You wrestle for your salvation with Behemoth and sometimes receive an unpredictible vision of actual Heaven on the dare, which makes you game to try such desperate measures again. Religionists, with their guaranteed eventual paradise, of which they know nothing, taking it all on “faith,” can’t be expected to understand or sympathize with those with a yen to storm the Gate of Heaven and see for themselves what all the praying’s about!
I’ll stop with this, ill-confident that I’ve moved slowly as might be into the dialogue, but, considering how much remains to be spoken, what with the eschaton and all, how slowly is it even possible to move?
I like what you have to say about DMT, I agree with most of it, yet I am aware that because the object of our discussion is so non-ordinary and peculiar that when we think that we have said all that we can say we still have not said enough. The experience is somehow able to hold within itself both the sublime and the ridiculous, the awesome and the trivial in one alchemical container.
So as I sit here reading your account I partially become it; I recover and remember the experience through that lens. But I cannot forget that it has made me laugh harder than anything ever has and that it has shown me a candy lacquered form of sexy naughtiness that I else wise would not have known existed. So I take it to be a kind of a pun. It both is what it is and it mocks what it is by being many other things simultaneously. Its nature is that it is many things, including contradictory things, at once, that is what makes it impossible.
Borges, in that story in Labyrinths called “The Sect of the Phoenix” says that to the initiated the secret seems slightly ridiculous. When I was a kid, maybe you knew people like this too, I had playmates that were my own age but so much less sophisticated than the rest of us that when we six year olds were putting on Halloween masks and chasing each other and shrieking and freaking out on sugar, there were a couple of kids who couldn’t get that it was not real, that it was a game, that it is fun to scare the shit out yourself and your friends. I am not placing your trepidation in that category. I feel the trepidation too, but I do feel, and this may be the difference between doing it a couple of times and doing it maybe thirty times, that as I sit here I can recapture the feeling of the flash, not only the feeling but in some sense I would say “the Perspective” And looking at it like that it seems like it is the edge of meaning, that meaning is actually being made somewhere over the ordinary horizon of experience, and that when the DMT kicks in one is moved to the domain where meaning comes into existence. And the delight and surprise that accompanies unfolding complicated puns has a very similar feeling.
I am beginning to feel as though I am not making meaning any more so I will knock off for the evening. I am enjoying this, hope you are too.
conversely, when we’ve just begun we’ve said it all, taking for granted that we’re speaking of the um. . . er. . . infinite. Nasty word, should be stricken from the language and replaced with “linoleum” which, to my ear, is the most gracefully evocative word I know, on a par with “Eloim.” “God” is another ugly word; leave it to the Anglo-Saxons to manufacture a brutal set of phonemes for the All. Fortunately we also have “Lord” which most people instinctively substitute. No one ever says “Lord Damn it!” do they? Just warming up here. Before anyone gets unduly upset (not you certainly) remember “God” is a categorical term, not the name of Supreme Being, which, it seems safe to assume, Kabbalah notwithstanding, is patently nameless — or “all name” which is pretty much the same thing. Does this conflict with one of the 10 commandments? Probably a matter of translation. I would expect the commandment would translate into something more like: “Thou shalt not swear falsely by that you hold most high.” Excellent advice.
My particular trepidation about further DMT use is not a timidity about the substance per se. I reckon I’ve taken it a thousand times before receiving my emphatic cut off notice. My preferred method was intravenous. No nasty taste. First time I tried that I X’d growing out of a flowerpot on Venus beneath a great dome.
The comedy quotient is indeed “ridiculous.” I remember one sublime journey which ended with a funny little train belching, farting and boogying off into the distance . . . then a Warner Bros. Loony Toons circular rainbow logo descend, upon which was written “That’s all folks!”
You noted that what happens on DMT is often “impossible.” That sure does say it. Reality just doesn’t bend that way — yet it does. Multiple contradictory viewpoints manifesting at once give the truth to Whitman’s utterance “I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” The most usual manifestation of that, characteristic of almost every journey I can recall, is the sensation of moving at what, I presume, is the speed of light while remaining stationary. You can’t figure it out, so you just “relax” and let it rip. The stars congeal into one immense circumference of light, and bingo — you’re somewhere else.
Another notable feature of DMT is the “aliveness” of everything out there. Nothing apprehended which is not entirely, vividly alive, including dust. Nothing is inanimate. Nothing is incapable of rapid and utter transformation. The most stable item I ever experienced was the living water pouring from the Holy Grail in the Sanctum Sanctorum. There, I’d have been content to dwell forever. I still treasure that vision above all others and am largely content to know it exists in the heart — that love is REAl, not just a term for getting along with one another and making nice.
But I enthuse. A little of someone else’s reported extasis goes a long way. Guess I’m compensating a little for the earlier impression I might have given that “DMT beats you up.” Yes, it can and does, but that’s the nature of the spiritual journey. Is DMT “the way”? No. Because you come back. Because, at least in my case, the gates of Eden can be slammed in you face and presided over by an angel with a flaming sword. But one thing you never forget: the spiritual world is more real than this one, by a country mile.
Anyhow, I went, I saw, was seen, and I’m still sane enough to operate a computer and string words into grammatically correct and hopefully coherent statements — and to realize I’m walking the edge of big cultural no-no’s in reporting what I found. In fact, bucking the enforced status quo is probably inherently more dangerous, innit?
Ps: just ran a spell checker on this and got:
Not in Dictionary: aliveness
Change to: aliens
so help me God!
Date: Sat, 1 Jun 1996 09:42:34 -1000
Subject: a page for Tim
I will get back to the demented dialog in a moment. But to help mark Tim’s journey out I wanted to point anyone interested toward my page http://www.levity.com/eschaton/leary.html
I am back at it. Yes, it does beat up on you, it does and it doesn’t. Everything about it seems to come packaged with its opposite. One of the weirdest impressions that I have, and it took me a number of trips to put this all together, but in my own experiences at any rate, it became clear that weird as the place I was carried off to was, nevertheless it was someone’s notion, someone very peculiar, of just what a human being like me would prefer. It was an alien effort to make an environment that was comfortable and reassuring to human beings, but as if they/it had only studied human beings from a very different perspective than the one from which we know ourselves. This feeling of important process with grown up overtones and yet with an element of the childish and silly came to remind me of the vibe of a maternity or pediatric ward; high tech, life and death stuff is going on. But they have closets full of teddy bears and the wall paper patterns are all dancing bears and mice in tutus. I have wondered if the wondrous objects offered by the tykes in the DMT encounter, for all their power to stand our world on its head, may be, in that world, no more than plastic geometric shapes strung on a rope and hung over an infant’s bassinet for its amusement and to teach it spatial and color coordination. They are no more than toys. But the maternity ward metaphor goes deeper. There is a feeling of arrival, of anxious doctors, and a sense of enormous decompression and relief. Come to think of it, decompression is a good metaphor for how DMT makes me feel, it is as if I has returned at last to my natural medium of existence, having left a zone of constriction and pressurized limitation, hence I feel inflated in every sense in that place. And then there is the language lesson that they always insist on giving me and insist is the entire point of our little meetings, though no else has ever described the stress on language and poetics and linguistic skill that seems to fill my trips. More on all that later. Don’t want to shoot my wad in one go.
Date: Sat, 8 Jun 1996 08:24:23 -0800
From: [email protected]
went to the dentist a few days ago and had NO2 while they excavated my bridge. Caramels again! The sirens and chattering of the void took me to that almost but never quite nitrous surround, the place where All is One with a vengeance and there’s always one last detail to realize before the universal riddle is completely solved. I realized I knew that place inside out. It was updated to include current circumstances, sure, but I finally requested the gas be shut off and endured the rest of the session with neither nitrous nor Novocain. My tired old cells require a more gentle view of eternity these days.
You’ve joggled my memory, thanks. One of my kindest interdimensional experiences was in a nursery. There were several children, presence strong, though I never “saw” them visually. I’m not certain but I think I may have been one of them. Hard to tell who, what or how many you are, except later – when able to define oneself as the subject of the experience. That’s always an overlay on the raw perception, but necessary to “file” anything in memory and reduce the experience in order to look at it at all. To remember the egoless state would be to be re-subsumed by it. One just wants to put everything relating to DMT in quotes to draw attention to the provisionality of terms used in dealing with any of “this.” What “I” saw on “my” trip.
The children were laughing, mischievous and quicker than sight. The sense of nostalgia was overpowering – as of being re-united with deeply loved ones separated by aeons and vast distance – the love was mutual. The room was red; it was “the Cherry Room” and, toward the end, the children manifested as immense fluid cherries on the wall of the room. Your mention of “wallpaper” brought this to mind.
The sense of someone older and wiser in charge of instructing us fledglings, in some immensely obscure study, is prominent in my memory, now that you happen to designate a category for it. Strange to be able to muster a re-organization of psychic experiences of decades ago, which I doubt I can do with “normal” experiences at such a temporal distance. So many things have faded from memory, while key DMT experiences are often as vivid as though they’re being recalled only a couple of weeks after the fact.
The language lessons interest me very much. The feeling that the “teachings” were of immense importance, and that one did, in truth, learn them is strong – though what they were I can’t remember. It may be visualized re-integration of data on a cellular level, interpreted as “language.” Would like to go back there and check it out with that in mind – as much as one can keep any set of earthbound intentions in “mind” outside ego boundaries. Are we harking back to memories of ontogony in the blastula stage, re-reading our own blueprints of how to make a body? Is access to those instructions stored in the ‘nine tenths of the brain we don’t use’ because they’re of no earthly use once we’re born?
Really the rat’s ass being locked out of the lab, but I expect THEY know better. I wonder – did I make a mess on some sacred carpet, thinking I was emitting flowers? Did I insult some petty DMT bureaucrat who’s had me barred? Am I under house arrest in this dimension? Or did I just graduate?
Sorry to have been out of the loop for a while. I have been ill with some complicated thing that brought its own ambiguity with it. Strangely the experience seemed to have implications for our discussion. Ten days ago I slipped into a flu that seemed to have a mortal viciousness about it that actually frightened me. Was it a kind of couvade for the late lamented Leary? Who knows. Anyhow the delirious fevers and icy night sweats, the body aches and the vomiting was all accompanied by thoughts, myriad thoughts, many obsessive in the sense that, though they were trivial, once begun there seemed to be no end of them. And there were dreams in which–familiar territory–I seemed to be on the brink of some great understanding. After days of roiling epistemic murk and no diminution of the fever I realized that this was no flu at all, but rather a set of sensations that I had known before years ago but had long ago suppressed and forgotten: all the signs were there of so massive a dose of intestinal parasites that it was hard for me not to think of myself as already half a corpse, so congenial to worms had I become.
It was from that vantage point that I tried to look back on the bright spaces of the DMT experience. The soul is never so clearly glimpsed as when like a kite she hovers a great distance from the corruption of the body. I once gave DMT to a high Tibetan character, not one of the grab tail assholes current or recently at work among the easily fleeced denizens of the New Age, but actually someone whom I regard as the real McCoy. His words to me upon return from those realms was to say that he had been carried into the realms of “the lesser lights,” by which he meant that one could go only that far and no farther without abandonment of even the idea of a return. Sort of an end-of-the-rope look over the wall into an ecology of souls, that was the impression I got from listening to him describe his DMT experience.
So perhaps that is the ultimate gift of this material: Consciousness expansion. I will give you consciousness expansion that will turn your blood to ice water. Consciousness expanded to the limits reveals what? The limits of consciousness obviously. Perhaps it is this for which we are not prepared and to which we are both attracted and repelled as an insect to a flame. I remind myself as I write these words and play this game with you that reality’s edges, and the edges of biology, are not for sissies. A mystery is not an unsolved problem. A mystery is something else, and all the big stuff: birth, orgasm, love, death and DMT partake of that mystery. There is always that perspective from which we recognize ourselves as gnats caught in the lens of eternity. Death reminds us of this. And so too, but by a different route, does DMT.
All the best,
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 1996 00:47:17 -0800
June 16, 1996
I’d guessed your silence was prompted by a meticulous inspection of thoughts before committing them to the file. Is there anything strange about subject-synchronicity when discussing the pentultimate synchrosubstance? Strange if there were no string of coincidences to accompany this. My notion of the Eschaton is a convergence of coincidences so striking that a non-coincidence would seem uncanny.
I cringe at the report of your discomfort. The deluvian barrage of trivial thoughts. Garcia reported an awful layer of science-fiction hallucination, full of puns and dumb jokes, endlessly trivial, when coming out of his first coma. He grasped my hand and asked: “Have I gone insane?” “No,” I said, “You’re delirious. You’ve been very sick.” “That’s a relief,” he said.
The Hellish visions of the sickened body interested me back in my psychotropic heydey. I purposely indulged in physical activity (rather than observing strict bed rest) during a bout of hepatitis, in order to prolong the delirium phase. All I wanted in 1967 was MORE consciousness! This quest was kicked off by the government MK-Ultra “psychotomimetic” drug tests in ’62, in which I participated, being the first kid on my block to take LSD, psilocybin and mescaline, with a bonus of all 3 at once for my fourth and final session. Got paid $140. It was two more years before psychedelics hit the street and my friends could finally comprehend what I’d been raving about.
Your report of the high Tibetan character reminds me of an experience by my bright and believable friend Paul Mittig in 1968. It happened in a pueblo in New Mexico. He was looking for a shaman he’d heard about and found him in the corral of the pueblo. He tried to strike up a conversation, but the medicine man didn’t have much to say. Paul, a DMT advocate in those days, happened to have some crystals with him. He avowed that you didn’t even need to smoke it, just carrying the crystals on your person was enough to change reality. Paul said to the Indian: “I’ll show you some of my magic if you’ll show me some of yours.” The braided grandfather agreed and Paul prepared a tiny pipe with mint leaves, sprinkled DMT on top, and lit it for him. The shaman smoked, then sat silent for a few minutes. Finally he said “Pretty good magic. Now I show you some of mine.” A strong wind rose and hit Paul from the East side of the corral. Then a wind hit him from the West. Then one from the North followed by one from the South. Suddenly half a dozen white horses galloped into the corral, circling Paul and the Indian three times before running off through the open corral gate. “My magic good. Yours better,” Paul said to the old magician.
The ultimate limit of consciousness, seeing your reflection on the surface of infinite ice, is awe inspiring. The Gnostic horror of Leviathan. It is only ice because we’re conscious of ice; if of fire, then it is infinite fire. If of God, infinite God. Consciousness of self is ultimately consciousness of nothing. Full consciousness of nothing is the state of being seen from the outside. Outside in. Purely objective. This can be a vision of joy, but more likely not. More likely everything one is made of screams for quick reintegration. Elsewise we live no more. Or so it seems. But to hang in there and take it right square on the jaw, to refuse to run, if only from some deeply determined cellular vow to the quest, is to WIN POINTS! Something just loves that we do this and rewards us with crowns, flowers, and the sweetest air to breath. I trust it is so with death. Let me put it this way: why trust otherwise? Ah, Tim!
It occurs to me that you did mighty battle with “the worm” last week, old Leviathan itself. It also occurs that the vision of the limits of consciousness is the worm’s legacy. In that sign it conquers. Onion sauce! Consciousness is endless. But it’s by facing the Hellish delusion of its finiteness that we earn motive power to ascend. Were all revealed, why, all would be revealed. Ho hum… Revelation’s the thing! The delicious taste of exploding ignorance. A bath in a rainwater sea. The tits of Aphrodite. The tongue of Minerva down your throat. Kid’s stuff, but good fun. Beyond that, it gets serious. Compassion serious. The broken toe of the world. Ouch! What right do we have to all that fun? The right of grace, that’s all. Free ice cream. Moments of gladness neither to be sought nor shunned.
Mm. That felt right. Felt good to say. How else do you judge? By logic? Hope you’re feeling a lot better. Ever gargle with Clorox? Those little suckers don’t stand a chance! Try peroxide if you can’t take the taste.
ps/ off to England in 4 days, where Maureen, Kate (8) and I will spend the Summer. I’m assuming modems work there and the dialogue can continue apace. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to speak straight across about these things. Can only guess what it means to those reading over our shoulders, but conversing in depth with a fellow stranger is not the usual for me. I believe what we’re talking about is almost pathetically important.
End of Part 1
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 1996 18:01:42 -1000
Subject: Re: Leviathan
You mentioned that you were off to England and that you assumed there would be modems there. Yes, but sometimes getting all the little phone jacks and funny adapters all together can be a pain. I have been totally getting off on recovering from my brush with the forces of intestinal destruction. It is wonderful when health and good digestion are new won friends that get you high every day. Ah, so that is over, one more speed bump on the pot holed highway of life. It has allowed me to turn my attention back toward the secular holy grail of my life here, which is the search for a really good connection to the internet. Nobody knows the hell that we go though out here to have a web presence. The Levity machines in New York serve the site very quickly and of course Dan is a state of the art kind of guy. No problem there. The problem is my connection. I use an analog US Cellular modem to reach my server in Kailua-Kona. Top speed is 4800 baud, connection is intermittent, easily broken and 35 cents per minute. Moving even a small GIF to the levity machine under these conditions can be a frantic experience. There are solutions, really there are mirages of solutions, the only real solution as far as I can tell is wireless spread spectrum technology, powerful radio modems that can reach thirty miles at 128 up to 256 kps. Hot stuff but expensive. Finally I have put together a leasing deal where this toy is almost in my grasp, in fact we are in the installation and burn in phase now. Or nearly now, as no one has yet seen this puppy perform. If and when this comes on-line I will be the technical ace of the Kona Coast. But we have been after this for eighteen months with dot to show for the effort. I will let you know how it comes out. I felt the need to give you this detailed look at the technology behind my end of our connection so that you understand the reasons for some of the delays and lost time with our conversation.
And what about our conversation. The Other is always with us. It is sort of the Omni-purpose Muse. One only has to evoke it’s presence and it offers itself as a perfect surface for the inspection of the limits of the imagination, certainly. I think that in an earlier post I mentioned that though it resists description nevertheless when I tell my mind “Think about it.” I enter into a state different from any other. And it is un-English able. And after these experiences of “thinking about it” are concluded I then and in a normal state of mind conclude that the phenomena is about language. It is an experience about language that nevertheless, or perhaps intrinsically, cannot be talked about. It is as though it takes one to the other side of language, to a world where language is beheld or understood differently, through different senses or from a different perspective. It is as though there is a simple and obvious truth which cannot be said in words, all words betray it. Yet words are all that we have to approach this truth, it is a truth I feel, not a feeling of truth or a true feeling but a Truth. Normally such things come made of words. But not this one. Why not. The answer to that question would tell us what it is. Perhaps it is a mathematical truth, perhaps when one’s IQ is boosted by an order of magnitude, as seems to happen in the flash, then one groks the basic mathematical order of things, something that can normally only be known after a life of deep intellectual discipline. Or perhaps… perhaps…
Enjoy England and the summertime, if you can get down to Devon. To the Old Stones.
All the best,
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 19:57:35 -0400
Online in England after aquiring the plug & phone jack adapters and a good transformer. Ever try to dial an 800 number (my server) from over here? A: it possibly can’t be done. B: if it can be done you can’t do it with the wrong country code. The US is now 001 instead of 0101. But I’m fixed. Could write a handbook.
The Net cranks here. Very fast. Now I know what www means experientially. Distance is real but I can’t say how since self and time are variables with variables of their own. Great satisfaction in wielding faster, wider bands of potential than at home but I don’t use it much. It’s my vacation.
The imperative urge to communicate remains active, the coal I can’t swallow or spit out. I’ve put out a whaleworth of doggedly spontaneous communication in the last four months, courting risk. I often upload my journals with something like a prayer that they not blow up in my face or haunt me forever because of some unexamined attitude. But I feel what you describe as the Other prompting me to hold truth higher than caution. Truth magnifies. Caution avoids.
Agreed: truth is simple and unsayable. Viewing from that position of simplicity allows instant apprehension of matters complex beyond calculation. Resolved: art is the proper response. There’s much to say about it – nothing to say of it. Say of it anyway and be a glad fool. Speak of what is beyond speech fluently. The Psalm is an appropriate mode of expression. The elegy and the ballad.
The net offers appropriate boundless ground to declaim – without publishers, editors or retail to consider. There’s a well known syndrome of derring do on the net which is a combination of ready accessibility and infinite editability and/or updatability compounded with cathode fixation. I’d hesitate to call it a Muse, but it sure acts like one. “Nettie made me say it!” Trying to downsize the Net in my own perception lately. The Ignoranti feed off our delusions of the actual “power” and “reach” of the WWW, which we confuse with its sheer potential and advertise accordingly. Once corporations learn that there’s very little cash profit to made on the Net, outside of our servers, funds will stop. But it will be too late. It already is. Until a comet erases every hard drive on the planet. What form of digital information storage could escape the mass erase? Crystal? Protein? Jellyfish? Silicon? A roomful of idiot savants with photographic memory? Laser embedment on the point of a pin? Put the technology on a rocket and send it on a return cruise outside the solar system? Make that two rockets. Always back up important data!
“What resists description” is the object in itself. We either see it free of words, or in a language appropriate to itself, which is more akin to co-ordinates than the lingua we use to relate useful objects to our bodily needs and egocentric ambitions. We see only the aspects of objects the lingua allows for. Some objects we do not see at all. We intuit from the “flash” that all objects are beings. We are redefined in the act of being observed by objects in the samee manner in which electron micoroscopy changes what the scientist observes. What about telescopy?
In light of all this a redefinition of “seeing” is called for. One that implies interactivity. Seeing is less passive than we assume. This state of affairs is probably exciting only to the risk taker with a built in sense of essential immortality and a willingness to invest “self” as a kind of psychic capital.
I wonder, now that you’re on the mend, about something icily terrifying you said awhile back, about the end of consciousness – coming up to that point in fear and trembling. I felt moved to comment on it at the time. It seemed like a viewpoint of psychic exhaustion. I saw it once after overdosing on a quarter million micrograms of acid at the Carousel Ballroom (NOT on purpose) in ’69, which effectively marked paid to my acid career. Someone who has crawled naked across the Sahara doesn’t spend much time in tanning parlors. Anyway, your statement carried the conviction of someone who has recently looked that place in the eye (or vice versa) and I’m curious as to how much of it may have been due to the parasite invasion? I believe that place (technically known as Hell) is more of a culdesac of consciousness than an inviolable limit to it.
Meantime/space, life in this unspoiled pocket of England is all it should be. Cynicism seems unknown here, tourism is slight, the people cheerful and friendly beyond my previous experience. It’s hard to be grumpy but I manage. Roses climbing into my window, 3am, light patter of rain. Time and the Net seem distant. Heap good vacation.
ps: this place feels lousy with lay lines. Not my field, but there’s something happening here which speaks to a dormant sense. Not a mystic feeling. Seems objective.
pps: can I use your server? Wow!
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 1996 20:13:02 -1000
I hope the English summer is treating you right. I love Devon in the springtime but the pollen takes me to hell.
I have been mulling our conversation, and reading David Abrams “The Spell of the Sensuous” and from there a bit of Merleau-Ponty. And that sent me back to Whitehead’s “Process and Reality” and I reread Part III which lays out ANW’s idea that feelings are the primary datum of all experience. I mention all this just so you know who I have been hanging with as I form my notions.
What I return to again and again, and what these authors seems to brush up against from different angles, is the idea of a lost modality of language. That civilization, for a number of debatable reasons, has severed us, not only from nature as habitat and ecosystem/landscape but has profoundly severed us from our own nature, including the full compliment of communication skills and channels that we once accessed.
Of course their approach is very academic and proceeds by reason and philosophical argument, but beneath that can be heard a very real plea for deliverance. These authors either were not aware of or chose to appear unaware of, the psychedelic experience a la DMT. Though Abrams quotes an amazing passage from Merleau-Ponty’s “Phenomenology of Perception” about mescaline.
But what they are calling for, the recreation of language through rediscovery of the body, to reclaim language’s lost dimension, is to my mind exactly what happens when DMT works. For me it has always been about the sudden almost orgasmic outpouring of meaning that is beheld, words become things made of light and the restoration of this power brings with it ecstatic apotheosis, it is a reuniting with the lost portion of the self, somehow become lost during the vicissitudes of our long strange history since Paleolithic Algeria.
I wish I could get at this more, this transformation of language. It is as personal and subjective as sex. Yet because it involves sound and vibes, it is potentially highly inter subjective, meaning can involve other sentient beings. And I have since the first time I smoked had the indisputable intuition that, in spite of its archaic roots, or perhaps because of them, that it would have a profound and salutary role to play in the transformation of cultural crisis into utter utopia. Anyhow that is enough for now.
Keep on Truck’en.
From: [email protected]
Bingo! Since keys are keys, not the rooms and the contents of the rooms which they open, it seems salutary to consider the rooms opened by chemical keys to be simply ourselves, rather than something alien and/or dangerous: parts of ourselves locked away from the ego perception which is the sum of our cultural conditioning as expressed in language as she’s spoke. Freed for a moment, the latent language facility blooms and expresses things we only understand in the moment, with ears of the moment. And somehow this reminds us, so very often, of childhood – the immense bright afternoons of childhood aeternitatus. The few lexical items we manage to bring back are not unlike the babbling of a child before the native word talent is shaped into common language. I’m tempted to say, though I will not go so far as to affirm, that we ARE the word talent, as much as we ARE the visual talent, the light gathering and organizing facility. I’m reminded of Rick Griffin’s flying eyeballs uttering strange glyphs. Words of light dissolve the amorphous boundaries between the facilities – six senses be damned, there’s only one! We ‘apprehend’ and are subsumed in the apprehending.
Phenomenology must take its clue from the state of pure apprehension. Wittgenstein wandered far from this and based his later self repudiated Philosophicus Tractatus on reason alone. Of course, his agenda was to destroy all philosophy up to and including his own and, I suspect, wipe the slate clean for a whole new go. Cambridge affected him that way. How is thought to continue beyond Wittgenstein? It must be regrounded in direct apprehension and freed from the clutter of religious symbology which leaks into and influences perception of the emperium. This doesn’t mean do away with religion, ceremony is right and natural, but to comprehend that it could be based on primary rather than authoritarian secondary and tertiary modes of perception, allowing vital illumination of the present categories of shadow and mystery. The emperium is quintessentially religious, if by that the indubitable presence of divine consciousness in the sacred garden is understood.
Merleau-Ponty is far and away the most readable of the phenomenologists, those great grandsons of Berkeley and Kant, though I’m fond of old daddy Husserl himself, unreadable as he is. I once spent several months of 1972 on one dry as dust page of his “Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness.” re-reading and marking up the page ad nauseum. Never did grasp the whole presented thought (lame translation?) but it kept my mind spinning in those grooves. Those who think his disciple Heidegger is difficult should try the maestro himself, compared to whom Marty’s “Being and Time” reads like Mickey Spillane. But how does one become entirely ‘scientific’ about the roots of perception? Occam’s razor cuts as far as the stratum of poetry and no further. What is not divisible is opaque to methodology. But I don’t belittle the limits of methodology. What good is a tool without limits? Tools ARE limits. You don’t water the lawn with a shovel. The Swiss Army knife is the exception which proves the rule.
I admire the succinctness of your last letter. Forgive me if I ramble as is my habit. It’s morning in the shire and I look out my writing room window at a flock of sheep grazing the backyard. Beyond them, down the dell: a cluster of Tudor and Elizabethan farmhouses. Will be hard to give this up come late August, but I’ve late taxes, teeth and other business to attend to.
Had the opportunity to experience dysentery with fever and light delirium last week. Not much compared to your ordeal with Oroboros in May but enough to experience the relative pleasure of a return to normality. The allergy season is in full glory here, but judicious use of antihistimine helps. Just as bad at home, so no complaint. I have occasional fantasies of retiring to the Sahara. Hope this letter finds you physically brisk and in full mental incandescence.
>Bingo! Since keys are keys, not the rooms and the contents of the rooms
>Which they open, it seems salutary to consider the rooms opened by chemical
>Keys to be simply ourselves, rather than something alien and/or dangerous
To which I must reply, “Yes, but…” because, something I picked up from Jung, I am always aware that the self is not simply or merely anything. The Self is the mother of all abysm. The central fact about reality is that we do not know what we are. Therefore all other questions are unanswered. That is why the psychedelic frontier is so compelling and exciting to me, because it is such a powerful tool in the prosecution on ontology, pursuit of the understanding of the nature of true being.
I liked your comments on Merleau-Ponty et. al. I had the good fortune to audit much of Hubert Dreyfus’ course on Phenomenology years ago at Berkeley. But my own preference is for Alfred North Whitehead, as you are in Whitehead country may I presume to recommend “Process and Reality” as some light summer reading. Be prepared for surprises, Whitehead is no Positivist and believe that feelings are , as he would put it, “the primary datum of experience” and his mathematical grounding is impeccable.
I am sorry this reply is short. I am packing for one of my periodic forays on the road, to sing for my supper. I will try to get e mail along the way. But in fact things are likely to be a little choppy as I move from Hawaii to Boulder to Manhattan to Phoenix and on to Esalen over the next three and a half weekends. I will be back in my little grass shack after the 12th of August. I am enjoying our conversation in slow motion and judge by the e mail that so are other folks. This has got to be good.
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 08:24:00 -0400
Subject: from rh
thought you might catch me up on that, after I’d already posted. Half right is all wrong in such matters. Let me redefine “self” (a dangerous, dangerous move!) as everything capable of apprehension, in full or in part, including a perception of the perceptual and organizing apparatus, not to mention a perception of that perception up to several levels, until attention itself peters out. In short: what is perceived is self, including the perception of self as objectified subject. This would subsume the alien question and leave its extra-phenomenological aspect unfactored. This escapes the blind alley of solipsism, which the healthy heart refuses to countenance even if the reason is willing.
We see what we see of the alien factor but are aware that we do not encompass it. Allegory of the cave. But what we do see is part of the perceptual data which defines self, albeit with the apprehension that our data handling circuitry is unable to correlate and subsume-as-self more than a few of its extruding dimensions. And the sense of being looked back at (eye on the pyramid) by something unknowable can get the danger bells clanging. God? Gog? Magog? Yog Suttoth? Archangel? Bogeyman? My intuitive sense is that it’s a glimpse of the biological “mind” with which we build these bodies and brains and has the same relationship to us as a tree to its plucked or fallen fruit. On the other hand, absolute otherness is inconceivable, which is not to say it doesn’t exist. Self is only all we see, not necessarily all there is. Maybe.
Gosh, ANW for vacation reading? I’m currently reading the Diaries of Rev. Frances Kilvert, 1887-97, full of local lore and mythology. He’s sent me on a quest across cow and sheep pastures for the Ffordd Cross (pronounced “Forth”) a small standing stone, maybe four feet high, which bears prehistoric inscriptions. No luck in two attempts, though I know I’ve been within a few hundred feet of it, via directions I received at a local farmhouse. My other reading is an old edition of horror stories by Algernon Blackwood & “the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Photoshop,” which is way over my head. I was perhaps put off reading Whitehead by Wittgentstein’s estimation that the “Principia Mathematica” by him and Bertrand Russell was a crock of shit. Of course LW didn’t believe in arithmetic in the first place, so felt that any extrapolations assuming arithmetic a priori were ill founded. But I won’t let him boss me around and will check out “Process and Reality” as recommended.
Have a hell of a trip and kick some intellectual ass. The Humahumanukanukaoppawa (sp?) will await your return.
Subject:Re: from rh
I am packing to get out of here, will print your letter and take it with me. I am taking the old 170 but can’t be certain of communicating. But I was amused to hear that you are reading Algernon Blackwood. He is one of my favorites. Is “The Horror of the Black Museum” in the anthology? How about “The Windigo”? It is the all time ‘bad news in the woods’ story. And yes, all those guys, Wittgenstein, Whitehead, Russell were bitchy as cats. We can’t let them lead us around, much of it is advertising they are all and each closer to the mark than the others would have us believe.
Don’t know exactly where you are but I enjoyed Kennet Longbarrow in Devon.
July 17 1996
I’m reading a 1916 copy of “The Listener” which doesn’t have those stories in it. I’ve read several Blackwood stories with sinster trees though and think I know the one you mean. “The Listener” story, despite its unsatisfactory ending (Blackwood seemed to throw closure in as an afterthought but is a master painter of hideous depression — same fault as Lovecraft) is one of the best haunted house stories I know of. M.R. James and Sheridan LeFanu also know how to haunt a house properly.
Great Victorian horror is the most accurate imaging device for the sensations of dangerous alien otherness that I know of. MR James is the most sophisticated, Lovecraft the rawest. Science fiction may have greater scope of definition, but seldom the sheer evocative power of the Victorians. The best modern evocation I know of is Philip K. Dick’s semi-delirious “Radio Free Albemuth” which he later enlarged into the (to my mind) much less successful Valis trilogy. I once found the address of and made a pilgrimige to Dick’s house in Venitia, five minutes from where I lived in China Camp, outside San Rafael. This was some time after his death. I saw a great big man with a close cropped white beard come out of the house carrying a brief case; the spitting image of PKD. I just filed that under “?”.
Am in the Welsh Marches near Haye on Wye, a land of peace and pastures, the least populated area of GB. Sheep in the meadow and doves in the dell. Antihistimine in me. Must do Devon someday – passed through it on the way to Cornwall last decade. This trip, should I break free of the local spell, I intend to visit Scotland for the first time. Shame on me if I don’t, who plays the highland pipes and was born with the name Robert Burns.
End of Part 2
Subj: Back to Business at Orfeo
Date: Sep 2 1996 3:42 AM EDT
I wouldn’t blame you if you had given up on me. Once I shift my attention somewhere it is hard to get back in the groove. All kinds of things seem to rush into the gap to claim attention. I suppose that everyone who is fully engaged by the post modern-pre-whateveritis mode of existence is like that. My father has been very ill, that has meant two recent and unscheduled trips out to Phoenix. I managed to visit on one day when the temperature hit 117! I stood with my father outside in the desert sun and marveled as he proclaimed to me that it was the most comfortable that he had felt in weeks. Being close to a person whose days are very clearly numbered puts a different spin on the effort to understand the Other and all of its adumbrations. Also another list that I am on, designed to explore the ramifications of Novelty Theory and the Timewave, turned unexpectedly into a slug fest in which I had to defend my ideas, my reputation, the color of my eyes and everything about me short of the number of digits in my postal address. I am now in the process of rising above the fray, granted only by abandoning the field to the shrill and the intellectually constipated, but so what? Peace of mind is worth more to me than anything else. But enough about me and back to the business at hand.
I recently read a very interesting book that bears on our subject and that I have been recommending to anyone who will listen. The book is called Cyber-biological Studies of the Imaginal Content of the UFO Contact Experience. A title which surely doomed it as a commercial publishing venture. Nevertheless this book, by Dennis Stillings, a fellow resident of the Big Island, has much to say about our subject. Ordinarily I am loath to connect my beloved and always cheerful self-transforming elf machines to the popular-in-trailer-courts notion that pigmy proctologists from distant star systems are running about making free and unscheduled house calls in the middle of the night. But Stilling’s book is too rich to miss.
Here, hopefully to whet your appetite is a partial list of the table of contents:
“Believing the Unbelievable: Child’s Play or Con Game” by Hilary Evans
“UFOs: Ultraterrestrial Agents of Cultural Deconstruction” by Carl Raschke
“What Did Carl Jung Believe About Flying Saucers” by Dennis Stillings
“Ufology Considered as an Evolving System of Paranoia” by Martin Kottmeyer
“Signals of Transcendence: The Human-UFO Equation” by Peter M. Rojcewicz
“UFOs and the Myth of the New Age” by Michael Grosso
“Quicksilver in Twilight: A Close Encounter with a Hermetic Eye” by Tony Nugent
“A Testable Theory of UFO Abduction: The Birth Memories Hypothesis” by Alvin Lawson
“The ‘Visitor Experience’ and the Personality: The Temporal Lobe Factor” by Michael Persinger
I did not agree with every view put forth but every article was fascinating and intelligent, indeed the authors did not agree among themselves. All the author’s have published widely in other forums and all seemed motivated by honest curiosity and a commitment to intellectual fairness. The editor, Stillings, has a number of commentary essays that I particularly enjoyed. Check it out!
Some ideas that appealed to me in this book were the following.
That when one meets with someone who believes something that common sense would call absurd and for which there is little evidence to convince the not already convinced the usual question that is asked, and then the answer argued over is “Why do you believe X?” In the above book the suggestion is made that a different question might be asked: “Why do you believe THAT you believe X?” It is pointed out that often people who profess weird beliefs do not act as though they believe them. There seems to be two levels of belief, one is simple belief and the other is to believe that you believe something. The distinction is very interesting to me. It turns the light of inquiry from the thing believed toward the dynamics of the psychology of the believer and usually, if intellectual honesty is maintained, there are very revealing personalistic answers to this second question.
There is much discussion and demonstration in the book of the plasticity of memory and the way in which ordinary people confound and mix epistemological categories. This relates to a particular bette noire of mine, what I have called the Balkanization of Epistemology, the fact that no widely accepted set of standards exists as to what the nature of being, or even ordinary experience is. This is why I have come to think that all beliefs are cultural artifacts and so are inevitably as limited as the cultural dimension in which they were created. I am suspicious of them. A kind of psychedelic skepticism seem called for, and that is what I am trying to cultivate in my own life, a level of second attention, not what do I believe but why do I believe that I believe…
Turning now from all that I have had a thought that I wanted to share about my experience with the elves of DMT land. I have described, on stage and in print, many times the fact that their agenda seems to be linguistic and noetic in intent. They give lessons in a three dimensional form of language. I have expressed great puzzlement concerning this aspect of the encounters, now in mulling it over I see a kind of logic in it. If a real contact is underway between vastly different kinds of intelligence, not a sampling of tissue or a reprogramming or some other paranoid control and manipulation fantasy but an actual meeting of very different but equally dharma loving and moral intelligences then it does seem logical that the first step would be efforts to genuinely communicate. In countless B-science fiction scenarios this is effortlessly accomplished using a “universal translator device” that downloads Standard Galactic or whatever in real time into “take us to your leader” colloquial English. But perhaps we have been simplistic. Communication is not easy among human beings with a shared culture and value system, how much more difficult then is communication between truly different minds. Perhaps the great impedance to true contact with the Other is lack of a common language. And perhaps because what the elves wish to communicate cannot be downloaded and flattened into English without loosing its intended meaning they have no choice but to offer three minute language lessons to who ever stumbles into their hive/nest.
There is in the DMT flash a sense that “this is important, please pay attention, please try harder, please come back again and please try to communicate in the way that we are demonstrating to you”. They may have something very important to say that cannot be said in any language but their own. Hence the ambiguity, the frustration on both sides and the spectacle of human language attempts to say what they are saying turning inevitable into foolishness or gibberish.
Conclusion. A true contact between ourselves and another intelligence is possible, but only if we learn its language. The Other, for reasons obviously not yet clear, cannot simply lay out its agenda in English, French etc. How it may do with native speakers of Witoto or Telugu, I, naturally, cannot say.
Anyhow these are the thoughts that I am carrying around these days. If feels good to be back in touch with you and our readers here. I apologize for my long absence from the game. I am back!
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 1996 10:16:58 -0400
good to hear from you. My dad, at 92, also complains of the cold on warm days.
Speaking of cold, I had the eery pleasure of looking down on Baffin Bay and Greenland yesterday, a rare clear flying day over that endless scape of permanently frozen lakes and utterly naked terrain. As alien as ever Mars or Venus. Were it not for the green ice and small clouds, it might have been the moon on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
I’m just gonna rear back and say what leapt into my “mind” after reading your letter: it seems to me all human communication is a language lesson. It seems the gist of our communications tend towards “do you know?” “do you understand what I’m saying?” “Here’s what I mean,” and “what do you mean?” Avaunt that, major confusion about what “to mean” means. And yet something can be meaningfully said and meaningfully received, at least sometimes, I feel it in my bones. Meaning addresses marrow.
I know that I have very detailed points of view, which I write down almost daily and publish several times a month in my journals. What garners response from others is often utterly tangential to what I intend to emphasize. An idea is mistaken for the signifiers in which it is expressed, which signals that I am either an inefficient writer, or that the written word mainly functions to remind people of what they already know. Not that my readers are unintelligent as a group. Far from it, as a peek at my mailbag will reveal. I begin to suspect it’s the normal human condition, vis a vis writings and talk – and do not doubt that I’d prove as culpable as the next, in unconsciously reading for confirmation, were there any objective measuring tool.
Got a hunch metaphor is to blame. We express an event in terms of another event, rarely in terms of itself alone. Why? Because it gives color, emphasis and torque to our opinions about, say, a hot day. It’s hot as a pistol. Hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk. Metaphors are culturally determined and don’t function well outside their native habitat. It’s never hot enough to fry eggs on a sidewalk to a desert nomad who has never seen a chicken or a sidewalk. And we reply in metaphor to those likewise schooled in our subset of the metaphoric universe: “Yeah, it’s hot as shit.” We think, speak and dream metaphor. Everything is something else. For example, I received a letter recently which I adjudged as “poison.” I felt “infected” by it. It was constructed of a pistache of metaphors incorporating my own metaphors, attempting to “speak to me,” more properly against me, by appropriating the fruit of my muse, the finer part of my imagination, my soul (depending on one’s metaphoric orientation concerning the creative process} and fancying this could evoke any response but revulsion and confirmation of why I would avoid this person in the first place “like the plague.”
I like the “Why do you believe THAT you believe X?” formulation. A fruitful line of inquiry far more invigorating than merely questioning all belief -which gets one an ill deserved reputation as a cynic when only attempting a little recreational glancing behind appearances! I’m certainly more curious about why I believe things than in what I believe, though I hadn’t formulated it.
As a practicing poet, I’ll go the whole distance with metaphor. I believe abstract object substitution is responsible for a great deal more of the human condition than this world dreams of. I’ll go so far as to say it’s the foundation of human consciousness. Why do I believe that I believe that? Because I spend a lot of time acting as though it were so and haven’t found anything to change my mind. Shall I take the plunge and state that everything specifically human is operated by metaphor? Speaking of ET’s, if they have self-reflexive consciousness, they also operate on metaphor. What “is” neither we nor they can know, but we can know what something is like. Buddha is like, you know, three pounds of dried flax. Harumph! That is to say: Buddha is a metaphor. Does that make Buddha less Buddha? Hardly, since anything other than pain is metaphor. Sex is metaphor. Pleasure is metaphor. Love is a shower of stars in a golden bowl. Hunger is a ravenous beast gnawing our entrails. But pain is just ouch! Not a metaphor. That’s why we can’t really remember pain, only, sometimes, that we had some. For real pain, there is no metaphor -and memory retains only metaphor. Were you to say Buddha is pain, you’d be closer by a country mile than saying Buddha is a pile of dried dung. But it would be meaningless unless said at the precise moment of pain, which would be a rarity. From this it seems reasonable to extrapolate that looking for the “real” is looking for pain. There are those who make a practice of this, perhaps believing implicitly that “the real” is somehow senior to metaphor. This is the worst sort of dualistic thinking. A culture that has a problem with rampant unreality is likely to be a culture that embraces pain and its anodynes.
By the way, did you know that 92.3% of all thought transmission is telepathic? The other 7.7% is verbal communication, which is not telepathic because it’s tongue & tonsil specific. Yet the ESP researchers try to establish their turf on the precise section of the speech pie which is non-telepathic by definition; the stuff that needs to be said aloud because it’s metaphor and rhythm reliant. This is the same mentality that can’t quite grasp that sending a neural signal from the brain to lift a hand to scratch your ass is mind over matter.
The explanation of the previous paragraph is that I went to bed at 9pm and arose at 3am. It’s now 8pm and I’m enjoying a luxurious case of jet lag this Memorial Day. Physically fragile but mentally clear in an easy going way. – that natural high known as fatigue, where one quite handily knows all and everything and can go into a glowing, golden, milk & honey trance by simply assuming the prone position. I expect that is caused by a flood of endorphins at the beck and call of weary cells. Flying West is so much less physically demanding than flying East, where fatigue shows a less benign face. Takes me two weeks to recover from a flight to London (From SF), even with Melatonin, but only three days to get back to normal when following the sun home.
Sorry to serve the dialogue ball back into your court so quickly. I was just itching for something mental to do today, and your letter arrived. Think I’ll reassume the prone position and enjoy the free endorphin show for awhile.
Am happy you postulated the difference between the “Elves, Gnomes & Collapsible Little Folks’ Tesseract and Omniscience Society” and the “Extra-T Brigade.” Space, as we know it, is certainly not the dimension our quirky pals inhabit. I’ve sometimes had an inkling that they’re connected with human ontogony, the very crew that helps us build ourselves from the blastula . . . and I reckon it’s all done with words. But not metaphor.
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 1996 21:57:46 -1000
Subject: Re:TM–Reply to rh 9/3
Good to hear from you. Were you returning from the long summer in Britain, or a quick trip to the same place? I too have had the pleasure of looking down on Greenland from seat 10A or 10H. I know that on United at least they refer to those two positions on the polar flights as the “geologist’s seat”. Cool that they know that. The ice covering Greenland is 9000 ft deep in places. The concept of ice 9000 feet thick is weirdly disturbing. And to think that it was half that thick in Minnesota only 26,000 years ago. And people say that nothing changes!
>it seems to me all human communication is a language lesson. It
>seems the gist of our communications tend towards “do you know?” “do you
>understand what I’m saying?” “Here’s what I mean,” and “what do you mean?”
The first time I was in the Amazon I knew only the botany that a browsing psychedelic freak needed to ask after and identify the plants that would carry me into hyper space. The next time I was there I had spent a lot of time learning the taxonomic distinctions among the major plant families and I had logged a lot of time in the company of botanists. The big surprise of the second trip was that the jungle had differentiated itself into a much more complex and interesting phenomena. I knew the names of things and so what had been a blur of endlessly undulating greenery suddenly because an environment filled with the specific and the familiar. Words hide reality and words bring reality into focus. Weird critters words, always turning from what you think they are into something else. And then there is the business of other people’s words. I always marvel at people who somehow 🙂 manage to get along without English. How do they do that! It makes me wonder about the territory inside the heads of people who command several languages; they must be living in a world so much richer than anything I can imagine. Though I notice that they are never so indiscreet as to betray the fact that they abide constantly in this superior condition. I imagine that I would if I were them, but that is not to be. One of the chief things that I condemn myself for is the fact that I have devil of a time learning languages. Is it the price that I pay for being not half bad in English. I have disappointed teacher of languages as different as Latin and Tibetan, Italian and Witoto.
Communication problems are much on my mind. I am feeling very burned from participation on a list that in my fantasy was going to bring clarity and further elucidation to my ideas about Novelty Theory. The whole thing just degenerated into a scream fest of non-communication in which I was as guilty as the people who were driving me crazy. Funny thing about this e mail stuff, it is not like any other form of communication. It is as ephemeral as sophomoric conversation on one level but the fact that it is written means that it is a permanent record of thought, and thus reveals to anyone who will look that we are almost always taking past the intended target of our communication. Somehow the fact that it is clearer than conversation paradoxically makes it harder to understand the intent of others. Written communication can always be misconstrued more easily than speech, because speech is self correcting and is carried along on a wave of empathy or telepathy that is somehow absent in the written word. Or at least my written words.
>Got a hunch metaphor is to blame. We express an event in terms of another
>event, rarely in terms of itself alone.
I like what you said about metaphor. And I agree with you. But it reminds me of something that happened to me long ago. It was in my early acid days. I had a trip which was all about metaphor and had reached conclusions similar to those you expressed. At a meeting of the experimental college a few days after this trip I proclaimed that “Everything is a metaphor.” Without missing a beat my mentor of that moment, Joseph Tussman, who was a philosophy Prof. at Cal. looked across the room at me and said. “What about articles? And, or and of? Are they metaphors?” I am still mulling that reposte.
A conclusion of that same era was that language is alive. I experienced this very concretely on acid. English as an animal, a kind of amoebae, extending its pseudopodia of description into every look and cranny of reality, a kind of syntactical Los Angeles, ever growing, expanding and including more and more empty or natural territory into its grid of meaning. Wasn’t it Burroughs who observed that “Language is a virus from outer space?” What does it want with us, and how can we tell if it won’t tell us? And then how can we trust its message since even the act of deconstructing it involves a total commitment to it as both means and end? ETs and countless other almost realities or wannabe realities seem to be the minor flora and fauna of a purely linguistic domain. And then there is the ambiguity of memory…It is more and more amazing to me that we can sustain the hallucination of any meaning at all. I like a poem by Trumbell Stickney, one of those intense young men who died in the trenches of W.W.I. In a poem called “Meanings Edge” he wrote:
I do not understand you.
Tis because I lean over your meaning’s edge
And feel the dizziness of things
You have not said.
Well that’s it for me this evening. Glad that you are back. Get some rest and we will continue to continue downstream.
September 5, 1996
was returning from England, sitting in the 3rd row, trying to get some sleep in the darkened cabin when Katy yelled out “Daddy, come and look” opening her window and flooding the cabin with brilliant sunlight. Her middle name should be “Sleepers Awake!” I grudgingly got out of my middle row seat, crawled over sleep-masked Maureen who refused to harken to Katy’s nudging, and looked out. We continued to gaze for twenty minutes until clouds thickened. Only the second time I’ve seen Greenland in numerous polar arc flights – and the last time was without benefit of brightly detailing unencumbered sunlight at a good angle for showing dimensionality. To think that whaling ships dared come to the unearthly desolation of Baffin Bay! And yet it is Earth. Just as the nth dimensional places of which we occasionally reminisce in our dialogue take place in human consciousness, yet sometimes seem so quintessentially non-human! reminisce. Wasn’t Baffin Bay where Frankenstein’s monster was last sighted, foating away on an iceberg? Soon as we got home, I showed Katy where we’d been on the globe.
Another limitation of email is that banter is minimalized. On each of several points you raise, a tree of branching possibilities presents, asking for a flurry of quick exchange to establish which limb is worth crawling out on in order to obtain what apple. The point that immediately wanted addressing:
>>I proclaimed that “Everything is a metaphor.” Without missing a beat my mentor…said “What about articles? And, or and of? Are they metaphors?”
Well, of course, youth would like to find all the apples on one sturdy branch. At this point in my dotage, I wouldn’t go so far as to say “all is metaphor” though I’d hold that “all” is metaphor. Tussman has a wonderful point. Mathematical symbols exclude metaphor in order to demonstrate metaphoric propostions without adding an unwonted flavor of their own. Ideally, math is a non-metaphoric language, though in a vanilla world everything must of necessity retain some trace of vanilla. I’d venture that articles are simply the mathematical component of language as she’s spoke and writ. Prepositions are not metaphoric either, being purely relational, unless you want to view them as corrolaries of pre-postulated “space,” which IS arguably metaphoric. And then there’s punctuation, capitalization, most verbs, and a certain percentage of the adjectives (such as “big” which is relational as opposed to “glamorous” which is metaphoric). . . hmmm – it seems that nouns are, by and large, the culprits. Not in themselves so very much, as in their interchangeability for purposes of comparison. Dog is just a sound (unless you believe in Ur language, which I only sometimes do) designating a four limbed leg humping creature (!) that eats bones and chases cars, but which sound, applied to a human of oriental persuasion, becomes a fight inducing metaphor.
To jump all over the place here, you wrote “It is as ephemeral as sophomoric conversation on one level but the fact that it is written means that it is a permanent record of thought, and thus reveals to anyone who will look that we are almost always talking past the intended target of our communication.”
Funny about that. It is an ephemerality inducing form – why this is so is worth an old-fashioned typewritten paper, much marked up for style and concision, and retyped. I think there’s a mindset of speed involved: “I’m gonna bang down my first thoughts and fire this off, and expect the same in return, and quickly” sort of thing. An ethos of spontanteity seems to rule, perhaps gleaned from examples set by others who got used to typing rapid fire in usenet and conferencing groups and carried the form over into email. There is certainly much mutual agreement that this is the way to proceed: email from “newbies” is often lacking in the informal formalities of seasoned emailers, though they catch on quick. Another aspect to be considered is that email is, I’d guess, more often sent to people you don’t know than would be generally true of postal correspondence. Add, to this virtual anonymity, a standard perception of the internet as a wild, untamed frontier and, presto, a new form! The upside is that it encourages the “first thought best thought” desideratum of Ginsberg. Kerouac would have loved the form.
Know what you mean about “my fantasy was going to bring clarity and further elucidation to my ideas about . . .” I used to spend months preparing to go on the road, writing new songs and hammering them into performance shape, with some ideal audience in mind, people who would respond with glad attention to unfamiliar work. But it was always the old they wanted and, unwilling to be a jukebox, I eventually stopped doing my solo shows. Nowadays, I write my prose and poetry to that ideal audience I manage to evoke in my head. I refuse to be convinced they are only a fantasy. I get enough thoughtful response to know the supposition is not entirely without merit. It must be considerably more difficult on the lecture circuit where you can’t entirely ignore the vociferous. Perhaps some ground rules are in order, or a capable moderator. I’ve occasionally asked a crowd not to applaud between a series of shorter poems, when doing readings, finding that a smattering of polite applause only stepped on my mood and timing.
Agreed, language is alive. The signs of life are growth, reproduction, irritibility, metabolism and evolution. I know my work is irritable enough. If you poke it, it retreats or springs forward, claws extended. But that may be stretching a point. Is “life” a metaphor? Hmmm. I think not. Would seem tautological. Life has metaphors. Can’t continue on that line of thought, lacking a clear definition of what life is; knowing only some of the things it does.
You write: “It is more and more amazing to me that we can sustain the hallucination of any meaning at all.” I’ll take that literally and respond: yes, it IS amazing that we, in fact, can do so. And it’s my opinion that we should honor our hallucinations in the highest. I hate the statement “that was only a hallucination.” It’s like saying “that was only a vision.” Vision is the very crux of the matter. Without it, we are less than the animals: irresolute killers who weep over our meat.
Well, we’re making up for lost time aren’t we? Nice to get a few letters, from those who follow this dialogue, kindly complaining about the hiatus.
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 1996 19:47:37 -1000
I liked this thought of yours
>Mathematical symbols exclude metaphor in order to demonstrate
>Metaphoric propositions without adding an unwonted flavor of their own.
>Ideally, math is a non-metaphoric language, though in a vanilla world
>Everything must of necessity retain some trace of vanilla.
In thinking about Whitehead’s definition of Novelty I recently had occasion to go back and reread how he approached this most central and mathematical of all the concepts in his metaphysic. it was interesting.
He said: “These ultimate notions of ‘production of novelty’ and ‘concrete togetherness’ are inexplicable either in terms of higher universals or in terms of the components participating in the concrescence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. The sole appeal is to intuition. (Process and Reality, p. 26)”
“The sole appeal is to intuition.” I hold that thought. That this most mathematical of gentlemen, this paragon of the rational, knew, and stated, this obvious fact about process and reality is somehow fundamentally reassuring. Godel’s Incomensurability Theorem, or whatever it is called these days, makes it important to acknowledge just how shaky and provisional the noetic enterprise is, at best. Science is the worst offender here, playing dirty pool and assuming a commanding and overbearing expertise in areas where it actually is no more deeply endowed with wisdom than are other modes of thought.
take me to your worst offender! Anything absolute enough will at least engender its opposite. It’s those half baked offenders who merely defend the postulates of those who have, in their own terms, dared to be emphatically wrong, who cause the trouble. By trouble I mean: tedious lackluster benightedness. Sometimes I more than half believe that if an idea is wrong enough in a right enough way, reality stretches to accommodate it. Maybe there was no relativity before Einstein and the sun simply shined directly on us rather than taking 9 minutes to reach Terra at 186,000 mps. This is true in the blessed world of metaphor and music. Certainly in dreams. Necessarily in hyperspace, or we’ll never touch the cool sweet surface of stars, as we must and therefore will. If God meant us to live in Los Angeles, He wouldn’t have given us categorical imperatives.
End of Part 3
Sept 30, 1996 12:54 AM
I am getting ready to travel for a month in Europe and South Africa andfor the first time in years I have decided not to travel with a Power Book.I am not on AOL so there are not local access numbers wherever I go. In fact I have to make a long distance call back here to Hawaii to get much net work done. Even to pick up my e mail. So I will try it cold turkey; most of this trip will be in South Africa out in the boonies I gather so access isn’t an issue. I mention this to introduce the idea that I am going tobe off-line for a while. Until around Halloween.
A vague disquiet attends these long journeys, sometimes it seems that I live in airports. To do a little of the international travel bit is glamorous, whatever that is, but to do a lot of it is tedious and potentially unhealthy. Ditto the celebrity and Great Man hip hop. Plus I am very much in love with Hawaii and my life here. My life got bollixedup a few years ago with a divorce and slowly, o so slowly things are beginning to feel normal, no longer reactive to the Great Event. But I am lazy, and it is so nice to stay home on the hill with my girlfriend, talk, smoke, make love, grow all kinds of plants, read, and surf the net. I enjoy being a player in the culture, but it is not my first priority, my priorities are more private than that. They provide the logic behind my pursuit of the grail of high speed connection. So that I can play the cultural dialogue game in 3- d with real audio, but can be secure and free up here on the mountain. This is really the new archaic lifestyle: Self employed consultant, off grid, Bohemian, essentially stateless and well connected WWW and bandwidth wise. But living in the future in the present has its tensions.
This matter we have been discussing, for example. The presence of the Other and the paths to it, not something most families are wrapped up in. Yet. Even to know about these things is to be isolated from the cheerful Mom & Pop world of middle class sentimentality. Perhaps shamanism has always had about it this feeling of being slightly ahead of itself. This may be the key to the alienation that seems the sine qua non of the shaman’s relationship with the community. Part of it, but apart from it: That is the shaman’s attitude toward the village, the folk and the polis.
But I am rambling here. I will be in touch as I can. Keep the home fires burning until you hear the hoof beats of my returning steed.
September 30, 1996
NOT TRAVEL WITH A POWERBOOK! Gonna do some time travel, right? No point taking a Powerbook to Mesopotamia I guess. There was a time when leaving the old Powerbook behind was almost a matter of course. Back in the Conestoga wagon days, it must have been sad leaving your PB in Philadelphia knowing there were no wall sockets where you were going. On the other hand, they had pony express, the ancient equivalent of a 1 baud modem. Then there were all those Mac users at the Alamo, including my great grandfather at six removes, Dan’l Boone, besieged by the army of DOS users with Windows with their cry “You can get more software for it!”
I can’t upload on AOL either, other than email. Just use it to do my correspondence without making a long distance call to my server. It costs me under 20 bucks a month if I don’t get reckless with it. Plus, not being very fancy in my emailing requisites (this Orfeo thing Levy has going is positively Byzantine – I answered one feedback letter and got 27 mailer daemon returns on it the other day!) I like the format and dependability. I know some people have a status problem with that and would prefer to write me at dead.net – but the big hammer has its uses.
Glad to hear you hate traveling too. I love being in other places, just don’t like getting there. Burned out on that around ’72 after four years of traveling with the Dead – then a number of years going out solo. Too much aggravation on the cells at my current age of 55.
But back to our subject. I’ve been rambling along waiting for inspiration to strike as it inevitably does when writing to you, as per out contract with the Other. Here’s a trio to consider in interaction, one with the other, and with ourselves as we perceive ourselves to be: the Other, the Doppelganger (Double) & the Shadow. Too many mistake the Shadow for the Other. The Other is not a projection, rather an autonomous potential source of absolutely new impressions, which are, unfortunately, necessarily fielded through the matrix of old impressions – there, more often than not, to be leveled, generalized, filed and abandoned. No wonder as we get older we fail to remember our dreams with the vivid memory of youth. We resist the new with fang and claw. And statute. And then one day we see our Double: our own self, decisively removed from ourself, standing on a street corner, or wandering down the Rue des Invalides – and then the game is over. The Shadow, being that inalienable alienated part of ourselves which fears the utterly foreign Other, which is NOT a part of ourselves, finds it fears the Double even more than it fears the Other, since the Double necessarily knows the particulars of its dark existential existence which are NOT TO BE KNOWN by another. Murder, if not simple insanity, may well be the outcome.
We are split so many ways it’s hard to imagine anything so copacetic as the Maslovian “Integrated Self” to be anything but a pipe dream. The Shadow, by its very nature (I keep using that expression, failing to find a good substitute) is all that is NOT assimilable. I tentatively offer the assertion that assimilation should not be attempted- though that is a heretical remark in light of mid-20th century psychology. It’s not a question of oil and water, but of water and potassium. I have a notion that partial assimilation leads to suicide. How could one face that dark monstrosity full on and not want to kill it? Yet it is common, and probably correct, knowledge that the Shadow is connected with the vitalizing force, the libido, or whatever. I think it’s enough not to deny its existence and to strengthen the ethical/moral side of one’s nature as the only probable compensating force.
Have fun in South Africa, where these forces are still raising societal Hell par excellence – I think it might be a proper paradigm for viewing the remains of Apartheid. Which is the Shadow? Which is the Other?
Keep your powder dry,
Nov 18 1996 12:34 AM EDT
You must wonder, as I do sometimes, how much experience can flow under the bridge without my taking note of it. The fact is that the more pleasant aspects of life, such as considering experience in the light of experience and writing about it, seems to easily become so elusive that one can only remember the feeling of doing it. Water under the bridge. Two events loom in my current life, both in the recent past, both of doubtless different import, their relative relationship to each other still to be discerned.
Africa was a trip! After the repressive civilities of hobnobbing with the deconstructionist elite at the ICA in London it was a head snapping change.Excuse my reference to a personal mythology of mine but during the time of my travel in Africa I was aware that the time wave was in a configuration that means a general tendency for habit to make its imprint on things rather than novelty. How, I wondered can a trip to Africa unfold in a time of habit and reinforcement. As usual I did not reckon with the wily ways of the Tao. For when I finally arrived at where I was going, a place in the Free State called Rustler’s Valley I had my answer. Here was a place that, for all of its being at the antipodes of my present home, is nevertheless more like where I grew up as a kid than any other place that I have been. What I mean by that is that both places are landscapes of wind cut sandstone with a wild visual aspect and a wild geological history. In the case of my own stomping ground I am thinking of the area around Moab
Utah and the four corners area. The differences had to do with the human component. Where I grew up there were Ute Indians, a few, still hanging on. In Africa there were !Xosha people. Some in beehive houses of wattle and adobe. But what really got me stoked was that since I had not been in such a landscape since I was a child, my reflex was to do there what I had always done in such situations, which was to hunt in the badlands for fossils and flints. “Evidence of early man” was always a paltry concept
where I grew up, early man arrived there only 20,000 years before me self.
But now in Africa, that is another matter. I went alone to the dongas, the dry arroyos, gullies I called them when I was ten, near the ranch where I was teaching, and found what I was looking for: flint cores, scrappers, stone tools. The archeologist at the end of the bar was happy to inform me that nothing gathered during my afternoon’s walk was less than 65,000 years only.
Nothing less than! What a dizzying amount of time, and how strange to be in a place where as long as there have been human beings, they have been in that place, a million years does not put too fine a point on it. And the second matter on my mind is the fact that I have just yesterday turned fifty. There will be an unending number of these I just turned fifty posts over the next few years as boomer after boomer crosses the threshold. All very boring and I am glad that I was near the front of the line and got it all taken care of early. Still it is food for thought.
Experience is a form of intelligence. If one is not born smart, still experience can mold one into a simulacrum of intelligence. I am amazed at the panoply of swirling complexity that characterizes the life of our culture here at the end of the century, aye, the millennium. And I am grateful and amazed to find myself a part of it. And like the clueless rube in the crumb cartoon, I continue to ask the question “What does it all mean?” It is pleasant to talk to you like this, I am happy to be back in the saddle, I think it we ever had a audience for these exchanges that they may have long since drifted away. Maybe better that way. How goes it on your horizon? What news, what insights, and doth a fair wind also billow your sales?
11/17/96 10:40 pm
I see from the time stamp on your letter that you’re either writing me from the future or the East coast. Either seems a fair bet, but not Hawaii where it’s only 8:40 of the 17th. Dig the pace and flow of your letter which seems written in a whirlwind, and yes, we’re sychronized on the event of returning to the pleasurable ease of writing of experience from experience, which sometimes seems but a memory. Or the hellish pleasure of banging out a novel in youth, before which all the world of literature would stand in awe, not understanding that joy alone would not substitute for decades of considered experience. To have the joy and the fund of experience at one and the same time, ah – that were a consummation devoutly to be wished! Still, sometimes . . .
I’ve just divested myself of a near nine month commitment to answer all email sent to my address, after finding it strategically impossible. Tonight I curled up on the bed with a good vampire book – but kept feeling twinges of free-floating guilt, the habit of answering mail during all possible free moments, yet to be broken. But the prospect of freedom from this self imposed labor is exhilirating. I expect an action-reaction phenomenon directly proportional to the effort expended. I was skimming leaves out of my modest swimming pool after a windstorm two days ago when I suddenly realized the moment had come to be delivered from this regime. I operate that way – rather than make decisions and act on them, I form desires and wait for the moment when they become possible, and then they are accomplished. It’s one of my magickal actions. A way of engaging the mechanics of habit. Perhaps this is how best to make use of the state you prophesy for these times
Habit is the driving force of human endeavor. Hey, I like the sound of that. Comes across official, doesn’t it? And not just a little bit true, I think. The trick is to get habit working in the direction of desire, rather than in service of entropy. You mention Tao, and I think Tao is just that. Habit. Not to sound like a fool by saying what Tao is, but it’s the habit of wind to whip up when the sun sets, due to cooling. It’s the habit of tides to rise to the call of the moon. It is the habit of wisdom not to form habits that do not serve the will. What is will? Desire, only. Is it possible to desire what you do not at present desire, because to desire it would act to further something you DO desire in a basic way? I feel our basic desires must ideally be served in a way beneficial to ourselves and others, since the vanquishment of basic desire is the diminuation of life. Those desires are not replaced by others, except in twisted, diminished versions. Initial desire is a byproduct of weaning. Very basic. Very binding.
Desire is the wanting of security first and foremost, secondly of wanting excitation, thirdly: the avoidance of hurt. When two & three get reversed, confusion of purpose arises and entropy grabs hold. Bear with me, there’s no source for this, I’m making it up as I go along. What they call hypothesis. Habit can act to perpetuate the confusion of disordered priorities – or, skillfully managed, to re-order them. It is by such a visualization (another if you prefer, all roads lead to Rome) that we grab hold of and re-orient habit to a general purpose. If this is indeed the time of habit’s transcendence over novelty, then we must appropriate habit in a novel way. End subject.
Have been reading in Whitehead at your behest and find him meticulously expansive. His catagories are somewhat arbitrary, but he would be the first to admit this. They are utilitarian for his purpose. As a poet I view them as tropes. Tropes are interchangeable, for the most part, but the trope of eternity is fundamental. Everything can, and probably should be, viewed under the trope of eternity. It’s open ended enough to include all possibilities; mens aeterna est quatenus res sub specie aeternitatis.
I like the clause: “less than 65,000 years only” in your statement. That is sub specie aeternitatis, under the trope of eternity, in spades. We are only given eternity in hunks of the biblical three score years and ten, yet are able to glimpse it outside that limitation of sparse years through the measure of aeons. A capital invention! The eternity the mind experiences is a form of eternity – and forms of eternity *are* eternity. That’s what the latinate is getting at. Why do we not generate such thoughts, so clearly expressed, a millenium or two on down the line? My tentative supposition is that time flows backwards from what we habitually suppose, but that’s another piece of business entirely. It would not behoove one to act as though this were so, true or not. Which, as with many things having to do with time/space, is a condition of living in 4 dimensions. You bump into things otherwise, and bruise yourself walking through walls which are not constructed yet.
Really glad to hear you had a gas of a time in Africa. I’ve been no further South than Marrakesh, so can only imagine and combine dim movie/travelogue images. It would seem something in the blood must yearn for Africa, as it does for the sea. Weaning, again. Between the yearning for ocean and yearning for the cradle of civilization, it might be there falls another yearning – for Mu or Atlantis, or whatever that place we swung from trees in before the continental reformation. Assuming we’re not from elsewhere. And if we are from elsewhere, there must be a yearning for that place, it’s ocean, it’s Africa. We humans are nothing if not cauldrons of yearning.
Good to have you back and hope it’s good to be back. Corresponding with you is a pleasant habit.
p.s. Happy Birthday!!!
December 8, 1996
where is the hallucination of ten years ago? It’s neither in space nor in time, this we know because space and time are definitions of relativity and nothing dwells in definitions but angles of perception. But say a hallucination (or a vision) recurs. The question might be rephrased “who is having this recurring vision?” Or is it that the vision “has” the perceiver?”
Language would have it that “I had a dream.” If I appeared as a character in the dream and saw a blue house, was it the one who was sleeping who saw that house, or the one who appeared to be conscious within the dream, reputed to be me? Or the one who writes these sentences? Assuming the possibility of a reasonable answer, which aspect of self would be better qualified to reply:: the self of the dream, the waking self who recalls the dream, or the self who later ponders the subject of dream and vision in general? And what of the parts of the dream seemingly beyond recall? If not available to consciousness, were they really “dreamed” at all? Well, yes – because sometimes other facets of the dream pop into consciousness suddenly while one is thinking of other things – as though a 4th self yet had access to the n-dimensional repository.
I had a good deep sleep last night and remember nothing, though I’m fairly certain many vistas were opened. Just an apprehension of something occurring which might have so little reference to the waking world that memory cannot repossess it, unless an intersection point presents itself. Be that as it may, I feel refreshed in a way that suggests many things were resolved. As I write these words, I feel a sudden painful cramp in my solar plexus. Nausea. Gas pain, or am I skirting too near the abyss here? Conversely, is the abyss skirting too near me? Abyss: where self loses the comfortable utility based on not asking too many questions.
To the point, why am I writing of this particular blend of ideas this morning? Assuming nothing happens without motivation, is this examination the fruit of whatever happened in dreamland which won’t yield itself to me? Seems a fair guess. The topic question popped into my head with commanding intensity, wanting to be written down, but not to “myself.” Rather to an Other. As with all questions dealing with phenomenology, the problem of the observer is paramount. When “self itself” is under scrutiny, and starts splitting, like quicksilver touched, the “Other” is conceived and addressed as a matter of reflexive recourse. Looks like I’m adding to our cumulative exposition on the nature of the Other via the backdoor. Didn’t realize that was where it would lead when I began.
Back to topic A: where is the hallucination of ten years ago, if it is both then and now? It would be almost too easy to suggest “in eternity,” the same place the keener perceptics of babyhood loom without rational reference, causing the endless nostagia at the core of being human. A cat purrs when stroked because recalling the tongue washings of its mother. It needs no drugs or philosophy to achieve this satisfying identification with the Other. I think that in the “purr” separate identity dissolves. As in deep sleep. Is snoring the human equivalent? The flapping glottis of peace. Grey Autumnal morning thoughts. Cramp gone and a swirling breeze detatches yellow leaves from the wisteria.
December 12, 1996
“Where are the snows of yesteryear?”
This is not a question about meteorology. It is rather a question about memory. It seems to me that one of the fundamental accomplishments of modernity is the establishment of the notion of a fragmented, discontinuous identity as a part of the lived experience of many people. I call it an
accomplishment because I believe it represents an overcoming of the fiction of narrative that was imposed on experience and life by the earlier more print constellated psychology of the Nineteenth Century. Phenomenology and analysis of experience leads to the notion that we each are living in very private Idahos. Not only do we have great difficulty communicating among ourselves but we also have great difficulty communicating with various parts of our own identity. The awakened and the dreamer are as remote from each other as the ten year old and the fifty year old, as different from each other as the terminal depressed person and the psychedelically ecstatic person; yet all of these people can be found united in one person, or at least one body, one continuing organism. I almost wrote one continuous bundle of genes, but then I recalled that one’s genetic heritage
is never expressed all at once, some genes are turned on in puberty, some in middle age. So in this sense we are always a part of the larger thing that we are in time that is our whole continuous existence, something that a 4 dimensional being could appreciated from the outside but that no one of us can ever see or know. The organism continues but its understanding of itself and its purposes and its experiences of itself and its purposes is always unintegrated and discontinuous.
End of Part 4
February 20. 1997
how went the conference in Mexico? Am about to embark on a road tour myself soon. Enjoying the state of motivating semi-angst as my paranoid (or is it realistic?) part estimates the disasters which might attend the launching of my blood and bones into material space. Going to try and co-ordinate it with Cyberville by issuing regular road reports. That might solve the problem of what to do with all that excess nervous energy after the gig. Debrief!
It’s been seven years since I performed my solo show onstage. Re-establishing old neural pathways to the guitar and re-learning repertoire has been a full time occupation. One interesting thing about a long lay-off is that there’s a chance to retrain old habit paths and take a different approach. One reason I stopped doing it was the feeling that development had become encrusted with habit. Entropy. A singing stone. Established paths between memory and reflex become “safe,” and safety leads to stagnation. It’s hard to avoid accumulating a repertoire of moves which have proven successful, and thus avoiding risk. On the other hand, a risk successfully taken becomes, in turn, a part of the bag of tricks. Stage Darwinism. As with anything having to do with the law of entropy as regards human habit, formulating the problem in personal terms is the only workable way of remaining conscious.
Stage presentation is a mix of attitude and metaphor, assuming that content is metaphoric. Attitude inclines an audience to acceptance or rejection of the metaphor(s). Never mind “real.” Real is some kind of breakdown in the process – a microphone on the fritz, a busted string, a fire in the theater. But the audience is very concerned with the metaphor of “the real.” They require a beginning, a middle and an end. Stage context. The audience has a feeling of multiplicity, although they are truly only multiples of one. Some mighty subtle alchemy in that set of circumstances. But the performer, or band, or corps de ballet, is also only one – albeit a different one than the one of the audience: the “presenter” of the metaphor through the agency of attitude, as distinct from the receiver of the metaphor. A dissonance is created when a member of the audience decides to switch roles with the performer and draw the attention to himself. For a musical presenter, that would amount to catcalls – whereas a presenter such as yourself, one who encourages discussion, is involved in a more byzantine interaction with the audience.
From what you’ve told me, it sounds like you’re often involved in situations where someone attempts to move the power of presentation from the stage to their own seat. I would think that grasping the structure of the audience dynamic in a theoretical way, keeping that in mind along with the actual subject of discussion, would aid in retaining the modicum of control which leads the audience to adoption of the metaphor under discussion, hopefully enlightening them to the nature of metaphor AS metaphor, rather than allowing the talk to degenerate into picking apart the metaphor itself. Obviously, every metaphor is vulnerable and attitude has as much to do with defending it as does adroit argument.
Theorizing on what an audience “is” is one of my favorite on-the-road hobbies. It can be one sympathetic individual through whom you address the rest of the assembled persons, or it can be the self-projection of a hostile aggregate waiting for you to make one wrong move then pounce! Or you can see the crowd qua crowd. But one thing is certain – both sides of the stage crave acceptance, the grounds leading to a sense of mutual respect and unity of purpose which is the desired outcome of performance art. You might even say it’s real.
Not telling you anything you don’t already know! Just articulating for the record. Hope this burgeoning Spring finds you percolating with health and new ideas. So far the only word that seems to fit 1997 is “vivid.” Personally, it’s like busting out of a thirty year cocoon hungry for adventure. So much happening at once. My experience seems to fit your metaphor of the cultural endgame to a T. Useful, that.