Psychedelic Skepticism

Last Updated: 15/09/18

Date Location Words
Autumn 1996 Whole Life Expo, Austin, TX 7104

Emcee: Instead of reading off a list of his acclaimed titles that I’m sure everyone is familiar with, and doesn’t need me to list them, I’d rather read a slightly more extraordinary proclamation. It’s from the City of Austin. And it says, “Greetings in the name and by the authority of the City of Austin. To all to whom these presents come, know ye, that on this day, Terence McKenna is hereby commissioned for now and for all time to come, an honorary citizen of the City of Austin.” [applause]

TM: I’m honored. This has never happened to me before. Usually they lock the city walls when they hear I’m on my way. So this is very cool. Now I know I have a place to come to, if I ever need to.

I’m going to try standing up on this platform to enhance the experience of the people in the back of the room. I’m feeling for you back there. I’m taller than that. Anyway it’s a pleasure to be in Austin. The only time I’ve ever been in Texas before was I entered from Mexico in 1972 on a phony passport to come back and face a federal hashish importation charge in Boulder. And I remember when I crossed the border, the guy said to me, he said, uh, “You’re real clean, aren’t you?” and I said, “Oh, I always travel light.” And he said, “No, I say, you’re real clean, aren’t you?”

So that was my only impression of Texas, uh, since 1972. And uh, flying in here yesterday, uh, appropriate for this event, a voice spoke in my head and said very clearly, “Texas. It’s not what you think.” So, so far it’s been right on. It’s a pleasure. And the great surprise for me about Austin, being clueless, was that this is a place of trees. Of unbroken oceans of trees to the horizon. That’s wonderful, that’s something, not only to have it, but to keep it.

It’s a pleasure to part of the Whole Life Expo. I tease them a fair bit, in fact I think because of my teasing they’ve eliminated the Camaro raffle. Uh. I was hoping I could pick up a moldavite suppository, like I did last time. It worked great, but then I lost it somewhere, so uh, anyway. [laughter] No, the marketplace and spiritual transcendence make strange bedfellows but after all, what’s wrong with strange bedfellows, right? A little of that, anyway.

Uh, so I was thinking today about how to spin this yet again, but slightly differently, as always. And I was thinking about, uh, it was a rough week for me on the internet last week. I don’t know how many of you are on there, but I was simultaneously denounced for being too flaky and too hard-nosed. So while I’m defending myself against flakiness, people are attacking me for being too tough, too rigorous, too scientific, not open-hearted enough, not (inaudible) and vibrational levels that lie above the violet ray …woop de doo.

And uh, it’s a kind of a hybrid position. Now I don’t get invited to many scientific meetings, but if I were to be invited I would feel I’m sure very marginal because they’d say, “Oh It’s him, we know about all that.” And then at these gatherings I always feel somewhat in disguise, because I’m not sure how many people carry rational analysis in these situations as far as I do. So, trying to get this into a package where it can be understood, I thought, you know, what it’s about is intuition. Intuition in the presence of the desire to verify, not intuition purely. But intuition that is self-correcting based on input from the world of reason, evidence, induction, deduction, and so forth and so on.

And you know my method, if you call something as trivial as what I do a method, it is simply to investigate the weird with an open mind, not with a believing mind, and one of the things that I find myself saying more and more to my audiences is that it’s not about getting rid of bad beliefs in favor of good beliefs, it’s something a little scarier than that. It’s - and this again, you paid your $20, you get one guy’s opinion, that’s all – this isn’t coming from Rome or Manhattan or Tokyo, it’s just one guy’s opinion, so you don’t have to climb the walls about it if you disagree, in fact, be assured, most people disagree, uh, but I’ve come to the conclusion that ideology, beliefs, and then in the broader context, culture, is not our friend, culture is not your friend, ideology is not your friend, uh, an open mind believes nothing. An open mind is an open mind, period. And if one believes something, regardless of how wonderful it may be, it absolutely precludes believing its opposite, and so a kind of self-limiting has taken place, and what are beliefs anyway, you know, it’s not like food, that if you don’t have one for 12 hours you go into crisis. it’s not sex, like if you don’t have it for a week, you go into crisis. It’s not money, like if you don’t have it, other people don’t (inaudible) crisis.

It’s just a kind of psychic clothing which we’ve all been told one should have. You’re naked without your ideologies, your beliefs. What are you? How do you dress in the morning, do you dress militia, do you dress Jewish, do you dress punk? What’s your cultural statement, what’s your ideological statement? And uh, this is an old and bad game that has been played against us: throw the bad guys out, bring the good guys in, the good guys inevitably turn out to be bad guys of a different sort and then the cycle goes again. And this game has been played on people for millennia. This is the shell game of all time.

Well then, into this, comes to my mind, a new factor, into the 20th century social cultural mix, have come many new factors. Among them, and imported harmlessly along with the debris of the collecting impulse of the science of anthropology, came information that there were people in other cultures using plants in ways that were very hard to map on to any Western notion of how plants might be used. For instance, to the Western mind, a system of drug use where only the doctors take the drugs – this is a very puzzling notion to the Western mind. Where of course the patient takes the drugs, because that’s the medium of exchange that accrues the debt of the patient to the physician.

Even when I was a kid, I can remember back in the dark, dark ages of the late 50s, every “Explorers lost in Africa” movie had a scene where the great white hunter and Debra Paget, or whoever was accompanying him on his quest, were captured by the witch doctor, and the witch doctor is just about as terrifying a figure as you can imagine, I mean, obviously insane, hyped up on strange compounds, driven by unimaginable cruelty, and so forth and so on. And as cultural diversity has broadened, as the dialogue between diverse peoples has preceded over the past 40 years or so, this strange figure, the witch doctor, who becomes the shaman, uh, is a mysterious and central pivot for the evolution of the social mind and the self-image of every one of us, because, based on the descriptions of the anthropologists, the shaman does something which we can’t even find the context for. The shamans mysteriously journey between this world and another world, or worlds, that are somehow filled with energies both friendly and unfriendly toward the human condition.

In aboriginal societies, there isn’t an awareness or emphasis or understanding of uh, physical pathology as we gain it. To aboriginal forms of thinking, all forms of unbalance arise out of the general circumstances. Some of you may know in Peru there is a condition – not, I wouldn’t call it a disease as you’ll see why in a moment. But a condition called “susto”. And if you have it, your life is ruined. Your crops fail, your animals die, your breath smells and what it is, basically, is bad luck, from an outsider’s point of view looking at this culture, it’s simply that things are going wrong for you, it’s bad luck, and yet inside this culture, this condition is recognized, and you immediately are told or figure out for yourself, “Gee, I’ve got to spend some time with the shaman” and then susto can be lifted off of you.

Well, my, sort of a personal note, how I came to this or how I got into this was I grew up, really not that far from here or not as far as I thought I did when I was a kid. I grew up in western Colorado and we prided ourselves on being Westerners. Every time I come south I realize the place where I grew up was south but like, schizoid about it, and never owned up to the fact that the psychology of North Carolina is more what western Colorado is about than the psychology of southern California, by any stretch. Anyway, not to wander. I grew up in this place and uh, I was curious. And I think curiosity is the psychedelic virtue. It’s the precondition for finding your way into the presence of this answer, intellectual curiosity, and I was told, well, you know, there were dinosaurs here, 100 million years ago and 50 million years before that there was an ocean here. And we would go out into the dry arroyos and sandstone country and here would be these seashells and spiral laminites and stuff and I was obsessed with the sea because I had never seen it. I didn’t see the ocean until I was 14 years old, and yet here was evidence of the ocean in some of the driest and most shattered desert country you could ever see. So I got the message and the message is the world is not what it appears to be. Where there are deserts, one finds evidence of oceans. Where there are wastelands, one finds evidence of jungles, and by extension, where there is love, one can uncover animosity and conflict. Where there is hate, one can uncover love and community. So very early I got the notion, things are not as they appear to be.

And by the time I was 9 or 10, this was focused enough in my head. I was nearsighted. I couldn’t catch a basketball so this had severe distorting effects on my social life and I spent a lot of time by myself. Well, by the time I was 9 or 10, I was uh, an earnest practitioner of ceremonial magic, and I would draw pentacles in my room and burn rosemary and uh, I was also an altar boy at this time and, uh, it made some problems. I recall one time, I don’t know how many of you are recovering Catholics, but there’s a thing which they bring out once a year – I don’t know if they still do this, they’ve sort of left the faith - they have this thing which they use at midnight mass and Easter called an aspergillum, and it looks like a baby’s rattle and you put it in water and it has holes in the round head and it fills with holy water and then you can fling holy water great distances with this thing. And so one day back in the sacristy we were cleaning out some things and the priest came upon this old aspergillum, and I said, “Whoa,” he was about to get rid of it. And I sad, “Well, I have a use for that” and he said, “Oh, what is your use for this, my son?” and I said, “Well, I’m involved in the conjuration of Azazel, the 11th General of the Mercuric sphere,” and it launched an investigation that has made that town unsafe for the practice of ceremonial magic to this day.

But, the point of my story is, they needn’t have worried, because, and I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, but look, I’m paid to be controversial, you understand? They needn’t have worried, because at least for this lumping Irishman, it didn’t work. No matter how much rosemary I burned, no matter how many wax sigils were formed, no matter how many even more peculiar things were undertaken, it didn’t seem to cut the mustard. And then around the time that I was 14 or so, I had many obsessions, and my life seems ruled by obsession, and at some point I became aware there was of a book at the library that they didn’t want me to read. This was when I was somewhat younger and they didn’t want me to read this book and the librarian who was friends with my mother had been told, “If he asks for this book, don’t let him have it.” So I not only determined to read the book, I determined to read every book the author had ever written, and the book was Brave New World, which I don’t know how many of you have read it. It wouldn’t stir a small wind these days, but it did involve, all the women did wear these prophylactic… some kind of, I never quite understood what it was – but it was some kind of birth control kit that they wore on the belt and of course people were grown in vats, and had very free sex and so forth and so on, it was an interesting book but then I started reading the author, Aldous Huxley, and I read Crome Yellow and I read Antic Hay and I read After Many a Summer Dies the Swan and I read Ape and Essence and some of these things were like screenplays and some were comedies of British manners, I kept hoping we’d get back to the prophylactic belt thing, um, and instead eventually I came upon The Doors of Perception and read this book. It had never entered my mind, the concept of drugs, intoxication, information from reflection of that sort, I mean, the whole thing was just completely puzzling to me and I can remember following my mother around the kitchen of our suburban home, saying if one tenth of what this guy is saying is true, this is the most amazing thing in the world. Now, we know that that’s a very mild book, very limited in its claims, I mean he talks about staring at the folds of his trousers, and thinking about Hildegard von Bingen and uh, it’s basically presented as a thought thing, and most of you look like you’re probably not old enough to remember, but there was a point in the evolution of awareness about the psychedelic experience where the way people did it is they piled up art books, favorite recordings, foods, perfumes, and then they would get loaded and then look at the art books, eat the orange, smell the perfume.. it’s not a bad idea, um… [laughter]

But uh, that was the clue, to me, that there was something going on and as I say, I was about 14 and I had a lot ahead of me before I really took my first trip, um, and I was trying to figure it out, shopping in the supermarket of ideas of the time, reading Camus, reading Nietzsche, reading Sartre, and all these people are a huge downer, as any of you know who’ve read them, I mean the entire tone of modernity is just one big downer after another. If it’s not Hannah Arendt on the triviality of evil, well then it’s Karl Jaspers on something else, or Sartre, and just horrible, horrible stuff. I became aware through Huxley that there was this other possibility, and Huxley always wrote about the psychedelic experience as a branch of the mystical quest, what he called the perennial philosophy. And so I started reading both the scholars of mysticism, such as Evelyn Underhill and um, William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, and so forth and so on, and I started reading the primary sources: Teresa of Avila, Thomas Traherne, Yaka Burma [sp?], what’s the Singing Nun…Hildegaard von Bingen, all of these people, and I got the idea that there was this experience but I couldn’t find it, I couldn’t find it in on my knees at the church for hour after hour. I mean, I found various forms of existential boredom ad infinitum, and I would sit in nature and I would hyperventilate and I would do all these things. Well, the juice just wasn’t coming.

Well, to make a long story short, eventually, like lots and lots of people, and by my own personal route, I found my way to these things, and they are to my mind, uh, astonishing, worthy of taking risks for, because, uh, they work. They work. And they work without precondition, in other words, there is no entry fee. This irks some people. They think there should be an enormous entry fee. That if you haven’t swept up around the ashram for 20 years, or, you know, cooked in the monastery kitchen, then why in the world should the mystery descend and reveal itself to you? Well, the answer is, because it’s the mystery, Dude. It doesn’t follow those rules.

Um. So, uh, so my career, my public career, has revolved around, and not necessarily because I wanted it to, because I have a more selfish ego-driven agenda, but nobody’s interested in that, so uh, what I find myself talking about is the fact that I don’t know what else is out there. No single person can practice every religion, exercise every mantra, do every asana, visit every teacher, but I visited a few, and I did my asanas and I did my yantras and my tantra and all of that, and some of it was interesting, none of it was psychedelic. Psychedelic seems to be uniquely and particularly confined to these plant experiences and the experiences that clever chemists have now derived for us from those plants, by twiddling with the molecules, and it’s fascinating to me, endlessly fascinating, I mean, it’s the great mystery of my life, how we can live in the presence of these dimensions, and have it not be a major vector of cultural dialogue and concern. In other words, we get headlines – “Life Found in Martian Meteorite” and “OJ This, OJ That” - but we will never see a headline which says, “Pharmacologists Discover Elf-Inhabited Pharmaceutical”. Uh. It’s out of category, you know? It’s just not going to happen.

Now, a lot of people think – and I thought like this for a long time –and I think you have to keep fighting it off because they keep putting it on you. A lot of people think that we’re on a collective cultural adventure and that if something is found, it will be found by all, and therefore, in a sense, there’s not a great deal of obligation on you because if there is a true breakthrough, it will be broadcast on CNN, it will be headlined on Time, you will be informed in this manner. This is not a deep analysis of how things work. There is the public culture, which is designed for public consumption; hence, it is a cartoon-like simplification of reality. To allow everybody to participate, we have to dumb it down so that nobody is left out, but privately, you’re not limited by this uh, assumption. Privately, you can go as far as you want, you can do anything you want.

A friend of mine - I’m still puzzling this – said to me once at the end of a long trip, “I’ve realized that decadence is simply actually knowing what the neighbors do,” you know? And we are constantly involved in not finding out what the neighbors do, in order to maintain the illusion of a coherent cultural advance with values and so forth. This is an illusion. This is what I mean when I say culture is not your friend. Culture is, um, a kind of mass hallucination designed for middle-aged people, because culture works best for them, you know? When you’re less than middle-aged, you’re trying to figure out the rules of this collective hallucination, if you’re past middle age, and you’ve been paying attention, you know it’s bullshit, and so you don’t care anymore, so it’s a peculiar kind of ideological fascism that is in the control of a certain age group who is leading some people in and tossing some people out because it’s become irrelevant.

The reason people can get away with this is because people… uh…you have like a hormonal maturation process which is forced upon you. You have no choice about getting pubic hair and sprouting secondary sexual characteristics and so forth and so on, but by the time you’re 20 or so, you are that, the change has come, you can reproduce, you can have sex, you are now an adult…adulthood, it means, you are now… the classic thing is, you can now buy beer. That’s so indicative to me of what that form of adulthood means, what it means is, you are now fully empowered to participate as a complete idiot in this society. No one will interfere. And, you know, we have some flavors we want you to choose from here, we’ve got the Democrat and Republican flavor, check one or the other. We have the Methodist, Presbyterian, holy roller, check 1 of 12, please. So forth and so on. You’re handed all these cultural credit cards, essentially, you get the keys to the car. Not to reality, but to culture, so then if you buy into this, and it’s no sin to buy into it, or it’s an excusable sin, at least in my eyes because I did it. There are no other excusable sins except the ones I did, but this happens to be one of them, you accept it and you say, “Ok, well, I’ll get a job, and I’ll get a significant other of the opposite gender and I will fit myself into this weird paradigm,” unless, for some reason, genetic, hormonal, good fortune, you are uncomfortable with it and say, “I don’t want it, I want something else, I don’t know what it is, but I want something else.”

Well, then, it’s all set up to say, “Ok, so you’re a tough case, you don’t want to go work at the paper box factory, so, you want something else, say, all right, check it out, go find your something else,” and this breaks most people because the something else, if you’re a Methodist, is not Mormonism. The something else, if you’re a Republican, is not Maoism. None of these things work. The only something else that isn’t tainted by the perverse nature of the game is the psychedelic experience, so far as I can tell, and there only has to be one doorway. We’re not in business of finding doorways here, we’re in the business of trying to get outside the cultural van. There only has to be one method that works and this, I think, is it. It is so counter-expectation and again, I don’t know who I’m talking to in this room, there may be people in this room who are saying, “Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly it, been there, done that, bought the t-shirt” and there may be people who say, “I don’t understand what this guy is talking about, any of it, it makes no sense at all,” well, what we’re talking about is the fact that culture is not reality. Culture is a mass hallucination of some sort. Now, you may be able to sign on to that idea, just based on your alienated politics or something like that, but I mean something much more profound, I mean that we are living in the constant presence of some kind of invisible – usually – reality, that is inhabited by intelligence, has its own dynamic, and in spite of the fact that we pride ourselves on an exhaustive knowledge of the structure and nature of the world, we’ve missed this, we’ve missed it completely. And whenever anyone by accident or design stumbles upon the existence of this reality and comes back to try and tell the news, they have words. Heresy. Madness. And if those don’t get you, Criminal Behavior! Criminal Behavior! You’re saying, “Well, but, I bring news, I bring news.” You know, have you read the Grand Inquisitor chapter in The Brothers Karamazov? He brought news, and they said, “We don’t want your news, we know about that news, and we’re not interested.”

So. Well, so then the question might be asked, well, why is that? Why should this be so highly charged, this psychedelic thing, so that all cultures above a certain level, in all times and places, Marxists, Democrats, Monarchists, they all can get together on one thing, which is “This is terrible. And we have to do something about it.” Why? The only thing that I can figure is – um, and this comes out of having analyzed both my own as I experienced them and other people’s trips as I observe them - what it is that psychedelics do, whether you love it, whether you hate it, whether you seek it, whether you flee from it, the thing psychedelics do is they dissolve boundaries, they dissolve categories, they take away difference, and every cultural game is about the accentuation and stress of difference, and in the absence of the perception of difference, in the absence of uh, boundaries, there is uh, a transformative release. It’s…I’m not willing to say that it’s the direct descent of the Holy Spirit; it just may be relief that all this cultural constipation has been thrown off, finally, but in any case, enormous relief, by going beyond the cultural rules. Well, uh, now, most of the time, cultures function pretty well, uh, and by that I mean before the 20th century, cultures had rules, you could follow them and go into your father’s business, or marry a rich man if you were a woman, and by these means advance yourself and some people were shoved into poverty but the poor we have always with us and on and on and on.

Audience member: We can’t hear you back here!

TM: I was reading your mind and spoke louder before you even rose up. But don’t stop. Don’t stop. My hand is weak. The mouth is strong, the hand is weak. [clears throat] Ok, this hand is weaker. [laughter]

So, what happened was a kind of Trojan horse deal. Anthropology, in some sense, is perhaps the most arrogant of all sciences, because anthropology presumes to study human culture from an objective point of view, which just happens to be the cultural point of view of the people who invented the science of anthropology. Funny, they never noticed that contradiction, but part of what anthropology is, is ripping stuff off of people: mummies, cooking utensils, folk songs, dances, plants, and you bring all the stuff back to your colleagues at the University, and you sort it out. This is the Trojan horse deal because in the last few decades of the 19th century, peyote became part of the Ghost Dance religion that was so powerful in the late Indian Renaissance and uh…uh, Datura was written about by scientists for the first time and uh, it began - the Germans were the people who led in all this, in fact it’s a funny cultural thing. Try and think of a psychoactive drug that was invented more than 700 miles from Berlin. It can’t be done. It can’t be done. Even MDMA was discovered in 1914 in Germany. Uh, the Germans are analytical chemists, it’s that alchemical strain. You know, Paracelsus, the great alchemist, is also the person who invented the idea of purified drugs, of taking plants and by washing and heating and getting out pure crystalline substances so these substances, these plants, began to arrive in the lap of Western science.

Well, knowing the style of Western thinking, you can tell, the first interpretation was, these things cause madness. And the people who intoxicate themselves with them are insane, and in fact we can study mental illness by giving people these compounds and for years and years there was this phantom thing called the schizogen and this was a hypothesized chemical that they were going to find in the brains or spinal fluid of schizophrenics, and then when they injected it into normal people they were going to exhibit schizophrenic behavior, and then we would understand that mental illness is entirely the product of a chemical imbalance, probably driven by genetic degradation and a cure. Well, then they started into it and it was very elusive. Uh, people on mescaline do not appear to be insane, there is no form of mental pathology that looks like that. And then they began to expand and look at other things.

LSD – this was again the thought, but the LSD experience doesn’t mimic madness. Finally, they just, they’ve given up on that. When they discovered DMT, it was so dramatic in its effects that they assumed that all they would have to do is look for it in the cerebrospinal fluid of schizophrenics and there it would be. What they discovered, to their complete chagrin, is that normal people have more DMT in their cerebrospinal fluid than seriously incapacitated people. DMT is, to my mind, the one where the issues lie closest to the surface, where it all comes together in an extremely intense and difficult to dismiss fashion because the argument always put against these substances, as a general argument, is isn’t this extremely dangerous? Well, with DMT, it’s the most powerful of all hallucinogens and at the moment, based on the scientific evidence, I don’t feel uncomfortable standing in front of a crowd like this and saying it’s probably the safest. That’s heart-sinking even to some old steady psychedelic hands.

If it’s truly harmless, truly harmless, then there is no argument against not doing it every day. And you tell that to people and they just go gray at the very thought because this is an extremely epistemically challenging experience to go through. Uh, you know, with most of these things there’s a kind of natural course of action that mimics uh, how we’re used to having drugs hit our metabolism. You take it, you don’t feel anything for 30 minutes, then you feel a little bit, then you feel something, and then you feel a lot, and then you go through that, and then you come down. With something like DMT, you know, it comes on in less than 20 seconds. And so the experience is not one of a body shift but a spatial shift. The impression people have is that they have gone somewhere, not that something has happened to their body. It seems preposterous to call it a drug, because it doesn’t really affect your mind, what it affects is the data that’s getting to your mind. And it has been replaced - ordinary reality, three dimensional space, people, serial time, mmm, the usual markers, are gone! Gone, gone, gone, gone. [laughter] And, now, mystical expectations lead one always toward unity. It’s going to be the white light, it’s going to be the transcendent One, it’s going to be the all in all, it’s going to be the effulgent radiance of the unitary…the simple, get the idea? Right?

But this isn’t what happens. Instead what happens is an entry into a domain of much greater complexity than one has ever experienced before. There seems to be everything that there was in this world times 10. The other thing is, it’s not reinforcing of general principles. In other words, it doesn’t say things like “Love one another” or, I mean, you may draw that conclusion, but that isn’t explicitly the message. The message is uh, basically, “We’re here”. We’re here. That you have crossed this energy boundary, and look at what a low energy boundary it is. You didn’t have to fly to Kazakhstan, you didn’t have to…you know, all you had to do was take two tokes and hold the second and, you know, you will make more spiritual progress in those 30 seconds than 15 trips to India to worship at the feet of the Master, but the content is unexpected. It does not reinforce any religious ontology. It does not prove Kabbalah, Tantra, it doesn’t prove any of these intellectual constructs. Instead what it seems to do is say, beyond all your constructs lies reality. Your constructs are not a bridge to reality, they’re a boundary against reality.

When I smoked DMT, every time, every time, I go to a place…that’s inhabited by entities that are not the roving free-for-all proctologists of alien abduction fame, not specialists in internal medicine from other star systems who make free house calls late at night; uh, instead, I find myself in something much more like a Bugs Bunny cartoon running backwards. Uh. It’s a place of explosions and falling anvils. It’s a place of merriment so intense that you could have your head ripped off by accident. It’s a place of out of control hilarity and I’ve been there many times and I’ve tried every single time to understand as much of it as possible.

The argument I have with…people say, you’re so harsh on aliens, people who are doing deals with aliens but you’re doing own deals with aliens. Yes, but my aliens seem very alien, and everybody else’s aliens seem just like the people next door, you know, they work for the government out at the base and so forth and so on. My aliens are not like that, they are as alien as aliens can be and still show up on your screen as an experience at all, they are not made of matter, they are made, so far as I can tell, in my humble opinion, of grammar. Excuse me? Yes, they’re made of grammar. They are made out of language, they are living language. Well, what is language? Well it turns out we don’t know. You know, William Burroughs said, “Language is a virus from outer space”. That come close to it, I think. When I enter into the DMT space what I see are these, what I call self-transforming elf machines, these things which look like jeweled basketballs that self-dribble themselves, and they are like badly trained Rottweilers and they come bounding forward and they jump in and out of your chest and the people in the Amazon… this turns out to be a motif, they do jump in and out of your chest, the Hakuli, the DMT demons of the Virola bark cults, which is a DMT thing. They jump in and out of your chest and they do 2 things which are very interesting to me. The first is, they offer gifts. And the gifts that they offer are very hard to explain, I mean, you could spend a whole workshop on this. They offer gifts which are like objects, like objects, but they’re also like puns, they’re also like feelings, though how does that make any sense? The other thing about them is that they’re constantly changing, constantly changing, in a way that no object in this world can do. And as you look at them, as I look at them, I have the impression that, my God, if I could bring just one of these things back, I would never have to speak again, I would just show, and say look at this, and that would be all that would be required. It explains itself, it’s a self-explaining object of some kind, made out of mind. So that’s the first thing they do - they offer these gifts. They have dozens of them, they sing them into existence, they pluck them out of the air and they push them at you, look at this, look at this, one is pulled aside, no, look at mine, look at mine, they’re crawling over you like cats or infants or something. I mean, it’s very peculiar. Forty seconds ago you were sitting in some tatty room with your friends, experimenting with substances, and now this?

And the other thing that they do that I find extremely interesting is they want to communicate, and this is what, to my mind, is a strong argument that this really is an alien contact because they have a problem which real aliens would have, if there was a contact, which is they can’t communicate with us. We don’t speak standard Zenebelgenubian. And apparently, the nature of the contact is such that they’re not interested in speaking English. It can’t be done in English. So they say ok, this is the contact. Agenda #1: we have to learn to communicate or what kind of contact is it, and so what they’re doing is teaching a language which can be beheld, a language that is not heard but seen, and I always thought and probably you did too, that telepathy is seeing , is hearing other people think. If I could hear you think, that would be telepathy. These guys have something else going. They can see what you mean, see what you mean, and this is something that what we all do, to some degree, it’s like a latent ability in human beings as we talk to each other pictures are coming and going in our minds, but this is ordinarily not the main channel of communication and I believe that this huge paradigm shift, chaos at the end of time, end of history, whatever this woop de do is, that we’re involved in, it has to do with the transformation of our language and that the reason we can’t understand reality, the reason we’re so puzzled by alien abductions and certain fringe kind of phenomena is because our language is completely inadequate. We do it with small mouth noises. Get a hit of how provisional and limited that is. I mean, here’s how it works. I want to communicate with you, I form words, which are acoustical pressure waves, which move through space to your ear where they are downloaded into a very complex mathematical transform, which your mind, and let’s not even attempt to understand what that word means, your mind takes this incoming acoustical pattern, and searches a dictionary for a matching pattern. Now, if you have a matching pattern, you get the feeling of understanding. If you have no matching pattern, you say what? What’d he say, what? But the most uncool thing that can happen in an environment where people are trying to communicate is for one person to say to another, “Excuse me, would you tell me what it was that I just said?” Immediately, it comes to a screeching halt, because in fact most communication is going in the dimension of “uh huh, yeah, uh, yeah uh yah”. [laughter] No real communication at all.

We’ve managed to build a global civilization, an electronic culture based on small mouth noises and on having like, what, 1,000 major languages in play. The barriers to our communication with each other are staggering. It’s amazing I understand myself, or even have the illusion of understanding myself, let alone the person across the breakfast table or the person 19 rows back in a deal like this, so the message I’m getting from a lifetime of involvement with psychedelics, is a message to transform language, to make it more poetically compelling and the way that’s done is to appeal to the visual. The visual is what’s happening. It’s been happening for at least 200 years, since the invention of photography, and then color photography, and then moving pictures and then moving pictures with sound. What we are clearly involved in, in the late 20th century, is a technological simulacrum of the world, and we want more bandwidth, more pixels, higher resolution, greater refresher speed. This is why I’m so keen on virtual reality, not because I want to have virtual sex with Marilyn Monroe or some knot-headed notion like that, but because I believe this is a technology that will allow us to show each other the inside of our own heads. We have never been able to do this. I mean, maybe a William Blake for a moment. Uh, but as ordinary cultural enterprise, the most mysterious dimension is other people. You never get at it. You can get at the flesh, you can get at the message that’s being spoken or conveyed through dress and gesture, but one’s experience of one’s self as incredibly multi-dimensional and rich, compare that to one’s experience of other people and it’s a universe away (skips, recording ends).