Currents Become Waves
The acceleration of time towards the eschaton doesn’t phase me as much as it did when i first encountered the memes back in the 90’s. Earlier I wrote about Terrence McKenna as an influence on my early adult life. This post will expand on the field and lead right up to the moment i discovered the internet. It’s a brief history of time spent digging around the vaults of the esoteric writers, the fringe conspiracy nuts, the cultural commentators and critics who still remain relevant today. The point of this post is not to chronologically drop the names of influential authors, as it is to examine how interest in the subjects we choose will always increase the synchronicities around you regarding the subjects. When the subject of the book / information itself is synchronicity, things get abstractly synchronous, alarmingly fast. Before i read some of this literature, i was blissfully unaware that a rich tradition of lateral thinkers and philosophical edge surfers could exist. I was unaware of the timelords and trippers who were fiendishly compiling research decades after their psyhedelic illuminations in the 60’s. I had no idea what was out there outside of the school curriculum and what a kid in Regina Saskatchewan, son of an oilman, could get his hands on.
Like most private school type academic kids, my education was exposure to a wide variety of literature, though mostly centered in English, with the usual emphasis on England. Reading Victorian novels was required, as well as critical discourse and expository writing. English class was by far my favourite in School (except art, but the art teacher was so chill he never even showed up in class), and i was placed in an advanced English course which deviated into a few examples of world literature, some from Africa (Chinua Achebe), some from Russia (Solzenytsyn). Early exposure to reading beyond the classroom, coupled with the Christian Ethics courses on the world religions (i know crazy…), spun me solidly into a vortex of fascinating and increasingly confounding ideas about the World. My English teacher was keen to magnify this curiosity in any students showing aptitude. Books find their way into your hands, and names get dropped by high school teachers. For a really sheltered kid, it’s amazing how i made it most of the way through highschool without being exposed to any type of drug life, except in that in hindsight my favourite teachers were CLEARLY psychedelic, either currently or back in their university days. I felt like knew what was going to happen to me when i graduated in 1989, but i completely avoided any usage of drugs except the occasional drink until i was done highschool, as i had athletic aspirations as a snowboarder in what was sure to become an olympic sport right away (laugh now).
In University, through the usual introduction to altered states, I made friends with the people who were to remain my companions through the whole of the 90’s. I was given a copy of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson, as an introduction to that sort of world. I had heard of other authors but this was the first available to me on these subject matters. this was before the internet, and in Calgary, so access to hardcopies of this kind of stuff was rare. Huxley’s The Doors of Perception was the next, even though i had read it in a skim fashion during high school when my English Teacher suggested it and showed me a copy. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse was an early favourite, as well as the ever chilling don Juan series of Carlos Castenada, both rivetting and widely available.. One of the best friends of the girl i was seeing had a library passed down to her by her unapproachably trippy older siblings. It blows me away how much of a trickle this information was at first. Without the internet to just literally mainline any crazy theory, there wasn’t a whole lot of access to the alternative literature world, except to buy books new from obscure bookstores, or haunt them as if they were libraries. Real libraries never had this stuff on their shelves, or, more interestingly, it was always missing and overdue. Stoners.
We met a crew of older students slightly more advanced in these realms, who lived at a deranged party house called the “House of Tools”. One of the denizens was a broody tripper character, who dressed rather plainly and possessed a definitive collection of high end graphic novels. This was a revelation that reverberated through time, even to now, as my graphic designer self, as of then a fresh baby in tripping, was drinking in works like Gaiman’s “Sandman”, Moebius books, Lobo, Sin City, Dark Knight (wo this is batman??). All of this work, amazingly literary, appealed to my literature side as well as the comic book love that any boy has likely had. This work was all adult themed, and again extremely rare. This was not my parents’ bookshelf. This was not mainstream access. It felt like we were the only people in the whole of Alberta on this wavelength, and the vibrancy of the comeraderie that this brought is still something i wistfully look back on. My first friend family. The OG trippers and experimenters of our golden 20’s, where every trip led to another clue another book, or comic that held a piece that assured us that we were on a path, a destiny or fate, that was unwrapping the mysteries in perfect synchronistic fashion. This was a new age for me, finding a place in a tradition of thinkers who challenged the edges of perception.
The next two years of life were an accelerated ride through the hyperspace of early University as a pre-law English literature student, doing his first tabs, eating his first spores, reading books about depraved drug trippers on voyages to the rotten core of the American dream. We gallivanted through moonlit cemeteries and fancied ourselves renegades, smoked pot and watched reperatoire cinema, read books on psychedelic thinkers and alternative spirituality. It happened really quickly and I was actually embarrassed how much of an obvious late bloomer i was compared to the peers i had encountered. This is when the Terrence McKenna books hit our scene and swept through us all one by one as we passed it along. Holy shit. That was a major shift in our consciousness. Leary had that effect as well. Tying the research of the 60’s into today’s future, and suddenly we were located, by these scholars. We were the next generation! of course. It all made sense that we were to carry on this tradition of thinking that i had come to see was a lineage of thinkers even back into the 1800’s, further past to the ancient and forgotten shamans of archaic times. We all found identity in this secret world, made taboo by laws that made no sense to us. It was up to us to see humanity into the next phase. It sounds unhinged, but it really made a great deal of sense at the time before the net made information available to anyone at any time. The matrix of deceptive culture was huge. Very few people seemed awakened.
The first Gulf War erupted and it was clear that the University of Calgary was no longer where i needed to be at. I dropped out and moved to Nanaimo, where my friends and I embarked on an adventure of weed, ultimate frisbee and crazy literature. It felt like a sabbatical where i chose my own reading curriculum and phys ed regime. I miss that time. We combed all bookstores, we spent our money buying new texts by people like McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson. RAW was unlike any of the other authors of his time, or since for that matter. He is a blog unto himslef and i will get there. Wilson’s work and associated authors like Hakim Bey, formed the basis of my return to University.
It was clear that dropping out was not what i had to do. I spotted the dead end of that lifestyle for myself immediately and devoted myself to what was to be 2 decades of study. I had to graduate and bring this information and this research to a new level, but i abandoned law as any notion of future, seeing myself as far too highstrung to become a lawyer, and settled on poetry and modern theory as the way i would complete my studies. I Could use this as a way to explore modern psychedelic themes in a context that would not refute them based on the taboo nature of the subject matter. I saw that the thing that all the writing that i loved had in common was the fact that it was writing. It was words. I loved words. It was a calling and I returned to phase 2 of University determined to fuse the exploration of my recreational mindstates, with the academic and serious side of my studies. I enrolled in SFU and picked up where i left off.
This time, i was approaching the study from a different angle. I felt like i was watching a culture on the verge of a massive transformation. While acknowledging incredible advances in science and business, I felt part of a dialation of human perception which involved this new proto dimension of digital consciousness, and a drastically evolved relationship with plants. My leanings were moving further into music as an expressive art form although i remained confident in poetry and language study as a key to being at the edge of perception. I yearned to bring alternative viewpoints to the table at any opportunity i could in the classroom, but i discovered even then, the resistance to such notions was so great that they were squashed immediately and given no credence, even though their relevance still remains.
Vancouver was the location and the information i was seeking was way more readily available. In fact, it was so synchronous how the next levels of music and literature started to flow that i had settled into a very comfortable relationship with a very abstract sort of view of the world. I was embroiled in deconstructionist, post modern theory, up in the ivory tower, volunteering with the drug activists on campus, tripping on the weekends and going to indie rock shows in the ultra embryonic hippy/hipster mid 90’s east van. Electronic dance music, was looming on the horizon and we all plunged into it, working with Hakim Bey’s concept of the “temporary autonomous zone”, which resembled what we saw in rave culture. Terrence was tied into this as well, through the west coast psy-trance community. The synchroncities exploded a thousand-fold when we hit the bassline mainstream. The party at the end-of-time became the new eschaton. We were part of it!
What we also discovered was thing called the internet. Our hardcopy libraries were still formidable compendiums of poetry, literature, science, art, esoterica etc. but we were seeing that the new edge of this information was lying in the circuits of a new and exploding region of the human psyche. I felt this at the end of my University life as i got my first email address. This was 1994-1995. I was a mere 4 years from my beginning exposure to the information which hurtles us towards 2013. The impact of those authors culminated in a commitment to create community around this type of thought. I met the next round of the friends family at this time, and we began to throw music events and share knowledge. Jose Arguelle’s Dreamspell swept through the community like wildfire, as email groups proliferated ideas quickly. There was still nothing like Wikipedia, but the computer was changing everyone’s lives. I knew i had to do something in relation to it. I was taking a break from my literature studies with the intention to go on to do master’s and PhD in English. I saw myself as a professor type. During this time I was reading a lot of theory and linguistic text, and interested in the then burgeoning discipline known as ethnobotany, which was an anthropology offshoot examining the culture of peoples through their usage of plants. The tripping community and the dance music community was very tight nit and inspiring. There was a real spike in the archaic revivalism that McKenna wrote about in the late 80’s. Like all spiritual seeker / new raver traveller types, i went to India.
In India the concrescence of all the Eastern Philosophy which permeated such a huge section of the new age spirituality, and people like Leary’s interpretations of psychedelic thought, came in like a ton of bricks. I went searching for answers, intent on becoming a yogin, and coming back to the western world to be a yoga teacher/university prof. The computer had other ideas. My time in India urged me to look at the conscious shaping of the “illusion” that all the baba’s had referred to as maya. I did not want to let go of the illusion, i wanted to be a part of it. In creating an ‘zine for the dance music underground in 1997-98, i became aware of the new media world that was emerging through the internet’s morphosis into something more than a message forum. Websites, new documentaries, video, audio projects, people like DJ Spooky, who was creating a whole new type of study, i realized that i would not be going back to school until these new disciplines were founded, lest i become a guinea pig, or sacrifice my time creating authentic new future culture, analyzing its relevance from the ivory tower.
It was then that my academic ambitions stopped, and the rise of the net began. I saw no need to go to study in a field that was literally being created by people like myself . It was still a decade or more till the 2012, but we were certain that the future lay in populating this new and infinite digital realm. In addition we were keen to drop out of cities and go to places where we could grow gardens. A futuristic archaic community of self sufficient tech wizards. It was all as people like McKenna had predicted. That was the dream at least. I moved to the Sunshine coast to take part in a widely distributed magazine, as a graphic designer. My intention was to use these skills to get back to the grassroots movement I felt I was part of. My community was starting to build permaculture gardens and seed banks, as well as continue to research edge theory of consciousness, ethnobotany and mayanism. Finding new ways to communicate this information visually became my life’s path. There was a great deal of apocalyptic concern around 2000 with y2k and a sense of things getting worse on the world front, but i was also a time of great creativity and underground seeding. It truly felt like the shift was fully happening.
Whether or not things turned out is part of the coming chapters. In some ways, this post has been a preamble to the 2000-2012 section. The information that formed the basis of this mode of thought was no longer trickling, but was geysering in a totally unsustainable and damaging way. We no longer had to comb bookstores or wait for the next books to arrive. The net, and places like the vaults of Erowid, DeoxyRiboNucleicHyperDimension, Hyperborea, were busy forming compendiums of this research which were exposing artifacts few had seen, due to their rarity, or the inability to publish. The influx of the wild and weird, the esoteric and the criticism, all of it came down so heavily by 2003, the whole new Age had nearly lost a lot its credibility in the younger folks. Anyone into this research was a hippy. I understood why, as the basis of the writing was no longer academically founded, as Leary, McKenna, and Wilson had ensured. It was a miasma of bad opinions, alien visitations, channellings and sketchy logic which perpetuated the lowest common denominator of what this information, the revelation of psy consciousness had to offer for us all. The belief that tripping had any promise or value was lost again. Almost all of the best minds of this generation have been relegated to the bargain bin as crackpots. A lot of it deserves this fate
I wonder how my life would have turned out if i had not taken the plunge. It was all because of these books, put into my hands at the end of the 80’s. These days I am definitely not the tripper i once was, and when I look at where this community progressed to, I am not as in solidarity with it as my home team as I once was back when this path began. I see that the whole point of the research, and the investigation of the potentials of human transformation has gotten lost in the new age sauce of egoic self prophecy, languished in neurochemical obscurity getting unbearably dry, or become a bitter apocalyptic sense of futility at the shape of the world that is coming for us. This coupled with the get rich psy tourism surrounding the next generation of plant medicines has made for strange times in the psy world, and there has not been a truly talented writer in the new generation (except Erik Davis). Regardless of what happens in 2012, I’m glad i followed this path of breadcrumbs here. The countdown is on.