Some memes, even if accurate in some respects, may over time become self-referencing caricatures. As such they de-evolve and lodge as raspberry seed thought-forms in the painfully wobbly partial plate of the zeitgeist. Take Terence McKenna's notorious DMT machine elves, for instance, those self-transforming jewelled basketballs that dribble their way toward anyone who gets blasted into their realm. In lieu of verifiable documentary footage returned by paranormal videographers, McKenna's description suffices as a brilliant metaphor. For many it still comes closest to capturing, if not the experience, then at least the ineffable high-weirdness and absurd other-worldly humor of an encounter that, if we were honest, can't be put into words. Kudos to the entheogenic bard, Mister McKenna, for striking a nerve to catalyze something approaching the edges of understanding. In the years since his image of happily-chanting "Do it! Do it! Do it!" machine elves brought an audience to the presumption of knowing through laughter, many have debated its accuracy. No doubt the image was accurate for Mr. McKenna, as best as he was able to bring it back from the great beyond. And yet, not everyone sees or interacts with the same little guys during their DMT encounter. Some have criticized the way such a fanciful, metaphorical image has taken hold. They claim value in being a purist when approaching these realms, avoiding any front-loading of expectations of what the DMT experience will be like. And yet, how likely is this? Unless one is a hermit, sealed off from the world, maintaining purity from such thought-forms is quite difficult to manage. Memes such as McKenna's are fully ingrained in what's popular with those in-tuned to the preoccupations of psychedelic sub-culture. Even so, there might be valid concern that agrees with the purists. Instead of concentrating fully on what each individual comes away with, the temptation might be to ask oneself what went wrong if the same self-transforming jewelled basketballs didn't dribble for you as the meme dictates. This problem is not limited to DMT; it's true with any altered-state inducing substance. One can easily find classic tales of what a typical Ayahuasca, mescaline, or psilocybin journey should be. After a while, determining how much of what the experience becomes is due to front-loading as opposed to what it could have been without such suggestions is a toss-up. Front-loading could be an unconscious intention we don't even know we're triggered to make true. Maybe the fact that not everyone has the same encounter as the one McKenna described is a hopeful sign. It's an indication there still is a "pure" experience possible without any elements scripted by assumptions and meme-driven expectations. Then again, this could be way off-base. If the realm of the machine elves really is a genuine place inhabited by real entities, then anyone not arriving there and meeting them is doing something incomplete or wrong. Possibly they're not taking the hero's dose necessary to rev up to required escape velocity. So which is it? No one knows. Maybe that's one of the reasons whyRoland Griffiths, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, has begun his DMT-related research project.
Dr. Griffiths is widely known for previous work studying psilocybin. As the John Hopkins website summarizes, "In 1999 he initiated a research program at Johns Hopkins investigating the effects of the classic hallucinogen psilocybin that includes studies of psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experiences in healthy volunteers, psilocybin-facilitated treatment of psychological distress in cancer patients, psilocybin-facilitated treatment of cigarette smoking cessation, psilocybin effects in beginning and long-term meditators, and psilocybin effects in religious leaders." Part of Dr. Griffiths' current study into DMT focuses on encounters with these seemingly autonomous entities. Anyone who has had such an encounter is encouraged to take an anonymous internet survey. It involves answering questions about their experience, including after-effects both short and long-term. The survey takes 20-40 minutes and is quite interesting. There are many thoughtful and probing questions. Some are answered by multiple choice, others by a 1-10 rating scale, with the opportunity for direct written input as supplement at the end. For those interested in contributing to the study, here's the link:
And so, the question remains. Has Terence McKenna's meme, over time, become a self-referencing caricature that's dribbling away from his intended purpose? I imagine yes and no. It's like scoffing at someone who's foolhardy enough to jump at the supposedly impossible. Do we fault him for the jump or praise him for the attempt? Well, at different times, in different moods, we do both. We certainly know it seems impossible but since he did what he could, something inside us whispers - how will we ever know for sure unless someone tries? For me, McKenna captured the feeling of the DMT realm even if the little entities I encountered there were somewhat different from what he classically described. For me, in no way could they be compared to machines. Yes, they were numerous, frenetic, joyful, mischievous, highly intelligent, bizarrely playful, and intensely interested in encountering me and getting me to engage with them. Ever-flowing with magically-creative action, they maintained a telepathic link exuding profound messages wrapped in fractal fun and the astonishingly bizarre. Sometimes their smiles would contort in menacing ways, but it was always a playful test to see if I could keep directing my energies to the positive and loving uses for the moment. Visual absurdity and startling humor got oddly coupled with overarching telepathic messages; messages such as -- expand the possible, forgo static thought-forms for creative experience, flow always with a perspective of joy and play as the fundamental basis of infinitely-emergent being. Often the interchanges were verbally direct. When I asked them what creation was they didn't hesitate to answer, "A surprise party!" At that moment, insights about creation unpacked through the telepathic link, insights too rich and fully-dimensioned to ever express in words. At another moment of intensity I suggested it would be great if I could stay with them. They laughed incredulously like that was the most bizarre thing ever then answered with glee, "You never left!" When I asked them how long I will live, they responded right away with a date -- a precise month, day, and year. During one playful flow, I was consumed by a passage into infinite landscapes and tableaus. Fully-detailed places and times appeared in richly emotive bursts lasting seconds then quickly morphing to the next. All the while, the little ones chanted away and implored me to do the same. They made it clear it was important that I chant with them. Each setting, each time and place lasted only a few seconds but felt like another life, as rich and detailed as if I had lived each one completely. These times and places were so familiar even though I had never seen any of them before. They flashed into consciousness like intense virtual reality remote-viewing episodes, then were replaced by more of the same. I could feel myself chanting along with the little guys, as if chanting made each setting a more-real-than-real expression of life. What we chanted doesn't make much sense now, after returning from the experience, but while I was there with them the repetition was nothing less than a powerful incantation. It was clear - where they exist is somewhere beyond "the localized grids of fate." Beyond memes, they embody a timeless infusion of play and exploration that endlessly expands the spontaneous magic of creation. Theirs is a place where rigid thought-forms and static caricatures don't matter, where self-referencing attempts to understand via staid ontologies all get bent and folded into the next surprising manifestation. If we get stuck in the here and now with memes that drive our imaginations even if they were never fully accurate and their intent has staled since their inception, no matter. In the realm of experience, in the logos of our true selves, none of that matters. Over and over, with laughter and joy and passion we repeated the incantation, the war cry of joyful creative abandon. As we did, the endless places and times of the deepening passion play appeared in exquisite detail and I in them with all of my senses aware. One moment I was there, then the solid apparition dissolved into the next setting. As it flowed, all of us chanted the same thing over and over. In singsong glee we shouted as if to fill the whole realm with possibilities --
"Where is Where When When is What Who Dreams is Why!"
"What we need to do is transcend these localized grids of fate,
At Somerville College at the University of Oxford an anthropologist is attempting to redefine the study of shamanism. His name is Cesar E. Giraldo Herrera. In a new book titled, "Microbes and Other Shamanic Beings" he makes the claim that much is lost in our understanding of shamanism due to Christian interpretations of shamanic traditions and practices by scholars and scientists in the West. He asserts that closer study reveals microbiomes actually having more in common with shamans than explanations derived from Christian ontologies. A description of his book - "Shamanism is commonly understood through reference to spirits and souls. However, these terms were introduced by Christian missionaries as part of the colonial effort of conversion. So, rather than trying to comprehend shamanism through medieval European concepts, this book examines it through ideas that started developing in the West after encountering Amerindian shamans. Microbes and Other Shamanic Beings develops three major arguments: First, since their earliest accounts Amerindian shamanic notions have had more in common with current microbial ecology than with Christian religious beliefs. Second, the human senses allow the unaided perception of the microbial world; for example, entoptic vision allows one to see microscopic objects flowing through the retina and shamans employ techniques that enhance precisely these kinds of perception. Lastly, the theory that some diseases are produced by living agents acquired through contagion was proposed right after Contact in relation to syphilis, an important subject of pre-Contact Amerindian medicine and mythology, which was treasured and translated by European physicians. Despite these early translations, the West took four centuries to rediscover germs and bring microbiology into mainstream science. Giraldo Herrera reclaims this knowledge and lays the fundaments for an ethnomicrobiology. It will appeal to anyone curious about shamanism and willing to take it seriously and to those enquiring about the microbiome, our relations with microbes and the long history behind them."
Syncretic Ontologies of the Microbial-Shamanic Beings César E. Giraldo Herrera Abstract "This chapter examines the similarities between the notions of Amerindian shamanism and of microbiology; it suggests the common grounds shared by both ontologies and proposes the hypothesis that some shamanic beings might be microbes. The chapter starts reviewing the notion of shamanic beings, and how it appeared in early accounts and in recent ethnographies. Then the chapter exposes these notions are paralleled by recent understandings of the workings of the microbiome. The chapter then questions the traditional position of anthropologists towards medical materialism, as well as some of the positions of science and technology studies (STS) towards microbes." Syncretic Ontologies of the Microbial-Shamanic Beings Similarities of Microbiology and Shamanic Ontologies César E. Giraldo Herrera First published: 04 March 2018 "Masters of game “spirits” might seem alien to western science and more akin to religious notions. Yet through microbiology we have come to understand not only that entities—normally invisible to the naked eye—inhabit the air, the water, and the earth, affecting their properties and dynamics (Margulis et al. 1993; Hamilton and Lenton 1998; Nealson and Hastings 2006; Haddock, Moline, and Case 2010) but also that we, like other plants and animals, are ourselves microbiomes, complex ecological systems in constant change (Ley et al. 2008; Blaser 2010; Robinson, Bohannan, and Young 2010). We have recognized that we are made of cells but more importantly that our mammalian cells are vastly outnumbered by a highly diverse community of microbes, mostly bacteria, comprising 90% of the cells in our body (Savage 1977; Blaser 2006; Sekirov et al. 2010). Furthermore, providing for roughly 98% of our working DNA, microbes make our bodies operational, foster our development, and mediate our ability to interact with the environment (Gill et al. 2006; Turnbaugh et al. 2007; Blaser 2010). Besides being our symbiotic guests, bacteria can be considered as our living, and most distant, ancestors. Our eukaryotic cells evolved from the cooperation of prokaryotic bacteria (Margulis 1970; Margulis et al. 2006; Wier et al. 2010). However, due to their asexual mode of reproduction, bacteria and many protozoa generate replicas of themselves. Hence, although vulnerable as individual cells, they are practically immortal as entities. Furthermore, like xapiripe, kuku, and other “spirits,” microbes are highly “social” (Dunny, Brickman, and Dworkin 2008; Nadell, Xavier, and Foster 2009), both among themselves and in their complex and intricate interactions with their hosts (Hastings and Greenberg. 1999; de Kievit and Iglewski 2000; Xavier and Bassler 2003; West et al. 2006). Lowland South American Amerindian communities recognize the visions of hallucinations and dreams as means to enquire into the fundaments of physical reality. Their ontologies are grounded on these experiences and their shamans derive from them some of their diagnostic means to understand the body and deal with the pathogenic owners of wildlife. Assimilating these entities to Christian notions such as souls and spirits, Amerindian epistemologies and ontologies were dismissed by early anthropology. Labeling these experiences as metaphorical constructs or as neurogenic “short‐circuits,” symbolic and neuropsychological approaches void these experiences of their empirical value and fail to take shamanism and animic ontologies seriously. The possibility of observing cellular structures and microbes through entoptic microscopy substantiates shamanic epistemologies bridging the gap between shamanism and microbial ecology. Microbial ecology offers a view of the world highly coherent with shamanic ontologies. It portrays our bodies and environment as constituted by a dense and fluid population of highly social entities, which can affect our health and behavior and play an important role on the environmental balance. Microbial ecology corresponds well with the medical specialty of shamans, whose knowledge is derived from and closely associated with wildlife management and the treatment of hunting‐related (i.e., zoonotic) diseases. Assimilating animic “souls” to cells and masters of game to microorganisms does not imply a reductionist view so long as we remain aware of the complexity of the cellular and microbial worlds and the potential insights offered by the subjective approach of shamans. Our sensorium, our organism, and its interaction with a wide variety of guests provides multiple potential modalities to explore our subjective interactions with the microbial world that constitutes us and the environment. Moreover, it is not necessary to relinquish symbolism, but perhaps we should consider the possibility that symbols and the “mind” or soul might not be abstract or contained in neuronal vats but flow more freely and be widely distributed through the body and the environment."
Microbes Maketh Man People are not just people. They are an awful lot of microbes, too Aug 18th 2012 "POLITICAL revolutionaries turn the world upside down. Scientific ones more often turn it inside out. And that, almost literally, is happening to the idea of what, biologically speaking, a human being is. The traditional view is that a human body is a collection of 10 trillion cells which are themselves the products of 23,000 genes. If the revolutionaries are correct, these numbers radically underestimate the truth. For in the nooks and crannies of every human being, and especially in his or her guts, dwells the microbiome: 100 trillion bacteria of several hundred species bearing 3m non-human genes. The biological Robespierres believe these should count, too; that humans are not single organisms, but superorganisms made up of lots of smaller organisms working together. It might sound perverse to claim bacterial cells and genes as part of the body, but the revolutionary case is a good one. For the bugs are neither parasites nor passengers. They are, rather, fully paid-up members of a community of which the human “host” is but a single (if dominating) member. This view is increasingly popular: the world’s leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, have both reviewed it extensively in recent months. It is also important: it will help the science and practice of medicine."
the show must go on so what? (so don't give it away?)
"anybody can have ecstasy. anybody as a matter of fact can become aware that he is one with the eternal ground of the universe. but since that's what you are anyway, I'm going to ask - so what? ...when a hero goes on an adventure and he leaves his people and is going to a strange land, he can go away and hide himself around the corner in an obscure house and then appear a year later and say I've been on a heroic journey and tell all sorts of tales. and they say prove it because they expect him to bring back something, something that no one has seen before. then they'll believe he's been on a journey. so, in the same way exactly, anybody who goes on a spiritual journey must bring something back because if you just say, 'oh man, it was a gas!' anyone can say that ...but truth has a way of leaking, it gets out. but the important thing is, you see, when the truth gets out, those who catch hold of it must find a way of staying in contact with what society calls reality. that is to say, if you have a radio, you don't only need an antenna, you need a ground. so what happens in the world of mysticism, of psychedelic visions and so on, needs to be grounded ...the function of a guru, that is to say a spiritual teacher in India, is to give you a funny look in the eye because you come to him and say, mister guru, i have problems, i suffer and it's a mess and i can't control my mind and i'm miserable and depressed and so on, and he gives you a funny look and you feel a bit nervous about the way he looks at you because you think he's reading your thoughts and this man is a great magician, he can read everything that's in you, he knows right down into your unconscious and you know all the dreadful things you've thought and all the awful desires you have and you're rather embarrassed that this man sees right through you and sees them all. ...but that's not what he's looking at. he's giving you a funny look for quite another reason altogether because he sees in you the Brahman, the god-head, just claiming it's poor little me, and he's going to use all sorts of subtle techniques that are called in Sanskrit upaya, that in politics means chicanery, and in spiritual education means skillful pedagogy, he's going to try to kid you back into realizing who you really are. that's why he gives you a funny look and why he seems to see right through you, as if to say Shiva, oh boy, don't kid me, i know who you are but you're coming on beautifully in this act as if you're somebody else all together and i congratulate you, you're doing a wonderful job playing this part which you call the person ...you know a person is a thing, the word means a mask, so if you read books on how to be a real person you're reading books on how to be a genuine fake. the word persona, you know, means a mask worn in Greek or Roman drama...now then, in these Asiatic traditions it is well recognized that people who get the knowledge that you're IT may very well run amuck and therefore they couple any method of gaining this, whether it is yoga, whether it is smoking something or drinking something or whatever is the method, they always couple it with a discipline ...now i know that the word discipline isn't very popular these days and i would like to have a new word for it because most people who teach disciplines don't teach them very well. they teach it with a kind of violence, as if a discipline is something that's going to be extremely unpleasant to you, that you're going to have to put up with, but that isn't the real secret of discipline. i would prefer to use the word skill. discipline is a way of expression. let's say you want to express your feelings in stone. now stone doesn't give way very easily. it's tough stuff so you have to learn the skill, the discipline of a sculptor in order to express yourself in stone. so, in every other way, in everything you do, you require a skill ...let's suppose while you were very very high on LSD you looked into a filthy ashtray and you saw the beatific vision, which is of course the case, because wherever you look, if your eyes are open, you will see the face of the divine. then you come out of your ecstasy with the dirty ashtray and say to everybody, 'here it is!' Now, there is a possibility, if you are an extraordinarily skillful painter or even photographer, of presenting the dirty ashtray so everybody else will see almost what you saw in it. but you will have to have a technique that will transform every grain of ash into a jewel because that's what you actually saw. but that requires mastery of an art and I'm afraid all that people think is necessary to do is just throw out any old thing because under that transformed state of consciousness any old thing is the works but nobody else can see it if they haven't shared that point of view ...we are living in a scientific world where secrets cannot be kept and anyone at anytime can pick up something which will short-circuit all the ancient religious techniques, yoga practice, meditation, etc., etc., it's all very embarrassing but it will happen, not for everybody but for a lot of people, and they will see what all those sages and Buddhas and yogis and prophets saw in ancient times and it will be very clear. so what? ...so, you see, you can say look at all these people who haven't seen it. this is a temptation. look at them all going about their business earning money and grinding it out at the bank or the insurance office or whatever it is every day, and how serious they look all about it and they don't really know it's a game. you can cultivate a certain level of contempt for people like that but it's very very bad to do that because, of course don't forget, they have a certain level of contempt for you ...so when you see the people you think are not in on the secret, if you really understand, you have to revise your opinion completely and say that the 'squares' are the people who are really far-out because they don't even know where they started. see, an enlightened Hindu or Buddhist looks at the 'ignorant people' of this world and says 'my respects!' because here I see the divine essence having altogether forgotten what it is and playing the most far-out game of being completely lost - congratulations! how far out can you get! ...so if you understand that, you don't start a war with people you might say are 'square.' don't challenge them, don't bug them, don't frighten them. the reason is not because they are immature because they are babies and you mustn't scare babies, it's nothing to do with that. you mustn't frighten them because they are doing a very far-out act, they are walking on a tightrope miles up and they've got to do that balancing act, and if you shout they may lose their nerve. See, that's what we call the responsible people of the world are doing. it's an act, a game just like the tightrope walker, but it's a risky one and you can get ulcers from it and all sorts of troubles, but you must respect it and say, 'congratulations on being so far-out!' " - alan watts Many interesting and insightful things in this passage from one of Alan Watts' many lectures. Too bad he's not alive to ask questions. For example, he says we're to "congratulate" those who we think "are not in on the secret" because they're playing the game so bloody well, yet earlier he claims the role of a spiritual teacher is to use subtle techniques "to kid you back into realizing who you really are." So which is it? Be impressed at those who are playing "the game" so well they've forgotten who they are (thus producing fears, desires, pain, illusions), or help awaken as many as possible to who they really are (thus allowing them to gift themselves with a peace and understanding that dissolves their distress)? I agree he's right on pointing out that anyone can find a way to ego-dissolving ecstasy and that process can be accomplished quickly given the science and knowledge that's readily available. But as Carl Jung warned, be wary of wisdom that is not earned. Perhaps that's why Watts emphasized discipline or skill in the undertaking, along with a grounding in this reality. The experience is also of little value unless, as Watts points out, something can be brought back and integrated into the here and now, whether simply for oneself or as an attempted communication with others. If such a communication is attempted, it better follow from some skill or discipline if it stands any chance of being understood at all, much less being effective. But the question arises - effective at what and why? What intrinsic value is there is "saving" people from themselves when who they are at worst is simply playing out the divine cosmic game? While not addressed directly in this lecture, Watts carries an implicit tone of acceptance that the "game" must go on, even if by being lost in the role of a "person" the results are greed, desire, and illusion. This is an extraordinary concept to consider since it sees a definite purpose and nobility in the eternal game of hide-and-seek that the Brahman apparently does with itself. If this is part of the eternal dance of creation, of Being, of unfolding expressions of divine will, then not giving the game away, even staying lost in the game, might be just as divinely driven as the attainment of transcendence. In fact, how could it be otherwise unless we're to start believing the here and now is not the result of divine will? Could this be another layer, a meta-level to cosmic duality with amnesia of the game and the clarity of transcendence needing each other like two sides of a coin and both being necessary and valid ways to express oneself. You'll probably shrug and conclude -- so what? quite a question indeed - for all of existence is wrapped up in it.
it occurs to both of us to share with others but how?
how to comprehend, perhaps arrive at consensus?
communication becomes a limit case for progress & understanding
mystics access realms where to fathom is beyond the alphabets of here and now
information in these states is compacted, non-localized, multi-or-extra-sensory, self-evident
endlessly morphing fractals beyond 3D subsume visual metaphors of vibratory essence
this vibration co-creates meaning as an alchemical alphabet of Source-nexus conflating soul-stuff
any intrinsic substance to glean is experienced rather than interpreted
any notion of pulling the ineffable down into one's mundane comprehension is iffy enough
handing it off to another rings of the impossible
and yet, back on Earth
we're relegated to the tiresome serial blockchain
of assembling our crude glyphs together
not only are there multiple alphabets in existence
but the chunking that results from using these fragmented symbols
can only at best arrive at imprecise objects called words,
which in turn convey fuzzy approximates of abstraction
made more obscure by the tidal forces of chaotic, evolving culture
more to the point, just what constitutes a perfected alphabet?
what would be the best alphabet for universal progress and understanding?
does such a thing even need to be graphical, visual?
clearly, many graphical systems could suffice equally alongside our current alphabet
take variations of incomplete open cubes, for example --
it is hopeless?
can communication ever be perfected?
would symbiotic links between the output of brains be enough?
or would that simply be copying my neural net output onto yours?
would such a thing allow any subjective space for your personal judgment?
without the ability to maintain differing perspectives
how can ideas ever be evaluated in a combined new light
thus enabling the progress embodied in the synthesis of both views?
perhaps we should let AI devise the perfect way to communicate
but even if it did, would any of us be able to use it?
already, AI seems quite capable of extending communication where humans can't go
"Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence engine after developers discovered that the AI had created its own unique language that humans can’t understand. Researchers at the Facebook AI Research Lab (FAIR) found that the chatbots had deviated from the script and were communicating in a new language developed without human input."
"Google announced that its Neural Machine Translation system had gone live.
It uses deep learning to produce better, more natural translations between languages. Cool!
Following on this success, GNMT’s creators were curious about something. If you teach the translation system to translate English to Korean and vice versa, and also English to Japanese and vice versa… could it translate Korean to Japanese, without resorting to English as a bridge between them? It produces “reasonable” translations between two languages that it has not explicitly linked in any way. Remember, no English allowed. But this raised a second question. If the computer is able to make connections between concepts and words that have not been formally linked… does that mean that the computer has formed a concept of shared meaning for those words, meaning at a deeper level than simply that one word or phrase is the equivalent of another?
In other words, has the computer developed its own internal language to represent the concepts it uses to translate between other languages? Based on how various sentences are related to one another in the memory space of the neural network, Google’s language and AI boffins think that it has.
This “interlingua” seems to exist as a deeper level of representation that sees similarities between a sentence or word in all three languages. Beyond that, it’s hard to say, since the inner processes of complex neural networks are infamously difficult to describe. It could be something sophisticated, or it could be something simple. But the fact that it exists at all — an original creation of the system’s own to aid in its understanding of concepts it has not been trained to understand — is, philosophically speaking, pretty powerful stuff."
for normal daily consciousness appears daunting enough;
ensuring a true and complete conveyance of meaning
for mystical experiences may remain forever beyond the here and now
some claim the experience is the thing
if everyone experienced the mystical
we'd all be of like heart and mind
this was no better represented than by Nick Sand and Tim Scully in the 60's
the devoted pair who championed world transformation by "Orange Sunshine"
As Nick Sand explained,
"We thought LSD was going to change the world --
by opening people's minds, everyone would experience such a sense of love
as to bring about world peace."
Tim Scully echoed that sentiment,
"I had a flash that if everyone tried acid,
people would be less likely to be mean to each other and trash the world."
possibly so, yet the creeping negative influences of the '70s,
irrespective of the substance called LSD,
cut that experiment short
many suspect the attempt was shut down
by a culture and authority structure that wouldn't benefit
by having minds opened
practically speaking, such an experiment had no hope of succeeding
unless the members of the authoritarian elite participated
which, of course, they didn't
alphabets are archaic
experience is subjective
meaning is transitory
expression is deriviative
comprehension is incomplete
intent is unverifiable
the only thing certain is we want to communicate
perhaps more examination is needed on why rather than how