Guerrilla ontologist. Psychedelic magician. Outer head of the Illuminati. Quantum psychologist. Sit-down comic/philosopher. Discordian Pope. Whatever the label and rank, Robert Anton Wilson is undeniably one of the foundations of 21th Century Western counterculture. Maybe Logic – The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson is a cinematic alchemy that conjures it all together in a hilarious and mind-bending journey guaranteed to increase your brain size 2 – 3 inches! From the water coolers and staff meetings of Playboy and the earth-shattering transmission of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, to fire-breathing senior citizen and Taoist sage, Robert Anton Wilson is a man who has passed through the trials of chapel perilous and found himself on wondrous ground where nothing is for certain, even the treasured companionship of a six-foot-tall white rabbit. Featuring RAW video spanning 25 years and the best of over 100 hours of footage thoroughly tweaked, transmuted and regenerated, Maybe Logic follows a reality labyrinth which leads through the hollows of human perception to the vast star fields of Sirius where we find one man alone, joyfully accepting his status as Damned Old Crank and Cosmic Schmuck. Beaming with insight, frustration, compassion, and unshakable optimism, the ever-open eye of Robert Anton Wilson penetrates human illusions exposing the mathematical probabilities and spooky synchronicities of the 8 dimensions of his Universe.
Leary’s Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness
By Robert Anton Wilson
From Cosmic Trigger, 1977
Tunnel-Realities and Imprints:
Let’s try Dr. Leary’s perspective on these mysteries. To understand neurological space, Dr. Leary assumes that the nervous system consists of eight potential circuits, or “gears,” or mini-brains. Four of these brains are in the usually active left lobe and are concerned with our terrestrial survival; four are extraterrestrial, reside in the “silent” or inactive right lobe, and are for use in our future evolution. This explains why the right lobe is usually inactive at this stage of our development, and why it becomes active when the person ingests psychedelics.We will explain each of the eight “brains” briefly.
I. THE BIO-SURVIVAL CIRCUIT
This invertebrate brain was the first to evolve (2 to 3 billion years ago) and is the first activated when a human infant is born. It programs perception onto an either-or grid divided into nurturing-helpful Things (which it approaches) and noxious-dangerous Things (which it flees, or attacks). The imprinting of this circuit sets up the basic attitude of trust or suspicion which will ever after trigger approach or avoidance.
II. THE EMOTIONAL CIRCUIT
This second, more advanced bio-computer formed when vertebrates appeared and began to compete for territory (perhaps 500,000,000 B.C.). In the individual, this bigger tunnel-reality is activated when the DNA master-tape triggers the metamorphosis from crawling to walking. As every parent knows, the toddler is no longer a passive (bio-survival) infant but a mammalian politician, full of physical (and psychic) territorial demands, quick to meddle in family business and decision-making. Again the first imprint on this circuit remains constant for life (unless brainwashed) and identifies the stimuli which will automatically trigger dominant, aggressive behavior or submissive, cooperative behavior. When we say that a person is behaving emotionally, egotistically or ‘like a two-year-old,’ we mean that s/he is blindly following one of the tunnel-realities imprinted on this circuit.
III. THE DEXTERITY-SYMBOLISM CIRCUIT
This third brain was formed when hominid types began to differentiate from other primate stock (circa 4-5 million B.C.) and is activated for the linear left-lobe functions of the brain, determines our normal modes of artifact-manufacture and conceptual thought, i.e., third circuit ‘mind.’It is no accident, then, that our logic (and our computer-design) follows either-or, binary structure of these circuits. Nor is it an accident that our geometry, until the last century, has been Euclidean. Euclid’s geometry, Aristotle’s logic and Newton’s physics are meta-programs synthesizing and generalizing first brain forward-back, second brain up-down and third brain right-left programs.
V. THE SOCIAL-SEXUAL CIRCUIT
The fourth brain, dealing with the transmission of tribal or ethnic culture across generations, introduces the fourth dimension, time.Since each of these tunnel-realities consists of biochemical imprints or matrices in the nervous system, each of them is specifically triggered by neuro-transmitters and other drugs.To activate the first brain take an opiate. Mother Opium and Sister Morphine bring you down to cellular intelligence, bio-survival passivity, the floating consciousness of the newborn. (This is why Freudians identify opiate addiction with the desire to return to infancy.)To activate the second tunnel-reality, take an abundant quantity of alcohol. Vertebrate territorial patterns and mammalian emotional politics immediately appear when the booze flows, as Thomas Nashe intuitively realized when he characterized the various alcohol states by animal labels: “ass drunk,” “goat drunk,” “swine drunk,” “bear drunk,” etc.To activate the third circuit, try coffee or tea, a high-protein diet, speed or cocaine. The specific neurotransmitter for circuit four has not been synthesized yet, but it is generated by the glands after pubescence and flows volcanically through the bloodstreams of adolescents. (I think MDMA is in part a 4th-circuit activator that promotes social cohesion – Paul) NONE OF THESE TERRESTRIAL DRUGS CHANGE BASIC BIOCHEMICAL IMPRINTS. The behaviors which they trigger are those which were wired into the nervous system during the first stages of imprint vulnerability. The circuit II drunk exhibits the emotional games or cons learned from parents in infancy. The circuit III “mind” never gets beyond the permutations and combinations of those tunnel-realities originally imprinted, or abstractions associated with the imprints through later conditioning. And so forth.But all this Pavlovian-Skinnerian robotism changes drastically and dramatically when we turn to the right lobe, the future circuits and extraterrestrial chemicals. The four evolving future ‘brains’ are:
V. THE NEUROSOMATIC CIRCUIT
When this fifth “body-brain” is activated, flat Euclidean figure-ground configurations explode multi-dimensionally. Gestalts shift, in McLuhan’s terms, from linear VISUAL SPACE to all-encompassing SENSORY SPACE. A hedonic turn-on occurs, a rapturous amusement, a detachment from the previously compulsive mechanism of the first four circuits. I turned this circuit on with pot and Tantra.This fifth brain began to appear about 4,000 years ago in the first leisure-class civilizations and has been increasing statistically in recent centuries (even before the Drug Revolution), a fact demonstrated by the hedonic art of India, China, Rome and other affluent societies. More recently, Ornstein and his school have demonstrated with electroencephalograms that this circuit represents the first jump from the linear left lobe of the brain to the analogical right lobe.The opening and imprinting of this circuit has been the preoccupation of “technicians of the occult”–Tantric shamans and hatha yogis. While the fifth tunnel-reality can be achieved by sensory deprivation, social isolation, physiological stress or severe shock (ceremonial terror tactics, as practiced by such rascal-gurus as Don Juan Matus or Aleister Crowley), it has traditionally been reserved to the educated aristocracy of leisure societies who have solved the four terrestrial survival problems.About 20,000 years ago, the specific fifth brain neurotransmitter was discovered by shamans in the Caspian Sea area of Asia and quickly spread to other wizards throughout Eurasia and Africa. It is, of course, cannabis. Weed. Mother Mary Jane. It is no accident that the pot-head generally refers to his neural state as “high” or “spaced-out.” The transcendence of gravitational, digital, linear, either-or, Aristotelian, Newtonian, Euclidean, planetary orientations (circuits I-IV) is, in evolutionary perspective, part of our neurological preparation for the inevitable migration off our home planet, now beginning. This is why so many pot-heads are STAR TREK freaks and science fiction adepts. (Berkeley, California, certainly the Cannabis Capital of the U.S., has a Federation Trading Post on Telegraph Avenue, where the well-heeled can easily spend $500 or more in a single day, buying STAR TREK novels, magazines, newsletters, bumper stickers, photographs, posters, tapes, etc., including even complete blueprints for the starship ENTERPRISE.) The extraterrestrial meaning of being “high” is confirmed by astronauts themselves; 85% of those who have entered the free-fall zero gravity describe “mystic experiences” or rapture states typical of the neurosomatic circuit. “No photo can show how beautiful Earth looked,” raves Captain Ed Mitchell, describing his Illumination in free-fall. He sounds like any successful yogi or pot-head. No camera can show this experience because it is inside the nervous system. FREE-FALL, AT THE PROPER EVOLUTIONARY TIME, TRIGGERS THE NEUROSOMATIC MUTATION, Leary believes. Previously this mutation has been achieved “artificially” by yogic or shamanic training or by the fifth circuit stimulant, cannabis. Surfing, skiing, skin-diving and the new sexual culture (sensuous massage, vibrators, imported Tantric arts, etc.) have evolved at the same time as part of the hedonic conquest of gravity. The Turn-On state is always described as “floating,” or, in the Zen metaphor, “one foot above the ground.”
VI. THE NEUROELECTRIC CIRCUIT
The sixth brain consists of the nervous system becoming aware of itself apart from imprinted gravitational reality-maps (circuits I-IV) and even apart from body-rapture (circuit V). Count Korzybski, the semanticist, called this state “consciousness of abstracting.” Dr. John Lilly calls it “metaprogramming,” i.e., awareness of programming one’s programming. This Einsteinian, relativistic contelligence (consciousness-intelligence) recognizes, for instance, that the Euclidean, Newtonian and Aristotelian reality-maps are just three among billions of possible programs or models for experience. I turned this circuit on with Peyote, LSD and Crowley’s “magick” metaprograms.This level of brain-functioning seems to have been reported first around 500 B.C. among various “occult” groups connected by the Silk Route (Rome-North India). It is so far beyond the terrestrial tunnel-realities that those who have achieved it can barely communicate about it to ordinary humanity (circuits I-IV) and can hardly be understood even by fifth circuit Rapture Engineers.The characteristics of the neuroelectric circuit are high velocity, multiple choice, relativity, and the fission-fusion of all perceptions into parallel science-fiction universes of alternate possibilities.The mammalian politics which monitor power struggles among terrestrial humanity are here transcended, i.e., seen as static, artificial, an elaborate charade. One is neither coercively manipulated into another’s territorial reality nor forced to struggle against it with reciprocal emotional game-playing (the usual soap-opera dramatics). One simply elects, consciously, whether or not to share the other’s reality-model.Tactics for opening and imprinting the sixth circuit are described and rarely experienced in advanced rajah yoga, and in the hermetic (coded) manuals of the medieval-Renaissance alchemists and Illuminati.No specific sixth circuit chemical is yet available, but strong psychedelics like mescaline (from my 1962-63 “sacred cactus,” peyotl) and psilocybin (from the Mexican “magic mushroom,” teonactl) open the nervous system to a mixed-media series of circuit V and circuit VI channels. This is appropriately called “tripping,” as distinguished from straight-forward fifth circuit “turning on” or “getting high.”The suppression of scientific research in this area has had the unfortunate result of turning the outlaw drug culture back toward fifth circuit hedonics and pre-scientific tunnel-realities (the occult revival, solipsism, Pop Orientalism). Without scientific discipline and methodology, few can successfully decode the often-frightening (but philosophically crucial) sixth circuit metaprogramming signals. Such scientists as do continue to study this subject dare not publish their results (which are illegal) and record ever-wider tunnel-realities only in private conversations–like the scholars of the Inquisitorial era. (Voltaire announced the Age of Reason two centuries too soon. We are still in the Dark Ages.) Most underground alchemists have given up on such challenging and risky self-work and restrict their trips to fifth circuit erotic tunnels.The evolutionary function of the sixth circuit is to enable us to communicate at Einsteinian relativities and neuro-electric accelerations, not using third circuit laryngeal-manual symbols but directly via feedback, telepathy and computer link-up. Neuro-electric signals will increasingly replace “speech” (hominid grunts) after space migration.When humans have climbed out of the atmosphere-gravity well of planetary life, accelerated sixth circuit contelligence will make possible high-energy communication with “Higher Intelligences,” i.e., ourselves-in-the-future and other post-terrestrial races.It is charmingly simple and obvious, once we realize that the spaced-out neural experiences really are extraterrestrial, that getting high and spacing out are accurate metaphors. Circuit V neurosomatic rapture is preparation for the next step in our evolution, migration off the planet. Circuit VI is preparation for the step after that, interspecies communication with advanced entities possessing electronic (post-verbal) tunnel-realities.Circuit VI is the “universal translator” often imagined by science-fiction writers, already built into our brains by the DNA tape. Just as the circuits of the future butterfly are already built into the caterpillar.
VII. THE NEUROGENETIC CIRCUIT
The seventh brain kicks into action when the nervous system begins to receive signals from WITHIN THE INDIVIDUAL NEURON, from the DNA-RNA dialogue. The first to achieve this mutation spoke of “memories of past lives,” “reincarnation,” “immortality,” etc. That these adepts were recording something real is indicated by the fact that many of them (especially Hindu and Sufis) gave marvelously accurately poetic vistas of evolution 1,000 or 2,000 years before Darwin, and foresaw Superhumanity before Nietzsche.
The “akashic records” of Theosophy, the “collective unconscious” of Jung, the “phylogenetic unconscious” of Grof and Ring, are three modern metaphors for this circuit. The visions of past and future evolution described by those who have had “out-of-body” experiences during close-to-death episodes also describes the trans-time circuit VII tunnel-reality.Specific exercises to trigger circuit VII are not to be found in yogic teaching; it usually happens, if at all, after several years of the kind of advanced rajah yoga that develops circuit VI facility.The specific circuit VII neurotransmitter is, of course LSD. (Peyote and psilocybin produce some circuit VII experiences also.)Circuit VII is best considered, in terms of 1977 science, as the genetic archives, activated by anti-histone proteins. The DNA memory coiling back to the dawn of life. A sense of the inevitability of immortality and interspecies symbiosis comes to all circuit VII mutants; we now see that this, also, is an evolutionary forecast, since WE STAND RIGHT NOW ON THE DOOR-STEP OF EXTENDED LONGEVITY LEADING TO IMMORTALITY.The exact role of the right-lobe circuits and the reason for their activation in the 1960s cultural revolution now becomes clear. As sociologist F.M. Esfandiary writes in UPWINGERS, “Today when we speak of immortality and of going to another world we no longer mean these in a theological or metaphysical sense. People are now traveling to other worlds. People are now striving for immortality. Transcendence is no longer a metaphysical concept. It has become reality.”The evolutionary function of the seventh circuit and its evolutionary, aeon-spanning tunnel-reality is to prepare us for conscious immortality and interspecies symbiosis.
VIII. THE NEURO-ATOMIC CIRCUIT
Hold on to your hats and breathe deeply–this is the farthest-out that human intelligence has yet ventured.
Consciousness probably precedes the biological unit or DNA tape-loop. “Out-of-body experiences,” “astral projection,” contact with alien (extraterrestrial?) “entities” or with a galactic Overmind, etc., such as I’ve experienced, have all been reported for thousands of years, not merely by the ignorant, the superstitious, the gullible, but often by the finest minds among us (Socrates, Giordano Bruno, Edison, Buckminster Fuller, etc.). Such experiences are reported daily to parapsychologists and have been experienced by such scientists as Dr. John Lilly and Carlos Castaneda. Dr. Kenneth Ring has attributed these phenomena to what he calls, very appropriately, “the extraterrestrial unconscious.”Dr. Leary suggests that circuit VIII is literally neuro-atomic–infra, supra and meta-physiological–a quantum model of consciousness and/or a conscious model of quantum mechanics by the turned-on physicists discussed previously (Prof. John Archibald Wheeler, Saul-Paul Sirag, Dr. Fritjof Capra, Dr. Jack Sarfatti, etc.) indicates strongly that the “atomic consciousness” first suggested by Leary in “The Seven Tongues of God” (1962) is the explanatory link which will unite parapsychology and paraphysics into the first scientific empirical experimental theology in history.When the nervous system is turned on to this quantum-level circuit, space-time is obliterated. Einstein’s speed-of-light barrier is transcended; in Dr. Sarfatti’s metaphor, we escape “electromagnetic chauvinism.” The contelligence within the quantum projection booth IS the entire cosmic “brain,” just as the micro-miniaturized DNA helix IS the local brain guiding planetary evolution. As Lao-tse said from his own Circuit VIII perspective, “The greatest is within the smallest.”Circuit VIII is triggered by Ketamine, a neuro-chemical researched by Dr. John Lilly, which is also (according to a wide-spread but unconfirmed rumor) given to astronauts to prepare them for space. High doses of LSD also produce some circuit VIII quantum awareness.This neuro-atomic contelligence is four mutations beyond terrestrial domesticity. (The current ideological struggle is between circuit IV tribal moralists-or-collectivists and circuit V hedonic individualists.) When our need for higher intelligence, richer involvement in the cosmic script, further transcendence, will no longer be satisfied by physical bodies, not even by immortal bodies hopping across space-time at Warp 9, circuit VIII will open a further frontier. New universes and realities. “Beyond theology: the science and art of Godmanship,” as Alan Watts once wrote.It is therefore possible that the mysterious “entities” (angels and extraterrestrials) monotonously reported by circuit VIII visionaries are members or races already evolved to this level. But it is also possible, as Leary and Sarfatti more recently suggest, that They are ourselves-in-the-future.The left-lobe terrestrial circuits contain the learned lessons of our evolutionary past (and present). The right-lobe extraterrestrial circuits are the evolutionary script for out future.Thus far, there have been two alternative explanations of why the Drug Revolution happened. The first is presented in a sophisticated way by anthropologist Weston LaBarre, and in an ignorant, moralistic way by most anti-drug propaganda in the schools and mass media. This explanation says, in essence, that millions have turned away from the legal DOWN drugs to illegal HIGH drugs because we are living in troubled times and many are seeking escape into fantasy.This theory, at its best, only partially explains the ugliest and most publicized aspect of the revolution–the reckless drug abuse characteristic of the immature. It says nothing about the millions of respectable doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., who have turned away from second circuit intoxication with booze to fifth circuit rapture with weed.Nor does it account at all for the thoughtful, philosophical sixth circuit investigations of persons of high intelligence and deep sensibility, such as Aldous Huxley, Dr. Stanley Grof, Masters-Houston, Alan W. Watts, Carlos Castaneda, Dr. John Lilly and thousands of scientific and lay researchers on consciousness.A more plausible theory, devised by psychiatrist Norman Zinberg out of the work of Marshall McLuhan, holds that modern electronic media have so shifted the nervous system’s parameters that young people no longer enjoy “linear” drugs like alcohol and find meaning only in “non-linear” weed and psychedelics.This is certainly part of the truth, but it is too narrow and overstresses TV and computers without sufficiently stressing the general technological picture–the ongoing Science-Fiction Revolution of which the most significant aspects are Space Migration, Increased Intelligence and Life Extension, which Leary has condensed into his SMI²LE formula.Space Migration plus Increased Intelligence plus Life Extension means expansion of humanity into all space-time. SM + I² + LE = infinity.Without totally endorsing Charles Fort’s technological mysticism (“It steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time”), it is obvious that the DNA metaprogram for planetary evolution is far wiser than any of our individual nervous systems–which are, in a sense, giant robots or sensors for DNA. Early science-fiction of brilliant writers like Stapledon, Clarke, Heinlein; Kubrick’s 2001–all were increasingly clear DNA signals transmitted through the intuitive right lobe of sensitive artists, preparing us for the extraterrestrial mutation.It is scarcely coincidental that mainstream “literary” intellectuals–the heir of the Platonic-aristocratic tradition that a gentleman never uses his hands, monkeys with tools or learns a manual craft–despise both science-fiction and the dope culture. Nor is it coincidental that the WHOLE EARTH CATALOGS – created by Stewart Brand, a graduate of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters–are the New Testament of the rural drop-out culture, each issue bulging with tons of eco-technological information about all the manual, dexterous, gadgety know-how that Plato and his heirs consider fit only for slaves. Not surprisingly, Brand’s latest publication, CO-EVOLUTION QUATERLY, has been devoted to publicizing Prof. Gerard O’Neill’s space-habitat, L5.Nor is it an accident that dopers seem to prefer science-fiction to any other reading, even including the extraterrestrial-flavored Hindu scriptures and occult-shamanic circuit VI-VIII trip-poets like Crowley and Hesse.The circuit VI drugs may have contributed much to the metaprogramming consciousness that has led to sudden awareness of “male chauvinism” (women’s liberationists), “species chauvinism” (ecology, Lilly’s dolphin studies), “type-G star chauvinism” (Carl Sagan), even “oxygen chauvinism” (the CETI conference), etc. The imprinted tunnel-realities which identify one as “white-male-American-earthian” etc. or “black-female-Cuban” etc. are no longer big enough to enclose our exploding contelligence.As TIME magazine said on November 26, 1973, “Within ten years, according to pharmacologists, they will have perfected pills and cranial electrodes of providing life-long bliss for everyone on Earth.” The 1960s hysteria about weed and acid was just the overture to this fifth circuit break-through. Nathan S. Kline, M.D., predicts real aphrodisiacs, drugs to speed up learning, drugs to foster or terminate any behavior. … Those who were jailed or beaten by cops in the 1960s were forerunners of the Revolution of Inner Technology.STAR TREK is a better guide to the emerging reality than anything in the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. The life-support and defense-system engineer, Scotty (circuit I), the emotional-sentimental Dr. McCoy (circuit II), the logical science officer Mr. Spock (circuit III) and the alternately paternalistic and romantic Captain Kirk (circuit IV) are perpetually voyaging through our future neurological history and encountering circuit V, VI, VII, and VIII intelligences, however crudely presented.In short, the various levels of consciousness and circuits we have been discussing, and illustrating, are all biochemical imprints in the evolution of the nervous system. Each imprint creates a bigger tunnel-reality. In the Sufi metaphor, the donkey on the which we ride becomes a different donkey after each imprint. The metaprogrammer continually learns more and is increasingly able to be aware of itself operating. We are thus evolving to intelligence-studying-intelligence (the nervous system studying the nervous system) and are more and more capable of accelerating our own evolution.Leary now symbolizes intelligence-studying-intelligence by the mark, I². On the lower levels, you see with one “I”, so to speak. On the higher levels, you see with many “I”s, and space-time shifts from three Euclidean dimensions to non-Euclidean multi-dimensionality.
RELATED MIMU ARTICLES:
Happy to release volume three of The Hallucinogenic Revolution e-zine. The first part is dedicated to two audio files of a lecture McKenna gave on cannabis and ethnobotany, I highly suggest taking the time to listen to both. Last part is an essay by North American anarchist philosopher & author, Hakim Bey, on drug legalization and anarchism. Good stuff, transcendentally thought- provoking. We always accept new contributions and are on the prowl for creative content writers. Letters to the editor and contributions go to prometheusstargazer(at)riseup.net.
Solidarity and Merry Mischief!
Terence McKenna-Discussion on Cannabis p.I
Terence Kenna- Discussion on Cannabis p.II
As a writer, I am distressed and depressed by the suspicion that “dissident media” has become a contradiction in terms — an impossibility. Not because of any triumph of censorship however, but the reverse. There is no real censorship in our society, as Chomsky points out. Suppression of dissent is instead paradoxically achieved by allowing media to absorb (or “co-opt”) all dissent as image.
Once processed as commodity, all rebellion is reduced to the image of rebellion, first as spectacle, and last as simulation. (See Debord, Baudrillard, etc.) The more powerful the dissent as art (or “discourse”) the more powerless it becomes as commodity. In a world of Global Capital, where all media function collectively as the perfect mirror of Capital, we can recognize a global Image or universal imaginaire, universally mediated, lacking any outside or margin. All Image has undergone Enclosure, and as a result it seems that all art is rendered powerless in the sphere of the social. In fact, we can no longer even assume the existence of any “sphere of the social. All human relations can be — and are — expressed as commodity relations.
In this situation, it would seem “reform” has also become an impossibility, since all partial ameliorizations of society will be transformed (by the same paradox that determines the global Image) into means of sustaining and enhancing the power of the commodity. For example, “reform” and “democracy” have now become code-words for the forcible imposition of commodity relations on the former Second and Third Worlds. “Freedom” means freedom of corporations, not of human societies.
From this point of view, I have grave reservations about the reform program of the anti-Drug-Warriors and legalizationists. I would even go so far as to say that I am “against legalization.”
Needless to add that I consider the Drug War an abomination, and that I would demand immediate unconditional amnesty for all “prisoners of consciousness” — assuming that I had any power to make demands! But in a world where all reform can be instantaneously turned into new means of control, according to the “paradox” sketched in the above paragraphs, it makes no sense to go on demanding legalization simply because it seems rational and humane.
For example, consider what might result from the legalization of “medical marijuana” — clearly the will of the people in at least six states. The herb would instantly fall under drastic new regulations from “Above” (the AMA, the courts, insurance companies, etc.). Monsanto would probably acquire the DNA patents and “intellectual ownership” of the plant’s genetic structure. Laws would probably be tightened against illegal marijuana for “recreational uses.” Smokers would be defined (by law) as “sick.” As a commodity, Cannabis would soon be denatured like other legal psychotropics such as coffee, tobacco, or chocolate.
Terence McKenna once pointed out that virtually all useful research on psychotropics is carried out illegally and is often largely funded from underground. Legalization would make possible a much tighter control from above over all drug research. The valuable contributions of the entheogenic underground would probably diminish or cease altogether. Terence suggested that we stop wasting time and energy petitioning the authorities for permission to do what we’re doing, and simply get on with it.
Yes, the Drug War is evil and irrational. Let us not forget, however, that as an economic activity, the War makes quite good sense. I’m not even going to mention the booming “corrections industry,” the bloated police and intelligence budgets, or the interests of the pharmaceutical cartels. Economists estimate that some ten percent of circulating capital in the world is “gray money” derived from illegal activity (largely drug and weapon sales). This gray area is actually a kind of free-floating frontier for Global Capital itself, a small wave that precedes the big wave and provides its “sense of direction.” (For example gray money or “offshore” capital is always the first to migrate from depressed markets to thriving markets.) “War is the health of the State” as Randolph Bourne once said — but war is no longer so profitable as in the old days of booty, tribute and chattel slavery. Economic war increasingly takes its place, and the Drug War is an almost “pure” form of economic war. And since the Neo-liberal State has given up so much power to corporations and “markets” since 1989, it might justly be said that the War on Drugs constitutes the “health” of Capital itself.
From this perspective, reform and legalization would clearly be doomed to failure for deep “infrastructural” reasons, and therefore all agitation for reform would constitute wasted effort — a tragedy of misdirected idealism. Global Capital cannot be “reformed” because all reformation is deformed when the form itself is distorted in its very essence. Agitation for reform is allowed so that an image of free speech and permitted dissidence can be maintained, but reform itself is never permitted. Anarchists and Marxists were right to maintain that the structure itself must be changed, not merely its secondary characteristics. Unfortunately the “movement of the social” itself seems to have failed, and even its deep underlying structures must now be “re-invented” almost from scratch. The War on Drugs is going to go on. Perhaps we should consider how to act as warriors rather than reformers. Nietzsche says somewhere that he has no interest in overthrowing the stupidity of the law, since such reform would leave nothing for the “free spirit” to accomplish — nothing to “overcome.” I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend such an “immoral” and starkly existentialist position. But I do think we could do with a dose of stoicism.
Beyond (or aside from) economic considerations, the ban on (some) psychotropics can also be considered from a “shamanic” perspective. Global Capital and universal Image seem able to absorb almost any “outside” and transform it into an area of commodification and control. But somehow, for some strange reason, Capital appears unable or unwilling to absorb the entheogenic dimension. It persists in making war on mind-altering or transformative substance, rather than attempting to “co-opt” and hegemonize their power.
In other words it would seem that some sort of authentic power is at stake here. Global Capital reacts to this power with the same basic strategy as the Inquisition — by attempting to suppress it from the outside rather than control it from within. (“Project MKULTRA” was the government’s secret attempt to penetrate the occult interior of psychotropism- — it appears to have failed miserably.) In a world that has abolished the Outside by the triumph of the Image, it seems that at least one “outside” nevertheless persists. Power can deal with this outside only as a form of the unconscious, i.e., by suppression rather than realization. But this leaves open the possibility that those who manage to attain “direct awareness” of this power might actually be able to wield it and implement it. If “entheogenic neo-shamanism” (or whatever you want to call it) cannot be betrayed and absorbed into the power-structure of the Image, then we may hypothesize that it represents a genuine Other, a viable alternative to the “one world” of triumphant Capital. It is (or could be) our source of power.
The “Magic of the State” (as M. Taussig calls it), which is also the magic of Capital itself, consists of social control through the manipulation of symbols. This is attained through mediation, including the ultimate medium, money as hieroglyphic text, money as pure Imagination as “social fiction” or mass hallucination. This real illusion has taken the place of both religion and ideology as delusionary sources of social power. This power therefore possesses (or is possessed by) a secret goal; that all human relations be defined according to this hieroglyphic mediation, this “magic.” But neo-shamanism proposes with all seriousness that another magic may exist, an effective mode of consciousness that cannot be hexed by the sign of the commodity. If this were so, it would help explain why the Image appears unable or unwilling to deal “rationally” with the “issue of drugs.” In fact, a magical analysis of power might emerge from the observed fact of this radical incompatibility of the Global Imaginaire and shamanic consciousness.
In such a case, what could our power consist of in actual empirical terms? I am far from proposing that “winning” the War on Drugs would somehow constitute The Revolution — or even that “shamanic power” could contest the magic of the State in any strategic manner. Clearly however the very existence of entheogenism as a true difference — in a world where true difference is denied — marks the historic validity of an Other, of an authentic Outside. In the (unlikely) event of legalization, this Outside would be breached, entered, colonized, betrayed, and turned into sheer simulation. A major source of initiation, still accessible in a world apparently devoid of mystery and of will, would be dissolved into empty representation, a pseudo-rite of passage into the timeless/spaceless enclosure of the Image. In short, we would have sacrificed our potential power to the ersatz reform of legalization, and we would win nothing thereby but the simulacrum of tolerance at the expense of the triumph of Control.
Again: I have no idea what our strategy shall be. I believe however that the time has come to admit that a tactics of mere contingency can no longer sustain us. “Permitted dissent” has become an empty category, and reform merely a mask for recuperation. The more we struggle on “their” terms the more we lose. The drug legalization movement has never won a single battle. Not in America anyway — and America is the “sole superpower” of Global Capital. We boast of our outlaw status as outsiders or marginals, as guerilla ontologists; why then, do we continually beg for authenticity and validation (either as “reward” or as “punishment”) from authority? What good would it do us if we were to be granted this status, this “legality”?
The Reform movement has upheld true rationality and it has championed real human values. Honor where honor is due. Given the profound failure of the movement however, might it not be timely to say a few words for the irrational, for the irreducible wildness of shamanism, and even a single word for the values of the warrior? “Not peace, but a sword.”