...You're Not Kidding 

These are subtle and complex issues we are summing up here, so I am only really surprised by how much common ground we have quickly developed given the obvious limitations we face. I appreciate why you have interpreted my last offering the way you did, but I think it is still misunderstanding rather than genuine difference that is occupying much of our current exchange. Yes I did write much that begged many questions and required clarification, and your reply gives me an opportunity to do that. I was not being anything like as personal or critical as you seem to have interpreted <[...]. I have only your written words to go by of course – and yes, I was explicitly reflecting them back at you through the prism of my own distinctive experience and conclusions – that was the whole point. It remains my interpretation, and it is as open to revision as you are to providing me with fresh input. As for publishing some of this correspondence – yes, fine, I can see the point, and - to my mind - opening up a general discussion on these very topics is exactly one of the necessary exercises in the world right now. Perhaps others will join in. 

Ok – "these worldly institutions have failed. Period.". Yup – I think we are definitely making common ground now. The epistemology that separates us is, as you say, related to a difference in interpretation brought from Salvia space. My perception is comprehensively and unarguably (at that time) of an inseparable and present ONENESS. ‘‘The world is me’ is your conclusion from your experience’ – absolutely, that is why I bring it to your attention, it outlines the different conclusions we draw, and possible reasons why. Despite this, even were we to perceive the same inseparability, that is still no guarantee that we bounce off the experience with the same trajectory.

I was not (apologies for my clumsiness) suggesting that the ‘alienation’ issue is yours alone, or a personal failing. On the contrary, we all share it, because the real issue is that the institutions we were born to are simply not up to the job – but to what job? Yes they preserve ignorance, fear, hierarchical/traditional power structures – the list goes on. You state a preference for being alienated from the institutions, rather than, say, the logos. Quite. My suggestion is that such a choice need not be made at all (or perhaps rather that it can/should be transcended). If there is such a choice, it seems that the default originating position of us all, as ‘perceiving becomings’ as we grow up into this human world – is to become initially alienated from your logos side of the equation, blindly accepting (on trust/by default) the institutions you rightly accuse of ultimately failing. Our disappointment is profound when we have mastered language and the rudiments of present human society, only to find that the institutions we placed our growing childhood faith in are superficial and misleading, paying only lip service to the functions they are proclaimed to service and protect. Thus lifetimes of cynicism are created, and active ethics seems unattainable idealisation. Teenage years in our society are traumatic, and the anaesthesia of current culture only plugs that gap to a limited degree.

I think in traditional cultures the ‘rite of passage’ for the child-adult transition is exactly the ‘plant game’ that you are embodying right now (as am/was I – I still intend to try more shrooms when I manage to grow some, and I do have the occasional spliff). To my mind the overall message of such a rite is not just the simplistic Western anthropological interpretation of ‘becoming a grown-up’, it is more an individuating reminder of a ‘work in progress’ – and so in a modern sense the ‘age’ or ‘wisdom’ of the participant is an irrelevance – the ‘individual adults’ in our culture have much to remember/catch up on. The ‘rite’ effectively (particularly when utilising power plants) marks the transcendence of the child from the now internalised abstract/linguistic mastery of the human/institutional world, into the equality of ‘co-creator’ of that world. So in a literal, western anthropological sense it is a social-psychological empowerment. But beyond this it is also an epistemological and ontological reorientation also – the empowerment is transcendent inasmuch as it is plugged into the fundamental recognition of ONENESS, and the newly realised ‘adult’ finds themselves at the centre of, and responsible for – the whole of creation.

Our society has partly gained the vast size and superficial complexity it has by virtue of the fact that this ‘rite of passage’ socialising principle of human growth and becoming has been buried away. So the will-language of the few (properly the true individual) has been internalised as the will-language of the few-in-the-many. So ‘normal’ ideas’ in our culture are almost always someone else’s ideas, rote learned and held in position by the overwhelming pressure of the weight of external culture. In our culture, fundamentally, you are not God, or the Logos, or Nature – the very claim is enough to have you locked away. The truth of the world is supposedly not buried away inside you at the centre of your life itself, it is locked away in other peoples books, thoughts, traditions, wisdoms, institutions – essentially words…

But my real point to you is this. The failure – period – of current institutions is not a reason to turn away from, or ignore, all such institutions. It is a challenge to rebuild them, if necessary from the ground up, in order that they do not alienate-destroy our children-grandchildren. My sense is that you perceive their failure as absolute (‘period’) – but this is surely not the case. Indeed the existing institutions, for all their faults, are holding together a society the size, complexity and sheer dis-equilibrium of which are unique in known human history. This is no small achievement. Neither do I think it an accident. You write…

"But to me the notion that certain psychedelics are somehow at odds with daily life, even if suggested in a more sophisticated manner than one usually hears, is still a reflection of how estranged ordinary consensus has become. It’s our current degree of estrangement that’s historically unprecedented, not the possibility that we (me, you, society) could become more psychedelic."

But I couldn’t agree with you more on the essentials of this point, and the reflection you capture is an accurate one. In the absence of a shared notion of human identity – a possibility only achieved by the ‘rite of passage’ of, ironically, individuation from the cultural mind – estrangement/alienation is the obvious experiential outcome. From the standards and perspective of the ‘cultural mind’ (inside us all), any and all aspects of individuation appear psychedelic (I prefer ‘entheogenic’ when related to plants) - and to some degree inexplicable and threatening.

But becoming ‘more psychedelic’ is fundamentally nothing to do with power plants in isolation, any more than it is day-glo bubble writing and tie-dyed clothes. The ‘psychedelicising’ of society will not happen in spite of existing institutions – to some degree existing institutions help to define exactly what ‘psychedelia’ is - the complete estrangement you feel from them in a sense confirms your own devotion to (for me ‘identity with’) the logos/nature/mind/god.

Now I agree that power plants are one (very effective) route towards, first – recognising the inherent inhumanity, speciousness and alienness of many culturally embedded institutions. Second – they help to reveal an essentially unlimited and overwhelming expanse of conceptual possibility – in harsh contrast to those self-same institutions. But I don’t get any sense from you that this does anything other than mean an utter rejection of those institutions for you – a turning away. That is why I suggested that this was an example of your being alienated from yourself – a pretty ubiquitous phenomenon in our current society I suggest.

However, I cannot personally hold to the concept that power plants are ‘the only game in town’ – when it seems to me that the actual game going on here is the human-family adventure in this corner of infinity. This ‘family-adventure’, by any historical measure, is fast approaching an utterly unique moment, a defining moment – not just of our own small lifetimes – but in a sense that of all the lifetimes since the first dim flickering awareness of the primordial earth. It is a crossroads without obvious precedent, one that is so obvious and coarse-grained by now that even our unsubtle language and media and institutions possess knowledge and images of some of its characteristics. For many it is an ecological Armageddon that approaches, for others it is the irruption into our planetary noosphere of a whole new ‘machine’ intelligence. For others it is an inevitable morphological explosion as we take control, for the first time, of our DNA blueprint (and that of all life here). For yet others it is the arrival of the alien (the death of alienation!), and the beginning of the human dash to the stars. I think it is all of these and more..

On a personal level, I feel that in another time and place, my individual role now would be somewhat shamanic. I am now highly sensitive to the perceptual shifts that accompany the ingestion of power plants. I can also often ‘think myself’ into those perceptual states without the aid of the plants (of course their ‘memory’/experience is invaluable in this). But the shamanic role is in a sense not just the voyager into infinity, it is also a highly socialised and responsible position – the ‘healer’ (in all senses possible) to the wider community. In other words the ‘concrete’ application of entheogenic knowledge is at least equally important – perhaps depending on time and place – or more precisely context.

Finally you say "What does your ‘daily life really is infinity’ conclusion suggest with regard to psychedelic experience? That the altered state is a distraction from what’s going on here and now, thus not really relevant? That there’s no need to be reminded of these other realms?"

Well as should be clearer now I am not suggesting that the altered state is a distraction per se. On the contrary (ie with the ‘rite of passage’) the altered state is an invaluable reminder for the alienated and disempowered cultural mind that is grown within each of us from our birth here. It is more that these realms are only other and altered inasmuch as our established cultural institutions have become cut loose from their proper moorings. On that – a proper institutional mooring – is when our institutions work in harmony with human becoming, empowerment and individuation. And as for what grounds that airy concept – well, for me, it is the undeniable recognition at the heart of Salvia space that, in the final reckoning, all is I, and I am all. Forever.

The question is not therefore – are power plants valuable and necessary parts of human living?. But rather – are they necessary today to remind you of who/what you are?. Which in my terms is another way of saying – are you alienated from yourself in this x (fill in as specifically applies)? If you need them specifically, then commune with them, if you do not – then why bother?

And as for what is ‘useful’ about such notions of living in infinity here. Well, to conceptualise it in pretty blunt (and also somewhat kantian) terms -–it is a reminder that infinity, the magical realm revealed by power plants – is not Other, but ourselves and our birthright, it is already here. Our culturally inherited image of ourselves is actually partly true – but it is by no means complete or the final say. Now, our cultural inheritance is telling absolutely everyone with any wits about them that unless human beings change, their daily actions, quickly (within a generation or two) - our mode of being here will perish, along with countless other dependant beings who share this place with us. If this understanding does not emphasise the ‘healing here’ shamanic role over the ‘exploring there’ role for this time and place, I don’t know what information could. The task here is a highly pragmatic one, and an apparently impossible one. I cannot think of a worthier task to set myself, via my flawed institutions. The answer cannot be wholesale rejection of all institutions, but to rebuild them, urgently, orientated towards a better world. The kantian flavour of my reasoning is that - I cannot conceive of this corner of infinity preserving itself intact if the many shamanic influences available here concentrate exclusively upon the individuating ‘voyager-explorer’ aspect of our humanity game (with or without power plants). This is the time for the social healer writ large, and power plants seem indulgent to me right now when their effects in terms of our daily actions remain loftily divorced from the actual concrete concerns of our shared earth. The first step of course, for any prospective physician – is to heal thyself. And here I am with you - what better than a power medicine? – I think on this we are agreed.

And as for fear – again I agree with you – I used ‘pain’ as a metaphor, not a correlate. I simply say this – we are very subtle beings. Fear may well indicate a hurdle to overcome, a blockage to free up, a goal to achieve. But it may also be the first, and most accurate, unsubtle indicator that all is not safe and well, so get out of there as fast as you can. ‘Context’ and the ‘individual’ are the crucial deciding factors in this – not whether you have taken a power plant or not. If you have, and you experience sheer terror – the best thing you may do is face up to it, breakthrough, move beyond, go back again. Or alternatively your very life and sanity may require that you run out of there screaming as fast as you can. I still do not know the nature of my own fear from the last Salvia lesson, and that will decide whether I ever go back.