Clarifications on Carrots and Potatoes

You said, "The ‘psychedelicising’ of society will not happen in spite of existing institutions <[...]" [my italics].  I said "...becoming ‘more psychedelic’ will happen in spite of the existing institutions <[...]". These cross-references back and the following points about your subsequent clarifications may help the reader decide whether or not I am really saying exactly what you said and am just turning the words around without changing your content – or taking your point.

I’ll fully quote your clarifications:

There are two ways I can hopefully clarify this. First – institutions are by definition part of the social, external mindset which individuation transcends – and as individuation happens, that which even gives it human definition are the internalised institutional concepts that are transcended. You say that psychedelicising society happens in spite of existing institutions – well, quite – from the individual perspective that is exactly right. I simply said that defining psychedelia at all, without reference to existing institutions, is impossible, so psychedelicising society happens exactly because of existing institutions. It is a dialectical movement – not, following your (perhaps unintended) implication, a fixed reaction.

Second way: In a culture where eating carrots and potatoes is institutionalised, Salvia D, and MaryJane are taboo ‘power-plants’ because they change the focus of human attention/alter human value judgements. All Food Does This!! We live in a culture where the carrot/potato mindset is ‘common-sense’ and institutionalised. If we lived in a society where SD and MaryJane were institutionalised – carrots and potatoes could well be taboo ‘power-plants’. That institutionalised culture would have a very different common-sense emphasis from ours, and carrots and potatoes could well be ‘trippy’ to such denizens – in other words – psychedelic. Now, extrapolate this, and you will see what I was saying all along.


As to the first point, I have to confess that I needed to sit down with a pencil and paper to figure out some of this. And that didn’t make me feel that I was particularly stupid for not being able to simply read it, only that it was somewhat convoluted, especially for a clarification. For me it lacked immediacy. The ‘First –‘ sentence for example bears little resemblance to how I experience things. I don’t feel during a psychedelic episode (or even thinking about it afterwards) that, "Ah, that which gives individuation human definition are the internalised parts of the social, external mindset’s concepts that are transcended" …or anything like.

The second point is clearer. And now I can see that I simply don’t agree. All food does not change the focus of attention in the same way that psychedelic food does. - Not what you said, you might argue, - a different way you might agree but still a change, you might say. But this is my critical point; psychedelic food does not simply change the focus of attention.

Extrapolating your point, I can see the value in saying something like, "we live in Britain, but to other countries our ways might seem strange and foreign, to them we seem alien". Pointing out such cultural relativism can indeed make us think the about the values we hold and perhaps take those values less for granted, as less absolute. It’s the reason why people say travel broadens the mind.

But to say, "defining psychedelia at all, without reference to existing institutions, is impossible" [my italics (your underline)] is only true if you concern yourself with trivial, peripheral, arbitrary aspects (e.g. tie-died clothes and day-glo bubble writing). This is why I didn’t take your comment ironically.

The essential point about the psychedelic experience as I see it is not that it simply changes the focus of attention but (once again) that it raises the level of the felt presence of immediate experience to such levels that all ideological assumptions are ‘vaporised’. As Terence McKenna put it (and as already cross-referred to) "these ideologies, from the psychedelic point of view, are seen in all their limitations and foolishness, and their historical assumptions and their naivetè writ large across them." Again, as already cross-referred to (but I’ll promote it to the body-text here because of it’s importance), this is why psychedelics are "a direct challenge to the myth of the tribe - whatever the myth is: Fascist, Democrat, Socialist, Communist -- everybody can get together on the idea that psychedelics are somehow dangerous and antisocial and pose some kind of threat to the body politic."

I’ll go on now to consider some comparative aspects, but this is only to come back to how the psychedelic experience speaks for itself. Take your example of how the denizens of a psychedelic realm could well consider carrots and potatoes to be ‘trippy’ (hence psychedelic) and taboo power-plants. – Here's how I argue how they could not.

For one thing, my interpretation of the word ‘taboo’, that of something unquestioningly an uncritically accepted (from on high) as being ‘out of bounds’, means that the whole concept of taboo would be an anathema to any truly psychedelic citizen.

For another, though it’s difficult to anticipate the language that such denizens would use to describe the experience of carrots and potatoes, I doubt that they would invoke the term ‘psychedelic’, meaning mind manifesting etc… ( – I feel the term ‘trippy’ is a bit of a cliché, does not mean too much, and I try not use it when describing my experiences).

A more concrete comparative example is if we consider a more commonly experienced ‘altered-state’. Namely the experience of alcohol and the boorish language associated with it [...]^. Compare this for example with the language of mushrooms (see ‘The Mushrooms of Language’>) and you’ll see that what’s crucial about my definition is not simply the degree of difference compared to ‘ordinary’ reality, but the quality of the experience, in it’s own terms.

As one footnote to this particular argument, I have to say (and this happens) that when someone describes, for example, their Salvia experience to me as simply as, say, "I think it was about level 3" then I feel as if I have been told nothing. And you’ll find no references to such measures of experience in my web-site.

Also, with regard to experiences being described in their own language (speaking for themselves), I try to keep an open mind about cannabis being a real entheogen. Enough people from time to time insist to me that "oh yes it is", but I have to say that I haven’t heard much ‘in its own terms’. In other words, the language of Mary Jane hasn’t impressed me. - What does she say? How does she say it? […]  I remain to be convinced.