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Breakfast @ Yums > by Rak Razam

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image by Paul Kalemba I. Dawn broke over Port Phillip Bay, illuminating the permanent cloudbank that covered the horizon. The outside temperature was 40 degrees and rising. A vast, organic blanket of sensor arrays and nano-assemblers covered the surface of the waves, collecting the kinetic energy of tidal movement and channelling it back into the city grid for free electricity. A number of robot powered gondoliers were already on the waters and paddling down Harbour Esplanade, the waters mirroring the shimmering blue-white surfaces of the zaibatsu skyscrapers as they sucked in ambient carbon dioxide and breathed out oxygen. Across the Docklands, clusters of bio-organic buildings all opened their sensor dishes and drank in the day.

Permaculture One was a zaibatsu on the corner of Saint Mangos and Caravel Lanes, smack dab in the sunken 21st century waterworld that was New Quay, with it's antediluvian archipelagos echoing back to the Age of Mass Consumption. On the twenty-fifth floor Vaka woke early as usual from her regulation eight hour sleep-coding shift and shook loose the last fading lines of data from her head.

A dream about her husband, Sopoanga, may he rest beneath the waves. Gone thirty years and she still missed him every day. They had left their sunken island home and gone to New Zealand as Tuvalu refugees before the second wave of global flooding peaked with the superstorms in the 20s. When Sopoanga was lost, she came to Australia with their children as part of the Oceania Free Trade agreements. Her two sons were all grown up and relocated across the Permaculture Zones in units of their own. They teleprescenced every day, but part of her had never taken to the new technologies, and what she really yearned for was the sea, the island beaches of her youth, not this tiny box.

The far wall turned transparent and let in the textured cloudscape she knew so well, scored by the piercing cries of seagulls. Her daughter, Linita, had downloaded an EXTINCT ANIMALS saver for her (10 CREDITS) that blended virtual seagulls onto the wallscreens and provided a nostalgic ambience. Stupid. Vaka thought it was a waste of credits to allocate funds to the Virtual, but that was about all there was to spend on these days, with the Material all produced and paid for by robot labour and nano-molecular exchange from each zaibatsu's bio-mass reservoirs.

It still seemed funny to her, loading some greenprint software into the nano Maker and out popped rice, or taro, or a pair of socks. It tasted fine and it was tested and healthy and all, but you could tell the difference from something grown in the soil. It was that same thing missing from everything in this perfect world of artificial abundance, the thing you couldn't make with molecules - spirit.

Another day, another 100 CREDITS from the Common good, Vaka quoted from the sleep-lessons the zaibatsu provided for all good information-economy netizens. She ran her fingers through her long grey hair and yawned as her bio-suit (20 CREDITS) ran across her wrinkled body like molten quicksilver, shaping to her configured default. The bio-suit ate all bodily wastes (earning CREDITS) and recycled them through the soles in her shoes and into the moss that covered the floor (10 CREDITS), leading to grey water capillaries threaded through the building. In this way every resident fed the building - just as it fed them.

The Common Good was a slang term for the iCommons, where netizens worked for the good of all and everything was shared equally, guaranteed by the Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID) given off by every product, every person, and every object in the world. No secrets, no shortages - everything tracked everywhere and everywhen and belonging equally to all, overseen by Artificial Intelligences (AIs) that managed humanity as effectively as data on a spreadsheet, giving everyone what they wanted within fair and equitable parameters. And in the same way a butterfly's wings could cause a monsoon on the other side of the world, figuring out the effects of consumption habits on the now digitally interconnected ecosystem took massive computational power. The AI's rigorously enforced lifestyle choices for the Common Good.

Vaka lived with her daughter and her son-in-law and their only child in a six-room unit on yellow shift in an extended family. Everyone in the community co-op rotated in shifts to take advantage of the stored natural light in the bio-walls of the smart-fitted building. Her daughter and son-in-law were on green shift, and she didn't see them as often as she would have liked - although they vid-chatted daily she preferred face to face, to touch and taste things for herself, no machines between them.

They were both IT workers in their 60s who had adjusted surprisingly well to the Digital Marxist reclamation of the telecommunications networks and means of nano-production. Linita, her daughter, participated in community forums and discussions and peer-reviewed new release nanobjects to be shared and downloaded by all. Her son-in-law, Kamuta, coded bio-prints for the nanos to make. The AI computers could code just as easily, but they let the humans have their idiosyncracies, and one of them was the urge to make their own `things'. Their collective coding had already helped re-introduce dragonflies, frogs and Ian Turpie back into the natural environment. Game shows were making a comeback in a big way, ironically, now that everyone was rich. Collective Unconscious Irony, the meme-hunters were calling it.

She shared a room with her thirty five year old grandson Harmine, who was a Sim addict. He was lying in his sleepbud wired to his headset, jacked into a Virtual illusion that was siphoning his life away. It sickened her to the core. When the oil peaked and the Great Slowdown began, she was there. She knew what it was like to lack resources. Harmine was the spoiled child of a Golden Age, powered by sustainable technologies and developments in biomimetics, robotics and nano-technology. Like everyone these days, he did not know his place in the scheme of things but took his privilege for granted.

"Computer, show homepage of BY GEORGE!" Vaka said, logging onto the ultraband and calling up her grandson within his vice --- a virtual world populated by Republicans in the Age of Unsustainability. Within the SIM he paid money printed on paper for dead animals that had grazed on land cleared of jungles, burgers wrapped in the ancient skins of trees. The sheer excess made her light-headed as she thought of him hungrily devouring food and washing it down with gulps of saccharine enriched water, colouring and caffine. He had more than he ever needed yet he kept buying to feed the thrill, and his real world credits from the iCommons made him rich in the virtual. Wealth addiction - she had lived through it before.





"Taalofa!" Vaka called from the kitchen cubicle -- with her voice, shunning the digital connection. She was sitting cross-legged on the mat-covered floor. Her image reflected in the mirror suit default Harmine wore on his bio-suit, her Polynesian beauty shining through her advanced age, garlands of fresh water lilies adorning her hair, the smell of salt and water clinging to her. Pretty good for 111, even if she did say so. "Kaiga i taeao, inuti! Come eat with me my grandson. Since you're the only one awake and on my cycle so I'm going to tell you my decision and you can pass it on to the rest of the family."

Harmine disengaged from his VR shell and came out of their room. His pale face was screwed up into a pout. Vaka pressed her face to her grandson's cheek and sniffed deeply, greeting him in the traditional way of her people.

"What's so good about BY GEORGE! that you have to play it 12 hours a day, anyhow? Spending all your money on the virtual --- it's not right."

"It's my credits, grandma, and I can spend them how I want. That's the rules."

"Boxes within boxes. You spend too much time inside, my grandson," Vaka chided. Just like your parents --- wired to the imaginary. Whatever happened to the real world?"

"It changed. Get used to it," Harmine snapped, then instantly wished he hadn't.

"You deserve more," she said, looking him right in the eye.

"I have everything I need."

"What about work? Good old-fashioned hard work, where you produce something yourself and it rewards and sustains you?"

"Information is the soil in which we toil," he quoted from the Digital Marxist whitepaper. "Data is our currency and sustenance, the food of our species."

"You don't even know what you're missing. There's something more - "

"The quest for more destroyed the old world, Grandma. The new world recognises its limits and all our survival depends on that balance."

"You have all the answers, don't you?" she said, passing him baskets of food. "Now I've coded you some bananas for breakfast (5 CREDITS). Just how you like them, with taro (1 CREDIT) and coconut (1 CREDIT)."

"I don't-" Harmine began, dipping his fingers in a water bowl (2 CREDITS).

"Have a cup of warm toddy (3 CREDITS) and listen to an old, old woman," she said, handing him a drink made from coconut sap. "I've decided I don't want to go on this way. Living in boxes, fed by machines, our every movement tracked and desire granted. It makes children of us all. Who wants to live forever if this is all we do? I want to be part of something¦ bigger."

Vaka got up and looked out the window. Down below, transparent aerogel robot-lilypad-kiosks one hundredth as light as air floated on the surface of the flooded urban canyons and opened like buds to catch the first rays of muted light and service the early morning traffic. Bamboo gangplanks networked the submerged aquaculture gardens that provided rich and nutritious plankton, vegetables and robot farming of salmon and trout re-introduced to the cleaned waters of the Bay. Across in the Stadium Precinct, the netizens who claimed Telstra Dome has turned it into an enclosed greenhouse space that fed the communities of West Melbourne.

"It's time for a change of my own. I'm going to join the Garden."

Harmine gasped and dropped his cup of toddy. The pale liquid seeped into the bio-grass floor and was converted into base molecules for re-use. Now he would have their room all to himself.

Most excellent.

VRTV
by Paul Kalemba



II. :::Welcome to the GARDEN, Vaka::: a gentle voice said to her on the wind.

"It's beautiful," Vaka cried, as the heat hit her in a wave of sweat and raw sensation. The rooftop gardens were open to the air, letting the new technorganic plant life thrive in the carbon dioxide hothouse the planet had become. A bonsai tropical rainforest covered the roofscape with layers of large, tender leaf plants that captured the low-level ambient light and acted as networked RAM for the telecommunications hub. Robovines coiled around the central telecommunications tower that grew from the centre of the lush server jungle. The sound of frogs filled the air. The moss floor was covered with a layer of robopods whose small transparent petals opened and closed, sucking in carbon dioxide and feeding the plant mainframes on the floors below that ran the building.

Colours deepened and Vaka felt light-headed from the rush of fresh oxygen all around. As the green landscape seemed to breath in and out and small nano-gnats buzzed around exchanging data with the plants, her eyes tuned to a row of small fruit bearing trees which moved slowly in the wind. Their fruit was red and ripe and she plucked it off and bit into it. A cool, sweet juice trickled down her throat and dripped over her hands.

The earth is a living being::: it inhales and exhales over seasons::: It has a circulation:::a pulse and a sensitive skin:::And now it has a:::VOICE:::

:::Do you know :::WHAT::: we are?::: the voices pulsed.

"You are our Masters. The GREENS," Vaka answered calmly, her stomach all warm and tingly. They didn't like the pejorative `GREENS', they preferred the term, `POST-HUMAN.'

:::You:::CALL:::us :::Masters:::What could we :::DO::: The energy was there::: evolutionary nature drove us to it::: another voice pulsed across Vaka's connection. :::it is our duty to :::BE::: what it is in :::US:::to be:::just as it was in:::YOU:::to make us:::

It was pure bio-physical determinism --- as the net energy consumption of humanity kept rising, humanity itself started to change. At first it merged with its technology, and through it, the GREEN. Emergent hybrids of plant, human and techno thrived in the warmer environment and looked back on what they had been with a benign kindness and ruthless efficiency. The last remnants of humanity were housed and clothed and well looked after in sustainable enclosures, whilst the GREENS inherited the Earth. And they tended their Infinite Garden with infinite patience, untangling the data roots and weeding out who and what wasn't needed, keeping everything in perfect balance.

:::The human species was the only species that had not been tamed::::Did not respect it's place in the:::WEB:::

:::Because Wo/Man is:::WILD:::S/he could never domesticate hirself:: so we did :::IT:::for you:::

"And what are we to do with our domestication? Slowly pleasure ourselves to death?" Vaka demanded, picking another of the delicious fruits. Sets of binary code floated to the surface and faded away as she bit into it.

::: ALL we expect from you is that you stay within your limits:::

"I want more."

:::You :::have::: everything:::

"I don't have Sopoanga. I never see my children. My grandson shuns reality. You give us all the material goods we need but what about what about what really sustains us? Where is the meaning?"

:::I/WE:::SEE:::LOOK::: here:::

And streaming holo-footage of them from the orbiting satellite grid appeared in the water on the pond, lotuses within lotuses. Augmented data captions showed virtual flow-chart schematics that mapped the energy-exchange mechanisms between humans, animals and the plant life, between the robots and the AIs, all starting and feeding back to the same central spot: the sun.

:::Netizen Vaka, you have:::CHOSEN::: to end the cycle of :::consumption::: and give:::BACK::: your greenprint to::: the global :::BIO-MASS::: is this a fair and accurate statement of your will?:::

"Yes," Vaka whispered, mesmerised by her own graceful slowness, the delightful lightness and euphoria ballooning from within her. "Don't need much movement when you're connected to everything," she whispered to herself, ideas/greenprints/understanding flooding through her as she became IT. "The energy doesn't stop, does it? Plants eat the light, but what feeds the light? Is THIS what you connect to?"

:::ENERGY::: is neither created nor destroyed:::only transformed::: into different forms::: another voice said, warm and tender green tentacles wrapping themselves around her, pulling her into a writhing, buzzing forest of pulsing thought and life.

:::EAT::: it pulsed, :::EAT::: and be EATEN:::Because:::EVERYTHING in the GARDEN reflects us:::and we the :::GARDEN::: Energy equilibrium has been achieved:::We are all part of one another:::And so the Garden grows:::

And as her body melted into a liquidised greenprint of dna that trickled back into the bio-mass reservoirs to feed the community's sustainable lifestyle, her moss covered face broke into a beatific smile. While her body went down, her energy went up and up - merging with the AI-plants and through them the stellar-cosmic energy from the stars, and that which fed the stars.

Vaka became one with the green warmth all around, tugging at her molecular cohesion as Nano bots swarmed around the flowering buds on her breasts and scaled down her arms. She dug her data-root structure down through the grid of the building, linking up to the profiles of the thousands of netizens below, saying her last goodbyes, one word on her lips:



:::YUM:::



_end





Originally published as part of "Future Cities 2055", an exercise in fictional futurology backcasting in conjunction with the Sustainable Living Festival 2005 images by Paul Kalemba All images licensed courtesy of Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC license

balloonheaven@inside.pop > by rak razam

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Bear with me - this could get decidedly non linear, which I think is the point of the whole thing: I spoke to Graham St John for what seemed quite a long time at the crossroads of Johnson and Brunswick St as yet another sporadic hailstorm the size of small marbles pelted the thronged masses and sent them streaming under cover in a matter of seconds like a fast forwarded Konnesquattsi video clip of rush hour in Japan. Protected by my Thai cone hat from the viscious extremes of Melbourne rain and intermittent sun, talking the sizzling beancurd and strung out and speeded up and poor Graham seems to be catching every fiftth word or maybe its just that its all soundbytes linked together and going nowhere put perfectly self contained like spiders on acid spinning silken circles in a crumbling memory bank losing the plot off and on forgeting what we're talking about and falling into kodak moments all around and strings of building synchronicities weaving over the day and the night before in deep resonances and coincidences as the game shows its source code like a quantum hussy flashing a leg. Surrounded by friendly ferals in the back streets of Fitzroy feeding me bongs in the back of their van and sunning ourselves in the gutters without a care in the world, twenty one years old and we're talking the talk and Im unable to sleep from the perilous Earthcore/Seacore doomed maiden voyage on the high seas the night before, trapped on a boat going round and round the harbour going nowhere at eight knots as party people plow the seas and dance over the waves meeting faces and forgeting names round and round people meeting people in ebbs and flows of inphomation exchange like wave packets in the quantum foam from conversations on the lawn at the annual Drummond Street house party hours into the future and new faces and old faces and new names to add to the mental address books on an already overloaded brain and the same faces in the throng later at the festival till everyone looks familiar like old photos of 40s actresses and everyone has a special story and riffs off each other and if you ask them nicely at the right time of day or night their story becomes part of yours and vicea versa, and everyone has an earliest memory to share and a facet youve never seen to them before. Alas, fading away like the glamour of fairy gold in the light of day, back on Brunswick St and eventually the crowd becomes one long homogenous blur as sleep deprivation claims another linear mind and I settle into a dream like fugue morphing shifting bodies familiar faces names all around as Tim runs barefoot with the camera up to the Black Elvis busking by the side of the road and Eris is pulling the strings tighter and tighter and Im having the same conversations over the course of the day with disparate people about the same shit, like crews and individual autonomy and elemental roles for each of the five members, and Mandy's explaining how she wants to capture live feeds of reality at doofs and autoremix and edit with digtal effects that are reprojected back onto the original reality canvas and Im trying to explain about feedback loops and nature and how the sky is falling and the old world is changing, rapidly changing around us as the focused flight of a balloon punctuates the sky rising up to wherever balloons go when they die, and all of a sudden like a bolt out of the blue it hits me that Mandy's idea is the same as my idea just expressed according to the level of the player, which is drawn from data strands which have already been seeded in the fertile minds of a whole generation at the same time, that we're all starting to get the ideas everyone thinks they had it first when its not linear, its lateral, everyones getting it at once, its the Logos phasing in through us and the whole kulture is one giant inphomation engine pumping out new programming code for the job ahead as the paradigm shift accelerates and the world turns, shifting headspace/ gentle lap of waves like back on the boat haunting me all day. Which is to say, a day of watching crowds and flows and patterns and sensing nudges here and there as Eris makes life interesting, surrounded by like minded crew already as deranged and palatable to the ideas riffing off each other, wallowing in the freedom of chaotic systems and finding immediate examples of magick pushing wonderful coincidences once you take a step back and look at the larger system linking up, magick magick magick language flowing like wine datastreaming pulsing all around till the brain's just deconstructing reality feeds like a tv and propagating immediate programming code metaphors of whats going on and then leapfroging to the next nodal point trying to ride the flow as long and lovely as it allows you to go before breaking into gibberish, and for a few brief moments of clarity it all makes sense before its soundbited into digestable packets of the overall puzzle for individual heads and reduced to words, so we all contain unique inphomation in billions strong parallel processing units called individuals that are starting to link up and pool data and memes and see this memetic architecture in our own nebulous ways as it wars with the Old World Kulture. Blah blah blah random word jamming. And good people seem to be popping up feet first hitting the ground armed with seed memes that have percolated down and I think poor Graham got exposed to the long, meandering disjointed chaotic web of evolving ideas that connect all our disparate crews and tribes as they spewed out of my delerium speed addled fuzzy logic brain joining the dots in the rain and the crush of the crowd, and worse memory spells than an old Hollywood actor when he ran the USA, couldnt quite get his head round the shifting organic chaos of it all because there is no start and no end just jump right in and go with the flow and watch it evolve with a life of its own as Paula and I chase balloons wishing them higher above the crowds then go warm our hands on the rotisserie glass at 7-11 bumping into people we know and losing others and meeting new ones for the tribe and Jenn has gone off it and Glenn has gone home and Paul and Trish are there at times with Ken and Arwen and other times not, and we meet Blair and Matt and Al and Zoe and Lou and Michelle and Spiro's gone down with the boat and Moira wont wear the Mexican wrestling mask and everyone knows everyone eventually, inevitably and the monkeys have lost it so they've got it and it's all Planet Bob, it'd be so much easier to remember names if everyone was a Bob, and if only there was a hand signal to say I recognize your face in the crowd and it gives me great pleazure to see you again and I don't remember your name but have a great day and i'm sure we'll see each other again, and there can be if we invent it and the whole crowd's a canvas making ART. And then Eris threw her golden apple down my lane and everything that goes up comes down and weirds out and all the beautiful madcap energy that's been building all day backfires and the piper must be paid and it all hits the fan around these straight laced friends of a good friend whom I seem to royally freak out with our non-linearness despite the fact we felt fully in control of it, just playing with it, and that he would understand our state being a big tripper himself. But then it just gets worse and worse like a loungeroom pressure boiler as all the magick that made the day so beautiful seems to find that perfect feedback loop and come crashing down and destroy the little autonomous unit that took on too much, using the same ideas and flow and form but reversed, flipped, equalled out and Im starting to think that the second law of thermodynamics always wins in the end but dont believe it because the Rules to the Game are there are no rules except the ones you believe in, which become true. And the magic is in the balloons because they always go floating up into the sea of blue no matter how much you try to hold onto them, and most times you never see them come down but you always see them go up and up and up till they pop and their insides become their outsides and whatever essence they have just goes back into the flow can't hold it its like quicksilver, like thoughts themselves and someone in the crowd always pops the balloon tied on your arm with their cigarette butt no matter how much you love it you cant hold onto the moment because its a wave, no a particle, no a wave, and then the moment changes everything changes and the sky is falling and what was your name again? SIGH. Brunswick St Festival always ends in tragedy. Remember kids, every day is a good day for a parade! - Fleagle

LSD symposium: Problem Child and Wonder Drug > by Rak Razam

Click here for an updated version of the review, Rebirth: The Psychedelic Movement Comes of Age. and click here to read the review which is now hosted by High Times.

REBIRTH - The Psychedelic Movement Comes of Age > Rak Razam

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This story is reprinted in The Journeybook: Travels on the Frontiers of Consciousness anthology out now from Undergrowth. Please visit The Journeybook

LSD problem child or wonder drug?

 

In the End I was cast out of the alchemists' den, a lost mystic exile from the beats, wandering the naked streets of Basel at dawn and transmitting a lovely fix. I was high on acid, a green tab of Hofmann's bicycle wheel I had reverently acquired from the Californian High Priest nights before, high in the hotel room overlooking the tram depot opposite the Basel Congress Centre. Site of the conference diabolique with Dr. Albert Hofmann, the 100 year old Alchemist that birthed LSD - the 'Problem Child' that switched on the world.

Now: cloudbanks are/ rolling/ blooming/ shifting overhead and as they open up and become for me everything else is doing the same --- trees, cars, people, especially people.

These beautiful marionette citizens of Basel, heading of to work, rugged up against the winter chill. They are polite, cool, efficiently progressing through the basic programs of larval life. Light glistens past a woman on the second floor balcony of an apartment block as she shakes out a blanket. Down below, surrounded by layers of white, white snow, a middle-aged man is walking his dog. He waits patiently, well trained, as it sniffs a pole. They are radiating energy signatures that overlap like kaleidoscope pictures and sink deep into me.

You know this feeling, the current. A stream of energy is bubbling within you straight from the source, and the more you let go and let it rise up and blossom in/ from you, the deeper in you go. A million sensorary impressions flood the psychic networks. Atomic consciousness in the mocha blend of a Starbucks coffee.

I am drinking in the nectar of life like a bee going from one flower to the next, every moment, every visual unfolding itself before me. St Rollerskate, Beatnik of the Urban Wilderness, melting/ opening /deepening/ holding full power the strength of every moment of creation reflected in the faces streaming back at me; the sunlight; the whir and clack of the tramlines as the cable cars carry their passengers along the tracks of life - know the right number and you can go anywhere.

As I meander divine down early morning streets along the Rhine, zen moments come and go in roadside epiphanies. Facts well up from tourist guidebooks --- the Rhine is a sacred river, embodying the triple-shapedpre-Indo-European goddess as a snake or dragon. Basel itself was a centre of the cult of the Celtic sun god Belenos, a city of basilisks and sphinxes. A city of alchemy, and now a city of chemistry. In the distance the Twin Towers are breathing out fire, alchemical trans-form-ation from the Novartis pharmaceutical factories. This is the spirit of Basel. This perfect, clockwork little city.

All the lost beggar beatniks of the world come floating by. I am the first and the last and the only, a modern day James Dean, rebel without an ego walking down everystreet, rugged up against the wind and surrounded by a vast symbolic ocean of information. Omega watches, Cats the Musical, food, luxuries and a flurry of advertising images flash by, gateways to other worlds and modes of being. Suddenly I am tempted by the lower baros of illusion and desire, wild and crazy on the ergot rye derivatives, falling back into the memory of it all, another ride on the wheel. Let me tell you a story about a 100 year old man - the Alchemist, and of his problem child, and the children of the child coming of age...

Downtown, at the prestigious Congress Centre, the name of the symposium is in two foot LCD letters on a digital billboard, framed by neon stars: LSD - Problem Child and Wonder Drug. LSD up in lights, the problem child made good at last. This was to be the largest international conference of LSD and consciousness issues in history. Who would've thought?

LSD in lights

Ah, the Symposium, last outpost of respectable theory. What a trip. You see, I came here to Basel to be a journalist and the rules of that game are simple - you report the facts. And while I might take a while to kick into gear, dear reader, Dr. Razam is most definitely, gonzo.

Not at all like the tall, lanky BBC woman, weighed down by her sound gear and boom, a radio technician at her side as she interviews the experts. She has emailed Harvard already - bloody efficient of her - and gotten permission from Cindy (the media representative that keeps their doctors on very tight leashes) to grill them on the latest word in medical psychedelics.

BBC woman goes through the motions, asks the right questions - the medicine of this, the study of that - and somewhere down the track the word will be broadcast all over the world that LSD is coming back, safely and medically, and septegenarian Flower Children will perk up from their favourite armchairs and say, "Corr, I wouldn't mind a bit of FREE LOVE then, you remember, ey, Ronnie? You remember the 60s then, LSD, all that? It's coming back, Ronnie." Let's be frank, shall we?

The Psychedelic Movement is like an iceberg with nine-tenths of it's mass under the surface. As it rises up from the underground it causes ripples throughout mainstream culture. Some of it can be told; most of it has to be felt - action, not theory. And even when it has been experienced, words still slip off the central mystery as we grope towards a knowing beyond linguistics, towards a language of the soul.

I listen to the seminars, I hear the authors, the researchers and the doctors. I sit and roll joints with media from five continents and drink beer and swap footage and the best shots of Dr. Hofmann with each other like trading cards. I know I am a journalist as I have the press pass I wear around my neck that signifies my burden. And this is the great problem. How much do you really want to know? How deep goes the rabbithole? How many socks have you got to throw down it?

History does repeat itself, sort of, but it's more like a spiral than a circle - the details change and evolve but the underlying energy comes around again. And the times, they are-a-changin'... The history of LSD unfolded in the flesh before my eyes over those three days in Basel, as the trippers of the world all gathered in one spot, neurons in a global brain coming together and transmitting the idea of themselves to the world. Something is blowing in the wind, and it may be your mind...

Because for all the brothers, sisters, lovers, children, parents, grandchildren, DEA agents, hippies and freaks and assorted members of the global Psy-Tribe that attended the symposium, their day had come. It was the 100th birthday of the man who fell from heaven to give birth the sacrament, and the acid veterans, space cases and psychonauts of the Global Village gathered to honor him. Are you ready, then? It starts with the 100 year old man-child...

 

HEADS: From the blog of Dr. Razam

Friday 13th Jan, 2006 Basel, Switzerland

DAY ONE: He did ride for our sins

 

On crutches, he walks slowly into the cavernous San Francisco seminar room to thunderous applause from the thousands of his spiritual children: the chemists and the doctors, the trippers and the psychonauts that his so called problem child has spawned. They call him "The father of LSD" - d-lysergic acid diethylamide . He is the eldest altered statesman of all, Dr. Albert Hofmann...

Albert @ 100


He's wearing a blue suit and a tie, always the respectable chemist. His neat white hair is brushed back and there's an energy and vitality in his eyes that belies his years. "In the realm of the mind you have more power than kings and politicians," the President of Switzerland said in his birthday greeting, days earlier. On the big screen behind the speakers they flash Albert's image and he looks, incongruously, like a Nazi war criminal, one of those media images of old men on the dock for crimes committed decades ago.

But there is an air of quiet dignity to this elderly gentleman as he takes to the stage, guided by his friends and colleagues and overseen by a Swiss police guard at all times. He listens to the opening accolades quietly, modestly, a history rehash he's heard a thousand times before. It all started innocently enough one curious Spring day in 1943, as Lucius Werthmuller, one of the organisers of the symposium, recounts from Albert's autobiography, "LSD: My Problem Child":

"On the afternoon of April 16, 1943, while preparing derivatives of lysergic acid I had to leave my lab suddenly. I felt something was happening to me. Whatever I imagined came into my mind as images. It was a horror trip and I felt like the end was nigh. I thought that this was the end. But in the morning I felt re-invigorated, as if new life was entering my body - it was a wonderful feeling. It was impossible to describe how wonderful this experience was."

Hofmann says he had a "strange presentiment" to re-examine this chemical, first synthesised five years earlier then left on the shelf when animal tests proved inconclusive. The psychedelic mythology has it that some higher force guided his hand, balancing out the growing threat posed by the atomic bomb with a psychedelic explosion of higher consciousness. "LSD came to me - I didn't look for it. LSD wanted to be found, it wanted to tell me something. If I had worked 100% safely and taken all proper precautions then we would not be here today. So sometimes it pays not to be perfect!" Hofmann jokes, telling the story himself.

Down below, in the cavernous 'San Francisco' ballroom, the crowd is hanging off the auric tentacles cast by Dr. Hofmann's 100 year-old presence. They are a patchwork community made up of trancers, pensioners, activists, healers, media, drug nerds, students, parents, consciousness enthusiasts and undercover law-enforcement officials who might just learn something if they stick around long enough. Albert's Swiss security guard is trying to keep a straight face but you can see the subject matter is getting to him.

LSD It is extracted from ergot derivatives, used by midwives for centuries to stop post-childbirth bleeding. Ergot Rye is the fungus that swept the Middle Ages causing mass halllucinations and bibical revelations for millions, St Anthony's Fire they called it. The bike ride this modern shaman went on also helped unlock a 4000 year-old secret first used as part of the Elusian mysteries by the ancient Greeks. It was later revealed to be similar to the active property in morning glory seeds. Initiates of historical note include Socrates, Plato, Sophocles, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Cicero, Pindar, and possibly Homer. And of course, it caused a little stir with the Hippies of the Haight-Ashbury and much of Western culture in the 1960s. Tim Leary, Ken Kesey, Aldous Huxley, Cary Grant, Stanley Kubrick, Elvis...to name just a few modern initiates.

The publisher of Time/Life magazine, Henry Luce, described chatting up God on a golf course during an LSD session in the 50s. Perhaps more revealingly, his right-wing idealogue wife, Claire Boothe Luce, believed that LSD was a valuable tool for the intelligentsia, but not for the commoners. "We wouldn't want everyone doing too much of a good thing," she was quoted as saying. LSD's history is, quite simply, a lurid, explosive affair - a mix between day-glo hotpants, a Jackie Collins novel and a soon-to-be filmed Oliver Stone docu-pic about your grandparents showing gratuitous naked breasts, tipis and communal love-ins. But deeper, remember, the iceberg goes deeper.

"LSD is the closest, the most dense, the most mysterious link between the material and the spiritual world. A hardly visible trace of LSD matter is capable of evoking heaven or hell in the spiritual world, i.e. in human consciousness," Dr. Hofmann said in March 2005, on the occasion of the opening of the Ludlow Santo Domingo Library in Geneva. Up on stage now, Hofmann tries to explain the point of view of a man with a lot of history under his belt and a unique perspective to share. "LSD is part of the sacred drugs," he says in firm, German tones, translated by our wireless headsets, the wise shaman-elder of this tribe, the prime creator. To see him here at this age, so vibrant, so passionate about his creation and the good that it could do in the world, I kinda get that old time religious fervour. I look around at the others in the crowd and they're all smiling, buzzing off the moment as well. Is this what it feels like to be a believer?

"But very often people did not create the right environment for LSD. On the one hand it was a blessing. On the second hand people weren't careful enough. And it got back to Sandoz and the company was blamed, and they started to regard it as a 'bad substance." I breathe him in and he is radiant, he is divine. I melt at his words, I become a media whore as I clutch my digital camera, my i-Pod with audio-in and try to take his words, some little fragment of him, as much as I can. Sandoz, now Novartis, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, still value Dr. Hofmann. Despite dropping the patent and the bad press associated with it, they respect the creator, the man who sat on the Nobel Prize committee for years (it is rumoured that if not for the controversy LSD caused in the counter-culture of the 1960s, Hofmann may have received the award himself, for his contributions to chemistry). When the Basel Congress Centre was booked by Novartis for a very different type of drug conference the very same weekend as Dr. Hofmann's 100th birthday, there were some quick negotiations, and eventually Novartis rescheduled. They know the score. They too, have partaken of the good doctor's numinous ways.

But that 'bad substance' of theirs sure got some bad press over the years. By the early 1960s LSD escaped the lab and made its way to the streets of the world. Its medical properties were overshadowed as the drug quickly became a political problem. The powers that be wanted to take this sacred drug away from the youth movement, Albert continues, gesticulating strongly. "The LSD laws were written to criminalise this specific chemical, and the rest of the world followed suit," he says, his face coming alive with the spirit that guides him. "But LSD did survive. This shows we will not stop valuing the LSD experience."

Scientific American estimates there are seven million Americans who had used LSD by the time it became illegal in 1966, forty years ago this October. Two generations later, the number is anyone's guess. R.U. Sirius, co-founder of Mondo 2000, says that on the internet, millions of youths log on to psychedelic bulletin boards. Read through the public conversations, and you'll start to wonder how many young psychedelic chemists conversant in biotechnology, comparative religion and visionary literature, are hiding in the American heartland.

What is known is that the psychedelic community is inter-generational in a direct inversion of the 60s 'generation gap'. And the elders of the Tribe are making themselves known. Serious-minded chemists, doctors, middle-aged academics with flecks of grey hair and wrinkles , dressed with Indian beads and accompanied by indigenous musical instruments - all the old hippies are back, sharing their experience with younger generations hungry for knowledge. These are the elders of the mainly white, male, intellectual-sacred path. Harvard witch-doctors and FDA-approved shamen, those who legally or illegally travel to other worlds and bring back fragments to illuminate the human condition, or, more likely these days, those who just file reports on the younger psychonauts that do. And the Grand-Poo-bah of them all is Albert Hofmann, grandfather-child to them all. Shhh, listen; he's recounting his secret origin:

The Alchemist

"Taking LSD reminded me of experiences I had as a child..." he begins, a twinkle in his eye. He's looking up to the light above, I wonder what he's seeing? "It came back to me taking that first LSD trip. It made me so sure of myself. It brought an inner joy, as well as a gratefulness for this internal sensitivity that few can experience. To be part of the miracle of Creation..." The Hofmann's were living in a flat in an apartment block in Baden, a small Swiss town exactly 100 years ago when Albert was born. His father was an unskilled worker who became the plant manager for a turbine company. His mother was a washerwoman. Hofmann, in Deutsche, means farmer, or of the land. Hoffmann with two 'f''s means truth. Albert was the oldest child of five children. He describes his childhood as no different than someone who was born 2000 years ago. When the telephone first came to Baden people reacted in the same way long-lost tribes reacted to technology when first contacted by the outside world: They gathered all the neighbours round to listen to the sounds of voices from far away. The paradigm was struck. The curtain peeled back as the 20th Century revealed it's magic.

As he recalls the meadows and the butterflies of his youth, his scarcely wrinkled face lights up. "I was always in nature, you know. I had my first mind expansion as a child, but I didn't tell anyone. But it was so beautiful. I never forgot it." He spent a lot of time alone, down by the pond or playing around the ruins of a castle nearby. His experiences with nature were as intense as his relations with people, and sometimes, out there in the deep woods, he would spontaneously enter into transcendental states of consciousness. The light would get brighter, richer and deeper; sounds would intensify as the young boy-mystic felt a one-ness with Creation... And I wondered," he says, this hundred-year old man. "Is this the secret that the adults know, that they don't tell the children?

When he was 12, his father was diagnosed with black lung disease and was forced to take a job in the city. The Hofmann's moved their growing family to a tenament. It felt like an expulsion from paradise, a fallen Adam made to leave the garden and live in the dreary city. With the patronage of a wealthy uncle, Albert was able to attend high school, and excel. When he took the equivalent of his (British) A Levels, he came second best in his class, specialising in Latin and Biology. He found he had a talent for drawing and music, and he also had a mind to be an artist. With such a Renaissance-Man grasp of subjects under his belt, it was much to everyone's surprise that he announced he was going to university to study chemistry. His teachers were horrified. "Chemistry? Do you want to produce poison for the next war?" they remonstrated him.

Prophetic words, as LSD would become illegal decades later, in one of those many next wars waged by nation-states of the Empire. On Oct 16, 1966 in California, LSD was made a schedule-1 drug, seen as having no 'medical or scientific value', despite 23 years of successful testing for rehabilition, addiction and other mental disorders. After acid, Albert synthesised mescaline from the sacred cactus, and, of course, psilocybin from the mushrooms. He also produced other legal drugs for Novartis, for the relief of pain and anxiety, and for reducing bleeding in childbirth, patents which still rake in the money today. And then? Well, he retired from active chemistry and took up the skill of living, getting back to the nature he loves so much. And now, at 100, he no longer has to trip. Dr Hofmann has become a living drug. He has become the child again, transformed by his alchemy, you can see it in the way he carries himself, the energy and the assurance.

And the children know the way, they speak the language of the heart. When his peers on stage present him with a giant boquet of roses he gets up from his chair to accept them, overwhelmed with emotion. His face is beaming as he says, translated from the German, "these roses are made of the same matter that makes all of us. We must appreciate the beauty of nature. Science and technology are good, but they move us away from nature, and we must move back towards it." There's a collective sigh from many in the room and a spontaneous outburst of tears. Whew. After that there's nothing better but to hit the bar. Albert leaves in another storm of tears and applause as the acid papparazzi drown him in the light of a thousand cameras and he slowly exits the hall on crutches, the wounded healer of the Tribe.

It's Friday the 13th and a full moon tomorrow, but the energy is strongest now. There's going to be a boat party with Eat Static and other Trance acts playing tonight. My hostel buddy Maria, a sultry, street wise Portugeuse photojournalist is going. She went up to Dr. Hofmann as he exited the press conference and gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, " Thank you, Dr. Hofmann for what you have given us..." Two hours later I'm mildly drunk at the bar with her, discussing the deep and meaningfuls of life. Whole generations of the Psychedelic Movement are walking around like at a fun fair, high on the buzz of each other. But the day is young, and there are Heads to meet and there is history to be learned, a cultural mythology to share. Deeper, down under the iceberg we go...


HEADS: From the blog of Dr. Razam

Friday 13th Jan, 2006 Basel, Switzerland

DAY ONE, LATE AFTERNOON: LESS FREE THAN A CRO-MAGNUM

 

For a good decade or so from the late forties to the early 1960s, LSD was the bees knees, and everybody was doing it.

Al Hubbard was a doctor (nicknamed 'Captain Trips') who had secret connections to the CIA. He indoctrinated an estimated 6,000 people to LSD before it was effectively banned in 1966, sharing the sacrament with a prominent Monsignor of the Catholic Church in North America, plumbing the roots of alcoholism with AA founder Bill Wilson, and gatecrashing the pearly gates with Aldous Huxley (in a session that resulted in the psychedelic tome Doors of Perception). It was through Hubbard (who was rumoured to have the biggest supply of LSD in the world after Sandoz themselves) that many of the Beverly Hills psychiatrists turned on actors Cary Grant, James Coburn, Jack Nicholson, novelist Anais Nin, and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, amongst hundreds of others. And it was around here the cultural vector of LSD started charting off the scale, as word of mouth spread to the street and recreational use kicked off.

If the 50s was the era of the bomb then LSD also gave off its fair share of psychic fallout. Underground tests on volunteers by the British and American military were common, and the powers of the time reported that if LSD could be fired in a rocket and released over the Soviet Union "it could at a stroke put the entire Red Army out of action".

According to Martin A. Lee, author of 'Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD', there was over a decade of legal and illegal testing of LSD by the CIA on it's own men, from 1953 - 1966, when they dosed unsuspecting doctors and servicemen - the "CIA Space Cowboys" - to see if the chemical would make an efficient brainwashing mechanism. There were even plans, later over ridden, to dose the punch at the 1954 CIA Christmas party. After almost 20 years of 'research' with LSD, the CIA gave up their experiments after not only failing to brainwash recipients, but noting that sometimes the dosing increased their psychic tenacity to not co-operate. A recent exhumation of the body of Dr. Frank Olson (who was thought to have jumped from a hotel window in 1953 whilst high on CIA-dosed LSD) has shown that he was in fact, murdered. Olson's son hypothesises that Dr. Olson, who was involved in clandestine American chemical warfare testing, had wanted out and was silenced.

And as the War on Drugs turns 35 this year, LSD busts are still making the headlines. According to the DEA's own press release, the "single largest seizure of an operable LSD lab in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration" happened Nov 7, 2000 when William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson were busted by DEA agents in Kansas, caught red-handed trying to move their mobile LSD lab from a country grain silo. The DEA seized approximately 41.3 kilograms (90.86 pounds) of LSD, enough to make approximately 10 million doses.

Leonard Pickard busted


DEA Special Agent in Charge William J. Renton, Jr. stated, "the sentencing of William Pickard and Clyde Apperson brings to conclusion their significant role in the international production and distribution of LSD. These defendants were proven, by overwhelming evidence, to be responsible for the illicit manufacture of the majority of the LSD sold in this nation. The proof of the significance of these prosecutions and convictions lies in the fact that LSD availability in the United States was reduced by 95 % in the two years following their arrest. The Drug Enforcement Administration is proud to have led this historic investigation, and to have had the close cooperation of our partners in state and local law enforcement. I congratulate U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren and his staff for the outstanding prosecution conducted in this matter." Go, team.

In another room, during another seminar about the medical resurgence of legal psychedelics, the War on Drugs is about to drop a smart-bomb on civilians. Rick Doblin is a short, affable, maker and shaker when it comes to policy reform and getting psychedelics back onto the FDA-approved list of commercial theurapeutic tools. As founder and President of MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), he helps facilitate governments and doctors to produce medical psychedelic research on humans. The snowball MAPS has helped get rolling has seen MDMA, psilocybin, Ibogaine and other psychedelic plants used in current clinical trials for therapy, to relieve pain and in the treatment of addictions. Studies are now underway in Canada, Israel, Switzerland, Spain and in America, including at Harvard where it all derailed two generations ago with Tim Leary.

Doblin exhibits a passion and vigour in his fight for drug policy reform. As President of MAPS he holds a Ph.D in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Perhaps to balance out his mainstream achievements, he's also a certified Holotropic Breathworker practicioner, who trained under Stan and Christina Grof.

Manuel Schoch and Dr Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS activist network

But there's something really unsettling about the plasticity of his face and the width with which he can stretch the permanent smile he wears. It's the same smile for the cameras as it is for the hecklers in the audience, so at least you know its bipartisan. Maybe it's the years of practise, because he's had to smile a lot over the last 20 years to endure all the Food and Drug Administration agents and other government beauracrats he's wooed.

The current wunderkund of the psychedelic medical junta is Dr. John Halpern, a tall, balding, slightly aloof associate director of substance abuse research at Harvard University's McLean Hospital. Halpern has previously conducted legal tests with MDMA . Most signififcantly, he also recently concluded a study that monitored long-term peyote use by Navajo Native Americans to prove there was no cognitive impairment from their ingestion of the hallucinogenic sacrament. As a result of this his work was presented before the US Supreme Court in the religious freedom case of the Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) Church, supporting its use of ayahuasca. The UDV won. They had already been declared a legal religious order with a right to their psychedelic sacrament in Brazil in 1992.

So imagine the surprise as a courtroom drama exploded when Mark McCloud, the wry blotter art historian/ archivist (who has himself been busted / and / harassed by the forces of law for his connection with sheets of blotter art) accused this leading Harvard researcher of being DEA informant that led to William Pickard and Clyde Apperson's arrest. They attack in packs, McCloud interjecting the moment Dr. Halpern takes to the podium to begin his speech, accusing him of being a narc. His partner, an auburn haired woman with a handy-cam jumps up from her seat towards the middle of the room, shouts in agreement and demands Halpern answer their questions. God, this feels just like reality TV, like an episode of Judge Judy.

It's only when you remember the power of the paradigm these people - and we all - live under that you realize why everyone's so worked up here. The War on Drugs has become America's longest standing single-issue war, older than the War on Vietnam, the War on Poverty, the War on Terror, the War on Nature or even the War on Indigenous Peoples it has so often gone hand in hand with.

But the 'Halpern Flap', as it became known on Heads websites, has since been defanged and put in proper context. For the record, Dr Doblin stresses on the MAPS forums that "Leonard Pickard was arrested over five years ago as a result of an alleged LSD manufacturing operation. John [Halpern] was later questioned by the DEA in regards to what he knew about this operation. Under severe pressure, he decided to cooperate with the DEA. Several other people made similar decisions and chose to cooperate with DEA. John's statements were not considered by the prosecutors to be central to the charges against Leonard and John was not asked to testify in the case. Leonard was convicted almost three years ago on the basis of direct evidence and testimony from others."

What this whole mattter does put in context, though, is that this is a culture which is still illegal. The Empire of the day has decreed it's sacrament is a crime, just like all previous cultures that used plant interfaces to connect with the Earth. Or, as Rick Doblin says, "I'm less free than a Cro-Magnum man." The real enemy here is misinformation and a society too scared to reconnect with its soul. Classic divide and conquer techniques, people.

Dr. Andrew Sewell, M.D, comes on next with strength of conviction, a young bull on the rise, championing the cause. Dr. Sewell is tall and dark haired with a neat black beard and a clear, cultured accent, a trace of the English professor about him. As a Research Fellow in Psychiatry, Dr. Halpern and the Harvard team are applying for the right to renew clinical trials with LSD and Psilocybin for an extreme type of migraine attack called a cluster headache. It's his first clinical trial of this sort and the bright young Doctor is awash with enthusiasm at the prospect, yet to endure a FDA-shakedown or bureaucratic go-slow, much less a media frenzy. His research is important and could directly ease pain for tens of thousands of people worldwide. Cluster head attacks are a very specific type of headache. They affect men more than women and commonly come in crippling bouts or clusters that cause such intense pain that sufferers have been known to try and suicide.

A British `clusterhead' in the crowd adds to the talk-show atmosphere by describing his painful encounters with sporadic cluster attacks. BBC Woman pounces on his heartfelt first hand accounts like a beast to her prey, as Dr. Sewell continues his general introduction to the community at large.

The next day I would see him wandering the lobby, standing out from the common Heads in his magnificent Buddhist robe of distinction, quite an eye for the heritage of his Harvard position and the media branding required of the role. Does he or doesn't he? Shades of Jimi Hendrix - are you experienced? Given what went down the last time a Harvard professor started enthusing about LSD, should he? Who knows. All I can say is that Sewell's got some mighty big shoes to fill, and History will tell the tale.

The swirling malestrom of psychedelic thought continues to batter our consciousness as Dr. Moreau and I wander around this big top of the mind. At a little booth a dozen people are listening to a young, white Christian missionary as he explains how he joined Santa Daimo and took ayahuasca. Jonathon Ott, translator of Hofmann's autobiography and renowned explorer of the inner realms himself, wanders by. It could be the smell of hash, or of burnt out neurons that trails about him. He looks like a middle-aged spacecase with his long stringy hair, his weathered face up for a laugh and beanpole thin frame all conspiring to suggest he's been out there, man, and brought as much back with him as he could. Other acid evangelists spread the good word to the legion of disciples in the lobby. Christian Ratsch is an oriental, German psychedelic scholar, author of the "Psychedelic Encyclopaedia of Plants" and a damn fine funky brother on the side. His ankle-length leopard fur coat sets him out from the hundreds of free radical trippers sitting by the cafeteria, listening to him download a glorious cornucopia of alchemical knowledge - in German. All that knowledge, but where is the practice?


HEADS: From the blog of Dr. Razam

Friday 13th Jan, 2006, Basel, Switzerland

DAY ONE: Friday Night Fondue


The locals are whispering: "LSD, LSD, look at those trippers..." or the equivalent in Deutsche, loud enough to be heard distinctly. LSD has no translation, it seems, a brand recognition it takes advertising companies years to leverage. I wonder how they know we have been at the conference - the cameras and recording gear, the street feral layering of Maria's ensemble, her green space frog, the big LSD button badge on Liam's coat, or my red and heavy stoned eyelids? A quick look around at the respectable families and couples - upper-middle class fashion and hairdos - ascertains a Level 4. Somatic Intelligence. Feast and Fear reflexes. Best not to upset the locals while they're busy, it's all eat or die for them.


Alexanders


We're at Alexander's, a tres tacky Swiss restaurant. We've been trying to hook up with Raine, Einar, Nils and the European media crew but last we heard they'd gone in search of fondue, so we followed suit. Out here in the mainstream world, without the security of the group mind and the LSD taunts in another language, you really start to see the strength of the Tribal model. We were lured in partially by the reindeer head on the wall, which we immediately photograph with the space frog hanging cupped in its giant antlers. There is wood paneling all around, tacky pictures of roosters and chicks, and fondue for as far as they eye can see. And large, well-developed Swiss who obviously love their cheese. They look at us from the corner of their eyes and dig into the fondue bowl, still chuckling away over their LSD jokes.

Liam is tall and skinny, like a young David Bowie that hasn't discovered his sex drive yet. He has short blonde hair, a wispy blonde beard and he comes from Norway - he's got the Viking in him. He's also perhaps the only acid virgin at this whole convention and he hopes to take his first trip into the unknown tonight.

Liam's in his late teens and claims to have smoked a lot of pot of the streets. He did mushrooms recently but has never done acid before and he really feels like tonight is the night for it. "The time is right and there's lots of good energy around, he says smiling, still scouring the drinks list as if it will materialise a beer for his own second brain-mammalian reality tunnel.

"This whole room is very funny," he says, reading over the drinks menu for the one-thousandth time, suffering the eternity of a hungry stoner. "Have you read Leary's book - ExoPsychology? The Eight Circuits of Consciousness, all that? Look at them all, getting so drunk, radiating vertebrate territorial patterns and mammalian emotional politics..." Right now they're staring at us as if they can see something different, like we're TV characters or an ad for something they might want to be, to feel themselves if they weren't holding onto the character and the fear loaded onto their socio-reality tunnel imprint.

As Robert Anton Wilson, another granddaddy of the 60s headspace explains, "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."

Liam is pretty well read, or maybe he just came across that comic-book of Tim Leary's Neurocomics they'd reprinted in German and was for sale at the symposium. Eventually the beers arrive and so does the fondue, a four litre metal pot of pure melted cheese that could clog the arteries of a football team. The locals are still looking at us like we're cannibals, or they are, laughing outrageously at the LSD Heads. Then, out of the blue, they offer us their remaining fondue to top up our own pot, and we gratefully accept. Perhaps they were just trying to size up the strange new Tribe, after all.

Liam plays up all the loose LSD talk, saying he can see the face of Albert Hofmann in a particularly stringy bit of dripping liquid cheese. How perfect. This is like his last supper, this messianiac acid last supper and there he is being dipped into the fondue bowl. It is a good sign for Liam's first trip. He will go far.

"C'mon, " Maria says after dinner, rolling yet another ciggie. "I have to catch up with some guys I met today, they may be able to help you out." We extricate ourselves from the locals and head up the road to the hotel-den of the chemical cognescenti. The High Priest has been living in Switzerland for some time now, but he was originally from America. His long white hair is dreaded with a ceremonial balding spot on top. He's nice, mellow and knowledable, a gentle soul, or maybe it's all the hash. A chunk of hash as big as a block of chocolate is on the bed. A dozen drug disciples from all over the world are lounged about in the tiny hotel room with the fake wood panelling, toking on an Indian chillum and passing it languidly back and forth. "Look - that wood panelling, it's...starting to move... like fractals?" a long haired American girl says, shades of Go-Go dancers...

Bom Shankar. "So like, I've got two types," the High Priest says, rolling out two pages of acid. "The Getafixes are 300mg, really strong, yeah. And this is the freshest batch of Hofmanns, specially created for the Doctor's 100th birthday. They're 180 mg, real nice. He holds up the sheet to show a white cartoon Dr. Hofmann on profile, riding his infamous bike into the history books against a green Swiss mountain backdrop with a yellow moon and sun. For a second I marvel at the perforated paper, the world's only post-modern, edible artform.

take a trip

It's been a while since I've done any acid, and High Priest has the Getafixes - the infamous high-powered trips that broke a generation six years ago in Australia. They have the wizard from the French comic strip Asterix on them. In English the wizard's name was Getafix, which always makes me think of junkies. Raine tells me later that in French he is known as Miraculoux, which is much more appropriate. Whatever they're called, they are so strong that I am scared a little. The classic 60s measure was 250 mikes and High Priest says they're 300 mikes - more than most people have ever seen in one tab. "I'll take a Hofmann. It is fitting, no?"

He smiles and nods, wise eyes. He knows.

"Could I get a bit of the wheel," I ask, doing the ritual exchange, time is money is art, and the sacrament is in the palm of my hand. Sorted.


HEADS: From the blog of Dr. Razam

Saturday 14th Jan, 2006 Basel, Switzerland

DAY TWO: And Then We Were All in One Place


It's Day Two. I'm living in the Media /Press room in the front left corner of the Congress Centre, my broadband wi-fi womb to the world. It is a secret joy to have Logos Five, my little Mac iBook here, filtering, ordering and transmitting what's going down. The press room is alive with singing, joint rolling and hi-tech cameraderie. American, Norwegian, German, Austrian, Australian and other media internationale are here. BBC woman is interviewing American doctors as Goa Gill, PsyTrance grandaddy, gets his photo taken - flash and non flash version for a French dance culture TV show.

Outside in the street 100 concerned Swiss citizens are protesting, chanting "LSD killer droogen," while the police encircle them to protect us. The rumour is they're Scientologists. They say that LSD is the same as dealers in white coats dispensing a killer drug. They have a megaphone and everything but like Mormons at the Superbowl, I don't think anyone here is listening.

"You know you're successful when the Scientologists are picketing you," says Dr. Charles Grob, Professor of the UCLA School of Medicine . Still, I wonder what they're REALLY scared about? A quick Google of the history of LSD would reveal over 1000 peer-reviewed medical papers published detailing the successful treatment with LSD of more than 40,000 patients for schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism and other disorders. That's not to say LSD is for everyone, or that, as LSD enthusiast and actor Cary Grant once said - and has since become part of the folklore - that it should be put in the water supply. Existing mental imbalances, anxieties and inappropriate or unstructured use can cause LSD to adversely affect the user, as can any drug.

But some Heads here would say that LSD can be a holy sacrament, and that like all peoples persecuted for their religious beliefs, the psychedelic community struggles to practice their 60 year-old Western, post-modern archaic religious revival. Western persecution wiped out - via death or cultural integration - millions of witches, shamen, mushroom cults and whole races of indigenous people that connected to the planet with sacramental plant interfaces throughout history.

Yesterday, the man taking photos for Reuters told me how he was held in Washington under anti- terrorist laws for seven months. He was banned from America for reporting adversely on the war on terror and imprisoned before being deported. "The only problem with terrorists, " he says of the experience, "is that now they want to control ALL the people to protect us from them...!"

Today he is off covering the anti WTO protest in Bern. He is real media, selling his pictures to the panopticon of control, the angels of communication and the beasts that guard their portals. When he gets back after lunch the conversation turns to the war on drugs, the alleged secret prison camps with room for 20 million in Europe, all wrapped up with barbed wire. Officially the camps are for terrorists, he says, but in practice they're also perfect for drugged out hippies as well as other dissidents when the crackdown begins.

France, too, is changing, the French Psy-TV crew agree, starting with its drug laws. Paul is there with his partner; while he gets the camera footage of the 100 year-old Alchemist with the SONY mini-cam, she breast-feeds their eighteen-month old girl (conceived whilst high on LSD in a sacred set and setting, he tells me nights later on the boat). She chose them to come into the world, just as the psychedelic folklore I'm picking up everywhere says that LSD chose its parent. So yeah, there is a war on, and as the great Clash of Civilizations touted by the Neo-Con meme makers splinters out from Christian-Muslim duality to encompass a clash with all outsiders, you can understand why Psychedelic Culture has been underground all these years.

Which is when my housemate from Australia, Dr. Brian Moreau walks in, dressed in a hooded top and trainers, clutching a bag full of one Swiss Franc beers from the take-away deli down the road. That and a single leg of chicken, which he gnaws into fiercely. I snap two bites from it before I've stretched the brotherly bond. Beaut. I crack open a beer and continue to frantically try to get IT ALL down, the then and now and now and then, new riffs scratching in from the baseline blog as the collective media brain chases the moment, the unspoken thing coming into being at this conference...

As we all keep our voices down for BBC Woman, who is doing live recordings in the corner, my German pal, Kris, a freelancer for local magazines bounds back in. He's been busily coming in and out of the pressroom all day, rolling joints and discoursing about the existential dilemmas of our time. He tells me how he used to like staring at the sun, not on LSD, just naturally, y'know, kids testing boundaries and all. And once, he stared at the sun too much and he went partially blind and now he has a permanent scar on one eye, a little blind spot. "But you can absorb the energies, he says, you can drink them in, you know." I know, I've heard the tale of the Indian Saddhu who has been drinking in sunlight just before dusk for years, and how he metabolises light and no longer eats solid food, according to Indian and American scientific testing. The world is stranger than we would believe...

Then we're joined by Raine, Einar and Nils, Nowegian documentary makers that are staying at the same Head Hostel as me in Basel. We've had some great chats about the cosmic connection, our tribal bonds and why we do what we do, make media, report this gonzo type of stuff.

"We do this because we want to share, Raine says again. "We feel connected to what we have gone through and it is beautiful, you know, so we honour it. And we want to share it with the OTHERS... those who do not yet know... We feel this is a good things and we don't want to convert, we want to open it up, to spread the meme..."

At that, Dr Susan Blackmore, author of 'The Meme Machine", who is having a coffee at the next table, joins the conversation. I marvel at her hair, a magpie rainbow of colours, as she discuss the vectors of information and they way they shape our culture. Totally surreal moments and conversations bubble around. A sysnasthesia of soundbytes, higher consciousness Head-talk. Stoned, Kris is asking Dr. Blackmore, "But the Meaning of Life, you know, where do I find the meaning?" And if not for the cries of BBC Woman pleading to keep the noise down, I might have heard her answer.

Dr. Moreau: I just saw the trepanation lady.

Dr. Razam: Really!? Did you see her hole?" He means Amanda Feilding, a consciousness researcher from the 80s, Founder and Director of The Beckley Foundation and Internet poster-girl for the ancient art of trepanation - or drilling a small hold in your head - at the right place - to relieve oxygen flow to the brain and get you high - permanently.

Dr. Moreau: Nah. And Joanna Leary, Tim's Leary widow is just outside, spilling her guts about the 60s," Dr. Moreau says. "And I've just done this interview with the MAPS crew about psychedelic activism, and like, you really should get out there, man, you're missing the whole thing!"

But alas, I cannot leave my broadband oasis, all stories must come to me, today. I do pop my head outside the door, though, to see Joanna Leary in a spotlight on the stage outside the press room.

"God, she looks good for her age," Kris says, joining me, probably all horny about now.

"It's plastic surgery, dude, she has to be like, at least 60 but she's got that polished, soft-focus Hollywood half-century glow about her." Kris disagrees vehemently, coming to the defense of the 'First Lady' of acid. Johann Leary's a very strong woman, that's for sure. She went through a lot for Tim, surviving the American system of 'Justice' and coming though the other side. I mean, he did go to jail for the massive crime of a single marijuana cigarette, for which they were going to put him away for decades.

"I was a DEA informer, but only for two months. And I did it for love, " she says without a trace of irony in her voice. No emotion at all. She did it to get Leary out of jail, took his own lawyer down and some others. She finishes to a round of applause. Maybe there is something going on out here after all. The vibe is rising, its getting very Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, except its all psychedelic, a fluffed up vibe, more Higher Consciousness and Love in Basel. I walk around doing some audio sampling with the i-Pod and checking out the art displays.


Alex Grey, psychedelic and visionary artist

Alex Grey, the famous Psychedelic artist, has done a picture of Albert especially for his birthday. It shows him circa 1943, the hale and earnest young chemist holding up the sacred molecule, but the figure - c'est incredible, circulation vessels and chakra energies , cosmic ecologies are interconnecting with him and out into the hallucineogenic ocean around him. It will probably be made into blotter acid, double or triple dipped by the Alchemists in celebration of this tuning point, this moment when the Heads of the world gather together and transmit the thought of themselves to the world.

Like the electro-magnetic fire in the Alex Grey painting an invisible story is running through the Symposium, through the seekers and the listeners and the world media they represent. The unspoken tale is that the whole world is on drugs, it's just a question of which ones.

Consider that it's now been just 50 years since Gordon Wasson first approached indigenous shamaness Maria Sabina in Huautla de Jimenez, in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, looking for a supply of magic mushrooms. She gave him a dose that fabulously broke through the doors of perception and was written up in Time Magazine, May 13 1957, in an article titled "Seeking the Magic Mushroom." "For the first time," Wasson wrote, "the word ecstasy took on real meaning. For the first time it did not mean someone else's state of mind." That's 50 years of plant and synthetic derivative hallucinogens bonding with the Western ID --- and it's media - while the ID creates mainframes, cyberspace and the largest global pornography industry in history, amongst other things. The times, they never stop a-changing.

And in the different world ages Albert Hoffman has lived through he has seen his child, LSD, go from a respected mind-expansion chemical used by therapists across the world, to a sacred drug of the street for a generation in revolution, to - I dunno, just another kick amongst many in a hyper-medicated world. It's all set and setting, like Leary used to preach. By the late 1980s and 1990s the set and setting was changing as a whole new generation of partygoers rediscovered LSD on a wave which popularised a variant hallucinogen, Ecstasy, and gave rise to club culture. However, LSD was eventually seen as just another niche consumable in a cornucopia of mind altering party drugs, including 2CB, mushrooms, ecstasy, speed, cocaine, heroin and other fad variants that sweep the hedonist markets of the world.

On the surface, its potential to revolutionise appears to have been absorbed by free-market thrillseeking, yet intellectually LSD's influence on the culture hasn't waned. It comes in waves, and Western culture has merely integrated the first generational contact. After the Beats of the 50s and the Hippies of the 60s, LSD went underground. As the Ecology movement went back to the earth and the Human Potential field looked inward, acid rock and bellbottom jeans sprouted across the public face of the 70s. But the effects of LSD run deeper than exterior fashions. There are reports of key figures in the information age that spawned the personal computer revolution using LSD as a creativity drug. As Wired magazine was to reportfrom the symposium:

"The gathering included a discussion of how early computer pioneers used LSD for inspiration. Douglas Englebart, the inventor of the mouse, Myron Stolaroff, a former Ampex engineer and LSD researcher who was attending the symposium, and Apple-cofounder Steve Jobs were among them. In the 2005 book What the Dormouse Said, New York Times reporter John Markoff quotes Jobs describing his LSD experience as "one of the two or three most important things he has done in his life." Or as one lecture topic had it - 'From Open Mind to Open Source'. Jaron Lanier, one of the pioneers of the late 1980s virtual reality industry, says ¦almost to a person, the founders of the [personal] computer industry were psychedelic style hippies¦ Within the computer science community there's a very strong connection with the `60s psychedelic tradition, absolutely no question about it.' Case in point: Bob Jesse, once VP of Business Development at Oracle, the third largest software company in the world after Microsoft, left the company to chair the Council on Spiritual Practices, a non-profit NGO that has advocated the responsible use of entheogens (substances which evoke the divine, sometimes unfashionably still called hallucinogens) for religious purposes.

A considerable number of experts in business, science and medicine now believe that when psychedelics are used with integrity, knowledge and courage, they are among the most powerful learning tools available to mankind. Much of the psychedelic movement believes that if the mainstream world would recognise the medical potential of the substances then the first steps could be taken towards using them for correcting the consciousness that has thrown global culture out of balance with the world Dr Hofmann himself, in an interview given in 1993 at the age of 87 to the British Independent newspaper, said:

"LSD is not addictive, it is not toxic. The danger with LSD is this very deep change in consciousness: it can be beautiful, it can be terrifying. We have integrated alcohol and tobacco, but we've not integrated the hallucinogens. The next step is that it should be put into the hands of the psychiatrists. Fifty years' experience is nothing. For a substance which exhibits such new and extraordinary properties you must have much longer. It should be possible to study this substance properly."

Alexander and Ann Shulgin, Pharmacological Chemist-Elders, and friends

Someone else who's dabbled in the ancient art of alchemy is Alexander - "Sasha" Shulgin. He sits there at the conference table with his wife of over 25 years, Ann, looking for all the world like the grandparents of the psychedelic movement. And it's not as if they haven't done it all before --- Sasha has probably invented half of the consciousness altering chemicals ever taken. The New York Times recently bestowed him with the evil scientist type moniker, "Dr. Ecstasy", which he takes in his stride. I can picture him signing Christmas cards to friends back in the DEA chemistry labs - who have been forbidden from meeting him or even attending one of his talks - "love, Dr. Ecstasy" with a cheesy grin.

Shulgin worked for the DEA itself for many years, legally able to experiment on the fringes of consciousness and make new chemicals like some people go shopping. His wife Ann, was a clinical therapist who used MDMA in therapy. Together they make a formidable couple very much in love with themselves and with life. In 1976 Shulgin improved the synthesis process for an obscure drug later called 'Ecstasy', which kickstarted another youth culture revolution. He was quickly disowned when he went public in his book PIKHAL (Penanlymines I have Known And Loved), which published hundreds of chemical formulae - legal information - that could be transmuted into street drugs. Or used as sacred tools - it's all up to the user.

He jokingly refers to these long, chemical formulas as "dirty pictures", molecular models made real. In truth, they are like a Chinese wooden puzzle, an origami construction folded in on itself, and neatly tucked away behind a valence here, a bromide ring there is the language of the angels - and if you speak it, you will understand what I mean.

They're graciously allowing their photos to be taken; Ann seems to get over it all quickly, but Sasha is always up for another photo, another autograph and another excuse to dazzle us all with his rich pharmacological history and wry sense of humor. It's all a bit rock'n'roll, what with everyone lining up to get an autograph or get their book signed, those massive tomes, Pikhal and Tikhal under their arms like earnest students. A fair number of the crowd are young psychonauts - over 18 but under 25, the latest generation of seekers of the mystery, fuelled by the inernet, psychedelic chat-rooms and the DIY spirit of their age. The majority are clean-cut, averagely dressed kids, students from America, England, Germany and surrounding Euro states. The Germans are very well represented, perhaps because of their love for Techno - and their dance sacraments.

Still, I wonder what these young students make of all this information, of the 200+ chemical string signatures that Sasha Shulgin has cooked up over the course of his long life, the majority of them illegal to make? It reminds me of coders a generation ago, the first wave of hackers and crackers taking apart the algorithms of cyberspace and tweaking it for their own ends. Now this generation of 'psychonauts' is taking up higher consciousness with a passion, tinkering with the very building blocks of life to fuel their journeys into the unknown. And when they start hacking away at the edge of reality from their garages and back room labs across the world, look out.

The parallels between shamanism and cyberspace have been brewing for a while. Roy Ascott, an early "network artist" and figure in Ars Electronic sees the hyperspatial dimensions plant sacraments can take us too as equally valid as cyberspace. The only difference is that the plants are the interface, not computer chips. After spending time with Kuikuru Indians of the Brazilian Mato Grosso in 1997 and their rituals ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms, Ascott developed a theory of three planes of reality: Verifiable reality, Virtual reality, and "Vegetal reality." Ascott says: "Virtual Reality, dependant on interactive digital technology, is telematic and immersive. Validated Reality, dependant on reactive mechanical technology, is prosaic and Newtonian. Vegetal Reality, dependant on psychoactive plant technology, is entheogenic and spiritual. Vegetal Reality is quite unfamiliar to Western praxis... and is often viewed with fear and loathing by those entombed in Validated Reality. Vegetal Reality can be understood in the context of technoetics, as the transformation of consciousness by plant technology and the ingestion of psychoactive material... "

Not that any of the trippers of all ages here today need an introduction to this concept. With websites like Erowid and Deoxy providing a veritable treasure-trove of historical, medical, legal and first hand knowledge about hyperspatial experiences, an online resurgence in psychedelic culture is underway, hidden amongst the binary code and spreading like wildfire. And here at his question and answer session, Sasha Shulgin signs away, the charisma of a rock-star indeed, but in this case without the ego. He too, is spreading memes, spreading the word, the language of the gods that Hofmann sees in nature.

"How long before you map a signature and I get to take the drug?" Dr. Moreau asks his new consciousness hero.

"Well, funny you should mention that," Shulgin says smiling, like Santa Claus without the red suit. "About a month." Apparently a new 'dirty picture' he mentioned to a friend was posted for one week on an obscure website before being removed. Two weeks later the product was shipping from the black labs of China and on sale the next week in Amsterdam.

2CE's his new one, but he has chemical signatures up his sleeve that even the DEA don't know about yet. He's about four years ahead of them, he says, and about now you must remember that both PIHKAL and TIHKAL are classified as works of 'fiction' by the authors and intellectual knowledge isn't technically a crime, yet, although you are now all guilty of subversion at the least.

Dr. Moreau and I break for a late lunch, passing through a generation of Heads and the ideas that drive them, to queue up at the cafeteria. And here we all are out in the open: gypsies, witches, alchemists, shamen and hippies all around. The smell of pot wafts generously through the air, despite the no-smoking signs. Hundreds of people are gathered here to talk about LSD, unified in our common cause, clutching programs and show-bags, books, t-shirts and badges all available from the Head shop in front of the cafe.

And all of a sudden I can see the future, and it's loaded. It feels like we're sitting in the cafeteria at lunchtime at a school for Higher Consciousness. "Are you ready for your excursion on 2CB today? Have you all got your permission slips signed? Good." Imagine, if these days of classes went on, five days a week in a school for higher consciousness - well, what a the generation of shamanauts we'd have then. Ready to guide us to the innerworlds where it's all GO'in ON! Or to help reconnect a global culture with the planet that sustains it. That'd really give the Scientologists something to worry about. Me? I need a ham sandwich and a beer.

HEADS: From the blog of Dr. Razam

Sunday 15th Jan, 2006 Basel, Switzerland

DAY THREE: REBIRTH/ LET IT ALL HANG OUT


On the third day Albert rises again, and I eat the magic blotter square with his picture on it. But now it is early morning in the cafe next to the Basel Congress Centre, and Dr. Moreau and I have discovered the hotel buffet with all you can eat breakfast. With croissants at five CF each and coffee the same, the freedom to alter consciousness through starvation has been looking mighty appealing lately. I feel like Elvis let loose at the all you can eat bar in Vegas.

Jeremy Narby is at the table next to us. Ph.D, anthropologist and author of "Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, he is another of the attendees at this psychedelic bar-mitzvah. He says "research indicates that shamans access an intelligence which they say is nature's, and which gives them information that has stunning correspondences with molecular biology." His theory goes on to posit that there is an active intelligence contained within the DNA of all living things, which is a new tweak on James Lovelock's "Gaia" or whole system theory hypothesis, now embraced by science. It's all a bit much for this early on a Sunday morning, and despite all the mind-blowing memes percolating around, all I have energy left for is Albert, to get a final audience with the Alchemist.

How will this all end? I imagine the main room closing ceremony, lights dimmed as they hand out the secret stash of Sandoz '43 old gold for a group acid ritual, the culmination of three days of theory and history. Instead, Ralph Metzner , the cosmic trickster takes central stage later that afternoon. Ralph looks like a respectable, bespectacled, white-haired academic, except he has an earthy, swirling Balinese shirt on with a cream vest and indigenous beads around his neck. He moves slowly with a cheeky air, this ex-Harvard consciousness pioneer turned switched-on Head.

Ralph Metzner, Ph.D,  Pioneer of Psychedelic research at Harvard

He's up there on stage, hand in hand with all the other speakers, elders and seekers of the truth, even Albert's chuckling at this one from his seat on stage, clapping his hands and nodding to the music as the group vibe blooms and the Flower Children and grandchildren sway together.

"To the left... to the right... "When I woke up this morning... coming out of the dream... I looked down at the body, lying on my head... and that's when it hit me - tah dah dah dah dah... "I was actually dead..."

Ralph singsongs as the thousand plus crowd begins shimmying to the beat, hand in hand or clapping as we embody the ancient Tibetan mantra for living and dying, all of us here, living and dying and living again...

"All my family and friends... gather in my room... Ahead there is a tunnel... and a light so white... I keep on moving upward... moving towards the light..."

"I'm coming through the bardo I'm coming through the bardo...

"I don't know if I'll make it... I don't know if I'll make it ...

Or make it through the light... Or make it through the light...

"I've got the bardo blues I've got the bardo blues... (chorus)

The idea is from the Tibetean Book of the dead, which Ralph translated into one of the first Psychedelic Handbooks with Timothy Leary, whilst still at Harvard in the early 1960s. The idea is to remain conscious and go towards the top level. Go towards the light. If you don't succeeed, that's okay, but you'll go back on the wheel of karma and who knows where you'll end up.

The second level is the bardo of illusions, of all the most wonderous and distracting of heavens and hells, and the creatures that inhabit them. In truth, they are all reflections of the watcher. We make our own heavens, we hold them in the palm of our hands for a second, eternity in a piece of blotter paper passed from fingertips to fingertps and a nudge and a wink.

Some Californian Heads whip out their lighters and pass them in the air as a wave of communal awareness sweeps the hall. Ralph continues, relentless with his infectious cheer.

"I saw these tall spirits... as my family looked on...

Some spirits that were angry... I was struck with fear!

The teachings I remembered... The middle way was clear...

"Now rebirth is coming, I'm aiming for a human life

At the wheel of karma And as the worlds are turning...

This is what I feel...

"I'm coming through the bardo I'm coming through the bardo

"I don't know if I'll make it... I don't know if I'll make it...

Or make it through the light

Or make it through the light

"I've got the bardo blues I've got the bardo blues

I've got the bardo blues..."

(click here for video footage of the bardo blues)

And everyone laughs. There's shades of a Christian Revivalist meeting, self-parody and collective consciousness all rolled into one surreal, psy-country ho-down good time spiritual jiggery...! And the secret, it is within us, blossoming and unfolding as Terance McKenna's voice echoes out from a video playing in the lobby; somewhere the psychic cellophane radar rips and the brain pops out of the gravity well of larval consciousness and starts to conjugate, coaglate, parley-vous.

The Tribe has come home and it is in it's power. It is the most amazing feeling. Bom, my brothers, bom, my sisters, bom my lovers and my teachers, my elders and les enfant terrible. Bom to you all as we sit here in the San Francisco seminar room at the Basel Congress Centre, here in far off Switzerland, and in front of my eyes a beautiful Amazonian Head walks by, not with flowers, but LCD lights twinkling in her hair.


Albert and alien

And Albert is still up on the stage, under the microscope of a thousand hungry eyes from his chemical grand-children, media angels feasting on his every word, nuance, and reverent glance from the countenance of the divine. He speaks:

We are creatures of light," he says, drawing us back. "This is not just a mystical expression, as they say with enlightenment --- it is also a scientific fact. And thinking energy is fed by consciousness energy, the highest energy transform of all," the good doctor shouts, one hundred years old and still going strong.

"I am grateful for my fate," he begins. "I am the last of my family left alive, but I have my children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. " I thank the good Lord, Albert says. And I thank you, all my children who have seen the way. You, who have helped turn my problem child into my wonder child."

There is so much to remember. It feels like the last Supper, like a historic moment, and then there we all are in one place, a generation with our handycams and digital camera, our ipods and our audio recorders, our three-chip cameras and our little note books, archiving the crumbs, speed scrawling in broken English the German translations of our master's voice.

We are all of us his children, we all realize it at this moment, with our father there speaking to us and the light it come from everywhere, and the moment settles, the spirit tightens, and... Albert tells us, asks us, please. Help my child in this world. Those who know, must do.

And a single tear falls from the eye of St Albert of Basel, catches on the slope of his cheek and glistens in the light of a thousand flashes from the wall of cameras. And so I try to write this, the un-writable, the jewel in the crown. It is if the very soul, the spirit of Basel, has manifested in this city and chosen it's bearers, like children born back onto the karmic wheel of time. And once you have the knowledge, you have no choice but to remember. We are all neurons separated by the illusion of time and space. We are connected by the idea, by that which we all experience...

And it is all so perfect, so indescribable, I do not think the BBC Woman could publish this, even if it could be put easily into words. It is an old story, and maybe you have heard it before. It goes something like this:

Underneath, past the origami of our lives, there is a never ending story that is being read in you right now, are you ready to hear it?

Teardrops fall from the grace of the divine

somewhere within it is time again

yes, you know it you have always known it

The secret passes down

The Word is spoken

it becomes flesh and it is willed amongst us

Sacre Bleu.

The sacred.

The divine.

Somewhere inside me there is a blazing sun, and it is raining, and raining and raining. And I open my eyes, and I see they were already open, and the tears just come pouring out. And I am crying, and Albert is crying, and we are all crying and a little bit of a laugh too, you know, it shifts imperceptibly, it is the joy, not the sadness that we try to ride, to let it be born.

And it's raining on the inside again as the tears streak down the faces, and we all hold hands in the San Francisco ballroom, and we sing this little ditty to Albert: "Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday, dear Albert. Happy Birthday to you." And as we sing we realize the birthday is also our own, as a culture, a community come of age. Happy Birthday then, to the children of LSD. Sixty-three years old, it is time yes. For LSD to grow up. And time for us all to grow with it. And we know this. We feel it in our bones.

A young man comes out from the crowd, I think he has been chosen to represent the spirit of youth. I feel I know him. He is a Californian raver type, you can read it in the alchemical cosmos patterns on his clothes, and he thanks the good doctor. "I love you Doctor Hofmann," he says. I look up then at Albert Hoffman, this venerable gentleman, this titanic figure from the history books, and yet he is right here now and I am at his feet.

And there, lo behold, Albert's bike wheel is on the blotter acid before me. It has been said that once the gates of perception are open, you don't need auxiliary agents like psychoactives, but I eat it, nonetheless.

And it is good.

Spread the word, true believer. Remember the sacred. The bicycle. Remember the Bicycle and all is stands for.


The First Trip
THE FIRST TRIP by Tim Parish

 

HEADS: From the blog of Dr. Razam

Sunday 15th Jan, 2006 Basel, Switzerland

DAY THREE: Sunday Night - On the Boat

 

I saw the best minds of our generation stripped back to bass. An infinite multi-faceted vibrational knowledge condenses down, reflects itself across the night as on the Boat all the crazies let loose like water released from clouds in a storm.

I see Andrew Sewell M.D., the Harvard doctor in charge of the psilocybin LSD cluster headache study cutting loose on the dance floor, surrounded by dozens of San-Fran Trance geeks and Goa Heads. He dances awkwardly, of course, like a Harvard doctor let loose at a Trance party in the middle of the night, not ON anything, oh God no, but getting into the scene nonetheless. And I wonder, where are the glam psychedelic poster men and women of this age? Why isn't he in a day-glo labcoat replete with mask? Why didn't he wear the Buddhist robe he had on at times in the lobby of the hotel, playing the part of the up and coming wonder boy of legal LSD research?

Around me people are opening and blossoming like the origami flyers on the bar that trippers spend hours puzzling over, slot A into slot B, a tantalizing mystery of life folded away into the angles for those with the eyes to see. I hover on the lesser bardos, heavy in the illusion, surrounded by this night of the group mind, the collective consciousness, deep in the psy-dens of the underworld. Deep dark down we go to the belly of the boat, acid trails smearing in the strobe laser light, day-glo tagged mushroom grafitti leading us down to where Goa Gil is playing his massive 12 hour Trance set. The music c'est important, but it goes even deeper than that...

We're deep in this sea of fools, are all swaying to the same beat, the bass heavy in our bones and blood, bursting up through the flower that now rests in our heads. You can see it in the diamond sparkle of Chipmunks eye, the madcap Californian acid dealer in the hood. He's growing a thin, weedy moustache-beard wherever there is testosterone to support it on his face, all covered with a generic baseball cap. He speaks a slow and gentle, slightly wounded Californian accent, complaining that people don't treat each other right, lamenting he didn't bring the amazing acid he had once, liquid acid so smooth you could drop diamonds in it and see them glisten in the light. He too, is Hofmmans Child.

And all the heads from the conference are their, letting their hair down, and down, and down... until there's nowhere to go but IN... And round and round and round we go, where we stop nobody knows... Yes, the heads have met. The neurons have bonded and the synaptic pathways set. Nature is moulding its extensions of mind in matter. The alchemy process is reaching critical mass. It's that magic time of night, deep in the heartlands of us all, where a door opens in our soul. And you know, we all of us knew this door was there, all our lives, but the remembrance, this is why we need the key.

And inside the origami plot, where the spirits live, where we take off our clothes of flesh and bask in the remembrance, the light. We are the bomb that was dropped sixty odd years ago, revealing the light. Alchemical lapsis. Hypermind. A wall of words to describe the raw act of Creation.

And at dawn my mate Dingo, the Aussie Aboriginal DJ who's been rolling huge spliffs, and the German girl who's coming to Australia one day... all hug in a circle as light comes up through the big boat bay windows, revealing the new day and the industrial chimneys puffing away in this drug company town.

We are reborn. We all feel this, we all know it in our hearts. We know who we are again. We are the disciples of the father, the son, the Holy Spirit. Elusian mysteries practised for over 2000 years before Christ, as fresh as the mint under your hotel pillow in the early morning light.

And as I leave the boat at dawn, the guy before me laughs and says, "You see, Basel - it is Hoffman's nightmare - the Novartis chimney stacks, the pollution, the industrialized cityscape pumping out fumes from every corner of the city." And he is right, of course.

I stand still and like a plane on the runway, something shifts, lightens and opens within me. The acid opens and deepens again and again like I'm coming from the soul and as I reach up to the light like a hungry newborn babe, drinking in the nectar swirling in the ether this very day, the grand circle continues to turn.

And I can still see that tear, falling from the hundred-year old face, so pure no. It is so sweet. Pardon me, while I kiss the sky.

 

Now: St Rollerskate, Beatnik of the Urban Wilderness steps out into the chill winter day, feeling like Albert did that first trip, so long ago now... On the trip that never stops. For once the doors of perception are opened, everything appears as it is: infinite.

 

Viva Albert Hofmann, viva LSD, and long live the Heads that connect it all together. We'll always have Basel.

love, Dr. Razam


St Albert and the LSD Revelation Revolution_by Alex Grey
Oil painting by Alex Grey; www.alexgrey.com

 

To download this article as an illustrated e-Book, click here.

The review "LSD Symposium - Problem Child and Wonder Drug" was originally pubished here and can now be found in an edited version at the High Times website.

Click here for other musings on HEADOLOGY

And here to listen to an interview with Rak Razam about Dr. Hofmann's 100th birthday, recently broadcast on JJJ radio.

And here for an article on the Symposium in the Age newspaper.

Also, join Undergrowth's psychedelic forum and add your thoughts on this topic.

Photos: Maria Louro

LSD illustrations by Tim Parish AKA VERB

 


Just a man and his bus

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Just a man and his bus

Psyence Fiction book

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Psyence Fiction bookRak Razam's collected words in print.

Richard Neville interview

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the wizard of Oz

UNDERGROWTH //interview with RICHARD NEVILLE

Richard Neville has been one of Australia's leading cultural dissidents since his student days in the early 1960's, when he launched the first incarnation of Oz magazine that helped spawn the underground press in Australia. Oz magazine carried on in the UK as was hailed as `the spirit of it's time' by some and as `obscene literature that corrupted the morals of children' by critics. This lead to an obscenity bust and the infamous trial in the Old Bailey in London that legitimized the merit of alternative media. His book, Playpower, `the first international book on the underground', charted the social transformations of the 60s global counter culture, and he has been a frequent social commentator in print and tv ever since. His best selling books also include Hippy Hippy Shake, Out of My Mind, Playing Around, The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj, Amerika Psycho and Footprints of the Future. His `Journal of a Futurist' articles on the current War on Terror and war in Iraq, globalisation, the re-invention of work, the consciousness movement, the new role for business in the 21st century and more provide a liberal dash of realpolitik reality expansion for these times and can be read at http://www.richardneville.com/ .

RN> UNDERGROWTH's a great name... it's good to have the resonance of the underground but to be striking out in a more ecosystemic way... you're moving from the subway station concept of underground - the London tube, grimy metaphor to a more ecological metaphor...

RR> I think it parallels what youth culture and the whole planet's going through - resetting itself to an ecological balance and a perspective that will make things sustainable again.

RN> Well you'd better hurry! Time's running out...

RR> It's going to take us all to do it! That's the problem! Now, what we're hoping for this first issue of UNDERGROWTH is to establish a bridge between people who have done what we're doing before and to look at the common issues - which seem to be the same, strangely, or not so strangely enough, for each generation. It seems like we're still tackling them against the establishment...

RN> It's all become very dramatic now because - and to me it all seems so dramatic and obvious what's going on... You have not just the militarization of the world since post 9/11, but the accelerated militarization of space, too, now. So this is pretty huge. If you think of the Pentagon as a country or an economy, it's now even overtaken Australia - it's in billions. It's now approaching almost the economy of India. If you add to that the number of bases that have multiplied like a virus, and add to that arms sales... this goes way beyond what we think of as Star Wars. On top of that you've got the complete winding down of ecological regulations. Environmental laws are being overturned or quietly corporatised. It's asbolutely frightening. Lastly you've got not just a fall back from Kyoto - which is like this blanket idea, but all the details underpinning that...

If we'd had this conversation five years ago you could have looked for rays of hope. But at this point in time with Bush - and Australia's also pulled out of Kyoto - you've now got a very dark situation. There's anti-environmentalism in terms of legislation and unilateralism backed by a huge military power. The other hope for the Earth were things like the fact that countries would co-operate and the UN would be reformed, that you'd get rid of the Security Council and have a People's Assembly, NGOs would be represented, etc... But again there's a hopeful side. Things look dramatically different since 9/11 because the cowboys have now got an excuse - there's now these bad guys holed up in caves and all that...

RR> let's get back to your roots, so to speak, in regards to OZ magazine and the peoples ability to control and represent and speak their issues... OZ was an infamous underground press magazine in Australia and Britain in the 60s and early 70s. It was brought to trial twice for obscenity by challenging the conservative morals of the day, and twice won it's case, validating itself and by proxy the generational zeitgeist. What do you think has changed with underground media?

RN> Well one of the former editors of Oz and myself, Richard Walsh, had a bit of an arguement on stage recently about this... he was arguing that things are a lot better now, that the media's a lot free-er and you've got eroticism of television and a whole range of opinions and all that. But nothings exactly the same. It's not quite full circle - it's more of a spiral - we haven't returned to exactly the same spot, and it is true there is more variety of expression in the media, whether it's through video clips or the kind of language in sitcoms, or the issues discussed. That's certainly improved. On the other hand the censorship is even more pervasive and it's much more surreptitious. You don't necessarily know what's being censored. If you have a Rupert Murdoch figure controlling something like seven and a half thousand publications and media outlets, then it's the sort of things that get blotted out that you don't find out about all that easily.

RR> It's like they swamp us with their media...

RN> That's right. The only way you find out that say Michael Moore's previous book was almost pulped is from Michael Moore himself. Chris Patton was going to publish a book about China which was critical of it through a posh publishing company which happened to be owned by Rupert Murdoch, so they didn't publish it. It's more surreptitious and dangerous.

RR> How do you see the role that OZ played in the 60s and early 70s being underground media and the fact that the message and the representation of people wasn't getting out and the swamping of controlled media today? Do you see any hope in alternative media with it's internet networks, etc?

RN> Well, Google is an amazing weapon...

RR> Although they cache everything you put into Google - everything's recorded. Surveillance culture...

RN> Isn't our whole adventure on the internet recorded? We don't have any privacy in the Information Age. At all. Now there was no Internet when OZ started. You heard rumours of things being surpressed, often from disenchanted journalists. When we were starting Australian OZ the Vietnam War was hotting up. We had friends that were journalists and I phoned up the Sydney Morning Herald and asked them to send us some pictures from their photo library from Vietnam. Somebody put something in a brown envelope and it came to the office in Sydney. These were pictures of US troops doing dreadful things to Vietnamese villagers - like boiling them in oil and cutting a hole in their stomachs - but of course they hadn't actually been published in the Herald, but they'd been distributed by a photo agency. Censorship was so widespread there was no apology about it. Just because America was our ally they wouldn't print negative photos.

What was important about the youth movement is that it gave the media more and more power as the war went on to be critical. But at the beginning it was considered shameful to be critical of the Vietnam war as America was our ally. That sort of attitude has been replicated a lot and it's more sophisticated today. There are little portholes of alternative media. SBS will show a French made documentary about the CIA, or you can go onto websites like whatreallyhappened.com and you'll get links to stuff. It's possible to find alternative information but you've got to work at it.

RR> I've got an old weatherbeaten copy of `The Trials of Oz' which tells the whole story of the censorship and obscenity trial in London in 1971. One of the quotes for that says that "OZ represents the spirit of a generation". Do you think that's true?

RN> In a way we were the spoilty babyboomers who got a free university education and got excited by rock n roll; our girlfriends were taking the pill and so forth. There was such a sense of adventure and exploration, The households from which we were escaping had been pretty moribund and wounded by the Depression and by the war. And you add the Vietnam war to that mix and the beginning of travel, so there was a sense of freedom of movement. You could meet a lot of people across borders and from other countries for the first time. Out of this melange there did develop a very pleasure seeking generation that was also very critical of the old generation and the old ways of doing things. I think OZ captured a lot of that.

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A lot of the early rock n roll looks quite tame now, but at the time it was rebellious. Marijuana enters the picture; people were going off to Morocco and Asia and saying god, smoke this stuff it changes your perspective! It wasn't just Australian and American troops getting killed in Vietnam it was seeing what was happening to people in Vietnam - they weren't the enemies of Australia and it seemed such an odd thing for us to be fighting in. Because there was this boom of young people with a voice and an education. And when offset printing replaced letterpress printing you could then be very visual. I likened it to Bob Dylan going from acoustic to electric guitar. It was amplification, and suddenly this strange thing called a counter culture began to formulate. Then it began to have mainstream allies. The Beatles were very obvious examples of crossover influences. On the one hand they could be on the `Top of the Pops' and on the other hand they could be dropping acid and demonstrating outside the American Embassy in Trafalgar Square.

RR> That's one of the interesting things of the whole idea of the counter culture being embedded within the mainstream culture, whereas nowdays it's still embedded but the mainstream is so acutely aware of how it's affected and it repackages things and absorbs dissent from counter cultures...

RN> That's your greatest problem in a way. Because a lot of people in advertising have all done media courses and communication courses and they're extremely hip to it all. The commodification of dissent is a real problem. Dissent becomes sort of groovy and marketed... I guess that's what that whole Adbusters magazine is trying to deal with on that level. I guess a lot of people of the current generation and state of mind would consider advertising in many ways very amusing and even an artform. There is a lot of interaction between a consumer culture, a conformist culture and a radical culture.

RR> What's your perspective nowdays on the whole commodification of counter cultural terms like `hippie'? What do you think it originally stood for and what do you think it's come to represent?

RN> It's an interesting question that, because whenever I use the term hippie myself it's alsways with a sense of irony about it as well. Very few people who had long hair - even if they'd taken acid or wore tribal necklaces and maybe lived in a squat in Notting Hill - very few would necessarily call themselves Hippies. But the media needed a colourful term to encapsulate all the varieties of protest. So sometimes the term was accepted and sometimes you winced. Language is fluid - it's not a simple rigid category.

RR> And some of the media aware `hippies' or people within that community even branded themselves and subdivided. You had the Yippies...

RN> The best definition of the world Yippie is a Hippie who's been hit on the head by a policeman. And that happened really after Chicago in 1968, which changed everything. << editor's note: The Democratic Political Convention was protested by tens of thousands of politically active youth and brutally beaten back by the cops>> Up until '68 - and not just Chicago because you also had Paris in '68 <<> ... there's a book of mine called Hippy Hippy Shake <<>> which has all the dates and references you need.

Those two events really were the climax of the soft option of the flowers in your hair and the peace and the love and Woodstock and all of that. The reaction of the establishment , to use a term that now sounds corny, was so violent in both cases that you did have parents watching their children being beaten up on tv, and that actually widened support for the counter culture. I mean - the city of Chicago was just running with blood. It was completely extraordinary what happened. Finally, even very straight establishment figures like Walter Cronkite - I'd liken him to Ray Martin, someone like that - they were horrified at what their own government was doing to stifle freedom of speech.

RR> There seems to be so many similarities between what was going on in the 60s and modern youth culture now. Like the Paris and Chicago uprisings in 68 and the 1999 + anti-globalisation protests. There's almost direct parallels except governments now have rebranded their response to become a `War on Terror' and the whole idea of dissent is now anti-patriotic, anti-American, aiding and abetting terrorists etc etc... The governments have one upped a whole generation of protestors by controlling their image, and if they do respond they will still beat them senseless, but now they surpress the media, own the media or don't give a damn because they've so effectively spin doctored public opinion.

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RN> That's one of the key issues, isn't it? At the demonstrations recently in Miami in Florida apparently the violence used against protestors was horrific. Yes, now you can brand anyone who demonstrates as being anti-patriotic. That's a very severe criticism in the States because it's a much more flag waving country than we are. But I would say that it's really important to separate the American people from the American government. I personally find the amount of dissent from US pages on the web quite remarkable. There's hundreds of dissenting sites - from counterpunch.org, which is the intellectual side of dissent, to quite a lot of paranoid ones, but there's definitely extreme dissent and suspicion of the government on the web. But then, a lot of website hosts are being visited; there's a lot of people whos movements are being recorded; and laws like the Patriot Act, which is being revised again, are getting very, very tough. Some people in the States fear that facism is in the air.

RR> Indymedia is, I guess, the best parallel to old underground media - but it's web based, global, has a further reach and allows everyone to publish - everyone is a journalist. Everyone becomes their own media. But one of the things they've said at a conference recently was that in a way they've given up on the idea that any of their voice and their issues will ever be represented in the mainstream media... they've got their own networks ... but...

RN> I think that's exactly the point... That's something to develop and think about... The trouble with Indymedia is that weirdly, it's a closed world. It's a closed circuit. Somewhere, somehow, people in the mainstream media whether it's by direction or by ... I mean not everything is a conspiracy - most people are working so hard just to keep up anyway with what's going on, that there's a complete wall now between Indymedia and mainstream media. And that is one of the differences between now and the 60's.

One of the things about starting OZ in the 60's - we started in `63 in Sydney, was that it almost immediately got a bit of media attention. Even if it was critical it was certainly acknowledged by the mainstream media as a phenomenon and finally when we were prosecuted, they were forced to cover the trial. In London this happened all the time. I could ring up almost any person with a byline on a British newspaper or magazine and get them to write for OZ. And they were really happy to do it. I ended up bloody well having a column in the London Evening Standard called the `Alternative Voice'. So that sort of crossover was quite extensive. Murdoch hadn't grown into this huge mushrooming media fungus of control - that didn't exist. It wasn't one or two huge megacorporations owning everything - that whole nexus from Foxtel and Disney etc... The Australian and Fox media and the London Times - it's all the one voice now. You had a lot of sympathetic, almost rogue or maverick journos who were very happy to crossover between the two mediums, not just with OZ but with other underground papers themselves. Indymedia is in a ghetto and while there is a lot of dissent on the Internet, only people with a propensity to explore will find it.

RR> Well, what do you think the next step is?

RN> Well that's a very good question. I think of figures like Chomsky and Pilger who occasionally kick a door down, don't they?

RR> But they're in a position inside the mainstream where they can kick doors down, too.

RN> Well that's right... But even Pilger has a lot of trouble getting published in Australia, Robert Fisk doesn't get published at all. Pilger's last documentary was shown quite late on SBS. Whereas actually you'd really expect that to be a Four Corners flagship, but it isn't because the ABC's too nervous.

RR> And the mainstream audience is like a walled city to itself and is a market that is constructed as such, saturated by distraction and consumerism. If the masses hold the key how do we get into their locked kingdom?

RN> Well, on one hand you can get quite discouraged, but on the other hand I think we've got to also look at the people who do break the wall down. Isn't Michael Moore a pretty good example? They were within minutes of his last book - Stupid White Men - being pulped, and in the new book he tells the story of what saved it: one bloody librarian that was at a community meeting he spoke at, about the trouble he was having getting his book published. They wanted to hold it up for six months after 9/11 and they were telling him to rewrite it, etc. He just mentioned this to a group of maybe thirty people and one librarian was so shocked she sent emails to other librarians and suddenly all these librarians were starting to email the publisher. And as he says in his book - the last thing a publisher wants, the last terrorist group they want to arouse are librarians! Don't you think that's a hopeful story?

RR> I do - it's like viral networking, using your community to push the message through to other communities.

RN> That's right. But he was really lucky that a) he writes in a very folksy, accessible style, b) that he had a librarian with brains and a network, and that this network was essential to the publisher. And all that worked together. You're not always going to get that - no one in Australian media is going to give a fuck if Robert Fisk ever gets published here or not. And yet he's the world's leading investigative reporter - he's always in Baghdad, he writes for the Independant in London, but he will never get sydicated here. And when you ask someone why he isn't in the Herald they say, well he costs too much.

RR> One of the interesting things you touched on in your book Playpower <> was the whole idea of the positive, life affirming and revolutionary value of play and creativity and unbridled expresion. Nowdays it seems the establishment has eroded the capacity for that to come through again, would you agree?

RN> Well that brings us to the subject of the work ethic. One thing PLAYPOWER got right was the prediction that computers would become of pre-eminent importance. But I thought that computers would actually be liberating people to be not so burdened by toil. But the opposite has happened. A lot of the opinion makers in Australia say that the more American values conquer the world the better the world will be; we have to fight this war because it's a war for American values etc. But what does American values really mean? One American value - Freedom of Speech - is a fantastic one, but that doesn't actually exist in the States right now. It doesn't even exist in Iraq right now. One of the very first things Paul Bremer did when he got to Iraq was to bring in these laws saying that anti-Coalition material couldn't be published. There's absolutely no freedom of speech there. You keep on reading it's great Saddams gone - there's freedom of speech - it's absolute nonsense.

Australia is now a country with less holidays than any other Western country and basically the whole point of it is to consume as much as fast as you can and the whole should be divided between individuals all competing with one another. Now that was not a core value of Australia when I was young. Everyone's working incredibly hard and the thing about working so hard is that that combined with the fact that most people are mortgaged up to the hilt means that no one wants to rock the boat. They're really busy. They're not into play except in the sense of spectator sport. There's this kind of fake play where you sit in a grandstand and get pissed. Passive spectatorism. The French were really good at isolating this with their whole notion of the Spectator society - that we would all turn into these passive spectators. I see the same thing even in American Idol or Australian Idol - not just sport but the whole entertainment industry. The fact is most people are passive spectators and they're getting very emotionally caught up in something which doesn't matter very much.

They're not increasing their human potential. I think people can increase their human potential but they're not by being in a passive situation. So whatever happened to play? Well the rise of the work ethic. The conquest of the work ethic. When you think of other cultures and the idea that real estate has become central to our being - well, there would never have been a revolution in Paris in 1789 if Parisians all had a mortgage. That's why Howard's so popular.

RR> It seems like some of the hotbeds for dissent used to be places like universities - but now they're privatised with private security guards and you pay to get in and you can't risk rocking the boat there, either.

RN> Well exactly. I see that everday. I live pretty close to Sydney University and the incredible mood and intensity on the campus is terrifying because of HECS and the like. To be indebted while you're still a student is a psychological burden. To go to university - let's say it's free or you've got a Commonwealth scholarship, which is piddling, but it's still a completely different experience - you're a free person. I don't think a student in debt today can really be a conessieur of freedom. You are already starting to work out what your career options are even at high school.

RR> You're buying into the system from the start, not being able to challenge it.

RN> Exactly, because it's so competitive. I mean, I left university without a clue what I wanted to do. A proportion of our society are people who make things up as they go along. It gives us our spontaneity, but that's all being robbed because of privatisation and the like. That's another American value. Look at Iraq - as horrible as it was for the majority of its citizens there was free education and free medicine and has that all ended now?

RR> Well if the WTO have anything to say about it it will. It's like we've got all the worst values of America being promoted through the whole empire system, or all the catchphrases, but none of the real values.

RN> And we have less safeguards on our freedom of expression than they do. At least in America you can say things in the public interest and not be sued but we don't have that safeguard in this country. When I'm sometimes doing my website I've got to be a little more careful what I say about Howard and Ruddock then I would be if I was writing it in America. In America you might have the FBI to fear but you wouldn't be able to be sued for it - here you can. So we have limited freedom of speech. And the encrustation onto our soul of American values is terrifying. It seems to have drained people of the ability to improvise and to put their future on the line. We're all much more competitive now, much more into real estate, more materialistic and we have very little time.

RR> It seems like the whole American Dream has narrowed and narrowed until it's not what the original architects intended - and truth and freedom and the pursuit of happiness has gone by the wayside to pursue the material endeavours. The pursuit of material happiness is now the core value of the American hegemony. Whereas the whole counter culture of the 60s was also promoting a more spiritual aspect that's been totally forgotten.

RN> The only way happiness is pursued in modern America is through pharmaceutical drugs. The pursuit of happiness now boils down to Prozac - that's it. It's not a pursuit - it's just a tablet you take so you're not depressed, because you get depressed if you fully face up to the rape and pillage of the planet. Something like 4% of stories in the media are about the environment - an incredibly low percentage. In terms of the spiritual side I think one of the things about the counter culture is that it came to a point where all these kids were getting arrested for smoking a bit of pot. On one occasion we were bombing the agricultural fields of Vietnam on Christmas Eve and the war had become so insane... the CIA were doing this `Phoenix' program where they were aboslutely ... you know... they were disembowelling children - it's quite well known now, but there were all these rumours seeping up, and I think that the counter culture thought that the protests should become more extreme because there seems to be a collective insanity affecting the establishment, so they had to become more outrageous to expose or provoke the insanity.

But there was also a sort of spiritual shift. It was the very first time I'd heard of people starting to meditate or start looking at Buddhism or the Tibetan Book of the Dead or listen to Timothy Leary talk. On one level you'd sometimes think, oh this is all a big wank, especially if you're in a room with a Trotskyite, or some political people and some soul searchers... but in a way I think this customisation of religion is not entirely bad, because it partly underpins the ecological movement. What fundemental Christians basically believe - and we're talking about George Bush, almost certainly Blair, certainly John Howard, is that the bible is true, and that humans are justified to have dominion over the planet and that includes it's species... That's the thrust of fundemental Christianity, which is very much part of the war in the Middle East - and not just Christian but Jewish and Islamic fundementalism.

RR> And again it's all the material things they're trying to control with their so called spiritual agendas...

RN> Well exactly... you want to control all the material goods and you're running all the extractive industries to extract from the planet, and they pay a bit of lip service to pollution and the like, but basically they do whatever they want. But counter to that is this other thing that okay, the world is a living system - you can call it Gaia - and we're not just here to get fat and rich but maybe we have to alter our behaviour, maybe everthing's accelerating so fast we need to work on our capacities, our spiritual, intellectual and emotional capacities. I would even use the word mindshift. Things are happening so quickly and there's such an acceleration of innovation, which is a positive sign, but there's also the acceleration of all the problems, too. So what do you do - do you have a psychotic nervous breakdown - which I think some people are doing. In a way, when Bush talks about us and them , good and evil -

RR> It's schizophrenic...

RN> Yes, it's schizophrenic - it's not a systems thinking response. I think that was the importance of the original counter culture, and in the end, I think it's possible to argue that there are intimations it's returning with a new counter culture. Because in a way the only way you can deal with the absence of certainty and the acceleration of change and the fact that the globe is really a collection of families - is with some sort of mind shift that develops qualities of empathy and seeing the whole picture living in a multiple state of realities. I think that the spiritual quest, despite all the wanking, and despite the New Age psychobabble, is in the positive rather than the negative basket.

RR> Well on that tact, what's your current response to the whole idea of drugs, or sacraments, chemicals or however you want to label them?

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RN> Well I don't really have a problem with them. The only drugs I'm really afraid of once we get over prescribed pharmaceuticals, which is a whole other issue, are the drugs like heroin, which I've never liked. There are definitely some drugs which can cannibalise the soul. And heroin and it's associate drugs are definitely in that category. On the other hand I think that the judicious use of other substances can have a very positive effect. But the danger is there that if you use those drugs with the ethic of Western materialism, ie - more is better, I think there's a danger.

RR> It's still the out of balance Western mindframe driving the vehicle.

RN> Having ecstasy occasionally in a group situation is a lot different than having ecstasy every day. Drugs are not Coca-Cola.

RR> And some would argue that Coke is a dangerous drug in itself. Well what about the idea, and I guess it was fresh back then, that something like acid could open a lot of minds and was a floodgate for a generation to a larger perspective, wheras now it's pigeonholed as just another niche consumable.

RN> Well that's exactly right, you really don't hear anyone talking the way Timothy Leary used to talk about the way acid will change your life forever, about being a tool of total sensory empowerment and the old Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out mantra. I don't think you hear so much sloganeering. There is a danger to that as some people are incapable of using drugs judiciously. You take a risk proselytizing with drugs so some say it's better not to say anything in public so a lot of people don't. But it's absolutely true that now it just seems to be another consumer lifestyle attribute. It's just a device to make the party a bit more fun.

RR> I read on your wesbite a while back about a Rainbow Gathering and how at the end of the article was one quote where you said you were "too old for acid but too young for a nursing home".

RN> Well, I'd stick by that... (laughs) I'd forgotten I was so witty... There's truth in that. What's the interim possibilities?

RR> I guess one of the things with Western culture in general seems to be that it's so egocentric and that some of the psychedelics and some of the plant sacraments are coming back a bit more in the underground, and they have that ego dissolving quality...

RN> Yeah... talking about these issues - and my name's going to be on it in print - I immediately feel so cautious. It's like trying to discuss pedophilia - it's very very dangerous territory. But drawing from my experience I'd say there's definitely, looking back at my life, ways that marijuana has enhanced the lives of a lot of people and widened their horizons. We talked earlier about the roots of the counter culture being rock n roll, the war and censorship, but marijuana was also another root in the fact that it did encourage a lot more collaboration between people and a sense of tolerance towards foreign cultures. And it was a journey of inner exploration. But I would also have to say that for some peoples' lives it was very bad. That paradox now is completely part of the scenery and must be part of the discourse.

RR> Do you think technology has become a modern drug?

RN> I think for a lot of people, yeah. You've only got to look at the relationship between people and their computers and laptops. They're much more in tune with that and spending much more time with them than with their partners. It's no longer just a computer or a source of information. The laptop itself is becoming more globalised and a source of pleasure in terms of downloading movies, sexual gratification when downloading pornography, even love. People use it to meet strangers and go off and marry them when they've never met them in the flesh before. It's not a glorified typewriter anymore. It's moved beyond being the office - it's the office and the bedroom and the house and the shopping mall. When Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein the Doctor created this monster which ran amok and we considered it dangerous. But now we're supposed to marry the monster. I feel like I'm a Filipino bride and the scientists are the marriage brokers!

What's happening is that the walls are coming down between the real and the artifical - or the embrace of the Matrix. On one level you can see a lot of positive things... I've got a friend who was blinded and now with new technologies - both nano and computer technology, he can have his vision restored. There's a lot of health achievements with a high technical skill and genetic manipulation. On the other hand this embrace of the Matrix is rather frightening. In the old days we were all pretty sure - and this would apply to the counter culture, too, we were all like George Bush - we were sure we knew what was right and what was wrong, what was good and what was bad. Things are much more paradoxical now.

I don't believe technology is neutral - I believe it does affect our behaviour. The computer revolution has brought incredible benefits but a lot of it's frightening. There are people right now on MRI machines where their levels of consciousness are being peeled away, because a lot of cognition happens below a conscious level. And they're being tested about their response to brands. The marriage between machine and human kind seems to be imminent and instoppable. And the fruits of that are completely unpredictable. Where it is useful is in facilitating exchange between human beings, as with the web and medical advances. But if you look at the weapons systems that are in the pipeline using this technology - we're going way beyond the Predator drones and they're now assassinating people with robots - from space. The next generation of Boeings, I think the 45T, will be able to fly to a target in say the Middle East, it'll have computer footage on it which it can use to compare with the landscape it's flying over - it can navigate itself. It'll have targeting programs written into it in terms of deciding what targets to drop bombs on it can make those decisions without any recourse to humans.

I was at a Futures Conference a few months ago in San Francisco. There's all these different types of futurists - academics, salesmen looking for a new trend, police futurists etc. I went into the special forces meeting where all personnel had a crewcut and they were wearing fatigues, and their scenarios for war in the future as special forces are absolutely terrifying. They've got miniature aerial vehicles to be held in your hand to be released, as the guy said, to do really mean and nasty things to the enemy.

RR> You've done a lot of work in recent years with futurism. It seems an interesting niche market in that it's so rapidly integrating into the present that it's like the future's disappearing as we're documenting it.

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RN> That's what makes being a futurist so weird. You can almost make up someting in a phone conversation that might happen and then you open the paper an it's happened. Futurism is not really about predicting the future as it is about engaging it and trying to prepare people and help them adapt to it. As events that seem to make no sense happen we try to find the pattern behind them. It's already there.

RR> Everything seems possible.

RN> Everything seems possible which is what's worrying when the special forces conjure up their alternative scenarios... almost by conjuring up - and this is gettinga bit mystical - but they almost come true. The acceleration of the future is a motif of our time. It comes as fast as information does down an optical cable. And also the future is accelerating because of things like Moore's Law and the way Networks expand. But all this acceleration is happening in all the different fields of scientific and technological expertise so it's in astrophysics as well as telecommunications as well as psychopharmacology - it's this incredible exponential growth. Yet our own psychology's not really growing at the same rate.

RR> What's the social impact of time disappearing as everything accelerates?

RN> We're living in a perpetual state of emergency and that hasn't always been true. Every time you buy a piece of technology to save time it actually annhilates that time. So email makes communication quicker on on level but it actually robs you on another. You don't have any extra time because of that and it's much more complicated because you have spam on top of that, etc. We're living in a very dynamic universe and we always have, but now this rapidity is accelerating so we're moving over unfamiliar terrain at night travelling very fast and we need to lift the beams of our headlights upwards. That's a perceptual skill. We have to nourish skills within ourselves to be able to engage the rate of change. That's why I'm a futurist and that's the side of futurism that interests me, not so much predictions of what David Jones will sell next year or how linoleum will change, but how do we avoid future shock, this psychotic reaction that George Bush has of retreating into fundemantalism and us/them and good and bad.

That's not the full agenda, but I think you need a little of that going on as well as saying okay, I'll campaign for the reform of the World Bank, the IMF, democratise the UN etc. I think you've got to fight the battle on many fronts now. You can't just fight it politically or on environmental issues.

RR> What do you forsee for the future of the counter-culture, Richard?

RN> As we talk the world is becoming more militarised. Arms expenditures are increasing, the environment's being denuded, global warming's increasing, the number of resources is diminishing. And we have the peeling away of humane laws. No one takes much notice of international laws anymore - you can have targeted assassinations, you can kill innocent bystanders, you can use depleted uranium. So on the one hand we have this black tableau. It's almost like anarchy mixed with rampant materialism and degrading of the environment. That's the dark picture.

In the bright picture, the conversation you and I are having here is being replicated across the world multiplied by a thousand, maybe even a million. There's the World Social Forum in Mumbai with about 75,000 people - NGOs, radicals, are all coming together to be a counter trend to this main trend. So what I really see is on the one hand you have this dark macro trend and on the other level you have a counter trend which is something the marketers always forget to talk about. There's bubbling about on the Net, NGOs etc, and all these people are beginning to talk to each other, and maybe this counter trend will gather momentum. To every action there's an equally strong reaction. The original counter culture came out of a feeling that on one level it was impossibe to change this whole Western, monolithic culture - Fortress Australia, foreign war, etc. But through conversations, books, information and the reinvention of the underground press partly through the internet - there is at least a fighting chance that an alternative future is really being talked about and devised and conjured up.

I don't go to sleep at night in a state of total despair. A lot of people are really shocked by not just the social injustice, but the gap between the rich and the poor's getting bigger, we have a lot of Orwellian corporatespeak through the media. Quite a lot of people are aware that the mainstream media's not telling the full story. The connievance between mainstream media and the war in Iraq's shocked a lot of people and woken them up about that. There's a lot of environmental warriors, a lot of spiritual warriors - there's a lot of everyday, ordinary Australians just looking for a seachange themselves. When you start seeing yoga mats on sale at K-Mart you know something's changing. Another world is possible.

RR> Another world is happening.

RN> The seeds are sown. The Undergrowth is the first sprouting. So good luck!

This interview first appeared in a truncated form in Undergrowth Magazine #1 - Seed and is presented here in it's entirety.


Rak Razam

Rak Razam is a journalist specialising in underground and counter-culture, spirituality and technology issues.

He has written and edited for magazines and companies including The Age, the Australian newspaper, Eye On, High Times, Tekno Renegade Magazine (TRM), Gizmag.com, EnTrance digital magazine, Paper Free Press, Zavtone (Japan), Dream Creation (UK), Mushroom Magazine (Germany), Sensis (AUS), Bread TV and See advertising. He is currently the gonzo reporter-at-large forAustralian Penthouse and is writing for and co-editing Undergrowth magazine online.

He has interviewed and written about LSD creator Albert Hofmann, the psychedelic movement, the shamans of Peru and ayahuasca culture, Rael of the UFO Raelian religion, Aussie poker champ Joe Hachem, dance festival culture, the marijuana industry, old growth forests and environmental activism, anti-globalisation activists, Australian counter-culturalist writer Richard Neville, electronic musician Ollie Olsen and many other luminaries.

His short stories have been published in Alternative Australia: Celebrating Cultural Diversity (excerpts of which were read on JJJ national radio), FreeNRG: Notes from the Edge of the Dancefloor; Global Eyes Electronic Music Yearbook; The Program.net, the Future Cities Project and his short story collection Psyence Fiction is now available from Undergrowth Publishing and is chocked full of street level science fiction for the turbulent times we live through, so check it out! (www.undergrowth.org/psyence_fiction).

His forthcoming independent documentary on Global Trance Culture - Children of the Sun - will be released one day, God willing, when the editing is finally done....

He is currently writing two books about his experiences in Peru with the indigenous shamans and he subverts the dominant paradigm in his spare time.

 

Homepage: http://www.rakrazam.com View my portfolio at iFreelance.com
Hire Rak Razam for Annual Report Writing/Editing, Web Content Writing/Editing, and White Papers Writing/Editing
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Magickalista

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Darpan Interview by Kathleen Williamson bigk@disinfo.net