Essential Study

If you’re interested in what I would call the baseline from which we leap for the cutting edge, here are essential thinkers, works, and ideas that I consider part of a “psychedelic canon,” currently in no particular order:

Jill Bolte Taylor‘s Stroke of Insight

Jill is a neuroanatomist who had a near-death stroke that shut down the left side of her brain. She recounts the experience in vivid, fascinating, at times excruciating detail. What’s so striking is the understanding of “the flow” that she gained from this experience. It all sounds like a profound drug trip, or the result of a lifetime of meditation. But it’s clear that this woman’s never touched a psychedelic or studied Buddhism. All it took for her was a golf-ball-sized blood clot!

But then I realized, “I’m still alive, and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana.” And I pictured a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres and find this peace.

 Bill Hicks

Hicks was a brilliant comedian who spoke truth about drugs and the nature of life. Terence McKenna’s “Stoned Ape” theory even made it into his routines. Netflix has an excellent documentary on his life and work. Here’s just one YouTube gem:

Terence McKenna

An O.G. psychonaut and techno-shaman. This web site is essentially an attempt to further Terence McKenna’s work in any way I can. McKenna gave us mind-blowing descriptions of the DMT experience. His “Stoned Ape” theory suggests that psychedelic mushrooms were essential in the evolution of self-reflecting humans by stimulating language creation, boundary dissolution, and connection with the divine mother. His Timewave Zero theory suggests that there is a mathematic formula, derived from the I Ching, that predicts novel events in the history of the universe. If it is correct, a moment of “infinite” novelty/complexity will occur in late 2012, coinciding with that whole Mayan calendar thing. He’s all over YouTube; here’s just one where he talks about DMT:

Aldous Huxley

You might know him as the author of Brave New World (full text), but Huxley also wrote the breathtaking Doors of Perception (full text, a quick read). The Doors (yes, namesake of the band) describes Huxley’s experience with mescaline in beautiful detail. It is full of fantastic insights, and was written long before the drug war messed things up for everybody. Just one gem:

[Quoting Dr. C. D. Broad:] “Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge…leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.” According to such a theory, each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this Particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he has been born – the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to the accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it bedevils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things.

Erowid

If you’re considering a psychoactive substance, start here. They’ve got dosage, effects, legal status, and experience reports. The experience vaults are particularly fascinating: for most known substances—and they discuss non-drug experiences as well!—there are vivid first-person descriptions of all sorts of experiences. They push the limits of how language can be used to describe inner reality.

 Alex Grey

Visionary painter. His work is incredible. I’ve experienced visions very similar to some of his paintings.

He’ll be at Burning Man 2012!

Electric Sheep

A distributed computing screensaver that donates your computer’s spare processor cycles to the rendering of morphing fractal sequences, called sheep. You help create the sheep while you watch them. You can also vote for or against sheep; the most popular survive and “mate” with other popular sheep (with mutation and crossover), “evolving” the flock. Brilliant. Open source.



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site says:

The structure for the blog is a tad off in Epiphany. Nevertheless I like your site. I might have to use a normal browser just to enjoy it.

grant says:

Thanks! Hmm, I’m currently using ChaoticSoul, an out-of-the-box WordPress theme. I guess you could bother the creator, Bryan Veloso, about appearance issues.

Out of curiosity, how’d you find this blog? I haven’t publicized it in the slightest…