Appreciating Imagination (sessions 1 and 2)
1994, Esalen Institute
Well…yes, for example, before drugs were an issue, if we take a subset of the population like white college students, this was without contest one of the most law abiding subsets of the population. White college students are more law abiding than white-stock brokers, or almost any other segment of the population that you can name.
But if you turn cannabis into a schedule one drug, a felony, suddenly, all these people that never felt inspired to descent, never felt the heavy hand of the government are automatically members of a criminal class.
What this does is both radicalize the people so persecuted and in a feedback loop of paranoia, drive the government into a frenzy of trying to penetrate understand and control this minority group.
The idea that states of mind are matters for legal manipulation, it’s amazing that that discussion is even taking place in the democracy founded by Thomas Jefferson.
How does it happen that American conservatism, that used to stand for a free-market economy and a Laissez-faire attitude toward life becomes instead the purveyor of the most Draconian and invasive approach to social management ever conceived of.
What I’m talking about is the piss-test. The idea that any civilization would tolerate that level of invasion into the lives of its citizens and that those who would advocate it would dare to call themselves conservatives, in the whole Marxist episode, nobody was asked to piss in a cup in the Soviet Union or Mao’s China to establish their loyalty to the government or the corporation. And yet that went down here with barely a murmur.
This is a society based on paranoia, I can remember in the 50’s when we were being dinned with the evils of Communism they would tell you, finally they would reach for the most outlandish bummer you can imagine. They would tell you “You know in Russia, children were encouraged to report on their parents if they would criticize the government”
Well my God now, in America if children report on their parents and the parents are dragged away to prison, the mainstream straight people stand up and applaud. This is a wonderful example of the nuclear family functioning at it’s maximum best.
There are numerous examples of this. I don’t know what to say about this, I despair of right-wing, left-wing political solutions. I think everybody is corrupted by the agenda of capitalism that it’s amazing that we have any rights at all left.
I mean thank god for Jefferson, and thank god for the Constitution, I mean every time I go to England it just gives me the absolute willies. These people have no Constitution.
And England is not exactly Kazakhstan, we think of it as a source of democratic ideals.
But it’s just that in the absence of a constitution, what the establishment says the law is, is what the establishment says the law is.
Well first of all let me say that I’m a member in good standing of the ACLU, and they saved my ass in Los Angeles. I don’t really see the contradiction, we can not abandon culture completely. One could. What I mean is it’s perfectly clear to me, because of psychedelics, I started eating mushrooms and didn’t stop. I would in a day or two have to move up to the ridge and I would begin to browse on the local flora, and in a week or so, discard my clothes, and in a year or two my eyebrows would grow down along my face. I would be like the monk on cold mountain.
I could do that, you could do that. Once you find psychedelics, there’s nothing that stands between you and a complete check-out from your cultural heritage.
The only cost to you is the complete abandonment of everything you’ve ever known and loved, and if you can give that up, these monkish people, these fuzzy people, these people who hang out with dragons in the clouds, you could become one of them.
Most spiritual seekers drive whatever spiritual vehicle they’ve rented with their foot on the gas peddle.
Once you get to psychedelics, you begin asking “Where is the brake?”
Because you have now the power to transform yourself, if the search was for power, you’ve found it.
But you see searching for answers is the position of an ingenue, it’s the journey of the fool. What I assume all of you people have to grapple with in different degrees is the fact that by chance, or design, or good fortune, you have found the answer. Seeking is over-with in this room.
But what you have to do now is a much more demanding and grown-up thing. You have to face the answer. You have to take the measure of yourself against the answer.
You said you wanted to ascend into the dragon realms, you said you wanted these spiritual realities to become vivid for you. Now there’s nothing between you and it except the decision to make it happen. And where do you come down on that?
I love things about the culture, I define this loving of things about the culture as a kind of weakness. I’m not proud of the fact that the highest I can get is to teach as Esalen, I’m not at all proud of the fact that that seems to be where I top out. Had I greater courage, I would go further, but…I don’t…(laughter) So I’m hoping that you people, my graduate students as it were, will sacrifice yourself on the pyre of going further.
And report back.
The thing is a paradox, and you either live with the paradox, I think, and that contains a certain amount of hypocrisy, and hypocrisy was a word we used earlier. Or you become so individuated that from the point of view of everybody else you’re mad.
And I’ve been that too.
It’s very hard to do it and remain in society, I don’t think I could have done it, my episodes of madness occurred, thank god, 700 miles up a jungle river in baboon assholia, but had it happened in Manhattan, or something like that, it would have quickly set up ripples that would have inexorably and complicated and made my life much more difficult.