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The Transcendental Object at the End of Time

The Transcendental Object at the End of Time

It is almost as though what the psychedelics are attempting to do for sociology and psychology is what was achieved by quantum physics for matter in the 1920s and '30s. Matter, during that period, was re-analyzed and found to be not tiny hard billiard ball-like particles whizzing through space carrying spin and electric charge. there was another level, a lower layer, and that other level, that other description, revealed an interactive wave system where individual points of concrescence are statistical rather than real. In that domain everything dissolves into a soup of multi-levelled, multi-dimensional connectedness, and this is what the psychedelic experience is.

I believe that one way of thinking about biology is to conceive of it as a chemical strategy for amplifying quantum mechanical indeterminism to such a degree that freedom, true freedom, shimmers into existence at the macrophysical level, the level that we as thinking, suffering, striving, dreaming organisms, actually occupy. The amplification of quantum mechanical indeterminacy that allows for freedom then allows evolutionary processes to reflect the forces which are impinging upon them. Orthodox science hands us a universe in which each event is somehow dependent for its existential completeness upon the moment which came immediately before it.

I believe that we can extract from the psychedelic experience an entirely different notion of time, space and causality. Probably most of us are familiar with the idea that all possible ellipses can be obtained by sectioning a cone. Mathematicians can build up a picture of a cone by examining thousands and thousands of elliptical sections of that cone and then reasoning backward to the higher dimensional object which that cone represents.

I believe that every psychedelic journey is a sectioning of a higher dimensional object of some sort and that we ourselves, in our individual lives, also represent a sectioning of this higher dimensional object. So, then the intellectual quest, the spiritual quest, becomes one of empowering the felt presence of experience, both psychedelic experience and the normal day-to-day experience of living, and noticing that that is the primary stuff of which reality is made. Reality is not make of quarks and mu-mesons and z-particles.

Reality is made of language. Reality is an entirely private matter until we describe it - either linguistically, mathematically, through painting, through dance, through innuendo; whatever it is, reality undergoes the formality of actually occurring when it is languaged. What I've noticed about the psychedelics is that they are catalysts for language, they are enzymes operating in the human body politic propelling us to "stretch the envelope", to stretch the design parameters of the human experience.

I believe that what shamans, including modern cyber-shamans, see when they ascend to the psychedelic heights is the viewpoint that we would have if we could penetrate into another dimension - and I use the word in the mathematically formal sense. Plato said "Time is the moving image of eternity"; what the shaman sees is the end of time, and this gives the shaman a tremendous self-confidence, a tremendous existential validity, so that he or she can then return and take their place among the rest of us and be a source of inspiration. What is the nature of this end which is seen? This is where we part company with orthodoxy.

I suggest that we have entirely misunderstood the character of time. We are not being pushed by the force of causal necessity; we human beings, like the rest of nature, are reacting to the siren song of the transcendental object at the end of time. We are on a collision course with an event for which there is barely language. We are on a collision course with a temporal vortex of some sort. It has become a cliche of modern journalism that time is speeding up, that history is moving faster and faster. I take this perception very seriously, because I take all perception seriously. I would always prefer a direct perception to a theoretical construct, and so I would like to suggest that what is happening on this planet is that time is actually being speeded up. Our species is under the influence of a kind of strange attractor which is moving us through the temporal medium at an ever-accelerating rate.

This is a law of the universe, though not one recognized by science. The early universe immediately after the hypothesized "Big Bang", was an incredibly simple place. There were no organisms, there were no molecules, there were not even atoms, there was only a pure plasma of electrons. As the universe cooled, levels of complexity crystallized out successively, each one building on the previous level of complexity. Eventually the temperature in the universe dropped low enough that electrons could settle into stable orbits around atomic nuclei.

Then you get atomic physics. Those atoms condensed into stars and eventually the temperature and pressure in the center of stars was sufficient to trigger fusion, and heavier elements, like iron, sulphur and carbon, were cooked up in the cores of the stars. Once you have carbon, with its four-valent bonding, you have the possibility of molecular complexity; an entirely new domain of complexification.

Not to belabor the point, but quickly out of molecules come highly complex polymers, out of highly complex polymers come early replicating molecules, from them come prokaryots, the earliest living cells, non-nucleated, then the nucleated cells, the eukaryots, then clusters of colonies of cells, the earliest organisms, then more complex organisms, eventually higher animals. Out of them, binocular, bipedal primates with an opposable thumb. Out of them, language-using, mushrooms-using, orgiastic humans. Out of them, history, cities, warfare, hierarchies, writing, mathematics, music, and in the twentieth century this all knits together into some kind of global organism.

Now, the disgrace of science is that it denies the importance of this phenomenon. For science, the most important phenomenon in the universe is the move toward heat death and entropy. Physicists barely notice that life represents an amazing and persistent exception to the rule that all thermodynamic systems run down. Life has achieved the miracle of a stability far from entropy through the miracle of metabolism. Notice that when complexity emerges out of simpler states, each ascent to the next order occurs more quickly than the process before it. The effect is that of being in a kind of tightening spiral, one of William Butler Yeats's gyres.

We are wrapping ourselves around a cosmic end point of some sort, and this is what I call the transcendental object at the end of time. It beckons across the dimensions, it throws an enormous shadow over the enterprise of human history. This is what drives the guru to make his statement, this is what kindles the messiah to his mission, this is what inspires the painter and the dreamer and the musician.

There is an enormous source of affection and concern for humanity which is calling us toward it, across the plains of lower dimensional time and space, and the miracle is that through perturbing our neurochemistry in ways which shamans have always done we can turn to the last page, as it were, and can see there that the entire process was actually toward a good cause. We are moving toward the most profound event a planetary ecology can encounter. We are about to witness the freeing of life from the chrysalis of matter. This is what our privilege and our destiny is; to be the final generation of people with one foot in the material realm of the battered primate and one foot on the ladder to godhead.

Do I still believe in the apex of novelty in the year 2012? When I talked about the spiral of involution of novelty and the way in which each advance into novelty happens more rapidly, I was not just whistling Dixie. I have a created a mathematical formalism which I chose not to bore you with tonight - and you should be thankful I assure you - which leads me to the conclusion that rather than a big bang at the beginning, 10, 12, 19 billion years ago, a more pleasing cosmology would be what I call "the big surprise", and the big surprise comes not out of a pure vacuum for no reason; the big surprise emerges out of the integration of complexity into one final holographic spin-down of all dimensions into a single point.

I crib from Alfred North Whitehead in forming these ideas; Whitehead had the idea of what he called "concrescence". He said that the universe has an appetition for novelty, an appetite for novelty that moved toward a nexus of concrescence. I suggest that, yes, we are so close to the transcendental object at the end of time that it is going to manifest late in 2012. The reasons for being so specific are too complex to go into here, but a sort of throw-away explanation is that it's the end date of the Mayan calendar.

That's not why I chose it but later after choosing this date I discovered it was the end date of the Mayan calendar. The only thing I have in common with the Maya is that they took mushrooms and I take mushrooms. It's almost as though there is a bar code stamped on the psilocybin experience, when you get it all pieced together, no matter where in time and space you are, there is a vector pointing at the early years of the 21st century as the place where it becomes explicit that we are in a collective process of exponential transformation.

To me it's explicit already. I cannot deal with a city like London or Manhattan without noticing that measured against the background of organic nature, this represents some fantastic mutational phenomenon. Whether it's good, whether it's bad, who knows, but it certainly is peculiar and it certainly is happening very very quickly. That is why it is nonsense to think that you are suspended in a universe which will endure into some unimaginable future.

Each one of us is going to die, rather soon, so why not assume that whatever that transformation is, it will be general, and then prepare to meet it as a collectivity, not the death of the rationalist and the reductionists where we return to worms, but the death of Blake and of Revelations and of the Tao Te Ching and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the death that is victory and the transcendence of matter, that's what death is. What we need now for the good of the planet and for ourselves is somehow to find a doorway into the imagination, that's where the future lies. Our powers have grown too great to be unleashed on the surface of a fragile planet.

In the '60s the spread of LSD was viewed with such alarm by the establishment because it appeared that the machinery of right-thinking, Christian capitalist society was simply being dissolved before the startled eyes of its purveyors by virtue of the fact that so many people were calling into question the assumptions of the culture that they were inheriting. Now we see something similar coming into being. Thirty years after the '60s we appear to be poised on the edge of another youth decade, another decade in which youth will set the social agenda for society at large and attempt to lead us away from some of the more lethal and self-destructive patterns that we seem so addicted to. Why is this happening right at this moment?

I prefer to suppose, rather than arguing rationally about it, that the reason the 20th century has been so repeatedly disrupted or enlivened, depending on your point of view, by these eruptions of the avant garde, the Bohemians, the beatniks, the hippies, the youth culture of today, is because unconsciously we are actually responding to the presence ahead of us in the future of what I call "the transcendental object at the end of time", a kind of strange attractor, a kind of sociological black hole that reaches out to social processes in the act of evolving and puts a certain spin on them and calls them toward itself. The history of the 20th century is not a random walk or a trendless fluctuation, as we are taught in the academy; rather this century is a triumphal march toward the revelation of a transcendental object that lies just beyond its end.

Everytime we take a psychedelic compound, every time we slip into reverie, trance or dream, we form a relationship with it; in mental hyperspace we encounter the long shadow of this transcendental object. It's as though we've been moving along a surface for a long time now, many centuries, and now we are about to undergo a phase transition or fall off the cusp of the phase space, and this falling off the cusp of the phase space is, for those who experience it, a dizzying sense of freedom, a dizzying sense of penetration into a dimension that was previously sensed and dreamed of but which only very briefly and occasionally comes forward to be realized.

It's a golden age, similar to the golden age of Greece or the Renaissance, but for us it has a different character because the transcendental object ahead of us in time seems a kind of concrescence of all our hopes, fears and intuitions about what the future and the evolution of our species could become. This is, I believe, why the UFO has been such a persistent motif in 20th century popular culture. We actually sense on the unconscious level a kind of approach of the end of time, a kind of closing distance between historical societies and some kind of truly mysterious, truly transcendental object that lies ahead of us in the near future.

Returning to the subject of the psychedelics, their role in all of this is that they seem to pick up and amplify the signal coming off this mysterious object hidden in the future so that the contents of psychedelic experiences when laid end to end in a composite give a picture of what this final global integration is going to be like. An integration that is going to emerge as a phenomenon of culture, not out of our cultural artifacts or our technology but out of human organization itself.

We may have imagined many different scenarios, a future of technological and social innovation, but very few of us have imagined the possibility that the real agenda of shamanism would have to be taken seriously. Shamans are people who have learned to penetrate another dimension, a dimension where, for want of a better word, we would have to say the souls of the ancestors are somehow present. It isn't simply that we enter into the realm of the dead, it's more as though we discover that our world is the realm of the dead and that there is a higher dimensional world with greater degrees of freedom, with a greater sense of spontaneity and lesser dependency on the entropic world of matter, and that other universe is attempting to impinge into our own, perhaps to rescue us from our historical dilemma, we don't know.

Perhaps shamans have always had commerce with these magical and invisible worlds and it's only the sad fate of Western human beings to have lost touch with this domain to the point where it comes to us as a kind of a revelation. You see, I believe that the whole fall into history, the whole rise of male dominance and patriarchy can be traced to a broken connection with the living world of the Gaian mind. The living world of the Gaian mind is what shamans access through psychoactive plants, and without psychoactive plants that access comes as no more than an unconfirmable rumor.

The human adventure has always been a flirtation with these gigantic forces in an unseen dimension. This is what sets our religions going, this is what creates gurus and messiahs and scientific breakthroughs, somehow we are in resonance with something much larger than ourselves, something which one could call the great attractor, the transcendental object at the end of time, the Gaian mind. Whatever it is, we, out of all of Nature, seem to have a special relationship to it and seem to be somehow both under its care and involved in its manifestation in 3-dimensional space.

As we make our way across the historical landscape toward the sensed presence of this transcendental other, so it is making its way toward us through the content of dreams, psychedelic experiences and the careers of spiritually advanced people. History, which is a state of extreme instability and disequilibrium, lasts only fifteen or twenty thousand years. That history is about to be transformed or ended, that the factors that shaped history - phonetic alphabets, male dominance, materialism, scientific method, empiricism - these factors are about to be made obsolete by discoveries in the human and natural realm. We, the people of the high-tech civilizations, are like the prodigal son. We made a descent into matter. We have wandered many years in the wilderness.

Now, in a time of great planetary crisis, we must return to the tribal fold. We must take what we learned from our peregrination into history and return to the tribal model with it. Only in that way, then, can we reclaim our sexuality, our identities and reclaim the planet for itself. The styles that have evolved within history, the styles of male dominance, concern for tracing male lines of paternity, private property, control of females and so on, all this has arisen as a result of the establishing and maintaining of the ego.

The ego is the function of the personality that is most at home and at ease within the context of history, but really the ego is like a calcareous tumor that arises within the dynamics of the psyche and lodges like a cancer or a tumor in the structures of the psyche. The only cure or treatment that I am aware of for the calcareous tumor of ego is frequently repeated exposure to psychedelic plants. This is the essence of their boundary-dissolving function, and twelve to twenty thousand years ago the ordinary style of human society was nomadic pastoralism and psychedelic intoxication on a schedule that was very probably lunar. Reclaiming that orgiastic boundaryless style of sexual relating is part of what the archaic revival is about.

I'm the purveyor of a bizarre notion which was told to me by an elf troop. It's a formal mathematical notion that argues very strongly that we are headed toward a planetary transformation within our lifetimes, specifically around 2012, and this is not a political transformation, or a biological transformation, it's a transformation of the laws of physics themselves. The presence of creatures such as ourselves on this planet is an indication of the nearness of what I call the transcendental object at the end of time; it is an attractor, an energy sink in the epigenetic landscape into which we have fallen. The fury of 20th century culture is indicative of our nearness to this globally transformative moment. We are going to shed the monkey; the linguistic being that is symbiotic with these monkeys is about to disentangle itself from matter and realize some kind of angelic transformation very difficult for us to anticipate or understand.


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