Chapter 6 - Research With Psychic Pets


I've been doing research on pets as part of my grassroots science project, which we have discussed before [see Chapter 1]. It turns out

that many people have dogs and cats that seem to know when they are coming home. The animal will go to the door, window or gate to wait for them coming home, often ten minutes or more before they arrive. This happens even when they are not expected, and even if they come home at irregular times. Many people have told me that they know when their partner is on the way home because of the behavior of the animal, and often start cooking a meal accordingly.


The pet's anticipation of the arrival of the absent one is often both appreciated, and taken for granted. No one seems to think about it much, beyond assuming that it must be some kind of psychic or telepathic ability.

This kind of behavior is surprisingly common. In most groups of ten or more people I've been in, there's at least one person who has a personal experience of this anticipatory behavior of pets.

Once this phenomenon is brought to consciousness, is turns out to be a widely accepted item of common sense. In Britain, stories about this research have been featured in many newspapers, magazines, ranging from the London Times to Dogs Today, and I have had hundreds of letters from people telling me of the seemingly psychic powers of their pets.

In a BBC radio discussion on this subject, I was confronted with a notoriously witty but hard-bitten panel. I was expecting a sceptical response.


The most formidable of the panellists simply said,

"Well, my dog's been doing it for years." and the others duly added their own stories. His conclusion was: "The only rhing that puzzles me about this behavior is why Dr. Sheldrake feels he needs to prove it."

In many cases, it turns out that the pets are responding when the person sets out from the place they're leaving to go home. In some cases, at my request, people have deliberately randomized the time they set off by tossing coins. And pets can

still respond when the person comes home in an unusual way, for example by bicycle or in a taxi.

So the experiments so far have shown this is probably a real phenomenon, that it's common, and that research on it can be done very cheaply.


What I would like to explore with you are the implications of this behavior by pets.


Ralph: Well, I'm really a fuzzy-minded person and I'm soft on this kind of thing. Nevertheless, I feel skeptical when you say that this is proved. I don't know the details of the experiments that you're referring to, but I have a feeling that when in a room of 30 people there are 5 or 6 who have had this experience, they're not sure that it involves an actual precognition or telepathy. They don't know, because they've had the experience in a casual setting and not in a controlled experimental setting that you're recommending. So I think although controlled experiments might be convincing later on, maybe they're not yet.

Rupert: I'm not saying that it's definitely proved, I'm jumping ahead. One possibility is so boring it's not even worth discussing. This could become another perennially disputed phenomenon like ordinary telepathy. It could be shelved along with parapsychology for another hundred years.

Ralph: Well how is this going to work then, the experiments with pets? Performed repeatedly by high school science groups and pet clubs and individuals and documented with home video tapes and so on - how are the results of these experiments going to be collected and presented in an understandable form to the public and have a chance to achieve their promise?

Rupert: Through magazines, books, radio, TV and the media in general.

Ralph: Will there be a backlash do you think?

Rupert: Well if there is, the media would love it. They love controversy, they love things about pets. The skeptics would be forced into the position of arguing head on. And what could they say in a public debate to defend their position in the face of convincing evidence? Terence: They'd look like fools. Ralph: What we need in order to survive these confrontations are experiments that have been very well done.

Rupert: Yes. And in response to the criticisms of skeptics, the experiments could be improved progressively until all reasonable objections had been met. Meanwhile -

Ralph: Prizes.

Rupert: Yes, prizes for the best experiments. And then a second wave of prizes for the best theory to explain the phenomenon. There would be an open invitation for anyone to put a theory forward. I think a competition for theories would engage a lot of attention and it would mean that there was not one person trying to impose a theory on everyone else. Anyone could have a try. My guess is that most of them would be field theories of one kind or another.

Ralph: Well this is very creative. I feel certain that the World Wide Web will somehow mediate these discoveries and facilitate their dissemination more than magazines.

Rupert: Yes, very possible.

Ralph: You'd have to watch out that the scientific research program is somehow monitored so that it doesn't create an enormous wave of abuse for animals.

Rupert: I think with pets this is very unlikely. And the public nature of this research would act as a healthy restraint on any possible cruelty.

Ralph: I agree with you that this is a sphere in which experiments could be very rewarding, and let's suppose that they are, and then the question is how this could evoke a transformation of science.

Rupert: Yes.

Ralph: Well I think that - this is just a pessimistic view from an optimist - this could be established and become commonplace but not significantly change the paradigm of culture at large, because there is already a huge space for what's called superstition. An incredible variety of things that are denied by science are accepted by people at large, like astrology.


But the scientific community, I think, would resist the proof, no matter how rigorous, because the scientific system is so inflexible, so closed to novelty, that it's essentially a dead end. This is pretty pessimistic, because science can't change and people don't need to change and no matter what is achieved in this most exemplary and promising of all possible experiments and domains, there wouldn't be any change in the world at large. However, for me personally, if I become convinced, or even without being convinced if I take seriously that pets and owners are able to exchange messages over distances, then this is really phenomenal.


It moves along all my ideas. I mean, what this signifies is that everything is interconnected to a much stronger degree than anyone has been willing to admit.

Rupert: Except most people, when they talking about their pets.

Ralph: Well, even if they have convincing experiences with their own pets, they probably cannot stretch to consider the possibility that all pets and people are connected.

Terence: Ralph, I think you make a good point about flexibility of the mass mind and the margin of superstition, but I think you're making the point too strongly. In other words, science is rigid, yes, but it isn't the Kabala. In other words, presented with sufficiently overwhelming evidence, scientists have no choice but to retreat. The word proved is tossed around - the thing is proved when one's enemy retires bloody and whimpering. Then it's proved. And we're not yet at the point where we should be so pessimistic.


In other words, if 5 out of 30 ordinary people are reporting this, and then it turns out that it's actually real for 1 in 300, it could become an overwhelming argument. Quantum physics had to accept electron tunneling because the electrons kept coming through the energy barrier even though the equation said they didn't have enough umph to get through. And so science had to make a place in theory for the utterly miraculous fact that apparently particles can sometimes move through energy barriers with impunity.

But I am skeptical. There are a number of things that went through my mind listening to this. It is certainly true that human beings and the two species that were mentioned, dogs and cats, have been in association for a very long time, in the case of dogs maybe half a million years.

Not domesticated, but in the same environment, predating the same animals, and so on. In the case of dogs and humans, I would wager dogs are a better candidates for this ability than cats. Many cats barely lift their heads when you walk in the front door. But dogs do seem to have this ability. Dogs and cats are social creatures that have evolved complex signals; so are human beings.


They were very similar to us for a long time, but then the signal producing capacity of human beings evolved and the dogs were not really able to follow. It seems to me that behind shamanism is the idea that human and animal consciousness can be very closely intertwined and traded off. It's unproven, but certainly a commonplace of fringe speculation, that in the prehistoric human past, human beings were telepathic with each other. This suggests that early human beings may have been telepathic with their animals, that they may have had a relationship with their animals that precedes what we view as rational.

Having said all that, then I take a different position. When Rupert described the phenomenon and you responded to it, there was a kind of implicit assumption that we understand

how this works. We think we've arrived at the new paradigm, that this phenomenon between pets and their friends is telepathy, that this is the proof of the existence of an invisible field, an influence that links everything together, that in fact if this could be proven it could be the centerpiece of our model for wholeness.


And yet all of that rests on the utterly unproven assumption that we know how the phenomenon works. It could very well be that we have - I've argued this in other dialogues - we have a misapprehension of causality and that the reason the dog knows when you're going to be home is because the dog doesn't exactly live in the same now that has been created by culturally-defined human language. Nature does not exist in the Newtonian now that we exist in. It's much more a wave-mechanical field of consciousness. The past is the trailing edge of the wave, the future is the leading edge of the wave. Plasticity is in the moment.


So that what we might be doing is not proving that telepathy is an invisible connecting web between everything, rather what we might be uncovering is but one more example of how language and cultural boundaries prevent us from correctly appreciating how nature works.

Ralph: We try to map experience into language, but we must admit that in mapping it into language, into a popular process, we strip it of 90% of its meaning.

Terence: For example, when I suggested that this phenomenon might be based on field theory I was suggesting that it would be found to be subject to the inverse square law. These are predictions we can make about those phenomenon if we accept a certain type of describable mechanism. So that's the way to proceed, hypothesize the mechanism, see what cases it mimics, see if those cases apply, further refine, so forth and so on. Then you'll have the outline of a model.

Rupert: My model is that these connections between pets and their owners depend on a morphic field similar to the morphic fields around flocks of birds or around packs of wolves, the fields of social groups. Dogs adopt human beings as honorary members of the pack and form social bonds with them just as wolves do with each other. That's the biological background. These morphic fields connect things together in the present and are sustained by their memory from the past. Morphic fields also contain attractors, which draw organisms towards future states. When people are going home, the home is the at-tractor in their field. Getting home is their goal, their intention, and the dog somehow picks up this change in the field, and knows they are on the way.

Terence: The leading edge of the probabilistic waves of happenstance.

Rupert: Something like that would be my model. But there are already phenomena that this model can't cope with - for example the precognitive powers of pets, apparently foreseeing disasters, giving warnings of earthquakes, and so on. I have received over a dozen letters from people about pets living in London during the Second World War that gave warning to air raids 10 to 20 minutes before the warning sirens went off, so their owners were always first into the air raid shelters. I have even been told of dogs that responded in advance to the approach of the supersonic V2 rockets the Germans were shooting at London. Since these were supersonic, it doesn't seem likely that dogs could have heard them, does it?

Terence: Well these things have a relationship to time, as I'm suggesting.

Rupert: They do. That's why I mention them. They fit your model better than mine.

Ralph: No, no. Terence's model is very compatible with yours. At least if you take the word resonance seriously, thinking of wave motion. The wave motion doesn't happen in instantaneous time. It requires an extended field in space and time. There's a minimum extent where wave motion could even be recognized by another wave motion, so an interlocking of little space-time patterns over a significant region of space and time is implied the minute you use the word resonance, and that's exactly what Terrence is talking about.


All these phenomena have extension in time, that the early part of one extension in time is a wave packet that could interlock with the latter part of another wave and then together construct a kind of a model, and this is probably the simplest way to encompass precognition in the context of morphogenetic fields or morphic resonance.

Rupert: Thank you. This is a breakthrough. I haven't seen how to do that, and it's obvious in retrospect. But then a lot would depend on the frequency of the rhythm. One is a daily rhythm. Daily cycles of sleeping and waking are the basis of a day-to-day resonance, and this could lead to precognitive effects a few hours in advance, maybe a few days in advance. And indeed, most human premonitions, as in dramatic warning dreams about impending plane crashes or other disasters, appear to relate to events minutes, hours or at most a few days in advance.


The same is true of premonitions by pets. But the more distant the premonition, the longer the underlying resonant wavelet, with wavelets of human generations, or of the the rise and fall of empires, and even of vast Gaian cycles like the ice ages. And I suppose these long-term resonances usually claim less attention than the short term.

Terence: That's why you only get one Nostradamus and every dog or cat can tell you what's going on ten minutes in the future.

Ralph: Well this brings up the whole question of morphic wavelets. I don't know if we've discussed morphic wavelets.

Rupert: Not yet, no.

Ralph: Wavelets are a wonderful new way of looking at vibratory phenomena in general and a way that's very compatible with the ideas of fractal geometry. Because you have a basic wavelet that you add together to make big waves, and they differ not just in frequency but also as a matter of scale, sort of an amplitude of scale and so on. This very way of looking gives a mother morphic wavelet which, through changing its scale only, you reproduce smaller and larger morphic wavelets. The addition of these together with different amplitudes as it were makes a big wave pattern.

Rupert: A fractal wave pattern.

Ralph: Well, the very fact that vibrations might be made of wavelets in this way gives a reason why you might expect there to be similarities across scales when you look from the perspective of fractal geometry. So if we have a wave, let's say, a morphic space-time pattern characterizing a thought such as a historical event like a bomber coming, and that wave has a resonance with the mind wave of a pet, and these waves are in a resonance process.


This would probably involve one or two favorite wavelets that are components of the big waves of history. A favorite wave more or less compatible and more resonant, as it were, with the mental vibratory fields of that pet. Therefore there could be some specialist of two-day precognition and another specialist of two-year precognition and so on, that has to do with your wavelet spectrum. Morphic wavelets.

Rupert: But how can there be resonance with waves yet to come?

Ralph: Well, think of a wave packet that's traveling along and it has a certain extension in time and some of them have a bigger extension in time.

Rupert: Like day waves.

Ralph: For example, today's frequency. A day wavelet would be one that an insect that lives for a day would have a great deal of difficulty in making resonance with. They would specialize in the higher frequencies.

Terence: This is essentially exactly how the time wave works.

Ralph: Exactly. That's what I'm saying. I see an overlap in your views here under which I'm now going to fan the flame.

Terence: But Rupert, I wanted to ask you, what does this say about the formative causation phenomenon?

Rupert: The morphic wavelets and so on?

Terence: Communication between animals and their owners.

Rupert: Well, morphic resonance cannot in itself explain how a pet anticipates its owner's return. Pets can respond by going to wait for their owner at the time they set off to come home from many miles away, even at a completely non-routine time. Morphic resonance is primarily an influence from the past, and would play a general role in stabilizing the field or bond between the pet and the owner. But most of the experiments in my Seven Experiments book are primarily to do with the spatial aspects of morphic fields. I now see from the nice way Ralph has put them together that I had been separating too much in my own mind the temporal and the spatial aspects of morphic fields

Terence: Well, all traditions of transcendence and asceticism put a great deal of stock on silence, isolation, contemplation, meditation, and the payoff is supposed to be the ability to access some vast, more complete and spiritually holistic level of nature. Perhaps we have literally fallen out of time and into history.


History is a kind of damming of animal time that exists underneath the aegis of language, spoken language, while the rest of nature abides in a very different dimension, and all the things that are so mysterious to us, that appear to violate causality or action at a distance, these things have to do with the fact that, far more than we realize, we are the victims of a false perception of time created by our languages, our alphabet. I don't know exactly what is causing it, but it is obvious that in nature we are uniquely the prisoners of language.


Ralph: Do you mean that the rest of nature has more time?


Terence: The rest of nature can see its termination in the eschaton.

Rupert: How so?


Terence: Well, Plato said time is the moving image of eternity. Let's change one word and say history is the moving image of biology. We are in history. It's all about process, it's all about where we've been, where we're going, where we are. It's this micro thin sector that's moving through space/time. Meanwhile, we access hyperspace through psychedelics and assume that nature abides outside of history. Don't we?

Rupert: No we don't. We think of nature in evolutionary development, and as having a history revealed by the fossil record.


Terence: Well by our scale it's static. Ultimately you're right. You can't feel the Earth move and yet we know it moves, and I don't think you can feel biology's historicity, even though evolution teachers us it has historicity. But what language reveals is the frantic inner dynamic of ourselves, and immersion in it has caused us to have a profound bifurcation from our interior and exterior experience of time.


Ralph: Well why should language have a function of separating us from history and eternity?


Terence: Because it lies.


Ralph: It has tenses, past, present and future.

Terence: But it's particular. And nature is not particular. You can never understand nature as long as you particularize it, and language cannot do otherwise.

Rupert: But nature is particulate. For example flowers of the lily family have petals arranged in groups of three. The petals, sepals and other parts of flowers are quantized.

Ralph: They're very particulate.

Terence: Now what we're doing here is we're talking fractals.

Ralph: I think this language should somehow be capable of imaging the extension and interconnection of all and everything, but maybe language as it evolves in our context has somehow become impoverished in those metaphors while emphasizing others.

Terence: It has. This is why we're all so attracted to visual technology. Language is an impoverished metaphor. I think we sense that the way out of the language trap is through the image.

Ralph: What about musical experience? It's an antithesis of all this language restriction. Most people listen to music on the radio or on recordings for quite a bit of time every day. And this experience transcends language. We don't have any words for the musical experience and yet we have no trouble. We can recognize songs that we've heard before and so on. And a song can't be recognized from a single note. You need the entire sequence. And that is not an eternity, but a fairly long temporal extension of a song which fits in our cognitive apparatus.

Terence: I think outside of our linguistic programming, sound is light, and light is sound. Somehow inside our linguistic and neurological programming there'd been a bifurcation of this processing,

Ralph: Maybe language was originally like music. You have the song and the lyrics, and then after the song was dropped off by accident you had the lyrics standing by themselves. The vedas were chanted rather than read. I've been reading about the pronunciation of ancient Greek, as reconstructed by classical scholars. It sounds like singing. Greek poetry was orated. Nobody read a poem. It was later on that people got in the habit of silent reading, reading a book without saying anything. So this degeneration of musical language into dumb speech is something very recent in our evolution. There is so much we've forgotten, so difficult to recover.

Terence: That's why an archaic revival is indicated.

Ralph: The song is actually prelinguistic language. A prelinguistic history which is actually linguistic in the sense of communicative music goes way back into Homo erectus prehistory. And when we're talking about the communication between dogs and their owners, then maybe this is about a rediscovery in the deep unconscious of these prelinguistic modes which are the natural modes of the mental field.

Terence: The Australian Aborigines say that one sings the world into existence.

Rupert: Singing doesn't usually play a very explicit part in the relationship between dogs and their owners.

Terence: No, but no human has as much experience with dogs from prehistory as the Australian Aborigines. And they're very much the keepers of this gnosis of a dream time, an alternative dimension outside of history. It's all about modes of time. If you perceive time in this ahistorical mode, then what returns to you is a nature become alive, full of intent, intelligence, and information. If you don't have that view of time nature becomes dead, a resource for exploitation. Don't you think?

Ralph: Oh I think that dogs chant sometimes. They sing to music, they howl at night. Coyotes howl in choruses between different packs all through the night. And it could be with the way we're speaking with our pets it's actually the music that they're getting.

Terence: I recall that Robert Graves tried to make a case that there was a kind of Ursprach, a primary poetic language that could directly address the emotions. That human emotions could be addressed through shamanic poetry. He traced the function of language back deeper and deeper into the function of a poem, and what poetry seeks to evoke.

Rupert: Yes, quite. But what dogs and cats seem to pick up is intentions. They pick up when people are about to go away on holiday even before they've started packing. They pick up when people want to take them to the vet, and will often hide. Dogs often pick up when they're going to be taken for a walk. Dogs can be trained to respond not just to words and whistles, but even to silent, mental commands. Many dogs and cats seem to know when a person they are bonded to has died, even when this happens far away.


They seem to be sensitive to changes in the field that connects them to their people. This field is affected by the activities, emotions and intentions of their people - whether they're coming back or going away, whether they've died, whether they're in pain or trouble, whether they want to play. The animals seem to be picking up not specific messages but rather general changes in the tension of the field...


Ralph: In the mental field.


Rupert: Mental is perhaps not the right word. The field concerned is a social field, interrelating animals to each other, as in a flock of birds, or people and animals, as in the case of pets and their human families.

Terence: It's always said that shamans can talk to the animals and that animals will come to visit a shaman. I've even heard stories of contemporary ayahuasca groups where deer and raccoons would practically overrun the group in the night, come to join the circus.

Ralph: I think when you begin to take these ideas seriously then I'm going to see you become a true vegetarian.

Terence: But Ralph, the most intelligent entities we know are plants.

Rupert: One thing that we haven't explored much are the evolutionary connections between people and animals. Long before animals were domesticated, people were paying close attention to wild animals, if only so they could hunt them more effectively. And long before people appeared on the scene, predator and prey in general must have had a close interrelationship. And their responses to each other must have evolved, and must have been subject to natural selection.

Terence: Human beings occupy an interesting position in all of this because until fairly recently the evidence suggests we were vegetarians, fruit-eating, canopy-living creatures, and then we became omnivores and began to predate small animals. There is no reason why a vegetarian animal should pay any attention to the behavior of other animal species. But for a predator, it's very important to study the behavior of your prey, and that study actually represents a kind of identification with the prey.


This process could have been an impulse toward the evolution of consciousness, the need to model the behavior of other animals mentally in order to obtain them for dinner. A horse, a cow, they don't do that. But certainly hunting animals exhibit what we naively call intelligence.

Ralph: I think there is a reason for vegetarians to communicate carefully with other animal species and that has to do with the competition for resources. We have a tree full of fruit, the mongoose like to eat this fruit, and if they get it first then we won't have any. So we have to know when the mongoose are on their way to steal the fruit.

Terence: But if you were a monkey competing with mongoose for fruit, you wouldn't study the behavior of mongoose, you'd study the fruiting habits of fruit trees.

Ralph: To get there first. But you would still want to know where the competitors are, how far away are they, how much time have you got to harvest the fruit. And if you are a hungry predator, to catch an animal you want to eat, you have to know where it is even though it's not visible.

Terence: It may be that the shamanic link between humans and animals is that consciousness was at first not self-conscious. It was consciousness of others, of food. It's only later that this consciousness moved into a position of self-identity within the psychic structure. The earliest conscious creatures were not conscious that they were conscious. They were conscious that the food was conscious.

Ralph: There's no evolutionary advantage to self-consciousness, is there? What good is it, self-consciousness?

Rupert: One theory is that its origins are social. In intensely-bonded social groups, internalizing the behavior of others, and learning how to predict their moods and behaviors, is of great advantage.

Ralph: So self-consciousness is actually a degenerate form of the consciousness of a flock field.

Rupert: It's a form where you get intense individualized or personalized interactions within the group, as in small groups of eight or so. You have an internalized model of others who be come part of your world. They have an internalized model of you. And through modeling others, you acquire an ability that can later be used to model yourself. It's like what Terence was saying about predators modeling the prey, but it's now modeling other members of the social group, and then modeling one's self.

Terence: But a shaman is the person who has great ability to communicate with animals, even at a distance, because the shaman's chief function is to locate the game. How simple that could be if he could look at the world through the eyes of the prey. A shaman is definitely a specialist in human-animal communication, and in that sense perhaps closer to a prelinguistic state of mind.


So that as the rest of the society socializes, bonds together in tight groups using ordinary speech, the shaman was intoxicated, chanting, communicating with the animals. The shaman exemplifies a more archaic style of being, he's not social. He is rather nearly an animal himself.

Ralph: A vestige.

Terence: A vestige. And a go-between, not only in the world of human beings and souls and dreamers, but between the human world and the animal world.

Rupert: This was certainly true of the only shaman that I've actually ever stayed with, in the Saora tribe in Orissa, India. The village was down in the valley, but he lived at the top of a cliff, where the jungle began. He was often out in the forest trapping animals or just observing them. He lived on the edge; beyond him was the jungle, below him was the village. He was literally at the margin between the two.

Terence: This phenomenon of animal-human interaction is bound to have deep archaic roots. I'm very interested in it as part and parcel of the archaic revival.

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Chapter 7 - Fractals

Ralph: This is an epic in four parts called "Fractals On My Mind."

Part 1. The sandy beach
On the map, we find a firm curve between Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean. But when we go down to the shore, we find a sandy beach. It is the boundary between land and sea, but it is not a firm curve. There is water in the sand, and sand in the water. The more closely we look at the beach, the more indistinction we see. The transition from land to sea is a fractal. It is spatially chaotic. It is Natural. The Milky Way is a sandy beach in the sky. It is Natural also. Nature teaches us fractal geometry and chaos theory.

Part 2. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
Dynamical systems have attractors and basins. Imagine a dynamical system with two attractors, red and green. No matter where you begin, you will be attracted to one attractor or the other. Perform an experiment by choosing a starting position, then following the rules of the system, to find which attractor is your destiny. Color the starting position red or green, depending on the outcome. After a million experiments starting from different positions, the domain is mostly colored red and green. The red region is called the basin of attraction of the red attractor, likewise with the green basin. The domain, colored red and green in this way, is called the basin portrait of the system. Between the red and the green are the basin boundaries, which might be outlined in yellow. The yellow boundaries, in a generic dynamical system, are fractals: a wide, frothy zone, of mixed red and green, like a sandy beach. Or a yellow wood.

Part 3. Fractals in my mind
These two little math lessons are applicable to psychology. Let's imagine, like Kurt Lewin, that a person's mind has its own space. He was the founder of social psychology, and the notion of field theory within psychology generally. The field operated in a mental space, which he called the life space. The mental process was, to him, a dynamical system (the field) working in the life space. Thus, we may regard the multiple attractors and basins of the psychological field as the stable states of the mind. I am suggesting that in a normal psyche, the basin boundaries are thick fractals, which permit a kind of porosity between these components of the psyche, and thus, integration. But in another mind, the basin boundaries may be like concrete walls or iron curtains. This is a dynamical model for multiple personality syndrome: the sandy beach model. From the perspective of this model, the pathology comes from the poverty of chaos in the basin boundaries, and thus I call it MPD, for multiple personality dischaos. If we were therapists, we could try to devise a treatment to increase the fractal dimension of basin boundaries, based on chaos theory and fractal geometry, which are new branches of post-Euclidean math.

Part 4. Fractals in the world soul
Rather than going on with individual psychology here, I want to look at the mind of the whole enchilada from this point of view. The collective conscious and unconscious of our society is a massively complex system, which Kurt Lewin also described in the paradigm of life fields. Chaos theory suggests a sandy beach model for this massive system also. Thus, boundaries which are too firm (iron curtains) may be involved in world problems, and could be treated with therapies informed by the new math. Chaos and cosmos must be properly balanced for a healthy social system.

Rupert: I'd like to try and summarize, Ralph, what you said, and see if I can add to it.

Personalities - and of course social relationships and international relations and the behavior of different groups of pigeons - fall into different basins, and we can visualize this as a landscape containing different valleys. If something's in a particular region, the ball will roll down in a particular valley.

Each of these basins represents a different kind of sub-personality. Within a marital relationship, each of the basins represents what we'd normally call a personality, each of which has sub-personalities within it. You pointed out that personalities are made up of different sub-personalities, which is currently a very fashionable view.


Everyone's talking about sub-personalities. For example, the Jungian psychologist James Hillman says we need a polytheistic psychology, where all the different gods and goddesses not only represent the archetypes, but they are real in some sense; we're possessed by different ones at different times. We're not a single personality with different functions, but a kind of emulsion of a number of different personalities. There's a multiple personality craze in America, where people are fascinated not only by serial killers, but by multiple-personality serial killers. Everywhere we find these multiple models, of which yours is one.


All of them seem to be saying that we must get away from monotheism, which is reflected in psychology by the idea of the central, dominating ego. We've got to build more democratic models where you have a kind of grassroots democracy, with all these different personalities.

A second point you seem to be making is that the boundary between these different basins is not a straight line or a rigid wall but rather a fractal boundary, namely one that has many ins and outs and curves and filigrees and patterns. With that kind of boundary, moving from one basin to another is very easy because you never quite know where you are and can cross boundaries without realizing it, whereas a rigid wall makes it difficult to get from one to the other.

I'd like to take up the idea of the plurality of models. Terence's model is monotheistic, in that he has a single Eschaton, and this takes us immediately to the polytheism versus monotheism argument. My view of polytheism is that in all its actual existing forms, it is not in fact radical polytheism. It involves a plurality with some overarching unity beyond it.


My question to you is, are you advocating a radical polytheism, and denying an overarching unity?

Ralph: No. My main message has to do with the rigidity of boundaries in between things. I think that everybody would agree that there is plurality in religion, in life, in the mind, in the stream, in the sky, and so on. What's important is the rigidity of the boundaries in between these things. If you worship in the Shiva temple is it okay to go to the Rama temple? Do you have to be faithful to one god and never admit the existence of others? This is a denial of something that's obvious even to children, and it inevitably brings about a disintegration of the personality.

In this religious or mythological context it's appropriate to think of Shiva and concepts of that sort as attractors. There are multiple attractors. Considering the population of the planet through all times, there's zillions of attractors, and some people have visited one and other people have visited two or three and so on.


An openness to all attractors, I guess I would say, is some kind of prerequisite for the stability and longevity of a culture, or the health of an individual. This idea is based on a cosmology in which the stream has the same morphology as the heavens, which have the same morphology as some abstract mathematical object. Under the ambience of this idea, our experience of nature is that rigid walls are very unstable.

Rupert: They're not that unstable. Our own skin, for example, has pores in it and is not absolutely smooth. Nevertheless, it forms a clear functional boundary, and everywhere you look in biology you find functional boundaries. There's a cell membrane around each cell. It's not an infinitely permeable boundary.

Ralph: It has little holes in it with pumps which are designed for particular things in the environment. The permeability is, as it were, part of a structure that's rigidly connected with that species. If these holes were plugged up then of course the cell would instantly die.

Rupert: Of course, you're not denying the importance of boundaries. Your whole model is based on boundaries, isn't it?

Ralph: That's right. It has to do with their crookedness.

Rupert: Their crookedness is the mathematical model for their permeability.

Ralph: Yes.

Terence: It seems extraordinarily arcane. Nature is fractal. This is a new discovery, and it's a very powerful insight, but it doesn't wipe out some of our previous accomplishments; I'm thinking of all the work that was done to show that these systems are also hierarchical. Without tossing the baby out with the bath water, it might be better to say it's fractal and hierarchical.


We're back to Whitehead's notion of certain stubborn facts that are, I suppose, like raisins of resistance embedded in this fractal ocean of infinite permeability. I think above all these psycho-boundaries and membranes there's ultimately a frame that is all-inclusive and defined. The form of monotheism I've probably fallen under the sway of, is some kind of neoplatonic pyramid of ever-ascending abstract hypothetizations that leads into the One. If what we mean by the Eschaton is the absence of boundaries, then what we're saying is that the fractalization of reality occurs ultimately on such fine scales that from the point of view of the perceiver, the boundaries have dissolved completely.


Or the boundary and the thing bound have become so homogenized that it no longer makes sense to speak of boundary and medium. I picture it as a kind of extremely mar-bleized liquid or surface where every domain can be found to be lying next to a mutually exclusive other domain, rather like the kinds of diagrams you get when you carry out four-color mapping problems to fourth and fifth stages of resolution.


You have these extraordinarily complicated structures where every point lies next to the boundary that separates it from points that have been somehow defined as other. I'm not sure that we have any disagreement here.

Ralph: What we've got here in your description is a speculation built upon a speculation built upon a speculation and coming eventually from some kind of absolute and pure faith. The One, to Plotinus,1 was something that you could explore toward, but not actually arrive at. We have to understand, on the testimony of these early experts, that The One is an article of faith, and even the best traveling shaman has only been so far.


The assumption of the existence of The One, beyond this, is pure faithful monotheism at its best. God is called "The One" to make sure that you don't think perhaps it's Two. I agree with your idea that cosmos is hierarchical. I don't even care if it has a finite number of layers or an infinite number.


However, the wildest shaman has traveled and seen only another image, maybe more complex, of what we see in ordinary reality and nature. There are multiple basins, there are Fractal boundaries, there are many possibilities, different regions, complexity, where harmony is hierarchically organized, and we've never gotten to the top.


Therefore, to say it's one, or two, or three can only be an article of faith, not an extrapolation from observation, normal or arcane. We're talking about pure faith. When you get to the top frame, I don't see any reason why it shouldn't have two basins, separated by a fractal.

Terence: My understanding of fractals is that they are a kind of homogenization of levels not present, domains distant, and that the idea is if you have a sufficient sample of the Fractal, not very large, you can in fact extrapolate the contours of the entire system. Therefore it isn't necessary to send the shaman or mathematician for a total overview. The cosmological principle can be extrapolated from local measurement and local physics.

Ralph: Without an article of faith, you can't get a cosmological principle. We don't have any evidence from the boundaries of space.

Terence: Isn't the idea that fractals are a kind of holographic plan that recurs on many levels, always following the same pattern? If you have ten levels and you know the pattern on 2 through 7, you also know the pattern on 1, 8, 9 and 10.

Ralph: Few fractals in nature have that property, which is a special property of self-similar Fractals which are like integers within the field of all real numbers. They are exceptional. Mostly it just means you have two basins, red and green, and their boundary is kind of stirred up so wherever you are you're within one millimeter of each side, or even a tenth of a millimeter of each side.

Terence: Well, I've limited my model building to the use of self-similar fractals. My model of the Eschaton, at least on a mathematical level, is self-similar.

Ralph: Let me tell you about the Wada principle. If you have three basins fractally entwined, then wherever you are in the sandy beach, you're not only within one millimeter of the red and green, but the yellow one is there also. That means, if you travel as a shaman and you see this pattern at the end of time, and there's any blur in your vision, anything slightly human remaining in your travel, you might see it as one, even though it isn't. You would mistakenly see it as a blur of the three colors into a kind of gray Eschaton.

Rupert: In some circles this is known as the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Theological attempts to deal with this problem have led to a variety of models where you have the idea that the ultimate is not an undifferentiated unity but rather a pattern of relationships. In the Taoist model you have the Yin and the Yang with a kind of fractal boundary between them. The circle containing the two is the whole that unifies them. In the model of the Holy Trinity, the Father is the source of the Word and the Spirit. The underlying metaphor is speaking.


The spirit is the breath on which the word can happen, as you breathe out. The spoken word is a pattern of vibrations and harmonics that's probably some kind of fractal pattern in time. It would be hard to say which is the breath and which is the sounds, and how you can separate the vibration from the sounds. This would seem to be the kind of model, in another form, that you have in mind. The unity comes from the sense of interrelationship and common source.

All these models of an ultimate unity are models of a relationship which something holds together. The hidden agenda behind your fractal model is that although you can't see unity within them, the hidden unity behind it all is the mathematics governing the fractals. For most mathematicians, these mathematical structures exist in some kind of Platonic realm beyond space and time, even if it's only in the imagination of mathematicians.


There's some kind of hidden unity containing the diversity, and somehow generating it. I would say the unity is implicit in any mathematical model in the hidden mathematical object behind the manifested pattern.

Ralph: It still makes a difference if you fly to the home roost where your mate is, or you fly to the mobile loft where there's just this army captain waiting to give you your food. I think my point is not so much about the multiplicity or unity. I agree that everything is unified at some level. The point is more about the boundaries.


If you have a dynamical system with different basins and they have fractal boundaries then, as a matter of fact, no matter how you perceive it, no matter what experiment you do, you will perceive unity. When you don't perceive unity is in the pathological case where you've erected an iron curtain. If you have iron curtains, then unity essentially has been defeated by the disease of dischaos. Therefore, when we see this in nature, in history, in social systems, in ourselves, we have to beware of these iron curtains, because they create an unnecessarily multiple situation.

Here we've expressed a yearning for a peaceful state beyond language. If you practice chanting, meditations and so on, then you are intentionally increasing the fractality of the boundaries, and therefore the integration of the parts into a unity. If unity is your goal, then you have to examine the fractal width of all your boundaries, and guard against boundaries that are too thin.

Rupert: How do you fractalize your boundaries? Can you give a personal example?

Ralph: In the emerging science of neural nets this is called annealing. One thing you can do is take a psychedelic. Another thing you can do is go to a culture that's really different from your own and stay there for seven years on a farm or something. If you have a mate of any gender, you're certainly in a more chaotic situation. These two-person units definitely have diseases, and few of them survive these days. I'm making a suggestion here as to what's the trouble, and I'm suggesting a strategy, a kind of a therapeutic technique. People are trying out this idea, by the way, for therapy in relationships.

Rupert: Can you give an example of how the fractalization of boundaries would work therapeutically in a relationship?

Ralph: First of all there's a diagnostic phase, in which the therapist is trained in chaos theory instead of Freudian theory. When a boundary has been detected with a pathologically low dimension or thickness, a therapy is devised especially for it, consisting of some carefully safeguarded experiments in violating the boundary, or mixing boundaries. One common strategy involves play in a sandbox. You've seen this. The therapist's office has all these toys that return the client to preverbal mode of expression. I'm not a therapist, but I think an advancing theory is helpful in devising therapies.

In the United States people are getting together in small groups for self therapy, because they feel that a therapist not having multiple personality dischaos has no idea really what's going on. These groups studying chaos theory have devised a kind of therapeutic psychodrama, which they write, direct, and perform in public, in cities around the United States. There's a network of these that base their approach on my paper on multiple personality dischaos.2


I can give you a report next year on how these experiments work out.


Some therapists believe that they may be fatal and that I should be imprisoned, but the patients themselves are very enthusiastic. They're really having a wonderful time. Depression is a really serious condition. If a therapy was devised that cured bipolar personality dischaos without drugs, a lot of people would be helped.

Rupert: The psychodrama is designed to break down boundaries, rigid boundaries?

Ralph: To increase their fractal dimension.

Terence: Given what you've said about the goals of this therapy, wouldn't it just be simpler to give these people psychedelics?

Ralph: I've personally had good results with psychedelics, but I'm not sure everyone would. It would be nice if we had several alternative strategies, some of which could be done on a Sunday evening, where you still feel okay about going to work on Monday morning. Like vitamin pills.

Terence: Since you've had such good luck with psychedelics, why are you so reluctant to advocate it?

Ralph: I have been advocating, or at least if not advocating, confessing in public that for me there have been very good results with psychedelics. I've quite recently had a certain amount of hostile mail and telephone calls; even people coming to the university to hasten my demise. They seem to think that psychedelics are drugs. There's also the aspect of legality, where many people are in jail with 20, 30 and 40year jail sentences. I think that the atmosphere of paranoia in the world today might even make psychedelics much less effective as medicine for dischaos.

Terence: If the paranoia and legal barriers were removed, it sounds like you're advocating something fairly close to what Salvador Roquet's school settled into.

Ralph: I don't know Salvador Roquet.

Terence: He was a psychotherapist who worked in Mexico for many years, who gives people psychedelics. Then he showed them Auschwitz footage and very highly charged emotional material, the idea being to reduce them to an absolutely basic jelly of dissolved boundaries.


Ralph: It sounds disgusting.

Terence: I agree. I'm trying to find out how what you're advocating is different.

Ralph: It takes only very subtle medicine to decrease rigid walls. Even the very idea of it may be enough, as a matter of fact. That's the therapy idea. Once consciousness is adjusted so that sensitivity to your own process actually observes these things and considers them undesirable, they automatically begin to disappear under the self-created action of one's own psyche. After all, nature is playing a part, and mathematical necessity reveals itself in the Milky Way, the sandy beach, and the human psyche as well. There's a tendency toward help.


These diseases of rigid barriers, like other diseases, exist primarily in the rejection of the cure, and the cure can be found within. One has to realize, when people suffer this disease, which is essentially universal, it's inherited from a culture which has the disease itself. The cure consists of identifying the difficulty as essentially a cultural pattern, and then disowning it by becoming more of an expatriate of our own culture.


That's why visiting another culture and living there for a few months or years is sometimes enough to liberate people from rigid patterns.

Terence: This comes very close to the 19th century prescription for most emotional difficulties of a few months at the seashore, in Italy preferably. In both cases you want to establish a new environmental attitude through distance from cultural values, either achieved through journeys with drugs or journeys to foreign lands.


Ralph: A walk in the woods is perhaps all it takes.


Terence: It's a search for perspective, achieved by distancing.


Ralph: A kind of mathematical perspective. Our culture has suffered this particular disease over a mere span of 6,000 years. That's all we have to recover from.


Terence: The particular disease being boundary anxiety?


Ralph: Patriarchal, monotheistic, hierarchical, misunderstood...


Terence: Constipated, linear...


Rupert: Is there any culture that has managed to avoid dischaos?


Ralph: I think so, but I don't have direct experience of aboriginal cultures. The culture we live in has by now covered the entire globe, and the exceptions are near to extinction. Anthropologists used to study wild tribes before they were contacted by the civilizations now dominating the entire sphere. Unfortunately, civilization arrived in the form of these anthropologists, and this was the kiss of death for those cultures.


Terence: This is a theme near and dear to me. Certainly, in living Amazon cultures, one of the hardest things for a "civilized" person to put up with is the fact that there are no boundaries. Everybody lives in a grand house without walls. Defecation, sexuality, death, domestic hassling, disciplining of children, everything goes on in the presence of everyone else and no one from age 6 to 90 feels any constraint whatsoever about making comments, suggestions, and offering free advice. It's a hard thing to embrace, even with the knowledge that it's going to be good for you.

Ralph: There are degrees of boundaries. I think the permeability of boundaries is important, and our culture has devoted excess attention to the walled fortress, necessitated by the violence some people would associate with the patriarchy. For whatever reason there's been a necessity of Bauhaus concrete walls around the town, locks on the doors and houses, electronic motion detectors, video cameras at the bank card machine, and so on. Perhaps, as there's an increase of complexity in our culture, as we approach the Eschaton, there's an accompanying decrease as fractality actually vanishes at an alarming rate. This is what's meant by "the death of nature."

Rupert: Ralph, when I last visited your house in Santa Cruz, I noticed a rigid, straight fence dividing your property from your undesirable neighbors, who have motorcycle scrambles on their land and make a terrible noise.

Ralph: Boys with guns, that's right.

Rupert: What we need here is a new product, the fractal fence, which would go down very well in California, some kind of fractal boundary, instead of old style posts with barbed wire.


Ralph: Mazes where people can get lost if they try to pass.


Rupert: Except that, with the slightest gust of wind or unpredicted chaotic event, these motorcycles would suddenly zoom past your front door.



1 Plotinus, The Enneads, trans. by S. MacKenna (London: Faber, 1956).

2 Ralph Abraham, Erodynamics and the dischaotic personality, in: Chaos Theory in Psychobgy, F.D. Abraham and A.R. Gilgen, eds. (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1995).]

Back to Contents




Chapter 8 - Time

Terence: The subject for this trialogue is near and dear to my heart, you might even say it has my initials on it. I'm very interested in time, the largest frames into which phenomena can be fitted, and the various ways in which we can view our humanness when we change the way we look at time. What orthodoxy teaches about time is that for reasons impossible to conceive, the universe sprang from utter nothingness in a single moment.


Notice that this idea is the limit test for credulity. If you can believe this, then you can believe anything. It's impossible to conceive of something more unlikely, yet this is where science begins its so-called rational tale of the unfolding of the phenomenal universe. It's almost as if science said, "Give me one free miracle, and from there the entire thing will proceed with a seamless, causal explanation."

There's an aspect to the phenomenal universe that impinges on anyone who undertakes to examine it, that isn't given any weight whatsoever by science. When we look at the span of time that stretches from the big bang to the present moment, it's very clear that complexity has aggregated toward the nearer end of this process, the dimension in which we find ourselves.


For example, the early universe was very hot, and only a kind of electron plasma could exist. By cooling, complexity appears, and each successive advance into complexity occurs much faster than the stage that precedes it. I'll move through this very quickly because what I want to concentrate on is what I call the "short epochs." The first billion years of the life of the universe was an extraordinarily boring and empty period. Atomic systems were forming, and the simplest elements were aggregating into stars. T


his permitted fusion, the cooking out of heavier elements, and after a long period of time, the appearance of four-valent carbon, which permits a whole new set of properties to emerge, including ultimately, life. My terminology is largely drawn from Alfred North Whitehead, a great unsung hero of British 20th century philosophy. He had a notion of a progression of epochs leading toward what he called "concrescence."

I've taken his notion of concrescence and attempted to construct a terminal cosmology that literally stands on its head the scientific explanation of the origin of the universe. I don't believe the universe is the push outward into substantial existence by primal explosion. I believe the universe is being pulled and shaped into an ever more complexified and concrescent entity that is in fact a transcendental attractor located in the future. It's transcendental in the sense of residing in a higher dimension than ordinary space, and in the feeling/tone sense in which we ordinarily use the term "transcendental."

This idea is basically Catholicism with the chrome stripped off. It restates Teilhard de Chardin's idea of the Omega Point, the Telos attracting and drawing history into itself. What I'm interested to consider is that most delicate of all questions in prophetic systems of this sort: What is the role of humanity in all of this?


Science evades this issue by setting us down somewhere between the big bang and the heat death of the universe, imagined millions of years in the future. Science completely marginalizes human experience. We are told that we live on a typical planet around a typical star at the edge of a typical galaxy, and that we are animals of a complex type, easily identified with other typical forms. My notion is to take seriously the apparent vectoring in of universal intent on the human world and at the same time try to keep away from the pitfalls of religion.

I think that history is the shockwave of eschatology. This is a concept we've not sufficiently entertained, but which we will be forced to entertain as the planetary crisis created by modernity builds toward some kind of climax. What I mean by saying history is the shockwave of eschatology is something like this: If this planet were a planet of hummingbirds, woodchucks, giraffes and grasslands, then Darwinian mechanics as modified by molecular biology would be sufficient to explain what's going on.


The fly in the ointment of that simple schema is ourselves. We represent some other order of existence. My notion is that out of the broad moving stream of animal evolution, a species was selected, or fell victim to - the terminology can vary - the influence of an attractor pulling in the direction of symbolic activity. This is what we've been involved in through chant, magic, theater, dance, poetry, religion, science, politics, and cognitive pursuit of all kinds, occupying, for all practical purposes, less than 25,000 years; a blink of an eye on the cosmic scale. This is the shockwave which precedes eschatology. An analogy can be seen in the undisturbed surface of a pond. If the pond begins to churn, it indicates some protean form moving beneath the surface, about to make its presence visible.


This is the appearance of history on the surface of nature, a churning anticipation of the emergence of the concrescence, or the transcendental object at the end of time. It's been anathema to discuss this in secular society, even as a part of "New Age" secularism, because it's always been the province of beastly priests and their hideously hierarchical and constipated religions. Decent people have tended to turn away from it.

In fact, this is some kind of primary intuition about our actual circumstance. The reason it's important is because we now are in a situation of planetary crisis, where you don't have to be an enthusiast for Whiteheadian metaphysics or psilocybin, or the more arcane metaphors of Terence McKenna, to realize that we are approaching our limits. It's inconceivable to speak of 500 years in the human future. History is a self-consuming process, and all we need do at this point is extrapolate any of a number of curves.


Here are some of my favorites: The spread of epidemic, sexually transmitted diseases, the proliferation of thermonuclear weapons, the dissolution of atmospheric ozone, the rise in world population. When these curves are extrapolated, it's very clear that we've taken business as usual off the menu. Rather than seeing this as a situation driven by the momentum of bad historical decisions, I'd prefer to believe that what we're witnessing is something like a birth; something that's built into the laws of physics.


We are literally on a collision course with an object that we cannot precisely discern, lying just below the event horizon of rational apprehendability; nevertheless, our cultural east is streaked with the blush of rosy dawn. What it portends, I think, is an end to our fall, to our sojourn in matter, and to our separateness.


It lies now so close to us in historical time, by virtue of our having collapsed our options in three-dimensional space, that you need only close your eyes, have a dream, take a shamanic hallucinogen, practice yoga, and there you will see it. It's an attractor which has been working on the species for at least a million years. I maintain that it is actually a universal attractor, and we represent a concrescence of complexity that is truly transcendental.

James Joyce said, "If you want to be phoenix, come and be parked, up ne'ant prospector, you spout all your worth, and woof your wings, the end is nearer than you might wish to be congealed."1 I'm carrying this same notion, because I think that otherwise we're going to be victimized by an enormous pessimism arising out of the bankruptcy of science, positivism, and ordinary politics. The ride to the end of history is going to be a white-knuckled experience.


I offer this metaphor in the hope that it may make the trip to the transcendental object, glittering at the end of time, an easier ride.

Rupert: Thank you. I'd like to know what you mean by "Eschaton."

Terence: Ah yes, let me fill in the footnotes. The Greek word eschatos refers to the last things, the final things. The Eschaton is a neutral way of naming what some call the Buddha Maitreya, some people call it the UFO intervention at the end of history, and some call it the second coming.


It's the last thing; the Eschaton.


What I think is happening is that all boundaries are dissolving; between men and women, between society and nature, and ultimately the boundaries between life and death. We are going truly beyond ambiguity, beyond syntax. We've been trapped in a kind of demonic simulacrum for 25,000 years, created out of language.


Now the accelerating process of involuted connectedness characterizing this Whiteheadian progression of epochs toward the concrescence, is in fact being fulfilled.

Ralph: This sounds a little more optimistic than I've heard you before. You've accepted the big bang fantasy of science, and then reflected it into a similar event coming in the near future, about which you're concerned with the "when." You haven't mentioned the date this time.

Terence: I thought we could undertake a sort of generalized discussion of the assumptions that come out of this kind of thinking.

Ralph: For the first time I've heard you describe this forthcoming event as a birth. This optimistic event is interpreted by you as an Eschaton. This is a myth made real, like the Christmas tree, where the events of history are kind of pasted on. As the tree shapes to a point at the top, you've drawn history around it, in an ascending spiral that ends at the point where they put the star. I think history can be wound on the form of this myth in a lot of different ways. You start with an assumption that's very symmetric and identical to the scientific myth of the birth of the universe.

This puts me in mind of the history of history, where the concept of time in different cultures suits different models, of which there are only a few. There's the bang to bang model, which you share with Teilhard de Chardin. There's the infinite linear progress model, which is pretty much discredited now by everyone. There's the reflection model, where a cycle is completed and then repeats from the beginning in a cycle of epochs which may be never ending.


There's the Kurt Godel 2 model, in which time goes forward and encloses on itself by going around a torus and coming back. Many ancient societies shared this model, where it was understood in a way that's similar to our theory of homing pigeons, that every action we are doing today will be repeated again another day. These different models for history are essentially mythical structures; that is, no scientific evidence can be given to distinguish one from other. They start on the basis of belief.

Now that we have archeology and cultural history, we know there are different models of time, historically, and that they fit into certain patterns. By and large it's thought that they guide us through the evolution of culture itself. In other words, if it's not true that tomorrow is already determined, then we just have to do a good job to follow our dream today.


If it's possible that what we do, think, or say affects the future, then it's important which historical model we choose, because the myth itself guides action, determines evolution, and influences to a degree the outcome. I don't see, though, even accepting the Christmas tree model, why the point with the star should be a birth or a death, or anything other than a simple cultural transformation, more or less presaged by a shockwave at the end of this epoch.


Why couldn't it be just a simple social transformation like the Renaissance?

Terence: Because the planet can't bring forth the birth of new societies. We've come to the end of our road in birthing new models of community. Wouldn't you agree that when we look back over the whole history of life as known to us, it appears to be some kind of strategy for the conquest of dimensionality? The earliest forms of life were fixed slimes of some sort.


Then you get very early motility, but no sense organs, where organisms literally feel their way from one point of perception to another. Then comes sequestering of light-sensitive pigment upon the outer membrane, and the notion of a gradient between here and there appears. Then for a long, long time there's the coordination of backbones, skeletons, binocular vision and so forth. Then, with human beings some fundamental boundary is crossed, ending the conquest of terrestrial space, and beginning the conquest of time, first through memory and strategic triangulation of data out of memory, and then the invention of epigenetic coding, writing, and electronic databases.


There's an ever more deep and thorough spreading out into time. In this Eschatonic transition that I'm talking about, the deployed world of three-dimensional space shrinks to the point where all points are cotangent. We literally enter hyperspace, and it's no longer a metaphorical hyperspace. What we're saying is, this transition from one dimension of existence to another is the continuation of a universal program of self-extension and transcendence that can be traced back to the earliest and most primitive kind of protoplasm.

Ralph: Isn't this a fancy way of saying we're running out of time?

Terence: Yes. Time is speeding up. There isn't much left. Someone said time is God's way of keeping everything from happening all at once. My notion is that we are caught - the transcendental attractor is a kind of black hole, and we've fallen into its basin of attraction. Now we're circling ever faster, ever deeper, as we approach the singularity, called the Eschaton. All of this exceeds rational apprehendability. It lies outside the framework of possible description. We're on a collision course with the unspeakable. Contrasted with other animal life, we've been selected out for a very peculiar metamorphosis via information and the conquest of dimensions, to become something completely other; a new ontological order of being.

Ralph: It's too early to tell. Everything has accelerated on one hand. The population explosion, the destruction of the biosphere, the complexity and rate, the seriousness and irreversibility of all this is climaxing. Meanwhile, we have language, this 25,000, 60,000, or at most 100,000 year old artifact. We've developed such things as agriculture and the urban revolution. We have automobiles and airplanes and computers hooking us up. We have all this increase in the complexity and fractal dimension of life, more or less to our benefit.


We have, as it were, a race between two processes, both of which are growing faster exponentially. We don't know for sure which one is growing more. Furthermore, the possibility of a miracle can't be ruled out, due to the fact that we wouldn't even have gotten this far without a whole series of them.

It's a subtle matter, the way in which the myth of Eschaton can interweave in this race between the two accelerating processes. What do vou think, Rupe?

Rupert: I agree with you, this is a cultural pattern. The Judeo-Christian tradition takes further the tendencies already present in early civilizations. There's movement towards some end time, envisioned in apocalyptic prophecy. The last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine, speaks of things not unlike those that Terence does.


As Terence is well aware, the apocalyptic nature of his thinking is a transformation of a vision which appears in Christianity and in Jewish, Messianic, and apocalyptic literature. The question is, to what extent is the pattern of acceleration you see in our culture a product of the fact that our culture is based on this particular myth of history? To what extent do these visions reflect some true perception of a cosmic process, something far beyond history? That's not easy to decide, because there's a self-fulfilling prophecy built into these cultural patterns. We're now seeing these dreams coming true in many ways.


They've led our culture to emphasize novelty, innovation, and change, always moving faster and faster. We've now spread this aspect of Judeo-Christian culture to the rest of the world, and the prophecy now seems pretty global. To me, the big question regarding this prophetic vision is whether there's a real influence of something beyond humanity, beyond history. Terence thinks there is, namely the transcendental object, the attractor; or as Teilhard de Chardin put it, the Omega Point.


If this is the case, how limited is it in its range of application? Are we talking, as Terence sometimes seems to do, about something just happening on Earth, or as Teilhard de Chardin talks of the noosphere around the Earth, and the growing emergence of consciousness? Or are we talking about the transformation of the entire universe?


There's the same ambiguity in the New Testament, when St. Paul writes,

"The whole creation groaneth in travail."

Are we talking about the future of human culture on this planet, or are we talking about the future of the solar system, the galaxy, or even the entire Cosmos?


If we're just talking about this planet, these accelerating changes, graphs, and extrapolations look pretty plausible. If we're talking about the solar system or the galaxy, however, I don't think astronomers in the last few years or decades have suddenly noticed curves in their charts rushing off to some extreme point, where we can expect stars all over the galaxy to turn into supernovae, or planets all over the solar system to collapse, crumble, collide or otherwise undergo dramatic alteration.


The history that we're preoccupied with here and now, human history and the effects of human activities, doesn't, as far as we know, seem to be mirrored in changes going on anywhere else in the solar system, the galaxy or the cosmos.

Terence: It's a difficult question. If we extend the search for a universal crisis beyond the Earth, the only evidence that has been offered by anybody is some kind of problem between nuclear theory, which has been very well established for 40 years, and the neutrino output of the sun. In trying to account for this, our choice is either that nuclear theory requires serious modification, which doesn't seem likely, since it's worked in all other cases up until now, or there is in fact something wrong with our star.


Searching for pathology beyond the solar system in the cosmic environment is, I think, outside the present reach of our technical ability. I tend to think, though the time wave that I've elaborated can be extended back into the prebiological domain, that this is a phenomenon of biology I'm talking about. This is just one small planet, and biology is a process of conquering dimensions. Once it starts the process, as a primal slime, it accelerates and it bootstraps itself to higher and higher levels at tighter and tighter turns of the spiral, until it essentially exhausts and abandons the planet, carrying itself into another dimension.

Rupert: But the whole point about biology is that the earliest forms of life, mainly plants, are related to the light of the sun. All life on Earth is dependent not on merely terrestrial events, but on our relation to the sun and the wider cosmic environment. Even carbon and the other chemical elements on which biological life depends are a fallout from exploding stars.

Biology on Earth is rooted in a much larger ecology. I don't think the evolution of life on Earth can be regarded as merely terrestrial, merely biological, in that sense. Every human culture has recognized the importance of celestial influences of one kind or another: the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, the sky. Influences from outside the Earth are working on us all the time.


The transcendental object may be located or channeled through the sun, other stars, planets, constellations: something to do with the astronomical environment.

Terence: If it's truly a higher-dimensional object, then it's in some sense everywhere in this universe, and all routes of evolutionary progress may lead into it, as a kind of universal hologram of time and space, a galactic community or intelligence perhaps. In other words, if I understand what you were implying in the early part of your statement, spores or viruses or bacterium probably percolate and permeate through the physical universe, and wherever they come upon a planetary environment in which they can work their magic, life takes hold.

From then on it's a battle in which life attempts to modify and control the abiotic environment, keeping it at equilibrium sufficiently for the program of bios to be put into place. That program is to grow from the initial seed and return to the higher, hidden source of all, outside the pleroma of three-dimensional space. It's a Gnostic return, an idea of alchemical sublimation and rarefaction. I see the cosmos as a distillery for novelty, and the transcendental object as the novelty of novelties.


When we formally refine that, we discover something like a Liebnizian planet; a monad of some sort; a tiny thing which has everything enfolded within it. This takes us to another dimension, where all points in this universe have been collapsed into cotangency. It's an apotheosis. The Earth is giving birth to a hyperdimensional being.

Ralph: Just to shock you let me take a position much more pessimistic than yours. There have been several close calls lately, with comets. Some people, William Whiston 3 for example, or Immanuel Velikovsky,4 felt that the beginning of our planet was a collision with a comet. It seems to me that it's quite likely we will get hit by a comet, and even pretty soon.


Suppose that this happened. We'd have an extinction such as there was 65 million years back, when Jurassic Park vanished into the ocean. Then, all this biological miracle, accelerating to its own schedule, with exponential condensation toward the concrescence of the Eschaton, and the shockwaves from the transcendental object at the end of time, would be rendered totally insignificant.


We'd simply encounter a car crash on the highway of the solar system, totally independent of the progress of biology on the planet Earth.

Terence: It's entirely possible. I didn't want to bring it up because it's a little Halloweenish. The transcendental object at the end of time may be nothing more than a five-kilometer-wide carbonaceous asteroid, that in a single moment will send us all up to the gates of paradise.

Ralph: You're trying to destroy my argument by appropriating it!

Terence: As I've said, the dissolving of boundaries eventually means the dissolving of the boundaries between life and death itself.

Ralph: If the Eschaton is a comet rapidly approaching New York City, why is it necessary to have this increase of complexity, the population explosion, the destruction of the ozone layer?

Terence: In the million years preceding the impact that killed the dinosaurs, an enormous extinction was already underway, that we've not been able to figure out. It's as if the Earth knew what was coming. What I'm suggesting is that biology knows, returning to our discussion about homing pigeons. Biology has a complete four-dimensional, or five-dimensional map of the planet's history.


The map says, "A comet's on the way; let's get these monkeys moving," leading to the production of sufficient complexity that when the impact event occurs, it will have a transcendental relevancy.

Ralph: An opportunity to proceed into another dimension.

Terence: All of history is a curious relationship with this intuition that nobody wants to face, but that nobody can quite get rid of. We're sacrificing goats and we're doing this and we're doing that, because we have this very restless feeling that all is not well in three-dimensional space and time. History keeps bearing this out. Now it's upon us.

Jorge Luis Borges,5 the Argentine surrealist, had the interesting idea that a species could not enter hyperspace, whatever that means, until the last member of that species perished. What's happening is that vast numbers of souls are accumulating in another dimension, waiting for us to decently depart this moral coil so that the human family in a body can find itself at play in the fields of the Lord.

Rupert: I want to think this through a bit further. We used to think that there might be this great transformation of humanity in a kind of collective near-death experience, except it would be an actual death experience, brought about by a nuclear cataclysm.


Although the bombs are still there, that model's gone out of fashion for some reason. We're now more into ecological apocalypses. We've got all these models. Let's assume there's a sudden transformation, where all of humanity is taken up into the transcendental attractor. Leaving aside the details on the Earth, what effect does this have on the rest of the universe?

Terence: I think it's not an answerable question, but it is in fact what we will then set out to understand. We are literally packing up and preparing to decamp from Newtonian space and time, for the high world of hyper-dimensional existence. We may find ourselves in the grand councils of the who knows what, or we may find something entirely unsuspected.

I have talked before about shamanism anticipating the future. If you pursue these psychedelic shamanic plants, you inevitably arrive at an apocalyptic intuition. I think shamans have always seen the end, and that the human enterprise in three-dimensional space has always been finite.


In the same way that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny as we look into the past, it seems reasonable to assume that death, which we have spent a thousand years turning into a materialist vacuum, is in fact not what we think. There's an enormous mystery hovering over our existence, that's only unraveled beyond the grave.

I would never in my life have thought that I would be pushed to this position. I spent the first half of my life getting away from this kind of thing. However, the evidence of the shamanic hallucinogens is in fact that shamans have always done what they do via ancestor magic and higher-dimensional perception, and that death is not what naive positivism in the last 300 years has attempted to say that it is.


I realize it's incredible to suppose that here at the apex of materialist, positivist, scientific civilization, we're going to make an orthogonal turn into an understanding of what lies beyond the grave, but in fact, this is probably the paradigm-shattering world-condensing event that is bearing down on us.

Ralph: Conversion in progress.

Rupert: Given all that, I want to know whether this has happened somewhere else. If it can happen on our planet, perhaps it could change the entire conditions of dimensionality throughout the galaxy, or better, perhaps, the cosmos. If it's happened on planets elsewhere in the galaxy, what effect do you expect it to have had on us already?

Terence: When you explore the adumbrations of the transcendental object, you see all this transhuman, alien data, that is essentially what it has been in its past history. You see the imprint of all life finding its way back to some kind of source that's in a higher plane. That's why it has this alien presentation. It has maybe a thousand civilizations poured into it, or ten thousand, or fifty million. Who can know? The universe is already old.

Rupert: I still can't work out whether we're talking about some planetary violence that gets hold of civilization after civilization, or planet after planet, causing them to auto-destruct in a particular way, or whether we're talking about some cosmic process.

Terence: It seems to me just the continuation of life's program of conquering whatever dimension it hasn't yet conquered. Probably that process is endless. Life is a chemical strategy for the conquest of dimensionality. It carries out its program, come hell or high water.

Ralph: Just like striking a match, biology comes to a planet, and the flame leaps up. Then pretty soon it burns out, due to exhaustion of resources and the arrival of the shockwave of the Eschaton for that particular planet. Biology is extinguished once again.

Terence: This idea provides a way of imaging what's happening without falling into the dualisms that haunt either a reductionist view or an out and out, gung-ho, no questions asked, religious conversion. There are orthodox cosmologies that support my contention of the possibility of universal collapse.


Hans Alfven, at the Swedish Academy of Sciences, who wrote Worlds and Antiworlds6 has suggested that the universe is what's called a vacuum fluctuation. This is a situation in quantum mechanics where a group of particles and antiparticles spring into existence and then annihilate each other. Because parity is conserved, this creation ex-nihilo of matter is allowed by quantum physics. An interesting aspect of these vacuum fluctuations is that quantum theory sets no upper limit on their theoretical size, merely saying that the larger they are the more improbable they are.


The universe itself could be a vacuum fluctuation of some 1068 particles, springing into being, allowed by quantum physics. These have separated into a higher-dimensional space, and are in fact eventually at some point in the future going to reconnect to conserve parity. Alfven says that in this kind of a higher-dimensional collision, all points in both systems would appear to an observer to become cotangent instantly. What that would mean is the material universe potentially could disappear in a single moment.


All that would be left is light, because light doesn't have an antiparticle. No one knows what the physics of a universe made only of light would be like. I suggest to you that our many myths and intuitions that link light to the process of spiritual advancement, and talk about the generation of the light body and so forth, may anticipate something like this.

Even within the toolbox of ordinary quantum astrophysics, there are ways of tinker-toying the syntactical bits together to produce incredibly optimistic transcendental and psychedelic scenarios.

Ralph: There's no way to personally leap into the dimensions of hyperspace in the birth event of the Eschaton. Not in quantum physics. I suppose we're talking about a different kind of thing. What about the timetable, Terence? So far it seems like your idea is pretty similar to Teilhard de Chardin's, except he didn't give us a timetable.

Terence: You mean when do I think it will occur?


Ralph: Yes.

Terence: It's sort of weird to talk about this because it rests on a formal argument where you have to look at a lot of historical data. What I did was I produced curves that I felt were reflective of the ebb and flow of novelty in time. By fitting these curves to historical data, I slowly refined down a prediction based on spiral closure, which makes it happen much faster than you would expect. I predict concrescence at the winter solstice of 2012 AD.


After I had made that calculation, I discovered to my amazement, that the Mayan civilization had a very complex cyclical and recursive calendar, and it also indicated that same date. I think if you take strict objective data curves and put in the fudge factor of the unexpected, it seems pretty reasonable to suppose that at least there is a nexus of prophetic intensity of some sort, causing a number of traditions for some reason to focus on the late months of 2012 AD.

When I attempted to understand objectively what could be going on, using computer simulations of the star fields, it turns out that the December 21, 2012 solstice occurs at a helical rising of the galaxy. Once every 26,000 years in the procession of the Great Year, there's a winter solstice sunrise that catches 23 degrees Sagittarius on the plane of the galactic ecliptic. What does that mean? Who knows? Certainly not me.


In Hamlet's Mill, Giorgio de Santillana and Herthe von Dechend,7 two very well-respected historians of science, suggest that for ancient peoples, there were somehow galactic gates or way stations of some sort, through which souls had to transit to make their way back to their hidden home. I find this stuff a bit too mediumistic, but nevertheless, it is an objective fact that a rare solsticial conjunction which occurs once in 26,000 years, will occur on the date I chose, and I did not know this at the time I chose it.

Ralph: Let's look at this. We have here the coincidence of three different things. One we could fairly describe as a novel and very interesting kind of mathematical extrapolation of historical data that culminates in a point. The other two things, the Mayan calendar and the astronomical conjunction are both periodic phenomena.


The Mayan calendar repeats the cycle of 26,000 years, and the great conjunction recurs every 26,000 years. They can be expected to recur at least once more before the sun gives its last gasp, and biology becomes extinct. If we weigh these things equally, your mathematical extrapolation isn't the same as the shamanic reportage of a hyperdimensional investigation. It's more like academic scholarship, with a huge database of history and this imaginative curve used to extrapolate data.


This suggests that your extrapolation curve could actually be reversed so that you have a completely different model. It's not an ironclad extrapolation, and I think the case for this date actually being the Omega Point is weak. As far as the transition of all of us into the fifth dimension, I don't see a necessary case for it.

Terence: What it comes down to is a very fine-tuned argument looking at a particular historical curve that's a damped oscillation. The curve of history actually does run down. It isn't elegant to try to make it one cycle within a larger or extrapolated set of larger cycles because the built-in damping factor makes it pretty clear that it's a single cycle, with many cycles embedded within it, but on the highest level, actually having a beginning and an end.

Ralph: It seems to you radically implausible that there will be any future after this point.

Terence: I've thought of many, many ways of expressing this that would make it less catastrophically radical. A very simple way that makes everybody feel a little better is to suppose that what happens on December 21, 2012, is that physicists who've been laboring for some time toward the technology of time travel, actually succeed.


Suddenly the time-wave is fulfilled, and yet the heavens do not fall, and angels don't appear to lift us into paradise. The reason history ends at that date is because after the invention of time travel the notion of a seriality of events ceases to have any meaning. Everybody agrees history-ended yesterday. We then experience life in a post-historical atemporal bubble where you not only tell where you live, but when you live.

There are other alternatives. How about this one: On December 21, 2012 AD, I drop dead.


Everyone says,

"Well, how peculiar, it was only about him. He insisted and we were all swept along for 25 years in some bizarre mathematical machination, and the irony is he was able to foist it off on us."

It may not be planitesimal impact, or the oceans boiling, but I'm telling you, Ralph, there's something out there. I'll know it when I see it, and I'll expect you at my elbow.

I'm an unfortunate bearer of this message, because if you knew me, you would know that I'm actually not a very pleasant or nice person. Believe it or not I hate unanchored speculation! Yet I find myself in the predicament of leading the charge into the greatest unanchored speculation in the history of crackpot thinking. My method is very formal. It's very easy to predict the future, because who the hell can say you're wrong? It's a free-fire zone.


Retrodiction, predicting the past, on the other hand, is very difficult, because it's already happened. If you're wrong, everyone will know. What I've done is make a career of predicting the past with a wave which proceeds right past the present moment and into the future. My argument to the skeptics is that my wave has correctly predicted any past moment that you can conceive of; therefore, there's a certain intellectual obligation to at least take seriously the contention that it predicts the part of history that has not yet undergone the formality of actually occurring, as Whitehead would say.

Rupert: I've got one final question I want to ask you. Other people who tell us the end is at hand, as in placards reading "The End is at Hand, Prepare to Meet Thy Doom," suggest that this requires some kind of moral preparation on our part. Does yours come willy-nilly, no need to get ready for it in any particular way, or does it require some special preparation?

Terence: This is a very difficult question. Much of what I was involved in many years ago was political activism, political struggle. Yet, when I go to my sources on this matter, they assure me that it's a done deal. Possibly one might spend one's time reassuring other people, but only if you felt like it. The walls are now so high, the creode8 so deep, the momentum so tremendous, that I really don't think anything could swerve or divert us from what we are being drawn into.

Rupert: I wasn't thinking in terms of more recycling and so on. I was thinking in terms of conscious, moral preparation.

Terence: I think people should drive out and take a look at the Eschaton at the end of the road of history. What that means is psychedelic self-experimentation. I don't know of any other way to do it. If you drive out to the end of the road and you take a look at the Eschaton and kick the tires and so forth, then you will be able to come back here and take your place in this society and be a source of moral support and exemplary behavior for other people.


I think that as we approach the Eschaton you will find that history is, as I said, a white-knuckle ride. There is an outlandish amount of vibration in the next 19 years. It's going to look good, then bad, then worse, then good, then bad. If you haven't driven out to the end of the road and taken a look at what's waiting the next 20 years are going to drive you nuts, because all the resonances of all past time are now in the close packing phase as the thing is squeezed down and the contradictions are rubbing up against each other. Boundaries are dissolving all around us.


The Soviet Union, gone! Yugoslavia, gone! America as a great power, gone! Good taste, gone! This is going to happen faster and faster and faster. Governments are all managing a spreading wild fire of uncontrolled catastrophes, and trying to keep us in the dark about how bad things really are.


It's good to go out and take a look and reassure yourself that the transcendental object is still there.


1 James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (New York: Viking, 1939).
2 Kurt Godel, The Consistency of The Axiom of Choice and the Generalized Continuum-Hypothesis with The Axioms of Set Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1940).
3 William Whiston, An Account of the Convocations Proceedings (London: Baldwin, 1711).

4 Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (Garden City: Doubleday, 1950),

5 Jorges Luis Borges, Labyrinths (New York: New Directions, 1962).
6 Hans Alfven, Worlds and Antiworlds (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1966).evolutionary mind.htm

7 G. Santillana and H. von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill (London: Macmillan, 1970).

8 C.H. Waddington, The Nature of Life (London: Allen and Unwin, 1961).

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Chapter 9 - The Heavens

Rupert: A recovery of the sense of the life of nature is going on for a variety of reasons in a variety of ways; through the archaic revival, the revival of animistic modes of thought in the shamanic revival, the Gaia hypothesis, deep ecology, and the ecology movement in general. As I have shown in my book The Rebirth of Nature,1 science itself is pointing us in the direction of a recovery of the sense of the life of nature. It is happening all around us.

There's a further step I think we need to take, beyond seeing the natural world as alive, namely to see it as sacred. In the past the heavens were sacred, and so was the Earth, especially the sacred places which were the focuses of power, recognized in every land by every culture; by American Indians in America, by Europeans, both pre-Christian and Christian, by Australian Aborigines, by Africans, by Jews in the Holy Land. In all cultures people related to this sense of the sacredness of the land and the Earth through journeying to places of power, in pilgrimage.


Pilgrimage was suppressed for the first time in human history by the Protestant reformers in Northern Europe at the Reformation, creating a void which led to a desacralization of nature. The sense of the sacred became focused entirely on man. Religion was centered on the drama of fall and redemption played out between man and God. Nature had nothing to do with it except as a kind of backdrop, or the means for people enriching themselves, becoming prosperous as a sign of God's grace and providence.

The English couldn't bear this void caused by the suppression of pilgrimage, and within a few generations had invented tourism, which is best seen as a form of secularized pilgrimage. I believe a paradigm shift from tourism back to pilgrimage could go a long way to help resacralize the Earth.

Another way in which the natural world was sacralized was through seasonal festivals, in which not just individuals, but the whole community participated in festivals that marked the changing seasons of the earth; the solstices, the equinoxes, and the festivals which the Christian world has inherited from pagan routes in festivals like Christmas and Easter.

What I want to talk about now is resacralizing the heavens, and this involves going considerably further than anyone I know has yet gone.

Before the seventeenth century, when people used the word heaven, they were referring both to the sky and to the abode of God, the angels, and the blessed. Since the seventeenth century the sky has been secularized and the heavens are now considered simply the domain of astronomy. Heaven, the abode of the angels, God and the blessed, is considered some kind of psychological or spiritual state that has nothing whatever to do with the actual sky.


Heaven isn't located out there, it's located in our persons in some way, or else in some spiritual realm utterly disconnected from the sky. We've grown so used to this, that if you suggest to Christians, for example, when they say "Our Father who art in heaven," that this implies that God is located in the sky, they very rapidly become embarrassed by the suggestion and brush it aside as some kind of childish naiveté. Yet, when Jesus first taught that prayer, and when people prayed to God in heaven, they were not thinking that the sky was totally irrelevant, or that the abode of God was in some kind of purely subjective realm.


They saw the two as related. I think it's important to recover that sense of relationship between heaven in the traditional sense and the actual sky that we see.

We now have a view of the cosmos as a kind of developing organism. I think it's perfectly possible to think of the stars and galaxies and solar systems through the rest of the universe as having a life and intelligence of their own. In this way we can recover a sense of the life of the heavens, and presumably of an intelligence within the heavens, perhaps related to the traditional view of angels in some way.

There's also the question of the heavenly state which, in various traditions, is imagined in all sorts of ways. Christians and Muslims believe in the existence of heaven; I suppose Jews do too, although they're awfully vague and elusive when it comes to saying exactly what it is. The cartoon image of angels sitting on clouds playing harps gives us several indications: one, that it's dynamic, since clouds move; secondly, that it's not confined to normal laws of gravity - otherwise the angel would sink through them; and thirdly, that it involves some kind of musical or vibratory nature.


Among the different images of heaven, I've been very struck by Terence's descriptions of the state of mind induced by DMT, dimethyl tryptamine. This and perhaps other psychoactive substances can produce a state which in many ways resembles the state of heavenly bliss portrayed in religious literature.

I reject the idea of inner and outer in its usual sense. We're the victims of a humanistic culture that tells us that the whole of the external world is mere unconscious matter in motion, the province of the natural sciences. By contrast, religion, psychology and art are to do with the inner world, which implicitly is supposed to reside somewhere inside our brains and hence to decay when our brains decay. Heaven would in that case be something that you might enter through mystical states while you're alive, or drug states, certainly not somewhere you go when you die.


I think the idea that inner states are actually inside our bodies is one of the false dichotomies set up by Cartesian-type thinking. I think that when we look around us our minds are reaching out to fill the room or the place in which we are, and when we look at the stars, in some sense our mind reaches out to touch them. Although it's an inner perception, to do with our psychology, the inner is actually outer as well. Therefore I take seriously the idea that heavenly states might be located at places other than inside our cerebral cortex or inside our bodies.

The vast majority of modern people know almost nothing about the heavens. Lots of people have books showing pictures of the earth from space, and children are given fantasy books about space travel. My own children, I am sad to say, have so far learned more about the heavens from pictures of space ships than from looking at the sky. The actual sky is something of which most people are abysmally ignorant. In most traditional cultures people could recognize the stars. Mariners, shepherds, and ordinary people knew the basic constellations in the sky, and the planets.

This awareness of stars, the phases of the moon, and the general movements and positions of the planets, is widespread in traditional cultures. Of course the information is there in our culture, but it's hard to find someone who actually can point to the constellations in the sky. We are generally ignorant of the skies.


The skies are now regarded from a scientific point of view as only matter, and that's the domain of astronomy. Oddly enough, even professional astronomers often don't know that much about the sky as we actually experience it, although they've got a lot of equations about the life cycle of stars, about the nature of pulsars, and other strange mysteries in the heavens. I was having dinner a couple of years ago with a professor of astronomy in Britain. We went out after dinner. It was a beautiful starlit night.


There was a group of stars I didn't know and I said,

"What are those stars?"

He said,

"Oh I haven't a clue, don't ask me."

He learned astronomy from books, from computer models, not from looking at the sky.


A friend who works at the big observatory in Arizona told me his colleagues go inside and look through a big telescope at a particular star or galaxy, but if you ask them to point to it in the sky, they don't know. They just punch some figures into the computer to find it. They're not seeing the wood for the trees, or the sky for the stars. They don't see the bigger picture. Amateur astronomers and old-style celestial navigators are probably the only people who still keep alive the sense of observation and relationship to the heavens.

By contrast with the astronomers, astrologers have retained a sense of the heavens as meaningful, related to what happens on earth, but astrology has become detached from the actual sky. There's no point asking the average astrologer if you see a bright star in the sky or a planet, "What's that?" Most of them don't look at the sky any more than other people. It's all done from computer programs and books. I was particularly struck, in 1987, by the massive supernova in the southern hemisphere, the biggest since the one observed by Galileo and Kepler in 1604, which played a major part in the scientific revolution.


All through history these supernovas - exploding stars in the sky -  have been regarded as major omens of the greatest importance. I asked my astrologer friends,

"What do you make of this?"

The answer was they didn't make anything whatever of it because it wasn't in the ephemeris or in their Macintosh computer program. Astronomers, on the other hand, took great interest, but saw it with no meaning. I think a great move forward will happen when astronomy and astrology link up again.

I think much good will come from recovering a sense of the life of the heavens. We are coming to see the Earth, Gaia, as alive. I think we also have to take seriously the idea that the sun is alive and conscious. If one wants a scientific rationale for this, it comes ready to hand through the discoveries of modern solar physics. We now know that the sun has a complex system of magnetic fields, reversing its polarity every eleven years, associated with the sunspot cycle.


With this underlying rhythm of magnetic polar reversals are a whole series of resonant and harmonic patterns of magnetic and electromagnetic change - global patterns over the surface of the sun of a Fractal nature; patterns within patterns, highly turbulent, chaotic, sensitive, varied and complex. As electromagnetic patterns within our brains seem to be the interface between the mind and the nervous system, here we have a parallel in the physical behavior of the sun. It's perfectly possible that the sun has a mind which interfaces with the complex electromagnetic activity we can observe.

The solar system itself is an organism. This is largely what astrology has concerned itself with. We also recognize that the sun is part of a galaxy, the Milky Way, which includes all the stars we see in the night sky. Like other galaxies, our own has a galactic center, a nucleus, of unknown nature which emits enormous amounts of radiation. We could think of galaxies as organisms as well.


They come in clusters and these come in superclusters. These too can be thought of as organisms at higher levels of complexity and greater size. Our solar system is a tiny part of these vaster organisms within which it is embedded. If the sun has a kind of consciousness, what about the entire galaxy, with its mysterious center? What about galactic clusters? What about the cosmos as a whole?

Thus there may be levels of consciousness far beyond anything we experience ourselves, of ever more inclusive natures. When we turn to ancient traditions, we find that this has always been the general belief. The entire cosmos is believed to be animate.


God is seen as residing beyond the sky but also in the sky:

"Our Father who art in heaven."

Most modern people, including most educated Christians, assume that heaven doesn't mean the actual sky, it means a state of mind, a metaphor, a state of being. I'd like us to entertain the notion that it does mean the sky.


If God is omnipresent, then he must be present throughout the heavens, and since the heavens are vastly greater than the earth - about 99.99 recurring percent of the divine presence must be in the sky.

We can take the same crudely quantitative approach to arrive at the same conclusions about the celestial Goddess, who can also be seen as being or living in the heavens. In Egyptian mythology the sky was the abode of Nut, the sky goddess, who was the womb of the heavens, and gave birth to the sun and the moon and the stars.


She was the cause of space, the night skies, the womb from which all things come forth. That was the image also of Astarte, and it's been assimilated into Christianity through the image of Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven. For example, in the form of Our Lady of Guadalupe she is portrayed as wearing a sky-blue robe, studded with stars.

In Christian, Jewish, and Islamic belief there are various hierarchies of angels, usually nine. We could think of these celestial hierarchies as reflected in the super clusters of galaxies, solar systems, suns and planets. The planets and the stars were traditionally believed to be the abodes of intelligent beings, and our English names for the planets are still those of gods and goddesses - Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and so on.

In the 16th century there was a revival of ancient star magic. In Elizabethan England, John Dee and others invoking the spirit of particular stars, asked for guidance, help and inspiration. It was an attempt to actually contact extraterrestrial intelligences, and communicate with them.

Ralph: The star magic idea in Elizabethan England preceded the nucleation of science as we know it, and represented a transmission from the ancient world, with a lot of changes, simplifications, and additions. The central idea was the ancient notion of The Great Chain of Being.


In ancient Alexandria they liked to wrap up things in a package and send them into the future, and this idea actually reached us through the world of Islam. There were concentric spheres; nine, ten, or eleven, with the earth in the center. Outside of these spheres was nothing. The topmost sphere was the unmoving sphere of God and the other ones were of the planets and the sun and the moon, and they intermediated as midstations in a kind of transmission, all the way from God down to us.

Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome on Easter Sunday, in the year 1600, because he insisted on the infinity of the universe. He believed the stars were not on one sphere but outside the sphere of Jupiter, and that they filled all of space. The reason the church objected to this was that it left no space for God. Our Father in heaven had no place to go, and that was very threatening to the entire system.

I'm seeing in this cosmology you've presented an opportunity for us to construct a new cosmology of our own. A religion of the future could have a whole pantheon of gods and goddesses, including the living and sacred sun, moon, planets, Milky Way, quasars, nearby galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and so on.

I think the overall idea of a Great Chain of Being can be salvaged in our new cosmology without reference to our Father in heaven, or even to gods, goddesses and angels. The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) would be a better description, because in our own journeys out of the body, we've sometimes left Earth far behind, reaching a realm difficult to name: transcendent, other, a realm well traveled by our forebears, brave travelers who have left all kind of written records of their journeys.


On our own journeys we've had the experience of meeting, conversing with, and being taught by, extraterrestrial intelligences. Indeed our whole hope for the future is based somehow on these Gnostic experiences of direct contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence.

There may be a physical location in space and time, somewhere in the universe, for this intelligence; and there may not. Nevertheless, it's the conversation that is most important to us, not its identification with physical matter, energy, or morphic fields. I'm not sure if I could connect an intelligent being I've encountered in out-of-the-body travel with the Milky Way or the planet Jupiter, although it makes sense to me when you say they're intelligent beings.


I can imagine the sunspots tunning across the face of the sun in furious speed as a kind of Cephalopod, octopus-like2 communication between one sun and another.

Terence: Are you saying its reasonable to connect up the entities in the psychedelic experience to particular places in space and time?

Ralph: Yes.

Terence: It's hard for me to imagine that the sun is an intelligent organism, unless it exists on a scale that's fairly hard to relate to. In other words, I can imagine the Pacific Ocean to be intelligent, but its intelligence would be of such a nature that it and I probably wouldn't have much to do with each other.


Meanwhile, out in the universe, somewhere, entities exist which we do contact in the psychedelic experience. I'm never sure if they're creatures of other levels or simply of other places. If other places, they seem to be so far away that the laws of physics are so different that it's not like the difference between Chicago and Memphis, but like the difference between Chicago and Oz.

We've talked about how the morphogenetic field is a necessary hypothesis but hard to detect, the way you can detect an electromagnetic field. The creative response is to hypothesize that perhaps the imagination is the detection equipment for the morphogenetic field. The brain-mind system is a quantum mechanically delicate enough chemical system that incoming input from the morphogenetic field can push cascades of chemical activity one way or another, so that in the act of daydreaming or psychedelic tripping you're actually scanning the field.


If that were the case, what we call the imagination is actually the universal library of what is real. This possibility, to me, is very empowering, and I suspect this is the truth you learn at the center of the psychedelic experience, that's so mind-boggling you can't really return to ordinary reality with it. If thinking about the heavens as organic, integrated, and animate makes this more probable, I'm all for it.

Rupert and I, and perhaps to some degree Ralph, are influenced by a school of thought called Organismic Philosophy that was put forth by Alfred North Whitehead, Joseph Needham and L.L. Whyte. Rupert makes a very eloquent case for organismic organization at every level. The reason this is unwelcome in science is because it raises questions about the signal systems which hold these organisms together.

A machine communicates mechanical force through direct contact. An organism operates through chemical systems of diffusion, or color signals, or in some cases language. It's these higher-order forms of function, when called down to explain large chunks of nature, that begin to look like a reinfusion of spirit into nature. This is of course exactly what we need, although orthodoxy fights it tooth and nail in ongoing reaction to the 19th century battle where Deism had the power to potentially frustrate Darwinian rationalism.


It's time to realize that battle was won long ago, and that trying to reason upward from the laws of atomic physics to organisms is not going to work. There are what David Bohm calls "emergent properties," at every level. Think of a single molecule of water; it's absurd to call it wet. Wetness is an emergent property that comes out of millions of molecules of water. At every level in the evolution of physical complexity, complexity itself permits the emergence of new properties, with the iridescence of mind and culture emerging finally at the top of the pyramid.

It's interesting the way the culture has changed its attitude toward the heavens. One revolution in our thinking that is fairly fundamental is that no one at this point believes in the human conquest of space. This has gone from a national commitment in the '60s to the chic thing to be into in the '70s, to hardly being mentioned today, either by freaks like us, or presidential candidates, or right wingers, left wingers, middle-of-theroaders, or anybody else. It all seems to be over.


The heavy lift launch capacity that resided in the Soviet military-industrial complex and that held the keys to reaching near-earth orbit has been allowed to drift into obsolescence. I appreciate your attempt to animate the cosmos, because apparently we're turning away from it, space flight having become a part of the past era of grandeur and glory, seeming not to be repeated.

We held a Virtual Reality conference here at Esalen a year and a half ago and Howard Rheingold had a revelation in the middle of the night down on the platform in front of the Big House when he said,

"My God, now I understand what virtual reality is for! It's to keep us from ever leaving the Earth!"

Rupert: It seems to me, in terms of communication with other planets, the SETI program which is now based on radio telescopes and high technology won't get very far. If we were to take another approach, possibly involving psychedelics, there seem to be three points in our favor.


Firstly, if we're trying to communicate with beings on our own level, i.e., biological organisms on planets somewhere else in the universe, it may be that shamanic journeys into the heavens, which are a long part of a very long tradition going on for hundreds of thousands of years, may have contacted beings of a similar order to ourselves.

Second, there's the possibility of communication with a higher kind of mind or intelligence, like the Pacific Ocean, the Sun, the solar system, or the galaxy. I think you dismissed it too soon. The idea that our minds are very much smaller parts of a very much larger mental system, incomprehensible to us because it's so much larger, working on different time scales, is of course a very traditional idea. We don't have to stay at our own level.


Perhaps we can communicate with these higher levels of intelligence through prayer, mystical insight, or intuition. Most forms of mysticism today are extremely fuzzy because as soon as we get beyond the human level, we lack maps. When it comes to a sense of absorption into the nature of a place, or Gaia, or the solar system, or the galaxy, or the cluster of galaxies, or the cosmos, or the unifying spirit pervading the entire cosmos, most people don't quite know where one leaves off and the next begins.


All they know is that all these things are bigger than them. It may be that in the past people had a better sense of just where they were going. The doctrine of hierarchies of angels was a way of recognizing that there are many different levels of intelligence or mind beyond our own.

The third point is that in order to contact extra-terrestrial intelligences, it may help to direct these efforts toward particular parts of the heavens. There are traditional beliefs about the qualities of particular stars, and these might provide a guide as to what to expect. Regulus, for example, in the constellation Leo, was considered a star of good omen.


Looking at it, going into an altered state having invoked its spirit, making the appropriate prayers and preparations, could result in a form of directed mind travel that would go beyond random journeying. This would be a new frontier of space exploration that can be done on a very low budget. It could open up a great range of possibilities.

Terence: I think it's a wonderful idea. I can envision using the Keck Telescope, punching up Algol on the screen and then smoking DMT and putting your hand on the radio, as they used to say. It could work! I don't doubt it for a moment.

Ralph: I do know somebody who undertook a program like this: It was me actually. The technical equipment that made this project possible, empowering me to travel to my destination, the stars, was my hot tub, an instrument that makes it comfortable to sit outdoors for a long time watching the sky. I explored primarily the polar constellations and the Milky Way.


I found that some kind of conversation with the Milky Way is possible, as well as with the Zodiac and the zodiacal constellations. They each have a lot to say about the morphic field.

I return to John Dee and his conversations with angels. Mathematics was interpreted by Dee as being a healing art, in which the stellar influences could be used for healing human diseases. We could apply this idea on a larger scale, where our future and the biosphere's future is threatened.


We could ask the Guardian Angel of the Anima Mundi, for example, to give aid in our planetary predicament by instructing us not as individual humans, but collectively as a human species.


This was the program that I had in mind in my experiment. I was asking for guidance in a visual form - a vision of the kind that I've been struggling with machinery to reproduce. I've not so far received a solution to our problems, but I do think this is a program that an individual can pursue, even without psychedelics. It requires a considerable commitment of time.

Rupert: We can start nearer to home with the sun, of course. At sunrise and sunset in many traditions people have communicated with the sun. In India a traditional part of the daily ritual is to greet the sun as it rises in the morning, in order to form a conscious relationship with it. Our own civilization is based to an extraordinary degree on what's jocularly called "sun worship".


Millions of people spend the winter fantasizing about which beach they're going to go to in the summer. This curious movement in our civilization toward a new relationship to the sun is relatively recent. In the 19th century very few people lay around in the sun.

Ralph: I think we should reconsider the moon. The lunar sphere, among the nine celestial spheres, is somehow the most important to us, as it's the membrane for our kind of life. The traditional idea was that everything inside the lunar sphere decays and dies, and everything outside the lunar sphere is eternal. The moon was somehow always seen as the boundary of mortal life.


Furthermore, everyone loves to look at it, and probably love and the emotional structure of the human and mammalian system has evolved by moonlight. The moon might be our likeliest possibility for actually having a conversation and renewing our contact with the living and intelligent universe.

Rupert: I myself don't expect the moon to have a great deal of intelligence or life. It's the most inert heavenly body we know. Venus, on the other hand, is a turbulent system with plenty of scope for chaotic perturbations and shifting systems of order. Jupiter has this extraordinarily turbulent surface. Saturn has delicately poised and no doubt oscillatory rings, many of them sensitive enough to pick up fleeting changes and act as interfaces between the physical and mental realms. The moon seems rather lacking in all of these respects.

Ralph: Okay, maybe the moon is dumb. I'm not willing to concede that, but I see that some people would rather put their money on a different number. Of the brighter planets, Jupiter is probably the one that most people are familiar with. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the sky almost like stars. They stay in the same position for a long time, so it's easy to find them without a computer. So what about contacting Jupiter or Saturn?

Terence: There's plenty of exotic chemistry on Jupiter and the current thinking is that Europa is the most likely place in the solar system other than the earth to have life, because of its very dense, deep oceans, filled with liquid water. It may be, in fact, that the entire thing is a drop of liquid water. There may be no solid form.

These other kinds of life I dare say live mostly in our fevered imaginations at this point. The evidence for them is extraordinarily underwhelming I would think. The difficulty about this whole discussion about extraterrestrial intelligence, or non-human intelligence, is that the very nature of its non-humanness makes it either elusive, uninteresting, or horrifying. It's probably in a very narrow spectrum that we can have the experience of an I-Thou relationship.


We can decide here and now that in fact the sun is alive and highly literate and so forth. It doesn't greatly change our experience in the way that an extraterrestrial with which we could exchange information would. I think the recognition of intelligence, if it's not like ours, is going to be very difficult. We can't even have Croats and Serbs getting along together.

Ralph: But we've already encountered intelligence; let's call it the Transcendent Other for the moment. Suppose it turned out that the Transcendent Other was not in hyperdimensional space; in other words beyond space and time, living on the other side of the Eschaton, but actually lived in a crater on the moon. That would not only be an interesting discovery but would completely change your whole idea about shamanic experience.

Terence: So far, the only locators we've been able to find for these things are drugs. In other words, we can say this creature lives on the other side of 15 milligrams of psilocybin, but not on the other side of 75 milliliters of ayahuasca. These may not be satisfying as locators because we're not used to thinking of molecules as standing for spatio-temporal locus.

Ralph: Morphic resonance gives us a mechanism to associate a given plant species with a particular planet.

Terence: Morphic resonance, true, or the doctrine of signatures.

Ralph: That's right. Not only plants, but minerals. In John Dee's system, everything represented a planetary intelligence.

Terence: We can build up these attractor tableaus on the day of Venus, at the hour of Venus, burning the incense of Venus, playing the song of Venus, reciting the poem of Venus, wrapped in the garment of Venus, in the color of Venus, and then something associated with Venus will in fact come to be.

Rupert: This is a fascinating research project and can be done for next to nothing by networks of people sharing their results. This information, channeled from different stars and communicated in this way, could help to bring about a new synthesis of astrology and astronomy. A weekend workshop of astronomy for astrologers would be an elementary beginning.


This is a project for the future that I think would have some relevance to the problems we're talking about. If we're looking for guidance in what happens on Earth, and we certainly need it, we must recognize how we're embedded within the heavens, the solar system, the galaxy, the cosmos. Intelligences throughout the heavens could play an important role in guiding us.


1 Rupert Sheldrake, The Rebirth of Nature (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1994).
2 Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992).

Back to Contents





Chapter 10 - Utopianism and Millenarianism


Ralph: Our project this morning is to try to see ourselves as a trinity, and to experiment with the idea of connecting with such traditions as are perceived by cultural historians.

There are two particular themes that I want to describe, as two possibilities for understanding ourselves in the historical tradition, and they are utopianism and millenarianism. As understood by cultural historians, utopianism is one of the major currents of the European mind, and not an old one.


The concept of the ideal city in the ancient world, most especially the ideal city of Plato's Republic, could casually be called a Utopian fantasy, although Plato tried to actually realize it in the political organization of a particular city, and ended up in jail. According to historians, utopianism begins on a particular day less than 500 years ago. That was the day of publication of Thomas Moore's book Utopia in 1516.


This word Utopia is a translation into Latin of the Greek, utopos, meaning nowhere. Its initial chief characteristic is that it was acknowledged to be nowhere. This was a dream not to be made real. It was fiction, having characters and plot and story, presenting various themes of ideal achievement for our culture.

After 1516 this book sold well, and had lots of imitators. There was a huge genre, a body of fictional works, which became the foundation of a Utopian trend. Eventually this branched into nonfiction. The idea began to materialize in actual communities that tried to live up to the Utopian ideals of some novel or nonfiction work.


Riane Eisler's recent book, The Chalice and the Blade, is a perfect example of the nonfiction Utopian work.1 Frank and Francie Manuel produced a book in 1979, looking back on the history of Utopianism since 1516. In this 900-page work they catalogued in order of appearance, all the authors, works, and communities that started and then failed.


The last chapter in the book is entitled Twilight of Utopia. They saw the trend ending after 500 years, probably under the influence of our experience in the 1960s, when the hippies of California, Paris, Amsterdam, and other places tried once again to materialize a new Utopian ideal in actual practice, even striving for a planetary society based on ideal lines. This attempt completely and totally failed, leading the Manuels to conclude that the Utopian literary current had finally dried up and ended.2

Nonetheless, since 1979 and the publication of the Manuel book, there have been surges of renewal in the literature. I've mentioned Riane Eisler's book, published in 1987. Another nonflction work of this type is Rupert's book The Rebirth of Nature, first published in 1991. This year there's Terence's book Food of the Gods.


I think certainly, if Mr. and Mrs. Manuel wrote a revised edition of their book, they would definitely include these authors in their list.


My book, Chaos, Gaia, Eros, could be considered a kind of chaos Utopia. Rupert's book is a scientific Utopia, Terence's a psychedelic Utopia, Riane Eisler's a partnership political Utopia. Paul Tillich, writing about this trend in 1951, pointed out the Trinitarian aspect of the Utopian genre, harking back to the trinity of the prehistoric Goddesses, manifest in Christianity as the Holy Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He said that this particular Trinitarian Utopian model was presented long before Thomas Moore in 1516, in the works of Joachim di Fiore in the 12th century.3

Let me just read a few words of Tillich's understanding of the Trinitarian structure of the Utopian genre, as I think this will help us to see ourselves in history:

The overwhelming majority of these Utopias show a triadic movement. The original actualization, namely actualization of the essence, and then a falling away from this original actualization, namely the present condition. And third, the restoration, as an expectation that what has fallen away from its primordial condition is to be recovered.


One of the distinguishing characteristics of this triadic movement is the consciousness on the part of those who use this symbolism, almost without exception, it is important that the lowest point of the falling away has been reached in their time, in the moment in which they themselves live. It is always the last period that gives birth to Utopia.


Illustrative of this and perhaps also the best formula that has been given for it is Joachim di Fiore's idea that we live in the age of consummate sinfulness. Also illustrative is Augustine's idea that the world empires that have come to an end were the last ones - the Great Roman empire, which he as a Roman loved - and that their sole successor is to be the kingdom of God, which is in some measure actualized in the church.


But the final actualization will take place only after the close of history.


This same idea is found in India, where it is always the last period in which the theologian, speaking of a succession of ages, finds himself. It's found in Greece, where the stoics speak about the Iron Age as the last and most wicked. It's in Marxism, where the class struggle running through the whole of history reaches a point where revolutionary changes become inevitable. In the fascistic ideologies, decadence reaches its final stage when counter movement must set in.


All of these instances show that the triadic progression is centered on the moment in which the reversal is immediately eminent. This is characteristic of all Utopian thought.4

The other line of thinking we must address is millenarianism, which has roots in the Jewish idea of the Messiah; that there will be a coming of God on earth to rescue humanity from a fatal impasse.


In the Christian tradition this evolved into the Apocalypse, described in the New Testament, where there would be a third coming of Christ in a transformational period lasting a thousand years. The idea of the millennium rises not only from the year 1000 or the year 2000, but also the idea of a special period of 1000 years that's transitional to our final salvation. Salvation is an important aspect of the millennial idea.

The millennial tradition actually begins after the year 1000, when many people were disappointed that the Messiah didn't arrive. Terence has referred to this three-year period, centered on the year 999, when everything came to a halt. After that time is the beginning of a new millennial hope, the growth of an extensive literature, and an extensive actualization in popular movements. These are always characterized by a prophet, the charismatic leader of a group of people, sometimes very extensive.

There is magisterial work on this movement by Norman Cohn, published in 1950, and revised after new discoveries in 1971: The Pursuit of the Millenium.5


This book is an incredible catalog of prophet after prophet, movement after movement, from the beginning, to the middle, to the end, including literature, analysis, and descriptions of all these movements. Like the Utopian movement, this is an artifact of the European mind. It takes place primarily within the context of Christianity, these millenarian groups being without exception heretical, departing from one or another dogmatic aspect of the organized church.


Outside of this Christian heretical tendency, they tried to organize communities which epitomized a certain communitarian ideal. Almost invariably they included sexual freedom in reaction to the idea of sin and sexual repression in the Christian tradition.

In Norman Cohn's revised work, published in 1971, there's an extensive appendix, which is a translation of virtually all of the extant literature of one particular group, which in the 17th century coincided with the rise of science in England.6


They were very popular in England, and were called the Ranters. Reading about this group in particular brought up certain similarities with our experience in the 1960s, as well as the contemporary movement in which the prophet obviously is Terence.

The Utopian structure is triadic. What we had before was good, what we have now is the deepest depression that will ever be seen in human history, and tomorrow the virtues of yesterday will be restored, together with new enhancements, or something that will be even better.

On the other hand, millenarians are dominated by the apocalyptic idea that human history will end at a certain moment with the Eschaton, culminating in some kind of final moment. Certainly two of the most outstanding exponents of this tendency today are Terence and Jose Arguelles, who agree not only on the Eschaton, but also on the date - the year 2012 -  having arrived at this time schedule following completely different approaches.

Between these two tendencies of the European mind, the Utopian and the Millenarian, there is a certain overlap as well as important differences. Somewhere in the neighborhood of this overlap I think we can see our own trinity in our ten year history of doing what we're doing now. If this isn't too egoistic, considering ourselves in the light of these historical trends, at least we can say that these trends have influenced us, perhaps unconsciously, in coming to the positions that we've taken.


In case this is so we might want to consider the outcome of other people who were under the influence of these traditions, as they unconsciously responded to these deep runnels in the morphic field of our culture.


Here is the context for our self-reflection.

Rupert: This model is very illuminating. It clarifies a lot of things. I can see in myself both tendencies at work. The Utopian tendency is something that's clearly expressed, for example, in socialism. I spent many years as a socialist, believing that there was this primal state of humanity living in brotherhood, followed by the alienation caused by serfdom, the feudal system, the rise of capitalism, the industrial state, imperialism, and so on, following a Marxist analysis.


Then the capitalist order is overthrown and one eventually returns to a more primitive, non-alienated state of people living in communities, sharing their goods, and the state withers away. This is the Marxist Utopian model, with a millenarian aspect as the revolution ushers in a new age.

I was also influenced by scientific utopianism, having been educated as a scientist. The primary scientific Utopia is Sir Francis Bacon's book New Atlantis, published in 1624. In it he offers the vision of an entirely new order in the world. He portrays a Christian Utopia with a scientific priesthood based in a place called Salomon's House, which is a college that rules an island kingdom. Someone is shipwrecked on the island and they find themselves in this ideal society.


Everything is rationally ordered, and research is officially organized by the priesthood of Salomon's House: they have gardens where they breed plants, they keep animals to study in vivisection experiments, they have wave machines so they can study how to make dams and harbors properly, and they study artificial tides and storms on a small scale through models. They try to develop a universal language. This was satirized by Jonathan Swift in the third book of Gulliver's Travels, Voyage to Laputa, where there's a crazy academy whose members are engaged in preposterous projects, like making sunbeams out of cucumbers.

Anyway, scientific utopianism got built into the idea of technological and scientific progress, which was going to liberate mankind from the bondage of poverty, disease, and slavery to the elements of nature. In fact, it gave rise to the ideology of the modern world: economic development through science and technology.

Then there's the liberal political utopianism of socialists and liberals who have the idea that you bring about Utopia not just through science and technology, but through economic and political reform. I believed all this for a long time, and I think most of us still do, because it's so deeply ingrained in our culture.

Then there's the New Age movement, which believes there'll be a new Utopian age brought about through the rediscovery of ancient religious traditions, through the development of human potentials, and through holistic, harmonious ways of doing things. This is another kind of utopianism that has influenced me.

I think Ralph's right in saying that my own book, The Rebirth of Nature, is an example of the Utopian tradition. The essence of my argument is that in the past people treated nature as alive, and a recognition of the sacredness of nature gave a better way of relating to it than our alienated, mechanistic way of treating nature as a bunch of raw materials to exploit for profit.


Restoration of this sense of the life of nature could lead to a new kind of post-mechanistic culture in which human beings would be the mediator of the marriage of heaven and Earth, bringing human society into right relationship with both.

As for Terence, half of his thinking is Utopian, the other half millenarian. The Utopian side is the psychedelic revival, with its belief in an ancient society where people had a wonderful time living harmoniously on the Earth, with tremendous visions thanks to psychedelic plants, particularly mushrooms. Then it all went wrong.


The climate changed, the Earth dried up, the psychedelic visions became less and less frequent, and a poor substitute took over, namely alcohol. One then plumbs the depths represented by modern society. But the original harmony can be restored by the mass consumption of mushrooms, the smoking of DMT, and other psychedelic activities. Thus dawns the psychedelic Utopia.

Ralph's version is a mathematical Utopia, where the great regulative, eternal structures of the mathematical landscape, the fundamental principles reflected in all nature, heavenly and terrestrial, become visible. Not only visible to the high priests of mathematics, but potentially to everyone through the medium of computer modeling. There's a kind of democratization of gnosis, that direct knowledge of fundamentals, which mathematics has had as its guiding light through the centuries and the millennia. This Gnostic seeing behind the scenes becomes commonly available, not only through psychedelic visions, but through computer models which can be shared and entered into by many people.

When we consider what would happen if the millennium were postponed, if it didn't all happen in 2012, we are forced out of the field of millenarianism into the field of utopianism. Millenarians usually have the end conveniently close - not too close, but close enough so that it could be in our lifetime -  2012 is a perfect date from that point of view.


According to the millenarian scenario, and according to the Jewish and Christian apocalyptic books, most notably the Revelation of St John the Divine, with which the Bible ends, the end of history involves appalling plagues, earthquakes, eruptions, and other disasters. Of course it's only too easy to see all these things coming to bear on our society, leading toward inevitable collapse and catastrophe.


The only way out is total, miraculous transformation, the coming of the Messiah, the descent of angelic powers, or, in one of Terence's versions - he has many ways of imagining this end of history -  some kind of collective DMT trip. The apocalypse amounts to a near-death and rebirth experience where we will pass through an appalling time of disturbance, and then emerge into a new realm of being. The apocalyptic tradition doesn't try to stop things getting worse, it regards this as inevitable.


This is the conflict we all find ourselves in. We find ourselves becalmed in the area between the apocalypse and utopianism.

There's hardly anyone who's into the old-style socialist utopianism anymore. And who believes the world will be saved by more science and technology, run by technocrats? The concept of enlightened transnational government, a vision underlying the United Nations or the European Common Market, still has some vigor and is still important, but I don't meet many people who are wildly enthusiastic about either as the solution to all our ills.


These Utopian visions that have guided so much of humanistic and socialistic thinking in the present century have put their trust in rational reform, education, science, technology and world government. The Rio conference on the Environment was an attempt to bring this approach to bear on problems such as global warming and environmental degradation. The results have not been impressive.

This Utopian current is still strong. An element of all of our thinking is Utopian. What becomes clear in our discussions is that utopianism is not enough. As we approach the end of the century we find ourselves in the field of millenarianism whether we like it or not. All kinds of scenarios - the AIDS plague, various toxic disasters, the changing climate, overpopulation - are upon us.


The morphic field of millenarianism is growing more intense.

I'd like to ask you, Terence, how you see these two strands in your own thinking. On the one hand the archaic revival is psychedelic utopianism. On the other hand the time wave, ending in 2012, is millenarian. Since you represent both strands so eloquently, I'd like to know how you see them connecting or linking together.

Terence: If we restrict ourselves to the realm of the rational, we only have two choices - Utopia or more history. More history is beginning to look less and less likely.


At the beginning of James Joyce's Ulysses, Stephen Deadalus says,

"History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awaken."

I feel this way. I can't imagine a thousand more years of human history - more wars, more discoveries, more topless photos of Fergie, more and more and more endlessly, to no meaning.


On the other hand, efforts to build Utopia have become more fierce and more horrifying. We've had in this century three serious efforts to build Utopias: the American, the Nazi, and the Soviet. All have ended very badly, I think. The National Socialist Utopia ended in the 2nd World War in an utter discrediting of fantasy fascism. The Soviet Union has dissolved in disarray. The American story is in the act of unraveling at this moment. This leaves us to face the most unlikely of all scenarios, the millenarian, which is an irrational choice. The rational path is to fashion out of human plans, dreams and institutions, some more humane order. That's the hope of utopianism.

I believe in the millennium, but I also think it's politically a disempowering idea. I see Christian fundamentalists running around who also believe in the millennium, and they're the major anti-progressive force in the most advanced societies.

How should we react to this dilemma? I think it's worth looking slightly afield for a moment. What we're really talking about here are origins and endpoints, and so far we've been looking at endpoints. What about origins?


The dominant and virtually unchallenged myth of our origin is, either God created us in seven days along with all the rest of creation, or the universe was born out of nothingness in a single moment for no reason. These are the two choices on the menu. Neither is terribly compelling to rationalists, I dare say. The scientific explanation - that the universe sprang from nothing in a single instant - however we may think of it in terms of its veracity, is the limit case for credulity. If you can believe that, hell, you can believe anything!


Sit down and try and think of something more improbable than that contention. Science opens up with the one-two punch, saying,

"Put that in front of them, and if they can swallow it, then hydrogen bonding, gene segregation, whatever, will follow hard apace."

The hard swallow comes first.

Many creation theories require a singularity. That means in order to kick-start the intellectual engine, you have to go outside the system. You get one free hypothesis, and once you've used that up, your system has to run very smoothly clear down to the end.


Science uses up its one free hypothesis with the Big Bang, saying in effect,

"Give me the first 10-12 nanoseconds, and if I can do smoke and mirrors in that time frame, the rest will proceed in quite an orderly fashion."

I think that if you get one free singularity in your model building, a more likely place to put it would be not in a featureless, dimensionless, process-less super-vacuum at the beginning, but in a domain of many temperature regimes, many forms of energy, many languages, many chemical systems, many different levels of energy exchange, late in the life of the universe.


What you have then is a picture not of a process being pushed by causality toward some heat death billions of years in the future, but one of a universe that is flowing naturally toward ever greater complexity, at the end. Organization transcends itself, produces more complex organization which transcends itself, which produces more complex organization, and conceivably, out of a process of avalanching complexity you might actually get a singularity of some sort.


This singularity would have the character of an at-tractor. I grant you that this model is irrational, but our little discussion of the birth of the universe should convince you that it's ALL irrational. Irrationality doesn't get you tossed out of the game. It's the name of the game.

Being hopefully a sane person, my own inner dialogue goes back and forth between the reasonable desire to preserve rationality and hence channel energy toward Utopian hope, and thoughts about the end of time. After all, we have the money, scientific knowledge, communication systems and so forth, to solve any of our problems - feeding the hungry, curing disease, halting the destruction of the environment. The problem is that we cannot change our minds as quickly as we can redesign harbors, flatten mountains, cut rainforests, dam rivers.


Because I see this, and because I see it from a psychedelic point of view, and because I don't want to abandon myself to despair, I see then this transcendental object at the end of time. This is not part of the Utopian schema. It is part of the millenarian revelation. It's a very persistent idea, and in all times and all places, this highly unlikely concept has been kept alive.

I think that we are blinding ourselves to the intentionality present in our world. I think you have to be carrying a lot of unusual intellectual baggage to not see the last thousand years as moving toward a maximizing of some set of goals. It's not the triumphal march into God's kingdom envisioned by Christianity, but neither is it the trendless fluctuation that is taught in the academy. If you go to a university and ask them, "What is history?", they will tell you it's a trendlessly fluctuating process.


What they mean is it isn't going anywhere. Now that's interesting. If history is a trendlessly fluctuating process, then it is the only such process ever observed anywhere. Processes are not trendless, this is what dynamics has secured. Processes always occur under the aegis of some set of parameters which are being maximized. If a desert is drying out, then water vapor levels are dropping. What's being maximized is dryness. To think of history - the very process in which mind is embedded and through which it expresses itself - as trendless is an existential absurdity.

Plato said that if gods did not exist, human beings would create them. We are creating God. Our cultural machinery, our dreams of integration and balance, our care for each other and for the world - these are god-like aspirations. We aspire to be God when we talk about becoming the caretakers of the world.


We don't want to be Adam and Eve chewing on the fruit in the garden. We want to be the gardener. The power that we have in our possession means we will realize these dreams. If there is not a real millennium with a real Eschaton, then there will be a virtual Eschaton, created with such care and fine attention to detail that it becomes an alternative reality of some sort.

If one were saying this will happen in a thousand years, or in 500 years, it would just be interesting table talk. But the rates of closure, the speed of acceleration toward the Omega Point, is exponential. We cannot imagine 2012 by looking backward 20 years and then saying we have that much more time to go through before we reach this moment.


Cocktail party habitués bore each other by observing,

"Have you noticed that time is speeding up?"

Time itself is moving faster, and we are compressing more events into it. I would like to take that seriously. Time is speeding up. Not human time, but the time of physics. We can imagine ourselves colliding with an asteroid or being battered by earthquakes or something like that, but what we cannot conceive of is that we are on a collision course with a hyperdimensional object of some sort.

People always object to the millenarian intuition with,

"Well, you say a transcendental object is coming parallel or tangential to history -  don't you find it a little odd that out of billions of years, it's going to occur in your lifetime? How convenient."

This is not an objection at all, it's an argument in favor of my position.


You see, history is the trumpet of judgment. A million years ago there were only animals and plants and rivers and glaciers on this planet. Human history is the annunciation of the Eschaton. When you open a door, first there's a crack of light that streams into the darkness. That's human history. We have cracked the door. That moment only lasts about 25,000 years, creating an order in nature never before seen, represented by a technological, language-using, loving, dreaming species. When you push the door open, you see that history is the shock wave that precedes the Eschaton.


This is pretty straight Christian dogma, that there is a covenant between human beings and God Almighty and that the contract and the promise will be kept. I think it will be kept, and the challenge of science is to overcome its struggles with religion, and guide us into the presence of the Eschaton using the tools and the descriptive approaches that it has perfected. The proper attitude toward the Eschaton is not prayer and sacrifice alone. The proper attitude is inquisitive understanding, curiosity, and delighted anticipation.


The end of history is an object in nature like the electron, the spiral galaxy, and the human body; "a complex nexus," to use Whitehead's word, of temporal complexity, that accounts for our existence. Without the Eschaton, there would have been no human beings - no you, no me, no pyramids, no Stonehenge, no Catholic church, no Hassidism -  none of these things would exist. They are the precursive anticipation of the perfection that lies at the end of the morphogenetic process of self expression that is history.


We are a part of it in the sense that we represent the individual atoms that are flowing together to make the transcendental object at the end of time.

I'll put myself out of business long before 2012 if other people don't start seeing things my way, because part of the prophecy, if you will, is that awareness of this impending event will spread, not simply through those who take their inspiration from Gideon or Stropharia, but among those who study particle physics, temporal matrices, and general modeling of nature.


Nature cannot be made sense of without this kind of a singularity. Science has recognized this, only putting the singularity out of reach and safely in the past. This doesn't explain organism, intelligence, or history. To do that, you have to take this mysterious moment of concrescent involutional totality and put it in the end state. It's a matter of simple logical necessity.


The fact that it was achieved by psychedelically driven visionary shamanizing only shows how similar these two methods are in their conclusion.

Ralph: I fully expect we'll be meeting for another Trialogue in 2012. I'll be 76. That's not too old to get it on. I'll keep trying to challenge you both to leap to another level of discussion in the hermeneutical circle by considering ourselves in these larger traditions. Terence, I'd like to consider this millennial obsession of yours in the context of a deep habit, a runnel in the morphic field of our civilization.


We have habits of thinking about time. We have philosophies of time, and consideration of time according to certain models. The idea of time having a singularity at the beginning and a singularity at the end is one model of time, and, as Rupert has observed in the past, when you believe in the Big Bang, it's easier to believe that there's a singularity at the end.

Terence: There's more evidence there's a singularity at the end.

Ralph: It seems to me that the situation is quite symmetrical, and neither the singularity at the end, nor the singularity at the beginning makes any difference. There's another model of time, the cyclical one, where we have the cycle of the four ages repeated indefinitely, with not only a Golden Age in the past, but a Golden Age in the future as well.


The Utopian trinitarian model is a version of this laid down by Joachim di Fiore when he changed the classical four epoch model into a three epoch model to agree with the Christian trinity. These two habits, which account basically for the Utopian and the millennial obsessions of the human species over this historical period of 6000 years, were enabled by certain mathematical models of time coming into consciousness.


First we must understand a line, then we think of a linear model of time, then we understand circles as our mathematical consciousness grows. Recently we have had a proliferation of new models for time.


You, for example, have contributed enormously to the history of the philosophy of time by creating a fractal model of time. Chaos theory, likewise, has given many new models for transformation which transcend the singularity concepts. Our mathematical capability has evolved to a certain point where we can recognize many other forms of transformation in nature occurring through time.


The New Age expectation is for a social transformation, a future history which is not boring. The dream of a social transformation has historical support. You said that history is the trumpet of the human experience.

Compare our fantasy of what's going on with the historical record, we find that the historical record does not support the Eschaton. This is a particular interpretation based on a very archaic model, the oldest model of time in the history of consciousness.

Terence: At the beginning you said that the two possibilities -  a singularity at the beginning, or at the end of the process of universal becoming - these seem...

Ralph: Equally improbable, as you pointed out.

Terence: I didn't say that. I said I think it's much more probable to find it at the end of a process, when you have great complexity, than to believe it would spring from a state of utter nothingness.

Ralph: The historical record is compatible with the idea of an upcoming, amazing, difficult, and creative social transformation in our immediate future. The future will not be boring. Transformation will be a chaotic transient from one attractor to another, a period of destabilization when all constraint of history is lifted, novelty is empowered to actually do something instead of being constantly frustrated, and then we wake up one morning and read in the paper that the sun is rising in a different way.


This has happened in the past. It's in the historical record of people who wrote of history by whatever model, whether it's the cyclic model or the linear progressive model or whatever. History goes along boringly the same for a while, eventually there's a destabilization, then you have rapid change to a new equilibrium. Among these different equilibria there is perhaps a kind of progression in the long run. In this model, catastrophic transformations are announced by plagues and disasters, and the dissolution of established structures, out of which, like a Phoenix from the ashes, comes a new organization which might be glorious.


The longest view in this trans-formational model of history, is given in a history of our living Earth by Jim Lovelock, called The Ages of Gaia. In that book he describes the whole history of life on the planet as a series of equilibria punctuated by catastrophic transformations, eight really major transformations, the last one 65 million years ago.

Terence: This shows the kind of attention he gives to human history.

Ralph: In this view, even the human species could disappear and life may be boring for microbes, but they will go on, the biosphere will not end, life is not over. Maybe the Eschaton is only for the human species.

Terence: The reason I don't buy the idea that this is simply one more renaissance, or one more gothic revival, is because these breakthroughs to novelty are occurring faster and faster. It's not just that they happen, it's that they happen faster and with more frequency. Whatever James Lovelock's affinity for something happening 65 million years ago, a few things of high interest have happened since, like everything in the human world.


When you look at human history and technology and the spread of peoples and genes and so forth, it's clear that we've reached some kind of limit. Maybe you get one more renaissance before you slam into the wall, but not a dozen, not a hundred. This is not the Renaissance, this is not the rise of Rome, this is the final global crisis. The objective data support me on this.

Rupert: But it's so provincial, Terence. There's a sense in which the millenarian vision is a product of the historical model that grew up within one branch of human consciousness; the Judaic-Christian-Islamic branch. There's a sense in which you could argue that all this is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Having unleashed these millenarian visions, our history's been driven by millenarian visions, which actually empowered and directed the discovery of America, the opening up of the New World, the rise of science and technology, the development of the atom bomb.


Most of the things that are actually creating the crisis are man-made. Even if we collide into this wall of history here on Earth, I find it quite incredible that the rest of the solar system is just going to shut up shop and go out of business, let alone the galaxy, let alone the clusters of galaxies  -

Terence: Here's a man who thinks the sun is alive!

Rupert: The sun could undergo tremendous transformation. I'll concede the entire solar system to you. That leaves an awful lot else, like the rest of the galaxy.

Terence: I'll take it... The galaxy can take care of itself.

Rupert: The question is whether we're talking about human destiny on Earth, or the destiny of Earth, or the destiny of the solar system? Or is this about the entire cosmos, countless trillions of galaxies, stars everywhere? I can't believe that the kind of transformation you're talking about, or even the implosion of the entire solar system, is going to set out more than the most minute ripples throughout even our own galaxy.

Terence: Implicit in that objection is that you really believe that there are millions of light years of space and time filled with spiral galaxies. It could all be a screen. The true size of the cosmic stage is a hotly debated subject, even among the experts. When you say it's too local, then you attack the universalist position. We only have two choices - either what you disdainfully call provincialism, or what you disdainfully call universalism. It's got to be one or the other. I'm uncomfortable with the universal thing myself.


However, I'm also uncomfortable with the idea that the universe as described by Newtonian astronomers should go absolutely unchallenged. This Anthropic Principle that astronomers have begun to allow into their deliberations suggests that maybe the stars aren't as fixed in their courses as we imagine, and that somehow events on the earth could have a kind of cosmic significance.

Rupert: The apocalyptic tradition is more like Ralph's version. It's not everything suddenly disappearing in a blinding light. It's a period of transformation followed by the Millennium, a period in which the kingdom of heaven is realized on Earth. That is something that's lacking from your vision. You don't think beyond the year 2012.

I, like Ralph, am more inclined to traditional millenarian-ism, a transitional period followed by the kingdom of heaven on Earth. What I think this could involve is: first of all, psychedelics; secondly, the revival of animism; thirdly, mathematical objects visible to all through computers; and fourthly, communication with the stars.


Through conscious communication a network of consciousness begins to link up, far beyond the Earth, to other stars, other galaxies. A thousand years to effect this linking up of consciousness throughout the entire cosmos, at the end of which, the true and absolute Eschaton might be possible. Right now it would be confined to Earth, or at most the solar system.

Terence: I think that the thousand years should be scaled back by orders of magnitude. It will be more like ten years. By 2002 we'll have psychedelic legality, cured AIDS, virtual reality, food for everyone, and the millennium will dawn, I think, sometime around 2002 or 2003.


The thousand years prophecy was naive by virtue of being made in a different era with less compression of time. We will then build quite naturally toward the revelation of the Eschaton sometime around 2012.


1 Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (New York: Harper & Row, 1987).
2 Frank E. Manuel and Fritzie P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1979).

3 Delno C. West and Sandra Zimdars-Swartz, Joachim of Fiore: A Study in Spiritual Perception and History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983).
4 Paul Tillich, Political Expectation (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 134.

5 Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium (Fairlawn: Essential Books, 1957).

6 Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarian and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970).]

Back to Contents





Chapter 11 - Father Bede's Letter

Rupert: I'd like to read a part of the last letter I received from my teacher, Father Bede Griffiths. You will recall that he was an English Benedictine monk who lived for nearly forty years in India, where he died in 1993, at the age of 86, in his ashram on the bank of the Cauvery river in Tamil Nadu, South India.


This is the community in which I lived for two years, and where I wrote my first book, A New Science of Life,1 which is dedicated to Father Bede. This letter was written on All Soul's Day, November 2, 1992, in response to our book Trialogues at the Edge of the West.


I'd like us to reflect on it.

My Dear Rupert,

I've just finished reading your Trialogues with Ralph and Terence. You are certainly three young revolutionaries (you all look very youthful). It is as near a map to the future that I have ever encountered, embracing every aspect of life as it is understood today. The only thing I find lacking in it is a sense of the mystical, of the unity which transcends all dualities.


Your view of apocalypse is very impressive, but one must remember that all time and space is contained in the transcendent unity which embraces all the multiplicity. The Tibetans see this very clearly. All the multiplicity of forms is a manifestation of the one formless reality. I think that David Bohm's idea of the implicate order is very meaningful.


[David Bohm, the quantum physicist, proposed that behind the world we experience, the explicate order, is an invisible, unmanifested source, the implicate order, which undergoes evolution as a result of feedback from the explicate order.2]


Chaos is the original undifferentiated unity, the prime matter of Aristotle, in which all forms are implicated. As consciousness emerges from the primal unity the different forms of being are gradually explicated. You can think of it as the emergence of form from the original chaos or the descent of form from the original spirit. Matter is form emerging from chaos, spirit is form in its original unity. In other words, matter is form emerging from the unconscious, spirit is form communicating itself to matter. Matter is the mother, the receptive principle (the yin), form is the father, the active principle (the yang).


But all these principles are expressions of the differentiating consciousness, which itself is beyond differentiation. So from an undifferentiated consciousness we pass to a differentiated consciousness. Consciousness divides, but only to reunite. The danger is that we get stuck in the differentiated consciousness, which is where we are now. But all differentiation leads back to a unity which transcends differences.


This is the final state of nirvana, sunyata, or nirguna Brahma, Brahma without qualities. In the Trinity everything comes from its original source in the Father beyond differentiation, and comes forth in the Son in all the multiplicity of the universe, and returns in the Spirit to the original transcendent unity - but now in full consciousness.

This is how I see it, but you bring an abundance of new insights from science which are new to me. In regard to education I think that it's important to be based on traditional religion, whether Hindu, Christian, or American Indian. A tradition links you vitally with the past and enables you to grow. Of course, it can also prevent growth, but our call is precisely to allow the tradition to grow, and to be open to all the new insights which are offered us.


But to start without roots in tradition I feel would be frustrating.

Rupert: One point Father Bede is making is that, in our first book we didn't speak much about the transcendent source, although in the course of our discussions over the years we refer to it repeatedly, particularly in what Terence says about the cosmic attractor. This unity which Father Bede refers to contains all multiplicity, because it contains all the variety of forms in creation. When he talks about the unity which transcends all dualities, this transcendent unity which embraces all multiplicity, it sounds to me very like what Terence is talking about.

Terence: I agree. It's absolutely the same thing. I think, since the publication of Trialogues at the Edge of the West, we've more and more tended to address this precise issue. I don't have any problem with any of it. It certainly is part of the picture.

Ralph: I'm not sure we'll ever get finished discussing this point. My own views of the mystical and the unity of phenomena in the world is still evolving. Actually, our interaction in the context of our discussions continues to present different views about the details of this picture of the connectedness of all and everything.


More specifically, I think our recent discussions have had the function of decreasing dualism somehow, especially in our discussions about the heavens. When we talked about the location of heaven from a real estate perspective, we arrived at a kind of integration into a unity of all and everything. As I listened to our discussion, I imagined a unity of the dualism of form and matter and energy, not only unified in a primal cause, or primal Eschaton, but through all time. In the present moment as well, there is the interaction of matter and spirit within the integrity of a single phenomenon or trans-temporal object.


Even now, the entelechy, or causal phenomenon, has a concept of time in it which I think is more specific and special than, for example Brahma, the unity of all and everything which is the spirit and the world in one.

We tried to integrate heaven and Earth in our discussion by locating a door to the paranormal dimensions at each and every point in ordinary space and time. This is a kind of timeless integration in which the whole of time becomes a kind of slice in this trans-temporal causal object. This is a little bit different, as I see it, from the idea of the Eschaton, the attractor at the end of time.

Rupert: This is the holographic matrix, all-in-everything model.

Terence: It assumes that the higher, trans-temporal dimension can be accessed from anywhere in space and time. I suppose this is like the difference between individual and collective salvation, as one must believe that the individual at any point can truncate the process and cut to the chase, although clearly the species is locked in a larger drama that has to unfold according to its own dynamics before it's completed.

Ralph: I agree that ordinary reality lives in space and time, and the individual subjective experience of time is exactly what it seems to be. From the individual perspective, the model, the master form, chaos, can be visualized within ordinary reality either at the beginning of time or the end of time. A truly transcendental vision sees time as a kind of lower-dimensional phenomenon in the all-embracing picture of the overall unity of reality.

Rupert: Time is the moving image of eternity,' in Plato's well-known words.

Ralph: And eternity is not at the end of time.

Rupert: I think we've run into a problem, because all the Platonic formulations are based on a cyclical view of the universe. Whereas, the evolutionary view, which is Whitehead's3 view and Terence's view and my own view, are based on a different model of time, namely time as a development or movement towards an end or a goal.


Because of evolutionary theory, the attempts in this century of theologians and metaphysicians and philosophers to grapple with the problem of the eternity and unity of time have been different from the problems faced by their predecessors. Teilhard de Chardin4 tried to adapt traditional theology to the evolutionary view, and in India Sri Aurobindo5 put forth a similar evolutionary idea.

It's one thing to have the image of a transcendent reality which generates endless cycles of recurrence: the great breath of Brahma, the Great Year, and that kind of thing. It's another thing to have a model where the whole thing is developing toward a Telos, an end goal or cosmic attractor. This evolutionary view, which is fundamental to my own work and to the idea of morphic resonance, depends on the asymmetry in time. Evolution depends on an asymmetry in time, an increasing diversity of forms, and the appearance of novelty as well. All these things are slightly difficult to square with traditional theologies.

If you have the idea of cycles, then the transcendent and the temporal exist in some kind of ongoing, more or less eternal relationship. Time, as the moving image of eternity, goes round and round in circles, which is the closest approximation of eternal movement that the Greeks or anyone else could come up with. This is not the evolutionary version, where time moves ever increasingly faster and faster, as Terence tells us, towards some kind of cosmic culmination.

This has been a problem in Christian theology right from the beginning, because on the one hand the Christians inherited Greek neo-Platonic philosophy, and on the other hand, deep within the Judeo-Christian tradition is the idea of a process in time, moving towards a culmination, an apocalypse, the Eschaton, the Messiah, the Second Coming, the Millennium.


This tension has become exacerbated in this century because we've taken so seriously the evolutionary view, with its implication of a movement of things towards an end, a culmination, a goal. We've now got the whole of the universe and life and human development under the aspect of this evolutionary developmental process.


Previously, the idea was that the universe is more or less static once created, cycling endlessly, with human beings engaged in this eternal and endless process.

Ralph: I wish that Father Bede were here to instruct us. I interpret his words to mean that the evolutionary, or linear-progressive model is actually a denial of the mystical vision that he presents. Eric Voegelin described history, the past and the future, as radiating symmetrically from the present.


Rather than locating the Eschaton in the present and considering evolution both ways, I would think it's possible to envision time as an endless line. If time is thus regarded asymmetrically, where the past is considered to be more determined than the future, then today's efforts will matter in the long run.

The space-time model of ordinary reality can still be seen in its entirety as an arena for the morphogenetic process, which stretches over all and gives us the asymmetry of ordinary perception of the process. This reconciles the model of evolution with the growth of the morphogenetic field and so on.

Nevertheless, there's an interconnectedness between the past, the present and the future, as part of a morphogenetic process stretching over the entire space-time continuum. It's possible that pattern formation in the past is still taking place as we perceive it from the present. When we do archaeology we reconstruct the past, much as when we try to remember what we did or said yesterday, remembering selectively, introducing errors, which progress each day to different errors and so on.


As far as consciousness is concerned, there's a morphogenesis over the whole space-time continuum. In this context, we can unify the mystical view of the all and everything with the concept of linear evolution.

Terence: However, I don't think Father Bede would abandon orthodoxy, and the distinguishing characteristic of Western orthodoxy, whether Judaism, Christianity or Islam, is the absolute and uncompromised assurance that God will enter history at a certain moment. That's the distinguishing characteristic of Western, as opposed to Eastern religion.

Rupert: Not will, but has entered history.

Terence: And will again. It's a promise that must be redeemed, and it's completely counter-intuitive, completely anti-rational. It makes far less sense than the endless cycling of Hinduism or the quietism of Taoism. There is an irrational insistence at the heart of Western religion, and I don't think it will ever be traded away.

Rupert: There's a fundamental asymmetry in our conception of time, built into the system from which Father Bede is speaking.

Terence: Exactly. People forget, for example, that as recently as the early twentieth century Arnold Toynbee wrote a study of history in which he states that the culmination of history is the entry of God into three-dimensional space. This is considered modern historiography done in the Western tradition.

Rupert: There are two things one can say to that. First, in most esoteric formulations of the Christian view there is the entry of God at the end of time. In the more mystical view you have the idea of the entry of God all the time, in the lives of all believers. In this view, people are always potentially open to the spirit, because the spirit is that which is inspiring, dynamical, moving; it's the novelty wave, if you like, because it's that which causes change.


The Christian view is not that God is non-differentiated; there's always a trinity of Spirit, and Father, and the Logos or the Son, existing in relationship. The part of the trinity that's a moving principle, the spirit, is always conceived of in moving images; as the breath, the wind, the fire, the flame, the flight of the bird. These movements are not predictable, at least in any ordinary sense.


Jesus says to Nicodemus in John's Gospel,

"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." 6

The idea is that the spirit is inherently unpredictable, a moving principle, present in all people and all nature, and containing the element of surprise. There's also the formal principle, the Logos, which gives things their form. The Logos evolves as creation evolves, and there's always this dynamical Spirit within it.

There's a sense in which the Christian view has never been particularly compatible with the Platonic view, or with an extreme monotheism, which has an undifferentiated, changeless, eternal unity, outside time. The Trinity has process within it, the Spirit being the breath, the Word being the spoken word.

Alfred North Whitehead, of whom you often speak, Terence, was not only a great philosopher, but he also founded one of the most interesting schools of twentieth-century theology. His father was an Anglican vicar, and he himself was extremely preoccupied with questions of theology. His view of reality as process led him to a new interpretation of the divine process, and to the establishment of a school of evolutionary theology, called Process Theology.


It leads to the idea of the evolutionary process as some kind of divine process, a manifestation of the divine process working itself out through creation. Therefore there is a sense in which God evolves. Process theologians talk of two poles of the divine: one an eternal pole, which is changeless; the other an evolutionary pole, always changing. Somehow these poles come together in a final culmination.

With this view we get a much greater sense of the evolutionary process on Earth and in the whole cosmos as part of the divine process, not somehow external to it. Actually, the speaking of the Word, the vibratory coming forth of things in time can be seen as the very essence of the divine nature.


This is partly what Matthew Fox 7 means by the Cosmic Christ. When St. John, in his gospel says, "In the beginning was the Word," he doesn't mean in the beginning was Jesus of Nazareth. He means that in the beginning was the cosmic creative process with consciousness, meaning, and a vibratory nature. "Word" implies a process in time, with a beginning, middle and end. The whole universe is, in a sense, the Cosmic Christ, a divine, creative cosmos.

Ralph: That's what I meant by the space-time model of reality: The space-time continuum with all phenomena attached, including individual consciousness, the morphogenetic field, the wave functions of quantum mechanics, and the extra dimensions of the image, and so on. We could just call it the Logos and avoid the word "Word," because of its habitual association with sound and the lower-dimensional languages.

Rupert: I think it's better to keep that association, because sound and Word have the same sense of beginning and end as Logos. Having borrowed from Greek philosophy we can easily collapse back into some unintended Platonic view.

Ralph: As you like. This sensorium of God is very compatible with the view of general relativity and of quantum mechanics, where the functions describing ordinary reality and perceptions are distributed over the whole of space and time, and vibrations in the past are still ringing into the future and vice versa.


From this perspective you have what can be viewed as an evolutionary equation in which not only the curvature of space, but also the very topology of space; including black holes, worm holes, and so on, is evolving in time. On the other hand, if you impress any kind of boundary condition, like an hypothesis of the future, or an hypothesis of the past, onto the picture, then the possible topology in this evolution is severely restricted.

What you're suggesting is very consistent with the modern scientific view of the universe. This could be interpreted as an evolution of cosmology as well, but we do have a different picture of the mystical unity now than previously. Still, there seems to me to remain a tension between the idea of linear progress and the asymmetry of time on the one hand, and the mystical view of the union of things.


Even the entry of God into the model, can be thought of as a zipper that's unzipped and connected only at the ends. God intervenes here and there; meanwhile, humans and other creatures are free to screw up as much as they want.

On the other hand, the idea of the perpetual intervention of God suggests a knitting together of things in a more holistic way. The zipper is zipped, and consciousness is totally interconnected at all times. I think these are two entirely different views. The idea that you described under the name Process Theology seems particularly consistent with the modern view.

From the perspective of chaos theory, I think that the emergence of form from chaos in the morphogenetic process can be viewed either within the linear progression of time, or outside of it. I prefer to think of it as being connected throughout time, and that the linear progress of time is some kind of illusion that's normal for biological life.

Rupert: It's not exactly linear; it's developmental. One way of representing this is through the idea of entelechy, which draws a living organism toward an end or goal. As Aristotle said, the entelechy of the oak tree draws the acorn toward the mature form of the oak.


This process can be disturbed - insects eat the leaves, lightning strikes it, branches are blown off in a storm, there may be a long drought - all these accidents can happen. The exact course of its development is not exactly predictable, but the entelechy continues to draw it toward its mature form, enabling it to regenerate after damage. Unless it's killed off, it inexorably continues its development.

Another way of representing the evolutionary process is through the idea of an attraction which lures creation toward some kind of completion or culmination, as some process theologians would express it. This cosmic end or goal is what Tielhard de Chardin called the Omega Point. Terence calls it the cosmic attractor.


Freedom, diversions, digressions, and all sorts of things can happen on the way, but there's some kind of attractor towards which it's all being pulled. This seems to me entirely consistent with the traditional Christian view, although Terence puts it across more forcibly than most of the professional proponents of Christianity. And more persuasively.

Ralph: Naturally I like these dynamical metaphors referring to the lure of attractors and so on; but in the perspective of the developmental aspect of time, there are in the dynamics of process and history certain moments of bifurcation. In a dynamical metaphor, bifurcation can be the time when the lure of the entelechy passes a moment of indeterminacy.


In such a moment the intervention of God may be most appropriately attached to these dynamical events. A bifurcation in history such as the Renaissance is a time when anything can happen, and we don't know exactly what's going to evolve.

In chaotic dynamical systems, bifurcations can come in fractal clusters, which are called fractal bifurcation events, and that means you have something that, like a Cantor set of bifurcation moments, creates zones of indeterminacy that fill up a fairly large amount of time. In other words, the moments when the intervention of God or even of human will can affect history, occur very frequently, even during a single day.

Terence: It sounds like the time wave.

Ralph: Exactly. This is a punctuation of the whole entelechy concept, where Aristotle fails and Plato succeeds. There's so much flexibility in this process, as viewed in the content of the dynamical metaphor, that the acorn that Aristotle refers to, could become a tree with five limbs or a tree with three limbs. There are a lot of variations that occur even within the microstructure of time, as in the microsecond timing of cellular events and so on.


This variability permeates, fractally, the entire structure of time and the divine regulation of events. It actually liberates us from the simple notion of entelechy, the lure of a final destiny of the process.

Rupert: There's a great deal of freedom in terms of bifurcation along the way. In the oak tree, you see, which is Aristotle's chosen analogy, the vein pattern in every leaf is different.

Ralph: But it's still an oak tree.

Rupert: And each leaf is still an oak leaf; but if you look at the pattern of veins in a leaf, this is literally a primordial image of bifurcation. In the branching of the veins you have a different pattern in every leaf, while the overall general structure is similar. You can tell it's an oak tree and not a beech tree at a glance.

Ralph: If the morphogenetic field is thought of as stretched over the whole of time, with some special spotlight on the present movement which is moving along, then the development of a mature oak tree with an indeterminate number of leaves is already projected onto the future in a sort of a probabilistic way. The oak tree forms the successive concretization of this probability wave, as the spotlight of time moves along. From the point of the view of the mystical unity, these fields do extend over the whole of time, even if it's infinitely in the past and in the future.

Terence: The important thing to keep in mind is that the whole of time is probably not the same thing as forever.

Rupert: That would follow from the idea of entelechy, which is a culmination towards which animate beings move. The only way to get to forever is to link on a new cycle at the end.

Ralph: Right.

Rupert: Let's say the oak tree has acorns and it starts all over again; the universe gives rise to a baby universe and it begins again. This is not a question within our own universe, which by definition is a unity; a universe, rather than a multi-verse. If our universe has an attractor, a universal process, then we can leave open the question as to whether there's another one after it.


There's a culmination, the universe comes to flower, to maturity; but in the details of evolution, we get galaxies, stars, plants, molecules, crystals, fish, camels, and so on, a vast variety of forms. There's a lot of freedom in the evolutionary process, including the human evolutionary process. Things could be otherwise.

Despite all Terence's efforts, human beings may not make it. The year 2012 may be the human moment of truth; but it may not be the cosmic moment of truth, or even the moment of truth for life on this Earth. Terence's map is based on human history, and it may be that if humans blow it, then 2012 will simply mark the collapse of civilization, mass catastrophes, famines, civil wars in epidemic proportions, human beings reduced to a few scattered bands of survivors .. .

Ralph: And microbes will begin again.

Rupert: Or the whales, or the dolphins, or whatever. They may have their own version of the time wave and of evolution. Terence's evidence refers only to human history. Apart from a few asides about the sun and neutrinos, it leaves out most of the cosmos. It may be that the time wave leads to a culmination of our species, while another kind of time wave would apply to the evolution of other species.


There may also be a time wave that applies to the entire cosmos. For this reason it's worth looking at astronomical indicators like variations in sun spot cycles or the occurrence of supernovae, exploding stars, which are presumably intense vortices of novelty. We could look at the occurrence of supernovae through the universe and derive some index of the distribution of novelty in time and space on a cosmological scale.

Terence: The clustering of galaxies themselves in deep wells of space represents aggregations of novelty that are orders of magnitude more complex than the empty space between them. Since the discovery of the great attractor, it can be reasonably said that every phenomenon observable in the universe is furiously moving toward something, under the attraction of some larger system.


There are whole groups of galaxies bound together by attractive forces, and planetary systems, human social systems, atomic sub-systems, all bound to their local attractor and being pumped through the whole, as a subset of these larger attractive processes.

Ralph: This means that rather than thinking of the Eschaton as a big bang, or the culmination of all of the consciousness of the universe or something, we can see the entelechy as distributed in time, so that the human species can have its Omega Point at a particular moment in the time scale of the universe, while the nuclear process of the sun has its Omega Point and the solar system has its Omega Point.


Considering all the different scales of the perceived universe, these could be distributed in time and space, so we can say that there's entelechy everywhere, each comprising its own space-time continuum of extraordinary reality. This distributed model of entelechy itself would be a kind of a wave function, with its own time and novelty waves and its own probability functions and morphogenetic fields and so on. In this way we can get away from the particle view of entelechy and into the wave spectrum, a new kind of model of the universe.


This strange fascination with entelechy and the Eschaton was described by Freud as a manifestation of Thanatos. We are fascinated by our own death, although we deny it and transfer it onto larger spheres.


Now that we've achieved more or less the largest sphere in our search for the eventual death of the all and everything, perhaps we could extend the same consideration to creativity and birth and see the acorn, growing into the mature tree, as the ultimate principle of life. In these seeds, birth moments are distributed everywhere in space and time and throughout the reality of the universe.


1 Rupert Sheldrake, A New Science of Life (London: Blond and Briggs, 1981).

2 D. Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980).

3 A.N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: Macmillan, 1929).

4 P. Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (London: Collins, 1959).

5 Aurobindo, Sri, The Life Divine (New York: Sri Aurobindo Libtary, 1951).

6 The Gospel according to St. John, chapter 3, verse 8.

7 M. Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988).

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Terence McKenna
Born in 1946, author and explorer Terence McKenna has spent the last 25 years in the study of the ontological foundations of shamanism and the ethno-pharmacology of spiritual transformation. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a distributed major in Ecology, Resource Conservation and Shamanism.


After graduation he traveled extensively in the Asian and New World Tropics, becoming specialized in the shamanism and ethno-medicine of the Amazon Basin. With his brother Dennis, he is the author of The Invisible Landscape and Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Growers' Guide. His own titles include a study of the impact of psychotropic plants on human culture and evolution Food of the Gods, and a book of essays and conversations, The Archaic Revival, and True Hallucinations, an autobiographical adventure tale.


Most recently a group of discursive chats, Trialogues at the Edge of the West, with mathematician Ralph Abraham and British biologist Rupert Sheldrake, has been published in English, German, French and Spanish editions. McKenna has appeared on a number of CDs and in live performances with musical groups such as The Shamen and Zuvuya in England and Space/Time Continuum in San Francisco. Other titles and CD releases are also being planned. He is the father of two children, a girl and a boy. Currently he lives in paradisiacal seclusion in Hawaii where he divides his time between writing and crawling the World Wide Web.


His most recent interests include rave culture, multimedia, and fractal modeling of historical processes. His Web presence may be found at eschaton/

Rupert Sheldrake
Rupert Sheldrake was born in Newark-on-Trent, England in 1942. He studied natural sciences at Cambridge and philosophy at Harvard, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow. He took a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Cambridge in 1967 and in the same year became a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, where he was Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology until 1973. As a Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he carried out research at Cambridge on the development of plants and the ageing of cells.


From 1974 to 1978 he was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, where he worked on the physiology of tropical legume crops, and remained Consultant Physiologist until 1985. He lived for a year and a half at the ashram of Father Bede Griffiths in South India, where he wrote A New Science of Life (Tarcher, 1981; Inner Traditions, 1995).


He is also the author of The Presence of the Past (Times Books 1988; Inner Traditions, 1995), The Rebirth of Nature (Bantam, 1991; Inner Traditions, 1994), and, with Ralph Abraham and Terence McKenna, Trialogues at the Edge of the West (Bear and Co., 1992). His most recent book is Seven Experiments that Could Change the World (Fourth Estate, London, 1994: Putnams, New York, 1995). He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, San Francisco.


He is married to Jill Puree, has two sons, and lives in London. A website devoted to his current work is found at

Ralph Abraham
Ralph Abraham was born alongside the campus of the University of Vermont in 1936, where he fell in love with mathematics at age 15. After an engineering career at the University of Michigan, where he worked on the construction of the first large bubble chamber, he migrated to dynamical systems theory (chaos theory) at the University of California at Berkeley in 1960.


During the 1960s he also taught at Columbia and Princeton Universities, and wrote three texts of higher mathematics, including the Foundations of Mechanics, still in print after 28 years. Moving to the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1968, he converted from pure to applied mathematics, established a graduate program in applied and computational mathematics, and published a largely visual text, Dynamics the Geometry of Behavior, still in print after 13 years.


During the 1980s, he began a hobby of cultural history, and wrote Chaos, Gaia, Eros, on mathematics and the long line of Orphism, as well as trialoguing with Rupert Sheldrake and Terence McKenna. In the 1990s, retired from teaching, he continues writing books, CD-ROMs, and educational environments for the World Wide Web.


He is the author of The Web Empowerment Book, and can be browsed on the World Wide Web at

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