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.
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
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
In a BBC radio discussion on this subject, I was confronted with a
notoriously witty but hard-bitten panel. I was expecting a sceptical
The most formidable of the panellists simply said,
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
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
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
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 -
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Terence: The leading edge of the probabilistic waves of
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
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
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
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
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 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.
you mean that the rest of nature has more time?
rest of nature can see its termination in
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Back to Contents
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
That's why visiting another culture and living there for a
few months or years is sometimes enough to liberate people from
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
Terence: It's a search for perspective, achieved by
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
Ralph: Patriarchal, monotheistic, hierarchical,
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
offer this metaphor in the hope that it may make the trip to the
transcendental object, glittering at the end of time, an easier
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Terence: You mean when do I think it will occur?
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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
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,
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).
Back to Contents
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
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.
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
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
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
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?"
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.
history these supernovas - exploding stars in the sky - have been
regarded as major omens of the greatest importance. I asked my
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
2 Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival (San Francisco: Harper San
Back to Contents
Chapter 10 -
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.
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
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
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.
certainly, if Mr. and Mrs. Manuel wrote a revised edition of their
book, they would definitely include these authors in their list.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
coming to bear on our society, leading toward inevitable collapse
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.
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
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
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
Sit down and try and think of something more
improbable than that contention. Science opens up with the one-two
"Put that in front of them, and if they can swallow
it, then hydrogen bonding, gene segregation, whatever, will follow
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
"Have you noticed that time is speeding up?"
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,
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."
is not an objection at all, it's an argument in favor of my
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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]
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
1 Rupert Sheldrake, A New Science of Life (London: Blond and
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).
Back to Contents
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.
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 http://www.levity.com/ eschaton/
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.
married to Jill Puree, has two sons, and lives in London. A website
devoted to his current work is found at http://www.sheldrake.org
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.
the author of The Web Empowerment Book, and can be browsed on the
World Wide Web at http://www.vismath.org
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