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Geert Lovink on Mon, 8 Jan 96 22:06 MET


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Cybernetics & Entheogenics
(From cyberspace to neurospace)
Abstract of the lecture by Peter Lamborn Wilson
For the 'Next Five Minutes" Conference, Amsterdam, january 1996

   "The West" probably lost awareness of the most mind-altering
substances in a gradual process parallel to the diffusion of
christianity. Wine is sacramentalized, and its dionysan potential
remains both as magic (in the Mass) and "Some Function" (e.q. Rabelais)
- for no culture can persist without an opening towards non-ordinary
conciousness (if all else is forbidden there's always mass psychosis!).
Come to think of it, Rabelais still knew the secret of hemp. The Soma
Function (i.e. Transformation through ingestion of entheogens) is still
not quite erased even in the High Middle Ages. Porbably the ocultation
climaxes with Industrialization & the sneaking substitution of machinic
for organic space as a principle of psychic ordering. Victorian
puritanism & Imperialism represent the public repression of the
unconscious by a rigid soceity based on a mind/machine model (the
isolate & commanding cogito).
   At this very moment, of course, entheogenesis "re-appears"
(laudarium, hashish) in the West as a (sub)culture, as "occult
history". Nothing but the violence of Law can even pretend to suppress
it - but Law itself is machine-law, clockwork, unable to contain the
fluidity of the organic. Thus public discourse will approach breakdown
over the question of consciousness ("war on drugs"). Each refinement in
machine consciousness will evoke a dialectical response, so to speak,
from the organic realm. Around mid 20th century, technology begins to
shift away from an imperial-gigantic frame to a more "inward" dimension
- the "splitting of the atom", the virtual space of communications and
the computer; around the same time the really serious psychedelics
begin to show up - mescaline, psyloscibe, LSD, DMT, ketamine, MDMA,
etc.
   The "paradigm war" that now breaks out is one measure of an
antagonism between "cyberspace" and "neurospace", but the relation
cannot be simply vulgarized as a dichotomy. Complexity theory (and
"taoist dialectics") demand a far more baroque and twisted model,
including both complementarity & polarity. The latest developments in
machine consciousness have a "Deleuze-Guattarian" aspect of subversion
(e.q. internet) with a certain psychedelic flavor; while "drugs" are
produced out of a "second nature" that is nothing if not machinic.
However, an oppositional aspect also appears, a "second Psychedelic
Revolution", a dialectic of re-embodiment ("neurospace") as opposed to
the tendency toward false transcendence & disembodiment in
"cyberspace".
   One of the great "rediscoveries" of this New Entheogenesis is the
dialectical nature of ayahuasca or yage, that is, that organic DMT can
be "realized" in combination with an MAO-inhibitor like harmine; and
that plant-sourses for these two substances are globally diffused,
widespread to the point of ubiquity, impossible to control, and free.
Preparations require only low kitchen tech. Neo-ayahuasca, unlike
computer technology, is not a "part" of capitalism or any other
ideology control-system. Is it even fair to make this comparison? Yes,
to the extent tant entheogenesis & cybertech are both concerned with
information & therefore with epistemology; in fact we could call botj
of them "gnostic systems", both implicated in the goal of knowing that
emerges from the gulf that seems to seperate mind/soul/spirit from
body. The entheogenic version of this knowing however implies enlarging
the definition of the body to include "neurospace", while the
cybernetic version implies the disappearance of the body into
information, the "downloading of the consciousness". These are both
absurd extremes, images rather then political situations; - they are
also potent myths. We need a politique here, not an ideology but an
active cognizance of actually-persisting situations (as clearly as we
can grasp them) & a strategic sense of where to apply the nudges of our
material art. Neuro-hackers vs the New World Order? Well, it's a nice
idea for a science-fiction novel...