“Are We Not Plants?!” – Upcoming Talk at MLA, Chicago

Are We Not Plants? Noöspheric Intelligence From the Text of Glas
Richard Doyle, Pennsylvania State University

“The innocence of the flower religion, which is merely the selfless representation of self…” Glas

This paper will model Jacques Derrida’s epochal and unheralded treatment of plant ontology in Glas. Here textual animals become heuristic vectors for metabolic and informational exchange fostered by plant “subjects” – e.g. seed dispersion. Instead of the usual categorical distinction between plant and animal, Derrida here resonates with and differs from a “holonomic” model of plant/animal interaction drawn from ecology that recognizes even the alterity that divides animal from plant – a seemingly straight forward taxonomical divide – as an aspect of much larger and deeply interconnected dissipative structures ( e.g. ecosystems, biomes, demographics) and their interactions. This notion of a plant ontology as immanent to animal ontology – animals are a capacity to move plant alleles around – will then provide an occasion for the exploration of attention (human and otherwise) as an evolutionary feedback loop for exploring the recombinant space of plant evolution through what Darwin called “artificial selection”, transforming human consciousness into a supplement for plant evolution. Drawing from contemporary thermodynamics ( e.g. Salthe, Sagan, Margulis, Schneider, Swenson, Kay) as well as Darwin’s work on artificial and sexual selection, the talk will suggest that this capacity of consciousness and its adjuncts ( e.g. writing) to observe and mark different traits by guessing at different thermodynamic outcomes (e.g. increasing yield, nutrition, flavinoids etc of plants) is the very ecological telos of attention, pulling us into a future that we both find and create in our ongoing search for energy gradients -Vernadksy’s concept of the “Noösphere” wherein the “selfless representation of self” evolves through continuous thermodynamic sacrifice ( Bataille).

Thursday, 9 January, 2014
129. Flowers: For the Fortieth Anniversary of Derrida’s Glas
5:15–6:30 p.m.
Chicago

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Hacking The Hero’s Journey Beyond Thought with Philip K. Dick

Why would one man write nearly nine thousand pages after the experience of being "nailed by information"?  Writer Philip K. Dick's The Exegesis, now accessible to scholars and fans in print, records the heroic journey of one man seeking to fathom the inexplicable: a 1974 experience of what he called  "pure consciousness."  In his mammoth text, Dick worked through the range of all possible explanations for this anomalous event of "ultra thought", including an alien god he called VALIS, a cosmic galactic network of living information. By pursuing a relentless path of writing and thinking through the unbelievable with humor, skepticism and a passion for the truth, Dick ultimately exhausts his capacity to think any further, arriving at pure consciousness. Beyond thought, PKD  achieves what Joseph Campbell termed "at-one-ment", writing up his journey as a story featuring himself as a fictional character in the novel Valis,   Through the pages of the Exegesis and the novels, PKD discovers and relates the unthinkable: the self is itself  a fiction, hacking the hero's journey beyond thought.

 

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Do you want to go to Jupiter?

Another leak, by popular demand, from By The Grace of Gaia: A Journey Through Psychedelics and Beyond

Do You Want to Go to Jupiter?
Cascading alien cities of obviously sacred geometry shimmered forth in a palette dominated by magenta. Spiral cathedrals that worshipped themselves as evolutionary technologies asked me to visit them as if featured in brochures of galactic tourism. “Wander the Amazing Sentient Crystal City Grown From Self Aware Amethyst! Participate in Ancient Reptile Architectural Re-Enactments, Climb the Self Healing Ruins of the Cosmically Famous Reverberating Quartz Nautilus That Speaks Itself Echoing Into the Future!” The buzzing blooming confusion of the Amazonian night chimed in from without, confirming the alien solicitation. “Do you want to go to Jupiter?!”

But as the unspeakably gorgeous kaleidoscope of extraterrestrial architecture continued to turn, a comically enormous wave of certainty welled up and burst forth from within me. Finally I responded to the absurdly beautiful come ons. “But I love this world!” I swooned as if I revered the Earth itself as my teen idol.

Huge palm fronds waved gently beneath a full alabaster moon. Yes, they were solar panels, opening to the light gathering and transforming it, we now know, through the help of the quantum attributes of light. Somewhere in the distance, tiny primates whooped. Closer by, away from the huts and under the silver glowing frisbee of a moon, a man was transparently and unmistakably having difficulties. “It’s just that I am having trouble with the harmalines. The body load.”

I nodded, feigning to understand how he could feel the distinctions between molecules when everything was One. The solar panel palm fronds were waving their hospitable enormity. I looked skyward, following them. The full moon sprouted thorns as I gazed upon it.

“I am under the distinct impression that the area of my brain responsible for linguistic coding is not functioning.” For a moment the man seemed relieved, as if this insight did something about the harmalines. He sighed, then looked more alarmed than ever.

“Well, I have some very good news for you.”

We were strolling now, slowly, outside the main hut where the ceremony had begun. We had both wandered off from the circles of icaros. Some visiting Daimistas  were singing at the top of their lungs. I unconsciously began shouting to make myself understood.

“The good news is that there is no such area of your brain!

We both gasped in laughter at the non existent threat and my inexplicable shouting. I thought about the EEG’s of human brains interacting with ayahuasca that I had seen – they had what researchers characterized as remarkable “coherence” – all areas of the brain were “firing equally.” This coherence was as unmistakable as it was difficult to interpret. One researcher had told me that in his view interpreting an ayahuasca experience in terms of the EEG data was rather like interpreting our conversation based on the sound of nearby traffic noise. The moon still wore a corona of thorns.

I recognized the man from the close quarters of the van we had taken to mile marker 31. Even as everything was blending together, I experienced something radically distinctive in him. 

“What do you do when you aren’t drinking ayahuasca and shutting down non existent areas of your brain responsible for linguistic coding?”
“ I work with veterans with Post Traumatic Stress disorder.”
“Already?”
“No, I mean everything in me is saying “No.” But I know that can’t work.”
“Say yes to the “No!” You have to say “Yes!” even to the “No!”
“Did I tell you yet about my past lives? A woman, killed by some Cosaks. Sometimes she…returns. And: She’s me.”

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By the Grace of Gaia: A Journey Through Psychedelics and Beyond

Leaked excerpt from another book in progress…

 In the Beginning Was the Hack

A step van made its way north west on the Atlantic City Expressway, a ribbon of asphalt that crawled each summer with station wagons crammed with tourists from Philly to the beach. In July there were families with dogs and baroque collections of beach chairs and inflatable rafts. I see clusters of bikers, cruising chopped Harleys and Triumphs, a nomad cloud of marijuana smoke and whiskey vapors, leathered up in the 90 degree asphalt amplified heat, and day tourists on the bus with their white bread sandwich lunch in a shoebox, wearing black socks and sandals under long khakis they would roll up for a stroll along the foamed edge of a gray beach.

But by now it was late October, and the leaves had begun to curl and crisp, bending towards gold and red. The back of the van is crammed floor to ceiling with punched cards. The information content of those cards could now be carried on a CD or a flash drive or sent as an email attachment, avoiding the trip altogether. But in 1963 a computer program to run a simple mailing list – a leading edge technology at the time, pioneered by my father – took up the entire back of a van traveling northwest toward Philadelphia. The cards were headed to a General Electric facility to be fed into a computer so that a catalog featuring fake vomit, vibrators and laughing bags (as well as an early version of electric toilet paper that featured a corn cob with a plug) could be individually labeled and mailed to the names on the list. Periodically, the cards would jam, and my father would open the front of the feeder, retrieve the offending card, utter expletives gathered from his years with the Marine Corps, smooth it out, and start the process again.

The catalogs anticipated the Internet in the sense that it was where ordinary people could get difficult to find items that would “astound your friends.” This was the beginning of shopping at a distance, the magical transformation of the planet into a global cash register and shopping mall.  All of human evolution had been tending towards this ability to market and deliver fake vomit anywhere in the continental United States, but we didn’t know it at the time. The computer time – because you had to indeed buy time on the computer and make an appointment – was scheduled for nine am.

They arrived somewhere in the 609 area code just south and east of Philadelphia, and my father began unloading the boxes of punched cards and lugging them along with the driver to the data processing room of the facility so that they might be stacked and read, one by one, in a fluttering spasm of machine scanning. Naturally this room was even larger than the back of the van, full of floor to ceiling mainframe computers whirling with spools of magnetic tape, humming.

A phone clamored on an enormous and likely black or beige desk model festooned with blinking half inch buttons, answered by one of the regulars. “It’s for Doyle.”

My father probably stared at the blinking buttons. He was always uncertain about which to push. “Hello?”

My mother was in labor with her third child.

My father began reloading the van with the cards. The fake vomit would just have to wait a little longer.

It was not long before my body asserted its difference: the skin began coming off my legs and torso in sheets. The doctor in Philadelphia took one look and said “Kaposi’s Varicelliform Eruption” as if it were a kind of self explanatory spell. Kaposi’s Varicelliform Eruption sounds like the name of a speed metal band, and maybe it is, but it was also a mysterious illness that seemed to announce the beginning of a long quest to figure out just how to live on this planet. After birth, I seemed to be an afterbirth – an event of shedding skin more than a persistent thing. My arms joined in the fun. I was shedding my flesh faster than I could grow it, making it a challenge to keep warm. My mom swaddled me and worked on warming me up. She must have thought she’d had a reptile.

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The Bible Beyond Belief

For if this book is a joke it is a joke against me. I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

I didn’t even pick up the Bible until I was forty. Like many families in 1970s South Jersey, mine found itself riding out the anti-establishment wave of counter culture, and by 1975, when it would have been my turn to go through the motions and take communion, I just said no to it. The Bible had the smell of church on it, and reeked of all the reactionary stupidity that I saw unleashed by the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s. The Bible was worse than irrelevant – it was the enemy.

After the twin instructions of punk rock and graduate school – teachings for which I am forever grateful – my antipathy to Christianity hardened into a hatred.  The Bible was all that was wrong on this cosmic rock 93 million miles from a middle aged star. It was the Conquest. It was homophobia. It was patriarchy and its desperate need for control that, yes, begat this fine mess we find ourselves in.

But a funny thing happened on the way back from the Upper Amazon: While I went to Peru as a scholar in order to research Ayahuasca, the admixture of plants  the writers William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg wrote about in their Yage Letters, I came back, to my utter astonishment, something other than secular. In the Oneness catalyzed by the Icaros sung by my teacher Norma Panduro,  in astonished  dialogue with the plant teacher I would begin calling “mamahuasca”, I experienced an irreversible otherness that opened my eyes to the unity of all things. In this unity, so far from home, I could hardly avoid the divine. In the chattering rain forest frenzy of shamanic experience, far from the incensed church of my South Jersey childhood, I found not only the healing gifts of Norma, but that from which she manifests: ” I am.”

The giggling aliens had tried to prepare me for it, but probably nothing, or rather  only everything, could. Under the the violet glow of a closed eye vision, these 0live eyed cartoon Greys asked me, over and over, if I was ready. “This is something big!”, they promised, giggling. One of them even wore sunglasses. Perhaps I should have known to shield my eyes.

But, like the unsuspecting Arjuna in Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita, I was apparently asking for it, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the animated vision of the unfolding of the Big Bang into the present, with a soundtrack of nothing but “I am” resounding in my ears. All that Is, is, in one undivided moment.

It would be years before I even realized I was now on a spiritual quest.  But the healing that ensued and the experience of Oneness would not, could not, fade, and before long I found myself opening all of the books of all the traditions in search of integration and  resonance, and you can still hear me slapping myself in the forehead after I opened the Bible.

With the help of Swami Prabhavananda’s The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta, it clicked. Without the experience of Oneness, the Bible, in all of its translations, looks like a dualist text. God is there and we are here.  We are well East of Eden, whirling lost in a meaningless Cosmos.  But with the memory of the entirety of the Big Bang compressed into the sonic earful of  the “I am”, what we might call the “Code of Oneness” began to pop out from the pages of the so called “Old” and “New” Testaments. If one explores the within, we discover, eventually, that it is mobiused with the without. Oneness.  It is this hardly secret and never hidden code that I will be sharing in the best way I can on this blog and in the book that is emerging from it, The Bible Beyond Belief:  DIY Oneness and the End of Religion. I’m looking forward to the journey! “Are you ready? Are you ready? This is something big!”

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Practice Beyond Belief

Friends,
Something’s making mobius write a book about the King James Bible. Yes, Gaia made me do it…
It may liberate you to consider that the KJV offers a series of practices rather than an obligation to believe. Even the Commandments, which would seem to be the most straight forward of prescriptions, support this inclination toward  practice rather than belief.  The King James Version of Exodus 20, for example, reads “ I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” What exactly are readers instructed to do here? The first part of this “command” is actually a declaration: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” “Egypt”, of course, meant “slavery” to the audience of these commandments, so it is important to remember that the very beginning of this commandment describes a pathway to freedom and that it comes from an entity whose very name, “Yahweh” means “I am” or “pure being.” This gives us the hope and expectation that these commandments are a continuation of that path to freedom, a freedom that comes from our very nature or being. Yahweh likely did not free a people in order to enslave them. How to continue this freedom?
Next, we receive our recipe for freedom:“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This can sound like an imperative that is an obligation, an order which, if we violate it, condemns us as insubordinate, rebellious, disobedient. Yet if we actually carry out this command, we find that any violation of this commandment condemns us to slavery. How so? Reflect on this passage, repeating it slowly to your self, with eyes closed: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. “ What challenges to this unique status of Pure Being In Itself emerge in your mind?

Because we do not live in Ancient Greece or Rome, we probably do not struggle with the competition of, for example the goddess Diana, whose festival was witnessed by the apostle Paul in the New Testament. But in the words of theologian Paul Tillich, “god” is that to which we trace our “ultimate concern.” To what do we, in our actions and our minds, accord the highest value?
If we are truly honest with ourselves – a difficult task indeed – we will often realize that it is our selves – a being rather than Being Itself –  that is our ultimate concern. And while the very existence of “Yahweh” ( being itself) can and should be subject to doubt, you will look in vain for evidence that the doubter has any but the most fleeting of existences. Ashes to ashes…It is downright hilarious that while debates about the plausible existence of the divine provide endless entertainment, it does not occur to most of us to doubt the existence of the debaters. Irish dramatist Terence Gray, aka “Wei Wu Wei”, transcribed it this way:
Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 per cent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself -
And there isn’t one.
Wei Wu Wei, “Ask the Awakened.”
The freedom offered by the King James Bible is not a “freedom to” but a “freedom from”:  a freedom from the tyranny of the self. How do we achieve this? If we practice even the first commandment not as a commandment but as a recipe, we dwindle our investment in ourselves and replace it with an ultimate concern larger than ourselves, freeing us from the worship of our local and transient existence:  Practicing beyond belief in our non existent selves, we are once again delivered from tyranny.

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Declarations of the Noosphere – May, 2014

Declarations of the Noosphere: Towards an Involutionary Speech Act

This talk will invoke the noosphere – an emergent concept of Vernadsky, Le Roy, and Teilhard de Chardin – as a form of address suited to mapping the interface of the informational and the biological at the subjective and planetary scales.

If the noosphere is a “form of address”, a label addressing an ecological ensemble of attention gathering, exchange, recording, storage and transformation,   who or what is being addressed, and who is addressing it? Diverse traditions and studies of Non Ordinary Consciousness ( Harner, Fischer, Strassmann) suggest that rhetorical practices of self inquiry are both necessary and sufficient to these “involutionary speech acts” ( after Austin, 1954, “illocutionary”, “perlocutionary”). This conscious search for the self by the self, in which a radical sense of interconnection with larger scale phenomena such as “noosphere” often occur in the context of ego death, are likely “irreducible” ( Wolfram) yet well mapped by simple iterative rules that produce  effects of “infinity”. ( CF.  recursion in Lisp, “A Little Lisper”)

–Richard Doyle, Penn State University

May 2014, San Antonio, Texas – Rhetoric Society of America

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