By Lawrence Hagerty
at Mind States II held at The International House in Berkeley,
California on May 27, 2001]
available in audio format, listen online or download
When I learned that my presentation at
this conference was to follow such a distinguished panel of
elders, the first thought that came to mind was, “What can
I add to the topic of psychedelic thinking that won’t have
already been covered?” In fact, that question became even
more pressing when it dawned on me that this presentation
also comes near the end of a very mind-expanding weekend.
The answer, of course, is that psychedelic
thinking is like a multi-faceted jewel, reflecting the light
of our individual consciousnesses as we hold it up for examination.
Thus each of us brings a unique point of view to a subject
that holds few, if any, absolutes. Like most of you, I have
come to my view of psychedelic thinking after many years of
conscious effort. I began my personal investigations of altered
states of consciousness after first studying the teachings
of those who blazed the early trails. Eventually, I got to
know some modern-day psychonauts and learned from them as
well. So what I am going to present today is a mosaic that
has been assembled from a variety of sources, including my
own work, but mostly the works of our elders, books I have
read, and conversations with psychonauts like yourselves.
The picture I will offer for your examination today is not
the only picture that can be assembled from these pieces of
information. It is merely the picture that most fascinates
me at the moment. When this conference is over, I am sure
we will all take these and other parts of the picture and
reassemble them in other pleasing patterns as well. Now, here
is my view of psychedelic thinking today.
I believe it is fair to say that never
before in human history has Dickens’ famous line been so true,
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” No
matter how you see the human condition, you most likely agree
that these are at the very least some extremely interesting
times. What makes everything so different today is the fact
that we now find ourselves in that magical time that only
occurs between major ages in human history. The Industrial
Age, with its materialistic outlook, scientific progress,
and wage slavery is about to recede into the background. The
coming age, which is being touted as the Information Age,
is already visible on the horizon. Thus we find ourselves
poised either to step boldly into an unknowable future or
to tumble down the slopes of Western science and pseudo-democracy
into the wells of chaos.
Under the category “best of times” we
can point to the unprecedented doubling of human knowledge
every ten years or so and the fact that so many of us seem
to be waking up and seeing life on this planet from a more
global perspective. Under the “worst of times” category the
list is long. For example, our species has overpopulated this
planet to the point where we have altered the balance of life
in the biosphere. We are now experiencing the greatest mass
extinction of species since a meteor or asteroid crashed into
the Earth some 65 million years ago. This time we
are the meteor.
As you already know, the combined effects
of overpopulation and the increase in human encroachment on
plant and animal habitats, along with massive amounts of human-created
pollution, are causing species to become extinct at a rate
some believe to be as high as 100 per hour. Even using the
lowest estimate of the species extinction rate, twenty species
have become extinct since the Panel of Elders began their
presentation a little over three hours ago. During the course
of this conference, somewhere between 330 and 5,500 species
will have become extinct, never again to be seen in living
form on this planet.
Now you may ask, “How does the extinction
of a few thousand plants, animals, and insects impact me?”
The answer lies in the fact that as life becomes less diverse
on this planet, our biosphere becomes more rigid. Fewer opportunities
for life to express itself causes a loss in flexibility when
the time comes to recover from ecological accidents.
Recently we have come to understand the
theory of keystone species, which explains how the loss of
a single species, if it is a keystone species, can cause the
loss of an entire ecosystem. I shudder to think that one or
more of the hundreds of species that have become extinct since
we began this conference might be a keystone species. Until
they are gone, we simply cannot know for sure which species
are the keystones. Once they are gone, we will never fully
understand their importance in the overall functioning of
Last year I attended a conference that
focused on one of the more important shamanic medicines, ayahuasca.
One of the speakers at that conference, Constance Grauds,
asked the most important question I have heard in a long time.
It is a simple question, “Why haven’t we saved the
rainforest by now?” There are, of course, many answers to
that question. Ultimately, all of these answers circle around
to the fact that most of the people who seem to be running
things these days are trying to solve our ecological problems
by using the same kind of thinking that got us into this mess
in the first place. What is required, if our species is to
have any hope at all of long-term survival, is for us to step
as far out of the box as we can to find new ways of thinking
about these problems. We must expand our species-consciousness
to include a long-term view with a global perspective. In
short, our thinking must become psychedelic.
As you know, the topic of psychedelic
thinking is so broad we could spend an entire conference investigating
it and still not scratch the surface of this beautiful jewel.
What I am going to do, therefore, is to touch on a few high
points in the following areas:
Before I explain what I mean by psychedelic
thinking, I should make it clear that I do not consider everyone
who ingests a psychedelic substance to be a psychedelic thinker.
Just like reading the Bible doesn’t make you a Christian,
taking a psychedelic substance does not automatically turn
you into a psychedelic thinker. To develop the powers of psychedelic
thinking you must first do some work in the mind space I call
“entheospace.” I define entheospace as that sense of place
you have at those special moments when, during an exploration
of your inner landscape, you discover an entire universe.
If you are technically inclined, you can think of entheospace
as an operating environment in which many forms of consciousness
exist and interact.
What I am not going to discuss today
is how you get into entheospace. There are many ways.
Some people use chemicals. Others use plants. Some people
enter entheospace “on the natch” by means of deep meditation
practices, and others are skilled enough to use trance dance
or yoga to launch their minds into the alternate state of
consciousness where psychedelic thinking can begin. Before
long it will be common to enter entheospace using virtual
reality devices. There simply is no right way to enter this
realm. What is important, and what I will concentrate on today,
is what you do after entering entheospace. It is important,
however, that you continue to keep in mind the distinction
between a psychedelic thinker and a psychedelic substance
user. It requires discipline, intelligence, persistence, and
an unwavering commitment to honesty for a psychedelic substance
user to become a psychedelic thinker.