Chapter 2: The Internet and the Noosphere
A New Sacred Medium
If our hypothesis that humans
are able to join with Gaian consciousness in entheospace is
correct, then how is the noosphere to enter this space? Drumming,
chanting, deep meditation, yoga, etc., work fine for humans,
but they will not work for the ethereal noosphere. Even the
ancient use of entheogens is not an option for a mechanically
grounded sphere of thought. If the noosphere has no way to
enter entheospace, how is this great collective consciousness
going to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Mother Nature?
Consciousness always seems
to find ways in which to communicate with other forms of awareness.
That is why, I believe, Gaia herself has been instrumental
in the evolution of the Internet. Perhaps one of the reasons
we humans have been inspired to build, and then so quickly
embrace, this new technology we call the Internet, is to provide
a focal point for the noosphere so it can more easily achieve
communication with Gaian consciousness.
Ancient Entheogenic Communications
As you may know, deep spiritual
seekers have long used a wide variety of methods to expand
their awareness beyond the realm of what is called normal
human consciousness. These explorers of consciousness seek
to enter into other realms of mind. Through meditation, yoga,
entheogenic plants and drugs, drumming or any of a multitude
of other techniques, shamans and psychonauts struggle to reach
deep states of entheogenic awareness. As in all spiritual
practices, the more time and energy we apply to our preferred
techniques, the better the chance that an epiphany of consciousness
will take place.
Such techniques are often used
by very introspective persons who seek to more deeply explore
their own inner landscapes. As well tested as these practices
are, however, they lack mass appeal. Only a few shamans and
psychonauts are courageous enough to tread down some of these
arduous paths. Yet the rewards are beyond description, for
all of these techniques, in their highest form, lead to a
portal through which entheospace can be entered. In Figure
4, I group shamanic practices into two main categories, plants
and techniques. Both branches lead to the same inner core.
To reach that deep inner core, however, often takes a shaman
or psychonaut years of training and practice.
Modern Entheogenic Communications Technologies
During the 20th century, new
techniques for entering into states of shamanic ecstasy were
developed by brilliant chemists in laboratories all around
the world. I refer to the invention and proliferation of what
are commonly called psychedelic chemical substances. Although
there is debate in the psychedelic community as to whether
a human-made chemical is an acceptable substitute for a natural
entheogen, it seems clear from many accounts found on the
Internet, that at least some experiences enhanced by synthetic
psychedelic chemicals are as entheogenic in nature as are
those achieved with natural counterparts.
For purposes of this discussion,
we will call these new shamanic tools "psychedelic chemicals."
I separate these new techniques for deep exploration of inner
landscapes from the plant group, not because of any differences
in experience they may invoke, but rather because of the way
in which these new tools affected society. Instead of providing
universal access to the Mysteries of Eleusis, these substances
have inadvertently caused widespread suppression of the use
of all entheogens, synthetic and natural, in most parts of
the world. Thus, while our picture of shamanic ecstasy techniques
has been significantly enlarged with the addition of psychedelic
chemicals, the number of people actually employing these techniques
has experienced only modest growth.
The Evolution of Cyberdelic
Recall our earlier discussion
about cyberspace where we said, "A mind that is in cyberspace
is a mind that is altered from its normal, walking around
state." The first thought that enters some minds when
they hear about altered states of consciousness often involves
psychedelic substances. It seems inevitable, then, that the
word "cyberdelic" would find its way into our language.
One of the first uses of the word "cyberdelic" is
in an article John Perry Barlow wrote in 1990. (22)
In this early analysis of the profound potential of Virtual
Reality, Barlow said:
The closest analog to Virtual Reality in my experience
is psychedelic, and, in fact, cyberspace is already crawling
with delighted acid heads. . . . The Cyberdelic Experience
isn't like tripping, but it is as challenging to describe
to the uninitiated and it does force some of the same questions,
most of them having to do with the fixity [sic] of reality
As Barlow points out in his article, "cyberspace is
already crawling with delighted acid heads." This fact
was also pointed out by Erik Davis in his ground-breaking
In 1968, Marshall McLuhan prophesied that "the computer
is the LSD of the business world." But in today's Silicon
Valley and San Francisco's multimedia gulch, computers plus
LSD sometimes seems like the formula for success. . . .
Silicon Valley's corporate heads didn't just come to accommodate
the fact that many of their most brilliant employees liked
to gobble weird drugs-they also realized that "weirdness
can be an export commodity." Experienced and intelligent
trippers are often characterized by a fluid sense of perception,
a willingness to tinker with cognitive structures, and a
sensitivity to what Gregory Bateson called "The pattern
that connects"-just the kind of mental gymnastics that
come in handy when you're crafting the giddy complexities
of information space. (24)
It is as if a bond of some
sort exists between the psychedelic and computing communities.
What may perhaps always remain a mystery is whether this symbiotic
relationship is primarily due to the nature of the people
who are actually laying the deep foundations for cyberspace,
or whether cyberspace itself has a psychedelic component.
In any event, the fact that there may be yet another tool
that could be of use in the exploration of inner landscapes
is important news. Perhaps a socially acceptable way for large
numbers of people to enter entheospace has evolved.
As in the case of the word
"cyberspace," there does not seem to be an all-inclusive
definition of the word "cyberdelic." An informal
survey of web sites on which the word can be found reveals
that people assume this term represents some combination of
computers and psychoactive substances. To further refine the
use of this term, I would like to introduce the concept of
Just as psychedelic chemicals
provide a portal to entheospace, cyberdelic space also acts
as a portal to entheospace.
When this piece of the puzzle
is put in place, we see that there now may be a technology
that large numbers of people can legally use to expand their
consciousness into entheospace, using the portal of cyberdelic
space. Mother Nature herself began this picture with the plant
entheogens. Humans followed her lead and came up with other
technologies for consciousness expansion. Thus developed a
wide variety of shamanic techniques. Never content, humanity
continued its quest for expanded awareness by inventing psychedelic
chemical compounds, and now we may have built the Internet
for precisely the same reason.
It is important to remember
that not everyone can break into entheospace through the portals
of entheogens, psychedelics, and shamanic techniques. The
same holds true when it comes to using the new tool of cyberspace.
With today's technology, it takes a strong intent and a reasonable
amount of experience to even be able to glance into entheospace
through the portal of cyberdelic space. Yet it can be done,
as I believe the following account by Bruce Damer illustrates:
I recently chaired a cyberconference held inside a complex
of worlds, Avatars99 (www.ccon.org/ conf99), and while this
event progressed, I tracked several thousand people, handling
2 interrupts a second while warping my avatar body from
the exhibit hall to the breakout rooms to the art gallery,
all for 20 hours nonstop. For a week afterward, I drifted
in and out of a totally different mind state. This is not
to say that these virtual world trips are just about being
neuronially [sic] taxing. In fact I believe that my mind
is now capable of an order of magnitude more complexity
both on a conscious and subconscious level. I "run"
multiple worlds, scenarios, lines of reason and dialogue
at once. (25)
The Cyberdelic Communication Alternative
you look at Figure 8, keep in mind that Cyber Space is where
both human brain/mind consciousness and Internet/noosphere
consciousness can operate. The other three portals are available
only to human consciousness as entrances to entheospace. The
natural course of speculation, therefore, leads to the possibility
that deep cyberdelic space and entheospace are fully congruent.
If so, it is possible that one day we will be able to use
the power of Virtual Reality technology to enter Inhabited
Virtual Worlds, which in turn will provide us with the same
sense of place one experiences in entheospace. If this can
be achieved by individual humans, it seems at least possible
that the same will hold true for the noosphere as well.
If you haven't personally experienced
being in both deep cyberspace and entheospace, the thought
of these two places having points that are congruent might
seem farfetched. If this is the case, recall the discussion
in the previous chapter where the concept of cyberspace was
- A pure mental experience.
- A pure spirit experience.
- Having no physical limits, no boundaries.
You will also find that a perusal
of reports from shamans and other psychonauts will yield an
abundance of descriptions of the places to which they traveled
that are strikingly similar to, if not exactly the same as,
what has been said about cyberspace. As Erik Davis points
out, "Etymologically speaking, after all, computers are
literally psychedelic; that is, they manifest the mind."
It is difficult, if not impossible, for me to avoid the conclusion
that deep cyberspace and entheospace are at least partly coincident,
if not actually the same place of unbounded consciousness.
Once a mind is established
in cyberspace it becomes larger; it expands; it becomes manifest
in this new medium; it becomes psychedelic. Perhaps the Internet
is evolving into a 21st century version of the sacred plant,
or sacred medium. The Internet is a machine that can be used
to catapult one's mind into cyberspace. If, as we speculate,
deep cyberspace and entheospace have areas in common, it then
follows that our species-mind, the noosphere, which rests
upon the mechanical infrastructure of the Internet, now has
a way to achieve unity with Gaian mind in its own right.
You can personally test this
hypothesis that the Internet has the power to alter your mind.
The next time you have several hours at your disposal, log
onto the Web and begin at a site that has information about
a subject that deeply interests you. Then spend four or five
hours following the information trails that fascinate you.
Simply let your mind enjoy itself in the discovery of new
information. Relax. Don't look at a clock or worry about the
time you are spending. Then at some prearranged time, have
a friend come into the room and begin a conversation about
a topic that is totally unrelated to the one you were following
on the Web. Unless you are very different from most people,
you will find the first few minutes of this conversation quite
difficult, and you will discover that your mind is still in
cyberspace. In effect, you will have to go through the same
process of coming down that is experienced by practitioners
of the various ecstatic techniques used by shamans and others.
The intensity of the experience of being in an altered state
may be less in cyberspace than in a pure entheospace, but
the feeling of expanded consciousness is much the same.
Just as individual humans are
not represented in Figure 8, the noosphere is not pictured
either. While it would be interesting to show the noosphere
encircling entheospace, such is not the case. As you recall,
entheospace is in essence the sense of place sentient beings
experience when on deep spiritual quests. Entheospace is not
confined to any particular place, unlike the noosphere which
is confined to planet Earth.
These are revolutionary speculations
to be sure, but the day has arrived for us to join together
in a revolution of consciousness. We no longer have the luxury
of waiting until we get it all figured out exactly right.
Where these speculations, if correct, might lead us is the
subject of following chapters. Before sailing deeper into
such uncharted waters, however, let us first consider a few
of the implications of our hypotheses that the Internet and
the noosphere are so inseparably intertwined.
The Evolution of Global Consciousness
Humankind is at its most significant
crossroad yet. Our species has tapped the power of the atom
and set foot on the moon. We are responsible for the fact
that the number of inter-connected machines continues to grow
exponentially, and yet the human species on this beautiful
little planet remains plagued by war, suffering, hunger, and
desperation. Although our species has evolved at an incredible
rate, we still seem to have one foot stuck in the swamp from
which we first crawled.
Few will argue against the
concept that human beings are the highest and most complex
forms of biological substance known to exist. What distinguishes
us from much of the observable universe is our minds, our
consciousness, the fact that we know we know. Now reflect
for a moment on the fact that, at the most basic level, what
the Internet is actually all about is the interconnection
of these conscious minds into a more unified global consciousness,
a collective consciousness, the complement of our collective
unconscious. For you Star Trek fans, I am in no way implying
that the Internet will turn us into some form of Borg.
Rather, I envision this elevated state of human consciousness
to bestow a form of super-psychic abilities on our entire
species, as is discussed in the following chapters.
Thus, by connecting our minds
in a unified global consciousness, I mean that while we remain
individuals, each with an independent mind, we also have the
ability to tune in to some psychic voice infused with Gaian
consciousness, a voice that does not let us pass up an opportunity
to take proper care of the biosphere. This voice most likely
will be very subtle, and no doubt has already been heard by
many who are drawn to this book. What a unified global consciousness
implies is that everyone on the planet will be in harmony
with this sense of Gaian consciousness.
This sensation is easy to spot,
by the way. For example, you might be walking down a beach
at low tide and spot a shard of glass from a broken bottle.
Perhaps the first thought that begins to form when you see
the glass is, "There is no trashcan nearby. I'm not going
to carry that piece of glass all the way home." But before
that thought is fully formed, you hear a little voice saying,
"When the tide comes in someone wading at the ocean's
edge won't see that little piece of glass and could step on
it. This is not a natural artifact, so remove it." While
readers of this book may find the foregoing soliloquy not
only familiar but also a bit quaint, it is a sad fact that
the majority of our species has not yet paid attention this
little voice. Terence McKenna may have put his finger on the
problem when he said, ". . . half the time you think
you are thinking you are actually listening." (27)
Perhaps our species can learn to use the Internet to help
us listen better, and thus use the Net as a lever to nudge
the entirety of the noosphere back into the serenity of Gaian
Picking up a small piece of
glass on the beach may not sound like the herald of a revolution
in consciousness, but perhaps such a higher level of awareness
and action on the part of every member of our species is the
only way possible to change our current course of environmental
destruction. When I mentioned this simple idea to a friend,
he said, "Sure, it actually is that simple, but it would
also be simple for pigs to fly if only they had wings."
Well then, we conscious apes should learn to fly. Perhaps
if we all spend enough time in Inhabited Virtual Worlds, where
our consciousness can be expanded into Gaian awareness, we
can learn how to fly, and maybe we will also learn how to
clean up after ourselves. (28)
If every member of our species
takes an active role in preventing and correcting assaults
on the environment, life on this planet will begin to improve
overnight. All that is required is an expanded awareness of
the fact that we are simply parts of a much larger whole.
It is time for our species to realize that the Earth is not
here solely for our use and enjoyment. We are here to serve
as Gaia's most sophisticated tools, which have evolved for
purposes we have not yet fully discovered. Expanding the consciousness
of our entire species is a tall order, indeed. It may even
require magic. Fortunately, we live in magical times.