I have written a follow-up account of my experience in Mexico, but I am in two minds about sharing it. Intimate observations of people, and of my own internal processes, aren’t always welcome or “appropriate.” I have enjoyed a new level of visibility and so logic would dictate proceeding with a new degree of caution and prudence. On the other hand, people are curious and it’s my nature to be as open as transparent as I can be.
There’s a fuzzy area between professional and personal and it’s very hard for me to know where the line is and how to walk it.
For me, pursuing a professional life isn’t only about supporting myself. It’s primarily about individuating, which means the psychological journey is what interests me the most. This means I tend to see everything that happens and the people I encounter through that lens, as elements in a psychodrama that are bringing into awareness hidden aspects of my own being.
Then, perhaps more murky still, there is the feeling of being on an unknown “mission,” to make certain preordained connections and pass on specific information (as energy packets) in order to further some mysterious agenda of which I am only dimly aware.
Taking notes and giving a postmortem can help to bring all this into form, or it can add noise to the signal and potentially create unnecessary (uncreative) friction between myself and others, or even others I talk about, if I am indiscrete or tactless in my observational musings.
So here follows a somewhat pruned (for prudence’s sake) account of the remainder of my trip (including memory fragments left out from the previous account).
Daniel Pinchbeck’s notebook doodles. Pointing out how similar they were to mine.
Meeting Red Pill Junky (Miguel).
Finding my voice while talking to Miguel and Javier, stressing that who/what we were changed in every moment.
A series of experiences of countering the “mind” energy of the people I met. Most or all of them approached me at a head level and wanted to talk to me about ideas. I didn’t, and it required a conscious intent to interrupt that head-based interaction and replace it with a more sentient, embodied exchange.
(For example:) Eduardo asking about Freemasons. Replying that Marshall McLuhan believed the world was controlled by Masons, then that in the end it didn’t really matter except as a metaphor.
Passing a bunch of Mexicans in superhero costumes on the street, on the morning of my keynote presentation. Having decided to wear my “Captain American Vs. Iron man” T-shirt that day, I walk past Captain America and Iron Man.
Lucid dreaming of staring at the tarmac, allowing the dream to be as boring as it needed to be. Connecting to Garbanzo, hearing his purring.
Jennifer Dumpert’s presentation, talking about opening to bad smells and letting them all the way in: “the molecules won’t harm you.”
Erik Davis’s presentation, talking about the endless activity of the microorganisms of the body as a kind of “outer world.”
Being interviewed by Javier and Alejandro on the last day at the Pijama Surf office. The intensity of their questions.
Javier wanting to shake my hand several more times after I shook it once (and felt achy afterwards). Telling him, “No more handshakes!” Javier’s laughter.
Meeting Benjamin Malick. Asking him if I smelled bad.
Miguel’s discomfort on saying goodbye.
Patricia Sunderland’s presentation, YouTube video of fat guy dancing.
Crying on the way to the last event (Davis/Pinchbeck/Dumpert on visionary experiences). Feeling like an internal car wreck. Realizing that the more authentic we get, the more vulnerable and raw it feels.
Talking with Rushkoff and Erik about “mooks” (useful idiot/expendable character) vs. MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). Rushkoff appearing to be unfamiliar with the first term. Finding out later that he’s credited with inventing it. (See Merchants of Cool documentary.)
Daniel asking how I was doing before my keynote presentation. Telling him I was nervous. Daniel’s reply: “There won’t be many people. It’s not like it’s going to change the world.”
Talking with Erik Davis about “The Prisoner of Infinity,” social engineering, and Jeffrey Kripal.
Talking to Erik about [enlightenment teacher] Dave O.
Realizing how little we had made from donations at the workshop—nowhere near enough to cover my expenses (which Pijama Surf mostly covered).
Thinking about it as I took a cab to the airport at 4 am in the morning. Noticing how it was the last thing that came to my mind.
On the final night, Daniel hadn’t arrived at start time. Erik asked me if I would take his place if he didn’t show. I said I would but only with great reluctance, and that I was sure Daniel would show up. He did. It was nice to be asked.
The venue was a cinema with a bar and restaurant outside the screening room. Daniel, Erik, and Jennifer sat at a table on the stage (the screen behind them), like a discussion panel. There was supposed to have been a forth party, an indigenous shaman type, but he wasn’t there.
Pinchbeck described ayahuasca experimentation becoming almost mandatory for open-minded people (“like Yoga”), spreading across the world, transforming it. He cited how the Pentagon is working with hallucinogens to treat PTSD. Erik Davis didn’t take such an optimistic (not to say naïve) point of view, and was more sober-headed, but still framed psychedelics in a positive light. Jennifer Dumpert talked about dreams, making more or less the same points from her Bonus presentation. The only plants or substances she recommended were mild herbal remedies meant to increase dream intensity and recall.
I hadn’t expected the event to focus so much on psychedelics. The more I heard, the more pressure I felt. I had a sickly bowel movement halfway through the event (in the toilet). When the time came for questions, Daniel issued a warning to the audience not to recount their drug experiences. They reserved the right to cut anyone off if they didn’t get right to their question. I had planned to precede my question with a summary of my experiences and conclusions about psychedelic use and abuse, so Daniel’s admonition forced me to come up with a more precise, condensed description, and to formulate two very specific questions.
The first question from the audience was a young woman who wanted to know how the visionary states of psychedelics could be applied to everyday life. It was a good starting point, though I didn’t hear anyone say anything especially useful in response. Possibly I missed it while having a bowel movement.
When my time came I summed up fifteen years of psychedelic experimentation in five minutes, using terms like archetypal possession, symbiotic psychosis (with salvia divinorum), and inflation, and describing how I ended up believing I was The One . I mentioned having written a piece about psychedelics for Reality Sandwich and Pijama Surf, and asked Daniel about his experience of being contacted/possessed by Quetzalcoatl and how he saw it now, with hindsight. To Erik I cited Jed McKenna’s assertion (we’d talked about McKenna already) that visionary experiences have nothing to do with enlightenment and asked him to talk about the dangers of inflation, or spiritualized ego.
Daniel’s response was to give a long description of his book, 2012, followed by a short addendum about his Quetzalcoatl experience. He didn’t seem willing to explore or deconstruct it, and only said that, if it turned out that some of the things he’d written proved prescient, that would validate his experience. He said he saw belief as something to be used consciously. He didn’t really address his response to me but sort of squinted at me sideways from time to time, while addressing the room.
Erik’s response was more direct, honest, and searching. He began by saying that he loved my “story,” but that enlightenment was a tricky concept. He offered a few definitions which I found questionable; I almost said so before he settled on “snapping out of it,” which seemed good enough. He talked about the vertical and the horizontal paths and how the horizontal path had to do with power and didn’t need to be traversed in order to take the vertical path, straight up; but for him personally, he felt it was more balanced, more complete, to explore the horizontal path a bit, and that those who stuck to the vertical path often struck him as somehow unnaturally detached from primal, earthy experiences.
A little later, while answering another question, Daniel addressed me directly and said he thought people could get too stuck on the idea of enlightenment. He pointed out that he’d spent time with some native tribe (who did psychedelics) and that they were the most grounded and aware people he’d ever known. A bit later, he asked me if I had been overseen by a shaman while I was experimenting with salvia. I replied that I “was” a shaman at the time, putting the word in quotes. He asked if I’d been part of a tradition of elders, or some such, and I admitted that I was a “runaway” from the reservation. He used this to emphasize the difference between “the sacred and rebellion,” which I presumed was a concept he was working on. It seemed reasonably apropos for my own case, anyway, and I nodded respectfully.
Afterwards in the bar area, Daniel said he’d realized he didn’t agree with me. I interrupted with a smile by saying that I didn’t think we agreed on anything. He laughed and finished his point, which had to do with what I’d said on Sunday about spontaneity being synonymous with creativity. He said that creativity required structure. I didn’t really want to follow his conversational cue, however; something had occurred to me during the presentation.
During their famous argument, Daniel had accused Whitley Strieber that he might be unwittingly in service to destructive entities. I had found myself having the same thought about Daniel while listening to him talk about ayahuasca. I pointed out the irony of this insight to Daniel. He paused for a moment, then said that he absolutely didn’t agree with me. I started to add that I didn’t see anything as wholly destructive or creative, but before I could finish, his girlfriend interrupted us.
I hugged Erik goodbye. He mentioned getting to BC some time.
I thanked Jennifer for her support.
I signed Javier’s Lucid View and hugged him.
Saying goodbye to Daniel (shaking hands), he mentioned coming to Vancouver sometimes. I asked him to let me know.
To be connecting to my peers in this way was an entirely new thing for me. A phenomenal development. The social implications were only the surface ripples of a deeper undertow. They were the tip of an iceberg thawing inside me, causing some long-frozen primal self to stir in its slumber.
This was probably most openly and consciously “enacted” with Erik, who in some ways is a bit like an energetic twin. Erik graciously accepts and respects my various exhortations and “framings,” even though they are often palpably opposed to his (when not overlapping with them). But it was also palpable with Daniel, who’s a year older than Erik and I (his birthday is three days after Erik’s), this kind of doppelganger feeling. It’s as if he has continued down the path I fell away from—or got kicked off of.
It’s difficult for me to separate Pinchbeck’s “celebrity” from what I experience as his aloofness and inaccessibility. But I left with the feeling of having miraculously overcome the obstacle of our own rivalry, which, though one-sided, played out publically with my review of 2012, in which I used Pinchbeck (as in my writings on Castaneda, Strieber, and my brother) as a case study in the dangers of inflation (“the perils of psychedelic self-importance”).
Before this trip, Daniel seemed almost totally inconsequential to me (though I had felt a happy flutter when he followed me on Twitter). After the experience, I was left with something like the desire to rescue him from a potentially grim fate. No doubt my view of Daniel is at least partially a projection of my own regrets at failing to rescue my brother from a senseless, tragic death, in 2010. I will be embarrassed to make these thoughts public (if I do), especially knowing that Pinchbeck may read them. But the essence of my experience in Mexico, if not the superficial reading of it here given, is I think real.
Walking back to my hotel (Excalibur), I was brimming over with love, affection, and warmth for everyone. I marveled at how much a part of the group I felt. In a way it was the last thing I’d expected. My move towards becoming more “worldly” or “established” had turned out to be inseparable from discovering heartfelt sympathies and new friendships, including with a previous “rival.”
I was acutely aware of how at odds with my peers my own perception and approach to our shared interests was, and how, with only a little less grace, restraint, consideration, or tact, I could just as easily have antagonized everyone there. And in a way, I was there as an antagonist, a disruptive agent. Love and war were becoming very nearly indistinguishable.
Being accepted on those terms was like coming home. Or perhaps it was closer to something [enlightenment teacher] Dave O said to me, more than once: The spy was coming in from the cold.
The Talking Heads song “New Feeling” came spontaneously to mind.
“It’s not . . . yesterday . . . anymore.”