“The work on trauma is a repetition compulsion of ceaseless mental fight. Interminable analysis, interminable writing, interminable soul-making is the only medicine—there is no antidote. The transmuting of trauma into creative affirmations, the mutual transformation of trauma and soul, is a process that like poetry ‘survives the valley of its own saying.’ To put it another way . . . and another way . . . and another way is what soul-making is all about.”
—Greg Mogenson, A Most Accursed Religion
The first draft of the piece that became Prisoner of Infinity was a little over 4,000 words. It is now (writing in 2013) over 100,000 and still growing. I didn’t intend for this to take over my life. In an email to Ty Brown, I wrote that “this current work is like being abducted—it has a life of its own and it won’t let me go—like an octopus, once you grab onto one of the tentacles.” That’s what happened: I grabbed onto what I thought was a snake but it turned out to be a limb of a much larger beast. I had two choices then, either let it go, or get a hold of the rest of the limbs so I could see the whole thing in all its slithering glory: a fully-rounded picture of the infiltrated psyche. I chose the latter path, and here we are.
Writing this book is like being a slave to a Pharaoh who won’t let me quit until I have built his Pyramid. Except this isn’t a creative process but a destructive one, so a much better metaphor would be that of gold-prospecting, something I was doing in my spare time before this work took over my life. When I first started digging I didn’t really know what I was looking for. The more I dug, the better an idea I got. Gold is deposited from higher up as waters drag the dirt and sand down the mountain, and since gold has a greater atomic weight than just about anything else, it always sinks as far down in the dirt as it can go, towards the bedrock. To get to the bedrock you have to remove regular dirt, rocks and boulders, then there’s clay, then there’s black sand, which has heavy metals in it, and amidst the black sand, there’s the gold (if you are digging in the right spots). In order to find out if you are digging in the right spot you have to get to the black sand and pan it. Your pans are like the trail of clues a detective follows to get to the body. There are other things too, like the shape and position of rocks and the color of the dirt, the smell of sulfur; but the panning is the main part.
What happened as I continued to dig, and learn from digging, was that we started to uncover the bedrock and even caught sight of the pay streak (yellow dirt, where the gold has passed through on its way to the bedrock). At that point, I became more motivated and the digging took over. I wasn’t looking for gold as yet (I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to recognize it if I saw it), but now I was looking for something concrete: bedrock. When you are uncovering bedrock you don’t want to risk a landslide so one of the things you have to do is work at it in “tiers” or stages. You uncover a little here then move higher up and dig a ledge. This way you won’t undermine the dirt above you and risk getting buried; but also, you have ledges to stand on while removing the dirt above you. It gets tricky because, as you’re shoveling dirt away, you don’t want to end up covering the bedrock below you which you’ve just uncovered. You want to get a clear idea of the shape of the bedrock so that, when you find the pay streak, you can follow it (you can also use the shape of the bedrock to help you to find the pay streak). When you’re removing dirt, you get to rocks of different shapes and sizes which are both clues to follow (river-smoothed rocks indicate the pay streak is near) and obstacles to move. Sometimes you might start to remove one rock and realize that its pinned by another; you have to disassemble the terrain in the right way, not only to reduce the work but also to make sure you don’t wind up dodging falling boulders and other heavy objects.
All of this provides a reasonably close analogy to how writing this book unfolded. At a certain point, I spotted what looked like a pay streak, and I also hit bedrock. Now I am doing the necessary work to clear away the dirt: digging, moving rocks, collecting samples, panning them and reading the fine gold, getting closer and closer to exposing the bedrock and hitting pay dirt. Just as all that glitters is not gold, not everything that looks like dirt is dirt. It’s all a learning process, and what I’m learning is how to train my eyes to see in a new way.
“A leaderless but powerful network is working to bring about radical change in the United States. Its members have broken with certain key elements of western thought and they may even have broken continuity with history. . . Broader than reform, deeper than revolution, this benign conspiracy for a new human agenda has triggered the most rapid cultural realignment in history. The great shuddering, irrevocable shift overtaking us is not a new political, religious, or philosophical system. It is a new mind—the ascendance of a startling worldview that gathers into this framework breakthrough science and insights from earliest recorded thought.”
—Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy
The original essay which this book grew uncontrollably out of, you may dimly recall, was a response to Jeffrey J. Kripal’s article “The Traumatic Secret.” It was sparked among other things by Kripal’s citing of Aldous Huxley and his “human potentialities,” “psychedelic solutions,” and “perennial philosophies.” Because of the momentum of this excavation process, I didn’t find time to investigate Huxley’s history in detail (you can’t always take the time to pan every pile of dirt); but even on the surface I found plenty to wonder about.
Huxley is most famous for two works: his technological dystopia novel, Brave New World, and The Doors of Perception, which advocates the use of hallucinogens as a means to shut down the “reducing valve” of the brain and enter into an experience of what he calls “Mind at Large.” (In passing, psychedelics might be seen as a form of chemically-induced trauma to the body.) Huxley, as Kripal points out, was one of if not the major influence on “the human potential movement” which eventually became the New Age movement. Along with organizations such as Esalen, he was responsible for introducing Eastern spirituality to the western world. Huxley belonged to a famous aristocratic family, and his brother, Sir Julian, was a member of the British Eugenics Society, a fact that has been largely stricken from the record. Sir Julian also coined the term “transhumanism”!
For all the Eastern spiritual jargon favored by these individuals and institutes, the aims they put forth (in common with those of transhumanism and the Singularity) are really indistinguishable from the aims of western occultism (and groups like Scientology): namely, the development of super powers. In the West, we tend to confuse psychism with spiritual attainment. Yet from an Eastern point of view, they are seen as at odds with one another—hence the many warnings about “siddhis.” Enlightenment is liberation from the false self—the defensive ego-self created by trauma. Psychism—which can easily be confused with “human potential”—is all about enhancing and improving the self to create a kind of “super-self.” Enlightenment is said to entail a total openness and the corresponding vulnerability: the sensitivity it brings isn’t just psychic but emotional, psychological, and physical/energetic. Psychic superpowers—including the power to leave the body (dissociate) à la remote viewing—seem like a movement in the opposite direction, towards becoming invulnerable. Which is a traumatized individual more likely to gravitate towards? What are Strieber’s tales of power but accounts of a kind of siddhi-wielding, alien-engineered übermensch whose only weapon is his mind?
Huxley took the title The Doors of Perception from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which is presumably why Kripal refers to Huxley’s work as “Blakean.” But compare Huxley’s term, “Mind at Large,” to Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. Energy is Eternal Delight.” Where is mind here, little or large? Huxley and the perennial philosophers posited “Mind at Large” as an understandable reaction against the reductionist equation of consciousness with the brain, combined with a (equally understandable) rejection of religious dogma about the soul. (I don’t necessarily include Strieber here, since as a Catholic, he is “all about” the reality of the soul.) Instead, they posited a mind that is everywhere. By choosing to use the word mind, however, they appeared to equate consciousness with the structure and content of their own minds.
Where, or what, is mind? Is it necessarily a materialistic view to say that it is only a side effect of the body? Animals possess consciousness, and obviously they have brains; but what sort of minds do they have? The mind has very much become interchangeable with the self (and even the psyche, though the latter means “soul”). When we think of who we are, we don’t generally think of our internal organs or the shape of our limbs but of our thoughts and memories. The mind, like the self, is a construction built of associations, beliefs, images, and memories. It seems to be largely dependent upon language to maintain its coherence. (Freud believed it to be the breeding ground of delusions, and most psychological models would agree.) Take away our power to think in words and what does that leave? Madness, or at best, dreams.
But if consciousness doesn’t stem from the brain or the mind, where does it stem from?
Huxley’s Mind at Large is another way of saying the Godhead, the quasi-religious concept that God has a head (or penis), which presumably is where His Mind (and Brain) is located. This phallocentric view brings us to the core of the matter (pun intended): the de-eroticization of spirit. Like Carlos Castaneda’s old seers, the philosophers, both ancient and modern, are as persistent as they are perennial. As the basis for all of their projected perfections of both nature and spirit, there lurks a Norman Bates-like mortification of/entrapment by the feminine. This form of mother-bondage requires a corresponding creation of an idealized father figure—a “Godhead”—in their own infantile image. To possess the mother, they must become their own fathers. To do both, they must create internally generated images—mortifications and idealizations—to relate to.
Where flesh is seen as inherently “sinful” or corrupt, only fantasy will do. Rocket ships pushing through space to reach the Moon; Hadron colliders smashing matter in an unconscious striking back at the mother (mater) who spawned and spurned them; the creation of technology to dominate Nature, liberate “the spirit,” and resurrect “the body” (in digital form); all partake of the same agonizing attempt of the disembodied intellect to feel potent in the absence of a life force. Isn’t the mind’s refusal to live in the body a refusal to be absorbed into the continuity of being of the body? If so, then the mind’s refusal to be absorbed into the body may be one and the same with the rejection of the erotic dimensions of spirit and spirituality.
Since sexuality remains in the form of libido (the body can’t exist without energy), the libido is now possessed not by the body, Eros, but by the mind. As long as the mind experiences itself as separate and isolate from the body—through the fragmentation of trauma, or rather its insistence on keeping trauma secret from itself—it remains under the dominion of Thanatos. And death is the one thing that energy (eternal delight) can never know.
To read full essay, order Prisoner of Infinity: UFOs, Social Engineering, and the Psychology of Fragmentation