“Why industrialize space? The answer must be essentially economic. There must be important commercial operations which can be done only in space or which can be done better in space.”
—William M. Brown & Herman Kahn, “Long-Term Prospects For Developments in Space (A Scenario Approach)
Most of the preceding material (besides the material about Edgar Mitchell in chapter XV, and barring some minor tweaking) was written back in the spring of 2013. Now it’s May 1st 2015 and I’ve spent the previous few weeks going over the old material and getting it into shape for submission to publishers. In those two years, the main thing that’s happened (externally speaking) is that I bought a broken down old crack house in a small Canadian town, using money inherited from the sale of my mother’s Hampstead apartment after she died in late 2010. It’s been exactly a year since I took ownership of the house and the time since has been spent less on writing than on renovating, tearing out old walls and floors, building new ones, dry-walling, and plumbing. It’s a large project not just because of the amount of work required but also because, barring some help at the start, my wife and I have been working on it alone, and neither of us had prior experience of this sort of work.
The building is a commercially-zoned residential and was split into two parts when we bought it. We spent the first eight months or so getting the larger, back portion in order, where we planned to live, and moved in about halfway through the renovations process. The front part, the future commercial space, we left for later. Spring came early in 2015, and I went back to work in March. Our plan was to turn the front part of the building into a local community radio station. Becoming part of the community in which I live (as opposed to the virtual realm of the alternate perceptions community) is something I have never attempted. The closer I got to completing the renovations, the more acutely aware I became of how daunting the idea of integration with a community is to me.
One thing that was clear to me even before I bought the property was how the process of renovating an old, dilapidated, literally poison-filled house (in the early days we had to remove countless used drug needles) was a kind of psychic enactment. The crack house stood in for my body: old, worn-out, polluted after decades as a poison container, both passively as a child and more actively as a decadent teen and young adult, then proactively, in my twenties and thirties, as a heaven-storming psychonaut hell-bent on heightened awareness at any cost. Transforming a demolition-condition drug den into a home and a business—i.e., to function on both inner and outer, private and public levels—was a means of embodying the dissociated/fractured psyche. It was the work which my whole life had been leading towards—and until it was accomplished, I couldn’t even start to live.
The irony, if irony is the word, is that this was not a work for the intellect but for the instinct, not a task of mind but of body. Here the pen is not mightier than the hammer and my mind is no weapon at all (mostly an encumbrance). Of course, this is precisely what makes it a necessary challenge and opportunity, and the means of my embodiment. It’s difficult to say with any certainty how profound a shift in my psyche this renovation process has allowed for, difficult because so many changes have occurred in the years leading up to it (such as marriage and two deaths in my close family). I suspect that the internal changes closely match the external ones, which is the point of an enactment. How do we bring the contents of our unconscious into consciousness to integrate them, when by definition they are beyond our awareness? The answer seems to have to do with placing our attention, paradoxically, on the outside, on our immediate circumstances, and fully engaging with whatever process is occurring there—as in a marriage. This allows the unconscious material to emerge into the inner space created, once our attention moves—however subtly—away from our thoughts and onto our senses. Unconscious material enters into consciousness and is integrated, not when we are watching for it or trying to make it happen, but while we are looking the other way. Like Christ, the soul comes like a thief in the night. Provided, at least, that we have created the space for It through close self-examination (which signals the unconscious that we are willing?), that we are fully engaged in what we are doing, and that, rather than using it as distraction from inner turmoil, we are allowing it to be an enactment and reflection of that turmoil.
To give a current example (rewriting this chapter a month later), yesterday I found myself inside a small closet area in the front of the house, tearing down drywall. Judging by the hole in the floor and the dark brown marks on the walls, it was once a toilet. I had originally thought I would simply paint or drywall over the surfaces until my wife pointed out the unpalatable truth of the matter, and I realized that, to complete this work in the spirit which it was started, I would need to be as thorough as possible. Certainly I could just drywall over those shit-stained walls and no one would be the wiser. But I would know.
Through the course of the work, I was aware that clearing out the toxic remnants of the house’s history was not merely a question of hygiene and aesthetics. It was energetic. A few weeks earlier, on May 13th, I had a dream that I was in a house and it was full of ghosts. Every door I opened, there was a new apparition. I finally became exasperated and demanded of one of them (a teenage girl) what they were doing there, what they wanted. I was told that they simply wanted to be heard. I then realized (in the dream) that these ghosts had formerly occupied the building, but that the toxicity of the lifestyle there, over the decades, had driven them underground. Now they were returning to reoccupy the space: I had cleared it out sufficiently to make it safe for them to haunt again! This was progress: the returning of those splintered fragments of the psyche, now the body had been sufficiently cleared of toxins to accommodate and integrate them.
Tearing down the drywall in that small space (while listening to Michael Parenti talking about conspiracy and class power) was an unpleasant experience (especially since one of the walls had solid wood behind it). It was an extremely hot day and within less than an hour I was feeling overwhelmed and had to stop. It wasn’t so much the physical exertion of it as the mental discomfort. Physically, I could have continued for another hour without exhausting myself; mentally I felt like I needed to stop before I got locked into an overly negative frame of mind. While I often compare working on the renovations to a form of meditation, it’s certainly not the usual kind of meditation that’s designed to bring about internal peace and harmony. It is more like a cathartic ritual in which my inner “Basil Fawlty” (the raging hotel manager played by John Cleese in “Fawlty Towers”) gets to come out and have its day. I curse and rage throughout every job because every job entails a degree of unfathomable, non-negotiable resistance (even painting the front of the house meant dealing with gale force winds that threatened to blow me off my ladder). It is this lack of control over my environment—or rather being in a set of circumstances that forces me to experience it fully—that makes the work therapeutic. It is a form of reality induction. Carry water, chop wood, hammer nail, tear down shit-stained wall; finish the cycle, and then start all over again.
Writing is a way for me to live inside my mind. Renovation and construction work is a way for me to get a little more inside my body. The mind can’t contain the psyche or the unconscious, only the body can; it’s precisely this that the body was designed for—like a house.
To read full essay, order Prisoner of Infinity: UFOs, Social Engineering, and the Psychology of Fragmentation