Thursday, October 21, 2004

thanatos to eros

LSD researcher, Myron J. Stolaroff's classic book, Thanatos To Eros, 35 Years of Psychedelic Exploration is online now at the MAPS site.

From the Foreword by Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin:
The search for a relationship with the universal reality about us is one of the most important goals in human life. It has to be conducted by two entirely distinct processes which, while concurrent, are totally different. The passage through your lifetime of eighty to a hundred years (give or take a few decades) involves learning relationships -- giving and taking -- with those who share your journey on this planet. And, at the same time, you play a role at this moment of human history. Living your own personal life in the immediate present, you are also, to an often unknowable extent, a contributor to the structure of the world about you. Myron Stolaroff has given us an autobiography, a tale of psychological and spiritual evolution that subtly brings together these two threads, these two roles; he is both the struggling seeker for wholeness in himself, and a discoverer of new paths to wholeness for others.

The story of Thanatos to Eros takes us through two marriages, over the course of the author's growth from a successful engineer to an independent business man, and eventually, we see his first steps and subsequent strides as a researcher and explorer of human consciousness. We move with him through the often intense and difficult changes that take place as he learns to use his chosen tools, the psychedelic drugs, beginning with LSD in 1956, and progressing to other powerful visionary plants and drugs over the subsequent years. He is trying to, in the words of Carl Jung, "make the unconscious conscious," as the way to attain realization of his ultimate self. We discover, along with him, that this is a hard goal to attain, and that it must be sought with complete inner integrity and fearless self-examination.

Spun into the narrative are reports of some extraordinary experiences, brought about by the use of appropriate psychedelic drugs. As Stolaroff learns himself, he gains in understanding of others who are suffering pain and self-rejection, and begins to guide friends who come to him in trouble, through carefully controlled and monitored psychedelic sessions. Needless to say, since the imposition of draconian laws in recent years, this kind of deep spiritual work, done with the aid of psychedelic materials, is no longer possible, and will remain forbidden until the public is better informed and directs its lawmakers to change such restrictions on these kinds of drugs.

Vineland, p. 313-314:
Well I still wish it was back then, when you were the Count. Remember how the acid was? Remember that windowpane, down in Laguna that time? God, I knew then, I knew. . . ."

They had a look. "Uh-huh, me too. That you were never going to die. Ha! No wonder the State panicked. How are they supposed to control a population that knows it'll never die? When that was always their last big chip, when they thought they had the power of life and death. But acid gave us the X-ray vision to see through that one, so of course they had to take it away from us."

"Yeah, but they can't take what happened, what we found out."

"Easy. They just let us forget. Give us too much to process, fill up every minute, keep us distracted, it's what the Tube is for, and though it kills me to say it, it's what rock and roll is becoming -- just another way to claim our attention, so that beautiful certainty we had starts to fade, and after a while they have us convinced all over again that we really are going to die. And they've got us again." It was the way people used to talk.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

guest-starring as himself

Google Alert for: Pynchon
the futon critic Sunday, Nov. 14 (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT), on the official 16th season premiere of THE SIMPSONS, actor James Caan and writer Thomas Pynchon guest-star as themselves. When Bart fishes Homer's vintage "Playdude" magazines out of the trash, he decides to adopt the ring-a-ding-ding lifestyle of the 1970s, as interpreted by a 10-year-old. Meanwhile, Marge stoops to sabotage to keep up with the other contestants during the Ovenfresh Bakeoff.

Monday, October 18, 2004

"autism, Pynchon, and the philosophical underpinnings of capitalism"

I was in high school or junior high when my sister, two years younger than me, brought home a book on autistic children for a school project. I didn't read it, but the pictures fascinated me at the time and stayed with me for years. They were drawings made by a boy named Joey, an autistic patient of Bruno Bettelheim's at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School in Chicago where Bettelheim treated autistic children during the 1950s and 60s. The drawings showed how Joey perceived himself and his bodily functions to be attached to machinery -- to be machinery in fact. This struck a primaeval chord in me somehow, as if Joey's experience had been mine in the distant and forgotten depths of childhood. Though I have never been autistic nor suffered from a serious mental disorder, it all seemed uncannily familiar, as if I had been through a morbid stage such as Joey's and forgotten it.

Years later I was writing my Ph.D. thesis on the works of American novelist, Thomas Pynchon, and in the course of reading Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, again I encountered a description of Bettelheim's patient, Joey. After reading The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self (1967) by Bettelheim, I came to see connections, not only between autism and the work of Pynchon, but between autism, Pynchon, and the philosophical underpinnings of capitalism. All three evoke disturbing evidence of a modern humanity subverted by machinery, with an underlying imperative of Cosmic Law driven by despair and paranoia.

Pynchon's first three novels describe a world in which technology and its corresponding capitalist structures are manifestations of what might be called a general autism, wherein society and its individuals act in ways similar to those of clinically autistic children. General autism is ruled by an imperializing Cosmic Law, a law which proclaims, as Bettelheim put it, "you must never hope that anything can change." This law spreads like an infection by means of its imperializing paranoia, inspired in the observers of the autist. Pynchon's novels constitute a critique of capitalism and its technological manifestations and suggest that a collective autism underlies the drive for materialistic and technological consumption in capitalist society.

...continues: Autism, Thomas Pynchon, and Capitalism as Cosmic Law by James W. Horton

Sunday, October 17, 2004

i was absolutely his butt boy

From the CNN Crossfire encounter in which The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, cleaned pugnacious right-wing prick, Tucker Carlson's clock:
CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...


STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.


STEWART: What is wrong with you?

[APPLAUSE] CARLSON: Well, I'm just saying, there's no reason for you -- when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy's butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It's embarrassing.

STEWART: I was absolutely his butt boy. I was so far -- you would not believe what he ate two weeks ago.



Gravity's Rainbow, pp. 233-235. :
At her command, he crawls forward to kiss her boots. He smells wax and leather, and can feel fer toes flexing beneath his tongue, through the black skin. From the corner of his eye, on a little table, he can see the remains of her early evening meal, the edge of a plate, the tops of two bottles, mineral water, French wine. . . .

[...] Despite himself--already a reflex--he glances quickly over at the bottles on the table, the plates, soiled with juices of jmeat, Hollandaise, bits of gristle and bone. . . .