Readers of The Teeming Brain will find something of more than passing interest in the just-released nonfiction anthology Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness: Liminal Zones, Psychic Science, and the Hidden Dimensions of the Mind. This is indicated not only by the book’s heady subtitle, and not only by fact that it is co-edited by Daniel Pinchbeck and Ken Jordan of Reality Sandwich fame, but by the fact that its contents include three essays by current and future Teeming Brain contributors.
David Metcalfe, who writes our popular column De Umbris Idearum, is present with an essay titled “On Anthropological Approaches to Anomalous Phenomena: Explorations in the Science of Magic and the Narrative Structure of Paranormal Experiences.”
Popular consciousness and edge-science author Anthony Peake, whose person and books we’ve mentioned many times, and who will soon be featured as a Teeming Brain contributing writer, is present with an essay titled “Layers of Illusion: Manifesting Astral Body, Dream, and Lucidity.”
And Ryan Hurd of Dreamstudies.org, whose books and lectures on consciousness, dreams, sleep paralysis, and related matters are among the best around, and who will also soon become a Teeming Brain contributing writer, is present with an essay titled “Sleep Paralysis Visions: Demons, Succubi, and the Archetypal Mind.”
The rest of the table of contents reads like a who’s-who of fascinating figures in these and related areas. Here’s the official description:
In Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness, a diverse group of authors journey into the fringes of human consciousness, tackling such topics as psychic and paranormal phenomena, lucid dreaming, synchronistic encounters, and more. The book is published by Evolver Editions/North Atlantic Books.
Collected from the online magazine Reality Sandwich, these essays explore regions of the mind often traversed by shamans, mystics, and visionary artists; adjacent and contiguous to our normal waking state, these realms may be encountered in dreams or out-of-body experiences, accessed through meditation or plant medicines, and marked by psychic phenomena and uncanny synchronicities. From demons encountered in sleep paralysis visions to psychic research conducted by the CIA, the seemingly disparate topics covered here congeal to form a larger picture of what these extraordinary states of consciousness might have to tell us about the nature of reality itself.
Russell Brand, Daniel Pinchbeck, and Graham Hancock on psychedelics, consciousness, media, society, and reality
In an event that was mind-expanding (or -blowing) in its own right, simply because it happened, last November Daniel Pinchbeck, Graham Hancock, and Russell Brand (!) teamed up to speak at a Reality Sandwich retreat at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch in Utah. They ended up having, in the words of the event’s description at Reality Sandwich, “a frank and funny conversation covering a wide range of topics including the nature of contemporary media, quantum physics, the difference between psychedelics and ‘horrible drugs that nullify you,’ what comes after time, and the idea that people have been ‘coded’ by society not to anticipate change.” As Brand described it in the opening moments, the whole thing took place “in a tent, beneath an illuminated fish, in front of a pagan altar.”
Fortunately, the conversation was recorded for posterity, and if you’re at all interested in such topics and people, you’ll find it makes for truly fascinating viewing and listening.
For those like me who prefer to read such things instead of, or along with, watching them, Origin Magazine helpfully offers a somewhat abridged (and typo-filled) transcript. Here are cogent excerpts from each speaker — not presented in the actual order of the conversation itself, mind you, so don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re sequentially connected. (Pinchbeck’s and Hancock’s excerpts are presented in the order in which they were spoken, but Brand’s comes from a different point in the conversation.)
Leave it to Daniel Pinchbeck to provide a predictably excellent statement of what the consciousness movement could or should be doing relative to the worldwide Occupy phenomenon. I heard a few days ago that he was scheduled to address the assembled protesters in New York City. This new and short piece at Reality Sandwich is, I suspect, the basis of what he said there.
We are seeing the inception of a global insurrection that will not end until the dominant system is overthrown and replaced through a planetary metamorphosis. The mainstream media continues to play down the Occupy phenomenon, critiquing its lack of specific demands. Specific demands are pointless, because the entire political, social, and economic system in which we exist has rotted out from the inside. Demands would suggest that there is a way to reform the present system, but no reformist initiative is possible.
As someone who wrote about the prophecies of indigenous cultures such as the Maya and the Hopi, I believe the time we are in is one of constantly accelerating transformation. The process we are undergoing as a collective organism leads to an evolutionary leap of consciousness on a species level. This mutation happens within the next few years — it is already happening now.
[…] The consciousness movement has the sacred task of integrating our understanding of spirit and Psyche into the rapidly unfolding movement for planetary justice and social regeneration. This global movement is part of an initiatory process for humanity as a whole that will bring about a transformation of both the individual and collective ego-structure. The goal is not the destruction of the ego but the attainment of an ego-free state — liberation from the tyrannical demands of the ego, which can never be satiated. Similarly, we don’t want to see the smashing of current institutions, but their alchemical transmutation, so they support our human community and safeguard the resources of the natural world. Humanity, as a whole, is rapidly losing our appetite for violence and destruction. We are increasingly sick of the negative patterns of the past, and ready to overcome the inertia.
Full story at Reality Sandwich: “Global Revolution Underway“
In our present greed-fueled, corporate-consumerist global dystopia, it’s common for artists and subcultural or countercultural thinkers to reject the present order not only in principle but in practice. They (we) are so disgusted and discouraged by the socially, culturally, spiritually, and ecologically destructive nature of the all-dominating system that we’re driven to the edge of despair, and we either hold back and participate only enough to scrape by, or else we reject it wholesale by dropping out and “living off the grid,” as it were, inhabiting the margins of the culture and remaining obscure and poor.
Daniel Pinchbeck, the cultural critic and psychedelic philosopher whose 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl is a truly brilliant tour de force that’s worth your time and attention, published an essay last December at his Reality Sandwich website/franchise/gathering place that speaks to this issue in exhilarating and inspiring terms. It’s titled “Business Shamanism,” and in it he advances the position that, yes, the system is corrupt and capsizing and imploding and manifesting an epic fail right before our eyes, and yes, it’s driven by evil motives and an elite cabal of ill-intentioned people in the form of the “masters of the universe,” who aren’t evil Illuminati conspirators but just the plainly visible pullers of the financial-economic levers in the entrenched government-corporate complex. (In other words, they’re much more evil than Illuminati conspirators.)
BUT — and here’s Pinchbeck’s shining thesis — the enlightened solution is not to flee or reject the whole thing but to actively engage it, learning all its features and skills and nuances, and then to skillfully use its own weapons against it.
It’s a long essay, but like Pinchbeck’s above-mentioned book it more than repays the investment of time and attention. Here’s a portion that leaped off the screen at me:
Many people in the communities that I frequent have sought to avoid rather than engage with the power structure, the financial world, on its own terms. They have not entered the playing field where amorality provides leverage to whomever is skilled enough to make use of it: the arena of wealth-creation. Because of an inveterate contempt for dirty money, disdain for the ethical compromises required to make gobs of the stuff, the alienated outsiders of the spiritual and artistic counterculture have tended to forfeit this area to the business class, to their own and society’s detriment.
[…] If your work is important to society, then that society should value it in whatever ways that it chooses to ascribe value. Perhaps you would like to influence and awaken people, to change their way of thought and patterns of behavior? You should realize that most people will find you far more convincing if you are radiating health and abundance, rather than scraping for pennies. They will want to know how you pulled it off, and be more open to what you tell them.
[…] Most importantly, the tools of the corporate world can’t be discarded. They need to be learned and repurposed. Corporations are extremely efficient machines for transforming matter and energy. We are going to need corporate managers, along with all of the skills that corporate managers have mastered, if planetary transformation is going to happen with the necessary speed and efficiency, when we consider the intensity of the ecological crisis, above all.
[…] Although it is necessary to fight against malevolent corporate practices, we want to transmute the corporate form. People will always need beautiful and useful things, and they will always seek out services and learning experiences that benefit their life and their soul. Fulfilling these real needs in a good way is not antithetical to some kind of revolutionary movement. In fact, it needs to be a part of any meaningful movement that arises.
So what do you think? Is the strategy Pinchbeck recommends reasonable, workable, desirable, advisable? Is it a pipe dream? Is he selling out? Personally, I find that it resonates, and resonates deeply.
Image credit: Daniel Pinchbeck, by herwig maurer (herwig maurer) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons