Consider, the Morning Glory..

In Honor of Walt Whitman… Happy Birthday Walt!

For Walt, who gave The US… its first real Poetic Voice. His works are still very fresh, and wonderful. Walt gave us a new way of speaking the verse. His touch is everywhere from Lamont to Allen G., and beyond. We are all in his debt, for the changes he wrought…

A Walt Quote: “A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books”.

oh.. and one more: “I celebrate myself, and what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease… observing a spear of summer grass.”

Great stuff indeed.


It is also the 10th anniversary of Tim Leary’s passing onto the next Bardo. Here is to you Tim, and to Rosemary as well. Hope the journey is a good one, we miss ya Tim. Thanks for blazing a trail that some of us still try to follow, and thank you for your concern with the species and the planet. May you be reborn even more conscious than you were.

Here it is Wednesday night and all. Slight drizzle in Portland, humid but lovely. I did a search on a person I knew in Boulder back in 66-67… strange, he was closely associated with Ira Cohen of all people… small world.

Here is to hoping that we will see you at Powell’s on this Thursday at 7:00 PM for Dale Pendells’ visit and book signing… I can promise you that it is going to be a very good event.

On The Grill for tonight:

The Links

The Article: Ipomoea violacea : from PHARMAKO/GNOSIS by Dale Pendell

Poetry: Walt Whitman

Have a nice one!



The Links:

If you haven’t heard Dale speak… here is a talk of his from Sacred Elixirs…

Dale Pendell Speaking on: Where Entheogens Aren’t, And Why

As Seen On TV!

Keanu Reeves Slams Police State As Scanner Lights Up Cannes

Burning Wheel … a friends site, please check it out!


Ipomoea violacea : from PHARMAKO/GNOSIS by Dale Pendell

An Excerpt from Dale Pendell’s Book

Ipomoea violacea : from PHARMAKO/GNOSIS

Common names: Tlitliltzin. Heavenly Blue. Pearly Gates. Morning glory.

Ololiuhqui, sometimes applied to morning glory, is the Nahuatl word for the seeds of Turbina corymbosa (Rivea corymbosa), a closely related plant.

Part Used:

The seeds


Lysergic acid amide (“LSA”). By chemical extension, if the two protons clinging to the nitrogen atom are replaced by ethyl groups, we have d-lysergic acid diethylamide (“LSD”). LSD has not yet been found in a plant.

[structural formulae for LSA and LSD appear here]

Besides ergine (d-lysergic acid amide), ololiuhqui and other psychoactive morning glories contain isolysergic acid amide and half a dozen other closely related compounds of various toxicities, including ergometrine (ergonovine), a powerful uterotonic.

Ergine, or LSA, is about one-twentieth the potency of LSD.


Albert Hofmann claimed, after self-experiment, that LSA was a narcotic-sedative as much as a hallucinogen.

moving and flowing–



Or are we dreaming


Colors. Plants, ready to talk. Me, just as I am. Act of faith.

The Ally:

Much esteemed by a few aficionados. Most find LSD both more reliable and more pleasant. The plant freaks smile to themselves and gently shake their heads.

Not the same. Not the same.

The indigenous people of Oaxaca use various species of Ipomoea, as well as ololiuhqui, for divination and curing, exactly as had the Aztecs five hundred years before them. Gordon Wasson wrote that ololiuhqui and tlitliltzin are more widely used today in Mesoamerica than teonanacatl, the sacred mushroom.

Many mesoamerican Indians believe that the tlitliltzin speaks so clearly and plainly that the services of a shaman are unnecessary. Unlike the mushrooms, the seeds are usually given to one person at a time.

The Plant:

Ololiuhqui, “the round ones,” in Nahuatl. Sometimes coaxihuitl, or coatl-xoxouhqui:

Snake plant, the green snake plant.

The Ally:

Some claim it to be profound.


10:15 pm.

Drank a cold water infusion of Heavenly Blue. Not bad tasting. Herbal and wild, but not bitter.

The Plant:

Xtabentum: “precious stone cord,” Mayan.

Tlitliltzin: “the sacred black ones,”

Mazatec: na-so-le-na: “flower-her-mother.”

Mayans call morning glory xtontikin, “dry penis.”


10:40 pm.

Took a shower and a bath. Soaking in the tub felt good. Closed my eyes. A weird and penetrating sound wormed into my thoughts. Opened my eyes: it was the faucet, leaking. First alert.

Standing, bending, towelling off brings some slight nausea. Some anxiety.

But I was even more anxious before I started. Mainly I just want to lie down. If I had a uterus, would I be cramping? Maybe. Tightness in the gut.

Closing eyes, thoughts/mental events are loud, amplified. Try to keep my eyes slightly open, follow my breathing.

The Plant:

In 1629, Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon described the use of ololiuhqui in his Treatse on the Heathen Superstitions. Alarcon had been brought to the attention of the Inquisition because he was torturing and conducting his own autos-da-fé, matters of Inquisitional jurisdiction. The investigation that followed found that his error had been made out of ignorance rather than malice, and his zeal was recognized and rewarded with an eccesiastical judgeship in the Holy Office.

The religious character of the War on Drugs has been obfuscated as much as possible. Only when the speciousness of the arguments of public health and crime are refuted by logic, science, and sociological research do the warriors sometimes reveal their true beliefs and prejudice: i.e. that the use of entheogenic plants is a threat to civilization itself, by which they mean their religious hegemony. Willfully exploring self and consciousness with the aid of plants is considered worse than mere criminality, it is seen as heresy and blasphemy, as an attack on the Holy values of the true church of Western rationalistic materialism.

And it is punished accordingly. Twenty-year-olds in their tie-dyeds, arrested at Grateful Dead shows for possessing LSD, are often given longer prison terms than embezzlers or killers.

Almost all of them [the Indians] hold that the ololiuhqui is a divine

thing . . . And with the same veneration they drink the said seed,

shutting themselves in those places like one who was in the

sanctasanctorum, with many other superstitions. And the veneration with

which these barbarous people revere the seed is so excessive that part

of their devotions include washing and sweeping even those places where

the bushes are found which produce them, which are some heavy vines,

even though they are in the wilderness and thickets.

–Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon, 1629

The War on Drugs was launched by the European invaders shortly after their arrival in the New World. Possession of the sacred seeds was made a crime, and Alarcon, like other ecclesiastical authorities, began a campaign of uprooting and burning the vines wherever he could find them, along with those who loved them. The Holy Inquisition itself was formally inaugurated in 1571, set up to ferret out lapsed maranos, sephardic Jews who had feigned conversion to Christianity, in addition to exterminating heresy among the Indians. The Inquisition specifically ordered the prosecution of divination by hallucinogenic plants.

Since preaching has not sufficed, rigorous punishment is needed,

because, being–as they are–children of terror, it may be that

punishment may accomplish what reason has not been sufficient to,

since the Apostle said, compelle intrare. [“Compel them to

come in.” Luke 14:23.]

–Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon

A war of sacraments.

Wine was the blood of Christ, but the Aztecs had their own sacred plants:

teonanacatl, “God’s flesh,” the sacred mushroom, and teotlacualli, “food of God,” an unguent prepared with ololiuhqui.

The sorcerers persuade the people with such ease that they find it

unnecessary to use menaces or torture or threaten them with the wheel

of blades of Saint Catherine or the gridiron of Saint Lawrence.

–Fray Diego Duran

Alarcon complained that in spite of severe punishments, the Indians seemed to be more concerned with maintaining the good will of the ololiuhqui than with escaping the fury of the Inquisition.

aco nechtlahueliz: let it not be that he become angry.


10:50 pm.


Phantoms. Truths. Insights. Connections. Poems.

River of dreaming.

“There aren’t any good things in those values.”

Values/thoughts. Dharmas. All are ill. Dukkha. The Way of Makyo is the Path of Ill. Up to your armpits in samsara.

Go further.


Ring? Or ring in the mind? Which telephone? Either way it wakes me up.

Thoughts, jokes, all flowing down the river and over the falls.

Who is guest and who is host? We dine together. The guests pay their way

by talking and telling stories. But the banquet is interrupted.

(a pebble striking bamboo . . .)

Who knocks? Serres’s parasite. Alcibiades banging at the door.

The gods come to visit.

The Poison:

Don’t take It unless you want to know everything simultaneously,

hell & heaven, terror & ecstasy –

When I tell you to try it it is afterwards in a room with solid

furniture, remember that.

–Alden Van Buskirk, “Lami in Oakland”

Matters of State and Liberty:

Alarcon’s program was the extirpation of heresy, sycretism, and the works of the Devil. He feared divination, and he feared the resemblances of Mesoamerican religion to his own. He feared the easy way that the Indians could assimilate Catholicism without denying the older gods of their own land. He feared the little carved animals and figures, the “idols.” He found them hidden in piles of rocks at passes and crossroads. He found them hidden in churches where the people would place their offerings of copal. He even found one that had been built into the base of a large cross (after the cross had been struck by lightning). And he found them in the specially woven baskets that hid the ololiuhqui.

The special baskets contained ritual objects along with the seeds: a small carving, a piece of incense, pieces of embroidery, “little girls’ dresses, and things of this nature.” An ololiuhqui basket was passed on to the owner’s descendents. Sometimes the basket was placed inside of a larger, carved wooden box.

Alarcon’s advice for catching the heretics:

1. Arrest the delinquent outside of the village, so that he cannot take precautions or warn others.

2. Place guards at his house and place his nearest relatives under guard.

3. Don’t trust the local authorities as “usually there is no one who is faithful.”

4. The judge should seize the evidence in person, as the delinquent Indian will often swallow the idol if

it comes into his reach “even though he is already convicted and knows that if he swallows it he will

surely die.”

5. In searching a house be diligent, examining even old and dirty pots.

. . . while it did not actually show up in the house, she had an old,

dirty pot covered with a potsherd in the courtyard of the house. The

black pot was full up to the brim with ololiuhqui, and in the middle

of it, in the depth of the pot, wrapped in a rag, was the little idol,

which was a little black frog of stone.

–Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon

As Moses said,

I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.

The Ally:

Tlitliltzin is above all a plant of divination. Divination was its principal use by the Aztecs, as it is in Mesoamerica still today. Alarcon reported, with some indignation, that some of the Aztec doctors “practice ololiuhqui drinking as a profession.”

Whether it is the doctor or another person in his place . . . he

closes himself up alone in a room, which usually is his oratory, where

no one is to enter throughout all the time that the consultation lasts,

which is for as long as the consultant is out of his mind, for then

they believe the ololiuhqui or peyote is revealing to them that which

they want to know.

–Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon

Alarcon distinguishes between the false results of divination, “just a representation of the imagination caused by the conversation,” and the true results, which are revealed by the Devil.

Despite Mathias having been selected by the eleven as Judas’s successor by the casting of lots, the Church inveighed against divination of any form. Fortuna had been mostly disassembled by Chance– but the Devil, the one who could speak truth, was a far deadlier foe.

The Devil usually mixes something of our holy religion in those

apparitions of his so that he whitewashes his malice and lends a

color of goodness to such a great evil.

–Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon



I’m fairly comfortable. Don’t want to get up. Some belching. Dog sleeping upside down with all his feet splayed out into the air: from me? Fluidity begins. Formerly distinct partitions between categories, perceptions, and thoughts blur, visually.

Ripple in a clear lake: grass and sedges rippled beneath.

In the mountains at a lake, wave patterns on the transparent surface of the water. Sunrise. Birds darting over the lake like bats, feeding. Blue.

Grasses on the bottom of the lake and his mind fell through.

Out across the lake the breeze breaks up the glassy surface into alternating patches of smooth and rippled water, like pages, the rippled areas like an ancient script.

Cursive runes. Stelae.

An oasis on the Silk Road. Takla Makan.

The letters and words of an eidetic alphabet. The script of knowledge.


The world as poison. This world. Of all possible and parallel and coexisting universes, this particular one: the one in which stones are heavy and thoughts light. “The world is a drug.” Not a metaphor but a tautology.

“What are the poisons?”


All dharmas are poisons. Stone in the mind, goose in a bottle.

“What is seeming and what is real?”


The light on the water supported his weight. In the middle of the

lake he thrust his hand into the water.

Curings are performed at night, and quiet is important. Sometimes the doctor speaks into the patient’s ear, reminding him of his questions. To an outside observer it may appear that the person is talking to himself.

Sometimes the ally speaks in visions rather than in voices. If the visions are hellish, it is said to be because a taboo has been broken. The remedy is to eat chilies and salt and to go to sleep.



(hey, he still hasn’t moved up off of the bed)

(yeah, what’s he doing down there?)

The words are sinking. The clock is running down.

(Yes. That means you are dying.

The time alloted to works is not infinite.)

Words sinking.

(some may rise up, have their own life,

live for awhile in the free air like butterflies . . .

live for a season.)

I have arrived at square minus one.

From here we could go anywhere.

A voice would lead me.

(a voice whispering into my ear…)

The Poison:

turn out lights, lie alone in dark room &

start imagining anything, start with any image & let it send out

another. Don’t drink or take any depressants. Luck.

–Alden Van Buskirk, “Lami in Oakland”


all a dream we dreamed

one afternoon long ago

–Robert Hunter, Phil Lesh

Karma is the link from one thought to the next. Ahhh, endlessly arising.

Dharmas and phantoms, Mara and Buddha. The uninvited guest is the ring.

The knock. Door bursting open. Alarm clock. The medicine.

The Poison:

I am ready to come back to you. I’ve lived my life a

million times over in a few hours, seen everything, known too

much, & now I’m burnt out, want only love & peaceful madness

of America seen & shared with your eyes.

–Alden Van Buskirk, “Lami in Oakland”

Matters of State and Liberty:

It is worth noting that Aztec religion and society were both hierarchical. That the Aztec nobility evidently had no trouble integrating the use of entheogenic plants into that hierarchy should give pause to those who believe that if only more people today would use hallucinogenic drugs, our society would perforce become kinder, gentler, and more egalitarian.

The Plant:

Considering the easy availability of psychoactive morning glory seed, the ease of growing them, and their tolerance of many climate zones, it is remarkable that more plant people do not make use of this ancient and time-tested plant. It says something about the availability of LSA’s better known diethyl cousin.

The Plant:

I. violacea: quiebraplato, “plate breaker.”

Mixe: piH pu’, “broken plate flower.”

Ma-sung-pahk: Mixe, morning glory, “bones of the children.”

La’aja shnash: Zapotec, “seeds of the virgin.”

Gordon Wasson and Jonathan Ott note that the contemporary Mexican term for morning glory seeds, semillas de la virgen, probably does not refer to the Virgin Mary, but to the virgin who ground the seeds.


1:00 AM: Music. Grateful Dead in a long jam with Branford Marsalis. All the instruments distinct and separated.

2:00 AM: Gut still hard. Tired. Mind still very active, but I will sleep and let the dream be dreaming.

The dreams of the children.

The little ones who come to tell you.

The plant children, our children,

who grind the medicine.

(Dale Pendell in Hawaii….)


The Poetry of Walt Whitman…

On the celebration of his birthday…


Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,

Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,

Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,

Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,

Or stand under trees in the woods,

Or talk by day with anyone I love, or sleep in the bed at night with anyone I love,

Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,

Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,

Or watch honey bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,

Or animals feeding in the fields,

Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,

Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,

Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;

These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,

The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,

Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,

Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,

Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,

The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships with the men in them,

What stranger miracles are there?


Earth! My Likeness!

Earth! my likeness!

Though you look so impassive, ample and spheric there,

I now suspect that is not all;

I now suspect there is something fierce in you, eligible to burst


For an athlete is enamour’d of me–and I of him;

But toward him there is something fierce and terrible in me, eligible

to burst forth,

I dare not tell it in words–not even in these songs.


A Leaf for Hand in Hand

A Leaf for hand in hand!

You natural persons old and young!

You on the Mississippi, and on all the branches and bayous of the


You friendly boatmen and mechanics! You roughs!

You twain! And all processions moving along the streets!

I wish to infuse myself among you till I see it common for you to

walk hand in hand!


Darest Thou Now, O Soul


Darest thou now, O Soul,

Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,

Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?


No map, there, nor guide,

Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,

Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.


I know it not, O Soul;

Nor dost thou–all is a blank before us;

All waits, undream’d of, in that region–that inaccessible land.


Till, when the ties loosen,

All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,

Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.


Then we burst forth–we float,

In Time and Space, O Soul–prepared for them;

Equal, equipt at last–(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O



A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou

lovest best.

Night, sleep, and the stars.

A Green Planet…

May 30 1431

Joan of Arc (Jeanne la Pucelle) is burned at the stake in Rouen, France for relapsing into heresy. After having signed a confession a week earlier, Joan appeared in court wearing difformitate habitus — degenerate apparel — or more precisely, men’s clothing.

Late evening… A bit of this and that. I remembered Jesse L. Weston going on about Jean and her dealings with the Faeries, and how eventually they were the death of her, as she would not give them up, and felt that they were real, and divine. Of course you cannot hold beliefs like that today either… Today marks the anniversary… I always thought she encapsulated a certain… beauty of spirit.

We have an interview from the L.A. times with Dale Pendell. This came out just after Pharmako Dynamis appeard back in 2003. I wrote a review that his publisher used, and am very tempted to finish writing one on Pharmako Gnosis. An amazing book. Each volume speaks well to me. I often pull them off the book shelf and give them a go, a chapter at a time. They stand up over the long run, which really is the test for me.

I have been asked to write more frequently about my various adventures over the last 4 or so decades. I put a lot of living in during those times… yet I find it hard to put some of it down. I will try more often. I noticed it has been a year or so since I talked about my first LSD adventures… What I have in mind is a series of dreams that I once had, and the strange spell that they created. Stay Tuned.

Poetry today is actually lyrics of Hildegard von Bingen. I was sorely tempted to do the latin versions as well… I think they read nicely, and I hope you will enjoy them. I listen to her music frequently. I will put some on the radio if there are request.




On The Menu:

The Links

The Article: An Interview with Dale Pendell “The Poet of Plants”

The Poetry: Lyrics of Hildegard Von Bingen


Fight The Fascist: The OpenNet Initiative

Million Mime March…

Batwoman Returns, in a very special way…

And last but not Least: “The Ross Sisters’! (Yeah!)

Home/Office Decorating Idea!


The Poet of Plants – by Emily Green

Oct 19, 2003

Los Angeles Times

Citation: Green, Emily. “The Poet of Plants” Los Angeles Times. Oct 19, 2003

Dale Pendell Has Written Two Books on Botanical Pharmacopeia That Resonate With a Lusty Wit. He May Be America’s Answer to Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Right Down to the Opium.

The first conversation with Dale Pendell is like an overseas telephone call with a lag on the line. I speak. He listens. He thinks. Then he responds in such perfectly formed sentences that I can almost hear the commas.

The stilted speech is surprising. As a writer, Pendell is so fluent that he can make a list of drug side-effects sound interesting, a feat he routinely performed in his two books. Delve deeper into his work and you find poetry, beautiful poetry.

Pendell, 56, has been writing since the 1960s, but his work is little known. I discovered it last spring while serving as a judge for the 2003 Pen Awards overseeing the “Creative Nonfiction” category. As a case containing 57 books arrived at the office for consideration, two things worried me. The amount of reading and the “creative” part. Nonfiction is hard enough to get right when it’s written the old-fashioned way, straight up—who, where, why, when.

As it turned out, the books were at least 50% hard-luck stories, most of them trenchant. There was a war correspondent who got shot, an equestrienne whose leg was crushed by her horse, a profoundly moving brace of Korean stories of search for identity after diaspora. Daniel Ellsberg was there, recounting the events that led to the leaking of the Pentagon papers. There were a couple of biographies, wisecracking sociology from a newspaper columnist and ruminations on the essence of the West.

Then there was Pendell. In his 2002 book “Pharmako/Dynamis,” he merrily rolls out the pharmacology, history and botany behind a host of mind-altering drugs, including Psilocybe mushrooms, peyote, coffee, tea, heroin, Ecstasy, wine, tobacco and absinthe. They are classed by the nature of the high: “phantastica,” “exitantia,” “inebriantia” and others—or, in plain English, tripping, speeding, drunk and so on. Almost every drug is taken back to a plant source, and that plant’s trading history.

At the outset of judging, I wondered if Pendell was in the right category. Three months later, as the judging committee argued over finalists, I became convinced that his was the only book that actually met the brief of creative nonfiction. Yet, on the face of it, it was a dictionary, mainly of controlled substances. “A reference,” read one judge’s comments.

You can certainly look things up in it, including safety measures for taking Ecstasy, or how to score an opium poppy and apply the harvest in interesting places. But it wasn’t like any reference I’d ever seen. Pendell borrowed just as freely from pharmaceutical industry texts as medieval herbals. He used poetry, classical plant taxonomy, chemical equations, prose, anecdotes, jokes, slogans—whatever worked. The prose was indecently interesting, angry and eloquent, like that of a young Christopher Hitchens. The poetry was enigmatic one moment, lusty the next, witty, passionate—whatever it felt like.

Structurally, however, it was odd. It was, arguably, half a book, a continuation of Pendell’s companion volume, “Pharmako/Poeia.” When this appeared in 1995, the good and the great of the Bay Area Beat movement came out in support of it. Allen Ginsberg wrote a review for the jacket, calling it, among a long string of things, “an epic poem on plant humors.” Pulitzer prize-winning poet Gary Snyder supplied the introduction. The synthesizer of Ecstasy, Berkeley scientist Alexander Shulgin, gave his imprimatur to the chemistry. Yet there were no reviews in the major press. It has sold 12,000 copies in eight years, which would be a handsome figure for a Junior League cookbook.

The publication of “Pharmako/Dynamis” last year received slightly more recognition. Richard Gehr of the Village Voice called Pendell “the best writer on drugs to come along since the late Terence McKenna charted the beautiful and terrifying ‘invisible landscapes’ revealed by DMT and psilocybin mushrooms.”

Drug writer. Hard to argue. But what does that make his book? It reads so smoothly, its structure almost escapes notice. Under autopsy, however, there it is. The element that keeps the various information flowing is poetry. There is a narrator, like a Greek chorus, or in this case, a heckler, who prompts the greater text to sing in different voices. How many books manage witty asides that can jump into chemical signatures, then take off into a hallucinatory odyssey about crack cocaine, seamlessly?

The voting was long over, and my argument for Pendell as a finalist had prevailed, before the obvious dawned on me. Ginsberg was right in his volcanic blurb for “Pharmako/Poeia.” It was an epic poem. So is the sequel. I went back and pored over the construction of both books. The author of the head shop encyclopedia began to look less like a writer on drugs and more like an original Western Romantic, an American answer to Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth, right down to the opium.

we meet on a july afternoon on the porch of his new cabin in the Sierra. He’s just moved to the mountains from Oakland. Most of his belongings are still in packing boxes. It’s midday, 100 degrees, the valley opposite shimmers with heat and a licorice-like scent hangs in the air from the baked scrub.

Pendell is taller than the jacket pictures suggest, lean, a born climber who hops easily from boulder to boulder on a stone outcropping near his house. I expect a wild woodsman, but instead he’s more textbook Berkeley, with twin earrings and slightly bushy eyebrows, the sort usually found on Englishmen in Victorian cartoons. When he listens, he tilts his head graciously toward his guest, like an interested minister.

He is, it turns out, the son of a minister. He has just returned from Orange County from a memorial service for his father, Thomas Roy Pendell, a life-long Methodist pastor who served at seven Southern California parishes. He seems relieved to be home, but apologizes for what he says is a cold he caught on the plane.

He suggests that we set ground rules for when the interview turns to illegal drugs, but then he doesn’t ask for any. Eventually, he has two specific requests. Could we not name the town where he lives and could we point out that though he spent time in jail for smuggling marijuana, he asked for and received a full presidential pardon? It was from Ronald Reagan and signed by a Justice Department official named Rudolph Giuliani.

We have been speaking for an hour before the first stutter erupts. It happens when the subject turns to the city where he spent puberty. “The Methodists move their pastors around,” he says, “so we moved to various places, including SSSSSSan Diego.”

Later, when I ask him about it, he says that he stuttered strongly as a child. “I never committed suicide, but I thought about it,” he says. “I wouldn’t use the telephone. I never wanted to introduce myself to anybody. I was morbidly shy.”

His father’s household was run according to scripture. Drink was off limits, as in: “It Is Good Neither To Eat Flesh Nor To Drink Wine, Nor Any Thing Whereby Thy Brother Stumbleth, Or Is Offended, Or Is Made Weak.” Romans, 14:21.

However, Pendell couldn’t help but wonder what Paul meant in Romans 14:13: “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself” and Verse 20, in which he reiterates, “all things are indeed pure.” In 1964, age 17, still legally a minor, Dale Pendell left home and plunged headlong into all that purity out there.

Enrollment as a physics major at UC Santa Barbara lasted only a semester. He was rapt at the sheer elegance of physical equations, but already slipping toward poetry, raunchily. “I was at the southern end of the filthy speech movement,” he says. “It wasn’t filthy speech, though. It was just good erotica that I would post in my dormitory window. People would come by and read and think, ‘Oh, this is today’s offering,’ ” he says. “Anyway, I ended up in the dean’s office.” The stutter disappeared in front of the dean, he says. “Something about deans and police brings out my eloquence.”

He left Santa Barbara thumb-first. First stop, Berkeley. Then he crossed the country to New York with the writer Larry Beinhart (Beinhart, he explains, wrote the book “Wag the Dog,” adding appreciatively, “Good mystery writer.”)

By 18, Pendell was a heroin addict and had begun smuggling marijuana from Mexico to the U.S. He was so high while trafficking 200 pounds of Gold Brick, or enough pot to make a donkey groan, alarm bells didn’t sound when a window blind opened in a motel room next to his and he got a glimpse of a wall-mounted tape-recorder. Two separate arrests led to a four-month jail term in a Mexican prison, and a year-long one in Texas.

The addict’s whisper opens “Pharmako/Poeia.”


I hear you.

(any cops around?)

These are just words.

(yeah right …

any prospective

employers around?)

I don’t want to hear this

(then why did you call me?)

Back in Berkeley by 1967, Pendell says, “I finally realized that heroin was affecting my luck.” He retreated to the mountains. “I hiked up as far as I could. I wanted to be as far away as I could from people. I stayed there as long as I could. I took as much LSD as I could. All of the hatred kind of fell into the earth.”

He spent the next 14 years in and out of the California mountains, first on a mining claim in the Trinity Alps, near the Oregon border. He panned enough gold to make jewelry and gather material for his first anthology of poetry, “Gold-Dust Wilderness.” He hiked among the ponderosa pines and became friendly with an old-timer named Red Barnes, who Pendell couldn’t help but notice used to mentholate his tobacco using a local plant, Salvia sonomensis.

This, he says, is when it struck him that he didn’t know anything about the plants that covered the hillsides: their names, their properties, if you could smoke them, what happened then. “I wanted to know what the most common plants were,” he says, “the ones that didn’t have showy flowers, or any flowers at all, and weren’t in any of the those wildflower books.”

He began charting the anatomy of the hillside, collecting, pressing and drying plants, beginning what would become over the next 10 years a large herbarium. In the process, he got the idea for a book. He wanted to look at power plants, plants whose fruits are so dominant in our society we don’t even see them, or think of ourselves as taking drugs, like when we jolt ourselves awake with coffee.

In 1974, Pendell moved south, to the central ranges and Nevada County. Here a group of back-to-the-landers, led by poet Gary Snyder, the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums,” were forming a poetry community. The following year, Snyder would win a Pulitzer Prize for for his poetry anthology “Turtle Island.”

Pendell used his plant know-how to start making and bottling an organic spruce root beer. The proceeds went to start a poetry magazine, Kyoi-Kuksu: Journal of Backcountry Writing.

Pendell studied Buddhism with Snyder, a discipline that to Western Romantics was what Unitarianism had been centuries earlier to Coleridge. Still, the most touching moments in the Pharmako series capture Pendell and Snyder not meditating, but partying. This is buried in the reference section of “Pharmako/Dynamis”: “Illustrating how any song written in ballad meter could be sung to any ballad tune, Gary Snyder once sang for me Blake’s ‘Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire Rousseau’ to the tune of ‘Mary Hamilton,’ ‘Barbara Allen’ and the ‘House of the Rising Sun.’

“Actually,” Pendell adds gleefully, “Blake violates the fourteener in the second line and it works better if you drop the second spondee.”

It was Snyder who helped a then-28-year-old Pendell finally subdue the stutter. “We were going to do a reading as a benefit for the magazine in Nevada City at the American Victorian Museum,” Pendell remembers. “Gary agreed to read at it, and a number of other fine poets. I was terrified. What was I going to do? Gary said, ‘Don’t worry, just read from the gut.’ ” Words came. Since then, says Pendell, fluency has been a “a continuous practice. If I start, I have to keep a channel open to where it all comes from, or I can’t talk at all.”

Hence, the long-distance effect, those perfect sentences.

In 1974, Pendell married Snyder’s assistant, Merle Goodkind, and became a father to her 2 1/2 year-old old son, Isaac. Asked what she did for a living, Pendell responds, “Her specialty was grace.” Later they had a daughter, Marici.

Pendell wrote this for Goodkind in 1975, a year after they met. It is called “Spring Song” and reads like a wedding vow.

Flowers know:

open with the first sun;

crack the drudgery,

drying soil,

quick as they can.

Pines sprout:

know water won’t last,

no time to waste

in the hasty spring.

Birds know:

songs rise with the morning.

we, also.

Come let’s kiss the greening-

tomorrow’s feet are lost to labor-

Brush our backs against the sun;

lie together, let these mountains

Rush, beneath us, back to sea.

Poetry is like modern art. A lot of people can’t tell whether it’s good or not. Allen Ginsberg thought that Pendell’s was good, and admired the pluck behind the root beer journal enough to contribute his own work. “We were first publication of some of Allen’s poems,” says Pendell. “Then he would send certain people my direction.”

Pendell kept the journal going six years. He built a cabin on rented land. His family got by—just. By 1981, he says, his “allotted time in heaven” had expired. Merle had lupus and needed better health care. They had two young children. He shut the magazine, sold the root beer company and moved to Santa Cruz to pursue a double major in creative writing and computer science at the UC campus there.

It led him to his second great mentor, philosopher Norman O’Brown. Pendell was in awe of O’Brown’s 1966 book “Love’s Body.” After a chance meeting, the philosopher pursued a friendship with Pendell because he was interested in plants. “We walked together a great deal,” says Pendell. “I used to show off by quoting poems by heart. He would answer back in Greek.”

This time as a student, Pendell finished both university degrees, with honors. When he graduated, a linguistics professor suggested, “Why don’t you support your poetry habit with programming?” For the next four years, Pendell wrote paper jam recovery programs instead of poetry. He scolded his now teenage son Isaac for smoking pot. It took Isaac to point out that he was becoming conventional, he says.

“I’d say, ‘Well, pot’s much stronger now.’ “

In 1989, a three-week trip to the Amazon reminded Pendell of the old Trinity Alps idea for the book on power plants. It would be a pharmacopeia, a Greek term meaning “book of drugs, with directions how to make them.” Conventional pharmacopeias deal with what would have been in Pendell’s father’s medicine box. Pendell’s would embrace his, and beyond. He had only one line playing in his head like a mantra. “Tobacco, marijuana, then you’re in the jungle.”

He programmed by day and wrote by night. “The idea was that through immersion in each plant, something would come across in my style that would create a signature for the plant,” he says. “For example, the stimulant chapter turned out to be the longest.”

In January 1993, the book was almost halfway written when Isaac, then 22, died in a snowboarding accident. There is a gut-wrenching passage in “Pharmako/Poeia,” when Pendell, terrified and tripping, finally faces his son’s death. His marriage to Goodkind was never the same after Isaac died, he says.

When Pendell finished the first half of the book, Gary Snyder’s editor, Jack Shoemaker, sent sample chapters to Mercury House, a nonprofit San Francisco press. Pendell thought it was a prank when its publisher, Tom Christiansen, phoned to accept the book. “I said, ‘Come on, who is this?’ “

The commission enabled Pendell to take a sabbatical from the software job to finish writing. Six months later, as rough drafts circulated among Pendell’s friends, there was confusion and shock. There was even a chapter on huffing solvents. Norman O’Brown asked him to take it out. “He said, ‘Everyone will know it’s a drug book,’ ” says Pendell.

Pendell left it in. “I thought of the information that I came across—that not all solvents are alike, some are much more dangerous than others—as harm reduction. I may reach somebody. The message: use toluene not gasoline, or better yet, nitrous oxide. Use ether, not chloroform.”

The text unnerved Mercury House sufficiently to affix this cautionary note: “A manuscript draft of Pharmako/Poeia caused us some concern. The author of this remarkable work was clearly exploring perilous terrain along his ‘Poison Path.’ This is a route we strongly advise others not to follow (except through this book, and through other approaches that lead in the direction of wisdom without dangerous self-experimentation).”

Pendell had his own definitions of danger, which come across plainly in the chapters that follow. “Huffers,” he speculated, “probably have an interesting terminology to describe the subtle differences of effects [between solvents], and it would be worth recording, if you could find an informant who is still articulate.” The chapter is the only one in his books where readers will find the words, “get off and get help.”

But with other drugs, he experimented freely on himself. Salvia divinorum, or “diviner’s sage,” only really kicked in, he reported, when he accidentally doubled the dose. The entry for wormwood begins, “The first effect was loosening of the sinuses . . . . Much stronger than the Japanese wasabi horseradish . . . . After some minutes I noticed that I wasn’t writing anything. I was just staring off into space. And the space was beautiful. The light was brighter. Mottled sunlight filtering down through the walnut tree. . . . The light was different, softer and more intense at the same time. I felt great, actually. I gazed around my studio and spent a lot of time looking at my painting . . . . A little tightness in the head and around the eyes.”

There is a recipe to make absinthe from scratch, and a time-saving alternative where you only have to doctor the Pernod.

The potential for ridicule is not lost on him. “Timothy Leary had a joke about LSD research,” he says. “You couldn’t write about LSD with any authority if you hadn’t tried it. On the other hand, if you had tried it, then how could anyone trust what you said?”

But for Pendell, the more ridiculous thing would be reporting on LSD without having taken it. “The approach is phenomenological,” he says. “We’re trying to work with what’s happening in real time and somehow convey that.” The science behind play is tricky territory. Pendell is not above trotting out ten-dollar words for instant authority.

As the book was revised and finally published, it was dedicated to Isaac. Along with Ginsberg and Ecstasy chemist Shulgin, actor Peter Coyote supplied a jacket blurb. Their task: somehow prime the public for the book.

I suggest to Pendell that he’s still trying to shock the dean. He nods and laughs in agreement. “I stated at my father’s memorial service that maybe I’ll emerge from adolescence in the next decade.”

Then I ask if he’s not also trying to shock us. Why he doesn’t do drugs the understood way? Secretly? Is he not simply a reflexive contrarian? Again, an acknowledging laugh. “Norman O’Brown gave me a lot of trouble that way,” he says. “He said, ‘At least I’m not working out my Oedipus complex with drugs.’ “

But as the door opens for a defense of drugs, Pendell has one ready and it’s serious. The stumbling brother debate may have started with his father, he says, but now it’s with the world. It’s at the heart of his work. It’s over what gets banned, what doesn’t, and the War on Drugs. “It’s not that if you make a place for Dionysian energy, this kind of wild and unpredictable God, that everything will go OK,” he says. “That’s not true at all. But the cost of trying to suppress it is even worse. Then you sacrifice your own children.

“In the United States today we now have more people in prison than any other country on a per capita basis. The majority of these are for drug crimes. It’s a war against ourselves. It’s a war against our children. It was problematical for the Greeks but at least they came to recognize you have to admit a certain amount of chaos. You can’t try to live risk free. If you try to live completely risk free you’re going to destroy what you had. What’s a really secure environment? San Quentin is pretty secure.”

Society, he says, is police enough. “The solution is to let it be worked out by the culture. Peer pressure. Societal norms. Everyone knows that if you take a drink first thing in the morning, it’s not a good thing.”

But aren’t his books encouraging people to do drugs? “Encouragement is the big full-page ads in High Times,” he says. He has plenty of readers who don’t do drugs at all, he says. Bye the bye, he adds shortly afterward, he’s not exactly stoned all the time, either.

The irony, says Pendell, is that writing books about drugs largely requires staying off them. Plus, we grow out of them, he thinks. Heroin affected his luck. He’s at an age where he’s got to think of his liver when it comes to alcohol. LSD was a “great blessing” in his life, he says, but one of its teachings is to stop doing it. Marijuana can be useful on very rare occasions. He has one tobacco cigarette a day. But he won’t say no to an afternoon glass of home-brewed absinthe.

He offers one to illustrate the benignity of the drink, and I think to see if I’ll accept it. I do, curiously. After an hour, though it is getting later, everything seems just a little brighter. “There’s something about mottled light,” he says. “The change to the absinthe drinkers, you suddenly have light breaking out of everywhere.” Pendell reckons you can explain all of expressionist painting with absinthe. In a future project, he says, he wants to do a “pharmacological study of philosophy. Not enough attention has been paid to what philosophers have been drinking or imbibing.”

As he began writing the sequel, “Pharmako/Dynamis,” in 1996, his 22-year marriage ended. He moved to Santa Rosa and wrote—furiously. The theme of the new book: speed. It began with a mischievous look at the teetotaler’s stimulant of choice, coffee. By the middle of the text, he is describing the metallic taste of freebase cocaine.

Keep wanting

to get back

to where things were clear

Then there is a spirited defense of Ephedra, and a paean to Ecstasy, part-and-parcel of an ebullient horniness that permeates the second book. There is attention to sexual side-effects of drugs, which ones “give good lead,” which take it away. The Ecstasy chapter merrily contrasts a middle-aged generation of users who first used the drug in marriage counseling, whom Pendell fondly describes as “mush pile” sensualists, to the stomping ravers of the early 1990s. One anecdote has three friends admitting their feelings for each other while on the drug, a week later becoming lovers, dubbing themselves a “truple” and looking for things that came in threes.

His mood throughout was euphoric. While writing the second book, Pendell was in love. In 1998, living in Sonoma, he met Laura McCarthy, a visiting poet and book-binder from New York, who moved west and married him. McCarthy has an easy warmth and a ready, musical laugh as she describes her old East Coast longing for a place where leaving the house means emerging outdoors instead of into an apartment building hallway.

An excerpt from Pendell’s poem “The Dream Walker,” from the 1999 anthology “Living With Barbarians,” captures his wife as a refugee from Manhattan.


Looked for songs in the dry moss trees;

Picked them up where flames swirled.

Her thirst frightened the flowers;

Only the cacti survived.

She made her home in a land dry and barren as the moon.

Of course she grew lonely.

Someone who loves poems should take her home.

Her curling breath so dry would crack the tongue.

Pendell took her home. When she appears halfway through our interview, he hugs her and demands, “Aren’t I lucky?”

Over the next several days, in phone calls between Los Angeles and the Sierra, Pendell reports that what he thought was a cold turned out to be pneumonia. A friend tells him lungs equal grief. There has been a lot of death in the last five years. Ginsberg died in 1997, O’Brown last year, and Merle Goodkind succumbed to lupus in the spring. Then, in June, his father died.

But as antibiotics kick in, and he and McCarthy unpack their moving boxes, he’s feeling better. Twenty two years ago, he left the mountains reluctantly, for his wife and children. Now he’s back. Each day, he feels ambushed by joy.

He’s debating which to finish first, a book about his hero, Norman O’Brown, or the third drug book, “Pharmako/Gnosis.” He is toying with a “free the drug plants” campaign, complete with a green ribbon. “This is a DIY operation,” he says. “The first step in trying to clean up the mess of the drug war is free the plants.”

He also wants to circulate “Boycott Companies That Drug Test” bumper stickers. America’s office workers are drug free on a wink, he argues. They are routinely given two weeks’ notice before marijuana tests, so the drug can clear their systems. Once they take up jobs, inside every office is “a shrine to a coffee pot,” and outside, a bar.

But where another opponent of the war on drugs would be stumping for Ralph Nader, America’s poet of the second pharmacy is converting a country barn to a library to accommodate what he estimates are 10,000 pounds of reference books and botanical specimens. Part of him wants to be heard, not just by his father, but by every Methodist in America, by scientists, the DEA, his jailers. The other half wants to disappear into the wilderness.

Dale Pendell’s life adds up only if you give it enough columns. He’s a study in contradictions. He devoted his most lucid moments to recording his most stoned ones. He’s a mountain man-cum-computer programmer, an exaltant stutterer, Hamlet on absinthe. He insists on defending substances that even liberals abhor. He signed up with a publisher ideologically opposed to making money. He wrote highly technical reference books as epic poems. He wants to change the world without joining it.

When pressed about why he sought a presidential pardon, he bristled that all the Los Angeles Times wanted to know about were his teenaged crimes, then dismissed the long fight for the pardon as a theatrical act of no merit. He wants credibility, and to be incredible.

The single underlying theme always returns to the Bible, to Romans, to Paul and the stumbling brother. Pendell questions if the world can reasonably be asked to slow down to the pace of the slowest walker. Witness the stutterer who found his voice. Today, for the pastor’s prodigal son to speak at all, he has to believe what he’s saying. When that happens, the poet can’t help but find a pulpit.


Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179)

O you happy roots

O you, happy roots,

with whom works of miracles

and not works of crime,

for burning predestined you were planted.

And to you, thoughtful fiery voice,

becoming the whetstone,

subverting the darkness.

Rejoice in that which is on top.

Rejoice in him,

who the many did not see on earth,

although they ardently cried for.

Rejoice in that which is on top.


O Holy Fire

O Holy Fire which soothes the spirit

/alt (para clete?) O fire of the spirit which I have tried

life force of all creation

holiness you are in living form

You are a holy ointment

for perilous injuries

You are holy in cleansing

the fetid wound.

O breath of holiness

o fire of loving

o sweet taste in the breast

you fill the heart

with the good aroma of virtues.

O fountain of purity

in/with whom it is considered

that God collected the lost / That God made the strangers one with us

and the sinners/damned saved.

O robe of life and hope for the companions

our brothers all of the church

and the belt of honesty

save the blessed.

Caring for all those

who are held down by enemies

and dissolve/break the chains/restraints/laws.

whom the divine will save and free.

O path of strength

that enters all places

in the high places and in the plains

and in all the depths

you call and unify all.

From you the clouds/smoke flows,

the ether files,

stones/jewels have/given their feeling/moods/qualities

water streams shown their way. (given their course)

and earth made green and fresh.

You always teach comprehending

by inspiriational wisdom with pleasure/joy/happiness.

Praise be to you,

who is the sound of praise,

and joy of life, hope and noble strength

giving the premium of the light.


Holy Spirit, bestowing life unto life

Holy Spirit, bestowing life unto life,

moving in All.

You are the root of all creatures,

washing away all impurity,

scouring guilt,

and anointing wounds.

Thus you are luminous and praiseworthy, Life,

awakening, and re-awakening all that is.


O soul, so fulfilled

O soul, so fulfilled,

that your flesh,

which arose from the Earth,

stepped from this world

as a culmination of your journeys.

Hence divine knowing

was reflected in you,

as a crown.

And Sacred Spirit

gazed upon you as its home.

For divine knowing

was reflected in you,

as a crown.

Glory to the Holy Trinity;

Parents, Child and Loving Spirit.

Frontier Psychiatry

Long seeking it through others,

I was far from reaching it.

Now I go by myself;

I meet it everywhere.

It is just I myself,

And I am not itself.

Understanding this way,

I can be as I am.

– Tung-Shan (806-869)



A wee day full of sunshine at last. Working in the back yard, moving the brugs and the daturas’ from the front, moving the stone table and the rabbit hutch (smelly fellow)… We watched a crow chase a squirrel around the tree in a most comical fashion… trimming limbs off of the overhanging neighbors tree, putting up the hummingbird feeder in a new place (where are the hummingbirds?)

Talked to Tomas, and had a good giggle.

Mary wandering after 5:00 with her glass of wine, me with a beer. The sky was blue, and now is black. I thought I would go mad for the joy I felt in the doing. yet, here I still am.

Living our life in our back yard Bohemia… Faery Lights on the garage soon, fire pit as well.

Salons coming this summer…


On the Menu:

The Links


The Poems: Thich Nhat Hahn



Frontier Psychiatry…

Amsterdam ‘No Toking’ Signs Being Pilfered

Alternative religions: Paganism and prejudice


A life-time is not what’s between,

The moments of birth and death.

A life-time is one moment,

Between my two little breaths.

The present, the here, the now,

That’s all the life I get,

I live each moment in full,

In kindness, in peace, without regret.

– Chade Meng, One Moment



During the first two years of the Harvard Psychedelic Research Project rumors circulated about a powerful psychedelic agent called dimethyltryptamine: DMT. The effect of this substance was supposed to last for less than an hour and to produce shattering, terrorizing effects. It was alleged to be the nuclear bomb of the psychedelic family.

The Hungarian pharmacologist, Stephen Szara, first reported in 1957 that N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and N,N-Diethyltryptamine (DET) produced effects in man similar to LSD and mescaline. The only difference was in duration: whereas LSD and mescaline typically last 8 to 10 hours, DMT lasted from 40 minutes to 1 hour and DET from 2 to 3 hours. The higher homologues, dipropyltryptamine and dibutyltryptamine, were also said to be active but less potent. The parent substance, tryptamine, by itself has no effect. Chemically, DMT is closely related to psilocybin and psilocin (4-hydroxy-N-dimethyltryptamine), as well as to bufotenine (5-hydroxy-N-dimethyltryptamine). The mechanism of action of DMT and related compounds is still a scientific mystery. Like LSD and psilocybin, DMT has the property of increasing the metabolic turnover of serotonin in the body. An enzyme capable of converting naturally-occurring tryptamine to DMT has recently been found in some mammalian tissue; this suggests that mechanisms may exist whereby the body converts normally-occurring substances to psychedelic compounds. (1-5)

DMT has been identified as one of the ingredients in the seeds of Mimosa hostilis, from which the Pancaru Indians of Pernambuco, Brazil, prepare an hallucinogenic beverage they call vinho de Jurumena. It is also, along with bufotenine, one of the ingredients in the seeds of Piptadenia peregrina, from which the Indians of the Orinoco Basin and of Trinidad prepare an hallucinogenic snuff they call yopo. (6)

William Burroughs had tried it in London and reported it in the most negative terms. Burroughs was working at that time on a theory of neurological geography — certain cortical areas were heavenly, other areas were diabolical. Like explorers moving into a new continent, it was important to map out the friendly areas and the hostile. In Burroughs’ pharmacological cartography, DMT propelled the voyager into strange and decidedly unfriendly territory.

Burroughs told a gripping tale about a psychiatrist in London who had taken DMT with a friend. After a few minutes the frightened friend began requesting help. The psychiatrist, himself being spun through a universe of shuttling, vibratory pigments, reached for his hypodermic needle (which had been fragmented into a shimmering assemblage of wave mosaics) and bent over to administer an antidote. Much to his dismay his friend, twisting in panic, was suddenly transformed into a writhing, wiggling reptile, jewel-encrusted and sparkling. The doctor’s dilemma: where to make an intravenous injection in a squirming, oriental-martian snake?

Alan Watts had a DMT story to tell. He took the drug as part of a California research and had planned to demonstrate that he could maintain rational control and verbal fluency during the experience. The closest equivalent might be to attempt a moment-to-moment description of one’s reactions while being fired out the muzzle of an atomic cannon with neon-byzantine barreling. Dr. Watts gave an awe-full description of perceptual fusion.

In the fall of 1962, while giving a three-day series of lectures to the Southern California Society of Clinical Psychologists, I fell into discussion with a psychiatrist who was collecting data on DMT. He had given the drug to over a hundred subjects and only four had reported pleasant experiences. This was a challenge to the set-setting hypothesis. According to our evidence, and in line with our theory, we had found little differentiation among psychedelic drugs. We were skeptically convinced that the elaborate clinical differences allegedly found in reactions to different drugs were psychedelic folk tales. We were sticking to our null hypothesis that the drugs had no specific effect on consciousness but that expectation, preparation, emotional climate, and the contract with the drug-giver accounted for all differences in reaction.

We were eager to see if the fabled “terror-drug,” DMT, would fit the set-setting theory.

A session was arranged. I came to the home of the researcher, accompanied by a psychologist, a Vedanta monk and two female friends. After a lengthy and friendly discussion with the physician, the psychologist lay down on a couch. His friend’s head rested on his chest. I sat on the edge of the couch, smiling in reassuring expectation. Sixty mg of DMT were administered intramuscularly.

Within two minutes the psychologist’s face was glowing with serene joy. For the next twenty-five minutes he gasped and murmured in pleasure, keeping up an amused and ecstatic account of his visions.

“The faces in the room had become billion-faceted mosaics of rich and vibrant hues. The facial characteristics of each of the observers, surrounding the bed, were the keys to their genetic heritage. Dr. X (the psychiatrist) was a bronzed American Indian with full ceremonial paint; the Hindu monk was a deep soulful middle-easterner with eyes which were at once reflecting animal cunning and the sadness of centuries; Leary was a roguish Irishman, a sea captain with weathered skin and creases at the corners of eyes which had looked long and hard into the unseeable, an adventurous skipper of a three-masted schooner eager to chart new waters, to explore the continent just beyond, exuding a confidence that comes from a humorous cosmic awareness of his predicament — genetic and immediate. And next to me, or rather on me, or rather in me, or rather more of me — Billy. Her body was vibrating in such harmony with mine that each ripple of muscle, the very coursing of blood through her veins was a matter of absolute intimacy … body messages of a subtlety and tenderness both exotically strange and deliciously familiar. Deep within, a point of heat in my groin slowly but powerfully and inevitably radiated throughout my body until every cell became a sun emanating its own life-giving fire. My body was an energy field, a set of vibrations with each cell pulsing in phase with every other. And Billy, whose cells now danced the same tune, was no longer a discrete entity but a resonating part of the single set of vibrations. The energy was love.”

Exactly twenty-five minutes after administration, the psychologist smiled, sighed, sat up swinging his legs over the side of the couch and said, “It lasted for a million years and for a split-second. But it’s over and now it’s your turn.”

With this reassuring precedent, I took up position on the couch. Margaret sat on the floor holding my hand. The psychologist sat at the foot of the couch, radiating benevolence. The drug was administered.

The First DMT Experience

My experience with DMT occurred in the most favorable setting. We had just witnessed the ecstatic experience of my colleague and the radiance of his reaction provided a secure and optimistic background. My expectations were extremely positive.

Five minutes after i.m. injection, lying comfortably on the bed, I felt typical psychedelic onset symptoms — a pleasant somatic looseness, a sensitive tuning-in to physical sensations.

Eyes closed … typical LSD visions, the exquisite beauty of retinal and physical machinery, transcendence of mental activity, serene detachment. Comforting awareness of Margaret’s hand and the presence of friends.

Suddenly I opened my eyes and sat up … the room was celestial, glowing with radiant illumination … light, light, light … the people present were transfigured … godlike creatures … we were all united as one organism. Beneath the radiant surface I could see the delicate, wondrous body machinery of each person, the network of muscle and vein and bone — exquisitely beautiful and all joined, all part of the same process.

Our group was sharing a paradisial experience — each one in turn was to be given the key to eternity — now it was my turn, I was experiencing this ecstasy for the group. Later the others would voyage. We were members of a transcendent collectivity.

Dr. X coached me tenderly … handed me a mirror where I saw my face, a stained-glass portrait.

Margaret’s face was that of all women — wise, beautiful, eternal. Her eyes were all female eyes. She murmured exactly the right message. “It can always be this way.”

The incredible complex-unity of the evolutionary process — staggering, endless in its variety — why? Where is it going? etc., etc. The old questions and then the laughter of amused, ecstatic acceptance. Too much! Too great! Never mind! It can’t be figured out. Love it in gratitude and accept! I would lean forward to search for meaning in Margaret’s china-flecked face and fall back on the pillow in reverent, awed laughter.

Gradually, the brilliant illumination faded back to the three-d world and I sat up. Reborn. Renewed. Radiant with affection and reverence.

This experience took me to the highest point of LSD illumination — a jewel-like satori. It was less internal and more visual and social than my usual LSD experiences. There was never a second of fear or negative emotion. Some moments of benign paranoia — agent of the divine group, etc.

I am left with the conviction that DMT offers great promise as a transcendental trigger. The brevity of the reaction has many advantages — it provides a security in the knowledge that it will be over in a half hour and should make possible precise exploration of specific transcendental areas.

The Set And Setting For The Programmed Experience

Immediately after my first DMT voyage the drug was administered to the Hindu monk. This dedicated man had spent fourteen years in meditation and renunciation. He was a sannyasin, entitled to wear the sacred saffron robe. He has participated in several psychedelic drug sessions with extremely positive results and was convinced that the biochemical road to samadhi was not only valid but perhaps the most natural method for people living in a technological civilization.

His reaction to DMT was, however, confusing and unpleasant. Catapulted into a sudden ego-loss, he struggled to rationalize his experience in terms of classic Hindu techniques. He kept looking up at the group in puzzled helplessness. Promptly at twenty-five minutes he sat up, laughed, and said, “What a trip that was. I really got trapped in karmic hallucinations!”

The lesson was clear. DMT, like the other psychedelic keys, could open an infinity of possibilities. Set, setting, suggestibility, temperamental background were always there as filters through which the ecstatic experience could be distorted.

On return to Cambridge, arrangements were made with a drug company and with our medical consultant to run a systematic research on the new substance. During the subsequent months we ran over one hundred sessions — at first training exercises for experienced researchers and then later trials with subjects completely inexperienced in psychedelic matters.

The percentage of successful, ecstatic sessions ran high — over ninety percent. The set-setting hypothesis clearly held for DMT in regard to positive experiences. But there were certain definite characteristics of the DMT experience which were markedly different from the standard psychedelics — LSD, psilocybin, mescaline. First of all, the duration. The eight-hour LSD transformation was reduced to around thirty minutes. The intensity was greater as well. This is to say, the shattering of learned form perception, the collapse of learned structure was much more pronounced. “Eyes closed” produced a soft, silent, lightning fast, whirling dance of incredible cellular forms — acre upon acre, mile upon mile of softly-spinning organic forms. A swirling, tumbling, soft rocket-ride through the factory of tissue. The variety and irreality of the precise, exquisite, feathery clockwork organic machinery. Many LSD subjects report endless odysseys through the network of circulatory tunnels. Not with DMT, but rather a sub-cellular cloud-ride into a world of ordered, moving beauty which defies external metaphor.

“Eyes open” produced a similar collapse of learned structure — but this time of external objects. Faces and things no longer had form but were seen as a shimmering play of vibrations (which is what they are). Perception of solid structures was seen to be a function of visual nets, mosaics, cobwebs of light-energy.

The transcendence of ego-space-time was most often noticed. Subjects frequently complained that they became so lost in the lovely flow of timeless existences that the experience ended too soon and was so smooth that landmarks were lacking to make memory very detailed. The usual milestones for perception and memory were lacking! There could be no memory of the sequence of visions because there was no time — and no memory of structure because space was converted into flowing process.

To deal with this problem we instituted programmed sessions. The subject would be asked every two minutes to respond, or he would be presented with an agreed-upon stimulus every two minutes. The landmarks would, in this way, be provided by the experimenter — the temporal sequence could be broken up into stages and the flow of visions would be divided into topics.

As an example of a programmed session using DMT, let us consider the following report: The plan for this session involved the experiential typewriter. This device, which is described in a previous article (7) is designed to allow non-verbal communication during psychedelic sessions. There are two keyboards with ten buttons for each hand. The twenty keys are connected to a twenty-pen polygraph which registers an ink mark on a flowing roll of paper each time a key is struck.

The subject must learn the codes for the range of experience before the session and is trained to respond automatically, indicating the area of his consciousness.

In this study it was agreed that I would be questioned every two minutes, to indicate the content of my awareness.

The session took place in a special session room, eight-by-twenty, which was completely covered, ceiling, walls and floor, by warm, colorful India prints. The session followed the “alternating guide” model: another researcher, a psychopharmacologist, was to act as interrogator for my session. The pharmacologist was then to repeat the session with Leary as interrogator.

At 8:10 p.m. I received 60 mgs of DMT.

The Second DMT Experience

Lay back on mattress, arranging cushions … relaxed and anticipatory … somewhat amused by our attempt to impose time-content mileposts on the flow of process … soft humming noise … eyes closed … suddenly, as if someone touched a button, the static darkness of retina is illuminated … enormous toy-jewel-clock factory, Santa Claus workshop … not impersonal or engineered, but jolly, comic, light-hearted. The evolutionary dance, humming with energy, billions of variegated forms spinning, clicking through their appointed rounds in the smooth ballet …

MINUTE 2. TIM: WHERE ARE YOU NOW? Ralph’s voice, stately, kind … what? where? You? … open eyes … there squatting next to me are two magnificent insects … skin burnished, glowing metallic, with hammered jewels inlaid … richly costumed, they looked at me sweetly … dear, radiant Venutian crickets … one has a pad in his lap and is holding out a gem-encrusted box with undulating trapezoidal glowing sections … questioning look … incredible … and next to him Mrs. Diamond Cricket softly slides into a lattice-work of vibrations … Dr. Ruby-emerald Cricket smiles … TIM WHERE ARE YOU NOW … moves box towards me … oh yes … try to tell them … where … At two minutes, the subject was smiling with eyes closed. When asked to report he opened his eyes, looked at the observers curiously, smiled. When the orientation question was repeated he chuckled, moved his finger searchingly over the typewriter and (with a look of amused tolerance) stabbed at the “cognitive activity” key. He then fell back with a sigh and closed his eyes. Use mind … explain … look down at undulating boxes … struggle to focus … use mind … yes COGNITIVE … there …

Eyes close … back to dancing workshop … joy … incredible beauty … the wonder, wonder, wonder … thanks … thanks for the chance to see the dance … all hooked together … everything fits into the moist, pulsating pattern … a huge grey-white mountain cliff, moving, pocked by little caves and in each cave a band of radar-antennae, elf-like insects merrily working away, each cave the same, the grey-white wall endlessly parading by … infinity of life forms … merry erotic energy nets …

MINUTE 4. TIM, WHERE ARE YOU NOW? Spinning out in the tapestry of space comes the voice from down below … dear kindly earth-voice … earth-station calling … where are you?… what a joke … how to answer … I am in the bubbling beaker of the cosmic alchemist … no, now softly-falling star dust exploding in the branches of the stellar ivory birch tree … what? … open eyes … oh dear lapidary insect friends … Ralph and Susan beautiful orange lobsters watching me gently … faces shattered into stained-glass mosaic … Dr. Tiffany Lobster holds out the casket of trapezoidal sections … look at glowing key … where is Venutian ecstasy key? … where is key for the stellar explosion of the year 3000? … EXTERNAL PROCESS IMAGES … yes … hit the key … tumble back to Persepolic pulse … At four minutes the subject was still smiling with eyes closed. When asked to report, he opened his eyes and laughed. He looked at the observers with twinkling eyes, studied the keyboard of the experiential typewriter and pressed the EXTERNAL PROCESS IMAGE key. He then fell back and closed his eyes.

How nice… they are down there… waiting … no words up here to describe … they have words down there … see rolling waves of colored forms whirling up, bouncing jolly … where do they come from … who is architect … merciless … each undulating dancing factory devouring other … devouring me … pitiless pattern … what to do … terror … ah let it come … eat me … whirl me up in the ocean of snowflake mouths … all right … how it all fits together … auto-pilot … it’s all worked out … it’s all on auto-pilot … suddenly my body snaps and begins to disintegrate … flow out into the river of energy … good-by e… gone … I that was is now absorbed in electron flash … beamed across star space in orgasm pulses of particle motion … release … flashing light, light, light…

MINUTE 6. TIM, WHERE ARE YOU NOW? Earth voice calling … you there, meson hurdling in nuclear orbit … incorporate … trap the streaking energy particle … slow down … freeze into body structure … return … with flick of open eye the nuclear dance suddenly skids into static form … see two clusters of electrons shimmering … the Ralph galaxy calling … the Mrs. Ralph galaxy smiling … the energy dance caught momentarily in friendly robot form … hello … next to them a candle flame … center of million-armed web of light beams … the room is caught in a lattice of light-energy … shimmering … all vision is light … there is nothing to see but light waves … photons reflected from Ralph’s quizzical smile … awaits the answer … photons bouncing off the quivering keys of the typewriter … how easy to beam a radio message down … finger taps EXTERNAL PROCESS IMAGES … At six minutes the subject had just finished frowning in what seemed like a passing fear or problem. When contacted to report, he glanced around the room and without hesitation pressed the EXTERNAL PROCESS KEY. He then closed his eyes.

Eyes closed but after-image of candle-flame remains … eyeballs trapped in orbit around internal light center … celestial radiance from the light center … light of sun … all light is sun … light is life … live, lux, luce, life … all is a dance of light-life … all life is the wire … carrying light … all light is the frail filament of the light … solar silent sound … beamed out from sun-flare … light-life …

MINUTE 8. TIM, WHERE ARE YOU NOW? In the heart of the sun’s hydrogen explosion … our globe is light’s globe … open eyes drape curtain over sun flare … open eyes bring blindness … shut off internal radiance … see chiaroscuro God holding shadow box … where is life? … press WHITE LIGHT KEY. At eight minutes the subject, who had been lying motionless against the cushions, opened his eyes. His expression was dazed, surprised. Without expression he pressed key for WHITE LIGHT.

Keep eyes open … fixed … caught … hypnotized … whole room, flowered walls, cushions, candle, human forms all vibrating … all waves having no form … terrible stillness … just silent energy flow … if you move you will shatter the pattern … all remembered forms, meanings, identities meaningless … gone … all is a pitiless emanation of physical waves … phenomena are television impulses crackling across an interstellar program … our sun is one point on an astrophysical television screen … our galaxy is a tiny cluster of points on one corner of the TV screen … each time a supernova explodes it is simply that point on the screen changing … the ten billion year cycle of our universe is a millisecond flash of light on the cosmic screen which flows endlessly and swiftly with images … sitting motionless … not wishing to move, to impose motion on the pattern … motionless in speed-of-light motion …

MINUTE 10. TIM, WHERE ARE YOU NOW? Ground-tower beaming up navigational query … flood of amazed love that we can contact each other … we do remain in contact … where was that cluster then … hallucinating … science-fiction metaphors … where is key … there … EXTERNAL HALLUCINATIONS … From eight to ten minutes the subject sat motionless, eyes open in a trance-like state. There was no attempt to communicate. When contacted he moved slowly but surely and pressed the EXTERNAL HALLUCINATIONS KEY.

Quotes from the Research Questionnaire filled out after the session: loss of space-time … merging with energy flux … seeing all life forms as physical waves … loss of body … existence as energy … awareness that our bodies are momentary clusters of energy and that we are capable of tuning in on patterns of non-organic patterns … certainty that life processes are on “auto-pilot” … there is nothing to fear or worry about … a feeling of freedom to go back and “freeze” the energy process momentarily in the old ego-robot … a reminder of the infinite unfolding complexity and endlessness of the life process … sudden understanding of the meaning of terms from Indian philosophy such as “maya,” “maha-maya,” “lila” … insight into the nature and varieties of transcendental states … the void-white-light-content-less, meta-life-inorganic ecstasy … the Kundalini-life-force-biological-squirming-moist-sexual organic ecstasy … the singing-genetic-code-blueprint-temporary-structuring-of-form ecstasy and the …

MINUTE 12. TIM, WHERE ARE YOU NOW? Open eyes … laugh … caught by vigilant ground-tower while orbiting around earthy-mind-figure-it-out area … where is key for thinking earth-word thoughts … hallucinations … no, the thinking game … press COGNITIVE KEY … From the tenth to twelfth minute the subject sat looking blankly and without motion at the wall of the room. When contacted he smiled and pressed the COGNITIVE key.

Above head is light bulb covered with scalloped light blue shade … circling up to the glowing shade are ribbons of waves … silent … beckoning … inviting … join the dance … leave your robot … a whole universe of delightful, aerial choreography awaits … yes join them … suddenly, like smoke rising from a cigarette, consciousness circled up … swooping graceful gull-paths up to light source and, soundlessly, through into another dimension … from the research questionnaire: a description of the level reached is a prose yoga beyond present attainment … there were billions-of-file-cards, helical in shape, which, flicked through, confronted me with an endless library of events, forms, visual perceptions, not abstract but all experiential … a billion years of coded experience, classified, preserved in brilliant, pulsating, cool clarity that made ordinary reality seem like an out-of-focus, tattered, jerky, fluttering of peep-show cards, tawdry and worn … any thought once thought, instantly came alive and flicked by the shuttered aperture of consciousness … but at the same time there was no one to observe … I … he … the one-aware … all humming in electronic, technicolor SEE! vision for one who has been centuries blind …

MINUTE 14. TIM, WHERE ARE YOU NOW? Oh, where are we now? … oh listen, here’s where we are … once there was a glowing electric dot, a flash reflected from the heart of a cut diamond which, oh there, now, caught the light of sun flame and glittered … sudden flash in pre-cambrian mud … the dot stirs and quivers with tremble-strain-exultant-singing-throbbing-shuddering twist upwards and a serpent began to writhe up and through the soft, warm silt … tiny, the size of a virus … growing … the enormous length of a microscopic bacillus … flowing exultantly, always singing the Hindu flute-song … always bursting out, enfoliating … now the size of the moss root, churning through fibred-cunt-mattress-moist-spasm churning … growing … growing … ever exfoliating its own vision … always blind except for the forward point of light-eye … now belts of serpent skin, mosaic-jeweled rhythmically jerking, snake-wise forward … now the size of a tree-trunk, gnarled and horny with the sperm-sap moving within … now swelling, tumescent into Mississippi flood of tissue writhing … pink, silt current of singing fire … now circling globe, squeezing green salt oceans and jagged brown-shale mountains with constrictor grasp … serpent flowing blindly, now a billion-mile endless electric-cord vertebrated writhing cobra singing Hindu flute-song … penis head throbbing … plunged into all smells, all color tapestry of tissue … blind writhing, circled tumescent serpent blind, blind, blind, except for the one jeweled eye through which, for one frame’s flickered second each cell in the advancing parade is permitted that one moment face-to-face, eyeball to solar flame insight into the past future …

TIM, TIM, WHERE ARE YOU NOW? La Guardia tower repeats request for contact with the ship lost out of radar scope … where? … I am eye of the great snak e… a fold of serpent skin, radiating trapezoidal inquiry swims into focus … register conscious content … where are you? … here … INTERNAL HALLUCINATIONS. From minute twelve to fourteen the subject sat silent with eyes closed. When contacted he failed to respond and after thirty seconds was contacted again. He then pressed EXTERNAL HALLUCINATION key.

The session continued with two minute interruptions until the twentieth minute in the same pattern: timeless flights into hallucinatory or pure energy vibration fields with sudden contractions to reality in response to the observer’s questions.

The session report filled out the next day contained the following comments about this method of session programming.

This session suggested some solutions about the problem of communicating during psychedelic experiences. The person “up there” is being whirled through experiences which spin by so rapidly and contain structural content so different from our familiar macroscopic forms that he cannot possibly describe where he is or what he is experiencing. Consider the analogy to the pilot of a plane who has lost his bearings who is talking by radio to La Guardia tower. The pilot is experiencing many events — he can describe the cloud formations, lightning flashes, the etching of ice on the plane window — but none of this makes any sense to the tower technicians who are attempting to plot his course in the three-dimensional language of navigation. The person “up there” cannot provide the categories. The ground control personnel must radio them “up.” ‘Cessna 64 Bravo, our radar scopes show you are fifteen miles southwest of International Airport. The red glow you see is the reflection of Manhattan. To head on a course for Boston you must change your course to 57 degrees and maintain an altitude of 5500.’

But the language of psychology is not sophisticated enough to provide such parameters. Nor are there experiential compasses to determine direction.

What we can do, at this point, is to set up “flight plans.” The subject can work out, before the session, the areas of experience he wishes to engage; and he can plan the temporal sequence of his visionary voyage. He will not be able, during the flight to tell “ground control” where he is, but ground control can contact him and tell him where to proceed. Thus, during this session, when Ralph asked, WHERE ARE YOU NOW?, I could not respond. I had to descend, slow up the flow of experience and then tell him where I ended up.

When the contact question came I would be hurtling through other galaxies. In order to respond, I had to stop my free rocketing, tumbling flight, return near the earth and say: “I am over New Haven.”

This session was a continual, serial “come-down.” I repeatedly had to stop the flow in order to respond. My cortex was receiving hundreds of impulses a second, but in order to respond to ground control’s questions I had to grind the ship to a slow stall to say, at that moment. “I am here.”

This session suggests that a more efficient way to chart psychedelic experiences would be to: 1) memorize the keyboard of the experiential typewriter so that communication down to ground control could be automatic, and 2) plan the flight in such a way that the ground control would not ask unanswerable questions — “Where am I indeed!” but would tell the subject where to go. Then the communication task of the voyager would be to indicate if he were on course, i.e., that he was or was not following the flight instructions radioed up by ground control.

Ground control should send up stimuli. Suggestivity is wide open. La Guardia tower directs the flight.

Did you learn anything of value from this session? If so, please specify: “Session was of great value. I am clearly and strongly motivated to work out methods of ground control and planned flights.”

Approximately how much of the session (in % of time) was spent in each of the following areas?

A. Interpersonal games 10% (fondness for observers)

B. Exploring or discovering self, or self games 0%

C. Other games (social, intellectual, religious) 70% (intellectual, struggling with problem of communication)

D. Non-game transcendence 20% (continually by questions)


Szara, S: Hallucinogenic effects and metabolism of tryptamine derivatives in man. Fed. Proc. 20: 858-888, 1961.

Szara, S: Correlation between metabolism and behavioral action of psychotropic tryptamine derivatives. Biochem. Pharmacol., 8: 32, 1961.

Szara, S: Behavioral correlates of 6-hydroxylation and the effect of psychotropic tryptamine derivatives on brain serotonin levels. Comparative Neurochemistry, ed. D. Richter, pp. 432-452. Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1964.

Szara, S. & Axelrod, J.: Hydroxylation and N-demethylation N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Experientia, 153: 216-220, 1959.

Szara, S., Hearst E. & Putney F.: Metabolism and behavioral action of psychotropic tryptamine homologues. Int. J. Neuropharmacol., 1: 111-117, 1962.

Schultes, R.E. Botanical Sources of the New World Narcotics. In Weil, G.M., Metzner, R. & Leary, T. (eds). The Psychedelic Reader, University Books, New Hyde Park, 1965.

Leary, T. The Experiential Typewriter. Psychedelic Review, No. 7. 1965. deoxy » hyperspace-chem


Poems: Thich Nhat Hahn


They woke me this morning

to tell me my brother had been killed in battle.

Yet in the garden, uncurling moist petals,

a new rose blooms on the bush.

And I am alive, can still breathe the fragrance of roses and dung,

eat, pray, and sleep.

But when can I break my long silence?

When can I speak the unuttered words that are choking me?



Take my hand.

We will walk.

We will only walk.

We will enjoy our walk

without thinking of arriving anywhere.

Walk peacefully.

Walk happily.

Our walk is a peace walk.

Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn

that there is no peace walk;

that peace is the walk;

that there is no happiness walk;

that happiness is the walk.

We walk for ourselves.

We walk for everyone

always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.

Walk and touch happiness every moment.

Each step brings a fresh breeze.

Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.

Kiss the Earth with your feet.

Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe

when we feel in us enough safety.


Drink Your Tea

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,

as if it is the axis

on which the world earth revolves

– slowly, evenly, without

rushing toward the future;

Live the actual moment.

Only this moment is life.


You Are Me

You are me and I am you.

It is obvious that we are inter-are.

You cultivate the flower in

yourself so that I will be beautiful.

I transform the garbage in myself so

that you do not have to suffer.

I support you you support me.

I am here to bring you peace

you are here to bring me joy.


Dale Pendell In Oregon…

Tune into Radio Free Earthrites… New Show, 14 hours of New Music!


31 May

Eugene, Oregon

University of Oregon, 7pm

Eugene Event Info…

01 June

Portland, Oregon

Powell’s Books, 7pm

Event Info… More Details!


Powell’s Books on Hawthorne

3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Portland, OR 97214 USA

Dale Pendell will be in Oregon for 2 events… May 31st in Eugene, and June 1st in Portland. We have looked forward to Dales’ visit since last year at The Sacred Elixir’s Conference. We hope you come, it isn’t often that we get an event like this.

Be there, or be square!

On the Menu:

The Links

The Article/Poem: Salvia Divinorum (from Dale Pendells’ Pharmako Poeia)



The Links:

Fear and Loathing at Philadelphia’s BattleCry

And now, a bit of SPAM….

How to pirate a vinyl record

Get in the Holiday Spirit Early!

If it Quacks like an Alien…


SALVIA DIVINORUM – DALE PENDELL (From His Book: Pharmako Poeia)

(slight alteration in formatting due to serendipity programming flukes…)

Salvia divinorum

Common names:

Diviner’s sage, ska Pastora, hojas de la Pastora, seer’s sage, la Maria.

The “Just This” Plant. The “Emptiness” plant.

Related species:

Salvia divinorum contains a diterpene, salvinorin. Some Coleus species are rumored to contain similar compounds, but this is still unconfirmed (bioassay reports are mostly negative).

Salvia splendens contains salviarin and splendidin, both diterpenes, and we should expect more from other species. No psychotropic activity has been reported for those but that does not close the case–I heard background whispers of “placebo effect” for years when talking about the powers of dried ska Pastora leaves!

Salvia sonomensis contains a camphorlike substance that is a mild stimulant when smoked. Salvia officinalis contains thujone, constituting in some varieties over fifty percent of the essential oil.

But those plants don’t really have anything to do with me.



A true sage, like cooking sage. Mint family. There are a thousand species in the genus, and five hundred species in the Neotropical subgenus Calosphace, to which Salvia divinorum belongs. Many temperate Salvia spp. are adapted to xeric conditions, such as the black sage (Salvia mellifera), white sage (Salvia apiana) and purple sage (Salvia leucophylla) of the California chaparral. Salvia divinorum is a hydrophyte.

The Plant:

Square-stemmed, winged margins, the stems hollow and succulent. The stems will grow to over eight feet if supported. Commonly they fall over, rooting where they fall. Axillary branches easily sprout from the nodes. The plant flowers when the days shorten: long graceful racemes of fragrant white flowers, the calyces deep lavender. I sprinkle the flowers into salads.

The Ally:

She can be shy. Sometimes she has to get to know you for a while, before she will come out and say hello. But once she appears, are there any who are more direct?

Part Used:

The leaves. The stems can be juiced.

How Taken: The Path of Leaves:

Thirteen pair of leaves, the stems all facing the same direction, are rolled into a cigar and eaten. That is the traditional way, the way of the Keepers of the Plant, the Mazatecs. The leaves are used the same way mushrooms are used, with candles (which are later put out), prayers, and singing. The ceremony is performed at night, in a darkened room. The darker the better. And the quieter the better: both light and noise have a way of dissipating the experience.

It is not uncommon for the Mazatecs to wash the leaves down with a swig of tequila. The tequila cleanses the palate and may aid in the final absorption.

It lights up the mouth like a rainbow,

it’s like a pastel sunrise breaking in the east.

There are strict taboos to keep for several days after eating the sacred leaves, such as not having any sexual contacts. It is also important to be ritually mindful when collecting the leaves, and also in cleaning up after the ceremony.


Unknown until recently, and still far from understood. In 1982, Alfredo Ortega and his associates isolated a bicyclic diterpene, C23 H28O8, from material gathered in Oaxaca and named it salvinorin. Another group, led by Leander Valdes at the University of Michigan, independently isolated the same compound and named it divinorum. Because Ortega published first, the name salvinorin has precedence. Neither author tested salvinorin for human activity, but recent tests by Daniel Siebert and others, myself included, have proved the psychoactivity of salvinorin beyond further doubt.

Other compounds in the fresh leaves may act synergistically in creating the extraordinary and variable effects of this plant, perhaps by inhibiting the lytic action of an enzyme or of the digestive juices.

The Plant:

seer’s sage

truth sage

dream sage

ghost sage

lizard sage

mouse sage

soft-footed sage

cymbals sage

roller coaster sage

rocket sage

wake-up sage

it’s-like-a-dance sage

silver fox sage

bare light bulb sage

waterfall sage


It’s like a mirror with no frame: some don’t see it at all; some do, but don’t like what they see.

It’s like cat paws, soft cat paws pressing, or like a bunch of bird tongues lapping the mind. Or like tiny fingers, the way ivy fingers reach out to climb a wall . . .

Some say it is a sensual and a tactile thing. Some say it’s about temporality and dimensionality–that it’s about time travel. Some say it’s about the Root Energy Network, or that it is about becoming a plant.

“Bird tongues lapping the mind.” We timed them: they hit four or five times per second. It may be the theta rhythm.

How Taken: The Bridge of Smoke:

The dried leaves may be smoked. A large-bowled pipe, like a tobacco pipe, is about right. Rolled cigarettes are less satisfactory, because it is difficult to get a deep lungful of the smoke. Hold the smoke in. One to three lungfuls are enough.

Five or six small tokes do not produce the same effect as one large inhalation. The reasons for this are not clear. Perhaps the brain responds to salvinorin within seconds, with neurochemical defenses.

The best technique is to use the Val Salva maneuver, beginning by emptying the lungs of air and then layering the smoke until the lungs are completely full. Then hold the smoke in as long as you can. Release gently.

The Ally: Bridge of Smoke:

Frequently people experience little effect from the leaves in their first meetings. The power of the leaves seems to slowly build toward a climax with successive ingestions. Diaz was the first to comment in print on this phenomenon. He drank the juice of the fresh leaves six times and noticed an “increased awareness of the plant’s effects” each time.

Contrarily, sometimes the ally rolls over and crushes a person without warning, first visit. And a few people seem obdurately immune.

Effects: The Bridge of Smoke:

Over a period of several weeks, everything around me gradually became more intelligent.


Completely unknown. Salvia divinorum represents an entirely new class of entheogen. A Novascreen receptor site screening sponsored by David Nichols discovered no binding inhibition for the forty reference compounds tested, covering all major known receptors.

Salvia divinorum contains no alkaloids. In screening plants for psychoactivity, plants that do not contain alkaloids are routinely thrown away. Clearly that approach is too hasty.

Because of the quantity of material that must be ingested for diviner’s sage to be fully active, it occurred to me in a light moment that any plant would be entheogenic if one ate twenty-six whole leaves at a sitting. That’s a joke, but you can’t really get the point until you eat diviner’s sage yourself.

It is bitter, my brothers.

Effects, Physical:

Some people experience hyperthermia, a warming of the body. Nausea is rare, though by the eighth swallow of the leaves the gag reflex becomes overwhelming. Still, except for the swallowing part, almost nobody gets sick at the stomach.

The Plant:

It’s faster than the mushrooms, and older.

An extremely rare cultigen, found only at a few locations in Oaxaca. There are specimens in botanical gardens, and in a few private collections, but lack of genetic diversity is a concern.

The plant is endangered by the forces of imperialistic religion, and has been for four hundred years, possibly longer.

Her real name must not be told–

Her real name is closer to Medusa than to Mary.

“They came with crosses–

they came to drag us

from our huts, from our beds,

the soldiers that serve the priests.”

en el nombre del Padre

en el nombre del Hijo

en el nombre de Espirito Santo

The Ally:

Consciousness has to do with energy and light. It is really very simple. Neither animals nor people have consciousness. It is plants that have consciousness. Animals get consciousness by eating plants.

We like to walk around sometimes, and to see new places.

We like some of those animal things, like mating.

Sometimes we get curious

to see what it is like to program computers.

The Plant:

This plant is the great secret of our tradition.

Not secret anymore!

Few have heard of it. Fewer know what it looks like. Fewer still have ever met the sagely ally, yet the alliance forms invisible links wherever it goes, across continents and across oceans. The Ally blesses some, eludes others.

That such an ordinary looking plant, kind of succulent and without any alkaloids, can be as subtle and effective as the seer’s sage is, causes one to wonder about other green plants–that perhaps there are other such, sisters to this sage, waiting for someone to give them the time and attention they deserve.

People ask, “If it’s really so good, why is it so obscure, why haven’t more people heard of it?” The answer partly has to do with history, and partly with intention, and perhaps partly with the intrinsic nature of the plant’s effects.

First off, the plant is not at all obscure to her people. They know her and love her, or know her and don’t love her (some think the plant devilish). Most of our (“our” meaning Western literate culture) current knowledge about Ska Pastora can be traced back to the visit of Gordon Wasson and Albert Hofmann to Maria Sabina. Most of “our” plants are also from this transmission. Several particulars of the Wasson/Hofmann/Sabina meeting account for some of the plant’s recessive reputation. For one, Maria Sabina’s primary ally was the mushroom: she only used the little leaves when the children were out of season. But there are other curanderos who prefer the leaves to the mushrooms. Don Alejandro says that taking the mushrooms too often “will make you crazy,” but that the Virgin, who speaks through the leaves, is more gentle.

Second, when Hofmann returned to his laboratory at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel, he had brought some juice from the Salvia leaves back with him, “preserved in alcohol.” When this juice was deemed by self-experiment no longer to be active, Hofmann abandoned his intention to analyze the juice for its psychoactive principle(s). Hofmann reported that the unknown active ingredient must be unstable. This belief was incorrect but tended to inhibit further research for some years. My own reports on the effectiveness of smoking the dried leaves were dismissed by a number of my colleagues.

On the matter of intention, to quote Lao Tzu: “Those who speak do not know, those who know do not speak.” Most sage people would rather not have their beloved ally spotlighted, or scheduled, or even much heard of or spoken about.

“This is the sneaky one.

We caught all the others,

but we couldn’t catch

this one–

this one was too subtle.

We’ve been after this plant

for almost five hundred years.”

Lastly, I think that some of the plant’s obscurity is intrinsic and will endure. How many really want to see? Most people are after the side effects, and in the matter of sensual side effects the little leaves are indeed a little sister to such a giant as Cannabis.

But just because the plant is not a party-goer, is not harmful, and is not abused anywhere in the known world does not mean that it would not be persecuted by those who rule by fear, if they knew of its existence. So in summation we will reiterate the early assessments of the plant and agree that it is a minor psychtropic of well-deserved obscurity.

Now say “mum.”


The Ally:

This plant has a sense of humor!

The Plant:

garden green sage

bitter bitter sage

compost sage

sweet smoke sage

riverbank sage

shade-leaf sage

crenate-leafed sage

come-to-me sage

get-the-willies sage

whispering sage

get well sage

get fooled sage

candle-in-a-wind sage

nobody knows it sage

The Ally:

It is when you are really stuck, when you really don’t know what to do, when you are nearing the edge of funk and self-destruction, that the leaves are the most powerful and the most precise. And symmetrically, for one not seeking engagement, for one seeking diversion, the plant is not much fun. Outside of her sacred context, la Pastora has surprisingly little to offer.

It’s not a spectator drug.



It seems likely that ska Pastora was once much more widespread than it is today. Cultigens generally have long histories, and Salvia divinorum is probably no exception. What is not clear is whether the decline of the plant began with the Spanish Conquest, or whether it was already in decline, and, if so, if the reasons were religious or political, or something else.

Gordon Wasson speculated that Salvia divinorum was the pipilzintzintli , the “Noble Prince” mentioned in Aztec codices. One problem with this identification is that pipilzintzintli was said to have both male and female varieties while our ska Pastora is, botanically speaking, perfect. The Aztecs were skilled botanists and surely knew the difference between male flowers and female flowers. But it is also possible that the reference to gender is metaphorical, relating to nonanatomical properties of the plant, rather than to dioeciousness. There are some known examples of such use of gender, so Wasson may indeed be correct. It would be extraordinary if a plant of the power and stature of ska Pastora were not well known to the Aztecs.

The Ally:

Questing for the muse’s spring, up some cold canyon,

stormdrain, up bloodvessels, canyonwalls of

flesh, rhythms surging in the darkness–

the home of the leaves, their nest within

the soul: even consciousness needs a soul. The plants

have consciousness, but no souls. For some of them,

that isn’t enough.

How Taken: The Path of Leaves:

Six to ten or more leaves are chewed into a bolus and kept in the cheeks. The absorption is through the buccal membranes. Siebert’s experiments (Siebert 1994) with the juice of the leaves demonstrate conclusively that most, if not all, of the power of the leaves is deactivated in the stomach. In Siebert’s experiments, those who swallowed the juice quickly and then rinsed out their mouths with water experienced no entheogenic effects, while the group that simply kept the juice in their mouths and never swallowed it were all affected strongly.

I still prefer chewing and swallowing, if only from a sense of tidiness and tradition. Chewing with your cheeks full keeps the material in motion and insures that all parts of the mucosa are constantly bathed with sage leaf. More than once it has seemed to us that it is the stems, those chewy, chewy stems, that finally push it all over the edge.

One intrepid researcher called Salvia divinorum “the best-tasting psychedelic plant he’d ever eaten.” Good point.


The effects are different, depending on how the plant is ingested, on whether you meet the ally on the Path of Leaves or by crossing the Bridge of Smoke. And also depending on whether the plant has accepted you. That’s metaphorical. Or is it? What neurochemical explanation could account for a threshold that, once breached, will still be open a year later, with no exposure to the plant intervening? Besides, neurochemical explanations are also metaphorical.

The plant is self-concentrating.

Your body is the alembic.

Smoking the dried leaves produces immediate effect. The effect of eating fresh material, while slower to come on, is a deeper and more sustained experience, often with strikingly colored visuals. Drinking tea made from dried leaves falls somewhere in between. (Salvinorin is practicably insoluable in water. The best way to “ingest” dried leaves is to soften them with some hot water, then keep the leaves in the cheeks just as with fresh material.)

Note that while the dosage by ingestion is ten to thirty leaves, the smoking dose amounts to one or two leaves.

It’s the immediacy, the seamless immediacy . . .

sometimes it’s like it doesn’t do much

of anything at all, but how many plants

do nothing with such clarity!

The Plant:

There are rumors that the seer’s sage may grow wild on some of the less accessible plateaus in Oaxaca, but this is unconfirmed. Her people grow the plant beneath coffee trees, or along streams in ravines. They reportedly do not grow it next to their homes.

at night, it might envelop the house . . .

The plant is very patient.

The Ally:

She has many epiphanies. Not all of them are shy, and not all of them are “she.” One person encountered the Ally as a giant(an immeasurably ancient giant wearing a belt of human skulls. The giant looked directly at this person. The giant wanted to know why he had been summoned. The giant did not want a trivial answer.

The Plant:

checkerboard sage

paisley sage

amazing sage

calico ribbon sage

vortex sage

owl sage

shape-shifting sage

skin-walking sage

who-are-you? sage

something-is-moving sage

get serious sage

look-we-have-come-through sage

on your own sage

she’s leaving home sage

metate sage



Ska Pastora is not a hallucinogen. That is not to say that it does not share some of the characteristics of class phantastica, it does. But there are also differences. The “true” hallucinogens all act on the 5-HT2 receptors. While the receptors of diviner’s sage have not been discovered, the experiential evidence points to some new receptor, or to some holographic inundation of mind. And while many hallucinogens will help one’s golf game (or, as Dock Ellis proved, one’s major league pitching), a certain muscular discoordination accompanies the sage inebriation.

On the Pharmako/Poeia mandala, I put the little leaves on the path between phantastica and inebriantia, and name itexistentia . By existentia, I do not mean anything Cartesian, nor even David Bohm’s separate-from-self implicate order, but mean that which precedes essence.

It’s a personal thing. Existence.

If you can just stop thinking about it.

Salvia divinorum is what you get by crossing an entheogen with an atheist.


It’s not like being high, it’s more like being practical.


Activity Domestic Affairs

Animal Uroboros

Archetype Fortune Teller

Art Form Lyric Poetry

Bodily Function Circulation

Body Part Mouth

Buddha Realm Prajna Bhumi

Color Cobalt Blue

Cosmic Entity Singularity

Crutch For Indecision

Dimension Fractal

Discipline Augury

Element World-Stuff

Form of Energy Windmill

Form of Ignorance Complacency

Gemstone Tourmaline

Geometry Topology

God The Mother of God

The Plant:

In all of our Pharmako/Poeia, this plant is the hidden pearl. Poets, like vintners, love such surprises, and seek them out beyond their better known brothers and sisters: an unknown poet found in a faded chapbook with light in his verses, an obscure vintage the reviewers missed, dust-covered, but filled with mouthfuls of delight. The little leaves, hiding off in the mountains, have successfully avoided the front pages for four centuries.

A Taoist sage, in another range of mountains, after many years of studying the secrets of alchemy with his master, feeling fully accomplished, descended the mountain to move into the world. When evening approached, he stopped at an inn. The people at the inn marveled at the light that seemed to hover about him–a sort of magical glow. The sage was chagrined, realizing that his studies were only half completed, and returned immediately to his teacher.

To visit the hojas de la Pastora is to visit an oracle, and she should be approached with the same reverence.

Caravans of gold, threading their way

from Sardis to Delphi

Why would someone want to consult an oracle? Why would someone seek a vision? Or it’s like talking to a therapist, to a counselor–the leaves are like the kalyanamitra, the spiritual friend. They can tell you things.

Or make you eat your words.

It is difficult to speak.


Recent studies by Aaron Reisfield (Reisfield 1993) demonstrate that Salvia divinorum is not completely self-sterile, as had been assumed: the plant can produce viable seeds, though very infrequently. Nor did Reisfield find any significant difference in the production of viable seeds from flowers pollinated from the same clone and those pollinated by plants collected from different localities. It is of course possible that there is little genetic difference between any specimens of S. divinorum, even those that today grow in widely separated areas in Oaxaca.

Reisfield’s observations strongly suggest that Salvia divinorum is a hybrid. The pollen grains of Salvia divinorum have low viability, indicative of disharmonious parental genes. But low pollen viability is only part of the reason that Salvia divinorum rarely sets seed. Even with hand pollination only 2 or 3 percent of the nutlets mature. Further exacerbating the problem of reproduction, in Mexico, the plant only flowers sporadically. Flowering seems to require more sun than is optimal for vegetative growth, so it is only plants growing on the margins of its normal habitat that flower at all.

The main barrier to fertility, according to Reisfield, occurs after the pollen tube reaches the ovary. But he was unable to determine whether the infertility was due to inbreeding depression, a condition not uncommon among plants with a long history of human relationship; hybridity; or some delayed-action effect of self-incompatibility. If Salvia divinorum is indeed a hybrid, the parents are long lost in poisonous prehistory–Reisfield knows of no two sages that would account for the morphological features of la Maria.

For you, if you want ska Pastora, you will have to get it the same way everyone else has for the last two thousand years: from a cutting from someone who grows it.

If your shoot is already rooted, or if you live in a humid climate, you can go ahead and plant it directly. Plant it in shade or scattered light, the leaves don’t tolerate a lot of direct sunlight–I’ve had some plants do well with almost no sun at all. If you live in the arid interior, you may have to mist the leaves regularly, or protect them with a humidifier. Ska Pastora loves the redwood country, where it gets fog.

The plant will thank you for some feeding. She needs water, lots, but be careful about root-rot in pots. Also, the plants wither if they get root-bound. Protect them from frost.

The Ally:

Once you see it, you know it

Was there all the time, so why

Is it all such

a big deal? And why

do we keep forgetting?


Goddess Isis

Grammar Presyntactical Mammalian

Historical Age Future/Eon

Image Labyrinth, Hall of Mirrors

Landscape Garden

Logical Operator Identity

Machine Bathyscaph

Metal Antimony

Metaphor Borders

Mineral Turquoise

Musical Instrument Bull-Roarer

Myth Parallel Universe

Number Complex

Occupation Poet/Soothsayer

Out-of-Body Realm Clairvoyance

Periodic Table Col. Rare Earths

Phase of Matter Nuclear Condensed

Philosopher Anaximander

Physical Constant Fine Structure Constant a=2pe2/hc

Planet Moon

Poison Terror

Proportion Radial Symmetry

Quark Nen, the Quantum of Time

On Divination:

I used the Bridge of Smoke, laying out the cards. I had smoked lots of times before but this was the first time it really happened. An abyss opened. History opened. The manipulation of the cards by my hands seemed to amplify the effect. The cards fell perfectly. Each one revealed the details and development of my story with a uniqueness that was hair-raising. Then I remembered how Crowley had said that you have to get to know the cards as people. The instant I thought that, the bottom dropped out of the cards, the background of each card became a hole in the table, like an open grave. Then the little figures on the cards moved a little. They shook free and started floating about an inch above the top of the table. They were all standing up and looking at me, waiting for me to ask them something.

The species is well named.

The Ally:

It’s anti-escapist, the opposite of escaping. It’s not likely to be popular. It can be empathogenic, but it’s more telepathic than emotional. It lights up a person’s soul: we hear/know what they really think, what they really want, what they really have done. It’s ideal for couples work, for keeping in touch.

On The Darkness:

The ally loves the darkness. Light can interrupt and suspend even wildly cosmic and disembodied states, seamlessly returning the petitioner to the mundane. Sometimes it is necessary to turn on the lights to attend to something or someone, a child perhaps. What is amazing is how immediately the interdimensional space reasserts itself when the lights are again put out.

The essence of the Path of Leaves is just a few friends sitting around in a dark room, perhaps drinking a little beer or tequila. Some talking. Maybe some singing or chanting. To how many people does that sound like a good time?

What a joke! No wonder some people can’t stop laughing.

Or maybe the darkness is to keep others from looking in.

It may always have been a cultish plant, something on the edges.

La Maria is shy. She needs the darkness to illuminate the Logos.

Or maybe the nighttime tradition is to avoid interaction with the rootless. The Ally will take you beyond the little social games that sustain the daylight. You will see the rigidity, but you may not see the importance of sometimes playing along. An uncompromising insistence on the absolute could get quickly boorish.

Besides, daytime you have a job and have work to do.


Holographic. Even a very tiny amount of smoke can reveal the whole panorama. Dimly, to be sure, but all there, just the same.

The Ally:

There was no me, but there was no not-me.

The most “Zen” of any plant ally excepting rice.


Staggering. Lurching. But not like drunkenness: the mind is completely clear. The effect is reminiscent of kava.

On The Logos:

The poison has entered the Word. Words become stepping stones, a floating walkway to cross the chasms between.

What we really are is a web of interconnections, the summation of all of our relationships, all the people we know and those we are still to meet. It’s not that we are in the web, the web is what we are. Vowel sounds change the colors; pitch and tone alter the shape of the enclosing space; semantics create texture. Sentences become palpable things, they take visible and tactile form, flying or sinking.

But all in the mind’s eye, not in the eyeball: an interactive lucid dream accessible to the will.

I saw where thoughts come from, visually. Some were just forming–were seething in a kind of liquid surface, some of them went on and blossomed, became people and conversations . . .


Contrary to written lore on Salvia divinorum, the leaves can be dried. If you grow the plant, you may only have enough leaves for fresh ingestion in the summer and fall. I cut my plants back in the wintertime–in case it freezes. I have had little success with freezing the leaves, or juicing them and freezing the juice. Maybe it would work. I just find the juice harder to use than the leaves.

But you can dry the leaves, that’s the easiest thing to do. The dried leaves carry the smoking-ally.

Effects (field report: a man, inventor and painter):

“There were things you didn’t tell me. It took me a while to learn how to use it. I had to find the right dose. At first I was taking too much, six or seven lungfuls. Two or three is about right.

“It’s like heavy zazen, like after a very long period of sitting, the place you can get to there. It’s changed my life, turned my life around. Things are really going well.

“It’s very intense, I call it a reality stutter, or a reality strobing. I think that having been a test pilot, and flying in that unforgiving environment with only two feet between our wingtips, helped to prepare me for this kind of exploration.

“There is something very pagan about it. I don’t think you should tell anybody about it. Sex is fantastic. It sensitizes the skin. And it makes you want to go exploring. And sleep is great, I’m sleeping much better. A. said that it relieved her menstrual cramps. And her attitude.”

The Plant:

in-control sage

smooth-moving sage

snake-skinned sage

oh-as-little-as-that sage

fooled-me sage

narrow-nosed sage

weasel-snouted sage

creeps-up-on-you sage

falls-all-over-you sage

loves-it sage

just-grows-and-grows sage

Effects, (field report: a man, poet and writer):

“Hey, all of a sudden that stuff got strong! I used to use it for writing, but I can’t do that anymore, it’s too strong. But it helps me with some of my business dealings: like it told me how to talk to the producers I had to meet with the next day. I smoke it with my girlfriend. We call it ‘the balancer.’”

Effects: (field report, a man, sculptor):

“I had heard that it was going to be mild, so I took a lungful and held it in, and was expecting to have to take many more to feel a mild tingle. But it just overwhelmed me. It was so intense, so immediate. I had tunnel vision, I couldn’t see anything except this tunnel in front of me, like I was going to pass out. Everything enfolded. I didn’t like it. It was too abrupt, too scary. I recall feeling that if someone had walked into the room I wouldn’t even have been able to talk to them. It is not subtle.”

Effects: (field report, a woman, painter and poet):

“I smoked it every couple of days for two months. I hate to say this about a plant, but I’m in love with it. It’s remarkable. It took six or seven tries before anything happened, almost like it was laying down pathways or something.”

my rootlets, my neural rootlets . . .

“Then, all of a sudden, a big whallop, and I mean big. Scary even. It’s just remarkable. It is so present, so clear. My life has changed. It has shifted dramatically, and it’s because of the plant.

“It is so much what it was, unequivocal. It wasn’t like it was a high, it’s just Mind. It’s so honest! I feel like I was recruited, like I was enlisted.”

heh, heh, heh, . . .

“It has to do with specificity, the differentiation of form. Every form is filled with its own luminosity of detail. And this is true emotionally also, of my own emotions. Even the days in between the days I smoked I still felt I had this direct access. It’s like the feeling after a meditation retreat, the post- sesshin feeling.

“I mean maybe I’m making all of this up. Maybe it was just oregano, but I call it ‘my sweetheart.’”

The Plant:

green-straw sage

comes-clean sage

one-puff sage

thin-skinned sage

gets-inside sage

falls-in-love sage

tells-you-she-loves-you sage

don’t-get-antisocial sage

get-to-work-on-time sage

lizard-skinned sage

smoke-skinned sage

just-grows-and-grows sage


It just gives you where you are. Wherever you are, that is what you get. If you are in darkness, you fly through darkness. The light and the faces you see are the faces that you always carry, the mental faces, lit by the glow of mind. If you are with your lover, the plant is an aphrodisiac.

The Ally:

With the leaves there is no place to hide. That is why it is good for finding lost objects or for identifying thieves. It is a poison that illuminates poison: use it to find dis-ease.


Quantum Force Y / Schrödinger Wave Equation

Realm of Pleasure Skin

Ritual Event Birth

Rock Ophiolite

Season Samhain

Sense Sixth

Sexual Position Scissors

Sign Pegasus

Sin Lust

Social Event Exile

Tarot Key Moon

Time of Day Midnight

Tool Phurbu

Virtue Temperance

Vowel High Back /u/

The Ally (field report, daytime):

It seemed that as long as I left the quid in my cheek it kept getting stronger. I spit it out about one-thirty. Had an amazing time typing at my computer: it was like the typewriter from the movie “Naked Lunch.” M. drove me to the beach. I felt pretty much back to normal. Late in the afternoon we decided to go to a five o’clock movie. We had some time before the movie and I strolled through a used book store. A couple of poetry books were on the display shelf. Picked up Tagore. How vacuous! All those high-sounding words but no substance. He had only read about it, thought about it. It was all lies! It was so clear. The book next to it was A. E. Housman. Dense, but legitimate. It was there. He did it through clues.

Suddenly I felt completely disoriented. What a fool I was to be out in public. How did I think I could handle going to a movie? The question “How high does it get you?” is meaningless. It’s nonlinear. Only the threshold was significant, and the threshold could be so subtle!


One of the active ingredients of Salvia divinorum , salvinorin, can be extracted from the leaves. Valdes and his group at the University of Michigan isolated 1.2 grams of salvinorin from 5.35 kilograms of fresh leaves, which they dried to 674 grams of milled powder. Valdes didn’t report how many leaves he started with, but the leaves that I pick average 2.3 grams fresh, and dry to about 0.45 grams. That works out to between 1,450 and 2,350 leaves to yield 1,200 milligrams of salvinorin, or between 500 and 800 micrograms of salvinorin per leaf. I crumble up several leaves into my pipe, but never smoke more than a quarter or a third of the pipe, which is about one dried leaf. So, back-of-the-envelope, salvinorin is active at ranges of 500 to 800 micrograms, about twenty time more active by weight than DMT (dimethyltryptamine).

Quantitative experiments by Daniel Siebert, Jonathan Ott, myself, and others have since confirmed the arithmetic.

Effects, Salvinorin:

Many experience childhood scenes. Parents may be represented abstractly. Exceedingly fast changes of scene. Ontological revelations.

I have found one salvinorin “hardhead.” Under my supervision, the man carefully and properly smoked a full milligram of salvinorin, vaporized in a glass pipe. After a few minutes he shrugged his shoulders, got up, and, trying to be polite, remarked that “maybe there were some visuals.”


All of the information needed to isolate salvinorin is in Valdes’s paper (or, another method, in Ortega’s paper). While Ortega and Valdes had to isolate pure crystalline salvinorin quantitatively, simpler extractions would suffice.

But all of this raises some questions. Why do it? On the “Crystal Highway” the ally often shows a more precipitous, and more terrifying, face than she does on the Path or on the Bridge. Many who meet the ally on the Crystal Highway never wish to repeat the experience. The ally is always fast, but on the Crystal Highway she is superluminal. And controlling dosage at the microgram level requires some skill. The raw leaf seems so exquisitely balanced already.

The plant is legal; just grow it. You may learn something. It is plenty strong enough in its fresh or dried form. It is benevolent in that form. When you start dealing with molecules in micrograms, with glass pipes, with overdoses, you are up against possibly serious issues of toxicity. And the sacred leaves of the shepherdess become a commodity. And then there are the legal considerations.

My advice is to make friends with the plant. If you want to socialize, consider smoking cannabis; if you want to get high, try nitrous oxide or smoking DMT. Only if you are ready to walk with an ally should you attempt the Path of Leaves or cross the Bridge of Smoke. Just don’t blame me if the green beings recruit you, and you become a plant disguised with legs instead of a person.

Effects, Salvinorin: The Crystal Road:

I thought that I had measured out 600 micrograms. Later it occurred to me that a substantial amount of the solvent had evaporated in storage, and that each drop was as much as doubled in potency.

The fast drop. A trapdoor. Like on the scaffold of a gallows. The frightening terror of absolute emptiness.

His head dropped onto the table and his arms splayed out. The cards flew all over. He fell out of his chair, some vases and books and another chair falling with him. Then his body twitched and I watched him turn into a bear. His whole body grew taut. A deep guttural growl sounded from his throat and he began speaking in tongues. His eyes had completely glazed over. None of it was pretend. I saw the strength: two men couldn’t have held him down, if he had run amok.

Trance. Possession. The other side of shamanism, across that terrifying abyss: shape-shifters. There live skin-walkers and werewolves.

Think twice before offering a full moon medicine to a shape-shifter.

The Crystal Road: (field report, a man, artist):

All of the parallel universes were there. My childhood was there, and the death of my son. It was pure terror, all of it swirling through these breaks in time, breaks in what moments are made of. The whole universe was turned inside out. To get back I had to pull it all back through my asshole.

I had to destroy the worlds that I didn’t choose to exist in. And some of them tried to stop me from doing that, they kept calling to me, telling me not to do it, that they wanted to exist. We were in the place you are before you are born, and the place you go to after you die. Once you step out of time, once you break through that continuum, all spaces are connected.

That I existed was the most amazing thing. The whole thing was an absurdity, but I couldn’t come back unless I accepted it, all of it. All the pain of my life was waiting there, I—’s death was there waiting, but it was like I had to choose, it took effort. I had to accept all of it in order to return to this particular universe.


Ortega extracted dried and milled leaves with hot chloroform. He isolated salvinorin from the green residue left over after evaporating the solvent with column chromatography. He used thin layer chromatography to test for salvinorin in the fractions, and found it in the sixth and seventh of thirteen. The TLC plates were developed with 10 per cent phosphomolybdic acid in isopropanol (ethyl acetate/hexane, 45:55, Rf=0.7). Crystallize from methanol, melting point 238-240°C.

Valdes extracted with ether. He partitioned the dried extract between hexanes and 90 percent aqueous methanol, saving the polar components in the methanolic fraction.

An excellent product I call “4x” can be prepared by evaporating an ethanolic (or methanolic) extraction of the dried leaves, and sopping up the oily goo left over after evaporating or distilling off the solvent with “cleaned” leaves rubbed through a strainer. Use an amount of cleaned leaf equal to about one-quarter the original weight of the leaves extracted. The 4x enrichment is suitable for smoking in small pipes.

I’ve tried “10x” also. In that case, wash out the non-polar compounds from the goo with hexanes, more or less as outlined by Valdes. Keep track of your weights.


Tea brewed from four or five pairs of leaves is medicinal. Mazatecs use the tea for headache and rheumatism. It is also said to be good for anemia and problems of the eliminatory functions.

The Plant:

The leaves of the moon. With no other plant are preparation and ground state training so crucial. Ska Pastora is a moon doctors’ plant. It could typify lunar medicine all by itself, its light is so pale and white. The lunar medicine is needed not to avert disaster, as is sometimes the case when dealing with the phantastica, but to hear the words, to comprehend the presentation. “Just this” is not at all the same thing as “merely this.”

She will take who you are and run away with it faster than any plant I know.


The word incredible gets used a lot.

How Taken: Bottom Line:

Grow enough leaves to provide eleven to twenty-two leaves, thirty to sixty grams, for each person. It is traditional to have an extra bundle on hand as a “booster” for those who desire to return to the trance after their initial voyage.

Arrange the leaves so that the stems all face the same direction. Place them on the altar. Burn a little incense. Do this in a comfortable room, with cushions, preferably one that can be completely darkened. In the city, a tarp pinned over a window will keep out streetlights and such. Start as soon as it is dark.

By candlelight, roll your bundle of leaves into a cigar and chew away until it is gone, or until you can’t find your mouth. Or until. Chew well. If you are not going to swallow, or are not going to swallow all of it, provide each person with a nice dish or basket to receive the exhausted quid. But chew long and well. Then blow the candle out. Be accepting. Cleanse your palate with some tequila, or some beer.

Are your eyes open or closed? Are you sure?

After about forty-five minutes, if you didn’t finish all of your leaves, eat the rest. Or eat six or twelve new leaves, if you are inclined. Chanting and singing are appropriate, as is some tobacco. It is easier to get the leaves down if you have fasted half a day before the velada. Eat after: at midnight or thereabouts.

Best not to drive, but, if you must, never before you have eaten. Soups go well, and fruits.

Remember: your friends, the darkness, the gathering, and the chewing are all integral parts of the whole experience, and have been so for many, many centuries. The ancestors of two kingdoms await you.

The Ally:

Sometimes the sage whispers, sometimes it shouts.

Sometimes it tells you to sing, sometimes

it takes your voice, walks off, leaving you

rooted, eyeless, and with the kind of voice

a plant has.

The Plant:

Enthusiasm. Entheos.

The plant of the gods, brought within.

La planta de los dioses.

La planta amada de los dioses.

The wise plant, the sage plant,

the plant of the Savioress.

La planta sabia.

La salvia de las adivinas.

La salvia sabia.

We welcome the plant.

La planta que salva.

La Salvadora de los sabios.

We are not different from the plant.

It is we who must save the gods.

It is we who must be diviners.

Somos nosotros que debemos que ser adivinos.

copyright (c) 1995, Dale Pendell



Dale Pendell

All the palmate-leaved ones, the

pinnate, and the pinnatifid, the entire-

Rosy Hawaiian babies, wise Mazatec sages,

and the old Indian rope trick.

Come on, you indoles, you terpenes,

you alkaloids, you medicine plants.

Hello, star-eyed betel juice plants, Amazonian

vine plants, Chihuahuan cacti;

Come , blue-eyed witch plants; come you

dung-loving fun guys….

Come on, O rueful Syrians,

and all you thick-smelling

solanaceous plants;

You cultivated-in-rows tobacco and coca plants;

You maligned poppy plants and worshipped

grapevine plants –

Come forth, you motley troop –

not a gentleman among you –

Not one that won’t lie, cheat, or swindle

a ride –

Come, all ye ruffians:

Be fruitful, we have need of poison.”


You must scratch me there!

Yes, above my tail!

Behold, elevator butt.

Tonights’ Entry is dedicated to our Familiar, Nicky, who past away just some 2 years ago. We had him as our companion for almost 16 years. He loved when things were happening. He saw spirits, and let you know when someone/thing was around. No circle was complete without him walking the boundaries, and then coming into the middle, purring. He enjoyed being around altered states of consciousness.

We got him from the shelter in Mt. Shasta in 1988. He was just four months old. When we took him back to the house, he did a bit of cleaning up. 28 mice in one month, laid out nicely every morning for us to adore and for me to pretend that I ate. (I kid you not!) I tried to toss one with out the ceremony and Nick came unhinged. Well, I did the dance for him.

He was a fighter, and the terror of the neighborhood, assaulting dogs and tormenting them when he got the chance. He was not happy when Sophie was brought into the house. He declared a long and protracted war against her. We caught him once chasing a woman and her Labrador through the parking lot of the next door bakery, trapping her and the dog against a car… The dog was howling with fright…

I miss his furry butt.

On the Menu:

The Links: Alternative to Capitalism

The Article: The Inchoate Science of Consciousness

The Poetry: Cat Haiku

I hope you enjoy,



Alternative to Capitalism Links:

Freegans… on the loose!

Survival Guide to Homelessness



The Inchoate Science of Consciousness

A new scientific field is being born, one that seeks to understand which organisms have subjective states, what purpose theymight serve, and how distinct states of consciousness come about. Here, the Holy Grail is to provide a satisfactory, quantitative account for why select states of complicated, neuronal networks go hand-in-hand with experiences such as seeing blue, feeling pain, smelling a dog that’s just come in from the rain, or of simply being.

Philosophers call these feelings and sensations that constitute the elements of consciousness “qualia.” In contrast, most brain states are not directly associated with conscious sensations: We have almost no access to the structures that give rise to speech, to depth perception or color vision, to the rapid sequence of sensory-motor transformations necessary to play soccer, climb a rock wall, or return a tennis ball, let alone those influencing perspiration, heart rate, or the action of our immune systems. Unlike qualia, these proceed in blankness. Where is the difference between the two?


The body-mind conundrum traces back to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Yet during the past 2,300 years, progress on these questions has been almost imperceptible. Centuries passed before people realized that the brain, rather than, say, the heart or liver, has the most intimate relationship with the mind. Only towards the latter part of the 19th century did it become apparent that the cerebral cortex is not just a homogeneous, reactive tissue, but instead comprises different parts performing distinct functions. That nervous systems are made up of discrete, complex, and interconnected nerve cells constituted another great advance at the end of the 19th century. In the 20th century, technology began to deliver reliable and inexpensive methods to record, store, and analyze electrical activity from individual neurons in anesthetized and, later on, in awake animals – even in people.1 In the closing decades of the millennium, technologies to peer safely inside the living human brain, and witness it in action, became widely accessible to the research community.

Today, there is a newfound optimism among philosophers, scientists, clinicians, and other scholars, that science can successfully tackle the mystery of how brain matter expresses subjective feelings. This was evident at the ninth annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC9) this past June.


Many of the foundational, philosophical debates raging in the 1980s and 1990s have subsided – to the extent that philosophers ever agree on anything besides the importance of studying philosophy. Thus, a scientific program focusing on the neuronal correlates of consciousness (NCC) provides the best avenue for progress. As defined by Francis Crick and myself, the NCC are the minimal set of neuronal mechanisms or events jointly sufficient for a specific conscious percept or experience.2

Two broad scientific strategies could be discerned in the ASSC9 presentations. One seeks to isolate the conditions necessary for any conscious experience to occur at all. The collection of more than three dozen heterogeneous midbrain nuclei, known as the mesencephalic reticular formations, are needed, as are other midline structures, in particular the intralaminar nuclei of the thalamus. A common theme is imaging the hemodynamic brain activity of patients hovering on the borderline between coma and wakefulness (see story page 17). Such research has immediate practical consequences for thousands of people and should be vigorously pursued. Yet from a scientific standpoint this paradigm suffers from a lack of control, a lack of reversibility, and a lack of specificity.

In the second general experimental strategy, aimed largely at addressing these shortcomings, many experimentalists are tracking the footprints of consciousness by manipulating a specific state of consciousness. Visual perception is the most popular choice, as scientists have learned to manipulate what a subject sees with considerable precision. Not unlike a magician distracting his audience with a beautiful, bikini-clad assistant, psychologists can manipulate the attention of their subjects such that, while they may be looking at a stimulus with one or even both eyes, they do not see it.

At ASSC9, Nao Tsuchiya, a graduate student in my lab, demonstrated a technique (flash suppression) that allows him to project a picture into one eye while hiding it – for minutes at a time – from consciousness by rapidly flashing a series of salient images into the other eye.3 His work was awarded best prize for a student presentation. Other techniques (e.g., binocular suppression or binocular rivalry) rely on a Necker cube-like bistability, where the image can be seen in one of two distinct ways. The subject’s mind flips back and forth between these views. Unlike naïve realism, which assumes a simple one-to-one mapping between the external world and its representation in the privacy of one’s head, these illusions demonstrate that the link can be multifaceted, depending on the viewing history and other factors.

Using magnetic resonance imaging to measure blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signals provides insight into the responses of subjects seeing these illusions. Some parts of the visual system, in particular the ones closest to the eyes, will only reflect processing of the physical image. Others will be influenced by the subject’s perception. A consistent finding of many such experiments is that primary visual cortex (V1), where the tract of fibers from the visual periphery terminate, is already clearly modulated by visual consciousness. That is, the amplitude of the BOLD signal in V1 is not only driven by the physical image, but also by what the subject perceives. This is surprising and at odds with single-cell recordings from macaques. Trained to pull levers or move their eyes to signal what they are seeing, the spiking activity of one or a handful of neurons in early visual cortex is indifferent to their perception. It is only in higher regions of visual cortex that cells follow the monkey’s percept.


The Achilles’ heel of all such experiments is that they correlate a state of consciousness with one or more brain states. Ultimately, science must move beyond mere observations to causal explanations. It is a good first step to note that phenomenal state X correlates with some sort of activity in population NX. Much more is needed, however. What happens to perception if NX is perturbed, for instance, by applying a brief magnetic field from outside the skull using transcranial magnetic stimulation? What happens to the percept X if NX is transiently and delicately turned off and then back on again?

Intervening in the human brain is beset with grave practical and ethical difficulties. This is where animal experiments, done with compassion and care, come into their own. Molecular biology will be essential to any future science of consciousness. One of the high points of ASSC9 was Jean-Pierre Changeux’s masterful demonstration of how genetic tools can be exploited. His team directly injected a modified lentivirus, containing the β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, into the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the midbrain of mice engineered to lack β2 receptors throughout their bodies.4 Strikingly, the reintroduction of one specie of molecule into a single brain region rescued certain complex exploratory and social behaviors. While the β2 knockout animals move rapidly through a novel terrain with little exploration, animals in which nicotinic transmission has been restored in the VTA show more adaptive behavior that, if observed in humans, would be associated with planning and consciousness.

Another step forward is the first, tentative appearance of theories. By and large, musings on consciousness have either been motivated by philosophical and logical considerations or by empirical observations. Giulio Tononi put forth a theoretical formulation of consciousness at ASSC9.5 He starts with phenomenology – each of us can experience an almost infinite number of distinct conscious states and each of these experiences is unified – and proceeds to ask what type of networks can generate a large number of distinct states, each of which is integrated. Using the well-defined concept of mutual information, Tononi defines Φ, the amount of causally effective information that can be integrated among various subset of any network, and averts that Φ corresponOur growing ability to monitor the brain’s activity at the cellular level with unprecedented precision and breadth, and precisely manipulate these networks opens the stunning possibility that the quest to understand the oldest of all epistemological problems will come to an end in our lifetime.

Christof Koch is Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and executive officer of Computation and Neural Systems, California Institute of Technology. His group investigates the neuronal basis of visual awareness and consciousness as well as the biophysical mechanisms underlying neuronal computation.

He can be contacted at to consciousness. His theory offers a principled framework for understanding which types of network architecture maximize Φ (think cortex versus cerebellum), how consciousness waxes and wanes with non-REM and REM sleep, how it varies across phylogeny and ontogeny, and how to build conscious machines. In principle, although not yet in practice, his theory allows consciousness to be quantified, a great boon.

These are heady times for neuroscientists.



The food in my bowl

Is old, and more to the point

Contains no tuna.

So you want to play.

Will I claw at dancing string?

Your ankle’s closer.

There’s no dignity

In being sick – which is why

I don’t tell you where.

Seeking solitude

I am locked in the closet.

For once I need you.

Tiny can, dumped in

Plastic bowl. Presentation:

One star; service: none.

Am I in your way?

You seem to have it backwards:

This pillow’s taken.

Your mouth is moving;

Up and down, emitting noise.

I’ve lost interest.

The dog wags his tail,

Seeking approval. See mine?

Different message.

More at the site!

The Orientalist….

I would like to thank Robert Venosa for giving me the idea for this entry. He mentioned a new book that he had obtained recently of Orientalist Art: The Orientalists’ by Kristian Davies (Laynfaroh, NY). I am looking forward to finding a copy!

I have always had an abiding interest in the Middle East, yet regretfully when I had the chance I wandered elsewhere. Maybe soon I hope. I honestly have always wanted to see Babylon, and Ur as well as Persopolis…

Anyway, I would think that you will find the story is quite nice, the 3rd in the Arabian Tales Series (1001 Nights). The Poets are nothing short of wonderful as well.

I hope you enjoy,


On the Menu:

One Story:The Tale Of The Ensorceled Prince

Poetry: Three Poets From Iraq

Orientalist Paintings…


From The Arabian Tales: The Tale Of The Ensorceled Prince (Trans Sir Richard Burton)

Know then, O my lord, that whilom my sire was King of this city, and his name was Mahmud, entitled Lord of the Black Islands, and owner of what are now these four mountains. He ruled threescore and ten years, after which he went to the mercy of the Lord and I reigned as Sultan in his stead. I took to wife my cousin, the daughter of my paternal uncle, and she loved me with such abounding love that whenever I was absent she ate not and she drank not until she saw me again. She cohabited with me for five years till a certain day when she went forth to the hammam bath, and I bade the cook hasten to get ready all requisites for our supper. And I entered this palace and lay down on the bed where I was wont to sleep and bade two damsels to fan my face, one sitting by my head and the other at my feet.

But I was troubled and made restless by my wife’s absence and could not sleep, for although my eyes were closed, my mind and thoughts were wide-awake. Presently I heard the slave girl at my head say to her at my feet: “O Mas’udah, how miserable is our master and how wasted in his youth, and oh! the pity of his being so betrayed by our mistress, the accursed whore!” The other replied: “Yes indeed. Allah curse all faithless women and adulterous! But the like of our master, with his fair gifts, deserveth something better than this harlot who lieth abroad every night.” Then quoth she who sat by my head, “Is our lord dumb or fit only for bubbling that he questioneth her not!” and quoth the other: “Fie on thee! Doth our lord know her ways, or doth she allow him his choice? Nay, more, doth she not drug every night the cup she giveth him to drink before sleeptime, and put bhang into it? So he sleepeth and wotteth not whither she goeth, nor what she doeth, but we know that after giving him the drugged wine, she donneth her richest raiment and perfumeth herself and then she fareth out from him to be away till break of day. Then she cometh to him and burneth a pastille under his nose and he awaketh from his death-like sleep.” When I heard the slave girls’ words, the light became black before my sight and I thought night would never fall.

Presently the daughter of my uncle came from the baths, and they set the table for us and we ate and sat together a fair half-hour quaffing our wine, as was ever our wont. Then she called for the particular wine I used to drink before sleeping and reached me the cup, but, seeming to drink it according to my wont, I poured the contents into my bosom and, lying down, let her hear that I was asleep. Then, behold, she cried: “Sleep out the night, and never wake again! By Allah, I loathe thee and I loathe thy whole body, and my soul turneth in disgust from cohabiting with thee, and I see not the moment when Allah shall snatch away thy life!” Then she rose and donned her fairest dress and perfumed her person and slung my sword over her shoulder, and opening the gates of the palace, went her ill way.

I rose and followed her as she left the palace and she threaded the streets until she came to the city gate, where she spoke words I understood not and the padlocks dropped of themselves as if broken and the gate leaves opened. She went forth (and I after her without her noticing aught) till she came at last to the outlying mounds and a reed fence built about a round-roofed hut of mud bricks. As she entered the door, I climbed upon the roof, which commanded a view of the interior, And lo! my fair cousin had gone in to a hideous Negro slave with his upper lip like the cover of a pot and his lower like an open pot, lips which might sweep up sand from the gravel floor of the cot. He was to boot a leper and a paralytic, lying upon a strew of sugar-cane trash and wrapped in an old blanket and the foulest rags and tatters.

She kissed the earth before him, and he raised his head so as to see her and said: “Woe to thee! What call hadst thou to stay away all this time? Here have been with me sundry of the black brethren, who drank their wine and each had his young lady, and I was not content to drink because of thine absence.” Then she: “O my lord, my heart’s love and coolth of my eyes, knowest thou not that I am married to my cousin, whose very look I loathe, and hate myself when in his company? And did not I fear for thy sake, I would not let a single sun arise before making his city a ruined heap wherein raven should croak and howlet hoot, and jackal and wolf harbor and loot- nay, I had removed its very stones to the back side of Mount Kaf.” Rejoined the slave: “Thou liest, damn thee! Now I swear an oath by the valor and honor of blackamoor men (and deem not our manliness to be the poor manliness of white men), from today forth if thou stay away till this hour, I will not keep company with thee nor will I glue my body with thy body. Dost play fast and loose with us, thou cracked pot, that we may satisfy thy dirty lusts, O vilest of the vile whites?”

When I heard his words, and saw with my own eyes what passed between these two wretches, the world waxed dark before my face and my soul knew not in what place it was. But my wife humbly stood up weeping before and wheedling the slave, and saying: “O my beloved, and very fruit of my heart, there is none left to cheer me but thy dear self, and, if thou cast me off, who shall take me in, O my beloved, O light of my eyes?” And she ceased not weeping and abasing herself to him until he deigned be reconciled with her. Then was she right glad and stood up and doffed her clothes, even to her petticoat trousers, and said, “O my master, what hast thou here for thy handmaiden to eat?” “Uncover the basin,” he grumbled, “and thou shalt find at the bottom the broiled bones of some rats we dined on. Pick at them, and then go to that slop pot, where thou shalt find some leavings of beer which thou mayest drink.” So she ate and drank and washed her hands, and went and lay down by the side of the slave upon the cane trash and crept in with him under his foul coverlet and his rags and tatters.

When I saw my wife, my cousin, the daughter of my uncle, do this deed, I clean lost my wits, and climbing down from the roof, I entered and took the sword which she had with her and drew it, determined to cut down the twain. I first struck at the slave’s neck and thought that the death decree had fallen on him, for he groaned a loud hissing groan, but I had cut only the skin and flesh of the gullet and the two arteries! It awoke the daughter of my uncle, so I sheathed the sword and fared forth for the city, and entering the palace, lay upon my bed and slept till morning, when my wife aroused me and I saw that she had cut off her hair and had donned mourning garments. Quoth she: “O son of my uncle, blame me not for what I do. It hath just reached me that my mother is dead and my father hath been killed in holy war, and of my brothers one hath lost his life by a snake sting and the other by falling down some precipice, and I can and should do naught save weep and lament.”

When I heard her words I refrained from all reproach and said only: “Do as thou list. I certainly will not thwart thee.” She continued sorrowing, weeping and wailing one whole year from the beginning of its circle to the end, and when it was finished she said to me: “I wish to build me in thy palace a tomb with a cupola, which I will set apart for my mourning and will name the House of Lamentations.” Quoth I again: “Do as thou list!” Then she builded for herself a cenotaph wherein to mourn, and set on its center a dome under which showed a tomb like a santon’s sepulcher. Thither she carried the slave and lodged him, but he was exceeding weak by reason of his wound, and unable to do her love service. He could only drink wine, and from the day of his hurt he spake not a word, yet he lived on because his appointed hour was not come. Every day, morning and evening, my wife went to him and wept and wailed over him and gave him wine and strong soups, and left not off doing after this manner a second year. And I bore with her patiently and paid no heed to her.

One day, however, I went in to her unawares, and I found her weeping and beating her face and crying: “Why art thou absent from my sight, O my heart’s delight? Speak to me, O my life, talk with me, O my love.” When she had ended for a time her words and her weeping I said to her, “O my cousin, let this thy mourning suffice, for in pouring forth tears there is little profit!” “Thwart me not,” answered she, “in aught I do, or I will lay violent hands on myself!” So I held my peace and left her to go her own way, and she ceased not to cry and keen and indulge her affliction for yet another year. At the end of the third year I waxed aweary of this longsome mourning, and one day I happened to enter the cenotaph when vexed and angry with some matter which had thwarted me, and suddenly I heard her say: “O my lord, I never hear thee vouchsafe a single word to me! Why dost thou not answer me, O my master?” and she began reciting:

“O thou tomb! O thou tomb! Be his beauty set in shade?

Hast thou darkened that countenance all-sheeny as the noon?

O thou tomb! Neither earth nor yet Heaven art to me,

Then how cometh it in thee are conjoined my sun and moon?”

When I heard such verses as these rage was heaped upon my rage, I cried out: “Wellaway! How long is this sorrow to last?” and I began repeating:

“O thou tomb! O thou tomb! Be his horrors set in blight?

Hast thou darkened his countenance that sickeneth the soul?

O thou tomb! Neither cesspool nor pigskin art to me,

Then how cometh it in thee are conjoined soil and coal?”

When she heard my words she sprang to her feet crying: “Fie upon thee, thou cur! All this is of thy doings. Thou hast wounded my heart’s darling and thereby worked me sore woe, and thou hast wasted his youth so that these three years he hath lain abed more dead than alive!” In my wrath I cried: “O thou foulest of harlots and filthiest of whores ever futtered by Negro slaves who are hired to have at thee! Yes, indeed it was I who did this good deed.” And snatching up my sword, I drew it and made at her to cut her down. But she laughed my words and mine intent to scorn, crying: “To heel, hound that thou art! Alas for the past which shall no more come to pass, nor shall anyone avail the dead to raise. Allah hath indeed now given into my hand him who did to me this thing, a deed that hath burned my heart with a fire which died not a flame which might not be quenched!”

Then she stood up, and pronouncing some words to me unintelligible, she said, “By virtue of my egromancy become thou half stone and half man!” Whereupon I became what thou seest, unable to rise or to sit, and neither dead nor alive. Moreover, she ensorceled the city with all its streets and garths, and she turned by her gramarye the four islands into four mountains around the tarn whereof thou questionest me. And the citizens, who were of four different faiths, Moslem, Nazarene, Jew, and Magian, she transformed by her enchantments into fishes. The Moslems are the white, the Magians red, the Christians blue, and the Jews yellow. And every day she tortureth me and scourgeth me with a hundred stripes, each of which draweth floods of blood and cutteth the skin of my shoulders to strips. And lastly she clotheth my upper half with a haircloth and then throweth over them these robes. Hereupon the young man again shed tears and began reciting:

“In patience, O my God, I endure my lot and fate,

I will bear at will of Thee whatsoever be my state.

They oppress me, they torture me, they make my life a woe,

Yet haply Heaven’s happiness shall compensate my strait.

Yea, straitened is my life by the bane and hate o’ foes,

But Mustafa and Murtaza shall ope me Heaven’s gate.”

After this the Sultan turned toward the young Prince and said: “O youth, thou hast removed one grief only to add another grief. But now, O my friend, where is she, and where is the mausoleum wherein lieth the wounded slave?” “The slave lieth under yon dome,” quoth the young man, “and she sitteth in the chamber fronting yonder door. And every day at sunrise she cometh forth, and first strippeth me, and whippeth me with a hundred strokes of the leathern scourge, and I weep and shriek, but there is no power of motion in my lower limbs to keep her off me. After ending her tormenting me she visiteth the slave, bringing him wine and boiled meats. And tomorrow at an early hour she will be here.” Quoth the King: “By Allah, O youth, I will assuredly do thee a good deed which the world shall not willingly let die, and an act of derring-do which shall be chronicled long after I am dead and gone by.”

Then the King sat him by the side of the young Prince and talked till nightfall, when he lay down and slept. But as soon as the false dawn showed, he arose and, doffing his outer garments, bared his blade and hastened to the place wherein lay the slave. Then was he ware of lighted candles and lamps, and the perfume of incenses and unguents, and directed by these, he made for the slave and struck him one stroke, killing him on the spot. After which he lifted him on his back and threw him into a well that was in the palace. Presently he returned and, donning the slave’s gear, lay down at length within the mausoleum with the drawn sword laid close to and along his side. After an hour or so the accursed witch came, and first going to her husband, she stripped off his clothes and, taking a whip, flogged him cruelly while he cried out: “Ah! Enough for me the case I am in! Take pity on me, O my cousin!” But she replied, “Didst thou take pity on me and spare the life of my truelove on whom I doated?”

Then she drew the cilice over his raw and bleeding skin and threw the robe upon all and went down to the slave with a goblet of wine and a bowl of meat broth in her hands. She entered under the dome weeping and wailing, “Wellaway!” and crying: “O my lord! Speak a word to me! O my master! Talk awhile with me!” and began to recite these couplets:

“How long this harshness, this unlove, shall bide?

Suffice thee not tear floods thou hast espied?

Thou dost prolong our parting purposely

And if wouldst please my foe, thou’rt satisfied!”

Then she wept again and said: “O my lord! Speak to me, talk with me!” The King lowered his voice and, twisting his tongue, spoke after the fashion of the blackamoors and said “‘Lack, ‘lack! There be no Majesty and there be no Might save in Allauh, the Gloriose, the Great!”

Now when she heard these words she shouted for joy, and fell to the ground fainting, and when her senses returned she asked, “O my lord, can it be true that thou hast power of speech?” And the King, making his voice small and faint, answered: “O my cuss! Dost thou deserve that I talk to thee and speak with thee?” “Why and wherefore?” rejoined she, and he replied: “The why is that all the livelong day thou tormentest thy hubby, and he keeps calling on ‘eaven for aid until sleep is strange to me even from evenin’ till mawnin’, and he prays and damns, cussing us two, me and thee, causing me disquiet and much bother. Were this not so, I should long ago have got my health, and it is this which prevents my answering thee.” Quoth she, “With thy leave I will release him from what spell is on him,” and quoth the King, “Release him, and let’s have some rest!” She cried, “To hear is to obey,” and, going from the cenotaph to the palace, she took a metal bowl and filled it with water and spake over it certain words which made the contents bubble and boil as a caldron seetheth over the fire. With this she sprinkled her husband saying, “By virtue of the dread words I have spoken, if thou becamest thus by my spells, come forth out of that form into thine own former form.”

And lo and behold! the young man shook and trembled, then he rose to his feet and, rejoicing at his deliverance, cried aloud, “I testify that there is no god but the God, and in very truth Mohammed is His Apostle, whom Allah bless and keep!” Then she said to him, “Go forth and return not hither, for if thou do I will surely slay thee,” screaming these words in his face. So he went from between her hands, and she returned to the dome and, going down to the sepulcher, she said, “O my lord, come forth to me that I may look upon thee and thy goodliness!” The King replied in faint low words: “What thing hast thou done? Thou hast rid me of the branch, but not of the root.” She asked: “O my darling! O my Negroling! What is the root?” And he answered: “Fie on thee, O my cuss! The people of this city and of the four islands every night when it’s half-passed lift their heads from the tank in which thou hast turned them to fishes and cry to Heaven and call down its anger on me and thee, and this is the reason why my body’s balked from health. Go at once and set them free, then come to me and take my hand, and raise me up, for a little strength is already back in me.”

When she heard the King’s words (and she still supposed him to be the slave) she cried joyously: “O my master, on my head and on my eyes be thy command. Bismillah!” So she sprang to her feet and, full of joy and gladness, ran down to the tarn and took a little of its water in the palm of her hand and spake over it words not to be understood, and the fishes lifted their heads and stood up on the instant like men, the spell on the people of the city having been removed. What was the lake again became a crowded capital. The bazaars were thronged with folk who bought and sold, each citizen was occupied with his own calling, and the four hills became islands as they were whilom.

Then the young woman, that wicked sorceress, returned to the King and (still thinking he was the Negro) said to him: “O my love! Stretch forth thy honored hand that I may assist thee to rise.” “Nearer to me,” quoth the King in a faint and feigned tone. She came close as to embrace him, when he took up the sword lying hid by his side and smote her across the breast, so that the point showed gleaming behind her back. Then he smote her a second time and cut her in twain and cast her to the ground in two halves. After which he fared forth and found the young man, now freed from the spell, awaiting him and gave him joy of his happy release while the Prince kissed his hand with abundant thanks.

Quoth the King, “Wilt thou abide in this city, or go with me to my capital?” Quoth the youth, “O King of the Age, wettest thou not what journey is between thee and thy city?” “Two days and a half,” answered he, whereupon said the other: “An thou be sleeping, O King, awake! Between thee and thy city is a year’s march for a well-girt walker, and thou haddest not come hither in two days and a half save that the city was under enchantment. And I, O King, will never part from thee- no, not even for the twinkling of an eye.” The King rejoiced at his words and said: “Thanks be to Allah, Who hath bestowed thee upon me! From this hour thou art my son and my only son, for that in all my life I have never been blessed with issue.” Thereupon they embraced and joyed with exceeding great joy. And, reaching the palace, the Prince who had been spellbound informed his lords and his grandees that he was about to visit the Holy Places as a pilgrim, and bade them get ready all things necessary for the occasion.

The preparations lasted ten days, after which he set out with the Sultan, whose heart burned in yearning for his city, whence he had been absent a whole twelvemonth. They journeyed with an escort of Mamelukes carrying all manners of precious gifts and rarities, nor stinted they wayfaring day and night for a full year until they approached the Sultan’s capital, and sent on messengers to announce their coming. Then the Wazir and the whole army came out to meet him in joy and gladness, for they had given up all hope of ever seeing their King, and the troops kissed the ground before him and wished him joy of his safety. He entered and took seat upon his throne and the Minister came before him and, when acquainted with all that had befallen the young Prince, he congratulated him on his narrow escape.

When order was restored throughout the land, the King gave largess to many of his people, and said to the Wazir, “Hither the fisherman who brought us the fishes!” So he sent for the man who had been the first cause of the city and the citizens being delivered from enchantment, and when he came into the presence, the Sultan bestowed upon him a dress of honor, and questioned him of his condition and whether he had children. The fisherman gave him to know that he had two daughters and a son, so the King sent for them and, taking one dauhter to wife, gave the other to the young Prince and made the son his head treasurer. Furthermore, he invested his Wazir with the Sultanate of the City in the Black Islands whilom belonging to the young Prince, and dispatched with him the escort of fifty armed slaves, together with dresses of honor for all the emirs and grandees. The Wazir kissed hands and fared forth on his way, while the Sultan and the Prince abode at home in all the solace and the delight of life, and the fisherman became the richest man of his age, and his daughters wived with the Kings until death came to them.



Poetry From Iraq: 3 Poets….

It is nice to gain a new perspective. I gift you three of them….

A Roman Colony

Saadi Youssef

We were Greeks,

Our houses at the edge of the Arabian Desert,

But we had two rivers

And a few villages and farms we irrigated with the waters of the rivers,

And we had a few poets too who composed in meter

And spoke of women

And flowers

And in Kinnesrin we built a school for philosophy.

The strange thing is that Aristotle’s students came every now and then

And told us about the latest treatises written in Athens.

But we were Greeks and farmers.

We made no weapons,

And did not know how to shape our boys into soldiers

(Aristotle’s students did not tell us that their teacher

Was training the son of Philip the Macedonian on the conquest of cities! ).

The world changes,

They said.

Even the sun will rise from the West.




I’m jabbering now, hallucinating

And alone

In Kyriakos’s tavern in Sidon.

My clay goblet is black

And my hair all white.

I know no one I can tell – in confidence-

That the Romans had banished me

When we became a colony.

But I suspect that Kyriakos already knows all about this.

The world changes,

They said.


The Anchor’s Song

Jamal Jumá

I am the anchor

no one touches the depths as I do.

Only the waves and water moss

know the beauty of my fall.

I don’t reveal my secrets

except to the drowned

I don’t say goodbye

except to the migrating fish.

I chose the sea

that my echo would not be lost

as I hit the bottom

I chose the sea

that I may not forget the water

as I head for the ground

I chose the sea

to camouflage my tears with water

that no one may see them

I’m the anchor

falling freely in countries with no name

sea shells and oysters only

are my friends

and everything hard wrapped in light

I was born like you were born

from steel, dust, and gold

I will die like you will die

but the ground will not forget me easily

not as long as it is filled with all these scratches

that my traversal creates.


E-mail to Allah

Salah Hassan

Dear Allah,

I don’t have to speak to You

Like Mohammed al Maghout did

Nor like Fadhil al Azzawi

Now i have e-mail

And You can answer me

By a click on reply

Many questions bother me

And You must give an answer

In the meantime I have become forty five

And I think I am wise enough

To speak to You about Your duties

What are You doing all day?

Do You read the papers?

Do you listen to the radio?

Didn’t You hear anything in the Friday prayers

About Iraq?

The land where Your name is praised

Why do You do nothing?

Are You dead?

Is it only Your statue that we see?

I just want to know

Because in the meantime I have become forty five

And I don’t know yet what is your function in my life

Here you have all my contact information

Fax and telephone number

And e-mail address

I await an extensive explanation from You

I have no time to waste

With You.

With Deep Respect,

Salah Hassan


Salah Hassan wrote an e-mail to Allah, but what he got back in return… was hatemail! His poem was published in a Moroccan newspaper, and was after that – without his knowledge – published on a website. He received about 75 pages with reactions, positive ones also, but also messages from people who wished him blind, deaf, and paralysed, to subsequently live long. He was openly threatened with death.

Salah: “These people are claiming the role of Allah. They say: we possess the wisdom. They are extremists and they are angry about my poem because it is directed to extremists. The extremists who make Iraq unsafe with their bomb attacks.”


A weekend of Beauty!

Bright Blessings,


Obscured by Dreams….

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Ah…. exploration time. We will be exploring Arabic culture, and especially Iraqi poetry for a couple of days. I hope you will follow me on this foray. Some of it is good, some beautiful. All relevant for our times.

My friend Vera is from Iraq. Her family had to flee the regime there, back in the very early 70′s. She ended up in Lebanon, and then in L.A. She has wonderful stories. Her father was originally from Turkey. A very interesting person. I only knew him for a few years before he past on, but his presence was a blessing in my book. Vera’s Mom I think was from Syria originally. (I may be wrong) She is getting on now, and quite ill. Vera is taking care of her in Northern California Vera’s family were all Christian Arab/Turkish. Everyone that I met had most excellent tales, and had lived the interesting life. A lot of my early misconceptions of the middle-east were dispelled at their home. I had plenty of contact with Iranian (but of course the Iranians are Persian and not Arabic and don’t mention Turk to them!)

Vera’s family all knew how to party and to entertain. I felt a great privilege had been given to me to in my dealings with them. My love goes out to them all, and especially to Vera and her dear Mum.

Anyway, the Poetry section today is dedicated to Vera and her Mother.

On the Menu:

The Links

The Article: The Obelisk

The Poetry: Mahmoud al-Braikan

A thousand blessings on us all!



The Links:

Number of gays leaving military rises

Winter Soldier

What Kind of Libertarian Are You?

That Chilling Effect: Are 3500 German eDonkey file sharers really facing criminal prosecution?



The Obelisk – by Hakim Bey

1. Dans la merde

No systematic ideation seems able to measure the universe—a one-to-one map even of the subjective world can probably only be achieved in non-ideational states. Nothing can be posited—”nevertheless, it moves.” Something comes into cognition, and consciousness attempts to structure it. This structure is then taken for the bedrock of reality, and applied as a mappa mundi—first as language, then as ideology inherent in language. These language/ideology complexes tend to become orthodoxies. For example, since the Enlightenment it has been considered indisputable that only one mode of consciousness is fully real; we might call it the consciousness that “falsifies”—i.e., that verifies science as true. Before the Enlightenment other orthodoxies held sway and valued other forms of consciousness or cognition. We could sum up these earlier orthodoxies under the rubrics of God and Nature, and perhaps associate them with the Neolithic and Paleolithic, respectively. Although these worldviews retain some adherents they have been archaeologically submerged, so to speak, by “Universal Reason”. The Enlightenment coincides with the first determined breakthrough into scientific instrumentality and the “conquest of Nature”; God survives the onslaught for another century but finally (after a deathbed scene of positively operatic length) succumbs around 1899. Nature is silent; God is dead. Ideology is rational and scientific; the dark ages are over. If we can say that the 18th century brought us the betrayal of Nature, and the 19th century the betrayal of God, then the 20th century has certainly produced the betrayal of (and by) ideology. Enlightenment Rationalism and its offshoot/rival Dialectical Materialism have expired and gone to heaven and left us “dans la merde” (as the dying Gurdjieff told his disciples), stuck in the mire of a material world reduced to the cruel abstraction of exchange and dedicated only to its own self-defacement and disappearance.

The fact is that any map will fit any territory…given sufficient violence. Every ideology is complicit with every other ideology—given enough time (and rope). These complexes are nothing but unreal estate, properties to be stripped of assets, vampirized for imagery, propped up to keep the marks in line, manipulated for profit—but not taken seriously by grown-ups. For the adult of the species there remains nothing but the atomized sell of exchange, and the unlikely consolations of greed and power.

2. Hermes Revividus

But there appear to exist other consciousnesses, and perhaps even kinds of cognition that remain uninvolved in consciousness in any ordinary sense. Aside from all scientific or religious definitions of these other forms, they persist in appearing, and are therefore potentially interesting. Without ideologizing these forms, can we still say anything useful about them? Language is still traditionally deemed ineffective in this regard. But theoria, originally in the sense of “vision” or insight, possesses a sudden and drifting nature, akin to poetry. In such terms could we speak of a kind of hermetic criticism (on the model of Dali’s “paranoia criticism”) capable of dealing with these other forms, however obliquely and glancingly?

It is Hermes who bridges the gap between the metalinguistic and the sublinguistic in the form of the message, language itself, the medium; he is the trickster who leads in misleading, the tremendum that echoes through the broken word. Hermes is therefore political, or rather ambassadorial—patron of intelligence and cryptography as well as an alchemy that seeks only the embodiment of the real. Hermes is between text and image, master of the hieroglyphs that are simultaneously both—Hermes is their significance, their translatability. As one who goes “up and down” between spirits and humans, Hermes Psychopomp is the shamanic consciousness, the medium of direct experience, and the interface between these other forms and the political. “Hermetic” can also mean “unseen”.

The late Ioan Couliano pointed out that Renaissance Hermeticism offered, as one definition of magic, the influence of text/image complexes “at a distance” on the conscious and unconscious cognition of subjects. In a positive sense these techniques were meant for the “divinizing” of the magus and of material creation itself; thus alchemy is seen as a freeing of consciousness (as well as matter) from the heavier and more negative forms and its realization as self-illumination. But as Blake—himself a great hermeticist—pointed out, everything has its “form and spectre,” its positive and negative appearance. If we look at the positive “form” of hermeticism we see it as liberation and therefore as politically radical (as with Blake, for instance); if we regard its “spectre”, however, we see that the Renaissance magi were the first modern spies and the direct ancestors of all spin-doctors, PR men, advertisers and brainwashers. “Hermetic criticism” as I see it would involve an attempt to “separate out” various formal and spectral aspects of communication theory and its modern applications; but this realm is choked with undergrowth and clear separations can rarely be defended. Let’s just say we’re looking for patches of sunlight.

3. Critique of the Image

The critique of the Image is at the same time a defense of the Imagination.

If the spectral hermeticism of the totality consists of the totality of its imagery, then clearly something can be said in defense of iconoclasm, and for resistance to the screen (the media interface). The perfection of exchange is presented as a universal imaginaire, as a complex of images (and text/image complexes) arranged through reproduction, education, work, leisure, advertising, news, medicine, death, etc., into an apparent consensus or “totality”. The unmediated is the unimagined—even though it is life itself we’re discussing, we have failed to imagine it, or to evaluate it. That which is present but remains unrepresented also remains virtually unreal for us, inasmuch as we have capitulated to the consensus. And since consciousness actually plays a rather miniscule role here, we all capitulate at least most of the time, either because we can’t stand too much reality, or because we’ve decided to think about it later, or because we’re afraid we’re insane, and so on.

Byzantine Iconoclasm and (later) Islam attempted to cut through the hermetic dilemma by “prohibiting” the Image. To a certain extent the latter succeeded, so that even its representational art deliberately refused perspective and dimensional illusion; moreover, in a way that Benjamin might have noticed, the painting never stands alone but is “alienated” by text that enters it and flattens it yet more. The “highest” arts are architecture as arrangement of organic space and calligraphy as arrangement of organic time; moreover the word is ideological for Islam—it not only represents logos but presents it as linearity, as a linked series of moments of meaning. Islam is “text-based” but it refuses the Image not simply to exalt the text. There are two “Korans” in Islam, and the other one is generally interpreted as integral with Nature itself as a kind of non-verbal semiotics, “waymarks on the horizon.” Hence the geomorphism of the architecture, and its interaction with water, greenery, landscape and horizon—and also its ideal interpenetration by calligraphic text.

Now admittedly this ideational or religious complex can assume its own intense rigidity and heaviness. Its truly luminous organicity can perhaps best be appreciated in old anonymous unofficial forms like the domed caravansaries of Central Asia or the African mud mosques rather than in the grand imperial Masterpieces— or the catastrophic modern capital cities of Islamdom. But wherever the Image has been lost and forgotten (or at least supplanted to some extent by other possibilities) it is possible to feel a certain lightness or relief from the burden of the image, and a certain lightness in the sense of luminousness as well. Even in modern Libya, which has banned all commercial advertising (and allows signs only in Arabic), one can experience at least a moment of the utopia of the absence of the image, the public image, the hieroglyphics of exchange, the iconolatry of representation. One can reject the authoritarianism of the ban on imagery without necessarily rejecting its intentionality. We could interpret it in a sufiistic manner—that a voluntary self-restraint vis-a-vis imagery and representation (a sublimation of the image) can result in a flow of power to the autonomous (“divinized”) imagination. This could also be envisioned as a suppression-and-realization in the dialectical sense. The purpose of such an exercise, from a sufi perspective, would be to channelize the “creative imagination” toward the realization of spiritual insight—for example, revealed or inspired texts are not merely read but re-created within the imaginal consciousness. Clearly this direct experience aspect of imaginal work may raise the question of one’s relation with orthodoxy and mediated spiritual authority. In some cases values are not merely re-created, but created. Values arc imagined. The possibility appears that orthodoxy may deconstruct itself, that ideology may be overcome from within. Hence the ambiguous relation between Islamic authorities and Islamic mystics.

Thc sufi critique of the Image can certainly be ‘”secularized” to the extent of adding to our own concept of hermetic criticism. (Some sufis were themselves hermeticists and even accepted the existence of Hermes Trismegestus as a “prophet”.) In other words, we do not oppose the Image as theological iconoclasts but because we require the liberation of the imagination itself—our imagination, not the mediated imaginaire of the market.

Of course this critique of the image could just as well be applied to the word—to the book—to language itself. And of course it should be so applied. To question a medium is not necessarily to destroy it, in the name of either orthodoxy or heresy. The Renaissance magi were not interested merely in reading the hieroglyphs but in writing them. Hieroglyphics was seen as a kind of projective semiotics or textual imaginal performance produced to effect change in the world. The point is that we imagine ourselves rather than allow ourselves to be imagined; we must ourselves write ourselves—or else be written.

4. The Unseen Obelisk

If oppression emanates from the power of that which is seen, then logic might compel us to investigate the possibility that resistance could ally itself with the power of that which is unseen. The unseen is not necessarily the invisible or the disappeared. It can be seen and might be seen. It is not yet seen—or it is deliberately hidden. It reserves the right to re-appear, or to escape from representation. This hermetic ambiguity shapes its tactical movement; to use a military metaphor, it practices guerrilla techniques of “primitive war” against those of “classical war”, refusing confrontation on unequal terms, melting into the generalized resistance of the excluded, occupying cracks in the strategic monolith of control, refusing the monopoly of violence to power, etc. (“Violence” here also signifies imagistic or conceptual violence.) In effect it opposes strategy (ideology) with tactics that cannot be strategically bound or ideologically fixed. It might be said that consciousness “alone” does not play as vital a role in this as certain other factors (“Freedom is a psycho-kinetic skill”).

For example, there is an aspect of the unseen that involves no effort, but consists simply in the experience of places that remain unknown, times that are not marked. The Japanese aesthetic term wabi refers to the power of such places or objects—it means “poor”. It is used to refer, for example, to certain teacups that appear badly-made (irregular, unevenly fired, etc.), but upon a more sensitive appraisal are seen to possess great expressiveness of “suchness”—an elegance that approaches conceptual silence—something of the melancholy of transitoriness, anonymity, a point at which poverty cannot be distinguished from the most refined aesthetic, a quintessence of the Taoist yin, the “mysterious power” of flowing water or empty space. Some of these teacups sell for millions. Most of them are made by Zen artisans who have achieved the state of wabi, but it might be said that the most prized of all would be made unselfconsciously (or even “unconsciously”) by genuinely poor craftsmen. This mania for the natural and spontaneous also finds its expression in the Taoist fondness for bizarre rocks that stimulate the imagination with convolutions and extrusions and strange imbalances. Zen gardeners prefer rocks that suggest distant mountains or islands, erasing all other images, or better yet rocks suggestive of nothing at all—non-ideational form—perfect poorness.

As soon as something is represented it becomes an image of itself, semiotically richer but existentially impoverished, alienated, drawn out of itself and extenuated—a potential commodity. The wabi of the teacups is seriously compromised by the high prices they command. To be effective (to produce “satori”) the object must be experienced directly and not mediated in exchange. Perhaps the really valuable cups are not yet seen because they are overlooked. No one can even perceive them, much less their value. The sole and spontaneous exception to this general inattentiveness is…ourselves!—we have imagined the value of wabi for these objects times or places—for ourselves. These are perhaps among the “small pleasures” that Nietzsche says are more important than the great ones. In some cases the melancholy aspect of these things is exacerbated by the realization that time itself has overcome ugliness and turned it into an unnoticed beauty. Certain streets in North Dublin capture this quality perfectly, as do some abandoned New Jersey industrial sites where the organic (rust, water, weeds) has sculpted old machinery into spontaneous pure form and landscape. This melancholia (which was held to be a trait or sign of creativity by the old hermeticists) approaches another aesthetic term, the Persian word dard—which literally means “pain”, but is applied in more subtle terms to the art of direct expression of certain musicians (especially singers) in the sense of a transparent and unaffected rnelancholic longing for an absent transcendent or beloved. The Persian fable teaches that the pain of rejected love turns an ordinary sparrow into a nightingale. The lover is poor as the dervish is poor, because desire is that which is not fulfilled—but from this poverty there emerges an aesthetic of wealth, an overflowing, a generosity or even painful excess of meaning—under the guise of melancholy and disappointment.

Aside from the inadvertancy of the unseen, there also exists a more active form, so to speak—the form of the deliberate unseen. This is part of the sphere wherein appears the consciousness of everyday life of itself and its tactical intention to enhance its own unmediated pleasures and the autonomy of its freedom from representation. Thus conditions are maximized for the potential emergence of “the marvelous” into the sphere of lived experience. This situation resembles that of the artist—but “art” enters this space only on condition that it refuses to mediate experience for us and instead “facilitate” it. One example would be a love affair based on an eroticism that does not appear in mediation, for which no “roles” are constructed, no commodities produced. Another example might be a spontaneous festival, or a temporary autonomous zone, or a secret society; here, “art” would regain its utilily.

The Renaissance magi understood that the ancient Egyplian obelisk was a perfect hermetic form for the dissemination of their hieroglyphic projective semiotics. From the top down it represents (mathematically) a sun-beam; from the bottom up, a lingam. It broadcasts or radiates its text/image complexes therefore both to the light above consciousness itself, and to the unconscious represented by sexuality. From the emblem-books such as the great Hypnerotomachia of 1499 we learn that the hermetic purpose for such monuments would be to call into existence the utopia of desire and the bliss of alchemical union. But the Magi never perfected their deciphering of the hieroglyphs and their utopia remained enclosed within the hermetic landscapes of the Emblems. The notion of the power of the obelisks, however, took root in western consciousness and unconsciousness, from the Napoleonic and British appropriations in Egypt to the Masonic involvement in the Washington Monument.

By contrast to the obelisk of the State, one could imagine a genuinely hermetic obelisk inscribed with magical writing about direct experience of non-ordinary consciousness; its effectiveness would consist of the near-impossibility of its being seen; it might, for example, be sited in a remote wilderness—or in the midst of abandoned industrial decay. It might even be buried. It would be a “poor” obelisk. Rumors would circulate about it. Those who actually found it would perhaps be deeply moved by its mysteriousness and remoteness. The obelisk itself might even have vanished, and been replaced again with a beam of dusty sunlight. But the story of it might retain some power.

5. The Organic Machine

But what is revolt for? Simply to assuage the terminal resentment of the eternally disappointed and belated? Could we not simply cease our agitation and pursue that teacup or that beam of sunlight, if we cannot be satisfied with the ecstasy of the totality? Why should our hermetic critique lead us to an assertion of a dialectic of presence over exchange, over alienation, over separation? If we pretend to “create values” then we should be prepared to articulate them, however much we may reject “ideology”. After all, pancapitalism also rejects ideology and has even proclaimed the end of the dialectic—are our values therefore to be subsumed in Capital? If so, then—why struggle?

One possible response to this question could be made on the basis of an existentialist revolt-for-revolt’s sake, in the tradition of Camus or the Italian Stirnerite anarchists. We would be ill-advised to despise this answer—but it may perhaps be possible to add to it in more positive terms (in terms of “form”, not “spectre”).

For example, we could say that the Paleolithic economy of the Gift still persists, along with the “direct experience” spirituality of shamanism, and the non-separation of “Society Against the State” (Pierre Clastres), in the form of those rights and customs discussed by E. P. Thompson, reflected in myth and folklore, and expressed in popular festal and heretically resistant forms throughout history. Refer to Bakhtin’s Rabelais, to Chrisiopher Hill’s Word Turn’d Upside Down, or Vaneigem’s Free.Spirit. In other words: a tradition of resistance has persisted since the Neolithic, unbroken by the rise of the first States, and even till today. Thus: we resist and revolt because it is our glorious heritage to do so—it is our “conservatism”. This resistance movement has become incredibly shabby and dusty since it first arose some 12,000 years ago in response to the “first ideologies” (agriculture, the calendar, the appropriation of labor)—but it still persists because it still defines most of the “empirical freedoms” that most people would like to enjoy: absence of oppression, peace, plenty, autonomy, conviviality or community, no rich or poor, spiritual expression and the pleasure of the body, and so on. It may be impossible to construct a system or ideology or strategy on such uncategorizable desires—but it is equally impossible to refute them with ideology, precisely because of their empirical and “tactical” nature. No matter what, they persist—even if they remain for all practical purposes unseen, still they refuse to go away. When all the ideeas have betrayed us, this “organic machine” (Society vs. the State) declines even to define itself as an idea. It remains loyal to our immemorial inarticulacy, our silence, our poorness.

Capital pursues its telos beyond the human. Science has already betrayed us—perhaps the next (or last) betrayal will be of the human itself, and of the entire material world. Only two examples need be given here to illuminate (rather than “prove”) this contention. The first concerns money, which in the last five or six years has transcended its links with production to the alarming degree that some 94.2% of the global “money supply” now consists of pure financial capital. I’ve called this the Gnostic uploading of the economic body, in honor of those old Gnostic Dualists and their hatred of everything material. The practical result of this situation is staggering for any consideration of economic justice as an “empirical” concern, since the migratory or nomadic nature of pancapitalism permits “disembodied Capital” to strip the productive economy of its assets in the cause of profits that can only be measured by purely “spiritual” means. Moreover, this Capital has become its own medium, and now attempts to define a universal discourse in which alternatives to exchange simply vanish as if they’d never existed and could never exist. Thus all human relations are to be measured in money.

To illustrate Capital as its own medium, and as our second example, we can look at bioengineering. There is no force that can prevent pancapitalism from acquiring patents to every identifiable gene. This means that farmers are now being asked to pay “rents” on certain genetic strains that they themselves developed, because the “rights” to those strains were acquired by the zaibatsus. The dubious triumph of cloning is supposed to compensate for the profit-driven ravaging of Nature’s last remnants. Moreover, the human genome project, which has “solved” the production of life as a biochemical machine, allows “evolution” itself to be coopted and absorbed into Capital. As the market envisions the future, the human itself will become humanity’s final commodity—and into this “value” the human will disappear. Capital’s self defacement implies humanity’s self-effacement. Acting as a purely spiritual substance—money—Capital will attain the ownership of life’s becoming, and thus the power to shape the very protoplasm of the material world as pure exchange.

Our essential question then concerns the possibility of the re-appearance of the unseen as opposition. Finally it would seem that a tactical refusal of all strategic systemization may be inadequate to bring about this desired re-appearance. A positive proposal is required to balance the gestures of refusal. We must hope that an organic strategy of victory will emerge as “spontaneous ordering” from the driftwork of tactics. Any attempt to impose this strategic unity from “above” must be renounced as (at best) nostalgia for the lost utopia of ideology—or as “bad religion” of some sort.

But just as the Image has its spectre and its form, so we might play with the notion that the Idea, too, has a spectral and a formal manifestation. As a “spook in the head” the idea remains nothing but a semantic trap—disguised for example as a moral imperative. But as a “form” in the Blakean sense the idea itself may take on organicity as a production of the body and the “creative intellect”, just as the image may be turned toward realization by the body and the “creative imagination”. Perhaps in some sense it is the idea that has remained unseen till now, and thus retains all its power, having never fallen away into representation. Neglected all along—having never been given a price—and perhaps remaining inexpressible even in its manifestation—this idea may “give meaning to revolt.” And it may be written ambiguously in hieroglyphs whose meaning is uncertain, but whose “magical” effect is nevertheless potent—it may be written even on a hidden obelisk. But it will have been written by us.

6. Platonic Nets

It seems as if there should exist two possible kinds of network (or even of communication technology)— one aristotelian, text-based, linear—the other platonic, image-based, non-linear. Language, for example, as viewed from this perspective might appear more platonic, since words are based on “inner pictures” and thus cannot be limited by pure lexicality or one-to-one “translation”; while by contrast a network of computers, using digital text-based programming, might appear as a perfect aristotelian system.

But this neat dualism dissolves into paradox and conundrum. Text itself is picture-based (hence “non-linear”) in Sumer, Egypt, China. Even our alphabet is picture-based; the letter “p”, for example, is simply an upside-down foot, since Indo-European words for “foot” almost always begin with “p” (or “f”). Text, which is supposed to be linear, is “language-based” and partakes of language’s non-linearity. When “speech genres” are textualized they become in some senses more linear (because stripped of contextual depth formerly provided by the extra dimensions of speech such as tone, gesture, performance, etc.)—but in some other ways this stripping of language to produce text results in further ambiguities, since the context of the text now consists largely of the reader and the reader’s inner world.

Thus the fact that computers are digital (simple on/off switches in massive array) and text-based does not make them genuine aristotelian machines, since image is already embedded in language, and even more because the screen itself is also already an image, whether it displays image, text, or both at once. If programming could be based directly on images rather than text—as some savants believe possible—the computer could easily be seen as a platonic machine. The platonizing effect of the computer is already present not only in its screenal display of images but also in the psychological reality of the screen as image. In effect, the computer is a hieroglyphic machine, an interface mode of text and image; hence its magic appearance to the unconscious.

The Renaissance magi (especially Athanasius Kircher) believed that the Egyptian hieroglyphs were purely platonic (—in this, they followed Plotinus and lamblichus)—that is, that each image was an ideal form, and that their deployment could not only indicate meaning but also create and project it. Thus the hieroglyphs were seen as an ideal amalgam of text and image—an emblematic form of writing. Now when Champollion deciphered the Rosetta Stone, it was discovered that hieroglyphs were already used quasi-alphabetically (on the model of “[picture] foot = [phoneme] p”), although there were also cases where single images or imageclusters represented the objects depicted as words. This discovery relegated the unsuccessful translation attempts of the old magi to complete oblivion. Their theories are now only mentioned in passing as examples of “false” hermetic science and bad Egyptology. But as Couliano noted, these discarded theories have great secret heuristic power, because they describe empirically some of the ways in which text, image, and mind interact. Once the neo-platonic metaphysics and crude magical fantasies have been discarded, hieroglyphic theory can be used to understand the mode of operation of text/image complexes—that is, emblems.

The emblem books were Renaissance experiments in the “projective semiotics” of hieroglyph-theory. Allegorical pictures accompanied by texts (often one text in prose and one in poetry)—and in a few cases even by music (the great Atalanta Fugiens of Michael Maier, for example)—were collected in sequences, published as books, and intended for the magical edification of readers. The “morals” of the emblems were thus conveyed on more than one level at once. Each emblem was simultaneously:

o a) a picture accompanied by words;

o b) a picture “translated” from words. That is, the pictures’ real values are not purely formal but also allegorical, so that Hercules stands for “strength”, Cupid for “desire”, and the emblem itself can be read as a “sentence” composed of these “words”;

o c) a hieroglyphic “coding” in which certain images not only represent words but also “express the essence” of those words, and project them in a “magical” manner, whether or not the reader is consciously aware of this process.

Our working hypothesis is that the world’s image of itself not only defines its possibilities but also its limits. The world’s representation of itself to itself (its “macrocosmic” image) is no more and no less than the self’s “microcosmic” image of itself “writ large” so to speak, on the level or mentalité and the imaginaire. This is part of our “secularized” hermetic theory; it explains, for instance, why emblems have influences on multiple levels of cognition.

The radical magi encountered a world wherein one world-image was locked in place—not just the geocentric cosmos but the whole Christian orthodox value system that went with it. Their subversive purpose revolved around the project of a free circulation of imagery, a breaking-up of the stasis and the creation of a more responsive model. The single world-view of orthodoxy was seen as stifling, tyrannical, oppressive. Inasmuch as the self interiorized this view it reproduced the oppression on the level of the subjective. The hermeticists opposed the very singleness of this worldview with a contradictory multiplicity, a critical form of “paganism” based on difference.

Analogously, since 1989-91 we have entered a new “dark age” in which one worldview (and its imaginaire) claims hegemony over all difference. Not only is “pancapitalism” a global system, it has also become its own medium, so to speak, in that it proposes a universal stasis of imagery. The free circulation of the image is blocked when one image of the world structures the world’s self-image. True difference is leached away toward disappearance and replaced by an obsessive re-cycling and sifting-through of “permitted” imagery within the single system of discourse (like the medieval theologians who supposedly quarreled over the gender of angels as the Turks besieged Byzantium). Pancapitalism “permits” any imagery that enhances profit—hence in theory it might permit any imagery—but in practice, it cannot. This is the crisis of “postmodernism”—crisis as a form of stasis, of infinite re-circulation of the same—the impossibility of difference.

Within the crisis of stasis all manner of imagery can be allowed or even encouraged when it tends toward the depiction of relation as exchange—even the imagery of terror, murder, crime—even the extinction of Nature and the Human—all this can be turned (as imagery at least!) into profit. What cannot be allowed (except perhaps as nostalgia) is the imagery of relations other than exchange. Nostalgia can be contained and marketed—but actual difference would threaten the hegemony of the one worldview. The “Gift Economy” of some nearly-extinguished “primitive tribe” makes excellent TV; our mourning for its disappearance can only boost the sales of whatever commodity might soothe our sense of loss. Mourning itself can become fetishized, as in the victorian era of onyx and jet and black-plumed graveyard horses. Death is good for Capital, because money is the sexuality of the dead. Corpses have already appeared in advertising—”real” corpses.

Assuming that our hypothesis holds so far, we might well ask from “whence” there could appear any image of true difference in such a situation. The obvious answer is that it would have to come from “outside” the stasis.

This means war, obviously. At the very least, it means “Image War”.

But how can we even begin to define what might lie “outside” the stasis? Are we not precisely engaged in a situation where all circulating images become part of the crisis of circulation? This is the “malign hermeticism” of the totality of mediation—its spectral metastasis, so to speak—ontology as oncology. Everything that enters the discourse, all that which is “seen”, is subverted by the very fact that there is only one discourse, one exchange. “Image War” might be just as productive for exchange as other forms of “pure war”, since it would at least offer an “illusion of choice”. This, then, is the hermetic crisis of the tactical media.

7. Tactical Media

The unseen lies at least potentially outside the space of the represented totality. Thus it becomes for tactical media a subject of great theoretical interest. But as media the tactical media must still mediate, and therefore the unseen remains “mysterious” in the precise sense of the term. Since only the seen can be described, the pure unseen cannot be written about or represented—although it can be communicated, at least in “Zen” terms.

However the unseen is not necessarily “pure”. If it were pure, it would interest us a great deal less that it does, sinee it would thereby share in a characteristic we associate with ideology and stasis. In fact the unseen attracts us because of its impurity.

In effect there appear to exist degrees of the unseen. The unseen can paradoxically appear even within the locked circularity of the mediated totality, either inadvertently or else by subversion. For example the TV show about the primitive tribe, and the melancholy of the disappearance of the Gift, cannot touch the unseen actuality of the Gift and its meaning for the people who know it. But sometimes the spoken text or the editing of the film will create potent cognitive dissonanes with certain images that suggest the presence of the unseen, at least for a few viewers who are prepared for such irruptions of the mysterious, its “guerrilla” raids on consensus consciousness.

Moreover, the “intimate media” remain relatively invisible to the totality because they are so “poor”. The petty extent to which such media participate in market economics, much less consensus aesthetics, makes them so insignificant as to render them meaningless for all practical purposes. Of course as soon as any energy and originality is seen to emanate from such media they are at once absorbed into Capital—and the unseen must retreat, drift on, evade definition, move elsewhere. But this process takes time, and time makes opportunities.

Thus tactical media could make use either of “guerrilla” operations within the media totality, or of intimate media that remain (in some impure manner) outside that totality. But in either case tactical integrity would demand that such “appearances” take place only where they can be effective—in military terms: where they can damage the totality without being absorbed into its “spectacle of dissidence” and permitted rebelliousness. Tactical media will retreat from any such englobement, and in such moments of tactical withdrawal tactical media may have to engage in violence and sacrifice (at least on a conceptual level). Tactical media will make mistakes—all the more so because of its improvisational nature, the absence of any overall strategy. Because tactical media refuses purity, it will engage—and it will be defeated, very often by its own “success”.

The purpose and intention of tactical media is precisely not to rejuvenate the consensus by allowing itself to be vampirized of its creative energies by the imaginaire of the UnDead and its “natural laws” of exchange. But we cannot say therefore that the purpose of tactical media “is” the destruction of the totality. This statement of identity would define an ideology or source of authority for tactical media, and limit it to the role of opposition—in effect, to its “spectral” appearance. We certainly don’t wish long life and success to the totality, but by defining ourselves (or our techniques) solely as “destructive” we are simply inviting our own recuperation into the pattern of oppression. Tatical media, I suggest, should be about something and for something—this would constitute its “formal” appearance.It should be for the unseen—even for a seduction into the unseen.

Does this mean that the tactics of tactical media can only be defined “situationally”? Even if we reject all ideologizing of intentionality can we still say anything descriptive about specific goals? If we refuse strategy, can we nevertheless articulate something about a tendency or movement or unifying imaginaire of presence (a “myth” perhaps) that might underlie and inform our tactical mediations?

This may indeed be possible, if only because the imaginal values in the process of emergence in tactical media seem to concern those empirical freedoms expressed not only in immemorial “rights and customs” but also in the most radical politics of desire. In other words, an “organic” substitute for strategy/ideology arises from a shared imaginaire based on such traditional yet radical perspectives. It is in this way that tactical media can be seen as an aspect of a possible effective opposition to exchange itself, to the post ideological ideology of Capital—an opposition that cannot be englobed, and therefore can contemplate the possibility of victory.

All this is pure hypothesis, so it would be pointless and perhaps even counter-productive to engage in any attempt to prescribe or predict or even to influence the tactical media. The historical movement envisioned here (which even faces thc challenge of the very “End of History”) can make nothing out of any outmoded vanguardism or “unacknowledged legislator”-ism of a discredited intelligentsia, artists, etc., etc. It does, however, seem possible lo adopt an ”experimental” approach. Who can foretell succcss or failure? An inherent weakness for narrativity, however, and a desire to work on some sort ol “emblematic” structure leads me to an “aimless wandering” or taoist theorizing around certain themes considered here—notably the notions of hermeticism in both its “formal” and “spectral” aspects. For instance: since money is “imaginal” it is susceptible to hermetic manipulation—even to the “intuition” discussed by such strange billionaires as George Soros. It seems theoretically possible to “hack” money at the level of its representationality—all the more so now that most of it is pure representation. Money that can be manipulated imagistically because money itself is image, however, can also be “downloaded” from its CyberGnostic numisphere and manifested on the earthly plane as hard cash, goods, production. Thus it would appear feasible to redirect capital as wealth, away from areas where pancapitalism has “decreed” its (symbolic) presence, into areas where it has “forbidden” its (real) presence.

“Decree” and “forbid” are enclosed by quotation marks because in truth the situation is so complex that “legality” has become an extremely ambiguous category. Money as medium is engulfed in the same crisis of definition as all the other media. Into this space of uncertainty, hermetic operations could be directed (in perfectly legal ways) such as to interfere with the circulation of Capital. The space of uncertainty—the crack in the monolith of representation—has its deep origin in the intense anxiety of the crisis of stasis. The image of the imaginaire as a labyrinth with no exit induces a kind of claustrophobia akin to that experienced by the Renaissance occultists in relation to the cosmic stasis of doctrine: escape panic. We are after all still “in transition” toward a perfect global market—the cosmos of economy is not yet fully and flawlessly enclosed.

Hence for instance the sudden obsession with “content”. What are we going to do with all the data—what use is it? And who shall create in order that others (all others) may consume? A real puzzle.

Certain elements within political structures still retain a half-hearted sentimentality about the “Social” state; they still want to help program the “content”. They are opposed by the zaibatsus that demand “pure” content, measurable only by price rather than value. But what do “the people” want? Into the tactical spaces left vacant by this clash of bewildered titans, certain mediations might be effected. The old magic power of the scribe, the hermetic initiate, might constitute a counter-force to the magic power of the manipulation of content, the monopoly of meaning and interpretation claimed by the totality (which suddenly doesn’t look quite so total…).

As we are discussing media, the evocation of the word “magic” seems somehow permissible. How relevant these musings might prove to situations encountered in unmediated reality—perhaps that is another kettle of fish. For now, however, we are simply exercising our imagination.


Poetry: Mahmoud al-Braikan (Iraq)


The mysterious river

flows quietly underground

It flows in the dark

It makes no sound

It has no shape

It flows under the scorched desert

beneath the fields and orchards

under villages and cities

It runs and runs

towards its unknown mouth

through caves and lakes and reservoirs

It patiently carves its bed

in time with the pulse of the earth

The mysterious underground river

that has no name

that leaves no trace

on any map

in any guidebook

That underground river

eternally flows

It flows and flows



On one of my journeys

I entered it, a silent city

devoid of any sign of life

its doors closed

wind blowing in its squares

but the lights in its windows

burning all through the night.

Who switches the lights on?

I saw the wilted flowers

and the children’s broken swings

in the park . . .

I knocked on doors,

and called. Could it be

that they have all died? Or left?

Or become invisible

because of some kind of spell?

Then I suddenly saw

the shadow of a woman

move slowly upon its marble plinth

struggling to awake from sleep,

and I called: “Eve, don’t you know

who I am? – Adam.”

But she couldn’t recognise

the language I spoke.



A voice like no other

comes from the end of wilderness

A voice like the call

of a dying god

who utters his curse

the groans of a wounded beast

the howling of a wind

that is not of this world.

A voice stabs in the night

in its heart.

In the beginning

no one heard it.

Then they got used to it

as it cut through the glittering lights of their city.

No one paid attention

any longer

No one questioned

its presence.

You alone, poet,

stay up all night

awaiting the voice

that is wrapped in mystery

And why wouldn’t it be possible

to advance the idea

that calamities are to be

expected, and that disasters

will strike?



A light knock on the door

On the door a low-sounding

albeit very clear


repeated night after night

which I anticipate

I listen to it

with its regular beat

that rises gradually

then abates

I open my door

but there is no one there.

Who is this

disguised knocker?

Could it be a ghost

returned from the darkness of the grave?

The victim of a vanished past?

A previous life

that has come back

to seek revenge?

A soul burdened with guilt

that roams in search of forgiveness?

A messenger from the beyond

who brings me a vague invitation

and a horse

to take me there?

Translated by Sargon Boulus

Translated from a new gathering of Mahmoud al-Braikan’s poems Matahat al-Farasha, 70 Qassida 1958-98, [The Butterfly Labyrinth, 70 Poems 1958-98], assembled, selected and introduced by Bassem Al-Meraiby, Nippur Förlag, Sweden, 2003. Reprinted here from Banipal No 17, Summer 2003



MAHMOUD AL-BRAIKAN was born in al-Zubair, southern Iraq. He studied law at Baghdad University in the 1940s. From 1953 to 1959 he was a teacher in Kuwait, then returned to Baghdad and completed his law studies in 1964. He taught Arabic language and literature at Basra’s Teachers’ Training College until his retirement in the 1990s. He was killed in his Basra home on 28 February 2002, apparently by thieves.

“The few early poems that were known by specialists and some friends were enough to give Mahmoud al-Braikan an equal or a near-equal voice to that of Sayyab and other pioneers of Iraqi and Arabic modern poetry. His legendary long and (for some) strange silence and the deliberate distance he maintained from all literary and social affairs, have now taken on a prophetic meaning. They shielded him from any kind of compromise with Saddam’s Iraq where a writer who respected himself and the creative ethic had to learn early how to keep silent.” Kadhim Jihad, writing about Al-Braikan in Banipal No 17.


Strange Synchronicities… Three of our pictures tonight were tied to “Auguries of Innocence” on Google … including Robert Venosa’s work. The Blake Painting I could understand of course… 8o)

More rain today. Woke up at 2:30 this morning, fell back to sleep at 5:30 until 8:45. Mary has been painting Rowans’ room. I have been working on the Magazine and other projects. Nephew Andrew came by, stayed a few hours. He seems well. We talked about Magick, and where free will and predestination might coincide/collide.

Listening to the new David Gilmour album, courtesy of Gordon. Wonderful Stuff! Good for rainy evenings.

On the Menu:

The Links…

Quote of the Day: Bill Hicks

Sophia’s Light

The Poetry: Auguries of Innocence – William Blake

I hope you enjoy…



The Links:

London’s heart of stone

Visualizing Sound

Animusic 2 – 03 – Resonant Chamber

Colombia’s ‘lost war’ against cocaine


Quote of the Day:

Such a weird belief. Lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he’s gonna want to see a f’ing cross, man? “Owwwwww”. May be why he hasn’t shown up yet. “Man, they’re still wearing crosses. F**k it, I’m not goin, dad. No, they totally missed the point. When they start wearing fishes I might show up again, but… Let me bury fossil heads with you Dad”…you know, kinda like going up to Jackie Onassis with a rifle pendant on, you know. “Thinkin’ of John, Jackie. We love him. Just tryin to keep that memory alive, baby.”

Bill Hicks


Sophia’s Light (A nighttime prayer) (AGCA)

In darkest night, when lights are dim,

and all in sight seems sad and grim,

I find you there, your arms surround me,

your spirit fills me and it grounds me.

I look to you, Lady of Truth,

most ancient One, yet eternal youth,

to keep me safe, protect my heart,

and with the wisdom you impart

fill up my empty mind and soul

so that, my Lover, you can make whole,

all that was broken in this day –

and that is what I ask and pray.


Auguries of Innocence – William Blake

To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage

Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons

Shudders hell through all its regions.

A dog starved at his master’s gate

Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road

Calls to heaven for human blood.

Each outcry of the hunted hare

A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,

A cherubim does cease to sing.

The game-cock clipped and armed for fight

Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf’s and lion’s howl

Raises from hell a human soul.

The wild deer wandering here and there

Keeps the human soul from care.

The lamb misused breeds public strife,

And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.

The bat that flits at close of eve

Has left the brain that won’t believe.

The owl that calls upon the night

Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.

He who shall hurt the little wren

Shall never be beloved by men.

He who the ox to wrath has moved

Shall never be by woman loved.

The wanton boy that kills the fly

Shall feel the spider’s enmity.

He who torments the chafer’s sprite

Weaves a bower in endless night.

The caterpillar on the leaf

Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.

Kill not the moth nor butterfly,

For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.

He who shall train the horse to war

Shall never pass the polar bar.

The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,

Feed them, and thou wilt grow fat.

The gnat that sings his summer’s song

Poison gets from Slander’s tongue.

The poison of the snake and newt

Is the sweat of Envy’s foot.

The poison of the honey-bee

Is the artist’s jealousy.

The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags

Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.

A truth that’s told with bad intent

Beats all the lies you can invent.

It is right it should be so:

Man was made for joy and woe;

And when this we rightly know

Through the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,

A clothing for the soul divine.

Under every grief and pine

Runs a joy with silken twine.

The babe is more than swaddling bands,

Throughout all these human lands;

Tools were made and born were hands,

Every farmer understands.

Every tear from every eye

Becomes a babe in eternity;

This is caught by females bright

And returned to its own delight.

The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar

Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.

The babe that weeps the rod beneath

Writes Revenge! in realms of death.

The beggar’s rags fluttering in air

Does to rags the heavens tear.

The soldier armed with sword and gun

Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.

The poor man’s farthing is worth more

Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.

One mite wrung from the labourer’s hands

Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands,

Or if protected from on high

Does that whole nation sell and buy.

He who mocks the infant’s faith

Shall be mocked in age and death.

He who shall teach the child to doubt

The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.

He who respects the infant’s faith

Triumphs over hell and death.

The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons

Are the fruits of the two seasons.

The questioner who sits so sly

Shall never know how to reply.

He who replies to words of doubt

Doth put the light of knowledge out.

The strongest poison ever known

Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.

Nought can deform the human race

Like to the armour’s iron brace.

When gold and gems adorn the plough

To peaceful arts shall Envy bow.

A riddle or the cricket’s cry

Is to doubt a fit reply.

The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile

Make lame philosophy to smile.

He who doubts from what he sees

Will ne’er believe, do what you please.

If the sun and moon should doubt,

They’d immediately go out.

To be in a passion you good may do,

But no good if a passion is in you.

The whore and gambler, by the state

Licensed, build that nation’s fate.

The harlot’s cry from street to street

Shall weave old England’s winding sheet.

The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,

Dance before dead England’s hearse.

Every night and every morn

Some to misery are born.

Every morn and every night

Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie

When we see not through the eye

Which was born in a night to perish in a night,

When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light

To those poor souls who dwell in night,

But does a human form display

To those who dwell in realms of day.

(Roberto Venosa)

135 Years Ago…

Sunday Night:

Thunderstorms, torrential rains… dreams of strangeness. Dark now, with very heavy rains. Lightning all over the place. Went to a party on Saturday night, a Brazilian Party to be exact. Discovered I liked Brazilian Rum. Discovered Sunday morning that it doesn’t always agree with me. Aiyeee. A slow Sunday that proceeds into the distance now…

Rowan headed off to camp for a week of counselling 6th graders at OutDoor School, along with his friend Ryan at 11:00 in the morning. Kinda miss him already. He went in a flurry of hurry and forgotten items. He rolls and tumbles towards his future in such a funny way. Watching him move forward with his life has taken some great turns lately. If I had only known what fun this all could be. He holds up a mirror for me, like no other person ever has. The moments I spend with him are some of the best, and sometimes the hardest. I have to walk my talk with this one…

So I sit here, in the darkening night, listening to Kate Bush’s latest album. Eric Satie a bit earlier. The house is quiet, but for the rain. The fullness of the season, and the beauty of it all.

Tonights’ Entry is in memory of the Paris Commune, of 1871.

A blessing to you and yours.



On the Menu:

The Satanic Links…

The Article: 135 Years Ago, The Paris Commune

The Poetry: Rumi

The Art: Illustrations from The Paris Commune of 1871 by Eugene Schulkind


The Satanic Links:

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Satan’s Ipod….

Church of Satan Versus Apple…



135 Years Ago…

A brief history of the world’s first socialist working class uprising. The workers of Paris, joined by mutinous National Guardsmen, seized the city and set about re-organising society in their own interests based on workers’ councils. They could not hold out, however, when more troops retook the city and massacred 30,000 workers in bloody revenge

The Paris Commune is often said to be the first example of working people taking power. For this reason it is a highly significant event, even though it is ignored in the French history curriculum. On May 18 1871, after France was defeated by Prussia in the Franco-Prussian war, the French government sent troops into Paris to try and take back the Parisian National Guard’s cannon before the people got hold of it. Much to the dismay of the French government, the citizens of Paris had got hold of them, and wouldn’t give them up. The soldiers refused to fire on their own people and instead turned their weapons on their officers.

The PNG held free elections and the citizens of Paris elected a council made up mostly of Jacobins and Republicans (though there were a few anarchists and socialists as well). The council declared that Paris was an independent commune and that France should be a confederation of communes. Inside the Commune, all elected council members were instantly recallable, paid an average wage and had equal status to other commune members.

Contemporary anarchists were excited by these developments. The fact that the majority of Paris had organised itself without support from the state and was urging the rest of the world to do the same was pretty exciting. The Paris Commune led by example in showing that a new society, organised from the bottom up, was possible. The reforms initiated by the Commune, like turning workplaces into co-operatives, put anarchist theory into practice. By the end of May, 43 workplaces had become co-operatives and the Louvre Museum was a munitions factory run by a workers’ council.

The Mechanics Union and the Association of Metal Workers stated “our economic emancipation . . . can only be obtained through the formation of workers’ associations, which alone can transform our position from that of wage earners to that of associates.” They also advised the Commune’s Commission on Labour Organisation to support the following objectives: “The abolition of the exploitation of man by man… The organisation of labour in mutual associations and inalienable capital.” Through this, it was hoped that within the Commune, equality would not be an “empty word”. In the words of the most famous anarchist of the time, Mikhail Bakunin, the Paris Commune was a “clearly formulated negation of the state”.

However, anarchists argue that the Commune did not go far enough. Those within the Commune didn’t break with the ideas of representative government. As another famous anarchist, Peter Kropotkin said: “if no central government was needed to rule the independent Communes… then a central municipal government becomes equally useless… the same federative principal would do within the Commune”. As the Commune kept some of the old ideas of representative democracy, they stopped the people within the Commune from acting for themselves, instead trusting the governors to sort things out for them.

Anarchists argued for federations of directly democratic mass assemblies had been set up just like the people of Paris had done just over a hundred years previously (must be something in the water!).

The council became increasingly isolated from those who’d elected it. The more isolated it got, the more authoritarian it got. The council set up a “Committee of Public Safety” to “defend [by terror]” the “revolution”. This Committee was opposed by the anarchist minority on the council and was ignored by the people who, unsurprisingly, were more concerned with defending Paris from invasion by the French army. In doing so, they proved right the old revolutionary cliché of ‘no government is revolutionary’!

On May 21st, the government troops entered the city and were met with seven days of solid street fighting. The last stand of the Communards took place at the cemetary of Montmartre, and after the defeat troops and armed members of the capitalist class roamed the city, killing and maiming at will. 30,000 Communards were killed in the battles, many after they had surrendered, and their bodies dumped in mass graves.

The legacy of the Commune lived on, however, and “Vive la commune!” (“Long live the Commune!” was painted over on the walls of Paris during the 1968 uprising, and not for the last time we can be sure…


Poetry: Rumi…

If you can disentangle

yourself from your selfish self

all heavenly spirits

will stand ready to serve you

If you can finally hunt down

your own beastly self

you have the right

to claim Solomon’s Kingdom

You are that blessed soul who

belongs to the garden of paradise

is it fair to let yourself

fall apart in a shattered house

You are the bird of happiness

in the magic of existence

what a pity when you let

yourself be chained and caged

But if you can break free

from this dark prison named body

soon you will see

you are the sage and the fountain of life

Gone to the Unseen

At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen.

What marvelous route did you take from this world?

Beating your wings and feathers,

you broke free from this cage.

Rising up to the sky

you attained the world of the soul.

You were a prized falcon trapped by an Old Woman.

Then you heard the drummer’s call

and flew beyond space and time.

As a lovesick nightingale, you flew among the owls.

Then came the scent of the rosegarden

and you flew off to meet the Rose.

The wine of this fleeting world

caused your head to ache.

Finally you joined the tavern of Eternity.

Like an arrow, you sped from the bow

and went straight for the bull’s eye of bliss.

This phantom world gave you false signs

But you turned from the illusion

and journeyed to the land of truth.

You are now the Sun –

what need have you for a crown?

You have vanished from this world –

what need have you to tie your robe?

I’ve heard that you can barely see your soul.

But why look at all? –

yours is now the Soul of Souls!

O heart, what a wonderful bird you are.

Seeking divine heights,

Flapping your wings,

you smashed the pointed spears of your enemy.

The flowers flee from Autumn, but not you –

You are the fearless rose

that grows amidst the freezing wind.

Pouring down like the rain of heaven

you fell upon the rooftop of this world.

Then you ran in every direction

and escaped through the drain spout . . .

Now the words are over

and the pain they bring is gone.

Now you have gone to rest

in the arms of the Beloved.



‘Tis light makes colour visible: at night

Red, greene, and russet vanish from thy sight.

So to thee light by darness is made known:

Since God hat none, He, seeing all, denies

Himself eternally to mortal eyes.

From the dark jungle as a tiger bright,

Form from the viewless Spirit leaps to light.



I made a far journey

Earth’s fair cities to view,

but like to love’s city

City none I knew

At the first I knew not

That city’s worth,

And turned in my folly

A wanderer on earth.

From so sweet a country

I must needs pass,

And like to cattle

Grazed on every grass.

As Moses’ people

I would liefer eat

Garlic, than manna

And celestial meat.

What voice in this world

to my ear has come

Save the voice of love

Was a tapped drum.

Yet for that drum-tap

From the world of All

Into this perishing

Land I did fall.

That world a lone spirit


Like a snake I crept

Without foot or wing.

The wine that was laughter

And grace to sip

Like a rose I tasted

Without throat or lip.

‘Spirit, go a journey,’

Love’s voice said:

‘Lo, a home of travail

I have made.’

Much, much I cried:

‘I will not go’;

Yea, and rent my raiment

And made great woe.

Even as now I shrink

To be gone from here,

Even so thence

To part I did fear.

‘Spirit, go thy way,’

Love called again,

‘And I shall be ever nigh thee

As they neck’s vein.’

Much did love enchant me

And made much guile;

Love’s guile and enchantment

Capture me the while.

In ignorance and folly

When my wings I spread,

From palace unto prison

I was swiftly sped.

Now I would tell

How thither thou mayst come;

But ah, my pen is broke

And I am dumb.


Homeric Hymns…

On the Music Box: Liquid Sound Company…

Almost Midnight… Thursday:

A lovely warm day here in Portland. Worked up a ladder on a wall, of course with the warmth on the south side. Semi-Toasted in the solar way this evening…

Mary rented a unique little film from Netflix, “Ushpizin”, taking place during the Sukkot feast. Kind of a very hip, Hassidic moment in our spaced-time continuum. Worth the time, and really very, very good. Recommended.

Todays’ selections are from Homer, Hymns for various Goddesses. It is not a large entry. I have been putting out rather large ones lately, so I thought something simple might be good for Friday…

Earthrites now has a guest book:Drop a message Kids!




Piano buried on UK’s highest peak

More Stupidity From DARPA

How I see the Universe at times, as Information!

Can This Black Box See Into the Future?


To Earth, Mother of All

Of Gaia sing I, Mother firm of all,

the eldest one, who feedeth life on earth,

whichever walk on land or swim the seas,

or fly; sustaineth She each from Her Wealth.

Through Thee the folk are blest in child and fruit,

O Queen, who giveth and reclaimeth Life

of mortals; rich whoe’er it pleaseth Thee

to honor; all abundance is for them;

their fertile land is fruitful; through the fields

their flocks do thrive; their house is filled with goods.

They rule well-ordered states with women fair,

and ample wealth and riches follow them;

their sons exult with youthful merriment;

their daughters play in dances flower-strewn

with happy heart, and skip through fields abloom.

Such givest Thou, Holy Rich Divinity.

So hail, God-Mother, Starry Heaven’s Wife;

repay my song with pleasing sustenance!

Of Thee I’m minded – and another song.


To the Mother of the Gods

The Mother of all Gods and mortals, laud

Thou clear-voiced Muse, Thou daughter of great Zeus.

The din of drums and rattles, shriek of flutes,

delight Her, like the call of bright-eyed wolves

and lions, heard through hill and wooded stream.

So hail to Thee, and all the Goddesses!


To Hestia

Thou, Hestia, in ev’ry lofty home

of deathless Gods and folk who walk the Earth,

hath gained a seat eternal, honor grand;

Thy prize is fair and noble; lacking Thee,

feast not we mortals, if both first and last

we offer not sweet wine to Hestia.

Thou, Argus-Slaying Zeus’ and Maia’s Son,

Gods’ Herald, giving goods, with rod of gold –

be kind, You two, and help us, awed and fond.

Inhabit this fair house as mutual friends;

for You, who know the noble deeds of folk

who walk the earth, sustain their wit and youth.

Hail, Kronos’ Child, and Hermes with the rod!

I will remember You and one more song.



Demure and lovely Aphrodite, crowned in gold,

I praise, who holds the battlements of Cyprus, sea

girt, where the humid blowing breath of Zephyrus

propelled Her o’er the tumbling rumbling ocean waves

in gentle foam, and golden-diademed Hours received

Her willingly, and wrapped Her ’round with clothes divine.

Upon Her deathless brow They placed a well-wrought crown,

both fair and golden; into Her pierced ears They put

adornments made of orichalc and costly gold;

around Her tender neck and breasts as white as snow

arranged They necklaces of gold, like those with which

the golden-diademed Hours adorn Themselves to tread

the charming dance of Gods, or walk Their father’s halls.

And when She’d been adorned with every finery,

They led Her to the Gods, who saw and welcomed Her

with outstretched hands; and each implored that She

might be His lawful wife and come into His house;

They gaped at violet-diademed Cytherea’s form.

Hail, Thou sweetly winning one, with fluttering eyes;

and give the victory to me! Enhance my song!

For I remember Thee and yet another song.