Maybe intentionally. Tell me, how do you see the beat movement of the fifties having influenced the hippy movement of the sixties – and how do you see these cultural movements influencing events occurring today?
Allen: There are a lot of different themes that were either catalyzed, adapted, inaugurated, transformed or initiated by the literary movement of the fifties and a community of friends from the forties. The central theme was a transformation of consciousness, and as time unrolled, experiences that Kerouac, Burroughs and I had, related to this notion – at least to “widening the arena of consciousness.” For example, this world is absolutely real and final and ultimate and at the same time, absolutely unreal and transitory and of the nature of dream-stuff, without contradiction. I think Kerouac had the most insightful grasp of that already by 1958. So that one spiritual insight – which is permanently universal – led to the exploration of mind or consciousness in any way shape or form. Whether it was Burroughs through his exploration of the criminal world, or Kerouac through his exploration of Buddhism, or Gary Snyder’s zen meditation practices, or myself who worked with the Naropa Institute under Tibetan Buddhist auspices. Spiritual liberation is the center, and from spiritual liberation comes candor or frankness. So from 1948 on, Burroughs was writing on the Mind, and this somehow moved on to gay liberation, although at the time it wasn’t called that. You simply called it ‘explicitness’ and ‘openness.’ In 1952 Burroughs presents his manuscript and it’s totally overt, 100% out front and out of the closet – not even thinking he’s being out front, it’s just there because there never was a closet. So that would take us to ‘55 with Gary Snyder andMichael McClure. The latter’s major theme is in biology and he had insights regarding the reclamation of consciousness, ecological themes. It’s not your traditional poetry. It’s modern American folklore, and it influenced everybody. By 1950, Kerouac had already written On the Road which included the sentence, ‘The Earth is an Indian thing.’ A very beautiful slogan.
DJB: I’m not sure I understand.
Allen: Well, it ain’t an Empire State thing! Local knowledge of plants, geography and geology, comes to the people who live a long, long, time in one place without a lot of mechanical aids and who relate to the land itself. It’s like bioregionalism, which comes out of a sort of Indian-type thinking.
DJB: So then do indigenous and Indian come from the same root?
Allen: I don’t know. Kerouac also in On the Road, reflected Oswald Speagler’s view of the “Fellaheen” people living on the land near the Nile, tilling the soil and sailing their boats up and down, who were not affected by the changes of the Egyptian empire. They just stuck there, century after century, putting in whatever crop they were putting in, gathering it and pounding rice. So, “the earth is an Indian thing.”
DJB: Do you see the earth as being like an organism?
Allen: No, no, no, absolutely not. None of that bullshit! No Gaia hypothesis. (laughter) No theism need sneak in here. No monotheistic hallucinations needed in this. Not another fascist central authority.
DJB: That’s interesting, that you see the Gaia hypothesis as monotheistic and fascist whereas other see it as liberating.
Allen: Well, you’ve got this one big thing. Who says it’s got to be one? Why does everything have to be one? I think there’s no such thing as one – only many eyes looking out in all directions. The center is everywhere, not in any one spot. Does it have to be one organism, in the sense of one brain, or one consciousness?
DJB: Well, it could be like you said earlier, about how reality is simultaneously real and a dream. Maybe the earth or the universe is many and one at the same time.
Allen: Well, yeah, but the tendency is to sentimentalize it into another godhead and to re-inaugurate the whole Judeo-Christian-Islamic mind-trap.
RMN: What do you think about the New Age movement?
Allen: I don’t think all this crystal beads and channeling is spiritual. I don’t want to put down the New Age, but only an aspect that seems like “spiritual materialism.”
RMN: Do you see it as a less valid phenomenon than say, the sixties counter-culture?
Allen: No. I think the New Age