Introduction to Mavericks of the Mind
The term “paradigm shift” was coined by Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1961. It was an attempt to describe the changes that occur in the Belief Systems (BS for short) of scientists, concerning how they interpret their data, and how scientific models evolve. Paradigms are the glasses that one sees through which color how and what we see. When they shift, so does the world. Today it’s almost a cliché to speak about new paradigm shifts occurring. Paradigms are shifting kaleidoscopically these days. This makes sense in light of the fact that–according to the latest reports from quantum physicists–we inhabit a universe that is composed of undulating vibrations, oscillating in continuously and infinitely varied rhythms and frequencies. The universe is filled with ambiguity and mystery. It is a shifting cascade of relativistic perspectives, where nothing is really quite solid, and we exist as mostly empty space and waves of possible probabilities. Our beliefs are the brain’s attempt to freeze the flow of matter and energy into fixed states, so we can grasp onto something familiar and tangible in a shifting sea too grand for us to ever fully comprehend.
Paradigms originate from, and exist only within, the framework of the human mind, but they lead to technological progress and social transformation in the material world. In your hands is a collection of in-depth interviews with some of the extraordinary minds from whom these new world views, and ultimately new world and social structures, are emerging. Within these pages we meet with some of the most creative and controversial thinkers on the intellectual frontiers of art and science – the mavericks, those who have stepped outside the boundaries of consensus thought, sometimes risking their careers, always risking ridicule. These are experts from various fields who have seen beyond the normal and traditional view, who are concerned with the problems facing modern day society, and who have traveled beyond the edges of the established horizons to find their answers. In questioning old belief systems these remarkable individuals have gained revolutionary insights into the nature of consciousness, and with intelligence, clarity, and wit they offer some enlightening proposals for the potential future of humanity.
Inside these maverick minds we tiptoe along the fringes of reason, exploring the realms of morphic fields, chaos theory, virtual reality, quantum philosophy, the possibilities of time travel, extraterrestrials, nanotechnology, and out-of-body experiences. We discussed such general themes with them as technology, ecology, God, psychedelics, death, and the future evolution of consciousness. We learned a lot from doing these interviews, but most importantly we got a very strong sense of optimism and hope from these people. In a world infested with pessimism, fear, and doubt, these individuals offer fresh perspectives and possibilities. Taken together, common underlying holistic themes emerge in these interviews of new world views that are at once analytical and intuitive, compassionate and wise, practical and imaginative in their perspectives.
“Inspiration,” Allen Ginsberg told us? “means to breath in.” The original inspiration for this book partly grew out of our desire to meet with people whose writing had had a great impact on us. Wild late-night philosophical discussions that Rebecca McClen Novick and I had on the nature of reality and exploration of consciousness provided the alchemical ignition that got the fire burning. Why not, we thought in a grandiose moment of audacious innocent inspiration, seek out some of the most brilliant brains and illuminated luminaries around, and see what they have to say on the subject. We wanted to somehow tie them all together, into a larger, grander, more comprehensive view.
We figured that as a man/woman team we could interview these people from a more holistic perspective than any single person. It was very interesting that when Rebecca and I would collaborate on questions, we would usually brainstorm separately, then share ideas and mutually arrange the sequence of the questions later. Almost every time we both thought that we had covered the spectrum of important points ourselves, and we were astonished to discover that we had relatively unique lists of questions with suprisingly very little overlap. This demonstrated to us the biases of our own perspectives, and could be suggestive of the inherent difference in how male and female brains differ in their thinking.
Our central source of fascination was the timeless mystery of consciousness. It is our very sense of self–the most mysterious and mundane aspect of existence, the most essential part of us–and yet we don’t know what it is, where it comes from, or where it’s going. It is all around us in many forms, and yet when we try to define it–that is, to draw a boundary around it and distinguish it from the rest of the universe–it suddenly becomes extremely elusive. Alan Watts told us that the paradox that we experience when trying to understand consciousness is like an eyeball trying to see itself (without a mirror), or teeth trying to bite themselves. We are our own blind spots.
How does consciousness arise? Can consciousness leave the body? Is it limited to human brains, or does it exist elsewhere in other forms? What is consciousness made of! What changes it? How and why? What happens to consciousness after physical death? What do quantum physics, chaos theory, sociobiology, neurophysiology, and morphic field resonance suggest to us about the nature and potentials of consciousness? Where are we when we’re lucid dreaming? Do intelligent extraterrestrials exist? What is consciousness evolving into? How does the world change when consciousness changes? These are some of the questions we–with the help of some extremely gifted thinkers–try to take on in this ambitious book.
One thing for sure about consciousness is that–like matter and energy, time and space-it changes, flows, and there are varying degrees of it. Some people, neurobiologists for the most part, think consciousness is an emergent property of the brain, which evolved over a 4.5-billion-year evolutionary struggle 4 to survive and reproduce. Others, dubbed mystical (or kooks) by the former, think consciousness creates the brain. Chicken or egg? Mind in body? Or body in mind? Some think consciousness is the brain. Behavioral psychologists, such as B.F. Skinner, have claimed that consciousness does not even exist, while others, Zen Buddhists for example, say that consciousness is all that exists.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fascinating models for consciousness have sprung out of the human mind. Numerous esoteric mystical disciplines claim to have used techniques to alter and heighten consciousness since the beginning of written history. Lao-Tzu reminded us that it all comes from and flows back into the great Tao. Buddha contributed one of the first maps of human psychology, and some of the most enduring methods for changing brain states. Aristotle believed that consciousness was not constrained by physical processes. Descartes divided the mind from the divine. Darwin gave us the evolutionary perspective, and the mechanism of natural selection.
Wundt tried to make the study of consciousness a science through disciplined introspective techniques. Pavlov taught us about the roles of excitation, inhibition, and associative learning in the nervous system. Konrad Lorenz revealed the biological secrets of neural imprinting. Freud pointed out that part of us is conscious, most of us is unconscious. Jung went further claiming that all of the human species share a common rneta-cultural collective unconscious, full of genetic dreams, myths, and legendary archetypes. Does this imply the potential for a collective consciousness? Is the process of development and evolution one in which the unconscious is being made more conscious?
From William James we learned that consciousness is not a thing, but a process, and that there is a vast multitude of mostly uncharted, potential conscious states. Aleister Crowley integrated many of the esoteric mystical traditions of previous centuries with the scientific method, wedding them into a single system. Albert Hofmann discovered the explosive psychoactive effects of LSD in 1943, vastly multiplying the questions of spirit and matter. Neuroscientists, such as Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga, are discovering that the brain is actually composed of many submodules, each like a miniature brain in itself, making each of us a multitude of potential personalities. Where these people leave off is where this book begins.
Charles Tart, a psychologist at UC Davis, has pointed out that the ways in which scientists theorize about the complex interplay between the brain and consciousness is highly flavored by the prevailing technology of a particular time in history. For instance, in the beginning of the century Freud built his model of consciousness in accordance with the technology that was popular in his day – the technology of the steam engine and the science of hydraulics. We can see this clearly in many of his concepts. There is reference to the idea of how drives build up pressure, which needs to be released, and how fluid-like energies such as the libido need to flow. The symbolic release of libidinal tension in a dream then, is seen as functioning like a safety valve for libidinal build-up-so the system doesn’t explode–like the safety valve on the boiler of a steam engine. The safety valve is there so if the pressure reaches a certain threshold, it just bleeds steam off in a
The four “isms” of the apocalypse: chauvinism, sexism, racism and fundamentalism are riding roughshod over the gardens of civilization. When we take a long look around at the effects of the modern world, it’s not a pretty sight. Blackened stumps of ancient forests smolder in the mid-day sun, young children stare from (and at) television sets, stunned with hunger and lack of love; torture and cruelty are the trademark of governments throughout the world; and wars are raging all over the face of our planet. For all the shimmering beauty of life, for all the exquisite potential waiting in the wings, when we take a long look around, we find ourselves none too sure about the future of our species, or for that matter, of any other. Perhaps we should be bidding our farewells to DNA, thanking it for having us and apologizing for being such sloppy guests. Or perhaps we should act “as if’ there is going to be a future, because the alternative leads down an ever-darkening path to humorlessness, apathy, and despair.
So, if we believe there is hope for our future, we must then get a grip on what it is that’s wrong with our present. At first thought this seems pretty obvious–our senses tell us so. You can see that the lower skyline of Los Angeles looks like the rim of a toilet bowl, you can hear the stories of battered women, you can touch the swollen stomach of a starving Somalian child, you can smell the choking fumes of Saddam Hussein’s mustard gas and you can taste the fruits of our labors with that nasty after-tang of malathion.
To attempt to exorcise these problems externally, without exorcising the mytho-scientific perspective which creates them, ensures that we will gain only temporary relief. A friend of mine defined insanity as repeating the same actions over and over again while remaining convinced things will turn out differently. The human species is in danger of being committed. What we need is a fundamental change of heart and mind, to shift the gears of our consciousness, and escape the temporal gridlock which has formed in the collective psyche.
Why take responsibility for our actions when we know that God is separate from us, directing our destiny? Why treat the ecosystem with respect, when we know that the universe is a machine? Why help one another when we know that competition is the key to success? Why express our sexuality when we know that it is something to be ashamed of! For all their genius, Descartes, Newton, Darwin and Freud had only part of the equation. We need to move on.
Yet it is not in order to overthrow the existing governing belief systems, but to reform them, that the people in this book speak out. Their concern is the promotion of evolution rather than revolution. They have built upon the established foundations of knowledge but have each added a story of their own, connected by the spiral staircase of integrity, wisdom and compassion. The men and women in this book are not afraid of change. They have questioned the stone-carved rules, which have been handed down to us from the summits of orthodoxy and in choosing to climb the mountain for themselves they have come up an alternative set of revelations which begin, not with, “Thou Shalt,” but with “Why Not?”
We are the protagonists and the authors of our own drama. It is up to us; there is no one left to blame. Neither the “system,” nor our leaders, nor our parents. We can’t go out and hang the first amoebae. Upon these pages are some alternative responses to those of despair and disillusionment in the face of our global crises. The purpose of this collection is not to convince you of any particular point of view, but to encourage a deeper exploration into the universe of your own mind, and the discovery of your own innate truths. Use what works, discard what doesn’t and above all enjoy the show!
Rebecca McClen Novick
Mavericks of the Mind – print edition
An important lesson that we learned from doing this book is that cooperation, patience, tolerance, and communication are the keys to solving most of the world’s problems. We really worked as a team to put this book together, and it was a balancing act that required much delicate coordination. It took about four years to complete, and although there was a great deal of work involved we did have a lot of fun. The collaboration of many others made it possible. We would like to extend special thanks to Carolyn Kleefeld and Nina Graboi who both helped tremendously in arranging many of the interviews. We would also like to thank our favorite magazine editor Judy McGuire at High Times for her support, and Jeanne St. Peter, who helped conduct the interview with Oscar Janiger while Rebecca was in England.
In addition, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Gabrielle Alberici, Randy Baker, Bob Banner, Debra Berger, Steven Brown, Allyn Brodsky, Brummbaer, Linda Capetillo-Cunliffe, Barbara Clarke-Lilly, Robin Christianson-Day, Elizabeth Gips, Deborah Harlow, Betsy Herbert, Larry Hughes, Dan Joy, Jeff Labno, Lisa LyonLilly, Joe & Nina Matheny, Ronny Novick, Andrew Shachat, Douglas Trainer, Silvia Utiger, Victoria Vaughn, Nur Wesley, Arlen Wilson, and wonderful friends too numerous to mention, for their contributions and support during the development of this project. We would also like to express our deepest appreciation to all the people we interviewed for their invaluable time and energy.
Politics, Poetry and Inspiration
“Language joiins heaven and earth and joins the mind and the body.”
with Allen Ginsberg
Alien Ginsberg’s poem “Howl, ” published in 1956, caused such a controversy that it was the subject of an obscenity trial. Having received the court ‘s “approval, ” it went on to become one of the most widely read and translated poems of the century. He is an extraordinarily prolific artist, having had over forty books published and eleven albums produced.
Alien’s friendship and literary experimentation with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs began in 1945, and a decade later as this core group expanded to include other poets and writers, it came to be known as the “Beat Generation. ” He has received numerous honors, including the National Book Award for Poetry, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, National Arts Club Medal, 1986 Struga Festival Golden Wreath, and the Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins Medal of Honor for Literary Excellence 1 989.
A potent figure in the cultural revolution of the sixties, he has been arrested with Dr. Benjamin Spock for blocking the Whitehall Draft Board steps, has testified at the U.S. Senate hearings for the legalization of psychedelics and been teargassed for chanting “Om” at the Lincoln Park Yippie Life Festival at the 1968 Presidential convention in Chicago.
His Collected Poems 1947-1980, were published in 1984 with White Shroud and the 30th Anniversary Howl annotated issue in 1 986. Several books of his photographs and a recordlCD of his poetry-jazz album, The Lion for Real, appeared in 1989. He is a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and is a Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College and a member of the Executive Board of PEN American Center. A practicing Buddhist, Alien cofounded Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado.
We talked with Allen at the house of his cousin, Oscar Janiger, in Santa Monica. He presents a very dignified and unassuming figure, his non-conforming and wildly creative persona loosely disguised in a professorial suit and tie. We asked Allen about his relationship with Burroughs and Kerouac, his thoughts on madness and creativity, and the nature of politics and revolution. This interview took place on April 23, 1992, six days before the Los Angeles uprising.
DJB: What was is that originally inspired you to start writing poetry?
Allen: It’s a family business. My father was a poet, his Collected Poems were posthumously published – they just came out recently, in fact, from the Northern Lights Press in Maine. My father was in the 1930-50 Untermeyer anthologies, a standard poet of that genre, lyric poetry, that included Eleanor Wiley and Lisette Woodsworth Reece.
DJB: Was it something that you always knew you were going to do?
Allen: No, but I always wrote poetry; since I was a kid I knew poetry. My father taught high school and college, so I knew a lot of Milton, Poe, Shelley and Blake when I was five, six, seven years old. And I memorized it, or it just sort of stuck in my head. I started writing when I was maybe fifteen, or younger, but I never thought of myself as a poet. I just thought that it was something you did on the side, like my father had done. But then, when I met Jack Kerouac at the age of seventeen, I realized that he was the first person I had met who saw being a writer as a sacramental vocation. Rather than being a sailor who wrote, he was a writer who also went out on ships. That changed my attitude towards writing, because now I saw it as a sacred vocation.
DJB: How did you mother’s struggle with mental illness affect your development?
Allen: I’ve written a great deal about that in the poem “Kaddish,”
“I get more from wht great minds have written about human behavior, than any psychiatric text.”
with Oscar Janiger
Oscar Janiger was born on February 8, 1918, in New York City. He received his MA. in cell physiology from Columbia, and his M.D. from the UC Irvine School of Medicine, where he served on the faculty in their Psychiatry Department for over twenty years. His research interests have been wide, and he describes himself as a “tinkerer. ” He established the relationship between hormonal cycling and pre-menstrual depression in women, and he discovered blood proteins that are specific to male homosexuality. His studies of the Huichol Indians in Mexico revealed that centuries of peyote use do not cause any type of chromosomal damage. He is perhaps best known for establishing the relationship between LSD and creativity in a study of hundreds of artists. In addition to his research interests he has also maintained a long-standing private psychiatric practice, which he continues to this day.
Back in the late fifties and early sixties when LSD was still legal, Oscar incorporated LSD into some of his therapy, and is responsible for “turning on ” many well-known literary figures and Hollywood celebrities, including Anais Nin and Cary Grant. More recently Oscar has been involved in studying dolphins in their natural environment, and is the founder of the Albert Hofman Foundation–an organization whose purpose is to establish a library and world information center dedicated to the scientific study of human consciousness. He has also just completed a book entitled A Different Kind of Healing, about how doctors treat themselves. Jeanne St. Peter and I interviewed Oscar in the living room of his home in Santa Monica on January 3, 1990. Surrounding virtually every wall in his house is the largest and most interesting library I’ve ever encountered. Oscar spoke to us about his scientific research, creativity and psychopathology, the problems he sees with psychiatry, and his discovery of the psycho-active effects of isolated DMT. Oscar is an extremely warm, highly energetic man. There is a deep sincerity to his manner. He chuckles a lot, and one feels instantly comfortable around him.
DJB: Could you begin by telling us what it was that originally inspired your interest in psychiatry and the exploration of consciousness?
OSCAR: I was about seven years old and I was living on a farm in upstate New York. The nearest neighbor was a mile away. I would go for a walk, visit them, play, and then come home in the evening. This was a wild kind of country setting, and I had to get home before dark. Some evenings I would be coming home and the scene around me on the path was filled with menacing figures; pirates and all kinds of cut-throats ready to grab me and do me in. There was a place I called the sunken mine, where people had supposedly drowned and there was a frayed rope hanging from a tree. All of these menacing things gave the evening a very sinister cast, and I’d finally run to get home. Certain evenings I’d make the trip, and everything was just light and airy. Things around me were filled with joy and pleasure. The birds were singing, rabbits, squirrels and other animals were having a wonderful Disneyland time. So one day I was thinking, My God, that’s a magic road! One time it’s this way, another time it’s that way. So I puzzled over that. I finally came to the conclusion that, if it wasn’t a magic road, then I was doing something to these surround- ings and if I was doing it then I could change it. So the next time I came back from my neighbour’s place, and everything got murky, strange and sinister, I said, “No! If I’m doing this then bring back the rabbits, bring back the squirrels, bring back the fairies and let’s lighten this thing up.” Sure enough, it changed. That was the beginning of my interest in consciousness. It was all crystallized into a marvelous saying from the Talmud – “things are not the way they are, they’re the way we are.” From then on, when I’d get into situations, I’d determine what aspect that was within me was being projected outward, and what was a reflection of the world that others can validate along with me. That, of course, has been the theme of my work in therapy and as a scientist. The important distinctions regarding projection are among the fundamental things that one has to