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John Allen

Music of the Biospheres

“…it is in our capacity to be ther brain and the conscience of the biosphere, to be its self-reflective point.””

with John Allen

 

John Polk Allen was a driving force behind the development of the Biosphere 2 project in the Oracle, Arizona desert. Biosphere 2 is the largest self-sustaining ecosystem ever built, a masterpiece of human engineering that has been praised and condemned by a media that, for the most part, misinterpreted what it was all about. Both confusing it with a controlled scientific experiment or an entertainment spectacle missed the point. Inside the sealed 3. 15 acre biosphere are miniature replicas of all the earth ‘s environments, designed to function together as a single system.

Biosphere 2 was more than just a reductionistic scientific experiment. It was also bold visionary adventure, like going to the moon. As when the Wright brothers were building the first airplane, the biospherians were basically concerned with getting the thing to fly. Biosphere 2 has been a tremendous success; it broke and set many records. The relevance ofBiosphere 2 lies in the light it sheds an our understanding of the earth ‘s biosphere and its value as a prototype for permanent life-habitats on suitable locations in space.

John thinks in terms of whole systems, and he is an expert on ecological interrelatedness. Former vice-president of biospheric development for Space Biospheres Ventures, John wrote a classic article on closed life systems, which was published by NASA in Biological Life Support Technologies: Commercial Applications. He participated in the Jirst manned biosphere rest module experiment in September 1988, residing for three clays in the first fully closed ecological system that recycled all its wastes, setting a world record at the time. John is currently the chairman of CyberspheresTM, Inc., a private research and development firm that designs and builds advanced biospheric systems and semiclosed biomic systems.

In addition, he is cofounder and director of Eco Frontiers, Inc., which owns and manages several ecological research projects around the world, and Planetary Coral Reef Foundation, a nonprofit corporation devoted to studying the health and vitality of coral reefs. He has traveled extensively-very extensively–and this has contributed to his multicultural, whole-systems perspective. John has led expeditions studying ecology (particularly the ecology of early civilizations) to Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Ilzbekistan, Tibet, India, Belize, and the Altip Eano. As part of the researchfor Biosphere 2, John traveled in the ship Heraclitus to the Amazon and many other areas around the world to collect biological samples.

John is also an actor poet, film producer; and playwright. He has been a major force in the Theater of All Possibilities acting troupe far many years. He is a true global citizen who seems to he at home everywhere on the planet. He is also an accomplished author with more than two dozen publications to his credit, over half of which are scientific, while the rest comprise poetry, drama, prose, and film. John holds a degree in metallurgical-mining engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, an MBA from the Harvard Business School, from which he graduated with distinction as a Baker Scholar and a certificate in engineering physiology from the University of Michigan.

John is a swashbuckling frontiersman, an eccentric mix of scientist, artist, entrepreneur find adventurer He is warm and charismatic, filled with vision, and often appears larger than life. When he hugs you, he lifts you up off the ground. We interviewed John on April 16, 1994 in the living room of our mutual friend OscarJaniger (interviewed in our previous volume) in Santa Monica, California. Several weeks prior; trouble had been brewing at the biosphere, when its major financial investor Ed Bass, in his attempt to gain control of the biosphere, accused John and his associates of “mismanagement. ” Subsequently, Bass took over the experiment. The story of the corporate takeover of Biosphere 2 is the subject of a forthcoming book by Abigail Ailing and myself entitled Storming Eden. Even with all the uncertainty hovering about him at the time of the interview, John was radiantly cheerful and contagiously optimistic.

DJB

David: John, how have your travels around the planet influenced your desire to create a self-contained ecosystem?

John: The unity that is around the planet earth, that is the biosphere, has only very recently been recognized as a self-organizing entity. That was a hypothesis put forward in 1926 by Vladimir Vernadsky. Before that there was a `great nature’, a hypothesized `great being’, creation of God or a fortuitous collation of atoms which accidentally produced life.

But as soon as you have the idea of the biosphere and you really begin to travel around the planet earth, looking at things from that point of view, you see that the oceans, the winds, the mountain ranges, the deserts, the tropical forests are not occurring at random at all. You see that they are organized, that they have a tremendous resilience and that they’re evolutionary.

In science, the question becomes an experiment to test an hypothesis, so the idea of Biosphere 2 was to see whether a system modeled on Biosphere 1, self-organized or not. Many people in the press and many scientists predicted that the ocean in Biosphere 2 would die and that it would all turn to slime. In other words, they fundamentally followed the fortuitous collocation of atoms idea that life just happens on a planet the right distance from the sun. The wording in that kind of science, is that something is merely.

Rebecca So they didn’t think you could consciously design a system that wouldn’t just collapse into entropy.

John: Well, actually it’s modeling a system more than designing it. The thing about Biosphere 2 that very few people got was that what we did was create conditions that emulated the conditions of Biosphere 1: there is something to produce tides, something to produce water flows, pipes taking the place of rivers, things like that. But the live systems were very much modeled on Biosphere 1, that is the earth, although naturally on a highly reduced scale.

For example, the Biosphere 2 ocean is actually portions that came out of certain coral reefs, water from the Pacific and water from the Bahamas. The rainforest is designed by people who spent a lot of time there. The basic way I formulated that for them was to say, let’s create the quintessence of the rainforest, so that when you’re standing in the middle of it, you feel that you are in the Amazon.

These were not just ordinary people. They spent decades in the Amazon studied it intimately. So that’s how these terrestrial biomes went into making Biosphere 2.

Rebecca What culture that you came across in your travels had the greatest influence on you and your ideas?

John: There were a number of them. Ethnology was the first science I studied, so when I traveled around I used the idea of Ruth Benedict and Franz Boaz that there is an arc of human potential and that each culture is a part of that arc. So I didn’t go around looking for the specific culture, but rather cultures that had a bigger arc of human potential or a more incisive tranche than usual.

The Berber culture, the Sioux indian culture, Huichols, the Bora of the Amazon, the Polynesian culture, were all examples of this. The Hindu culture is exceedingly interesting because of the division of humans into castes in an old linear breeding and function program.

There is also what I call Globaltech which is the culture of the technicians of the West. It’s not officially recognized by anthropology, but I think it’s one of the most powerful cultures in the world today with probably about five million members. It includes people who can move from Moscow to Tokyo to Santa Monica to Biosphere 2, and never miss a beat; people who are basically inventing, innovating, maintaining and envisioning the next steps in the global technosphere.

David: Was there a particular culture that you encountered that forced you to reevaluate your entire belief system?

John: Yes. Actually it was a coming together of three cultures in Tangiers. There was the avant garde art culture with William Burroughs and the people around him, and then the Berber culture which is maybe 6,000 years old and has its roots in the ancient magical traditions, and also the imperial culture of the Spanish, French and British empires.

So the combination of the Western imperial culture, the native Berber culture and the Western avant garde forced a personal transformation of all values, not just on a mental and emotional level, but on a physiological and social level as well.

David: Physiological? How do you mean that?

John: Well, because the people from the avant garde were into all sorts

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Matthew Fox

Counting our Original Blessings

“To connect with the great river we all need a path, but when you get down there there’s only one river.”.”

with Matthew Fox

 

While for many being a Christian implies generous portions of intolerance, self-righteous proselytizing, and patriarchal zeal, some have dug deeper into the well oft he Western mystical tradition and have drunk from sweeter waters. Instead of embracing the religions of the East, they are finding parallel philosophies and equally enlightened gurus amidst the discarded relies of the Christian church.

Matthew Fox, a Dominican priest, theologian, writer and teacher is one such person. He has been called “a green prophet” by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, by the Vatican, a dangerous radical, heretic, and blasphemer. The author of over a dozen books, his best-known work, Original Blessing, rejects the idea of humanity innate sin and inevitable punishment, and instead proposes a creation-centered spirituality – a philosophy of mystical artistry, universal compassion, and the celebration of the divine within each human soul.

In 1960 Fox joined the Dominican order. He was ordained seven years later; and after acquiring a master ‘s degree in philosophy and theology, he went to study in Paris, where he earned a doctorate in spirituality. In 1977 he founded the Institute of Culture and Creation Spirituality at Holy Names College in Oakland, California, and began to formulate educational programs, encouraging participation from all creeds, races, and subcultures.

In 1988 the Vatican, fearing Fox ‘s popularity, silenced him for a year He used the time to visit and listen to the liberation theologians of Central and South America, and he returned to the States more dedicated than ever to sharing his message. After the year had expired his first words were “As I was saying … ” In 1993, after a number of failed attempts by the papacy at proving him a heretic, which would have led to his excommunication, Matthew Fox was dismissed from the Dominican order:

As church pews gather dust in the twilight Matthew Fox ‘s lectures are standing room only. The clergy at the Vatican must be wringing their hands as he speaks freely about the motherhood of God, the spiritual relevance of environmental consciousness and love for animals, the interconnectedness of all religions, and the acceptance of homosexuality as a viable lifestyle. That Jesus’ message might actually have something to do with progressive social action is an idea that the church has traditionally sidestepped with dexterity, but listening to Matthew Fox, it is easy to entertain the idea that the true spirit of Christ is arising to turn the tables once again. This interview was held on August 8, 1993 at Matthew Fox ‘s home in Oakland.

RMN

David: I’d like to ask you, what were you like as a child and what childhood experiences shaped your spirituality?

Matthew: Well, I grew up in Wisconsin and I was certainly influenced by the beauty of the land there. I was also influenced by the presence of the Native American spirit, and from the time I was very little I had Indian dreams. It was a university town and the whole issue of ideas became very important to me. I was Catholic and my best friends were Jewish and agnostic, and we’d get into these philosophical debates which were a lot of fun. There was a priest I knew and he got me reading Thomas Aquinas, G.K Chesterton and so forth. So the intellectual side of faith became very important to me.

Rebecca: Were you brought up a strict Catholic?

Matthew: My father was Irish-Catholic, my mother was half Jewish and half Anglican and although she became a Catholic, she always kept her freedom. So it was a very ecumenical household. When I was a teenager we lived in a large house near the university with my six brothers and sisters. As they went out to college my parents would rent out their rooms to foreign graduate students.

So I spent my high school years next door to a seikh from India who wore a turban and cooked wheat germ at three in the morning, a man from Venezuela who would pull his shirt up to show his bullfighting scars, a communist from Yugoslavia, and an atheist from Norway. It was a very broad education.

When I was in college I brought a friend home for the weekend and afterwards he shook his head and said, “God, it’s like being at the United Nations!”(laughter) I was never that interested in religion but I’ve always been interested in spirituality, and that’s how I got interested in theology.

David: How do you define the difference?

Matthew: Well, I wish there weren’t such a big difference between religion and spirituality, but people have to be very clear about the difference, and not simply settle for religion. Spirituality is about experience, and religion, unfortunately, ends up being about the sociology of the structures, in news reports of Popes coming and buildings being bought. Of course they also influence each other. For example, last week here in the Bay Area, the front page news of the Chronicle was that the Catholic church was trying to sell twelve of it’s churches. Why? Because they have only thirty-five people coming to church on Sunday.

So that’s religion. Religion has to sell it’s buildings. Spirituality is connecting to the source of things, to the source of wonder and awe and pain and suffering and creativity and justice and compassion. Religion ought to be about that but unfortunately it wanders off the path.

David: Would you say that spirituality is based upon one’s own experience, while religion is based upon someone else’s experience?

Matthew: (laughter) That’s good, but I wouldn’t stress the “own” as distinct from the communal. At your deepest depth you are in touch with other people’s joy and other people’s sorrow – so it’s not just a private journey, it’s a journey into the ocean of experience. Jesus was spiritual – would you call him religious? He was taking on the religious establishment of his day. He was trying to bring out the juices of his tradition, which got him into a lot of trouble. That happens all along the line – it’s happening today too with liberation theology.

Bede Griffiths is a monk who died recently. He ran an ashram in India for Hindus and Christians for fifty years. He said, if Christianity can’t recover it’s mystical tradition and teach it, it should just fold up and go out of business, because it has nothing to offer. I agree 100%. Spirituality is about mysticism which is about awe and wonder and the prophetic dimension of standing up to injustice because it interferes with our wonder.

David: How did your interest in theology develop?

Matthew: I had a lot of mystical experiences as a child and as an adolescent, even more. I remember when I was in 9th grade walking into the living-room when someone was playing Beethovan’s 7th symphony, and my soul wanted to dance. When I was a junior I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace and it’s because of Tolstoy that I went into the priesthood, because I wanted to examine the spiritual experience I was having with literature and music.

I think that people are born mystics – we are all mystics as children, but it’s taken away from us as we grow older. It’s taken away subtly by education which trains the left brain and ignores the right brain. They take away your crayons right when you need them most – at puberty. When you should be getting to your cosmic soul they give you football and shopping-malls. I was fortunate. I had polio when I was thirteen, so I let go of my desire to be a football hero like my brothers were. When I was sick in the hospital (they couldn’t tell whether I would walk again) I met a very spiritual person who had been a monk before he married and had five kids. He became kind of a mentor for me and showed me that there was another path in life, besides the obvious.

So, when I got my legs back a year or two later, I was very overwhelmed with gratitude and I said, I’m not going to waste my legs, I’m not going to take this for granted. And I wasn’t going to waste my life, I was going to do something interesting.

Rebecca: Gratitude seems to be very much an aspect of your spirituality. Prayer has been traditionally used to ask favors.

Matthew: Yuck! That’s Santa Claus in the sky! Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your life is thank you,” that would suffice.

David: Don’t you think that it takes almost losing something in order to appreciate it?

Matthew: (laughter) Unfortunately yes. And that’s what religion won’t tell you – that we’re losing the planet. We have everything to lose, it’s basic. And that’s why the only resolution is an awakening of gratitude and reverence for the planet, and falling in love in more than an anthropocentric fashion. In that experience there is an excess of gratitudinal energy, and that’s what we need to change our destiny.

Rebecca: Could you explain to us some of the core values of Creation Spirituality and how they differ from Fall/Redemption philosophy?

Matthew: Well, one of course is why I called my book Original Blessing as opposed to Original Sin. My problem with Original Sin is that first of all it’s so anthropocentric – sinning is what humans do, all other creatures do not sin. Thomas Merton says every non two-legged creature is a saint. That’s why my spiritual director was that guy

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Alexander and Ann Shulgin

Chemophilia

“…Anything that the human is capable of doing through the mind is duplicable pharmacologically..”

with Alexander and Ann Shulgin

Alexander (Sasha) and Ann Shulgin stand on the frontier of designer neurochemistry, developing a plethora of miraculous pharmacological keys that unlock different aspects of the brain is hidden potential. They are known to many as the authors of the underground best-seller PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story, the title of which is an acronym for Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved. Alexander is a long-standing, well-respected research chemist and professor of pharmacology at the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned his doctorate in biochemistry in 1954. He is the author of 150 scientific research papers, twenty patents, and three books. Although Alexander has been quite outspoken regarding his Opposition to the so-called war on drugs, he has been a scientific consultant for such state-run organizations as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NASA, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

But in private, in his government-licensed research lab, he has spent the last thirty years discretely–yet legally-designing hundreds of new psychoactive compounds, particularly psychedelics. Along with his wife, Ann, and a small, brave, and dedicated research group, they sample each new drug as it is developed. Through the cautious escalation of dosage, they discover and map out the range of each new drug’s effects, experimenting with the various aspects of their psychological and spiritual potential. Most of Alexander ‘s psychoactive designer molecules are unknown to the public, but a few, such as 2CB (an MDMA analogue) and DOM (better known as STP), have received widespread distribution. Their research continues to this day, and a new book, TIHKAL (Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved) is on the way. Their previous book, PIHKAL, details their truly remarkable adventures and, for those with a solid background in chemistry, provides the esoteric recipes for recreating hundreds of Alexander’s finely crafted magic molecules.

Alexander and Ann make a very compatible research team: they complement on another; and their relationship reflects a deep commitment to inner exploration. They are extremely warm, and anxious to share what they’ve learned through their experimentation. We interviewed them at their home in Lafayette east of Berkeley in northern California on May 19, 1993. Ann is strong, solid and grounded very much connected to the earth. Before moving to northern California as a teenager she lived in four countries. She worked as a medical secretary at the UCSF Medical Center and has three children from a previous marriage, to Jungian analyst John Ferry. She is presently a psychotherapist.

A wild electrical current seems to buzz through Alexander’s nervous system, as evidenced by the white hair that seems to stand on end on his head and face, and the excited manner in which he explains everything. Alexander’s research laboratory, just a short walk from the main house, is filled by a complex of interlocking flasks, glass beakers, plastic tubes, heating coils, and countless bottles; it looks dramatic enough to be used as a Hollywood movie set. The only chemicals that we sample, however; are in the cheese sandwiches that we have for lunch before we begin the interview. Even so, we do feel ourselves to be in an altered state.

DJB

David: What was it that inspired you to write Pihkal?

Alexander: I was inspired partly by the history of Wilhelm Reich. I discovered that in his very last years he got into very unusual and not totally acceptable areas of hypotheses, such as making rains fall by means of electro-static guns and other such ventures.

The FDA filed a lawsuit against him for promoting radical equipment that had not been approved by them. They put him in jail and he died there. After his death the FDA took all his lab books and papers and burned them. One of the reasons I wrote Pihkal was because I could see the need to get a lot of information that had not been published into a form that just could not be destroyed.

Ann: And I couldn’t imagine him writing all that fun stuff without my help. (laughter) I’ve co-authored one paper with him before and discovered that it’s a great ego-boost to do good writing and I’ve never had anything published before. It became the most exciting thing in the world to do, especially because it was pushing against the establishment.

My model and my hero was Castaneda but what I wanted to do was bring in the personal which he failed to do – marriage, kids, love, soup – every day reality. Our feeling about psychedelics is that if you use them the right way, they enrich your everyday life. You learn to think a different way about the ordinary things you see.

Rebecca: What is a phenethylamine, why is it so special and what role has it played in your research?

Alexander: There are a collection of neurotransmitters in the brain and two of the largest families are the phenethylamines and the tryptamines.And it turned out that all the known psychedelics around the time I got curious in this area – back in the `50’s and 60’s – were either phenethylamines ortryptamines. It’s now been shown that this is a very good guide. Nature said, “here are the two basic building blocks and if you’re going to do something with the brain it’s going to be with one or the other.”

David: Why did the two of you use ficitonal names in the book when the story was obviously autobiographical?

Ann: Among the drugs we were writing about some, like LSD, are illegal. It was risky enough writing the book in the first place. We didn’t know what to expect from the establishment, if anything. Some people late at night with baseball bats smashing up the lab was a perfectly reasonable possibility. Using fictional names gave us a deniability.

The second reason was so that I could tell my children that the sex in the book wasn’t actually us. (laughter) Also, we didn’t want to jeopardize our next book. At this point, when not only has there been no fire from heaven descending on our heads but the DEA itself is one of our best customers, it’s easy to look back and ask why were we worried.

Alexander: One of the things I did was to send a score copy of the book to people within the DEA with covering phrases like, `Here’s a book that will provide you with a lot of information which may be useful to you.’

David: What was their response to it?

Ann: They loved it. One of the higher administrators of the DEA in Washington said, “My wife and I read your book and it’s great!”

David: Sasha, how did you become a chemist?

Alexander: My doctorate degree is in biochemistry, but I found that it didn’t have the magic and the music of chemistry. In my teaching class at Berkeley I would ask, “How many people are taking organic chemistry?” And you’d hear this groan. Why? Because the typical instruction would be, “Go and read pages 83-117 in the textbook and we’ll have a quiz on Monday.” People hated it! Chemistry, however, is an art, it’s music, it’s a style of thinking. Orbitals are for mathematicians, chemistry is for people who like to cook!

Some of my colleagues would often have a goal and if something went wrong they’d try and find out how else they could get it to go right. My argument has always been, if something went wrong, Oh wow! Out of this will come something unexpected. That led me into a very great curiosity about the mind process which was greatly amplified by my first mescaline experience.

Drugs do not do things, they are allowing you to do things. It’s not an imposition from the outside. People tend to say, “What did that drug do?” or, “How did the drug do what it did?” or, “I took a drug and it did such and such.” In each instance this is giving up your power to an inert white solid. The drug catalyzes and facilitates but it doesn’t do things. That puts it in perspective. You don’t have to give credit to a drug.

David: And it also encourages the person to take responsibility.

Alexander: Completely. You can’t live without that.

Rebecca: Do you ever find yourself making a judgment that what you’re experiencing is a quality of the drug rather than something inherent in your own psyche?

Alexander: If I do then that experience is sure to be a bummer!(laughter)

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Jaron Lanier

Reality Check

“[Virtual reality] defines our agenda with machines as being primarily cultural and sensual, as opposed to power-oreiented.”

with Jaron Lanier

 

When virtual reality became a cultural obsession and took the national spotlight, Jaron Lanier stood center stage. The diverse scope of possibilities created through full sensory immersion into computer-generated worlds caught the collective imagination, and Jaron became the hero of cyberspace. He began his journey into virtual reality after quitting high school, when he engineered his own education in computer science by spending time with mentors such as Mantilz Minsky at MIT. After a stint performing as a street musician in Santa Cruz, Jaron began programming electronic sound effects into video games. He quickly became a pioneer in computer programming, and soon he started the first VR company out of his home-VPL Research–which produced most of the world ‘s VR equipment for many years. He is the co-inventor of such fundamental VR components as the interface gloves and VR networking.

Jaron coined the phrase “virtual reality” and founded the VR industry. He appears regularly on national television shows, such as “Nightline ” and “60 Minutes. ” His work with computer languages and VR was twice chosen for the cover of Scientific American, and it also appeared on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, in a piece entitled “Electronic LSD. ” But music is his first love. Since the late seventies, he has been an active composer and performer in the world of new classical music. He writes chamber and orchestral music, and is a pianist and a specialist in unusual musical instruments. Jaron has the largest collection of exotic instruments from around the world that I’ve ever encountered, and the most remarkable thing is that he can play them all. He has performed with artists as diverse as Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, Terry Riley, Barbara Higbie, and Stanley Jordan.

Jaron has a powerful presence. His large eyes, which alternate between dreamy reflectiveness and focused intensity, peer out from behind long, brown dreadlocks. He appears gentle and relaxed, although he gets very animated when he starts talking about something that excites him. His nervous system is unusually balanced with a blend of artistic sensitivity, sharp scientific mindfulness, and great imagination. Referring to the unique neurochemistry. that must contribute to Jaron’s genius, Timothy Leary once said that he would like a cerebral spinal fluid transfusion from Jaron S brain. Jaron currently divides his time between New York and California. He has an album out on PolyGram, Instruments of Change, and two books in press, one from Harcourt/Brace and the other from MIT Press. Amid a sea of exotic musical instruments and a tangle of electronic equipment, we interviewed Jaron at his Sausalito home on February 3, 1993.

DJB

 

David: Jaron, what was it that originally inspired you to develop Virtual Reality technology?

Jaron: Not that question! Oh no! (laughter) There are three different things that got me involved with Virtual Reality – or really, four. One of them had to do with the philosophy of mathematics, another had to do with direct action politics and the frustrations thereof. The third had to do with musical instrument design, especially a really fantastic thing called a theremin and the fourth had to with the psychology of early childhood, specifically my own. Do you want to hear about all four of them? (laughter)

David: Well, how about how they all came together?

Jaron: Well, that’s the most mysterious of all because, of course, life is experienced mostly in anticipation and retrospect and only at rare moments in the present. So, I anticipated wondrous things without really believing them and then suddenly found they’d happened, but I can hardly even remember when they did. But somehow this whole Virtual Reality thing has been taken seriously by the world and has become a field in it’s own right.

David: I first became acquainted with your computer work many years ago when it was featured on the cover of an issue of Scientific American. What was that about?

Jaron: That was probably the first of two different Scientific American covers. It relates to one of those four tracks, which is the philosophy of mathematics. I studied math in graduate school. If you’ve ever been around a math school, you notice a very strange phenomenon which is that people who have already learned some new math thing refer to that thing as trivial, while the people who are learning it for the first time refer to it as abominably difficult. Same people, same items – just different moments in time.

So the question is; What’s going on? Is this just a sort of a hubris, or is there something particularly unusual about the process of learning math and understanding it? I was suspicious that the way that math was communicated and the way it was understood were completely different, that math had to be understood somewhat visually or perhaps in something of a process way – playing with images and shapes inside one’s imagination.

Math was taught and expressed in notation systems and I thought, maybe the notation system is the problem. But then as soon as you think that, you have to ask yourself, what of mathematics is left once you take away the notation system? And that’s a very hard question because the traditional view of most mathematics almost equates it with at least some kind of notation system.

David: But isn’t the dynamic pattern left, which the notation system is expressing?

Jaron: It depends on the type of math. Some types of math are largely a by-product of notation, like algebra – at least, that’s my interpretation. There are some kinds of math which are a little ambiguous. If you’re talking about the mathematics of dynamic flows and that sort of thing, indeed the flows exist without the math, but a lot of abstract math might not exist effectively without some kind of notation. It’s just not clear – it’s a hard problem.

So, I became interested in the idea of having computer pictures of mathematical structures, pictorial interpretations that would be modified in real time to express the movement of mathematical ideas. I was fortunate to get hired as part of an NSF project – I was just a kid in my teens – and I worked with a group of people doing a college level curriculum in mathematics using pictures which these days would not be too radical or exciting, but which in those days was pretty unusual.

That project had mixed results, but I became very interested in the process of programming. I started to think, well, maybe you can look at computers and computer programming as a simplified mirror of the problem of mathematics and mathematical notation, but where the situation is much less ambiguous. There are some similarities. In computers, you have a notation (a programming language), that tells the computer what to do, and then there’s what the computer actually does. Unlike math, there’s no trouble defining the reality of what the computer actually does, as a separate matter from the notation.

So you can ask yourself, is there some better way to understand what the computer is doing than using the usual programming notation? And if you could come up with something that was an interactive visual representation of what the computer’s doing, would that give you any inspiration (getting back to the original question) towards being able to express math ideas in a better way?

David: Was that an original thought? It sounds like a really unique way of looking at it.

Jaron: No, although I didn’t know of his work at the time, the first person to think about visual programming languages, as far as I know, was a particularly brilliant guy namedIvan Sutherland who also invented the head-mounted display and computer graphics in general and who is a very important seminal figure in twentieth-century culture and science. The idea of a visual version of math, on the other hand, has fascinated many people, like G. Spencer Brown.

So I became immersed in the world of programming language design and I was very fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time and be somewhat taken under the wing of some of the people who’d invented the standard programming languages in use. I started developing a big “virtual” programming language and it was an off-shoot of that work, which was oriented towards children, which was on the cover of Scientific American in 1984.

The early team included some wonderful and brilliant minds, like Chuck Blanchard, Young Harvill, Tom Zimmerman, and Steve Bryson. The biggest problem we had, in that early work, was that the screen was too small a window – a frustratingly tiny

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Jerry Garcia

Tales of the Living Dead

“There is a human drive to celebrate, and we provide ritual celebration in a society that doesn’t have much of it.”

with Jerry Garcia

 

When you’ve had a street named after you, then you can congratulate yourself on a certain notoriety. But when you’ve had an ice cream named after you–well, that is the kind of recognition which dreams are made ~ After thirty years of playing with one of the most successful bands in rock and roll history, Jerry Garcia finds himself at the age of fifty-one, at the zenith of his popularity. The Grateful Dead the sixties-gone-nineties rock band hers recorded over a hundred albums and plays more live shows than almost anyone anywhere. And their concerts are always sold out.

With its own magazine, Internet status, and booming merchandising industry, the group is a musical phenomenon of mythical proportions. But Jerry Garcia shrugs his shoulders with genuine innocence in the face of it all. Is it the band that has spawned the semi-nomadic tribe whose members roam the country like medieval minstrels, living on veggie burgers, psychedelics, love, and of course, the promise of a ticket to the next show ? Or is it that the aspirations and values of the sixties just refuse to die, and the Grateful Dead is simply a conduit for their continued expression ?

Jerry Garcia began playing with the Warlocks in 1965, and in the same year the Grateful Dead was formed. He developed his improvisational style at the infamous “acid tests, ” where the Grateful Dead was often the house hand. The Jerry Garcia Band, formed in /975, is as popular as the Dead. It has a more blues-oriented, gritty sound, but maintains Jerry’s distinctive psychedelic edge.

Garcia is almost supernatural status got an extra boost when he journeyed into the jaws of Death and back, after falling into a diabetic coma. He has reached a point in his career where, if he were half-asleep and out of tune, the audience would still hang on every note with a reverent sigh. Who is this man who has catalyzed peak experiences in young and old for three decades. He describes himself as a “good ‘ol’ celebrity,” although at shows you’re likely to see at least one starry-eyed youth coddling a sign declaring that “Jerry is God. ” Many fans are convinced he is not from this planet.

The interview took place at the Grateful Dead’s homey headquarters in San Rafael, California With his full, white beard and wise-owl eyes, Jerry Garcia looks ready to pass out the clay tablets, yet when he smiles, the Old Testament prophet is transformed into a self-parodying garden gnome, who has walked the yellow-brick road of success simply by doing what he loves.

RMN

Jerry: I’ll take off my glasses. They don’t convey much humanity.

David: Jerry, how did you start playing music?

Jerry: My father was a professional musician, my mother was an amateur. I grew up in a musical household and took piano lessons as far back as I can remember. There was never a time in my life that music wasn’t a part of.

The first time I decided that music was something I wanted to do, apart from just being surrounded by it, was when I was about fifteen. I developed this deep craving to play the electric guitar. I fell in love with rock `n roll, I wanted to make that sound so badly. So I got a pawn shop electric guitar and a little amplifier and I started without the benefit of anybody else around me who played the guitar or any books.

My step-father put it in an open tuning of some kind and I taught myself how to play by ear. I did that for about a year until I ran into a kid at school who knew three chords on the guitar and also the correct way to tune it. That’s when I started to play around at it, then I picked things up. I never took lessons or anything.

David: Who particularly inspired you?

Jerry: Actually no particular musician inspired me, apart from maybe Chuck Berry. But all of the music from the fifties inspired me. I didn’t really start to get serious about music until I was eighteen and I heard my first bluegrass music. I heard Earl Scruggs play five-string banjo and I thought, that’s something I have to be able to do. I fell in love with the sound and I started earnestly trying to do exactly what I was hearing. That became the basis for everything else – that was my model.

Rebecca: Jumping ahead a few years. During the sixties you played a lot of acid-tests when you could fit all your equipment into a single truck. How do you compare those early days to now? Do you enjoy it as much?

Jerry: Well, in some ways it’s better and in some ways it’s not. The thing that was fun about those days was that nothing was expected of us. We didn’t have to play. (laughter)We weren’t required to perform. People came to acid-tests for the acid-test, not for us.

So there were times when we would play two or three tunes or even a couple of notes and just stop. We’d say, to hell with it, we don’t feel like playing! It was great to have that kind of freedom because before that we were playing five sets a night, fifty minutes on, ten minutes off every hour. We were doing that six nights a week and then usually we’d have another afternoon gig and another night-time gig on Sunday. So we were playing a lot!

So all of a sudden you’re at the acid-test and hey, you didn’t even have to play. Also we weren’t required to play anything even acceptable. We could play whatever we wanted. So it was a chance to be completely free-form on every level. As far as a way to break out from an intensely formal kind of experience it was just what we needed, because we were looking to break out.

Rebecca: And you’re still able to maintain that free-form style to a certain extent even though you’re now more restricted by scheduling and order?

Jerry: Well, also we’re required to be competent, but the sense of accomplishment has improved a lot. Now when we play, the worst playing we do isn’t too bad. So the lowest level has come way up, and statistically the odds have improved in our favor.

Rebecca: What do you think it is about the Grateful Dead that has allowed you such lasting popularity which has spanned generations?

Jerry: I wish I knew. (laughter)

Rebecca: Do you think you can define it?

Jerry: I don’t know whether I want to particularly. Part of it’s magic is that we’ve always avoided defining any part of it, and the effect seems to be that in not defining it, it becomes everything. I prefer that over anything that I might think of.

David: When you say everything, do you mean something different for everyone?

Jerry: Well, that’s one way of saying it, yeah. But the other way of looking at it, from a purely musical point of view, is that it becomes a full-range experience. There’s nothing that we won’t try. It means everything is available to us. It also works from an audience point of view too. We’re whatever the audience wants us to be, we’re whatever they think we are.

Rebecca: Do you think there is a timeless quality about your music that appeals to people?

Jerry: I’d like to believe there’s something like that, but I have no idea, really. There is a human drive to celebrate and we provide ritual celebration in a society that doesn’t have much of it. It really should be part of religion. It happens to work for us because people have learned to trust the environment that it occurs in.

Rebecca: Do you feel at all disillusioned at the rate of social evolution? In the sixties, many people thought that massive social change was just around the corner?

Jerry: I never was that optimistic. I never thought that things were going to get magically better. I thought that we were experiencing a lucky vacation from the rest of consensual reality to try stuff out. We were privileged in a sense. I didn’t have anything invested in the idea that the world was going to change. Our world certainly changed. (laughter)Our part of it did what it was supposed to do, and it’s continuing to do it, continuing to evolve. It’s a process. I believe that if you open the door to the process, it tells you how to do it and it works. It’s a life strategy that I think anyone can employ.

David: How do you feel about the fact that many people have interpreted your music as the inspiration for a whole lifestyle – the Deadhead culture?

Jerry: Well, a little silly! (laughter) You always feel about your own work that it’s never quite what it should be. There’s always a dissonance between what you wish was happening and what is actually happening. That’s the nature of creativity, that there’s a certain level of disappointment in there.

So, on one level it’s amusing that

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Annie Sprinkle

The Pleasure Principle

“Let there be pleasure on earth and let it begin with me.”

with Annie Sprinkle

Annie Sprinkle is mostly known as the porn star/prostitute who became a performance artist/sex guru. She spent many years exploring a multitude of. sexual possibilities in Manhattan’s kinky sex clubs and through her roles in hundreds of hard-core XXX films, where she achieved legendary status and such earned titles as “the queen of Kink, ” “the Mother Teresa of Sex, ” “the Shirley MacLaine of Smut, ” and “the Renaissance Woman of Porn. ” As an exhibitionist who liked to do it all, she posed for every major, minor sex and fetish magazine there is, and she was a “Photo Funny Girl “for National Lampoon for two years. All along Annie has been a very creative individual, but recently she has emerged as what she describes as a “post-porn modernist, ” creating her own eclectic brand of feminist, sexually explicit media. Her latest one-woman show is part autobiography, part parody of the porn industry, part sex education, and part sex-magic ecstasy ritual. It is controversial, powerful, and popular

After twenty-two years of devoting her life to learning and experiencing all she could about sex and doing sex work, Annie has become a unique kind of expert. She has authored three hundred articles on the topic, as well as an autobiographical book entitled Annie Sprinkle: Post-Porn Modernist. She produced and directed several videos, including the lesbian classic The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop, or How To Be a Sex Goddess in 101 Easy Steps. She has been invited to teach and lecture at many museums, universities, and holistic: healing centers, including such prestigious institutions as Columbia University, the Museum of Modern Art, the Wise Woman ‘s Center New York University, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Some of the topics she ‘s presented are the “Pleasures, Profits, and Politics of Women’s- Sexualities in the ’90s, ” “Sacred Sex Technologies, ” “Cosmic Orgasm Awareness, ” and the “Secrets of Sacred Slutism. ” HBO ran two specials on her work. She ‘s such a “character” that someone has even created a comic-book series about her:

Midway through Annie’s career her views about sexuality changed radically when the AIDS crisis hit and Anni ‘s lover was infected (although Annie never was). Through having to practice totally safe sex, she learned that sex is not just about bodies coming together and the electric embrace of genitalia, but also about the exchange of energy. Consequently, her work merged with the long tradition of achieving health, well-being, and spiritual growth through meditative sexual union. Annie metamorphosed into the more multidimensional incarnation Anya, whose goal is to get a handle on the source of orgasmic energy, and who is inspired by the archetypes of the sacred prostitute and the Goddess.

At present, Annie is half-finished with a feature documentary about orgasm, Orgasm Scrapbook. She is also making a deck of “Pleasure Activist Playing Cards” from photographs of women she has taken over the years, and marketing her own designer dildo, the Sacred Sex Tool. She is experimenting with monogamy, “Zen sex, ” gender play, and training her girlfriend’s dog, Hillary, to give her cunnilingus.

Annie has a big, warm heart and a very sweet spirit. She seems to completely lack any inhibition or guilt regarding sexuality, yet she is actually kind of shy. She ‘s optimistic, funny, sensuous, and she appears to be a genuinely happy person, often hovering, it seems, on the verge of orgasm. Rebecca and / interviewed Annie on November 1, 1992 at her parent’s house in Granada Hills, the Southern California home in which she grew up and where she was visiting at the time. The house was quite ordinary, rather conservative, and nothing gave the slightest hint that this place would have produced an Annie Sprinkle. We conducted the interview in the back yard by the pool. When her mom walked by, Annie whispered “Sh … I don ‘t want her to hear us talking about my sex life. It makes me nervous, ” We interviewed her again in Maul, Hawaii, on July 26, 1993. Just as we began the interview, Annie said that she had to stop because she needed to orgasm. So I switched off the tape recorder; and she went into the other room and turned on her vibrator. She returned five minutes later with a smile on he rface. “Okay, ” she said, “now we can begin. “

DJB

David: Annie, how did you become interested you in sex and how did your early development influence your later career choices?

Annie: You’re at Granada Hills, the place where I grew up. This place is very white bred and straight and I wasn’t aware of any sexuality when I was young. The only thing that really turned me on was the swimming pool, but I wasn’t a sensual, sexual child because it was such a great mystery. I feel kind of sad that all that time was wasted. I could really have being enjoying myself. (laughter)

David: Can you see what it was that inspired your interest?

Annie: What clearly inspired my interest was the ignorance and fear. I used to wake up in the morning having to pee. I was having orgasms, I think. The full bladder pressed against my clitoris, or something, so I’ve connected peeing with eroticism a lot. (You know, the clitoris is much bigger now. According to the feminist view, the clitoris is a hugestructure – it’s almost as big as a penis) And then there was a big nothing period in my life. What I was more focused on was menstruation. That was the big, scary thing. All my questions were about that and I didn’t even know about sex. I heard a little bit in the playground at school, but that was it.

Rebecca: So there wasn’t any sex education to speak of?

Annie: There wasn’t, no. There was the egg and the ovum – the biology of sex, but nothing practical at all! When I discovered how great sex was that made me mad. I lost my virginity at seventeen and I thought, “this is great, everyone should know about this. How come nothing is being done about this?” (laughter)

I think that losing my virginity was one of the happiest days of my life up to that point.(laughter) A year later I moved into prostitution and that was another really happy transition for me. When I discovered sex, I thought, “I’ve got to learn more about this, this is the greatest thing.” And that’s really been my focus in life.

Rebecca: Why do you think sex has become so distorted? Do you think it’s just the effect of Christianity or are there other factors?

Annie: I think that had a lot to do with it. And also the idea that sex was dangerous for women and also a source of power. I think when women express their sexual power, it freaks men out a lot. So I think it was suppressed partly because of that. Also there’s disease – it’s a very dangerous thing. (laughter) It’s dangerous on the one hand, and it’s total liberation and freedom and joy and ecstasy on the other.

Rebecca: What do you think are some of the worst social consequences of a culture which denies the body and sexual freedom?

Annie: War, drug abuse, suicide, loneliness, skin diseases, cancers, violence, rape.

Rebecca: Zits.(laughter) So you regard sex as fundamental to a healthy life?

Annie: Yes. And suppressing it makes people crazy. All the fear and ignorance around it is amazing. But then, that’s part of the fun.

Rebecca: Part of the fun? (laughter)

Annie: It’s such a huge subject, you know. It’s really enormous.

Rebecca: It seems that sex was beginning to be viewed with more openness in the sixties. Then AIDS came along and alarm bells went off again with this whole fundamentalist exclusiveness against homosexuality. Do you think AIDS has polarized the issue of sexual freedom so much that there is little hope for constructive understanding between the two sides?

Annie: I think it’s normal. There’s this pendulum of freedom and repression that goes back and forth in relation to sex as well as to many other things. And now, because of AIDS, sex is considered dangerous again. But it’s not going away. Sex cannot be repressed. On the whole it’s spurring everyone on. I always look on the positive side of everything. Of course there are many sides, but there is a lot of great stuff happening in terms of sex. You have more freedom to be gay and lesbian than there ever were before. You go to high school and there are all these little baby dykes.

David: You see that in California quite a bit, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on in the rest of the country.

Annie: Well, I have no idea.

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Marija Gimbutas

Learning the Language of the Goddess

“Through an understanding of what the Goddess was, we can better understand nature and we can build our ideologies so that it will be easier for us to live.”

With Marija Gimbutas

Marija Gimbutas is largely responsible for the resurgence of interest in Goddess-oriented religions. Her discoveries were the foundation for Riane Eisler ‘s (whom we interviewed in our first volume) highly influential book, The Chalice and the Blade. For fifteen years, Marija was involved with excavations in southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean, which revealed the existence of a prehistoric Goddess-oriented culture. For at least 25, 000 years this peaceful civilization seemingly practiced complete equal rights between the sexes–socially, politically, and spiritually. As Riane Eisler pointed out, the full implications of this discovery have yet to be fully realized by the scientific community, or by society at large.

Born in Lithuania during a time when 50 percent of the population was still pagan, Gimbutas fled to Austria because of the war. In Vilnius, Lithuania, and later in Vienna, Innsbruck, and Tubingen, she studied linguistics, archaeology, and Indo-European cultures, obtaining her doctorate in Tubingen, Germany in 1946. In 1950, as an expert in eastern European archaeology, she became a research fellow at Harvard, where she remained for twelve years. In 1963 she came to UCLA, where she served as emeritus professor of European archaeology for many years. She is the author of more than twenty books, including well-known works such as The Language of the Goddess, The Civilization of the Goddess, and Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe.

We interviewed Marija at her beautiful mountain home–which overflowed with big-breasted wide-hipped goddess figurines and other archaeological artifacts–in Topanga Canyon, California an October 3, 1992. When Marija died on February 2, 1994, we felt very sad bur also fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with her before she departed Even though she battled lymphatic cancer for many years, Marija was vitally alive and active right up until the very end. On June 27, 1993, the Frauen Museum in Wiesbaden, Germany dedicated to her an extensive exhibit, “The Language of the Goddess,” and she was there to receive the honor

After spending much of her life in relative academic obscurity, Marija Seemed to be genuinely surprised to discover how popular she had become. For all her accomplishments, she was always humble and gracious. Marija had an incredibly warm, sprite-like spirit, lively eyes, and a way ofl making you feel very comfortable around her She appeared delicate and graceful, yet Jilled with strength. There was something timeless about Marija, for she was a woman of many times and places, and the Goddess seemed to shine right through her.

 

DJB

David: What was it that originally inspired your interest in the archaeological and mythological dimensions of the Goddess orientated religions of Old Europe?

Marija: It has to do with the whole of my life, I think. I was always a black sheep. I did what I saw with my own eyes – to this day, in fact. I was very independent. My mother was also very independent. She was one of the first students of medicine in Switzerland and Germany when there were no other girls studying.

I was born in Lithuania when it was still fifty percent pagan. I had quite a lot of direct connections to the Goddesses. They were around me in my childhood. The GoddessLaima was there, she could call at night and look through the windows. When a woman is giving birth she appears, and the grandmother is there organizing things. She has gifts for the Goddess towels and woven materials are laid for her, because she weaves the life, she is the spinner. She may be on the way to disappear, but fifty years ago she was still there.

Rebecca: When you say pagans, you mean people living in the countryside, close to nature?

Marija: Yes, well Lithuania was Christianized only in the fourteenth century and even then it didn’t mean much because it was done by missionaries who didn’t understand the language, and the countryside remained pagan for at least two or three centuries. And then came the Jesuits who started to convert people in the sixteenth century.

In some areas, up to the nineteenth and twentieth century, there were still beliefs alive in Goddesses and all kinds of beings. So in my childhood I was exposed to many things which were almost prehistoric, I would say. And when I studied archaeology, it was easier for me to grasp what these sculptures mean than for an archaeologist born in New York, who doesn’t know anything about the countryside life in Europe.(laughter)

I first studied linguistics, ethnology and folklore. I collected folklore myself when I was in high school. And there was always a question; what is my own culture? I heard a lot about the Indo-Europeans and that our language, Lithuanian, was a very old, conservative Indo-European language. I was interested in that. I studied the Indo-European language and comparative Indo-European studies, and at that time there was no question about what was before the Indo-Europeans. It was good enough to know that the Indo-Europeans were already there.(laughter) The question of what was before came much later.

Then, because of the war, I had to flee from Lithuania. I studied in Austria, in Vienna, then I got my Ph.D in Germany. I still continued to be interested in my own Lithuanian, ancient culture and I did some things in addition to my official studies. I was doing research in symbolism and I collected materials from libraries. So that is one trend in my interest – ancient religion, pagan religion and symbolism. My dissertation was also connected with this. It was about the burial rites and beliefs in afterlife and it was published in Germany in 1946.

Then I came to the United States and had the opportunity to begin studies in eastern European archaeology and in 1950 I became a research fellow at Harvard and I was there for twelve years. I had to learn from scratch because there was nobody in the whole United States who was really knowledgeable about what was in Russia or the Soviet Union in prehistoric times. So they invited me to write a book on eastern European prehistory and I spent about fifteen years doing this. So that was my background of learning.

Rebecca: Did you anticipate the incredible interest that this research would fuel?

Marija: No. At that time I was just an archaeologist doing my work, studying everything that I could. And after than came the Bronze Age studies, and this gave me another aspect on this Indo-European culture. In my first book I wrote about eastern European archaeology, I started my hypothesis on the Indo-European origins in Europe and this hypothesis still works and hasn’t changed much.

Rebecca: Could you describe your hypothesis?

Marija: These proto-Indo-European people came from South Russia to Europe, introduced the Indo-European culture and then European culture was hybridized. It was the old culture mixed with the new elements – the Steppe, pastoral, patriarchal elements. So already at that time, thirty years ago, I sensed that, in Europe there was something else before the Indo-Europeans. But I still didn’t do anything about the Goddess, about sculptures, or art, or painted pottery. I just knew that it existed but I didn’t really have the chance to dive into the field.

The occasion appeared when I came to UCLA in 1963 and from 1967 I started excavations in south-east Europe, in Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy, and did that for fifteen years. When I was traveling in Europe and visiting museums I was already building some understanding of what this culture was like before the

Indo-Europeans, before the patriarchy.

It was always a big question mark to me; what could it be? This is so different. Painted pottery, for instance, beautiful pottery. And then the sculptures. Nobody really was writing about it. There were so many of them, wherever you went you found hundreds and hundreds. I was just putting in my head what I saw. So then I started my own excavations and I discovered at least five hundred sculptures myself.

Rebecca: How deep did you have to dig?

Marija: It depended. Sometimes at a site of 5,000 B.C, it was on top. You could walk through the houses of 7,000 years ago! Other times you have to dig deep to reach that. Usually you excavate sites which are already exposed, which are known and where people are finding objects of

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