would not worry me terribly if there weren’t, because it seems to me logical that when I fall asleep, I disappear. I could not really complain if that happened to me after I died. It would seem natural to say that the solution to the problem of human existence lies elsewhere than in the notion that we have got to continue to exist. And yet the evidence is that we do continue to exist. And I don’t think that there’s any possible doubt about it.
DJB: Why do you think there’s such a fear of death then?
COLIN: For the obvious reason that most people are not aware of this. I’m not even sure that it would be terribly good for them to be aware of it. As it is, people who have near-death experiences say that it’s so exquisite that they are often resentful about being pulled back. It would be too bad if death became, as it were, the outlet for everybody in the way that drugs or alcohol can be.
DJB: That sounds like a good design for the universe. Have you ever had any experiences communicating with beings that you felt were extraterrestrial in origin, or not from this world?
DJB: You have said that evidence for free will stems not from recognizing that we robotically fulfill desires like hunger and sleep, but from the recognition that we can think what we want. But how do you know that you can think what you want–especially in light of the knowledge that by changing neurochemistry we change consciousness?
COLIN: I said that William James’ proof that he was not just a machine, that he possesses free will, was this recognition that you can think one thing rather than another. And there’s no doubt whatever that we can do that. You may feel that everything else is mechanically determined, that what I do next can be explained in completely mechanical terms. I am going to dinner because I am hungry, and so on and so forth. But there is that one thing that makes it absolutely certain that we do possess free will, and that is the fact that you can think one thing rather than another. You can change in mid-stride, so to speak, and think something else.
DJB: Why do you view the psychedelic experience as a step backwards in evolution–to our instincts, as you say–when so many people seem to claim just the opposite?
COLIN: If Tim Leary’s claim was that you could, use the psychedelic experience to find your way into new realms of subjectivity, and then use it to find your way back there without the psychedelic, I would agree, it would be extremely valuable. What tends to happen is that when people get into these realms they find that there are no words to express what they are seeing, and so in a sense the experience is useless. They can just say, well it was wonderful. And what’s more, of course, this kind of experience of–it was wonderful, but I can’t express it–tends, I think, to cause a kind of pessimism, a feeling that the only way I can get the experience is by taking the psychedelic again. Which is the reason, you see, that, as I say, after taking it once myself, I would not dream of taking it again.
DJB: But if people were able to integrate it into their lives in a meaningful way?
COLIN: Yup. If they were able to integrate it, I would entirely agree.
DJB: How do you see human consciousness evolving in the future, and what do you think the next stage in human evolution will be?
COLIN: That is something that I’ve been trying to explain all weekend. At the moment we have passed through centuries in which the pendulum has swung backwards and forwards between total materialism and a curious desire of human beings to explore their own potentialities, a weird feeling that you know there’s far more than the material world. Succeeding movements from the platonic movement in ancient Greece, right down to Romanticism in the nineteenth century, and this present consciousness explosion that you’re now getting in America–all of these are back swings.
You see, when I wrote The Outsider most people were determinedly sort of Left-Wing. Any sort of intellectual you would talk to was almost certainly a Marxist or a Left-Winger. And they thought the only sensible question to ask was, how can we get a fairer, more balanced political system. In the sixties all that disappeared, and you suddenly began to get the consciousness explosion, which is still continuing. Now the swing is towards the recognition that the consciousness explosion is the answer. We have got to keep moving in that direction.
There must be no back swing into total materialism. This, you see, is the really interesting and exciting thing that’s happening. We’ve got to stop thinking in terms of possibly going back. Whatever happens now, we must go forward. I think that we have now reached a point in human evolution where we could go forward and permanently get up to the next step on which we would stay.
DJB: Do you know of any techniques to maintain what Maslow has termed “peak experiences” in our day-to-day