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Archive for the ‘alien languages’ Category

This could be strange.  The blog format makes the first into the last, as the posts layer in time, reversing the actual order.  But what the hell.  We’ll see how it goes.  Here’s the abstract.  The sign at the trailhead.  Where we’re going, but no notes on the roughness of the terrain, the length of the trail, the steepness of the climb–or descent.

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Communicating the Unspeakable: Linguistic Phenomena in the Psychedelic Sphere

Psychedelics can enable a broad and paradoxical spectrum of linguistic phenomena from the unspeakability of mystical experience to the eloquence of the songs of the shaman or curandera. Interior dialogues with the Other, whether framed as the voice of the Logos, an alien download, or communion with ancestors and spirits, are relatively common.  Sentient visual languages are encountered, their forms unrelated to the representation of speech in natural language writing systems.  This thesis constructs a theoretical model of linguistic phenomena encountered in the psychedelic sphere for the field of altered states of consciousness research (ASCR).  The model is developed from a neurophenomenological perspective, especially Michael Winkelman’s work in shamanistic ASC, which in turn builds on the biogenetic structuralism of Charles Laughlin, John McManus, and Eugene d’Aquili.  Neurophenomenology relates the physical and functional organization of the brain to the subjective reports of lived experience in altered states as mutually informative, without reducing consciousness to one or the other.  Consciousness is seen as a dynamic process of the recursive interaction of biology and culture, thereby navigating the traditional dichotomies of objective/subjective, body/mind, and inner/outer realities that problematically characterize much of the discourse in consciousness studies.  The theoretical work of Renaissance scholar Steven Farmer on the evolution of syncretic and correlative systems and their relation to neurobiological structures provides a further framework for the exegesis of the first-person texts of long-term psychedelic self-exploration. Since the classification of most psychedelics as Schedule I drugs, legal research came to a halt; self-experimentation as research did not.  Scientists such as Timothy Leary and John Lilly became outlaw scientists, a social aspect of the “unspeakability” of these experiences. Academic ASCR has largely side-stepped examination of the extensive literature of psychedelic self-exploration. This thesis examines aspects of both form and content of a selection of these works, focusing on those that treat linguistic phenomena, and asking what these linguistic experiences can tell us about how the psychedelic landscape can be navigated, interpreted, and communicated within its own experiential field, and communicated about to make the data accessible to inter-subjective comparison and validation.  The methodological core of this practice-based research is a technoetic practice as defined by artist and theoretician Roy Ascott: the exploration of consciousness through interactive, artistic, and psychoactive technologies.  The iterative process of psychedelic self-exploration and creation of multi-vocal and multimodal texts, is framed as technoetic practice.

 

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I’ll be performing with composer and sound designer Stephan Moore at Roulette in NYC at 8:30 PM, 20 Greene St. on the 21st of June, part of the MIXOLOGY series. Stephan on laptop audio; Diana on visual–LiveGlide performance video. They will be joined by dancer/choreographer Kimberly Young, who will being using a Wii remote to dance–and dance with–the LiveGlide forms on the screen. LiveGlide’s origins as a gestural language brings the technical development of this alien digital 3D writing instrument full circle to its gestural roots. Sensory enhancement suggested. More information on the Roulette website.

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I returned recently from the World Psychedelic Forum in Basel, March 21-24, 2008. It was massive. It was beautifully organized. The shift to a psychedelically informed culture is well underway. 1900-plus people, from 37 countries attended the four day event, according to Dieter Hagenbach, of gaiamedia, organizers of the event. A big bookstore. A room dedicated to video presentations—art and documentary.

SNAPSHOTS of the Forum…..

There were at least four simultaneous tracks of presentations, but you could pick up the ones you missed on DVD hours after they were given. It’s worth a look at the program to see the depth and breadth of topics covered. Uses of psychedelics beyond the medical and psychiatric applications were covered: cognitive enhancement, sensory acuity; heart opening; the ecodelic insights and teaching; creativity, innovation, novelty applied to various disciplines; problem-solving and its relation to intelligence and intelligence agents; and aesthetics and art.

KATHLEEN HARRISON

I’m not even going to attempt to review individual presentations, beyond a few impressions from my own peculiar viewpoint. Like how funny Dennis McKenna is in his talks. As droll as Terence was, only with his own biochemical flavors.

DENNIS MCKENNA

Rick Doblin (founder of M.A.P.S.) is as persuasive a man as I’ve ever heard—and keeping up the good cheer and relentless pursuit of the goal of legitimizing psychedelic research for this many years is a superhuman feat in itself. Or the grounded good sense of Mountain Girl, who kept reminding me of Wild West Woman Calamity Jane.

ALLYSON GREY

But the conversations with people synchronistically woven into my life—there lay sheer magic. Speaking with a woman who has been trying to find the perfect circumstance for taking a psychedelic for the first time—for 30 years, I think she said. Tjalle, a seasoned psychonaut with her own long history, practicing in Egypt, brought me tales of other xenolinguists. There was Frank, who understands the birth of new languages in the psychedelic sphere. And Sita, gateway to the Ayahuasca Convergence 2008. Sara, feisty aerial dancer from Bristol….
I gave a presentation in a Rising Researchers session—which I was entirely too worked up about, and ended having to improvise due to tech troubles. The talk turned into a statement not so much about my work in Xenolinguistics, but some personal thoughts and feelings. I’ve felt positively squeamish at times, not (only) due to the agoraphobia of coming out of the nested closets I’ve built around “the work.” The politics of academic knowledge demand conformity to certain paradigms that exclude key forms of knowing opened by psychedelics. Subjectivity, for starters. Transdisciplinarity. Heart knowledge, and how it isn’t necessarily separate from analytical approaches. I question myself, deeply, every step of the way, as to what I am omitting, what is unspeakable at the level of academic practice circa the early 21st century. Or how I am reducing aspects of psychedelic experience to current paradigms of disciplinary knowledge, to communicate at all, to be understood, much less to convince. It’s been a rhetorical issue in part: how much can I shape my material to the available discourses without losing its essential qualities and meanings? It’s an ethical issue for me, beneath it all. In the quest for acceptance, how to maintain the passion of the quest? I saw no lack of passion among the well-known or the rising researchers. And, for myself, a reaffirmation: the articulation of what I have experienced in this nine year noetic quest to understand a set of psychedelically informed alien linguistic signs must, to have a maximum value to myself or others, be accomplished in a manner which is true to the material being studied, first and foremost, even if that material exceeds the bounds of current disciplinary paradigms, and commonly employed methodologies.
What I saw in Basel was a surge of confidence across the entire varied field of psychedelic studies, above ground and under. Factually, most have a foot in both worlds. The closing ceremonies were deeply moving. Jon Hanna played a taped phone call from Casey Hardison, acid chemist currently in jail in the UK, trying to break into new legal territory in his own defense. Hanna reminded us of the role played by the outlaw scientists who provide our sacraments, and our research materials, and that the vast amount of psychedelic research is underground. That a few sprouts are being given sanction to grow above ground, after all these years, is tribute to those who have been fighting the battles, steadily, for so long. But this growth rests on the underground. To state the obvious—how many who are now pursuing psychedelic research had the life-changing experiences that resulted in the pursuit of an academically-iffy-at-best career in a legal setting? And it’s this vast mycelial underground of personal connections, and material and information interchange, including technologies of cultivation, which is now spreading at warp speed. Thanks to the WWW (mycelial in structure), the super-structures of the blogosphere and social networking, the power and specific targeting of the search engines, and the growth of high signal-to-noise repositories of information such as Erowid, M.A.P.S., and the Council on Spiritual Practices, and the podcasts on Matrixmasters (to name a few), the vital knowledge spreads and connects, filament by filament.
The scheduling of psychoactive substances certainly constricted research in the field and can be considered a bug in the program. But I want to suggest that this bug in many cases has been turned into a feature, forcing creative adaptation of the field in order to survive. And research, of course, never stopped.
At the end of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce declared, “I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can, and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use . . . silence, exile, and cunning.”
That strategy has paid big dividends in our field. We’ve become world experts at low-cost, DIY, under the radar research, and media communications. We’ve made chemical, horticultural, psychological, technological, ecological, artistic, and spiritual leaps forward.

Without silence, exile and cunning, and the secret Dublin of the soul, I would not have accomplished my own research, that noetic quest to understand an alien language, Glide.

But for me it’s time to have more speech than silence, which can involve dreaming up ever more apt and creative ways of coming out of the closet. Doing this Ph.D. work is one. As far as exile goes—it seems to be basic to the human condition—that feeling that I’m a stranger in a strange land, that no one speaks my language, that the experience of being known at depth is vanishingly rare. The psychedelics have enabled startling moments of reconciliation of these feelings, across realities. The immanent paradox of these feelings of exile and isolation, the homesick longing of the human soul, is that it is a shared loneliness, a knowledge and a cure found in the boundary dissolutions we’ve felt with psychedelics. Then there’s cunning—I don’t think it’s time to let go of that one just yet.
At the Forum’s big “panorama” sessions, I sat with upwards of a thousand others, listening to the speakers, and looking around the audience—20-somethings to 70-somethings. And younger. And older. [Strikingly absent: faces of color.] I thought about how each of us held a precious store of knowledge: our own psychedelic life-story. Mystical revelations. Prat-falls. Dangerous situations and excesses. Dark and bright traumas. Lessons learned. New knowledge put to use in art, science, healing, relationships, the living of life in the alembic of personal transformation dreaming of collective bettering. However we see ourselves—or others—on the psychedelic paths of exploration, I think it all needs to be said. Not just “for the record” but because it seems necessary to hear about both the diversity of experiences, and the even greater diversity of interpretations of those experiences. And the roles we take on regarding the psychedelic experience. One day, I’m a poor dumb sum’bitch trying to integrate supremely discontinuous states of mind and heart. The next day, I’m an ontological engineer where tinkering meets transformation—repeatedly dismantling the “ego” (whatever that really is) and re-configuring it, with a few new strange pieces, and others gone missing in action forever. I multiplied my own experience by the 1900 people at the Forum in Basel and the whole auditorium transformed into Ali Baba’s cave. Wall to wall treasure, waiting to be told. Stored in secret, obsessive journals, expressed in music and painting and computer animations, in aerial dancing, in new rituals, in huge festivals, in computer programs and botanical gardens and hidden laboratories. Shared perhaps in one’s closest psychedelic circle, or to oneself alone, experimenting solo for years. I know that when others tell their stories of psychedelic self-exploration, get them into print, up on the web, self-published, or best-selling, I read them, every one that crosses my path. I learn from them, deeply. Some stories end in untimely death. Some in deep peace. Some in fame, jail, Nirvana or nuthouse. I want to know it all. The protocols and the pitfalls. The science and the sacred silliness. The recreational, the sacramental, the practical problem-solving, the healing, the going-native stories, the high-dose heroics, and the struggles to bring reasonable discourse into the irrationalities and vested interests of drug policy world-wide. I think there is great great value in these narratives of the long-term development of lives, knowledge, and relationships under the sun and shadow of psychedelics. Our stories. What does it mean to live simultaneously in the mythical and the mundane? How will we find the persons living in adjacent myths, if we don’t state our own? What does it mean to keep faith with a myth while plying a planetside trade, and keeping the usual planetside muddles of relationships, friends, families, afloat? How do we build our own models, outside of, but informed by, the cultures which have been navigating the transdimensional commute for a long time?
Terence McKenna made the point, many times, that it’s the content that is under-represented in our psychedelic discourse. Telling it like it is. As big, or bizarre, or “this changes everything” as it may be. Only when the stories are told, the narratives, unfolding in a single session, or multiple sessions over a period of months or years, can we begin to recognize our maps of any given vision, and see the patterns in the details of the unfolding of longitudinal processes of sequential visionary states, the personal and interpersonal evolution, across reality domains. And find the fellow travelers, living in adjacent myths.

I think it’s worthwhile to give a detailed example of such a myth. In his book, The Cosmic Serpent, Jeremy Narby re-tells Michael Horner’s story of his first ayahuasca journey. This an extensive quote; the detail is important to my argument.
“After multiple episodes, which would be too long to describe here, Harner became convinced that he was dying. He tried calling out to his Conibo friends for an antidote without managing to pronounce a word. Then he saw that his visions emanated from “giant reptilian creatures” resting at the lowest depths of his brain. These creatures began projecting scenes in front of his eyes, while informing him that this information was reserved for the dying and the dead: ‘First they showed me the planet Earth as it was eons ago, before there was any life on it. I saw an ocean, barren land, and a bright blue sky. Then black specks dropped from the sky by the hundreds and landed in front of me on the barren landscape. I could see the ‘specks’ were actually large, shiny black creatures with tubby pterodactyl-like wings and huge whale-like bodies…They explained to me in a kind of thought language that they were fleeing from something out in space. They had come to the planet earth to escape their enemy. The creatures then showed me how they had created life on the planet in order to hide within the multitudinous forms and thus disguise their presence. Before me, the magnificence of plant and animal creation and speciation—hundreds of millions of years of activity—took place on a scale and with a vividness impossible to describe. I learned that the dragon-like creatures were thus inside all forms of life, including man.’
At the point in his account, Harner writes in a footnote at the bottom of the page: In retrospect one could say they were almost like DNA, although at that time, 1961, I knew nothing of DNA.”

Narby makes the connections between the ayahuasqueros superior and detailed plant knowledge, the representations of twined serpents, and the forms of DNA, finding DNA to be, essentially, minded, intelligent, and communicating—intra-cellularly, inter-cellularly, inter-organism, and inter-species. Life is a vast, complex, interconnected signaling system, with DNA as the transceiver, and biophotonic emissions as the signals—and sources of at least some aspect of the visions one sees in psychedelic states. But what about the narrative? The creatures fleeing an enemy through interstellar space, landing here, creating life-forms to hide within and “disguise their presence”? Having had a similar vision myself, with a similar narrative attached, on a high-dose psilocybin journey, what shall I make of this? Who else has had this particular story emblazoned, full of urgency and amazement, on their minds in a psychedelic state? How do these similar narratives arise, in all their detail, independently, under conditions of extreme consciousness alteration? What does this tell us about how myths arise? But why? How? And if I repeat this story now, adding my own, as Narby repeats Harner’s story—will there be other readers who remember some similar story, who are living in adjacent myths? And how do we then interpret these events? If DNA not only holds a vast store of information, linguistically structured, but is also intelligent—minded—and connected to the mostly similar DNA in the highly diverse, complexly related, and deeply nested organisms, across vast scalar differences–well, we’ve arrived at the Gaia hypothesis, haven’t we? And/or the noosphere. So—visions present stories, stories beg for an interpretative framework. But it is the network of interconnected stories (scientific, visionary) about the network of interconnected life-forms that reveal this planet as a wonder we take mostly for granted, a wonder that is restored in psychedelic states.
Our stories are important. The content beyond even such taxonomic triumphs as Shanon’s Antipodes of the Mind. The visions, as revealed in single journeys, and developed over many explorations, form their epic narratives—and connect to other stories, to form the larger narratives. And there is noetic treasure here that can help us track, and relate, and understand, a little at a time, these psychedelic experiences, form larger pictures, compare the master narratives that emerge, compare the models that are being put forth, share local knowledge, attempt maps. Whether we frame these changes that psychedelics are bringing about on individual and cultural domains as revolution or evolution, whether we characterize them as catalysts, solvents, sacraments, teachers, alien intelligences, the keys to the kingdom, or the open sesame to Ali Baba’s cave, will be part of the discourse for a long time to come.

Oh–and here’s a video clip I didn’t get to show in Basel. Glide and the I Ching.

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Xenolinguistics: the scientific study of languages of non-human intelligences. Publications in this field tend to be speculative as few people have made the claim to have understood an alien language, at least not reliably.
—Wikuniversity

Hallucinations as Alien Art

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The key to this discussion is a conceit of the extraordinary vision-producing ability unleashed in consciousness by psychedelics, as alien art: aesthetic productions of an unknown, hence alien, source. Whether the alien is an unknown (normally unconscious) aspect of the Self, an Other, or a blended configuration of Self and Other, can be held in abeyance as part of the high strangeness of the experience. Alien art is construed as an epistemological strategy of the Other in the psychedelic sphere for knowledge acquisition and transmission. This view is in sharp contrast to the notion of hallucinations as mechanically generated “form constants,” abstract geometries with no semantic dimension per se. (1) It is closer to the narrative and highly significant (for the experiencing individual) 1st person reports in Shanon’s ayahuasca phenomenology. (2) These aspects of alien art describe features of the visual field that can simultaneously involve cognitive processes accompanied by vivid feeling states; bodily sensations (or lack thereof); and the synaesthetic involvement of other senses. Alien art begins with conditions of extended perception, an ascending scale of effects from the sensory amplifications of cannabis and hashish through the full-scale wraparound realities of high-dose sessions of DMT, psilocybin mushrooms, and LSD. These visionary states and content are frequently experienced as going beyond the pleasures of “great visuals” or “psychedelic eye-candy” to their rhetorical and noetic function, with aesthetics and visual languages employed to deliver a teaching, an insight, a revelation or prophecy, or the sought answer to a problem. It is this signifying and hence, in the most basic sense, linguistic aspect of the psychedelic experience that I am calling Xenolinguistics.

The Alien Dimension in Psychedelic Experience

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The mythologem of the alien encounter—UFOs; abduction scenarios; prophetic channelings; generations of Star Trek; and cult religions such as Heaven’s Gate and the Raelian dispensation—have haunted the cultural fringe since the mid-20th century brought the first sightings of lights in the sky. These realtime ingressions of alien novelty were preceded by decades of science fiction speculations. Xenolinguistics—the search for, creation and study of alien languages—has strong connections to science fiction and fantasy, and to the activity of constructing languages, represented by a small but highly communicative sub-culture of “con-langers.” Xenolinguistics connects to the scientifically framed S.E.T.I. discourse on interstellar messaging, (3) and appears as a theme in the literature of psychedelic self-exploration, particularly in the work of Terence and Dennis McKenna. (4) John Lilly’s work in interspecies communication with dolphins led to his inclusion in the first S.E.T.I. meeting about interstellar messaging and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos. Lilly went further with his researches by combining his technology of sensory isolation tanks with the technology of psychedelic psychopharmacology. Both his methods and his findings placed him outside the pale of institutionally approved science, especially as he reported extensive communication with extraterrestrial intelligence via the Earth Coincidence Control Center (E.C.C.O.) and described new forms of linguistic activity in the psychedelic sphere. (5) The other major outlaw scientist of the psychedelic sphere, Timothy Leary, received his own extraterrestrial download, The Starseed Transmission, while in solitary confinement in Folsom Prison.

The psychedelic sphere is reported by practicing shamans, mainstream and outlaw scientists, and psychedelic self-explorers to be populated by communicating entities. Horace Beach’s 1996 dissertation, “Listening for the Logos: A Study of Reports of Audible Voices at High Doses of Psilocybin,” (6) finds that of a sample of 128 participants (with experience with psilocybin), better than a third experienced communications with a perceived voice. The DMT (dimethyltriptamine) archives at the Vaults of Erowid, (7) a database of psychedelic information, have many reports of encounters with entities while in the tryptamine trance, some of which include reports of alien language. (8) The literature of shamanism contains pantheons of helpful and malign spirits, guides, allies, gods and demons, angels, extraterrestrials, and ancestors. (9, 10) Within these persistent experiences of encounters with entities can be found reports of new forms of language deployed in these contacts with the Other, and a complex of related notions about language, consciousness, and reality. There is an aspect of each of these perspectives on alien language in my own work: a fictional, constructed language within a story world; the S.E.T.I. discourse; and contact and communication with the Other in psychedelic self-exploration. I will focus on the role of psychedelic self-exploration which resulted in the creation and explication of an alien language, Glide, through a novel The Maze Game, (11) academic research, (12) and the development of interactive software as writing instruments for this visual language. (13, 14)

Psychedelic Science

Psychedelic Science incorporates many disciplines in its search for understanding of human experience with these mind-altering substances, a history that appears to go back to the earliest signs of culture in cave paintings and remains in Europe and Africa. (15) Neuroscience, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, paleo-anthropology, ethnobotany, philosophy, rhetoric, and consciousness studies all play a role. It may seem obvious that first person reports are necessary to communicate the experiences and provide matching data to whatever third person observations (physiological signs, neurological imaging of brain activity, chemical structure-activity analyses) are made. However, the treatment of subjectivity within consciousness studies is contested ground. (16)
Consciousness itself had been operationally disbarred from scientific discourse in the early 20th century as psychology turned to behaviorist models (17) and empirical methods, excluding all forms of subjective introspectionism. Psychophysics, with its experimental designs, accepted subjective reports about clearly defined bits of perception, memory, and cognition as reliable enough to produce repeatable experiments, verifiable and useful generalities and even laws. Characterizing the nature of the Self, the I that deems itself conscious and reflects on the content and operations of consciousness, is dependent on one’s epistemological biases. The concept of Self is inextricably connected to the concept of the Other; the dichotomy of subjective and objective; observer and observed; and, following James, the knower and the known. In consciousness studies, Self and Other are assumed as stable, if not universal, categories; (18) the discussion and use of first and third person methods in the study of consciousness assumes this structural stability. Within consciousness studies, the material reductionist position, held by Dennett, Churchland, and Hardcastle, treats mind (including Self-concept) as an epiphenomenon of matter. (19) Mind and subjectivity are defined, if not out of existence, certainly to a non-fundamental status. These issues become even more problematic in psychedelic mindbody states, as the experience of the differentiation between Self and Other is radically re-organized in ways ranging from a mystical merging into Oneness through a plethora of encounters and relations: teaching and guidance; erotic interchange; adversarial struggles; many forms of paradoxical both-and relations, and group mind experiences which have no parallel in ordinary reality.
Reality is a critical concept in psychedelic science. The ontological status of experiences in the psychedelic sphere is inevitably called into question, both from within firsthand experience, and when these reported experiences are interpreted by others who may or may not have had similar experiences. A high degree of novelty, and the bizarre (from a baseline perspective) qualities of what can be seen, heard, and felt, sometimes deeply and profoundly, can be experienced in altered states. It is this “high strangeness” that provides the opening for labeling the experiences themselves “unreal,” and therefore unworthy of serious study, or merely symptoms of mental disorder. I have written on this topic elsewhere, characterizing psychedelic science as “the discourse of the unmentionable by the disreputable about the unspeakable.” (20)
Reality and perception are tightly coupled, as Roland Fischer’s model of the perception—hallucination continuum depicts. (21)

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In simplest terms, when perception changes, what we construe to be reality changes. Charles Tart built models of levels or states of consciousness, and called for the introduction of state-specific sciences, and the possibility of state-specific language to adequately deal with the different realities perceived in altered states. (22)

John Lilly’s protocols reflect the problem from a methodological standpoint:

In a scientific exploration of any of the inner realities, I follow the following metaprogrammatic steps:
1. Examine whatever one can of where the new spaces are, what the basic beliefs are to go there.
2. Take on the basic beliefs of that new area as if true.
3. Go into the area fully aware, in high energy, storing everything, no matter how neutral, how ecstatic, or how painful the experiences become.
4. Come back here, to our best of consensus realities, temporarily shedding those basic beliefs of the new area and taking on those of the investigator impartially dispassionately objectively examining the recorded experiences and data.
5. Test one’s current models of this consensus reality.
6. Construct a model that includes this reality and this new one in a more inclusive succinct way. No matter how painful such revisions of the models are be sure they include both realities.
7. Do not worship, revere, or be afraid of any person, group, space, or reality. An investigator, an explorer, has no room for such baggage. (23)

When one is engaging communication with the Other in the psychedelic sphere, it pays to have protocols. Lilly’s protocol privileges neither the ordinary nor the non-ordinary states of consciousness, but attempts to include both in the construction of a new model of reality of multiple mind-states and multiple realities. Terence McKenna and Lilly both recommend never giving up one’s skeptical stance. McKenna is also clear on the necessity of reporting the subjective content. When describing the structure-activity of a psychedelic substance, the language of biochemistry reveals none of the high strangeness of the experiences. Describing the content of a visionary state—the images, environments, novel space-time configurations, denizens, languages, and information acquired in the experience—is often much less palatable to the scientific world-view.

My approach is simply this: to take the phenomenological position of saying what was personally seen and experienced as accurately as possible, not editing out information just because it strains credulity, or demands continual repair to my worldview, or that of my readers. Part of the phenomenological epoche or bracketing in this effort consists in setting aside the drive to determine the ontological status of the experiences, especially since abstractions such as “reality” can themselves be radically re-configured in the psychedelic sphere. Further, I examine the reports of others, however unsettling, with the same good faith, engaging in a comparison of texts, essentially a literary and rhetorical activity, with no claims made as to the “reality”, in baseline terms, of the findings. The correlations among texts provide sufficient intrasubjective validation to indicate the possibility that the authors of the reports have spent time in realities sufficiently similar to establish, not a consensus—there are far too few in-depth reports gathered over multiple sessions—but perhaps a set of recognizable landmarks that can form the first sketches of maps of a “reality” that includes these experiences. This may seem an epistemologically primitive method, when compared to the scientific paradigm, yielding no proofs, no reliably repeatable experiments, and few samples to examine. Yet, as David Turnbull argues, “scientific knowledge can be seen as “the contingent assemblage of local knowledge.” I suggest it is a starting place toward subjective (personal, first person, individual) psychedelic knowledge, building a collection of what David Turnbull terms “local knowledges.” These localities can be as particular as a single individual’s three-paragraph trip report posted to Erowid; as extensive as a single individual’s lifework; or as comprehensive as the collective practices and knowledge of a culture, such as the Mazatec mushroom culture, the Peyote Way, or an ayahuasca culture, such as Santo Daime, União de Vegetal, or Barquinha. Each locality, from the individual to the group produces its own accounts of experience in the psychedelic sphere, its own descriptions of the landscapes, its own sense of the intentionality of the voyage from baseline outwards/inwards and return to ordinary reality. From these experiences descriptions are written, interpretations arise, songs, paintings, software, and dances emanate; rituals are enacted. A body of knowledge collects. Maps can be envisioned, landmark by negotiated landmark.

Xenolinguistics

Xenolinguistics, in my usage, is the study of language and linguistic phenomena in the psychedelic sphere. Xenolinguistics gives a word to this effort to create a first assemblage of local knowledges, gathered from first person reports, as from the logbooks of early navigators, about these phenomena. The local knowledges I am interested in are those of the xenolinguists, where the focus, fascination, and subsequent interpretations circle around language—different capacities of language from what we call “natural” language. Xenolinguistics reveals forms of language and theories about language itself, and its functioning in the brain/mind, in culture, and in evolutionary processes, both genetic and cultural.

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Krippner reports in 1970 on a variety of distortions of natural language use under the influence of psychedelics, with instances given of both increased and decreased functioning. (24) Roland Fisher studied the effects of psilocybin on handwriting; his experiments had the participants copying passages of writing while under the influence; the writing becomes larger, rounder, more fluid. (25) Henry Munn in his writings on curandera Maria Sabina speaks of heightened eloquence, and of the evolution of writing under the influence of psilocybin.

“Language is an ecstatic activity of signification. Intoxicated by the mushrooms, the fluency, the ease, the aptness of expression one becomes capable of are such that one is astounded by the words that issue forth from the contact of the intention of articulation with the matter of experience. At times it is as if one were being told what to say, for the words leap to mind, one after another, of themselves without having to be searched for: a phenomenon similar to the automatic dictation of the surrealists except that here the flow of consciousness, rather than being disconnected, tends to be coherent: a rational enunciation of meanings. Message fields of communication with the world, others, and one’s self are disclosed by the mushrooms. The spontaneity they liberate is not only perceptual, but linguistic, the spontaneity of speech, of fervent, lucid discourse, of the logos in activity. For the shaman, it is as if existence were uttering itself through him.” (26)

This vision of language as a universal ecstatic form of signification, of its source in the Other (“automatic” writing; the mythologies of language origin), and of eloquence that expresses itself visually in a bootstrapping move into new forms of language is a particular feature of the psilocybin trance. Munn describes this process as it is experienced in Mexican cultures:

“The ancient Mexicans were the only Indians of all the Americas to invent a highly developed system of writing: a pictographic one. Theirs were the only Amerindian civilizations in which books played an important role. One of the reasons may be because they were a people who used psilocybin, a medicine for the mind given them by their earth with the unique power of activating the configurative activity of human signification. On the mushrooms, one sees walls covered with a fine tracery of lines projected before the eyes. It is as if the night were imprinted with signs like glyphs. In these conditions, if one takes up a brush, dips it into paint, and begins to draw, it is as if the hand were animated by an extraordinary ideoplastic ability. Instead of saying that God speaks through the wise man, the ancient Mexicans said that life paints through him, in other words writes, since for them to write was to paint: the imagination in an act constitutive of images. “In you he lives/ in you he is painting/ invents/ the Giver of Life/ Chichimeca Prince, Nezahualcoyotl.” Where we would expect them to refer to the voice, they say write. “On the mat of flowers/ you paint your song, your word/ Prince Nezahualcoyotl/ In painting is your heart/ with flowers of all colors/ you paint your song, your word/ Prince Nezahualcoyotl.” (27)

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Maria Sabina, curandera.

One of the major themes of Terence McKenna’s lifework is the explication of the linguistic phenomena released in the tryptamine trance, and his speculations on the relationship of this phenomena to the cultural evolution of the human species. For McKenna, language is fundamental to reality and its construction.

“Reality is truly made up of language and of linguistic structures that you carry, unbeknownst to yourself, in your mind, and which, under the influence of psilocybin, begin to dissolve and allow you to perceive beyond the speakable. The contours of the unspeakable begin to emerge into your perception and though you can’t say much about the unspeakable, it has the power to color everything you do. You live with it; it is the invoking of the Other. The Other can become the Self, and many forms of estrangement can be healed. This is why the term alien has these many connotations.” (28)

The specific connection of new language and psilocybin is made:

“What does extraterrestrial communication have to do with this family of hallucinogenic compounds I wish to discuss? Simply this: that the unique presentational phenomenology of this family of compounds has been overlooked. Psilocybin, though rare, is the best known of these neglected substances. Psilocybin, in the minds of the uninformed public and in the eyes of the law, is lumped together with LSD and mescaline, when in fact each of these compounds is a phenomenologically defined universe unto itself. Psilocybin and DMT invoke the Logos, although DMT is more intense and more brief in its action. This means that they work directly on the language centers, so that an important aspect of the experience is the interior dialogue. As soon as one discovers this about psilocybin and about tryptamines, one must decide whether or not to enter into the dialogue and to try and make sense of the incoming signal.” (29)

Observing the varied effects of tryptamines on language, McKenna developed a theory that it was the encounter of early humans with the mushroom that potentiated the development of language. Plant knowledge would be one of our earliest forms of expertise as hunter-gatherers, discovering not only foods from every part of plants (roots, stems, leaves, berries, nuts) but also their medicinal and mind-altering properties. The merit of this speculation is more easily accessed from within the experience itself. From this perspective, the development of computer graphics and animation raise the possibility that new forms of language, particularly visual language, are emerging in our culture.

A Few Aspects of Alien Art

The perceptual events which I am calling alien art forms occur, by definition, under conditions of extended perception, a sliding scale of alterations from the commonly observed enhancement of music heard or produced under cannabis intoxication (30) to the high-speed, multidimensional visual linguistic constructions morphing at warp-speed in the DMT flash, and the unfolding of epic historic tableau under ayahuasca. (32) They are characterized by a sense of high information content in a high-speed “download.” Simon Powell describes this high information content as a function of moving to “higher” forms of language, especially symbolic language.

“The symbol embodies a whole set of relations or, to be more specific, it is the point where a huge web of psychological relations converge. To fully understand the symbol is to sense at once all of its relations to other objects of perceptual experience. In other words, visual symbols play a role in a psychological language. (Here, I again invoke the concept of language since language is essentially an information system not restricted to words alone. Language, in the abstract way in which I refer to it, is a system of informational elements bearing definite relations with one another; hence a language of words, of molecules, of symbols, etc.)
Such universally powerful visionary symbols can be thought of as expressions in the dictionary of a ‘higher’ language connected with the human psyche. What I mean by ‘higher’ is that the visual elements in this language are far more rich in meaning and informational content than the words of our spoken language. Moreover, the direct perception of visionary symbols choreographed together in a movie-like fashion—as occurs in the entheogenic state—is to experience meaning in perhaps its purest, most informationally rich way. To partake of a visionary dialogue is to be overwhelmed by the direct apprehension of naked, unmuddled meaning, which arises as a consequence of the highly integrative informational processes liberated by shamanic compounds.” (33)

The “unspeakability” or “ineffability” of psychedelic experience appears to be not only an expression of the inadequacy of natural language to express certain experiences, but basic to the nature of the specific linguistic vehicle. Natural language is simply too slow a software to carry the complexity, the simultaneity of multiple meanings, and the speed and quantity of cognitive connections among ideas and images flooding into a psychedelic mindbody state. These perceptions of increased velocity–of thought and of sensory data–seem related to the experience of time dilation in the psychedelic sphere. Time dilation is a function of cognitive and sensory speed and the quantity of information per unit of time: hyperconnectivity, hyperconductivity, and processor speed. When novelty approaches infinity, realities fly apart. Hence: xenolinguistics.

Powell continues:

“Such types of symbol can therefore be considered elements of a high language, a language not of the individual ego-driven mind but of the communicating Other. The symbols are amalgamated concentrations of information coming to life in a mind illuminated by visionary alkaloids. Or, to us Huxley’s terminology, the informational forms are transmitted via the psilocybinetic brain. In either case, a Great Spirit, a sacred presence, or Gaian Other reveals itself as being no less than a tremendously vast system of confluential information flowing through the psychedelically enhanced neuronal hardware of the human cortex. As information ‘struggles’ to integrate, ever more coalescent forms emerge, and these are experienced as the felt presence of the Other actively communicating in a language of potent visual imagery. Information appears as if alive and intent upon self-organization.” (34)

This passage points to the experience where psychedelically potentiated language and communicating Other appear to merge into a living language. McKenna’s many descriptions of “self-transforming machine-elves” and my own perception in altered states of Glide as a living language that teaches about itself as well as many other things seem to belong to similar narratives of experience. This perception of living language in motion and constant transformation takes the self-reflexive activity of using language to describe itself to a meta-level of function, where the language gains the self-reflective quality of consciousness, in communicating about itself—and just about anything else in the universe one may be wondering about.

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This alien art of hallucinatory presentation of information is often accompanied by a set of qualities that extend baseline perception. These qualities can include deeper, richer, more varied, more subtle, and in some cases new colors that make up the visual palette. The complexity and density of the informational field is in part accompanied by an increased amount of very fine cognitive detail and a concomitant shift in the amount of detail from the sensory systems. Attention, a primary function of consciousness, presents a panoply of aesthetic choices, shifting its qualities, in some cases toward an increased slipperiness (a hyper-conductivity), sliding frictionlessly from one point of focus to another. At other times, attention becomes the ability to focus in stillness, to hold an awareness not only of the object(s) of contemplation but of the awareness itself, a kind of ‘witness consciousness’ or mindfulness that allows direct perception of the goings-on in one’s mind. One becomes aware that attention can partake of qualities like touch—rough, focused, gentle, smooth, and/or erotic and applied with various admixtures of emotion.

Layering, Transparency, Iridescence

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Another visual/cognitive quality that emerges is the layering of visual imagery. This can appear accompanied by subtle and shifting degrees of transparency and iridescence, of soft flows combined with extremely precise fine filamental structures and a sense of having X-ray vision and microscopic vision as controllable aspects of the visual field. Macroscopic visions of the structure of the cosmos at astronomical scales can also be presented to consciousness. Transparency becomes a metaphor for all manner of seeing-through, revealing in the combined sense of seductive veils and of revelation of a truth, a hide-and seek God game of gnosis—now you see Me now you don’t—of quest and question, a noetic dance in realms wholly outside our natural language’s labels and cognitive ordering schemes.

The high-information content aspect of alien art is not a matter merely of quantity of information but can be imbued with qualities such as fecundity, a sense of an abundance of creativity in the flood of images and ideas, and often a prevailing mood, of playfulness, or numinosity, or strange juxtapositions of mood, such as sacred silliness or a combined cathedral and carnivalesque architecture, each mood generating a seemingly endless fount of aesthetic styles.

Patchworking

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Patchworking describes a complex collage-like cognitive-visual process by which different, sometimes drastically diverse, bits of vision-knowledge begin to collect and arrange themselves into larger patterns that incorporate, recombine, and transform the meanings of the individual pieces. Quilt-making is such a process. The illustrated quilt brings together hundreds of diamond and triangular patches from discarded clothing, carefully re-cycled into a design that incorporates two and three-dimensional visual aspects. The design shifts depending on whether you view the material within the hexagons as flat six-pointed stars, or as baby blocks (Necker cubes). In the baby-blocks view, one can see two different perspectives. Each perspective in turn recombines the order of the available patches. The surface, playing with these illusions, shifts and moves dynamically among dimensions, as the different views pop in and out of the visual field. A kaleidoscope, containing a handful of irregular bits and pieces of colored glass and other materials, constructs a complex, shifting, symmetrical, non-repeating stained glass window of colored light. In my own session reports I describe patchworking as making “harmonious compositions out of impossibly disparate items without breaking the narrative dream but rather expanding its inclusiveness.” (36) Patchworking in altered states assists in “layering realities,” and is “a practice to acclimate you to staying in multiple spaces that are incongruous, non-contiguous, seemingly dissonant.” McKenna describes this patchworking aspect in True Hallucinations, which is the detailed account of the “experiment at La Chorrera,” and the mutual inhabitation by Dennis and Terence McKenna of an interpenetrating altered state of consciousness that lasted several weeks brought on by the ingestion of psilocybin mushrooms.

“Occasionally I would seem to catch the mechanics of what was happening to us in action. Lines from half-forgotten movies and snippets of old science fiction, once consumed like popcorn, reappeared in collages of half-understood associations. Punch lines from old jokes and vaguely remembered dreams spiraled in a slow galaxy of interleaved memories and anticipations. From such experiences I concluded that whatever was happening, part of it involved all the information that we had ever accumulated, down to the most trivial details. The overwhelming impression was that something possibly from outer space or from another dimension was contacting us. It was doing so through the peculiar means of using every thought in our heads to lead us into telepathically induced scenarios of extravagant imagining, or deep theoretical understandings, or in-depth scanning of strange times, places, and worlds. The source of this unearthly contact was the Stropharia cubensis and our experiment.” [emphasis mine] (37)

Patchworking appears to be an aesthetic strategy whereby the Other, using the stored personal information, emotions, and memories of the individual, constructs new forms and configurations of knowledge about our existing reality, its past and future, and about other worlds and other realities with profoundly alien—different from baseline reality—content. This alien content: vast machineries, strange energies, different time-space schemata, whole worlds operating on different physical principles, or our own world viewed from a profoundly different consciousness, reveals other rules of organization of worlds, such as underlying structures of reality based on games. Patchworking ecstatically rejoins that which has been dismembered, fragmented, or never connected in the first place in meaningful patterns. As such it shares a functional pattern with the shamanic initiatory experience of dismemberment and rebirth in a new recombinatory body which can travel between worlds and hold consciousness of multiple worlds at once.

Glide and LiveGlide

My own work, the core of which was developed before the encounter with the McKennas’ work, has the shape of an adjacent mythology: a narrative of language origin in psychedelic experience. Glide is an experiment in modeling a visual language whose signs move and morph. It originated in a work of speculative fiction, The Maze Game, (Deep Listening Press, 2003) as an evolutionary form of writing from 4000 years in the future. Its myth of origin speaks of a transmission of the language to the Glides from the hallucinogenic pollen of giant blue water lilies which they tended. I followed the traditional Glide path for learning the language: study and practice both at baseline mind-body states and cognitively and sensorially enhanced psychedelic states. Part of the learning involved building electronic writing instruments. (38) The colors and patterns applied to the transforming glyphs come from drawings, photos, and video by myself and others. LiveGlide is most at home in live performance in a domed environment, such as planetarium, but can be shown as recordings on a flat-screen format as well.

Interacting with this visual language—designing the software, then reading and writing with it, especially in altered states, as a noetic practice, has led to a constellation of ideas about the relationship between language, consciousness, and our perception and conception of reality. One cluster of ideas begins with the notion of the hallucination as alien art. It is in part a rhetorical notion, that aesthetics is part of the impact of these novel states of consciousness and their contents. The communication with the Other, the entire noetic enterprise, is baited with beauty as part of its persuasive force. This led to the observation and delineation of techniques deployed by the Other in the communicative process in altered states, often hallucinatory.

As to the shifting faces and perceived identity of the Other, many notions have been forwarded. SF writer Philip K. Dick called the Other V.A.L.I.S.—Vast Active Living Intelligent System. John Lilly called it E.C.C.O.—Earth Coincidence Control Center. Terence McKenna called them self-transforming machine elves, and has also experienced the alien Other as insect-like. I call them the Glides, and they are shape-shifters as well. But within these experiences, these definitions shift as explanations are sought. Are these others actually another aspect of the Self, buried in the unconscious? This may be more comforting than scenarios of actual alien contact, and is an assumption upon which arguments for mental disorder can be built, but has little explanatory power, other than to reveal the grab-bag nature of the way the term “unconscious” is used to contain any number of mysteries of human nature. An open mind and a sense of humor may be the best provisional approach to such questions. As the Sundance Kid repeats the plaintive question, “Who are those guys anyway?” and Walt Kelly offers through Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us,” we can contain the cosmic giggle bubbling up through such speculations at baseline. Yet in the experience itself, it can seem as Simon Powell puts it:

“Such chemically inspired neuronal patterning is experienced as being so rich in symbology and meaning that for all intents and purposes it can be considered the result of a living, intelligent, and communicating agency made of information, an agency whose intent can become focused should the chemical conditions of the human cortex be so conducive. Information must indeed be in some sense alive.” (39)

(1) Kluver, Heinrich. Mescal and Mechanisms of Hallucinations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.
(2) Shanon, Benny. The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
(3) S.E.T.I.
(4) McKenna, Terence and Dennis McKenna. The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching. San Francisco: HarperCollinsSanFrancisco, 1993.
(5) Lilly, John. The Center of the Cyclone: An Autobiography of Inner Space. New York: Bantam Books, 1979.
(6) Beach, Horace. “Listening for the Logos: A Study of Reports of Audible Voices at High Doses of Psilocybin.” Ph.D. dissertation, California School of Professional Psychology, Alameda, California, 1996.
(7) Erowid
(8) http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=1859
(9) Shanon, 2002.
(10) Polari de Alverga, Alex. Forest of Visions: Ayahuasca, Amazonian Spirituality, and the Santo Daime Tradition. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 1999.
(11) Slattery, Diana Reed. The Maze Game. Kingston: Deep Listening Publications, 2003.
(12) https://mazerunner.wordpress.com
(13) http://www.academy.rpi.edu/glide
(14) http://web.mac.com/dianaslattery/iWeb/Eye/work-I.html
(15) Nichols, David E. “Hallucinogens,” Pharmacology & Therapeutics 101 (2004) 131—181.
(16) Wallace, Alan B. The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
(17) Baars, Bernard J. In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
(18) Baars, 1997.
(19) Shear, Jonathan, ed. Explaining Consciousness—the Hard Problem. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998.
(20) These observations can be accessed by the following method, outlined by Terence McKenna. Ingest 4—5 grams dried psilocybe mushrooms alone in silent darkness, in a setting that is safe and free from interruption. Note: This protocol is not an invitation to perform illegal acts. There are places on the planet where such an experiment can be carried out legally. For up-to-date information, go to Erowid.
(21) Fischer, Roland. “A Cartography of the Ecstatic and Meditative States.” Science, Vol. 174, Num. 4012, 26 November 1971.
(22) Tart, Charles T. “States of Consciousness and State-Specific Sciences.” Science, Vol. 176, 1203—1210, 1972.

(23) Lilly, John. The Deep Self. New York: Warner Books, 1977.

(24) Krippner, Stanley. “The Effects of Psychedelic Experience on Language Functioning,” in Aaronson and Osmond, eds., Psychedelics: the Uses and Implication of Hallucinogenic Drugs. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1970.
(25) R. Fischer, T. Kappeler, P. Wisecup, K. Thatcher, Dis. Nerv. Syst. 31,91 (1970).
(26) Munn, Henry. “The Mushrooms of Language,” in Hallucinogens and Shamanism, Michael J. Harner, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.
(27) Munn, Henry. “Writing in the Imagination of an Oral Poet.”
(28) Noffke, Will (1989): A conversation over saucers. ReVision: A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation 11 (3, Winter, Angels, aliens, and archetypes: Part one), 23-30.
(29) McKenna, Terence. The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992.
(30) Tart, Charles T. On Being Stoned: A Psychological Study of Marijuana Intoxication. Palo Alto: Science and Behavior Books, 1971.
(31) McKenna, Archaic Revival, 1992.
(32) Shanon, 2002.
(33) Powell, Simon. The Psilocybin Solution. Draft of an unpublished manuscript. (34) ibid, Powell.
(35) AD_05.03.27. (this is the filenaming convention I established for the research sessions. The AD stands for—playfully of course—Alien Downloads.)
(36) AD_05.04.01
(37) McKenna, Terence. True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.
(38) An early description of the Glide project including animations of the Glide glyphs. (39) Powell, The Psilocybin Solution.

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Wikiuniversity offers a wry definition of Xenolinguistics: “the scientific study of languages of non-human intelligences. Publications in this field tend to be speculative as few people have made the claim to have understood an alien language, at least not reliably.”
The grand convergence of psychedelics and technology came in the summer of 1998. I was a grad student at RPI in communication and rhetoric, fully indoctrinated in (mostly French) critical theory, semiotics, new media theory, and the history of communication technology. My task was to clarify my topic—the idea of a visual language—for a Ph.D. proposal. Instead of starting my bibliography, or some other sensible activity that would contribute to my academic progress, I began writing a novel,

The fictional world had established itself well enough that I could enter it, look around, and ask questions of the characters. I asked for the details of how the game that is central to the novel was played. The answer arrived as a high-speed “download”—a blast of information concerning a visual language, Glide. I got the whole thing in a timeless instant: game, rules, architecture of the playing field, the 27 glyphs, how they behave as a visual language, and the myth of origin of the language. The game was played in mazes made of the visual language, Glide, taught to the characters by the hallucinogenic blue waterlily.

2d Glide glyphs

Glide presented itself in the story-world as an alien language. The glyphs of the language formed the patterns and physical structures on which the game was played. As the plot unfolded, it became evident that

When summer of 1998 was over, I did not have a visual language topic framed in terms of a semiotic or new media theory. I had instead a model of a gesturing, transforming linguistic system, suggesting, in its grammar and syntax, that new forms of writing, of psychedelic origin, enabled by the capability of the computer to animate signs and symbols, could offer novel ways of expressing meaning. The glyphs, laid out statically, on a two-dimensional surface (like all our natural language written forms) formed webby mazes. Animated, the glyphs transform, linking and unlinking with each other. A Glide maze seemed like a new kind of circuit operating with many points of change and connection, an abstraction of the organic, constantly shifting circuitry of the brain through which electrical and chemical signals pulse, where myriads of connections are formed and broken in complex patterns, constructing and projecting a world around and inside us.
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Lily Pads Glide Maze

In the The Maze Game, the characters undergo an initiation, where they find their focus, their unique purpose in life, by ingesting the sacrament of the psychedelic Lily, invoking its guidance, and making their way through a Glide maze.

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Lily Glyph

Taking a cue from the Glides, who, in the narrative, were taught the Glide language while under the influence of the Lily, I made a consequential decision—to explore the language more deeply, I would follow the Glide’s path into the maze, ingesting a psychedelic sacrament in search of knowledge about the maze itself. At this point, I became a character in my own story, while in a reciprocal (or self-reflexive) move, Glide lifted itself out of the story world to be considered and developed in “real life.” I had written a story, and the story was now writing me. I became a scribe and a xenolinguist, deciphering a language from the a ancient future.

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Blue Lily

 

A series of software applications emerged from this process of psychedelic self-exploration. First, the glyphs were animated.

The Collabyrinth, an interactive glyph editor, was programmed for combining, animating, and translating glyph formations. Next was the Glide Oracle, which involved the translation of approximately 1100 glyph pairs, and 729 glyph transformations. These translations were useful in exposing the archetypal and poetic dimensions of the language. It also taught me that future efforts to understanding Glide needed to move away from natural language which provided too constricted a reducing valve on “language at large,” to re-tool Huxley’s metaphor. The language asked to be confronted on its own terms. What needed to be translated was not the language, but the brain/mind, to adapt to language constructed on different sensory ratios. Whether such rewiring of our plastic neurons is possible by exposure to new forms of language, is purely speculative, but would make an interesting scientific investigation.

The next application, LiveGlide, involved the ability to write in three dimensions interactively with continuously moving forms.

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LiveGlide interface

States of extended perception were used in the conception, design, and implementation of LiveGlide software, in practice and performance, and in learning how to read what I was writing. Primarily, psychedelics provided the means to emerge from the cocoon of natural language into what could be understood as both a pre-linguistic state of direct apperception of the world around and inside us, and as a post-linguistic (post-natural language) realm of evolutionary forms of language, concomitant with the sense of consciousness expanded into a novel, if temporary, evolutionary state. Glide language became, with practice, a direct readout of the process of the communication with the Other. The fluidly shifting state of the relationship, the moods, the qualities of perception and attention, the steadiness of awareness is palpable when I read the writing. As a deliberate experiment in neural plasticity, trying to re-wire the brain-mind from the inside out, across multiple states of reality, I launched into ontological engineering.

Psychedelics can transport one beyond the veil of natural language, into the unspeakable. This unspeakability is often described as a communication deficit, where natural language is viewed as insufficient to convey the realities of the psychedelic sphere. I view this “bug” as a “feature,” an opportunity to become aware of the other channels of communication, both those available at baseline, such as body language, and those opened or enhanced in the psychedelic experience. When I have folded the maps of natural language, the mindbogglingly novel territory of the psychedelic sphere shines forth, nameless, but not unknowable. LiveGlide becomes for me a kind of biomechanical living language, algorithmic in its means, but moved and changed entirely by my own human gestures on the interface, playing over 100 parameters of expressive possibilities, a vast combinatorial phase space to play in. And in turn, I’m played by…. This sense of the vastness of possibility, when experienced under conditions of extended perception and cognition, parallels the vastness and complexity of receptor space, the chemical architecture of consciousness, as studied by Tom Ray.

In the psychedelic sphere, epistemology’s an extreme sport. I use LiveGlide as a noetic practice. I am learning about knowing, but the categories of Knower and Known, Self and Other, taken for granted in our baseline (natural language) grammar of first and third persons, can radically reconfigure themselves in extended, merged, or blended states of being. Knowing can be re-formed to include not only linguistic knowledge, and gut-level feelings of certainty, but knowing by doing, and knowing by being where I know you and you know me because we have in an experiential sense become each other. At all mind-states, the questions arise: Who writes? Who reads? Who understands? What, for that matter, is a who? Then come the magical moments when communication shades into communion, when Self and Other, and reading and writing become one, in a fluid dance of transformation. The question of the Other’s ontological status—is this truly an Other, outside of my self, or is the Other an unrecognized portion of myself, so strange, so much more than what I think of as my Self at baseline, so wholly unexpected and so endowed with novelty that I perceive it as alien—is moot. Either interpretation leads to conclusions that require considerable re-drawing of the maps of human nature and experience. With these combined technologies—LiveGlide, a language whose writing is made possible by the CPU, and psychopharmacology that brings both the Other and new linguistic phenomena into view—a call is placed, across the chasm between realities; a response comes with considerable joy that contact has been made. I dance toward an unspeakable edge, willing to be transformed by the unknowable into the unknown.

As to my own research agenda with LiveGlide, I would like to collaborate with a neuroscientist in building a device that would take a subset of my own brain signals, and map them to various parameters of LiveGlide. I believe this could provide an more aesthetic visualization with which to monitor and record the changes occurring in brain states, link them to internal states, and, in a biofeedback loop, potentially develop the ability to move in and out of different brain states. This would be particularly interesting in studying changes throughout the trajectory of a psychedelic experience, from onset, through peak, and back to baseline. The LiveGlide software is built to take generic MIDI signals from any source. The display technology and control mapping interface is already built; what is needed is a partnership with neuroscientific expertise.

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