This book depicts Odysseus’ departure from Calypso’s island and journey to the island of the Phaeacians, including his shipwreck.

In a retread of the counsel of the gods in Book 1, Athene complains that Odysseus has been forgotten (a narrative joke after spending 4 books on Telemachus). Zeus reminds her that this was all her plan, then announces what Odysseus’ moira (part, lot, fate) will be. He sends Hermes to Calypso to set Odysseus on a raft to the Phaeacians.

Hermes flys over the waves, holding his wand that can cause people to sleep or awake. Calypso’s cave and island are described, with a vine running about the cave and four springs nearby. Calypso serves ambrosia and nectar. Hermes says that Zeus ordered him to come (he would not have come otherwise, because there is no city of mortals there to offer sacrifice; but who can resist Zeus?). He says that the Achaeans returning from Troy sinned against Athene, who sent winds and waves against them, leaving only Odysseus to be brought to Calypso’s island. But it is not his fate (aisa) to die far from his friends, but it is his lot (moira) to see his friends, house, and native land.

Odysseus is stuck in a nymph cave with a goddess who will make him immortal. He can’t move, but desires to go back to egoic life. He needs the divine messenger to come to start the action. This is also a narrative analogy: the story cannot move forward without the intervention of Hermes, god of communication, sent by Athene (divine wisdom) and Zeus (divine planning and king agent of gods).

Calypso complains that gods stop goddesses from mating with mortals. She gives examples of mortal men who are killed for mating with goddesses (danger for Odysseus!). But she cedes to the will of Zeus.

Odysseus weeping on seashore. Homer comments that he is kept unwilling at night in the cave of Calypso by force, while Calypso is willing [goddess’ will overpowers mortal man’s will]. Odysseus is suspicious of Calypso’s message that she will send him away, and demands oaths not to trick him on the sea. She agrees and they go to feast. She asks why he wants to leave, since she will make him immortal. Odysseus prefers his mortal wife to immortal goddess and wants to see his home and his home-coming day (nostimon emar), and will endure being smote on the sea by a god.

Scene of raft-building, cutting and hewing of tress, the making of the ship and steering oar [making of egoic craft]. He sails by stars to the island of the Phaeacians, but Poseidon sees him. He knows that Odysseus is fated to survive, but plans to still give him misery. He sends a storm. Odysseus is fearful and wishes he had died at Troy because he would have received funeral rites and the Achaeans would have spread his kleos (fame). Odysseus wishes for the Iliadic value of death in battle and attendant fame, which I interpreted in earlier posts as recognizing oneself fixed in block universe (after battle for control and death), and so able to be talked about. Dying at sea, drowned under water, is to die overwhelmed by loose-cognition state (just like when Achilles is threatened by the river god in the Iliad) and vanish without a trace, unable to be recognized.

Two types of death [end of independent self-control world model] and subsequent states are contrasted:

  • death in battle -> funeral rites and kleos
  • death in sea -> oblivion, lack of recognition

Death in battle is test of skill / self-control power system. Self-control power is threatened, one can struggle against it, test survival power. Others see it, and after death, one is honored with funeral rites and story-telling (kleos). One is apparent in the block-universe, fixed and visible. Death in battle is like a strong enough dose that allows for testing of self-control power and, even in defeat of that, recognition of oneself as fixed in the block-universe, achieving immortal kleos fame.

Death in sea is to be overwhelmed by loose-cognition waves. There is no hope of survival because the loose-cognition waves are too powerful. They overwhelm and destroy the self-steering ship and drown the person. Death in sea is like a too strong dose that does not allow for testing of self-control power, but critically overwhelms it, completely washing away all structure.

Odysseus fears oblivion from death in the sea. His fear shows that he continues to think in terms of Iliadic values. The narrative of the Odyssey will show new values and structures. In the first place, the Odyssean narrator allows for representation of death in the sea. The story-telling of the Odyssean narrator one-ups the Iliadic death-in-battle-to-immortal-kleos value system. Secondly, the narrative will show how rescue from death-in-the-sea can work.

The waves knock Odysseus from the raft, and he drops the steering oar. The raft is broken, and the clothes given to him by Calypso weigh him down. With effort he holds onto part of the raft. The sea and wind carries the raft this way and that.

The mortal-turned-sea-goddess, Ino Leucothea, sees Odysseus and pities him. She advises that Odysseus take off his clothes and leave his raft, swimming to the island of the Phaeacians, which he it is his fate (moira) to reach. She offers him her veil as protection, which he is to put back in the sea once he reaches land. [Odysseus must abandon remnents of old system (clothes and raft; the steering oar is already gone); use new clothing veil of mortal-turned-sea-goddess to get through loose-cognition waves to stable land].

Odysseus is suspicious, since an immortal may be tricking him to leave his raft. He decides to remain until the raft is fully broken. He will endure as long as the raft holds out, and then he will swim. Poseidon sends more waves, destroys the raft, and Odysseus swims. Now that the raft is destroyed, Poseidon departs, and Athene intervenes to calm the waters and winds so that Odysseus can reach the island of the Phaeacians.

Odysseus swims and hopes to reach the land, but becomes scared of being dashed against the reefs, cliffs, and rocks. Athene puts a thought in his mind to find the river entrance, where there will be no sharp rocks. Odysseus prays to river that he may enter. He does and then emerges onto land. He returns Ino’s veil to the sea, kisses the land, and finds two bushes, one olive, one thorny, that have grown together to shelter him while he sleeps.

Telemachus arrives at the house of Menelaus. Marriage feasts are being held, one for a daughter going off to the son of Achilles, the other for a son bringing a bride home.

Menelaus’ travels and experience as a guest has made him eager to be a good host.

Like the previous book, this one again shows a hero returned from Troy at home, being a good host and feasting with proper attention to the guests and gods. This contrasts with the unbalanced feasting at Odysseus’ house.

Helen mixes a pharmakon into the wine. There is a digression about this pharmakon. It is one that will quiet all pain and anger, one that brings a forgetfulness of evils. It is even so powerful that the one who drinks it, once mixed in the mixing bowl, could watch family members be killed and not cry. Helen, daughter of Zeus, had received the drugs in Egypt. There are many drugs in Egypt for mixing, both good (esthla) and mournful (lugra). In Egypt every person is a healer (ietros), from the family of Paian/Paion/Paeeon, the physician of the gods (also a title of Apollo).

The wine is served and Helen encourages banqueting and storytelling. Helen and Menelaus tell stories of Odysseus at Troy.

In the morning, Menelaus tells Telemachus what he learned about Odysseus’ homecoming from Proteus, the old man of the sea, in Egypt. Menelaus was stuck in harbor at Egypt against his will due to winds. Eidothea, a water goddess and daughter of Proteus, takes pity on him and helps him capture Protetus. They hide under seal skins amid Proteus’ seal flock when they come on shore to sleep. They are given ambrosia. When Proteus is asleep, they capture him and restrain him as he shapeships. Eventually he yields and tells them to return to the mouth of river Aegyptus and make sacrifice to Zeus. [King Menelaus wrestles with the shapeshifting seagod (=loose cognition) until it instructs him in returning home with proper sacrifices to Zeus]

They then ask Proteus about the fate of the Achaeans on their return from Troy (nostos). First they learn of Ajax (the lesser). Poseidon had first driven his ship against the rocks, but then saved him from the sea. Ajax then boasted that he had escaped from the sea, even in spite of the gods. Poseidon was angered at this and struck the rock he stood on, causing him to fall into the sea. [the god causes Ajax’s self-command ship to smash against the rocks (=4d block, frozen eternalism), but then rescues him. Ajax boasts that he escaped on his own, without the aid of the god, attributing power to himself again. Poseidon breaks the apparently firm standing rocks (claim to independent self-control and self-stabilizing power), drowning him in the sea].

Next we learn more about Agamemnon’s return, that there was a watchman who informed on him, that he arrived in his kingly chariot, that he was ambushed at a feast. Killed by Aegisthus, his cousin and adulterer with his wife.

Both Ajax and Agamemnon are possible models for Odysseus. Ajax suffers on the sea and angers Poseidon; Agamemnon comes home openly, unsuspecting, and is killed by someone who has taken his place in the household with his wife.

Proteus then tells Menelaus of Odysseus, whom he saw on Calypso’s island. He was weeping, held there against his will, without a ship.

Lastly, he foretells that Menelaus will survive and go to the Elysian plain (paradise) because he has Helen, daughter of Zeus, for a wife.

Menelaus goes to mouth of river, sacrifices to Zeus, and raises a mound to Agamemnon, so that his kleos will be ‘unquenchable’ (asbeston). Physical marker makes reknown/kleos permanent.

After his story, Telemachus prepares to depart. Menelaus gifts him with a mixing bowl made by Hephaestus, one he received as a gift while a guest elsewhere. Example of linkings between entheogenic banqueting culture, societal relationships strengthened by gift-giving, and story-telling [You are youth who goes to the king’s palace to learn of your father. There you banquet with the king and queen, who prepare you mixed wine with pharmaka. Many stories are told of the actions of heros, including that of your father. At the end you receive drinking cup made by a god, as a sign of your relationship with the king.]

The scene then switches to the suitors in Odysseus’ house. They plot to ambush Telemachus on his way home. Penelope learns that Telemachus is away, prays to Athene to keep him safe.

A central topic of the Odyssey is banqueting. A central question of the Odyssey is how to set-up a harmonious banqueting culture that properly honors the gods and sustains the household and wider society (via guest-host relationships). Feasting, eating, drinking, consuming appear throughout the poem.

The suitors of Penelope banquet excessively in Odysseus’ household while he is away.

When Telemachus journeys to learn more of Odysseus, he visits the households of Nestor and of Menelaus, both of whom are shown banqueting harmoniously with their families and showing proper respect to the gods.

Banqueting, eating, and drinking feature in most of Odysseus’ wanderings, sometimes as the main point of the episode, other times as an ancillary, but still present, topic: Calypso, Phaeacians, Ciconians, Lotus-eaters, Cyclops, Aeolus, Laestrygonians, Circe, the land of the dead, Scylla and Carybdis, the cattle of Helios.

How to avoid destruction at the banquet and instead create a banquet culture in which all the parts of the psyche are harmoniously arranged, allowing for ongoing feasting?

It shouldn’t be necessary for me to add the tag “entheogenic” or “psychedelic” or sim. to the above, but for the sake of absolute, pedantic, boneheaded clarity: when I write banqueting etc., I mean psychedelic banqueting.

The Iliad portrays the crucial highpoint of the initiation of Achilles in the war at Troy and the removal of his choice to live or to die, leaving him no choice but to die soon, but acquire immortal fame in the block universe. The Odyssey portrays the problem of avoiding destructive or otherwise alluring banquets and establishing a harmonious, workable, banqueting culture in the home that properly honors the gods, sustains the household, and promotes good relations between hosts and guests.

Comics and novel author Alan Moore discusses eternalism with regard to his novel Jerusalem (published 2016) here:

Jerusalem deals with the idea of eternalism: everything that has happened is happening right now and forever. Could you explain your views on this?
My conception of an eternity that was immediate and present in every instant – a view which I have since learned is known as ‘Eternalism’ – was once more derived from many sources, but a working definition of the idea should most probably begin with Albert Einstein. Einstein stated that we exist in a universe that has at least four spatial dimensions, three of which are the height, depth and breadth of things as we ordinarily perceive them, and the fourth of which, while also a spatial dimension, is perceived by a human observer as the passage of time. The fact that this fourth dimension cannot be meaningfully disentangled from the other three is what leads Einstein to refer to our continuum as ‘spacetime’. This leads logically to the notion of what is called a ‘block universe’, an immense hyper-dimensional solid in which every moment that has ever existed or will ever exist, from the beginning to the end of our universe, is coterminous; a vast snow-globe of being in which nothing moves and nothing changes, forever. Sentient life such as ourselves, embedded in the amber of spacetime, would have to be construed by such a worldview as massively convoluted filaments of perhaps seventy or eighty years in length, winding through this glassy and motionless enormity with a few molecules of slippery and wet genetic material at one end and a handful or so of cremated ashes at the other. It is only the bright bead of our consciousness moving inexorably along the thread of our existence, helplessly from past to future, that provides the mirage of movement and change and transience. A good analogy would be the strip of film comprising an old fashioned movie-reel: the strip of film itself is an unchanging and motionless medium, with its opening scenes and its finale present in the same physical object. Only when the beam of a projector – or in this analogy the light of human consciousness – is passed across the strip of film do we see Charlie Chaplin do his funny walk, and save the girl, and foil the villain. Only then do we perceive events, and continuity, and narrative, and character, and meaning, and morality. And when the film is concluded, of course, it can be watched again. Similarly, I suspect that when our individual four-dimensional threads of existence eventually reach their far end with our physical demise, there is nowhere for our travelling bead of consciousness to go save back to the beginning, with the same thoughts, words and deeds recurring and reiterated endlessly, always seeming like the first time this has happened except, possibly, for those brief, haunting spells of déjà vu. Of course, another good analogy, perhaps more pertinent to Jerusalem itself, would be that of a novel. While it’s being read there is the sense of passing time and characters at many stages of their lives, yet when the book is closed it is a solid block in which events that may be centuries apart in terms of narrative are pressed together with just millimetres separating them, distances no greater than the thickness of a page. As to why I decided to unpack this scientific vision of eternity in a deprived slum neighbourhood, it occurred to me that through this reading of human existence, every place, no matter how mean, is transformed to the eternal, heavenly city. Hence the title
Moore has routinely used psychedelics throughout his life and writing career:
He refers to Robert Graves’ writings on mushrooms:
Moore also incorporates western esotericism and magic into his writings.
In the above quotation, Moore indicates that he had a concept ofeEternalism before he had a name for it. Moore’s conception of eternalism likely came from his experiences on LSD and study of western esotericism, but I wonder where he encountered the term ‘eternalism’?
Moore’s stories are full of material of interest to an egodeath theory audience. I’ll post more on Moore soon. Comics are just as much a visual medium as they are textual. I want to work on how to present my commentary on the visual aspect of the comics.

Ep. 23:

In this episode, Cyberdisciple introduces the theme of ‘prohibition-culture’ and how it relates to pop-psychedelia and James Kent-style scepticism. Topics covered include:

  • Characterisation of drug prohibition as an ego-preserving strategy
  • Safety-oriented culture
  • Microdosing as a non-coercive ego-preserving strategy, to avoid intense experience
  • Prohibition and international politics
  • History of prohibition
  • Anti-drugs propaganda
  • Changing attitudes towards drugs and prohibition across history
  • Prohibition-compliance in pop-psychedelia and in James Kent’s anthropological model
  • Egoic vs transcendent goals of psychedelic drug use
  • Danger of psychedelic ego death control loss
  • Debate over the value of a bad trip
  • Prohibition and the communism/capitalism dialectic
  • Tendency of power structures to co-opt rebellious trends
  • Models of psychedelic societies
  • Comparison between sexuality and psychedelia
  • Normal everyday life in a psychedelic society

Ep. 24:

In this episode, Max Freakout and Cyberdisciple continue talking about prohibition culture. Topics covered include:

  • Prohibition as ego-preserving strategy
  • Prohibition-compliant attitude of pop-psychedelia
  • Lack of radical thinking in pop-psychedelia
  • Psychedelic drug use by artists and musicians
  • Alan Moore’s writings about eternalism and psychedelics
  • Pressure to self-censor
  • Prohibition repeal vs drug policy reform
  • Imagining post-prohibition society
  • Understanding religion in post-prohibition society
  • Psychedelia and the communism/capitalism dialectic
  • Psychedelic collectivism
  • Utopian pipe dreams
  • Hiding initiation from the youth, delaying maturation
  • Metaphorical nature of psychedelic experiencing
  • Exoteric and esoteric conception of eating and drinking
  • The future relevance of exoteric religion, post-prohibition
  • Primitive culture’s relation to psychedelics

I’m checking back in after 1+ month away to attend to home and work matters. Expect more writings soon on Greek and Roman writings, especially more Homer posting, and on academia.

First up will be a podcast post. My hiatus prevented me from posting links to the last two episodes from March/April, on pop sike and prohibition. Follow Max’s youtube, if you’re not already, and get the episodes as soon as they’re up.

I don’t have any notes to post about Dose Nation’s ‘Final 10’, Ep. 8. Max and I discussed it in Transcendent Knowledge Podcast, Ep. 22.

I don’t have any notes because after listening to the previous seven episodes, I decided that James Kent is one of the last people I want to hear discuss the topic of psychedelics in Christianity. Actually ‘psychedelics in Christianity’ is not quite right, since Kent discusses the mushroom theory of Christian origins, that boring, old-fashioned, talked-to-death topic, instead of the more interesting ‘psychedelics in Christianity’ or ‘visionary plants in Christianity’, i.e. the more interesting question of ‘to what extent were visionary plants incorporated into Christian practice in all eras?’ (the Michael Hoffman question).

I also don’t have any notes on Epp. 9 & 10 of Dose Nation ‘Final 10’. Max and I agreed that we had given quite enough attention and had figured out the perspective of James Kent and Dose Nation.

Posting my notes has been a bit of clean-up, a way of getting my reactions and ideas about Dose Nation’s Final 10 into written form and of ending the project.

As part of wrapping up the project of analyzing Dose Nation’s ‘Final 10’ podcast series, I post here my notes written while listening to Episode 7. These notes served as the basis for my part in the discussion with Max about this episode in Transcendent Knowledge Podcast, ep. 21.

First up are notes on the episode, followed by expanded sections inspired by this episode.

  • This episode should be first in the series, not seventh. It’s probably the only one you really need to listen to in order to understand James Kent and his approach.
  • Kent claims that a major theme of the episodes so far is that western culture and psychedelics are not compatible. There is something inherent in the narrative of western culture that prevents pyschedelics from fitting. An interesting idea that could be turned to our uses in promoting egodeath theory. The problem is that western society has come to be dominated by, officially, a single, ordinary state.
  • But Kent has a weird view on modern cultural history. He claims that we’re living in a post-psychedelic age, that we would have seen the benefits of psychedelics, if there were any. As if psychedelics were actually integrated into modern culture. 
  • Treats Prohibition as some sort of natural reaction.
  • What does it mean ‘to make the world a better place’? Define your terms.
  • Bunk ideas of cultural progress
  • Fails to ask the question “What is the benefit we are looking for when we take psychedelics?” and consider the question and its associations.
  • Thinks that legitimization by psychedelics advocates comes from a purely selfish motive, that no one actually cares about other people, but only legitimizing their own experiences and feeling good about them. Kent is so cynical.
  • Kent’s main target is the idea that there is anything broken or wrong for psychedelics to fix.
  • Kent’s criticism of 20th cent psychedelics advocates and his mode of evaluating them evaporates when the analogy component of the egodeath theory comes in. Kent’s framing can only work without a robust understanding of analogy
  • Kent’s description of religion as ‘holding out a carrot’ fits with his focus on benefit. He frames religion as solely concerned with holding out some benefit for the future afterlife. He thinks psychedelics advocates have absorbed this idea. Kent instead wants a clear sense of benefit, of what he’s buying. In this he is a good consumer: he wants to know in advance what he is going to get out of his time, effort, money, attention.
  • Acts as though because he can make some criticisms of psychedelics advocates and their aims, therefore there are no benefits to psychedelics.
  • Kent claims that psychedelics produce a delusion in people that they are saviors. Again, a problem of causation: are psychedelics the cause of that? He has already argued that there is nothing inherent to the psychedelic experience, that everything about them is pure branding. His critique is primarily a moral critique of individuals, framed as a moral problem for individuals to address. Yet in his efforts to critique, he goes so far as to smear psychedelics themselves as the cause of the behavior he criticizes.
  • Kent seems to have cloaked his greivances against figures in the contemporary psychedelics community into a critique of psychedelics themselves.
  • Kent says that he views consumerism as inevitable. Critiquing western culture is delusional. Spirituality is always delusional. There’s much here that has little to do with psychedelics, but is reflective of Kent’s own obsessions.
  • Kent’s own cricisism of people who take psychedelics become delusional, think of themselves as saviors, and think of a problem that they alone can solve, unfortunately for Kent, obviates his own podcast series. Kent positions himself in this podcast series as a psychedelic insider who will save all the delusional people from the problem of psychedelic spirituality and ‘bad ideas’
  • Kent’s framing around ‘disinformation’ and ‘bad ideas’ is typical of elitist experts defending the status quo. Doesn’t ask whether ‘bad ideas’ are unique to psychedelics advocates, assumes that psychedelics advocates have a special unique problem with ‘bad ideas’
  • Kent is convinced that he knows reality and in this podcast series spreads the truth.
  • Criticizes Leary for using an electrical switch model of the mind, which Kent says we now know to be false. Then has to admit that the electrical switch model was the current model during Leary’s time. So Leary is here critiqued for not using our contemporary model of the mind, as if he could have used our contemporary model.
  • Kent overreaches and wants all of life to be defined and determined and measured according to the strictures of science. Kent’s atheism has produced in him someone just as moralistic as the religious people he criticizies. Kent believes he has found the one correct model against which all of life should be measured and evaluated.
  • Kent admits that he has had many bad theories and delusions.
  • Kent primarily describes himself and addresses himself, but projects his own life out onto other people. He says that psychedelics make people megalomaniacal and prone to bad ideas. Kent criticizes psychedelics advocates for their spirituality and asserts that psychedelics should be used for party culture only. Really, Kent is the megalomanial one and the one who has had ‘bad ideas’. He wishes that he had just stuck to party culture and never gotten interested in psychedelic spirituality. His critiques are a projection.
  • Kent still attached to his ‘bad ideas’, since he here describes it to us c. 25 years later. His story of his ‘bad ideas’ is a story of approaching something like the eternalism and self-control focus of the Egodeath Theory, but then turning away. He says he turned away from a ‘synchronicity’ theory of psychedelics out of fear of psychosis, i.e. of control loss. Mentions ‘sacred geometry’ as a route into ‘hyperspace’. Mentions Einstein, spacetime, 4-d. Quantum Theory seems to have pulled him off course. What happened, James? Kent is a failed Egodeath Theorist.
  • Kent is embarrassed of his old notebooks, written around the time he had his big freakout, but it’s a shame that he didn’t do more.
  • Kent says he gave up his theorizing in his journals because he started doing psychedelic journalism. So, the community and engaging with it to such extent prevented him from doing his work.
  • Dimissed spacetime as too concerned with the real matter of things and without enough ‘magic’. Moved into ‘brain theorizing’: another missed path. He tries to claim that he was ahead of his time.
  • Pushes his own path from ‘magic’ to ‘neuroscience’ onto human culture.
  • Criticizes people for publishing ideas that are ‘bad’. He doesn’t want people to publish. He is anti-creativity. He wants experts to write and publish, and everyone else to follow and read them. In hindsight, he is glad he didn’t publish any pseudoscience. A fearful approach. “You can’t risk being wrong.” What is this fearful nonsense? Related to his authoritarian, safety-oriented view of culture and defense of the status quo. It’s cowardly.
  • Why didn’t James Kent discover the Egodeath Theory? The primary reason: He was not centrally concerned with the problem of self-control. He avoided that topic. He was researching topics that were leading him towards it, but then he turned away. Secondary topics: He adopts a demonizing attitude towards religion, instead of committing to making sense of it. He was too much focused on the party culture. He was too focused on establishing a place for himself in ‘the psychedelic community’.
  • 1:17 Huxley, doors of perception. No mention of William Blake, acts as if Huxley theorizing in a vacuum, rather than a literary, poetic author. Illustrates Kent’s myopic sense of history and literary traditions.
  • 1:20 Reductionist reading of Huxley’s more poetic approach to language. Fine to criticize Huxley for poetic language, but I object to reductionist readings.
  • Says that having a visual distortion on ketamine, climbing to the top of a mountain for a new view on the landscape, and mystical visionary experiencing are all the same thing. In what way are those the same thing? It’s embarrassing to say that climbing a mountain gives a visionary experience just like a psychedelic does, especially as a self-proclaimed psychedelics researcher. How are they the same thing at all?
  • So, Kent’s reading of Huxley is going to be off. It’s pretty clear that Huxley and Kent have different understandings of what ‘visionary’ means. Kent approaches someone with a different understanding of a key term and then blames them or critizes them for not using the word properly, as if they agreed with him about the term. Kent’s not interested in understanding this difference or accounting for it.
  • I not interested in defending Huxley’s Doors of Perception, but Kent’s presentation is bizarre.
  • Kent’s critique is that it’s not a scientific theory. Huxley is poetic, so don’t expect him to be ‘science.’ It’s not appropriate to present it and judge it as something that it is not. Kent focuses on the scientific method and how Huxley fails to follow it, as if that were Huxley’s goal or approach. Kent overprizes ‘scientific method.’
  • Like with Leary, he has to admit that Huxley couldn’t have understood the brain in modern terms. This could be a simpler critique: just say that it is outdated because it relies on outdated models of the brain.
  • Ultimately, Kent doesn’t like that Huxley makes a religious argument. But this is no surprise, if you understand that the title of the  “Doors of Perception” refers to a William Blake poem. We have a situation in which someone with no background in religion or culture now tries to engage with texts that are steeped in the thought world and literary world. He completely misses the point and context of the writing. Similar to his failure to read Albert Hofmann in Episode 3.


Idea generation from idea that psychedelics and mderon western culture are incompatible

Pop sike not radical enough, especially health idea, is just fitting in with dominant cultural modes. Medical and therapy is not revolutionary, fits in nicely with contemporary culture. Kent is focused on ‘miracle cure’, which fits in with religion. Religion angle is perhaps radical, if properly understood. Religion in Pop Sike is not sufficiently revolutionary because it lacks the apocalypse, end of world, end of self, revelation. Not focused on real ending of egoic world model, more focused on peace and light.

What’s needed is to point out the Prohibition is a permanent strategy. Economic, carcereal, model for war on terror, surveillance state strategy. Standing up to it with clear-eyed view of what it is is revoluationary. Have to be practical material changes. Not allow system to continue. Analogy between egoic-control system and culture of Prohibition. Military, economic, carcereal system is wrapped up in each other. Revolutionary approach to this time and place is to go up against prohibition, against the empire, against command network. Corrupt command network of modern error (both ego and prohibition).

So yes, psychedelics are against modern western society, if we understand that in terms of safety, security, Prohibition, control.

Kent vs. Pop Sike. Pop Sike wants a little bit of a modification of contemporary world order. Kent is pointing out that psychedelics are too crazy for that too work and too woo. “Western society” is going to reject it. Kent is pro-consumer empire culture. Completely leaves out Prohibition. Thinks that it happened because people agreed that substances were dangerous and that’s what sustains it.

The conflict shows that what is needed is more discussion of what prohibition is, what it does, how it works.

Drug legalization shoehorned into prohibitionist culture. Egoic control culture will try incorporate psychedelics into itself, neuter it. Kent reflect this, he wants low doses for fun, parties, maybe some insight, but that’s it. Therapy model reflects this as well, get well to go lead to (safe setting etc). Microdosing too which is about lifestyle enhancement and productivity. All of those are linked by low dosing to avoid egodeath. Doesn’t want death psychosis end of the world.

More on prohibition:

Kent treats Prohibition as a natural outcome, genuinely motivated by concerns for safety. My interest is not so much the ‘modern Western culture’ but in Prohibition writ large:

  • Control oriented; officially single state; ordinary state as the normal baseline for evaluation
  • Economic strategy of covert markets and extra legal intervention
  • Carceral strategy; for-profit prisons; profit to judges and police departments; asset seizure; death sentences
  • Military global
  • Safety hyper attention, spreading out into culture; safety, surveillance, citizens policing each other
  • Shoring up and protecting of individual identity possibilism
  • Distorting effect on our thinking about history

Prohibition as economic, legal, military long term strategy; culture of Prohibition. Not fully synonymous with ‘modern Western culture.’ Nor is it a post-60s phenomenon; it was largely in place by late 60s, with cocaine, opium, cannabis, alcohol, etc.

My criticism of psychedelics ‘community’ is that it is insufficiently targeted against Prohibition. I largely agree with Kent’s critique that they are too-obsessed with legitimization in the face of Prohibition. Focused on that, they end up accepting the framing of Prohibition. Ultimately their actions suggest that want to legitimize psychedelics for a few people, under controlled circumstances. The risk is that we get psychedelics ‘legal’, but in a way that puts off Egodeath and does nothing about contemporary Empire.

Kent’s use of scientific method:

Reliance on ordinary state only scientific method itself is wrong :

  • Kent tells an overly simplistic just-so story of modernity and the scientific method. That is reason alone to reject his analysis.
  • The scientific method is not some inviolable objective cure all. The “skeptic movement” has not saved and will not save anyone. Academic and scientific institutions are just as fallible and prone to cultish group think and irrationalism as any other. I’ve spent my adult life in academia, take it from me. It’s faddish. Good ideas are ignored, intellectual development does not proceed along a straight line.

And it fails on its own terms (internal critique):

  • Kent hasn’t found an explanation of value of altered state that satisfies him as rational, so acts as if there isn’t one. Claims that scientific method would have found one, which is anti-progress (not allowing for progress). Fallacy of equating altered state with irrationality.

Summary of Dose Nation approach:

  • The simple move that Kent fails at is the metaphor analogy angle. 
  • Also fails the free will angle, cybernetic self-control.
  • This is a situation that the ego death theory solves: by insisting on a rationality oriented explanation of altered state experiencing, one that explains its rationale, and by providing an explanation for religion as metaphor (unlocking the explanation, the rationale).
  • Kent says there is no rational explanation because it is irrational (it’s just a hallucination, it’s incompatible with scientific method) and that religion is BS and that’s all. So, Kent fails to explain, really puts off doing either. Throws his hands up and says the only explanation is to reject. Kent’s position is thus to stay in the unintegrated prohibition status quo. Naive view of progress and how it works.

Huxley notes:

Kent’s treatment of Huxley’s reducing valve as a case study of limitations of ‘scientific method objectivity’ approach.

It’s fine for him to say that the ‘reducing valve’ is not a sound neuro-science theory, but Kent over steps his bounds. He fails on a literary, philosophical, psychological understanding, even as he claims to cover those things or provide a better explanation.

Objectivity scientific method works well in a controlled, hermetically-sealed lab. That is its proper place. I reject applying it strictly outside of that environment as the sole criterion for evaluating any and all topics. More is needed to cover things outside the lab.

When it comes to Huxley et al. Kent is outside his game. Literature, art, philosophy, that is my territory. It is a requirement when evaluating Huxley’s essay to mention William Blake.

The larger intellectual problem that ‘objectivity scientific method’ creates is that Kent thinks that he can get away with that alone. The approach encourages it. The approach of only prizing the scientific method to get to objective truth tells you that you can evaluate all you need by reducing every single topic to materialist concerns and that you don’t need any background on the subject other than using your scientific method in order to understand it and evaluate it.

Huxley notes form reading Doors of Perception:

Kent misrepresents Huxley. Huxley explicit that he does not mean being able to perceive more (Kent presents as if Huxley saying that on psychedelics you can perceive more of the world), but that perception is different and in some sense “more”, seeing the “Suchness”, an unmediated thing as it really is. Relatedly, Kent misses out on Huxley’s interest in language’s role in filtering and the effect that has on individual. For Huxley ordinary state is a state of linguistic concepts that individual mistakes as fully real or fully capturing something , while altered state allows for contemplative perception of thing in its total itness without any linguistic signifiers attached.

Huxley writing in a sophisticated way, expecting you to get the paradox of this. He says he didn’t see visions, that his subjective experience didn’t change. “The other world to which mescalin admitted me was not the world of visions; it existed out there, in what I could see with my eyes open. The great change was in the realm of objective fact. What had happened to my subjective universe was relatively unimportant.” (16)  The phrase in bold is a paradox. The altered state makes the world of ‘objective fact’ change, calling into question the realm of ‘objective fact’ itself. The dichotomy of ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ lose their meaning as opposites, a blurring, blending occurs.

Misrepresenting Huxley:

  • Valve theory is not from Huxley alone; rather Huxley cites philosopher C. D. Broad, who is citing Henri Bergson. (importance is that Huxley didn’t just think of it while tripping; Kent is framing this as a ‘bad idea’ from tripping. In fact, Huxley says that it comes after reflecting on his experience).
  • Valve theory is philosophical, not “scientific” (i.e. Huxley didn’t come up with it in a lab)
  • “Reducing valve” is an image (not a literal description of a part of the brain or brain chemistry). Drawn from plumbing or water works. “Funneled” “trickle” (23)  “by-pass” “flows” (24) “seeps” “watertight valve” (26) “oozes” (33) “pipeline” (37). Note that this is a loose cognition image
  • Comparatively minor part of the work, which is otherwise an extended, wide-ranging essay, including lots of art criticism. It’s not a work of “science,” and not presented as such or published as such. It has some interaction with scientific writing and thought, some familiarity, but it is not a ‘scientific publication.’
  • Not meant to imply that altered state lets you perceive all of the world, but that you perceive the thing in its total suchness without filter of language. Huxley explicitly rejects the total perception idea twice on page 24 and 26. Kent has nothing to say about the language topic. Note that the language topic is an ego topic.
  • Kent says that Huxley is wrong about the reducing valve, yet it appears that Carhart-Harris confirms something like it:
  • Massive projection!!! “Huxley sounds smug” give me a break. This is analysis?
  • Moving on to the Dutch doctor whoe trepanned himself. His attempt to connect to Huxley is tenuous and sloppy. Admits a “side-ways connection”. I’m assuming he was exposed to the valve theory. Huxley does not say that if you open up the valve, perception comes in more clearly, and your consciousness expands. That is Kent’s sloppy misreading.
  • Trapanation is symptom of psychosis. Smear Huxley by linking to trapanation. Lol claims you only get this in psychedelic community. Oh really? Explain why this is the psychedelic community. What is the psychedelic community? Is there no other explanation for why people got interested in this? What precisely does trepanation (pseudo-science) have to do with taking psychedelics?
  • Reading out Joe Mellen on the ego and govt, Kent can’t get metaphor, which he claims is European intellectualism BS.

As part of wrapping up the project of analyzing Dose Nation’s ‘Final 10’ podcast series, I post here my notes written while listening to Episode 6. These notes served as the basis for my part in the discussion with Max about this episode in Transcendent Knowledge Podcast Ep. 20.

  • Episode covers healing, medicine, ayahuasca ceremonies.
  • Kent describes how shamans do a certain kind of physical healing. Long-winded, not relevant. I don’t care about shamanic claims of physical healing.
  • Kent polemicizes against gurus.
  • Claims that psychedelics and Timothy Leary’s encouragement to “drop out” allowed gurus to take over people. This is misreading of Leary and of the cultural context of the 60s and 70s. What caused an interest in gurus in America in the 20th century? Kent wants you to think that psychedelics caused it, solely, apart from any other factor.
  • This episode well illustrates Kent’s sensationalism. He moralizes throughout: it’s so bad that anyone could ever encounter harm at ayahuasca centers. We should disapprove sternly of anyone who is even indirectly associated with harm experienced at ayahuasca centers
  • He describes a murder during an ayahuasca retreat. He reads from a news article, but the details are unclear. He interprets that the murder happened during an ayahuasca ceremony, and expands from here to blame all of ayahuasca tourism for the murder. An example of sensationalizing. I have no investment in ayahuasca, but sensationalizing strains credibility and is exhausting to listen to.
  • States that losing control and becoming ‘primal’ and ‘violent’ is the worst thing that could happen to someone. This is profound in a certain way: Losing control is the worst thing to an ego!
  • Reminder: Kent had a freakout on psychedelics. Instead of investigating further the dynamics of freakout, he turned to the ‘psychedelic community’ for an answer about what happened. From them on, he intentionally took small doses to retain control. Kent is obsessed with retaining control. He is the voice of the modern ego resisting control undermining psychedelics. While his critiques are valuable in some ways, he has this huge blindspot.
  • The focus on murder at ayahuasca centers is a bit over the top. As if no one ever murders anyone at any other time under other circumstances.
  • Kent’s tone of moral panic is culturally retrograde. Exposing ayahuasca centers as bunk and corrupt is fine and worthy, but moral panic supports Prohibitionist safety and security culture. If you’re going to moralize against psychedelic-related deaths, talk about deaths caused by Prohibition.
  • I’m very confused about what his point is about the shaman and death at the facility, and about the open letter from the ayahuasca community. Trying to attack the shaman as a lowlife criminal, but that the open letter authors chastising him were wrong to do so. The connection is not clear, and his sensationalizing and moral panic tone confuses whatever point he is trying to make.
  • Thinks that being a ‘spiritually-evolved master’ means being perfectly moral.
  • Kent has to admit that we don’t know what killed the kid, but Kent wants it to be the ayahuasca itself, I assume because it dehydrates you through excessive purging. But he’s inconsistent and wants it to be because ayahuasca makes you “crazy.” For the idea that ayahuasca makes you “crazy,” he’s relying on a W.S. Burroughs quote about “derangement”.
  • About Shamans, he says: “when shit goes wrong, they have no control and they don’t want to take responsibility.” Very revealing comment. Concepts of control and responsibility are wrapped up in making an individualized subject ego, one also capable of being blamed.
  • He criticizes indigeneous people getting scared about the deaths of foreigners, panicking, and not treating the bodies properly. In his ideal version of the world, they would be in total control, or someone would be in control, and would prevent ‘bad’ things from happening or would no how to handle ‘bad’ things with perfect understanding. Normative ethics of responsibility. Kent wants a bubble in which nothing ‘bad’ ever happens.
  • Attacks shamans for not being ‘spiritually advanced’ without defining what that would mean.
  • A more productive question would be “why are ayahuasca ceremonies appealing to modern Westerners?” Kent is not interested in all that. He’s interested in reinforcing the ordinary state, in reifying ordinary state egoic life, not having psychedelics impinge upon that.
  • General thought on cultural criticism of shamans as uncivilized: Western science and medicine is full of ‘uncivilized activities’ that resulted in progress of knowledge and ideas. If you prize rationality and self-experimentation and knowledge, you have to accept casualities.
  • An excessive focus on safety is authoritarian

As part of wrapping up the project of analyzing Dose Nation’s ‘Final 10’ podcast series, I post here my notes written while listening to Episode 5. These notes served as the basis for my part in the discussion with Max about this episode in Transcendent Knowledge Podcast Ep. 19.

  • Kent says that when he was younger, he was open to New Age, just as open to it as to “Science”. This is a weird pairing, as if there are only two options. What of, for example, Western religion, philosophy, theology, esotericism?
  • This episode continues Episode 4’s obsession with right belief.
  • Kent is critical of the idea that “thoughts shape reality” or “consciousness creates reality”. But what does this mean? He doesn’t define. This failure to define is indicative of Kent’s confusion of the two realms, ordinary-state possibilism tight cognition and altered-state eternalism loose cognition.
  • Kent criticizes interpretations of quantum physics that conribute to idea that thoughts shape reality.
  • Kent discusses philosophy of mind, but not in much depth and only to dismiss an interpretation he disagrees with. He mentions the hard problem of consciousness, discussed by Max in Transcendent Knowledge Podcast Ep. 6.
  • Kent is a hardline materialist. He is against the idea of a nonphysical soul and against the idea that there is some other sort of material that soul/consciousness is made up of
  • Kent claims that if you understand neuroscience and biology you would never fall for idea that there’s some other matter. This is typical technocrat: As long as you correctly understand a position, you would never ever think something else.
  • Kent implies that only superficial lightweight thinkers don’t agree that consciousness is solely material.
  • Kent implies that if only people were more ‘educated’ they wouldn’t make mistakes
  • Kent lumps together a huge number of ideas and positions
  • Note his habit of speaking: “the argument eventually comes around to [ideas xyz],” as if some absurd position he has come up with is an inevitable consequence of some other position.
  • It’s not every day you hear Descartes linked to the New Age, but ok
  • Kent criticizes the way spiritual ideas draw on scientific words to make spiritual ideas sound appealing. Uh, where do you think science got the words to begin with? Science relies on religious language! This complaint is also incompatible with his stance of cultural evolution from magic to science. For example, Kent complains about New Age taking the word ‘energy’ from science. But trace the word back, and one could make the case that science “co-opted” the word from earlier discourses. An ancient Greek dictionary, for example, indicates a range of meanings for the term ἐνέργεια, all predating modern scientific discourse, and none of which are “energy” in the way modern scientific discourse has come to use the term:ἐνέργεια
  • Kent’s main interest was in ketamine.
  • Kent says that he practiced taking smaller and smaller doses, to avoid losing control. His primary interest was perception alteration. So he knows that losing control is possible on psychedelics, but he sought to avoid that as much as possible. He doesn’t seem interested in the problem of control, but was afraid of psychosis, madness, frenzy, losing control. This was a potential problem to be avoided while exploring the real point of psychedelics, that of altering perception.
  • He thinks that being in a state of toggling of phenomenal perception is the ultimate goal of psychedelics. Makes visual fireworks the main point. This is entertainment-oriented and consumerist.
  • Discusses his own delusional paranoia, which he links to drug use, saying that delusional paranoia was a side-effect of drug use. Leaves out of consideration any other possible factor as to why he become paranoid (20+ years ago), but, no, it has to be because of drug use.
  • I say that the “problem” of delusional paranoia could be “solved” on an individual case basis by savvy analogy understanding.
  • Kent describes the death of author DM Turner and speculates about the psychological cause of his death. He speculates that Turner went to drugs and self-examination for something that he should have gone to therapy for. This is of course all a projection onto DM Turner. We don’t know that he did or didn’t, only that Kent has reasoned that this is a possible scenario.
  • “What’s the point of lucid dreaming of manifesting reality from your thoughts, if you can’t manifest a new reality for yourself, what’s the point and what’s the use.” This is an example of a mode of interpretation that focuses on horizontal in-time (as opposed to vertical timeless), moral, practical, material benefits. He here judges the altered state from perspective of ordinary state of consciousness. The ordinary-state possibilism tight cognition has an in-time, horizontal perspective on time and involves speculation about future actions and imagining possible outcomes. But the mystic altered state has its own independent value, set of experiences and ideas, and should not be judged by the standards of the ordinary state. Grasping eternalism is valuable on its own apart from ordinary-state possibilism life. For example, I think that a beneficial outcome of altered state experiencing is to resolve confusion about time and control and the instability of the uninitiated possibilism model of time and control. Kent’s literalist interpretation of ‘manifesting a new reality for oneself’ is typical of the ordinary-state. It’s also typical of capitalism, to be focused on outcome and product and value and benefit. A more radical approach is to deny that the altered state provides benefit for the self in the way the ordinary state defines benefit. An aspect of egodeath is that you stop, you die, you do not stretch across time, you do not reach out to create your future actions. You do not get anything out of it, not in the way the ordinary state understands it.
  • Kent’s partly right that there’s a lot of snake-oil salesmanship about benefits in the New Age, but he ignores that there is a distinct goal of religion and wisdom that has nothing to do with beneficial outcomes as usually understood in egoic possibilism state. Kent can’t get the play of metaphor between the possibilism-based understanding of words and the eternalism-based understanding of words.


Metaphorical Psychedelic Eternalism
June 2020


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