Below is what I wrote about my background with the Egodeath theory when I first started my website:

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June, 2008:

It’s useful for me to write about my history with the Ego Death theory. How did I first approach the many challenging concepts of the theory? What concepts do I still consider myself not yet familiar enough with? Due to the newness and challenging (from certain points of view) nature of the theory, I’ve always maintained a position of cautious skepticism and have over time investigated Hoffman’s bibliography. However, I’m still convinced that I cannot succinctly explain all aspects of the theory, field questions about all aspects, or defend the theory adequately in debate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I first encountered egodeath.com in the late winter/early spring of 2002.  I stumbled on the site while searching for Rush lyrics. It’s possible that I was specifically looking for sustained interpretations of songs. What I found was Hoffman’s page “Rush Lyrics Alluding to Mystic Dissociative Phenomena” (http://www.egodeath.com/rushlyrics.htm). “What?” Here certainly was a sustained interpretation, but I was unfamiliar with many of the terms Hoffman uses, e.g. “the dissociative state of consciousness” or “self-control cybernetics.” Still, I made my way through that page and other pages on Rush and rock lyrics. Not much clicked right away, but I kept thinking about what Hoffman had written, particularly as I listened to Rush. I wanted to grasp what he was saying, and kept returning to the site. I found that as I accepted some points, I almost inevitably accepted other related concepts. (This is a common theme in my history with the Ego Death theory, and illustrates the interwoven nature of its explanatory power.  All the pieces just fit.) For example, the auditory effects Hoffman singles out are present, namely the irregular heartbeat at the end of the song Cygnus X-1, the insertion of syllables throughout the album Signals, and the intentional lyric slurring throughout Rush’s output. Once pointed out, it seems highly unlikely that it is random chance that produced these effects. Also, what else does the “Cask of ’43” refer to in the Bacchus Plateau section of The Fountain of Lamneth on Caress of Steel, if not LSD and the year Albert Hoffman rediscovered it (he had first synthesized it in 1938, but did not return to it until 43) and took his fateful bikeride? Once pointed out and fit into the overall framework, it seems impossible to deny.

I read through discussions of Hoffman’s interpretation on Rush message boards, but found only kneejerk attacks on Hoffman and the idea that Rush could regularly use drugs, instead of any substantial, sustained refutation or alternative. These kneejerk reactions seemed particularly disgraceful to me. I was surprised at how intolerant, hypocritical, and close-minded these devoted fans seemed to be, devoted to a band I had always associated with openness, tolerance, and rational thought. How could fans of a band who wrote a song like Witch Hunt demonize drug users or new, even radical, critical thought? It was clear to me that most hadn’t really read what Hoffman had written and hadn’t tried to understand him. I wanted to understand what Hoffman was saying and then try to make some kind of informed judgement. However, having seen those kneejerk reactions and being aware of the controversial nature of many aspects of the theory, I ended up keeping my investigations private.

I began exploring the rest of egodeath.com and discovered the shear volume of Hoffman’s writings. During my free time, I would bounce around from topic to topic at the site, familiarizing myself with Hoffman’s terminology and the topics he covers. I especially paid attention to his weblog, following his idea development as best I could. It’s difficult to recall the exact chronology, but I think I began to follow the weblog more carefully around spring 2004 and have followed it extremely closely since sometime in 2006.

Hoffman’s claims to have a rational, clear, concise explanation of religious experiencing has always been the chief attraction for me. I was not raised with any serious religious practice. As I grew up, I pretty much flatly rejected Christian morality as outdated and dogmatic. I wasn’t interested in rebelliously flaunting my moral freedom; I simply felt no hold and saw no reason why I should start. Evangelicalism certainly held no interest for me. I found the history of the Catholic church to be particularly infuriating. What did this institution that seemed so imperial have to do with religious experiencing or trying to treat each other nicely? The friendly, emotion-based Presbyterianism some of my high school friends had embraced, mostly because of the social draw of the church’s youth group (as shown by their later near unanimous rejection of the church after high school graduation), didn’t attract me much. Eastern thought, Buddhism and Taoism, interested me more, at first if only because of their unfamiliarity. They seemed more mental, more personal, more perception-oriented. However, they also seemed vague and out of reach. I had only just begun to investigate these Eastern religious systems when I stumbled upon the Ego Death theory. By this point, I was also familiar with Graeco-Roman mythology, or at least the traditional stories associated with the Olympian gods. I had always liked reading about the myths as a child, and by this point I had taken about four years worth of Latin classes and was learning about Roman culture as well.

I think that’s a fairly accurate picture of my stance towards religion up to the point I stumbled upon the Ego Death website. Oh, and then there’s Rush. I had been devoted to rock music in general for about 4 years, finding there a depth of emotion, meaning, and pure ecstatic enjoyment unmatched by any other aspect of my life. Rush had re-entered my musical life about a year and a half earlier and with them I found an excellent combination of exhilarating musical enjoyment and lyrical inspiration. If Rock has been the authentic mystery religion of our time, Rush was the band I devoted myself to above all others. And this was before I was even aware of the altered state layer in Rush’s lyrics. In hindsight, it’s not surprising that Rush led me to Hoffman and the Ego Death theory.

From the period 2003-2006, my investigation of the Ego Death theory continued during my free time, as an aside to my other studies, which primarily focused on the Graeco-Roman Classics, but also included some Eastern philosophy and Christian history and art history. While engaged in my studies, I would consistently try to imagine my topic from the point of view of the Ego Death theory, i.e. self-control dynamics, space/time, free-will/determinism, and entheogens. These attempts would in turn fuel new questions to investigate in Hoffman’s writings. Some things would fit and some wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure if this was due to a failure in the Ego Death or my own understanding and application of the theory. I keep waiting, reading, and thinking. I barely discussed the Ego Death theory with anyone. I had come to grasp how radical it would seem to many people and despaired of how I could begin to explain these nest of concepts to anyone, friends, family, or teachers. Hell, I wasn’t even sure how much of it I accepted. So I continued my investigations with cautious skepticism.

Over this time, I watched Hoffman put together more pieces into an ever-tighter theory until, in mid-2006, he wrote his main article, the concise summary of the theory that sits proudly atop egodeath.com. Here it was, the core expression, uncompromising, strong, distilled into clear, tight prose. A landmark, to be sure. It took me about a year and a half to fully grasp the impact of the Ego Death theory and decide what I should do. This period began around mid-2006 and continued until just after 2008 began. Some aspects and habits of that period have carried over into my current period, but the mid-2006 to early 2008 period was characterized by a mental agitation about just what I should do now that the main article had been written. Another important factor I shouldn’t forget is Hoffman’s audio recordings, dating from the second half of 2007. Here, suddenly, was a human voice, a personality. The Ego Death theory had suddenly become much more real to me.

Though I didn’t exactly realize what I was doing at the time, I began to familiarize myself with the main conceptual currents brought together by the Ego Death theory. I began by pouring over Hoffman’s writings about paradigms and theory development. I read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Paul Thagard’s Conceptual Revolutions. Once I felt that I had grasped those concepts enough to understand Hoffman’s use of them, I moved on to the entheogen scholars, Wasson, Ruck, Heinrich, Arthur. Combined with reading Hoffman, I soon felt that I had a firm enough grasp on their strengths and weaknesses. Their cataloging of entheogens in world religion is instrumental and valuable, but I prefer Hoffman’s focus on altered-state self-control dynamics, mystic-state ego death as the peak religious experience, and religious myth as primarily an expression of that peak experience. I’ve since realized just what I was doing as I worked to familiarize myself with Hoffman’s bibliography and am now systematically reading books on concepts central to the Ego Death theory: block universe, self-control psychology, free-will/determinism, cognitive phenomenology. I knew Hoffman’s synthesis of all these concepts, but had not had time to read exactly what he was drawing on. Deeper study of these concepts, when combined with knowledge of other areas I had studied, has only shown the strength of Hoffman’s explanation.

Over the period mid-2006 to early-2008, I wrestled with what I should do in the wake of the composition of the main article. I intended to begin a career in Classical Studies. What is the role of Classical Studies in light of the Ego Death theory? I’m still not quite sure. That’s part of the reason for this site. Soon after beginning graduate school I realized that I would have a very hard time ignoring the Ego Death theory in my research. But how could I bring this theory into an academic world likely completely unaware of Hoffman’s web-based scholarship, one that has largely ignored Ruck et al.’s work on entheogens in Graeco-Roman history? How could I bring up the Ego Death theory, this nest of concepts, quickly in a class-room discussion? What kind of reaction could I expect from my professors and fellow grad students? A tricky game to play as young academic.

This post is a sketch of where I’ve come from. In a way, the above is partly a story of conversion, partly a story of growing up in the transition period between two paradigms. I hadn’t really settled into a world-view when I stumbled upon the nascent Ego Death theory. If Hoffman is right and the Ego Death theory is the end of the Modern Era, then I am among the first of the new era.