Author Archive | Mitch Mignano

Zig Zag Zen Launches in London 9 July @ Watkins Bookstore

Join Allan Badiner, Rick Doblin, Robert Forte and Daniel Pinchbeck in a rare London gathering for a book signing to celebrate the UK launch of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics.


zig_zag_zen_front_coverThis new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics  has evolved from the landmark anthology that launched the first inquiry into the ethical, doctrinal, and transcendental considerations at the intersection of Buddhism and psychedelics.

Featuring original essays by Ralph Metzner and Brad Warner; exciting interviews with James Fadiman, Kokyo Henkel, and Rick Doblin; and a discussion of ayahuasca’s unique influence on Zen Buddhism by David Coyote; all of which have been carefully curated to extend the original inquiry of authors Joan Halifax Roshi, Peter Matthiessen, Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, Terence McKenna, Rick Fields and others.

Zig Zag Zen also features artwork contributions from Android Jones, Sukhi Barber, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, Amanda Sage, as well as Robert Venosa, Mark Rothko, Robert Beer, Francesco Clemente, and the pioneering visionary artist Alex Grey.

Zig Zag Zen is a must read for anyone who is concerned about the future of Buddhist practice.
Robert Thurman, Chair of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University

watkins_booksWATKINS BOOKSTORE
19-21 Cecil Court
London WC2N 4EZ
Nearest Tube:
Covent Garden/Leicester Square
Thursday, 9 July
6:30 pm

 

Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics
ISBN: 978 0907791 61 4

Hardcover $38.95 304 pages
7 x 9 inches
40 Color Plates (also available in eBook)
Available in the UK through Deep Books, Ltd.

Zig Zag Zen is a treasure trove: inspiring, frightening, powerful, funny, eye-opening, and a source of great wisdom on a subject that our society finds endlessly confusing.
Mark Epstein, MD, author of Thoughts Without a Thinker and Going on Being

 An extraordinary ride and guide down the corridors of the mystical psychedelic inward journey that will be of great interest and value to any serious explorer of spiritual insight. The zigzag is not for the straight and narrow.
Ganga White, author of Yoga Beyond Belief, founder of the White Lotus Foundation

Psychedelics opened my Doors of Perception, and Zen Buddhism has helped to keep them open.
John Densmore, author of New York Times bestseller Riders on the Storm and The Doors: Unhinged

 Zig Zag Zen challenges Buddhists to acknowledge their psychedelic legacies, while confronting
the duality undermining any chemically dependent spiritual path.

Douglas Rushkoff, author of Ecstasy Club, Exit Strategy, Playing the Future and Coercion

 Zig Zag Zen shines by its fairness: it faces the Zig and the Zag. That’s Zen at its best.
David Steindl-Rast OSB, author of Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer

 About the Speakers

badinerAllan Badiner is the editor Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Synergetic Press), as well as two other books of collected essays, Dharma Gaia: A Harvest in Buddhism and Ecology (Parallax Press, 1991) and Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism (Parallax, 2002). Allan is a contributing editor of Tricycle magazine, and serves on the board of directors of Rainforest Action Network, Threshold Foundation and Project CBD. He has been a student of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh for more than 25 years.

 

doblinRick Doblin, PhD, is founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). His undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida was a twenty-five-year follow-up to the classic Good Friday Experiment. He wrote his doctoral dissertation (in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government) on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics. His professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana and eventually to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist.

 

Untitled-2Robert Forte, AMRS, is an independent scholar, writer, and editor, who studied the history and psychology of religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the editor of Entheogens and the Future of Religion; Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In, and the twentieth anniversary edition of The Road to Eleusis, by R. G. Wasson, Albert Hofmann, and Carl A. P. Ruck. He is currently a faculty member of the California Institute of Integral Studies, Transformative Studies. He served on the board of directors of the Albert Hofmann Foundation and has been president of the Church of the Awakening since 1985.

 

pinchbeckb&waDaniel Pinchbeck is author of Breaking Open the Head and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. In May 2007, Pinchbeck launched Reality Sandwich. He is the executive producer of Postmodern Times, a series of web videos presented on the iClips Network, and co-founder of Evolver.net, an online social network. His life and work are featured in the documentary 2012: Time for Change, featuring interviews with Sting, David Lynch, Barbara Marx Hubbard, and others.

Sweeping Entheogens Out From Under the Rug: Zig Zag Zen at the Rubin Museum

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(left to right) Alex Grey and Allan Badiner and psychiatrist Julie Holland MD at the Rubin Museum, New York City, June 17th.

 

How did the leaders of the American Buddhist community find their way to spiritual practice? And why does sacred and tribal art look so, well. . . psychedelic

These were a few of the topics discussed at the Rubin Museum’s book launch event for the new, expanded edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics, from Synergetic Press. In a down to earth yet provocative exchange, editors Alex Grey and Allan Badiner, along with moderator Julie Holland M.D. spoke openly about the tie-died elephant standing in the lush downstairs theater space at the Rubin Museum on June 17th.

The Rubin, located in the Chelsea neighborhood of downtown Manhattan, is a cultural hub that brings the sacred art of the Himalayas, India and neighboring regions into the heart of the West, creating an opportunity to make cross-cultural connections through immersive exhibits, films and onstage programs.

But apart from air conditioning and lack of dust, a casual stroll through the museums exhibits is, in effect, not so different from an exploration of the visionary art galleries at Fractal Planet during Burning Man or many similar festival offerings. Patterned symmetries and asymmetries unfold like snapshots of fractal etheric processes- cultural evolution, psychodynamics, animistic identifications- all meet the viewer of both ancient sacred texts, as well as contemporary visionary offerings.

The trio on stage spoke before a packed house (at least 30 people had to be turned away from the event) on topics ranging from Buddhist practice to art and healing, but always centering around the theme of breaking the taboo on openly discussing psychedelics— substances that, although repressed in our culture, have been instrumental in the evolution of all three.
Julie Holland M.D., a frequent guest expert on an array of mainstream television programs, has written books about marijuana, ecstasy and psychiatry, as well as her latest title, Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy.
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Allan Badiner, who is responsible for originating the idea of “Zig Zag Zen” as well as editing the text of the anthology, began the discussion by explaining how the majority of leading Buddhist teachers in the west all have stories of a psychedelic experience that catalyzed their spiritual transformations, a fact he learned through numerous Buddhist retreats and formed the inspiration for putting together the anthology of writings contained in Zig Zag Zen. Allan was then keen to remind the audience that, historically speaking, the best known apostles of each included the same characters: Allan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and Jack Kerouac.

Badiner continued by sharing his own experience of an earth-shattering Ayahuasca session led by Terence McKenna in Hawaii over 25 years ago that confirmed to the young seeker that his studies in Buddhism were on the right track. He recounted some of the details of this shamanic death experience during that Ayahuasca journey, which prepared him more securely for the reality of his own death. Allan had identified the archetype of a dragon that chased him through the jungle and provided a visceral encounter with his shadow. Smelling the hair on his legs burning as he ran from the fire-breathing dragon, Badiner was suddenly able to turn around and slay the dragon, only to see the face of the collapsing beast morph into his own. When he returned to the home of his shaman, Terence McKenna, he was was asked if he would do ayahuasca again in the future. Badiner laughed and asked, “Why, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” Terence, with his characteristically sharp intonation, replied, “No, actually that which kills you makes you stronger!

Julie Holland then turned the floor over to the art editor of Zig Zag Zen, Alex Grey. Grey is perhaps best known as the father of the Visionary Art scene, a nascent but rapidly growing movement that is already dominant in underground festivals all around the world—think Burning Man—and along with his spiritual partner, wife and fellow artist Allyson Grey, runs COSM, the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, a gallery and events center in upstate New York that is legally considered by the state to be a religious organization. In addition to hosting events and workshops at COSM, the Greys travel tirelessly along the festival circuit, participating in both intimate and massive events to lecture on sacred culture and visionary art, or simply to ‘live-paint’ with developing artists in an array of local scenes, sharing their experience and wisdom.

signing_table

Allan Badiner, editor, Alex Grey, art editor and Julie Holland M.D. signing copies of Zig Zag Zen at the Rubin Museum event.

Alex began his portion of the discussion by expanding upon essential insights from “Vajravision,” his text essay contribution to the Zig Zag Zen edition, in which he states, “Vajravision helps us see beyond the opaque material world to the spiritual reality behind appearances,” and that, “A dependable way to introduce one’s self to the brightly colored and minutely articulated visionary inner worlds, to “see” with Vajravision, is through an entheogenic or psychedelic experience. Perhaps one of the primary benefits of psychedelics is their capacity to make the subtle realms explicit and inescapable to the percipient under their influence.”

Grey gave the audience a rough map of the essential realms of physicality and truth with art as a kind of medium and then initiated a visual slide-show tour of the images from Zig Zag Zen, which represent an overview of key psychedelic milestones throughout the history of art. Were cave paintings made by humans on mushrooms? Perhaps, as modern anthropologists begin accepting and exploring formerly radical points of view enunciated through poetic avatars like Terence McKenna. Grey’s exposition on the intersection of Buddhism, art and psychedelics suggests to the listener the notion that meditation, artistic practice, and psychedelics each manage to dissolve the material world of the self and build a bridge to the archetypal world of ordinarily invisible beings and formless manifestation, the products of art mapping out a trail of breadcrumbs along the way.

After more back and forth between the editors, Julie Holland’s talents as more than just a moderator were given a place to shine. Her years of experience in the psychiatric ward at Bellevue Hospital and as an earnest researcher on the topic, provide Holland—and thereby the audience—with a keen sense of the legal, practical and medical dangers of psychedelics. Holland relayed a synchronistic anecdote from Bellevue where she was able to identify a patient as ‘altered’ rather than manic due to the repeated mention of COSM. This became an fruitful touchstone for discussion amongst her colleagues, enabled her to more easily bridge the realms of the clinical and psychonautic. According to the psychiatrist, the single largest obstacle between the culture that we have today and a healthy orientation towards psychedelics, art and spiritual practice is the wholesale refusal of most people, both the anonymous as well as those in the spotlight, to discuss their views and experiences with psychedelics more openly. If this ice could melt, we might rapidly develop a creative, healthy and sensible way of living with the formerly repressed.

This led naturally into Holland questioning the editors about the use of MDMA, something only touched on between the covers of Zig Zag Zen. Is ecstasy a psychedelic, and how does it relate to the Buddhist path? While Allan pointed out that MDMA does not typically lead to hallucinations in the ordinary sense, he suggested that it appears to open a ‘heart center’ much in the way that LSD might open a cognitive one. Alex agreed, but seemed to consider the substance to be more explicitly psychedelic, retelling the narrative of his and Allyson’s first MDMA ceremony, through which the inspiration for the COSM temple and retreat center in upstate New York first entered their imaginations.

A lengthy Q & A followed and concluded with Badiner reading a striking passage from the text of a 2008 letter written by the 101 year-old Albert Hofmann, famed discoverer of LSD:

Alienation from nature and the loss of the experience of being part of the living creation is the greatest tragedy of our materialistic era. It is the causative reason for ecological devastation and climate change.

Therefore I attribute absolute highest importance to consciousness change. I regard psychedelics as catalyzers for this. They are tools which are guiding our perception toward other deeper areas of our human existence, so that we again become aware of our spiritual essence. Psychedelic experiences in a safe setting can help our consciousness open up to this sensation of connection and of being one with nature.

LSD and related substances are not drugs in the usual sense, but are part of the sacred substances, which have been used for thousand of years in ritual settings. The classic psychedelics like LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline are characterized by the fact that they are neither toxic nor addictive. It is my great concern to separate psychedelics from the ongoing debates about drugs, and to highlight the tremendous potential inherent to these substances for self-awareness, as an adjunct in therapy, and for fundamental research into the human mind.

It is my wish that a modern Eleusis will emerge, in which seeking humans can learn to have transcendent experiences with sacred substances in a safe setting. I am convinced that these soul-opening, mind-revealing substances will find their appropriate place in our society and our culture.

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Alex Grey and Allan Badiner and psychiatrist Julie Holland M.D signing books at the Rubin Museum.

And with the reading of this passage, the audience spontaneously rose to their feet with thunderous applause, the program concluded and guests trickled out to the gift shop to buy books, get autographs, and chat with the panelists, or else simply to relax and enjoy one another’s company discussing the topics presented on stage. Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics provides a thought-provoking pathway into this important discussion, which will continue for many, many years to come.

Learn more about the presenting partners for the Zig Zag Zen/Rubin Museum book launch below:

Evolver is creating a platform for content, learning, and commerce serving a global community of conscious consumers seeking optimal states of well being in mind, body, and spirit. We intend to become a leading trust-agent for individuals and groups participating in our transformative culture, one of wisdom, beauty, and fun.

The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading independent journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist views and values. 

Psymposia hosts talks, conferences, mixers, and storytelling nights about plants and psychedelics. We create and design events that help people in the community meet and network with one another. Our most recent project, Psychedelic Stories Podcast (Fall 2015) is a traveling psychedelic storytelling night that explores the stories and diverse community surrounding the psychedelic community all around the world. 

Zig Zag Zen: Rubin Gallery NYC Launch

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Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics Book signing and Discussion

with Alex Grey & Allan Badiner with Julie Holland, MD

Rubin Museum of Art, New York City

Wednesday, June 17, 6:30 – 7:15 PM

 

A presentation and discussion launching the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics with editors, Allan Badiner
and Alex Grey, and moderator Julie Holland, MD. A book signing in the shop will follow the program.

 Buddhism and psychedelic exploration share a common concern: the liberation of the mind. This new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Synergetic Press) has evolved from the landmark anthology that launched the first inquiry into the ethical, doctrinal, and transcendental considerations at the intersection of Buddhism and psychedelics. A provocative and thoughtful exploration of inner states and personal transformation, Zig Zag Zen now contains new original essays by such luminaries as Ralph Metzner and Brad Warner; exciting interviews with James Fadiman, Kokyo Henkel, and Rick Doblin; and a discussion of ayahuasca’s unique influence on Zen Buddhism by David Coyote. All of these new essays have been carefully curated to extend the original inquiry of authors Joan Halifax Roshi, Peter Matthiessen, Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, Terence McKenna, Rick Fields and many others. Complementing these new essays is an expanded display of stunning artwork including pieces from Android Jones, Sukhi Barber, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, and Amanda Sage, as well as the original brilliant work of Robert Venosa, Mark Rothko, Robert Beer, Francesco Clemente, and many others, including more work by the pioneering visionary artist Alex Grey. Buddhism and psychedelics are inevitable subjects encountered on the journey to wisdom. Examined together, the reader may understand more deeply the essence of each.

 Zig Zag Zen is a must read for anyone who is concerned about the future of Buddhist practice.

Robert Thurman, Chair of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University

 

Category: Consciousness Studies, Religion, Mind, Body, Spirit

ISBN: 978 0907791 62 1

Softcover $26.95 304 pages, 7 x 9 inches, 40 Color Plates
(Also available in Hardcover and eBook)

Available through Deep Books, Ltd.

http://www.deep-books.co.uk/

 

About the Speakers

Allan Badiner is a contributing editor at Tricycle magazine, and the editor of the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Synergetic Press). He also edited the books, Dharma Gaia: A Harvest in Buddhism and Ecology and Mindfulness in the Marketplace (Parallax Press) and his written work appears in other books including Dharma Family Treasures, Meeting the Buddha, Ecological Responsibility: A Dialogue with Buddhism, and The Buddha and the Terrorist. Allan holds a Master’s degree from the College of Buddhist Studies in LA and serves on the boards of Rainforest Action Network, Threshold Foundation, and Project CBD.

 

Alex Grey is best known for his paintings that portray multiple dimensions of reality, interweaving biological anatomy with psychic and spiritual energies. Grey’s visual meditations on the nature of life and consciousness, is contained in five books: Sacred Mirrors and Transfigurations, The Mission of Art, Art Psalms, and CoSM, co-authored with Allyson Grey, and in Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. Grey’s work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the CBC, and in Time, Newsweek, and on numerous multi-platinum record albums and is on permanent exhibition in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in Wappingers Fall, N.Y.

 

Julie Holland, MD, in private psychiatric practice in NYC since 1995, authored the book Weekends at Bellevue (Bantam, 2009), which chronicled 9 years of night shifts at the psych ER. She edited two non-profit books helping to fund clinical research: Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA and The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis, and is a medical monitor for MDMA/PTSD and cannabis/PTSD studies. Moody Bitches: The Truth about the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy is her latest book.

 

Testimonials

 

Zig Zag Zen is a treasure trove: inspiring, frightening, powerful, funny, eye-opening, and a source of great wisdom on a subject that our society finds endlessly confusing.

Mark Epstein, MD, author of Thoughts Without a Thinker and Going on Being

An extraordinary ride and guide down the corridors of the mystical psychedelic inward journey that will be of great interest and value to any serious explorer of spiritual insight. The zigzag is not for the straight and narrow.                                       Ganga White, author of Yoga Beyond Belief, founder of the White Lotus Foundation

Psychedelics opened my Doors of Perception, and Zen Buddhism has helped to keep them open.

John Densmore, author of New York Times bestseller Riders on the Storm and The Doors: Unhinged

 

Zig Zag Zen challenges Buddhists to acknowledge their psychedelic legacies, while confronting the duality undermining any chemically dependent spiritual path.

 Douglas Rushkoff, author of Ecstasy Club, Exit Strategy, Playing the Future and Coercion

Zig Zag Zen shines by its fairness: it faces the Zig and the Zag. That’s Zen at its best.

 David Steindl-Rast OSB, author of Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer

Urban Ecology: 10 Cities Lead The Way

woodside_farm_alamy

A small farm in the New York borough of Queens (Alamy)

Ever since Gilgamesh cleared the forest to improve the city, civilization has persisted with dominating nature in the name of progress. But in recent decades, humanity is confronted with a new enemy, a monstrous behemoth born through millennia of unconscious disregard for that great mother who once held us so dearly.

The reality of climate change is such that civilization, the city, and even the idea of what it means to be human is itself undergoing an essential transformation. And with this metamorphosis a new myth is being created, one that transcends the old notion of progress and domination by surrounding the exhausted narrative with a life-affirming dedication to conscious global participation in the future of the biosphere.

The anthropocene, a scientific idea that redefines humanity as a geological force, is also the story of the end of civilization and the beginning of a planetary epoch in which new symbiotic relationships are being discovered between culture and nature.

A recent article in the Independent, a popular British publication, features the ideas of German biologist, journalist, and Synergetic Press author ChristianSchwägerl , as he summarizes the vision presented in his book, The Anthropocene: A New Planet Shaped By Humans:

In the Anthropocene, there is no longer an “inside” and an “outside”, no alien, antagonistic nature with which humans are faced. The environment becomes the “invironment,” something with which humans are existentially interwoven. This is why it is far from sufficient to create “nature reserves” on a small percentage of the Earth’s land surface. Instead, we have to consider whether civilization itself can act and perform within nature, with technologies that don’t act as parasites and destroy, but enrich the living world.

In such a world we can no longer speak of “nature” and “culture” as two separate spheres. Rainforests will no longer exist just because they have always existed, but because people want them to exist.

Schwägerl’s insight is simple and profound. Rather than leading to more anthropocentric destruction, the act of identifying humans as the geological force that we evidently are awakens our sense of responsibility as stewards of the biosphere. Either/or dichotomies such as nature and technology or self and world become a kind of  habit that cripple humanity in the act of rediscovering our home in and through the world.

In practice, what this means is the re-imagination of the city itself, a new kind of urban planning that incorporates nature within the city walls. It’s worth noting that these walls of the city go back to the neolithic revolution and the ancient Sumerian epics; they are the same walls that bred ecological destruction and the phenomenon of war by creating the dichotomy of city and nature, citizen and enemy. These walls are rapidly crumbling. But what is taking their place? As Schwagerl explains in the Independent article:

Such Anthropocene cities will draw energy and materials from local and renewable sources. Fossil-fuel driven cars are replaced by public transport, bicycle highways and rental systems for electric cars. Architects design high-rise buildings where facades, balconies and roofs double up as farms, air conditioners and habitats. Green bridges can link city quarters, helping to create a living roof-landscape. Biological life-support systems such as bogs, mangroves and riparian forests become integral to cities in order to hold back floods, absorb carbon dioxide and store water. Cities that adopt these kinds of strategies will experience positive social changes.

The good news is that this evolution is already underway. Consider the following examples of cities that lead the way forward:

Bristol, UK The birthplace of Banksy and this year’s European Green Capital, Bristol employs around 9000 people in its low carbon economy initiative. Additionally, 34% of the city is made up of green and blue open spaces and homes have become 25% more efficient over the last decade.

Bristol, UK
The birthplace of Banksy and this year’s European Green Capital, Bristol employs around 9000 people in its low carbon economy initiative. Additionally, 34% of the city is made up of green and blue open spaces and homes have become 25% more efficient over the last decade.

Oslo, Norway The Norweigan capital has the world’s most electric cars per capita, reducing emissions by 50% since 1991. With the aim to make public transport fossil fuel-free by 2020, the city’s authority is making sure residents are as eco-friendly as possible.

Oslo, Norway
The Norweigan capital has the world’s most electric cars per capita, reducing emissions by 50% since 1991. With the aim to make public transport fossil fuel-free by 2020, the city’s authority is making sure residents are as eco-friendly as possible.

Nijmegen, Netherlands Located on the River Waal, this lesser-known Dutch city fuels its buses with biogas and citizen participation is encouraged through multiple green initiatives. Around 14,000 homes are heated using a network of waste heat, and the city aims to be energy neutral by 2040.

Nijmegen, Netherlands
Located on the River Waal, this lesser-known Dutch city fuels its buses with biogas and citizen participation is encouraged through multiple green initiatives. Around 14,000 homes are heated using a network of waste heat, and the city aims to be energy neutral by 2040.

Copenhagen, Denmark 55% of residents in the Danish capital cycle to work or school, and over 30% of public transport uses renewable fuel. The city is also aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

Copenhagen, Denmark
55% of residents in the Danish capital cycle to work or school, and over 30% of public transport uses renewable fuel. The city is also aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

To see the remaining 5 cities that lead the way forward, visit the original source of this list at the Independent.co.uk

All of the images in this article, as well as the captions and lead image, were sourced from the Independent article linked above.

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Crash Course in The Anthropocene

This quirky “Crash Course” video from Vloggers John Green, Hank Green, and Emily Graslie. introduces viewers to the Anthropocene concept through attractive animations, rhythmically edited broad-stroke research statistics, and a reasonably hi-resolution evaluation of the pros and cons of our now technologically saturated environment. While the factual downloads are helpful in bringing the big-picture questions to the average information consumer, their final formulation of solutions leaves a little to be desired.

Following a nice overview and set-up of the cultural-ecological problems that we face in the Anthropocene, Graslie and the Green brothers provide a distractingly oversimplified solution set , which basically amounts to:

  1. Technological miracle
  2. Collapse miserably into ruins and ashes
  3. “We can guide human society in to a creative descent, a gentle decline of complexity to more simple subsistence living.”

Despite this vulgarization of our options moving forward in the Anthropocene epoch, no doubt a side-effect of the Green brothers’ mastery over the vlog (video blog) medium, this ‘Crash Course’ IS a helpful way to draw viewers into the big questions that we face today.

For a more complex, dialectical approach to these very same cultural-ecological problems, I refer readers to Christian Schwägerl’s “The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How It Shapes Our Planet.”

See more ‘Crash Course’ vlogs on an extremely wide range of topics here.

 

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From the Archives: Millbrook Wedding

Timothy Leary was getting married to a model named Nena Von Schlebrugge up in Millbrook, New York at the Hitchcock house, where Leary had been carrying on his hallucinogenic revelries for the past year or so after leaving Harvard. It was rumored that this was going to be the wedding of the season, the wedding of Mr. And Mrs. Swing as Cab Calloway put it… There were Hitchcocks and friends and relations of Hitchcocks, the Baron and his court, a score of models, and Charles Mingus playing a lonely piano. Even Susan Leary fresh out of jail.  It was indeed an amazing wedding, and for all I know, an amazing marriage, although someone later told me it was over before I’d even finished editing the film.  – D. A. Pennebaker

LSD has a funny way way of creating significance whether we like it or not. A leaf, a lover, or even a stray thought meandering throughout our inner life might well up to become the all and everything, a consuming fire of meaning and revelatory insight. For those of us born on this side of the psychedelic revolution, that startling shock and wonder experienced by our elders when they abruptly smacked their head on Albert Hofmann’s alchemical anvil can hardly be imagined.

We’ve grown up with electronic technologies that store, augment and transmit information at the speed of light (formerly the business of angels), often questioning ecological relationships and organic values, fully aware that we are deeply embedded within complex systems. Video games extend our consciousness into realms that distill animistic concepts; gnomes, fairies, or ogres emerge as a necessary language for operating in these liminal spaces. We can go to Fantasycon or Burning Man and hyperlink our favorite metaphors or experiment with other modes of being. – I have a friend with a 7 month-old baby girl who’s been to three psychedelic music festivals- or 8 if you count the ones she attended in the womb!

But take a minute to step back into the brittle atmosphere of the post-war generation… imagine growing up with an allegiance to stale cultural forms that are all but broken, overstating their presence like the sun before it disappears into the horizon: the Catholic Church before modern psychology, meditation, and yoga; patriotism before Vietnam, music before the Beatles. Imagine that many of the cultural norms you now take for granted are but a potent thought seed pushing outwards and threatening to burst forth like Athena from the head of Zeus in ancient Greek mythology.

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Now imagine that you are a successful Irish professor at the oldest and most prestigious university in America and that your earnest, but controversial work with substances like psilocybin and LSD has gotten yourself, your collaborator and your graduate student in a heap of trouble. This was the scene when Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert were fired from Harvard and took up residence in a cozy mansion at Millbrook in upstate New York- the scene of the Birth of a Psychedelic Culture.

While Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters pioneered and propagated a less clinical, and less intentional adventure quest of communion and psychonautic exploration, Leary, Alpert and Ralph Metzner (a Harvard graduate student at the time and so not technically fireable) contemplated the bardo of eastern philosophies and experimented with set and setting to inaugurate a new era.

Bold and courageous pioneers live the benefit of meaningful events and encounters at every turn. Their firsts are the firsts and their faults become the faults of archetypal patterns that will play out many times along the road ahead by many seekers karmically drawn to resonate and develop emerging forms. So when Dr. Timothy Leary writes, in the fall of 1964, to his friend and colleague Ralph Metzner, who was inspired by Herman Hesse’s writing to travel throughout India, we can only take him at his word:

NEW YORK… Cooper Union… all 1300 seats filled and 300 standing… crowds so receptive it was like whispering things in your lover’s ear… Richard was a smash at U of Minnesota and faculty cocktail party was held etc. The political educational battle over psychedelics has been won and from now it’s just a matter of time… Nena and I have been together almost every minute for the last three weeks and she is an unending series of beauty and wise lessons. We moved directly into the bowling alley which is now the most relaxed, warm, glowing room in the world. We are visiting the Episcopalian minister in town to arrange the most romantic, mythic wedding in history … very soon.

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Nena von Schlebrugge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peggy Hitchcock, the jet-set young lady who hooked up the rebel psychologists with that mysterious Millbrook mansion, describes the bride to be:

Nena was a very young, very beautiful, very successful fashion model. Today we would call her a super model. She was born in Sweden in 1941 and had lived in China with her family as a refugee during World War II, before returning to Europe. Her father, who was a German baron, was much older than her mother had died when she was a child. When I first knew her, she was in her early twenties and had been the sole support for her mother, the baroness, and her younger brother, since she was fifteen. I don’t believe she had much of a happy childhood. I remember feeling protective towards her. As I remember, she and Tim first connected at my brother Billy’s birthday party on her first visit to Millbrook.

leary&alpert pre-wedding title00_170957854

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nene had arrived at Millbrook with Van Wolff, as Dr. Ralph Metzner explains:

Van Wolff was a kind of PR-agent-impresario, whose New York apartment was a hub for the glamor set from fashion, photography, film, and the arts. It seemed to be always buzzing with vibrations of seduction, intrigue and gossip. Nena’s picture was on all the New York City buses advertising Winston cigarettes at that time. Tim called her, “A thoughtful and romantic woman, an icon of beauty, surrounded by, instructed by, manipulated by the technicians and producers of the fashion industry.” When they took their first LSD session together, he wrote: “… Nanette allowed her jet-set facade to fall away, just so much childhood scar tissue. From within, emerged an archetypal nobility, the radiant essence of a Valkyrie… I fell under her spell.” (Flashbacks, pp 203-204). She moved into the Big House with Tim and set up a routine of being there and working in New York a few days a week. His relationship with Peggy Hitchcock had for some before evolved into more of a friendship – which continued long afterward. In one of those strange synchronicities, Nena had a close friend, Katy, also a model, who she brought up to Millbrook. She had auburn hair and green eyes, she was gorgeous. I fell under her spell.

leary&alpert pre-wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As far as the wedding itself, Darlene De Sedle, who was brought up to Millbrook to  make the wedding veil for Nene, explains:

When we arrived at Millbrook, we went to the tennis house where the brides and bridesmaids were getting dressed. The bridesmaids in their spring gowns were scattered here and there around the room like flowers, light blue, yellow, pale pink. I found a comfortable place to sit, shook out the pink and white tulle, and began to sew… (Nena) was glowing blonde and gorgeous, and beautiful light was pouring into the room through the leaded windows. Monty (the hair dresser) handed me a glass of punch spiked with LSD and told me to drink it. It was my first time.

Mingus

And what would a mythic wedding be without the Jazz great Charles Mingus? Fellow psilocybin researcher Rolf Von Eckartsberg describes the potent figure who plays his bass with the force of nature itself :

Mingus is very wise, down to earth and basic, grounded, and we had a most meaningful encounter with him and his art, his bass, his “woman,” whom he asks questions in the solitude and darkness of his attic, to whom he plays and is played and answered. What a sonorous strength it is that emanates from his bow and his strings that set up a column of vibration, rising like a twirling storm, transporting and elevating everything in its path. It penetrates right through the bones and opens the wide luminous landscapes of the internal, this fantastic otherworld of playful color and geometry, radiant energy and ecstatic resonance. Isn’t there some primordial power which sits with love and plays with bow and strings at the flow of life?

And also from Von Eckartsberg, a general depiction of the scene as psychedelic as the substance that Harvard rejected:

The whole house has become a beckoning, enveloping, nurturing tropical ocean of forms, colors and sounds, as millions of fractured, incongruous elements are transformed into beautiful flowers and ornaments of a gigantic organism, radiating joy and peace.

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But as my generation has learned more readily, the metaphysical laws of the ecstatic experience mandate that we endure the downs as well as the ups, and that separation can often follow the realization of the oneness of being. The excitable Leary would have a dynamic career. He would find himself in and out of prison and experiencing life as a cultural icon whose perception would go from hero to scapegoat. Of course, his love-life would be no exception. On p. 223 of “Flashbacks,” Leary describes the end of their “Himalayan Honeymoon:”

So we’re moving on. We had connected as fairy-tale lovers in the enchanted woods of Millbrook, had lived out a season of courtly romance. She had taught me tender lessons of girl-love and female splendor. We had time-traveled through a few mythic incarnations, played out magical dramas in panoramic realms. Now we would have to rise to that most complex human art, gentle separation.

In 1967, Nena went on to marry the Indo-Tibetan Bhuddist scholar and ex-monk, Robert Thurman, with whom she gave birth to the popular actress Uma Thurman.

With the exception of the opening quote from a letter by D.A. Pennebaker, all of the quotes for this piece can be found in “Birth of A Psychedelic Culture,” a book that, like this article, comprises a mosaic of interviews, letters, artifacts and images, depict through concrete anecdotes, the vibrant and mythic scenes of that mysterious episode in psychedelic history.

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Technature

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What is the ‘nature’ of technology?

While some people think that nature and technology are in fundamental opposition, and others rest in the assumption that all that is must be natural simply for having come into being, Synergetic Press author Christian Schwägerl explores the implications of “bioadaptation” as a symbiotic interweaving of technology and biospsheric systems:

Seen from the perspective of a future bio-technosphere, today’s wasteful machines appear to be rudimentary organisms with outdated cycles in urgent need of improvement. Fuel-guzzling Porsches or SUVs, coal-fired power plants and persistent plastic seem to be old-fashioned leftovers from the Holocene, about as impressive as horse carriages and typewriters. Cars of the future would either decompose into material that boosts the environment or give way to other, networked kinds of transport. The guiding principle in this process might be called bioadaptation: using nature as a source to “breed” machines.

In this chapter excerpt from Schwägerl’s “The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How it Shapes Our Planet,” the author takes us on a visionary journey into inspiring and possible future grounded in a real-world dialectical synthesis of technology and nature. Read the Chapter excerpt ‘Technature’ on Realitysandwich.com here.

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From the Archive: R. Buckminster Fuller at the 1982 Galactic Conference

R. Buckminster Fuller

R. Buckminster Fuller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday, September 18th 1982, the renowned inventor and visionary R. Buckminster Fuller presented his talk The Galaxy: A Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Challenge to the Institute of Ecotechnics at their Galactic Conference in Les Marronniers, France.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting to Bucky’s left in the above image (taken during the conference) is John P. Allen, co-founder of Synergetic Press and inventor/visionary behind the massive Biosphere II closed-systems experiment that took place in Oracle, AZ in the early 90’s.

In Allen’s memoir, “Me and the Biospheres,” he writes:

I had first met Bucky Fuller at Harvard, when he spoke before several hundred enthusiastic Harvard and Radcliff men and women. Even with their famous capacity for attention, I wondered how many would make it to the far end of his speech.

Fuller’s being-challenging technique in speechmaking consisted in starting anew on his comprehensive thought at every major talk to see if he would come to the same conclusions and, if not, adopt the new position that had evolved.

… by the end of four hours, the audience had dwindled to a handful. After another thirty minutes, there were only four of us, hungrier for ideas than food. 

‘Now we can get down to something,’ Bucky said with his contagious grin, descending from the platform to stand around the deserted coffee table with us.

Following that initial meeting, Allen, passionately concerned for the future of human culture and the biosphere and inspired by Fuller’s book “Synergetics,” worked to apply synergetic design principles to human enterprise itself.

With fellow synergists, many of whom met in Haight-Ashbury in the late 1960’s, Allen was instrumental in founding Synergia Ranch in Santa Fe (where this press is located) as well as the Institute of Ecotechnics that hosted the 1982 Galactic Conference pictured above.

In a letter to Richard Dawkins, another presenter at the 1982 conference, the zoologist and author of “The Selfish Gene, ” Institute of Ecotechnics chairman Mark Nelson explains the organization:

I.E. was started in 1973 as a private, self-funded research institute to engage in pioneer and demonstration projects around the planet. At present, field projects are underway in India, West Australia, France, Nepal, United Kingdom, U.S.A and the tropic seas, coral reefs and river basins with the Institute’s research ship, the Heraclitus.

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R.V. Heraclitus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since 1976 we have hosted annual conferences on ecosystems: deserts, oceans, mountains, jungles, transition zones, the Planet Earth, and last year, the Solar System.

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I.E. 1982 Galactic Conference Roster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides R. Buckminster Fuller, John P. Allen, and Richard Dawkins, other notable attendees of the 1982 Galactic Conference include the microbiologist and Lynn Margulis (author of the theory of symbiogenesis) and the chemist and discoverer of LSD Albert Hofmann.

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Could ‘Bio-Futurism’ lead to a long & prosperous road ahead?

A hot topic for layperson and PhD alike, nobody will deny that the term Anthropocene is trending. One the one side, there are those who believe that the idea that humans are in fact the driving force behind a new geological epoch is a benefic and life-affirming path forward; while on the other, those who see only the continuation of a  ‘should be discarded’ notion of anthropocentrism inherited from Christian doctrine (the latter tend see the use of the term ‘anthropocene’ as a clever political/environmental tool at best). Christian Schwägerl- a biologist, correspondent for Der Spiegel, and Synergetic Press author- stands firmly on the pro-anthropocene side of the debate. And in this video, he briefly summarizes the case for adopting the term scientifically as well as embracing a new ‘bio-futurism’ that can embolden a prosperous future.

After explaining how humans have altered 75% of Earth’s land surface, created dead spots in the oceans from the over use of nitrogen fertilizers, warmed the atmosphere through industrial emissions, and now appropriate 90% of mammalian biomass (as opposed to the 1% during the Neolithic revolution), Schwagerl suggests that the long-term thinking that would result from adopting the anthropocene idea as a geological epoch gives us the power to shape our future consciously and for the better. We can never go ‘back to the Holocene,’ a tempting nostalgia prophesied by the European Romantics during the onset of Industrialization, but we can take the reigns by becoming conscious stewards of the biosphere and allowing the anthropocene idea to imbue our everyday decisions with responsibility for our significant ecological role as humans. As Schwägerl explains, “Our lifestyles, our daily consumerism, decisions, what we do or don’t do… shapes the future.”

Schwägerl then explores the notion of ‘bio-futurism,’ a life-affirming way of looking ahead that could allow our civilization to grow with the richness of nature, rather than at its cost. He explains that instead of seeing the activity of cells as being like ‘a factory,’ he suggests that factories and machines are really more like very primitive cells. Once we can grapple with this fundamental paradigm-shift, we can act less like barbarians and more like ‘planetary gardeners’ that prepare a fruitful soil for future open developments.

This is a notion that Schwägerl develops more deeply in Chapter 8 of the Synergetic Press title, “The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How it Shapes Our Planet.” He explains:

“If products were built so that they could be turned back into raw materials for the next generation they would be easier to repair and upgrade than they are today. These products could be made from plant-based materials optimized by biotechnology. Or they could be synthetic and feature organic characteristics created through biomimicry. Innovative recycling plants could be fed with entire scrap heaps from the past to be processed into new raw materials through urban mining. Plastic recycling would become a source of raw material, making it superfluous to drill new oil platforms in the deep sea or in the Arctic. New chemical substances would absorb toxic substances and render them harmless. The bioadaptive imagination of scientists is only just gathering momentum:

  • Compostable cars; synthetic materials that turn into nutrients when they dissolve
  • Machines made of organic material that could easily be recycled
  • Electrodes that work with endogenous substances
  • Colorants following the role model of butterflies
  • Substitute plastic made of insect protein
  • Biodegradable electronics
  • Robots that feed off plastic waste
  • Nanomagnetic designer particles that extract phosphorus and other critically important elements from wastewater
  • Buildings inspired by deep-sea sponges
  • Power plants that imitate photosynthesis
  • Bacteria that produce fuel and construction materials
  • Signal transmission in silk threads

The transformation could go even deeper: genetic algorithms in the future could enable much more complex calculation processes than digital ones; biological nanomaterials could significantly reduce the necessity to use metal and finally, DNA—the very stuff of which life is made—could prove to be superior in information storage, making DNA computers a reality.”

Schwägerl’s inspired vision is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible, a persuasive means of getting the reader or listener to see the world differently. For the German biologist, journalist and author, the anthropocene idea is the very spark needed to set off this new wave of bio-futurism and abolish the outmoded notion of humans as ‘invaders’ to nature, thereby returning us to our ecological (from the Greek oikos- meaning ‘house’) place at home on Earth.

Here’s a link to the book.

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A Brief History of How We Got Into This Mess

wastewater_sketchWhy do we waste so much precious fresh water and so many valuable nutrients by treating sewage through central plants that contaminate larger water supplies? Why is there such a deep cultural taboo on human waste in the west that prevents us from thinking sensibly about what to do with it?

In this excerpt from “The Wastewater Gardener,” Synergetic Press author and former ‘Biospherian’ Mark Nelson, explains how our modern approach to sewage developed into such and irrational mess; a prelude to the rest of his personal and practical tale of developing Wastewater Gardens technologies that have helped communities to live in harmony with their surrounding in many paces around the planet.

Read the full chapter excerpt through our friends at Realitysandwich.comthrough this link: http://bit.ly/17Izof0

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