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The Way In is the Way Out: An Interview With Daniel Pinchbeck
2005 11 17


Download: Audio Lectures with Daniel Pinchbeck
From Burning Man Festival 2003 & 2005

Struck by an existential crisis in the late 1990s, Daniel Pinchbeck - co-founder of the Open City literary and art journal as well as editor and journalist for a variety of publications - decided not to sooth his affliction with culturally approved balms such as antidepressants or the therapy du jour, but instead choose to reacquaint himself with the psychedelic substances which he had experimented with and fascinated him in his college years.

This journey into the centre of the cyclone was documented in his book Breaking Open the Head: A Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism - a journey of self-discovery which lead him to such locales as Gabon and Oaxaca, the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Burning Man Festival, yet always ended up at the same place: the infinite, strange and beautiful dimensions whose doors to entrance can be found in the fiery heart of being.

New World Disorder interviewed Daniel about the planetary influence on war, Aleister Crowley and Rudolf Steiner, DMT aliens, the occult meaning of the coming ecological apocalypse, and the great dance beats of 2012, among other things.

New World Disorder: It appears that Planet 3 is under the spell of war. The usual economic, political, sociological, religious - even psychological and scientific - reasons are being used to explain the daily mass murder. The war paradigm, however, is rarely looked at from the esoteric perspective. Gurdjieff said about war, "What is war? It is the result of planetary influences. Somewhere up there two or three planets have approached too near to each other; tension results. Have you noticed how, if a man passes quite close to you on a narrow pavement, you become all tense? The same tension takes place between planets. For them it lasts, perhaps, a second or two. But here, on the earth, people begin to slaughter one another, and they go on slaughtering for maybe for several years." The war planet Mars is the closest it's been for 60,000 years. What are your thoughts on Gurdjieff's explanation?

Daniel Pinchbeck: I think Gurdjieff has the right idea. This type of cosmological understanding was known to most ancient civilizations. I have my own intuition about the Mars proximity event. My theory ? and of course it is only a theory ? is that it signifies the imminent end of the Kali Yuga ? the "age of destruction" ? and the return to a "Golden Age." Although many branches of Hinduism place the dates of the Yugas differently, the Dravidians place the entire cycle at 60,000 years. Perhaps we are approaching the end of the Kali Yuga, which would mean an imminent polarity reversal to a new Golden Age. This may seem farfetched from our current global miasma, but as it says in The Tao: "Reversal is the movement of the Tao."

I experienced the Mars proximity at Burning Man as a subtle vibrational shift. My hypothesis is that the Earth is currently becoming less materially dense and more psychically responsive. This is happening in phases leading up to the planetary transformation of 2012 that was the focus of Mayan and Toltec cosmology. The Mars event is part of this shift. Occult thinkers like Gurdjieff and Rudolf Steiner consider the planets to be vibrational matrices in the harmonic structure of the solar system, rather than lumps of rock and gas. Jose Arguelles believes that the planets are extrusions of the Sun, grounding information and energies received from distant star systems and Hunab Ku, the galactic center. From this perspective, Mars coming close to us might signify a shift in the vibrational frequency of the Earth. This would have direct effects on human consciousness. I think this is what "2012" indicates: A movement to a higher state of consciousness for humans, a higher vibrational frequency for the planet, and a new Golden Age on the Earth. The tragic aspects of destruction and war we are now undergoing are a kind of clearing of the way for the harmonic or chaordic imprint of post-history. From the Jungian perspective, our misuse of technology is a projection of the unintegrated shadow of the human psyche into material form. By 2012, the shadow must be fully seen for what it is, and integrated, so that we can move on.

NWD: What are your thoughts on the life and work of Aleister Crowley? While many bash him as a mere degenerate egoist and charlatan, deep readings of his work reveal a genuine and deep engagement with altered states of consciousness. And also, what's you take on the contributions of Timothy Leary?

DP: Aleister Crowley definitely had elements of genius. His Tarot deck and the accompanying Book of Thoth are extraordinary. However, he was very unbalanced and an egomaniac. There is a strain of power-mad insanity running through his life and work. His attitude toward women was abysmal. It makes perfect sense, considering the adolescent tendencies and imbalances in our culture, that a figure like Crowley remains such a strong influence, rather than Dion Fortune, Rudolf Steiner, or other Twentieth Century occultists who were much more sane and grounded and ultimately helpful. I read an excellent critique of Crowley in the book Demons of the Flesh by Nikolai and Zenia Schreck. They were writing on sex magic, and they felt that Crowley misunderstood the basic ideal of sex magic, which comes from the Tantric tradition, where the goal is to deify the Shakti principle and the women who exemplify it. Crowley had a lot of Victorian prurience and a hatred of women, who he saw as creatures to be used - he was also homosexual. In his OTO, he made the secret rite of homosexual intercourse a higher grade of initiation than any heterosexual contact, which is anathema to the Tantric path. The countercultural fascination with Crowley reveals that many of us are still trapped in the same adolescent complexes and fixated rages that he manifested in his life. It is time to see him for what he was and move on.

Leary is a bit of a similar story, in that he combined elements of genius with adolescent and egomaniacal qualities that fit the culture, hence helped to make him a cultural icon. (Of course, Leary also theorized he was a reincarnation or "spiritual son" of Crowley). Leary definitely hurt the cause of psychedelic research in the 1960s. He came to the subject late. By the time he discovered psychedelics, there were already many psychiatrists researching it in low-profile experiments. He exploded the discourse into the academic mainstream, and into the media, which was too much and too frightening for the powers-that-be. He advised everyone including teenagers to "Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out," which was bad advice. It is a bit difficult to judge figures from the 1960s, because after the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination, everything was in a state of hysteria. Still, it seems that Leary acted without prudence, and with a strong tendency towards self-aggrandizement. However I do like his autobiography and the nine circuit model of the brain he developed with Robert Anton Wilson. Rather than criticize Leary or Crowley, I would say that they were what they had to be in their time. It is our task to take what is good in their work ? as well as many other thinkers and visionaries ? and carry it to another level so that humanity can move forward.

NWD: One can tell from your work that you have high regard for the turn of the century spiritualist Rudolph Steiner. For those not familiar with his teachings, why the interest?

DP: Rudolf Steiner was much more than a "spiritualist," first of all. He was a profound philosopher and visionary who offered a vast cosmology and reading of the Akashic Record. I think that Steiner could be as important for the Twenty First Century as Nietzsche was for the Twentieth. He is a kind of prophet or advance man for a new type of thinking and a new type of doing.

There are several aspects of Steiner that make him so crucial, in my opinion. I first became involved with his thought because his articulation of the "subtle realms" completely matched and helped to explicate my own experiences and visions. For instance, he splits the Christian "Devil" into two sets of forces or beings that work on humanity all the time - the "Luciferic" forces (Lucifer means, literally, 'light bringer') that seek to pull us up and away into brilliance, imagination, genius, but also hubris and arrogance and pride; and the "Ahrimanic" forces that try to pull us down into minerality, materiality, materialist technology, and death. This age of materialism represents the ascendance of Ahriman, the malevolent earth spirit. Psychedelics are very Luciferic - and Steiner believed that humans needed a renewed impulse from Lucifer to balance out the negating forces of Ahriman.

Another important aspect of Steiner, for me, is the philosophical underpinnings he provides for thinking about cognition, and about human freedom. An amazing early book of his is Philosophy of Freedom, where he refutes Kantian dualism. He notes that you can't really make a final distinction between our thoughts about things and the things themselves. Thinking, for him, is a part of reality - as much a part of reality as any physical object. He points out that we have no right to consider a plant's ability to produce leaves, roots, and blossoms as separate from the thoughts we have about that plant. It may be that our thoughts about the plant are as much a property of that plant as its blossoms, stems, and leaves. If thinking is recognized as a part of the world in this way, then we can also see that thought is neither subjective nor objective, but a universal world process in which we participate. Thinking is different than all other processes, because it is the only activity that we experience from the inside - when we use our thinking to investigate anything else, we are looking at something outside of out thought. But when we investigate our thinking, we have to use our thinking to do so. One beautiful aspect of thoughts is that they can be shared - once I have a thought, and write it down or express it, anybody else can also experience that thought from their own perspective. Hence, you can neither call thinking subjective or objective. This perspective is incredibly liberating. If thinking is a part of reality, and it is neither subjective or objective, then, for Steiner, there can be no limits to cognition. There is also no possibility of nailing down a "Final Theory" of everything. This is just a delusion of a certain mindset.

Thinking becomes the effort of reconciling "percepts" - those entities and things we perceive as outside of ourselves - and "concepts" ? the elements of our cognition - and there can be no conceivable endpoint to this work of reconciliation. It is an infinite task - and an infinite play. Steiner relieves us of the burden of thinking we can establish some absolute knowledge about the world, and also allows us to move into a more open and even infinite frame of reference in thinking about our own possibilities. For Steiner, everything in the universe is in a constant state of evolution ? including our thinking about it. He is much more of a strict evolutionist than the scientists now associated with the term.

Another reason I find Steiner so important, is his legacy. He created extraordinary institutions that have continued to flourish to this day. This includes Waldorf Schools, Biodynamic Agriculture, Anthroposophic Medicine, and of course the Anthroposophic Movement itself. When you read his works and realize how incredibly "far out" his esoteric ideas are, it seems even more incredible that he left behind such stable and sensible institutions - the Waldorf Schools are the largest independent education movement in the West. Steiner believed that the best way to oppose "evil" is not through strident protest and negativity (which tends to be the monotonous approach of the Left), but by simply creating what is "good."

He is also trippy as hell: Check out his books Cosmic Memory, Outline of Esoteric Science, and Man as Harmony of the Creative Word, they will astonish you. He goes into great depth in describing cosmic evolution and the workings of elemental beings. I feel I am still an amateur in understanding the full extent of his thought.

NWD: Many believe that the noosphere planetary mind is emerging with the rapid spread of information networks such as the internet and other linking technologies. But some philosophers - such as Heidegger and Evola, if memory serves - thought that reliance on technology to boost our capabilities is a sign of decadence, not evolution. What do you think the nature of the noosphere is, and does it have any relation to information technology?

DP: The esoteric perspective is that everything in the universe is conscious to a certain degree, and continually in the process of transforming to more or less intensified states of awareness. According to the Buddhists, the physical reality we experience is actually "maya," illusion or dream, and reality is constructed by subtle levels of the mind. I believe these principles to be correct. Therefore, technology, for me, is actually a projection of human consciousness into matter, materiality (a temporarily densified form of spirit). It is a phase in a process that may end with us reintegrating these unleashed back into consciousness at a more intensified level of development (what Gurdjieff would call a "higher octave."). Sri Auribindo called this future point the "supramental" state. The seemingly accelerating and self-assembling process of technological evolution, in other words, is required to move us from one level of dream to another one, and from one planetary incarnation to the next. It is clear that our technologies are rapidly dematerializing and becoming increasingly indistinguishable from telepathy - at the same time, many people, myself included, seem to be experiencing an almost exponential increase in synchronicities and other types of phenomena that suggest that the psychic and physical realms are approaching each other at a high speed.

So yes, it seems like the noosphere is being born, and the network technologies are one current manifestation of this process. It is possible that these technologies will no longer be necessary once we have made the transition. I think the "nature of the noosphere" will be this deeper collusion between the physical and the psychic, and we are already in the midst of the transition. I am very excited about what lies just ahead of us. I expect the noosphere to be highly sexy and to have a great dance beat.

NWD: In Breaking Open the Head you describe a DMT experience in which you meet a non-human, alien-like entity. DMT researcher Dr. Rick Strassman has stated that there are many overlaps and similarities between the DMT and alien abduction experiences. Any thoughts about the UFO and alien abduction phenomenons?

DP: DP: I don't think UFOs or the "grey aliens" who like to pop out of them are literal space travelers from another physical planet. I think the Greys are closer to goblins - infraterrestrial or subterrestrial entities, Ahrimanic, to use Steiner's term. Apparently in the Islamic tradition, they talk about "soulless entities" that are pre-Adamic, pre-human, and the "Greys" seem to fall into that category. Clearly, they have some function to perform - perhaps they are workers or mechanics who help to hold together quantum reality. In many of the abduction accounts, humans are brought to play with the alien or "hybrid human alien" children, who don't speak and are quite lethargic. Like our children, the Grey children use toys or blocks - but where our blocks show different words and colors when turned, the Greys' blocks emit different emotions when they are turned. The Greys are telepathic so they do not have to convey concepts to each other, but they are trying - pathetically and rather desperately - to learn how to feel, and they cannot manage this. It seems that they need the emotions - especially fear - emitted by the human energy body in order to sustain themselves. They recognize their lack of souls, and they suffer for it - if you can accept the paradox of an entity without emotion suffering. I see the Greys as a kind of bacteriological agent operating on the level of consciousness. Their purpose may be to filter out denser levels of consciousness that cannot make it through the transition.

My own encounter with an "alien-like entity" through DMT was definitely not like the Greys. I have had lots of encounters with lots of different types of entities at this point, and I feel that we have a lot to learn about how to focus our energies to keep in contact with positive forces, rather than drawing in negatic or Qliphotic entities. I recently went down to Brazil and joined the Santo Daime, a syncretic religion that uses ayahuasca as a sacrament. One reason I did this was because I felt the sacred container of their ceremonies helped me to focus my energies in the most direct and positive way. I worry that people who trip all the time without any container or ritual or connection to some shamanic lineage are in danger of inducing "mind shadows," as the Mazatecs say, or bringing down negative entities. Right now, since the mass reintroduction of psychedelic shamanism to the modern world in the 1960s, we are in a learning curve about how to deal with these "medicines" and the forces they bring up. In many ways we are still children about it.We have a lot to learn from the indigenous traditions about how to work with subtle energies and spirit worlds, and we are very lucky that many tribal groups and shamans seem to be open to working with modern Westerners, after all that our civilization has inflicted upon the indigenous people.

NWD: I think at your Palenque Norte conversation at Burning Man you mentioned that your next book is going to be about the global ecological catastrophe. What do you think is the occult meaning behind the environmental crisis and its effect on human spiritual evolution?

DP: It seems to me that the accelerated destruction of the biosphere by modern civilization is a willed cataclysm forcing an accelerated evolution of human consciousness to a more intensified state of awareness - what the philosopher Jean Gebser calls a new "consciousness structure." As we have approach this new perspective, we seem to be discovering that we are also realizing a new way of living in time and space ? the psychic aspects of time are becoming more apparent to us. We seem to be gaining a deeper understanding of the workings of synchronicity, defined by Carl Jung as an "acausal ordering principle." The destruction seems to be necessary to force our evolution, as humans are very good at finding a comfort zone and staying in it. It was necessary to create a pressure-cooker situation where they could be no safety zone except by completing the work of alchemical transformation. One way to describe what is happening is a "collective process of individuation." I recently read a book by a Jungian, Edward Edinger,Archetypes of the Apocalypse. He argues that the Apocalypse represents the momentous event of the coming to self realization of human consciousness, and the paradoxical union of opposites described in symbolic form throughout The Book of Revelation. I think we are on the threshold of that event now. Despite all current appearances, I believe there is reason to believe that post-2012 post-history will be a utopia of the lived and realized imagination that will exceed our wildest dreams.

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Related: Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy: Spiritual Science?

Ordo Templi Orientis, The Book of the Law, Crowley, Pike & The Bloody Sacrifice (WWI - III)

Crowley & 666: What's in a Number?

Attempted manipulation of UFO manifestations ( Jacques Vallee, Anton LaVey & Crowley)

2012: Is It True?

Sunspot Cycles & Natural Disasters

An Overview of the Mayan Calendar

Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

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