It is the first day of Winter in the year 2012. The sun rose slowly in the eastern horizon, red turning to yellow with rays darting on clouds and off the blue sea. However the weather is sub-tropical and a warm wind blows in the late afternoon.
Not that it never gets very cold on Pala II. The sun and warm breeze are pleasant, adding to the special mood of the celebration that that the Palanese are having today.
December 21, 2012 is is a day they have been looking forward to for many years and for some decades. No, Pala II isn't the forth planet of the twin stars of Sirius, it is right here on good old planet earth - or perhaps I should say-- on earth in the not too distant future.
Why is the day so important to the eclectic group of Palanese "natives." You have to realize that there are no real native here since the - the first person to actually live on this specially crafted island first set foot here in early 2004. Before then, it Pala II was a chunk of barren volcanic rock jutting from the Southern Pacific.
Pala II was the realized dream of Aldous Huxley, who had written a novel published in 1962 about an fictional island called Pala which he had written about three decades earlier called Brave New World.
I was a one of the original "nerds", complete with pocket protector - growing up in the 1950's - when it certainly wasn't as fashionable as it these days. I spent many a day cutting school and reading pulp science fiction novels. However, Brave New World given to us by our English teacher was different than most of those that I read - which usually predicted a remarkable future which made the Fifties civilization seem like the stone ages. Brave New World had the distinction of rising above the classification of science fiction - which was considered genre writing like a detective or romance novel - to be considered true literature. So it was required reading in every California High School and still is.
But Island didn't receive the critical acclaim of Hulxey's earlier works because by that time - two years before his death - there was a McCarthy witch-hunt stigma hanging over Huxley, Like some of his talented friends such as Charles Chaplin and H.G. Well, politics took precedence in forming the collective social "opinion."
Huxley's "Island" culture is actually a composite of several tribal cultures. Certainly one of its strong influences was Bali - a Hindu island surrounded by Muslims. The Balinese love rituals and have them as often as they can, often spontaneously. Huxley's Island also had rituals and rites of passage characteristic of the way tribes do things
The Twentieth Century hasn't so far been exactly like a 1950's science fiction nerd would have supposed. Yes, we did walk on the moon in 1969 - but then the 1960's ended. So setting foot on an island created from a bunch of dead volcanic matter by the best minds from a number of alternative cultures generations --solar and wind power, artificial extensions by the Sculptured cities contingent of the Island Foundation http://reality.sculptors.com/ -- creating a paradise out of a piece of rock, such an island with a mission, was actually an event even more remarkable the than Armstrong's long leap.
Today was a most significant day to someone especially esteemed by the Palanese; their wise Elder, Terence McKenna. (http://www.levity.com/eschaton/hyperborea.html, http://deoxy.org/deoxyf.htm) He had predicted that it would be the end of history. McKenna died what seemed an untimely death at age 52 from a sudden brain tumor - but this seemed to have even added more drama to the day. He had determined through calculations based on the ancient I-Ching (http://www.iching.com) and fractal dynamics (http://dmoz.org/Science/Math/Chaos_and_Fractals/ Chaos) that there was a time wave that went throughout history. This wave took the form of novelty in the script of human historical development. In times of greater novelty, (http://www.levity.com/eschaton/novelty.html) shit is hitting the fan at a very fast pace globally and presumably universally. Things are happening - but whether we like them or not makes no difference. When he found that the day coincided the with the end of the Mayan Calendar after a 25 year period called the Harmonic Convergence-- he was knew he had hit on something quite facinating.
Now I've always kept it a secret that I really was no great believer in the Time Wave Zero stuff. It had always had this kind of apocalyptic twist I always found a bit like the early Christian revivalist movement. That is until one day I turned on an old Macintosh given to me by Peter Stafford, who didn't really use it much. I didn't either but one day I turned it on and up popped a program called Time Wave Zero. Now when I was the President of the Mindware catalog (which carried cutting edge software geared toward personal growth) in the early 'Nineties, someone had sent me a copy of the program for a PC (http://www.alternative culture.com/spirit/ time-wave.htm). It drew some funny graphs just like Terence did on chalk boards during his lectures.
But the Mac - well we all know that it thinks differently. A little too differently from all my software for the two computers I use for my work to use. But this little program was a winner. Someone had installed Time Wave Zero for the Mac and the day was September 11, 2001. When I clicked on the more graphically attractive Time Wave Zero icon - Terence's hypnotic voice put a smile on my face. But the smile turned to surprise when I looked at the graph. It had plotted a three year graph with September 11, 2001 in the middle. The graph of novelty rose like a Bull Market until it hit September 11 and then fell slowly downwards.
On Pala II, a large crowd gathered outside square. The square was the where most of the special gatherings were held in a large open area between the island's two largest shrines. There was the Shiva Temple on one side and the Council for Spiritual Practices Center on the other. Moksha medicine was flowing freely and it put a smile on many Palanese faces.
Suddenly a strange whining sound was heard - faint at first but growing louder. In the middle of the square there was a rotating object. Was it the singularity, the rotating object at the end of time? It began to glow. A shimmering light from above streamed down as a column --and just like a Star Trek movie, came down which everyone recognized immediately. It was a transporter beam.
Five figures materialized slowly in the middle of the crowd that gathered. There were gasps of surprise as the faces of Tim Leary, Terence McKenna, John Lilly, Aldous Huxley and Jean Huston, The crowd gasped. And then from Grateful Dead Stadium - the island's performance ampitheatre, some music began pouring forth. The first words heard - "We're Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club band and we'd like to play you all a tune." And Terence stepped to a podium and announced, "Well if isn't the gang of likely suspects. Let me welcome you to Escaton -- notice the rotating object at the end of time. And -- well things did end.
In the preceding Manifesto portion of this article, I call on those of us who are part of the psychedelic/etheogenic/alternative culture community to get behind a real-world project of creating a sanctuary far from US shores "where we can laugh again", as Crosby, Stills and Nash would have put it. In my initial vision for the project, I see the project having multiple sub-projects and roles, including being a site for conferences, a research park, a 21st Century Esalan, a library and museum and several others.
However, one portion of the Island would be dedicated to what I call the Huxley project. That is -- the creation of an experimental community -- along the lines that Huxley envisioned in Island. Not necessarily Utopia but a good safe place to live and raise your children. So now, let's turn to the question of what that kind of place might be like.
In an interview which I conducted with Laura Huxley in 1994 (Island Views No. 3 and also http://www.island.org/ive/3), we discussed briefly some of the ideas around the founding of a psychedelic community based on Aldous Huxley's Island. I have liberally excerpted from the interview:
Laura Huxley (L.H.): Aldous spoke about this revolution sixty-two years ago, when he wrote Brave New World. He showed us the danger of a mechanized society without ethics and without vision. Many people thought then that Brave New World was incredible or grotesque; we know now that some of its prophecy (for instance overpopulation and over-organization) is true now much, much sooner than Aldous thought. In the last years of his life, he wrote Island, the description of a society whose citizens are given all the possibilities to develop their creative potentialities.
Bruce Eisner (B.E.): There was an anthropologist that had studied some tribe on an island and they had discovered-I remember this from Aldous's audio tapes- where they raised the children without inflicting any fear on them.
L.H.: Oh, that's right. Education through fear is less effective than education through recognition of good behavior. Moreover, much of psychotherapy is the attempt to lessen the damaging and sometimes tragic and anti-social consequences of fear and punishment. In Island's education there was recognition of the fact that there are many kinds of different energies within us-Aldous said that we are "multiple amphibians." The children were made aware with theater games and dances that they could use and transfer their negative energy in a positive, even a creative, way.
B. E.: In your book, This Timeless Moment, you say that the book Island was misunderstood-that it was not a science fiction story, but a guide for living based on the way you lived ...
L.H.: Well, I didn't say exactly that. Yes, we used some of the principles. Like Brave New World was used to describe methods to induce unawareness and passive obedience, in Island methods and recipes were used by a population thinking and acting interdependently-with awareness, choice, and responsibility for their actions. Many of these recipes were not invented. They had already been tried in different times and by different cultures and were found effective and beneficial.
B. E.: We were talking before about how Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World back in the 1930s, and then, of course, thirty years later, wrote Island. Which of these two novels do you think this last three decades has validated more?
L.H.: Unfortunately it has validated Brave New World more than Island, but I understand-although I am not in contact with-I understand that there are some small communes that try to incorporate Island in their lives. I think that for one person that has read Island, probably there are a hundred that have read Brave New World. Brave New World is in the schools-you have to read it. .
B.E.: Right, and then there is Brave New World Revisited (a collection of essays published by Huxley as a follow up on the trends described in Brave New World), where he touched on all the different things that have come true.
L.H.: That's right. Already, in '58 or '59-those years.
B. E.: What would you like to see from a group named after the novel Island? Would you imagine an Island Group would be a safe place where people could explore a wider range of relationships?
L.H.: Oh, absolutely, yes! An Island Group could adopt the methods described in Island. It can be done in a village. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, and it is true. In a small village, a child can go out alone and visit small and adult friends. A child alone in the streets of Los Angeles is in danger both from adults and other children. You know about children being killed in the streets by other children. They have handguns and machine guns. When they are little they are given for Christmas these war toys-a lovely way to celebrate the birth of a savior. So very soon they want to have a real gun, and when they have it they use it. People make money by selling guns to children and very young people. Then we are surprised that they use them. But in a village where a few families have read and agreed with the method of education described in Island, a child could go out and even leave his family for a few days. Do you remember the mutual adoption club? Each family has two or three adoptive families where the child can go and take a vacation from his own family, who might also need a vacation from him. There is so much which can be done with a small group who wants to grow its children in a safe place. This group must really have something basic in common to start a village of this kind. And now with the technological advances, it might be possible to make a living without going into the city. In Island the children have not only a loving family but also a sane environment in which to grow.
A village, a small and open group, and a sane environment-these are some of the essential elements required for the gestation of an Island community. Huxley's novel, published in 1961, was his attempt to describe a "utopian" society that allows for the integration of the principles and ideas he had discovered during his life's studies including the use of psychedelic or "Moksha medicine" as he calls it in Island.
<Author's Note: End of Interview>.
The communes of the sixties were not the first experiments in creating a different way of living, just as Island is not the first attempt at creating a plan for a better society. Ever since the birth of human consciousness and culture, there have been those who have imagined and even planned better ways that we could live together on this planet from the beginnings of history. The pursuit of these dreams; speculations, proposals, fictions, texts, and ideas has sometimes been called "utopian" after the sixteenth-century novel by Sir Thomas Moore. Utopia is a composite of two Greek words: Eutopia (meaning "good place") and Outopia (meaning "no place") -- which was meant to evoke the irony of the very concept that we very imperfect creatures inhabiting a planet in constant flux and change could ever aspire to live in a perfect world.
But utopian thinking or planned social change does not have to assume that what we are attempting to create is a perfect society. Certainly we would be satisfied to find ourselves in a society in which each of us can realize more of our complete potential and live a happier, more fulfilled life.
Indeed, the great documents that led to the founding of the United States-the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution-were politically-focused attempts at creating a better society, and most will agree on their better days that we have achieved some of these goals.
During the nineteenth century, the social thinkers reacting to the excesses of industrial capitalism that dominated that time conjectured about people living together communally. When the economic theories of socialism first found strong interest, there were attempts to form communes and collectives organized according to these precepts. None of the experiments have lasted but these attempts demonstrated that there are some individuals who are willing to take great risks, including changing their entire way of living, in the hopes that we can find a better way of living together.
While some social experiments just don't make it and quietly fade away, others fail more with a bang than a whimper. The former Soviet Union was an example of an enormous experiment based on some of the same principles, which had motivated the smaller communal efforts of the previous century, but which instead of producing the Utopia conceived by Marx and later by Lenin produced an opposite-a dystopia on a massive scale. Although it used socialist principles, it relied on the top-down hierarchy, the totalitarian power which was inherited from Russia's czarist tradition.
But it was also in the twentieth century that a new collective vision of the planet and its culture was born. Marilyn Ferguson gave this movement the name the Aquarian Conspiracy while Theodore Roszak wrote about The Making of the Counter Culture. And, noting the changes to our relationship to our planet, Charles A. Reich wrote The Greening of America.
Some of the ideas of Ferguson, Reich, and Roszak have been around for many centuries. Countercultures such the Bohemians and Beats have popped up throughout the last century and were preceded by smaller and more localized movements throughout recorded history. Similarly, attempts at developing movements based on whole systems thinking and organic models have been with us for a long time too, but found great impetus in the composite visions of several million individuals who used LSD from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. As we described above, the search for Utopia took the form of hundreds of community and communal efforts.
Visionary experiences like those which LSD provided have been with humans since our species first gained the ability to be conscious, and it was perhaps the psychedelic plants that led to human consciousness in the first place.
As we pointed out earlier, what was new about the Psychedelic Movement was that for the first time large numbers of people had access to experiences which previously had come either through gratuitous grace or chewing on bitter Peyote buttons.
It was Osmond and Huxley who encouraged Timothy Leary and his colleagues at Harvard University to conduct experiments with psychedelics there. Leary and his fellows began to believe that a wider use of LSD might help keep the world safe from the dangers posed by the Cold War with its nuclear arms race. Leary decided to go public with psychedelics and is said to have broken with Huxley on this point, although it is clear from many of his writings that Huxley, too, shared the belief that psychedelics might be necessary if humans would continue to advance as a species.
The diversity of ideas gave way to the enormous social forces of the Sixties which we have described above. From a small group of ivory tower psychedelic cognoscenti in 1962, their number increased to 1% of the American population by 1964 who had tried LSD and, of course, unleashed some of the powerful forces we have described above.
The fact that LSD was so powerful and that a huge number of doses could be manufactured from a single gram of the substance allowed for it to be spread much more widely than, say, mescaline, the active ingredient of peyote (which had been first manufactured in 1897 but which did not serve as the catalyst for any sort of large movement). The technology of chemistry had evolved to the point that it could mass manufacture the Philosopher's Stone and modern media including television, music, and motion pictures allowed for the myths of this new revolution of the mind to be spread quickly around the globe. By the time these turned-on youth reached Woodstock, they were more than a half a million strong and they seemed like they would take over the world.
Storming Heaven by Jay Stevens, an excellent history of the Psychedelic Movement, ends in 1970. In fact, if the author were to do a revision, there would not be that much more to write. Thirty years have passed since those heady days. While the rave and trance youth movements have attempted carry on the spirit of the hippies, their temporary autonomous zones last only a night.
Aldous Huxley believed that LSD and the psychedelics allowed us to reach a transcendental state during our actual lives often ascribed by religions to an afterlife. So after completing his essays in Brave New World Revisited, warning of a totalitarian future, he spent the next few years thinking and writing about how people might live together "sensibly." As Laura above points out, the novel Island that resulted from this literary thought experiment might serve as a good starting point for experiments that we would conduct on a portion of our psychedelic sanctuary.
In 1994 when I founded Island Web, I soon ran into a young computer science student named Mike Markowski. Mike had done a web site based on Island and I liked it so much I made it a major feature of the Island Web. You can find it by going to Island Web and clicking on Huxley's Vision.
While Island is a work of fiction, it is the vehicle Huxley used to communicate his ideas about how people in a good society would interact with each other and their environment. These Web pages do not offer a literary critique of the novel, analyzing symbolism, or even summarizing the novel. The plot is a wonderful story in its own right, and it's best to read the book, not a synopsis, to fully enjoy it. The goal here is to simply present Huxley's underlying ideas and philosophies upon which the novel is built.
Just as many science-oriented movies start off with a child being taught something, or a news program or some educational device really for the benefit of the viewer, Huxley has his own "news reel" in Island so that the setting and events in the story are understood in context. The people of Pala (which is the island the title refers to) live their lives based on ideas representing the best that Eastern and Western philosophies have to offer. Neither philosophy is quite enough on its own, or maybe is too much to live a full, balanced life. And it so happens that Pala's philosophies result from the hard work and combined ideas of two founding fathers, one a Buddhist and the other an analytical medical doctor. Together they developed principles which the then-leader, (the Rajah) of Pala wrote down and entitled: "Notes on What's What, and What It Might be Reasonable to do about What's What." This is the tool Huxley provides so that we, the readers, can be educated in the principles underlying society on Pala (Mike pulls the notes together into a formal text, which can be found in this section of the Web site).
A friend, Will Penna recently introduced me to a fascinating book, A Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi. The authors describe a great number of fictional and mythological villages, cities, countries, lost continents, and such. In about two and a half pages of small double column type, the author gives a concise and lucid description of Huxley's Pala. I will be asking the author for permission to publish it on our Web site but here are a few excerpts, pulled from a much longer text, which gives a flavor of the various aspects of Pala that can serve as a foundation and starting place for our psychedelic sanctuary's traditions:
The Palanese are pacifists and have never had an army. There are no prisons on Pala. The island is traditionally a constitutional monarchy. Politically, Pala is a federation of decentralized self-governing units. There is no press monopoly. A panel of editors represents various groups and interests-each is given set space for arguments and comments-and the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.
The economic system is a cooperative one based on mutual aid with a credit system modeled on nineteenth- century credit unions. As the population is relatively small, there is sufficient surplus. Enough gold is produced to back the currency and supplement exports. Expensive equipment is paid for in cash. There is silver, gold, and copper currency for internal use.
The Palanese religion is Buddhism, which arrived from Bengal and Tibet in the seventh century AD. It has Tantric elements and also has been influenced by Shivism. Palanese Buddhism does not lead to renunciation of the world or to a search for nirvana; it leads to an acceptance of the world. Everything seen, tasted, heard, or touched becomes an aid to the liberation of the self.
At the age of four or five all children undergo intensive physical and psychological testing. Potential criminals or problem children are identified and given appropriate treatment. According to Palanese medicine, criminality is the result of endocrine imbalance and is to be treated as such. Potential bullies for instance are encouraged to divert their wish for power into socially useful activities such as cutting wood, mining, or sailing.
Moksha, a powerful hallucinatory drug derived from mushrooms, lends its name to one of Pala's most important ceremonies. The drug is known as the "reality revealer." It produces a state similar to that reached by deep meditation, allowing a heightened perception of reality. Moksha also affects areas of the brain which are normally "inactive," allowing immediate access to the subconscious and providing the equivalent of a mystical experience. The use of Moksha, the Palanese say, can take the user to heaven, hell, or beyond, allowing visions of what some forms of Buddhism term "the clear light of the void." The Moksha ceremony is an initiation ceremony and takes place in the temple (described in great detail). During the service, young men and women offer a rock-climbing accomplishment to Shiva and then through the use of the drug, experience liberation from themselves.
- The island has a very low rate of neurosis and cardiovascular troubles, thanks largely to the use of preventive medicine on all fronts from psychological help to controlled diet.
- The family organization of Pala is unusual. Everyone belongs to a mutual adoption club consisting of fifteen to twenty five couples of all ages who adopt each other in the form of an extended family. When a child finds his natural family becoming restrictive or unpleasant, he or she migrates to another home within the extended family.
- Education in Pala is based on helping children to understand the logic and structure of the subject before moving on to its general applications. Ecology is seen as important subject and is seen as the basis of ethics; man can only live on the earth if he treats it with compassion. Elementary ecology leads rapidly to elementary Buddhism. Children are introduced to the concepts of "suchness" and Buddhism in preparation for the Moksha initiation.
We are now at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In four decades, some two generations have been born and grown up since the days of hula-hoops, John F. Kennedy, screaming teens outside of Beatles concerts, and young Professor Leary at Harvard. Certainly the sixties had its phony parts, and its excesses are part of what destroyed its momentum.
But those of us who grew up back then and have been involved in the Psychedelic Movement know that underneath all of that "fluff" is a set of important truths, ethics, and principles. As the world's population soars from the three billion people who inhabited the earth when I was born to the over six billion alive now to the projected twelve billion which will be here by 2040 according to the current predictions, it is possible that we may see civilization as we know it fade. It is possible that with so many people, technology will not be able to keep up with our overall growth and we may experience a new Dark Ages. Large numbers of people will be subjected to more control and regimentation with the goal of making them better consumers rather than more enlightened people.
This essay and Island Foundation, like the novel Island it got its name from, are not just about taking psychedelics. Psychedelics happen to be a powerful tool which open people up to new ideas and ancient wisdom. Island Foundation's goal, like Huxley's in writing Island, is to synthesize these ideas and form something new and better.
We must take steps now to keep our torch burning in the potential darkness and to re-ignite the spirit that brought so many changes four decades ago. So in this manifesto, I call on the members of Island Foundation, the psychedelic/entheogen community, and all of those of you who find some sense in these words to get involved in our Psychedelic Sanctuary Project. Please-write, call, email, and let us know your level of interest and tell us how you can contribute to this flagship Island Project.
"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias. --Oscar Wild --
Thanks to Bruce Eisner.