The Serpent's Promise: The Oldest Exchange of All
"Sorcerers say death is the only worthy opponent we have. . . . Death is our challenger. . . . Life is the process by means of which death challenges us. . . . Death is the active force. Life is the arena. And in that arena there are only two contenders at any time: oneself and death. . . . We are passive. . . . If we move, it's only when we feel the pressure of death." --Carlos Castaneda, The Power of Silence
Anyone who has smoked DMT knows why Terence McKenna called it "white knuckle stuff." One puff on a pipe and the experiencer is thrown -- in the time it takes to inhale and exhale a lungful of smoke -- into another world in which no familiar features remain. It is a world stranger and more outlandish than anything our wildest dreams or nightmares could ever conjure. It is also a world that is inhabited and -- most disconcerting of all still -- the inhabitants are focusing their attention on us. The abyss gazes also. Smoking DMT is like being turned inside out: not only is the true nature of reality exposed to us, but, in that same instant, we are also exposed to it. There is literally no place to hide on a DMT trip, because the Universe is fiercely and unfathomably alive, and it is right under our skins. Anyone who has smoked DMT once, and who knows therefore what to expect, will have to push his courage to the sticking place the next time he volunteers to say "bye-bye to Kansas." The main consolation for the white-knuckled DMT-smoker is the knowledge that even the most intense trip only lasts from 5 to 15 minutes. What sort of courage would it require to smoke DMT knowing it was a one-way trip, that our consciousness was about to be cannonballed into the Imaginal realms for the rest of eternity? Would anyone be able to hold their pipe steady knowing that?
What follows in this article is not based on hard science or accepted facts about brain or body chemistry and entheogens. It is a mixture of personal experience, deductive reasoning, and something I can only describe as "received knowledge," so the reader is advised to add a "maybe" or "it seems to me" to the end of every sentence, in order to counteract the otherwise authoritative tone of the piece, necessary for clarity and succinctness. Having offered up that disclaimer, here's the premise of my argument: If Castaneda's don Juan is correct, and death is the active force in life, then psychedelic substances are a form of concentrated death. Even ordinary observation indicates that death regenerates life and keeps things moving forward; without it there is no evolution, no advance. Poetically speaking, Death provides the urgency of Time within the tapestry of Eternity. That is why Chronos, the Lord of Time, is depicted as the Grim Reaper. Time is the catalyst of Motion added to the "substance" of Space. This concept is clearly illustrated in Atu 13 of Aleister Crowley's and Frieda Harris' Thoth tarot deck.
As "condensed death particles," then, entheogens attack the nervous system, targeting specifically the neurons, not only of the brain but of the entire body, within which more and more neurological systems are being discovered (such as in the heart and intestines). This "attack" of the psychotropic molecules upon our neurons is not without intent, however, and so far as I can intuit, their intent is to hijack the cells of our bodies and use them and vehicles to cross over from "death" into "life." By "death" I refer to the inorganic realms, where the organic realms pertain to what we know of as "life."
Shamanically speaking, to smoke DMT or ingest any other hallucinogen is to offer up our cells as a sacrifice to the spirits. By such sacrifice, we are allowing our consciousness to be possessed by mysterious and invisible agents of transformation. When we ingest a psychoactive substance, a number of our neurons are "destroyed," which is to say, broken down to their basic constituents. In the moment of destruction, they become "food" for inorganic intelligences to gain temporary substance in our organic realm of existence, via our consciousness. There is a moment of overlap between the worlds of life and death, the temporal and the eternal. As part of us "dies," it is absorbed by the spirit-intelligences residing in the plant or chemical, intelligences which (we can only imagine) are seeking an experience of organic existence otherwise unavailable to them. (Since plants are organic life forms, it might be more accurate to say they are seeking a different, more sentient kind of organic experience.) In those brief moments or hours, while our neurons are being consumed by the entheogen, they are still connected to our conscious selves, to the nervous system and neural network. As a result, we get to consciously experience existence "on the other side," through the eyes of the spirits; at the same time, the spirits are able to experience life through our eyes. This form of ritual sacrifice is an ancient exchange, possibly the oldest one of all.
In Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, Karl Jansen writes, "LSD and DMT bind to serotonin receptors and this is thought to push the start button for a cascade of events resulting in a psychedelic trip." To the extent that psychedelics bind to and thereby alter the receptor sites, the question arises: what does this alteration of the nervous system allow us to receive? The kind of energy that is received via the altered receptor sites, as well as the amount, would perhaps be determined not merely by what is being ingested (the chemicals in the plant), but also by the circumstances under which it taken and -- perhaps most critically of all -- the psychological make-up of the person ingesting. Native Americans doing peyote or Peruvians shamans (and their clientele) taking ayahuasca would then be an entirely different affair to Westerners aspiring to become master Magi or seeking congress with the divine, while having little clue what they are doing and little or no relationship to the plant/chemical (and residing spirit) being ingested.
Spirits are inorganic intelligences (which may include what we call souls of the dead). Being inorganic and/or dead, they lack access to sentient physical form. This is an area I'm less than a hundred percent clear on, since inorganic spirits apparently can live in organic matter, just as elemental or faery beings are said to live in rocks and plants and the like. It may be that these spirits seek specifically to experience human existence, and that getting incarnate humans to ingest entheogens is one way for them to achieve this. Whatever the case, they appear to desire not just congress with but ingress into (and through) our consciousness, which they attain by accessing not only our neurons (as they are "hijacked" by the psychoactive chemicals) but the entire network which those neurons are linked up to. I estimate there are three layers of neural circuit-boards to a human being. The most superficial is that of the brain, which is then linked up to the larger network of the nervous system, including all the organs which store individual memories (the brain's function being to access and "decode" these memories), memories which make up the life and identity of the individual, or total body. Lastly, beneath that, encompassing every atom of the body, there is the subatomic network of the DNA, which contains our genetic code and hence the memories of the entire species.
Potentially, entheogens can "light up" the neural network of our brains and even our greater nervous systems. In extreme cases, such as shamanic initiation entails, they may even allow us access to a genetic level of consciousness, where ancestral memories and "past lives" are stored. This process is perhaps similar to splitting the atom to create a nuclear explosion: if our bodies (like the rest of physical reality) are holographic systems, each neuron, each molecule, would contain the information of the whole network. (A blood sample will tell you something about the whole body.) When psychoactive molecules "invade" the molecules of our bodies, they crack them open and release the information stored inside, giving us momentary awareness of the whole network: "nuclear" vision. There's an obvious side effect of this, however. Since accessing the information of the neural network requires hacking into the system, entheogens cause inevitable damage in the process. As a result, the long-term effects of entheogens are generally the opposite of their short-term effects. I believe that entheogens cause "ruptures" in the neural pathways of the brain and the total body (possibly even in the DNA), ruptures which then prevent a spontaneous activation of the system further on down the line. They give us a taste of enlightenment-which is to say our natural state of being-but the possibility of a lasting enlightenment later on is drastically reduced. In this way, entheogens, like gurus, and perhaps like occult knowledge in general, engender spiritual addiction. As with all addictions, we need ever more powerful doses to get "high."
Gaia's Secret Revenge?
"[T]he real truth that dare not speak itself is that no one is in control, absolutely no one. This stuff is ruled by the equations of dynamics and chaos. There may be entities seeking control, but to seek control is to take enormous aggravation upon yourself. It's like trying to control a dream." --Terence McKenna, "Dreaming Awake at the End of Time"
There is a very clear parallel to be drawn here with the ecosystem, which of course is the source of most if not all psychoactive substances. If the trees and other plant life of the earth form a sort of neural network for the planet (a scenario deftly illustrated in Alan Moore's run of Swamp Thing comics), then decimating the rain forests and other forms of environmental damage would be affecting more than merely our oxygen supply. It would also be rapidly reducing the capacity of the Earth's biosphere to function as intended, as an information system by which the planet (like the human body) can become fully self-aware: in a word, planetary consciousness. Ironically enough, it may be partly because of this system shut-down that there is such a collective pull towards a "psychedelic solution." The irony, if this is an accurate description, is that the destruction of the ecosphere is not only a symptom but also a cause of our increased disconnect from Nature and from our bodies. As we seek to experience our primal/cosmic natures via the entheogens which the Earth (and modern science) provides, the imagined solution may only be compounding the problem. It would be Gaia's secret revenge, because if the (ab)use of entheogens were decimating our own individual "biospheres" and preventing us from having full access to our faculties, this would exactly mirror the ways in which our disconnection from the environment has affected the Earth's biosphere.
Although this is a potentially controversial point of view within the entheogen and alternate perceptions community, there is ample evidence to support it. On the one hand, we have a blockbuster such as Avatar, which advocates environmental activism and mind expansion through psychedelics, while at the same time feeding the military-industrial-entertainment complex that is slowly destroying the planet and keeping the collective mind numbed out on sub-literate crap like Avatar. So far the only explanation of this contradiction is that the movie is proof of a planetary awakening! The countless contradictions within the film -- to say nothing of its crappiness -- belie such an "explanation," however. If a movie made by the military-entertainment complex known as Hollywood appears to vilify right-wing military forces as anti-environmental while glorifying psychedelics and "back to roots" tribal values, you can be sure the film's backers have their reasons for doing so. On the other hand, we need look no further than two of the leading forces in the psychedelic revolution -- Carlos Castaneda and Terrence McKenna -- to glimpse the dark side of the entheogen experience. McKenna died of a brain tumor at age fifty-three, and Castaneda died of liver cancer, aged seventy-two. The brain and the liver are the two organs most obviously and indisputably affected by psychoactive substances. These visionary spokesmen's deaths underscore their messages and have served to counteract, at least to a degree, their influence regarding the presumed positive value of entheogens. Castaneda quotes don Juan Matus in one of the later books, admitting that power plants "do untold damage to the body," explaining that they were only necessary because of Castaneda's extreme "stupidity." A third body of evidence (probably the most persuasive) for the dubious benefits of entheogen-use would be the countless proponents and spokespersons who claim to have been transformed by power plants, whose rhetoric and behavior betrays a distinct lack of balance, coherence, or sobriety. (It would seem cruel to mention any names at this point.)
It will no doubt be argued that, if used properly (shamanically), entheogens such as ayahuasca, ibogaine, and psilocybin can be used for healing, so how can they be said to harm the body? The answer is in just what "proper" or shamanic use entails, as well as what we understand by "healing." The electromagnetic field or "aura" around the human body, which corresponds roughly with the neural networks I have been describing, is where all physical illnesses originate, so it is here that any shamanic healing via entheogens presumably occurs -- if indeed it does occur. Such "soul-healing," when effective, would more than make up for any damage being done to the body by entheogens, because by sealing up fractures or clearing out blockages in the energy body (the total psyche), the body would be able to regenerate itself over time. Generally speaking, this does require a shaman -- an experienced energetic healer -- administering the entheogens, and often taking them in the patient's stead. Performing energetic surgery upon our own psyches would obviously be a highly risky endeavor, not to say an insane one. At best, the chances are that we will use the entheogen-induced experience of heightened awareness to avoid areas of blockage -- or to plough through them without necessary preparation -- rather than heal and integrate them. This may not result in physical sickness (at least not right away), but it will very likely lead to ego inflation, on the one hand, and dissociation and fragmentation (mild schizophrenia) on the other. Perhaps most commonly, it leads to a combination of both.
The idea that psychedelics are a concentrated "death substance" -- a form of holistic poison -- does not contradict the idea that they can be used for healing, because this fact is common to all homeopathic remedies. Dosage is key: even a little bit too much and medicine becomes poison. With entheogens, this relates not so much to the amount ingested but to the frequency of use, and, equally or perhaps more important, to the circumstances under which they are being used. To give my own example: in a little under twenty years of experimentation (not counting the past seven years during which I have avoided entheogens altogether, unless you count the occasional joint), I have probably had around a hundred powerful hallucinogenic experiences (quite a few of which were marijuana-induced). I would estimate, conservatively speaking, that less than two dozen of these were "necessary" (appropriate), and that perhaps still less were truly shamanic and therefore healing or transformative to my being. That would render somewhere between 75% and 90% of my entheogen use gratuitous and therefore deleterious to both my mental and physical health. Overall, I like to think that it evens out, that the 10-25% of shamanic experiences were sufficiently transforming to compensate for the damage I did to my nervous system by over-indulging. Nonetheless, if this is true, I still have to acknowledge the possibility that I'd be more or less exactly where I am today if I had avoided entheogens altogether. It is also possible that I would be considerably better off.
The inescapable realization for me has been that I was using psychedelics, not simply to expand my consciousness, but to escape the confines of a contracted consciousness. What's the difference, you may ask? Perhaps nothing save that the latter is an honest description where the former is not. In other words, if I had been content within the parameters of my limited consciousness, I would not have been so eager to experiment with heightened states of awareness. So-called "consciousness expansion" becomes merely recreational once we have attained a certain level of consciousness, a level at which we have more than enough to integrate without stirring up still more elements of our unconscious. And integration entails coming back down to earth to see what's going on in our mundane awareness, something that doesn't happen if we keep shooting for ever-higher states of consciousness and ever more mind-expanding experiences, via entheogens. How much does expanding our consciousness enhance our day-to-day capacity to function in the world and relate to other people at an ordinary level? And how much are we simply increasing our ability to talk for hours about abstract subjects and fly off into imaginary/imaginal realms, bringing back shiny trinkets (songs, poems, paintings, books) to show off how "evolved" our consciousness is to the world? Be honest now.
Enlightenment: What Is It?
"Proteins are intelligent beings. They have evolved to operate in the metabolic maelstrom of a turbulent cellular environment." --Christopher Miller, Nature magazine
During one of my more memorable encounters with salvia divinorum, I experienced myself as consciousness interacting with the molecules of my eyelids. These molecules were all individual beings which together made up a collective (my eyelids) characterized by a combination of fierce awareness, a mischievous sense of humor, and a powerful and unmistakable expression of love and affection for me, or whatever remained of my self-consciousness at that time, as I was swallowed up in this electric congress of molecules. I mention this as a counter perspective to one described above, in which, as the entheogens consume our neurons, the spirits (residing in the plant and/or the smoke of the plant) ride into our consciousness on a wave of "destruction." An alternative way of seeing his-not necessarily at odds with the first-is that the spirits (being non-local, quantum beings) also reside in the cells of our bodies. (In the above experience, my eyelids became my focus because I was trying to remember not to open my eyes once I had smoked.) When the entheogen hits our nervous system, these "spirits" are released (like nuclear energy from the atom) from that force which holds our bodies (and everything else) into a fixed form -- the bondage of matter. Perhaps, as my molecules "died" under the influence of the salvia, their molecule-souls were flying free, dancing joyfully over to the other side, taking my consciousness (temporarily) along with them?
Atoms (and molecules, cells, neurons, and proteins) are entities. They carry an information load, which is essentially no different from the way that we, as larger atoms, carry the memories of our lives, making up our own "spin" or information load. And since our sense of identity comes primarily, even exclusively, from our personal set of memories, then an atom which carries its information load can be said, likewise, to have identity. This presents a whole new area of exploration beyond the scope of the present article, namely: to what degree does using psychedelics allow our consciousness to be possessed by foreign entities that are not "sympathetic" (in both the magical and the common sense of the word) with our bodies and psyches? The assumption is that, since entheogens come from the Earth, they must be benevolent (i.e. compatible with our own evolution). This is a rash assumption, since there are plenty of species indigenous to the Earth that aren't "on our side." Plant spirits foster dependence, and how they interact with us may depend on how consciously and conscientiously we relate to them, just as it does with everything else in life. In a predatory environment, everything is food for something else, so why assume this applies any less to the realm of consciousness -- or to our interaction with those "spirits" that reside in the entheogens which we consume, eager to be possessed by God? It may even be that any kind of consciousness that is sourced in molecules besides those of our own bodies is foreign to us, and therefore potentially harmful; in short, that true individuation or awakening depends on accessing divine consciousness not outside of ourselves (in plants or gurus) but within.
I would like to turn now to the question of life after death. Stripped of all religious adornment, this is simply the idea of the continuation of identity-individual consciousness -- after the death of the body. If we take the concept out of the realm of myth and religious belief, and into the realm of (not-quite) science, how great a leap is it to suggest that our existence on the other side of death might conceivably depend upon our actions and accomplishments while we are alive? This would not be a moral question -- since morality is merely a human invention -- but a purely pragmatic one. It could depend, for example, upon an individual having a fully activated (linked-up) neural system at the moment of death, a system which could then serve as a vehicle for inorganic consciousness once the flesh and blood vessel was no longer functional.
Perhaps the life of the body is a means for undifferentiated consciousness (pure energy, before form) to experience itself as a separate entity, by entering into (or weaving into being) a "package" to contain it? Consciousness then would have the possibility of fully integrating itself into its package, so that, like clay inside a mold, when the form were destroyed the energy that in-formed it -- having allowed itself also to be formed by it -- could retain the unique shape-the individuality -- which physical experience granted it. This idea is dramatically depicted, once again by Alan Moore, in the comic book Watchmen, when Jon Osterman is vaporized inside a nuclear vault and his consciousness miraculously manages to weave for itself a new physical form made of pure energy, using the memories of his former identity as a matrix. Alan Moore also came up with a whole new origin story for Swamp Thing which was basically the same model: Alex Holland undergoes an existential crisis when he realizes that he is not who-or what-he thought he was, but rather a plant intelligence that has inherited Holland's memories.
"For one kiss wilt thou then be willing to give all; but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour." --The Book of the Law (Aleister Crowley)
In several of his later books, Castaneda describes something he calls the Sorcerers' Recapitulation. This is perhaps an overly literal interpretation of the integration process of undifferentiated consciousness with its experience of physical incarnation and individuality. As Castaneda describes it, a sorcerer's task is to recapitulate his or her entire life -- including every thought and every dream ever dreamed -- creating a surrogate awareness which can then be offered up the "the Eagle" (the ruling force in the Universe). In return for this offering, the sorcerer is allowed to keep his or her individual awareness (the Eagle's gift). This is not a metaphor which I take too literally, any more than I intend to painstakingly recapitulate every thought I ever had in order to attain immortality. (Apparently it didn't work too well for Castaneda, who allegedly went insane before he died.) I am citing it now merely for the parallels which it presents with our present model. Also relevant are the many documented "near-death experiences" (NDEs, see Michael Talbot's The Holographic Universe) in which individuals undergo a full "life review" and re-experience every moment of their existence up to the moment of (near) death. In Castaneda's model, at the moment of death -- or rather as an alternative to dying -- a fully recapitulated sorcerer "burns from the fire within," and every cell in his body becomes conscious of itself and of the totality of the body. As fully activated cellular awareness, the sorcerer "glides into infinity," dissolving into the boundless while simultaneously retaining some mysterious residue of his or her individuality.
Such an epic description is probably better read as a modern myth than a factual account; yet even so, it may relate to a very real practical occurrence, namely the lighting up of the neural networks (all three levels) within our bodies while we are alive. This, so far as I can ascertain, is what's known in spiritual circles as "enlightenment," while at the same time being simply our natural state as human beings. In existential terms, it would entail integrating our individual consciousness, the ego or personal self, with our unconscious (the sum total of our life's experiences, the memories of the body) so that we can come fully into "the Now," bringing all of those past moments out of the past and into the present. Enlightenment entails living in an eternal present in which divine or transpersonal consciousness is also present, both through us and as us. When a person dies in such a fully "activated" state -- with all the individual cells linked up to form a circuit -- the entire network might then become a vehicle for "Spirit" to possess, a "Merkaba" for divine consciousness to "glide into" eternity-merging with the infinite while remaining self-aware within it. Alternatively, and perhaps more accurately, if this activation occurs in life, then the death of the body would no longer herald any significant change for the indwelling consciousness, since it would be already linked up to, and in continuous communion with, the realms beyond death.
This is why "every moment is precious": because every moment of our lives is a link in the circuit-board of individuated consciousness. Without each of those links functioning (which depends upon all the moments of our lives being integrated into consciousness), the system cannot function as a system but only as a collection of unconnected parts. At death, the individual's totality either fails to light up or short-circuits and explodes in the first moment of "enlightenment." We might imagine the moments of our lives then as "temporal molecules" which together make up our fourth-dimensional "souls," the "building" of which is necessary if we are to fuse with, and flow into, the spacetime continuum of eternity. In occult terminology, this is "the crossing of the Abyss."
The reader may have noticed how the sorcerers' recapitulation, as the means to get past the Eagle to freedom, is very similar to the religious notion of giving full account of our lives to St. Peter before slipping through the pearly gates. The difference is that, in the non-religious model, the Universe does not demand penance, it merely demands account. To give a full account of our lives requires total awareness of them while we are still living (in religious terminology, repentance and atonement). Otherwise, if we enter into the totality of ourselves without the necessary preparation, the overwhelming pressure of all those disowned, unintegrated, unaccounted for moments will cause us to short-circuit, as awareness, and plummet back into "the matrix" for another go-round inside Blake's dark, satanic mill. In Socrates' famous phrase, "an unexamined life is not worth living," because it leads nowhere. Taken too literally, such a harsh judgment contains the seeds of elitism, however (as does Castaneda's work, for that matter, and any other spiritual, religious or occult doctrine we can mention). Taken too literally, the idea that an unexamined life is without value is also fundamentally incorrect. At the end of the day, there are no individual lives, and everything belongs to God. But Socrates was addressing the possibility that, without the essential element of awareness of each of our acts, there is no possibility of cohesion or unity to the countless moments which make up our lives. At the moment of death, those moments are then dissipated into infinity and return to undifferentiated energy, to be recycled as raw matter in the ongoing movement of Spirit towards individuation. This is probably the source of the popular idea of reincarnation, even though the idea of reincarnation conveniently ignores the fact that, once energy has returned to the undifferentiated state, it would not, by definition, retain any identity. In which case, the only thing that "reincarnates" is God/the Universe. The moments of an unexamined life remain part of the fabric of eternity, which is God's body, and nothing is lost, much less "damned." But the story which they were once a part of dissolves and is gone, as if never having existed-because as a narrative, it went nowhere in particular (or nowhere new).
The above, somewhat speculative, digression into medium-level metaphysics has been part of my attempt to understand the true purpose -- and the very real dangers -- of entheogens. It's my opinion that the bottom line of psychedelics is that, in the process of expanding consciousness, they impair memory and do "untold damage to the body" (especially the liver, which is what we are until we die: livers). I believe that when they "hack into" and "hijack" the atoms, molecules, cells and neurons, they do so for their own ends. Plants are not only sentient, but also volitional, so to assume they have no other purpose besides serving us is probably human arrogance at work once again. It's true that, whatever the plants' agenda may be, by ingesting them we gain temporary access to the greater spectrum of molecular awareness which is our natural birthright. However, as every psychonaut knows, this enhanced vision is only temporary, while the changes caused to our neural networks, nervous system, and even our DNA, are likely to be longer-lasting, possibly even permanent. If McKenna died of a brain tumor, maybe he was mutating too fast? Perhaps he was growing a new organ, as in the movie Videodrome, an organ meant for seeing the true nature of reality but which wound up killing him instead of turning him into the übermensch.
In Elizabeth Haich's Initiation, in which she recounts her alleged memories of ancient Egypt, Haich describes how the initiate was prepared physically, over a period of time, with certain medicinal herbs meant to strengthen the nervous system for the higher consciousness which the initiation procedure would bring about. In Eastern terms, this equates with the waking of the Kundalini, which is commonly recognized to be harmful, even fatal, if premature. Psychedelics induce higher conscious artificially, with no preparation of the nervous system. If, as I have stated, enlightenment is merely our natural state as humans, then psychedelics take us in the opposite direction, blasting us into an unnatural state that at the same time closely simulates the natural one, and hence offers the feeling of attaining "greater reality." They also lead to the corresponding comedown and, generally speaking, the desire to recreate that state. Speaking personally again, I am still paying "back-taxes" on my illicit journeys, not only in shaky health but in my everyday struggle to be content within ordinary, mundane awareness. What causes the harm, in short, is not the plant chemical being ingested, but the energy-consciousness which it allows access to our nervous system, and/or that which is released from it, namely, the Kundalini force. Probably, it is a mixture of both.
Every sperm is sacred, and every cell is vital of the functioning of the whole. Those hijacked neurons, mutated receptors, or ruptured cells -- if they didn't mutate but were simply burned up on the sacrificial altar of "expanded consciousness" -- have to be regenerated. Without them, our electromagnetic fields may wind up like a set of Christmas tree lights with missing bulbs: one fail, all fail. Every cell of our bodies stores information about our past, and every single moment of our lives is going to be called to the table on that day of reckoning. In simple terms, the gains of entheogens are heavily taxed. Most experimenters, unaware of this fact, continue enjoying the gains with little or no clue as to just the back-taxes they are accruing. But eventually, the fiddler must be paid, and there is only one thing surer than taxes.
 "Receptors are biological transducers that convert energy from both external and internal environments into electrical impulses. They may be massed together to form a sense organ, such as the eye or ear, or they may be scattered, as are those of the skin and viscera. Receptors are connected to the central nervous system by afferent nerve fibers. The region or area in the periphery from which a neuron within the central nervous system receives input is called its receptive field. Receptive fields are changing and not fixed entities." http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/409709/human-nervous-system/75...
 Admittedly, Castaneda tried hard to disassociate himself from the psychedelic culture very early in his career.
 "Leary critics eventually point to his close connections during this time to international LSD-smuggling cartel, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, rumored to be a CIA front. The Brotherhood is controlled by Ronald Stark, who the Italian High Court later concludes has been CIA since 1960, and Brotherhood's funds are channeled through Castle Bank in the Bahamas, a known CIA ‘proprietary.' For two years Leary lives at Brotherhood headquarters in Laguna Beach, during which time Brotherhood corners the US market on LSD and distributes only one variety of the drug, "Orange Sunshine." Stark reportedly knows a high- placed Tibetan close to the Dalai Lama and wants to provide enough LSD to dose all Chinese troops in Tibet. In the US, meanwhile, Stark provides enough Orange Sunshine to dose the hippie culture many times over. This is the ‘bad acid' that Charles Manson's followers took before murdering Sharon Tate and that the Hell's Angels took before stabbing to death a black man during a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont. Because of this, William S. Burroughs, White Panther leader John Sinclair, and Ken Kesey eventually entertain the theory that Stark, Leary, and Orange Sunshine are all part of a CIA plot to discredit the radical left." http://www.sunshine69.com/Sunshine__autumn.html
 As don Juan once told Castaneda: "All the faculties, possibilities, and accomplishments of sorcery, from the simplest to the most astounding, are in the human body itself" (The Eagle's Gift).
 In a side note, Castaneda describes using power plants one last time as a boost by which to enter all the way into "the nagual," which one of his groups equates with "the kingdom of Heaven." Terence McKenna waxed lyrical on entering the Now: "The alternative physics is a physics of light. Light is composed of photons, which have no antiparticle. This means that there is no dualism in the world of light. The conventions of relativity say that time slows down as one approaches the speed of light, but if one tries to imagine the point of view of a thing made of light, one must realize that what is never mentioned is that if one moves at the speed of light there is no time whatsoever. There is an experience of time zero. . . . The only experience of time that one can have is of a subjective time that is created by one's own mental processes, but in relationship to the Newtonian universe there is no time whatsoever. One exists in eternity, one has become eternal, the universe is aging at a staggering rate all around one in this situation, but that is perceived as a fact of this universe-the way we perceive Newtonian physics as a fact of this universe. One has transited into the eternal mode. One is then apart from the moving image; one exists in the completion of eternity." "New Maps of Hyperspace," Magical Blend magazine.
 Crowley on crossing the abyss: "Then will all phenomena which present themselves to him appear meaningless and disconnected, and his own Ego will break up into a series of impressions having no relation one with the other, or with any other thing." Liber OS Abysmi vel Daath
 "I believe that the growth in my head, this head, this one right here. I think that it is not really a tumor. . . not an uncontrolled, undirected little bubbling pot of flesh. . . but that it is in fact a new organ . . . a new part of the brain." Brian O'Blivion, Videodrome, written by David CronenbergTweet