Taken All Kinds of Pills to Give Me All Kinds of Thrills…

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This Rolling Stone profile by Vanessa Grigoriadis on now-age psychedelic guru Daniel Pinchbeck and his recent apocalyptic visions is quite interesting–perhaps all the more so to me since I'm quoted in it.

My review of Pinchbeck's first book on his psychedelic excursions and theorizing, from the Washington Post, reprinted here (since I can no longer find it on the Post's site).

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  1. What a coincidence you should mention this. My husband bought the first season DVD’s, and we’ve watched a couple of ’em with our two sons. They got interested after we watched “Galaxy Quest” with ’em a couple of weeks ago. (My favorite line from a movie made during the last 10 years has got to be Guy Fleegman’s introduction of himself as “I was killed by the lava monster before the first commercial.”) Anyway, if anyone from the Star Trek management is listening, you’ve got two new fans. Maybe it’s time for another cartoon?

  2. <nelson>ha ha</nelson>

  3. Jesus Christ.

    If this guy was some sort of deluded Baptist flashwit nattering about the apocalypse from a double wide in Sheboygan, Wisconsin you’d be fucking mocking him.

    But since he lives in New York, and his religious sacrament actually has a psychoactive effect (unlike wine and shitty wafers) he doesn’t get criticized?

    I hope this bullshit gets dredged back up in six years, and the world mocks this asshole for being a self-deluded shyster who’s actually too fucking stupid to place his date-naming of the End Times at some point far enough in the future for him to actually do something with it other than seduce fry-brained trollops.

  4. I’m going to have to side with mediageek, although I don’t quite share his apparent degree of contempt.

  5. Reminds me of the herbalist Kramer took George to see for his tonsillitis (Jerry was there strictly for material).

    Keep in mind this is the same RS writer who gave us an extended love letter to an eco-terrorist group earlier this summer. Oy.

  6. For those who are only reading comments threads, there couldn’t be a more thorough mischaractertization of either article of Grigoriadis’s than to say that the eco-terror one was any kind of love letter, or that this one on Pinchbeck is somehow uncritical or taking him at face value.

  7. Brian, I read the article, and I’m not damning Grigoriadis’ coverage. She’s obviously skeptical of Pinchbeck (and rightfully so, as he was obviously trying to get into her pants.)

    One of the things that I find terribly irritating about the drug subculture is the attempt to infuse drug use with some sort of spiritual insight.

    Granted, drug use can and has lead to many interesting and useful insights, especially in the worlds of art, music, and film.

    However, this attempt to infuse it with a belief that it’s some sort of sacrament that allows one to tap into God/aliens/extra dimensions/whatever is, to me at least, laughable.

  8. From the article:

    “Pinchbeck’s most popular choice of mind-bender is ayahuasca, an Amazonian jungle brew that carries the DMT compound […] A thick, brown tea that Pinchbeck describes as tasting like the “distilled essence of forest rot,” ayahuasca is called yage in Colombia, which a South American Indian tribe translates as “vine of the soul” or “the rope of death.” Vicious bouts of vomiting and even diarrhea are the usual side effects of the drug, which lasts a few hours.

    Two words: Fuck. That.

  9. The Allen Ginsburg/William Burroughs book on Yage is one of the more entertaining artifacts of the Beat Generation. Burroughs writes about his quest for the holy drug like a grouchy American tourist complaining about the service at Howard Johnson’s.

  10. Brian Doherty:

    For the record, I read both of Grigoriadi’s pieces in their entirety. While my description of the eco-terror article as a “love letter” is admittedly a rhetorical stretch, her description of an arson fire as “beautiful” is sickening. I found her Pinchbeck profile more silly than contemptible. It’s just puzzling to me that Reason would treat stories about destroyers of private property and doomsaying evangelicals of any sort with anything other than scorn and ridicule, respectively.

  11. What an obnoxious egomaniac. It’s pretty embarassing to have this jerk-off’s self absorbed attitude hawking something I care about. If you’re looking for some substantial commentary on the spiritual use of psychoactives, try Terrence McKenna or Alex Grey. Even reading trip reports on Erowid or the Lycaeum beats self-important pontificating.

    The apocalyptic meme about 2012 is bullshit outside of the people that are trying to make it happen. I always thought of it as an appointment for everyone who believed it to quit their jobs and start living in communes and eating mushrooms all the time. Come to think of it I’d rather people get started now than wait six years.

    Mediageek, I would hope that you would at least have some sort of experience for one so vehemently critical. A lot of people use mushrooms in a mundane, recreational situation, and I believe that this cheapens the experience drastically. In any case I think that a person’s intention is what makes the experience spiritual or just getting high.

    The notion of contacting external beings by altering your mind is pretty laughable, and I always took the view that everything you see, no matter how real, is still inside your head. I guess when you do it enough the internal world starts to seem a lot more real and important. It’s hard to deny the reality of a DMT freebase experience, if only for what it tells you about how your brain works.

  12. tros,
    the orginal popularizer of 2012 was McKenna with his Timewave Zero theory. But it made a hell of a lot more sense than saying than being the reincarnation of quetzlcoatl.

    As far as the entities experienced…it doesnt matter if they are in your head or if they “exist”, they are real and they can be worked with.

    mediageek,
    psychedelic drugs are spiritual. there is a great body of evidence that religion and spiritual thought evolved out of psychedelic drug use. intellectual and cultural development was most definitely accelerated through such use to say the least.

    but you are right, hes like an End Times bible thumping evangelical. but at least he doesnt think a taste for hot chicks is a sin.

  13. A prediction:

    When 2012 arrives and the world does not change, Pinchbeck will follow the old script followed by apocalyptic hucksters everywhere. He will tell his followers that their devotion to his divine vision, and/or their divine gifts of money, sex, or whatever, to their visionary leader, (That’s Mr. Pinchbeck.) have averted the catastrophe that was bearing down upon the world. He will tell his followers that the mass of mankind will never know the debt they owe to his small band of dedicated followers.

    Then, after allowing the followers a short time to enjoy their exalted accomplishments, he will forsee a new crisis that will require more devotion, money, sex, etc.

    Between now and 2012, the fact that Mr. Pinchbeck made a very specific prediction on a very specific timeline will furnish him with a rallying point. He can use this to whip up the followers to more intense efforts to aggrandize Mr. Pinchbeck..oops, to save the world.

    Of course, no mainstream environmentalists would ever claim that the world as we know it is about to change unless we and the rest of the world totally rearrange our lives to fit their prescriptions. (sarcasm alert)

  14. I have a suspicion that if there is some spiritual truth behind 2012, and this is purely speculative…then it is that in 2012 we will either create a self aware AI or reach technological Singularity (see Ray Kurzweil’s work).

  15. What a tiresome bring-down this guy Pinchbeck is! At least least Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Leary, and Kesey made frying your mind seem like fun.

  16. Just to clarify, this isn’t necessarily a catastrophe, but merely a transformation. The guy does seem to tend towards obnoxious though.

  17. Is there an occupational market for guides to phychedellic ‘shrooms?
    I”ve often yearned, over the years, for a tutorial on edible ‘shrooms.
    Scouting a part of Southern Indiana over the weekend, I noticed many varieties of ‘shrooms that aroused my curiosity. They are pretty and colorful, but I dare not touch, in my ignorance.

  18. “Vicious bouts of vomiting and even diarrhea are the usual side effects of the drug.”

    Well, to hell with that, then! Get me another shot of tequila!

  19. Read through the comments here, including Doherty’s.

    The Rolling Stone piece on me was trash. The “writer” made stuff up as it suited her, and deliberately as well as maliciously distorted my ideas. I do not in any way consider myself a guru or a Leary wannabe – I am simply a thinker and writer who became fascinated with these suppressed subjects (psychedelics, indigenous prophecy, etc) and followed them out to the fullest extent that I could. I do not think psychedelics are “the answer.” I do not think the world ends in 2012 – what I carefully argue in my new book is that we are going through an accelerated process of consciousness transformation. Byproducts of this process include the ecological crisis (which is reaching a critical tipping point), the acceleration of technological development, and also (hardest for Reason Mag types to swallow) a psychic transformation as synchronicities and telepathic events become more prevalent for many people.

    I also propose that it is possible that indigenous cultures such as the Maya possessed a different knowledge system than our own – that we may have to get over our entrenched bias that the modern scientific knowledge system is superior in all respects to those held by previous cultures and civilizations. Progress may not be as linear as we like to believe it is.

    I would suggest checking out my new book, “2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl” as a “thought experiment,” which is how I describe it. If we don’t allow ourselves to entertain unusual ideas, we remain trapped in stale conceptions.

    Here is my letter back to the editors at Rolling Stone:

    I was delighted that Rolling Stone found my work significant enough to deserve feature
    coverage. Unfortunately, the piece [RS 1008] was full of inaccuracies and outright
    fabrications on a factual level, as well as sensationalist distortions of my ideas.
    To take a few examples, the first and last scenes never actually happened. We did
    not visit “a bunch of people on dimethyltryptamine,” I had not seen a “downtown rock
    show with Moby” the night before, and there was no woman groaning on a futon. I do
    not have “buck teeth.” Similarly, the scene described at the end never occurred-I
    don’t even own a copy of The Lion King.

    I found the writer’ loose relationship to truth particularly depressing when she
    attempted to define my ideas. I am not “actively bidding to become [my] generation’s
    Timothy Leary”-in fact I critique Leary quite harshly in my first book. In my work,
    I don’t advocate mass use of psychedelics as Leary did, and certainly do not consider
    them to be “the answer.”

    In 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, I do not argue that “the world as we know it
    is about to end-on December 21, 2012.” My hypothesis is that we are already in an
    accelerated process of consciousness evolution, and I explore the possibility that
    the Mayan Calendar is, as Carl Johan Calleman describes in The Mayan Calendar and
    the Transformation of Consciousness, a “timetable” for understanding this process.

    I most emphatically do not argue or think that “only the psychedelic elite and those
    who have reached a kind of supramental consciousness” will “be saved in 2012.” I
    do think that a deep transformation in the mindset of those who hold power in the
    modern West is necessary if we are going to avert disaster in the next few years,
    as we approach resource depletion and biospheric collapse.

    In the future, it would be wonderful to see a magazine with the rich legacy of Rolling
    Stone approach the living currents of the intellectual counterculture of the 1950s
    and 60s with far more grace, integrity, and sophistication.

    Yours,
    Daniel

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