Acid Communism, Philip K Dick, and the New Culture



simulation we know that some of the drugs taken are simply for the hallucinogenic effect and it is my very definite opinion that there's any common phrase used as to why youngsters are taking drugs are doing the more bizarre or way-out things it is that they are bored hello zero volt readers it's me again Douglas Lane and in this video we'll reconsider the idea of acid communism we'll do it by considering the works of philip k dick and by taking some excerpts from the books capitalist realism and new work new culture that is will continue to do this for just as long as the self transforming machine elves continue to sing out our existence back in the 90s the psychedelic researcher Terence Mckenna proposed that we were being offered a choice history would either end in a conflagration or would end with a different sort of explosion history might end with the destruction of abstract or conceptual categories and boundaries these boundaries would burn up not in an atomic blast but in a psychedelic revelation however it's worth noting that McKenna branded this alternative or psychedelic apocalypse as an archaic revival in the early 60s the political or social ambitions of psychedelic researchers were framed by the idea of psychological health they thought that the purpose of psychedelics might be to create a sensation of well-being for example an early experiment with the psychedelic compound psilocybin known as the Good Friday experiment sought to confirm that psychedelic drugs could facilitate a mystical experience in religiously inclined volunteers who took the drug in a religious setting the idea was that these mystical experiences would create positive changes in attitudes and behavior in the individuals who participated in the experiment these scientists were of course realists they may have already have had psychedelic experiences of their own but they did not justify that experiment on purely psychedelic grounds there's a gap here a gap between the word acid and communism that's similar to the gap between the words fantasy and reality or to put it in Marxist terms the gap between superstructure and base if the researchers behind the Good Friday experiment had been more purely psychedelic they might have been more ambitious they might have asserted that the mystical experiences brought on by psychedelics had the potential to not only change the behavior and attitudes of the individuals involved but further could conceivably change the substrate the reality that was the source of those experiences after all the key insight of the psychedelic Explorer is that the world that we think is out there the world that we think is so static and solid and sacked and real is in fact only a construct orna parents that we're creating in our minds the radical move that the acid head can't help but make is precisely what Terence Mckenna so often spoke about that is the psychedelic warrior can't help but erase this division between fantasy and reality he can't help but bridge the gap between what is inside and what is outside back in the 90s I encountered the cybernetic cultural research unit an organization that Mark Fisher was a part of when I picked up this book the most radical gesture by Sadie plant now this was published in 1992 which was right around the time that I discovered the Situationist international in fact that is how I found out about the Situationist International and around that time when I was reading all those books I was also reading the works of philip k dick but it was when i was a young man that the ideas of the situationist international this idea that society was a spectacle merely an illusion cast by let's say the ruling class or by capital that holds back people from fully participating in their own lives and in creating history I was reading that at the same time I was reading philip k dick explained that the Holy Roman Empire had never ended and that we were living in a black iron prison and that the reality that we saw in front of our eyes was merely a screen a facade and that the true reality was this black are in prison and you know I didn't take all of that completely seriously but if you add in some psychedelic drugs that paranoid fusion of Gaeta board and philip k dick was certainly a heady mixture that influenced the way i thought for probably years it influenced the way i thought and also influenced what I thought the aim of radical politics should be and what I thought the aim should be was to strip away the socially constructed limits and oppressive apparatuses and to find what was human and true underneath I mean I was sophisticated enough to know that I shouldn't be an advocate of simple naturalism but nonetheless what I thought was that society had gone wrong and we needed to strip it away and find what was authentic and true underneath this also brings to mind a story from the time I was I remember asking or begging a ride from my friend Jim Ferris after work I've been working at a Public Interest Research Group going door-to-door for the environment and I was high as a kite driving home with Jim Ferris and winded up driving all around Portland we got lost trying to drive me from Southeast Portland to Southwest Portland over the over the Hawthorne Bridge I mean it was not taking that trip over the Hawthorne Bridge shouldn't have been a problem we kept passing the space room lounge which is this bar on Hawthorne and we were driving just sort of all over the place and eventually we ended up out by the airport and the whole time the whole time we were driving Jim and I kept discussing I we're talking about crazy stuff like well maybe like Keita board but also like Whitley Strieber and this idea of missing time and we ended up getting so turned around that we were sure that well we almost managed to convince ourselves anyway well we that we were experiencing some missing time there and that that we had been moved around without our consent maybe and but the most important thing was that we discussed the idea that reality was fragmented that reality was something that we created sort of retro actively through our psychology that we took all these disparate experiences and then tried to arrange them in some sort of sensible order so that that they made up a story about our life and/or our lives and I remember thinking and I think I told Jim or tried to that politics should be about giving people the ability to rearrange reality that was the aim to give people the power to fit their the pieces of their lives together in a new way and that would in itself change the world this is something that if you're sufficiently stoned you might believe in and I think that kind of thinking is really at the center of this notion of acid communism I think this story about getting high and getting lost this anecdote about how my friend and I managed to convince each other that we are experiencing missing time points to something more than our propensity to let overactive imaginations run away with us it's also a demonstration of one of the pitfalls involved in psychedelics a philosophical error that I think we're all perhaps preconditioned to make let's consider the Philip kudex story entitled electric ant in this story an Android comes to know that he is not a real boy but just a machine his actions are programmed in advance and finding this out his of course horrified he wants to be free and he attempts to get rid of his programming the robot consults a computer and asked for instructions and directions so that he can understand his own anatomy if he gives out where the device is that gives him his perceptions his sense of reality there's a punch card reader located in his chest right above his artificial heart the computer tells the robot this is BBB 3:07 dr recontacting you in response to your query the punch tape roll above your heart mechanism is not a programming turret but is in fact a reality supply construct the protagonist and Philip Caidic story is able to look at what it is it gives him reality the mechanism responsible for providing him with everything he knows and feels and again he's devastated by this because he realizes that everything he thinks he sees is really an image stored on a punch card now in his phenomenology of mind Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel argued that when we take up our own knowledge as an object for ourselves we don't end up discovering the truth but rather undermine our confidence in this knowledge we find that our knowledge has nothing supporting it we ourselves as the subjects who supposedly know the world drift away from ourselves in the electric ant Hegel's problem is acted out in the narrative philip k dick robot finds the source of his own knowledge at the punch hole tape in his chest and he realizes that these holes are themselves merely images produced by holes in a punch tape roll neither the punch holes as the robot sees them nor as they are in themselves which means how they are in theory are complete or real and philip k dick story the solution the robot comes up with is to cut the tape he wants to get beyond the ideas put in his head by the punch tape roll and to see the real world as it actually is in itself so he removes the pattern breaks the relationship erases the boundary between subject and object in order to arrive at what is really out there once the tape is cut the world of his room the table and chair the computer console the hospital bed he's sitting on his girlfriend all of it fades away here are the last few lines of the story threatened from the girlfriends perspective and then she noticed something my hands she thought she held them up the walls of the room too had become ill-defined maybe if I confuse the tape ins back together she thought but she didn't know how and already the robot had become a vague blot in the corner of the room the wind of early morning blue about her she did not feel it the winds blew on in Timothy Leary's book the psychedelic experience a manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead what I take to be the central Hegelian insight of philip k dick story the electric ant is circumvented the Hegelian insight is that the world springs from this twisted problem of subjectivity and objectivity where are all of us living in a circumstance where in the world that we take to be material is subjective and experiencial and conversely our subjectivity relies on the objectivity of the world but Timothy Leary offers is a way out of this constitutive relationship according to Leary the first step on the way to a proper psychedelic experiences complete transcendence beyond words beyond space-time beyond self what I would argue is that it's important to notice that when we're describing her or trying to understand this experience of transcendence we have to take up the position of a subject and consider the experience as an object given the overwhelming and bizarre nature of the experience it's not very surprising that the subject we conjure when trying to put it all into words is a religious one I would say yeah it did change my life the experience that day demonstrated to me the reality of God's presence in all the world and in all experience if our eyes are opened and we are able to perceive and take that in anyone ought to be advocating for acid communism today it probably should be me I'm the author of a lot of science fiction stories that really operate on the premise that I think you can find in acid communism I had a story that I wrote called well originally it was called Noam Chomsky in the magic mushroom but then I changed it it was called Noam Chomsky in the time box and actually I thought of the idea originally in 1999 maybe but it was finally published in 2011 in his own magazine and in that story called Noam Chomsky in the time box in that story the idea was that there was a time traveler who wanted to synthesize or balance out these two different aspects of the left the mystical countercultural left and the new left the rationalist left and he was going to orchestrate a meeting between Noam Chomsky and Terence Mckenna and in the Chicago O'Hare Airport in 1971 this fracture in the left could be healed if they finally talked if they got it together early enough chomskyan and McKenna but even in that story I think I I was getting over it I think I I'd come to a different conclusion and yeah I'm gonna read an excerpt from that story in my short story I had the time traveler protagonist confront Terence Mckenna with the truth he figured that a psychedelic pioneer like mckenna could take time travel in stride and he did but what mckenna couldn't understand was what the time traveler told him about the future I said that I come back to save the world I wanted them to see how far away they were from the root of their problems they could trip out as much as they wanted but the multicolored chaos they brought back would either be bleached out with Clorox or slapped on the Clorox bottle as part of a rebranding campaign in his book capitalist realism Fisher wrote that over the past thirty years capitalist realism has successfully installed a business ontology in which it is simply obvious that everything in society including health care and education should be run as business has any number of radical theorists from Brecht to Foucault have maintained emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of a natural order must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency just as it must make what it was previously deemed to be impossible seem attainable however I want to present what I think is a Marxist objection to fishers argument namely the privatization of the world under let's call it neoliberalism it was not merely a subjective choice but was born out of the relationship we've set up between ourselves and between ourselves in the world it is a way in which we organize our productive relationships the relationships that transform the objective world into new forms that meet our needs that set up the possibility of a neoliberal solution what this means is that if were to change our conditions we can't really change our minds we can't really turn on tune in and drop out instead we should develop but frig off Bergman calls a new culture based on a new kind of work in his book he wrote that the alternative to what I'll call capitalist realism is socialism socialism is an alternative that I believe everybody would concede liberalism or ecology not to speak of smaller groups like New Age our voluntary simplicity or Tibetan Buddhism for Americans none of these are alternatives they may be wonderful in ways and deserve support nonetheless they are not alternatives they are ways to man occurred the cause of our present system ways to cushion to retard to soften to put fig leaves into the appropriate places an alternative must be completely different to that it must be a replacement an improvement a superseding an arrangement that transcends and surpasses and leaves behind in the dust the dying past the system we now have in an article for the journal crisis a writer named Matt Calhoun wrote that acid communism is a project for seeking the outside of socio-political hegemony and that such a questing after an exit from this society is likely to disrupt normal life in ways that Fischer thought would be quote inherently disturbing but Fischer also argued that such terrorists are not all there is to the outside I would argue that there is no outside to this current global society that is that even if we take heroic doses of psychedelics we'll still trip and hallucinate within the logic of the present I've said this before but I think it applies very well to this notion of acid communism our goal should not be to wake up from the nightmare we're in but to dream differently thanks for watching this zero books video if you enjoyed it subscribe to 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Comments
  1. LSD solidified my physicalist and materialist views. If anything I could see the division of the physiological and material world more clearly through the artificial amalgamation of reality and imagination LSD elicits, which in turn helped to open my eyes to the reality that we pretend our imaginations are real.

  2. I remember during my last DXM trip, I had the impulse to blurt out, "man, fuck capitalism!" it made me and my friends bust out laughing. It felt inevitable to do so, almost instinctual.

  3. I like this video, but I have a different fantasy about psychedelic potential that I think Tim Leary and Ken Kesey and the like were also keen on, and that is to have more people have the waking up experience so we can create together. I don't want to debate Ben Shapiro and his followers, I want them to see for themselves the ridiculousness of it all. I cannot convince Trump/Republican/status quo supporters of the obvious, but maybe I can give their brain a chemical that makes them see it too. Psychedelics are almost just escapist for me at this point, but I think the real transformative potential is in giving it to others. I could be wrong, but I definitely feel like mushrooms woke something in me up and I want others to have that too.

  4. Hello Zero Books. Here I would like to make a suggestion: I think it would be very in your lane (no cheap pun intended) to look into Michael Taussig's books, particularly Magic of the State.

  5. “The self-transforming machine elves continue to sing out our existence…” Sooooo, where exactly DOES one get good LSD these days? I didn’t realize how good we had it back in the 1980s and the early 1990s, when whole sheets of the good stuff — sometimes even a liquid vial if you were lucky — were very easily available. In hindsight it turned out ONE GUY was pretty much cranking out the whole world’s supply, and THAT guy — William L. Pickard, whose relative I worked with at Apple, Inc., curiously enough — got arrested in 2000, pretty much ending easy access to genuine LSD. I only learned this in 2007, when my interest in tripping was renewed but the kids I knew could only get their hands on approximations to LSD, and even that only with great difficulty. My understanding is that most of what’s sold as “LSD” today is actually shitty “research chemicals” out of China that are close to, but not quite, the real thing, or similar byproducts that college dropout kids or tattooed bikers without chemistry degrees cook up out of morning glory seeds in their garages, producing really imprecise dosages of impure compounds that are kinda hallucinogenic but decidedly NOT real lysergic acid diethylamide. Is anyone really getting access to the good stuff? It’s not actually so completely difficult to synthesize, but you’d need several kilos of ergot scraped off of the rye in your back 40, and the DEA tends to wonder about anyone — who isn’t actually a working farmer — that’s growing a few acres of rye recreationally AND deliberately trying to get it to mold… And you might as well grow poppies at that point, if you’ve got 80 acres: easier process, better cash return, possibly better plausible deniability. Anyway, I know this isn’t the main thrust of this video, but I did wonder if between 2007 and today in 2019 maybe someone had regained easy access to real LSD again.

  6. Reminds me of a Sam Harris thought experiment. If there were a pill that would make you instantly happy, would you or wouldn't you take it right after a loved one died? I mean, it is still up to you? So if "we" could re-program ourselves to be perfectly conformed to society, would or wouldn't you want to?

  7. Phil Dick took allot of methamphetamine in order to write for long periods of time. Im pretty sure it increased the paranoia in his stories..l

  8. This is gonna be interesting. I had no idea there was correlation between phil dick, and communism…

    PS: TF is "acid-communism"?

  9. The USSR really was big on psychedelics. For sure taking acid will turn you into dialectical materialists – go for it lefties! 😈😈

  10. What if we designed a monetary system that encouraged frontier expansion but without the imperative of resource exploitation or human commodification? This may bring us closer to the acid communism of oneness that remains beyond the realm of ideological conceit.

  11. how is socialism an alternative if it is still understood and defined inside of capitalist structures or any sort of system for that matter?
    If your always in the simulation difference is perceived only through the lense of that simulation. In the electric ant story the character transcends this simulation by disabling perception itself, by not perceiving the perception of a simulated reality, beyond good and bad which is death i guess. Socialism seems in comparison to be just an iteration of simulation. Or is socialism, as in the end of history death itself.

  12. No matter how much I dream and create and learn about politics and socialism, I am still spending the vast majority of my life at a meaningless job that I need so I can do all those things on the weekends.
    I like this video, but I have a different fantasy about psychedelic potential that I think Tim Leary and Ken Kesey and the like were also keen on, and that is to have more people have the waking up experience so we can create together. I don't want to debate Ben Shapiro and his followers, I want them to see for themselves the ridiculousness of it all. I cannot convince Trump/Republican/status quo supporters of the obvious, but maybe I can give their brain a chemical that makes them see it too. Psychedelics are almost just escapist for me at this point, but I think the real transformative potential is in giving it to others. I could be wrong, but I definitely feel like mushrooms woke something in me up and I want others to have that too.

  13. I think it's a mistake to pit Chomsky and McKenna as opposites.

    Both Chomsky and McKenna are anarchists, but so too are neoliberal politicians; they successfully rallied against national hierarchy, dissolving the public sphere and traditional culture to dismantle the social welfare state. But as Chomsky warned, the greater evil was in a Foucault sense dominant as to be invisible; big business as apposed to big government. Anarchic market power inverted totalitarianism; a government beholden to hierarchical tyrannies of no internal democratic accountability, called corporations.

    McKenna was pretty clueless as to how or why Humpty Dumpty was put back together again after the sixties, he was pretty shocked and didn't understand it. Chomsky too was caught off-guard by the "backlash" of the 70's/80's, including the restructuring of the entire economy… something MLK called for and we received; albeit in a way that impoverished both black and white workers.

    Both Chomsky and McKenna are Cartesian thinkers, so their cartography is bound to be off. Chomsky is a deep thinker, but that does not prevent him from feeling very deeply about things. In contrast, McKenna leaned towards deep feeling, he talked of direct experience, cognito in the truest sense – not what you think, but the feeling of thinking; I feel therefore I am – where thought and language is objective, protective from emotion. McKenna thought we had little to no emotional vocabulary and simply tiled over reality with language to tame and understand it, and human evolution was driven by the expanding communicative capacity.

    Onto-logically, Chomsky remains unwittingly committed to continuities and homogenities, he thinks the real changes take place up in his noodle, and have nothing to do with the environment. This psychic continuity and Cartesian subjectivity is the basis of his universal grammar, where language is innate within us. McKenna in contrast, is more line with the ontologically promiscuous sixties culture of discontinuity and heterogeneity, or novelty and diversity. For McKenna, the world is made of language and the continuity of a linear "straight-jacketed" print-based culture is coming to an end, Fukuyama's post-communist 'end of history' becomes an affirmation for his 'timewave zero' – a real world singularity which signals a discontinuous end to continuous culture, circa 2012.

    Despite appearing like a wave-particle duality, both these guys struggle to overcome their brain prints, they remain predominately wedded to the traditional 17th Century cultural paradigm. Psychedelics provide a way to empathize with new electric technology, a way of repudiating the old environment by dissolving old conceptions and liquidating structures of thought. But while this psychological anarchy can be both terrifying and liberating, it only creates a brief state of vulnerability to be reprogrammed. This is what Chomsky misses from verbal speculation; languages are not programs but environments which are hidden from the young learner, and to which he relates synesthetically; using all faculties at once. After childhood the senses specialize via the dominant technologies and social weaponries. Psychedelics turbo-charge synesthesia for an archaic revival of the senses, or perception, but the science is still out on the plasticity of the brain to adjust to, or mentally simulate new cultures post-adolescence; old patterns of music and society seems strange and odd to the young, eventually bad enough to cause a social revolution over.

    As Douglas Rushkoff recently said in his article 'The Internet is Acid, and America is having a bad trip', the internet is psychedelic, Timothy Leary dubbed it so in the 90s as the new LSD. This is true in the sense that our nervous system is electric, and electric technology is an extension of our nervous system, a synasethetic inner trip. At the speed of light, nothing in America makes sense, so it looks increasingly silly, it is the only major country to built on print, Russia has liquefied its culture much faster.

  14. Hi Doug. Thanks for another compelling and beautifully crafted video. If you ever return to this subject, here is one of the best LSD clips you could perhaps use as material: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPQSLSc_rA4

  15. This was great & in common with others commenting here combines a whole shitload of my favourite things. Doing acid back in the day really changed my entire worldview & primed me for forays into firstly the mystical/magical & later the political. Reading Vaneigem & Debord, Philip K. Dick & William Burroughs all while dropping lots of high-quality LSD – along with getting caught up in riots – were all a big part of the awakening & formation of the dirtbag commie old bastard I am today.

  16. Similar things can be said of Jungian and Freudian psychology aswell but mirroring, while acid people seek to see outside of our boundaries to world of Ideal Forms (while unable to process it), analytical psychology and psychoanalysis turn person inwards and basically cuts people off from collective they are in. End result is more or less similar, escape from here to there.

    Example from analytical psychology: Everything wrong in person's life is not in the world outside but in inside person, pity felt for homeless person is pity for homeless person in me! Developmental myth of individual (=hero's path) is strong in our culture as a whole: "all you gotta do is to clean your room and world follows" -> When my inner homeless person is content i dont' need to worry about homelessness in the streets. As Jordan Peterson's and Campbell's success indicates this is strong in our culture as a whole, infact our culture is satiated with this kind of thinking.

    There are few rebels, such as late James Hillman, who demand that personal psychology should be directed towards society. that cure for personal issues are more in things like architecture, nature and politics instead of childhood traumas.

  17. It suddenly may occur to young man on acid, that the things he never thought to question, are the largest of the lies which constitute his understanding of the world.

    I do not think the relative societal context is important, at least not to the stripping away of conditioning, which is an inherent part of the psychedelic experience. No matter who you are or what you have been brought to believe, there is a removal of assumptions during the process, which is universal.

    That's my 2c anyhoo.
    For some reason I remember: "Oh captain my captain."

  18. This reminds me of the Matrix where Neo takes drugs to wake up from his robot fantasy to the"real" world. The same idea the alt-right uses. But I like how this video problematises this line of thought.

  19. Philip K Dick did not really do psychedelics. He had a couple of acid experiences that he later described as being truly hellish. His drug of choice was amphetamine which more or less destroyed his life, leading to a suicide attempt. He wrote a novel called A Scanner Darkly which was all about the horror of drugs and addiction. He said the people who were doing drugs in the 60s were "feeding [the] head to itself." He may have been widely read by "heads" but he was not one himself.

  20. 0:20 "Hello again Zero Book readers, it's me Douglas Lain. Today we'll reconsider the idea of acid communism. We'll do it by dropping acid in this very field."

  21. So we need to dream differently about how we work…technically this isn't that hard with automation and all its forced change, but this requires a direct confrontation with capital/employers. I'm sure you agree but our societal class consciousness is still very shallow. Maybe the speed of this consciousness awakening hits hyperspeed along with the changes in the work place, that must also change…into some other kind of coop-productive space.

    This is the work we gotta engage with inguess, to figure this out…thanks Doug, no pressure at all eh 😂👍

  22. damn it Doug you made me cry again. last video i cried to was the video on InTheDustof This Planet, is life worth living. thanks so much for these videos.

  23. Just because Chomsky believes that drugs are an anxiety-ridden temporary reprieve from reality rather than a useful transcendental experience doesn't mean Chomsky is correct. What matters is what is real for every individual person. One should perhaps begin with "knowing thyself", and only after that can it be self-determined whether drugs can offer a way forward for that person.

    Not everything has to be a "culture". We don't need either a "drug culture" or an "anti-drug culture". Let people have the freedom to do either.

    I feel that in 2019 Chomsky has won. Very few people today believe that drugs can be used for transcendental gain. But I find this "Chomsky victory" rather depressing, and should not be a point of pride for Chomsky nor does it help modern people be more "rational".

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