Way back in September, Greg posted news of a Kickstarter for SHADOW, a dream recording app & online community. The app's creator, Hunter Lee Soik, assembled an impressive team of dream experts to help shape SHADOW -- Kelly Bulkeley, Deirdre Barrett, Scott Sparrow, and the oneiroboss Ryan Hurd himself, to name a few. I'd planned to interview Hunter recently, but a near-miss with a car saw my phone get run over. Then my mac decided to go to the great apple tree in the sky. Thankfully, Hunter was unfazed by this conspiratorial Pauli Effect and kindly took time from his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions via email (one for each hour of sleep you should all be getting).
As I type this, there are only forty
winks hours to go until the Kickstarter ends. The pledge goal has been reached (which is fantastic news for the SHADOW team, congratulations!), and this is your last chance to snag some terrific swag and gain early access to SHADOW before it's officially released next year. In the meantime, give your spinning top a whirl and enjoy the interview.
RMG: In a nutshell, what is SHADOW and how did it come about?
HLS: SHADOW is a mobile alarm clock that helps users remember and record their dreams in a global dream database. The idea came about when I finally started dreaming again after a dozen years of hard work and little sleep. I wanted to remember what I was experiencing in my sleeping life, but I couldn't find an app that melded a social dream journal with the kind of sophisticated design aesthetic I was looking for. So I learned as much as I could about sleep and dreams, approached some dream researchers with the idea, and SHADOW was born.
RMG: How does the app actually work?
HLS: You set the alarm like any other alarm clock, but when it wakes you up it uses a series of escalating sounds that helps preserve your dreams. Traditional alarm clocks destroy dreams by transitioning you out of sleep too quickly. Once you're awake, SHADOW prompts you to record your dreams via voice or text (you can speak directly into the app or type what you remember). Then, with your permission, we pull
...probably the most comprehensive single volume to look at the use of mind-altering drugs, or entheogens, for ritual and shamanistic purposes throughout humanity's long story, while casting withering sidelong glances at our own times - as Paul Devereux points out, our modern mainstream culture is eccentric in its refusal to integrate the profound experiences offered by these natural substances into its own spiritual life.
Do Psychedelics Allow Interspecies Communication?
by Paul Devereux
Societies of the past have used the psychedelic experience to strengthen, renew and heal the spiritual underpinning of their social structures. The ever-deepening social unease that Western civilisation seems to be caught in is the real source of our 'drug problem': natural hallucinogens are not the problems in themselves, it is the context in which they are used that matters. If there were orderly and healthy structures and mechanisms for their use and the cultural absorption of the powerful experiences – and knowledge – we could separate these from the culture of crime that surrounds them now. In short, the problems are not in the psychoactive substances themselves, but in a society, which on the one hand wants to prohibit, mind-expansion altogether and on the other chooses to use mind-expanding substances in a literally mindless, hedonistic fashion.
Perhaps only a shock of some kind could break our society free from the patterns of thought and prejudices that lock it into this crisis. The desire for such a shock may be hidden within the widespread modern myth of extra-terrestrial intervention. In fact, we do not have to look to science fiction for a real otherworld contact: it already exists in the form of plant hallucinogens. If we see them in the context of a 'problem', it is only because they hold up a mirror in which we see our spiritual, social and mental condition reflected. And they hold that mirror up to us as one species to another just as surely as if they were from another planet. Indeed, that champion of the psychedelic state, the late Terence McKenna, argued that the ancestral spores of today’s hallucinogenic mushrooms may have originated on some other planet. (This is not as fringe an idea as it sounds, for even some 'hard scientists' – the late Francis Crick, co-discover of DNA, among them – have suggested that the germs of life may have had extra-terrestrial origins, brought to Earth by means of meteorites or comet dust.) The psilocybin family of hallucinogens, says McKenna, produces a "Logos-like phenomenon of an interior voice that seems to be almost a superhuman agency…an entity so far beyond the normal structure of the ego that if it is not an extraterrestrial it might as well be."
Other 'psychonauts' have emerged from the altered mind states enabled by plant substances with similar impressions. For instance, New York journalist Daniel Pinchbeck wrote
Ok, so I know that John Higgs has had several titles published recently (which I haven't yet read), but the occasion of his biography of Timothy Leary (which I have read), first published in 2006 on the 10th anniversary of Leary's death, coming out in paperback in the U.S., provides an excuse for me to write a belated review of it.
The title of the book refers to Leary's typically-megalomaniacal response to a question regarding Richard Nixon's alleged description of him as "the most dangerous man in America": "It's true, I have America surrounded."
In an e-mail interview with Paul Krassner, Higgs himself describes Leary as "probably the best example of the "trickster" archetype that the 20th Century produced, and his ambiguity is key to understanding him".
Higgs' insight into, and balanced treatment of, Leary's character contrasts with his his less-favourable portrayal at the hands of Robert Greenfield, so it will appeal more to those with a level of respect for the man, in spite of his flaws.
Higgs' fascinating account explains the contradictions in Leary's non-stop adventure of a life (a life of 'flat out epic grandeur', according to Winona Ryder in her foreword for the book) in terms of both the events which changed its course and Leary's response to those events - the rebuilding, with the assistance of LSD, of his 'reality tunnel'. As a behavioural psychologist at Harvard in the 50's, Leary had a better appreciation than most of his peers of how we create our own reality, but despite his adaptability, he seemed incapable of escaping the less admirable aspects of his own character.
The book opens with Leary's prison escape and largely focuses on his subsequent life as a fugitive, arguably the most interesting phase of Leary's life, whilst setting it within the context of his earlier rise to notoriety. You can tell that Higgs has a fascination with fellow Englishman Brian Barritt's not insubstantial involvement with Leary during this time.
It may be some time before Leary's legacy escapes the reality tunnels of those who 'know' him only as an unmentionable scientist who 'went too far' or as a hippy cultural icon, and his intellectual and cultural influence of the second half of the 20th century becomes more fully appreciated. Higgs' biography of Leary takes us closer to such a time. Essential reading. Buy it at Amazon US/UK).