This blog is a three-part book in the process of being written, in the form of initial drafts of the sections, posted in the intended order, a project for which the overall name is Explorations. The book is a continuation from Hidden Valleys, Haunted by the Future (Zero Books - 2015), and also from On Vanishing Land, an audio-essay made by myself and Mark Fisher (to be released by Hyperdub/Flatlines on 26th July, 2019 - https://hyperdub.net).
Part One: Metamorphics (1 - 18)
Part Two: The Second Sphere of Action (19 - 30)
Part Three: Through the Forest, the River (31 - )
El Bolson, in the forested northwest of Argentinian Patagonia, is a town which to a substantial extent is centred on its craft market. This takes place most prominently along the length of a large semi-circular walkway in a park in the very centre of the town, and it happens regularly through the week, as a primary, celebrated feature of the town's life: when I was living in Bolson in the summer of 2008 it was always three times a week. And the craftswomen and craftsmen who sell in this market do not just come from the valley in which the town is located: in fact - in summer at least - they come from all over South America, staying in the campsites on the periphery of the town, and selling their craft-goods on rented stalls on the walkway, or on pieces of fabric on the pavements around the rectangular periphery of the park. Many of these artisans were jewelery-makers. I stayed on campsites in the town for around four weeks in total, spread over a span of ten weeks, and I would often see jewelery being made in them. The work would be taking place in shade underneath trees strategically planted at the campsites for protection against the sun: sometimes the trees themselves would be used, in processes of placing semi-precious stones and beads onto necklaces.
There was a very friendly, light-hearted comradeship on the part of these itinerant artisans, and a genuine openness to outsiders. No-one saw themselves as doing anything other than eking out a living under somewhat difficult circumstances, and yet I felt that these were inspired, enjoyable lives that were being lived. I spoke to an indigenous Argentinean jewelery-maker (from a Mapuche background, but with a 'western' way of being as a main modality), and he told me how he would travel through the year across South America, in the winter going to buy precious stones direct from the mines in Brazil, selling jewelery, during this season, on the pavements of towns like Manaus. This man wanted to settle down, but he evidently very much enjoyed his life. Which of course has a lot to do with the fact that his life consisted of making products, and taking them to a market, as opposed to living the life of a wage-slave.
I feel that this experience in the first months of 2008 immediately formed a part of a scarcely noticed block of experiences - experiences that from the outset became connected in my mind because they shared a certain kind of atmosphere; with the first of these being the Glade Festival of 2005. The main events of the visit to Patagonia were in many ways not directly connected to what is in question here, and yet the impression is very much that i received a boost of a fundamental kind from the El Bolson milieu that I intermittently inhabited. When I settled down to do some sustained writing in 2009 (living in one place for the first time in four years) my recent experiences combined on one level to give me a singular and helpful perspective. In 2009 the ructions within capitalism - that had started the year before - were producing an impression that the clampdown of ordinary reality was less implacably effective than usual, but I feel that my awareness of the Futural at this time was not so much created by the earthquakess in the financial institutions of capitalism as by my recent experiences of life at a slightly higher degree of intensity.
The two Glade festivals of 2005 and 2006 took place during astonishingly beautiful midsummer weather. They were drenched with sunshine, and with the one in 2006 there was a full moon, and the festival shifted to moonlight once the sun had gone down. The music was exceptional, people were there to dance, not to be groupies of bands, and with the second of the two festivals the serene joy I felt took me to a visceral, persistent feeling of being somewhere else, a feeling that in some way the festival as a whole was taking place not in ordinary reality, but in some way in a much more intense dimension of existence. The impression was of this dimension being 'planetary', and of it consisting in some way of energy and intent (which is to say that, rather than the festival feeling like a bubble surrounded by ordinary reality, it seemed to be an element within a depth-level dimension of the reality of the planet, a dimension which was there all along, but which was generally only very minimally perceived). And given it involved a higher level of intensity the 'somewhere else' was evidently Futural in relation to ordinary reality.
I very much agree with Leyland Kirby that around 2005/2006 a change became apparent which meant that it is correct to talk about 'the death of rave' taking place at this time. For some time in London I had been aware of ketamine zombies shuffling in the dance-spaces of illegal warehouse parties, and of the glitzy, emphatically non-rave atmosphere of clubs like Fabric. But now, without really making any strong connections (for one thing, I tended to see the Glade festivals not as raves but as festivals, even though, given the rave music being played, this was a superficial view) I had an intense, but short-lived impression that something that was a primary aspect of rave was alive and functioning at a very high level of intensity. The two festivals to which I went seem now to be part of a final, hyper-charged outbreak of rave, before a collapse to a much lower level - one symbolised by the appearance of the term EDM. I think it is important to see that the sale of halucinogenic mushrooms became illegal on the weekend of the 2005 Glade Festival, and the second festival a year later seems like one of the last Events (and possibly one of the most intense of all) in the approximately two-decade progression of the rave emergence that had begun in the late 80s. The 2007 Glade had a poor lineup and massive licensing problems, and the fact it took place in heavy rain was just a contingent final blow (in subsequent years the festival faded away, and soon it had stopped completely). But overall the key point is that rave and rave-festivals had collapsed.
However, I was not thinking in any way about the possibility of such a transition when I arrived at the 2005 Glade. The weather was hot and cloudless, and the festival was sufficient in itself, without thinking about the future. It was also the case that I was finding a way forward, in terms of avoiding a conventional, straitened form of existence, and for all I knew there were many other people at the festival who were doing similar things (and no doubt there were) - so who could say what might happen if a rhizome emerged in this kind of social world?
When I pitched my tent that evening I was aware of a kind of unplanned 'plane of consistency' that seemed to be forming. That morning my tenancy at a flat in London had come to an end, and I was about to spend a week living in woodland areas on the edge of London (while working in the centre of town) before taking a plane to northern Spain where I was going to go walking in the Asturias mountains (before leaving I circled around London, night by night, starting in the east, and ending a week later in the southeast). And my plan for my return from Spain in five weeks time was that I would continue living in a tent, in part in order to save money for a trip to Mongolia the following year. Despite gers being exceptionally different from tents the plane of consistency was evidently that of forms of 'habitation' that could be dismantled and carried with you, and at this point I did not know that the process that was starting at the Glade festival would eventually reach another social milieu involving both a kind of nomadism and a party-like atmosphere, in the form of the itinerant artisan campsites in El Bolson.
(it should be added that the overall plan worked well, somewhat to my surprise: I spent most of the next two years living in a tent, and when I left the 2006 Glade festival I was two weeks from a trip to Mongolia, where part of the the plan was to try to find an overtone singer called Tserendavaa, with the aim of asking him to give me some lessons in overtone singing).
There were four main modalities that I would use over the next six years, for the purposes of escaping from ordinary reality, although the first of them in a strong sense includes the others, at the least as potentials, if not as primary aspects. The first was what can be called nomadism, where this in fact involves a deliberate, strategic existence on the definitive terrain, this terrain consisting of people waking their faculties, and of the planet (it can be seen that here the nomad is no less a nomad if they are not travelling in the usual sense, but are travelling in relation to the intensification of their lives, at the level of effectuating and heightening their faculties). The second was the process of learning to write stories. The third was the use of psychotropic substances (though it should be added that nomadism does not in any way intrinsically involve the use of psychotropics, and that in 2014 I stopped using them completely). The fourth was an exploration of sound, of the voice, and of music.
This account will take this book around the 'turning-point' that led from Patagonia to Tuva, and from there back, in turn, to Yorkshire, and then Warwickshire (although by this time it will have become clear that the primary 'centre' of the book is El Bolson rather than Leamington). But much more importantly it will lead to an account of a highly thought-provoking, and perhaps - in some sense - 'tutelary' concatenation of the different modalities between 2009 and 2011.
I stayed in Barcelona for three nights in August 2006: it was a month since I had started to live without a house, and I was returning to the place which had played a major part in me deciding to live in this way. On each of the three nights I pitched my tent at the top of the city-ringed hill near the centre of town, about a mile and a half north of Parc Guell (as I had done for one night in the summer of the previous year).
A week before, in a small area of forest in the Sierra de la Demanda, the initial idea of the world of The Corridor had arrived - the idea of an emergent parallel world which is forested and in which almost all of the human world has become derelict and overgrown (in other words a world in which the planet has been instantaneously dreamed forward by three hundred years, but primarily without human beings). The initial form of the idea had a kind of of Ballardian, slightly 'sci-fi surreal' aspect, in that it involved a small number of people waking up in different places in an unchanged but largely unpopulated Leamington, and discovering not only that the town was largely without people, but that it was surrounded on its periphery by forest. However, although I felt that this lens was effective (as I would now put it, it was a way of perceiving the second sphere of action) the idea was simply there, and was not developing in any significant way. Much more was needed: I had no characters, and no groups of characters; I had no protagonists, and no forces with which the protagonists would be struggling. But it was, of course, a question of arriving at effective lenses: the problem could not be resolved through 'flights of imagination' (as has been seen, the faculty of dreaming is very inadequately understood if it is grasped along the lines of the concept of 'art'). It would only be after three years and a lot of very intense, exploratory experience that I would then arrive, in 2009/2010, at the story-world of the novel The Corridor (sections 16, 26, 27, 43 and 28). Despite being the result of a substantial movement-forward, the story "Disappearance" (Section 42) which I wrote over the next few months, starting in October, would still have only travelled a small proportion of the necessary distance.
However, I wasn't giving much thought to the idea. At this point it was something to which I would occasionally return for a moment, but without getting any further: although I felt its 'rightness,' I was not in any way convinced that it was the beginning of something. But despite leaving the idea largely to one side - or because of doing this - something happened in Barcelona which would eventually play a large part in its development.
Early in the afternoon of the second day In Barcelona I went into the big FNAC bookshop in the centre of town. My love of bookshops meant that I was undeterred by my rudimentary Spanish: I went to the literature section on the first floor, and looked for translations of books that I had read in English. I found myself alternating between the openings of two novels that I had read at very different times in my life - The Waves, and P.C.Wren's Beau Geste (a trashy, but quite well-constructed adventure story that I had read when I was twelve or thirteen). I started by reading the opening pages of The Waves, thinking as I did so about the strange, enigmatic serenity of the house by the sea in The Waves, and of the problem of groups of friends that the book poses in a way in which is bound up with this impersonal place (with its sea, its beach, its birds - its trees and its house and garden). In switching over to the opening page of Beau Geste (which was on another shelf, to the right) I found the epigram "El lugar estaba silentio y alerta" - "The place was silent and aware") and this in going back to The Waves functioned to heighten the enigmatic quality of the house in Woolf's novel. I didn't expect to get anything more than this from Beau Geste: I felt that, as Deleuze might say, lightning had leapt between the two systems of signs, but I felt that this was more to do with The Waves than with Beau Geste, and I started thinking about the issue of groups, while reading The Waves, which took me to the memory of the dream in Leamington (Section 25) about the group living in house in a forest a few miles from Malton. This led to a kind of hard-edged, sun-suffused reverie involving the question of the pragmatics of escape-routes from ordinary reality, and the question of whether it would be better to live in or near a town in the middle of the countryside, as opposed to living in a city. I was reading the start of The Waves, and the Beau Geste epigram was no longer part of the movement of the reverie (it is taken from the book itself, rather than from another text, and concerns a fort in the sahara seen from a distance, and it loses some of its force if you know that it describes a place where everyone appears to be dead, but where there is in fact someone who is alive and watching). I wasn't expecting anything more from Wren's book: despite it having some impressive, atmospheric aspects, its of-its-time colonialist/imperialist inflections meant that I was not drawn to do anything more than read its opening page while the book was on the neigbouring shelf.
I think what happened next was that I decided to think about the part of Beau Geste that was set in the English countryside (at a big house on an estate in Devon). And it was then I remembered that in the main dream in Leamington I knew that the leader of the group living in the house in the forest was called Patricia Brandon. This woman had her own poised, explorer-of-the-unknown quality, and was perhaps in her fifties: more than anything else she reminded me - though still only faintly - of a combination of Mrs Ramsay in To the Lighthouse and Virginia Woolf herself. But her name also gave her a quality that came from two other people, one real and the other fictional. The first was a friend of my mother, called Patricia Brandon, who lived in Pickering, in the same area as Malton (Malton is at the southwestern tip of the vale of Pickering) and who I had met very occasionally when I was a young child, up to the age of eight. The second was a woman in Beau Geste who is the female head of the family who lives in the house in Devon; the house is called Brandon Abbas, and the woman is called Patricia Brandon.
I was struck by the sheer amount of elements that seemed to have coalesced to form the figure of the woman. The group as a whole was eight or twelve women and men who in some sense had escaped from ordinary reality, and the impression of them consisted of a sunlit affect of friendship and courage, an affect - without detail - of them being travellers into the unknown. But the figure of the woman who in some sense was at the centre of the group had a quiet, intense lucidity and beauty that had somehow drawn upon, without being defined by, a whole disparate zone of my experiences that was stretched across thirty years.
I had in fact noticed (but then forgotten) the double resonance of the name Patricia Brandon before, when I had had the dream. But I was also aware that it was striking that the two novels had led me by different routes to the same dream. And the dream in its entirety was in fact what was impacting most intensely on me, together with the opening section of The Waves: it was as if the reverie had its own dynamic - the question of the woman in the dream was initially central, but the questions of place and of groups came to the forefront. I found that I was imagining a group of people who had somehow become tenants in a big semi-derelict house in the middle of an overgrown, badly rundown estate, whose parklands and been allowed to run wild, instead of being returned to agriculture. The location of this house was Somerset (there was no quality at all of Brandon Abbas about this place, but there is a feeling of having perhaps been displaced southwestward from Yorkshire by Wren's novel), and the people living there had the same kind of courageous, serenely-and-anomalously pragmatic aspect as the people in the dream in Leamington: only the reverie had its own singular trajectory, which was like a film - the idea was of three years in which people went from feeling as if they were artists and hard-headed refugees from conventional social existence, to realising, later, that some kind of escape across a threshold of reality was what defined what they were trying to do. A few months afterwards I would write a two-page narrative on the basis of the reverie, and eventually - three years later - the main ideas from this narrative would become a part of The Corridor, even though for most of the intervening time it had not seemed to be connected to the world of the story that had arrived, a week earlier, in the Sierra de la Demanda.
(But it should also be added, in relation to this experience in Barcelona, that the house by the lake in The Corridor - the main location in the book - is the house from the Leamington dream, but deliberately moved from Yorkshire to Suffolk; and that in formal terms, relating to there being six characters and alternating stream-of-consciousness viewpoints, no novel was more in my mind in writing The Corridor than The Waves).
The definitive terrain consists of the planet and of people effectuating and heightening their faculties, starting from - and giving greatest attention to - the faculty of perception. But it is also correct to say that what is most prominent on the horizon of the definitive terrain is women, and is groups. And in relation to the first instance it needs to be seen both that the waking of the faculties consists on one level of becomings, and that the most fundamental of these becomings is becoming-woman.
By the time I was in northwest Patagonia my own experiences were beginning to break open an awareness of the importance of entering into becoming with women. The trance experience in Brixton (where in a very impersonal way I had become a female version of myself) (Section 38) had stayed in my mind as something that was indicative of a valuable direction, and having just read the books of Florinda Donner and Taisha Abelar had left an impression that what everyone - men and women - might need most of all was an experience of a displacement, in the virtual-real, into the mind of a woman who is a traveller into the unknown. It was also the case that the side of becoming-woman which is least likely to be perceived for what it is was in effect at this time to a very large extent. Only a few months before I had started the relationship with Maysa (now my partner for ten years), and I was in love with her in a very intense, charged way. This was a becoming-woman in itself, but it also left me - without me realising it - in an extremely good position for adopting strategies of exploring the perspectives of women along other lines.
I decided that during the ten weeks in Patagonia (in El Bolson, and in forested-mountain areas in a 70 mile radius of the town) I would write a very short story each day, alternating every three days between three different viewpoints, with one of these being the stream of consciousness viewpoint of a woman. It can be seen that this was an example of nomadism (and probably this nomadism in relation to dreamings and becomings was more important than the fact I was travelling around with a tent), and somehow I managed not just to decide to do it, but to continue for all of the ten weeks.
By the time I left this area I had not only had some very extraordinary experiences there, but I felt that I was grounded in this terrain, in the sense that I had fallen in love with it in a way where its presence in my life was permanently a source of inspiration and of valuable, planetary perspectives. However, I feel that any part of this alteration which was connected to the specific inspiring experiences I had in the area was not simply to do with me travelling around in it - I had to raise myself to the point where I could be swept away. At the end it was if I had succeeded in polishing a lens, where the lens consisted both of the compelling beauty of the terrain and of the degree of openness and poise I brought to the encounter with it.
This aspect of the trip can be shown by two visits - one in the first week, and one in the last - to a striking and very remote lake which was surrounded by forested mountains and whose shoreline was largely without a path. At the beginning of the trip I was worried about whether the relationship with Maysa would continue, and a recurring feeling of anguish meant that I was to a great extent blocked from a sustained encounter with the lake and the area around it (on one of the nights of this visit I had a dream, but it was bleak and oppressive - there was a very large flat space with a distant, empty horizon, and with occasional structures like aircraft hangars, and when I went into one of them there were people walking around who had a bland menacing quality, a quality of them being dull but highly effective predators - in some way - in relation to human energy). When I left the lake I needed to use all available forms of discipline that would take me in the right direction: the use of the daily writing of a story, with alternating viewpoints was an effective nomadism strategy (the other viewpoints were a specific, invented man who was substantially different from myself, and a cat who was living in a house in the El Bolson valley). And being in love not only meant that I had a source of inspiration for the stories where the viewpoint was that of a woman, but as well as this, it meant that love within these stories had to be at the intensity of my experience at the time, rather than being deflected into any form of two-dimensional amorousness, or sensuality. On my return to the lake I was in a very poised, energised state, and I had a very different dream from the one nine weeks before (see the end of Section 38). I have always felt that there was a sense in which I had worked toward this dream. And over time I have come to feel that a relatively impeccable becoming-woman was the most important aspect of the process that led up to the second visit to the lake.
In the spring of 2009 a fragment of a story came to me: it started as something that would be better described as a reverie, and then later I wrote it down (although I never at any point saw it as a story in itself).
I was thinking about an area of heathland in summer, imagining a hot, sunny afternoon in a terrain of gorse and bracken, with thistledown drifting on the breeze. The place was in England, but its location was very indeterminate: however it seemed to be somewhere further away from the coast than the South Downs. There was a slight rise in the ground running up from north to south, and a sense that there was a steep, east-to-west escarpment about half a mile away to the south.
The form of the reverie was simple. A man and a woman who loved each other - but who were not in a relationship - were walking along a path together, aware of it being an exceptionally beautiful day. The affect was one of a kind of dreamy, visionary intensity - a midsummer terrain so beautiful that for the two people (who were perhaps in their early 30s) it could only bring about a Change, a threshold-crossing. They had been walking between gorse trees, and now the land opened out into an area of bracken and heather, and of patches of grass, with a few trees in the distance. A hundred yards away their path crossed another path, at right angles, and a woman was standing at the crossroads of the footpaths. The woman was perhaps in her 50s or early 60s, although her vitality, and the relatively un-aged quality of her skin made her seem younger. She had long, fairish hair that was turning white, and she was wearing a dusty-looking lilac dress that came to her knees. As the two people come up to her she is brushing her hands against each other, as if to clean them in some way. The woman smiles, very warmly, and says
"I've just released a rabbit from a snare."
The rest of the 'story' remained unwritten, but the idea was that the woman would give the two people she was meeting insights about the nature of the world, and that she would turn out to be a human who was some kind of anomalous being: she would be hundreds of years old, either through having found some way of prolonging her life, or through her being someone who had died, but who was continuing to exist as a kind of memory on the part of the earth, but where the memory had a corporeal form such that it could physically intervene in situations, as with freeing the rabbit from the snare.
There was a second phase a few weeks later in the middle of the summer, at Harbury Lake.
I was in the hidden place on the low cliff at Harbury, underneath the big willow tree with its multiple trunks, and with the curtain of vegetation in front of me, in the form of the branches and leaves of young ash trees, which were growing up from the point, about twenty feet below, where the cliff stops being sheer rock and starts to be a steep bank. I had arrived in the late afternoon, and at this point I had taken a very small quantity of speed. It had been a warm, sunny midsummer evening, and with some degree of success I had been attempting to use the speed as an instigator of perception-without-thought. There had been a sensual joy involved in this spheroambient awareness: initially to a great extent the perception of the leaf-curtain and the lake beyond it, and then more centrally the tactile perception of the ground and the air, and the awareness of the sounds of the evening and night: the wind in leaves, the calls of birds, the fish leaping for insects in the long narrow arm of the lake which extends alongside the cliff.
Around 10.30pm I had taken a tab of LSD. It was about half an hour later, and - to my surprise - I discovered that now when I attempted to become perception of my surroundings I would be swept almost immediately into a semi-dream or 'hypnagogic' state from which I would return a moment later with no clear memory of what just took place. Feeling a little disorientated I decided to lie down in my tent, thinking - with no good reason - that this would be a good way of steadying the situation. I didn't feel afraid: just slightly unfocused, and a little drowsy.
It was probably about half an hour later: I was dreaming that I was on a journey that in some sense was across dimensions, and that it was also the case that the place to which I had just been, in another dimension, was elsewhere in the cosmos. On my return journey I had arrived back in a kind of 'between place' that I had been told in advance was a place at which you could arrive for a short time on the way back, a place which was not far from the point of departure, but still in another dimension of reality. It is a large series of rooms of different sizes (there are no windows, and it could be underground - it has a quality of being lighter in relation to ordinary reality, so that it feels alongside, in that it feels in some sense more free, but spatially it feels subterranean). In these rooms are people who seem to be involved in activity that could be work or could be a party. The atmosphere is of distantly friendly people who are preoccupied, and milling around. I am in this world in the form of a woman - probably aged around twenty five - and I have been told in advance that I could arrive in this world as a woman for around half an hour on the way back from where I have been, and that if this happens and I am feeling joy at the end of the half hour, as a result of being in the form of a woman, I will then return in the return in the permanent form of a woman when I go back to ordinary reality. By this time I have woken, and yet the experience is continuing in the form of a semi-trance. I am walking through the rooms, with no-one paying much attention to me, and I reach a state of sensual ecstasy. What is extremely powerful is the erotic charge of rapturously letting go in the direction of intense ingenuous femininity, and in the direction of being permanently a woman. This transcorporal virtual-real experience is overwhelmingly intense: its framework is very complex, and it is a depth-level experience of having a female body, and yet it still has a two dimensional quality. A quality of a trick - a very complex one, but a trick nonetheless.
Fully awake, I was now tripping on LSD, with no tendency at all to fall asleep. I left the tent, and sat outside again. I felt discombobulated by what had just happened, and yet at the same time a little haunted by its sensual intensity. I am seeing patterns everywhere, but everything has a hectic, disjointed aspect: I keep attempting to focus on perception, but instead I keep slipping into processes-of-thought and reveries that don't seem to go anywhere - that don't develop. And later I discovered that the attempt to perceive was again slipping toward hypnagogic moments followed by a jolting return.
It was still dark, and I came round from a state where I had been the willow tree, or in some sense had been within it. There was a sense of this of having involved a feminine letting go - a letting go to toward being a woman that had been a letting go toward being trapped within the tree - and there was a powerful feeling of some kind of menace, some kind of very disturbing danger. With a kind of jolt of resolution I focused myself and became a visual perception of what was in front of me. Almost immediately I was swept away into a very positive state, so I didn't have time to examine the fear. Afterwards I simply had the feeling that I had made myself available, and that if I was to posit a real experience in relation to the willow tree the impression would be one of it having done something that had not involved ill-will, even though in fact in some indescribable way the impression was also that what had been taking place had been very dangerous. This contrasted with the earlier experience, where - if it were to be posited for a moment as having been in some sense a real encounter - the feeling of a 'trick' was inseparable from a feeling of some kind of ill-will, or systematic ulterior motive. (the experience did not change the way I felt in relation to the tree - I continued seeing it as a beautiful tree, and, in subsequent years, I continued pitching my tent underneath it, without feeling unnerved).
I found now that I was having an experience of meeting two people - a woman and a man. The woman was exceptionally beautiful as a being, as well as in relation to her physical form. She was sparklingly lucid, and sensually ultra-alive. She was standing a bit above me and to my left. The man was a striking, appraising presence, with warmth in his eyes - he was a bit above and to my right. It was beginning to get light. Everything had become serene, and blissful, and although I was still dropping in and out of trance, in returning to trance I was returning to an encounter with the woman and the man. Within the experience I of the trance I knew that the figures had 'leaned in' from somewhere to help me, and perhaps had in some sense rescued me. I also felt that they thought I had been involved in some kind of libidinal self-indulgence. I knew, within the experience, that they were both human, and had been alive for a long time - the woman had been alive since some time in the middle of the medieval period, around the 1300s. The two of them communicated by, in turn, letting me be them, in a way that most fundamentally involved their intent, their lucidity, their attitudes and their feeling. The woman had a mass of wavy dark hair, and a dress that came down to her knees. The man was in ordinary looking clothes, apart from the fact that he had a short, dark coat that had a small number of sea-shells sewn onto it. What I felt within the experience was that they were both travellers into wider and deeper levels of reality, and that they were both far beyond me in relation to their lucidity, their intensity, and their lightness - their ability to avoid indulgence. I knew that the woman was called something like Miranda, and that the man, who I knew was an expert in relation to plants, was called Herb Robert.
Becoming the man was a relatively familiar experience: it was like being myself, but at a higher level of perceptiveness: at a higher level of understanding, humour, and lack of self-indulgence. Becoming the woman, in contrast, was compellingly beautiful - an experience of visionary lucidity, delight (delight that at depth was an intent to travel further out into the World), and a sparkling perceptual sensuousness. But despite their being an ultra-intense sexuality within this (as a fundamental aspect of it) there was nothing concupiscent or self-indulgent either within her, or within my experience of being her (my own feeling would be better described as feeling in love with her).
The woman appeared, physically, to be in her thirties, but at depth the impression was of her age being the result of a far longer spiral of waking than thirty years. And in terms of the space that came with her (with the man I saw plants, but no terrain) what I saw through her was an area of sunlit midsummer heathland with many different plants growing on it, but in particular with a large number of flowering wild roses. (this heathland was a little less like downland than the one from the reverie that was described earlier, and it seemed to be somewhere in, or in the vicinity of Warwickshire). As the experience came to an end I saw that the woman was in a totemic relationship with this place and with wild roses (as a plant, as opposed to simply as a flower), and that they had both been involved in her initial threshold-crossings, as she started to escape from ordinary reality.
I slept until around midday. It was another warm, sunny day. I took down the tent, and then worked my way through the thick, cliff-edge undergrowth, to the point fifty metres away where the terrain opened out into a grass covered ledge of the old quarry, with a steep bank of gorse and blackberries to the left, and with lilac-and-purple orchids here and there in the grass. The lake was spread out to the right, with its low, undergrowth-covered islands - an idyllic scurfland terrain.
When I left Harbury Lake that day I felt heartened. I didn't believe in the reality of the two figures I had 'encountered' (although the question of their reality was very much open), but I felt that there had been a struggle, and that I had emerged from this struggle travelling in the right direction.
At this point I had been living with Maysa for around two months. It was June, and by November of that year I would be writing the novel The Corridor. I had stopped travelling in the ordinary sense of the term, in that I was no longer living most of the time in a tent, and using the money I had saved for visits to far-off countries: instead, strengthened by the relationship with Maysa, and assisted by recent and not-so-recent experiences, and by having a base where I could work, the forward-movement of nomadism now began to take a very different form. There had been a phase-change, and the spaces in which I was now travelling were to a great extent of a very different kind. It can be said, correctly, that I had moved both toward a couple-relationship and toward a greater centrality of the faculty of dreaming. But it would also be true to say that I had started to live to a greater extent within the second sphere of action, and that in creating, and travelling within, a zone of the oneirosphere, what informed this creation-and-travelling most of all was the process of perceiving and describing the escape-path from ordinary reality.
(see Sections 16, 26, 27, 43, and 28)
It was a Friday evening in July of 2010: I was around two weeks away from a six week holiday. Maysa's term had finished, and she had gone to Barcelona for a week, to visit her sister.
I knew I had arrived at a good opportunity to explore by taking some LSD I had recently bought. A gap had opened up, through which I could pass.
The process of taking psychoactive substances was now very different from what it had been twenty years before. It was far more intense, and likely to move toward semi-dream trance experiences, and in a way where the effects of drugs were barely recognisable in comparison to what they had been before. The reason for this difference was simple: I was now bringing something very different to them, in that in the state involved I was now recurrently moving into perception-without-thinking, and was simultaneously (and inseparably) moving into becomings. (these two are inseparable because to become an unbroken multi-sense awareness of the space around you is to enter into becoming with it, although, despite the fundamental nature of this perceptual becoming, it is important to see that this is likely to be more of a doorway, than the end-state of the process).
Very soon I would have stopped taking drugs, but the proximity of this change did not mean I went into the experience that evening in a half-hearted way: on the contrary - the experiences that made up the final phase of the path (which of course I did not need to have taken) were suffused by an intense joy. Once on the path the overall process was one of the affect getting steadily better - brighter - until the path viscerally came to its end. (an end that was a culmination, and a simple alteration of intent, together with an emergence of knowledge; and which had nothing at all to do with some grinding process of self-control).
In relation to becomings the strategy I used on that occasion was relatively effective. But the nature of this strategy - together with the ways in which I was not impeccable, or fully focused, in following it - meant that the success was a limited, but very intense and consistently unfolding experience, together, more importantly with a kind of holding open of the circumstances in which the fundamental departure could take place.
I had taken two tabs of LSD. As I began to be affected by them I started reading a Spanish version of Florinda Donner's Being-in-Dreaming. I was sitting in a top floor room of the house, where sound at normal volumes was not going to be overheard, even in the middle of the night, and I decided to read aloud, modulating my voice so that it became the voice of a woman - of Florinda Donner (the text is a translation but Donner is from Venezuela so envisaging her authorial voice in Spanish has a depth-level connection to her). I wasn't concerned about the inadequacies of my Spanish, or the potential mistakes in the translation: the writing was to a great extent functioning to trigger the virtual-real worlds I had inhabited - and the outsights I had arrived at - in reading Donner's original text. And as much as this - or more - what I was focused upon was the perceptual, sonic flow of the words (without having to worry about details) and the becoming-woman involved in shifting my vocal chords, and my whole being, toward a reading of the text through the enacted persona of the author (it should be added that this is one of the experiences that has led me to the conclusion that acting may be the most important of the 'art forms,' but with the proviso that most of what makes it important in this way has nothing to with what takes place on stage or in front of a camera).
Taken specifically in relation to becoming-woman this is an exceptionally effective technique. It can be placed alongside the strategy of writing stream-of-consciousness stories which I described at the start of this section (but it should be pointed out that when I used this strategy in Patagonia the process was being assisted by other circumstances, keeping it from drifting toward self-indulgence). But looked at in relation to the issue of a maximal movement into the outside, the problem with what I was doing was that I was staying in the domain of words. It was true that I was setting out, at any point when I was not reading, to become a spheromambient - and multi-sense - perception of the space around me, and that at a tactile level I was maintaining this awareness even when I was reading, in the sense of the awareness of the contact with the floor etc. And yet eventually the process would need to leave words behind, even in this very displaced, defamiliarised form.
I reached a singular and very intense state of ecstasy during the phase of the experience I am describing - a kind of sustained, ultra-charged rapture consisting of outsights, of a metamorphosed state of being, and of a play of perception and of superimposed worlds of patterns that were experienced in complex ways as depth-perception in relation to the nature of the world. But despite the extreme intensity of this experience it was still only the beginning, and not just because words needed to be left behind - also, in fact, because there was something about the nature of this phase which meant that afterwards I only had depth-level memories of parts of what had taken place, so that I was left to quite a large extent with only the surface of what had happened - reading the book - together with the clear memory of the feeling involved.
It is valuable to make a comparison with what took place seventeen years before - with the experience which forms the beginning of the first book of this work (Sections 2, 4, 5 and 10). On this earlier occasion I had become stratospheric in part because only a few hours before I had begun to fall in love with a woman who I had met - and spoken with with for about an hour - in a flat in Leamington, but in a way where there was no tension of "if only I had said" (etc) because the woman was the girlfriend of a friend, and from the outset I felt that I could not do anything toward making a relationship happen (the letting go, and simultaneous remembering of the woman - if it happened it would be the sublime intervention of serendipity, not the anguished tension of planning - was vital in what took place). This background-and-ongoing event was entirely fortuitous (it was not the result of any decision for the purposes of the experience), and I feel it was decisively powerful. The improvisatory decisions which I took later had, in contrast, a feeling of being fully effective, but not decisive in the same way: instead, in fact, they had a quality of making do with what was at hand - a quality of belonging specifically to a chancy but successful beginning of the path of taking pyschotropics for the purposes of escaping from ordinary reality (what this meant in practise was that I would not return to them - unlike, for instance, Patti Smith's Horses, to which I would return again and again). With the help of being a little bit in love, I found my way through to a view of transcendental-south with the help of Duncton Wood and Automatic for the People (and respect is due to this unlikely conjunction of people, respectively from high-kudos alt-rock/pop, and zero-kudos pop-literature).
A further comparative point is this: the experience in 1993 involved LSD being taken after having my already taken speed. And in 2010 I had in fact intended to get speed so that I could take it with the LSD, but it had not been available. However, I had not quite brought into focus at this point that speed was no longer what it had been for me, and that in fact, for subtle reasons it was no longer a substance which it was necessary or useful to take. There were different aspects to this fact, but in connection with LSD the issue was that that my shift toward the paramount strategy of becoming-perception meant that the combination of the three elements (the strategy, with the two drugs) was likely to make me fall asleep, so that the whole experience was wasted. And not only this, there was also a profound tendency for any dream-experiences that were remembered under these circumstances to have a self-indulgently concupiscent, Deep Hotel aspect (see Sections 27 and 43), an aspect that was complex and simultaneously was primarily very superficial). Both aspects of this tendency were described in (1.) in this section. However, the main point is that the question of speed had become irrelevant, in that in relation to psychotropics I could now move toward transcendental-south without using it (it will now be easier to see the way in which the path was coming to an end).
It will be apparent that there is a key recurring element in the series of events in question, in the form of reading from books at the height of the experience. It was there at the outset, in 1993, and seventeen years later it was there again. This time it was Florinda Donner who was the writer, and in terms of the comparison, it is worth seeing that Being-in-Dreaming was both the book being read, and the source of an impeccable becoming-woman, equivalent to the woman in Leamington, in the earlier experience.
I think I worked toward what eventually happened by simply persisting with a strategy which had a degree of effectiveness, persisting until I finally found a way of departing from the island of ordinary reality in the direction of sustained perception, rather than haunting its shore, and being haunted by ordinary-reality forces which simply made me drift. I alternated between reading and focusing attention on the spaces around me: everything was suffused with blissful intensity, and even though the vastly intense experiences I had did not in themselves build toward a lucid progression, there was a feeling of forward movement. I took a third tab of LSD at around 3 in the morning, and in the early afternoon of the next day I took another two, wondering if they would have much effect, and to my surprise I was immediately projected upward to an even higher state of joy than the earlier phase (I was very struck by this at the time - what happened at this point exceeded my expectations). I was following the promptings of the faculty of feeling, and in a way where I was using a strategy which appeared very much to be having a cumulative effect (even if in reading Being-in-Dreaming I had not left behind the domain of words it was nonetheless the case that I was to a great extent stopping my internal verbal dialogue, and I was simultaneously experiencing a displacement into another modality of being). The joy I was experiencing was a path (the joy was pointing me in a direction), although I am certain it is not the case that this phase in fact needed to last this long. If I had been more impeccable in my attempts to become perception I could no doubt have reached the end of the path earlier. But given the increasing distance from the last time I had slept (providing an advantage in terms of moving into a trance state) in the end it seems it was persistence with the different aspects of the experience which made the difference.
It was now night again - it would have been around 10pm. I was in the top-floor room of the flat, a room with a south-facing window which looked out toward a relatively-near horizon of trees, with six-storey blocks of flats rising to right and left. The curtains were closed, but a gusting wind was making the trees audible, and bringing the outside into the room.
I had just smoked some grass (a few tokes on a joint). The intensity of the effect astonished me, but I didn't pause to think about it. The impression I have is that from this point I started doing things that were a semi-deliberate movement toward the state I had been trying to reach all along. By this time I had read more than half of Being-in-Dreaming, intermittently, in the course of the twenty four hours since the trip began. But now I found my copy of A Thousand Plateaus, and I read aloud the first three paragraphs of "Of the Refrain" culminating in the paragraph that begins
"Finally, one opens the circle a crack, opens it all the way, lets someone in, calls someone, or else goes out oneself, launches forth. One opens the circle not on the side where the old forces of chaos press against it, but in another region, one created by the circle itself. As though the circle tended on its own to open onto a future, as a function of the working forces it shelters."
The effect of reading this passage can be described as one of being taken back to the first year when I lived in Leamington (see Section 40, re. "Of the Refrain," and re. this phase of my life). But what I experienced was an effect of a past way of being - a past self - being drawn into effect, as if it was being plucked upwards out of the past, and in a way where what was valuable about this self both had an affective, undefinable aspect (as if it was a specific modality of openness and joy), and simultaneously had two, singular aspects: two ways of looking toward the world, in the form of A Thousand Plateaus and Patti Smith's album Horses (it can be pointed out that although both of these works had been in effect during the time when I had been in Coventry the self-and-world that I drew up out of the past was the time when I was in Leamington).
The immediate effect of this other way of being was that, in remembering Horses, I started to have a semi-trance experience of moving through the sky very fast, at night, above moonlit terrains of forests and hills. There was a singular, bright, modern quality about what I was seeing, despite the fact that I couldn't see any human habitations, but I almost immediately started to get the idea that in pre-Homeric Greece there had been a shamanic world whose breakthroughs into wider spheres of reality were faintly remembered - and misremembered - in the stories and plays of the Greece of Sophocles. This thought was there for a moment, but I didn't go any further with it. The other effect of remembering Horses and A Thousand Plateaus was that suddenly I was hearing music - perhaps this was initially the song "Horses" ("Land: Horses, Land of a Thousand Dances, La Mer (De)", but if this was true then very rapidly the music shifted to something new.
I think I there was a way in which I was actively seeking a refrain. Only two years before, on a long journey in Western Mongolia on a crowded mini-bus, I had had an experience where for about an hour I had experienced hypnotic recall of the area where I had lived as a child in New Zealand, where this near-total recall took place as I was hearing a musical refrain (there were no words, and the short, recurring melody sounded a bit like a tune from a music box - though I felt I had never heard the melody before). The ultra-intense ability to recall lasted as long as the refrain - when the mini-bus had one of its breakdowns I lost the tune, and I lost the enhanced capacity to remember.
Instead of continuing with the line of thought about Ancient Greece, I returned to focusing on perception: the room, the sound of the wind in the trees. However, I think I was left with both a feeling of joy from the envisaged escapes from ordinary reality three or four thousand years ago, and maybe also a quality of melancholy that came from the idea that people are now more cut off from the capacity for these escape than they used to be.
But, in any case, I stopped, and focused on the space around me (when I think about this point where I shifted toward perception, and reached for a refrain, I always have the feeling that an aspect within me which had been causing problems was suddenly swept beyond itself into a dangerous Outside in which it would have to be valuable rather than obstructive).
And this was the refrain that arrived, and that I started to sing in my mind, over and over, to a slow, rise-and-then-fall melody:
the whirlwind is so fast now it is slow
the night's a vast tornado filled with stars
However, this two-phrase refrain became background, rather than an element of the foreground - as if it was keeping occupied the part of my mind that was involved with words. It continued, without stopping, as a sung refrain, but in a way in which it distantly accompanied everything, but almost always without me giving it direct attention.
I start to focus my awareness on the sound of the wind in the trees. What I am hearing is inseparably the sound of leaves being moved by a gusting wind, and of the wind itself. Listening to this sound I reach an experience of a tree-shape sensation of hundreds of leaves being moved by the air-movement I am hearing - the wind experienced from a sensation-perspective of the tree. And then, a moment later, I am an area of forest at night - several hundred yards across, feeling the movement of all of the leaves of the canopy, with its higher zones, and lower zones, and the feeling is of specific, sweeping gusts of wind, ephemeral wind-footprints across the canopy. The fine-grained, multiplicitous sensation of movement has a tactile-sublime quality which is like nothing I have experienced, and this sensation is inseparable from a strikingly beautiful affect which is from the totality - a kind of sublime, impersonally mysterious atmosphere, the wind and the forest at night.
And then, as if it is a natural progression, instead of being the leaves, I am the wind that is moving them. A very tall world of sweeping and curving gusts, which in relation to the canopy beneath is a recurring cat's paw of fast-moving air. It is an extraordinary joy to be a world of shiftingly moving air: the feeling of being the gusts as they sweep across the canopy is exhilarating, and there is an intensely pleasant feeling of being the cool air of a night in the middle of summer.
The space of the movements of air is only initially grounded on the area of forest from the beginning of the experience: the gusts move me forward, so that I am continually above new expanses of trees and hills.
And then it is as if the indeterminacy of the boundaries of the space of air leads me forward, and the zones of air spread outwards and upwards, resolving themselves, on an immensely larger scale, into the sphere of the atmosphere. I have returned to the experience from 2002 (see Section 37), but now at a much higher level of intensity. I am a sphere with a serene upper layer of sunlit and starlit air, and far below this across a continuum of air-sensation, I am also a lower spherical layer of air, that is dotted with the charged, wild ecstasies of thunderstorms. My upper layer is threaded with plasma, and is feeling the arrival of light from millions of stars, and, in particular, the blissful storm of energy coming from one, extremely close star - the sun. But more than this, the sphere consists of serenity, delight and ecstasy, and as I reach into the experience I feel that it is sentient in the sense of being the outer zone of a lucid, active awareness.
I try to reach deeper - toward something I am on the edge of understanding. But what happens is that I remember being on the edge of a large, harvested wheat field in North Yorkshire (near a village four miles from Malton), when I was aged 20. I am clipping a hedge with shears: the hedge is the border of the garden of the house where I am living, a garden which is a square 'cut into' a corner of the field. The field (in which I have often seen hares playing) is covered in wheat stalks, and a mile beyond it there is a laterally curved rise of an an escarpment of the wolds, the hills that rise to the south of the Vale of Pickering: the escarpment is close but less steep to the west, and further away and more sheer to the south. It is the middle of the day, and arriving at the right-angle of the hedge, on the field-side, I look up and see a thirty-foot high 'tornado' moving diagonally across the field toward the angle of the hedge (on a trajectory running from southwest to northeast), visible because it is sweeping up dozens of stalks of the harvested wheat. It the only time (and it remains the only time) I have seen a micro-tornado or 'dust-devil' of this kind, one twice the height of a house, and capable of lifting up a large quantity of objects from the ground (as opposed to lifting dust) and keeping them in the air. It is coming straight towards me, and I move thirty feet to the right, not wanting to be slapped in the face by the corn-stalks, but also a fraction unnerved. The tall, powerful zephyr goes across the angle of the hedge and leaves a large number of cornstalks in two pine trees that are on the opposite side of the garden, growing by the house.
Remembering this experience I feel something that is like a moment of communication in the form of a question, a suggestion perhaps that I have been obtuse. But nothing is clear - all I know is that this resolves itself immediately into a phrase that feels as if it could just be my own attempt to elaborate the moment of seeming-communication into words:
"What took you so long?"
It was clear that this did not prove anything, but the memory of the micro-tornado gave me a kind of jolt - and gave me the feeling that I was on the edge of a threshold of understanding. I returned to the experience of being the spherical world of the planet's atmosphere, the refrain still playing continually in my mind, as it had through all of what had just taken place. Only now the refrain's words, when I focused on them, seemed startlingly appropriate, given its evocation of whirlwinds/tornadoes, and given that I was experiencing the planet's atmosphere as a sensation-space of tactile contact with the stars.
As has been indicated, the experience of being - envisaging being - the atmosphere consisted, intensively, of a differential between the sublime serenity of the upper layer (the place of the plasma fields of the auroras) and of the closer-to-the-surface layer of the thunderstorms, which, in contrast, felt more like zones of sexual joy. Concentrating on the feeling of the storms, it seemed that it wasn't possible to resolve the feeling into anything that appeared as a male-female relationship between sky, for instance, as female, and ground as male, or the opposite. The feeling of the lightning was of orgasm, in a way that seemed to suggest the female, and the connection of the lightning to the electrical field of the earth appeared as part of one space of affect running through the ground and the earth. And in a way that related to both layers at once, the feeling of the arrival of the sun's light also felt female, but in a way where the impersonal, non-directed flow of energy from the sun did not seem in any way male - this energy just seemed like a wild, ultra-intense joy or delight, with no quality at all of maleness.
I had now attempted to open the experience along two different lines: along the line of thought, and along the line of sexuality. I returned to the experience of being the air above the forest, and to the feeling of being the leaves being moved by the wind. And it was at this point that the forest focused itself as in some way a continuation of the line of thought about Ancient Greece four thousand years ago: it was an immense deciduous forest stretching across hills and flat ground between them, and I was seeing it now as having existed at that time, and as still existing in another dimension of the planet, its continued existence brought about by a breakthrough that I was dream-perceiving as having been the creation not just of humans across the world, but just as much of animals of other species (at the same time as it was ultimately the creation of the whole planet). And at this point, what foregrounded itself within this oneiric world was the idea of other animals having been involved. Without me being aware of it, I was exploring the main idea of The Corridor (which I was halfway through writing at this time) but with a different inception-time for the emergent parallel world, and with a focus on the question of what it might be for animals to be in the fullest sense alongside human beings as actors in the struggle being envisaged.
(Looking back on this experience I have the impression, firstly, that everything in the initial phases (and including the one I am about to describe) was on one level a build-up toward a leap that I still had to make, and, secondly, that all of the phases - apart from the last - were necessary preliminaries in a process leading toward the posing of a problem, as the culminating phase of what took place).
Instead of being above or within the canopy of the forest, I was now down at ground level. I was in the form of a wild boar, which was moving across leaf-litter and grass, looking for food. It was using scent, to locate things it could eat,
The ease of this becoming was startling: I was following the path of the question "what would it be for animals to cross thresholds of awareness, in the same way as humans?" And in shifting my attention to the forest-floor everything followed without any thought. The initial idea of a wild boar; the experience of the smoothly brisk, four-footed gait of the animal, and its focus on scent: these arrived immediately without any casting around for possibilities, and without any struggle to focus the process of envisaging.
Everything happened very rapidly - and, in a sense, schematically, though at the same time the form of the becoming was maintained. The wild boar found a fungus that was growing underground, and dug it up and ate it. The fungus for the wild boar was a powerful halucinogen. I felt an intense squeal of shock and terror - and an experience that was like being pulled up by the nape of the neck, high into the air, and of then finding yourself still on the ground, but in a forest that was different. Other animals I encountered now looked to me the way bodies had looked during the semi-trance experience in the Brixton techno-club: they were semi-transparent, with a whitish, gel-like cast, and a slightly nacreous quality; and, although the form was approximately the same, the area of the body was slightly larger, and was more amorphous. However, the depth-level difference was what was fundamental: to look at these bodies, was to see their intent. And all bodies were like this now: the trees were made of the same substance.
And then there was a further transition. I knew that the forest by which I was surrounded was not the ordinary world, but was another dimension, And I could shift my attention from seeing everything in this other world in the usual way, to seeing everything as semi-transparent zones (and to seeing worlds of intent), and then back again.
Ten feet above me, in a small glade, there was a sphere of yellowish light, perhaps three feet across: this sphere was a composite of the intent of all of the animals of the planet.
From outside this experience of being a wild boar something was now going to go into effect: in the course of two semi-trance experiences over the preceding three years I had discovered that if you focused on the shine of a person's eyes while envisaging being them, this shine of their eyes would take the becoming across a threshold of intensity, and would allow you to see the world from the perspective of the individuals's lucidity, and most important of all, from the perspective of their intent.
Still as a wild boar, I became the sphere, and looked out from it, shifting from the viewpoint of one animal species after another, and doing this through envisaging the shine of the animal's eyes. And this shine involved a seeing which had been freed from the fixations of the eye used for predatory purposes, and for avoiding predators: it was a seeing into intent - into energy - for the joy of it, for the joy of exploration.
I had looked at the world from the perspectives of many animals. It was day around me rather than night, but by this time it would be more true to say that in seeing forest and sky and sun I was seeing different forms of brightness, and, at, depth, different forms of sublime, impersonal joy.
In the background
The whirlwind is so fast now it is slow
The night's a vast tornado filled with stars
Only now, looked at from the spheroambient perspective of the planet there was no night in the opposite direction from the sun: there was no blackness of outer space. The tremendum or Immensity of outer space was no longer black: it was hyper-differentiated, sublime brightness, a brightness of light and plasma that was shot through with an endless world of different forms of interaction.
I had returned to the perspective of being the atmosphere of the planet, only this time I was turned completely outwards. There was an awareness of nearby stars, and of the galaxy (this awareness felt more tactile than anything else), but what I was seeing was a brightly seething, spheroambient space of white-yellow light that glittered with movements which brought the term 'quantum contact' into my mind, and which gave me the feeling that anomalous communications and journeys were taking place through a depth level energy-field. There was a sense of curvilinear laminar forms, and of filaments, where these both ran through the spatium of energy (though in a way where their scale was unclear), and overall there was a teeming brightness and a feeling of exhilaration-and-delight that were like nothing I had previously experienced.
I became a group of stars which included the sun, together with the white space between them - a serenely seething whiteness that had within it the the wild, ultra-intensities of the suns (the feeling of being the stars was an extraordinary and hypercharged joy, and yet at the same time it included the feeling that the becoming had barely begun). And then I leapt to another group of stars - perhaps twenty or thirty suns - that was far away from the sun, though still within the galaxy (I envisaged it as being at a distance that was perhaps a fifth of the width of the galactic disc). The idea I had about this other group was that in some way there were close connections between these stars, at a level I did not understand, but which included planets which revolved around them. This idea was vague and did not develop, and there was an affect of writing-a-science-fiction-story about it (a quality of posing and exploring a hypothesis, rather than an affect of seeing), and I decided to return to being the group of stars which included the sun.
It was at this point that something happened which did have the affect of seeing.
A shape appeared in front of me. It consisted of a small number of interfused lines which formed a matrix of a short cylinder that was rounded on top. The lines had a bright, metallic-orange quality, and although they gave the impression of being more like light than matter (the shape seemed to be a source of light, rather than something from which light was being reflected) the impression nonetheless was of extreme solidity: from the beginning it reminded me faintly of metal helmet.
The shape appeared in front of a dark, outer-space sky (as opposed to the skies I had been envisaging, which had been entirely white). The feeling was that I had been stopped somewhere - a somewhere which was indeterminately on the trajectory of the return journey. And the coloured shape was not just locked in my field of vision, but was insisting itself at me, an insisting that on the surface took the form of an extremely fast, pulsing motion of moving very fractionally closer and then very fractionally back. But at depth this was an insistence in the ordinary sense, in that I experienced the motion as communication, in the form of getting my attention.
What I perceived - within the experience - was a being which I saw as a non-human or 'alien' entity: a sentient, non-human being. This did not mean that within the experience I believed in its existence: in fact, it reminded me slightly of the opening graphics-sequence of Sapphire and Steel (which I had always thought was very poor) and despite its stability and singular aspects I was very far from the firm position of seeing it as more than an object within a dream-like experience.
Almost immediately I had the experience of 'knowing' (the way you know in a dream) that the entity belonged to a race of beings that were called the addas. And the attribute 'warrior' went with this name - the beings were the warrior addas. The name was pronounced like the latin word 'abbas' (though there was no association with this word within the experience), with the stress on the first syllable, and the second syllable pronounced the same as "lass". For the most part, I experienced this name as having a fundamental alterity - but at the same time there was one exception: the numerical or mathematical meaning of the word 'add' was something that I was being informed was relevant, in the same way as I onerically knew that the attribute 'warrior' went with the name.
The being wanted me to go with it to a place that was the home-terrain of the addas. I agreed to do this. I found myself experiencing a diaphanous, luminous world of motions and transformations of line and plane and colour, and simultaneously having an experience of learning at a level where everything concerned intent and feeling, and in way where the perceptions and the acquisition of knowledge were experienced as fully inseparable from each other.
I only remember one part of this process of communication: it took the form of two new phrases for the tune of the background refrain, and what I learned was that I should breathe in with the first phrase and breathe out with the second:
breathe in the energy, the light
breathe away the fear of the night
I felt certain that this breathing-technique-and-refrain was an effective modality of intent. But as the experience of being in the domain of the addas went on I felt increasingly unsure about my location. At the outset I had felt that the place was in the far-off area of stars from the previous phase of the experience (though this was not one of the things I had been 'told'), and the focus was on light, colour and movement. But, despite all the brightness of the coloured forms and transformations, the place where I was had a penumbral and this-world aspect: it felt as if it was a city-sized cavern that was far beneath the surface of the Earth. And although I felt sure of the validity of the new refrain the subterranean aspect of the envisaged world gave a fixated, defensive quality to the emphasis on fear: a quality of the context suggesting a state of intent which did not in a full sense embody the ideas of the refrain.
the eye of the forest
I decided to return to the place from which I had started: the anomalous forest-terrain in which I had gone through two phases of becoming-animal. But on my return there were a lot of differences.
I was in a wide glade within the forest. It was a clear night with very bright stars (the light gave the impression of moonlight, but it was all coming from the stars). Half a mile away, but on the horizon, there was a round-topped hill standing up from the forest, and forming part of the glade.
I knew that the place was indeterminately somewhere in the centre of the southern part of the island that is called Britain: but Britain did not exist here, because this terrain was part of a forested dimension of the planet that had been in existence - as an emergent parallel world - for about four thousand years.
The feeling was of everything having become focused, and there was a quality of the sublime about the place (the forest, the glade, the night sky) which in the fullest sense was astonishing.
Another difference was that I now had three of the addas with me. They had decided to accompany me. The size of the addas had been slightly indeterminate until this point (when I had been in their domain the experience had not been of seeing them, but of communicating with them), but here they were around a foot in height, and around eight inches across. They all had the same helmet-matrix shape as the one I had seen originally, but in each case the colour was different: one was red, one was green and one was yellow (I feel that at some point in the experience I also saw one which was blue). The colours had the same bright-dull luminosity, as if I was seeing a luminous metal that was incandescent at a very low wattage. They were never completely in focus (as if the perception was taking place with peripheral vision), and instead of having any straightforward quality of computer graphics they felt more like coloured gaps in ordinary perception.
As had been the case when I left the forest, there were other beings there, and they had the same perceptual form from earlier, in that they were slightly amorphous, whitish-hue transparent forms (there was a quality of them being like starlit zones of misty but nearly transparent substance, with a faint suggestion of nacreous light or opalescence). These forms were of animals, although I feel that other humans may have been there as well. Something I understood within the experience was that it was possible to take different forms within this world: the general nature of the forms was that they were united by having the same nearly transparent substance, but there were exceptions to this, such as the addas.
Another exception was a creature that stayed nearby, and that I felt was protecting me: as if it had noticed me, in passing, and had seen I was in danger in some way (the overall feeling was that this world was in no way safer than ordinary reality - perhaps the opposite). Spatially this being had the approximate form of a horse, but at the level of perceived substance its form was of a cluster of continuous and shifting lightning-flashes.
There was no feeling that the addas were protecting me: and there was no quality of them being as intrepid as might have been suggested by the mantra "breathe away the fear of the night." I felt a liking for them - they had come into the outside, had accepted the adventure. But the impression was of them being huddled alongside me on the ground, in each case about a foot-and-a-half away from me.
Despite there being an awareness of danger as a possibility the feeling was of intensely-charged serenity. And the final feature of the experience was that in the distance, above the hill, there was a wide, very slowly spinning tornado, perhaps three hundred feet high, and much wider at the top than a tornado would normally be. Its substance was starlit, opalescent transparency like the animals in the glade, but slightly brighter. I knew that it was female, and it had a quality of a woman spinning slowly and joyfully around, while bending backwards at the same time, and with her eyes closed. A very slow spinning, that was an expression of a serenely intense bliss and delight.
I knew that in some sense this figure was a way of seeing the wind, the atmosphere of the planet. The experience of being in that place was about the presence of this female figure, but it was also about the other beings in the glade and the surrounding forest, and - perhaps most fundamentally - it was about the stars that were crowding the sky, so that it seemed more white than black.
I began to think about the glade as an eye. The feeling I had was that the glade was an eye on the part of the planet, an eye looking out toward the cosmos.
I decided to pose this problem: what is happening on the Earth? And the problem concerned the nature of the planet, and the nature of the ongoing disaster within the human world.
I saw two immense filaments that stretched out into the cosmos, filaments that I knew ultimately were connected, at some unthinkably remote distance. One of these was bright, and was the energy-instance that I have described (see section 36) as the 'other force.' It could also be given the name intent. This force was the planet as such (as opposed to elements that were like viruses, lodged within it), and in the same way was the fundamental nature of human beings.
The second force had a grey-dark quality, and was the control mind, or "control-force": a construct of forces consisting of reactive fixation of attention on a narrow band of aspects of the world, and - primarily - of the will to keep everything under control, to dominate, to not let go; to maintain current holdings at all costs, in the face of the radically unknown.
Everything was very serene, very calm: it was a world of forces that were peacefully floating alongside each other. And yet at the same time an immense struggle was taking place on the planet. The two filaments were in a struggle with each other, and they were racing to take maximal advantage of the imminent peak in the hundred-thousand year planet-and-sun cycle of arrival of solar energy.
The struggle did not appear to have much to do with human beings. The control-force was instantiated by a non-planetary or alien energy-instance, something which was parasitic - a predator. And intent was pre-eminently a planetary energy-instance (it was the planet, and it was the beings of the planet as elements that were similar to neurons of a brain). And both forces, additionally, were forces that stretched out into, and through, the totality of this cluster of dimensions of the cosmos.
The battle was serene for two reasons. The first was that the planet felt no moral rage against the predator, any more than someone would feel moral rage against a flu virus. But a more intrinsic reason why it was serene was that the two filaments were filaments of one energy-instance, so that at this wide perspective the struggle was like a play of light, a shimmering between two rays radiating from one being, a being / energy-instance that was in the deepest sense neutral in relation to the fate of the planet and its creatures.
But the serenity, finally, was inseparable from the fact that there was always more to the cosmos, in the sense that there was always more to freedom. The neutral energy-instance stretched through the totality of this cluster of dimensions of the cosmos, but it was clear that there were always more clusters of dimensions, at higher and higher levels of intensity, of freedom.
It was clear that the forward-movement of the planetary force - the 'other force' - consisted in part of the increasing independence of women, and of the increase in the transmission of pragmatic strategies for waking the faculties, where many of these strategies had their origins in non-state societies. But it was also clear that there were countervailing tendencies that had to do with the new form of the system of reason-and-revelation, and with complex, libidinally-charged social formations which lock attention in a narrow band of zones, and which construct what is all along a profoundly limited set of options, despite producing an illusion of breadth (the option which is obscured is the metaphysical pragmatics of intensification - of becoming, in a pervasive sense, a traveller into the unknown). In a way that was definitively intense and expansive this was a life-and-death struggle. Species were dying in huge numbers. Everywhere lives were being crushed and profoundly attenuated: and simultaneously the planetary force was a heightening of the lines of escape, which might at some point join up into a rhizome that could change everything. But there was no sign at all that either of the forces was winning this struggle.
I experienced a shift toward a process that had a quality of attempting to understand what was taking place, as opposed to a quality of seeing. My thoughts had become vague and strained, and they were no longer accompanied by the diagrammatic, visual aspect. It was over - the abstract problem with which I had been engaged was no doubt the hardest of those that had been involved in the experience, and it was definitely the case that I had run out of energy.
This event became a crucial element of my abstract and oneiric horizons: for instance, its impact can recurrently be felt within The Corridor, and it provides a key for understanding On Vanishing Land (at this point I had only written the initial draft of the first section of The Corridor, and I would write the text for On Vanishing Land the next year). But it also had a tangible impact both in relation to my perceptual modalities (making me concentrate more on the spheroambient sensory totality than on the visual), and in relation to my attitudes toward animals. It would definitely be right to say that in a good sense (a sense having to do with the overall health of my being or intent) I was no longer the same after this experience. (the immediate aspects of the change are clear, but I also have a strong impression that some of the changes involved were virtual, and took several years to actualise).
Around two days later I focused on the name "addas," and the name became displaced, acquiring a strange depth that seemed like the depth possessed by a joke. In Being-in-Dreaming Donner writes about how as a child she would sometimes help an old man whose job was to clear the dead leaves from the square where she lived, in a town in Venezuela: the man would sweep the leaves into piles, burn them, and then put the ashes into a sack, saying to her that he was going to take them into the nearby mountains, where he said water fairies living in a sacred stream would turn the ashes into gold dust. In the hours before the semi-trance experience I had been reading the Spanish version of this text, and I knew I had read this passage (although I did not remember giving any attention to it). This is the passage (it is necessary to remember that 'h' is not pronounced in Spanish).
"El anciano affirmaba que las hadas acuaticas, que moraban en un arroyo sagrado de las montanas cercanas, convertian las cenizas en polvo de oro." [chapter 10].
It will be valuable to think for a moment about the role of the refrain within the experience. It was a song, and yet it went straight into the background, like a song with which you are very familiar, that is playing in your head, without you giving much attention to it. It had a feeling of the sublime, but in a way which inconspicuously included a strong element (an element which is an aspect of the sublime) of the background radiation of sadness of the world (the world is dangerous, its beings live and then die - tornadoes/whirlwinds are dangerous). The primary ending of the refrain's melody was a three-note fall - a dying fall - consisting of the word 'stars' sung as three notes, but because it was a refrain, and as such had no ending there was no direct impacting of this sadness. In fact, my awareness of the refrain was in every way centred on the anomalous 'calmness' and serenity expressed by the paradox "the whirlwind is so fast now it is slow" (and it should be added that the joy of the experience had become so intense and stabilised that the sadness had simply become another aspect of the sublime, and one that could not come into the foreground, in that I had other aspects to which I had to give attention, and I was fundamentally removed from the recurrent, ordinary-awareness tendency to indulge in feelings of melancholy).
The refrain functioned very effectively to occupy the channel of words (and in some sense of the ordinary functioning of reason, with its fixation on the line of time), in that it did enough to convey intensity, but without being hyper-charged. Which is to say that it was powerfully evocative, but was perfect for going into the background. This final point concerns the real-abstract that was being invoked by the abstractions of the refrain, and of its 'extension' in the later phase of the experience ("breathe in the energy, the light."). The abstractions were minimal, in that there were no terms in the refrain's primary form which related directly to the intent-aspect of energy/intent. And later, the addition to the refrain (for a short while it was in the foreground, as the music acquired new words) included only an aspect of the domain of intent which is negative - reactivity, or inappropriate, debilitating fear. (it needs to be pointed out at this point that the refrain had always had a variation with an upward ending - appearing occasionally as a form of the melody - and that it was this variation which provided the music for "breathe in the energy, the light / breathe away the fear of the night"). That is, even the later form did not explicitly include the aspects of the sublime which would have made it much harder for the refrain to fall into the background, and occupy the channel of words / ordinary-modality "thinking" (which is generally a functioning of conventional modes of terms and concepts involving almost no actual thought) in the sense of keeping it occupied so that it would not get in the way.
All of this is to say that it was ideal for being in the background. In the months after the experience I explored the possibility of the refrain becoming a song which in some way would capture the intensity of the whole experience (through additions at the level of both music and words), but it became clear that the refrain as a crystal of space-time would not catch the light of the whole experience, because its role within the experience had been to do something different from this: it was not a song in an ordinary sense, but was a component of a trance whose role in part had been to block the functioning of the faculty of language.
The next event took place about 8 months later, and has come to feel as if it was a continuation and deepening of the last phase of the experience which has just been recounted.
It was February of 2011. I had gone with two friends to the Brixton Academy, to see Mogwai, who were touring to promote their album "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will." When we had met at the exit to Brixton's underground station we had gone for a walk through side-streets, smoking a joint made with good quality grass.
Inside the venue, listening to the support band, I set out to stop thinking and to focus on perception of the sound. But the effect of this, combined with the effect of the grass, was to produce a state which was different from what might have been expected. The expectation might have been that there would be intensified enjoyment of the music, combined maybe with additional effects - perhaps visual effects - brought about by the drug. Instead the additional aspect of what I was bringing to the experience - sustained concentration on sound, unbroken by thought - simply propelled me into a state where I was hearing music - songs - but where this music had no almost no connection to the sound that was arriving in my ears (the only connection was tempo, but even this shifted toward being very minimal - or non-existent - as the experience continued).
I was at a gig, but the tracks I was hearing were not the ones being played on the stage.
I was familiar with this form of auditory experience from events which had occurred on planes and on coaches: the circumstances had always involved proximity to a large engine or engines. Despite their sound insulation aeroplanes had been the main place where these experiences had occurred, and I had arrived at the view that the deep bass of plane engines could provide a basis for this effect because of the bass sound containing all of the overtones of higher notes. From 2005 there had been a marked increase in the intensity of these anomalous experiences of 'hearing', in that I had started to hear/compose songs, and in that another mode of the phenomenon had appeared, in the form of the music-box refrain that I heard (and which became, in some sense, an element of a powerful memory reverie) on a mini-bus in Mongolia. However, I had never had this form of auditory experience at a music event before. It evidently made sense that it could happen, because here there was also an intense field of bass sound providing a 'pareidolia foundation,' but until now it had not occurred (and there had been opportunities for it to happen: for instance, I had once, in 2002, reached a relatively focused state of listening at a gig by the Japanese wall-of-sound musician Keiji Haino, but nothing along these lines had happened).
(it is perhaps worth thinking about the background sequence of events:
When I was in New Zealand, aged 13 (in 1975), I was on a coach on the way back to Christchurch from an ice-skating trip to a frozen lake in the Southern Alps - and, closing my eyes, I found that I was hearing the chorus-refrain of the song Fox on the Run (a song to which I had not given a lot of attention) and what surprised me was that the experience was of hearing the whole band, and the singer's voice, in a way that was like listening to the radio. I didn't know any words apart from "Like a Fox on the Run," but this refrained itself in the form of a full band performance of the recurring musical 'hook,' producing, without me realising it, an expression of joy which was in fact something very different from the actual song, which consists it seems of recrimination, or at least of a negative response, in relation to the woman who is the subject of the song.
In 1977 on a plane taking me to Britain from New Zealand I found that I was hearing "Mozart," in a way where I felt sure what I was hearing must, more or less, be something I had heard (although I had not been listening to classical music for around a year, and had not listened to it very much). The music was symphonic, and unfolded out of itself effortlessly, without repeating. I intensely enjoyed hearing it, but I felt astounded by the fact that my mind could do this - a sustained 'hallucination' of a form of music with which I was not in any way closely engaged.
On a plane journey in 2005 I heard a song which was sung in the voice of a woman who sounded a little like Bjork. The song was a new composition, both in terms of music and words.
In the summer of 2007 I was on a minibus journey on the way back from spending a week being taught overtone singing by the Mongolian koomii singer Tserendaava (who lives in a very remote area of Khovd province in Mongolia, reachable only by very infrequent non-schedule transportation on 70 miles of rough tracks, rather than roads). I went into a reverie about experiences as a child in New Zealand, and before the full form of the reverie began I started to hear an eerily beautiful music-box refrain (it was not a melody I knew), which then continued, running alongside processes of reverie-memory that seemed close to total recall in relation to places, if not in relation to events (in these reverie-terrains I was able to move around, in a semi-trance experience of recall/envisaging).
In December of the same year, 2007, I was on a plane on the way to Argentina, and I 'heard' another song: this time the music of the song arrived first, and then within minutes I had words that went with the music. Like the song in 2005, this was (as far as I am aware) a new composition.
There were other occurrences of this modality of auditory experience, but these were the main ones, and it should be added that even if the other events are included the long gap between the late 1970s and 2005 remains. It can be concluded that we can receive indications very early in our lives that faculties can be woken, but that a very resolute, intense effort is likely to be needed to bring about any waking of a nascent/emergent faculty that has not been from the outset a central, deliberate concern - so that it can be seen how difficult the situation is likely to be in relation, for instance, to the faculty of dreaming, or the faculty of intent.)
The experience of the Mogwai gig (and this included the support band at the beginning) was initially of a sequence of song refrains, always arriving with words, and of the refrains playing and varying across processes of thought and envisaging which were like an oneiric workshop from which new melodies-with-words would eventually emerge. (I remember three of these refrains). A feature of the process was that I was hearing ('singing with') voices with a vocal range vastly exceeding my own, and another aspect was that the voices were recurrently not mine in any way (at one point the voice I was hearing was that of a who man who was experienced as someone else, with their own expressive persona).
And then, halfway through Mogwai's set, the level of intensity crossed an upward threshold. I was now hearing a woman's voice singing a four line refrain whose melody spanned a wide range. It was a driving, techno-like refrain whose music and form of vocal expression were suffused with an intense warmth. The voice I heard kept shifting in a way where I recurrently heard it as the voice of women who I knew and for whom I felt an intense affection. But more crucially I heard the song as an expression of an immanent 'other force' that pertained most specifically to the planet, but also to a mode of being that exists minimally and often fugitively within the human world (in other words women were recurrently in the fullest sense expressions of this force, and so to a much smaller extent were men - very occasionally I heard the voice of a man singing the refrain). The primary aspect of the song as I experienced it was that the voices were an expression of a force which was planetary (although it also ran as a current through individuals), and which in some fundamental way was pre-eminently female.
After this song began it never stopped until the end of the gig, although its rhythmic, refrain-melodic and voice variations were always developing and intensifying.
This was the refrain -
I bring you songs
I bring you dance
I bring you love
I bring you dreams
Afterwards this experience went implacably into the background. I was not in a position to make any affirmation concerning the impression I had received about 'the other force.' And on the level of a music-project the song was a seethingly anomalous techno composition for which I had no resources, in terms of bringing it over from the virtual to the actual. And the last issue was that it seemed in some way to be too wildly positive (somehow it was both impersonal - like a breeze on a hot day - and was an exceptionally intense, serene expression of love) for it to fit easily within the capitulation and suppression systems of ordinary reality.
5. (preliminary) (for a delineation of some of the questions of nomadism, see the concluding paragraphs of Section 37)
The fifth experience was a trip to Tuva in the summer of 2011. By this time I was close to finishing The Corridor, and in the preceding six months I had written the essay for On Vanishing Land. With hindsight this journey was at a time when I was moving forward fast, but was beginning to reach toward new directions in terms of projects, and it feels very much like a continuation of a wide-span act of thought, but in a way where it seems unclear that this act of thought was primarily on the part of my conscious mind.
The dream in Patagonia about an abandoned Soviet base surrounded by forest (see Section 38) had in some sense 'pointed me toward' an area that was indeterminately to the north, northwest or northeast of Mongolia and Tuva (this sunlit forest wilderness had only an imprecise location, and no specific 'neighboring' coordinates - and as a terrain it was in fact as anomalous as the forest in the dreams about a group of people living in a house near Malton, in that the latitude was relatively southern for Siberia, and yet the terrain was a wide upland of low hills, as opposed to it being mountainous).
Around a year after having the dream I wrote a story which drew upon elements from it, including the location, which had 'settled itself' as somewhere not far from the border with Tuva. But although the terrain of - and near - the abandoned base was the focal point of this story (and in a way where the impacting inspiration, in the form of the dream, had the base as a quietly sublime singular point) the story became displaced at the level of its terrain in that, as I wrote it, the virtual-real world became tilted toward Tuva, as if, on some level, the source of the inspiration was over the story's southward horizon. For reasons which were intrinsic to it (although a little enigmatic) and because of an affect that had been at work in the writing-process, I called the story "Toward Tuva."
A journey to Tuva was in some way being transformed into a singular project. Up until then the idea of going to Tuva had not in any way been in the foreground. After the 12 weeks in Patagonia I had been left feeling (as I still feel now) that northwestern, Andean Patagonia was the place I would like to live, and to a certain extent my attention had been taken away from Tuva/Mongolia (but it is worth noticing that the dream was not about living in Siberian forest, but was about finding a temporary place to stay in the middle of summer).
However, part of the impact of the story (and of the dream 'behind' the story) was to make me aware of all the other ways in which I was being drawn to Tuva, so it is not really possible to say what was 'crucial' at the point where I decided to make the journey, in the autumn of 2010.