Saturday, December 29, 2018

Baby Steps Towards a Brand New Physics

99 Nick Chakras

BABY STEPS TOWARDS A BRAND NEW PHYSICS

Quantum theory is mankind's most successful mathematical connection with Nature. But after more than one hundred years of immense conceptual and technological success, it seems to possess at least one fundamental flaw. Despite the fact that we know that the world works by purely quantum rules, our only access to this world (so far) is via completely classical measurements. The goal of quantum tantra is to open up new doorways into Nature, new connections that are intrinsically quantum not classical, that are deep, direct and intimate and that probably have more to do with consciousness than with unconscious measuring instruments.

FASTIDIOUS PHYSICISTS
Nature's hinting there's new ways to meet Her
More intense, more engaging -- and sweeter
But like shy maiden aunts
We say "O dear me, no!" to Her Dance
"We'd rather be reading our meters."

 One possible realization of quantum tantra is that I learn to experience the physical world in a manner analogous to the way that I experience my own body. A new kind of mind-merge with matter made possible by our radical understanding of how things really work. I envision this new learning to be augmented by some sort of quantum-inspired technology which I have called a Convivium. Or sometimes an Octoscope.

Since physics is a more fundamental science then chemistry for exploring deep reality, with all honor and respect, I consider psychedelic drugs as mere training wheels compared to quantum tantra. But as a pragmatic explorer I realize you gotta use what you got.

While waiting for my Physics Muse to deliver me a Convivium or Octoscope, my most immediate way to prepare for direct entry into the quantum world appears to be expanding my awareness of this physical body that daily carries me about in the world.

So for many years, I have been carrying out a Chakra Project to expand the number of body centers into which I could place my awareness -- the main hypothesis being that a body part to which I direct my attention is in some way essentially different (in a quantum way?) from a body part that I leave unattended. I began with the Seven Classical Hindu Chakras, extended this number to Twenty-Four, then Twenty-Seven, then Eighty-Four. Then finally to the Ninety-Nine Nick Chakras illustrated above. I have used this new chakra system in various ways, from systematically expanding my bodily awareness, to reciting a kind of bodily Rosary, to preparing my body for massage, to falling asleep at night by counting chakras instead of sheep.

For exploring a new territory, it's useful to have a good map. But once you're there you can toss the maps away. Follow your own interests and curiosity.

Besides the chakras, I've found many other good maps for exploring the body's wonders based on your particular training and interest.

Being mainly a bookish person, I'm not much interested in sports, but loved ocean swimming and had been a fairly good tennis player at the City Park level. For more than twenty years I have been working with weights under the direction of a world-class power lifter, ex-Marine and ex-police officer. So far, all without books.

But then I discovered Frederic Delavier's Strength Training Anatomy. 
 
Delavier's muscle maps for power lifters

Delavier is both a trained artist (five years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris) and a champion power lifter (best in France 1988). His book spends a few pages on every classic lift, and illustrates with simple color-coded drawings exactly which muscles you are utilizing for that lift. (You can confirm Delavier's insights by what parts hurt the next day.) He also includes sections on stretches for relaxing parts of the body that have been tightened by serious exercise and illustrates which muscles are involved in each stretch. Here is a video review of Delavier's wonderful book by an admiring body builder.

For the last couple of years I have been enjoying monthly massages from a lovely Buddhist masseuse who lives at Vajrapani Institute, our local Tibetan Buddhist retreat center. Her body work combines sensitive attention plus exercises in visualizing each moment as Empty, Impermanent, yet paradoxically infused with Compassion. These massage sessions got me interested in yet another book (another set of body maps).

Andrew Biel's body maps for extremely informed palpation
Andrew Biel's Trail Guide to the Body is the premier source for intelligent palpation. Both the author and the illustrator Robin Dorn are licensed massage practitioners. The trail guide metaphor is useful and witty: for example, the trip round the elbow is called "exploring Knob Hill". Dorn's skillful drawings have just enough detail to be useful yet uncluttered. You could spend a lifetime exploring your body or someone else's using this nearly 500-page book as a map. I'm currently involved in trying to confidently palpate the eight carpal bones at the base of my hand. Here's a video interview with the author who among other things describes his favorite muscle. Hint: it's a muscle you've never heard of.

Although I play jigs and reels in an Irish session band, I'm not really much of a dancer. The nearest I got to serious dancing was studying Aikido with Linda Holiday in Santa Cruz. Throwing and being thrown in many different ways by many different kinds of bodies brought me very much in touch with what being embodied actually felt like both in and out of Linda's dojo.

I was also married for more than thirty years to Betsy Rasumny, a talented improv dancer who taught and performed in New York, Montreal, San Francisco and Santa Cruz. For me, one of Betsy's finest teachings was that, for someone who is fully present, every movement can become a dance. My wife was an expert at being fully present. Among the many gifts Betsy left me after her death in 2002 was this book on body maps for dancers.

Andrea Olsen's Guide to Experiential Anatomy

Andrea Olsen's BodyStories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy is exactly what it claims to be -- a guide to actually feeling what it's like to be present in your own particular body. There are pictures of bones and muscles but accompanied with children's drawings and other art work designed to invoke the strange unspeakable mood of this particular kind of embodiment. In her dedication, Andrea Olsen states that the function of this book is not to demystify the body -- but to help embody the mystery. Designed for dancers, this book contains movement and palpation exercises both alone and with a partner and is peppered with short anecdotes (body stories) from Olsen's long career as a teacher and performer. Here is a video of Andrea Olsen giving a TED talk/performance in Monterey, CA. Is this woman embodied or what?

One version of quantum tantra would be experiential anatomy on quantum steroids. The octoscope (or convivium) would open up our universe to non-classical modes of inquiry, to brand new experiences of the physical body not to mention new experiences of the physical world, providing strange new openings into reality entirely unavailable to our species before the discovery of quantum theory.

TANTRIC TECH
When we coat our nipples with europium oxide
When we touch our tongues to crystalline tin
When we hold in our hands these obsidian palm stones
Nature unlocks Her darkness and welcomes us in.


Nick discovers a convivium




Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas in Mexico 1963

Three Kings: Mexico City Christmas

CHRISTMAS IN MEXICO 1963

1963 was a big year for me. I had passed all my exams at Stanford and was beginning my thesis work under Walter Meyerhof using a small particle accelerator in the basement of the Physics building. With some lady friends from the Psychology department, I had just experienced my first acid trip which opened up for me new worlds of possibility. In this excitable mood I decided to spend my Christmas in Mexico, packed my gear into a big duffel bag and hopped a bus down to Guadalajara.

Where I met a fellow American named Dave Whitaker, who was married to an anthropologist in Wisconsin, and was, like myself, looking for adventure. Both of us were bearded and scruffy and attracted a lot of attention. Since 1963 predated the hippies, we were called "existentialistas" or sometimes "Fidelistas". In Mexico City we met several young men from the University who were eager to practice their English and wanted to show us the hot spots. Dave & I lived in a hotel a few blocks from the Paseo Reforma park right in the center of the city, within walking distance of the Metropolitan Cathedral and several other famous landmarks. We had been warned not to drink the water so we subsisted on beer and food we bought from the ubiquitous street vendors. At one of these stands, I was served slices of goat cut right off the animal and stuffed into a big tortilla.

Mexico City taco stand.

One day Dave and I decided to see the ocean and took a bus to Mazatlan where for the first time I was able to swim in ocean water as warm as a bathtub. The Mazatlan beach is crowded with expensive hotels, but behind the hotels sits a typical Mexican village. We stopped in a cantina and immediately became the center of attention. At a table inside, four Mexicans invited us gringos to play a drinking game. They produced a "shock box" made of a lantern battery, an automotive spark coil and a rheostat for controlling the voltage. I had played with such devices in my physics class in high school and knew how they worked. In this cantina game, you would hold a tin can in each hand and see how much voltage you could endure. The loser buys beer for everyone. This game was a nice way to interact with good-hearted guys who didn't speak your language. And after buying three or four rounds of beer for the Mexicans, we gringos shook hands with the winners, happily took our leave and traveled back home to Mexico City.

Pulque is a peculiar Mexican beer brewed from the agave cactus and sold only in special bars called pulquerias. Pulque is the color of milk and is known as the drink of the working class. As luck would have it, there was a pulqueria right across the street from our hotel. Each of us dared the other to try this exotic brew and I would taunt Dave by calling him Señor Pulque in hopes that he would try it first. That never happened. And I am still ignorant of the taste of this working-class brew, a situation I very much regret.

Dave did introduce me to another exotic substance -- not pulque but "speed". As that time you could go to any pharmacia and buy Dexadrine in various forms without a prescription. (Even though every bottle was clearly labeled "Not for sale without a prescription".) I loved speed. It made me feel as super smart and as fearless as I knew I really was. And I could stay up and party all night. "This is a drug I could get addicted to," I said. But unlike acid, which seems to give you insights into the nature of consciousness, the speed high is completely empty, a mere revving of the engine of ordinary awareness. And when the drug wears off, the downside is horrible -- like somebody has been using your body for weeks. After this brief experience in the streets of Mexico City, I said goodbye to amphetamines as a future drug of abuse.

Tenochtitlan, the Temple of the Sun

While Dave was busy with something else, I decided to take a trip to one of Mexico's most famous archeological sites -- Tenochtitlan, the Temple of the Sun, which is located a few miles north-east of Mexico city. I rode a bus, complete with people carrying live chickens, to the site, ignored the little kids trying to sell me "authentic" clay figurines, wandered around the various buildings and then decided to climb to the top of the Sun Temple.

I was almost to the top and flanked by two women, when one of them turned to me and asked me one of the strangest questions I have ever heard. "Did you know," she asked, "that this temple was built by Jews?"

Actually I didn't know that. But I was informed by the two women, who happened to be Mormon archeologists, of their belief that one of the Lost Tribes of Israel had sailed to the New World and founded new civilizations of which the Temple of the Sun was one part. Since I was a mere physicist I could come up with no facts to refute their claim so I listened intently to their story. And eventually after reaching the top of the Temple, the women led me down, across the yellow tape, to meet their Mormon colleagues who were busy excavating some new walls covered with paintings of jaguars and other exotic ancient Jewish iconography.

Another taco stand

Later, after my trip to Tenochtitlan, Dave and I were walking in Mexico City with a bunch of locals who were testing out their English (which was much better than our Spanish) when we ran across a guy in a vacant lot who was selling marijuana. I was curious because I had never tried this substance but one of the Mexicans warned us: "Don't try that stuff. It make you crazy. Let's go get drunk instead." Ignoring his warning I bought a bag of it to take back to our hotel. Most of the Mexicans left but two followed us back.

Our room was on the third floor with a window facing the main street. And to make the scene complete, a neon sign outside our window was flashing lurid colors across the bed.

We rolled the stash up into a big cigar using a page from a Mexican newspaper and passed it around. The two Mexicans were lying on the bed and Dave and I were sitting on the floor. The neon light was flashing off and on. It looked like a typical sordid drug scene you might see in the movies. It was my very first time smoking marijuana.

Dave and I both saw spiders. Big spiders crawling all over the ceiling and across the walls. But they were comical spiders like something from a Disney cartoon. We burst into laughter at this shared hallucination. There were spiders running all over our room. And they were really very very funny.

Meanwhile the Mexicans on the bed seemed to be having a bad trip. They had stopped speaking English and were screaming in their own language about Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Perhaps they were having a religious experience but it seemed not to be a pleasant one. Perhaps they had "gone crazy" as their comrade had suggested might happen with this loco weed we bought in the street. We had no chance to assess their condition because as soon as they calmed down sufficiently, they ran out the door and we never saw them again.

These days, most people interested in experimenting with drugs start out with marijuana and graduate to the "harder stuff" but for me it was just the opposite, For Nick Herbert, on Christmas Eve 1963, in Mexico City, for better or for worse, LSD became a gateway drug to marijuana.

El gringo existentialista