Saturday, January 31, 2009

Manifesting the Mind: The Trailer

A visitor to physicist Niels Bohr's cabin in the woods pointed to a horseshoe mounted above the door. "Surely, Professor Bohr, you do not believe in such superstitious nonsense."

"Certainly not," Bohr replied. "But they say that it works whether you believe in it or not."

Niels Bohr's horseshoe is a lot like quantum mechanics which works like a charm whether physicists really understand it or not (we don't). Niels Bohr's horseshoe is also like a psychedelic drug which can offer an ordinary person a glimpse of Ineffable Reality unmatched by what any religious ceremony can produce. LSD works no matter what you believe. You don't have to fast, meditate for hours, memorize the catechism, read the sacred books or go to church. NO BELIEF IS NECESSARY. As Terence McKenna once put it: "Now even bad people can see God."

Physicists are learning to come to terms with the utter madness of quantum theory and our society has benefitted tremendously from their ingenuity in deciphering what physicist Heinz Pagels called "the Cosmic Code". However our culture has yet to discover how to effectively deal with the plants and molecules that allow "even bad people to see God" in any other way than by fearfully outlawing their use and severely punishing heretics with long prison terms.

Raiding medical marijuana dispensaries and arresting Administers of the Sacrament at Burning Man are really bad ideas--such actions seem more characteristic of an ignorant totalitarian state than a nation that truly cares for its citizens' freedom, well being and sense of adventure.

Many primitive cultures valued psychedelic exploration and created social forms in which the use of psychedelic substances was ritualized and channeled into beneficial directions. If unlettered peoples who live in the jungle can devise ways to safely explore deep inner space for the benefit of their fellows, one can only imagine how a society that invented space travel, quantum mechanics, symphony orchestras and compound interest might benefit if responsible use of these remarkable substances was encouraged rather than banned.

Andrew Rutajit's video "Manifesting the Mind" explores some of the possibilities that the imaginative use of psychedelics might hold for a technologically advanced society. This Youtube clip is a trailer for Rutajit's video which is scheduled for release sometime in February 2009.

Also coming soon: "2000-year-old Pickup Line" 
to be published here on St. Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Package from Denman Island

Artist-musician Arne Olafson mailed me a package from Denman Island in British Columbia without telling me what was in it. I found it in my post office box Monday and decided to open it at the beach--not knowing what kind of weirdness it might contain. See previous Postcard from Denman Island for sample of Arne's sense of humor.
On Tuesday afternoon, August O'Connor and I travelled to 13th Ave beach in Santa Cruz and she deployed a camera to record the event of its opening. I found the package to be made of some indestructible plastic but fortunately August was carrying a small knife with a scissors attachment with which I was able to make an incision into the packet's side and expand the hole to partially reveal its contents.
As the edge of the package opened it exposed a thick navy-blue cloth annulus with bright orange insides. My first reaction was that it was some sort of portable orifice such as might be used on the shores of the Georgia Straits in some bizarre hippy rite. Perhaps it is a model of that new quantum opening into nature that I have been seeking for so long.
HO! It's a kind of crenelated headgear made by WITSEND of Denman Island. (They seem to be putting together a website at Just fits and it's warm too. Maybe it's some kind of "thinking cap" that will attract inspiration for my work on the edges of human knowledge. The points might act as psychic lightning rods for attracting novel ideas from out of the deep etheric fields of consciousness. Or maybe it's a telepathic version of a cell phone. Thanks, Arne.
I'm way too old to be a court jester, but it could be a royal crown. Yeah, right. King Kwantum. Or perhaps the Emperor of Entanglement. Or the Czar of GHZ. Here's King Nicholas sitting on his stone throne at the edge of his empire which encompasses an enormous multidimensional region of Hilbert space. (As do your own empires, lads and lassies.) I hope to become worthy of this new crown and to bring honor and treasure to my kingdom to share with my friends. I will be sure not to let the duties of this new office interfere with the solitude of my Tantric Hermitage nor interrupt my quantum research projects. Sir Arne Olafson of Denman Island, please accept the hearty thanks of good King Nick for your splendid gift.

Sunday, January 25, 2009



I knew all the time that your offer was phony
but I went along just for laughs
I knew all along that you planned to kill me
but I played along because it was warm
I played along because it tasted sweet
I played along because it reminded me 
of someplace else.

I knew all the time that it was an illusion
but I went along because I liked the smell of it
I played along because I liked the taste of it
I played along because I liked the way it felt
especially under water.

Even tho I knew it was an illusion
Even tho I knew it was a dream
I liked the way it moved
I liked the sounds it made
I liked the way it all fit together
I like the way it pulsated at my touch
I liked the way it gave off light
especially after dark.

Even tho I knew it was an illusion
I loved it all
Loved every apparent pleasure
Loved the way it seemed to hurt
Loved all the lies, the tricks, the make-believe.

Loved the stage sets, the makeup, the tacky props
Loved every unreal second
Loved every male mannikin
Loved every female impersonator
Loved every fraudulent molecule
Loved every phony atom
I was completely fooled
I was entirely taken in.

I loved it all
I really fell for it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Master of the Interview

Q: What do Jack Kevorkian, Annie Sprinkle, Noam Chomsky, George Carlin and Tim Leary have in common?

A: They've all been interviewed by David Jay Brown.

David's also interviewed Ram Dass, Terence McKenna, Fakir Musafar, John Mack, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Anton Wilson, Laura Huxley, Dean Radin, Jerry Garcia and dozens of other famous "mavericks of the mind"--the title of his first interview collection. Besides "Mavericks of the Mind", Dave's interview books include "Mavericks of Medicine", "Voices from the Edge" and "Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse". Fans of David Jay Brown, Master of the Interview, have placed some of his best conversations online.

David Jay Brown has written sci-fi novels, articles for magazines as varied as "Scientific American" and "High Times" and he has collaborated with Rupert Sheldrake, controversial author of "Seven Experiments That Could Change the World" on some of these potentially world-changing investigations. Dave is currently the guest editor of the MAPS Bulletin where he's completing yet one more collection of interviews--this one focusing on psychedelics. MAPS is an organization whose goal is to help President Obama formulate a more humane and rational policy towards psychedelic substances. 

As a good anthropologist, Dave necessarily immerses himself in the unusual life styles of the people he interviews. And, as a good writer, Dave takes notes. Not only notes about other people but notes about his own colorful life. Those of us who know Dave have been encouraging him to mine his many journals for what could be the most in-depth and engaging interview of his career: "Life on the Psychedelic Mississippi: the Adventures of David Jay Brown".

Oh. yes. Long ago Dave Brown interviewed Nick Herbert for "Mavericks of the Mind". I was one of David's first contactees. Not only an excellent summary of my mission in life but the first and only time Nick's appeared between the same covers as Allen Ginsberg.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brattoned by Bruce!

News recently came to the Quantum Tantra Hermitage that Nick's anonymity has been shattered. This week this very blog was featured on Bruce Bratton Online. Bruce Bratton (pictured above) is the Herb Caen of Santa Cruz whose columns and radio shows over the years have spotlighted the great, the near-great, the weird, the obscure and the outrageous personalities that make our little beach town (cum university) so famously colorful. Bruce is delightfully opinionated about nearly everything he reports and every column always ends with a Tim (Subconscious Comics) Eagan cartoon that gives your brain a final lemon-peel garnish-- each cartoon a painless little dose of twisted wisdom. Bratton and Eagan--check 'em out. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Nature of Science

I love the feel of the nitrous oxide experience. Admired by psychologist William James as a useful vehicle for exploring the outer realms of consciousness, used by American folk mystic Benjamin Blood as a trigger for his Anesthetic Revelation, and by contemporary spiritual teacher Bhagavan Rajneesh as an inspirational tool for writing books, nitrous seems both to diminish the mind as well as to expand it. 

My tentative model for the NO2 state is that because the mind is reduced to (perhaps) a few quanta of sentience, any thought that the mind happens to dwell on fills this "little mind" completely and hence acquires a supreme significance. Even the most trivial event seems "so important" on nitrous but despite its temporary importance each thought is forgotten in an instant when the little mind moves on to its next big thought. Nitrous, in some moods, seems like a rehearsal for death, when the mind will be reduced to fewer and fewer quanta of awareness but each of supreme importance. And then finally none at all. In such nitrous-y states I often wonder what my last thought will be. Which of my many memories will end up being the fittest? Which event in my life was so memorable that it will be able to resist the corrosive effects of death until the very last second of my life?

Here's one candidate in my mind for most memorable memory.

Some years ago I was visiting the San Francisco apartment of maverick physicist Jack Sarfatti (pictured above). His father Hyman Sarfatti, a sheet metal worker turned mystic, was also living (visiting?) there and would regale all guests with his insights into the divine nature of reality. Hyman was out at the moment and Jack and I were reading the San Francisco Chronicle. Jack found an article about a talk that had been given by German rocket scientist Werner von Braun entitled "The Nature of Science". So Jack puts on his best fake German accent, picks up a piece of silverware and acts out what he imagined von Braun might have said on the subject.

"SCIENCE IS A KNIFE!" shouts Jack, rising from his chair and wielding a table knife.

"UND VE MUSST CUT, CUT, CUT!"  frantically slashing the air.

I laughed so hard at Jack that I almost gave myself a hernia. From the fact that this silly little experience ranks so high in my catalog of memorable events, one might reasonable conclude that when Nick goes out, it will be with a big smile on his face.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007)

Writer-philosopher Robert Anton Wilson departed the physical plane exactly two years ago at his home in Capitola, CA on 1/11/07. (For those fascinated by numerology "o7" is "111" in binary notation.)

Bob Wilson is best known for his numerous books, most notably the Illuminatus! Trilogy (with fellow Playboy editor Robert Shea) which aspires to describe the Mother of All Conspiracy Theories, the semi-autobiographical Cosmic Trigger and (my favorite) his Schrödinger Cat Trilogy featuring an innocent sex researcher who becomes entangled in ludicrous schemes. Bob (along with his red-headed wife Arlen) also hosted wherever they happened to live--whether Berkeley, Dublin, or Capitola--an ongoing salon of cutting-edge intellects. Bob and Arlen loved witty conversations and odd personalities. Many of my friends I first met in and around Robert Anton Wilson's circle--Bob was a "strange attractor" who liked to use his friends as material for his writings.

One of my favorite Wilson events was a large Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) celebration organized by underground impresario Joseph Matheny in a San Francisco warehouse, where I recited some early quantum tantra rants alongside skits by Bob himself, performance astrologer Rob Brezsny, shit-kicking essayist Peter Lamborn Wilson and numerous other celebrities on both sides of the proscenium. I also remember racing in a Jeep thru the night streets of New York with Bob in order to be interviewed on Hakim Bey's Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade on WBAI in the wee hours of the morning. Later Hakim Bey penned a fine obituary for good old RAW. Bob Wilson also starred, along with science-fiction writer Rudy Rucker and psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna in an experimental film Naked Minds that has yet to be released.

Like his pals McKenna and Leary, Wilson possessed in great measure that verbal inventiveness the Irish call "blarney" and the man crafted many a memorable phrase. My favorite RAW quote: "Reality is where two rival shamans fought each other to a standstill."

As his physical powers waned (he suffered from post-polio syndrome), Bob discovered the World Wide Web and was soon spreading his demented wisdom across the Internet. Where one can still investigate his Maybe Logic Academy and his Guns and Dope Party

In common with millions of freedom-loving Americans, Bob Wilson supported the right of mature adults to smoke "anything they damn well please." A few years back he served as a judge at the annual Cannabis Cup competition in Amsterdam. His favorite authors were James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Raymond Chandler.

After Bob died, his ashes were scattered in Monterey Bay joining wife Arlen's as we revelers partied and followed the progress of his deathboat with Irish harpist at the prow from the windows of the fabled Coconut Grove on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Pictures from Bob's Final Party are posted here and here.

Goodbye, Mr. Wilson. This world is poorer without you.   

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Hubble Space Kaleidoscope

Unlike the Hubble Telescope, which has allowed astronomers to view remote objects millions of light years away, the orbital kaleidoscope observatory has taken humankind's knowledge of the cosmos one step further: Scientists now have access to clear images of the multicolored polygons and sparkling glitter now believed to cover up to 99.999 percent of the known universe.

The new data have challenged nearly every assumption about astronomical phenomena.

"When we trained the powerful kaleidoscope lens on the massive eye of Jupiter, we expected to see a swirling behemoth of red and orange gas," said Dr. Mae Ling-Turlington, who works at the observatory. "What we found instead was a dazzling hexagonal array of variegated prismatic configurations, changing our very understanding of the atmospheric patterns there on the solar system's spikiest-looking planet."

These findings are so startling, in fact, that kaleidoscopists are calling for standard models of the structure of the universe to be revamped. According to the new data, the so-called asteroid "belt" is actually an asteroid squiggle; and Mars is only red "some of the time," vacillating between purplish-blue, orange and turquoise with specks of green as it moves along its six separate orbits around the sun.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Czar Nicholas Abdicates

Czar Nicholas pre-abdicates in favor of Dr Ethan Nadelmann (pictured above). See Drug Czar of my Dreams for plenty of reasons why Obama's selection of anybody else for this important policy position would be a betrayal of everything that America traditionally stands for--our Founding Fathers' appeal to reason rather than blind ideology, respect for individual freedom of choice, and the Inalienable Rights (remember these?) to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Just say No to fear-based Drug Demonization and Yes to a compassionate, science-based strategy for dealing with these remarkable substances which have shown great potential to heal human bodies and elevate human minds. 

Nick Herbert endorses Dr. Ethan Nadelmann for America's Drug Czar! (Thanks, Matt.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Nick Says No To Drug Czar Post

Although the title "Czar Nicholas" has a certain attractive historical resonance and although the position would benefit from being managed by 1. a respected scientist rather than a political hack, 2. someone who has personally experienced both the positive and negative effects of the substances he would be regulating, Nick Herbert, Physics PhD (Stanford 1967) has decided not to accept Barack Obama's offer to be America's next drug czar. Nick feels that his powers are better directed to developing the world's next Brand New Science rather than presiding over the winding down of America's ill-conceived. non-scientific and economically and humanly wasteful War on Drugs.

However, if President Obama's choice for this crucial post is interested in true change for the betterment of America rather than mere cosmetic postering for the media, I would offer one piece of advice that I consider absolutely essential for a rational American drug policy to replace our present drug laws which can only be characterized as irrational and even insane.

Legalize marijuana immediately.

With no more than stroke of a pen, Obama has the ability to set into motion powerful forces that will transform America for the good.

1. Americans will now be free to produce in their own backyards, vacant lots and fallow fields a valuable economic product that will employ millions of people in a traditional occupation that, unlike the failing financial institutions, actually produces a concrete good rather than merely moving numbers from the accounts of poor people to the accounts of rich people. Billions of dollars in Real Value will be created by the spontaneous acts of millions of ordinary citizens returning to the soil. And thousands enterprising Americans will invent Brand New Businesses to support, publicize and market what their fellow Americans have produced. Made in USA could once again become a source of pride in the world.

2. Marijuana is medicine. As testified by thousands of satisfied users and hundreds of scientific studies. Making marijuana legal will not solve America's health care crisis but it will signal a small step in the right direction. And this bold move will demonstrate that Obama Really Cares about the well-being of the American people rather than being just another mouther of empty platitudes.

3. Scientists will also be free to explore this remarkable substance. Naturally occuring cannabinol receptors in the brain seem to possess an unusual backwards-acting neuro-stimulator action in the brain that is unique and worthy of further study. With the stroke of a pen, Obama can demonstrate that he is a Friend of Science by opening up this promising new area of brain research that is currenty halted by anti-science federal regulations.

4. The term "recreational substance" should not be demonized. Americans spend billions of dollars on purely recreational media, games and travel. With the stroke of a pen Obama will be opening up a new (for some) channel of pleasure for many, many sick, depressed and bored Americans. Millions will thank him. And the money will roll in. Did I mention that all marijuana sales will be taxed just like alcohol and hence will provide a much-needed source of funding for our increasingly indebted government, as well as employment for new tax collectors? The long-running Dutch experiment permitting regulated consumption of cannabis products in special "coffee houses" provides a valuable precedent for our own home-grown American implementation of the basic human right to "the pursuit of happiness."

5. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners will be released, freeing up our overcrowded jails for the necessary business of housing the "real criminals" who are a true danger to our society.

6. The numerous blue-ribbon commissions convened by various administrations have unanimously agreed that the dangers of marijuana are exaggerated especially as compared to the well-known ills of deceptively legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol. Nonetheless, marijuana, like sugar and aspirin, is surely not a harmless substance. Hence reasonable laws should be enforced that restrict its use to mature adults. 

7. As a producer rather than a consumer of a substance in high demand, American will, by the stroke of Obama's pen, begin to reverse the steeply negative trend of the international trade war that has seen America's steel mills, our automobile factories and our heavy industry being outclassed by foreign competitors. Only America's farms are still competitive and here Obama can create a new and very valuable farm product to help an embattled USA win the World Trade War.

To the very important position of America's next drug czar, Nicholas says No. But he is not alone in believing that any drug czar who is seriously interested in bettering this nation and its wonderful people must Legalize Marijuana Immediately. No joke.