Memory Temple

The Temple of Time


Emma Willard

( 01846 )


The “Temple of Time” is a three-dimensional projection of historical chronography. In the temple, the vertical columns represent centuries, with those on the right showing names of important figures from the Old World while those on the left show figures from the New World. The floor shows a historical stream chart. The ceiling functions as a chart of biography.

Created in 01846 by the pioneering American girls educator Emma Willard, The “Temple of Time” draws on the tradition of Renaissance “memory theaters”, mnemonic devices that allowed people to memorize information by imagining it as architectural details in a three-dimensional mental space.

Artificial Memory


_The Art of Memory_


Frances A. Yates
( 01966 )

( Hundreds of years before the invention of movable type made possible the widespread reproduction of written records, the Greeks devised a system of "artificial memory" to retain vast stores of knowledge without the help of the printed page. In this book Frances Yates traces the art of memory from its use by the orators of antiquity, through its moralized and Gothic transformations in the Middle Ages, to the occult forms it took in the Renaissance, and finally to its use in the seventeenth century by the scientific philosophers. This book is the first to relate the art of memory to the history of culture as a whole. Historians of philosophy and psychology, of the art of literature, and of the emergence of the scientific method will welcome this important study. )


". . .the most complete pictures are formed in our minds of the things that have been conveyed to them and imprinted on them by the senses, but that the keenest of all our senses is the sense of sight, and that consequently perceptions received by the ears or by reflexion can be most easily retained if they are also conveyed to our minds by the mediation of the eyes. . . "

" . . .One must employ a large number of places which must be well-lighted, clearly set out in order, at moderate intervals apart; and images which are active, sharply defined, unusual, and which have the power of speedily encountering and penetrating the psyche. . . "

" . . .The perceptions brought in by the five senses are at first treated or work upon by the faculty of imagination, and it is the images so formed which become the material of the intellectual faculty. Imagination is the intermediary between perception and thought. Thus while all knowledge is ultimately derived from sense perceptions it is not on these in the raw that thought works but after they have been treated by, or absorbed into, the imaginative faculty. It is the image-making part of the soul which makes the work of the higher processes of thought possible. . . "

" . . .'Man cannot understand without images (phantasmata); the image is a similitude of a corporeal thing, but understanding is of universals which are to be abstracted from particulars' This formulates the fundamental position of the theory of knowledge of both Aristotle and Aquinas. What then is memory ? It is the sensitive part of the soul which takes the images of sense impression; it therefore belongs to the same part of the soul as imagination, but it also per accidens in the intellectual part since the abstracting intellect works in it on the phantasmata. . . "

 " . . .one must be extremely careful to distinguish between art proper and the art of memory, which is an invisible art, yet their frontiers must surely have overlapped. For when people were being taught to practise the formation of images for remembering, it is difficult to suppose that such inner images might not sometimes have found their way into outer expression. Or, conversely, when the 'things' which they were to remember through inner images were of the same kind as the 'things' which Christian didactic art taught through images, that the places and images of that art might themselves have been reflected in memory, and so have become 'artificial memory'. . . "

" What galleries of unusual and striking similitudes for new and unusual virtues and vices, as well as for the well known ones, may have remained forever invisible within the memories of pious and possibly artistically gifted persons ! The art of memory was a creator of imagery which must surely have flowed out into creative works of art and literature. . . "

" . . .Though always bearing in mind that an externalized visual representation in art proper must be distinguished from the invisible pictures of memory--the mere fact of external representation so distinguishes it--it can be a new experience to look at some early fourteenth-century works of art from the point of view of memory. . . "

" . . .In Victor Hugo's _Norte Dame de Paris_, a scholar, deep in meditation in his study high up in the cathedral, gazes at the first printed book which has come to disturb his collection of manuscripts. Then opening a window, he gazes at the vast cathedral, silhouetted against the starry sky, crouching like an enormous sphinx in the middle of the town. 'Ceci tuera cela', he says. The printed book will destroy the building. The parable which Hugo develops out of the comparison of the building, crowded with images, with the arrival in his library of a printed book might be applied to the effect on the invisible cathedrals of memory of the past of the the spread of printing. The printed book will make such huge built up memories, crowded with images, unnecessary. It will do away with habits of immemorial antiquity whereby a 'thing' is immediately invested with an image and stored in the places of memory. . . "

" . . .'What a great miracle is man, a being worthy of reverence and honour. For he goes into the nature of a god, as though he were himself a god; he is familiar with the race of demons, knowing that he is issued from the same origin; he despises that part of his nature which is only human, for he has put his hope in the divinity of the other part.'

This again affirms the divinity of man, and that he belongs to the same race as the creative star-demons.

The divinity in man's intellect is again affirmed in the twelfth treatise of the _Corpus Hermeticum_, and this was the favorite treatise of Camillo's from which he frequently quotes. The intellect is drawn from the very substance of God. In men this intellect is God; and so some men are gods and their humanity is near to the divinity.The world too is divine; it is a great god, image of a greater God.

These Hermetic teachings on the divinity of man's mind in which Camillo was saturated, are reflected in his memory system. It is because he believes in the divinity of man that the divine Camillo makes his stupendous claim of being able to remember the universe by looking down upon it from above, from first causes, as though he were God. In this atmosphere, the relationship between man, the microcosm, and the world, the macrocosm, takes on a new significance. The microcosm can fully understand and fully remember the macrocosm, can hold it within his divine mind or memory. . . "

". . .Finally, and this is probably the most significant aspect of Lullism in the history of thought, Lull introduces movement into memory. The figures of his Art, on which its concepts are set out in the letter notation, are not static but revolving.One of the figures consists of concentric circles, marked with the letter notations standing for the concepts, and when these wheels revolve, combinations of the concepts are obtained. In another revolving figure, triangles within a circle pick up related concepts. These are simple devices, but revolutionary in their attempt to represent movement in the psyche.

Think of the great mediaeval encyclopadedic schemes, with all knowledge arranged in static parts, made yet more static in the classical art by the memory building stoked with the images. And then think of Lullism, with its algebraic notations, breaking up the static schemata into new combinations on its revolving wheels. The first art is the more artistic, but the second is the more scientific. . . "

". . .But it is not enough to say vaguely that the memory wheels worked by magic. It was a highly systematized magic. Systematisation is one of the key-notes of Giordono Bruno's mind; there is a compulsion towards systems and systematisation in the magic mnemonics which drives their designer throughout his life to a perpetual search for the right system. . .Did he intend that there would be formed in the memory using these ever-changing combinations of astral images some kind of alchemy of the imagination, a philosopher's stone in the psyche through which every possible arrangement and combination of objects in the lower world--plants, animals, stones--would be perceived and remembered ? And that, in the forming and reforming of the astral images on the central wheel, the whole history of man would be remembered from above, as it were, all his discoveries, thoughts, philosophies, productions ?

Such a memory would be the memory of a divine man, of a Magus with divine powers through his imagination harnessed to the workings of cosmic powers. And such an attempt would rest on the Hermetic assumption that man's mind is divine, related in its origin to the star-governors of the world, able both to reflect and control the universe.

Magic assumes laws and forces running through the universe which the operator can use, once he knows the way to capture them. As I have emphasized in my other book, the Renaissance conception of an animistic universe, operated by magic, prepared the way for the conception of a mechanical universe, operated by mathematics. In this sense, Bruno's vision of an animistic universe of innumerable worlds through which run the same magico-mechanical laws, is a prefiguration, in magical terms, of the seventeenth-century vision. But Bruno's main interest was not in the outer world but in the inner world. And in his memory systems we see the effort to operate the magico-mechanical laws, not externally, but within, by reproducing in the psyche the magical mechanisms. The translation of this magical conception into mathematical terms has only been achieved in our own day. Bruno's assumption that the astral forces which govern the outer world also operate within, and can be reproduced or captured there to operate a magical-mechanical memory seems to bring one curiously close to the mind machine which is able to do so much of the work of the human brain by mechanical means.

Nevertheless, the approach from the mind machine angle does not really begin to explain Bruno's effort. From the Hermetic universe in which he lived the divine had not been banished. The astral forces were instruments of the divine; beyond the operative stars there were yet higher divine forms. And the highest form was, for Bruno, the One, the divine unity. The memory system aims at unification on the star level as a preparation for reaching the higher Unity. For Bruno, magic was not an end in itself but a means of reaching the One behind appearances. . . "

" . . .'I sat down under the shadow of him whom I desired.' One must sit under the shadow of the good and the true. To feel towards this through the interior senses, through the images in the human mind, is to sit under the shadow. There follow 'intentions' on light and darkness, and on the shadows which, descending from the supersubstantial unity proceed into an infinite multitude; they descend from the supersubstantial to its vestiges, images, and simulachra. Lower things are connected with higher and higher with lower; to the lyre of the universal Apollo there is a continual rising and falling through the chain of the elements. If the ancients knew a way by which memory, from the multitude of memorised species might reach unity, they did not teach it. All is in all in nature. So in the intellect all is in all. And memory can memorise all from all. The chaos of Anaxagoras is variety without order; we must put order into variety. By making the connections of the higher with the lower you have one beautiful animal, the world. The concord between higher and lower things is the golden chain from earth to heaven; as descent can be made from heaven to earth, so ascent may be made through this order from earth to heaven. The first intellect is the light of Amphitrite. This is diffused through all; it is the fountain of unity in which the innumerable is made one. The forms of deformed animals are beautiful in heaven; non-luminous metals shine in their planets; neither man, nor animals, nor metals are here as they are there. Illuminating, vivifying, uniting, conforming yourself to the superior agents you will advance in the conception and retention of the species. The light contains the first life, intelligence, unity, all species, perfect truths, numbers, grades of things. Thus what in nature is different, contrary diverse, is there the same, congruent, One. Try therefore with all your might to identify, co-ordinate, and unite the received species. Do not disturb your mind nor confuse your memory. Of all the forms of the world, the pre-eminent are the celestial forms. Through them you will arrive from the confused plurality of things at the unity. Parts of the body are better understood together than when taken separately. Thus when the parts of the universal species are not considered separately but in relation to their underlying order, what is there that we may not memorise, understand, and do ? One is the splendour of beauty in all. One is the brightness emitted from the multitude of species. The formation of things in the lower world is inferior to true form, a degradation and vestige of it. Ascend, then, to where the species are pure, and formed with true form. Everything that is, after the One, is necessarily multiplex and numerous. Thus on the lowest grade of the scale of nature is infinite number, on the highest is infinite unity. As the ideas are the principal forms of things, according to which all is formed, so we should form in us the shadows of ideas. We form them in us, as in the revolution of wheels. . . "

" . . .the unity of the All in the One is 'a most solid foundation for the truths and secrets of nature. For you must know that it is by one and the same ladder that nature descends to the production of things and the intellect ascends to the knowledgeof them; and that the one and the other proceeds from the unity and returns to unity, passing through the multitude of things in the middle.'

The aim of the memory system is to establish within, in the psyche, the return of the intellect to unity through the organisation of significant images. . . "

" . . .Thus the classical art of memory, in the truly extraordinary Renaissance and Hermetic transformation of it which we see in the memory system of Giordono Bruno has become the vehicle for the formation of the psyche of a Hermetic mystic and Magus. The Hermetic principle of reflection of the universe in the mind as a religious experience is organised through the art of memory into a magico-religious technique for grasping and unifying the world of appearances through arrangements of significant images. . . "

" . . .We saw that the magic of magic images could be interpreted in the Renaissance as an artistic magic; the image became endued with aesthetic power through being endowed with perfect proportions. We would expect to find that in a highly gifted nature, such as that of Giordano Bruno, the intensive inner training of the imagination in memory might take notable inner forms.

To painters and poets says Bruno, there is a distributed equal power. The painter excels in imaginative power (phantastica virtus); the poet excels in cogitative power to which he is impelled by an enthusiasm, deriving from a divine afflatus to give expression. Thus the source of the poet's power is close to that of the painter. ' Whence philosophers are in some ways painters and poets; painters are philosophers and poets. Whence true poets, true painters, and true philosophers seek one another out and admire one another. ' For there is no philosopher who does not mould and paint; whence that saying is not to be feared ' to understand is to speculate with images ', and the understanding ' either is the fantasy or does not exist without it '. . ."

"  . . .'As the world is said to be the image of God, so Trismegistus does not fear to call man the image of the world '. Bruno's philosophy was the Hermetic philosophy; that man is the ' great miracle ' described in the Hermetic _Asclepius_; that his mind is divine, of a like nature with the star governors of the universe, as described in the Hermetic _Primander_. In _L'idea del theatro di Giulio Camillo_ we were able to trace in detail the basis in the Hermetic writings of Camillo's effort to construct a memory theatre reflecting ' the world ', to be reflected in ' the world ' of memory. Bruno works from the same Hermetic principles. If man's mind is divine, then the divine organisation of the universe is within it, and an art which reproduces the divine organisation in memory will tap the powers of the cosmos, which are in man himself.

When the contents of memory are unified there will begin to appear within the psyche ( so this Hermetic memory artist believes ) the vision of the One beyond the multiplicity of appearances. . ."

" . . .Since the divine mind is universally present in the world of nature, the process of coming to know the divine mind must be through the reflection of the images in the world of sense within the mind. Therefore the function of the imagination of ordering the images in memory is an absolutely vital one in the cognitive process. Vital and living images will reflect the vitality of life in the world, unifying the contents of memory and set up magical correspondencies between outer and inner worlds. Images must be charged with affects, and particularly with the affect of Love, for so they have the power to penetrate to the core both of the outer and the inner worlds--an extraordinary mingling here of classical memory advice on using emotionally charged images, combined with a magician's use of an emotionally charged imagination, combined again with mystical and religious use of love imagery. "

" . . .Bruno was undoubtedly genuinely trying to do something which he thought was possible, trying to find the arrangements of significant images which would work as a way of inner unification. The Art ' by which we may become joined to the soul of the world ' is one the guides in his religion. It is not a cloak under which to conceal that religion; it is an essential part of it, one of its main techniques.

Moreover, as we have seen, Bruno's memory efforts are not isolated phenomena. They belong into a definite tradition, the Renaissance occult tradition to which the art of memory in occult forms had been affiliated. With Bruno, the exercises in Hermetic mnemonics have become the spiritual exercises of a religion. And there is a certain grandeur in these efforts which represent, at bottom, a religious striving. The religion of Love and Magic is based on the Power of the Imagination, and on an Art of Imagery through which the Magus attempts to grasp, and hold within, the universe in all its ever changing forms, through images passing into the other in intricate associative orders, reflecting the ever changing movements of the heavens, charged with emotional affects, unifying, forever attempting to unify, to reflect the great monas of the world in its image, the mind of man. There is surely something which commands respect in an attempt so vast in its scope. . . "

". . .( Bruno ) has to the full the Renaissance creative power. He creates inwardly the vast forms of his cosmic imagination, and when he externalizes these forms in literary creation, works of genius spring to life. Had he externalized in art the statues which he moulds in memory, or the magnificent fresco of the images of the constellations which he paints in _Spaccio Della Bestia Trionfante_, a great artist would have appeared. But it was Bruno's mission to paint and mould within, to teach that the artist, the poet, and philosopher are all one, for the Mother of the Muses is Memory. Nothing comes out but what has been formed within, and it is therefore within that the significant work is done.

We can see that the tremendous force of image-forming which he teaches in the arts of memory is relevant to Renaissance imaginative creative force. But what of the frightful detail with which he expound those arts, the revolving wheels of the _Shadows_ system charged, not in general but in detail, with the contents of the worlds of nature and of man, or even more appalling accumulations of memory rooms in the system in _Images_? Are these systems erected solely as vehicles for passing on codes or rituals of a secret society? or, if Bruno really believed in them, surely they are the work of a madman?

There is undoubtedly, I think, a pathological element in the compulsion for system-forming which is one of Bruno's leading characteristics. But what an intense striving after method there is in this madness! Bruno's memory magic is not the lazy magic of the _Ars Notoria_, the practitioner of which just stares at a magical *nota* whilst reciting magical prayers. With untiring industry he adds wheels to wheels, piles memory rooms on memory rooms. With endless toil he forms the innumerable images which are to stock the systems ; endless are the systematic possibilities and they must all be tried. There is in all this what can only be described as a scientific element, a presage on the occult plane of the preoccupation with method of the next century.

For if Memory was the Mother of the Muses, she was also to be the Mother of Method. . . "

" . . .After some of the usual definitions of artificial memory, (Robert) Fludd devotes a chapter to explaining the distinction which he makes between two different types of art, which he calls respectively the 'round art (ars rotunda)', and the 'square art (ars quadrata). . . '

' . . .For the complete perfection of the art of memory the fantasy is operated in two ways. The first way is through *ideas*, which are forms separated from corporeal things, such as spirits, shadows (umbrae), souls and so on, also angels, which we chiefly use in our ars rotunda. We do not use this word 'ideas' in the same way that Plato does, who is accustomed to use it of the mind of God, but for anything which is not composed of the four elements, that is to say for things spiritual and simple conceived in the imagination; for example angels, demons, the effigies of stars, the images of gods and goddesses to whom celestial powers are attributed and which partake more of a spiritual than a corporeal nature; similarly virtues and vices conceived in the imagination and made into shadows, which were also held as demons. '

The 'round art', then, uses magicised or talismanic images, effigies of the stars; 'statues' of gods and goddesses animated with celestial influences; images of virtues and vices, as in the old medieval art, but now thought of as containing 'demonic' or magical power. Fludd is working at a classification of images into potent and less potent such as was Bruno's constant preoccupation.

The 'square art' uses images of corporeal things, of men, of animals, of inanimate objects. When its images are of men or of animals, these are active, engaged in actions of some kind. These two arts, the round and the square, are the only two possible arts of memory, states Fludd. 

'Memory can only be artificially improved, either by medicaments, or by the operation of the fantasy towards *ideas* in the round art, or through images of corporeal things in the square art. . . ' "

" . . .Having laid down the distinction between the *ars rotunda* and the *ars quadrata* and the different kinds of images to be used in each, and having made clear his view that the *ars quadrata* must always use real buildings, Fludd now arrives at the exposition of his memory system. This is a combination of the round and the square. Based on the round heavens, the zodiac and the spheres of planets, it uses in combination with these, buildings which are to be placed in the heavens, buildings containing places with memory images on them which will be, as it were, astrally activated by being organically related to the stars.
. . .
The striking and exciting feature of Fludd's memory system is that the memory buildings which are to be placed in the heavens in this new combination of the round and the square arts, are what he calls 'theatres'. And by this word 'theatre' he does not mean what we should call a theatre, a building consisting of a stage and an auditorium. He means a stage.

' I call a theatre (a place which) all actions of words, of sentences, of particulars of speech or of subjects are shown, as in a public theatre in which comedies and tragedies are acted. . . "

" . . .In his third book on temples, Vitruvius describes how the figure of man with extended arms and legs fits exactly into a square or a circle. In the Italian Renaissance, this Vitruvian image of Man within the square or circle became the favourite expression of the relation of the microcosm to the macrocosm, or, as Rudolf Wittkower puts it, 'invigorated by the Christian belief that Man as the image of God embodied the harmonies of the Universe, the Vitruvian figure inscribed in a square and a circle became a symbol of the mathematical sympathy between microcosm and macrocosm. How could the relation of Man to God be better expressed. . .than by building the house of God in accordance with the fundamental geometry of square and circle ?' This was the preoccupation of all the great Renaissance architects. . ."

" . . .It is a curious and significant fact that the art of memory is known and discussed in the seventeenth century not only, as we should expect, by a writer like Robert Fludd who is still following the Renaissance tradition, but also by the thinkers who are turning in the new directions, by Francis Bacon, by Descartes, by Leibniz. For in this century the art of memory underwent yet another of its transformations, turning from a method of memorising the encyclopaedia of knowledge, of reflecting the world in memory, to an aid for investigating the encyclopaedia and the world with the object of discovering new knowledge. It is fascinating to watch how, in the trends of the new century, the art of memory survives as a factor in the growth of scientific memory. . . "

" . . .Francis Bacon had a very full knowledge of the art of memory and himself used it. The importance with Bacon attached to the art of memory is shown by the fact that it figures quite prominently in the _Advancement of Learning_ as one of the arts and sciences which are in need of reform, both in their methods and in the ends for which they are used. The extant art of memory could be improved, says Bacon, and it should be used, not for empty ostentation, but for useful purposes. The general trend of the _Advancement_ towards improving thearts and sciences and turning them to useful ends is brought to bear on memory, of which, says Bacon, there is an art extant 'but it seemeth to me that there are better precepts than that art, and better practices of that art than those received'. As now used the art may be 'raisedto points of ostentation prodigious' but it is barren, and not used for serious 'business and occasions'. He defines the art as based on 'prenotions' and 'emblems', the Baconian version of places and images :

'This art of memory is but built upon two intentions; the one prenotion, the other emblem. Prenotion discargeth the indefinite seeking of that we would remember, and directeth us to seek in a narrow compass, that is, somewhat that hath congruity with our place of memory. Emblem reduceth conceits intellectual to images sensible, which strike the memory more; out of which axioms may be drawn better practique than that in use. . .'

Places are further defined in the _Novum Organum_ as the

'order or distribution of Common Places in the artificial memory, which may be either Places in the proper sense of the word, as a door, a corner, a window, and the like; or familiar and well known persons; or anything we choose (provided they are arranged in a certain order), as animals, herbs; also words, letters, characters, historical personages. . .'

Such a definition as this of different types of places comes straight out of the mnemonic text-books.

The definition of images as 'emblems' is expanded in the _De Augmentis Scientiarum_ :

'Emblems bring down intellectual to sensible things; for what is sensible always strikes the memory stronger, and sooner impresses itself than the intellectual. . .And therefore it is easier to retain the image of a sportsman hunting the hare, of an apothecary ranging his boxes, an orator making a speech, a boy repeating verses, or a player acting his part, than the corresponding notions of invention, disposition, elocution, memory, action.'

Which shows that Bacon fully subscribed to the ancient view that the active image impresses itself best on memory, and to the Thomist view that intellectual things are best remembered through sensible things. . . "

" . . .It was therefore roughly speaking the normal art of memory using places and images which Bacon accepted and practised. How he proposed to improve it is not clear. But amongst the new uses to which it was to be put was the memorising of matters in order so as to hold in the mind for investigation. This would help scientific enquiry, for by drawing particulars out of the mass of natural history, and ranging them in order, the judgement could be more easily brought to bear upon them. Here the art of memory is being used for the investigation of natural science, and its principles of order and arrangement are turning into something like classification.

The art of memory has here indeed reformed from 'ostentatious' uses by rhetoricians bent on impressing by their wonderful memories and turned to serious business. And amongst the ostentatious' uses which are to be abolished in the reformed use of the art Bacon certainly has in mind the occult memories of the Magi. 'The ancient opinion that man was a microcosmus, an abstract or model of the world, hath been fantastically strained by Paracelsus and the alchemists', he says in _Advancement_. It was on that opinion that 'Metrodorian' memory systems such as that of Fludd were based. To Bacon such schemes might well have seemed 'enchanted glasses' full of distorting 'idola', and far from that humble approach to nature in observation and experiment which he advocated. . ."

" . . .Descartes also exercised his great mind on the art of memory and how it might be reformed, and the mnemonic author who gave rise to his reflections was none other than Lambert Schenkel. In the _Cogitationes Privatae_ there is the following remark :

'On reading through Schenkel's profitable trifles (in the book _De Art Memoria_) I thought of an easy way of making myself master of all I discovered through the imagination. This would be done through the reduction of things to their causes. Since all can be reduced to one it is obviously not necessary to remember all the sciences. When one understands the causes all vanished images can easily be found again in the brain through the impression of the cause. This is the true art of memory and it is plain contrary to his (Schenkel's) nebulous notions. Not that his (art) is without effect, but it occupies the whole space with too many things and not in the right order. The right order is that the images should be formed in dependence on one another. He (Schenkel) omits this which is the key to the whole mystery.

I have thought of another way; that out of unconnected images should be composed new images common to them all, or that one image should be made which should have reference not only to the one nearest to it but to them all -- so that the fifth should refer to the first through a spear thrown on the ground, the middle one through a ladder on which they descend, the second one through an arrow thrown at it, and similarly the third should be connected in some way either real or fictitious.'

Curiously enough, Descarte's suggested reform of memory is nearer to 'occult' principles than Bacon's, for occult memory does reduce all things to their supposed causes whose images when impressed on memory are believed to organise the subsidiary images. The phrase about the 'impression of the cause' through which all vanished images can be found might easily be that of an occult memory artist. Of course Descartes is certainly not thinking on such lines but his brilliant new idea of organising memory on causes sounds curiously like a rationalisation of occult memory. His other notions about forming connected images are far from new and can be found in some form in nearly every text-book.

It seems unlikely that Descartes made much use of local memory which he neglected to practise much in his retreat and which he regarded as 'corporeal memory' and 'outside of us' as compared with 'intellectual memory' which is within and incapable of increase or decrease. This singularly crude idea is in keeping with Descarte's lack of interest in the imagination and its functioning. . . "

" . . .Both Bacon and Descartes knew of the art of (Ramon) Lull to which they both refer in very derogatory terms. . .Thus neither the discoverer of the inductive method, which was not to lead to scientifically valuable results, nor the discoverer of the method of analytical geometry, which was to revolutionise the world as the first systematic application of mathematics to the investigation of nature, have anything good to say of the method of Ramon Lull. Why indeed should they? What possible connection can there be between the 'emergence of modern science' and that mediaeval art, so frantically revived and 'occultised' in the Renaissance, with its combinatory systems based on Divine Names or attributes. Nevertheless the Art of Ramon Lull had this in common with the aims of Bacon and Descartes. It promised to provide a universal art or method which, because based on reality, could be applied for the solution of all problems. Moreover it was a kind of geometrical logic, with its squares and triangles and its revolving combinatory wheels; and it used a notation of letters to express the concepts with which it was dealing.

. . .Descartes said that what he was meditating was not an *ars brevis* of Lull, but a new science which would be able to solve all questions concerning quantity. The operative word is, of course, 'quantity', making the great change from qualitative and symbolic use of number. The mathematical method was hit upon at last, but in order to realise the atmosphere in which it was found we should know something of those frenzied pre-occupations with arts of memory, combinatory arts, Cabalist arts, which the Renaissance bequeathed to the seventeenth century. The occultist tide was receding and in the changed atmosphere the search turns in the direction of the rational method. . ."

" . . .Another interesting example of the emergence of a more rational method from Renaissance occultism is afforded by the _Orbis Pictus_ of Comenius (first edition in 1658). This was a primer for teaching children languages, such as Latin, German, Italian, French, by means of pictures. The pictures are arranged in the order of the world, pictures of the heavens, the stars and celestial phenomena, of animals, birds, stones and so on, of man and all his activities. Looking at the picture of the sun, the child learned the word for sun in all the different languages; or looking at the picture of a theatre, the word for theatre in all the languages. This may seem ordinary enough now that the market is saturated with children's picture books, but it was an astonishingly original pedagogic method in those times and must have made language-learning enjoyable for many a seventeenth-century child as compared to the dull drudgery accompanied by frequent beatings of traditional education.

Now there can be no doubt that the _Orbis Pictus_ came straight out of Campanella's _City of the Sun_, that Utopia of astral magic in which the round central sun temple, painted with the images of the stars, was surrounded by the concentric circles of the walls of the city on which the whole world of the creation and of man and his activities was represented in images dependent on the central causal images. As has been said earlier, the _City of the Sun_ could be used as an occult memory system through which everything could be quickly learned, using the world 'as a book' and as 'local memory'. The children of the Sun City were instructed by the Solarian priests who took them round the City to look at the pictures, whereby they learned the alphabets of all languages and everything else through the images on the walls. The pedagogic method of the highly occult Solarians, and the whole plan of their City and its images, was a form of local memory, with its places and images. Translated into the _Orbis Pictus_, the Solarian magic memory system becomes a perfectly rational, and extremely original and valuable, language primer. . . "

" . . .One of the pre-occupations of the seventeenth-century was the search for a universal language. Stimulated by Bacon's demand for 'real characters' for expressing notions -- characters or signs which should really in contact with the notions they expressed -- Comenius worked in this direction and through his influence a whole group of writers laboured to found universal languages on 'real characters'. As has been shown, these efforts come straight out of the memory tradition with its search for signs and symbols to use as memory images. The universal languages are thought of as aids to memory and in many cases their authors are obviously drawing on the memory treatises. And it may be added that the search for 'real characters' comes out of the memory tradition on its occult side. The seventeenth-century universal language enthusiasts are translating into rational terms efforts such as those of Giordano Bruno to found universal memory systems on magic images which he thought of as directly in contact with reality.

Thus the Renaissance methods and aims merge into seventeenth-century methods and aims and the seventeenth-century reader did not distinguish the modern aspects of the age so sharply as we do. For him, the methods of Bacon or of Descartes were just two more of such things. . . "

" . . .But it is Leibniz who affords by far the most remarkable example of the survival of influences from the art of memory and from Lullism in the mind of a great seventeenth-century figure. It is, of course, generally known that Leibniz was interested in Lullism and wrote a work _De Arte Combinatoria_ based on adaptations of Lullism. What is not well known, is that Leibniz was also very familiar with the traditions of the classical art of memory. In fact, Leibniz's efforts at inventing a universal calculus using combinations of significant signs or characters can undoubtedly be seen as descending historically from Renaissance efforts to combine Lullism with the art of memory of which Giorano Bruno was such an outstanding example. But the significant signs or characters of Leibniz's 'characteristica' were mathematical symbols, and their logical combinations were to produce the invention of the infinitesimal calculus.

Amongst Leibniz's unpublished and published works there are many references to the art of memory. . .*Mnemonica*, says Leibniz, provides the matter of an argument; *Methodologia* gives it form; and *Logica* is the application of the matter to the form. He then defines *Mnemonica* as the joining of the image of some sensible thing to the thing to be remembered, and this image he calls *nota*. The 'sensible' *nota* must have some connection with the thing to be remembered, either because it is like it, or unlike it, or connected to it. In this way words can be remembered, though this is very difficult, and also things. Here the mind of the great Leibniz is moving on lines which takes us straight back to _Ad Herennium_, on images for things, and the harder images for words; he is also recalling the three Aristotelian laws of association so intimately bound up with the memory tradition of the scholastics. He then mentions that things seen are better remembered than things heard, which is why we use *notae* in memory, and adds that the hieroglyphs of the Egyptians and the Chinese are in the nature of memory images. He indicates 'rules for places' in the remark that the distribution of things in cells or places is helpful for memory. . . 

. . .Thus Leibniz knew the memory tradition extremely well; he had studied the memory treatises and had picked up, not only the main lines of the classical rules, but also complications which had grown up around these in the memory tradition. And he was interested in the principles on which the classical art was based.

Of Leibniz and Lullism much has been written, and ample evidence of the influence upon him of the Lullist tradition is afforded by the _Dissertatio de Arte Combinatoria_ (1666). The opening diagram in this work, in which the square of the four elements is associated with the logical square of opposition, show his grasp of Lullism as a natural logic. Leibniz interprets Lullism with arithmetic and with the 'inventive logic' which Francis bacon wanted to improve. There is already here the idea of using the 'combinatoria' with mathematics. . .In this new mathematical-Lullist art, says Leibniz, *notae* will be used as an alphabet. These *notae* are to be as 'natural' as possible, a universal writing. They may be like geometrical figures, or like the 'pictures' used by the Egyptians and the Chinese, though the new Leibniziam *notae* will be better for 'memory' than these. It is perfectly clear that Leibniz is emerging out of a Renaissance tradition -- out of those unending efforts to combine Lullism with the classical art of memory. . . "

" . . .As is well known, Leibniz formed a project known as the 'characteristica'. Lists were drawn up of all the essential notions of thought, and to these notions were to be assigned symbols or 'characters'. The influence of the age-long search since Simonides, for 'images for things' on such a scheme is obvious. Leibniz knew of the aspirations so widely current in the time for the formation of a universal language of signs and symbols, but such schemes, as has already been mentioned, were themselves influenced by the mnemonic tradition. And the 'characteristica' of Leibniz was to be more than a universal language; it was to be a 'calculus'. The 'characters' were to be used in logical combinations to form a universal art or calculus for the solution of all problems. The mature Leibniz, the supreme mathematician and logician, is obviously still emerging straight out of Renaissance efforts for conflating the classical art of memory with Lullism by using the images of the classical art on Lullian combinatory wheels.

Allied to the 'characteristica' or calculus in Leibniz's mind was the project for an encyclopaedia which was to bring together all the arts and sciences known to man. When all knowledge was systematised in the encyclopaedia, 'characters' could be assigned to all notions, and the universal calculus would eventually be established for the solution of all problems. Even religious difficulties would be removed by it.

Ramon Lull believed that his Art, with its letter notations and revolving geometrical figures, could be applied to all subjects of the encyclopaedia, and that it could convince Jews and Mohammedans of the truths of Christianity. Giulio Camillo had formed a Memory Theatre in which all knowledge was to be synthesised through images. Giordano Bruno, putting the images in movement on the Lullian combinatory wheels, had travelled all over Europe with his fantastic arts of memory. Leibniz is the seventeenth-century heir to this tradition. . . "

" . . .Let us turn back now and gaze once more at that strange diagram which we excavated from Bruno's _Shadows_, where the magic images of the stars revolving on the central wheel control the images on other wheels of the contents of the elemental world and the images on the outer wheel representing all the activities of man. Or let us remember _Seals_ where every conceivable memory method known to the ex-Dominican memory expert is tirelessly tried in combinations the efficacy of which rests on the memory image conceived of as having magical force. Let us read again the passage at the end of _Seals_ in which the occult memory artist lists the kinds of images which may be used on the Lullian combinatory wheels, amongst which figure prominently signs, *notae*, characters, seals. Or let us contemplate the spectacle of the statues of gods and goddesses, assimilated to the stars, revolving both as magic images of reality and as memory images comprehending all possible notions, on the wheel in _Statues_. Or think of the inextricable maze of memory rooms in _Images_, full of images of all things in the elemental world, controlled by the significant images of the Olympian gods.

This madness had a very complex method to it, and what was its object? To arrive at universal knowledge through combining significant images of reality. Always we had the sense that there was a fierce scientific impulse in those efforts, a striving, on the Hermetic plane, after some method of the future, half-glimpsed, half-dreamed of, prophetically foreshadowed in those infinitely intricate gropings after a calculus of memory images, after arrangements of memory orders in which the Lullian principle of movement should somehow be combined with a magicised mnemonics using characters of reality.

Looking back now from the vantage point of Leibniz we may see Giordano Bruno as a Renaissance prophet, on the Hermetic plane, of scientific method, and a prophet who shows us the importance of the classical art of memory, combined with Lullism, in preparing the way for the finding of a Great Key. . . "

 " . . .But the matter does not end here. We have always hinted or guessed that there was a secret side to Bruno's memory systems, that they were a mode of transmitting a religion, or an ethic, or some message of universal import. And there was a message of universal love and brotherhood, of religious toleration, of charity and benevolence implied in Leibniz's projects for his universal calculus or characteristic. Plans for the reunion of the churches, for the pacification of sectarian differences, for the foundation of an 'Order of Charity', form a basic part of his schemes. The progress of the sciences, Leibniz believed, would lead to an extended knowledge of the universe, and therefore a wider knowledge of God, its creator, and thence to a wider extension of charity, the source of all virtues. Mysticism and philanthropy are bound up with the encyclopaedia and the universal calculus. When we think of this side of Leibniz, the comparison with Bruno is again striking. The religion of Love, Art, Magic, and Mathesis was hidden in the Seals of Memory. A religion of love and general philanthropy is to be made manifest, or brought about, through the universal calculus. If we delete Magic, substitute genuine mathematics for Mathesis, understand Art as the calculus, and retain Love, the Leibnizian aspirations seem to approximate strikingly closely -- though in a seventeenth-century transformation -- to those of Bruno. . . "

". . . The art of memory is a clear case of a marginal subject, not recognised as belonging to any of the normal disciplines, having been omitted because it was no one's business. And yet it has turned out to be, in a sense, everyone's business. The history of the organisation of memory touches at vital points on the history of religion and ethics, of philosophy and psychology, of art and literature, of scientific method. When we reflect on these profound affiliations of our theme it begins to seem after all not so surprising that the pursuit of it should have opened up new views of some of the greatest manifestations of our culture. . . "

The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia


H.G. Wells
( 01937 )


" It is probable that the idea of an encyclopaedia may undergo very considerable extension and elaboration in the near future. Its full possibilities have still to be realized. The encyclopaedias of the past have sufficed for the needs of a cultivated minority. They were written "for gentlemen by gentlemen" in a world wherein universal education was unthought of, and where the institutions of modern democracy with universal suffrage, so necessary in many respects, so difficult and dangerous in their working, had still to appear. Throughout the nineteenth century encyclopaedias followed the eighteenth-century scale and pattern, in spite both of a gigantic increase in recorded knowledge and of a still more gigantic growth in the numbers of human beings requiring accurate and easily accessible information. At first this disproportion was scarcely noted, and its consequences not at all. But many people now are coming to recognize that our contemporary encyclopaedias are still in the coach-and-horses phase of development, rather than in the phase of the automobile and the aeroplane. Encyclopaedic enterprise has not kept pace with material progress. These observers realize that modern facilities of transport, radio, photographic reproduction and so forth are rendering practicable a much more fully succinct and accessible assembly of fact and ideas than was ever possible before.

Concurrently with these realizations there is a growing discontent with the part played by the universities, schools and libraries in the intellectual life of mankind. Universities multiply, schools of every grade and type increase, but they do not enlarge their scope to anything like the urgent demands of this troubled and dangerous age. They do not perform the task nor exercise the authority that might reasonably be attributed to the thought and knowledge organization of the world. It is not, as it should be, a case of larger and more powerful universities co-operating more and more intimately, but of many more universities of the old type, mostly ill-endowed and uncertainly endowed, keeping at the old educational level.

Both the assembling and the distribution of knowledge in the world at present are extremely ineffective, and thinkers of the forward-looking type whose ideas we are now considering, are beginning to realize that the most hopeful line for the development of our racial intelligence lies rather in the direction of creating a new world organ for the collection, indexing, summarizing and release of knowledge, than in any further tinkering with the highly conservative and resistant university system, local, national and traditional in texture, which already exists. These innovators, who may be dreamers today, but who hope to become very active organizers tomorrow, project a unified, if not a centralized, world organ to "pull the mind of the world together", which will be not so much a rival to the universities, as a supplementary and co-ordinating addition to their educational activities - on a planetary scale.

The phrase "Permanent World Encyclopaedia" conveys the gist of these ideas. As the core of such an institution would be a world synthesis of bibliography and documentation with the indexed archives of the world. A great number of workers would be engaged perpetually in perfecting this index of human knowledge and keeping it up to date. Concurrently, the resources of micro-photography, as yet only in their infancy, will be creating a concentrated visual record.

Few people as yet, outside the world of expert librarians and museum curators and so forth, know how manageable well-ordered facts can be made, however multitudinous, and how swiftly and completely even the rarest visions and the most recondite matters can be recalled, once they have been put in place in a well-ordered scheme of reference and reproduction. The American microfilm experts, even now, are making facsimiles of the rarest books, manuscripts, pictures and specimens, which can then be made easily accessible upon the library srceen. By means of the microfilm, the rarest and most intricate documents and articles can be studied now at first hand, simultaneously in a score of projection rooms. There is no practical obstacle whatever now to the creation of an efficient index to all human knowledge, ideas and achievements, to the creation, that is, of a complete planetary memory for all mankind. And not simply an index; the direct reproduction of the thing itself can be summoned to any properly prepared spot. A microfilm, coloured where necessary, occupying an inch or so of space and weighing little more than a letter, can be duplicated from the records and sent anywhere, and thrown enlarged upon the screen so that the student may study it in every detail.

This in itself is a fact of tremendous significance. It foreshadows a real intellectual unification of our race. The whole human memory can be, and probably in a short time will be, made accessible to every individual. And what is also of very great importance in this uncertain world where destruction becomes continually more frequent and unpredictable, is this, that photography affords now every facility for multiplying duplicates of this - which we may call? - this new all-human cerebrum. It need not be concentrated in any one single place. It need not be vulnerable as a human head or a human heart is vulnerable. It can be reproduced exactly and fully, in Peru, China, Iceland, Central Africa, or wherever else seems to afford an insurance against danger and interruption. It can have at once, the concentration of a craniate animal and the diffused vitality of an amoeba.

This is no remote dream, no fantasy. It is a plain statement of a contemporary state of affairs. It is on the level of practicable fact. It is a matter of such manifest importance and desirability for science, for the practical needs of mankind, for general education and the like, that it is difficult not to believe that in quite the near future, this Permanent World Encyclopaedia, so compact in its material form and so gigantic in its scope and possible influence, will not come into existence.

Its uses will be multiple and many of them will be fairly obvious. Special sections of it, historical, technical, scientific, artistic, e.g. will easily be reproduced for specific professional use. Based upon it, a series of summaries of greater or less fullness and simplicity, for the homes and studies of ordinary people, for the college and the school, can be continually issued and revised. In the hands of competent editors, educational directors and teachers, these condensations and abstracts incorporated in the world educational system, will supply the humanity of the days before us, with a common understanding and the conception of a common purpose and of a commonweal such as now we hardly dare dream of. And its creation is a way to world peace that can be followed without any very grave risk of collision with the warring political forces and the vested institutional interests of today. Quietly and sanely this new encyclopaedia will, not so much overcome these archaic discords, as deprive them, steadily but imperceptibly, of their present reality. A common ideology based on this Permanent World Encyclopaedia is a possible means, to some it seems the only means, of dissolving human conflict into unity.

This concisely is the sober, practical but essentially colossal objective of those who are seeking to synthesize human mentality today, through this natural and reasonable development of encyclopaedism into a Permanent World Encyclopaedia.

Paul Olet & the mundaneum


" Paul Otlet seems to connect a series of major turning points in the history of the early twentieth-century information age, synthesizing and incorporating their ideas along with his own, and ultimately coming tantalizingly close to building a fully
integrated global information network. . .

. . .Otlet embraced the new internationalism and emerged as one of its most prominent apostles in Europe in the early twentieth century. In his work we can see many of these trends intersecting — the rise of industrial technologies, the problem of managing humanity’s growing intellectual output, and the birth of a new internationalism. To sustain it Otlet tried to assemble a great catalog of the world’s published information, create an encyclopedic atlas of human knowledge, build a network of federated museums and other cultural institutions, and establish a World City that would serve as the headquarters for a new world government. For Otlet these were not disconnected activities but part of a larger vision of worldwide harmony. In his later years he started to describe the Mundaneum in transcendental terms, envisioning his global knowledge network as something akin to a universal consciousness and as a gateway to collective enlightenment. "

-- Alex Wright
_Cataloging The World_
( 02014 )


_International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge : 
selected essays of Paul Otlet_

( excerpts )


Vannevar Bush
( 01945 )


" Of what lasting benefit has been man's use of science and of the new instruments which his research brought into existence? First, they have increased his control of his material environment. They have improved his food, his clothing, his shelter; they have increased his security and released him partly from the bondage of bare existence. They have given him increased knowledge of his own biological processes so that he has had a progressive freedom from disease and an increased span of life. They are illuminating the interactions of his physiological and psychological functions, giving the promise of an improved mental health.

Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so that knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual.

There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.

Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose. 
. . .
The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships.

But there are signs of a change as new and powerful instrumentalities come into use.
. . . 
Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, 'memex' will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.
. . .
Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.
. . .
The historian, with a vast chronological account of a people, parallels it with a skip trail which stops only on the salient items, and can follow at any time contemporary trails which lead him all over civilization at a particular epoch. There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.

Thus science may implement the ways in which man produces, stores, and consults the record of the race.
. . .
All our steps in creating or absorbing material of the record proceed through one of the senses—the tactile when we touch keys, the oral when we speak or listen, the visual when we read. Is it not possible that some day the path may be established more directly ?
. . .
In the outside world, all forms of intelligence whether of sound or sight, have been reduced to the form of varying currents in an electric circuit in order that they may be transmitted. Inside the human frame exactly the same sort of process occurs. Must we always transform to mechanical movements in order to proceed from one electrical phenomenon to another? It is a suggestive thought, but it hardly warrants prediction without losing touch with reality and immediateness.

Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.

The applications of science have built man a well-supplied house, and are teaching him to live healthily therein. They have enabled him to throw masses of people against one another with cruel weapons. They may yet allow him truly to encompass the great record and to grow in the wisdom of race experience. He may perish in conflict before he learns to wield that record for his true good. Yet, in the application of science to the needs and desires of man, it would seem to be a singularly unfortunate stage at which to terminate the process, or to lose hope as to the outcome. "


( excerpts )


Douglas C. Engelbart
( 01962 )


" By 'augmenting human intellect' we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by 'complex situations' we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers--whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human 'feel for a situation' usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.

Man's population and gross product are increasing at a considerable rate, but the complexity of his problems grows still faster, and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity. Augmenting man's intellect, in the sense defined above, would warrant full pursuit by an enlightened society if there could be shown a reasonable approach and some plausible benefits.

This report covers the first phase of a program aimed at developing means to augment the human intellect. These 'means' can include many things--all of which appear to be but extensions of means developed and used in the past to help man apply his native sensory, mental, and motor capabilities--and we consider the whole system of a human and his augmentation means as a proper field of search for practical possibilities. It is a very important system to our society, and like most systems its performance can best be improved by considering the whole as a set of interacting components rather than by considering the components in isolation.
. . .
The conceptual framework we seek must orient us toward the real possibilities and problems associated with using modern technology to give direct aid to an individual in comprehending complex situations, isolating the significant factors, and solving problems. To gain this orientation, we examine how individuals achieve their present level of effectiveness, and expect that this examination will reveal possibilities for improvement.

The entire effect of an individual on the world stems essentially from what he can transmit to the world through his limited motor channels. This in turn is based on information received from the outside world through limited sensory channels; on information, drives, and needs generated within him; and on his processing of that information. His processing is of two kinds: that which he is generally conscious of (recognizing patterns, remembering, visualizing, abstracting, deducing, inducing, etc.), and that involving the unconscious processing and mediating of received and self-generated information, and the unconscious mediating of conscious processing itself.

The individual does not use this information and this processing to grapple directly with the sort of complex situation in which we seek to give him help. He uses his innate capabilities in a rather more indirect fashion, since the situation is generally too complex to yield directly to his motor actions, and always too complex to yield comprehensions and solutions from direct sensory inspection and use of basic cognitive capabilities. For instance, an aborigine who possesses all of our basic sensory-mental-motor capabilities, but does not possess our background of indirect knowledge and procedure, cannot organize the proper direct actions necessary to drive a car through traffic, request a book from the library, call a committee meeting to discuss a tentative plan, call someone on the telephone, or compose a letter on the typewriter.

Our culture has evolved means for us to organize the little things we can do with our basic capabilities so that we can derive comprehension from truly complex situations, and accomplish the processes of deriving and implementing problem solutions. The ways in which human capabilities are thus extended are here called augmentation means, and we define four basic classes of them:

ARTIFACTS -- physical objects designed to provide for human comfort, for the manipulation of things or materials, and for the manipulation of symbols.

LANGUAGE -- the way in which the individual parcels out the picture of his world into the concepts that his mind uses to model that world, and the symbols that he attaches to those concepts and uses in consciously manipulating the concepts ('thinking').

METHODOLOGY -- the methods, procedures, strategies, etc., with which an individual organizes his goal-centered (problem-solving) activity.

TRAINING -- the conditioning needed by the human being to bring his skills in using Means 1, 2, and 3 to the point where they are operationally effective.

The system we want to improve can thus be visualized as a trained human being together with his artifacts, language, and methodology. The explicit new system we contemplate will involve as artifacts computers, and computer-controlled information-storage, information-handling, and information-display devices. The aspects of the conceptual framework that are discussed here are primarily those relating to the human being's ability to make significant use of such equipment in an integrated system.

 . . .Consider the following historical progression in the development of our intellectual capabilities:

(1) CONCEPT MANIPULATION -- Humans rose above the lower forms of life by evolving the biological capability for developing abstractions and concepts. They could manipulate these concepts within their minds to a certain extent, and think about situations in the abstract. Their mental capabilities allowed them to develop general concepts from specific instances, predict specific instances from general concepts, associate concepts, remember them, etc. We speak here of concepts in their raw, unverbalized form. For example, a person letting a door swing shut behind him suddenly visualizes the person who follows him carrying a cup of hot coffee and some sticky pastries. Of all the aspects of the pending event, the spilling of the coffee and the squashing of the pastry somehow are abstracted immediately, and associated with a concept of personal responsibility and a dislike for these consequences. But a solution comes to mind immediately as an image of a quick stop and an arm stab back toward the door, with motion and timing that could prevent the collision, and the solution is accepted and enacted. With only non-symbolic concept manipulation, we could probably build primitive shelter, evolve strategies of war and hunt, play games, and make practical jokes. But further powers of intellectual effectiveness are implicit in this stage of biological evolution (the same stage we are in today).

(2) SYMBOL MANIPULATION -- Humans made another great step forward when they learned to represent particular concepts in their minds with specific symbols. Here we temporarily disregard communicative speech and writing, and consider only the direct value to the individual of being able to do his heavy thinking by mentally manipulating symbols instead of the more unwieldly concepts which they represent. Consider, for instance, the mental difficulty involved in herding twenty- seven sheep if, instead of remembering one cardinal number and occasionally counting, we had to remember what each sheep looked like, so that if the flock seemed too small we could visualize each one and check whether or not it was there.

(3) MANUAL, EXTERNAL, SYMBOL MANIPULATION -- Another significant step toward harnessing the biologically evolved mental capabilities in pursuit of comprehension and problem solutions came with the development of the means for externalizing some of the symbol-manipulation activity, particularly in graphical representation. This supplemented the individual's memory and ability to visualize. (We are not concerned here with the value derived from human cooperation made possible by speech and writing, both forms of external symbol manipulation. We speak of the manual means of making graphical representations of symbols--a stick and sand, pencil and paper and eraser, straight edge or compass, and so on.) It is principally this kind of means for external symbol manipulation that has been associated with the evolution of the individual's present way of doing his concept manipulation (thinking).

It is undoubtedly true that concepts which people found useful ended up being symbolized in their language, and hence that the evolution of language was affected by the concepts the people developed and used. However, Korzybski and Whorf (among others) have argued that the language we use affects our thinking to a considerable extent. They say that a lack of words for some types of concepts makes it hard to express those concepts, and thus decreases the likelihood that we will learn much about them. If this is so, then once a language has begun to grow and be used, it would seem reasonable to suspect that the language also affects the evolution of the new concepts to be expressed in that language.

Apparently there are counter-arguments to this; e.g., if a concept needs to be used often but its expression is difficult, then the language will evolve to ease the situation. However, the studies of the past decade into what are called 'self-organizing' systems seem to be revealing that subtle relationships among its interacting elements can significantly influence the course of evolution of such a system. If this is true, and if language is (as it seems to be) a part of a self-organizing system, then it seems probable that the state of a language at a given time strongly affects its own evolution to a succeeding state.

.For our conceptual framework, we tend to favor the view that a language does exert a force in its own evolution. We observe that the shift over the last few centuries in matters that are of daily concern to the individual has necessarily been forced into the framework of the language existing at the time, with alterations generally limited to new uses for old words, or the coining of new words. The English language since Shakespeare has undergone no alteration comparable to the alteration in the cultural environment; if it had, Shakespeare would no longer be accessible to us. Under such evolutionary conditions, it would seem unlikely that the language we now use provides the best possible service to our minds in pursuing comprehension and solving problems. It seems very likely that a more useful language form can be devised.

The Whorfian hypothesis states that the world view of a culture is limited by the structure of the language which that culture uses. But there seems to be another factor to consider in the evolution of language and human reasoning ability. We offer the following hypothesis, which is related to the Whorfian hypothesis: Both the language used by a culture, and the capability for effective intellectual activity are directly affected during their evolution by the means by which individuals control the external manipulation of symbols. (For identification, we will refer to this as the Neo-Whorfian hypothesis.)

If the Neo-Whorfian hypothesis could be proved readily, and if we could see how our means of externally manipulating symbols influence both our language and our way of thinking, then we would have a valuable instrument for studying human-augmentation possibilities. For the sake of discussion, let us assume the Neo-Whorfian hypothesis to be true, and see what relevant deductions can be made.

If the means evolved for an individual's external manipulation of his thinking-aid symbols indeed directly affect the way in which he thinks, then the original Whorfian hypothesis would offer an added effect. The direct effect of the external-symbol-manipulation means upon language would produce an indirect effect upon the way of thinking via the Whorfian-hypothesis linkage. There would then be two ways for the manner in which our external symbol manipulation was done to affect our thinking.

One way of viewing the H-LAM/T system changes that we contemplate--specifically, integrating the capabilities of a digital computer into the intellectual activity of individual humans--is that we are introducing new and extremely advanced means for externally manipulating symbols. We then want to determine the useful modifications in the language and in the way of thinking that could result. This suggests a fourth stage to the evolution of our individual-human intellectual capability:

(4) AUTOMATED EXTERNAL SYMBOL MANIPULATION -- In this stage, symbols with which the human represents the concepts he is manipulating can be arranged before his eyes, moved, stored, recalled, operated upon according to extremely complex rules--all in very rapid response to a minimum amount of information supplied by the human, by means of special cooperative technological devices. In the limit of what we might now imagine, this could be a computer, with which we could communicate rapidly and easily, coupled to a three-dimensional color display within which it could construct extremely sophisticated images--with the computer being able to execute a wide variety of processes upon parts or all of these images in automatic response to human direction. The displays and processes could provide helpful services--we could imagine both simple and exotic varieties--and could involve concepts that we have never yet imagined (as the pregraphic thinker of Stage 2 would be unable to predict the bar graph, the process of long division, or a card file system).

The fundamental principle used in building sophisticated capabilities from the basic capabilities is structuring--the special type of structuring (which we have termed synergetic) in which the organization of a group of elements produces an effect greater than the mere addition of their individual effects. Perhaps 'purposeful' structuring (or organization) would serve us as well, but since we aren't sure yet how the structuring concept must mature for our needs, we shall tentatively stick with the special modifier, 'synergetic.' We are developing a growing awareness of the significant and pervasive nature of such structure within every physical and conceptual thing we inspect, where the hierarchical form seems almost universally present as stemming from successive levels of such organization.

The fundamental entities that are being structured in each and every case seems to be what we could call processes, where the most basic of physical processes (involving fields, charges, and momenta associated with the dynamics of fundamental particles) appear to be the hierarchical base. There are dynamic electro-optical-mechanical processes associated with the function of our artifacts (as well as metabolic, sensory, motor) and cognitive processes of the human, which we find to be relatively fundamental components within the structure of our system--and each of these seems truly to be ultimately based (to our degree of understanding) upon the above mentioned basic physical processes. The elements that are organized to give fixed structural form to our physical objects--e.g., the 'element' of tensile strength of a material-are also derived from what we could call synergetic structuring of the most basic physical processes.

But at the level of the capability hierarchy where we wish to work, it seems useful to us to distinguish several different types of structuring--even though each type is fundamentally a structuring of the basic physical processes. Tentatively we have isolated five such types--although we are not sure how many we shall ultimately want to use in considering the problem of augmenting the human intellect, nor how we might divide and subdivide these different manifestations of physical-process structuring. We use the terms 'mental structuring', 'concept structuring', 'symbol structuring', 'process structuring,' and 'physical structuring.'


Mental structuring is what we call the internal organization of conscious and unconscious mental images, associations, or concepts (or whatever it is that is organized within the human mind) that somehow manages to provide the human with understanding and the basis for such as judgment, intuition, inference, and meaningful action with respect to his environment. There is a term used in psychology, cognitive structure, which so far seems to represent just what we want for our concept of mental structure, but we will not adopt it until we become more sure of what the accepted psychological meaning is and of what we want for our conceptual framework.

For our present purpose, it is irrelevant to worry over what the fundamental mental 'things' being structured are, or what mechanisms are accomplishing the structuring or making use of what has been structured. We feel reasonably safe in assuming that learning involves some kind of meaningful organization within the brain, and that whatever is so organized or structured represents the operating model of the individual's universe to the mental mechanisms that derive his behavior. And further, our assumption is that when the human in our system makes the key decision or action that leads to the solution of a complex problem, it will stem from the state of his mental structure at that time. In this view then, the basic purpose of the system's activity on that problem up to that point has been to develop his mental structure to the state from which the mental mechanisms could derive the key action.

Our school systems attest that there are specific experiences that can be given to a human that will result in development of his mental structure to the point where the behavior derived there from by his mental mechanisms shows us that he has gained new comprehension--in other words, we can do a certain amount from outside the human toward developing his mental structure. Independent students and researchers also attest that internally directed behavior on the part of an individual can directly aid his structure-building process.

We don't know whether a mental structure is developed in a manner analogous to (a) development of a garden, where one provides a good environment, plants the seeds, keeps competing weeds and injurious pests out, but otherwise has to let natural processes take their course, or to (b) development of a basketball team, where much exercise of skills, patterns, and strategies must be provided so that natural processes can slowly knit together an integration, or to (c) development of a machine, where carefully formed elements are assembled in a precise, planned manner so that natural phenomena can immediately yield planned function. We don't know the processes, but we can and have developed empirical relationships between the experiences given a human and the associated manifestations of developing comprehension and capability, and we see the near-future course of the research toward augmenting the human's intellect as depending entirely upon empirical findings (past and future) for the development of better means to serve the development and use of mental structuring in the human.

We don't mean to imply by this that we renounce theories of mental processes. What we mean to emphasize is that pursuit of our objective need not wait upon the understanding of the mental processes that accomplish (what we call) mental structuring and that derive behavior therefrom. It would be to ignore the emphases of our own conceptual framework not to make fullest use of any theory that provided a working explanation for a group of empirical data. What's more, our entire conceptual framework represents the first pass at a 'theoretical model with which to organize our thinking and action.'


Within our framework we have developed the working assumption that the manner in which we seem to be able to provide experiences that favor the development of our mental structures is based upon concepts as a 'medium of exchange.' We view a concept as a tool that can be grasped and used by the mental mechanisms, that can be composed, interpreted, and used by the natural mental substances and processes. The grasping and handling done by these mechanisms can often be facilitated if the concept is given an explicit 'handle' in the form of a representative symbol. Somehow the mental mechanisms can learn to manipulate images (or something) of symbols in a meaningful way and remain calmly confident that the associated conceptual manipulations are within call.

Concepts seem to be structurable, in that a new concept can be composed of an organization of established concepts. For present purposes, we can view a concept structure as something which we might try to develop on paper for ourselves or work with by conscious thought processes, or as something which we try to communicate to one another in serious discussion. We assume that, for a given unit of comprehension to be imparted, there is a concept structure (which can be consciously developed and displayed) that can be presented to an individual in such a way that it is mapped into a corresponding mental structure which provides the basis for that individual's "comprehending" behavior. Our working assumption also considers that some concept structures would be better for this purpose than others, in that they would be more easily mapped by the individual into workable mental structures, or in that the resulting mental structures enable a higher degree of comprehension and better solutions to problems, or both.

A concept structure often grows as part of a cultural evolution--either on a large scale within a large segment of society, or on a small scale within the activity domain of an individual. But it is also something that can be directly designed or modified, and a basic hypothesis of our study is that better concept structures can be developed-- structures that when mapped into a human's mental structure will significantly improve his capability to comprehend and to find solutions within his complex-problem situations.

A natural language provides its user with a readymade structure of concepts that establishes a basic mental structure, and that allows relatively flexible, general-purpose concept structuring. Our concept of language as one of the basic means for augmenting the human intellect embraces all of the concept structuring which the human may make use of.


The other important part of our 'language' is the way in which concepts are represented--the symbols and symbol structures. Words structured into phrases, sentences, paragraphs, monographs--charts, lists, diagrams, tables, etc. A given structure of concepts can be represented by any of an infinite number of different symbol structures, some of which would be much better than others for enabling the human perceptual and cognitive apparatus to search out and comprehend the conceptual matter of significance and/or interest to the human. For instance, a concept structure involving many numerical data would generally be much better represented with Arabic rather than Roman numerals and quite likely a graphic structure would be better than a tabular structure.

But it is not only the form of a symbol structure that is important. A problem solver is involved in a stream of conceptual activity whose course serves his mental needs of the moment. The sequence and nature of these needs are quite variable, and yet for each need he may benefit significantly from a form of symbol structuring that is uniquely efficient for that need.

Therefore, besides the forms of symbol structures that can be constructed and portrayed, we are very much concerned with the speed and flexibility with which one form can be transformed into another, and with which new material can be located and portrayed.

We are generally used to thinking of our symbol structures as a pattern of marks on a sheet of paper. When we want a different symbol-structure view, we think of shifting our point of attention on the sheet, or moving a new sheet into position. But another kind of view might be obtained by extracting and ordering all statements in the local text that bear upon consideration A of the argument--or by replacing all occurrences of specified esoteric words by one's own definitions. This sort of 'view generation' becomes quite feasible with a computer-controlled display system, and represents a very significant capability to build upon.

With a computer manipulating our symbols and generating their portrayals to us on a display, we no longer need think of our looking at the symbol structure which is stored--as we think of looking at the symbol structures stored in notebooks, memos, and books. What the computer actually stores need be none of our concern, assuming that it can portray symbol structures to us that are consistent with the form in which we think our information is structured.

A given concept structure can be represented with a symbol structure that is completely compatible with the computer's internal way of handling symbols, with all sorts of characteristics and relationships given explicit identifications that the user may never directly see. In fact, this structuring has immensely greater potential for accurately mapping a complex concept structure than does a structure an individual would find it practical to construct or use on paper.

The computer can transform back and forth between the two-dimensional portrayal on the screen, of some limited view of the total structure, and the aspect of the n-dimensional internal image that represents this 'view'. If the human adds to or modifies such a 'view,' the computer integrates the change into the internal-image symbol structure (in terms of the computer's favored symbols and structuring) and thereby automatically detects a certain proportion of his possible conceptual inconsistencies.

Thus, inside this instrument (the computer) there is an internal-image, computer-symbol structure whose convolutions and multi-dimensionality we can learn to shape to represent to hitherto unattainable accuracy the concept structure we might be building or working with. This internal structure may have a form that is nearly incomprehensible to the direct inspection of a human (except in minute chunks).

But let the human specify to the instrument his particular conceptual need of the moment, relative to this internal image. Without disrupting its own internal reference structure in the slightest, the computer will effectively stretch, bend, fold, extract, and cut as it may need in order to assemble an internal substructure that is its respons, structured in its own internal way. With the set of standard translation rules appropriate to the situation, it portrays to the human via its display a symbol structure designed for his quick and accurate perception and comprehension of the conceptual matter pertinent to this internally composed substructure.

No longer does the human work on stiff and limited symbol structures, where much of the conceptual content can only be implicitly designated in an indirect and distributed fashion. These new ways of working are basically available with today's technology--we have but to free ourselves from some of our limiting views and begin experimenting with compatible sets of structure forms and processes for human concepts, human symbols, and machine symbols.


Essentially everything that goes on within the system and that is of direct interest here involves the manipulation of concept and symbol structures in service to the mental structure. Therefore, the processes within the system that we are most interested in developing are those that provide for the manipulation of all three types of structure. This brings us to the fourth category of structuring, process structuring.

As we are currently using it, the term includes the organization, study, modification, and execution of processes and process structures. Whereas concept structuring and symbol structuring together represent the language component of our augmentation means, process structuring represents the methodology component (plus a little more, actually). There has been enough previous discussion of process structures that we need not describe the notion here, beyond perhaps an example or two. The individual processes (or actions) of my hands and fingers have to be cooperatively organized if the typewriter is to do my bidding. My successive actions throughout my working day are meant to cooperate toward a certain over-all professional goal.

Many of the process structures are applied to the task of organizing, executing, supervising, and evaluating other process structures. Many of them are applied to the formation and manipulation of symbol structures (the purpose of which will often be to support the conceptual labor involved in process structuring).


Physical structuring, the last of the five types which we currently use in our conceptual framework, is nearly self-explanatory. It pretty well represents the artifact component of our augmentation means, insofar as their actual physical construction is concerned.


A very important feature to be noted from the discussion in this section bears upon the interdependence among the various types of structuring which are involved in the H-LAM/T system, where the capability for doing each type of structuring is dependent upon the capability for doing one or more of the other types of structuring. (Assuming that the physical structuring of the system remains basically unchanged during the system's operation, we exclude its dependence upon other factors in this discussion.)

This interdependence actually has a cyclic, regenerative nature to it which is very significant to us. We have seen how the capability for mental structuring is finally dependent, down the chain, upon the process structuring (human, artifact, composite) that enables symbol-structure manipulation. But it also is evident that the process structuring is dependent not only upon basic human and artifact process capabilities, but upon the ability of the human to learn how to execute processes--and no less important, upon the ability of the human to select, organize, and modify processes from his repertoire to structure a higher-order process that he can execute. Thus, a capability for structuring and executing processes is partially dependent upon the human's mental structuring, which in turn is partially dependent upon his process structuring (through concept and symbol structuring), which is partially dependent upon his mental structuring, etc.

All of this means that a significant improvement in symbol-structure manipulation through better process structuring (initially perhaps through much better artifacts) should enable us to develop improvements in concept and mental-structure manipulations that can in turn enable us to organize and execute symbol-manipulation processes of increased power. To most people who initially consider the possibilities for computer-like devices augmenting the human intellect, it is only the one-pass improvement that comes to mind, which presents a picture that is relatively barren compared to that which emerges when one considers this regenerative interaction.

We can confidently expect the development of much more powerful concepts pertaining to the manner in which symbol structures can be manipulated and portrayed, and correspondingly more complex manipulation processes that in the first pass would have been beyond the human's power to organize and execute without the better symbol, concept, and mental structuring which his augmented system provided him. These new concepts and processes, beyond our present capabilities to use and thus never developed, will provide a tremendous increased-capability payoff in the future development of our augmentation means.


This report has treated one over-all view of the augmentation of human intellect. In the report the following things have been done: (1) An hypothesis has been presented. (2) A conceptual framework has been constructed. (3) A 'picture' of augmented man has been described. (4) A research approach has been outlined. These aspects will be re viewed here briefly:

1. An hypothesis has been stated that the intellectual effectiveness of a human can be significantly improved by an engineering-like approach toward redesigning changeable components of a system.

2. A conceptual framework has been constructed that helps provide a way of looking at the implications and possibilities surrounding and stemming from this hypothesis. Briefly, this framework provides the realization that our intellects are already augmented by means which appear to have the following characteristics:

a ) The principal elements are the language artifacts, and methodology that a human has learned to use.

b ) The elements are dynamically interdependent within an operating system.

c ) The structure of the system seems to be hierarchical, and to be best considered as a hierarchy of process capabilities whose primitive components are the basic human capabilities and the functional capabilities of the artifacts--which are organized successively into ever-more-sophisticated capabilities.

d ) The capabilities of prime interest are those associated with manipulating symbols and concepts in support of organizing and executing processes from which are ultimately derived human comprehension and problem solutions.

e ) The automation of the symbol manipulation associated with the minute-by-minute mental processes seems to offer a logical next step in the evolution of our intellectual capability.

3. A picture of the implications and promise of this framework has been described, based upon direct human communication with a computer. Here the many ways in which the computer could be of service, at successive levels of augmented capability, have been brought out. This picture is fanciful, but we believe it to be conservative and representative of the sort of rich and significant gains that are there to be pursued.

4. An approach has been outlined for testing the hypothesis of Item (1) and for pursuing the 'rich and significant gains' which we feel are promised. This approach is designed to treat the redesign of a capability hierarchy by reworking from the bottom up, and yet to make the research on augmentation means progress as fast as possible by deriving practically usable augmentation systems for real-world problem solvers at a maximum rate. This goal is fostered by the recommendation of incorporating positive feedback into the research development--i.e., concentrating a good share of the basic-research attention upon augmenting those capabilities in a human that are needed in the augmentation-research workers. The real-world applications would be pursued by designing a succession of systems for specialists, whose progression corresponds to the increasing generality of the capabilities for which coordinated augmentation means have been evolved. Consideration is given in this rather global approach to providing potential users in different domains of intellectual activity with the basic general-purpose augmentation system from which they themselves can construct the special features of a system to match their job, and their ways of working--or it could be used on the other hand by researchers who want to pursue the development of special augmentation systems for special fields.


Three principal conclusions may be drawn concerning the significance and implications of the ideas that have been presented.

First, any possibility for improving the effective utilization of the intellectual power of society's problem solvers warrants the most serious consideration. This is because man's problem-solving capability represents possibly the most important resource possessed by a society. The other contenders for first importance are all critically dependent for their development and use upon this resource. Any possibility for evolving an art or science that can couple directly and significantly to the continued development of that resource should warrant doubly serious consideration.

Second, the ideas presented are to be considered in both of the above senses: the direct-development sense and the 'art of development' sense. To be sure, the possibilities have long-term implications, but their pursuit and initial rewards await us now. By our view, we do not have to wait until we learn how the human mental processes work, we do not have to wait until we learn how to make computers more intelligent or bigger or faster, we can begin developing powerful and economically feasible augmentation systems on the basis of what we now know and have. Pursuit of further basic knowledge and improved machines will continue into the unlimited future, and will want to be integrated into the 'art' and its improved augmentation systems--but getting started now will provide not only orientation and stimulation for these pursuits, but will give us improved problem-solving effectiveness with which to carry out the pursuits.

Third, it becomes increasingly clear that there should be action now--the sooner the better--action in a number of research communities and on an aggressive scale. We offer a conceptual framework and a plan for action, and we recommend that these be considered carefully as a basis for action If they be considered but found unacceptable, then at least serious and continued effort should be made toward developing a more acceptable conceptual framework within which to view the over-all approach, toward developing a more acceptable plan of action, or both.

This is an open plea to researchers and to those who ultimately motivate, finance, or direct them, to turn serious attention toward the possibility of evolving a dynamic discipline that can-treat the problem of improving intellectual effectiveness in a total sense. This discipline should aim at producing a continuous cycle of improvements--increased understanding of the problem, improved means for developing new aug mentation systems, and improved augmentation systems that can serve the world's problem solvers in general and this discipline's workers in particular. After all, we spend great sums for disciplines aimed at understanding and harnessing nuclear power. Why not consider developing a discipline aimed at understanding and harnessing 'neural power?' In the long run, the power of the human intellect is really much the more important of the two.

. . .

The Augmentation of Human Intellect
as an Alternative Research Program
to Artificial Intelligence :

Implications for the Definition of the Human-Machine Boundary


Thierry Bardini


_Memory Trade :
A Prehistory of Cyberculture_


Darren Tofts
( 01998 )

( The notion of "Culture" is changing at the speed of information itself. Computer technology is creating a new kind of public, a cyberculture with all its utopian and apocalyptic possibilities. But is it that new?

Popular debate generally ignores cybercultures's historical context. The official history begins in the 19th century and tracks the evolution of telecommunications, the egalitarian dream of the global village, and the emergence of the military-industrial complex. However this omits the deeper, prehistory of technological transformations of culture that are everywhere felt but nowhere seen in the telematic landscape of the late-twentieth century. Cyberculture is an extension, rather than an innovation, of human engagement with communication and information technologies.

A work of archaeology, _Memory Trade_ scrapes away the surfaces of the contemporary world to detect the sedimentary traces of the past. A past that inflects the present with the echoes of the ancient, unresolved philosophical questions about the relationships between humans and technology, creativity and artifice, reality and representations of reality.

_Memory Trade_ is an exploration, in text and image, of the *unconscious* of cyberculture, its silent, secret prehistory. From Plato's Cave to Borges' literary labyrinth, Freud's Mystic Writing-Pad, and Joyce's reinvention of language in _Finnegans Wake_, _Memory Trade_ is a palimpsest of contemporary culture. )



" . . .Memory is a 'space of writing, space *as* writing'. . .the workings of memory were frequently described as an 'inner writing'. The most common metaphor for memory in this respect was a process of impressing marks upon a soft, permeable surface. This
principle of incising was behind the discovery of the first re-usable writing space produced in the ancient world, the palimpsest. Palimpsests, from their earliest recorded use in Greece around 200 B.C., were made of parchment, or prepared animal skins. They were written on with a stylus, made of stone or metal, and then scraped clean and dressed with chalk or pumice for further use. By the first century A.D., Roman writers were using a wax tablet, on which marks could be incised and then effaced in order for the new writing to be made over the traces of previous inscriptions.

The use of the incising metaphor within ancient Greece and Rome signified the tremendous importance given to memory within the discipline of rhetoric. In the words of Quintillian, the great roman teacher of rhetoric in the first century A.D., 'impressions are made on the mind, analogous to those which a signet ring makes on wax'. However, it also echoed philosophical ideas relating to the acquisition of knowledge. Socrates described the soul as containing a 'block of wax. . .the gift of Memory, the mother of the Muses'. Perception, even thought itself, involved a process of imprinting, the making of marks on the wax, 'just as we make impressions from seal rings'. . .

. . .Classical discussions of memory as a dialectic of transience and permanence, the receipt of temporary impressions and their permanent recollection in memory, form the conceptual basis of computers -- the ubiquitous memory machines of the late-twentieth century. The issue of memory is absolutely central to this association, as it provides the paradigmatic framework for the systematic input, storage, and recollection of data that defines computer technology. . . "


" . . .The technology of the palimpsest, as a form of writing as well as an image of the storage of information in memory, is the ancient antecedent of the machines that do our memory-work today. The permanent memory-traces are stored within the machine equivalent of the wax tablet, and the momentary bombardment of impressions are displayed, temporarily, on the monitor screen, able to be erased and re-used again. Similarly, while the perception of memory as something machinic and infallible appears to us as very modern, it was something well known to the ancients. *Hypomnesis*, or extended memory, formed the basis of a rhetorical art of memory that underpins our contemporary fascination with powerful mnemonic technologies. This fascination is, itself, the expression of a deeper, psychic drive; what Derrida, after Freud, has called 'archival desire'.

This fascination also translates into necessity, as the scientist Vannevar Bush indicated in his landmark 1945 essay, 'As We May Think'. Confronted with the problem of how military research and development was going to be put to good use in peace time, Bush postulated a number of scientific and technological innovations that, he argued, would be likely to emerge in the near future. One of them was a form of artificial memory: 'Memex'. Memex was conceived as an extension or 'enlarged intimate supplement' of human memory. In the tradition of the classical art of memory, Bush saw this system as a 'device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file or library. . .in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications'. However, unlike the artificial memory systems of antiquity, that always had a topical, limited frame of reference (though they were encyclopedic within these limitations), Bush imagined Memex as an archive of all knowledge. Bush's conception of Memex was driven by a strongly felt need to preserve what he called 'the record' -- the sum of organized human knowledge. Frustrated by the ineptitude of available methods of extending the record, Bush pointed out that the 'summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships'. An alternative form of mechanized memory was required that could not only reliably maintain received ideas in a permanent way, but also accomodate the ongoing production of new ones (hence the 'extension' aspect of Mem*ex*). The problem, however, was not only storage, since Bush was already anticipating the compression of encyclopedias. The issue of access and consultation were the most pressing concerns that would face the anticipated culture of information technology. The record had to be available to everyone, and accessible with 'exceeding speed and flexibility'. . . "

 " . . .The classical 'artificial memory' is the distant ancestor of Douglas Englebart's augmentation of the human intellect, or what programming guru Fredrick Brooks has called Intelligence Amplification -- the mind modified by technology to increase its natural power. Howard Rheingold's vision of the intelligence augmented by high-tech computer interfaces bears an uncanny resemblance to the observations on artificial memory by the anonymous Roman author of a first century B.C. text-book on rhetoric. In his book _Virtual Reality_, Rheingold discusses the way in which a molecular manipulation system 'can help raise the understanding of a novice and nudge an expert toward insight'. The author of the _Rhetorica ad Herennium_ (one of the three main classical sources of the art of memory) describes how a 'good natural memory can be improved by this discipline and persons less well endowed can have their weak memories improved by the art'.

A more elaborate and self-conscious form of artificial memory is the so-called *ars memoria*, or art of memory. An invention attributed to the pre-Socratic lyric poet Simonides of Ceos (556-468 B.C.), the art of memory was highly stylized and more powerful extension of the discipline of memory training that was at the centre of rhetorical performance. In its most basic sense, the art of memory was a technology of memorization, a 'technique of impressing "places" and "images" on memory'. In her remarkable study of the history of the art of memory, Frances Yates delineates in great detail how it flourished throughout the Middle ages via Thomas Aquinas and the neo-Platonists, the Renaissance via Giordano Bruno and the hermetic tradition, and into the Enlightenment via Rene Descartes and Gottfried Leibniz. Despite the various uses to which it was put within these historical contexts, Yates highlights the remarkable consistency of adherence to the ancient rules for constructing elaborate 'memory palaces' : '*Constat igitur artificiosia memoria ex locis et imaginibus*, the artificial memory is established from places and images. . .the stock definition to be forever repeated down the ages'. The stricture of the rules pertaining to the construction of these inner, imaginary places was undoubtedly essential to the discipline of extending natural memory through the rigorous application of convention. However, it was central to the oral, pre-literate cultures of Greece and Rome, where the mind was the only space available for the recording not only of speeches, but of collective social memory as well. It was especially related to perpateticism, or, the oratorical practice of walking and talking :

' The first step was to imprint on the memory a series of *loci* or places. The commonest, though not the only, type of mnemonic place system used was the architectural type. . .In order to form a series of places in memory. . .a building is to be remembered, as spacious and varied a one as possible, the forecourt, the living room, bedrooms, and parlours, not omitting statues and other ornaments with which the rooms are decorated. The images by which the speech is to be remembered. . .are then placed in imagination on the places which have been memorized in the building. This done, as soon as the memory of the facts requires to be revived, all these places are visited in turn and the various deposits demanded of their custodians. We have to think of the ancient orator as moving in imagination through his memory building *whilst* he is making his speech, drawing from the memorized places the images he had placed on them. The method ensures that the points are remembered in the right order, since the order is fixed by the sequence of places in the building. . . ' "

" The physical act of walking through the auditorium as an analogue of the imaginary tour through a memory-palace generated an intriguing ontological fusion of space. The very real, kinesthetic experience of walking endowed the imaginary world of memory with tactility and temporality. The orator would have felt as if they were moving through parallel worlds, exerting muscular effort in both. In this, it anticipated the mobility associated with certain types of virtual-reality environments, which work on a similar premise of analogous movement and kinesthetic response. But it also evidenced the dramatic character of the art of memory as an experience that involves the body (not merely the mind) and its total sensory engagement with phenomena -- real, imagined, or both. It was very much a performance, the dramatization of a journey that unfolds through time as well as space, which presented the physical presence and experience of the orator as the spectacle.

The notion of 'the walk' through an inner, architectural building of mental images, while simultaneously delivering a speech to an external, public audience, is the precursor of alphabetic scpace. It foregrounds the intimate ways in which the alphabet would intervene into social reality, enveloping its territory within an abstract, mental map of ideation. As has often been remarked, we can only try to imagine what such a memory, and indeed culture of memory, would be like, since we have come to rely so heavily on memory systems outside the mind. However, the retreat of the mind in upon itself, to 'some inner place, which is as yet no place' (in St Augustine's words) is very familiar to us, and not simply because William Gibson, consciously or otherwise, revived this archaism in his description of cyberspace as 'the nonspace of the mind'.

There is a very long philosophical tradition, going back at least as far as Plato, that conceives of the imaginative work of the human sensorium in terms of the creation of spaces or places that appear very real, but don't have any reality outside of the mind. The philosophers of the Enlightenment, and their modern successors, established the theoretical foundations of the concepts that have increasingly become bound up with our understanding of computer-generated environments and human-interface technology. Descartes' dualism, Leibniz's monadology, the idealism of Kant, and the phenomenological tradition from Hegel through to Heidegger, Sarte and Merleau-Ponty, in one way or another address the interface between the generative powers of the imagination and the realities -- real, virtual, or otherwise --that are brought to mind. perhaps the most pertinent instance in the context of the creation of inner, imaginary landscapes is Kant's 'transcendental synthesis of imagination' :

' Whatever the origin of our representations, whether they are due to the influence of outer things, or are produced through inner causes, whether they arise *a priori*, or being appearances have an empirical origin, they must all, as modifications of the mind, belong to the inner sense. All our knowledge is thus finally subject to time, the formal condition of inner sense. In it they must be ordered, connected, and brought into relation. . .Every intuition contains in itself a manifold which can be represented as a manifold only in so far as the mind distinguishes the time in the sequence of one impression upon another. '

The idea of intangible inner spaces created by the imagination is central to the metaphysical make-up of humans. It is central to our everyday perception of the world we live in, our ability to visualize ourselves and our place in the world, and our continuous recollection of our immediate and long-term past. Not to mention our ability to fantasize, dream, become engrossed in a novel, or accept the fact that there is a bigger world beyond our immediate surroundings. The intersection between the actual and the virtual is vital to perception and understanding. . . "

" The imaginary act of walking through an inner place, and 'seeing the sights', then, works on the same principle of virtuality that drives the project of creating digital, immersive environments. Our current obsession with the creation of the interactive, virtual spaces is a sign of a global revival of certain features of the art of memory, which petered out with the advance of the Enlightenment and the consolidation of literacy. The current and proposed uses for virtual-reality systems (military, medical, entertainment) differ remarkably from the ways in which the art of memory was historically used. We no longer rely on our inner resources as archives or storehouses of knowledge, nor do we value the ideal of a trained, 'artificial memory'.

The precepts of the art of memory demanded a mental verisimilitude that we can only envy. Compared with the ancients in this respect, we arguably have no concept of what a trained memory is, nor, perhaps, do we have the capacity for such memory work. Hans Moravec recognizes the contemporary relevance of the phenomenon of artificial memory, indicating that it 'maps the new cultural need to memorize large quantities of speech into the much older survival skill of remembering where we saw or left various things'. He concedes, though, that compared with the ancients, only a 'portion of our memory is likely organized in an appropriately geographical way to facilitate this kind of recall'. The only modern who came close to emulating this feat, and became famous for it, was the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. The way in which the classical orator delivered a speech by walking through the rooms of a 'remembered' building describes well the method by which Borges gave his lectures after he became blind. For a man who had the reputation of having read everything, transforming the mind into a vast archive of reference through this discipline was vital. As Alastair Reid has observed, 'the obligation to memorize his material did Borges a great service, for, as his blindness encroached, he was at the same time memorizing a considerable private library of reference and quotation'. When asked a question after a lecture he would pause, 'as though riffling through bookshelves in his head, and come up with a verse from one of his essential texts'. The sublime, infinite library in "The Library of Babel" is a metaphor for Borges' prodigious mind, his 'remembered library'. It recommends him as the twentieth century's most distinguished heir to the art of memory. In describing this fabulous labyrinth of books as a 'sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible', Borges allusively gestured to one of the great Renaissance exponents of the art of memory, Giordano Bruno. This reference is a typically esoteric recognition of a literary forerunner, and a tradition to which he felt he was a successor. . . "

" . . .As irony would have it, the other notable figure who has made his mark on twentieth-century culture in terms of memory, Ted Nelson, is amnesiac -- Theodor the Immemorious. Ted Nelson, the self-styled rogue intellectual and inventor of hypertext, suffers from a psychological syndrome called Attention Deficit Disorder, which means that apart from having a very short attention span, he forgets things instantly if interrupted. An inverse Borges, Nelson records everything and remembers nothing. He is entirely dependent upon artificial supplements to his memory, such as video-recordings of meetings and tape-recordings of conversations or thoughts that come rapidly to mind in myriads of frantic association. If Borges perfected the art of memory to compensate for his blindness, Nelson developed the idea of a form of writing --hypertext-- that 'could keep track of all the divergent paths of his thinking'. Nelson's artificial memory is an attempt to liberate him from his affliction, which he has lyrically described as 'hummingbird mind' ; a phrase worthy of Borges if the ever was onE . . . "

" . . .Apart from military and medical contexts of use, the most commonly discussed function for immersive experience is still to navigate information. The graphic user interface is, it seems, the apparatus of the Information Age, just as the printed book was the apparatus of the age of literacy. Benedickt's 'data cartography' and Novak's 'knowledge dance' are instances of the metaphoric legacy of Gibson's fictional, cyberpunk Utopia of unfettered immersion in boundless seas of information. Novak portrays a virtual environment, in what have become stock terms, as a 'hypermedium' containing linked nodes of information, arranged in a carefully patterned information space. Within this space, there are no objects, 'only collections of attributes given names by travelers, and thus assembled for temporary use'. The traveler, or navigator, moves along pathways and passages, 'touching' virtual objects which 'open out into texts and images and places'. His account uncannily brings to mind so many of the memory palaces described by Yates in _The Art of Memory_, and in the process reinforces the simple fact that they too, were elaborate information spaces, prodigious archives of copious, often arcane knowledge. Information networks depend upon a principle of interrelatedness between different categories and archives within a decentred system. The logic of association that facilitated the connection between disparate nodes in the early days of what we now call the Internet was, in fact, derived from Ramon Lull, the thirteenth-century designer of artificial memory systems.

Giordano Bruno's _Umbris Idearum_ ( _Shadows_ ) is a perfect and oft-cited example of the memory system as a kind of virtual library of information; information, in Bruno's case, of an extremely esoteric, hermetic nature. As a neo-Platonist, Bruno believed in the existence of a higher, ideal level of being beyond the elemental world of appearances, a divine unity of which men could aspire and, through magic, achieve. Bruno's philosophy represented the Gnostic aspiration towards transcendence from the material world of becoming to the immaterial world of being. His system was a vast inventory, a compendium of all available knowledge, ranging from the base elements to the supercelestial world beyond the stars, figured as a series of concentric wheels. Bruno assumed that the 'astral forces which govern the outer world also operated within the mind, and could therefore be reproduced or captured there to operate a magical-mechanical memory'. His memory system is, in Erik Davis's words, the 'trigger-signal that catalyzes anamnesis, the soul's recollection of its celestial origins'. Bruno's belief in the system rested on the notion that through simulating the power of the astral forces from within the mind, universal knowledge of the entire history of humankind would be attained. Bruno's representation of the mind as a complex, highly organized space of taxonomic knowledge, driven by a combination of magic and mechanics, indicated the transitional view of the world he held. This world orientation was a combination of the medieval animistic (magical) cosmology and the mechanistic (mathematical) view of the universe that emerged out of the Renaissance. For Bruno, his memory system was designed for nothing less than to reproduce that world-view within his psyche. For a hermeticist that is, indeed, the mystic philosopher's stone, the transcendent achievement of divine unity. To the post-modern sensibility, Bruno's system looks like intelligence augmentation, by any other name. The ideal of aspiring to the inhuman world of divine being is one thing, but creating a system whereby the mind functions with the dynamism of a machine, as a means of achieving it, is another. It amounts to what Davis has called 'techgnosis', a term that recognizes the intersection of cyberculture and ancient, occult magic --'the expansion of consciousness by whatever means necessary'. . . "

" Ted Nelson's monumental *Xanadu* is a thirty-year work-in-progress. . .conceived as a revolutionary archive of the collective literature (all writing) of humankind -- a vast, universal library of interconnected reference that like, Vannevar Bush's *Memex*, would enable anyone to make unique signatory indexes and at the same time keep a record of them. It was to be, to use another *Xanadu* slogan, 'THe World of You'. They key to *Xanadu* (that Nelson maintains the World Wide Web lacks) was the interconnectedness of everything, of links between every document, a 'way of tying it all together and not losing anything'. In putting the collective totality of human knowledge at everyone's fingertips, as well as enabling anyone to add to 'the record' (to use Bush's term), Nelson was genuinely attempting to make the Information Age an egalitarian state. It was, as the name suggests, a kind of information paradise, an infinite library removed from the actualities of social inequality. In this respect, Nelson *is* like Borges, who, in one of his lectures, refers to 'Paradise as a kind of library' Indeed, Nelson's description of his *Xanadu Station* as a verticular, expanding arrangement of hexagons appropriately resembles Borges' infinite library, which is depicted in "The Library of Babel" as 'an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries'.

Still unfinished, *Xanadu* is the 'longest-running vaporware story' in computer history, appropriately maintaining the spirit of the great, unfinished literary text from which its name was derived, Coleridge's _Kubla Khan_. Nelson points out that since Coleridge 'claimed to have mostly forgotten before he could write it down. . .Xanadu seemed the perfect name for a magic place of literary memory'. Like the 'stately pleasure dome' in Coleridge's poem, Nelson's *Xanadu* is a repository of all things, or, as he describes it in _Literary Machines_, 'a grand address space for everything'. The closest he has come to actually building such a personal memory place is the decentred network of storage spaces that he rents in San Francisco, in which he keeps the audio-visual memoranda of his relentless, autobiographical documentation of the events of his waking life in his ongoing battle with amnesia.

*Xanadu*, like Camillo's Memory Theater, is a truncated masterpiece. Although it doesn't exist, as the century's most celebrated vaporware it may as well exist. Nelson suggests that the 'starting point in designing a computer system must be the creation of the conceptual and psychological environment, the seeming of the system -- what I and my associates call the *virtuality*'. The emphasis on the conceptual phenomenology ('how it should feel') coming first, or, in the spirt of Baudrillard, preceding the reality, indicates that we are, effectively, already in *Xanadu*. Numerous books and countless articles have been written about it, discussing it as if it is a fully functioning online archive. There has been so much talk about *Xanadu* that we have forgotten that it is still only a concept. Nelson's design principle ('decide how it *ought* to be, and then make that vision happen') has undoubtedly contributed to its constitution as a discursive formation in its own right. This is the thing about vaporware. It is a form of simulation, of virtual envelopment.

There is considerable irony in Yates's assessment of the art of memory as a 'forgotten art'. Apart from the obvious, it is ironic in that such a 'marginal subject, not recognized as belonging to any of the normal disciplines, having been omitted because it was no one's business', should have emerged in the decades following the publication of _The Art of Memory_ as the paradigm of the memory-work of the late-twentieth century. _The Art of Memory_ is to the age of William Gibson and Jaron Lanier what _The Golden Bough_ and _From Ritual to Romance_ were to the time of James Joyce and T.S. Eliot, the cultural anthropology required to articulate the persistance of memory in the age of cybernetics amounts to a continuation of the *ars memoria*, a new phase of commerce in the memory trade that feeds back into its ancient origins in the formation of writing and the advent of literacy. . . "


_Literary Machines_


Ted Nelson
( 01980 - 01993 )

( The report on, and of, Project Xanadu
word processing, electronic publishing, hypertext, thinkertoys, tomorrow's intellectual revolution, and certain other topics
knowledge, education, and freedom )



The values change every time the universe changes.

And that's every time we redefine a big enough bit of it, which we do all the time, through the process of discovery that isn't discovery, just the invention of another version of how things are.

And yet, in spite of all that, we still go on believing that today's version of things is the only right one, because as you've learned from this series, we can only handle one way of seeing things at a time.

We've never had systems that would let us do more than that.

So we've always had to have conformity with the current view.

Disagree with the Church. and you were punished as a heretic ; with the political system, as a revolutionary ; with the scientific establishment, as a charlatan ; with the educational system, a failure.

If you didn't fit the mold, you were rejected.

But, ironically, the latest product of that way of doing things is a new instrument, a new system, that while it could make conformity more rigid, more totalitarian, than ever before in in history, could also blow everything wide open.

Because with it, we could operate on the basis that values and standards and ethics and facts and truth all depend on what your view of the world is ; and that there may be as many views of *that* as there as people.

You might be able to give everybody unhindered, untested access to computer knowledge. Because the computer would do the day-to-day work for which we once qualified to the select few in an educational system originally designed for a world where only the few could be taught.

You might end the regimentation of people living and working in vast, unimaginable cities, uniting them instead in an electronic community, where the Himalayas and Manhattan were only a split second apart.

You might with that and much more break the mold that has held us back since the beginning, in a future world that we would describe as balanced anarchy, and *they* will describe as an open society, tolerant of every view, aware that there is no single privileged way of doing things ; above all, able to do away with the greatest tragedy of our era, the centuries-old waste of human talent that we couldn't --or wouldn't-- use.

Utopia ? Why ?

If, as I've said all along, the universe is at any time what you say it is -- then say ! 

-- James Burke
_The Day The Universe Changed_
( BBC-TV series ), his final speech

. . .


Next, meet Mr Ted Nelson, gadfly, prophet, and self-confessed computer crackpot, with a lifetime's obsession wrapped up in an enormous program called (after Coleridge's unfinished poem) Xanadu. Boon or boondoggle, nobody is quite sure. But the giant piece of software for steering one's own thought processes (including alternate paths, mental backtracks, and intellectual leaps) is hardly lacking in ambition or vision.

Conceived originally by Mr Nelson while a student at Harvard as simply a note-keeping program for preserving his every thought, Xanadu has evolved into a total literary process : creating ideas ; organising the thoughts, with traces showing backtracks, alternative versions and jumps to cross-referenced document ; manipulating the text ; publishing the results ; and logging a share of the royalties to every other author citied.

Every document in Xanadu's database has links to its intellectual antecedents and to others covering related topics. The linked references work like footnotes, except that Xanadu offers an electronic 'window' through which they can be accessed there and then. Because the whole process works in a non-sequential way, the inventor calls the output 'hypertext'.

Mr Nelson looks forward to the day when anybody can create what he or she wants --from recipes to research papers, sonnets to songs-- and put it into Xanadu's database and quote or cite anybody else. Royalties and subroyalties, monitored automatically by the host computer, would be paid according to the amount of time a user was on-line and reading a specific document. It sounds pretty wild at the moment, but hypertext could be commonplace before the century is out.

-- _The Economist_
(London), 23 Aug 86

. . .


This book tells an unusual story : *a bunch of idealistic, clever guys set out to change the face of literature and civilization with a new computer program*. A computer program intended to make possible a new unified electronic literature, a computer program intended to re-kindle the freedoms of yesterday and extend them into the electronic future of tomorrow, a computer program intended to tie everything together and make it all available to everyone.

Project Xanadu is the name of this work, creating a framework for the new integrated literature of tomorrow ; I and various intrepid colleagues have endeavored over long years to bring it to birth. From this group of idealists, and their years of thinking, talking, and sketching,has come today's Xanadu ^TM hypermedia and hypertext system-- a unique new kind of computer program. Xanadu is anew way of organizing the storage of information ; it makes possible a new form of literature ; and its intended network might just revitalize human life. All this embodied in an existing piece of software which we are trying to promote, sell, and explain. We think that anyone who *actually understands the problems* will recognize our approach as the unique solution. 

. . .


There is a vision offered in these pages, simple, unified, and sweeping : it is a unified concept of interconnected ideas and data, and how these ideas and data may be published to the computer screen. Thus we propose two things : a simple-to-understand electronic publishing system for the world, and a new technical way of simplifying and improving the world's data storage. Both of these are easily described.

A ) *A vision of electronic publishing*

Here is the idea :

At your screen of tomorrow you will have access to all the world's published work : all the books, all the magazines, all the photographs, the recordings, the movies. (And to *new kinds* of publication, created especially for the interactive screen.)

You will be able to bring any published work to your screen, or any part of a published work.

You will be able to make *links* --comments, personal notes, or other connections-- between places in documents, and leave them there for others (as well as yourself to follow later. You may even publish these links.

Royalty to each publisher will be automatic, as materials are delivered over the network. Each piece delivered will be paid for automatically, from the user's account to the publisher's account, when the user receives a piece sent for.

Any document may quote another, because the quoted part is brought --and *bought*-- from the original at the instant of request, with automatic royalty and credit to the originator.

B ) *Simplifying the world of data*

The world of computer data has become tangled and complicated, a mess of disconnected files in which we all wallow today-- even privately, now, in our offices and homes. We propose a new technical way of simplifying that data.

This new way of handling i
information is to represent *its true interconnections*. We do this with the two forms of interconnection explained in this book : the LINK and the TRANSCLUSION.
The Xanadu project has been our ongoing struggle to represent this wide web of interconnection, of links and transclusions, in a network of computers.

. . .


This book, and the system it foretells, are dedicated to

Eric Blair (1903 -1950)

better known by his pen name


an acute, sad, and bitter observer and prognosticator
who understood tyranny perhaps better than any tyrant,
who understood information control
long ahead of the rest of us ;
and who left us cunning, elegant, and timely warnings.

Somehow many take his name to stand for
all that he despised ;
so that the word "Orwellian",
meaning tyrannical, oppressive, mind-controlling,
and futuristically threatening,
is itself the perfect example of the twisted Newspeak he foresaw.

* May his simple, honest, angry devotion
to truth and human freedom
live forever. *

. . .


This book in its present version is dedicated to


visionary of what he calls
The Augmentation of Human Intellect by Computer ;
and, as part of that, the inventor of what we now call
" Word Processing ",
" Outline Processing" ,
" Screen Windows ",
the mouse ;
and (what this book is largely about)
a man whose warmth and gentle determination
are an inspiration to all who know him.

* May his simple, honest, saintly devotion
to the uplift and empowerment of the human mind
live forever. *

. . .


All men dream, but not equally.
Those who dream by night,
in the dusty recesses of their minds,
wake in the day to find that it was vanity.
But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
for they may act their dreams with open eyes
to make it possible.

-- T.E. Lawrence


. . .by "hypertext" I mean *non-sequential writing* -- text that branches and allows choices to the reader, best read at an interactive screen.

As popularly conceived, this is a series of text chunks connected by links which offer the reader different pathways.

I will not argue with this definition here, but I hope it will become clear throughout the book how much more I think hypertext can be.


Hypertext can include sequential text, and is thus the most general form of writing. Unrestricted by sequence, in hypertext we may create new forms of writing which better reflect the structure of what we are writing *about* ; and readers, choosing a pathway, may follow their interests or current line of thought in a way heretofore considered impossible. . .



Envision the world of the future (say, the year 2020, a convenient time when talking about vision). It is not a pretty place.

There is every reason to suppose that even if humanity survives the next century, it will be in ever-more horrific circumstances, a dungheap, more and more filled with spreading slums--the *favelas* of Brazil, the *barrios* of Mexico, the South Bronx of New York ; the natural world in retreat, the jungles turning to desert and todays deserts growing, the waters poisoned and growing areas of land turned unsafe by chemicals.

None of this can be stopped. But there is some hope in the realm of human mental affairs, upon which the survival of humanity, and the better parts of human culture, depend.

For facilities to aid the mind, and share its products, have reached a new richness. But they must become unified and available to all, quickly.

. . .



Here then are two reasonable hopes, which I offer to persons of goodwill.

HOPE 1. To have our everyday lives made simple and flexible by the computer as a personal information tool.

HOPE 2. To be able to read, on computer screens, from vast libraries easily, the things we choose being clearly and instantly available to us, in a great interconnected web of writings and ideas.

Neither of these things is happening.



. . .Pragmatism and the desire to get along in the world lead people to put up with what should not be put up with. But nothing really stops anyone from creating the good and the elegant except habit, inertia, and desuetude-- and the fact that doing right is much harder than not doing right.

The starting point in designing a computer system must be the creation of the conceptual and psychological environment, the seeming of the system-- what I and my associates call the *virtuality*. You begin by designing a conceptual structure and how it should feel, then work back into the mechanics. You decide how it *ought* to be, and then make that vision happen ; you don't just patch and splice and add and adapt.

As soon as you understand computers, all this should become obvious. Yet most people have not understood computers --partly because some computer people didn't want them to-- and so the benefits to our lives have been put off and put off.

And what of the two hopes of which I spoke earlier ?


. . .In this book I will deal simply with reading and writing from screens, and the universe that I think is out there to create-- and then explore and live in. Vannevar Bush told us about it in 1945 and called it the Memex (((, but the idea has been dropped by most people. Too blue-sky. Too *simple*, perhaps.

The Memex was a publishing system that would hold everything that is written, and allow each new user to add connections --Bush called them *trails*-- to connect and clarify the material that's already stored.

I say Bush was right, and so this book describes a new electronic form of the Memex, and offers it to the world.

Bush wrote in 1945. A dozen years later, a young electrical engineer had a similar vision : of computers helping the human mind-- or, as he called it, the augmentation of human intellect ((( His name was Douglas Engelbart. . .He foresaw a world of instant text access on screens, interconnections we can make and share, a new style of shared work among colleagues, and the enhancement of everyone's working imagination.

The system described in this book builds on and fuses these two great visions. It is very close to Bush's original Memex, but now computerized ; and its purpose is the augmentation of human intellect, as Doug Engelbart foresaw ; it is intended to be especially simple for beginning users but easily extended to applications of great complexity ; and it is constructed for orderly and sweeping growth as a universal archive and publishing system.

. . .



. . .In the broader view, the goals of tomorrow's text systems will be the long ones of civilization --education, understanding, human happiness, the preservation of humane traditions-- but we must use today's and tomorrow's technologies. We who believe this are *systems humanists*, striving to further the ideals of the humanist perspective by the best available means. This means finding ways that human literature, art, and thought --including science, of course-- may best be facilitated, preserved, and disseminated.

Consider the analogy of water. Civilization as we now know it based in part on running water-- supplying it, distributing it, and turning it off and on where you need it. That overall system had to be thought out. Similarly, someone now must design waterworks for the mind.

The literature we envision, described in this book, is meant to be a utility, a commodity, a waterworks for the mind ; your computer screen will be the spigot --or shower nozzle-- that dispenses what you need when you turn the handle. But that system must be based on the fluidity of thought-- not just its crystallized and static form, which, like water's, is hard and cold and goes nowhere.

. . .


Spoken language is a series of words, and so is conventional writing. We are used to sequential writing, and so we come easily to suppose that writing is intrinsically sequential. It need not be and should not be.

There are two outstanding arguments for breaking away from sequential presentation. One is that *it spoils the unity and structure of interconnection*. The other is that *it forces a single sequence for all readers which may be appropriate for none*.

1. *Spoiling the Unity and Structure*

The sequentiality of text is based on sequentiality of language and the sequentiality of printing and binding. These two simple and everyday facts have led us to thinking that text is intrinsically sequential. This has led to the fallacy that presentation *should* be intrinsically sequential. Marshall McLuhan even put this fallacy at the center of European thought, and perhaps he was right, perhaps it is.

But sequentiality is not necessary. A structure of thought is not itself sequential. It is an interwoven system of ideas (what I like to call a *structangle*). None of the ideas necessarily comes first ; and breaking up these ideas into a presentational sequence is an arbitrary and complex process. It is often also a destructive process, since in taking apart the whole system of connection to present it sequentially, we can scarcely avoid breaking --that is, leaving out-- some of the connections that are part of the whole.

Of course, we do this kind of simplifying sequential breakdown all the time, but that doesn't mean we *should*, it just means we *have to*.

2. *Forcing Simple Sequence Inappropriate for All Readers*

People have different backgrounds and styles. . .Yet sequential text, to which we are funneled by tradition and technology, forces us to write the same sequences for everyone, which may be appropriate for some readers and leave others out in the cold, or which may be appropriate for nobody.

Thus it would be greatly preferable if we could easily create different pathways for different readers, based upon background, taste, and probably understanding. Now, in normal circumstances this is handled by writing different articles (and books) about the same subject, and publishing them in different places (or ways) for different audiences. This will give readers many choices in approaching the same work.

In the computer world this will change, especially if --as I foresee-- there will be one great repository, and everything will be equally accessible. This means that "different" articles and books will more likely be *different versions of the same work, and different pathways through it for different readers.


Nonsequential writing on paper can be all sorts of things-- magazine layouts, funny arrangement of poetry, pieces of writing connected by lines, or many other things.

As we go in this century from paper to computer screen --and tomorrow's computer screens will have the richness and resolution of paper-- all these nonsequential forms, and more, are possible. And we must discover and invent them.

Some are obvious. The most obvious is that which simply connects chunks of text by alternative choices --we may call these *links*, of which more later-- presented to the user. I call this simply *chunk style hypertext*. The user, or reader, moves through it by reading one chunk, then choosing the next.

Another form of text that is becoming increasingly important is *compound text* where materials are viewed and combined with others. A good way of visualizing this is a set of windows to original materials from the compound text themselves. Thus I prefer to call this *windowing* text.

Extending the notion slightly, we get *windowing hypertext*-- where nonsequential writings --hypertexts-- window to other stored materials.

It is this notion, then, of windowing or compound hypertext --which we foresee as the vital and basic new information system of the future-- that has charged and inspired the present work.

Unfortunately, for thousands of years the idea of sequence has been too much with us**, because nothing else has been practical ; and indeed, creating a system subtle and profound enough to meet our real needs has proven to be an extensive task indeed.

*The structure of ideas* is never sequential ; and indeed, our thought processes are not very sequential either. True, only a few thought at a time pass across the central screen of the mind ; but as you consider a thing, your thoughts crisscross it constantly, reviewing first one connection, then another. Each new idea is compared with many parts of the whole picture, or with some mental visualization of the whole picture itself.

It is the representation of whole structures of ideas, and placing them on the page for others to understand, that we call *writing*. Writing is the representation and presentation of thought.

**Except for the Talmud. This is an extraordinary hypertext, a body of accumulated comment and controversy, mostly on the Torah (the Hebrew Old Testament) and on life in general, by Jewish scholars of old. It has been accreted over centuries with commentaries on commentaries. This hypertext is a fundamental document of Jewish religion and culture, and the Talmudic scholar is one who knows many of its pathways.


There are basically two difficulties in writing sequential text : deciding on sequence --there are so many possible connections!-- and deciding what's in and what's out. Both of these problems go away with hypertext. You no longer have to decide on sequence, but on *interconnective structure*, which provides much greater flexibility. You no longer have to decide what's in and what's out, but simply where to put things in the searchable maze.


In reading works of non-fiction, the active reader often skips ahead, jumps around, ponders about background material. These initiatives are useful and important ; if we provide pathways to help active reading, it will be possible to enhance initiative and speed comprehension.


1. *Presentation and Effect*

One style of hypertext organization is based on its possible effect on the reader. The connective structure is a system of *planned presentations* which the reader may traverse. Variant sequences and alternative jumps will be contrived for how they look, feel, and get ideas across.

2. *Lines of Structure*

The other style of hypertext organization is based on simply representing the structure of the subject, with possible directions of travel mapping the relations in the network of ideas being presented. The internal relations of the subject are thus represented in the connective relations of the hypertext. This is simpler than calculating the effect on the reader, since the author is only concerned with analyzing and representing what the structure really *is*, and the reader is exploring the structure as he or she explores the text.

Actually, both styles of organization will probably blend, since the ideal presentation will follow lines of structure, and the mere representation of structure will presumably need enhancement by showmanship.


There are tricky problems here. One of the greatest is how to make the reader feel comfortable and oriented. In books and magazines there are lots of ways the reader can see where he is (and recognize what he has read before) : the thickness of a book, the recalled position of a paragraph on the left or right page, and whether it was at the bottom or the top. these incidental cues are important to knowing what you are doing. New ones must be created to take their place. How these will relate to the visuals of tomorrow's hot screens is anybody's guess, but it is imperative to create now a system on which they may be built. 


It is my belief that this new ability to represent ideas in the fullness of their interconnections will lead to easier and better writing, easier and better learning, and a far greater ability to share and communicate the interconnections among tomorrow's ideas and problems. . .

. . .


Most people consider school to be a grim necessity to be accepted, endured, and survived. School, as nearly everyone freely admits, is dull, unpleasant, and designed to build mediocrity. It is a mapping of the world of ideas into a sequential bureaucratic presentational system, with generally awful results.

1. The Curriculum

The very system of curriculum, where the world's subjects are hacked to fit a schedule of time-slots, at once transforms the world of ideas into a *schedule*. ("Curriculum" means "little racetrack" in Latin.)

A curriculum promotes a false simplification of any subject, cutting the subject's many interconnections and leaving a skeleton of sequence which is only a caricature of its richness and intrinsic fascination.

2. Teacher as Feudal Lord

The world of ideas is carved into territories, and assigned as fiefdoms to individuals who represent these territories (called Subjects) ; these lords and ladies in turn impose their own style and personality on them. The pupil must pay homage to the Duchess of History, the Count of Mathematics ; and if you and these individuals do not like each other, you will almost certainly dislike the subject they control, which take on their stamp and personality. Each feudal lord has absolute power to bore, offend, and sever access.

The teacher controls access to the subject under his or her own viewpoint. If you find this viewpoint unfriendly, unpleasant, or confusing, that subject becomes closed to you forever.

These two principles --the crushing of living subjects into curricular caricatures, and their bestowal to feudal overlords-- effectively guarantee that whatever is taken in school becomes and remains uninteresting. Everything is intrinsically interesting, but is drained of its interest by these processes.

Thus follow both the dreariness of education and the crippling of the mind as we see it everywhere today. Education is typically the process of successfully ruining subjects for you, and the last subject to be ruined determines your profession. An educated person is someone who says' "I don't know anything about that, I never took it." Whereas a free-minded person can become excited about a new idea, in any subject, whether or not he or she ever heard about the idea or subject before.

What is perhaps even worse, this system imbues in everyone the attitude that the world is divided into "subjects" ; that these subjects are well-defined and well-understood ; and that there are "basics", that is, a hierarchy of understandings which must necessarily underpin a further hierarchy of "advanced ideas" which are to be learned *afterward*.

This outlook could not have been better designed to crush people's mental spirits, to keep them from becoming involved with ideas, from thinking, exploring, conjecturing, taking interest.

. . .


Civilization. . .has to do not with things
but with the invisible ties
that join one thing to another.

-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough.

-- Niels Bohr
quoted in Kenneth Brower
_The Starship and the Canoe_

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'Tis a gift to be free.

-- Shaker hymn



Our design is suggested by the one working precedent that we know of : literature.

A piece of writing --say, a sheet of typed paper on the table-- looks alone and independent. This is quite misleading. Solitary it may be, but it may be also part of a literature.

By the term "a literature" we are not necessarily talking about *belles lettres* or leather-bound books. We mean it in the same broad sense of "the scientific literature", or that graduate-school question, "Have you looked at the literature ?"

A literature is a *system of interconnected writings*. We do not offer this as our definition, but as a discovered fact. And almost all writing is part of some literature.

These interconnections do not exist on paper except in rudimentary form, and we have tended not to be aware of them. We see individual documents but not the literature, just as people see other individuals but tend not to see the society or culture that surround them.

The way people read and write is based in large part on these interconnections.

A person reads an article. He or she says to himself or herself, "Where have I seen something like that before ? Oh, yes--" and the previous connection is brought mentally into play.



Consider how it works in science, and the day-to-day activities of an individual scientist, let's say a genetic theorist. She reads current articles in the journals. These articles refer back, explicitly, to other writings ; if our genetic theorist chooses to question the sources, or review their meaning, she is *following links* as she gets the books and journals and refers them. Our genetic theorist may correspond with colleagues, mentioning what she has read, and receiving replies suggesting other thing to read. (This correspondence, too, is thus connected to these other writings by implicit links.)

Say that our scientist, seeking to refresh her ideas, goes back to reading Darwin. She also derives inspiration from other things she reads-- the Bible, science fiction. These too link up to work going on in her mind.

Now writing, our scientist quotes and cites the things she has read in her own articles. (These links are explicit.) Other readers, taking interest in her sources, read the source documents for these quotes and citations (following the links).

And so it goes on. Our Western cultural tradition is a great procession of writings, all with links implicit and explicit between them.

Writings in principle remain continuously available --both as recently quoted, and in their original inviolable incarnations-- in a great procession.



Everyone argues over the interpretation of former writings, even the geneticist of our example. One author will cite a passage in Darwin to prove Darwin thought one thing, another will find another passage to try to prove he thought another.

And views of a field, and the way a field's own past is viewed within it, change. A formerly forgotten researcher may come to light (like Mendel), or a highly respected researcher may be discredited (like Cyril Burt). And so it goes, on and on. The past is continually changing-- or at least seems to be, as we view it.

There is no predicting the use future people will make of what is written. Any summary we write today embodies a particular view : the perspective of a particular individual (or school of thought) at a particular time. We cannot know how things will be seen in the future. We must assume there will never be a final and definitive view of anything.

And yet this system functions.


By that I mean that the system of writing and publication is a well-worked-out method and structure with deep and subtle workings.

In the evolution of the printed word, the mechanisms of quotation, citation, and bibliography have been carefully adjusted in the evolving process. . .

. . .
Even though in every field there is an ever-changing flux of emphasis and perspective and distortion, and an ever-changing fashion in content and approach, the ongoing mechanism of written and published text furnishes a flexible vehicle for this change, continually adapting. Linkage structure between documents forms a flux of invisible threads and rubber bands that hold the thoughts together between documents. . .

. . .The point is clear, whether in science, or business, or *belles lettres*. Within bodies of writing, everywhere, there are linkages we tend not to see. The individual document, at hand, is what we deal with ; we do not see the total linked collection of them all at once. But they are there, the documents not present as well as those that are, and the grand cat's-cradle among them all.

From this fundamental insight, we have endeavored to create a system for text editing and retrieval that will receive, and handle, and present, documents with links between them. We believe there is something very right about the existing system of literature ; indeed we suspect there are things right about it that we don't even now, as is true of Nature. And so we have tried to mirror, and replicate, and extend, existing literary structure as we have here described it. 

. . .


While the system is conceptually simple, it is amazing how many different ways there are to think about it and describe it. We take this as indicating its generality.

Some of these descriptions are listed below, both as one-liners and in an essay form. Readers may find them useful for communicating to others, or for reviewing their own understanding of the system.


" A literary system of authorship, ownership, quotation, and linkage."

" A pluralistic publishing and archiving medium with open hypertext and semi-closed framing."

" A distributed repository scheme for worldwide electronic publishing."

" A system to promote cumulative order and the equitable coexistence of many viewpoints. "

" A vessel for the true shape of information-- without having to cut it or jam it. "

" A mapping system between storage and virtual documents. "

" A storage arrangement for linking between arbitrary collections of material. "

" A seamless data architecture for linked electronic publishing. " 

" A linking system for keeping track of anything. "

" An applicative virtual document system for applying sequential and non-sequential structure to material that arrived out of sequence and unstructured. "

" A way of tying it all together and not losing anything. "

" A way of including anything in anything else. "


The Xanadu Hypertext System is a form of storage : a new computer filing system which stores and delivers new kinds of documents. These documents may have any form and contents, but may also have links and inclusions from other documents. A user may request parts of documents or may follow links, both within and between documents. The user may easily see highlighted intercomparisons between documents.

This structure is the same regardless of size : a small Xanadu system will hold and clarify an individual's work, the full network is intended to supply billions of of documents to billions of simultaneous users, all following links and windows throughout the growing body of hypertext.


The Xanadu Hypertext System is a new form of storage intended to simplify and clarify computer use, and make possible new forms of instantaneous electronic publishing.

Running on a single computer, it is a file server for the storage and delivery of text, graphics, and other digital information with previously impossible arrangements and services. These new arrangements include links and windows between documents, as well as non-sequential writing (hypertext).

It will also reveal and clarify commonalities between documents and among versions, simplifying both storage and comprehensibility. Thus even running on a single computer, it will simplify computer operations, clarify storage, and clarify and simplify office and document work for individuals and corporations.

In the full world-wide network, it will permit the publication and instantaneous world-wide delivery of interconnected works having immense new power to huge numbers of users.


Intellectualism is not a specific body of knowledge or a subculture, but a questioning, observing, hypothesizing outlook.

*There are no intellectual subjects*. For someone used to learning, to grabbing vocabulary and ideas, the elements of a new subject can come quickly. The more diagrams you have seen, the more words you know, the more theories you have heard, the more easily you can grasp the next one and assimilate it to the snowball of ideas already rolling around in your head.

In the era of school-induced stupor, punch-and-judy news and video narcosis, we hope the Xanadu System will encourage depth and a never-ending procession of new insights.

But it will be important to build a central constituency-- a subculture to form a nucleus at the center of this new world.

The realm of the intellect has had long connections to the establishment, and has been hoary and stuffy since the Middle Ages. A nice allegory of this is Herman Hesse's heavy novel _Magister Ludi_ (((, which is about a future subculture of generalists who look for resemblances and connections across all knowledge. But they have an elaborate competitive hierarchy like chess masters-- establishment nexocrats contributing to no one else.

. . .

We propose to give momentum to our system by the creation of a new subculture which provides an alternative to the stuffiness of the rest of the intellectual world. This will be wide open to everyone, especially the whoop-te-do enthusiasts who enjoy sharing their sophistications. . .

. . .


Freedom is indivisible.

-- Rumpole of the Bailey

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

-- John Philpot Curran,
as popularly misquoted

Freedom is not a simple experience. And as technology becomes more sophisticated, living in freedom --which means living with constant, changing choice-- will only become more complex.

-- Emily Prager

Tomorrow's hypertext networks have immense political ramifications, and there are many struggles to come. Many vested interests may turn out to be opposed to freedom.

It is important to see *why* the issues of freedom hinge so tightly on what many laypeople would consider to be obscure technical issues.

On-line text systems may or may not become universal or replace much of paper publishing. Whichever view you take, the questions are *what these systems are to be like* ; what things are to be available, and to whom, and under what circumstances ; and who may put things in, and who is responsible for their contents, and who may censor them, and who may protest the contents, and what gets thrown away on whose decision ; and what is to be their relation to the archiving of our heritage, and how accessible they are to be, and how reliably and accessibly the personal, national, and human heritages are to be preserved. For rolled into such designs and prospects is the whole future of humanity, and, indeed, the future of the past and the future of the future-- meaning the *kinds* of future that become forbidden, or possible. 


It may be easy to tell whether the battle for hope in our time is lost or won ; simply ask whether there is instantaneous access to the many voices of science ; of politics ; the proposals and the arguments, wherever they may come from ; the many facts and asserted facts which implicitly support or undercut various points of view-- without their being censored, stifled, drowned out, smeared, and scribbled over by those who want only their views heard, tainted by fraud and forgery, obliterated by bomb or threat or mysterious disappearance. These are the freedoms we have called "freedom of speech" and "freedom of the press". But digital storage will be the new microphone and printing press, and so access to it will be the battleground of freedom in the future. Knowing what kind of new printing press is possible should help you understand the freedoms that are truly yours-- if you fight for them.


These problems are real and present, and have been waiting for us all along. Far on the horizon as they may now appear, soon they will be on us like a tornado. The way to approach these issues, I believe, is not to sit in a corner and tremble, like a rabbit in a tiger cage hoping it won't be eaten, but to run between the legs of the beast before it fully wakes up.

Electronic freedoms will be at the center of the whirlwind of the coming years. Either we will fight for them, or they will be taken from us like candy from a child.

The future will go on for a long time. And it will be a protracted war between those who wish to have access to information --the first need of a free people-- and those who wish to suppress that access. This war will last as long as humanity endures.

. . .

Aldous Huxley (01894 - 01963)

( recorded @ MIT in 01962 )

( recorded @ MIT in 01962 )


excerpts from


Aldous Huxley's writings on
 Psychedelics & the Visionary Experience
( 01931-01963 ) 

with introductions by



In the mid-1950s when Aldous Huxley's _The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell_ appeared, I found therein descriptions of experiences and the articulation of ideas which, since the discovery of LSD twelve years earlier, had constantly occupied my mind. 

By that time scientific research along the broadest hues had already been carried out with LSD in medicine, biology, pharmacology, and psychiatry, and about one thousand papers had already been published. But it seemed to me a fundamental potentiality of this chemical agent had not yet been sufficiently considered or recognized, namely its ability to produce visionary experiences. I. was therefore very pleased to learn that a person of such great literary and spiritual rank as Aldous Huxley, using mescaline which exhibits similar qualitative effects as LSD, had turned to a profound study of this phenomenon. Research on mescaline had been done as early as the turn of the century, but interest in this drug had afterwards largely diminished. 

About the same time that Huxley carried out his experiments with mescaline, I held LSD sessions with the well-known German author Ernst Jiinger in order to gain a more profound knowledge of the visionary experiences produced by the drug in the human mind. Ernst Jiinger recorded his experiences in an essay entitled Besuch auf Godenhqlm (Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt, 1952), which gives in literary form the essence of his interpretations. On the other hand, Aldous Huxley in the aforementioned books not only provides a masterly description of his encounter with mescaline, but also an evaluation of this type of drug from the highest spiritual and mental point of view, taking into account sociological, aesthetic, and philosophical aspects. 

Aldous Huxley indeed advocated the use of certain drugs, which led some people who studied his works superficially, or not at all, to reproach him with being to a certain extent guilty for the rising wave of drug abuse, or even of being a drug addict himself. This accusation has of course no justifiable basis, as Huxley has only dealt with substances for which Humphry Osmond has created the term "psychedelic." These are the psychotropic agents which had so far been denominated in scientific literature by the terms "phantastica," "hallucinogens," or "psychotomimetics." These are not narcotic addiction-producing substances like the opiate heroin, or like cocaine, with their ruinous consequences for body and mind of which Huxley warned emphatically. 

Psychotropic substances of plant origin had already been in use for thousands of years in Mexico as sacramental drugs in religious ceremonies and as magical potions having curative effects; The most important of these psychedelics are: mescaline, found in the peyotl cactus; psilocybin, which I have isolated from sacred Mexican mushrooms called teonanacatl; and, of course, LSD. Despite the fact that LSD (Lysergsaure-diathylamid, lysergic acid diethylamide) is a semisynthetic substance which I have prepared in the laboratory from lysergic acid contained in ergot, a fungus growing on rye, from the viewpoint of its chemical constitution as well as its psychotropic mode of acting, it belongs to the group of Mexican sacramental drugs. This classification is further justified because we have found in another Mexican sacramental drug ololiuqui the active substances lysergic acid amide and lysergic acid hydroxyethylamide, which are, as the chemical terms express, very closely related to lysergic acid diethylamide. Ololiuqui is the Aztec denomination for the seeds of certain morning glory species. LSD can be regarded as an ololiuqui drug raised to higher potency because, whereas the active dose of the ololiuqui constituent lysergic acid amide amounts to 2 mg (0.002 g), a similar effect can be produced with as little as 0.05-0.1 mg of LSD. 

There are the profound consciousness-altering psychic effects of peyotl, teonanacatl, and ololiuqui which made the Indians of the Latin American countries so respectful and awestruck of these drugs, causing these people to place a taboo on them. Only a ritually clean person, one prepared by a period of prayer and fasting, had the right and qualification to ingest these drugs and then only in such a purified body as their divine nature could develop, whereas the impure felt themselves going insane or mortally stricken. 

It was the endeavor of Aldous Huxley to show how the inward power of these sacramental drugs could be used for the welfare of people living in a technological society hostile to mystical revelations. The collected essays and lectures in the present volume will promote better understanding of these ideas. In Huxley's view, the use of psychedelics should be part of a technique of "applied mysticism," which he described to me in a letter of February 29, 1962 as a technique for helping individuals to get the most out of their transcendental experience and to make use of their insights from the "other world" in the affairs of "this world." Meister Eckhart wrote that "what is taken in by contemplation must be given out in love." Essentially this is what must be developed—the art of giving out in love and intelligence what is taken in from vision and the experience of self-transcendence and solidarity with the universe. 

In his last and most touching book, the Utopian novel _Island_, Aldous Huxley describes the kind of cultural structure in which the psychedelics— in his narration called "moksha-medicine"— could be applied in a beneficial manner. Moksha is therefore a very appropriate title for the present book, for which we have to be very grateful to the editors. 


 _Moksha_ is a collection of Aldous Huxley's writings taken largely from the last decade of his life. An appreciation of these addresses, essays and letters, and of the value he placed upon them, requires some introduction to the writer as well as to the written heritage he has left us. Aldous Leonard Huxley was born on July 26, 1894, notable literary and scientific family. He was the third son of Dr. Leonard Huxley— teacher, editor, man of letters— and of Julia Arnold, niece of the poet Matthew Arnold and sister of the novelist, Mrs. Humphrey Ward. He was the grandson of T. H. Huxley, the scientist, and the great-grandson of a formidable moralist. Dr. Thomas Arnold. His eldest brother, Julian, died February 21, 1975, ending that generation of world-recognized Huxleys. 

Huxley's own writings best document his transition from poet to novelist to mystic to essayist to scientist. At the age of sixteen a disastrous eye infection left Huxley substantially blind, putting an end to a hoped-for medical career. Forced to depend upon braille for reading, a guide for walking, and a typewriter for writing, he considered his disability irreversible, and his early poems such as
The Defeat of Youth (1918) and Leda (1920) express bitterness. However, the title poem of The Cicadas (1931) shows a recovery from this morbidness, and in a storm of productivity Huxley turned from poetry to the novel, shocking the reading public with _Chrome Yellow_ (1921), _Antic Hay_ (1923), and _Those Barren Leaves_ (1925). He was compared with two contemporary literary rebels, Noel Coward and Richard Aldington; however, whereas these latter attacked the middle class without suggestions for improvement, Huxley's writings provided the seeds of constructive synthesis. In the collection of travel essays _Jesting Pilate_ (1926) and his novel _Time Must Have a Stop_ (1944), one can see the polish of phrase that was to become his signature and catch glimpses of the philosophical concerns which were soon to command his attention. 

_Brave New World_ (1932) preceded George Orwell's _1984_ by some twenty years and is today perhaps the best-known work of Huxley. A disturbingly large number of his prophecies have been fulfilled. In this novel Huxley presents a panacea-drug called Soma (Christianity without tears, morality in a bottle) which must be contrasted with his later creation Moksha (a process of education and enlightenment). 

Huxley's view of the scientist, as one who bridges the disciplines of religion and philosophy with science, follows principles he had first aid down in Time Must Have a Stop. In this novel he carefully avoided extremes of commitment: he felt that in a quest for truth and understanding, to have no hypothesis would deny one a motive or reason for experimentation, whereas to construct too elaborate a
hypothesis would result in finding out what one knows to be there and ignoring all the rest. His "minimum working hypothesis" assumes the existence of a Godhead or Ground, a transcendent and immanent selflessness, with which one must become identified through love and knowledge. 

The meeting with Dr. Humphry Osmond in 1953, which provided the crucible for Huxley's personal experiments in challenging this "minimum working hypothesis," is the logical starting place for this present collection of writings. Mescaline, then a little-studied drug found in the dumpling cactus Anhalonium lewinii, was to serve as the catalyst for this experiment. Mescaline was first isolated from the plant in 1894 by Heffter, first synthesized by Spath in 1919, and pharmacologically explored by Rouhier and Beringer in the middle 1920s. Yet by the early 1950s, only clinical and physiological studies had been recorded concerning the effects of this drug; there had been no literary or humanistic inquiry. 

The results of Huxley's scientific-humanistic inquiry were profound and immediately apparent. The short-term consequences were the recording of the drug-induced experiences in _The Doors of Perception_ (1954), elaboration upon these and their extrapolation to other consciousness phenomena in Heaven and Hell (1956). The longer term consequence of this experiment and the several that followed convinced Huxley of the soundness of his working hypothesis: that there was a Ground and it was the "everything that is happening everywhere in the universe," or better, the awareness of this "everything." He was fascinated by the potential in drugs such as mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin to provide a learning experience normally denied us within our educational system. His lectures, novels and essays repeated the theme of desperation and hope. In an article in Playboy (Nov. 1963) he expressed despair that "in a world of explosive population increase, of headlong, technological advance and of militant nationalism, the time at our disposal— for the discovery of new energy sources for overcoming our society's psychological inertia— is strictLy limited." The hope, as expressed in his Utopian fantasy _Island_ (1962), 
is that "a substance akin to psilocybin could be used to potentiate the non-verbal education of adolescents and to remind adults that the real world is very different from the misshapen universe they have created for themselves by means of their culture-conditioned prejudices." 

In Island the concept of such a drug is developed with the introduction of a fungus, Moksha. From its name it is apparent that it is not the Soma presented in Brave New World; Moksha is derived from the Sanskrit word for "liberation" and Soma from the Greek for "body." In this book Huxley again precipitated controversy ahead of his time with his description of the death process as a learning process, and one which may be enriched by the administration of psychedelic drugs. The sincerity of this concept is evident in his ultimate experiment, in which he received two small doses of LSD, one several hours before death and a second just prior to death. In the last moments, he was conscious and peaceful. 

During the last decade of his life, Huxley was intentionally controversial, yet he was desperately sincere. It is impossible to guess what he would write today, some fifteen years later, following the extensive proselytization for the use of psychedelic drugs that occurred in the late 1960s. There was an explosive usage at that time, often by people who had not prepared themselves for the experience or for the personal integration of its values. Whatever he might have written, Huxley's role in literature and in the expression of the philosophy of consciousness expansion can never be denied. "

( 01954 )

It is difficult to speak of mental events except in similes drawn from the familiar universe of material things. A man may be said to consist of an Old World of personal consciousness, and, on the other side of a dividing ocean, of a series of New Worlds. These New Worlds of a subconscious can never be colonized, are seldom thoroughly explored, and in many cases await even discovery. As in this earth, if you go to the antipodes of the self-conscious personality, you will encounter all sorts of creatures at least as odd as kangaroos. We do not, in either case, invent these creatures. They live independently, and beyond our control. But we may go where they are, and observe them. They exist "out there" in the mental equivalent of distant space. From "in here" we can sometimes watch them as they go about their mysterious business. 

Some never consciously discover their antipodes. Others make an occasional landing. A few others come and go easily at will. For the naturalist of the mind— who must gather his data before we become true zoologists of the mind— the primary need is for some safe, easy, reliable method of transportation between the two Worlds. Two such methods exist. Neither is perfect; both are sufficiently reliable, easy and safe to justify their use by those who know what they do. The first is by use of mescalin, an alkaloid chemical. The second is by means of hypnotism. The two vessels carry consciousness to the same region; the drug has longer range and carries one farther into the terra incognita. 

As to hypnosis, we do not know how it produces its observed effects. Nor need we know. About the physiological effects of mescalin we know a little. It interferes with the enzyme system regulating cerebral functioning, impairs the brain's efficiency and permits entry into consciousness of certain kinds of mental activity normally excluded as possessing no survival value. We have visions. But they are not random visions. What takes place in them follows patterns as logical internally as are the things seen in the antipodes of the external world. They are strange, but with a certain regularity. 

Certain common features are imposed by this pattern upon our visionary experience. First, and most important, is the experience of light. Everything is brilliantly illuminated, shining from within, and a riot of colors is intensified to a pitch unknown in the normal state. (Most normal dreams are either in black and white or only faintly colored.) Color in dream or vision probably represents sight of "something given" as distinguished from the dramatic symbols of our own struggles or wishes, which are usually uncolored. The visions seen in these antipodes of the mind have nothing to do with the dreams of normal sleep, which we ourselves generate. We see them because they are there, but they are not our creations. Such preternatural light is characteristic of all visionary experience. 

Along with light, there comes recognition of heightened significance. The self-luminous objects possess a meaning as intense as their color. Here, significance is identical with being: objects do not stand for anything but themselves. Their meaning is precisely this: that they are intensely themselves, and, being so, are manifestations of the essential givenness and otherness of the universe. 

Light, color, and significance do not exist in isolation. They modify, or are manifested by, objects. Certain classes of perceptual images appear again and again; colored, moving, living geometrical forms which undulate into more concrete perceptions of patterned things, such as carpets, carvings, mosaics, transmuting continually into other forms in heightened color and grandeur. The observer is cut off from his past; he views a new creation. Much in them is similar to the heavens and fairylands of folklore and religion, the prototype of many Paradises. 

But there may be infernal experience as well, as terrible as the other is glorious. In paradisal visions there is a sense of dissociation from self and its body; in infernal visions the consciousness of the body is heightened and continually degraded. This comes when one lacks that faith and loving confidence which alone guarantees that visionary experience shall be blissful. And what takes place in visions may be but a foretaste of what shall come after the moment of death. "

( 01955 )

What was my own initiation to LSD? It was very simple: Aldous asked me to keep him company one whole day when he was going to take LSD.

"I would love to stay with you all day," I answered. "Is there anything I should know or do?" 

Aldous smiled. "Nothing— just be as you are." 

Was it naivete rather than wisdom that made me pass over that statement so lightly? 

I arrived at Aldous's home about nine o'clock. Aldous took the pills and gave me a paper on which he had written his main purpose for this session. I cannot quote his words exactly— however, their essence was this: "I want to know, and constantly be, in the state of love." 

I wondered. To me Aldous seemed always to be in the state of love! However, my opinion was not the point; his feelings and his search only were important. 

This was October 1955. Except for reading _The Doors of Perception_, I had no idea then what a psychedelic session was. However, I had had five years of experience in giving therapy. The best attitude, in these sessions, is to cancel out for that period one's opinions and to put aside one's tendency to judge others— just to be there, very attentive and free. Not that this free state is always reached or even reachable— but it is one of the goals. That state of attention would be appropriate, I thought, for the LSD day. 

The levels on which we exist are probably infinite— though there are certain levels on which in everyday life, more or less, we meet. But a person in the psychedelic state is on completely different levels. I saw an example of this right at the beginning of our LSD day: Aldous was looking at my hair very closely and smiling that smile which later I recognized almost every time he was in the psychedelic state. With a voice lower and rounder than usual, he said, very slowly, "If you could only see your hair." And after a long silence: 

"You cannot imagine . . ." 

I said nothing but remembered the new rinse I had put on my hair the day before. Did it show? Was it the right color? This is typical of the different levels of consciousness. Aldous was looking at hair, seeing in it the very mystery and wonder of life. He was on a cosmic level, while I, on the cosmetic one, was worrying about the new rinse. I remained silent but was glad when he stopped looking. 

Aldous said that day things which I began to understand only later. At the beginning of the day we tried to enter that period of Aldous's childhood of which he remembered very little. Our attempts failed completely. Very soon I gave up trying as I became aware that something awesome was taking place. I did not know what it was, but I felt that one had no right to disturb what was happening with the usual recall techniques of psychotherapy. I felt it would be like trying to find a faded photograph of a great cathedral while being in the cathedral itself. 

That first psychedelic day as a companion to Aldous flowed easily and quietly. There is so much mystery in a psychedelic day, so much happens in the person who is having the experience that he cannot express. That day, as on many others when I was a companion to a "voyager," I became slightly affected by the drug, although I did not take it and never do when I am a companion. It is one of the many unaccountable qualities of these chemicals. Perhaps the breath of a person who has taken LSD has some trace of it; maybe it comes out from the skin pores. Or is this phenomenon due to hypnosis, imagination, energy-transfer, telepathy? Or to a yet unexplained osmotic process? I do not know. It is a fact, however, that some of the most sensitive companions feel a slight effect of LSD when in the presence of a person who has taken it. In slang, this is called "having a free ride." It is desirable that it should happen, for then the companion is not too separated from the voyager— the companion may participate, even though in a minute way, in the voyage. This natural participation is basic to psychedelic companionship. 

The first trip with Aldous I remember as a timeless roundness. I was not this timeless roundness; Aldous was. My surface mind was still going at its petty pace, but I was aware enough of the timeless roundness not to disturb it. In Aldous's case it could hardly have been disturbed, but in people not as prepared as he was, feelings, revelation, and reaction can be of a different nature. So are states of consciousness. The companion should not interfere with these states or judge them by word, gesture, or feeling— for it is important that the voyager accept all of them, whether blissful or hellish, intellectual or emotional, or unqualifiable— and relate them to his life, for they are all different aspects of himself and of his history. 

As Aldous wrote to Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, "in _Island_ the account of individual [psychedelic] experiences is firsthand knowledge," But I had not the slightest idea that day, and for a long time afterwards, that these experiences were to be the raw material for Aldous's writing. I was so totally unaware of anything connected with the process of writing that it was an enormous surprise for me to find much of our lives in Island. 

That first LSD day was filled with aesthetic revelations. We listened to Bach's Fourth Brandenburg Concerto: 

It was the same, of course, as the Fourth Brandenburg he had listened to so often in the past— the same and yet completely different. This Allegro— he knew it by heart. Which meant that he was in the best possible position to realize that he had never really heard it before. . . . The Allegro was revealing itself as an element in the great present Event, a manifestation at one remove of the luminous bliss. Allegro was the luminous bliss; it was the knowledgeless understanding of everything apprehended through a particular piece of knowledge; it was undifferentiated awareness broken up into notes and phrases and yet still all-comprehendingly itself. And of course all this belonged to nobody. It was at once in here, out there, and nowhere. . . . Which was why he was now hearing it for the first time. Unowned, the Fourth Brandenburg had an intensity of beauty, a depth of intrinsic meaning, incomparably greater than anything he had ever found in the same music when it was his private property. 

. . . And tonight's Fourth Brandenburg was not merely an unowned Thing in Itself; it was also, in some impossible way, a Present Event with an infinite duration. Or rather (and still more impossibly, seeing that it had three movements and was being played at its usual speed) it was without duration. The metronome presides over each of its phrases; but the sum of its phrases was not a span of seconds and minutes. There was a tempo, but no time. So what was there? 

"Eternity." ... He began to laugh. 

"What's so funny?" she asked. 

"Eternity," he answered. "Believe it or not, it's as real as shit." 

I could follow Aldous in the world of music and colors; but when he spoke about the fusion of subject and object I did not understand. I did not understand, but I knew that he knew, and that, sometime, I would also know. "Subject and object," he said quietly and lovingly many times. "No separation between subject and object." In the silence of the large house, in the roundness of that day, there was his
knowing, there was my ignorance. I was aware of both, and of the absence of conflict between the two. His whole person was emanating love and his voice was full of wonder— "Subject and object— they are one." 

That day, partly due to my experience in psychotherapy, I had expected— in spite, alas, of trying not to expect anything— that Aldous might speak about Maria. I had hoped he would, and that he would express emotionally his pain. I had not realized yet that Aldous had his own and best way of directing the unfathomable alchemy by which we continuously transform our feelings and ideas into something else. Aldous transformed his love for Maria, and the pain of her loss, into the death of Lakshmi, an unforgettable passage in _Island_. 

During that first LSD day the thought of Maria was often present. We were in her house, where nothing had been changed since her death. We had been silent for a long while, listening to music. Now the record came to an end— I wanted to stop the machine to avoid the forthcoming shocking click of the automatic stop. To do this I had to walk a few steps away from Aldous toward the record player. As I took the first step I felt suddenly that Maria was present. Present, but not outside of me— present in me. Amazed and fascinated, I knew that I was walking as Maria— that she, not I, was walking. It must have been at the third or fourth step toward the record player and away from Aldous that his voice reached and touched my shoulder. Extremely firm and gentle, the voice said, ''Don't ever be anyone else but yourself." 

Aldous did not have to remind me of that again. 

Now that I have experience in LSD, this episode— which lasted two or three seconds at the most— is less surprising, though no less mysterious. I cannot explain what it was that made me feel, for a second or two, that I was Maria— and what on earth made Aldous realize my fleeting impression? Certainly not his seeing me take two or three steps in a dimly lighted room. 

Since that first day as a psychedelic companion I have learned to be prepared to have no secrets from the voyager. A person in the psychedelic state can perceive much more in other human beings than he can when he is in his everyday mind. The voyager may see his companion at different ages of life, at different periods of history, and as different persons, sometimes conflicting with each other. At one time or another, during the psychedelic session, the voyager looks at his companion. Often it is an overwhelming discovery'. Anyone who is a companion must give up any attempt at self-hiding. Not only is it useless, but it creates a fatiguing and distracting tension for both. 

"Who are you?" Spoken or not, the question is loudly asked in almost every voyage. Silent and naked, the companion must know that he cannot answer— for the essence of the answer lies as much in the questioner as in himself.

( 01960 )

((( as a subject in the Paris Review's celebrated series of interviews with great authors, Huxley was asked to comment on the relationship between psychedelic drugs and the creative process, and on the value of the psychological insights the drugs afforded the fiction writer. )))


Do you see any relation between the creative process and the use of such drugs as lysergic acid?


I don't think there is any generalization one can make on this. Experience has shown that there's an enormous variation in the way people respond to lysergic acid. Some people probably could get direct aesthetic inspiration for painting or poetry out of it. Others I don't think could. For most people it's an extremely significant experience, and I suppose in an indirect way it could help the creative process. But I don't think one can sit down and say, "I want to write a magnificent poem, and so I'm going to take lysergic acid." I don't think it's by any means certain that you would get the result you wanted— you might get almost any result. 


Would the drug give more help to the lyric poet than the novelist? 


Well, the poet would certainly get an extraordinary view of life which he wouldn't have had in any other way, and this might help him a great deal. But, you see (and this is the most significant thing about the experience), during the experience you're really not interested in doing anything practical— even writing lyric poetry. If you were having a love affair with a woman, would you be interested in writing about it? Of course not. And during the experience you're not particularly in words, because the experience transcends words and is quite inexpressible in terms of words. So the whole notion of conceptualizing what is happening seems very silly. After the event, it seems to me quite possible that it might be of great assistance: people would see the universe around them in a very different way and would be inspired, possibly, to write something about it. 


But is there much carry-over from the experience? 


Well, there's always a complete memory of the experience. You remember something extraordinary having happened. And to some extent you can relive the experience, particularly the transformation of the outside world. You get hints of this, you see the world in this transfigured way now and then— not to the same pitch of intensity, but something of the kind. It does help you to look at the world in a new way. And you come to understand very clearly the way that certain specially gifted people have seen the world. You are actually introduced into the kind of world that Van Gogh lived in, or the kind of world that Blake lived in. You begin to have a direct experience of this kind of world while you're under the drug, and afterwards you can remember and to some slight extent recapture this kind of world, which certain privileged people have moved in and out of, as Blake obviously did all the time. 


But the artist's talents won't be any different from what they were before he took the drug? 


I don't see why they should be different. Some experiments have been made to see what painters can do under the influence of the drug, but most of the examples I have seen are very uninteresting. You could never hope to reproduce to the full extent the quite incredible intensity of color that you get under the influence of the drug. Most of the things I have seen are just rather tiresome bits of expressionism, which correspond hardly at all, I would think, to the actual experience. Maybe an immensely gifted artist— someone like Odilon Redon (who probably saw the world like this all the time anyhow)— maybe such a man could profit by the lysergic acid experience, could use his visions as models, could reproduce on canvas the external world as it is transfigured by the drug. 


Here this afternoon, as in your book. _The Doors of Perception_, you've been talking chiefly about the visual experience under the drug, and about painting. Is there any similar gain in psychological insight? 


Yes, I think there is. While one is under the drug one has penetrating insights into the people around one, and also into one's own life. Many people get tremendous recalls of buried material. A process which may take six years of psychoanalysis happens in an hour— and considerably cheaper! And the experience can be very liberating and widening in other ways. It shows that the world one habitually lives in is merely a creation of this conventional, closely conditioned being which one is, and that there are quite other kinds of worlds outside. It's a very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe in which most of us spend most of our time is not the only universe there is. I think it's healthy that people should have this experience.


Could such psychological insight be helpful to the fiction writer? 


I doubt it. After all, fiction is the fruit of sustained effort. The lysergic acid experience is a revelation of something outside of time and the social order. To write fiction, one needs a whole series of inspirations about people in an actual environment, and then a whole lot of hard work on the basis of those inspirations. 


Is there any resemblance between lysergic acid, or mescalin, and the "soma" of your Brave New World? 


None whatever. Soma is an imaginary drug, with three different effects— euphoric, hallucinant, or sedative— an impossible combination. Mescalin is the active principle of the peyote cactus, which has been used for a long time by the Indians of the Southwest in their religious rites. It is now synthesized. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25) is a chemical compound with effects similar to mescalin; it was developed about twelve years ago, and it is only being used experimentally at present. Mescalin and lysergic acid transfigure the external world and in some cases produce visions. Most people have the sort of positive and enlightening experience I've described; but the visions may be infernal as well as celestial. These drugs are physiologically innocuous, except to people with liver damage. They leave most people with no hangover, and they are not habit-forming. Psychiatrists have found that, skillfully used, they can be very helpful in the treatment of certain kinds of neuroses. 


How did you happen to get involved in experiments with mescalin and lysergic acid? 


Well, I'd been interested in it for some years, and I had been in correspondence wiith Humphry Osmond, a very gifted young British psychiatrist working in Canada, When he started testing its effects on different kinds of people, I became one of his guinea pigs. I've described all this in _The Doors of Perception_. 

( 01962 )

The following is a report of a psychedelic session with Aldous. It is the only one of which I have a tape recording, not of the entire session but of the major portion. 

A few months after Aldous's death, when I found this tape, I was deeply moved by it. I had forgotten it, and now, after his death, these words were more than ever meaningful if, at times, equivocal. And how nice it was to swing from "life after death" to "soup here and now," from the Sermon on the Mount to running noses! And again I realized the constant consideration and encouragement Aldous gave to my current project, even on that extraordinary day. 

I first thought of publishing his recorded words as they are, without comment. But when the tape was transcribed on paper I began to see that they would not be as clear to a reader as they were to me, a participant in the dialogue. There is a world of difference between reading a conversation and hearing it. In reading, two important
elements are missing: the voice, so significant particularly in Aldous's case, for he had such a variety of inflections, of color and moods and rhythm; and the pauses, always important but more so in this kind of dialogue. I could have edited this conversation, but I prefer to leave it as it is on the tape. Aldous's phrases are not as well rounded and clear as in his writings and lectures— but he was not giving a lecture; he was speaking to me. I feel that the content and the authenticity of his words outweigh the consideration of literary elegance. 

Another reason for commenting on this taped conversation is that Aldous is referring to subjects unfamiliar to many people. The experiencing of the Clear Light of the Void, of the Bardo or after-death state, of the fighting hero of the Bhagavad-Gita— these are not everyday topics; yet they are of the greatest importance for us all. In this conversation Aldous refers to two books: The Bhagavad-Gita and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I had not read these books at the time, but Aldous had told me a great deal about them. To anyone who has read them, what Aldous says is intellectually clear. But while familiarity with these books throws a light on our dialogue, Aldous's conversation —the atmosphere, the aura of it— is in no way a discussion of them. The extraordinary part of this conversation is the feeling that Aldous is experiencing that which he has known for a long time. But, as he wrote in "Knowledge and Understanding," there is a world of difference: ''Understanding is primarily direct awareness of raw materials." On the other hand, knowledge is acquired and "can be passed on and shared by means of words and other symbols. Understanding is an immediate experience and can only be talked about (very inadequately), never shared." Knowledge is "public." Understanding is "private." In _Island_ the children are given an illustration of this difference in the lower fifth grade, at about the age of ten. 

'Words are public; they belong to all the speakers of a given language; they are listed in dictionaries. And now let's look at the things that happen out there.' He pointed through the open window. Gaudy against a white cloud, half a dozen parrots came sailing into view, passed behind a tree and were gone. . .what happens out there is public— or at least fairly public,' he qualified. 'And what happens when someone speaks or writes words— that's also public. But the things that go on inside ... are private. Private.' He laid a hand on his chest. 'Private,' He rubbed his forehead. 'Private.' 

The words Aldous spoke in this psychedelic experience can be looked up in the dictionary; they are public. The understanding of his experience is a private matter for each of us. 

This session was different from others in many ways. Usually, when we had a psychedelic session, the evening before and the day of the session were kept absolutely and rigorously empty. This time we went out to dinner the night preceding the session. I further notice from my calendar that on the day of the session, January 22, 1962— a Monday—there were three other entries: a house guest arriving at the airport, the maid's birthday, and a tentative visit to a family whose three members were all mentally ill, but at large. 

It was because the day was not to be entirely free that we changed from LSD to psilocybin. Unlike LSD, which lingers on for many hours even after the high point is passed, psilocybin usually shuts off completely. In fact, this session lasted only from 10:40 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Considering that Aldous had taken such a small dose, we wondered, later, that it had such a marked effect. 

That morning after breakfast we went to my studio apartment, where we would not be disturbed. The studio is practically empty of furniture. The floor is covered by a shaggy white rug— it looks like white grass and is soft and pleasant to sit on. As usual, but especially for a psychedelic session, there were fresh flowers and fruits. Here and there, punctuating the white emptiness, there were fresh bamboo, shells, art books, records, and a few branches of golden acacia that had just burst into bloom in our half-burned garden. In the nook off the living room there were unpainted bookshelves, a large piece of unpainted wood which serves as a desk, a tape recorder, and two small armchairs. 

At 10:40 a.m., Aldous took four mg of psilocybin. There is a period of half an hour to about two hours between the ingestion of psilocybin and the beginning of its effect. Usually during this period we talked or looked at pictures; more often we listened to music— or did nothing at all. One never knows in which direction these experiences may move. Sometimes the "doors of perception" are cleansed suddenly with a jolt; sometimes the cleansing comes gradually with ever increasing discoveries. These discoveries may be psychological insights, or may be made through any of the senses— it is usually from the eyes that the scales first flake off. 

In the psychedelic session the role of a companion is to be there, fully attentive, and with no preconceived opinion of what might happen. A companion must be, at the same time, completely there and completely out of the way. Sometimes one feels that one should be there in the most intense and alert passivity one can master— but, paradoxically, be there invisibly. However, this was never the case with Aldous. Sessions with him had always been easy, and I knew he wanted me there, visible and tangible. 

A companion to the psychedelic experience should not have a preconceived idea— but to have no opinion is very hard to achieve. As it happens, that morning I found myself thinking that this session would be very light, since the dosage was so small, and that it would be similar to the others I had with Aldous— that it would modulate from beauty and the intense presence of life to love on all levels, the human as well as the mystical. 

Surprisingly Aldous asked me to stop the music. It was Bach, probably the Musical Offering or a cantata. 

I turned off the record player, and as I was wondering whether Aldous would want to hear something else, he got up from the floor where he was sitting and began pacing the corridor joining the living room to the bedroom. This also had never happened before. Aldous, like most people in a psychedelic experience, would move very little, generally staying in the same place most of the day.

I paced with him a few times, trying to feel what he was feeling. He looked preoccupied, and there was a feeling of agitation in him, and— again most unusual— he was muttering something in a low, unclear voice. I could not at first make out what he was saying. Then I understood the words "Confusion— terrible confusion." I paced the floor with him again— there was an unusual agitation in his movements, in his expression, in the half phrases he was saying. After a while, to my question, "Where is this confusion?" he said it was in life after death; I think he mentioned the word limbo. He was contacting, or being, or feeling, a bodiless world in which there was a terrifying

In psychedelic sessions there are often long periods, sometimes hours, when not a single word is uttered. Music, or sometimes silence, is the least inadequate way to express the unspeakable, the best way not to name the unnamable. But I knew those ecstatic moments, for they were reflected in Aldous's face— and even in those moments Aldous would say a word or two. But this was a different situation. Aldous was not having an ecstatic experience— he was going through something very intense, of great importance, but not pleasant. He did not seem to be willing or able to put it into words. This state lasted perhaps half an hour. Then quite suddenly he said, "It is all right now— it is all right." His face changed; he sat in the armchair near the tape recorder; that other world had suddenly dissolved. He looked well and I could feel he was now ready to speak about his experience. His mind was at a high pitch of activity. 


You see, this is— I was thinking of one of your titles— this is one of the ways of trying to make ice cubes out of running water, isn't it? To fix something and try to keep it— of course, it is always wrong. 

I thought he meant it was wrong to fix his impression on tape. 

LAURA: Well, let's stop the recorder. 

ALDOUS (immediately and with emphasis): No, no— I don't mean that. 

I mean the pure light is the greatest ice cube of all, the ultimate ice cube. 

Aldous was referring to one of my "Recipes for Living and Loving," which had required a lot of rewriting. The title of the recipe is: "Don't Try to Make Ice Cubes Out of a Flowing River." - Its concept is that our organisms are continuously changing in a continuously changing world; that the essence of life is its fluidity, its ability to change, to flow and to take a new course; that the trouble is that sometimes, 
usually unconsciously and unwillingly, we freeze a piece of this flowing life into an "ice cube." In the recipe, examples are given illustrating how harmful this can be; then there are directions on how to unfreeze these "ice cubes" that imprison our life and energy. Briefly, "ice cube" refers to the enduring, chilling effect of an unexpressed overemotional experience of grief, anger, or fear in their varied and numerous manifestations. Aldous had helped me with the recipe, and the phrase "ice cubes in a flowing river" was a current phrase with us. 

ALDOUS: The pure light. This is the greatest ice cube of all— it's the ultimate ice cube. 

The Pure Light. The Clear Light of the Void. The experience of Godliness. Mystical experience. The peak experience. . . . How many names, throughout the centuries and in all different cultures, have been given to that state for which the most sophisticated of word virtuosos say there are no words! I remember Aldous's saying that Saint Augustine, who wrote volumes of treatises basic to Catholic theology, toward the end of his life had the experience of Pure Light— and never wrote a word again. In Island Aldous describes that experience as "knowledgeless understanding, luminous bliss." 

LAURA: You thought you were going to have that [the Pure Light] today? 

ALDOUS: Well now, I can if I want to! But I mean it is very good to realize that it is just the— so to say— the mirror image of this other thing. It is just this total distraction— I mean, if you can immobilize the total distraction long enough, then it becomes the pure, one-pointed distraction— pure light. 

LAURA: If you can immobilize it? What do you mean? 

ALDOUS: You can immobilize it, but it isn't the real thing— you can remain for eternity in this thing at the exclusion of love and work. 

LAURA: But that thing should be love and work. 

ALDOUS (with emphasis): Exactly! I mean this is why it is wrong. As I was saying, this illustrates that you mustn't make ice cubes out of a Flowing River. You may succeed in making ice cubes . . . this is the greatest ice cube in the world. But you can probably go on for— oh, you can't go on forever— but for enormous eons— for what appears [this word is greatly emphasized] to be eternity, being in light.

In his later years Aldous put more and more emphasis on the danger of being addicted to meditation only, to knowledge only, to wisdom only— without love. Just now he had experienced the temptation to an addiction of an even higher order: the addiction of being in the light and staying there. "Now, I can if I want to," he had said. Staying in this ecstatic consciousness and cutting oneself off from participation and commitment to the rest of the world— this is perfectly expressed today, in powerful slang, in the phrase "dropping out." 

ALDOUS (continuing): It completely denies the facts: it is morally wrong; and finally, of course, absolutely catastrophic. 

"Absolutely catastrophic." Those two words are said with the most earnest and profound conviction. The voice is not raised, but each letter is as if sculptured on a shining block of Carrara marble —and remains sculptured on the soul of anyone who hears it. It is a definitive statement: one cannot isolate oneself from one's fellows and environment, for there is no private salvation; one might "get stuck" even in the Pure Light instead of infusing it in "Love and Work," which is the direct solution for everyone's life, right here and now. 

Love and Work— if I should put in a nutshell the essence of Aldous's life, I could not find a more precise way of saying it. 

After the words "absolutely catastrophic," the tape runs for a while in silence. And then there is a complete change of mood. A tender, enveloping smile is in Aldous's voice, my smile. It comes through the voice, creating an atmosphere of love and amused surprise, but, above all, of tenderness. 

ALDOUS: I don't know how you got all these things, darling. (Laughter.) What came into this hard, hard skull of yours— how do all these extraordinary ideas come in? 

He was always so pleased when I invented something, and he was now going back to the ice-cube recipe. 

LAURA: At least the one of the ice cubes I remember very well. I was giving LSD to and I had this feeling ... I just practically was seeing a torrent of water— you know, a river— and he was trying to make such logic out of it— so that he would show that all those people lied, you see. . . . 

ALDOUS : (interrupting with hearty laughter): Of course they lie! 

LAURA: And I had the impression that he was rationalizing water, or even trying to freeze a piece of this flowing river and make ice cubes of it. . . . 

ALDOUS : (still laughing, and touching my head) : But you have so many ideas. Obviously, this terribly hard skull has a hole in it somewhere. 

(A great deal of chuckling and laughter.) 

LAURA: I hope so. 

ALDOUS (after a silence): It is certainly very remarkable. 

Having "a. hole in one's skull" has different meaning for different people. Aldous meant here that these ideas must have flowed into my head, not out of it. Especially after his psychedelic experiences, Aldous often mentioned the Bergson theory— that our brain and nervous system are not the source of our ideas, but rather a reducing valve through which Mind-at-Large trickles only the kind of information that is necessary for us to survive on this planet. A temporary widening of that valve, or "a hole in the head," permits a fragment of Mind-at-Large to flow in— that is what we usually call inspiration. In The Doors of Perception, where Aldous reports his first psychedelic experience, he speaks at length of this theory of Bergson's and says that it should be seriously considered. 

There is a silence on the tape and then the dialogue continues in a thoughtful, serious mood. 

LAURA: I don't remember if I told you, or I dreamed I told you— did I tell you of the phrase running in my mind these days, "I am a thousand people"? 

ALDOUS: No, you didn't tell me. 

LAURA: But that also doesn't make anything easy. 

ALDOUS: No, obviously. And when there is no anchorage anywhere—when, to come back to after death, I mean, there will be no anchorage. . . . 

LAURA: Oh, yes. I see. 

Aldous was thinking about, and putting in words, the experience he had had a while before, when he was walking up and down the corridor. He had experienced the bodiless state of After-Death, where there is a survival of consciousness, but not of the body as we know it. 

ALDOUS: So, when there will be a thousand people rushing in different directions— I mean, anyhow . . . (then in a yery low aside) your hair smells the same as acacias . . . your head is very solid (touching my head) because the point is: when there isn't anything like this. . . . 

This— a. tangible body, something to see, to hear, to smell, to touch- in contrast to that other state of being, which he had experienced before, where there were feelings and thoughts, but no perceptions, senses, or solid forms as we are used to them. 

LAURA: When there is nothing to hold on. . . . 

ALDOUS: There are a thousand different people going in a thousand different directions: and this is what you have a hint of now. And this, of course, is what is so terrible, but I think that I know— (And after a pause, with deep conviction) but I know that there will always be— and I mean this is the extraordinary experience— at least there is somebody there who knows there are a thousand other people going in different directions— that there is a fundamental sanity of the world, which is always there in spite of the thousand people going in a thousand different directions. And while we are in space and time, surrounded by gravity, we are controlled to a considerable extent. (I wish I could convey the depth of Aldous' s voice here, the feeling of wonder.) But to have an insight into what it is when there isn't any control except this fundamental knowledge— I mean this is where the Bardo is right. 

Aldous is referring to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the After Death Experience on the Bardo Plane. I had first heard of this book from Aldous a few days after Maria's death. In answer to a note from me he had asked me for lunch and a walk. He knew innumerable country lanes right in the middle of Los Angeles and not far from his home, so after lunch we went walking in Laurel Canyon. I had many questions in my mind about Maria and he answered them without my asking, telling me all that had happened after our summer meeting in Rome. 

He said that for the last few hours of her life he had spoken to her, encouraging her to go forward, as in the Bardo. "What is that?" I asked. He told me then about the Bardo— or the intermediate plane following bodily death, as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, explaining that in these ancient teachings the dying person is encouraged to go on— to go further— not to be preoccupied or encumbered with this present body, or with relatives or friends or unfinished business, but to go into a wider state of consciousness. 

He went on to say that the Tibetan Book of the Dead is as much a manual of the Art of Living as it is of the Art of Dying. The survivors are advised to think of the loved one and of his need and destiny in his new state of consciousness rather than to be completely and egocentrically involved in their own grief. "Go on. Go forward"— to both consciousnesses, the one who is still using the body and the one whose body is being discarded— that is sound and compassionate advice. "Go on. Go forward." 

How many of us are walking around, not wholly alive because part of us did not go forward but died with Mother or Father or some other beloved person— even, at times, a pet? The terrifying, incomprehensible fact of death is difficult enough to accept and assimilate even with the most illumined teaching, even with the warmest, most tangible encouragement— let alone when there is no help in understanding, in accepting, in speaking about death. How can one even begin to understand death when it is hardly a permissible subject in good society? Sex is now an acceptable topic of conversation; death is still swept under the carpet, still locked in the dungeon, as the insane were, not too long ago. 

That first walk after Maria's death remained impressed on me. I had vaguely heard of this wise, noble way of dealing with death, as an esoteric doctrine. Now Aldous, stricken and pale, yet fully alive, was telling me how he had applied this knowledge; how he had encouraged Maria to go on without worry or regrets. As he spoke during that walk I compared my own acquaintance with death: the lugubrious services, tragically chanting of sin, hellfire, and eternal damnation; the piteous begging for mercy from a distant deity, alternately irate and forgiving; while we, the survivors, enmeshed in grief and completely centered in it, hardly gave thought to the dead person except in relation to our anguish. It is distressing to think that the concern and money lavished on cadavers in America would be enough to feed millions of children, enough to divert lives of delinquency and despair into lives of human dignity and happiness. 

Aldous continued to tell me, during that first walk after Maria's death, how he had carried her over as far as he could. He was as crushed as any human being who has lost a beloved companion of a lifetime; and yet, at the time of her death, he had been able to divert his own attention from the pain of losing her and focus both her mind and his on that most important fact— on that fundamental sanity of which he speaks in every psychedelic experience— and throughout this one. 

The tape continues. 

ALDOUS: The Bardo is right. You see, you have to be aware of this thing, and hang onto it for dear life- otherwise you are just completely in a whirlwind. 

LAURA: Yes. But how many people do know this? 

ALDOUS (with great emphasis): Exactly! But this is why they say we really ought to start preparing for this. (Aldous was speaking about preparation for death.) And I must say I think it is terribly important that through this knowledge that we get through these mushrooms or whatever it is,^ you understand a little bit of what it is all about. I think the most extraordinary experience is to know that there is all this insanity which is just the multiplication . . . the caricature of the normal insanity that goes on. But that there is a fundamental sanity which you can remain one with and be aware of. This, of course, is the whole doctrine of the Bardo— helping people to be aware of the fundamental sanity which is there in spite of all the terrifying things— and also not really terrifying, but sometimes ecstatic, wonderful things. You mustn't go to heaven, as they continually say. 

Again and again! No dropping out from Love and Work, even from an unsatisfactory society, into the personal isolated security of Pure Light with or without psychedelics. "As they continuously say"— Aldous is referring to the Mahayana Buddhists, for whom the Bodhisattva is the highest form of man: such a man does not wallow in private salvation but lives and participates in the world's activities out of compassion for those who have not yet achieved enlightenment. 

I wanted to know more about not going to heaven. 

LAURA: You mustn't go to heaven? 

ALDOUS: You mustn't go to heaven. It is just as dangerous. It is temporary— and somehow you want to hold on to the ultimate truth of things. 

LAURA: THe ultimate truth of things? 

ALDOUS: Well, I mean . . . the total light of the world, I suppose, which is in the here and now we experience. It's of course the mind-body. But when you are released from the body there has to be some experimental equivalent of the body, something has to be held on to ... I don't know. 

LAURA: What does one hold to then? 

ALDOUS: All you can say is one holds to this fundamental sanity, which as I say is guaranteed, as long as one is in the body, by the fact of space and time and gravity, and three dimensions and all the rest of it. Somehow, when you get rid of those anchors— 

In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, we are often warned of this
danger of going to a phantasmagoric, illusionary hell or heaven. The guide (or guru) explains that in this bodiless state all our thoughts and feelings seem to take concrete form. Thoughts are things. The dead person sees these things and, unless helped, he gets trapped in them. So he is continuously told that these apparitions are only hallucinations— are only a projection of his consciousness— and that he. must go forward without becoming involved in them, without repulsion or attraction; that he must realize that they arc only distractions which he himself has created. Continuously repeated is the admonition: "Oh, Nobly Born! Let not thy mind be distracted." Similarly, the first and last word in Island is ''Attention." It is the first word the distracted, wounded traveler from the Western man who would not take yes for an answer— hears on that Island, sung by the mynah bird; a charming way the novelist synthesizes in a single word an ancient vital message to all: Attention.

ALDOUS (continuing): But there is an equivalent of some kind which has to be caught hold of. Otherwise, the world about you is thin and becomes— what is the word— Pretds, the world of the restless ghosts. One goes to hell and then in desperation one has to rush back and get another body. 

LAURA: To hold on again? 

ALDOUS: To hold on again. Well, this is obviously the best thing, if one hasn't got the ultimate best. But clearly they all have said that there is something which is the equivalent— again in this extraordinary doctrine of Christianity, the resurrection of the body, and ultimately immortality will have something like the body attached to it. I don't know what it means, but obviously one can't attach any ordinary meaning to it. But one sees exactly what they are after— some idea that somehow we have to get an equivalent on a higher level of this anchorage which space and time and gravitation give us. And which can be achieved. One has, as I say, in this strange experience, one has the sense that there is this fundamental sanity in spite of all the distraction and preposterous nonsense which is going on— and which is irrelevant to oneself— which has nothing to do, in a strange way, although it may seem very, very important. {Silence, them) 

It is very important, if one can, while it is happening, if one can see the outer-appearance of it. It is obviously important to look after one's affairs in a sensible way and see their importance, in a silly way, but if one can, through all this, see this other level of importance, in the light of which a lot of activities will have to be cut down. There will seem to be absolutely no point in undertaking them— although a great many have to be undertaken, but they will be undertaken in a new kind of way— with a kind of detachment, and yet with a doing things to one's limit. This is again one of the paradoxes: to work to the limit to succeed in what you are doing, and at the same time to be detached from it— if you don't succeed, well, that's too bad— if you do succeed—tant mieux— you don't have to gloat over it. This is the whole story of the Bhagavad-Gita : somehow to do everything with passion but with detachment. 

LAURA: Passion and detachment. . . . 

Passion and detachment. Years ago, before I had ever heard of these philosophies, with what passion I had longed for detachment! That was the ideal I had set for m3'self as a musician; to play with all I had, to burn with passion, yet maintain a crystalline purity and detachment in technical and stylistical perfection. And in these recent years of psychological work and exploration, I had seen, in my everyday life and work, in me and outside of me, all kinds and degrees of passion only or of detachment only— but how rarely the fusion of the two! 

In the Bhagavad-Gita the hero Arjuna is a great warrior, and Krishna, or Incarnation of the Supreme Spirit, is his guide. Arjuna is told that he must fight with all his strength and valor— and yet must be detached from the fight. 

If we look inside and around, we can see many ways in which this battle is carried on, three of which are the most conspicuous. One is the way of the fighter, who, being inwardly discontented, resentful, and punitive, is chemically and psychologically compelled to fight. He has to be contrary; he must give and take no for an answer even if— sometimes especially ii—yes is to his advantage. He is fighting an outer enemy who often is only a reflected shadow of the inner one; even when the outer enemy is conquered, the inner one is only temporarily appeased. Then there is another kind of fighter: the man who is easily discouraged, who remains passive, rather than risk the possibility of defeat; overcautious and suspicious, he deceives himself rather than face problems and decisions. There is still another kind of fighter, the one of which Krishna speaks. We encounter this type also— but how rarely! He is one that fights only after an ethical evaluation of the issue and of his own original motives. Regardless of victory or defeat, an inner peace is there. This warrior, liberated from subconscious demons, clear-minded and controlled, may appear on the outside relentless, determined, even furious; inwardly, he is invulnerably harmonious. In the Gita these three types of men are so described: 

The doer without desire. 
Who does not boast of his deed. 
Who is ardent, enduring, 
Untouched by triumph, 
In failure untroubled: 
He is a man of sattwa [the energy of inspiration]. 
The doer with desire, 
Hot for the prize of vainglory, 
Brutal, greedy and foul
In triumph too quick to rejoice. 
In failure despairing: 
He is a man of rajas [the energy of action]. 
The indifferent doer
Whose heart is not in his deed, 
Stupid and stubborn, 
A cheat, and malicious, 
The idle lover of delay, 
Easily dejected: 
He is a man of tamas [the energy of inertia] 

Aldous was speaking of the man who fights with the energy of inspiration (sattwa). 

ALDOUS: One can see what it is— he is not involved even though he is involved up to the limit. What part of him is not involved? But it's no good trying to make an analysis because, as usual, it is a paradox and a mystery. 

LAURA: But even if . . . 

ALDOUS: One begins to understand it, that that is the main problem.

There were many pauses in this conversation. Most of the words were formulated slowly, in an effort to clarify realities to which most of us are unaccustomed. Aldous had been speaking quietly and thoughtfully. In spite of the poor recording, which is often blurred by noises of cars and static, one can feel that the atmosphere is impregnated with thought and discoveries. Now there is a pause, then a few noises— we are taking Kleenex out of a box. Then: 

ALDOUS: My nose is running. (Now the mood and the voice change completely, become light, and there is amused laughter in Aldous's voice.) A very good reminder that the greatest philosophy is connected inextricably with running noses. One of the things they should have talked about in the Gospel. Obviously he was on a mountain— the Sermon of the Mount— it must have been very breezy and cold up there. Probably his nose did run. 

There is no iconoclastic intention in the voice— only a chuckling and a reaffirmation of Aldous's conviction that everything is connected with everything else and that we should not forget it; no matter on what high plane of spirituality we dwell we are still bound by the laws of nature. I am sure also that Aldous realized at that moment that he had been speaking gravely for quite a while— it was natural for him, thank heaven, to lighten gravity with charm and humor. 

LAURA (after a silence): But it is very difficult. How does one prepare for death? All of this seems, as you say, to make it very. . . . 

ALDOUS: I think that the only way one can prepare for death . . . you realize that, well, after all, all your psychotherapy is in a sense a preparation for death inasmuch as }0u die to these memories which are allowed to haunt you as though they were in the present: "Let the dead bury their dead." Obviously, the completely healthy way to live is "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." 

Aldous often quoted these words, which were Christ's way of saying, "Live here and now." He suggested I put this quotation in my recipe, "Lay the Ghost," which deals with the problem of haunting emotional memories that interfere with our present. He felt that Christ's saying to the man who wanted to bury his father, "Follow me, and let the dead bury him," was about as strong a way as there was to say, "Live here and now." One should not worry about the past or the future, since each day has enough problems. Tliat principle he also lived— either he could do something here and now about a problem or he would not permit it to interfere with here and now. 

ALDOUS: You accept this without being obsessed by what is in the past —you die to it. Preparation for ultimate death is to be aware that your highest and most intense form of life is accompanied by, and conditional upon, a series of small deaths all the time. We have to be dying to these obsessive memories. I mean, again the paradox is to be able to remember with extreme clarity, but not to be haunted. 

Aldous is speaking here of the difference between the two memories, the informational memory and the emotional memory. The informational memory is essential to us, to carry on our daily life. The emotional memory has a more subtle, powerful, and, at times, all-pervading quality; especially when unconscious, it can haunt us with ghosts of
our emotional past, robbing us of the energy and attention we need here and now. 

LAURA: But even without the memories there is this composite figure that we are— the composition of so many characters— and if they don't have something to meet on, a common ground, which is the body, where do they meet? 

ALDOUS: Well, they have to meet, I suppose, in some— what is called quote "the Spirit," as we meet normally on this unconscious-subconscious level. And then they also meet on the superconscious level, which, of course, completely contains the unconscious. (Pause.) And this would be certainly the teaching of the Bardos— these thousand figures— they can either meet in the wrong way which is by ... to the point of distraction through the ice cube or they can meet through the recognition of the ultimate in the spirit, on that level.

This is a repetition of what Aldous said in the beginning: either there is a meeting in that terrifying confusion of thoughts and emotions whirling around without the safety of a common ground which is the body; or there is meeting in awareness of that fundamental sanity-of-the-world which he felt so strongly. 

ALDOUS : And this is why they all say you have to work rather hard, and try and realize this fact— and one of the ways of realizing it is— after all, in that little "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones"''— the preparation is through these exercises in consciousness. This sort of leads on to the third layer of consciousness.

LAURA: But then in between the two extremes there is so much leeway. . . . 

ALDOUS: There are too many ways of going wrong. I mean, the best-intentioned people go wrong. (Long silence.) I will look at this Rembrandt— 

On the tape, one hears confused noises. Aldous was looking at art books— Rembrandt was to him the greatest of all painters. My voice is heard, from the other room, speaking on the phone to Paula, Ginny's daughter, then eleven years old, who was not in school that day. Then we again hear Aldous's voice. Since the fire we had been living with Ginny and her two children, and this close association made the problem of education very concrete to Aldous. He was seeing every day the difficulty of educating two children in a large city like Los Angeles. The problem had so many facets; he brought up one in this conversation. 

ALDOUS: If she wants us, darling, we can go back there. Is she alone? She probably doesn't want to be alone. Maybe we should go. (Silence.) She said she wanted to write a story so I gave her a pen. (Another silence.) When I think of the admirable thing which was in my little boys' school. 

LAURA: Yes? A routine? 

ALDOUS: Well, I mean we had this carpenter's shop. We could always spend our spare time there when we wanted to, and this was compulsory two or three hours a week. There was this carpenter who was the school handy man, but he was a trained carpenter. We went through all the exercises which the apprentice had to learn— almost up to the master work. This is what "masterpiece" means: the apprentice learns all the things, and finally he produces his final examination as Ph.D. 

LAURA: Really? 

ALDOUS: In the case of a carpenter there would be all the different kinds of mortices, dovetail, and so on— various things joined together. 

LAURA: Which is very difficult. 

ALDOUS: Very difficult. You see, all the surfaces would be absolutely planed— you will have learned to plane absolutely even. 

LAURA: Did you do that? 

ALDOUS: Yes. Yes, we went right through the different kinds of mortices, dovetail, and so on— just as a medieval apprentice would have done. 

LAURA: Well, but .... 

ALDOUS: Then when we had done all this sort of exercise, then we were allowed to do what we wanted— to make a sledge or a box or a bookcase—and we did it— but always up to the very highest standards. I mean, there was absolutely no nonsense of these things being nailed together; these things were always done dovetailed. 

LAURA: But here they don't do that— even professional carpenters. 

ALDOUS: Good cabinet work is still done in this way, but of course nowadays it isn't really— I mean, it's quite different. 

LAURA: But in this school they don't do anything: they just stay there all afternoon just running around. 

ALDOUS : Well, one of the problems is wages. I mean, there was this ex- cellent man who did all the odd jobs around the school, but who was an old-time artisan who got through all this himself. But he was a very shrewd man: it was a pleasure to be with him. And he could talk; and he had delightful phrases— like when he sharpened a tool he said, "Now it is sharp enough to cut off a dead mouse's whiskers without its waking up." But all that is gone now. But what shouldn't have gone is the perfectly sensible thing of providing boys with something to do. 

LAURA: Shall I make us soup? Would you like some soup? 

ALDOUS : Yes, that would be nice.

( 01963 )

Between culture and the individual the relationship is, and always has been, strangely ambivalent. We are at once the beneficiaries of our culture and its victims. Without culture, and without that precondition of all culture, language, man would be no more than another species of baboon. It is to language and culture that we owe our humanity. And "What a piece of work is a man!" says Hamlet: "How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! ... in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god!" But, alas, in the intervals of being noble, rational and potentially infinite, 
man, proud man. 
Dressed in a little brief authority. 
Most ignorant of what he is most assured, 
His glassy essence, like an angry ape. 
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep. 
Genius and angry ape, player of fantastic tricks and godlike reasoner
—in all these roles individuals are the products of a language and a culture. Working on the twelve or thirteen billion neurons of a human brain, language and culture have given us law, science, ethics, philosophy; have made possible all the achievements of talent and of sanctity. They have also given us fanaticism, superstition and dogmatic bumptiousness; nationalistic idolatry and mass murder in the name of God; rabble-rousing propaganda and organized lying. And, along with the salt of the earth, they have given us, generation after generation, countless millions of hypnotized conformists, the predestined victims of power-hungry rulers who are themselves the victims of all that is most senseless and inhuman in their cultural tradition. 

Thanks to language and culture, human behavior can be incomparably more intelligent, more original, creative and flexible than the behavior of animals, whose brains are too small to accommodate the number of neurons necessary for the invention of language and the transmission of accumulated knowledge. But, thanks again to language and culture, human beings often behave with a stupidity, a lack of realism, a total inappropriateness, of which animals are incapable. 

Trobriand Islander or Bostonian, Sicilian Catholic or Japanese Buddhist, each of us is born into some culture and passes his life within its confines. Between every human consciousness and the rest of the world stands an invisible fence, a network of traditional thinking-and-feeling patterns, of secondhand notions that have turned into axioms, of ancient slogans revered as divine revelations. What we see through the meshes of this net is never, of course, the unknowable "thing in itself." It is not even, in most cases, the thing as it impinges upon our senses and as our organism spontaneously reacts to it. What we ordinarily take in and respond to is a curious mixture of immediate experience with culturally conditioned symbol, of sense impressions with preconceived ideas about the nature of things. And by most people the symbolic elements in this cocktail of awareness are felt to be more important than the elements contributed by immediate experience. Inevitably so, for, to those who accept their culture totally and uncritically, words in the familiar language do not stand (however inadequately) for things. On the contrary, things stand for familiar words. Each unique event of their ongoing life is instantly and automatically classified as yet another concrete illustration of one of the verbalized, culture-hallowed abstractions drummed into their heads by childhood conditioning. 

It goes without saying that many of the ideas handed down to us by the transmitters of culture are eminently sensible and realistic. (If they were not, the human species would now be extinct.) But, along with these useful concepts, every culture hands down a stock of unrealistic notions, some of which never made any sense, while others may once have possessed survival value, but have now, in the changed and changing circumstances of ongoing history, become completely irrelevant. Since human beings respond to symbols as promptly and unequivocally as they respond to the stimuli of unmediated experience, and since most of them naively believe that culture hallowed words about things are as real as, or even realer than their perceptions of the things themselves, these outdated or intrinsically nonsensical notions do enormous harm. Thanks to the realistic ideas handed down by culture, mankind has survived and, in certain fields, progresses. But thanks to the pernicious nonsense drummed into every individual in the course of his acculturation, mankind, though surviving and progressing, has always been in trouble. History is the record, among other things, of the fantastic and generally fiendish tricks played upon itself by culture-maddened humanity. And the hideous game goes on. 

What can, and what should, the individual do to improve his ironically equivocal relationship with the culture in which he finds himself embedded? How can he continue to enjoy the benefits of culture without, at the same time, being stupefied or frenziedly intoxicated by its poisons? How can he become discriminatingly acculturated, rejecting what is silly or downright evil in his conditioning, and holding fast to that which makes for humane and intelligent behavior? 

A culture cannot be discriminatingly accepted, much less be modified, except by persons who have seen through it— by persons who have cut holes in the confining stockade of verbalized symbols and so are able to look at the world and, by reflection, at themselves in a new and relatively unprejudiced way. Such persons are not merely born; they must also be made. But how?

 In the field of formal education, what the would-be hole cutter needs is knowledge. Knowledge of the past and present history of cultures in all their fantastic variety, and knowledge about the nature and limitations, the uses and abuses, of language. A man who knows that there have been many cultures, and that each culture claims to be the best and truest of all, will find it hard to take too seriously the boastings and dogmatizings of his own tradition. Similarly, a man who knows how symbols are related to experience, and who practices the kind of linguistic self-control taught by the exponents of General Semantics, is unlikely to take too seriously the absurd or dangerous nonsense that, within every culture, passes for philosophy, practical wisdom and political argument. 

As a preparation for hole cutting, this kind of intellectual education is certainly valuable, but no less certainly insufficient. Training on the verbal level needs to be supplemented by training in wordless experiencing. We must learn how to be mentally silent, must cultivate the art of pure receptivity. 

To be silently receptive— how childishly simple that seems! But in fact, as we very soon discover, how difficult! The universe in which men pass their lives is the creation of what Indian philosophy calls Nama-Rupa, Name and Form. Reality is a continuum, a fathomlessly mysterious and infinite Something, whose outward aspect is what we call Matter and whose inwardness is what we call Mind. Language is a device for taking the mystery out of Reality and making it amenable to human comprehension and manipulation. Acculturated man breaks up the continuum, attaches labels to a few of the fragments, projects the labels into the outside world and thus creates for himself an all-too-human universe of separate objects, each of which is merely the embodiment of a name, a particular illustration of some traditional abstraction. What we perceive takes on the pattern of the conceptual lattice through which it has been filtered. Pure receptivity is difficult because man's normal waking consciousness is always culturally conditioned. But normal waking consciousness, as William James pointed out many years ago, "is but one type of consciousness, while all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these forms of consciousness disregarded." 

Like the culture by which it is conditioned, normal waking consciousness is at once our best friend and a most dangerous enemy. It helps us to survive and make progress; but at the same time it prevents us from actualizing some of our most valuable potentialities and, on occasion, gets us into all kinds of trouble. To become fully human, man, proud man, the player of fantastic tricks, must learn to get out of his own way: only then will his infinite faculties and angelic apprehension get a chance of coming to the surface. In Blake's words, we must "cleanse the doors of perception"; for when the doors of perception are cleansed, "everything appears to man as it is— infinite." To normal waking consciousness things are the strictly finite and insulated embodiments of verbal labels. How can we break the habit of automatically imposing our prejudices and the memory of culture-hallowed words upon immediate experience? Answer: by the practice of pure receptivity and mental silence. These will cleanse the doors of perception and, in the process, make possible the emergence of other than normal forms of consciousness— aesthetic consciousness, visionary consciousness, mystical consciousness. Thanks to culture we are the heirs to vast accumulations of knowledge, to a priceless treasure of logical and scientific method, to thousands upon thousands of useful pieces of technological and organizational know-how. But the human mind-body possesses other sources of information, makes use of other types of reasoning, is gifted with an intrinsic wisdom that is independent of cultural conditioning. 

Wordsworth writes that "our meddling intellect [that part of the mind which uses language to take the mystery out of Reality] misshapes the beauteous forms of things: we murder to dissect." Needless to say, we cannot get along without our meddling intellect. Verbalized conceptual thinking is indispensable. But even when they are used well, verbalized concepts misshape "the beauteous forms of things." And when (as happens so often) they are used badly, they misshape our lives by rationalizing ancient stupidities, by instigating mass murder, persecution and the playing of all the other fantastically ugly tricks that make the angels weep. Wise nonverbal passiveness is an antidote to unwise verbal activity and a necessary corrective to wise verbal activity. Verbalized concepts about experience need to be supplemented by direct, unmediated acquaintance with events as they present themselves to us. 

It is the old story of the letter and the spirit. The letter is necessary, but must never be taken too seriously, for, divorced from the spirit, it cramps and finally kills. As for the spirit, it "bloweth where it listeth" and, if we fail to consult the best cultural charts, we may be blown off our course and suffer shipwreck. At present most of us make the worst of both worlds. Ignoring the freely blowing winds of the spirit and relying on cultural maps which may be centuries out-of-date, we rush full speed ahead under the high-pressure steam of our own overweening self-confidence. The tickets we have sold our- selves assure us that our destination is some port in the Islands of the Blest. In fact it turns out, more often than not, to be Devil's Island. 

Self-education on the nonverbal level is as old as civilization. "Be still and know that I am God"— for the visionaries and mystics of every time and every place, this has been the first and greatest of the commandments. Poets listen to their Muse and in the same way the visionary and the mystic wait upon inspiration in a state of wise passiveness, of dynamic vacuity. In the Western tradition this state is called "the prayer of simple regard." At the other end of the world it is described in terms that are psychological rather than theistic. In mental silence we "look into our own Self-Nature/' we "hold fast to the Not-Thought which lies in thought." we "become that which essentially we have always been," By wise activity we can acquire useful analytical knowledge about the world, knowledge that can be communicated by means of verbal symbols. In the state of wise passiveness we make possible the emergence of forms of consciousness other than the utilitarian consciousness of normal waking life. Useful analytical knowledge about the world is replaced by some kind of biologically inessential but spiritually enlightening acquaintance with the world. For example, there can be direct aesthetic acquaintance with the world as beauty. Or there can be direct acquaintance with the intrinsic strangeness of existence, its wild implausibility. And finally there can be direct acquaintance with the world's unity. This immediate mystical experience of being at one with the fundamental Oneness that manifests itself in the infinite diversity of things and minds, can never be adequately expressed in words. Like visionary experience, the experience of the mystic can be talked about only from the outside. Verbal symbols can never convey its inwardness.

It is through mental silence and the practice of wise passiveness that artists, visionaries and mystics have made themselves ready for the immediate experience of the world as beauty, as mystery and as unity. But silence and wise passiveness are not the only roads leading out of the all-too-human universe created by normal, culture-conditioned consciousness. In Expostulation and Reply, Wordsworth's bookish friend, Matthew, reproaches the poet because

You look round on your Mother Earth, 
As if she for no purpose bore you; 
As if you were her first-born birth. 
And none have lived before you !

From the point of view of normal waking consciousness, this is sheer intellectual delinquency. But it is what the artist, the visionary and the mystic must do and, in fact, have always done. "Look at a person, a landscape, any common object, as though you were seeing it for the first time." This is one of the exercises in immediate, unverbalized awareness prescribed in the ancient texts of Tantric Buddhism. Artists, visionaries and mystics refuse to be enslaved to the culture-conditioned habits of feeling, thought and action which their society regards as right and natural. Whenever this seems desirable, they deliberately refrain from projecting upon reality those hallowed word patterns with which all human minds are so copiously stocked. They know as well as anyone else that culture and the language in which any given culture is rooted, are absolutely necessary and that, without them, the individual would not be human. But more vividly than the rest of mankind they also know that, to be fully human, the individual must learn to decondition himself, must be able to cut holes in the fence of verbalized symbols that hems him in. 

In the exploration of the vast and mysterious world of human potentialities the great artists, visionaries and mystics have been trail-blazing pioneers. But where they have been, others can follow. Potentially, all of us are "infinite in faculties and like gods in apprehension," Modes of consciousness different from normal waking consciousness are within the reach of anyone who knows how to apply the necessary stimuli. The universe in which a human being lives can be transfigured into a new creation. We have only to cut a hole in the fence and look around us with what the philosopher, Plotinus, describes as "that other kind of seeing, which everyone has but few make use of." 

Within our current systems of education, training on the nonverbal level is meager in quantity and poor in quality. Moreover, its purpose, which is simply to help its recipients to be more "like gods in apprehension" is neither clearly stated nor consistently pursued. We could and, most emphatically, we should do better in this very important field than we are doing now. The practical wisdom of earlier civilizations and the findings of adventurous spirits within our own tradition and in our own time are freely available. With their aid a curriculum and a methodology of nonverbal training could be worked out without much difficulty. Unhappily most persons in authority have a vested interest in the maintenance of cultural fences. They frown upon hole cutting as subversive and dismiss Plotinus' "other kind of seeing" as a symptom of mental derangement. If an effective system of nonverbal education could be worked out, would the authorities allow it to be widely applied? It is an open question. 

From the nonverbal world of culturally uncontaminated consciousness we pass to the subverbal world of physiology and biochemistry. A human being is a temperament and a product of cultural conditioning; he is also, and primarily, an extremely complex and delicate biochemical system, whose inwardness, as the system changes from one state of equilibrium to another, is changing consciousness. It is because each one of us is a biochemical system that (according to Housman) 

Beer does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man. 

Beer achieves its theological triumphs because, in William James' words, "Drunkenness is the great exciter of the Yes function in man." And he adds that "It is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognize as excellent should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleeting earlier phases of what, in its totality, is so degrading a poisoning." The tree is known by its fruits, and the fruits of too much reliance upon ethyl alcohol as an exciter of the Yes function are bitter indeed. No less bitter are the fruits of reliance upon such habit-forming sedatives, hallucinogens and mood elevators as opium and its derivatives, as cocaine (once so blithely recommended to his friends and patients by Dr. Freud), as the barbiturates and amphetamine. But in recent years the pharmacologists have extracted or synthesized several compounds that powerfully affect the mind without doing any harm to the body, either at the time of ingestion or, through addiction, later on. Through these new psychedelics, the subject's normal waking consciousness may be modified in many different ways. It is as though, for each individual, his deeper self decides which kind of experience will be most advantageous. Having decided, it makes use of the drug's mind-changing powers to give the person what he needs. Thus, if it would be good for him to have deeply buried memories uncovered, deeply buried memories will duly be uncovered. In cases where this is of no great importance, something else will happen. Normal waking consciousness may be replaced by aesthetic consciousness, and the world will be perceived in all its unimaginable beauty, all the blazing intensity of its "thereness." And aesthetic consciousness may modulate into visionary consciousness. Thanks to yet another kind of seeing, the world will now reveal itself as not only unimaginably beautiful, but also fathomlessly mysterious— as a multitudinous abyss of possibility forever actualizing itself into unprecedented forms. New insights into a new, transfigured world of givenness, new combinations of thought and fantasy— the stream of novelty pours through the world in a torrent, whose every drop is charged with meaning. There are the symbols whose meaning lies outside themselves in the given facts of visionary experience, and there are these given facts which signify only themselves. But "only themselves" is also "no less than the divine ground of all being." "Nothing but this" is at the same time "the Suchness of all." And now the aesthetic and the visionary consciousness deepen into mystical consciousness. The world is now seen as an infinite diversity that is yet a unity, and the beholder experiences himself as being at one with the infinite Oneness that manifests itself, totally present, at every point of space, at every instant in the flux of perpetual perishing and perpetual renewal. Our normal word-conditioned consciousness creates a universe of sharp distinctions, black and white, this and that, me and you and it. In the mystical consciousness of being at one with infinite Oneness, there is a reconciliation of opposites, a perception of the Not-Particular in particulars, a transcending of our ingrained subject-object relationships with things and persons; there is an immediate experience of our solidarity with all being and a kind of organic conviction that in spite of the inscrutabilities of fate, in spite of our own dark stupidities and deliberate malevolence, yes, in spite of all that is so manifestly wrong with the world, it is yet, in some profound, paradoxical and entirely inexpressible way. All Right. For normal waking consciousness, the phrase, "God is Love," is no more than a piece of wishful positive thinking. For the mystical consciousness, it is a self-evident truth. 

Unprecedentedly rapid technological and demographic changes are steadily increasing the dangers by which we are surrounded, and at the same time are steadily diminishing the relevance of the traditional feeling-and-behavior-patterns imposed upon all individuals, rulers and ruled alike, by their culture. Always desirable, widespread training in the art of cutting holes in cultural fences is now the most urgent of necessities. Can such a training be speeded up and made more effective by a judicious use of the physically harmless psychedelics now available? On the basis of personal experience and the published evidence, I believe that it can. In my Utopian fantasy. Island, I speculated in fictional terms about the ways in which a substance akin to psilocybin could be used to potentiate the nonverbal education of adolescents and to remind adults that the real world is very different from the misshapen universe they have created for themselves by means of their culture-conditioned prejudices. "Having Fun with Fungi"--that was how one waggish reviewer dismissed the matter. But which is better: to have Fun with Fungi or to have Idiocy with Ideology, to have Wars because of Words, to have Tomorrow's Misdeeds out of Yesterday's Misdeeds? 

How should the psychedelics be administered? Under what circumstances, with what kind of preparation and follow-up? These are questions that must be answered empirically, by large-scale experiment. Man's collective mind has a high degree of viscosity and flows from one position to another with the reluctant deliberation of an ebbing tide of sludge. But in a world of explosive population increase, of headlong technological advance and of militant nationalism, the time at our disposal is strictly limited. We must discover, and discover very soon, new energy sources for overcoming our society's psychological inertia, better solvents for liquefying the sludgy stickiness of an anachronistic state of mind. On the verbal level an education in the nature and limitations, the uses and abuses of language; on the wordless level an education in mental silence and pure receptivity; and finally, through the use of harmless psychedelics, a course of chemically triggered conversion experiences or ecstasies— these, I believe, will provide all the sources of mental energy, all the solvents of conceptual sludge, that an individual requires. With their aid, he should be able to adapt himself selectively to his culture, rejecting its evils, stupidities and irrelevances, gratefully accepting all its treasures of accumulated knowledge, of rationality, human-heartedness and practical wisdom. If the number of such individuals is sufficiently great, if their quality is sufficiently high, they may be able to pass from discriminating acceptance of their culture to discriminating change and reform. Is this a hopefully Utopian dream? Experiment can give us the answer, for the dream is pragmatic; the Utopian hypotheses can be tested empirically. And in these oppressive times a little hope is surely no unwelcome visitant.


( 01964 )

November 22, 1963 was for Aldous Huxley the time to go. 

In paying tribute (a curious word) to a departed luminary, it is customary to appraise his contribution, to wrap up the meaning and message of the hero and to place it with a flourish in the inactive file. 

This ceremonial function is notoriously risky in the case of writers. The literary game has its own stock-exchange quotations in which hard-cover commodities rise and fall to the irrational dictates of scholarly fashion. 

To predict the place that Aldous Huxley will have as a literary figure is a gambling venture we shall leave to the professionals who are paid to do it. They might note that he did not win a Nobel prize— a good sign, suggesting that he made the right enemies and was properly unacceptable to the academic politicians. They will note also that he was a visionary— always a troublesome issue to the predictor. Since all visionaries say the same thing they are perennial commodities, difficult to sell short, annoyingly capable of turning up fresh and alive a thousand years later. 

But Aldous Huxley is not just a literary figure, and for that matter not just a visionary writer. Which adds to the critic's problem. The man just wouldn't stop and pose for the definitive portrait. He just wouldn't slide symmetrically into an academic pigeonhole. What shall we call him? Sage? Wise teacher? Calypso guru? Under what index-heading do we file the smiling prophet? The nuclear age Bodhisattva? 

Many of the generation of scholars and critics who presently adjudicate literary reputations received their first insights into the snobbish delights of the mind from the early novels of Huxley. 

I believe that no one under fifty can quite realize how exciting Huxley seemed to us who were schoolboys or undergraduates in the 'twenties. . .he was a popularizer of what, at the time, were "advanced" ideas. . .he was a liberator, who seemed to encourage us in our adolescent revolt against the standards of our parents.

This obituary appraisal, a nice example of the "cracked looking glass" school of literary criticism, continues in the same vein: 

I remained under the Huxleyan enchantment well into my twenties. The magic began gradually to fail after Point Counter Point (1928); its failure was due partly to my discovery of other contemporary writers (Proust, Joyce, Lawrence), partly to the fact that Huxley himself had by that time lost something of his original sparkle. I felt little sympathy for his successive pre-occupations with scientific Utopias, pacifism, and Yoga. . . 

Of all the misunderstandings which divide mankind, the most tragic, obvious, and vicious is the conflict between the young and the old. It is surely not Huxley who lost his sparkle but perhaps the quoted critic, who graduated from "adolescent revolt" (a dubious, ungracious middle-aged phrase) to a static "post-adolescent" fatigue with new ideas. Huxley continued to produce prose which sparkled to those who could transfer their vision from the mirror to the events which were occurring around them. 

I believe that no one over fifty can quite realize how exciting Huxley seems to the generations which followed their own. The early Huxley was the urbane sophisticate who taught naive youngsters that parental notions about sex and society left something to be improved. The early Huxley was an exciting coach in the game of intellectual one-upmanship, wickedly demonstrating how to sharpen the mind so that it could slice experience into categories, how to engage in brilliant witty repartee, how to be a truly sophisticated person.

But, "then came Brave New World (1932), an entirely new departure, and not, I think, a happy one . . ." Yes indeed. Then comes the grim new world of the 1930's and a new generation who were less concerned with sparkling conversation than with trying to figure out why society was falling apart at the seams. The game of polishing your own mind and developing your own personality (although kept alive in the rituals of psychoanalysis) starts to look like narcissistic chess. Huxley was one of the first men of his times to see the limitations of the obsession with self and never again wrote to delight the intellectual. 

But old uncles are supposed to keep their proper place in my picture album. They have no right charging off in new directions. Investigating meta-self social ideas and meta-self modes of consciousness. No right to calmly ask the terrible new questions of the mind: is this all? Shakespeare and Joyce and Beethoven and Freud— is there no more? Television and computers— is this all? Uncle Aldous who taught us how to be clever, rational, individualistic, now claims that our sharp minds are creating air-conditioned, test-tube anthills. ". . . as Mr. Cyril Connolly put it, 'science had walked off with art,' and a latent streak of vulgarity found expression . . ." Yes, the specific prophecy is vulgar. 

And what is even more tasteless— to be so right. Within fifteen years the ludicrous, bizarre mechanization of new world fantasy had become a reality. The conventional artistic response to automation is the nihilist protest. But again Aldous Huxley refuses to play the literary game, insists on tinkering with evolutionary resolutions. Some of us forgot that Uncle Aldous was also grandson. The extraordinary, dazzling erudition which spun out bons mots in the early novels is now sifting through the wisdom of the east.

Huxley's diplomatic journey to the east brings back no final answer but the right questions. He seeks the liberating seed while avoiding the deciduous underbrush of ritual. 

The first question: is there more? Need the cortex be limited to the tribal-verbal? Must we use only a fraction of our neurological heritage? Must our minds remain flimsy toys compared to the wisdom within the neural network? How to expand consciousness beyond the learned mind? How to find and teach the liberation from the cultural-self? Where are the educational techniques for exploiting the potentials? 
Here again Huxley avoids doctrinaire digressions into mood, authority, semantics, ritual. He keeps moving; looking for the key which works. 

In 1954 he announces the discovery of the eastern passage. Doors of Perception. Heaven and Hell. Psychedelic drugs can provide the illumination, the key to the mind's antipodes, the transcendental experience. You may not want to make the voyage. You may have no interest in transcending your cultural mind. Fine. Don't take LSD. Or you may want illumination but object to the direct, short-cut approach. You prefer the sweat-tears of verbal exercises and rituals. Fine. Don't take LSD. But for those who can accept the "gratuitous grace," there it is. 

The age-long problem of how to "get out" has finally been solved. Biochemical mysticism is a demonstrated fact. Next comes the secondary problem. There is the infused vision of the open cortex, flashing at speeds which far outstrip our verbal machinery. And there is the tribal marketplace which cannot utilize or even allow the accelerated neural energy. How can the gap be bridged? 

Aldous Huxley preached no escape from the insanity and semantic madness of the 20th century. His next message was not one of quietism and arhat passivity. No one was more concerned, more engaged, more involved in the active attempt to make the best of both worlds. 

To make the best of both worlds— this was the phrase we heard him repeat over and over again during the last years. Of course most of his readers and critics didn't know what he was talking about. If you don't realize that it is now a simple matter to reach ecstasy, to get out, to have the vision, to reach the other worlds of your own cortex, then technical discussions of "reentry" problems make little sense to you. 

But there it was. The old Mahayana question now made real and practical. How to apply the now-available potentialities of the accelerated cortex? 

Aldous Huxley's last message to the planet contains the answer to this question in the form of the Utopian novel, Island. 

This book, published in 1962, is the climax of the 69-year voyage of discovery. It is a great book. It will become a greater book. 

Like all great books it is misunderstood in its time because it is so far in front of its time. It's too much to take. Too much. Island is a continent, a hemisphere, a galaxy of a book. 

At the most superficial level it's a science-fiction tale with heroes and villains in a fantasy land. It's a satire as well— of western civilization and its follies. So far, the book can be dealt with. 

But it's much more. It's a Utopian tract. Huxley's final statement about how to make the best of both worlds. Of individual freedom and social responsibility. Of East and West. Of left and right cerebral hemispheres. Of action and quietism. Of Tantra and Arhat. Of verbal and non-verbal. Of work and play. Of mind and meta-mind. Of technique and nature. Of body and spirit. Of religion and the secular. 

It's a manual on education. A handbook on psychotherapy and mind control. A solution to the horrors of the bi-parent family, the monstrous father-mother pressure cooker. 

Too much, indeed, for one book; but there's more. 

Island is a treatise on living, on the living of each moment. 

And most important and staggering, the book is a treatise on dying.

The easy intellectual rejection of this wealth of practical, how-to-do-it information is to call it fantasy. Adolescent daydreams about how things could be, in a society imagined and run by gentle, secluded scholars. 

But here is the terrible beauty of Huxley's science-fiction-satirical- utopian manual on how to live and how to live with others and how to die and how to die with others: it's all based on facts. Island is a popular presentation of empirical facts--anthropological, psychological, psychedelic, sociological. Every method, every social sequence described in Island is based on data. Huxley's Utopian ideas can work because they have worked. It's all been done— not in a fantasied future but yesterday. 

It has been tried and done by Huxley himself, and by his "Palanese" wife Laura Archera Huxley, who presented many of these intensely practical down-to-earth ideas in her book, You Are Not the Target. It's a mistake to think of him as a detached novelist observing and commenting on the scene. Huxley was a tall, slightly stooped Calypso singer— intensely topical— strolling nearsightedly through the crowds, singing funny stilted verses in an English accent, singing about the events in which he is participating. He didn't just figure it out— he experienced much of it himself. 

Huxley's explorations with psychedelic drugs are an example of his engagement. His willingness to get involved. Remember, every
person who can read without moving his lips has heard about what the Saturday Evening Post calls "the dangerous magic of LSD." 
And despite the controversy, almost everyone knows what is involved —the mind-loss and vision. Everyone has had to come to terms with the new development in his own fashion. 

There are as many rational reasons for not taking LSD as there are facets to the human mind— moral, practical, medical, psychiatric, 
mental. The real reason— however it is expressed— is fear. Fear of losing what we have. Fear of going beyond where we are. 

Aldous Huxley had spent years preparing himself for the fearful psychedelic voyage, and he made it without question when it presented itself. Why? Duty? Curiosity? Conviction? Courage? Faith in the process? Trust in his companions— divine or human? 

He did it, and the world will never forget it. 

But the gamble of the mind was not the last act of faith and courage. Aldous Huxley went on to face death as he had faced the
whirling enigma of the life process. . .

The choice is always ours. Then, let me choose
The longest art, the hard Promethean way
Cherishingly to tend and feed and fan
That inward fire, whose small precarious flame, 
Kindled or quenched, creates
The noble or the ignoble men we are. 
The worlds we live in and the very fates. 
Our bright or muddy star. 

— Aldous Huxley
from Orion, ( 01931 )


can the monomyth of
the Hero's Journey
be applied to
our Collective Evolution ?

looking at the broad sweep of our history,
where is the Human Species on the cycle of
Separation ---> Initiation ---> Return

. . . we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.
— Fra Giovanni Giocondo, 01513

The Story


" A few billion years ago, the Earth was a big, sterile rock covered with puddles of chemical soup. Gradually, little drops of oil -- random chemical combinations -- formed in these puddles, and some happened to absorb nutrients from the outside, causing them to grow. They eventually split into smaller drops of roughly the same composition. The "cells" that did a better job of attracting chemicals and dividing survived and split into future generations. These cells evolved an information processing mechanism, a way of recording for posterity their recipes for success. The mechanism they evolved -- the genetic code of DNA -- is still in use today. With DNA came an evolutionary advantage: knowledge, as genetic recipes, could accumulate from generation to generation.

As cells became more sophisticated, they started to communicate, exchanging chemical messages. Synergistic communities developed that survived or failed together; if the community was successful, all the individuals were favored by evolution. This step took another billion years -- bringing life to the stage of multicellular communities, in which cells are no longer out for themselves: digestive cells depend on skin and muscle cells, and vice versa. These communities became so close that they collaborated in writing the whole recipe of the community on one string of DNA. The most interesting evolution shifted from the cellular level to the community level.

Next, these communities of cells, these organisms, began to abstract information and build special structures -- neural structures -- that did nothing but process information within the community. After communities of cells built up a data processing apparatus (the neuron), they developed structures for sensing, recording, and understanding information -- eyes, ears, and brains. With neurons, learning happened within the time span of a single organism. An organism could learn not to eat a fruit that repeatedly made it sick. Lessons no longer had to be absorbed through evolution, through the diminished fitness of millions of individuals over many millennia.

Then these learning individuals started working out the quirks of communicating with each other. The most sophisticated version is human language, whereby complex ideas in one brain generate ideas in another. This lets us function as a community, and in some sense as a single organism. And so we -- humanity -- have repeated the process of connection, communication, and construction of specialized structures to process our communal information. We're replicating the levels of chemicals and multicellular organisms, abstracting out our methods of sensing, recording, and understanding information. Language was only the first step. Telephony, computers, and CD-ROMs are all specialized mechanisms we've built to bind us together. Now evolution takes place in microseconds.

The first steps in the story of evolution took a billion years. The next step -- nervous systems and brains -- took a few hundred million years. The next steps, including the development of language, took less than a million years. And the most recent steps seem to be taking only a few decades. The process is feeding on itself and becoming autocatalytic.

And now we are beginning to depend on computers to help us evolve new computers that let us produce things of much greater complexity. Yet we don't quite understand the process -- it's getting ahead of us. We're now using programs to make much faster computers so the process can run much faster. That's what's so confusing -- technologies are feeding back on themselves; we're taking off. We're at that point analogous to when single-celled organisms were turning into multi-celled organisms. We are amoebas and we can't figure out what the hell this thing is that we're creating.

I cannot believe that we are at the end of this story -- we are not evolution's ultimate product. There's something coming after us, and I imagine it is something wonderful. . . "

-- Danny Hillis ( 01998 )