Friday, May 30, 2008

Stroke of Insight

A scientist touches nirvana. Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor's moving account of her stroke experience.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sugar Chile Robinson

This is one cool little cat. Child prodigy form the 1940's, Frankie "Sugar Chile" Robinson bangs away at the piano.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Painting Visionaries

Saturday night was the opening of the Northern California Visionary Art exhibit at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah and it was a full spectrum visually stunning show. Fantastically well-attended, the event was stimulating and gave me a chance to more deeply appreciate the work of some pioneers of the genre. "Visionary Art" encompasses a wide variety of styles, subjects and narratives but the common element is a keen focus on expressing the "deeply seen". Whether visions emerge from altered states of mind, mystical or psychedelic experience, dream, trance, intuition or simply strong conviction, articulating the esoteric, the mysterious and what lies beyond the confines of physical sight seems primary. Despite my preference for universal, primitive and naive symbolic forms in my own work, I enjoyed the precision painting techniques and skill for realism that many of the artists excel in. Always a sucker for raw aesthetic appeal, I was especially captivated by this large oil (48 x 60) by Nick Hyde titled Abraxus. Multi-layered and truly fantastic, the piece literally vibrated with swirling filigreed forms and smoke-like lacings rendered in a subdued palette of soft greens, browns and turquoise. Breathtaking. Many of us there talked about the renewed and growing interest in visionary art despite marginalization by the conventional art world and the relevance this work has to the current global predicaments that humanity faces. A deeper way of seeing is being demanded and here in our own golden rolling hills some potent insights were offered. I felt honored to be included.

Kudos to Marvin Schenck, the show's curator, and his assistant, Denver Tuttle, for orchestrating a terrific show.

Friday, May 02, 2008

In The Sky With Diamonds

RIP: Albert Hofman (January 11, 1906 – April 29, 2008)
I took note when Swiss chemist and the father of LSD passed away a few days ago. I give profound thanks for the ground he broke all those years ago which changed the face of my reality and laid a fertile foundation for the evolution of consciousness in general. That chemical agent of clarity that blows the dust off the old lenses may have been a fluke in the lab but the fruits of his discovery have yet to be fully borne. Hofman
once said that LSD "wanted to tell me something. It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation." He considered the hallucinogen to be "medicine for the soul" and lamented the casual recreational use of something he felt should be approached with great reverence. He was also greatly dismayed when it was eventually criminalized as he was convinced that the drug offered the potential to counter psychological problems induced by "materialism, alienation from nature through industrialization and increasing urbanization, lack of satisfaction in professional employment in a mechanized, lifeless working world, ennui and purposelessness in wealthy, saturated society, and lack of a religious, nurturing, and meaningful philosophical foundation of life". Indeed.

From his contemporary, Aldous Huxley , Hofman gleaned an understanding of psychedelic agents as keys to the "new doors of perception", offering an alternative to other "proven but laborious door openers like meditation, solitude, fasting or certain yoga practices." Synthesizing lysergic acid diethylamide in the lab based on a mere hunch, Hofman considered it possible that his discovery of this powerful catalyst of expanded consciousness from a "pharmacologically uninteresting substance" was not mere chance but perhaps "predestined by some higher power to arise precisely at the time when the predominance of materialism with all its consequences over the past 100 years was being understood. LSD as an enlightening psychopharmakon along the path to a new, spiritual age!"

Aldous Huxley impressed Hofman in his consideration of human consciousness as a world resource and considered psychedelics as key to helping develop its potential and tap its power.
"A humankind with highly-developed spiritual capacities, with expanded consciousness of the comprehensive wonder of being, would have to be more capable of observing and recognizing also the biological and material bases for its existence on this Earth. The development and unfolding of the ability sensually to experience reality directly, undisguised by words and concepts, would be of evolutionary significance, above all for Occidental humankind with such hypertrophied rationality."

Food for thought.

Quotes from LSD: Completely Personal a speech delivered by Dr. Albert Hofman to the 1996 Worlds of Consciousness Conference in Heidelberg, Germany

Image : Anonymous wood engraving in l'Atmosphere: Meteorologie Populaire by Camille Flammarion 1888