In fact in Peru with witch doctors taking Ayahuasca one night I came face to face with what appeared to be the Image of Death come to warm me again as 12 years before in Harlem, that all this me-ness of mine was mere idea vanity & hollow & fleeting as the mosquitos I was killing in the tropic night. In fact, tho I’d made a principle of Non-identity, I was scared to have my identity taken away, scared to die – clinging to the self-doomed (transient by nature) pleasures of dependable love, sex, income, cigarettes, Poesy, fame, face & cock – clinging, frightened, to stay in this identity, this body, vomiting as it was – and seeing its doom as a living monster outside me that would someday EAT ME ALIVE.
Thus faced with human limitation I turned back from Eternity again and wanted to stay the Allen I was & am.
At this point frightened, seeing my basic saint-desire might be death & madness, I wrote Burroughs long letter from Peru asking for advice – Burroughs who had kicked junk habit and thus in very real way kicked his own identity habit, as can be seen in Naked Lunch hints.
His answer, go right ahead, into space, outside of Logos, outside of time, outside of concepts of Eternity & God & Faith & Love I’d built up as an identity – Cancel all your messages, said he, and I also cancel mine…
And what was he doing with his Art? He was cutting it up with a razor as if it weren’t no sacred texts at all, just as he was cutting up all known human feelings between us, and cutting up the newspapers, and cutting up Cuba & Russia & America & making collages; he was cutting up his own consciousness & escaping as far as I can tell outside of anything I could recognize as his previous identity. And that somewhat changed my identity since that had been something built I had thought and permanently shared with him…
Now the serious technical point that Burroughs was making by his cut-ups, which I resisted and resented since it threatened everything I depend on – I could stand the loss of Peter but not the loss of Hope & Love; & could maybe even stand the loss of them, whatever they are, if Poesy were left, for me to go on being something I wanted, sacred poet however desolate; but Poesy itself became a black to further awareness. For further awareness lay in dropping every fixed concept of self, identity, role, ideal, habit & pleasure. It meant dropping language itself, words, as medium of consciousness. It meant literally altering consciousness outside of what was already the fixed habit of language-inner-thought-monologue-abstraction-mental-image-symbol-mathematical-abstraction. It meant exercising unknown and unused areas of the physical brain. Electronics, science fiction, drugs, strobiscopes, breathing exercises, exercises in thinking in music, colors, no thinks, entering and believing hallucinations, altering the neurologically fixated habit patter Reality. But that’s what I thought Poetry was doing all along! But the poetry I’d been practicing depended on living inside the structure of language, depended on words as the medium of consciousness & therefore the medium of conscious being.
Since then I’ve been wandering in doldrums, still keeping habit up with literature but uncertain if there is enough Me left to continue as some kind of Ginsberg. I can’t write, except journals and dreams down; as the next step if any for Poetry, I can’t imagine – Perhaps we’ve reached point in human or unhuman evolution where art of words is oldhat dinosaur futile, & must be left behind. I also stopped reading newspapers 2 months ago. Also the paranoid fear that I’m degenerate robot under the mind-control of the mad spectre of Burroughs. Except that it finally seems (after dreams of killing him) that he has only taken the steps, or begun to take, steps toward actual practice of expanded consciousness that were in the cards for me anyhoo, since the first days of mind break-up with Blake, and of which I was repeatedly reminded in drug trances.
I side effect of loss of dependence on words is the final break-up of my previously monotheistic memory-conception of one holy eternity, One God. Because all that conceptualization depends on the railroad track of language. And actual experience of consciousness is not Nameable as One. I suppose this is all in sophisticated form in Wittgenstein.
Meanwhile I am carrying for the last few months a dose of mushroom pills which I have been too fearful to take. Waiting for a day to look into that, or be that, THING, again. And operating still on language, thus this letter.
What to do about Cuba? Can the world Reality (as we know it through consciousness controlled by the Cortex part of the brain) be improved? Or, with expanded population & increasing need for social organization and control & centralization & standardization & socialization & removal of hidden power controllers (capitalism), will we in the long run doom man to life within a fixed and universal monopoly on reality (on materialist level) by a unison of cortex-controlled consciousness that will regulate our Being’s evolution? Will it not direct that evolution toward stasis of preservation of its own reality, its idea of reality, its own identity, its Logos? But this is not the problem of socialism, this is the problem of Man. Can any good society be founded, as all have been before and failed, on the basis of old-style human consciousness? Can a vast human-teeming world “democratically” regulate itself at all in future with the kind of communications mechanism this present known & used consciousness has available? How escape rigidification and stasis of consciousness when man’s mind is only words and these words and their images are flashed on every brain continuously by the interconnected networks of radio television newspapers wire services speeches decrees laws telephone books manuscripts? How escape centralized control of Reality of the masses by the few who want and can take power, when this network is now so interconnected, and the state so dominant, and the leaders of the state have decision of the Network? Democracy as previously sentimentally conceived now perhaps impossible (as proved in U.S.) since a vast feed-back mechanism, mass media, inescapably orients every individual, especially on subliminal levels. Same problem for Russia, China, Cuba.
I have no notion of future state or Government possible for man, I don’t know if continuance of machine civilization is even possible or desirable. Perhaps science may have to dismantle itself (or kill the race) – this is parallel to individual intellectual experience of cycles of reasoning leading back to non-intellectual “natural” life. However I assume (for no good reason yet) the latest cycle of human evolution is irreversible except by atomic apocalypse, so I suppose Science is here to stay in one form or other, and civilizations too. I think the possible direction of development, then, to solve problems created by vast population & centralized network control, is toward increasing the efficiency and area of brain use, i.e. widening the area of consciousness in all directions feasible. I.e. telepathy might annihilate mass media power centers of control. In any case the old sense of identity of human consciousness, the sense of separate identity, self & its limited language, may alter. Individuals may have to step into hitherto unrecognizable areas of awareness, which means, for practical purposes, unrecognizable or undiscovered areas of BEING.
The change may be so far out as to be unimaginable to present day 2-dimensional political consciousness, or even 2-dimensional Poet’s consciousness. I may have to (willingly) give up say being me, being Poet A.G., (or unwillingly depending on how fixed my cravings for security & the old life are). The social changes I can’t even guess. It may be that we find the material reality we take for granted was literally an illusion all along. We may not have bodies. Nothing can be assumed, everything is UNKNOWN.
Space exploration is secondary and only triumphant in limited areas of consciousness; whereas an evolution or scientific exploration of consciousness itself (the brain & nervous system) is the inevitable route for man to take.
I see no reason why no government on earth is really alive in this evolutionary direction. All governments including the Cuban are still operating within the rules of identity forced on them by already outmoded modes of consciousness. I say outmoded since it has brought all Govts. to edge of world destruction. No govt., not even the most Marxian revolutionary & well-intended like Cuba presumably, is guiltless in the general world mess, no one can afford to be righteous any more. Righteous and right & wrong are still fakes of the old suicidal identity.
Next day continued:
Now the Cuban Revolutionary government as far as I can tell is basically occupied by immediate practical problems & proud of that, heroic resistances, drama, uplift, reading & teaching language, and totally unoccupied as yet with psychic exploration in terms which I described above. When I talked with Franqui of Revolucion in NY he parroted the U.S. imperialist line against marijuana and added, “It should be easier for a poet to understand a revolution than for a revolution to understand poetry.” Poetry here meaning my contention that poet had right to use marijuana. He gave me all sorts of rationalistic arguments against social use of marijuana – tho he added liberally that he himself was not personally opposed to it. And also I see that there has been no evidence of real technical revolution in Poesy or language in recent Cuban poetry – it still is old hat mechanistic syntax & techniques. So that it is obvious that any, meaning ANY, medoicre bureaucratic attempt to censor language, diction or direction of psychic exploration is the same old mistake made in all the idiot academies of Russia and America. Arguments about immediate practical necessities are as far as I can tell from afar strictly the same old con of uninspired people who don’t know what the writing problem is, and don’t have any idea of the consciousness problems I’m talking about…
I’m NOT down on the Cubans or anti their revolution, it’s just that it’s important to make clear in advance, in front, what I feel about life. Big statements saying Viva Fidel are/ would be/ meaningless and just 2-dimensional politics.
Publish as much of this letter as interests you, as prose contribution to Cuban Revolution.
Oct. 16, 1961