When we were on the road filming Ways Of Living in the fall of 2014, I had Daniel Pinchbeck’s book, 2012: The Return of Quetzlcoatl, by my transient side at all times. It's a memoir really, of a man having a spiritual and existential crisis – re-evaluating what he thinks of himself, his family, his aspirations, and priorities. Also it's a collection of explorations into the mystic (to quote Van Morrison) – the book is about quantum physics, crop circles, and shamanism in indigenous and tribal cultures; DMT, Terrence McKenna, Buddhism, Hinduism, tantra, masculine and feminine energies, consciousness, Carl Jung, Rudolf Steiner, sex, family, the Bible - the list goes on! You can open that heavenly book to any page and land on a mind-blowing explanation of a complicated topic.
Pinchbeck is usually equated with his ideas on drugs, and there’s a great revelatory interview about the demonization of psychedelics here. The man has taken many drugs, in many places, he wrote a book on it, Breaking Open The Head. But what’s more interesting to me than the actual drugs he’s done, is the way he connects them to next level thinking. Through iboga, ayahuasca, or sipping mushroom brew, people are able to increase the bandwidth of frequencies they can receive. An altered state can awaken truths within, about self, ego, nature, and society, that were hitherto obfuscated. That, Daniel says, is why psychedelics became so demonized after the 1960s - because they opened eyes, helped people to see that they didn’t have to be a cog in passive consumer wheel of society.
In person, Daniel Pinchbeck is like a walking encyclopedia – brimming with facts, figures, and such a quick intellect that he's downright intimidating to talk to. This is one of the most astute, clued-in minds in American next-level thinking, and I am worried I’ll bore him with my slow talking and sometimes idealistic naiveté. That being said, he's a very kind and community-oriented man – he’s supported Anima Rising in ways he doesn’t even remember, posting our early Kickstarter campaign on his facebook page, even hiring me to intern for him over the summer at the Center For Planetary Culture, while I was living out of my car last summer in NYC.
On Thursday night I attended a lecture he gave in Shoreditch, London, and then met up with him again on Sunday in Covent Garden to ask him some questions about raising Anima. After the talk on Thursday, we went out to a bar in Dalston. Over loud music and craft cocktails, I struggled to reconcile these two paradigms, in the way I often do. We’d just come from a talk about how little time we have left to avert enviro-catastrophe. (Even the opening pages of 2012 detail the end of our chapter of civilization. Millions are suffering and millions more will, as we remain inactive.) How can we both know this and at the same time be sipping kiwi juice and rum in a room of good looking people? Daniel says that he’s made his peace with it, that this is the way things are supposed to play out. If 'the Gods' wanted it to go differently, then that’s what would happen. I ask him what he'd do if everything goes to shit – if cities fall, civilization crumbles, and chaos breaks out. He says, 'I’ll probably just die.'
Daniel Pinchbeck is a consciousness raiser, all in. But all the startling facts and disparaging realizations he devotes his life to exploring don't stop him from living. This is an important lesson for me. I am constantly recalculating the balance between feeling the weight of the world and enjoying my own life. I often find it distractingly difficult, knowing that there is so much suffering and vulnerability on this planet. Other days I commit to being utterly grateful and appreciative for my luck – my life isn’t always easy, doesn’t always feel perfect, but it is mine and I do love it.
We should strive to make the world a better place in every significant way that we can. We can’t let the terror of our insignificance, and awareness of inevitable death, stop us in our tracks. We need to use our fortune as a launch pad for raising consciousness. Jess and I believe that loving life, loving ourselves, and one another demonstrably is the first step to making a change here. 'Many of us recognize the dangers facing us but refuse to consider them carefully, frozen by anxiety over our own fate and the fate of our loved ones,' Daniel writes. 'It is possible, however, that this dread must be overcome, or we risk bringing about the result we most fear.'
A transcript of the interview is below, just in case you're more of a read-er than a watch-er:
AR: What doesn’t feel right to people about the way we’re living now?
DP: What doesn’t feel right to people about the way we’re living now. People have an underlying uneasiness around the whole ecological situation. I mean, there’s two things – the way our current system has treated a lot of people in a very dehumanizing destructive way, and then also has sort of attacked the natural systems of the planet. So even all of our much loved smart phones and devices require rare minerals from Congo and west Africa where millions of people have died in genocides. We know that we’re turning a blind eye to a lot of misery that is created so that we can have our high quality of life in the first world. And then I think people feel kind of spiritual emptiness to varying degrees. Most people are in a scientific materialist mindset where they don’t really see that life has any larger purpose or meaning.
AR: In advocating shifting away from a materialistic consumer paradigm, what would you suggest shifting to?
DP: At the moment we have a consumer paradigm – we’re in CG surrounded by shops, goods, clothing, so on – I think people, and I think this is already happening – people could become more interested in cultivating themselves, inner exploration, some consciousness whether through theogens or meditation. And then, having responsibility almost a service, so we have a larger dimension of themselves being devoted to somehow being of service to the natural world and to other people.
How do you balance the masculine & feminine energies in your life?
DP: Being a writer, or an artist, its inherently receptive, theres’ a whole feminine aspect to it, but then also having that masculine drive or will to accomplish and put things out in the world. That would be my answer for that.
AR: How does self-work and taking care of ourselves connect to the greater good the common cause?
DP: It seems like there’s a direct connection between how we take care of ourselves, develop ourselves, and anything positive that we could accomplish on a larger scale for our society or for the collective. Personally, in the past, I got so focused after I wrote my 2012 book on the needs of the collective I kind of ignored some of my own personal developments, and now I’m seeking to rebalance it. But I think everyone has to go through that process – some people get to overwhelmed, fixated on their own healing process, and that also becomes like a problem because then they’re just ignoring larger aspects, so yeah, everyone has to find their own balance with that.
AR: What changes would you like to see made in the world?
DP: If I could make some changes in the world – obviously right now we have a lot of people locked in to limited belief systems and ideologies, a lot of people are fixated on greed and power and so on, so I think we need some kind of inner/outer revolution where people have a change of values and really see that we have a responsibility for creation as a whole, as the natural world, that’s probably what our human existence is meant to be for. And then, yeah, we have to sort of overcome these degrading ideologies. I mean, so much is happening simultaneously – technology is evolving very rapidly, but often that amplifies our destructive capacities. I think if enough people toggle over to having a different perception, maybe some ayahuasca, meditation, yoga – those are all really helpful tools – then we would collectively make different decisions. And ultimately, what would be wonderful would be for millions to come together and get rid of its nuclear arsenal and shift back from industrial agriculture to organic and permaculture type of farming, honor indigenous cultures and build wilderness corridors. I think we’re at a tipping point where more and more people are getting it, and we’ll see rapid changes in the next years.
AR: How do you stay motivated to keep fighting this uphill battle?
DP: I don’t really see it as fighting an uphill battle, on some level I feel like I’m an artist, or a social artist, you know, writer, and social architect, I don’t know exactly what I am. It’s actually, you know, I sort of feel like I’ve passed over the point of it being a question of suffering it’s just a matter of manifesting my own creativity in ways that I find really exciting and challenging. So, actually you could just see the whole thing as fun, in a way.
AR: How do we deal with the current levels of apathy?
DP: That's a good question, I think we also always have to step back and look at how rapid there’s been this evolutionary process of industrial culture, consumerism, mass entertainment. People are very distracted and kind of almost hypnotized by the media, culture of fame, what they see on television and so on. That culture has been designed by the corporate entertainment military complex to make people feel disempowered and accepting of a culture that has a lot of violence in it and a lot of destructive aspects and so on. That’s really unfortunate, it seems like people on the whole could be much more impassioned and take back their power. There’s a lot of cynicism. People are very easily cynical and feel there’s no hope and so on, and that must be a lot of hardcore social conditioning through the educational system – institutions, government and media and so on. If people were to recognize that actually they have tremendous power and it’s only the individual taking power in their own hands has always been the thing that’s always made change – that would be awesome.
The above interview took place in London, UK in April 2015.