Daniel Pinchbeck On The End Of The World

With the end of the world apparently due in 2 months, we interviewed the author and psychonaut Daniel Pinchbeck on dark futures, shamanism and frisky genetically modified mice.
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Do you ever wake up, flick on your plasma screen and wonder just what the hell is going on? Surely the monotone man from auntie calmly announcing that a force-ten hurricane has just torn through a nuclear power station floating on a pacific-sized tsunami thundering down a crack in the earth the size of a small continent must be kidding… It was never this bad in the days when you just circled aimlessly about the local park on your chopper. Well, one person who has a few pertinent theories as to why it feels just a little bit like things are approaching some massive cataclysmic endgame is the author, psychonaut and shamanic adventurer Daniel Pinchbeck, who firmly believes that humanity is in the middle of a massive shift in evolution predicted some 5,000 years ago by the Maya. Sure, you might rather switch off the news, ring your boss to say you have put your back out again and slide under the covers with your boyhood “comic” collection, but that’s not going to help anyone, least of all you. Here, the acclaimed author of Breaking Open The Head and The Return of Quetzalcoatl tells us all why it’s time to pull our bloody socks up and get involved, before it’s too late.

Do you really believe what is happening on the planet now was predicted by the Maya thousands of years ago?

I think that it’s extraordinary that the Maya, who were probably the most shamanic visionary culture, went way beyond the limits of tribal society to become these incredibly sophisticated astronomers, architects and mathematicians. Their culture is like a thought system that we can’t even totally enter yet. If you go to their monuments, you’re like, ‘What were these people doing?!’ They predicted this time as this end of one cycle and the beginning of the next, and it seems that we are indeed in that shifting time – look at the global economic collapse, at climate change accelerating, at the increasing earthquakes and tsunamis

Do you think it’s coming to a point where we’ll have to go and live in the mountains and wait for the dust to settle after the whole shithouse has gone up in flames?

I toggle back and forth. I have a lot of friends who believe that, and some of them are setting up communities on higher ground. If I can ever scrape together some money, I might buy some land in the high planes of Brazil. If you look at climate change statistics, then unless we come out with some tremendous carbon negative technologies very quickly, mass coastal flooding is likely to happen in the next twenty, thirty, forty years. But I also accept that there is a psychic level to what’s happening – I think it may be possible that miracles are attainable if there was to be a shift of consciousness. I have put my ideological eggs in that basket.

We are indeed in that shifting time – look at the global economic collapse, at climate change accelerating, at the increasing earthquakes and tsunamis

Do you think that a shift in consciousness is happening; that we are becoming more aware of the notion of being part of a collective consciousness?

I think it’s interesting the way that our technology is actually making that happen. I see technology as a kind of manifestation of consciousness as an evolvement of process. Through social media and so on, we become more aware of a kind of membrane of consciousness that we are all impinging upon and affecting all the time. Obviously, what recently happened in the Middle East is an example of how a subliminal realisation was able to reach mass consciousness, and a political manifestation of it developed just from people having access to those tools.

When people hear terms like collective consciousness, they tend to think of stoner hippies dancing in a circle and banging on about how wonderful everything could be...

(Laughs) That is why I like Amazonian shamanism much more than yoga, because yoga seems to be all, ‘We’re chanting, we’re in the light, we’re going towards the good…’ Shamanism is more like, ‘Let’s just rip open everything, see it all for what it is, and then reach a point of impersonality.’ The most profound personal value of the work with I have done with ayahuasca is the realisation that those darker, more vile, debased sides need to come out so they can dissipate.

JPP: What are the wildest hallucinations you’ve ever had on ayahuasca? When I first smoked DMT [the psychoactive element in ayahuasca], I remember seeing this small furry alien creature stroking my head…

(Laughs) Nice. I’ve had similar types of stuff. I’m not sure how much relevance it has to go into them. The experience of psychedelics has made me believe that there are many infinite dimensions that impinge upon this one, and I believe that our understanding of them is part of the psycho-technical development of the future. Our culture is invested in crushing mystery but my explorations in Shamanism suggest that there are infinite dimensions of mystery out there, and that’s so much better in terms of how one would want to think about the future. Let’s open ourselves up to psychic levels of exploration if we can because we have got stuff to do – a creative engagement that could last millions of years.

I think it may be possible that miracles are attainable if there was to be a shift of consciousness. I have put my ideological eggs in that basket.

How different do you think our engagement with the universe will be in the future, if we don’t blow it all to smithereens?

Well, look at all the things we can do now that three hundred, four hundred years ago were unimaginable, and then imagine where we could be in five thousand years – leapfrogging through space and time could be as readily available as using a Blackberry to call somebody is today. Right now, there’s all this interesting stuff around ‘free energy’, where you are supposedly able to use quantum fluctuations of the vacuum in order to produce as much energy as you could possibly ever need. There are all these theories that the research has been suppressed and that people have had their laboratories destroyed, and stuff like that. But maybe that level of energy only becomes available to us when we reach a different level of consciousness, because if we had it now, we would probably just get the last three fish from the ocean and continue pillaging the environment. Maybe there needs to be a catastrophic experience that leads to a deeper realisation and a change.

It’s interesting that on the one side of the contemporary coin there is this sense of an impending, rolling apocalypse, yet at same time there are things going on in science that could transform humanity…

Oh yeah, totally. They have been working on the telomerase – do you know what those are? They’re the things on the end of the genes, which eventually tell your cells to reproduce less efficiently and more slowly, and basically cause aging. They’ve changed the telomerase on some mice and they’ve de-aged the mice – the mice were old and grey-haired and now they’ve gone back to being frisky and brown-haired. If they can do it on mice, it’s safe to assume they might one day do it on people. I think we have to step back and look at technology in general, though. So far, pretty much every rush towards a new and exciting discovery of technology has led to destructive consequences that we didn’t foresee at the time. I mean one hundred years ago, plastic seemed like the best thing ever – now we have plastic in all of our body tissues, causing cancers… causing havoc.

The atom bomb is probably the ultimate example of that…
Sure, but then one very interesting phenomenon around the atomic bomb is that one of the things it created was the internet. The Internet had to be developed as a completely distributed network because they wanted a system that would survive in the event of nuclear war. In a way, it’s like an antidote was created out of the crisis that we had created. We may get atomic catastrophes through war, through power plant breakdowns, or whatever, but hopefully the more important piece of the puzzle is the process of developing an antidote, so that a new system of knowledge can be transferred towards the whole connected field of the planet mind. Unfortunately, humanity does not seem ready to change its path and create an ecologically balanced, equitable, sustainable planetary culture without a series of very nasty wake-up calls.

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