Los Angeles is made up of moments that only the people that live here can quite understand. It has more magic than anywhere I have ever lived, and I have lived all over the world. It’s not the kind of magic you will find on the first day you get here. It takes navigating through the endless array of smog and sunshine to find like-minded souls who are expressing their own creativity with similar passion. It’s a magic of connections, of the people you meet and the places you end up together. The kind of magic that leads you to friends who keep crystals on their dashboards, sage in their glove compartments, and pendulums above their bed.
They are artists, musicians, and philanthropists, filmmakers, rebels, and creators who are attuned to a higher vibration of living. You might call them the modern magicians. Daniel Pinchbeck, though a native New Yorker, could very well be anointed King of the Mystics in LA. He is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, and he is the director of Evolver.net and The Evolver Network.
I knew Daniel when I was much younger through friends of the family. Over the years, I had heard quite a lot about his books through my mystic friends in Los Angeles. Daniel and I re-connected recently, and I went to a reading of a new book he was involved with called Exploring the Edge Realms of Consciousness, at the Hub in LA. Various authors spoke on mystical states, lucid dreams, psychic initiation, and being a gay porn actor as an experience of higher consciousness. I had planned to meet with Daniel the next day to discuss “the infinite,” and to do a Q&A for this article, but I ended up being two hours late, and at that point, he had to go to brunch with his team at Evolver LA., so he invited me along. I had brought him a pair of Future Eyes, a prism eyeglass that my good friend Brent Pearson invented to “stimulate the mind,” and Daniel decided to wear them all the way to Café Gratitude, where we had lunch. It was entertaining, to say the least. I didn’t get to ask him any questions, but he suggested I come along to a lunch he was having the next day with Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong). I agreed and met them the next day in Venice for a lunch filled with stories of Tommy Chong’s time in prison and his foray into pottery while there (he started making the same things that had got him into jail in the first place). These are the kind of weekends one will only have in Los Angeles.
How would you define “New Age ” philosophy in the 21st century?
The term “New Age” is definitely problematic, as it is tainted with the ungrounded mushy patchouli-scented spirituality of the ‘70s and ’80s. I don’t know if it makes sense to reclaim the term. I prefer the idea of building a “New Planetary Culture” that encompasses esoteric and tangible aspects of a transition in consciousness and society as a whole.
The focus of my work in the years since publishing 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl has been to define this new planetary culture and create a supporting infrastructure for its emergence. My documentary, 2012: Time for Change, covered the prophecies of the Maya, explores techniques for intensifying our consciousness such as ayahuasca shamanism and Transcendental Meditation, then used the design scientist Buckminster Fuller’s ideas as a framework for a comprehensive redesign of our social, financial, and technical systems. We have the potential, right now, to create a sustainable and flourishing culture based on cooperation rather than competition, where all take care of all.
We can evolve the somewhat fuzzy idealism of the New Age by exploring the melding of science and spirituality in areas like research into psychic phenomena and extrasensory perception, and into the nature of consciousness itself. We can also collaborate to manifest the type of society expressed in the anthemic music of the late ‘60s by focusing on building platforms and tools for cooperation and non-monetary exchange that would not violently overthrow, but gently and rapidly supersede, the present social and political system, which is mired in corruption and inertia.
Who would you consider a modern-day shaman?
There are many kinds of shamans around. The word has become a bit of a catch-all. I work with elders from the Secoya, an indigenous tribe from the Ecuadorean Amazon, who are still alive and amazing. They are archaic as well as modern-day shamans. In Breaking Open the Head, I discussed how the idea of the shaman influenced our concept of the modern artistic or creative genius in the 18th Century. I don’t consider artists or rock stars or myself to be “shamans” exactly, as I think that involves a set of techniques that need to be learned through an apprenticeship. I consider myself closer to the wizard, as an archetype, as writing is a form of spell casting that can transform reality in the direction one desires, if the spell is truly compelling and interesting.
Do you think of art as a luxury, or a necessity in the modern world?
I think that the direction of our planetary culture is toward realizing that the universe itself is an art project, and that the earth is our particular art piece which we can sculpt and craft. Art becomes even more essential in the future, as our technical powers are moving toward the realm of the instantaneous manifestation of thought. I think that artists have to think much bigger in a sense. I really love Joseph Beuys’ concept of a social sculpture: he wrote that only art had the power to dismantle “the repressive effects of a senile social system to build a SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART.” I think that is the direction in which we should be going now. Incidentally, this concept of self-realizing humanity and the earth as an art project is beautifully explored in Jose Arguelles’ book, Manifesto for the Noosphere, which I edited and released through Evolver Editions, our publishing imprint.
In philosophy and history of thinking there is always an intrinsic human conflict or quagmire. What would you say are the greatest problems for humans in the 21st century ?
We have to overcome our tendency to think that we are right, that we have the answers, and that we know what the consequences of our actions are likely to be. In that sense, we have to become far more humble and in some ways cautious as a species. I suspect that is a part of our awakening into a new stage of consciousness that is more comprehensive, self-reflective, and empathic. I am simultaneously fascinated and alarmed by the Singularity movement, which sees humanity’s destiny is to gain immortality by merging with machines. While I would love to see a healthy extension of the human lifespan so we could live to be hundreds or thousands of years old, I worry about the consequences of unrestricted technological development. There seems to be a principle of unintended negative consequences, where each new level of technology creates new problems and emergencies. For instance, plastic now pollutes every ecosystem and concentrates in our bodies where it leads to reproductive disfunction and cancers. Obviously climate change is another area where our rampant industrial development is potentially endangering our future.
As our new and future technologies may be far more totally invasive and transformative, we need to develop a civil society infrastructure to respond to the challenges and threats that they pose, and bring about a rapid education and re-training on the part of the mass populace, to deal with the various forms of disruption we are likely to face in the near future, such as food shortages and economic breakdown. Our model with our non profit Evolver Network is to create a scaffold for the emergence of a civil society infrastructure that can help awaken people to what is happening now and what is soon to come, then collaborate to construct the workable alternative.
When was the first time you realized you thought about the world in a different way. Is there an exact moment you can recall ?
I think I have always been a natural weirdo, artist, and outsider. I remember feeling separate from the others when I was a little kid. In some sense, nothing ever changes. All of my work is my effort to figure out how to return home. I know there is a home and I have to figure out how to recreate it in this 4-dimensional hologram, in the time available. It is a bit like a video game. I now see that many people also share my feeling of being aliens and outsiders, and in fact we are the ones who have the insights into how our culture needs to change. As we band together, we can bring about this transformation.
How do you see culture evolving in the next 20 years, 50 years, 100 years?
I think we are discovering, in accelerating phases and subtle gradations, that William Blake was right, and the imagination is not just a state, but the “human existence, in itself.” Also, as Terence McKenna noted, “culture is our operating system.” I think as we become more conscious of the evolutionary process and co-creative with that process, we will realize that we can use culture and media to transform people’s perceptions and beliefs in the direction that leads to a positive win-win outcome for humanity. The mass media actually coordinates the behavior of the global multitudes, telling them what to buy, how to relate to authority, what kinds of relationships are proper for them. A transformation of media and culture could be devised to re-pattern global behavior toward sustainable patterns and altruism, and to help educate people to create self-reliant communities and new forms of enterprises that actually support the health of the planet as a whole.
Are there perhaps lost civilizations that with them have perhaps lost vital secrets of the universe?
I believe that earlier civilizations like Egypt and older ones than we now recognize were in direct contact with extraterrestrial civilizations, and we will re-establish that contact within the next 25 years, as we reach a new phase of consciousness and integration of the psychic and physical, feminine and masculine aspects of our psyche. I think the Great Pyramid was a power plant able to beam out a form of energy that could move enormous stone blocks, and that Moses stole this energy device—probably a gift from a galactic civilization—and took it with him, named it the Ark of the Covenant, and used it to part the Red Sea. These are ideas also explored by thinkers like Graham Hancock and Nassim Haramein.
Are there similarities about the belief of the return of Jesus Christ and the return of Quetzalcoati ?
Sure! These are deep buried archetypes of the collective Psyche. They relate to each other, as I discussed in my last book. Even the numerical aspects are connected—Jesus and the twelve disciples. Quetzalcoatl and the twelve Gods. The interplay between 12 and 13 you also find in King Arthur and the myth of Sleeping Beauty is a myth about how to integrate masculine rational thought and feminine intuition.
What’s next ?
I am Executive Director of Evolver.net and The Evolver Network, seeking to grow our business and organization. Also I am finishing another book. I hope to get involved with all varieties of creative mischief in the years ahead. I also hope my ideas about a positive transformation of planetary culture turn out to be on the money. Otherwise, I might have to change my ideas.