Hippies started it, New Agers kept it going. What’s next for consciousness culture? |280|

They may shun religious dogma, and scientific dogma too, but Ken Jordan of Reality Sandwich has tapped into a group that’s restarting the consciousness culture revolution.

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Psychedelics are part of the culture change.

Interview with Ken Jordan co-founder and executive editor of Reality Sandwich and Evolver of on the consciousness revolution and its impact on culture.

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Ken Jordan about the consciousness revolution and the shifting paradigm in science and our culture:

Alex Tsakiris: You mentioned the FOIA Act and how [the government released] 10,000 pages. Well, go get those 10,000 pages today! You can’t get crap out of the FOIA Act. And don’t take our African-American-slash-black president and hold him up as any example. He’s the one who squashed all that stuff. He’s the one who not only rubber-stamped but [also] further promoted all the right stripping that was endorsed and supported by his predecessors–the Bush & Cheney regime. So I think what a lot of people are trying to figure out in this consciousness transformation that you guys are so much about in terms of Reality Sandwich — they want to know what’s real. And they want to know what’s real from two angles… because I think we get the personal transformation angle. So, Psychedelics? I can do that. I can be transformed. Spiritual practices? I can do that. I can be transformed. But you’re also holding out the idea that there can be this cultural transformation and that that’s really possible. And I have to wonder… is it really possible in the society we live in? In the culture? In the post-911? In the flag-waving, support our troops kind of culture that we have.

Ken Jordan: Well, there are no total victories. Obama is a partial victory. Obama’s a huge victory for the Civil Rights Movement. Whatever he does as president is almost secondary if you ask me. There are things that he does that I appreciate, and there are a lot of things that he does that obviously I do not appreciate in the political climate that we live in. I think he’s made some choices and has some allies that I wouldn’t have. At the same time, the simple fact that he won, and then won again in the same country where Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were shot 50 years earlier… to me is a sign of change. It’s massive. And you have to take your wins. If you don’t take your wins and accept them frankly for the victories that they are, you’re really impoverishing your own sense of what kind of change is possible. In many ways you can look at the movements of the ‘60s and see some serious wins that have transformed not just American culture but the culture of the world in a very positive way. The opening that came out of the ‘60s, the psychedelic culture, led to a very different understanding of spirituality that is possible now in America that was unthinkable back then. It’s not simply, “oh I took psychedelics…” A lot of people take psychedelics and they don’t get their opening. They don’t get their awakening. But there are a lot more people who are having interesting awakenings at this point outside of the restrictive confines of traditional religious practices. My sense is, and this is one of the interesting things about having the gig that I’ve got, my sense is that this is unprecedented in American culture. And that is a direct continuation of what happened in the 1960s. But this isn’t just about the ‘60s, that kind of opening, that kind of engagement or awakening. This is something that’s been popping up through the culture, through societies throughout history. These are deep currents, and there are moments where I think the spiritual energy breaks through and becomes more present. And there are moments where it becomes more oppressed and under the surface.

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Read Excerpts From The Interview:

Ken talks about the genesis of the consciousness culture and its emergence in the 1960s when the Civil Rights Movement and psychedelics were trending[17min.39sec-22min.20sec]

Alex Tsakiris: I think what [Timothy Leary] was alluding to and what I see all the time–you’re right about the outward manifestation of that co-opting. McDonald’s is psychedelic. At some point in the ‘70s Ronald McDonald had a tie-dye wig o. It’s completely co-opted. But what [Leary] saw was this is the first step of this. And I think we always have to be…when we talk about a culture change, and culture shifting, and consciousness culture…I’m very interested in that and talking to people about that. But I’m also constantly on guard, a kind of vigilance for how is this being co-opted? Or how does it have the potential to be co-opted? I think it’s really easy to gloss over these things and say, “[it’s] a transformational society, and look at how much better we are.” You mentioned the FOIA Act and how you got 10,000 pages. Go get those 10,000 pages today. You can’t get crap out of the FOIA Act. And don’t take our African American-slash-black president and hold him up as any example. He’s the one who squashed all that stuff. He’s the one who not only rubber-stamped but [also] further promoted all the important right stripping that was endorsed and supported by his predecessors–the Bush & Cheney regime. So I think what a lot of people are trying to figure out in this consciousness transformation that you guys are so much about in terms of Reality Sandwich, that’s who you are, they want to know what’s real. And they want to know what’s real from two angles: I think from one side we get it from a personal transformation. So, great. Psychedelics? I can do that. I can personally transform. Spiritual practices? I can do that. I can personally transform. But you’re also holding out the idea that there can be this cultural transformation and that that’s really possible. And I have to wonder… is it really possible in the society we live in? In the culture? In the post-911? In the flag-waving, support our troops kind of culture that we have.

Ken Jordan: Well, there are no total victories. Obama is a partial victory. Obama’s a huge victory for the Civil Rights Movement. Whatever he does as president is almost secondary if you ask me. There are things that he does that I appreciate, and there are a lot of things that he does that obviously I do not appreciate in the political climate that we live in. I think he’s made some choices and has some allies that I wouldn’t have. At the same time, the simple fact that he won, and then won again in the same country where Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were shot 50 years earlier… to me is a sign of change. It’s massive. And you have to take your wins. If you don’t take your wins and accept them frankly for the victories that they are, you’re really impoverishing your own sense of what kind of change is possible. In many ways you can look at the movements of the ‘60s and see some serious wins that have transformed not just American culture but the culture of the world in a very positive way. The opening that came out of the ‘60s, the psychedelic culture, led to a very different understanding of spirituality that is possible now in America that was unthinkable back then. It’s not simply, “oh I took psychedelics…” A lot of people take psychedelics and they don’t get their opening. They don’t get their awakening. But there are a lot more people who are having interesting awakenings at this point outside of the restrictive confines of traditional religious practices. My sense is, and this is one of the interesting things about having the gig that I’ve got, my sense is that this is unprecedented in American culture. And that is a direct continuation of what happened in the 1960s. But this isn’t just about the ‘60s, that kind of opening, that kind of engagement or awakening. This is something that’s been popping up through the culture, through societies throughout history. These are deep currents, and there are moments where I think the spiritual energy breaks through and becomes more present. And there are moments where it becomes more oppressed and under the surface.

[easy-tweet tweet=”my own spiritual practice involves the use of plant medicines — Ken Jordan” via=”no” usehashtags=”no”]

Touching on the topic of the environment, Ken talks about how his spiritual practice obliges personal responsibility–and a call to action–that inspired the creation of Reality Sandwich–[29min.44sec-42min.27sec]

Ken Jordan: There’s a lot of deep challenges to the environment that are being tracked by scientists globally in a pretty responsible way and there’s a deep consensus among those scientists…

Alex Tsakiris: I think it’s hard to pull all of that apart. Some of that I can definitely agree with and if someone was to put my feet to the fire and say, has human activity contributed to global warming and a change in our environment, I’d have to say yes. But to the extent that [global warming’s] been driven as some kind of alarmist mechanism to foster this carbon trading scheme that was just really designed to create another currency; and create a trillion dollar boon for a small group of people who are then standing in the way of another group of big oil, big energy people who are on the other side…But I think to the extent that we think we understand that game and how it’s being played, and how it’s being reflected in our science, I think we’re naïve to think we understand that. So that’s my one challenge with it: I think until we really understand who’s pulling the strings and we look at where the money’s flowing, we don’t get it. But my other problem with it is, there’s a fundamentally, very materialistic play there at the end of the road. It gets us away from spirituality ultimately that says we’re really not in control and our life isn’t what we think it is. [We’re] just saying, God needs our help in this one. We have to all get together and do something. And eventually it will lead to we have to go bomb somebody. Just like we killed the million women and children in Iraq because we weren’t sure whether they had their weapons of mass destruction so what did we do? We sanctioned them for however many dozens of years we sanctioned them, and in the process of sanctioning them we killed all of these people by refusing them basic medical needs. So I’m just not comfortable from a scientific standpoint making those leaps that we know so much, and we’re in so much control.

Ken Jordan: Well, I have to say in my own spiritual practice which involves the use of plant medicines, I have had extremely powerful and subjective experiences where I feel my attention has been brought to the suffering–the suffering experience of life on this planet as a result of human action. And that has made me acutely sensitive [to] the beauty of our natural environment; our human existence as part of that natural environment. We are an extension of that environment. We are an extension–a flowering of the environment of which we’ve been born and developed. We are nature, and what happens to nature affects us. We’re not separate from that. And for me that’s actually been a very beautiful and empowering experience… to really lock into the energy and the communication that can come from plants [and] from animals. And to feel myself responding to that, [be] sensitive enough to notice it, and have a visceral experience of that for me has been very special. It may be my imagination. It may be my subjective projection, but I’m having these experiences and they’re really gorgeous. They’ve made me understand that in order for me to live the kind of life that I would like to live, it’s important to not get overly attached to the material…to stuff, to objects, to money…to all of the crap that you can accumulate in your life. Obviously you want to have some basic things taken care of right? It’s important to have a warm place to sleep at night that’s comfortable and I [have] a kid so I want my kid to be fed and all of that. But beyond the basics, most of it is not that critical. There’s something else to really connect to and to nurture yourself with. That’s how I relate to it.

Alex Tsakiris: And I think that’s awesome. I really do. And I think that personal transformation is all there really is. The part that I am challenged by and challenging you on is the next step of that to action, particularly in terms of public political action, but also in terms of policy action. I think it gets really murky really fast. We live in “America, love-it or leave-it” culture. In terms of Obama, and I like what you said by the way–we have to celebrate our victories. But I think we have to be very humble about what those victories really mean. We’re talking about the environment. We’re talking about driving our Prius, our hybrid cars and all of that. But we dumped over a ton a day of depleted uranium missiles fired from our tanks into the Iraqi Desert. Now why did we even have to do that? Forget the war. Why did we have to use depleted uranium? Why did we have to destroy this environment for centuries forward? So I think we can never fully take in, no matter how much we want to take in the pain and suffering of the world, which I think is something we have to do in our personal practice. I don’t think we can fully take it in and I don’t think we can fully take ownership of just how much our privileged life here in the United States is still built on the back of the suffering of a lot of people. I’m not saying I have any solution for that at all. In fact I’m saying just the opposite but I think what it transitions into is getting at the core feeling that I think is also a part of this consciousness revolution. And that’s a feeling of, first estrangement and alienation with our culture because I don’t want us to go drop depleted uranium missiles on people. I was never for that, and whatever I have to do to stop that I’m willing to do it, but there’s nothing I can really do. I don’t feel empowered to do it. Number two, I think there’s a hopelessness associated with that. It’s like wow, the world isn’t the way that I think it is and there’s nothing I can really do to change it. How do you fit into that? How can the consciousness hub of people trying to make that shift…what is that community to do? And how can that community make that shift for themselves?

Ken Jordan: Well that’s a question I had to face for myself after the Gulf War and I’d been working in publishing for a while. I got involved with the Internet very early and I started the first online music magazine, multi-mediazine; also the first online digital music digital store called Sonic.net back in ’94, ’95. Eventually it was bought by MTV. I became a digital consultant eventually working for foundations and non-for profits. I worked with Amnesty International. I worked with Witness, which is Peter Gabriel’s Human Rights organization; and I conceived the idea of a hub where one could upload human rights videos and be safe. Especially videos of human rights transgressions and be protected especially in places where that’s not going to be necessarily a healthy thing to do. And [I] did a lot of work in that world for many years including working with democrats in Congress. And in the early days of the Obama campaign I knew a number of people who got involved with it. I also could’ve gotten involved in and worked in that world much more closely but that was when we were starting Reality Sandwich. And I clearly had a fork in the road moment where I had to decide where am I going to put my attention. Am I going to try to work in policy and in the system that tries to be deeply corrupt and perhaps… almost impossible to seriously move the needle on and end up incredibly frustrated with my inability to have any meaningful impact? Or am I going to leap into this other world, really an unknown world where we were identifying a new cultural movement that was coming out of this consciousness scene? I think of it essentially as the post-New Age consciousness, the next generation, which was to me from what I was seeing and still see, much more politically engaged; making a connection between their own consciousness advancement; their own spiritual work; and a responsibility to what’s happening to your community and to the planet.

I just did what I could to help that grow and become more articulated, and help the people who are, like you were saying alienated from the mainstream culture, and enable them to find one another so that they could start to organize and become a presence in their communities. And I decided that for me there was no option. I had to chuck the career that I had been building. At one point it was kind of an amazing moment: I was working for democrats in Congress; developing a system through them–an online system as a techie consultant person. And I [was] sitting at Stanley Hoyer’s desk. Stanley Hoyer was the Majority Whip at that time. He had two offices. So he had one desk that he didn’t really use and another desk where he did his work. So I was able to use the desk that was empty effectively. It had some of his kid’s photographs on it and whatnot but it was basically empty. And I was sitting there between meetings in D.C. looking out the window straight at the Capitol dome surrounded by the D.C. political machine and working on the very early days of Reality Sandwich at his desk for a couple of hours. And I have to say the frisson between these two worlds was so strong. I was feeling it very intensely. If anybody walks in here and sees what I’m doing right now, my job is shot. I’m gone. But nobody really cared. No one was paying attention. It was a wonderful and bizarre place to be. But I feel that the only real change that’s going to have a lasting impact at this point has to happen on a heart-by-heart cultural level. People have to wake up and they’ve got to get in touch with their love. And that’s what going to ultimately make the difference. And I know that sounds corny to say that. Look, I’m an old punk rocker basically. It’s hard for me to speak those kinds of words but I’ve got to find a better way to say it. Duncan Trussell does it really well I think. Duncan Trussell is defining the vocabulary for where all of this is going to go. I love the way he does it.

Alex Tsakiris: He does a great job.

Ken Jordan: I’ve got a lot to learn from him. So I think that’s what has to happen. And everybody I know who ended up working in the Washington machine and some of them were in and out of the White House, they’re all pissed off and frustrated. They’re freaking out about what a mess it is, and how corrupt it is, and what a disaster that system is.

photo by Paul Townsend

 

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