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The Altered State

This is exciting:

I've recently found out about and registered for an Erik Davis workshop at the California Institute of Integral Sciences in San Francisco. Theme, The Altered State: California's Spiritual Frontiers.

From the workshop blurb:

"Alongside its body obsessions and media dreams, California is perhaps best known for its spiritual eccentricity. For well over a century, the state has been host to a dizzying number of exotic religions, ad-hoc cults, and all manner of mind-and-body-altering fads and fantasies. California has been home to spiritual mavericks like Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley, to popular visionaries like Starhawk and Carlos Castaneda, to mystical nature poets like Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder, and to living nightmares like Jim Jones and Heaven's Gate. It cradles the Church of Satan and the Church of Scientology; looking east, it built the first Zen monastery and first Hindu temple in the western hemisphere. California is responsible for UFO cults and Esalen, for the Grateful Dead and Burning Man, for soul surfers and the Sierra club. If consciousness is truly evolving, then California has served as its American Petri dish.

This four-week seminar, which will include slideshows, film clips, and music, is devoted to the idea that California's alternative spirituality stands as a distinct religious tradition on its own-a kind of improvised and hedonistic Hinduism, full of contradictory sects, cultures, and spiritual techniques, but all speaking to our core predicament: how to rediscover spirituality in a modern world defined by technology, consumer culture, and a scientific cosmology. In the class, we will encounter unknown ancestors, sacred spots, and secret histories buried in the cultural landscape. Such discoveries may provide a regional sense of "rootless roots" at a time when so many of us are feeling unmoored. Indeed, many of our contemporary concerns with deep ecology, human transformation, body-positive spirituality, and the techno-science of mind are rooted in California's maverick tradition of spiritual innovation.

The first class will provide an overview of California spirituality, and suggest some reasons why this peculiar sensibility set down roots here on the west coast. The remaining three classes will focus on major dimensions of the "California Tao": nature, the body, the evolution of consciousness, and technology. California, after all, has led the way towards a postmodern culture of media, subcultures, computer technology, aero-space, and rootless consumerism. Its alternative spiritual movements both mirror this process and attempt to compensate for its considerable problems. By understanding these dynamics, we can better approach the transformations and disruptions that lay ahead for all of us. [...]"

Sounds good to me. As far as I can remember, I have always had a perception of California's assorted spiritual weirdness as a sort of "distinct religious tradition on its own", and I'll love to hear what Erik has to say on the subject. You know, absorb factoids about this and that local cult, spend a bunch of brainpower crossreferencing little bits of data, take an intellectual wide-angle shot or two of the cultural landscape that we'll be exploring... and, at the end, receive the beautiful gift of a nugget of inspiration falling from who knows what inner sky, pretty much unexpected. That's usually what happens when I allow myself to be where I should be. And this is one of those times and places - I can tell.

After all, I have a track record of indulging in such pursuits.
I can even say I survived the extensive chapter - which felt like several - about the Church of Satan in Stephen E. Flowers' landmark book Lords of the Left Hand Path. Not that I'm really complaining about the length of the chapter or anything. Mr. Flowers is one of those, um, darkly unusual scholars whose corrosive and politically incorrect mind I would follow just about anywhere in its meanderings. It's just that I didn't think I would ever ingest quite that much detail about Mr.LaVey's doings and dealings, in the space of just one chapter.

Anyway. Yeah. The Altered State - sounds just great. Heck, the Corridor of Madness meme itself comes from yet another weird Californian spiritual personality and his enclave. I am planning to take design measures on the site that will make that connection permanently clear, but first I have to figure out enough of all this Movable Type mumbo jumbo. Until then, check out this quote. Ah, and good luck with the color choices that they've made on that page. Brrr.

That's all for now, folks. Oh, and thanks so much to good ol' Bruce Sterling for mentioning the workshop on his blog and turning me on to it. Chalk up another great find to the blogosphere...