Life is a Reality Sandwich



The new consciousness culture that Reality Sandwich covers is becoming a movement, and to stay one step ahead, RS needs to grow with it. With the resources raised through a Kickstarter campaign, we want to expand our editorial program by adding a timely blog; do more video, music, and podcasts; go in-depth on hot topics; and improve the site's interactivity. It's time to take Reality Sandwich to the next level! 

Please visit our Kickstarter page and make a pledge today. 

 

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Recently, while preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign to support Reality Sandwich's next phase (to learn more, click here), we've received some wonderful notes from friends and allies with their assessment of RS's successes to date. But when this endorsement from Graham Hancock came in, I was particularly blown away:  

"Reality Sandwich is special; in fact I would go so far as to say that Reality Sandwich is unique. No other platform on the Internet offers this range of ideas, this kind of intelligent, open-minded inquiry, this willingness to embrace the mysteries of existence but always with rigor, always with precision, and yet always also with imagination. Reality Sandwich has, I believe, played a key role in the birthing of the new consciousness that is now manifest in the world, though still fragile and unrecognised by many, and it has an even greater role to play in the future in guarding and nurturing the growth of that consciousness as the old, tired broken model of society breaks down and the vacuum it leaves behind cries out to be filled by something better." – Graham Hancock

We never expected for Reality Sandwich to be for everyone. But if RS is right for you, then you know it.

My guess is that when most people first visit Reality Sandwich, they have one of two reactions. Either they simply don't respond to it — the site seems off-the-wall, the topic mix feels arbitrary and confusing, an article sets off their nut-case meter so they click on to other websites that better stabilize their connection to consensus reality — or they recognize, with great relief, that after drifting in psychic isolation for far too long, they've arrived home.  

Unfortunately, my evidence is only anecdotal, what I hear from friends and acquaintances, or read in emails sent to the site. We've never done a proper focus group, which is fitting since RS is more of an art project guided by intuition than a commercial media enterprise targeting a well-defined market niche. But if we did do a focus group, the results would be fascinating to see, since they'd offer insight into the current state of a vital, dynamic culture in the act of formation.

One of the perks that comes with being an RS editor is having an excuse to track all this activity: the research into the medical uses of psychedelics and the empirical validation of psi phenomena; the shamanic revival and the interest in indigenous spiritual practices it's part of; the life changes experienced by so many thanks to entheogens; the popularity of transformational festivals inspired by Burning Man; the rising number of people feeling Kundalini energy; the widespread realization that bodily death is not the end, and that our birth is not our beginning; and the experiments in sacred economics that encourage community engagement and group collaboration.

It's enlivening to see. These are only a few of the threads now being woven into the fabric of a new culture. Together they offer a glimpse of a possible future — one that is already taking place (as William Gibson aptly put it, "The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed."). By browsing the virtual pages of Reality Sandwich, you can get a strong sense of this new culture's character and concerns.

Reality Sandwich is the only publication dedicated to capturing the full range of the emerging transformational culture. Since starting 6 years ago, we've published some 5,000 articles, a mix of reflective essays and short news items. Dispatches from the edge, from many of the scene's most innovative and provocative thinkers and doers. Our role hasn't been to endorse positions or to take sides in disputes. We offer the community a platform where intriguing ideas and provocative voices can get a hearing.

I was fortunate in my informal, out-of-college education, and one of my great teachers was Allen Ginsberg. Known today as the iconic voice of the Beat Generation, few people are aware of the strategic role he played in the development of the Sixties counterculture.  In the early Sixties, he was one of a handful of intellectuals who gave deep thought to how best to spread the social and spiritual innovations of the Beat scene so they would become the foundation of a mass movement. He had two key insights. One was the effectiveness of culture as the primary way to draw people into political and social change. In the Sixties, it was poetry, music and dance that brought the most people out into the streets in support of the civil rights and anti-war movements. Culture was far more effective at inspiring people to act than rational policy argument.

The other insight was recognizing the importance of forums where new and possibly quite unorthodox ideas could be offered and experienced by the community, while they are still in the process of formation. Fresh ideas need to be tested, played with, and nurtured, as they mature into a form that is appropriate for wide dissemination. In the Sixties, the underground bookstore and coffee house scene provided a network where this creative process took place.

Today it happens online. Before we launched Reality Sandwich, this exposition of the new culture was restricted to distinct silos, with little crossover from one group to the next. We offered a place to come together, where innovations appear side-by-side, and ideas can cross-pollenate. Clearly the community needed this shared space, because as soon as we started to publish, articles came to us from all directions. We've had no trouble presenting new essays every Monday through Friday, and over time the volume of quality submissions has increased, quite dramatically in fact.

The result is a treasure trove of countercultural investigation. Many of the essays stand the test of time. At this point, it would take a dedicated reader many months to absorb it all. To make it easier to access this wealth of knowledge — it's now pretty frustrating to search RS because of our website's technical limitations — we're introducing a new section, the RS Gnosis Files. Here you'll find some of the best articles we've published in more than 35 subject areas — from Aliens to Electronica, Kundalini to Transformation. And we'll be adding more topics and articles weekly, so please check back for new discoveries.  

It has been fascinating to watch, over these years, how the edge that RS covers has begun to be accepted by the mainstream. Attitudes are changing. Old prejudices are being dropped. It's easier now to talk in "mixed company" about near death experiences, or significant synchronicities, or the validity of psychic phenomena, or the personal importance of a psychedelic trip. Of course, you have to choose your moments; not every hedge fund manager is ready to fly to Peru for an ayahuasca ceremony. But compared to even a couple of years ago, the difference is palpable. The West Coast has always been more open to these kinds of interests than elsewhere, but even in the Bay Area you can feel things shifting, that a transformational culture is emerging that is grounded and rich in its many expressions.

I always found it ironic that it took a bunch of neurotic New Yorkers to publish Reality Sandwich. You would have expected it to come out of Oakland or Venice Beach. But maybe RS needed to be conceived in a place where consciousness culture is harder to access, so we appreciate it that much more. If any city can lay claim to being the atheist capital of the United States, it's New York City. Secularism is the local religion. As a lifetime New Yorker, I never imagined I'd see the world any differently. Had you told me ten years ago that one day I'd be working on Reality Sandwich, I would have laughed out loud.

I was raised a classic secular materialist. Consciousness arises from the material stuff of the brain — that was indisputable. It just felt right. Our individual essence is a chemical accident of nature, a bizarre roll of the dice that came up double sixes. Until my 40s, I had no idea what the word "spiritual" meant. It struck me as a fuzzy abstraction, having something to do with compassion, but so vague a term as to be essentially useless. It also implied superstition.

When I was young, my mother discouraged any talk of religion in our home. On the rare occasions when God was mentioned, it inevitably triggered her comment, "Do you know how many people died because of that?" God was the encapsulated equivalent of intolerance, persecution, ignorance, delusional behavior, pogroms, crusades – the whole host of violent acts executed in the name of holy guidance.

So I was thoroughly unprepared for the day when the sky cracked open for me, and I caught my first awestruck glimpse of the light that came through. I had no context for it.

Light came through. What does that mean? For me, it was the heartfelt realization that there's something beyond the self — a disembodied consciousness — that I could connect to, that I am part of, and that the source of this consciousness glows more brightly than a million 1650 watt sports stadium lighting lamps in close quarters. This realization didn't come overnight. In fact, it kind of snuck up on me. But regardless of the details of my own story, the upshot is that I was left with way more questions than answers.

For some people, when the sky cracks open they are already within arm's length of a religious or mystical tradition which they then grasp fiercely, holding on to every detail that the lineage instructs them to follow: how to pray, how to hold your body, what to eat and when, who not to have sex with and when not to, etc. That connection to the thing beyond the self, that mystical encounter, is at once so miraculous, but at the same time so tenuous, that they fear losing that extraordinary intensity, and can't imagine themselves encountering it any other way than adhering to the one strictly dictated path they were lucky enough to discover. They take up with a guru, or become "born again," or chant Kalbalist incantations, or swirl among Sufi dervishes, often convinced that the road they're traveling is the one true way to reach the glories they so rightly treasure.

That didn't happen to me. Until my early forties, I hadn't the slightest interest in mysticism. Then my sky cracked open during a dream. I had a Tantric awakening staring at the budding flowers along the sidewalk one Spring in Berkeley, California. Then the ante was raised when I first walked the Esplanade at Burning Man, high on magic mushrooms, and the swirling colored lights, the parade of costumed revelers, and the astonishing clarity of the stars in the night sky gave me my first visceral taste of the deep interconnection of all of existence.

That once-empty word, "spiritual," began to take on meaning. But it did so in fits and starts. During this unfolding series of experiences, as I increasingly became aware of a level of reality beyond the material, I never lost my secular skepticism. New information came my way, and I evaluated it with the same empirical tools that I had always used. I hadn't changed, I was the same person I'd always been, but my seeing had become more sensitive, I was open to perspectives that I'd previously dismissed. I became willing to accept possibilities that had once seemed off the charts, but which, because of the veracity of my own encounters, I was forced to give attention to. I didn't feel born again, but rather the world was being born again around me.

We started Reality Sandwich in 2007 because so many people were having experiences similar to mine. Accounts turned up on personal websites, in online forum discussions, in small press books and indie documentaries, and of course we heard about them from people we knew — but there was no shared space where these stories, and the explorations they inspired, could be found side by side, seen as part of a single wave. So we decided to create one.

My co-editor, Daniel Pinchbeck, had his head broken open, as he famously put it, while on assignments to cover psychedelic drug use for popular glossy magazines. Our first news editor, Jonathan Talat Phillips, left a dance party feeling the warm glow of MDMA and was startled to see auras buzzing around everyone he met. The lights came on for our creative director, Michael Robinson, when he started painting at age 14, which allowed him to connect his inner visionary world to the world outside himself, a connection he deepened through his study of symbolism, myth, metaphor, and graphic design. Around us, unorthodox mystical openings were happening with a wild frequency. Among a certain slice of the downtown New York art and activism scene, they'd actually become fairly common, thanks in no small part to ayahuasca becoming available through the underground shaman circuit.

Of course, not every RS contributor has had a mystical experience, or is even interested in having one. But the essays published on this site all contribute to the dialog our community is having about what it means to live with an awareness of our deep interconnection with one another, with the entire universe. Through this dialog, a new vocabulary is emerging, one that will allow us to express the spiritual in a way that is authentic to our moment, true to contemporary experience. The words that we were raised with to describe the numinous, and the social forms that shaped them, have become inadequate. It's through this dialog that our imaginative vocabulary is refreshed, and a new vision of ourselves is born.

These are challenging times, and we're on a wild ride. It's great to be sharing this wild ride with you. 

 

 

Please join us in the creation of Reality Sandwich's next phase. Contribute to our Kickstarter campaign today.