Dynamics of Hyperspace
A Dialog between Ralph Abraham
and Terence McKenna
held in Santa Cruz, California, 1983
with questions from the audience
Terence: Ralph and I discussed what we were going to do this afternoon and we decided we would try for a conversational sonata, which means it's supposed to look like an unrehearsed conversation, but we both more or less think we know what we're going to say. I suggested the title "Dynamics of Hyperspace" before Ralph had even been asked to be part of this. I hope it's no embarrassment to him as a professional mathematician. These words actually mean something in certain disciplines. In other disciplines they only indicate things.
Ralph: Well, I agreed that we didn't want to talk about those old maps of hyperspace.
Terence: What I mean by a new map of hyperspace is this: I think that we've come to a place with the psychedelic experience where the validation of the maps of inner space that Freud and Jung put forward in the first half of this century are not valid or complete enough. In other words, LSD validated very well the Freudian concept of the inner universe; it seemed to validate ideas about repression and trauma and the need to dredge material out of the unconscious.
Ralph: And that's what you were thinking of as the old maps? Freud and Jung?
Terence: Exactly. And more recent data that comes out of the psilocybin and DMT experience doesn't seem relevant to the human superconscious, unconscious or subconscious. It seems to be more like an objective manifold that lies beyond the personality or any human dimension, yet is accessible through these compounds.
Ralph: Are these old maps like Sanskrit, Tibetan tantric texts? One could call those antique maps. Those antique maps are closer to what you're talking about, I guess.
Terence: Well, maps grow more and more complete. Some of these older maps are badly torn and worn by time; some of them are not really maps but more almost like journals of explorers saying, "Today at noon we passed the mouth of a river, we know not from where it was flowing, but it was a mile wide where it entered the river we are navigating". Now we are going back and hoping for more complete maps of this area. I said to you this afternoon that if we had to find a formal transition point from your maps to my maps, it was Tom Banchoff's films of hyperdimensional objects. You might say something about that.
Ralph: Well, I thought of that as a map, only it's not a map; it suggests an image as the videotape we saw suggests some images that we encounter, probably in hyperspace. But it doesn't represent the experience of life in hyperspace at all. Tom Banchoff's best film, "Hypercube", is an instructional pedagogic film on travelling in four-dimensional space. This is a good start if the metaphor of dimension is of any use here. When I saw Banchoff's film, which I knew from my knowledge of the mathematical sources was actually a representation in common space of hyperspace, that made the hyperspace idea as a metaphor, as a map context, real for me. In Banchoff's film you see a hypercube, that means a solid figure in four-dimensional space, the simplest and most symmetrical one, but outlined only by its edges and vertices. It is then projected down, using color as a code for the fourth dimension, into a three-dimensional reality where we can experience it as a solid object represented in the traditional wire frame technology of computer graphics. This looked exactly like DMT trips I've had — so exactly that it deprived me for a long time of the religious fascination that I had with my travels in hyperspace. Because I was afraid that they were simply a precognitive experience of this Thursday evening in Santa Cruz when I would be viewing Banchoff's film. So this is much less than a map, but it's like some context in which to seek metaphors out of which you can make a map.
Terence: Yes, I called the book I wrote with my brother The Invisible Landscape because someone once said to me that psychedelic drugs were like magnesium flares dropped from aircraft; they would briefly illuminate a landscape and then darkness would reclaim everything. But you don't still think that that was a precognitive experience of seeing Banchoff's films, do you?
Ralph: No, I think that Banchoff's film was a precognitive expression of a DMT trip that he has yet to take. In fact, the time sequence is not important because the time sequence is only a necessity of a cognitive strategy that we have evolved to deal with three-dimensional space and our motion in it with a very limited mind. So the whole cause and effect idea comes out of a kind of Greek philosophy where very static concepts are really all there is. Freud and Jung and all their maps, tantricism — it is all much too limited to use in any way in mapping our experience in hyperspace.
Terence: Yes, perhaps hyperspace is not really what we want to get at, but the idea that there are occult (in the classical sense of hidden), dimensions to reality that are now accessible through the use of these psychedelic compounds. Obvious occult dimensions in reality are the future, the afterdeath state, and then the idea that there are occult or hyperdimensional organs of the human body, specifically the human mind. The human mind is like a fourth-dimensional organ because it seems to come tangential to the body, perhaps only at one point, and yet we feel its immanence as the most overwhelming fact of being. In fact, it is the experience of the fact of being. Right?
Ralph: I guess it's reasonable to put our consciousness at the base of the rest of it and say that it's the seat.
Terence: But I like to think of it not so much as a diffuse field but actually more along medieval lines like the soul, and to actually try to imagine that there is an organ attendant upon the living human body that is invisible under all normal conditions but is, in fact, the raison d'etre that holds the whole fact of metabolism together. Then when the connection between that hyperobject and the body is broken, the body ceases to be a four-dimensional object; it ceases to have this life in time that we call metabolism, and it becomes merely a lump of matter whose organization is steadily falling away from it, then it's not active any more and it's not interesting.
The remainder of this article is available on the CD-ROM.