Showing posts from April, 2011

Robin Williamson and John Renbourn in Sheffield

Robin Williamson and John Renbourne, Friday 15th April, The Greystones pub, Sheffield. The first time I saw Robin Williamson play was with the Incredible String Band, in Cardiff, in 1970, on an all-day bill which also included the Four Tops. For me, the String Band were the archetypal British Acid Folk band, and that had a lot to do with Williamson's strange, fey songs and his skill with numerous instruments, many no-one in this country had heard of until then. Between then and this gig I've seen him twice more, and both performances were different again - jug band style with Clive Palmer, bardic storyteller with harp. This performance was a bit of all of those, salted with amusing anecdotes from his long and interesting life. The gig was sold out and, in fact, heavily over-sold - there wasn't even any standing room by the time the players were on stage, and this made for a rather spiky, irritable crowd. All that changed, as people consumed their sacraments of bitter b

Review of 'Psychedelic Information Theory' by James Kent

Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason. James L. Kent, PIT Press / Supermassive LLC, 2010. My acid-drenched late-teens spanned the very end of the 1960s. I longed for ways to describe and understand my highs and, at that time, the only book that claimed to interpret psychedelic experience was Timothy Leary's book of that name, which, modelled on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, handed the entire thing, lock, stock and goofy (but superior) grin, over to oriental mysticism. What's more, the illegalization of acid in 1966 meant that book was left high and dry, washed up by the first wave of research, and so, by default, acquired a much more canonical status than it deserved. Another phase of investigation didn't emerge until the late 80s, when the MDMA craze catapulted psychedelics into the public domain again. Since then we've seen a cautious re-appearance of studies on psychedelic experiences; we seem, at

Spirituality Redefined for the Publishing World - Watkins's Top 100 In the Spring issue of the Watkins Review, that venerable bookshop shared with us their list of 'the 100 most spiritually influential living people'. Can we learn anything from this unusual claim? What new meanings of 'spirituality' can we work out from this list? Well, starting with numero uno, the top of what they refer to as 'The 100 Spiritual Power List', is someone I'd never previously heard of, Eckhart Toller. This list is mainly of people I've never heard of (63 of them), and of the other 37, I've mostly not read their books. But that's just me. The Dalai Lama is at #2; no surprise there; he would certainly fit most people's profile of the term 'spiritual'. Ken Wilber is at #9; that also doesn't surprise me - he tries to make sense out of culture and higher consciousness, so that qualifies as spiritual. I started getting puzzled, with Oprah Winfrey at

Review of Breaking Convention

Breaking Convention: a multidisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness. Fri April 1st to Sun Apr 3rd, University of Kent, Canterbury. I only made up my mind to go to this three weeks before the event, and by then the only B&Bs left vacant in Canterbury were in the £50+ pppn bracket. I took a look at the conference forum (isn't the internet marvellous), got a place to crash and acquired four passengers for my London-Canterbury drive, a motorized pilgrims' route through the gravel-island floodplain of Southwark and out along the Old Kent Road. The first night, there was a screening of 'DMT, the Spirit Molecule', the record of Rick Strassman's work with experimental volunteers. This film illustrates a major problem in every area of internal work which leads to staggeringly ecstatic states - that so many blissed-out people literally believe they are meeting angels, extraterrestrials and so on. They project the glory and r