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4 September 2012 | Draft

Enstoning through Imagination, Dreams, Drugs and Imbibing

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Annex 1 of Fivefold Clustering of Ways of Being Stoned: Imagination, Promise, Rocks, Memorials, Petrification (2012)


"Stone" is used metaphorically and otherwise in a quite disparate range of contexts. These nevertheless offer an elusive implication of connectivity which merits exploration, as attempted here -- especially given the associated sense of concreteness.

This offers an alternative understanding of the frameworks of belief systems, their articulation, and the problematic relationships between them -- exemplified by the communication processes in any gathering in which multiple themes are evoked and challenged from a variety of perspectives -- and to relatively little avail. Use of "stoned" as a provocative mnemonic device is then arguably appropriate through the distraction it offers, whether through use of drugs by individuals, or collective dependence on oil as a drug.

The argument is developed in the main paper in the light of five ways of clustering "being stoned", each summarized in a separate annex:

Intoxication: The title exploits the sense in which "being stoned" is urban slang for substance intoxication consequent on recent usage (Charles T. Tart, On Being Stoned: a psychological study of marijuana intoxication, 1971). This is a type of substance-induced disorder which is potentially maladaptive and impairing, but reversible.

It is of course vital to recognize its role as a behavioural attractor through the modes of understanding it engenders in contrast to those of convention. One useful articulation is that of Richard Leigh (Grey Magic,, 2007):

Thus I recall one instance... because it remains in my memory as a supreme example of doped logic -- of the way in which the enstoned mind, or my enstoned mind at any rate, was prone to function.... The implications of the situation unfurled in panoramic amplitude through my consciousness, and I stood there, poised at the threshold... paralysed by the enormity of the existential dilemma. It'd become a paradigm, a metaphor, an epiphany, embodying in microcosm the perning of Yeastian gyres, the conflict of all eternally warring opposites. On the one hand, pleasure; on the other, duty. On the one hand, reckless abandon; on the other, onerous responsibility. One the one hand, untrammeled self-indulgence; on the other, self-abnegation for the sake of others. And I was the protagonist of this epic drama, my soul the arena for the clash between principles of downright Manichean magnitude! I was both humbled and exalted by the awesome weight of the decision confronting me. (p. 133-4)

Substance "abuse" may cover use of a variety of substances: alcohol, psychoactive drugs, etc (Richard Fields, Drugs in Perspective, 2003). Related slang terms of relevance to this argument are "getting high" or being "wasted" -- all offering a sense of "being stoned out of one's mind". It offers the further image of being "knocked down with a rock" (What is the etymology of "being stoned"? Quora). There is a charming irony to the sense in which the imaginative stage of the scientific method -- a theme of the main paper -- involves the process of "hypothesis formation". The etymology of "hypothesis", involving the sense of cognitively "placing under" is delightfully reminiscent of one method of achieving intoxication -- beneath the skin.

Spiritual intoxication: This obvious implication might be extended to include reference to other forms of "distraction" with similar consequences. One clue is provided through metaphorical use of "intoxication" -- most notably and ironically with respect to the "spirit", as recognized by the mystics of different religions -- and various hippie takes on religion through lyrics (cf. "Stoned on the Lord", "Naturally Stoned on Jesus", "Stoned on Christ"). Sufi poetry, for example, makes extensive use of wine as a symbol of God's intoxicating love. The wine house (as the religion of love) is contrasted to the religion of law (symbolised by the mosque). The Sufi returns from his state of intoxication (sukr), born again back into the world completely transformed.

The 11th century Persian Sufi scholar Ali B. Uthman Al- Jullabi Al-Hujwiri elaborated a much-famed treatise on Sufism, the Revelation of the Veiled (Kashf al Mahjub). This includes a section relevant to this argument on the relative appropriateness of Sukr (Intoxication) and Sahw (Sobriety) -- carefully clarifying how they may be variously understood and misunderstood.

This understanding is usefully clarified by the seemingly disparate insights offered by the polymath Omar Khayyám. Variously acclaimed as the "poet of uncertainty" (in a BBC Documentary series, 2009), the "poet of doubt", and the Shakespeare of Iran. He is recognized as unique in being remembered as both a great poet and a great mathematician [See extensive entry in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]. He could be said to have embodied the above-mentioned complementary tendencies of sukr (intoxication) and sahw (sobriety) through his preoccupation with "wine" and "geometry".

As an author famed for his poetry, as presented in the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, quatrains such as the following are attributed to him:

Drink wine. This is life eternal.
This is all that youth will give you.
It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse
- and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness
- And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in -- Yes --
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be -- Nothing -- Thou shalt not be less.

Aesthetic intoxication: These quatrains were previously cited with respect to forms of cognitive synthesis transcending those conventionally recognized (Implicit possibilities of synthesis: Omar Khayyam, 2011). Whether or not such insights are of a mystical nature, the articulation in poetic form offers a further clue to the kinds of connectivity with which inspiration and creativity are associated. The point has been most clearly made by Gregory Bateson in recognizing the importance of poetry in dealing with complexity:

One reason why poetry is important for finding out about the world is because in poetry a set of relationships get mapped onto a level of diversity in us that we don't ordinarily have access to. We bring it out in poetry. We can give to each other in poetry the access to a set of relationships in the other person and in the world that we're not usually conscious of in ourselves. So we need poetry as knowledge about the world and about ourselves, because of this mapping of complexity to complexity. (cited by Mary Catherine Bateson, Our Own Metaphor; a personal account of a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation, 1972)

There are many examples of those with aesthetic talents using some form of intoxication to engender inspiration. This is even recognized in recent research (Maia Szalavitz, How Getting Tipsy May Inspire Creativity, Time / Healthland, 22 March 2012).

As with music, this could well prove of significance for the governance of social processes characterized by patterns of relationships normally too complex for the human mind to grasp, as argued separately (Poetry-making and Policy-making: arranging a marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993; A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006).

Collective dreams: The nature of any "intoxication" may be usefully compared to that of a powerful dream as an engendering insight. A striking example is the "intoxication" offered by that of Martin Luther King (I Have a Dream, 1963) -- perhaps to be understood as subsequently echoed by the progressive focus of the Common Dreams NewsCenter. Both are consistent with the much-cited American Dream, as a national ethos of the USA, namely a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.

Also indicative is the unprecedented worldwide appeal of the interpretation in 2009 by Susan Boyle of the song I Dreamed a Dream. This focus on dream may be contrasted with the compilation by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of: the most astounding papers of quantum physics--and how they shook the scientific world, 2011), that of mathematicians Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh (Descartes' Dream: the world according to mathematics, 2005), and by the critical socio-political analysis offered by philosopher Slavoj Zizek (The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, 2012). As expressed by Zizek:

In 2011, we witnessed (and participated in) a series of shattering events, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the UK riots to Breivik's ideological madness. It was the year of dreaming dangerously, in both directions: emancipatory dreams mobilizing protesters in New York, on Tahrir Square, in London and Athens; and obscure destructive dreams propelling Breivik and racist populists across Europe, from the Netherlands to Hungary.

All such dreams can be explored, cultivated and compared as fanatasies of choice (Cultivating Global Strategic Fantasies of Choice: learnings from Islamic Al-Qaida and the Republican Tea Party movement, 2010; Imaginal Education: game playing, science fiction, language, art and world-making, 2003; Relevance of Mythopoeic Insights to Global Challenges: cognitive integration implied by the Lord of the Rings, 2009).

Creative insight: This raises the question as to what other processes could be framed metaphorically as corresponding to the experience of being "knocked down with a rock"? These might include powerful presentations and happenings -- whether consciously chosen or resulting from cultural immersion and pressures. Also of relevance to this argument are those which could be defined as "killing time", namely as a source of "exhilaration" and "enthusiasm" -- especially given its original meaning of inspiration (or possession by a divine afflatus or by the presence of a god). The condition necessarily confuses inspiration with delusion, as the above-cited remarks of Richard Leigh indicate.

The sense of being stoned could be associated with the instant of creative insight or realization, as with use of a wide variety of phrases and lyrics of the form then "it hit me" (cf. It Hit Me Like a Hammer, It Hit Me Like A Ton Of Bricks). A similar phrase may be used to describe the instant of religious conversion.

Intoxicated by nature: In a society increasingly recognized as information rich to the point at which few fail to feel overwhelmed in some way, the experience of abundance (as in a vast library) may echo that of the experience of many in their encounter with nature, especially the wilderness. This experience might well be compared with intoxication as implied in a collection of citations from a variety of authors ("Intercourse with Nature" and "Intercourse with the Other", 2007). These include: David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world, 1997), Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979), Paul Feyerabend (Conquest of Abundance: a tale of abstraction versus the richness of being, 1999) and Henryk Skolimowski (The Participatory Mind: a new theory of knowledge and of the universe, 1995).

Addiction to oil: The conventional understanding of "substance abuse" and its associated "intoxication" could also be extended to the focus and dependence on oil, framed as vital to the viability of the world economy. Increasingly the "oil-as-a-drug metaphor" has drawn attention to the resemblance between the collective systemic relation to oil and that of individual addiction to drugs -- especially in the lengths to which collectivities will go (through their agents) to ensure a "supply". There is a certain charm to the provocative comparison of oil companies with drug cartels, and to gas stations as places where a "fix" can be obtained -- especially in the manner in which the whole process has been rendered legal, in comparison with the illegality of the drug trade. Does this usefully imply that global civilization is effectively "stoned" to some degree? How is this to be reconciled with the dependence on alcohol of delegates at global conferences of every kind -- to facilitate negotiation?

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