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An Insider's View of Transformational Culture
NAILED Magazine, Pulse
by Zoe Helene
Throughout his life, Ken Jordan has had an insider's view of the people, places and events that have built the framework for a new consciousness that has been taking root since the 1960s. He grew up surrounded by the major players of the 1960s counterculture, and in 2007 he co-founded
and with to further intelligent, rigorous, open-minded inquiry into "a vital, dynamic culture in the act of formation." Reality Sandwich, which has recently relaunched and expanded, covers the emerging transformational culture with essays about topics including medical uses of psychedelics, the empirical validation of psi phenomena, the shamanic revival and indigenous spiritual practices, entheogens, transformational festivals inspired by , kundalini energy and experiments in sacred economics that encourage community engagement and group collaboration.
Zoe Helene: Congratulations on the success of Reality Sandwich and the new launch!
Ken Jordan: It's very exciting to see the new consciousness culture that Reality Sandwich covers becoming a movement. We see the transformational community really growing. For me it is about more and more activity--not just people but activity. What are we seeing on the ground? How is it manifesting?
What are you seeing?
The scene is growing. We're seeing more and more medical research into the use of psychedelics. We're seeing massive public shifts about the efficacy of cannabis, including the importance of medical cannabis, and more scientific research into that. We're seeing more research showing that parapsychology (psi) phenomena has a real grounding in people's real experience.
We're seeing a deeper connection between the scientific understanding of our interconnectedness and the interconnectedness of consciousness that the spiritual traditions talk about. We have an abundance of anecdotal material, but now there is a significant increase in lab-based research that is demonstrating that we really are all one, we really are all connected.
This goes beyond woo-woo "New Age" thinking.
Frankly, a lot of the New Age was geared toward a self-help approach that tends to whitewash the more difficult parts of life and assert the sense that if you think good things, if you think the right things, then all the right things will happen to you. And now this new wave of consciousness culture that's coming up is more youthful and much more comfortable looking at its own shadow. They're interested in shamanism as a paradigm in which you can personally transmute your own experience by going through the dark, by going through the shadow to approach the light. This wasn't there 10 years ago, as a scene.
Even with the '60s LSD psychedelic scene?
What happened in the '60s before the New Age stuff was a kind of breaking open of the possibilities of expanded consciousness without any sense of what kind of container you can create for yourself to hold that expanded space. That was extremely chaotic for a lot of people but also extraordinarily liberating. There was a lot of stuff going on that was very difficult, but that was a way that the new consciousness was pushing itself into the public awareness, and it changed the country and the world.
The challenge for us today is how to incorporate that expanded consciousness into the lives we lead and the jobs we have and our families and the children we raise so that we can have a stable society that reflects the values we strive for.
So many of the socio-economic models are antiquated or stuck or breaking down.
Well, the environment is in collapse. We know that. And we know the business culture is deeply corrupt and doesn't reflect the values of the people who have to live with and work with it. People are constantly feeling compromised in what they do to make a living.
This next wave of consciousness culture is basically making clear that you gotta choose what you're gonna be. You can't have a job where you are essentially acting in a way that contradicts your higher values and then just go off on a retreat and meditate somewhere. What people in this community are recognizing is how much personal responsibility everybody has for the state of the planet.
You seem too young to have personally experienced the '60s.
Well, I was born in '61. My dad used to say that basically the '60s started when Kennedy was shot and went into the early '70s.
I was born in '64. It was a special time in history, and I grew up thinking, Wow, the grown-ups have figured it out and everything is going to be beautiful now.
Yeah, exactly! My father was very involved in the '60s counter-culture as a book publisher. He published the beats, the beat writers and all the radical '60s counter-culture figures, so I grew up knowing . hid from the FBI in our basement.
Absolutely! I went to the University of Michigan because Abby said that Ann Arbor was his favorite town in the '60s. It was the most active town, and it was where Students for a Democratic Society started.
What was the name of your father's publishing house?
It was called , and the magazine my dad edited in the '60s was Evergreen Review, which was the house organ of the cultural left back in the day. They went to court again and again to publish books that were banned in this country, like by D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller's and William S. Burroughs' and a Swedish film called , which ended up changing some censorship laws.
He was passionate about free speech.
Yes, free speech and the freedom of personal expression and the radical expressions of the day were all intertwined. You couldn't separate them.
And challenging taboos.
Fifty years ago race and sex were two hot-button taboo topics. Today, spirituality is a hot-button topic. A lot of people have a lot of trouble with this, and once you get into the real experiences of mysticism and where people are being led through their experiences with plant medicine and other kinds of deep, committed spiritual practices, it's very challenging to get the mainstream to discuss that stuff.
One of the most important things we're doing is creating a space where this taboo topic can be explored in great detail and from many different perspectives by the community that cares about it and is exploring it. We're creating a vocabulary collaboratively on Reality Sandwich for this way of being in the 21st century with a profoundly open awareness of our spiritual selves.
Where does your spirituality fit into the world you live in? I find spirituality in nature.
I get that. That's huge. That's very important, and connecting with nature is the deepest way you can connect with yourself. These ridiculous buildings we've got with air conditioners and windows and ceilings above our heads-- all of this is perverse construction.
So why base Reality Sandwich in the concrete jungle?
Virtually we're a global community, but yes, physically our headquarters are in the heart of New York City. Many people might think we should be based in California, you know? But somehow it took a bunch of hard-headed New Yorkers to focus enough to do the hard work and build the infrastructure. The weather is not as nice here, so you can actually get things done. Also, New York is a media hub, so you have more people here who have the skill sets to put something like this together.
To me, it is the belly of the beast. This is where Wall Street is; this is where the media corporatocracy is its strongest globally, and it's important to shine a little light in this crazy dark morass that we live in.
New York also has some strong counter-culture cred.
There's a long history of radical revision and rethinking in downtown New York that goes way back, and we're very much a part of that lineage. Allen Ginsberg lived right down the street, only a short walk from our office. The name Reality Sandwich comes from one of his poems. Our senior editor, Steven Taylor, was Ginsberg's best friend. We have a direct lineage to the beat hippie punk radical avant-gard in downtown New York. This is the scene I come out of, that Steven comes out of, that Daniel Pinchbeck, is a part of. We know this world very well, and Reality Sandwich is a natural outgrowth of that.
A lot of people are seeking a safe, legal place to experience ayahuasca. How do you plan to handle that?
We have always run articles by people who have experienced ayahuasca in South America, where it is legal. So that becomes a type of recommendation--not from Reality Sandwich, but from the author. I don't want to get into the situation where I'm asked to recommend ayahuasca retreats and shamans. It just feels like a funny business to be in.
We're also adding a forum to the site on plant spirit medicine, where people will be able to discuss their experiences and learn from each other. Where else are you going to get that? There are specialized online forums out there, and some of them are excellent. But Reality Sandwich can offer a forum for people who are not just interested in one particular siloed topic but want to move from one area of interest to another within the broad range of this cultural revolution.
Plant spirit is a broad category, and there's a lot of crossover.
What you find is that people who are interested in herbalism might also be interested in plant medicine and shamanism and visionary art, and maybe video games, festival culture and electronic dancing (that's a big one)--and it all somehow coheres. Then you have people who are more interested in a lot of the same stuff but who might be more interesting in the occult phenomena and less interested in the party scene at Burning Man. But the shared interests are great.
Really what is happening is coming out of the '60s, really driven by the baby-boomers. The way that alternative consciousness got spread in this country shaped the way that we think about mystical experience. For a lot of people that became the baby-boomer way of seeing things. You know... a lot of patchouli .... There's a whole kind of light purple esthetic, lots of swirly stuff...
Exactly--tie-dye and paisley.
I love it.
Yes. It's totally cool and very much of that era and the moment.
♥ Special thanks to Martina Hoffmann, for granting us permission to publish her fascinating and beautiful visionary art paintings, “Tree of Knowledge” (above: introduction) and “Spirit Wind” (above: immediate).
“In essence, making honest art means facing ourselves at the deepest levels and using this process as a healing tool for deep transformation.” – Martina Hoffmann