Net of Being, by visionary artist Alex Grey

Ken Jordan on Reality Sandwich 2.0 and Conscious Community
Huffington Post IMPACT
by Zoe Helene

Ken Jordan, the co-founder, publisher and editorial director of Reality Sandwich and Evolver, has been an online pioneer for decades. In 1995 he helped launch the award-winning, the web's first multimedia music zine and digital music store. In 2007 he co-founded and Reality Sandwich with Daniel Pinchbeck to further intelligent, rigorous, open-minded inquiry into "a vital, dynamic culture in the act of formation." Reality Sandwich covers the emerging transformational culture with essays and news from the scene's most innovative and provocative thinkers and doers 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 Burning Man, kundalini energy and experiments in sacred economics that encourage community engagement and group collaboration. Bestselling author Graham Hancock said Reality Sandwich has "played a key role in the birthing of the new consciousness that is now manifest in the world, though still fragile and unrecognized 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."

Jordan recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to support Reality Sandwich's next phase, which will launch in early November. Interactive forums will allow users to explore new and unorthodox ideas, and the RS Gnosis Files section will curate some of Reality Sandwich's best articles in more than 35 subject areas. "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," Jordan states. "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."

Please explain how Evolver and Reality Sandwich work together.

We see Evolver as the community, and Reality Sandwich is a publication for the community.

But a lot of things go beyond that publication, and we may do other publications for the community that's interested in transformational culture and expanded consciousness.

Evolver is the center.

Yes. Exactly. Everything falls under the Evolver umbrella.

What are some of the major changes on the new site?

We're continuing to do all the things we currently do on Reality Sandwich--the long articles, the essays, the different features. I like that most people think of Reality Sandwich as a place to go for a full range of long, in-depth articles about transformational culture, so that will stay the same.
We're adding a way to post a lot of short, newsy little posts from our editors and the community that creates a continual stream about what's happening in the scene. We'll still have our writers, but we want to add a special community area where anybody can post and the community can vote up or down when they find something they think is interesting. What rises up gets attention, and our editors will keep an eye on that. If we see something there that will resonate with a broader readership and fits our editorial mission, we can promote things from the community area into the curated areas.

You're curating.

We're curating Reality Sandwich and editing some, but for the most part we're expecting a lot of people who have been following Reality Sandwich to write more quick informational posts and share more news links. Some people will be putting up a lot of stuff, and the community will start to learn who those people are. Some of those folks will get a lot of attention, and we'll notice them and then we'll ask them to become regular writers and maybe we'll bring them onto the team. We'll have a lot more of a flow that's coming straight from the scene.

Do you go out and look for writers or do they reach out to you?

Both--and that's not going to change. But there will be an additional flow that's coming from the community.

More established writers don't write and post every day all over the Internet. They tend to publish an article every few months. Often we have to pursue them. We meet someone working on something interesting and ask them to contribute, and that's how we get a lot of our content.

We also do a lot of book excerpts. We know a book is coming out, and we pull an excerpt and maybe interview the author and connect it with a book release or some other type of event. That's not going to change.

How do most people use the site?

Right now we're reaching about a quarter of a million people, and they drop in every so often. That's been great, but that will change with the new site because we'll have a constant, steady stream of newsy materials people will want to stay on top of. There's a tremendous amount of interesting stuff happening in this scene, and it's very hard to track.

Little bits and pieces.

There are 500 people writing for Reality Sandwich, and a lot of people are experts in a particular area--maybe it is shamanic journeying or alternative economics or radical green political engagement--tracking every interesting news article about that topic. The new Reality Sandwich will make it very easy for those experts to share information with a community that really appreciates that sort of information, sees the connection between the subjects we're exploring and wants to keep up with the latest.

Just links?

Links and images and galleries. It will be very easy to embed videos, audio, sound clouds and all of that.

How can experts, writers and artists contribute?

There is a Suggest a Story right now. We may change the name on the new site, but you can always get in touch with us and suggest an article.

Who are some of the writers that publish on Reality Sandwich?

Some of our regular contributors include Charles Eisenstein, the author of the book Sacred Economics (which we also published through our book imprint Evolver Editions); Graham Hancock, the popular alternative historian; the media theorist Douglas Rushkoff; the occult historian Gary Lachman (who was also the bassist in Blondie!); the feminist pioneer and permaculture advocate Starhawk; ethnobotanist and Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham; Tiffany Shlain, a filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards; pharmacologist and ethnobotanist Dennis McKenna; Graham St John, one of the world's top scholars on transformational festivals; and Jennifer Heath, founder of Midwife Assistance.

I love what Nese' Devenot is doing with This Week in Psychedelics.

For the new Reality Sandwich site, Nese' will edit an entire section dedicated to Psychedelic Culture and David Metcalfe, who does our Psi in the News column, will be doing a section devoted to Science of Mind.

The expert online courses are also excellent.

Yes, we have Evolver Learning Lab, which are live interactive video courses with some of the most exciting thought leaders in transformational culture. People like economist John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and anthropologist Jeremy Narby, author of The Cosmic Serpent. Starhawk did one on how to build community through activist engagement. Astrologer Adam Elenbaas is teaching a course called Astrology at the Edge of Consciousness. These courses are a great way for people to connect directly with inspiring writers, teachers and activists, ask them questions and be part of a community of sharp people who share their interests.

The arts are also thriving.

Some amazing work is being created by artists concerned with consciousness. In the Visionary Art scene, there are figures like Alex and Allyson Grey. Alex is a friend of Reality Sandwich, and he's been very supportive. Also Android Jones, Martina Hoffman and Amanda Sage. There are also many fine artists who are doing work influenced by the same kinds of experiences that visionary artists are having, but their work is more metaphorical or abstract, like Fred Tomaselli and Kiki Smith.

Of course, music--especially electronic dance music--is a big part of this culture. There were as many as 100 transformational dance festivals this year. My sense is artists of every discipline in the scene are having the same kinds of profound spiritual and mystical awakenings that others in the community are having, and that's being expressed through their work.

What about advertisements?

By advertising on RS you're reaching a certain type of people who are really difficult to reach because they're not spending a lot of time checking out mainstream media. So if you have a targeted product and you want to reach the younger wave of consciousness culture, I don't know where else you'd go.

With daily news feeds and fresh content, which is what the new site will have, the advertising opportunities are going to go way up. Ideally, we would love the advertising on Reality Sandwich to come from the community--businesses, organizations, products and services related to the interests we're about so that people will see that our scene is growing--rather than straight corporate advertising that you might find on other mainstream venues. Obviously we'll take that, too, but I'm hoping to see a lot more ads that are coming from the community and targeted to the community.

When will the site launch?

We're looking to launch in early November. If you take a look at the Kick Starter page, you can see that it was a big success--and that's what made it possible. The community wants this. And we're looking forward to a lot more involvement with that community and interactive engagement with that community, and in witnessing the stream, the flow of information coming from that.

NOTE: The name Reality Sandwich is borrowed from On Burroughs' Work, one of the poems in Reality Sandwiches, a book of poetry by Allen Ginsberg published in 1963.

IMAGE: Special thanks to visionary artist Alex Grey for permission to publish his extraordinary masterwork, Net of Baeing, in support of this story.

November 2013