In Darwin’s Pharmacy, the author points out the following: “I want to suggest that trip reports are fundamentally scripts, what I have called elsewhere rhetorical software: linguistic, visual, musical, and narrative sequences whose function resides less in their “meaning” than in their capacity to be repeated and help generate patterns of response. They are part of the psychonautic apparatus and not a supplement to it. They are compositions that suggest, but do not exhaust what one may very well become in contact with entheogens.”
There are three things that interest me about this quote. One of those things is the concept of self-secret language, which I’ve written about before. Self-secret language is the discourse of a given community and it is language that is only understood when you’ve had enough experiences that allow you to understand the various terminology being used, and enables you to contribute to the community you are seeking entrance to.
What stands out to me about the quote above is that another function of self-secret language and its various artifacts is that people do need to be able to repeat them and use them to generate responses. You see this in academia, where mastering the academic language is an initiation in its own right, with the expectation being that you’ll be able to successfully replicate the language and use it to generate your own responses to other artifacts in the academic field you are in. Self-secret language, when used in this way, protects the discourse from the uninitiated, while also qualifying who is initiated. The downside of such an approach is that it can also cause stagnation. This is one of the reasons academia tends to be conservative in its approach. It’s also why you see a similar conservative approach in a lot of occult traditions. The traditions are preserved and the uninitiated are kept out, but the tradition progresses slowly and views potential changes as a threat, and responds accordingly.
The second thing which interests me about the quote is the concept of generating patterns of response. I’ve explained that above, in terms of self-secret language, but lets consider as well that a pattern of response also leads to a pattern of reality. The response is the confirmation of a discourse, but it is also what is used to discover patterns of reality that support the discourse and may even be used to generate those patterns of reality. A pattern of response sets up an expectation for what will be manifested as reality and trains the people involved to look for that reality and/or manifest it through their own actions.
There is also an ontological element that interests me about the quote, specifically the use of the word become, which is an ontological shift from one state of being to another…in this case in reference to entheogens, but it can also be applied to magical work, or really any kind of work that involves some kind of identity shift. I’d argue that self-secret language, i.e. discourse is an example of an identity shift. A person must adopt the discourse of a given discipline, and that adoption includes a fundamental change in identity, a becoming of something new through the mastery of the discourse.
And what do I really mean by all the above…It’s an example of self-secret language in and of itself, a discourse analysis provided by my own experiences in academia and tempered by my interests in ontological shifts and magical work.