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The Cracking Tower: A Strategy for Transcending 2012
by Jim DeKorne
North Atlantic Books 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 8/10/2011

Jim DeKorne stands as a seminal figure in the history of psychedelic culture for writing the vastly influential book Psychedelic Shamanism in 1994. This book served as a primer and informational guide for mostly plant-based psychotropic substances, and offered fascinating observations and commentaries on the author’s experiences and spiritual discoveries along the way. It can definitely be said to have helped kick-start the whole modern psychedelic renaissance. DeKorne also founded the equally influential Entheogen Review. This was a quarterly mail-only publication, a forum for the psychedelic community to share research, experience reports, cultural trends, and new-found knowledge. ER (as it was abbreviated) became so successful that parts of DeKorne’s book quickly became outdated in this ever-expanding field (note: ER ceased publication in 2008). A newly revised version of Psychedelic Shamanism has recently become available.

Fifteen years later, DeKorne has written a masterful follow-up to his observations and insights, especially in regard to a spiritual and self-realizing path. If you’ve ever considered that psychedelics can be a tool for ethical or spiritual discovery and development, then this book is for you. If you ask the question “I’ve had some very meaningful experiences with psychedelics—now what?”, then this book is for you, too.

One interesting slant to The Cracking Tower is that DeKorne says right up front that he has not used psychedelics for well over a decade, his point being that once you get “the message” you certainly don’t need to be a regular “user”. The book’s title refers to the metal towers used in oil refineries to purify and separate petroleum products, with the lighter gases going towards the top, the oil in the middle, and the asphalt tar at the bottom. This is an analogy for our own planet Earth as a “cracking tower” for human souls as we move toward the 2012 paradigm shift and on to further evolution.

The author starts by discussing metaphysical concepts found throughout history and religions of the world and referred to as the “Perennial Philosophy” (a term coined in the 17th century). An essential principle of this body of thought is that that despite being separate beings, we are essentially all part of a greater whole. Furthermore, the universe is based on a series of dimensions (mental and physical) that contain and manifest each other, with “higher” planes being less dense than “lower” ones. These concepts reflect ideas found in Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Pythagorean and neo-Platonic Greek thought, Western magick, Aboriginal dreamtime, and so on. In DeKorne’s interpretation:

. . . we are all One within the Mind of God, but we are also separate bodies on planet Earth. It’s the One-Many koan again. The ability of psychedelic drugs to reveal both realities suggests a connection with one of the fundamental principals of alchemy: solve et coagula, et habebis magisterium (“separate and recombine, and you will have the masterpiece”).

DeKorne also uses the ancient analogy of the pomegranate and its seeds to represent the many wrapped up as one, and recounts some striking psychedelic learning experiences of his own which led him to these conclusions. One strength of this book is the author’s many descriptions of his own metaphysical discoveries, some entheogen-inspired and some not. A few are repeated from his first book, but definitely bear repeating.

Another aspect of the perennial philosophy is that we are essentially conscious beings inhabiting a (three-dimensional) physical existence, with consciousness being the one eternal constant. DeKorne quotes a compelling fact about the human brain: how its “10 to the trillionth power” of synaptic connections far outnumber the “10 to the 87th power” of cubic meters estimated as the size of the universe. “As above, so below”, and, essentially, “inner space” is bigger than outer space! An interesting comparison is also made between Kabbalah (which organizes the universe into a “tree of life” connection of emanations) and quantum mechanics. One can only cover so much in a review, but throughout the entire book, I found myself going “Yes, yes!!” to his very well presented ideas.

Further along in the book, some modern day psychedelic shamans are discussed, such as Leary, Kesey (of whom he’s quite dismissive), John Lilly, and Terence (along with Dennis) McKenna. DeKorne credits Terence McKenna with laying down some of the most important observations on our current human psychospiritual condition, but also takes him to task for being deliberately arcane and obscure in his references and many proclamations. Lilly he considers a shaman through his work with psychedelic meditations in flotation tanks, where he claimed to contact (in true shamanic fashion) various spirits or “intelligences”. One of the messages channeled from his numinous sources warned Lilly that solid-state silicon-based intelligences were trying to overthrow our planet’s carbon-based lifeforms. Lilly was briefly incarcerated after making emergency calls to President Ford about this matter, but, as we see today, silicon chip technology is taking over—all of our computers and communication devices use them; we practically can’t live without them.

DeKorne convincingly espouses the I Ching as a valid tool for ‘The Work’, and in fact this was a major factor in the development of McKenna’s famous Timewave theory, which led to the even more famous 2012-as-end-of-current-time meme. The author is a firm believer in the validity of this claim, but again, warns the reader about Terence as well. He notes that McKenna has spoken of “dissolving the monkey body” and has said many times over that he is ready for a combination of man’s mind with that of the machine. This, DeKorne warns, is a dead end for those who wish to remain free of enslavement to the deadness of a silica chip. He lays out one very intriguing 2012 scenario that I will share here. Evidently in 2012 we are expecting a surge in solar flares and radiation. Say a perfect storm of solar radiation incurred a mass die-off of humans. . . . millions of newly disincarnate souls are suddenly released—are they going to choose a merger with silicon-based archons or travel to “where the light is”? DeKorne also posits:

It’s useful to observe that the hypothesis of reincarnation is implicit in most versions of the Perennial Philosophy, with some concept of karmic integration driving its evolution. This suggests the analogy of fractal distillation, which of course is an alchemical process: that is, our illusions of a separate, individual consciousness are processed continuously, life after life, until they eventually dissolve and we become “spiritual” enough to exit this plane of existence. Since the world is now reaping the consequences of 150-odd years of petroleum addiction, the metaphor of a cracking tower feels ironically appropriate.

The author has been working for years on this book, and it is intelligently annotated with great footnotes and indexing. Again, I’ve only picked out a few of his points for this review but I consider this work essential reading for anyone remotely interested in the metaphysical aspects of psychedelics or just core spirituality in general.

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