Return of S.M.I².L.E. – Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension
“When humans have climbed out of the atmosphere-gravity well of planetary life, left the gene-pool, accelerated 6th Circuit contelligence will make possible high-energy communication with “higher Intelligences,” i.e. ourselves-in-the-future and other post-terrestrial races.”
– Timothy Leary & Robert Anton Wilson, Neuropolitique
(p94, New Falcon 1991 edition*)
Rather than see this as over-optimistic sci-fi prediction, we can adopt a looser take on space-time, ‘intelligence’ and ‘life'(span) – seeing experience itself as not spatially located, not of time and not bounded by the conceptual objects, intelligence/life. You could see it as a kind of figure-ground reversal, in which those things always appear “in” experience, rather than the other way around.
The clue is already in the reference to Leary’s “6th Circuit” (which I think of as metahuman – and also as hyperobject). So why would we view these writings merely as predictions to be evaluated from an “everyday” outlook in which Newtonian, Cartesian and Aristotelian (etc) reality-maps still seem implicit?
One of the functions of the “S.M.I².L.E.” type material, from this period in the writings of Leary and Wilson, would be to provide the receptive reader with a glimpse of the 6th-circuit hyperobject which inspired it.
“The opening of the sixth circuit is so alarming to gene-pool circuit I-IV expectations that it has been traditionally described in paradoxical, almost nonsensical metaphors. The Not-Self. The No-Mind. The White Light of the Void. This semantic surrealism is no longer necessary.”
– Leary & Wilson, Neuropolitique (p94, New Falcon 1991 edition)
Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9
NASA astronaut Schweickart reported a life-changing “awakening” experience floating above earth, outside his spacecraft. I recall seeing him interviewed on a ‘religious’ TV show in the 1980s – it amazed me that he used the same metaphors, to describe his space experience, as Leary had in Neuropolitics (the 1977 book which I’d borrowed from the library at the time). Schweickart described the ongoing space programme as a “cosmic birth”, an evolutionary phase for humanity that was like an “overdue pregnancy”.
He has a unique and visionary take on matters such as reconciling space migration with environmentalism. Here are a few quotes:
“We are infants leaving the womb of earth, and the important thing is how we respond to the birth pangs. We don’t have the option of climbing back. Our gestation period — our cosmic nine months — is up. . . . Our little egg is cracked, and we’re seeing the whole cosmos out there, and when the egg is cracked the chick doesn’t take out the Elmer’s glue and seal it back up.
“I consider myself an environmentalist in the larger sense, but many of my environmentalist friends view space as an anathema. Space exploration and NASA are all high-tech, big-business, military centralization to them, populated by all the bogymen they all fear and hate. I don’t see it that way and would carry the analogy of Earth mother a step further.” (Source)
“The frontier in space, embodied in the space colony, is one in which the interactions between humans and their environment is so much more sensitive and interactive and less tolerant of irresponsibility than it is on the whole surface of the Earth. We are going to learn how to relate to the Earth and our own natural environment here by looking seriously at space colony ecologies.”
(Schweickart in L-5 News, 1977, cited in From This Green Earth)
* I’ve noticed a different version of this quote in the earlier ‘Neuropolitics’ (1977) version of the book – basically the same quote, embedded in the same surrounding text, but without the words, “left the gene-pool,” – I assume this line was added to the New Falcon version, Neuropolitique.