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MindStates IV Review
by RevMeO
Jun 2003
edited & published by Erowid, Feb 2004
Citation:   RevMeO. "MindStates IV: A brief review". Erowid.org/general/conferences/conference_mindstates4_review1.shtml. June, 2003.
Expectations were high due to the many speakers on the roster with whom we were unfamiliar, or at least who were not regulars on the entheogen conference circuit. The line of attendees waiting to check into the International House of Friday was immense even at the time doors were scheduled to open. This was a true sign of things to come. Time-related issues were ever-present, but the organizers handled this as best as possible while dealing with so many presenters and so many attendees.

I was not impressed by the first day of the conference. Mistress of Ceremonies Susan "Meme Machine" Blackmore seemed to leave the audience with an elementary lecture on consciousness that didn’t seem to go anywhere. She included in her talk a video designed to demonstrate how the mind filters information, featuring a gorilla that wanders into the frame as the audience is intent on following the action already in progress. Numerous attendees were later heard remarking, "Wow, I didn't even see the gorilla!" This video example seemed a cheap trick. I have no doubt given time she would have taken the speech into a whole new, wonderful, direction -- but it didn't occur here.

Pablo Amaringo by far was the most impressive scheduled speaker. I seriously wish I knew Spanish if for no other time in my life than to hear Pablo speak. The translation sentence by sentence (sometimes 2 or 3 sentences at a time) took way too much time out of this wonderful man's 60 precious minutes. I couldn't bear it. It was about 40 minutes into his speech that he said (via translator Zoe Seven) "Now I'd like to talk about the meaning of my paintings" or something to that extent. If language was not a barrier, this would have come around minute 15 or 20 of Pablo's speech. This was a shame. A number of people listening to the lecture remarked that the translation was not of the highest fidelity, which was also a shame.

Saturday we awoke ready for an amazing day. Dr. V.S. Ramachandran and Blackmore were both staying in our hotel. Following breakfast, I stumbled upon Rama and explained how I'd listened to some of his lectures online and was really looking forward to his part at the conference. He was the first item for Saturday. Now, THIS was a great start! Ramachandran was informative and amusing throughout. His talk focused on synaesthesia (he didn't go into his phantom limb explorations due to time constraints) and was illustrated by Indian art (with explanations of the proportion considered beautiful by many but ironically criticized by the tightly-corseted Victorians) contrasted with British art. Ramachandran was by far the best overall speaker at the conference, in my opinion.

The Control Culture panel was exceptional - I thought it was the best panel of the conference. Richard G. Boire was spectacular! John Gilmore was a joy, and reminded me of Bob Wallace. Lorenzo Hagerty’s brazen talk bordered on illegal fighting words. This wasn't so unsettling -- what got me was the percentage of attendees who were die-hard liberals. That's all well and good, but many seemed to be just like their conservative counterparts, following the booming voice that tells them what to think.

The entheogen-Bay auction was amusing - Scotto put on a great show, and a lot of people got some amazing deals!

The art panel featured a wonderful selection of visionary works -- but the artists didn't have nearly enough time to even talk about their work, much less time to show a slide show. I believe they each had approximately 10-15 minutes to talk about their work and go through a slideshow. For each artist, Blackmore had to climb up on stage and announce the impending end of time. The whole thing seemed like a crash course, and more time could have been dedicated to their work.

Immediately following the art panel, we vanished upstairs to the Chill Space. The most wonderful work was being created in conjunction with amazing art. A DVD of video feedback was being projected onto paintings and prints. This began with an Alex Grey painting and moved on to works by several other artists. The prints from Luke Brown (who was participating in the chaos) played wonderfully with the projected images.

Sunday was a blast, with the much-anticipated LSD panel. The Erowids did a great job detailing LSD test results, trends, etc. and Dave Nichols actually described how perhaps Hofmann's first "absorbed" LSD experience was actually a mystical experience not related to ingestion of the drug. The other presenters did not give much on-topic information. This was puzzling...they did all give interesting lectures though. Ralph Metzner, in particular, was much more enthusiastic than the last time we saw him speak. We skipped Grof in order to get some more time exploring Berkeley and visiting with friends.

Mark McCloud -- the blotter art man -- presented the most fun speech/slideshow of the conference. The art was fantastic and his notations about each piece often led to humorous anecdotes. He also came bearing gifts (simple blotter art) - that's always a crowd pleaser.

Jaron Lanier -- the virtual reality guy -- was amusing and dispersed interesting ideas throughout dreadlock-tossing rapid-fire rants. Definitely NOT a low point of the conference, but my mind was not in the proper mode to fully appreciate his lecture at the time.

The "Ask the Shulgins" segment seemed to go very well. The room was packed, the crowd loved it, and the Shulgins seemed to enjoy sitting down and answering questions. I did miss Sasha's typical energetic bounce in front of a chalkboard bursting forth with chemical jargon I will never understand.