Erowid
 
 
Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
Subjective Effects of Psychedelics Survey
Researchers at the Psychedelic Research Lab at
Monash University, Australia are conducting a survey
about the subjective effects of classic psychedelics
(LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline, Ayahuasca, & MDMA).
Check out the Survey
Conference Report:
Making the Best of a Cancelled Psytopia
by Diane Darling
Aug 29, 2005
Citation:   Darling D. "Conference Reports: Making the Best of a Cancelled Psytopia" Erowid.org. Aug 2005. erowid.org/conferences/conference_psytopia1.shtml
[See also: Notes on a Cancelled Psytopia]

The small jet we had boarded in Miami banked into blackness dotted with sprays of stars. Shortly after, we left the stale cabin and plunged into the all-embracing atmosphere of the tropics.

The air in Jamaica is warm and languid, as are the people, the vegetation, the pace of life. My body relaxed as the warm wet air, so similar to that of my early years, met and hydrated my skin and lungs. I felt my hair start to lift from my head as each shaft drank in the moisture. Days later it would be a free creature, asserting its natural chaotic nature as a flaming mane around my face.

Montego Bay is on the north side of the island of Jamaica. Sixty miles over the horizon lies the forbidden beauty, Cuba, favorite regional bogeyman of the American government. Jamaica is smaller, less imbued with hot Spanish blood, pet and slave of the British for centuries. The Brits left the island with crumbling villas and their usual highly functional network of roads and telephones. Those systems have peacefully deteriorated in the intervening years, victims of the languor of the people and the gentle erosion of sun, salt and water, and the constant embrace of warm, wet air. Wireless phones and a new coastal road are bringing the island into the 21st century, even as it reclines cheerfully in timeless tropical torpor.

We arrived the night before the event started and had my first Jamaican meal for dinner: curried goat on rice. Interesting dish. Apparently "curry" means something different there, but it was a good enough stew, though heavily populated with goat bone fragments, suggesting that they just have at the whole goat carcass with great cleavers and then throw the bloody heap into the pot. It was a slightly macabre thought to be pondering as I picked the bones out with my fingers and sucked the delicious meat into my mouth, all under the watchful eyes of the restaurant staff, as I was the only customer still there at closing time. I left what I think was a good enough tip, but Jamaican dollars are sixty to the American dollar, so the numbers get really high with lots of impressive zeroes before any true value is represented.

The morning brought us back to the airport for transport to our hotel on Runaway Bay, about an hour east along the old coast road. There an international group of psychonauts would spend a week at posh resorts discovering and discussing our path of exploring inner space. Psytopia was promoted by Alex Pearlman and his 501(c)3 organization, Coalition for Cosmic Consciousness, as a psychedelic festival of epic proportions, presenting dozens of international luminary speakers, psychedelic bands and djs to hundreds of like-minded, unrepentant trippers in an atmosphere of permission and ease. It was also a benefit, with all profits donated to such worthy organizations as NORML(.org), MAPS(.org), The Drug Policy(.org) Alliance, The Albert Hofmann(.org) Foundation and Alex Grey's Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (cosmnyc.org). In retrospect, it did, indeed, seem too good to be true, but worth a try.

As the clean, modern shuttle trundled down the coast on the old road, the gathered Psytopians chatted and laughed excitedly. We were anticipating a dreamlike week of community with each other and many of the great minds who are the public faces of our scattered, underground movement. And, of course, dancing the nights away in altered states, living nearly naked in the generous care of the all-inclusive resorts, and making lasting connections amongst ourselves.

I sat up front with the driver and drew him out on a number of topics having to do with Jamaica. I learned that aside from hurricanes, Jamaica always has weather essentially the same as it was that day: warm, humid, sunny, breezy. The reason there are hardly any palm trees in Jamaica today is due to a blight a few years back, giving the coastal views a peculiar sub-Saharan ambience. The local language is called patois, a child of the marriage of French, Spanish and English. (It would remain unintelligible to me the entire week.)

I learned there are really big caves very near our hotel, where various fugitives from imperial and later colonial masters took refuge. Bob Marley's hometown and grave is right over there, and Christopher Columbus landed right here, much to the surprise and ultimate doom of the unsuspecting Taino homeboys. I saw bauxite mining and the new coastal highway being constructed. All along the road and up on the hills on the right were many gracious old buildings standing empty, succumbing unhurriedly to the weight of the greenery and water's tender touch.


When we arrived Hedonism III on Runaway Bay on Wednesday morning, we got the news that Psytopia had died a-borning. We were surprised, naturally, and because one of my traveling companions had spoken with Alex Pearlman on Monday and he had assured her that all was well, all was well. But he had lost his money and his nerve (to say nothing of his reputation), so here were 150 very assorted psychonauts from everywhere, all expecting a highly organized, intellectually stimulating week together in paradise, all faced with the emptiness and potential of our situation.

A few obvious Psytopians were milling around in the lobby with scraps of news, rumors, and a growing determination to make it happen anyway. I had great optimism at being thrown on our own resources because I was certain that together we had ample talent and a great support system to create our own event. I was told that there were sufficient band members, djs and speakers already here to keep the ball in the air at least for several days.

Call me mellow, but I was not really bummed at being stuck in Jamaica at an all-inclusive beach resort for a week. I felt confident that we would pull this one out of the hat with the talent we had among ourselves. My biggest problem seemed to be that my hotel reservations were for Breezes, a less, shall we say, sensual resort about a mile away. After an extended effort to get that changed, and making a number of dire predictions of a thousand thwarted conferees landing in their droves in the shaking hands of the desk staff, I ambled off to the nude pool to let the dust settle.

The nude pool was small and shallow, with a water level bar and table, large hot spa and a pathetic little waterfall with a chamber behind it obviously intended for wink, wink, nudge, nudge in the shadows of night. The guests at Hedo are notably fit and some have tans that look painted on. The nude beach consisted of a small sad crescent of sand obviously poured in after the ambient limestone and coral rocks had been demolished and hauled away. It was shallow and warm, and carefully shielded from the actual ocean by the remains of the rocky shore and helpful nylon ropes.

I got a nice cranberry cocktail from Selena, queen of the nude bar and grill (staff were fully and nattily dressed), and floated around on a foam mat for a bit, feeling my freckles wake up and pop out in anticipation of a week of tropical sun.

Though I had spent about half an hour persuading the Hedonism desk staff of my right to residency at Hedonism, including coming up with several clever solutions to our mutual problem, upon returning to the desk, they were very clear I was to go to Breezes. I learned that half of us Psytopians were at each place and it would cost us $5 American to travel one way between them. I naively assumed the hotels, which are owned by the same company, would arrange for a free shuttle. I and several others split for Breezes.

The staff there was about as surprised at the situation as those at Hedo, but they pointed me to lunch and said they'd take care of everything. I spent only ten minutes discussing clever options with these desk clerks, also to no avail. They didn't have our room ready and didn't know where to put us. Nearly all the Psytopians thought they would be at Hedonism, not at Breezes. I was told that Alex had contracted for 100 rooms in each place, and that when the registrations weren't there, management started moving folks already booked into Hedo over to Breezes, a much cheaper stay. Those of us that got moved to Breezes were not happy.

I ambled across an acre of cement decking, through hundreds of beach chairs arrayed around a large, clothing-not-optional pool, to a pavilion where a large buffet was on. There dozens of white people not of the fitness buff variety were stuffing their faces with obvious pleasure, with food they would feel comfortable eating and a few underspiced Jamaican dishes.

The beach beyond was beautiful, long, sandy, with a very shallow reef and real waves, but also the helpful nylon ropes and floats. Various water craft were tied up just offshore or beached, a trapeze trainer stood just outside the pavilion, and a fully equipped dive shack was open for business.

Our room was ready when I returned to the lobby, but my traveling companions were pissed off to find that we were three in a two person room. At least it was the last building at the end of the compound, upstairs, so it was quiet enough and quite near the adjacent public beach. We buoyed our spirits with such observations as, "Oh, shit, we're stuck in Jamaica in a posh resort with a hundred others very much like us in some important ways and nothing pressing to do for a week." We decided to make the best of it, get organized, and get our room changed to Hedo. In the end we succeeded in two of these three.

We unpacked and donned colorful, minimal beach togs. I prudently dug my Ganesh pendant out of my suitcase and strung him on my necklace. We obviously needed some divine intervention here, and the Big G specializes in fun, laughter, and the removal of obstacles. Jai, jai, Ganesha, jolly elephant headed god, don't fail me now!

Venturing out to explore our habitat, we found the beach delightful, the drinks weak and refreshing, and the music inoffensive. While we were splashing around in the shallow water, a sturdy Jamaican woman beckoned to me from the adjacent public beach. I ventured past the hurricane fence and guard post that separated the gringos from the locals, to meet Gloria and Nicolas and various other vendors. They had a cluster of about a dozen little booths on the public beach. I procured a perfectly rolled spliff from a charming, toothless and aged rasta man, declined to buy any hokey t-shirts, bad carvings or hematite necklaces, nor to have my hair braided by Gloria, and took my smoke back to the room.

I was filled with nostalgia, trying to remember whether my first smoke was Jamaican or Colombian, but upon lighting up, I thought it was spicy Colombian. This smoke was sweet, smooth, and not very strong. No problem, mon, there's lots and lots of it here. My friend from home who had the room next to ours had scored an 8" stick of buds, gray-green and not very fragrant, which he shared with us. It was no more potent than the spliff, but, hey, when in Jamaica, just keep on smoking.

Later we got dolled up and took the $5 ride to "Hedo" for a word-of-mouth meeting by the big pool. I was imagining a nice circle of deck chairs around a well-lighted space with tables and maybe a white board. Nope. Instead we clustered in the dark between meandering artsy pool-like wet spaces, very near the very well-lighted slots and other game machines and a really large flat screen television with stadium seating.

Leaders emerged largely by virtue of being loud, willing, and wearing tall Captain America hats. They went by noms de dope, so I had no idea who they were, nor who anybody else was, since we couldn't really see each other. At that point, organizational efforts were rudimentary, of course, but we established a central gathering place at the big Chessboard on the ocean side, where also the glassblower would set up his kit. and a daily meeting at 4:20 at Prude Beach, where Hedo docked its big cat.

Some folks thought there were enough Psytopia band members, speakers and djs already here that with a little organization and cooperation from the hotels we could make the days and evenings pop. We also noted that there was reciprocity between the two hotels, so we could eat, hang out, and use all the facilities of both at our leisure. Negotiations were underway for a free shuttle, but this never materialized and in the end became the topic of trouble amongst us.

The group's attitude could be summed up as a mild fuck the promoter, we'll deal with him later, with the caveat that he probably did his best and just blew it, but hey, here we all were together in these posh digs with ganja everywhere, who's gonna bitch? We were disappointed, of course, as we had expected something a bit more intellectually stimulating, but it seemed churlish to complain.

We repaired to the buffet, meeting several more people we knew lingering around the large bar. The food at Hedo was several levels more to our taste than at Breezes, so we tucked in, and afterward joined the other more sensual guests for a long nighttime soak at the nude pool. What went on then, while delightful, had nothing to do with Psytopia, so I will spare you the juicy details.

The following day, after a breakfast notable only for the smoked salmon (I really was expecting ripe fruit, as it was Jamaica, after all, but no, it only looked like fruit. It tasted like juicy squash), we returned to Hedo to find an easel with a pad and some colored markers had been set up in the lobby for us Psytopians.

The first event planned was a pilgrimage to Bob Marley's tomb on Sunday. But it was only Thursday, so I whipped up another page called "Doin' It For Ourselves," and scheduled a Ritual Magic workshop (with an intention to do a full moon rite the following evening), a trip to Runaway/Green Grotto Caves on Saturday, a laughing circle, and a beach party at Breezes on Monday afternoon. I encouraged people to host discussions, give workshops, basically stand up on our hind legs and make it happen. Time moves differently in Jamaica, mon, and some things arose and came to pass, while others passed away with nary a whisper.

The Ritual Technology workshop before lunch was very good, attended by maybe a dozen lovely people, all Americans, who were very enthusiastic about doing ritual. I taught a very short overview of American neoPagan circle form and theory and they all stepped forward to take parts, mostly for the very first time.

We agreed to meet at moonrise the following evening at a time and place I would post on the schedule sheets at both hotels.

At the appointed hour, we went to the Chessboard, which was in the clothing optional section. It was a merry scene, indeed, with the glass blower setting up his kit and someone collecting funds for his gases, which rather expeditiously arrived. Outside was a sandy area with hammocks and the outsize chessboard, which I determined would make a great ritual stage. Below us the Caribbean lapped gently at monstrous limestone coral boulders that comprised the shoreline, but a very civilized cement promenade surmounted it all the way to Prude Beach.

My friend Randy was showing his mandala art and getting enthusiastic responses from the gathered heads, but I was bored and went out to figure out where the moon would actually rise and when. I walked east, past all the buildings, to grassy knoll, possibly a croquet field, by the Duty Free Shop, where the moon was already in the sky. This was our place, 6:30ish our time.

Dinner at Hedo was rather good, but also lacking ripe fruit. The house band was skilled but tame, with a female singer whose voice was honey and her delivery masterful. The Jamaican staff were to a person very attractive, well groomed and gently spoken. They were all very dark skinned and slim or buff, dressed conservatively in matching black or perhaps an understated beachy shirt and chinos. I was delighted by the physical beauty of the men, who were basically ripped with pecs one usually only dreams about. Some of the women were absolutely breathtaking, with classic African features and very imaginative braids.

Dinner at the Hedo grill that evening was breathtaking, also: roasted whole suckling pig, seafood paella with rice, game hens stuffed with couscous, tri tip beef, pork chops, roasted veggies, and the usual opulent spread of salads, desserts and unripe fruit. When the art print sale began on the stage, we split.

The Psytopia dj dance projected for that evening at one of the discos failed to materialize because there were actually no musicians or djs among us, since the producer had failed to send them their airline tickets, as was the case for the speakers and everyone except those of us who paid our own way.

There were about 150 Psytopians about, but only twenty or thirty made regular appearances and were identifiable as such. Where were the others? My attempts to strike up conversation about doing Psytopia for ourselves mostly yielded only a muted rage at the promoter and a resignation to partying unceasingly until we had to leave. Not exactly stimulating at all. After a brief visit to the Chessboard, where the hiss of the tanks continued unabated, I went back to the nude pool for further adventures having nothing to do with Psytopia.

Friday morning was sunny, of course. I snorkeled briefly in the shallow water, then went to Hedo for some excellent conversation and a few trips down the water slide before the Mushroom Panel. This was a powerpoint presentation by the owners of SporeWorks, an international vendor of exotic mushroom spores and kits, who also have a gourmet mushroom farm on the other side of the island. I got some great info about a certain science project I intend to pursue, then went to Prude Beach to connect with the other Psytopians at 4:20.

Very few people were there, but I learned a party was planned for that evening at the large pool in the clothing optional area. Thus the evening was filling up, as my group of friend had reservations at the Japanese restaurant, and of course there would be the moon ritual.

I went to the chosen site for the ritual a little early to ground and spread some sarongs out to indicate a center. At what would have been moonrise, only a few of us ritualists were there, along with even fewer other Psytopians. The cloud cover was dense and dark and a lively though, of course, warm wind was whipping the trees and our nice priestess clothing. We decided to postpone until the moon could be seen at the chessboard, and dispersed to dine.

Before dinner in a friend's room, certain party favors were shared. I conscientiously saved mine for later, having a ritual to conduct, but unthinkingly licked my fingers. Oops. Hopeful that it would be an insignificant amount, we went to dinner at the on site Japanese restaurant.

My hopes were dashed when I noticed how strangely cartoonish things seemed. The food began to look like disgusting art that I couldn't fathom putting in my mouth; the tableside grill cook was a bizarre swirl of swinging arms and unintelligible though cheerful monologue amidst clouds of steam; the whole scene became increasingly surreal. Oops. Additionally, a tooth that I was hoping would just chill until I got back to my dentist took offense at the salt in the teriyaki and began a symphony of pain accompanied by the bass beat of my heart. I couldn't really judge the severity of my pain, though I tried not to let it be a big feature of my experience. It was taking quite an effort to face the smiling/leering crowds of what I remembered were actually really friendly people, and found the main stage entertainment rather offensive (maybe), so we beat a retreat to the pool party scene.

At the Quad Pool about a hundred people were in and around the water, silent or talking quietly. There was a lively group clustered on one side, laughing uproariously. The Ronster was performing some great MP3 djing on a wholly adequate small sound system.

I learned that Estaria, a priestess from Boston, had just conducted a perfectly lovely ritual on the deck that stood over the pool, there in the moonlight (at last), all in her white and silver and everyone else naked in a circle around her. Sweet. I felt like a schmuck. I got lost regretting dropping that ball and even missing the ritual altogether. Pain and self disappointment were taking me down a dark path. I was getting lost.

Another friend also needed to minimize sensory input, so we went to her room and chilled together for I don't know how long. That part was lovely, and she even had tea tree oil for my tooth. When we could deal with the outside world again, we returned to the party, which was quieter and a little stranger than before. A couple was performing some lovely if pedestrian sex acts in their lighted second floor window. Many high people were lying in and around the pool, entranced, content. My friend wandered off into the night, and after an unsuccessful search for her, I decided I could face the desk staff and taxi ride back to my hotel.

It was surprisingly late, however, so the sales manager, who was getting off work at 3am to return at 6am, kindly offered me a ride to my hotel. He told me he likes his job and dreams of owning a SUV. (Jamaicans in the relatively lucrative service industry earn less than $3000 American per year.) I think I held it together well and didn't say anything too weird on that little journey, for he was friendly but deferent as usual the next day.

My roomies were already asleep, so after a calming if slightly paranoid stroll on the moonlit beach. I spent the early morning hours in my bed, wandering around in my mind, just a little out there for actual sleep, though my body seemed to be asleep. I repeatedly fell into self-criticism for missing that ritual, letting those people down, but eventually I did fall asleep and slept well and gratefully.

I awoke remarkably refreshed late Saturday morning, and after an unremarkable breakfast I went for a little more snorkeling and feeding my omelet to the jewel-like fishies who lived (along with some really evil-looking black sea urchins) in the shallow, very damaged coral reef. The mobile denizens of the water were being dashed about like leaves in a wind by a sprightly surge made visible by the few living fan corals.

Half an hour later I was washed up and waiting in the lobby for Andrew, the Jamaican taxi driver with whom I had contracted to take us to the caves. He picked us up spot on time at Breezes. At Hedo, the bus filled up with seventeen Psytopians at Hedo.

The drive to the caves was actually more interesting than the caves themselves, as we went through quiet neighborhoods of impossibly small but often neat and beautifully landscaped homes, garishly colorful jerk bars and tiny "supermarkets." Contented-looking people ambled barefoot down shady roads or waited by the highway for a taxi to take them away. Here and there small flocks of goats milled around in the bush.

The caves were seven miles of water-smoothed limestone carefully filled in with enough cement that we could walk safely through them for a few yards and vaguely imagine the various people who had sought refuge from the English there over the centuries: Africans, pirates, Spaniards. Some of the rocks were hollow enough to make a pleasing and even variable sound when struck with the hands, which was how the fugitives gave the alarm when the British were coming. Small fruit bats peppered the air and a charming pool of brakish water reflected the overhead formations so perfectly it was impossible to determine what was above us and what below. The guide was amiable and accustomed to getting certain laughs for certain jokes, so I engaged in a little harmless repartee and made him blush (presumably) twice, once about taking the local yellow snake home in my underwear, and once about a virgin sacrifice to the purported indwelling cave monster.

We returned and dined at the jerk (a reference to Jamaican marinade) grill, where I ate a certain Jamaican fruit called ackee, which startlingly closely resembles scrambled egg, and salt fish. As we were finishing, we saw Valerie of MAPS and the usual suspects debarking from Hedo's large catamaran, so we followed them to the chessboard for her moderated discussion. It was interesting enough, the moreso as it was the only large group meeting I could discover the entire week. We talked about psychonautic practice, ethics, new and potential scientific research into therapeutic applications of MDMA. In the discussion about kids, several of us recounted our practices in raising ours with a positive, sane attitude towards recreational drugs.

Afterward the glassblower fired up his kit and began making interesting things. There was a green glass bong on the table that he had just made. I amused myself by interviewing and photographing Psytopians about their reasons and reactions to our situation for a story I intended to write for my local entertainment weekly. Not the story I had planned, to be sure, but I was determined to make something lasting out of my week in paradise.

And so, and so, and so it went: eat, drink, smoke, write in my journal, talk about stuff, eat drink snorkel eat drink sail girl time smoke dive and on and on. The party someone was trying to organize that evening at a disco again failed to happen, but at least it was ladies' night at the upper disco, with really athletic male strippers.

Things got a little livelier on Sunday, when one of the Psytopia alpha males had a fit of rage on the way to the Bob Marley shrine. I wasn't on the tour, not being a big fan of reggae, to say the least, but I encountered him when he returned to the hotel, having demanded to be let off the bus some distance up the road. I listened to his story, observed his unnatural rage, and noticed glimmerings of forboding about our remaining few days here. Sure enough, that evening a substantial amount of money was stolen from a room near the Chessboard. The affected person was angry and hurt but handling it, but the one who was supposed to be watching over things got really paranoid and insisted that someone search his room, his girlfriend and himself so as to establish his innocence. They were staying in my hotel so I, weary of the scene, volunteered to do the deed.

It was strange to grope through these folks' stuff, but they were good company and apparently not culpable for the theft. Mr Rageonthebus and his wife were at the bar when I was done. I knew he was really dedicated to keeping Psytopia happening on some level. We had an interesting conversation which turned from his frustrations to his religion as it related to his psychedelic experiences and he was open and smiling when we parted. I retreated to my room for some actual sleep for a change.

On Sunday morning I learned from a lovely woman working in the dining pavilion that there would be a big wonderful beach party at Priory Beach in St. Ann's Bay that evening, not far away, with lots of Jamaicans and tourists all dancing together all night long. After breakfast I posted notice on our Psytopia schedule sheets, inviting folks to convene so we could get a taxi and go over together.

Then I went snorkeling again, where I was met by a friendly, handsome beach boy named Smokey Joe, who habitually loitered in the water off the resorts looking for tourists. Or something. The dry parts of the beaches in Jamaica can be owned, but the wet parts are public, so there would usually be several Jamaican men with snorkels and fins paddling around the shallows. He and his friend, Bruce, also intended to go to Priory Beach at St Anne that evening, as everybody did every Sunday night. I left them with a tentative rendezvous at the party.

That evening I stood atop the jerk grill at Hedo and watched a storm come in from the east. It was exhilarating, gentle, with lots of lightening and moderate warm rain. I felt invigorated, but wondered whether the beach party would be affected by it. When the storm got near enough that I judged it imprudent to linger on an open rooftop, I wandered down to the chessboard to find Uncle Stoner in a major rage attack about something to do with money and another violation of his room space. I stood in the shadows, weary of the whole thing. When he calmed down, I joined the group there but was unable to rouse anyone to go to with me. I didn't dare go alone, of course, and when I returned to my hotel, the driver said it was definitely raining at Priory Beach, so I gave up on the idea altogether. (As it turned out, it rained for about ten minutes at Priory Beach and they raged all night.)

The following day I hung out at Breezes as I was hosting a Psytopia beach party there after lunch. About 3pm, when it usually rains a bit, a real storm rolled in. First the air got really dense and unsettled, followed immediately by a warm deluge of huge raindrops that was delicious to me but hazardous to my recorder and camera. I and several friends hung out in it until we could barely walk in our sarongs, then repaired to our rooms for dry clothes. We hung out together on our lanai, talking about God, recording some remarks, exchanging cards.

The staff at Hedo was having a cocktail party for Psytopia that eveining, so we eventually straggled over to find some lovely canapˇs and the usual bottomless bar, and that the resort manager was taking the opportunity to press us as a group to cover some $400 expense having to do with the shuttle that never materialized. The couple dozen of us who were there reached into our pockets to cover it, including Randy, who gave a very generous sum to complete the deal. But the raging one was raging again about another alpha male he considered responsible for the debt, cursing, shouting, completely void of peace, love and flower power. When the object of his rage approached the party, it escalated, and to our great dismay and embarrassment, a fistfight ensued. Sigh.

No problem, mon, there were plenty of strong Jamaican men to pull them apart, but I felt ashamed for us as a group. I wandered off to revisit some of the sites of the week now passed and get a few more interviews, then went home to pack for the 8am bus to the airport.

In the lobby of my hotel I found Gloria, waiting for a Psytopian who had not paid for some goods she had gotten from her. I knew the woman was there at the hotel and someone went to find her. Gloria made a feeble attempt to extract some money from me based on our "friendship," I bid her adieu and turned my back on the week.

I had a great time in Jamaica being pampered, fed, indulged, sensual, social and tropical. My great disappointments, which haunted me constantly, were that the much-anticipated speakers and music had not materialized; that I had failed to conduct the ritual we had planned; I also neglected to hold the magical working group together, for in our affinity we might have created some wonderful experiences; that there were precious few intelligent discussions of our path as psychonauts; and I had little exposure to Jamaican culture because I had spent so much of myself trying to cohere Psytopia.

In the end, my week was one of sensuality and pleasure, not blinding insight and connection with the great minds of my path. It's hard to complain, but it's worth examining the dynamic we created with the raw materials we were left. As a subculture, how have we grown and matured and how have we not? What is our relevance, our contribution to social evolution? Is our path one of enlightenment or merely confused self indulgence?

The first element of our collective consciousness that contributed to Psytopia for good and ill, is our na•ve idealism. Sure, let's a thousand of us go to Jamaica for a week to indulge and be indulged and meet in mind and person. We trusted a perfect stranger from an unknown organization to deliver a stellar cast of talent to a very remote site. We sent Alex Pearlman nearly a thousand dollars each, then booked flights for several hundred dollars more. We put our lives on hold, suffered interruption of income, and made great efforts to get ourselves onstage for this fantastic event. Though Pearlman basically lied to those who did manage to get in touch with him as the event horizon drew near, many more of us just trusted him and showed up unquestioning. Our sunny optimism is a sweet, wonderful trait, but also an eminently exploitable one. Case in point.

This same optimism (and the fact that we were stuck in Jamaica, not, say, Detroit) buoyed us sufficiently when the bad news came to allow us to intend to carry on nonetheless. Some people, like the Ronster, came with resources (an MP3 sound system) that reopened certain possibilities (music). Others brought other items typical of our path, and we all brought impressive inner resources, being courageous explorers of forbidden zones, in some cases for several decades, and in all cases in the face of formidable legal danger.

But most of us were unwilling to offer our gifts to the larger group. Most Psytopians disappeared on their own trips, which is certainly justifiable, but the upshot was that we didn't have the critical mass it would take to make Psytopia more than just a party.

Some of the people I talked with had come primarily to party. They were not at all interested in standing up on their hind legs and making an effort to create New Psytopia. Fair enough, the original deal included the option to be passive, lay back and have it all done for us.

Others were unwilling to invest further in an event that had already disappointed them. Our leadership, colorful and chaotic as it was, did not instill confidence that we would be able to make something like a New Psytopia happen, and to be fair, we weren't able to, if that was even our intention.

Instead, we all got a week in Jamaica being coddled and watched over by gentle people who weathered our eccentricities rather well and found great amusement in our antics, colorful attire, and friendly attitudes. That is way better than "good enough." It was a gift, though not the one we had paid for.

Diane Darling
August 29, 2005