Newsgroups: alt.drugs From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Charles Vartime) Date: Sat, 17 Sep 1994 22:41:15 UTC Subject: Visions of Fractals As a literary genre, the description of psychedelic experience is notoriously unfulfilling if not altogether unreadable. A few exceptions stand out. One of the better efforts is Alan Watts' 1962 book _The Joyous Cosmology_, which somehow manages to capture the absurd beauty and incredible silliness that become manifest under the influence. Watts was known mostly as an expositor of eastern religions, so the book leans towards Buddhist and Hindu imagery. In terms of actual images, the book includes a good many photographs of natural patterns such as wood grain, the surface of a brain coral, butterfly markings, and the fractal pattern of veins on a leaf. This last image in particularly struck me while recently leafing (ahem) through the book. Apparently fractal imagery has always appealed to the drug-influenced mind, and this appeal predates the current mathematical interest. Some quotes from the book make this even clearer: "To make this book as complete an expression as possible of the quality of consciousness which these drugs induce, I have included a number of photographs which, in their vivid reflection of the patterns of nature, give some suggestion of the rhythmic beauty of detail which the drugs reveal in common things. For without losing their normal breadth of vision the eyes seem to become a microscope through which the mind delves deeper and deeper into the intricately dancing texture of our world." [form the Preface] "More and more it seems that the ordering of nature is an art akin to music -- fugues in shell and cartilage, counterpoint in fibers and capillaries, throbbing rhythm in waves of sound, light, and nerve... closed-eye fantasies in this world seem sometimes to be revelations of the secret workings of the brain, of the associative and patterning processes, the ordering systems which carry out all our sensing and thinking ... they are for the most part ever more complex variations upon a theme -- ferns sprouting ferns sprouting ferns in multi-dimensional spaces, vast kaleidoscopic domes of stained glass or mosaic, or patterns like the models of highly intricate molecules -- systems of colored balls, each one of which turns out to be a multitude of smaller balls, forever and ever. Is this, perhaps, an inner view of the organizing process which, when the eyes are open, makes sense of the world even at points where it appears to be supremely messy?" I just find it interesting that someone with no scientific background was intuitively aware -- in an altered state -- of recursive geometry more than 30 years ago. Speaking of science, I find that writing like this, for all of its faults, captures far more of the *scientifically* interesting things about drugs than all that tedious chemistry. It's the mind, people, not the molecules.