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From: an24218@anon.penet.fi (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.
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