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This interview also appeared in Boing-Boing 11 when it was still a print zine in 1993.
Also see: 2019- Scientific American: Chasing the Quantum Tantra
Hippy physicist Nick Herbert pursues a lifelong love affair with nature
Advances in Skin Science:
An Interview with Nick Herbert
by Joseph Matheny
“It’s always gooiest before it solidifies”
Beverly’s Ovation, Beverly Rubik Ph.d
“Quantum Tantra is not just another way to get high using common objects you can find around the house… Caution: Practicing Q.T. before you understand Bell’s Theorem of interconnectveness is like walking into the Amazon jungle without a map.” – Alternate Dimensions. Jabir ibn Hayyan
I finally get a line on INCUNABULA. Following a lead from a culture-jamming club in San Francisco (MediaKaos 415-789-8350), I arrive in the small New Jersey town of Ong’s Hat. The address that I have for INCUNABULA is a P.O. Box. The local postmaster/general store operator was very helpful. Almost too helpful! He told me that Cranston and INCUNABULA books had fled the area one night about a month ago. I gained access to Cranston’s P.O. Box key while the owner had his back turned and returned later to examine the contents. All I found inside were overdraft notices from his bank and some solicitations from a church of geniuses in Dallas, Texas or some such nonsense. Another dead end.
October 14, 1992
I arrive in New York City, get a room, restock supplies and think. I call New Jersey information to get the phone number for the Ong’s Hat general store and post office so I can ask the postmaster a few more questions. I am told by the inbred boob on the other end of the line that there is no such town listed in New Jersey, and after a long and heated debate, we terminate the phone call by mutually insulting each other’s gene pool. God, I hate the phone company.
October 16, 1992
Two days (and two bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label) later, I finally get lead on one of the most intriguing authors listed in the INCUNABULA Catalog, Nick Herbert, author of Quantum Reality, Faster Than Light: Superluminal Loopholes in Physics, and of course, the legendary Alternate Dimensions.
Herbert was a former SDI scientist turned renegade researcher. His past areas of renegade research involved pleasure dome technologies, Quantum Tantra (the Egg Yoke method), Time and Dimensional travel theories, and gelatinous substances.
I’ll give you a little background on Alternate Dimensions (A.D.). It was written in 1989 by Herbert, but was suppressed by the publisher, Harper & Row, for unexplained reasons in 1990. INCUNABULA was offering bound, uncorrected galley copies for $100.00 each, or at least they were, until Cranston disappeared with the whole kit-n-kaboodle. In A.D., it seems that Herbert gave away the inner secrets of a Tantrik-dimensional travel cult based in northern California. Using techniques that combined Herbert’s own theory of Quantum Tantra, and hardware technology, consisting of an egg-shaped craft of some sort, members of the cult were able to penetrate into other dimensions. There were also intense visualization techniques, and Tantrik-Egg-Yoke postures involved, but the Xerox copy I had purchased from MediaKaos seemed to be missing some of the key technical portions.
Herbert was now hiding out in the backwater town of Boulder Creek, CA, deep in the heart of the Santa Cruz mountains.
I hopped aboard a plane to San Jose, and drove a rental car up to Boulder Creek. About a mile away from Herbert’s farm house, I called him on my cellular phone. Surprisingly enough, Herbert was very cordial, and agreed to meet me in town for lunch and conversation. He suggested Adelita’s Mexican Cantina, gave me directions, and promised to meet me there in an hour.
I drove into town and went over my notes while I waited. About an hour later, Dr.Herbert appeared in the parking lot driving a electric Stutz Bearcat kit car. I recognized him instantly from his book jacket photos, even with the recently acquired beard. Was he attempting to change his appearance? Was he preparing to flee, like Cranston had 30 days ago?
I casually reached into my jacket and activated my pocket recorder. I waved him over to my table, and after shaking hands we settled down to a lunch of Dos Equis and Gorditas.
“Okay” I said, after some pleasantries about the weather, “let’s start with the obvious question: What is Quantum Tantra?”
“Well, psychology has used a lot of classic metaphors to explain the mind, like the hydraulic metaphor of urges building up, an even when repressed, they’ll find some way to spurt out to the surface. We’re told that releasing your repressions will relieve the pressure, and you’ll become healthy. That’s a very classical metaphor. Now we have this marvelous new way of thinking called quantum mechanics, and it seems right to use these metaphors to explain human behavior. So, what’s the most interesting human behavior of all? Sexual, of course. That’s the idea, to use quantum mechanical metaphors to explore sexuality, to look at it through the lens of quantum physics. I would consider Q.T. successful if we could find new things to do that never would have been thought, of using the old metaphors. I mean, of course, pleasant things. (laughter). The core idea of Q.T. stems from Heisenberg’s statement that “atoms are not things.” So, Q.T. naturally extrapolated that statement into “well than people are not things, either.” People are not things in the same way that atoms are not things.”
“What are things?” I asked
“Things are entities that have attributes, whether you look at them or not. They’re big, they’re solid and such. You can list their attributes. Non-things, or Quantum objects, like atoms or molecules, don’t have attributes. They are basically clusters of oscillating possibilities, the possibilities not even being well-defined. It might reward us to look that way at people, as oscillating possibilities.” He took a long draw off his Dos Equis, and signaled the waiter for another.
” So, try and think of what the essence of quantum theory is,” he continued,
“Three adjectives: Randomness, thinglessness, and interconectiveness. Randomness I associate with the spontaneity that is within people. Uncertainty is the very essence of romance. It’s what you don’t know that intrigues you.” “Now, thinglessness is even more renunciatory'” he went on. “The notion of treating people like possibilities rather than fixed structures is a healthy one, I think.” “Interconnectiveness is the most fantastic feature of Q.T. Things are connected in the quantum world in such a way that only did we not think of it before the discovery of quantum mechanics, but I don’t think we could have thought this way at all. It’s so strange. The terrestrial belief system that comes the closest to quantum connectiveness is VooDoo.”
“Sympathetic magick?” I queried. This was getting good.
“Yes, sympathetic magick,” he replied.
“Of course, the VooDoo conception is naive in comparison to Q.T.’s connectiveness. In VooDoo, you do something like burn someone’s hair to give them a headache. The Quantum connection isn’t that crude. It has more to do with timing. In the Quantum world, you burn someone’s hair, and maybe they miss an appointment. The Newtonian world view emphasized control over the world, whereas, the Quantum world view doesn’t emphasize control so much as timing. You could say that the Newtonian view emphasized force, where the Quantum world emphasizes finesse.” “One analogy is ordinary, steerable dish radar versus phased array antennae. Steerable dish physically moves the whole antenna structure. In the phased array antennae, you have a whole array that are all fixed. None of them move, but by changing the timing on these antennae, you get a virtual antenna that’s pointed in any direction. That’s an example of finesse, rather than force. Quantum connection is like that. It is set up like VooDoo by having something that the other person has interacted with, some sympathetic object.”
“But what does this have to do with sex?” I asked.
Herbert was quick to answer.
“I’m getting to that. In Q.T., the tantra part has to do with sex as well as religion. Every religion has their symbol. The Christians have the cross, Islam has the crescent and star, the Pagans have the pentagram, the wheel for Buddhism, and so forth. Q.T. has it’s symbols, also. One of them is this fork.”
He picked up a salsa-encrusted fork, and stared at it rapturously.
“It reminds us to see the world as possibilities,” he continued, “In the Newtonian world, starting from now, only one thing could happen.Q.T. sees the future as open possibilities, like the tines of this fork. Actually, if this fork were fuzzy, like Man Ray’s fuzzy cup and spoon…”
I was beginning to understand. That or the Dos Equis was kicking in. I felt lightheaded.
“So the borders would not quite be defined…” I replied.
“Yes,” he said, eyes twinkling in the candlelight.
“The possibilities are defined only by your intentions, by how you construe the moment. Quantum possibilities are not quite as defined as dice possibilities, even. With a die, only one of six numbers will come up, whereas with Quantum possibilities, it depends on how you look at the moment, and that again, is part of thinglessness. All of these elements have resonances in popular literature. Like the talk of the inexplicable chemistry that occurs between two people, or this notion of ‘it’s bigger than both of us’. The type of connectivity that’s possible in quantum theory allows two connected entities to be in indefinite states , but allows the couple itself to be in a definite state! The mathematics on this are clear. As Heisenberg said, ‘quantum theory has changed our way of thinking completely,’ and it’s changed in such a way that it didn’t dissolve into some unclear, fuzzy fog, but into this absolute clarity of a new mathematics. Now the mathematics describe the fog in a very precise way. So, it’s this kind of very precise unclarity.”
“You’re talking like a lot of mystics I know!” I scoffed.
He replied laughing, “Except, this is found in ordinary physics! This is stuff that was discovered 75 years ago, it’s not new stuff at all. It’s only now beginning to permeate popular culture. So, we have this system where each member of the pair, say, a man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, or whatever, are defined. They’ve gotten themselves into a state where their individualities are not as clear, but the couple itself as an entity, is better defined than the individual members of the set. We use symbols, like the fork, to remind ourselves of these things, because the human mind is not yet used to thinking in parallels.” “Our data rate is miniscule, compared to say, television data rates equivalent to megabits per second, or telephones, which are equivalent to thousands of kilobits per second. Morse code is about 10 bits per second, and that’s pretty close to our attention rate! I mean, when we’re not on robot, when we do come to attention, we don’t bring much to this moment in terms of quantity. It’s been estimated at about 16 bits a second. So, people need simple graphic symbols, like the fork, or the cross, or the crescent, to remind themselves that they’re Moslems, or whatever. So, one symbol I’ve invented to epitomize Randomness, Thinglessness and Interconnectiveness is the trinity of White, Hot and Sticky. White corresponds to Thinglessness, Hot to Randomness, and Sticky to Interconnectiveness. By white, I mean like white light, all the colors together, all human sexual potentials. Thinglessness is wrought with possibilities. As David Finklestein, the inventor of quantum logic said, ‘We are all white light, in the sense that we are all possibilities.’ Hot has to do with newness, spontaneity that we can bring to the moment to remind us that the moment can be ever new. That’s a hard thing to live up to, sexually, and otherwise. Sticky, of course, typifies the new kind connectiveness. A metaphor for achieving stickieness, are objects that you break in two, and each partner keeps one half. The fracture is unique, that I will only match one other person in the whole world! Quantum objects help to enhance this two-person white, hot, sticky state. And music is the connection in this technology.”
“Why music?” I asked.
“Because, these possibilities are vibratory.” he answered. ‘In the physical world, every atom, or possibility is vibrating at a certain frequency. The higher the energy level, the higher the frequency or pitch of the vibrations. We can’t hear, smell, see, or taste any of these vibrations except indirectly. I’m doing more research with solid state technology, sound sequences.”
“Ok, now what about Alternate Dimensions, the egg craft, the travel cults, Tantric-Yoke techniques, I mean, what about all this stuff!” I finally blurted, unable to hold back any longer.
“Young man, I have no idea what you’re talking about. All I can say is there are some questions that you should not ask directly, and some answers that may come as a result of finesse over force. This interview is now concluded.”