From “Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in 20th Century Tech Culture”

From the MONDO 2000 history book/memoir Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in 20th Century Tech Culture, yes, still in progress

by R.U. Sirius

Definition Of Vital Terms & Concepts (As Used In The Book)


The extremely powerful psychedelic drug DMT – Dimethyltryptamine — was a big part of the MONDO weltanschauung, subject to quite a bit of use and even more discussion. DMT is smoked and its effects last about 5-10 minutes. It is arguably the most powerful psychedelic experience, although that is not to be confused with deleriants. Deleriants such as Belladonna (Scopolamine) can take you even further from ordinary reality but the experience generally can’t be remembered and offers no insights or alterations to the imbiber.

Early MONDO Epoch/Mid-MONDO Epoch/Late MONDO Epoch

Without giving away too much of the narrative, the early MONDO epoch went from approximately 1990 – 1992 and included many of the players most associated with MONDO 2000, among them R.U. Sirius, Queen Mu, Bart Nagel, and St. Jude. The mid-MONDO epoch went from 1993 – 1995 and still included many members of the original staff and several budding magazine professionals, but without R.U. Sirius. During the late MONDO epoch from 1996 – ’97, MONDO “functioned” with a skeleton crew and with the participation of very few early MONDO staffers. This period also witnessed the loss of the “MONDO House” and the end of the magazine itself.

High Frontiers/Reality Hackers

The magazines that eventually became MONDO 2000.


The Leary/Wilson Paradigm

The Leary/Wilson paradigm (or Leary theory) was the meme that most inspired me at the start of High Frontiers and the entire World Mutational (see Mutation, below) venture.

The theory — developed by Timothy Leary in the mid-1970s and then expanded upon by Science Fiction writer and philosopher Robert Anton Wilson — proposed that their were circuits or neural patternings or potentials for intelligence and experience residing inside the human skull that were – in some sense – laying in wait for the time when they would be useful for human or posthuman survival and/or enjoyment.

It was a sort-of evolutionary psychological system that presumed that human evolution didn’t end with then-contemporary, unaltered 20 C. humans, but rather that we were going to become posthuman and post-terrestrial in some interesting, exciting and pleasurable ways.

In simplistic terms, Leary proposed that — both as individuals and as a species — ordinary pre-mutant humans have always evolved through 4 stages of development dealing with basic approach-avoidance, territory, language and physical dexterity, and socialization. He further proposed that when a civilization becomes advanced enough to offer some of its privileged members leisure time, this provides them the opportunity to open somatic potentials in the brain that allow them to experience the brain and body not merely as an implement for survival, but as something one can drive and control and derive pleasure from. One is privileged to enjoy mind states that are sensual, visionary, playful, fluid and creative. And, in fact, some survival value ultimately comes from this as human societies grow more sophisticated around an increasing need to satisfy desires for aesthetic and sensual experiences and insights.  He called this the 5th brain circuit.  Naturally, this being Leary, each higher circuit could also be opened up by a drug or drugs… in this case marijuana.

The next circuit or potential Leary theorized was “neuro-electric.” This was the idea of shared minds; minds hooked up, speeded up, linked up — your basic networked, online, twittered world, perhaps ultimately extending out to direct mind linkups and borg-like collectivities of mind. Leary theorized that these evolutionary potentials in the brain would open up under evolutionary conditions brought on by communications media and brain technologies (and, of course, they could be — and had been — opened up temporarily and prematurely by using psychedelic drugs).

The next circuit — circuit 7 — would open us up to biological intelligence — the ability to control our biology and alter and enhance ourselves in ways that would have seemed science fictional and superhuman to average 20th Century humans. (High dose psychedelic experiences were said to open us up to genetic intelligence.)

Finally, the eighth circuit promised molecular (nanotech), atomic and ultimately quantum control over matter, the universe and everything. (Only the most powerful drugs, like DMT, Ketamine and high dose LSD were said to open up these realms.)

With the acronym SMI2LE, Leary also proposed that the goal of 1970s humanity should be Space Migration Intelligence Increase and Life Extension.

Probably the most influential thing that people took from the discourses offered by Leary and Wilson, both individually and as a pair, was a set of attitudes that privileged flexibility over solidity (perceived as rigidity), creative play over laboriousness, antiauthoritarian pranking over grim conformity and levity over gravity.


When I describe something as magick or magickal — as opposed to merely magical — it references Aleister Crowley, who used that spelling. Some say Crowley was a satanist, but more to the point of this book, he brought an irreverent, druggy, hypersexual, anarchistic sort-of Nietzchean bad boy flavor into 20th century occult mysticism, making him a kind of talisman for some counterculturalists and rock stars during the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.


Sometimes MONDO will be used to refer to the entire publishing project, starting with High Frontiers.

MONDO house/Quail House/Shasta House

2645 Shasta Road, Berkeley California. The house in the North Berkeley hills rented by Queen Mu was where most of the issues of MONDO were produced and was the location of a social scene that was legendary in some corners of the S.F. Bay Area, Planet Earth and certain unincorporated sectors of the galaxy.


Fans of — and participants in — MONDO 2000 magazine and associated scenes.

MONDO Vanilli

Music/performance art group started by R.U. Sirius to capitalize on his reputation with MONDO 2000 and the terrible heartrending tragedy that was Milli Vanilli.


Mutant/Mutation/Transmutation/The Total Fucking Transmutation of Everything

In biology, a positive or beneficial mutation increases the fitness of the organism and promotes desirable traits.

As cultural signifiers, the words mutant and mutation have been in circulation amongst countercultural and subcultural types at least since the mid-1960s when the organizers of the first hippie Be-In declared the hippies “a new generation of mutants.” Around the same time, Timothy Leary started describing the rebellious youths of the ’’60s generation” as post-Hiroshima mutants. Since then, these words have continued to pop up amongst the various flavors of alternativeness. Many Science Fiction fans, for example, see themselves as mutants who are different from — and smarter than — the “normals.”

The main conceit, largely framed by media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, was that the new communications media — particularly TV — in combination with mind-active drugs, was causing the era’s youths to privilege mental and emotionally abilities that were entirely distinct from those privileged by the previous several hundred years of print, alcohol and caffeine-oriented Western Civilization, thus making them a sort of new species living in a linked-up, innately trippy “global village.”

Regarding transmutation, prior to Darwin, evolutionary theorists used the word to describe the transition from one species to the next. The term had been passed down from alchemy and thus also had — and continues to have — a resonance among occultists and other mystics.

The Total Fucking Transmutation of Everything, as conceived by your main narrator R.U. Sirius, represented the idea of a radical transformation in the human condition, both fundamental and surreal.

In fundamental terms, I imagined a humanity that had transcended poverty, unhappy labor, ill-considered taboos, national boundaries, rigid ideologies, racism, sexual repression, absolute gender categorization and identification, and biological and neurological limits on what a human being can do or experience.

At the more surreal level, I was inviting conditions and experiences that defied all possible expectations based on familiarity with how the world is supposed to function, but that might relate to psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna’s notion that during the 21st Century, we will enter into a place where “whatever we can imagine will simply come to be;” or singularitarian Vernor Vinge’s idea that we will take inside of us AIs with intelligences that will be to us as our intelligence is to the ant and that the future beyond that Singularity is beyond comprehension.


In 1980, after a powerful LSD trip — and under the influence of the Leary-Wilson Paradigm — I decided to launch the Neopsychedelic Wave, merging some of the extravagance, generosity, optimism, and drug preferences of the psychedelic ‘60s with the speed, stylishness and toughness of then contemporary New Wave, Punk, “High Tech” pop and avant-garde culture. I eventually dropped the “Wave” from the language construct.

At the start of High Frontiers, there was a trend for neopsychedelic music, mainly in LA. I leave it to readers to decide whether neopsychedelia happened and whether I made it happen. Or rather, I will let you believe I did, if you’re foolish enough to do that.

Reality Hacker

The hacker is someone who gets a technological system to do things that the system could not do previously, or that some powerful force — likely involving ownership, legality or both — is trying to prevent him or her from doing. A Reality Hacker treats reality as a technological system that can be hacked. We called Letters To The Editor in Reality Hackers magazine Reality Hecklers. There are so many of them now!




One thought on “From “Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in 20th Century Tech Culture””

  1. Bravo. Given the Berkely location I am beginning to understand many of the Mondo connections I had taken for granted before. I can picture Mckenna stopping by, as for him its home turf. It’s a nice history lesson. You may not have started Neopsychedelia but I do think we are still feeling the repercussions of the psychedelic roots that were present during the birth of the home computer. It’s embedded in the ways software is structured now. Many of the base assumptions were laid by you guys (and the wider California brain-trust) while the bedrock layers of networked computers were still largely under construction yet. Now my cousins are posting selfies on Facebook using Instagram filters to shape their faces far skinnier than they actually are, and they see nothjng wrong with it. Personal visual image will becone as fluid as gender wants to be. I can remember when Greg Egan was the only one on the planet this kind of stuff had even occurred to.

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