Version 2.3 by Luc Sala, Febr 2012
At the request of Simone Lackerbauer and R.U. Sirius this is a personal and maybe somewhat colored account of what I remember and could trace.
Mondo 2000 has been, for me, a door to understanding and experiencing the convergence and integration of technology, new age, philosophy and art. I believe the magazine and the scene were at the root of the development of the late twentieth century cyberculture and have helped bridge the gap between the more traditional new age (fairly conservatively focused on eastern traditions, health and body, somewhat negative and Luddite about technology) and the computer/information wave.
involvement with the actual magazine was limited, I sponsored with money and
was international distributor (paying in advance helped to print the magazine).
My involvement with the people of and around Mondo
was what was most important for me, those contacts opened a door into the world
of cyberspace, cyberart, psychedelic (ontological)
philosophy, design and counterculture. The Mondo
scene was where one would meet the great alternative thinkers and writers. They
were easy with their contacts and networking, opened many, many doors for me
and I am very grateful for what I took home, not so much in material things,
but in thinking for myself. Mondo inspired me to
publish a similar magazine in Dutch, called Ego2000, and has been a source of
contacts and new ideas for my activities in the nineties. Apart from writing
and publishing this encompassed my broadcast television station in
2000 was a focal point where the counterculture, psychonauts
and mind-researchers met, physically in
In the early Eighties (1982) I started my computer
magazine publishing company, after working as a launch editor and roving reporter
for Pat mcGovern of IDC/IDG, before that being
employed by Fasson, Bruynzeel
and Philips. As a then new journalist (I never trained as such) I travelled
extensively to the USA, as the rise of the home computer (Commodore, MSX,
Apple, PC) was partly a European thing with English makers like Sinclair, but
obviously the USA was the motherlode for computernews. I went to shows like the NCC, the Comdex and
the CES shows, often in Las Vegas, where I hooked up with the Californian crowd
of computer journalists, afficionado's and hobbyists.
Those were exciting years, the computer spread from the highbrow DEC/IBM scene
to the home, hobbyists became involved, the Commodore 64 opened a new world of
low level ICT. I rode that wave with magazines, end-user shows (PC Dumpdag), books and even a retail operation. I was familiar
with computers already during my studies (Physics at
In my travels for the
computer press I met people like Lee Felsenstein, Jan
Lewis, Mary Eisenhart (Microtimes),
and of course Allan Lundell, Wes Thomas, Saint
Silicon (Jeffrey Armstrong)
It was, however, in those days all very straight, computers, ICT, business, the alternative wasn't on my mind, but I was connected. This all changed in 1989, I got in touch with new age thinking, had some deep and life-changing personal mystical experiences and opened up to the other, alternative side of computers, like brainmachines, mindware (Bruce Eisner's focus) and saw the much broader horizon opening with multimedia, pictures, video. There were visits to Xerox Parc, contacts with fringe scientists, hackers, game-developers; I realised that the days of alphanumeric number-crunching were over. Another notion that dawned upon me then was that data and information are not the same; “a bit is only information if it bytes” was the keyphrase I used and use to make that clear.
Then around the first big Hacker Conference august
Locally this GHC stemmed from Hactic
and resulted in what later became XS4all and De Digitale
Stad, but I personally had little empathy for what
then was labeled as technoanarchistic hacking and focussed myself on the
These events, like the GHP and the 1990 Linz Ars Electronica were pivotal events. The people that mattered in what later was coined the new edge movement met and started to make it happen.
As a result of meeting the Mondo
I was (at that time and still) an outspoken and somewhat obnoxious journalist, publisher and entrepreneur, made money in ICT, and therefore a bit the “enemy” of the alternativo's in the Dutch hacker scene. When the hackers sold out for big money a few years later (Xs4all), I felt they had betrayed their original creed. I however always believed their stance was worth protecting, and the Silicon Brotherhood Creed at the end of my Virtual Reality book (written in 1990, but this creed evolved in and from meeting with Lundell in 1989) acknowledged the importance of the deviant, the alternative, independent hacker).
Barlow was, in those days, a good friend and inspirator, he spent quite some time in SF. We travelled and tripped together, he got me backstage at the Grateful Dead new years concert, we visited tradeshows and discussed the world, copyrights, God and psychedelics. His thinking inspired me a lot, I have used so many of his ideas and visions in my VR book, that I decided to put his name on the cover too. We differed in opinion in some ways, I never sided with his belief that copyrights don't matter, that information should be free. His Cyberspace Independence Declaration/Manifesto was, in the context of his EFF work, a great statement and has been very influential; one of the few articles that really address the need for clear cyberspace rights and laws. It was, at the same time, somewhat naive, expressing a belief in the power of information and freedom that didn't reckon with the traditions and forces concerning copyrights and the fear of institutions and governments for total freedom. I think Barlow was also inspired by Leary’s Declaration of Evolution (1968). The whole subject of cyberspace rights, legislature and freedom has been the subject of many articles I wrote in Dutch, also in the context of Infotheism and my personal notion of evolution as "a remembrance of the future" and what DNA is (an antenna into the future).
The San Francisco scene in those days had (for me) two
poles, one was Henry Dakin's outfit on Sacramento 3220 (Henry’s Playhouse full
with non-profits and secret Apple multimedia lab, SF-Moscow Teleport, Jack Sarfatti, later Faustin Bray),
the other was the Mondo House, up the hill a bit in
Berkeley. Henry was a humble and softspoken
millionaire, heir to the Dakin Toys fortune, but fascinated by the alternative,
be it waterbirth, East-west bridging, dolphins, new
physics (Jack Sarfatti),
The Mondo house, with Queen Mu in charge and at the purse (and the editing!), was a different story. More egocentric, Mondo wasn't about helping the world, it was an ego-statement by what my kids called catch-up hippies, flippo's obsessed with the new, the different, who saw the potential of the new technology, as a mind changing and world changing tool. The spirituality that Henry Dakin lived was part of the Mondo culture too, but more as a tool, an experience, as part of the psychedelic awareness, the transcendental in action. Of course the house was full with esoteric art and books, all present were very well read. With people like Claudio Naranjo (enneagram), Barlow and Jaron Lanier around, philosophy and spirituality were part of the daily smorgasboard of discussions and exchanges, but not in a formal way. Although all had some deeper understanding and awareness of the mystical, transcendental or deep contemplative was not on the agenda. Many had (had) contacts with Alan Watts or John Perry and the beat-generation poets like Ginsberg were not far off, but Mondo was more worldly than that. It made connections with the New Physics crowd via Nick Herbert (and Fred Wolf), dabbled in whatever was new in arts and music, but kind of stayed away from the health scene, the new age body work, Gaia folks and soul searching. But there was enough, the connections from Mondo with what was happening in the Bay area and beyond were fascinating, I really laid the foundation of my network there, which became the basis for my later work (writing, television, esoteric studies) and inspires me till today.
Before Lundell and friends
made me aware of Mondo and got me involved, I was
familiar with the technological side of things, the ICT industry and its
outgrowth into brain machines, mind technology, but was not really hip to the
general counterculture of those days, I was more a new age person with an ICT
interest. Of course when I got to the Mondo house, I catched up, I have seen en read the earlier publications
where Ken was involved, High Frontiers and Reality Hackers, but those were more
traditional in appearance and layout. It was Mondo
(and of course Bart Nagel and Heide Foley who made
that jump in layout perspective happen) that really opened up to PostScript and
the integrated layout possibilities that so markedly made Mondo
When the Mondo people asked
for support, I donated money to help print the first issue, as did John Perry
Barlow and I also subsequently helped out here and there with some funds and
became international distributor, not with much success. It came down to
pre-order and prepay some 800 issues (and that helped to get in printed anyway)
every run, have them shipped to some distributors in the Netherland and
As Ken was not only a keen observer and gifted writer, he also supplied all kinds of things to the Bay area cognoscenti and therefore had a real interesting network. Psychedelics were the not so secret but illegal link between the various subworlds of art, literature, music, new age and technology. Morgan, Ken, Alison, St. Jude (Jude Milhon/Hippie) were all broadly interested, but in different directions, with different networks and it was this convergence that was the hallmark of Mondo. They covered the whole gamut of alternativity, with a distinct "highness" underlying the meetings, events and discussions.
As this was Bay Area and Silicon Valley was close, the link with the computer industry was easy and logical, There was the money and the excitement, in those days everybody looked at the new possibilities, were it in music with synthesizers, in broadcasting with digital media, in entertainment with the emerging computer games, and virtual reality was definitely the magic potion that would free us from the limitations of space and time, the ultimate trip, the electronic drug. Most of the people involved had a sixties background, although there were also the catch-up hippies like myself, who missed out but were fascinated by the likes of Leary and the Zeitgeist of the sixties.
The term New Edge -as in bridging information technology and new age-is a phrase that kind of developed between me and Barlow and was first used in print in the Ego2000 magazines I published in the Netherlands, and later was used by the Mondo crowd. In the new edge hacking, virtual reality and alternative (psychedelic) reality came together with the new age ideas of ecology, sustainable ecology, self-development and body awareness. The MONDO 2000 User's Guide to the New Edge by Rudy Rucker, R. U. Sirius & Queen Mu, came in 1992 (Eds HarperPerennial). Funny enough there was no connection with the Bhagwan/Osho movement, Osho died in 1990 and was a major alternative movement or with TM (Marahishi).
The new age folks in those days were a bit
anti-computer, a kind of neo-Luddite stance, and certainly didn't see computers
as spiritual and psychological self improvement tools. The New Edge obviously
did. The great amalgam of the Web information exchange hadn't happen and
movements developed still more or less independently. Internet with at that
time limited (text only) email (the WWW-internet really started happening in
1993. I remember Barlow at the first (and last) New Edge Conference in
Amsterdam that I organised in may 1993 as an
evangelist preaching the WWW-revolution, validating and appraising the then
half-underground pioneering work of Rop Gonggrijp and the Digitale Stad. That I-Conference in itself with Lundell
and friends, Barlow, The Extopy and BoingBoing editors (Max Moore and Frauenfelder),
Werner Pieper, St.Silicon, Captain Crunch and many
others was again an amazing meeting of the high-tech counterculture luminaries
of the time.
The convergence, or rather the undercurrent of psychedelic consciousness in the computer scene in the 80s and 90s was not an isolated phenomenon, I have interviewed many luminaries who admitted that LSD or other highs had given them the inspiration for breakthrough work, like Philip Glass and John Allen of Biosphere2. Stan Grof, the Arica people, the whole new age movement with Esalen (Big Sur) as a focal point was (unofficially) very aware of the potential of the psychoactive substances. XTC and other more chemical entheogen concoctions were coming up in those days, the Shulgins were of course pivotal in that development. The Mondo crowd was more than familiar with what happened in the psychedelic world, they were the spider in the web. It was of course Ken who had the best connections with the likes of Leary and McKenna, both flagbearers in the psychedelic movement and both with good contacts in Europe, with Albert Hofmann and Werner Pieper (Grune Zweig) and Frazer Clark and Rupert Sheldrake (and the Huxleys) and the Beckley foundation in the UK. I have met Terence and Leary many times, drove the Shulgins around
Tim was very positive and stimulating, when in early
1990 I suggested a VR-conference in
Tim Leary was not only a keen observer, he was an optimist, saw a post-planetary future, and can be described as an technologically informed utopist. He believed, and this is were the new-edge definition comes up, that technology was the bridge, held the promise for human salvation and happiness. Psychedelics were part of that bridge, but they were also technology, like computers, smart drugs, life-extension, brain machines, mindware. Although we were all influenced by science fiction, and the SciFi writers were part of the scene, I personally had some connection with SF author and IT-columnist Jerry Pournelle who also lived in LA, we believed that what is formed in the mind eventually would yield a reality result. The progress in IT was only possible because there were dreams and visions, all the great inventions came from people who dared to dream, the computer interface is a great example.
I remember a trip to
see also http://126.96.36.199/de/archives/festival_archive/festival_overview.asp?iPresentationYearFrom=1990
The Austrian city of
Although it wasn't made part of the press-releases and business plans to attract seed money for VR-research, but psychedelics played a major role in VR-development, oftentimes one experimented with the systems using various substances, also sex (Ted Nelson coined dildonics) was part of the VR fascination. Virtual Reality was seen as a major breakthrough, as the psychedelici realized that this was a way to demonstrate that reality is a construction of the mind, and a great tool for psychological (re)-programming. This was one of the rasons Leary was so interested, here was potentially a technological drug, an electronic psychedelic.
Linz was an event that has shaped the development of VR, but also the development of Mondo and the New Age movement, it brought together the writers (SF), the techies (developers), the hackers (Chaos Computer Club), the entrepreneurs, the thinkers, the artists, the counterculture press and a couple of real change agents, like Barlow. Later I learned that even people from a whole different realm like Ra Uru Hu, a maverick astrologer who received or imagined the Human Design System, a great inspiration for my thinking in later years.
This was, for me, the meeting that rang true as a
energy exchange and creative chaos event, where so many contacts and ideas and
plans surfaced or were born, that I consider it o par with what must have
happened in de Socrates/Plato times, in Gottingen early in the 20-th century
with the physicist (Bohr etc.), a once in a lifetime creative fire. I went
there, because some of my friends went there, and found myself amidst the great
techno-minds of that time, but also the literary geniuses and artists. The
program itself I hardly followed, but talking with participants, speakers and
messing around with the demo equipment, it was an impressive time. I was
familiar with many of the speakers and luminaries there, via my Mondo-connection, my own publications, my work with brainmachines and my visits to the
The list of speakers and participants read like a Mondo 2000 article list, with Jaron Lanier,
Warren Robinett, Brenda Laurel, Marvin Minsky, Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow, Bruce Sterling,
William Gibson, Jeffrey Shaw, Marvin Minsky and many,
many others like Fluxus artist Willem de Ridder, de Vasulka's (video
pioneers), Richard Teitelbaum, Ivan Sutherland, Scott
Fisher, les Virtualistes, Erich Gullichsen,
Vivid (Vincent John Vincent), Chuck Blanchard, Scott Fisher, Ron Reisman, Derrick de Kerckhove (M.McLuhan Institute), Rudolf Kapellner,
Ernst Graf, David Dunn, the Dutch Bilwet people and
also Terence McKenna. Terence and Leary were the acknowledged leaders of the
psychedelic movement, both were well within the Mondo
tribe and since Linz Barlow and Leary started their tours and performances
together. I remember how fiercely Barlow attacked Minsky,
and his meat computer approach. There was the deeper spiritual touch that
wasn't on the program and went mostly unnoticed, but in private conversations
all the luminaries familiar with psychedelics expressed their deep spiritual
roots, which didn't surprise me, but enhanced my interest in the whole
movement. Quantum Physicist Nick Herbert, later a good friend of mine, was in
the program-book, but I don't remember him being there, and when in
The Ars Electronica festival had presentations, paid tickets for presenters and awarded prizes like the NICA's, but they always seemed to have gone to the wrong people, the real change agents were other people and although Linz made this annual festival a kind of hallmark event for the city, with a special museum around it, recently extended, and a Futurelab, I have a feeling they never reached the impact of the 1990 event again.
As I was planning a VR event later that year, I started producing a book about Virtual Reality somewhere in 1990, that was ready in a few copies for the party with Leary and Barlow and the famous VR-garden party at my house, basically bringing together all the relevant articles, although translated in Dutch, obviously nobody would give me permission for an English publication. This book, however, is really still the best collection of relevant material about the early VR-thinking and contains many contributions, but also illustrates my main focus always has been " a bit is only information if it bytes" meaning that information is more than data and that our present mountains of digital data have little meaning if they don't bring real change. In that book many ideas and suggestions about the use of computers and information technology were written up, some so outlandish they have not been realized even today, like the ego-processor unit next to the CPU, GPU and also the general notion of Information as a new religion pops up there.
The VR event did happen, a few weeks after
In Europe, there were cyberactivities here and there, the hackers kept busy and
had large scale events in Holland (thanks to Rop Gonggrijp cs), some virtual
reality events, of course the New Edge Amsterdam conference in 1993 with
Barlow, Max More, Mark Frauenfelder, Lundell, Dusty Parks and many others, there was activity
everywhere. I published Ego2000 in 1990, Wave of Walter de Brouwer,
followed in Belgium in 1994 (he has been quite an entrepreneur and figure in
cyberspace since), in England good old Fraser Clark was the zippy man, he
eventually spend some time with the Mondo crowd in
Berkeley. Mondo as such was not widely distributed,
but the cognoscenti knew about it, and through the New Edge Conference in 1993
most of the cyberactivists and hackers came together
and mixed. The digital city folks and their crowd, including Mediamatics, Bilwet and de Waag developed and became a scene in itself, quite
influential, but relying on government subsidies. Their focus was more on
community and art and applied technology, less on the philosophical and
esoteric, I myself was more involved with the Ruigoord
community and my publishing and entrepreneural activities
(for IT-magazines and Ego2000, for my Egosoft shop,
my software activities (MSX) and later for the television channel). This did
bring me all over the world, also to
Apart from the obvious Wired, there were new age
magazines and gadget magazines, but the convergence in Mondo
was quite unique. Of course there were also hacker magazines and Extropy and BoingBoing, but as
nobody really made money, there was no competition, more a camaraderie. As a
professional publisher with quite some staff in those days in my
Mondo on the other hand never really was run as a business,
it was a hobby, a social engineering venture and that by people with not so
much interest or ability in the competitive world of publishing. Alison spend
her heritage (and a lot of energy and talent) on the project, there were
sponsors and benefactors, but Mondo was more an
art-project than a business. The same was true for my Dutch publication
Ego2000, we made seven or eight issues, never made money. As the owner of the
Sala Communications corporate structure however, it was my prerogative to have
a hobby publication and it fitted well with my little Amsterdam cybershop Egosoft and my
interests in what happened in the
What remains of the Mondo spirit twenty years later is an interesting question, the cyberculture of gadgets and IT-connectivity has become mainstream, the future of Mondo then is a reality now in many respects. Mondo was fundamentally politically incorrect and fearless, now most media are all about fear, the new age has become a movement of fear (health, environment, 2012), not of hope. Society has lost much freedom, traded for the post 9/11 fake security that really hides the police-state and the war on people. Freedom and Security have become opposites, not the Plato span of horses with a common goal, profiling the new and sneaky discrimination tool, cyberspace not the new democracy Barlow hoped for, but more and more a repression and consumerism tool.
Mondo was a magazine for freethinkers, made by freethinkers and there was a period of about 5 years (1990-1995) that this had a real effect, but then the mood changed, the war on people (war on drugs) intensified, the status of the US as a world opinion leader went down with ever more negative news, eclipsing in the 9/11 situation. Progress since then has been the technology, internet, mobile computing and multimedia, but what really great music, art, literature or films have we really seen, what new science has evolved? We are stuck, captured in the rational and logical thinking, cut off from the spiritual and in a dead-end alley as far as science, environment and social justice are concerned. The financial crisis is not the result of manipulation by the banks and the system, we, the people and our greed (hence the focus on the material because of our deep fear and lack of hope) have caused the crisis, the banks and institutions have just provided the tools and instruments. We have lost and cut off the contact with the "other", the unseen, the irrational, the metaphysical, busy fighting our fears with our smartphones, social networks and hoping to find a solution in the digital bits. The chance we had to resize our worldview, to accept the adventure of not knowing, not being safe and thus really learning has been handed over to the always-on security of our smartphones and monitored world that will eventually lead to stagnation and loss of entrepreneural initiatives. We are less creative, less daring, and as I personally confront this trend in public appearances and in publications of many kinds I am very disappointed that even the so-called spiritual and cultural leaders of our world are more concerned with their personal ego and maintaining their circles of influence than with new opportunities and vistas.
Energetically the Virtual Reality wave of the 1988-1994 period has died out, VR is now a technique used in engineering, the medical but has not reached the wider society (it had some nasty health issues like now 3D) and the IT industry has focused on getting IT everywhere, all-the-time and always on. The adventure of merging and combining new technologies, new thinking, out-of-the box thinking, convergence of ontological views (i.e. the psychedelic) has stopped, we are all high-tech neo-liberals now (we think forgetting 2/3th of the world population). Mondo was positive, open, while mainstream media mostly have become closed, less pluriform, more politically correct. Mondo was a horizontal magazine, working from the premise (psychedelically inspired) that there is no ultimate truth, no general reality, there is individual truth and reality we can share and enjoy. This more horizontal paradigm does find its way, now very noticeable. I think the (as yet not recognized) changeover from vertical (screen) computing to horizontal touch computing (tablets and pads tilted the interface fundamentally) will have a profound effect on hierarchical organization to come. It's hard to keep the boss-subordinate model going when discussing things over a pad and with close finger-contact.
The internet has changed the world, and only BoingBoing has remained from those Mondo times, Wired is a gadget-oriented quasi-intellectual mainstream publication, and the Mondo crowd has spread out, Tim, Terence and many others are no longer there, and I am amazed that it took only fifteen years before the academic world started to be interested in what they now call late-century cyberculture and spirit. We will see how accurate and valid they will portray the Mondo and New Edge movement.
Luc Sala, Breyell 2012
Leonardo: E-ISSN: 1530-9282 Print ISSN: 0024-094X
Ars Electronica: Facing the Future (review)
Leonardo - Volume 34, Number 2, April 2001, pp. 161-162
The MIT Press
Yvonne Spielmann - Ars Electronica: Facing the Future (review) - Leonardo 34:2 Leonardo 34.2 (2001) 161-162 Book Review Ars Electronica: Facing the Future Ars Electronica: Facing the Future edited by Timothy Druckrey. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, and London, U.K., 1999. Ars Electronica started in
By Luc Sala and Allan Lundell
Hilversum, August 14, 1989
and information technology, with the word Silicon as its main symbol, is one of
the identifiers of the 20th century. This has challenged some to explore its
possibilities beyond the mere superficial, utilitarian aspects of it. In arts,
media, psychology, Artificial intelligence, consciousness projects, religion
and creative crime, new applications are discovered and new interactions
mapped. As has happenend in the history mathematics,
the quabala, martial arts, building technology etc.,
such powerful new knowledge is first applied to the relatively mundane fields
of economics, warfare and the suppression of people before one acknowlegdes and then explores the transcendental possibilities.
All through the ages people have concentrated on parts of the reality to gain access to the greater or even ultimate reality in themselves and the perennial wisdom of our species and the earth, our Silicon Mother Goddess.
The computer offers us new, and at the same time, age-old, possibilities of concentration and expansion, of communication and isolation, ego-discovery and letting go, that are largely untapped. Those who are now so deeply involved in the computer are, even unconsciously, part of a new tradition, the Silicon Path.
Now we, the initiators, explorers, guardians and even exploiters of the Silicon awareness revolution are concerned about its uses and abuses, and above all, acknowlegde its potential for growing awareness and human transcedence. We owe today's hackers and whiz- kids, and ourselves, the opportunity to follow the Silicon Path, becoming the magi(cians) and mystics of our times. If the computer is nothing but another way to get in touch with the ultimate reality (and what else could it be), it needs some `small' br/others to safeguard that path.
Hilversum, The Netherlands