Jamais Vu Views

It’s finally out in both paperback and KindleJamais Vu Views, the companion to our underground classic The Jamais Vu Papers.


Some of you have been waiting for this book for two decades or more.

Others of you have no idea what we’re talking about.

So let’s go back to Los Angeles in 1987, for the birth of a crypto-legend …

The two us lived in a little house at the base of Mount Washington; at the top was perched the Self-Realization Fellowship. Its gardens are lovely, tranquil, and open to all. We loved to walk up there to retreat from that intense city, rest, and meditate. One afternoon, we were walking down Mount Washington after some especially stimulating meditation. As we headed home, ideas started flowing, and we talked and talked and talked. And so we started our own newsletter—the jamais vu papers, a monthly publication with a fictional storyline that included far-flung, far-fetched, and far-sighted ideas. (BTW, we got married the month the first issue appeared.)

Publishing a newsletter wasn’t easy back in those days. Does anyone remember waxers and paste-ups? We put the pages together in our little house and took them to a copy shop for printing. We sent free copies to as many people as we could get addresses for. We started asking other people to participate.

Real-life thinkers eagerly pitched into our fictional world, changing the story itself as it galloped waywardly forward, sideways, upward, downward, across parallel realities, and every which way. We interviewed Tom Robbins (our first-ever subscriber), and also María De Céspedes, Fred Chappell, Daniel C. Dennett, Jamake Highwater, Paul Krassner, Timothy Leary, and Fred Alan Wolf. Because these interviews took place in a peculiar no man’s land somewhere between fiction and reality, they became known as jamais inter-vus.

When the New York superagent John Brockman got wind of what we were up to, he signed us up with Harmony Books to rework our material into a novel—and he took part in a jamais inter-vu as well. The novel came out in 1991. Even after it went out of print, copies kept circulating until The Jamais Vu Papers became a bona fide underground classic. As copies grew scarce and zanily expensive, we published a new edition in 2010.

But alas, the novel could not contain nearly everything we’d put in the newsletter. A lot of great material had to be left behind, including jamais inter-vus with Stewart Brand, Jean Houston, Russell Jacoby, Charles Johnston, Russell Targ, and Robert Theobald.

Now, at long last, we’ve compiled Jamais Vu Views, which includes all of the original interviews—those that appeared in the book, and those that haven’t been seen since our newsletter was discontinued in 1991. If you are already a fan of The Jamais Vu Papers, you’ll be delighted by what you have jamais (never) seen before. And if you have jamais (never) experienced the reality-bending phenomenon known as The Jamais Vu Papers, this new collection is a great place to start.

Check it out at Amazon.com—in paperback or Kindle.

The “Single Synapse” Theory

“The transformation of the personality begins with the deliberate activation of a single synapse.” Thus Spake Aforista.

The Postfuturist Sage Aforista makes it sound so easy! Most of us find it difficult to utterly change our personalities from the bottom up. But maybe, in a world on the brink of fiscal cliffs, climate change, global pandemics, and all manner of other crises, we must learn to do so.

In the November 1987 issue of the newsletter version of the jamais vu papers (which eventually served as the basis of an eponymously titled novel), Pat interviewed the late economist Robert Theobald, who made some striking observations on this very issue:

It is a truism that change happens in crisis. Without a crisis people will go on doing things as they have always done them because change is always time-consuming and usually frustrating.…

Bluntly put, homeostasis is the path of the least resistance, and we are stubbornly inclined to follow it, even when change is needed. Even impending crisis typically doesn’t tend to elicit positive change:

If the scope of the crisis seems too extensive people may well panic and simply deny the possibility of affecting the total situation. I believe that there are reasons to fear that this pattern is developing in the world at the current time. We know that things are getting worse but we are so terrified that we continue to keep things going rather than permit some change to happen by forcing situations to the crisis point. All too often the longer we wait the worse the crisis will become.

It’s sad that Theobald’s observations remain so timely a quarter of a century after he made them. Sadder still, we actually invent end times and eschatological deadlines in order to elicit change from without—by extraterrestrial aid, let us say say. Does anybody happen to remember the Harmonic Convergence of 1987?

In an episode little remembered in New Age annals but recorded in a special issue of the jamais vu papers, Quetzalcoatl and the Goddess returned to earth on August 16 of that year to join in the grand fiesta. They were dismayed to find homo sapiens in an evolutionary rut, and dismayed even further that humanity expected them, ancient archetypes that they were, to completely take over the process of terrestrial transformation. In a seldom quoted outburst, Goddess said,

“The idea that a species like yours would just stay immutable for thousands of years at a crack—well, it seems downright ornery, that’s all. I mean, it’s like a kid holding his breath until his face turns blue.”

Will we once again disappoint our archetypal forces and sentient metaphors when the 13th b’ak’tun of the Mayan calendar comes to an end on December 21, 2012? It’s a question that Lydia Rosenstrom, the protagonist of Pat’s and my novel Mayan Interface, pauses to consider as people all over the world await “a force outside themselves to make things right somehow—either by bringing our world to an end or by transforming the whole of humankind”:

“Well, some folks might experience something. Others might miss their best chance while they’re waiting. Some wouldn’t notice transformation if it up and bites them, because it doesn’t fit the story they’re fixed on. Some just expect transformation to be a one-time thing, so they’ll be stuck wherever they arrive that day.”

As Quetzalcoatl and the Goddess tried to tell us back in 1987, we don’t have to wait, and we don’t need extraterrestrial aid. Human nature itself is mutable, after all. And when you get right down to it, it’s simply a matter of deliberately activating that single synapse.