Podcast 431 – “That Voice In Your Head”


Guest speaker: Tom Barbalet


Today’s podcast features a conversation between fellow podcaster Tom Barbalet and his guest. Their discussion centers on what we have all come to think of as that voice in our head. As you will hear, it may not be anything like what you think it is. As Tom’s guest says, “The idea for me is really very simple, break the identification with the voice in your head. It’s not who you are. It’s just your language machine. And you’ll be in a much better position to evaluate your experience and formulate new actions if you language machine isn’t filling your head with a bunch of stupid, really bad ideas.”


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Posted in Consciousness, Culture, DMT, Imagination, MDMA, Tom Barbalet.


  1. Addendum: Right now I’m reading “The Supreme Identity” and while so far it hasn’t managed to shut up my languange machine it’s definitely an AWESOME read; in fact I’m wondering if it isn’t worth its own podcast episode …

  2. Hey Lorenzo, thanks for your work.

    I just want to second something that has been alluded to above — the “conversation” / amateur interview format is very different from the lecture format. The conversation format has definite downsides, and this is a personal preference that others may share: I basically don’t like them much. They tend to wander, not flesh out points fully, and have too much time taken up with issues of communication and social interaction between participants.

    E.g., I’m super happy to hear from Nese and Lily and Shaughna, but it would be GREAT to hear organized lectures or commentaries from these brilliant people, so that we don’t get … “yeah, yeah, that’s an excellent point, I agree, thank you for saying that, and if I may, here is a tangentially related thought that you may find relevant, and i’d love to hear your experience with this issue ….”

    I understand that some will find this aspect of social interaction to be charming, or not mind it, but just putting in my two cents that the lectures you podcast are much stronger than conversations.

    But do what makes YOU happy, Lorenzo — of course! 🙂

  3. Hello,

    I’m surprised nobody has any critics about what Heron Stone just said here.
    I’ll try to articulate mine as good and simply as possible, considering english isn’t my first language. And hence, it’s possible i didn’t understand well enough the conversation, even though i usually understand english very well.

    Perhaps the issue here is that Heron Stone couldn’t elaborate too much because of the time frame, and i must say that i’m sympathetic with some of his ideas, but there it is with all due respect for H.Stone :

    1-the conceptualisation of the Ego in terms of “Language Machine” is in itsef a product, of the LM, a reduction possible only in the language framework, so there’s already a strange contradiction by which the LM denies its own relevance.

    The “I” is an abstract fonction of language which at the same time invente, translate and consolidate subjectivity as something i can perceive as “real”, reinforced, actualized, by the process of intersubjectivity. There is no “I” without language and society, there is no human society without language.
    So the question, and i quote : “Who the hell is Me , where is this “I” ” is absurd in a context where you want to get rid of the identification with the LM, because it is the LM talking.
    Of course “I” become a mystery if i try to understand it, outside the language framework. We are only able to go beyond the Ego by the means of psychedelic experience, meditation, or even trauma. Otherwise, it is the ouroboros state.

    2-Stone shoots at dualism when his own framework seems to be dualistic : squeech(?)/matrix, things are either squeech or matrix…

    Also dualism is not a mistake, it is a simplification. And simplifcations are not necessarily harmful.
    Our perception system works like that, it simplifies a chaotic cosmos so that we are able to act.
    Imagine if perception would be like a constant DMT trip…

    3-i guess the word democracy is so misleading nowdays, especially in America, so one can say, and i quote : “there is no such thing as democracy”.
    No such “thing” perhaps, but a democracy is a political regime with precise properties.

    more generally speaking, perhaps there’s no “things” but obviously something is going one, it’s the first level of reality. the second level is, on the one hand, the perception and consciousness of efficient and rational properties of phenomenons of the first level(science relies on that) and, on the other hand, the so-called stories, the storyteller, and the two are not clearly separated as our history of knowledge and everyday experiences show us. Except for the individuals who have a split brain may be…
    All this stuff embedded in what is going on in the cognitive unconscious.

    4-the verb Be… If i’ve followed, you don’t say “this dictator is a murderer.” it would be better to say, “this man in charge of the state believe it is necessary to help some people he finds annoying to pass away for the nation to be in good order.”
    Or, not “this man is a rapist”, but “this male believed it was appropriate to force this females to have sexual intercourse with him”.

    Quote : “And now you actually know something”…

    Is it the better “story” Stone is searching for?

    Don’t we have an ethical problem here?
    I see extreme relativism.
    I beg you to listen to what he said, i’m not exaggerating to much.

    5-incidentally, quote : “there’s is a big difference between knowing something, and knowing that you know it”
    You couldn’t articulate less precisely the difference between conscious and unconscious. It reminds me of Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknows”…

    I’m sorry, this comparison is a bit unfair, but this assumption is ludicrous.
    From consciousness, the “I”, stand point, weither i know something, or i don’t know something. If i don’t know what i know it’s not knowledge (except in a reified sens…) it’s unconscious cognitions and/or feelings. So it’s not possible that i don’t know what i know.


    In other words, by listening to the conversation, i say it’s not clear what Stone really thinks.
    Does he want to get rid of the identification, or does he want to reform it?
    Does he want to expand consciousness by reducing it, instead of going beyond it?

    it seems to me H.Stone wants to apply too literally General Semantics, it could only get us rid of meaning, and therefore turn us into machines.

    Since the “singularity” hasn’t happened yet(and i don’t believe it will) a “program” cannot produce meaning, only syntax, as Searle’s chinese box experiment shows.

    Do we need meaning?
    And consciousness and meaning are intertwined.
    Of course meaning is kind of relative.
    But no identification to the LM no meaning.
    No meaning no consciousness.
    No consciousness, no meaning, no subjectivity : no construction of the social reality we need.
    No identification with the LM, no society.

    Again, i’m sympathetic with some of his ideas, but i claim his thinking looks like, i insist “looks like”, a self-contradictory-over-rationalism embedded in extreme relativism.

    It is such a complex subject already in your own tongue , forgive me if i haven’t been very clear.
    But i’ve heard unquestioned epistemological issues in this conversation.

    And thank you Lorenzo for the Salon


    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: To further “muddy the waters” here is an interesting article:

    “Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness?”

  4. And BTW, these lyrics from The Shamen’s 1989 track, ‘Adam Strange’, I think sum up perfectly the feeling of ‘I’ve been here before as a child’ you mention from taking MDMA for the first time:

    “Something wonderfully right is going wrong with me
    Suddenly I feel the way I’ve always wished to be
    The leafless trees of winter, extend fantastic fingers
    To guide my gaze toward the sunlight through the clouds

    Adam Strange is in my brain, I’m so glad to know him
    Adam Strange is in my brain, I’m so glad to know him
    I’m so glad

    Man of letters, man of substance, bring me to my senses
    Keep me close to my companions’, crumble all defences
    And we sit in silent wonder, before the tranquil water
    Reflecting undisturbed, the stillness of our minds

    Adam Strange is in my brain, I’m so glad to know him
    Adam Strange is in my brain, I’m so glad to know him
    I’m so glad

    Adam Strange, oh Adam Strange”

    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: For newcommers to MDMA, when it first hit the streets in the 1980s it was called “Adam”.]

  5. Hey Lorenzo, thanks for this and all your podcasts. Perhaps my comment is premature, but I restarted this one from an earlier incomplete listen thinking the guy mentioned the Alan Watts book that affected him so and that it just went by me. But now as I’ve begun to listen again from the beginning, he just keeps referring to it as “the book.” I’m a big Alan Watts fan, have many of his books and many more of his recorded talks and I’d really like to know which title had such a profound affect on him. Can you fill in the blank? Thanks again, even if you cannot.

    COMMENT by Lorenzo: Thanks for asking about that book, Perry. I wondered abou that too. So I wrote to Tom and asked him to find out. Here’s the answer:

    The Supreme Identity: An Essay on Oriental Metaphysic and the Christian Religion
    By Alan Watts

  6. Some great ideas, I enjoyed all of it, and there is a lot to think about and digest concerning the voice in your head (isn’t that what Terence called The Logos?) I agree that the ego and sense of “I” is indeed culturally structured for the most part.

    Yes, they were all over the place, but I thought that was part of their charm, (I must admit to having already listened to three or four of their own podcasts and enjoyed them).

    The biggest problem for me was that Heron spent ten minutes discussing this huge, life changing experience that awakened him due to reading an Alan Watts book, AND THEN FAILED TO MENTION THE TITLE!!! 🙂 And Tom failed to ask him. What was that book? Oh well, I’m pretty sure it was the awakening that more important than the book. 😉

    Keep up the great work Lorenzo!

    COMMENT by Lorenzo: Thanks for asking about that book, Greg. I wondered abou that too. So I wrote to Tom and asked him to find out. Here’s the answer:

    The Supreme Identity: An Essay on Oriental Metaphysic and the Christian Religion
    By Alan Watts

  7. “[COMMENT by Lorenzo: I’m just the carnival barker. All the action is in the big tent, and you are being featured in the center ring :-).]”

    Exactly the type of comment Terence McKenna would make! 🙂
    Be well my friend

  8. I did find the suggestion to disconnect from the inner voice intriguing and the suggestion that it is not “I” amazing, however by the end of the interview i was considering switching off as i felt it was for people who like scrabble or something – anyway – your comments Lorenzo which followed blew me away ans i was glad i didnt turn off – i have long wondered if anyone had taken over from McKenna since he passed on – after hearing your comments at the end of this podcast i now convincingly feel that it is you Lorenzo that has picked up the flaming torch which McKenna carried for so long to light the way
    Gabriel, Ireland

    [COMMENT by Lorenzo: I’m just the carnival barker. All the action is in the big tent, and you are being featured in the center ring :-).]

  9. Loved this podcast!

    Although several points are made on an intellectial level, it somehow reached beyond it.

    We people must be really brave (and ignorant) trying to put words to our experience…

    Lots of love from holland!

  10. Dear Lorenzo,
    this is a difficult one; somehow I love the idea of having podcasts tailor-made for the Salon, and Heron and Tom come across really nice, but – somewhat like “Joseph T” – I feel they don’t really deliver; they touch quite a range of interesting, relevant and fun stuff, but yeah, your idea-juggling at the end hit closer to home.
    Much love from Germany,
    Martin MS

  11. Thanks Lorenzo. I really like what you shared at the end of the podcast. I think you, your guests from this episode, Terrance and all sorts of new age spiritual leaders are on to something in examining the role of language. What a relief that the words and things we tell ourselves (aka have been told by others who themselves were told things) really aren’t us. In my plus 5, there were no words, and no possibility of thought, though consciousness was unbelievably full. My belief coming from that place was that I couldn’t think, but perhaps that I had identified with language and the monkey mind for so long, I didn’t know that anything else was possible. I’m grateful for Tom Barbalet, Heron Stone and the podcast. I was taking notes 🙂 Looking forward to examining the five language errors/biases mentioned. Keep up the good work and thank you for being you!

  12. i would rather listen to such ideas if there was more preparation, and enough commitment to any given idea to follow through and really develop it. Too much was inadequately developed or interrupted by another incomplete mental trek. The thoughts both about language and the the I or voice in the head are worthwhile, but not so original that they do not deserve and even require a more polished and complete presentation to stimulate a discerning audience. For this listener, probably the weakest podcast so far. I enjoyed your bookends more than the rest of it.

  13. Oh this is good, very insightful and still simple ideas. Thanks Lorenzo, you are a nursing stream in this desert of the network.

    And I am thinking a lot about language use, am writing my MA paper connected with it. My contribution would be to point at a role of memory. Simply speaking when you learn words and syntax, memory stores it in your mind as a very subtle involuntary reflexes, that’s why its nature tends to be so autonomous. But there a way out to recognize this repetitiveness as a progression of rhythm and even melody. It’s exactly what was done by Samuel Beckett in all his plays. As an illustration I would recommend to watch this performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4LDwfKxr-M

  14. Spectacular podcast!! I’m so thankful for all the time, money, and effort you put into the Salon Lorenzo!!! Everynight I ease my mind with one of your amazing podcasts. I hope all is well for you Lorenzo and all the other listeners!!!

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