The Catalyst

In 1980, I published a book entitled, the catalyst. It consisted of quotes from books and articles I had read plus profiles (fanciful in nature) of individuals I admired and from whom I felt I had learned something of value.

One hundred copies were printed and distributed to friends and acquaintances.

That was that until a friend suggested that I turn the catalyst into a gallery installation, the profiles serving as exhibits. That installation was at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Fine Arts Gallery in the summer of 1986. (My thanks to Nancy Kelly, Gallery Director, and Dave Shrader, Dean of Fine Arts.)

The catalyst is no longer available. Here, however, is a sampling of quotes and excerpts included in the catalyst.

(The images below were generated using Microsoft CoPilot/Designer.)


“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall — Humpty Dumpty had a great fall — And all the King’s horses — And All the King’s men — Couldn’t put Humpty together again…

“Humpty Dumpty is the cosmic egg, the wall, the edge between transcendence and existence. As nothing breaks up into the world of things, the movement toward entropy becomes irreversible. Humpty Dumpty is the immortal soul before the Fall into time. And neither God’s animals nor his angels can put him back into the world beyond time. The human condition is the fallen condition of time and fragmentation.

AI image — “a memory of the soul”

“The nursery rhyme is a memory of the soul, a piece of an old cosmology from a lost culture lingering on in the rational world of science as a trivial piece of children’s verse.”

from The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light by William Irwin Thompson


Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days! / Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways: Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide, / The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed, / Who cast rough Fergus dreams, and ruin untold; / And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old / In dancing silver-sandaled on the sea, / Sing in their high and lonely melody, / Come near, that no more blinded by man’s fate, / I find under the boughs of love and hate, / In all poor foolish things that live a day, / Eternal beauty wondering on her way.

AI image — “red rose, proud rose, sad rose of all my days”

Come near, come near, come near—Ah, leave me still / A little space for the rose-breath to fill! / Lest I no more hear common things that crave; / The weak worm hiding down in its small cave, / The field mouse running by me in the grass, / And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass; / But seek alone to hear the strange things said / By God to the bright hearts of those long dead, / And learn to chant a tongue men do now know. / Come near; I would, before my time to go, / Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways: / Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.  — William Butler Yeats (1893)


“Look for the basic perspective that integrates all previously encountered viewpoints.” — from Synergetics by N. Arthur Coulter


“Entropy requires no maintenance.” — from Schrodinger’s Cat by Robert Anton Wilson


AI image – “the saga of the working out of one’s problems on others”

“Seen in this way, history is the saga of the working out of one’s problems on others—harmlessly when one has no power (or when the ‘weapon’ is art), viciously when one has the power and when the weapons are the arsenals of the total state.”

from Escape From Evil by Ernest Becker


“…Where would they all get to? Would they arrive—now or ever—at anything in the least resembling what they had hoped for? Would anyone? Or did it matter, provided one had at least set out on that voyage, made the endeavor? Or did it matter if what one arrived at wasn’t quite what one had envisioned? Well, they were all heroes, every one of them; they were all soldiers; as now, and always, all mankind were soldiers; all of them engaged in the endless and desperate war on the unconscious.”

from Ushant by Conrad Aiken


“…What is not acknowledged and assimilated through experience, piles up in the form of guilt and creates a real Hell, the literal meaning of which is–where the unburnt must be burnt! — from “The Wisdom of the Heart” by Henry Miller


AI image – “a clear cosmic message”

“Few events can have carried such a clear cosmic message as the running of the Kentucky Derby, May 12, 1975. While two horses fought for the lead, a third came up from behind and walked away with the purse. The two horses intent only on bumping each other for the favored position were Avatar and Diabolo. Avatar means deity. Diabolo means devil. So, while the deity contended with Lucifer, who dashed home first? Foolish Pleasure. Let that be a happy lesson for us all.”

Letter to Time from Richard Goldwater — Reprinted in What Does WoMan Want? by Timothy Leary


NOTE: I published the catalyst not long after reading the four volumes of Timothy Leary’s “Future History Series”. I thought each book in the series was brilliant. At the time (70s), there was a great deal of negative press concerning Leary. But in his writing I found only a concern for humanity’s future. I was deeply impressed with the creative and thought-provoking content of the series as well as with the beauty of the writing. I learned again what I had previously learned with other important thinkers: Do not trust what is said in the popular press about controversial writers and thinkers. Go to the source and decide for yourself.

I wrote to Leary expressing my appreciation for his work and offering to assist in any way I could, though I couldn’t quite imagine what I could offer. He wrote back the following:

Dear David Thomas –

Thanks for your wonder-full letter. It’s all ways wonder-full to know others share the same perception of the future.

At the present time we are continuing to work with media, piloting syndicated radio-TV shows, trying to get a movie script finished…Stimulating and activating brains (so to speak) in the local media scene to turn on to the future.

And a project you might be interested in…trying to start a magazine. I have just published a book called THE INTELLIGENCE AGENTS. It’s in magazine form. We hope to attract energy to keep it going as a regular mag…Peace Press, Culver City, CA published the book. I suggest you look it over and send me your comments and ideas for continuing the mag.

Stay in touch… great to be in synch with you

Timothy Leary

I was thrilled to get Leary’s letter and not long afterwards, I created  the catalyst, 150 pages of quotes, correspondence, and profiles of the “intelligence agents” in my life.

I did not work with Leary. We had a few more exchanges, all positive. He told me he loved the catalyst and I was very pleased to hear it. Instead, my work life took me in the direction outlined by the work shared in this website.


Dear David Thomas

The catalyst is a chemical stimulus. I loved it. Carry on the transmission. You have a commendable range and scope. I thank you for the re-assurance. Stay in touch — Timothy Leary


Recently, I came across the following quote by Leary: “Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others.”

I fed this quote into the AI image generation program mentioned above and got back the following: