Briefly, the main thing I learned in my experiments is that "reality" is always plural and mutable.
This book deals with what I have called induced brain change, which Dr. John Lilly more resoundingly calls "metaprogramming the human bio-computer." In simple Basic English, as a psychologist and novelist, I set out to find how much rapid reorganization was possible in the brain functioning of one normal domesticated primate of average intelligence — the only one on whom I could ethically perform such risky research — myself.
We say "seeing is believing," but actually, as Santayana pointed out, we are all much better at believing than at seeing. In fact, we are seeing what we believe nearly all the time and only occasionally seeing what we can't believe.
One night the Hedonic Materialist was happily spaced out on the weed and alone at home—the kids were asleep and Arlen (paradoxical for a Playboy editor's wife) was out at a Women's Liberation meeting. I abruptly made a neurological discovery. Most of the phenomena of self-hypnosis are quite easily replicable on grass, without the tedious training involved in ordinary hypnosis. Instead of being an unplanned voyage into unexpected sensory thrills, pot became a deliberate program of sensory enrichment. One could turn music into colors, into caresses, into tastes; one could grow to gigantic size, or shrink down inside one's own cells and molecules; one could tune one's nervous system like a combination microscope-TV set. Several extraordinary months of experiment soon revealed that one could do much of this without pot (although it remained easier with pot, of course), and the shaken Materialist began at long last to understand what Freud meant by projection and Buddha by maya. It became clear as vodka that whatever "reality" means philosophically, our everyday experience (the common-sense definition of "reality") is almost entirely self-programmed. This cinematic editing occurs so rapidly that we are normally not aware of doing it; thus we add many things that aren't there at all (Freud's projection) and leave out millions of things that are there (Freud's censorship). Confusing the finished product with an accurate reflection of externality is exactly what Buddha meant when he said normal consciousness is delusion (maya). One soon discovered that pot could be a tool by which one might adjust the nervous system as casually as one adjusts the picture on a TV set. I had achieved what the semanticist Korzybski calls "consciousness of abstracting," awareness of the usually-unconscious mechanism by which each of us makes the world over in his/her own image. The Neurologician now took up yoga, quite unmystically and with hardly a grain of piety. I understood that yogic training—whatever else it might comprise—is a method of freeing the nervous system from conditioned perception. Combining pot and yoga, I quickly demonstrated to myself by direct experience that the nervous system can be freed from virtually every perception and reflex that makes up our ordinary spectrum of possibility. Our old friend, Alan Watts, a most skeptical theologian and experimental mystic, was doing similar research in those years, and coming to similar conclusions. During one of his visits to Chicago, he said to another Playboy editor, "But, my dear man, reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know." Alas, to those who haven't done the research personally on a neurological level, this is hardly comprehensible; the editor remained cynical. Later Paul Krassner, editor of The Realist, put the same thought more colorfully: "Reality is silly-putty." Those without direct experience could not understand; they quickly concluded that a certain segment of the intelligentsia was going mad... This is why pot-heads develop a certain inevitable alienation from society. They begin to feel like one-eyed men in the Kingdom of the Blind.
One way to double your practical intelligence (awareness of detail) is to try to receive as many signals as possible from other humans, however wrong-headed their reality-map may seem, however dumb or boring they might sound at first. Our usual habit of screening out all human signals not immediately compatible with our own favorite reality-map is the mechanism which keeps us all far stupider than we should be.
The first law of Discordianism: "Convictions cause convicts." Whatever you believe imprisons you.
The Skeptic has made it a point to read one or two periodicals every month put out by some political or religious group he despises, just to see what sort of signals are being screened out by his habitual reality-maps. It is most educational. (Aleister Crowley and Bertrand Russell, respectively the outstanding mystic and the outstanding rationalist of the 20th Century, have also recommended this practice. It is one of the best ways to discover how Nasrudin's donkey—the self-metaprogrammer—works.
The Crowleyan system, very briefly, is a synthesis of three elements: 1. Western occultism. The secret "illuminated" teaching out of 19th century Rosicrucianism, possibly going back through Renaissance magick societies, medieval witchcraft, the Knights Templar, European Sufis, etc., to Gnosticism, and thence back possibly to the Eleusinian Mysteries and Egyptian cults. Basically, as Crowley says, this method consists of dangerous "physiological experiments"—using ritual, sometimes drugs, sometimes sex, to jolt the nervous system into "higher" functioning (new neurological circuits). 2. Eastern yoga, including meditation plus physical exercises to make meditation easier and more natural. Another system of activating higher circuits. 3. Modern scientific method. Crowley taught total skepticism about all results obtained, the keeping of careful objective records of each "experiment," and detached philosophical analysis after each stage of increased awareness. It is this synthesis of Eastern and Western occult traditions with modern scientific method that is probably Crowley's major achievement. His notorious anti-Christian philosophy—a blend of Nietzschean Supermanism and anarchofascist Darwinism—is quite distinct from his methodology. Whether you like that philosophy or not (and the Libertarian does not), you can still use the methodology of research Crowley devised.
The only reason most people remain in the same jobs, the same towns, the same belief-systems, year after year, decade after decade, is, of course, that cultural conditioning, in every tribe, is a process of gradually narrowing your tunnelreality. The way to stay young (comparatively; until the longevity Pill is discovered) is to make a quantum jump every so often and land yourself in a new reality-matrix.
In every tribe there are occasional shamans who are prone to visions and illuminations. These shamans usually begin having their visions during or right after a prolonged illness which nearly kills them. After recovery, the shaman has odd psychic abilities— "wild talents," as Charles Fort said. The whole process can be condensed to the formula, near-death plus "rebirth"on a higher level. In the course of my investigations, I have undergone a number of occult initiations and have become aware of the basic similarity of such rituals in all traditions. This is the pattern of death-rebirth which even today appears symbolically in the Roman Catholic Mass and the Masonic "raising" ceremony. The Investigator is betraying no secret when we say that, in serious occult orders, such performances are not mere rituals but real ordeals. Insofar as possible within the law, the candidate is often brought to a state of terror similar to the emergency condition of the nervous system in neardeath crises. What occurs then, and is experienced as rebirth, is a quantum jump in neurological awareness. In Leary's terminology, new circuits are formed and imprinted. Obviously, the first shamans had no teachers; they simply went through the illness-rebirth transition accidentally, as it were. Later, schools of shamans developed techniques (psychedelics, rituals of terror, yoga, etc.) to catapult the student into such experience. In most of these schools there is great reliance on an entity or entities of superhuman nature who aid in the initiatory process, sometimes for years. ("A real initiation never ends," Crowley said once.)
Tunnel-Realities and Imprints
The four evolving future "brains" are:
V. The neurosomatic circuit. When this fifth "bodybrain" is activated, flat Euclidean figure-ground configurations explode multi-dimensionally. Gestalts shift, in McLuhan's terms, from linear visual space to all-encompassing sensory space. A hedonic turn-on occurs, a rapturous amusement, a detachment from the previously compulsive mechanism of the first four circuits. I turned this circuit on with pot and Tantra.
VI. The neuroelectric circuit. The sixth brain consists of the nervous system becoming aware of itself apart from imprinted gravitational reality-maps (circuits I-IV) and even apart from body-rapture (circuit V). Count Korzybski, the semanticist, called this state "consciousness of abstracting." Dr. John Lilly calls it "metaprogramming," i.e., awareness of programming one's programming. This Einsteinian, relativistic contelligence (consciousness-intelligence) recognizes, for instance, that the Euclidean, Newtonian and Aristotelian realitymaps are just three among billions of possible programs or models for experience. I turned this circuit on with Peyote, LSD and Crowley's "magick" metaprograms. The characteristics of the neuroelectric circuit are high velocity, multiple choice, relativity, and the fission-fusion of all perceptions into parallel science-fiction universes of alternate possibihties. The mammalian politics which monitor power struggles among terrestrial humanity are here transcended, i.e., seen as static, artificial, an elaborate charade. One is neither coercively manipulated into another's territorial reality nor forced to struggle against it with reciprocal emotional game-playing (the usual soap-opera dramatics). One simply elects, consciously, whether or not to share the other's reality-model.
VII. The neurogenetic circuit. The seventh brain kicks into action when the nervous system begins to receive signals from within the individual neuron, from the DNA-RNA dialogue. The first to achieve this mutation spoke of "memories of past lives," "reincarnation," "immortality," etc. That these adepts were recording something real is indicated by the fact that many of them (especially Hindus and Sufis) gave marvelously accurately poetic vistas of evolution 1,000 or 2,000 years before Darwin, and foresaw Superhumanity before Nietzsche. The "akashic records" of Theosophy, the "collective unconscious" of Jung, the "phylogenetic unconscious" of Grof and Ring, are three modern metaphors for this circuit.
VIII. The neuro-atomic circuit. Hold on to your hats and breathe deeply—this is the farthest-out that human intelligence has yet ventured: Consciousness probably precedes the biological unit or DNA tape-loop. "Out-of-body experiences," "astral projection," contact with alien (extraterrestrial?) "entities" or with a galactic Overmind, etc., such as I've experienced, have all been reported for thousands of years, not merely by the ignorant, the superstitious, the gullible, but often by the finest minds among us (Socrates, Giordano Bruno, Edison, Buckminster Fuller, etc.) When the nervous system is turned on to this quantumlevel circuit, space-time is obliterated. Einstein's speed-of-light barrier is transcended; in Dr. Sarfatti's metaphor, we escape "electromagnetic chauvinism." The contelligence within the quantum projection booth is the entire cosmic "brain," just as the micro-miniaturized DNA helix is the local brain guiding planetary evolution. As Lao-tse said from his own Circuit V I I I perspective, "The greatest is within the smallest." Circuit VIII is triggered by Ketamine, a neuro-chemical researched by Dr. John Lilly, which is also (according to a wide-spread but unconfirmed rumor) given to astronauts to prepare them for space. High doses of LSD also produce some circuit VIII quantum awareness.
What do you do, Dr. Leary, when somebody keeps giving you negative energy?" Tim grinned that special grin of his that so annoys all his critics. "Come back with all the positive energy you have," he said.