UPDATE APRIL 3RD////cleaned up what I had posted and trimmed 2k words off....here is the final version of the talk I gave yesterday/////
[[this is definitely more exploration than theory, or god forbid a solution to anyone else’s theory necessarily (pause for audience laughter) and I at least tried to significantly edit down the much heavier use of neuroterminology this paper originally utilized but I probably still use an obnoxious amount of acronyms in order to streamline...should’ve made handouts. This actually interlocks in some interesting ways with the previous talk, here goes...//////
In Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy, the title refers to a category-theoretical approach to theology that attempts cross-modal alignments of spiritual thought in order to root out structural and metaphysical similarities. Also extensively outlined by Joseph Campbell in his cycle of works known as the Monomyth, this comparison-process has even been taken as a mode of spirituality in itself, leading to many variations including such esoteric philosophies as gnosticism or theosophy that are themselves merely elaborations of these processes of syncretism. These works of comparative religion map an organization of many disparate spiritual threads that when linked to a historical account of each tradition's formation, schisms, and evolutions expose a remarkable set of commonalities. While researching methods of fine-tuning this approach I was struck particularly by the fact that these commonalities roughly outlined the set of practices often termed mysticism. An underground of highly idiosyncratic revolts against the individual practitioner's culture and ideology, mysticism universalizes a rebellion of nature and knowledge against authority, privilege, and dogma – this thread seems to spontaneously emerge anywhere cultural repression and stagnation is found and exhibits extreme similarities regardless of the conceptual, spatial, or temporal distance between origins and practitioners. In this talk I hope to present an opening case for mysticism to be naturalized as not an ideology or subset thereof, but rather an unorganised umbrella term for a set of experimental methods of which a major function seems to be to inject noise into certain types of networks and models to systematically test for stability and recalibrate relationships toward and among them. These types include, at least, social and neural networks; the self- and world-models.
In order to place mysticism in an empirical light, consideration of a neuroscientifically-sound infrastructure is imperative. Not only is it necessary to examine the cognitive substrate, but even when all we ever speak of is hallucination or belief, we can with ease re-frame the entirety of the work in terms of common hallucination, common neural effects, common patterns of neural activation. Whether or not the sum total of the field known as mysticism is entirely a fiction produced by the brain in psychosis in fact matters little in a study of why and how the brain would or could produce the phantasmic displays that are the hallmark of the mystical experience and what that means for thought as a tool, while this adjustment of depth has also drawn the metafictional eyes of such creators as Borges and Bill Burroughs, Jim Jarmusch and James Joyce toward this intersection of theology and neuroscience as the ability and motives for parsing the real from the virtual; and intentionally riding, obscuring, or breaking that boundary in a creative or imaginative action become recurrent themes in the kind of thought under the microscope, potentially opening a great deal of room for novel psychoanalytic and artistic approaches to cognition. Dismantling some preconceived notions and glossing over some important features of the brain will lead into an examination of a tool of marked importance in bridging these gaps, psilocybin mushrooms, as current psilocybin research profoundly illuminates the possibilities of altered states of consciousness.
Phenoumenological reports throughout history reflect the tight parallels between these various states, from nuns in the Dark Ages and ancient Indian monastics to postmodern philosophers and psychonauts to the chemical sages of the sixties. The overwhelming breadth of similarity across experiences and traditions is the source material for literally hundredsof books and papers, so in the interest of brevity I will refrain from a philology of reports, rather sketching a neurological demonstration of the extent of the simulational capabilities of the brain.
//“Something he’d found and lost so many times. It belonged, he knew – he remembered – as she pulled him down, to the meat, the flesh the cowboys mocked. It was a vast thing, beyond knowing, a sea of information coded in spiral and pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind way, could ever read.” -William Gibson, Neuromancer//
Descartes wrote prolifically on the pineal gland, referring to it with the florid title “the principal seat of the rational soul”, the sensus communis, and making several assumptions and speculations about its function as the pivot point, the fulcrum, between the mind and the body. Despite his inaccuracy even in light of the study of the brain in the 1600s, these assumptions have plagued and dogged both mystical and theoretical thinking ever since, having the side-effect of obscuring simpler solutions to the problem of consciousness in a few hundred years of misguided dualism. Descartes inability to find any other brain component that was not “double” led him to believe that the pineal gland was the point at which the split perceptions of the paired nostrils, eyes, and ears were unified with the blood from the body - the place where thought was formed from the “pneumatic pressure” of the incoming unifications of external senses flowing into the gland.
In Descartes' description of the role of the pineal gland, the pattern in which the animal spirits flow from the pineal gland was a crucial notion. His explanation of perception relied on the idea that the nerves are hollow tubes filled with animal spirits. He suggested that they contain small fibers or threads which connect the sense organs with valves in the walls of the ventricles of the brain. When the sensory organs are stimulated, parts of them are set in motion. These parts then begin to pull on the small fibers in the nerves, with the result that the valves with which these fibers are connected are pulled open, some of the animal spirits in the pressurized ventricles escape, and imprint images of the sensory stimulus on the surface of the pineal gland. The modern student of neurobiology would immediately recognize these proposed functions as, in fact, primitive conceptualizations of the functions of the thalamus.
The thalamus may be thought of as a kind of central hub of information that acts as a relay between different subcortical areas and the cerebral cortex. In particular, every sensory system (with the exception of the olfactory system) includes a thalamic nucleus that receives sensory signals and sends them to the associated cortical area. For the visual system, for example, inputs from the retina are sent to the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus, which in turn projects to the visual cortex. Each of these sensory relay areas receive strong feedback connections from the cerebral cortex: in the thalamus one finds extraordinarily short routes from anywhere in the brain to anywhere else.
In other words, in an esoteric line of thought based on correspondences with the procreative process, the “egg” (thalamus) is continually being “seeded” or “fertilised” by incoming signal, growing rhizomic patterns of thought and motion that reflect off the cortex, re-seeding the egg. This feedback looping reentrant re-generative re-creation in the thalamus is the true pinion, the mirroring axis at the zero-point of consciousness between the External and the Inner worlds. So not only is the thalamus the major sensory and motor relay nucleus in the brain; it is our “central control box” and is our interface with the reality around us. In other words, it acts like a hub of a wheel. When any part of the neocortex – one “spoke” of the “wheel” – communicates with another; it does so via the thalamus – being the centre of the sphere. If there were anything in the physical body that could represent the centre of consciousness referred to by concepts like soul or mind, it would be the ephemeral and transient electrochemical output of the thalamus at the centre of the brain.
The thalamus is in a unique position to not only perform these intensive sorting and organizing computations on incoming signal and respond to high-level cognitive feedback, but also to engage features of the hypothalamus’ regulation of the endocrine system. A particular feature that, to a great extent, seems to contribute to the pineal gland’s notoriety among the fringe, is the role of the pineal gland in sleep cycles and certain circadian rhythms. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is a zone of neurons situated directly above the optic chiasm, the X-shaped structure formed at the point where the two optic nerves cross over each other. When environmental light levels change, this information is relayed throughout the SCN, the SCN transmits this information to the hypothalamus, which in turn modifies the activity of the endocrine system, particularly in the generation of melatonin. This synthesis of melatonin out of stored serotonin in the pineal gland is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light, entraining its rhythm to the 24-hour cycle in nature. Many aspects of mammalian behavior and physiology show circadian rhythmicity, including sleep, physical activity, alertness, hormone levels, body temperature, immune function, and digestive activity. The SCN coordinates these rhythms across the body by synchronizing "slave oscillators" of hormone and neurotransmitter release.
The outer cortical layer of the brain, the "Default Mode Network" (DMN), is the part of the brain concerned with self-reference and introspection, the subjective perspective. So-named in reference to the “default” resting mode of the brain, the DMN is a system that is active during times of passive inactivity, day-dreaming, and during the accessing of autobiographical information and reflection on current emotional states - whether these be one’s own emotions or during the consideration of others’ emotions. Moral reasoning, social evaluations and categorizations, imagining the future and detailed memory recall of the past, and narrative comprehension are all activities that typically result in DMN activation.
Studies have shown that the default mode network becomes activated within fractions of a second after subjects finish a task, and deactivates during external goal-oriented tasks such as visual attention or working memory “global workbench” tasks, thus leading some to label the network as task-negative. On the other hand, the “Task-Positive Network” (TPN) of the brain is a system of regions that activate in the face of a task or event requiring active awareness. During performance of attention-intensive tasks, structures comprising the task-positive network are characterized by activation. In contrast, default mode network structures are characterized by decreased activity. In normal waking consciousness these networks are competitive in metabolic terms: when one turns up, the other turns down. However, when the tasks are external goal-oriented tasks that are known to be a role of the DMN, such as social working memory or an autobiographical task, the DMN is positively activated with the task and correlates with other networks such as those that drive the executive functions (also known as cognitive control and the supervisory attentional system), which are terms for the regulation and control of cognitive processes, including working memory, reasoning, flexibility, and problem solving, planning and execution.
That thalamocortical neuronal projections terminate in the outer cortical layer (also known as Layer V) before being reflected back into the thalamus in feedbacking control loops symbolically solidifies the DMN as a kind of mirror in which the thalamus perceives itself and its incoming signal, using this perception to stage adjustments to signal-reception and distribution. It is this universe of self-reflective functionality that leads the DMN to be considered analogous to the ego.
Some time ago, Walsh (2003a,b) proposed in a theory of magnitude (ATOM) that commonalities between time, space, number, size, speed and other magnitudes were to be found in the parietal cortex because of the need to learn about the environment through motor interactions and therefore to encode these variables for action. The major points and predictions of ATOM take aim at, and the vast depth of research agrees with, the suggestion that different magnitudes originated from a single developmental algorithm for more than–less than|closer-further away distinctions of any kind of stuff in the external world. The development of magnitude processing proceeds by interactions with the environment and is therefore closely linked with the motor reaching, grasping and manipulating of objects. It was further suggested that the emergence of our ability to manipulate discrete quantities evolved from our abilities with the perception of continuous quantities.
//Philosophy’s first gesture, following Sellars, is to disturb the apparent natural equilibrial balance between the subject and the world and by doing so, bring about the possibility of differentiating reality from the world of appearances. -Reza Negarestani, What Philosophy Does to the Mind//
When we, later in life, learn about number, the neurons with capacity to represent quantity are those that have information about the continuous variables learned about motorically. Thus, the neuronal scaling mechanisms used for dimensions with action-relevant magnitude information will be co-opted in development for the scaling of number.
//Mathematical form is the first reflection and most pure image of our subjective activity. Then follows number, having a close relation to linear conception. Hence mathematical form with number supplies the fittest system of symbols for orderly representation of the spiritual evolution of life, plane after plane. Or, as Philo says, “Number is the mediator between the corporeal and the incorporeal.” - Betts, Geometrical Psychology//
It is an interesting set of speculations that arise from the possibility that intensity may be one of the aforementioned magnitudes. We could then consider the fact that the amygdala responds to the intensity of emotional stimuli regardless of whether we feel them to be positive or negative, thus driving the amplitude of the thalamic output signal and allowing us to begin to construct a model of Thalamocortical Oscillation (TCO).
Interwoven in this proto-cybernetic module-mesh of systems inside systems on networks inside of networks, sensorial and cognitive signaling is restricted to DMN-mediated channels by an equally complex array of hubs that also function as filters of which the thalamus is the largest and first in the signal chain, situated as it is on top of the brainstem and in the primary loci of the network. Forming a second tier of interorganisational mapping, the outer layer of the thalamus, known as the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), plays a pivotal role in dynamic attention by controlling the synchronization of thalamic output. The TRN is thus viewed as an additional networking filter that regulates what incoming information rises to conscious perception and attention. One could say that each incoming connection projects a kind of topographic map onto the TRN, and these are coarsely overlapped to form cross-modal or unitary conscious awareness. As the higher-order relay signals from the associated cortices run cumulatively through the relevant thalamocortical loops, conscious awareness becomes more refined and sophisticated. The longer one attends to an object of thought, the more detailed its mapping - regardless of depth of the feeling of insight.
TCO is loosely defined as the manifold high-dimensional path that neurochemical signaling takes from sensory input collation, synchronization, and distribution by the thalamus to higher cognitive processing, representation, and feedback in the cortex, in addition to the frequency at which this path is stimulated by thalamic output measured in cycles per second. TCO frequency is roughly correlative to the wakefulness and mood of the entity, with low frequency oscillations diving down through relaxation to hypnagogic states and finally unconscious states like sleep; and higher frequencies more associated with active task-oriented focus and anxiety. The path the signal takes is restricted by the top-down constraints imposed by the default network and the bottom-up inhibitory restrictions of the TRN and these two systems' combined attentional navigation of any number of high-dimensional neuronal maps that represent the active sensory stimulation, short-term memory, instincts, enculturation, and education of the subject as heterarchical supervening tiers overlaying but functionally distinct from the near-infinitely enfolded strata of raw sensory data encoded in deep memory. All the thalamic pathways in fact constitute a unified and cyclic oscillatory circuit that is topographically organized, and the brain is made up of several subcomponents that operate as oscillators injecting energy into this incredibly complex waveform at various points in the signal chain. The harmonic linkage - the synchrony - of these oscillators (that are roughly defined as any neural network that exhibits defined synchrony among its constituent neurons) with the driving feedback-wave of the DMN is both modulated and synchronized through the thalamus and particularly by the self-referential enclosed feedback and feedforward monitoring of the TRN. The strength of the TCO signal seems to be dependent upon the strength of the amygdala’s measurement of and subsequent oscillation upon the primary input signal, with many types of disorders stemming directly from perturbations of this process.
Several types of input, chemical and otherwise, are notable for their ability to drive or perturb the stable state of Default Mode-modulated awareness.This is expressed in the form of an amplification of amygdalic signal strength combined with the simulation of multiple geometric perspectives on the neuronal representations of the object or event in these states, via the bifurcation of the reticular nuclei's synchronizing function that if maintained progressively deepens an interruption of external reality with dreamlike components that are essentially fragments of memories and stored symbolism related to concepts and objects under perceptual consideration. The Eastern conception of "observing the observer" is realized in the form of a breaking free of a discrete thalamocortical circuit that observes or represents the main circuit and attempts to track it. Further bifurcation is expressed in "tracers" and the recursion of selves in the hallucination as each bifurcation tracks the one before it. The majority of these inputs and programs can be overdriven to the point of collapsing the unifying functioning of the DMN, which is marked as the point of disconnection or ego death - at which stage these various oscillators break free of modulation by the driving wave, reset to zero, and subsequently individually home in on the most energy-efficient local driver - generally the strongest periodic environmental stimuli. Music, art, significant and insignificant objects or entities alike, environmental and social cues of all kinds and even individual thoughts that arise of their own accord can pointedly and commandingly "snap" attention onto themselves and forcefully drive heavily-ramifying, fast-bifurcating mental activity. In other words one might consider this the true meaning and expression of a) imagination: immersive multidimensional volitional projection of stored neural content into active, attentional, felt-sensory space; and b) enlightenment: the ongoing process of modulating the self-circuit to match the world-circuit in terms of thalamocortical representations of each being geometrically aligned in their projection onto the reticular nuclei. This knowledge seems to freshly illuminate the infamous Terence McKenna trope "5 grams in silent darkness," suggesting that McKenna was offering up a blueprint for a psychedelic harmonization with a sensory-null environment, a harmonization with Nothing. //The void-plane touched at zero-intensity// as Nick Land describes it, wherein the typical awareness of self is cognitively lost in darkness and the dreamlike fragments of perception that obscure and overcode external reality are themselves of darkness, of nothing – generating a completely clear field for this projection.
Using these facts, one could classify the world-simulation of a subject, external shared consensus reality, as a map of all calculations the brain has actually engaged in or anticipates during waking states, or every path thalamic signalling has ever taken, regardless of the symbolic meaning of the calculations. The mythological concept “underworld” or the psychoanalytic concept “unconscious”, then, is the total phase space of simulational possibility, expressed in terms of the set of every possible combination of neuronal and synaptic activation and synchrony, even those that are highly unlikely. This is in a non-trivial sense analogous in a way to what Quentin Meillasoux calls “Hyperchaos” or what some called Brahma and generates the foundational components necessary to sharpen understanding of such types of experience as dreaming, hallucination, schizophrenia, or even astral travel as various methods or experiences of bringing non-conscious signalling into conscious attention. The Jungian archetypes, going deeper, could then be theoretically mapped as dynamic phase spaces, vectors, steady states, circuits, or transformations of and within this waveform system, potentially leading to a sort of Archetypal Category Theory or even a Homotopy Archetype Theory forged in the complex graph-network-topological neural geometry offered by the brain via thalamic projection and oscillation.
Through observing the effects of psilocybin, whose molecular structure is nearly identical to serotonin, we discover that these hub/filter structures are progressively relaxed by these chemicals, wherein they cease directing and filtering sensory input and reflection on these inputs into the "proper" channels for basic cognition and begin distributing the signals more freely, triggering various types of constructive synesthetic responses - responses in which a stacking of a single perceptual quality occurs across multiple sensory cortexes, giving an innate awareness of the novel condition, as in the sudden simultaneous hearing, tasting, and smelling of red. Conversely, physical and psychological stress and sickness cause the body to release cortisol and adrenaline (both interfere with serotonin uptake) which in exceptional cases can trigger a strangely mirrored version of synesthesia, an improper signaling pattern leading to what I’ve elsewhere termed ‘constrictive synesthesia’, wherein the subject can no longer successfully interpret incoming signals due to their being diverted from their usual paths into “inappropriate” regions, splintering or fracturing, or being washed out by transient noise in the system. This results in a confusing and disorienting blurring and interference between and of the senses as it is precisely in the synchrony of neural firing that we find the cohesive binding of disparate signals into the Here and Now. Several major types of "system-overlap" are common in these states, such as the well-known five senses in nearly any combination, sensorial representations of active self-reflection, emotion, memory and the sense of time, facial recognition and spatial awareness, even the sense of intensity - with innocuous objects being treated with vast symbolic relevance, or sentimental objects being completely drained of meaning.
Anecdotal evidence across mystical and psychedelic literature combined with personal research suggests to me that the amount of visual brightness or light or color intensity triggered by a perception in these states may be correlative to the novelty of a signal pattern. My theory is that the truly novel perception or set of perceptions, when diverted through the memory in the synesthetic state, triggers a neuronal map of representations that include the sun, as the "tutelary genius of universal vegetation" is the most easily "visualized" common symbol of an origin or first cause. This causes incredibly intense glowing patterns, intensified further by progressively novel insights as perceptions increasingly ramify. As the visionary state deepens, this trajectory of expansion continues as a buildup of symbolism from whatever myth and religion is most represented in memory becomes activated in the thoughtstream as if the memory and the DMN collaborate in an attempt to integrate this new experience by comparison, starting at the "beginning", the least energy-intensive, or the subject’s most basic foundational conceptions - as if the search for any way to represent the new stimuli patterns in active consciousness came up linguistically and logically empty, forcing the growth of utterly novel symbolic representations generated from fragments of stored symbolism. This could explain why visions of god, angels, aliens, infernals, and all manner of oddities show up even in primitive stages of these experiences, often seeming to perceptibly connect primary sensorial components with the mythological convictions held by the subject. Conversely, the perceptible blackening or blurring of perceptions within (at least) the audiovisual field in these modes of non-ordinary reality, while sometimes being accidentally perceived as a feature of the object or representation in question or a defect of perception itself, seems to be representative of the distance between perception and reflection, i.e.: how much “signal decay” or filtering occurs between direct sense input and attentive perception. While this in no way gives novel information to the subject, it freely exposes the dimensions of the rift between Thought and Being. As this rift is immeasurably vast, the warpings and wildings of perception in even the lowest regions of the psychedelic state are just as vast.
The marvels and mundanities of existence become equally wondrous or fearful in these states because they do not automatically get swept into pre-formed ontologies and channels of thought. This often gives the impression that everything around is equally profound or worthy of reverence. Unlike subjects suffering from psychotic or psychophysical disorders, however, subjects who experience drug-induced synesthesia can often immediately recognize the nonphysical nature of their perceptual disturbances with a rudimentary application of attention, which I posit stems from the constructivity of this variety of synesthesia. That individual phenomenal properties -move together- give the lie to perceptions that span multiple senses, and give us a system of comparison to tell false perceptions from true. When the signaling is constricted, erratic, or when two signals interfere with one another there seems to be a much greater difficulty in assessing the subjective nature of these hallucinations. At many levels of the psychedelic experience each individual sensory input is perceived as a separate “channel” and their collation into ordinary reality itself is also perceived as its own individual channel. Without this knowledge, the many strands and strings of inputs are often seen simply as beautiful chaos.
//We now know that only a fraction of the estimated 38,000 trillion operations per second processed by the brain finds its way to consciousness. This means that experience, all experience, is profoundly privative, a simplistic caricature of otherwise breathtakingly complex processes...The metabolic costs associated with neural processing and the sheer evolutionary youth of human consciousness suggest that experience should be severely blinkered: synoptic or ‘low resolution’ in some respects, perhaps, but thoroughly fictitious otherwise. - RS Bakker, 3lb. Brain//
This basic pendular interplay between polarities of blackening and brightening, between continuous and discrete, between equilibrium and disturbance, generates two major effects that are explicated in great detail in several reports that expose the singularity of the psychedelic and the mystical. One, as everything seems to become altered in some way, a fear or anxiety about nothing being true or known occurs - the ungrounding; second, the subject feels an ecstatic feeling of awe at the true size and complexity of the mysterious. This second effect relaxes the first as a desire to understand that transcends the assumption of never understanding, but that these positions can freely overlap and shift also results in kaleidoscopic physical sensations and visual effects as the connections between the brain and the autonomic nervous system are assaulted with the electrochemical fallout of these extreme and vacillating emotions. In this stage is where the most frequent divergences into "bad trips" occur as the emotions and feelings evoked feel tremendously physical and seem to operate similar to feedback looping, wherein a phenomenal state 'speeds up' and deepens as it is focused upon.
Deeper into this chemical integration, a visual synthesis of a stored abstract view of human biology with the possibilities of non-existence develops that seems to be related to a de-linking or muting of self-reflective capabilities as the DMN begins to lose its top-down control over the memory and historical narrative. This combined synthesis/breakdown gives us a glimpse of the "intuitive mapping protocol" of memory and spatial determination, often seen as the classic visual geometry of the psychedelic. The visualisations caused by the emergence of usually unconscious processes into active cognition exposes the calculatory procedures that are used to construct the visible simulation of reality, and is equivalent to a set or stack of subjective wiring diagrams that is likely isomorphic with the topographical maps projected onto the reticular nuclei. When inner maps are overlaid on incoming sensation, these diagrams explicitly show how incorrectly we assimilate perceived data, as the geometry of accurate perception aligns with that of accurate cognitive interpretation or recognition, and the mystical state seems to be the set of practices that expose this internal balancing act itself to cognition. Realization of this stability-generating mechanism is felt first in connection with the conceptualised difference between external things and the inner sphere, and if sustained is gradually perceived more and more as the point of balance between the world-model and self-model. This balance comes to be aligned with attention as one naturally finds themselves working through repetition of a homotopic process of unifying transits, until finally a concept comparable to the undifferentiated Truth of Spinozan Substance is perceived as the only possible reality. These processes can be tracked to a high degree and in fact lend themselves to this tracking, as not only do they seem to generate a kind of gravity like a strange attractor but they can also be profoundly beautiful and otherworldly, and thus draw the attention away from the individual self-model and toward this intuitive apperception of continuity with the world-model.
Imagining the visual cortex as a screen and perception as the video source, we can trace the buildup of perceptual feedback in a monotonic fashion in order to both remain aware of shared reality and follow this progression of ramification and bifurcation toward the near-infinite variety of sense data that is generally filtered out by active consciousness. Huxley's Pure Interval, is in this regard, analogous to the attention inhabiting the position within this visual feedback loop where all incoming perceptions and internal images are "in phase" with each other and stable in all perceivable dimensions, which seems to have the effect of fully unleashing totalized memory output into the thoughtstream, temporarily overcoding the solitary self-model with sensory representations of the isomorphisms between the self and the world. At this moment of self-loss, a seemingly supra-physical, sensorially apparent, boundary is crossed and every sense input in addition to the thought stream are activated in every component structure of the physical brain and synesthesia becomes effectively maximal. Whether virtual or actual, every point in the brain becomes electrochemically connected to every other point in the brain, a dynamic synchrony slaved to incoming sensation which seems to posit a middle way between free will and determinism. This experience is often recalled as a feeling of connectedness to all lifeforms, of "everything is everything" - a complete breakdown of the subject-object dynamic as the vast array and complexity of the sense-stream merges with the thoughtstream and completely overwhelms any ability to recognize the Self. Suddenly, input and output are perceived simultaneously across all senses. When this barrier has been passed, the subject ceases to perceive images from the exterior world, being left only with their symbolic representations. According to Julius Evola, //if one is able to orient at all without the direct support of these images, they will find themselves in a state of reverie, and then in the dream state, in which the energization of the imaginary activity, dissociated from the external senses, is accompanied by further reduction and emptying of consciousness of Self…when that alienation increases…consciousness is abolished. Farther beyond lie trance, lethargy, and the cataleptic state. Farther still, when the separation is complete, one enters into a state of apparent death.//
A number of normally autonomous brain networks become essentially continuous under the influence of serotonin or psilocybin not by virtue of their being brought to a defined or definable state of action, but by flattening the pendular motion between the two larger arrays, effectively bringing them together into a synchronized unit. We see the principle of the 2nd law of thermodynamics in an expansion toward entropy – as Robin Carhart-Harris says, //in a way, we have a model of brain death in the psychedelic state.//
//...only a non-trivial and systematic account of synthesis between local and contingently posited contexts of the meaningless sign can asymptotically reconstruct the scope of the free sign. The eternal, in the same vein, must be thought through schemata by which it expresses itself in one way or another. A comprehensive combination of these schemata constitutes the map of indivisible nature. The map in turn brings into focus general approaches, perspectives, and navigational schemes by which it can be comprehensively examined. In other words, the map provides us with alternative navigational schemes through which the eternal in all its modes can be asymptotically approached. -Reza, Figure of the Cyclone//
The labyrinth archetype, an oft-utilized metaphor for being lost in the hyper-intricate sum total of self and life was frequently invoked in the work of Jorge Luis Borges, notably in the short story Library of Babel. Borges writes //The mystics claim that their ecstasy reveals to them a circular chamber containing a great circular book, whose spine is continuous and which follows the complete circle of the walls; but their testimony is suspect; their words, obscure. This cyclical book is God. Let it suffice now for me to repeat the classic dictum: The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.// Within the recording|reflective structure of the brain, the acknowledgement of the simulation as infinite, and of the direct perception of this infinitude as interchangeable with the mystic's revelations of God. The direct somatic experience of the perceptual paradoxa of the logical possibilities in “the simulation of an impossible perspective.”
This story is a topopoetic revelation of what is known to the Buddhists as samadhi or satori, terms for the cessation of subject/object|time/eternity dualisms which coincides sharply with the deactivation or destabilization of the default mode’s interjection into the synchronisation function of the thalamus - the sudden disappearance of the walls of the labyrinth as perspective explodes onto an //immanent self-experience, a no-body’s experience of no-thing (G. Catren)// for the first time is the mystic's opening glimpse of the lacerating and paradoxical fullness of ØEmptiness and initiation into what G. Catren calls the pleromatica, or the simultaneous navigation of the overlaid oceans of inner and outer existence. This can be achieved through many practices, from drugs to system shock and sickness to shikan taza or even the monotonic ritualized formalisms of mathematics, and forms a major milestone of spiritual practice as the phenomenological proof of the variability and decomposability of the boundaries between self and other, self and world, fiction and mind. While varying wildly in duration and content these experiences can be progressively sustained or amplified through repetitive and monotonic “conceptual or environmental droning” and focusing rituals such as certain arts and musics, mantras, yogas, and meditations. Zen, in fact seems to be an entire life-philosophy designed to teach one to achieve and maintain satori during all phases of life by strength of will alone.
A defining feature of the mystical experience that runs parallel to the loss of self is the loss of time, the strange amplification of time-sense, a Borgesian circular refutation that fractures the arrow of time into gravitational waves pulsing in/out from/toward the immanent field. When the disconnection occurs as a result of the acceleration or amplification of the oscillatory signal to a point of instability and collapse, the strobing high-speed fractalising of time-sense expressed in ecstatic conditions and states of heightened perception and effortless performance emerges. On the other hand the deceleration of input to the null state causes the thalamic frames of signal-synchronization to “hang” and widen to encompass more and more signal, leading to the standing-wave of total signal-saturation and experiences of timelessness, immanence, interpenetration, interconnection, and void - the nunc stans, the standing Now of Eternity. A secret among secrets is the simultaneity of maximised and minimised signal : both equally engender the seemingly paradoxical state of pure synchronisation of the internal with the external - the state of the self-model being coterminous with the world-model due to maximal signal-synchrony.
This is universally expressed as an experience of the death of the self-model or ego, a sustained breaking of the correlationist circle, and an immediate manifestation of the trappings of death in several powerfully analogous and metonymous forms, as death seems to be the most readily available, most powerful, and most distinctly coherent symbolic representation of the loss of self across literature, media, and history perhaps both despite and because of its ineffability. Such that when the self is cognitionally "lost" the entire death-symbolic memory repertoire activates, pressing an emergent idea of death and loss to the front of the imagination and forcing it to construct a conceptual representation that is then dumped unceremoniously into the senses. As the Self expects to feel the loss for and of itself, the expected sorrow of death never touches the Perception, having been split from the self-image. Instead, the feeling of hyperconnectedness via synesthetic response persists despite the perception of the death of the "I", lending it rather a significantly positive emotionally integrated component as the Perception is surprised and in awe of witnessing itself surviving a death-experience by virtue of remaining in this connected, aware state. In summation, one might suggest with some confidence that it is possible to neuronally simulate the bifurcation of perspective, such that one perspective may symbolically witness the “death” of another in simulated space.
In the image titled 'Infinity' William S. Burroughs used a system of mirror and collage to combine every photograph he had thus far taken into one image, crystallizing this concept of aligning mappings in a richly resonant, recursive, mirror-mandala. An essay titled Virtual Mirrors in Solid Time finds author Genesis P-Orridge analysing a set of artworks by mystic Austin Osman Spare and Burroughs’ longtime friend and collaborator Brion Gysin, judging the art to be “mystical oscillators”: objects crafted with the purpose of driving a desired mental state in a viewer. Art designed to trigger specific states of consciousness, transmitted via the open emotional conduit art generates in a receptive viewer. As much as the essay frames itself between magic and mysticism, the essay recursively reflects on unexplored details of the gap between art's emotional resonance and neuroscientific attempts to quantify such resonance. Beyond a simple affective reaction into the direct transmission of the encoded experience via highly compressed thoughtform-triggers, the essay itself is what is called an autocommentary - a commentary on a mystical treatise that is itself a mystical treatise - reflecting this triggering system back at itself and finding a spiralling harmonic resonance in the re-presentation of these art works that further entrenches and expands on the concepts under scrutiny. The concept in this case is the structural encoding of subjective experience into art - it tells a story about the way in which these works tell their stories. This metaprocess we believe mirrors the process of encoding sensory input into memory – a topological theory of axon guidance, a theory that the visionary artist's encoding of actual brain state information into a piece of art is significantly more dense or "complete" than any traditional models of art give it credit for, often approaching lossless transfer of a subjective moment with a precision that transcends even what we already expect from art.Art as a mode of rational thought that communicates technical details of the creative process itself. One might progress an idea of the archetype of the mirror: engaged whenever a work is a sufficiently authentic rendering, however symbolic, of the artist’s mental state: a braided biographical and symbolic authenticity that reflects the participant and organizes the art, both in terms of the act of its creation and the viewer’s participation, into a ritual form of time-independent entertwined meditation on the mental state being depicted. Burroughs’ photography was designed to trigger affectations of specific memories for himself, external memory storage that would emanate from - in a sense, be 'always on' - and become recursively sharpened by the object of art, a mirroring feedback loop that was effectively a reification process for memory, a cartobiographical extension of his experience. This “technology” is exceedingly reminiscent of the function of the ars memoriae made famous by Giordano Bruno. In both of their “recordings” evidence for this fracturing of attention into multiple points of entry into signal measurement that generates a multiharmonic/synaesthetic resonance with local environmental drivers - our speculation is that 'Infinity' was a recording of the self-less empty state of samadhi, an apparently conscious state of pure bifurcation into homogenous signal that is synonymous with entropy and brain-death, and was generated by a desire to create an energy-efficient recall method for this experience that is notoriously difficult to describe.