The Journal of
Cognitive Liberties

This article is from Vol. 2, Issue No. 1 pages 61-84 
All rights reserved worldwide.  ISSN: 1527-3946




Robert Anton Wilson

One of the greatest achievements of the human mind,
modern science, refuses to recognize the depths of its own
creativity, and has now reached the point in its development
where that very refusal blocks its further growth.
Modern physics screams at us that there
is no ultimate material reality and that
whatever it is we are describing,
the human mind cannot be parted from it.

—Roger Jones, Physics as Metaphor

If, as Colin Wilson says, most of history has been the history of crime, this is because humans have the ability to retreat from existential reality into that peculiar construct which they call The Real” Universe and I have been calling hypnosis. Any Platonic “Real” Universe is a model, an abstraction, which is comforting when we do not know what to do about the muddle of existential reality or ordinary experience. In this hypnosis, which is learned from others but then becomes self-induced, The “Real” Universe overwhelms us and large parts of existential, sensory-sensual experience are easily ignored, forgotten or repressed. The more totally we are hypnotized by The “Real” Universe, the more of existential experience we then edit out or blot out or blur into conformity with The “Real” Universe.

Concretely, the Violent Male—the extreme form of the Right Man1—edits out the suffering and pain he causes to others. That is only appearance and can be ignored. In The “Real” Universe, the victim is only one of Them—one of all the rotten bastards who have frustrated and mistreated the Right Man all his life. In existential reality, a large brutal male is beating a child; in The “Real” Universe of self-hypnosis, the Right Man is getting his just revenge on the oppressors who have abused him.

We have repeatedly employed Nietzsche’s metaphor in which existential reality is abysmal. In one dimension of meaning, this merely asserts that it is endless: the deeper you look into it, the more you see. It has the sense of infinity about it, whether or not it is topologically infinite in space-time.

The “Real” Universe—the model which has become experienced as the real universe—is, on the other hand, quite finite. It is compact and tidy, since it has been manufactured by discarding all the inconvenient parts of existential experience. This is why those self-hypnotized by a “Real” Universe of this sort can be so oblivious to the existential continuum around them. “How could a human being do something so cruel?” we sometimes ask in horror when an extreme Right Man is finally apprehended. The cruelty was “only” in the world of existential appearances; it does not exist in the edited and improved “Real” Universe of the Right Man. In The “Real” Universe, the Right Man is always Right.

The ghastly acceleration of violent, inexplicable and seemingly “pointless” crimes by Right Men in this century—and their hideous magnification into mass murders and war crimes by Right Men in governments—indicate the prevalence of this type of self-hypnosis and what Van Vogt calls “the inner horror” that accompanies it. This “inner horror” is a sense of total helplessness combined with the certainty of always being Right. It seems paradoxical, but the more totally Right a man becomes, the more helpless he also becomes. This is because being Right means “knowing” (gnosis) and “knowing” is understanding The “Real” Universe. Since The “Real” Universe is, by definition, “objective” and “outside us” and “not our creation,” we are made puny by it. We cannot act but only re-act—as The “Real” Universe pushes us, we push back. But it is bigger, so we will lose eventually. Our only defense is in being Right and fighting as dirty as possible.

This, I think, is in succinct form the philosophy of Adolph Hitler. It is the philosophy of the Marquis de Sade, and of any rapist or thug you can find in any prison in the world. Where Single Vision reigns—where The “Real” Universe is outside us and impersonal—this shadow-world of violence and horror follows in its wake.

This, probably, is why Nietzsche, who understood this pathology from within, raged against both the modeltheistic2 epistemology—denying The “Real” Universe entirely—and against what he called the Revenge motive. Even if The “Real” Universe were real, he said again and again, we could not know it, since all we know is the existential world of experience. Besides that, linguistic analysis indicates rather clearly that The “Real” Universe is our creation, made up of our metaphors and models. But his deepest attack goes at the psychology of The “Real” Universe and its connection to Revenge, and the disguises of Revenge. If a man feels overwhelmed by The “Real” Universe, he will seek to destroy what oppresses him. Since we cannot get at The “Real” Universe, revenge must be directed at symbolic targets in the existential continuum. The Will to Power—which Nietzsche held was essentially a will to self-overcoming: to neurological self-criticism in my terminology: to become more than one was—then becomes deflected into a Will to Destroy.

In the language of modern existentialist and humanist psychology, Nietzsche is describing the process by which we shirk responsibility. We seek revenge, but since we are only re-acting. The “Real” Universe made us do it. Any criminal will give you his own version of what Nietzsche is describing: “It was my mother’s fault.” “It was my father’s fault.” “Society was to blame.” “I wanted to get even with all those bastards.” “I couldn’t control myself; I just went haywire.” “They pushed too hard and I exploded.” Man as a re-active mechanism—the Materialist metaphor—is Man with a grudge. The most well-known, and probably the most typical, lines of verse of the twentieth century almost certainly are:

I, a stranger and afraid,

In a world I never made

This is the self-image of modern humanity: of the Right Man in particular, but also of masses of ordinary men and women who have internalized the Fundamentalist Materialist3 metaphor and made it the New Idol. Pessimism and rage are never far below the surface of most of the art of the Materialist age: the sad clowns of early Picasso—the frenzied monsters of his middle period—the defeated heroes and heroines of Hemingway and Sartre and Faulkner—the cosmic butcher shop of Bacon—the homicidal nightmare of such arch-typical films as Dead End and Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown—the bums and thugs and the endless succession of self-pitying and easily-defeated rebels in virtually all the novels and plays and films that claim to be Naturalistic—the music that has increasingly become less a melody and more a shriek of pain and rage—the apotheosis finally achieved by Beckett: man and woman in garbage cans along with the rest of the rubbish.

Adolph Hitler read Nietzsche, mistook the diagnosis for prescription, and proceeded to act out the worst of the scenarios Nietzsche could imagine, ironically incorporating precisely that nationalism and anti-semitism that Nietzsche most despised. The world looked on in horror, learned nothing, and decided Hitler was a “monster.” It remained hypnotized by the same materialistic biological determinism which, to Adolph, had justified both his self-pity and his revenge.

And so we stumble on toward a bigger Holocaust than the Nazis could imagine, complaining bitterly that it is “inevitable.” The “Real” Universe will not give us a chance.

When I speak of The “Real” Universe being created by self-hypnosis, I do not intend anything else but psychological literalness. In the hypnotized state, the existential “reality” around us is edited out and we go away to a kind of “Real” Universe created by the hypnotist. The reason that it is usually easy to induce hypnosis in humans is that we have a kind of “consciousness” that easily drifts away into such “Real” Universes rather than deal with existential muddle and doubt. Everybody tends to drift away in that fashion several times in an ordinary conversation, editing sound out at the ear like Bruner’s cat. As Colin Wilson points out, when we look at our watch, forget the time, and have to look again, it is because we have drifted off into a “Real” Universe again. We visit them all the time, but especially when existential concerns are painful or stressful.

Every “Real” Universe is easy to understand, because it is much simpler than the existential continuum. Theists, Nazis, Flat Earthers, etc. can explain their “Real” Universes as quickly as any Fundamentalist Materialist explains his, because of this simplicity of the edited object as contrasted with the complexity of the sensory-sensual continuum in which we live when awake (unhypnotized).

Being hypnotized by a “Real” Universe, we become more and more detached from the existential continuum, and are annoyed when it interferes with us.

“Real” Universes make us puny, however, because they are governed by Hard Laws and we are small compared to them. This is especially true of the Fundamentalist Materialist “Real” Universe, and explains the helplessness and apathy of materialist society. Vaguely, we know that we are hypnotized, and we do not even try to act anymore, but only re-act mechanically.

Since the criminal mentality derives from such hypnosis by a “Real” Universe and the helplessness and rage induced by such metaphors, the criminal becomes, more and more, the typical person of our age. When the “Real” Universe becomes politicized—when the hypnotic model is based on “Us”-versus-“Them” Aristotelian logic—the criminal graduates into the Terrorist, another increasingly typical product of the materialist era.

Against all this mechanized barbarism, existentialist psychology and humanist psychology—aided, perhaps not coincidentally, by the metaphors of quantum physics—suggests that other models of human existence are possible and thinkable and desirable.

In existentialist and humanist models—models influenced by the thought and experiments of researchers such as Maslow, Sullivan, Ames, Peris, Leary, Krippner, and many others—the human being is seen as both in-DIVIDE-ual and in-UNITE-ual, separated in some ways but connected with all things in other ways. How a human being experiences his or her world is not regarded as an immutable “fact” but as that human’s “interpretation,” perhaps learned from others, perhaps self-generated. The “Real” Universe is regarded as a model—a linguistic construct—and we are stuck with existential experience, which may or may not mesh with our favorite “Real” Universe.

According to existential-humanist psychology, where the materialist says I perceive,” it would be more correct to say “I am making a bet.” Concretely, in Ames’s cock-eyed room, we “make a bet” that we are seeing something familiar to us. If allowed into the room and asked to touch a corner of the ceiling with a pointer, we quickly discover the gamble in every act of perception. Typically, we hit almost everything but the corner in our first attempts—the walls, other parts of the ceiling, etc. A strange thing happens as we go on trying. Our perceptions change—we are making a new series of bets, one after another—and gradually we are able to find the corner we are aiming for.

The same sort of thing happens in any psychedelic drug experience, which is why existentialist-humanist models became more popular with psychologists after the 1960s. The same sort of thing, again, happens in meditation—clearing the mind of its habits—and that is why so many psychologists of this tradition have been involved in researching what happens, physiologically, to those who meditate.

When we return to the ordinary world of social interactions after such shocks as the cock-eyed room, LSD or meditation, we observe that the same processes are going on—people are making bets about which model fits best at a given time—but they are not aware of making bets. They are—it must be repeated—hypnotized by their models. If the models do not fit very well, they do not revise them but grow angry at the world—at experience—for being recalcitrant. Most typically, they find somebody to blame, as Nietzsche noted again and again.

Edmund Husserl, who was as important as Nietzsche in pioneering this kind of existential analysis, points out that, where in the materialist metaphor consciousness appears passive, once we recognize the gamble involved in every perception, consciousness appears very active indeed. Nobody is born a great pianist, or a quantum physicist, or a theologian, or a murderer: people have made themselves into those things by actively selecting what types of perception-gambles they will make habitual and what types of other experience they will edit out as irrelevant. It is no surprise, from this perspective, that the world contains Catholic reality-tunnels, Marxist reality-tunnels, musical reality-tunnels, materialist reality-tunnels, literary reality-tunnels, ad infin. It is a mild surprise, almost, that any two individuals can superimpose their reality-tunnels sufficiently to communicate at all.

This surprise vanishes when we remember that none of us was born and grew up in a vacuum. We are socialized as well as “personalized”—in-UNITE-uals as well as in-DIVIDE-uals. Even the most “creative” of us will be found, most of the time, “living” in a social reality-tunnel manufactured of elements which are, in some cases, thousands of years old: the very language we speak controls our perceptions (bets)—our sense of “possibility.”

Nonetheless, the process of socialization or acculturalization—the Game Rules by which Society imposes its group reality-tunnel on its members—is only statistically effective. Every individual seems to have a few eccentricities in her or his private reality-tunnel, even in totalitarian states or authoritarian churches. The alleged conformist—the typical “bank-clerk,” say—will reveal some astonishing creative acts in his or her private model, if you talk to such a person long enough.

In short, consciousness, in this model, is not a passive receptor but an active creator, busy every nanosecond in projecting the art work that is an individualized reality-tunnel and is usually hypnotically dreamed of as The “Real” Universe. This trance, in most cases, appears as deep as that of anybody professionally hypnotized to repress pain during surgery. The criminal—we return to this point to stress that these observations are not academic but urgently existential—repressed sympathy and charity just as “miraculously” as the patient repressed pain in the above example. We are not the victims of The “Real” Universe; we have created the particular “Real” Universe that we happen to dwell in.

This existentialist-humanist psychology thus comes around to the same conclusion as the majority of quantum physicists: whatever we are talking about, our mind has been its principle architect. “Nothing is real and everything is real” as Gribbin says. That is, in this model, nothing is absolutely real in the philosophical sense, and everything is experienced reality to those who believe in it and select it in their perception-gambles.

If we recognize some validity in these observations and try to “wake” ourselves from the hypnotic trance of modeltheism—if we try to recall, moment by moment, in an ordinary day that The “Real” Universe is only a model we have created and that existential living cannot be compressed into any model—we enter a new kind of consciousness. What Blake called “Single Vision” begins to expand into multiple vision—into conscious bet-making. The person then “sees abysses everywhere,” in Nietzsche’s deliberately startling metaphor. (Blake says it more soothingly when he speaks of perceiving “infinity in a grain of sand.”) 4 The world of living experience is not as finite, or static, or tidy, as the trance called The “Real” Universe. Like Godel’s Proof, it contains an infinite regress. In talking to another human being for two minutes, “I” experience and create dozens of gambles (reality-tunnels) but never fully know that person anymore than the quantum physicist “knows” if the electron “is” a wave, or a particle, or a “wavicle” (as has been suggested), or something created by our acts of seeking. The other person’s “mood” or “self”-at-the-moment, similarly, now seems friendly, now bored or unfriendly, now shifting too fast to be named, now something I have helped create by the act of seeking to tune in that person.

As the Buddhists say, the other person and indeed the whole continuum of experience now seems to “be” X and not-X and both X and not-X and neither X nor not-X. All that seems like relative certainty is that whatever I think I “know” about a person, or a whole world, is just my latest gamble.

One begins to perceive that there “are” at least two kinds of consciousness. (There seem to be many more.) In “ordinary consciousness” or hypnosis, models are considered The “Real” Universe and projected outside. In this state, we “are” modeltheists, Fundamentalists, and mechanical; all perceptions (gambles) are passive mechanical acts. We “unconsciously” (neurologically) edit and select bits of existential experience and admit them to The “Real” Universe only after they have been processed to accord with the “laws” of The “Real” Universe. Being mechanical and passive, we are also, or experience ourselves as, dominated by The “Real” Universe and pushed here and there by its brutal impersonality.

In this existentialist-humanist mode of consciousness, on the other hand, we “are” agnostic, and consciously recognize our models as our creations. In this state, we “are” model-relativists, “sophisticates” and actively creative; all perceptions (gambles) are actively known as gambles. We consciously seek to edit less and tune in more, and we look especially for events that do not neatly fit our model, since they will teach us to make a better model tomorrow, and an even better one the day after. We are not dominated by The “Real” Universe since we remember that the linguistic construct is just our latest gamble and we can make a better one quickly.

In the first, materialist mode of consciousness—as Timothy Leary says—we are like persons sitting passively before a TV set, complaining about the rubbish on the screen but unable to do anything but “endure” it. In the second, existentialist mode of consciousness, to continue Leary’s metaphors, we take responsibility for turning the dial and discover that there is not just one “show” available, that choice is possible. The tuned-in is not all of existence; it is only—the tuned-in.

To ask which mode of consciousness is “true,” after experiencing both, seems as pointless as asking whether light is “really” waves of particles, after seeing the two-hole experiment.

In fact, the emphasis on “choice” and “creativity” in existentialist-humanist psychology has an exact parallel in the two-hole experiment. Many physicists think the best metaphor to describe that experiment is to say that we “create” the wave or particle depending on which experimental set-up we “choose.”

The wave/particle complimentary seems to mirror the existential experience of consciousness even more closely when we examine it. The ordinary consciousness of the “self”—in the vernacular sense, with no technical philosophic doctrine implied—is much like a particle: “solid,” “isolated,” “real,” encapsulated by the skin and more or less static. When one becomes detached enough for neurological self-criticism—for revising models as one goes along—the “self” appears more like a process and even a wavy process: it “is” a succession of states, rather than a state itself (as Hume noticed) and these states come and go in a wave-like manner, “flowing” between “inner” and “outer.” As one observes them come and go, one learns to choose desirable states, at least to the same extent that the two-hole experiment “chooses” waves or particles.

One of the best ways to learn to experience the wave-aspect of consciousness, of course, is listening to music, especially Baroque music, with one’s eyes closed. Much quicker than Oriental meditation, this makes one aware of consciousness’s wave-like flowing aspect, and of its synergetic nature. At its richest, as in meditation, consciousness appears to become the object of its attention; “there is no separation between me and the music,” we say. This simple experience, available to all, makes clear that in-UNITE-ual and flowing modes of consciousness are existentially as “real” as the in-DIVIDE-ual “particles” that we normally experience as our “selves.”

In Dr. Leary’s Flashbacks (1983), he writes the latest account of his celebrated and controversial “drug research” with Massachusetts convicts in the early 1960s, in which, statistically, many “criminals” became “ex-criminals,” and the recidivism rate dropped dramatically. Leary emphasizes, as he always did, that there is no “miracle” in any drug per se, but in what he calls the set and setting—the preparation for the drug experience. This included an explanation, in simple terms, of the main points of existentialist-humanist psychology. During the drug experience, not unexpectedly, music was played. Some criminals wept, some laughed uncontrollably, some sat in silent awe: all were receiving more signals per minute than usual, and understanding how signals are usually edited. In a phrase, they were given the opportunity to look at materialist consciousness from the perspective of existentialist consciousness. It is not surprising that many of them thereafter “took responsibility” and ceased robotically repeating the imperatives of their old criminal reality-tunnels.

Nor is it surprising that Dr. Leary, like Dr. Reich, was subsequently denounced, slandered colorfully and, finally, imprisoned. The ideas we have been discussing—the ideas that, in a sense, were being tested in the convict rehabilitation research—are profoundly threatening to all dogmatists, not just to materialistic dogmatists. Powerful churches, political parties and vested (financial) interests, for example, have a strong desire to program the rest of us into the particular “Real” Universes that they find profitable, and to keep us from becoming self-programmers. They want to “take responsibility’ for us, and they have no wish to see us “take responsibility’ for ourselves.

Materialism-in-the-philosophical-sense is very much supported by materialism-in-the-economic-sense.

To summarize:

Consciousness is not a given, or a fact. Our mode of consciousness seems historically to have been determined by neurological (unconscious) habits. When we become aware of this, and struggle against the inertia of habit, consciousness continually mutates, becomes less particle-like and “fixed,” spreads like a flowing wave. It can move between the poles of pure in-DIVIDE-ualism and pure in-UNITE-ualism, and between many other poles, and can become increasingly “creative” and “self-chosen.”

Since there is no explanation for these experiences of consciousness-altering-consciousness, or self-programming, in the materialist model, we can either reject them as “hallucinations” and “appearances” if we wish to retain the materialist model at any cost, or we may supplement the materialist model by recognizing that, like all models, it describes sombunall5 of Universe, whereupon we may choose a more inclusive model, which in this case seems to be supplied at present by existentialist-humanist psychology, quantum mechanics, and the thought of philosopher-psychologists like Nietzsche, James, Husserl and Bergson.

In the “Real” Universe, all things are determined, including us and our thoughts. In the experienced world, things come and go incessantly and some come and go so fast that we can never know why; causal models fit only sombunall of experience. There is a sense of flow, process, evolution, growth, and of what Bergson called “the perpetual upsurge of novelty.” In this experienced world, and not in abstract theory, we are faced by apparent decisions continually. We make them and we experience the sense of choice as we do so. We can never know how much such choice is “real” absolutely, but since we can never know anything else absolutely, we make do on probabilities.

In the “Real” Universe we are re-active mechanists; in the experienced world, we are creators, and The “Real” Universe is just another of our creations—a dangerous one, with a tendency to hypnotize us.

Concretely, on any ordinary day, we may observe ourselves contacting the experienced world continually, merging with it, actually breathing its molecules in and out, eating and excreting other parts of it. It “passes through” us as often as we “pass through” it. Since we edit and orchestrate the signals that make up our personal share of the experienced world, we are never separate from it or from responsibility for it.

Neurological research during the past two decades has rather clearly demonstrated that the passive consciousness in which there is a “Real” Universe “out there” is characteristic of left-brain domination. Correspondingly, any method of moving into the flowing-synergetic-holistic mode of consciousness—with meditation, or with certain drugs, or by the process of Zen-like attention described in the previous pages—leads to an increase in right-brain activity. Presumably, if we stayed in the flowing right-brain mode all the time we would become, in Mr. Okera’s term, Dionysian.

It is more amusing, and more instructive, I think, to orchestrate one’s consciousness, by “dialing” the TV set—choosing which mode one uses. This way one learns the best, and worst, of both hemispheres of the brain. One also can learn, with self-experiment, that there are other modalities besides right and left. There seems to be a top-bottom mode also, connected with the degree of possible delay we can tolerate: the bottom, or old brain, seems to be reptilian in its reflexes, the top, or new brain, more easily visualizes a multiple-choice reality-labyrinth in place of the either/or of pure reflex. And there even seems to be a front/back polarity: the frontal lobes seem to fine-tune the intuitions in the general direction of that damned and verboten “ESP.”

In short, it appears to those who try the experiments/experiences of yoga and humanistic psychology, that what is tuned in, is a function of how we use our brains habitually, and what is not-tuned-in may, in many cases, become tuned-in, with practice in neurological reprogramming (a variety of exercises to test these general conclusions for yourself can be found in my book, Prometheus Rising).

I go to a pub and talk to another man. He is experienced deeply part of the time, and shallowly another part of the time, depending on the quality of my consciousness. If I am very conscious, meeting him can be an experience comparable to great music or even an earthquake; if I am in the usual shallow state, he barely “makes an impression.” If I am practicing alertness and neurological self-criticism, I may observe that I am only experiencing him part of the time, and that part of the time I am not-tuning-in but drifting off to my favorite “Real” Universe and editing out at the ear-drum much of what he is saying. Often, the “Real” Universe hypnotizes me sufficiently that, while I “hear” what he says, I have no idea of the way he says it or what he means to convey.

I walk down the street and, observing my state of consciousness, I see that I am in contact with experienced reality part of the time only. Some trees are quite beautiful, but then I realize that I have passed other trees without noticing them. I have drifted off into The “Real” Universe again and edited out a large beautiful hunk of the experienced world. The trees did not cease to exist; they were simply not-tuned-in.

One who remains alive and alert to the experienced world knows where he is, what he is doing and what is going on around him. It is truly startling, at first, to practice neurological self-criticism and notice how often one has lost track of such simple matters as that. It is even more startling to notice that one is walking among hypnotized subjects who, most of the time, have completely lost track of such matters and are telling themselves stories about The “Real” Universe while editing out vast amounts of the experienced world.

When the mathematician Ouspensky was studying with Gurdjieff, he found it very hard, at first, to understand this unique human capacity to forget where one is, what one is doing, and what is going on around one. He was especially dubious about Gurdjieff’s insistence that this “forgetting” was a type of hypnosis. Then, one day, after World War I had begun, Ouspensky saw a truck loaded with artificial legs, headed toward the front. Educated as a mathematician and trained in statistics, Ouspensky remembered that—just as it is possible to calculate how many persons will die of heart attacks in a given year, by probability theory—it is possible to calculate how many legs will be blown off in a battle. But the very calculation is based on the historical fact that most people most of the time will do what they are told by Superiors. (Or, as some cynic once said, most people would rather die, even by slow torture, than to think for themselves.) In a flash, Ouspensky understood how ordinary men become killers, and victims of killers. He realized that “normal” consciousness is much like hypnosis indeed. People in a trance will do what they are told—even if they are told to march into battle against total strangers who have never harmed them, and attempt to murder those strangers while the strangers are attempting to murder them. Orders from above are tuned-in; the possibility of choice is—not-tuned-in.

War and crime—the major problems of our century and chronic problems of our species—seem, to the existentialist-humanist psychologist, the direct results on drifting off into self-hypnosis, losing track of experience and “living” in a “Real” Universe. In the “Real” Universe, the Right Man is always Right, and the blood and horror incidental to proving that is only an appearance, easily forgotten. Besides, the Right Man knows that he is only a re-acting mechanism and ultimately The “Real” Universe itself is to blame for “making” him explode into such furies.

In existential experienced life, we notice that we are making bets and choices all the time, and are responsible for being alert and aware enough to make them intelligently and to revise them when necessary. We cannot blame everything on The “Real” Universe, since it is only a model we have created to deal with experienced life. If the model is not good enough, we do not blame it but revise and improve it.

Ultimately, existentialist psychology agrees with neurology (and sounds remarkably like quantum mechanics) in stressing that there is no model that is not an expression of the values and needs of the model-maker, no description that is not also an interpretation, and hence no “objective observer behind a glass wall” who is merely watching what happens. In short, the whole traditional language of “the thing out there,” “the image in here,” and “the mind” separate from both, is totally inadequate to describe our experience, and we need a new holistic, or synergetic language. The search for this new language—for “a new paradigm”—is increasingly acknowledged in many other disciplines, these days, as it becomes obvious to more and more researchers that the old models have outlived their usefulness.

The “jargon” suggested in parts of this book—the strange new terms used in place of old terms—is a groping and fumbling, and it is meant to be suggestive and poetic rather than precise. The new paradigm has not quite emerged yet; we see only its broad general outlines.

The human brain, from the viewpoint of perception theory and existentialist psychology, appears much like a very unique self-programming computer. It chooses—usually unconsciously and mechanically—the quality of consciousness it will experience and the reality-tunnel it will employ to orchestrate the incoming signals from the experienced world. When it becomes more conscious of this programming, its creativeness becomes truly astounding and has been called meta-programming by Dr. John Lilly.

In meta-programming or neurological self-criticism, the brain becomes capable of deliberately increasing the number of signals consciously apprehended. One looks casually, in the normal way, and then looks again, and again. Dull objects and boring situations become transformed—partly because they “were” dull and boring only when the brain was working on old mechanical programs—and, without being too lyrical about it, the synergetic unity of observer-observation becomes a thrilling experience. Every experience becomes the kind of intense learning that usually only occurs in school when cramming for exams. This state of high and involved consciousness—called awakening by the mystics—seems perfectly normal and natural to the brain that has been programmed to watch its own programming. Since, in the existential world of experience, we have to make bets and choices, we are consciously “cramming” all the time, but there is no special sense of stress or anxiety involved. We are living time instead of passing time, as Nicoll said.

The brain, it seems, works best under pressure. The soldier being decorated for bravery often says “I don’t remember doing it—it all happened too fast.” Even in situations less terrifying and punishing than war, most of us have had flashes of this staggering efficiency and rapidity of brain processes in emergencies. It seems very likely that habitual feelings of “helplessness” and “inadequacy” derive chiefly from our habit of wandering off into The “Real” Universe and not being electrically involved in where we are, what we are doing, and what is going on around us. In crises, this wandering off or hypnosis is not permitted: we are urgently aware of every detail of the experienced field. Some people develop a suicidal habit of seeking danger—mountain climbers and other sportsmen, for instance—just to enjoy this state of rapid brain functioning and High Involvement again and again. Meta-programming or neurological self-criticism, developed as a habit to replace the old habit of wandering off to “Real” Universes, creates that kind of “ecstasy” more and more frequently, and it appears that one has never been using one’s brain before but only misusing it.

Concretely, two people can “be” in the same existential situation but experience two very, very different reality-tunnels. If they are both modeltheists or Fundamentalists, these different reality-tunnels will both be experienced as “objective” and each will react passively. If both are in heightened consciousness—seeking more and more signals every minute—both reality-tunnels will still be different, but each will be experienced as a creation and both persons will be involved. It is more likely in the second case they will be able to communicate clearly and understand one another; in the former case, they may fall into violent quarrel about who has the “real” reality-tunnel and the Right Man will have to punish the other for “error.”

It seems that when “God” or “nature” or “evolution” presented us with a human brain, we were not given instructions on the operation of this marvelous device. As a result, most of our history has been an attempt to learn how to use it. In learning that this involves taking responsibility and being involved we seem to be learning, also, lessons that are not merely technological but esthetic and “moral.” Once again, it seems the experienced world functions holistically and our separation of it into separate grids—“science,” “art,” “ethics”—is more confusing than helpful.

To use the brain efficiently—to be aware of where one is and what one is doing and what is going on around one, and to take responsibility for one’s bets or choices—seems to increase “intelligence” and “creativity.” That is hardly a surprise. Whatever our technical definitions of these mysterious functions, it is obvious that they are somehow connected with the number of signals consciously apprehended, and with the rapidity of the revision process. When one model is held statically between ourselves and experience, the number of signals drops, no revision occurs, and “intelligence” and “creativity” correspondingly decline. When many models are available, and when we are consciously involved in our choices, the number of signals consciously apprehended increases, and we behave more “intelligently” and “creatively.”

But the same process of involvement, responsibility, conscious choice, etc. also increases those faculties that are traditionally called esthetic and moral. There is no separation; experience is a continuum. What we see and experience tells us the most intimate truths about who and what we are as well as disclosing increasing richness of “meaning” in every existential transaction. To quote Blake again:

The Fool sees not the same tree the wise man sees.

Once again, it appears that the materialist model of mechanical consciousness covers some but not all experience, and it excludes precisely that part of experience which makes us human, esthetic, moral and responsible beings.

One may suspect that this is why the materialist age has become increasingly inhuman, ugly, amoral and blindly irresponsible.

One may suspect that this is also why the Citadel—the economically entrenched section of the New Fundamentalism, which serves and is fed by the Warfare State—increasingly draws most of the brain-power of most of the living scientists in the world to the single task, as Bucky Fuller said, of delivering more and more explosive power over greater and greater distances in shorter and shorter times to kill more and more people.

To the existentialist-humanist, the “Real” Universe is not forcing us to behave collectively that way. Ultimately, Irrational Rationalism—the reality-tunnel of Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Strangelove—is a social invention. Ultimately, ‘The Communists are plotting to enslave us” is a Game Rule of the cold war; it permits every Russian act—however conciliatory it may appear to neutral observers, however it may seem to aim at detente—to be defined as another trick. Ultimately, “The Americans are plotting to destroy us” is a similar Game Rule of the Politburo. The “Real” Universe where this madness appears as sanity is our collective creation. In existential experience, we are only making bets, but we have become hypnotized by our models and we walk toward Armaggedon thinking The “Real” Universe makes it impossible to stop and try a better game.

Like cattle going to slaughter—or like Ouspensky’s soldiers going to have their legs blown off—we do not stop to remember who we are, where we are, and what is going on around us.

The resistance to hearing the women at Greenham Common6 is not unrelated to the resistance to “bizarre” information we have been examining. There are economic as well as neurological reasons why Dr. Reich and Dr. Leary went to prison, while Dr. Teller, Father of the Hydrogen Bomb, is a recognized Authority on The “Real” Universe, rich, honored and praised throughout the Citadel.

Editorial Annotations

1. Elsewhere in The New Inquisition, Wilson describes “The Right Man” and one variant, “The Violent Male” as one who “seems to be a man who literally cannot, ever, admit that he might be wrong. He knows he is right; he is the total psychological opposite of the agnostic, in claiming absolute gnosis, total certitude about all things.”

2. A “modeltheist” is a person who is completely committed to a single model of the “Real” Universe, and for whom all other modes are, by definition, false. According to Wilson, “modeltheism underlies the intolerance which perpetuates most of the violence and wars on this backward planet and creates the violent Right Man personality.” A modeltheist has all but stopped thinking and perceiving, whereas a model-agnostic encourages continual thought and perception.

3. Wilson thinks of “matter” as a metaphor. He defines a “liberal materialist” as “one who holds that materialism is a ‘relative best bet’ among competing philosophies, or the most plausible model around, whereas the fundamentalist materialist—either out of ignorance or philosophy or out of sheer bravado or out of blind faith—proclaims that materialism is the One True Philosophy and that anyone with doubts or hesitations about it is insane, perverse, or a deliberate fraud. This One True Philosophy is the modern form of the One True Church of the dark ages. The Fundamentalist Materialist is the modern Idolator; he has made an image of the world, and now he kneels and worships it.”

4. “To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour”

— William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

5. “Sombunall” is a word, created by Wilson, that conflates “some but not all.” Wilson explains: “We never know ‘all;’ we know, at best, sombunall.” Wilson uses the word (and encourages others to use it) to avoid making what he calls “all-ness statements.” Wilson writes, “Imagine Arthur Shopenhauer with a sombunall instead of all in his vocabulary. He could still have generalized about sombunall women, but not about all women; and a major source of literary misogyny would have vanished from our culture. Imagine the Feminists writing about sombunall men, but not about all men. Imagine a debate about UFOs in which both sides could generalize as much as they wished about somnbunall sightings but there was no linguistic form to generalize about all such sightings.”

6. Exemplifying non-violent, direct action, a group of women marched from Cardiff, Wales to Greenham Common, England, in 1981. They set up a Peace Camp, which they called Yellow Gate, at the Main Gate of the U.S. Air Force Base in protest of a NATO decision to locate Cruise Missiles at Greenham Common. Satellite camps sprouted around the perimeter of the base, each represented by a color of the rainbow. All nuclear weapons were shipped out of Greenham Common by 1991.


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Robert Anton Wilson is a novelist, teacher and former Playboy editor. This essay is from his book The New Inquisition, published by New Falcon (