. I had not originally planned to take much of a break over the holidays, but the alchemical process conspired to render me quite literally insane, and not particularly useful for writing pithy articles. If I’d been thinking about it, I might have appreciated the potential of madness for art, but alas I was too busy squeezing every last drop of adrenaline out of my tired aching kidneys. At one point my body chemistry was so toxic I was venting tar-like black substances out of various orifices. I’ll spare you the details. Not to worry though: I saved some and will be selling it on ebay shortly.
In any event, I’m not sure how much the practices I advocate here might have resulted in the trip into purgatory, as my own regimen is somewhat different and more complex than the homework assignments on AB. Be that as it may, It does tie in thematically to our latest topic, so we’ll be addressing my newfound streak of disorder in some fashion.
It’s hardly cutting edge to postulate the idea of the reality tunnel, or gloss, or filter, or metaprogram, or various other names for deliberately altering your subjective experience of the objective world. I’d find it hard to believe many of my readers wouldn’t be familiar with Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary and/or NLP. So lets take it as a given you can change your view of the world. Winner script, loser script, pessimist optimist yadda yadda.
Where most of these folk stop short is the idea that maybe your subjective reality tunnel might actually have objective effects. This veers dangerously close to what’s known as solipsism. Even the leading lights of the counterculture shy away from erasing the boundary between the observer and the observed world. The notion that our minds and the world around us might be engaged in some kind of organic interplay at the deepest level is a bit unsettling, even to those who make a career out of denouncing Descartes. Sadly the word ‘quantum’ has become as fuzzy and useless as the word ‘god’. And while certain lip services are rendered to the idea of the observer created universe, the only people who actually roll up their sleeves and engage with that notion by and large are the occultists. Most people simply indulge in a quest to find out what’s ‘really’ true about the world and act accordingly.
Part of the reason it’s a virtual taboo, is that, while you may happily accept the idea of viewing the world in a whole myriad of ways, at no point is the validity of the physical world out there under threat from the workings of your mind. In that sense we absolve ourselves of any responsibility for dumping our fearful ignorant and otherwise useless views of the world, because after all it’s all in my head and harms nobody.
If you were to incorporate some of our earlier considerations regarding the psychoplastic nature of reality, and ponder whether or not your delusions are rippling out to shape the physical world in collaboration with all the other delusional schmucks in your surroundings, the task of modifying and upgrading your reality tunnel takes on an altogether different order of importance.
You can found this idea on several levels of operation. You might say something as simple as decisions informed by a particular reality tunnel tend to reinforce that reality tunnel. You might say that your views affect the views of those around you. You might say your memes spread as well as they may to your surroundings. And if you’re prepared to integrate the psychoplastic ramifications of your intention on the quantum substratum of reality, perhaps through the phenomena of synchronicity, then you’ve got a whole gamut of vectors whereby your mind infects the surrounding world.
The reason I mention this is that in our own lives, our only real bulwark against our own potential for insanity is that beyond a certain point, the world seems not to agree with our weird ideas. If everyone were able to easily and consistently find confirmation for their strangest ideas, any notion of the consensus would unravel entirely in short order. Deep down we all secretly suspect that there really is a world ‘out there’ that we have no effect on, that acts on us. The flipside is that deep down we secretly, desperately need to believe that is true. We need to know that there is an ‘out there’ to anchor our ‘in here’.
And why? Well, the obvious reason is that most of us haven’t got a the slightest fucking idea how to handle our ‘in here’ so we rely on ‘out there’ to provide our reference points to keep us sane. Even if our ideas of what is objectively real is primarily regulated by long term habit and unexamined prejudices, it provides a kind of stabilizing rudder and momentum for our consciousness, which tends to keep us all moving in more or less the same direction. While you may have all manner of unusual notions and nonstandard views, chances are you still share more underlying assumptions with every other human on earth than not.
So we have this tension between the world as creation and the world as creator. In terms of what we’ve spoken of before it is the tension between the wand and the cup. Between being the author, or being a character in your story. You can debate which is true in some ultimate sense but what you can’t really debate is that you’re here. Hellworld or Hyperworld, here you are, so you are well advised to come to grips with it, and your place in it.
It’s important to keep in mind that whether your world is made by others or made by you, there’s always something at the heart of it that keeps you there. In a very real sense, the world view you have is a game, which you play in the pursuit of what lies at the resolution of the game. Everyone, including you, goes through this continuous process of deciding what you want, what it looks and feels like and what you have to do to get it. Some people define very clear games that have very clear end points, while others slap together endless open ended scenarios whereby they spend their whole lives chasing some nebulous notion of externalised happiness, usually to no avail.
Anyone who has even a superficial familiarity with Joseph Campbell knows he identified the universality of the heroic quest. It is a psychological mechanism that is inherent in all human beings. What varies is how we assemble that quest in ourselves and how we go about it. Certainly once we come to understand this as a psychological phenomenon with social consequences, we can come to understand that perhaps the true meaning of the heroic quest is what it does to our minds. The degree to which we externalise and project this process onto the world is the degree to which we have forgotten our own role in creating the scenario in the first place. Conversely the degree to which we internalize this process, the degree to which we understand the journey as being an inner unfolding, the closer we are to the truth. We make these games to capture the treasures that we think will enrich us, and we set these games in the worlds we believe they have to take place in.
So when you look at the world around you, the reality tunnel you habitually live in, or one you might like to live in, the question always has to be: what’s at the heart of it? Why are you there and what’s the payoff that keeps you there? What are the challenges you feel you need to face to navigate this world, even if it’s simply the challenge to embrace joy and relaxation?
In any event, the moment you truly understand that you’re trying to capture something that lies dormant in your own mind, the walls of the labyrinth become transparent, and the games you play with yourself are seen as they are.
Does this mean you shouldn’t play? Does this mean you shouldn’t delve into these realms of light and darkness? Hardly. And even if you simply decided not to, it wouldn’t be sufficient. It’s so much a part of you, it would take much of the rest of your life to fully detatch from that mindset.
What you can do, and do quickly, is take a conscious attitude to it. Right now you’re probably pursuing someone else’s idea of treasure at the heart of the labyrinth, and hence you’re playing by the rules they taught you in order to get it.
A very mundane example of this is the typical middle class careerperson. We might ask ourselves what the fuck this poor bastard thinks he’s doing in that cubicle 40 hours a week, but that’s the parameters of the game for him. At the end of that road is his hypothetical treasure, his sense of bliss. Will he ever get it? Probably not, because he entered that game with no clear idea of where it would lead, or where it might end. Chances are he learned his vague dreams from someone else who lived their whole life with the same vague dreams. Another lost soul in the Hellworld of bourgeoisie prosperity.
You want to break out of that shit? Quitting your job won’t do it. You’ll just be broke and homeless and still wondering how you’re going to get that brass ring one day. You’ve just fallen into a backroad of that particular Hellworld. You’ll probably wander around for awhile and eventually recreate the same scenario with a few modifications. If you’re really serious about getting out, then define what you want, ( which you’ve already done) , define what you have to do to get it( ditto), and what sort of view of life you need to make it happen. You make the rules, you set the standards, you decide if you succeed or fail. Not your parents, not your friends, not your significant other, your children, or society. You do. Your game. Your world. Your life. And if you’re going to be here, then you better make your reasons good ones.
The good news is the default reality tunnel of western society is quickly losing what little grounding it had in observable truth. Material prosperity and media saturated leisure are receding in the distance.
The bad news is that people are swiftly being herded into a number of alternatives. We have the Hellworlds of ‘war that won’t end in our lifetimes’ , ‘ peak oil’ , ‘clash of civilizations’ , ‘climate collapse’ or ‘the new world order’. People wander into these headspaces because for whatever reason they feel like this stuff represents some unavoidable modification to the game rules they’ve already laid out. Is it your secret desire to run free across the decimated wasteland of a collapsed western world? Maybe if your name is Ran Prieur. But chances are the only reason you’re there is because you convinced yourself that the carrot at the end of the stick just got yanked into the bowels of post apocalyptic nightmare and you can’t help but follow it. Until you see what’s leading you into these places you’ll never be free of them.
And the sad thing is, in light of our earlier considerations, these nightmares aren’t just in your head. They infect the world, they spread, they become more real. You plumb these dark dimensions and in doing so you solidify them and call them forth, and lay the groundwork for others to fall into them. And so very few of us have the discipline to back out of the trap, even if we could see it.
Thankfully we also have the Hyperworlds, the realms of unleashed progress, opportunity creativity and abundance. “2012”, “The Singularity”, ” Electronic Retribalisation”, “The Archaic Revival”, “S.M.I.L.E”. Each of these has their cheerleaders and evangelists. The main danger to these places is apathy. Of sliding into complacency and neglecting the need for challenge and growth. I do think the mature person chooses to live in a joyful, promising world of limitless opportunities, while always understanding the importance of walking the path of risk, change, and rebirth. But that’s just me perhaps.
Depending on your perspective, this is the ultimate act of magick. To create a world in your imagination and call it forth, to make it real. Certainly the alchemical quest is equally founded in the transformation of the self, but it’s partner will always be the story that makes the world. This is not just in your head. It can remain there, but only if you wish it. There are no limits, there is no ‘real world’ to break yourself against, in the end. ‘The real world’ is just another story somebody told you once. The world and yourself are of the same clay.
In some ways, this chapter is the pivot for everything I’ve written here so far. I can see now that my initial concern was to tell a story, to paint a picture of the dark dimension growing up around us all, to craft a world of real dangers, not just nebulous anxieties, and real potentials for adventure and growth, not just jolts to a jaded nervous system. A real quest for the world. With a toolbox for personal transformation at it’s heart.
In doing so I’ve come to understand very well that I’m not the only one doing this. Although I like to think I’m presenting people with better options than the reality priesthood, and their never-ending terrorscape might offer. At the heart of it, my methods are not much different, only more transparent. I pull the trick on you with my left and show you how it’s done with my right. And sometimes even I don’t see what I’m doing. Particularly to myself.
One thing I may have overlooked is the potential for genuine terror, for a real looming sense of loss and dislocation, of being ripped apart in the bowels of hell. That’s what it felt like for me, and while the temptation is there to treat it as a mistake and wonder how to avoid it in the future, the fact remains that it has helped purify me, driven out the flaws in my thinking, the weaknesses and childish attatchments. If you’ve ever faced the prospect of losing it all, you quickly come to understand what you really value.
In that sense the quest is a success, at least so far. I have survived the challenges I posed to myself, and gathered the prizes I’d left in wait. For the time being, I’m happy to stand on the crest of the hill and survey the landscape, before I descend into the valley of my own making again.
Homework: Assume for a moment that it’s all a sham. At any moment, you could choose to experience anything at any level of intensity you wish. It’s a lucid dream and you’re in control. Given that, why are you doing what you’re doing? You must have a good reason for all this struggle, conflict, confusion and searching, right? What is this all about? Maybe you’re doing what you feel like you have to do to make the experience real for you. To make it so you’ve earned your treasures.
You’re playing a game with yourself for everything on your list. Maybe some of them are easy and you’re working to overcome laziness. Maybe some of them are hard and you’re developing courage. Maybe some of them are mysterious and you’re cultivating understanding. Whatever the case, these things are the cornerstones of the world you’re really living in. The focuses you invest time and energy into reinforce that view of the world. So take some time to track it back. Follow the cord back out of the maze, and look at the picture you’ve painted for yourself.
Even if you could get all these things you want at the drop of a hat… would you? Would it be worth anything if you did? In many ways we validate our experiences in terms of our struggle to achieve it. But perhaps you’ve become addicted to struggle, and forgotten what it’s all supposed to be for. If you want to spend the rest of your life like Sisyphus and his rock, then by all means do so. In many ways life is about the journey, not the destination. There is fulfillment in process.
Just don’t forget you have options. When it’s not rewarding anymore you can walk away. Fuck that rock and fuck the hill. Try answering to yourself for a change and not the delusions swirling in your head. It may be a dream you can’t leave yet, but it’s still just a dream.
next time: stoned immaculate