The Vast Unknown of Consciousness
Psychedelics, virtual reality, and the future of humanity (Reading time: 3:33)
Inspired by a 3rd-person view of subjective experience
Psychedelics, sober reality, & the feeling of oneness
How I understand the "trip" part of psychedelics is similar to the astronaut floating around a spaceship. In this scenario, sober, ordinary reality is the astronaut in the spaceship doing astronaut things.
When you take a hit of LSD, DMT, psilocybin, peyote, ketamine, or MDMA, you put on your space suit and venture out of the ship into the vast unknown of consciousness.
Cue the experience of oneness: seeing yourself not as a person on Earth (the astronaut with responsibilities to attend to), but as a cell actively participating in the organism that is this reality in its totality.
Witnessing this perspective requires the temporary relinquishing of your everyday mentalities, at least for a time.
I highly recommend acquainting yourself with this feeling at least once in your life (it's possible with the right circumstances at the right time, and not requiring arbitrarily illicit substances). As with any perspective, it shifts what you do and has the potential to bestow clarity and momentum when you intentionally direct your focused attention (assuming you figure out how to interrupt the automaticity of consciousness).
However, psychosis sets in if you keep venturing further and further away from the spaceship. Every movement closer to the void slowly weakens your connection to the world. Eventually, you lose touch with baseline reality on such an unconscious level that the tether is cut. Once your grip on realit(y/ies) has loosened, it's harder to integrate yourself back into the default reality we wake up in.
Yes, you are but a humble cell in this organism, but you are ALSO a human person here and now, reading this, with hopes, fears, and plans. Different realities evoke different reactions in us to our experience of being, and language is one of our ways of expressing that to ourselves and others.
You must reconcile the concurrent truth of any possible reality: a task we tend to do with language.
Language is conceptual, but reality (in the binary sense of being or not being, as compared to the subjective reality of cognitive life) is literal. So, semantics will, at some intersection of meanings that you may independently assent to, give rise to a paradox that our minds weren't built to comprehend. The crossing, however, is nonetheless Real.
As far as we know, telepathy is the only way to communicate and wholly understand entire states of being without encountering contradictory language. My friend and I call this higher-dimensional understanding, The Beyond.
This gap between language and reality leads to frustration because we believe the world to be the way we describe it. It is, and it's not - that tree really is there and you're reading this in the year 2020, but I don't find -5 celsius to be that cold.
The problem comes from instinctively and wholeheartedly believing our own thoughts and definitions. This automatic response to life leads us into the cycle of circumstance --> instinctually feel and talk bad --> make bad decisions --> circumstance worsens.
We need need peace. Inner peace creates space for you to reflect on the “you” part of the above cycle and restructure it: circumstance --> decide to feel good --> make good decisions --> circumstance improves. There's not a lot you can do about the world right now, but there's no limit to what you do for yourself.
Reality will always, to some degree, remain a mystery to our biologically grounded three-dimensional cognition. The best we can do is investigate any given oneness from our given perspective, closer and closer, asymptotically and indefinitely. Hilariously, it's all because the word "fan" is not a literal fan, humming away in the background.
Virtual Reality & Other Means of Escapism
So how does this apply to virtual reality? Virtual reality is another method of straying away from the metaphorical spaceship of morning's sober awareness.
I speculate that the phenomenon is localized to Japan because the island is further ahead in the field than any other country.
We, as humans, do everything we do because we have conscious and unconscious needs that we aim to fulfill in positive, negative, or neutral ways.
Downstream, why spend time going out into the world and risk facing rejection when you can put on a pair of goggles and experience the human-like intimacy of dating from the comfort of home?
The introduction of VR to mass culture has already changed the human experience.
The individuals making up these statistics have been had by VR in the same way as someone who has taken too many drugs consistently over a long time. They continually saw away the tether and are destabilized, landing somewhere in between this reality and another.
So, they end up looking to fulfill their human needs in an inhuman environment, because that is just what our habitual selves do without our conscious attention. That's not to say that it's all wrong - think about how complicated your life would be if you had to think your way through every microbiological thing your body does every day.
Every tool is inherently neutral, and it's up to us to decide how to apply it. I think technology's rewards may be worth the risk.
Take a war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example. With virtual reality, we can fundamentally alter their approach to life, overwriting the post-traumatic truth with a kinder one. The human brain can be rewired – mindfulness and meditation have shown us that. But VR will introduce new dimensions to the phenomenon.
A global paradigm shift
The 1960s birthed Steve Jobs, Aldous Huxley, Jimi Hendrix, and others who have - to this day - marked our collective identity. These are profound and lasting cultural shifts. Psychedelics were the virtual reality of the '60s and headsets are the virtual reality of the 21st century. I think we can expect another cultural evolution once virtual reality reaches the masses.
Psychedelics show us that any idea of ultimate reality, physical or projected, is malleable. Virtual reality allows us to choose what we want our reality to be. I think we should, but cautiously.
And if it's possible to get lost in an alternate reality, how do we know that we haven't already lost ourselves in this one?
Click here to read about my acquaintance with peace and how I integrate the behaviours and attitudes into my marketing practice.
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