harmless hissing. When the biological drives of the id become too strong, then dreams bleed off that excess drive in the form of hallucinatory gratification.
Then when the telephone came along, with it came the switchboard operator models of consciousness. My first undergraduate psychology textbook had a full-page illustration of how the brain functions like a giant switchboard with telephone-like connections to all parts of the body. John Lilly was the first to apply the computer as a metaphor for understanding the brain in his book Programming and Metaprogramming the Human Biocomputer. When I was an undergraduate studying psychology, the computer metaphor was just beginning to be entertained on the fringes of academia. Our brains could be seen as the hardware, and our culturally conditioned BS, language, and other memes would be the software. Since then cognitive psychology and cognitive science have adopted the model of the computer as a metaphor for how the brain functions, and this has now become the standard and accepted model.
All of these models help to shed some light on how the mysteries of the brain and mind interact, but they are also quite limited, and can be dangerously misleading. The brain is not a hydraulic system, a telephone switchboard, or a computer. But, as models, these metaphors give us a partial grasp of something that is otherwise too complex to comprehend. When we interviewed John Lilly he told us that he thought a human brain can never fully understand itself, because a simulation that modeled and mapped the entire brain would take up all the space in the brain, filling it to capacity. It would take a larger brain to understand our brain, and then that brain couldn’t fully understand itself.
The newest technology to act as a metaphor for the brain and consciousness is Virtual Reality technology. VR allows us to control the sensory input that channels into our nervous system and to determine what our experience of reality is. People like Timothy Leary, who prefers the term “Electronic Reality,” and Charles Tart have begun to see VR technology as a metaphor for the brain. Computer-generated simulations in Virtual Reality become acceptable to the brain as reality. This leads to the understanding that all we ever really experience of reality are simulations created by our brain out of the influx of sensory signals that we receive from our senses. We already live in fabricated realities. We each live inside a reality-generating apparatus called the nervous system. Timothy Leary dubbed this understanding “neuro-electric awareness’-the understanding that we are creating reality out of the sensory signals that we perceive. Buddha called this understanding “enlightenment.”
But to fully understand this concept we must actually experience it. We almost always forget that our perception of what we call the physical world is a simulation and not “reality itself.” William Blake understood the concept that we create our own reality when he stated, “That which appears without, is within.” When I had my first LSD trip at the age of 16, among other things I realized that the brain entirely creates what we experience as reality. I realized it by experiencing it. Everything that we think is the external world is actually a neurological simulation fabricated out of complex chains of sensory signals by the human brain. On that psychedelic experience it appeared to me as though all of reality was composed of points or monads, and that our perception of reality is like those connect-the-dots games that we play as children. The possible ways of connecting the dots are far more varied than I had thought, and can be done in countless different ways.
Carl Jung coined a term that helps to explain this called “Constellating
Power,” based on how we create constellations in the sky out of the massive tangle of stars. Once a pattern has organized itself in our mind’s “I,” it becomes hard then not to see it that way. Since the Virtual Reality created by the perceptual simulation process is one’s “reality experience,” it is difficult to not completely identify with the Virtual Reality as the “real” reality. Part of the motivation for putting this book together stemmed from our understanding that since we are responsible for creating reality-individually and jointly–what then are the most fabulous and interesting realities that we can experience?
Reality is defined as that which is real, and it is created through a blend of belief and experience. Several years ago, Virtual Reality pioneer Jaron Lanier told me that he thought that there were three levels at which one can change or create “reality”: (1) at the neurological level of the brain through neurochemistry; (2) at the sensory level through Virtual Reality simulation; or (3) in the external world through the atomic reconstructional possibilities of nanotechnology. But we can also change our perception and interpretation of the world through intention and will. Intentionally changing one’s attitude can dramatically shift one’s perspective and social relationships. Dreams also open up a frontier for exploring the possibilities of reality fabrication. When we asked Stephen LaBerge, lucid dream researcher at Stanford University, about using VR as a metaphor for lucid dreaming, he said that lucid dreaming was like “high-resolution VR.”
A basic premise that we had for this book was that–through cosmological time, biological evolution, personal development, and cultural transformations-consciousness evolves. From atoms to galaxies, amoebas to neurons, the evolution of consciousness seems an endless adventure. Terence McKenna told us that he thought the ultimate goal of human evolution was a “good party.” One thing is for sure. It is on the expanding edge of the horizon, where reality intersects the imagination, that we will forever find our new beginnings.
David Jay Brown,