What could be more frightening then losing your ability to distinguish what is real? Why does madness, genius, and psychic ability often coincide? I do not have concrete evidence or proof to offer you, twilight zone denizens – merely food for thought.
When people suffer from psychosis, you could almost say that they are too creative, a trait that is actually standardized in the Big Five Factor of Personality as what is called ‘Openness to experience’. The correlation between the Openness trait and creative or psychotic tendencies is not well understood, but it has been recorded. This is not, when you think about it, too surprising. Both psychosis and creativity involve synthesizing seemingly disparate information, events, actions, or people – creating connections among them.
Depending on the circumstances, this lateral thinking skill can lead to a genius discovery – ie, the helical structure of DNA by Watson and Crick – or a paranoid delusion, ie: “the neighbors are whispering words that sound like my name when they walk by my house, therefore they must be talking about me”. The premise of these examples of course are formed on very different foundations, but what is common between them is that they approach problems laterally, allowing for unexpected possibilities.
The LSD Insight
If we are willing to view the psychotic world as a process rather then an unfortunate aberration, it starts to look much less alien. One of the foremost breakthroughs in this department could be said to be the discovery of LSD by Hoffman. Like psychosis, LSD bequeaths enhanced novelty and connections among information and events. The “openness to experience” door swings wide open, yet in the vast majority of cases a “break” from reality in the form of psychosis does not occur. With LSD, there is a continuous connection to reality, but an altered perception and experience of that reality. Also parallel, but distinct from the psychotic experience, is Jung’s “synchronicity” – meaningful, timely, and unlikely coincidences that seem to suggest the uncanny. LSD tends to increase the frequency of synchronistic events.
LSD does not change the brain chemistry insomuch as “magnify” it. The psychoactive component of LSD is active in microscopic doses upon serotonergic (pertaining to the neurotransmitter serotonin) pathways in the brain in ways still not fully understood. Rather then cause literal hallucinations, as is commonly misconceived, LSD changes, enhances, and alters the frame of perceptions which already exist. In short, LSD isn’t showing you anything that isn’t actually there, it’s just showing it to you in a different light, allowing you to have the kinds of Eureka moments that lead to new discoveries (such as the helical structure of DNA – Crick and Watson were both on LSD at the time). LSD is significant for research insofar as it illuminates the connection between “mystical” and “psychotic” states of consciousness, and how those states are both similar and distinct.
LSD suggests some elements of the psychotic experience are common to everyone, even if they are not expressed as a full-blown mental illness or break from reality. Anybody subjected to sleep deprivation and/or excessive stimulants for a long period of time will eventually arrive at a state of psychosis and likely paranoia too.
This Land is Our Land
What is the difference between a mystic and a schizophrenic?
The Mystic Swims in the Waters the Schizophrenic Drowns in
Both mystics and schizophrenics project “personalized” meaning onto objects and symbols, but the psychotic has a break in the chain of feedback between self and other. For the psychotic person, only the personal experience of reality is comprehended, and the experience of collective reality is lost. The visions of a genius become the delusions of a madman, and sometimes the line is fine between them, a thin strand of sanity.
The psychotic takes so many signals as “signs” and makes so many connections that their interface with reality becomes tangled, messy, ineffectual, and sometimes dangerous. In a manner of speaking, the psychotic experiences “daemon” processes running amok in the background. In the sense that a “demon” can be conceived as a negative perceptual frame which creates tension, paranoia, and discord; they are indeed real. They can go viral like memes, mutate, transmit themselves, possess minds; or be “exorcised”, purged, and grown.
The mystic on the other hand, understands that reality does not belong exclusively to the experiencer, but is instead shared. His “Daemons” are dynamic and helpful processes which function autonomously, but which are programmed to serve his command, rather then running unbidden and casting shadows.
This is not to say that mystic and psychotic rivers don’t cross streams; both are born of the same waters. A helpful daemon process can easily become corrupted, plunging its user into disarray. It is said that occult work is psychologically perilous but rarely is it explained why this is the case.
The Dangers of Bending
The danger of the occult is that it can only greatly affect you if you’ve opened the door to it. Someone with virtually no psychic sensitivity would be a tough target. Simple awareness of the occult can present an opportunity for dangerous egregores to enter mental sanctums and set up camp there. Any use of the occult opens the window to occult retaliation.
The line straddled by the metaphysical operator is extremely fine. He must know what images, symbols, and feelings are exclusive to him, and which belong to the pool of archetypes shared by all ancestors. He must test the reactions of others and externally validate his alterations of reality. If he grows greedy or complacent, his creations may mutate and become volatile.
Many of the world’s most notorious adepts were eventually ruined by the power that once served them. This is not to say madness overtook them, necessarily, insomuch as fortune deserted them. Fortune should not be mistaken for a passive force: “God does not play dice”, and what is probable in any given situation often depends on what is at stake.
How Bending “Works”
The essence of what is called “magickal” work functions upon the fringes of reality, between possibility and manifestation, between vision and delusion. The “Magickian”, the “Reality Bender” works within a knowledge of metaphysical semantics. This means he knows which rules of experience are subject to bending (ie, time) and how these rules are influenced by collective perception (a functional society is really just a collective contract). They understand that there are times in which the paradigm of collective experience is actually more mutable, more subject to change – and that there are places in the world where the experienced “influencer” is more likely to alter the “signal” of the collective.
Most essentially, the alchemist recognizes that the catalyst to which reality most reacts is himself. His own cognition functions as the paring knife, altering likelihoods and informing the experience of those who orbit him due to their lesser gravitational pull.
The Shadows of Reality
Reality is not static and inert, but rather constantly abuzz and in flux, while still conforming to overarching patterns. These patterns represent an internal consistency in the form of fractals and ratios that relate amongst themselves. The Magickan is a person who can step into this patterned metaverse and make informed predictions about human agency.
Reality is multidimensional and can be visualized in terms of a complex geometry. It is fueled by the energy of conscious existence interchanging heat in the container of the universe. Despite the vast amount of space in the material experience of the universe, the “astral” aspect is immediately interconnected along a different axis. In this “virtual” aether, hallucinations can be joint and mystical experiences take on consistent form.
The psychotic has high “openness” and sensitivity to this psychic dimension of experience. He has no way of understanding or managing this mutable world and tends to assume incorrectly that everybody else experiences the same reality he does.
The psychotic has fallen face first into this wonderland, and because his energy is untrained, it “shouts” wildly across these energetic realms, drawing negative constructs towards him. These independent thought forms can be thought of as “demon” processes. They cling and parasitize, and if they are attached long enough unnoticed, removing them no longer heals the damage. To point to the effect of neurotransmitters on psychotic states is to focus on the end product of existing long-term in this isolated reality.
The Astral Realm and the Collective
Superstitions, myths, popular memes, mystic rituals, public holidays, archetypes, and the hero’s journey, are all examples of the natural relationship humans have to the astral realm and its widespread influence on daily life.
The mystery schools often claim that an adept alone in a room, delving into the depths of their own mind, can change the course of history. This proposed astral world is interconnected among all consciousness, and even more strongly interconnected among members of the same species. One person’s epiphany leaves an “outline” or “impression” in the shared psychic pool Jung called “the collective unconscious”. We are venturing into the topic of Rupert Sheldrake’s morphogenetic fields, which would be consistent with the idea that every time a cognition occurs, it becomes more accessible for others and more likely to reoccur. This is why memes can be potent and often immediate – and why an idea, once born, may never truly die.
The Editor Inside
A person with psychosis may see a man in a black suit as an undercover agent following them around, or walk by a random conversation and hear information which pertains to themselves. These are what are called delusions of reference, mistaken assumptions that others revolve around their experiences.
The important misunderstanding for the psychotic is not that they are being referred to, but rather the source of the reference. The reference doesn’t consciously come from other people, rather the psychotic interprets the information from other people self-referentially, in schemes or frames that often align with delusional narratives.
Consider the difference between the raw footage of a recorded interview and the final edited product. The editing process can shift the footage to almost any end, changing the message and meaning of the content. Likewise, the pattern-making function of the mind can alter the perception of reality to a person with psychosis.
In editing film, the editor controls the message of the product to align with a predetermined goal, interest, or storyline. The “editor” inside of the psychotic begins creating this story and editing the “footage” of sensory data without really asking permission.
Ready or Not
The psychotic has no choice but to coexist with the astral world. Although medication can erase the perception and experience of astral realms, the schizoid mind is no less naturally tuned to these chaotic frequencies.
Schizophrenia is the product of initiation with no context. By the time it has progressed to a chronic condition (rather then, say, a temporary and transient episode) it is extremely difficult to disentangle.
If, however, the biological propensity towards psychosis exists, but the individual bearing it is raised in a suitable environment with the right promptings, it may develop along a completely different course. Otherwise malignant genetic vulnerability may be transmuted to unique and innovative creativity instead of diagnosable schizophrenia. This is commonly referred to as epigenetics, which means that even people with identical genes will develop differently depending on their individual circumstances.
Psychosis can be seen as what happens when psychic affinity becomes “infected”, but this is not a foregone conclusion.
I feel a big piece of my heart break when people talk about psychosis with the curiosity of trying to understand some demented alien. Unfortunately, it’s all too common, even among experts. Psychosis is a natural process of pattern-making that has gone off the rails, and while it is something most people rarely experience full-blown, miniature corollaries abound, and the so called “burden” of mental illness, with the right guidance, can become a brilliant sensitivity that is one-of-a-kind.