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the "other self", beyond the "robot mode", is the door to a new reality, a new consciousness.
The barrier is "the filter of thought, of the mind's expectations."
"As if we possessed a kind of mirror inside us, a mirror which has the power to turn 'things that happen' into experience."
'If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.'
We have two visions we can look at, "The near is trivial and boring", and "the horizon, with all its promise, is always 'the far'."
As I approach the age of fifty—just twice the age at which my first book, The Outsider, appeared—I realise more clearly than ever that my life has been dominated by a single obsession: a search for what I call 'the other mode of consciousness'.
it can lead to experiences that seem completely beyond the range of 'normal' consciousness.
Suddenly, he said, he became Schubert.
he had felt as if he was composing the music, so that he could understand why Schubert had written each bar as he had, and precisely what he might put into the next bar.
Sartre once said that to enjoy a book is to rewrite it; my friend had done the same for Schubert's Octet.
this 'other mode' of consciousness is a state of perception rather than empathy—an awareness of a wider range of 'fact'—of the actuality of the world outside me.
What has changed in such experiences is our perspective. I am used to seeing the world in what might be called 'visual perspective'—that is, with the objects closest to me looking realler and larger than the objects in the middle distance, which in turn look realler and larger than the objects on the horizon.
In these experiences, we seem to sail up above this visual perspective, and the objects on the horizon are as real as my fingers and toes.
Rousseau, Shelley, Hoffmann, Hölderlin, Berlioz, Wagner, Dostoevsky, Van Gogh, Nietszche—were always experiencing flashes of the 'other mode' of consciousness, with its tantalising hint of a new kind of perception, in which distant realities are as real as the present moment.
But this created a new problem: intense dissatisfaction with the ordinary form of consciousness, with its emphasis on the immediate and the trivial.
So the rate of death by suicide or tuberculosis was alarmingly high among writers and artists of the nineteenth century.
Many of them seemed to feel that this was inevitable: that death and despair were the price you paid for these flashes of the 'other mode'.
The young Prince Jali gazes out over the desert in the light of the setting sun, and reflects that there are two deserts, 'one that was a glory for the eye, another that it was a weariness to trudge'—the near and the far.
And the horizon, with all its promise, is always 'the far'.
The near is trivial and boring.
Maslow said he had got tired of studying sick people because they never talked about anything but their illness; so he decided to study healthy people instead. He soon made an interesting discovery: that healthy people frequently had 'peak experiences'—flashes of immense happiness.
For example, a young mother was watching her husband and children eating breakfast when a beam of sunlight came through the window. It suddenly struck her how lucky she was, and she went into the peak experience—the 'other mode'.
Maslow made another interesting discovery. When he talked to his students about peak experiences, they began recollecting peak experiences which they had had, but which they had often overlooked at the time. Moreover, as soon as they began thinking about and discussing peak experiences, they began having them regularly. In other words: the peak experience, the moment when the near and the far seem to come together, is a product of vitality and optimism. But it can also be amplified or repeated through reflection, by turning the full attention upon it instead of allowing it merely to 'happen'.
The case of the young mother reinforces the point. She was happy as she watched her husband and children eating, but it was an unreflective happiness. The beam of sunlight made her feel: 'I am happy', and instantly intensified it. It is as though we possessed a kind of mirror inside us, a mirror which has the power to turn 'things that happen' into experience. It seems that thought itself has a power for which it has never been given credit.
This was a major discovery. It meant that—contrary to the belief of the romantics—the 'other mode' is within our control. Shelley asked the 'spirit of beauty': +
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state +
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
The answer, in Shelley's case, was clearly that he went around with the assumption that human existence is a 'dim vast vale of tears', and regarded the peak experiences as visitations of 'the awful shadow of some unseen power'—instead of recognising that the unseen power lay within himself.
What we are speaking about is what Gottfried Benn called 'primal perception', that sudden sense of 'matchless clarity' that gives the world a 'new-minted' look.
in Seven Pillars of Wisdom: 'We started out on one of those clear dawns that wake up the senses with the sun, while the intellect, tired after the thinking of the night, was yet abed. For an hour or two, on such a morning, the sounds, scents and colours of the world struck man individually and directly, not filtered through or made typical by thought: they seemed to exist sufficiently by themselves . . . '
Lawrence has also put his finger on the reason that we experience 'primal perception' so infrequently: the filter of thought, of the mind's expectations. It could also be described as the robot, the mechanical part of us. Our 'robot' is invaluable; it takes over difficult tasks—like driving the car or talking a foreign language—and does them far more easily and efficiently than when we are doing them consciously. But it also 'gets used' to spring mornings and Mozart symphonies, destroying 'the glory and the freshness' that makes the child's world so interesting.
The robot may be essential to human life; but he makes it hardly worth living.
The robot seems to be located in the brain. This is clear from the effects of psychedelic drugs like LSD and mescalin, which apparently achieve their effect by paralysing certain 'chemical messengers' in the brain. The result is certainly a form of 'primal perception'—as Aldous Huxley noted when he took mescalin; he quoted Blake's statement: 'If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.' So cleansing the 'doors of perception' is basically a matter of brain physiology.
In the mid-sixties I began reading books on the brain; one result was a novel called The Philosopher's Stone, in which I suggest that the secret of primal perception may lie in the pre-frontal cortex. But it was more than ten years later that I came upon a crucial piece of research that threw a new light on the whole question. The result was revelatory.