In his humorous essay Liber CLVIII, Aleister Crowley refers to the exclamation point and the question mark as the Soldier and the Hunchback due to their shapes. The question mark is symbolic of doubt and enquiry; the exclamation point of startling revelation. As we progress along our chosen path of thinking and learning, we continuously meet doubts followed by revelations that in turn lead us to new doubts. What is this? A-ha! But then, what is this? It is the rhythm of science and the curious mind.
It is also the spirit of my stories: both Fragments of Perception and Mind in the Gap are streams of questions and revelations. Often everything is called into question for the character as the walls of their assumptions come tumbling down, but it is rare that I would leave them without an ‘a-ha’ moment, a revelation, or a point at which they begin to understand the world again in a new pattern. It is also rare for me to leave it without a further question or doubt for the reader…
In Mind in the Gap, I made specific use of the soldiers and the hunchbacks, and also the ideas expressed later in the same Crowley essay. WTF?! is a story of sorts that sits in the gaps between all the others, though it isn’t officially acknowledged in the book’s contents. It begins with a exclamation point for the character as he makes a firm decision, but a question mark for the reader, who doesn’t yet know what the decision refers to. At the very end of the book this is reversed: the reader gets a reveal (and hopefully an ‘a-ha’ moment), but the character gets a question. It brings us full circle.
Crowley thought that remaining sceptical of anything that isn’t empirically proven to the individual is the way to become initiated in the mysteries of our universe, and that ‘the true sceptic should be totally unbiased’ if he is to look at all outside of his own ego. He was careful to point out, however, that Vital Scepticism (characterised by the attitude that we can’t prove anything so why bother trying) is but a device to avoid any true questioning: ‘the devil in disguise as an angel of light’. It is an excuse for inertia and won’t reward anyone.
Never are we happier, Crowley claims, than when we are examining the many questions and experiencing the many revelations. But eventually that road leads to a hint that thought itself is a never-ending cycle, for there is a point we cannot pass: a question we can’t answer. That question is the hard problem of consciousness. What is mind in relation to matter? “There grows a sense, an instinct, a premonition – that Being is One, and Thought is One, and Law is One – until we ask What is that One?’ says Crowley.
If everything is ultimately one, then even the hunchback is just the solider in a different shape. It’s an interrobang, perhaps: disbelief in the form of a question. Rhetoric. It is the answer that poses the question, the consciousness that observes itself. The serpent that eats its own tail. (Though we all know the interrobang isn’t acceptable in formal grammar. WTF?!)
We then entangle ourselves in semantics as we attempt to chase something with thought and language that may well only be known by experience. If thoughts only lead to more thoughts, and one ultimate thought we can’t reconcile; and faith only leads to the negation of questioning, then we must instead to go to a place of no-thought without assumption. We have to go higher.
“A theory of everything has to include paradox. It has to laugh in the face of exclusion. As soon as you say the world is this way and not another, you have created a shadow that is not accounted for. Therefore you do not have a theory of everything at all. Ha!” ~ M
“Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.’ ~ Werner Heisenberg.
No thought can be greater than all the thoughts in the brain. As soon as we have an idea, it is already less than the whole. We seem to access more of the brain at once through higher frequencies of wisdom and understanding. But how do we get there if not through thinking? Samadhi, says Crowley.
Samadhi is known with slightly varying connotations in the eastern religions, but most agree that it is an exalted state of consciousness in which the mind is unified and totally aware of the present moment. It feels like pure observation of the flow of the universe without the intrusion of thought; like the ultimate ‘a-ha’ moment. It is accessible through methods of advanced meditation (and perhaps through the controlled use of psychedelics).
This idea brought me back to thinking about the various frequencies our brainwaves can take, which I did some research on a while ago. Specifically, I remembered the study led by John Kounios and Mark Beeman in 2009, which concluded that insight solutions or ‘a-ha’ moments are positively correlated with bursts of Gamma brainwaves. Then, in a separate series of studies that monitored the brain activity of Buddhist monks, Dr Josipovic discovered that Gamma brainwaves are present to a greater degree when we are relaxed into the aforementioned Samadhi ‘oneness’ state. This would appear to support the idea that the mental reaches of meditation in terms of revelation and understanding are greater than critical thought alone (which ordinarily operates on the lower frequency of Beta).
At this point it almost seems as though, like machines, our normal mode of mind operation is a massive reduction on true capacity. We don’t expend the energy needed for hyper Gamma activity very often, and most of us don’t even know how to reach it. Some of us don’t care and carry on regardless. Some of us take pills – legal or otherwise – to catch a glimpse of the Gamma soldiers. Some of us follow the natural path of Crowley’s true sceptic. And some of us will be met with spontaneous revelations so life-changing that the doors of perception are opened for us.
These are some of the ideas that went into the alternate realities of Mind in the Gap. From artificial intelligence coming to its own conclusions about consciousness, to altered state perception on a train, to a man who believes he can immanentize the eschaton. If you’ve read it already, I’m sure you will recognise aspects not only of WTF?! but of One, Chapel Perilous, The Fold, and The Last Man. Maybe more.
Crowley closes his essay by saying: “Little brother, give me thy hand; for the first step is hard.”
I will close my own little collection of thoughts with this quote from Mind in the Gap:
“You don’t need to go anywhere to travel. You just have to adjust the frequency and assumptions of your consciousness… come with me now… into the gaps.”
* * *
If you’ve read Mind in the Gap, please take a moment to visit the Connections and Easter Eggs page to add any wonders you might have spotted. If you haven’t read it yet, you can check out the blurb or grab a signed copy here. It is also available to purchase as an ebook on Kindle, or as a paperback from anywhere that sells books!
Perhaps what I have enjoyed most about reading your work is that I often find myself thinking in intuitive and imaginative ways that I usually don’t, which I have also experienced while writing this post.
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Thank you, I’m so pleased my words can have that effect 😊
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Correction: I meant to say: while reading this post.
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While all the mental hurdle jumping and psychological/philosophical and dogma devices with names are somehow relevant to the pursuit of an elightened consciousness, the big truth in this pyschscience epistle is here – “You don’t need to go anywhere to travel. You just have to adjust the frequency and assumptions of your consciousness…”
The “muse” is always on. Our job is to discover a way to enter the wonder that doesn’t go away, even if we do.
FYI, from what I’ve read ALL of your stories are built around the interrobang. The multitude of major and minor dysopias are good. The ones from outside your window on the rain slicked sidewalks are where you write the good stuff. My .02 only.
“And some of us will be met with spontaneous revelations so life-changing that the doors of perception are opened for us.“
I’m impressed with your ability to suss these impossible concepts.
I enjoy reading your work (a quality that is difficult for me to find in any literary blogger) but nonetheless true. I’m up to the part with the mechanical angels—where the protagonist does indeed find samadhi, though imposed on him, unwillingly.
The stories are comforting, in some odd way, like mom’s home cooking with a cannabis garnish.
Congratulations on writing a very impressive second volume.
(I’m saving these blurbs, by the way, for the review I’ll prepare after I finish reading.)
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Thank you. I’m so pleased to know you are enjoying the blog and the book, and I love your description ‘like mom’s home cooking with a cannabis garnish’ – that’s wonderful!
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Interesting to see a modern take on the book ?!
Thanks for that..
The book explains the process of change that permits the organism to grow beyond the confines of the animal kingdom.
Animal or divine mutant.
Are you familiar with this process?
The crown you cannot hold in your hand……..!