Reality Reviewed

If you like the experience of having your whole ontological structure disappear out from under you, you’ll probably love psychedelics. -–Terence McKenna (1991)

 

The ontological status of experience in the psychedelic sphere is called into question at every turn: was that perception of the interconnectedness of all of nature; of my dead grandfather; or of a sea of giant fluorescent violet snakes real? If so, in what sense?
Models of the co-existence of multiple levels of reality have been helpful. Basarab Nicolescu is a Roumanian theoretical physicist and a scholar of the mystic Jacob Boehme (1991). His formulation of transdisciplinarity is an attempt to provide a theoretical framework from which to integrate knowledge from several levels of reality. “Reality” and “level of Reality” as Nicolescu defines them are useful for the discussion of reality in the psychedelic sphere.
“Here the meaning we give to the word reality is pragmatic and ontological at the same time. By “Reality” (with a capital R) we intend first of all to designate that which resists our experiences, representations, descriptions, images, or mathematical formulations.“ (Nicolescu 2002).

 

Quamtum physicist Basarab Nicolescu

 

For Nicolescu, ”The Godelian structure of Nature and knowledge guarantees the permanent presence of the unknown, the unexpected, and the unpredictable. . .The opening of transdisciplinarity implies, by its very nature, the rejection of all dogma, all ideology, all closed systems of thought. This opening is the sign of the birth of a new type of thought turned not so much toward answers as questions. The Subject is himself the unfathomable question that assures the permanence of questioning. There are three kinds of opening: the opening of one level of Reality toward another level of Reality, the opening of a new level of perception toward another level of perception, and the opening toward the zone of absolute resistance, which links the Subject and the Object.”
The concept of a “level of reality” is critical:
“By ‘level of reality,’ we intend to designate an ensemble of systems that are invariant under certain laws: for example, quantum entities are subordinate to quantum laws, which depart radically from the laws of the physical world. That is to say that two levels of Reality are different if, while passing from one to the other, there is a break in the laws and a break in fundamental concepts (such as, for example, causality). No one has succeeded in finding a mathematical formalism that permits the difficult passage from one world to another.”1

 


 

Consciousness is modeled as existing in multiple mindbody states or levels. This model of consciousness as a series of levels or states is as ancient as Vedanta and Buddhist practices, and found in medical and psychological models as well. While each of these philosophies, psychospiritual practices, and academic disciplines has their own taxonomies of what these levels consist of, and their own means of attaining, studying, and manipulating these levels, the model of consciousness as multistate and leveled is ubiquitous.


 

Reality is truly made of language and of linguistic structures that you carry, unbeknownst to yourself, in your mind, and which, under the influence of psilocybin begin to dissolve and allow you to see beyond the speakable. The contours of the unspeakable begin to emerge into your perception, and though you can’t say much about the unspeakable it has the power to color everything you do. You live with it; it is the invoking of the other. The Other can become the Self, and many forms of estrangement can be healed. That is why the term alien has these many connotations. –Terence McKenna, Conversation Over Saucers


 

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  1. Nicolescu, B. (2002). Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity. Albany, State University of New York Press. []

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