So, a bandwidth model of consciousness. This was a presentation I originally gave at the 2009 International Amazonian Shamanism Conference. Since that time, I feel as though the ideas have had a chance to marinade and are easier to explain now, 4 years later. So…
I have had some unusual experiences and have drawn a set of ideas from those experiences. I will try to approach these ideas in steps, so that no big conceptual jumps are made at once.
In regards to the unusual experiences, themselves, lets just say that in the Winter of 2004, me and my family and girlfriend experienced some very powerful spiritual interactions, some traumatic, some life changing. We were completely sober during these occurances, and there was physical evidence that remained afterwords. These experiences have been adapted into a screenplay called The Visitor, and the SciFi channel has expressed interest in releasing it as a made-for-tv movie.
I’ve learned the hard way, however, not to share these experiences in public settings, as they are very powerful, rare, and, for many people, unnerving. Yet, they are the reason I abandoned my previous career in media and moved across the country to study Transpersonal psychology – in the hopes of rationalizing what had occurred, seeking some guidance to help me make sense of this spiritual facet of nature that I had caught a glimpse of.
Today I will share what I have come up with, in a set of insights, ideas, models, and experiments which have been very meaningful to me.
Intra-terrestrial (as opposed to extra-terrestrial) intelligence implies, most broadly, that there are aspects of nature which we do not yet fully understand. I think it’s important that people (especially people working in the field of science) admit this fact – that Nature is both subtle and all-encompassing, and for mankind to pretend we know and understand all of her unseen facets and ranges is not just ignorant, but egocentric.
But it’s one thing to know that we do not know. In many ways, that first step of admitting how little we know is the easy part. How can we, from that position, begin to make known what is unknown? In my mind, even conceptualizing an explanation for what I experienced meant going BACK TO BASICS…
SLIDE 2 – UNIVERSALS OF ENERGETIC PHENOMENA
The most basic… the base of all things: frequency, itself. I began to realize how all-encompassing the form of the wave truly is. All we know, see, touch, feel, and express is composed of this simple duality of crest and trough.
With the waveform, we have a set of laws that we know and can generalize to all energetic phenomena — frequency, crest/trough, medium, carrier, and signal, etc. These are laws of that apply to physicality, and ITS mediums and densities as meaningfully as it can be applied to sunlight, or finer non-physical phenomena, which are no less real than those physical mediums, like air or copper, just because we cannot touch them or measure them, in a traditional sense.
SLIDE 3 – NATURE: SEEN AND UNSEEN ASPECTS
So all we know and observe of nature exists as that same waveform, as the traversal of modulation out across a carrying medium. When we throw a rock in a pond, we can see the waves radiating outwards from that central point of contact. But, just because we can see these waves and cannot see others doesn’t make the waves we can’t see any less real!
SLIDE 4 – THE RADIO METAPHOR
For instance, we can’t see radio waves… yet they radiate, and “ripple” out from that central point of “contact” in just the same way.
The radio wave became “real” to us only recently (1895,) where previously it had been, briefly, a mathematical concept only — a mental conception of an energetic phenomena. Before that, it was simply an unnamed range of energy we could not perceive; a vague mystical sense of some subtle unknowable “sea” beyond what we can sense.
My point is that, while we have come to understand certain facets of this infinite “sea” of unseen frequency, there are finer ranges and other facets beyond our current ability to measure that we do not yet fully understand. Yet, we CAN know that these lesser known ranges of frequency, and their more subtle mediums, work exactly like the radio, or like the pond ripples that we can see and understand.
SLIDE 5 – THE VISIBLE SPECTRUM
The Visible Spectrum. We all remember this bar of color from our high school science textbooks, right? ol’ ROY G. BIV!
This particular picture is misleading, in that it doesn’t show exactly how narrow the spectrum is. About 380 to 740 nanometers, is just a sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum…yet that sliver represents everything we see and know of the world.
These are the perceptual limitations of our species. But isn’t it just like man to assume that, just because his consciousness begins and ends within the visible spectrum, that ALL consciousness must begin and end within that same narrow sliver…and that all of the rest of that vast expanse of energy is devoid of conscious life. How egocentric of us! And yet, how typical…
No, there is no reason to assume the electromagnetic spectrum revolves solely around us and our meager perception. Nor was there any reason to believe that the Universe revolved solely around us, or that the Sun existed specifically for us to see. Looking back, we laugh at the short-sighted narcissism of Geocentrism today – that once-common idea that the Sun and universe revolves around us. Yet, what is this belief in the centrality of the visible spectrum but an energetic form of Geocentrism? A sort of Ergo-Centrism.
SLIDE 6 – FREQUENCY EQUATES DENSITY
So, if we are to consider the possibility of ranges beyond the visible spectrum able to act as mediums for consciousness, we need a framework to help us conceptualize how. I thought long and hard over the idea for a long time before two very strong understandings hit me – one is that frequency and density are two facets of the same phenomena. That statement may not make sense at first, but bear with me.
The famous Double-Slit experiment, as you know, showed that light exhibits characteristics of both a wave and a particle. As Alan Watts says, it’s more of a “wavicle.” Yet, how does this realization translate to the rest of the EM spectrum, or the energetic aspect of all life?
We remember the densities of matter from that same high school textbook, right? The idea of the very heavy things, like metal or rock, settle to the bottom, water, being less dense, settles above that, and that air is of very fine density, and settles above the water. States of matter: solid, liquid, and gas, right?
If we adjust the scale of our thinking, each molecule of those 3 densities of matter, be them compact or spaced out, can be interpreted as a crest of a wave, with the trough being the space between particles. This was a major breakthrough for me, as I could then interpret all my surroundings as a bandwidth of frequency. A real world understanding of matter as energy.
So, it helps me to think of a real world example of this, like a beach – where several different mediums of matter meet. Imagine a cross cut of a beach…a slice cutting down the water and into the ground beneath. We have the lowest levels, beneath the sand, sedimentary layers of clay, shale, and stone. Very dense, heavily compressed layers. Above that we have the sand; not so dense or compressed, you can put your feet into it because there is space between the grains. Above the sand is the water, the ocean where we came from a long time ago. It is a medium, like air, that can carry frequency, like sound, just the same. Then, of course, we have our own medium, the air, which settles above the surface of the water, which is much finer.
This is is simple, we all know the beach and have experienced the meeting of these two mediums, the boundary of water and air. Yet, it is an infinitely important boundary, as in it we can understand the relationship between all other boundaries and bandwidths.
Imagine we did not know anything about the ocean, or what it was. Looking at it from the shore, it would just be an expanse of surface, with no reason for us to assume there is any life in it whatsoever. We can enter the water, and dive down for a brief moment, and open our eyes underwater, and all at once a whole world is revealed to us that had been hidden. Yet, we cannot live in that density of matter, and so our time is limited there, and we must always return back to our place above.
The fish doesn’t know that there is anything other than water – it was born immersed in it, and has never been out of water to even know there is anything else, to compare. Likewise, we are rarely if ever aware of our immersion in the visible spectrum, as we do not experience mediums of other densities. We begin to assume that that is everything, and, like the fish, the idea of some “higher realm” of a finer medium is completely foreign to us.
Yet, incredible and vibrant forms of life exist both deep in the sea and far onto the land – both completely ignorant of one another, for the most part, yet existing and evolving side by side. The fact that the amazing blue whales or bioluminescent angler fish are unknown to the chimpanzee of African jungles does not make one or the other any less real.
Likewise, the rare hints we occasionally get that life exists beyond the bounds of our discrete realm of physical awareness should not be disregarded as strange flukes or hallucinations–no more than the rare but occasional washing up to shore of a giant squid should be disregarded as fake or unreal. Exceptional human experiences, interactions with entities from some realm above us, or other non-physical life from some realm below, are rare, yes, but universal – a defining aspect of our species, across all cultures, these interactions reveal that we should not assume that that “ocean” of electromagnetic energy is devoid of life.
So, yes, that was the first idea of the two that struck me as meaningful. The second involves the bar of color, itself. When I first encountered the EM spectrum in that science textbook, it felt so unnatural and man-made – this stark rectangle. I couldn’t imagine how it existed in the real world. Like, I’d be wandering and just stumble onto some gay pride monolith in space one day…
No, an important realization for me was when I saw that it isnt a bar, but more of…
SLIDE 7 – RADIANCE
A circle… a sphere… that these frequencies are blaring out in all directions from a radiant center, from a point of “contact,” like our stone in the pond. This is how electromagnetism actually exists in nature and this helped me to understand consciousness…
But, even this image does not do consciousness justice… as radiance spreads out in ALL directions…we’d need something closer to…
SLIDE 8 – CONCEPTUALIZING LAYERS OF DENSITY
This… that is, if imagined in three dimensions then the electromagnetic spectrum does not look like a square bar, or a simple set of concentric circles, but actually something akin to a cross-section of a planet, with different densities of matter divided into layers, or bandwidths. Instead of thinking of this as the Earth, with these hard physical layers, think of it as light radiating outwards in all directions from a center. The light divides into a spectrum, and that spectrum has distinct layers, or bandwidths, of gradually finer and finer density. And out further yet, into the atmosphere, the invisible divisions of ozone and ionosphere.
Imagine each of those layers there as a density, as a medium that can carry and transmit consciousness. Then you will then have an image very close to what the electromagnetic spectrum actually is, and the visible range of it as just a small and inconsequential layer.
SLIDE 9 – STATE-DEPENDENT PERCEPTIONS
By thinking of consciousness as discrete bandwidths, or mediums of differing density, we have a way of conceptualizing perception that allows for non-physical phenomena. So, back to our beach: when we are standing on the beach, the water is just a surface – we can’t see what’s going on under it. Yet, it’s only when we’re fully IMMERSED and cross the boundary of the waters surface, and dive down into it, that we are able to perceive everything that is happening there – all the textures and life, the crabs and fish that we could not see before. Or, likewise, if you remember your friend screaming underwater to you when you were swimming…you could only hear him when you, too, dove under and were fully immersed in that realm.
Those perceptions are state-dependent… you need to be in that different state of matter before you can perceive them. Likewise, think of salvia – and how those sudden thoughts, perceptions, sensations, and understandings are DEPENDENT on you “diving in” to that salvia consciousness, and being fully immersed in it. This is true of any state-of-consciousness – there are memories and perceptions which are bound to the state – it is only made blatantly obvious in those EXTREME states, like salvia or ayahuasca, where we have a dramatically new set of perceptions from that state, which we are then able to compare to our normal state.
SLIDE 10 – I’M ON A MEXICAN RADIO…
If we think of these state-dependent perceptions in terms of radio, it makes even more sense… this idea of “reception” and “transmission” make a lot of sense when applied to consciousness. The idea that there are “stations” above and below our own, with music and culture very different from our own. Whole languages totally foreign to us – like the Mexican station – which exist right alongside us without our even being aware of them
When we can “tune” our consciousness upwards or downwards, to a different station, all at once we are flooded with these new perceptions. Yes, something like DMT can allow us to explore new bandwidths and frequencies…but we may just as easily stumble on one naturally, while drifting off to sleep, for instance.. Regardless, the skill comes in being able to steady our minds, learn to maintain attention and strengthen our focus, so that we can HOLD that new station once we find it… tuning is one function, maintaining that tuning is a whole different ability.
SLIDE 11 – TRANSMISSION / RECEPTION
In theory, any bandwidth can be used for reception/transmission. That’s a big deal. That has implications. Think of the “transmission/reception” of the medium of air, for instance — waves of pressure radiating in ripples outward from our body, from our voice box, which is a resonating instrument.
When we’re angry, this is very much akin to someone thrashing around in a pond, “making waves,” felt strongly by everything within earshot. We wince when we hear a woman scream, and kinda tense up, like we’re bracing ourselves for a storm. Yet, only PART of this response is due to the sound, right? The auditory layer of that emotional outburst is only a small snippet of an overall expression of anger, which exists in many layers. But, regardless of this, each of these layers of can be similarly deduced to these simple energetic laws: of transmission/reception, of some medium, which “carries” the expression, and of some modulator, which makes the expression (or “signal” to bring this back to our radio metaphor.) All of these bandwidths on the spectrum which is our physical expression, once thought of as simple energy, reveal a powerfully meaningful view of the world. Yet, this view of self and consciousness as reception and expression of frequency, be it modulating in air or in light (or brainwave frequency, whatever) allows us to encompass a larger set of possibilities.
A breakthrough in understanding came for me when I realized the rippling frequency across the surface of the pond was the same as the rippling frequency of neuronal activation, spreading across the surface of our cortex.
Brainwaves represent not just a single frequency, but a vibrant and noisy pool of many interacting frequency states from different functioning areas of the brain – it is raining on the pond.
iii. It is in the rare occurrence of when these many areas become harmonized, that is brainwave synchrony occurs, that the truly profound felt shifts in consciousness, thought, and perception occur.
iv. So, lets dive a bit into brainwave states, their meaning and their potential meaning…
SLIDE 13 – MAJOR BANDWIDTHS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
We see here the 5 major bandwidths of consciousness.
I am sure all of you have seen the brainwave states at some point, Gamma, beta, alpha, theta, delta…
The divisions are crude and overly general, and most researchers I have found who devote extended study into the EEG states ended up discovering many additional distinct stages – some claiming 12 or more of these micro-states.
SLIDE 14 – GAMMA
Gamma is the rarest of the brainwave states, not typically experienced in our day to day waking consciousness. It represents some of the highest recorded frequencies of cortical activation
A study by Lutz showed Long term Buddhist meditators experience powerful high amplitude gamma synchrony – that is, they induce a high frequency state of consciousness across many different areas of the brain.
What is interesting is that the exact same states of consciousness achieved by Buddhist monks by decades of intense daily meditative practice are also achieved by simply drinking ayahuasca once.
Luna, Stuckey, and Lawson, studying ayahuasca ceremonies in Brazil, found Widely distributed cortical hyper-coherence, that is to say
Ayahuasca causes many areas of the brain fire at the same brainwave frequency
This makes sense given the profound synthestasia experienced during ayahuasca — seeing the icaros, hearing the visions, feeling the lights and colors all occur while those different sensory areas of the brain are resonating together, at the same wavelength.
SLIDE 15 – BETA
We see BETA with the beta-states with strong, excited emotions such as fear, rage, or anxiety, as well as with alert attentiveness, selective attention, concentration, or anticipation.
SLIDE 16 – ALPHA
The ALPHA state is linked to focus and imagery – that is it has a suppressive function which allows us to selectively filter out extraneous stimulus.
When we smoke a joint, this is “zone out” state – staring off and focusing on a single object or thought, a sort of “tunnel” cognition where all surrounding distractions are drowned out by alpha.
Alpha has been of special interest to me, especially with my EEG studies of supposed mediums at the William James Center.
What is interesting is that, as they claimed the spirit entered their body to speak, we saw a FLOOD of high amplitude energy surge in the alpha band. It was not continuous, but seemed to serve as a sort of GATEWAY function, seen only during the entrance and exit of the entity into the body.
SLIDE 17 – THETA
Theta is amazing, it is where the ocean of subtle internal perceptions begin to intermingle with the external: known as hypnagogic or transitional perceptions.
Delta is slow wave sleep and, like the other extreme, can be reached by experienced shamans or meditators.
Yet the most fascinating things occur along the lower range of alpha, extending into theta – the MYOCLONIC JERK. The myoclonic jerk is that thing where you are just drifting off to sleep and, all of the sudden, your leg kicks out or something. It’s usually a half-dream, where you feel like you’re slipping or falling. It occurs as we begin to lose awareness of our physical surroundings, the muscles of the body begin to release from motor control. Our dream body literally begins to cut ties from our physical body. This is necessary, or else we’d be running and jumping in our bed as we dream.
SLIDE 18 – MYOCLONIC GATE
My belief is that the twitch represents the edge of a unique bandwidth of consciousness, a discrete range in which our subtle or residual self may separate from the body.
With the body and residual self separate, night paralysis, possession, or the out-of-body states are often experienced.
At the myoclonic gate, the outer physical self and the subtle self may separate, experienced as a descent into a lower realm or a non-physical perception of the room and the body, or an out-of-body experience.
This can be interpreted as the 3 universal shamanic realms, the upper/middle/lower worlds. The shaman lays, enters trance, and travels through the bandwidths of consciousness. …tuning to new stations, diving “underwater” to the unseen realm of spirit.
SLIDE 19 – THE LEGITIMACY OF OUT-OF-BODY PERCEPTIONS
In the Fall, I will begin a pilot study attempting to show the legitimacy of these non-physical perceptions, perceptions of the room and of self made without the sensory organs.
Here is the experiment, as performed by my professor Dr. Charles Tart.
Ms. Z, the subject, claimed to leave her body several times a week, floating above bed.
Dr. Tart placed 5 digit random number several feet above the bed, which she perceived from a Delta sleep state, establishing the legitimacy of out-of-body perceptions.
Many of the ideas I shared today are unusual, but realize they are only unusual in our culture. The concept of the radio seemed very obvious when it was introduced to India – Hindu mystics had been “transmitting” and “receiving” thoughts, and tuning their consciousness in the calmness of meditation for millennia already.
As science gradually releases the burden of materialism and begins to catch up with these masters of consciousness, these other “stations” of conscious life will gradually see the light of day – and we may come to learn that our station never really was the most popular.
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