I’ve been on a bit of a Robert Anton Wilson train of late. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s into the kinda stuff I’m into who isn’t a fan of old Bob. His lectures, interviews and books are incredible and I think I’ve kinda of figured out why he’s so appealing…to me anyway.
Anyone who’s had some kind of drug trip knows the feeling; the slow, dawning realisation that all things are connected and then, pow, it hits you like a ton of intergalactic cinder blocks that have fallen from the heavens right onto you thick skull; oh shit, every thing that ever is or was or will be is all dependent on everything else and I’m in the middle of it all, seeing it all, experiencing it all. And suddenly the brain is stampeding tangentially from one target to the next again and again and again and again as it finds connections that shouldn’t really be there but, of course they are. Until…oh look, a penny and we’re distracted and it’s gone. For years I convinced myself that the brain does this just before some breakthrough in an effort to save itself, or yourself, from the profoundness you were about to experience. I’m still somewhat convinced the mind has some kind of failure hardwired in that stops that final hurdle being leaped.
Robert Anton Wilson Meditation
But this is is how Bob Wilson thought. All the time. But not in a drug-crazed, intergalactic-speed type of thinking, he was able to take his thoughts and slowly and methodically put them into words so that the rest of us could be brought up to speed with his thinking.
In a talk made some time in 1991 he was pontificating on the ridiculousness of the coffee trade, the sugar trade and how they were both built on the slave trade; how we drink a drink that doesn’t taste good, one that has the aim of getting us ‘wired, nervous and hostile’ but because it doesn’t taste good we have to drink it with sugar, a thing that also gets us ‘wired, nervous and hostile’. And the utter pointlessness of our society that is now run on these two drugs that just make all of us ‘wired, nervous and hostile’.
Meditation Experiment Part I
At this point in the lecture he brings a halt to the mind-train talking and decides to do the first of two experiments undertaken in the lecture hall. He asks the people to listen to the many sounds that grab their attention until he says stop. Now, obviously this is a kind of meditation but an interesting thing to try on a roomful of people nonetheless.
He says start and after a period of silence he asks people in the audience how many things did they hear and the answers vary from the small to the large and then he also them how long did they think the silence lasted. He tells every person more or less the same thing, when someone says it felt like two minutes, he tells them yes, for you it was two minutes, for someone else it’s 10 minutes and again, he says, yes, for you it did feel like 10 minutes and one soul says it felt like half an hour and of course, he says, yes, for you it took half an hour.
Wilson continues with the lecture then and brings up Timothy Leary and Reality Tunnels. It was Leary who first came up with the term and he says that this wee experiment is a piece of evidence that we all live in our own reality tunnel. How is this proof?
Well, each individual is going to hear a different amount of things aren’t they? Different things are going to grab the attention of different people. And it’s probably the more aware that you are the more things that you will notice. However, on the flip side of that you could be experiencing a ‘flow state’ where you are totally concentrated on just one thing and you don’t every feel the passing of time. But these things are one in the same though aren’t they, as in you cannot have one without the other.
It’s an interesting thought however, isn’t it? The whole world is just doing its thing all about us and we can tune in our awareness to whatever we want to. Sit in a park someday and try it, let your mind go blank and allow your attention to be grabbed by whatever falls into your field of vision or the things you hear. You’ll probably be amazed at the sheer number of things that will present themselves to you. Yet we somehow live like horses with blinkers, oblivious to the goings on around us.
He continues then speaking about Reality Tunnels for a while and says something rather remarkable before initiating the second part of the experiment:
The Universe is a Multiple Choice Intelligence Test, the trouble is most people in our culture have trained to think of it as an Either-Or test. Which is why they get so screwed up all the time.
And it’s true isn’t it? We far too often look at things as either-or rather than seeing things are having multiple and many options. We put limits on ourselves and our thinking because of how we’ve learned, or been told, to see the world.
Meditation Part II
He then asks the audience to try the meditation experiment again but this time to do it without words, i.e. when something grabs your attention, push the words that come with it away and just concentrate on the sounds.
He claims, once the time is up that it’s an old Sufi meditation that fits well with the first meditation, which he claims he invented. Didn’t know Bob invented ‘noting’ meditation, ha! The reason to take away words is that time seems to slow down when we don’t have to put a label on everything and he claims that it’s far easier to experience what William Blake claimed about experiencing ‘eternity in an hour’ by doing things like this. Interestingly, the two meditations were the same length of time but I’ve a feeling for most people they would have experienced the second one as feeling far, far longer.
Now, this second type of meditation is incredibly difficult to do but when it does work it’s really quite something.
It revealed to me that our default operating system is that of labeling; almost all of our thoughts are in word form but by doing the second meditation we gain a great insight, we see that, actually, there’s something else going on beneath the surface level of our thoughts and that there’s another kind of consciousness that doesn’t work in words and it’s far more fundamental to what’s actually going on in our minds. It’s very deep, it’s very ancient, it’s very primordial and it’s wiser, far, far wiser than the idiot talking all the time.