Technical Ecstacy

Most forms of magical exercise to produce an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) can be categorised into one of two forms of physiological Gnosis; Inhibitory or Excitatory. Over the past two decades, many of these techniques have been studied in laboratory conditions, and two important factors has been isolated, known, respectively, as the Habituation, and the Dishabituation Responses.

The Habituation response explains the neurological processes which occurr when an individual focuses upon a single input, to the exclusion of as many others as possible. Thus any technique which focuses awareness towards one-pointedness, such as mantrayoga, breath control, chanting, spinning or dancing, serves to direct awareness towards a chosen focal point. This has a particular effect on a region of the Brain Stem known as the Reticular Formation. The Reticular Formation is a kind of censorship system - "deciding" which sensory input will be passed on to the higher centres. For example, it is the action of the Reticular Formation that allows a sleeping person to not be awakened by familiar noises, but will allow a "new" noise to wake them up.

As it is the Reticular Formation which modulates the perceptual experience of the cerebral cortex, then a single, unchanging input serves to "dampen" the activity of the Reticular

Phil Hine

Formation. This, in turn, inhibits the activity of the cerebral cortex, thus focusing consciousness towards the subject of concentration. As a consequence of this cortical dampening, a "high degree of neural coherence" as postulated by Karl Pribram does seem to occurr. One hypothesis is that the quiescence produced in the brain by the habituation response reduces the amount of brain "noise", that is, incoherent neural signals. Patterns which are ordinarily, indistinct from each other, become clear in consciousness, so that we are more aware of the world around us, and can percieve subtler aspects of experience. Thus, the more ordered and cohesive neurological activity across the cortex becomes, the more we are aware of a wider totality of experience.

Conversely, the more the cerebral cortex is over-stimulated, the more noise is generated in the neural patterns, so our awareness of our environment is reduced.

However, some magical exercises do not seek to focus awareness towards a single point, but to enhance awareness until the individual is constantly aware of the total field of experience - both inner and outer. Examples of this are Vipasana in Tantrika, Attention in Zen, or Gurdjieff's technique of Self-Remembering. Research into these exercises indicate that advanced practitioners do not become habituated to background noises, and that they retain full awareness of automatic actions. Such techniques are generally known as Metanoia - learning to look at the world in different ways. It seems that the changes in neural patterning produced by these processes serve to "dishabituate" the Reticular Formation's reaction to stimuli. Thus, after a session of meditation, the world appears to be brighter or newer, because the rate of neural pulses which is the basis of conscious experience has been

Oven-Ready Chaos first dampened, then re-stimulated, so that they are "firing" at a faster rate than normal.

Physicist David Bohm believes that if we can at least begin to concieve of a Holistic, rather than fragmented universe, then our minds would begin to move in a similar way, and from this would flow "an ordered action" towards the whole. This is certainly the case, in my experience, of learning by experience that we live in a MAGICAL universe.

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