Wednesday, February 9, 2011

If the doors of perception were cleansed ...

The great change was in the realm of objective fact। What had happened to my subjective universe was relatively unimportant... Space was still there; but it had lost its predominance. The mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning

Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies - all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universe… Words are uttered, but fail to enlighten. The things and events to which the symbols refer belong to mutually exclusive realms of experience.

To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift। Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves। But what if these others belong to a different species and inhabit a radically alien universe? For example, how can the sane get to know what it actually feels like to be mad? Or, short of being born again as a visionary, a medium, or a musical genius, how can we ever visit the worlds which to Blake, to Swedenborg , to Johann Sebastian Bach, were home? … To the unmitigated behaviorist such questions , I suppose, are meaningless. But for those who theoretically believe what in practice they know to be true- namely, that there is an inside to experience as well as outside- the problems posed are real problems, all the more grave for being, some completely insoluble, some soluble only in exceptional circumstances and by methods not available to everyone. Thus, it seems virtually certain that I shall never know what it feels like to be Sir John Falstaff or Joe Louis. On the other hand, it had always seemed to me possible that, through hypnosis, for example, or autohypnosis, by means of systematic meditation, or else by taking the appropriate drug, I might so change my ordinary mode of consciousness as to be able to know, from the inside, what the visionary, the medium, even the mystic were talking about.

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