My friend Sondra and I had a lengthy discussion about altered states of consciousness and whether the physical world as it is presently understood is all that there is to be known. We have both had experiences that seem to defy theories that we misinterpreted coincidental events or that we selectively remembered events that confirmed a theory.
She has recently had apparent success using sigils — a method of creating a symbol to influence a specific outcome. However, as both of us are skeptics, the lack of a causal understanding has us frustrated — although not so much frustration as to stop using what seems to work, especially when it does no harm.
She spoke of the theory that the symbols themselves were being "charged" with something (I almost wrote "energy" but that's not what I'm talking about). The concept is that if we can observe a symbol (a word, for instance) and that can cause a thought to form in our minds, there is a transfer of something from the symbol to ourself. If that's true, then can it be possible to charge a symbol with something that can later be received? Can it be used to communicate on some level different from language?
I felt it might be that a sigil is a representation of the start of an action that we forget how we complete. I made an analogy of pounding in a nail: starting with a nail protruding from a board, you would (1) desire for the nail to be pounded in, (2) get a hammer and pound in the nail, and (3) observe the nail pounded in. Now consider the experience if you forgot that you did #2: you would have observed a protruding nail that you wanted pounded in, and then you would note that it was indeed pounded in. What if a sigil is a way to express a desire, and we simply forget how we accomplished it, leading to an outcome that we wanted in the first place?
We also talked about out-of-body experiences, or at least extending our influence and connection to the world beyond the confines of our bodies. A long time ago I had tinkered with out-of-body experiences. One time I felt that I could locate the presence of non-physical beings in space — hundreds of them everywhere; in another, I heard a cacophony of voices. In both cases, though, it scared me — I very much did not want to reach a point where I couldn't avoid "seeing presences" or "hearing voices" so I turned away from those techniques.
So what if that was a valid, real perception? — a sensory device that I had not needed to use and that I psychologically blocked. What if that could help explain facets of our existence that have yet been unexplained? What if we have deliberately blinded ourselves to avoid seeing something that is complex and confusing; powerful and enriching? The cells in my body are connected in complicated ways, so why not a connection to all life to a similar degree? Why not a connection to the universe in its entirety?
It's certainly an exciting prospect … [unless, of course, it's demonstrably an illusion; then it would kind of suck.]
But then I don't want to dive right into the world of pseudoscience. A serendipitous e-mail gave me a hint, though. It was a link to a TED Talk by a neuroanatomist named Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor titled My stroke of insight. In it, she outlined her own experience of having a stroke and how it affected her brain — an expert in brain anatomy who got the chance to experience what she often explains to others.
The lecture is moving and engaging, but what I took away from it was a reminder to rely on science in my own exploration. One of the key parts of validly using reason and logic to come to conclusions is to start from a point that has already been established — "A" then "B" then "C". One of the pitfalls in exploring topics that are "out there" is to claim that it is an entirely new frontier and to start from a point that it is not grounded in established knowledge. Doing so invalidates any conclusions attained, so not only is it a false path, it's genuinely a waste of time.
So it's one thing to explore and play, but to draw conclusions — like mine and Sondra's analytical brains desperately want to do — requires that we start at a point of known, physical reality. Maybe this left-brain, right-brain stuff is a starting point. I guess I'd better get reading.