Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Harmon’s Head: Community & The 8 Circuit Model of Consciousness

This is a model of the Dan Harmon created sitcom Community based on The Eight-Circuit Model of Consciousness, a metaphysiological construct developed by Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson.

It is most certainly an imperfect mapping of the show, based on an imperfect psychological model, which cherry picks certain characteristics, and ignores others, but I found that it ends up fitting far better than I expected it to, and since the show is known for its impeccable story structure, it’s interesting to find something resembling character structure as well. For the sake of simplicity this is based on the original “Greendale Seven Study Group” incarnation of the cast.

1. Shirley Bennett - The Oral Biosurvival Circuit
This circuit is concerned with nourishment, physical safety, comfort and survival. This circuit is imprinted early in infancy. The imprint will normally last for life, unless it is re-imprinted by a powerful experience.

Shirley is a nurturing, morally simplistic, mother figure. She is concerned with what is “nice.” This circuit is considered the equivalent of Freud’s oral stage of development, and Shirley can be seen adhering to this role when she finds herself compulsively baking treats for the group to snack on. Her primary motivations are her three kids and her sandwich shop, both of which represent the obligations of the Oral Biosurvival role.

2. Troy Barnes - The Emotional–Territorial Circuit
The emotional-territorial circuit is imprinted in the toddler stage. It is concerned with domination and submission, territoriality etc.

Troy is a childlike, emotional, ex high school prom king, whose character arc travels a trajectory from social domination to losing himself in deference to his relationship with Abed. He also frequently has territorial struggles with Jeff, the de facto leader of the group. This circuit is considered the equivalent of Freud’s anal stage of development, and Troy does indeed proclaim a fondness for “butt stuff.”

3. Annie Edison - The Symbolic or Neurosemantic–Dexterity Circuit
This circuit is imprinted by human symbol systems. It is concerned with language, handling the environment, invention, calculation, prediction, building a mental "map" of the universe, physical dexterity, etc.

Annie is an exceptionally organized, intelligent, and responsible overachiever, who emerges as the most efficacious member of the group. This circuit is activated by stimulant drugs, such as caffeine and amphetamines, and so Little Annie Adderall’s pill addiction makes perfect sense in this context. Her efforts in the debate team, Model UN, the Save Greendale Committee, and her aspirations to become an FBI agent all speak to her desire to achieve agency via language and dexterity.

4. Jeff Winger - The Domestic or Socio-Sexual Circuit
This fourth circuit is imprinted by the first orgasm-mating experiences and tribal "morals". It is concerned with sexual pleasure (instead of sexual reproduction), local definitions of "moral" and "immoral", reproduction, rearing of the young, etc. The fourth circuit concerns itself with cultural values and operating within social networks.

Jeff is a morally relative father figure to the group, which he formed accidentally after a failed subterfuge to try to get into Britta’s pants. Jeff is both a source of inspiration and mitigation for the group, which in either case is an exorcising of social control. He shows them the “right truth.”  Jeff is an expert at manipulating cultural relativism in order to create his preferred socio-political environment. Jeff enjoys the power of paternity without committing to the responsibility of actual fatherhood.

5. Britta Perry - The Neurosomatic Circuit
This circuit is concerned with neurological-somatic feedbacks, feeling high and blissful, somatic reprogramming, etc. It may be called the rapture circuit. When this circuit is activated, a non-conceptual feeling of well-being arises. Perceptions are judged not so much for their meaning and utility, but for their aesthetic qualities. Experience of this circuit often accompanies an hedonistic turn-on, a rapturous amusement, a detachment from the previously compulsive mechanism of the first four circuits.

Britta is a socially conscious bliss ninny. She is well versed in the aesthetics of rebellion, but her understanding of the actual issues tends to be superficial, and consequentially her ideas usually annoy more than they illuminate. Britta is no stranger to altered states of consciousness, she has been shown to be a frequent pot smoker and occasional psychedelic drug user, she has seen the world from outside the first 4 conventional or “terrestrial” circuits, but hasn’t fully integrated this perspective.  This situation makes her something of an outcast, and she is consequentially considered “the worst” by the rest of the group.

6. Abed Nadir - The Metaprogramming Circuit
This circuit is concerned with re-imprinting and re-programming all earlier circuits and the relativity of “realities” perceived. This circuit consists of the nervous system becoming aware of itself.

Abed is a painfully self aware savant of media with extreme meta sensibilities. He has “medium awareness” and sees his world through the incidentally true filter of it being a TV show, and often becomes concerned with the multiversality of alternative timelines/realities.  He often uses this transcendent perspective to program the behavior of the group. Abed may be the best example of the “metaprogrammer” archetype in all of pop culture. He can be seen experimenting with altering the social dynamics of the group via simulations in his dreamatorium, or by dosing the female members of the group w/ chocolate during their periods, or by trying to directly alter the group’s reality by way of interfacing with the show’s storytelling conventions.

7. Pierce Hawthorne - The Morphogenetic Circuit
This circuit is the connection of the individual's mind to the whole sweep of evolution and life as a whole. It is the part of consciousness that echoes the experiences of the previous generations that have brought the individual's brain-mind to its present level.

Pierce’s old age makes him both a source of wisdom and antiquated prejudice. This circuit is often described as the storehouse of collective memory, and Pierce does often act as an almost supernatural repository of information about the group. Pierce knows everyone’s secrets, and while he sometimes succumbs to villainy, he invariably uses this knowledge to induct the group into further maturation. The ideology of this circuit tends to be incorporated into a lot of new age bs, which Pierce would be perfectly comfortable with in his capacity as a Level Five Laser Lotus in his Reformed Neo Buddhist community.

8. Dan Harmon - The Quantum Non-Local Circuit (Overmind)
The eighth circuit is concerned with quantum consciousness, non-local awareness (information from beyond ordinary space-time awareness which is limited by the speed of light), illumination.

Dan Harmon is widely considered synonymous with the show he created. So much so that the defining characteristic of the show in season 4, the one season where he wasn’t involved in its production, is his obvious absence. Although there is of course a small army of actors, writers, directors, designers, dungeon masters, and production crew members that help bring Community to life, it is the general consensus that the reality of the show is the imagination of Dan Harmon.  And if you follow along with his podcast and documentary "Harmontown", it’s easy to imagine all these characters and ideas churning around in Harmon’s genius and self aware deprecation. Harmon is the part of Community that emerges out of meta-fictionality and is part of a transcendent reality, our reality, the real world of everyday experience. In the most recent season, and perhaps series, finale, Harmon effortlessly opens the fourth wall, and the show becomes a sincere expression about his real life, and his real life becomes a natural extension of the show. The sitcom as triumphant mythology. Cool. Cool, cool, cool.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Psycholitic doses

Even the father of LSD, Albert Hofmann seems to have been a fan. In his book, Fadiman notes that Hofmann microdosed himself well into old age and quoted him as saying LSD “would have gone on to be used as Ritalin if it hadn’t been so harshly scheduled.”

“Micro-dosing turns out to be a totally different world,” he explained. “As someone said, the rocks don’t glow, even a little bit. But what many people are reporting is, at the end of the day, they say, ‘That was a really good day.’ You know, that kind of day when things kind of work. You’re doing a task you normally couldn’t stand for two hours, but you do it for three or four. You eat properly. Maybe you do one more set of reps. Just a good day. That seems to be what we’re discovering.”

James Fadiman

Photo courtesy of Scott Kline

Note: Albert Hofmann lived an active life to the age of 102, and his wife lived to be 94.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

James Joyce - Modern Psychonaut

“I am convinced personally that Mr. Joyce is a genius all the world will have to recognize.”
– Aleister Crowley, The Genius of Mr. James Joyce

“Joyce’s prose prepared me to enter psychedelic space.”
– Timothy Leary, FLASHBACKS

“(Finnegans Wake is) about as close to LSD on the page as you can get…”
– Terence McKenna, Surfing on Finnegans Wake

“If you’ve never had a psychedelic, reading Joyce is the next best equivalent.”
– Robert Anton Wilson, RAW Explains Everything

“I have read Finnegans Wake aloud at a time when takers of LSD said, ‘that is JUST LIKE LSD.’ So I have begun to feel that LSD may just be the lazy man’s form of Finnegans Wake.” 
– Marshall McLuhan, Q & A

“Someday I’m going to get my article published; I’m going to prove that Finnegans Wake is an information pool based on computer memory systems that didn’t exist until centuries after James Joyce’s era; that Joyce was plugged into a cosmic consciousness from which he derived the inspiration for his entire corpus of work. I’ll be famous forever.”
– Philip K. Dick, The Divine Invasion

“Joyce’s book is called Finnegans Wake. The missing apostrophe creates another pun,
which Joyce explained to friends as a warning to the ruling classes:
 the oppressed rise, eventually, in every historical cycle.”
– Robert Anton Wilson, Coincidance

“Phall if you but will, rise you must: and none so soon either
shall the pharce for the nunce come to a setdown secular phoenish.”
– James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

I thought it would be fun on the occasion of Bloomsday 2015 to offer up a smattering of James Joyce’s hierarchitectitiptitoploftical influence on the psychonaut counter culture, and hopefully provide a novel context for his great works, which might help them extend beyond the trappings of highfalutin literary scholarship.

Please feel free to explore for yourself:
The collected works of James Joyce


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