BY ZENO THE ZETETIC
COVER ART BY WILL GRANGE
(C)opyright is a nasty word but the real author would appreciate being given the credit/blame he deserves and a link back to this site.
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The title comes from the slang use of the word "head" to mean roughly "mindset" or "worldview". The text deals with different ways of viewing the world.
This text does not try to be compendium of possible "Heads"; that would be impossible and pointless, as there seem to be as many heads as there have been individuals on the planet. Even more as every moment each person could be in a different head. Instead, I have attempted to describe what I see as some underlying features and capacities of consciousness.
This text may seem strangely serious to those familiar with my writing. Sorry about that I promise more jokes and paradoxes next time.
Chapter 0 may be considered a joke upon the reader: how else would you describe an attempt to describe the indescribable? Nevertheless, I have left it in more for the sake of completeness than anything else. Chapter 1 contains the basis of the book and it can be seen as a metaprogram waiting to be uploaded. It deals with the basic interpretive circuit that seems to underlie most common forms of consciousness.
The two parts of Chapter 2 deal with specific, if broad, heads. These are not necessarily root heads in the way as head1 but I have included them because they are the two major ways that consciousness deals with itself. At the moment, the scientist and shaman are very much at war in our society although I do not feel this has to be the case. To be honest I find anyone who is only capable of seeing the world from only one of these points of view a bit tedious to say the least. Hence in these chapters unpleasant things are said about fundamentalists of both sides and those who try to explain one in the terms of the other.
Although these two heads appear as a duality here it should be remembered that from any point of view outside of these two no duality appears.
Not all of the concepts in this text should be thought of as wholly original as the "further reading" section of each chapter shows. With this in mind, I would like to thank everyone who had an idea I nicked and indeed the entire history of human thought.
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There's not much that can be usefully said about this state. There seem to be constant references to it in mystic literature but most of the things the mystic's say aren't going to make much sense unless you know what they mean already. Hence they end up sounding confused. Leary and Wilson also talk about some aspects of this head in describing the 8th circuit but if anything they make less sense on this subject than those who have given up any hope of scientific description. This state can be described as what lies beyond absence of consciousness rather than the absence itself (perhaps it should be called head -1). It has variously been called Samhadi, Satori and any number of other things.
I know of no drugs that will always induce this state and the only practices that seem to work fairly reliably are tantra and raja yoga but even these don't seem to work all the time. In fact these practices are best thought of as waiting around for it to just happen. It should be pointed out that head0 seems to be in some ways much less spectacular than (for instance) the effects of psychedelics, but then in others ways it can be far more spectacular. In addition to being the ultimate goal of the mystical tradition it also describes a state you are in ALL THE TIME, which is quite hard to explain. Many claim head0 has no worth at all, often mystics who have spent their lives pursuing it. The state can also be described as logically impossible.
If all that seems a bit nonsensical it must be remembered that head0 transcends language.
The work of Crowley makes constant reference to this topic but I feel that the Book of Lies with its constant assault on reason works best. I also find A.O. Spares concept of Kia quite useful but it can be easy to mistake this MAP for the territory. A good survey of Zen, Tao and some Hinduism could also be a good idea but try not to get caught in the descriptions or you will miss the point.
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It may be better not to think of this as a head in its own right but as something underlying all other heads (barring head0). Quite simply head1 describes the ability (used almost continually) to interpret and ALTER the information our senses bring us. Even a cursory study of perception psychology shows that all normal acts of perception can also be seen as acts of interpretation: We tend to see things in terms of what we expect. In other words if I (for reasons to do with the way my environment has shaped genetic tendencies) believe that all hippies "are" dirty and stupid then I will tend to notice any details of individual hippie X that reinforce this view and ignore those that work against it. If in case of hippie X the evidence that he "is not" dirty or stupid becomes overwhelming then I will reclassify him from "hippie" to "non-hippie who mistakenly believes that he is a hippie." This tends to be done because most people find it easier to re-evaluate one person than to change their set beliefs about types of people. Again I stress the point that all this has been supported by experimental psychology; Even the idea of making this the central feature of consciousness has been mentioned before; it appears regularly in existential and humanist philosophy. R. A. Wilson makes use of the idea regularly and Aldous Huxley seemed to be on a similar train of thought when he talked about the brain as a reducing valve.
In humans, head1 has an inevitable and huge linguistic component although it would be inaccurate to claim that that it contains verbal languages alone.
It gets interesting though when you become aware that you are doing this all the time; it then becomes possible to upload new programs by convincing yourself of whatever head-states you wish to believe. Most occultism works on this principle. When this happens you have created the meta-programmer; that which programs the programmer. Most people don't find this quite as easy as just sitting down and saying "I want to be like this today," but some don't find it much harder. Techniques of Ritual and Repetition helps greatly as does the discipline yoga brings. This great potential of the meta-programmer has led 60's optimists such as Leary and Wilson to claim or imply that you can program all your problems away. This may be true to an extent but only in helping you accept external problems. If you feel unhappy or paranoid then the chances dictate that you will create a meta-programmer which has the same problems. And thus start a million and one bad trips.
There can be a way round this though and that's getting someone you trust implicitly to help write the new program. This can be tricky and requires great skill and self-control on their behalf as it could easily turn into a power game.
The programmer can also be "switched off" once you become aware of it. The most certain way of doing this seems to be through tantra or raja yoga but high doses of psychedelics in a suitably prepared mind with the right set and setting can also do this. The ability to switch off the programmer at will takes a lot more practice than that of creating the meta-programmer. Switching off the programmer soon leads to the head that is not a head via dhyna in yoga and "crossing the abyss" in quabbalism. At this point all models including this one collapse.
You are in the programmer all the time but the best way to activate the meta-programmer is by raja yoga, occultism and random belief. Intelligent use of psychedelics or weed can also do it but pay attention to set and setting.
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Scientific method forms the basis of this head. The method can be explained quite easily. First observe as closely as possible the phenomena you wish to investigate, recording all details that you feel to be significant. Then come up with a theory that fits with what you already know to explain it. Then test the theory. The experiment can be seen as the basis of science. Basically you observe two events that are identical apart from one variable. For instance to show that all objects fall to the ground at the same rate of acceleration irrespective of weight you drop two objects that have different weights (the variable) but otherwise seem identical in all features. You then measure the rates of acceleration. Only two restrictions apply to this method. Firstly experiments must be repeatable by others, this maintains the integrity of science. Secondly all explanations must be in terms of causal mechanical occurrences, in other words explanations must deal with purely physical events, concepts such as "will" or "desire" have no place in science as they are not observable (except to the person who desires) or capable of being integrated into the mechanistic description of the universe.
Science has one huge advantage it: it works. It seems to describe most of the universe pretty well, as should be expected of anything based so strongly on observation.
It does however have one major problem. Consciousness. By this I mean your subjective experience of what it's like to be you.
Science at the moment cannot explain how consciousness arises, and for the last century has basically attempted to avoid the entire issue. The early behaviourists claimed that THERE'S NO SUCH THING but this point of view soon collapsed into it's own absurdity. Modern cognitive science attempts to reduce it to intelligence, which has nothing necessarily to do with consciousness in the sense I mean. An intelligent being with no personal point of view can be imagined.
Neuroscience probably will eventually explain how mechanical interactions in our brains give birth to consciousness but what science can never do is explain what it's like to be conscious. This leads science into a tricky situation as science depends on consciousness, who takes all these measurements if not conscious beings? As a consolation to the scientists I must point out that no other analytical technique can explain the feeling of consciousness. Shamanism can illustrate it but not show how it happens and science can (perhaps) explain how it happens but not illustrate it.
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The shaman can be classified as one who works with myth. I do not use this term in the derogatory sense of "Just a myth," but rather see a myth as something of great power (think of your favourite films, books, characters, etc). I apply this term not only to stories but also characters, places, objects, sigils, etc. Whereas the scientist sees everything in terms of mechanical causes the shaman sees everything in terms of conscious causes. To the shaman everything is conscious; trees, planets, electrons, everything. Hence all events can be explained in terms of words like "desire" and "will". All events form stories.
The law of analogy "A is like B" can be seen as the root of the mythic head. Understanding analogy allows the shaman to navigate through myths and also grasp the relations between the separate myths.
Every event, person, thing has its own myth and although they all overlap and interrelate each can still in a sense be seen as individual. There doesn't seem to be much point in identifying one form of a myth and claiming this is the "true form" or "root form". Different forms arise: that is all. I say this because myths are in a sense irreducible, you cannot extract parts from the whole and say what part does what. The significance of a myth lies only in it's overall structure hence they cannot be analysed for a single "meaning" as any myth has as many meanings as you wish to ascribe to it. To say what a myth "means" means merely to tell a new but related myth.
Occultist, new-agers and others tend to work mainly on the mythic circuit, and these provide a good example of its major danger. It is all to easy to end up falling into one myth and declare it "God" or "Enlightenment" or "The Way" or some such crap. This naturally leads to the poor misguided fool closing their mind instead of opening it.
The shamanic head does however have many uses, it can be profoundly useful in creating psychological change if used with the metaprogrammer and all art, history and self seems to arise from this head. Most also find it to be quite enjoyable. It can be reached by psychedelics or cannabis or by occult rituals. Once you have become accustomed to this head you should be able to reach it just by thinking about it.
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