Universal Feedback and Reality as Remix
In the spring of 2009 I came to a beautiful impasse in my search for truth. The spiritual awakening that started two years earlier with the death of my aunt was rapidly accelerating. A series of synchronicities and seemingly unexplainable mystical events led me to the writings of Daniel Pinchbeck and the psychedelic techno-shamanism of Reality Sandwich. As I opened up to new ways of thinking, the fleeting flashes of magic that occurred in life’s rare moments began happening more and more frequently, until I could no longer deny that something had shifted—something was happening, not only to me, but to the world and possibly the entire universe. As a philosopher I already believed that the history of the world was a history of the evolution of human consciousness but after reading Daniel’s book, 2012, I began to reinterpret this history as having a possible hard stop—an end date, not of life itself but of the way we experienced it through the filter of our current reality. I began to believe that the collective “we” was undergoing a profound change in its conception of itself as more people came to the realization that the way we were living was unsustainable and felt a call to change their life.
I quit my job in IT and lived like a hermit in the middle of Manhattan off the money my aunt left me—money that was only supposed to last a couple of months that I stretched out to last over a year--writing, reading and exploring various uncanny paths. This was a gift of uninterrupted flow—a magical time during which I produced hundreds of pages of prose and hundreds more of poetic fragments, notes and emails. I learned how to listen and look at the universe around me with brand new ears and eyes. I changed the way I breathed, slept and ate. My body transformed—various systems broke down or went through purgings—a process that sometimes hurt or made me sick. But when they were over I was stronger than ever. I felt healthy and focused, with nagging ailments and chronic insecurities dissolving like sugar in hot tea. I had more control of how I reacted to things, both physically and mentally. Meanwhile, synchronicities highlighted symbols, numbers, events and people. The further I went the deeper it got--connection after connection—like Alice falling down the rabbit hole or a sped-up game of Tetris. I found comfort and community in Evolver, where I was able to talk and blog about things that (with the exception of one beloved, yet highly skeptical best friend) I couldn’t tell anyone else, for fear of being seen as having lost it.
And yet, my family noticed how happy I was and I wanted to explain. I felt that the revelations I’d had about the interconnectedness of everyone and everything could be helpful for others, but the more I tried to break it down the harder it became to say anything at all. I got tripped up by the fact that it was nothing new—based on what I’d learned in my philosophy studies, the wisdom revealed to me was the same that had been revealed to the philosophers and seers of Ancient cultures. The context of my world, however, was drastically different from theirs—where they had stone and sky, I had plastic and screens—where they had gods made of lightning, I had the human genome. To assume these differences didn’t matter seemed misguided. Even the post-structuralist, post-modern philosophies that helped usher in the revolutions of the 60s were a long time ago. In order to explain the oneness of all things, I had to find a new metaphor that made sense in the post-9/11, pre-2012 state of NOW.
As I searched for new words to explain old ideas it seemed that the more I investigated the signs and wonders tucked into the everyday all around me, even more seemed to pop up. How could this be? The more I paid attention to something strange or uncanny like dreams or synchronicities the more they occurred. Was it possible that my own awareness was somehow increasing the things given to me to revel at and try to understand? Or had all my hours of intense and lonely contemplation caught up with me and messed with my mind?
Spring turned into summer and despite efforts to “chill and let it go”, I found myself experiencing increasingly complex strings of synchronicities. The “a-ha”, nature of these coincidences came from how they revealed links between what appeared to be drastically different things: enemies were lovers and supposed opposites like health and illness were merely aspects of the same collection of organs that made up a single body. Over and over, the message was the same: Everything was One. I experienced visions—both waking and in dreams, some of which were fractalized versions of reality and others that contained vague prophecies of things to come. They always seemed to be about disasters, but the information was never clear enough to get any exact information. There was a maddening, upsetting aspect to this but I tried not to let it get to me, even when I’d see images in mass media movies, games and TV shows that were strikingly similar to things I’d thought up myself. I remember standing wide-eyed in the middle of Times Square under a large poster advertising the movie, “Knowing,” in which the Earth had patterns of white numbers falling off it. The color and composition was strikingly similar to the mysterious glowing blue orb radiating fire and white electricity that sometimes appeared against the back of my eyelids—I was stunned to realize that someone else had downloaded the same image with such precision.
While it was possible that the giant media conglomerates were piecing together my ideas by reading my blog and Twitter feed and hacking my Gmail account and PC hard drive, I decided it was actually more likely (despite how fantastic it seemed) that the people who created this movie and I were dreaming the same dreams and sharing the same inspirations. I felt that this was a matter of tapping into something centralized and putting out individual remixes of it. These remixes were in turn picked up by others. It wasn’t that the people in the giant media conglomerates were reading my mind—it was that we were both picking up the same frequencies. These frequencies crossed and merged like streams in a creek—creating a secret show intuited by poets and artists who led the way for the Hollywood producers, who repackaged their interpretations and sold them back to us in the form of mass entertainment so that the whole cycle could start again.
The more I paid attention, the more I realized that everything was in synch with everything else—there was no such thing as accidents, or chance. I’d (randomly) connect with someone online— and they would turn out not only to play a crucial and timely role in my life but also initiate several new synch threads involving other people, places and things I never would have known existed. It seemed everything was happening exactly as it was meant to, exactly when it was supposed to happen—and not a moment too soon or too late. This happened more online than it did off—no doubt because I spent so much of my day in front of a screen—but also because there was something about the nature of online friendships that allowed for more specific concentrations of shared depth. There were people who lived very far a way with whom I had very personal and heartfelt exchanges without knowing their last name or what they looked like. The fact that, unlike many traditional friendships, we’d found each other based on what we wrote about online and not because we worked together or lived in the same town, our connection was already less superficial than “real life” relationships that were governed by unspoken rules and codes. The depth of online friendships allowed for interesting and often times magical exchanges in which the connection between the synching pair contains another, previously hidden element that is brought to light during the connection over the coincidence. For instance one is inspired to visit the other’s blog and finds a post or a picture that forms another coincidence—that the two went to the same school, or are both exactly half-way through Infinite Jest. These types of discoveries are only possible with curious half-strangers that a person doesn’t know in “real” life. I wrote about my experiences with this (which I would eventually refer to as online telepathy) and felt like I was onto something.
As time went on I became convinced that this magic was something scientifically verifiable. I was seeing the same pattern of interchange in everything—a fundamental mechanism that was quantum, not thermodynamic—yet still a mechanism—a
paradoxical "inconstant constant" that we had not yet learned how to measure. I told myself either I was crazy or I was a pioneer—a philosopher in the truest sense—a lover of wisdom who follows the goddess wherever she goes, simultaneously creating and discovering concepts along the way. In some ways it wasn't so far-fetched: it had been proved by those before me that the objects on my coffee table don't exist as things in and of themselves. The magazine, drinking glasses and remote control are an exchange of cultural contexts, consumer labor, capitalist commodification and my own desires and projected lacks, not to mention a spinning network of atoms and molecules. All scientific theories, concepts and the words we used to describe them were formulated over the course of time like sea stones smoothed by waves. They were made of compacted bits of information, pressed tight together in a never ending cycle of give and take—a cycle that was not, however, balanced. For long periods of time storms raged, until one night they finally didn’t, and an era of tranquility took over just as inexplicably. This may not make sense according to our belief in cause and effect, but that is because cause and effect have nothing to do with the big picture.
In addition to a seemingly random exchange, there is also someone there to observe it—the act of me observing things changes those things, in the same way that my growing awareness and search for synchronicities seemed to make them happen.
Everything we think and feel doesn't manifest because of something that happened. Rather it is a mix of downloaded streams — vibes and unspoken riffs picked up from other people, places and things: TV and the Internet, car commercials and nature. Knowing this is the case seemed to give me a special power. My awareness turned me into the protagonist of a movie unfolding all around me. Everyday life retained many of its established elements and routines, only now I was more tuned in. The billboards spoke to me in a special way—as did the faces of trees and clouds. I thanked God for returning my childlike wonder in the world. Even waiting for the subway became a magical event—the way the bright yellow light of the approaching train appeared on the wall of the tunnel, lighting up the darkness in time with opening chords of the song that happened to come on my iPod shuffle.
These half-hidden dynamics were a part of the alchemical central generator of the universe—an algorithm that is at work in all things—all relationships and events—all phenomena, which is to say, everything that appears. The impasse was such that I didn’t have the means to formulate the algorithm myself, but I felt certain it was out there — that someone had already discovered it or else was on the verge of doing so. I felt this the way one feels the looming pressure of snow or rain, like a cold compress spreading out across the invisible dome of the atmosphere.
I went on writing, reading and contemplating the world around me with a nagging sensation digging into the back of my head like a splinter. I resolved to be ready for the answer when it came—regardless of its form. I’d support it and promote it wherever and however I found it. It could have been a book, movie or natural phenomenon, but instead the answer to what I was looking for came at a visionary physics lecture hosted by Reality Sandwich.
I had heard Nassim Haramein give his talk about his theory of everything once before, at another Reality Sandwich event in April, 2008 at the Wild Project theater. It was mind-blowing and fun — so when I found out late on a June Friday afternoon that Nassim was speaking downtown at Collective Hardware, I asked the friend I was planning to hang with if he was up for volunteering at the event in exchange for two tickets. I was interested to know what my level-headed, pragmatic friend would make of it. Nassim’s revolutionary theory connected Einstein's relativity and quantum physics to the cosmologies of ancient cultures, sacred geometry, and the evolution of consciousness. Instead of thinking of the universe as being made up of distinct objects floating in space, Nassim argues that it’s spin and torque that connects all things — the mechanics of which he has painstakingly mapped out. While I expected to again be amazed, I assumed it would be less of a trip the second time around.
It’s interesting to think back on how confident I was that I had it all figured out, and had no idea the effect hearing the lecture for a second time would have upon me. Once we finished with our volunteer tasks my friend and I settled in and sat cross-legged on the concrete floor at Collective Hardware and listened to Nassim. The room was so packed I could only catch glimpses of the long haired, sparkling eyed physicist as he stood before a projector screen displaying various geometric mandalas. I closed my eyes and concentrated on his voice. A short while later I was nearly giddy from the impact of his ideas. The sweat turned icy on my brow and shivers ran up and down my body. It was a psychedelic experience minus the psychedelics — a sudden whammy of a download after months of slow, incremental spiritual progress. All at once, the nagging feeling went away — as though a splinter had been pulled out of my brain. Of course, I thought. Of course! Spin was the mechanism I’d been looking for! Listening to him took me on along a winding ontological trail I’ve been traveling ever since. The scientific authority that he represented — regardless of how outside of the establishment he found himself — was a stamp of approval upon my thoughts.
I was captivated by Nassim’s description of all phenomena as feedback. According to him, everything (and everyone) that appears does so because of an interchange between the perceiver and that which is perceived. All that we see, hear, feel, touch and smell —and all that we are or ever will be ¬– is the spark given off by an enormous, invisible exchange of unknown forces. It is not enough to say we are in a flux as much as we are that flux. Each one of us is feedback.
As soon as I heard it I knew that this was the metaphor I was looking for — the conceptual cornerstone around which to construct my philosophy. As a metaphor, feedback had the right mix of logic and psychoanalysis. Feedback is the gaze that’s the product of the individual multiplied by the context of his or her vision. It is the elusiveness of subjectivity itself — the ever-fleeting notion of being a singular “I”.
Feedback is not only the back and forth of spin, it’s the awareness of this being at work behind all that appears. There is an important distinction here: it’s not enough for all things to be little flows that are a part of one flow — it’s the awareness of this cosmic situation is the key to forming (and thereby potentially transforming) reality. Just as in everyday life, the static on the line becomes more noticeable when we stop talking and really listen.
The realization that we are the feedback given off by an infinite number of interconnected networks is being confirmed through quantum physics and spread through social media. I think this one-two punch could be the mechanism that powers the wisdom revolution predicted by Daniel Pinchbeck in his piece, “An Extravagant Hypothesis.” According to his theory (based on work by Peter Russell) each major evolutionary epoch of mankind has happened in quicker and quicker intervals by building on the advancements of the previous age. The industrial revolution took place much faster than the Agrarian one before it, and the Technological revolution has only needed a few decades. this pattern, the wisdom revolution could take place in a matter of days. The advent of the internet has provided the tools and conditions for this to happen. I propose that the major paradigm shift of 2012 won’t be caused by any thing that happens, nor be about anything but instead will be the result of a widespread awareness of feedback that’s spread by feedback—the understanding of our profound interconnectedness becoming amplified exponentially—revolutionary noise that leaps from microphone to speaker and back again.
The new age of enlightenment will occur when we reach a tipping point of people who are awake and aware of universal oneness. There is a misperception that a strong awareness of universal oneness turns one into a zoned-out communist cult member who has lost his or her individuality. In actuality it is the opposite. The new age of enlightenment is not about blending together in an amorphous mass of group think: on the contrary, the specificity of individuality is of prime importance. Nassim teaches that every individual is the center of their own universe — each one of us is our own event horizon — our biological bodies are the conduits through which the cosmic broadcast is transmitted. He writes:
“Everything we see in the Universe is the infinity of the energy density of the vacuum in various scales. The biological resolution is the link between the large and the small. You are the event horizon. Instead of seeing yourself as an insignificant little dot that means nothing to the Universe, you start to see yourself as the center of creation. Everyone else is the center of their Universe as well. And thus we are all equal and we’re all one.”
Nassim was saying that everyone is the star of their own movie — just as I’d been living through what felt like a starring role with all the world as my stage, everyone else had the same sensation — if they opened up and allowed themselves to feel it. They were the star, the hero, the focus of the camera’s eye…which is the sensation we have when we are aware of ourselves as being in God’s gaze.
In the same way that the Copernican revolution dramatically changed the way people thought about mankind’s place in the universe, I think that the widespread dissemination of the work of visionary physicists such as Nassim could bring about another profound change, in which we no longer view ourselves as finite, separate beings, but as vibrations along a never ending interchange of infinite flows. It took two hundred years for Copernicus’s ideas to filter down through the uneducated masses—how long will it take before the work that Einstein began shifts the mainstream reality paradigm that we negotiate with today? Our reality is still built around the idea of there being “insides” and “outsides” and surfaces and distinctions such as “you” and “me,” even though science has already proven that our molecules intermingle with one another and form an ever-changing boundary of where “I” end and “you” begin.
It was a drastic and traumatizing experience for humanity to realize it wasn’t the center of the universe — will the knowledge of being profoundly interconnected with everyone and everything have a similar effect? Or is the nature of this understanding such that it will help usher in a new era of peaceful acceptance in which we understand that whatever happens is exactly what had to happen as everything is a part of everything else?
Is it far-fetched to schematize the Copernican revolution as humanity’s collective ego death and the burgeoning quantum one as the rebirth of our species into a new, more collaborative way of being? Can we learn to listen and enjoy the noise within us?
Since that summer night at Collective Hardware, I’ve come to understand the power of our awareness of universal feedback as being that of God’s love reverberating through us as its expression. We are the leaves of grass that Whitman wrote about — networks of individuals bending together in the wind. Feedback was talking and listening, loving and being loved — not according to some dualistic either/or but according to a magical, alchemical state of either and or. It was not necessarily about achieving balance or harmony (as certain new age philosophies would have us believe) but about having awareness of the interchange itself. It was at once shockingly simple and staggeringly complex: we didn’t have to judge or fix anything or attain inner peace. All we had to do was increase our awareness of universal feedback. Once we had done so, we’d see that even so-called “bad” events were really just the temporary imbalance brought about by the ebb and flow of a larger exchange.
The absence of a pre-given, objective reality implies that we are always collaborating on the simultaneous discovery, creation and confirmation of reality. I remember staring at the dried vines that stretched across the walls and ceiling of the Collective Hardware salon and thinking about how my thoughts and intentions were similarly intertwined with the thoughts and intentions of those nearby. Reality was malleable. This awareness could allow us to actively change reality through the vibes that we send out. The trick to making this happen is the simple awareness that it is possible — something our currently reality has trained us to believe is impossible and yet, if one looks back in time there are instances when it seems that a large group of people simultaneously willed a new reality, if even for a short time. Jung points to stories of armies seeing angels flying over a battlefield and widespread UFO sightings as examples of how a shared group consciousness can radically transform the nature of what appears.
I realized that even a frightening, forbidding place could be less so if I choose to take off my ear buds and be present, engaged in my surroundings. I realized I could expand this transformational power if those around me became aware of our power to do this as a group. This expansion isn't as difficult as building new connections between my generally shy and introverted self and others. It is more like revealing the connections that are already there. I thought about the NYC subway, and times when something happened – either the train stopped or someone acted out – that had the effect of changing the disassociated passengers into a group. The underlying sense is that by acting together, we could transform the situation around us, despite the fact that we don't control the train or its movement. Instead of being trapped and smothered by our impotence, we can use our proximity to one another to concentrate our awareness and generate a power far superior to that of any engine or electrified track. It doesn’t take much. No one has to say or do anything to make the change — it’s enough to breathe and smile and be more outwardly at ease.
Recently I was pleased to find that the group InterActs was staging meditations in NYC subway stations—working from the same conception of consciousness as a transformative force.
By applying the lessons learned from a feedback interruption of everyday reality, we can learn how to integrate the bliss of timeless divinity (moments of ecstatic or transcendental consciousness also referred to as spiritual awakenings or religious callings) back into everyday life. This had been my goal all along –I wanted to use philosophy to connect my mystical experiences to the rest of my life. This is explained by synchromystic blogger, Jake Kotze, who uses synchronicities between his own life and pop culture as the guide towards unveiling the otherworldly mystery and joy embedded in television shows, Hollywood movies, and mainstream music:
"The mind is what cuts reality up into bits and bytes, it is in actuality a seamlessly unified Experience. The mind made laws about what rationally bares comparison are entirely arbitrary and in constant flux. Art, Poetry, Hip Hop and the Dream State reveal the flexibility of making association and delight (the light) realized in doing this with creative flare."
What Jake is proposing is that once we’ve learned to relax our notions of where we can find truth, we realize that through an awareness of awareness the truth can be found in everything. The everyday world becomes magical — like it is for children. You don’t have to be in a church or meditating or participating in a ceremony. For the enlightened that moment can be experienced in front of a laptop, or on an airplane. You feel God’s love radiating through TV and computer screens. You feel the oneness of your connection with others as you Tweet about all the everyday things that make up your life.
This is not to say that there aren’t sacred things and places or that our rituals and observances have no purpose. As the spiritual author Charles Eisenstein explains, that which is sacred radiates out, using the awareness that it engenders to illuminate the interconnectedness of all things:
“The purpose of a holy object is to remind us of the holiness of all objects. The purpose of a ritual is to remind us of the sacredness of all action. The purpose of a prayer is to remind us of the sacredness of all speech. And, when we see our holy men or women as divine, it is to remind us of our own divinity and the divinity of all.”
In this we can see that there is a constant feedback between the secular and the sacred in which that which is holy is reinforced and revealed against the contrast of the everyday. The idea of finding the holiness in all objects has much in common with Buckminster Fuller’s definition of an evolved, integrated individual: one who approaches the universe through an intuitive design science. This is a way of living that takes into account feedback, in which it is understood that all that appears is but a tiny spark released by the spin and torque of invisible forces. There is much that we can’t see that’s a part of the mixture that is everyday life: the invisible, spiritual aspects of existence were just as important, if not more so, to take into account as the actual physical constructs of people, places and things.
Perhaps the ability and willingness to be a DJ/designer of the one's own reality is a hallmark of a new, more enlightened age? Individual awakenings on a mass scale are a new form of living, breathing art – a social sculpture and sound collage of the spirit that’s shared in the form of viral videos, links, pictures, text messages and TVs. Synergistic “accidents” and synchronicities are helping spread the metaphor that I think best captures both the content and form of this renaissance: the universe as feedback. In true DJ style, I’ve sampled this idea and dropped it into the context of current events, the internet and social media. I’ve used feedback as my guide to explore remixed notions of identity, copyright, and friendship. Nassim’s physics provided the scientific foundation for my ideas about feedback and helped me to create the key concepts of what will be a philosophy of radical interdependence — a new ethics inspired by the power of the internet and is based on the fact that everyone and everything is integrally and telepathically connected with everything else.
Images by fdecomite on Flickr Courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing