Planetary scale vibe collapse: The death of liminal consciousness as the origin of human suffering

Posted on 24 August 2022 by Cube Flipper

Duality and nonduality

I spend a lot of time chatting with a wide group of fairly consciousness-minded people, and a common topic of discussion in these circles is that of nonduality – also described as no-self, egolessness, or even enlightenment, depending on who you might ask.

This is a term used to describe a fairly distinctive state of mind, often approached through meditation, psychedelics, or pure happenstance; and characterised by the dissolution of one or more elements of subjective experience – the ego, the internal narrative, subject-object distinction, and even symbolic thought.

Douglas Harding’s book On Having No Head covers this topic in a fairly literal minded fashion.

I would also recommend the reader check out Dr. Jeffery A. Martin’s 2020 paper, Clusters of Individuals Experiences form a Continuum of Persistent Non-Symbolic Experiences in Adults, publishing the results of a multi-year survey into people who self-describe as being somewhere on a continuum of nonduality.

He uses the phrase Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience in order to avoid more loaded terminology, and discovered that the non-symbolic experience progresses through a number of distinct stages, which he calls locations. The core elements of PNSE are described as follows:

Participants across all locations reported that PNSE produced a deep sense of their life being fundamentally okay. Many described a previous moment-to-moment sense that something just was not quite right prior to their transition, which could also be thought of as a sense of fundamental or persistent discontentment. For some this was so subtle that they did not notice it until they transitioned. For others it was noticed and it affected their experience of life in various ways, including being related to feelings of: fear, anxiety, stress and worry. On the extreme end, this ongoing discontentment was often mentioned in relation to depression and existential despair.

The elimination of this sense of ongoing discontentment, and its replacement with a sense that things were fundamentally okay was often regarded as a major event for participants in their lives. Participants frequently mentioned that it dramatically affected their experience of life for the positive, and they felt it was a key reason for the reduction in their levels of fear, anxiety, stress, worry, and depression. Paradoxically, their life circumstances generally did not change or improve. This included things that were previously sources of stress, worry, and so on. The ability of these life circumstances to alter experience by affecting things like mood, was reported as reduced.

By way of contrast, I asked my friend how he would characterise duality. He responded:

I would describe the central problem with duality is that it implies an adversarial relationship with the rest of the world and other agents within it, requiring cognition to navigate, thereby reinforcing symbolic mental constructs.

Within meditation and consciousness-focused communities, the illusion of duality is commonly regarded as a primary source of suffering within the human experience, and many of these people desire absolution from this state.

Common questions asked are: What does nonduality feel like? How can I attain nonduality? I have also heard: Do non-human animals experience nonduality? And if so, where does duality come from?

I believe that the answers to some of these questions may be found in the essay Preconquest Consciousness by the anthropologist E. Richard Sorenson, which I think should provide some much-needed anthropological context.

I would like to make the case that duality is co-arising with what Sorenson calls supraliminal awareness, which likely spread across human societies around the time we discovered agriculture.

Liminal and supraliminal awareness

Sorenson worked in places like central New Guinea and the Andaman Islands, living with people otherwise subject to little outside influence – and gained a high degree of sensitivity to their modes of thinking.

Throughout his essay, he focuses on the dichotomy between two ways of existing: liminal vs. supraliminal awareness, or preconquest vs. postconquest consciousness (which he uses interchangeably).

Liminality is a term that resists clear definition. My friend from earlier suggested:

What this expands to is your experience becomes the raw sensory experience of reality; you never have the chance to split things up into concepts; it’s like the state of a newborn baby; undifferentiated experience.

In Sorenson’s own words:

Most of us know about subliminal awareness – the type of awareness lurking below actual consciousness that powerfully influences behavior. Freud brought it into the mainstream of Western thought through exhaustively detailed revelations of its effects on behavior. But few, including Freud, have spoken of liminal consciousness, which is therefore rarely recognized in modern scholarship as a separate type of awareness. Nonetheless, liminal awareness was the principal focus of mentality in the preconquest cultures contacted, whereas a supraliminal type that focuses logic on symbolic entities is the dominant form in postconquest societies.

Liminally focused consciousness is very different from the supraliminal type that has almost entirely replaced it. Within the preconquest cultures observed, basic sensibilities (such as of identity, number, space, and truth) shape up in unexpected ways. So does human integration. Preconquest groups are simultaneously individualistic and collective – traits immiscible and incompatible in modern thought and languages. This fusion of individuality and solidarity is another of the profound cognitive disparities that separate the preconquest and postconquest eras. It in part explains why even fundamental preconquest cultural traits are sometimes difficult to perceive, much less to appreciate, by postconquest peoples.

From the Latin language underlying our Western heritage we can understand that liminal awareness, by definition, occurs on the threshold of consciousness. This concept, though abstract, provides a useful term. In the real life of these preconquest people, feeling and awareness are focused on at-the-moment, point-blank sensory experience – as if the nub of life lay within that complex flux of collective sentient immediacy. Into that flux individuals thrust their inner thoughts and aspirations for all to see, appreciate, and relate to. This unabashed open honesty is the foundation on which their highly honed integrative empathy and rapport become possible. When that openness gives way, empathy and rapport shrivel. Where deceit becomes a common practice, they disintegrate.

Where consciousness is focused within a flux of ongoing sentient awareness, experience cannot be clearly subdivided into separable components. With no clear elements to which logic can be applied, experience remains immune to syntax and formal logic within a kaleidoscopic sanctuary of non-discreteness. Nonetheless, preconquest life was reckoned sensibly – though seemingly intuitively.

With preconquest consciousness largely unencumbered by abstract concepts, it remained unconstrained by formal categories of value and cognition (i.e., rules and stable cognitive entities). Only when awareness shifted from liminal to supraliminal did the notion of ‘correctness’ become a matter of concern – e.g., behaving ‘properly’, having ‘right’ answers, wearing ‘appropriate’ clothes, etc. ‘Improper’ aspirations, inclinations, and desires were then masked as people tried to measure up to the ‘proper’ rule and standard. They used rhetoric and logic argumentatively with reference to norms, precedents, and agreements to gain and maintain dignity, status, and position. It was an altogether different world from that of the preconquest era where people freely spread their interests, feelings, and delights out for all to see and grasp as they lurched toward whatever delightful patterns of response they found attractive.

So we see that liminality refers to a state of being unfocused on self-imposed rules, constraints, categories and correctitude; instead focused on undifferentiated experience.

The following idyllic story may be more illustrative of what Sorenson is talking about. In our day and age, liminal awareness might be more relatably described as 100% vibing, all the time:

One day, deep within the forest, Agaso, then about 13 years of age, found himself with a rare good shot at a cuscus in a nearby tree. But he only had inferior arrows. Without the slightest comment or solicitation, the straightest, sharpest arrow of the group moved so swiftly and so stealthily straight into his hand, I could not see from whence it came.

At that same moment, Karako, seeing that the shot would be improved by pulling on a twig to gently move an obstructing branch, was without a word already doing so, in perfect synchrony with Agaso’s drawing of the bow, i.e., just fast enough to fully clear Agaso’s aim by millimeters at the moment his bow was fully drawn, just slow enough not to spook the cuscus. Agaso, knowing this would be the case made no effort to lean to side for an unobstructed shot, or to even slightly shift his stance. Usumu similarly synchronized into the action stream, without even watching Agaso draw his bow, began moving up the tree a fraction of a second before the bowstring twanged.

He grasped the wounded cuscus before it might regain its senses and slipped out onto a slender branch that whizzed him down to dangle in the air an inch or so before Agaso’s startled face. The startle had begun its standard transformation to ecstasy, when Usumu startled him again by provocatively dropping the quivering cuscus onto his naked foot, as he flicked a tasty beetle he’d found up in the tree into the pubis of delighted young Koniye (the youngest of the group). Doubly startled in quick succession, Agaso was wallowing in an ecstasy, then shared by all, until he abruptly realized that the cuscus might come back to life and dash off. Then in a mirthful scramble they all secured it.

Within that type of spirit they roasted both beetle and cuscus on an open fire (to which two friends exploring separately added grubs they’d found in a rotting log). As night came on, one-by-one, they all dropped off to sleep together, entangled in what can only be described as a contagiously subdued rapture coalescence. It took many years for me to understand the underpinnings of this guileless hypersensual interactive unity (another example of the kind of language awkwardness that arises when speaking of events across eras).

I’ll blockquote one more anecdote, demonstrative of what can happen when liminal awareness collides with an abstract symbolic task:

Counting, like boundaries, took on importance only where supraliminal consciousness was developing, i.e., in the agricultural regions of the north where sweet potato had become the staple. In the forests of the south, where liminal consciousness was most highly evolved, few could count above five without great effort. They had no precise names for higher numbers, and scarcely any for the lower digits. The word for five was a cognate of their word for hand. Some understood that several hands meant larger quantities; but beyond two hands (ten) the word was usually ‘many’. Sometimes a foot would be added, or a nose. One friend added his penis in a humorous demonstration of the foolishness of taking the task of counting seriously. When it was erect, he said, it was worth even more. Quantity was impressionistic, not numerical. What mattered was the magnitude of collective joy produced – not how many items could be counted. Depending on taste and circumstance, a single unit might be more important than many units at another time or place. Plants and animals collected during hunting-gathering were rarely of the same size and kind, so counting rarely had much point. Counting was indeed like mixing penises with toes, and just as foolish, which was the point my friend was trying to make.

(As someone who loathes performing mental arithmetic, I will confess I find our friend’s dick jokes to be in excellent taste. Numbers aren’t real, but what about deez nuts?)

Planetary scale vibe collapse

Sorenson takes liminality to be a mode of being in which abstract reasoning is largely absent, permitting a level of selfless interpersonal trust not seen in modern societies. This unfortunately appears to have been a metastable local minima. As soon as the capacity for recursive symbolic modelling is learned, a breakdown in trust occurs, and competitive behaviours arise.

Sorenson himself witnessed such a liminality collapse firsthand in the Andaman Islands, a harrowing experience for all involved:

The time-of-troubles in New Guinea was regional. In smaller preconquest isolates such disorders were sometimes confined to single tiny islands, even villages, even segments of the village population (e.g., teenagers often seemed particularly susceptible). Nonetheless in all cases the subtlest affect exchanges faded first with intuitive rapport going into irreversible collapse much later.

After loss of intuitive rapport, the sensually empathetic instincts governing sociosensual nurture became cruder and were less often on-the-mark. In large regions a grand cultural amnesia sometimes accompanied this collapse. Whole populations would forget even recent past events and make gross factual errors in reporting them. In some cases they even forgot what type and style of garments they had worn a few years earlier or (in New Guinea) that they had been using stone axes and eating their dead close relatives a few years back. Initially I thought they were dissimulating in an effort to ingratiate or appear up-to-date, but rejected this thought almost immediately. They were simply too unassuming and open in other respects for such a theory to hold up. And when I showed photographs I’d taken a few years earlier, they would brighten up, laugh, and eagerly call their friends as they excitedly began relating their reviving recollections.

The periods of anomie sometimes alternated with spates of wild excitement leading to a strange mixture of excess and restraint. It was during such disorders that abstract concepts of rights, property, and possession began emerging. So did formal names for people, groups, and places. These were then used argumentatively in defense of rights, property, and possessions. Negative emotions were applied to strengthen argument. Eventually they became structural aspects of society. As the art of political manipulation emerged, the selfless unity that seemed so firm and self-repairing in their isolated enclaves vanished like a summer breeze as a truth-based type of consciousness gave way to one that lied to live.

A similar type of turmoil and transformation began occurring on small islands in the eastern Sea of Andaman somewhat after the Vietnam War.

South East Asia was then rapidly developing economically, and the dazzling scenery, fine beaches, and crystal waters of many of those islands attracted an explosively abrupt tourism trade. As it gathered pace, the intuitive rapport that was still extant on many islands first began to waver, then to oscillate. In some cases a half-way house adjustment would occur, and then another, both without serious psychological disability. However, in cases of accelerated change, a whirlwind psychological debility would sometimes suddenly break loose. The following, abstracted from my field notes, is a firsthand description of one such case:

I’m out, back from the Andaman where I’ve just been through an experience I’ll not soon forget. Only by pure chance did I happen to be there when their extraordinary intuitive mentality gave up the ghost right in front of me, in an inconceivable overwhelming week. I’m almost wrecked myself, in a strange anomie from having gone through that at too close a range, and from staying up all night too many times to try to understand just what was going on. I never was much good at keeping research distance, always feeling more could be learned close in. And I’d come straight into the Andaman from two months of tantric philosophical inquiry in a Tibetan monastery. Perhaps that tuned awareness up a notch too much.

There really was no way to have predicted that, just after I arrived, the acute phase of their ancient culture’s death would start. To speak abstractly of the death of a way-of-life is a simple thing to do. To experience it is quite another thing. I’ve seen nothing in the lore of anthropology that might prepare one for the speed by which it can occur, or for the overwhelming psychic onslaughts it throws out. Nor does my profession forewarn of those communicable paroxysms that hover in the air which, without warning, strike down with overwhelming force, when a culture’s mind gives way.

Yet this is just what happened when the traditional rapport of those islands was undone, when the subtle sensibility of each to one another was abruptly seared away in a sudden unpredicted, unprecedented, uncognated whirlwind. In a single crucial week a spirit that all the world would want, not just for themselves but for all others, was lost, one that had taken millennia to create. It was suddenly just gone.

Epidemic sleeplessness, frenzied dance throughout the night, reddening burned-out eyes getting narrower and more vacant as the days and nights wore on, dysphasias of various sorts, sudden mini-epidemics of spontaneous estrangement, lacunae in perception, hyperkinesis, loss of sensuality, collapse of love, impotence, bewildered frantic looks like those on buffalo in India just as they’re clubbed to death; 14 year olds (and others) collapsing on the beach, under houses, on the pier, in beached boats as well as those tied up at the dock, here and there, into wee hours of the morn, even on through dawn, in acute inebriation or exhaustion. Such was the general scene that week, a week that no imagination could have forewarned, the week in which the subtle sociosensual glue of the island’s traditional way-of-life became unstuck.

To pass through the disintegrating social enclaves was to undergo a rain of psychic blows, a pelting shower of harrowing awarenesses that raised goose flesh of unexpected types on different epidermal sites along with other kinds of crawlings of flesh and skin. There were sudden rushes, both cold and hot, down the head and chest and across the neck, even in the legs and feet. And deep inside, often near the solar plexus, or around heart, or in the head or throat, new indescribable sensations would spontaneously arise, leave one at a loss or deeply disconcerted.

Such came and then diffused away as one passed by different people. Sensations would abruptly wash in across the consciousness, trigger moods of awe, or of sinking, sometimes of extraordinary love, sometimes utter horror. From time-to-time nonspecific elemental impulses arose just to run or dance, to throw oneself about, to move. All these could be induced and made to fade and then come back, just by passing through some specific group, departing, and then returning, or by coming near a single friend, moving off and coming back. That this was possible so astonished me that I checked and checked and checked again.

Such awarenesses, repeatedly experienced, heap up within the brain. Eventually the accumulation left me almost as sleepless and night-kinetic as they had become. I did discover that with body motion, mind becomes less preoccupied within itself, therefore less distressed. With kinetic frenzy mind-horror lessens very much. But it left them exhausted during the day, somnambulant, somewhat zombie-like. When night returned, the cycle would re-begin, as if those nocturnal hours, when they would otherwise be sleeping, were the time of greatest stress.

Though the overt frenzied movements could be observed by anyone, the psychic states that so powerfully impelled them were not easily detectable to outsiders. It seemed as if one had to have some personal rapport within the lifeway before the mental anguish could be sensed. Then it would loom, sometimes overwhelm. One Westerner looking casually on said, ‘How exotic to see these uneducated types staying up throughout the night, dancing strangely, relating to each other in nonproductive ways.’ This place must be an anthropological paradise: Tourists happening on the scene thought it a fillip to their holiday. Intimacy and affection seem prerequisite to connecting with these inner surges of human psyche, even overwhelming ones.

Eventually I retreated, mentally exhausted, cognitively benumbed, emotionally wrung out. I tried to thwart that siege (when I finally recognized it for what it really was) by getting key people out. A useless foolish gambit; for no one would leave the spot, as if they were welded to it, as if it held some precious thing they very greatly loved, which they neither would nor could abandon.

When the mental death had run its course, when what had been was gone, the people (physically still quite alive) no longer had their memory of the intuitive rapport that held them rapturously together just the week before, could no longer link along those subtle mental pathways. What had filled their lives had vanished. The teensters started playing at (and then adopting) the rude, antagonistic, ego-grasping styles of the encroaching modern world, modeled after films and then TV. Oldsters retreated into houses, lost their affinity to youngsters, who then turned more to one another, sometimes squabbling (which did not occur before).

It seems astonishing that the inner energy of such passings is so undetectable to minds not some way linked to the inner harmonies and ardors of the place. Research-distance yields abstractions like ‘going amok’, which could have been easily applied that week, or ‘revitalizing movement’, which also could have been (in a perverse kind of way). It seems that only by some mental coalescence with the local lifeway can one access its deeper psychic passions, not just those of adolescence, but graver ones like those which for a time were released in inconceivable profusion, when the collective subtle mind of the islands, built up over eons, was snuffed out.

Similar processes, perhaps not always so dramatic, seem to occur when any domineering or abstractly focused alien culture (whether Western, Sinic, Indic, or Islamic) impacts on a preconquest people. To the degree that the in-depth readjustment requires new relationships between the awareness and manipulation centers in the cerebral cortex and the centers of emotion in the mid and lower brains, they represent physiological as well as psychological change and therefore raise important questions about the promise and condition of the state of humankind.

Sorenson emerged shaken by this affair, but stop to consider how bewildering this must have been from the inside.

The horrifying prospect is that symbolic modelling is something one is forced to learn because it is necessary for survival, trading off vibing capacity for modelling capacity. This is a process of self-entanglement that has been creeping across the planet since around the time of the Neolithic Revolution. Personally, I find this to be a profoundly unsettling context within which to place myself, and can only hope there may exist a more palatable stable minima outside the status quo.

I first encountered this essay by way of Paula Hay’s 2011 post, Cognitive Archaeology of the West. She takes the next obvious step, outlining the narrative parallels with the Book of Genesis.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is surrounded by dualism from its first mention. Everything in the garden was allowed, except this tree, which was not-allowed. At the tree we discover the serpent, the first symbolic not-God. The serpent introduces the concept of not-true, which had evidently never before occurred to anyone – something Sorenson demonstrated in his field work among pre-conquest cultures. And upon eating the fruit of the tree, Adam and Eve suddenly perceive others, or not-selves, surrounding them in the garden.

I propose that what was unleashed that day in the garden was, in effect, cognitive binary signal processing: the ontological 0 was born into the human psyche where previously only 1 had ever existed. Suddenly, everything perceivable now has an infinite number of not-counterparts. The horror paleolithic people must have experienced upon stumbling into such an awareness is difficult to fathom. Knowledge of good and evil, indeed.

How remarkable it might be that our foundational religious texts could still contain the cultural memories of this civilisation-scale trauma? Liminality collapse rendered as the Fall of Man; Adam and Eve corrupted by their first encounter with a logical proposition.

Commentary and speculation

I shall restate my case: The state of mind Sorenson identifies as liminal awareness, which has vanished from our modern world, appears to share some similarities with what we call nonduality. This might be a shaky line of reasoning, but I guess I am counting on the reader to absorb impressions of both and come to similar conclusions to my own.

At the very least, we have a common element to go on: symbolic logic. However, enlightened people exist (they are real; you can meet them), and they are still capable of symbolic reasoning; what gives? We shall revisit the PNSE paper for further insight:

Another consistent report is a shift in the nature and quantity of thoughts. Virtually all of the participants discussed this as one of the first things they noticed upon initially experiencing PNSE. The nature and degree of the change related to a participant’s location on the continuum, and ranged from a significant reduction in, to even complete absence of thoughts. A handful of individuals reported that the number of their thoughts greatly increased. Those who reported having thoughts, including increased thoughts, stated that they were far less influenced by them. Participants reported that for the most part thoughts just came and went within their subjective awareness, and were generally either devoid of or contained greatly reduced emotional content.

Almost immediately it became clear that participants were not referring to the disappearance of all types of thought. They remained able to use thought for problem solving and living day-to-day in the world. The reduction was primarily limited to self-related thoughts. Nevertheless, participants were experiencing a reduction in quantity of thoughts that was so significant that when they were asked to quantify the reduction, the answers nearly always fell within the 80-95% range. This high percentage may suggest why so many participants stated that all thought had fallen away.

When asked, participants did not say that they wished for their self-related thoughts to return to previous levels or to have the emotional charge returned. Participants generally reported that their problem-solving abilities, mental capacity, and mental capability in general had increased, because it was not being crowded out or influenced by the missing thoughts. They would express the notion that thinking was now a much more finely tuned tool that had taken its appropriate place within their psychological architecture.

I would like to suggest a common pathway: As we grow and learn, we discover the mental moves necessary to support the symbolic reasoning skills required for navigating our modern society. But this all comes at a cost: this process also gives rise to the ego. Later in life, perhaps if introduced to the right ideas, one might start to untangle these thought patterns and mental moves, and find oneself in a place where they have busted down the duality between liminality and supraliminality.

(I am waiting for all the meditators I know to roll their eyes and tell me Gautama Buddha figured this out centuries ago.)

If we now have a working hypothesis as to where duality comes from, how do we continue? Can we even conceive of a postindustrial reclamation of the liminal state? What might that look like?

If, as it appears to be, this is the ultimate story of intergenerational trauma, immediate reward may be found by asking: How do we help detraumatise people? Better yet: How do we stop doing this to our children?

(And, what if: the same twisting of the self that gives rise to the ego also gives rise to a swathe of what we call mental health and personality disorders, that would not otherwise find fertile soil in the liminal mind?)

Preconquest Consciousness contains a detailed description of the child-rearing techniques used by New Guinean hunter-gatherers, which may give us some hints:

As babies grew, their interests widened to the materials, objects, and activities at hand. They had amazing freedom to explore momentary whims and interests. At first, they did so with one hand on the ‘mother’, the other reaching out. Then they began making short sorties further and then further out from their ‘mothers’; just a few steps at first, then some more. Such moving out was on their own. Though a ‘mother’ or a ‘sibling’ might nod to encourage a baby who seemed uncertain about proceeding, they did not intervene or direct the baby’s interests or directions. They stayed just where they were, doing whatever they had been doing – but as bastions of security to which babies could return for comfort, assistance, or a sense of surety. Though elders did not go with babies on their jaunts, they were ever ready to assist with whatever might be brought to them. Babies joined the activities of elders; elders did not join theirs.

Not put aside when work was being done, infants remained constantly in touch with the activities of life around them, their tiny hands ever reaching out to whatever items or materials were in use, and onto the hands, arms, and muscles of the users. In this way even as tiny babes-in-arms they began accumulating a kinesthetic familiarity with the implements and activities of life.

This familiarity, supplemented by a rapidly developing ‘tactile-talk’, produced in toddlers an ability to manage objects and materials safely that might be dangerous elsewhere. When first sojourning in those southern hamlets, I was repeatedly aghast to see toddlers barely able to stand upright playing with fire, wielding knives, and hefting axes – without concern by anyone around. Yet they did not burn down their grass/bamboo abodes or chop off their toes and fingers. During all the years I spent within their communities, I never saw these babies hurt themselves while engaged in this type of independent exploration.

When tots explored outward, their antennae stayed tuned to the affect, mood, and musculature of those they left behind, thereby maintaining affective connection across space. With adults and older children constantly a source of gratification rather than obstruction, toddlers had no desire to escape from supervision. Even slight intimations of concern from those behind, such as a tensing of musculature, was enough to stop a baby in its tracks and cast about for cues. While mothers in many places feel within themselves the kind of pain that might be looming for their baby, it’s not so instantly perceived. Faster than any words of warning could be formed, these New Guinea tots were already responding. No words necessary. If some subtle ‘all-clear’ cue did not quickly come, the infant made fast tracks to home base: No reckless plunges onward, no furtive tricks to escape supervision.

These people do not actively teach their children “right” from “wrong” – instead relying upon near-instantaneous bodily feedback from a network of peers to indicate when a problem might be at hand.

However, we still lack a model for what goes wrong when we do teach dualism to our children. The mental moves involved seem abstract and unclear, and a full exposition might be a topic for another post (I for the most part think collapsed awareness, in the Alexander Technique sense, is key).

I shall leave the reader with a handful of more impressionistic takes. Neuroscience lacks a working model of what logic is; the best we can do is paint a few pictures.

I believe David Pearce, in his piece Quantum computing: the first 540 million years tapped into the vile contortions involved with running a “CPU on a GPU”, repurposing something designed for field-based analog computing towards something more sequential, digital in nature:

Unitary world-simulation enables organic robots effortlessly to solve the computational challenges of navigating a hostile environment that would leave the fastest classical supercomputer grinding away until Doomsday. By contrast, the capacity for serial linguistic thought and formal logico-mathematical reasoning is a late evolutionary novelty executed by a slow, brittle virtual machine running on top of its quantum parent.

Just thinking about this topic calls forth vivid mental imagery, which I tried my best to convey to another friend:

One must imagine a perfectly smooth, unsullied liminal mind corrupted by repeated exposure to predicate logic; the flat surface crumples, striated corrugations collide with one another in more and more frustrated, cursed ways as it forever attempts to solve for truth.

However, because I can’t resist – and I have been very good thus far and have avoided any talk of wordcels and shape rotators (I consider the relevant axis to be smooth brained hunter gatherers vs. crinkly brained agriculturalists…) – prior to writing this post, I described my theories to another friend, and I shall let her have the final word:

“Wordcels and their consequences have been a disaster for the human race”

Some background on me: I grew up as a socially awkward autistic kid in a suburban town and through the school system was subject to a significant amount of social ostracism from around ages six to fifteen. I moved away as soon as I could, but I was acutely aware that I was left with severe social anxiety and spent many years striving to disentangle the associated behavioural patterns.

By the time of reading I found myself to have assimilated into a fairly legit community of, let’s be honest – some artists and musicians, but mostly just people who liked partying. I always wondered, what makes these people different to those I’d been placed with at school? What made them cool? The people who surrounded me were motivated, creative, and for the most part nonjudgemental. Some exhibited a kind of fluid intelligence, unfettered by internal boundaries, that I was for the most part unable to summon within myself. Others did not, and those tended towards neuroticism; I empathised deeply, but in our common traits I also saw what frustrated me about myself.

In Sorenson’s liminality, I saw a model for an idealised way of being. I would not have used this word at the time, but I wanted to learn how to vibe.