(This short essay, another of Robert Anton Wilson's "Illuminating Discords" columns from New Libertarian Weekly. It's from issue No. 80, July 3, 1977. -- Tom).
Fairness? Decency? How can you expect fairness or decency on a planet of sleeping people?
-- Gurdjieff, 1918
Last year in Oui magazine, Dr. Timothy Leary and I published an article ghoulishly titled, "Brainwashing: How to Fold, Spindle and Mutilate the Human Mind." I would like to summarize our basic positions here, preparatory to a more general discussion of neurological relativism.
Human beings, Leary and I propose, are basically giant robots created by DNA to make more DNA. (So are all the other multi-cellular organisms on this backward planet.)
Of course, there is nothing new about the robot theory of biology. The Sufis and yogis knew about it centuries before Pavlov, or even before Mark Twain wrote his stunningly prescient essay, "Man, A Machine." Nonetheless, it is so patently offensive to human narcissism that almost everybody recoils from it "as the devil would from holy water."
(Incidentally, you can get a quick estimate of a person's intelligence by asking them how much of themselves is robotic. Those who say "not at all" or "less than 50%" are hopeless imbeciles, always. The few who say "about 99%" are worth talking to; they are quite intelligent. Dr. Leary, who is the freest human being I have ever known, estimates he is 99.9999 percent robot.)
The circuitry of the human robot, like that of other primates, is wired to take imprints at crucial moments of what ethologists call "imprint vulnerability." These occur on a pre-programmed schedule: the bio-survival imprint is taken as soon as the mother's breast is offered; the territorial imprint as soon as the infant is able to walk about, yell, and generally meddle in family politics; the laryngeal imprint as soon as the DNA-RNA signals trigger the talking stage; the sexual imprint at the first orgasm or mating experience, etc.
For literary convenience, we can think of the bio-survival imprint as Will and personify it as Scotty, brooding over the life-support and weapons technology. The territorial or emotional imprint, then, is Ego, or Dr. McCoy, the mammalian moralist. The laryngeal (symbolic) imprint is Mind, or Mr. Spock, the linear computer. And the sexual imprint is Adult Personality, or Captain Kirk, the father-protector.
Each of these imprints exists in the nervous system as a separate circuit or network. Any one of them can be kinky or odd, since the biocomputer imprints literally anything at the moment of imprint vulnerability.
A kinky bio-survival imprint may take such forms as anxiety, phobias or outright autism. A weird territorial-emotional imprint can be either overly submissive, in which case the subject suffers, or overly dominant, in which case those unfortunate enough to associate with the subject do the suffering. A bizarre symbolic imprint is, at this stage of evolution, the norm: almost every society educates the young for stupidity, dogmatism, intolerance and inability to learn anything new. As for the sexual imprints: everybody can see how compulsive and weird everybody else's sexual imprint is; but, alas, few can see that about themselves.
Brainwashing consists of creating artificial imprint vulnerability. You can do this either with drugs, or with prolonged isolation ("sensory deprivation"), or with terror (new imprints are always taken at the point of near death, which is what most shamanic initiations rely on), or with a combination of drugs, isolation and terror.
The priests, pedagogues and shamans of all tribes and nations know enough, on the empirical level, about imprint vulnerability. All the crucial transition stages of life are surrounded by ritual, repetition and redundance -- and frequently with terror and isolation, and sometimes (in many societies) with drugs -- to ensure that the local belief systems and "morals" are heavily imprinted.
In short, the process of acculturation is itself a brainwashing process.
Thus, the Samoan lives inside an imprinted Samoan reality; the German inside a German reality; an American inside an American reality. That's why a crowd of Americans are immediately recognizable in a street full of Turks or Hindus or even in a street of Englishmen or Irish. The naive chauvinism of a traveler who says "all foreigners are crazy" is actually quite valid; indeed, foreigners are crazy; the chauvinist merely lacks the insight to realize that his imprint-group is crazy, too.
(As mentioned in previous columns, there are four other imprints, intended for future evolution off this planet and therefore only appearing rarely thus far in our history. These are the neurosomatic imprint, which we call Hedonic Engineering or the art of staying high; the neuroelectric imprint, or Magick; the neurogenetic imprint, or DNA consciousness; and the metaphysiological imprint, or "cosmic consciousness.")
Leary's idea of Intelligence-squared thus does not mean merely an increase in linear I.Q. on the third circuit. (Super-Spockism). It means learning how to "brainwash" yourself; that is, to selectively tune, focus and serially reimprint all 8 circuits, beginning with as many of them as you can handle. (It is unwise, for instance, to attempt any 6th circuit psionic operations until great skill has been attained in self-metaprogramming the bio-survival, emotional, mental, sexual and Hedonic circuits).
The plain fact is that most bio-survival anxieties are phobic are irrational, most emotional games silly and infantile (they are imprinted in infancy, after all), most mental sets rigid and nearly blind, most sex-roles as robotic as the mating dance of the penguin. At the same time, the ultimate sophistication is to avoid laying your own bio-survival needs, emotional cons, belief systems and sex games on others, which elementary courtesy is really what libertarianism is all about.
Unfortunately, libertarianism as a third-circuit idea (laryngeal signal) has no more effect on this backward planet than any other third circuit reality-map. The other circuits continue their robotic trips, anchored in the neurochemistry of the imprinting process. Intelligence-squared, or self-metaprogramming, allows libertarianism to become more than an idea. This is what the Neurological Revolution means; this is what the Great Work of the alchemists aimed for. When the robot awakens and becomes a self-programmer, it can easily have all the goals promised by the alchemists: The Stone of the Wise, the Medicine of Metals, True Wisdom and perfect Happiness. All of those traditional terms are metaphors for the awakening of Intelligence-squared.
Usually people are libertarians or fascists or snake-worshippers or Republicans or nudists or whatever, because of conditioned networks that fit smoothly into their imprints. People achieve Intelligence-squared, and become effective libertarians, only if they work for it.
-- Robert Anton Wilson