Intermittent Explosive Disorder and the Berserkergang; The
Science of Fire
Resistance; The Science of Blade Resistance; Canalyzing
and Analyzing Functions; Emotional Valence; A Matter of Genetics?; The
Mechanics of Mind/Body/Spirit Unification; Nutrition for Somafera
Practitioners; A Powerful Location on the Body; Unitary States in
People; Word-Sense Ambiguation
MADSPACE: Madspace Theory; Canalyzing and Analyzing Functions; Emotional Valence; A Matter of Genetics?; The Mechanics of Mind/Body/Spirit Unification; Nutrition for Somafera Practitioners; A Powerful Location on the Body; Unitary States in Ordinary People; Word-Sense Ambiguation
Road rage. “Going Postal.” Explosive temper. Everyone knows or has heard of people who are prone to irrational and excessive outbursts of temper and anger. People prone to such temper issues are prone to violence even in situations where violence is unwarranted, and often become bullies and sometimes abusers of some sort or other. People with such problems are often thought of as being bad tempered and undisciplined. However, it appears that not all people with such problems are so simply described. Many of them actually suffer from a medical disorder. Intermittent explosive disorder (IED), also known as Militant Episode Disorder (MED), is a disorder of the brain characterized by explosive, usually violent outbursts of behaviour, usually disproportiionate to the provocation. It is a type of impulse control disorder, and seems to be related to other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania, and pathological gambling. It, like all impulse control disorders, is characterized by the repeated experience of impulses (in this case violent ones) that are difficult or even impossible to resist, even if the impulses are clearly harmful to the self or others. The impulsive aggression typical of this disorder is not premeditated.
Signs and symptoms of this disorder include:
1) Tension, mood changes, and changes in energy levels prior to an outburst.
of IED is generally made when other mental disorders that may cause
violent outbursts (such as antisocial personality disorder, borderline
personality disorder, ADHD, etc.) have been ruled out (McElroy, 1999;
McElroy, Soutullo, Beckman, Taylor Jr., & Keck Jr., 1998).
Furthermore, the acts of aggression can’t be due to another medical
condition such as a head injury, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse
is achieved through both cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic
medications. Therapy aids in helping the patient recognize the impulses
in hopes of achieving a level of awareness and control of the
outbursts, along with treating the emotional stress that accompanies
these episodes. Drugs used in treatment are typically tricyclic
antidepressants and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) such as
fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, sertraline, as well as GABAergic mood
stabilizers and anticonvulsive drugs such as gabapentin, lithium,
carbamazepine, and divalproex.
only discovered by the modern medical community in recent times, it
appears that this disorder has actually been known since ancient times,
just under different names, such as the berserkergang and running amok.
berserkergang was the practice of a type of elite viking warrior known
as a berserk or berserker. Berserks were generally used as shock
troops, used to break through the enemy lines. And shocking they indeed
were, for their style of combat was entirely based on transcendental
animalistic fury. They howled like animals, bit their shields, and were
completely impervious to pain or fear. They attacked relentlessly,
never retreating and seemingly giving little thought to defense. And
this was not merely their way in war, they seemed to be born prone to
this sort of extreme rage, for even in times of peace they would often
wander the land looking for fights and duels, living as bullies.
amok was a very similar practice of certain Malaysian warriors, who
fought like the insane, screaming and howling, and who would be prone,
even in times of peace, to going on violent or even murderous sprees
which could only be ended in death. And indeed, such people engaging in
such practices are found all over the world, throughout history, such
as the Leopard-Men of Africa, the Riastradh of the Celts, the Wild Men
of the Woods in Medieval Europe, and so forth. Intermittent Explosive
Disorder is hardly new. Indeed, it couldn’t be. A genuine genetic
disorder like that has likely been part of human history for a long
time, such things don’t just crop up overnight. And while the ancients
may have lacked modern medical knowledge, they were hardly stupid, so
it shouldn’t be surprising that they’d have been aware of this
condition, even if they did look at it differently than a modern MD
is different is the way the ancients dealt with it. They did not try to
alter the personalities and brains of the affected with drugs and
medications. They didn’t actually view these people as “suffering” or
“disordered” at all. Instead they simply viewed such people as being
different. Instead of trying to suppress these differences the ancients
instead made use of them, took advantage of their unique traits. Such
people were often highly valued as warriors, and were often treated as
nobility in an effort to retain their services as such. They were often
viewed as heroes, for their abilities to perform feats of strength and
bravery no one else would or could, and for their willingness to do so
for the benefit of their families, friends, and nations. Indeed,
another term for the Celtic Riastradh was “The Heroic Feats”. And such
people were known for more than their abilities at war. They were also
prized for their ability to perform backbreaking physical labor, and
also for their tendency to go into trances where they sometimes offered
prophecy and advice that was supposedly inspired by the gods.
stands in very sharp contrast to the approach the modern medical
community holds. While therapy designed to put someone suffering from
IED in contact with his or her own mind well enough to understand and
control the outbursts is of course a good idea, drugs are not
necessarily so. Many, if not all, of these psychotropic medications
have horrible side effects. Some of them decrease the ability to think
or reason well. Others have a depressing effect on the emotions,
leaving the patient free not only of outbursts but also of positive
emotions such as joy and arousal. Indeed, some of these medications can
destroy the sex drive entirely. Some affect or even ruin the memory.
Many of them will leave the patient with a vague but horrifying sense
that there’s “something wrong”, or that they are incomplete. Many
people with IED truly hate what the medications do to them, and so take
themselves off of them, leaving the disorder unchecked, or remain on
them and live lives full of suffering and loss.
does not seem to be the ideal way of dealing with things. It is true
that unchecked transcendental rage is a truly bad thing. But the
psychotropic medication approach seems like using a sledgehammer where
a scalpel is called for. It simply does not seem sensible to try to
mentally cripple people with IED in an attempt to control it. Such
people are born different than others. They are genuinely not like
other people. Why does that make them “diseased”? Why should that
difference be seen as a reason to try to force their brains to operate
in a pattern alien and unnatural to them?
ancients did not see these people as deficient. They had places for
them. They played to their strengths. They saw these people as maybe
not normal, but functioning and whole. And so we are.
am a berserker. All of my life I have been prone to entering berserk
rages at the drop of a hat. It has been a lifelong struggle of mine to
come to terms with this, to learn why and how, and to learn to control
it. It is the same for every other self-identified berserker I have
met, as well as for those identifying in other ways, such as Leopard
Men and those who run amok. When we discovered the existence of
Intermittent Explosive Disorder we were shocked. We knew of the manners
in which the ancients looked at people like us, and we knew that we
were prone to being viewed as crazy in various ways by the modern
medical establishment. But we had never before heard of IED, and when
we did, we identified with each and every sign and symptom of it. So
thoroughly that most of us are convinced that we have IED. To explain
why this is so, here is a list of the features we had found common to
our natures as berserks and such:
1) Feelings of tension, irritability, and heightened energy preceding a gangr. (“Gangr” is the term for the berserk rage.)
are far too many matches here for this to be coincidence. It seems to
most, if not all of us, that the berserker nature is identical to IED.
Does this not mean that there are better ways of dealing with this
nature than medication into a near comatose (or at least unbalanced and
injured) state? Many of us have run into doctors that have tried to
”fix” us by drugging us. And virtually all of us found the experience
of the medications to be horrible, found it leaving us feeling like
we’d been mutilated in some profound way.
even when drugs are not prescribed as a treatment, still the
therapeutic approach seems to come from the point of view that the
patient is sick, wrong, diseased, “not right”. This lies in direct
opposition to the patient’s inner feelings, that are telling him (or
her) that this is right and natural. This approach can lead to
depression and feelings of unworthiness, and can even cause serious
psychological complexes. In some cases these complexes can even lead to
such patients taking beatings or abuse because they don’t dare defend
themselves, having been taught that that part of themselves is wrong
and sick, and needing to be kept under wraps no matter what. Such
unfortunates often come to have very low feelings of self worth. And
more, many of us berserker types spend most of our lives feeling like
we are at war with ourselves, that we have a divided nature. We often
never know a feeling of rest or peace. This sort of therapy only
exacerbates this condition.
in all I, and most other berserker types, do not feel that the modern
medical community is very well equipped to handle this condition. They
just don’t understand it well enough, and are approaching it from a
culturally prejudiced point of view. We feel that we are not sick. We
are not “wrong”. We are not unwell. We are simply different. And those
differences in nature mean we need differences in treatment.
you have been diagnosed with IED, or suspect you suffer from it,
consider that the modern medical community might not really be the best
source of information on how to deal with the problems it raises. There
are other ways. Older ways. We modern berserks and such have taken
lessons from the ancients, learned to take advantage of what this
nature can do for us. Learned what makes us tick. Learned to take this
knowledge and find a balance, a way of living that does not suppress
our true inherent natures but also does not let us run away into
expressions of inappropriate violence. We approach things from a
spiritual perspective, as the ancients did. And in that spiritual
perspective we have found an answer. Maybe it is an answer that would
work for you too. If you are interested in learning more about this
from our perspective, please read through the rest of the somafera
website, as well as this page: http://www.uppsalaonline.com/uppsala/berserk.htm
One of the most common unusual aspects of the state of somafera is that the somaferan becomes somewhat resistant to being injured by fire. This is mentioned of both the berserks and maenads, and is found even in some modern Pentacostal churches. But while spiritual explanations abound as to why this is so, there is very little good information on the scientific side.
Standard scientific theories on firewalking (the form of fire resistance most commonly seen by the public), usually trying to dismiss the notion that mental state can have anything to do with the effect, generally fall into one of these catagories:
1) Firewalks are done on dry wood coals, which have relatively low heat capacity and relatively poor heat conduction, so no actual heat is getting through to the firewalker. Also, that the firewalker moves rapidly, further reducing the time available for absorbing heat.
2) Firewalkers' feet have very, very thick calluses.
3) The Leidenfrost effect. This is an effect where a wet cool object comes into contact with a hot one. The moisture flash-vaporizes and is trapped between the two objects, effectively thermally insulating the cool one from the hot one.
4) The blood carries the heat away from building up in the feet and spreads it through the body, thus preventing the feet from burning, much as you can put a styrofoam cup of water into a fire; it will not burn until the water is boiled away.
Explanation 1) does not really hold water. I have been burned by even an instantaneous touch of a wood coal, and I have known plenty of others who have, too. Additionally, people are regularly burned by firewalking. Also, Hawaiian kahunas have been observed to walk over hot (but cooled enough to solidify) lava beds, which are good thermal conductors and have a high heat capacity. Extra long firewalks have been performed by sadhus in India, some of whom even stop in the bed of coals. And Ripley's Believe It Or Not once featured a man walking over plates of iron that were glowing red. Iron definitely has both high thermal conductivity and high heat capacity. Indeed, it will leave second-degree burns even before it starts to glow. This explanation also ignores other forms of fire resistance, such as that practiced by some Pentacostal churches, where it is flame, not coals, that is used.
Explanation 2) is simply laughable. No study has ever found all firewalkers to have any sort of calluses on their feet, nevermind such thick ones as would be needed to utterly resist fire. This explanation also fails to take into account such practices as handling hot coals manually, and others that apply flame directly to the arms, hands, or torso.
Explanation 3) was once the favored explantion of the phenomenon, and even today it is often quoted as if it were irrefutable scientific fact. However, as any physicist who has ever tried demonstrating the Leidenfrost effect for a class knows, it is not very reliable. It is far too easy for the water vapor to escape from underneath the cool object. Especially when the object is regularly tilting, as the foot does when walking. Also, for the Leidenfrost effect to have even a chance of working, it would be necessary for the foot to be soaked with sweat. And some firewalkers, when challenged with the Leidenfrost explanation, have demonstrated that this is simply not so.
That these three explanations might have something to do with some of the cases of fire resistance is likely. The Southern California Skeptics at CalTech demonstrated in 1985 that if the firewalk was kept short (10 feet or less), and the participants rushed, and wood coals of poor thermal conductivity were used, then anyone could perform the feat with no special preparation. However, it does not explain cases of walking on hot metal, or longer firewalks (20 feet or more) such as are conducted yearly at Kataragama, or rolling the body back and forth in the coals as anthropologist Laurens van der Post described witnessing the !Kung fire dancers of the Kalahari in 1977 to do, or the lava walks of Hawaiian kahunas such as reported by Dr. Brigham in1880. It is clear that these explanations account only for the most minor sorts of firewalking, such as are popularized by the New Age movement and corporate self-help seminars.
Explanation 4), though, has more going for it than any of the others. It does address all the various features of fire resistance. It can explain fire held to the arm, or hand, or torso. It can explain the walks over good thermal conductors. And it can explain why some are burned and others not, in the course of a single experience. Additionally, it explains why so many firewalkers insist that mental state is critical, and why other forms of scientific explanation suffice only for the least risky, shortest, coolest firewalks.
I have had some experience with fire handling in my somafera training, and my initiation. I have held my hand directly in flames for fifteen seconds. I have picked up hot coals and held them. I have held aluminum at a temperature of 450 degrees for over a minute. And I am firmly convinced that state of mind had something to do with these experiences. And this is because I cannot always do them. Sometimes I try to and fail, and end up with second degree burns with less exposure than successful endeavors where I remained unburned. And the occasions wherein I resist the fire, I am in a deep enough gangr that my pulse and blood pressure are both through the roof.
In the somaferan state pulse and blood pressure increase dramatically - even to sustained levels of 240 bpm. As the average normal pulse is around 60 bpm, this represents a rather significant increase. As the blood is capable of carrying heat away from the skin before it is damaged, this dramatic increase in blood flow must represent a dramatic increase in the heat carried away from the skin. As all other explanations for fire resistance are inadequate for describing all the facets of the experience, this seems like the most plausible hypothesis.
It should be noted that the elevated healing capacity of the somaferan state may have something to do with it as well. As both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are simultaneously active in this state (as shown by Dr. Newberg et al), the healing systems of the parasympathetic system are significantly boosted by the heightened energy of the sympathetic system. However, this is only an unproven hypothesis.
These explanations for fire resistance do not disprove the mystical side of fire resistance. Mystical experience is by its nature highly subjective and personal in point of view. It does take supreme mental and spiritual effort of alter the physiology of the body in such a way that such things are possible, and that is what the description of the mystical nature of the experience is. All these scientific explanations do is give the physical process by which the spiritual state generates its effects.
One of the most notable aspects of the somaferan state according to ancient tales is that somaferans such as berserks and practitioners of the Celtic heroic feats were said to be resistant or immune to being cut by blades when in their altered states. And it is this aspect of the practice more than any other that makes people dismiss tales of such practices as mere folk tales.
But such practices are not confined to the distant past. They can be found today, in cousin practices of somafera. The sadhus of India regularly pierce and cut themselves and are observed not to bleed. Indeed, they make yearly demonstartions of this ability at Kataragama. And some modern practitioners of somafera, such as myself, have experienced them too.
I have been cut on a number of occasions while in a deep gangr, both as deliberate and as accidental results of my training. And on occasion I either never bled at all or the blood started flowing quite heavily and them immediately ceased, in far less time than would be typical. (I have, for instance, had the sorts of injuries that can take hours to really stop bleeding cease in under a second.) Sometimes this does not occur until I focus on the injury and try to make it better. Other somaferans report identical experiences.
We have no proven theory as to what happens to cause this. But we have come up with reasonable hypotheses. It would seem that in a deep gangr, when sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are both on at the same time, and the body's healing capacities are amplified by its excess energy, the blood can be made to clot much faster than is usual. Fast enough that sometimes the wound won't even bleed at all. This would certainly give the impression to an opponent that the berserk is resistant to the cut of blades. And in addition to the clotting thing, it is possible that the cut itself heals quickly too, for some somaferans such as myself have found injuries sustained in a gangr to heal in a day or two, even when such injuries would normally take a week or two.
While this is only an untested hypothesis it does seem a fairly reasonable one. Perhaps future study in this area will eventually be conducted that can confirm or deny this idea.
The human mind can be viewed as a chaotic system. The word chaotic here denotes that the dynamics of the system, the way it works, are too complex for easy prediction. Small changes in initial conditions can produce large, unpredictable, system-wide changes.
It is interesting to compare the change the mind undergoes when elevating into the somafera state to something like water freezing. Water molecules have a whole range of individual speeds and temperatures. That is to say, the temperature of the body of water as a whole is simply an average temperature. Any small individual part of the water has an individual temperature that is either higher or lower than this. How exactly then does water freeze? What makes it change all at one from the liquid phase to the solid phase?
This sort of phase transition is a property of chaotic systems, such as the different range of individual temperatures water molecules possess means that water is. This seems very much like the transition the mind undergoes from the chaotic mess of a hundred thoughts, instincts, emotions, and memories pulling in a hundred directions at once to the ordered unity of the elevated state of somafera. Elevation can be viewed as a phase transition of the human mind.
What are the conditions necessary for a chaotic system to undergo a phase transition to an ordered system? There are three, according to the field of mathematics:
1) The system must be far from equilibrium. (The system must be easily overbalanced.)
How does this relate to somafera? Well, these describe the three basic conditions necessary for transition to the unitary state. The first simply means that the mind must be under great stress, able to be easily "pushed over the edge". The second simply means that there must be powerful emotions running through the mind. (See the article on emotional valence.)
The third of these means that there must be two elements to the thought-structure of the elevation ritual. Canalyzing and analyzing feedback. Canalyzing is simply a technical term that means "ordering". Analyzing means "breaking apart". In other words, for the brain to be able to affect the transition to the unitary state it must be able to have parts of it able to make sense out of different things (different thoughts, different feelings, different sense-impressions), to be able to draw conclusions, to find patterns in seemingly unrelated facts. It must also have parts of it that are able to analyze, that are able to break up concepts and find out what they are made of.
The reason these two things are so necessary is because of the torrent of emotion that will be running through the mind during the ritual. Some of the directions these emotions will try to push the mind in are helpful, they will tend to bring about elevation. Other directions are either not at all helpful or are even harmful, and will distract the attention or create a block about elevating. If there are both ordering and breaking-apart tendencies in the mind during elevation, this will help direct the flow of emotions into the desired areas. Helpful emotions will be emotions that bring about unity. They will therefore most responsive to the ordering, canalyzing functions. They will thus be lumped together by the brain, and will start to grow, and attract other similar emotions. Unhelpful emotions will respond most readily to analyzing functions, and will be broken apart, and the emotional momentum they impart will be broken, and spent, and the individual elements of the emotions can be cannibalized for other, more helpful thoughts.
What does all of this mean practically? Well that will be something different for everyone. In my case these things can be seen in the way I relate to my personal spirits, my disir. My elevation process involves being led to the elevation, being led to the wolf, by these particular spirits. Each spirit means something different to me, relates to a different aspect of my nature. Some of these spirits are antagonistic to each other, some are allies. When my internal emotional nature is in a particular state, it tends to call to a certain interaction between certain disir. Sometimes this interaction is antagonistic, and the parts of me that are connected to these spirits gets fragmented, as with an analyzing function. Sometimes the interaction is synergistic, and the elements that called to them get added together, and made into a whole.
Other practitioners will not reach elevation via spiritual aid, for elevation ritual is an individual thing. But almost any other practitioner would benefit from use of canalyzing and analyzing functions, whether they are spiritual in nature, or part of a more mechanistic point of view.
Perhaps the single most important element of the practice of somafera is the attachment of an emotional valence to every thought and sense-impression that passes through the practitioner's mind. Emotion is the mental equivalent of energy, of power. It is what moves thought. Even purely rational thought, in ordinary people, requires it, for there must still be the desire to engage in such thought in order to engage in it.
Somafera is a unitary state of mind and body. The whole mind is used simultaneously, along the same paths. For this to occur, the feeling parts of the mind must work in synch with the rational thinking parts of the mind. This is why simply applying techniques will not cause elevation, for the application of techniques is a purely rational process, and involves the emotional nature little. It is also why simply "letting go" and feeling will rarely produce good results either, for undirected power quickly spends itself, and is largely wasted.
The key to the successful practice of somafera is being in a state of mind where every thought and sense impression is allowed to attach to an emotion. This starts whipping up the the emotions into a froth. These emotions drive the thoughts they are associated with through the mind faster and more strongly. This in turn causes even stronger emotional attachments, which redirect the thoughts they are attached to again, and so forth, in a cycle. At some point the "right brain" (which is to say the artistic, "big picture", "see the forest in the trees" parts of the mind) will become involved in all this. This is because it is part of human nature, and even more a part of the nature of our kind, to see patterns in things. So much frenetic activity in the thinking and feeling portions of the brain draws the attention of the mind's pattern seekers. After all, emotion is power, and the mind is instinctively drawn most to strong emotional reactions. The pattern finders look for a pattern in all that mental activity. And sooner or later they find it. It is at this point that the whole of the brain starts working together. This is the beginning of the unitary state.
There is some debate amongst somaferans about precisely where the ability to alter the physiology in such a manner as we do originates. There are, essentially, two views on the subject. One, the minority view, asserts that the change originates entirely from the techniques and that, given sufficient motivation, anyone can learn the trick. The other, the view held by most somaferans, is that the techniques are but ways of triggering inherent traits we were born with, but which are not necessarily easy to call upon. Historically speaking, many traditions, such as the berserkergang and the heroic feats, seem to have leaned to the view that it is a matter of genetics. (The Icelandic Sagas speak of such things as running in family lines, and the Celts thought that only those born to be heros could do the feats.) There are, however, some exceptions. The Chinese Boxers and the Lakota Ghost Dancers seemed to have had all warriors, or anyone who wanted to, take part in their practices or try to learn them.
Personally, I think the evidence is in favor of the genetic theory (with some reservations). There is a definitely noticable trend in the looks common to somaferans. A survey conducted recently noted that 75% of somaferan respondents described themselves as being unusually hairy, having a unibrow, or both. 58% described themselves as "unattractive", or as possessing "primitive characteristics". 66% stated that their chests and shoulders were disproportionately large compared to their waists. 92% reported having unusual reactions to most medications, especially anaesthetics. In some cases the odd reactions were described as being highly resistant, in other cases it was a matter of being hypersensitive, in still other cases it was a matter of having atypical effects, such as depressants acting as stimulants. 92% reported being prone to adrenaline toxicity and/or sudden outbursts of anger and rage. 92% reported having an extreme emotional nature, wherein "normal" or mid-range emotions were almost entirely lacking from their lives.
I think these trends are too prevalent to admit any other explanation than that the somaferan nature is a product of genetics, as it is rather unlikely that a random selection of people practicing the same arts would just happen to share so many unrelated traits. Indeed, there are features in this list that potentially explain some of the somaferan nature. The excessive hairiness, for example, is often a sign of unusually high testosterone levels, which can also explain the natural aggression/rage problems common to somaferans. The unusually broad chest/shoulders indicates the potential for unusually large lungs, which can greatly increase the amount of oxygen in the blood: a critical feature for the process of elevation, which often includes hyperventilation as a trigger.
That being said, however, I do have some reservations about the genetics theory. Elite miltary training (such as for Rangers and SEALs) actually tends to be very similar to wod-raising techniques used by somaferans. The training tends to bring out a state that is in many ways similar to the altered state of somafera. Athletes often psyche themselves up for a game, in an attempt to get "in the zone", a state that seems in many ways similar to somafera too. And as mentioned above, some somafera traditions allowed anyone to practice.
But while there are similarities between these states and somafera, such as hightened strength, increased dexterity, attention to detail, and heightened reflexes, there are notable differences too. The increased strength often gives way to shakes and uncoordinated movements in athletes and such. This does not happen with somaferans. The state is often (though not always) described by such athletes and soldiers as unpleasant, or eventually becoming unpleasant. Most somaferans find the state not only pleasant, but addictive. Other common features of somafera, such as elevated healing, being resistant to fire, and being prone to visions are entirely absent from the experiences of such soldiers and athletes. So is the possessionary experience, nearly universal amongst somaferans. And while heightened attention is noted by such "in the zone" atheletes, this is a lesser thing than the uberfocus most somaferans note, where the entire world can vanish, leaving only the object of focus, shining like a sun.
So I would tend to be of the opinion that even non-somaferans can learn the techniques, and even benefit from them, achieving a sort of somafera-lite state, but that the true depth of the state is only reachable, in general, by those born with a predisposition for the experience.
It should be noted that being somaferan is not being superhuman. The transformation in physiology does carry distinct advantages, but it carries distinct disadvantages as well. The most obvious is, perhaps, the often uncontrollable rage. Many, if not most, somaferans are in jail, I would wager. The generally extreme emotional nature usually means a lifetime of tempestuous, short-term relationships, and often great bouts of depression, that can easily become suicidal. While somaferans may be capable of channeling all of their energy into increasing their strength above normal limits, this comes at a price. All that energy has to come from somewhere, and it is taken from the body's own reserves. Thus somaferans tend, in our altered state, to run through our energy far faster than other people. The Icelandic Sagas mention that a common way of killing a berserk was to wait for him to enter a gangr, and once it was over, kill him in the post-gangr fatigue, when he became much weaker than normal. Ancient Celtic ballads tell of invading viking armies using berserks as shock troops, sent in as the first wave. While the ballads spoke fearfully of their great strength and ferocity they also mentioned that if the troops could find a way to hold them off for an hour, they became suddenly easy to kill. That matches the experience of many somaferans, who claim the state can be maintained at peak output for about an hour. While the uberfocus of the somaferan state means the somaferan is capable of dealing with the object of that focus unusually well, it also generally means that he or she will be more prone to missing the unexpected. Suddenly running out of wod can also throw the somaferan for a loop, and temporarily weaken and stupefy him or her. Being resistant or immune to anaesthetics definitely has its drawbacks, as it means rather a lot of pain during dental procedures and an increased risk of dying during routine surgery. And while we generally have an extremely fast rate of healing, the flip side of that coin makes us much more prone to psychosomatic illnesses. Somaferans may be born different from non-somaferans, but those differences are just that: differences, not absolute superiorities.
Begin with the breath. The breath is the source of life-giving air. Breathing in increases air, increases energy, as air contains oxygen which is necessary to burn the fuel that energizes the body. In many cultures breath is also the source of inspiration, the raw creative force, divine in origin, that fires the minds of poets, inventors, artists of all sorts, including martial.
Breath in excess of that used for whatever the body is physically doing at the moment fires the mind up with excess fuel. Thus the proper beginning for inducing the state of somafera is hyperventilation. This may be in the form of rapid shallow breaths or rapid deeper breaths, depending on the preferences of the practitioner at the moment. (Though the breathing should be allowed to change naturally, as it wants to. At some point usually it will automatically shift over into slower, diaphragmmatic breathing.) This hyperoxygenates the blood and sets the mind racing.
The elevated oxygen in the blood and the racing of the mind combine to produce an additional effect. They cause the adrenal glands to begin dumping adrenaline into the bloodstream. Adrenaline is to the body like rocket fuel is to a rocket. The body becomes temporarily stronger, due to the adrenaline. The reflexes quicken as well. This is because the adrenaline causes the electrical potential in the nerves to rise and approach the firing threshold. This means it takes only a small signal to get the nerves firing, and this increases the rate of both thought and physical response.
The increased rate of thought begins to unbalance the contents of the mind. Those portions of the mind's contents that work well together begin to merge, to affect each other. Those parts of the mind's contents that don't work well together, that inhibit each other's effects cancel each other out, and vanish. The mind begins to simplify, to become more general (in the sense of more archetypal in content) and more precise (in the sense that the mind containing fewer things). The neural activity in the Orientation Association Area in the brain is heightened during this period, as is, I believe, activity in the language/thought sections of the left forebrain.
Here is where the first of the difficulties in attaining the unitary state is encountered, as well as the first danger. If the contents of the mind at the start of elevation, when the breath quickens, are largely negative, or distracted, or bound to concrete attachments, then the purification results in increased negativity, distraction, and attachment. The second two of these things will end the unitary state. But the first is even worse, for therein lies the risk that a unitary state will be achieved around a negative concept, and depending on what this negative concept is it could be a very bad thing indeed. And when the ecstasy and fury of adrenaline rises, it is possible to get swept away more rapidly than can be controlled.
For these reasons the mind should be open and empty, and in a clear, receptive state. A meditative state. The attachment to the ego should be destroyed by meditative technique. Some mental ritual must be engaged in. It could be anything from a particular thought, or the impulse to a particular physical action, to a short line of verse, or set of images, or a mantra, or a prayer. Anything that can reach into the subconscious mind and pull, by association, its contents into the attention of the conscious mind, melding them with the images and commands there. This is where a large part of the practitioner's technique comes in. The contents of the mind are what will be amplified by the elevation given by the adrenaline. They also serve as a net, or filter (depending on what metaphor you like) to pull subconscious elements into the conscious. This starts a process by which the conscious' contents are spread through the whole brain, via the process of association given by the ritual. (Though it should be kept in mind that the longer the melding, spreading process goes on, the more the contents will morph into something else.) This is the beginning of the unitary state. Just what the contents of the ritual are, how simple or complex they are is dependant upon the nature and tastes of the practitioner. The simpler ritual have the advantage of not themselves generating a lot of conscious thought, which can kill the unitary state. They have the disadvantage of not being so precisely or finely directed, which means they can more easily fall into error or otherwise become distracted or impure. The more complex rituals have the opposite advantages and disadvantages.
This stirring up of the subconscious mind, and its resultant impact upon the contents of the consciou mind combine with the altering hormonal/neurochemical imbalance caused by the excess adrenaline to form a further effect. The sex-hormones are stirred up, and the libido is aroused. (No doubt psychologists could give a better explanation of why.) This might be a very minor effect, and scarce impact the nature or character of the experience. It might also take on a significant role, roiling the mind and causing it and the body to rev ever higher. And herein also the deeper levels of the subconscious are tapped. And this is partly caused by, and partly causes the experience of contacting the Anima or Animus. (The Anima/Animus is a psychological archetype described by the psychologist Jung. It is the deeper layers of the subconscious mind, to put it simply, those parts that are so alien to the normal conscious nature that they are recognized by the conscious mind as "not-me". Thus men recognize this as a separate female mind (Anima) and women recognize it as a separate male mind (Animus)). The psycho-sexual energy of the roused libido can be channeled into the experience, and a sort of heavily archetypal erotic encounter can be experienced that uses that libido's energy to get into the deep subconscious and to work within it.
This means two things are occuring as byproducts of all of this activity. One is that the arousal and release of sexual emotional energy produces desire, and the mind wants, both consciously and subconsciously, to continue along the lines of current experience. This helps combat the great difficulty encountered in entering the unitary state, which is that it requires a truly herculean effort to trigger and maintain, and so natural inertia has a tendency to quickly ruin the state and the efforts required to maintain it. Another is that the deepest subconscious mind starts resonating with the contents of the conscious mind. In return, the conscious mind takes on more of the subconscious nature. The two approach each other in form. Something at this point is using up serotonin rapidly, evidence seems to show. (Because the mind begins racing still faster, at manic speeds, and mental activity rates are regulated by serotonin, and experience in the unitary state tends to produce side effects in both the sensations of hunger and of regulating body temperature, both of which show that afterwards serotonin in the brain is low.) This is apporaching breakover point, the point where the mind enters the unitary state.
(As a side note, if the practitioner has a religious or spiritual path that contains such a concept, and if he or she is familiar enough with the practices of that path to allow it to be done, the moment of contact with the Animus/Anima presents a unique opportunity. That portion of the mind is most like that sort of spirit being known as the fetch-wife or fetch-husband. So contact with that part of the mind allows the best opportunity to contact that being as well, with all the advantages that can bring.)
The sexual energies and the adrenaline feed off each other, each one causing levels of the other to be driven ever higher. The stress the mind and body are under is enormous. The contents of the deductionist, rational left-brain whiz round and round in the mind and the holistic, pattern-seeking, artistic right-brain strives to attain a point of view that sees the left-brain contents and images and thoughts as one unified whole. More and more energy is thrown into this search by the hypothalamus and thalamus, the brain's master switches, as they desperately and instinctively seek a way to bring the stress levels down before they cause damage. The refinement of the contents of the mind given by the mental form of the ritual spreads the same few archetypal images the mind contains through the whole mind. Because the images are archetypal every part of the mind they occupy has a way to read them, to interpret them, to take them as instructions. The whole mind moves as one. The unitary state is entered into. The Orientation Association Area associated with the sense of self shuts off entirely, as the overwhelmed hypothalamus puts on the brakes. The state of possession is entered into. Mind moves unstoppingly, without hindrance. There are no blocks, or hang-ups, or anything to impede the movement of mind and spirit. The body, driven by that same mind in that same state, responds so intimately to the altered mind and spirit that it enteres into a physiologically altered state, high on adrenaline, but immune to the harmful effects of adrenaline, which can cause shakes, loss of judgement, and cooridination, because of the state of the mind and the spirit. This is somafera, the Body Wild.
Below is a table that lists many of the important terms above, and their equivalents in the Norse spiritual system (which I follow), and also in Chinese spiritual terminology used in Tai Chi (though keep in mind my study of Tai Chi was short, and cursory, and I may very well be wrong therefore.)
Practitioners of somafera have different nutritional requirements than average people. For one thing, we are somewhat different physiologically from birth; there are common physical characteristics shared by many of us, internal as well as external. Secondly, our activities on a daily level are different - even if you don't do intense physical practice regularly (like me) you are most likely elevating slightly all the time. You might notice, for instance, that you are tensing your muscles for no reason, or you might find yourself hyperventilating in response to the tiniest stressor. This affects your health, of course, and even if you have increased self-healing capabilities, it would be foolish to ignore the stress you are putting on your body. So, one of the first places you can start to strengthen your physical well-being is with nutrition. As you get further into the practice of somafera, you might notice that you are more aware of your body's needs - this usually comes in the form of intense cravings. Follow that intuition! Do not worry about fad diets, or what other people say - your body knows what it's lacking.
There are a few nutrients that you may need more than before, and therefore you may find yourself craving. One of the most common is protein, of the kind found in meat. Especially if you are working with an animal spirit (a carnivorous animal, such as lion or wolf) you may feel an increasing desire for rare, red meat. This is important not only on the spiritual level (getting in touch with that animal's nature) but on a physical one as well. Remember, somafera is spiritual *and* physiological transformation - do not doubt that you might be changing your body chemistry in the process. Even if you were never much of a meat-eater, if you are craving it now, you probably need it - at least, the animal in you does! Plus, craving red meat might also signify a low iron level in your blood, which can lead to anemia if not taken care of.
Another chemical that somafera practice often depletes is the neurotransmitter serotonin. You use a lot of serotonin when you elevate, and if you're elevating all the time you will probably notice the signs of a low serotonin level - depressed mood, insomnia, migraine headaches, and food cravings (because your body wants food that will produce more serotonin). You may even have trouble elevating after awhile, if you are not replacing the serotonin. There are many foods you can eat that will raise your serotonin level - basically, you want to go for complex carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, oatmeal, corn) and eat them alone; don't eat protein-containing foods at the same time, that will counteract the effects. Even better, eat foods that are also high in vitamin B6, which assists the production of serotonin - bananas, potatoes, raisins and whole grains. I've also found chocolate to be a good source - in fact, I never like chocolate until I began elevating, and now I crave it often. You may also want to look into the dietary supplement called 5-HTP, a synthetic form of serotonin - but please do some research before taking pills of any kind, especially if you are on other medications (for instance, 5-HTP should not be taken if you are taking an MAO inhibitor like many anti-depressants).
There are plenty of other chemicals and nutrients that are important and that you may need to increase, and fortunately most of them can be remedied through the correct diet. If you find yourself experiencing physical symptoms that began after you started practicing somafera, you should do some research into what the cause might be, and what may be done to help (of course, see your doctor for any serious problems). And as I said before: listen to your body, it knows what it needs.
A number of somafera practitioners have had a strange experience in common, one which I believe is not merely coincidental. We have found that there is some kind of power in a certain spot on the back, centered where the neck meets the shoulders. Some have found that focusing on this spot during elevation can catapult one into an intense gangr. Personally, I have found that as my practice has evolved, I have begun having powerful sensations of being touched lightly in that same spot - a kind of humming feeling results from it, which causes me to elevate slightly. This happens at apparently random times, from no direct cause that I can see so far.
Research into this area of the body has produced an interesting number of facts, though I don't know at this point how many are directly related to our phenomenon. In mythology, for instance, it is sometimes said that a spot in that area is the only place of vulnerability on a hero's enemy - it goes straight to the heart. Science shows that it is a critical location as well - arteries for the brain enter that spot, and pinching it reduces the brain's oxygen sharply. As you may know, de-oxygenizing the brain has a direct effect on meditative states, and may aid us as well, as it causes the brain to panic and thus automatically increases elevation. In acupuncture, this point is called DU14, on the back midline. It is associated with fever, heat stroke, malaria, schizophrenia, epilepsy, asthma and eczema, and is also used to balance the pituitary gland. I note that some of somafera practice has similar effects to both schizophrenia and epilepsy, as well as increasing internal heat and lung activity. This point is also associated with the throat chakra, which governs communication (might this relate to communication with spirits also?).
Hopefully greater experience and communication with other practitioners will help us further illuminate the significance of this spot.
A good way to understand better what a unitary state is, is to look at other examples of it, that are common even to normal people. (That is, those who practice no form of somafera.) It must be kept in mind that there are many different kinds of unitary state, each different kind resulting from different portions of the brain being unified. Rarely is the *whole* brain in true unity. Indeed simply a majority of the brain being locked in synch seems enough to effect deafferentation of the OAA.
One of the most common ways ordinary people enter the unitary state is through sex. The act of sex meets all the basic requirements for effective ritual; it involves repetitive motion, the action of major muscle groups, and has a heavy emotional valence (meaning emotions run high during sex and everything is seen through the tint of those emotions). Good sex triggers adrenaline and from there it is just a matter of time and luck before the unitary state is entered into. This does not happen every time, or even most of the time. It takes everything being "just right" to do it. The unitary state sex causes results in an orgasm that that seems almost holy. The self is obliterated, absorbed into the other. The face of some god or other is seen. Everything is ecstasy and pleasure for a moment that lasts an eternity.
The other most common manner in which ordinary people enter the unitary state is at services at some kind of Christian church. Here the basic elements of ritual necessary for the unitary state are also met. There is repetive behavior (preacher/priest speaking and congregation responding). This behavior blends thought (the words being said or sung) with action (standing and sitting repeatedly). There is also an emotional valence here, the emotions invoked by the words of the sermon which, if its deliverer is doing his job right, will evoke feelings of reverence and religious awe. But furthermore there is the benefit of the large congregation. Medical studies show that being part of a large group all doing the same thing has such an effect on the minds and emotions of the participants as to make the unitary state easier to enter into. (Hence the feeling, given voice at better church services, that the congregation "became as one". This sensation is a hallmark of the unitary state.)
Another way people experience this state is through playing sports. This sometimes is the result of "psyching up" before the game. Psyching up involves some positive statement, often a boast, repeatedly given utterance, usually accompanied by some sort of rapid motion like pacing or running in place. In team sports maximum benefit usually results from all players doing it together. This kind of unitary state revs the body up. Adrenaline is increased, and the effect this has on the mind is to make it seem as if time is running slower in the outside world. This gives a distinct competitive advantage, allowing for greater decision making time relative to external events. It also corresponds with increased reaction speed and heightened strength, as well as an insensitivity to pain. But while it does share certain features in common with such somafera practices as the berserkergang, it is not the same thing. There is no significant change in overall physiology. Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are not simultaneously active, I think. While the psyched up (also called "in the zone") state gives one the ability to see both the big picture and the little picture at once (as when athletes describe being able to see every individual blade of grass), this lacks the razor focus and rapid speed of this state of mind in the gangr. It also lacks the control the berserk gains over the phenomenon of psychetachia (the sense that external time is running slow). Strength is also not increased as much, and the extraordinary healing capacities seem absent. It also lacks the religious or spiritual nature the berserk experiences. And the fact that most people not born berserks lack certain adaptive traits, such as expanded lung capacity, that allows a born berserk to make full use of the state means that its benefits quickly hit a dead end. It is a sort of "gangr-lite". The other way that sportsmen aquire this state, outside of psyching up, is in the act of the competition itself. This too has the bare-bones elements of ritual. There is activity in major muscle groups, associated with strong emotions (competitive ones). There is an intent focus (on the goal of the sport) that makes for repetitive lines of thought. Repetitive action is usually engaged in.
Another way some people come into contact with a unitary state is in the moment their lives are in danger, such as when a car from the opposite lane suddenly swerves out in front of them. The massive dose of adrenaline released in response to this sort of thing, the terror it brings on, are more than strong enough emotions to cause the unitary state to be entered into even with all the other requirements of ritual lacking. Time seems to stand still, people say, in these moments. Some people report becoming unusually fast, strong, and coordinated, though such unaccustomed abilities vanish the moment the crisis is past. These are all attributes of the unitary state.
Some lucky few can enter the unitary state for a moment through the emotion of love. There is no way to predict when such a thing will strike; it depends upon too many factors. But suddenly one is gazing at the loved one and that person seems ineffably beautiful. All the wonderful memories associated with that person are suddenly and simultaneously stirred to life. The loved one seems both familiar and incredibly new, as if being seen for the first time. The feeling of love for this person is so strong as to produce ecstasy. Sometimes everything in the field of vision, especially that person, will seem to shine. These things, the sudden racing of the mind in accessing all those memories at once, the shining field of vision, the surge of emotions, are things that are caused by the unitary state.
Some uncommon, but not entirely rare, individuals seem to acces the unitary state through very unique means. Some people have a tendancy to, every once in a while, "forsee" an event. Some little voice, or vision, or even just some nameless impulse gives them a glimpse of something that shortly comes to pass. While many people scoff at such things, could it not be that they are too dismissive? It seems to me that such things can be described as the effects of a unitary state. The mind is enormously complicated, as over 1 trillion connections exists between neurons in the brain. There seems a strong tendency in modern neuroscience to believe that nothing is ever forgotten, that new memories are just laid down over old ones until it can be near impossible to see some of them, but that they are still there nonetheless. Perhaps sometimes the contents of the mind, which is always subconsciously active, sometimes chance, in those brains which happen to have the right wiring, to run into a fortuitous conjunction. For a moment the mind is in a unitary state with a piece of information, a prediction about the future, made from sifting nearly all of the contents of the mind at once. This does make a certain sense. The mind is a wonderful predictive machine. It is constantly analysing things around it, trying to get a sense of what will happen next. This is what allows us to sense harm intended in someone's eyes, and what allows us to expect a stroke of thunder after a flash of lightning, and what allows us to actually put out our hands and catch a ball by knowing where it will be, based on where it leaves the hand or bat. Perhaps it sometimes happens into a "overdrive" mode, where it temporarily becomes super-effective. There is much evidence to back up this hypothesis. It explains why it "just happens", and cannot be predicted or controlled, for that sort of randomly coordinated mental activity can only be the result of happenstance. It is also consistent with the observation that only some people are born with the Second Sight, for clearly if this is a happenstance arrangement of mental processes, obviously by chance distribution some minds would be more prone to it than others. It is still further consistent with the fact that many people who report having visions of things to come report that everything seems to shine when the vision happens. This shining is a factor in the unitary state experience as well, and is caused by the racing mind factor, where neuron are firing at such an accelerated rate that everything goes through the awareness much faster than normal. With those parts of the mind given over to interpreting what comes in through the eyes, this is seen as everything becoming brighter, as if it were emitting more light, faster. Everything shines. It is also consistent with the recorded observations of numerous precognitives that these things tend to happen most often when the conscious mind is distracted, such as when just falling asleep or waking up, or when thinking about something else, or when very relaxed, as in meditation. Obviously if the conscious mind is not active, and therefore providing a lot of noise, then chance coherent unconscious signals will be more easily observable. It also explains something about the results found in psychical research, that highly specific questions, such as "what did I have for dinner last night" cannot be given accurate answers by fortune-tellers, but that questions that have some degree of generality, and thus allow the mind to extrapolate elements of the question itself to known and understood portions of the subconscious mind via association, that allow for abstract manipulation, that have a chance of having some portion of the fortune-teller's memory containing actual memories or understandings of the issue in question, can be given answers containing surprisingly high accuracy rates with details that it seems the fortune-teller could not possibly have known. It could be that in such state the mind temprarily functions in "Sherlock Holmes" mode, and can read matters of the greatest import in the smallest detail.
This can also explain other common psychic phenomena. Many people report having seen ghosts, or having been visited by a dear departed one. These phenomena too bear the mark of the unitary state, for they often occur with the shining, and at distracted moments, and most often when there is a heavy emotional valence, such as at a recent bereavement, or when in a spooky, frightening place. Perhaps the mind here, too, finds patterns, taking elements of the known, and extrapolating them into the unknown. This is certainly not hard to understand in the case of a recently departed loved one. Such a one would have been well known, and easy for the mind to get into a unitary state with, until they seem so real that the person actually becomes present. This explains, possibly, why spectres and apparitions look like they do. If they are a vision, caused by those parts of the mind, perhaps, responsible for dream-images, then they are built up from elements taken from here and there in the memory, all of which do not mesh together pefectly well. Perhaps this is why the minds of those who see ghosts often see them as "indistinct", "wavering", or "transparent". It would have to be hard to form a vision of such convincing reality that it could stand superimposed over the physion of physical reality and not look a little less real. And it is always possible this sort of phenomenon can create the appearance of ghosts of those not known to the person seeing them. Sometimes the right atmosphere, memories of things heard in the distant past, understanding of such basic constants as human nature, etc. can come together spontaneously, under the right circumstances, to form such a unitary state vision. It could even have a high degree of accuracy about unknown details, as described above.
This is not to say that I disbelieve in more literal interpretations of spiritual phenomena. I actually do believe in ghosts and spirits as lieterally existing, independent entities. I believe it might be possible to literally see into the future. But I tend to see science and spirituality as flip sides of the same coin. They are, after all, attempts to describe the outside world. Science uses one mode of description, spirituality another. Wherein they describe the same phenomena I think it obvious they should be in agreement if either of them is to be said to be accurate. So as the unitary state seems to be a major component in such spiritual/psychic occurences, then it would seem that they are mostly unitary states. Nothing in here for any sort of modern science to disagree with. I would argue, myself, that the nature of the unitary state makes it easier for the mind to detect subtle-but-near-absent influences, such as the presence of a dead relative, and to create a vision concerning that one. An atheist or skeptic might disagree with such a statement, and say it lacks proof, and say all such phenomena can be described by the workings of the subconscious mind, its pattern-finders, and the unitary state. But in truth I would not be saying anything different from them. We would both make the same predictions about what would, or could, happen in such states. We both posit near-identical causes for the observed phenomena. The only differences in our models are a semantical one, or one of philosophy. That is to say the atheist would say :the actions of the brain cause an image to be created that is taken to be a spirit or vision; and the spiritualist would say: the presence of a spirit or nearness of a visionary state caused the brain to take certain actions. The choice of which of these points of view is a philosophical one. The honest observer can at best say that certain phenomena; the perception of spirits or visions and the neurobiology of the unitary state occur together. There is not only no evidence that one causes the other, there cannot be even in principle. As long as both models agree with each other, both positions as to what is "really" going are are equally valid.
Although not as yet recognised as a single phenomenon, it seems that the experience of the unitary state is in many ways widespread. By understanding it in all of its possible manifestations it can better be understood.
It can be quite difficult to attain the unitary state when first attempting to do so. The practice of somafera is something one is born to but even so, deliberately doing it is not easy to figure out. There are many techniques to use to train the experience into the mind and spirit with greater ease. One of these involves the phenomenon of word-sense ambiguation.
Word-sense ambiguation is a phenomenon of the mind involving the various tendencies the mind has to confuse words that sound similar or have related meanings. Take the string of three words given here:
Reading that chain of words means the part of the mind that sees the word "palm" sees it in two distinctly different ways. One associates the word palm with the image of a palm tree, the other associates the word palm with the image of the inner side of the hand. The actual phiscial location of the brain wherein lies the word palm is also in a superposition of visual images. This is word-sense ambiguation.
The advantage this confers to the practitioner of somafera is that it helps the spread of the contents of the attention throughout the whole of the mind (thus approaching the unitary state) by speeding up the association process. The association process is speeded because there are two distinctly different areas of the brain, each containing a different image, that have extra energy in a series of neural connections combining them provided by focusing the awareness on the connection by ambiguating the word palm. This means that not only are these thoughts connected, but all the thoughts stored "near them" are activated to some extent ot other from that energy as well, simply because that's how the mind operates, thoughts naturally associate. The energy flowing through these neurons, the energy of these thoughts interact with each other, forming new connections, making new inferences, readying further regions of the brain to be joined together by the unitary process.
Thus when creating a ritual to guide the subconscious association process (see the article on the mechanics of mind/body/spirit unification) a series of words as mantras each ambiguated in sense with the words on either side will create a chain of ascoiated areas in the brain, speeding the process of unification.
Another way to increase this association speed still further is to have each of the ambiguated mantra words also sound phonetically similar; they should have the same number of syllables and they should either alliterate or rhyme, so that ambiguation also involves the areas of the brain that correspond to these similarities.
Other uses can be made of word-sense ambiguation by combining other thoughts, other commands, with strings of ambiguated words to create elaborate effects where different parts of the mind are connected together in different ways, at different times, to maximize the probability that the best possible associations will naturally occur as quickly as possible.
What exactly is this madness, and how does it help them think and create? How does it make them see?
The most reasonable place to begin looking seems to be with those few first hand accounts we have. Tesla and Sagan both spoke of having visions. Einstein utilized mental images of such clarity that he didn’t need to write things down, and this sounds much like a vision. Archimedes certainly acted like a man seized by a visionary experience when he ran naked down the street screaming “Eureka!” Indeed, the word “eureka” is now taken to mean a visionary flash of insight, thanks to that happening. So it doesn’t seem unreasonable to look first into what this visionary “eureka” moment is in order to find out what makes mad scientists what they are.
The visionary state, and associated states like religious awe or possessionary experiences, have recently been the subject of much scrutiny by mainstream science. While the visionary states that were studied were of the spiritual sort, I hypothesize that those and the visionary state of the eureka moment are the same thing. They are described in the same terms and seem to have the same effects, even if the content is different. Indeed, this isn’t even my idea originally. One of the teams of neuroscientists studying Buddhist transcendental states proposed that they were fundamentally the same thing as the eureka moment.
The theory I present here is based on the work of several such groups of researchers.
is a technical term used by psychologists and sociologists to describe
the conversion experience, meaning the experience of religious awe and
revelation that forever alters the mind and life of the person
experiencing it. An example of this would be finding Jesus at a tent
revival and becoming Born Again.
The process of reaching metanoia has a lot in common with the process of becoming an expert at something. When somebody becomes an expert at something, it is the result of long study and accumulation of facts and theories that at first seem relatively unrelated. Once they reach a sufficient “density” then the brain undergoes a complete reorganization. The information becomes stored in a manner that is much more efficient. Understanding comes easily and naturally. It could be said that the brain undergoes a conversion experience, a break with its past state, and afterward is something of an expert.
This process of becoming an expert and metanoia are both related in an interesting way to the unitary state of consciousness. To put it simply, the unitary state of consciousness is the term given by neurobiologists to the state of physiology that people in deep meditation and prayer states reach.
The brain is connected to the body by two systems of nerves. One is called the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). It is responsible for increasing awareness and focus, releasing adrenaline into the bloodstream, and in general preparing the body for either flight or fighting. The other is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS). It is responsible for relaxing, resting, calming, and healing the body, in general. Because these two systems have opposite effects, they tend to inhibit each other most of the time. When one is on, the other one is off.
But under situations of great stress, when one of those two nervous systems is being driven faster than it can handle, when the mind is nearly overwhelmed by what it is experiencing, then both nervous systems are turned on at the same time. When this occurs the parts of the brain that determine what is itself and what is everything else get shut off in order to reduce the energy requirements and stress level. The right and left hemispheres of the brain synch up, and the whole brain acts together.
The researchers observed that this is the point in meditation or prayer at which the Buddhist monks and Franciscan nuns they were studying felt the presence of God, or a state of enlightenment. It was often accompanied by visions. And it was associated with an increase in intuition and inspiration. As the researchers put it, it is what causes the eureka moment.
It causes the eureka moment because the unitary state is what drives the full conversion experience. It is the build-up of stress that overloads the brain enough trigger the unitary state, which causes the person experiencing it to lose their sense of self and become completely absorbed into whatever is on their mind. The psyche tries to heal itself of the enormous strain it is under by breaking down and rebuilding itself along lines that more easily handle whatever it is that caused the stress.
This rebuilding often involves a flash of understanding into whatever problem or issue it was that caused the overload and resultant stress. If it was an attempt to solve a problem, like Archimedes was doing, then the flash of insight depicts the solution to that problem. It is the result of the mind throwing all of its resources into getting rid of the stress: the quickest way to get rid of the stress is to make its cause vanish: solve the problem. Because the mind is unified and both halves of the nervous system are operating the problem is attacked with a force usually inaccessible to the normal conscious mind. Every subconscious resource, memory, and insight is used. And because solving that problem in the unitary state represents the ultimate union of left and right brain; shadow and will; id, ego, and superego it feels like ultimate truth, divine revelation. It is a moment of ultimate synthesis of the mind driving it to work like never before.
That this state of consciousness is behind the genius of mad scientists (well, any scientist really) seems likely. The neurobiologists researching the eureka moment describe it in these terms. Archimedes, who coined the term “eureka”, was so moved by his insight that he ran naked and screaming down the street. That certainly sounds like a metanoia experience. Tesla had fits with symptoms similar to those described by those neurobiologists, and eureka insights resulted wherein he saw plans and blueprints of machines, fulling assembled models of them. Feynman's synesthetic experiences when working with formulas is also consistent with the unitary state, as are Sagan's visions.
Understanding the cause of the eureka moment leads to the intriguing notion that a person with the gift of insight scientifically might be able to develop methods of bringing about the eureka moment. Means of bringing it at least partially under conscious control. This would have very useful repercussions, not least of which would be a faster rate of learning and a deeper level of understanding. Perhaps it could be used to give people with no scientific talent the ability to solve scientific problems, or amplify one's native scientific talent into something as great as that of Archimedes or DaVinci.
Disclaimer: The information and practices described in this site are the result of years of study and dedication to the understanding of the risks involved. These descriptions are provided for purposes of information only. Actually trying to practice anything described in this site would almost certainly lead to injury, perhaps even serious injury or death. We strongly advise against it.
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