T I M O T H Y L E A R Y ' S E I G H T C I R C U I T S
O F C O N S C I O U S N E S S
Excerpted from Robert Anton Wilson's
Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati
Tunnel-Realities and Imprints
Let's try Dr. Leary's perspective on these mysteries.
To understand neurological space, Dr. Leary assumes that the
nervous system consists of eight potential circuits, or "gears,"
or mini-brains. Four of these brains are in the usually active
left lobe and are concerned with our terrestrial survival; four
are extraterrestrial, reside in the "silent" or inactive right
lobe, and are for use in our future evolution. This explains why
the right lobe is usually inactive at this stage of our
development, and why it becomes active when the person ingests
We will explain each of the eight "brains" briefly.
I. THE BIO-SURVIVAL CIRCUIT. This invertebrate brain was
the first to evolve (2 to 3 million years ago) and is the first
activated when a human infant is born. It programs perception
onto an either-or grid divided into nurturing-helpful Things
(which it approaches) and noxious-dangerous Things (which it
flees, or attacks). The imprinting of this circuit sets up the
basic attitude of trust or suspicion which will ever after trigger
approach or avoidance.
II. THE EMOTIONAL CIRCUIT. This second, more advanced bio-
computer formed when vertebrates appeared and began to compete for
territory (perhaps 500,000,000 B.C.). In the individual, this
bigger tunnel-reality is activated when the DNA master-tape
triggers the metamorphosis from crawling to walking. As every
parent knows, the toddler is no longer a passive (bio-survival)
infant but a mammalian politician, full of physical (and psychic)
territorial demands, quick to meddle in family business and
decision-making. Again the first imprint on this circuit remains
constant for life (unless brainwashed) and identifies the stimuli
which will automatically trigger dominant, aggressive behavior or
submissive, cooperative behavior. When we say that a person is
behaving emotionally, egotistically or "like a two-year-old," we
mean that s/he is blindly following one of the tunnel-realities
imprinted on this circuit.
III. THE DEXTERITY-SYMBOLISM CIRCUIT. This third brain was
formed when hominid types began to differentiate from other
primate stock (circa 4-5 million B.C.) and is activated for the
linear left-lobe functions of the brain, determine our normal
modes of artifact-manufacture and conceptual thought, i.e., third
It is no accident, then, that our logic (and our computer-
design) follows either-or, binary structure of these circuits.
Nor is it an accident that our geometry, until the last century,
has been Euclidean. Euclid's geometry, Aristotle's logic and
Newton's physics are meta-programs synthesizing and generalizing
first brain forward-back, second brain up-down and third brain
The fourth brain, dealing with the transmission of tribal or
ethnic culture across generations, introduces the fourth
Since each of these tunnel-realities consists of biochemical
imprints or matrices in the nervous system, each of them is
specifically triggered by neuro-transmitters and other drugs.
To activate the first brain take an opiate. Mother Opium
and Sister Morphine bring you down to cellular intelligence, bio-
survival passivity, the floating consciousness of the newborn.
(This is why Freudians identify opiate addiction with the desire
to return to infancy.)
To activate the second tunnel-reality, take an abundant
quantity of alcohol. Vertebrate territorial patterns and
mammalian emotional politics immediately appear when the booze
flows, as Thomas Nashe intuitively realized when he characterized
the various alcohol states by animal labels: "ass drunk," "goat
drunk," "swine drunk," "bear drunk," etc.
To activate the third circuit, try coffee or tea, a high-
protein diet, speed or cocaine.
The specific neurotransmitter for circuit four has not been
synthesized yet, but it is generated by the glands after
pubescence and flows volcanically through the bloodstreams of
NONE OF THESE TERRESTRIAL DRUGS CHANGE BASIC BIOCHEMICAL
IMPRINTS. The behaviors which they trigger are those which were
wired into the nervous system during the first stages of imprint
vulnerability. The circuit II drunk exhibits the emotional games
or cons learned from parents in infancy. The circuit III "mind"
never gets beyond the permutations and combinations of those
tunnel-realities originally imprinted, or abstractions associated
with the imprints through later conditioning. And so forth.
But all this Pavlovian-Skinnerian robotism changes
drastically and dramatically when we turn to the right lobe, the
future circuits and extraterrestrial chemicals.
The four evolving future "brains" are:
V. THE NEUROSOMATIC CIRCUIT. When this fifth "body-brain"
is activated, flat Euclidean figure-ground configurations explode
multi-dimesionally. Gestalts shift, in McLuhan's terms, from
linear VISUAL SPACE to all-encompassing SENSORY SPACE. A hedonic
turn-on occurs, a rapturous amusement, a detachment from the
previously compulsive mechanism of the first four circuits. I
turned this circuit on with pot and Tantra.
This fifth brain began to appear about 4,000 years ago in
the first leisure-class civilizations and has been increasing
statistically in recent centuries (even before the Drug
Revolution), a fact demonstrated by the hedonic art of India,
China, Rome and other affluent societies. More recently, Ornstein
and his school have demonstrated with electroencephalograms that
this circuit represents the first jump from the linear left lobe
of the brain to the analogical right lobe.
The opening and imprinting of this circuit has been the
preoccupation of "technicians of the occult"--Tantric shamans and
hatha yogis. While the fifth tunnel-reality can be achieved by
sensory deprivation, social isolation, physiological stress or
severe shock (ceremonial terror tactics, as practiced by such
rascal-gurus as Don Juan Matus or Aleister Crowley), it has
traditionally been reserved to the educated aristocracy of leisure
societies who have solved the four terrestrial survival problems.
About 20,000 years ago, the specific fifth brain
neurotransmitter was discovered by shamans in the Caspian Sea are
of Asia and quickly spread to other wizards throughout Eurasia and
Africa. It is, of course, cannabis. Weed. Mother Mary Jane.
It is no accident that the pot-head generally refers to his
neural state as "high" or "spaced-out." The transcendence of
gravitational, digital, linear, either-or, Aristotelian,
Newtonian, Euclidean, planetary orientations (circuits I-IV) is,
in evolutionary perspective, part of our neurological preparation
for the inevitable migration off our home planet, now beginning.
This is why so many pot-heads are STAR TREK freaks and science
fiction adepts. (Berkeley, California, certainly the Cannabis
Capital of the U.S., has a Federation Trading Post on Telegraph
Avenue, where the well-heeled can easily spend $500 or more in a
single day, buying STAR TREK novels, magazines, newsletters,
bumper stickers, photographs, posters, tapes, etc., including even
complete blueprints for the starship ENTERPRISE.)
The extraterrestrial meaning of being "high" is confirmed by
astronauts themselves; 85% of those who have entered the free-fall
zero gravity describe "mystic experiences" or rapture states
typical of the neurosomatic circuit. "No photo can show how
beautiful Earth looked," raves Captain Ed Mitchell, describing his
Illumination in free-fall. He sounds like any successful yogi or
pot-head. No camera can show this experience because it is inside
the nervous system.
FREE-FALL, AT THE PROPER EVOLUTIONARY TIME, TRIGGERS THE
NEUROSOMATIC MUTATION, Leary believes. Previously this mutation
has been achieved "artificially" by yogic or shamanic training or
by the fifth circuit stimulant, cannabis. Surfing, skiing, skin-
diving and the new sexual culture (sensuous massage, vibrators,
imported Tantric arts, etc.) have evolved at the same time as part
of the hedonic conquest of gravity. The Turn-On state is always
described as "floating," or, in the Zen metaphor, "on foot above
VI. THE NEUROELECTRIC CIRCUIT. The sixth brain consists of
the nervous system becoming aware of itself apart from imprinted
gravitational reality-maps (circuits I-IV) and even apart from
body-rapture (circuit V). Count Korzybski, the semanticist,
called this state "consciousness of abstracting." Dr. John Lilly
calls it "metaprogramming," i.e., awareness of programming one's
programming. This Einsteinian, relativistic contelligence
(consciousness-intelligence) recognizes, for instance, that the
Euclidean, Newtonian and Aristolelian reality-maps are just three
among billions of possible programs or models for experience. I
turned this circuit on with Peyote, LSD and Crowley's "magick"
This level of brain-functioning seems to have been reported
first around 500 B.C. among various "occult" groups connected by
the Silk Route (Rome-North India). It is so far beyond the
terrestrial tunnel-realities that those who have achieved it can
barely communicate about it to ordinary humanity (circuits I-IV)
and can hardly be understood even by fifth circuit Rapture
The characteristics of the neuroelectric circuit are high
velocity, multiple choice, relativity, and the fission-fusion of
all perceptions into parallel science-fiction universes of
The mammalian politics which monitor power struggles among
terrestrial humanity are here transcended, i.e., seen as static,
artificial, an elaborate charade. One is neither coercively
manipulated into another's territorial reality nor forced to
struggle against it with reciprocal emotional game-playing (the
usual soap-opera dramatics). One simply elects, consciously,
whether or not to share the other's reality-model.
Tactics for opening and imprinting the sixth circuit are
described and rarely experienced in advanced rajah yoga, and in
the hermetic (coded) manuals of the medieval-Renaissance
alchemists and Illuminati.
No specific sixth circuit chemical is yet available, but
strong pyschedelics like mescaline (from my 1962-63 "sacred
cactus," peyotl) and psilocybin (from the Mexican "magic
mushroom," teonactl) open the nervous system to a mixed-media
series of circuit V and circuit VI channels. This is
appropriately called "tripping," as distinguished from straight-
forward fifth circuit "turning on" or "getting high."
The suppression of scientific research in this area has had
the unfortunate result of turning the outlaw drug culture back
toward fifth circuit hedonics and pre-scientific tunnel-realities
(the occult revival, solipsism, Pop Orientalism). Without
scientific discipline and methodology, few can successfully decode
the often-frightening (but philosophically crucial) sixth circuit
metaprogramming signals. Such scientists as do continue to study
this subject dare not publish their results (which are illegal)
and record ever-wider tunnel-realities only in private
conversations--like the scholars of the Inquisitorial era.
(Voltaire announced the Age of Reason two centuries too soon. We
are still in the Dark Ages.) Most underground alchemists have
given up on such challenging and risky self-work and restrict
their trips to fifth circuit erotic tunnels.
The evolutionary function of the sixth circuit is to enable
us to communicate at Einsteinian relativities and neuro-electric
accelerations, not using third circuit larynegeal-manual symbols
but directly via feedback, telepathy and computer link-up. Neuro-
electric signals will increasingly replace "speech" (hominid
grunts) after space migration.
When humans have climbed out of the atmosphere-gravity well
of planetary life, accelerated sixth circuit contellgence will
make possible high-energy communication with "Higher
Intelligences," i.e., ourselves-in-the-future and other post-
It is charmingly simple and obvious, once we realize that
the spaced-out neural experiences really are extraterrestrial, that
getting high and spacing out are accurate metaphors. Circuit V
neurosomatic rapture is preparation for the next step in our
evolution, migration off the planet. Circuit VI is preparation
for the step after that, interspecies communication with advanced
entities possessing electronic (post-verbal) tunnel-realities.
Circuit VI is the "universal translator" often imagined by
science-fiction writers, already built into our brains by the DNA
tape. Just as the circuits of the future butterfly are already
built into the caterpillar.
VII. THE NEUROGENTIC CIRCUIT. The seventh brain kicks into
action when the nervous system begins to receive signals from
WITHIN THE INDIVIDUAL NEURON, from the DNA-RNA dialogue. The
first to achieve this mutation spoke of "memories of past lives,"
"reincarnation," "immortality," etc. That these adepts were
recording something real is indicated by the fact that many of
them (especially Hindu and Sufis) gave marvelously accurately
poetic vistas of evolution 1,000 or 2,000 years before Darwin, and
foresaw Superhumanity before Nietzche.
The "akashic records" of Theosophy, the "collective
unconscious" of Jung, the "phylogentic unconscious" of Grof and
Ring, are three modern metaphors for this circuit. The visions of
past and future evolution described by those who have had "out-of-
body" experiences during close-to-death episodes also describes
the trans-time circuit VII tunnel-reality.
Specific exercises to trigger circuit VII are not to be
found in yogic teaching; it usually happens, if at all, after
several years of the kind of advanced rajah yoga that develops
circuit VI facility.
The specific circuit VII neurotransmitter is, of course LSD.
(Peyote and psilocybin produce some circuit VII experiences also.)
Circuit VII is best considered, in terms of 1977 science, as
the genetic archives, activated by anti-histone proteins. The DNA
memory coiling back to the dawn of life. A sense of the
inevitability of immortality and interspecies symbiosis comes to
all circuit VII mutants; we now see that this, also, is an
evolutionary forecast, since WE STAND RIGHT NOW ON THE DOOR-STEP
OF EXTENDED LONGEVITY LEADING TO IMMORTALITY.
The exact role of the right-lobe circuits and the reason for
their activation in the 1960s cultural revolution now becomes
clear. As sociologist F.M. Esfandiary writes in UPWINGERS, "Today
when we speak of immortality and of going to another world we no
longer mean these in a theological or metaphysical sense. People
are now traveling to other worlds. People are now striving for
immortality. Transcendence is no longer a metaphysical concept.
It has become reality."
The evolutionary function of the seventh circuit and its
evolutionary, aeon-spanning tunnel-reality is to prepare us for
conscious immortality and interspecies symbiosis.
VIII. THE NEURO-ATOMIC CIRCUIT. Hold on to your hats and
breathe deeply--this is the farthest-out that human intelligence
has yet ventured:
Consciousness probably precedes the biological unit or DNA
tape-loop. "Out-of-body experiences," "astral projection,"
contact with alien (extraterrestrial?) "entities" or with a
galactic Overmind, etc., such as I've experienced, have all been
reported for thousands of years, not merely by the ignorant, the
superstitious, the gullible, but often by the finest minds among
us (Socrates, Giordano Bruno, Edison, Buckminster Fuller, etc.).
Such experiences are reported daily to parapsychologists and have
been experienced by such scientists as Dr. John Lilly and Carlos
Castaneda. Dr. Kenneth Ring has attributed these phenomena to
what he calls, very appropriately, "the extraterrestrial
Dr. Leary suggests that circuit VIII is literally neuro-
atomic--infra, supra and meta-physiological--a quantum model of
consciousness and/or a conscious model of quantum mechanics by the
turned-on physicists discussed previously (Prof. John Archibald
Wheeler, Saul-Paul Sirag, Dr. Fritjof Capra, Dr. Jack Sarfatti,
etc.) indicates strongly that the "atomic consciousness" first
suggested by Leary in "The Seven Tongues of God" (1962) is the
explanatory link which will unite parapsychology and paraphysics
into the first scientific empirical experimental theology in
When the nervous system is turned on to this quantum-level
circuit, space-time is obliterated. Einstein's speed-of-light
barrier is transcended; in Dr. Sarfatti's metaphor, we escape
"electromagnetic chauvinism." The contellignence within the
quantum projection booth IS the entire cosmic "brain," just as the
micro-miniaturized DNA helix IS the local brain guiding planetary
evolution. As Lao-tse said from his own Circuit VIII perspective,
"The greatest is within the smallest."
Circuit VIII is triggered by Katamine, a neuro-chemical
researched by Dr. John Lilly, which is also (according to a wide-
spread but unconfirmed rumor) given to astronauts to prepare them
for space. High doses of LSD also produce some circuit VIII
This neuro-atomic contelligence is four mutations beyond
terrestrial domesticity. (The current ideological struggle is
between circuit IV tribal moralists-or-collectivists and circuit V
hedonic individualists.) When our need for higher intelligence,
richer involvement in the cosmic script, further transcendence,
will no longer be satisfied by physical bodies, not even by
immortal bodies hopping across space-time at Warp 9, circuit VIII
will open a further frontier. New universes and realities.
"Beyond theology: the science and art of Godmanship," as Alan
Watts once wrote.
It is therefore possible that the mysterious "entities"
(angels and extraterrestrials) monotonously reported by circuit
VIII visionaries are members or races already evolved to this
level. But it is also possible, as Leary and Sarfatti more
recently suggest, that They are ourselves-in-the-future.
The left-lobe terrestrial circuits contain the learned
lessons of our evolutionary past (and present). The right-lobe
extraterrestrial circuits are the evolutionary script for out
Thus far, there have been two alternative explanations of
why the Drug Revolution happened. The first is presented in a
sophisticated way by anthropologist Weston LaBarre, and in an
ignorant, moralistic way by most anti-drug propaganda in the
schools and mass media. This explanation says, in essence, that
millions have turned away from the legal DOWN drugs to illegal
HIGH drugs because we are living in troubled times and many are
seeking escape into fantasy.
This theory, at its best, only partially explains the
ugliest and most publicized aspect of the revolution--the reckless
drug abuse characteristic of immature. It says nothing about the
millions of respectable doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., who
have turned away from second circuit intoxication with booze to
fifth circuit rapture with weed.
Nor does it account at all for the thoughtful, philosophical
sixth circuit investigations of persons of high intelligence and
deep sensibility, such as Aldous Huxley, Dr. Stanley Grof,
Masters-Houston, Alan W. Watts, Carlos Castaneda, Dr. John Lilly
and thousands of scientific and lay researchers on consciousness.
A more plausible theory, devised by psychiatrist Norman
Zinberg out of the work of Marshall McLuhan, holds that modern
electronic media have so shifted the nervous system's parameters
that young people no longer enjoy "linear" drugs like alcohol and
find meaning only in "non-linear" weed and psychedelics.
This is certainly part of the truth, but it is too narrow
and overstresses TV and computers without sufficiently stressing
the general techonological picture--the ongoing Science-Fiction
Revolution of which the most significant aspects are Space
Migration, Increased Intelligence and Life Extension, which Leary
has condensed into his S.M.I^2.L.E. formula.
Space Migration plus Increased Intelligence plus Life
Extension means expansion of humanity into all space-time.
S.M. + I^2. + L.E. = infinity.
Without totally endorsing Charles Fort's technological
mysticism ("It steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time"), it
is obvious that the DNA metaprogram for planetary evolution is far
wiser than any of our individual nervous systems--which are, in a
sense, giant robots or sensors for DNA. Early science-fiction of
brilliant writers like Stapledon, Clarke, Heinlein; Kubrick's
2001--all were increasingly clear DNA signals transmitted through
the intuitive right lobe of sensitive artists, preparing us for
the extraterrestrial mutation.
It is scarcely coincidental that mainstream "literary"
intellectuals--the heir of the Platonic-aristocratic tradition
that a gentleman never uses his hands, monkeys with tools or
learns a manual craft--despise both science-fiction and the dope
culture. Nor is it coincidental that the WHOLE EARTH CATALOGS--
created by Stewart Brand, a graduate of Ken Kesey's Merry
Pranksters--are the New Testament of the rural drop-out culture,
each issue bulging with tons of eco-technological information
about all the manual, dextrous, gadgety know-how that Plato and
his heirs consider fit only for slaves. Not surprisingly, Brand's
latest publication, CO-EVOLUTION QUATERLY, has been devoted to
publicizing Prof. Gerard O'Neill's space-habitat, L5.
Nor is it an accident that dopers seem to prefer science-
fiction to any other reading, even including the extraterrestrial-
flavored Hindu scriptures and occult-shamanic circuit VI-VIII
trip-poets like Crowley and Hesse.
The circuit VI drugs may have contributed much to the
metaprogramming consciousness that has led to sudden awareness of
"male chauvinism" (women's liberationists), "species chauvinism"
(ecology, Lilly's dolphin studies), "type-G star chauvinism" (Carl
Sagan), even "oxygen chauvinism" (the CETI conference), etc. The
imprinted tunnel-realities which identify one as "white-male-
American-earthian" etc. or "black-female-Cuban" etc. are no longer
big enough to enclose our exploding contelligence.
As TIME magazine said on November 26, 1973, "Within ten
years, according to pharmacologists, they will ahve perfected
pills and cranial electrodes of providing life-long bliss for
everyone on Earth." The 1960s hysteria about weed and acid was
just the overture to this fith circuit break-through. Nathan S.
Kline, M.D., predicts real aphrodisiacs, drugs to speed up
learning, drugs to foster or terminate any behavior. Those who
were burned or jailed at the beginning of the Revolution of Outer
Technology. Those who were jailed or beaten by cops in the 1960s
were forerunners of the Revolution of Inner Technology.
STAR TREK is a better guide to the emerging reality than
anything in the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS. The life-support and
denfense-system engineer, Scotty (circuit I), the emotional-
sentimental Dr. McCoy (circuit II), the logical science officer
Mr. Spock (circuit III) and the alternately paternalistic and
romantic Captain Kirk (circuit IV) are perpetually voyaging
through our future neurological history and encountering circuit
V, VI, VII, and VIII intelligences, however crudely presented.
In short, the various levels of consciousness and circuits
we have been discussing, and illustrating, are all biochemical
imprints in the evolution of the nervous system. Each imprint
creates a bigger tunnel-reality. In the Sufi metaphor, the donkey
on the which we ride becomes a different donkey after each
imprint. The metaprogrammer continually learns more and is
increasingly able to be aware of itself operating. We are thus
evolving to intelligence-studying-intelligence (the nervous system
studying the nervous system) and are more and more capable of
accelerating our own evolution.
Leary now symbolizes intelligence-studying-intelligence by
the mark, I^2.
On the lower levels, you see with one "I," so to speak. On
the higher levels, you see with many "I"s.
And space-time shifts from three Euclidean dimensions to
By Robert Anton Wilson
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