The Eight Circuits of Consciousness

An inquiry into the experiential programming of the brain’s firmware

“A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The scope and content of the experience are limitless, but their characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity. Such experiences of enlarged consciousness can occur in a variety of ways: sensory deprivation, yoga exercises, disciplined meditation, religious or aesthetic ecstasies, or spontaneously.”

Timothy Leary

We receive more than a billion different signals from the environment and most of them we are not even conscious of. They affect our arms and legs, our eyes, ears, and nose. If we tried being conscious of all the signals we couldn’t do it, because to be conscious of that many signals simultaneously means we would only perceive chaos. Which is the usual first reaction to LSD or psilocybin — things turn into chaos and then they turn into different kinds of patterns.

We can’t handle that much information and organize it rapidly, so we leave out all the information that seems unimportant, which means that we also leave out a lot of information that seems threatening to our belief system or to our dogma and ideology.

The way the genetic code solves this problem is through the process of imprinting. The research on imprinting has been done by scientists called ethologists, who study animal behavior and learning in the very early hours of the organism’s history.

Genetic imprints act as a firmware, permanently hardwired into the human brain during the moments of its imprint vulnerability.

Our imprints determine the boundaries and parameters that guide further conditioning and learning, similar to a permanent software (firmware) which is programmed into the read-only memory of a computer. Initial imprints are always stronger than any sequential conditioning or learning.

Temporal Consciousness

Timothy Leary, an American psychologist, developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977), which was later expanded on by Robert Anton Wilson and Antero Alli.

Leary’s model suggests eight periods (circuits) of neurological evolution, the first four of which are incredibly ancient, with the first circuit going all the way back to the dawn of life on this planet.

1. The Vegetative-Invertebrate Circuit (T. Leary) | The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit (R. A. Wilson)

This circuit is concerned with nourishment, physical safety, comfort and survival, suckling, and cuddling. It begins with one spatial dimension, forward and back.

The Vegetative-Invertebrate Circuit is imprinted early in infancy and normally lasts for life unless it is re-imprinted by a powerful experience. Depending on the nature of the imprint, the organism will tend towards one of two basic attitudes:

  • positive imprint sets up a basic attitude of trust in which the organism generally considers the environment benign and accepts and approaches.
  • negative imprint sets up a basic attitude of suspicion in which the organism generally regards the environment as hostile and flees and avoids.

Said to have appeared in the earliest evolution of the invertebrate brain, and corresponding to the reptilian brain of Triune Brain theory, this circuit operates in essentially the same way across mammals, reptiles, fish, primates, and humans.

2. The Emotional-Locomotion Circuit (T. Leary) | The Anal Territorial Circuit (R. A. Wilson)

The Emotional-Territorial Circuit is imprinted in the toddler stage. It is concerned with domination, submission, and territoriality.

The imprint on this circuit will trigger one of two states:

  • Dominant, aggressive behavior, creating an alpha social attitude.
  • Submissive, co-operative behavior.

This circuit is activated by depressant drugs such as alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines. It appeared first in territorial vertebrate animals and is preserved across all mammals, corresponding to the mammalian brain of Triune Brain theory.

3. The Laryngeal-Manual Symbolic Circuit (T. Leary) | The Semantic Time-Binding Circuit (R. A. Wilson)

This circuit is imprinted by human symbol systems and is concerned with language, manipulating the environment, invention, calculation, prediction, and building a mental map of the Universe.

The Laryngeal-Manual Symbolic Circuit supposedly appeared first when hominids started differentiating from the rest of the primates.

Robert Anton Wilson, being heavily influenced by General Semantics, writes of this circuit as the time-binding circuit. The circuit’s contents — including human know-how, technology, and science — are preserved memetically and passed on from generation to generation, constantly mutating and increasing in sophistication.

4. The Socio-Sexual Domestication Circuit (T. Leary) | The Socio-Sexual Circuit (R. A. Wilson)

This fourth circuit is imprinted by the first orgasm-mating experiences and tribal morals. It is concerned with sexual pleasure (instead of sexual reproduction), local definitions of moral and immoral, domestication, reproduction, and rearing of the young.

The Socio-Sexual Domestication Circuit concerns itself with cultural values and operation within social networks. It is said to have first appeared with the development of tribes.

Meta Consciousness

The group of higher circuits is much younger than the group of four basic circuits, and I believe only a small percentage of people have been able to experience them by transcending the first four circuits. If the first group determines the evolution of the species until the present, the higher circuits will determine our future evolution.

It would be impossible to comprehend the four higher circuits using only our trivial rational reasoning, without any special spiritual exercises or mind-altering chemicals.

5. The Neurosomatic Circuit (T. Leary and R. A. Wilson)

This circuit is concerned with neurological-somatic feedback, feeling high and blissful, and somatic reprogramming. It may be called the rapture circuit.

When the Neurosomatic Circuit circuit is activated, a non-conceptual feeling of well-being arises, producing a beneficial effect on the health of the physical body.

The fifth circuit is the consciousness of the body. There is a marked shift from linear visual space to an all-encompassing aesthetic sensory space. Perceptions are judged not so much for their meaning and utility, but for their aesthetic qualities. Experience of this circuit often accompanies a hedonistic turn-on, a rapturous amusement, a detachment from the previously compulsive mechanism of the first four circuits.

This circuit is activated by ecstatic experiences via physiological effects of cannabis, Hatha Yoga, Tantra, and Zen meditation. Leary surmises that this circuit first appeared in the upper classes, with the development of leisure-class civilizations around 2000 BC.

6. The Neuro-Electric Circuit (T. Leary) | The Metaprogramming Circuit(R. A. Wilson)

This circuit is concerned with re-imprinting and re-programming all earlier circuits and the relativity of “realities” perceived. The sixth circuit consists of the nervous system becoming aware of itself.

Leary says that the Neuro-Electric Circuit circuit enables telepathic communication and is activated by low-to-moderate doses of LSD (50–150 µg), moderate doses of peyote, psilocybin mushrooms and meditation/chanting especially when used in a group or ritual setting. This circuit is traced by Leary back to 500 BC.

7. The Neurogenetic Circuit (T. Leary) | The Morphogenetic Circuit (R. A. Wilson)

This circuit regards the connection of the individual’s mind to the whole sweep of evolution and life as a whole. It is the part of consciousness that echoes the experiences of the previous generations that have brought the individual’s brain-mind to its present level.

The Neurogenetic Circuit deals with ancestral, societal and scientific DNA-RNA-Brain feedback. Those who achieve this mutation may speak of past lives, reincarnation, and immortality. It corresponds to the collective unconscious in the models of Carl Jung where archetypes reside.

Activation of this circuit may be equated with the consciousness of the Great God Pan in his aspect of Life as a whole, or with the consciousness of Gaia, the biosphere considered as a single organism.

The Neurogenetic Circuit is activated by higher doses of LSD (200–500 µg), peyote, or psilocybin mushrooms, as well as yoga and meditation.

The circuit first appeared among the Hindus in the early first millennium and later reappeared among the Sufi sects.

8. The Neuro-Atomic Metaphysiological Circuit (T. Leary) | The Non-Local Quantum Circuit (R. A. Wilson)

The eighth circuit is concerned with quantum consciousness, non-local awareness (information from beyond ordinary space-time awareness which is limited by the speed of light), and illumination.

Some of the ways the Neuro-Atomic Metaphysiological Circuit is activated are through the awakening of Kundalini, shock, a near-death experience, DMT, high doses of LSD and according to Robert Anton Wilson almost any dose of ketamine. This circuit has even been compared to the Buddhist concept of Indra’s net from the Avatamsaka Sutra.

“Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web in the early morning covered with dewdrops. And every dewdrop contains the reflection of all the other dewdrops. And, in each reflected dewdrop, the reflections of all the other dewdrops. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the Universe in an image.”

Alan Watts

Unlike Solid-State Computers which exist outside our bodies, our brain is made up of matter in electro-colloidal suspension.

Colloids are pulled together, toward a condition of gel, by their surface tensions (agar, gelatin, jelly). This is because surface tensions pull all glue-like substances together.

Colloids are also pushed apart, toward a condition of sol, by their electrical charges (milk, pigmented ink, blood). This is because their electrical charges are similar, and similar electrical charges always repel each other.

In the equilibrium between gel and sol, the colloidal suspension maintains its continuity and life continues. Move the suspension too far toward gel, or too far toward sol, and life ends. Any chemical that gets into the brain not only changes the gel-sol balance, but also influences consciousness accordingly.Interestingly, potatoes are, like psychedelic mushrooms, “psychedelic” — in a milder way. The changes in consciousness when one moves from a vegetarian diet to an omnivorous diet, or vice versa, are also “psychedelic.”

Most of us go through life interpreting everything in terms of old “snapshots” which were imposed upon us 10, 15, or 20 years ago. The job of our mind is to relate every new experience in our lives to some object or person in that old snapshot.

Psychedelic drugs are chemical agents that affect the gel-sol balance in the brain, temporarily suspending your old imprints.

Classic hallucinogens produce their perception-altering effects by acting on neural circuits in your brain and interrupting your attachment to external events. It’s perfectly normal for a person to lie for a few hours, completely still and silent, because more is happening every second in their brain than any month of their life before.

The point is, the commitment to the external is temporarily lost, which can be an ecstatic liberation. Or, depending upon how much you understand about the possibilities of your mind, a terrorizing paranoia.

You come out of a psychedelic session with a new “snapshot” of reality that you had never thought possible. This is, however, neither positive nor negative. You can take beautiful snapshots, or miserable ones. You can take frightening snapshots, or spiritual ones. This is why you must be well-prepared before taking psychedelic drugs, taking into consideration not only where you take them, but with whom.