1. Matrix or Madness
In the past fifty years, more people have experienced altered states of consciousness than ever before in the 500-year history of modern civilization. This phenomenon, in fact, was a major catalyst in causing the transition to the postmodern era.
Some people regard this pattern of events as a spiritual awakening, and indeed the demographic facts show a tremendous rise in religious, spiritual, and metaphysical interests. This is because a high proportion of people who experience altered states of consciousness assume that they have glimpsed or visited or discovered regions of existence that are not physical, yet are conclusively real. So it is that an expanding percentage of the postmodern populace has broken out of the matrix of the old modern age, with its monolithic materialism.
Nevertheless, the hardcore adherents of a strictly physical universe still hold sway, even though theirs is no longer the only game in town. They can’t deny that something has happened to change the minds of so many people, but they try to shore up their hoary paradigm by claiming that altered states are literally just an alteration in consciousness, a temporary derangement of the brain, and thus that the phenomena ~ or numena ~ perceived by the experiencers are not real.
There is a vast spectrum of altered states, and many of the bandwidths truly are illusory. At the same time, however, there is a broad band of non-ordinary states in which the experiencers actually perceive or enter authentic supraphysical realms.
This, then, is the key distinction: some altered states of consciousness are doorways to numenal regions of the universe, which exist in and of themselves, beyond the individual’s subjectivity. We can call them ALTERNATE REALITIES. (The word alternative might be grammatically more correct, but in keeping with common parlance and euphony, I’ll use the given version.)
Because our culture has denied these alternate realities for so long, it does not know how to deal with them when they manifest in the lives of the people. Individuals are left on their own to make sense of what can be overwhelming experiences and exceedingly strange events. Is it any wonder that some of them go crazy?
And there is an even more serious issue: in many cases, the question of whether an individual is sane or mad hinges precisely on whether or not the numenal worlds are real.
If a person interacts with alt-realities and/or their inhabitants on a regular basis, then he (or she) is diagnosable as mentally ill on this fact alone, even if the person is stable, harmless, and productive. The diagnosis is grounded in the assumption that what he perceives is not real; but if it is, then suddenly we’re confronted with a whole new paradigm.
Because we recognize the numenal as real, we know that numenal perception in itself is neither delusional nor pathological. Rather, pathology arises when individuals get totally overwhelmed by numenal experiences, or fail to integrate them with material life, or suffer any number of similar circumstances which cause them to become afflicted and dysfunctional. A society, and a psychiatry, that utterly denies the numenal is not in a position to effectively help such people to resolve these challenges, and usually only succeeds in making them worse.
Now we’re going to explore the stories of people who were caught in this conundrum ~ whose numenal perceptions and experiences were invalidated by mainstream culture. Thus most of them could find no cure for the pathological contradictions arising from the conflict between inner and outer ~ except for the desperate, self-divisive choice to embrace one and deny the other.