Blog entry

Super Sanity and the Experiencer


Your definition: 

State of being all; allness
Stuart Davis


Super sanity is a mode of being that unifies two disparate realities into one. Making the paranormal normal. Braiding the anomalous and the common into a coherent whole. Some features of what I’ll call super sanity include;

1. Choice. Does the experiencer have agency? Is their sovereignty in tact?

2. Wellness. Is there a workable balance in and among the normal and super normal registers of their lives?

3. Capacity for Paradox. Are they able to inhabit and be inhabited by seeming contradictions?

4. Depth Perception. Can the experiencer toggle between the theater of appearances and the reality behind those appearances?

5. Discomfort (vs Disorder). Are they feeling the growing pains of an expanded reality, with new capacities, or a collapse with diminished powers?

6. Creativity (vs Deconstruction). Is the creativity of the experiencer activated, magnified?

Before we talk super sanity, I want to mention hypersanity, which is what inspired this episode. In the interest of clarity, I want to briefly distinguish hypersanity from supersanity. They’re related, but not synonymous, at least in how I’m using them here.

Hypersanity is a proposed condition in which a psychological break-down transmutes into a break-through. If we imagine this process as a three stage sequence, we might conceive it as moving from;

Sanity to In-sanity to hyper-sanity (a state above and beyond normal sanity)

I began contemplating hypersanity as it pertains to experiencers and artists. As in, is hypersanity what waits on the other side of ontological shock for those fortunate enough to have a break through after a break down?

I became aware of this concept through Neel Burton’s book Hypersanity. In that work, Burton does look at

“...alternative forms of cognition that our culture tends to overlook and underplay, including intuition, emotion, and imagination.”

But in my opinion hypersanity is not a perfect fit for experiencer territory, because it doesn’t really tread into the anomalous realms, and from what I’ve learned thus far, hypersanity is not conceived to apply to abduction, contact with non-human intelligences or the like. It deals more directly with madness. And I don’t think the broad constellation of phenomena under the umbrella of 'experiencers' correlates with madness. Consider PSI capacities, mediumship, near death experiences, peak experiences, telepathy, and precognition. These are not instances of madness. In my view, they more generally fall under human potential and exotic capacities. They arise and flourish from liminal territories that share some qualities with what hypersanity frames as madness, but spending time with a few hundred experiencers makes it clear to me that madness is not a suitable category for what transpires at the wild edge of the anomalous. That’s why I’d like to separate hypersanity from super sanity.

But the concept did spark curiosity for me around how we might begin to better understand the consciousness of experiencers who come out the other side of ontological shock transformed. Jeff Kripal and Whitley Strieber published a book called Super Natural a few years back, (recommended), which deftly explores anomalous phenomena as something deeply natural. Super-natural, (two words), as opposed to supernatural, one word. So I began contemplating super sanity. As in, the healthy accord obtained by experiencers who strike a harmony between normal day to day life and super normal events.

If hyper sanity is a glimpse at what’s beyond madness in conventional psychiatry and psychology, I wanted to consider super sanity as a possible developmental vista for healthy experiencers and artists. Those who become adept at resolving superficially dissonant realms into a new concordance. We might even regard this talent as an evolutionary emergent in some of the human population.

Specifically, I’ll be looking at high functioning experiencers: people navigating and metabolizing highly strange enigmas while maintaining fulfilling lives in consensus reality. High functioning experiencers have something I’ll call Ontological Dual Citizenship. They successfully navigate conventional and post-conventional realities. They inhabit personal and trans-personal registers of being.

There’s no indication that Neel Burton, the author of Hypersanity, extends the concept to experiencers. So I’m not assuming he would endorse my doing so. Caveat issued. That’s why I’m going with the term super sanity, to set it apart from Hypersanity. For our purposes, super sanity is a look at how experiencers can and do reconcile the dissimilar worlds of normal and super normal experience.

This extending, extrapolating is something many experiencers do when we bump up against the conventional limits of various domains; whether psychological, spiritual, empirical, philosophical. A paradox I’ve seen many experiencers contend with is the disjunction between the normal limits of any given field, versus the super normal landscape they find themselves navigating. This is a simple trade off of development. As a person becomes more deeply developed, there are fewer people sharing that territory. The inverse ratio of truly avant-garde work means there’s an attending solitude. This is why micro-cultures and team building are so critical for experiencers, because there’s no healthy I without a healthy We.

In this case, a healthy We for experiencers includes a non-human element. Super sanity is one way to examine contact, abduction, creativity, and the human / non-human dyad. Having known and worked with many experiencers and artists, I find most of them to be normal people, and some of them to be super normal people. Most are sane well-functioning folks, and some are super sane high-functioning individuals. High functioning experiencers have lives that have deepened from conventional to post-conventional reality. We will parse those shortly. High functioning experiencers with dual ontological citizenship have often gone through personal break downs and come out the other side with trans-personal break throughs.

In respect to transpersonal break throughs, some due diligence is appropriate. Break downs are real. I don’t wish to elevate all emotional, psychological, or spiritual crisis to the level of super sanity. Insanity should not be automatically translated to super sanity. The collapse that many experiencers undergo in trying to digest a larger reality is genuine. So let’s avoid any romantic shell game that reflexively equates abnormal with beyond normal.

Distinctions are important. For example,

Both the pre-personal and the trans-personal, are non-personal.

Both pre-conventional and post-conventional and un-conventional.

But the differences between pre and post are night and day. As we get into what super sanity might mean for experiencers and artists, I just want to acknowledge this is slippery territory. As we’ve noted here before, from a rational view, both pre-rational and trans-rational appear to be merely ir-rational.

Here is a quote from Ken Wilber, who’s been a guest on my podcast, Aliens & Artists:

“The pre / trans fallacy actually formed one of the major fault lines between two of modern psychology’s greatest founders, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, both of whom stood on opposite sides of this fallacy—Freud would reduce spiritual states to a resurrection of infantile feelings, while Jung would elevate pre-rational mythology to trans-rational glory. The pre/trans fallacy allows us to put the pieces together into a more comprehensive whole, to liberate and integrate the genuine insight offered by these two pioneers, and to detangle their brilliance from the misunderstandings that were so rampant before this developmental view finally emerged.”

So it’s helpful to check in and remind ourselves of these differences.

Pre is inchoate fusion, while post is nested orders of depth. The former is reactive, anarchic. The latter active, holarchic. Super sanity might be a useful way to approach the transpersonal break-through some experiences find, but it also doesn’t discount the pre-personal, or personal break downs we go through.

I’ll try not to elevate insanity to super sanity. But also, it’s important to not reduce or collapse super sanity to merely in-sanity. Both of those mistakes are frequently made. Insanity is disordering, and disables choice. Super sanity is meta-ordering, and enables choice.

Let’s take a look at that power to choose, or healthy agency.

Super sanity, which includes a healthy post conventional consciousness, maintains access to conventional consciousness. It remains fluent in the rational, the personal, but it also has access to the trans personal, the trans-rational - and most importantly has the ability to choose between or among them as is appropriate to circumstances.

Contrast that with pre-personal or personal consciousness. It does not have access to post-personal awareness.

Take conformity, for example. Conforming with consensus reality means operating on agreements around what is legitimate, real, concrete. Each domain from physics to religion observes rules and norms. Conforming to their conventional tenets is rewarded, diverging from them is punished. Non-conformity is met with dis-incentives. But there are multiple ways to be a non-conformist.

A punk rock mentality might say ‘fuck the man, fuck the system, burn it all down, let anarchy reign.’ That is a non-conformist view. A pre mode of nonconformity. It wants to tear down the existing order, but it doesn’t offer anything to replace it, other than dis-order. Compare that to a post form of non-conformity, which points out the system is broken, consensus reality is insufficient, conventional society is suffocating. This post form of consciousness then breaks out of conformity in order to replace it with a higher or deeper order of reality. One that includes the normal, but expands to make room for the super normal. The post mode of awareness recognizes the limits of the conventional, and seeks to extend them, not destroy them. That’s a simple contrast of between two forms of non-conformity, pre and post conformity. Pre is anarchic. Scorched earth, burn it all down, replace it with chaos. Post is holarchical, preserving pre-existing foundations, but transcending them and including them in something bigger, better.

So, back to how this dynamic expresses in the lives of experiencers, artist, and artist-experiencers. The operative distinction is choice.

Super sanity affords a choice between conventional and post conventional reality. It has dual citizenship between conformity and non-conformity. But the non-conformity of super sanity is not the kind that would use a scorched-earth approach. Super sanity has the room and power to wish the best for those souls living in consensus reality, while simultaneously growing into something beyond that consensus reality. Convention is the root of post convention. Rationality is foundation of trans-rationality.

Super sanity is non-conformist without regressing to mere anti-conformity. It recognizes multiple altitudes of experience, it can navigate them by choice, and wishes them all to be healthy and whole, while also understanding they are not equal. They are not equivalent. All souls have absolute value, but that absolute value is realized in varying degrees. Super sanity discerns deeper orders of being, and inhabits them. It does not do so at the expense of lower orders of being. Lower does not mean lesser. Lower orders have absolute value, but they include less, and are less whole, than deeper orders of the Real. This is a simple holarchy. Letters are not opposed to words, words are not opposed to sentences, sentences do not hate paragraphs. The Cosmos provides increasing depth, each register with absolute value, and also distinct orders of inclusion, wholeness. They are not equivalent, but they are inter-dependent. As they saying goes, Reality has no opposite.

Initially, when experiencers encounter a deeper order of reality, we may feel like spies oscillating between two realities. On the one hand, we conduct our normal day to day lives. We go to work at the post office. We drive kids to school. We pay bills, take out the trash, and pay taxes. On the other hand, we commune with highly intelligent non human entities. We routinely witness the supposed laws of physics transgressed. We are plunged into dimensional folds that make confetti of conventional time and space. We are reshaped by ineffable but indelible events. We glimpse realities which reposition human history and the meaning of existence. How are we to reconcile such incommensurate truths? It seems impossible. But the impossible also feels inevitable.

Here is where the generative power of human consciousness comes to the rescue. It begins braiding opposites. Mere sanity would collapse at the prospect, but super sanity finds a way to unite heaven, hell, and Earth. As Love and Rockets once said:

You cannot go against nature
Because when you do
Go against nature
It's part of nature, too

As an experiencer, I like this lyric. There is something about the intelligence behind the Phenomenon constantly reminding us it doesn’t give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about our categories. Categories like 'this is rational, that is not', which has become confused with ‘this is real, that is not’. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love rationality. I want rationality to be healthy, thriving, and I wish to preserve it in the larger reality that awaits us. But it’s helpful to remember rationality has been around for a few centuries. It’s a recent arrival. It does not explain the properties of the Cosmos, it is an emergent property of the Cosmos. About 13.8 billion years of activity preceded the arrival of rationality, and a modicum of humility in the face of that fact would serve to contextualize its efficacy. Rationality is useful when inspecting objective phenomena, the qualities of inanimate matter. The problem is there is no such thing as in-animate matter. It’s all animate. There are no objects without subjects, there are no exteriors without interiors, and so we quickly bump up against the limits of empiricism when our goal is to know what is Real. And like it or not, the anomalous is real. It has an inner life.

Super sanity brokers an accord between these two worlds. In one, we hang paintings on the solid walls of our bedroom in the day. In another, discrete entities pass through those same solid walls at night.

One form of ontological shock is the existential vertigo that erupts when we use rational keys on trans-rational locks. We don’t know how to unknow our selves in order to know this new Other. This is why John Mack was at pains to repeat that we need new epistemologies, new ways of knowing, new ontologies, new ways of being. Because the old ones -which should be respected and retained for rational puzzles- the old ones won’t work here. Super sanity includes those new ways of knowing, new ways of being. It’s not hostile to the old ways, it just acknowledges their impotence in the face of these new riddles.

Relinquishing a cherished world view is not just difficult, it is death. From one view, a rich life is comprised of many deaths. Our childhood dies to adolescence. Adolescence dies to adulthood. But from another view, each death is a birth. Just like the Universe, the human being is an endless succession of births, and sanity can indeed give birth to super sanity. It will have to, if we are to inhabit this deeper Reality as it lives and breathes, rather than collapsing it to a manageable simulacrum.

So, when we consider highly functioning experiencers, those souls with dual ontological citizenship, we also should ask ourselves some questions;

Who is qualified to assess their condition?

Who is qualified to survey their state and determine whether they are sane, insane, or super sane?

These are big questions. Experiencers can fairly argue that the minimum requirement for assessing their state should not only be access to, but hopefully a fluency in, that state. It takes one to know one.

This is at the heart of the matter when it comes to mainstream psychology and psychiatry misdiagnosing experiencers. Broadly speaking, the conventional systems reflexively pathologize experiencers. Again, this is not to say mental illness does not exist. It does. It is not to say conventional break downs do not occur, they do. This is to say that being qualified to assess the differences between sanity, insanity, and super sanity requires an acquaintance with these territories that goes beyond degrees and certifications issued by conventional institutions. To be clear, degrees are good. Certification and oversight are important, and should not be jettisoned. Oversight should be preserved, but expanded. What we need is a population of professionals -some of them experiencers themselves- who are fluent in each register; pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational. Pre-personal, personal, and trans-personal. Pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional.

Some focal points when making assessments about the super sanity of highly functioning experiencers could include;

1. Choice. Does the experiencer have agency? Are they able to move among and between conventional and post-conventional realms? Is their sovereignty in tact, are they participating in a larger reality or subjugated by it? Super sanity includes that dual ontological citizenship, the freedom to roam and return from one to the other, again and again.

2. Wellness. Can the person hold down a job (so to speak), are they engaged in ‘normal’ relationships, how are things with their family, friends, neighbors? Are they sleeping, eating, functioning well in conventional realms? Can they attend to both the mundane and exotic aspects of their life? Beyond that, are they finding success, meaning, and purpose in the post-conventional or trans-rational territories of their lives? Do they have support, a healthy ‘We’, and are they able to offer support to others, in both ‘worlds’?

3. Capacity for Paradox. Does their lived experience increasingly reconcile disparate realities without cancelling or collapsing one into the other? Can they house contradictions? Do they demonstrate facility and appreciation for normal and super normal realms, and perhaps see how each is also the other?

4. Depth Perception. Has the experiencer stopped reducing the mystery to a conventional base line, and begun modulating their base line to better accommodate the mystery? Remember that moment in Jaws when the dude says “We’re gonna need a bigger boat?” This is a bit like that. At some point, highly functioning experiencers realize they are going to need a bigger boat. This also goes back to our previous episode on whether the Phenomenon is a control system or a developmental driver. When experiencers feel their existing world view is no longer sufficient to approach the enigma, and they begin cultivating new ontologies, new epistemologies, they are getting a bigger boat. They are driving development. They are deepening their powers of perception, and in doing so, they enrich their relationship to the phenomenon. Depth perception means the percipient can better toggle between the theater of appearances and the reality behind those appearances.

5. Discomfort vs Disorder. Growth is often uncomfortable. Growth for experiencers can be excruciating. But that discomfort is not necessarily a sign of disorder. Is the experiencer showing diminished or expanded capacities? How is their empathy, connection, vitality? Are they allowing for the fact that there are many stages and states in the growth process, including grief and loss. If there is grief, is it an activation of depth or a forfeiture of it? Is the experiencer wrestling with the arrival of PSI capacities, precognitive events, new forms of lucidity? Integrating and ordering new capacities involves growing pains. But the growing pains stem from their reality getting bigger, whereas with dis-order the world is diminished, agency shrinks, and we feel less able to manage our experiences. Contrast that with the discomfort of managing new abilities.

6. Deconstruction vs Creativity. Is the creativity of the experiencer activated, magnified? Deconstruction flattens our lives. Taken to extremes, deconstruction holds a relativistic lens over reality. All is illusory, empty, nothing is better than anything else. Deconstruction leaves the witness bereft. Inversely, the supersanity of highly functioning experiencers knows the Void to be an ever-gestating pure potentiation. It gives rise to all qualities and conditions, but is itself not reducible to any quality or condition. Deconstruction sees a nihilistic vacuum, super sanity finds a sublime womb. A creation that creates creators.

Having known and worked with hundreds of experiencers, my informed read is that in a range of cases, we find super sane individuals. They function at levels that exceed the collective center of gravity. They are inhabiting orders of awareness that surpass norms. Assessing them from those middling norms does a double disservice; It unfairly pathologies highly functioning people and entrenches obsolete ways of approaching these mysteries.

Regarding the reality of a highly advanced non-human presence on Earth, the sane have a lot to learn from the super sane.

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