Reprogramming Reality With Robert Anton Wilson’s, “Prometheus Rising”- Part 1
Robert Anton’s model of the brain as a computer stands as one of the most innovative breakdowns of the human experience decades after its release. Wilson started with Timothy Leary’s eight circuits of consciousness as a baseline for his work, he then restructured and expanded on Leary’s ideas and his book, “Prometheus Rising”, was born. Before diving into the specifics of each of the eight circuits, Wilson takes the first couple chapters of his book to establish a few ideas essential to his theory.
The first baseline that Wilson establishes for his theory is that the mind operates in two parts, the thinker and the prover. The thinker is the part of the mind that can adopt any reality, it is the sense of imagination and creativity in every human and the source of all new ideas. The thinker can think itself sick, and think itself well again; Consider somatic disorders where stress from life events manifests as physical symptoms (or even hysteria). The placebo effect is so effective because the thinker doesn’t only think they’ll get better, they believe it. The only function of the prover is to prove the ideas that the thinker latches onto and make logical sense out of them, Wilson repeatedly makes the point that “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves”. Wilson uses the thinker and prover to explain why science and physics constantly come up with contradicting theories and why so many people attach themselves to illogical belief systems. Even the scientific fields that place sacred importance on objectivity operate on the same plane as everyone else; To go through years of rigorous schooling to get a degree, the student has to be passionate about their study. With passion comes bias, and no matter how much scientists believe they’re studying through an objective lens, they still see the world through human eyes.
When the scientist (or anyone for that matter) is observing the reality around them, they perceive both the physical world and their thinker imposing ideas about that reality, which is constantly being rationalized by the prover. Though the same external stimuli can be experienced by multiple people, each one perceives and responds differently because everyone’s thinker and prover operates on a different level. Though people can identify with other’s ideas, they prove the ideas to themselves with the logic of their own prover.
Wilson compares the brain to a computer to explain how everyone’s prover and thinker could be radically different yet the same in some cases. Wilson breaks the human into two parts, the hardware, and software. Hardware in the computer is the physical components that make the computer run, anything you can take into a computer shop for repair. The Hardware in the human is the body and inner workings, all the physical and observable components of existence. The software on the computer is all the programs running, a program could be pre-installed or even exist only on paper. The human software is all the ideologies, societal norms, thoughts, and basically everything non-physical about the human experience. To better establish the idea of human software, Wilson says that all software in the brain develops through individual programs that consist of four categories: Genetic Imperatives (instincts), Imprints, Conditioning, and Learning.
Genetic Imperatives are the instincts that are hardwired into every human (like the flight or flight response) and they override all of the other programs because of how ingrained they are in the human brain. The next most ingrained aspect of brain programs are imprints, essential developmental landmarks throughout life that are genetically ingrained. A gigantic subject that Wilson constantly returns to is the idea of imprint vulnerability, if an imprinting stage goes wrong, it’ll affect the person for the rest of their lives. Consider Genie, the feral child who was locked in a room since birth, she missed critical points in her language development and she was never able to fully learn because of it. All imprints form the boundaries within which the person can form all subsequent conditioning and learning in the future. Conditioning is easier to change because it’s only the unconscious learned responses and behaviors built on top of imprints which can be counter-conditioned. Conditioning is a widely recognized idea in psychology, the most famous experiment being Pavlov conditioning a dog to salivate at the tone of a bell. Learning, unlike conditioning, is active in the conscious mind and therefore a lot easier to change.
The four categories discussed above make up all the programming in the human software, every life experience, exposure to an idea, and genetic wiring influences the individual’s specific response or reaction to stimuli. Each imprint further complicates each person’s identity and makes them more and more themselves. Wison then explores each of the eight circuits to establish his theory, the first four circuits being times of imprint vulnerability that affect every human on earth. Each of the first four circuits has been recognized by some of the most revered psychologists (Freud and Jung) and they reflect the different stages of evolution up until the present day. The last four circuits are realms of reality only experienced by a lucky few, but Anton argues that this will no longer be the case in coming decades and these circuits will end up forming the basis for the next steps in human evolution.