Museum Exhibit: The Spirituality Machine (Part 1)
The name says it all; if you are a spiritual person, you believe in spirits. At the very least, you believe that there is a ghost inside you, manipulating your body the way a puppeteer manipulates a marionette. Beyond that, you might believe that there is a whole host of non-corporeal beings. Some of these ghosts, you might believe, are bigger, badder, and more powerful than your ghost, with nothing better to do than to screw around in your life and pass judgment on your actions. If this wasn’t enough to create a constant state of anxiety, some of you believe that these big bad ghosts will fuck with you for all eternity if you aren’t under the protection of the big good ghosts. (It’s their job!) Where does this concept come from, and how does it gain such wide acceptance despite the acknowledged lack of empirical evidence? It comes from the Spirituality Machine, which constantly reinforces these beliefs within the human mind. How the Spirituality Machine works can be explained by both the similarities to, and the differences between, the human mind and the computer.
The basic similarity is that both the computer and the human mind are capable of receiving instruction (input). In addition, both are capable of receiving instruction without discrimination, or validation of that input. This is the natural state for a computer, and is the cause for the adage, “garbage in, garbage out”. In the human mind, this non-discriminating input state exists when the mind is in a hypnotic, or hypnagogic state. This is evidenced in the “garbage out” state that a hypnotist can create in a subject by planting false but accepted inputs of sight, sound, taste and feeling. If you have never been to a hypnotist stage show, I highly recommend it for the lesson that it teaches about the vulnerability of the human mind.
The hynagogic state is not as wide open as the hypnotic state, but it is possible to hallucinate (garbage out), or to have information fed directly into a primitive portion of the brain without passing through the filter of higher reasoning (garbage in) while in this state. Dimly lit rooms, droning chants, burning candles and incense and closed crowded rooms with reduced oxygen levels, can all be used to help produce a hypnagogic state. Sound familiar? Television also can produce a hypnagogic state. If you are watching television in a darkened room, and become so “zoned in” to what is happening on the screen that you are no longer aware of your surroundings, you are in a hypnagogic state. Perhaps this explains in part the success of televangelists? Because the hypnagogic state is not as open to suggestion as the hypnotic state, repetition is the key to forcing information past the discriminating filters of the brain. Picture a picket fence with pickets placed with just enough space to pass a tennis ball in between. Throw the tennis ball against the fence, and most of the time it will bounce off. Eventually, the ball will slip perfectly through the pickets, but only when it totally avoids touching a picket. The endless repetition of modern advertising will eventually cause a message to slip through and produce a craving for a McDonald’s hamburger, for example.
The same thing might be true for the endless variations of the “evil spirits” and “good spirits” themes in modern movies and television. From the unseen higher powers implied in a show like “Lost”, to the un-killable shitheads like Jason and Freddie, we are constantly barraged with “spirit” scenarios. Even though (I hope) most of us understand these stories to be works of fiction, they might be constantly validating the idea of a spirit world to the darker recesses of our brains.