RE: human/world interfaces

From: altamira (
Date: Thu Jul 06 2000 - 15:38:10 MDT

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of White, Ryan
> I would like to share the following observation: I found mathematics,
> especially multidimensional calculus, incredibly difficult, until
> learned to
> adapt visualization strategies to the learning process. Looking at the
> equations on paper engaged weaker parts of my brain - it was only after I
> imagined the functions in a 3d space in front of me, and set the image in
> motion if called for, that I achieved what I would call true understanding
> of the techniques. I found myself drawing pictures almost
> everywhere in my
> studies - mathematics, physics, and biosciences.

This is similar to my experiences, except that I shifted to the visual mode
only after exhausting my kinesthetic resources, which served me well in
situations involving 2 or fewer variables. (so I wonder if a person who
spent lots of time swimming or who lived under conditions of very low
gravity would have an easier time dealing with 3 dimensions

   When it came to mathematics, I saw this as a
> gift, UNTIL I
> started dealing with systems with more than four dimensions (x,y,z,t). ;)
> My difficulty visualizing four dimensional space (or fractional
> dimensional
> space) forced me to suffer the far-more-difficult symbolic mode(s) of
> learning. It was incredibly frustrating. How does one exercise
> the ability
> to visualize dimensional spaces outside our normal realm of experience?

I found functions of complex variables quite difficult to comprehend, a
problem which was exacerbated by the fact that the person teaching the
course was Japanese and spoke very little English, and had the habit of
standing directly in front of what he was writing on the blackboard so that
the students couldn't see what he was doing. I've found that when dealing
with very abstract math, I must go back to the beginning and derive the
system "from scratch" if I hope to understand it.

> I know exactly what you mean by synesthesia. I know enough to
> conclude that
> in normal modes of consciousness, I observe no significant blurring of the
> lines between sensory modalities. But, I will report to you in
> earnest that
> I have induced these experiences, in replicated experiments, with
> psychoactive chemicals.

The best thing that ever happened to me was the hippy culture. Suddenly,
there were all these people doing drugs and seeing the world somewhat as I
saw it all the time. I could be "myself" without having to think through
what I was going to say to make sure it didn't come out seeming too weird.

> Mostly, I saw
> colors and felt textures in music and other auditory experience.

Oh yes! Certain pieces of music are for me like receiving a full-body
massage, and other pieces evoke exotic visual scenes. I was particularly
fond of Sebelius when I was young and while listening to the music would,
for example, see myself walking through a dark pine forest and coming out at
the edge of a silvery city that resembled a cross between an oil refinery
and a coral reef.

> of motion and pressure across my skin induced similar visual
> experiences. I
> don't remember any accounts of 'tasting' images, sounds, or
> tactile events.

I can't recall anything like this either, although smells might evoke sights
and sounds; it seems to be a one-way thing.

> Hearing sounds in coincidence with other sensory modalities falls into a
> special category, because I found it difficult to differentiate
> synesthesia
> from auditory hallucination by other external causes.

You've lost me here. If you hear something from an external cause, it
wouldn't be a hallucination, would it? Or do you mean that you hear
something but translate it into something different?

> events, though
> difficult if not impossible for me to re-experience from memory in (more)
> normal modes of thought, I can confirm through the honest
> scribblings in my
> notebooks. The vocabulary I used to describe events, both internal and
> external, are strongly suggestive of it. Dare I say more?

I wish you would dare to say more.

> last thing.
> About my writing. I have gone back to read what was written under the
> influence of chemicals thus conducive, in normal consciousness,
> and thought
> on some occasions: 'I was insane. This is madness - it makes no sense.'
> Then, on a later date, appropriately 'modified,' I could go back,
> read over
> the thoughts as written, and experience nearly total recall, and total
> understanding of how and what I was thinking, where I left off... This is
> strongly suggestive of modes of thought, different patterns of
> 'mind-modules' activated, that can be revisited reliably by ingesting the
> same substance at a later time.

I read research by such people as Charles Tart, which strongly suggests that
we do function in this way. One of the experiments, as I recall, involved
having subjects learn something while under the influence of a psychoactive
drug. Later, the subjects were tested on what they'd learned, and it turned
out that they scored poorly when they took the test in their ordinary states
of consciousness; but when they were tested under the influence of the same
drug that was used when they learned the material, they scored significantly

 I am intensely curious about the
> nature of
> synesthetic experiences as reported by others.

I read of an interesting experience of 2 graduate students (I wish I could
find this again--it may well have been something written by C. Tart). The 2
students put each other into a trance state, and they later reported having
gone through similar experiences while in the trance state--I don't say
"identical" because each one was experiencing things from his own point of
view--but the experiences matched. Together, these students explored exotic
worlds, but they became frightened by the experiment and stopped. I have no
idea whether this is true. It doesn't match any experiences I've ever
had--but then I've never found anyone willing to try it with me. People
seem put off by the very idea of doing such a thing.

  I hypothesize that some
> modalities are more strongly correlated than others, with respect to the
> coincidence of perception. I believe this data has the potential to
> elucidate some interesting facts about how the brain associates and stores
> these sorts of experiences.

It would also be interesting to examine how the brain, working with stored
information, synthesizes completely new mental creations. The creative
process is of never ending fascination to me


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