The eight circuit model of consciousness proposed by Timothy Leary and championed by Robert Anton Wilson is fraught with issues, even as an analogy.
One of the first things to consider when somebody presents to you their model of reality is where that individual places their own self in that model. If it is at the top, absolutely or relative to everyone else, you should immediately be suspicious. All individuals and tribes make such models which support their unique superiority.
I had been a fan of that model for many, many years. I tried to get everyone I ever met to read Prometheus Rising, as I was certain that if everyone understood it as well as I did, the whole being a human problem would work itself out. So for the sake of reason, let us not begin with the assumption that I have just failed to understand it, and take this critique on its own merits, and not as a reaction to any perceived attacks against your reality tunnel.
When I first realized that the Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness (8CM) suffered from a massive dose of confirmation bias and ego validation, I almost immediately realized that many of my own models suffered from the same issue. That they tended to always support the idea that I, as opposed to everyone else, was doing life correctly, made me suspicious of my own motives. As well as the motives of anyone who involves themselves in the creation of such an egocentric abstraction.
A prime example of this is my Game Metaphor model, in which I break humans down into three categories of awareness and free will, and then place myself in the upper category and almost everyone else in the lowest. I was so damn self-assured by the whole thing that I was able to fool myself into intellectually converting my own abstraction into an objective certainty. And while I still appreciate the idea of awareness and free will being on a scale, rather than binary; using that concept to create labels that come with judgments was small-minded and petty of me.
There is no doubt that Leary and Wilson saw themselves as high achievers in the context of the 8CM. The fact that they proselytized it so much indicates how invested in and attached they were to their self-validating model. And while it does remain a useful metaphor for thinking about reality from a certain angle, even beyond its suspicious motivations it has ideological issues.
While Wilson had good enough sense to at least call his scientific materialism a strong suspicion, Leary was never in doubt. Although raised a good Catholic boy, Leary never faltered from the scientific materialism that has risen from the Protestant world view. And all of his theories and models were predicated on the literal truth of physicalism, dualism, objectivism and positivism. The 8CM makes it immediately clear right in the title, where he suggests that consciousness is some emergent property of our circuitry.
I will not belabor this piece with arguments against scientific materialism, as I have already done so thoroughly in the past.
If it is not clear to you that the 8CM suffers from scientific materialism as its basic premise, I suggest you reread it carefully. While there are areas which seem to suggest otherwise, taken as a whole, it is hard to imagine this aspect of it being denied. Even the language used comes directly from the lexicon of the faulty underlying metaphysical assumptions.
One of the main characteristics of the 8CM which indicates this are the deterministic functions in which human minds are supposed to act like logical functions. Not only is it simple enough to observe that human minds do not work according to logic, to assert that they do is to reduce those minds to little clockworks enacting the will of some maker. You cannot claim that a thing has a direct single cause without also suggesting some agency of causation. Merely switching ‘God’ and ‘Nature’ around does not resolve the problem.
By the time we get to the eighth circuit of the model, we have traveled from scientific materialism into new age goobledy-glop about higher consciousness. Consciousness, or awareness, never itself changes. It is not raised or lowered. It merely takes on new kinds of experiences. But experience is not hierarchical. No experience is more or less valid or true than any other experience. The value of experience comes not from graduating to the final level, but the ability to have lots of different kinds of experiences.
The 8CM contains a teleology in which a certain kind of experience is considered more valuable, and those who have reached it more advanced, suggesting that all should work towards this singular goal. And as I stated at the beginning, those prized experiences are those which the proponents of the 8CM clearly value above the others.
I see this in practice all of the time. Those who follow the 8CM script use “2nd circuit” as an insult. These terms are constantly used to indicate that someone outside of their reality tribe is in a lower intellectual position than them, and should submit to reconditioning in order to reach the prized higher levels.
To be fair, there is nothing exceptionally bullshitty about the 8CM. Pretty much any map of reality is going to be full of the ego-reinforcing abstractions of its author.
It is not enough to say that the map is not the territory. The assumption that a territory exists outside the experience of modeling it is based on the same faulty scientific materialism I talked about before. It is based on the Protestant habit of literal interpretation of ideas and experiences. It requires a leap of faith that the contents of our awareness lie outside of the awareness itself, which is much like saying that a seven legged raccoon monster that you have recurring dreams about must exist outside of your dreams in order to also be in them.
Perhaps the greatest gap in the imagination of modern humans is imagination itself. Our minds are the looms of creation, constantly weaving reality into new forms so that we may experience them. We are not ever observing or discovering reality, but creating it by a process of interaction and mutation.
Mutation comes in the form of new ideas and beliefs. The ideas and beliefs which underlie the 8CM are no longer radical enough to induce meaningful change. The next adaptation for humanity lies outside the scientific materialism and other Protestant ideologies which nurtured us through the industrial age.
If we are to reap the rewards of those centuries of slavery to the time clock and our bank accounts, and to escape the existential malaise and nihilism it has resulted in, then its not just time to think outside the box. Its time to stop believing in boxes altogether, for such is the first step in both creating and getting trapped in them.
Whether it has eight corners, or eight circuits, look out for the traps. The more dazzling the bullshit, the more enticing the bait.