The 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness
The 8-circuit model of consciousness is a way of understanding human consciousness first proposed by psychologist Dr. Timothy Leary in the late 1960s and developed further by author Robert Anton Wilson in the 1970s. This model proposes that consciousness is layered in eight stages, each the result of past evolution (the four in the left hemisphere of the brain) or lying dormant for our future evolution (the four in the right). These eight circuits are our brain’s hardware, onto which we upload “software,” our experiences, beliefs, and imprints.
The first four circuits are:
- The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit: This circuit is imprinted by the mother or other nurturing figure; it is the part of us that is concerned with feeding, cuddling, trust, bodily security, and being taken care of. It is the part of us that runs away at anything that is scary, foul-tasting, suspicious, or worrisome, allowing us to survive infancy. People heavily imprinted on the oral bio-survival circuit are often overweight due to a fixation on food and the oral; they experience chronic anxiety and fear due to deep down worries about survival and often have very sensitive feelings. However, this circuit also helps us to be playful and affectionate toward others.
- The Anal Emotional-Territorial Circuit: This circuit concerns the first experiences humans have with power struggles and territory issues. It is the part of the brain concerned with rituals of domination and submission, fighting, us vs. them, and, also, excrement (i.e. “kicking ass”); it evolutionarily helped us to find our place in the tribe. This circuit came about in our primate ancestors, who also use excrement to express anger. People heavily imprinted on the anal emotional-territorial circuit are often aggressive, obsessed with the pecking order, and suspicious of others. This circuit also helps us to enjoy the rush that physical activity brings and to properly navigate social situations.
- The Time-Binding Semantic Circuit: This circuit has to do with the ways that humans deal with information and symbols; it is our intellectual and rational center that helps us to interpret our environment and to preserve our culture. People heavily imprinted on the time-binding semantic circuit privilege the rational to the exclusion of all else, which often means that they are blind to the ways in which the other circuits manipulate the third circuit to control them; they are also often frightened by the natural but primal instincts of themselves and others. Of course, the ability to reason is part of what makes us what we are, and this circuit is called by Carl Sagan the “human” one.
- The “Moral” Socio-Sexual Circuit; This circuit is conditioned by early sexual experiences as well as a culture’s taboos. It processes “right” and “wrong” as well as sexual pleasure, familial obligations, and religion. It is the circuit that makes us worry about what Kinsey called “normal mammalian behavior.” People heavily imprinted on the “moral” socio-sexual circuit are often either sex-obsessed or extremely sex-negative (or both). This is the circuit that can help us to be good, upstanding parents and members of the community, so long as we don’t become too trapped in social taboo and restriction.
While the lower four circuits deal with “mundane,” “earthly” matters, the upper four seem to be more “spiritual” or “supernatural.” This, however, is wrong, according to 8-circuit theory, which states that the upper four circuits are simply parts of our brain that evolution has yet to take advantage of, but that will become part of all human consciousness in the future, rather than the small percentage of people who experience these circuits now.
The last four circuits are:
- The Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit: This circuit is imprinted by ecstatic experience–the sorts of things that make us feel “high” by stimulating our endorphin production, sensory deprivation tanks, faith-healing, mystical experience, Tantra and Hatha Yoga, and some psychoactive substances. This is the circuit of bliss and rapture; most people have experienced it, but only a few people (yogis and the like) seem to have ready access to it in the same way we have access to the first four. It is the first step to illumination.
- The Collective Neurogenetic Circuit: This circuit holds what psychologists call the collective unconscious, the collection of archetypes and symbols universal to all humanity. Leary and Wilson attribute this to a sort of “script” encoded in our DNA that leads people from different cultures to all have similar personifications of certain ideas — our “genetic archives.” Accessing this circuit allows us to see the “big picture,” all of humanity as a cosmic tribe, all of the world as an endless cycle of rebirth, and to thus analyze our trajectory. This circuit can be associated with the mass awakening of humanity.
- The Meta-programming Circuit: This very advanced circuit consists of the ability to re-program our brains, allowing us to make completely conscious choices between reality tunnels (see Taking Other Viewpoints / Tunnel-Busting). It is the moment where the brain becomes aware of itself and can thus override any of the other circuits. It is the circuit of relativity and can be awakened with some intense forms of yoga.
- The Non-Local Quantum Circuit: This is the circuit associated with most “supernatural” experience: ESP, out of body experiences, levitation, magic, and others. Leary and Wilson attribute these seemingly unlikely possibilities to quantum theory; that with sufficiently advanced mental capacity, we can use the more unusual laws of physics to our advantage.
To the proponents of the 8-circuit model of consciousness, the future is already written in our brains.
Robert Anton Wilson’s books Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology contain exercises to help the individual understand and move beyond her or his basic circuit-imprints and tunnel reality. If you are interested in exploring this subject further, read the article here on Taking Other Viewpoints / Tunnel-Busting and then seek out those two books if you wish.