Psychedelic Information Theory : Chapter 08
What is Nonlinear Hallucination?
Psychedelic Information Theory invokes nonlinearity to describe the perceptual effects of hallucination, but the term nonlinear has a variety of definitions which are sometimes confusing or unclear. To clarify the nonlinearity of psychedelic hallucination the following is a description of nonlinear dynamics and how they apply to psychedelic perception.
Nonlinear systems can be defined in terms of the complexity of output in proportion to input. The output of changes in a linear system are simple and can be modeled with a line on a graph. In contrast the results of a nonlinear system are chaotic and complex, and simple small changes in input or state variables will result in unpredictable and divergent data sets that cannot be easily predicted. In mathematical terms, the results of a nonlinear system begin to bifurcate, diverge, or split into multiple possible data points the farther out you attempt to resolve them. The results of a nonlinear system cannot be modeled with a linear function because linear functions plot sequential or additive complexity; nonlinear functions plot exponential or geometric complexity. The mathematical study of nonlinear systems has resulted in chaos theory, complexity theory, and the analysis of self-similar recursive systems such as fractals and cellular automata. Renderings of nonlinear output are considered to be of high intrinsic beauty, (Fig. 1)1 and the repeating forms and patterns are often considered to be spiritual or mystical because they are isomorphic of nonlinear dynamics in biology and the physical universe.
The physical world is a complex nonlinear system, but human consciousness perceives reality as a single linear sequential narrative that moves predictably forward in time. The linearity of perception is an indication that consciousness is producing stable, predictable output. If perception suddenly diverges into multiple unpredictable outputs for the same linear input this is an indication that consciousness has destabilized and become nonlinear. A video feedback loop is an good example of a nonlinear perceptual system (Fig. 2); each frame captures itself and the previous frame, and then itself and the two previous frames, and then itself and the four previous frames, and then itself and the eight previous frames, and so on until frame complexity quickly recedes into infinity. This is the mathematical definition of nonlinear system generating fractal complexity or chaos through a simple bifurcating or frame-stacking feedback loop.
Other examples of nonlinear consciousness may be less classically nonlinear, meaning not generating exponential complexity, but still lacking in linear formalism. For instance, consciousness may perceive itself to be in multiple places at once; it may perceive multiple data sets for the same input; it may see multiple different perspectives of the same scene; it may move sideways or backwards or completely outside of linear time. These would all be considered nonlinear perspectives of consciousness. Dreaming can be associatively nonlinear, which means narrative content moves unpredictably from state to state while retaining some tangential linearity. Psychedelics are famous for being recursively nonlinear, which means psychedelic consciousness moves progressively from linear complexity to exponential complexity through time.
Phenomenology of Nonlinear Perspectives
By definition, a nonlinear system produces results with increasing complexity over time. In a linear perspective a subject parses a literal analysis of each object and then moves on to the next object. In a nonlinear perspective the subject produces increasingly complex perceptual results for each object held in focus for the duration of that focus. For instance, a subject staring at a rock in a linear state may notice interesting shapes, textures, or colors; in a nonlinear state that same rock may provoke thoughts and visions of the birth of the universe and the origins of suns and planets and solid matter leading up to the formation of that very rock. The linear perspective sees literal, formal attributes of the rock in the moment; the nonlinear perspective sees the rock as a temporary clump of energy bound in a cosmic information system receding forwards and backwards to the beginning and end of time. The metaphor of seeing the entire universe in a rock can also be applied to emotional epiphanies, autobiographical insights, passing fantasies, paranoid delusions, and so on. Whatever the focus of nonlinear perception, the object held in focus will be amplified with increasing complexity the longer it is held in focus.
The endless complexity of nonlinear perception can cause the subject to fall into perceptual loops which spiral, bifurcate, and recur with the formal qualities of a fractal. (Fig. 3) Frame information held in nonlinear psychedelic perception bifurcates on the order of 2 to 16 times a second, depending on dose range, allowing for increasingly complex renderings of nonlinear information to the point of total system overload. Because of the quickly bifurcating complexity of nonlinear object analysis, the information produced in a nonlinear perspective emerges in consciousness much faster than information produced in linear perception. The production of fast, nonlinear data in the psychedelic state is often described as a download; an inconceivably large amount of information that compiles into memory almost instantly. The only way this amount of information can be processed through the brain is via nonlinear analysis; linear attempts to formalize psychedelic nonlinear information into words or pictures typically fall short of capturing the holistic perspective.
There are many colorful examples of nonlinear hallucination. Seeing geometric grids, webs, and spirals are nonlinear artifacts of destabilization of signal coupling in optic networks. (Fig. 4) Subjective reports indicate that DiPT causes a unique nonlinear pitch transposition in audio networks, causing subjects to hear sounds modulated down an entire octave or more depending on the pitch and volume of stimulus. Auditory echoes, visual motion trails, and phantom tactile sensations are recursive artifacts of perceptual frame feedback. Perceiving multiple subjective perspectives for the same input is a nonlinear bifurcation of multisensory coherence. Perceiving dream images superimposed over external space is nonlinear destabilization of visual memory recall. Seeing the formal boundaries of solid objects bend and melt into each other is a nonlinear destabilization of perspective and edge detection in the visual cortex. Hearing a voice on the television or radio speaking directly to you is a nonlinear destabilization of semantic parsing and sequencing. Skipping time, missing time, or moving sideways or backwards in time is a nonlinear destabilization of temporal frame buffering. The basic tenet of psychedelic hallucination is that hallucinations move progressively from linear to nonlinear complexity depending on dose range; the higher the dose the more disproportionately nonlinear, unpredictable, and complex perception will become in response to stimulus.
 Taylor RP, Sprott JC., 'Biophilic fractals and the visual journey of organic screen-savers'. Nonlinear Dynamics Psychol Life Sci. 2008 Jan;12(1):117-29.
Citation: Kent, James L. Psychedelic Information Theory: Shamanism in the Age of Reason, Chapter 08, 'What is Nonlinear Hallucination?'. PIT Press, Seattle, 2010.
Copyright: © James L. Kent, 2010. Some Rights Reserved. Please read copyright information before reproducing.