Talking to yourself; perceiving eldritch monsters hanging from cathedrals; believing with conviction that you are a god, or that aliens are puppeting your every move. These are all traditional examples of madness, right? I’ve been doing a lot of research on metaphysics and inexplicable phenomenon recently, with a healthy dose of philosophy thrown in for good measure, and I’m reminded that simply because one person is perceived to be ‘mad’ by another, it does not necessarily mean anything at all.
This partially comes back to low-level psychology and research criticisms. Individual and cultural differences, specifically; a westerner may look at the intricate rituals of certain tribes, or the beliefs they hold about spirits and possessions and immediately dismiss what they see as ill-educated, poorly rationalised or even mentally deranged. I like to stay out of these arguments – a person can believe what they want to, and it doesn’t in any way affect me (although this is demonstrably not a thought pattern shared by everyone).
I recently found myself on an archived reddit labelled ‘Dimensional Jumping’, which I’ll link at the end. From what I could find, this was a page full of people who believed wholeheartedly in the existence of a multiverse, and that humans were able to shift between these dimensions through the use of mirror gazing or more ritualistic techniques with focused intent. As with anything, people had their own explanations for the phenomenon that were being perceived with some being more rational than others, but many posts that I read stated that so much more was possible through these techniques than could be rationally conveyed or reasoned. Solipsism, a field of thought I was initially introduced to by a co worker early last year, seemed to be the most apt explanation: all of the universe and your experience of it is a lie. Or not a lie so much as an illusion of your projected reality; the world is exactly how you want it to be, therefore anything is possible and through the focus of intention you can alter your reality in astounding ways. Chaos magick is a field of study that deals with the same kind of themes if you’re interested, but one explanation of reality on the Dimensional Jumping subreddit particularly resonated with me.
Imagine you’re in a glass box – no scratch that – imagine you’re in one of those sci-fi virtual reality rooms, but it’s completely empty. Failing that, the black void from Stranger Things but without the monsters and water-floor. You decide there’s a table directly in front of you, with three legs and a coffee cup sitting on top. All of a sudden there it is, full view, three dimensions out of nowhere and seemingly unaffected by the lack of light source. You walk up and take a swig of coffee as you realise you want to be in your living room, with a fireplace, white walls, cream carpet. You start filling it out with arbitrary things in your mind, you can feel the carpet fibres, all of a sudden you can look outside. You realise that you are standing in ‘reality’. You have moulded it through your expectations, through your beliefs and your desires. You’re walking around in a world manifested by the imagination, yet in the back of your mind you know that you are still nestled within the void, and that there is nothing once you close your eyes and forget everything you’ve come to know.
Even if this is a metaphor, I know there are probably some people that don’t quite get it and lose their faith in, well, everything. Do we call these people mad? Well I think it rather depends, doesn’t it – if the person spouting this nonsense has no home and takes intermissions in his services to ask for spare change, it would be very easy to say that he is not of sound mind and needs help. If however, the speaker is a published author, a well known figure in the sciences, or even just a popular philosopher, we sit back and contemplate just how feasible his ideas are. Madness is clearly subjective.
In studying the occult and various psychological phenomenon, I’ve heard all sorts of stories about spirits and deities being visible, or hearing voices and even constructing characters (in the vein of imaginary friends) that are able to hold conversations, think for themselves and surprise even the creator with the things they do and say. Are all these people mad? Primarily, does it matter? I’m studying psychology at an undergraduate level, but my motivation has dropped through the floor. Interesting as it may be, and despite how much I know, I can barely bring myself to care about the information that does not have a practical application at this moment in time. I keep going back to a way of thinking that may very well sit with me for the rest of my days: use what is useful and abandon what is not.
In my mind, I relate this to learning; where is the sense in understanding for understanding’s sake? What is the point in believing in things you have no personal, subjective evidence for? If someone believes the earth is flat, who am I to put them down? Until I go to space and see myself with my own eyes that we live on a sphere, any reasoning I have comes externally, from what other people say – even then, I can’t convince them because they haven’t experienced it in the same way I have. The way I see it, people place far too much emphasis on attempting to explain their existence, and in judging others because certain things don’t align with what they think they know.
Madness is really just a matter of perspective, and the Gods of one culture are the demons of their conquerors.