Form Constants
March 15, 2011 11:44 AM   Subscribe

"In the Bible, God appeared to Ezekiel as a “wheel within a wheel”. Spirals and concentric circles are commonly found in petrogylphs carved by cultures long dead. Similar visual effects are reported during extreme psychological stress, fever delirium, psychotic episodes, sensory deprivation, and are reliably induced by psychedelic drugs."
Form Constants and the Visual Cortex, or Where Psychedelic Visuals Come From.
posted by Taft (51 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
food within a dude: visual cortex or where psychedelic visuals come from...sorry
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Patterns so grand and complex!
posted by Wolfdog at 11:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nice. I discovered these sorts of patterns as a kid in, oddly enough, church; when I got bored with my eyes closed during prayers or invocations or whatever, I pressed my fingers against my eyelids, and after a few seconds would begin see patterns like figure 3 in the link. Just tried it again and it still works.

also, it works with cough syrup in dorm rooms with low light levels.
posted by logicpunk at 11:52 AM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


The linked site seems to be full of all kinds of interesting things; thank you!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:56 AM on March 15, 2011


Now this is neuroscience!
posted by Nomyte at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


In 1926, Heinrich Klüver undertook a groundbreaking series of experiments where he categorized the visual effects produced by mescaline. Various volunteers were recruited, peyote administered...

Greatest. Extra. Credit. Job. Ever.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Very interesting, although the one petroglyph example doesn't really match any of the 4 basic archetypes.
posted by DU at 12:00 PM on March 15, 2011


Yeah, Coutyourculture is a hidden gem for drug/chemistry geeks. The author posts a lot on reddit, usually clearing up bullshit advice or bringing his educated rage to the table. He's a cool guy.
posted by Taft at 12:00 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of having a scintillating scotoma before a migraine. So much so, in fact, that I'm slightly nauseated after having seen the graphics. Is there any overlap with this?
posted by kimota at 12:01 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooh! Ooh! Is this where I get to introduce the greater world to the doomaloomas?

We sang this version of the gospel song in college [very white choir, but good recording], and for the life of me I had no idea what was up with THAT.* Particularly in the buildup at the end, where my section kept singing "wheel in a wheel in a wheel in a wheel..." and oh, my lungs! Definitely one of my very favorites.

*God forbid I look it up in the Bible
posted by Madamina at 12:03 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those form constants..oh my god. And when I take off my glasses, they begin to breathe and writhe.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:04 PM on March 15, 2011


Shopper Takes Bizarre Journey
posted by exogenous at 12:04 PM on March 15, 2011


Very interesting, although the one petroglyph example doesn't really match any of the 4 basic archetypes.
It does when you're on mescaline.
posted by Flunkie at 12:07 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uzumaki!
posted by dammitjim at 12:08 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anything inside anything that is the same class as the first anything - A wheel inside a wheel? Ezekiel was the first Cobb.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2011


Tibetan Buddhists call them tigles, and it's not uncommon to have some kind of this vision after a lengthy session of meditation. To those who haven't seen it, it's far more electric-like, spontaneous, faster, and more intrinsically vivid than anything you can sit around and try to visualize with intention. At the same time, one needn't make a big deal about seeing something and try just get on with ordinary life.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:22 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


So that answers what the geometrical shapes and light tunnels may be, now what about those giant praying mantis creatures, bird headed creatures, and giant black cats that exist in transpersonal psychedelic reports?
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:27 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes a swirly black-and-white thing is just a swirly black-and-white ball.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:29 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


> now what about those giant praying mantis creatures, bird headed creatures, and giant black cats that exist in transpersonal psychedelic reports?

They're your friends. Usually.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:30 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Sometimes a swirly black-and-white thing is just a swirly black-and-white ball.

That's really weird that you would like someone's 6 year old question like that.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:31 PM on March 15, 2011


I have wondered about this my entire life.
posted by -t at 12:34 PM on March 15, 2011


Flashback!
posted by Splunge at 12:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's really weird that you would like someone's 6 year old question like that.
Well, this is just a place for freaks, after all.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2011


This is really cool. I wonder if there are analogous structures in the brain that map nicely to pitch space, and whether they're affected in any consistent way by hallucinogens or hallucinatory processes.
posted by invitapriore at 12:41 PM on March 15, 2011


Very interesting, although the one petroglyph example doesn't really match any of the 4 basic archetypes.

It looks close enough to IV to me. The archetypes are variable based on who's experiencing them and what all is going on in their brain. I get visuals like III on acid, but they morph into huge sigils or patterns of lotus blossoms or peacock feathers, while still maintaining the same overall structure.
posted by girih knot at 12:42 PM on March 15, 2011


Holy shit, the Checkerboard Spiral! I knew I wasn't making that shit up.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Enter the Void, man, Enter the Void.

Seriously, one of the most realistic recreations of what it's like to be on drugs that I've ever seen.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:50 PM on March 15, 2011


My brother and I shared a bedroom for many years growing up, sleeping in parallel twin beds. Some nights after bedtime, if we were bored, we would both close our eyes and apply firm pressure to our eyeballs with out hands, forcing these closed-eye visualizations. We would then take turns guiding the narrative of some made-up story or another, and the geometric patterns and visuals described in the article would fall away, revealing a rich, three-dimensional world illustrating our story as we told it.

When people bemoan the loss of imagination as they age, this is what they mean.

I also notice that my brother and I were enjoying a sort of self-induced Prisoner's Cinema, which is one of those Wikipedia articles that you haven't stumbled across yet, but that you figured must exist.

Anyway, I enjoyed the article, especially considering the memory it evoked. Thank you.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 12:51 PM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


And on the one day a year I didn't have "Slippery People" stuck in my head.
posted by Beardman at 12:53 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


tapesonthefloor, I used to do this all the time in during nap time when I was young! Except I couldn't use it to tell stories because everyone had to be quiet in nap time. Later in life, my doctor assured me that I had not done any damage to my eyes doing this.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:56 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first time I saw that tunnel-web-spiral-&c diagram was in a book by William Tiller. Now that man has some interesting theories. For example he theorizes that the tunnel-web-spiral-&c are Fourier Transform representations of parallel universes or beyond dimension four in this universe.
posted by bukvich at 12:56 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


These hypercolumns are linked together in a specific manner, which allows noise patterns of only certain types to form. Just like a tarp in the wind will only flap in certain predictable ways assuming it does not tear, so too will noise only travel across the visual cortex in specific ways.

The answer to this is likely beyond me, but I'd be very interested in reading a bit more on these "hypercolumns" and why only these 4 noise patterns are observed. Why no others, and why hexagons? Is it at all related to why hexagons are so prevalent in nature?
posted by mrgoat at 1:30 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Take your place on The Great Mandala
As it moves through your brief moment of time.
Win or lose now you must choose now
And if you lose you're only losing your life.

posted by Mental Wimp at 1:58 PM on March 15, 2011


I just poked the left side of my left eyelid and saw a cigarette burn! LIFE IS A MOVIE, MAN, AND THE REEL'S ABOUT TO CHANGE.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:01 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if I should worry that the eyelid pressure experiment produces absolutely nothing for me... nor does meditating. I fear perhaps I do not actually exist.
posted by Bushidoboy at 2:21 PM on March 15, 2011


It looks close enough to IV to me.

IV is concentric rings with radial lines. The petroglyph is a spiral. If we are going to call it "close to" something, then II it is. But with such a simple figure, I think it has to closer than either of those for me to call it a match. The catalog figures are close to the retrodicted ones. The petroglyph, not so much.
posted by DU at 2:22 PM on March 15, 2011


Uh, Example (II) turns into a spiral, which, if I understand it correctly, is because its basic pattern is not exactly horizontal or vertical.

So you would have a spiral-like result with every tilted interference pattern. I guess in reality most of them would not run exactly along the X- or Y-axis, so spirals would be the norm.
posted by Cironian at 2:46 PM on March 15, 2011




I wonder if I should worry that the eyelid pressure experiment produces absolutely nothing for me... nor does meditating. I fear perhaps I do not actually exist.


It might be time for you to schedule yourself a good old replicant test.
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:36 PM on March 15, 2011


This is really cool. I wonder if there are analogous structures in the brain that map nicely to pitch space, and whether they're affected in any consistent way by hallucinogens or hallucinatory processes.
posted by invitapriore at 12:41 PM on March 15 [+] [!]


On page 403 of Alexander and Ann Shulgin's Tihkal, the experimental tryptamine N,N-diisopropyltryptamine hydrochloride (DIPT) is described, including some first-hand accounts of its effects, which seem to exist "primarily in the auditory system": for example, "My wife's voice is basso...Radio voices are all low, music out of key" and "There was a decrease in high frequency acuity with an unusual tonal shift of all frequencies to a lower pitch" and "The voices of people were extremely distorted -- males sounded like frogs" and "If I were deaf, this would have been an inactive compound." Renee Daumal, in an amazing little book called A Fundamental Experiment, recounts his youthful experiments with inhaling carbon tetrachloride to experience near-death states. Along with visual hallucinations, he reports, "A sound accompanied this luminous movement, and I suddenly realized it was I who was making it. In fact I virtually was that sound; I sustained my existence by emitting it. The sound consisted of a chant or formula, which I had to repeat faster and faster to 'follow the movement'. That formula (I give the facts with no attempt to disguise their absurdity) ran something like this: 'Tem gwef tem gwef dr rr rr,' with an accent on the second 'gwef' and with the last syllable blending back into the first; it gave an unceasing pulse to the rhythm, which was, as I have said, that of my very being. I knew that as soon as it began going too fast for me to follow, the unnameable and frightful thing would occur."

Not sure what any of this might have to do with Shipibo patterns, which simultaneously represent visions, songs and metaphysical systems, or whether any of it ties into the union of sonic and visual structures in cymatics and Chladni patterns...
posted by newmoistness at 4:29 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Enter the Void, man, Enter the Void.

Enter The Void DMT Sequence
posted by homunculus at 4:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll.
posted by sambosambo at 5:56 PM on March 15, 2011


How ironic this gets posted on the same day I get my vinyl remaster of Linda Perhacs 'Parallelograms' in the mail ... She had synesthesia and it effected how she wrote her music - interview that mentions her experiences here.
posted by mctsonic at 6:24 PM on March 15, 2011


I know that this may sound silly, but having done a lot of chemicals in my life, I used to experiment with seeing how the ambient light and sound changed my hallucinations.

Actually reading books by Aleister Crowley and those like him, my understanding was that there were two ways to understand entheogenic chemicals. It was called the microcosm and the macrocosm.

Essentially you had to understand what you were searching for. If you were searching for internal enlightenment you went with, and kept to, the microcosm. Essentially making sure that you kept your eyes closed. For macrocosmic enlightenment you would have your eyes open. There were, of course other things to consider. But basically you did one or the other and stuck with it.

I'm guessing that it was more of a guideline than a cut in stone thing. But Chaos magick talks about combining the two. This is considered taking a chance with your sanity, but the results can be amazing.

Anyway, the reason that I bring up the occult at all is that back in the day, you were either a freak or a mage. Crowley was considered both. From what I have gleaned he was very much a showman with a god complex. Make your own comparisons to current famous people on your own time.

What I actually meant to say at the beginning is that I pretty much had this theory sussed in the late 1970s. It was clear to me that mosaic and mandala patterns were common to all peoples and to me as well.

Go figure.
posted by Splunge at 6:32 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Dude. Dude. ... Dude. You should...I wanna tell you..."
*snort*
"...no, really, dude. Dude. In the desert, I saw, like. Like. Dude. God. It was God, dude."
"Really? What happened?"
"I was burning this bush, dude, and..."
"OMJ TEH LORD APPEARED TO MOSES AS A BURNING BUSH!"
"Dude, no, I was burning a bush, this weird herb..."
"IT HAPPENED ON MOUNT HOREB!"
"Dude, no, I said 'herb'...man, I could murder a kebab..."
"...AND HE SAID WE HAVE TO TOTALLY MURDER EVERYBODY IN THAT CITY!"
"Dude...what?"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:15 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


DU Very interesting, although the one petroglyph example doesn't really match any of the 4 basic archetypes.

Not so sure about that. The II in this looks a lot like the petroglyph.
posted by ashbury at 7:37 PM on March 15, 2011


Enter The Void DMT Sequence

I haven't seen the movie but that clip was a fascinating attempt at conveying the visuals of DMT and it did resemble the early stage visuals of a mid-grade experience, imo. I liked the subtleness and pacing of it. It had a Kubrick vibe as one commenter pointed out.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:41 PM on March 15, 2011


A bit old, but here's a nice interview with Bard Ermentrout who worked out much of the math as a part of his dissertation.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 8:17 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any mefi's know of good formal research out there that would relate to filling the gap between such visual experiences (and now organ/eye scale) manifestations of form constants down deeper in scale? All the way to protein folds? Deeper? Isn't E8 being used in Physics now?

The form constants made me think of Wolfram's New Kind of Science. Given advances in the biomedical sciences it hopefully won't be long before someone out there can walk us up from the genome through hierarchies of functionality to awesome visuals that may in fact be the shadows of fundamental principles of physics (stop me before I refer to.. please! fractals">oh snap!) But seriously though - you must be out there researching this. What form constants can be picked on this pathway. Does anyone else here remember the Meru foundation guy(s) - I loved his stuff related to this topic.
posted by astrobiophysican at 8:45 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


IV is concentric rings with radial lines. The petroglyph is a spiral. If we are going to call it "close to" something, then II it is.

I'm not talking about what it is, I'm talking about what it looks like. Maybe I'm crazy, but if I unfocus my eyes, I get a spiral similar to the one in the petroglyph from IV, and would translate it to such if I were recreating a visual with pigment on a rock. Your Visual May Vary.
posted by girih knot at 10:59 PM on March 15, 2011


The visuals are pretty familiar to people who get migraines. Sometimes you get what's called an occular migraine, meaning you get to see the cool visuals without hurting.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:05 PM on March 15, 2011


It also seems likely that the constant cycling of these noise patterns through the visual field while the eyes are open would explain the breathing walls.
posted by newmoistness at 8:14 AM on March 16, 2011


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