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the ten dimensional maze

︎Book, Graphic Design, Digital Illustration, Article  
︎ Ventral Is Golden

“A radical phenomenon in science will be repeatedly treated as an anomaly until a new theory can explain it.”
- Thomas S. Khun. 

Like all original ideas, they run the risk of being simply wrong, but because what they seek to do is so grandiose, they to some degree fall upon the eye of the beholder to assess, and it is for this that they are worth communicating.
The Ten Dimensional Maze: A Digital Fantasy in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll is one of those ideas. Written and illustrated by a North Yorkshire design duo, Jan and Ted Arundell in 1995 and published by Tasman Studio. In a dazzling display of computer generated graphics, dizzying in their intensity, the nonlinear storyline follows the exploits of the protagonist Whizkid and his wizard counterpart Merlin as they meander through a strange alchemical stew, bubbling with the non-materiality of spirit within the cybernetic meadows of hyper-space.

Thomas S. Kuhn (1922 - 1996), a physicist and philosopher of science from Harvard, is arguably most recognised for his coining of the phrase ‘paradigm-shift’, with its now common usage in the english language. His book, ‘The Strucutre of Scientific Revolutions’ highlighted the underlying matrix of ‘the paradigm’ that would inhibit the understanding and application of new discoveries until a cultural shift took place, enabling a re-examination of the scientific findings, intergrating them into a new mental framework.
A common theme can also be found in the work of renowned media theorist Marshall Mcluhan, who’s work has succumbed ironically to the weight and historical abstraction of the print and electric mediums he so eloquently deconstructed.

Mcluhan stated that the use of language was a technology, or an ‘outering’ of inner thoughts. It was also suggested that all kinds of technological media were an extension of man. Electricity being the extension of the nervous system, clothing an extension of the skin, the wheel an extension of the foot, the telephone an extension of the voice and so on, much in the same way Albert Einstein wrote that “space is identical with extension, but extension is connected with bodies; thus there is no space without bodies and hence no empty space”.

McLuhan’s theory of media places human thought in the same context as the pre-materialist sciences. In other words, a kind of alchemical conjunction, science as an extension of spirituality. Simply put, what this means is that environment is a reflection of what we communicate, and our tools, or technologies for doing this, could be anything from printed language to microchips to plant alkaloids. All relational proximity are extensions of space, not simply how things appear but how things appear to be used, all constitute the basic fabric of what we experience as physical reality.
McLuhan was also remembered for his 1964 phrase, the ’Global Village’, where he suggested that not only a connectedness of culture would be permitted through electricity, but that this would also reverse the relational meanings of certain ideas and ideals, arising from the hidden psychological environments that emerged (mostly undetected) through our relation to the dominant technology. This idea came some forty years before our current understanding of online communication, with Facebook being the obvious example that legitimises Mcluhan’s phrase.

For some readers, The Ten Dimensional Maze will probably represent nothing more than a foray into the kitsch regions of psychedelia, but the book contains much more nuance than this. More often than not the term psychedelic doesn’t evoke the vision of it’s true meaning, partly due to the aesthetic of the visual countercultural communication of the 60s and 70s, and how that culture is situated in the mind’s of future generations in the context of cultural compression and electrified access to global knowledge. It could be argued that the nuance has been absorbed into the hyper-memory and is now unable to find it’s relevant place of expression in modern society. In the true sense of the word, ‘psychedelic’ means to manifest the soul, to evoke the mind in order to glimpse a sense of unconstructed reality.
In the case of ‘The Ten Dimensional Maze’ the computer generated, flute playing shamans are analogous to the idea of deconstructing culturally sanctioned reality through our technologies.

Referring back to McLuhan’s idea of electricity being an extension of the nervous system, and language as a kind of technology, we can think of the psychedelic experience as a bio mechanical language system, as nature extending consciousness. Our vocabulary for describing the use of computers and technology in general, hasn’t really changed since the industrial revolution. There is a sense that computers are largely devices limited by economically driven mental faculties that enable us to diversify experience whilst simultaneously detaching them from a practical, social application.
The opposite could be true for the psychedelic experience, as it rarely enters into constructive social discourse in a positive context. The two worlds never seem to meet, yet both the world of material, language and minerals share many of the same constituents as the psychedelic and technological worlds. Both are bound in the myths of the ontological matrix, being things of alchemical artifice.

Take one example of Tantalum (a highly corrosive-resistant transition metal) used in computers and smartphones. It is named after a greek antihero who stole a gold dog from Olympus and boiled his son into a soup to gain a seat at the table of the Gods. As punishment for his arrogance, he was destined to stand in a pool of water under a fruit tree, with the water receding every time he tried to take a drink. The fruits were also just out of reach, never able to gain nourishment for his wayward material aspirations. An absurd story, but nevertheless the origin of the english word ‘tantalising’.
If this myth is not a forewarning of how communication technology tends to be either self-serving or at the disposal of the dominant, culturally sanctioned mode of thinking, then I don’t know what is.

It is apparent that the origins of alchemy, psychedelia, computers, language and all other technologies throughout history have shared a common birthplace in the esoteric, but it is mainly our description that renders them separate. Terence McKenna once asserted that we can look at the whole thing as a factory of moving mechanical parts. “The DNA is being read, the databases are being created and the protocols for moving through them are permissions to a new level of intelligence. The only difference between computers and psychedelics, is that one is easier to swallow. The Internet and computers are actually made from materials of the earth. They’re largely metals: silicon, glass, copper, gold, and silver. These are the things that the alchemist dreamt of. They transform space and time, they allow us to speak at a distance, and they allow us to wander through libraries thousands of miles distant. They make it so that no fact is too obscure and no person so hidden that you can’t reach them.”
As we delve further into our societal psychologies in these obscure political and economic times, the one notable difference is that our tribalism and connectedness has somewhat expanded electronically. But since there is compression with every expansion, this is also a cautionary tale, as all absurd comedies are.

“Once the puppet’s remains had been gathered, they felt free to consider their surroundings”
- The Ten Dimensional Maze.

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