Unity and interconnectedness

Self Excited Circuit by John Archibald Wheeler
This symbol depicts the universe as a self-excited circuit. It was originally created by the late theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler in his 1983 paper Law Without Law. The eye represents the self and the line directly opposite represents that which it is perceiving within the external environment. The two sections are connected into each other via arrows to demonstrate that it is a singular and unified system.

Unity and interconnectedness refers to the feeling that things which are normally considered to be separate are actually interconnected or are the same thing entirely, and especially that a person’s sense of self has been expanded to include one or more concepts that would typically be considered separate from them. For example, a person may feel like there is no true separation between themself and the environment around them.

This experience can be interpreted as the removal of an illusion that there ever was a genuine separation between the self and the surrounding environment in the first place. The destruction of this illusion is then often described as some sort of profound “awakening” or “enlightenment.”

Feelings of unity and interconnectedness most commonly occur under the influence of psychedelic and dissociative compounds, such as LSD, DMT, ayahuasca, mescaline, and ketamine. However, they can also occur during well-practiced meditation, deep states of contemplation, and intense focus.


There are four distinct levels of unity and interconnectedness a person can experience. These levels are presented below and are organized from least to most complex.

Level 1

Unity between specific external systems

Level one is the perception of a unity between two or more things which are usually perceived as separate from each other within the external environment.

All levels of unity and interconnectedness can manifest in endless ways, but common examples of level one include:

  • A sense of unity between specific living things, such as animals or plants and their surrounding ecosystems.
  • A sense of unity between other human beings and the objects they are currently interacting with.
  • A sense of unity between any number of currently perceivable inanimate objects.
  • A sense of unity between humanity and nature.
  • And finally, a sense of unity between literally any combination of perceivable external systems and concepts.

Level 2

Unity between the self and specific external systems

Level two is the feeling that one's identity has come to include something within the immediate external environment, particularly something that is currently the subject of a person's attention. This creates a sensation of becoming inextricably "connected to", "one with", "the same as", or "unified" with that thing.

Common examples of level two include:

  • Becoming unified with and identifying with a specific object that one is interacting with.
  • Becoming unified with and identifying with another person or multiple people. This is particularly common if they are engaging in sexual or romantic activities.
  • Becoming unified with and identifying with the entirety of one's own physical body.
  • Becoming unified with and identifying with large crowds of people. This is particularly common at raves and music festivals.

Level 3

Unity between the self and all perceivable external systems

Level three is the feeling that one's identity includes the entirety of their immediately perceivable external environment. This effect creates a sensation that the boundaries between a person and the world around them have been stripped down, resulting in the compelling perspective that someone is their environment, that the environment therefore has a consciousness, and this conscious environment is now experiencing itself through the point of view of the person’s individual sensory awareness.

This level introduces a key component of high-level unity - once a person's sense of self has become unified with their surroundings, their experience of interacting with those surroundings is fundamentally transformed. While undergoing a state of unity with the currently perceivable environment, interacting with an external object can feel like a whole unified system is autonomously acting on itself. For example, if a person experiencing level three unity is thirsty, it doesn’t feel like a person is going to get water. Instead, it feels like the overall system has identified a requirement within one of its subsystems, and is therefore harmoniously rearranging itself to fulfill the requirement.

Level 4

Unity between the self and all known external systems

At the highest level, Unity can feel as if one is simultaneously the entirety of the perceivable environment and all known concepts that exist outside of it. This will typically include all of humanity, nature, and the universe in its complete entirety. This feeling is commonly interpreted as "becoming one with the universe".

When experienced, this effect creates the sudden perspective that one is not a separate agent approaching an external reality, but is instead the entire universe as a whole experiencing itself, exploring itself, and performing actions upon itself through a specific point in space and time, specifically, the person experiencing the effect. People who undergo this experience commonly interpret it as the removal of a deeply embedded illusion, with the revelation often described as some sort of profound “awakening” or “enlightenment.”

Many reported experiences of level 4 unity and interconnectedness share common themes of a religious and metaphysical nature. Some examples include:

  • The sudden and total acceptance of death as an aspect of life and existence. Death is no longer felt to be the destruction of oneself, but simply the end of this specific point in the greater whole, which has always existed and will continue to exist through everything else in which it resides. Therefore, the death of a small part of the whole is seen as inevitable and not a cause for grief or any emotional attachment.
  • The subjective perspective that one's conception of "god" or “godhood” is identical or similar to the nature of existence and the totality of its contents, including oneself. This typically entails the intuition that if the universe contains all power (omnipotence) and all knowledge (omniscience), and is the creator and sustainer of existence, then the universe and its contents could also be understood as "god". This realisation is extremely similar to the core tenants of the religion of Pantheism.
  • The subjective perspective that one, by nature of being the universe, is personally responsible for the design, planning, and implementation of every single specific detail and plot element of one's personal life, the history of humanity, and the entirety of the universe. This naturally includes personal responsibility for all of humanity's sufferings and flaws, but also includes its acts of love and achievements.

Academic, Philosophical, and Religious examples...

Similar accounts of experiences with unity and the apparent illusory nature of the self are present across a surprisingly large variety of independent religious, philosophical, scientific, literary, and cultural sources - to the extent that it would be extremely impractical to list them all here. So instead, this article will summarise a few of the more interesting and easily citable examples.

  • The 11-D altered states of consciousness scale lists one of its 3 major factors as "oceanic boundlessness," and it includes an entire subfactor titled "Experience of Unity".
  • Benny Shanon's book the Antipode's of the Mind lists Unity as a subtype of Spiritual and Mystical Experience within the chapter on Ayahuasca-Induced Non-Ordinary Effects of Consciousness.
  • The Shulgin Rating Scale describes an experience of high level unity and insists that learning how to reliably induce it would be "the ultimate evolution and the end of the human experiment.
  • Stanislov Grof includes a detailed description of "Oneness with Life and All Creation" alongside other similar experiences within his extremely frustrating book titled "Realms of the Human Unconscious".
  • The Mystical Experience Questionnaire, a widely used and validated psychometric tool for measuring mystical experiences, divides the experience into Internal Unity and External Unity. There are also a number of brief references to states of Unity in similar validated psychometric scales I've found within this book titled "Measures of Religiosity".
  • Monism is a philosophical position that attributes an inherent oneness or singleness to the overall concept of existence. This philosophy also includes numerous variations and subschools of thought such as priority monism, existence monism, substance monism, dual-aspect monism, and neutral monism, and my personal favourite, dialectical monism.
  • Alan Watts is a philosopher who spoke extensively about the illusory nature of the self. His lectures can be found for free on YouTube. His book “The Book: on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” describes the philosophies and logic behind this perspective.
  • In the 1901 book Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind, psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke explores his concept of cosmic consciousness, which he defines as "a higher form of consciousness than that possessed by the ordinary man".
  • Nondualism is a spiritual concept with an extremely varied set of definitions found in different forms within many religions. Generally speaking, however, it "teaches that the multiplicity of the universe is reducible to one essential reality." There is also even an active and passionate community on reddit under the name of /r/nonduality with around 12000 subscribers and a wide variety of entertaining nondualist memes.
  • Samadhi, a Buddhist concept, describes a state of mind in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object. This state is associated with well-practiced meditation.
  • Ancient Aztec philosophy was largely based on a core concept of teotl, a unifying life-force which created the entire universe from itself, through itself, for itself, and by itself. Therefore, while seemingly separate, all things, including living beings, are ultimately facets of teotl, and are essentially one.
  • Oceanic feeling, a state from Freudian psychology, is described as the sensation of an indissoluble bond of being connected with the external world in its integral form.
  • The Ego-Tunnel: The science of the mind and the myth of the self by Thomas Metzinger discusses the concept of an illusory self from the perspective of modern neuroscience and psychology.

Personal Commentary

Without any question or hesitation, I undoubtedly believe that this particular transpersonal effect is by far the most important and significant state of mind the psychedelic experience has to offer. I have been fascinated by this effect for around a decade now and first came to learn of its existence as a teenager through the numerous first hand accounts given to me by my close friends. This effect was further solidified in my mind as something of extreme significance after I found the works of Alan Watts through his philosophical lectures and writings. I then proceeded to dive headfirst into meditation and obsessively contemplating the supposedly illusory nature of the self on a daily basis. I even found that on more than one occasion, I could lead people into experiencing states of high level unity by simply saying the right words to them during heavy psychedelic trips.

However, despite my borderline obsession with this subjective effect and its associated philosophical frameworks, I found that no matter how heavy a dosage of a psychedelic I consumed, I could never experience this state of mind for myself. This led me to the conclusion that regardless of how common an occurrence this effect was for many other experienced psychedelic users, my extreme fascination with it must be the exact thing that is preventing me from experiencing it for myself. This caused me to inevitably let my guard down for what was to come. Approximately two years later while under the influence of ayahuasca, I spontaneously found myself undergoing a state of level 4 unity for the first time in my life. This happened on two separate occasions within a month and, at the time, were by far the most profound and lifechanging psychedelic experiences I had ever undergone in my entire life.

In the years after these two experiences, I have since undergone states of unity on two other occasions, both of which were under the influence of 4-HO-MET and also less than a month apart. These experiences seemingly came out of nowhere and I cannot for the life of me understand or figure out any causal factors or correlations behind the triggering of this state of mind. As far as I can tell, it seems that certain individuals are much more prone to it than others, but almost everybody will inevitably experience this if they trip regularly enough over a long period of time. It does not seem to be dependent on the dosage or the psychedelic in question, although set and setting seems to be at least somewhat of a factor. Situations involving beautiful nature, deep contemplation, and philosophical conversation can often cause it to come about, but not in a reliable or reproducible fashion. It therefore seems that states of unity and interconnectedness must arise organically and out of a situation in which the person either comes to a conclusion of their own accord, or perhaps where some subconscious process of the mind is allowed to independently arise in an autonomous manner.

At this point, I cannot deny that I personally believe the common conception of a separate self is merely a construct of human perception. In fact, I would go even further and state that based upon my extensive research, this widely held position is both philosophically and scientifically justifiable. However, I want to make it clear that I do not have any desire to convince people of that here. Instead, I simply aim to document the subjective experience of this perspective in a manner that is as comprehensive and reasonable as possible. This is with the hope that people far more intelligent than me can someday use this article as a template for furthering our collective understanding of this profound and absolutely fascinating state of mind.


transpersonal state


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