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 can be described as an experience where one's sense of self becomes temporarily changed to feel as if it is constituted by a wider array of concepts than it previously did. For example, while a person may usually feel that they are exclusively their “ego” or a combination of their “ego” and physical body, this effect can cause their sense of identity to also include the external environment or an object they are interacting with. This results in intense and inextricable feelings of unity or interconnectedness between oneself and varying arrays of previously "external" systems.

It is worth noting that many people who undergo this experience consistently interpret it as the removal of a deeply embedded illusion, the destruction of which is often described as some sort of profound “awakening” or “enlightenment.” However, it is important to understand that these conclusions and feelings should not necessarily be accepted at face value as inherently true.

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 a total of four distinct levels of identity a person can experience during this state. These various altered states of unity have been arranged into a leveling system that orders its different states from least to the most number of concepts that one's identity is currently attributed to. These levels are described below.

Level 1

Unity between specific external systems

At the lowest level, this effect can be described as a perceived sense of unity between two or more systems within the external environment, which are usually perceived as separate from each other in everyday life. This is the least complex level of unity, as it is the only level of interconnectedness where the subjective experience of unity does not involve a state of interconnectedness between the self and the external.

There are an endless number of ways in which this level can manifest, but common examples of the experience often 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.
  • A sense of unity between literally any combination of perceivable external systems and concepts.

Level 2

Unity between the self and specific external systems

At this level, unity can be described as feeling as if one's identity (in addition to the body and/or brain) is attributed to specific external systems or concepts within the immediate environment, particularly those that would usually be considered as intrinsically separate from one's own being.

The experience itself is often described as a loss of perceived boundaries between a person’s identity and the specific physical systems or concepts that are currently the subject of a person's attention within the perceivable external environment. This creates a sensation of becoming inextricably "connected to", "one with", "the same as", or "unified" with whatever the perceived external system happens to be.

There are an endless number of ways in which this level can manifest itself, but common examples of the experience often 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.
  • Becoming unified with and identifying with the external environment, but not the people within it.

Level 3

Unity between the self and all perceivable external systems

At this level, unity can be described as feeling as if one's identity is attributed to the entirety of their immediately perceivable external environment due to a loss of perceived boundaries between the previously separate systems.

The effect creates a sensation that a person has become "one with their surroundings.” This is felt to be the result of a person’s sense of self becoming attributed to the internal narrative of the ego as well as the body itself and everything physically percepted around it. It creates the compelling perspective that one is the external environment experiencing itself through a specific point within it, namely the physical sensory perceptions of the body that one's consciousness is currently residing in.

It is at this point that a key component of the high-level unity experience becomes an extremely noticeable factor. Once a person's sense of self has become attributed to the entirety of their surroundings, this new perspective completely changes how it feels to physically interact with what was previously felt to be an external system in one's environment. For example, when one is not in this state and is interacting with a physical object, it typically feels as though one is a central agent acting on the separate world around them. However, while undergoing a state of unity with the currently perceivable environment, interacting with an external object consistently feels as if the whole unified system is autonomously acting on itself with no central, separate agent operating the process of interaction. Instead, the process suddenly feels as if it has become completely decentralized and holistic, as the environment begins to autonomously and harmoniously respond to itself in a predetermined manner to perform the interaction carried out by the individual.

Level 4

Unity between the self and all known external systems

At the highest level, this effect can be described as feeling as if one's identity is simultaneously attributed to the entirety of the immediately perceivable external environment and all known concepts that exist outside of it. These known concepts typically include all of humanity, nature, and the universe as it presently stands in its complete entirety. This feeling is commonly interpreted by people as "becoming one with the universe".

When experienced, the 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 that this particular body and conscious perception currently resides within. People who undergo this experience consistently interpret it as the removal of a deeply embedded illusion, with the revelation often described as some sort of profound “awakening” or “enlightenment.”

Although they are not necessarily literal truths about reality, many commonly reported conclusions share common themes of a religious and metaphysical nature, which are often interpreted as profound realizations. These are described and listed below:

  • The sudden and total acceptance of death as a fundamental complement of life. Death is no longer felt to be the destruction of oneself, but simply the end of this specific point of a greater whole, which has always existed and will continue to exist and live on through everything else in which it resides. Therefore, the death of a small part of the whole is seen as inevitable and not worthy of grief or any emotional attachment.
  • The subjective perspective that one's preconceived notions of "god" or deities are felt as identical to the nature of existence and the totality of its contents, including oneself. This typically entails the intuition that if the universe contains all possible power (omnipotence), all possible knowledge (omniscience), is self-creating and self-sustaining, then the universe and its contents could also be viewed as "god".
  • 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 humanity's sufferings and flaws, but also includes its acts of love and achievements.

Further reading

Similar accounts of the experience of unity with the universe and the apparent illusory nature of the self can be found across a surprisingly large variety of independent religious, philosophical, and psychological sources. A number of these have been collected and listed as a set of documented examples below:

  • Oneness is a philosophical position arguing that there is only one thing which all things are not separate from and that it works together as a unified system of behaviour.
  • Dialectical monism is a philosophical position arguing that the appearance of duality arises from the mind's need to impose divisions and boundaries upon an essentially unified whole. Thus, for the dialectical monist, reality is ultimately one, but can usually only be experienced in terms of division.
  • The oceanic feeling is a state within psychology which is described as a sensation of an indissoluble bond of being connected with the external world in its integral form.
  • Nondualism is a philosophy found within many religions which states that there is no difference between the concept of the external environment and the self.
  • Alan Watts is a philosopher who spoke extensively about the illusory nature of the self. His lectures can be found for free on the The Pirate Bay and in parts within many videos across YouTube . His book “The Book on the Taboo of Knowing Who You Are” is dedicated to a formal explanation of the philosophies and logic behind this perspective and can be found within the form of a free PDF.
  • Samadhi is a Buddhist concept described as a state of mind in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object.
  • The Ego-Tunnel: The science of the mind and the myth of the self is a scientific book that discusses the concept of an illusory self from the perspective of modern neuroscience and psychology.
  • The overview effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface.
  • How LSD Makes Your Brain One With The Universe - NPR.org
  • Sam Harris: The self is an illusion - YouTube

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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