Introduction, Part the 3rd: Neurocam

In late December, via a thread on Metafilter, I heard about the mysterious organisation known as Neurocam. A more detailed account of this can be found here. (My Neurocam-commissioned perception assessment provides a good reflection of my headspace at around that time.)

In my response to the item in their initial questionnaire which asked “What are your expectations of Neurocam?”, I wrote:

I have no concrete expectations. The Age article was intriguing, and had me chasing down myriad online trails trying to get a better handle on the whole thing, which was entertaining and intrigued me even more.

Given the substantial number of new signups one presumes Neurocam has received recently, I reckon it’s unlikely I’ll be selected as an operative. If I am, maybe the assignments will help add some colour to my currently rather lacklustre existence. Maybe I’ll be kidnapped and horribly tortured by ruthless sociopaths, which would make for an entertaining dinner party anecdote or two. Maybe my involvement with Neurocam will help me to gain greater self-knowledge, and ultimately crack the baffling puzzlebox of my own tortured psyche. Maybe it’ll drive me hopelessly insane.

Perhaps I will discover that time, the self, physical matter, and everything else that goes into making up this shallow world of forms in which we all naively “believe” “we” “live” is nothing but an illusion, engineered by intelligent machines as a power source. Woah.

Perhaps not.

Who knows?

Although I worried (and still, in more paranoid moments, continue to worry) that they might be some kind of predatory cult, I was – and still am – inclined to believe that Neurocam is an art project, and on reflection what really attracted me to it was the suggestion that involvement in Neurocam could serve as a vehicle for self-discovery. From Marc Moncrief’s Neurocam article in The Age:

“Have you read The Magus?” he [Neurocam Operations head Charles Hastings] asked.

The Magus, originally titled The Godgame, is a novel by British author John Fowles. In it, English teacher Nicholas Urfe travels to a Greek island where he meets the mysterious, androgynous Conchis, who teaches Urfe about himself through a series of illusions – games apparently without purpose – that challenge Urfe’s perceptions of reality and ask him to commit himself completely to tasks he does not understand.

“Neurocam is an unveiling,” Hastings said. “That is all you need to know.”

An unveiling of what? “That depends on the person.”

(I was also attracted by the possibility – speculated upon by, for example, operatives Lady J and Kybalion – that they might be a recruiting front for an esoteric order. I’ve thought a lot about attempting to join such a group, having had some experience in the field, albiet primarily of the self-initiatory kind. Here, in the first of what will probably be an online purging of many old documents, is a link to the magickal diary I kept throughout the second half of 2003, documenting my third adventure into the strange and – as I’ve learned – potentially ruinous mental realm that Robert Anton Wilson calls ‘Chapel Perilous’.)

Joining Neurocam also provided an excellent excuse to start a blog of my own.

I called it “Trysting Fields”, which might not necessarily be considered significant. Derived from my traditional Favourite Movie Of All Time, Peter Greenaway‘s Drowning By Numbers, it’s a name I’ve used a lot. It’s what I’ve called every hard disk I’ve ever owned. I have an old, abandoned blog from 2002 also called this (which is still out there somewhere – I’ve lost the password and can’t delete it. Finding this is left as an exercise for the reader.) I’ve written a song called this, and it’s the name of the second album by my imaginary band, The Teigans.

But I think my use of this title so incongruously, for a blog intended to document my involvement with Neurocam, reflected the other thing I was hoping to get out of it: a sense of community. I’d previously gained a lot from my involvement in another online community (which is another story for another time) and I suppose I wanted to see if I could leverage Neurocam for a degree of social engagement. Sad, I know. But it does seem to have delivered in that regard; it’s gotten me communicating and engaging with other people to an extent that six months previously I’d never have imagined I’d be able to do again.

In a wider sense, it got me thinking about ideas and focussing with some genuine interest on things beyond the dank four walls of my own brain.

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