The 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness is a theory of consciousness first proposed by psychologist Timothy Leary. It models the mind as a collection of 8 “circuits”, with each circuit representing a higher stage of evolution than the one before it.
Leary constructed the model based on the lateralization of brain function. The first four levels, which Leary presumed to reside in the left lobe of the cerebrum, are concerned with the survival of organisms on earth; the other four, which Leary suggested are found in the right lobe, are for use in the future evolution of humans, and remain dormant in the majority of human beings.
The eight circuits
The eight circuits explicated by Leary are:
1. The Bio-survival Circuit is concerned with the earliest modes of survival and the basic separation of objects into either harmful or safe. This circuit is said to have first appeared in the earliest evolution of the invertebrate brain. It is the first to be activated in an infant’s mind. Leary says this circuit is stimulated by opioid drugs. This circuit introduces a one-dimensional perception: forward and backward (i.e., forward towards food, nourishment and that which is trusted as safe, and backwards — away from danger and predators; Also called the “Oral Bio-Survival Circuit” by Robert Anton Wilson in reference to the oral stage of human development from Freudian Psychology).
2. The Emotional Circuit is concerned with raw emotion and the separation of behavior into submissive and dominant. This circuit appeared first in vertebrate animals. In humans, it is activated when the child learns to walk. Leary associates this circuit with alcohol. This circuit introduces a second dimension, up-down, linked with territorial politics and tribal power games (up, as in swelling ones body in size to represent dominance, and down, as in the cowering, tail-between-the-legs submissive stance; called by Robert Anton Wilson the “Anal Emotional Territorial Circuit” in reference to the anal stage of human development from Freudian Psychology).
3. The Symbolic Circuit is concerned with logic and symbolic thought. Leary said this circuit first appeared when hominids started differentiating from the rest of the primates. Leary believed this circuit is stimulated by caffeine, cocaine, and other stimulants. This circuit introduces the third dimension, left and right, related to the development of dexterous movement and handling “artifacts”. (Also called by Leary The Dexterity-Symbolism Circuit; called by Robert Anton Wilson the Semantic Circuit.)
4. The Domestic Circuit. This circuit is concerned with operating within social networks and the transmission of culture across time. This circuit is said to have first appeared with the development of tribes. This fourth circuit deals with moral-social/sexual tribal rules passed through generations and is the introduction to the fourth dimension — time. (Also called by Leary and Wilson the Socio-Sexual Circuit). Leary never associated a drug with this circuit, though some have hypothesized that Oxytocin (released during and after childbirth) or MDMA might activate this circuit. Additionally, endorphins and other psychoactive substances produced by the body itself during social interaction can be connected to this circuit. The lack of knowledge about the cause and mechanism of these chemicals, as well as lack of a method to stimulating their production, would explain their non-mention in his works.
5. The Neurosomatic Circuit is the first of the right-brain, “higher” circuits which are usually inactive in most humans. It allows one to see things in multi-dimensional space instead of the 4 dimensions of Euclidean space-time, and is there to aid in the future exploration of outer space. It is said to have first appeared with the development of leisure-class civilizations around 2000 BC. It is associated with hedonism and eroticism. Leary says this circuit is stimulated by cannabis and tantric yoga, or simply by experiencing the sensation of free fall at the right time.
6. The Neuroelectric Circuit is concerned with the mind becoming aware of itself independent of the patterns imprinted by the previous five circuits. It is also called “metaprogramming” or “consciousness of abstracting”. Leary says this circuit enables telepathic communication, and that this circuit is impossible to explain to those who have only left-brain activity and is difficult to explain to those with active fifth circuits. It is said to have appeared in 500 BC, in connection with the Silk Road. Leary associates this circuit with peyote and psilocybin. (Robert Anton Wilson called this circuit The Metaprogramming Circuit, and places it 7th in the hierarchy.)
7. The Neurogenetic Circuit allows access to the genetic memory contained in DNA. It is connected to memories of past lives, the Akashic Records, and the collective unconscious, and allows for essential immortality in humans. This circuit first appeared among Hindu groups in the early first millennium and later reappeared in Sufi sects at the end of the first millennium (ca. 9th century). This circuit is stimulated by LSD, and Raja Yoga. (Robert Anton Wilson called this circuit The Morphogenetic Circuit.)
8. The Psycho-atomic Circuit allows access to the intergalactic consciousness that predates life in the universe (characterized as the Godhead, the Overmind or aliens), and lets humans operate outside of space-time and the constraints of relativity. It tunes the brain into the non-local quantum communication system suggested by physicists such as Bohm, Walker, Sarfatti, Bell, etc. Israel Regardie compared this to the Buddhist concept of Indra’s Net. This circuit is associated with Ketamine and DMT by Leary. While Wilson agreed Ketamine was associated with this circuit, he also believed very strong doses of LSD could unlock it. (Called also by Leary The Neuro-Atomic Circuit or The Metaphysiological Circuit, Robert Anton Wilson called this circuit The Non-Local Quantum Circuit.)
Leary claims that this model explained, among other things, the social conflict in the 1960s, where the mainstream, said to be those with circuit 4 active and characterized as tribal moralists by Leary, clashed with the counter-culturists, said to be those with circuit 5 active and characterized as individualists and hedonists.
Leary’s book on the subject was called Exo-Psychology, and has been republished with additional material in recent years under the title Info-Psychology (New Falcon Publishing).