Anti-Glass Bead Games

"Magic" is not always thought of too highly in our scientistic, rationalistic culture. In fact, "magical thinking" is a term of disgust, an actual diagnosis, among psychiatrists: it is thought to be a sign of mental illness. By "magical thinking" they generally mean the kind of thinking they believe to be prevalent in "primitive" cultures -- homeopathic and contagious associations of the Golden Bough sort. For example, if I tell a psychiatrist that I know that a friend is thinking about me because I heard --

OK, this is a perfect example. I was about to say something like "because I heard the radio say my name at the same time I heard someone say my friend's name." This has never happened to me in just this way, but to continue, if I said I thought my friend was thinking about me because the Universe tossed up our two names to my ear simultaneously -- well, a psychiatrist would call this thinking "primitive" and "magical" and possibly a symptom of mental illness. It certainly isn't the cause-and-effect, linear way most people in our culture think.

When I interrupted myself above, my stereo was tuned to a station that was playing a song I don't really know or like, but the lyrics at just that moment were "If the night echoes your name...". I know from talking to other people that sometimes synchronicities have a "you had to be there" quality that loses everything in the telling, but I hope this is a sufficiently strong one to make my point. The radio seemed to be "echoing" my thought about the radio "echoing my name" in a dizzying "hall-of-mirrors" sort of self-reference that I call "metasynchronicity," or synchronicity about synchronicity. It usually happens when I strongly need to make a point about synchronicity, now that I no longer need to be convinced it exists myself.

Now psychiatrists are virtually immune to this sort of stuff, or at least the ones who don't read Jung, which is almost all of them, in my experience. They would dismiss my last paragraph as utter gibberish. (Neologisms are another sign of a Sick Mind.) I hope you don't dismiss it, but I have hopes that the majority reading this essay are a bit more broad-minded than shrinks. Believe me, when they go through med school, the only heads they shrink are their own.

How do I know so much about shrinks and crazy people? Well, besides being a psych major in college, I've been through the Mental Health Industrial Complex a few times. Those of you who've known me a while or visited my web site also know that I've been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic (in remission, thank you). If you're interested more in (a) madness, and (b) synchronicity as it relates to (a), I can point you to two pieces of mine: "Cynanthropy" and "WHGA."

All this is a long, roundabout way of introducing a fairly simple idea: that the mad are often playing a horrible internal Anti-Glass Bead Game. For example, in "Cynanthropy" I talk about the "coex" or "condensed experience" side of madness. It seems that an infinite number of ideas are crowding your head at once, and they're all related in some way. It's like a terrifying game of connect-the-dots with a godzillion concepts.

For example, the first time I went crazy, when I was twenty, a lot of things I had read in science fiction or horror that had made a strong impression on me "connected up." Remember the scene in 1984 when Winston Smith is brainwashed and finally sees six fingers on his tormentor's hand? I made a "link" with R.A. Lafferty's short SF story, "The Six Fingers of Time" in which a cabal of people with six fingers rules the world. When I went into my Developmental Psych class that day, we were examining a chart that showed polydactyly running in a family (it was intended to teach us how to read pedigree charts, an important skill in developmental psychology). That really set me off. Another link was formed.

Now imagine all ideas, all phenomena, everything around you becoming cross-linked in a perfect, static, crystalline web as hard as diamond with stark terror at the center and you will have an idea of what I experienced.

These "links" -- do they sound familiar? They should. It is my sense that the links between ideas that form in madness ("schizophrenia"), the "magical thinking" we've been talking about, that these links are exactly the same sort of links that one would make in a good Glass Bead Game, but with the sign reversed. Instead of positive, life-affirming, powerful symbolism, the mad have negative, life-threatening imagery and associations that are so powerful to them they cannot escape no matter how hard they try. They have the potential to be Glass Bead Game players, but for the moment they are bound in the coils of an inverted, satanic rosary.

Ron Hale-Evans
Founder, Center for Ludic Synergy
Gamemaster, Kennexions
Charter Member, Bamboo Garden of Seattle

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Ron Hale-Evans

Last modified: 23 September 1999