Ric Amurrio

 12 min read


Liminal Consciousness is the state that exists between and betwixt, at the edges of boundaries, at dawn and dusk, in the moments before falling asleep and the moments of resurfacing from the dreamtime into waking. It is a time that is often more vulnerable, but also more alchemically charged. The liminal state is not as fully formed as what is on either side of it, it partakes of both sides, and therefore it is an ideal state for creating new forms.

“The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed — a situation which can lead to new perspectives.

The crossroads are a meeting of two directions, where a traveler must make a choice between continuing straight ahead and turning onto a new path directly away from the old one. Or like Rod Serling said (…) is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination(…)

The artist occupying a position at, or on both sides of the threshold of the liminal consciousness have been the main creative cultural force from roughly 1956 to 1996 , when the model stopped working and started to fold onto itself. One reason — among several — is that as soon as has the liminal spaces start getting really interesting, they get invaded and absorbed by the paradigmatic mind, The Hutts, Dopplegangers and other Empire figures, who ruins them. The cultural capital extracted from liminal spaces have a predictable lifecycle, in which success means death by drowing.

This insight was influenced by Venkatesh Rao’s Gervais Principle, an analysis of workplace dynamics.


When you find yourself in a circumstance where the principle of responsiveness has overcome the principles of conservation and dissonance you’ve now entered into a new location and this is what I’m calling liminal mind or liminal consciousness and so the first thing to keep in mind is that this space is in fact actually the base this is the source from which paradigms emerge and therefore it’s also the place to which paradigms dissolve when they break up completely.

You may have heard the word used in Tibetan Buddhism for the bardo state — the “transitional state” or “in-between state” or “liminal state”. Used loosely, the term “bardo” refers to the intermediate state of existence between lives on earth. The liminal space lies between the known and the unknown — the space is a transitional space of heightened intensity.


“I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees. Asked the lord above ‘have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please.’” — Robert Johnson, Cross Road Blues)1936).

The story tells of Robert Johnson, a young blues player, who wanted musical fame. Robert heard voices one night, telling him to take his guitar down to the crossroads at midnight. As he stood there waiting, a tall dark man walked up and told Robert he could have his fame in exchange for his soul. Robert agreed, the stranger took Robert’s guitar and tuned it. After receiving the guitar back, Robert played a few licks and was amazed at his improvement. When he looked back up, the dark stranger was gone. For now. At least that’s how the story goes. As to its truth?

Think Coltrane, Rabel, Debussy, Stravinsky: It’s as if Liminal existence can be located in a separated sacred space, which occupies a sacred time. Examples in the Bible include the dream of Jacob where he encounters God between heaven and earth and the instance when Isaiah meets the Lord in the temple of holiness. In such a liminal space, the individual experiences the revelation of sacred knowledge where God imparts his knowledge on the person in the subtle space between any sense of identity you’ll find there is something there that is neither and both and more. There is a dimensionalization of consciousness that allows us to exist in a kind of quantum reality where both ‘the particle and the wave’ co-exist. Wormholes are bridges through space-time that create a shortcut from one reality to another.

The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new forms to arise. We speak of emergence — but it’s usually inside the unexamined current perspective of thinking emergence is an action that happens between solid realities

More conventionally, springs, caves, shores, rivers, volcanic calderas — ‘ are used as another symbol of transcendence’ — , passes, crossroads, bridges, and marshes are all liminal: ‘“edges”, borders or faultlines between the legitimate and the illegitimate’. Oedipus (an adoptee and therefore liminal) met his father at the crossroads and killed him; Major transformations occur at crossroads and other liminal places, at least partly because liminality — being so unstable — can pave the way for access to esoteric knowledge or understanding of both sides. Liminality is sacred, alluring, and dangerous.

When you’re in a in a truly deeply mental space you don’t necessarily even have the capacity to name the things that you’re experiencing so making sense can become very limited and you might be in a part

perceiving something that under a paradigmatic frame you would call a tree but in a liminal space you don’t have a name for it you’re just experiencing it and it’s raw sensorial and of course this means you can be quite limited like your your ability to make meaningful choices.

Jungians have often seen the individuation process of self-realization as taking place within a liminal space. ‘Individuation begins with a withdrawal from normal modes of socialisation, epitomized by the breakdown of the persona…liminality’. .What takes place in the dark phase of liminality is a process of breaking down…in the interest of “making whole” one’s meaning, purpose and sense of relatedness once more.

Jungians however have perhaps been most explicit about the ‘need to accord space, time and place for liminal feeling’ — as well about the associated dangers, ‘two mistakes: we provide no ritual space at all in our lives…or we stay in it too long’. Indeed,

If the person is able to drop from this space and bring with him some valuable cultural capital more times than not you will create a scene. A scene is a small group of people with the ability of dropping in and out of liminal consciousness are able to invent an exciting New application — a musical genre, a religious sect, a film animation technique, a political theory. Riffing off each other, they produce examples and variants, and share them for mutual enjoyment, generating positive energy into a series of liminoid experiences

The new scene draws Disciples. Disciples contribute energy (time, money, adulation, organization, analysis) to support the people that are able to deop in and out of liminal consciousness. The Disciples totally love the New Thing, they’re fascinated with all its esoteric ins and outs, and they spend all available time either doing it or talking about it.

Liminoid experiences

In 1974, Victor Turner coined the term liminoid to refer to experiences that have characteristics of liminal experiences. A graduation ceremony might be regarded as liminal while attending a rock concert might be understood to be liminoid. The liminal is part of society, an aspect of social or religious rite, while the liminoid is a break from society, part of “play” or “playing”. Turner stated that liminal rites are rare and diminished in industrial societies, and ‘forged the concept of “liminoid” rituals for analogous but secular phenomena’ such as attending rock concerts and other liminoid experiences.

David Chapman Meaningness explains really well. If the scene is sufficiently complex, it remains a strictly geek thing; a weird hobby, not a subculture. If the scene is unusually exciting, and the Liminoid experience can be appreciated without having to expend too much time on the details, it draws the paradigmatic mind. People that are not able to drop in and out of liminal consciousness mind are appreciative, but not devotees like the Disciples. They show up to have a good time, and contribute as little as they reasonably can in exchange.

The liminal consciousness welcomes paradigmatic mind to the liminoid experience at first at least. It’s the mass of paradigmatic minds who turn cultural capital into a money. Creation, reception or whatever you want to call it is always at least partly an act of generosity; The people that are able drop in and out of liminal consciousness want as many people to use and enjoy their creations as possible. It’s also good for the ego; it confirms that the New Liminoid experience really is exciting, and not just a geek obsession.


So the paradigm exists as I said for the purpose of making sense of your environments so that you can then make meaningful choices and bond reality however paradigms also seem to have two other primary characteristics. The first is the principle of responsiveness which is to say that the paradigm exists as I said for the purpose of making sense of your environments so that you can then make meaningful choices and effective choices in your environment so paradigms emerge so that you can bond reality however paradigms also seem to have two other primary characteristics

The second is the principle of conservation which is to say that paradigms in some sense seek to

change as little as they can possibly change and only change it at the edges minimally

The third is the principle of minimum dissonance which is to say that if some kind of perception shows up some experience comes in that doesn’t make sense in the paradigm. Paradigms need to solve dissonance but they need to resolve dissonance also under the principle of maximum conservation

The liminoid experience is a blast however, as their numbers grow, they become a headache. Disciples do all the organizational work, initially just on behalf of liminal mind: out of generosity, and to enjoy a g sub society. They put on events, build websites, tape up publicity fliers, and deal with accountants. The paradigmatic mind just passively soak up the good stuff like Mark Chapman from meaningness highlight — (…) you may even have to push them around the floor; Hipsters they have to be led to the drink. At best you can charge them admission or a subscription fee, but they’ll inevitably argue that this is wrong because capitalism is evil, and also because they forgot their wallet(…)

There’s another phenomenon, that of bro or bro-dude, which is the polar opposite of the hipster. You know them by their preppie-frat-beach-rawk fashions, their polo shirts, their shorts and sandals, their university hoodies, and their backwards baseball caps, You’ve seen them getting way too drunk on weak light beer whenever they’re out,

The paradigmatic mind also dilute the culture. The New Thing, and its liminoid manifestations although attractive, is more intense and weird and complicated than the people stuck in a paradigmatic mind would prefer. Their favorite songs are the ones that are least the New Thing, and more like other, popular things. Some with access to liminal consciousness oblige with less radical, friendlier, simpler creations.

Disciples may be generous, but they signed up to support people that are one step removed from magic able not paradigmatic minds. At this point, they may all quit, and the cultural capital is up for grabs.


Oh, by the way… which one’s Pink?

The cultural capital at this stage is ripe for exploitation. The liminal consciousness generate cultural capital, i.e. cool. The Disciples generate social capital: a network of relationships — strong ones among the liminal mind, and weaker but numerous ones with paradigmatic mind. The paradigmatic mind, when properly squeezed, produces liquid capital, i.e. money.

None of those groups have any clue about how to extract and manipulate any of those forms of capital. So the large slug-like sentient species, the Hutts quickly become best friends with people dropping in and out of liminal consciousness. Also at the same time we see the appearance of Doppelgängers. They dress just like the cool, only better. They talk just like the liminal mind — only smoother as if they were partaking of the same liminal consciousness. They may even do some creating/replication — competently, if not creatively. The people dropping in and out of liminal consciousness may not be completely fooled, but they also are clueless about what the hangers on are up to.

People dropping in and out of liminal consciousness really are not much into details and the Doppelgangers look to them like better versions of themselves, only better. They are now the coolest kids in the room, demoting the access to liminal consciousness. At this stage, they take their pick of the best-looking paradigmatic mind to sleep with. They’ve extracted the cultural capital.

The Hutts also work out how to monetize paradigmatic mind — of hipsters and bros which the Disciples were never good at. With better publicity materials, the addition of a light show, and new, more crowd-friendly product, they create a new polished liminoid experience, almost as good as the real thing, admission fees go up tenfold, and paradigmatic mind are willing to pay. Somehow, not much of the money goes to the people dropping in and out of liminal consciousness. However, more of them do get enough to go full-time, which means there’s more product to sell.

The Hutts which have always being in contact with the Empire side also hire some of the Disciples as actual service workers. They resent it, but at least they too get to work full-time on the New Thing, which they still love, even in the Miller Lite version.

As far as the Hutts, Doppelgangers and the empire stormtroopers are concerned, it generates easily-exploited pools of prestige, sex, power, and money.

The rest of the Disciples get pushed out, or leave in disgust, broken-hearted end up hating each other, due first to the stress of supporting paradigmatic mind, and later due to the gangsters crowd divide-and-conquer manipulation tactics.)


After a couple years, the cool is all used up: partly because the shiny New Thing that was was being pushed by the New Kid In Town is no longer new, and partly because it was diluted into New Lite, which is inherently uncool. As the people stuck on paradigmatic minds dwindle, the Hutts and the empire loot whatever value is left, and move on to the next exploit.

They leave behind only wreckage: devastated people on the threshold of awareness who still have no idea what happened to their wonderful New Thing and the wonderful friendships they formed around it.


The Hutts only show up if there’s enough body count of paradigmatic mind to exploit, so excluding (or limiting) paradigmatic mind is a strategy for excluding “Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar” crowds. Some subcultures do understand this, and succeed with it.

So what is to be done? A slogan of Rao’s may point the way: Be slightly evil. Or: The people on the threshold between paradigmatic and liminal consciousness mind need to learn and use some of the “hutt tricks. Then liminal mind can capture more of the value they create (and get better at ejecting bad actors as they arrive.

Rao concludes his analysis by explaining that his Hutts, he calls them sociopaths, are actually nihilists, in much the same sense The cultural capital usually created by people dropping in and out of liminal consciousness is usually eternalistic: the New Thing is a source of meaning that gives everything in life purpose. Eternalistic naïveté makes subcultures much easier to exploit.

“Slightly evil” defense of a cultural capital requires realism: letting go of eternalist hope and faith in imaginary guarantees that the New way pof accessing the liminoid experience will triumph. Such realism is characteristic of nihilism. Nihilism has its own delusions, though. It is worth trying to create beautiful, useful New Things — and worth defending them against nihilism. A fully realistic worldview corrects both eternalistic and nihilistic errors





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