Annihilate Mankind and Impress Your Friends: A Correspondence Course
By Matt Andrew
June 4, 19__
Before we discuss the course in question, allow me to clear the air as to what you may have heard about me.
I am not the disgraced head of neuroscience at the Dienstag Neurological Institute—I am merely retired. Nor was I sacked as visiting professor of philosophy at Madrid’s Universidad de Unamuno. Let’s call it an extended sabbatical. By virtue of your enthusiastic application requesting to learn the mysteries of the human mind, you are, I hope, more interested in what I have to offer than in dinner party gossip.
With that out of the way, allow me a short moment to discuss what this course will not include.
Despite the fact that I am the author of obscure, out-of-print philosophical treatises such as Evolutionary Misstep: A User’s Guide, The Human Cataclysm, and Disaster of Consciousness, we will not be discussing philosophical pessimism or antinatalism in this course.
We will not discuss how much better the planet, as well as its attendant flora and fauna, would have fared if it had not been for the accidental appearance of the homo sapien.
I will do my best to spare you any discussion in the countless reasons why we would have been better off having never been born.
Nor will we ruminate over our future descendants, trillions of them, tragically and involuntarily conscripted for miserable lifetime terms, like rats on a sinking ship.
Although we will be discussing just how malleable and foolhardy the human brain became as a result of the evolutionary hiccup that birthed us, we will definitely not discuss how destructive this knowledge can be in the wrong hands.
No, I will simply be walking you through a few party tricks based on simple human neuroscience. Apply yourself to my short lessons, and you will delight your friends and astound your family!
Now, as soon as I receive the one-time registration fee, I will promptly reply with your first lesson. Remember, check or money order, only—no cash.
I look forward to working with you!
June 10, 19__
Thank you for your prompt payment—now let’s have some fun!
I call this first trick…
The Mystery of the Detached Nose
For this gag, you’ll need two assistants and two dining room chairs. For the purposes of this illustration, I will henceforth refer to these assistants as “Billy” and “Sally.”
The setup is simple. Orient the chairs so that they face each other. Place them as close as possible, while allowing their occupants to sit comfortably and without their knees touching.
Next, blindfold yourself and sit in one chair, and have Billy sit across from you in the other. Sally will stand on your right side.
Instruct Sally to take a hold of your right arm at the wrist, and manipulate your arm so that your index finger touches the tip of Billy’s nose. Sally will continue to touch, tap, and stroke Billy’s nose with your finger in a random pattern resembling Morse Code. It is important that the contact between your finger and Billy’s nose is completely random and in no way follows a pattern.
At the same time, Sally will use her free hand index finger to touch, tap, and stroke your nose in the exact same pattern. The movements between your right hand and Sally’s hand must be perfectly synchronized.
After about 30–60 seconds, if performed exactly as instructed, you will feel the uncanny sensation that your nose has been detached from your head and is now floating a few feet in front of your face!
Now for a bit of explanation:
Your body is a phantom…
What we perceive as our physical “self” is just an arbitrary “map” that covers the cerebral cortex. Stimulate any given area of the cortex and you instantly perceive the accompanying sensation on the respective body part assigned to that particular portion of the map. This system of nerve endings lends itself to be easily fooled. People who have suffered amputations can sense real feelings in their missing limbs. The brain is even known to reassign the map and accompanying sensations in order to make sense of our evolving body images.
So, with this new trick, you’ve just royally confused your brain with the help of Billy and Sally. Your gray matter is forced to make basic deductive assumptions in order to make sense of the situation:
Your arm is outstretched and tapping something that feels like a nose.
At the same time, the portion of the cerebral cortex associated with your nose is receiving sensory inputs in the same exact sequence.
Therefore, according to your brain, your nose must be detached and floating in space in front of you. It is the only possible answer that makes sense to our dim-witted nerve centers.
To achieve the full effects of an experiment of this type, focus is essential. Picture all the nerve centers at play as just…matter. Your nose, Billy’s nose, Sally’s hand, your hand—all just cells of the same composition and origin. All as equally simple to tap into as your own body parts.
To hone your concentration even further, recite a mantra while you are blindfolded and Sally taps your nose. Something like this:
This is my nose
This is not my nose
This is not Billy’s nose
This is not anyone’s nose
There is no nose
It is only matter…
Even after the experiment is over and Billy and Sally have gone home, keep practicing the mantra. Recite it when you look in the bathroom mirror. When you watch your mother cook in the kitchen. When the commuter train passes you at the Main Street Station.
That is not me
That is not my mother
Those are not passengers
We are just matter…
Once you’ve had a chance to feel the effects of the “detached nose,” switch positions, blindfold Sally and Billy, and give them a try. Insist that they repeat a mantra as you say it along with them. Most humans lead simple lives swathed in comfort and denial, so they may need help opening their minds…pun intended 😉
Let me know how it goes, and have fun!
June 19, 19__
I was heartened to read your summary of your rapid success. Well done! Keep in mind that these experiments are never truly over. Always practice your mantra.
For that first trick, we demonstrated how easily the human brain could be fooled. Now, I show you how it can be completely reconfigured.
I like to call this one…
The Mystery of the Severed Hand
For this second experiment, you will need one assistant (let’s call him “Johnny”) and a rubber gag hand that you would buy as a Halloween prank at a costume store.
Sit down at a small table where Johnny can sit within a short arm’s reach across from you. Beforehand, construct a cardboard partition a few feet square that you can place on the table between you and Johnny. Lay your right hand behind the partition, out of sight, so that only Johnny can see it, and place the rubber hand in front of the partition where you can see it.
Next, instruct Johnny to use both of his hands to simultaneously tap and stroke your hidden right hand and the rubber dummy hand. As before, the sequence must be executed in a random but synchronous manner. There must be no perceivable pattern, nor should there be any visible movement where Johnny is tapping your hidden right hand, or it may ruin the illusion.
And, voila…if executed correctly, you will gain the uncanny sensation that the rubber hand is actually your real hand!
As before, the brain has been fooled and is unable to find an explanation for the resulting dissonance other than to assign sensation to a lifeless, disembodied rubber hand.
Patience and focus are essential. These tricks don’t always succeed on the first try. Don’t be afraid to conduct several sessions, with different assistants, if necessary. The results will almost surely be inconsistent if you do not recite the mantra to hone your efforts:
This hand is not rubber
This hand is flesh
This is my hand
I am this hand…
For added effect, have Johnny repeat the mantra with you, over and over, as long as it takes to create the sensation that the rubber hand is actually your hand. Think about nothing other than your trillions of synapses and nerve endings leading from your brain to that cold hunk of rubber before you.
Dictate reality on your own terms.
Repeat the mantra until each and every word has lost its individual meaning, and instead become incoherent jumbles combined with the ambient sounds around you.
The syllables will become conductors that propel your energies into that rubber hand.
This hand is not rubber
This hand is flesh
This is Johnny’s hand
Johnny is this hand…
Once you’ve had some fun with that, let’s alter reality even further by ditching the rubber hand. Conduct the experiment exactly as described, except Johnny will tap the table top in front of you instead of the rubber hand. As before, he will stroke and tap your hidden hand at the same time. Don’t forget your mantra:
This is not a table.
This is not wood.
This is flesh.
There is no table.
There is no wood.
There is no flesh.
There is only matter…
The mantra is key. Let the words sink deeply into you as if an echo within an infinite well.
If all goes well, that gelatinous gray mass between your ears will assign living sensation to an inanimate, wooden table!
Amazing, isn’t it?
You’ve completely rewired your brain to accept any object as part of your body…part of your “self.”
Continue your observations even after this trick has been successfully
accomplished. See your phantom self. See your phantom mother. See those phantom train passengers. See those phantoms sipping lattes in the coffee shop. You’ll begin to see the phantoms everywhere. Just matter, all around you.
There is no me.
There is no them.
There is no flesh.
There is only matter…
July 3, 19__
Allow me to congratulate you. That second trick usually takes a bit longer to master. Your summary was very thorough, and your insistence on utilizing the mantra in all aspects of your life reflects a true passion for unlocking the secrets of the mind. You appear to be a natural—great work!
Now let’s have some fun…
First, I showed you how the mind could be fooled. Then, I demonstrated how the nerve centers could be completely rewired. All reinforced through intense focus, observation, and willpower.
Now, you will use these concepts to take complete control of matter. The old wives’ tale says we only use ten percent of our brain. I say it doesn’t matter—the brain has become a crutch. We’ve entrusted a blind, deaf cretin with the controls of our destiny. You have the knowledge to render your consciousness (and everyone’s around you) utterly obsolete.
This last “trick” is not a trick. Instead, let’s call it “field application.”
Go to a public place. Somewhere you can sit and watch the people of your town come and go. Somewhere you can get up close without too much notice, but a relaxed setting that will allow you to focus on an unsuspecting group of people. Somewhere to observe all the matter around you. A coffee shop may do nicely.
Take in the smell of nutmeg and cinnamon. Listen to the wet thrum of traffic outside the plate glass windows as they speed over wet asphalt. The chatter of people gossiping over decafs. Hurried commuters placing rushed orders at the counter. Feel the cracked leather of the cheap armchair under your palms, one of several arranged in neat groups of four. The orange glow of bowl-shaped lamps complementing the blue dawn haze outside. The rumble of an airliner descending to land at the nearby airport.
Find someone sitting nearby. Focus on them.
For example, that elderly woman in teal polyester and matching cardigan. The one with the knitting bag by her feet. Gleaming needles embedded in balls of yarn.
Watch her knobby fingers. Her paper-thin skin stretched over spotted knuckles. Focus on those digits as she rips open yellow packets of sugar substitute, pours them in her tea. Will those hands to do whatever you want them to do. They are your hands. It is your flesh.
Her fingers are my fingers
Her flesh is my flesh
Her bones are my bones
There are no fingers
There is no flesh
There are no bones
There is only matter…
It may take days, weeks, even months of concentration, but imagine just what mischief you could cause with your newfound knowledge. Wouldn’t it be funny to have her pour that sugar substitute into the potted rhododendron next to her?!
Throw off the shackles of the mind.
There is only matter…
Or that young man hunched over his notebook, rewriting his notes from the day’s lecture in preparation for final exams. A nice, sharp number-two pencil scratching feverishly over a yellow legal pad.
That is my hand
That is my arm
That is my pencil
That is my flesh
There is no flesh
There is no pencil
There is only matter…
Take control. Repeat the mantra and command the matter to do what you will it to do. Reconfigure their matter to become one with yours.
Take your time with this step. Focus. Spend all day, every day, practicing. Remember that the human mind is malleable, a dumb, infantile object waiting to be told what to do. Tell it what to believe.
Let me know how it goes!
September 29, 19__
Considering the news reports of the violence and chaos spreading rapidly across the tri-state region, we can drop the subterfuge. Your field testing has gone better than I’d hoped.
I’ve been following your local news ever since taking you on as a pupil. I realized the measure of your success before you personally reported it, primarily from the front-page headlines of your local paper.
LOCAL SIBLINGS MUTILATE THEMSELVES
Soon after our first lesson, it seems that “Billy” and “Sally” were discovered in their garage by their parents in the early morning hours. Their noses had been severed from their faces, by their own hands, and nailed to the wall in front of them. The last report stated that they remained catatonic at the state psychiatric hospital, their only verbal communication a “strange mumbling of nonsensical chants.”
Shortly after mailing your second lesson, an incident occurred in your town too terrible to even describe in the local paper. A report was passed on to me from a former colleague of mine currently employed in the office of your state health department.
A young man we’ll call “Johnny” was found dead in his parents’ living room, his corpse fused to the heavy walnut coffee table. Initial reports surmised that his body had been forced through the wood, although this would have taken a lunatic of immense strength and determination.
Imagine my colleague’s surprise and confusion when health officials determined that, instead, his cells had been fused to that of the wood composing the table. Wood grains were found interwoven into his skin. And human tissue was found sandwiched between the various wood grains. Last I heard, they had determined that there was no feasible way to separate the victim from the table and the entire mess had to be cremated together.
At this point, I was already ecstatic of your accomplishments. And then came what international media outlets have dubbed the “Coffee Shop Massacre” (which is a misnomer, considering the entire strip mall became a slaughterhouse).
Mass suicides occurring within multiple pockets of random, homicidal fury. Scores dead and hundreds injured. Well, you know this, already—you were there.
My next advice would have been for you to teach what you have learned to a committed core of acolytes, but judging from the region’s rapid descent into madness, you’re way ahead of me.
This will most likely be my last letter. The neighboring state has
almost completely fallen, so I’ll be lucky if the trusty US Postal Service is around much longer (“through rain, snow, sleet, hail, and apocalyptic mass murder…”).
I’m not in a hurry to be ripped apart by the hordes of mindless murderers spilling across the country, so an extra-large dose of China White, administered by one of my favorite local “ladies of the night,” will have carted me off quietly into oblivion by the time you receive this.
And now I must thank you. After my career disintegrated, I sought solace in alcohol, recreational drugs, and other immoral distractions. My mind isn’t what it used to be. Now, I’m happy to say, I can vicariously watch the welcome end of humanity, thanks to you, my best student.
I am heartened in the thought that our planet will recover, eventually, and live a much happier existence without us. Trillions of future unborn humans would reach across time and space to thank you for sparing them the curse of birth.
© 2020, Matt Andrew