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Dead medium: The Experiential Typewriter
From: (Larry Schroeder)
Source(s): Timothy Leary. HIGH PRIEST. College Notes and Texts, Inc., New American Library, NYC, 1968. Library of Congress 68-9031.

Timothy Leary. The Experiential Typewriter. Psychedelic Review #7, pp 70-85. University Books, New Hyde Park, NY, 1966.

(((Following excerpts outline the article. I give the terminal summary in full, and move it to the beginning in lieu of an abstract. Breaks not indicated.)))


A communication device - the Experiential Typewriter - is described, consisting of a twenty-key manual keyboard linked to a moving pen-recorder. Subjects are pretrained in a code of experiential categories. The recording paper then gives a moment-to-moment record of the flow of experience. The uses of such a device are outlined in 1) recording the flow of experience, 2) session programming, 3) ESP research, 4) correlation of experiential with physiological recordings, 5) developing languages of consciousness. Different codes should be developed for different kinds of experiential research. A code based on "*The Psychedelic Experience*" and an illustrative experiment using a single subject are presented.

(((End of summary)))

The communicating device known as the Experiential Typewriter was designed by Dr. Ogden Lindsey of the Harvard Medical School and William Getzinger, electronic engineer with MIT's Lincoln Laboratory.

Certain requirements had to be met: the device should allow for touch tying of messages by subjects lying or sitting in darkened rooms. The keyboards had to be separate and the keys had to be engineered to fit the structure of the hand and fingers.

The recording had to be set up so that a separate finger- movement had to be made to register an experience. It was anticipated that during high points of sessions subjects would lose contact with the instruments and might hold down a key for long periods. To avoid this eventuality, each time a key is depressed a mark is made on the polygraph, but if the key is held down no further impression is recorded until the key is released.

Mr. Getzinger's description of the four major parts of the typewriter is as follows:

1. Twenty-pen Recorder

a. The registration of reactions is accomplished by an Esterline-Angus Operation Recorder with internal wiring modified so that operation with pulsed D.C. is possible.

2. The Console

d. The phone recept connects with a similar recept on the left-hand keyboard to allow spoken communication between keyboard location and console location.

e. The round button on the sloping panel energizes a lamp in a similar button on the left-hand keyboard, and vice versa, thus allowing simple visual signaling between keyboard and console.

3. Connecting Cables

4. The Keyboards

1 2 3 4 11 12 13 14

5 6 7 8 15 16 17 18

9 10 19 20

*The Keyboard of the Experiential Typewriter*

The usefulness of the Experiential Typewriter depends on the meaningfulness of the experiential language to be coded.

At this point, *ad hoc* languages should be set up for each session: for each raid into the uncharted.

We divided the two ten-unit boards of the typewriter into: Game-concepts from conventional language: left-hand keys. Hallucinatory, revelatory, and transcendental experiences: right-hand keys.

*Experiential Modes Based on Self Games*

1. Bodily sensations (e.g., pain, itch, tickle)

2. Moods and emotional states

3. Interpersonal felings towards others

4. Cognitive modes of perception

*Experiential Modes Based on Cultural Games*

5. Awareness in terms of body-maintenance games, including sex

6. Awareness in terms of social-cultural games, including family

7. Awareness in terms of aesthetic-recreational games

8. Awareness in terms of intellectual-scientific games

9. Awareness in terms of religious-philosophic games

*The Negative Experience Key*

The right thumb key (of the left hand) is a master key which can modify any other key to indicate a negative experience.

10. Negative modification or interpretation of experience

(((The right-hand keys are reserved for the, uh, far-out stuff.)))

*Transcendental and Transitional-Experiential Modes*

(((Discussion includes "DPIs," *direct process images*, "LFIs," *learned form images*, and "trans-language" based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.)))

*The Two Basic Transcendental States*

20. Awareness of physical energy processes, phenomenologically labeled "void," "white light," "pure energy," "vibratons," etc.

19. Biological processes. Phenomenologically the subject experiences the life energy directly and without the imposition of any conceptual LFI.

*The Four Basic Transitional States*

12. Immediate sensory awareness (without cognitive contact)

13. Revelation

17. Ecstacy-unity-liberation

18. Hallucinations

11. Internal modifier of awareness (((used to signify an internal (eyes-closed) awareness))).


After a trained subject has over-learned the keyboard and has practiced sending experiences it is now possible to use the typewriter in a wide range of empirical studies.

1. Basic Recording of a Flow of Experience

2. Sessions Programming

The typwriter console and keyboards have telephone sockets which make it possible for a person in another room to communicate with the subject. If the observer reads the typewriter and sees that the subject is not experiencing what he has planned he can immediately communicate with the subject and get instant feedback as to whether his intervention has changed the subject's consciousness in the direction of the plan.

3. Extrasensory Perception Research

4. Physiological Studies of Consciousness

(((Used in conjunction with bio-telemetry)))

5. Detailed Languages of Consciousness

(((To evolve and tailor the language of the keyboard. Given the foregoing and Dr. Leary's subsequent career, the concluding sentence of this paragraph aroused some bemused cynicism)))

The day of the psychologist imposing his game, his roles, rules, rituals and above all his language on the subject is about over.

*Example of Experiment Using the Experiential Typewriter*

(((This used a simplified 10-key typewriter, a lad of 24, and 250 gamma of LSD. Results are summarized and comments follow.)))

The subject reported drifting off into areas of reduced awareness during [the last part of the test]. He was apparently no longer aware of the room, the E.T. and the task.

Larry Schroeder,