The Gateway: The First 4th-Dimensional NFT
Artist Thobey Campion’s life went down a rabbit hole when he came across, “The Gateway Experience.”
This 1983 classified CIA commissioned report spelled out the feasibility of militarizing astral projection.
“We’re talking Cold War,” explains Campion. “We’re talking psychic Soviet spies – where all different types of experimental espionage were being trialed and explored by the U.S.”
The document, which was declassified in 2003, details a training system designed to focus brainwave output to alter consciousness and ultimately escape the restrictions of time and space.
Campion’s February piece for Vice on the CIA document is the basis of his new project: The Gateway – the first 4th-dimensional NFT that contains 658 digitally micro-inscribed astral projection experiences. The experiences were cultivated from thousands of messages Campion received from his readers, and are viewable thanks to SuperRare’s integration of a new lossless zoom functionality.
The Genesis: Campion’s story opened a Pandora’s Box with readers.
When the piece ran, the declassified CIA report had one glitch: Page 25 was missing from the document.
When society as a whole starts taking it more seriously they’d be surprised what the human mind can do
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #382
Speculations were afoot on Reddit and Tik Tok regarding the contents. The most intriguing hypothesis: Page 25 was left out of the report on purpose. The idea being, if someone could successfully astral project and move backwards and forwards in time and space, they’d be able to retrieve the page and prove that they had done so by disclosing the content.
“Page 25, it’s not a random page,” Campion explains. “The report crescendos just before the page; you kind of feel as if the secrets of the heavens are about to be unveiled for you…and then the page is just not there.”
Included in Campion’s story was his email address – so people could reach out to him if they had more information about Page 25, as well as share their own astral projection experiences.
I eventually achieved a fast enough FFR to stay “clicked out” long enough to record ALL phases of time
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #521
Thus, roughly a day after publication, an email frenzy was triggered.
“I’d never seen emails come into my inbox like this. It was totally chaos.
At this point I think I’ve looked at like 23,000 emails,” he says. “They weren’t sad-lonely, but they’re isolated stories of people who have had an experience. They don’t have any way of grounding it in reality – or have anyone to discuss with about it.”
EVERYTIME the rush from “spirit” me into sleeping me would connect, I’d JOLT up
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #191
Campion found that having an out-of-body experience is a very common phenomenon – and the responses highlighted questions humans have about bridging the gap between the material and spiritual worlds.
“After you read about 30 of them in a row, you kind of lose connection with the physical world yourself,” he explains. “And you’ve got some extraordinary descriptions of people’s experiences traveling around the universe.”
Thus, a spark was ignited: “And so that was my idea; what if we bring them all together into one place?”
But still, an important element needed to be uncovered: Fortunately, one person that reached out to Campion was a representative from the Monroe Institute – the organization that originally conducted the astral projection research project for the CIA.
The sleep paralysis thing is nature’s way of keeping us in our bodies
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #604
The Monroe Institute email teased: “We’ve got something that I think that you might want.”
The rep, of course, was referring to the mythical Page 25.
The resistance dissipates so the vibrations can travel faster
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #258
Like a plot from a John le Carré novel, Campion was told that Page 25 was being kept in a bunker below a barn in Virginia. He was then asked the $10,000 question: “Do you want the missing page to the CIA document?”
“The one mystery I have not been able to figure out is why the Monroe Institute had it, but the CIA repeatedly denied that it ever existed.”
But right after the tease – the Monroe Institute went radio silent.
“They just disappeared,” says Campion. “They never sent me the page and I was left high and dry.”
Once again, Page 25 was a shrouded puzzle.
Our mind generates a map of reality that we confuse for the real thing
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #83
Until one evening. Campion got a call from Jenny Whedbee, The Monroe Institute’s marketing director. She said: “Look, the corporate people that you were speaking with are no longer at the organization… and here’s the page.” Whedbee added: “I hope you do something weird with it.”
Whedbee explained that Page 25 reappearance was largely due to Campion’s story; and she expressed the contents wouldn’t have been appropriate to previously release, but now, in this post-pandemic world – the timing was right.
“And she just dropped it into an email,” says Campion.
Upon reading, Campion knew there was something more…
“It’s pretty remarkable what it achieves in just one page,” he says. “It basically unites the human tradition of spirituality, quantum physics, huge ideas around cosmology, the forming of the universe, and modern tenets of psychology – into one brief.”
A vivid blue hummingbird flew by me and landed directly on my shoulder. it stuck out its tongue and tickled my ear, I laughed out loud so hard it woke me LOL
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #498
“And that what’s fascinating to me is that it’s kind of a unifying theory for our existence within the broader spectrum of the cosmos,” he adds. “And it really does lean heavily on the importance of an understanding of the self as a first step in understanding the world around us.”
HOW THE ARTWORK WAS BORN
Campion, who also creates graphics and multimedia for his stories, began to think about what really weird visual project he could do to end his Gateway journey – and bring all the elements together to reflect his experience.
At first, he was a bit reluctant to jump into the NFT project – because of all the whipping winds: “You’ve got the military and a spy organization. You’ve got religion and psychology. You’ve got a lot of people’s personal stories about psychological journeys they’ve gone on,” he says. “So, I decided that the move would be to do a perfect print replica of the page, including all the pollution on the page from being reproduced over the years which was meant to signify the interference that people tend to report having when they try and astral project.”
Undeniable aspect of existence and the one thing that has stopped me from embracing a completely materialist outlook
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #321
“I poked into the nature of the digital file,” Campion says. “And luckily it was a vector image, so it would remain intact no matter how I reproduced it – even if I blew it up to a massive size.”
After jumping in, production moved fast. He received page 25 on March 23rd and completed The Gateway NFT on April 8th..
Campion first printed the page in L.A. – and shipped it to Eugene, Oregon, where Zane Kesey (son of author Ken Kesey) – who is the world’s most renowned blotter artist, perforated the page into 900 individual acid tabs, and then shipped had it back to L.A.
“At this point, it had become a full-on obsession,” states Campion. “Like, I don’t even know why I’m doing this anymore.”
Campion then brought the page in studio, knocked out one tab, took a photo of it on a medium format camera and then drum-scanned the negative to produce a dangerously crisp TIF file. This allowed him to zoom in on each individual tab and paste in all the different astral projection experiences; one per tab; for a total of 658. In a nod to steganography, each micro-inscription is only visible at 300% magnification.
“When you’re looking at the image from afar, it just looks like a normal piece of paper with some perforations on it. And then you start to see these little bits of text. And as you get closer and closer – you’re able to read them.”
Above all, I understood that everything – absolutely everything in existence follows the exact same pattern
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #144
WORKING WITH SUPERRARE
The Gateway is being released on SuperRare alongside the debut of an industry-first lossless NFT zoom tool. SuperRare worked with Campion to develop the technology that allows artists to explore the extraordinary detail that can be built into a digital image.
“I see it having a major impact on NFTs as they start to evolve in approach and objective and meaning,” Campion says. “There’s so many people that are going to want to take advantage of essentially the fourth dimension in NFTs.”
The zoom tool is an extension of Campion’s background writing about the possibilities that fit inside of a human perceptual blind spot. For the tool, Campion took inspiration from artists, such as Daniel Arsham – who pour a lot of detail into a space – along with a zoom feature created by Chinese outfit Big Pixel that allows you to start from afar – to succinctly hone in on people’s irises.
“It should be an option for artists, whether they want to have that level of scrutiny on their pixels,” says Campion. “For the artists that are building more and more detail into their work – you’ve essentially got a whole new dimension to work with. So rather than a flat two-dimensional canvas where what-you-see-is-what-you-get – you’ve got the ability to build worlds inside your work.”
The creation of the zoom tool completes Campion’s quest for Page 25. He found himself personally driven to something that was internal on the page that would explain the gap in our experience as humans.
I have no understanding, no technical language for the math/science/physics I am encountering
— ASTRAL PROJECTION EXPERIENCE #606
Ultimately, The Gateway project was an attempt by Campion to create a microcosm to reflect how important it might be for all our voices to come together to realize our potential and serve as a reminder that there is more to life than just what our senses are able to pick up.
“And with that level of curiosity, I have high hopes for humanity,” he says. “We spend so much time in our life looking around us, outside of our own experience, trying to figure things out – and Page 25 was quick to emphasize the importance of the internal world in making sense of our reality.”
What Campion found with Page 25 is that with great power comes great responsibility.
“Everything it touches, just causes this wild reaction,” Campion concluded. “It’s almost to the point where I want to warn people; as soon as this is in your life, it’s going to cause a reaction you’re so not going to anticipate.”
Harmon Leon is the the author of eight books—the latest is: 'Tribespotting: Undercover (Cult)ure Stories.' Harmon's stories have appeared in VICE, Esquire, The Nation, National Geographic, Salon, Ozy, Huffington Post, NPR’s 'This American Life' and Wired. He's produced video content for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Timeline, Out, FX, Daily Mail, Yahoo Sports, National Lampoon and VH1. Harmon has appeared on This American Life, The Howard Stern Show, Last Call With Carson Daly, Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, MSNBC, Spike TV, VH1, FX, as well as the BBC—and he's performed comedy around the world, including the Edinburgh, Melbourne, Dublin, Vancouver and Montreal Comedy Festivals. Follow Harmon on Twitter @harmonleon.
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