The sensory thresholds of our being

Today with the revelation of the poetic process which is involved in ordinary cognition we stand on a very different threshold from that wherein Machiavelli stood. His was a door into negation and human weakness. Ours is the door to the positive powers of the human spirit in its natural creativity. This [2-fold] door opens onto psychic powers comparable to the physical powers made available via [that other 2-fold of] nuclear fission [F1] and fusion [F2]. Through this door men have seen a possible path to the totalitarian [F1] remaking of human nature. Machiavelli showed us the way to a new circle of the Inferno [F1]. Knowledge of the creative process in art, science, and cognition [F2] shows us the way either to the earthly paradise [F2] or to complete madness [F1]. It is to be either the top of Mount Purgatory [F2] or the abyss [F1]. (‘Catholic Humanism and Modern Letters’, 1954, in The Medium and the Light, 160)

We are engaged in Toronto in carrying out a unique experiment — it is far too big for us — we need a lot of help and a lot of collaboration. We are carrying out an experiment to establish what are the sensory thresholds of the entire population of Toronto. That is, we are attempting to measure, quantitatively, the levels at which the entire population prefers to set its visual, auditory, tactile, visceral, and other senses as a matter of daily use and preference — how much light, how much heat, how much sound, how much movement — as a threshold level. Anything that alters a sensory threshold alters the outlook and experience of a whole society. The sensory thresholds change without warning or indications to the users thereof, for it is new technological environments that shift these levels. We are concerned with what shifts occur in a sensory threshold when some new form comes in. What happens to our sensory lives with the advent of television, the motor car, or radio? (Address at Vision 65, 1965)

We have no reason to be grateful to those who juggle the thresholds in the name of haphazard innovation. (Relation of Environment to Anti-Environment 1966)

New environments reset our sensory thresholds. These, in turn, alter our outlook and expectations. The need of our time is for the means of measuring sensory thresholds and of discovering exactly what changes occur in these thresholds as a result of the advent of any particular technology. With such knowledge in hand it would be possible to program a reasonable and orderly future for any human community. Such knowledge would be the equivalent of a thermostatic control for room temperatures. It would seem only reasonable to extend such controls to all the sensory thresholds of our being.  (Relation of Environment to Anti-Environment 1966; also Through the Vanishing Point, 253)

modern painting does not allow for the single point of view or the dispassionate survey. The modern painter offers an opportunity for dialogue within the parameters inherent in (…) the total world of man’s sensory involvement.  (Through the Vanishing Point, 261) 

Until this century, the limits have been set well below the threshold of rational control of the total environment. At electric speeds it is quite futile to set limits of awareness at that level. (Take Today, 192-193)