- This article is about the plot device in The Fourth Wall. For other uses of the term, see fourth wall (disambiguation).
The theory proposes four barriers (or "walls") defining levels of consciousness, taking its name from the last of which.
Working from a dualistic presupposition, the Fourth Wall Theory considers consciousness to be a field of indescribable energy inhabiting the same space as the mind on an unknown dimensional plane. Thus, it poses the question not just of what consciousness is, but where.
The theory states that there are four barriers to consciousness: stimulus-response thought, independent thought, self-awareness, and an incomprehensible fourth barrier. They maintained that humans surpass the first three boundaries only, and that once this fourth barrier of consciousness is broken, fuller access to the time-space dimensional plane opens. Incomprehensible things occur.
Put another way, in the first three levels of conscious, stimuli impose themselves upon mental processes (to varying degrees). After the fourth wall is broken, the mind imposes itself upon nature.
The theory was tested on innocent people by the scientists, being subject to sleep deprivation, hallucinogens, brainwave alteration, and more. These efforts were met with success, frightening the researchers and causing them to abandon the project entirely.
The primary effect of a "wallbreak" (see Etymology below) upon a subject is the ability to traverse the time-space continuum, resulting in teleportation, time travel, interdimensional travel, or any combination thereof. One who does any of these things is described as a "Traveler." A wallbreak may or may not be volunary, and can also be inflicted upon someone by another wallbreaker.
Increased control over the fourth wall yields other abilities which are virtually limitless, both in nature and volume. The known wallbreak powers are as follows (with Traveler-related abilities included for consistency):
- Time travel
- Interdimensional travel
Introduced to a number of new concepts, several new terms were created by the scientists to describe the results of their experimentation.
- The fourth wall is the final boundary to human consciousness. Its role in the mental makeup of an individual is similar to that of the "fourth wall" in fiction, allowing the subject to interact with their environment in an entirely different way.
- A wallbreak technically refers to any transition from one level of consciousness to another, but is generally used in reference to the fourth wall only.
- Travelers are those who have accessed any of the three primary wallbreak powers; that is, teleportation, time travel, or interdimensional travel.