[Note: Wave is a Dutch magazine. What follows is the original text, submitted by Mark Pesce in English.]†

These are crazy times; it's easy to get lost in the flow of the moment, and become consumed—with passion, with lust, with lunacy. For two years, I've been an avid practitioner of kundalini yoga, a system of breath and balance techniques which help to keep me open, steady and sensible in even the most difficult of situations. It's a portable technique as well—I can practice it in a hotel room in Amsterdam (and have) as easily as in my own home. It takes an hour from my day, but what I gain is beyond compare.

Why would I talk about my spiritual practices? I believe that our communication with each other takes place in a realm that's not strictly physical. Cyberspace—that word we hear so much about without really knowing how it's being used—is the realm of communication; it's the place where you discover that you're not really living in your head, but discover that, yes, we're out here, too. Cyberspace is the place where self meets other, through the only opening we have in our almost-perfect set of preconceived notions which comprise everyday reality. Our senses create a portal through which we can experience each other. It's all we have—everything else is the endless play of illusion across our minds.

And what does this have to do with art? We're extending our reach as a species—our technology enables us to evoke things we'd never seen before—bringing our imaginations forward, outward, and on to public display. That was Char Davies' goal in Osmose—the evocation of an experience that was essentially personal, experienced in a moment of being over twenty years ago. Since she's been working to share this epiphany with the rest of us, first in drawing and painting, and now, with the extended capabilities of immersive media, as a virtual environment.

Osmose is a virtual universe grown from beauty, sensitivity and feeling. Everything about it, from the navigation apparatus to the sound to the visual aesthetic are consistently human, soft, gentle and soothing.

To enter Osmose you "suit up" with a full suite of VR gear. First, you place a band around your chest, which monitors your breathing. Next, you don the head-mounted display filling your view with a stereo image, rendered real-time by a huge Silicon Graphics supercomputer. Headphones in the head-mount provide spatialized audio, creating the feeling of aural space in the virtual world.

Moving is breathing in Osmose. Like an underwater diver (Char was greatly inspired by her scuba-adventures in The Bahamas) you can regulate your position in Osmose by breath and balance. Breathe in and you float up exhale, you float down. Tilt forward, and you float forward. Backward, and move backward. Left, right—well, you get the idea. It's about as simple as can be, and, because you use your breath and body to move through the virtual world, there's a feeling of realism unlike any I've experienced in the virtual world. You are there.

And such a there! Char has created an evocation of a wooded glade, dominated by a great, old tree. Osmose is composed of twelve "worlds"; by your movement, you transition seamlessly from one to another. From the glade to the crown of the tree, from there, into a leaf. Everywhere, tiny "fireflies" traverse twisting paths, glowing and flowing through the scenes, like tiny souls. The sound—derived from samples of a male and female voice—fills the environment, and mutates continuously, creating an atmosphere of composed-on-the-fly songs, like spirit voices on journey through the Bardo.

You travel this world, through the glade, into a pond and its abyss, and down into the bowels of the world, only to discover the 40,000 lines of Osmose source code! Floating up, through the sky, you emerge in a region of cloud, where phrases from Rilke, Gaston Bachelard, and Heidegger confront you with the philosophical questions this work asks: what is space? What is technology? What are we? It's as much as urgent questioning as Gaugin's Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? But now, after the twentieth century, we must ask that question again.

What you encounter in Osmose is yourself—your sense of beauty, of wonder, of communion is brought out. As surely as your breath and balance give you place, what you see and hear reaches your heart, and must inevitably warm it. Char has created a meditative realm—and the first VR worthy to be called "art".

The final scenes in Osmose bring you out, away from the world. As it recedes, you can almost imagine, "this is what death is like, departing from the physical, into the shadow." Many of Osmose's immersants have noted this feeling—virtual art as near-death experience. Yet each emerges, unafraid, refreshed, reawakened of the delights of the world of the living. Osmose is virtual kundalini, an expression of philosophy without any words, a state of holy being which reminds us that, indeed, we are all angels.

Reprinted courtesy of Mark Pesce and Wave

This article may include minor changes from the original publication in order to improve legibility and layout consistency within the Immersence Website. † Significant changes from the original text have been indicated in red square brackets.

Last verified: August 1st 2013.