Extrasensory Science - Technoshamanism
PART II of Neurotheology 101
Iona Miller, ©2001
Institute for Consciousness Science & Technology
Introduction to Technoshamanism
Chaos as the Universal Solvent
Medical Applications of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
"We have the technology. . .we can rebuild him. . .
better than he was before. . .better, stronger, faster. . ."
Introduction to Technoshamanism
Are there things we should not know? There are many
responses to the impulse toward experience, therefore, we pass through
the essential stage of experience on the way to widom. But it remains
a stage, not an end in itself. Religion generally answers yes to
the question, while philosophy answers no. But before philosophy
and the dogma and dictates of religion, before forbidden knowledge and
forbidden fruit, there was shamanism.
Shamanism was the primordial spirituality of humankind.
Evidence of our spiritual evolution is at least 50,000 years old, and is
implied by the earliest ritual burials. Shamanism is still practiced
throughout the world, particularly in third-world countries, which might
more properly be referred to as first-world countries. The drive
to experience the inner realm of being is universal and reflected in the
myriad ways the majority of human cultures find to incubate alternative
phases of consciousness. Technoshamanism is the integration of futuristic
technology with ancient pathways of the past. It implies access to
full-immersion experiences, virtual realities which have consequences in
the real world.
The world of the shaman is the world of the spirits, uncanny
powers, psychic phenomena, initiation, altered states, dreams, death, rebirth,
and healing. It is the realm of body, faith, trust, disruption, dissolution,
intuition, mysticism, transcendence, psychedelia, cosmic consciousness,
sex and madness vs. intellect, morality, dogma. Under the influence
of a shaman, an initiate may attain direct transpersonal experience that
vivifies multiple realities. Shamanism means mastery of the sensorium,
the symbolic world. To the extent that the shaman has great power,
he penetrates deeply into the basic roots of the structuralizing process,
and brings that information back.
Shamanic personalities work at the edge of chaos where it
is often difficult to distinguish spiritual emergence from spiritual emergency,
bloom or doom. Technoshamanism is connecting contemporary society
with the mythic roots of humanity. Shamanism is beyond time; it's
a primal spirit. Anything that is created is linked into that spirit.
Technology is the interface between what exists now and what is coming
We are all capable of transcendent awareness, of becoming
shamans. The shaman is a shaman because he has been empowered by
treading the road others wish to follow. The shaman is a symbol to
others of their projection of a degree of personal insight and growth.
The shamanic principle is ubiquitous to religion, healing, and transpersonal
activities simply because its activity is essential to neurocognitive and
physiological development. The inner shaman is a percept which penetrates
to our neurocognitive intentionalities: exploration of self and multiple
worlds, transformation, and social flow.
Shamanism has enjoyed a resurgence in the West from a variety
of sources including raves, yoga, fen shui, martial arts, Tibetan
Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Amazonian shamanism, Sufism to
Voodoo, and more. All these technologies, (a primary hallmark of
modern humans), involve ritualistic forms for altering states of consciousness,
with and without psychotropic drugplants. Like traditional magick
and ritual, they rely heavily on accessing multisensory cues, emotions,
dreams and imagination. They range from temporary rites of passage
to stabilized lifestyles.
Art and music have played a big role in emergence of this
technoshamanic spirit, especially explicitly shamanic artists, such as
performance artist and musician Genesis P-Orridge whose outlandish role
in magick, psychedelics, sexual freedom, and organizing raves led to his
being the first person exiled from his homeland England in 250 years.
The electronic occulture is dancing through the doors of perception into
a hyperspatial reality. It is a pilgrimage into the mind out of time,
the body out of space, and the universal spirit that beckons beyond.
This story is told through ceremony and ritual, music and dance, sight
and source, science and religion. Written with living light, it fosters
a reunion with the sacred, the Divine, the Other.
Technoshamanism is the process of altering consciousness
through technology. It implies using the healing and mind altering
techniques of ancient shamanism combined with modern technologies for altering
consciousness, and the holistic mindbody. An archetypal example of
a highly developed technology is the Asklepian Dream Temples of ancient
Greece, where the afflicted went for cures through healing dream incubation
when medical treatments had failed. The cures came not from the priests
or any interpretations, but from direct contact with the divine in the
It hardly matters whether these technologies emerge from
disciplines such as shamanism (inner journeys), hypnotherapy (neuralfeedback,
frequency-following response), psychology (process work), psychiatry (neuropsychology),
neurology (TMS; Persinger's 'Relaxit,'; Murphy's 'Shakti',
shock-ti), or anthropology (biogenetic structuralism). The ends are
often the same whether the aim is explicitly mystical, spiritual or psychotherapeutic.
Not all technologies necessarily involve hardware, wet ware
or ars electronica, though in the future technoshamanism will undoubtedly
evolve to include cybernetic enhancements. A variety of research
(Charles Tart's altered states; John Lilly's sensory deprivation tanks;
Mantak Chia's 'Darkroom' technique), and the administration of psychedelics
in laboratory situations (Grof; Strassman) can be included.
Postmodern process oriented experiential psychotherapies
also fall under this rubric. Among the notables are Marshall
McLuhan (Media; "The medium is the message"), Buckminster Fuller
(whole systems; Spaceship Earth; Synergetics), Stanislov Grof (LSD therapy;
Holotropic Breathwork), techno-shaman Terrence McKenna (Alien Dreamtime),
stand-up philosopher Timothy Leary (Chaos & Cyber Culture), Jungian
analyst Arnold Mindell (process-oriented psychotherapy), shaman/therapist
Graywolf Swinney (Consciousness Restructuring Process), Ernest Rossi (Ideodynamic
Healing), neurologist Antonio Damasio (Proto-Self Model), and RET (Rapid
Eye Treatment, formerly EMDR) Therapies.
All begin to alter consciousness with a variety of traditional
shamanic techniques, and proceed through an experiential journey, again
in the shamanic tradition. The commonlity among the therapies is
facilitation and exploitation of natural process in the stream of consciousness,
the 'waking dream,' or REM state. Waking dreams can be induced through
techniques which function to drive the state, such as ritual, hypnosis,
intense breathing, drumming, dancing, chanting, imagery, meditation, etc.
In neurological terms, they facilitate neural plasticity and exercise or
reprogramming of neural circuits.
"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but
when there is nothing left to take away."
--Antoine de Saint Exupery
July 6, 2001, National Post
Why we all like Picasso
It's all about brain wiring:
Painters, composers, poets find new neural pathways to beauty
Neural Plasticity and Restructuring Consciousness
In the journal Chaosophy 2001, (Asklepia Publications),
Iona Miller and Graywolf Swinney describe parallels between drug-induced
states for shamanic healing and drug-free experiential therapy, which facilitates
natural psychedelic states and spontaneous healing. The article is
entitled "The Fractal Nature of Active Sleep and Waking Dreams: Restructuring
Consciousness through Metaphor, Fetal REM, and Neural Plasticity."
The hypothesis of Harvard biopsychiatrist, C.M. Anderson
(1998) provides some enticing substantiation for psychophysical restructuring
the CRP Journeys. His work is centered around the psychotropic and
oneiric aspects of the shamanic entheogen iboga, used by the Bwiti tribe
of Africa, and more recently employed therapeutically by Harold Lotsoff
and Dr. Robert Goutarel for the elimination of chemical dependency and
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Drug-free shamanism (psychotherapeutic or techno-shamanism)
shares many common features with this therapy: initiatory waking-dream
journeys, shamanic guidance, quick life review, psychedelic states of consciousness,
spontaneous fetal regression, journeys to “the land of the dead,” and the
induction and facilitation of Self-organized Critical States (SOCs), associated
with PGO spikes, which result in restructuring of fundamental neural patterns.
Stress or abuse in early life leads to hemispheric asymmetry
which is implicated in a wide variety of disorders. Consciousness
Restructuring Process (CRP), an essentially shamanic consciousness technology,
allows us to “exercise” unused pathways and reinstate hemispheric synchronization.
Disorders of under- and over-arousal can be dynamically balanced, reinstituting
organismic equilibration. The fractal nature of REM allows us to
process and restructure old emotional patterns, at the sensorimotor root
by reviving neural plasticity. CRP facilitates the Self-Organized
Critical state (SOCs) which initiates cascading therapeutic reactions which
are robust and persist over time.
Anderson (1998) hypothesizes that the ingestion of iboga (or its alkaloid
ibogaine, ibogaine hydrochloride) in a shamanic or psychotherapeutic setting
induces a critical oneiric, or dream-inducing state, in which fractal time
patterns of phasic events similar to those existing during fetal rapid
eye movement (REM) or Active sleep are recreated in the adult. This
dynamically destabilizes the functional connectivity of the brainstem and
its habitual interactions with the bihemispheric temporal lobe structures
such as the amygdala, creating a functional state of plasticity in
these areas which facilitates the reintegration of traumatic memories.
Psychopathological interhemispheric dynamics are altered, dissipating old
behavioral attitudes and patterns. This psychotherapeutic oneiric
state is similar to the complex behavioral states of REM sleep and attentional
orienting in that they all share the signature of the self-organized critical
Observed similarities between the neurophysiology of the REM state and
that induced by selective psychedelic drugs such as LSD or psilocybin further
substantiate this hypothesis. The dream-like quality of these journeys
and the emergence of discrete states of consciousness (d-SOC) exhibiting
particular imagery is reported by LSD-researchers (Tart, 1969, and Grof,
1988). Anderson highlights the common ground of REM sleep, orienting,
and psychedelic states.
Drug-free shamanic journeys using CRP can also enable us to “return to
infancy and birth”- to the life in the womb - by returning us to the uterine
condition (Grof’s parinatal matrices). It facilitates a condition in any
case very close to life in “the land of dead” (realm of archetypes and
NDEs) and so restores us to our own integrity -- our pristine condition.
Michel Jouvet and Sir Frances Crick have assessed the role of dreams in
the programming and de-programming of basic behavior patterns, resulting
in a new individuation of the human brain. They consider PGO waves
to be the principal coding tool that acts at the cortical level in recording
the genetic and epigenetic acquisitions necessary for the individuation
of the human brain.
Metaphorically, this “software-writer” aspect of the self allows one to
reconfigure the genetic and cultural programming much like changing the
file of a computer. REM then reboots the consciousness patterns with
the autoexec.bat file for habits, needs, and the manner in which
one approaches life (Miller, 1993).
In addition, through “chaotic” activation mechanisms, the PGO waves eliminate
from certain types of neuronal networks an informational overload linked
to pathological behavior. This what Debru (1990) calls “cleaning
out the neuronal circuitry.” Apparently REM sleep undergirds
a sorting out process among the “residues” stirred up by the PGO wave sleep
pattern and disposes of these residues during dreaming.
The principal difference between dreams and hallucinations resides in the
way in which the stages of wakefulness are organized, with the suppression
of REM sleep and the intrusion of PGO waves in the arousal (waking) stage
and in NREM (or slow) sleep.
The new organization becomes: waking (arousal) stage, stage of PGO waves,
hallucination stage, sleep stage, and it appears possible that hallucinatory
manifestations, the waking dream, eliminate “residues” stirred up by the
PGO wave pattern in the absence of REM sleep.
These visions are analogous to those at the approach of death, or what
are called near death experiences (NDEs) ; they are the same as those termed
normative visions. They include the characteristics of two phases
of NDEs (Sabom, 1982):
The Autoscopic phase includes 1) subjective feeling of being dead; 2)
peace and well-being; 3) disembodiment; 4) visions of material objects
and events. The Transcendental phase includes 5) tunnel or
dark zone; 6) evaluation of one’s past life; 7) light; 8) access to a transcendental
world, entering in light; 9) encounter with other beings; 10) return to
Stress or abuse in early life induces abnormal hemispheric functional asymmetries,
disrupting REM sleep and predisposing individuals to addictive and self-defeating
behaviors resulting from impaired interhemispheric integration. The
profound and persistent neural and psychological changes and vulnerabilities
induced by early trauma are revealed with EEG during recall of past trauma.
Further, abnormal hemispheric EEG coherence is associated with reductions
in the size of the corpus callosum, the bridge between hemispheres. NREM
is leftbrain; REM right brain.
It has been proposed (Schiffer, 1997, 1998) that we all have two minds
or personalities, one in each hemisphere. They are like conjoined
Siamese twins, and their disharmonious struggles for dominance result in
a range of personality disorders. The emotional mind, largely in
the right hemisphere, may be damaged from trauma or abuse, and sabotague
the critical mind. We always know what we should do, yet we
do what we want, even when it leads to self-defeating consequences.
The hemispheres are meant to work in concert with one another. Debilitating
emotional disregulation results from hemispheric disharmony and dysfunctions
in the arousal system toward hypo- or hyper-tonic states.
The left hemisphere (with the frontal lobe) manages tonic activation for
the conduct of intellectual and motor tasks, and maintenance of vigilance
over time. It is mediated by the neuromodulators dopamine and acetylcholine.
The right hemisphere, in contrast, manages phasic arousal to maintain the
sensory system in readiness to receive and process new inputs from any
source. This system is cued by norepinepherine and serotonin.
An increasing number of disorders are being assigned to one hemisphere
or the other. Neurofeedback uses a number of protocols for the correction
of alpha asymmetry which is implicated in PTSD, depression, ADD, addiction,
OCD, anxiety, and a host of other dysfunctions. Human minds transcend
the hardwiring of the brain; dynamic brain plasticity is one mechanism
by which they do so. Physicist David Bohm called a noun a “slow”
verb, and we humans are constantly in dynamic psychophysiological motion
even if we consider our personalities to be “fixed.”
In ordinary waking consciousness the two hemispheres--linear left-brain
and holistic right brain--exhibit uncoordinated, randomly diverging
wavepatterns detected by the electroencephalograph. When we enter
a meditative state, these patterns tend to become synchronized, and in
deep meditation they exhibit nearly identical patterns.
In deep meditation not only do the left and right brains of one subject
synchronize, they can resonantely entrain with others in the vicinity,
as paired subjects synchronize. The “music of the spheres”--a
brain symphony, plays when hemispheric synchronization occurs, and both
lobes function in concert. A hemispherically-balanced mind is an
Lateral specialization of the cortex into two distinct and complementary
modes of consciousness reveals that the left brain excels at verbal skill,
linear thought, abstraction, rationality, and analytical thought, whereas
the right is more nonverbal, synthetic, global, diffuse, metaphorical,
dreamy, imaginal, perceives gestalts, and helps us with visual construction
and spatial orientation.
The right hemisphere gives us non-linear leaps of intuition and insight--the
a-ha experience. It is subjective, relational, holistic and time-free.
The right brain is the dreamer and artist. It gives us the startling
perceptual experiences produced by drug-free experiential therapy or consciousness
journeys, such as mind trips, bursts of ecstatic feelings or sequentially
logical thoughts, insight, followed by a cognitive evaluation period.
There is a possible gating-mechanism which seems to occurs in CRP when
someone recalls a dream or symptom. The influx of perceptions produced
by increased attentiveness and sensitization to sensory stimuli may overwhelm
the systematic sequential processing of the language hemisphere and invoke
the analogical integrative mode of the right hemisphere to consolidate
the perceptual flood. Yet, a whole brain is better than either alone.
Collective neuronal activity is modulated by rhythmicity, and this is what
is detected with the EEG. Neuronal populations coalesce to collective
firing when stimulated or processing. Then they desynchronize back
to raw signal. Desynchronization results from the superposition of
many rhythmic generators of different frequencies, each ebbing and flowing
from rhythmicity to desynchronization.
Rhythmicity regulates the entire spectrum of activation and arousal in
the bio-electrical domain by a process called kindling. The process
breaks down when synchronization or desynchronization of specific frequencies
persists or is disregulated, decoupled from the demands of the moment.
Self-recovery reinstitutes harmonization of formerly hyper- or hypo- arousal
states of the person.
Disorders of underarousal include unipolar or reactive depression, inattentive-type
ADD, chronic pain, and insomnia. Overarousal includes anxiety disorders,
sleep onset problems, hypervigilance, impulsive ADD, anger/aggression,
agitated depression, chronic nerve pain, and spasticity. Some forms
of anxiety and depression involve both under- and over-arousal. Some
instabilities arise autonomously from the CNS while other require an external
trigger for initiation. Early trauma creates vulnerabilities to both.
Over- and under-arousal indicate changes in sympathetic and parasympathetic
arousal, called ergotropic and trophotropic shifts. The ergotropic,
or energetic shift is characterized by a tendency toward higher sensory
acuity, external focus, sympathetic arousal, high motor setpoint, etc.
The trophotropic or tranquilized state is a tendency toward an inward focus,
less alertness, reduced sensory acuity, a shift toward vegetative functions,
and reduced motor readiness.
By stimulating the neglected neural circuitry, new pathways are created,
improving equilibrium and long-term change. Ergotropic and trophotropic
shifts are mutually inhibitory. To enhance one is to suppress the
other. Their dynamic balancing results essentially in a ‘tuning’
of the nervous system.
We can conclude that CRP helps us switch from left brain to right brain
dominance during the journeys, and that it facilitates neuronal restructuring
which reinstitutes hemispheric synchrony and the wider distribution and
amplitude of alpha and theta waves, reunifying the whole brain, (Miller
and Swinney, 2001).
The brain’s intrinsic bias toward homeostasis dictates that any process
which evokes a brain response away from its then-prevailing equilibrium
state will set in train forces to restore the original state. Thus
promoting arousal by focusing on fear and pain will first tend to produce
a shift, and on the other hand, set in motion a compensatory mechanism
by which the brain restores its opposite and enters a calm period.
Hence, even dis-equilibration can bring out improved equilibrium maintenance
as a long-term consequence. That dis-equilibration is the introduction
of deterministic chaos. CRP offers a regulatory challenge to the
dynamic system by taking the brain momentarily out of its prevailing equilibrium.
The brain responds positively to therapeutic disequilibration of the nervous
system by long-term adaptation.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the disequilibration occurs in one
direction (breakthrough therapy) or the other (meditation). Improved
regulatory function eventuates in either case. CRP is a method by
which the functional or systems level of the brainmind is addressed.
The functional process can be immediately altered and new patterns of behavior
and perception facilitated.
CRP leads to long-term dendritic re-programming and/or regrowth, and significant
reorganization. It “exercises” neglected pathways. Because it works
so quickly, the mechanisms involved in stabilization must lie principally
in the functional rather than structural level, at least initially.
Functional plasticity is undoubtedly mediated by altering synaptic coupling
strengths through the generation or attrition of receptor sites, and the
alteration of neurotransmitter chemistry through changes in neuronal gene
expression, (Rossi, 2000).
The functional plasticity of neuromodulator systems clearly exists on all
behaviorally relevant timescales. The dynamic range of neuromodulator
plasticity or flexibility can be increased where it is deficient, and stabilized
when it is unstable by self-organizing restructuring.
CRP simultaneously exercises neural mechanisms which control the fundamental
functions of arousal, attention and affect managed by the central nervous
system (CNS). It works through a complex web of inhibitory and excitatory
feedback networks. Both functional and structural change are implimented.
The left hemisphere aspects of depression and anxiety may have to do with
anticipatory activity, planning, ruminating, perseverating, worrying.
The right hemisphere, in contrast, harbors the non-rational, more catastrophic
aspects of depression and anxiety, (for example, including fear, panic,
agitated depression, and suicidality). There are hemispheric specificities
for cognitive function, anxiety, depression, pain, sleep disorders, eating
disorders, endocrine and immune system disorders (Othmer et al).
Skills training for the right brain requires tasks that the left, rational
mode gets easily bored with--things it either can’t or won’t do.
In right brain mode we become unaware of the passage of time, are alert
but relaxed, excited but calm; it is a relief to relinquish rationality
temporarily--this is the source of the age-old craving for self-induced
altered states of consciousness which bring meaningful satisfaction, (Edwards,
The hemispheres affect motor abilities also, since the left hemisphere
is hard-wired to the right side of the body and vice versa, with the exception
of a small percentage of left-handed people. Left-handers are generally
less lateralized; they tend to process language and spatial information
in both hemispheres. This creates potential problems or conflicts such
as dyslexia, but it also can lead to superior mental abilities.
The hemispheres are virtually identical in appearance, though not in function.
The corpus callosum, which connects the two halves is larger and has more
connections in females than males. If severed, the two halves of
the brain continue to function independently with differing perceptions
and agendas. In fact, both halves are involved in higher cognitive
functioning, each half specialized in complementary fashion for different
modes of thinking. Their harmonization gives us the sense of being
one person--a unified being.
Research shows indications that the modes of processing tend to interfere
with each other, preventing optimal performance. This may be a rationale
for the evolutionary development of asymmetry, as a means of keeping the
two different modes of processing discrete. The corpus callosum is
the gating system between hemispheres. States, rhythms, and resonances
function beyond the realm of hard-wired neuronal connections.
In split brain experiments, showing a subject two different items or photos
for each side, a subject may incorrectly identify an item with the left
hemisphere, but the right lacking verbal skills to correct it, will “speak”
through the body such as by shaking the head “No.” The other way
of knowing is the source of “gut feelings.” While at the analytical level,
the subject will conjecture as to why that is happening.
Each half has its own way of knowing about our being and perceiving external
reality. Each of us is of two minds, mediated by the connecting cables
of the nerve fibers in the corpus callosum. Yet these hemispheres
can work together in a number of cooperative ways. There are two
discrete ways of knowing.
The main distinctions in hemispheric processing are between thinking and
feeling; intellect and intuition; objective analysis and subjective insight.
The history of science is full of anecdotes about researchers who have
a dream or intuitive hunch where a metaphor presents itself as a creative
The two modes of consciousness can each be the leader or the follower.
They may also conflict, one half trying to do what the other knows it can
do “better.” Each has its own way of keeping knowledge from the other
hemisphere, and this is especially true when it comes to memories and patterns
locked in from trauma and abuse.
Fractal Therapy: The Fractal nature of REM
As we have not failed to notice in CRP, Anderson reiterates that fractal
concepts provide an essential point of view for understanding brain/mind.
There are fascinating connections among REM sleep, attentional (orienting)
and psychedelic (or mind-manifesting, mind-expanding) states. As
in the case of his ibogaine hypothesis, CRP therapy intervenes in the cortical-amygdaloid-brainstem
loops in hemispheric disharmony.
To make a stronger statement, there are neurophysiological similarities
between REM sleep, orienting and transcendent states which have implications
for any dream-inducing operators, and CRP is one such drug-free operator.
In CRP as in life, these are more than conceptual or metaphorical links.
They emerge directly from our sensorimotor fleshly nature and bear on our
psychological and philosophical nature as well.
In many ways, we agree with philosopher George Lakoff’s (1988) definition
of metaphor as a schema, “a unifying framework that links a conceptual
representation to its sensory and experiential ground.” His central
thesis that metaphors facilitate thought by providing an experiential framework
in which new information may be accomodated, forming a cognitive map, a
web of concepts rooted directly in physical experiences, and our relation
to the external world. This cognitive topology is a mechanism we
use to impose structure on space.
Another core idea of Lakoff’s is that clusters of metaphors describe experiences
better than any single metaphor can. Because of the ubiquitous nature
of clustering in fractal systems, we suspect that complex dynamics are
at work in our inherent experience of ourselves and our reality through
Thus metaphor is much more than a superficial phenomenon of language--not
a means of expression as much as a means of apprehension, which shapes
our thoughts and judgements, and structures our language.
Our perceptual experience is rooted in a few key conceptual categories
which Lakoff has defined:
1) Thought is embodied: it grows out of bodily experience
and makes sense in terms of it; we are grounded in perception, body movement,
and our physical and social character.
2) Thought is imaginative: it unfolds spontaneously in terms
of metaphor and psychophysical imagery, which is much more than literal.
This imaginal capacity is also embodied indirectly in metaphors and images
based on experience, particularly bodily experience.
3) Thought has gestalt properties: this is neither a
structuralist nor functionalist perspective, but one of radical nondualism.
Self-organization with emergent properties is a descriptor of dynamic processes
with a fractal blueprint.
4) Thought has an ecological structure: nature follows
the path of least resistance in its webwork of synergetic interaction,
and the ecology of systems depends on the overall structure which is in
constant dynamic motion. Thus thought is much more than the mechanical
manipulation of abstract or abstracted symbols. Symbols do not require
interpretation, but arise as emergent properties with inherent “meaning.”
Thought is strongly rooted in the neurology of the brain, in orientation-sensitive
cells, and center-surround receptive fields, the interface of the part
with the whole. The sensory-motor system is fundamental in this orienting,
as is metaphor which builds our neural maps. This allows sensory-motor
structures to play a role in even abstract reasoning.
Because of the link in this perspective between sensory-motor experience,
orienting behavior, and metaphorical apprehension, Lakoff’s notions can
be strongly linked to Anderson’s vision of interhemispheric reintegration
with its emergent neural plasticity, reorientation, restructuring, and
transcendent capacities, all of which he links to dream-inducing REM sleep,
with its fractal patterning. The same applies to CRP.
Our automatically called-up metaphorical perception continues in our sleep
life, and demonstrates that imaginal life is fundamental to our existential
perspective, rather than an artifact of trying to describe our experiences.
This harmonizes with CRP which empirically notices that the root of our
existential self-image lies in the sensorimotor root.
The onset of REM suppresses a complex network of serotonergic neuron cell
body groups (the S-Net) in the brainstem (the RAS and dorsal raphe nucleus,
DRN), and psychedelics mimic this action, as we suspect endogenous hallucinogens
do. During both experiences there is significant depression of the
electrical activity of the brain’s serotonin-containing neurons.
According to Anderson, therefore, “the change in raphe unit activity
seen spontaneously across the sleep-waking cycle may be the key to understanding
altered states of consciousness.” The key serotonin system may
function in a manner appropriate to a different behavioral state, such
as REM sleep while the subject is still awake--awake yet actively dreaming.
The PGO waves which induce phasic eye movements of REM are readily observable
via EEG and by inference through direct observation.
It doesn’t take a drug to induce the state. In the therapeutic setting
just the simple suggestion of its possiblity, permission, and a positive
expectation for the state allow altered states to emerge and unfold.
This phenomenon is well-documented in the literature of clinical hypnosis.
In neurological terms, the fractal patterns of reorganized S-Net unit activity
are allowed to emerge through an autopoietic process, in concert with dynamic
changes in other brainstem and forebrain areas. Many of the unpredictable
patterns of oneiric (dream-induced) behavior can occur.
Anderson proposes and delineates a connection between REM sleep and attentional
states, such as orienting. He contends that mammals in general are
in a state of virtually continual orienting during REM sleep, and relates
this to implications about discrete states of consciousness. He cites
experiments where similar amplitude PGO waves are evoked in cats during
normal orienting responses to loud sounds and during normal REM sleep when
external behavioral orienting is absent. PGO waves suppress the 5-HT
or serotonin cycle.
The 1/f fractal patterns typically seen in cat brains during orienting
to birds, for example, is linked to REM sleep, but not other types of sleep
and quiet wakefulness. This fractal pattern is diminished by serotonergic
antagonists. Wakefulness and slow wave sleep is not conducive to
the 1/f state. But the fractal pattern becomes very active at the
offset of these states, including REM, orienting, and transcendence.
Anderson concludes and defends that this suggests that REM sleep is, at
least in terms of 5-HT systems, a prolonged orienting response. And
we know from Lakoff, that humans tend to orient in terms of metaphors,
and cognitive maps based on sensorimotor experiential metaphors.
This creates unique 1/f fractal patterns of activities in time, and in
fact, is a mechanism of time-binding. Imaginal or physical movement
in three space can only take place in the 4th dimension of time, even in
Self-Organizing Critical States
REM, orienting and mystic journeys all share a common critical state that
exists throughout the brain and brainstem--patterns of interspike intervals.
“PGO spikes and other phasic activity during these states, are analogous
to sand slides or traffic jams of all sizes [ref. chaos theory] representing
critical fluctuations in neural activity and connectivity. The SOC
state during the orienting response, may facilitate rapid functional brain
reorganization in response to the qualities of the eliciting stimulus.
The critical connectivity that exists during these states may primarily
involve orienting synergies (among ocular, neck and facial motorneurons).
PGO waves may link this critical brainstem centered connectivity with limbic
and cortical structures such as the amygdala and temporal lobes.”
PGO spike density increases as tonic REM sleep begins. Therefore
REM may be a dense, coalescence cluster of PGO activity. From the
fractal point of view, REM sleep is a kind of fractal of PGO bursts.
With eyes closed, during the oneiric state, PGO-like spikes among amygdaloid
and brainstem sites could generate and direct waking dream sequences, according
to Anderson. This seems a plausible mechanism for phenomenon observed
in CRP Journeys, as well. Orienting of attentional states is directed
inward in the virtual environment, rather than acted out externally.
Perhaps this deep focus allows the S-Net pauses to allow sensory processing,
and possible motor system functional reorganization. For example,
Anderson offers the following in regard to ibogaine’s reprogramming capacity:
“I would go further, and suggest that complex habitual sequences of
motor output (e.g., drug seeking and drug consuming behavior in addicts)
represent hypercomplex sequencesof cortical-striatal- thalamic activation,
triggered by sensory dependent amygdaloid-brainstem modulation of the monoaminergic
systems during critical states. The power of ibogaine to break habitual
patterns of addiction may reside in an induced SOC state that disrupts
and functionally reorganizes this anygdaloid-brainstem system, in effect
resetting the brain/mind.”
Again, we can suggest that CRP performs virtually the same function, without
recourse to drug ingestion, thereby avoiding substitution of one chemically-induced
experience for another. Anderson thinks ibogaine works on many brain
systems to “drive firing dynamics into an SOC state with avalanches
of phasic events similar to that existing during early development.”
Clearly these same issues, experiences of ego-death, fragmentation and
annihilation, and perinatal imagery, as well as all of the other classical
transpersonal states of consciousness emerge spontaneously in CRP and are
most often associated with spontaneous self-recovery on a variety of observational
levels, indicating a fractal result, if not mechanism.
Biological systems are in a constant state of criticality and self-organization.
Critical states in developing brains may lead to the enhancement of synaptic
connections, sparing of axons, and synchronizing twitches that allow distant
regions of the organism to link and coordinate gene expression and neural-motor
development....Long patterns of bursting have statistical self-similarity...they
appear very similar to the bursting patterns of ion channels, neurons and
phasic REM processes such as PGO waves.
Self-similar clusters in time result in unusual statistical properties,
called Levy distributions. A unique property of these distributions
is that they lead to what is called “convolutional stability.”
These are stabile distributions self-similar over different sample sizes
or time scales.
Fractal clustering in the interconnected S-Net leads to knocking out the
activity of some nodes and results in atypical fluctuations in 5-HT release
in different brain regions. These fractal flucuations in S-Net activity
may synergize with other neurotransmitter systems to bring new qualities
to self-organized critical oneiric states, resulting perhaps in enhanced
dopamine release in the anygdala and prefrontal areas. We might conjecture
that an endogenous 5-HT reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) may prolong S-Net reorganization
Fractal REM and Neural Plasticity
Most of the research on REM and fractal structure has been done only on
sheep, but can be interpolated for our purpose. The REM-like sleep
state is pervasive during fetal life, and development of the brain and
behavior. In 1996, Drs. Mandell and Anderson “proposed that the
correlated fractal bursting nature of REM, or Active sleep, as it is sometimes
called in the fetus and newborn, provides an invariant Levy temporal framework
in which cortical and subcortical networks can organize and consolidate
Findings show that phasic REM associated events, “at least during development,
are not fundamentally independent random processes, as they are attributed
in Allan Hobson’s activation-synthesis model of REM sleep, but are rather
fractal in time. Anderson asserts that “fractal Levy processes
can be used to characterize the phasic events associated with fetal and
adult REM sleep, such as eye movements, and may have great significance
in understanding the relationship between REM sleep, neural plasticity,
and ibogaine therapy.”
Again, we would contend, similar statements can be made for CRP.
Anderson asks himself the same question which has piqued Graywolf Swinney:
do fetuses spend most of their time and energy in a state with strong similarities
to adult REM sleep? Why is REM such an important component of our
lives? In fact, REM sleep is almost as essential for life as water
and food. Could the fractal properties of REM sleep in fetal animals
provide a common thread between fetal and adult REM and insights into disorders
of REM sleep?” CRP would suggest, it illuminates most all disorders,
not only sleep disorders.
For example, “Disturbances of phasic REM processes are also a common
thread in many disorders of sleep in infants, children and adults.
As mentioned earlier, PTSD is linked to a fundamental disturbance of phasic
REM sleep mechanisms resulting in recurrent stereotypical anxiety dreams
as well as disturbed limbic system and brain stem-mediated functions such
as abnormal startle responses. Chronic abuse of many drugs results
in alterations of phasic REM sleep processes.”
Another avenue is that temporal lobe dysfunctions involving limbic structures
such as the amygdala and hippocampus are frequently associated with sleep
disturbances, and even sleep walking. Hemispheric asymmetries, resulting
from lateralized temporal lobe dysfunction and alterations of commissural
development can be the aftermath of childhood stress or trauma.
Most theories of adult REMS function ignore its central role in fetal life.
Most claim that adult and fetal REMS are too different to be considered
relevant to adult behavior. But Anderson describes how alterations
in the vertical and horizontal consolidation of self-similar bursting patterns
of phasic sleep events can provide a conceptual bridge between the disorders
of REM sleep in adults and in children.
This conclusion underies his hypothesis of bihemispheric reintegration.
Trauma or drug abuse history is strongly correlated with asymmetric
hemispheric functioning. We have seen from Neurofeedback and Hemi-Synch
research that this reintegration is fundamental to resetting the system
back to healthful conditions, almost irrespective of the presenting disorder.
Amygdaloid stimulation evokes significantly increased PGO number, spike
and burst density. Regional cerbral bloodflow in the human amygdala
is positively correlated with REM sleep. The parabrachial regions
is also involved in alerting and in the generation of REM and PGO waves.
Also cholinergic activation of the central nucleus produces long-term facilitation
The amygdala receives most of its serotonergic innervation from DRN which
has a strong inhibitory influence upon amygdaloid neurons. Asymmetric
activation of the amygdaloid-parabrachial pathways results in abnormal
sleep architecture and prounounced changes in the patterns of phasic REM
We allege that CRP treatment helps correct hemispheric asymmetry, phasic
REM processes and the psychobiology of the amygdaloid complex.
CRP Journeys are an experience of dream-like states, except that participants
are awake and can respond. Images appear, especially after eyes are
closed, often leading to rapid visual presentation of various images.
Often journeys lead to specific reviewing of traumatic events or circumstances
from childhood and/or disorders. There are distortions of time perception,
and the dream experience is perceived to take much less time than clock-time.
It often leads into transpersonal or mystical experiences. Following
re-entry, a period of intensive reevaluation of previous life experiences
can take place.
The Pervasive Oscillatory Sound
Anderson conjectures the "persistent oscillatory sound" could indicate
rapid shifting or cycling of attentional resources between the left and
right hemispheres, downshifting the normally constant 10 Hz rhythmicity
of the olivocerebellar system. This oscillatory auditory effect may
function as an auditory driver. The downshift effect may indicate
possible flooding of the left hemisphere by material from the uninhibited
right which takes over primary conscious focus. This sets the stage,
along with phasic fluctuations of the S-Net and uninhibited PGO, for the
sudden onset of the SOC state and the waking dream period.
Anderson alludes to “waking dreams as a healing journey through the
fractal hyperspace of emotionally indexed childhood memories.”
He asserts that “the basolateral amygdala (BLA) is a critical neural substrate
of the waking dream stage as fractal neural bursting in this subcortical
cortex-like structure may represent access points in a fractal hyperspace
of emotionally indexed memories.”
“The effects of early trauma on the development of the amygdala and
other temporal lobe structures may interfere with its normal bilateral
function during REM-sleep mediated consolidation of emotionally significant
events. The recall of traumatic childhood experiences in adults,
due to the immaturity of limbic structures at the time of trauma, may require
electrical stimulation or intensive PGO-like activity present during the
oneiric state. Habitual disruption of normal sleep processes by stress
asssociated with combat, bereavement, divorce, child abuse, neglect or
chronic drug abuse interferes with the natural restorative function of
phasic REM processes.”
This exacerbates physiological and psychological addictions and rigidifies
emotional traumas into PTSD and chronic hemispheric imbalance. CRP
therapy may help to free these rigidities, restoring some degree of healthy
The amygdala is the meeting place of emotions and the mind. We each
have bilaterally interacting right and left amygdala which give us our
internal emotional experiences by processing and attaching affective response
to the rich flow of information from all the five senses and modulating
our perception of the autonomic centers in the brain.
Persinger insists that positive images (gods, angels, and light beings)
emerge from the left lobe, while negative, daemonic imagery stems from
the right. Echoing these attributions, Anderson adds that fear and
anxiety are the most common feelings evoked frequently from the right amygdala.
Direct electrical stimulation of the right BLA demonstrates that brain
and mind meet to generate and bring to awareness the associated memories
and emotions of a traumatic experience. CRP, like ibogaine, may evoke
the appropriate fluctuating milieu of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators
to trigger a SOC state in the BLA, amygdaloid-brainstem pathways, and extrastriate
areas activated during dreaming
BLA cells have a unique morphology, pyramidal, or tetrahedrally omnidirectionally
interwoven. This indicates the geometry of synergetics and an information-flow
programmed for “the path of least resistance.” This connectivity
is specialized for non-sequential interactions over multiple timescales,
or broad-band synchronization.
Distortions of time perception, Anderson thinks, may reflect the “rescaling
in time” afforded by the fractal bursting of BLA pyramidal cells during
this critical state. We can speculate that the role of common SOC
states in the amygdalae, extrastriate cortex and brainstem, form the emotional
and visual substrates for CRPs “experiential” dream-like phenomena.
After the abrupt end of the SOC dream-like state and rapid image experience,
subjects are able to reflect on and integrate the experience. The
journeyer has experienced “the big picture” and has a unique perspective
on his or her life. Experiential recall of trauma struggles helps
bring resolution and getting in touch with soul, or a feeling of oneness
with the universe, or other unitive expressions. CRP may function
as a kind of facilitated “REM-rebound” process, making up for sleep loss
since trauma or abuse first affected sleep architecture.
After sojourners recover from their “journey to the land of the dead,”
they are reborn socially. But they return with the fractal perspective
of the “long-view.” Although the brain generates long-range correlations,
abuse, trauma and the cumulative stress of modern life can quickly destroy
these correlations, so CRP is complimented with coventional forms of support,
follow up, and reintegration.
The traumatic abuse that may result in functionally abnormal hemispheric
interactions precipitates in emotional instability and addictive behaviors.
CRP works through multiple neurotransmitter systems to create within amygdaloid-brainstem
systems a self-organized critical oneiric state or state of plasticity,
similar to states of plasticity existing during fetal development.
This critical brain state may facilitate the consolidation of traumatic
memories, reversal of abnormal hemispheric function and the dissolution
of habitual motor patterns associated with addiction, thereby leading to
psychophysical and even spiritual recovery.
The Core Self and Proto-Self as a Neurological Model
ABSTRACT: Antonio Damasio’s identification of neuronal circuitry
for the core-self and proto-self dovetails exactly with Graywolf’s independently
developed notion of the dynamic primal existential sensory self-image,
(PESSI), the most fundamental experience of self/not-self. It is
the existential hologram which shapes our reality, our perceptions of self,
world, and cosmos, our perceptions of our sensory input and self-generated
information. Attractors work at the edge of complexity to form the
existential hologram or PESSI. The points of agreement between the
sensorial proto-self and PESSI are presented and discussed in this paper,
drawing heavily from Damasio’s anatomical descriptors and characterizations.
Damasio covers nuances too numerous to include in this synopsis.
They are extremely important to neurological comprehension of restructuring
in the CRP Journeys, and thorough understanding of these neural pathways
will amply reward the CRP mentor.
The mysteries of consciousness are rooted in our basic life regulation
processes. The basic emotions function as basic regulatory mechanisms.
Primary universal emotions include happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise,
or disgust. Secondary social “emotions” include embarassment, jealousy,
guilt or pride, while background emotions include well-being or malaise,
calm or tension--essentially degrees of arousal of either the sympathetic
or parasympathetic systems. The name emotion has also been attached
to drives and motivations and states of pain and pleasure.
In THE FEELING OF WHAT HAPPENS: BODY AND EMOTION IN THE MAKING OF CONSCIOUSNESS
(1999), Antonio Damasio outlines the shared biological core which underlies
all these phenomena as follows:
1. Emotions are complicated collections of chemical and neural responses,
forming a pattern; all emotions have some kind of regulatory role to play,
leading in one way or another to the creation of circumstances advantageous
to the organism exhibiting the phenomenon; emotions are about the life
of an organism, its body to be precise, and their role is to assist the
organism in maintaining life.
2. Notwithstanding the reality that learning and culture alter the
expression of emotions and give emotions new meanings, emotions are biologically
determined processes, depending on innately set brain devices, laid down
by a long evolutionary history.
3. The devices which produce emotions occupy a fairly restricted
ensemble of subcortical regions, beginning at the level of the brain stem
and moving up to the higher brain; the devices are part of a set of structures
that both regulate and represent body states.
4. All the devices can be engaged automatically, without conscious
deliberation; the considerable amount of individual variation and the fact
that culture plays a role in shaping some inducers does not deny the fundamental
stereotypicality, automaticity, and regulatory purpose of emotions.
5. All emotions use the body as their theater (internal milieu, visceral,
vestibular and musculoskeletal systems), but emotions also affect the mode
of operation of numerous brain circuits: the variety of the emotional responses
is responsible for profound changes in both the body landscape and the
brain landscape. The collection of these changes constitute the substrate
for the neural patterns which eventually become feelings of emotion.
When we sense that a person is “tense” or “edgy,” “discouraged” or “enthusiastic,”
“down” or “cheerful,” without a single word having been spoken, we are
detecting background emotions. We detect them through subtle details
of body posture, speed and contour of movements, minimal changes in the
amount and speed of eye movements, and in the degree of contraction of
The inducers of background emotions are usually internal. The processes
of regulating life itself can cause background emotions but so can continued
processes of mental conflict, overt or covert, as they lead to sustained
satisfaction or inhibitation of drives and motivations. Background
emotions allows us to experience background feelings of tension or relaxation,
of fatigue or energy, of well-being or malaise, of anticipation of dread.
These responses are closer to the inner core of life, and their target
is more internal than external. Profiles of the internal milieu and
viscera play the lead part in background emotions. They are richly
expressed in musculoskeletal changes such as subtle body posture and overall
shaping of body movement.
The biological “purpose” of emotions is clear, and they are not a dispensable
luxury. They are adaptations which help us regulate metabolism or
homeostasis and survive. They underlie our autobiographical experience.
They are inseparable from the ideas of reward/punishment, pleasure/pain,
approach/withdrawal, personal advantage/disadvantage, even the idea of
Thus, the spectrum of life regulation includes a level of basic life regulation,
emotions, feelings, and high reason. From the bioregulatory level
of reflections comes pain and pleasure, drives, and motivations.
Emotions are the complex, stereotyped patterns of response including primary,
secondary and background emotions. Feelings are sensory patterns
signaling pain, pleasure, and emotions as images.
The substrate for representation of emotions and feelings is a collection
of neural dispositions in a number of brain regions located largely
in subcortical nuclei of the brain stem, hypothalamus, basal forebrain,
and amygdala. In keeping with their dispositional status, these representations
are implicit, dormant, and not available to conscious awareness.
They exist, rather as potential patterns of activity arising within neuronal
assemblies, and when activated have a variety of cascading consequences
creating an emotional state. The internal state is composed both
of the emotional as neural object (the activation pattern at the induction
sites) and the sensing of the consequences of the activation, a feeling,
provided the resulting collection of neural patterns becomes images in
They lead to two mechanisms: 1) the “body-loop” of chemical messenger and
neural signals which change the somatosensory structures of the CNS, and
2) the “as if body loop” which also changes the body landscape and sensory
body maps under the control of other neural sites. It is “as if”
the body had really been changed but it has not. The cognitive state
can also change or alter one’s state, affecting filtering of information,
cognitive processing, focus and imagery. Consciousness is required
for us to actually know we are experiencing an emotional or feeling state.
Consciousness happens in our interiors, but it manifests outwardly.
A three-way linkage between inner and outer operates. 1) Certain
external manifestations, e.g. wakefulness, background emotions, attentions,
specific behaviors; 2) the corresponding internal manifestations of the
human being having those behaviors as reported by another human being;
and 3) the internal manifestation that we, as observers, can verify in
Absence of emotion is a reliable correlate of defective core consciousness.
Deep sleep is not accompanied by emotional expressions, but in dream sleep,
during which consciousness returns in its odd way, emotional expressions
are easily detectable in humans and animals. Emotions and core consciousness
tend to go together, in the literal sense, by being present together or
Emotions can be triggered nonconsciously, from unattended thoughts or unknown
dispositions, as well as from unperceivable aspects of our body states.
Both emotions and core consciousness require, in part, the same neural
substrates, and strategically placed dysfunction compromises both kinds
The shared substrates include the ensemble of neural structures which support
the proto-self, the structures which both regulate and represent the body’s
internal states. Lack of emotion, from background emotion on up to
higher levels of emotion are a sign that important mechanisms of body regulation
have been compromised.
Core consciousness is functionally close to the disrupted mechanisms, interwoven
with them, and thus compromised along with them. There is no such
close functional relationship between emotional processing and extended
consciousness. Thus, impairments of extended consciousness are not
accompanied by a breakdown of emotion. Neurological examples of disrupted
core consciousness include epilepsy, coma or vegetative states, and deep
Damasio’s basic hypothesis is that: core consciousness occurs when
the brain’s representation devices generate an imaged, nonverbal account
of how the organism’s own state is affected by the organism’s processing
of an object, and when this process enhances the image of the causative
object, thus placing it saliently in a spatial and temporal context.
The sense-of-self component is grounded in the following premises:
1. Consciousness depends on the internal construction and exhibition
of new knowledge concerning an interaction between that organism and an
2. The organism, as a unit, is mapped in the organism’s brain, within
structures that regulate the organism’s life and signal its internal states
continuously; the object is also mapped within the brain, in the sensory
and motor structures activated by the interaction of the organism with
the object; both organism and object are mapped as neural patterns, in
first-order maps; all of these neural patterns can become images.
3. The sensorimotor maps pertaining to the object causes changes
in the maps pertaining to the organism.
4. The changes described in 3 can be represented in yet other maps
(second-order maps) which thus represent the relationship of object and
5. The neural pattern transiently formed in second-order maps can
become mental images, no less so than the neural patterns in first-order
6. Because of the body-related nature of both organism maps and second-order
maps, the mental images that describe the relationship are feelings.
The swift, second-order nonverbal account narrates a story: that of the
organism caught in the act of representing its own changing state as it
goes about representing something else. The knowable entity of the
catcher is created in the narrative of the catching process. This
plot is incessantly repeated for every object that the brain represents,
whether the object is present or brought back from a past memory.
Also it makes no differenence what the object really is.
This neural narrative is based on neural patterns which become images,
the same fundamental currency in which the description of the consciousness-causing
object is also carried out. The images that constitute this narrative
are incorporated in the stream of thoughts. The images in the consciousness
narrative flow like shadows along with the images of the object for which
they are providing an unwritten, unsolicited comment. They are within
the movie in the brain. There is no external spectator.
Thus, our subtle image of knowing, the feeling essence of our sense of
self, and the enhancement of the image of the causative object dominates
core consciousness. Attention is driven to focus on an object and
the result is saliency of the images of that object in mind. It becomes
fact, following the preceding events which lead to its becoming, and it
is part of a relationship with the organism to which all this is happening.
It is a direct influence on the transient core self and the autobiographical
self. Unlike the core self, which inheres as a protagonist of the
primordial account, and unlike the proto-self, which is a current representation
of the state of the organism, the autobiographical self is based on a concept
in the true cognitive and neurobiological sense of the term.
The core self inheres in the second-order nonverbal account that occurs
whenever an object modifies the proto-self. The core self can be
triggered by any object. The mechanism of production of core self
undergoes minimal changes across a lifetime. We are conscious of
the core self.
The proto-self is an interconnected and temporarily coherent collection
of neural patterns which represent the state of the organism, moment by
moment, at multiple levels of the brain. We are not conscious of
the proto-self. The mechanism of core self requires the presence
of proto-self. The biological essence of the core self is the representation
of the core self is the representation in a second-order map of the proto-self
Regardless of how well autobiographical memory grows and how robust the
autobiological self becomes, it should be clear that they require a continued
supply of core consciousness for them to be of any consequence to their
owner organism. Autobiographical self can only be known when there
is a fresh construction of core self and knowing for each of those
contents to be known.
Anatomy of the Proto-Self
Damasio outlines the brain structures required to impliment the proto-self:
1. Several brain-stem nuclei which map body states and map
body signals. Along the chains of signaling that begin in the body
and terminate in the highest and most distal structures of the brain, this
region is the first in which an aggregate of nuclei signal the overall
current body state, as mediated by the spinal cord pathways, the trigeminal
nerve, the vagus complex, and the area postreme. Included in this
region are classical reticular nuclei as well as monoamine and acetylcholine
2.. The hypothalamus, which is located near the structures named
in 1 and closely interconnected with them, and the basal forebrain, which
is located in the vicinity of the hypothalamus, is interconnected with
both hypothalamus and brain stem, and constitutes an extension of those
lower structures intot he forebrain. The hypothalamus contributes
to the current representation of the body by maintaining its current register
of the state of the internal milieu along several dimensions, e.g. level
of circulating nutrients such as glucose, concentration of varied ions,
relative concentration of water, pH, concentration of varied circulating
hormones, and so on. The hypothalamus helps regulate the internal
milieu by acting on the basis of such maps.
3. The insular cortex, the cortcies known as S2, and the
medial parietal contices located behind the splenium of the corpus
callosum, all of which are part of the somatosensory cortices.
In humans the functions of these cortices is asymmetric. Domasio
thinks the ensemble of these cortices in the right hemisphere holds the
most ingrated representation of the current internal state of the organism
at the level of the cerebral hemispheres, along with representations of
the invariant design of the musculoskeletal frame. Jaak Panksepp
also links body and self, by means of an innate representation of the body
in brain stem.
Mechanisms for core consciousness and extended conscious are undergird
by anatomical structures necessary to support the proto-self and the second-order
map requird by those mechanisms. Domasio puts forth this evidence:
1. Bilateral damage to maps of somatosensory information, which form
the neural basis for the proto-self, should disrupt consciousness.
The disruption of consciousness should be maximal following damage at the
level of the upper brain stem and hypothalamus, where proto-self structures
are tightly packed together, and less severe at higher levels (the cortices
of insula, S2, S1; related parietal association cortices), whereas processing
chains are spatially more separated.
2. Bilateral damage to the structures presumed to participate in
constructing the second-order imaged account of the organism-object relationship
should disrupt core consciousness partially or completely. Examples
of such structures are certain nuclei of the thalamus and the cingulate
3. Bilateral damage to temporal cortices, including the inferotemporal
region known as IT and the temporal pole known as TP, should not impair
core consciousness, since in those circumstances the structures required
to represent the proto-self, to process most objects to be known, and to
create the imaged account of the organism-object relationship are all intact.
However, damage to the temporal cortices will impair the activation of
autobiographical memory records and thus reduce the scope of extended consciousness.
The same applies to bilateral damage in some higher-order cortices within
the vast prefrontal regions, which also support the records from which
the autobiographical self can be activated.
4. Bilateral damage to the hippocampus will not impair core consciousness.
However, because new learning of facts will be precluded, it will halt
the growth of autobiographical memory, affect its maintenance, and, consequently,
alter the quality of extended consciousness in the future.
5. Bilateral damage to early sensory cortices concerned with external
sensory information (e.g. vision, hearing) should not impair core consciousness
except by precluding the respresentation of the aspects of a given object
which depend on that particular cortex. The situation of somatosensory
cortices is exceptional since they provide part of the basis for
the proto-self. Their damage is referred to in statement 1 above.
6. Bilateral damage to prefrontal cortices, even if extensive, should
not alter core consciousness.
The Primal Existential Self-Image in CRP
Damasio's description shares much in common with what is termed the Primal
Existential Sensory Self Image (PESSI) in the Consciousness Restructuring
Process. It has many implications in terms of the nature of consciousness,
disease, healing, and dreams.
Each symptom, illness or disease we manifest, whether physical or mental,
is based in or reflects a deep self-image or dynamic consciousness structure.
It is a very primal image and exists on a sensory-level. It defines
our existential world-view, which simply means how we experience self,
the world, and the relationship between the two. Graywolf refers
to this Primal Existential Sensory Self-Image as the PESSI. It represents
the deepest level of self and at the same time is one of a limited number
of images (archetypal images) about which the self organizes. It
is the subjective experiencing of the existential hologram that shapes
our perceived reality.
As Jung suggests, these images arise from even more fundamental principles
of reality, which Graywolf calls "Archetypal Strange Attractors."
These are the principles by which reality organizes itself from the field
of infinite possibilities, (implicate order or chaos) into the structure
of reality. These structures also organize both our somatic and personality
presentation. They also hold in them the patterns of our physiological,
mental and emotional diseases as well as our strengths and wellness.
In early attempts to describe the CRP, we noticed that when we reached
the primal self-image (hologram) that held the dis-ease structure during
journeys, it led inevitably into an archetypal imagery that seemed to transcend
the personal self, yet there was still an experience of beingness.
These images were experienced on the edges or periphery of sensation but
also seemed to go far beyond ordinary sensation. They led to a deeper
state of self/not-self from which a healing transformation seemed to rise
out of chaos to produce a new flowing and easeful primal self-image, from
which attitudes, behavior and somatic presentation change from within,
As the journey process was further explored, it became apparent that this
sensory/pre-sensory imagery appeared regularly just beyond the dynamics/imagery
of the illness and just beyond the primal existential sensory self-image.
At first they all seemed chaotic or without any apparent structure, but
on deeper observation resemble fractal images in both form and dynamics.
They are the principles about which universal reality seems to form.
In our earliest formative conditions, while the structures of body and
mind are still forming and flexible and while we are in our "initial conditions,"
these archetypal attractors are operating to form our existential hologram.
They shape our perceptions of reality, create our personal structures of
self and reality out of unbound consciousness field. The attractors
work at the edge of complexity to form the existential hologram or PESSI.
Incorporated into it are the experiences that shaped it. In turn
this shapes our perceptions.
The PESSI image creates our model of reality and that defines self and
universe to us; it in turn shapes our perceptions from the input of our
senses. Rooted in this dynamic existential sensory self image or
hologram are the dis-easeful dynamic consciousness patterns that shape
the more superficial levels of somatic and psychic structures. This
is the level at which we encounter the interference patterns that underlie
our personal existential hologram, (Personal Mythology), and it is experienced
as shifting energy patterns of sensations and sub-sensations. When
the sojourner is invited to identify with these patterns or to yield to
them, they inevitably are led into chaotic or unformed consciousness wherein
the quantum shift to healing process seems to occur.
The part is the whole. The belief system rests on the shoulders of
this system that in turn supports the emotion-thinking interplay, that
in turn supports and shapes the behavior-somatic symptoms. It becomes
realized as outer reality. One's beliefs conform to this dynamic
image and by and large these dynamics of the PESSI also limit our sensory
input. They are a deeply ingrained sensory neural pattern.
We ultimately reproduce and confirm this pattern at the behavioral and
The Primal Existential Sensory Self Image (PESSI) underlies and conditions
all perceptions of self, other, and world. The PESSI represents the
focal point of the self. The PESSI is the deepest level of consciousness
dynamics in which there is a defined self and not-self. What we sense
is processed into our perceptions of reality by the dynamics of this consciousness
structure. The most fundamental consciousness dynamics form the physical-psychic
self of the mindbody. It is in these structures and dynamics that
quantum shifts from diseased to healthy consciousness process seems to
be initiated. The deepest processes of natural healing must then
occur there. Holographic theory about the nature of reality and our
perceptions enriches our understanding about how natural healing might
work at this creative level.
In the perceptual hologram (interference pattern), resides the fundamental
basis of our structure and our sense of self and external environment,
including our health and illness in both our physiological and psychological
being. It is here, at this level of our being where fundamental psychophysical
restructuring occurs. This hologram is what Graywolf has termed the
Primal Existential Sensory Self-Image (PESSI) or existential hologram (existential
meaning, sense of self, the world and the relationship between them).
He suggests that this inteference pattern of interacting and dancing waves
may be one of the ways that we experience consciousness itself. Even
a small change in one synaptic wave emission can change this entire hologram
or perception of self and universe.
Chaos Theory holds that the more complex a system, the more stable and
self-correcting it is. Disruption to a linear system throws it off
course, but only affects portion of a complex system, which soon adjusts
to "fill in the gap." Chaotic, unstructured or complex consciousness is
the dynamics required for consciousness restructuring. The restructuring
of the PESSI in turn affects neural patterns (the existential hologram).
It is necessary to be at the initial conditions of the system for this
restructuring to have maximum effect. REM consciousness seem to be
necessary to this process.
A dream starts as chaotic, unbound consciousness (consciousness field).
As it first enters into space-time its initial shaping (form/structure)
is influenced by the primal frozen or bound consciousness structures at
the deepest levels of our consciousness or memory (strange attractor).
The (attractor-memory-subconscious structures) are deep sensory patterns
of our past experiences that themselves were formed in REM at earlier times.
These are what I refer to as the Primal Existential Sensory Self Image
Forming and reforming the PESSI takes place in REM. Established consciousness
patterns act as strange attractors to shape random neural firings into
a specific neural firing pattern in the brain. During REM the event
may be relived in symbolic or actual form and re-enforced in holographic
memory. REM is the most complex brain activity measured and is associated
with the formation of new neural pathways. Thus, the event becomes
recorded in the brain as a synaptic firing pattern. A "neural organ"
is formed, a relatively fixed part or function of the brain itself.
The firing pattern or sequence, not the locale, is the important factor.
It is associated with sensory stimuli which can activate the patterns.
This becomes a defining part of the PESSI. The patterns also form
the basis of organic dysfunctions.
These neural firing patterns (PESSI) influence the structuring of the chaotic
energy consciousness as it enters into the (REM) sleeping organism.
PESSIs also underlie our behavior, (see the six zones model) and in fact
every aspect of our physical-mental self. REM is a creative state
and also one associated with forming new neural circuits. So in this
creative-learning way the dream is processing data from the day, comparing
it with data from the past and creating new neural connections.
When inactive, neural patterns are in a state of potential, or implicate
order, ready to be expressed or activated when any one of the sensory inputs
associated with it is experienced. The sensory cues also act as strange
attractors to draw it out of the implicate order to activate the firing
pattern. It is a very primal level of functioning so thinking cannot
really alter this structure or prevent its activation, rather thinking
and emotional patterns are formed from its activation.
This is one way, in fact, to describe the formation of all structure in
the universe. As the wave front collapses out of the field of infinite
probability, and becomes photons, gravitons, electrons or "conscitrons"
they are influenced in forming the patterns and interconnections that we
know as the space-time reality by the forms already there (attractor).
In this way the formation of a dream is consistent with quantum theory.
But the real point here is that the shape the dream takes is basically
also a self image. It is closer to an impressionistic self portrait,
but is none the less a self portrait. Thus a dream is created on
the edge of a complex (chaotic) consciousness field, is given its first
shaping by the deep internal subconscious structures (internal strange
attractors) stored at the organism's most basic levels and in that sense
the dream, like consciousness, is self organizing.
CRP has an important contribution to make with respect to changing our
fundamental existential perceptions. In summary, the PESSI exists
at the most fundamental levels of self and shapes the self and is the basis
of our perceptions. It is much deeper than behavior, thoughts and
emotions, or even the fundamental belief system. It contributes to
these patterns and is the strange attractor that shapes these levels of
consciousness structures. It was in turn shaped by our experiences.
It defines the self.
CRP is able to access this fundamental consciousness-neural strcutre and
free it to transform through self-organization to a more positive self
image that affects the entire psychophysical self. This changing
of perception in the PESSI is part of the explanation for spontaneous natural
healing. REM may be the mechanism that directly communicates at the
consciousness and pure energy level, the common language that communicates
our perceptions directly to our cells and re-enforces these emergent perceptions.
Core consciousness depends most critically on the activity of a restricted
number of phylogenetically old brain structures, beginning in the brain
stem and ending with the somatosensory and cingulate cortices. The
interaction among the structures in this set supports the creation of the
proto-self, ebngeners the second-order neural pattern which describes the
relationship between the organism (proto-self) and the object, and modulates
the activity of object-processingg regions which are not part of the set.
Damasio's provisional conclusions include the following:
1. Damage to the brain regions presumed to support either the proto-self
or the second-order account of the organism-object relationship-disrupts
core consciousness. Extended consciousness is disrupted as well.
2. The regions which supports either the proto-self or the second-order
maps have special anatomical characteristics (a) they are among the phylogenetically
older structures of the brain; (b) they are largely located near the midline;
(c) none is located on the external surface of the cerbral cortex, and
(d) all are involved in some aspect of body regulation or representation.
3. Proto-self and second order structures constitute a central resource;
and their dysfunction causes a general disruption of consciousness for
any object. Early sensory structures are involved in processing separate
aspects of objects, and thus the disabling of one of those structures,
even if extensive, does not affectgg consciousness in general.
4. The regions whose damage does not cause a disruption of core consciousness
constitute, in the aggregate, a large proportion of the central nervous
system than the ensemble of those that do disrupt consciousness.
5. Those same regions (e.g. early sensory cotices, higher-order cortices)
are primarily involved in (a) signaling the objects and the events which
come to be known because of core consciousness, (b) hholding recording
pertaining to their experience and (c) manipulating those records in reasoning
and creative thinking.
6. The early sensory structures are also involved in the process
of making consciousness. They do so in a different manner--there
is only one set of structures to support proto-self and second-order maps,
while there are several sets of early sensory structures, one per sensory
modality. The participation of early sensory structures includes
(a) initiating the process by influencing the proto-self structures; (b)
signaling to second-order structures, and (c) being the recipients of the
modulatory influences consequent to the second-order neural patterns.
It is because of the latter influence that the enhjancement of the neural
patterns which support the object doess occur and varied components of
the object to be known become integrated.
Medical Applications of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Brain stimulation with TMS is achieved from the outside of the head using
pulses of electromagnetic field that induce an electric field in the brain.
TMS has numerous applications in the study, diagnosis and therapy of the
brain. TMS can either excite the cortex or disturb its function.
The concurrent use of TMS and high-resolution EEG shows that the combination
is effective for mapping the functional connections in the brain.
Under EEG, a TMS pulse to the motor area of the left hemisphere is seen
to move to the opposite hemisphere, suggesting a callosal connection between
the two active areas. The neuronal response to magnetic stimulation
reveals cortical reactivity and connectivity.
TMS holds special promise as a tool to study localization of function,
connectivity of brain regions, and pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric
disorders. It may also have potential as a therapeutic intervention.
TMS has been referred to as "electrodeless" electrical stimulation, to
emphasize that the magnetic field acts as the medium between electricity
in the coil and induced electrical currents in the brain. The proximity
of the brain to the time-varying magnetic field results in current flow
in neural tissues.
Neuronal depolarization can also be produced by electrical stimulation,
with electrodes placed on the scalp (referred to as transcranial electric
stimulation). Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an example of this. Importantly,
unlike electrical stimulation, where the skull acts as a massive resistor,
magnetic fields are not deflected or attenuated by intervening tissue.
This means that TMS can be more focal than electric stimulation. Furthermore,
for electrical stimulation to achieve sufficient current density in the
brain to result in neuronal depolarization, pain receptors in the scalp
must be stimulated.
A striking effect of TMS occurs when one places the coil on the scalp over
primary motor cortex. A single TMS pulse of sufficient intensity causes
involuntary movement. The magnetic field intensity needed to produce motor
movement varies considerably across individuals, and is known as the motor
threshold. Placing the coil over different areas of the motor cortex
causes contralateral movement in different distal muscles, corresponding
to the well-known homunculus. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can be
used to map the representation of body parts in the motor cortex on an
individual basis. Subjectively, this stimulation feels much like
a tendon reflex movement.
Thus, a TMS pulse produces a powerful but brief magnetic field that passes
through the skin, soft tissue, and skull, and induces electrical current
in neurons, causing depolarization that then has behavioral effects (body
movement). The TMS magnetic field declines logarithmically with distance
from the coil. This limits the area of depolarization with current technology
to a depth of about 2 cm below the brain's surface.
Single TMS over motor cortex can produce simple movements. Over primary
visual cortex, TMS can produce the perception of flashes of light or phosphenes.
To date, these are the "positive" behavioral effects of TMS. Other immediate
behavioral effects are generally disruptive. Interference with information
processing and behavior is especially likely when TMS pulses are delivered
rapidly and repetitively. Repeated rhythmic TMS is called repetitive TMS
(rTMS). If the stimulation occurs faster than once per second (1 Hz) it
is referred to as fast rTMS.
A key distinction between TMS research and work on the behavioral effects
of exposure to magnetic fields is that TMS effects occur at or near intensities
sufficient to produce cortical neuron depolarization. The capacity to noninvasively
excite or inhibit focal cortical areas represents a remarkable advance
for neuroscience research. As an interventional probe in neuropsychiatric
disorders, rTMS has the potential of taking functional imaging one step
further by elucidating causal relationships.
Experimental treatment of depression with TMS showed evidence that modulation
of prefrontal function is linked to the efficacy of ECT. Studies
combining SSRIs with rTMS showed the rTMS group with a faster antidepressant
response. It is unknown whether the effect is region or frequency
dependent. TMS is relatively benign. Repetetive TMS does not
involve anesthesia administration or seizure induction and has no obvious
sequelae as does ECT.
There is evidence that rTMS can modulate mood systems in normal volunteers.
Three studies found that rTMS over the left DLPFC transiently induced a
mild increase in self-rated sadness, whereas right DLPFC rTMS produced
a mild increase in self-rated happiness as early as 20 minutes or as late
as 5 to 8 hours poststimulation. As described, the mood effects of
rTMS in patients with major depression may have an opposite laterality
to those seen in normal volunteers. There has yet to be an investigation
using TMS to probe the anatomy subserving the perception or expression
Transcranial magnetic stimulation carries the vision of tailoring the site
and nature of stimulation to individual needs. It is uncertain whether
this vision will be realized and whether a treatment role for rTMS will
emerge. At the practical level, rTMS research is not supported with the
resources devoted to pharmaceutical development. Given the large parameter
space, it is difficult to see how rTMS treatment applications can be optimized
without considerable basic research extending from cell culture preparations
through whole animal models, including humans.
Stimulation of one hemisphere can inhibit or facilitate responses
elicited in the opposite hemisphere, indicating interhemispheric modulatory
effects. Paired-pulse inhibition is reduced in focal epilepsy and
enhanced by -aminobutryic acid (GABA)-ergic agents. Pharmacological manipulations
suggest that intracortical paired-pulse inhibition reflects the activation
of inhibitory GABA-ergic and dopaminergic interneurons, while paired-pulse
facilitation reflects excitatory N-methyl-D-aspartate-mediated interneurons,
and motor threshold is modulated by ion channel conductivity. These profiles
provide novel methods to investigate local alterations in neurochemical
Some preliminary studies suggest that rTMS effects on cortical excitability
may depend on the frequency of stimulation. Manipulations of frequency
and intensity may produce distinct patterns of facilitation (fast rTMS)
and inhibition (slow rTMS) of motor responses with distinct time courses.
These effects may last beyond the duration of the rTMS trains with enduring
effects on spontaneous neuronal firing rates.
To use TMS optimally, it is important to know how TMS is acting in the
brain. Does TMS mimic normal brain physiology, or is it supraphysiologically
depolarizing and activating different cell groups (excitatory, inhibitory,
local, or remote) in a large region? Understanding of TMS mechanisms is
being advanced through studies in animal models and by combining TMS with
Neuroimaging studies have shown that TMS is biologically active, both locally
in tissue under the coil and at remote sites, presumably through transsynaptic
connections. Several studies have shown that the different parameters used
in rTMS (location, intensity, frequency) affect the extent and type of
neurophysiological alterations. Thus, there is considerable promise that
functional imaging research will help elucidate basic TMS effects and the
roles that different TMS parameters exert in modulating these effects.
Theoretically, this may advance clinical research, particularly if combinations
of location, intensity, and frequency are found to have divergent effects
on neuronal activity. Transcranial magnetic stimulation imaging studies
can be divided into 2 main categories: (1) using imaging to guide TMS coil
placement and understand the spatial distribution of TMS magnetic fields
in the brain, and (2) using imaging to measure TMS effects on neuronal
Bohning et al demonstrated that an MRI scanner can be used to display the
TMS magnetic field (producing a phase map; Figure 2). This work
confirmed that the TMS field is not altered appreciably by head geometry.
Further, by combining several TMS coils with different relative orientations,
this technique can measure in 3 dimensions the capacity to focus and combine
magnetic fields. Ultimately, TMS coil arrays combined with MRI may target
deep brain structures. Owing to seizure risk at moderate intensity,
fast rTMS can only be given in short pulse trains (1-8 seconds) with relatively
long intervals between trains (20 seconds).
A major hypothesis in the TMS field has been that fast rTMS results in
excitatory physiological changes, while slow rTMS has inhibitory effects.
To date, imaging studies have yielded inconsistent results regarding this
proposition. In fact, some slow rTMS imaging studies over motor or prefrontal
cortex have found decreased local and remote brain activity, while others
have found increases. Some imaging studies of fast rTMS have found
increased perfusion, but not all.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is not pleasant, and stimulation at higher
intensities and frequencies is generally more painful. The pain experienced
during rTMS is likely related to the repetitive stimulation of peripheral
facial and scalp muscles, resulting in muscle tension headaches in a proportion
of subjects (approximately 5%-20% depending on the study). These headaches
respond to treatment with acetaminophen or aspirin. Magnetic stimulation
also produces a high-frequency noise artifact that can cause short-term
changes in hearing threshold. This is avoided when subjects and investigators
rTMS has resulted in seizures. The risk of seizure induction
is related to the parameters of stimulation, and no seizures have been
reported with single-pulse TMS or rTMS delivered at a slow frequency (1
Hz). There is a growing understanding of the rTMS parameter combinations
(magnetic intensity, pulse frequency, train duration, and intertrain interval)
that result in spread of excitation, heralding impending seizure. Even
if therapeutic benefits are convincingly shown, the seizure risk may limit
the widespread and loosely supervised use of rTMS. In part for this reason,
the therapeutic potential of slow-frequency (1 Hz) deserves particular
Gates et al performed histological examinations of the resected temporal
lobes of 2 patients with epilepsy who preoperatively received approximately
2000 stimulations over this tissue. Lesions attributable to TMS were
not found. Magnetic resonance imaging scans done before and after 2 weeks
of rTMS in 30 depressed patients did not show change.
Both TMS and rTMS can disrupt cognition during the period of stimulation.
However, the safety concerns are about alterations in cognitive function
beyond the period of stimulation. The limited investigation of short-term
neuropsychological effects of TMS has not demonstrated significant changes.
Little information is available about long-term effects. The technique
has been in use for more than a decade without reports of long-term adverse
The rate of cancer is not increased in individuals with prolonged exposure
to high-intensity magnetic fields, such as MRI technicians. However,
TMS involves extremely brief, focal exposure to high-intensity magnetic
fields and thus safety information from MRI technicians, or even people
who live near power lines (lengthy exposure to low-intensity magnetic fields)
may not be germane.
Controlled trials across a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions are underway,
yet safety information is limited. Reassuringly, single-pulse and other
TMS measures of cortical excitability are believed to be devoid of significant
safety concerns. However, rTMS has shown potential to ameliorate neuropsychiatric
symptoms. The potential for adverse cognitive effects must be considered
precisely because it is hypothesized that rTMS is a sufficiently powerful
modulator of regional functional activity to have therapeutic properties.
More comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations of the short- and long-term
effects of rTMS are needed.
ECT presents the one situation in humans in which seizures are provoked
for therapeutic purposes. A reliable method of seizure induction with TMS
may have important advantages over traditional ECT by offering better control
over the intensity and spatial distribution of current density in the brain.
Developing a TMS form of convulsive therapy is largely an issue of technological
advances in stimulator output and coil design. Such a development may also
foster better understanding of the safety of nonconvulsive uses of rTMS.
Conclusions: During the next several years, it will become clearer
whether rTMS has a role in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. To date,
trials in depression have focused on demonstrating antidepressant properties
and have not demonstrated clinical utility. We need to know a good deal
more about the patients who benefit from rTMS, the optimal form of treatment
delivery, the magnitude and persistence of therapeutic effects, the capability
of sustaining improvement with rTMS or other modalities, and the risks
It is still too early to know whether we are at the threshold of a new
era in physical treatments and noninvasive regional brain modulation. Regardless
of its potential therapeutic role, the capacity of rTMS to noninvasively
and focally alter functional brain activity should lead to important advances
in our understanding of brain-behavior relationships and the pathophysiology
of neuropsychiatric disorders.
List of abbreviations:
CT Computed tomography
EP Evoked potential
ERP Event-related potential
ES Electrical stimulation
FEM Finite element method
fMRI Functional magnetic resonance imaging
MEP Motor-evoked potential
MNE Minimum-norm estimation
MRI Magnetic resonance imaging
MT Motor threshold
NIRS Near-infrared spectroscopy
PET Positron emission tomography
PNS Peripheral nervous system
rTMS Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
SPECT Single photon emission computed tomography
TCES Transcranial electrical stimulation
TMS Transcranial magnetic stimulation
CHAOS AS THE UNIVERSAL SOLVENT
There is a generic process in nature and consciousness
which dissolves and regenerates all forms. The essence of this transformative,
morphological process is chaotic--purposeful yet inherently unpredictable
holistic repatterning. The Great Work of the art of alchemy is the
creation of the Philosopher's Stone, a symbol of wholeness and integration.
The liquid form of the Stone, called the Universal Solvent, dissolves all
old forms like a rushing stream, and is the self-organizing matrix for
the rebirth of new forms. It is thus a metaphor or model for the
dynamic process of transformation, ego death and re-creation.
The alchemical operation SOLUTIO, called "the root of alchemy,"
corresponds with the element water. It implies a flowing state of
consciousness, "liquification" of consciousness, a return to the womb for
rebirth, a baptism or healing immersion in the vast ocean of deep consciousness.
It facilitates feedback via creative regression: de-structuring, or destratification
by immersion in the flow of psychic imagery through identification with
more and more primal forms or patterns--a psychedelic, expanded state.
Chaos Theory provides a metaphorical language for describing the flowing
dynamics of the chaotic process of psychological transformation.
"All substances are part of my own consciousness.
This consciousness is vacuous, unborn, and unceasing."
Thus meditating, allow the mind to rest in the uncreated state. Like
the pouring of water into water, the mind should be allowed its own easy
mental posture in its natural, unmodified condition, clear and vibrant.
--Leary, Metzner, Alpert;
THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE
To summarize, I have spoken of seven major aspects of SOLUTIO symbolism:
(1) return to the womb or primal state; (2) dissolution, dispersal, dismemberment;
(3) containment of a lesser thing by a greater; (4) rebirth, rejuvenation,
immersion in the creative energy flow; (5) purification ordeal; (6) solution
of problems; and (7) melting or softening process. These different
aspects overlap. Several or all of them may make up different facets
of a single experience. Basically it is the ego's confrontation with
the unconscious that brings about SOLUTIO.
--Edward Edinger, ANATOMY OF THE PSYCHE
THE MEDICINE OF PHILOSOPHERS
Alchemy had one great prescription for the accomplishment of the Great
Work: "Solve et Coagula"--reduce or dissolve all to its primary,
most fundamental essence and embody that creative, holistic spirit.
The ancient alchemists sought to transform "lead" into "gold." We
repeat this process as modern alchemists when we seek the transformative
medium which allows us to recognize our rigidities ("lead") and facilitates
our healing and expression of our full creative potential ("gold").
That medium is the ever-flowing river of our consciousness.
The organic, regenerative process of "re-creational ego death" is common
to mysticism, experiential psychology, and psychedelic journeys.
Spiritual exploration, or soul travel, is shared by all three modes of
immersion in the universal stream of consciousness. They are all
variations on the theme of the consciousness journey, and echo our shamanic
roots, and the mythemes of eternal return and hero/heroine. Participants
reach a deep, integral level, and direct experience of Higher Power, often
merging with the Creation or the Creator.
All these modes facilitate psychedelic consciousness, though any given
experience may vary in duration and depth. Their prescribed frequency
varies: meditators are advised to "die daily;" in psychotherapy
once a month may be enough for regenerative therapy; psychedelic use varies
from single experiences, to monthly, to annually. Despite different
modes of induction, all these experiences reflect the illusory nature of
time, space, and ego as reality constructs. The primary nature of
consciousness is revealed.
The word psychedelic has its roots in the Greek psyche, soul, and delos,
visible, evident. It is direct evidence of the soul, the pure manifestation
of soul. Stace (1960) identifies nine qualities of the psychedelic
experience as follows: 1) unity of all things; 2) transformation of space
and time; 3) deeply felt positive mood; 4) sacredness; 5) objectivity and
reality; 6) paradoxicality; 7) alleged ineffability; 8) transiency, and
9) persisting positive changes in subsequent behavior.
In the practice of mysticism there is identification with progressively
more subtle "bodies" or vehicles of consciousness, culminating in a transform
from a mental or causal body to a vehicle of pure Light. In experiential
psychotherapy, transformation results from deepening within the flow of
psychic imagery, progressively identifying with more primal forms, and
ultimately with formlessness. In psychedelic experience, expansion
of consciousness dissolves ego boundaries leading to morphological transformations
and ecstatic communion.
In alchemy, one sought not only to find or create the Stone, but also to
apply it, or use it creatively in the everyday world. Now, we might
speak of integrating or actualizing the results of our transformations
in daily life. Thus, self-actualization or self-realization implies
the grounding of the spiritual fruits of inner exploration.
The liquid form of the Philosopher's Stone was known as the UNIVERSAL SOLVENT.
According to the alchemists, the operation of solutio (liquification) has
a twofold effect: it causes old forms to disappear and new regenerate forms
to emerge. To a rigid consciousness, the primal ocean of the unconscious
is experienced as chaotic, violent, irrational processes of generation
Through "creative regression," the generic form of ego death, consciousness
recycles, recursively bending back upon itself. The direction is
a recapitulation of, a re-experiencing of sequences from earlier life,
conception and birth experience, ancestral awareness, genetic and physiological
recognitions, molecular and atomic perception, and quantum consciousness.
As consciousness explores and expands, ego dissolves. Pure consciousness,
the fundamental luminosity, is the ground state of unborn form. The
generic purpose of ego death is to liberate our embodied being, precipitating
communion with and re-patterning by the Whole. When all forms finally
dissolve into unconditioned consciousness, the ground state of the Nature
Mind is revealed as the mystic Void, the womb of creation.
When the constructed forms which hold personality together are voluntarily
relinquished, consciousness "liquifies" and rapidly moves toward the unconditioned
state. Though easy to say, it is sometimes difficult to achieve such
liberation from the mental-conceptual activity of the nervous system. When
we do, the quiescent nervous system is open and receptive to the conscious
recognition of pure energy transforms with no interpretations.
The Universal Solvent dissolves problems, heals, allows life to flow in
new, creative patterns. These new patterns embody the evolutionary
dynamic. According to chaos theory, free-flowing energy is capable
of self-organization. In consciousness this means that the obstructions
to free flowing energy must first be dissolved. Through re-creational
ego death, consciousness dissolves into healing communion with the whole
of existence, renewing itself, emerging with a new creative potential.
The need for the periodic destruction of outmoded systems implies the value
of recycling consciousness through death/rebirth experience. The universal
solvent is not ordinary water, but "philosophical" water, the water of
life, aqua permanens, aqua mercurialis. It is also the panacea, "elixer
vitae," "tincture," or universal medicine. To periodically dip
into these healing waters has a tonic, rejuvenating effect which pervades
all aspects of being, like a soothing balm.
This divine water signifies the return of The Feminine, a reflective consciousness
with inner awareness and archetypal spiritual perceptions. This Feminine
Divinity is the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World, the universal animating
principle, the upwelling spring of the creative Imagination, the dynamic
flow of imagery, pattern, and form. This dynamic has been known as
Isis, Shakti, Maya, Shekinah, Sophia, Demeter/Persephone, Mary.
In psychedelic mysticism, the animating principle is being referred to
as Gaian Consciousness (Abraham, 1992), which we might view as a rebirth
of ancient ecstatic, communal consciousness. It is the psychobiological
basis of deep ecology, the flow of relationships. The return of chaos
heralds the "greening of consciousness," the greening of the cultural wasteland.
Hillman (1985) describes the anima not as a projection of, but rather the
projector of psyche. We are contained within Her fantasy, not She
within ours. Grinnell (1973) describes the transformative process
of solutio which facilitates the fluid, mobile basis of consciousness:
For aqua permanens is a mode of the arcane substance; its symbol is
water or sea-water, an all-pervading essence of anima mundi, the innermost
and secret numinosum in man and the universe, that part of God which formed
the quintessence and real substance of Physis, at once the highest supercelestial
waters of wisdom and the spirit of life pervading inorganic matter.
The arcane descriptors of this paradoxical liquid Stone are cryptic, couched
in metaphor. But what does it mean experientially and pragmatically?
How does this chaotic transformative process engineer our consciousness?
The divine water, as a liquid symbol of the Self, can be experienced in
many ways. It has been described as innocuously as the "stream
of consciousness," and as poetically as the "Heart of The River of Created
Solutio implies the liquification of consciousness through the dissolution
of rigidities which inhibit free flow. They include roles, game patterns,
defense strategies, rigid attitudes and beliefs, interpretations, complexes,
"old" myths, and "frozen" energy surrounding traumas which manifests as
fear and pain.
Fossilized or ossified energies create obstructions to free flow, like
boulders in a stream produce turbulence. Destructuring transformative
processes can dissolve them, increasing the sense of flow. This "liquified"
consciousness is psychedelic, a nonordinary expanded awareness which dissolves
fixations and habits, and loosens cramped attitudes.
Mystic ecstasy, or the psychedelic state is mind-manifesting, consciousness
expanding. It dissolves the identification of our consciousness with
our histories, bodies, emotions, thoughts, and even beliefs. We are
free to explore myriad forms, structures, and patterns, and/or become formless,
resting in that unborn, unconditioned, unmodified healing state.
We experience the essence of other forms of existence. The Oneness
of all life and existence is directly experienced through a variety of
transformations ranging from plant and animal identifications to planetary
and universal consciousness.
Entering the turbulent flow of the stream of consciousness, we can ride
its currents back to the Source, pure unconditioned cosmic consciousness.
We can imbibe the life-giving qualities of this "water" through mind-expanding
experiential contact with this deep consciousness.
The transformative process is also reflected in our modern physical worldview
as chaos theory, which we can view as a modern "myth," a new metaphor for
the dynamics of consciousness. Chaos is ubiquitous in nature, pervading
all dynamic processes, perturbing them unpredictably. Chaos theory
shows us that nature is continually unfolding new forms from the chaotic
matrix of creation.
Our dynamic consciousness is an essentially chaotic process. Chaos
tracks a time evolution with sensitive dependence on initial conditions.
When we "return" experientially to the "initial conditions" of our existence,
our whole being is holistically repatterned. Our historical limitations
are superceded by the creative power of the eternal Now.
We can allow chaos, as the universal solvent, to liquify consciousness
and re-create ourselves. This presumes a therapeutic atmosphere,
a "safe" set and setting, because each phase of the journey is an encounter
The journey into deep consciousness appears inherently chaotic because
the state of uncertainty pervades each moment of transition. Underlying
moments of transience there are momentary blanks in awareness--little voids--flickering
microstates which repattern each phase. Whether the experience is
one of loss of personal boundaries or direct perception of stark, raw reality,
or visionary dreams, there is no predicting where the chaotic orbit of
consciousness will roam next.
To embrace chaos in our consciousness journeys, therefore means to cooperate
and flow with the transformative process, opening ourselves to our deepest
emergent potential. It's O.K. to let go periodically and temporarily
become unstructured nothingness and open to holistic re-patterning.
Chaos is self-organizing, self-iterating, and self-generating. It
is an evolutionary force. The tendency of new forms emerging from
chaos is toward a higher degree of adaptation, hence evolution (Kauffmann,
1991). This "recycling" of consciousness leads to a self-referential
Chaotic systems revolve around nexus points, known as strange attractors,
because of their unpredictable quality. Rather than being "point-like,"
they are more like vortices within vortices. The Philosopher's Stone
is like a psychic lodestone (or vortex). It acts like an inner magnet,
ordering the contents of our consciousness around it (through feedback
loops) in chaotic, yet meaningful fashion.
The Philosopher's Stone may thus be seen as a "strange attractor" in the
life of anyone engaged in the quest for transformation. It is an
instinctual attraction toward processes which dissolve the ego and liquify
consciousness, leading to transpersonal experience after symbolic death/rebirth.
Freedom in the exploration of imagery comes from the creative capacity
to experience loss.
Experientially, it appears as being channeled into the swirling mass of
interacting symbols, an overwhelming vortex of pure information.
We are sucked inexorably into interaction with the self-symbol, sucked
into ourselves, like flotsam is pulled into a whirlpool. This is
the vortex of the system, the vortex of self, where all levels cross.
It overwhelms or tangles the mental processes, the self-imaging processes
that maintain the illusion of stable personality and individual boundaries.
In solutio, the body is joined with the soul and spirit. The skin-boundary
dissolves into visceral as well as spiritual perception. Awareness
of physical processes may be greatly amplified, appearing as impressions,
intuitions, sensations, sounds, odors. The body is always speaking
silently. Through this raw, physical expression, that which was solid
becomes liquified, dissolved, deliteralized. The concrete image of
the body "morphs" into the flow of pure energy, in a variation of Transubstantiation.
It is the "rapture" of being siezed up into the heavenly realm.
The flow of dynamic energy from the deep Self reawakens and activates the
body, and also that portion of the unconscious that the body carries. The
body not only carries, but is the memory of the entire evolutionary cycle.
Consciousness can access any portion of this material memory through creative
regression. The body manifests kinesthetic, preverbal, and preconceptual
memory of its direct experience. Immersion in the healing creative
energy flow is like a spiritual baptism, which facilitates creative reformation
of ordinary consciousness, and even the physical body.
Solutio, as a state of consciousness, unites the powers of above and below,
transpersonal and personal. It is the integration of the higher spiritual
powers with personal experience that embodies the healing dynamic.
This produces the paradoxical poison-panacea. The dual nature of
the universal medicine points to a consciousness state beyond both opposites.
In Greek myth, Athena gave Asklepios, the divine healer, the blood of Medusa
as the universal medicine. In its negative aspect it was toxic and
produced death. The positive aspect brought healing; this mysterious
potion is the "cure-all," the "solution." Divine water (sometimes
symbolized as blood) is dangerous, poisonous, seductive, addictive, even
deadly in its primeval, untransformed state--madness.
In the science fiction novel, DUNE, the new messiah and the Reverend Mothers
of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood imbibe the psychoactive "water of life"
with impunity. Moving past the fear and pain, they transcend time/space
and commune with the continuum of all existence. What sets them apart
from others, on whom the potion has a fatal effect, is their ability to
withstand and convert its initial toxic effects into a religious ecstasy.
They know how to navigate in that turbulent flow, during their consciousness
journeys--"moving without travelling."
The alchemical solution to this problem of primordial, raw experience is
to "cook" it into a reflective consciousness. Recycling itself, the
ego cooperates in its own "re-creational death," connecting with the transpersonal
forces of rebirth and renewal. The reborn personality is resurrected,
restored to life through new meaning.
The ego acknowledges the Self as its new center of gravity, and personality
heals. Experiential connection to the living reality of the Self,
the "waters of life" is the panacea, the magical elixer of life.
Solutio (and its prime agent, chaos) arises spontaneously from the depths
as irrational images, dreams and fantasies.
In dreamhealing, the dream symbols are followed deeper and deeper down
to the primal level where all structure dissolves into its original source.
This journey into the depths, and subsequent emergence, is the basis of
shamanic healing. As we journey in the autonomous consciousness stream,
guided movement deeper into and beyond the fear and pain brings up the
classical imagery of the solutio, as resistance subsides. There is
no part of it that is not us. The transformative process dissolves blockages,
obstructions or "frozen" consciousness which disturb and distort the free
flow of energy.
1) RETURN TO THE WOMB OR PRIMAL STATE
The alchemist Paracelsus said, "He who enters the kingdom of God must
first enter his mother and die." That death-like silence is also
our mother, the virgin womb of the imagination.
The dynamics of "creative regression" are common to mystical experience,
psychedelic exploration, and therapeutic consciousness journeys.
All lead to immersion in the flow of the stream of consciousness.
Creative regression is a generic form of the myth of the eternal return,
chronic recurrence, reiteration. In the dynamics of chaos theory
we find this recursive motion in the concept of iteration--self-similarity--which
produces the similarity in infinitely descending scales of fractal generation.
Iteration is like a stretching and folding of the spacetime continuum.
Experientially it manifests within us as a spiritualizing instinct, a recursive
"bending back" of instinct toward that which is primordial and divine.
Thus, whether induced through psychoactive substances, mystical transport,
or experiential psychotherapy typical imagery recycles, recapitulates,
or reiterates cascades of impressionistic transformations spanning the
entire spectrum of archetypal experiences--morphological transformations.
These include but are not limited to childhood, birth, embryonic development,
ancestral, mythic, genetic, evolutionary, universal, and quantum consciousness.
Access to the entire continuum of organic and inorganic evolution as well
as the collective unconscious becomes available. That information
most pertinent to the whole self emerges in the stream of consciousness
as virtual experience. What is pertinent is what gets spontaneously
"downloaded," and it repeats and reiterates the basic issues in yet another,
eternally creative way. Stan Grof has catalogued an extensive taxonomy
of these states, most notably in THE ADVENTURE OF SELF-DISCOVERY (1988).
Such experiences of cosmic consciousness constitute a "return to the Mother,"
the blissful fusion of primal union, at both personal and universal levels.
The direction of this dynamic process is recursive, bending back through
deep time, ontology, and phylogeny. It echoes the semantic roots
of the words religion and yoga, which imply a "linking backward" in the
bond between gods and man, a craving for ecstasy, and transcendence of
the limitations of physical form (Milkman, 1987).
Jung called this dynamic an opus contra naturam, a work against
nature. But chaos theory shows us it is actually quite organic, natural,
and instinctual. In alchemy it was the Great Work. Consciousness
turns back on itself, reiterating each level of organization, de-structuring
each strata as it dives deeper toward the unconditioned, formless beginning,
or "unborn" state. This primal state is amniotic bliss experienced
as the Void, the cosmic womb.
Images of the Great Mother system become reactivated, though not exactly
in their original form. Imagery like fractals is self-similar, but
not entirely identical. This creative regression is to the prepersonal
domain, the preverbal, preconceptual domain, not the transpersonal spiritual
domain (transverbal, transconceptual).
Typically in the first few dreamhealing sessions, a person will enter a
dream symbol doorway which leads back to a conception memory. They
may or may not recognize it as such during the journey. But in content,
the symbolism is very clear. The imagery is fundamental or primal,
appearing as a dance of energy, matter, and consciousness--the body-ego's
These images are close to the stuff of our creation -- the prima materia
of our existence. We may experience it as free-floating: a paradox
of chaos and a deep-felt sense of flowing and peace. The imagery
here is psychedelic -- consciousness expanding -- an autonomous manifestation
of imagination. The panoply of the ceaseless transformation of energy
may overwhelm the senses, leading to a sense of total chaos. There
is nothing to do but let go, surrender to it, merge with it, flow with
The dancing energy waves and patterns are perceived as deep whorls, spinning
spirals, black holes, infinite voids, gray clouds of nothingness.
There is melding of the senses -- synesthesia -- such as "tasting" music,
"seeing" sound, etc. Simple throbbing and other extremely primitive
sensations may be experienced. Experience of this state produces
a new acceptance of the original conditions of conception, and re-structuring
of the primal self-image.
We go into the primal chaos to begin the process of reformation from our
pre-structural beginning. In essence, we re-enter the womb as we
are initiated in the mysteries of the psyche. We re-conceive our
primal self image, healed by communion with the creative Source.
2) DISSOLUTION, DISPERSAL, DISMEMBERMENT
The classic text of re-creational surrender or sacrifice of self is THE
BARDO THODOL, or THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD. It is explicitly for
the living who undertake the death-like regression into the unconscious,
as well as the dying. Because of their orientation toward consciousness
journeys, THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE and THE AMERICAN BOOK OF THE DEAD
are useful translations or contemporizations of the transformational classic.
The realm of death is the twilight zone between consciousness and matter.
Here psychoid phenomena manifest through the mingling of these modes.
Here mind/matter duality ceases, creating enchantment, uncanny synchronicities,
time warps, psychic experience, revelation of the mind of matter, the Nature
The moment of ego death is heralded by certain symptoms of transition.
Resistance by the mind to this creative dissolution brings about physical
symptoms which range from shaking and a sense of increasing pressure and
anxiety, to paradoxical flashes of hot and cold, to extreme dizzyness and
disorientation. As the classic psychedelic manual says, "The hard,
dry, brittle husks of your ego are washing out; Washing out to the endless
sea of creation." (Leary et al, 1964).
Distressing or disturbing symptoms symbolize the violence of the passage
of consciousness from form to formlessness. Images of the body disintegrating
or being blown to atoms (fear of exploding = fear of expanding) are characteristic
psychedelic experiences. Perhaps the very elements of our bodies
"remember" their formation in the crucible of some supernova. There
may be identification with merciless destruction, the Dance of Shiva, the
raging elements of nature, a variety of forms of explosive discharge.
Here are visions of fires, floods, raging storms, earthquakes, volcanoes,
turbulent lakes of magma.
Consciousness "breaks up" into its elemental forms, manifesting as overwhelming
imagery. This first phase of dissolution may be characterized by
the futility of resistance, magnetic downward spirals, gravity wells, loss
of morphological identity.
E.J. Gold describes the second stage of the voyage as one of being overwhelmed
by illusions produced by conditioning. Yet the primal element of
pure forms breaks through and the voyager recognizes "the basic component
of consciousness which when combined produces what is called the element
In consciousness journeys, chaos functions as the universal solvent, that
which dissolves all patterns and forms including the rigid, outmoded aspects
of the self. In the dream journey, one might enter a spinning vortex
and become dismembered by centrifugal force, torn limb from limb.
We remain in this state of dis-integration until we re-member our essential
self, embodying the wounded healer.
That sense of disintegration comes as the ego gives up its "unified" linear
perspective (bivalent) to the multiple consciousness or awareness (multi-valence)
of the deep self. Fear makes it feel like fragmentation, but in truth
there is nothing in that imagery that is not us. The death throes
of the ego prepare it for rebirth, through communion with cosmic consciousness,
a new incarnation of the spirit, death and resurrection.
The nature of universal consciousness is oceanic. When the ego is
in danger of "getting in over its head," it panics as if faced with drowning
in the depths of this vast ocean of consciousness. It overwhelms
the ego which cannot fathom this abyss.
This aspect of solutio brings mythic images of the dying god, of violent
death and sacrifice, and of the isolation of the hero. It means nothing
less than the sacrifice of the old self. The dissolution phase may
mean myths of the triumph of darkness; myths of floods and the return of
chaos, of the defeat of the hero.
In Gold's words, "Death comes to all forms; everything eventually is
broken up by dissolution, so there's no point clinging to yet another biological
form out of desire, longing for stability, or from fear and weakness."
3) CONTAINMENT OF A LESSER THING BY A GREATER
The ego "takes the plunge," it lets go and dissolves its old matrix, its
old boundaries. When its boundaries melt, ego-consciousness dissolves
into deep consciousness. The "wave merges with the ocean," and experiences
its own deep transpersonal nature. It moves swiftly through the fear
and pain, awakening to an infinitely wider reality of universal energy
waves. In the ocean of creativity, "your own consciousness, shining,
void and inseparable from the great body of radiance, has no birth, nor
death." (Leary, 1964).
Experience of the pure, unmodified state of consciousness transcends all
opposites, and therefore consciousness journeys provide an experiential
"container" for the reconciliation of paradox within a larger field of
experience--a broader, transcendent perspective. The transformational
process acts as a "container" (alchemical retort) of the contents of psyche.
But these contents, reduced to their essence are "nothingness," simply
dreams and imagination. Emptiness is the real Philosopher's Stone.
By dissolving into non-relative consciousness, mood swings or identification
with conflicting polar positions may be transcended by an enlarged state
of consciousness which embraces and contains the entire continuum.
Flow replaces polarity.
Jung spoke of the transcendent function as a symbol-forming force continuously
creating emergent imagery which facilitates whole-self realization.
It is thus an evolutionary and adaptive force. Mindell (1985) speaks
of the flow in alchemical terms:
The alchemists called this flow the 'aqua permanens', or permanent
water. Aqua permanens is the fluid process, the energy or
life which was locked up in the tension of conflict which has now been
freed through the flow between the opposites. Fluidity comes from
conflict. Whereas before there was a boundary between conflicting
opposites, between intent and reality, streaming energy now transforms
therapy into natural science.
Dreams, visions, or the stream of consciousness can be used therapeutically
as an evolutionary force to guide people from a small sense of self and
expand them toward a larger image. This expansion of the sense of
self may require some adjustment. The illumination (awakening to
larger Reality) may also come through a nature-mystic experience, intense
sexual experience, E.S.P., a consciousness journey, or meditation.
Enlightenment (even the "seed" of enlightenment) is an experience of awe,
bliss, and infinite possibilities.
The ego realizes it is not the center of the whole person, but only "manages"
the personality. There are autonomous archetypal forces which inhabit
the psyche with their own agendas, patterns, and goals. Our psyche
is transpersonal; it has no boundaries. Our conscious awareness is
only a manifestation of this larger consciousness. Within this larger
consciousness, we are at home with a plurality of visions. The parts
contain the whole (to a degree), enfolded or embedded like a fractal or
Containment may take place symbolically in the therapeutic relationship.
The consciousness guide, therapist, or shaman functions as a guide to the
netherworld. The "wounded healer" has a numinous quality which provokes
the projections of others. Shamans work within the belief systems
of their subjects to expand their sense of what is possible. Those
subjects' experiences generally reflect the style and beliefs of the shaman--the
shaman's positive expectation of particularized results.
Exposure to the infinitely broader worldview of a shamanic personality
will automatically move a "smaller" personality into solutio, dissolution.
This rapport or participation mystique is an unconscious, automatic process--a
positive sort of psychic contagion. This unconscious dynamic may
be responsible for the phenomenon of "contact high."
4) REBIRTH, REJUVENATION, IMMERSION IN THE CREATIVE ENERGY FLOW
Psychedelic, as well as mystical literature contains many examples of surrendering,
letting go, accepting, merging, and joining the flow of the "Nature Mind,"
where all is consciousness--the audible life stream. This "Diamond
Consciousness" is awareness of creative flux of the Void, the fluid unity
of life. We flow within it, and it flows through us.
The death-rebirth sequence typically opens a person to the transpersonal
domain with its virtually infinite creativity. It reveals and unfolds
our future potentials. In dreamhealing, chaotic consciousness is
also creative consciousness. Terence McKenna reminds us that, "Riverine
metaphors are endlessly applicable. They represent the flowing of
forces over landscapes, the pressure of chaos on the imagination to create
creatively. . .The key is surrender and dissolution of boundaries, dissolution
of the ego."
When we immerse ourselves in that creative energy, we find healing on many
levels of our being. It may feel tingly or effervescent, or like
streaming energy. Direct experience of this level brings a true sense
of oneness with all that exists, the seamless fabric of existence.
It opens us to re-patterning by the whole--a re-construction or re-patterning
of personality through holistic change at the most fundamental level.
Immersion in the oceanic experience of universal consciousness is a life-changing
experience. It is experience of the web of life, the biological life
flow, an ineffable current of bliss. Once we experience that larger
world and self--the rhythmic pulse of all life--we are never the same again,
so long as we remember.
Communing with this energy, experiencing these states of consciousness,
has been the practice of shamans since the dawn of man. Shamanic
consciousness means the ability to enter and exit altered states at will.
This power is connected to the liquid expression of life--the sap of life--the
vegetable forms of the liquid Stone, and its identity with psychotropic
plants. This notion reiterates that of the "greening of consciousness."
Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1973) spoke of the distillate of his mystical experience
"The Current is clearly a subtle, fluid-like substance which brings
the sense of well-being already described. Along with It, a more
than earthly Joy suffuses the whole nature. To myself, I called It
a Nectar. Now, I recognize It under several names. It is also
the 'Soma,' the 'Ambrosia of the Gods,' the 'Elixir of Life,' the 'Water
of Life' of Jesus, and the 'Baptism of the Spirit' of St. Paul. It
is more than related to Immortality; in fact, It is Identical with Immortality."
When the ego is completely dissolved in this renewing bath, we experience
timeless consciousness, and are reborn based on a new, healthier primal
self-image. This rejuvenation comes from connecting with pristine
consciousness, the eternal aspects or forces of nature. Even though
we cannot conceive of it, we can experience the infinite, the eternal,
the transcendent. Visions of Creation, Emanation, the upwelling Source,
Spiritual reincarnation means bringing to life that which was formerly
dead or unawakened, through connection with the original creative power.
It is the theme of the Quest -- the greening of the Wasteland. The
process of rebirth is the mythic enactment of "the one story" whose pattern
is found in every narrative. Beneath the differences, the meaning
-- having to do with the loss and recovery of identity -- does not change.
This story of the loss and regaining of identity is the framework of most
literature, from which comes the hero with a thousand faces. Some
variation of the hero's adventures, death, disappearance, and marriage
or resurrection are the focal points of most stories.
The original sense of identity (romance and comedy), its loss (tragedy
and irony), and its recovery in the regenerate world of romance and comedy
is mirrored in the mythic quest. Myths of the birth of the hero,
revival and resurrection, creation and defeat of the powers of darkness
and death are perennial themes.
The descent and subsequent ascent, going deep into the consciousness journey
and emerging transformed, is a form of death/rebirth, a powerful archetypal
theme which is initiatory in character.
5) PURIFICATION ORDEAL
Aesculapian dreamhealing, uses many ritual forms of purification, such
as diet, sweats, and baths. But the psychic purification is a process
of shedding fears and pain which prevent us from flowing. Fear and
pain are what keep us "stuck."
Each initiation contains an ordeal within its enfolded nature. At
least it feels like an ordeal to the old ego structure which must dissolve
or die. The quantum leap of initiation, being seized from one
state and moved to another, involves a sudden and profound change.
It requires an adjustment. Also, life may present synchronistic challenges,
outside the dreamhealing sessions.
One dreamhealing participant was having a sweat. She was sent to
look for an offering in the form of some wood to burn in the ritual. She
finally returned with a huge gnarled log, which was quite representative
of her twisted back (scoliosis). That wood really stank when it first
was consigned to the fire--but as time went on, it burned pure and smelled
extraordinarily sweet. She emerged with more mobility than she could
remember every having and the healing persists.
In yoga, we hear about clearing blocks at the various chakras through purification
practices. Progressive stages of purification allow the energy of
the serpent power to flow or rise ever-higher through the chakra system.
Thus, the yogi realizes the true nature of self. Mindell (1982) has
commented on this process in regards to flow and healing:
In healing ceremonies, light, water, love, release of emotions, energy
flow, circulation, harmony and crystal clear water are all descriptions
of curative experiences. The water is a description of free flowing
energy which cleans the body by unlocking egotism and its resulting cramps.
. .The sap of plants flows in the body of the enlightened yogi. In
India lack of flow in the imaginary veins and arteries which carry energy
and blood is blamed for illness. Cleaning these conduits and reestablishing
flow is all-important. . .there is a resistance at some point to the flow
of energies. In fact, all disease is merely a restriction of the
flow of life force in a particular area.
Speaking more of the mental aspect of the process he uses water as an image
of purification ordeal:
Whenever a complex exists, consciousness rigidifies and tries to steer
around the strong emotions connected with the core of the complex.
Water therapy allows the complexes to speak, encourages the body to dance
its own rhythm and lets the unpredictable come alive. A water experience
is holistic and unifies the entire personality so that ego, Self, dreams,
body, inner and outer come together in one human being.
The more rigid the ego and the more powerful a governing complex, the
more threatening the flow of the body or the psyche appears. A rigid
and frightened personality becomes terrified, split off from nature, and
cannot believe that a Self or a body consciousness exists that can organize
behavior once ego rulership is given up. . .Water is medicine against the
rigidification of intuition, physical mobility, and feelings.
Another expression of purification ordeal occurs with psychedelics.
It is a mental purge of gross karma which manifests as wrathful visions
or second bardo nightmares. These visions, as well as the peaceful
ones must simply be endured, despite awe and terror. They may be
horrific visions of apocalypse and catastrophe--bloodthirsty hallucinations.
They come as the ego struggles to maintain its boundaries, as the mind
seeks to reconstruct the personality. But the experience of this
hellish state of consciousness is not mandatory with every journey.
Recognition of the greater Reality brings instantaneous liberation from
Edinger (1973) uses Job from THE BIBLE as a classic example of an ego's
confrontation with the awesome powers of the unconscious through its trials
and travails. Job's encounter with the Self brings about a death/rebirth
experience. Job feels like he is being punished, and insists on discovering
the meaning of his experience.
Job encounters Jahweh in dreams first, anticipating later conscious encounter.
Job is shown the abysmal aspect of God and the depths of his own psyche
with its monstrous aspects, much like the wrathful visions of THE BARDO
THODOL. Finally, Job's questions are answered, not rationally, but
through living experience, conscious realization of the autonomous archetypal
psyche. The realization comes to birth only through the ordeal.
All these struggles in the cycling of death/rebirth may be linked back
through symbolic similarity to the individual birth ordeal. It is
characteristic of chaotic systems that events originally separated by time
and space can become enfolded closely together.
Events linked by the same state of consciousness are related; learning
is state-related (Tart; Rossi). Our lessons and our ordeals are related
to our states of consciousness. Thus personal and transpersonal experience
of this eternal cycle of the generation of forms become fused and conditioned
by the individual aspect of archetypal experience.
6) SOLUTION OF PROBLEMS
There is more than a linguistic link between the metaphor of a liquid solution,
and the solution of a problem. The moment of "a-ha" comes
frequently in process-oriented therapy, as direct realization brings fresh
understanding through the "empty mind," or "beginner's mind."
Solutions come through creativity. They may appear effortlessly.
The relationship between healing and creativity is implicit--healing is
the physical analog of creativity, like attitude changes and intuition
are its emotional and mental analogs. Healing is a special case of
creativity, or creative problem-solving.
During reverie states, the mind goes into chaotic patterns for problem-solving.
The more difficult the problem, the more chaos. Dreamhealing facilitates
entry into these healing states of consciousness.
McAuliffe (198 ) reported in OMNI on the work of Paul Rapp detecting chaos
in brain wave fluctuations:
After analyzing the EEGs of humans, Rapp has also come around to this
friendlier view. "When we are healthy and alert, the interval between
electrical waves is never rigidly fixed," he reports, "but always vacillates
around a certain frequency range." Moreover, when we are mentally
challenged, the interval between the electrical wave becomes even more
variable--or chaotic. This suggests, in Rapp's opinion, that chaos
"may actually be highly beneficial during problem solving.
Clearly the greater the mental challenge, the more chaotic the activity
of the subject's brain. . .What does all this mean? In Rapp's opinion,
chaotic activity may be an asset in problem solving. "You want to be
able to scan as wide a range of solutions as possible and avoid locking
on to a suboptimal solution early on," he explains. "One way
to do that is to have a certain amount of disorderliness, or turbulence,
in your search."
We can draw a direct analogy between the dreamhealing process and creative
process. Dreamhealing begins with the pilgrimage, which expresses
one's intent or commitment. The creative process begins with receptivity,
which includes interest, preparation, and immersion in the subject matter.
Next in dreamhealing comes the confession, or the identification
of the problem, where you have missed the mark. Creativity also requires
the ability to identify the problem, see the right questions, to use errors,
to have detached devotion.
The purification or cleansing of dreamhealing parallels the generalized
sensitivity to problems that come during creativity, an attunement to the
realization of what needs to be done.
The offering is a sign of letting go, sacrifice of the old ego form, the
commitment to healing. Creativity requires the surrender of time
and self to the process of flow; fluency of thinking; flexibility; abandoning
old ways of thought.
The heart of the quest is dream incubation, a reverie which seeks connection
with higher power. Creativity also requires incubation, reverie,
serendipity, spontaneity, adaptation, tolerance for ambiguity, and originality.
This permits uncommon responses and unconventional associations.
Healing occurs in a moment of oneness, chaotic consciousness. In
creativity it is paralleled by the moment of illumination, redefinition,
Dreamhealing requires amplification, or work on dreams and validation.
Elaboration is its counterpart, the use of two or more abilities for the
construction of a more complex object or theory, plus verification.
Re-entry implies actualization, renewal, grounding, maturing. Creatively
it means real-time application, follow-through, product, utilization of
the result. It implies choosing the post-session personality, as
re-calibrated through the imprint of the whole. It means stabilizing
that state of creative consciousness which emerged in the session.
In all cases, guided or not, the creative or healing process follows approximately
this model. The resources are contacted deep within and they well-up
in sometimes unexpected ways from the deep Source.
7) MELTING OR SOFTENING PROCESS
Melting turns what was solid into a liquid. Variations on the theme
include moistening and softening. Whether we look at modern consciousness
journeys, ancient reports, or psychedelic experiences the metaphors are
the same. Melting or softening is the result of incubation in dreamhealing,
yoga, and alchemy.
THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE offers such suggestions as "Let the
feelings melt all over you," "Let your body merge with the warm flux,"
"Allow your own mind also to melt away very gradually." Feelings
of the body melting or flowing as if wax are typical of the psychedelic
experience, as boundaries dissolve.
Leary et al note a state of consciousness where, "All the harsh, dry,
brittle angularities of game life [are] melted. You drift off --
soft, rounded, moist, warm. Merged with all life. You may feel
yourself floating out and down into a warm sea. Your individuality
and autonomy of movement are moistly disappearing."
An older report is this passage from THE BOOK OF LAMBSPRING, a seventeenth
century alchemy text:
The Father sweats, surrounding his Son,
And pours out his prayer to God,
To Whom all things are possible,
Who creates, and has created all things.
He prays that his Son may be led from his body,
And he be reborn as he was at first.
God grants his prayer, it is not ignored,
Telling the Father to lie down and go to sleep.
God sent down rain from heaven
Through the clear stars; in truth,
It was fruitful silver indeed.
The Father's Body is moistened and softened.
By the help and Grace of God, at the end,
We may obtain Thy gracious Gift!
The Father strongly sweats and glows,
While oil and True Tincture from him flows.
The feverish father sweats the tincture of the wise from his body.
The hidden fire causing the sweat is the antithesis of the moisture that
it produces. This heat is the warmth of incubation, which is
equivalent to a "brooding" state of meditation. The aim of this meditation
is self-incubation for transformation and resurrection.
This liquefaction is a characteristic state of consciousness during psychedelic
sessions. When the normal structures of awareness break down, consciousness
transforms to a flowing or fluid state.
Speaking of his fusion of non-linear dynamics, post-structuralism, and
psychedelic experience, psychonaut Manuel DeLanda was interviewed by MONDO
2000 (Issue 8; Winter, 1992). He reports on his experience in the
language of chaos theory.
The metaphor they use is solid, liquid, gas. If the system is
solid, too crystallized, its dynamics are completely uninteresting.
If it's gaseous, it's also uninteresting--all you have to do is take averages
of behavior and you know what's going on. Liquids have a lot more
potential, with all kinds of attractors and bifurcations. Now what
they're coming to believe is that the liquid state in nature--not just
actual liquids, but liquidity in the abstract sense of being not too rigid
or too loose--these liquid systems "poised on the edge of chaos" are natural
...When you trip, you liquify structures in your brain, linguistic structures,
intentional structures. They acquire a less viscous consistency,
and your brain becomes a super-computer. You are able to think concepts
you were not able to think before. Information rushes in your brain,
which makes you feel like you're having a revelation. But of course
no one is revealing anything to you. It's just self-organizing.
It's happening by itself. ...free-flowing matter and energy are capable
I don't think there are higher states of consciousness. You liquify
yourself, and you go through phase transitions, and then it seems to you
that you are in a higher state of consciousness. When I'm tripping,
I'm thinking concepts I'm sure no one's ever thought before, and in a way
it's like a higher state of consciousness, but it's not a plane that was
waiting there for me to access it. It's something I'm building that
moment by destratifying my brain.
There might be an ethics here: how to live your life poised at the edge
of chaos, how to allow self-organizing processes to take place in all the
strata that bind you. In your life, you could create maps of attractors
that bind your local destiny--those behaviors that are habitual and so
on. And try to find those bifurcations that would allow you to jump,
if not to complete freedom--that doesn't exist--but to another set of attractors
less confining, less binding, less stratifying. Or learn to lead
your life near a bifurcation without ever crossing it--the lesson of being
poised on the edge of chaos.
In reducing all to pure water, the prima materia and the ultima
materia become synonymous. That primal consciousness state, that
creative and chaotic consciousness is the beginning of the operation of
"water", and its ultimate realization.
It becomes easy to see why the operation of water is the "root of alchemy."
Through consciousness journeys which liquify our rigid notions of self
and world, we re-create the adventures of the hero or heroine. The
theme is the loss and recovery of identity.
The hero is deserted, betrayed or even killed, but then comes back to life
again. They may be swallowed by a huge sea monster, or wander in
a strange dark underworld and then fight their way out again. The
shift is from abandonment and isolation, to struggle, to the triumph or
marriage phase, (unitive consciousness).
The myth of the defeated hero (rigid ego) brings images of the triumph
of dark forces, myths of floods and the return of chaos. Then the
stage is set for miraculous rebirth--The Son is born from the Father, as
in THE BOOK OF LAMBSPRING passage. This process of rebirth
is the universal medicine.
File Created: 7/12/01 Last Updated: 7/31/01