Leonardo da Vinci, Studies of Embryos
The first nine months of our life are spent in water, where we are surrounded by darkness. We have no conscious memory of that period. Subconsciously, we crave to relive that time later on in life; we want to reconnect to that primordial feeling of bliss whether in the arms of a loved one or swimming in a crystal clear lake or maybe just contemplating a beautiful landscape.
The fourth chapter of Grof’s report on his LSD research is dedicated to perinatal experiences. According to his findings, it is possible to relive this period of our life. These experiences are situated on the threshold between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. They consist in subjects reliving the life in the womb followed by their own biological birth and the accompanying feelings of physical pain, agony, dying and symbolic death/rebirth.
Grof stresses that one LSD session is not enough to reach the perinatal depths. The initial sessions usually consisted in reliving personal traumas but once these were integrated, subjects opened to the deeper layers of their psyche. All the people who reached the perinatal level reported deep and life-changing spiritual realizations. Grof emphasizes that reliving their own birth transformed everybody, even “hard-core materialists, positivistically-oriented scientists, skeptics and cynics, and uncompromising atheists and antireligious crusaders such as the Marxist philosophers.”
Grof classified the fetus experiences during pregnancy and delivery into four perinatal matrices. Here is a brief summary containing some key words characterizing them:
Basic Perinatal Matrix I (BPM I):
realistic recollections of life in a womb, either positive or negative: oceanic ecstasy, cosmic unity, visions of paradise or the experience of attempted abortions, emotional upheavals, unpleasant tastes, feelings of being poisoned; related transpersonal experiences: racial or evolutionary memories, past incarnation experiences;
Basic Perinatal Matrix II (BPM II):
immense suffering, unbearable situation that will never end, images of hell, guilt, inferiority complex, epidemics, diseases, absurdity of life, feelings of oppression, trouble breathing;
Basic Perinatal Matrix III (BPM III):
borderline between pain and pleasure, volcanic ecstasy, vibrant colours, explosions, carnivals, murders, orgies, bloody sacrifice;
Basic Perinatal Matrix IV (BPM IV):
decompression, expansion of space, visions of gigantic halls, rebirth, redemption, sensory enhancement.
I would like to focus today on LSD experiences related to the first Basic Perinatal Matrix, i.e. Primal Union with the Mother.
When talking about good womb experiences during LSD sessions, subjects invariably reported blissful, oceanic state of consciousness. They felt peace, serenity, bliss, melted ecstasy, sacredness, an experience of pure being and timelessness. They described the experience as ineffable and impossible to put into words. In this state they perceived the world as a safe, benevolent place. Evil seemed insignificant. What also happened quite frequently was spontaneous regression into historical times, identification with groups of people, for example American Indians, or identification with species of plants, animals, and, amazingly enough, feeling one with with galaxies, solar systems and stars. Visions of gods and archetypes were quite common:
… I became the entire universe; I was witnessing the spectacle of the macrocosm with countless pulsating and vibrating galaxies and was it at the same time. … For the first time, I was experiencing the universe for what it really is – an unfathomable mystery, a divine play of energy. Everything in this universe appeared to be conscious. … I became fish swimming in crystal-clear waters, butterflies floating in mountain meadows, and seagulls gliding by the ocean.
Some subjects reported reliving events from previous incarnations. I am going to discuss this in more depth in a future post dedicated to transpersonal experiences in LSD sessions. One person reported a startling realization:
During a session in which he alternately experienced episodes of “good” and “bad” womb, he felt that he developed new insights into the understanding of demons from several cultures. … He suddenly saw a striking relationship between the state of mind of the Buddha sitting on the lotus in deep meditation and that of an embryo in a good womb. .. It seemed as if elements of bad karma entered his present life in the form of disturbances of his embryonic existence …
Interestingly, memories of life in the womb opened the gates to memories of other blissful moments of subjects’ lives. They recalled happy love relationships, encounters with beauty, nature or art. It seems that one of our chief motivations as human beings is to experience as adults that feeling of absolute fulfillment and oceanic ecstasy we felt in our mother’s womb.