Gustave Dore, Dante at the Gate of Hell
Just as Adam and Eve are cast out from Paradise, so our blissful sojourn in the mother’s womb comes to an end in the first stage of delivery. This moment marks the transition to Basic Perinatal Matrix II. LSD research suggests that contractions always create a situation of threat and emergency for the fetus. The cervix remains closed, the contractions feel like impending doom, which makes the fetus feel trapped with no way out. Grof calls this experience “hell” and “no exit;” it is typically accompanied by an unbearable misery and suffering, deep pessimism, hopelessness, and a negative bias in perceiving reality. All subjects of the research invariably shared these feelings. The first noble truth of Buddhism asserts the existence of suffering, and it seems it stamps its imprint on human existence very early, even before the first breath is drawn.
Gustave Dore, Adam and Eve Driven out of Eden
Those who relive this matrix during an LSD session typically report feelings of empathy and identification with the victimized, downtrodden, and oppressed.
A subject can experience himself as thousands of soldiers who have died on the battlefields of the whole world from the beginning of time, as the tortured victims of the Spanish Inquisition, as prisoners of concentration camps, as patients dying of terminal diseases, as aging individuals who are decrepit and senile, as mothers and children dying during delivery, or as inmates maltreated in chronic wards of insane asylums.
Grof makes a claim that for a person carrying deeply embedded memories of BPM II life seems to be absurd and bereft of meaning. After reading Grof I tried to get some information from my mother about the circumstances of my delivery. Apparently, the BMP II was a long process in my case, which translated into Grof’s psychology might mean I spent a long time experiencing the non-exit situation, feeling trapped with no way out. That made me wonder because I believe I do have an awareness of my inner darkness, although I have never been depressed. When I was a student I went through a prolonged existentialist phase and one of the authors I adored was a Romanian pessimist philosopher, Emil Cioran, author of some books with telling titles, such as On the Heights of Despair or The Trouble with Being Born. Here are a few random quotes from his works, so that you can feel the flavour:
I don’t understand why we must do things in this world, why we must have friends and aspirations, hopes and dreams. Wouldn’t it be better to retreat to a faraway corner of the world, where all its noise and complications would be heard no more? Then we could renounce culture and ambitions; we would lose everything and gain nothing; for what is there to be gained from this world?
Shame on the man who goes to his grave escorted by the miserable hopes that have kept him alive.
We are so lonely in life that we must ask ourselves if the loneliness of dying is not a symbol of our human existence.
I cannot contribute anything to this world because I only have one method: agony.
I can still recommend him although he does talk about suicide much too often, so I would advise caution. Even now I love to return to his books occasionally. I usually do not share a lot of personal details on this blog but I have noticed a certain preference on my part for darker authors. My cherished writers are actually, besides Cioran, Kafka and Dostoevsky. Ever since their prose stung me, which happened very early, I haven’t found any other writers who would affect me more. Also, I used to read enormous amounts of literary texts on concentration camps. And yet I am not depressive by nature: far from it. I just believe strongly that darkness is an inalienable part of the human psyche.
Gustave Dore, The Inferno, Canto 8
What I found really fascinating in the description of BMP II was that death and birth are accompanied by exactly the same feeling in human existence. As Beckett wrote, we give birth astride the grave. The subjects of Grof’s LSD research who were reliving the onset of delivery were actually convinced they were dying. They experienced real agony and terror. We all know that death always precedes rebirth in symbolic thinking. Like in the Tarot, the Death card carries symbolism of rebirth with it.
Death, Mystic Dreamer tarot
The LSD experience of BPM II is accompanied by various symbolic images that the subjects report seeing. These include: hell, Sisyphus’ plight, Ixion fixed to a fiery rolling wheel, Prometheus chained to a rock, screaming Erinyes, the passion of Christ, etc. Ixion especially drew my attention because his myth is extremely interesting to me. He committed a horrible crime (murder of kin) for which he was to be eternally damned. However, Zeus decided to purify him and took him to the Olympus. The ungrateful Ixion planned to seduce Hera, the wife of Zeus. Zeus saw through his plans and fashioned a cloud which Ixion believed to be Hera. Ixion blissfully mated with the cloud, which enraged Zeus, who sentenced him to being chained to a fiery wheel for eternity.
The fascinating part is that a race of Centaurs was born from Ixion and the cloud. Ixion epitomizes carnal sins, the hot passion, anger and cruelty, which the gods so love to punish. The Centaurs that descended from Ixion were very violent and malicious. It is worth noting that he wise Centaur Chiron was fathered by the Titan Cronos, not Ixion. To the Greeks, Chiron represented the positive combination of human’s animal and spiritual nature, while the Ixion descended Centaurs stood for violent lust, evil, debauchery, cruelty, thoughtlessness and bestiality.
Reading on this perinatal matrix made me ponder a lot on the origins and roots of evil and darkness in the human psyche. I was reminded of a verse from Dante’s Inferno:
I felt for the tormented whirlwinds
Damned for their carnal sins
Committed when they let their passions rule their reason.
Gustave Dore, Exodus 10: The Plague of Darkness