It seems very appropriate that my LSD research series should finish with this last, seventh part. Number seven relates to the seven chakras. Now when I looked back at the themes of each part, I saw how the first three parts relate to the personal realm of experience and how the fourth part, which describes the oceanic bliss we experience in our mother’s womb, marks the transition from the personal to the transpersonal (collective). It is the fourth chakra also known as the heart chakra that through compassion and love lets us transcend our ego boundaries and get in contact with our Self. Individuation happens through a constant and fruitful interchange between consciousness and unconsciousness in a person. It is love that dissolves the rigidity of the ego.
Image credit: http://www.deviantart.com/art/heart-chakra-51249642
The final chapter of Grof’s report on his LSD research deals with transpersonal experiences during LSD sessions. Such experiences occur rarely in preliminary sessions, but they are fairly common in subjects who have successfully accessed and integrated their personal traumas and have also lived through the perinatal matrices I described in my previous posts. What characterizes transpersonal experiences is the feeling that the ego has expanded beyond the boundaries of space and time. The first type of such experiences are ancestral memories.
Such memories can reach back over generations, even centuries. They are distinct from past-life memories, which I will describe later. One case of ancestral memories was a subject of a Scandinavian origin, who during their LSD experience witnessed various scenes from the conquests of the Vikings with an incredible vividness of detail in regard to clothes, weapons or their naval techniques. The significance of awakening ancestral memories is well phrased in the following passage:
Some subjects have reported in this context that as a result of such experiences they have developed a new understanding of some of their personal problems and conflicts. They could trace them back to friction points, incompatibilities, and incongruences between their maternal and paternal lineages and realized that what was considered to have been primary intrapsychic problems were actually introjected and internalized conflicts between generations of their dead kinsmen.
The way I see it, the intrapsychic does not need to preclude the external, but I would rather look at both as reflecting the same core archetypal conflict. I think this example can serve to show the difference between Freudian and Jungian thinking. Freudian psychoanalysis would look for a core event that changed the person, preferably a childhood trauma that, like an old wound, is festering in the dark recesses of the unconscious. They would explain someone’s behaviour as a direct result of that particular trauma. Jungians, however, would see both the childhood trauma and the subsequent behaviour of a person as an expression of an archetypal constellation, not as a cause-effect relation. With regards to astrology, this is even clearer: we have certain conflicts manifested in our natal chart in the form of challenging aspects between planets, for example. The chart is our archetypal blueprint. My Polish astrology teacher used the term “planetary inheritance” to indicate how the same conflicts and aspects are passed on across generations of the same family. As an Arab proverb says: What the father buried in the garden, the son will dig out. The archetypal approach offers more freedom than Freudian thinking. We are not caught in a causal loop and therefore doomed but we can choose to consciously access the archetypal blueprint that constellated a given life situation. We do not literally bear the sins of our fathers but we rather repeat the same patterns over and over again in our lives.
TIME AND SPACE TRAVELS
Quite frequently the subjects experienced events set in times and places unrelated to their ethnic background.
The degree of historical or ethnographic knowledge that emerges is clearly incongruent with the subject’s previous education and level of information in these areas. On occasion, unsophisticated individuals described details of Egyptian funeral services, including the form and meaning of various amulets ad sepulchral boxes, the colors of funeral cones, the technology of embalment and mummification, and the sequence of ritual procedures followed:
It is not uncommon that in association with specific LSD experiences some subjects discover the meaning of various symbolic gestures (mudras) or spontaneously assume quite unusual postures (asanas). … In several instances individuals enmeshed in elements of a certain culture felt a strong need to dance. Without any previous training or specific exposure to these cultures, they were able to perform complicated dance forms.
Such phenomena show that the human psyche on its unconscious level is able to transcend time and space limitations. According to Grof, these experiences are not connected with reincarnation but they are rather indicative of the psyche’s ability to travel in time and space to gain insights into different aspects of life. Past-incarnation experiences form a distinct category and will be described later.
Quite distinct group of experiences is formed by evolutionary memories. Some of the subjects relived the evolution of various species by identifying themselves with animals. Those could have been the most primitive life forms and the most advanced. Subjects reported illuminating insights into what it feels like to be a hungry snake, a sexually excited turtle, some were talking about spinning spider webs, etc. On occasion, subjects have accurately described courtship dances, complicated reproductive cycles, techniques of nest-building, patterns of aggression and defense, and many other zoological and ethological facts about the animals they have experienced in sessions.
Yet another form of transpersonal experiences are past-incarnation experiences. What characterizes these experiences is that the subjects maintain their identity while experiencing themselves in a different form and another time and place. The individual has a strong conviction that he or she is confronted with a memory from a previous life; the experience is accompanied by a distinct feeling of déjà vu. There were subjects who had consciously rejected the concept of reincarnation or knew nothing about it before the session, and yet they offered “complex and detailed insights into this area that were strikingly similar to those described in various religious and occult scriptures.”
Grof observed two types of past-incarnation experiences. The first group were memories of deep love or friendship bonds, memories of being understood, nurtured and nourished by another. The second group were intensively charged events characterized by highly charged emotional content bringing pain, bitterness, suffering, hatred, murderous aggression, lustful passion, insane jealousy or intense greed. Amazingly, all these emotions at a certain point started to meld and lose their distinguishing features. I’m quoting a longer passage so that I do not distort its profound message:
LSD subjects have repeatedly stated that it does not seem to make a difference whether they were the oppressor or the victim in a negative karmic situation; it appears as though it is the dyadic traumatic pattern that is imprinted. On a deep level, the emotional state of the sadistic torturer is similar to that of the tortured, and the raging drive of the murderer fuses with the anguish of his dying victim. The inability to forgive and transcend one’s suffering appears to be as conducive to karmic imprinting as actively performed injustice or violence.
This kind of intoxication on the raging and undifferentiated passions sounds very Dionysian to me. Fittingly, Dionysos was the god of reincarnation and the afterlife. Perhaps these are our paroxysms of passions that send us back to this plane of existence. We are driven to be reborn: this is not a conscious, Apollinian choice.
Grof reports that during some of the sessions karmic patterns appeared to have been broken. All subjects reported a feeling of intense bliss and relief when a karmic pattern or bond was thus overcome during a session. Furthermore, people mentioned by the subject as involved in the resolved karmic pattern also experienced a change and a feeling of relief. Grof was able to verify this by interviewing all the parties involved. These feelings occurred even in people who lived far away from the subject during his or her LSD session.
EXPERIENCES OF IDENTIFICATION
Merging with another entity is yet another type of LSD experiences. This could take a form of an identification with another person, for example a significant other who is not present in the room. After the sessions was over subjects reported a profound and lasting feeling of unity with the person the had symbolically merged with during their session. Such an experience, according to Grof, frequently led to tantric and oceanic sex that the subjects were able to open themselves to.
Furthermore, subjects reported merging with both organic and inorganic matter:
He can experience himself as a germinating seed, a leaf in the course of photosynthetic activity, or a root reaching out for water and nourishment.
Reading this, I remembered an extraordinary experience of mine during meditation when I suddenly felt myself to be a green leaf touched by the gentle rays of the sun.
What also happened was subjects tuning in to the consciousness of various organs or tissues of the body. One subject experienced himself as a spermatozoon:
The middle part of my back was generating rhythmical impulses, and I had the feeling of being propelled through space and time toward some unknown goal; I had a very vague awareness of the final destination, but the mission appeared to be one of utmost importance. …
There was a clear awareness of the biochemical processes in the nucleoplasm; in a nebulous atmosphere I could recognize the structure of the chromosomes, individual genes, and molecules of DNA. I could perceive their physiochemical configuration as being simultaneously elements of ancestral memories, primordil phylogenetic forms, nuclear forms of historical events, myths, and archetypal images. … This microworld of the spermatozoid was at the same time influenced and governed by some forces modifying and determining the outcome of the race. They seemed to have the form of karmic, cosmobiological, and astrological force-fields.
Grof ends the report by enumerating other examples of transpersonal LSD experiences. These included encounters with spirit guides and guardians from higher planes of consciousness, also UFO encounters.
ARCHETYPAL EXPERIENCES AND INTUITIVE UNDERSTANDING OF UNIVERSAL SYMBOLS
Some subjects, also naïve ones without any educational background, reenacted complex archetypal and mythological sequences and appeared to have encountered various deities from all possible cultures. A lot of the subjects displayed an impressive understanding of universal symbols, as if they had tuned in to the universal matrix of meaning and were just channeling its contents. The most frequent symbols experienced by subjects during the sessions were the cross, the star of David, the swastika, the ankh, the lotus flower, the yin-yang, the lingam, the diamond, the wheel of death and rebirth, the mandala and the ouroboros. Even unsophisticated subjects displayed deep understanding of the meaning of these symbols. What is more:
Subjects who had previously ridiculed astrology and had a condescending attitude toward alchemy discovered deeper meaning in these systems and gained a deep appreciation of their metaphysical relevance.
Images by Vasily Kafanov retrieved from kafanov.com (Illutrations of The Smashing Pumpkins ‘Machina’ album cover)
Source of all quotes:
Stanislav Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research