Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is There A Way Out? Part Three

Continuing on in Stanislav Grof's Beyond The Brain: Birth, Death, and Transcendence in Psychotherapy on page 32-33: "Many psychedelic experiences appear to have a general quality similar to everyday life, with the sequences occurring in three-dimensional space and unfolding along a linear time continuum. However, quite typically, additional dimensions and experiential alternatives are readily available. The psychedelic state has a multilevel and multidimensional quality, and the Newtonian-Cartesian sequences, if they occur, appear to be arbitrarily teased out of a complex continuum of infinite possiblilities. At the same time, they have all the characteristics that we associate with the perception of the material world of "objective reality."

Although LSD subjects frequently talk about images, these do not have the quality of still photographs. They are in constant dynamic movement and usually convey action and drama. But again, the term "inner movie" that so frequently occurs in LSD reports does not really correctly describe their nature. In cinematography, the three-dimensionality of scenes is artificially simulated by the movement of the camera. The perception of space must be read into the two-dimensional display, and ultimately it depends on the viewers interpretation. In contrast, psychedelic visions are truly three-dimensional and have all the qualities of everyday perception, or at least they can have them in certain types of LSD experiences. They seem to occupy a specific space and can be seen from different directions and angles with a true parallax. It is possible to zoom in and selectively focus on different levels and planes of the experiential continuum, perceive or reconstruct fine texture, and see through transparent media of envisioned objects, such as a cell, an embryonic body, parts of a plant, or a precious stone. This intentional shift of focus is only one mechanism of blurring or clearing the images. The pictures can also be clarified by overcoming the distortions caused by fear, defenses and resistances, or by letting the content evolve along with the continuum of linear time.

An important characteristic of the psychedelic experience is that it transcends space and time. It disregards the linear continuum between the microcosmic world and the macrocosm that appears to be absolutely mandatory in the everyday state of consciousness. The represented objects cover the entire range of dimensions from atoms, molecules, and single cells to gigantic celestial bodies, solar systems, and galaxies. Phenomena from the "zone of middle dimensions," perceivable directly by our senses, appear on the same experiential continuum with those that ordinarily require such complicated technology as microscopes and telescopes to be accessible to human senses. From the experiential point of view, the distinction between the microcosm and macrocosm is arbitrary; they can coexist within the same experience and are readily interchangeable. An LSD subject can experience himself or herself as a simple cell, as a fetus, and as a galaxy; these three states can occur simultaneously, or in an alternating fashion by a simple shift of focus.

In a similar way, the linearity of temporal sequences is transcended in unusual states of consciousness. Scenes from different historical contexts can occur simultaneously and appear to be meaningfully connected by their experiential charactertistics. Thus a traumatic experience from childhood, a painful sequence of biological birthing and what seems to be the memory of a tragic event from a previous incarnation can all appear simultaneously as parts of one complex experiential pattern (my emphasis). And again, the individual has the choice of focusing selectively on any one of these scenes, experiencing them all simultaneously, or perceiving them in an alternating fashion, while discovering meaningful connections between them. The linear temporal distance that dominates everyday experience is disregarded, and events from different historical contexts appear in clusters when they share the same strong emotion or an intense physical sensation of a similar kind.

Psychedelic states offer many experiential alternatives to the Newtonian linear time and three-dimensional space that characterize our everyday existence. Events from recent and remote past and future can be experienced in nonordinary states with the vividness and complexity that in everyday consciousness are reserved only for the present moment. There are modes of psychedelic experience in which time appears to slow down or accelerate enormously, to flow backwards, or to be entirely transcended and cease to exist (my emphasis). It can appear to be circular and linear at the same time, can proceed along a spiral trajectory, or show specific patterns of deflection and distortion. Quite frequently time as a dimension is transcended and acquires spatial characteristics; past, present and future are essentially juxtaposed and coexist in the present moment (my emphasis). On occasion, LSD subjects experience various forms of time-travels-regressing in historical time, passing through time-loops, or stepping out of the time dimension altogether and reentering another point in history.

The perception of space can undergo similar changes: unusual states of mind clearly demonstrate the narrowness and limitations of space with only three coordinates. LSD subjects frequently report that they experience space and the universe as being curved and self-enclosed, or are able to perceive worlds that have four, five or more dimensions (my emphasis). Others have a sense fo being a dimensionless point in consciousness. It is possible to see space as an arbitrary construct and a projection of the mind that has no objective existence at all. Under certain circumstances any number of interpenetrating universes of different orders can be seen in holographic coexistence (my emphasis). As in the case of time travel, one can experience linear transfer to another place be mental space travel, direct and immediate transport through a space loop, or by stepping out of the space dimension altogether and reentering at another place.

The different modes of existence talked about by Stanislav Grof here fascinate me. They also give me hope for a better future in some ways. This is because I feel that if the reality that appears so solid to most of us and unbendable is really so effervescent and derivative (not to be mistaken for the much abused financial instrument:-) that there may just may be a way for the whole human race to survive and flourish in what would seem to be the most perilous of all times in human history coming right at us. It is so funny what a child knows. I had an intuition as a ten- year-old that poverty was created by evil people. I didn't know how to give a voice to my thoughts at the time- and in later times of my life people told me that I was very foolish for thinking that all people on the face of this planet should be happy and not want for anything. I actually gave in to the other view at some point- but no more. I really and truly believe now that poverty - the love of money- power- even sex in some ways are things that exist to keep us trapped within this Black Iron Prison. I will try to work some of these new and old insights into what I believe as I try to continue with some discoveries made by Stanislav Grof- and I would absolutely love to hear what you believe! All the best to anyone stopping by!

PS- like how I re-did the first paragraph of this article? I didn't think it looked good enough the first time around - had to perfect it ya know:-)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Is There A Way Out? Part Two

In the "Is There A Way Out" series I had wanted to talk a bit about transcendental psychological experiences. I would still like to look at some of these-well actually tto kind of keep various aspects of Gnostic thought/philosophy-in view during the whole series-to look at the question "Is there a way out?" in the light of this world/reality being a "Demiurgic" or fallen world of matter. Perhaps I am chasing down a wrong path? To many people, there really might not be a darn thing wrong with the world we "have." I think the description of the whys and hows if you will of how our world came to be in Gnostic thought are what fascinate me the most. A comment by the very intelligent and thoughtful Justin Russell under part one of this series reminded me not only of this aspect of my fascination -but also that perhaps NO philosophy, science or religion will ever even come close to describing all of reality. I think Kurt Godel "proved" something along these lines mathematically or using "logic" but I looked at the proof ages ago and didn't understand a bit of it (which is not surprising! although I did understand Cantor and transfinite numbers:-) I am using many sources and hope I don't get off-track or hard to understand.

The reason I would like to talk about Stanislav Grof's work in transcendental psychotherapy might not be obvious at first. I wanted to look at his work, not only because of the fascinating revelations and discoveries he had while working with people from all walks of life-but also to see if any discoveries he made give us any clues of why there is so much evil in the world-why our world is "fallen" and disjointed. This isn't, of course, to say that there isn't any good in the world-there is-and there is good, truth and beauty in enormous amounts on our little planet. It is just that with me -not only looking over all of history- but the amount of blood spilled in the century we got "done" with a little over ten years ago -the "Century of the Sun" so to speak -that there MUST be something that explains those extra touches of evil embodied in the horrors that befell hundreds of millions of people during that time ( I sure hope this century is different!).

From pages 30-32, Stanislav Grof explains some "essentials" about his work in his Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death And Transcendence In Psychotherapy, published in 1985: "The most important and obvious reason for limiting this discussion to the field of psychedelic research is my long-term scientific interest in the subject. Having conducted several thousand sessions with LSD and other mind-altering substances, and having myself experienced many psychedelic states, I have a degree of expertise concerning drug-induced phenomena that I lack in regard to other types of related experiences (note again that Grof is probably writing this in 1984 and has accumulated much more knowledge in other areas since then) Since 1954, when I first became interested in and familiar with psychedelic drugs, I have personally guided more than 3,000 sessions with LSD and have access to more than 2,000 records of sessions conducted by my colleagues, in Czechoslovakia and the United States. The subjects in these experiments where "normal" volunteers, various groups of psychiatric patients, and individuals dying of cancer. The nonpatient population consisted of psychiatrists and psychologists, scientists from various other disciplines, artists, philosophers and theologians, students, and psychiatric nurses. The patients with emotional disorders belonged to a variety of diagnostic categories, among them individuals with various forms of depression, psychoneurotics, alcoholics, narcotic drug addicts, sexual deviants, persons with psychiatric disorders, borderline psychotics, and schizophrenics.

...During the years of my clinical work with psychedelics, it has become increasingly obvious that neither the nature of the LSD experience nor the numerous observations made in the course of psycedelic therapy can be adequately explained in terms of the Newtonian-Cartesian, mechanistic approach to the universe and, more specifically, in terms of existing neurophysiological models of the brain. After years of conceptual struggle with confusion, I have concluded that the data from LSD research indicate an urgent need for a drastic revision of the existing paradigms for psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and possibly science in general. There is at present little doubt in my mind that our current understanding of the universe, of the nature of reality, and particularly of human beings, is superficial, incorrect and incomplete.

In what follows, I will briefly describe the most important observations from LSD psychotherapy that I consider to be serious challenges to contemporary psychiatric theory, to present medical beliefs, and go to the mechanistic model of the universe based on the views of Isaac Newton and Rene Descartes. Some of these observations are related to certain formal charactertistics of the psychedelic states, others to their content, and yet others to some extraordinary connections that seem to exist between them and the fabric of external reality.

(emphasis mine)

I emphasize again at this point that the following discussion applies not only to psychedelic states, but also to a variety of nonordinary states of consciousness, that occur spontaneously or are introduced by nondrug means. Thus, all the issues in question have general validity for the understanding of the human mind and disease.

Let me begin with a brief description of the formal characteristics of nonordinary states of consciousness. In psychedelic sessions and other types of unusual experiences, dramatic sequences of various kinds can be experienced with a sensory vividness, reality, and intensity that match or surpass the ordinary perception of the material world. Although the optical aspects of these sequences tend to be prominent for most people, quite realistic experiences can occur in all the other sensory areas. On occasion, powerful isolated sounds, human and animal voices, entire musical sequences, intense physical pain and other somatic sensations, as well as distinct tastes and smells can dominate the experience or play an important part in it.

Ideation can be influenced in the most profound way, and the intellect can create interpretations of reality quite different from the one that is characteristic of the individual in his or her ordinary state of consciousness. The description of the essential experiential elements of unusual states of consciousness would not be complete without mentioning an entire range of powerful emotions that are their standard components.

Many psychedelic experiences appear to have a general quality similar to those in everyday life, with the sequences occurring in three-dimensional space and unfolding along a linear time continuum. However, quite typically, additional dimensions and experiential alternatives are readily available. The psychedelic state has a multilevel and multidimensional quality, and the Newtonian-Cartesian sequences, if they occur, appear to be arbitarily teased out of a complex continuum of infinite possibilities.

(emphasis mine)

At the same time, they have all the characteristics that we associate with the perception of the material world of "objective reality."

There is more after this in the same section of Stan Grof's book that I want to put here next. I hope anyone stopping by will enjoy reading this, and once again appreciate the thoughtful and intelligent comments. All the best to anyone stopping by!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

James Richardson: Friends

THE AIR has some jokes on us

It turns like a star
It will not let us see

the past

It blows a little dust off us
and brings tomorrow

So it has been burying us
since we dried

It remembers that we made it
what it is
that we have the lungs and eyes and arms

So it follows us everywhere
to be remembered

No one who breathes
lives very long