Spirituality studiesVolume 2 / Issue 1 Spring 2016

Editorial 1 Slavomír Gálik Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Consciousness Research 3 Stanislav Grof High Frequency Yoga Breathing: A Review of Nervous System Effects and Adjunctive Therapeutic and Premeditation Potential 37 Anna Andaházy – Gejza M. Timčák Jung´s Concept of Imago Dei 49 Ivana Ryška Vajdová Explanation for the Mystical Practice II. 65 Květoslav Minařík Largo of the Holešovice Quarter 77 Míla Tomášová Poems and Stanzas on the Unsurpassable Awakening 81 Sandó Kaisen About Spirituality Studies 88 VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1 SPRING 2016

EDITORIAL Slavomír Gálik I am happy to announce that the first issue of the second volume of Spirituality Studies is out for you to read. This issue contains the research papers of Stanislav Grof Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Consciousness Research, Anna Andaházy and Gejza M. Timčák High Frequency Yoga Breathing: A Review of Nervous System Effects and Adjunctive Therapeutic and Premeditation Potential, as well as of Ivana Ryška Vajdová Jung’s Concept of Imago Dei. The authentic insights into the mystical practice are represented here by an article of Květoslav Minařík Explanation for the Mystical Practice II, an autobiographic essay of Míla Tomášová Largo of the Holesovice Quarter, and poems of the Zen-Buddhist master Sandó KaisenPoems and Stanzas on the Unsurpassable Awakening. All these papers represent significant contributions to the understanding of spirituality. The contemporary Western culture seems to be deeply affected by the phenomena of consumerism, hedonism, and individualism – all together fortified by the mainstream mass media. While forgetting its spiritual roots, our culture becomes more and more technocratic. On the other hand, a complete loss of spirituality does not seem to be possible. This very fact is manifested by the perseverance of living spiritual traditions, and not at least by the existence of this Journal, which links the theory and practice of spirituality together in an original way. The approach of Spirituality Studies, defined in its mission as prejudice free, interreligious, and interspiritual, is based on an assumption that the principles of spirituality are universally valid and similar in various traditions, in spite of the fact that spirituality on a personal level is, and always remains, unique. I am confident that the 2016 Spring issue of the Spirituality Studies Journal will provide the readers not only with information but also with inspiration on their paths on exploring spirituality. Spirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 1

2 Slavomír Gálik

PSYCHOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE LESSONS FROM MODERN CONSCIOUSNESS RESEARCH Stanislav Grof Received November 11 2015 Revised November 26 2015 Accepted December 5 2015 ABSTRACT The objective of this paper is to summarize my experiences and observations concerning the nature of the human psyche in health and disease that I have amassed during more than fifty years of research of non-ordinary states of consciousness. I will focus specifically on those findings that represent a serious theoretical challenge for academic psychology and psychiatry and suggest the revisions of our current understanding of consciousness and the human psyche that would be necessary to come to terms with the new data, understand them, and explain them. Key words Transpersonal psychology, consciousness research, holotropic states of consciousness, spirituality 1 Holotropic states of consciousness My primary interest is to focus on experiences that have healing, transformative, and evolutionary potential and those that represent a useful source of data about the human psyche and the nature of reality. I will also pay special attention to those aspects of these experiences that reveal the existence of the spiritual dimensions of existence. For this purpose, the termnon-ordinary states of consciousness is too general, since it includes a wide range of conditions that are not interesting or relevant from this point of view. Consciousness can be profoundly changed by a variety of pathological processes – by cerebral traumas, by intoxications with poisonous chemicals, by infections, or by degenerative Spirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 3

and circulatory processes in the brain. Such conditions can certainly result in profound mental changes that would qualify them as non-ordinary states of consciousness. However, they cause “trivial deliria” or “organic psychoses”, states that are very important clinically, but are not relevant for our discussion. People suffering from delirant states are typically disoriented in space and time and might not know who they are. In addition, their mental functioning is significantly impaired. They typically show a disturbance of intellectual functions and have subsequent amnesia for the experiences they have had. I would, therefore, like to narrow our discussion to a large and important subgroup of nonordinary states of consciousness for which contemporary psychiatry does not have a specific term. Because I feel strongly that they deserve to be distinguished from the rest and placed into a special category, I have coined for them the name “holotropic” (Grof 1992). This composite word means literally “oriented toward wholeness” or “moving in the direction of wholeness” (from the Greek holos = “whole and trepein” = “moving toward or in the direction of something”). The full meaning of this term and the justification for its use will become clear later in this article. It suggests that in our everyday state of consciousness we are fragmented and identify with only a small fraction of who we really are. Holotropic states are characterized by a specific transformation of consciousness associated with dramatic perceptual changes in all sensory areas, intense and often unusual emotions, and profound alterations in the thought processes. They are also usually accompanied by a variety of intense psychosomatic manifestations and unconventional forms of behavior. Consciousness is changed qualitatively in a very profound and fundamental way, but it is not grossly impaired as it is in the delirant conditions. We are experiencing invasion of other dimensions of existence that can be very intense and even overwhelming. However, at the same time, we typically remain fully oriented and do not completely lose touch with everyday reality. We experience simultaneously two very different realities, have “each foot in a different world”. The famous Swiss psychiatrist Eugene Bleuler coined for this condition the term “double book-keeping” (doppelte Buchfuehrung). Extraordinary changes in sensory perception represent a very important and characteristic aspect of holotropic states. Our visual perception of the external world is usually significantly illusively transformed and when we close our eyes, we can be flooded with images drawn from our personal history and from the individual and collective unconscious. We can also have visions portraying various aspects of nature, of the cosmos, or of the mythological realms. This can be accompanied by a wide range of experiences engaging other senses – various sounds, physical sensations, smells, and tastes. The emotions associated with holotropic states cover a very broad spectrum that extends far beyond the limits of our everyday experience. They range from feelings of ecstatic rapture, heavenly bliss, and “peace that passes all understanding” to episodes of abysmal terror, murderous anger, utter despair, consuming guilt, and other forms of unimaginable emo4 Stanislav Grof

tional suffering that matches the descriptions of the tortures of hell in the great religions of the world. The content of holotropic states is often spiritual or mystical. We can experience sequences of psychological death and rebirth and a broad spectrum of transpersonal phenomena, such as feelings of oneness with other people, nature, the universe, and God. We might uncover what seem to be memories from other incarnations, encounter powerful archetypal beings, communicate with discarnate entities, and visit numerous mythological landscapes. Holotropic experiences of this kind are the main source of cosmologies, mythologies, philosophies, and religious systems describing the spiritual nature of the cosmos and of existence. They are the key for understanding the ritual and spiritual life of humanity from shamanism and sacred ceremonies of aboriginal tribes to the great religions of the world. A particularly interesting aspect of holotropic states is their effect on thought processes. The intellect is not impaired, but functions in a way that is significantly different from its everyday mode of operation. While we might not be able to rely on our judgment in ordinary practical matters, we can be literally flooded with remarkable information on a variety of subjects. We can reach profound psychological insights concerning our personal history, unconscious dynamics, emotional difficulties, and interpersonal problems. We can also experience extraordinary revelations concerning various aspects of nature and the cosmos that by far transcend our educational and intellectual background. However, by far the most interesting insights that become available in holotropic states revolve around philosophical, metaphysical, and spiritual issues. 2 Holotropic states of consciousness and human history Ancient and aboriginal cultures have spent much time and energy developing powerful mind-altering techniques that can induce holotropic states. They combine in different ways chanting, breathing, drumming, rhythmic dancing, fasting, social and sensory isolation, extreme physical pain, and other elements. These cultures used them in shamanic procedures, healing ceremonies, and rites of passage – powerful rituals enacted at the time of important biological and social transitions, such as circumcision, puberty, marriage, or birth of a child. Many cultures have used for these purposes psychedelic plants. The most famous examples of these are different varieties of hemp, the Mexican cactus peyote, Psilocybe mushrooms, the African shrub eboga, and the Amazonian jungle plantsBanisteriopsis caapi andPsychotria viridis, the active ingredients of yagé or ayahuasca. Additional important triggers of holotropic experiences are various forms of systematic spiritual practice involving meditation, concentration, breathing, and movement exercises, that are used in different systems of yoga, Vipassana or Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Vajrayana, Taoism, Christian mysticism, Sufism, or Kabbalah. Other techniques were used in the ancient mysteries of death and rebirth, such as the Egyptian temple initiations of Isis and Osiris and the Greek Bacchanalia, rites of Attis Spirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 5

and Adonis, and the Eleusinian mysteries. The specifics of the procedures involved in these secret rites have remained for the most part unknown, although it is likely that psychedelic preparations played in them an important part (Wasson, Hofmann and Ruck 1978). Among the modern means of inducing holotropic states of consciousness are psychedelic substances in pure form isolated from plants or synthetized in the laboratory and powerful experiential forms of psychotherapy, such as hypnosis, neo-Reichian approaches, primal therapy, and rebirthing. My wife Christina and I have developed “holotropic breathwork”, a method that can facilitate profound holotropic states by very simple means – conscious breathing, evocative music, and focused bodywork. There also exist very effective laboratory techniques for altering consciousness. One of these is sensory deprivation, which involves significant reduction of meaningful sensory stimuli. In its extreme form, the individual is deprived of sensory input by total submersion in a dark and soundproof tank filled with water of body temperature. Another wellknown laboratory method of changing consciousness is biofeedback, where the individual is guided by electronic feedback signals into holotropic states of consciousness characterized by preponderance of certain specific frequencies of brainwaves. We could also mention here the techniques of sleep and dream deprivation and lucid dreaming. It is important to emphasize that episodes of holotropic states of varying duration can also occur spontaneously, without any specific identifiable cause, and often against the will of the people involved. Since modern psychiatry does not differentiate between mystical or spiritual states and mental diseases, people experiencing these states are often labeled psychotic, hospitalized, and receive routine suppressive psychopharmacological treatment. My wife Christina and I refer to these states aspsychospiritual crises or “spiritual emergencies”. We believe that properly supported and treated, they can result in emotional and psychosomatic healing, positive personality transformation, and consciousness evolution (Grof and Grof 1989, 1990). Although I have been deeply interested in all the categories of holotropic states mentioned above, I have done most of my work in the area of psychedelic therapy, holotropic breathwork, and spiritual emergency. This paper is based predominantly on my observations from these three areas, in which I have most personal experience. However, the general conclusions I will be drawing apply to all the situations involving holotropic states. 3 Holotropic states in the history of psychiatry It is worth mentioning that the history of depth psychologyandpsychotherapywas deeply connected with the study of holotropic states – Franz Mesmer’s experiments with “animal magnetism”, hypnotic sessions with hysterical patients conducted in Paris by Jean Martin Charcot, and the research in hypnosis carried out in Nancy by Hippolyte Bernheim and Ambroise Auguste Liébault. Sigmund Freud’s early work was inspired by his work with a client (Miss Anna O.), who experienced spontaneous episodes of non-ordinary states 6 Stanislav Grof

of consciousness. Freud also initially used hypnosis to access his patients’ unconscious before he radically changed his strategies. In retrospect, shifting emphasis from direct experience to free association, from actual trauma to Oedipal fantasies, and from conscious reliving and emotional abreaction of unconscious material to transference dynamics was unfortunate; it limited and misdirected Western psychotherapy for the next fifty years (Ross 1989). While verbal therapy can be very useful in providing interpersonal learning and rectifying interaction and communication in human relationships (e.g. couple and family therapy), it is ineffective in dealing with emotional and bioenergetic blockages and macrotraumas, such as the trauma of birth. As a consequence of this development, psychotherapy in the first half of the twentieth century was practically synonymous with talking – face to face interviews, free associations on the couch, and the behaviorist deconditioning. At the same time holotropic states, initially seen as an effective therapeutic tool, became associated with pathology rather than healing. This situation started to change in the 1950’s with the advent of psychedelic therapy and new developments in psychology and psychotherapy. A group of American psychologists headed by Abraham Maslow, dissatisfied with behaviorism and Freudian psychoanalysis, launched a revolutionary movement – humanistic psychology. Within a very short time, this movement became very popular and provided the context for a broad spectrum of new therapies. While traditional psychotherapies used primarily verbal means and intellectual analysis, these new so called experiential therapies emphasized direct experience and expression of emotions and used various forms of bodywork as an integral part of the process. Probably the most famous representative of these new approaches is Fritz Perls’ Gestalt therapy (Perls 1976). However, most experiential therapies still rely to a great degree on verbal communication and require that the client stays in the ordinary state of consciousness. The most radical innovations in the therapeutic field are approaches, which are so powerful that they profoundly change the state of consciousness, such as psychedelic therapy, holotropic breathwork, primal therapy, and others. The therapeutic use of holotropic states is the most recent development in Western psychotherapy. Paradoxically, it is also the oldest form of healing, one that can be traced back to the dawn of human history. Therapies using holotropic states actually represent a rediscovery and modern reinterpretation of the elements and principles that have been documented by historians and anthropologists studying the sacred mysteries of death and rebirth, rites of passage, and ancient and aboriginal forms of spiritual healing, particularly various shamanic procedures. Shamanism is the most ancient spiritual system and healing art of humanity; its roots reach far back into the Paleolithic era. Among the beautiful images of primeval animals painted and carved on the walls of the great caves in Southern France and northern Spain, such as Lascaux, Font de Gaume, Les Trois Frères, Niaux, Altamira, and others, are figures combining human and animal features that very likely represent ancient shamans. In some of the caves, the discoverers also found footprints in circular arrangements suggesting Spirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 7

that their inhabitants conducted dances, similar to those still performed by some aboriginal cultures for the induction of holotropic states. Shamanism is not only ancient, it is also universal; it can be found in North and South America, in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Polynesia. The fact that so many different cultures throughout human history have found shamanic techniques useful and relevant suggests that they address the “primal mind”  – a basic and primordial aspect of the human psyche that transcends race, culture, and time. All the cultures with the exception of the Western industrial civilization have held holotropic states in great esteem and spent much time and effort to develop various ways of inducing them. They used them to connect with their deities, other dimensions of reality, and with the forces of nature, for healing, for cultivation of extrasensory perception, and for artistic inspiration. For pre-industrial cultures, healing always involved holotropic states of consciousness – either for the client, for the healer, or for both of them at the same time. In many instances, a large group or even an entire tribe enters a non-ordinary state of consciousness together, as it is, for example, among the !Kung Bushmen in the African Kalahari Desert. Western psychiatry and psychology does not see holotropic states (with the exception of dreams that are not recurrent or frightening) as potential sources of healing or of valuable information about the human psyche, but basically as pathological phenomena. Traditional psychiatry tends to use indiscriminately pathological labels and suppressive medication whenever these states occur spontaneously. Michael Harner (1980), an anthropologist of good academic standing who underwent a shamanic initiation during his fieldwork in the Amazonian jungle and practices shamanism, suggests that Western psychiatry is seriously biased in at least two significant ways. It isethnocentric, which means that it considers its own view of the human psyche and of reality to be the only correct one and superior to all others. It is also cognicentric (a more accurate word might be pragmacentric), meaning that it takes into consideration only experiences and observations in the ordinary state of consciousness. Psychiatry’s disinterest in holotropic states and disregard for them has resulted in a culturally insensitive approach and a tendency to pathologize all activities that cannot be understood in its own narrow context. This includes the ritual and spiritual life of ancient and pre-industrial cultures and the entire spiritual history of humanity. 4 Implications of modern consciousness research for psychiatry If we subject to systematic scientific scrutiny the experiences and observations associated with holotropic states, it leads to a radical revision of our understanding of consciousness, the human psyche, and the nature of reality. The resulting revolution in our thinking resembles in its scope and depth the conceptual cataclysm that the physicists faced in the first three decades of the twentieth century, when they had to move from Newtonian to quantum-relativistic physics. In a sense, the new insights from consciousness research concerning the psyche represent a logical comple8 Stanislav Grof

tion of the revolution that has already occurred in our understanding of matter. The changes we would have to make in our thinking about psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy and even the nature of reality itself fall into several large categories: 1. New understanding and cartography of the human psyche; 2. The nature and architecture of emotional and psychosomatic disorders; 3. Therapeutic mechanisms and the process of healing; 4. The strategy of psychotherapy and Self-exploration; 5. The role of spirituality in human life; 6. The nature of reality. 5 New understanding and cartography of the human psyche The phenomena encountered in the study of holotropic states cannot be explained in the context of the traditional model of the psyche limited to postnatal biography and the Freudian individual unconscious. The dimensions of the human psyche are infinitely larger than it is described in handbooks of academic psychology and psychiatry. In an effort to account for the experiences and observations from holotropic states, I have myself suggested a cartography or model of the psyche that contains, in addition to the usual biographical level, two transbiographical realms: theperinatal domain, related to the trauma of biological birth; and the transpersonal domain, which is the source of such phenomena as experiential identification with other people or with animals, visions of archetypal and mythological beings and realms, ancestral, racial, and karmic experiences, and identification with the Universal Mind or the Supracosmic Void. These are experiences that have been described throughout ages in religious, mystical, and occult literature of different countries of the world. 5.1 Postnatal biography and the individual unconscious The biographical level of the psyche does not require much discussion, since it is well known from traditional psychology and psychotherapy; as a matter of fact, it is what traditional psychology is all about. However, there are a few important differences between exploring this domain through verbal psychotherapy and through approaches using holotropic states. First, one does not just remember emotionally significant events or reconstruct them indirectly from dreams, slips of tongue, or from transference distortions. One experiences the original emotions, physical sensations, and even sensory perceptions in full age regression. That means that during the reliving of an important trauma from infancy or childhood, the individual actually has the body image, the naive perception of the world, sensations, and the emotions corresponding to the age he or she was at that time. The authenticity of this regression is supported by the fact that the wrinkles in the face of these people temporarily disappear, giving them an infantile expression, the postures and gestures become childlike, and their neurological reflexes take the form Spirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 9

characteristic for children (e.g., the sucking reflex and Babinski’s reflex). The second difference between the work on the biographical material in holotropic states, as compared to verbal psychotherapy is that, beside confronting the usual psychotraumas known from handbooks of psychology, people often have to relive and integrate traumas that were primarily of a physical nature. Many people have to process experiences of near drowning, operations, accidents, and children’s diseases, particularly those that were associated with suffocation, such as diphtheria, whooping cough, or aspiration of a foreign object. This material emerges quite spontaneously and without any programming. As it surfaces, people realize that these physical traumas have played a significant role in the psychogenesis of their emotional and psychosomatic problems, such as asthma, migraine headaches, a variety of psychosomatic pains, phobias, sadomasochistic tendencies, or depression and suicidal tendencies. Reliving of such traumatic memories and their integration can then have very farreaching therapeutic consequences. This contrasts sharply with the attitudes of academic psychiatry and psychology, which do not recognize the direct psychotraumatic impact of physical traumas. Another new information about the biographical-recollective level of the psyche that emerged from my research was the discovery that emotionally relevant memories are not stored in the unconscious as a mosaic of isolated imprints, but in the form of complex dynamic constellations. I have coined for them the name “COEX systems”, which is short for systems of condensed experience. A COEX system consists of emotionally charged memories from different periods of our life that resemble each other in the quality of emotion or physical sensation that they share. Each COEX has a basic theme that permeates all its layers and represents their common denominator. The individual layers then contain variations on this basic theme that occurred at different periods of the person’s life. The nature of the central theme varies considerably from one COEX to another. The layers of a particular system can, for example contain all the major memories of humiliating, degrading, and shaming experiences that have damaged our self-esteem. In another COEX, the common denominator can be anxiety experienced in various shocking and terrifying situations or claustrophobic and suffocating feelings evoked by oppressive and confining circumstances. Rejection and emotional deprivation damaging our ability to trust men, women, or people in general, is another common motif. Situations that have generated in us profound feelings of guilt and a sense of failure, events that have left us with a conviction that sex is dangerous or disgusting, and encounters with indiscriminate aggression and violence can be added to the above list as characteristic examples. Particularly important are COEX systems that contain memories of encounters with situations endangering life, health, and integrity of the body. The above discussion could easily leave the impression that COEX systems always contain painful and traumatic memories. However, it is the intensity of the experience and its emotional relevance that determines whether a memory will be included into a COEX, not its 10 Stanislav Grof

unpleasant nature. In addition to negative contellations there are also those that comprise memories of very pleasant or even ecstatic moments. The concept of COEX dynamics emerged from clinical work with clients suffering from serious forms of psychopathology where the work on traumatic aspects of life plays a very important role. The spectrum of negative COEX systems is also much richer and more variegated than that of the positive ones; it seems that the misery in our life can have many different forms, while happiness depends on the fulfillment of a few basic conditions. However, a general discussion requires that we emphasize that the COEX dynamics is not limited to constellations of traumatic memories. When I first described the COEX systems in the early stages of my LSD research, I thought that they governed the dynamics of the biographical level of the unconscious. At that time, my understanding of psychology was based on a superficial model of the psyche limited to biography that I had inherited frommy teachers. In addition, in the initial psychedelic sessions, particularly when lower dosages are used, the biographical material often predominates. As my experience with holotropic states became richer and more extensive, I realized that the roots of the COEX systems reach much deeper. Each of the COEX constellations seems to be superimposed over and anchored in a particular aspect of the trauma of birth. As we will see later in the discussion of the perinatal level of the unconscious, the experience of birth is so complex and rich in emotions and physical sensations that it contains in a prototypical form the elementary themes of all conceivable COEX systems. In addition, a typical COEX reaches even further and has its deepest roots in various forms of transpersonal phenomena, such as past life experiences, Jungian archetypes, conscious identification with various animals, and others. At present, I see the COEX systems as general organizing principles of the human psyche. The similarities and differences between the concept of COEX systems and Jung’s concept of complexes has been discussed elsewhere (Grof 1975, 2000). The COEX systems play an important role in our psychological life. They can influence the way we perceive ourselves, other people, and the world and how we feel about them. They are the dynamic forces behind our emotional and psychosomatic symptoms, difficulties in relationships with other people, and irrational behavior. There exists a dynamic interplay between the COEX systems and the external world. External events in our life can specifically activate corresponding COEX systems and, conversely, active COEX systems can make us perceive the world and behave in such a way that we recreate their core themes in our present life. This mechanism can be observed very clearly in experiential work. In holotropic states, the content of the experience, the perception of the environment, and the behavior of the client are determined in general terms by the COEX system that dominates the session and more specifically by the layer of this system that is momentarily emerging into consciousness. All the characteristics of COEX systems can best be demonstrated on a practical example. I have chosen for this purpose Peter, a thirtyseven-year-old teacher who had been prior Spirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 11

to his psychedelic therapy intermittently hospitalized and treated without success in our psychiatric department in Prague. At the time when we began LSD psychotherapy, Peter could hardly function in his everyday life. Almost all the time, he was obsessed by the idea to find a man of a certain physical appearance and preferably clad in black. He wanted to befriend this man and tell him about his urgent desire to be locked in a dark cellar and exposed to various diabolic physical and mental tortures. He hoped to find a man who would be willing to participate in this scheme. Unable to concentrate on anything else, he wandered aimlessly through the city, visiting public parks, lavatories, bars, and railroad stations searching for the “right man”. He succeeded on several occasions to persuade or bribe various men who met his criteria to promise or do what he asked for. Having a special gift for finding persons with sadistic traits, he was twice almost killed, several times seriously hurt, and once robbed of all his money. On those occasions, where he was able to experience what he craved for, he was extremely frightened and actually strongly disliked the tortures. In addition to this main problem, Peter suffered from suicidal depressions, impotence, and infrequent epileptiform seizures. Reconstructing his history, I found out that his major problems started at the time of his compulsory employment in Germany during World War II. The Nazis referred to this form of slave labor using people from occupied territories in hard dangerous work situations as Totaleinsetzung. At that time, two SS officers forced Peter at gun point to engage in their homosexual practices. When the war was over, Peter realized that these experiences created in him preference for homosexual intercourse experienced in the passive role. This gradually changed into fetishism for black clothes and finally into the complex obsession described above. Fifteen consecutive psychedelic sessions revealed a very interesting and important COEX system underlying this problem. In its most superficial layers were Peter’s more recent traumatic experiences with his sadistic partners. One of the accomplices whom he managed to recruit bound him with ropes, locked him into a cellar without food and water, and tortured him by flagellation and strangulation following his wish. Another one of these men hit Peter on his head, bound him with a string, and left him lying in a forest after having stolen his money. Peter’s most dramatic adventure happened with a man who promised to take him to his cabin in the woods that he claimed had just the cellar Peter wanted. When they were traveling by train to this man’s weekend house, Peter was struck by his companion’s strange-looking bulky backpack. When the latter left the compartment and went to the bathroom, Peter stepped up on the seat and checked the suspect baggage. He discovered a complete set of murder weapons, including a gun, a large butcher knife, a freshly sharpened hatchet, and a surgical saw used for amputations. Panic-stricken, he jumped out of the moving train and suffered serious injuries. Elements of the above episodes formed the most superficial layers of Peter’s most important COEX system. A deeper layer of the same system contained Peter’s memories from the Third Reich. In the sessions where this part of the COEX constellation manifested, he relived in detail his experiences with the homosexual SS officers with all the complicated feelings involved. In addition, he 12 Stanislav Grof

relived several other traumatic memories from WW II and dealt with the entire oppressive atmosphere of this period. He had visions of pompous Nazi military parades and rallies, banners with swastikas, ominous giant eagle emblems, scenes from concentration camps, and many others. Then came layers related to Peter’s childhood, particularly those involving punishment by his parents. His alcoholic father was often violent when he was drunk and used to beat him in a sadistic way with a large leather strap. His mother’s favorite method of punishing him was to lock him into a dark cellar without food for long periods of time. All through Peter’s childhood, she always wore black dresses; he did not remember her ever wearing anything else. At this point, Peter realized that one of the roots of his obsession seemed to be craving for suffering that would combine elements of punishment by both parents. However, that was not the whole story. As we continued with the sessions, the process deepened and Peter confronted the trauma of his birth with all its biological brutality. This situation had all the elements that he expected from the sadistic treatment he was so desperately trying to receive: dark enclosed space, confinement and restriction of the body movements, and exposure to extreme physical and emotional tortures. Reliving of the trauma of birth finally resolved his difficult symptoms to such an extent that he could again function in life. The above COEX system also had some connections to elements of a transpersonal nature. While the above example is more dramatic than most, it illustrates well the basic features characteristic for other COEX constellations. In experiential work, the COEX systems operate as functional wholes. While the person involved experiences the emotions and physical feelings characteristic of a particular constellation, the content of its individual layers emerges successively into consciousness and determines the specific nature of the experience. Before we continue our discussion of the new extended cartography of the human psyche it seems appropriate to emphasize in this context a very important and remarkable property of holotropic states that played an important role in charting the unconscious and that is also invaluable for the process of psychotherapy. Holotropic states tend to engage something like an “inner radar”, bringing into consciousness automatically the contents from the unconscious that have the strongest emotional charge, are most psychodynamically relevant at the time, and are available for processing at that particular time. This represents a great advantage in comparison with verbal psychotherapy, where the client presents a broad array of information of various kind and the therapist has to decide what is important, what is irrelevant, where the client is blocking, etc. Since there is no general agreement about basic theoretical issues among different schools, such assessments will always reflect the personal bias of the therapist, as well as the specific views of his or her school. The holotropic states save the therapist such difficult decisions and eliminate much of the subjectivity and professional idiosyncrasy of the verbal approaches. This “inner radar” often surprises the therapist by detecting emotionally strongly charged memories of physical traumas and brings them to the surface for processing and conscious integration. This automatic selection of relevant topics also spontaneously Spirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 13

leads the process to the perinatal and transpersonal levels of the psyche, transbiographical domains not recognized and acknowledged in academic psychiatry and psychology. The phenomena originating in these deep recesses of the psyche were well-known to ancient and pre-industrial cultures of all ages and greatly honored by them. In the Western world they have been erroneously attributed to pathology of unknown origin and considered to be meaningless and erratic products of cerebral dysfunction. 5.2 The perinatal level of the unconscious The domain of the psyche that lies immediately beyond (or beneath) the recollective-biographical realm has close connections with the beginning of life and its end, with birth and death. Many people identify the experiences that originate on this level as the reliving of their biological birth trauma. This is reflected in the name “perinatal” that I have suggested for this level of the psyche. It is a Greek-Latin composite word where the prefixperi, means “near” or “around,” and the root natalis, “pertaining to childbirth”. This word is commonly used in medicine to describe various biological processes occurring shortly before, during, and immediately after birth. Thus the obstetricians talk, for example, about perinatal hemorrhage, infection, or brain damage. However, since traditional medicine denies that the child can consciously experience birth and claims that the event is not recorded in memory, one does not ever hear about perinatal experiences. The use of the term perinatal in connection with consciousness reflects my own findings and is entirely new (Grof 1975). Academic psychiatry generally denies the possibility of a psychotraumatic impact of biological birth, unless the trauma is so serious that it causes irreversible damage to the brain cells. This is usually attributed to the fact that the cerebral cortex of the newborn is not myelinized, which means its neurons are not fully protected by sheaths of fatty substance called myelin. The assumption that the child does not experience anything during all the hours of this extremely painful and stressful event and that the birth process does not leave any record in the brain is astonishing, since it is known that the capacity for memory exists in many lower life forms that do not have a cerebral cortex at all. However, it is particularly striking in view of the fact that many current theories attribute great significance to nuances of nursing and to the early interaction between the mother and the child, including bonding. Such blatant logical contradiction appearing in rigorous scientific thinking is unbelievable and has to be the result of a profound emotional repression to which the memory of birth is subjected. People, who reach in their inner explorations the perinatal level, start experiencing emotions and physical sensations of extreme intensity, often surpassing anything they consider humanly possible. As I mentioned before, these experiences represent a very strange mixture and combination of two critical aspects of human life – birth and death. They involve a sense of a severe, life-threatening confinement and a desperate and determined struggle to free oneself and survive. The intimate connection between birth and death on the perinatal level reflects the fact that birth is a poten14 Stanislav Grof

tially life-threatening event. The child and the mother can actually lose their lives during this process and children might be born severely blue from asphyxiation, or even dead and in need of resuscitation. As their name indicates, an important core of perinatal experiences is the reliving of various aspects of the biological birth process. It often involves photographic details and occurs even in people who have no intellectual knowledge about their birth. The replay of the original birth situation can be very convincing. We can, for example, discover through direct experience that we had a breech birth, that forceps were used during our delivery, or that we were born with the umbilical cord twisted around the neck. We can feel the anxiety, biological fury, physical pain, and suffocation associated with this terrifying event and even accurately recognize the type of anesthesia used when we were born. This is often accompanied by various physical manifestations that can be noticed by an external observer. The postures and movements of the body, arms, and legs, as well as the rotations, flections, and deflections of the head can accurately recreate the mechanics of a particular type of delivery, even in people without elementary obstetric knowledge. Bruises, swellings, and other vascular changes can unexpectedly appear on the skin in the places where the forceps was applied, the wall of the birth canal was pressing on the head, or where the umbilical cord was constricting the throat. The accuracy of ll these details can be confirmed if good birth records or reliable personal witnesses are available. The spectrum of perinatal experiences is not limited to the elements that can be derived from the biological processes involved in childbirth. The perinatal domain of the psyche also represents an important gateway to the collective unconscious in the Jungian sense. Identification with the infant facing the ordeal of the passage through the birth canal seems to provide access to experiences involving people from other times and cultures, various animals, and even mythological figures. It is as if by connecting with the fetus struggling to be born, one reaches an intimate, almost mystical connection with other sentient beings who are in a similar difficult predicament. Experiential confrontation with birth and death seems to result automatically in a spiritual opening and discovery of the mystical dimensions of the psyche and of existence. It does not seem to make a difference whether it happens symbolically, as in psychedelic and holotropic sessions and in the course of spontaneous psychospiritual crises (“spiritual emergencies”) or in actual life situations, for example, in delivering women or in the context of near-death experiences (Ring 1984). The specific symbolism of these experiences comes from the Jungian collective unconscious, not from the individual memory banks. It can thus draw on any spiritual tradition of the world, quite independently from the subject’s cultural or religious background and intellectual knowledge. Perinatal phenomena occur in four distinct experiential patterns characterized by specific emotions, physical feelings, and symbolic images. Each of them is closely related to one of the four consecutive periods of biological delivery. At each of these stages, the baby undergoes a specific and typical set of expeSpirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 15

riences. In turn, these experiences form distinct matrices or psychospiritual blueprints whose content can manifest in holotropic states of consciousness and that we find echoing in individual and social psychopathology, religion, art, philosophy, politics, and other areas of our life. We can talk about these four dynamic constellations of the deep unconscious that are associated with the trauma of birth asBasic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs). Each perinatal matrix has its specific biological, psychological, archetypal, and spiritual aspects. In addition to having specific content of their own, BPMs also function as organizing principles for experiences from other levels of the unconscious. They have specific connections with related postnatal memories arranged in COEX systems and with the archetypes of the Great Mother Goddess, Terrible Mother Goddess, Hell, and Heaven, as well as racial, collective, and karmic memories, and phylogenetic experiences. 5.3 BPM I (Primal union with mother) This matrix is can be referred to as the “amniotic universe”; it is related to the intrauterine existence before the onset of delivery. The fetus does not have an awareness of boundaries or the ability to differentiate between the inner and outer. This is reflected in the nature of the experiences associated with the reliving of the memory of the prenatal state. During episodes of undisturbed embryonal existence, people can have feelings of vast regions with no boundaries or limits. They can identify with galaxies, interstellar space, or the entire cosmos. A related experience is that of floating in the sea, identifying with various aquatic animals, such as fish, dolphins, or whales, or even becoming the ocean. This seems to reflect the fact that the fetus is essentially an aquatic creature. One might also have archetypal visions of Mother Nature – nature that is beautiful, safe, and unconditionally nourishing, like a good womb. This can involve visions of luscious orchards, fields of ripe corn, agricultural terraces in the Andes, or unspoiled Polynesian islands. Mythological images from the collective unconscious that often appear in this context portray various celestial realms and paradises. The persons reliving episodes of intrauterine disturbances, or “bad womb” experiences, have a sense of dark and ominous threat and often feel that they are being poisoned. They might see images that portray polluted waters and toxic dumps, reflecting the fact that many prenatal disturbances are caused by toxic changes in the body of the pregnant mother. Sequences of this kind can be associated with visions of frightening demonic entities. Those who relive more violent interferences with prenatal existence, such as imminent miscarriage or attempted abortion, usually experience some form of universal threat or bloody apocalyptic visions of the end of the world. This again reflects the intimate interconnections between events in one’s biological history and Jungian archetypes. The following account of a high dose psychedelic session can be used as a typical example of a BPM I experience, opening at times into the transpersonal realm. All that I was experiencing was an intense sense of malaise resembling a flu. I could not believe that a high dose of LSD that in my previous ses16 Stanislav Grof

sions had produced dramatic changes – to the point that on occasions I was afraid that my sanity or even my life was at stake – could evoke such a minimal response. I decided to close my eyes and observe carefully what was happening. At this point, the experience seemed to deepen, and I realized that what with my eyes open appeared to be an adult experience of a viral disease now changed into a realistic situation of a fetus suffering some strange toxic insults during its intrauterine existence. I was greatly reduced in size, and my head was disproportionately larger than the rest of my body and extremities. I was suspended in a liquid milieu and some harmful chemicals were being channeled into my body through the umbilical area. Using some unknown receptors, I was detecting these influences as noxious and hostile to my organism. While this was happening, I was aware that these toxic “attacks” had something to do with the condition and activity of the maternal organism. Occasionally, I could distinguish influences that appeared to be due to ingestion of alcohol, inappropriate food, or smoking and others that I perceived as chemical mediators of my mother’s emotions – anxieties, nervousness, anger, conflicting feelings about pregnancy, and even sexual arousal. Then the feelings of sickness and indigestion disappeared, and I was experiencing an everincreasing state of ecstasy. This was accompanied by a clearing and brightening of my visual field. It was as if multiple layers of thick, dirty cobwebs were being magically torn and dissolved, or a poor-quality movie projection or television broadcast were being brought into focus by an invisible cosmic technician. The scenery opened up, and an incredible amount of light and energy was enveloping me and was streaming in subtle vibrations through my whole being. On one level, I was a fetus experiencing the ultimate perfection and bliss of a good womb and could also switch to the experience of a newborn fusing with a nourishing and life-giving breast of my mother. On another level, I was witnessing the spectacle of the macrocosm with countless pulsating and vibrating galaxies and, at the same time, I could actually become it and be identical with it. These radiant and breathtaking cosmic vistas were intermingled with experiences of the equally miraculous microcosm from the dance of atoms and molecules to the origins of life and the biochemical world of individual cells. 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 and alive. For some time, I was oscillating between the state of a distressed, sickened fetus and blissful and serene intrauterine existence. At times, the noxious influences took the form of insidious demons or malevolent creatures from the world of fairy tales. During the undisturbed episodes of fetal existence, I experienced feelings of basic identity and oneness with the universe. It was the Tao, the Beyond that is Within, the Tat tvam asi (Thou art That) of the Upanishads. I lost my sense of individuality; my ego dissolved, and I became all of existence. Sometimes this experience was intangible and contentless, sometimes it was accompanied by many beautiful visions – archetypal images of Paradise, the ultimate cornucopia, golden age, or virginal nature. I became a dolphin playing in the ocean, a fish swimming in crystal- clear waters, a butterfly floating in mountain meadSpirituality Studies 2 (1) Spring 2016 17