Mysticism & Psychedelics
I found this interesting. His book was interesting too. Perhaps someone with a greater knowledge of SJOC might like to critique his comparison.
For myself, much of the psychic attack I experience has elements of the constrictions of BPM II & III, followed by the spaciousness and decompression of IV. There are also striking similarities between psychic attack and the hell of dark night discussed here.
So are there parallels between perinatal material and dark night? Are the transformative aspects of contemplative practise and LSD therapy the same, despite the different dynamic? Is psychic attack another vehicle for purification, an aspect or branch of dark night?
It's always going to be problematic comparing the movement of God in a soul to the therapeutic use of drugs, but there's no denying the similarities. Perhaps God allows these compounds or other natural psychedelics as a kind of fast track.
There's a database of articles on the psychology of mysticism here:
Interesting article. Huxley and others had hoped that LSD could give people a "peek" at mystical consciousness, but their optimism was quashed by the "bad trips" that drove the risk/reward ratio to an unacceptable level, with the result that the drug was banned. I wasn't aware that there was still something called "LSD therapy" going on.
The author also over-emphasizes the negative aspects of the Dark Nights. SJOC spoke of the marvelous peace and love that accompanied the the process.
My years in alcohol/drug abuse counseling led me to be very skeptical about "fast-tracking" mystical consciousness. Things seem to work better when biochemistry adjusts itself to cognitive/behavioral patterns; stimulating brain chemistry in a positive direction seems to undermine the importance of developing a cognitive/behavioral foundation for mystical consciousness.
Then there are the problems I've encountered with those who've been to Stan Grof's holotropic breathing workshops. The consequences have been disastrous for some, royally screwing up the balance between the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system.
Sorry to sound so negative about this, Stephen.
I used to believe in the fast-track principle myself during my own self-inflicted LSD therapy
I do believe these substances open us up to the spiritual realm and mystical consciousness in similar ways to traditional spiritual practice. But I agree that this leads to the problem of bringing your mind/soul into an experience that it hasn't properly prepared for. You may experience profound moments of non-duality or divine communion, but you may also experience deep darkness and even demonic attack.
I agree that it seems an interesting area for exploration...but having experienced the dark side I want no more to do with it...interesting as it may be.
No, I understand the problems and risks, and I don't think I'd recommend it. He does see the necessity for the dark stuff as purification, hence the comparison to dark night. But it's really only going to be processed properly under the direction of a therapist.
What interests me are the insights he gleaned from years of therapy, especially regarding collective energies etc, relayed in the book Dark Night, Early Dawn, and the framework of consciousness he uses from Grof, especially the perinatal domain. I feel there's benefit from this, not the method particularly. The stages classified as perinatal matrices resonate with my own experiences and I see value in a systematic, clinical approach to understanding the psychology of a mystical journey.
Stephen, how do you see "perinatal matrices" differening from what psychologists (not spiritual writers!) call Ego and Ego development?
Grof's perinatal matrices reflect structures built as a result of perinatal experiences. The ego does not develop until much later -- minimum 6 months according to Lacan, or 18 months according to everyone else, though I suppose we would have to qualify that by asking what is meant by ego, which is not the same for all writers.
I'm on uncertain ground here, I think - my reading is limited and my understanding probably more so. Plus I don't really have the vocabulary, but I'll give it a go because I've suggested it relates to my own experiences.
I see the ego as the part of human consciousness which attaches itself to experience and almost asks to be fed by it. It's the part that experiences itself as separate from a perceived external reality. Perinatal material is gathered earlier and relates to how consciousness might process birth, death and rebirth out with the ego, or before its formation, including how we process pain, or in my case attack. I think dealing with perinatal material must impact on ego in the way we resist or accept the accompanying sense of hopelessness, oppression, or spaciousness of each matrix. So then surrendering to the trauma might wash the ego, as it were, lessening its attachment to personal experience, cleansing the consciousness vessel, thereby allowing the divine life to filter through clearly; whereas resisting might build layers of resentment or increased pain, clogging the ego filter and stifling divine life.
What I've experienced is a psycho-physiological oppression relating to the perinatal domain, which my ego then deals with, at first with a sense of injustice and resentment or questioning, but then through time with a degree of humility and acceptance which leads to a transpersonal element of oneness built or rather discovered over time after each attack. Through this process of death and rebirth, impacting perinatal material, the ego gradually loses a grasping attachment to experience, allowing consciousness to fill with a sense of unity and divine energy. Whether ego eventually disappears altogether or is simply washed to the extent where it becomes a transparent filter, I'm not quite sure yet, but I feel myself moving there.
I hope I'm making sense.
I think so, and it looks as though we are using the terms in the same way. The ego is the function of the mind that wants to manipulate experience and in so doing creates the impression of a separate self, a do-er. That's my definition, too.
Phil wrote his dissertation on God, Self, and Ego, so may have different ideas.
In certain strains of Kabbalistic thought, it's posited that during "the Fall," the perceptive knower faculty, referred to as Da'at (Knowledge), "fell" so that its attachment is to the material world, or more accurately, to our sense perception of the material world. Knowledge in this sense is similar to the biblical "he knew his wife," referring to union with the object of knowing.
In some Yogic thought, there is a big emphasis on the idea that in the average person, prana flows downward through the body and out the three lower chakras, and this prana is what goes out to create the outside world. Again to be more accurate this refers to our perception of the outside world. In this context the goal of the yogi is to raise awareness, or raise consciousness, to the higher energy centers so that the prana will flow upward and allow us to perceive or live in higher, more spiritual worlds. There is a similar goal for the Kabbalist mentioned above, but it also involves creating "knots" that tie the lower worlds to the higher worlds through awareness.
Anyway, my point is, there seems to be a consensus, not just among dead mystics, but also among folks here, that there is a part of the Person whose nature it is to attach to one part of the human experience or another. This part of the self is often called the Ego - but personally I believe that the Ego is more accurately defined as a distortion of the self-image which, along with the magnetic pull of material sensuality, draws the Knower/Perceiver/Daat faculty forcefully to itself. It does this because, in the terminology of the yogi, this Knower or giver of attention is what directs the prana which gives life to whichever construct it is attached to.
This dynamic can likely be modeled with the characters of Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and God. But that would need more thought - when I try off the top of my head, the characters keep switching roles.
I'm actually re-writing that work into more of a "trade book" format these days.
We did have another discussion on "Ego and Self" sometime back that will save me the trouble of saying everything all over again.
So from the psycholgist's understanding of Ego, the perinatal matrices exist as an aspect of Ego or are imbedded in Ego. Is that correct? I find it hard to think of Ego without thinking of self awareness and perceived separation though, and these matrices are set up before that develops within what I would regard as an undeveloped unit of consciousness. Dealing with perinatal material in this light then would be a way of cleaning the false self and allowing the spiritual root of the Ego to emerge. What I'm seeing emerge is an underlying unity of consciousness, a kind of unified field of energy which my consciousness channels as a distinct unit of experience. This deepens as the attachments of the false self weaken.
I probably have to develop my thinking more on this before coming to any conclusion.
It's so complicated! Let me see if I can make a short version.
Freud wrote about a function he called in German "das Ich," which would translate literally into English as "the I."
However, in English translations of Freud, "das Ich" was rendered as "the ego."
This was unfortunate because in English the word "ego" already had two different meanings. One of these was simply "I" -- though in a general sense rather than in Freud's specific and technical sense -- and the other was ego meaning an inflated sense of self-importance.
Now let's add to the confusion.
During the encounter between the English-speaking world and Indian spiritualities during the twentieth century, the word "ego" took on yet another shade of meaning, which was to emphasize the sense of solidness and separateness of the "ego," especially in the context of asserting their illusoriness and, by implication, the pointlessness of the ego's goals, and in particular its goals of self-perpetuation.
So all of the above history makes for some messy discussions.
Psychologists, when talking among themselves, will often use the word "ego" in the Freudian sense. Thus, they may talk about "ego strengthening" as a worthy goal. A non-psychologist listening in, and understanding the word "ego" in any other sense, would be confused as to why "ego strengthening" is considered desirable.
More confusion: After Freud, various other psychologists began to use the word "self" in their models. For example, Winnicott uses the terminology of "false self" versus "true self."
Phil, I believe, uses the word "ego" as synonymous with Winnicott's "false self." However, in what sense he means the word "ego" in that equation I do not know. Perhaps the new edition of his book will make this clear?
I think the question of how all this relates to perinatal matrices will have to be left for now!
No, not at all -- closer to Freud, actually, or Jung, especially.
What I am doing now that is different from the dissertation is situating the terms Ego and Self in the context of Lonergan's view of consciousness. Self is thus the awareness we experience in non-reflecting consciousness (your favorite topic, Derek ), and Ego is the very same awareness, though experienced in the context of reflective, intentional consciousness. The thread I linked to above on Ego and Self lays out some of the thinking I was doing about this awhile back.
No! No! No!
Any use of the term "non-reflecting consciousness" will result in my submitting a critical review of your book to the International Journal of Christian Kundalini Studies.
Ha ha, Derek (What a journal that would be!)
I'm still not familiar enough with "perinatal matrices" to comment on how that relates to Ego. Jane Loevinger's work on Ego development recognizes the Ego to be "the frame of reference (or lens) one uses to construct and interpret one's world." Her 9 stages are described in numerous places on the web.
- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...s_of_ego_development
Note that the earliest, pre-social stage does not have a well-defined Ego at all. Note also the rest of the stages, and how there is value in each. Many spiritual writers do not acknowledge this, or else have a different understanding of Ego, as has been noted. But I think using Ego in a way that drastically disconnects from Loevinger and other psychologists only widens the gap between spirituality and psychology, which is unfortunate. Writers like James Fowler in his Stages of Faith do a better job of integrating both.
I haven't heard of Loevinger before. It looks like her books are quite old (1970s). I don't know if there is more recent research than that.
I agree that ego-development theories based on mainstream psychology are more convincing than pure speculation by "spiritual" writers. But even among psychologists, theories of ego-development are largely speculative due to the inability of infants to self-report, along with the relative paucity of observable evidence. As far as hard evidence is concerned, I know of Piaget's work on object permanence from the 1950s, Amsterdam's rouge test from 1972, and Mahler's observations of young children published in 1975. Is there any more recent important evidence I don't know about?
Almost all writers agree that a coherent internal self-representation, whether we call it a self or an ego, is not present at birth but forms gradually over the first two to three years of life. The only exception I know of is Lacan, whose mirror stage theory (published in two versions in 1936 and 1949) asserted that what becomes the ego is introjected all in one go. However, Lacan's theory owes more to Kojève's lectures on Hegel than to any experimental evidence. Lacan himself (in the 1949 version in Écrits) quotes Baldwin in support of his mirror stage theory, but I was able to find a 1905 book by Baldwin (The Story of the Mind) on Project Gutenberg, and Baldwin states of a child's self-consciousness: "He gradually acquires it."
Grof's Basic Perinatal Matrices are attempts to describe the world of the child as it passes through the stages of conception, gestation, labor, and birth. I looked at his book very briefly back in the 90s. I think his idea was that the experiences of these stages, although they occur a long time before the mind has developed any cognitive abilities, are still imprinted or ingrained on the system. When symbolic thinking develops, the ingrained patterns will shape the habitual pathways of the subject's thought-system -- which to the subject, means their habitual ways of perceiving situations. And I believe also that he asserted that LSD could reevoke in symbolic form these presymbolic experiences.
I don't remember any passages in St. John of the Cross suggestive of Basic Perinatal Matrices, but I did once find one in St. Teresa of Avila.
Good short summary on a few approaches to "Ego," Derek. I know there's no clear consensus about how the word is used, which is why I've tried to situate it in some kind of anthropological context. Of course, not everyone would buy into that context, either, so you just have to sort of know what people mean by the term from the way they use it.
I'm not at all familiar with Perinatal Matrices nor anything along those lines, including primal therapy and other attempts to heal birth trauma. I was a breach baby, so maybe I could benefit by some of this . . . or not.
|Powered by Social Strata|