Transpersonal Experiences

The common denominator of this otherwise rich and ramified group of phenomena is the subject's feeling that his or her conscoiusness has expanded beyond the usual ego boundaries and has transcended the limitations of time and space. In the "normal" or usual state of consciousness, we experience ourselves as existing within the boundaries of the physical body (the body image) and our perception of the environment is restricted by the physically determined range of exteroceptors. Both our internal perception (interoception) arid the perception of the external world (exteroception) are confined by the usual spatial and temporal boundaries. Under ordinary circumstances we vividly experience only our present situation and our immediate environment; we recall past events and anticipate the future or fantasize about it.

In transpersonal experiences, as they occur in psychedelic sessions or in various non-drug frameworks, one or several of the above limitations appear to be transcended. Many experiences belonging to this category are interpreted by the subjects as regressions in historical time and explorations of their biological or spiritual past. It is not unusual in psychedelic sessions to experience quite concrete and realistic episodes identified as fetal and embryonic memories. Many subjects report vivid sequences on the level of cellular consciousness which seem to reflect their existence in the form of a sperm or ovum at the moment of conception. Sometimes the regression appears to go even further and the individual has a convinced feeling of reliving memories from the lives of his or her ancestors, or even drawing on the racial and collective unconscious. On occasion, LSD subjects report experiences in which they identify with various animal ancestors in the evolutionary pedigree or have a distinct feeling of reliving episodes from their existence in a previous incarnation.

Some other transpersonal phenomena involve transcendence of spatial rather than temporal barriers. Here belong the experiences of merging with another person into a state of dual unity or completely identifying with him or her, tuning into the consciousness of an entire group of persons or expanding one's consciousness to the extent that it seems to encompass all of mankind. In a similar way, one can transcend the limits of the specifically human experience and tune in to what appears to be the consciousness of animals, plants, or even inanimate objects. In the extreme, it is possible to experience the consciousness of all creation, of our planet, of the entire material universe. Another phenomenon related to the transcendence of normal spatial limitations is consciousness of certain parts of the body such as various organs, tissues, or individual cells. An important category of transpersonal experiences involving transcendence of time and/or space are the various ESP phenomena, such as out-of-body experiences, telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance and clairaudience, and space and time travel.

In a large group of transpersonal experiences, the extension of consciousness seems to go beyond the phenomenal world and the time-space continuum as we perceive it in our everyday life. Quite common examples are the experiences of an encounter with spirits of deceased human beings or supra-human spiritual entities. LSD subjects also report numerous visions of archetypal forms, individual deities and demons, and complex mythological sequences. An intuitive understanding of universal symbols, or the arousal of the Kundalini and activation of various chakras are additional examples of this category. In the extreme form the individual consciousness seems to encompass the totality of existence and identify with the Universal Mind. The ultimate of all experiences appears to be the Stipracosmic and Metacosmic Void, the mysterious primordial emptiness and nothingness that is conscious of itself and contains all existence in a germinal form.

Although we have discussed transpersonal experiences in the context of extrapharmacological variables related to the personality of the subject, such an approach presents serious difficulties. On the one hand, transpersonal phenomena occur on the same continuum as psychodynamic and perinatal experiences in the process of the subject's deep self-exploration and probing of his or her unconscious. On the other hand, from the point of view of present conceptual frameworks, their sources frequently appear to be outside the conventionally defined context of the individual—in pre-history, future, remote locations, or other dimensions of existence. The psychodynamic level draws from the individual's history and is clearly biographical in origin and nature. Perinatal experiences seem to represent a frontier between the personal and the transindividual, as is reflected by their deep association with biological birth and death. The transpersonal realm, then, reflects the connections between the individual and cosmos mediated through channels which seem at the present to be beyond our comprehension. All we can say in this respect is that somewhere in the process of perinatal unfolding a qualitative leap seems to occur in which this process of in-depth exploration of the individual unconscious turns into an adventure in the universe-at-large and involves what can best be described as the superconscious mind.

Intimate knowledge of the transpersonal realms is absolutely essential not only for the understanding of the psychedelic process, but for any serious approach to such phenomena as shamanism, religion, mysticism, rites of passage, mythology, parapsychology, and schizophrenia. Transpersonal experiences in LSD sessions as well as in non-drug states tend to occur in thematic clusters. Thus, for example, embryonal experiences are typically associated with evolutionary (phylogenetic) memories and with images of blissful or wrathful archetypal deities, depending on the nature of the intrauterine experience. However, their organization is much looser and does not allow one to speak of dynamic governing systems and matrices as in the case of psychodynamic and perinatal material. In the process of transpersonal unfolding the very principles that would allow for organization and classification, such as the concepts of linear time, three-dimen-sional space, matter, causality, and ultimately form itself, are progressively questioned, undermined and transcended.

Emerging transpersonal experiences tend to influence the perception of oneself, of the persons present in the room, and of the physical environment. All these elements can appear systematically transformed in a certain direction to fit the content of the emerging theme, whether it is an ancestral or phylogenetic memory, elements of the racial and collective unconscious, archetypal structures, or a karinic pattern. A powerful transpersonal experience that has not been com-) pleted in a psychedelic session, such as manifestation of an important archetype or ! reliving of a past-incarnation memory, can continue to influence the subject for an indefinite period of time after the drug experience has worn off.

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