Asklepia Monograph Series
An Integrative View of Normal Adult Development
and the Consciousness Restructuring Process
by Iona Miller and Graywolf Swinney
Asklepia Foundation, ©2000
ABSTRACT: Developmental theory helps us gain a concept of what unblocked
or free flowing developmental process looks like in terms of the fulfillment
of human potential. The integrative developmental framework emphasizes
the continuing evolution of the whole person; ultimately it is a spiritual
process. The results of the stimulus of forward development and progression
that is provided by the normative crisis of midlife, with its adjustments
to aging and mortality, is examined in respect to the Consciousness Restructuring
Process (CRP). The goal of treatment is elimination of blocks to
the still-evolving personality and to the course of current and future
The adult experiences a constant process of dynamic change and flux,
and is always in a state of “becoming” or “finding the way.” We present
seven hypotheses about development in adulthood, and identify phase-specific
issues and challenges, including typical adult rites of passage and the
developmental phenomena of middle and later life as well. Erickson’s
eight stages of life are used to outline the developmental continuum through
the illuminative phase of potential transpersonal experience. CRP
often leads to spontaneous initiatory spiritual experiences.
The evolution of the authentic self in adulthood is a dynamic process
which is part of the lifelong shaping of identity and self-image.
The attainment of authenticity is a central, dynamic task of adulthood
achieved through restructuring of the self. Confronting the quintessential
adult-human experience can lead to integration of the highest order and
produce profound awareness of what it means to be human. A number
of factors, some unique to adult experience, build on the self constructed
from earlier phases of life and develop it further. Some of the most
important include: (1) the body, (2) object ties, (3) time and death, and
work, creativity, and mentorship.
Keywords: Adult development, developmental theory, Erickson, Maslow,
Piaget, Gowan, Freud, Jung, midlife crisis, adult passage, rites of passage,
death and dying, aging, mentoring, maturity, parenting, marriage, pair-bonding,
self-actualization, self-realization, self-image, integrative models, character,
vision, soul, spirituality, creativity, peak experiences, ego-death, spiritual
DEVELOPMENTAL THEORY IN PSYCHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY
Developmental processes occur throughout the life span, not only during
childhood. Therefore, the adult is understood to be a complex, dynamic,
constantly changing organism. Learning in adulthood is a developmental
experience; adult experience is a major determinant of further development.
Current experience always adds to and interacts with existing mental structure,
which is itself the result of all preceding development. Often this
occurs in seemingly discontinuous “quantum leaps.”
Most spiritual philosophies or religions describe certain growth processes
which result in emergent qualities which define the ideals of adult maturity
and fulfillment. Whether it is described in terms of processes (becoming)
or qualities/characteristics (states-of-being), the integrative process
of dynamic change continues past childhood, into the three phases of adulthood,
into old age. The ultimate fruit of this process is the spiritual
luminary, or enlightened one.
Defining characteristics of this experiential process include emergence
of the authentic self, self-actualization, or self-realization. They
are expressed in the emergence of spirituality and integrity; wisdom, understanding,
and compassion; a realistic self appraisal; and a continued ability for
evolutionary change and creativity, with the emergent potential for and
possible stabilization of illuminative or unitive experiences.
Personal experience and expression of existential, humanistic, and transpersonal
goals can lead to fulfillment of human potential. The direct experience
is of wholeness, personal connectedness and expansion of consciousness.
Our awareness can journey beyond the mere body, emotions, and mind to perceptions
and insights which enlarge our sense of self-image in a functional and
evolutionary manner, superceding merely personalistic, narcissistic, regressive
tendencies in a permanent reorganization. These experiences occur
in the context of normal adult passages, the spiritual quest, and in the
psychotherapeutic setting. Sometimes expansive experiences are initiated
by the awesomeness of nature, alone.
Such transformative experiences have been described in religion, in both
hierarchical and integrative models, such as the kabbalistic Tree of Life,
and in concepts such as the Diamond Body of Sufism and the Superior Person
of the I Ching. In Confucianism, the adult is a metaphor of the Way,
a term describing the process of maturation involving continuous effort
In the Socratic ideal, the philosopher is the properly educated individual
who escapes from the bonds of his deluded senses to the freedom of enlightened
reason and clear understanding of the realities of human existence.
He is not deterred from the pursuit of truth and justice by illusions of
self-importance. Implicit is the ideal of soul seeking “integrity
and wholeness in all things human and divine,” with a mind “habituated
to thoughts of grandeur and the contemplation of all time and all existence,”
and such a person “will not suppose death to be terrible.” (Plato, The
Republic, Book VI).
Many mystery schools and teachers of meditation describe inner planes of
experience which can be accessed by the devoted with spiritual practice.
Descriptions of these realms are consciousness maps which describe the
typical features of various regions and how to gain access to them.
The more highly developed one’s practice, the greater the degree of penetration
and mystical union.
Several hypotheses have emerged in psychology of the developmental process,
including those of Freud, Jung, Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, and more recently
Wilber (2000). Jung called the process individuation; Maslow
called it self-actualization. Spiritual sources refer to it as self-realization.
Ultimately, these processes represent emergent or stabilized spiritual
endeavors exemplified by sages, adepts, saints, and spiritual masters.
Stated in the broadest possible terms, individuation refers to the innate
urge of life to realize itself consciously. The transpersonal life
energy, in the process of creative self-unfolding, uses human consciousness,
the essence of itself, as an instrument for its own self-realization.
The Way is inseparable from the person, an internal presence.
Erikson described eight critical steps in the developmental process, which
are rooted in psychophysical change rather than stability. We progress
in life skills when confronted with contradiction, conflict, and
1). Birth-2 yrs. This first phase is the incorporative stage
of basic trust and mistrust, conditioning primal hope or a sense of impending
doom throughout life. Erikson found that psychotic individuals had
easy child-rearing situations that engendered mistrust from unpredictable
and chaotic parenting.
2). 2-4 years. The central conflict is autonomy vs. shame and
doubt. Shame results when failure is not handled compassionately
and sensitively; it leads to defiance or deviousness from fear of discovery.
Balance between self-control and self-expression is lost. It relates
to the development of self-esteem, love and hate.
3). 4-7 years. Initiative vs. guilt; superego development;
parental prohibitions internalized.
4). 7-12 years. The main issue is industry vs. inadequacy;
industriousness; social skill development.
5). 12-20 years. Identity vs. role confusion. Emancipation;
separation from parents; onset of adolescence; new sense of identity emerges.
6). 20s-30s. Intimacy vs. self-absorption. Sexual relating;
pair bonding; parenting. Inability to sustain intimacy leads to isolation
and self-absorption, reclusiveness.
7). 40s-50s. Midlife generativity vs. stagnation. Erikson
suggested that successful generativity meant the care and facilitation
[mentoring] of a younger generation as a key to fulfillment and cohesion
in midlife. The alternative is despair, feeling stuck emotionally
and intellectually. This loss of forward momentum leads many into
8). 60s+. This final stage brings either a sense of integrity
or a sense of despair.
Erikson’s contribution was to make explicit the processes inherent in each
stage of human growth which offer the potential for developing personal
strength to overcome older weaknesses of the self.
Thus, developmental models begin by describing stages of personality stabilization
and move even further to describe evolutionary and revolutionary spiritual
development beyond the tasks of average adult development, (such as pair-bonding,
child rearing, and career building). Normal adult development is
not necessarily average adult development.
Average adult development tends to plateau at various points of complacent
contentment, whereas normal development proactively continues in evolutionary
fashion up to and through the moment of death. Just as adult development
is a direct extension of childhood development, spiritual development is
the logical extension of the adult developmental dynamic. Spiritual
development is contemporaneous with, not sequential to, adult development,
and represents the fruit of the tree of life.
We have assumed seven basic hypotheses about development in adulthood,
after Colarusso and Nemiroff (1981):
(1) The nature of the developmental process is basically the same in
the adult as in the child.
(2) Development in adulthood is an ongoing, dynamic process.
(3) Whereas child development is focused primarily in the formation
of psychic structure, adult development is concerned with the continued
evolution of existing structure and with its use.
(4) The fundamental developmental issues of childhood continue as central
aspects of adult life but in altered form.
(5) The developmental processes in adulthood are influenced by the adult
past as well as the childhood past.
(6) Development in adulthood, as in childhood, is deeply influenced
by the body and physical change.
(7) A central, phase-specific theme of adult development is the normative
crisis precipitated by the recognition and acceptance of the finiteness
of time and the inevitability of personal death.
John Gowan (1975), (expanding on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow and
Rogers), outlined the continuum of the developmental process as the relationship
of the individual ego to the collective preconscious which underlies creativity
and psychedelic or mind-expanding functions. The preconscious is
involved in a developmental process which manifests as anxiety at one end
of the scale and ranges to creativity and illumination at the other.
Gowan’s use of the term “psychedelic” is not synonymous with “drug induced.”
His overview includes the work of Kubie, Sullivan, Tart, Masters and Houston,
De Ropp, and Krippner, among others.
The developmental continuum includes equally vital dimensions of cognition
and affect, rational and emotional development, from childhood through
adulthood. Developmental escalation on either of these dimensions
can lead to personality change and emergence of new phenomena. Gowan
proposed three modes of cognition, (prototaxic, parataxic, and syntaxic),
which he amplified as Trance, Art, and Creativity. They indicate
the styles and degree of immersion or cooperation between the ego and the
Gowan’s lifework was to describe developmental stages in different phases
(latency, identity, creativity) revolving around issues of trust, autonomy,
initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, and generativity, creativity,
psychedelia, illumination. Breeches of this order lead to a relative
displacement of emotional and mental wellbeing which can inhibit or prevent
Gowan used the work of Piaget to define the rational development of the
mind, and that of Erikson to chart emotional development. Usually
the cognitive level lags a stage or two behind the emotional; but some
individuals are emotionally stunted or frozen in their development.
He called this dissonance by the term dysplasia, but it is more commonly
known as dysfunctionality. It is the inability to function in an
age-appropriate manner, a dissonance between rational and emotional dynamics
resulting in self-defeating and self-destructive tendencies. It is
developmental arrest which holds back self-actualizing potential.
“Escalation” implies raising the level of action by discrete jumps--quantum
leaps in consciousness. Accessing latent energy resources escalates
development from one level to the next. Discontinuity is a requisite
for change. Gowan defined developmental forcing as trying to escalate
from a given stage to more than one stage higher through mechanical or
He likened this forcing to developmental abuse: trying to use characteristic
powers or fruits of a given stage for display purposes when the individual
is actually engaged in tasks of an earlier stage. Relative dysplasia
results from not keeping up with developmental tasks--failure to escalate.
But in developmental forcing an individual is exposed to experiences or
tasks for which they are developmentally unprepared, and forced to attempt
or react to them. The effect on the personality has been likened
to that of tearing a silk scarf from a thorny rosebush, rather than carefully
Conversely, those who are well-adapted for their age can become stuck at
any level of particular success. He notes that most mature adults
become emotionally arrested at the level of vocational fulfillment, financial
success, and contentment in marriage. Another stall may occur as
the psychedelic nature-mystic experience, where nature is enjoyed for its
own sake and virtually “worshipped.” Success at any stage of development
may promote the desire to continue to play rather than integrating the
lessons learned into the task of the next stage. Further development
is an evolutionary task/opportunity.
This notion fit well in the psychological context of its time--the human
potential movement with its accent on growth and upward mobility.
It is consistent with classical Jungian psychology and humanistic psychology,
the general paradigm of its time.
Newer notions in Jungian thought, process work, an even process theology,
are less focused on the developmental perspective of the coping heroic
ego--becoming--and more focused on the ground state of Being--the dynamic
Void or naked Reality. The older views seem to underemphasize the
initiatory capacity of these radically expansive breakthrough experiences,
expressed in our cultural history by 50,000 years of shamanic art and accident.
A course-correction here in conceptualization could include what we have
subsequently learned in 30 more years of study of the unfolding of complex
dynamical systems and chaos theory. The difference is one of ego
control, compared with “letting go” and trusting the natural process: a
paradigm shift from a model of ego strength to one of unhindered flow or
fluidity. The new paradigm--which embraces chaos--is expressed in
science and psychology in such notions as complex non-linear dynamics,
punctuated equilibrium, emergent creativity, and creative self-organization.
The notion of development implies hierarchical “operations of increasing
order.” This reflects the interplay of the dynamic processes of order
and chaos in all forms of change and growth. Increasing order automatically
leads to entropy, which facilitates the breakdown of old forms including
outworn personality traits and states of consciousness. Experiences
of the complex interplay of chaos and order are the instrument of all development
as well as that of the “psychedelic individual.” (Miller, 1994).
Self-initiation through inner guidance (by happenstance or intent) often
leads, in a person with latent shamanic tendencies, to self-induced “shock
treatment,” the results of which the person is subsequently forced to confront
in daily life. These experiences may or may not be integratable;
if not, they lead to breakdown, not breakthrough. Three commonly
employed mechanical means are drug use, various forms of ritual or ceremonial
magick, and marathon meditation, any of which can force escalation beyond
normal social developmental stages.
Even in those with a poor social foundation, this “forcing” may crystallize
a spirituality or inner-directed behavior which conditions or balances
the individual in the short- or long-run. This spirituality may take
a conventional, cultish, or idiosyncratic form. Thus, a dynamic if
chaotic “path” or direction of development is chosen. The more definitive
the commitment, the clearer the emergent non-linear path and creativity.
Gowan did allude, but perhaps not fully comprehend in terms of complex
dynamics, the dynamic interplay within the transformative process.
Within each transition, he identifies certain components of change: succession,
discontinuity (discontinuous equilibration), emergence or budding, differentiation
or metamorphosis, and integration or creative repatterning. Together
they define phases of developmental escalation, or shifting to a higher
gear for more efficient use of available energy. The objective of
escalation is creativity.
Integration in the developmental process includes five aspects: (1)
confrontation of differences, (2) integration, (3) a yielding up or giving
up of the old for a new reorganization, (4) a process of differentiation,
and (5) a positive directionality.
In summary, Gowan piggybacks on the notions of Erikson and Piaget to create
a developmental stage theory, which asserts four primary ideas:
1) that the developmental chart has a periodicity of three, and that
the last three cognitive stages are creativity, psychedelia, and illumination;
2) that developmental stages are characterized by escalation, and
when that does not occur (because an individual is complacent, stuck, or
regressing) opens one to developmental lags, dysplasia, or dysfunctionality;
3) that creativity is a characteristic of the third and sixth developmental
4) that the stabilization and mental health of the preconscious is
the key factor in creative output and developmental progress, as well as
a factor in psychophysical wellbeing.
Gradually, the traumatic impact of the encounter between the conscious
and unconscious diminishes as the individual develops. The person
learns how to handle issues of identity, love or intimacy, and finally
death. Encounters with the “not-me” symbolize and express death of
the ego, and prepare one for physical death by de-emphasizing externally-generated
sensory input. Rather than being traumatically overwhelmed, the personal
identity is radically deconstructed, creatively re-structured and expands
to experience full emotional and cognitive acceptance of both freedom and
Pushing on our boundaries, we run the risk of rupturing our sense of identity.
This is why the concept of a free creativity is always associated with
the genuine danger of a “treasure hard to attain,” why madness and genius
often appear simultaneously. Peak experiences of creative possibility
can lead to self-fulfillment or self-destruction.
Mystic at-one-ment crowns the quest after lower developmental needs have
been satisfied. Gowan, seemingly a humanist, asserts that the proper
use of the awesome power of the psychedelic stage is “to protect and preserve
those objects of individual man’s self concept starting with the health
and welfare of his body image, and then extending outward to his environmental
self and its possessions, his loved ones, his associations and interests,
his concerns, and finally his total environment and his creations, thus
embracing all of his natural world.”
The small ego diffuses through cosmic expansion of the hierarchy of needs
toward an enlarged sense of Self. According to Gowan, “man’s highest
purpose is not to experience the world of the senses as a reactive being
but to design it...to become part of the noumenon of the universe...co-creator...co-designer.”
He quotes Troward from 1909 as to how this can be done: 1) There is some
emotion, which gives rise to, 2) a desire. 3) Judgement determines
if we shall externalize this desire, if approved. 4) The will directs
the imagination to form the necessary spiritual prototype; 5) the imagination
thus centered creates the spiritual nucleus. 6) This prototype acts as
a center around which the forces of attraction begin to work [i.e. a “strange
attractor”], and continue until; 7) the concrete result is manifested and
This creative imagery cycle has practically become the foundation principle
of New Age thought. Essentially, this same process is echoed in the
transformational realities of experiential psychotherapy and process theology
and codified in Transpersonal Psychology.
The innate self-image is intimately linked to feelings of destiny, meaningfulness,
significance, uniqueness, one’s reason for being. When it is unhealthy
to the core, we feel purposeless, pointless, life lacks meaning.
Whether one follows a conventional path or an unpredictable offbeat journey,
life is dull without connection to exploration, discovery, romance, beauty,
myth, mystery, and spirituality. We are cut off from our spiritual
Source and existential roots.
Fromm spoke of man’s urge for transcendence, our need to rise above our
animal nature. While Freud described a dynamic psychology marked
by depth, Jung and Maslow also described peak experiences as moments of
transcendence which are transformative. We are a complex energy field,
not essentially separate from the entire Universe. This healing return
to the fundamental condition beyond energy and form can be experienced
and identified with.
Peak experiences are those moments in life when we feel strong, sure, and
expansive. They may initiate a new phase of development or a dramatic
change in lifestyle. It may occur as the reult of a powerful encounter
with internal forces. This encounter with Being in some leads to
erasure of behavioral patterns which block development, and at the same
time provides the new orientation complete with insight and the energy
sufficient to effect a dramatic and positive self-transformation.
The nature of any image, including innate self-image, is that it is all
there at once--it is a Gestalt. Self-image includes character, vision,
and calling (vocation), as well as transcendence, a sense of the timeless.
We refer to this source as our motivation, essence, character, fate, genius,
calling, soul, spirit or destiny. It defines us; we embody it as a spark
of consciousness. It heralds our potential for eminence and the exceptional.
It links us with the great Unknown.
Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs or drives, in order of increasing
priority or potency: (1) physiological needs; (2) safety needs; (3) belongingness
and love; (4) esteem needs; (5) self-actualization.
He found that growth-oriented self-actualizing people showed superior perception
of reality; greater acceptance of self, other, and nature; flexibility,
increased spontaneity; stronger focus on problems outside themselves; greater
detachment and need for privacy; more autonomy and independence of culture
They also show greater freshness of appreciation and richness of feeling,
more frequent mystic or transcendent experience, display brotherly love,
compassion or philanthropy, a more democratic character structure, less
confusion of means with ends, a philosophical and whimsical rather than
a hostile sense of humor, greater creativeness, and resistance to cultural
Not all individuals are “peakers;” some are “non-peakers.” Finding
oneself, or one’s center or essential nature, is a self-actualization which
requires breakthroughs, but not necessarily “peaking.” When unblocked
or distorted, life is a natural process of self-realization. Consciousness
is always rising to a new level. Unless blocked, we mature away from
rationalization, fear, resistance, escape, commitment-phobia, ego-death
paranoia, and profaning the sacred.
Movement is toward creativity, joy, commitment, transcendence, insight,
harmony, beauty, compassion, bliss, and Higher Power. It comes as
a series or stream of refinements. Awareness then transcends the
realm of the personal self and enters the realm of the transpersonal, suspending
the illusions of time, space, and personal identity.
Psychedelic or conscious-expanding experiences are characterized by a sudden,
spasmodic, transitory nature, and off-again on-again types of episodes
which leave the individual enthralled, but somewhat let down when it is
over. Illumination, on the other hand, is a steady state where the
art of flowing with the experience has been mastered. But like the
display of adventitious psychic powers, “natural” psychedelia is not valuable
unless followed up by action and development and integration. It
represents potentiality not accomplishment. (Gowan, 1975).
For Jung, Maslow, and Grof, neurosis is a failure of personal growth, an
interference with the process of individuation or self-actualization.
It could be considered a transpersonal crisis or emergency, which interrupts
the process of spiritual emergence. In these theories of mental health,
extra-psychic success is not enough; we must also include intra-psychic
A further outgrowth of humanistic psychology is multidisciplinary Transpersonal
Psychology. It is largely concerned with ultimate human capacities
and potentialities, such as becoming, meta-needs, ultimate values, peak
experiences, ecstasy, mystical experience, awe, bliss, wonder, transcendence
of the self, and cosmic awareness or universal consciousness. In
this ontological view, the physical or material world is not ultimate.
Consciousness, rather than a function of the human brain, is fundamental
and undergirds Reality.
The self is the core system within which certain basic tendencies are integrated:
need-satisfaction, self-limiting adaptation, creative expansion, and upholding
the internal order, while striving for fulfillment. We are proactive
as well as reactive. The proactive individual strives to attain a
freer and more creative state for himself and fellow human beings.
Intentionality, purpose and choice are of primary concern. Thus,
psychological growth includes self-discovery, self-creation and self-realization.
Ken Wilber (2000) argues for a spirituality that transforms, rather than
merely helping the self make sense of, and endure the realities of life,
since that does nothing to change the level of consciousness in a person.
He promotes the shattering liberation from the separate self, rather than
consoling, defending, or promoting the self. One function of religion
is to fortify the separate self, but shattering or devastating the self
(ego-death) is the only way that leads to profound transmutation.
The first function of religion or spirituality, creating meaning for the
self, is a type of horizontal movement; the second function of transcending
self, is a type of vertical movement (higher or deeper, depending on your
metaphor). The old self is undermined and eventually dismantled,
looked into and through, “grabbed by its throat and literally throttled
to death.” Thus, transformation is not a matter of faith or belief,
but of the death of the believer and a process of finding and merging with
infinity on the other side of death. Hence, the admonition to “die
daily” in meditation since a spiritual practice is essential to stabilizing
this “always there” atonement.
“Those who cannot translate adequately, with a fair amount of integrity
and accuracy, fall quickly into severe neurosis or even psychosis; the
world ceases to make sense--the boundaries between the self and the world
are not transcended but instead begin to crumble. This is not breakthrough
but breakdown, not transcendence, but disaster. But at some point
in our maturation process, translation itself, no matter how adequate or
confident, simply ceases to console. No new beliefs, no new paradigm,
no new myths, no new ideas, will staunch the encroaching anguish.
Not a new belief for the self, but the transcendence of the self altogether,
is the only path that avails.” (Wilber).
Thus, the radicaly transformative process offers authenticity, spiritual
authenticity, true enlightenment and liberation. Authentic consciousness
finds its home in radiant infinity through revolutionary change, rendering
the self undone. Since there is only Spirit, seeking Spirit is exactly
what prevents its realization; it is an always-already present state.
Therefore, the integral approach to overall transformation utterly dismantles
the self. We can breathe into infinity.
In the material world, we have split the atom, unraveled the genetic code,
and probed the birth of the universe. We can do the same psychologically
and spiritually; our quantum mind is not essentially separate from Universal
Mind; our psychophysical consciousness is Consciousness. Transpersonal
disciplines explore realizing these perennial visionary possibilities.
CRP, ADULT DEVELOPMENT, AND SPIRITUALITY
The Consciousness Restructuring Process (CRP) can be a valuable tool in
facilitating adjustments and fundamental self-reorganization at the level
of the primal existential self-image. More than fantasy or imagination,
this visionary journey fosters insight and radical transformation.
The CRP journey is guided by a Mentor who accompanies the Mentee in a co-conscious
navigation through the stream of consciousness to the ocean of infinity.
The organic restructuring which follows is nourishing and healing; but
it leads through dissolution or deconstruction of the ego, passed personal
fears and pain. A journey to and immersion in “chaotic consciousness”
can be employed whenever adults feel stultified or blocked in their transformative
process, or simply for personal enhancement or enrichment of inner or spiritual
life. We re-emerge from chaotic consciousness with a holistically
repatterned blueprint for Reality which we immediately embody.
Though it is healing, there does not need to be any perception that something
is wrong to employ the CRP technique with great benefit. It can be
used during crises, growth periods, or to stimulate creativity and consciousness
expansion. The approach is always to the whole person. Self-actualization,
fulfillment of unique potential, is the theme or trend which regulates
the interaction between an individual and the environment.
Self-actualization is concerned with human capacities and potentialities
such as love, creativity, self, growth, basic need-gratification, higher
values, being, becoming, spontaneity, play, humor, affection, naturalness,
warmth, ego-transcendence, autonomy, responsibility, meaning, fair-play,
empathy, openness, transcendental experience, and psychophysical wellbeing.
Focus is on the experiencing person, including concepts like the self-image,
self-esteem, and the unity or integrity of the personality, the organic
emergence of new forms of fundamental reorganization of the whole person.
Restructuring occurs at the root level of the Primal Existential Sensory
CRP is of particular value during the so-called midlife crisis when a multitude
of issues, existential realities, and dynamic changes cry for a reorganization
or restructuring of the entire life. Reworking and eventual integration
of powerful feelings are integral parts of normal development at midlife.
Aging and mortality must be confronted and embraced.
At any stage, pathology can be seen as a deviation from normal development.
The goal of treatment is therefore, not symptom removal, but the elimination
of blocks to the still-evolving personality and to the course of current
and future development, (which often comes in unpredictable quantum leaps
or peak experiences).
In the calm that follows this stormy midlife passage, CRP can provide the
impetus for the next positive growth stage into such areas as mentoring,
or other means of “giving back” to the greater whole the fruits of one’s
lifetime of achievements. It is a means of fostering connection with
Spirit, contentment, continuous optimal growth, self-actualization (psychological
model), and self-realization (spiritual model), an expansive/integrative
experience of self and universe.
CRP journeys provide a means of consciously connecting with Source and
restructuring the psychophysical self image at the most fundamental level.
Imagination-REM based, this process is an inner experience which explores
the sensory nature and roots of a dream or symptom. REM is attained
through breathing techniques, most notably by noticing the stillness and
silence at the bottom of each breath.
CRP is radically imaginal; imagination is the primary element and mode
of experience. “Exploration” is accomplished using imaginal sensory images
that arise from the subconscious. Our existential realities and issues
can take many fluid forms in this morphological field. Images
are followed to their source, to the consciousness structure that shaped
and formed them.
Dis-eased images dissolve into the unformed matrix, beyond energy and form.
Ultimate reality is unknowable directly, and can only be experienced through
the images by which it is expressed. When we emerge from that communion,
it is with a freshly reborn self-image, created by the freeing of energies
formerly locked into the dis-eased pattern.
Behavior and physiology are based on perceptions of self and its relationship
to the world. Past and present experiences create consciousness structures
that are stored as neural patterns and shape these perceptions. This
mindbody phenomenon underlies our personal and unique experience of self
Our dream experience is shaped by these inner, conscious patterns (neural
firing patterns) that also shape our behavior and physiology. Every
dream, among other things, is a self-portrait, but an impressionistic one.
Each dream symbol represents different aspects of self, although since
dreams are holographic in nature, any part or symbol in a dream also contains
A primary value of consciousness journeys is the recapitulation and symbolic
reiteration in an almost fractal-like manner of our entire evolutionary
and developmental history. Just as the developmental growth of the
embryo and fetus recapitulates the broad strokes of biological evolution,
so to the journeys recapitulate our atomic and subatomic origins, our genetic
inheritance, our electrochemical essence, our conceptual imprinting, neonatal
programming, etc. Thus, any journey can incorporate and modify imagery
from all the developmental stages, depending on a wide variety of states
of identification and dissociation.
Through this means interior processes are deepened, and natural psychedelic
consciousness emerges. It is often felt during the resolution or
healing phase of the session as profound serenity and a sense of enlargement
and communion--an epiphany. This is not the result of a simple translation
of the belief system, but a deeper transformation which is associated with
the radical deconstruction of ego death.
As healing continues (the psychobiological form of creativity), the emergent
psychedelia of sessions becomes generalized into daily life. Clarity
makes the world looks sharper, more beautiful; love and compassion
become easier to embrace. Each developmental advance involves the increased
cognitive confluence with an understanding of this deepening interior process.
The innate self-image is intimately linked to feelings of destiny, meaningfulness,
significance, uniqueness, one’s reason for being. Whether one follows
a conventional path or an unpredictable offbeat journey, life is dull without
connection to exploration, self-expression, discovery, romance, beauty,
myth, mystery, and spirituality.
By closing the gap between unconscious emotions and “acting out” with experiential
understanding of the sensory roots of attitudinal and behavioral patterns,
CRP therapy facilitates healing of developmental dysplasia, promoting existential
congruence of mental and emotional faculties. Cognitive dissonance
is healed when our self-concept stands up to consensus reality checks and
our thinking and feeling harmonize.
When we are healthy, our existential reality matches our perception.
Head and heart cooperate, rather than tearing us in two. It is self-evident
that we usually know what is “right” to do, but we tend to do what we feel
like doing, even when it is self-defeating. Consciousness-expanding
experiences are the antidote to this malady. They release us from
our limitation to the realm of “no boundaries” and infinite potential.
When we consciouly choose to journey inward, in a safe therapeutic setting,
experiences emerge through process work which are virtually identical to
naturally-induced psychedelic experiences. This probably has something
to do with the serotonin cycle, as most chemical psychedelics exert their
influence there. Common elements can be summarized in seven points
as defined by Gowan (1975).
“(1) The attention of the subject is gripped, and his perception is
narrowed or focused on a single event or sensation; 2) which appears to
be an experience of surpassing beauty or worth; 3) in which values or relationships
never before realized are instantaneously or very suddenly emphasized;
4) resulting in the sudden emergence of great joy and an orgiastic experience
of ecstasy; 5) in which individual barriers separating the self from others
or nature are broken down; 6) resulting in a release of love, confidence,
or power; and 7) some kind of change in the subsequent personality, behavior
or artistic product after the rapture is over.”
Thus, there are phenomena common to psychedelic experience, mystical states,
and process work. They are typically the same images of ego
death and emergent reorganization because the process/goal is the same
no matter what means we use to facilitate expansion of consciousness.
As the ego goes through its symbolic death throes, images of dismemberment
and dissolution prevail. The old form dissolves into chaotic consciousness,
making way for the rebirth of the newly reborn, expanded consciousness
and sense of self.
The corresponding physical unstressing manifests as completely involuntary,
unintended, spontaneous muscular-skeletal movements and proprioceptive
sensations: momentary or repeated twitches, spasms, tingling, tics, jerking,
swaying, pains, shaking, aches, internal pressures, headaches, weeping,
laughter, etc. Visceral experiences range from extreme pleasure to
acute distress. They may include bristling of the hair, perspiration,
and burning sensations.
Developmental forcing, moving into and through pain and fear, may be felt
as a shock, psychic jolt or jerk. On the other hand, mystic ecstasy
or expansion brings feelings of bliss, serene delight, sensations of the
remoteness of physical surroundings, and transpersonal ecstatic exaltation
beyond words. CRP offers all of the radically transformative benefits
seen in the promising developments of LSD Therapy, by employing “drug-free
Cosmic expansion can bring psychic phenomena in its wake, such as synchronicities
and extrasensory perception. Yogis caution that these siddhis are
epiphenomena--powers which are actually obstacles to further enlightenment
when identified with and employed to aggrandize the ego. Beneficial
contact comes through interpenetration of the conscious mind and the universal
consciousness field, a return to the primal Source.
Mead (1993) reports that meditation can have a definite down-side for some
individuals, and these phenomena appear in the Journeys. Rather than
promoting relaxation, meditation can lead to stress, anxiety, depression,
and even panic attack. The mentor guides the mentee through this
portion of the journey, but the “relaxation induced panic” can manifest
as muscular tension, racing heart, head pain, and perspiration.
The guidance of the mentor prevents the side-effects of self-guided meditation,
which in extreme cases can result in breakdown, rather than breakthrough,
(schizophrenic episodes, psychogenic illness, and suicidal tendencies).
Typical side-effects include sore throats, muscular cramps, tingling or
stinging sensations (localized or general), feelings of heaviness or weightlessness,
floating sensations, outbursts of laughter or crying, mood swings, involuntary
sighing, sweating, trembling, and shivering.
All of these manifestations appear in experiential journeys. They
come in the initial phases as defenses to moving into pain and fear, and
they come during culmination when the mentee releases embedded tissue memories,
sensory memories, during the unstressing process. When the sensations
are validated and deepened they transform, and the sojourner is transformed
Experiential therapy, like meditation, is not a form of relaxation.
It is actually a form of effortless attention and concentration, and a
simultaneous emptying, which can raise our innate level of available or
unblocked spiritual energy (chi, kundalini, Shekinah, “the Force,” etc.)
with a profound mindbody altering effect.
Once this force is aroused, it is unpredictable just how it will effect
the mental, physical, and emotional states. However, when this deep
existential imagery transforms, the individual attitudes and fundamental
beliefs about self are permanently transformed with it. There is
a sense of deep healing of formerly unresolved conflicts, psychophysical
restructuring, and rebirth into a renewed life. It changes one’s
behavior, one’s lifestyle. Spirituality is not something we possess
or attain; it is a Way of life. This is the hero’s journey into consciousness
transformation, the age-old quest (see Joseph Campbell work for details).
Appendix: Maslow’s Descriptors of Self-Actualizing Individuals
1. They avoid publicity, fame, glory, honors, popularity, celebrity,
or at least they do not seek it for its own sake. It is not terribly
important one way or another.
2. They do not need to be loved by everyone.
3. They generally pick out their own causes, which are apt to be
few in number, rather than responding to advertising or to campaigns or
to other people’s exhortations.
4. Their fighting is not an excuse for hostility, paranoia, grandiosity,
authority, rebellion, etc., but is for the sake of getting things right.
It is problme-centered.
5. They manage somehow simultaneously to love the world as it is
and to try to improve it.
6. They respond to the challenge in a job. A chance to improve
the situation or the operation is a big reward. They enjoy improving
7. They do not need or seek for or even enjoy very much flattery,
applause, popularity, status, prestige, money, honors, etc.
8. Expressions of gratitude, or at least of awareness of their good
fortune, are common.
9. They tend to be attracted by mystery, unsolved problems, by the
unknown, and the challenging, rather than to be frightened by them.
10. They enjoy bringing about law and order in the chaotic situation,
or in the messy or confused situation, or in the dirty and unclean situation.
11. They try to free themselves from illusions, to look at the facts
courageously, to take away the blindfold.
12. They feel it is a pity for talent to be wasted.
13. They tend to feel that every person should have an opportunity
to develop to his highest potential, to have a fair chance, to have equal
14. They like doing things well, doing a good job, to do well what
needs doing. Many such phrases add up to bringing about good workmanship.
15. They get great pleasure from knowing admirable people (courageous,
honest, effective, staright, big, creative, saintly, etc.) “My
work brings me in contact with many fine people.”
16. They enjoy taking on responsibilities (that they can handle well)
and certainly don’t fear or evade their responsibilities. They respond
17. They uniformly consider their work to be worthwhile, important,
18. They enjoy greater efficiency, making an operation more neat,
compact, simpler, faster, less expensive, turning out a better product,
doing with less parts, a smaller number of operations, less clumsiness,
less effort, more foolproof, safer, more elegant, less laborious.
Caplan, Mariana (1999), HALFWAY UP THE MOUNTAIN: The Error of Premature
Claims to Enlightenment, Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Press.
Colarusso, Calvin and Nemiroff, Robert (1981), ADULT DEVELOPMENT, New York:
Gowan, John Curtis (1975), TRANCE, ART, AND CREATIVITY, Buffalo: Creative
(197 ), DEVELOPMENT OF THE CREATIVE INDIVIDUAL.
(1974 ), DEVELOPMENT OF THE PSYCHEDELIC INDIVIDUAL.
(1980), OPERATIONS OF INCREASING ORDER.
Hillman, James (1996), THE SOUL’S CODE: In Search of Character and Calling,
New York: Random House.
Huang, Chungliang Al and Lynch, Jerry (1995), MENTORING: The Tao of Giving
and Receiving Wisdom, San Francisco: Harper.
Jacoby, Mario (1991), INDIVIDUATION AND NARCISSISM; The Psychology of Self
in Jung & Kohut, New York: Routledge.
Miller, Iona (1994), “Development of the psychedelic individual: a 20 year
retrospective & commentary on the work of John Curtis Gowan,” for Psychedelic
Monographs & Essays.
Walsh, Roger and Vaughn, Frances (eds.) (1993), PATHS BEYOND THE EGO: THE
TRANSPERSONAL VISION, Los Angeles: Tarcher.
Wilber, Ken (2000), INTEGRAL PSYCHOLOGY: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology,
Therapy, Boston: Shambala.
Wilber, Ken, “A spirituality that transforms,” online at What is Enlightenment?;
THE INSTITUTE FOR APPLIED CONSCIOUSNESS
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