Abstract: Do you seem highly sensitive to all kinds of stimuli,
high strung, or tend to shut down when feeling overwhelmed?
Are you misunderstood in this regard by others who don’t share your vulnerabilities
and susceptibilities? You may be among the 20% of the population
who are “hard-wired” differently, and exhibit more activity and blood flow
in the right hemisphere of the brain. Contrary to the input most
sensitives receive from others, this existential state can have many positive
aspects when the individual knows how to use self-management skills to
work within their parameters.
CRP works within the natural cycle of ergotropic and trophotropic processes,
governed by the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. They mediate
cycles of arousal and calm, and are therefore implicated in a variety of
disorders which display states of hyperarousal and hypoarousal. They
are mediated by the neurotransmiters noradrenalin and serotonin.
The interhemispheric balancing mediates the harmonization of the left and
right hemispheres of the brainmind. They mediate fight-flight responses,
and pain-pleasure cycles. They can be chemically related to cycles
of inflation, desire, acting out, guilt, remorse, high wellbeing, self-acceptance,
and self-esteem. At their extremes, meditative and exalted states
reflect as psychological and physiological paradox.
Introduction: Emotional Alchemy of Arousal and Transcendence
We exist within a complex network of cycle within cycles. One of
the fundamental cycles of our human lives centers around hyper- and hypoarousal.
The activated state of ergotropic arousal is mediated by the sympathetic
nervous system; while the trophotropic arousal is mediated by the parasympathetic
nervous system. They are related to CRP Journeys as the source of
the psychophysical imagery of the hallucination-perception-transcendence
The Ergotropic System has to do with those mechanisms which belong physiologically
to bodily work and the relevant dynamics of activation and general excitation.
It moves our muscular and skeletal systems. Its potentiation can
be mimicked by stimulation of the posterior and medial hypothalamus.
This augments sympathetic discharges, increases cardiac rate, causes pupillary
dilation, and inhibits gastrointestinal motor and secretory functions.
Other effects on the body include dysynchrony of brain wave patterns, increased
skeletal muscle tone. It is related to the elevation of certain hormones
including noradrenalin, adrenaline, and adreno-cortical responsiveness.
There is also a rise in blood sugar and shortening of time required for
coagulation of blood. In Chinese systems, this arousal syndrome is
considered YANG, in nature.
The Trophotropic System relates to physiological mechanisms of recuperation,
protective mechanisms, unloading, restitution of achievement capacity,
normalization, and healing. Its effects originate in the anterior
or lateral hypothalamus, including pre-optic and supra-optic areas and
the septum. It augments visceral responses, parasympathetic discharges,
including reduction in cardiac rate, blood pressure, and sweat secretion.
The pupil of the eye constricts, and there is an increase in gastrointestinal
motor and secretory function with a fall in blood sugar. Brain waves
become characteristically synchronized with production of alpha and theta
patterns. There is loss of skeletal muscle tone, a blocking of the
shivering response and increased secretion of insulin. The t-system
is associated with the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Its behavioral
effects include inactivity, drowsiness, and sleep. They are associated
with meditative states. In Chinese systems, this tranquil state is
considered YIN, in nature.
Normally, the E-system activates during arousal or in situations of apprehension
or danger, while the T-system manifests when danger or anxiety are minimal.
We can use a mnemonic to help us remember: the E-system is energized, exalted,
or enflamed; while the T-system is tranquil, transformative, and transcendent.
Stimulation of the E-system leads us into the external environment, and
is associated with warming. Conversely, stimulation of the T-system
leads us into the internal environment, an is associated with cooling.
Both system are mediated through a balancing process which takes place
in the hypothalamus, so that an “ET” balance is present in “normal” situations.
The interplay of both processes keeps our organism in homeostasis.
Stimulation of one system over the other creates specific physiological
and psychological or behavioral effects.
Highly Sensitive People
As many as 20% of the population are highly sensitive people (HSPs), who
are generally high-strung, and frequently feel overwhelmed by experiences
that others seem to shrug off. Only recently have such works as The
Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You (Elaine
Aron; Broadway, 1996) given these individuals not only a jolt of recognition,
but a positive spin on their condition.
Aron’s book was a godsend for those who have been told since childhood
how high-strung, nervous, timid, overly sensitive or fearful they were.
Here was a mental health professional describing high sensitivity as a
normal state shared by 15 to 20 percent of the population and framing it
positively rather than as a flaw.
According to Aron, highly sensitive people typically share a number of
characteristics: They are highly aroused by new or prolonged stimulation;
strongly reactive to external stimuli such as noise and light; intolerant
of pain, hunger, thirst caffeine, and medication; susceptible to stress-related
and psychosomatic illnesses and deeply affected by other people’s moods
and emotions. They are also highly intuitive; able to concentrate
deeply (but do best without distractions); right-brained and less linear
than non-HSPs; highly conscientious; especially good at tasks requiring
vigilance, accuracy, and speed; and excellent at spotting and avoiding
“Sensitivity is an inherited trait,” Aron says, “that tends to
be a disadvantage only at high levels of stimulation.” Everything
is magnified for HSPs. What is moderately arousing for most people,
she explains, is highly arousing for the highly sensitive. And what
is highly arousing for others is off the charts for HSPs, who reach a shutdown
point once they attain a certain arousal level.
Aron’s research has convinced her there are genetic and biological bases
for extreme sensitivity. The brains of HSPs, she says differ from
those of other individuals. Studies have shown that they have more
activity--and blood flow-- in the right hemisphere of the brain, which
indicates that they are internally focused rather than outwardly oriented.
The balance between two opposing systems of the brain may account for heightened
One system, the “behavioral activation system” is hooked up to sections
of the brain that propel people into new situations, making them curious
and eager for external rewards. Another system, the “behavioral inhibition
system,” compares present situations to past ones before proceeding and
alerts the body to be cautious in risky situations. Aron believes
that when the behavioral inhibition system in a person’s brain is the stronger
of the two system, sensitivity results.
Most important to Aron (a Jungian psychologist) is her finding that HSPs
are inclined to be anxious, depressed, or shy only when they have suffered
troubled childhoods, or trauma, or a series of traumas later in life.
The strong “inhibition system: causes real inhibition only when personal
history makes an HSP feel there are good reasons to be inhibited.
Thirty percent of HSPs are actually extroverts.
HSPs process information differently, “more deeply,” than others.
Because they’re especially good at navigating through information, they’re
predisposed to work well with information technology, which gives them
an advantage in our present society. HSPs also have uncommonly sensitive
nervous systems and a more reactive immune system. HSPs are 30 percent
more likely to have allergies.
They often have decreased serotonin levels, which may result from the stress
of repeated overarousal, although the jury’s still out on that one.
And contrary to what our cultural assumptions may suggest, the HSP trait
does not favor one gender. Just as many men as women are highly sensitive.
HSP’s high degree of sensitivity and awareness of subtle clues contributes
to their intuitive abilities. “You just know” how things
got to be the way they are and how they are going to turn out,” Aron
says. “It can be wrong, of course, just as you eyes and ears can
be wrong, but intuition is right often enough that HSPs tend to be visionaries,
highly intuitive artists, or inventors, as well as more conscientious,
cautious, and wise people.”
Aron believes that, historically HSPs have had an important function in
Indo-European cultures, which traditionally have spread their influence
through aggressive domination under the guidance of strong, militaristic
leaders. “The most long-lasting happy Indo-European cultures have
always used two classes to govern themselves--the warrior kings and the
priestly advisers,” she says. “HSPs tend to fill that adviser
role. They are the writers, historians, philosophers, judges, artists,
researchers, theologians, therapists, teachers, and plain conscientious
citizens. What they bring to any of these roles is a tendency to
think about all the possible effects of an idea.”
But don’t let the world adviser mislead you: HSPs are not always confined
to waiting in the wings. Abraham Lincoln, Jimmie Carter, Ingmar Bergman,
and Steven Spielberg are a few of the figures Aron thinks fit the profile
of highly sensitive people. Still, few people are necessarily anxious
to be identified as HSPs.
Because society often doesn’t understand or appreciate the trait, many
of the highly sensitive shy away from being labeled that way. In
fact, HSP traits are much more accepted in some cultures than in others.
For example, a study comparing Chinese and Canadian elementary schoolchildren
found that sensitive, quiet children in China were among the most popular
of their peers. In Canada, they were among the least popular.
Aron’s interest in HSPs began with her awareness of her own “difference.”
“I always thought there was something the matter with me,” she recalls.
When she felt that she was overreacting to a medical procedure a decade
ago, she consulted a therapist who suggested she might be “highly sensitive.”
Aron, at the time a psychologist at the University of California at Santa
Cruz became intrigued by the notion that certain people might have higher
levels of sensitivity than others and decided to do some research. She
found that sensitivity was studied under different names.
Consciousness, Creativity and E/T-systems
The E-system function is analogous to the psychosexual energy known as
Kundalini. Its content is perceived sensually. The T-system
arousal, on the other hand, is sought through purely mental effort, with
transcendence of sensory perception, yet there is still imagery which appears
in sensory metaphors.
Exalted and Meditative States [scan]
To reach a ‘bliss’ state (or experience of Self) at either end of
the spectrum, requires remaining trophotropically relaxed while ergotropically
alert. One moves away from “normal” perception either along the “left-handed
path” towards hallucinatory states, or along the “right-handed path” of
meditation. Activation of the T-system brings desirousness, mania,
ecstasy; while that of the T-system yields satiety, relaxation, serenity,
calm. This expressed in the colloquialism “cool, calm, and collected”
vs. “hot-blooded, spitfire, burnout.”
Consider the metaphors of healing and cooling (or crystallizing) in the
transformative process of alchemy. In alchemy, the passive (‘Virgin)
tames the active (‘Unicorn’).
By withdrawing attention from the body and senses, awareness becomes purely
mental, focused at the eye center (Pineal). All one’s psychic energy
remains in the cortex with no sub-cortical information to interpret.
The only ‘input’ or stimulation is endogenous. None leaks off down
Alchemists, philosophers, and psychologists have urged us to balance these
systems to achieve a harmonious lifestyle, free of the negative effects
of burn-out and excessive stress. Jung quoted the 17th century alchemist,
Gerhard Dorn in this regard:
“Learn therefore, O Mind, to practice sympathetic love in regard to
thine own body, by retraining its vain appetites, that it may be apt with
thee in all things. To this end I shall labour, that it may drink
with from the fountain of strength, and, when the two are made one, that
ye find peace in their union. Draw nigh, O Body, to this fountain,
that with thy Mind thou mayest drink to satiety and thirst no more after
vanities. I wondrous efficacy of this fount, which maketh one of
two, and peace between enemies! The fount of love can make mind our
of spirit and soul, but this maketh one man of mind and body.”
Psychologist Roland Fischer (1967) developed a map of inner space and states
of consciousness based on the dynamics of the ergo- and trophotropic systems.
He postulated that all knowledge is innate, being an interpretation by
the cerebral cortex of sub-cortical information. He contends that
each level of arousal contains certain types of information which one can
“know” only at that level. This is similar to other theories of state-related
learning and memory (Tart, 1975 ;Rossi, 199 ).
Fischer also postulated that at extreme levels of hyper- or hypoarousal
there is a paradoxical shift from one physiological system to the other,
automatically. He declared boldly that the extremes in either direction
create mystic experiences of the Self, which are interpreted wither as
an experience of the Plenum (hyper-arousal) or the Void (hypo-arousal).
Fischer summarized his theories by creating a map, a Cartography of Meditative
and Exalted States. Increased states of arousal are graphed to the
left of center (which indicates “normal awareness”, while increasing tranquility
is mapped to the right. Movement of an individual’s consciousness
to the Left brings increasing motor excitation, while that to the right
brings almost total lack of sensory input. In Fischer’s own words:
“What I propose is that normality, creativity, schizophrenia, and mystical
states, though seemingly disparate, actually lie on a continuum.
Furthermore, they represent increasing levels of arousal and a gradual
withdrawal from the synchronized physical-sensory-cerebral spacetime of
the normal state. Specifically, there is a retreat first to sensory-cerebral
spacetime and, ultimately, to cerebral spacetime only. The gradual
withdrawal from physical spacetime is an expression of the dissolution
of ego boundaries, that is, the fusion of object and subject, and it implies
that an existence solely in spacetime is an oceanic experience, the most
intense mirroring of the ego in its own meaning.”
In summary, we can see that for any individual perception of the universe
(as Self or mind) can occur as an internal or external experience.
It is our rich internal experiences that have puzzled researchers in consciousness
as the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness. At the extreme
parameter in either direction, we experience an encounter with the Absolute.
Along the continuum, we may experience varying forms of an I-Thou dialogue
uniting reaching either extremely hyper- or hypo-arousal states.
Hyperarousal, or mania, may result from psychoactive drugs, or a bipolar
or schizophrenic episode. It results, sometimes in “ego-death” when
the “I” becomes so freaked-out it submits or gives in to the sensory overload
which overwhelms it. Hypoarousal leads to a characteristic state
of silence or emptying when the ego voluntarily submits to unification
of subject and object, of “I” and Self. In either case, cortical
and subcortical activity become indistinguishably merged; there is no separate
“I” left to perceive an objective reality. Thus, dualism is obliterated.
Paradoxical physiological mechanisms operate in the body under most conditions
to chemically prevent the attainment of higher states of arousal on either
end of the spectrum. They function somewhat like the switchover from
arousal to repose which occurs at the point of orgasm. But it is
possible, with repeated exposure to the paradoxical situation to function
effectively at higher levels of arousal.
In fact, there is always a complementary component of the opposite arousal
system functioning even in the mystical state. If there were no ergotropic
arousal in mediation, for example, we would fall asleep. Thus in
some sense, our task becomes falling asleep as much as we can while remaining
awake. REM sleep, or the dream state, is another example of physiological
paradox where there is extreme cerebral excitation coupled with little
We can characterize the physiological condition of an experience of the
Self as remaining trophotropically relaxed while ergotropically alert.
The mystic achieves his goal when he learns to short-circuit the homeostatic
mechanism of negative feedback. The negative feedback system perpetuates
the experience of duality between the “I” and Self.
Further correspondence of the E and T systems shows them to be linked with
the emotions of love and lust (T-system) and anger or rage (E-system).
They are also instrumental in our adaptation to cold (E-system) and adaptation
to heat (T-system). These are apparent even in infants in feeding
(T) and frustration (E) cycles. In the adult, these are superseded
in importance by the sex act, or sublimated forms of creativity.
Thus, the physiological reactions of orgasm and “eureka” are analogous.
In foreplay or the incubation of inspiration the parasympathetic system
predominates. But at the moment of climax or “eureka” there is a
dramatic switchover to the sympathetic system. After the act there
a return to the recuperative T-system.
This insight may lead you to some interesting contemplation on why Tantric
yogis arouse sexual tensions for the purpose of transmuting them to spiritual
purposes, for acts of internal creativity. According to this model,
the T-system is responsible for the accumulation of energies or tensions,
while the E-system functions for the release of these energies. Thus
the dynamics of creativity and orgasm precipitate the release of tensions,
which might be sublimated to mystical awareness.
“However, extreme states of arousal and paradoxical ergotropic-trophotropic
manifestations also provide the dynamic for mystical awareness and exalted
states of consciousness. We have characterized the method of samadhi
as remaining ergotropically conscious while trophotropically falling (more
deeply than) asleep. Ecstasy involves remaining physically relaxed
while becoming mentally hyperaroused. Cosmic consciousness is similarly
a state of being trophotropically tuned to the absolute while ergotropically
tuned to the relative,” (Lansky).
Fischer, on the other hand, describes mystical rapture in biocybernetic
terms: “there is not data content from without, and therefore, no
rate of data processing; only the content of the ecstatic experience of
the mystic at the height of his rapture is a reflecting of himself in his
The withdrawal from physical spacetime to cerebral spacetime is what is
known as an experience of the causal plane, or mental dimension.
Its integration into daily life requires the ability to make a meaningful
interpretation of our own nervous system activity. A model or consciousness
map helps us delineate one person’s mystical experience from another’s
Toward this end, of creating an inner road map, we can combine Fishcer’s
model with the hierarchy of experiential states created by John Curtis
Gowan. Gowan’s model includes three modes of functioning: 1) Trance
(ego absent); 2) Art (imagery state); 3) Creativity (ego fully present
or transcended). Gowan’s periodic risers to spiritual awareness fit
very neatly over Fischer’s cartography to give us an even more detailed
series of descriptors of ergotropic and trophotropic functioning.
Thus, we see that the Trance states including schizophrenia, hypnotism,
pro-active drugs, and automatic writing, talking in tongues, etc. are under
the mediation of the E-system. So are the experiences of our psychological
complexes, which produce arousal or anxiety. The perception of archetypes
and dreams, or myth, as well as the enactment of psychological dynamics
in ritual or art are also part of the E-system, which functions through
the Parataxic Mode.
Syntaxic Mode leads to inner rather than outer creativity. It begins
in the sublimation of the sexual instinct and proceeds into meditative,
concentrative, and contemplative states, culminating in a paradoxical switchover
to mystical ecstasy after reaching higher jhana states.
The Alchemy of the Central Nervous System
The blending of the “masculine” (E-system) and “feminine” (T-system_ modes
of awareness in a “chemical wedding” to produce the Philosopher’s Stone
forms the bulk of the subject-matter of alchemy. More recently, this
ancient investigation has been taken up in the field of neuropsychology
and neurophysiology. An examination of the basic principles of alchemy,
such as the unification of opposites, yields some extremely interesting
correlations with modern medical research.
Just what are the qualities represented by the basic alchemical substances,
and what analogies for these substances can be found in human psychobiology?
In alchemy, the primary opposites to be synthesized are characterized as
“fire” and “water.”
Alternatively, the fiery masculine spirit is known as the hot Solar principle
and corresponds with Sulphur. The watery feminine element is cold
and Lunar in nature, correspondingly termed Mercury. In any given
alchemical document, these might be referred to as Sol and Luna, Rex and
Regina, or Adam and Eve. Though their names and attributes are many,
the process of their union remains essentially the same.
From a biological perspective, we might begin our investigation by attributing
the active, hot principle of sulphur to the left hemisphere of the brain.
This hemisphere provides rational adaptation to the external environment.
The passive, lunar principle of Mercury corresponds to the right hemisphere,
which is holistic in its perception. Of course, the blending of these
portions of the brain represents the functioning of a whole individual.
But since most of us have some form of access to both modes, we must look
further into the physiology of the brain to find the precise chemical mediators
of the processes of hyperarousal and its counterpart, hypoarousal.
There are two nitrogen-containing organic compounds in the brain (called
amines) which have been observed as significant in the balance of physical
and mental processes. They are neurotransmitters, chemicals which
are highly significant in the movement of electrical impulses between neurons
(nerve cells) in the human Central Nervous System. The electrical
charges always jump from nerve cell to nerve cell with the help of a given
chemical helper, or neurotransmitter.
Two specific compounds were originally proposed as the chemical mediators
of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems of arousal. Newer
research shows a myriad of neuromodulators, but these two still take center
stage in the complex chemistry.
Noradrelalin (NA) also called norepinepherine corresponds with the solar
Sulpher and works through the sympathetic system. It facilitates
adaptation to external reality. When stimulated, it produces an excited
anxious state of enflamment which can culminate in ecstasy. Among
disorders of this system are manic episodes and hypervigilance. All
illicit CNS stimulants also emulate hyperarousal and lead therefore to
Serotonin (5-HT) corresponds with the lunar Mercury and works through the
parasympathetic system. Its influence is felt in a relaxed condition,
like contemplation or meditation. Serotonin deficiencies are blamed
for a host of disorders, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
In physiology, the sympathetic nervous system produces involuntary responses
such as alarm, and the “fight-flight” syndrome. The parasympathetic
functions include digestion, and slowing one down. The chemicals
noradrenalin and serotonin work in the body as cooperative antagonists;
they balance one another in such a manner that we do not get too speedy,
or sluggish at inappropriate times.
We can easily recognize the “switching mechanism” in ourselves at various
times. The most dramatic switch occurs in orgasm, when the body rapidly
moves from a highly aroused state to one of extreme relaxation and torpor,
even sleep. Another example occurs in the creative process, at the
moment of “A-ha,” when intense concentration gives way to satisfactory
Noradrenalin and serotonin are also the mediators of the pain-pleasure
cycle. Have you ever wondered why it is practically impossible to
stay on a natural “high,” happy at every moment? The normal functioning
of chemical processes in he brain makes this impossible. However,
mystical practice can moderate the mood swings experienced by most individuals,
and even open a realm of bliss, which is distinctively different from an
ordinary good mood. Traditionally this bliss is called “spiritual
nectar” and emanates from the pineal gland.
Noradrenalin mediates pleasure, action, excitation, motor behavior, and
goal-oriented behavior. When there is imbalance, it contributes to
depression or manic behavior. Serotonin mediates inaction, satiety,
sleep, feeding, and functions as a punishment/pain system to inhibit and
balanced the reinforcement/reward system mediated by noradrenalin.
Serotonin is believed to be a reciprocal inhibitor of noradrenalin’s ability
to function as a sexual stimulant. This may, in part, account for
traditions of ecstatic enflamment, such as Tantra; and conversely, for
the progressively decreasing interest in sex reported by many yogis.
It is easy to observe the effects of serotonin and noradrenalin on the
sleep cycle of an individual. Serotonin is responsible for beginning
and maintaining cycles of deep sleep. Rising noradrenalin is implicated
in REM sleep, or the dream state.
Noradrenalin and serotonin exist in a balanced relationship with each other,
although the amounts of each vary somewhat in different areas of the brain.
For example, the limbic structures contain the highest concentrations of
the neurotransmitters, while the neocortical portions have almost none.
In most brain tissues they are similarly distributed.
Too much serotonin is known to be harmful for a variety of reasons.
It can, paradoxically produce hyperactivity, but soon leads to exhaustion,
depression, and anxiety. Irritation by serotonin can also lead the
body to produce too many histamines, inducing symptoms of a cold.
Serotonin creates hyperactivity by activating the overproduction of adrenalin
and noradrenalin. The personal may feel euphoric for awhile, but
after a period of time, this leads to adrenal exhaustion, and decreased
recovery ability. Excessive serotonin is now implicated as the “death
hormone.” When its levels rise with age in the hypothalamus, with
a simultaneous depletion of dopamine (precursor of noradrenalin), the trigger
may be pulled.
Noradrenalin and serotonin play a major role in the effectiveness of stimulants
and hallucinogens. Long term effects of these drugs leads to depletion
of neurotransmitter stores at synaptic junctions in the brain with consequent
disorientation and impaired immunological responses.
“The messenger chemical is stored in pouches called vesicles on the
surface of the neuron’s cellular membrane and released into the gap between
nerves (synapses) when the nerves fire. Many popular stimulant drugs
increase the level of NE (Noradrenalin) in these synapses, resulting in
greater nerve stimulation. Such drugs include amphetamines, ...over-the-counter
diet aids, magnesium pemoline, and cocaine.
“These can temporarily improve alertness, learning in focusing and attention
tasks, as well as memory. However, these effects may be due to general
stimulation rather than altered data processing by the nerves. A
serious disadvantage of these drugs is that once the stored supply of NE
has been released from the vesicles and the NE in the synapses has been
metabolized, the drugs no longer stimulate nerve activity (this process
is called ‘tolerance) until the body produces more NE. Depression
is very common during the period when NE supply is low owing to excessive
use of the stimulants mentioned above, (Pearson and Shaw, 1982).”
With psychedelics, the body is tricked into producing massive quantities
of serotonin, which leads to hallucinations. The body becomes hyperaroused
when it tries to compensate by producing the noradrenalin to counteract
the serotonin dump.
Serotonin, then, is basically an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It
reduces neuron activity. It prevents excessive nervous stimulation
which results in depletion. Its nutritional precursor is tryptophan
which is found in abundance in milk and bananas.
Noradrenalin is important in primitive drives and emotions like sex, and
in memory and learning. When noradrenalin is low, there is depression
and poor immune system reactions. To increase noradrenalin storage,
take its nutritional precursors l-phenylalanine, or the amino acid L-Dopa
to increase brain levels of dopamine and noradrenalin.
Reflecting back to the relationship of serotonin and noradrenalin in the
pain-pleasure cycle, we may see how they induce different states of consciousness.
In a privately circulated thesis from the 1970s, Philip Steven Lansky amalgamated
his research on systems of arousal with the work of noted Jungian psychologist,
Edward Edinger. In his classic text, EGO AND ARCHETYPE, Edinger formulated
his ideas on I-Self relationship into a graph showing the progress of the
repetitive cycle. Lansky overlaid the likely chemistries, which correspond
with these changes. In this manner initial overactivity of serotonin
may function as a negative feedback system. A third circle for “drug
abuse” might be included to depict the merry-go-round of addiction (Miller,
This is an interesting appraisal of the alchemy of the Central Nervous
System. It might seem that homeostasis would keep consciousness forever
in the grip of this psychic life cycle. Yet, Lansky goes on to state:
“However, according to Edinger (1972), individuation means not having
to continually repeat the cycle, but to develop conscious dialogues between
I and Self. Neurochemically this may be interpreted as a partial
overstepping of noradrenergic-serotonergic rebounds, and the concomitant
state of more subtle serotonergic/noradrenergic relationships. This
is reflected in the ability to remain active (noradrenergic) while inactive
(serotonergic). It is a state of physiological and psychological
paradox...as is aptly described by the wisdom of The Secret of the Golden
This I-Self dialogue is certainly a valued dimension of the CRP Journeys.
It consists of using action in order attain non-action. Lansky concludes,
“Interestingly, the “chymical wedding” of alchemy was a symbol for the
simultaneous constellation of psychic opposites, which we have already
suggested concurs with a state of physiological paradox. Might not
the contents of the two archetypal flasks represent two amines, serotonin
and noradrenalin, being poured simultaneously into a marriage bath in the
The Alchemical Formula of “Solve et Coagula”
In alchemy the balancing of opposites is by their merger as expressed in
the formula “Solve et Coagula,” which means to dissolve and congeal.
It is old attitudes which must be dissolved, and concrete experiences which
form the coagulation---the embodiment of experience.
When a one-sided attitude encounters a more comprehensive viewpoint, the
old attitude dissolves. Solutio is the dissolution of the old attitude,
which may be experienced as a threat to the world-view of the ego.
The ego is interested in maintaining control. It tends to assume
that it’s cognitive perception is foremost and builds personality or our
world-view from its perception of order.
The ego embraces a paradigm about the nature of Reality. Exposure
to someone with a convincing, more comprehensive and demonstrable worldview
can wash away the solid ground from under the ego’s feet. This destabilization
of the old self may bring up fear and insecurities or pain before the new
self is congealed. The ego feels adrift or fragmented before the
new viewpoints are assimilated into the conscious attitude and existential
The unified state, or self is the agent of solutio in alchemy. It
is either experienced in internal relationships among archetypal entities
or forces, or it is projected into one’s environment. An example
is where a person meets someone who “makes the bottom drop out” of his/her
world. Consciousness then has the choice of embracing or rejecting
the broader viewpoint. The long-range aims of solutio is the unification
of opposites. Both the archetypal masculine and feminine elements
are being dissolved and united at the same time.
When one encounters the Self internally, a larger consciousness of the
world and universe, solutio occurs. In CRP Journeys, it may have
begun before the journey confronting the enlarged worldview of the Mentor.
In solutio, the best qualities of the ego survive and are refined.
Those aspects of the ego which consciously relate to the Self withstand
This alchemical operations has characteristic stages which relate directly
to the phenomenology of CRP Journeys:
1. Return to the primal state;
2. Dissolution, dispersal, and dismemberment;
3. Containment of a lesser thing by a greater;
4. Rebirth, rejuvenation, immersion in the creative flow;
5. Purification ordeal;
6. Solution of problems;
7. Melting or softening process (dissolving).
The alchemist, or Mentor, cooperating intentionally with this transpersonal
process, experiences the diminishment by solutio as a precursor to union
with the Self.
In coagulatio, the conscious realization of archetypal forces comes only
through personal experiences with the, in concrete forms. The experiential
Journeys are an ideal medium for such tangible consolidation. These
forms or patterns are unique for each individual, but they share primary
characteristics. Experiences in childhood coagulate the archetypes,
most frequently in limited or distorted forms. The inner relationships
of creative imagination and external relationships coagulate. These
are ways of experiencing personal encounters with the divine.
Coagulatio means to congeal, or become more solid. The ego cannot
soar unfettered by day-to-day matters into its spiritual fantasies.
Ultimately, the body must be reunited with the process at the sensorimotor
level. In order for wholeness to be realized, the alchemist or Journeyer
must balance aspirations with personal, concrete reality (spouse, job,
This concrete form of realization of psychic processes in everyday life
allows us to “see” that which previously had no form. The Journeys
facilitate this deep focus. Archetypal patterns are manifesting in
the mundane world constantly. To the alchemist, the archetypes are
no longer perceived as qualities or concepts, but as entities with which
they share a defined relationship. Psychologically, this is the union
of ordinary human reality with the transpersonal Self.
There must always be an investment of psychic energy in the alchemical
process. Desire promotes coagulatio. This psychic energy, mobilized
as desire, promotes life-experience. The lure is the sweetness of
fulfillment. Coagulatio thus symbolizes the limitations of one’s
personal reality, the boundary conditions. We find the limits of our abilities
in relation to our desires.
In its ultimate projection, coagulatio symbolizes the formation of an immortal
body, one firmly grounded in the universal perspective, which is the equivalent
of the Philosopher’s Stone.
Hypo- and Hyperarousal in the Consciousness Restructuring Process
The neurology and chemistries of stress, healing, and transcendence are
invoked in the Consciousness Restructuring Process. Modulations in
hypo- and hyperarousal occur at certain junctures of the Journeys.
Initially there is a phase of relaxation, then intensification, challenge
and arousal during confrontation with fear and pain, moving through and
beyond that fear and pain often brings a sense of relief, deeper relaxation
and the ability to proceed even deeper tward chaotic consciousness, a profound
personal experience of the ground state of being at the nonverbal sensorimotor
level of the primal existential self image.
Many clinical disorders have their origins in chronic states of hyper-
or hypoarousal and therefore this initial condition is a given for the
CRP Journey as a starting point.
Aron, Elaine (1996); The Highly Sensitive Person,
Edinger, Edward, Ego and Archetype,
Fischer, Roland (1967); "Biological models of creativity," Journal for
the Study of Consciousness, pg. 89-117. First presented Oct.
Lansky, Philip, "Consciousness and the ergo- and tropho-tropic systems
of arousal"; thesis.