Chaosophy 2000

Asklepia Monograph Series

and the

by Iona Miller and Graywolf Swinney
Asklepia Foundation, ©2000

ABSTRACT:  There are basic human drives toward sexuality, death, and a general evolutionary healing growth force.  They are respectively eros, thanatos, and physis.  The inwardly directed force of physis is a healing power that can be invoked through CRP even in the face of life-threatening disease.  In fact, physis is the counterpoint to disease, a generalized creative drive toward health.  Crisis may precipitate enhanced opportunities for the recognition and manifestation of physis; opportunities for massive reorganization along lines that are developmentally healthier and creatively more productive and healing.  This creates more flexibility and resilience.  In T.A. correlated script-free aspirations are under the influence of physis.  As people get closer and closer to their true self or “First Nature” (which always involves a sense of somatic and organismic integrity), they connect more profoundly with an inner healing and actualizing drive.  CRP journeys enhance awareness of the spiritual, transpersonal, or transcendent dimension of our endeavors.  Dreamhealing journeys provide the proper ambiance for clients’ self-discovery of healing physis within themselves.  In this process the life-force is kindled, facilitating healing and self-realization.

KEYWORDS:  Cancer, psychotherapy, Consciousness Restructuring Process, healing, spirituality, thanatos, physis, fear of death, transpersonal psychology, REM, dreams, grief, humanistic psychology, Bernie Siegel, Carl Simonton, consciousness, creativity, meditation, visualization, rebirth, dream work, spontaneous remission, psychodrama, Bruce Lipton


Cancer is a family of diseases often characterized by rapid and relatively unrestrained proliferation of undifferentiated cells that invade bodily organs and tissues and spread from original growth sites to distant areas in the body.  It is an invasive, powerful growth which consumes and destroys vital life processes.

The word ‘cancer’ strikes horror and dread, bringing images of the physical body eaten away by the ravenous advance of a consuming malignancy.  But, it is not only a physical malady; it initiates a dark night of the soul.  Cancer attacks, seizes, and consumes life, threatening existence.  Cancer may be one form of the inevitable price modern man pays for separating himself too far from the life of nature.  As much as 80-90% of cancers may be environmentally “caused.”

Cancer often emerges within six to eighteen months following some major emotional loss, especially if the suffering individual falls into a “hopeless-helpless” frame of mind.  Loss can kindle loss of the will to live, libido turns inward, and feeds on the body, (Simonton, 1978).

The unitarian concept of cancer sees the malignant component of all its varieties to be the same.  This component is not spontaneously created but represents the most primitive cell in the life cycle, the trophoblast cell, gone awry.

In alchemy, massa confusa refers to the “chaos” of elements in active conflicts and hostility with one another.  All bonds are broken, all connections dissolved.  It is a state of complete disorder and undifferentiated chaos.  The cancer cell likewise is undifferentiated and chaotic in its organization and spreading growth.

The psychological approach to the treatment of cancer is likely to be most effective when the cancer itself is regarded as the massa confusa which must be differentiated and transformed.  The alchemist reduced the disorder of the alchemical chaos by his devotion to his operations and putting himself in a condition in which the “miracle” of transformation was possible, with God’s help.

Cancer erupts in those whose psychology has prepared the way for susceptibility.  Cancer cells grow within us all the time.  But there is a natural suppresive mechanism -- the immune system -- which operates to inhibit the growth of these undifferentiated cells.

Psychoneuroimmunology has shown us that the immune system is extraordinarily sensitive to psychic influences.  Feelings and thoughts become molecules which modulate the neurology and chemistry of our bodies to influence our ability to attack malevolent material in the body through mind/body feedback loops.

When this system is disturbed, the resistance to environmental toxins, and the suppression of the natural tendency toward undifferentiated proliferation, is diminished.  The possibility of cancerous growth increases.  By visualizing the immune system actively attacking the cancerous growth, the immune system is mobilized, strengthened, and its natural antagonism toward cancerous growth is reawakened.  In this way, the person participates in his or her own treatment, a kind of psychic biofeedback which increases the will to live.

If the mind can heal the body, the corollary is that it was influencial in the development of the disease.  Many are not willing to accept this fact.   The phenomenology of cancer is full of images of guilt and retribution, and promises to one’s self and others that, should there be recovery, sacrifices will be made.  There will be a change of ways, life will be lived properly.  The psychology of such unwilling sacrifice is quite different from that of the willing sacrifice.  In cancer, we sacrifice our life to growth gone wrong.

Many times, the first sign that something is wrong comes through a dream or several dreams.  Dreams have many ways of revealing and announcing disease, and this has been recognized since ancient times.  They not only echo the affliction, sometimes they also announce the required treatment.

In Greece and Rome, it was to the Gods that the ancients attributed the diagnostic dream, the treatment dream, as well as those healing dreams through which the divinity worked directly.  Aristotle, in his essay on prophetic dreams, wrote:

“...since the beginnings of all events are small, so it is clear, are those of the diseases and other affections about to occur in our is manifest that these beginnings be more evident in sleeping than in waking moments.”

In dreams is contained the power of signaling bodily disturbance.  Aristotle went further:

“ is not improbable that some of the presentations which come before the mind in sleep may even be causes of the actions cognate to each of is quite conceivable that some dreams may be tokens and causes of future events.”

Modern man and his medicine may have lost touch with this special sense of the dream and its relationship to disease and healing, but it works within us, nevertheless.  Dreams play a role in connecting our souls with the power beyond ourselves.

“Together with the ancient idea of divine action, we might say that Gods work their will in and through dreams -- not only in healing, but in creating sickness as well.  Dreams bring healing and sickness.  Ancient theurgic medicine was centered in the proposition that sickness and healing issued from the hands of the Gods.  Disease and affliction were a consequence of improper relationship to the divine.  The purpose of sickness, the meaning of affliction, was to force the individual to confront his disconnection from the Gods, to sacrifice his hubristic acquisitions, and to re-place himself in the proper spirit of relationship by binding himself (re-ligio) through suffering in service to the Gods.” (Lockhart, 1977).

Is there a place in modern culture for a revival of the ancient theurgic attitude toward sickness, suffering, healing, and the central role of the dream?  The practices of Asklepian dreamhealing are carried forward into modern psychotherapy in the Consciousness Restructuring Process which uses dream material to initiate consciousness journeys in REM which characteristically have a healing effect.  Dreams are the voice and vision of the soul and reveal fateful events to the conscious mind.

Dreams are the medicine of the soul, providing a way back, a connection to the voices and images of the psyche, and a relationship to the inner physician.  Dreams play a momentous part in discovering new relationships to life, as well as a new relation to death.

The hurting body forces us to remember that the body is the temple.  Sickness -- even cancer -- is an invitation to re-enter the temple in search of our connection to what is beyond constricted consciousness.  Recurrent dreams and recurrent cancer may be related.

Recurrent dreams are a significant feature in the dream life of those with cancer.  One of the mythical themes that can be gleaned from reports of cancer patients is the myth of Sisyphus.  He was sentenced to Hades with the punishment of pushing a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have the boulder role again to the bottom every time he reached the peak.  It is a theme of recurrence without resolution, like the recurrent dream.

When one moves into the process, into the pathology rather than away from it, one find’s the missing completion.  Cure comes from the Latin cura meaning care, concern, trouble, anxiety, as well as sorrow.  The Indo-European root is kois meaning to sorrow for something.  Thus, cure is related to an active process of bringing to illness one’s anxiety, care, sorrow, and concern.

The deep emotions of sickness are essential to cure and must be expressed.  The patient must become emotionally involved in his own sickness, and suffering is the first ingredient on the way to cure.  In Greek, cure is expressed by the work aki, which means silence, calm, lull.  It is precisely in this silence, calm, or healing lull that dream journeys culminate.  Cancer is considered “cured” when it remains in remission for five years, in a calm or lull.

Cancer is an expression of the natural growth process gone awry.  Physis is a verb that means “to grow” or “to be” -- “what things really are.”  To Aristotle it meant “that imminent thing from which a growing thing first begins to grow.”  There are two ancient conceptualizations of physis -- (1) change as flux itself, without source or goal, and (2) change as cure, growth, or creative evolution.

Berne (1968) used physis to represent the major motivating force of cure, individual aspiration, and collective evolution.  He formulated his view as “The growth force of nature, which makes organisms evolve into higher forms, embryos develop into adults, sick people get better, and healthy people to strive to attain their ideals.”

Berne, along with Jung and some theorists in humanistic psychology, had a larger vision that took into account the healing and creative instincts which can transform both the sex and death drives.  Berne thought that physis was the evolutionary healing growth force of nature, inwardly-directed libido, or even more basic than libido.  He saw eros, thanatos, and physis (sex, death, and growth) as the background of all psychological experience.

Physis is not derivative of libido or mortido, although aspects of each can be used to understand it.  Physis is larger and more impersonal, infusing eros and thanator in its creative, healing, and evolutionary quest.  Physis is at least an equal and probably much more fundamental and basic force.  It is a generalized creative drive toward health, the basis of human motivation and transcendence.  It is a primal source of flexibility and resilience, serendipity, and spontaneity -- even spontaneous remission.

Berne (1972) had the idea that the autonomous aspiration of a human being rises from the depths of the Somatic Child (oldest, most archaic, or undifferentiated ego state) and transcends the limit-inducing pressures of the script, which is shaped by the matrix of love (affection) and death (destruction) in our earliest relationships.

The process of self-devouring can be reversed through self-creation, enrichment procured from one’s own depths.  The concept of metanoia can be viewed as nonlinear evolutionary change.  Change happens at a turning point.  Evolutionary development, the path of physis, is not always linear, incremental, easily anticipated, and progressive.  It may proceed by discontinuous leaps or turns which may be unpredictable, disruptive, and creative.

Metanoia means to change, to turn around, or to transform.  It comes from a Greek word which suggests to change one’s mind on reflection.  It is the opposite of paranoia, akin to repentance, a re-owning of the shadow and a turning away from the persona toward the Self.  It is virtually a permanently transformed state of being, whether it involves a spiritual or psychological transformation, a new rule of life.  Physis works within us at the most basic level, connecting us with spiritual, religious, or transcendental values.


There is a widespread fear of cancer and death.  Whether they are diagnosed as terminal or not, cancer generally brings up a confrontation with death and its profound symbolism, as well as bringing up issues of the deeper meaning of life.  Contemplation of death conjures up images of disintegration, dismemberment, flying apart.  In consciousness journeys, the dreamer may be sucked through a swirling vortex into a profound blackness--black that is blacker than black--cold and utterly empty.  This state of nothingness feels different to individuals, depending on their personal experience with various aspects of death.

Thanatos-consciousness may be an encounter with an apocalyptic whirlwind which rends one limb-from-limb, then fragments the sense of self even further down to cellular, genetic, and atomic consciousness.  The imagery of apocalypse and natural disaster surfaces as the ego glimpses its immanent doom.  The dance of Death is a whirlwind of transformation.  Ego-death is a requirement for opening to the broader realm of transpersonal reality.  It heralds a change in the form of consciousness.

The crux of this consciousness process is reaching the creative state of undifferentiated consciousness.  It is in this state that old primal self image dissolves, and from it the new one creatively forms.  It is a death because at the deepest levels we define ourselves by this image and what it has created and frozen into our lives.  It ultimately means the dismemberment of our former personality and life patterns.

We are it and it is our death when it dissolves into the infinite possibilities of chaotic consciousness.  This unformed consciousness--which we often mistake for death-- is really the essence of our vitality and life force.  It is the energy we can use to recreate ourselves in every instant of time.  It reaches our awareness through dreams (Hypnos) and the flow of our imagination.  In ancient Greek mythology, Hypnos, Lord of Dreams, is the brother of Thanatos.

Yielding to ego-death leads to this consciousness, whether it comes through therapy or a spontaneous near-death experience (N.D.E.) or closely witnessing death. This consciousness can result from a brush with one's own death or that of another.  Dissolving is a death that opens into a field of unformed consciousness with infinite creative possibilities.  But we must go through the fear and pain which surrounds this experience to reach this consciousness state.

There may be sensations of falling, or floating-falling, or flying off in all directions at once.  Eventually all parts of the self are dismembered by the centrifugal forces experienced in the vortex.  With a sweep of His scythe, the unseen specter of death cuts us down utterly.  Sensations of spinning and being drawn deeper create intense dizziness and disorientation, even nausea.  Dismemberment in the spiral often leads to a sense of being "no-thing."

The experience of another's natural death is awesome, as is that of birth.  Being there, one finds that at that amazing moment there is a giant dilation in the flow of time; a window opens into that other vast realm which is slow to close.  It may capture part of oneself for a time, creating a mini-death, or death-in-life.

The changes which ensue may be voluntary or involuntary.  It may trigger a regression as well as a profound opening to transpersonal awareness.  Particularly when a parent or child of ours dies, we are permanently changed in ways we may never have imagined.  Some of them have to do with what we imagine or believe the nature of death and an afterlife to be.

In myth, Thanatos or Death, naturally supplied Hades with his subjects.  Thanatos is the son of Night, who in turn was born from Chaos.  The godform of Thanatos is pictured alternatively as dressed in a black robe holding the fatal sword, or as a winged spirit, resembling his twin brother Hypnos, or Sleep.  Hypnos also lives in the underworld.  He induces the little death of sleep with his magic wand or by fanning his dark wings.

In eastern mysticism, death is personified in feminine form as the dreaded and dreadful goddess Kali.  Her cult was portrayed in the blockbuster movie INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM.  Graveyards or cemeteries are the haunts of this bloodthirsty goddess.  Her image is built of a myriad of skulls and bones.  Tantric Buddhists contemplate her, and their own personal demise, by visualizations of rotting corpses, or meditating in graveyards where the remains are strewn about.  They seek liberation of their human souls through immortality.

Shiva, the Destroyer, consort of Kali Ma is the masculine form of this force.  Shiva is the prince of demons, who brings pestilence and death. Paradoxically, he is also the slayer of demons.  He is the dissolver of outworn forms--destroyer of all things.  Shiva's dance is a process of universal creation and destruction, a symbol of the reconciliation of opposites. This powerful unbridled erratic force also carries archetypal healing capacity within its pattern.  This archetypal drive was the theme of Gore Vidal's KALKI.

In our modern society, questions of life and death create issues such as moral positions on suicide, abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment.  These questions bear directly ont who we are and shall be.  Mankind is also wiping our entire species from the face of the earth daily.  The Biblical injunction "Thou shalt not kill," has been misinterpreted as "Thou shalt not murder thy fellow human beings," while the pointless slaughter of animals for exploitation continues.  Spiritual teachers tell us that all life is sacred.

As an archetype, Thanatos represents a fundamental soul-quality present in the psyche.  From this perspective all life aims toward natural transformation and recycling through the process of death.  The soul gains knowledge of itself, not only through love, intellect, and madness, but also by reflection on the great unknowable which lies past the gates of death.

The sorcerer's apprentice Carlos Casteneda was cautioned to keep death as his constant companion, always referring any powerful decisions to this touchstone of meaning.  How differently we might act if we reflected on our actions in light of the constant possibility of immanent death.

Psychologist Sigmund Freud spent as much of his career reflecting on death and the physical pathology of he body as he did obsessing on sexual motivation.  He not only contemplated it in his patients' behaviors and fantasies, but in his own as well.  He was phobic about cancer, which he later contracted in the mouth and jaw from years of smoking.  As the father of depth psychology which focuses on the symbolic underworld, he introduced us to the world of Thanatos and Hades.

Freud pointed out that "pathologizing" is a metaphorical language of the psyche, allowing it to deliteralize the events of our daily life.  Psychopathologies had been considered trivial, but Freud showed that they contained a previously invisible depth of meaning.  The nature of that meaning revealed the profound relationship of death to life.  Dreams, symptoms, and afflictions became the inroads into the dark realm of the subconscious.

Freud resurrected the intimate symbolic connection between soul and death for Westerners.  Eastern religions had never lost this connection.  He showed how the perspectives of Hades and Thanatos dissolve the organic, social, and emotional aspects of human life.  Fantasies of putrefaction, decay, sickness, compulsion, and suicidal impulses disclose this psychological perspective which seeks deepening.  Freud ended his own life enraptured or fascinated with this train of thought.

Our society is making strides towards overcoming the phobic or denial response through such infrastructures as the hospice movement.  Death and Dying is not surrounded by such taboo as it once was.  The fact is that death is a natural part of life, and contains its own beauty, meaning, and vision.

Symptoms associated with this archetype of being seized down into the underworld, not only include death, but also appear in coma and the sleep disorders of Narcolepsy and Catalepsy.  In narcolepsy, a person falls profoundly asleep with no warning during any activity.  It is characterized by specific brain patterns.

In physics, Thanatos may be symbolized in the natural universe by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Entropy or Disorder.  Briefly, this law describes how in the long-run there is certainty that order will give way to disorder in any closed system, macrocosmic or microcosmic.

All earthly life involves organisms which function as closed systems, which are subject to the loss of order.  Therefore, physical death is inevitable.  That which takes form, ultimately dissolves that form and dies.  In thermodynamics, entropy means that all energy seeks to become evenly distributed.  It diffuses toward a neutral condition of "heat death."  In human and universal terms, warmth means life.

To retain the will to live as humans we resist diffusion, attempting to remain orderly, organized, stable, and solid.  Spiritual practice and discipline is one means of increasing order, or tapping into the life-promoting forces of negentropy .  On more mundane levels we watch our diets to be sure we take in enough life-giving nutrient to sustain mental and emotional stability.  When we encounter disease, diet becomes even more important.

Yet, despite our conscious efforts, the reaper comes closer each and every day.  There is a primal instinct within us which yearns for that final goal of life, that great moment when eternity yawns wide to receive us.  Freud called it Thanatos, and contrasted it with life-promoting Eros.  Freud noticed the "longing" and drivenness toward death, which appears as self-destructive tendencies and aggression toward others.  This destructive urge is primal.  Both Jung and Freud recognized the archetypal "murderer and suicide in us."  It surfaces in images of grisly, destructive acts.

Thanatos functions within the cellular and genetic level.  Every day thousands of worn out cells die and are replaced through the process of tissue regeneration.  Our entire body is replaced about every seven years.

Another little "death" comes as sleep each night.  Thanatos inhabits our dreams as well, with images of death, torture, mutilation, and rotting.  Then in the morning we are resurrected to a seemingly new life.

In alchemy, the images of figurative death appear during the operation called mortificatio.  This symbolic experience of death has to do with darkness, defeat, torture, mutilation, death, rotting, penance, and abstinence--denial of the body.  Emotionally it means the primitive, violent outbursts, resentments, and pleasure and power demands must die for the process of transmutation to occur.  Paradoxically, we must make ourselves miserable for the process of transmutation to proceed.  Then the dark images change to positive ones of growth, resurrection and rebirth.

In consciousness journeys, we find fear is the primary agent of mortificatio.  Moving toward the fear and pain--deepening it--brings one closer to the tranformation.  Images of feces, excrement, overflowing toilets are found in dreams and during spontaneous journeys in Thanatos-consciousness.  It feels like defeat and failure.  Yet, to resist seems like madness--in fact, it induces madness.  Those with near-death experiences tell us that to embrace death brings about deeper meaning and purpose in life.

Rotting corpses, decapitation, amputation, creeping, crawling worms and snakes, and particularly noxious odors like the stench of graves are images which are reported again and again.  It is truly a journey through "the Valley of the Shadow of Death."  Thus the psyche depicts the decay of outworn forms in preparation for new.  It can be a voluntary death, giving up the old order for the sake of wholeness, the incorruptible body that grows from death.  The infantile, personalistic ego is eclipsed.  The journey to the land of the dead (collective unconscious) opens one to transpersonal life.  It can be experienced as an undifferentiated field that is neither energy nor consciousness.

When we sit quietly we notice that images come--and images go, of their own accord.  They are spontaneously created and destroyed through the psychic process.  Some of these images are projections.  When we withdraw them from their external "hooks" and re-own them, reabsorb them, they dissolve and "die."  This furthers individuation.  Plato said that "true philosophers make dying their profession," referring to the wisdom inherent in this process.  What is natural and instinctual is allowed to die and transform.

Western attitudes toward death and dying have changed markedly in the last few years.  There is talk of "dying with dignity," and efforts toward assisting suicide for the terminally ill.  It is a reaction to the dehumanization of dying.  The Hemlock Society has been in the forefront of this debate, advocating free choice.

There is much more talk about near-death experiences (NDE) and so-called astral projection or out-of-body experiences (OOBE).  Astral projection follows the same process described by those who report NDEs.  They say attention is withdrawn from the limbs and trunk to the pineal area in the brain.  Then consciousness passes out of the body through the top of the head.  Many then report traversing a winding tunnel, and heading into the Light.

Those who experience NDE find new purpose and meaning in life; they usually seek to render service to others, becoming more selfless, humble, and confident in the future.  Having faced the ultimate fear they gain a sureness on the path of life.  Frequently they receive some "message" about their duties in life, what they are to devote this "second chance" to achieving.  They are infused with wisdom--simply knowing what they must now do.  It is the death of selfishness.

Some report seeing other entities; they are met there by "others."  Reports of this nature have offered some comfort or solace to the living, who inherently feel that these accounts offer descriptions of the passing into an afterlife.  Others stoically feel that death is a final annihilation of the soul.

The hospice movement, initiated by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., approaches the care of the terminally ill with respect.  Her books, ON DEATH AND DYING; QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON DEATH AND DYING; and DEATH, THE FINAL STATE OF GROWTH are now classics on the subject, as is David Feinstein and Mayo's RITUALS FOR LIVING AND DYING.

Kubler-Ross and others have developed therapeutic programs using psychodrama to free up the negative aspects of the personality.  This provides a means for the old personality to die, leaving room for the emergence of the new while life goes on.

Psychodrama allows the survivors of the terminal patient, as well as the patients themselves, a means of expressing and grieving old wounds and pains.  This facilitates development of new patterns of living.  The goal is to allow a fresh sense of personal well-being and contentment.  For most, there is the discovery of new values and a deeper sense of appreciation for the gift of life--whatever life remains.

Psychologically, Thanatos is the concept known as "ego death"--the death of the old self which creates the conditions for rebirth.  The phenomena of rebirth may mean a "born again" Christian, or the "twice-born" of philosophy which also implies the spiritual, yet non-religious renewal of one's purposiveness in life.

The major mystery of Masonic initiation includes the death-rebirth mystery.  The initiate is symbolically murdered, sealed in a ritual tomb, later to arise as a resurrected soul and brother of the Order.  Israel Regardie quotes from the ceremony for Minor Adept grade in THE GOLDEN DAWN.

"Buried with that Light in a mystical death, rising again in a mystical resurrection, cleansed and purified through him our Master, o brother of the Cross of the Rose.  Like him, O Adepts of all ages, have ye toiled.  Like him have ye suffered tribulation.  Poverty, torture and death have ye passed through; they have been but the purification of the gold.  In the alembic of thine heart through the athanor of affliction, seek thou the true stone of the wise."

There is more than one form of rebirth.  The notion emerges from the "belief system" level of psyche, which combines mythical, archetypal, and personal elements.  Carl Jung detailed five specific types of rebirth with a variety of psychological aspects.  In ARCHETYPES OF THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS, he listed the forms of rebirth known to mankind as follows:

 1. Metempsychosis.  This means the transmigration of the soul from one body to another at death.  The soul is believed to have the ability to transmigrate among plant, animal, or human forms.  The change is not under the dominion of the will, but is the result of karma.  The form is earned through one's deeds or misdeeds during life.

 2. Reincarnation.  This belief implies rebirth in human form, with some continuity or recall of personality.  This is not only an eastern or Indian concept.  At various times, it was embraced by the Hebrew and Greek cultures.  It was expunged from THE BIBLE by Justinian and Theodora in Byzantine times.  The soul is believed to migrate from human form to human form with some purposeful development.

 3. Resurrection.  Here the idea is the re-establishment of human existence after death, either through resurrection of the physical body, or in the glorified or "subtle body" of pure Light.  It signifies a perpetual state of incorruptibility. It is a transformation of one's essence or essential being; a transport to a new dimension of existence.

 4. Rebirth (renovatio).  When we experience renewal or improvement through self-development, or even a vacation which revivifies us, we go through a kind of psychological rebirth.  This rebirth takes place within the context of our individual life span.  It may use magical, though not miraculous means of effecting change.

The functioning of the personality may be enhanced, and we might feel rejuvenated, healed, or otherwise strengthened.  We can face the daily grind with renewed zeal and effectiveness.  Rites of passage frequently involve a ceremonial form of rebirth, such as that of the adolescent into the adult world.  When rebirth involves the transformation of the essence of our individuality, we are transmuted, or lifted from the human to the divine realm of being.

 5. Indirect Rebirth.  This implies witnessing or taking part in some transformative rite, such as the Catholic Mass, or the Eleusinian Mysteries.  A modern example is psychotherapy which initiates the process of individuation, hastening the process of natural transformation.  By focusing on dreams and self-awareness we can speed up nature's process of internal transformation.  Our higher Self is revealed and we come to know our soul as a special "inner friend."  Meditation is the spiritual means most frequently used to bring this change about, outside of the therapeutic setting.

All forms of rebirth, in the psychological sense, are experiences of the transcendence of life.  Transcendence is a natural progression from the finite, mortal frame through space, time, and the personal ego into infinite, immortal life beyond.  It gives us access to the experience of Cosmic Consciousness.

The experience may be induced by ritual means, with or without direct participation.  It may be a spontaneous, ecstatic revelation, or a subjective transformation only.  It frequently brings an enlargement of the personality, bringing richness and depth to life.

Rebirth is experienced more easily, but not as deeply, through group participation or identification.  In this case, the changes do not last, and one regresses to the former condition.  Only spiritual exercises, or yoga, provide a clearcut means to the fullest, permanent experience of personal transformation, and access to the higher Self.  To experience this, one goes through total annihilation of the old self--self-surrender.  The old ego dies to be revivified as part of a greater whole.

The God of Death haunts us all, consciously or subconsciously.  Particularly the elderly are subject to a state which may be like a death in life--a paralysis from fear of what is to inevitably come.  This event is a great moment, and some follow a natural urge to die at the right time, relinquishing heroic life-prolonging efforts.

Our culture makes valiant attempts to repress the awareness that life is based on death.  Our overactive physical fitness binges are heroic attempts to deny that the telos, or goal, of psyche is death.  This is not the case in all cultures.  They prepare throughout life for death by putting dayworld notions to sleep.  This radical shift in consciousness is expressed through metaphorical descriptors of death.

Mystical philosophies encourage the aspirant to "die daily" by withdrawing into meditation.  They recommend anywhere from 20 minutes to 1/10 of the day (2 1/2 hours).  The idea is to tithe a tenth of one's time, rather than money to experiential spiritual practice.  This admonishment to "die daily" was also the advice of magician Aleister Crowley commenting on the Tarot Trump XIII, DEATH.

Spiritual Masters, or Adepts, speak of the "gates of death."  They aid and teach the student to pass these gates and return to this plane at will.  They help us solve the problem of what lies beyond.  Coming and going at will through these gates is the process of dying while we live.  This internal journey during meditation is routine to advanced students.

During meditation consciousness is withdrawn from the external world and concentrated inside at the pineal gland, or eye center.  This is what happens at the moment of death also, according to these teachers.  The difference is that an adept who meditates never loses consciousness when passing out of the body.  He retains complete memory of his experiences which happened during absence from the body, in higher spiritual planes of existence.


The protocols of cancer treatment are familiar to virtually everyone, even though they vary depending on the type and location of the cancerous growth or tumor.  The big three treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment.  Some treatments, such as that for breast cancer are highly successful; others such as pancreatic cancer have a poor prognosis.  Testicular cancer is a great concern for men, but even this ravaging is treatable at every stage of its runaway growth.  Most oncologists know that their predictions are often overthrown by the resources and fate of the individual under treatment.

In recent years great strides have been made toward treating the whole person, as well as including their family in the process that is a consuming journey with grave consequences for all those involved.  Home care and the hospice movement have approached the situation with a holistic approach, but the psychological roots of cancer’s etiology is still largely ignored.  Even when psychotherapeutic techniques such as psychodrama, visualization, and meditation are employed, they focus mainly on adjustment to the situation or so-called “dying with dignity.”


The relationship between many forms of malignancy and emotional attitudes is well documented.  Cancer may be a stress disease not caused by stress itself but by our response to stress.  Some of us may react to stress by the suppression of the body’s own defense mechanisms which would normally eliminate the malignant cells.  Studies have been made indicating distinct measurable personality traits not only among those who do well in controlling their diseases, as opposed to those who succumb quickly.

Lawrence LeShan, in his book You Can Fight for Your Life, indicates that psychotherapy may be used in treatment and prevention of cancer.  Some therapists and patients are working on changing emotional attitudes through group psychotherapy, biofeedback, and autosuggestion, meditation and visualization, (Harbison, 1978).

Perhaps issues in illness like hereditary factors, may be seen as inherited attitudes and beliefs rather than irrevocable genetic programming.  The sense of control is closely allied with the sense of hope.  We may hope for relief, for understanding, or we may hope to be cured.  In the case of cancer this latter hope may be called “false” hope.  But there is not such thing as false hope, only hope or no hope.  In fact, careful and ongoing work on goals has been shown to be extremely valuable in affecting the expectations of cancer patients (Simonton, 1978).

One cancer patient described her basic injunction not as Don’t Be, but as Don’t get your needs met.  As a therapist herself, she found that many people with cancer tend to have a good amount of basic self-esteem.  The inner conflict appears not around the issue of to be or not to be, but how to be satisfactorily; they have an inability to actualize their lives.

She described her cancer as a script release, rather than a final goal.  The aim was not to die, but to be dying, as part of her believed that by being a dying person she would be “free” to get what she needed.  This is where a hard look at the secondary gains of the illness is useful, and where the patient’s own ability to recognize options and act on them will be crucial.

The therapist must be alert for magical thinking, and must attempt to make contact with the person’s Child.  It is the Child who has made and is making so many decisions about what goes on in the body.  If we see the Child ego state as the captain of the body-ship, we can begin to see the great value of visualization in the healing process.  The non-verbal image is the domain of the Child.  According to Berne, desires are visual, while directives are auditory.  Hopefully, even the decisions we make for ourselves on the cellular level may prove to be available for consideration and change.


Among the most important issues in the psychotherapeutic treatment of cancer is the management of pain and fear, both physical and emotional.  Pain carries a vital relationship to the meaning of life.  To the notions of eros, thanatos, and physis, we must add that of telos, as the determinant of form, meaning embodied in form.

Form exists at every level; at each level there appears to be something that organizes the components of the next lower level.  There is deference on the part of the organism, the organism doing to itself what the external situation is threatening to do--annihilate it.  It relates to identity integrity.

Death occurs because the fission-like processes continue, and continue beyond a point where they are coordinated by the telos of the total organism.  Although necessary for growth and development, the same tendency leads to disease and death.

To attempt to comprehend the nature of pain, to seek to find its meaning, is already to respond to an imperative of pain itself.  Pain forces the question of its meaning, and especially of its cause.  “Why?” and “Why me?” are the ubiquitous cries of those in the throes of grave illness.  Pain appears as alien to the ego, something happening to it.

Pain is the psychic manifestation of the deeper reality of telic decentralization.  Pain signals the ego, demands the ego, overcome the telic decentralization the pain signals. It is far more than simple stimulus-response.  Pain gets to the crux of our existential situation.  It has both negative and positive values with respect to our continuing functioning and survival.  It can provoke the processes by which a larger telos takes over and stops the decentralization.  It evokes help by others and a higher telos.

A cell about to divide into two separate cells is also on the verge of annihilation.  It may not be too strong to say that it may experience “pain.”  Cellular fission is formally the same painful process we experience at a more complex level -- the sacrifice of a limb, organ, or even the pain of childbirth.  Pain indicates that death will eventually ensue, but also with positive growth and development.  Placebos succeed in reducing the amount of experienced pain in a certain proportion of cases.

Each pain provokes the tacit question, “Does this mean that I will die?”  This is the pain-annihilation complex.  Pain, per se, is localized outside the ego, but the sense of being annihilated is retained inside the ego.  Pain and the pain-inducing part of the body is made ego-alien, perceived as other-than-self.

The ego has difficulty separating pain from the sense of being annihilated.  Tissue injury is not an adequate explanation of pain.  Through pain the ego is driven to separate itself from the body--to experience itself as more than the body.  Its need to preserve itself and the body tends to separate itself from the body.

A negative separation from the body is a dissociation.  Carried further, it is this same dissociation from the environment which disrupts our harmonious existence with the Earth.  A potentially important part of the psychic and mythic background of cancer lies in the realm of the earth mother as fertility Goddess.

We might ask whether there is a connection between man’s destruction, ravaging, and polluting of the earth in modern times and the increasing emergence of cancer?  It is an important fact that cancer was essentially absent in the American Indian culture prior to the white man’s invasion.  A moment’s reflection reveals that that invasive behavior was not unlike cancer itself, and its proliferation beyond the bounds of sustainability confirms it.

In many cancer patients we see a powerful psychological growth cut down or cut off.  It is as if something very alive in themselves was killed.  When a person severs some living connection to the self, the ego in effect tries to assimilate the self.  Instead, the wounded self begins an inevitable course of assimilating the ego.  It may come out in psychosis or in cancer, but the person is reduced to eating himself, feeding on his own flesh, rather than on the fruits of the earth whose spirits he seems to have violated in himself.

Cancer has been described as a type of suicide, a way out, a mode of death, as one of the ways we choose to die.  It has even been described as an alternative to psychosis.  Bodily destruction and images of bodily consumption are frequent in psychosis, and the dreams of cancer patients too are filled with images of bodily rending and consumption.  Rather than the cancer consuming them, they may be consuming themselves.  Cancer means living in the borderland between this world and the other.

In Ovid’s tale of the myth of Erysichthon a similar story is woven.  Erysichthon takes a company of axemen to the sacred grove of Demeter to obtain sufficent timber for an elaborate banquet hall.  He is warned by the female spirits of the trees to desist for his plan.  Intent, despite all warnings, he cuts down the sacred oak of Demeter.  In so doing, he angers this gentle Goddess to a fury nearly unparalled in Greek mythology.  She inflicts upon him an insatiable hunger.  After exhausting all possible food, he devours himself.  This is a particularly graphic image of a victimization in relation to the Goddess of growth and increase.

Disease is not a personal failure nor punishment.  It is an opportunity to love yourself and discover an even greater Self.  It can drive us toward overcoming the past, both personal and collective.  In this quest we find the true self.  The disease is a gift, an agent of transformation.  Even death can be a challenge, opportunity, or flowering.  Death is not a failure, except for an overly-controlling heroic ego.  But it strips us of illusions.

In keeping with holographic notions, when one part of an organism manifests symptoms, every other part and level of it is also in a similar state of dis-ease, including in the celles and genes.  The whole is in any part, as fractal geometry shows us; the same structure keeps appearing at all levels.  For truly deep and profound healing, the whole organism must healing including at the cellular and genetic levels.

There is a mechanism or connection between how this cellular level of physiology can change with transformations in consciousness structure.  Change in the cells has been sensed and reported independently by many clients following a CRP journey process.

A professor of cellular biology, Bruce Lipton has a model of this process, which is closely aligned with the philosophy of CRP.  New experimental evidence suggests that the membrane of the cell, rather than primary DNA, controls its functioning and behavior, a well as aiding in shaping its DNA.  It does so in association with its (the cell’s) environment and its perception of that environment (Swinney, 1997).

Lipton cites the experiments of Harvard researcher Dr. John Cairns.  His studies of gating across cell membranes showed that genes can be corrected, and the environment can modify the genetic structure.  He suggests that the cells may have mechanisms for choosing which mutations will occur, which supercede the probabilities of Darwinian evolution and natural selection.  It posits a complete interaction of the cell with the environment through its experience with and perception of the environment.

It is the protein sheath surrounding DNA which opens or closes to allow the DNA to be read or not and produce new proteins for the cell.  It is not an emergent property of the gene itself that activates expression of that gene.  It is a signal from its environment.

Regulatory proteins cued by the cell’s interaction with its internal and external environments can not only select the DNA but are also the mechanism by which it can change its structure.    The organism itself has a built in mechanism for changing its DNA structure in association with its perception or sensing of the environment, stronger than purely genetic factors.  The environment in which the cell finds itself, and its ability to sense and perceive that environment become prime considerations in the cell’s performance or reaction and in its evolution.

The surface of the cell is its containing membrane.  Threaded throughout this membrane are protein molecules with their ends projecting into the inner and outer environments.  One class of protein has “antennae” projecting into the outside environment.  These sensors can detect the presence of certain substances, such as sugars, hormones, amino acids -- any molecules required by the cell to sstay healthy, grow and reproduce.  They pass information along their structure by a chemo-electrical current, through the membrane into the interior of the cell.

The part of the protein that is projecting into the interior of the cell is changed by this action.  It changes its shape, which allows it to interact with another protein called a processor protein, which processes sensory information.  They connect with channel proteins to open gates through the cell’s membrane.  This allows the passage of food, amino acids, or other required substances into the cell’s interior.

Lipton asserts that the brain of the cell is its membrane, just as the ectoderm of an embryo turns into the brain, nervous system and skin of a baby.  The structure and behavior of the whole organism is found in the nervous system and duplicated at the cellular level in every cell.

Our cells share and act in accordance with our general perceptions of the world and our environment.  Cells generally can sense what is good for them and open and move towards that.  They generally close down when exposed to toxins.  When a cell is not working and growing, it is dying.

When body chemistry signals the cells of a defensive reaction, they shut down their normal operations of growth and work and also go into defensive mode.  When the threat is perceived as a sustained state, a chronic condition emerges.  Thus, somatic and psychological aspects are integrated in a single reaction.  Cells share in the perception of the entire organism.

The immune system is intimately involved in this dance.  It normally is constantly searching for and eliminating intruders and faulty cells from the body.  When the perception of the organism is that there is immanent danger, a threat to survival, the immune system goes into defense mode and curtails its normal functioning.  The adrenal reactions take over.

Under constantly perceived threat or fear, tensions eat us up and we are unable to get on with external life, and our cells can reflect this general state of affairs, compromising our immune system functionality.  Conversely, a positive, enriching point of view improves and may even program the immune system to work more successfully even against cancer cells.

The Consciousness Restructuring Process helps us change our fundamental existential perceptions.  Our primal existential perception of self and world are formed and held at a very profound level.  This structure is our telos; the process is rooted in physis. The self and the basis of our perceptions are shaped by the Primal Existential Sensory Self Image which exists at the very most fundamental levels of self.  It is much deeper than behavior, thoughts and emotions, or even than our fundamental belief systems. It is shaped by our experiences.  In fact, it contributes to these patterns and is the strange attractor that shapes these levels of consciousness structures.

This Primal Self Image defines the fundamental level of the self, and shapes our existential perceptions of the world as well as our external physical and behavioral characteristics.  In other words it defines the self.  What shapes the cell’s perception of its environment and determines its behavior and physical characteristics is the equivalent of the primal existential sensory self image at the cellular level.

It is possible to change our behavior, or the patterns of our emotional thinking dance, or even the superficial levels of our belief systems by thought or emotional work with the ego-mind.  Techniques such as repeating affirmations or cathartic release may do this, but it is not likely to affect the deeper processes and the consciousness structures that shaped them.

CRP, however, is able to access this fundamental consciousness-neural structure and free it to transform.  The fundamental existential perception (hologram) is changed to a more positive one that enhances the cells’ functioning.  It also changes the basic genetic structure and expression.  CRP thus effects healing at the cellular and genetic levels.  The changing of perception is part of the explanation for the healing effects of the placebo.  It may be our perception that it will heal us that initiates the mechanisms in the neurons and cells that do indeed heal us.

Important in this is REM consciousness.  Not only is it associated with the formation of cells, but it is also a direct means of communication at the consciousness and pure energy level.  This may be the common language that communicates our perceptions directly to our cells and re-enforces these perceptions.

In the consciousness restructuring journeys, the most commonly reported image indicative of cancer among those who dream journey is a thick, black stickiness, a dark, oily tar-like substance in which one gets stuck.


Further reading on the concerns of Thanatos, death and rebirth include:

DEATH AND EASTERN THOUGHT, Frederick Holch, Ed., Abingdon Press, NY, ‘74.
ON DREAMS AND DEATH, Marie-Louise vonFranz, 1986.
RITUALS FOR LIVING AND DYING, David Feinstein and P. Mayo.
DIE TO LIVE, Huzur Maharaj Charan Singh.
SUICIDE AND THE SOUL, James Hillman, Spring Pub.
THE HUMAN ENCOUNTER WITH DEATH, Stanislav Grof & Joan Halifax, 1977.
LIFE AT DEATH, Kenneth Ring.

Bakan, David, Disease, Pain, and Sacrifice, Beacon Press, Chicago, 1968.

Clarkson, Petrushka, “Physis in Transactional Analysis,” TA Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4, Oct. 1992.

Harbison, Helen, “TA and Cancer,” Transactional Analysis Journal, Vol. 8, No. 4, October 1978.

Jaffe, Dennis T., Healing From Within, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1980.

Joy, W. Brugh, Joy’s Way,  J. P. Tarcher, Inc. Los Angeles, 1979.

Lockhart, Russell, “Cancer in Myth and Dream: An archetypal exploration into the archetypal relation between dreams and disease,” Spring: Journal of Archetypal Psychology, Spring Publications: Irving, Texas, 1977.

Miller, Iona, Pantheon: Archetypal Gods in Daily Life, Chapter 13: Thanatos, OAK Press, 1983.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., Mind As Healer; Mind As Slayer, Dell Pub. New York, 1977.

Siegel, Bernie, Love, Medicine, and Miracles, Harper and Row, New Yok, 1986.

Siegel, Bernie, Peace, Love, and Healing: Bodymind Communication & the Path to Self-Healing, Harper and Row, Inc. New York, 1989.

Simonton, Carl, Simonton, Stephanie, and Creighton, James, Getting Well Again, J.P. Tarcher, Inc. Los Angeles, 1978.

Swinney, Graywolf, HOLOGRAPHIC HEALING, Asklepia, Grants Pass, 1997.

Click here to email the Asklepia Foundation.
Asklepia Home Page Iona Miller Home Page TOP Table of Contents NEXT

P.O. Box 301, Wilderville OR 97543
(541) 476-0492    e-mail: asklepia@

File Created: 9/17/00    Last Updated: 3/7/00
Webdesign by Iona Miller and Vickie Webb.