Asklepia Monograph Series
PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC TREATMENT OF CANCER
CONSCIOUSNESS RESTRUCTURING PROCESS
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
WHAT IS CANCER?
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
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 bodies...it
is manifest that these beginnings be more evident in sleeping than in waking
In dreams is contained the power of signaling bodily disturbance.
Aristotle went further:
“...it 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
them...it 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,
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
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
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.
THANATOS AND PHYSIS
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF CANCER
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.”
TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS AND CANCER
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
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
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.
CANCER AND THE CONSCIOUSNESS RESTRUCTURING PROCESS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD, Evans-Wentz.
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.
PSYCHE AND DEATH, Edgar Herzog.
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,
Siegel, Bernie, Love, Medicine, and Miracles, Harper and Row, New Yok,
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.
THE INSTITUTE FOR APPLIED CONSCIOUSNESS
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