The Asklepia Foundation
"Journey to the Healing Heart of Your Dreams"
The Fractal Nature of Active Sleep and Waking Dreams
through Metaphor, Fetal REM, and Neural Plasticity
by Iona Miller and Graywolf Swinney
Asklepia Foundation, ©2001
Abstract: The hypothesis of Harvard biopsychiatrist,
C.M. Anderson (1998) provides some enticing substantiation for psychophysical
restructuring in the CRP Journeys. His work is centered around the
psychotropic and oneiric aspects of the shamanic entheogen iboga, used
by the Bwiti tribe of Africa, and more recently employed therapeutically
by Harold Lotsoff and Dr. Robert Goutarel for the elimination of chemical
dependency and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Drug-free shamanism
shares many common features with this therapy: initiatory waking-dream
journeys, shamanic guidance, quick life review, psychedelic states of consciousness,
spontaneous fetal regression, journeys to “the land of the dead,” and the
induction and facilitation of Self-organized Critical States (SOCs) which
result in restructuring of fundamental neural patterns.
Stress or abuse in early life leads to hemispheric asymmetry
which is implicated in a wide variety of disorders. CRP allows us
to “exercise” unused pathways and reinstate hemispheric synchronization.
Disorders of under- and over-arousal can be dynamically balanced, reinstituting
organismic equilibration. The fractal nature of REM allows us to
process and restructure old emotional patterns, at the sensorimotor root
by reviving neural plasticity. CRP facilitates the Self-Organized
Critical state (SOCs) which initiates cascading therapeutic reactions which
are robust and persist over time.
Keywords: emotional memory, amygdala, REM, psychedelic states,
self-similar stochastic fields, Orienting, PGO activity and oneiric states,
fractal nature of REM, developmental stress, Consciousness Restructuring
Process, shamanic healing, dreams, psychotherapy, spirituality, alternative
health, ibogaine, hemispheric asymmetry, fractal nature of REM, fetal REM,
frequency following response, binaural beat stimulation, ibogaine hydrochloride
Anderson (1998) hypothesizes that the ingestion of iboga (or its alkaloid
ibogaine, ibogaine hydrochloride) in a shamanic or psychotherapeutic setting
induces a critical oneiric, or dream-inducing state, in which fractal time
patterns of phasic events similar to those existing during fetal rapid
eye movement (REM) or Active sleep are recreated in the adult. This
dynamically destabilizes the functional connectivity of the brainstem and
its habitual interactions with the bihemispheric temporal lobe structures
such as the amygdala, creating a functional state of plasticity in
these areas which facilitates the reintegration of traumatic memories.
Psychopathological interhemispheric dynamics are altered, dissipating old
behavioral attitudes and patterns. This psychotherapeutic oneiric
state is similar to the complex behavioral states of REM sleep and attentional
orienting in that they all share the signature of the self-organized critical
Observed similarities between the neurophysiology of the REM state and
that induced by selective psychedelic drugs such as LSD or psilocybin further
substantiate this hypothesis. The dream-like quality of these journeys
and the emergence of discrete states of consciousness (d-SOC) exhibiting
particular imagery is reported by LSD-researchers (Tart, 1969, and Grof,
1988). Anderson highlights the common ground of REM sleep, orienting,
and psychedelic states.
Drug-free shamanic journeys using CRP can also enable us to “return to
infancy and birth”- to the life in the womb - by returning us to the uterine
condition (Grof’s parinatal matrices). It facilitates a condition in any
case very close to life in “the land of dead” (realm of archetypes and
NDEs) and so restores us to our own integrity -- our pristine condition.
In the Bwiti and Fang rites, great importance is given to the retreat
and the confession which precedes the initiation. Both aspects,
as well as purification are essential features of the Consciousness
Restructuring Process (Swinney and Miller, 1992; Swinney, 1999).
Ibogaine therapy and CRP share the feature that the imaginal material elicited
is easy to manipulate either on the journeyer’s initiative or by the mentor.
The therapist can stop to contemplate a scene, go back, explore an alternative
in a given sequence, bring a previous scene back to life, etc. The
ease with which the events in treatment can be manipulated and the fact
that the experience can be directed to desired areas in a flowing and self-emergent
way is probably one reason for its psychotherapeutic success.
All the while the journeyer reports waking dream sequences without loss
of consciousness or any illusions of formal deterioration of thought.
They report feeling suspended in the stream of time, and being shown where
their problem is. The key feature shared by both modalities is temporary
destructuring of the ego, followed by its restructuring.
Michel Jouvet and Sir Frances Crick have assessed the role of dreams in
the programming and de-programming of basic behavior patterns, resulting
in a new individuation of the human brain. They consider PGO waves
to be the principal coding tool that acts at the cortical level in recording
the genetic and epigenetic acquisitions necessary for the individuation
of the human brain.
Metaphorically, this “software-writer” aspect of the self allows one to
reconfigure the genetic and cultural programming much like changing the
file of a computer. REM then reboots the consciousness patterns with
the autoexec.bat file for habits, needs, and the manner in which
one approaches life (Miller, 1993).
In addition, through “chaotic” activation mechanisms, the PGO waves eliminate
from certain types of neuronal networks an informational overload linked
to pathological behavior. This what Debru (1990) calls “cleaning
out the neuronal circuitry.” Apparently REM sleep undergirds
a sorting out process among the “residues” stirred up by the PGO wave sleep
pattern and disposes of these residues during dreaming.
The principal difference between dreams and hallucinations resides in the
way in which the stages of wakefulness are organized, with the suppression
of REM sleep and the intrusion of PGO waves in the arousal (waking) stage
and in NREM (or slow) sleep.
The new organization becomes: waking (arousal) stage, stage of PGO waves,
hallucination stage, sleep stage, and it appears possible that hallucinatory
manifestations, the waking dream, eliminate “residues” stirred up by the
PGO wave pattern in the absence of REM sleep.
These visions are analogous to those at the approach of death, or what
are called near death experiences (NDEs) ; they are the same as those termed
normative visions. They include the characteristics of two phases
of NDEs (Sabom, 1982):
The Autoscopic phase includes 1) subjective feeling of being dead; 2)
peace and well-being; 3) disembodiment; 4) visions of material objects
and events. The Transcendental phase includes 5) tunnel or
dark zone; 6) evaluation of one’s past life; 7) light; 8) access to a transcendental
world, entering in light; 9) encounter with other beings; 10) return to
Strassman (1990) has suggested that the pineal gland is a possible
source of endogenous hallucinogens and this gland is also associated with
sleep cycle rhythms, and traditionally with mystical states of consciousness.
Besides the production of melatonin, the pineal may synthesize endogenous
hallucinogens in response to certain psychophysical states, and raise serotonin
levels in the brain..
These hallucinogens may belong to the tryptamine or beta-carboline family
of compounds. One compound (6-methoxy-1,2,3,4-tetra-hydro-beta-carboline)
has been proposed as the producer of rapid eye movement sleep. It
is concentrated in the retinae of mammals which may be related to its visual
There are several ways in which either psychoactive tryptamines and/or
beta-carbolines may be produced within the central nervous system (and
possibly within the pineal) from precursors and enzymes that are known
to exist in human beings. In addition, nerve fibers leave the pineal
and make synaptic connections with other brain sites through traditional
nerve-to-nerve connections, not just through endocrine secretions.
Serotonin or tryptamine levels are higher in the pineal than any other
organ in the brain. 5-methoxy-tryptamine is a precursor with hallucinogenic
properties which has a high affinity for the serotonin type-3 receptor.
Gucchait (1976) has demonstrated that the human pineal contains an enzyme
capable of synthesizing both DMT and bufotenine-like chemistry. These
compounds are prime candidates for endogenous “schizotoxins,” and their
production may be related to stress and/or trauma, and has been implicated
in the etiology of schizophrenia.
Strassman notes that both the embryological rudiments of the pineal gland
and the differentiated gonads of both male and female appear at 49 days.
Melatonin is a time-keeper for gonadal maturation and/or competence so
the pineal is implicated again. He suggests this may be the ontological
source of the tension between sexual and spiritual energies. The pineal
gland, as source of both psychedelic compounds and the gonads, source of
physical immortality, may work in concert (or oppositon) in the individual’s
development through time.
Stress-related hormones are implicated in pineal activation to activate
normally latent synthetic pathways, creating tryptamine and/or beta-carboline
hallucinogens. When we face stress or potential death, or in meditative
reveries, we “tune back” into the most well-developed motif of such experiences--the
birth experience. Perinatal themes and memories re-emerge.
Those with Cesaerean deliveries report greater difficulty in attaining
transcendent states of breakthrough and release during drug-induced states.
Maybe less fetal (or maternal) hallucinogens were released at the time
of birth. They may not, according to Strassman, have a strong enough
“template of experience” to fall back on, to be familiar enough
with to let go without fear of total annihilation, because lesser amounts
of pineal hallucinogens were produced during their births.
The pineal may be modulated in its activity by meditative practices, to
elicit a finely-tuned standing wave through resonance effects and other
techniques. It creates the induction of a dynamic, yet unmoving,
quality of experience. Such harmonization resynchronizes both hemispheres
of the brain.
Dysynchrony is implicated in a variety of disorders. Such a standing
wave in consciousness can induce resonance in the pineal using electric,
magnetic or sound energy, and may result in a chain of synergetic activity
resulting in the production and release of hallucinogenic compounds.
Thus, the pineal may be the physical representation of an attractor, or
“lightning rod” of consciousness. Pineal function may profoundly
affect consciousness at the time of birth, death, near-death experiences,
and during unusual psychophysical states such as CRP Journeys or meditation.
Stress or abuse in early life induces abnormal hemispheric functional asymmetries,
disrupting REM sleep and predisposing individuals to addictive and self-defeating
behaviors resulting from impaired interhemispheric integration. The
profound and persistent neural and psychological changes and vulnerabilities
induced by early trauma are revealed with EEG during recall of past trauma.
Further, abnormal hemispheric EEG coherence is associated with reductions
in the size of the corpus callosum, the bridge between hemispheres.
It has been proposed (Schiffer, 1997, 1998) that we all have two minds
or personalities, one in each hemisphere. They are like conjoined
Siamese twins, and their disharmonious struggles for dominance result in
a range of personality disorders. The emotional mind, largely in
the right hemisphere, may be damaged from trauma or abuse, and sabotague
the critical mind. We always know what we should do, yet we
do what we want, even when it leads to self-defeating consequences.
The hemispheres are meant to work in concert with one another. Debilitating
emotional disregulation results from hemispheric disharmony and dysfunctions
in the arousal system toward hypo- or hyper-tonic states.
The left hemisphere (with the frontal lobe) manages tonic activation for
the conduct of intellectual and motor tasks, and maintenance of vigilance
over time. It is mediated by the neuromodulators dopamine and acetylcholine.
The right hemisphere, in contrast, manages phasic arousal to maintain the
sensory system in readiness to receive and process new inputs from any
source. This system is cued by norepinepherine and serotonin.
An increasing number of disorders are being assigned to one hemisphere
or the other. Neurofeedback uses a number of protocols for the correction
of alpha asymmetry which is implicated in PTSD, depression, ADD, addiction,
OCD, anxiety, and a host of other dysfunctions. Human minds transcend
the hardwiring of the brain; dynamic brain plasticity is one mechanism
by which they do so. Physicist David Bohm called a noun a “slow”
verb, and we humans are constantly in dynamic psychophysiological motion
even if we consider our personalities to be “fixed.”
In ordinary waking consciousness the two hemispheres--linear left-brain
and holistic right brain--exhibit uncoordinated, randomly diverging
wavepatterns detected by the electroencephalograph. When we enter
a meditative state, these patterns tend to become synchronized, and in
deep meditation they exhibit nearly identical patterns.
In deep meditation not only do the left and right brains of one subject
synchronize, they can resonantely entrain with others in the vicinity,
as paired subjects synchronize. The “music of the spheres”--a
brain symphony, plays when hemispheric synchronization occurs, and both
lobes function in concert. A hemispherically-balanced mind is an
Lateral specialization of the cortex into two distinct and complementary
modes of consciousness reveals that the left brain excels at verbal skill,
linear thought, abstraction, rationality, and analytical thought, whereas
the right is more nonverbal, synthetic, global, diffuse, metaphorical,
dreamy, imaginal, perceives gestalts, and helps us with visual construction
and spatial orientation.
The right hemisphere gives us non-linear leaps of intuition and insight--the
a-ha experience. It is subjective, relational, holistic and time-free.
The right brain is the dreamer and artist. It gives us the startling
perceptual experiences produced by drug-free experiential therapy or consciousness
journeys, such as mind trips, bursts of ecstatic feelings or sequentially
logical thoughts, insight, followed by a cognitive evaluation period.
There is a possible gating-mechanism which seems to occurs in CRP when
someone recalls a dream or symptom. The influx of perceptions produced
by increased attentiveness and sensitization to sensory stimuli may overwhelm
the systematic sequential processing of the language hemisphere and invoke
the analogical integrative mode of the right hemisphere to consolidate
the perceptual flood. Yet, a whole brain is better than either alone.
Collective neuronal activity is modulated by rhythmicity, and this is what
is detected with the EEG. Neuronal populations coalesce to collective
firing when stimulated or processing. Then they desynchronize back
to raw signal. Desynchronization results from the superposition of
many rhythmic generators of different frequencies, each ebbing and flowing
from rhythmicity to desynchronization.
Rhythmicity regulates the entire spectrum of activation and arousal in
the bio-electrical domain by a process called kindling. The process
breaks down when synchronization or desynchronization of specific frequencies
persists or is disregulated, decoupled from the demands of the moment.
Self-recovery reinstitutes harmonization of formerly hyper- or hypo- arousal
states of the person.
Disorders of underarousal include unipolar or reactive depression, inattentive-type
ADD, chronic pain, and insomnia. Overarousal includes anxiety disorders,
sleep onset problems, hypervigilance, impulsive ADD, anger/aggression,
agitated depression, chronic nerve pain, and spasticity. Some forms
of anxiety and depression involve both under- and over-arousal. Some
instabilities arise autonomously from the CNS while other require an external
trigger for initiation. Early trauma creates vulnerabilities to both.
Over- and under-arousal indicate changes in sympathetic and parasympathetic
arousal, called ergotropic and trophotropic shifts. The ergotropic,
or energetic shift is characterized by a tendency toward higher sensory
acuity, external focus, sympathetic arousal, high motor setpoint, etc.
The trophotropic or tranquilized state is a tendency toward an inward focus,
less alertness, reduced sensory acuity, a shift toward vegetative functions,
and reduced motor readiness.
By stimulating the neglected neural circuitry, new pathways are created,
improving equilibrium and long-term change. Ergotropic and trophotropic
shifts are mutually inhibitory. To enhance one is to suppress the
other. Their dynamic balancing results essentially in a ‘tuning’
of the nervous system.
We can conclude that CRP helps us switch from left brain to right brain
dominance during the journeys, and that it facilitates neuronal restructuring
which reinstitutes hemispheric synchrony and the wider distribution and
amplitude of alpha and theta waves, reunifying the whole brain, (Miller
and Swinney, 2001).
The brain’s intrinsic bias toward homeostasis dictates that any process
which evokes a brain response away from its then-prevailing equilibrium
state will set in train forces to restore the original state. Thus
promoting arousal by focusing on fear and pain will first tend to produce
a shift, and on the other hand, set in motion a compensatory mechanism
by which the brain restores its opposite and enters a calm period.
Hence, even dis-equilibration can bring out improved equilibrium maintenance
as a long-term consequence. That dis-equilibration is the introduction
of deterministic chaos. CRP offers a regulatory challenge to the
dynamic system by taking the brain momentarily out of its prevailing equilibrium.
The brain responds positively to therapeutic disequilibration of the nervous
system by long-term adaptation.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the disequilibration occurs in one
direction (breakthrough therapy)or the other (meditation). Improved
regulatory function eventuates in either case. CRP is a method by
which the functional or systems level of the brainmind is addressed.
The functional process can be immediately altered and new patterns of behavior
and perception facilitated.
CRP leads to long-term dendritic re-programming and/or regrowth, and significant
reorganization. It “exercises” neglected pathways. Because it works
so quickly, the mechanisms involved in stabilization must lie principally
in the functional rather than structural level, at least initially.
Functional plasticity is undoubtedly mediated by altering synaptic coupling
strengths through the generation or attrition of receptor sites, and the
alteration of neurotransmitter chemistry through changes in neuronal gene
expression, (Rossi, 2000).
The functional plasticity of neuromodulator systems clearly exists on all
behaviorally relevant timescales. The dynamic range of neuromodulator
plasticity or flexibility can be increased where it is deficient, and stabilized
when it is unstable by self-organizing restructuring.
CRP simultaneously exercises neural mechanisms which control the fundamental
functions of arousal, attention and affect managed by the central nervous
system (CNS). It works through a complex web of inhibitory and excitatory
feedback networks. Both functional and structural change are implimented.
The left hemisphere aspects of depression and anxiety may have to do with
anticipatory activity, planning, ruminating, perseverating, worrying.
The right hemisphere, in contrast, harbors the non-rational, more catastrophic
of depression and anxiety, (for example, including fear, panic, agitated
depression, and suicidality). There are hemispheric specificities
for cognitive function, anxiety, depression, pain, sleep disorders, eating
disorders, endocrine and immune system disorders (Othmer et al).
Skills training for the right brain requires tasks that the left, rational
mode gets easily bored with--things it either can’t or won’t do.
In right brain mode we become unaware of the passage of time, are alert
but relaxed, excited but calm; it is relief to relinquish rationality temporarily--this
is the source of the age-old craving for self-induced altered states of
consciousness which bring meaningful satisfaction, (Edwards, 1999).
The hemispheres affect motor abilities also, since the left hemisphere
is hard-wired to the right side of the body and vice versa, with the exception
of a small percentage of left-handed people. Left-handers are generally
less lateralized; they tend to process language and spatial information
in both hemispheres. This creates potential problems or conflict such as
dyslexia, but it also can lead to superior mental abilities.
The hemispheres are virtually identical in appearance, though not in function.
The corpus collosum, which connects the two halves is larger and has more
connections in females than males. If severed, the two halves of
the brain continue to function independently with differing perceptions
and agendas. In fact, both halves are involved in higher cognitive
functioning, each half specialized in complementary fashion for different
modes of thinking. Their harmonization gives us the sense of being
one person--a unified being.
Research shows indications that the modes of processing tend to interfere
with each other, preventing optimal performance. This may be a rationale
for the evolutionary development of asymmetry, as a means of keeping the
two different modes of processing discrete. The corpus collosum is
the gating system between hemispheres. States, rhythms, and resonances
function beyond the realm of hard-wired neuronal connections.
In split brain experiments, showing a subject two different items or photos
for each side, a subject may incorrectly identify an item with the left
hemisphere, but the right lacking verbal skills to correct it, will “speak”
through the body such as by shaking the head “No.” The other way
of knowing is the source of “gut feelings.” While at the analytical level,
the subject will conjecture as to why that is happening.
Each half has its own way of knowing about our being and perceiving external
reality. Each of us is of two minds, mediated by the connecting cables
of the nerve fibers in the corpus callosum. Yet these hemispheres
can work together in a number of cooperative ways. There are two
discrete ways of knowing.
The main distinctions in hemispheric processing are between thinking and
feeling; intellect and intuition; objective analysis and subjective insight.
The history of science is full of anecdotes about researchers who have
a dream or intuitive hunch where a metaphor presents itself as a creative
The two modes of conscious can each be the leader or the follower.
They may also conflict, one half trying to do what the other knows it can
do “better.” Each has its own way of keeping knowledge from the other
hemisphere, and this is especially true when it comes to memories and patterns
locked in from trauma and abuse.
The Fractal Nature of REM and Metaphor
Patterns of bunching or clustering typically reveal an underlying
fractal organization inherent in nature. Living and nonliving matter
is organized into complex recursively nested patterns over multiple levels
of space or time, or spacetime (the holomovement). Patterns termed
fractal or self-similar are recurrently irregular in space or time, with
themes repeated like the layers of an onion at different levels or scales.
Fractals are nested patterns which are robust phenomena which persist at
all levels of observations.
Complex dynamics and fractals are ubiquitous in human psychophysiology
and feedback loops. They can be seen in the bunching or clustering
in the opening and closing events of ion channels, quantal release of neurotransmitters,
or the spontaneous firing patterns of neurons, heartbeats, or breaths from
the fetus to the adult.
As we have not failed to notice in CRP, Anderson reiterates that fractal
concepts provide an essential point of view for understanding brain/mind.
There are fascinating connections among REM sleep, attentional (orienting)
and psychedelic (or mind-manifesting, mind-expanding) states. As
in the case of his ibogaine hypothesis, CRP therapy intervenes in the cortical-amygdaloid-brainstem
loops in hemispheric disharmony.
To make a stronger statement, there are neurophysiological similarities
between REM sleep, orienting and transcendent states which have implications
for any dream-inducing operators, and CRP is one such drug-free operator.
In CRP as in life, these are more than conceptual or metaphorical links.
They emerge directly from our sensorimotor fleshly nature and bear on our
psychological and philosophical nature as well.
In many ways, we agree with Lakoff’s (1988) definition of metaphor as a
schema, “a unifying framework that links a conceptual representation
to its sensory and experiential ground.” His central thesis that
metaphors facilitate thought by providing an experiential framework in
which new information may be accomodated, forming a cognitive map, a web
of concepts rooted directly in physical experiences, and our relation to
the external world. This cognitive topology is a mechanism we use
to impose structure on space.
Another core idea of Lakoff’s is that clusters of metaphors describe experiences
better than any single metaphor can. Because of the ubiquitous nature
of clustering in fractal systems, we suspect that complex dynamics are
at work in our inherent experience of ourselves and our reality through
Thus metaphor is much more than a superficial phenomenon of language--not
a means of expression as much as a means of apprehension, which shapes
our thoughts and judgements, and structures our language.
Our perceptual experience is rooted in a few key conceptual categories
which Lakoff has defined:
1) Thought is embodied: it grows out of bodily experience
and makes sense in terms of it; we are grounded in perception, body movement,
and our physical and social character.
2) Thought is imaginative: it unfolds spontaneously in terms
of metaphor and psychophysical imagery, which is much more than literal.
This imaginal capacity is also embodied indirectly in metaphors and images
based on experience, particularly bodily experience.
3) Thought has gestalt properties: this is neither a
structuralist nor functionalist perspective, but one of radical nondualism.
Self-organization with emergent properties is a descriptor of dynamic processes
with a fractal blueprint.
4) Thought has an ecological structure: nature follows
the path of least resistance in its webwork of synergetic interaction,
and the ecology of systems depends on the overall structure which is in
constant dynamic motion. Thus thought is much more than the mechanical
manipulation of abstract or abstracted symbols. Symbols do not require
interpretation, but arise as emergent properties with inherent “meaning.”
Thought is strongly rooted in the neurology of the brain, in orientation-sensitive
cells, and center-surround receptive fields, the interface of the part
with the whole. The sensory-motor system is fundamental in this orienting,
as is metaphor which builds our neural maps. This allows sensory-motor
structures to play a role in even abstract reasoning.
Because of the link in this perspective between sensory-motor experience,
orienting behavior, and metaphorical apprehension, Lakoff’s notions can
be strongly linked to Anderson’s vision of interhemispheric reintegration
with its emergent neural plasticity, reorientation, restructuring, and
transcendent capacities, all of which he links to dream-inducing REM sleep,
with its fractal patterning. The same applies to CRP.
Our automatically called-up metaphorical perception continues in our sleep
life, and demonstrates that imaginal life is fundamental to our existential
perspective, rather than an artifact of trying to describe our experiences.
This harmonizes with CRP which empirically notices that the root of our
existential self-image lies in the sensorimotor root.
The onset of REM suppresses a complex network of serotonergic neuron cell
body groups (the S-Net) in the brainstem (the RAS and dorsal raphe nucleus,
DRN), and psychedelics mimic this action, as we suspect endogenous hallucinogens
do. During both experiences there is significant depression of the
electrical activity of the brain’s serotonin-containing neurons.
According to Anderson, therefore, “the change in raphe unit activity
seen spontaneously across the sleep-waking cycle may be the key to understanding
altered states of consciousness.” The key serotonin system may
function in a manner appropriate to a different behavioral state, such
as REM sleep while the subject is still awake--awake yet actively dreaming.
The PGO waves which induce phasic eye movements of REM are readily observable
via EEG and by inference through direct observation.
It doesn’t take a drug to induce the state. In the therapeutic setting
just the simple suggestion of its possiblity, permission, and a positive
expectation for the state allow altered states to emerge and unfold.
This phenomenon is well-documented in the literature of clinical hypnosis.
In neurological terms, the fractal patterns of reorganized S-Net unit activity
are allowed to emerge through an autopoietic process, in concert with dynamic
changes in other brainstem and forebrain areas. Many of the unpredictable
patterns of oneiric (dream-induced) behavior can occur.
1/f Fractal Patterns and Time-Binding in REM, Orienting and
Anderson proposes and delineates a connection between REM sleep and attentional
states, such as orienting. He contends that mammals in general are
in a state of virtually continual orienting during REM sleep, and relates
this to implications about discrete states of consciousness. He cites
experiments where similar amplitude PGO waves are evoked in cats during
normal orienting responses to loud sounds and during normal REM sleep when
external behavioral orienting is absent. PGO waves suppress the 5-HT
or serotonin cycle.
The 1/f fractal patterns typically seen in cat brains during orienting
to birds, for example, is linked to REM sleep, but not other types of sleep
and quiet wakefulness. This fractal pattern is diminished by serotonergic
antagonists. Wakefulness and slow wave sleep is not conducive to
the 1/f state. But the fractal pattern becomes very active at the
offset of these states, including REM, orienting, and transcendence.
Anderson concludes and defends that this suggests that REM sleep is, at
least in terms of 5-HT systems, a prolonged orienting response. And
we know from Lakoff, that humans tend to orient in terms of metaphors,
and cognitive maps based on sensorimotor experiential metaphors.
This creates unique 1/f fractal patterns of activities in time, and in
fact, is a mechanism of time-binding. Imaginal or physical movement
in three space can only take place in the 4th dimension of time, even in
For example, a metaphor, such as “love is a journey” implies a timeline
where there is an esoteric, ill-defined something in front of us, a history
which lies behind, and a plethora of tangential “roads-not-taken”
which vear off at all-possible vectors. This phase space functions
as a cognitive map of our motion through time.
Induced dream-like states have many of the behavioral and neurophysiological
markers of REM sleep without atonia, or sleep paralysis. Anderson
suggests this may result from sudden massive destabilization of the normal
behavioral-states-rhythmicity of the tonically firing S-Net, forebrain
and reticular formation. This effects a complex dynamic notwork of
interdependent dopaminergic, norandrenergic, opiod, cholinergic, and NMDA
recptors and systems.
Any means that switches dominant activity to the right hemisphere will
create a shift from normal attention to a dream-like state, much like switching
a channel. It can also jolt the S-Net and Reticular Formation (RF)
into a unique state.
This unique state, according to Anderson, “may require a return to activity
patterns more characteristic of fetal ontogeny to reinstate normal functional
organization.” In a sense, following treatment, the Reticular
Formation and associated brains regions are functionally “born again.”
To see how CRP may work through a “fetal REM-like” state in humans, it
is necessary to review the important role of REM sleep during development.
We must also bear in mind Anderson’s finding on the fractal-in-time nature
of fetal REM sleep phasic processes and their disruption by early stress.
He suggests visualizing these unique states with 1/f patterns, fractal
patterns whose complex cores are attractor-based. Fractals are objects
in space or fluctuations in time that possess a form of self-similarity.
Fragments of the object or sequence can be made to match the whole by shifting
and stretching. Fractals can be exact or statistical copies of the
whole, nested self-similar patterns and structures which emerge from this
Fragments of natural fractals are only statistically related to the whole.
Only purely mathematical fractals can be exact copies. In nature,
self-similar clusters have smaller clusters within larger clusters of clusters.
Clustering patterns, or bursts within bursts, are a universal characteristic
of spontaneous behavior in living systems of cells, neurons and the early
motility of embryos.
Biological systems thrive and grow via self-organized fractal bursts patterns.
Self-similar bursts-within-burst patterns are ubiquitous, and can be seen
in ion channel current fluctuations, neurotransmitter release, neuronal
firing patterns, the searching and orienting patterns of animals, and in
human judgement and decision making. Bifurcations or catastrophic
state-changes occur when the organism or system reaches the self-organized
The Self-Organized Critical State
Complexity theory is applicable to any level of biological or psychophysical
description. Its fundamental concept is that of the self-organized
critical (SOC) state, which describes how complex spatially distributed
entities, such as our organismic feedback networks, can interact across
many time and space scales. This describes the 1/f fractal patterns
and their seemingly random yet deterministic perturbations.
The SOC leads directly to cascading restructuring of the pattern, system,
or structure. The rule of thumb is that "changes that are twice
as big, occur half as often.” A dynamic system in the critical state
produces chain reactions of all sizes and durations.
The SOC is critical in generating patterns by which psychological processes
unfold through time. It is also fundamental to the emergent, persistent
structures which arise as consequences of this unfolding. They show
up at all psychophysical levels, including cognitive, behavioral, non-linear,
quantal, sociological, phenomenological, and transpersonal scales.
The Self-Organized Critical State appears in REM, orienting and transpersonal
experiences. “Under the influence” of the SOC we virtually
cannot distinguish our inside from outside; in a sense it turns ourselves
“inside out.” The imaginal experiences are “real” in that
they carry real consequences in the ordinary world.
REM, orienting and mystic journeys all share a common critical state that
exists throughout the brain and brainstem--patterns of interspike intervals.
“PGO spikes and other phasic activity during these states, are analogous
to sand slides or traffic jams of all sizes [ref. chaos theory] representing
critical fluctuations in neural activity and connectivity. The SOC
state during the orienting response, may facilitate rapid functional brain
reorganization in response to the qualities of the eliciting stimulus.
The critical connectivity that exists during these states may primarily
involve orienting synergies (among ocular, neck and facial motorneurons).
PGO waves may link this critical brainstem centered connectivity with limbic
and cortical structures such as the amygdala and temporal lobes.”
PGO spike density increases as tonic REM sleep begins. Therefore
REM may be a dense, coalescence cluster of PGO activity. From the
fractal point of view, REM sleep is a kind of fractal of PGO bursts.
With eyes closed, during the oneiric state, PGO-like spikes among amygdaloid
and brainstem sites could generate and direct waking dream sequences, according
to Anderson. This seems a plausible mechanism for phenomenon observed
in CRP Journeys, as well. Orienting of attentional states is directed
inward in the virtual environment, rather than acted out externally.
Perhaps this deep focus allows the S-Net pauses to allow sensory processing,
and possible motor system functional reorganization. For example,
Anderson offers the following in regard to ibogaine’s reprogramming capacity:
“I would go further, and suggest that complex habitual sequences of
motor output (e.g., drug seeking and drug consuming behavior in addicts)
represent hypercomplex sequencesof cortical-striatal- thalamic activation,
triggered by sensory dependent amygdaloid-brainstem modulation of the monoaminergic
systems during critical states. The power of ibogaine to break habitual
patterns of addiction may reside in an induced SOC state that disrupts
and functionally reorganizes this anygdaloid-brainstem system, in effect
resetting the brain/mind.”
Again, we can suggest that CRP performs virtually the same function, without
recourse to drug ingestion, thereby avoiding substitution of one chemically-induced
experience for another. Anderson thinks ibogaine works on many brain
systems to “drive firing dynamics into an SOC state with avalanches
of phasic events similar to that existing during early development.”
Clearly these same issues, experiences of ego-death, fragmentation and
annihilation, and perinatal imagery, as well as all of the other classical
transpersonal states of consciousness emerge spontaneously in CRP and are
most often associated with spontaneous self-recovery on a variety of observational
levels, indicating a fractal result, if not mechanism.
Biological systems are in a constant state of criticality and self-organization.
Critical states in developing brains may lead to the enhancement of synaptic
connections, sparing of axons, and synchronizing twitches that allow distant
regions of the organism to link and coordinate gene expression and neural-motor
development....Long patterns of bursting have statistical self-similarity...they
appear very similar to the bursting patterns of ion channels, neurons and
phasic REM processes such as PGO waves.
Self-similar clusters in time result in unusual statistical properties,
called Levy distributions. A unique property of these distributions
is that they lead to what is called “convolutional stability.”
These are stabile distributions self-similar over different sample sizes
or time scales.
Fractal clustering in the interconnected S-Net leads to knocking out the
activity of some nodes and results in atypical fluctuations in 5-HT release
in different brain regions. These fractal flucuations in S-Net activity
may synergize with other neurotransmitter systems to bring new qualities
to self-organized critical oneiric states, resulting perhaps in enhanced
dopamine release in the anygdala and prefrontal areas. We might conjecture
that an endogenous 5-HT reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) may prolong S-Net reorganization
Fractal REM and Neural Plasticity
Most of the research on REM and fractal structure has been done only on
sheep, but can be interpolated for our purpose. The REM-like sleep
state is pervasive during fetal life, and development of the brain and
behavior. In 1996, Drs. Mandell and Anderson “proposed that the
correlated fractal bursting nature of REM, or Active sleep, as it is sometimes
called in the fetus and newborn, provides an invariant Levy temporal framework
in which cortical and subcortical networks can organize and consolidate
Findings show that phasic REM associated events, “at least during development,
are not fundamentally independent random processes, as they are attributed
in Allan Hobson’s activation-synthesis model of REM sleep, but are rather
fractal in time. Anderson asserts that “fractal Levy processes
can be used to characterize the phasic events associated with fetal and
adult REM sleep, such as eye movements, and may have great significance
in understanding the relationship between REM sleep, neural plasticity,
and ibogaine therapy.”
Again, we would contend, similar statements can be made for CRP.
Anderson asks himself the same question which has piqued Graywolf Swinney:
do fetuses spend most of their time and energy in a state with strong similarities
to adult REM sleep? Why is REM such an important component of our
lives? In fact, REM sleep is almost as essential for life as water
and food. Could the fractal properties of REM sleep in fetal animals
provide a common thread between fetal and adult REM and insights into disorders
of REM sleep?” CRP would suggest, it illuminates most all disorders,
not only sleep disorders.
For example, “Disturbances of phasic REM processes are also a common
thread in many disorders of sleep in infants, children and adults.
As mentioned earlier, PTSD is linked to a fundamental disturbance of phasic
REM sleep mechanisms resulting in recurrent stereotypical anxiety dreams
as well as disturbed limbic system and brain stem-mediated functions such
as abnormal startle responses. Chronic abuse of many drugs results
in alterations of phasic REM sleep processes.”
Another avenue is that temporal lobe dysfunctions involving limbic structures
such as the amygdala and hippocampus are frequently associated with sleep
disturbances, and even sleep walking. Hemispheric asymmetries, resulting
fro lateralized temporal lobe dysfunction and alterations of commissural
development can be the aftermath of childhood stress or trauma.
Most theories of adult REMS function ignore its central role in fetal life.
Most claim that adult and fetal REMS are too different to be considered
relevant to adult behavior. But Anderson describes how alterations
in the vertical and horizontal consolidation of self-similar bursting patterns
of phasic sleep events can provide a conceptual bridge between the disorders
of REM sleep in adults and in children.
This conclusion underies his hypothesis of bihemispheric reintegration.
Trauma or drug abuse history is strongly correlated with asymmetric
hemispheric functioning. We have seen from Neurofeedback and Hemi-Synch
research that this reintegration is fundamental to resetting the system
back to healthful conditions, almost irrespective of the presenting disorder.
Amygdaloid stimulation evokes significantly increased PGO number, spike
and burst density. Regional cerbral bloodflow in the human amygdala
is positively correlated with REM sleep. The parabrachial regions
is also involved in alerting and in the generation of REM and PGO waves.
Also cholinergic activation of the central nucleus produces long-term facilitation
The amygdala receives most of its serotonergic innervation from DRN which
has a strong inhibitory influence upon amygdaloid neurons. Asymmetric
activation of the amygdaloid-parabrachial pathways results in abnormal
sleep architecture and prounounced changes in the patterns of phasic REM
Eye movements in normal children on the whole do not become organized into
bursts until 40 weeks gestational age; thereafter changes in the clustering
of the bursts of eye movements (EM) are correlated with developmental age.
From 2-24 weeks postnatal, total REM decreases. Between 3 months
- 5 years of age, a major organizational cchange occurs in the patterns
of EMs, marked by the increasing tendency of bursts of EMs to cluster,
with more and shorter EMs packed in bursts within bursts.
Other research shows that maternally deprived neonatal rats showed a decrease
in certain key fractal patterning. Maternal deprivation, a model
of early abuse, results in alterations of fractal measures of clustering,
and these shifts persist into adult spontaneous activity. Early deprivation
results in disruptions into adulthood, similar to symptoms of PTSD associated
with child abuse.
Lasting changes in the amount or pattern of phasic activity associated
with REM sleep appears to be one common thread linking PTSD and other sleep
disorders in children and adults. Functionally asymmetric cortical-amygdaloid-parabrachial
pathways could also be a critical common factor in PTSD and other disorders,
Transformationss in the quantities or characteristics of phasic REM processes
may be a compensatory mechanism by which the brain attempts to reestablish
horizontal and vertical consolidation through correlations inherent in
the clustering process.
We allege that CRP treatment helps correct hemispheric asymmetry, phasic
REM processes and the psychobiology of the amygdaloid complex.
CRP Journeys are an experience of dream-like states, except that participants
are awake and can respond. Images appear, especially after eyes are
closed, often leading to rapid visual presentation of various images.
Often journeys lead to specific reviewing of traumatic events or circumstances
from childhood and/or disorders. There are distortions of time perception,
and the dream experience is perceived to take much less time than clock-time.
Following re-entry, a period of intensive reevaluation of previous life
experiences can take place.
The Pervasive Oscillatory Sound
Anderson speaks of the disturbing effect of lights and sounds, which might
result from loss of normal global habituation due to RF destabilization,
resulting in fear and/or rage. Again, trauma and drug abuse history is
strongly associated with asymmetric hemispheric function. Temporal
lobe structures such as the hippocampus and amygdala are particularly sensitive
to the effects of child abuse and trauma.
Anderson conjectures the oscillatory sound could indicate rapid shifting
or cycling of attentional resources between the left and right hemispheres,
downshifting the normally constant 10 Hz rhythmicity of the olivocerebellar
system. This oscillatory auditory effect may function as an auditory
driver. The downshift effect may indicate possible flooding of the
left hemisphere by material from the uninhibited right which takes over
primary conscious focus. This sets the stage, along with phasic fluctuations
of the S-Net and uninhibited PGO, for the sudden onset of the SOC state
and the waking dream period.
Anderson alludes to “waking dreams as a healing journey through the
fractal hyperspace of emotionally indexed childhood memories.”
He asserts that “the basolateral amygdala (BLA) is a critical neural substrate
of the waking dream stage as fractal neural bursting in this subcortical
cortex-like structure may represent access points in a fractal hyperspace
of emotionally indexed memories.”
“The effects of early trauma on the development of the amygdala and
other temporal lobe structures may interfere with its normal bilateral
function during REM-sleep mediated consolidation of emotionally significant
events. The recall of traumatic childhood experiences in adults,
due to the immaturity of limbic structures at the time of trauma, may require
electrical stimulation or intensive PGO-like activity present during the
oneiric state. Habitual disruption of normal sleep processes by stress
asssociated with combat, bereavement, divorce, child abuse, neglect or
chronic drug abuse interferes with the natural restorative function of
phasic REM processes.”
This exacerbates physiological and psychological addictions and rigidifies
emotional traumas into PTSD and chronic hemispheric imbalance. CRP
therapy may help to free these rigidities, restoring some degree of healthy
The amygdala is the meeting place of emotions and the mind. We each
have bilaterally interacting right and left amygdala which give us our
internal emotional experiences by processing and attaching affective response
to the rich flow of information from all the five senses and modulating
our perception of the autonomic centers in the brain.
Persinger insists that positive images (gods, angels, and light beings)
emerge from the left lobe, while negative, daemonic imagery stems from
the right. Echoing these attributions, Anderson adds that fear and
anxiety are the most common feelings evoked frequently from the right amygdala.
Direct electrical stimulation of the right BLA demonstrates that brain
and mind meet to generate and bring to awareness the associated memories
and emotions of a traumatic experience. CRP, like ibogaine, may evoke
the appropriate fluctuating milieu of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators
to trigger a SOC state in the BLA, amygdaloid-brainstem pathways, and extrastriate
areas activated during dreaming
BLA cells have a unique morphology, pyramidal, or tetrahedrally omnidirectionally
interwoven. This indicates the geometry of synergetics and an information-flow
programmed for “the path of least resistance.” This connectivity
is specialized for non-sequential interactions over multiple timescales,
or broad-band synchronization.
Distortions of time perception, Anderson thinks, may reflect the “rescaling
in time” afforded by the fractal bursting of BLA pyramidal cells during
this critical state. We can speculate that the role of common SOC
states in the amygdalae, extrastriate cortex and brainstem, form the emotional
and visual substrates for CRPs “experiential” dream-like phenomena.
After the abrupt end of the SOC dream-like state and rapid image experience,
subjects are able to reflect on and integrate the experience. The
journeyer has experienced “the big picture” and has a unique perspective
on his or her life. Experiential recall of trauma struggles helps
bring resolution and getting in touch with soul, or a feeling of oneness
with the universe, or other unitive expressions. CRP may function
as a kind of facilitated “REM-rebound” process, making up for sleep loss
since trauma or abuse first affected sleep architecture.
After sojourners recover from their “journey to the land of the dead,”
they are reborn socially. But they return with the fractal perspective
of the “long-view.” Although the brain generates long-range correlations,
abuse, trauma and the cumulative stress of modern life can quickly destroy
these correlations, so CRP is complimented with coventional forms of support,
follow up, and reintegration.
The traumatic abuse that may result in functionally abnormal hemispheric
interactions precipitates in emotional instability and addictive behaviors.
CRP works through multiple neurotransmitter systems to create within amygdaloid-brainstem
systems a self-organized critical oneiric state or state of plasticity,
similar to states of plasticity existing during fetal development.
This critical brain state may facilitate the consolidation of traumatic
memories, reversal of abnormal hemispheric function and the dissolution
of habitual motor patterns associated with addiction.
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