The Ionasphere
Extrasensory Science - Technoshamanism

PART II of Neurotheology 101


Iona Miller, ©2001
Institute for Consciousness Science & Technology

Introduction to Technoshamanism
Neural Plasticity
The Proto-Self
Chaos as the Universal Solvent
Medical Applications of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

"We have the technology. . .we can rebuild him. . .
better than he was before. . .better, stronger, faster. . ."

Introduction to Technoshamanism

Are there things we should not know?  There are many responses to the impulse toward experience, therefore, we pass through the essential stage of experience on the way to widom.  But it remains a stage, not an end in itself.  Religion generally answers yes to the question, while philosophy answers no.  But before philosophy and the dogma and dictates of religion, before forbidden knowledge and forbidden fruit, there was shamanism.

Shamanism was the primordial spirituality of humankind.  Evidence of our spiritual evolution is at least 50,000 years old, and is implied by the earliest ritual burials.  Shamanism is still practiced throughout the world, particularly in third-world countries, which might more properly be referred to as first-world countries.  The drive to experience the inner realm of being is universal and reflected in the myriad ways the majority of human cultures find to incubate alternative phases of consciousness. Technoshamanism is the integration of futuristic technology with ancient pathways of the past.  It implies access to full-immersion experiences, virtual realities which have consequences in the real world.

The world of the shaman is the world of the spirits, uncanny powers, psychic phenomena, initiation, altered states, dreams, death, rebirth, and healing.  It is the realm of body, faith, trust, disruption, dissolution, intuition, mysticism, transcendence, psychedelia, cosmic consciousness, sex and madness vs. intellect, morality, dogma.  Under the influence of a shaman, an initiate may attain direct transpersonal experience that vivifies multiple realities.  Shamanism means mastery of the sensorium, the symbolic world.  To the extent that the shaman has great power, he penetrates deeply into the basic roots of the structuralizing process, and brings that information back.

Shamanic personalities work at the edge of chaos where it is often difficult to distinguish spiritual emergence from spiritual emergency, bloom or doom.  Technoshamanism is connecting contemporary society with the mythic roots of humanity.  Shamanism is beyond time; it's a primal spirit.  Anything that is created is linked into that spirit.  Technology is the interface between what exists now and what is coming into existence.

We are all capable of transcendent awareness, of becoming shamans.  The shaman is a shaman because he has been empowered by treading the road others wish to follow.  The shaman is a symbol to others of their projection of a degree of personal insight and growth.  The shamanic principle is ubiquitous to religion, healing, and transpersonal activities simply because its activity is essential to neurocognitive and physiological development.  The inner shaman is a percept which penetrates to our neurocognitive intentionalities: exploration of self and multiple worlds, transformation, and social flow.

Shamanism has enjoyed a resurgence in the West from a variety of sources including raves, yoga, fen shui, martial arts, Tibetan Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Amazonian shamanism, Sufism to Voodoo, and more.  All these technologies, (a primary hallmark of modern humans), involve ritualistic forms for altering states of consciousness, with and without psychotropic drugplants.  Like traditional magick and ritual, they rely heavily on accessing multisensory cues, emotions, dreams and imagination.  They range from temporary rites of passage to stabilized lifestyles.

Art and music have played a big role in emergence of this technoshamanic spirit, especially explicitly shamanic artists, such as performance artist and musician Genesis P-Orridge whose outlandish role in magick, psychedelics, sexual freedom, and organizing raves led to his being the first person exiled from his homeland England in 250 years.  The electronic occulture is dancing through the doors of perception into a hyperspatial reality.  It is a pilgrimage into the mind out of time, the body out of space, and the universal spirit that beckons beyond.  This story is told through ceremony and ritual, music and dance, sight and source, science and religion.  Written with living light, it fosters a reunion with the sacred, the Divine, the Other.

Technoshamanism is the process of altering consciousness through technology.  It implies using the healing and mind altering techniques of ancient shamanism combined with modern technologies for altering consciousness, and the holistic mindbody.  An archetypal example of a highly developed technology is the Asklepian Dream Temples of ancient Greece, where the afflicted went for cures through healing dream incubation when medical treatments had failed.  The cures came not from the priests or any interpretations, but from direct contact with the divine in the dream.

It hardly matters whether these technologies emerge from disciplines such as shamanism (inner journeys), hypnotherapy (neuralfeedback, frequency-following response), psychology (process work), psychiatry (neuropsychology), neurology (TMS; Persinger's 'Relaxit,'; Murphy's 'Shakti', shock-ti), or anthropology (biogenetic structuralism).  The ends are often the same whether the aim is explicitly mystical, spiritual or psychotherapeutic.

Not all technologies necessarily involve hardware, wet ware or ars electronica, though in the future technoshamanism will undoubtedly evolve to include cybernetic enhancements.  A variety of research (Charles Tart's altered states; John Lilly's sensory deprivation tanks; Mantak Chia's 'Darkroom' technique), and the administration of psychedelics in laboratory situations (Grof; Strassman) can be included.

Postmodern process oriented experiential psychotherapies also fall under this rubric.  Among the notables are  Marshall McLuhan (Media; "The medium is the message"), Buckminster Fuller (whole systems; Spaceship Earth; Synergetics), Stanislov Grof (LSD therapy; Holotropic Breathwork), techno-shaman Terrence McKenna (Alien Dreamtime), stand-up philosopher Timothy Leary (Chaos & Cyber Culture), Jungian analyst Arnold Mindell (process-oriented psychotherapy), shaman/therapist Graywolf Swinney (Consciousness Restructuring Process), Ernest Rossi (Ideodynamic Healing), neurologist Antonio Damasio (Proto-Self Model), and RET (Rapid Eye Treatment, formerly EMDR) Therapies.

All begin to alter consciousness with a variety of traditional shamanic techniques, and proceed through an experiential journey, again in the shamanic tradition.  The commonlity among the therapies is facilitation and exploitation of natural process in the stream of consciousness, the 'waking dream,' or REM state.  Waking dreams can be induced through  techniques which function to drive the state, such as ritual, hypnosis, intense breathing, drumming, dancing, chanting, imagery, meditation, etc.  In neurological terms, they facilitate neural plasticity and exercise or reprogramming of neural circuits.

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
--Antoine de Saint Exupery


July 6, 2001, National Post

Why we all like Picasso
It's all about brain wiring: 
Painters, composers, poets find new neural pathways to beauty

by Joseph Brean

Beauty leaves a physical imprint of its passage through the brain, and new research has shown that certain brains may be more receptive to it than others.

Artistic geniuses may be more than cultural phenomena; they may be genetic abnormalities whose sensory faculties are in tune to the essences of form and colour, and they possess a sensitivity others can only imagine.

By revealing new and unforeseen neural pathways for beauty, painters, composers and poets have long been the vanguard of neurology, the science of the brain. Their achievements point the way to a future science of art, says Semir Zeki, co-director of the Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology at University College London.

Neuroesthetics, an entirely new field of scientific inquiry, has jump-started a debate about the neurological basis of art by raising new questions about vision, genetics and beauty and their commingled relationships, Zeki says in an essay published today in the journal Science.

Until recently, neurologists had to content themselves with studying objective descriptions of verifiable, physical states of brains, and to seek elusive links to subjectives states. But with the advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for recording brain activity, Zeki has been able to document what brains do in the presence of beauty, and to expand neurology into the study of personal experience.

"We have now moved to the stage in brain studies when we can profitably start asking questions about subjective mental states," Zeki says.

A Californian neurologist has posed some startling answers to these questions, such as his claim that everyone likes Picasso and that seagulls appreciate abstract art. Vilayanur Ramachandran, director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California San Diego has also identified eight essential rules for the perception of art.

He says his rules can predict which art movements will succeed. Furthermore, a computer can be programmed to follow these rules, and use them to distinguish art from junk, or to produce original pleasing images. Ramachandran stops short of claiming that neurology will allow machines to create works of human-like creative genius.

"[A computer] couldn't make a pattern that looks prettier than a DaVinci. At least not yet," he says of his rules. "Just because you discover Chomskian universal grammar, it doesn't mean you're going to predict Shakespeare. Similarly, you can spell out the rules and the laws for art, but how an individual artist exploits those laws is entirely up to him."

A key law is the so-called peak shift, in which an organism's response to a natural stimulus is shifted to an essentialized version of it. In humans, this peak shift shows itself in caricature, when political figures are represented by idealizations of their chins or haircuts, as well as in some Indian art, in which people are portrayed with several arms, or with oversized breasts.

He notes that such art was widely poo-pooed by Victorian-era men, whose wives were ironically bundling themselves in corsets in an esthetically motivated effort to shrink their waists relative to their breasts. Their criticism was that the exaggerated human forms misrepresented reality.

"They missed the point of art," Ramachandran says. "It's not about representing reality, it's about hyperbole, exaggeration, and idealization."

He referred to a groundbreaking study which revealed the importance of idealization in visual perception. Researchers studied the feeding habits of seagull chicks, who peck at their mothers' red-spotted beaks in hopes that she will feed them regurgitated food.

The scientists found that the chicks' neural response was not to the whole mother bird, but only to her beak. Visual systems seek to simplify the information they process, Ramachandran says. Since past beaks were usually accompanied by a mother bird and some nourishing vomit, the chick brains could ignore the mother's body and respond only to the beak.

But the simplification didn't stop there. The chicks didn't even need the beak to elicit a "time to eat" response; it was elicited just as well by a long stick with three red lines, which hardly resembled a real beak.

The researchers had found a neural shortcut, Ramachandran says, and it drove the chicks into a feeding frenzy.

This visual arrangement is a "hypernormal stimulus" that excites the relevant neurons even more than a mother bird's beak, he says. It is the neuronal essence of the beak, and reveals how a seagull's visual system simplifies the booming, buzzing world by seeking only very specific patterns, which have historically been useful for survival.

This visual arrangement is abstract art for seagulls.

"If the seagulls had an art gallery, they would hang that long stick with the spot," Ramachandran says. "They would worship it, pay millions of dollars, but they wouldn't know why because it doesn't resemble anything."

Abstract art, like Picasso's portraits, does not seem to resemble anything real either, and is "held up to be the ultimate example of the ineffable," Ramachandran says. But it elicits our esthetic response more strongly than even the most life-like photographs for precisely the same reason that seagulls respond to sticks. We are wired for it.

Certain cells in an area of the brain called the fusiform gyrus respond exclusively to facial images, Ramachandran says, but each cell responds only to one particular perspective on the face.

At a higher level of processing, so-called master cells receive input from all the lower-level cells and thus respond to all perspectives on a face. These master cells ignore perspective, which is exactly what Picasso did with his anatomically impossible portraits.

Picasso's art "liberates you from the tyranny of one particular viewpoint, and gives you all the views in one image, thereby hyperactivating the neuron I call the master face cell," Ramachandran says.

Picasso goes straight to your head, it seems. A perplexing corollary to this theory is that everyone likes Picasso, although not everyone knows it. And what's more, brain imaging techniques can prove that people like it.

Ramachandran says that judgments of dislike can arise when the stimulating visual information we receive from a Picasso is fed to the logical left brain. Logic can overpower the brute neuronal stimulation, and result in a dismissal of the art as frivolous, or impossible, or just silly.

"There's a sort of bootstrapping going on," Ramachandran said, "with messages going back and forth between the pleasure centres and the visual centres. There is no physical evidence yet for that, but we know the connections exist"

It has long been suspected that Van Gogh's temporal lobe epilepsy contributed to his artistic genius by fostering this communication, and Ramachandran says this speculation is supported by many patients he has met in neurological clinics. Patients have become artistically gifted in mid-life once they started having seizures, which may have helped them link seemingly unrelated things, he says. This meta-phorical linkage is fundamental to artistic expression.

Another of Ramachandran's eight laws, isolation, speaks to the maxim that 'less is more in art'. Sketches of nudes, for example, are often more esthetically pleasing than nude photos because the brain has limited attention, and needs to prioritize those things that get attention. The artist who sketches nudes is capitalizing on the genetic fact that the shape of a nude attracts a mate, not the cluttering noise of skin texture, colour and shadow. Ramachandra says the artist is revealing the rasa -- a Sanskrit word that loosely translates as "the essence of an esthetic experience" -- of the nude, which strikes the brain directly.

Zeki says the brain has discrete centres for form, motion and colour, and that artists have capitalized on this by stimulating each centre on its own, with monochromatic designs to hit the form centre, or kinetic art that de-emphasizes form and colour to hit the motion centre.

The funny thing is that these artists didn't know why their art was successful, and it took a neurologist to tell them.

Ramachandran is cautious about the conclusions that may be drawn from his studies of art, and their implications for the spiritual and transcendental nature of artistic expression.

He says that despite his reductionist explanation of art, his discoveries do not explain it away, in the same way that a chemical explanation of taste and digestion does not explain away a delicious meal.

Zeki claims that neuroesthetics will reveal the importance of art, by showing it to be an extension of the visual system, which exists to increase our knowledge of the world.

It is for this reason, Zeki says, that the philosophers who battled longest with problems of epistemology, like Plato and Kant, also devoted much of their time to the study of art.

Furthermore, art allows a safe outlet for all that is evil and sad about humanity, and gives fictional expression to urges that would otherwise be destructive.

"Art renders the destructive, isolating, and individualizing effects of genetic variability safe in its pages, canvasses, and scores," he says.

A conference next year in California will bring together philosophers and scientists to discuss neuroesthetics.

[from the National Post]

Neural Plasticity and Restructuring Consciousness

In the journal Chaosophy 2001, (Asklepia Publications), Iona Miller and Graywolf Swinney describe parallels between drug-induced states for shamanic healing and drug-free experiential therapy, which facilitates natural psychedelic states and spontaneous healing.  The article is entitled "The Fractal Nature of Active Sleep and Waking Dreams: Restructuring Consciousness through Metaphor, Fetal REM, and Neural Plasticity."

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 (psychotherapeutic or techno-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), associated with PGO spikes, 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.  Consciousness Restructuring Process (CRP), an essentially shamanic consciousness technology, 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.

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 state.

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.

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 config.sys 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 life.

Hemispheric Asymmetry

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. NREM is leftbrain; REM right brain.

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 “open-mind.

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 aspects 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 a 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 conflicts 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 callosum, 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 callosum 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 solution.

The two modes of consciousness 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.

Fractal Therapy:  The Fractal nature of REM

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 philosopher George 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 epistemological metaphors.

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.

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 virtual reality.

Self-Organizing Critical States

REM, orienting and mystic journeys all share a common critical state that exists throughout the brain and brainstem--patterns of interspike intervals.  Anderson proposes,

“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 during therapy.

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 changes.”

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: “Why 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 from 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 of REM.

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 events.

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.  It often leads into transpersonal or mystical experiences.  Following re-entry, a period of intensive reevaluation of previous life experiences can take place.

The Pervasive Oscillatory Sound

Anderson conjectures the "persistent 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 hemispheric balance.

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, thereby leading to psychophysical and even spiritual recovery.

The Core Self and Proto-Self as a Neurological Model

ABSTRACT:  Antonio Damasio’s identification of neuronal circuitry for the core-self and proto-self dovetails exactly with Graywolf’s independently developed notion of the dynamic primal existential sensory self-image, (PESSI), the most fundamental experience of self/not-self.  It is the existential hologram which shapes our reality, our perceptions of self, world, and cosmos, our perceptions of our sensory input and self-generated information.  Attractors work at the edge of complexity to form the existential hologram or PESSI.  The points of agreement between the sensorial proto-self and PESSI are presented and discussed in this paper, drawing heavily from Damasio’s anatomical descriptors and characterizations. Damasio covers nuances too numerous to include in this synopsis.  They are extremely important to neurological comprehension of restructuring in the CRP Journeys, and thorough understanding of these neural pathways will amply reward the CRP mentor.

The mysteries of consciousness are rooted in our basic life regulation processes.  The basic emotions function as basic regulatory mechanisms.  Primary universal emotions include happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, or disgust.  Secondary social “emotions” include embarassment, jealousy, guilt or pride, while background emotions include well-being or malaise, calm or tension--essentially degrees of arousal of either the sympathetic or parasympathetic systems.  The name emotion has also been attached to drives and motivations and states of pain and pleasure.

In THE FEELING OF WHAT HAPPENS: BODY AND EMOTION IN THE MAKING OF CONSCIOUSNESS (1999), Antonio Damasio outlines the shared biological core which underlies all these phenomena as follows:

1.  Emotions are complicated collections of chemical and neural responses, forming a pattern; all emotions have some kind of regulatory role to play, leading in one way or another to the creation of circumstances advantageous to the organism exhibiting the phenomenon; emotions are about the life of an organism, its body to be precise, and their role is to assist the organism in maintaining life.

2.  Notwithstanding the reality that learning and culture alter the expression of emotions and give emotions new meanings, emotions are biologically determined processes, depending on innately set brain devices, laid down by a long evolutionary history.

3.  The devices which produce emotions occupy a fairly restricted ensemble of subcortical regions, beginning at the level of the brain stem and moving up to the higher brain; the devices are part of a set of structures that both regulate and represent body states.

4.  All the devices can be engaged automatically, without conscious deliberation; the considerable amount of individual variation and the fact that culture plays a role in shaping some inducers does not deny the fundamental stereotypicality, automaticity, and regulatory purpose of emotions.

5.  All emotions use the body as their theater (internal milieu, visceral, vestibular and musculoskeletal systems), but emotions also affect the mode of operation of numerous brain circuits: the variety of the emotional responses is responsible for profound changes in both the body landscape and the brain landscape.  The collection of these changes constitute the substrate for the neural patterns which eventually become feelings of emotion.

Background Emotions

When we sense that a person is “tense” or “edgy,” “discouraged” or “enthusiastic,” “down” or “cheerful,” without a single word having been spoken, we are detecting background emotions.  We detect them through subtle details of body posture, speed and contour of movements, minimal changes in the amount and speed of eye movements, and in the degree of contraction of facial muscles.

The inducers of background emotions are usually internal.  The processes of regulating life itself can cause background emotions but so can continued processes of mental conflict, overt or covert, as they lead to sustained satisfaction or inhibitation of drives and motivations.  Background emotions allows us to experience background feelings of tension or relaxation, of fatigue or energy, of well-being or malaise, of anticipation of dread.

These responses are closer to the inner core of life, and their target is more internal than external.  Profiles of the internal milieu and viscera play the lead part in background emotions.  They are richly expressed in musculoskeletal changes such as subtle body posture and overall shaping of body movement.

The biological “purpose” of emotions is clear, and they are not a dispensable luxury.  They are adaptations which help us regulate metabolism or homeostasis and survive.  They underlie our autobiographical experience.  They are inseparable from the ideas of reward/punishment, pleasure/pain, approach/withdrawal, personal advantage/disadvantage, even the idea of good/evil.

Thus, the spectrum of life regulation includes a level of basic life regulation, emotions, feelings, and high reason.  From the bioregulatory level of reflections comes pain and pleasure, drives, and motivations.  Emotions are the complex, stereotyped patterns of response including primary, secondary and background emotions.  Feelings are sensory patterns signaling pain, pleasure, and emotions as images.

The substrate for representation of emotions and feelings is a collection of  neural dispositions in a number of brain regions located largely in subcortical nuclei of the brain stem, hypothalamus, basal forebrain, and amygdala.  In keeping with their dispositional status, these representations are implicit, dormant, and not available to conscious awareness.

They exist, rather as potential patterns of activity arising within neuronal assemblies, and when activated have a variety of cascading consequences creating an emotional state.  The internal state is composed both of the emotional as neural object (the activation pattern at the induction sites) and the sensing of the consequences of the activation, a feeling, provided the resulting collection of neural patterns becomes images in mind.

They lead to two mechanisms: 1) the “body-loop” of chemical messenger and neural signals which change the somatosensory structures of the CNS, and 2) the “as if body loop” which also changes the body landscape and sensory body maps under the control of other neural sites.  It is “as if” the body had really been changed but it has not.  The cognitive state can also change or alter one’s state, affecting filtering of information, cognitive processing, focus and imagery.  Consciousness is required for us to actually know we are experiencing an emotional or feeling state.

Core Consciousness

Consciousness happens in our interiors, but it manifests outwardly.  A three-way linkage between inner and outer operates.  1) Certain external manifestations, e.g. wakefulness, background emotions, attentions, specific behaviors; 2) the corresponding internal manifestations of the human being having those behaviors as reported by another human being; and 3) the internal manifestation that we, as observers, can verify in ourselves.

Absence of emotion is a reliable correlate of defective core consciousness.  Deep sleep is not accompanied by emotional expressions, but in dream sleep, during which consciousness returns in its odd way, emotional expressions are easily detectable in humans and animals.  Emotions and core consciousness tend to go together, in the literal sense, by being present together or absent together.

Emotions can be triggered nonconsciously, from unattended thoughts or unknown dispositions, as well as from unperceivable aspects of our body states.  Both emotions and core consciousness require, in part, the same neural substrates, and strategically placed dysfunction compromises both kinds of processing.

The shared substrates include the ensemble of neural structures which support the proto-self, the structures which both regulate and represent the body’s internal states.  Lack of emotion, from background emotion on up to higher levels of emotion are a sign that important mechanisms of body regulation have been compromised.

Core consciousness is functionally close to the disrupted mechanisms, interwoven with them, and thus compromised along with them.  There is no such close functional relationship between emotional processing and extended consciousness.  Thus, impairments of extended consciousness are not accompanied by a breakdown of emotion.  Neurological examples of disrupted core consciousness include epilepsy, coma or vegetative states, and deep dreamless sleep.

Damasio’s basic hypothesis is that:  core consciousness occurs when the brain’s representation devices generate an imaged, nonverbal account of how the organism’s own state is affected by the organism’s processing of an object, and when this process enhances the image of the causative object, thus placing it saliently in a spatial and temporal context.

The sense-of-self component is grounded in the following premises:

1.  Consciousness depends on the internal construction and exhibition of new knowledge concerning an interaction between that organism and an object.

2.  The organism, as a unit, is mapped in the organism’s brain, within structures that regulate the organism’s life and signal its internal states continuously; the object is also mapped within the brain, in the sensory and motor structures activated by the interaction of the organism with the object; both organism and object are mapped as neural patterns, in first-order maps; all of these neural patterns can become images.

3.  The sensorimotor maps pertaining to the object causes changes in the maps pertaining to the organism.

4.  The changes described in 3 can be represented in yet other maps (second-order maps) which thus represent the relationship of object and organism.

5.  The neural pattern transiently formed in second-order maps can become mental images, no less so than the neural patterns in first-order maps.

6.  Because of the body-related nature of both organism maps and second-order maps, the mental images that describe the relationship are feelings.

The swift, second-order nonverbal account narrates a story: that of the organism caught in the act of representing its own changing state as it goes about representing something else.  The knowable entity of the catcher is created in the narrative of the catching process.  This plot is incessantly repeated for every object that the brain represents, whether the object is present or brought back from a past memory.  Also it makes no differenence what the object really is.

This neural narrative is based on neural patterns which become images, the same fundamental currency in which the description of the consciousness-causing object is also carried out.  The images that constitute this narrative are incorporated in the stream of thoughts.  The images in the consciousness narrative flow like shadows along with the images of the object for which they are providing an unwritten, unsolicited comment.  They are within the movie in the brain.  There is no external spectator.

Thus, our subtle image of knowing, the feeling essence of our sense of self, and the enhancement of the image of the causative object dominates core consciousness.  Attention is driven to focus on an object and the result is saliency of the images of that object in mind.  It becomes fact, following the preceding events which lead to its becoming, and it is part of a relationship with the organism to which all this is happening.

It is a direct influence on the transient core self and the autobiographical self.  Unlike the core self, which inheres as a protagonist of the primordial account, and unlike the proto-self, which is a current representation of the state of the organism, the autobiographical self is based on a concept in the true cognitive and neurobiological sense of the term.

The core self inheres in the second-order nonverbal account that occurs whenever an object modifies the proto-self.  The core self can be triggered by any object.  The mechanism of production of core self undergoes minimal changes across a lifetime.  We are conscious of the core self.

The proto-self is an interconnected and temporarily coherent collection of neural patterns which represent the state of the organism, moment by moment, at multiple levels of the brain.  We are not conscious of the proto-self.  The mechanism of core self requires the presence of proto-self.  The biological essence of the core self is the representation of the core self is the representation in a second-order map of the proto-self being modified.

Regardless of how well autobiographical memory grows and how robust the autobiological self becomes, it should be clear that they require a continued supply of core consciousness for them to be of any consequence to their owner organism.  Autobiographical self can only be known when there is a fresh construction of  core self and knowing for each of those contents to be known.

Anatomy of the Proto-Self

Damasio outlines the brain structures required to impliment the proto-self:

1.  Several brain-stem nuclei which map body states and map body signals.  Along the chains of signaling that begin in the body and terminate in the highest and most distal structures of the brain, this region is the first in which an aggregate of nuclei signal the overall current body state, as mediated by the spinal cord pathways, the trigeminal nerve, the vagus complex, and the area postreme.  Included in this region are classical reticular nuclei as well as monoamine and acetylcholine nuclei.

2.. The hypothalamus, which is located near the structures named in 1 and closely interconnected with them, and the basal forebrain, which is located in the vicinity of the hypothalamus, is interconnected with both hypothalamus and brain stem, and constitutes an extension of those lower structures intot he forebrain.  The hypothalamus contributes to the current representation of the body by maintaining its current register of the state of the internal milieu along several dimensions, e.g. level of circulating nutrients such as glucose, concentration of varied ions, relative concentration of water, pH, concentration of varied circulating hormones, and so on.  The hypothalamus helps regulate the internal milieu by acting on the basis of such maps.

3.  The insular cortex, the cortcies known as S2, and the medial parietal contices located behind the splenium of the corpus callosum, all of which are part of the somatosensory cortices.  In humans the functions of these cortices is asymmetric.   Domasio thinks the ensemble of these cortices in the right hemisphere holds the most ingrated representation of the current internal state of the organism at the level of the cerebral hemispheres, along with representations of the invariant design of the musculoskeletal frame.  Jaak Panksepp also links body and self, by means of an innate representation of the body in brain stem.

Mechanisms for core consciousness and extended conscious are undergird by anatomical structures necessary to support the proto-self and the second-order map requird by those mechanisms.  Domasio puts forth this evidence:

1.  Bilateral damage to maps of somatosensory information, which form the neural basis for the proto-self, should disrupt consciousness.  The disruption of consciousness should be maximal following damage at the level of the upper brain stem and hypothalamus, where proto-self structures are tightly packed together, and less severe at higher levels (the cortices of insula, S2, S1; related parietal association cortices), whereas processing chains are spatially more separated.

2.  Bilateral damage to the structures presumed to participate in constructing the second-order imaged account of the organism-object relationship should disrupt core consciousness partially or completely.  Examples of such structures are certain nuclei of the thalamus and the cingulate cortices.

3. Bilateral damage to temporal cortices, including the inferotemporal region known as IT and the temporal pole known as TP, should not impair core consciousness, since in those circumstances the structures required to represent the proto-self, to process most objects to be known, and to create the imaged account of the organism-object relationship are all intact.  However, damage to the temporal cortices will impair the activation of autobiographical memory records and thus reduce the scope of extended consciousness.  The same applies to bilateral damage in some higher-order cortices within the vast prefrontal regions, which also support the records from which the autobiographical self can be activated.

4.  Bilateral damage to the hippocampus will not impair core consciousness.  However, because new learning of facts will be precluded, it will halt the growth of autobiographical memory, affect its maintenance, and, consequently, alter the quality of extended consciousness in the future.

5.  Bilateral damage to early sensory cortices concerned with external sensory information (e.g. vision, hearing) should not impair core consciousness except by precluding the respresentation of the aspects of a given object which depend on that particular cortex.  The situation of somatosensory cortices is exceptional since they provide part of  the basis for the proto-self.  Their damage is referred to in statement 1 above.

6.  Bilateral damage to prefrontal cortices, even if extensive, should not alter core consciousness.

The Primal Existential Self-Image in CRP

Damasio's description shares much in common with what is termed the Primal Existential Sensory Self Image (PESSI) in the Consciousness Restructuring Process.  It has many implications in terms of the nature of consciousness, disease, healing, and dreams.

Each symptom, illness or disease we manifest, whether physical or mental, is based in or reflects a deep self-image or dynamic consciousness structure.  It is a very primal image and exists on a sensory-level.  It defines our existential world-view, which simply means how we experience self, the world, and the relationship between the two.  Graywolf refers to this Primal Existential Sensory Self-Image as the PESSI.  It represents the deepest level of self and at the same time is one of a limited number of images (archetypal images) about which the self organizes.  It is the subjective experiencing of the existential hologram that shapes our perceived reality.

As Jung suggests, these images arise from even more fundamental principles of reality, which Graywolf calls "Archetypal Strange Attractors."  These are the principles by which reality organizes itself from the field of infinite possibilities, (implicate order or chaos) into the structure of reality.  These structures also organize both our somatic and personality presentation.  They also hold in them the patterns of our physiological, mental and emotional diseases as well as our strengths and wellness.

In early attempts to describe the CRP, we noticed that when we reached the primal self-image (hologram) that held the dis-ease structure during journeys, it led inevitably into an archetypal imagery that seemed to transcend the personal self, yet there was still an experience of beingness.  These images were experienced on the edges or periphery of sensation but also seemed to go far beyond ordinary sensation.  They led to a deeper state of self/not-self from which a healing transformation seemed to rise out of chaos to produce a new flowing and easeful primal self-image, from which attitudes, behavior and somatic presentation change from within, very fundamentally.

As the journey process was further explored, it became apparent that this sensory/pre-sensory imagery appeared regularly just beyond the dynamics/imagery of the illness and just beyond the primal existential sensory self-image.  At first they all seemed chaotic or without any apparent structure, but on deeper observation resemble fractal images in both form and dynamics.  They are the principles about which universal reality seems to form.

In our earliest formative conditions, while the structures of body and mind are still forming and flexible and while we are in our "initial conditions," these archetypal attractors are operating to form our existential hologram.  They shape our perceptions of reality, create our personal structures of self and reality out of unbound consciousness field.  The attractors work at the edge of complexity to form the existential hologram or PESSI.  Incorporated into it are the experiences that shaped it.  In turn this shapes our perceptions.

The PESSI image creates our model of reality and that defines self and universe to us; it in turn shapes our perceptions from the input of our senses.  Rooted in this dynamic existential sensory self image or hologram are the dis-easeful dynamic consciousness patterns that shape the more superficial levels of somatic and psychic structures.  This is the level at which we encounter the interference patterns that underlie our personal existential hologram, (Personal Mythology), and it is experienced as shifting energy patterns of sensations and sub-sensations.  When the sojourner is invited to identify with these patterns or to yield to them, they inevitably are led into chaotic or unformed consciousness wherein the quantum shift to healing process seems to occur.

The part is the whole.  The belief system rests on the shoulders of this system that in turn supports the emotion-thinking interplay, that in turn supports and shapes the behavior-somatic symptoms.  It becomes realized as outer reality.  One's beliefs conform to this dynamic image and by and large these dynamics of the PESSI also limit our sensory input.  They are a deeply ingrained sensory neural pattern.  We ultimately reproduce and confirm this pattern at the behavioral and symtomatic levels.

The Primal Existential Sensory Self Image (PESSI) underlies and conditions all perceptions of self, other, and world.  The PESSI represents the focal point of the self.  The PESSI is the deepest level of consciousness dynamics in which there is a defined self and not-self.  What we sense is processed into our perceptions of reality by the dynamics of this consciousness structure.  The most fundamental consciousness dynamics form the physical-psychic self of the mindbody.  It is in these structures and dynamics that quantum shifts from diseased to healthy consciousness process seems to be initiated.  The deepest processes of natural healing must then occur there.  Holographic theory about the nature of reality and our perceptions enriches our understanding about how natural healing might work at this creative level.

In the perceptual hologram (interference pattern), resides the fundamental basis of our structure and our sense of self and external environment, including our health and illness in both our physiological and psychological being.  It is here, at this level of our being where fundamental psychophysical restructuring occurs.  This hologram is what Graywolf has termed the Primal Existential Sensory Self-Image (PESSI) or existential hologram (existential meaning, sense of self, the world and the relationship between them).  He suggests that this inteference pattern of interacting and dancing waves may be one of the ways that we experience consciousness itself.  Even a small change in one synaptic wave emission can change this entire hologram or perception of self and universe.

Chaos Theory holds that the more complex a system, the more stable and self-correcting it is.  Disruption to a linear system throws it off course, but only affects portion of a complex system, which soon adjusts to "fill in the gap." Chaotic, unstructured or complex consciousness is the dynamics required for consciousness restructuring.  The restructuring of the PESSI in turn affects neural patterns (the existential hologram).  It is necessary to be at the initial conditions of the system for this restructuring to have maximum effect.  REM consciousness seem to be necessary to this process.

A dream starts as chaotic, unbound consciousness (consciousness field).  As it first enters into space-time its initial shaping (form/structure) is influenced by the primal frozen or bound consciousness structures at the deepest levels of our consciousness or memory (strange attractor).  The (attractor-memory-subconscious structures) are deep sensory patterns of our past experiences that themselves were formed in REM at earlier times.  These are what I refer to as the Primal Existential Sensory Self Image or PESSI.

Forming and reforming the PESSI takes place in REM.  Established consciousness patterns act as strange attractors to shape random neural firings into a specific neural firing pattern in the brain.  During REM the event may be relived in symbolic or actual form and re-enforced in holographic memory.  REM is the most complex brain activity measured and is associated with the formation of new neural pathways.  Thus, the event becomes recorded in the brain as a synaptic firing pattern.  A "neural organ" is formed, a relatively fixed part or function of the brain itself.  The firing pattern or sequence, not the locale, is the important factor.  It is associated with sensory stimuli which can activate the patterns.  This becomes a defining part of the PESSI.  The patterns also form the basis of organic dysfunctions.

These neural firing patterns (PESSI) influence the structuring of the chaotic energy consciousness as it enters into the (REM) sleeping organism.  PESSIs also underlie our behavior, (see the six zones model) and in fact every aspect of our physical-mental self.  REM is a creative state and also one associated with forming new neural circuits.  So in this creative-learning way the dream is processing data from the day, comparing it with data from the past and creating new neural connections.

When inactive, neural patterns are in a state of potential, or implicate order, ready to be expressed or activated when any one of the sensory inputs associated with it is experienced.  The sensory cues also act as strange attractors to draw it out of the implicate order to activate the firing pattern.  It is a very primal level of functioning so thinking cannot really alter this structure or prevent its activation, rather thinking and emotional patterns are formed from its activation.

This is one way, in fact, to describe the formation of all structure in the universe.  As the wave front collapses out of the field of infinite probability, and becomes photons, gravitons, electrons or "conscitrons" they are influenced in forming the patterns and interconnections that we know as the space-time reality by the forms already there (attractor).  In this way the formation of a dream is consistent with quantum theory.

But the real point here is that the shape the dream takes is basically also a self image.  It is closer to an impressionistic self portrait, but is none the less a self portrait.  Thus a dream is created on the edge of a complex (chaotic) consciousness field, is given its first shaping by the deep internal subconscious structures (internal strange attractors) stored at the organism's most basic levels and in that sense the dream, like consciousness, is self organizing.

CRP has an important contribution to make with respect to changing our fundamental existential perceptions.  In summary, the PESSI exists at the most fundamental levels of self and shapes the self and is the basis of our perceptions.  It is much deeper than behavior, thoughts and emotions, or even the fundamental belief system.  It contributes to these patterns and is the strange attractor that shapes these levels of consciousness structures.  It was in turn shaped by our experiences.  It defines the self.

CRP is able to access this fundamental consciousness-neural strcutre and free it to transform through self-organization to a more positive self image that affects the entire psychophysical self.  This changing of perception in the PESSI is part of the explanation for spontaneous natural healing.  REM may be the mechanism that directly communicates at the consciousness and pure energy level, the common language that communicates our perceptions directly to our cells and re-enforces these emergent perceptions.


Core consciousness depends most critically on the activity of a restricted number of phylogenetically old brain structures, beginning in the brain stem and ending with the somatosensory and cingulate cortices.  The interaction among the structures in this set supports the creation of the proto-self, ebngeners the second-order neural pattern which describes the relationship between the organism (proto-self) and the object, and modulates the activity of object-processingg regions which are not part of the set.

Damasio's provisional conclusions include the following:

1. Damage to the brain regions presumed to support either the proto-self or the second-order account of the organism-object relationship-disrupts core consciousness.  Extended consciousness is disrupted as well.

2.  The regions which supports either the proto-self or the second-order maps have special anatomical characteristics (a) they are among the phylogenetically older structures of the brain; (b) they are largely located near the midline; (c) none is located on the external surface of the cerbral cortex, and (d) all are involved in some aspect of body regulation or representation.

3.  Proto-self and second order structures constitute a central resource; and their dysfunction causes a general disruption of consciousness for any object.  Early sensory structures are involved in processing separate aspects of objects, and thus the disabling of one of those structures, even if extensive, does not affectgg consciousness in general.

4.  The regions whose damage does not cause a disruption of core consciousness constitute, in the aggregate, a large proportion of the central nervous system than the ensemble of those that do disrupt consciousness.

5.  Those same regions (e.g. early sensory cotices, higher-order cortices) are primarily involved in (a) signaling the objects and the events which come to be known because of core consciousness, (b) hholding recording pertaining to their experience and (c) manipulating those records in reasoning and creative thinking.

6.  The early sensory structures are also involved in the process of making consciousness.  They do so in a different manner--there is only one set of structures to support proto-self and second-order maps, while there are several sets of early sensory structures, one per sensory modality.  The participation of early sensory structures includes (a) initiating the process by influencing the proto-self structures; (b) signaling to second-order structures, and (c) being the recipients of the modulatory influences consequent to the second-order neural patterns.  It is because of the latter influence that the enhjancement of the neural patterns which support the object doess occur and varied components of the object to be known become integrated.

Medical Applications of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Brain stimulation with TMS is achieved from the outside of the head using pulses of electromagnetic field that induce an electric field in the brain. TMS has numerous applications in the study, diagnosis and therapy of the brain. TMS can either excite the cortex or disturb its function.  The concurrent use of TMS and high-resolution EEG shows that the combination is effective for mapping the functional connections in the brain.  Under EEG, a TMS pulse to the motor area of the left hemisphere is seen to move to the opposite hemisphere, suggesting a callosal connection between the two active areas.  The neuronal response to magnetic stimulation reveals cortical reactivity and connectivity.

TMS holds special promise as a tool to study localization of function, connectivity of brain regions, and pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. It may also have potential as a therapeutic intervention.   TMS has been referred to as "electrodeless" electrical stimulation, to emphasize that the magnetic field acts as the medium between electricity in the coil and induced electrical currents in the brain.  The proximity of the brain to the time-varying magnetic field results in current flow in neural tissues.

Neuronal depolarization can also be produced by electrical stimulation, with electrodes placed on the scalp (referred to as transcranial electric stimulation). Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an example of this. Importantly, unlike electrical stimulation, where the skull acts as a massive resistor, magnetic fields are not deflected or attenuated by intervening tissue. This means that TMS can be more focal than electric stimulation. Furthermore, for electrical stimulation to achieve sufficient current density in the brain to result in neuronal depolarization, pain receptors in the scalp must be stimulated.

A striking effect of TMS occurs when one places the coil on the scalp over primary motor cortex. A single TMS pulse of sufficient intensity causes involuntary movement. The magnetic field intensity needed to produce motor movement varies considerably across individuals, and is known as the motor threshold.  Placing the coil over different areas of the motor cortex causes contralateral movement in different distal muscles, corresponding to the well-known homunculus. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can be used to map the representation of body parts in the motor cortex on an individual basis.  Subjectively, this stimulation feels much like a tendon reflex movement.

Thus, a TMS pulse produces a powerful but brief magnetic field that passes through the skin, soft tissue, and skull, and induces electrical current in neurons, causing depolarization that then has behavioral effects (body movement). The TMS magnetic field declines logarithmically with distance from the coil. This limits the area of depolarization with current technology to a depth of about 2 cm below the brain's surface.

Single TMS over motor cortex can produce simple movements. Over primary visual cortex, TMS can produce the perception of flashes of light or phosphenes.  To date, these are the "positive" behavioral effects of TMS. Other immediate behavioral effects are generally disruptive. Interference with information processing and behavior is especially likely when TMS pulses are delivered rapidly and repetitively. Repeated rhythmic TMS is called repetitive TMS (rTMS). If the stimulation occurs faster than once per second (1 Hz) it is referred to as fast rTMS.

A key distinction between TMS research and work on the behavioral effects of exposure to magnetic fields is that TMS effects occur at or near intensities sufficient to produce cortical neuron depolarization. The capacity to noninvasively excite or inhibit focal cortical areas represents a remarkable advance for neuroscience research. As an interventional probe in neuropsychiatric disorders, rTMS has the potential of taking functional imaging one step further by elucidating causal relationships.

Experimental treatment of depression with TMS showed evidence that modulation of prefrontal function is linked to the efficacy of ECT.  Studies combining SSRIs with rTMS showed the rTMS group with a faster antidepressant response.  It is unknown whether the effect is region or  frequency dependent.  TMS is relatively benign.  Repetetive TMS does not involve anesthesia administration or seizure induction and has no obvious sequelae as does ECT.

There is evidence that rTMS can modulate mood systems in normal volunteers. Three studies found that rTMS over the left DLPFC transiently induced a mild increase in self-rated sadness, whereas right DLPFC rTMS produced a mild increase in self-rated happiness as early as 20 minutes or as late as 5 to 8 hours poststimulation.  As described, the mood effects of rTMS in patients with major depression may have an opposite laterality to those seen in normal volunteers. There has yet to be an investigation using TMS to probe the anatomy subserving the perception or expression of emotion.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation carries the vision of tailoring the site and nature of stimulation to individual needs. It is uncertain whether this vision will be realized and whether a treatment role for rTMS will emerge. At the practical level, rTMS research is not supported with the resources devoted to pharmaceutical development. Given the large parameter space, it is difficult to see how rTMS treatment applications can be optimized without considerable basic research extending from cell culture preparations through whole animal models, including humans.

 Stimulation of one hemisphere can inhibit or facilitate responses elicited in the opposite hemisphere, indicating interhemispheric modulatory effects.  Paired-pulse inhibition is reduced in focal epilepsy and enhanced by -aminobutryic acid (GABA)-ergic agents. Pharmacological manipulations suggest that intracortical paired-pulse inhibition reflects the activation of inhibitory GABA-ergic and dopaminergic interneurons, while paired-pulse facilitation reflects excitatory N-methyl-D-aspartate-mediated interneurons, and motor threshold is modulated by ion channel conductivity. These profiles provide novel methods to investigate local alterations in neurochemical systems.

Some preliminary studies suggest that rTMS effects on cortical excitability may depend on the frequency of stimulation. Manipulations of frequency and intensity may produce distinct patterns of facilitation (fast rTMS) and inhibition (slow rTMS) of motor responses with distinct time courses.  These effects may last beyond the duration of the rTMS trains with enduring effects on spontaneous neuronal firing rates.

To use TMS optimally, it is important to know how TMS is acting in the brain. Does TMS mimic normal brain physiology, or is it supraphysiologically depolarizing and activating different cell groups (excitatory, inhibitory, local, or remote) in a large region? Understanding of TMS mechanisms is being advanced through studies in animal models and by combining TMS with functional neuroimaging.

Neuroimaging studies have shown that TMS is biologically active, both locally in tissue under the coil and at remote sites, presumably through transsynaptic connections. Several studies have shown that the different parameters used in rTMS (location, intensity, frequency) affect the extent and type of neurophysiological alterations. Thus, there is considerable promise that functional imaging research will help elucidate basic TMS effects and the roles that different TMS parameters exert in modulating these effects. Theoretically, this may advance clinical research, particularly if combinations of location, intensity, and frequency are found to have divergent effects on neuronal activity. Transcranial magnetic stimulation imaging studies can be divided into 2 main categories: (1) using imaging to guide TMS coil placement and understand the spatial distribution of TMS magnetic fields in the brain, and (2) using imaging to measure TMS effects on neuronal activity.

Bohning et al demonstrated that an MRI scanner can be used to display the TMS magnetic field (producing a phase map; Figure 2). This work confirmed that the TMS field is not altered appreciably by head geometry. Further, by combining several TMS coils with different relative orientations, this technique can measure in 3 dimensions the capacity to focus and combine magnetic fields. Ultimately, TMS coil arrays combined with MRI may target deep brain structures.  Owing to seizure risk at moderate intensity, fast rTMS can only be given in short pulse trains (1-8 seconds) with relatively long intervals between trains (20 seconds).

A major hypothesis in the TMS field has been that fast rTMS results in excitatory physiological changes, while slow rTMS has inhibitory effects. To date, imaging studies have yielded inconsistent results regarding this proposition. In fact, some slow rTMS imaging studies over motor or prefrontal cortex have found decreased local and remote brain activity, while others have found increases.  Some imaging studies of fast rTMS have found increased perfusion, but not all.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is not pleasant, and stimulation at higher intensities and frequencies is generally more painful. The pain experienced during rTMS is likely related to the repetitive stimulation of peripheral facial and scalp muscles, resulting in muscle tension headaches in a proportion of subjects (approximately 5%-20% depending on the study). These headaches respond to treatment with acetaminophen or aspirin. Magnetic stimulation also produces a high-frequency noise artifact that can cause short-term changes in hearing threshold. This is avoided when subjects and investigators wear earplugs.

 rTMS has resulted in seizures.  The risk of seizure induction is related to the parameters of stimulation, and no seizures have been reported with single-pulse TMS or rTMS delivered at a slow frequency (1 Hz). There is a growing understanding of the rTMS parameter combinations (magnetic intensity, pulse frequency, train duration, and intertrain interval) that result in spread of excitation, heralding impending seizure. Even if therapeutic benefits are convincingly shown, the seizure risk may limit the widespread and loosely supervised use of rTMS. In part for this reason, the therapeutic potential of slow-frequency (1 Hz) deserves particular attention.

Gates et al performed histological examinations of the resected temporal lobes of 2 patients with epilepsy who preoperatively received approximately 2000 stimulations over this tissue.  Lesions attributable to TMS were not found. Magnetic resonance imaging scans done before and after 2 weeks of rTMS in 30 depressed patients did not show change.

Both TMS and rTMS can disrupt cognition during the period of stimulation. However, the safety concerns are about alterations in cognitive function beyond the period of stimulation. The limited investigation of short-term neuropsychological effects of TMS has not demonstrated significant changes.  Little information is available about long-term effects. The technique has been in use for more than a decade without reports of long-term adverse consequences.

The rate of cancer is not increased in individuals with prolonged exposure to high-intensity magnetic fields, such as MRI technicians.  However, TMS involves extremely brief, focal exposure to high-intensity magnetic fields and thus safety information from MRI technicians, or even people who live near power lines (lengthy exposure to low-intensity magnetic fields) may not be germane.

Controlled trials across a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions are underway, yet safety information is limited. Reassuringly, single-pulse and other TMS measures of cortical excitability are believed to be devoid of significant safety concerns. However, rTMS has shown potential to ameliorate neuropsychiatric symptoms. The potential for adverse cognitive effects must be considered precisely because it is hypothesized that rTMS is a sufficiently powerful modulator of regional functional activity to have therapeutic properties. More comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations of the short- and long-term effects of rTMS are needed.

ECT presents the one situation in humans in which seizures are provoked for therapeutic purposes. A reliable method of seizure induction with TMS may have important advantages over traditional ECT by offering better control over the intensity and spatial distribution of current density in the brain.  Developing a TMS form of convulsive therapy is largely an issue of technological advances in stimulator output and coil design. Such a development may also foster better understanding of the safety of nonconvulsive uses of rTMS.

Conclusions:  During the next several years, it will become clearer whether rTMS has a role in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. To date, trials in depression have focused on demonstrating antidepressant properties and have not demonstrated clinical utility. We need to know a good deal more about the patients who benefit from rTMS, the optimal form of treatment delivery, the magnitude and persistence of therapeutic effects, the capability of sustaining improvement with rTMS or other modalities, and the risks of treatment.

It is still too early to know whether we are at the threshold of a new era in physical treatments and noninvasive regional brain modulation. Regardless of its potential therapeutic role, the capacity of rTMS to noninvasively and focally alter functional brain activity should lead to important advances in our understanding of brain-behavior relationships and the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders.

List of abbreviations:
CT Computed tomography
EEG Electroencephalography
EMG Electromyography
EP Evoked potential
ERP Event-related potential
ES Electrical stimulation
FEM Finite element method
fMRI Functional magnetic resonance imaging
MEG Magnetoencephalography
MEP Motor-evoked potential
MNE Minimum-norm estimation
MRI Magnetic resonance imaging
MT Motor threshold
NIRS Near-infrared spectroscopy
PET Positron emission tomography
PNS Peripheral nervous system
rTMS Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
SPECT Single photon emission computed tomography
TCES Transcranial electrical stimulation
TMS Transcranial magnetic stimulation
3D Three-dimensional


 There is a generic process in nature and consciousness which dissolves and regenerates all forms.  The essence of this transformative, morphological process is chaotic--purposeful yet inherently unpredictable holistic repatterning.  The Great Work of the art of alchemy is the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, a symbol of wholeness and integration.  The liquid form of the Stone, called the Universal Solvent, dissolves all old forms like a rushing stream, and is the self-organizing matrix for the rebirth of new forms.  It is thus a metaphor or model for the dynamic process of transformation, ego death and re-creation.

The alchemical operation SOLUTIO, called "the root of alchemy," corresponds with the element water.  It implies a flowing state of consciousness, "liquification" of consciousness, a return to the womb for rebirth, a baptism or healing immersion in the vast ocean of deep consciousness.  It facilitates feedback via creative regression: de-structuring, or destratification by immersion in the flow of psychic imagery through identification with more and more primal forms or patterns--a psychedelic, expanded state.  Chaos Theory provides a metaphorical language for describing the flowing dynamics of the chaotic process of psychological transformation.

"All substances are part of my own consciousness.
This consciousness is vacuous, unborn, and unceasing."
Thus meditating, allow the mind to rest in the uncreated state.  Like the pouring of water into water, the mind should be allowed its own easy mental posture in its natural, unmodified condition, clear and vibrant.

                                        --Leary, Metzner, Alpert; 

To summarize, I have spoken of seven major aspects of SOLUTIO symbolism: (1) return to the womb or primal state; (2) dissolution, dispersal, dismemberment; (3) containment of a lesser thing by a greater; (4) rebirth, rejuvenation, immersion in the creative energy flow; (5) purification ordeal; (6) solution of problems; and (7) melting or softening process.  These different aspects overlap.  Several or all of them may make up different facets of a single experience.  Basically it is the ego's confrontation with the unconscious that brings about SOLUTIO.

                                                 --Edward Edinger, ANATOMY OF THE PSYCHE  


Alchemy had one great prescription for the accomplishment of the Great Work: "Solve et Coagula"--reduce or dissolve all to its primary, most fundamental essence and embody that creative, holistic spirit.  The ancient alchemists sought to transform "lead" into "gold."  We repeat this process as modern alchemists when we seek the transformative medium which allows us to recognize our rigidities ("lead") and facilitates our healing and expression of our full creative potential ("gold").  That medium is the ever-flowing river of our consciousness.

The organic, regenerative process of "re-creational ego death" is common to mysticism, experiential psychology, and psychedelic journeys.  Spiritual exploration, or soul travel, is shared by all three modes of immersion in the universal stream of consciousness.  They are all variations on the theme of the consciousness journey, and echo our shamanic roots, and the mythemes of eternal return and hero/heroine.  Participants reach a deep, integral level, and direct experience of Higher Power, often merging with the Creation or the Creator.

All these modes facilitate psychedelic consciousness, though any given experience may vary in duration and depth.  Their prescribed frequency varies: meditators are advised to "die daily;" in psychotherapy once a month may be enough for regenerative therapy; psychedelic use varies from single experiences, to monthly, to annually.  Despite different modes of induction, all these experiences reflect the illusory nature of time, space, and ego as reality constructs.  The primary nature of consciousness is revealed.

The word psychedelic has its roots in the Greek psyche, soul, and delos, visible, evident.  It is direct evidence of the soul, the pure manifestation of soul.  Stace (1960) identifies nine qualities of the psychedelic experience as follows: 1) unity of all things; 2) transformation of space and time; 3) deeply felt positive mood; 4) sacredness; 5) objectivity and reality; 6) paradoxicality; 7) alleged ineffability; 8) transiency, and 9) persisting positive changes in subsequent behavior.

In the practice of mysticism there is identification with progressively more subtle "bodies" or vehicles of consciousness, culminating in a transform from a mental or causal body to a vehicle of pure Light.  In experiential psychotherapy, transformation results from deepening within the flow of psychic imagery, progressively identifying with more primal forms, and ultimately with formlessness.  In psychedelic experience, expansion of consciousness dissolves ego boundaries leading to morphological transformations and ecstatic communion.

In alchemy, one sought not only to find or create the Stone, but also to apply it, or use it creatively in the everyday world.  Now, we might speak of integrating or actualizing the results of our transformations in daily life.  Thus, self-actualization or self-realization implies the grounding of the spiritual fruits of inner exploration.

The liquid form of the Philosopher's Stone was known as the UNIVERSAL SOLVENT.  According to the alchemists, the operation of solutio (liquification) has a twofold effect: it causes old forms to disappear and new regenerate forms to emerge.  To a rigid consciousness, the primal ocean of the unconscious is experienced as chaotic, violent, irrational processes of generation and destruction.

Through "creative regression," the generic form of ego death, consciousness recycles, recursively bending back upon itself.  The direction is a recapitulation of, a re-experiencing of sequences from earlier life, conception and birth experience, ancestral awareness, genetic and physiological recognitions, molecular and atomic perception, and quantum consciousness.

As consciousness explores and expands, ego dissolves.  Pure consciousness, the fundamental luminosity, is the ground state of unborn form.  The generic purpose of ego death is to liberate our embodied being, precipitating communion with and re-patterning by the Whole.  When all forms finally dissolve into unconditioned consciousness, the ground state of the Nature Mind is revealed as the mystic Void, the womb of creation.

When the constructed forms which hold personality together are voluntarily relinquished, consciousness "liquifies" and rapidly moves toward the unconditioned state.  Though easy to say, it is sometimes difficult to achieve such liberation from the mental-conceptual activity of the nervous system. When we do, the quiescent nervous system is open and receptive to the conscious recognition of pure energy transforms with no interpretations.

The Universal Solvent dissolves problems, heals, allows life to flow in new, creative patterns.  These new patterns embody the evolutionary dynamic.  According to chaos theory, free-flowing energy is capable of self-organization.  In consciousness this means that the obstructions to free flowing energy must first be dissolved.  Through re-creational ego death, consciousness dissolves into healing communion with the whole of existence, renewing itself, emerging with a new creative potential.

The need for the periodic destruction of outmoded systems implies the value of recycling consciousness through death/rebirth experience. The universal solvent is not ordinary water, but "philosophical" water, the water of life, aqua permanens, aqua mercurialis.  It is also the panacea, "elixer vitae," "tincture," or universal medicine.  To periodically dip into these healing waters has a tonic, rejuvenating effect which pervades all aspects of being, like a soothing balm.

This divine water signifies the return of The Feminine, a reflective consciousness with inner awareness and archetypal spiritual perceptions.  This Feminine Divinity is the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World, the universal animating principle, the upwelling spring of the creative Imagination, the dynamic flow of imagery, pattern, and form.  This dynamic has been known as Isis, Shakti, Maya, Shekinah, Sophia, Demeter/Persephone, Mary.

In psychedelic mysticism, the animating principle is being referred to as Gaian Consciousness (Abraham, 1992), which we might view as a rebirth of ancient ecstatic, communal consciousness.  It is the psychobiological basis of deep ecology, the flow of relationships.  The return of chaos heralds the "greening of consciousness," the greening of the cultural wasteland.

Hillman (1985) describes the anima not as a projection of, but rather the projector of psyche.  We are contained within Her fantasy, not She within ours.  Grinnell (1973) describes the transformative process of solutio which facilitates the fluid, mobile basis of consciousness:

For aqua permanens is a mode of the arcane substance; its symbol is water or sea-water, an all-pervading essence of anima mundi, the innermost and secret numinosum in man and the universe, that part of God which formed the quintessence and real substance of Physis, at once the highest supercelestial waters of wisdom and the spirit of life pervading inorganic matter.

The arcane descriptors of this paradoxical liquid Stone are cryptic, couched in metaphor.  But what does it mean experientially and pragmatically?  How does this chaotic transformative process engineer our consciousness?  The divine water, as a liquid symbol of the Self, can be experienced in many ways.  It has been described as  innocuously as the "stream of consciousness," and as poetically as the "Heart of The River of Created Forms."

Solutio implies the liquification of consciousness through the dissolution of rigidities which inhibit free flow.  They include roles, game patterns, defense strategies, rigid attitudes and beliefs, interpretations, complexes, "old" myths, and "frozen" energy surrounding traumas which manifests as fear and pain.

Fossilized or ossified energies create obstructions to free flow, like boulders in a stream produce turbulence.  Destructuring transformative processes can dissolve them, increasing the sense of flow.  This "liquified" consciousness is psychedelic, a nonordinary expanded awareness which dissolves fixations and habits, and loosens cramped attitudes.

Mystic ecstasy, or the psychedelic state is mind-manifesting, consciousness expanding.  It dissolves the identification of our consciousness with our histories, bodies, emotions, thoughts, and even beliefs.  We are free to explore myriad forms, structures, and patterns, and/or become formless, resting in that unborn, unconditioned, unmodified healing state.

We experience the essence of other forms of existence.  The Oneness of all life and existence is directly experienced through a variety of transformations ranging from plant and animal identifications to planetary and universal consciousness.

Entering the turbulent flow of the stream of consciousness, we can ride its currents back to the Source, pure unconditioned cosmic consciousness.  We can imbibe the life-giving qualities of this "water" through mind-expanding experiential contact with this deep consciousness.

The transformative process is also reflected in our modern physical worldview as chaos theory, which we can view as a modern "myth," a new metaphor for the dynamics of consciousness.  Chaos is ubiquitous in nature, pervading all dynamic processes, perturbing them unpredictably.  Chaos theory shows us that nature is continually unfolding new forms from the chaotic matrix of creation.

Our dynamic consciousness is an essentially chaotic process.  Chaos tracks a time evolution with sensitive dependence on initial conditions.  When we "return" experientially to the "initial conditions" of our existence, our whole being is holistically repatterned.  Our historical limitations are superceded by the creative power of the eternal Now.

We can allow chaos, as the universal solvent, to liquify consciousness and re-create ourselves.  This presumes a therapeutic atmosphere, a "safe" set and setting, because each phase of the journey is an encounter with uncertainty.

The journey into deep consciousness appears inherently chaotic because the state of uncertainty pervades each moment of transition.  Underlying moments of transience there are momentary blanks in awareness--little voids--flickering microstates which repattern each phase.  Whether the experience is one of loss of personal boundaries or direct perception of stark, raw reality, or visionary dreams, there is no predicting where the chaotic orbit of consciousness will roam next.

To embrace chaos in our consciousness journeys, therefore means to cooperate and flow with the transformative process, opening ourselves to our deepest emergent potential.  It's O.K. to let go periodically and temporarily become unstructured nothingness and open to holistic re-patterning.

Chaos is self-organizing, self-iterating, and self-generating.  It is an evolutionary force.  The tendency of new forms emerging from chaos is toward a higher degree of adaptation, hence evolution (Kauffmann, 1991).  This "recycling" of consciousness leads to a self-referential vortex.

Chaotic systems revolve around nexus points, known as strange attractors, because of their unpredictable quality.  Rather than being "point-like," they are more like vortices within vortices.  The Philosopher's Stone is like a psychic lodestone (or vortex).  It acts like an inner magnet, ordering the contents of our consciousness around it (through feedback loops) in chaotic, yet meaningful fashion.

The Philosopher's Stone may thus be seen as a "strange attractor" in the life of anyone engaged in the quest for transformation.  It is an instinctual attraction toward processes which dissolve the ego and liquify consciousness, leading to transpersonal experience after symbolic death/rebirth.  Freedom in the exploration of imagery comes from the creative capacity to experience loss.

Experientially, it appears as being channeled into the swirling mass of interacting symbols, an overwhelming vortex of pure information.  We are sucked inexorably into interaction with the self-symbol, sucked into ourselves, like flotsam is pulled into a whirlpool.  This is the vortex of the system, the vortex of self, where all levels cross.  It overwhelms or tangles the mental processes, the self-imaging processes that maintain the illusion of stable personality and individual boundaries.

In solutio, the body is joined with the soul and spirit.  The skin-boundary dissolves into visceral as well as spiritual perception.  Awareness of physical processes may be greatly amplified, appearing as impressions, intuitions, sensations, sounds, odors.  The body is always speaking silently.  Through this raw, physical expression, that which was solid becomes liquified, dissolved, deliteralized.  The concrete image of the body "morphs" into the flow of pure energy, in a variation of Transubstantiation.  It is the "rapture" of being siezed up into the heavenly realm.

The flow of dynamic energy from the deep Self reawakens and activates the body, and also that portion of the unconscious that the body carries. The body not only carries, but is the memory of the entire evolutionary cycle.  Consciousness can access any portion of this material memory through creative regression.  The body manifests kinesthetic, preverbal, and preconceptual memory of its direct experience.  Immersion in the healing creative energy flow is like a spiritual baptism, which facilitates creative reformation of ordinary consciousness, and even the physical body.

Solutio, as a state of consciousness, unites the powers of above and below, transpersonal and personal.  It is the integration of the higher spiritual powers with personal experience that embodies the healing dynamic.  This produces the paradoxical poison-panacea.  The dual nature of the universal medicine points to a consciousness state beyond both opposites.

In Greek myth, Athena gave Asklepios, the divine healer, the blood of Medusa as the universal medicine.  In its negative aspect it was toxic and produced death.  The positive aspect brought healing; this mysterious potion is the "cure-all," the "solution."  Divine water (sometimes symbolized as blood) is dangerous, poisonous, seductive, addictive, even deadly in its primeval, untransformed state--madness.

In the science fiction novel, DUNE, the new messiah and the Reverend Mothers of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood imbibe the psychoactive "water of life" with impunity.  Moving past the fear and pain, they transcend time/space and commune with the continuum of all existence.  What sets them apart from others, on whom the potion has a fatal effect, is their ability to withstand and convert its initial toxic effects into a religious ecstasy.  They know how to navigate in that turbulent flow, during their consciousness journeys--"moving without travelling."

The alchemical solution to this problem of primordial, raw experience is to "cook" it into a reflective consciousness.  Recycling itself, the ego cooperates in its own "re-creational death," connecting with the transpersonal forces of rebirth and renewal.  The reborn personality is resurrected, restored to life through new meaning.

The ego acknowledges the Self as its new center of gravity, and personality heals.  Experiential connection to the living reality of the Self, the "waters of life" is the panacea, the magical elixer of life.  Solutio (and its prime agent, chaos) arises spontaneously from the depths as irrational images, dreams and fantasies.

In dreamhealing, the dream symbols are followed deeper and deeper down to the primal level where all structure dissolves into its original source.  This journey into the depths, and subsequent emergence, is the basis of shamanic healing.  As we journey in the autonomous consciousness stream, guided movement deeper into and beyond the fear and pain brings up the classical imagery of the solutio, as resistance subsides.  There is no part of it that is not us. The transformative process dissolves blockages, obstructions or "frozen" consciousness which disturb and distort the free flow of energy.


The alchemist Paracelsus said, "He who enters the kingdom of God must first enter his mother and die."  That death-like silence is also our mother, the virgin womb of the imagination.

The dynamics of "creative regression" are common to mystical experience, psychedelic exploration, and therapeutic consciousness journeys.  All lead to immersion in the flow of the stream of consciousness.  Creative regression is a generic form of the myth of the eternal return, chronic recurrence, reiteration.  In the dynamics of chaos theory we find this recursive motion in the concept of iteration--self-similarity--which produces the similarity in infinitely descending scales of fractal generation.

Iteration is like a stretching and folding of the spacetime continuum.  Experientially it manifests within us as a spiritualizing instinct, a recursive "bending back" of instinct toward that which is primordial and divine.  Thus, whether induced through psychoactive substances, mystical transport, or experiential psychotherapy typical imagery recycles, recapitulates, or reiterates cascades of impressionistic transformations spanning the entire spectrum of archetypal experiences--morphological transformations.

These include but are not limited to childhood, birth, embryonic development, ancestral, mythic, genetic, evolutionary, universal, and quantum consciousness.  Access to the entire continuum of organic and inorganic evolution as well as the collective unconscious becomes available.  That information most pertinent to the whole self emerges in the stream of consciousness as virtual experience.  What is pertinent is what gets spontaneously "downloaded," and it repeats and reiterates the basic issues in yet another, eternally creative way.  Stan Grof has catalogued an extensive taxonomy of these states, most notably in THE ADVENTURE OF SELF-DISCOVERY (1988).

Such experiences of cosmic consciousness constitute a "return to the Mother," the blissful fusion of primal union, at both personal and universal levels.  The direction of this dynamic process is recursive, bending back through deep time, ontology, and phylogeny.  It echoes the semantic roots of the words religion and yoga, which imply a "linking backward" in the bond between gods and man, a craving for ecstasy, and transcendence of the limitations of physical form (Milkman, 1987).

Jung called this dynamic an opus contra naturam, a work against nature.  But chaos theory shows us it is actually quite organic, natural, and instinctual.  In alchemy it was the Great Work.  Consciousness turns back on itself, reiterating each level of organization, de-structuring each strata as it dives deeper toward the unconditioned, formless beginning, or "unborn" state.  This primal state is amniotic bliss experienced as the Void, the cosmic womb.

Images of the Great Mother system become reactivated, though not exactly in their original form.  Imagery like fractals is self-similar, but not entirely identical.  This creative regression is to the prepersonal domain, the preverbal, preconceptual domain, not the transpersonal spiritual domain (transverbal, transconceptual).

Typically in the first few dreamhealing sessions, a person will enter a dream symbol doorway which leads back to a conception memory.  They may or may not recognize it as such during the journey.  But in content, the symbolism is very clear.  The imagery is fundamental or primal, appearing as a dance of energy, matter, and consciousness--the body-ego's conscious experience.

These images are close to the stuff of our creation -- the prima materia -- of our existence.  We may experience it as free-floating: a paradox of chaos and a deep-felt sense of flowing and peace.  The imagery here is psychedelic -- consciousness expanding -- an autonomous manifestation of imagination.  The panoply of the ceaseless transformation of energy may overwhelm the senses, leading to a sense of total chaos.  There is nothing to do but let go, surrender to it, merge with it, flow with it.

The dancing energy waves and patterns are perceived as deep whorls, spinning spirals, black holes, infinite voids, gray clouds of nothingness.  There is melding of the senses -- synesthesia -- such as "tasting" music, "seeing" sound, etc.  Simple throbbing and other extremely primitive sensations may be experienced.  Experience of this state produces a new acceptance of the original conditions of conception, and re-structuring of the primal self-image.

We go into the primal chaos to begin the process of reformation from our pre-structural beginning.  In essence, we re-enter the womb as we are initiated in the mysteries of the psyche.  We re-conceive our primal self image, healed by communion with the creative Source.


The classic text of re-creational surrender or sacrifice of self is THE BARDO THODOL, or THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD.  It is explicitly for the living who undertake the death-like regression into the unconscious, as well as the dying.  Because of their orientation toward consciousness journeys, THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE and THE AMERICAN BOOK OF THE DEAD are useful translations or contemporizations of the transformational classic.

The realm of death is the twilight zone between consciousness and matter.  Here psychoid phenomena manifest through the mingling of these modes.  Here mind/matter duality ceases, creating enchantment, uncanny synchronicities, time warps, psychic experience, revelation of the mind of matter, the Nature Mind.

The moment of ego death is heralded by certain symptoms of transition.  Resistance by the mind to this creative dissolution brings about physical symptoms which range from shaking and a sense of increasing pressure and anxiety, to paradoxical flashes of hot and cold, to extreme dizzyness and disorientation.  As the classic psychedelic manual says, "The hard, dry, brittle husks of your ego are washing out; Washing out to the endless sea of creation." (Leary et al, 1964).

Distressing or disturbing symptoms symbolize the violence of the passage of consciousness from form to formlessness.  Images of the body disintegrating or being blown to atoms (fear of exploding = fear of expanding) are characteristic psychedelic experiences.  Perhaps the very elements of our bodies "remember" their formation in the crucible of some supernova.  There may be identification with merciless destruction, the Dance of Shiva, the raging elements of nature, a variety of forms of explosive discharge.  Here are visions of fires, floods, raging storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, turbulent lakes of magma.

Consciousness "breaks up" into its elemental forms, manifesting as overwhelming imagery.  This first phase of dissolution may be characterized by the futility of resistance, magnetic downward spirals, gravity wells, loss of morphological identity.

E.J. Gold describes the second stage of the voyage as one of being overwhelmed by illusions produced by conditioning.  Yet the primal element of pure forms breaks through and the voyager recognizes "the basic component of consciousness which when combined produces what is called the element Water."

In consciousness journeys, chaos functions as the universal solvent, that which dissolves all patterns and forms including the rigid, outmoded aspects of the self.  In the dream journey, one might enter a spinning vortex and become dismembered by centrifugal force, torn limb from limb.  We remain in this state of dis-integration until we re-member our essential self, embodying the wounded healer.

That sense of disintegration comes as the ego gives up its "unified" linear perspective (bivalent) to the multiple consciousness or awareness (multi-valence) of the deep self.  Fear makes it feel like fragmentation, but in truth there is nothing in that imagery that is not us.  The death throes of the ego prepare it for rebirth, through communion with cosmic consciousness, a new incarnation of the spirit, death and resurrection.

The nature of universal consciousness is oceanic.  When the ego is in danger of "getting in over its head," it panics as if faced with drowning in the depths of this vast ocean of consciousness.  It overwhelms the ego which cannot fathom this abyss.

This aspect of solutio brings mythic images of the dying god, of violent death and sacrifice, and of the isolation of the hero.  It means nothing less than the sacrifice of the old self.  The dissolution phase may mean myths of the triumph of darkness; myths of floods and the return of chaos, of the defeat of the hero.

In Gold's words, "Death comes to all forms; everything eventually is broken up by dissolution, so there's no point clinging to yet another biological form out of desire, longing for stability, or from fear and weakness."


The ego "takes the plunge," it lets go and dissolves its old matrix, its old boundaries.  When its boundaries melt, ego-consciousness dissolves into deep consciousness.  The "wave merges with the ocean," and experiences its own deep transpersonal nature.  It moves swiftly through the fear and pain, awakening to an infinitely wider reality of universal energy waves.  In the ocean of creativity, "your own consciousness, shining, void and inseparable from the great body of radiance, has no birth, nor death." (Leary, 1964).

Experience of the pure, unmodified state of consciousness transcends all opposites, and therefore consciousness journeys provide an experiential "container" for the reconciliation of paradox within a larger field of experience--a broader, transcendent perspective.  The transformational process acts as a "container" (alchemical retort) of the contents of psyche.  But these contents, reduced to their essence are "nothingness," simply dreams and imagination.  Emptiness is the real Philosopher's Stone.

By dissolving into non-relative consciousness, mood swings or identification with conflicting polar positions may be transcended by an enlarged state of consciousness which embraces and contains the entire continuum.  Flow replaces polarity.

Jung spoke of the transcendent function as a symbol-forming force continuously creating emergent imagery which facilitates whole-self realization.  It is thus an evolutionary and adaptive force.  Mindell (1985) speaks of the flow in alchemical terms:

The alchemists called this flow the 'aqua permanens', or permanent water.  Aqua permanens is the fluid process, the energy or life which was locked up in the tension of conflict which has now been freed through the flow between the opposites.  Fluidity comes from conflict.  Whereas before there was a boundary between conflicting opposites, between intent and reality, streaming energy now transforms therapy into natural science.

Dreams, visions, or the stream of consciousness can be used therapeutically as an evolutionary force to guide people from a small sense of self and expand them toward a larger image.  This expansion of the sense of self may require some adjustment.  The illumination (awakening to larger Reality) may also come through a nature-mystic experience, intense sexual experience, E.S.P., a consciousness journey, or meditation.  Enlightenment (even the "seed" of enlightenment) is an experience of awe, bliss, and infinite possibilities.

The ego realizes it is not the center of the whole person, but only "manages" the personality.  There are autonomous archetypal forces which inhabit the psyche with their own agendas, patterns, and goals.  Our psyche is transpersonal; it has no boundaries.  Our conscious awareness is only a manifestation of this larger consciousness.  Within this larger consciousness, we are at home with a plurality of visions.  The parts contain the whole (to a degree), enfolded or embedded like a fractal or hologram.

Containment may take place symbolically in the therapeutic relationship.  The consciousness guide, therapist, or shaman functions as a guide to the netherworld.  The "wounded healer" has a numinous quality which provokes the projections of others.  Shamans work within the belief systems of their subjects to expand their sense of what is possible.  Those subjects' experiences generally reflect the style and beliefs of the shaman--the shaman's positive expectation of particularized results.

Exposure to the infinitely broader worldview of a shamanic personality will automatically move a "smaller" personality into solutio, dissolution.  This rapport or participation mystique is an unconscious, automatic process--a positive sort of psychic contagion.  This unconscious dynamic may be responsible for the phenomenon of "contact high."


Psychedelic, as well as mystical literature contains many examples of surrendering, letting go, accepting, merging, and joining the flow of the "Nature Mind," where all is consciousness--the audible life stream.  This "Diamond Consciousness" is awareness of creative flux of the Void, the fluid unity of life.  We flow within it, and it flows through us.

The death-rebirth sequence typically opens a person to the transpersonal domain with its virtually infinite creativity.  It reveals and unfolds our future potentials.  In dreamhealing, chaotic consciousness is also creative consciousness.  Terence McKenna reminds us that, "Riverine metaphors are endlessly applicable.  They represent the flowing of forces over landscapes, the pressure of chaos on the imagination to create creatively. . .The key is surrender and dissolution of boundaries, dissolution of the ego."

When we immerse ourselves in that creative energy, we find healing on many levels of our being.  It may feel tingly or effervescent, or like streaming energy.  Direct experience of this level brings a true sense of oneness with all that exists, the seamless fabric of existence.  It opens us to re-patterning by the whole--a re-construction or re-patterning of personality through holistic change at the most fundamental level.

Immersion in the oceanic experience of universal consciousness is a life-changing experience.  It is experience of the web of life, the biological life flow, an ineffable current of bliss.  Once we experience that larger world and self--the rhythmic pulse of all life--we are never the same again, so long as we remember.

Communing with this energy, experiencing these states of consciousness, has been the practice of shamans since the dawn of man.  Shamanic consciousness means the ability to enter and exit altered states at will.  This power is connected to the liquid expression of life--the sap of life--the vegetable forms of the liquid Stone, and its identity with psychotropic plants.  This notion reiterates that of the "greening of consciousness."

Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1973) spoke of the distillate of his mystical experience as follows:

"The Current is clearly a subtle, fluid-like substance which brings the sense of well-being already described.  Along with It, a more than earthly Joy suffuses the whole nature.  To myself, I called It a Nectar.  Now, I recognize It under several names.  It is also the 'Soma,' the 'Ambrosia of the Gods,' the 'Elixir of Life,' the 'Water of Life' of Jesus, and the 'Baptism of the Spirit' of St. Paul.  It is more than related to Immortality; in fact, It is Identical with Immortality."

When the ego is completely dissolved in this renewing bath, we experience timeless consciousness, and are reborn based on a new, healthier primal self-image.  This rejuvenation comes from connecting with pristine consciousness, the eternal aspects or forces of nature.  Even though we cannot conceive of it, we can experience the infinite, the eternal, the transcendent.  Visions of Creation, Emanation, the upwelling Source, emerge.

Spiritual reincarnation means bringing to life that which was formerly dead or unawakened, through connection with the original creative power.  It is the theme of the Quest -- the greening of the Wasteland.  The process of rebirth is the mythic enactment of "the one story" whose pattern is found in every narrative.  Beneath the differences, the meaning -- having to do with the loss and recovery of identity -- does not change.

This story of the loss and regaining of identity is the framework of most literature, from which comes the hero with a thousand faces.  Some variation of the hero's adventures, death, disappearance, and marriage or resurrection are the focal points of most stories.

The original sense of identity (romance and comedy), its loss (tragedy and irony), and its recovery in the regenerate world of romance and comedy is mirrored in the mythic quest.  Myths of the birth of the hero, revival and resurrection, creation and defeat of the powers of darkness and death are perennial themes.

The descent and subsequent ascent, going deep into the consciousness journey and emerging transformed, is a form of death/rebirth, a powerful archetypal theme which is initiatory in character.


Aesculapian dreamhealing, uses many ritual forms of purification, such as diet, sweats, and baths.  But the psychic purification is a process of shedding fears and pain which prevent us from flowing.  Fear and pain are what keep us "stuck."

Each initiation contains an ordeal within its enfolded nature.  At least it feels like an ordeal to the old ego structure which must dissolve or die.   The quantum leap of initiation, being seized from one state and moved to another, involves a sudden and profound change.  It requires an adjustment.  Also, life may present synchronistic challenges, outside the dreamhealing sessions.

One dreamhealing participant was having a sweat.  She was sent to look for an offering in the form of some wood to burn in the ritual. She finally returned with a huge gnarled log, which was quite representative of her twisted back (scoliosis).  That wood really stank when it first was consigned to the fire--but as time went on, it burned pure and smelled extraordinarily sweet.  She emerged with more mobility than she could remember every having and the healing persists.

In yoga, we hear about clearing blocks at the various chakras through purification practices.  Progressive stages of purification allow the energy of the serpent power to flow or rise ever-higher through the chakra system.  Thus, the yogi realizes the true nature of self.  Mindell (1982) has commented on this process in regards to flow and healing:

In healing ceremonies, light, water, love, release of emotions, energy flow, circulation, harmony and crystal clear water are all descriptions of curative experiences.  The water is a description of free flowing energy which cleans the body by unlocking egotism and its resulting cramps. . .The sap of plants flows in the body of the enlightened yogi.  In India lack of flow in the imaginary veins and arteries which carry energy and blood is blamed for illness.  Cleaning these conduits and reestablishing flow is all-important. . .there is a resistance at some point to the flow of energies.  In fact, all disease is merely a restriction of the flow of life force in a particular area.

Speaking more of the mental aspect of the process he uses water as an image of purification ordeal:

Whenever a complex exists, consciousness rigidifies and tries to steer around the strong emotions connected with the core of the complex.  Water therapy allows the complexes to speak, encourages the body to dance its own rhythm and lets the unpredictable come alive.  A water experience is holistic and unifies the entire personality so that ego, Self, dreams, body, inner and outer come together in one human being.

The more rigid the ego and the more powerful a governing complex, the more threatening the flow of the body or the psyche appears.  A rigid and frightened personality becomes terrified, split off from nature, and cannot believe that a Self or a body consciousness exists that can organize behavior once ego rulership is given up. . .Water is medicine against the rigidification of intuition, physical mobility, and feelings.

Another expression of purification ordeal occurs with psychedelics.  It is a mental purge of gross karma which manifests as wrathful visions or second bardo nightmares.  These visions, as well as the peaceful ones must simply be endured, despite awe and terror.  They may be horrific visions of apocalypse and catastrophe--bloodthirsty hallucinations.

They come as the ego struggles to maintain its boundaries, as the mind seeks to reconstruct the personality.  But the experience of this hellish state of consciousness is not mandatory with every journey.  Recognition of the greater Reality brings instantaneous liberation from this ordeal.

Edinger (1973) uses Job from THE BIBLE as a classic example of an ego's confrontation with the awesome powers of the unconscious through its trials and travails.  Job's encounter with the Self brings about a death/rebirth experience.  Job feels like he is being punished, and insists on discovering the meaning of his experience.

Job encounters Jahweh in dreams first, anticipating later conscious encounter.  Job is shown the abysmal aspect of God and the depths of his own psyche with its monstrous aspects, much like the wrathful visions of THE BARDO THODOL.  Finally, Job's questions are answered, not rationally, but through living experience, conscious realization of the autonomous archetypal psyche.  The realization comes to birth only through the ordeal.

All these struggles in the cycling of death/rebirth may be linked back through symbolic similarity to the individual birth ordeal.  It is characteristic of chaotic systems that events originally separated by time and space can become enfolded closely together.

Events linked by the same state of consciousness are related; learning is state-related (Tart; Rossi).  Our lessons and our ordeals are related to our states of consciousness.  Thus personal and transpersonal experience of this eternal cycle of the generation of forms become fused and conditioned by the individual aspect of archetypal experience.


There is more than a linguistic link between the metaphor of a liquid solution, and the solution of a problem.  The moment of "a-ha" comes frequently in process-oriented therapy, as direct realization brings fresh understanding through the "empty mind," or "beginner's mind."

Solutions come through creativity.  They may appear effortlessly.  The relationship between healing and creativity is implicit--healing is the physical analog of creativity, like attitude changes and intuition are its emotional and mental analogs.  Healing is a special case of creativity, or creative problem-solving.

During reverie states, the mind goes into chaotic patterns for problem-solving.  The more difficult the problem, the more chaos.  Dreamhealing facilitates entry into these healing states of consciousness.

McAuliffe (198 ) reported in OMNI on the work of Paul Rapp detecting chaos in brain wave fluctuations:

After analyzing the EEGs of humans, Rapp has also come around to this friendlier view.  "When we are healthy and alert, the interval between electrical waves is never rigidly fixed," he reports, "but always vacillates around a certain frequency range."  Moreover, when we are mentally challenged, the interval between the electrical wave becomes even more variable--or chaotic.  This suggests, in Rapp's opinion, that chaos "may actually be highly beneficial during problem solving.

Clearly the greater the mental challenge, the more chaotic the activity of the subject's brain. . .What does all this mean?  In Rapp's opinion, chaotic activity may be an asset in problem solving. "You want to be able to scan as wide a range of solutions as possible and avoid locking on to a suboptimal solution early on," he explains.  "One way to do that is to have a certain amount of disorderliness, or turbulence, in your search."

We can draw a direct analogy between the dreamhealing process and creative process.  Dreamhealing begins with the pilgrimage, which expresses one's intent or commitment.  The creative process begins with receptivity, which includes interest, preparation, and immersion in the subject matter.

Next in dreamhealing comes the confession,  or the identification of the problem, where you have missed the mark.  Creativity also requires the ability to identify the problem, see the right questions, to use errors, to have detached devotion.

The purification or cleansing of dreamhealing parallels the generalized sensitivity to problems that come during creativity, an attunement to the realization of what needs to be done.

The offering is a sign of letting go, sacrifice of the old ego form, the commitment to healing.  Creativity requires the surrender of time and self to the process of flow; fluency of thinking; flexibility; abandoning old ways of thought.

The heart of the quest is dream incubation, a reverie which seeks connection with higher power.  Creativity also requires incubation, reverie, serendipity, spontaneity, adaptation, tolerance for ambiguity, and originality.  This permits uncommon responses and unconventional associations.

Healing occurs in a moment of oneness, chaotic consciousness.  In creativity it is paralleled by the moment of illumination, redefinition, invention, vision.

Dreamhealing requires amplification, or work on dreams and validation.  Elaboration is its counterpart, the use of two or more abilities for the construction of a more complex object or theory, plus verification.

Re-entry implies actualization, renewal, grounding, maturing.  Creatively it means real-time application, follow-through, product, utilization of the result.  It implies choosing the post-session personality, as re-calibrated through the imprint of the whole.  It means stabilizing that state of creative consciousness which emerged in the session.

In all cases, guided or not, the creative or healing process follows approximately this model.  The resources are contacted deep within and they well-up in sometimes unexpected ways from the deep Source.


Melting turns what was solid into a liquid.  Variations on the theme include moistening and softening.  Whether we look at modern consciousness journeys, ancient reports, or psychedelic experiences the metaphors are the same.  Melting or softening is the result of incubation in dreamhealing, yoga, and alchemy.

THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE  offers such suggestions as "Let the feelings melt all over you," "Let your body merge with the warm flux," "Allow your own mind also to melt away very gradually."  Feelings of the body melting or flowing as if wax are typical of the psychedelic experience, as boundaries dissolve.

Leary et al note a state of consciousness where, "All the harsh, dry, brittle angularities of game life [are] melted.  You drift off -- soft, rounded, moist, warm.  Merged with all life.  You may feel yourself floating out and down into a warm sea.  Your individuality and autonomy of movement are moistly disappearing."

An older report is this passage from THE BOOK OF LAMBSPRING, a seventeenth century alchemy text:

The Father sweats, surrounding his Son,
And pours out his prayer to God,
To Whom all things are possible,
Who creates, and has created all things.
He prays that his Son may be led from his body,
And he be reborn as he was at first.
God grants his prayer, it is not ignored,
Telling the Father to lie down and go to sleep.
God sent down rain from heaven
Through the clear stars; in truth,
It was fruitful silver indeed.
The Father's Body is moistened and softened.
By the help and Grace of God, at the end,
We may obtain Thy gracious Gift!
The Father strongly sweats and glows,
While oil and True Tincture from him flows.

The feverish father sweats the tincture of the wise from his body.  The hidden fire causing the sweat is the antithesis of the moisture that it produces.   This heat is the warmth of incubation, which is equivalent to a "brooding" state of meditation.  The aim of this meditation is self-incubation for transformation and resurrection.

This liquefaction is a characteristic state of consciousness during psychedelic sessions.  When the normal structures of awareness break down, consciousness transforms to a flowing or fluid state.

Speaking of his fusion of non-linear dynamics, post-structuralism, and psychedelic experience, psychonaut Manuel DeLanda was interviewed by MONDO 2000 (Issue 8; Winter, 1992).  He reports on his experience in the language of chaos theory.

The metaphor they use is solid, liquid, gas.  If the system is solid, too crystallized, its dynamics are completely uninteresting.  If it's gaseous, it's also uninteresting--all you have to do is take averages of behavior and you know what's going on.  Liquids have a lot more potential, with all kinds of attractors and bifurcations.  Now what they're coming to believe is that the liquid state in nature--not just actual liquids, but liquidity in the abstract sense of being not too rigid or too loose--these liquid systems "poised on the edge of chaos" are natural computers.

...When you trip, you liquify structures in your brain, linguistic structures, intentional structures.  They acquire a less viscous consistency, and your brain becomes a super-computer.  You are able to think concepts you were not able to think before.  Information rushes in your brain, which makes you feel like you're having a revelation.  But of course no one is revealing anything to you.  It's just self-organizing.  It's happening by itself. matter and energy are capable of self-organization.

I don't think there are higher states of consciousness.  You liquify yourself, and you go through phase transitions, and then it seems to you that you are in a higher state of consciousness.  When I'm tripping, I'm thinking concepts I'm sure no one's ever thought before, and in a way it's like a higher state of consciousness, but it's not a plane that was waiting there for me to access it.  It's something I'm building that moment by destratifying my brain.

There might be an ethics here: how to live your life poised at the edge of chaos, how to allow self-organizing processes to take place in all the strata that bind you.  In your life, you could create maps of attractors that bind your local destiny--those behaviors that are habitual and so on.  And try to find those bifurcations that would allow you to jump, if not to complete freedom--that doesn't exist--but to another set of attractors less confining, less binding, less stratifying.  Or learn to lead your life near a bifurcation without ever crossing it--the lesson of being poised on the edge of chaos.

In reducing all to pure water, the prima materia  and the ultima materia become synonymous.  That primal consciousness state, that creative and chaotic consciousness is the beginning of the operation of "water", and its ultimate realization.

It becomes easy to see why the operation of water is the "root of alchemy."  Through consciousness journeys which liquify our rigid notions of self and world, we re-create the adventures of the hero or heroine.  The theme is the loss and recovery of identity.

The hero is deserted, betrayed or even killed, but then comes back to life again.  They may be swallowed by a huge sea monster, or wander in a strange dark underworld and then fight their way out again.  The shift is from abandonment and isolation, to struggle, to the triumph or marriage phase, (unitive consciousness).

The myth of the defeated hero (rigid ego) brings images of the triumph of dark forces, myths of floods and the return of chaos.  Then the stage is set for miraculous rebirth--The Son is born from the Father, as in THE BOOK OF LAMBSPRING passage.  This process of rebirth is the universal medicine.


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