Essence of Archetype, Desymbolizing the World, and Removing the Mask of Mysticism: A Primal Perspective on Spirituality, Part Eleven — The “God Above God”
The “Monsters” Are not Real, A Pronoic Perspective … An Essentially Benign Universe Characterized by Grace and Love
The contribution of a primal perspective, then, is twofold. First, it becomes obvious that the “demons,” the “monsters,” the resulting fear are not “real” (in terms of being rooted in transpersonal or “objective” reality). Rather, they are personal elements invading the perception of transpersonal reality. Behind the personal fear and pain we discover a more pervasive beauty and bliss, we sense an essentially benign universe characterized by grace and love.
Exotic Phenomena ~ Spiritual Cotton Candy
Second, the primal perspective allows us to see that much of the exotic phenomena as described in the spiritual literature is a consequence of personal pain and predilection and is not real in the transpersonal sense.
Desymbolizing the World
Making Exotic Phenomena Superfluous
These two conclusions are sustained by the evidence that primalers are finding access to “cosmic life force” and “bliss” feelings often described in the spiritual literature, without having to contend with the monsters and demons, nor with the extravaganza of other-worldly description, which are concomitant to the life-force descriptions in the spiritual literature. Although one may reach deeper levels through various techniques, the deeper perceptions often are interpreted in terms of the highly symbolizing cortex. Bliss or life-force feelings are felt as immensely stronger and bigger than one’s self, in relation to a consciousness narrowed by personal pain and culture. And thus, they lend themselves readily to hyperbole and transpersonal descriptions.
Primal therapy performs its desymbolizing function, making the exotic phenomena superfluous, by connecting the symbolic material pervading normal consciousness to real-life events. This dissipates the value of any such symbolic material as something in its own right. In primal this demythologizing process is apparent where many of the activities and fantasies of daily life are found to be “act outs,” that is, symbolizations of past pain: One reaches for a cigarette as symbolic of an unsatisfied need to nurse; or one becomes a writer because one was never listened to; or one travels the globe as symbolic of a need to be free of a constricting home environment in childhood.
Essence of Archetype
But it seems that some of the deeper and more sensational experiences also are symbolic of primal pain. Even some of the “archetypal” experiences appear to be derivative of still deeper material. For example, I have relived a postnatal experience that involved the cutting, scrubbing, and general abuse of my body (which was part of postnatal infant “care” in hospitals when I was born).
I can see where I could easily have imbued the experience with fantasy elements of an archetypal “Terrible Mother.”
I did not choose to do so, because that would have meant turning what was obviously a personal reality into a fantasy and into something “transpersonal.” Yet I can also see where someone without access to the personal memory part of the experience would be left with only the fantasy.
Archetypal Universality ~ Biological Universality
The experiences evident in primal therapy strongly indicate that much of what has usually been termed “transpersonal” are, in fact, symbolically derived from personal life experiences in the “personal unconscious,” and that their seeming universality is related to our biological universality, especially as it concerns our gestation and birth.
Grof’s research also indicates that much of the exotic phenomena is symbolized preverbal pain. Concerning first-line or perinatal phenomena under LSD, he notes
[T]he encounter with death on the perinatal level takes the form of a profound firsthand experience of the terminal agony that is rather complex and has emotional, philosophical, and spiritual as well as distinctly physiological facets. (1976, p. 96)
Prenatal and Perinatal Roots of Spirituality
In a way that is not quite clear at the present stage of research, the above experiences seem to be related to the circumstances of the biological birth. LSD subjects frequently refer to them quite explicitly as reliving of their own birth trauma. Those who do not make this link and conceptualize their encounter with death and the death-rebirth experience in a purely philosophical and spiritual framework quite regularly show the cluster of physical symptoms described earlier that can best be interpreted as a derivative of the biological birth. They also assume postures and move in complex sequences that bear a striking similarity to those of a child during various stages of delivery. In addition, these subjects frequently report visions of or identification with embryos, fetuses, and newborn children. Equally common are various authentic neonatal feelings as well as behavior, and visions of female genitals and breasts. (p. 96)
I am reminded of Muktananda describing one of his spiritual experiences in which he visits “hell” (1974, pp. 114-115), which is a world filled with excrement. His description has striking parallels to some LSD experiences noted by Grof (1976), wherein this is said to be associated with “the contact with such biological materials and the termination of the agonizing experience of birth” (pp. 130-131).
Biological Basis of Myth
The fact that primalers relive these intrauterine and birth experiences without all of the accompanying symbolism, as exhibited in both the psychedelic and spiritual literatures, is evidence of a desymbolized cortex, less obscure in its perceptions. In fact, there is a pattern seen in the LSD research as well as, to a limited extent, in primal therapy: Upon subsequent relivings of a traumatic experience, such as one’s birth, there is a tendency for initial, highly symbolized encounters with the material to be followed by sessions containing less symbolism. Typically, this occurs until the event finally is able to be accepted and relived in its real-life historical detail and, often, biological brutality (cf. Grof, 1976, pp. 68-69, 56, 58-60; 1977, p. 12).
The “God Above God”
But although the experiences of primalers and LSD subjects serve to dispel much of what is thought of as transpersonal phenomena, there still is much that cannot be explained away as derivative of primal pain. I’m not sure that I agree with Grof in the extent to which he attributes transpersonal status to certain elements that are intermingled with perinatal phenomena. He writes, for example: “Perinatal experiences represent a very important intersection between individual psychology and transpersonal psychology” (1976, p. 99).
Deeper, and Higher, Spiritual Realities
But even without the pain-tainted elements, many of which have been called archetypal, it becomes increasingly hard to disregard his evidence for transpersonal phenomena on what appears to be a deeper level of the unconscious than even the perinatal. Certainly the prenatal arena has transpersonal overtones. Sperm and egg experiences themselves, in that they transcend the normal space/time boundaries of the personal in implicating a mechanism of memory that is nonphysical, are categorized by Grof as transpersonal experiences. Furthermore, beyond even that, the evidence from LSD research and the current spiritual literature suggests that the transpersonal level may be more expansive and varied than even Jung had envisioned.
Janov might dismiss these transpersonal experiences as “overload” phenomena, that is, as fantasies occurring out of released, painful energy that is too great to be dealt with. But because they occur when the perinatal phenomena have been thoroughly, not incompletely, worked through, and because they have such far-reaching and positive effects on personality and later behavior, I do not think they can be so easily discarded.
Proof of “God”
Some of these experiences, especially in the parapsychological realm (such as ESP, clairvoyance, and ancestral memories), have even found verification with an astonishing degree of accuracy in Grof’s follow-up research (1976, pp. 164-167, cf. p. 207). Even the primal perspective, which points to the existence of memory and consciousness at the fetal, single cell, and sperm and egg level, certainly would have to acknowledge such awareness to have more subtle underpinnings than the brain and spinal cord.
All of this points to the existence of something that is subtler than the physical body and undergirds the entire length of one’s physical life. The evidence also seems to suggest that this subtler self permeates much of matter and life in realms outside of the personal domain and therefore can be accurately termed transpersonal.
Continue with Enlightenment as an Attitude of Adventuring … Eventually It Is Simply About Staying Open to Experience/Process: A Primal Perspective, Part Twelve — Zorba the Buddha
Return to A Primal Perspective on Spirituality, Part Ten — Clean and Unclean Mysticism: The “Monsters” and Demons and Fear Do Not Exist Outside of You
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