The following are thoughts and comments based upon a very interesting article by Stanislav Grof originally published on The Reality Sandwich.
Whichever walk of life, culture, age group or affiliation one comes from, there is a solid and increasingly shared feeling that we are in the midst of a global crisis. Yet the crisis is not only a political, ecological or economic one. These are just symptoms of a deeper illness. The current global crisis we are facing is a Psycho-spiritual one – a reflection of the level of consciousness evolution of the human species. We are heading fast on a path of self-destruction and unless we change our narrative on reality, internal and external, and until we shift our worldview and life strategy, this is not about to change or slow down anytime soon.
The future is more uncertain than ever before. Overpopulation, an extremely volatile global market, whimsical electoral results, shifting political alliances on an international scale, status quo on fossil fuel dependency, political turmoil and terrorism are among the many problems and challenges that the future of humanity faces. Yet again, these facets of a global crises are nothing but a reflection of an inner crisis, individual and collective. We project our fears, resistances, distrust of the future on to a world or a God that is separate from the Self and our creative participation in it. An unstable world in crisis is a reflection, or rather a projection, of a collective psyche that is facing an imminent crisis of death and rebirth. As Grof put it “It seems that we are collectively involved in a process that parallels the psychospiritual death and rebirth….and the same elements that we would encounter in the process of death and rebirth in our visionary experiences (through psychedelic therapy or Holotropic breathing) make our evening news today.”
Changing our Scientific Myths about the Universe
When we look at the young history of modern science – the last two centuries circa – we find that it has fundamentally shaped our view on reality. It has engraved the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm into the collective psyche of academics and laypersons alike.
Western thought has been driven and woven by the scientific current of monistic materialism. What this essentially means is that we have taken the primacy of matter as a fundamental concept to explain what the Universe is made of and how it works, including mind and consciousness. We have come to be disenchanted with the world by seeing everything as being part of a cold, impersonal and mechanistic universe which can be fundamentally reduced to interactions between particles of matter. There is nothing outside the world of form and matter – “There is no guiding intelligence or creative blueprint”. Life and consciousness are just seen as blind happenstance, mere epiphenomena of matter. What is fundamental is only space, matter and time. The rest can only be explained by reducing it to these fundamentals or relegated to metaphysics.
We have created schisms between the hard sciences, the life sciences, social sciences, arts and the humanities and even more so between science and spirituality. There is now a vacuum that is crying out loud for interdisciplinary efforts to gain a more holistic, inclusive understanding of a hyper-connected universe.
When theoretical physicist David Bohm came up with his holographic model of the universe and together with psychologist Karl Pribram suggested that also mind and consciousness can be better understood in terms of the analogy of the hologram, his main contention with the current scientific approach was that it tends to see the parts but not the whole. This in itself gives rise to problems in Science itself but also to our general understanding of the world and ourselves. In the early 20th century, Quantum physicists were already baffled and astounded by the implications of their discoveries, mainly that consciousness effects physical reality and that somehow consciousness can no longer be taken as being a separate phenomenon from the world of physical matter. A shift started to happen wherein we started questioning whether consciousness is a fundamental and integral part of existence, something that many spiritual philosophies had taken as a given for millennia. Bohm’s holographic model of the universe implies a step further: that the field of consciousness is the most fundamental substratum of the universe. In short, everything is consciousness including quantum particles, galaxies and the whole universe.
The idea of the holographic universe resonates a lot with many spiritual views such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Shamanism among others in that the world of form and matter – including hard objects, minds and planets – are holographic projections of a universal field of consciousness that Bohm called the ‘implicate order’. The implicate order can be seen similar to what Ervin Laszlo calls the Akashic field. This universal field of consciousness, or implicate order, is the substratum that underlies and connects all things and it contains all the memory or information about everything.
This view has also a strong connection to what Rupert Sheldrake calls morphic resonance. What we call reality is not something objectively outside of our conscious understanding of it. It is created out of a resonance between fields of consciousness. Try to imagine this: anything manifest around you comes into being because fields of consciousness like yours are resonating to a certain frequency within the implicate order. This is how reality is made manifest and reinforced. The implicate order or the universal field of consciousness contains all the frequencies and information possible but we ’tap’ into a particular range of those frequencies and create our reality. Another thing that comes out from the idea of morphic resonance and Karl Pribram’s idea of the holographic brain is that memory and information are not stored in physical matter such as the brain but are accessed through resonance between fields of consciousness and this can account for phenomena such as telepathy, precognition, deep insights and so on.
So we are slowly starting to shift the tectonic plates of the mainstream scientific worldview. Instead of a mechanical world of particle interactions observing physical laws, many are now starting to give more credence to a different narrative of reality and our role in it. We are changing the scientific myth into our collective psyche. It is now time to start seeing the universe as self-organising, multi-dimensional space where everything is consciousness and interconnected with each other through being a holographic projection of the same underlying universal field of consciousness. There are layers upon layers of interconnected systems (for example the quantum-biological, cellular, body, mind, collective, galactic, etc) which interact with each other through morphic resonance to use Sheldrake’ terminology.
Facing the Psycho-Spiritual Death & Rebirth
I believe that in some deep corner of the unconscious, we are collectively asking the same question “are we dying?”. Are we approaching the end of the line considering we have made such a havoc in such a short period of time? Seriously, what the F#$* is wrong with us?
Stanislav Grof talks a lot about the Psycho-spiritual death and rebirth because this is something he has witnessed over and over again in his research and therapy work with psychedelics and holotropic breathing techniques which he pioneered together with his wife. Psycho-spiritual death and rebirth is a deep transformative change in an individual (and arguably even collectively as a race) in which the psyche transcends its personal biography and its deep rooted ties with physical birth ( which Grof refers to as the Perinatal) and accesses the transpersonal and archetypal dimensions of consciousness. This transformative change is nothing short of a death and rebirth – a life shattering experience that gives birth to an openness to see life is a completely new way.
People experiencing psycho-spiritual death & rebirth through entheogen induced states or who have experienced spontaneous spiritual crisis through holotropic breathing therapy, all share a common core – they start being more sensitive to a deeper ecology of Self and the world. They start feeling belonging to a wider community with a deeper sensitivity and respect to their environment and the earth, pacha mama, with which they are closely related to and exchanging information with. They peep behind the veil of illusion, so to speak, and get acquainted with the universal truth that separation and isolation is what made us forget who we are and got us entrenched in the matrix driven by petty nonsense, greed, competition and madness. They start transcending from a self-centred perspective on life to feeling awe and gratitude for being part of a hyper-connected universe that is alive, conscious and driven by a higher intelligence and creative blueprint.
Of course dying is scary for most of us, perhaps it is the deepest of all fears – the fear of ceasing to be and letting go of everything. It is the fear of being totally free. And so the collective thought of death brings with it a lot of resistance and this is what we are witnessing globally on the evening news. It is a race that is sensing its imminent death that is not physical – although this is certainly a very real possibility – but a psycho-spiritual one and it is thus regurgitating all of its fear and resistances on to its ‘external’ world.
System Crisis, Change & the Future of Humanity
What does this mean for the global crisis we are living in and for the future we are heading towards? It fundamentally means that what we are dealing with is not something that is outside of us. We have to turn the attention inwards and look for new solutions we have been missing all along because of our narrow and self-centred vision on reality. What we are witnessing is as much as an opportunity for deep transformative change as much as it is a real tangible peril for surviving as a species.
We can’t move forward without breaking and dissolving barriers and this is what for instance the use of psychedelic substances for therapeutical purposes bring about – the dissolution of deeply entrenched programming and remembering who we truly are and what our responsibilities are with respect to our shared destiny. We start turning fear and isolation into openness, tolerance and compassion towards others. We start embracing uncertainty and trusting, as against resisting, the flow of life with less distorted beliefs and misconceptions blocking the way.
Crisis is the fulcrum of change. Any system in the universe changes through a series of crises in a continuous process of self-organisation. When the internal structures of any system (whether unicellular, psychic, social or ecological) are no longer aligned or match the feedback they get from other systems with which they are interconnected with, they momentarily break down and re-organize to make up a new whole. The system goes through a crisis, a meltdown, but then realigns itself in a process of self-organisation. The whole instructs the parts to change and re-organize into a new whole in a transformative cycle of change. This is the same dynamic one sees in psycho-spiritual death and rebirth – a temporal dissolution of self to give rise to a new self that is more in tune with its universe and that is more free and whole.
Once again what we are witnessing on the evening news is the effect of a system crisis, or system breakdown, as it self-organises itself into a newer whole that is more aligned to its changing universe. Yet we are the parts of that whole and that whole is in us since we are fractal projections of it. We are active and co-creative participants in this self-organisation, this psycho-spiritual death and rebirth. The choice is still ours as free agents of change.
We have to continue changing our Scientific myths and life strategy. Turn our perspective inwards and do more self-exploration – yes with entheogen plants and other techniques ancient and new. As mentioned above, experiential self-exploration gives rise to a felt sense of purpose and deeper ecological meaning of life – that is the feeling that everything is interconnected, co-creative and interdependent. The idea that nature, God and the spiritual dimension are not separate from Self but an integral part of it. There is no separation. We become more sensitive to what we exchange with the others and the earth – our ecological footprint, our lifestyle, thoughts, words and actions in general. A deeper reverence to nature and spirit. Greater tolerance and acceptance of our own humanity and divinity which is constantly reflected in others through our interactions.
Ultimately our own survival into the future ahead can be put in a very crude statement: If we want to live, we first have to learn how to die. How much we embrace this truth is still to be seen whether on the evening news or within ourselves.