TRANSPERSONAL EXPERIENCES IN LSD SESSIONS
Transpersonal experiences occur only rarely in early sessions of psycholytic therapy; they become quite common in advanced sessions after the subject has worked through and integrated the material on the psychodynamic and perinatal levels. After the final experience of ego death and rebirth, transpersonal elements dominate all subsequent LSD sessions of the individual. Occasionally, transpersonal experiences can occur in the culmination periods of the first high-dose session of psychedelic treatment. The common denominator of this otherwise rich and ramified group of phenomena is the feeling of the individual that his consciousness expanded beyond the usual ego boundaries and limitations of time and space.
Collective and Racial Experiences
This category of transpersonal phenomena is related to C. G. Jung’s concept of the collective and racial unconscious. The spontaneous emergence of such experiences in unsophisticated subjects who have not been exposed to Jungian ideas can be considered important supportive evidence and experimental confirmation of one of the most controversial aspects of Jung’s analytical psychology. Subjects tuned in to these realms of the unconscious can go through brief episodes or long, elaborate sequences that take place in different countries and/or different centuries and depict various historical or contemporary cultures. These scenes can be experienced in the role of observer, but, more frequently, the subject identifies with one representative of the culture involved or with a greater number of them. This is typically associated with global as well as detailed insights concerning social structure, religious cosmology, forms of worship, moral code, specific characteristics of art, technological development, and many other aspects of these cultures.
Collective and racial experiences can be related to any country, historical period, and cultural tradition, although there seems to be a certain preference for ancient cultures and countries with highly developed religious, philosophical, and artistic traditions. Sequences related to Egypt, India, Tibet, China, Japan, Pre-Columbian Mexico and Peru, and ancient Greece tend to occur with surprising frequency. The choice of the cultures and their specific aspects seems to be quite independent of the subject’s ethnic background, country of origin, cultural tradition, and even previous training, education, and interests. An Anglo-Saxon can, therefore, experience full identification with various periods in the history of African Americans or North American Indians and develop, as a result, a new sensitivity to and awareness of racial problems. A person of Jewish heritage can tune in to the cultural areas of the Far East and relive sequences from early China or Japan that enhance his understanding and appreciation of Buddhist or Taoist philosophy, Japanese music, the martial arts, and other aspects of these Oriental traditions. Similarly, an individual of Slavic origin can participate in the Asian conquests of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian hordes, identify with African Bushmen or Australian Aborigines, and become a participant-observer in sacred ceremonies from those Central American Pre-Columbian cultures in whose religions bloody sacrifice and self-sacrifice were espoused.
The information communicated by these experiences is usually quite accurate and can be verified by consultation of archaeological and anthropological sources. It frequently encompasses specific esoteric details; in many instances, the degree of historical or ethnographic knowledge that emerges is clearly incongruent with the subject’s previous education and level of information in these areas. On occasion, unsophisticated individuals have described details of Egyptian funeral services, including the form and meaning of various amulets and sepulchral boxes, the colors of funeral cones, the technology of embalmment and mummification, and the sequence of ritual procedures followed. One subject who experienced himself in one of his LSD sessions as an embalmer in ancient Egypt was able to describe the size and quality of the mummy bandages, materials used in fixing the mummy cloth, and the shape and symbolism of the four canopic jars and the corresponding canopic chests. Other individuals gained an intuitive understanding of the functions of various Egyptian deities, the symbolism related to them, and the esoteric significance of the pyramids and the sphinx. In one instance, a subject who had experienced sequences from the life of old Parsees was able to describe not only the nature of their religion and their funeral practices but also specific technological details of the Zoroastrian dakhmas (towers of silence) in which the dead were devoured by vultures so that they would not contaminate the sacred elements of earth and fire. On other occasions, LSD subjects had interesting insights into Hinduism and Buddhism and manifested a deep understanding of their religious practices, as well as the symbolism of the painting and sculpture to be found in these religions. Many additional examples involving other cultures could be cited in this context.
Sometimes such experiences are accompanied by symbolic gestures or complex and elaborate sequences of motor activity that express or illustrate their content. It is not uncommon that in association with specific LSD experiences some subjects discover the meaning of various symbolic gestures (mudras) or spontaneously assume quite unusual postures (asanas) known from Hatha Yoga. In several instances, individuals enmeshed in elements of a certain culture felt a strong need to dance. Without any previous training or specific exposure to these cultures, they were able to perform complicated dance forms. Examples of such behavior observed in LSD sessions range from the !Kung Bushman trance dance and other African tribal rituals, Middle Eastern belly dancing, and whirling like the dervishes of the Sufi tradition to Indonesian art forms as practiced in Java or Bali and the symbolic dancing of the Indian Kathakali or Manipuri school.
Collective and racial experiences can be combined with other types of transpersonal phenomena described later in this chapter. As suggested in the above discussion, they often involve a full identification with individual representatives of various cultures or elements of group consciousness. In their extreme form, they can encompass the consciousness of entire racial groups or the totality of the human race. Such experiential expansion of the individual to the consciousness of all mankind can approximate the Jungian archetype of the Cosmic Man.