JOHN CURTIS GOWAN on TRANCE, from "Trance, Art and Creativity" http://www.csun.edu/edpsy/Gowan
THE PROTOTAXIC MODE: TRANCE
"Trance is a way of escape - the body is made quiet, the physical mind is in a state of torpor, the inner consciousness is left free to go on with its experience. The disadvantage is that trance becomes indispensable and that the problem of the waking consciousness is not solved; it remains imperfect."
When Scrooge was visited by the three spirits of Christmas, the first was Christmas Past. In a similar manner we are to encounter three modes of cognitive representation of ultimate reality. The first is the archaic mode of primitive consciousness, expressed through prototaxic aspects. These involve the body in somatic and kinesthetic behavior and other forms of enactive representation, including unsymbolized experience such as dissociation and trance, and often attended by the uncanny qualities of awe, dread, horror, and loathing. But though the prototaxic mode is not as genial as the ghost of Christmas Past, it has as much to teach us. For it encompasses the entire record of human behavior, and is therefore freighted with incident, anecdote, instance, and example, thus providing a rich background of data for organization and hypothesis-building.
Within the prototaxic mode are the procedures of dissociation, trance, possession, mediumship, hypnosis, psychedelic drug experiences, automatisms, organ possession including glossolalia and automatic writing. These varied states have in common the excursus of the ego with loss of memorability of the incident, an altered state of consciousness involving trance or dissociation.1 There is obviously a "hierarchy" or taxonomy involved in the list of procedures above, which appear to go from "heavy" to "light," with the former procedures involving more characteristic behavior, and the latter less.
The prototaxic mode is notable for the scary, hair-raising aspect of the numinous element, which appears here in a much more frightening mien that it does in the other modes. Otto's mysterium tremendum is much more applicable here than elsewhere. This was the first racial contact with the numinous element, and it is still the most widely practiced. Consequently, from an evolutionary point of view it corresponds to the first developmental contact that the child has with the numinous element, which is of very similar nature. This experience was first noticed by that pioneer psychiatrist, Harry Stack Sullivan as the "not-me."
Sullivan, himself, defines the "not-me" as follows (1953:162-3):
The personification of the not-me is most conspicuously encountered by most of us in an occasional dream while we are asleep; but it is very emphatically encountered by people who are having a severe schizophrenic episode, in aspects that are to them most spectacularly real. As a matter of fact, it is always manifest in certain peculiar absences of phenomena when there should be phenomena; and in a good many people . . . it is very striking in its indirect manifestation (dissociated behavior) in which people do and say things of which they do not and could not have had knowledge, things which may be quite meaningful to other people, but are unknown to them . . . This is a very gradually evolving personification of an always relatively primitive character, - that is organized in unusually simple signs in the parataxic mode of experience, and made up of poorly grasped aspects of living, which will presently be regarded as "dreadful," and which still later will be differentiated into incidents which will be attended by awe, horror, loathing, or dread.
It will be seen from this that Sullivan, the expert in the dynamisms of development, identifies the "not-me" as pertaining to that class of experiences which are dissociated and uncanny - outside the pale of rational explanation or control of the developing child. Seen in most children in childish nightmares and night terrors, and in adults in the dissociated experiences of schizophrenia, the "not-me" emerges as a scary, poorly-grasped construct evoking emotional horror, rather than rational understanding. It is the purpose of normal development to "tame" this "collective" aspect of the psyche, to supplant its parataxic archetypes with an intuitive "modus vivendi" with the preconscious creativity, and more or less to fully control it in the psychedelic stage. Notice how well the careful observation of Sullivan refers to the "collective unconscious" in the second sentence, a property which evokes awe at this level, but later under the better control of later stages reveals its positive aspects as creative function.
If awe and dread of the uncanny (with which "not-me" is endowed as we first meet it in childhood) were not enough, the concept is further complicated by having no characteristics or form. It is fluidic, watery, reflective (like the "Smoking-mirror" of the Aztecs), and, to use an oft-misunderstood term: void. Here "void" does not have it modern meaning (as in a bouncing check) of "without value"; rather it has the Biblical meaning of "without form" as "The Earth was without form and void." When the Buddhist speaks of "the Clear Light of the Void," he is talking about a substance which transcends form, and is without characteristics, but is none the less, real.
The prototaxic mode is often explicated in a certain gross elemental crudity. An "authentic" musical evocation of this brutal "bloody" vis is found in Alberto Ginastera's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 (1961) in the toccata concertata (last) movement where the overwhelming, elemental, and fascinating aspects of the mysterium tremendum are clearly evident in the wild, atonal, lilting music.
Although prototaxic contact with the numinous is primitive and dread-full, it carries useful results. Prototaxic experience is better than no contact at all, and it may result in promoting security, in exorcising demons, in curing individuals of mental and physical ills, in control or pseudo-control of nature, in the elevation of status for those low in the pecking-order, in revelation, and even in positive affect (in the case of organ possession). For the humanistic behavioral scientist, these phenomena offer a rich field of investigation, including the most obvious examples of the suspension of the ordinary laws of physics consequent upon an altered state of consciousness.2 Prototaxic contact therefore represents the area of the greatest amount of anecdote, legend, incident, and potential research. Indeed, it confronts rational man at every turn with anomalies which should open his mind to the larger purview. Discarding fear and superstition, and particularly remembering the impersonal qualities of the numinous element, let us, with the same respect we would have for high voltage electricity, investigate this subject scientifically.
The chief characteristic of the prototaxic mode is the temporary or more permanent excursus of the ego, and its replacement by some foreign influence. Sometimes this excursion is induced (as in mediumship and hypnotism), and in other cases it is spontaneous (as in schizophrenia); sometimes (as in possession) there may be a combination. Whatever the means, disintegration of the ego is a major variable.
Myers (1903) in his classic Human Personality early recognized this by turning his attention to dissociation before investigation of psychic phenomena. Schizophrenia represents the most extreme form of this disintegration; it assumes the anchor position in our discussion. Some behaviors characteristic of schizophrenics are similar to those in possession, induced trance, and the artificial psychoses of proactive drug ingestion. For example,
1. There is depersonalization, or loss of the experience of reality. The person commonly reports that "things don't seem real." All of us have some semblance of this feeling at times (i.e. illness, crises, accidents), but in the schizophrenic, incipient panic seems to be induced by a much stronger feeling that one is not oneself.
2. There is dissociation, that is, the separation of some aspect of the self from the mainstream of the total self. This may range from an unconscious impulse of which the person is unaware, to the splitting off of the personality into separate selves with reciprocal amnesia.
3. Commonly there are auditory hallucinations, "voices," which may threaten, libel, or command.
2.21 The Panic-Reaction Type of Boisen
Now let us turn to an unusual personal account from a psychologically minded minister who underwent this difficulty, and recovered to tell the tale.3 In a remarkable and neglected book, The Exploration of the Inner World, Anton Boisen (1936:30ff) describes the concerns, phobias and monomanias of the distressed person.
1) (p30) The sense of the mysterious: "Acute disturbances begin with some eruption of the subconscious which is interpreted as a manifestation of the supernatural . . . we have then the bewildered state which is called "schizophrenia". The deeper levels of the mind are tapped and in many cases the mental processes are quickened . . . it is as if the conscious self had descended to some lower region where it is no longer in control but at the mercy of primitive and terrifying ideas." Such observations are in line with Jung's conception of a "racial unconscious."
2) (p32) The sense of peril: "Ideas of an impending world change of some sort with great issues at stake . . . in the patient exalted ideas as to his own role".
3) (p34) The sense of personal responsibility: Concealment reaction is found in four forms: a) Externalization of conscience (accusing voices; mind being read by others; being poisoned or drugged); b) Transfer of Blame: (electrical currents shooting through body, hypnotic control as explanations of unacceptable thoughts, circumvention of one's plans through outside organized conspiracy); c) fictitious self-importance (feelings of reference, delusions of grandeur), d) incapacitation (physical illness or old age).
4) (p36) Erotic involvement: disturbed about sex problems, socially unsanctioned sex manifestations in public, reports he is being accused of the vilest sexual crimes.
2.22 Developmental Forcing and "Positive Disintegration"
One of the more interesting and hopeful aspects of the active type of schizophrenia described by Boisen is that remissions are more likely to
occur. This dramatic change which we have called "Developmental Forcing" (Gowan 1974:187), Dabrowski (1964:xiv) calls "positive disintegration." He feels that development does not take place without previous disintegration. Symptoms of anxiety and psychosis are therefore
not always pathological, but arise during periods of developmental crisis in individuals who have high levels of intelligence, creativity, and a
capacity for emotional closeness. Persons who undergo this mortification and transformation are particularly likely to emerge later as religious
Silverman (1973) believes that some schizophrenic states can be "creatively constructive." He qu otes Menninger as saying "Some patients have a mental illness and then get well, and then they get weller. I mean they get better than they ever were . . . . This is an extraordinary and little realized truth." Silverman notes that Sullivan was also of this opinion. He agrees with Dabrowski that "some of the most profound schizophrenic disorganizations are preludes to impressive reorganization and personality growth." He notes, like Boisen, that the patient most likely to improve had a sudden panic-type onset of symptoms and concludes "Many religious leaders - St. Paul, St. Theresa, and George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, for example, have gone through experiences (of this kind)." 4 His article points out that sometimes drug therapy for schizophrenics can
abort this positive disintegration process and rob the world of the insights of a future religious leader.
It is history that many a religious leader has been "jerked" into a higher state of consciousness, showing dissociated behavior and loss of ego
control during the often terrifying transition period because, developmentally, he was not quite ready for the move. The list of such people is long and includes: George Fox, Emmanuel Swedenborg, Jeremiah, Sri Ramakrishna, John Bunyan, Ezekiel, The Cure of Ars, St. Francis of Assisi, Jacob Boehme, among many others. Interestingly enough, a look at schizophrenia tells us the reason why.
Just as the baby developing within the womb is surrounded by a placenta, we are all shielded from external reality by an envelope which protects us from external reality, the proper dissolution of which we call illumination, and the premature rupture of which we call madness.
Development, hence, consists (in post-uterine as in prenatal existence) in growth and specialization which will allow for the appropriate penetration of the placental envelope so that the individual can gain greater freedom and interaction with the external world. But if this placental shell is
ruptured too soon, then chaos results, and special means are required to save the individual and nurse him back to healthy development.
The placental envelope performs several functions: 1) it shields the nascent individual from recognizing elements in an environment with which he at present lacks the specialization to cope, although he presumably will be able to in the future; 2) it prevents him from exercising the freedoms and possibilities of a larger domain; 3) it represents a triumph of safety and security, over liberty and opportunity. The interest of development enables the individual to move out of this primitive stage, hopefully prepared for new and wider experience, hopefully at the proper time, as the chicken breaks out of the shell.
Whether the experience is the jerk of developmental escalation as with St. Paul, or the schizophrenic trauma of developmental forcing as with the author Boisen, the general attitude toward the individual undergoing such a change is that of the Roman governor in Acts when he said to Paul: "Thou are beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."
Boisen traces this trauma in a famous religious leader, George Fox, (1936:59-132), and shows how ineffectual the various healing ministries would be today in George Fox's case. He says (1936:53):
This survey of the wilderness of the lost tends to support the hypothesis with which we started, that many of the more serious psychoses are essentially problem-solving experiences which are closely related to certain types of religious experiences.
Seen in this way, such episodes are like shock-treatment, in which people like Fox, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, St. Paul, Bunyan, and Swedenborg, are the successes, and the inmates of the hospital back wards the failures. Boisen highlights this approach (1936:158) by noting that of several types of
schizophrenic development, the eruptive, an acute disturbance which reorganizes the personality, has the best prognosis of cure.
5 But Boisen is not the only writer who can testify to this experience of schizophrenia as rupturing an envelope which protects most of us from naked reality. There are several others.
Myers (1903:38-42), in a chapter on derangements of personality points out that there is a hierarchy of degrees of loss of interference with fully
conscious control, beginning with the fixed idea, then hysterical anaesthesia, finally, the emergence of secondary or split personalities. Increasing
deterioration in the conscious control occurs in a sequence first of an idea, second of a body function, and third of the entire psyche. It testifies to Myers' insight that he started his book on psychic phenomena with a chapter on dissociated behavior.
K. Wapnack (1969) declares:
Writing of the mystic's renunciation of his societal attachments which insulate him for the experience of God, Underhill (1960) uses the image of the mollusk with its hard shell, thereby illustrating the nature of the person's shell of attachments. Likewise, Schactel (1959) employs Hebb's image of a cocoon to describe the world of embeddedness that seals off the person's capacity for growth. Borrowing this imagery, it can be seen that the schizophrenic is one whose protective shell has been suddenly and prematurely broken (i.i.o.).
Naranjo and Ornstein (1971:107-108) put it this way:
Moreover we may be justified in considering many cases of schizophrenia as the outcome of spontaneous plunging of an immature person into the realm of that kind of experience which when properly assimilated, distinguishes the genius from the average man.
This painful experience of the premature rupture of the psychic placenta has been identified by a number of writers, not to mention Kierkegaard,
who called it "the sickness unto death." Higgin (1973) in a more recent treatise calls it the "centroversion crisis" in which "the ego is exposed to a somewhat painful process starting in the unconscious which permeates the whole personality." Neuman (1964) in defining the word "centroversion" states that it is "a tendency to compensation in an individual or culture when some imbalance has developed." The imbalance here, of course, is too much intellectual rationality, which invites in turn the emergence of the irrational and numinous element. Centroversion according to Higgin also explains Jung's "synchronicity" or the tendency of an idea whose time has come to occur independently to the best contemporary minds. He also glimpses the preconscious aspects by referring to the phenomenon as "numinous."
The effect of the juncture of the conscious ego and the numinous elements results in some kind of behavioral outlet, which represents resolution of the psychic tension engendered thereby. The overwhelming quality of this union usually produces some dissociation, which can be relieved by a discipline such as a religious, artistic, creative, or meditational procedure. Since the joining is usually incompletely cognized in a mode other than the syntaxic, it is externalized in prototaxic ways, such as hallucinations and headaches, or in parataxic examples like archetypes and dreams. The psychic tension must be expressed in some outlet (dancing, shaking, glossolalia, ritual, art, creativity and healing) which may be honored and respected by the peer society. Thus the discharge of psychic tension, originally an individual urgency, comes to have social benefit as well.
The social benefit may be
a) in artistic or creative production which can be valued for its own sake;
b) in advice or curing which has utility for the society;
c) in mediumship which in some cultures has positive regard;
d) in glossolalia which can be valued as evidence of possession by the Holy Spirit.
But it is the individual benefit which concerns us here. For in the process of development or therapy there may occur somatic relief of stress, pain,
or psychic tension in the form of vocalization or body movement. A number of healing modes and ministries have noticed this phenomenon which the Transcendental Meditators have named "unstressing."
Transcendental Meditation teaches its neophytes that day long meditations should be undertaken only with permission and only under controlled circumstances. We believe the reason for this injunction is to avoid the phenomena of "unstressing." Goleman (1971) describes this in detail:
In meditation, the psychophysiological principle can be used to understand the significance of "unstressing," a term used by practitioners of TM. Unstressing takes the form during meditation of completely involuntary, unintended, and spontaneous muscular- skeletal movements and proprioceptive sensations: momentary or repeated twitches, spasms, gasps, tingling, tics, jerking, swaying, pains, shaking, aches, internal pressures, headaches, weeping,, laughter, etc. The experience covers the range from extreme pleasure to acute distress. In TM, unstressing is gradual during regular daily meditation, so that it is not always discernable.
During special extended meditation sessions where one meditates throughout much of the day, more extreme forms of unstressing can occur. When Maupin taught zazen to a group of college students as part of an experiment, they mentioned to him the emergence of "hallucinoid feelings, muscle tension, sexual excitement, and intense sadness" (1965:145). Vivid and detailed first-person accounts of unstressing are reported in Guruvani magazine by students of the ashtanga yoga system of Swami Muktananda.
Because of the unpredictable nature of unstressing, meditators who are unprepared for it or who are in the midst of others who do not understand
the process, can become agitated when it occurs in disturbing forms. For this reason teachers of TM and other systems recommend day-long meditation only in supervised and secluded situations. Psychiatric clinics are beginning to get new patients who have been meditating on their own all day for many days, and are brought in by others who can't understand and are disturbed by behavior changes they see; the dynamics of this influx are parallel to the continuing wave of "bad-trips" due to drugs. As with acute drug cases, the psychiatric intervention may worsen and prolong distress rather than alleviate it, while someone familiar with meditation can reassure the person and alleviate the crisis without recourse to
the paraphenalia of psychiatry.
Such unstressing phenomena as seizures, spells, glossolalia as well as the more acceptable aspects of psychic phenomena are in reality prototaxic
manifestation of psychic tension occasioned by the near approach to consciousness of the numinous element. They are hence similar to the crying, groans, moans, bodily tics, and other gestural actions exhibited by counselees during the process of therapy when a feeling is being "exorcised" or
The effects of this sort of behavior, which we would now call "unstressing" (Gowan 1974:123), are related by a participant in 1831 (Podmore,
1902:8)was conscious of a strained utterance not my own; and of a power and pressure of the spirit quite unutterable in a natural way. After this I was silent, but with composure of mind; my whole body was agitated convulsively; and for the space of more than ten minutes, I was as it were,
paralyzed under a shaking of my limbs, my knees rapping one against the other, and no expression except a convulsive sign.(St. Paul appears to impute unstressing to the presence of the numinous element. He says concerning it (Romans:8:26):
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with signs too deep for words.
Some therapies, unlike Transcendental Meditation, make use of this discharge of stress in positive ways, and even encourage it. One notable example is Re-evaluation Counseling, which expects that there will be episodes of crying and violent yelling with perspiration if angers are to be let out and discharged properly. In Re-evaluation Counseling this is a necessary prerequisite for the healthy "super-intelligent" functioning of the
individual which is sought as a goal. Jackins (1965) indicates that negative emotions such as grief, fears, anger, etc., must be let out in such prototaxic and somatic ways as tears, sobbing, trembling, shivering, cold perspiration, shouting, violent movement, laughter, animated talking, and the like. Far from shutting off the client when he starts such emotional discharge, the co-counselor actually encourages him to go completely through the cycle (like a dishwasher) and get everything cleaned up. Only then is it expected that he will be able to function more fully.
Re-evaluation counseling is not the only, but only the most notable ministry employing prototaxic discharge as a therapy. "Primal scream therapy" is another good example. One may also note that Rogers in "A Process Conception of Psychotherapy" discussed the stage of gestural and crying modes as a way station on the road to completion of therapy, and suggested that it was a healthy sign of developing ego-strength.
No psychologist can discuss this subject without immediately noticing the marked similarity of unstressing phenomena to some of the somatic activity in trance, both in savage tribesmen and particularly in glossolalia (section 2.51). The same kind of shaking, violent body movements,
sobbing, moaning, incoherence, animated laughter, talk, or shouting are alike characteristic of all (it should be noted that they are also characteristic of many adults during the release accompanying sexual orgasm). Evidently what we are looking at is a prototaxic or somatic discharge of energy which has overwhelmed the consciousness to the extent that it cannot be significantly processed through parataxic or syntaxic modes. It is therefore released in a rather primitive way. The value of unstressing is more or less proportional to the virtue or lack of it ascribed to it by the cultural milieu in which it takes place. (One might contrast the Shakers with TM here, the former welcoming the effect, the latter avoiding it.)
Another characteristic seen universally is the sense of relaxation and well-being, usually culminating in sleep which ensues after the violent
Two implications flow from this consideration of symptomology. The first is that all healing ministries might profitably look at the encouragement of the process of unstressing as a useful therapy or "hostillectomy" which appears to have the usual beneficial results of orgiastic performance.
The second is that if such benefits are received by even the prototaxic discharge of mis-stored energy, one must wonder how much more benefit might be accrued by the parataxic or even syntaxic discharge of similar stress.
One of the problems in presenting the phenomena in this book in discursive form is that there are many intermediate examples which could have been classified into several categories. Unstressing, for example, is very similar to glossolalia; both characteristically involve the use of the voice in an unusual manner. We have separated them because glossolalia appears mostly in trance states, while unstressing appears mostly in the OSC.
One should go further, however, and note that chanting and mantras of the syntaxic mode also bear similarities. A tie between all three modes is
toning. Keyes (1973:30) who advocates toning as a meditative mechanism tells us to start with a sigh or groan with the eyes closed:
You will find that the voice after groaning is inclined to rise siren-like, drop back and rise again over and over until it reaches higher notes without effort. When the body feels cleaned, a sigh is released.
Keyes (1973:5) noting that there may be a tie between toning and glossolalia quotes Bach (1969) as follows:
Before men were certain about the object of their worship, an inner awareness of something higher and greater than themselves filled their hearts
with rapture and their tongues with praise.
Keyes feels that toning is helpful in meditation and healing.
Trance is defined by Webster (in sense 3) as:
A sleeplike state such as that of deep hypnosis, appearing also in hysteria and in some spiritualistic mediums, with limited sensory and motor contact with the surroundings, and with subsequent amnesia about what has occurred during the state.
For clarity, this is the only way in which the word will be used herein.
Let us note the various properties of the state according to the definition:
1. It is sleeplike;
2. seen in hypnosis, hysteria, and mediumistic phenomena;
3. with limited (or absent) sensory and motor awareness;
4. and subsequent amnesia.
Trance is the generic and most general word for a series of phenomena which involve dissociation, loss of sensory and motor function, and memorability, and most important, (what is not stated in the Webster definition) some connection with the numinous element allowing for the manifestation of psychic phenomena.
Trance, which is a psychologically verifiable state of behavior, is often confused with "possession", which is a folk interpretation that the psyche of a given individual is possessed by a demon or a spirit. Prince (1968:5) points out that there are (1) naturalistic explanations for trance, such as dissociation, hypnosis, terror, drugs, and illness, and (2) possession explanations, such as possession by spirits, demons, witches, and even in some cases higher beings (as in the case of mystics). Possession as an explanation for trance is exceedingly common among all races and cultures, and throughout history, and it is (with suitable modifications) a construct equally acceptable with other explanations to account for the phenomena of mediums. The proceedings of the English Society for Psychical Research are eloquent testimony to this hypothesis, and the eminence of men like Myers and Gurney (both of whom were believers) is corroborated by the evidence of Roberts in The Seth Material and Seth Speaks.
These communications, of course, purport to come from humans who have passed over from this life, rather than from demons or spirits. Equally acceptable psychological theories can be advanced to explain the phenomena as an outpouring from the collective preconscious without the need for a possession hypothesis. All that we are attempting to establish here is that the possession hypothesis is not as naive and primitive as one might suppose, but is one that not only has been widely held, but also one which has been used by very experienced and civilized investigators in psychic research. For such activity we will use the phrase "possession trance."
(Table IV Properties of Various Trance States Compared
One of the most interesting aspects of possession trance is that even where there is belief in a High God, belief in possession by such a Being is very rare. Instead there is successively belief in possession by a lesser god or demon, by nature devas, possession by evil living creatures or by sacred animals with supernatural power, and finally possession by the dead. One detects here a hierarchy going from all-powerfulness and badness to circumscribed power and a neutral or goodness aspect. This hierarchy can be seen in Table II which distinguishes various kinds of trance in terms of their properties, of which ego loss and memorability are the two principal variables.
Of all the phenomena in the prototaxic mode, the trance states are the least accommodating of specific definition. The word trance in itself, is utilized to represent a host of behaviors in which significant processual similarities exist, but also in which behavior and interpretation are widely discrepant. The literature indicates that trance is used descriptively in hypnosis, spiritualism, demoniacal possession, shamanism, and in some of the older works, even in cases of pathological disturbance.
A general description of trance is useful at this stage to elucidate the features consistent in the various behaviors. Van der Walde's assumptions (Prince 1968:57-8) about trance acknowledge two features commonly associated with all the variations:
"The present analysis of trance states rests upon the basic assumption that trance states are a class of ego mechanisms designed to allow for the discharge of basic drives in a goal oriented manner: . . . mechanisms can also serve other adaptive and defensive purposes. The second basic assumption is that certain basic drives indigenous to western culture are, in fact, universal and that it is only in the expression or in the discharge form of these drives that cultural determinants intervene."
Implicit in this statement is that trance is more or less a state sought by the subject to "discharge drives in a goal oriented manner." Van der Walde's statement however is slightly over-confining. Certainly in those trance states which are voluntary the activity is goal oriented. In spontaneous trance (i.e. possession states) goal orientation does not appear relevant. Nonetheless, his second assumption yields obvious credibility and insight in traversing the cultural province of such a universal occurrence as the trance state.
Ludwig (Prince:1968) lists various trance states induced by "an increase of exteroceptive stimulation and/or motor activity and/or emotion" as follows:
(a) Brainwashing and "third degree" grilling;
(b) "hyperalert" and "hyperkinetic" trance states induced by unusual tension in a crisis;
(c) trance states induced by rhythm as in drumming and dance;
(d) mob contagion and hysteria;
(e) religious conversion and healing experiences during revivalistic meetings and spirit possession states;
(f) shamanistic trance;
(g) "whirling dervish" trance;
(h) orgiastic trance induced by Bacchanalian rites;
(i) fire-walker's trance;
(j) fugue, amnesias, and similar traumatic neuroses;
(k) battle fatigue;
(1) panic and rage states where the person goes "beserk,"
(n) traumatic illusions and suggestibility resulting from prolonged fear;
(o) hysterical conversion, dreamy and dissociative states; and
(p) acute psychotic states such as schizophrenia.
Ludwig also reports that trance may be induced by relaxation such as
(a) mystical states;
(b) daydreaming, fantasy, or drowsiness;
(c) mediumistic trance;
(d) hypnotic and autohypnotic procedures; and
(e) creative states, and profound aesthetic experiences.
In the analysis of trance, it is worthy of note that sleep may be considered a kind of natural trance in which there is excursion of
the ego. Some occult thinkers believe that during sleep the ego leaves the body, travels to other planes and receives knowledge there, - a shaman is supposed to do the same thing in magical flight.
Since this experience is neither consciously engaged in, nor remembered, it is truly prototaxic. It may, however, have subsequent residual values in the seeping into consciousness of ideas gained during sleep. According to this view, any OBE experience, including the shaman's flight, is merely the parataxic or syntaxic awareness of such an experience.
At any rate, sleep is the involuntary curtailment of consciousness of sensory percepts, and as such it closely resembles trance states. We shall later note a similar connection between dreams and trance.
It should be noted that whether trance is induced by chemical or other means, it appears to act on the body in a way generally characteristic of toxic substances, such as alcohol. Consider, for example the testimony of Dr. Robert D. Fink of the Tennessee Psychiatric Hospital in Memphis at the New York AMA convention in 1973 regarding the progression of stages of delirium tremens:
Stage 1: Tremors, excessively rapid heartbeat, hypertension, heavy sweating, loss of appetite, and insomnia.
Stage 2: Hallucinations-auditory, visual, tactile, or a combination of these; and, rarely, olfactory signs.
Stage 3: Delusions, disorientation, delirium, sometimes intermittent in nature and usually followed by amnesia.
Stage 4: Seizure activity.
The similarity between the above and possession trance is inescapable.
Pearce (Bourguignon 1973:119)summarizes:
Trance experience is a disengagement from ordinary reality orientation. It is a suspension of the ordinary criteria of common consensus. Trance falls into the autistic mode of thinking. The kind of grown person who is able to suspend his reality orientation is the one who retains a pleasant recollection of former disengagements. His childhood fantasies were forms of play in which parental tolerance, approval, or participation played a specific part. The child could always come back to a warm security. The threshold between autistic and reality becomes a well worn path, a door well hinged and oiled through which access was easy and safe.
We may understand trance better by understanding dissociation. A classic description of the dissociation associated with a traumatic experience is given by Greenacre (1969:132-3):
On several occasions patients have brought material which showed quite clearly some connections between visual shock, headache, and the development of a halo. Schematically the sequences is as follows. The child receives a stunning psychic blow, usually an overwhelming visual experience which has the effect of dazing and bewildering it. There is generally the sensation of lights, flashes of lightning, bright colors or of some sort of aurora. This may seem to invest the object, or objects seen, or it may be felt as occurring in the subject's own head experienced literally as seeing lights or seeing red. This is depicted in comic strips as seeing stars. The initial experience always produces the most intense emotions, whether of awe, fear, rage, or horror. Extremely severe lancinating pain may be part of the disturbing experience. The emotion is felt with great force, as if an explosion or a stab had occurred within the head. There is usually at first a feeling of unreality, or of confusion.
Trance states occur primarily in the domain of primitives; due in part to cultural mores and ritual, and also because "the psychology of archaic man and children is marked by the fusion of volitions, moods, emotions, instincts, and somatic reactions" (Neumann, 1954:111).
Among primitives (and children) the ego is less autonomous than among the more rational populations, is less separate from the body, has fewer inhibitions resulting from superego controls, and is more integrated with the id, thereby facilitating the trance state. In primitive cultures the trance states are desirable voluntary states, whereas in civilized societies the same or similar behavior is regarded as neurotic, hysterical, or psychotic.
Neumann (1954:310) makes the fascinating suggestion that rituals and trance induction in primitive societies enhance the developmental rather than regressive functions of the ego:
The development of ego consciousness is paralled by a tendency to make itself independent of the body . . . The point of all such endurance tests is to strengthen the ego's stability, the will, and the higher masculinity, and to establish a conscious sense of superiority over the body . . . ego gains an elementary experience of its own manly spirituality. To these triumphs is added an illumination by the higher spiritual principle whether this be vouchsafed by spiritual beings in individual or collective visions, or by communication of secret doctrines . . . The goal of initiations is transformation ... in his higher consciousness man experiences fellowship with a spiritual and heavenly world.
Neumann's theory is consistent (at least in the cases of voluntary trance) with the use of hypnosis and drugs to induce altered states in order to expand experiential consciousness. Many primitive societies revere those who achieve spiritual trance states and attribute to the state high desirability and social value (which undoubtedly encourages its imitation and reproduction). The shamanistic trance, for example, is next to godliness in some societies.
An explanation for trance in the system of altered states of consciousness is made by Bourguignon (1973:5) who says:
Fischer (1970:232) constructs a "biocybernetic model of conscious experience" for which he finds a neurophysiological basis. Fischer orders states of consciousness along a continuum varying in terms of central nervous system arousal ("ergotropic excitation"). The "normophrenic" state, ranging from daily routine to relaxation and characterized by perception, is at the center of this model. It is flanked on the one hand by the continuum of reduced arousal, ranging from tranquil states to hypoaroused states whose extreme point is found in the Yoga state of Samadhi. This is the continuum of meditation in contrast to perception. On the other hand we find the states of increased arousal, ranging from sensitivity, creativity, and anxiety, to the hyperarousal of schizophrenia and in the ecstatic state of mystical rapture. This is the continuum of hallucination . . . In this view altered states of consciousness are characterized by deviations in quantity of central nervous system arousal from a central normal state.
In a further effort to orient trance into the general system Bourguignon (1973:6-6) states:
A rather different classification, limited to ASC is offered by Ludwig (Prince, 1968). He differentiates states according to the variables involved in their induction, grouping them into five categories:
a. reduction of exteroceptive stimulation and/ or motor activity.
b. increase of exteroceptive stimulation a / o motor activity a / o emotion.
c. increased alertness or mental involvement.
d. decreased alertness and relaxation of critical factors.
e. presence of somato-physiological factors . . .
In spite of the great variety of states included in this classification,
Ludwig finds that they share a series of ten general characteristics:
1. alteration in thinking
2. disturbed time-sense
3. loss of control
4. change in emotional expression
5.change in body image
6. perceptual distortion
7.change in meaning of significance (heightened subjective significance)
8. sense of the ineffable
9.feelings of rejuvenation
Bourguignon (1973:12) adds:
We have found it useful to group these into two broad types:
1. states interpreted by the societies in which they occur as due to "possession by spirits" (possession trance PT)
2.states not so interpreted (trance T)
T involves hallucinations, PT does not; T involves memorability, PT does not; T does not involve amnesia, PT does.
Trance is the center of activity in the prototaxic mode. Ritual is the center of activity in the parataxic mode. Meditation is the center of activity in the syntaxic mode.
Ludwig (1967) (P.A. 1967:10507)also concluded that:
Hypnotic trance is only one variety of trance. Trance phenomena are widespread and represent a normal faculty. Trance may be produced by many means and in many different contexts. Trance may serve important individual and social survival purposes in man.
In the varieties of experience in the prototaxic mode, a characteristic description is the absence of the ego during these behaviors. Serious questions arise, however, as to whether the ego is actually absent in prototaxic behavior, or if, perhaps, there has been "ego-consent" for the behavior, during which time the ego is simply obeying its own choice to be held in abeyance, or if indeed, it is not the ego, but rather the agency of inhibition, the superego, which is absent. The range of experiences which are included in the prototaxic mode do not all conveniently fall into the realm of ego excursive behavior, but rather seem to indicate by their nature an initial excursiveness of the superego. This is then followed, according to the depth and degree of the phenomenon, by "ego-consent" in certain of the behaviors, while in possession and the mental dysfunctions, indeed, spontaneous excursion of the ego occurs. In both cases it is the id which strives for ascendance. In ego-consent although the ego is held in abeyance, the more subtle mechanism is that the ego continues to maintain indirect control, thus in effect thwarting the spontaneity of the id thrust. In ego excursion the id gains functional autonomy and the ego can no longer maintain even indirect controls.
In all cases of prototaxic behavior regardless of the initiating process of ego-consent or excursion, the behavior is characterized by degrees of irrational responses and reactions representative of id consciousness. In the prototaxic mode the repressed, primal instincts surface, yielding the vivid impression that the subject is no longer in control of his logical, rational thought processes, but rather is governed by his base, primitive, sensory oriented capacities.
Today the expression "losing control" is typically used to describe varying behaviors categorized as psychological disturbance. Witnessing an adult yielding to or capitulating to infantile regressive behaviors, the psychologist would comment on the "break with reality" or "separation of the self (read ego) from the environment." The older psychotherapist might describe the same behavior as "hysteria" or "fugue," while the primitive man would probably respond to the behavior as "spirit" or "demoniacal possession," "shamanistic trance," or the like. The point is that behavior characterized by "loss of control" is not new to man, but rather has existed since earliest times. Its description from age to age has seen little fundamental change; rather, it has been subject to diverse sets of culturally imposed interpretations which reflect a given society's frames of reference at a given time.
Loss of control is typically associated with dissociation which is characteristic in the prototaxic mode. Stafford-Clark (1966:254) def ines the Freudian use of the term as:
The breaking off of connexions of any kind, in any sort of combination . . . for a functional interruption of associations or connexions in the mind . . upon which the revival of memories and systems of ideas depends, as well as the personal control normally exercised over various motor processes, and producing forgettings, hallucinations (negative), anaesthesias, etc . . .
For general purposes, dissociation can be treated as loss of control of normal ego functions which are replaced by id capabilities.
With these introductory remarks in mind we are now ready to investigate the different kinds of trance, or perhaps more accurately the different methods of inducing it and the different beliefs about it.
2.32 Group Trance Dance
Many primitive cultures around the world employ a form of trance which may be called "group trance dance." This ceremony or ritual involves a large number of persons in the tribal group, generally though not always, of an elite nature. The purpose of the trance dance is usually for active curing or healing, although other paranormal activities are sometimes seen. It also seems evident that participants experience some intrinsic satisfaction by entering the associated ASC; they may also receive extrinsic incentives in societal rewards or increased status. Characteristic of this form of trance is group possession, exaggerated kinesthetic behavior, ultimate exhaustion and catalepsy, sleep, and no memorability of the incident. Aspects of group contagion appear to be involved; drumming and music often accompany the dance; and finally the spectacle is public and open. In many of these respects group trance dance differs from the trance activities of separated individuals.
Before we smile on such naive behavior we should notice that these ceremonies are very similar to the kinesthetic activities of many Christian and Sufi religious sects, notably the Quakers, Shakers, and whirling dervishes.
Group trance represents the consolidation of all the trance states developed thus far. Its significance, however, lies not in its replication of those states, but rather in the techniques which are used for induction of trance in groups.
Induction rituals among primitives are remarkably similar, in spite of specific culture-oriented deviation, and are notably dissimilar to induction procedures followed by individuals (with the exception of certain aspects of shamanism). The outstanding dissimilarity is that group trance ritual engages the body in active, and often strenuous exertion; there is little of the solemnity and quiet which is associated, for example, with the reduction in stimulus in hypnotic induction. In fact, the group trance ritual is a physical ritual. Reliance on the body as a vehicle for trance expression is an indication of the absence of the mental powers which would permit the ego the concentration and discipline related to trance. Gross body stimulation then would engender the primitive's capability to produce altered states of consciousness. Lee (in Prince, ed., 1968:49) attests to this state of affairs: "altered states of consciousness may be produced as a result of either a reduction or an increase in the level of exteroceptive stimulation and/or motor activity."
Another relevant aspect of the body consciousness of primitive man is its characteristic looseness of boundaries. The flexible self-image of the primitive allows him to remain, when he so chooses, undifferentiated from external reality. Neumann notes (1954, pp. 288-89) in a typical example the relationship of Australian aborigines to the "churinga" - a piece of wood or stone which the subject hides away as a manifestation of "one's own hidden body." Neumann cites this as demonstrative of "the self (which is) here felt to be identical with the body and with the world of the ancestors." The primitive is freer than his more rational relations to experience oneness with his environment, and thus through extensive bodily manipulation, rather than mental journeys, is able to extend himself into an altered state of perception of that environment.
The Kung! Bushmen (as reported by Lee, Prince 1968:35) have an elaborate group trance ceremony which culminates in a dancing orgy. Special features include the high incidence of trance, and the public nature of the display. There are five stages to the exhibition:
(1) the preparatory dance and song;
(2) the entering of the trance which produces visible changes in the dancers;
(3) the "half death" in which the trancer appears in a supine catelepsy;
(4) the "active curing" phase when the entranced person rises to his feet, staggers among the crowd to perform the curative "laying on of hands" to the sick; and
(5) the return to normal usually during a heavy sleep.
Other typical phenomena seen during such group trances are fire walking, fire handling, and running amok. Lee also reports that active engagement in trance is a characteristic of young men; old men though experienced in such matters do not appear to have the power.
It will be helpful to give some eyewitness examples of trance behavior, especially to bring out the crude and gross somatic activity. Pfeiffer (1969:349-50) describes the trance dance graphically:
Another major phase of the Kalahari project concerns the relationships between behavior and beliefs. At the core of the Bushman's religion is the healing dance, and at the core of the dance is the trance of the healer. The Bushmen believe that medicine lies cold in the pit of the healer's stomach, and that it can be released and transferred to sick persons by a laying-on of hands. But first the medicine must be brought to a boil, which is the purpose of the dance.
Proceedings usually start in the evening as women, and often children, make a fire and sit about it clapping and singing. Soon some of the men move into the area to dance for brief periods in circles around the fire, shoulders hunched and feet stamping and arms pressed against their sides, in a casual sort of warm-up period that may last for two hours or so. Then the frenzy comes.
A vacant stare appears in the eyes of the dancer and he trembles, sweats heavily and stamps so hard that, in Lee's words, "shock waves can be seen rippling through the body."
The trance state is marked by moaning, shrieking, and intense physical exertion. Sometimes a dancer, a novice as a rule, loses control and runs wild into the bush or burns himself by dancing through the central fire. One man described the experience as follows: "I see all the people like very small birds; the whole place will be spinning around and that is why we run around. The trees will be circling also. You feel your blood become very hot just like blood boiling on a fire and then you start healing. . . . When I lay my hands on a sick person, the medicine in me will go into him and cure him."
These rituals serve a number of purposes besides healing. The people may also organize dances out of sheer exuberance, to celebrate the killing of a large antelope or to greet old friends coming for a visit. Looking at things in a wider context, Lee draws attention to a point involving the resolution of conflict. He emphasizes that in the course of their dancing activities the Bushman experience hallucinations, distorted body images and related effects which members of other societies, primitive and otherwise, experience with the use of drugs - and that certain features of the dance, such as violent exertion and shrieking, help provide harmless relief for resentments and fears and insecurities.
The dance ritual in primitive society is the catalyst for trance induction. The dance incorporates the features of hypnosis, accomplished by either a hypnotic (medicine man, prophet, etc.) or by autosuggestion, linked with dissociation and regression, all critically forged through the intense physical commotion. For the dance ritual to achieve its end, goal oriented trance, two preconditions must exist. The first is that the subject chooses to participate, thus ascribing ego-consent to the process. The second precondition is two pronged. The subject must be responsive to suggestibility, and to enhance his suggestibility, it is useful for him to trust in the credibility of the vision. Fundamentally, group trance is the precursor of the quest for the vision and affirmation of the faith which is characteristic of passionate religious conversions which occur in the twentieth century.
On the ideational level, suggestibility plays a significant role in preparing the group for a dance ritual. The primitive group, reflecting, of course, the individuals in the group, is less developed in its critical reasoning capabilities, and is likely to be more susceptible to explanations or promises with disregard for their irrational components. En masse susceptibility is heightened, as Rawcliffe (1951, p. 75) notes:
Suggestion in primitive society can be implanted with enormous effect. The combination of complete belief in magic and in the powers of the witchdoctor (or hypnotic), the large element of fear, the accumulative effect of reciprocal suggestion always present among a crowd, the state of excitement and intense expectation, all operate to induce a state of extreme suggestibility.
The acute anticipation of fulfillment of ancient tribal longings, desire to placate the gods, or to heal the sick, inspires the intensity of the group ritual. In the processual hierarchy, group suggestion may actually aggravate the initial fantasy state and over-accentuate the need for energy discharge, thus incurring the frenzy of the ritual dance. The process is not unlike propaganda (group suggestion) feeding into war (frenzy of discharge)!
Mooney (1896:917) gives us this classic description of the Sioux Ghost Dance:
When they arose again, they enlarged the circle by facing toward the center, taking hold of hands, and moving around in the manner of school children in their play of "needle's eye." And now the most intense excitement began. They would go as fast as they could, their hands moving from side to side, their bodies swaying, their arms, with hands gripped tightly in their neighbors', swinging back and forth with all their might. If one, more weak and frail, came near falling, he would be jerked up and into position until tired nature gave way. The ground had been worked and worn by many feet, until the fine, flour-like dust lay light and loose to the depth of two or three inches. The wind, which had increased, would sometimes take it up, enveloping the dancers and hiding them from view. In the ring were men, women, and children; the strong and the robust, the weak consumptive, and those near to death's door. They believed those who were sick would be cured by joining in the dance and losing consciousness.
The Indian Ghost Dance (and undoubtedly most similar events) was a quest for ancestral communication and spiritual rejuvenation (Mooney, 1896). But in spite of the spiritual zealousness involved, it was also a social event, replete with all the trappings of a festival. Motivation for participation in the group dance was as much initiated for the 'social' as the 'spiritual' benefits. Thus, it is possible that much of what was purported to be trance was but an imitative performance, and Rawcliffe (1951, p. 153) notes that we can observe cases where wishful thinking, suggestion, or an irrational impulse to imitation, is responsible for initiating an activity which, at first subject to volitional control, rapidly develops into an involuntary psychological automatism.
This suggests spontaneous synthesis of suggestion and weak ego, which although permitting initial consent (to participation and/or imitation) can no longer control the impulses. The loss of control is similar to both the process and behavior of the possession state. Mooney (1896:950ff) crediting Brown's Dervishes gives us the following lengthy description of Sufi dancing:
After a new pause commences the fourth scene. Now all the Dervishes take off their turbans, form a circle, bear their arms and shoulders against each other, and thus make the circuit of the hall at a measured pace, striking their feet at intervals against the floor, and all springing up at once. This dance continues during the Ilahees chanted alternately by the two elders to the left of the sheikh. In the midst of this chant the cries of "Ya Allah!" are increased doubly, as also those of "Ya Hoo!" with frightful howlings, shrieked by the Dervishes together in the dance. At the moment that they would seem to stop from sheer exhaustion the sheikh makes a point of exerting them to new efforts by walking through their midst, making also himself most violent movements. He is next replaced by the two elders, who double the quickness of the step and the agitation of the body; they even straighten themselves up from time to time, and excite the envy or emulation of the others in their astonishing efforts to continue the dance until their strength is entirely exhausted.
The fourth scene leads to the last, which is the most frightful of all, the wholly prostrated condition of the actors becoming converted into a species of ecstasy which they call Halet. It is in the midst of this abandonment of self, or rather of religious delirium, that they make use of red-hot irons. Several cutlasses and other instruments of sharp-pointed iron are suspended in the niches of the hall, and upon a part of the wall to the right of the sheikh. Near the close of the fourth scene two Dervishes take down eight or nine of these instruments, heat them red hot, and present them to the sheikh. He, after reciting some prayers over them, and invoking the founder of the order, Ahmed er Ruffee, breathes over them, and raising them slightly to the mouth, gives them to the Dervishes, who ask for them with the greatest eagerness. Then it is that these fanatics, transported by frenzy, seize upon these irons, gloat upon them tenderly, lick them, bite them, hold them between their teeth, and end by cooling them in their mouths. Those who are unable to procure any seize upon the cutlasses hanging on the wall with fury, and stick them into their sides, arms, and legs.
Thanks to the fury of their frenzy, and to the amazing boldness which they deem a merit in the eyes of the Divinity, all stoically bear up against the pain which they experience with apparent gaiety. If, however, some of them fall under their sufferings, they throw themselves into the arms of their confreres, but without a complaint or the least sign of pain. Some minutes after this, the sheikh walks round the hall, visits each one of the performers in turn, breathes upon their wounds, rubs them with saliva, recites prayers over them, and promises them speedy cures. It is said that twenty-four hours afterward nothing is to be seen of their wounds. (Pages 218-222.)
Subjan (1970:1-6) also describes in detail the Sufi dhikr.
Witthower (1970) (P.A. 1972:10679) recounts native cult services in Haiti, Liberia, and Brazil to illustrate behavior patterns during trance states and states of spiritual possession. Trance and possession behaviors have some resemblance to epileptic and hysteric states and possess a great similarity to hypnotic trance states. Cult rituals have functional, adaptive value both for the cultures in which they appear and for the individual worshipper. The control of mystic power and its investment in otherwise insignificant peasants, may relieve feelings of impotence and expendability produced by discrimination, oppression, and the rapid cultural change of progressive westernization in developing nations.
The Voodoo rites of Haiti seem to be a combination of group trance dance and possession trance. Among others who have written about possession trance in the Caribbean area are Henny (1969), and others. But lest we become patronizing at the excesses of zeal in other cultures, let us note an indigenous example.
Mooney (1896:941) in his usual conscientious fashion tells of the Shakers:
About the year 1750 there originated in England another peculiar body of sectarians calling themselves the "United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing," but commonly known, for obvious reasons, as Shakers. Their chief prophetess and founder was "Mother" Ann Lee, whom they claim as the actual reincarnation of Christ. They claim also the inspiration of prophecy, the gift of healing, and sometimes even the gift of tongues, and believe in the reality of constant intercourse with the spirit world through visions. In consequence of persecution in England, on account of their public dancing, shouting, and shaking, they removed to this country about 1780 and settled at New Lebanon, New York, where the society still keeps up its organization.
The best idea of the Shakers is given in a small volume by Evans, who was himself a member of the sect. Speaking of the convulsive manifestations among them, he says: "Sometimes, after sitting awhile in silent meditation, they were seized with a mighty trembling, under which they would often express the indignation of God against all sin. At other times they were exercised with singing, shouting, and leaping for joy at the near prospect of salvation. They were often exercised with great agitation of body and limbs, shaking, running, and walking the floor, with a variety of other operations and signs, swiftly passing and repassing each other like clouds agitated with a mighty wind. These exercises, so strange in the eyes of the beholders, brought upon them the appellation of Shakers, which has been their most common name of distinction ever since." With regard to their dancing, he says: "It is pretty generally known that the Shakers serve God by singing and dancing; but why they practice this mode of worship is not so generally understood: . . . When sin is fully removed, by confessing and forsaking it, the cause of heaviness, gloom, and sorrow is gone, and joy and rejoicing, and thanksgiving and praise are then the spontaneous effects of a true spirit of devotion. And whatever manner the spirit may dictate, or whatever the form into which the spirit may lead, it is acceptable to Him from whom the spirit proceeds." On one particular occasion, "previous to our coming we called a meeting and there was [sic] so many gifts (such as prophecies, revelations, visions, and dreams) in confirmation of a former revelation for us to come that some could hardly wait for others to tell their gifts. We had a joyful meeting and danced till morning."
The heating qualities of the numinous element when manifested in individuals are not alone seen in the perspiration of primitive peoples. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, tells us in his journal (Nickalls 1952:1962:41): "The word of the Lord was like a fire in me, and being winter I untied my shoes and put them off." Having walked barefoot through an English winter foretelling doom to Lichfield, he returned "in peace," but "the fire of the Lord was so in my feet and all over me that I did not matter to put my shoes on any more....". It should be noted that this experience is the inverse of fire-walking, a similar manifestation of the numinous element.
2.33 Possession Trance8
The possession of a human by a demon or disincarnate spirit smacks so much of witchcraft, primitive animism, and out-moded superstition that it is particularly objectionable to Western researchers as an explanation, or topic, for psychological analysis. The alternative psychoanalytically-oriented construct that repressed and despised aspects of the psyche become so numerous and so strong in the subconscious that they take over the conscious persona is also a possibility, provided we credit the collective preconscious with enlarged powers. Nevertheless, the first construct appears useful in understanding possession trance, which appears to be some kind of a way station between the frightening dissociation of schizophrenia, and the professional benign control of dissociation by a medical hypnotist.
Although one cannot with rigor totally distinguish possession trance from either schizophrenia, group trance, mediumistic trance, or shamanistic trance, since they all partake of some aspects of possession, we shall for clarity adopt Bourguignon's position and mean by "possession trance" only those cases where an individual (generally in a primitive society) is possessed by a demon or spirit, in which the possessed person has no memorability of the incident, and the "ill" behavior appears to have no social value. The popularity of the motion picture "The Exorcist" suggests that this kind of possession is by no means confined to primitive peoples. This type of trance is usually chronic; it is not sought by the person, but is considered by him and by his friends as an "illness" to be gotten rid of, often by shamanistic intervention.
The possession states by definition imply the presence of belief in the power of the spirits, generally assumed to be demoniacal, to enter the body of and possess the soul of an individual. The spirits are said to 'possess' the subject and to be responsible for his discordant and bizarre speech, actions, and general behavior.
The possession state is the first on the prototaxic continuum which is involuntary and unlikely to occur as a result of ego-consent. Further, at least at its inception, it cannot be included in the superego excursive category either. It is also the first of the trance states in which ego conflict and mental struggle are in marked evidence. And comparatively, possession is more akin to pathological personality disturbance than to the voluntary trance states.
In possession and the subsequent states, the superego, ego, and id relationship lends itself to conceptualization as ego-excursive. There appears to be a "sandwiching effect" wherein the ego is obliterated, or excursed, under the intense pressure of the id battling for experiential expression and the superego over-responding in its capacity to squelch the id's attempt at manipulation. This "sandwiching" pressure creates a fear factor embodied only in the involitional states. It indicates the fear of, rather than choice to, lose control. And therein lies a profound difference between the involitional and ego-consent behaviors. The weak ego cannot summon adequate resources to defend itself and as the battle between the id and superego escalates, the ego excurses in terror, with subsequent complete capitulation to the id's archaic impulses and/or the superego's moral verdict. In either case the ego excursion is total and results in serious behavioral abberations.
The id becomes the incarnation of the devil or evil spirit and the subject is said to be possessed when this manifestation of the archaic impulses assumes autonomous control of consciousness. While disclaiming actual spirit possession, Neumann (1954, p.300)nonetheless accounts for the possession factor by the unconscious:
The tendency of the unconscious contents to swamp the consciousness corresponds to the danger of being "possessed;" it is one of the greatest "perils of the soul" even today. Consciousness possessed by particular content has enormous dynamism; but counteracts the centroversion tendency of the ego to work for the whole. Consequently, the danger of disintegration and collapse becomes all the greater . . . Possession by an unconscious content entails loss of (ego) consciousness.
Neumann's conceptualization, because it deals with content and process rather than interpretation, establishes the commonalities between the primitive possession state and modern ego dysfunctions.
Oesterreich (1966, p.83) describes the "possession transformation" which concurs with Neumann's content and process and details the loss of ego control:
1. The subject gradually weakens in his resistance to the compulsive processes which constitute the essence of the "demon";
2. The process begins to be accepted but is not subject to the control of the will (sandwiching effect);
3. When the struggle is relinquished the patient ceases simultaneously as a rule to harbor compulsive ideas and to imagine the consciousness of the second personality (the spirit).
The struggle or transformation process typically is a violent outburst of energies from the unconscious (Oesterreich, 1966, p.85). Van der Walde (in Prince, ed., 1968, p. 44) notes that in the Kung Bushmen trance rituals, although initiates have consented to participation, they have not developed adequate discipline and self control and "young novices often plunge into trance and exhibit uncontrolled reactions and must be restrained." Violence or socially deviant behavior is characteristic of possession as well and in both situations appears to be the result of ego excursion which deprives the subject of self-control, and superego excursion which deprives him of his judgemental capacities.
In possession the unwillingness or incapacity of the ego to integrate the behavioral and ideational impulses of the unconscious forces the ego upon recovery to succumb to amnesia. In all likelihood the amnesia itself becomes the compulsive function of the personality. Prince (1968, p. vi) comments that the amnesia accompanying the possession states differentiates it clearly from what he calls the mystical trance states.
Possession is a spontaneous regressive behavior in which there is obvious absence of ego-consent and ego control (although a case could be made for "regression in the service of the ego" - as an adaptive defense of a weak ego). The behavior is accelerated in appearance "under the twin influences of suggestion and emotion (Rawcliffe, 1951, p. 78), and during certain periods (i.e. The Inquisition) has reached epidemic proportions. However, much of what was reported as possession was either highly imitative behavior (though of doubtful social value) initiated by predisposition toward personality dysfunction, or unlikely confessions of possession made under the extreme duress of torture. Finally it was in the majority of cases, severe personality disorders responding to both the suggestion and expectations of the society, and unlikely to be demoniacal possession at all.
Bourguignon (1973:42) defines possession trance as follows:
(It) . . . refers to a condition in which a person is believed to be inhabited by the spirit of another person or a supernatural being. During this possession . . . the person is in an altered state of consciousness, evidenced by one or more of the following:
Talking and acting like the inhabiting spirit,
lapsing into a coma-like state, speaking unintelligibly, exhibiting physical symptoms such as twitching, wild dancing, frothing at the mouth, etc.
Upon regaining his original identity, the person generally retains no conscious memory of the activity of the spirit.
Greenbaum (Bourguignon 1973:39ff) found possession trance correlated with slavery, and believed they were both related to intervening variables. Bourguignon (1973:327) in summary stated that possession trance may provide for status and self esteem among the lowly in a rigid society. "It provides compensation for those hardest pressed: 'women and weak men."'
Spirit possession is found extensively in Africa, descriptions of it being found in Ghana, the Kalabari region, the Yoruba region, the Tonga of Zambia, the Korekore Valley, the Zula, Bubyoro, Tanzania, Somaliland, Kenya, and among the Lugbara, the Alor, and the Sukama, all cited by Beattie and others (1969).
M. F. Field (Beattie 1969:3) describes spirit-possession thus:
The dissociated state in spirit possession (often called trance) is of brief duration, usually an hour or two . . . When normal consciousness is regained the subject has no recollection of what he did, said, observed, or felt while possessed. The dissociation closely resembles that which operates in sleep- walking and hypnotism . . . The possession fit or trance exhibits two distinct phases. There is a short opening phase of dazed mute inaccessibility, and a second longer phase of excitement with great activity . . .
There appear to be two types of trance, spirit-possession, described as above, and mediumship, in which the spirit activities are not somatic, but oracular.
Elizabeth Colson, (Beattie and Others 1969:70-2), gives us the following excellent description of a typical example of spirit possession in Tonga:
(The) Tonga recognize three varieties of possession, each due to a particular class of spirit. These are treated in different fashions and have different consequences for the one possessed and for the public. In each variety, a spirit is said to enter (kunji1a) the body of the one possessed; during periods of active possession the vehicle is addressed as the spirit and treated in ways regarded as appropriate for that spirit. During inactive periods it is common to speak of a spirit as being on the body of its vehicle, or perhaps near the body. Its presence is then disregarded. When the spirit departs, abandoning its vehicle entirely, the latter becomes cool (tontolo).
Basangu possession is the most important variety of possession as far as public consequences are concerned. It provides the inspiration for public ritual and is linked closely with social and political life. Perhaps Basangu were once men, earlier prophets and community leaders. Perhaps they have always been spirits who have gone from one human vehicle to another. Tonga may disagree on this point without feeling it important. It is what a basangu does, not where it came from, that interests people.
Basangu mediums are true mediums; for they are intermediaries between the spirits and the world of the living. Their messages are almost always of public import, the medium being only the vehicle through which they are transmitted.
The second form of possession, by masabe, is the most common and most spectacular. Whereas basangu possess their mediums because they seek to control or help the public, masabe seek vehicles through whom they can express their own desires and essential natures. The masabe medium is no medium at all in the sense of being an intermediary. The possession experience is of private import; it is addressed to the one possessed. It has its public aspect only because treatment involves the performance of a dance ceremony in which others must participate. Failure to carry out the instructions of the basangu can react upon the public rather than upon the medium who is only a vehicle of the command. Failure to carry out the orders of masabe reacts upon those possessed; for masabe affect only their own vehicle, unlike basangu who influence the world of nature, especially weather.
The third type of possession is ghost possession involving spirits known as zilube, zelo, basikazwa, and sometimes basangu. Ghosts originate in the forgotten local dead or are spirits who have fallen into the control of sorcerers, or perhaps they are a spirit remnant created at each death. Informants differ. A ghost enters its victim for the purpose of killing. Sudden violent illnesses are therefore attributed to ghost possession. Treatment is carried out in private and involves fumigation and the clanging of iron implements in an attempt to force the ghost to leave its victim. Before it flees it should call out its own name and perhaps the name of the directing sorcerer. The released victim should show immediate improvement.
Ghost possession differs from basangu and masabe possession in being wholly undesirable. Victim and helpers seek only to expel a ghost and prevent its re-entry, whereas basangu and masabe mediums expect a long-term association with their spirits and some personal benefits from being possessed. The ghost has no message to give, either public or private; it has no desires to be appeased. Ghosts have no mediums, only victims, and these must be short-term ones; either a ghost is expelled or the victim dies.
Henney (Bourguignon 1973:233-4) describes possession trance during a St. Vincent Shaker meeting:
States of dissociation that are a common occurrence during Shaker meetings are explained as possession by the Holy Spirit9. Such manifestations rarely appear during the early part of the service when the worshipers are occupied with responses, kneeling, shaking hands, and so on. If a worshiper does begin to slip into possession trance, as evidenced by a sob, a shout, or a shudder, perhaps, he quickly recovers.
Possession trance occurs as the performance of a single individual, or as a performance in which several individuals are affected but each acts as a soloist, or as a group performance in which possession trance takes on choral aspects. When a person exhibits symptoms of developing possession trance, he may be the only one in the church to display such behavior at the time, or there may be several individuals scattered through the church in a similar state; he may be a member of the congregation, or he may be the person who has been performing, preaching, or praying.
The first outward indication of possession trance may be a convulsive jerk of an arm or arms, one or both shoulders, or the head. Or it may be a shiver, a shudder, or tremble; a sudden shout, sob, or hiss; a series of unintelligible sounds; or any combination of such movements or vocalizations. The affected person may suddenly stand up and dance in place. These external signs of inward lessening of control appear to be spontaneous; and for each possession trancer, they have a random quality lacking any rhythmic pattern. As far as the group is concerned, if several persons are affected at the same time, each displays a different set of symptoms. At this level of possession trance, symptoms viewed either for the individual or for the group are random and unpatterned; however, from one session to another, the movements and sounds of a particular individual can often be predicted . . .
Feinhelder (1971) in a cross cultural survey of trance discusses some of the constants found in it. In the Ashanti of West Africa, trance is part of the healing ministry, In Bali, mass spirit-possession takes place in mourning and divination services which include frenzy, dancing, and unconsciousness. Among the Crow Indians, trance is used for divination, for manhood ceremonies, as a relief for stress, and as part of the ceremonial Bear dance. Among the Lapps, trance is used for clairvoyance; it is induced by rhythmic singing, dancing, and beating of drums. Among the Bedouin of Syria, trance may come about by spirit-possession. The Shango of Trinidad become entranced through the beating of drums, and it can be passed from one to another by touch. In the Bantu of Kenya, married women are possessed by spirits who make demands for prohibited objects, and who must be exorcised by ceremonies.
Feinholder concludes that trance is institutionalized behavior existing in societies where child-rearing is rigid, and where personal blame is high as a result both of social anxiety and intropunitiveness; it may provide opportunities to obtain otherwise unavailable rewards and indulgences.
2.34 Mediumistic Trance 9
While mediumistic trance is similar to possession trance in that the ego of the medium is excursed under trance, and appears to be under the control of another personality, without memorability of the experience, mediumistic trance differs in several important particulars from possession trance. These are:
1. Whereas in possession trance the individual is possessed by a demon or malevolent spirit, the medium appears to be possessed by a benign spirit, usually that of a dead human being.
2. Whereas in possession trance the individual is seen as "ill" and his behavior something to be got rid of, in mediumistic trance the behavior of the medium is seen to be "good" and something to be repeated; hence possession trance is not sought, but mediumistic trance is.
3. Whereas in possession trance the behavior of the invading spirit has no social value or benefit, in mediumistic trance the behavior of the invading spirit has the social benefit of advice, help, knowledge, healing, precognition, prophecy, etc.
4. Whereas in possession trance there are gross somatic and kinesthetic movements of a crude variety, these acting-out behaviors are much less seen in mediumistic trance, being replaced by words intelligible to others, or other socially valuable paranormal behavior.
These distinctions are sufficient to require a special category for mediumistic trance, as they also distinguish the state from shamanistic trance, in which the shaman purports to have memorability and control himself during the trance. There is also another characteristic of mediumistic trance, seen even more forcibly in shamanistic trance which distinguishes them from possession trance. That is that mediumistic trance has to be learned and can be perfected. Like shamanistic trance, it also can be induced at will.
Mediumistic trance is very ancient; accounts of it are found in all cultures, and in ancient religious works including the Bible (The Witch of Endor being a good example). It involves both dissociation and an ASC. Myers, the great authority on mediumship, devotes a chapter to the subject in his Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, and notes the close relationship of trance possession to motor automatisms in the following definition (1903:345):
Possession is a more developed form of motor automatism in which the automatist's own personality does for the time altogether disappear, while there is a more or less complete substitution of personality; writing or speech being given by a spirit through the entranced organism (i.o.).
One of the psychologically interesting aspects of mediumistic trance is that character and intelligence in the medium as in the sitters seems to result in a higher control, and the production of material of at least a good literary value instead of the more vapid banalities often associated with trance mediumship. Thus it looks as though some middle layer of the minds of the medium and the sitters are in some way being tapped.
While possession has some similarities to the creative inspiration, automatic writing, and peak-experiences and satori, it differs in a most important respect, namely that the individual is not only not conscious, but the spirit seems to have vacated the consciousness, leaving it at the mercy of whatever comes along.
Possession is not the same as the conscious excursion of the spirit in ecstasy, rapture, OOB experience, or other mystical adventure, for here the consciousness while sometimes out of the body, and certainly somewhat dissociated, is still able later to relate what has happened to it during the interval when the body lay cataleptic. The same conscious awareness is not reported in possession.10
While most mediums, especially those of a spiritualistic bent, seem to turn up little but banality in their control utterances, (as if the gigantic computer associated with the collective preconscious had executed a "print dump" order), there are a few mediums who have reported significant veridictical material. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the data collected under the mediumship of "Mrs. Piper" (Myers, 1909:347).
It is significant that her "sitters" and the alleged disincarnate spirits attending her either were or had been men of distinction in psychical research. Apparently the keenness of the intellects of the sitters and the controls in these instances may do much to improve the quality of the communication, since it is not only the preconscious of the medium which is being tapped. Mrs. Garrett (1968), another noted psychic, reported that after it was discovered that she had mediumistic powers, she found it necessary to "be developed" by sitting with Hewitt McKenzie, another eminent psychic researcher. We are unsure as to whether there is a gradual education of the uncontrolled "not-me" aspects of the preconscious to a more docile aspect, or whether the "education" is merely a change of locus within the vast area of the preconscious, (as when several users pool their stored memory drum data on a giant computer). Or it may be that parts of the persona become more personalized and discreet, resulting in a fragmentary personality, or two or more persons. It was William James' conclusion (Myers 1903:382) that Mrs. Piper "has supernormal powers." Myers himself was one of her "sitters" and believed in the genuineness of her phenomena; it is interesting that after his death, he was one of the alleged controls in the phenomena of the next medium, Mrs. Leonard.
Another noted mediumship far above the usual was that of Mrs. Leonard (Smith 1964). As Smith says in the opening lines of the book (1964:11), "A great medium is a rare phenomenon, rarer than a great painter or a piano virtuoso." Mrs. Leonard apparently developed her psychic powers so that her sittings (some of which were with Sir Oliver Lodge) had unusual "power" and clarity, and her control, a discarnate entity named "Feda" was very accurate. We cannot in this short space give adequate examples of this ability, but we shall discuss one of the most unusual of Mrs. Leonard's powers - that of "direct voice." Direct voice occurs when (on rare occasions) the supposed disincarnate "deceased" speaks with his own voice through the medium, instead of communicating with the control who then speaks through the medium. There is nothing much in the fact that this happens, but what is significant is that the content of the D. V. messages reveals an entirely different personality than that of the control. In the direct voice protocols (Smith 1964:238), the "direct voice" supplies words when Feda asks, corrects Feda in content and pronunciation, contradicts Feda, expostulates with Feda, is unheard, misheard, or only partly heard by the control. Some examples:
Feda: It's like being put in charge of a department of boars.
Feda: Admiral Idea, he says.
Feda: A man once said Feda was a spectrum.
Feda: What do you call it - an empty sone?
No one can read these pages without being powerfully impressed with the conclusion that the direct voice communicator and Feda the control are two distinct entities, and that of the two the communicator is more sophisticated and educated. It is as if the medium were a piano, and there are two players, one much more skilled than the other. The direct voice communicator knows where to find the words in the medium's mind that Feda does not. In other words, he has a bigger vocabulary - certainly one of the prime aspects of personality survival. Smith (1964:229) also provides an explanation of how and why "direct voice" occurs, and its relationship to the whole mediumistic seance.
A third and final example of an unusually "high" control for a medium is the recent "Seth Material" from the mediumship of Jane Roberts (1970, 1972). If we are to believe Seth, he is a highly evolved entity, far above the usual table-rapping type; certainly his material, while somewhat formal and platitudinous, is generally in keeping with his claims. Seth's statements however, like those of other mediums, can be interpreted in one way as communication from the beyond and can also in another way be represented as communication from parts of the preconscious within.
In appraising the work of mediums, we should note that in a dissociated way, they are also creative, for through their dissociation, elemental energies become focused. Muldoon and Carrington (1961:20) point up this parallelism in stating "With mediums the imagination becomes a creative power of the first order."
Let us assume for the moment that mediumistic utterances can be taken at their face value, and let us examine critically the content of the messages in contrast to material on similar subjects produced by prophets, mystics, religious leaders, and "third-force" writers. One might assume that those who purport to speak from the other side of the veil might have some startling disclosures, some irresistible proselyting abilities, or some grand eloquence and majesty unequalled by mortal rivals. But this is not the case. The most eloquent descriptions of the afterlife, of man and his destiny, of the relation of man to the universe have not been written by spirits, speaking through a medium, but by inspired humans, in an advanced stage of development. The trance utterances, to be sure, give some hope that consciousness may survive physical death, but this doctrine is taught by many religions, and can be adduced, as we have seen in this book, by psychological analysis. Despite the elevated quality of the material produced through the mediumship of Mrs. Piper, Mrs. Leonard, and Mrs. Roberts, it certainly cannot compare with the New Testament, Paradise Lost, or the writings of Blake, Whitman, Emerson, or Maslow. Everyone is entitled to make of this what he will, but to this writer, these facts are eloquent concerning the restraints imposed by mediumship. And this brings us back to the central fact of possession, that while there may be benefits, there are also severe debits.
We have focused on mediumship because it is the most progressive and possibly useful aspect of possession. In reviewing the pros and cons of mediumship, one must ask oneself what has been accomplished. Perhaps some good has been done if any persons are persuaded that life is not as circumscribed by the counting house as Scrooge imagined it to be before being visited by a trio of ghosts. But what has happened to the medium? Has the experience facilitated or complicated her development? The grave loss of control of her own organism can hardly be desirable. Why are an overwhelming preponderance of mediums women? Is there some sexual aspect at work here? What would happen otherwise to the medium? Is this some sanctioned expression of the dissociated elements of the self which otherwise might later explode into schizophrenia? In our analysis of the developmental forcing of schizophrenia we referred to the rupturing of a placenta. Certainly there has been a similar rupture of a placental envelope in these cases.
We have reviewed examples of noted mediumship where (if one cares to believe the allegations) the medium was controlled by high disincarnate types, whose words make sense and give some larger meaning, but such cases are in the minority. Being a medium seems like hitchhiking a ride: you may be lucky and get to your destination, but you may also put yourself at the mercy of undesirable elements. The medium in effect allows her spirit to be invaded for profit, as the prostitute does her body. No one who values the regnancy of integrity of the human being can be happy at either outcome though men may, for expedience, accept the ministrations of both.
2.35 Shamanistic Trance 11
A shaman is essentially a sorcerer, a warlock, a "brujo" who deals in magic through the prototaxic procedure of trance. Shamanistic trance while similar to mediumistic trance in some ways, differs from it in several important details:
1. Whereas the medium's mission is to bring communications from the dead, the shaman's mission is to influence the natural environment through magic; his essential duties in carrying out this mission include curing the sick through the expelling of malevolent spirits, influencing, advising, and prediction regarding matters of public importance (such as crops, hunting, weather), and acting as an advocate for his own or his client's private interests in instigating sorcery or preventing counter-sorcery from others.
2. Whereas a medium is usually a less dominant female, a shaman is usually a more dominant male.
3. Whereas a medium merely reports, a shaman bears responsibility for instigation, initiative, and decision-making. Hence, he has a higher status in his society: a medium is not feared; a shaman is.
4. Whereas a medium is entirely under the control of the possessing spirit, the shaman seems to be in control of his spirits, (who appear to be more like familiars of a witch).
5. Whereas the medium generally loses consciousness in trance and has no memorability of the incident, the shaman is able to remain in some state of control, remember, and recite at least some of the experiences he has had in trance.
6. Whereas the medium's paranormal activities outside of communication are generally relatively small, the corresponding activities of the shaman are generally large.
7. Whereas mediumistic trance purports essentially to be a bridge to communication with the dead, shamanistic trance purports essentially to be an out-of-body (OOB) experience, involving magical flight, hallucinations, and memorability, and often the temporary assumption of an animal form.
Elaide, the great master of the subject, characterized shamanism in one of his titles as the "Archaic Technique of Ecstasy," and it would be hard to improve on this description. While shamanism is generally confined to primitive cultures, Don Juan of Casteneda's books (1968, 1972) is a good example of a modern Mexican shaman who exhibits many of the characteristics just noted.
Eliade (1964:29-30) points to the mental health of the shaman thus:
The shaman differs from the epileptic in being able to bring on his trance at will.... He is animated, bubbling over with intelligence and vitality. In general the shaman shows no signs of mental or physical disintegration.
Eliade (1964:315) also reports:
The Ojibwa (Indians) have two kinds of shamans, the Wabeno ... and the jessakkid. . . . Both are capable of shamanic exploits. The Wabeno are also called fire-handlers, and can touch burning coals and remain unhurt. The jessakkid perform cures, the gods and spirits speak through their mouths ...
Eliade (1964:321) declares:
Some prophets-such as John Slocum, creator of the Shaker movement - opposed the old Indian religion and especially the medicine men. This did not prevent the shamans from joining Slocum's movement; for in it they found the ancient tradition of celestial ascents and experiences of mystical light, and like the shamans, the Shakers could resuscitate the dead. The principal ritual of this sect consisted in prolonged contemplation of the sky and a continuous shaking. . . .
2.352 Qualifications, Training, and Initiation
Shamans seem typically to be recruited from the ranks of those in a culture who experience the "positive disintegration" or the Boisen panic syndrome which we have discussed previously. Eliade (1958:88) says:
The strange behavior of future shamans has not failed to attract the attention of scholars, and from the middle of the past century several attempts have been made to explain the phenomenon of shamanism as a mental disorder. But the problem was wrongly put. For, on the one hand, it is not true that shamans always are or always have to be neuropathics; on the other hand, those among them who have been ill became shamans precisely because they had succeeded in becoming cured (i.o. Very often, in Siberia when the shamanic vocation manifests itself as some form of illness or as an epileptic seizure, the initiation is equivalent to a cure). To obtain the gift of shamanizing presupposes precisely the solution of the psychic crisis brought on by the first symptoms of election or call.
But if shamanism cannot simply be identified with a psychopathological phenomenon, it nevertheless is true that the shamanic vocation often implies a crisis so deep that it sometimes borders on madness . . .
Frank (1963:43-4) describes the chief mental health agent of the primitive world as the shaman. Of him he says:
The powers of the shaman are explained in terms of the societies' assumptive world and are unquestionably accepted as genuine by it. The routes for acquiring shamanistic powers vary greatly. In some groups the shaman acquires them against his will through personal and private mystical experiences, and he is regarded as a deviant person with little status except when his powers are invoked. In other groups shamans are drawn from the ranks of the cured patients. In others as in the Kwakiutl, they undergo an elaborate course of training analogous to medical training in our culture and enjoy a high prestige.
Eliade (1964:112) declares:
Among the Manchy, the public initiation ceremony formerly included the candidates walking over hot coals; if the apprentice has at his command the spirits that he claimed to possess, he could walk on fire without injury. Another initiation involves the generation of "tummo" or psychic heat, by immersion in ice water. Producing heat is one of the essential feats of the primitive magician.
Endoes (1973) in speaking of the medicine man says:
He can be many things; a pejuta wiscara who heals with herbs; a yuwipi who finds power in a rawhide and stones, a waayata who sees into the future, a wapiya who conjures, . . . The wicasa waka . . . is a holy man who can cure, prophesy, commune with stones and herbs, conduct the sun dance, and possibly even change the weather. But all of these are only stages in the road to a great vision. . . .
Speaking further of the medicine man, Endoes says, "Something flows into him, and something from him." He attended a "seance" with the medicine man: "Little sparks of light flash through the air, and little voices whisper in your ear." Finally he notes on one type of ordeal to become a medicine man, that the apprentice: "must put his bare arm into a pot of boiling dog meat . . . the arm is never burned."
Rawcliffe (1959:105) points out that the word "shaman" derives from the Sanscrit "to be ascetic." This abstinence, however, is a temporary measure to secure psychic powers; it is not an enforced permanency. For he quotes Maddox as stating: "By reason of the facility with which the ecstatic state passes into abnormal sexual function, it not infrequently happens that after their return to normal consciousness, the representatives of the gods are guilty of unspeakable dissoluteness."
Within the prototaxic mode shamanism is the highest spiritual state to which an individual can attain. In fact, as Eliade points out in the title to his book, it is "an archaic technique of ecstasy." The shamanic trance is free from competition in its assertion of contact with the numinous element; and the shaman himself is probably the most awed and feared person in his tribe or community.
Shamanism is characterized by ego-consent and super-ego excursion, accompanied by a powerful surging of the id, carefully disciplined in the matters of "the religious and mythological traditions of the tribe" (Eliade, 1972, p. 110). It is this state, exclusively within the prototaxic mode which requires selection, preparation and lengthy and arduous training. Once a man 'becomes' a shaman, he has the ability to go into trance at will; there are no accounts of the uninitiated ever entertaining that option, unless of course it is imitation.
The shaman is the most versatile of the trance state contestants. He is both magician and healer, "but the shaman employs a method that is his and his alone . . ." - the shaman is an ecstatic, "but his techniques do not exhaust all the varieties of ecstatic experience . . . " - "the shaman specializes in a trance during which his soul is believed to leave his body and ascend to the sky or descend to the underworld" (Eliade 1972, p. 5). It is the relationship of the shaman to the spirit world which distinguishes shamanism from the possession states. A shaman is defined in terms of his helping spirits (Eliade, 1972, p. 6):
A shaman differs from a "possessed" person, for example; the shaman controls his "spirits," in the sense that he, a human being is able to communicate with the dead "demons," and "nature spirits," without thereby becoming their instrument.
Eliade affirms the ego-consent character of the shamanic state, albeit unwittingly, in his testimony (1972, p. 14) to the developmental process of the shaman: "it is only this twofold initiation - ecstatic and didactic - that transforms the candidate from a possible neurotic into a shaman." Selection of shamans is typically at puberty when the likely candidates are watched for attitudes of intense nervousness, mental derangement, choice of isolation, etc. (Eliade, 1972, pp. 17-18). Shirokogoroff (quoted in Eliade, 1972, p. 17) states "that there is always a hysterical or hysteroid crisis." Later Eliade quotes Sternberg who observed (1972, p. 28):
that the election of a shaman is manifested by a comparatively serious illness (of psychopathological origin), usually coincidental with the onset of sexual maturity.
In the average neurotic, the superego inhibits the libido and can result in neurotic displacement of the libidinal drive. In the shaman, however, displacement is clearly the ego's choice and superego controls are mandated to subservience to the ego ideal. It is even likely that the superego inhibits sexuality "in the service of the ego." The whole process reminds one of the "Boisen syndrome" of positive disintegration, discussed earlier.
Eliade (1972, p. 16) illustrates that predisposition to shamanism in the pubescent subject is not necessarily evidenced in exhibited behaviors, but is more likely indicated in the responsiveness of the subject to the shamanic methods of crisis resolution.
One destined to shamanship, begins by becoming frenzied, then suddenly loses consciousness, withdraws to the forests, feeds on tree bark, flings himself into water and fire, wounds himself with knives. The family then appeals to an old shaman, who undertakes to teach the distraught young man the various kinds of spirits and how to summon and control them.
Once selected, initiated, and trained, the shaman can achieve the trance state of his own volition. He has access to multiple induction techniques, whose ultimate end is in "transcending the profane human condition" (Eliade, 1972, p. 95). In the trance state which often resembles "a cataleptic trance that has every appearance of death" (Eliade, 1972, p. 291) the shaman often receives his instructions. Eliade (1972, p. 103) notes that the trance dream may be evidence of achievement of cosmic consciousness by the shaman:
The shaman's instructions often take place in dreams. It is in dreams that the pure sacred life is entered and direct relations with gods, spirits, and ancestral souls are reestablished. It is always in dreams that historical time is abolished and the mythical time regained - which allows the future shaman to witness the beginnings of the world and hence to become contemporary not only with the cosmogony but also with the primordial mythical revelations.
Among their other powers, one of the most spectacular accomplishments of the shaman is the production of "psychic heat." Often noticed in primitive prototaxic experiences, the production of heat and a burning sensation becomes an art in the shaman's hands (see 2.45). Eliade (1964:474ff) declares:
Like the devil in the beliefs of European peoples, shamans are not merely "masters over fire" they can also incarnate the spirit of fire to the point where during seances they emit flames from their mouths, noses, and whole bodies. . . . The idea of "mystical heat" is not an exclusive possession of shamanism; it belongs to magic in general. Many primitive tribes conceive of magico-religious power as "burning" or express it by terms meaning "heat," "burn," "very hot," or the like. In Dobu the idea of "heat" always accompanies that of sorcery. The same is true of Rossel Island where "heat" is the attribute of magicians. In the Solomon Islands, anyone possessing a large quantity of mana is regarded as "burning".. . . The Muhammedans of India believe that a man in communication with God becomes "burning". . . . The Irish hero Cuchulain emerges so "heated" from his first exploit that three vats of water are brought him (but in the first vat he made the water so hot it broke the staves). . . . The same mystical heat distinguishes the hero of the Nart, Batradz.
Again Eliade (1964:335) explains:
Of particular importance, in our view is the role of "fire" and "heat" in South American shamanism. Such fire and mystical heat are always connected with access to a certain ecstatic state - and the same connection is observed in the most archaic strata of magic and religion. Mastery over fire, insensibility to heat and hence the "mystical heat" that renders both extreme cold and the temperature of burning coals supportable is a magic-mystical virtue that, accompanied by no less marvelous qualities (ascent, magical flight), translates into sensible terms the fact that the shaman has passed beyond the human condition and already shares the conditions of "spirits."
2.353 Paraphernalia and Familiars
The shaman needs certain articles to work his magic, which appears to consist of an OOB experience called "climbing the cosmic tree" or "magical flight." To accomplish his trance he must have his costume and paraphernalia. Eliade (1964:156) tells us:
The shaman's costume including his hat, caftan, ornaments, and drum are seen as essential to his art. His costume tends to give him a new magical body in animal form; most frequently this is of an eagle, it may also be of a bear or of a reindeer. The bird costume is thought to aid the shaman in his aerial journeys to heaven.
Eliade (1964:168) says:
The drum has a role of first importance. The shell of the drum is taken from the Cosmic Tree of Life, and drumming brings on the trance.
Eliade (1964:170-171) again:
The drumming reanimates his alter ego the animal spirit; when it enters him he turns into a sacred animal with corresponding powers.
He can abolish time and reestablish the primordial condition of which the myths tell. In either case we are in the presence of a mystical experience that allows the shaman to transcend time and space.
The shaman, unlike the medium has control over at least some spirits, called his familiars. Eliade (1964:88-89) declares:
The shaman invokes many gods and spirits, but he has only a few familiar spirits or "allies ... .. These can appear in the form of animals but also phantoms, wood, and earth spirits."
The shamanistic trance is not ordinary possession, but it is a "taking possession of the helping spirits by a shaman. It is the shaman who turns himself into an animal."
Eliade concludes that the mythical animal guardian spirits are not an exclusive prerogative of the shaman; "they are accessible to any individual who is willing to undergo certain ordeals to obtain them" (107). "What differentiates a shaman from any other individual . . . is not his possessing a power or a guardian spirit but his ecstatic experience."
There are limits to his power. He is a healer and a psychopomp "because he commands the techniques of ecstasy," but he is not a priest. He does not sacrifice to the gods. "His principal function is magic healing." Disease is caused by the stealing of the psyche or by the intrusion of a magical object into the patient's body or by possession of demons. In either case the shaman restores the patient. Eliade (1964:243) notes that:
(during the trance) voices of spirits are heard; the shaman becomes "light" and can spring into the air . . . he feels an intense heat during his trance and hence can play with coals and red hot irons, and becomes completely insensible (to wounds; no blood flows)."
More on his psychic powers (Eliade 1964:60-61):
The initiated shaman feels inside his head an inexplicable searchlight . . . a luminous fire. Here too we find the experience of height and ascent, and even of levitation, which characterizes Siberian Shamanism ... and which can be regarded as a typical feature of shamanism in general.
Mooney (1896:762) describes graphically the encounter of Indian witch doctors (shamans) with a sorcerer who has made a woman sick. The sorcerer is summoned to the sick bed:
He accompanied the messengers to the sick woman's house. As he entered, the chief doctor stepped up to him and looking intently into his face, said, "I can see your heart within your body, and it is black with evil things. You are not fit to live. You are making this woman sick, but we shall take out the badness from her body." With the cloths and lighted candles the two doctors then approached the sick woman and commanded her to arise, which she did, although she had been supposed to be too weak to stand. Waving the cloths in front of her with a gentle fanning motion, and blowing upon her at the same time, they proceeded to drive the disease out of her body, beginning at the feet and working upward until, as they approached the head the principal doctor changed the movement to a rapid fanning and corresponding blowing, while the assistant stood ready with his cloth to seize the disease when it should be driven out. All this time the medicine-man standing a few feet away was shaking and quivering like one in a fit, and the trembling became more violent and spasmodic as the doctors increased the speed of their motions. Finally the leader brought his hands together over the woman's head, where, just as the disease attempted to escape, it was seized and imprisoned in the cloth held by his assistant. Then, going up to the medicine-man, with a few rapid passes they fanned the disease into his body and he fell down dead. The woman recovered.
Oakes (1951:141) quotes Don Pancho, a Guatemalan Indian neophyte chiman (shaman) describing the coming of the Spirit (the numinous element):
Then I threw more incense onto the copal. Soon after I began to invoke the ceeros (gods), but that was the second part. We first drank more aquardiante (liquor), and it was then I repeated the invocation. . . . When I was in the middle of the second time, I felt as if there was a weight on my shoulders, a pressure on my throat, and as if the muscles of my throat were tightening. I could not continue. But the chiman (shaman) spoke to me, saying, "Don't be afraid; speak," After that I really don't remember what I said for my mind was not functioning. I felt the sweat breaking out on me. I touched my face to see if it was true. I was sweating terribly. I think that I said what I was thinking of, and I heard the chiman telling me not to be afraid, that the Spirit was here with us. . . .
Magic is the use of universal psychic power for personal interest; its prototaxic aspect is trance, its parataxic aspect is ritual and its syntaxic aspect is orthocognition. It is necessary here for the author to reveal his bias, which is utter opposition to the first two, and restricted use, within clearly defined limits of the third. Fairness to the reader requires a statement of reasons, as follows:
1. It is dangerous to use magical devices while the ego is in an unliberated state; the use of universal power by a finite ego is fraught with all kinds of peril. We believe this is why the first step on the mystic path is ego renunciation; it is also why both Eastern and Western mystics tell us to pay no attention to the siddhis or psychic powers which surface as we develop. The danger of not renouncing the world before we gain the power to control it is that we will become trapped in it and never want to renounce it at all. Lord Acton's observation that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely was never more true than here. We would also like to quote C. S. Lewis on a similar subject. "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They, themselves, are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."
2. One of the cardinal points in our view of the numinous element is its impersonal nature - a force like electricity. Magic in personalizing the universe, even to malign elements, does a disservice both to the magician and to others. This raises fear, hysteria, anxiety, and contributes to mental ill health.
We are particularly opposed to trance-magic because the ego (being excursed) is at the mercy of whatever influence may come along. We are almost equally opposed to ritual magic for we believe its end product is to ensnare the magician; it certainly does not contribute to liberation, but to power.
In this book we discuss various prototaxic and parataxic procedures which have magical applications. Let the reader be explicitly cautioned that this has been done as a matter of scientific thoroughness, and does not constitute endorsement or advocacy of such practices. Magic is dangerous business; it tends to ensnare those who use it. The proper course of action is not to use magical devices but to become creative and use such syntaxic procedures as orthocognition and meditation. Orthocognition is allowable, since it tends to diffuse the self-concept from the ego to the environmental self, but it should be remembered that orthocognition at best is a tool for those of us whose egos need security, and that the saints and great souls pay less and less attention to "mine," and more and more to "Thine."
Wedeck (1961:4) defines magic as "the imposition of the human will on the phenomena of nature." He (1961:59) says:
An essential feature of the prospective efficacy of magic procedure was scrupulous adherence to the formalities, involving the right time and place, the proper instruments, fresh or new, the right intonation in the incantation, and above all the exact formation of the figures.
Lawrence (1965:6)notes that it is often impossible in primitive cultures to distinguish between magic and religion. Whereas in religion the rite is an end in itself, in magic the rite is specifically for the production of the magic spell. Whereas religions seem to be mainly social and magic mainly personal, there appears in these cultures such a blending that one cannot make a useful distinction. All one can say therefore, is that religion is the system of a series of beliefs about man and the cosmos in context of which magic rites can occur.
2.36 Hypnosis 12
Possession and hypnosis are both trance states; in the former the general belief is that the altered state is induced by some supernatural agency, while in the latter it is obvious that it is induced by the hypnotist. Research on hypnotism is therefore in a position to provide a much more psychologically-oriented explanation for trance states than constructs about possession can.
Hypnosis as a construct is more psychologically acceptable than possession, and in practice is more concerned with the ultimate benefit of the patient. The exhibition for entertainment of persons under hypnosis is degrading to the dignity of the human being. Medical hypnosis attempts the alleviation of suffering or unhealthy conditions or habits by implanting suggestions into the patient's subconscious. It has been very useful since the time of Mesmer in revealing the suggestibility of the subconscious, and thus providing modern investigators with clues regarding the relationship between conscious, preconscious, and subconscious aspects of the psyche.
Hypnosis is the presence of an induced trance in which the respondent uncritically carries out the suggestions of the hypnotist. Most often, according to Taylor (Prince 1968:61), it is "unacceptable wishes that are gratified in the hypnotic situation." Taylor believes that the hypnotist is important "only as a transference figure," and thus self-hypnosis is possible and in many cases more desirable than medical hypnosis.
A recent and authoritative review of hypnosis research is that of Barber (1970b). He points out (1970b:281) that the pivotal aspect of hypnosis is trance. He further states (1970b:136) "The subject is said to be in a hypnotic trance if he manifests a high level of response to test-suggestions." After pointing out the circular reasoning involved in this definition, and after a lengthy review of the literature he concludes (1970b:191):
An extensive series of experiments has failed to find a physiological index which differentiates the hypnotic state per se from the waking state.
Modern hypnosis usually is induced in a typical clinical setting and as Gill and Brenman note (1959, p. 4) "hypnosis usually involves an attempt to deprive the subject of the normal plethora of stimuli." Stimulus deprivation as John Lilly (1973, pp. 41-53) has so richly described, can encourage compensatory access to internal stimuli and cues which will produce a wealth of material from the unconscious. While deprivation is the modus vivendi of Gill and Brenman's technique, gross over-stimulation has a similar hypnotic effect. The organism strives to maintain within a minimal-optimal range, an acceptable level of stimulation for its balance and control. In tipping the balance, stimulus deprivation and over-stimulation produce much the same response. This is substantiated in the hypnotic responses seen in the group dance rituals.
Although Gill and Brenman do not consider the option of overstimulation, their description of hypnosis (1959, p. 4) is broad enough to allow for it:
Hypnosis interferes with the maintenance of steady two-way communication with the multifarious stimuli outside us . . . which is part of the scaffolding on which our sense of reality rests.
The reduction of external stimuli permits greater sensitivity to body cues and functions and subsequently results in alterations in body consciousness. Interruptions in stimulus from the organism itself, in fact produce an "artificial dissociation" (Gill and Brenman, 1959:8a) whose purpose is to "set the stage for the emergence of usually repressed, ancient impulses and longings."
The eruption of the unconscious (id) in virtually all hypnotic processes is accompanied by availability of the motor apparatus to give expression to previously repressed impulses. In therapeutic hypnotic induction, motor expression is used in the healing sense. In primitive hypnotic induction, the release of motor influences relates directly to the frenzied dancing and physical exertion characteristic of the trance induction ritual.
Finally, the phenomenon of memorability must be noted. The relative degree of memorability is commensurate (in clinical hypnosis) with depth of hypnotic trance. Edmunds (1972, pp. 15-16) has developed a classification of hypnosis which correlates these two variables:
Stage One: Light Hypnosis . . . akin to the hypnoidal state. Generally at least some degree of memorability (often more than less memory)
Stage Two: Medium depth hypnotic trance . . . Characterized by catalepsy in which one or more limbs or even the whole body can be made completely stiff and rigid by suggestion, and by amnesia which may sometimes be successfully suggested. (It is implied that the amnesia is not always an independent spontaneous occurrence.)
Stage Three: The deep stage - also known as the sonambulistic or trance state, in which complete amnesia occurs, even without post-hypnotic suggestion.
In assessing the "why?" of post-hypnotic memorability, the differentiation of initial ego-consent or spontaneous excursion is decisive. When the ego regains full control following a willed excursion, it is no longer threatened or antagonized so much by the recognition of some or all unconscious impulses revealed under hypnosis. The non-threat and eradication of fear of loss of control would allow for memory retention of all or some material in the stage one and possibly stage two levels.
The difficulty of approaching memorability as the sina qua non of hypnosis is in the numerous exceptions, in which amnesia does not occur, even in stage three. In hypnotic proceedings among primitives, memorability is often an explicit goal even in their deepest trances. In fact, memorability of visions attained in these states is testimony to the success of the trance experience.
Hypnosis is a broad phenomenon exhibiting a wide variety of behaviors. Its significance to the prototaxic modality is that it introduces and utilizes basic processes which are consistently in evidence in the increasingly more dissociative states on the prototaxic continuum.
Some of the most scientific explications of medical hypnosis13 have been made by Gill and Brenman (1959) and Brenman and Gill (1947).
In the earlier volume they discuss hypnosis and related states, such as transference, dreams, dissociation, etc. They point out (1959:16) that subjects often seem to experience change in position of the body in space, when in fact the body is motionless, which will immediately remind readers of the OBE related elsewhere. They discuss hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness (1959:145ff) in line with psychoanalytic theory. They end (1959:294ff) with a very interesting chapter on "Trance in Bali" which they conclude is a variety of hypnosis. In their book on hypnotherapy (1964) they give a historical discussion of the rise of hypnotic ministrations, and finish with a chapter on the therapies of hypnosis and four case studies.
Induction of a regressive state is the specific goal of the hypnotic process. Gill and Brenman (1959:xxiii) define the hypnotic state:
(It is) an induced psychological regression, issuing in the setting of a particular regressed relationship between two people, in a relatively stable state which includes a subsystem of the ego with various degrees of control of the ego apparatuses.
This regression implies ego-consent. It also implies the critical existence of relationship between two people, but the relationship may exist with any source of guidance or authority, be it human or a transfiguration on the spiritual plane, which inspires trust in the subject.
According to Brenman and Gill (1947:15) the following elements are found in hypnosis:
"(a) the limitation of sensory intake and motor output,
(b) the fixation of attention,
(c) the repetition of monotonous stimulation, and
(d) the setting up of an emotional relationship between therapist and subject."
The Davis Hypnotic Scalegives the following gradations (Brenman and Gill, 1947:18):
hypnoid: relaxation, closing of eyes, complete physical relaxation,
light trance: catalepsy of eyes, of limbs, rigidity,
medium trance: partial amnesia, posthypnotic anesthesia, personality changes, posthypnotic suggestions, kinesthetic delusions,
deep trance: eyes open in trance, somnambulism, hallucinations.
Kubie and Margolin (1944) regard monotony and immobility as the chief factors in hypnosis. They feel that a psychic incorporation of the hypnotist into the mind of the subject takes place during induction. De-emphasizing transference, they feel that the hypnotic trance is only an extension of the psychophysiological process of maximal attention, attainable without the agency of suggestion in some cases. In commenting on this theory Brenman and Gill (1947:113) point out that since transference is present in other impersonal situations, hypnosis must be considered as an altered state of consciousness.
Similar views are expressed by Pearce (1971:3) who explains:
Reality is not a fixed entity. It is a contingent interlocking of moving events. And events do not just happen to us. We are an integral part of every event. We enter into the shape of events . . .
Pearce (1971:7) explains the mechanism for reality-changes as follows:
Metanoia is the Greek word for conversion: "a fundamental transformation of mind." It is the process by which concepts are reorganized. Metanoia is a specialized intensive adult form of the same world-view development found shaping the mind of the infant.... Michael Polanyi points out that a "conversion" shapes the mind of the student into the mind of the physicist. Metanoia is a seizure by the discipline given total attention, and a restructuring of the attending mind. This reshaping of mind is the principal key to the reality function.
Having defined the process, Pearce (1971:9) unequivocally concludes: "Trance states prove to be forms of metanoia, temporary restructurings of reality orientation."
Hilgard (1965) advances a theory that suggests that susceptibility to hypnotism is a developmental process. His Stanford Hypnotic Suggestibility Scale represents an effort to measure this factor.
There exists considerable discussion among scholars as to whether hypnosis is a specific altered state of consciousness. It appears more and more difficult to define just what the hypnotic state consists of, how it can be induced, and what are its invariant effects. Gill (1972) (PA:50:01480) characterizes hypnosis as an altered and regressed state, and the abstract presents a general characterization of hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness, and a more specific characterization of this altered state as a regressive one. Taking J. Hilgard's (see PA:44:9636) work as a point of departure, it is argued that dissociation and role are concepts subsumable under the regression concept. Some of the differences between L. Kubie's views and Gill's views are restated, with emphasis on psychological rather than psychophysiological factors in induction, and the essential role of transference phenomena in both induction and the hypnotic state.
A discussion is presented of major differences in perspective on psychology, approach to the field (experimental versus clinical), and some of the phenomena of hypnosis. The division between those who see hypnosis as an altered state and those who insist that it is not is also discussed.
Thorne (1967) (PA 41:09777) argued that the hypnotic trance is unnecessary for the performance of hypnotic phenomena, and was abstracted thus:
The performance of two so-called hypnotic phenomena (selective awareness and auditory hallucinations) were compared between highly susceptible subjects in the waking or hypnotic states. Forty subjects (from an original 148 paid, volunteer, university students) were trained in deep hypnosis and subsequently assigned randomly to four groups of ten subjects each. Each group was tested on its performance of the two "Hypnotic Phenomena" while experiencing one of four combinations of two variables, namely, the waking or hypnotized state of each subject, and the suggestion to hallucinate during or after exposure to a paired-associate word list given audibly to each subject. Quantitative and qualitative changes in subject responses to two separate administrations of a word-association test were used as an index of each subject's level of awareness to the paired-associate word list, and his objective and subjective effectiveness in auditory hallucinations. Results indicate no differences attributable to state, but significant differences attributable to the suggested time of hallucinating.
Johnson and others (1972) WA 48:08224) argued that trance logic was an artifact in an abstract which assigned seventy female student nurses to one of three treatment conditions: hypnotic induction, instructions to simulate a hypnosis, or imagination control. All subjects were assessed on M. Orne's (PA 34:5341) two indexes of trance logic (the transparent and the double hallucination). The imagination controls consistently showed trance logic as often as the hypnotic subjects. Depending upon the stringency of the criterion for hallucination, the simulating subjects showed trance logic less often, as often, or more often than the hypnotic subjects and the imagination controls. In the second phase of the investigation, six simulating subjects consistently manifested trance logic as often as five highly selected "somnambulistic" hypnotic subjects. Since trance logic was not found to be a discriminating characteristic of hypnotic subjects, investigators who seek the "essence of hypnosis" must now search elsewhere.
Tart (1970) WA 45:03390) argued for the presence of transpersonal potentialities in deep hypnosis, and described the process of deepening the trance (in abstract):
Following a general discussion of hypnosis, a variety of behaviors occurring in a subject under self-reported deep hypnosis is described. Physical relaxation increased as did visual blackness and peacefulness. Awareness of the environment and sense of personal identity decreased. Awareness of a joke rose at a certain point and then faded out with still deeper hypnosis. A sense of potentiality increased until anything appeared possible. E's identity was sharply focused but with greater depth became remote and finally was lost. Time passed more slowly up to a point and then time became a meaningless concept. A feeling of oneness with the universe increased while awareness of breathing dropped sharply and spontaneous mental activity decreased. It is concluded that hypnosis can be used to move to relatively profound states of consciousness and to explore them.
Blume (1970) WA 47:00127) viewed the process of hypnosis as a sequence of intercoupled feedback systems. Stross and Shevrin (1969) WA 44:08538) in a review pointed out that while hypnosis may have been superseded as therapy, it has been very helpful in discovering the nature of unconscious processes.
Moss (1967:90) concludes "If hypnosis cannot be defined by either what it is or how it is induced, neither can it be precisely identified by what it does. . . ." In any event, quite apparently the hypnotic induction procedure is only one method of guided awareness to a potentially perceivable inner panoply of hallucinatory fantasy.
Moss (1967:62-3) points out the remarkable similarity between the hypnotic dream and the hallucinogenic experience as induced by drugs. Ludwig's "hypnodelic" treatment consisting of the use of hypnosis was remarkably effective in keeping the patient's attention focused on his problem and in assisting him in assimilating the unexpected, irrational, and novel quality of his experience.
Moss (1967:83) reports that in the USSR, psychologists are convinced that hypnosis is a form of selective cortical inhibition closely related to sleep. It also seems related to relaxation exercises such as the Autogenic Training of J. H. Schultz which are associated with meditation. Auto hypnosis (Naruse) is also akin to this.
Barber and DeMoor (1972) (PA 49:10389) discuss hypnotic induction procedures, which produce a trance-like appearance, changes in body feelings and other situational variables. Stein (1972) WA 48:05159) describes the use of familiar visual imagery for rapid trance induction. This includes the ease with which various repressed memories can be disclosed, and some case histories.
Before leaving the subject of hypnosis, it may be instructive to note some of the resemblances it bears to hysteria. Freud's definition of Hysteria (Stafford-Clark 1966:255) is the authoritative statement on the subject:
Hysteria (is) a nervous disorder characterized by dissociation, high susceptibility to auto-suggestion, variety and variability of psychogenic, functional disorders . . . a psychoneurosis arising from conflict and repression where the repressed impulses and tendencies are expressing themselves in the various symptoms, etc. which the patient shows, certain characteristic varieties being specifically designated anxiety, hysteria, conversion hysteria, fixation hysteria.
There is little here which differentiates hysteria from the behaviors previously explored - the parallels are obvious. The critical new dimension however is in the function of the repressive mechanism which in hysteria limits the ego excursive responses to fairly typical symptoms.
Ego excursiveness in hysteria is not so obvious as in possession. Rather, repression is the ego's defense mechanism; if not excessive, and hence successful, normal ego functions will not be excursed, and the individual is rigid but normal. If the symptomology breaks through partially, but without a complete lack of reality-orientation, there ishysteria; a full break results usually in a diagnosis of psychosis. Following an environmental trauma, the ego engages in a struggle to prevent the emotions associated with the trauma from entering consciousness. But even if the ego is successful at this, in line with the Van Rhijn theory (section 1.1) the id, as vehicle for denied and repressed emotions expresses them on a somatic level incurring such typical hysterical symptoms as cataleptic limb paralysis. Owen (1971:118) adopts a similar analysis which also recalls the possession and trance states:
the annihilation of the ego produced by nervous shock ... (allows) that the idea once installed in the brain takes sole possession and acquires sufficient domination to realize itself objectively in the form of paralysis.
In hysteria there is seldom any organic disturbance to explain its anesthesia effects. Owen (1971, pp. 97-98) calls it "reflex hyper-excitability with apparent psychological determinants." Auto- suggestion appears to be the operative mechanism which allows symptom development. The rudimentary idea (that in the shock situation, for example, bodily injury might have occurred) becomes obsessive, activates the pervasive powers of auto-suggestion, and finally brings the idea to fruition in non-organic paralysis.
In effect, the paralytic display resolves the trauma and liberates the subject from the obsession. Charcot (in Owen, 1971, p. 104) noted that this freedom manifested itself in la bella indiffirence des hysteriques exhibited by some of the patients, who behaved with a particular insouciance as if unconcerned with their symptoms and, indeed, as if unaware of them.
Such an attitude suggests both defiance of the oblivion to reality and indicates excursion of the ego, whose function is to maintain the connectedness of the organism to the environment, both internal and external. Owen (1971, pp. 66-67) interprets the derangement of sensory perceptions, as in anesthetic paralysis symptom formation, as a constant sign of hysteria. This correlates with other indications that any gross interruption in the normal sensory channels will induce altered states of consciousness. It is in hysteria that the sensory disturbance is most dramatically displayed on the somatic level, and in the absence of highly dissociative ideational disturbances!
Freud noted (Stafford-Clark, 1966; 35) that the repression mechanism is so successful in hysteria that the "memories of the (initial or series of) traumas was not available to normal consciousness." Charcot, with whom Freud first studied hysteria, (Owen, 1971; 104) is somewhat more specific, and notes that not only the memory of the trauma, but also the range of ideas tinted with fear or emotion displayed by patients in the somnambulistic and delirious phases of their attacks, (which) vanished from memory on return to normal consciousness.
Both Charcot and Freud were sensitive to the similarities between hysteria and hypnosis, and in fact, developed a treatment methodology for hysteria which relied heavily on hypnosis. In the hypnotic state the subject was regressed back to the trauma which initiated the symptom formation in order to abreact, or relive the situation and react appropriately to it. (There are interesting possibilities here in the utilization of one type of altered state of consciousness to relieve another, particularly when the former is an ego-consent and the latter an ego-excursive modality.) The success of hypnosis as treatment was marked by the disappearance of the somatic condition.
Hysterical attacks, resembling possession occur when a predisposition exists, due to the fracture between id and ego elements of the psyche discussed earlier. They are also initiated in environments of high suggestibility, where some benefit to the subject may accrue from the behavior. Owen (1971:65) notes that "hysteria thrived ... in the wards of the Salpetriere by suggestion and unconscious imitation." The prototaxic behaviors of both hysteria and possession provide somatic expression, (and hence relief) from the underlying psychic tension between the ego and id, by allowing the symptoms to manifest themselves outwardly in untoward behavior which must nevertheless be accepted by society, because the ego, being excursed cannot be held accountable. This denial of rational responsibility in effect allows the patient to have his cake and eat it too, and it is the thread which connects possession, hysteria and hypnotic states together.
2.363 Autohypnosis and Autogenic Training
An interesting form of hypnosis is autohypnosis, more palatable to some since it does not involve the surrendering of one's mind to another. The most common type of autohypnosis is known as autogenic training and is defined by its inventors Luthe and Schultz (1969:111:191) as follows:
autogenic training (abbr. AT): the basic method of autogenic therapy. AT is a psychophysiologically oriented therapeutic approach (J. H. Schultz) which requires case-specific adaptation and has been applied to a large variety of medical and psychodynamic disorders. The method requires regular practice (training) of brief mental exercises of passive concentration upon psychophysiologically adapted combinations of verbal stimuli (autogenic formulae) designed to promote a multifunctional shift to a specific psychophysiologic state (autogenic state) which is known to be associated with facilitation and promotion of a variety of trophotropically oriented brain-directed functions of homeostatic and self -normalizing (autogenic) nature. In autogenic therapy four groups of autogenic approaches are distinguished: 1. autogenic standard training composed of six standard exercises; 2. autogenic meditative training consisting of a series of seven meditative exercises; 3. autogenic modification: (a) five categories of largely psychologically oriented intentional formulae; (b) a variety of physiologically oriented organ-specific formulae; and 4. methods of autogenic neutralization (W. Luthe): (a) autogenic abreaction; (b) autogenic verbalization.
The standard exercises have to do with such mental suggestions to oneself (when sitting relaxed and eyes closed) that "my limbs are relaxed," "my hand is warm ... .. my heart is steady," etc. When one is able to warm the hands and the solar plexus the heat may be moved to any spot in the body needing attention. One comes out with the suggestion "my face is cool." After an analysis of Autogenic Training in the Menninger Clinic Green (Shapiro and others 1972:153) found it a useful and effective technique. Sargent Green and Walters (Miller and others 1973:268-273) also found it useful in the treatment of migraine and tension headaches.
Cross (1971) (PA 48:01143) attempts to provide an easier understanding of the phenomenologies of autohypnosis and Schultz's autogenic training as well as those neurophysiological mechanisms of the personality through which the hypnotic state, the autohypnotic phenomenology, and the standard exercises of autogenic training are realized. Both autohypnosis and autogenic training are considered similar in that they "share the reduction of the consciousness field, the generalized muscular hypotony, the neuropsychic distension, the sensorial insulation, and the specific neurovegetative modifications. These two modalities differ essentially as far as the psychic attitude is concerned; while in the autohypnotic state, the psychic concentration is active, in the autogenic training it has to be passive.... The autohypnotic phenomenology implies the will and engages the attention; the autogenic phenomenology is independent from will and asserts itself to attention. The autohypnotic phenomenology is extremely varied and presents numberless types of reactions; the phenomenology of the autogenic training is rigidly and schematically limited to the biological mechanism of the spontaneous reaction of the organism to the state of passivity."
Naruse (1962a) has done work on differences between autohypnosis and hypnosis, in which autohypnosis appears as a more meditative type of tranquil experience without much sensory imagery. Thus, autohypnosis is likened to the more syntaxic aspects of Figure 1, and this is the reason it is placed at the extreme right of the prototaxic section.
2.364 Conclusion 13
While there are more effective methods than hypnotism for the alleviation of pain and the promotion of mental and physical health, under proper supervision, it can be effective. The negative aspect is that the patient, in order to reduce a symptom, surrenders the control of his mind to the hypnotist. Under the professional care of a medical hypnotist the danger is doubtless minimized. But potential ego-development may have been exchanged for mere symptom relief, and in a society which deems developmental maturity as a summum bonum, that may be too high a price to pay. Such an objection hardly applies, however, to auto-hypnosis. Research in hypnosis, like research with mediums and psychoactive drugs should be encouraged, since all such research may throw light on the prototaxic relationship of the individual to the general mind.
In her new book Brown (1974) explores the close relationship between the subconscious mind and the skin. Her experiments showed that the subconscious was much more in contact with reality than the conscious, and could learn "to express its recognition of reality via the skin." She concludes "Long before conscious recognition by the brain, the body and its subconscious substructures recognize and make judgments about what goes on in the environment." This ties in with an earlier idea of James that "consciousness arises from a delay between stimulus and response."
We have elsewhere (Gowan 1974:20) reported testimony of Muldoon on the remarkable powers of the "crypto-conscious mind," his word for what we have referred to as the numinous element explicated in the human being as the preconscious. It appears to us that the essential element in hypnosis is the induction of the hypnagogic reverie state with its muscle relaxation and passive will (section 4.42) which gives entry to this important aspect of the psyche. The reason why the research on hypnosis is clouded is because it emphasizes research on how one gets there (hypnotic induction) rather than on the unique properties of the hypnogogic state of consciousness, which because of its juncture with the numinous is subject not to the ordinary laws of physics, but to the expanded laws of metaphysics, of which the former are but a special case.
2.37 Psychedelic Drugs14
One of the most widespread and popular methods of entry into the psychedelic trance is the ingestion of psychoactive drugs. Often used in combinations with other methods, one must admit that the process is very ancient and also very widespread. The ancient use of the sacred mushroom, for example, has been well documented by both Allegro (1965) and Wasson (1966).
The modern interest in psychedelic drugs is therefore not a new discovery, as much as a revival and popularization of older practices; the use of psychoactive materials was common in the oracular ceremonies of many cultures. What is different today is the development of synthetic sources; the disengagement of the use from the protection of religious ritual, and the change in purpose of use from religious and divinatory contact with the numinous, to scientific experimentation of new realms of consciousness, the stimulation of creative powers, and for just plain kicks.
But excursions into the psychic area without proper preparation or protection can be dangerous undertakings, particularly if they expose an immature ego to experiences for which it is not prepared. This is the "bad trip" of the users who can find that the drug-induced psychedelic experience is much like an artificial schizophrenia.
Psychoactive drugs are included in the prototaxic mode because of their dissociative and regressive features. However, their regressive character need not be delineated as negatively valued, and Mogar's point (in Tart, ed., 1972, pp. 394-395) that "most people can greatly expand their experiential horizons without sacrificing effectiveness in dealing with a conventional reality" is well taken. It is in this vein that proactive drugs can be viewed as "regression in the service of the ego," - or ego-consent, superego excursive behavior.
The drug states associated with the psychedelics (LSD-25, mescaline and peyote, for example) were originally described as psychotomimetic drugs (Barr and Langs, 1972, p. 7) - or psychosis mimicking agents. Barr and Lang note that "any intrusion of primary process (id) thinking can be viewed as an impairment (to the state of ego consciousness) and thus as pathological." Tart (1972, p. 386) contests the pathological aspect of proactive drug states and notes that in early research the drug seemed responsible for producing psychotic mannerisms but the psychosis "appears to be primarily a result of the use of the drug by white-coated psychiatrists in a sterile hospital setting." He further argues that the major psychedelic drugs have no specific psychological effects; they simply produce phenomenon in accordance with ... expectations ... acting as a sort of psychological amplifier.
Suffice to comment here that drug use is generally a willful, ego-consent experience and that response is largely dependent on expectation; two characteristics notably similar to hypnosis.
One of the parallels between hypnosis and use of drugs (and to a limited extent, alcohol) is the opportunity it provides for the subject to utilize both his ego liabilities and assets (Tart, 1972, p. 487). In fact, Mogar affirms (in Tart, ed., 1972, p. 398) that a host of studies recently found that hypnotic susceptibility was negatively correlated with neuroticism and placebo responsiveness, and positively correlated with emotional stability.
Hence, active experiences in hypnosis, and implied in drug use, while regressive and dissociative in nature, need not indicate weak ego capabilities, but rather the desire to flex stable ego boundaries and develop broader experiential frames of reference. In these cases, predisposition might be related to positive motivation.
There are no guarantees, however, that what begins with positive motivation and ego-consent will consistently produce the desired results. Once the ego has ceded control, the thrust of the unconscious may be so expansive that it inundates the ego, thus eliciting fear and inducing panic level functioning. Mogar (in Tart, ed., 1972, p. 398) quotes Holt and Havel on interpretations of the Rorschach test while under the influence of psychedelic drugs:
We find primary process thinking in conscious subjects either out of strength or out of weakness. In the former case, it is more likely to appear in a playful or esthetic frame of reference, accompanied by pleasant affect. If, on the other hand, primary thinking breaks through the usual defenses uninvited and unwanted, the subject may feel anxious or threatened and is likely to act defensively.
It is the latter situation, in which the defense system is aroused and incapable of normal controls that psychedelics produce psychosis mimicking effects. It is again a question of balance, when id autonomy supersedes rational ego capabilities, that the balance is tipped and psychotic behavior is paramount.
Psychedelics and amphetamines which alter the biochemical status of the brain tend to create states of psychological overstimulation. As was earlier noted, over stimulation can equally disturb normal consciousness as stimulus deprivation, and indeed if the stimulation is so great from the unconscious, the ego may be overwhelmed and psychosis may set in. Bowers and Freedman (in Tart, ed., 1972, p. 477) note that both amphetamine psychosis and delirium tremens (alcoholic) often develop out of an apparent state of hyperawareness.
Drugs and hypnosis similarly act to release materials from the unconscious. If used resourcefully they can provide opportunity for growth and heightened awareness. On the other hand, if the impulses gain ascendancy (the inherent risk factor) the resultant fear, panic, and arousal of the defense systems of the ego may lead to psychotic behavior. Termination of the experience is more easily facilitated in hypnosis, where the hypnotist can break the trance, and thus the materials unleashed in hypnosis less frequently provoke psychotic reactions. Drug experiences, because of their biochemical nature, must be terminated by administration of a biochemical antidote when the subject cannot endure the full impact of the psychedelic's impact and longevity. In a nonclinical environment the antidote is often unavailable thus creating a higher frequency of psychotic reactions than the hypnotic or clinically supervised drug experience.
Since the drug-related literature is large (Masters and Houston 1966, Tart, 1969, 1972, Weil G., 1972, Weil A., 1972), we shall not attempt to compete with it here. Instead, concentrating on the relation of drugs as a vestibule to the numinous or psychedelic, we shall, after these general introductory remarks make a brief survey of (2) general effects, (3) mescaline, (4) LSD, (5) marijuana, (6) miscellaneous other drugs, (7) the relation of drugs to creativity, (8) serotonin, and (9) conclusion.
One of the most interesting properties of psychoactive drugs is the amazing variety of states they may induce. Much of what one experiences appears to depend not on the drug which only acts as a catalyst, but on what is already in the preconscious, only waiting to be disclosed. The drug functions like the theatre ticket which gets you to your seat; but what you see depends upon the particular play or movie you have chosen. If one compares the "Good Friday" psychedelic experiment of Pahnke on Harvard Divinity students with the bad trips of a Berkeley drug orgy, one can easily see the difference.
Pahnke (Salman and Prince, 1967:41ff) describes five different experiences which can occur under psychedelic drugs.
a) the psychotic psychedelic experience, characterized by panic ...
b) psychodynamic psychedelic experience characterized by the emergence into consciousness of material that had previously been unconscious or preconscious (with resultant catharsis)
c) cognitive psychedelic experience, characterized by lucid thought
d) aesthetic psychedelic experience, characterized by a change and intensification of all sensory modalities . . .
e) the peak or cosmic psychedelic experience, with its nine categories
Boissier (1970) describes neurophysiological mechanisms, i.e., the relations between the action of the hallucinatory drug and the recordable bioelectrical effects; biochemical mechanisms, namely, a certain number of interactions of the hallucinatory drugs and the acting substances. Research on hallucinatory drugs is not very advanced, therefore, the results obtained to date can only be used as a starting point for further research.
Deniker and Ginestet (1970) attempt to formulate a general pattern of action of psychodysleptic drugs. Psychodysleptic drugs disturb mental activity. Use of psychodysleptics can be grouped into three categories: (a) products of natural origin, (b) products of pharmaceutical origin, and (c) products fabricated by the addicts themselves. Acute toxic effects of psychodysleptics include toxic euphoria and hallucinatory intoxications, while chronic effects include chronic intoxications and pharmacopsychoses.
The psychological effects of psychoactive drugs have been well expressed by Savage (Salman and Prince, 1967:62):
The three principal phenomena associated with the release of unconscious material at different levels are abreaction, regression, and archetypal experiences. The first of these is usually associated with the personal unconscious, the second with either personal or impersonal material, and the third exclusively with the collective or racial unconscious. Abreaction brings about the release of emotionally charged complexes which have been bottled up due to faulty attitudes in infancy. Regression to an infantile state enables early experiences which have not been integrated to be brought to consciousness. The archetypal or deepest experience which Van Rhijn has equated to some of the hallucinatory manifestations of LSD and which he called "symbolysis" is the most important of all, since it is these archetypes which are the healing symbols. In this region of psychological experience, the patient meets himself, regains hope, and may experience a spiritual rebirth symbolized in the birth experience known to so many LSD therapists. It is thus that insight is gained. This total experience of the unconscious, brought about by the power of LSD to loosen the psyche, has led to a feeling that the hallucinogenic drugs should be renamed the psycholytic drugs.
Since these drugs also promote mystic experiences in some users, one is confronted with the question of whether a genuine or only synthetic religious experience is involved. This moral question is outside our purview although both Masters and Pahnke deal with it (Salman and Prince, 1967:41ff, 73ff) in detail. As Maslow remarks, drugs may be necessary for non-peakers who wish to have a peak experience, and they may afford intimations of ultimate reality which help to orient some people.
Since there are many examples of the mystic testimony on the part of drug users in the literature, we shall pass over all but one. The following from Ward (1957:195-201) is so close to the experience of the rise of kundalini that we include it for comparison:
First there is this indescribable sensation in the spine, as of something mounting up, a sensation which is partly pleasure and partly awe.... This was accompanied by an extraordinary feeling of bodily lightness ... but it was also, somehow, a feeling of living more in the upper parts of one's body ... a certain rather peculiar awareness of one's head ...
It is obvious that psychoactive drugs can induce psychedelic or mind expanding experience; the issue is whether such experience is the same as that reported by mystics. Our inclination is to say that the referential base of the experience (i.e. entrance into the collective preconscious) is so similar as to be undistinguishable, but that (unlike genuine spontaneous mystical experiences) psychedelic experiences induced by drugs may occur to those who are not developmentally mature enough to profit by it, and indeed sometimes so developmentally immature, that the experience itself is traumatic. "Human kind cannot stand very much reality" as T. E. Eliot reminds us in "Burnt Norton." On the other hand the drug may result in an "Adamic Ecstasy" as in the case cited by Masters and Houston (1966:261). No less an authority than Maslow believed that drugs could trigger peak experiences in non-peakers. Among those opposing the notion that drug experiences and mystic experiences are the same are Gotz (1972) and Zaehner (1972).
Pabnke (Salman and Prince, 1967:44) feels that some of the strongest evidence for mystical drug-induced experience comes from investigators who have not encouraged such behavior, but whose patients nevertheless reported it. He notes a hospital report which indicates that 41 percent of LSD- treated alcoholics had a marked psychedelic peak experience, and 26 percent more had a "profound" experience. He also reports (Ibid:47) that with "two sets of double blind controlled experiments with normal volunteers it was demonstrated that spontaneous and drug-facilitated experiences are phenomenologically the same." (The first of these was the famous "Good Friday" experiment, and the second conducted at Massachusetts Mental Health Center.)
The view of Pahnke is supported by Masters and Houston (1966:247) who state:
One of the most important questions raised by psychedelic drugs is whether authentic religious and mystical experiences occur among the drug subjects. To this question the answer must be Yes - but we feel an extended discussion is warranted and that many qualifications are in order.
In our experience, the most profound and transforming psychedelic experiences have been those regarded by the subjects as religious. And in depth of feeling, sense of revelation semantically, and in terms of reorientation of the person, the psychedelic religious and religious-type experiences certainly seem to show significant parallels with the more orthodox religious experiences.
These parallels alone would be sufficient to demand extensive and careful study.
It should be noted however that while writers familiar with drugs are prone to feel that drug-induced and spontaneous mystical experiences are the same, those writers and religionists who are not familiar with drugs are not. One of the most authoritative of these in regard to mysticism is Laski. Laski (1962:268ff) notes the following differences between mystic and drug-induced experiences:
1. Ecstatics often see bright lights; drug users usually do not;
2. Ecstatics claim the world looks transformed after the experience; drug users see colors glowing with intense new effects during the experience;
3. Ecstatics rejoice and feel delight; drug users laugh in wry humor.
4. Ecstatics report a feeling of "upness"; drug users do not;
5. Ecstatics may have feelings of awe, but not the panic fear sometimes reported by drug takers;
6. Ecstatics feel a generalized love (gemeinschaftgefuhl); drug users are more apt to find others irrelevant.
On the other hand, some conservative writers deplore drug-induced experience on account of its "instant salvation" aspects, and its newness. But alpha biofeedback seems to have the same accelerative relationship to Zen meditation, and actually drug ingestion to achieve psychedelic states is as old as man. It is probable that the Ayrans carried the yoga tradition into India as a result of a soma type drug with which they were familiar, and the ingestion of mushrooms is an ancient art as shown by Allegro (1965) and Wasson (1966).
Masters and Houston (1966:250) state:
For millennia man has been involved in the ritual ingestion of substances reputed to produce an awareness of a sacramental reality and has come to incorporate these substances into the myth and ritual pattern of the culture in which they occur. The words haoma, soma, peyote, and teonanacatl, all of which refer to God's flesh, are significant semantic referents to the religious experiences believed to be inherent in the sacred foods.
The motivation for taking psychoactive drugs is itself an important factor in determining the type of experience one has under the drugs. Hence one is justified at looking at some non-hedonistic motivations in drug users. Here are three statements of this type which bear consideration:
Deikman (Salman and Prince, 1967:59) states:
Psychedelic drugs could give people a taste of the mystical so that they would seek more of it through conventional means. One might ask "more of what?" for the validity of the mystical experience as knowledge is not established. However, there are additional reasons for being unenthusiastic about this possibility. For one thing, the use of drugs to achieve a mystical experience encourages people in the hope that they can bypass establishing the basis for "enlightenment" in their own personality. The use of a drug will certainly raise expectations that are likely to result in disappointment when hopes for an enduring, blissful state are not realized, However, assuming that the mystical experience derived from the drugs gives one an experience of valuable truths and possibilities for behavior, it can be argued that such a use is good.
Houston (Salman and Prince, 1967:34) states:
One of the most prominent religious-type motivations expressed for taking psychedelic drugs is to achieve an integral perspective on the world, and in so doing to shake off the encumbrances of the analytical mind. This is especially true with college students overwhelmed by the disjointed and disparate experiences of contemporary liberal arts education, experiences in which economics has nothing to do with history which has nothing to do with math which has nothing to do with science which has nothing to do with English.... They seek the psychedelic experience as that which will give them "reality" and give it "whole".
Masters and Houston (1966:109) state:
There is also a variety or type of drug-state "empathy" that should be regarded as one of the most important experiences available to psychedelic subjects. The condition referred to might be imperfectly described as one in which distinctions between I and You, or I and It, become blurred and the subject-object relation between persons seems to yield to a sense of mutual intermingling with openness to and knowledge of the other. In this seemingly most genuine, and definitely most transformative, of "empathic" states there remains an awareness of the respective identities of the self and of the other. At the same time, individuation no longer imposes the usual insularity.
Houston (Salman and Prince, 1967:35) describes expectations from a drug-induced psychedelic experience:
What they expect from the psychedelic experience is access to the experiential mode or depth level of the psyche wherein the sense is of the eternal, where there is no time, or where time and space are undifferentiated, and from which the ego returns replenished and as if reborn. It is interesting that they feel there will be this quality of spiritual and psychological regeneration in the realm of undifferentiated time and space, since this is the traditional deep psychic realm of religious and mystical experience heretofore known only to a privileged few. In view of all this the following statement is especially noteworthy; the young man answered my query with the following response:
"Why do I want to take LSD? Because I'm tired of clock time and rulered space. I feel that my life has been progressively dehumanized by the accelerating frenzy with which the events of time and the places of space bombard my mind. There are days when I just like to stop this time-space hurdy-gurdy and get off. Maybe an LSD trip can take me to that place where it finally slows down and comes to a stop. And what do I expect to find there? No time, no space, all time, all space, and with it maybe some meaning."
On the other hand, there is not perfect correlation between expectancy and result. Sometimes, even when taken without any expectancy, the drug seems to trigger a larger awakening.
W. H. Smith (Salman and Prince, 1967:27) tells of such a case:
On the other hand, one of the most successful results of ingestion and clearest cases of religious experience of which I know, derived from one of the most mammon-like of motives. This case is instructive since it warns us against too much reliance on set as an essential determinative in the quality of the experience. The man was an armed robber, having spent much of his life behind bars, who volunteered to ingest psilocybin, as he told me, simply in order to get some parole credit on his record. After an unexpected vision of Christ he looked out the prison window. "All my life came before my eyes," he said, "and I said to myself, 'What a waste!"' Five years after, prison officials have confirmed my feeling that the man has now been rehabilitated.
The final judgment of whether mystic and psychedelic experiences can be induced by drugs must depend on analysis of the reports of such experiences from the actual participants. Here are several such experiences, the validity of which the reader may judge for himself:
Houston (Salman and Prince, 1967:36) describes a drug-induced psychedelic experience:
His experience began, interestingly enough, with his astonished experiencing of an altered time sense. He writes:
"My sense of time became involved with an order in which time is measured differently. It seems that an intimation of this order came to me shortly after I moved into the first state of altered consciousness because I reacted with vehemence to any mention of time or even the thought of it. The nature of my reaction is as strange as its force. I was moved to roaring, belly-shaking, tear-streaming laughter, a laughter far more hardy and mirthful than any I had experienced before. Interpretation of this event is subject to error because it occurred so closely to the usual state of consciousness that conscious factors might have had a strong influence. Time is a pervasive element in my life, being in constant short supply; my reaction may have come from a sense of release."
Later, as he moved into his experience of spatial mysticism:
"I experienced a shattering thunderbolt of ecstasy and my body dissolved into the flow of matter or energy of which the universe is made. I was swept into the core of existence from which all things arise and into which all things converge. Here there is no distinction between subject and object, space and time, or anything else. Here, everything simply is and there is no beginning and no ending - only becoming.
Houston (Salman and Prince, 1967:39) describes a drug-induced psychedelic experience (in this case a priest who wanted to see God):
I wanted to see His face, but He - that pronoun was significant - has none. I was possessed and utterly overwhelmed. Through waves of emotion so intense the tears constricted my ability to talk, I said, "Everything's worthwhile; He knows how much we thirst. We're justified!" I was literally compelled to tell a religious friend who was present that everything was all right, that our religious commitment was justified (I mean justification in the sense that I was aware that we were approved, significant, pleasing, stamped . . . . ) It's useless; I cannot convey what was happening, I was simultaneously so utterly amazed how indifferent God is to the names, modalities of approach, religious commitments - as if He gave no priority to any religion or mode of worship and yet how pleased He is in the chosen commitment, in my, in our choosing. The intensity of it all was so great that I thought - I wanted to die. Yet I sat up saying that it was so beautiful that it was unbearable.
Houston (Salman and Prince, 1967:40) describes a drug-induced psychedelic experience:
A second case of this type involved a Jesuit priest who felt that he had become so abstracted from his religious service as to even intellectualize the performance of the Mass. He yearned to experience again a visceral and vital contact with God at the time of the celebration such as he had known in the early years of his priesthood. He expressed this longing by saying: "I want to touch, taste, feel, see, hear, and eat God." His experience was most unusual in that he discovered himself to be at once the celebrant, the celebrated, and the worshipper at a Mass. He was at once the priest invoking the sacred ritual, Christ undergoing the historical and ritual stages of his passion, and the worshipper intensely involved in the celebration. These three stages occurred seemingly simultaneously. So intense was this experience that it served to revitalize the subject as priest and believer. The celebration of the Mass became for him a new and wonderful reality in which he expressed himself, his faith, and his God in the most intense possible manner. The Mass and the canons of his faith became for him remythologized and at the same time deeply personalized. These changes are still in effect five years after the session.
In conclusion, Houston (Salman and Prince, 1967:40) states:27
I can make no decision as to whether confrontation with a literal God actually occurred in these or any other similar experiences. I can only say that in some cases the intensity of affect, the emotional climate, the energizing of faith, and the aftermath of behavioral transformation are remarkably similar to those phenomenological varieties of religious experience described in the literature of the psychology of religion. When we understand that this type of experience does in fact occur in some psychedelic sessions then it is difficult to dismiss the notion of a genuine religious motivation underlying at least some of the current experimentation with LSD and similar psychochemicals.
Mescaline has been used for centuries in Mexico and Southwestern United States by Indians through ingestion of peyote; it is indeed a prominent part of church ritual in these parts. It appears to have characteristic somatic and psychedelic effects. In the modern era, no less a novelist than Aldous Huxley experimented with it, and helped to popularize its modern use. Another popularization has come from the wide dissemination of Casteneda's accounts (1968, 1971, 1972) on his "trips" with Don Juan.
Mescaline seems particularly helpful in inducing psychedelic visions of religious aspect. Blofeld (1970:33) describes it as follows:
The possible use of drugs such as mescaline which produce psychedelic effects is an example.... Mescaline does in many cases imbue the user with an absolute conviction of the existence of a spiritual goal of the kind postulated by mystics.
Krippner (1972) in talking about mescaline, says:
A provocative study was carried out at The Institute of Psychedelic Research at San Francisco State College by Hannan and his associates (1966) using 27 subjects who were professional workers in architecture, engineering, commercial art, furniture design, mathematics, and physics. Each subject was asked to bring a problem of professional interest that required a creative solution. Some of these subjects had worked on their chosen problems for months without obtaining a satisfactory solution. During the sessions, each subject worked in silence individually on his own problem, but with two or three other subjects in other parts of the same room. They were given 200 milligrams of mescaline in the morning when a session began. About half of these subjects later reported that they had accomplished a great deal more than they usually accomplished during a work day. But about 20 per cent said that they were not able to concentrate on their problem because the psychedelic effects brought to mind personal memories and insights. The other 30 per cent of the subjects fell in between these two extremes.
When the subjective reports were analyzed they yielded eleven factors: a reduction of anxiety and inhibition under mescaline, the capacity to restructure a problem in a larger context, an increased fluency of ideas, an ability to associate dissimilar ideas, a heightened capacity for visual imagery, an increased ability to concentrate, an increased empathy with external process and objects, a heightened empathy with people, a greater accessibility of unconscious material, an increased motivation to obtain a solution, and an increased capacity to visualize the completed solution. An example of the last factor is an architect's visualization of a shopping center he was trying to design:
"I looked at the paper I was to draw on. It was completely blank. I knew that I would work with a property 300 feet square ... Suddenly I saw the finished product. I did some quick calculations. It would fit the property and ... would meet the cost and income requirements ... It was contemporary architecture with the richness of a cultural heritage. It used history and experience but did not copy it ... I visualized the result I wanted and subsequently brought the variables into play which could bring that result about ... I could imagine what was wanted, needed, or not possible with almost no effort. In what seemed like ten minutes, I had completed the problem, having what I considered (and still consider) a classic solution."
Cohen (1964) summarized the research data on creativity and psychedelic drugs in the following manner: "Whether LSD does or does not increase creativity remains an open question. No systematic research is available to help in finding an answer. All that can be said at this time about the effect of LSD on the creative process is that a strong subjective feeling of creativeness accompanies many of the experiences." The findings regarding psychedelics are equivocal (Krippner 1968), but it appears that in some cases these drugs have helped certain artists, architects, and writers to explore non-ordinary reality, to bring back their discoveries, and to put them to use.
From the foregoing it can be seen that there is no question but that psychoactive drugs help many people break out of the placental envelope, but whether they are benefited by this premature rupture is a moot question, and many of those in a position to know feel that such actions are attended with great dangers. Patrick Trevor-Roper (1970) puts it thus:
Mescaline and other hallucinogenic drugs seem to cause an interruption of the 'association fibres' in the posterior lobe of the brain, which mould the unconscious cerebral images of the seen world into the conscious percept, altering it in the light of our experience and needs, so that it falls into line with our established schemas, with all the attributes we think proper for the object we now recognize. Mescaline thus allows us to see a far truer image than the ordered stereotype that our association-fibres normally permit us to apprehend.
For many Westerners LSD is the hallucinogenic drug, and the literature on the subject is so extensive, that we shall not try to add to it here (Masters and Houston, 1966; Tart, 1969; Metzner and Leary, 1971; Weil, 1972). Instead, we shall confine ourselves to a few remarks regarding relationships with the numinous.
It should be remembered in the first place that LSD is one of the few psychoactive drugs to have been discovered synthetically. It was first used (in the 1950's) as a therapeutical agent, in which it showed considerable promise in opening up areas of the mind which were blocked in most people. Its indiscriminate use has therefore been a great scientific disadvantage since controlled experimentation with LSD has potential for yielding useful results.
LSD appears to have the power to put people in touch with the numinous. This is at once an advantage and a disadvantage. It is an advantage in controlled therapy, for it opens up the psyche. It is also a disadvantage, for in immature persons the encounter may be traumatic and frightening. This dual aspect is well put by Braden (1967:41):
The unconscious was this knowledge that I now had of ultimate Being, and our repressions of it had their roots in an existential terror, not neurosis. It was real and horrifying. It was more than most of us could accept. . . .
Aldous Huxley who also experimented with LSD (1956:87) noted that since nicotinic acid is an antidote for LSD, the hallucinatory aspects of LSD may be due to vitamin B deficiency. Alan Watts (1972:344) after "being reluctantly compelled to admit that LSD had brought me into an undeniably mystical state of consciousness" then showed his maturity by concluding (1972:347): "My retrospective attitude to LSD is that when one has received the message one hangs up the phone."
(White 1972:282) quotes Otto (1950) who, in turn, quotes G. Ray Jordan as stating:
My own idea is that the general LSD quality may be much like what Rudolph Otto describes as the "numinous," provided that we remember that for Otto the numinous is demonic as well as divine, and may be present in less developed cases of the weird, the uncanny, the fascinatingly strange, as well as in the mystics' exalted communion or union with God.
Klavetter and Mogar (1967) tested and supported A. Maslow's hypotheses that (1) LSD can trigger a peak experience, and (2) the effects on psychological growth will be of therapeutic benefit and in the direction of self-actualization.
Perhaps the fairest judgment on psychedelic drugs is that of Voltaire: "Once a scientist, twice a pervert." It may well be that a very few experiences with the drugs in the case of mature adults may at rather small risk give them intimations of a life which religion has failed to provide, and may therefore constitute a sort of map. This was obviously the conclusion for William James in his famous taking of nitrous oxide described in Varieties of Religious Experience (1902):
Our normal waking consciousness ... is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the flimsiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different ... No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.
Certainly the most common psychoactive drug in the American culture is marijuana, commonly known as "pot ... .. grass," etc. The literature on this subject is very extensive (Tart 1971), and we have no desire to duplicate its findings here. Despite the great controversy over pot, it is being used by many otherwise respectable people, and its increasing acceptance by legal codes of various states appears inevitable. There is little hard research showing that pot damages its users, although some recent work seems to indicate damage to the genes with continued usage. It is probably no more damaging to humans than the heavy use of tobacco, and it would seem that when compared to alcohol, pot is to LSD as beer is to hard liquor.
Marijuana use as investigated by Tart (1971) seems to enhance visual, auditory, tactual, gustatory, and olefactory percepts. There is some impairment of memory. Users reported feeling more empathic, sociable, uninhibited, and insightful; most effects were emotionally pleasing, and evidently much like those experienced under alcohol except that there appeared to be greater cognitive clarity. Keeler and others (1972) investigated the extent to which marijuana functions as a hallucinogen rather than an intoxicant. Half or more subjects experienced seeing colors more intense, and visual hallucinations.
Marijuana seems to have more social than spiritual uses. Only a minority of Tart's study (1971) reported any sense of contact with the numinous. It is evidently not as powerful as either mescaline or LSD in this regard.
2.376 Miscellaneous Drugs
Briefly noted are the following:
a. hashish (an old drug with an extensive literature (Kalant, 1972)
b. nicotine (not considered a drug in our culture, but with definite hallucinogenic effects (for which see Janiger and Dobkin de Rios, 1973).
c. caapi, harmaline, ayahuasca (indigenous to South America)
d. THC (tetra-hydro-cannibnol), (see Sharma, 1973)
e. dextromethorphan hydrobromide (see Bornstein and others, 1970)
f. mushrooms (a very ancient hallucinogenic device) (The active agent here is pscilocybin, see Wasson, 1966),
g. general anesthesia (Clark and others, 1969)
h. serotonin, a non-hallucinogenic drug which seems to lubricate the mind, and may be helpful in developmental progress (see Gowan, 1974:207-9).
i. miscellaneous narcotics
j. sedatives, such as barbiturates
k. stimulants, such as amphetamine
1. others, such as sernyl, ditran, glue-sniffing, etc.
Ludwig (Prince, 1968) includes under "somatopsychological factors" a list of agents inducing unusual mental states (primarily resulting from body chemistry alterations). Besides drugs, including anesthetics and alcohol, he mentions toxic delirium, epileptic and temporal lobe seizures, narcolepsy, hyperventilation, hormone disturbances, dehydration, and hypoglycemia, especially that induced by fasting. The breadth of these causes indicates how tenuous is the hold of the brain on the "normal state of consciousness" and how easy it is to disturb.
Many of the hallucinogenic drugs noted have similar chemical structures which allow them is some way to interfere with normal brain processes, involving glucose ingestion, adrenaline metabolism, and the use of serotonin. It is probable that pharmacological research will shortly discover exactly how this is accomplished.
The difference here appears to be that some psychoactive drugs permit the expression of preconscious thoughts and experiences but leave them apart from the conscious self, or even make it harder to relate the two, (we call this dissociation). Others (like reserpine) facilitate the integration of this psychic middle layer with the conscious mind, thus promoting maturation and adaptation to reality, also to internal peace, since less energy goes into regression and denial and more is consequently available for development and adjustment.
Maturation and developmental thrust of escalation appear to be blocked when the conscious ego cannot scan the whole scope of the self (in line with van Rhijn's hypothesis). Some psychoactive drugs seem to lower only the barriers of inhibition, and relax the psyche's censor, resulting in benign and passive pleasure and in the relaxation of tension. Other methods in various degrees attempt either to make the barriers clear and recognizable, or make the denied verbal content available to the conscious. In the development of theory, necessary experimentation has had to focus on specific means and techniques, and as it piles up "one can't see the forest for the trees." The function of a theoretical framework such as this one is to put all the trees into somewhat of a meaningful relationship with each other.15
As a postscript to the section on drugs, it is necessary to add a section on delirium, because the effects are so similar (hallucinations), and the causes appear to be similar also (chemical poisoning of the brain). There are two common kinds of delirium, both with similar effects: that produced during severe illness, and that produced by severe alcoholism. Since these are both medical topics, beyond the expertise of the author, only the briefest mention will be made of them.
Perhaps the best paper on delirium known to the author is that of Prince (Prince and Salman, 1967:2). Prince reports on hallucinogenic and numinous aspects of delirium which he found rampant during a smallpox epidemic among the Yoruba. Deliriums do not seem to be dependent upon fever, although they are often associated with them. Frankel (1970) reports a similar effect during encephalitis.
We will pass by the matter of delirium tremens which is well represented in the medical literature with a single notice (Salman and others, 1968). It is interesting that the hallucinations of both kinds of delirium are always traumatic and unpleasant.
Related to delirium is epilepsy. Campbell (1974:113-14) points out that both epilepsy and migraine can produce altered states of consciousness, and both may be preceded by the hallucinations of an aura, often visual in the case of migraine. Sachs (1970:114) describes the visions of St. Hildegard as migrainous. He also lists some characteristics of migrainous auras (1970:92):
1. sudden onset
2. sourcelessness and incongruity with the normal state
3. overwhelming quality
4. sense of passivity and the effect of being forced upon the mind
5. brief duration
6. the sense of stillness and timelessness
7. difficulty or impossibility of adequate description.
Such stresses may also occur under other mental and physical disease, such as schizophrenia, fever, intoxication, and hysteria. Sachs also points to the similarity of these characteristics to William James' list of the qualities of mystical states.
Brain function may be disturbed by more mundane influences. Walter (1953:68) describes sensations under the phenomenon of "flicker fusion."
Some have seen profuse patterns of many colors ... in which the whirling spiral occurs quite often. . . . Some describe feelings of swaying and jumping, even of spinning and dizziness. Some people feel a tingling or pricking of the skin.16 A few subjects yield epileptic patterns. . . . There may be organized hallucinations.... Somehow the sense of time is lost or disturbed.
He goes on to suggest that the alpha rhythm (which is disturbed by flicker fusion) may be a process of scanning by the brain. It appears that the scanning mechanism may be the agent which keeps one "clutched into time" and hence oriented to physical reality. When this mechanism is disturbed or blanked out, there may be found other fainter influences, and these may lead to paranormal effects. A rough analogy might be that the scanning mechanism of the TV set is what keeps the picture "in synch." When this is disturbed, we get visual static.
2.38 Sensory Deprivation17
One of the most disquieting facts about the "normalness" of the normal state of consciousness is that it apparently must be sustained by a rather narrow range of constant perceptual intake. Deprive the average person of this sensory stimulus, and the ordinary state of conscious is replaced by an altered state. Heaney (Bourguignon 1973:247-8) concisely recapitulates the development of sensory deprivation experiments:
The pioneer work on sensory deprivation was begun in 1951 by Dr. D. 0. Hebb and his associates at McGill University. Wearing translucent goggles to prevent patterned vision, gloves and carboard cuffs to lessen tactual perception, and with auditory perception minimized by a foam rubber pillow, soundproofing, and a masking noise, the subjects in the McGill studies were instructed to lie on a bed in a small room as long as they were willing, usually three or four days. An intercommunication system linked the subject with an experimenter who was always stationed outside the room. Subjects were taken to the toilet and given food on demand (Bexton et al. 1954; Heron et al. 1956; Heron 1961; Scott et al. 1959; Doane et al. 1959). Hallucinations ranging from imagery of a simple nature to full-blown scenes were reported (Bexton et al. 1954). Changing to opaque goggles decreased hallucinating, which was reestablished upon return to translucent goggles (Doane et al. 1959). One group of researchers (Bexton et al. 1954) found that their subjects had some control over hallucinatory content, but another study produced conflicting results (Heron 1961). The effect of propaganda presented to subjects during isolation was tested and compared with the effect on a control group. A change in attitude appeared in both groups but was greater in the experimental subjects (Scott et al. 1959).
Later studies indicated that conditions of complete darkness, diffuse light or an unvaried visual environment, or visual monotony broken by intermittent stimulation were equally effective in producing reported visual sensations, although a monotonous visual environment was found to be more conducive than one that was unrestricted and patterned (Zuckerman 1969).
Freedman et al. (1961) found that hallucinations were reported in a study in which motility was restricted. But Zuckerman (1969) suggests that position is more important than activity. Lying on one's back seems to be more productive of reported visual sensations than other positions.
Jackson and his associates considered the effect of the subject's expectations on sensory deprivation studies and concluded that "prior knowledge of the expected or anticipated effects . . . motivation to experience and report, or not to experience and not to report, and the use of free-associative reporting" are important variables (Jackson and Kelley 1962; Jackson and Pollard 1962:340). In addition, Orne and Scheibe stressed the importance of "the matrix of social cues" or "demand characteristics" on experimental results (1964:3). They suggested that devices such as the panic button featured in Princeton sensory deprivation studies (Vernon 1963) serve as "eloquent instructions" for the subject. 25
Ludwig (Prince 1968) points out that any reduction of the major portion of sensory input, or a constant exposure to repetitive and monotonous stimulation may contribute in a great variety of circumstances to this state. He cites examples as:
a) freeway hypnosis;
b) "breakoff" phenomena in high altitude jet pilots;
c) mental aberrations while at sea, in the Arctic or on the desert;
d) boredom and solitary confinement; and
e) alterations on consciousness in post-cataract, polio, or polyneuritis patients who are confined or immobilized.
Admiral Byrd, a renowned explorer, spent six months alone in the Antarctic because he wanted "to taste peace ... quiet and solitude long enough to find out how good they really are," (Solomon, et al., 1957, p. 357). Dr. Alain Bombard sailed alone across the Atlantic Ocean for sixty-five days on a life raft, surviving solely on what food he could get from the sea. Dr. Bombard's purpose was to prove that shipwrecked people could survive at sea for an indefinite period of time. Both men reacted to their isolation and loneliness in almost identical fashion. Due to the oppressive monotony of their environments they felt themselves withdrawing deeply into themselves for emotional sustenance.
Both Bryd and Bombard suffered from severe depression, hallucinations, delusions, and anxiety. As reported by both Bombard and Byrd the lack of stimulation was keenly felt so that Byrd reported he felt a tremendous need for "stimuli from the outside world, for sounds, smells, voices, and touch." Bombard stated that he wanted terribly to have someone . . . who would confirm any impressions, or better still argue about them.... I began to feel that ... I would be incapable of discerning between the false and the true." (Solomon, et al., 1957, p. 357)
Masters and Houston (Houston 1973:256) have studied ASC through sensory deprivation, stroboscopic light stimulation, biofeedback, A-V environments, and the ASCID (Altered States of Consciousness Induction Device). Houston reports the ASCID as follows (1973:257-8,261):
The Altered States of Consciousness Induction Device ASCID-was developed to facilitate basic research into eidetic (visual) imagery. More generally, it may be used as an aid to the study of various "altered states of consciousness" phenomena.
Our invention of the ASCID (See Figure 1) was suggested by historical accounts of a variety of devices said to have been employed by "witches" for the purpose of traveling to the "Witches' Sabbath." From these accounts, it is surmised that individuals employing the device experienced altered states of consciousness phenomena, and especially vivid eidetic imagery as well as imagery in the other sensory modalities.
These instruments, typically referred to as the "witches' cradle," differ in varying degrees but all include the feature of an immobilized person moving within a kind of pendulum-like supporting enclosure. This essential feature was preserved in the ASCID model designed and constructed by Reed Erickson, an engineer and manufacturer.
The ASCID is essentially a metal swing or pendulum in which the research subject stands upright, supported by broad bands of canvas, wearing blindfold goggles. This pendulum hanging from a metallic frame, carries the subject and moves in forward and backward, side to side, and rotating motions generated by involuntary movements of the subject's body.
The vestibular system of the subject is affected, (a condition known by tribal shamans and NASA technicians to induce altered states of consciousness), and the subject tends to lose his spatial referents as well as his temporal ones, experiences some somatopsychic dissociation and gradually (in anywhere from about 2 to 20 minutes) enters a trance-like state in which a wide variety of phenomena occur. Typically, many subjects feel as though they are flying through whorls, vortices, and mists. The mists then take on coloration and gradually dissolve and the subject finds himself in a world of his own internal imagery, that is not just eidetically seen, but which is subjectively received in other sensory modalities-that can be heard, touched, or even tasted. Often the imagery is initially regressive-scenes of the subject's childhood or early memories may be vividly experienced.
Frequently, subjects then move into a realm that can be described as employing a kind of visionary anthropology, experiencing subjective realities in which detailed fantasies unfold: fairy-tale like narratives, myths, archetypal figures, visits to "other worlds" and to "other dimensions."
Solomon and others (1957) describe an experiment in which translucent glasses were worn by subjects to reduce the patterning of visual stimuli. The subject was also placed on a comfortable bed in an air conditioned sound proofed room. In addition, the arms and hands of the subject were encased in cardboard cuffings to minimize tactile stimuli. Observation of the subjects revealed that after several hours:
directed and organized thinking became progressively more difficult; suggestibility was greatly increased; the need for extrinsic sensory stimuli and bodily motion became intense; most subjects found they could not tolerate the experiments for more than 72 hours; subjects who remained longer than 72 hours usually developed overt hallucinations and delusions. In description these were similar to those reported with mescaline and L.S.D. (Soloman, et al., 1957, p. 361).
Results showed that a series of "mental abnormalities" could be produced experimentally and could he directly correlated to the amount of time of sensory deprivation. The program was terminated in 1954.
Jack A. Vernon set up the first darkness-silence sensory deprivation experiment in 1955 at Princeton University. He investigated physiological sensory, perceptual, motor, cognitive, motivational, and attitude effects. Vernon's program reported the first instance of intellectual improvement as a result of sensory deprivation, and established the importance of exact definitions of hallucinations and delusions. The program was terminated in 1964.
In 1955-56 at the National Institute of Mental Health (Bethesda, Maryland), John C. Lilly invented the water-immersion technique of sensory deprivation. Through his experiments Lilly originated the concept of "stimulus-action hunger" which states that deprived individuals are eager to receive auditory and proprioceptive stimulation through talking and to prolong communication with the outside world. Lilly is unique in that he used the water-immersion technique to produce a most detailed self-observational account, "The Center of the Cyclone: An Autobiography of Inner Space". Lilly's technique is still in use although it has been modified to a floatation technique. This modification is due to findings which supported evidence that vertical immersion produced considerable stimulation through pressure exerted upon the capillary system in the groin area.
Boston City Hospital and Harvard Medical School are noted for a series of studies carried out by a mixed group of psychologists and psychiatrists notably Soloman and Kubzansky. The above mentioned studies used respirator confinement, among others as a sensory deprivation technique. The best known product of this group was the symposium volume, Sensory Deprivation, the first book-length publication within the field.
Cohen, Silverman, Bressler, and Shmavonian (1961), researchers at Duke University, produced a very good analysis of the variables relevant to sensory deprivation.
The Human Resources Research Office (Hum. RRO) (Monterey, California) headed by Thomas Meyers "made significant contributions to the study of the effects of sensory deprivation on hallucinations, attitude changes, emotions, motor behavior, and cognition" (Zubek, 1969, p. 10). Their most important work has been the development of measurement scales such as the mood adjective check list, and the subjective stress scale (SSS).
At the University of Manitoba, Zubek has carried out long duration sensory deprivation (7-14 days) experiments. Using varying modalities and many dependent variable measures he has been specifically involved with gauging the neurophysiological effect of sensory deprivation on the organism.
John C. Pollard at the University of Michigan is best known for discovering and emphasizing the correlation between suggestion and expectancy in producing pseudo-sensory-deprivation phenomena. His findings have been subject however to theoretical controversy.
Holt and Goldberger at New York University were the first to systematically study personality variables as they affect confinement response. Also an important result of their research was the identification of the crucial factor determining cognitive effects (i.e., the complexity of the tasks to be performed).
Marvin Zuckerman is noted for his sensory deprivation experiments utilizing tank respirators as a stimulus reduction technique. He is especially noted for developing the Affect Adjective Checklist and the Sensation-Seeking Scale, both now widely used as vehicles for measurement.
Azima, Cramer-Azima, and Vispo were the first to use sensory deprivation as a therapeutic tool. Their findings indicate that the technique may be used to develop "a relationship between the patient and the therapist based on the model of the mother-infant relationship" (Azima, Vispo, and Cramer-Azima, 1961, p. 144). Mark Kammerman, a doctoral candidate at California State University, San Diego, is currently involved in sensory deprivation experiments which explore the possibilities offered by Azima, Vispo, and Cramer-Azima. He also is exploring the use of individualized tapes (see Adams, Carrera, Cooper, Gibby, Robertson, and Tobey, 1958-63), plus the floatation water tank method of sensory deprivation as a viable therapeutic technique.
Adams, Carrera, Cooper, Gibby, Robertson, and Tobey working at the Richmond (Virginia) VA Hospital carried out a series of experiments focusing on sensory deprivation plus individualized tape recordings as a means of improving self-image. Their findings indicate that the stimulus seeking behavior engaged in by the subject renders him receptive to tape recorded messages played during his deprivation experience. Sensory deprivation therefore shows promise as a therapeutic tool. It is surprizing to note how closely related this research is to "brainwashing."
The experience of sensory deprivation is described in the following account by a student of the author's as a result of immersion in a casket-type tank with a tepid saline solution in complete darkness and absence of sound:
The body sensation of beginning to float was similar to that of a cork popping up from under water. I felt as if my body were rising not just to the top of the water, but up and out of the tank so that I was no longer in possession of it. I had flashes of floating lengthwise through the end of the tank and out into infinity. It must be noted that the sensation was not one of floating, but rather a feeling of leaving my body. After relaxing and going with this sensation I became, for what felt like long periods of time, unconscious of my body.
Time orientation became something which did not exist. I therefore have no way to measure the amount of time spent.
Gradually I became aware of hearing birds singing. This I immediately attributed to having seen birds playing in the garden before entering the tank. I find it interesting that while in the garden I had been conscious of seeing the birds but not hearing them, while in the tank their singing was experienced as a very strong auditory hallucination. By strong, I mean that I experienced this singing as an extremely clear, identifiable sound of some duration.
The only visual hallucination I experienced was in the form of a light which appeared to be centered at the back of my head. It had a pale blue-white, ghostly quality which I can only describe as unearthly. Upon first becoming aware of its presence, I "jumped out of my skin." It is more adequate to state that I was aware of my entire body reacting to what I saw. I felt my muscles tense. My perception of and reaction to the light was one whole and entire experience which united my entire being. I absorbed the "reality" of the light and when relaxed with the fact that it was indeed there for me, I then watched it until it faded. It must be explained that the light did not disappear suddenly or even fade but simply became part of my reality for awhile and just as simply ceased to be important and therefore was no longer seen.
Conflict began to take hold of me so that my comfortableness gave way to stress and doubtfulness. I was almost certain of the fact that the tank was merely a small part of a much larger realm of experience but I was no longer positive so that there was some small doubt which left me somewhat shaken. Suddenly it became clear that the only way I could confirm the tank reality would be to get out of the tank and re-enter my previous frame of reference.
Re-entry was a strange experience. Objects had an unreal quality so that I was not certain of their existence. Colors were vivid and were seen as separate from, while at the same time meshed with objects.
Speaking and walking were somewhat alien to me and felt terribly slow and unnecessary to communication and travel. My body was also alien to me and felt extremely heavy and cumbersome. In short, I found that my being, my essence was not integrated with my body, but merely somehow attached to it. This feeling persisted for approximately forty-five minutes.
When I again became comfortable with my body I found myself to be very relaxed both physically and mentally. The only disturbing factor was an extreme sensitivity to sound which lasted for some two to three hours. I felt myself to be more whole or completed and have been pleased to find that this feeling persists.