A few posts back I was detailing how evidence of non-physical reality is suppressed, but didn’t get to the why. There’s a nice theory in Lawrence LeShan’s excellent The Medium, the Mystic and the Physicist, 1995 (orig. pub. 1966) that has to do with fear.
There are perhaps two ways to think about the fear. One is to compare it with any other type of fear. The other is to recognise the unique nature of ‘paranormal’ fear which lies, not in overt scariness and rattling chains, but in the threat to the survival of the worldview. People may not realise just how visceral worldview is. The survival instinct depends on thinking one has understood how the world works, in adults anyway, which may account for greater ability to assimilate nonordinary states in children. Right now the dominant paradigm has materialist cause and effect linked to being right about surviving. (Bad ‘rational’ theories about how to survive, starting with economic ones, are leading our culture over a cliff, but let’s not do that subject right now.) If we let the weirdness of alternate worldviews in, what else do we let in? Freud called that wave of acceptance the ‘tide of mud’, because it obscured the nice, clean vision of rationality.
Only it doesn’t. That’s just a sign of a limited mindset on Freud’s part. Nonrational states of mind can easily be investigated rationally. Any “spiritual” experience probably has to involve them. I particularly recommend LeShan’s book to anyone who has found themselves in states that they just cannot get. These are characterised by fear and also by confusion, and a desire to let the awkward cognitive dissonances just slide neatly out of the conscious memory where they are making such a mess.
You can’t easily involve yourself in training of the type I like without encountering a moment of dizziness every so often. One can’t process and the question becomes What the exdeleted is going on?, the shift into profanity indicating reason ‘tottering on its throne’ as P. G. Wodehouse has it. At such times the basic LeShan formula is very useful — different states, different rules. (Claude Swanson, whose physics Ph.D. is from Princeton, has some nice stuff about how ch’i accumulation allows warping of physical laws, particularly within the nervous system I would add, but more of that anon.)
There’s too much talk about ‘the world as we know it’, not enough about the world as we don’t. The latter is where the fear lies.
One technique I like for upping sensory awareness is rebounding, but with my eyes shut. This is a standard Glenn-type idea so far as I can see — if you might fall off and hurt yourself, you’re bound to pay more attention. Danger of pain is how martial artists increase concentration, aping mother nature. If you already have a tendency to be able to sense “something there” with your eyes shut (getting it visual is an effect of directing ch’i to the third eye, see two posts back) this will up the image brightness and contrast. One day a while back I got it fairly clear, opened my eyes, jumped off the trampoline, and watched in my mind as the image of the room through my physical senses reformed.
Then the thought hit me: “I used to think this was real.” I have no idea why exactly I chose to phrase it that way to myself. But I really did get a stab of instinctual fear that lasted a while until I saw what had happened. Turned out there was a part of me who was fundamentalist about the nature of that sensory reality, wanting it to be the only one. And I think that’s fairly common. What the exdeleted is going on?.
The LeShan solution is simple — you just say all these states are different ways of seeing reality. You don’t have to value-judge about them. You don’t have to worry which is the real one. Each is a reality and you accept each as it comes or is attained, thinking carefully afterwards about the consequences. (Don’t miss that last part out; reality testing is crucial.) As with any mental state, whilst you’re in them you tend to believe in them fully to the exclusion of all others, known in psychology as absorption, which correlates to hypnotic ability. What you have to do is find out the uses of each state. Needless to say, my body wanted to survive/thrive and finds my physical senses useful in that regard.
LeShan described a few different ones — sensory, clairvoyant, transpsychic, mythological if I recall. He back-engineered his way into them from reading descriptions by clairvoyants of what they experienced. You could call them mental states, or worlds, or rulesets. Very instinctively orientated towards this for a scientific chap, LeShan was able to teach people to meditate and heal others successfully using the systems he dreamed up, which puts him in a category with Glenn. He didn’t choose to put his mindstates in a hierarchy, but recognised that doing things in one state can affect things in another. That’s where pseudoskeptics object from deep down. Automatically, any state other than the normal one must be useless because it’s ‘in your head’.
I put these ideas to a learned friend who pointed out that “skeptics” anecdotally are often ex-fundamentalists (‘ex’?) or else people who were duped by the numerous fake ‘mediums’ or ‘qigong masters’. True, but this is where I bring in my other choice for “book you read when the exdeleteds threaten”, Grof’s Holotropic Mind, 1993. (Anything by him would probably do.) Grof’s another in that same category of scientific minds whose knack for entering and theorising about altered states is matched by a talent for finding ways to induce them profitably in others. Initial investigations of LSD back in the day gave way to his ‘holotropic breathwork’ regimen which got the same results in terms of altering state without having to shell out for tabs.
Many of the resulting experiences are regressions to the magic of early infancy (and even beyond), and one finding is just how fluid is the child consciousness. Identifying with the mother has no check from physical boundaries which are probably learned later as rules. ‘Dual unity’ experiences, in which full merge takes place with another whilst one’s own identity remains clear, have been witnessed “literally hundreds of times” in Grof clinics (p. 91). One experience involved the ability to switch fluidly and at will between the mother’s consciousness and the child’s. The thoughts of the mother were experienced too.
At one point, as she was experiencing this dual unity, symbiotically merging with her mother, she opened her eyes. As she looked at me she seemed very surprised. She explained that she felt she could read my thoughts and know what I was feeling, as if all boundaries between us had been dissolved. When she in fact described my thoughts she proved to be quite accurate. (p. 92)
Whatever else one may say about pseudoskeptics, this sort of bonding probably forms part of their subconscious experience. Being of an age to merge with mother is ‘a fault most people are guilty of at some point in their lives’ (Asimov). If so the fight against an altered state in which such merging is not only possible but beautiful and useful, may subconsciously be a fear of a rejected potential which confounds the everyday paradigm. On an inner level the conscious must ignore it because it knows it is possible but doesn’t like the worldview implications.
Such merged states are paramount in my own experience, and I’ve found the standard inductions of clinical hypnosis can be ideal in producing them — assuming both parties are human and find the idea acceptable. This can also involve the passing of energy and is excellent as a healing mindset. LeShan called merging ‘Type I healing’ whilst ch’i exchange was ‘Type II’. Type II by itself might not induce permanent healing as often in his experience, but was compatible and often combined with Type I. I’ll add that Glenn’s school, and ch’i kung generally, often uses Type II to lead to Type I which never occurred to LeShan. But then he had no method of working with ch’i; this was before the time of Robert Bruce who back-engineered his energy method in quite a similar way.
I’ve consistently experienced a part of myself wondering how anyone could deny this ability to merge, because it would be denying one’s ability to identify with another human being on the basic level. The two faculties seem the same to me. That’s what I instinctively feel and it sometimes plays havoc with my ability to identify with others if they deny the possibility! Not that such thinking will get you far with a Dawkins. What’s interesting is that ch’i developed in any state eventually starts to affect the normal one constantly. When that happens, people can be denying it all the while you can see it affecting them. “I can affect other’s energy fields at will,” says Glenn. “Anyone who gets within thirty feet of me can be affected with ease.” I’ve occasionally experienced this sociophysical reality as a game I have to awkwardly pretend is exclusively real. Our culture makes the jump poorly but trees and animals make it elegantly, so for the weirded out nature is recommended.
Whether fear and confusion is the whole answer to what makes pseudoskepticism tic must await further research. But the point is that experiencers of the unusual have the same trouble with fear as skeptics do. Unlike skeptics they admit it — but then must find a way past it. Not recognising the nature and status of the experience can lead rapidly to paranoia. After all, maybe everyone really does know what you’re thinking. Maybe they’re making you think it… This is exacerbated by populist claptrap like “The Secret” which can have people desperately editing all their thoughts for fear a bad one should ‘manifest’. I’ve recently met several people whose nervous systems were completely shot from such fear, their awakenings stalled and rolling downhill. I hope they find help, but simply relaxing would be a start. Perhaps the subconscious mind of a pseudoskeptic, in shutting the gate, is merely acting on self-preservation grounds — yet in reality there is nothing to fear.
This is a personal gate you have to get through in spiritual training. LeShan points out (p. 215):
One might also suggest that psi can raise another sort of anxiety. This might be the fear of knowing oneself. If one is suddenly aware of new ways of knowing; if there are new, uncharted paths to knowing, what might it reveal to one about oneself that one does not wish to know?
Much inability to deal with shadow represses it. The key is to remain not only rational but also on side, whatever you discover, what Albert Ellis called ‘unconditional self acceptance’, ‘unconditional other acceptance’, and ‘unconditional life acceptance’. Glenn thought of these as ‘second chakra issues’ — the association is with the element of water which has fear as its problematic manifestation in Chinese Medicine. The second chakra anatomically takes in the kidneys with their caps that initiate the fight/flight/freeze response. That response sometimes triggers automatically during paranormal experiences, for no obvious reason. People tremble or are struck dumb by the most benign of apparitions. Otherness.
The Secret Smile and self-knowledge is your insurance policy, and acupressure, also, will redirect restless energy to productive patterns. “Negative thinking and depression,” says Glenn (Shadow Strategies pp. 191-2), “lead to darkest paranoia when there is little hope or light. The materialist seldom can get this stage lit, and so wanders screaming warnings as he or she flounders through a landscape in perpetual darkness.”
Let’s hope they don’t get into radical politics at that point. Aum Shinrikyo took only 11 years to go from a meditation group focused on enlightenment and psi to a terrorist organisation rolling toxic gas canisters onto the Tokyo subway. The signs were there in its charismatic founder’s 1992 book which proclaimed him as Christ and announced an imminent world war III. When people talk like that, the fear has won and it’s too late. Shock therapy, overuse of hallucinogens, Jewish and other conspiracy theories, plus liberal misuse of pop culture as spiritual revelation, were other warning signs. The organisation changed its name but still exists. I can see the signs in some other groups around.
Increasingly, I find that a sense of humour is invaluable. It’s far harder to worry about your worldview if you are playful with it, and the confusion then becomes creative. But picking up LeShan and Grof, too, if you experience the exdeletedness of life, whether as a result of my fave sorts of training or something else, will probably save you a while of headscratching as you try to form a paradigm that works. Simple texts with useful ideas.
Next week I’ll look at a particularly interesting example of careers heaving and plunging madly as worldviews are threatened. Our subject remains a puzzle — a discoverer of ch’i techniques in the West who bequeathed us a school of techniques denying the existence of ch’i! See you next Saturday. :)
Many thanks to Joan Stanger of London for an excellent healing session yesterday! I recommend this wise lady.