Rethinking Consciousness

From the book’s introduction: In chapter seven, Leonard Gibson takes a multidisciplinary look at the transpersonal realm, and the psychedelic experience in particular, exploring the roots and fruits of psychedelic/mystical experience from a Whiteheadian perspective…



From “William James on Consciousness Beyond the Margin,” by Eugene Taylor, p. 63
James was, first of all, impressed with the Hindu emphasis on an inner tranquility that could be systematically cultivated. In his Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students of Some of Life’s Ideals (1899), he said:
“We have lately had a number of accomplished Hindu visitors at Cambridge, who talked freely on life and philosophy. More than one of them has confided to me that the sight of our faces, all contracted as they are with the habitual American over-intensity and anxiety of expression, and our ungraceful and distorted attitudes when sitting, made on him a very painful impression. “I do not see,” said one, “how it is possible for you to live as you do, without a single minute in your day deliberately given to tranquility and meditation. It is an invariable part of our Hindu life to retire for at least half an hour daily into silence, to relax our muscles, govern our breathing, and mediate on central things. Every Hindu child is trained to do this from an early age.”


“As soon as high consciousness is reached, the enjoyment of existence is entwined with pain, frustration, loss, tragedy. Amid the passing of so much beauty, so much heroism, so much daring, Peace is then the intuition of permanence. It keeps vivid the sensitiveness to the tragedy; and it sees the fineness beyond the faded level of surrounding fact. Each tragedy is the disclosure of an ideal: What might have been, and was not; What can be. The tragedy was not in vain.” Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas


Going Home

A favorite poem of ours, Ithaka – the journey:

Ithaka, by Constantine Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find the things like that on your way
as long as you keep thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony.
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


Dreams and Breathwork

Dreamwork can be a great complement of breathwork, and vice versa. This book by dream cartographers Tom Verner and Stephen Larsen is a wonderful resource, based on decades of their work with dream groups. See especially the discussion of dream contents in terms of Grof’s perinatal matrices, page 41:

Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof posits that our birth impacts us in ways that are very real, even though they may not be all that tangible to us. To best articulate these impacts he devised a model of them and named them the Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPM). Not only dreams, but almost every subsequent experience in waking life activate the dynamics of one of these underlying matrices.




Back to the Source

When preparing for a workshop, I find it helpful to refer to the Grof’s book “Holotropic Breathwork,” always good to go back to the source after all these years! Highly recommended for anyone interesting in hosting breathwork events, or anyone who just wants to learn more about this amazing technology of the sacred. This book combines Grof’s theory of the cartography of the psyche with case studies, practical matters — how to do breathwork — and has some very important information about bodywork, both in the body of the text and in the Appendix on Special Situations.