Track: Transpersonal Psychology, Psychotherapy and Clinical Studies
The Numinous, the Shadow and the Unborn
Psychedelics and “technologies of the sacred” can cause numinous states. The religious scholar John Huston Smith spent 10 years trying and failing to find cosmic consciousness through Zen Buddhism, but his first experience of LSD took him ‘step-by-step to those things on which angels themselves long to gaze’. Do psychedelics cause “genuine” spiritual experience or are they “pseudo-spiritual”? Are these states caused by alterations in brain function or do we participate more fully in an aspect of consciousness that is inherent in the cosmos? I will discuss with reference to Plato, David Bohm and others.
Numinous states are bivalent; incomplete forms of numinous experience can have a nightmarish primitive quality. I will discuss the clinical significance of these ominous states and their potential to shed light on problematic structures within our psyche – the shadow. Any serious work with expanded states of consciousness must be fully committed towards supporting any problematic manifestation of the numinous towards its natural conclusion. I will discuss the nature of numinous experience with reference to Rudolph Otto and Carl Jung.
The psychedelic experience may cause us to revise our cartography of the psyche. The psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, who pioneered clinical work with LSD in the 1950s and 1960s describes how aspects of the perinatal experience and the trauma of birth can be re-experienced in expanded states of consciousness. This provides an opportunity for a reparative experience to rectify the residue of such birth trauma and modify the way we lead our adult lives. This challenges the prevailing view that the relationship with the maternal object is the first major influence on the developing psyche. I will discuss with reference to holotropic breathwork – a non drug method of inducing a psychedelic experience that Grof developed after the clinical and research use of psychedelics stopped in the 1960s.
Read, Tim: Tim was Consultant Psychiatrist at the Royal London Hospital leading the Psychiatric Liaison service and the Crisis Intervention Service from 1992 to 2013. He is now in independent practice. He has trained in psychoanalytic therapy (IGA) and in transpersonal therapy (GTT). He is a certified facilitator of holotropic breathwork. Tim is co-founder of the Institute of Transpersonal and Archetypal Studies (ITAS) and author of Walking Shadows: Archetype and Psyche in Crisis and Growth.