Proceeding from this assumption of the first theologians that man is actually fashioned in the image of God, the initiated minds of past ages erected the stupendous structure of theology upon the foundation of the human body. The religious world of today is almost totally ignorant of the fact that the science of biology is the fountainhead of its doctrines and tenets. Many of the codes and laws believed by modern divines to have been direct revelations from Divinity are in reality the fruitage of ages of patient delving into the intricacies of the human constitution and the infinite wonders revealed by such a study.
In nearly all the sacred books of the world can be traced an anatomical analogy. This is most evident in their creation myths. Anyone familiar with embryology and obstetrics will have no difficulty in recognizing the basis of the allegory concerning Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, the nine degrees of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the Brahmanic legend of Vishnu's incarnations. The story of the Universal Egg, the Scandinavian myth of Ginnungagap (the dark cleft in space in which the seed of the world is sown), and the use of the fish as the emblem of the paternal generative power--all show the true origin of theological speculation. The philosophers of antiquity realized that man himself was the key to the riddle of life, for he was the living image of the Divine Plan, and in future ages humanity also will come to realize more fully the solemn import of those ancient words: "The proper study of mankind is man."
At birth only a third part of the Divine Nature of man temporarily dissociates itself from its own immortality and takes upon itself the dream of physical birth and existence, animating with its own celestial enthusiasm a vehicle composed of material elements, part of and bound to the material sphere. At death this incarnated part awakens from the dream of physical existence and reunites itself once more with its eternal condition. This periodical descent of spirit into matter is termed the wheel of life and death, and the principles involved are treated at length by the philosophers under the subject of metempsychosis. By initiation into the Mysteries and a certain process known as operative theology, this law of birth and death is transcended, and during the course of physical existence that part of the spirit which is asleep in form is awakened without the intervention of death--the inevitable Initiator--and is consciously reunited with the Anthropos, or the overshadowing substance of itself. This is at once the primary purpose and the consummate achievement of the Mysteries: that man shall become aware of and consciously be reunited with the divine source of himself without tasting of physical dissolution.
The therapeutic use of non-ordinary states, which we explore in this book, sheds new light on biographical material. While this work with non-ordinary states confirms much that is already known through traditional psychotherapy, it swings open the gates to vast new possibilities, providing us with information about the nature of our lives that is quite revolutionary. In psychoanalysis and related approaches, core memories that have been repressed from infancy and childhood may take months or even years to reach. In work with non-ordinary states, such as that in Holotropic Breathwork™, significant biographical material from our earliest years frequently starts coming to the surface in the first few sessions. Not only do people gain access to memories of their childhood and infancy, they often vividly connect with their births and their lives within the womb and begin venturing into a realm of experience even beyond these.
When working in non-ordinary states of consciousness the amount of time that people spend exploring early childhood varies greatly. However, if they continue to work in non-ordinary states, they sooner or later leave the arena of individual history following birth and move to entirely new territories. While these new territories have not yet been recognized by Western academic psychiatry, they are not, by any means, unknown to humanity. On the contrary, they have been systematically studied and held in high esteem by ancient and pre-industrial cultures since the dawn of human history.
As we venture beyond the biographical events of early childhood, we enter into a realm of experience associated with the trauma of biological birth. Entering this new territory, we start experiencing emotions and physical sensations of great intensity, often surpassing anything we might consider humanly possible. Here we encounter emotions at two polar extremes, a strange intertwining of birth and death, as if these two aspects of the human experience were somehow one. Along with a sense of life-threatening confinement comes a determined struggle to free oneself and survive.
Because most people identify this experience with biological birth trauma, I refer to it as the perinatal realm of the psyche. This term is a Greek-Latin word composed of the prefix peri- meaning "near" or "around," and the root word natalis, "pertaining to childbirth." The word perinatal is commonly used in medicine to describe biological processes occurring shortly before, during, and immediately after birth. However, since traditional medicine denies that the child has the capacity to record the experiences of birth in its memory, this term is not used in traditional psychiatry. The use of the term perinatal in connection with consciousness reflects my own findings and is entirely new.
While reliving the ordeal of passing through the birth canal we may identify with those same events experienced by people of other times and other cultures, or even identify with the birth process experienced by animals or mythological figures. We can also feel a deep link with all those who have been abused, imprisoned, tortured, or victimized in some other way. It is as if our own connection with the universal experience of the fetus struggling to be born provides us with an intimate, almost mystical connection with all beings who are now or ever have been in similar circumstances.
Although he never really clearly saw the birth canal, he felt its crushing pressure on his head and all over, and he knew with every cell of his body that he was involved in a birth process. The tension was reaching dimensions that he had not imagined were humanly possible. He felt an unrelenting pressure on his forehead, temples, and occiput, as if he were caught in the steel jaws of a vise. The tensions in his body also had a brutally mechanical quality; he imagined himself passing through a monstrous meat grinder or a giant press full of cogs and cylinders. The image of Charlie Chaplin victimized by the world of technology in Modern Times briefly flashed through his mind. Incredible amounts of energy seemed to be flowing through his entire body, condensing and releasing in explosive discharges.
He felt an amazing mixture of feelings; he was suffocated, frightened, and helpless, but also furious and strangely sexually aroused. Another important aspect of his experience was a sense of utter confusion. While he felt like an infant involved in a vicious struggle for survival and realized that what was about to happen was his birth, he was also experiencing himself as his delivering mother. He knew intellectually that being a man he could never give birth, yet he felt that he was somehow crossing that barrier and that the impossible was becoming a reality. There was no question that he was connecting with something primordial—an ancient feminine archetype, that of the delivering mother. His body image included a large pregnant belly and female genitals with all the nuances of biological sensations. He felt frustrated by not being able to surrender to this elemental process—to give birth and be born, to let go and to let the baby out.
An enormous reservoir of murderous aggression emerged from the underworld of his psyche; it was as if an abscess of evil had suddenly been punctured by the cut of a cosmic surgeon. A werewolf or a berserk was taking him over; Dr. Jekyll was turning into Mr. Hyde. There were many images of the murderer and the victim as one person, just as earlier he could not distinguish between the child who was being born and the delivering mother. He was a merciless tyrant, the dictator exposing the subordinates to unimaginable cruelties, and he was also the revolutionary, leading the furious mob to overthrow the tyrant. He became the mobster who murders in cold blood and the policeman who kills the criminal in the name of law. At one point, he experienced the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. When he opened his eyes, he saw himself as an SS officer. He had a profound sense that he, the Nazi, and he, the Jew, were the same person. He could feel the Hitler and the Stalin in him and felt fully responsible for the atrocities in human history. He saw that humanity's problem is not the existence of vicious dictators, but this Hidden Killer that we each find within our own psyches, if we look deep enough.
Then the quality of the experience changed and reached mythological proportions; instead of the evil of human history, he sensed the atmosphere of witchcraft and the presence of demonic elements. His teeth were transformed into long fangs filled with some mysterious poison, and he found himself flying on large bat wings through the night like an ominous vampire. This changed soon into wild, intoxicating scenes of a witches' Sabbath. In this dark, sensuous ritual, all the usually forbidden and repressed impulses seemed to surface and were experienced and acted out. While the demonic quality gradually disappeared from his experience, he still felt tremendously erotic and was engaged in endless sequences of the most fantastic orgies and sexual fantasies, in which he played all roles. All through these experiences, he continued being simultaneously the child struggling through the birth canal and the mother delivering it. It became very clear to him that sex and birth were deeply connected and also that Satanic forces had important links with the situation in the birth canal.
The aggressive and sadomasochistic aspects of the third matrix seem to be logical products of the situation the child faces in the birth canal. The outward-directed aggression reflects the biological fury of the organism whose survival is threatened by suffocation. It cannot be explained psychologically nor does it have any ethical meaning. It is comparable to a state of mind any of us would manifest if our head were held under water and we were not able to breathe. When this aspect of the matrix is activated in non-ordinary states it finds its expression in numerous images of wars, revolutions, massacres, slaughters, tortures, and abuses of various kinds in which we play the active role.
There is also a form of inward-directed aggression associated with this matrix that has a self-destructive quality. This aggression, expressed in self-destructive fantasies and impulses, seems to be the internalization of forces that were originally imposed on us from the outside—the uterine contractions and the resistance within the birth canal. The memory of this experience survives in us as a sense of emotional and physical confinement and the inability to enjoy our lives fully. It sometimes takes the form of a cruel inner judge demanding punishment, a savage part of the superego that can drive the person to extremes of self-destructiveness.
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