The Asklepia Foundation


Thriving On Chaos

by Iona Miller, 1993

ABSTRACT:  If the implicate order is analogous to the frequency domain, as Bohm-Pribram have shown, the image/object domain unfolds from this invisible reality.  That which is enfolded within the undivided whole is the "Bornless One," the unborn dream of our infinite possibilities.  Unity-in-diversity is the direct experiential/existential goal of the Creative Consciousness Process in its experimental form.
Complex dynamics is implicated in the energetic translation of the "waves of unborn nothingness" which constitute the unborn dream, the relentless flow of consciousness in search of embodiment and formlessness.  Consciousness journeys are the "reading" or explication of the formless domain of Spirit.  Following Nature to whatever abysses she leads, they reveal a way of thriving on chaos.
KEYWORDS: polyphasic consciousness, entrainment, shamanism, the pregnant Void, iterative paradox, recursive feedback, bifurcation, penetration, quantum mechanics.

The ecology of the soul is to recycle one's consciousness.

                                                                                --Videru Telemahandi, EAT THE SUN

Thee I invoke, the Bornless One.
Thee, that didst create the Earth and the Heavens.
Thee, that didst create the Night and the Day.
Thee, that didst create the darkness and the Light.
Thou art Myself-made-Perfect: 
Whom no man hath seen at any time.
Thou art the Truth in Matter.
Thou art the Truth in Motion...
I invoke Thee, the Terrible and Invisible God:
Who dwellest in the Void Place of the Spirit.
The Bornless One.

                                                                                 --A. Crowley, LIBER SAMEKH


We can invoke the Bornless One with the postmodern "magic" of chaos theory, following the trail deep into bottomless Nature.  It is a journey through the magic mirror of the imagination into the looking-glass universe of multiple realities.

The nameless, shapeless, unborn face of chaos is the matrix of all creation.  At the root of the universe, and ourselves lies chaos, or paradoxical order of an infinite degree.  The "self made perfect" is not a picture of ultimate hypostasis, but only of "self made whole", the union of unbroken wholeness rooted beyond the paradoxical realm of opposites.  The paradox of the Bornless One is that it is always manifest as infinite multiplicity.

At the turbulent brink of chaos--the bifurcation point--we see nonlinearity and feedback throbbing in the form of an utterly wild and eerily beautiful creature called the strange attractor.  With its siren call, it beckons us to dissolve and merge with the formless, shapeless, unborn chaotic potential--to transform through repatterning by the whole--to reiterate the process of unfolding creation from nothingness.

The unfolding process of creation is riddled with intermittency taking the form of islands of order in a sea of randomness, or randomness interrupting order, like static breaks up a clear signal.  Paradoxically, in regions of intermittency, the old order (or chaos) momentarily reasserts itself.  It is a never-ending dance at the edge of chaos--the universal flux of creation and destruction.

Paradox constantly reenters itself through the process of iteration--feedback loops involving the continual reabsorption or enfolding of what has come before.  Chaos theory describes this operation as one of stretching and folding spacetime.

Similarly our experience is encoded in nonlinear form through the process of association.  Things that are alike are grouped together, and the more energy stored in the system, the greater the emotional charge.  In consciousness journeys we find that experiences from later life lead to sequences from birth trauma, even embryonic development, and their transpersonal counterparts.

Grof (1988) refers to these constellations of memories and associated imaginal material as COEX systems, systems of condensed experience.  They consist of material from different periods of life with a strong emotional charge of the same quality, intense physical sensations, or additional shared elements, such as a discrete state of consciousness.

Trauma creates typical reactions which become habituated as self-induced trance states, which recycle the accumulated existential responses of multiple incidents.  Initially they may develop as coping mechanisms, defenses, and dissociations.  In terms of chaos theory we can view this stretching and folding of the experiential continuum as "temporal recursiveness."

Nonlinear phenomena express in CCP through experiential transcendence of spatial boundaries and linear time frames.  Thus we find shifting identifications with inorganic processes, plant life, animals, even planetary or universal consciousness.  Temporal distortion manifests as pre-existence, embryonic and fetal experience, ancestral and genetic consciousness, tapping the racial and collective unconscious, and various evolutionary themes.  Grof has compiled a useful taxonomy of these states in THE ADVENTURE OF SELF DISCOVERY.

The chaotic attractor systematically removes the initial information and replaces it with new information: the stretch makes small-scale uncertainties larger, the fold brings widely separated trajectories together and erases large-scale information.  Thus chaotic attractors act like a kind of pump bringing microscopic fluctuations up to a macroscopic expression (Crutchfield, et al).  Chaos is generated by the stretching and folding of complex orbits.

Elementary particles generate themselves through a constant process of creation and destruction through iteration from the vacuum state.  This "quantum potential" has the quality of infinite sensitivity to its surroundings.  Quantum potential is infinitely sensitive feedback with the whole--the webwork of ever-changing possibilities.  This fluctuation of the whole of the information field gives rise to the probabilistic results of quantum processes--quantum chaos.

In much the same way, our dream images come and go, permeating our life with their iterated message.  They are constantly repeating and reflecting our central concerns, and our sensitivity to the slightest perturbations in our external and internal environment.  Listening to the voice of our unborn dreams provides infinitely sensitive feedback with the whole.

The brain is a nonlinear feedback device.  Iteration generates chaos, through the dynamic cycling process.  Iteration suggests that change is stability.  Determinist systems, including ourselves, which are maintained through oscillation, iteration, feedback, and limit cycles are vulnerable to chaos and face an indeterminate (unpredictable) fate when pushed beyond critical boundaries.  We maintain identity only by remaining continually open to the flux and flow of the environment.

The whole shape of things depends on the minutest part.  The part is the whole, since through the action of any part, the whole in the form of chaos or transformative change may manifest.  That transformative "part," the incipient whole, is the "missing information," which through iteration traces out the system's unpredictability.  The shape it traces is the strange attractor.  There will always be missing information, a hole (or whole) at the center of our logic.

The missing, transformative information lies within the very heart of chaos, a shapeless, unborn form--an unborn dream, waiting to unfold its potential.  Chaos is an infinite information source, a "hidden variable."  Nuances are full of a sense of the "missing information."  Dreams are full of creative nuances.  So are wondering, uncertainty, and questioning; they are the very flux of creative disequilibrium.

In experiencing nuance we enter the borderline between order and chaos, and in nuance lies our sense of wholeness and inseparability of experience.  Dreams express as sensory metaphor.  For metaphor to elicit nuance it must be fresh, not dead; it must shock the mind into wonder by opening up a gap, an abyss, a void.

Herein lies that missing information--again, the unborn dream.  Thus dreams continually amaze us with their freshness, engage us with their ability to clothe our recycling issues in story and metaphor.

Dreams also encode our evolution, our coevolution with the entire webwork of life.  Pioneer dream researcher Montague Ullman (1988) states, "I no longer look upon dreaming primarily as an individual matter.  Rather, I see it as an adaptation concerned with the survival of the species and only secondarily with the individual."

For Ullman, dreams represent our failures and frustrations in maintaining positive bonds, links to others, our connections with the larger supportive environment, our capacity for involvement.  The images metaphorically reflect the core of our being, the place we have made for ourselves in the world.  They offer deeper insight into the truth about ourselves, a way of exploring both internal and external hindrances to flow and unbroken wholeness.

His view of dreams suggests, "that we are capable of looking deeply into the face of reality and of seeing mirrored in that face the most subtle and poignant features of our struggle to transcend our personal, limited, self-contained, autonomous selves so as to be able to connect with, and be part of, a larger unity."

In the waking brain, the chaotic activity of neuron firings is at a low level.  But as the brain sinks deeper and deeper into sleep, the chaos becomes more pronounced.  However, during REM activity, when dreaming takes place, the amount of background chaos decreases.  Chaos seems to become embodied within the dream image, rather than the physical patterning of the firing neurons.

The iterative paradox, the (w)hole in the center of our orderly logic, represents the potential chaos of the missing information, which applies to most of our experience. Recycling ourselves, recycling our consciousness, with CCP means dissolving into the unborn dream, connecting with the missing information, opening to the whole and its self-organizing impression.

Familiar order and chaotic order are laminated like bands of intermittency.  Wandering into certain bands, a system is extruded and bent back on itself as it iterates or recycles--dragged toward disintegration, transformation, and chaos.  Thus, for example, birth trauma, near death experience, and ego death become experientially contiguous.  The unfolding wave of the unborn dream presents imagery iterating any/all of them simultaneously.

Meanwhile, inside other bands, systems cycle dynamically, maintaining their shapes for long periods of time.  Beneath each thought or simple emotion lie layers of sensation and feeling which keep cycling in the brain's feedback loops.  Memories arise as relationships within the whole neural network--a sort of phase space of memories.  But eventually all orderly systems feel the wild, seductive pull of the strange chaotic attractor.

In chaos theory, state changes occur at the point of bifurcation--a forking or splitting of possible paths of development.  Some bifurcations are catastrophic, others somewhat gentler.  The amplification of bifurcations leads to order or chaos.  The system takes off in a new direction.  Over time, cascades of bifurcations either cause a system to fragment itself toward chaos, or to stabilize a new behavior through a series of feedback loops, coupling the new change to the environment.

There is flux at some bifurcation points--the consideration of choices within a virtual infinity of degrees of freedom.  The order of choice is so high that it is chaos.  Other choices are limited in degrees of freedom through constraints imposed by coupling feedback processes from the environment.

Similarly, in chaotic consciousness the choices are from infinite self-organizing potential.  It allows the highest degree of freedom for the whole to pattern the new self/world image.  From the All--total potential--probabilities unfold--in this case the probabilities of evolutionary transformation.  An emergent order manifests.

Bifurcations are the milestones in any system's evolution, including our own.  They crystallize our history.  An untold number of evolutionary bifurcations are enfolded in all our forms and processes.  During flux, many futures exist.  But through iteration and amplification, one future is chosen.  The system embodies the exact conditions of the environment at the moment the bifurcation occurs.

Thus, in CCP the bifurcation which occurs during chaotic consciousness embodies the therapeutic environment or context.  It is an expression of the feedback arising out of the flux of chaos.  In that instant one becomes the "Bornless One," the Unborn Self.  "No man hath seen" the Bornless One, because it transcends "seer" and "seen."  Its essence is evolutionary because--following nature's lead--it is based on the pure intensification of life, intensification of consciousness.

Research shows that even chromosomes can reprogram themselves when exposed to enough environmental stress--learning from the organism's experience.  DNA inhabits the edge between order and chaos.  Acting like a feedback relay center, it balances the negative feedback ability to maintain stability with the positive feedback ability to amplify change.

The greater an organism's autonomy, the more feedback loops are required between the system and environment.  We are immersed in and reflective of a vast webwork of being to which we are seamlessly connected.  This bonding through feedback loops is the "yoga of chaos," the yoking or binding back to the whole which is the essence of "religion."  This implies that individuality is an illusion, an abstraction, a category, or conception.


What happens in that instant where nothing becomes something?  Waves of energy "crystallize" into matter in the womb of empty space, a dynamic void.  The transpersonal Void is primordial Emptiness, the silent cradle of existence.  It is the ineffable Source, which is experienced as both beyond phenomenal existence, while paradoxically underlying it.

In its dynamic form matter cannot be separated from energy.  Energy is a property of matter, which can be considered potential energy.  The mystic believes in matter, but believes it is more than science has yet discovered.  Long before Western science began, mystics perceived that mind, consciousness, or spirit is a property of matter.  It hardly matters, philosophically, if you consider it as manifesting force or manifesting spirit.

THE HEART SUTRA tells us that subtle forces underlie matter-energy and space-time.  All form and power are latent within the void: "Form is not other than Void, Void is not other than Form."  This implies that our human form also is not other than void, and biophysics shows this to be essentially true.  Our physical makeup is largely emptiness.

If we conceive of humans as being fundamentally electromagnetic entities, instead of chemical beings, we can imagine our finer existence as wave-fronts in space.  Our personal "space" is not utterly empty, but cannot be conceived apart from our matter exhibiting itself in particular ways, i.e. as "waves."

Yet, the void state or primal matrix is "cosmic zero," and proportionately our most fundamental reality.  The characteristic feature of the universe is not matter, but empty space.  It is part of the surrealistic quantum realm.  It lies within us all, for the relative space between our atoms is astronomical.  The void is both a dynamic and receptive field.  This is the ground state of existence which mystics seek in their meditation, moving beyond mind and maya.

Echoing all the qualities of the Bornless One, Grof (1988) describes the void as follows:

The Void is beyond space and time, beyond form of any kind, and beyond polarities, such as light and darkness, good and evil, stability and motion, and ecstasy or agony.  While nothing concrete exists in this state, nothing that is part of existence seems to be missing there either.  This emptiness is thus, in a sense, pregnant with all of existence, since it contains everything in a potential form.  This experience has a certain similarity with the experience of the interstellar space and with the concept of the dynamic void known from quantum-relativistic physics, although it is obviously on a much higher metaphysical level than either of the above.

The experience of the Void also transcends our ordinary concepts of causality.  Subjects who are having this experience accept as self-evident that various forms of phenomenal worlds can emerge into existence out of this void without any obvious cause.  The possibility of something originating out of nothing or of something vanishing without any traces does not appear absurd, as it would in everyday consciousness.

Washburn (1988) takes care to distinguish this high mystical illumination, speaking of its measureless immensity, power, and grandeur as an "eclipse of the ego."  Mystical illumination needs to be distinguished from the other types of objectless states: (1) the dead void; (2) the empty trances; (3) undifferentiated effusions and ecstasies; and (4) objectless contemplation.  All fall considerably short of mystical illumination, though they are akin to it.

Dead void states differ from mystical illumination in being bereft of the power of the Ground; these experiences are merely episodes of mental vacancy, without any degree of dynamic infusion or absorption.  Empty trances differ from mystical illumination in being implosive rather than infusive absorptions; moreover, trances are dense and dark rather than ethereal and bright.

Undifferentiated effusions and ecstasies differ from mystical illumination in being wild and impure; they are explosive absorptions or transports that are admixed with derepressing feelings and instincts.  And objectless contemplations, although suffering from none of these deficiencies, differ from mystical illumination in being experiences of significantly lesser stature; they fall far short of mystical illumination in the degree to which the ego is infused, illumined, and beatified by spirit."

The difference in degree that distinguishes mystical illumination from objectless contemplations is sufficiently great to constitute a difference in kind.  Mystical illumin-ation is not just an experience of serene enlightenment, as are objectless contemplations; it is rather an experience of celestial exaltation and effulgence.

Mystical illumination is an experience of inconceivable enormity.  In the case of mystical illumination, the Ground releases a prodigious outpouring of spirit.  The aperture of the soul is opened to its widest bore and spirit, in the fullness of its power and glory, graces the ego with the ultimate vision.  Mystical illumination, then, unlike objectless contemplation, is inherently of the nature of a is the Ground itself, or the inner principle that regulates it, that determines when an ultimate disclosure will occur.

The Bornless One is pure unborn Spirit, the unborn dream or vision.  Because of its pre-existent condition, it is eternal, beyond the realm of time and space, always without exception.  It is inherent in its paradoxical nature, however, that it can be unfolded into "ordinary" experience from initiation in nonordinary consciousness--i.e. dream-healing, vision quest, etc.  As a patterning principle, it transcends and contains all forms.

The image is one of symbolic penetration into the primordial field.  Perception of the "pregnant void" implies penetration to that sacred dimension of experience.  Imagery orders the process until the last possible instant, even the "imagery" of "nonperception."  Like the void, emergent imagery is "pregnant" with meaning, which only partially emerges as the panoply unfolds.  Imagery is a natural expression of the Void fleshing itself out to the fullest extent.

Meanings elaborate and multiply through the integration of information.  That information is infused through direct experience.  Once again, we find the "missing information."  Imagery invites entrainment--the evocation of beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and behavior.  It invites experience by attracting our attention and evoking multiple associations.  Imagery invites us to experience by penetrating to the very core of natural process, through recognition of pattern, mediating available information.

Images penetrate or directly affect unconscious intentionalities, often initiating habituation.  The purpose is generally coordination of the organism.  The activities of one system affect other systems.  Changes of state are only partially isomorphic with one another.


Healers in all societies diagnose mental and physical disease from symbolic expressions.  In many societies dream symbolism is interpreted as symptomatic of psychological disorder.  Experience is considered as symptomatic of changes or problems existing outside the range of consciousness.  Stress responses can be elicited from various physical systems merely by evoking an image of dangerous or painful experience.

Emphasis on the residual effects of physical trauma, in addition to emotional pain, is one of the distinguishing features of experiential therapy compared with "talk therapies."  Sensorial symptoms "invite" penetration through symbolic means of healing (i.e. CCP).  Imagery work sets up a continuous feedback interaction between sensorial neural and nonsensorial neural and somatic systems.

It is virtually impossible to distinguish whether the imagery is an expression of unconscious processing in the person, or whether the imagery is the penetrator to unconscious processes.  This bidirectional communication among discrete systems is crucial to the maintenance of whatever degree of fragmentation or integration of systems is characteristic of any particular consciousness.

Metaphor is used to constitute meaning in all cultures.  It is one of the basic structural "building blocks" of culture.  Through metaphor, imagery attained in one domain of experience is used to order, or provide meaning for, events in another domain of experience.  The superposition of images from memory and the present entrain associations.

Utterance of such imagery may evoke thoughts, scenes, feelings, states of arousal, autonomic and metabolic responses.  They may or may not carry the intense emotional discharge indicative of some intentionalities, (i.e. complexes).

Laughlin, et al (1990) speak of various techniques of symbolic penetration, engendering metaphorical understanding and transformation of ego identity.  They include ritualized practices of evocation, and the dramatic performance of metaphor.  They are "especially interested in the use of penetration techniques in order to evoke significant warps of consciousness--an evocation that is a universal theme of transpersonal religious practices cross-culturally."

The experiential therapeutic process, CCP in particular, provides a "container," ritual, or means of initiating the unfolding transformation via the process of "penetration" of the transpersonal domain.

Feedback from that domain comes in the non-linear form of a "call" and an "answering receptivity."  When we respond to the initiatory call of the dynamic ground, there is movement of both poles of consciousness toward common ground.  They are synchronized through the process of resonance, entrainment.

The "penetration" of the transpersonal process is recursively linked to the instant of penetration of sperm by egg, the mutual interpenetration of their genetic material, and all subsequent experiences of sexual or other forms of penetration, as well as transpersonal imagery.

Thus one consciousness journeyer reports her multi-dimensional insight: "Now that I just am this ovum being penetrated by the sperm, I'm no longer about that!  I'm created, I'm not violated!  I feel like Jesus when they pierced him in the side.  I was still resisting until now that sperm penetrating, and until it did, I couldn't be whole.  Now I'm feeling like I'm in the Fallopian tube, and going into the uterus, and I can implant, and grow to where I am now.  Its a wonderful feeling, because I can be inside my mother and here at the same time.  I can be in all of those places. It's wonderful!"

The images work in arenas far beyond the conscious awareness of the journeyer.  Images penetrate networks latent in their functioning, or operating outside the bounds of awareness.  They can activate a broad field of intentionality, as systems synch with one another.

Beyond our wildest imagination, the opening of this doorway to chaos, invites an influx of the formerly repressed unconscious.  It manifests the return of natural wildness.  It is embodied as kaleidoscopic, pluralistic chaos consciousness.  It may virtually erupt into awareness, resulting in profound alterations in personality, autonomic balance, understanding, and behavior.


The archetype of "wildness" has enjoyed a certain fashionability in the last few years.  Both the men's movement and the popularization of Feminine wildness in WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES have extrolled the virtues of reconnecting with the part of ourselves which is so often lost in modern life.  It is a shamanic form of penetration to the heart of a natural symbol.

Laughlin, et al describe a wolf ritual used to generate an alternate phase of consciousness, and penetrate to primal experiential domains.  As reported by Ernst in 1952, there is a secret society among the Makah offering an initiation every winter.  Initiates fast and act out wolflike traits; they wear wolf masks, sing about wolves, and channel their attention toward "wolfness."

Imitating the behavior of the wolf they work themselves into a Wolf frenzy, punctuated by wolf calls.  Circling round the fire they "show what they are"--the essence of wolfness--until the fire goes out.  The Wolf frenzy initiates radical biophysical changes in respiration, heart rate, corticosteroid secretion, adrenalin secretion, endorphin and enkephalin secretion, muscle tone and facial expression.

The researchers interpret this experience as "mediated by the older core limbic and brain stem networks which, when triggered to total eruption, relevate the fundamental, "bestial" functions of these systems into full awareness."

They go on to note that, "the initiate experiences a gestalt of specific neurophysiological responses that become associated with the "wolf-frenzy" and the core symbol, the wolf, particularly as depicted in masks.  This experience and the resulting alterations in cognition constitute the conation of the ritual."

"There exists the potential for a more complete integration of these archaic structures within the confines of conscious network.  That is, the individual may now have more conscious access to these structures as they are more likely to be entrainable to conscious network."  One can draw on this primal awareness across a continuum ranging from gut instinct to intuition.

For those members of the Wolf cult who actually do experience the frenzy, cognitive, experiential, and physiological models become transformed by association with paleoneurognostic models and are reintegrated as intentionality around (penetrable by) a core symbol.  Presumably, by manipulating this core symbol, the secret society is able to penetrate and access this new intentionality for its collective purposes.


Probably the most sophisticated postmodern theory of consciousness has been described in BRAIN, SYMBOL, AND EXPERIENCE.  The authors (Laughlin, et al) abandon all notions of dualism between consciousness and the nervous system, between mind and matter.

They theorize that "consciousness is produced by a field of neural entrainments that is constantly in flux but exhibits recurrent patterns of reentrainment."  Phases of consciousness are in fact patterns of entrainment in the community of living, goal-seeking cells.

There is moment-by-moment entrainment of the oscillating infrastructure of neurons.  They suggest that recruitment and eventual entrainment of most, if not all, somatic systems comes through sustained concentration of attention upon an object or process.  Similarly Bentov (1977) has hypothesized that certain meditative procedures lead ultimately to the synchronization of all standing waves in the body to the rhythm of the dominant, aortic standing wave.

Laughlin, et al suggest a state-of-the-art way of viewing reality, combining the mystical art of mature contemplation and scientific method to correct perceptual errors intrinsic within each system.  They interpret the experience of multiple realities as alternate fields of neural activity entrainable to conscious network.

Their evidence shows that "experience appears to be phasically organized; the shifting reentrainment of neural components making up the ever-changing conscious network" which is organized into temporally recursive configurations.  Awareness is related to vigilance, attention to and detection of danger, and recognition of recurrent patterns in awareness.

It is this awareness that is self-organized into different "states" or phases of consciousness.  Sequences of phases are marked by transitions or warps intervening between phases.  They are the points of transformation between systemic states modeled in catastrophe theory.  Warps have both structural and functional aspects just as do phases.

Different neural entrainments are initiated during trauma.  Repeated episodes lead to fragmentation of consciousness over time, resulting from entrainment and reentrainment of alternative networks to conscious network.  Complexes and subpersonalities develop, as well as the less emotionally charged systems of condensed experience, described by Grof as COEX systems.  These competing networks are patterns of entrainment which persist even though excluded from or inhibited by entrainment to conscious network.

In regression or retrogression, "the structures strain, twist, and often come apart (disentrain).  Yet, sectors of functional entrainment remain; some structures continue intact.  With good fortune, should a "cure" be affected, the ego system will find a relative equilibrium..."

Ordinarily the nature of our ego controls the nature of our experience.  The intentional guided induction of nonordinary states of consciousness leads to adaptive experience of multiple realities.  It is the function of the shaman to guide initiates to direct transpersonal experiences that enliven the multiple realities depicted in cultural myths and archetypes.  Experience is symbolic because the system that generates experience processes only symbolic material.

Experimental and naturalistic observation are applied to the task of observing the very processes that "produce the ego, the object, and the entire cognized environment."  The observer watches the process of reduction during transformations of state.  They suggest that one cross-cultural expression of this way of being is the shamanic principle.  "The shaman learns to transcend empirical ego constraints by altering his ego state, allowing him to immerse himself and participate in a broader, more destructured phenomenal field."

The ego itself is chaotically based, displaying its own self-organization and adaptation.  As a system, it is its own expanding universe.  It expands by separating, differentiating, and reintegrating, echoing the alchemical maxim, "Solve et Coagula."   Laughlin, et al hypothesize that the ego emerges based on the developmental sequence that is the very process of cellular reproduction--separation, differentiation, and integration.

The isolated, alienated ego is trapped in the dead void of its own creation.  It perceives the ground state as a vast black hole, a bottomless pit whose magnetic pull it fears.  If it finds itself within that hole it hears only the dull echo of its own cries.  Resisting the pull, the ego/hero may be dragged into the adventure irregardless.  According to Laughlin, "From the ego's point of view, looking at its own supportive field and developmental context is like looking down into a massively spiraling vortex of dancing shapes, receding further into haze and eventual murky darkness."

One participant in a consciousness journey found herself near a dark hole, which, after initiating sensations of dizzyness and swinging, became a cold cave with echoes.  Listening to the echoes she became an owl and eventually moved into a crack in the rocks to become a powerful hibernating polar bear, who begins to dream.  Thus she realized the embodiment of her unborn dream of empowerment, safety, rest, and recuperation.

In another instance, a different journeyer entered through sensations of sharp pressure on her chest area.  This session revolved around the issue of her domineering, pushy mother.  She described a gray mist in the area of her heart, which had a calming effect.  During the journey she had also approached a black hole.  Attempting to put her leg in it, she felt tremendous sensations of physical energy shooting up her legs, and she did not like it.  Following her process, allowing the journey to go elsewhere, permitted direct experience of flowing with the non-pushy Feminine.

This upwelling of energy from the unconscious abyss represents the derepressing influx of all that suppressed energy and existential information.  Having already been differentiated, Graywolf suggested she bring this energy into the heart area to interact with the mist.

This conjunction provided a sense of sanctuary within that she had formerly been seeking externally through control and compulsive orderliness.  That which was separated and differentiated became integrated--assimilated.  Sensations of flow derive from the breakdown of body image entrainment in favor of direct entrainment with proprioceptive fields, (sense receptors or sensory homunculus).  She manifested her unborn dream of serenity, embodying the new myth that contentment flows from within.

Each of these journeys shows polyphasic consciousness in process.  Identifications range from self image, to inorganic objects, to natural processes, to biological forms, to geometric and destructured primitive forms.  Other journeys have symbolically shown the destructuring process as "dismemberment."

Dismemberment (ego death) is experienced as the internal structure is literally coming apart under powerful and impelling intrusion from unassimilated neural structures.  If they do not shatter the ego, those structures eventually may reciprocally assimilate with ego into a greater structure producing a wider vision.  During creative emergence, the usual body image is replaced by the experience of flow, which may entrain visual and other sensory systems.

With guidance and experience a shaman gains mastery over the new realm of experience.  According to Laughlin, "He becomes expert at cross-phasing warps and transcending levels of his own internal structures.  What was earlier experienced as dismemberment and madness now becomes an exploration," of a world of symbolic transformations of internal neurological processes.

The internally generated images in the sensorium are perceived to be as "real" as the external world.  These images are embedded in fields of affect.  Entry to the other world is usually accomplished through a process we can describe as "portaling," using some kind of portal, door, tunnel, or vortex to navigate the crack between the worlds.

Laughlin, et al attribute the universality of this process to "the consistent organization and entrainments of neurognostic (self-organizing) structures existent within the human nervous system.  As one experientially converges toward the vortex of the internal structuring process, individual and cultural variations vanish to reveal a profound, common structure.  This structure embedded neurognostically in the human brain is experienced by shamans everywhere in their realization of the interrelatedness of all things, of energy flow, and of the existence of nonprofane world outside the bounds of conditioned normal perceptions."

Thus, the shaman accesses and reshapes a world of almost pure experience.  Changes take place at subconscious levels of neural entrainment, rearranging substructures, and progressively entraining other systems through elicitation and sequencial exposure.  Internal entrainment becomes more fluid, less constrained.

The world of the shaman is one of the application of myth through the mystical journey.  Myth, symbol, and ritual, as well as the generative ground of dreams and visions, provide the context which frames the experience and its interpretation.  In the mythic world, imagery and feeling are unfolded into a narrative.  The shaman helps others access the mythic experience; the human need for this engenders the shaman.  "Myth acts as the field of external constraints molding the ego from the outside as the shamanic experience remolds him from the inside."

In the initial stages, typically the journeyer enters a trance state induced by overstimulation, because the ego is immersed and overwhelmed.  The seasoned journeyer can maintain the bifurcation of consciousness, where the ego is detached and stable, while polyphasic consciousness flows.  This allows the shaman to function simultaneously as guide and co-conscious journeyer.

Shamans are those who have learned, not only to survive and adapt, but to actually thrive on chaos.  In shamanic consciousness, the flesh meets the spirit world.  Through the consciousness journey, we can also have the experience of thriving on chaos, facilitating destructuring of outworn adaptive patterns via shamanic consciousness, and subsequent repatterning through polyphasic process.

Laughlin et al consider polyphasic consciousness as potentially fully informed about all phases of consciousness in each phase of consciousness.  They assert that,

Fully polyphasic awareness is subtly different from egocentric awareness of transpersonal material.  Polyphasic awareness describes a consciousness that is operating within the same intentional range of attention, concentration, and awareness in every phase of consciousness, whether waking, or dreaming, or trance.

The intentionalities of all networks that become entrained to it are "meaningful" to conscious network within the frame of reference provided by whatever pattern of entrainment prevails at the moment.  In other words, to the fully polyphasic consciousness, experi-ence is meaningful as it is occurring, regardless of the phase of conscious-ness during which it arises.

Polyphasic consciousness does not require interpretation of events occurring within one phase of consciousness to be rendered in another phase of consciousness in order to be meaningful.  Yet, because cross-phasing is fluid, each phase of consciousness may interpret events in other phases according to its own context, intentionalities, and logic of events.

Their model includes rare, totally polyphasic individuals who are characterized as having realized Void Consciousness--healers, guides, leaders, sages, and wise teachers.  Social interpretations of these individuals within cultures ranged from "crazy" or deviant to legitimate travelers to alternative realities, depending on the reductive or holistic nature of the society.

They posit that a truly "Polyphasic Void Society" would have institutions that encourage exploration of dream and other alternative phases, not as ends in themselves, but as means to the realization of a phase of consciousness beyond any phenomenal reality.  Mature contemplation involves the cessation of both conceptualizing and imagery.

In the experience of totality, global entrainment, "subject," "object," and "observer" are moot.  The completely integrated process is inseparable from the field of potentialities that is the Void.


Briggs, John & Peat, David; TURBULENT MIRROR, New York: Harper & Row, 1989.

Crutchfield, James; Farmer, J.; Packard, N. & Shaw, R.; "Chaos", SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN,

Grof, Stanislav, THE ADVENTURE OF SELF DISCOVERY, New York; SUNY Press, 1988.

Laughlin, Charles, McManus, John, d'Aquili, Eugene; BRAIN, SYMBOL, AND EXPERIENCE: Toward a Neurophenomenology of Human Consciousness, Boston: Shambhala, 1990.

Ullman, Montague; "Wholeness and Dreaming" in QUANTUM IMPLICATIONS, London & New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul,1987.

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