Mechanics of Trance-Endence? — To Find a Way Out!
In the “Haunted Mansion” at Disneyland, after entering you are shown into a room, and then the walls close, and as the room begins to lower itself, you then realize that there are no doors or windows. On the walls, what originally looked like nice pictures, for example, a girl holding a parasol, ends up with her tottering on a tight rope above a pond of alligators. A disembodied voice then says that your job is “. . . to find a way out.” This, it seems, is an apt metaphor for where we find ourselves in the journey of consciousness.
We are trapped in an illusion, a trance with seemingly no way out. The process all started out friendly enough, but right now things do not look so good. We are caught in our separated fragmented condition, and are seeking unity. How do we expand our consciousness from this perilous position and evolve or reunite with the Divine? There are various ways, but they all have at bottom ways of expanding our view of who we are and how we fit in. They all in one way or another end our trances and some are even called transcendent [trance-endent] experiences! The bottom line is, our ego-consciousness needs to change, by expanding through either ego-dissolution or ego-death. Grof (1998a) explicates that the ego’s boundaries can dissolve through experiencing the beauty of nature, experiences of art, through different ecstatic or other peak experiences, as well as childbirth, sex, and mothering. Donaldson (1993) explains that the same can happen through “original play.”
Grof (1998a) notes that ego-death is triggered through severe acute or chronic stress, diseases, Near Death Experiences; at these times, we feel like we are falling apart. Different things can trigger these nonordinary ego death and ego dissolution states, among them are spiritual practice, death, sex, childbirth, spontaneous mystical experiences, as well as ancient spiritual and aboriginal “technologies of the sacred,” along with “spiritual emergencies.” Other things that can expand consciousness are paradox, which we will discuss later, and synchronicities.
Synchronicities are meaningful coincidences between intrapsychic experiences and events in consensus reality that defy explanation. They help us to realize that "something's up." Synchronicities show “that our psyche can enter into a playful interaction with what appears to be the world of matter. The fact that this can happen blurs the boundaries between subjective and objective reality” (Grof, 1998a, p. 95). Jung was encouraged in his explorations of synchronicity by Einstein; and Jung and quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli worked on the idea of synchronicity together. When the psyche is in heightened states, synchronicities tend to multiply. Later on, in the "Kaleidoscope of Culture" we will be explore different aspects of cosmic play, "seeing through" different pop-cultural illusions and associated synchronicities in the world.
A quick and relevant example of such a synchronicity occurred when I was looking at this list of different triggers to reunion. I was searching for a common thread, how could some of these seemingly different thing be linked to the evolution process; especially the cosmic connection between sex, death, and childbirth (Grof, 1998a). At the time I was reading the Looking Glass Universe and Turbulent Mirrors (Briggs & Peat, 1984, 1989, respectively) in order to understand some of the scientific parallels. Suddenly the realization hit me. Just look in the mirror: E-V-O-L-ution. The Beatles were right all along: “It's easy, All you need is Love . . . . Love is All You Need!” (Lennon & McCartney, 1967a). This is what Donaldson (1993) feels about original play, because original play is this “alpha and omega” experience of unity and love.
So there are two different movements: the downward arc of involution and the upward arc of evolution. David Bohm’s explicate and implicate order, with its unfolding and enfolding expresses this same dynamic. Grof (2004) calls the unfolding or centrifugal movement hylotropic (moving towards matter) and the enfolding or centripetal movement holotropic (moving towards wholeness), and notes that Ken Wilbur refers to them as the descent and ascent of consciousness. As previously mentioned, Bohm’s glycerin dye experiment shows the centrifugal movement in the dispersal of the single drop and the centripetal movement as its returning to its nature as a single drop.