Thursday, March 23, 2023

Technologies of the Sacred

“The mystery, the essence of all life
is not separate from the silent openness
of simple listening.”

Toni Packer

    "Awe gives you this big picture, it makes you open up, it makes you creative, it makes you think outside of the box — everything we need in doing good work." Dacher Keltner PhD

     "Fear, suffering, and focus … enable adventurers to release hidden powers and access other realms of experiences. … extreme adventure is not only a spiritual search, but also a spiritual tool. And it is the same for all of us, adventurers or not. The hardest, most challenging experiences of our lives can enrich our existence, revealing our true identity, awakening us to a greater awareness of our own potential, and opening us to the infinite beauty of the universe.”
    Maria Coffey. “Explorers of the Infinite. The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes – and What They Reveal About Near-Death Experiences, Psychic Communications, and Touching the Beyond.” Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2008.

    “The importance of non-ordinary states of consciousness for ancient and aboriginal cultures is reflected in the amount of time and energy that the members of these human groups dedicated to the development of technologies of the sacred, various procedures capable of inducing them for ritual and spiritual purposes. These methods combine in various ways drumming and other forms of percussion, music, chanting, rhythmic dancing, changes of breathing, and cultivation of special forms of awareness. Extended social and sensory isolation, such as a stay in a cave, desert, arctic ice, or in high mountains, also play an important role as means of inducing this category of non-ordinary states. Extreme physiological interventions used for this purpose include fasting, sleep deprivation, dehydration, use of powerful laxatives and purgatives, and even infliction of severe pain, body mutilation, and massive bloodletting. By far the most effective tool for inducing healing and transformative non-ordinary states has been ritual use of psychedelic plants.
    Mainstream psychiatrists initially dismissed and even ridiculed native ritual events as products of primitive superstition based on ignorance and magical thinking. They relegated non-ordinary states of consciousness of any kind into the domain of psychopathology. This situation gradually changed in the course of the twentieth century, particularly in its second half, when Western scientists actually made some major contributions to the armamentarium of the technologies of the sacred. Clinical and experimental psychiatrists and psychologists had the opportunity to acquire firsthand experience with chemically pure psychedelic substances and with a variety of laboratory mind-altering procedures from sensory deprivation to biofeedback. They also witnessed the effect of non-ordinary states of consciousness in various forms of experiential therapeutic techniques using breathwork and bodywork, such as neo-Reichian approaches, Rebirthing, and Holotropic Breathwork. Those open-minded enough to take on the challenge of these revolutionary tools thus had a chance to discover their power and their great therapeutic potential.
    When we recognized the unique nature of this category of non-ordinary states of consciousness, we found it difficult to believe that contemporary psychiatry does not have a specific category and term for these theoretically and practically important experiences. Because we felt strongly that they deserve to be distinguished from altered states of consciousness and not be seen as manifestations of serious mental diseases, we started referring to them as holotropic. This composite word means literally ‘oriented toward wholeness’ or ‘moving toward wholeness.’
    The name holotropic suggests something that might come as a surprise to an average Westerner – that in our everyday state of consciousness we identify with only a small fraction of who we really are and do not experience the full extent of our being. Holotropic states of consciousness have the potential to help us recognize that we are not ‘skin-encapsulated egos’ – as British philosopher and writer Alan Watts called it – and that, in the last analysis, we are commensurate with the cosmic creative principle itself. Or that – using the statement by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French paleontologist and philosopher – ‘we are not human beings having a spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences.’
    This astonishing idea is not new. In the ancient Indian Upanishads, the answer to the question ‘Who am I?’ is ‘Tat tvam asi.’ This succinct Sanskrit sentence means literally: ‘Thou art That,’ or ‘You are Godhead.’ It suggests that we are not namarupa – name and form (body/ego), but that our deepest identity is with a divine spark in our innermost being (Atman) that is ultimately identical with the supreme universal principle (Brahman). And Hinduism is not the only religion that has made this discovery. The revelation concerning the identity of the individual with the divine is the ultimate secret that lies at the mystical core of all great spiritual traditions. The name for this principle could thus be the Tao, Buddha, Cosmic Christ, Allah, Great Spirit, Sila, and many others. Holotropic experiences have the potential to help us discover our true identity and our cosmic status.

    Stanislav Grof, Christina Grof. “Holotropic Breathwork: A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy.” State University of New York Press, 2010. 

    Psychiatrist Stan Grof (above) spent 50 years doing pioneering research on the use of entheogenic plant medicines (ayahuasca, psilocybin, peyote, etc.) and Holotropic Breathwork. Holotropic Breathwork, which uses circular breathing, music & bodywork, harnesses the intrinsic healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness. Grof's book explores the healing, transformative, & evolutionary potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness accessed through Holotropic Breathwork, and their great value as a source of new revolutionary data about consciousness, the human psyche, and the nature of reality

    One-day, experiential courses :



  1. Again thank you john for collating such awesome perspectives … we might also include the multi resourced skilled practices of clinical (“hip-gnosis”) hypnosis ~!~ in spirit, armand

    1. Thank you Armand - I must plead total ignorance about the role of clinical hypnosis in promoting spirituality - would love to hear more! John

  2. Jim McD thinks that the eastern Orthodox concept of divinization fits well here and would like clarification on the concept if cosmic Christ mentioned above.

    1. I've not read or heard how Stan Grof defines "Cosmic Christ" but given the context in which he used it, I suspect he's referring to it to include Christianity as one of the wisdom traditions, whose mystics at least understand that all manifest forms are manifestations of one formless Source (sparks of the Divine). "Holotropic experiences have the potential to help discover our true identity and our cosmic status.” This has been shown to be the case in addicts, those dying but with a morbid fear of death, treatment-resistent depression, and even opening the minds of rigidly secular scientists.

    2. Hi again Jim, it's John again. Later in his book, Grof expands on this topic: “In its farthest reaches, individual consciousness can identify with the Universal Mind or Cosmic Consciousness, the creative principle of the universe. Probably the most profound experience available in holotropic states is identification with the Supracosmic and Metacosmic Void (Sanskrit sunyata), primordial Emptiness and Nothingness that is conscious of itself. The Void has a paradoxical nature; it is a vacuum, because it is devoid of any concrete forms, but it is also a plenum, since it seems to contain all of creation in a potential form.” Of course this makes no sense whatsoever to one's dualistic left brain, but must be directly experienced.

  3. Thanks, John. I found the following about R. Rohr which deals with the cosmic Christ. It certainly resonates with the idea of the Trinidadian Son of God who always was and incarnated as Jesus the Christ (Messiah, Hebrew). Divinization has been quite interesting to me in that it suggestions the realization of the Imago Dei that in so many cases gets buried in the detritus of human existence. It can be thought of as the enlightenment that comes as one "puts on" the (cosmic) Christ. I found this interesting article about Rohr at this site:,love%20with%20and%20relate%20to.

  4. The above from Jim McD. But my dumbphone changed Trinitarian to Trinidadian. It is rather indicative of what the world does to our attempts to explore spirituality these days.

  5. And the same damn phone migrated suggests to suggestions.