Non-Ordinary Realities


Part I

A number of years ago, a young woman in her early 20's we'll call Samantha sought out homeopathic treatment for difficulties she was experiencing during pregnancy.  She had given birth just a year or so earlier and had experienced problems toward the end of her term.  Now, this tine around Samantha was complaining of extremely low energy, poor digestion, generalized itching and irritability.   

The fatigue was often accompanied by dizziness and she often felt a lump or something solid as well as acidity in her stomach. Samantha had discovered that certain foods aggravated the fatigue, and was somewhat better by avoiding them.   It was also hard for her to feel hungry, and a lack of food would then exacerbate the fatigue. 

Otherwise, Samantha's previous medical history was pretty unremarkable aside from a short-lived eating disorder in her teens.  More remarkable was her keen sensitivity both toward how her body felt and to the world around her.   Samantha described herself as a quiet person, easily overlooked in a group, but yet like a 'sponge' with other people - absorbing their qualities and emotions.

"I'm small and invisible, not heard or acknowledged, like I'm translucent".  She felt disconnected from people when they would quarrel - from her parents when arguing over inconsequential things at dinner or her partner when arguing with a sibling.  "I want people to be connected, loving and moving along the same path 

The disconnection was not only with others, but also within herself.  "I put myself in the other person's body, become translucent, giving myself to whoever is having an issue and feel that through my eyes, they'll have the clarity I have to stop the arguing".   Being connected meant being truly open, to look into each other's eyes and feel "the radiance that emanates out".

In homeopathy, one is always seeking out what is truly characteristic about the symptoms presenting in an individual and what is unique about person as well.   To understand that is to understand how to treat.  Listening to Samantha speak, it became clear that more then her rather common complaints, what characterized her was this unique sensitivity and perception of herself.  After all, how many people do you hear describing themselves as translucent?

She went on to relate her experience of intimacy: "a melting away, that the physical boy is melting into physical particles and becoming one with the surroundings".  "I let myself flow into everything, the particles become intermingled.  There is a sharing of myself with my surroundings."   At other points, Samantha spoke of experiencing herself expanding, moving like a wave, of feeling cool but not cold, and presented the image of space and stars. 

By the close of the consultation I understood that the remedy Samantha needed would not be a common one, not one that was derived from a mineral, plant or animal source.  Neither would it be a nosode - a remedy made from diseased tissue, nor a sarcode - a remedy made from healthy tissue.   It was clear the remedy would come from a small group of what are known as 'imponderabilia' - that is, not something that was distinctly matter, but an energy that can affect matter.

The imponderabilia are further characterized by the following attributes: by their nature they spread, emanate and penetrate; they pass through matter and are impossible to obstruct; they are limitless and unaffected by time; they can be present anywhere at anytime., Electricty, magnetic fields (both north and south), sunlight, X-ray, gamma rays and laser beam are all examples of imponderabilia.  But the one that best fit for Samanatha was moonlight - known in homeopathy as 'Luna'.

Amongst other things, people who need this remedy speak of energy and radiation like most imponderabilia, but characterize it as cool and calm  (as opposed to the remedy Sol or sunlight, which is characterized by great heat and intense power).  They feel a need for harmony and connecting with others to bring happiness.   Like the moon itself, they perceive themselves as reflecting the light of other bodies.  Another characteristic of Luna is its periodicity, monthly cycles and an affinity for gynecological or obstetrics complaints

Samantha was prescribed a single dose of Luna, but soon afterward moved away.  It was only several years later when she had returned to the area and came in for another appointment that I learned how well she had responded to the remedy.  Her fatigue, digestion and skin all had improved in short order. 

Again, after this second visit when amongst other things, she spoke of her sensitivity to the full moon, her dislike of artificial light and also used phrases like 'beads of light', 'breathing in light', 'particles of light' and 'melting into everything else, she was prescribed another dose of Luna.  This time, follow-up was within a month, and this time as well, she responded positively to the remedy physically, mentally and emotionally. 

It would be reasonable to wonder how a homeopathic preparation of Luna - or anything other imponderable - is created.   In fact, it was first prepared in the 1860's and again in the 1980's in two different but similar ways.  The first is to expose globules of milk sugar to the rays of the full moon while the second is to expose a container of pure water to the same.  Then these preparations were potentized via a series of dilutions in the manner of all standard homeopathic preparations.  Finally, 'proving' experiments were conducted to elicit the particular symptoms that pertain to the remedy.

Despite this background, the use of 'moonlight' as a medicine no doubt stretches credulity in the minds of many people. Within the homeopathic community as well, there are those who certainly find it difficult to accept.   Even putting aside the validity of the remedy itself, there are homeopaths who would reject outright the subjective character of the information that led to the prescription. 

Ultimately, the final arbitrator is the remedy response - its power to cure, which in this case was clearly demonstrated.  That said, it still brings up interesting questions about the nature of homeopathic remedies as well as the inner reality of the human experience.

Part II 

Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.

-William James, Philosopher & 'Father' of American Pscyhology 1842-1910

Although in the public imagination, LSD is emblematic of the counterculture in the 1960's, for the two decades that preceded that era, it was the subject of research by governmental, medical and academic institutions around the world.   

The CIA famously experimented with it as a possible agent of mind control in a program codenamed 'MKUltra'.  It was thought to possess 'pscyhotomimetic' qualities - meaning the action of the drug was thought to mimic the symptoms of psychosis, and was therefore utilized to study the nature of that condition.   More significantly, LSD was used as a therapeutic tool in the treatment of many psychological disorders, as well as conditions such as headaches and alcoholism.

The research pointed to the fact that LSD enabled access to repressed layers of the unconscious mind wherein laid the underlying perceptions and feelings that gave rise to a person's experience of reality.  Thus, it promoted greater self-awareness and self-acceptance, which, in turn, facilitated healing to a degree unattainable by conscious or cognitive therapies.

The use of LSD escaped out of the laboratory, so to speak, when one of those researchers, the Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary, went rogue and promoted its use amongst the general public.  His exhortation to 'turn on, tune in and drop out' was enthusiastically received by a generation disposed to break the strictures of cultural mores.   As part of the backlash to this challenge of societal values, LSD was made a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance.  Ongoing research and therapeutic applications of it and other psychedelic substances was largely terminated or else went underground where it remains to this day.

Stanislov Grof, a Czech born psychiatrist, originally became involved with investigations into the effects and uses of psychedelic in Prague in the 1960's.  Later in the United States, he continued his work, where, amongst other positions, he became a Research Fellow at John Hopkins University.   Because of the change in legal status of psychedelics, Grof eventually turned to another method by which similar states of awareness that promoted access to the deeper layers of the psyche could be achieved.   

In 1967, Grof was a part of a small group that worked together to create a new psychology that would "honor the entire spectrum of human experience, including various non-ordinary states of consciousness".1  At Grof's suggestion, it was called 'Transpersonal Psychology' and was designed to encompass states of being that go beyond what is generally considered 'normal'.   

Drawing not only from psychedelic experimentation, but also various traditions of spirituality, mysticism and meditation, these states were considered neither pathological nor aberrant.   To the contrary, they were understood to be 'peak experiences' or states of heightened awareness that made possible the exploration of the farthest reaches of human nature.

For much of the 1970's and 80's, Grof was based at the Esalen Institute in California where, along with his wife Christina, he developed a therapeutic technique they called 'Holotropic Breathwork'.   Meaning 'toward wholeness', the practice involves carefully supervised, hours long sessions accompanied by intensely rhythmic music during which the 'breather' first lies prone on a mat and begins to breath in a deep, sustained, rhythmical fashion.   

Generally, after a period of time that could be as short as a few minutes, the breather begins to experience various physical sensations and then changes in his or her perceptual, mental and emotional awareness.   Various forms movement and vocalizations commonly occur as well. This different form of consciousness can persist and evolve for hours, allowing for the exploration of hitherto untapped areas of the psyche or, to put it another way, "a really deep dive into the ocean of one's consciousness".

One of the most significant aspects of Grof's work in mapping the full dimensions of human consciousness is that he was a pioneer in recognizing that human psychology is not solely based on the post-natal development of the individual.  While great theoretical and therapeutic emphasis continues to be placed on the role that familial, interpersonal, and societal environment play in determining the state of a person's psyche, Grof understood this to be of limited perspective. 

 From his own clinical research with psychedelics and breathwork as well as studies of other healing traditions outside contemporary western culture, he came to the understanding that experiences before and during birth as well as states that transcend an individual life - 'transpersonal' experiences - played an equally or even more significant role in the psychological state of a person.

 As Grof writes, the transpersonal states allow for "experiential identification with other people, groups of people, other life forms and even elements of the inorganic world.  Transcendence of time provides experiential access to ancestral, racial, collective, phylogenetic (the evolutionary history of a kind of organism) and karmic memories."2

As a homeopath, what is particularly compelling about this perspective on the human psyche is the way in which it closely parallels much of the recent development in homeopathic theory and practice.  

At its inception two centuries ago, homeopathic medicines were prescribed according to a straightforward correspondence between the symptoms that a patient manifested in a diseased state and the symptoms produced by various substance during experimental investigations (known as 'provings') conducted with healthy persons.  Originally, there was no thought given to the philosophical or psychological significance of these correspondences.

As the field developed, a new perspective began to emerge based on the accumulated experiences of homeopathic physicians around the world as well as the increase in the number of provings and medicines.  To wit, in many instances, the connection between a particular person and the deep acting homeopathic medicine that best fit his or her constitution was neither random nor arbitrary.   

In fact, this correspondence came to be understood as a reflection of deeper states of consciousness or, put another way, layers of the unconscious mind.   Thus, through the tools of homeopathic inquiry and remedy selection, it was possible to perceive an inner reality or, as Grof might have described it, a non-ordinary state of consciousness which is fundamental to the nature of an individual.

One of the abiding fascinations of homeopathic practice is to witness how over the course of a consultation this correspondence comes to light.  By means of a skillfully guided conversation and use of the homeopathic materia medica, people reveal a profound and mostly unconscious identification with a substance, be it derived from plant, mineral, animal or even non-material, energetic sources.

Moreover, a further striking similarity between homeopathy and transpersonal psychology is seen in the fact that there exist homeopathic medicines that exactly correlate with various pre- and postnatal stages of human development.  The best known of these is the second row of the periodic table - a series of eight elements beginning with lithium and ending with neon. 

Each one of these corresponds to a specific stage in fetal development and birth process.  Clinically, through the physical, mental and emotional symptoms manifesting in a particular person, it is possible to perceive how he or she is constantly reliving or stuck at that stage throughout later life - most often without any consciousness awareness. 

The prescription of the appropriate homeopathic medicine is an extremely efficacious means to move people through those stages, unblock their unconscious mind and free up their innate vitality.

1. Grof, Stanislav & Christina, "Holotropic Breathwork", State University of New York Press, 2010, pg. 5

2. Ibid, pg. 13