While popular psychiatrist Maslow saw the progressive satisfaction of lower to higher needs as a pre-condition to self-actualization, Albert Hofmann (1990), synthesizer of the drug LSD, described a more immediate path to the higher spiritual realm through the experience of other realities. While noting the dangers inherent in taking the drug he developed and recommending, instead, meditation as a path to a consciousness of transcendental reality, Hofmann described the shock of his first LSD experience as the dissolving of the only reality he knew. An unfamiliar ego then experienced another unfamiliar reality along with an innermost self that was unmoved and able to observe the external and internal transformations. In processing his experience, he concluded that reality is inconceivable without an experiencing subject, who receives resonating wave lengths by means of the antenna of the sense organs, and an exterior world that transmits these waves to the receiver.
If through the presence of LSD, the brain, or receiver, is chemically altered in such a way that another reality is experienced, presumably the brain has timed into other resonating electromagnetic and accoustical wave lengths than those corresponding to everyday reality. Since our sense organs pick up only a fraction of the great variety of wave lengths in the universe, altering the tuning of our receivers can make us aware of the endless variety and diversity of the realities around us. “These different realities, more correctly defined as different aspects of the reality, are not mutually exclusive, but are complementary and form together a part of the all encompassing timeless transcendental reality” (Hofmann, 1990). Hofmann (1990) described the human fascination with mind-altering rituals and drugs from the beginning of recorded history. While druginduced altered states can have dangerous side effects, dancing rituals, chanting and meditation have traditionally been safe paths to transcendent consciousness in which the boundaries of the expressive self and the outer world more or less disappear. In this state, a portion of the self overflows into the outer world of objects and they take on a deeper meaning. It is this deep experience of unity with the exterior world that can lead to a feeling of the self at-one with the universe, the condition of cosmic consciousness. Hofmann (1990) traced what he called Western “cleft-reality consciousness” back to Greek antiquity when the new Apollonian world view of reason created a cleavage between subject and object, contrasting with the more ancient Dionysian world view of primal experience. As I have indicated earlier in this paper, it is my belief that the ability of the ancient Greeks to flow appropriately between these two views of reality formed the foundation of their Golden Age.
It is Hofmann s (1990) belief that the Greeks kept the Apollonian view balanced partly through the Eleusinian Mysteries that involved drug-induced Dionysian illumination and visionary insight into deeper reality. With the distruction of Eleusis in 396 A.D. and the rise of ecclesiastical Christianity’s advocation of the duality of creation and the creator, the Apollonian world view of reason has gained ascendance and the balance of views has been lost. It is my belief that Maslow’s (1993b) self-actualized individuals and Gilmore’s (1966) aesthetic responders share the balanced world view of reason and experience and are thereby able to see the beauty that is inherent in the world. What Hofmann has called our attention to is that the cleft-reality consciousness we suffer from in our society could be ameliorated through awareness of other realities. This awareness would lead directly to an appreciation of the all-encompassing timeless transcendental reality, what Joyce (in Campbell, 1990) and Campbell (1990) called the “secret cause”, the focus of proper art, what we experience as beauty. The Phenomenological Consciousness of van den Berg In Hofmann’s mystic state the receiver is completely opened for full reception much like the aesthetic responders described by Gilmore (1966). The person is conscious simultaneously of an endlessly enlarged outer and inner universe, “the boundary between inner and outer world constructed by our intellect, vanishing; outer and inner space merged” (Hofmann, 1990). Is Hofmann describing the state phenomenologists call “being present in the world”? Phenomenology is the study of the logos of phenomenon, the practice of fidelity to the speech of things, nature, culture and people. The phenomenologist recognizes that the person and the world are one (Romanyshyn, 1992). As such, memory is not inside us but embeded in the things of the world. For example, a crack in a sidewalk may hold a memory from years ago; the return to your childhood home may bring back a flood of memories. Memory is in things, in the flesh of the world (Passy, 1992). From the phenomenological perspective, van den Berg (1992) noted, we are not in our heads, which are only a condition of life made up of tissues and cells. Human life occurs around us.
We don’t perceive it, we are present in it. When we see a landscape we are also present in the landscape. By the same token, a person’s unconscious is not tucked away inside the head. It exists around him, visible to others, but not apparent to himself. The person, unconscious and all, exists in the world. When you write a Tetter to a person, you are with that person, not in your head. We are always forgetting ourselves by being in the world. Only neurotic persons cannot forget themselves, because there is too much unconscious around them. Explaining this concept, van den Berg suggested you consider someone looking over your shoulder as you write a letter to a friend. It becomes impossible for you to be with your friend, you cannot write well. You have become conscious of yourself and are no longer free to be in the world. With this perception that we are not in our heads, but in the world, that memory is embedded in the things of the world, we are grounded in the experience that Hofmann (1990) is seeking for us. From this perspective we will be beyond cleft-reality consciousness, no longer having to be a subject looking at objects. Phenomenology is an experiential, mystical world view in which the person is in nature, his actions resonating with those of the natural world.
Sheldrake on Morphic Resonance There is support for the phenomenological world view in science. It is accepted as “common knowledge” that our genes program the development of the human form. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake (1993) challenged this “common knowledge” by noting that all cells of the body have the same DNA, so if they are all programed identically how is it that they develop differently? In developing a theory to explain this phenomenon, he used an architectural metaphor. With the same building materials you can build many different house designs. A plan doesn’t even have to be written down, it could simply be an idea of the builder. The idea, the form, comes together with the energy of work and the presence of the building materials to create the house. Could the idea of the human body exist as a pure form? In the 1920s, philosophers such as Whitehead concluded that organisms have a wholeness that is not reducible to the sum of their parts. The universe exists as a whole series of organisms at different levels of complexity from atoms and molecules to cells, tissues, organs and organisms; each organism including in it the ones below it, like a nest of Chinese boxes.
The concept of morphogenetic fields builds from this observation. According to this concept form-shaping fields, like magnetic fields, exist both within and around organisms. But unlike magnetic fields that seem changeless, morphogenetic fields “have a cause, and the cause is the actual form of the previous members of the species” (Sheldrake, 1993). Like forms influence subsequent forms through direct causal connection. The word “resonance” is used because all structures vibrate, from human breathing, heart beats and brain waves down to the level of our atomic structure. Each form resonates with other similar patterns in morphic resonance creating a kind of collective memory of the species from the form of previous organisms. Sheldrake (1993) pointed out that even if this hypothesis is only partly true, we would have to look at heredity in a new way. To show how genes and morphic resonances might play a role in heredity, he used the analogy of a television set. To get a picture the transistors have to be correctly tuned to the electromagnetic fields. If there were a mutation of a transistor, we could get any number of distortions to the picture, even if still tuned to the same channel.
Could this explain different varieties of roses? Suppose the timing of the set was altered and we got another channel with a whole new set of pictures. This happens in biology with homeotic mutations in fruit flys. The change of a single gene can alter a fly’s antenna segment area program, turning the antenna segment into a leg segment. In fruit fly genetic mutations you sometimes get throwbacks to ancestral forms having more leg segments. Morphogenetic resonance seems to act like a kind of species memory Thinking back to Hofmann (1990), we have to ask whether small changes can alter the way information is taken in by the organism’s receiver sufficiently to change perception as well as form. Can LSD, or a depth state of consciousness like meditation, change the brain’s chemical states temporarily, as a gene could permanently, sufficiently to alter the perception of reality, to actually tune a person into different wave lengths? Continuing the development of this theory, Sheldrake (1993) believed a kind of self-resonance may occur with organisms most like themselves. In this way, organisms maintain their form by self-resonance. They are stabilized by their own past states despite the rapid turn over of chemicals and cells within them. Consider the possible resonance of memory. Suppose Pavlov’s dogs set up a response pattern to a stimulus (a bell) that resonated with past states (the presence of food) when that stimulus was experienced, could we call that memory? If morphic resonance is responsible for habit memory, could resonance patterns be behind all memory? If conscious memories depend on resonance, is there any need for memories to be stored in the brain?
Could memories be stored in the resonance pattern set up between you and that crack in the sidewalk, in the face of a loved one, in the home of your childhood? Morphic resonance implies that memory may involve a direct tuning into past states with which you have established resonance patterns. While this appears shocking at first, there is little evidence for the proposition that memory is stored in the brain. The molecules of the brain get replaced over weeks and yet some memories last for years. Perhaps the brain s function is to tune into the sensory and memory resonances within the world. Sheldrake’s theory leads to a beautiful insight: “If memories are stored in the brain, and at death the brain decays, then the memories die with it. If memories are not stored in the brain, the survival debate takes on a different nature” (1993). If there were perhaps “a nonphysical tuning system which acted through the brain normally, and if that could survive death, then there would be a possibility of survival involving memory” (1993). Recall, for a moment, Hofmann’s innermost self that was unmoved during his LSD experience and able to observe the external and internal transformations in the world around him. What part of us perceives the beauty of the world?