Drawing on more than 50 years' experience as a transpersonal psychotherapist, Ralph Metzner explores the spiritual overtones. karmic undercurrents, and ancestral connections that shape our individual psychologies.
Sharing 15 detailed histories from his casebook and the innovative practices he uses in his therapeutic sessions, Metzner shows how the psychological problems we confront often derive from factors not considered in conventional psychotherapy, such as birth trauma, unconscious imprints from prenatal existence, memories from past lives. ancestral and familial soul connections, and even psychic intrusions. The case histories he describes include a wide spectrum of practices, such as the use of quiet meditative retreat, guided regressions, as well as imagery visualizations amplified by entheogens. He describes how tuning in with the spiritual overtones of our being and the karmic undercurrents of our lives can resolve issues such as a fear of intimacy, help heal the after-effects of abuse and abortion. reconcile estranged parental and ancestral relationships, dissolve fears left over from past incarnations, and convert malignant presences into protective allies. In addition to guided meditations, visualizations, and yogic light-fire exercises, the practices in his psychotherapy sessions at times include the selective use of small amounts of psychedelics, mind-expanding substances functioning to amplify awareness of the subtler realms of consciousness. Part of each case history gives a description of the particular visualization used. adding to the book's practical use as a guidebook for transpersonal psychotherapists.
Through the healing experiences he describes. Metzner reveals how attending to karmic undercurrents and spiritual overtones can often bring about a peaceful resolution to long-standing distress and spiritual alienation.
Ralph Metzner obtained his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Harvard University, where he collaborated with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert on psychedelic research. He is the author of more than 100 articles as well as several books, including The Unfolding Self and Green Psychology. He is a psychotherapist in private practice and professor emeritus at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. President and cofounder of the Green Earth Foundation, he lives in Sonoma, California.
Overtones are the subtle sounds created in stringed instruments by the sympathetic vibrations of the struck or plucked fundamental strings. To the listener the sounds are ethereal, as if floating above the sound of the fundamental note. Overtones are also heard in the vocal chanting of Tibetan and Mongolian overtone singers, who are able to lower their natural bass tone to produce these ethereal sounds. We can think of the spiritual dimensions of our experience, which we refer to as "spirit" or "soul," as analogous to these subtle floating sounds. They are the inner tones and subtle harmonics of spirit and soul that can accompany our experience in certain mystical and spiritual states when we become sensitized to them.
Undercurrents are the invisible flows of water below the surface that can induce powerful movements of objects on the surface in unexpected and even dangerous directions-toward damaging rocks or abysmal depths. Analogously, the karmic entanglements of past incarnations can affect our present experience with seemingly unfounded feelings of guilt, indebtedness, resentment, or shame. To resolve them safely requires attending to the subsurface psychic currents in our life until we can recognize these residual patterns and take the appropriate steps to heal them.
The recognition of higher spiritual dimensions and the acknowledgment of karmic residuals are occult and taboo subjects for Westerners raised within the dominant materialist worldview. However, the basic concepts, with natural cultural variations, are accepted as a matter of course in Eastern and indigenous societies. It was only with the rise of the transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy movement during the 1970s that we had the beginnings of an ongoing revision of the materialist paradigm and the development of psychotherapeutic practices that recognize the reality of the spiritual dimensions and their connection to our quest for healing and sanity.
A broader new worldview emerged-and is still emerging-that could accommodate experiences and practices involving psychedelics but also nondrug approaches to consciousness expansion incorporating mindfulness meditation, holotropic breathwork, shamanic journeying methods, intentional conscious dreaming, and a variety of expressive art forms involving music, movement, mandala drawing, and others. The new paradigm formulations using "transpersonal" concepts have the advantage of being applicable across different religious traditions, both Eastern and Western. They allow practitioners of the new therapies to communicate with one another while avoiding entanglement in theological or doctrinal specifics of different religions.
I first became acquainted with the use of psychedelics to explore nonordinary realms of consciousness through my participation in the psychedelic drug studies at Harvard University in the early 1960s, with Tim Leary and Richard Alpert, who later became known as Ram Dass. We had followed a suggestion of Aldous Huxley and adapted the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead as the basis for our guidebook on psychedelic states, The Psychedelic Experience, first published in 1964. The continuing popularity of our adaptation of this core Buddhist text attests to the value and relevance of the principles of karma and reincarnation, as well as teachings concerning higher dimensions, to the mind-expanding experiences people were having with psychedelics.
The research into psychedelic substances and their possible uses in psychotherapy secede it abundantly clear that the drugs, per se, do not produce or cause experiences of insight and healing. Rather, they function as amplifiers and intensifiers of perceptual awareness, which can be profoundly healing when taken in a supportive setting but can also be disorienting and confusing in unprepared situations. Psychedelic experiences are always a function of the intention, or "set," of the individual, and the "setting," or context, as well as the preparation done beforehand. Because such drugs and related plants and fungi amplify and vivify perception, they have functioned for many people, including myself, as a first mind-opening foray into the realms of prebirth, after-death, other-world, and past-life experience.
Recognizing the importance of a meditative approach to drug-induced altered states had obvious implications for arranging the set and setting for individuals who had confusing experiences as a result of the disorganized and careless use of mind-altering drugs. In the late 1960s, I was working as a psychologist at what was then Mendocino State Hospital in Talmage, Northern California. While working at the state hospital I had the opportunity to apply some of the lessons my colleagues and I had learned about the importance of a peaceful environment to help someone lost in drug-induced inner space explorations.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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