"He has performed a great service for us in drawing upon not only psychedelic and holotropic breathwork data, but upon literature, cross-cultural studies, ancient mystical sources, and psychological data in his profound articulation of what we now know about non-ordinary states of consciousness."
—Richard Alpert, Ph.D. (Ram Dass)
SEARCH FOR A NEW PLANETARY MYTH
from Archetypes, Mythic Imagination, and Modern Society
Scholars, such as Arnold Toynbee and Joseph Campbell noticed that all cultures of the past were governed by an underlying myth or a combination of myths. Joseph Campbell often raised the question: “What are the myths that are driving the Western civilization?” He himself emphasized the importance of the Search for the Holy Grail myth in its relation to individualism characterizing Western society. We can also think about the two major myths of the modern era: Paradise Lost vs. Ascent of Man. Equally appropriate seems to be the motif of the Abduction and Rape of the Feminine, Death/Rebirth Struggle, and a variety of others - Faust, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Frankenstein, Prodigal Son, Tower of Babel, etc.
Joseph Campbell also often asked: what will be the myth of the future and he expressed his hope that it would involve overcoming fragmentation and creating a planetary civilization, where people would live in harmony with others and with nature, benefiting from the astonishing discoveries of science and technology, but using them with wisdom coming from a deep spiritual place (New Atlantis). Achievement of this goal would also involve psychospiritual rebirth and liberation and return of the feminine.
Since we are talking about planetary civilization, I would like to mention a very interesting observation that seems very relevant in this regard. One of the most surprising discoveries in my work with psychedelics and with the holotropic breathwork was the ease with which individuals in holotropic states of consciousness (including myself) transcended historical and geographical boundaries and experienced archetypal figures, motifs, and domains from just about any culture in human history. Over the years, I have myself have experienced in my own psychedelic sessions episodes from many different mythologies and religions of the world – Hindu, Buddhist, Tibetan Buddhist, Moslem, Christian, Egyptian, Shinto, Australian Aborigine, Native American, South American, and others.
This has to be a new phenomenon. Many other cultures had and used powerful mind-altering technologies, including psychedelic plants. Had the collective unconscious in its entirety been as easily accessible for them as it seems to be for modern subjects, we would not have distinct culture-specific mythologies. We have to assume that, for example, the Tibetans experienced primarily Tibetan deities and Huichol Indians in Mexico Huichol deities. There are no descriptions of the Dear Spirit or Grandfather Fire in the Bardo Thodol or those of the Dhyani Buddhas in the Huichol lore.
It seems that this increased accessibility of various domains in the collective unconscious parallels what is happening in the material world. Until the end of the fifteenth century, Europeans did not know anything about the New World and its inhabitants and vice versa. Many human groups in remote parts of the world remained unknown to the rest of the world until the modern era. Tibet was relatively isolated until the Chinese invasion in 1949. Today telephone, short-wave radio stations, television, jet travel, and more recently the Internet have dissolved many of the old boundaries. Let us hope that what is happening in the inner and the outer world are indications that we are moving toward a truly global civilization.
STANISLAV GROF, MD, PhD, internationally acclaimed psychiatrist and co-founder of the transpersonal psychology, has taught and lectured in academic and workshop settings worldwide. He has been principal investigator at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague, Chief of Psychedelic Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, and assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. He has served as Chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Scholar-in-Residence at Esalen Institute, and Co-President of the Grof Transpersonal Training Program. Dr. Grof is a distinguished faculty member at the California Institute of Integral Studies and the author of many books, including LSD Psychotherapy, The Adventure of Self-Discovery, The Cosmic Game, and Psychology of the Future.
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