Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mad Visions or Mental Illness? Part 1

Myth & Metaphors of Personal Meaning
If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor” _Joseph Campbell.

The Universe saves itself from a Dark & Silent Fate?

By Evolving into a form that can act upon Itself - You?

Euphoric Senses Fall into Awareness of an Eternal Now?

Heaven is Felt as The Eternal Now Emerging Within?

Metaphor, Myth, Meaning & The Hidden World Within?

Its about the transformation of reactive energy states, not objective labels (metaphors)?

"Yeah right! - You've been away with pixies again our David," I hear my Uncles say.
"Told ya to leave those magic mushrooms alone! - Oh! Sorry I forgot, you don't need any, you nut job!" I hear ex lovers bemoan.
"Tut, tut, we warned you about mental illness, off medication," I hear psychiatrists refrain.
"Yeah I know its a very touchy subject, madness as mental illness is a debate with a wide variety of individual experience and objective professional judgment." This is my particular experience though and I don’t paint with a broad brush here, suggesting a universal application. Or do I?

Do the post headlines speak of mental illness & psychosis, a break with normal reality, or personal revelation? Not that I think I'm a messiah, although that may have been your, at first glance judgment? Perhaps more a further dissolving of personal identity, once euphoria energized sensations, enabling intuition fades? Or are these simply the mad notions of a diseased brain, and what do they have to do with everyday normality anyway?

A two part essay in analysis of a month of manic euphoria; its metaphors & meaning?

Where is the objective sense of normality in linking Led Zeppelin's song "Stairway to Heaven," with William Blake's famous painting of "Jacobs Ladder," you might ask? Its just a song, its just a painting, and there cannot be any method or purpose in the experience of madness? In this two part essay I explore my own altered states of perception from the viewpoint of metaphor and meaning. Exploring the hidden nature of my internal energies, my DNA's double helix and the double bind of a mind-body split that can't see the shadow on my cosmic soul?

Perhaps a little background is in order before I try to explain a month or so of emotional euphoria. Since 2007 I have allowed the euphoric energy involved in my bipolar type 1 (as described in DSM IV) experience to unfold as it will and there has been no fall into depression. Next month will be the 32nd anniversary of my first experience of mania, which embraced the same savior sensations and thoughts that all my subsequent mania's have. After 1980 there was a 27 year experience of cyclic manic depression, mostly self managed due to medication side effect, intolerance.

In January 2010 I came to Thailand to give myself the time, space and opportunity to seek a deeper self awareness, although rationalized as a desire to write a book at that time. I’ve been here two years now and although there is no book yet, there has been a steady re-authoring of my self narrative, with a deeper self awareness of a much needed emotional maturing process.

What I mean by emotional maturing, is the ongoing integration of the energies of perceptual awareness within me. It has been a process of learning a felt perception of myself beyond the habitual self comforting rationalizations of my mind. Going down into the cave beneath the surface impressions of my minds objective awareness, so to speak. As Joseph Campbell says;

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." _Joseph Campbell.

Perhaps it is the body’s capacity for harmonic resonance through its combined senses, that is the cave I enter when experiencing altered states of perception? Down beneath my minds object oriented “what is It,” view point? The heat and heightened energies generated by hyper-elation or euphoria, seems to enable deeper sensory associations, enabling intuitive ideas to form. All that I've heard, seen, read and previously symbolized in thought, becomes suffused with an expanded sensory awareness.

Yet can symbolizing words/labels like intuition be any more than metaphors for our unknowable immersion in the wider matrix of life and the cosmos? Surely all that is sensed as experience in any one our lived moments, cannot be encapsulated in any single word or words.

Does all the recent knowledge about hidden electro-chemical stimulation within the body/brain, make much of our thoughts and language mere metaphor for the complex energies of our perceptions? Does our minds eye view tend to squash a complex sensory awareness into a focused reference for our immediate survival needs? Hence we perceive with a narrowed sense of objectivity that may be far more self deceiving than insightful?

Descartes Error? "I think therefore I am." Maybe not Self Aware?

Within the Body/Brain - Stimulation involves Electro-Chemical Activity?

From the perspective of this hidden and unconscious process, much of our language can be understood as metaphor, and particularly mythology and the creative arts? Even nursery rhymes take on a different meaning when viewed as an expression of all this electro-chemical activity within? When the internal reality of electro-chemical stimulation is kept in mind, sensation and perception take on new meaning, beyond a normal object-like understanding of ourselves. We generally use external shapes and forms in analogies of self interpretation, totally unaware that our internal world is very different to our minds eye view of the external world.

Please be still and mindful of all you can sense within the passing of "one and two and three and four and five," seconds? Did you stay wholly within a "mind" sense of self and count, did you feel deeper, “mindless” sensations lost to awareness as thought occurs? In my own journey, this paradox of mind and mindless self awareness arose during meditation exercises to gain awareness of my unconscious (mindless) nervous system activity. This is how I manage/control the unconscious energies of my highly sensitive disposition these days, (see here).

It is the electro-chemical nature of my unconscious experience and its expression through metaphor that so intrigues me, now that I no longer paint a euphoric episode with sensations of shame, no longer feel an attachment to the stigma of judgmental blame. Now un-afraid and unashamed to face my experience of sensations within, I seek to further define the reality of my being. To sift through the various needs of self support and self definition, while wondering if I’m sensing something deeper still?

Touching the Void in a sense of Electro-Chemical Reactions?

It is while holding the notion of metaphors and these hidden electro-chemical processes in mind, that I explore my altered states of perception these days, particularly an eerie sense of immersion within the DNA matrix of an electro-chemical Universe.

Last November another relationship crisis threatened me with loss and isolation, causing a defensive "reaction formation," and a flight into the e-motivation of Euphoria. Perhaps a traumatic birthing process conditioned an unconscious and dense terror state, as the very foundation of my reactive energies within? A deep fear of the void in loss and isolation, which became my life challenge to face?

"Perhaps some of us have to go through dark and devious ways before we can find
the river of peace or highroad to the soul’s destination." _Joseph Campbell.

The Double Helix & The Double Bind in our Nature?

Section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally
between the two spiraling strands.
I've had millisecond flashes of a deeper perception breaking through a conscious barrier, since an extraordinary out of body experience when I was twelve years old. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life though, there is pressure to suppress such experience and get on with a normal life. Standing on a cliff top, having sensation flashes of the earth turning against the night sky, instead of the other way round, is quickly dismissed as weird by a majority people. "Its just your overactive imagination," they say. A euphoric sense of imagination that led me to impulsive posts on last November, 17th;

"Change Ur Metaphor. Think Chemical Universe & FEEL HER LOVE. There is NO SEPARATION. ALL IS ONE! 1 love. 1 world. 1 tribe. Every WORD is a Projection of HER LOVE INSIDE YOU. Ur Electro-Chemical Connection. This AOM. This Age of Mythology. Sight the WORD & FEEL the CAVE. You can "Know Thyself" & BE ONE TRIBE!"


Metaphor & Meaning - The Double Helix & The Double Bind?

The Conservation constriction of our Object like Thinking is Blind to Metaphor & Meaning?

"There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
(And) when she gets there she knows if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for."

Often the millisecond conservation urge of human homeostasis (comfort zone) need stimulates conservative thought, rushing over these words too fast, to assume its about human form & a woman? Yet is the gold she seeks an object or deeper meaning? Is the lady a human woman or Gaia mother nature?

"Ooh ooh ooh...ooh...ooh ooh ooh
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In the tree by the brook there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven

Oooh...It makes me wonder
Oooh...It makes me wonder

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking

Oooh...It makes me wonder
Oooh...And it makes me wonder

And it's whispered that soon, if we all called the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forest will echo with laughter

A White Stone in the Book of Revelations?
A Slingshot to the Stars in David & Goliath?
Woe woe woe woe woe oh
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean for the May Queen
Yes there are two paths you can go by
but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on

And it makes me wonder...ohhh ooh woe

Your head is humming and it won't go -- in case you don´t know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady can you hear the wind blow and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our souls
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all, yeah
To be a rock and not to roll

And she's buying a stairway to heaven." _Led Zeppelin.

Jacob's Ladder - William Blake.
The Double Helix in our DNA?
When I read the lyrics above from the perspective of cellular electro-chemical energy expressing itself through a meaning making mind, the words-metaphors take on entirely different meaning to a normal and objective perception of daily life. The Biblical story of Jacobs Ladder takes on new context, as a mythological interpretation of an unconscious inner journey, rather than literal history? I also wonder what ultimately seeks expression in my impulse to post;

"I guess I could think of those 100 billion neurons in my head & the 100 that are in my gut, as a chemical implant from outer space? Sort of makes me feel we are immersed in it when I metaphor life this way? Is that what quantum mechanics means by oneness & no separation? A chemical Universe? Just a thought? Nothing mysterious after all, just a simple, natural reality?" on November 17th 2011.

I guess I could think of it as an expression of the code written in my DNA, emerging within the reality of an Eternal Now? After all, there are notions that time is an illusion, as is all shape and form and that all that ever was and will be, happened in one eternal moment, and this is it? Which does beg the question about madness experience and what the nature of delusion really is?

In the isolated minds of people like myself, are we wrestling with the same depth of existential awareness that bleeds through every age of our common humanity? Like the reference to the white stone above, which in terms of existential metaphor can be seen as prophetic of the age of our current sense of being? Are our notions of soul a metaphor for the reality of a cosmic sense of being? A cosmos that perceives itself through our eyes?

New Living Translation (©2007)
"Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it."

I do believe that we are in an age when spirituality and science is converging, as science uncovers more of the hidden reality to our meaning making mind, and its attempt to interpret its true purpose. As for the new name in the above verse, I'd rename the human race WUMAN in light of our heaven sent talent for metaphysics and in the hidden manna of our DNA? I do believe we would see that heaven is right where its always been, waiting for our mature perception?

“When you realize that eternity is right here now, that it is within your possibility to
experience the eternity of your own truth and being, then you grasp the following:
That which you are was never born and will never die..” _Joseph Campbell.

I find this in a thoughtless stillness these days, just looking out & seeing, feeling what I'd always rushed over? Although it takes a withdrawal from hustle & bustle into deep stillness to sense this. What comes through for me is the metaphor interpretations of thoughts that reflect on the nature of being & minds true purpose?

The Double Bind in our Mind-Body Split?
"Don't talk about that emotional shit man! - You just upset other people!"
"A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, in which one message negates the other.

This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response.

The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore cannot resolve it or opt out of the situation. Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion—the use of confusion makes them difficult to respond to or resist."

Is there an inherent double bind in the nature of our civilizing society? The unspoken rules that bind us all together, also hinder the individuation process and the exploration of life's deeper meaning, which can only be divined at an individual level of felt/thought sense?

Such is the double bind for the psychotic in our public hospitals too, who desperately wants to explore the nature of this experience, while normal reason seeks to suppress it for the greater good?

Highly reactive and specific energy states known as affects are contagious and we fear their effect on an unconscious level? The double bind here is a specific energy state known as "Distress/Anguish," which unconsciously prompts us away from another's "affective disorder."

Is this the double bind dilemma of our mind-body split, in being motivated by unconscious energies that are rationalized in order to maintain our homeostasis (comfort zone). Do we get trapped in a self deceiving cycle of unconscious-conscious motivation, like the need for short and easily grasped explanations, for the complexity of our own nature?

Imagine being in a darkened cinema, when suddenly smoke alarms go off and people shout "fire," its extraordinarily difficult to keep a mindful sense of reason and not be "affected" by a rush of blind panic. Those panicked flights that cause injury and death in such circumstances are stimulated by the specific energy state we call Fear/Terror.

It is the raw nature of such highly reactive energies within that we suppress and adapt for our social communication, and resist when its expression is too much for others to contain? Does changing the metaphors of our self interpretation allow us to search beneath the double bind of our social expression/suppression and our mind-body split?

A suppression of raw internal energies that begins in early childhood when "acting out," starts to be suppressed towards the needs of conformity and managing a social homeostasis (comfort zone) of togetherness. Its ok to scream and jump and shout in almost any public place when your three years old, but frowned upon when your sixty. No wonder we love spectator sports so much, where grown ups get the sanctioned opportunity to "act out."

In managing my personal experience I now use a sense of my internal world and its reactive energies to go beyond the diagnostic labels (metaphors) of mental illness. As described (here) in "calming your bipolar symptoms," I feel for inner tensions with a "mindless" felt sense of my inner energies and their stimulation of my sense of being.

For example, after a life time of too much negative experience "Anger/rage," as an energized state is always expressed in my jaw, my neck and shoulders, and this is often where I start to alter my internal energies by letting go of tension. In a daily practice of sensing my internal energies as expressed in the stimulation of muscular tensions, I find that the tone and flow of my minds thoughts are also affected. Increasingly what I'm sensing are the electro-chemical energies of my minds stimulation and its deep immersion in a wider matrix.

The Double Helix & Natures Stairway to Heaven?

The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and The Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby.
A personal adventure, a fascinating study of anthropology and ethnopharmacology, and, most important, a revolutionary look at how intelligence and consciousness come into being.
This adventure in science and imagination, which the Medical Tribune said might herald "a Copernican revolution for the life sciences," leads the reader through unexplored jungles and uncharted aspects of mind to the heart of knowledge.

In a first-person narrative of scientific discovery that opens new perspectives on biology, anthropology, and the limits of rationalism, The Cosmic Serpent reveals how startlingly different the world around us appears when we open our minds to it. "The Cosmic Serpent is a spellbinding, scholarly tour de force that may presage a major paradigm shift in the Western view of reality." _Michael Harner, Ph.D., president, Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and author of The Way of the Shaman.

Medicine's Symbol & its Shadow Within?
The Evolutionary Power of our DNA?
The Double Bind in a Mind/Body Split?
Western medicine see's the delusions in altered states of mind a result of illness, a disease process. People like myself who experience the euphoric sensations of "mania" are dismissed as sick, because of the disruption to normal life patterns inherent in the experience. Yet consider how in the last decade or so, western medicine's objective view has been astounded by the accuracy of primitive knowledge of complex biology, derived from altered, delusional states of mind?
The tri layered evolution of the brain has long been "intellectually," understood, and its primitive roots symbolized in metaphor myths & art as cosmic serpents and dragons, all over the world. Is there a double bind in our objective sense of normality that prevents a felt access to the evolutionary power of the double helix within?

A sense of isolation inherent in feelings of rejection has always triggered my most powerful flights into mania, so well mythologized in the Greek legend of Icarus. The flight to close to the heat of Sun and its subsequent fall into icy depths, have long symbolized the experience of manic depression, now dispassionately diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

Does this less emotive description of manic depression represent the very real dilemma of our social nature and its double bind compromise? In order for the mind to gain distance from overwhelming instinct and emotion, it takes an overly "object" like view of the holistic nature of experience.

The scientific mind slices and dices nature into separate parts to get an "objective" grip on the nature of being. Does an altered state of mind we label delusion fall into an overwhelmingly holistic sense of nature though? In February 1980, I went looking for guidance in the first 24 hours of a new and overwhelming experience, yet in the very real nature of chaos, chance and circumstance that underpins our existence, I did not find it?

No guidance and inexperience in coping with a new found sense of being, led me to amplify my felt senses with the imaginative power of my mind. Is this the classic dilemma of a mind-body split in the actuality of our experience? Only upon reaching an age and a level of life experience, have I entered a time and place in my life when I can afford to explore the hidden nature of a mind-body split. Only now after considerable experience and self educated research, do I truly believe my euphoric episodes have personal and cosmic purpose.

Consider Narby‘s “The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and The Origins of Knowledge” and his open and honest account;

“The first time an Ashaninca man told me that he had learned the medicinal properties of plants by drinking a hallucinogenic brew, I thought he was joking. We were in the forest squatting next to a bush whose leaves, he claimed, could cure the bite of a deadly snake.

"One learns these things by drinking ayahuasca," he said.

But he was not smiling.

It was early 1985, in the community of Quirishari in the Peruvian Amazon’s Pichis Valley. I was 25 years old and starting a two-year period of field-work to obtain a doctorate in anthropology from Stanford University. My training had led me to expect that people would tell tall stories.

During my research on Ashaninca ecology, people in Quirishari regularly mentioned the hallucinatory world of ayahuasqueros, or shamans. In conversations about plants, animals, land, or the forest, they would refer to ayahuasqueros as the source of knowledge. Each time, I would ask myself what they really meant when they said this.

My fieldwork concerned Ashaninca resource use - with particular emphasis on their rational and pragmatic techniques.

To emphasize the hallucinatory origin of Ashaninca ecological knowledge would have been counterproductive to the main argument underlying my research. Nevertheless, the enigma remained: These extremely practical and frank people, living almost autonomously in the Amazonian forest, insisted that their extensive botanical knowledge came from plant-induced hallucinations.

How could this be true?

The enigma was all the more intriguing because the botanical knowledge of indigenous Amazonians has long astonished scientists. The chemical composition of ayahuasca is a case in point. Amazonian shamans have been preparing ayahuasca for millennia. The brew is a necessary combination of two plants, which must be boiled together for hours.

The first contains a hallucinogenic substance, dimethyltryptamine, which also seems to be secreted by the human brain; but this hallucinogen has no effect when swallowed, because a stomach enzyme called monoamine oxidase blocks it. The second plant, however, contains several substances that inactivate this precise stomach enzyme, allowing the hallucinogen to reach the brain.

So here are people without electron microscopes who choose, among some 80,000 Amazonian plant species, the leaves of a bush containing a hallucinogenic brain hormone, which they combine with a vine containing substances that inactivate an enzyme of the digestive tract, which would otherwise block the hallucinogenic effect.

And they do this to modify their consciousness. It is as if they knew about the molecular properties of plants and the art of combining them, and when one asks them how they know these things, they say their knowledge comes directly from hallucinogenic plants.”

"Sit down before fact like a little child, and be prepared to give up
every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever
abyss nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." _Thomas Huxley.

Consider Narby’s double bind predicament as a western educated man with a rational and objective view of delusional content?

"Colleagues might ask,

"You mean Indians claim they get molecularly verifiable information from their hallucinations? You don’t take them literally, do you?"

What could one answer?

There is nothing one can say without contradicting two fundamental principles of Western knowledge.

First, hallucinations cannot be the source of real information, because to consider them as such is the definition of psychosis. Western knowledge considers hallucinations to be at best illusions, at worst morbid phenomena.

Second, plants do not communicate like human beings. Scientific theories of communication consider that only human beings use abstract symbols like words and pictures and that plants do not relay information in the form of mental images.

For science, the human brain is the source of hallucinations, which psychoactive plants merely trigger by way of the hallucinogenic molecules they contain.

It had become clear to me that ayahuasqueros were somehow gaining access in their visions to verifiable information about plant properties. Therefore, I reasoned, the enigma of hallucinatory knowledge could be reduced to one question:

Was this information coming from inside the human brain, as the scientific point of view would have it, or from the outside world of plants, as shamans claimed?

Both of these perspectives seemed to present advantages and drawbacks.

On the one hand, the similarity between the molecular profiles of the natural hallucinogens and of serotonin seemed well and truly to indicate that these substances work like keys fitting into the same lock inside the brain. However, I could not agree with the scientific position according to which hallucinations are merely discharges of images stocked in compartments of the subconscious memory.

I was convinced that the enormous fluorescent snakes that I had seen thanks to ayahuasca did not correspond in any way to anything that I could have dreamed of even in my most extreme nightmares. Furthermore, the speed and coherence of some of the hallucinatory images exceeded by many degrees the best rock videos, and I knew that I could not possibly have filmed them.

On the other hand, I was finding it increasingly easy to suspend disbelief and consider the indigenous point of view as potentially correct. After all, there were all kinds of gaps and contradictions in the scientific knowledge of hallucinogens, which had at first seemed so reliable.

Scientists do not know how these substances affect our consciousness, nor have they studied true hallucinogens in any detail. It no longer seemed unreasonable to me to consider that the information about the molecular content of plants could truly come from the plants themselves, just as ayahuasqueros claimed.

However, I failed to see how this could work concretely.

Maybe I would find the answer by looking at both perspectives simultaneously, one eye on science and the other on shamanism."

* * * *

Note Posture & Personality & Neg Energy Affect in my Jaw?
Over the last decade my own journey has revolved around self education into neurobiology, metaphor, myth and meaning, and of coarse the experience of my own madness states. Since 2007 I went looking for the scientific and other evidence that would prove my growing feeling that my experience is not a disease process. "If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.” _Joseph Campbell. I have changed my metaphors (labels) to expressed energy states described as Affective Motivation.

Affective motivation deals with the way in which individuals experience, process, and behave based on emotions. This group of theories complements the host of rational-based motivational theories that are more cognitive. There are a number of ways in which emotions, or our affective states, are involved in the motivation of behavior. Remember that motivation is the force that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior. How are emotions involved in these three forces?

Individuals exist in, and move among, one of three Affective States:

Positive Affective State. The individual is experiencing positive feelings, such as relaxation, excitement, pleasure, or joy.

Neutral Affective State. The individual is experiencing little or no noticeable feelings at the present time.

Negative Affective State. The individual is experiencing negative feelings and emotions such as emotional pain, anxiety, guilt, frustration, boredom, or anger.

The basic premise of affective motivation theories is that individuals experience emotional reactions to certain situations. Emotional reactions are, in reality, physiological states (e.g., changes in blood pressure, heart rate, chemical secretions) that we feel as a reaction to certain situations. Over time, we develop labels for these “feelings” which are based on the context in which we experience them.

From an affective perspective, what energies, directs and sustains behavior? (Note: Most theorists believe that behavior is result of a complex combination of, or conflict between, cognitive and affective processes. Neither process alone, or in its pure state, explains behavior.

Science & Psychiatry's Cognition vs Emotional Energy - A Double Bind?

Psychiatry’s “chemical imbalance,” as a diseased brain process has launched a massive search for the empirical proof of this hypothesis, with as yet only more proof that introduced chemicals do indeed affect the body/brain. Each time objective research seems to be approaching a definitive answer to the origins of abnormal experience, only more questions assail our understanding. Perhaps it takes a wider breath of knowledge and experience to combine the knowable and the unknowable to satisfactory affect, with belief and faith playing a role that our objective rationalism will never be able to identify?

The Placebo Effect?
Patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect. Placebos are widely used in medical research and medicine, and the placebo effect is a pervasive phenomenon, in fact, it is part of the response to any active medical intervention. The effect of placebos has been shown by randomised controlled trials to be very large. The placebo effect points to the importance of perception and the brain's role in physical health.

If you ask a scientist or psychiatrist about the natural phenomenon of placebo effect, there is an acknowledgement of its reality, yet a reluctance to explore its nature, just as there is a general resistance to disturbing our comfort zone, in fear of unidentifiable phenomena. Simple belief and faith are considered to be aspects of our nature belonging a bygone era, for the objective rationalism of science research and psychiatry's current belief about mental illness.

Yet increasingly people all over the world are suggesting that science is a rigid belief system that takes the actuality of the lived experience out of its research, in order to maintain its comfort zone approach, of studying the phenomena of life in a slice and dice state of detachment? Is this the double bind of maintaining homeostasis (comfort zone) in the face of life's raw motivational energies?

Certainly one of the most difficult aspects of living with such periodic experiences of abnormality, is the not knowing why or how? Not being able to identify the source of the threat from within that so torments the mind, has the actual "affect" of maintaining its potency. It has been by changing my cognitive labels to felt energy states, that I have found relief and acceptance of my overly sensitive condition, and have changed my belief about its nature and its purpose.

One writer describes the madness experience as a kind of “tough grace,” and perhaps this is the cross that some of us are born to bare? My own experience of manic depression is the classic early adult onset, well known prior to our current era of the medical model of brain disease.

Isolation has always been both a burden to me and a friend, when grounded by the secure attachment of an intimate relationship, the darkness of night sky has held a sense of wonder. When suffering the loss of secure attachment though, I'm plunged into the hyper-vigilance of previous trauma experience, and the reaction energies of escape into a euphoric flight. It is in this heightened energy state that I sense a oneness with nature and that eerie feeling of something deeper still. It always reminds me of a favorite song;

Someone keeps calling my name
Someone keeps calling my name
Or is it just the rustling of the wind
Or is it just that I need a friend
Someone keeps calling my name, my name _Harry Chapin.

My name is Jaime, fifteen years I've been to young
Is it time to taste the truth and toss it off my tounge?
The world has come a-calling and it's bleeding at my door
Am I supposed to turn away, or is this what I'm here for?

Someone keeps calling my name
Someone keeps calling my name
Or is it just the rustling of the wind
Or is it just that I need a friend
Someone keeps calling my name, my name"

* * * *

Back to Narby's amazing book and my excited facebook post about Jacobs Ladder;

"My research revealed that in the early 1960s, anthropologist Michael Harner had gone to the Peruvian Amazon to study the culture of the Conibo Indians. After a year or so he had made little headway in understanding their religious system when the Conibo told him that if he really wanted to learn, he had to drink ayahuasca.

Harner accepted, not without fear, because the people had warned him that the experience was terrifying. The following evening, under the strict supervision of his indigenous friends, he drank the equivalent of a third of a bottle. After several minutes he found himself falling into a world of true hallucinations.

He saw that his visions emanated from "giant reptilian creatures" resting at the lowest depths of his brain.

These creatures began projecting scenes in front of his eyes.
"First they showed me the planet Earth as it was eons ago, before there was any life on it. I saw an ocean, barren land, and a bright blue sky. Then black specks dropped from the sky by the hundreds and landed in front of me on the barren landscape.

I could see the ‘specks’ were actually large, shiny, black creatures with stubby pterodactyl-like wings and huge whale-like bodies.... They explained to me in a kind of thought language that they were fleeing from something out in space.

They had come to the planet Earth to escape their enemy. The creatures then showed me how they had created life on the planet in order to hide within the multitudinous forms and thus disguise their presence. Before me, the magnificence of plant and animal creation and speciation - hundreds of millions of years of activity - took place on a scale and with a vividness impossible to describe.

I learned that the dragon-like creatures were thus inside all forms of life, including man."
At this point in his account, Harner writes in a footnote at the bottom of the page:
"In retrospect one could say they were almost like DNA, although at that time, 1961, I knew nothing of DNA." I had not paid attention to this footnote previously.

There was indeed DNA inside the human brain, as well as in the outside world of plants, given that the molecule of life containing genetic information is the same for all species. DNA could thus be considered a source of information that is both external and internal - in other words, precisely what I had been trying to imagine.

I plunged back into Harner’s book, but found no further mention of DNA. However, a few pages on, Harner notes that "dragon" and "serpent" are synonymous. This made me think that the double helix of DNA resembled, in its form, two entwined serpents.

The reptilian creatures that Harner had seen in his brain reminded me of something, but I could not say what.

After rummaging around my office for a while, I put my hand on an article called "Brain and Mind in Desana Shamanism" by Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff. Paging through it, I was stopped by a Desana drawing of a human brain with a snake lodged between the two hemispheres.

Several pages further into the article, I came upon a second drawing, this time with two snakes. According to Reichel-Dolmatoff, within the fissure, "two intertwined snakes are lying....

In Desana shamanism these two serpents symbolize a female and male principle, a mother and a father image, water and land...; in brief, they represent a concept of binary opposition which has to be overcome in order to achieve individual awareness and integration. The snakes are imagined as spiraling rhythmically in a swaying motion from one side to another."

Concerning the Desanas’ main cosmological beliefs, Reichel-Dolmatoff writes:
"The Desana say that in the beginning of time their ancestors arrived in canoes shaped like huge serpents."
I was astonished by the similarities between Harner’s account, based on his hallucinogenic experience with the Conibo Indians in the Peruvian Amazon, and the shamanic and mythological concepts of an ayahuasca-using people living a thousand miles away in the Colombian Amazon.

In both cases there were reptiles in the brain and serpent-shaped boats of cosmic origin that were vessels of life at the beginning of time. Pure coincidence?

To find out, I picked up a book about a third ayahuasca-using people, entitled (in French) Vision, Knowledge, Power: Shamanism Among the Yagua in the North-East of Peru. In this study by Jean-Pierre Chaumeil (to my mind, one of the most rigorous on the subject), I found a "celestial serpent" in a drawing of the universe by a Yagua shaman.

Then, a few pages away, another shaman is quoted as saying:
"At the very beginning, before the birth of the earth, this earth here, our most distant ancestors lived on another earth...."
Chaumeil adds that the Yagua consider that all living beings were created by twins, who are "the two central characters in Yagua cosmogonic thought."

These correspondences seemed very strange, and I did not know what to make of them. Or rather, I could see an easy way of interpreting them, but it contradicted my understanding of reality: A Western anthropologist like Harner drinks a strong dose of ayahuasca with one people and gains access, in the middle of the twentieth century, to a world that informs the "mythological" concepts of other peoples and allows them to communicate with life-creating spirits of cosmic origin possibly linked to DNA.

This seemed highly improbable to me, if not impossible. Still, I had decided to follow my approach through to its logical conclusion. So I casually penciled in the margin of Chaumeil’s text: "twins = DNA?"

These indirect and analogical connections between DNA and the hallucinatory and mythological spheres seemed amusing to me, or at most intriguing. Nevertheless, I started thinking that I had perhaps found with DNA the scientific concept on which to focus one eye, while focusing the other on the shamanism of Amazonian ayahuasqueros.

About this time, as I continued looking out for new connections between shamanism and DNA, I received a letter from a friend who suggested that shamanism was perhaps,
"untranslatable into our logic for lack of corresponding concepts."

I understood what he meant, and I was trying to see precisely if DNA, without being exactly equivalent, might be the concept that would best translate what ayahuasqueros were talking about.

As I browsed over the writings of authorities on mythology, I discovered with surprise that the theme of twin creator beings of celestial origin was extremely common in South America, and indeed throughout the world. The story that the Ashaninca tell about Avíreri and his sister, who created life by transformation, was just one among hundreds of variants on the theme of the "divine twins."

Another example is the Aztecs’ plumed serpent, Quetzalcoatl, who symbolizes the "sacred energy of life," and his twin brother Tezcatlipoca, both of whom are children of the cosmic serpent Coatlicue.

When I read the following passage from Claude Lévi-Strauss’ latest book, I jumped:
"In Aztec, the word coatl means both ‘serpent’ and ‘twin.’ The name Quetzalcoatl can thus be interpreted either as ‘Plumed serpent’ or ‘Magnificent twin.’"
A twin serpent, of cosmic origin, symbolizing the sacred energy of life? Among the Aztecs?

I wondered what all these twin beings in the creation myths of indigenous people could possibly mean. I was trying to keep one eye on DNA and the other on shamanism to discover the common ground between the two. I reviewed the correspondences that I had found so far.

Ruminating over this mental block, I recalled Carlos Perez Shuma’s challenge:
"Look at the FORM."

I had looked up DNA in several encyclopedias and had noted in passing that the shape of the double helix was most often described as a ladder, or a twisted 'rope ladder', or a spiral staircase.

It was during the following split second, asking myself whether there were any ladders in shamanism, that the revelation occurred:

"THE LADDERS! The shamans’ ladders, ‘symbols of the profession’ according to Métraux, present in shamanic themes around the world according to Eliade!"

I rushed back to my office and plunged into Mircea Eliade’s book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy and discovered that there were "countless examples" of shamanic ladders on all five continents, here a "spiral ladder," there a "stairway" or "braided ropes."

In Australia, Tibet, Nepal, ancient Egypt, Africa, North and South America, "the symbolism of the rope, like that of the ladder, necessarily implies communication between sky and earth. It is by means of a rope or a ladder (as, too, by a vine, a bridge, a chain of arnyaw, etc.) that the gods descend to earth and men go up to the sky."

Eliade even cites an example from the Old Testament, where Jacob dreams of a ladder reaching up to heaven, "with the angels of God ascending and descending on it."

According to Eliade, the shamanic ladder is the earliest version of the idea of an axis of the world, which connects the different levels of the cosmos, and is found in numerous creation myths in the form of a tree.

Until then, I had considered Eliade’s work with suspicion, but suddenly I viewed it in a new light. I started flipping through his other writings in my possession and discovered: cosmic serpents.

This time it was Australian Aborigines who considered that the creation of life was the work of a, "cosmic personage related to universal fecundity, the Rainbow Snake," whose powers were symbolized by quartz crystals.

How could it be that Australian Aborigines, separated from the rest of humanity for 40,000 years, tell the same story about the creation of life by a cosmic serpent associated with a quartz crystal as is told by ayahuasca-drinking Amazonians?

The connections that I was beginning to perceive were blowing away the scope of my investigation. How could cosmic serpents from Australia possibly help my analysis of the uses of hallucinogens in Western Amazonia? I tried answering my own question:

One, Western culture has cut itself off from the serpent/life principle, in other words DNA, since it adopted an exclusively rational point of view.

Two, the peoples who practice what we call "shamanism" communicate with DNA. Three, paradoxically, the part of humanity that cut itself off from the serpent managed to discover its material existence in a laboratory some three thousand years later.

People use different techniques in different places to gain access to knowledge of the vital principle. In their visions shamans manage to take their consciousness down to the molecular level. This is how they learn to combine brain hormones with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or how they discover 40 different sources of muscle paralyzers, whereas science has only been able to imitate their molecules.

When they say their knowledge comes from beings they see in their hallucinations, their words mean exactly what they say. According to the shamans of the entire world, one establishes communication with spirits via music. For the ayahuasqueros, it is almost inconceivable to enter the world of spirits and remain silent.

Angelika Gebhart-Sayer discusses the "visual music" projected by the spirits in front of the shaman’s eyes: It is made up of three-dimensional images that coalesce into sound and that the shaman imitates by emitting corresponding melodies. I should check whether DNA emits sound or not.

It seemed that no one had noticed the possible links between the "myths" of "primitive peoples" and molecular biology. No one had seen that the double helix had symbolized the life principle for thousands of years around the world. On the contrary; everything was upside down.

It was said, that hallucinations could in no way constitute a source of knowledge that Indians had found their useful molecules by chance experimentation that their "myths" were precisely myths, bearing no relationship to the real knowledge discovered in laboratories.

At this point, I remembered that Michael Harner had said that this information was reserved for the dead and the dying.

Suddenly, I was overcome with fear and felt the urge to share these ideas with someone else. I picked up the phone and called an old friend, who is also a writer.
I quickly took him through the correspondences I had found during the day: the twins, the cosmic serpents, Eliade’s ladders.

Then I added:

"There is a last correlation that is slightly less clear than the others. The spirits one sees in hallucinations are three-dimensional, sound-emitting images, and they speak a language made of three-dimensional, sound-emitting images. In other words, they are made of their own language, like DNA."

There was a long silence on the other end of the line.

Then my friend said,
"Yes, and like DNA they replicate themselves to relay their information."

I jotted this down, and it was later in reviewing my notes on the relationship between the hallucinatory spirits made of language and DNA that I remembered the first verse of the first chapter of the Gospel according to John:

"In the beginning was the logos" - the word, the verb, the language.

That night I had a hard time falling asleep.

My investigation had led me to formulate the following working hypothesis: In their visions, shamans take their consciousness down to the molecular level and gain access to information related to DNA, which they call "animate essences" or "spirits."

This is where they see double helixes, twisted ladders, and chromosome shapes. This is how shamanic cultures have known for millennia that the vital principle is the same for all living beings and is shaped like two entwined serpents (or a vine, a rope, a ladder ... ).

DNA is the source of their astonishing botanical and medicinal knowledge, which can be attained only in defocalized and "nonrational" states of consciousness, though its results are empirically verifiable.

The myths of these cultures are filled with biological imagery. And the shamans’ metaphoric explanations correspond quite precisely to the descriptions that biologists are starting to provide. Like the axis mundi of shamanic traditions, DNA has the form of a twisted ladder (or a vine ... ); according to my hypothesis, DNA was, like the axis mundi, the source of shamanic knowledge and visions." The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and The Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby.

* * * *

Mad Visions or Mental Illness?
The question posed in the title of this article seeks to cast doubt on the diagnosis that I and many others feel is an incomplete description of the manic depressive experience. I focus here on the experience of mania in its hyper state, which psychiatry deems to be a psychosis. What I question is whether my own experience of psychosis is a feature of the human condition and does in fact serve a purpose, for both individual and group maturity.

My challenge to emotional maturity came in the form of a spontaneous shift in internal energy state described in The Man in the Mirror, the second chapter of a personal memoir;

"I prayed sincerely, promising I'd do whatever was required if he’d just show me the way, give me a sign, help me please! Nothing happened for what felt like minutes as I sat there in hopeful expectation while looking at my own reflection, looking into my face. Then it began, a new sensation, a feeling at the top of my head which flowed down slowly, down through my face, into my shoulders and down through my chest, down into my pelvic area. I sat with a sense of "what is it” wonder, although more felt than in any thinking sense.

A sense of wonder that was similar to the out of body experience when I was fourteen, except this slowly descending calm was the polar opposite of the sudden sharp elevation, when I'd seemly left my body. It felt like I'd been sitting in a bath of water that was over my head and someone had pulled the plug.

I sat there as calm descended slowly from head to toe, as if a mind numbing tension were being drained out of me, like waste water flowing down and out through my toes. Next came a mindful realization of the experience in a pleasant and very welcomed surprise. I felt unburdened somehow, refreshed and excited, happy and new. "Wow! Wow! Wow! Has God just touched me on the shoulder? Is this a religious experience?"

It is thirty two years ago now that the urgency of my gift and curse first began, I'd prayed to God, and no matter how hard I have tried to forget the ecstasy of euphoria that moment triggered, someone or something has kept calling my name. Since 2007 I have dedicated my time and energy into solving my personal puzzle, reading dozens of books, hundreds of article's and many, many scholarly papers.

What rises from the body as 9 energy affects?
My quest brought me here to Thailand, were I have found a different approach to life, compared to my own Anglo Saxon, Christian culture. Contemplating the postured images of Buddha, and practicing a mindful/mindless meditation has helped to identify my hidden energy states, within.

When looking at and contemplating the meaning of a nine headed serpent in this image, I can't help but associate it with Narby's Cosmic Serpent and Affect Theory's Nine Innate Affects? Particularly when I see other images of Buddha that depict him with nine heads, suggesting his all encompassing wisdom.

These are emotive associations I know, not scientific, not objective and not cognitively labeling? Many such postured images of the great teacher have challenged me to go beneath my labeling mind and FEEL the energized state of my lived moments.

These past two years have challenged me to go beyond my double bind of maintaining a comfort zone, while touching on the raw reactive energies within. In learning to go beneath my thoughts, "my mind sense of experience," I feel for the motive energy in my emotions these days. Beneath my minds sense of sadness or euphoria, I have found that there are muscular tension patterns so habitually avoided, that I now practice a daily awareness of them.

It has given me the belief that these inner body tensions are the very seat of my bipolar experience? Such daily practice led to a sense of "mood was about movement, before the mind evolved," and has helped me to sense the avoidance energies within, that kept me living in my head too much.

I now think all activity within the body/brain is essentially about energy regulation, including our thoughts? Its a different way to understand oneself, compared to our taken for granted sense of objectivity and the cognitive labels we use to understanding ourselves?

It is interesting to note that so many of the truly great teachers of the past, did not give their wisdom to others in the two dimensional format of the written word. What we come to learn of these great hero's of the soul, is passed down by others often far removed in time and place.
Sadly, I think that what is missing in the written word is the immediacy of presence, of resonance and the effect of the teachers awareness of eternity?

On an Energy Level - No Separation?
In November last year I started to fall into such an awareness of eternal now, resonating with my new understanding of the electro-chemical energies within. "We are immersed in a chemical Universe, there is no separation," I thought.

It has changed my understanding of our metaphor, meaning making mind, and brought a sense of "meant to be," to my life's experience.

Consider this post on November 20th;

"Are we in the prophecy of the FALL? In this chemical universe, can we learn to heal a divided self & feel all those Rivers of color in our Eyes, as the Art of the Cosmic Goddess Inside? Is that her Light in Ur Eyes? YOU can see her symbology of biology everywhere when we look with the eyes of a Child? Think Chemical Metaphor Now? Not Just Objectivity? Please learn to combine the two sides of Ur Nature? Educate Ur-Self about the nature of YOU!"

Keeping in mind the video clip above of the brain's inner workings, and this notion of a double bind in our nature? Please watch "falling into you," by Celine Dion and note any associations you think/feel of electro-chemical energies within? Feel the struggle of a "mind sense" of self trying to stay above the e-motive sway of image and sound in this very moving song?

Can you sense the Nature of a Double Bind & The Double Helix in your DNA?

The Power of Now - Is An Eternal Now in Mother Natures Stairway to Heaven?

And in your eyes I see ribbons of color
I see us inside of each other
I feel my unconscious merge with yours
And I hear a voice say, "What's his is hers"

I'm falling into you (falling into you)
This dream could come true
And it feels so good falling into you

I was afraid to let you in here
Now I have learned love can't be made in to fear
The walls begin to tumble down
And I can't even see the ground

I'm falling into you (falling into you)
This dream could come true
And it feels so good falling into you

Falling like a leaf, falling like a star
Finding a belief, falling where you are

Catch me, don't let me drop!
Love me, don't ever stop!

So close your eyes and let me kiss you
And while you sleep I will miss you

Oh I'm falling into you
This dream could come true
And it feels so good falling into you

Falling like a leaf, falling like a star, oh
Finding a belief, falling where you are

Falling into you
Falling into you
Falling into you

Our blind survival instincts affect an initial negative response towards any unknown novelty in our environment, including, it seems our internal environment? Is this the hidden source of our double bind, in identifying the nature of our own reality? Finally identifying the internalized sense of threat from traumatic experience, has allowed me to express more of my true nature, both in relationship with others and the writing I do here.

Identifying the source of my emotional constriction, not with cognitive labels or any words of self identification, but with a "mindless," felt sense of my inner self. As Joseph Campbell suggested, if we want to change our world, we should change our metaphor? Mine has become a sense of electro-chemical energy and the meant to be nature of existence, now that I've accepted the instinctual shadow that binds me to nature and my cosmic soul.

Our shadows taller than our souls
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all, yeah
To be a rock and not to roll

And she's buying a stairway to heaven. _Led Zeppelin.

In part two of this essay, I explore the convergence of science & spirituality from a Western and Eastern perspective. Explaining more of those crazy facebook posts last November.


The Structure of DNA.

The Gaia Hypothesis.

Human homeostasis (comfort zone).

The Double bind theory of psychological defenses.

The Reaction formation of defenses.

Book of Revelation 2:17.

The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and The Origins of Knowledge. Reviews & Discussion.

Negative Affectivity.

Affective Motivation.

The Placebo Effect.