The Transpersonal Experience
Any investigation of religion,mysticism and ultimately consciousness must include an understanding of the nature and effect of the transpersonal experience. An excellent reference for understanding of this phenomena and its role in the foundation of religious cults is Cybele, Attis and the mysteries of the "Suffering Gods": A Transpersonalistic Interpretation, a paper by Evgueni A Tortchinov, from the Department of Philosophy at St. Petersburg State University - http://etor.h1.ru/torpaper.html Another informative site is Hermetic, Esoteric and Mystical Philosophies at http://plotinus.com/mysticism1.htm
The transpersonal experience has been defined as: "A transient, extraordinary experience marked by feelings of unity and harmonious relationship to the divine and everything in existence, as well as euphoric feelings, sense of gnosis, loss of ego functioning, alterations in time and space perception, and a sense of lacking control over the event". "The Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology"; (Bruce Scotton and Allen Chinen, 1996, p236) Further descriptions are given by Sotten and Chinen:
"This self (transcendent self)...is characterized by a sense of connection to all humanity and nature; a sense of unity with all things" (p58).
"There where overwhelming feelings of love, humility, and solidarity with all of humanity...Renewed appreciation for basic human values of justice, service, love, self-respect and respect for others was reported...spiritual rebirth led to feelings of cosmic unity and release from needs on every level" (p79).
"Mystical experiences are often described in terms of union with the cosmos, direct experience of the unity of all things" (p80).
Some descriptions of NDE's (Near Death Experiences) from "Lessons From The Light"; Kenneth Ring, Evelyn Elsaesser, also report similar chatacteristics:
"The NDE (near death experience) is more like an encounter with a holographic domain in which all information is compacted into an omnipresent unity" (P150).
"His (Mellens)...vision is one of absolute wholeness in which all things are connected in a living cosmic web of organic unity. The visible universe is a universe of vibrating fields within fields, a dance of exquisite harmony, where, as Blake said, "energy is eternal delight" (p290).
From "Beyond The Brain"; Grof, also referenced by Tortchinov:
"The common denominator of this otherwise rich and ramified group of phenomena is the subjects feeling that his or her consciousness has expanded beyond the usual ego boundaries and has transcended the limitations of time and space" (p129).
"Transpersonal phenomena reveal connections between the individual and the cosmos that seem at present to be beyond comprehension. All we can say in this respect is that, somewhere in the process of perinatal unfolding, a strange qualative Mobiuslike leap seems to occur in which deep exploration of the individual unconscious turns into a process of experiential adventures in the universe-at-large, involving what can best be described as the superconscious mind" (p127).
"The symbolism of the death-rebirth experience can be drawn from many areas of the collective unconcsious, since every major culture has the appropriate mythological forms for this phenomenon. Ego death can be eperienced in connection with various destructive dieties - Moloch, Shiva, Huitzilopochtli, Kali, or Coatlicue - or in full identification with Christ, Osiris, Adonis, Dionysus, or other sacred mythical beings. The divine epiphany can involve an entirely abstract image of God as a radiant source of light, or more or less personified representations from different religions. Equally common are experiences of encounter or union with the great mother goddesses, such as the Virgin Mary, Isis, Lakshmi, Parvati, Hera or Cybele (p126).
Transpersonal phenomena are seen to be characterised by ego death, and the resulting experience of interconnectedness and unity with the cosmos at large - direct connection with the divine essence - the void - the superconscious mind - the source of non-duality. These phenomena are fundamental to the foundation and evolution of traditional religious and cosmological systems: "Verification and vivification of a society's symbolic view of the normally hidden forces often depend upon extraordinary life-world experiences. In some societies, everybody is expected to seek such transpersonal experiences...perhaps in a dream, in a ritual, in a vision quest, or with the help of psychotropic drugs. In other societies it is only a few adepts that attain the requisite experiences and the power derived therefrom for the good of all. However the procedures are structured in any particular society, the transpersonal experiences attained become the linchpin of the entire cosmological system" (my emphasis); www.biogeneticstructuralism.com/ionsmonograph/cause_3.rtf, page 56.
Also relevant to this project is the neurobiological activity associated with these experiences: "Evidence (cf Weil 1972; Winkelman and Dobkin de Rois 1989; Winkelman 1996; Siegel 1990) indicates that the desire to alter consciousness is an innate, human, biologically based drive with adaptive significance. The ASC (altered states of consciousness) of shamanism are a manifestation of a fundamental homeostatic dynamic of the nervous system. These manifestations of consciousness involve a biologically based integrative mode of consciousness, replacing normal waking conditions - sympathetic dominance and de-synchronized fast wave activity of the frontal cortex - with a parasympathetic dominant state characterized by high-voltage, slow wave electroencephalogram (EEG) activity originating in the circuits linking the brain stem and the hippocampal-septal area of the limbic system with the frontal cortex (Mandell 1980, Winkelman 1986b, 1990b, 1992, 1996). This high-voltage, slow wave EEG activity originates in the hippocampal-septal area and imposes a synchronous slow wave pattern on the frontal lobes, producing interhemispheric synchronization and coherance, limbic-cortex integration, and across the neuraxis, a synthesis of behaviour, emotion and thought" - (Micheal Winkelman; Shamanism, p7). Again, italics are mine.