Spiritually Transformative Experiences: The End of Suffering(?)

Can a Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE) bring a lasting end to suffering?

  • Yes, and I've experienced it myself.

    Votes: 1 25.0%
  • Yes, and I've seen it happen in someone I intimately know.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I think so.

    Votes: 2 50.0%
  • I don't think so.

    Votes: 1 25.0%

  • Total voters
    4
#1
A thought came to me a moment ago and I thought I'd inquire about others takes on it here.

Over the course of the last decade or so, I've encountered a lot of different real-life stories of someone being suddenly and radically transformed from a suffering, miserable person into someone who deeply enjoys living and expresses peace and satisfaction. The impetus for this change generally seems to follow some incredible inner experience or radical and unlikely shift in perspective which, for lack of a better word, seems to *destroy* the previously existing personality - or at least modifies it beyond recognition - both to the individual having the experience as well as to acquaintances, friends, and family who observe it from without.

Two immediate stories come to mind that follow this narrative, the first being Eckhart Tolle who shares his transformation story in The Power of Now and the second, probably less well-known, is that of paranormal writer Colin Wilson who shared that he was once about to kill himself and, just as he was about to pull the trigger, had a sudden recognition that he was not the little, frustrated person on the brink of killing himself but someone else observing the whole thing (my words, not his). Both stories are essentially identical in terms of what sparked the transformation: the recognition that one is not the person one generally takes oneself to be, and therefore one is free from the suffering that belongs to that person.

This same sort of mechanism seems to be frequently at work in the NDE. It is also the end goal of Vedanta - a disidentification from the "jiva" or person we identify as and a resulting identification with the concsciousness that witnesses that person.

As a psychologist, one really absorbs the materialistic assumptions regarding affective disturbances: that one's brain produces such suffering and that, with some help from psychotropic medication, one can alleviate it. However, I can't imagine anyone successfully demonstrating how the brain can go from a completely depressed and suicidal state to one of persisting peace and satisfaction that lasts for decades. Quite apart from a bipolar shift from depression to mania, these folks are going from absolute despair to rock solid, enduring calm... all in the blink of an eye.

Please share your thoughts and any links or references to similar material. I'd like to start pursuing this.

Thank you.
 
#3
This is going to be a long one, but I will post it in full.


Ego Death

Ego death is a “complete loss of subjective self-identity.”[1] The term is being used in various intertwined contexts, with related meanings.

In Jungian psychology the synonymous term psychic death is used, which refers to a fundamental transformation of the psyche.[2]

In the death and rebirth mythology ego death is a phase of self-surrender and transition,[3][4][5][6] as described by Joseph Campbell in his research on the mythology of the Hero’s Journey.[3] It is a recurrent theme in world mythology and is also used as a metaphor in some strands of contemporary western thinking.[6]

In (descriptions of) psychedelic experiences, the term is used synonymously with ego-loss,[7][8][1][9] to refer to (temporary) loss of one’s sense of self due to the use of psychedelics.[10][11][1] The term was used as such by Timothy Leary et al.[1] to describe the (symbolic) death of the ego [12] in the first phase of a LSD-trip, in which a “complete transcendence” of the self[note 1] and the “game[note 2] occurs.[13]

The concept is also used in contemporary spirituality and in the modern understanding of eastern religions to describe a permanent loss of “attachment to a separate sense of self”[web 1] and self-centeredness.

Definitions
Various definitions can be found of ego death.

Mysticism
Daniel Merkur:

… an imageless experience in which there is no sense of personal identity. It is the experience that remains possible in a state of extremely deep trance when the ego-functions of reality-testing, sense-perception, memory, reason, fantasy and self-representation are repressed […] Muslim Sufis call it fana(annihilation),[note 3] and medieval Jewish kabbalists termed it “the kiss of death.”[15]

Jungian psychology
Ventegodt and Merrick:

… a fundamental transformation of the psyche. Such a shift in personality has been labeled an “ego death” in Buddhism or a psychic death by Jung.[16]

Comparative mythology
“Ego death” is the second phase of Joseph Campbell’s description of The Hero’s Journey,[4][5][6][3] which includes a phase of separation, transition, and incorporation.[6] The second phase is a phase of self-surrender and ego-death, where-after the hero returns to enrich the world with his discoveries.[4][5][6][3]

Psychedelics
According to Leary, Metzer & Alpert (1964), ego death, or ego loss as they call it, is part of the (symbolic) experience of death in which the old ego must die before one can be spiritually reborn.[13] Ego loss is

… complete transcendence − beyond words, beyond space−time, beyond self. There are no visions, no sense of self, no thoughts. There are only pure awareness and ecstatic freedom from all game (and biological) involvements. [“Games” are behavioral sequences defined by roles, rules, rituals, goals, strategies, values, language, characteristic space−time locations and characteristic patterns of movement. Any behavior not having these nine features is non− game: this includes physiological reflexes, spontaneous play, and transcendent awareness.][13]

Alnaes (1964):

[L]oss of ego-feeling.[10]

Stanislav Grof (1988)

[Ego-death is] a sense of total annihilation […] This experience of ego death seems to entail an instant merciless destruction of all previous reference points in the life of the individual […] [E]go death means an irreversible end to one’s philosophical identification with what Alan Wattscalled skin-encapsulated ego.[17]

Daniel Merkur (1998) uses the term to refer to the “death crisis” which may occur during a trip:[18]

[The] death-rebirth experience [is] also described in the literature as “ego death.” It is sometimes termed “ego loss” […] The death crisis takes various forms. The early examples in a series of death crises are usually attended by extreme panic.[18]

Michael Hoffman (2006-2007):

Ego death is the cessation, in the intense mystic altered state, of the sense and feeling of being a control-wielding agent moving through time and space. The sensation of wielding control is replaced by the experience of being helplessly, powerlessly embedded in spacetime as purely a product of spacetime, with control-thoughts being perceptibly inserted or set into the stream of thought by a hidden, uncontrollable source.[web 2]

Johnson, Richards & Griffiths (2008), paraphrasing Leary et al. and Grof:

The individual may temporarily experience a complete loss of subjective self-identity, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as ‘ego loss’ or ‘ego death’.[1]

John Harrison (2010):

[T]emporary ego death [is the] loss of the separate self[,] or, in the affirmative, […] a deep and profound merging with the transcendent other.[11]

Spiritualit
Carter Phipps:

Enlightenment equals ego death […] the renunciation, rejection and, ultimately, the death of the need to hold on to a separate, self-centered existence.[19][note 4]

Development of the concept
The concept of “ego death” developed along a number of intertwined strands of thought, especially romantic movements[21] and subcultures,[22] Theosophy,[23]anthropological research on rites de passage[24] and shamanism[22] Joseph Campbell’s comparative mythology,[4][5][6][3] Jungian psychology,[25][3] the psychedelic scene of the 1960s,[26] and transpersonal psychology.[27]

Western mysticism
According to Merkur,

The conceptualisation of mystical union as the soul’s death, and its replacement by God’s consciousness, has been a standard Roman Catholic trope since St. Teresa of Ávila; the motif traces back through Marguerite Porete, in the 13th century, to the fana,[note 3] “annihilation”, of the Islamic Sufis.[28]

Jungian psychology
According to Ventegodt and Merrick, the Jungian term “psychic death” is a synonym for “ego death”:

In order to radically improve global quality of life, it seems necessary to have a fundamental transformation of the psyche. Such a shift in personality has been labeled an “ego death” in Buddhism or a psychic death by Jung, because it implies a shift back to the existential position of the natural self, i.e., living the true purpose of life. The problem of healing and improving the global quality of life seems strongly connected to the unpleasantness of the ego-death experience.[16]

Ventegodt and Merrick refer to Jung’s publications The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, first published 1933, and Psychology and Alchemy, first published in 1944.[16][note 5]

In Jungian psychology, a unification of archetypal opposites has to be reached, during a process of conscious suffering, in which consciousness “dies” and resurrects. Jung called this process “the transcendent function”,[note 6] which leads to a “more inclusive and synthetic consciousness.”[29]

Jung used analogies with alchemy to describe the individuation process, and the transference-processes which occur during therapy.[30]

According to Leeming et al., from a religious point of view psychic death is related to St. John of the CrossAscent of Mt. Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul.[31]

Mythology – The Hero with a Thousand Faces
See also: Dying-and-rising god and Descent to the underworld



The Hero’s Journey

In 1949 Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a study on the archetype of the Hero’s Journey.[3] It describes a common theme found in many cultures worldwide,[3] and is also described in many contemporary theories on personal transformation.[6] In traditional cultures it describes the “wilderness passage”,[3] the transition from adolescence into adulthood.[24] It typically includes a phase of separation, transition, and incorporation.[6] The second phase is a phase of self-surrender and ego-death, where-after the hero returns to enrich the world with his discoveries.[4][5][6][3] Campbell describes the basic theme as follows:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.[32]

This journey is based on the archetype of death and rebirth,[5] in which is the “false self” is surrendered and the “true self”emerges.[5] A well-known example is Dante’s Divina Comedia, in which the hero descends into the underworld.[5]

Psychedelics[edit]
Bohemianism[edit]
Bohemianism was a distinctive component of the 19th century romanticism, which reached New York in the 1830s.[21] Drug-use, particularly hashish and opium, was an integral part of this 19th century romanticism.[21] Occult or esoteric components were added between 1900 and 1920.[21] By the 1920s, American Bohemianism involved a “system of ideas”:[21]

alvation by the child (within), self-expression, paganism, living for the moment, liberty, female equality, psychological adjustment, and changing location.[21]

These values were inherited by both the Beat Generation and the hippies.[21]

1950s Beat Generation and Aldous Huxley[edit]
See also: Shamanism, Neo-shamanism, and Beat Generation
In the 1940s an interest in Native American peyotism had developed among anthropology-students in San Francisco.[22] Beat poets in San Francisco, such as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Michael McClure integrated peyotism into their bohemianism, around the time that Aldous Huxley published The Doors of Perception.[22]

Aldous Huxley already in the 1950s propagated the use of psychedelics, starting with The Doors of Perception, published in 1954.[33] Huxley also promoted a set of analogies with eastern religions, which inspired the 1960s belief in a revolution in western consciousness.[33] The Tibetan Book of the Dead was one of his sources.[33]

Alan Watts had a profound influence on the psychedelic experiences of the beats and the early hippies.[34] His opening statement on mystical experiences in This Is Itdraws parallels with Richard Bucke‘s Cosmic Consciousness, describing the “central core” of the experience as

… the conviction, or insight, that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living.[34]

1960 hippies[edit]
The use of drugs was an important part of the emerging 1960s hippie-scene of San Francisco.[35] In 1964 William S. Burroughs drew a distinction between “sedative” and “conscious-expanding” drugs.[36] The distinction was taken over by the hippies, calling sedatives “drugs”, and conscious-expanding substances “dope”.[37]

LSD-research[edit]
In the 1940s and 1950s the use of LSD was restricted to military and psychiatric researchers. By the end of the 1950s, a number of researchers began to share LSD with their friends in private situations.[37] Fatal incidents eventually led to the criminalization of LSD in 1966.[38]

Timothy Leary[edit]
One of those researchers was Timothy Leary, a clinical psychologist who first encountered psychedelic drugs while on vacation in 1960,[39] and started to research the effects of psylocybin in 1961.[33] He sought advice from Aldous Huxley, who advised him to propagate psychedelic drugs among society’s elites, including artists and intellectuals.[39] On insistence of Allen Ginsberg, Leary, together with his younger colleague Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) also made LSD available to students.[39]In 1962 Leary was fired, and Harvard’s psychedelic research program was shut down.[39] In 1962 Leary founded the Castalia Foundation,[39] and in 1963 he and his colleagues founded the journal The Psychedelic Review.[40]

Randolf Alnaes[edit]
In 1964 Randolf Alnaes published “Therapeutic applications of the change in consciousness produced by psycholytica (LSD, Psilocyrin, etc.).”[41][10] Alnaes notes that patients may become involved in existential problems as a consequence of the LSD experience. Psycholytic drugs may facilitate insight. With a short psychological treatment, patients may benefit from changes brought about by the effects of the experience.[41]

One of the LSD-experiences may be the death crisis. Alnaes discernes three stages in this kind of experience:[10]

  1. Psychosomatic symptoms lead up to the “loss of ego feeling (ego death)”;[10]
  2. A sense of separation of the observing subject from the body. The body is beheld to undergo death or an associated event;
  3. “Rebirth”, the return to normal, conscious mentation, “characteristically involving a tremendous sense of relief, which is cathartic in nature and may lead to insight.”[10]
The Psychedelic Experience[edit]
Main articles: The Psychedelic Experience and Bardo
Manual for LSD-usage[edit]
Following Huxley’s advice, Leary also wrote a manual for LSD-usage.[40] The Psychedelic Experience, published in 1964, is a guide for LSD-trips, written by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, loosely based on Yvan-Wentz’s translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.[40][33] Aldous Huxley introduced the Tibetan Book of the Dead to Timothy Leary.[33] According to Leary, Metzer and Alpert, the Tibetan Book of the Dead is

… a key to the innermost recesses of the human mind, and a guide for initiates, and for those who are seeking the spiritual path of liberation.[42]

They construed the effect of LSD as a “stripping away” of ego-defenses, finding parallels between the stages of death and rebirth in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the stages of psychological “death” and “rebirth” which Leary had identified during his research.[43] According to Leary, Metzer and Alpert it is….

… one of the oldest and most universal practices for the initiate to go through the experience of death before he can be spiritually reborn. Symbolically he must die to his past, and to his old ego, before he can take his place in the new spiritual life into which he has been initiated.[12]

The Bardos[edit]
In The Psychedelic Experience, three stages are discerned:

  1. Chikhai Bardo: ego loss, a “complete transcendence” of the self[note 1] and game;[13][note 2]
  2. Chonyid Bardo: The Period of Hallucinations;[44]
  3. Sidpa Bardo: the return to routine game reality and the self.[13]
Each Bardo is described in the first part of The Psychedelic Experience. In the second part, instructions are given which can be read to the “voyager”. The instructions for the First Bardo state:

O (name of voyager)

The time has come for you to seek new levels of reality.
Your ego and the (name) game are about to cease.
You are about to be set face to face with the Clear Light
You are about to experience it in its reality.
In the ego−free state, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky,
And the naked spotless intellect is like a transparent vacuum;
At this moment, know yourself and abide in that state.
O (name of voyager),
That which is called ego−death is coming to you.
Remember:
This is now the hour of death and rebirth;
Take advantage of this temporary death to obtain the perfect state −
Enlightenment.[45]

Stanislav Grof[edit]
Stanislav Grof has researched the effects of psychedelic substances,[46] which can also be induced by nonpharmological means.[47] Grof has developed a “cartography of the psyche” based on his clinical work with psychedelics,[48] which describe the “basic types of experience that become available to an average person” when using psychedelics or “various powerful non-pharmacological experiential techniques”.[49]

According to Grof, traditional psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy use a model of the human personality that is limited to biography and the individual consciousness, as described by Freud.[50] This model is inadequate to describe the experiences which result from the use of psychedelics and the use of “powerful techniques”, which activate and mobilize “deep unconscious and superconscious levels of the human psyche”.[50] These levels include:[27]

  • The Sensory Barrier and the Recollective-Biographical Barrier
  • The Perinatal Matrices:
    • BPM I: The Amniotic Universe. Maternal womb; symbiotic unity of the fetus with the maternal organism; lack of boundaries and obstructions;
    • BPM II: Cosmic Engulfment and No Exit. Onset of labor; alteration of blissful connection with the mother and its pristine universe;
    • BPM III: The Death-Rebirth Struggle. Movement through the birth channel and struggle for survival;
    • BPM IV: The Death-Rebirth Experience. Birth and release.
  • The Transpersonal Dimensions of the Psyche
Ego death appears in the fourth Perinatal Matrix.[27] This matrix is related to the stage of delivery, the actual birth of the child.[51] The build up of tension, pain and anxiety is suddenly released.[51] The symbolic counterpart is the Death-Rebirth Experience, in which the individual may have a strong feeling of impending catastrophe, and may be desperately struggling to stop this process.[17] The transition from BPM III to BPM IV may involve a sense of total annihilation:[17]

This experience of ego death seems to entail an instant merciless destruction of all previous reference points in the life of the individual.[17]

According to Grof what dies in this process is “a basically paranoid attitude toward the world which reflects the negative experience of the subject during childbirth and later.”[17] When experienced in its final and most complete form,

…ego death means an irreversible end to one’s philosophical identification with what Alan Watts called skin-encapsulated ego.”[17]

Recent research[edit]
Recent research also mentions that ego loss is sometimes experienced by those under the influence of psychedelic drugs.[52]

The Ego-Dissolution Inventory is a validated self-report questionnaire that allows for the measurement of transient ego-dissolution experiences occasioned by psychedelic drugs. [53]

Spirituality[edit]
Following the interest in psychedelics and spirituality, the term “ego death” has been used to describe the eastern notion of “enlightenment” (bodhi) or moksha.

Buddhism[edit]
Zen practice is said to lead to ego-death.[54] Ego-death is also called “great death”, in contrast to the physical “small death.”[55] According to Jin Y. Park, the ego death that Buddhism encourages makes an end to the “usually-unconsciousness-and-automated quest” to understand the sense-of-self as a thing, instead of as a process.[56]According to Park, meditation is learning how to die by learning to “forget” the sense of self:[56]

Enlightenment occurs when the usually automatized reflexivity of consciousness ceases, which is experienced as a letting-go and falling into the voidand being wiped out of existence […] [W]hen consciousness stops trying to catch its own tail, I become nothing, and discover that I am everything.[57]

According to Welwood, “egolessness” is a common experience. Egolessness appears “in the gaps and spaces between thoughts, which usually go unnoticed”.[58]Existential anxiety arises when one realizes that the feeling of “I” is nothing more than a perception. According to Welwood, only egoless awareness allows us to face and accept death in all forms.[58]

David Loy also mentions the fear of death,[59] and the need to undergo ego-death to realize our true nature.[60][61] According to Loy, our fear of egolessness may even be stronger than our fear of death.[59]

“Egolessness” is not the same as anatta, non-self. Anatta means not to take the constituents of the person as a permanent entity:

the Buddha, almost ad nauseam, spoke against wrong identification with the Five Aggregates, or the same, wrong identification with the psychophysical believing it is our self. These aggregates of form, feeling, thought, inclination, and sensory consciousness, he went on to say, were illusory; they belonged to Mara the Evil One; they were impermanent and painful. And for these reasons, the aggregates cannot be our self. [web 3]

Bernadette Roberts[edit]
Bernadette Roberts makes a distinction between “no ego” and “no self”.[62][63]According to Roberts, the falling away of the ego is not the same as the falling away of the self.[64] “No ego” comes prior to the unitive state; with the falling away of the unitive state comes “no self”.[65] “Ego” is defined by Roberts as

… the immature self or consciousness prior to the falling away of its self-center and the revelation of a divine center.[66]

Roberts defines “self” as

… the totality of consciousness, the entire human dimension of knowing, feeling and experiencing from the consciousness and unconsciousness to the unitive, transcendental or God-consciousness.[66]

Ultimately, all experiences on which these definitions are based are wiped out or dissolved.[66] Jeff Shore further explains that “no self” means “the permanent ceasing, the falling away once and for all, of the entire mechanism of reflective self-consciousness”.[67]

According to Roberts, both the Buddha and Christ embody the falling away of self, and the state of “no self”. The falling away is represented by the Buddha prior to his enlightenment, starving himself by ascetic practices, and by the dying Jesus on the cross; the state of “no self” is represented by the enlightened Buddha with his serenity, and by the resurrected Christ.[66]

Integration[edit]
Psychedelics[edit]
According to Nick Bromell, ego death is a tempering though frightening experience, which may lead to a reconciliation with the insight that there is no real self.[68]

According to Grof, death crises may occur over a series of psychedelic sessions until they cease to lead to panic. A conscious effort not to panic may lead to a “pseudohallicinatory sense of transcending physical death.”[10] According to Merkur,

Repeated experience of the death crisis and its confrontation with the idea of physical death leads finally to an acceptance of personal mortality, without further illusions. The death crisis is then greeted with equanimity.[10]

Vedanta and Zen[edit]
Both the Vedanta and the Zen-Buddhist tradition warn that insight into the emptiness of the self, or so-called “enlightenment experiences”, are not sufficient; further practice is necessary.

Jacobs warns that Advaita Vedanta practice takes years of committed practice to sever the “occlusion”[69] of the so-called “vasanas, samskaras, bodily sheathsandvrittis“, and the “granthi[note 7] or knot forming identification between Self and mind”.[70]

Zen Buddhist training does not end with kenshō, or insight into one’s true nature. Practice is to be continued to deepen the insight and to express it in daily life.[71][72][73][74] According to Hakuin, the main aim of “post-satori practice”[75][76] (gogo no shugyo[77] or kojo, “going beyond”[78]) is to cultivate the “Mind of Enlightenment”.[79] According to Yamada Koun, “if you cannot weep with a person who is crying, there is no kensho”.[80]

Dark Night and depersonalisation[edit]
See also: Depersonalisation
Shinzen Young, an American Buddhist teacher, has pointed at the difficulty integrating the experience of no self. He calls this “the Dark Night”, or

… “falling into the Pit of the Void.” It entails an authentic and irreversible insight into Emptiness and No Self. What makes it problematic is that the person interprets it as a bad trip. Instead of being empowering and fulfilling, the way Buddhist literature claims it will be, it turns into the opposite. In a sense, it’s Enlightenment’s Evil Twin.[web 4]

Willoughby Britton is conducting research on such phenomena which may occur during meditation, in a research program called “The Dark Knight of the Soul”.[web 5]She’s searched texts from various traditions to find descriptions of difficult periods on the spiritual path,[web 6] and conducted interviews to find out more on the dark sides of meditation.[web 5][note 8]

Theoretical background
See also: Mysticism and Perennial philosophy
Leary’s terminology
Leary developed the concept of “ego death” as a description of unitive states.[28]Merkur further notes that, accurately described, not the ego, but the self-representation disappears.[28] The ego, “defined as the seat of experience”, continues to function.[28]

Perennial philosophy
1960s studies of mysticism were generally informed by the “common core thesis”, the idea that mystical experiences are essentially the same,[81] independent of the sociocultural, historical and religious context in which it occurs.[82] This idea was also popular among the hippies.[81]

In the 19th century perennialism gained popularity as a model for perceiving similarities across a broad range of religious traditions.[83] William James, in his The Varieties of Religious Experience, was highly influential in further popularising this perennial approach and the notion of personal experience as a validation of religious truths.[84]

Aldous Huxley was a major proponent of the Perennial philosophy. He “was heavily influenced in his description by Vivekananda’s neo-Vedanta and the idiosyncratic version of Zen exported to the west by D.T. Suzuki. Both of these thinkers expounded their versions of the perennialist thesis”,[85] which they originally received from western thinkers and theologians.[83]

The perennial position is “largely dismissed by scholars”,[86] but “has lost none of its popularity”.[87]

Evans-Wentz translation
According to John Myrdhin Reynolds, Evans-Wentz’s translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead introduced a number of misunderstandings about Dzogchen.[88]Evans-Wentz was well acquainted with Theosophy, and used this framework to interpret the translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was largely provided by two Tibetan lamas who spoke English, Lama Sumdhon Paul and Lama Lobzang Mingnur Dorje.[23] Evans-Wentz was not familiar with Tibetan Buddhism,[88] and his view of Tibetan Buddhism was “fundamentally neither Tibetan nor Buddhist, but Theosophical and Vedantist.”[89] He introduced a terminology into the translation which was largely derived from Hinduism, as well as from his Theosophical beliefs.[88]

Also Jung’s introduction betrays a misunderstanding of Tibetan Buddhism, using the text to discuss his own theory of the unconsciousness.[90]

Research on mysticism
Ralph Hood incorporated the term in the Hood Mysticism scale.[91] Hood identified two factors, “intense experience” and “joyful experience”.[92] Factor I contains three “ego loss” items, factor II contains one “ego loss” item.[93]

Influence
See also: Influence of Timothy Leary
The propagation of LSD-induced “mystical experiences”, and the concept of ego death, had some influence in the 1960s, but Leary’s brand of LSD-spirituality never “quite caught on.”[94]

Reports of psychedelic experiences
Leary’s terminology influenced the understanding and description of the effects of psychedelics. Various reports by hippies of their psychedelic experiences describe states of diminished consciousness which were labelled as “ego death”, but do not match Leary’s descriptions.[95] Panic attacks were occasionally also labeled as “ego death”.[96]

The Beatles
John Lennon read The Psychedelic Experience, and was strongly affected by it.[97] He wrote “Tomorrow Never Knows” after reading the book, as a guide for his LSD-trips.[97] Lennon took about a thousand acid-trips, but it only exacerbated his personal difficulties.[98] Eventually John Lennon stopped using the drug. George Harrison and Paul McCartney also concluded that LSD use didn’t result in any worthwhile changes.[99]

Radical pluralism
According to Bromell, the experience of ego death confirms a radical pluralism that most people experience in their youth, but prefer to flee from, instead believing in a stable self and a fixed reality.[100] He further states this also led to a different attitude among youngsters in the 1960s, rejecting the lifestyle of their parents as being deceitful and false.[100]

Criticism
Fatal accidents
Dan Merkur notes that the use of LSD in combination with Leary’s manual often did not lead to liberating insights, but to horrifying bad trips.[101] It also lead to fatal accidents, which were trivialized by Alpert.[102]

Charlatan
Hunter S. Thompson, who tried LSD,[103] criticized Leary as a charlatan who was exploiting the credulity of large numbers of disaffected people.[103] Thompson perceived a self-centered base in Leary’s work, placing himself at the centre of his texts, using his persona as “an exemplary ego, not a dissolved one.”[103]

Brad Warner
SōtōZen teacher Brad Warner has repeatedly criticized the idea that psychedelic experiences lead to “enlightenment experiences.”[note 9] In response to The Psychedelic Experience he wrote:

While I was at Starwood, I was getting mightily annoyed by all the people out there who were deluding themselves and others into believing that a cheap dose of acid, ‘shrooms, peyote, “molly” or whatever was going to get them to a higher spiritual plane […] While I was at that campsite I sat and read most of the book The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Baba Ram Dass, later of Be Here Now fame). It’s a book about the authors’ deeply mistaken reading of the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guide for the drug taking experience […] It was one thing to believe in 1964 that a brave new tripped out age was about to dawn. It’s quite another to still believe that now, having seen what the last 47 years have shown us about where that path leads. If you want some examples, how about Jimi Hendrix, Sid Vicious, Syd Barrett, John Entwistle, Kurt Cobain… Do I really need to get so cliched with this? Come on now.[web 7]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_death

Near-death experience
A near-death experience (NDE) is a personal experienceassociated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light.[1][2][3]

Explanatory models for the NDE can be divided into several broad categories, including psychological, physiological, and transcendental explanations.[1][4][5][6]Research from neuroscience considers the NDE to be a hallucinatory state caused by various physiological and psychological factors.[7]

Characteristics



Ascent of the Blessed byHieronymus Bosch is associated by some NDE researchers with aspects of the NDE.[8][9]

The equivalent French term expérience de mort imminente(experience of imminent death) was proposed by the Frenchpsychologist and epistemologist Victor Egger as a result of discussions in the 1890s among philosophers and psychologists concerning climbers’ stories of the panoramic life review during falls.[10][11] In 1968 Celia Greenpublished an analysis of 400 first-hand accounts of out-of-body experiences.[12] This represented the first attempt to provide a taxonomy of such experiences, viewed simply as anomalous perceptual experiences, or hallucinations. These experiences were popularized by the work of psychiatristRaymond Moody in 1975 as the near-death experience (NDE).

Researchers have identified the common elements that define near-death experiences.[13] Bruce Greyson argues that the general features of the experience include impressions of being outside one’s physical body, visions of deceased relatives and religious figures, and transcendence of egotic and spatiotemporal boundaries.[14] Many common elements have been reported, although the person’s interpretation of these events often corresponds with the cultural, philosophical, or religiousbeliefs of the person experiencing it.

Another common element in near-death experiences is encountering people, which are generally identified according to the person’s individual faith; for instance, in the USA, where 46% of the population believes in guardian angels, they will often be identified as angels or deceased loved ones (or will be unidentified), while Hindus will often identify them as messengers of the god of death.[15][16]

Although the features of NDEs vary from one case to the next, common traits that have been reported by NDErs are as follows:

  • A sense/awareness of being dead.[13][17]
  • A sense of peace, well-being and painlessness. Positive emotions. A sense of removal from the world.[13][17][18]
  • An out-of-body experience. A perception of one’s body from an outside position. Sometimes observing doctors and nurses performing medical resuscitation efforts.[13][17][18][19]
  • A “tunnel experience” or entering a darkness. A sense of moving up, or through, a passageway or staircase.[13][17][19]
  • A rapid movement toward and/or sudden immersion in a powerful light (or “Being of Light”) which communicates with the person.[17][18]
  • An intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance.[18]
  • Encountering “Beings of Light”, “Beings dressed in white”, or similar. Also, the possibility of being reunited with deceased loved ones.[13][18][19]
  • Receiving a life review, commonly referred to as “seeing one’s life flash before one’s eyes”.[13][17][18]
  • Receiving knowledge about one’s life and the nature of the universe.[18]
  • Approaching a border,[17] or a decision by oneself or others to return to one’s body, often accompanied by a reluctance to return.[13][18][19]
  • Suddenly finding oneself back inside one’s body.[20]
  • Connection to the cultural beliefs held by the individual, which seem to dictate some of the phenomena experienced in the NDE and particularly the later interpretation thereof.[15]
Kenneth Ring (1980) subdivided the NDE on a five-stage continuum. The subdivisions were:[21]

  1. Peace
  2. Body separation
  3. Entering darkness
  4. Seeing the light
  5. Entering the light
He stated that 60% experienced stage 1 (feelings of peace and contentment), but only 10% experienced stage 5 (“entering the light”).[22]

Clinical circumstances associated with near-death experiences include cardiac arrest in myocardial infarction(clinical death); shock in postpartum loss of blood or in perioperative complications; septic or anaphylactic shock; electrocution; coma resulting from traumatic brain damage; intracerebral hemorrhage or cerebral infarction; attempted suicide; near-drowning or asphyxia; apnea; and serious depression.[23] In contrast to common belief, Kenneth Ring argues that attempted suicides do not lead more often to unpleasant NDEs than unintended near-death situations.[24]
 
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#5
I believe an STE certainly can bring a more positive outlook to one's life. But a positive outlook today is no guarantee for tomorrow. Suffering occurs from our memories of the past and our perception of the present. While we can commit to living more joyously in the future, we have no idea what we are going to actually experience in one day, one year, or ten years from now. The future could very well bring circumstances that bring emotional suffering that we do not anticipate and are unprepared to deal with.
 
#6
While it is true that there are no guarantees of what will come tomorrow, I do think it is important to see ourselves as something other than mere experiencers of this world. We do more than passively observe. We are participants.Thought is a creative force. Our thoughts, both individual and collective, shape our world.
 
#7
"Can a Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE) bring a lasting end to suffering?"

This is an academic question about theory. To answer it one would have to be more specific about what is meant by "lasting" and "suffering".

For a typical person who is looking for the end of suffering as a practical matter, they should practice meditation with the goal of developing equanimity. The more they meditate each day and the longer they practice daily meditation over the years, the more equanimity they will develop.

Relating this back to the original question, perfect equanimity would be equivalent to "the end of suffering".

I recommend this type of meditation:
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/meditation-1#meditation_serenity
 
#8
While it is true that there are no guarantees of what will come tomorrow, I do think it is important to see ourselves as something other than mere experiencers of this world. We do more than passively observe. We are participants.Thought is a creative force. Our thoughts, both individual and collective, shape our world.
Typoz, I like this...there's a lot of wisdom in this
 
#9
...

Over the course of the last decade or so, I've encountered a lot of different real-life stories of someone being suddenly and radically transformed from a suffering, miserable person into someone who deeply enjoys living and expresses peace and satisfaction. The impetus for this change generally seems to follow some incredible inner experience or radical and unlikely shift in perspective which, for lack of a better word, seems to *destroy* the previously existing personality - or at least modifies it beyond recognition - both to the individual having the experience as well as to acquaintances, friends, and family who observe it from without.

Two immediate stories come to mind that follow this narrative, the first being Eckhart Tolle who shares his transformation story in The Power of Now and the second, probably less well-known, is that of paranormal writer Colin Wilson who shared that he was once about to kill himself and, just as he was about to pull the trigger, had a sudden recognition that he was not the little, frustrated person on the brink of killing himself but someone else observing the whole thing (my words, not his). Both stories are essentially identical in terms of what sparked the transformation: the recognition that one is not the person one generally takes oneself to be, and therefore one is free from the suffering that belongs to that person.
The cause of depression has to be considered. If it is caused by cognitive factors, then it may be alleviated by mental events. But if the cause is biochemical, it may not be possible to influence the biochemical problem through mental factors. Cognitive and biochemical factors can interact to some extent, but I don't think anyone would expect a cognitive cure for schizophrenia. And I think in some cases depression or anxiety also cannot be cured cognitively. But an STE can change your outlook and attitude and maybe make it easier to live with a biochemical disorder.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#10
An STE saved me from committing suicide, but at the same time it also opened the door to a great of deal pain in its own way - the patterned it followed was like the "Call of the Saints", wherein a person feels the incredible euphoria of the Numinous - you witness the Divine looking at sunshine on Winter's ice, along with other parts of Creation - but then has to face their own "dark night of the soul" that involves a good deal of flagellating guilt.

I do wonder, however, if that last part might've been avoided in different circumstances - if I had found myself outside of the "sin"-based religions (Hinduism and Christianity to be specific), if my life had not been as seemingly confined at the time as I thought it to be, etc.

Even so, regardless of the self-flagellation for the past there is then the feeling that approaches "infinite compassion" without coming close. You want to alleviate the suffering of the world but it is an exhausting process that might also negate one's foresight.

All this to say the STE can definitely save a life but without a guide I find it might lead one out of the frying pan and into the fire.
 
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