By Michael O'Callaghan

One morning as you look out the window, the city seems more ragged than usual. A nearby building appears to be on fire. There's a sulphurous stench in the air. Broken glass and rubble litter the streets. People lie on the pavement and in doorways, seemingly dead. Your terror turns to panic when you notice a rat gnawing on a corpse. Screaming, you rush to the bathroom to throw up. From your skeletal reflection in the mirror, you realise you too have died: empty eye sockets stare back at you from a hollow skull.

The end of the world? Not exactly. Hallucination? Yes. The vision of death described above is typical of the onset of the psychological condition known as the Acute Schizophrenic Break Syndrome.

According to official statistics of the World Health Organisation, between one and two percent of the population is thus affected (i.e. 66 to 130 million people in 1994), depending on the method of clinical definition. Broadly speaking, this represents from one to two percent of the general population – one in five hospital beds – who have been brought to a mental hospital, diagnosed, and chronically medicated. Most will forfeit their job, their friends and their family. Many lose their home. They constitute thirty-three percent of the homeless in America today.

Whether in the hospital, at home, or discharged onto the street, these are ordinary people whose normal lives were suddenly interrupted by the unexpected, spontaneous, and powerful onset of a dramatic non-ordinary state of consciousness.

The vision typically begins with Apocalyptic scenes of death and world destruction.

Let's go back to that scene for a moment. As you are hysterically rushed through the traffic, away from family and friends in a screaming ambulance, how could you possibly know that it is not yourself who has come to an end, only your precious personality that has died? When you arrive at the hospital, the admitting psychiatrist informs you that you've had a Nervous Breakdown, and that you are in urgent need of immediate medication. From the dead look in his eyes, you get the feeling you may be here forever. While you gulp the goblet of Lethe he proffers, you wonder whether you will ever return to the land of the living. Soon, the Lithium or Thorazine takes over like a dose of deadly nightshade. Then you collapse into a dreamless sleep. When you wake up much later on, the vision is gone. But there is a great emptiness, a hollow feeling, as if the lights went out. For years afterwards, perhaps till the end of your days, your life is reduced to a kind of limbo in which you eke out a meaningless existence, popping pills to keep the vision from coming back to haunt you, a pathetic shadow of your former self.

There is, however, more to this than meets the outer eye. Over half a century ago in Küsnacht, Switzerland, the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung came to feel that psychological health is a dynamic, on-going process of personal development into greater maturity and spiritual awareness. This process – which he called individuation – is, he said, nourished by a continuous flow of symbolic insights transmitted from the unconscious Self to the conscious Ego, in a variety of ways including dreams, insight, and flashes of intuition. Should this inner communication flow get blocked for any reason, one may find oneself increasingly frustrated, for the simple reason that one has lost touch with the built-in guiding system of one's deeper Self.

In Jung's view, if such a blockage persists in time, one becomes alienated – in the sense that one may no longer be able to use the considerable resources of one's innate common sense to adapt effectively to one's social environment. Alienation, of course, also happens on a collective level within the family, society, and civilisation, in which case the context one may have trouble adapting to includes not only the social, but the ecological environment as well. Whether individual or collective, a chronic blockage of the psyche's inner communications process may lead beyond a mere sense of ennui, and eventually jeopardise the ability to be responsible for one's health and survival.

What really took Jung's colleagues by surprise, however, was his declaration that the so-called acute schizophrenic break phenomenon is actually no disease, but rather a natural (and temporary!) healing process – which automatically activates itself in response to the underlying blockage which I have just described. Jung maintained that the spontaneous onset of the visionary state of consciousness is nature's self-organising way for the alienated psyche to become whole again. In his view, when the Ego has become cut off from the rest of the psyche to a point of real distress, the Self "comes to the rescue" through a temporary, but complete overpowering of the conscious personality by means of a vivid upwelling of hallucinatory voices and visions from the deeper levels of the unconscious. The conscious Ego, that is, falls apart and comes back together again, renewed. If one understands the essentially life-affirming nature of the visions which occurs during this metamorphosis, appreciates their symbolic relevance to the problems at hand, and integrates their deeper meaning, the result is a healing of the alienated condition which prevailed before the onset of the so-called illness itself – and a rebirth of the personality as a more integrated, invigorated whole.

Back in Vienna however, Sigmund Freud did not approve of his former pupil's new discovery. Nor, apparently, do most psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts today, who – unable to incorporate the new data into the outdated mechanistic world views of mainstream psychiatry and allopathic medicine – stubbornly persist in clinging to Freud's simplistic doctrine that "schizophrenia" is all pathological hodge-podge and meaningless delusion. Since Jung first proposed his symbolic and transformative view of the matter however, his transpersonal approach has been further explored by some of the best scientists and thinkers of the twentieth century. Prominent among these have been comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell (4) through his global survey of cosmologies; biological philosopher Gregory Bateson (5) through his research in the cybernetics of self-organising systems; medical anthropologist Joan Halifax (6) through her trans-cultural study of shamanism; anthropologist Terrence McKenna (7) through his ethno-botanical explorations; and psychiatrists R.D.Laing (8), John Weir Perry (9), and Stanislav Grof (10), whose brilliant research and assistance to people in visionary states of consciousness have helped to bring about a fundamental paradigm-shift in our scientific understanding of the human psyche.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, however, orthodox psychiatrists and the general public still make the category mistake of viewing the phenomenon as a disease in need of medical intervention and control. They are like the Pope Urban VIII, who, when invited by Galileo in 1611 to look through his telescope – and see with his own eyes evidence of Copernicus's 1547 discovery that the Earth is not the centre of our solar system – was unwilling to deal with the cosmological implications of this new realisation. Rather than admit the limitations of his own belief system, he simply refused to look through the telescope – and had the man sent into exile (11). The consequences of such arrogance are devastating.

First off, at the individual level, there's the insult, humiliation and suffering that are inflicted on the person who has the visionary experience. At the onset of the hallucinations, he or she is inevitably surprised, frightened, rejected, and delivered into the hands of the psychiatric establishment. With all the code words and ritual paraphernalia of a spiritual priesthood, these doctors of medicine will issue an authoritative diagnosis declaring that one's perception of reality is completely wrong, that one has contracted an incurable disease, that one has become an acute schizophrenic, that the problem is caused either by a biochemical imbalance (12) requiring chemical medication, or by a genetic defect (13), and that one had better submit to whatever treatment these doctors may prescribe (whether one likes it or not, since it is for one's own good). By this stage those societies who are thus prejudiced have already robbed the so-called schizophrenic person of his or her ontological dignity as a human being. In the USA, 10% of those diagnosed end up committing suicide.

Then comes the treatment. Allopathic medicine, which has shown so much enthusiasm for attacking the symptoms of disease, has perfected a complete technological arsenal with which to bring the unfolding of one's visionary voyage to a total standstill. The methods used include lobotomy (14), electroshock, forced sterilisation (15), behaviour modification, insulin coma therapy, and heavy medication with a veritable smorgasbord of "anti-psychotic" drugs guaranteed to reduce even the most dazzling visionary states to total darkness. Jung remarked "with what passion people today believe that psychological complications can be made to magically disappear, by means of hormones, narcotics, insulin shocks and convulsion therapy." The direct result of such treatment, apart from having one's nervous tissues physically destroyed, permanently short-circuited, or saturated with a mind-bending cocktail of consciousness-reducing chemicals, is the prognosis of chronic or lifelong illness, and the concurrent prescription of continuous and costly medication. This conveniently provides a guaranteed market – and considerable profits – for the pharmaceutical drug companies whose financial largesse also endows many a chair of medicine in our universities, perpetuating the vicious circle of misinformation to a new generations of doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses. As for any actual healing of the alienated condition which precipitated the break in the first place, you might as well forget it.

At the cultural level a less obvious, but perhaps more serious result in this respect is the social cost a society must pay, which refuses – a priori – to integrate the insights of those experiences which may transmit a transformative vision both of the individual and of the body politic.

Most Western doctors and nurses, by the time they graduate, have been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that all non-ordinary states of consciousness are pathological, and automatically proceed to plot the behavioural minutiae of their victims' symptomatology on a kind of Cartesian thought-disorder grid, a diagnostic equivalent of a paint-by-numbers formula, which is spelled out with implacable logic in the Kafkaesque bible of their trade, the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V.) This encyclopaedia of psychiatric definitions (now in its umpteenth reprinting, internationally-distributed, and translated into more than a dozen languages) is used by psychiatrists, insurance companies, and courts. (16)

A brief historical summary of how this reactionary fear and suppression of visionary states has come about will help to clarify the political and social significance of the emergent transpersonal approach. This should also show why until we as a society learn to integrate such visionary experiences into our private and social lives, we shall have little hope of avoiding an Apocalypse of the external kind in the long run. Unlike the hundreds of thousands of pre-urban societies – in which the existence and psycho-spiritual validity of non-ordinary states of consciousness is or was socially recognised and ritually endorsed since Palaeolithic times – our newfangled industrial civilisation is one in which the unconscious has, until very recently, been to all intents and purposes taboo. The historical events which led to this taboo are somewhat astounding.

In his book The Divided Self, R.D.Laing first set forth the interpersonal and social ecology of schizophrenia, which until then had only been described as an intra-psychic phenomenon. The first time we met, I asked him about this taboo against visionary states, and he pointed out that it began in Europe in the fifteenth century, when the proto-scientific experiments of Medieval alchemists produced the first philosophical seed-stones of scientific thought, which as we can see in retrospect, have rather dramatically changed Humankind's relationship to the Universe.

Non-ordinary states of consciousness have been understood to serve a healing or transformative function in every tribal society studied by anthropologists – but not the urban civilisation in which we live. They are particularly evident in the last remaining hunter-gatherer and nomadic indigenous peoples who still survive in the remoter parts of North and South America, the Arctic, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Australia. In such cultures, visionary states are always associated with the healing function of the shaman. In this context, as Joan Halifax explains in her book Shamanic Voices, the vision of the shaman forms the quintessential religious experience:

"The shaman, a mystical, priestly and political figure... can be described not only as a specialist in the human soul, but also as a generalist whose sacred and social functions can cover an extraordinarily wide range of activities. Shamans are not only spiritual leaders but also judges and politicians, the repositories of the knowledge of the culture's history, both sacred and popular... Above all however, shamans are technicians of the sacred and masters of ecstasy...

The initiatory crisis of the shaman must...be designated as a religious experience, one that has persisted since at least Palaeolithic times, and is probably as old as human consciousness itself, when the first feelings of awe and wonder were awakened in primates. From this perspective, the initiation of the shaman is an ahistorical event, transcending the confines of culture and bringing into focus ontological concerns that have existed within the human mind for aeons...

The healing image that the shaman projects is of disease as a manifestation of the transformative impulse in the human organism. The crisis of a powerful illness can also be the central experience of the shaman's initiation. It involves an encounter with forces that decay and destroy. The shaman not only survives the ordeal of a debilitating sickness or an accident, but is healed in the process. Illness then becomes the vehicle to a higher plane of consciousness. The evolution from the state of psychic and physical disintegration to shamanising is effected through the experience of self-cure. The shaman – and only the shaman – is a healer who has healed himself." (17)

But most of the current information about shamanism available in the West necessarily comes from anthropological sources in South America, Asia, and Africa, and as such it comes to us in foreign clothing. When European settlers annihilated most of the Native American peoples, they were not only ignorant of their own shamanic traditions, but they also rode roughshod over a living shamanism from which they might have learnt a thing or two. For Europeans and European Americans to better understand what this healing system is all about, we must also turn to our own traditions. Has anyone ever heard of an European shamanic tradition, apart from that of the Saami in remote Lapland? (18) Western culture is an urban one, and nouveaux city folk all too eagerly forget the peasant wisdom of their village-dwelling ancestors. People have lived in Europe for at least 250 thousand years, but the first European towns only appeared upon the land in the second millennium BCE at Minos in Crete, spreading thence in the first millennium BCE to Greece and its colonies, eventually leading to the foundation of Rome in 753 BCE. Their serious implantation began from there in the first century BCE when Julius Caesar expanded the frontiers of the Roman Empire beyond the natural boundaries of his ancestral Italy. Until then, the bronze-age societies of Europe – including Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Jugoslavia, Northern Italy, Greece and Spain – were predominantly Celtic, a tribal people whose culture has all but disappeared with the advent of civilisation.


Except, as it happens especially, in Ireland. Unlike Brittany, Wales, and England, the Romans never managed to conquer this Western island, and although some towns do exist, the oldest, Dublin, is only ten centuries old. All of these were founded by foreigners – Viking, Norman, or English invaders – whose habit of huddling together in the centralised urban way was considered alien, and whose military garrison-towns never completely succeeded in entirely wiping out the far more ancient and decentralised tribal culture of the native Celts. Unlike Scotland, the Irish never fully accepted English conquest. And due to its geographical isolation on the Westernmost fringe of the Old World, the contemporary Irish language is (except for Basque and Sami) the oldest, its mythology the most archaic, its folklore and traditional music the most voluminous in Europe.

And the Irish megalithic artworks – dating from the Pre-Celtic Neolithic era – are the earliest known astronomical observatories on the planet. Not having had its tribal memory severed by the Roman Empire, Irish mythology thus transmits a cultural continuum that reaches nine thousand years through history, through the bronze and iron ages of prehistory, back to the Neolithic stone age. Because of this great antiquity, Irish mythology provides a kind of anthropological time-machine through which twentieth century Westerners can obtain a revealing glimpse of their psycho-social past, before the birth of civilisation and the proliferation of overpopulated cities which are devastating the planetary biosphere today. (19)

The Celts were Indo-European, patriarchal, aristocratic cattle herders. When they came to Ireland, they had sacral Kings, and a highly-privileged caste of learned people called the Aés Dána (literally: People of Art). The latter's primary responsibility was to transmit the senchas or tradition through the generations. Like the Brahmin of Vedic India, they constituted a distinct social class whose legal privileges were equal to – or greater than – those of the aristocracy. (20) This intellectual élite included druíd (musician-shamans), fílid (poets, literally: seers), fáith (prophets), seanchaí (geneaologist-historians), brithemain (jurists), and the ollamh (psychopomp) whose legal status was higher than that of the King or Queen. Ireland considered the arts as sacred, to such an extent that during the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome, the Irish monasteries almost single-handedly kept the flame of Classical civilisation alive in Europe, and the country became known as the Land of Saints and Scholars. Even today, artists in Ireland must not pay income tax!

Regarding "schizophrenia", it seems that this modern concept did not exist as such then. Certainly no term with such derogatory connotations exists in the Irish vocabulary. The closest Gaelic idioms translate into English as being touched by God, or having been taken – by which is meant that the person has been taken to the Other World. How shamanic can you get? Under the Celtic Brehon law, "insane" persons were under the guardianship of an adult male relative who was responsible for any offences which they might commit. Irish law was concerned that the rights of the insane should not be exploited: one text lays down the general principle that "the rights of the insane take precedence over any other rights."

That visionary experiences were held in such high respect is clear from the thousands of references to the Tuatha Dé Danaan, i.e. the People of the Goddess Danu or Diana (21) – otherwise known as the Good People or Faery folk – who are said to live in this Other World. To find the origin of this ancient European idea of "schizophrenia" as a different place, we must go back to the Irish sagas and mythology about these People of the Goddess, who inhabited the island from the New Stone Age until the arrival of the Celts much later on. By all accounts they were a peaceful, gentle matriarchal race who developed the arts of music and astronomy to great excellence. In fact they built thousands of megaliths – i.e. stone astronomical observatories – hundreds of which still adorn the landscape. The most famous of these is Newgrange (described in chapter 4), which dates to 3,200 BCE. Those in the West of Ireland are even older, going as far back as 5,400 BCE, entire millennia before Stonehenge or the pyramids at Giza.(22).

Numerous legends mention the Tuatha Dé Danaan as semi-divine, immortal beings, of great physical beauty, with a kind and playful nature, and an extraordinary ability to enchant human beings, animals and plants alike with a sweetly intoxicating music. How these Good People then came to live in the Other World is explained in a legend whose basic metaphor is a veritable psychological peach.

The saga tells of how the sons of Míl, a Celtic King from Galicia in Spain, sailed with their retinue to the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry – on the South-Western tip of Ireland – sometime in the second millennium BCE. Upon first landing, these seafarers informed the People of the Goddess that they were coming to invade their country. A great battle was arranged near the coast on the mountain called called Slieve Mish, it having been agreed beforehand that if the invaders won, they could stay and the People of the Goddess would have to leave, and vice versa. To make a long story short, the Celts were armed to the teeth, and won the battle. And, true to their word, the People of the Goddess departed. But instead of putting out to sea by ship, the legend says they "left their bodies" and disappeared off the face of the Earth. Well, to be precise, not off the Earth, but into it – into the Other World which lies hidden underground. Known in Irish as the Land of the Shídhe, it is conceived as a kind of Buddha Realm, and thus exists not only in a different place, but also outside of time as we know it. This Celtic Other World is analogous to the Australian aborigines' "Dreamtime" (23) – a hidden dimension of eternity beyond time, where the People of the Goddess still exist, and from which they occasionally return, appearing to mortal eyes in the form of the Faery People or Good People. This lovely story symbolically illustrates the archaeology of the European psyche as it changed its focus from participation mystique to patriarchal power. The myth illustrates how the ecological consciousness of our matriarchal ancestors, being repressed by patriarchal violence, went "underground" into the collective unconscious, where it is still alive and well.

Once comfortably settled on the island, the Celts actually adopted much of the Tuatha Dé Danann culture as their own; no doubt many of the People of the Goddess remained in the flesh to intermarry with the invaders and pass on their Neolithic traditions to the new hybrid culture; what is certain is that the Celtic Druids were widely believed to obtain their superior wisdom and musical virtuosity from periodic trance-journeys to this Other World. Thousands of myths, sagas, legends, fairytales, stories and anecdotes attest to the belief that although usually invisible to mortal eyes, the Good People are still very much alive in their subterranean Kingdom, and very much aware of us, though we may deny their existence. Their frequent "appearance" in visionary states was usually considered a blessing and a clear indication of the observer's sensitivity and compassion. As the great anthropologist and Tibetologist W.Y.Evans-Wentz reports in his book The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, (24) – written after a field trip to Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany in 1908 and 1919 – this shamanic belief in "travel between the worlds" was very much alive – Christianity notwithstanding – right up until the twentieth century, when it virtually disappeared in the eco-social aftermath of British conquest, industrial revolution, potato monoculture, crop failure, famine, armed resistance, revolution and war. We shall return to this theme of a place outside of time and its relation to Irish megalithic art in the last section of this book.

On the European continent, however, the extinction of shamanism was accomplished much more rapidly and with intention. Soon after Julius Caesar appeared upon the scene, he sought to control and expand the Roman Empire for his own perverted glory. Caesar perceived the Druids – with their ancient tradition of appointing Kings and Queens from the aristocracy through the method of election rather than birthright – as a primary threat to his plans. The Emperor was the prototypical fascist, and such protodemocratic principles may have reminded him of the Roman Senate (originally modelled on the democratic ideal of the Greek Parliament) which he was also at such pains to dismantle. He was prevented from accomplishing the latter only at the last minute on the Forum steps, as Shakespeare reminds us, whence his nephew Brutus dispatched him to Hades. Although he may have failed to smother democracy at home, Caesar did succeed in mounting a veritable scorched-earth campaign against the Continental and British Druids, and all other indigenous traditions as well. As Carl Jung put it, "In those times, the omnipresent, crushing power of Rome embodied in the divine Caesar, had created a world where countless individuals, indeed whole peoples, were robbed if their cultural independence and of their spiritual autonomy." (25) As Julius Caesar himself reports in his Gallic Wars, he sent commandos of Roman legionnaires on search-and-destroy missions as far away as Wales to cut down their sacred oak groves. European schoolchildren remember his motto: "I came, I saw, I conquered." It was the first battle in the European war on shamanism, and the beginning of the end of the archaic era presided over by the Goddess.

In the four centuries after Jesus, the crumbling Empire converted to Christianity, with the Church of Rome at its centre. The internal contradictions of this organised religion soon distorted the original teachings of Jesus to suit its own strange blend of dogma, priestcraft, colonialism, and corruption (26). The patriarchal creed of absolute monopoly on truth, along with the priests' intolerance of any religious experience that is not mediated by them was a thinly disguised grab for authoritarian control of the minds of the people. This was anathema to the Shamanic way of having one's religious experience straight from the source. Having received its first mortal wound from Caesar's macho legionnaires, shamanism thus suffered a long, slow decline at the hands of the Catholic priests, and was banished to dark forests far away from monasteries and the infallible authority of God's exclusive representatives on Earth. By the late middle ages, when the Popes had assumed an imperial monopoly over things spiritual, the Old Religion of the Goddess and the healing function of shamanism, after centuries of repression, became increasingly associated with Devil-worship.

It was in this period just before the Renaissance, when European cosmology was undergoing its metamorphosis from the Alchemical to the Scientific world view, that the European taboo against visionary experiences finally became explicit.

From the viewpoint of the Mediaeval psyche, the greatest philosophical challenge initially posed by the emergence of Science was the implication that Man was now, for the second time since Creation, sinking his teeth into that forbidden apple from the Tree of Knowledge. It the first bite had indeed been responsible for the original expulsion from Eden, sensitive souls must have wondered what divine retribution might be in store this time around. Could the unconscious have known that the distillation of Science from the Alchemical bottle would conjure up a technological Genie? Could people have had visions of this genie deforesting the planet, terminating the existence of thousands of species, unleashing upon us two world wars, and threatening our own demise – just four centuries later? Some technology is appropriate, and some isn't. But the Mediaeval psyche which witnessed the start of Humankind's scientific adventure must have intimated its Promethean aspect, a stepping-forth upon holy ground, a going where angels fear to tread, and felt a terror, a sadness, and a loss.

In terms of the old European cosmology, this world view transformation entailed a final splitting apart of what had been considered sacred and profane. No longer was the Earth itself seen as the sacred embodiment of the immanent Goddess but as a great estate divinely created by a transcendent (but nevertheless omnipresent) God, for human beings to rule (27). From now on it was defined rather more matter-of-factly in the secular language of real estate, a commodity which scientific man claimed the right to do with as he pleased, seizing for his newly-created needs whatever land, plants, animals or other human beings he was capable of conquering or extracting by force and ingenuity. This was the coup de grâce for the Old Religion – whose ancient metaphor of the Great Mother (28) implicitly evoked respect for the procreative power of nature. Instead there occurred a wholesale projection of ratioanalytic manipulative male dominance, and its purposive attempt to obtain total technological control over nature – which still holds us in its spell today. The violent, sexist, and patriarchal psychological attitude associated with this enterprise was made quite explicit in by Francis Bacon, the Attorney General of King James I of England, who taught fledgling scientists that their duty was to "hound Nature in her wanderings", "bind her into service", and make her their "slave". He exhorted them to "torture Nature's secrets from her", and "put her in constraint" (29) – which, as we now see, they did.


As Yin to Yang, a compensation of this unbalanced attitude came about through an outbreak of libido from the collective unconscious, which made itself felt through a flurry of visionary states – complete with feelings of imminent world destruction – in the mind-at-large of the general population. The German artist Albrech Durer (1471 - 1528) was fascinated by this theme, and produced a whole series of very vivid images depicting the Biblical Apocalypse with great imagination (see left). But the Church's priests – having already thrown out the spiritual baby along with the shamanistic bathwater – had long since lost the necessary insight to recognise the symbolic nature of this psychic epidemic, and made the category mistake of interpreting the visions literally. The main metaphor had to do with loss of fertility. Pope Innocent VIII, for example, declared his belief that:

"Many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother's womb, as also the offspring of cattle, blasting the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burden, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, with terrible and piteous pains and sore diseases, both internal and external; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, whence husbands cannot know their wives nor wives receive their husbands."(30)

The visionary epidemic seems to have been centred in Germany, about whose Teutonic tribes, by the way, Jung remarked that their conversion to Christianity was accomplished at the point of the Roman spears (31). A well-documented example concerns the male population of this area which became so paranoid about its virility that large numbers of men reportedly hallucinated the disappearance of their penises! Documentary evidence of this extraordinary group delusion may be found throughout the pages of the Maleus Maleficarum (32) – i.e. The Hammer of Witchcraft – a book written by two professors of theology at the University of Köln, Father Jacobus Sprenger, and Henricus Institores (also known as Prior Heinrich Kramer) in 1484. According to the turgid ecclesiastical language of the text, the Devil had recently begun to go about the area "causing some temporary or permanent impediment in the conjugal act", "such freezing up of the generative forces that men are unable to perform the necessary action for begetting offspring", while witches were causing an "obstruction of the procreant function", in such a way as to "directly prevent the erection of the member which is accommodated to fructification" and to "prevent the flow of vital essences to the members in which resides the motive force, closing up the seminal ducts so that it does not reach the generative vessels, or so that it cannot be ejaculated, or is fruitlessly spilled." Rhetorically, the authors asked:

"And what, then, is to be thought of those witches who in this way sometimes collect male organs in great numbers, as many as twenty or thirty members together, and put them in a bird's nest, or shut them up in a box, where they move themselves like living members and eat oats and corn, as has been seen by many and is a matter of common report?... For a certain man tells that, when he had lost his member, he approached a known witch and to ask her to restore it to him. She told the afflicted man to climb a certain tree, and that he might take that which he liked out of a nest in which there were several members. And when he tried to take the big one, the witch said: You must not take that one; adding, because it belonged to a parish priest."

Not surprisingly, men blamed the widespread "theft" of their penis on woman. Woman, whose affair with the Serpent in the Garden had already brought her the blame for the original expulsion from Eden, (and the accumulated guilt for the transmission of Original Sin ever since), was now projected as Satan's prime agent in the cosmic battle between God and the Devil. Women were accused of participating in a huge conspiracy against civilisation. Pleading at the pulpit, preachers exhorted their flocks to save their souls from eternal damnation by joining ranks to fight the greatest plague of "witchcraft" in the history of Christendom. In passing, it should be noted that the English word "witchcraft" means the art and craft of the wise, from wit, to know.

To make matters worse, the Reverend Henricus Institores then succeeded in obtaining a Papal Bull, titled Summis Desiderantes Affectibus (33), from the newly-elected Pope Innocent VIII in Rome. Dated December 9th. 1484, this document lent the enormous politico-religious clout of the Vatican's imprimatur to an organised attempt to suppress these visionary experiences by giving the Holy Inquisition against so-called "witches" an energising power and an authority which it had never enjoyed before. People got their metaphors mixed up and mistook the inner for the outer and the outer for the inner. Not only was it declared a mortal sin for witches to "fly" through the sky with the Pagan Goddess Diana (in the external sense of flying), it was also a heresy – punishable by torture and death – not to believe that witches really flew!

The dream had become real. People became hysterical. The book received an Official Letter of Approbation from the Faculty of Theology at the University of Köln in 1487, and was immediately followed by a series of excommunications, including that of the great Florentine humanist Pico della Mirandola, the first Christian philosopher to profess the universality of all religions. The Vatican appointed a notorious Spanish sadist, Tomás de Torquemada, to the post of Grand Inquisitor.

The Malleus Maleficarum became the official textbook of the campaign, and was a best-seller for the next two hundred years. It was republished in thirteen editions up to 1520, followed by sixteen more between 1574 and 1669.

Read symbolically, this hallucinated loss of the male procreative member was, of course, a perfectly apt metaphor for the apprehension which might be felt at the level of the collective unconscious regarding the possible consequences of man's impending technological take-over of natural creation. Lacking the very shamanic expertise which they were now seeking to exterminate, all the hallucinating priests of the Church of Rome could do was gape in terror between their legs, declare their feared castration to be the work of She-Devils, and set out on a great crusade against these hallucinated Hordes of Satan. For this purpose, the Church unleashed the Dominican Order (nick-named Domini Canis, i.e. the Hound of God) to persecute the heresy, and trained its recruits with special techniques to track down and torture its victims with an obscene array of devices designed to induce the most abominable agonies imaginable (34).

Mystics, midwives, medicine-women, herbalists, healers, moon-worshipers, virgins, and simple-minded girls – along with the occasional troublesome mistress and mother-in-law – were rounded up by the thousands, and brought to the Inquisitor in chains. But it didn't stop there. Children, too, were killed. At Würtzburg the child victims included boys of ten and eleven, two twelve-year old choirboys, "a boy of twelve years old in one of the lower forms of the school, the two young sons of the Prince's cook, the eldest fourteen, the younger twelve years old, and several pages and seminarists." An unknown number of girls were also condemned, including "a child of nine years old and her little sister." Our little best-seller includes a list of titillating techniques with which to reveal the true allegiance of these women and children by forced "confession" under torture, prior to being burned alive at the stake.

It should be emphasised that the extraordinary cruelty which the Church used in this crusade against women must rank amongst the most bloodthirsty spectacles in all recorded history, outstripping even the Nazi holocaust in its exhibition of brutality. At least the Nazis felt enough shame that they concealed their atrocities from public scrutiny behind the barbed wire fences of remote concentration camps. This Christian holocaust however, was carried out in public, across the town squares of Europe, before the eyes and ears of the assembled citizens who were exhorted to attend. Having first stripped, starved, beaten, tortured and no doubt sexually molested their prey for days on end, our holy fathers then staged the sort of Kafkaesque trials in which the guilt of the accused is a foregone conclusion. The recent ancestors of present-day Americans and Europeans then burned alive an estimated six hundred thousand to two million women between 1350 and 1750, like so much meat on a grill (35). In the very proper city of Geneva, for example, the archives show that three hundred women were once roasted on a single day. In 1514 three hundred people were burned alive at Como. More than six thousand were burned in the Diocese of Strasburg between 1615 and 1635 (36). And according to Bartholomew de Spina, a thousand people were put to death each year – for twenty five years – in Lombardy (37). In Germany one woman was tortured not once but fifty-six times. The Church, of course, did not restrict this practice to Europe, but inflicted its terror also upon the Indigenous Peoples in the colonies, especially in the Americans and Africa.(38) One has to ask who really was "possessed by the Devil?" The fact that this ethnic cleansing of the Old Religion has all been conveniently forgotten only goes to show how much we are still suffering from its psychological consequences. The Church has, as far as I know, has never really admitted its mistake, apologised, or restituted the lands, buildings, and other properties that were confiscated to the families of the victims.

From a psychological viewpoint, it is important to bear in mind that this mass brutality was carried out by human beings so unaware of their own motives that they could hypocritically justify this final solution as a pure and holy act, performed in the service of God, with the complete sanction of a religion whose official mottoes were to "Love thy neighbour" and "Do as you would be done by!" Such insane violence is a classical example of what can happen all too easily when a culture which has lost touch with its psychological roots suddenly experiences a flurry of visionary states. People take the visions literally, panic, and all Hell breaks loose.

So along with our technological and scientific lust to dominate external nature, came a corresponding attempt to achieve control over the mysterious motions of the Self within. R.D.Laing, who had a particular interest in family history, pointed out that this Inquisition took place a mere 18 generations back. Humankind goes back about 100,000 generations before that, during which time the taboo against non-ordinary states of consciousness did not exist. So in terms of family history (and therefore of the collective unconscious), it is a very recent phenomenon indeed. As we know from psychological studies of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust (39), the psychological reverberations of such social catastrophes linger deep in the psyche, long after the events themselves and their protagonists have passed away. There can be little doubt that the pathological terror of non-ordinary states of consciousness which exploded during the Inquisition still echoes somewhere in the subterranean caverns of our collective unconscious. After all, most western people are still easily upset by any perturbation which they cannot control – and terrified if it should arise within their own head! Let us not forget that it took an eccentric Viennese Jew like Sigmund Freud to reintroduce the mere concept of the unconscious into Western culture, a rare Swiss visionary like Carl Jung to strip it of its negative associations, and a gadfly Irish-American Harvard Professor like Timothy Leary (40) – armed with seventeen million doses of the psychedelic drug LSD – to re-establish visionary experience as a subject for dinner-party conversation four hundred years later.

Now that psychoanalysis and psychedelic research have partially eroded the taboo against the unconscious, pioneering researchers in the fields of clinical psychology, biophysics, neurophysiology, epistemology, cybernetics, comparative mythology, anthropology and the humanistic and transpersonal approaches to psychology have accumulated a considerable body of scientific data about the inner aspects of the visionary episode itself. As a consequence, our understanding of non-ordinary states of consciousness has changed utterly – that is to say, what passes for "madness" in a society which is rapidly destroying the very ecosystem on which its own survival as a species depends. The magnitude of the paranoia which leads us to such recklessness may be appreciated when one realises that in 1988 our annual global military budget outstripped the total combined income of the poorer half of Humankind! If this is not insanity, what is?

Faced with evidence of our collective alienation writ so large upon the wall, many people search for technological fixes, political leaders, or religious messiahs to steer them away from disaster. But the guidance we need will not be found in any single individual. As former United Nations Assistant Secretary General Robert Müller once told me, "It is the five billion people of this world who have the future in their hands". We're going to have to find the common sense within ourselves. Buckminster Fuller expressed the same idea in slightly different terms: "The human race is now about to enter its cosmic examination of integrity: on personal integrity hangs humanity's fate." (41)

As you will see in the interview with Dr. John Weir Perry in the next section of this text, there is an Ariadne's thread which leads through the maze of "madness," by means of which one may find one's way through the disintegration and re-integration of one's personality to health and happiness on the other side. It is also absolutely clear that although there is nothing really to be afraid of, the visionary state does inevitably involve a dark passage and an Ego-death which is symbolised by imagery of Apocalypse. And since, as Laing and Bateson maintain, it is the flow of information through our collective ecology of mind which has now become blocked, then we are all in need of healing – and who can say which one among us will be next to find him– or herself propelled, whether we are ready for it or not, on a journey into the symbolic "other world" of the archetypal renewal process? There should be no stigma attached to the experience, since it is a sign that the psyche is functioning properly.

Furthermore, it really could happen to any of us – especially people on whom society projects collective expectations. I am thinking of Presidents, Prime Ministers and military Commanders-in-Chief, for example, who may have obtained their mandate by making promises no individual could possibly fulfill. Such individuals, especially in a moment of political crisis, are likely candidates for the spontaneous renewal process; due to the vast responsibility placed upon their shoulders, they have great untapped potential in this respect. Heads of state in particular would show great prudence by making sure they get the best available coaching in transpersonal psychology, to forestall the possibility that they or their counterpart across the border might press the button during an unexpected vision of Apocalypse, and thus fail in their appointed duty to protect their people. Lest we be taken by surprise, it behoves us as a culture to acknowledge the healing function of this transformative process, and thereby disentangle ourselves from our culturally-conditioned fear of losing control. The visionary state might thus help us attain some of the cybernetic wisdom which we so urgently need. (42)

Apart from the inhibition associated with the taboo, part of the difficulty in becoming familiar with the realm of the human unconscious is the question of access. As Jung points out, the separation between the Self and the Ego is more acute today than at any other time in history, especially amongst the rapidly-increasing population of large cities, where the gap between Megalopolis and Nature has grown to such enormous proportions. Now consider, if you will, both the inner psychological split of the alienated individual, along with the external fact that Humankind-as-a-whole is becoming more and more cut off from its ecological life-support system, since we are obviously grossly ignorant of the complexity of the new global eco-social environment to which we have yet to adapt in a sustainable way. We are doubly cut off, twice-removed from the heart of the matter. (44)

Doesn't this suggest the possibility that our ailing civilisation might now be ripe for some kind of spontaneous, macro-historical, collective upwelling of the unconscious, analogous to that which took place in Europe just before the Renaissance, but on a much, much larger scale?

If one considers the above-mentioned evidence synergistically, one can reliably assume that the current blockage of communication between the Ego and the Self must necessarily be evoking a massive build-up of transformative energies not only within the cultural unconscious of our various thrown-together societies, but also – at a much deeper and less accessible level – within the collective unconscious of Humankind as a species at the moment of discovering its planethood.

In light of current knowledge of the psyche's symbolisation of the Ego's renewal process by means of the transformative metaphor of Apocalypse, might it not then be that our seemingly blatant disregard for the planetary ecosystem, our vulgar pursuit of money at any cost, our frantic accumulation of new and more exotic weapons of self-destruction can now be psychologically understood as the symbolic expression of a great self-organising psycho-cultural healing process, mistakenly projected onto the outside world? As Jung has clearly shown, if the psyche's symbolic messages are understood correctly, their effect is healing. If they are not understood, if their spontaneous expression is repressed, and projected outwards, then we will no doubt see in the 21st century more outbreaks of the kind of mass-psychoses which occurred in the 20th, such as the two world wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Central American conflict of the 1970s and 80s, the tens of thousands of "desaparecidos" in Argentina and Chile during the same period, the Gulf War of 1991, the genocide in the former Yugoslavia, the "ethnic cleansings" in Rwanda and Burundi, and the fundamentalist bloodshed in Algeria.

Jung, by the way, referred to World War II as a psychic epidemic. A third world war, whether fought between North and South over resources, or between fundamentalist Islam and Christianity over God, or between the United States and the Third World, or between Homo Sapiens and nature, would undoubtedly make the last one look like a picnic in comparison.

Are we, as a culture, confusing the dream with reality? This question has life-or-death implications. If my hypothesis is correct, i.e. if nature may be preparing to do collectively for Humankind what she does for the alienated individual, then there may come a time – whether we like it or not – when the only Apocalypse that is inevitable may be one we have to go through within ourselves.

The word Apocalypse is interesting. Its vulgar meaning is misconstrued from the final book of the Bible, Revelations, which Saint John the Divine wrote after obtaining a vision whilst imprisoned in a cave on the Grecian isle of Patmos. The Saint describes an end of time, a resurrection of the souls of the dead, a divine last judgement, followed by a grand entry of the souls of the blessed into Paradise. Need we say more? R.D. Laing points out that if you scrutinise the text, you will not find a single indication that he was talking about an external phenomenon! The word itself, in Greek, simply means "revelation," or more precisely, the uncovering of something that was hidden. (44)

Then there was also Saint Nicholas of Cusa, the mystic who said:

"The gate of Paradise is guarded by the highest Spirit of Reason,
who bars the way until he has been overcome."