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Transpersonal Efforts

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Transpersonal Efforts 1 Running head: Transpersonal Efforts Transpersonal Efforts Circe Santaniello

Transpersonal Efforts 1

Running head: Transpersonal Efforts

Transpersonal Efforts

Circe Santaniello

Transpersonal Efforts Page 2

Transpersonal Efforts

Generally categorized as a somatic theory of personality and

therapy that works well with other theories such as objects

relations theory, Jacob and Zerka Moreno’s psychodrama can be

viewed as transpersonal and can be used as a spiritual practice

in conjunction with ritual. In the same way that Michael Smith,

in Jung and Shamanism (1997), views Carl Jung’s depth theory in

relation to the spiritual practice of shamanism, I would like to

explore the ritualistic aspects of psychodrama. In this paper, I

will do this by first giving an overview and opinion of

transpersonal psychology before investigating the transpersonal

use of psychodrama as ritual, as John Raven Mosher does with his

“shamanic psychodrama” in Cycles of Healing: Creating Our Paths to Wholeness

(2000), I will also present my own vision of using psychodrama

and Goddess religious ritual in combination.

What is commonly called psychology and the resulting

practice of psychotherapy relates to the intrapsychic experience

of ego development or “self.” Whether this self or ego is

perceived theoretically from a psychoanalytic (organically

intrinsic mechanism of development), cognitive-emotive

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(experience as a function of the perception through the body), or

behaviorist framework (merely an organized collection of

responses to stimuli), psychology has historically referred to

the individual’s biographical development alone.

Transpersonal psychology on the other hand, attempts to

integrate these theories of personal development with spiritual

traditions in order to couch the psychological within the larger

framework of our experience of the spiritual. Consequently,

therapeutic modalities growing out of transpersonal psychology

not only include techniques of traditional psychology but also

expand into the transpersonal realms by including spiritual


The Transpersonal school of psychology, known as the Fourth

Force, has grown out of Humanistic psychology. As a reaction

against the previous stress on pathology, the humanistic concern

for identifying the healthy or potentially ideal human self was

taken a step further by Abraham Maslow with his definition of

peak experiences, hierarchy of needs and the recognition that we

may have underestimated our capacities and natures as human

beings. With Maslow came those concerned with transpersonal

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experiences, such as out of body experiences, near death

experiences, as well as altered states of consciousness, many of

these experiences being religious in nature. This included

theorists such as Stan Grof, Roger Walsh, and Ken Wilber, among

others who went further than the Humanist movement. Building

upon the Humanist concern that the current cognitive-behavioral

schools were reducing our self-concept to a materialist vision

that negated Spirit; the transpersonal psychologists looked for

more, stressing the extraordinary experiences we are capable of

having. Historically, the Transpersonal movement is directly

connected to the 1960’s influx of Eastern religious influence and

psychedelic drugs, as much as it was a rebellion against the

purely scientific epistemology of positivism and the limitations

of Humanism. Ultimately, Transpersonal psychology is the study

of human consciousness.

Essentially, the Transpersonal school of psychology is based

upon a blend of spiritual traditions and psychology. It rests

upon what Aldous Huxely called The Perennial Philosophy (Walsh &

Vaughn, 1993, p. 212), or that at least is where Walsh, Wilber,

Grof and others started with this school of ideas. Huxley notes

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that throughout history again and again there seems to be a

return to this one philosophical theme that has four parts. This

is that there is a Divine Ground of Being underlying all of

manifestation. Further, this divine ground is directly knowable

by us because we are part of it. In fact, it is our “job” to

reunite with this divine ground of being because we are double

natured, spirit and matter. Our true Self is spirit according to

The Perennial Philosophy. The implications here are that the “eyes of

the flesh” or science are not the only valid epistemology. As in

Eastern spiritual philosophy, many of the Transpersonal

psychologists value the “eyes of contemplation.” Some would use

both pairs of eyes to map, measure and created state specific

sciences as ways of knowing and exploring our ultimate natures.

The argument is also that the “eyes of contemplation” must be

trained; consequently, various meditation practices that create

altered states of consciousness are stressed on order to create a

community capable of a participatory epistemology (Walsh &

Vaughn, 1993, p. 185).

In studying these theorists, I find myself most attracted to

Stan Grof, with his earthy and connected grounding in clinical

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experience. Like Grof and Jacob Moreno, I have an affinity for

Otto Rank and see our experience of life as one intimately

connected to birth and death. On the other hand, huge abstract

systems that would suggest that there is an evolutionary trend in

values including the concept of “moral progress” offend me. I

would refer to the story of Indra where a king who feels he has

it all under control, and understands reality so thoroughly, is

humbled by Krishna showing him how many times before this has

happened, how many kings there were who thought they knew, how

many kingdoms have risen and fallen (Campbell, 1988). I would

question also the mistaken idea that the concept of “Immanence”

is reductive to materialism. Basically, as a feminist Neo-Pagan,

I have just a few problems with Ken Wilbur. I would concur with

Roger Walsh that “one interpretation of the term transpersonal is

that the transcendent is expressed through (trans) the personal”

(Walsh & Vaughn, 1993, p. 4). I would go further to say that the

transpersonal is interpersonal and intrapersonal, deep within the

matrix of creation. The depth of immanent spirituality cannot be

reduced to materialism.

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Robert McDermott reflects upon the historical trends in

Western philosophy and the assumptions transpersonal thought

hails back to. He claims that, like Romanticism, transpersonal

schools of thought emphasize the subjective inner revelations of

transcendent reality, as well as, “the intriguing relationship

between the ancient and the modern” (Walsh & Vaughn, 1993, p.

209). Like the Romantics, Transpersonal thinkers emphasize a

“participatory epistemology” valuing the direct, intuitive

experience of revelation. This means that we can know directly,

that qualitative inner knowing is valid and can speak to reality

at large. One of the goals of some Transpersonal theorists to

create a “science” that can map and measure this kind of

qualitative knowledge. Daniel Goleman, for example, explains

that language shapes our perspective of reality creating culture

bound ways of perceiving (p. 18). The states of consciousness

that are validated in any given culture are then considered the

norm. If the perception of reality is culturally relative and

based upon linguistic categories then how much of this perception

is ultimately “true?” How plastic is the human conception of

reality? What does it mean for Western science that it is based

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upon certain cultural assumptions? Is scientific truth the only

valid truth? Charles Tart theorizes a systems approach to

studying consciousness. Acknowledging that states of

consciousness other than the normative waking state validated by

Western science indeed have valuable information for us, Tart

advocates “state specific sciences” (1993, p. 37). This would

include studying the structure of what he calls “discreet states

of consciousness” finding out how they function together in the

brain as a system, perhaps developing different sciences that

work within the different states of consciousness and therefore

measure more than ordinary science can.

Roger Walsh has taken on the task of comparing various

features of altered states of consciousness that are not normally

considered valid ways of perceiving reality in our Western

culture. Specifically he compares Shamanic states of

consciousness, the Buddhist experience of insight meditation, the

results of the practice of Yogic samadhis and schizophrenia

according to ten different criteria. Walsh finds that all these

altered states of consciousness are different and echoes William

James in concluding that there may not be such a thing as a “core

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mystical experience” (Walsh & Vaughn, 1993, p. 45). In comparing

and contrasting these four altered states, Walsh finds that “The

sense of identity differs drastically among the three practices”

(p. 44). He also finds that all three of the spiritual practices

differed from schizophrenia in that they increase rather than

decrease self-control and concentration in particular (p. 43).

Ken Wilber has created what he calls Integral Psychology in

a grand attempt to map not only various states of consciousness

but also their relationship to historical, psychological,

spiritual and social development. Basing his insights on The

Perennial Philosophy, Wilber claims there is a “spectrum of

consciousness” he calls “Psychologia Perennis” or a perennial

psychology (Walsh & Vaughn, 1993, p. 21). Wilber talks about

“levels of mind,” that mind being the divine ground of

consciousness. This is the universal nature of human

consciousness that he would chart. Wilber’s mapping of

consciousness is based on the concept of holoarchy, a word

describing an organic type of hierarchy wherein each stage of

development grows out of, and includes, the previous (p. 116).

The relationship of the perception to “truth” at each level of

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development in his holoarchy is analogous to the relationship of

Newtonian physics to sub atomic physics; each are true within

their realm of measurement yet seemingly contradict each other

applied to the wrong level of matter. However, the broader

theory subsumes the narrower theory, though it may not be

apparent at first glance to the uneducated eye. This seeming

contradiction leads to what Wilber calls “the pre/trans fallacy”

that may lead a person at one stage of development to confuse

descriptions of experiences from a “lower” stage of development

with those from a “higher” stage of development (124). John

Engler echoes Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy in his analysis of

Buddhist psychology’s definition of “self.” Engler carefully

compares the sense of “self” psychoanalytic development claims

with the concept of “self” Buddhists say must be transcended.

His conclusion is that one cannot disavow what one does not have.

A well-developed sense of self, in the psychoanalytic sense, is

required in order to see that this sense of self is illusory, in

the transpersonal sense (p. 120).

Besides the pre/trans fallacy, Wilber calls confusion

between using the eyes of the flesh, eyes of the mine or eyes of

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contemplation “mistakes of category” (Walsh & Vaughn, 1993, p.

185). In both cases there is either a conceptual and/or

linguistic inaccuracy coloring the perception of “non-personal”

stages of development or what one is looking at. However, unlike

Tart, Wilber argues that there cannot be stage specific sciences

because our conceptions of “science” will necessarily commit yet

another such mistake in category. “Tart, in his pioneering

attempts to legitimize the existence of higher states of

consciousness, has inadvertently applied lower-state–specific

criteria to the higher states in general” and “Transpersonal

psychology is a state-specific enterprise (not a science)” (p.


Wilber also stresses the non-dual nature of reality and

charts the origins of our illusory experience of dualism through

his spiritually developmental stages. Because the ultimate

nature of reality is non-dual, this ultimate reality being Mind

(that divine ground of being), our perceptions of space, time,

death and being separate, are illusions. Our various experiences

of these dualities are a result of whatever stage of development

we happen to be at. Also, different types of therapy are more

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applicable to different stages of development and the pathologies

specific to each. Wilber concludes, “For example, transpersonal

anxiety, existential anxiety, and shadow anxiety are different

beasts indeed, and simply must not be treated the same” (Walsh &

Vaughn, 1993, p. 31). This illusion is what creates the

pre/trans fallacy, which is evident in two worldviews depending

upon whether reality is viewed stressing involution or evolution

of spirit.

However, I would question Wilber’s basic assumption that

there is even a need for this kind of evolution as a species.

Wilber is claiming that we are evolving toward more and more

spiritual stages as a species. He claims (as do others

historically and in the transpersonal movement) that there is a

teleological impetuous inherent in the universe (which is spirit

or that divine ground of being) toward non-duality in some sort

of ultimate blissful reunion. Along with this comes the idea of

“moral progress.” I believe moral progress is possible within

individual development, but this assertion of moral development

as a species-wide claim reeks of manifest destiny to me. Jurgen

Kemmer critiques Wilber for ignoring indigenous people’s

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spirituality and the oppression it has resulted in, with this

kind of thinking. He ultimately asks, “Is somebody who publishes

A Brief History of Everything (Wilber, 1996) under an obligation to

struggle with the non-mediated voices of contemporary indigenous

people’s” (Rothberg & Kelly, 1998, p. 253). I must answer with a

big “yes” to this one. Kremmer claims there are inherent

cultural biases in Wilber’s vision and quite basically states, “

progress implies insufficiency” (p. 250). Had not western

culture colonized these indigenous cultures there would be no

such “insufficiency” perceived. Kremmer also points out that in

Wilber’s hierarchy of cultures he has used outdated archeological

and anthropological material and that he has relied upon the

utopian visions of the 19th century thereby continuing to promote

cultural imperialism. In answer to Wilber’s assertion that the

so called magical thinking of indigenous people’s spirituality is

“regressive,” Kremmer reminds us of the “shadow” this kind of

ethnocentric “progress” casts, that has historically and still

today leaves such damage in its wake. One very attractive idea

Kremmer promotes is, “a process of an immanently present,

visionary, socially constructed being, which is sustained without

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the need to progress or overcome some insufficient state “ (p.

254). He bases this on indigenous people’s ways of knowing via

the very rituals Wilber condemns as un-evolved.

Peggy Wright critiques Wilber in a similar manner, pointing

out that Wilber does not understand or ignores feminist

scholarship. What caught my eye immediately in Wilber’s attempt

to “balance” the duality between current patriarchal religions

and so called matriarchal religions of ancient times, thereby

supposedly balancing the transcendent and immanent concepts of

the sacred, were the claims that, 1) there were matriarchies and

2) that these matriarchies performed human sacrifice. Having

read much feminist theory and archeological sources, I wondered

how I could have missed this! Peggy Wright confirms that I did

not. Wright cites specific archeological evidence placing human

sacrifice within the patriarchal and transitional periods it

occurred (Rothberg & Kelly, 1998, p. 224-225), as well as

graciously using the correct term, “matrifocal,” to describe the

ancient cultures Wilber is unsubstantially calling matriarchies.

She also points out a few flaws in Wilber’s arguments,

particularly his conflation of heterarchy and heirarchy in terms

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of defining the power behind them. If Wilber is going to argue

that that holons interacting horizontally with each other are

subsumed by the holarchy that organizes them ultimately and then

go on to transfer this concept from the biological and realms of

physics, he must at least acknowledge the precise agency of human

power when transferring this schema to human social systems.

Wright says, “Value hierarchies can become oppressive when the

values of the circumscribed group are use to judge the values of

those who are not included in the defining group” (p. 214). This

we have seen over and over again. Wright then goes on to explain

that what may look like “regression in service of the ego” from

Wilber’s cultural bias may indeed be another way of knowing or a

healing by reclaiming of a state previous to one of Wilber’s more

advanced stages in order to correct current alienation (p. 218).

In this way Michael Zimmerman also critiques Wilber’s criticisms

of deep ecologists and pagan rituals by saying Wilber “should not

lump all such practitioners into an undifferentiated prepersonal

heap” and that according to the actual practitioners, Wilber may

be “depopulating the transpersonal levels” (p. 199). The

question seems to be whether the “noosphere” (sphere of human

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thought) rests within the biosphere or Gaia or the other way

around. In Wilber’s conception of evolution, the more complex

the more valuable therefore the realm of human consciousness

holds the biosphere. Others would claim they are both

heterarchally related and equally valuable.

Stan Grof, one of the leading theorists in the school of

transpersonal psychology, was one of the original people to

research non-ordinary states of consciousness created by LSD. He

claims that the altered states created by psychedelics are not

qualitatively different than those created by religious

experience and insists they are often of a transpersonal nature.

Grof charts the movement individuals have into four classes.

Claiming that is the first stage of non-ordinary experience one

must pass through a “barrier of the senses” that includes

brilliant colors, patterns and geometric shapes and relates to

the individual psyche, he goes on to say that the more

experienced the individual is using psychedelics the more likely

transpersonal experiences are to occur. After passing through

this first stage the individual may find him or herself working

in biographical material of the unconscious and thus,

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psychedelics can uncover the complexes of ego psychology. But

after this, often transpersonal experiences ensue. Grof states,

“transpersonal experiences can be defined as experiential

expansion or extension of consciousness beyond the usual

boundaries of the body-ego and beyond the limitations of time and

space “ (Grof, 1988, p. 38).

Grof also connects transpersonal experiences with what he

calls Basic Perinatal Birth Matrixes, the four stages of

biological birth. Because birth is such a life threatening

experience, like Otto Rank, he believes it shapes the individual

deeply. He also cites evidence from his clinical experience that

specific types of transpersonal experiences as well as

pathologies can be traced to these four stages of birth. Grof

believes the fetus is also connected to the divine ground of

being as well. He also criticizes Wilber for leaving this aspect

of the transpersonal out of his evolutionary conception of the

transpersonal. Grof claims that the very Tibetan Buddhism that

Wilber bases his theory of evolution (ascent) and involution

(decent) upon includes the Bardo states that the fetus

experiences (Rothberg & Kelly, 1998, p. 90).

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The Birth Matrixes are connected to what Grof calls COEXs or

“systems of condensed experience.” These are constellations of

emotional imprinting wherein systems of experience are stored in

the unconscious. This means that intense memories are not stored

individually but are bound up together and tend to reoccur. These

are themes of similar memories and “seem(s) to be superimposed

over and anchored in a particular aspect of the trauma of birth”

(Grof, 2000, p. 23). So there is a connection between the birth

matrixes, the biographical memories of the individual and the

type of pathologies or non-ordinary transpersonal states they may

experience. The transpersonal experiences may present themselves

as a “spiritual emergency” that would be classified as pathology

in ordinary Western psychology. Grof has mapped these

transpersonal crises in detail, as well as, traced various

specific types of “spiritual emergencies” to the four birth


What everyone agrees upon is that essential to any spiritual

practice, is a direct inner knowledge, and communion with the

sacred. In order for the sacred to be apprehended, altered

states of consciousness are often required as well as a “story”

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to explain the experience and integrate that story into the day

to day life of the practitioner. This story must be congruent to

the everyday experience of the individual in order for it to be

meaningful and it must also lead to transformation. The purpose

of any spiritual practice is to promote healing and well being in

the individual in relation to the sacred as well as internally.

Whether the sacred is perceived as immanent or transcendent, we

must agree that it is the largest containment (and by containment

I mean orientation and meaning) possible for the individual. Any

practice that promotes growth toward ultimate self-knowledge and

healing is therefore potentially a spiritual practice. “Indeed,

one interpretation of the term transpersonal is that the

transcendent is expressed through (trans) the personal” (Walsh &

Vaughn, 1993, p. 4).

Smith says, “Our cognitive maps serve as metaphors or models

of reality” (1997, p. 216). These cognitive maps are based on

not only cognitive assumptions that are garnered through the very

structure of language (Walsh & Vaughn, 1993, p. 18-19). However,

Moreno claims there are preverbal developmental experiences that

shape our reality as well. Unlike Goleman, who specifically

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claims language shapes our perceptions, Moreno believed there

were “language resistant portions of the human psyche” (Moreno,

2006, p. 226). This is why he insisted on an action therapy, to

tap into what the body knows.

Of course, Moreno understood that one’s cultural position

shapes our experience or “world map” as Smith would say, but the

core of Moreno’s “cosmology” (and I would call it that) is that

the individual emerges from the “cosmic all of the universe;” the

child thus first experiences him or herself as the “matrix of all

identity” (Moreno, 2006, p. 192). Moreno “concluded that the

organism of the child is driven by a hunger for action” and that

“a deeper reason for all this activity, [is] a need to re-

integrate himself with the cosmos, to become once again united

with it” (p. 191-192). Moreno called this “act hunger.” Moreno

seems to precede Ken Wilber’s explanation of the duality created

by the existential experience of Mind (Mind here is capitalized

as it is Wilber’s term for what others have called the ground of

being or the sacred) when he refers to the “cosmic shock” the

child experiences. Wilber is referring to an original duality

created by the existential awareness of the individual. Wilber

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thinks this dualism is an illusion but he claims that it creates

the concepts of self and other, knower and known, subject and

object and consequently space. In a similar manner, Moreno

states, “The child suffers one of the deepest existential shocks.

He becomes aware that he is not the total universe” (p. 192).

Like Otto Rank, Moreno believed the developmental stages of the

human being first reflected that “paradise lost,” that oneness

with the cosmos, in the struggle toward differentiation (p. 227).

Just as “Jung recommended turning to one’s own psyche,

going within to find a deep ordering mythic pattern to live by”

(Smith, 1997, p. 224), the “ritual” of psychodrama presents a

“technology” to do just this. We can see that Moreno’s cosmology

that we are “on loan” (Moreno, 2006, p. 191) from the cosmos

which is infinite creative energy that we must struggle from to

differentiate and then eventually return to (requiring a healing

balancing act in the interim) is akin to Jung’s claim of a

religious instinct. The personal “myths’ an individual develops

are a result of the roles he or she have been thrust into as well

a that individual’s perceptions of those roles and ultimately

these roles create his or her identity. “Moreno began to work on

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the premise that the problems of living are interpersonal and

intergroupal” (p. 176). So psychodrama deals with inter-personal

relations and private worlds.

We must ask for this healing as part of a community, as a

group. The creation of community is part of that healing because

we heal the same way we develop, socially. Our private worlds

are a personal mythology developed inter-personally. Moreno

found that each group member contributed to the healing by way of

what he called ‘tele’. Tele was Moreno’s word that described the

immediate unconscious attraction, repulsion or neutrality we feel

upon meeting another person.

One of the major foundations that psychodrama is built on is

“role theory.” It was Moreno’s idea that the “ego” or “self” did

not develop roles but indeed roles developed the ego or self.

Consequently, he developed a basic developmental role theory that

includes three basic types of roles. These are somatic role

(sleeper, eater, etc), socio-cultural roles (mother, sister,

police officer etc) and fantasy or psychodramatic roles that are

the specific ways a role is lived in the individual. This is

important because to Moreno, the role was an essential part not

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only of the individual but also of how individuals created

community. From this he developed his science of Sociometry, the

measurement individuals’ relationships to one another in groups.

In psychodrama we use tele to pinpoint the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of our

personal mythology. Jacob Moreno’s concept of “tele” as the

unseen glue that holds us together cannot truly be understood

without this understanding of roles. Tele is that bonding that

goes on between people in groups. It is a two way, almost

telepathic (and I would say transpersonal) connection that may

manifest as positive, negative or neutral on either side. The

Morenos claimed tele is the basic phenomenon of group cohesion

stating it explained more than transference or empathy, which are

individually, experienced subjective states only and therefore

not mutually true (Moreno, 2006, p. 223-236). These concepts are

the basis of Moreno’s sociometry, the study of small groups.

Sociometetric laws and tele are why psychodrama works; these are

also why healing transformation must take place within community.

In modernity, therapy has essentially replaced ritual.

Therapy has become the ritual of healing. Spontaneity and

creativity, freedom from reactive habitual behavior, are the

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goals of an authentically lived life. Historically, Moreno’s

first interest was creativity and spontaneity. He saw how our

roles could become rigid and outlive their usefulness as the

individual lost creativity and spontaneity. Zerka Moreno explains

how her husband saw the relationship between these and our loss

of them, as we got older and as a culture in this way:

He conceptualized that what is of essence in human

existence is the twin principle

of spontaneity and creativity. The end products of

these he called “cultural

conserves,” attempts to freeze creativity and

spontaneity of a past moment into a

concrete product” (2006, p. 223).

These roles and specifically the way we perceive and

experience our roles create the stories of our lives. John

Mosher has charted specific types of wounding in the

developmental process in his creation of his “healing circle

model” (Mosher, 2000) to describe core, mythic stories. Mosher

claims there are four basic mythologies that individuals

internalize in an attempt to compensate for trauma. These

Transpersonal Efforts Page 25

stories or themes relate directly to the period of development

the individual was traumatized or derailed in. For example, from

birth to six months old developmentally the child requires deep

nurturing that includes being held, mirrored and attuned too.

Mosher claims if the child does not get this, an abandonment

story or a “myth of lovelessness” develops. If a child does not

properly differentiate from about six months to two and a half

years old, a betrayal story or “myth of joylessness” develops.

Continuing around Mosher’s picture of the developmental circle,

trauma or humiliation from approximately two and half to three

and half years old results in a “mythology of powerlessness” and

trauma or derailment between three and a half and five years old,

as well a extreme trauma anytime in the early years of

development, results in a “mythology of mindlessness” or chaos

(Mosher, 2000, p. 164 – 165). One might notice that Mosher’s

model does reflect an objects-relations theory of personality but

he also relates his model to the Celtic wheel of the year and the

Native American Medicine Wheel.

The toxic stories, our personal mythology, we tell ourselves

come from old injunctions given to us in our early childhoods.

Transpersonal Efforts Page 26

They are not even merely verbal stories but preverbal spiritual,

emotional and physical events. Our brains, our very neural

pathways are shaped by these events that then create how we

perceive new information. At two years old our brains have more

neural pathways than at any other time in our lives. Those that

are not used finally atrophy. Those that are used become the

habitual neural pathways we use. As we grow older we continue to

tell ourselves toxic stories that we have learned from and though

these experiences.

The very stories we create are actually an attempt to heal.

For example, if I believe I am not ‘good enough’ perhaps if I try

harder I will be ‘good enough”. That, for example, would be an

expression of Mosher’s “myth of lovelessness” and the

accompanying belief that one must “earn” love. When this story

is prevalent the people may tend to be workaholic and not know

how to take care of themselves. Or if I believe abuse I received

was my fault somehow, perhaps I prevent more abuse if I am very

careful. Stories like this one create hyper vigilance and

distrust, Mosher would say specifically, in the case of the “myth

of mindlessness” (the mindlessness refers to the act of

Transpersonal Efforts Page 27

dissociation that occurs with extreme trauma). These are very

simple examples but they explain how and why we create these

toxic stories.

When these stories are created there is an accompanying

emotional state, an altered state of consciousness created by our

adrenal glands, our fight or flight system. We need to be in

another corresponding altered state, a certain type of emotional

arousal, to rewrite these stories we are unconsciously telling

ourselves. We can create the correct healing altered states with

various spiritual and therapeutic techniques. Because

psychodrama reflects ritual structure and creates the appropriate

emotional arousal, we can use psychodrama to rewrite the stories

we believe about ourselves that create our problems in living.

The structures of traditional earth based ritual and

psychodrama parallel each other. Ritual requires the creation of

sacred space to separate the participants from ordinary reality.

This in turn, creates the opportunity for an individual to access

the non-ordinary states of consciousness required to commune with

the sacred. Psychodrama requires the containment or holding and

witnessing of the group to enable the protagonist to “warm up” to

Transpersonal Efforts Page 28

the enactment. The enactment, with it’s catharses of abreaction

and catharsis of integration, can be seen as a communion with the

intrapsychic aspects of the individual’s soul, as well as the

interpersonal and sometimes the sacred as synchronistic events

often manifest in the environment. This enactment therefore, is

similar to the transformation that takes place in ritual work.

When the protagonist again joins the circle of the “audience” in

a psychodramatic group, sharing reintegrates him or her into the

“community” of participants. And that protagonist returns with

meaning comparable to that of the healing or important

information a ritual participant returns with to his or her

community. Beyond this, because the energetic nature of

psychodrama makes the protagonists healing available to the

auxiliary players and the audience as well, this has the

qualities of shamanic journeying. Both ritual and psychodrama

require intent, a community of participants that share a cultural

story, an intentionally created space and a qualified facilitator

whether this is a therapist or priestess, director or shaman.

The boundaries of roles, space and intent are clearly defined in

both instances as well. Traditionally, many earth-based

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religions use enactment within ritual to communicate the cultural

cosmology and the individual’s relationship to it. I feel that

using psychodrama and ritual in conjunction may enhance the

facilitation of integrating the biographical healing of the

psyche with the potentially transpersonal growth. Roger Walsh

believes that not having transpersonal experiences reflect the

soul sickness of not only the individual, but our society at

large (Walsh & Vaughn, 1993, p. 135). So do I.

Mosher also incorporates Stan Grof’s cartography as well as

other transpersonal theories into his form of shamanic

psychodrama. It is evident that Grof’s birth matrices and COEX’s

(system of condensed experience) fit Mosher’s personal

mythologies as well as Moreno’s classical format of psychodrama

respectively. Beyond this, within the classical formula of a

psychodrama, there are usually three scenes of enactment. In the

sense that the protagonist may begin to enact a drama reflecting

a current issue in his or her life, continue on to enact an

earlier event that included similar events and emotions, and then

enact a third scene that incorporates both or is a made up idea

event (this is known as Surplus Reality), psychodrama truly

Transpersonal Efforts Page 30

reflects Grof’s theory that each constellation of biographical

material is a system of condensed experience or COEX. In fact,

as if Grof was in dialog with Moreno, he states, “In deep

experiential psychotherapy, biographical material is not

remembered or reconstructed; it can actually be fully relived.

This involves not only emotions, but also physical sensations,

visual perceptions, as well as vivid data from all the other

senses” (Grof, 1988, p. 4).

In fact, Mosher’s Healing Circle model also charts the

internal competencies that must be gained to pass from one stage

of development to the next. The personal mythology that is

created by our personal trauma can be healed with ritual because

“Rituals manipulate our facility for altering consciousness”

(Mosher, 2000, p. 225). Mosher identifies the specific types of

rituals needed to heal an individual from trauma at each

threshold of development as well. Very concisely, Mosher names

these four specific types of rituals necessary for healing

development mental wounds Rites of Continuity, Rites of

Separation, Rites of Transformation and Rites of Incorporation.

Mosher says these developmental “crossings” that may have been

Transpersonal Efforts Page 31

stymied in the early years of life can be enacted with in

psychodrama as ritual and “each threshold crossings generates a

different kind of change of catharsis” (p. 232). I envision

using Mosher’s system to create rituals generated by the use of

psychodrama that reflect these four crossings.

Earth-based Neo Pagan Goddess ritual is particularly fitted

to evoke what Stan Grof classifies as transpersonal experiences

of the psychoidal nature. This is what Michael Harner would call

“middle world” work. It is what Grof calls ceremonial magic,

healing and hexing, as well as what Harner would classify as

psycho-pomp work (helping suffering souls of the dead pass over);

which can me seen as a type of mediumistic work. But this type

of Pagan ritual can also evoke shamanic experiences of animal

spirits, encounters with spirit guides, and especially

experiences of deities, often as universal archetypes. These

latter transpersonal experiences Grof classifies as “experiential

extension beyond consensus reality and space-time (Grof, 1988, p.

43). I would agree with Grof that the individual’s experience of

any of these reflect the Birth Matrix that effected that

individual the most. This is also known as the “sacred wound”

Transpersonal Efforts Page 32

and is where that individuals healing and power both reside.

Mosher would point to the specific time of developmental

derailment in the individual’s development in agreement with

Grof’s concept of the COEX connected to the Birth Matrix.

Traditional indigenous societies might say that the individual is

under the tutelage or “pulls to” a specific deity of their

cultural pantheon. I see all these explanations as coexisting.

What is missing in modernity is a cohesive cosmology to allow the

individual to go past the biographical results of this to the

direct transpersonal connection with these experiences and


In my magical system I have created a cosmology, or more

accurately have tuned in to one via transpersonal experiences of

Goddesses, animal spirits and mystical states of the multiplicity

in unity type. What started as startling spontaneous experiences

and LSD-induced experiences resulted in my research. Continuing

practice of ritual that I developed as a result of the research

has resulted in further revelatory experiences directly from

animal spirit guides and Goddesses. I have found this very

healing and helpful to others as well. Rather than being

Transpersonal Efforts Page 33

“regression,” I have found this promoting my own personal growth

and I have witnessed this in others. Where Grof sees the

reliving of the birth trauma as healing as it gives insight on

the biographical level as well as opens one to the transpersonal

level of experience, Mosher sees reenacting the trauma around

derailment, as doing the same. While Mosher ritualizes

psychodrama, I would add the element of formal “ceremonial magic”

or earth based ritual in order to integrate the biographical

healing with transpersonal growth on a conscious and intentional


Incorporating all of the above, I have developed Goddess

rituals that include the techniques of invoking sacred space,

then drumming, rattling, chanting and intentionally invoking

various Goddesses to guide women in their journeys. All of these

create non-ordinary states of consciousness in the participants.

The rituals may include magical workings or spells intended to

facilitate specific healing as well. These spells are indeed

communion or like a prayer, communication with the specific

Goddess being invoked. Specifically, I have developed rituals

around grief and loss wherein we call the Goddesses Hecate and

Transpersonal Efforts Page 34

Persephone (these relate to Mosher’s mythologies of lovelessness

and joylessness), rituals of empowerment when we call the Goddess

Diana (these relate to Mosher’s mythology of powerlessness), and

rituals of healing, that invoke the Goddess Isis, and may include

soul retrieval (this type of ritual relates to Mosher’s mythology

of mindlessness). Looking at Mosher’s Healing Circle Model, we

can see that developmentally, these would be called Rites of

Apotheosis, Rites of Separation, Rites of Transformation and

Rites of Incorporation, respectively (Mosher, 2000, p. 230-231).

We take these wounds of our biographical, egoic experience

of life to the sacred and in doing so begin to have experiences

that generate a transpersonal understanding of our role in the

cosmos. This kind of understanding, in turn, promotes not only

psychological healing, but also more transpersonal awareness and

growth of our spirituality. In this way we reclaim and heal the

ego while experiencing the transpersonal. But using psychodrama

to clarify the precise issues and wound we would take to Goddess,

we can integrate more and open to theophanies that ritual can

ingenerate. Because ritual process is connected to the cycles of

Transpersonal Efforts Page 35

the earth, it becomes a way of life that generates even more

growth toward consistent spiritual fulfillment in life.

Using psychodrama and ritual together creates both a

spiritual practice and a therapeutic modality. I envision

psycho-spiritual educational workshops that revolve around these

themes of personal and mythic stories. Ongoing practice would

include groups (traditionally called covens) meeting on the full

and dark moons as well as the solstices and equinoxes and the

cross quarter points between them in a traditional manner. By

doing this we connect the personal to the spiritual within the

cosmos, thereby strengthening our healing cosmology, that big

story we are all a part of. In this way, we can reclaim that

split that has alienated modern Western culture and our psyches

from the sacred that has resulted in limiting our perceptions of

our human potential.

Transpersonal Efforts Page 36


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