Reflections on other modalities of consciousness
By Paul Kieniewicz
Looking ahead to Chris Bache’s upcoming book, Diamonds from Heaven (see link to interview), I decided to read his classic, Dark night Early Dawn. This is a book about other modalities of consciousness than those we typically experience in our daily lives. What makes the book so interesting is that it is based not on literature, or anecdotes derived second or third hand, but represents the author’s personal journey. It is based strictly on what he saw and experienced with an expanded consciousness.
Whereas Bache, as Stanislav Grof whom he often references, experienced the altered states as a result of taking LSD, he is quite clear that he does not recommend that road to his readers. There are many ways to enter into an altered state and to explore the worlds accessible in such a state, other than by taking a drug. The latter provides more rapid and intense results, but often can be likened to trying to drink from a fire hydrant, and carries with it significant psychic risks. Unless such a journey is undertaken with great seriousness, discipline, in the spirit of research, the traveler is unlikely to find out very much. Not much more than what recreational users experiences. Colin Wilson once remarked that the drug is more like a flash of lightning that shows a new landscape. What is important is not the lightning, but what you see when the landscape is lit up.
There are many books out there on altered states. What makes this book unique is that the author recognizes two types of visions — the beatific and the infernal. Some visions are of beautiful angels and presences, others are of tortured souls, fire and sulphur. Each type is important and needs to be seen as valid. There is a tendency in our culture today, particularly among those writing about NDE’s, to focus on the positive, life-affirming visions. Yet as Bache correctly points out, a minority of NDE experiences can be very frightening. Mystics such as St. Teresa of Avilla, St John of the Cross and Sister Faustina often experienced horrific visions, what LSD users in the 1960s would call, “bad trips”. Carl Jung describes many dark visions in his Red Book. Christian mystics thought they were looking at hell, but were they? What did those infernal scenes mean?
Another important contribution in Bache’s book is also his recognition of the human collective as a source for many of his visions. We often think that we are alone, that our insights, inspirations or fears are somehow ours. Bache suggests that we are inescapably part of a collective. The inspiration or fear that we experience today may be no more ours than the Earth we stand on. As the movie, Cloud Atlas puts it, Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others. James Hillman also asked the question, Am I sick because the world is making me sick? Is the bad karma that I experience my own, or is it the collective karma of humanity?
Bache suggests that the infernal visions are related to what is currently going on in the human collective. We are talking about hundreds of years of pain, suffering, torture, wars, and deprivation. It all has to reside somewhere. More, it is not a passive force but has great energy, the potential to disrupt human consciousness, to break out in damaging ways. Create wars. Some of its manifestations may be in troublesome social and political movements today, but those are more likely minor effects of the storm that is to come.
Is Bache’s vision fundamentally pessimistic? The short term is not likely to be something we can look forward to joyfully. But what afterwards? The darkness, the dark night is a stage that precedes the dawn. In a person’s spiritual journey, it is the painful purification that one must pass through before there can be a transformation. And so it is with the human collective. We are passing through a painful birth experience.
Where we are now, the Buddhist world of pain, of samsara is where we need to be, because the higher worlds cannot manifest anywhere else. This is why those who experience blissful visions during NDEs have to return to Earth. The work is to be done not out there in spiritual worlds. He writes,
One of the pivotal discoveries that many people make in this work is the realization that these bliss-soaked, light filled, God-intoxicated dimensions of being that initially appear to surround space-time waiting for us to find them are relentlessly trying to penetrate space-time. They are the matrix, the Cosmic Womb that has given birth to this realm, that holds it in existence moment by moment, and that is constantly working to saturate it in ever greater measure… After the joy of reunion subsides, one sees more clearly that the task is not escape but just the opposite, greater Presence. Our individual and collective goal is to draw the Divine Impulse ever more completely into physical incarnation.
Do we take Bache’s word for it? Back in the 1960s, while at university, I was interested in Aldous Huxley’s LSD journey while at university. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to source the drug for my own experiments. Despite my incompetence in that area, I took up meditation and began to experience altered states in my own way. Subsequently I lost interest in trying out psychedelics. Upon reading Bache’s book, I saw enough correspondence between his visions and my own explorations to convince me that he is writing about something real. However I don’t expect anyone to take my word for it either. Anyone interested in those worlds must find out the truth for themselves.