Grof's Basic Perinatal Matricies have been suggested to correlate to your socionic quadras. Here is some random information for your collective enjoyment:
BPM I - Alpha
BPM II - Beta
BPM III - Gamma
BPM IV - Delta
Intro and Summary
BPM I - Alpha QuadraIn summary, we have:
( I ) euphoric, oceanic, blissful feelings, sometimes feelings of being poisoned or being in a toxic or polluted environment;
( II ) followed by crushing, no-exit, depression, claustrophobia, compression, strangulation, suffocation, and being force-fed by a poisonous placenta;
( III ) followed by struggle, violence, war scenarios, birth/death fantasies, sexual excess;
( IV ) and finally release, triumph, feeling of renewal or rebirth and a new golden age, but also possibly of being abandoned, tortured, ritually sacrificed, probed medically, and assaulted by sensations.
These are some of the elements that characterize the experience of the perinatal unconscious.
Grof’s Basic Perinatal Matrix I, or BPM I, involves the experiences and feelings related to the sometimes, or at least relatively, undisturbed prenatal period—that time in the womb sometimes characterized by feelings of peace, complete relaxation, a feeling of all needs met, or "oceanic bliss." Since the time in the womb may also be disturbed by toxic substances that the mother ingests—drugs, chemical additives, and so on—as well as by disturbing emotions that the mother experiences, which release stress hormones into the mother’s bloodstream, which then cross the placental barrier and affect the fetus, BPM I is also sometimes characterized as feelings of being surrounded by a polluted environment and being forced to ingest noxious substances, toxins, and poisons, which sickens the fetus.
In Grof’s schema, BPM I is followed by BPM II, which are experiences and feelings related to the time of "no exit" and claustrophobic-like feelings occurring to nearly all humans in the late stages of pregnancy and especially with the onset of labor, when the cervix is not yet dilated. Since there does not seem to be any "light at the end of the tunnel"—metaphorically speaking—it is characterized by feelings of depression, guilt, despair, and blame, and a characterization of oneself as being in the position of "the victim." It is very much like deMause’s period of collective feelings of entrapment, strangulation, suffocation, and poisonous placenta, which he has found to precede the actual outbreak of war or other violence.3
This of course is followed by BPM III, which involves feelings and experiences of all-encompassing struggle and is related to the time of one’s actual birth. Characterized also by intense feelings of aggression and sexual excess—in the position, now, of "the aggressor"—it is related directly, in deMause’s schema, to the time of the actual period of warring.
BPM IV follows this; it corresponds to the time of emergence from the womb during the birth process and is characterized by feelings of victory, release, exultation, but also sometimes, after that initial relief, of depression—when the struggle does not bring the expected rewards, as when, during modern obstetrical births, the neonate is harshly treated and then taken away from the mother, disallowing the bonding which should occur, naturally, immediately after birth.
BPM II - Beta QuadraFIRST BASIC PERINATAL MATRIX (BPM I): THE AMNIOTIC UNIVERSE
The biological basis of this matrix is the original symbiotic unity of the fetus with the maternal organism at the time of the prenatal intrauterine existence. During episodes of undisturbed life in the womb, the conditions of the fetus can be close to ideal. However, a variety of factors of physical, chemical, biological, and psychological nature can seriously interfere with this state. Also, during later stages of pregnancy the situation might become less favorable because of the size of the child, increasing mechanical constraint, and the relative insufficiency of the placenta.
Perinatal experiences can be relived in a concrete biological form or in combination with a variety of symbolic images and other phenomena with which they are connected. The relationship between the individual stages of birth and the associated themes is quite specific and selective and reflects deep experiential logic. Identification with the fetus in various stages of the birth process seems to provide selective access to themes in the transpersonal domain that involve similar emotional states and psychosomatic experiences. Some of these themes have the form of archetypal sequences; others depict situations from the collective memory banks of humanity, or even from the holographic archives of nature related to the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms.
Thus, the elements of the undisturbed intrauterine state can be accompanied by, or alternate with, experiences that share with it the lack of boundaries and obstructions. Here belong deep experiental identification with the ocean or various aquatic life forms (algae, kelp, anemone, jellyfish, fish, dolphin, or whale) or with the cosmos, interstellar space, galaxy, or with an astronaut floating in weightless condition in cosmic space or in an orbiting spaceship. Also images of nature at its best, which is beautiful, safe, and unconditionally nourishing (Mother Nature), represent characteristic and quite logical concomitants of the blissful fetal state.
Archetypal themes from the collective unconscious that can be accessed in this context involve heavens and paradises of different cultures of the world. This seems to make deep sense, since archetypal descriptions of heavens often refer to vast open spaces, sky, radiant celestial bodies such as the sun or stars, and other elements and characteristics of the astronomical cosmos. Similarly, the images of paradise in different cultures reflect nature at its best, with descriptions of beautiful flowers, luscious fruits, exotic birds, the luster of gold, silver and precious stones, and streams or fountains of the water of life.
All the above experiences have a very strong numinous aspect. However, the extreme expression of the sacred and spiritual quality of BPM I is the experience of cosmic unity and unio mystica. This is characterized by transcendence of time and space, overwhelmingly strong ecstatic feelings (Apollonian or oceanic ecstasy), a sense of unity of all existence with no boundaries, and deep reverence and love for all creation.
The disturbances of intrauterine life are associated with images and experiences of underwater dangers, polluted streams, lakes, or oceans, and contaminated or otherwise inhospitable nature, such as toxic soil and mud after volcanic eruptions, industrial dumps and junkyards, deserts and wastelands. These are appropriate images, considering the fact that most intrauterine disturbances involve toxic placentary influences or insufficient nourishment. More violent interferences, such as an imminent miscarriage or attempted abortion, are experienced as some form of a universal threat or are associated with bloody apocalpytic visions of the end of the world. Equally as common as the above imagery is identification with soldiers exposed to chemical warfare, prisoners dying in the gas chambers of the Nazi concentration camps, and persons or animals who have been poisoned. The most common concomitant archetypal images involve various insidious demons, evil metaphysical forces, and malefic astral influences experienced in the mythological framework of various cultures of the world. In the context of such experiences, the mystical dissolution of boundaries characteristic of blissful fetal episodes is replaced by psychotic distortion and disintegration of all familiar and reliable structures, accompanied by terror and paranoia.
Positive aspects of the first perinatal matrix are closely related to memories of the symbiotic union with mother on the breast, to positive COEX systems, and to recollections of situations associated with relaxation, satisfaction, security, peace of mind, and beautiful natural scenery, and exquisite artistic creations. Similar selective connections exist also to various forms of positive transpersonal experiences with related themes. Conversely, negative aspects of BPM I tend to associate with certain negative COEX systems and with corresponding negative transpersonal matrices.
With regard to the Freudian erogenous zones, the positive aspects of BPM I coincide with the biological and psychological condition in which there exist no tensions in any of these areas and in which all the partial drives are satisfied. Negative aspects of BPM I seem to have specific links to nausea, dyspepsia, and intestinal dysfunction.
I will illustrate the dynamics of the individual perinatal matrices with examples from the records of my own psychedelic training sessions. The following is an excerpt from a high-dose LSD experience (300 micrograms) that was influenced primarily by BPM I. We have observed many similar experiences in sessions of holotropic breathing.
I felt the need to curl up and had a sense of getting progressively smaller. I was floating in a luminescent liquid surrounded by some translucent gossamer veils. It was easy to identify this state as a deep regression, a return into fetal existence. A subtle, but profound feeling of bliss and imperturbable peace - "peace that passeth all understanding" - was filling my entire being. My state involved a strange paradox: I was becoming smaller and smaller, shrinking into absolute nothingness, and yet it seemed that I had no boundaries and was reaching into infinity.
My fantasy playfully offered the idea that I was a graceful jellyfish, leisurely floating in the ocean, propelled by gentle squirts of water. This initially tentative, almost dreamlike, identification became gradually more and more real. I had very primitive phylogenetic sensations that were extremely convincing and experienced a variety of strange processes that had nothing to do with ordinary human experience. This slowly changed into equally convincing identification with various kinds of fish, sea horses, anemones, and even kelp, all which were authentic and astonishing in biological detail.
But underlying all these experiences was an overarching feeling of being a fetus floating in the amniotic sac and connected with the maternal organism by the umbilical cord and the placentary circulation. I was aware of a complex and rich exchange between us that was partly biochemical and physiological, partly emotional and even telepathic. At one point the theme of blood as a sacred life-giving substance dominated my experience. I was aware of the placentary connection with my mother and clearly sensed the flow of blood through the arterial and venous circuits, the passage of oxygen and nourishment, and the disposal of metabolic products. This was interspersed with various archetypal, mythological themes focused on the significance of blood and its numinous properties. With a subtle shift of emphasis, I could also connect with a more superficial aspect of the same experience - an authentic identification with a nursing infant, where the sacred nourishing substance was milk.
Occasionally, the positive experiences were interrupted by waves of strong physical and emotional discomfort and a sense of some mysterious undefined threat. This condition seemed to have a definite chemical component - I felt sick, nauseated, intoxicated, poisoned. A horrible taste in my mouth made me want to vomit. At the same time I felt possessed or overtaken by some dark metaphysical forces. When these episodes of demonic assault subsided, my experiential field cleared and I returned to deep oceanic bliss. I concluded that this must have been reliving of situations when the intrauterine conditions were disturbed by some adverse events in the maternal organism.
As the experience was subsiding, the oceanic milieu changed into vast interstellar space. I felt like an astronaut floating in the immense cosmic ocean without boundaries, connected by a life-supporting pipeline to the "mother ship," while simultaneously maintaining identification with a fetus. The star-filled universe with its distinct Milky Way and its millions of galaxies gave me a sense of tranquillity and equanimity that I had never imagined were possible. Its immensity and timelessness made events of any kind and scope appear to be insignificant ripples. As the session was coming to an end, the experience focused on the earth, yet its timeless quality continued in a somewhat different form. Like a gigantic statue of Buddha that cannot be moved by the turmoil and chaos of human life in repeated cycles of death and rebirth, I became a sequoia tree witnessing unperturbed the passage of time throughout millennia. And as if to emphasize that size is of no import in the world of consciousness, the experience transformed me into a tiny bristle-cone pine in the high Sierra mountains whose existence also bridges thousands of years.
Returning to my normal consciousness, I was filled with gratitude for the miracle of life and the gifts of nature. I saw many images of "Mother Earth" nourishing all her children - green luscious pastures, fields of ripening wheat and corn, orchards abounding in fruits, agricultural terraces of the Peruvian Andes, the life-giving valley of the Nile, and the earthly paradise of the Polynesian islands.
The biological basis of this matrix is the experience of the original symbiotic unity of the fetus with the [mother].... Archetypal images from the collective unconscious that can be selectively reached in this state involve the heavens or paradises of different cultures of the world. The experience of the first matrix also involves elements of cosmic unity or mystical union.
The First Perinatal Matrix: The Amniotic Universe
Grof uses interesting subtitles that are extremely descriptive about what these perinatal matrices are. The main title of this section is call "The First Basic Perinatal Matrix (BPM1): The Amniotic Universe". This matrix has to do with life in the womb as a fetus. This is a time of life that is ideally undisturbed by the outside world where all of your needs are met. Ideally, a fetus, sitting in an amniotic sack inside the mother’s womb is a time of pure being for each individual. Grof does note however that other factors can come in to disturb this time that include unwanted chemicals and toxins as well as an unpreferred emotional state of the mother.
Experiences in this realm include both direct recollections of being in the womb "or in combination with symbolic experiences and other phenomena in which they are connected". Because of the fetus’s intimate connection with her mother, most of the experiences from BPM I deal with a "lack of boundaries and obstructions".
Grof states that many of the visualizations have to deal with oceanic life including animals such as jellyfish, algae, kelp, fish, dolphins or whales. These images are rich with symbolic parallels to a fetus floating in an amniotic sack inside what must be the vast ocean of her mother (the jellyfish is a particularly interesting picture of this for me). The text also references life undisturbed in the cosmos or the picture of an astronaut (tied to the spaceship) floating in space. The images here can find deeper meaning into the collective unconscious in dealing with themes of heaven and paradise. In this context, it would seem then that our image of heaven, Eden or our ideal of life is a direct result of our womb experience.
This view of life then can also be interfered with by many events that may take place as a result of an unpreferred womb experience. Polluted streams or toxic air may represent a toxic situation that may develop as a result of the latter parts of pregnancy. Apocalyptic visions may represent eminent threat to a fetus that an imminent miscarriage or attempted abortion might precipitate.
Entrance into BPM I then is an opportunity to heal the basic outlook of what life is or can be by allowing the client the opportunity to remember what ideal life was, or to rectify an unpreferred womb experience.
BPM III - Gamma QuadraSECOND BASIC PERINATAL Matrix (BPM II): COSMIC ENGULFMENT AND NO EXIT
This experiential pattern is related to the onset of biological delivery and to its first clinical stage. Here the original harmony and equilibrium of the fetal existence is disturbed, first by alarming chemical signals and later by mechanical contractions of the uterus. With this stage fully developed, the fetus is periodically constricted by uterine spasms. At this point, the system is entirely closed; the cervix is not dilated and the way out is not yet available. Since the arteries supplying the placenta follow a winding course through the complex spiral, circular and longitudinal fabric of the uterine musculature, each contraction restricts the supply of blood and thus oxygen, nourishment, and warmth to the fetus.
Concrete memories of the threat that the onset of the delivery represents for the fetus have their symbolic concomitant in the experience of cosmic engulfment. This involves overwhelming feelings of increasing anxiety and the awareness of an imminent vital danger. The source of this danger cannot be clearly identified and the subject has a tendency to interpret the world in paranoid terms. This can result in a convinced sense of being poisoned, influenced by hypnosis or by a diabolic machine, possessed by a demonic force, or attacked by extraterrestrials.
Characteristic of this situation is the experience of a three- dimensional spiral, funnel, or whirlpool sucking the subject relentlessly toward its center. A closely related equivalent to this annihilating maelstrom is the experience of being swallowed by a terrifying monster, such as a giant dragon, leviathan, python, crocodile, or whale. Equally frequent in this context are experiences of attack by a monstrous octopus or tarantula. A less dramatic version of the same experience is the theme of descent into a dangerous underworld, realm of the dead, system of dark grottoes, or mystifying labyrinth. Corresponding mythological themes are the beginning of the hero's journey, the fall of the angels, and paradise lost.
Some of these images might appear strange to the analytical mind; however, they show deep experiential logic. Thus the whirlpool represents a serious danger to an organism enjoying free floating in a watery environment and imposes on it a dangerous unidirectional motion. Similarly, the situation of being swallowed changes freedom into a life-threatening confinement comparable to the situation of a fetus wedged into the pelvic opening. An octopus entangles, confines, and threatens organisms living in the oceanic milieu. A spider traps and restricts insects who previously flew freely in an unobstructed world and seriously endangers their life.
The symbolic counterpart of a fully developed first clinical stage of delivery is the experience of no exit or hell. It involves a sense of being stuck, encaged, or trapped in a claustrophobic, nightmarish world and an experience of incredible psychological and physical tortures. The situation is typically unbearable and appears to be endless and hopeless. The individual loses the sense of linear time and cannot see the possibility of an end to this torment or any form of active escape from it.
This can be associated with experiential identification with prisoners in dungeons or concentration camps, inmates of insane asylums, sinners in hell, or archetypal figures, such as Ahasuerus the wandering Jew, the Flying Dutchman, Sisyphus, Ixion, Tantalus, or Prometheus. Quite frequent also are images and experiences of people and animals dying lonely deaths of starvation or in in hospitable natural settings, such as deserts and the freezing cold of Siberia or of the arctic ice. The logic of these themes reflects the fact that the contractions of the uterus cut off the placentary blood supply for the fetus, which represents not only meaningful connection with the world and human contact, but also the source of nourishment and warmth.
While under the influence of this matrix, the subject is also selectively blinded for anything positive in the world and in his or her life. Agonizing feelings of metaphysical loneliness, helplessness, hopelessness, inferiority, inadequacy, existential despair, and guilt are standard constituents of this state of consciousness. Through the prism of this matrix, human life appears as an absolutely meaningless Theater of the Absurd, as a farce staging cardboard characters and mindless robots, or as a cruel circus sideshow.
As far as the organizing function of BPM II is concerned, it attracts and is connected with COEX systems which involve situations of a passive and helpless victim subjected to an overwhelming destructive force without a chance of escaping. It also has affinity to transpersonal themes with similar qualities.
With regard to the Freudian erogenous zones, this matrix seems to be related to conditions that involve unpleasant tension, pain, and frustration. On the oral level, it is hunger, thirst, nausea and painful stimuli; on the anal level, retention of feces; and on the urethral level, retention of urine. The corresponding sensations on the genital level are sexual frustration and the pains experienced by delivering women in the first clinical stage of labor.
The following account of my psychedelic session with 300 micrograms of LSD is a typical illustration of an experience governed predominantly by BPM II, with a few initial themes bridging the biographical and perinatal levels and with elements of BPM IV in the terminal phase. The experiences characterizing the second matrix are separated in the text by brackets.
The session started on an optimistic note about forty minutes after the ingestion of the drug. I felt that I was rapidly regressing into the carefree world of a satisfied infant. My physical feelings, emotions, and perceptions were extremely primitive and authentically infantile; this was associated with automatic sucking movements of my lips, profuse salivation, and occasional burping.
This was periodically interrupted by visions depicting various aspects of the hectic and driven life of an average adult, full of tension, conflict, and pain. As I compared these with the paradisiacal state of an infant, I suddenly connected with the deep craving that we all have to return to this primal condition of infantile happiness. I saw the image of the Pope with a bejewelled cross and an ornate ring with a large gem on his hand; masses of people looked up to him full of great expectation. This was followed by visions of countless thousands of Moslems surrounding the Kaaba in Mecca with the same sense of deep longing. And then anonymous crowds with red banners looked up to gigantic images of Communist leaders during a parade in Moscow's Red Square and millions of Chinese worshipped Chairman Mao. I felt strongly that the driving force behind such great religious and social movements was the need to reenact the state of fulfillment and satisfaction experienced in early infancy.
As the effect of the drug increased, I suddenly felt an onslaught of panic anxiety. Everything became dark, oppressive, and threatening; the entire world seemed to be closing in on me. The images of the everyday misery that had previously appeared as contrasts to the problem-free world of the infant became overwhelming and unrelenting. They portrayed the absolute hopelessness of human existence, fraught with suffering from birth till death. At that point, I understood existential philosophers and authors of the Theater of the Absurd. THEY KNEW! Human life is absurd, monstrous, and utterly futile; it is a meaningless farce and a cruel joke played on humanity. We are born in suffering, we suffer throughout life, and we die suffering. I felt I was in touch simultaneously with the pain of birth and with the agony of dying. They merged for me into an inextricable amalgam. This led to a truly horrifying realization: Human life ends in an experience that is similar to the one in which it began. The rest is just a matter of time -- waiting for Godot! Was this what the Buddha was so clearly aware of?
It seemed essential to me to find some meaning in life to counteract this devastating insight; there had to be something! But the experience was mercilessly and systematically destroying all my efforts. Every image I was able to conjure up to demonstrate there was meaning in human life was immediately followed by its negation and ridicule. The ancient Creek ideal of a brilliant mind in a beautiful body did not last very long. The physical shrines of the most enthusiastic and persistent body builders end in the same senile marasmus to be eventually destroyed by death like all the others. The knowledge accumulated in thousands of hours of voracious study is partially forgotten and partially falls prey to the organic degeneration of the brain that comes with old age. I had seen individuals known for great intellectual accomplishments who in senility had to struggle with the simplest and most trivial tasks of everyday life. And the death of the body and the brain brings the final and complete annihilation of all the knowledge stored by the efforts of a lifetime. What about having children -- is that not a noble and meaningful goal? But the images of beautiful smiling children were immediately replaced by scenes showing them growing, getting older, and ultimately dying, too. One cannot give meaning to one's life by producing offspring whose lives are as meaningless as one's own.
The images of absurdity and futility of human life eventually became unbearable. The world appeared to be full of pain, suffering, and death. Either I was selectively blinded to any positive aspects of existence, or there simply were not any. There were only incurable diseases, of which life was one, insanity, cruelties of all kinds, crime and violence, wars, revolutions, prisons, and concentration camps. How was it possible that I did not see all this before? To find anything positive in life, one must wear distorting rosy glasses and play a game of perpetual self-deception! it seemed that now my glasses had been broken, and I would never be able to fool myself again as I did before.
I felt caught in a vicious circle of unbearable emotional and physical suffering that would last forever. There was no way out of this nightmarish world. It seemed clear that not even death, spontaneous or by suicide, could save me from it. THIS WAS HELL! Several times, the experience actually took the form of archetypal images of infernal landscapes. However, I was gradually becoming aware that in all this gloomy philosophical perspective on life, there seemed to be a dimension that I previously had not noticed. My entire body felt mechanically squeezed and compressed and the maximum of this pressure was around my forehead. I realized that all this was somehow related to reliving of the memory of my biological birth, of the agonizing experience of the confinement in the birth canal.
If that was the case, maybe there was a way out, maybe the situation only seemed to be hopeless, as it must have appeared to the struggling infant. Maybe the task was to complete the reliving of birth by an experience of emerging into the world. However, for a long time period that seemed like eternity, I was uncertain that this completion would actually happen, since it would require finding meaning in life. That clearly appeared to be an impossible task and if that was a necessary condition for liberation from this hellish situation, there was not much hope.
Suddenly, without warning, the pressure was magically lifted in one single instant, and I was released from the clutches of the infernal birth canal. I felt flooded with light and indescribable joy and connected in a new way to the world and to the flow of life. Everything seemed fresh and sparkling, exploding into brilliant colors, as in the best of van Gogh's paintings. I sensed a healthy appetite; a glass of milk, a simple sandwich, and some fruit tasted like the nectar and ambrosia of the Olympian gods.
Later, I was able to review the experience in my mind and formulate for myself the great lessons about life I had learned. Deep religious and utopian craving in human beings does not reflect only the need for the simple happiness of the infant as I had seen it early in the session, but also the urgency to escape from the nightmarish memories of the trauma of birth into postnatal freedom and the oceanic bliss of the womb. And even that was only the surface. Behind all biologically determined needs there was also clearly a genuine craving for transcendence that could not be reduced to any simple formula of natural sciences.
I understood that the lack of fulfillment in human life results from the fact that we have not come to terms with the trauma of birth and with the fear of death. We have been born only anatomically and have really not completed and integrated this process psychologically. Questions about meaning of life are symptomatic of this situation. Since life is cyclical and includes death, it is impossible to find meaning in it using reason and logic. One must be tuned into the flow of the life energy and enjoy one's existence; then the value of life is self-evident. And I felt after this experience like a surfer riding with great joy the wave of life.
This experiential pattern is related to the very onset of biological delivery....the original equilibrium of the intrauterine existence is disturbed....Very characteristic for this stage is the experience of a three-dimensional spiral, funnel, or whirlpool, sucking the subject relentlessly towards its center....The corresponding mythological theme seems to be the beginning of the hero's journey....Agonizing feelings of metaphysical loneliness, helplessness, inferiority, existential despair, and guilt are standard constituents of this matrix.
Second Basic Perinatal Matrix (BPM 2): Cosmic Englufment and No Exit
This is the experience of the beginning of birth. The undisturbed and serene existence of the fetus in the womb is now disturbed by the physical processes of the mother when birth is about to begin. First by "chemical changes in the environment and later by contractions of the uterus". Grof is descriptive about the situation the fetus is now faced with. "With this stage fully developed, the fetus is periodically constricted by uterine spasms. At this point, the system is entirely closed; the cervix is not yet dilated and the way out is not yet available...each contraction restricts the supply of blood and thus oxygen, nourishment and warmth to the fetus" (p.15). The scenario describes the "amniotic universe" has now closed in on the fetus. It appears much like the description of the "big-bang theory" where the cosmos (just before their creation) were compressed into a small minuscule point just before it’s eruption.
This constriction is described in sessions as danger that is unidentifiable or seeing the world in paranoid terms. Grof states that this results in a person who believes himself to be taken over by aliens or somehow possessed by a demonic force. Some of the more interesting of the experiences include being swallowed up by a giant dragon, python or whale, or being attacked by a tarantula. All of these are interesting symbolic images of being "swallowed up" or constricted by the uterus.
Physical and emotional feelings can also be an interesting part of this experience including claustrophobia, entrapment, or a feeling of being trapped in hell.
Experiences in BPM II can be important in healing the feelings of victimization or helplessness that many people feel in their life circumstances. This particular birth experience reminds me of situations in my own life where things are going really well, almost ideally (BPM I stage). Then for no apparent reason, I begin to worry about things that may end these events (BPM II). A healing at this experiential stage could assist an individual in living with what is right in front of them as opposed to worrying about possible upcoming problems. I imagine that a healing here for me will allow me to truly enjoy and appreciate the present moment.
BPM IV - Delta QuadraTHIRD BASIC PERINATAL MATRIX (BPM III): THE DEATH-REBIRTH STRUGGLE
Many important aspects of this complex experiential matrix can be understood from its association with the second clinical stage of childbirth. In this stage, the uterine contractions continue, but, unlike in the previous stage, the cervix is now dilated and allows gradual propulsion of the fetus through the birth canal. This involves an enormous struggle for survival, crushing mechanical pressures, and often a high degree of anoxia and suffocation.
I have already mentioned that, because of the anatomical conditions, each uterine contraction restricts the blood supply to the fetus. In this stage of delivery, many complications can further reduce the circulation and cause suffocation. The umbilical cord can be squeezed between the head and the pelvic opening or be twisted around the neck. A cord that is short anatomically or shortened by forming loops around various parts of the body can pull on the placenta and detach it from the uterine wall. This disrupts the connection with the maternal organism and can cause a dangerous degree of suffocation. When the delivery culminates, the fetus can experience intimate contact with various forms of biological material; in addition to fetal liquid, this includes blood, mucus, urine, and even feces.
From the phenomenological point of view, BPM III is an extremely rich and complex experiential pattern. In regressive therapy, it takes the form of a determined death-rebirth struggle. Beside actual realistic reliving of different aspects of the struggle in the birth canal, it involves a wide variety of archetypal and other phenomena which occur in typical thematic clusters and sequences. The most important of these are the elements of titanic fight, sadomasochistic experiences, intense sexual arousal, demonic episodes, scatological involvement, and encounter with fire. All these aspects and facets of BPM III again reflect deep experiential logic and can be meaningfully related to certain anatomical, physiological, and emotional characteristics of the corresponding stage of birth.
The titanic aspect is quite understandable in view of the enormity of the forces encountered in this stage of the childbirth. At this time, the frail head of the fetus is wedged into the narrow pelvic opening by the power of uterine contractions that oscillates between fifty and one hundred pounds. The subject facing this aspect of BPM III can experience overwhelming streams of energy building up to explosive discharges. One of the characteristic forms that this experience can take is identification with raging elements of nature, such as volcanoes, electric storms, earthquakes, tidal waves, or tornadoes. Another variety of this experiential pattern involves scenes of wars or revolutions and enormous energies generated by high power technology - thermonuclear reactors, atomic bombs, tanks, spaceships, rockets, lasers, and electric power plants.
A mitigated form of the titanic experience includes participation in dangerous adventures, such as hunting of wild animals or physical fight with them, gladiator combats, exciting explorations, and conquest of new frontiers. Related archetypal and mythological themes are images of the Last Judgment, Purgatory, extraordinary feats of superheroes, and battles of cosmic proportions involving the forces of Light and Darkness or Gods and Titans.
Aggressive and sadomasochistic aspects of this matrix reflect the biological fury of the organism whose survival is threatened by suffocation combined with the introjected destructive forces of the birth canal. From this association, it is clear why sadism and masochism form a logical unit, sadomasochism, being two aspects of the same experiential process, two sides of the same coin. Frequent themes occurring in this context are scenes of violent murder and suicide, mutilation and automutilation, torture, execution, ritual sacrifice and self-sacrifice, bloody man-to-man combats, boxing, freestyle wrestling, sadomasochistic practices, and rape. The experiential logic of the sexual component of the death-rebirth process is not as immediately obvious. It can be explained by the fact that the human organism has an inbuilt physiological mechanism that translates inhuman suffering and particularly suffocation into a strange kind of sexual arousal and eventually ecstatic rapture. Examples of this can be found in the history of religious sects and in the lives of individual martyrs, in the material from concentration camps and from the files of the Amnesty International, and in the observations of individuals dying on the gallows. The experiences that belong to this category are characterized by the enormous intensity of the sexual drive, its mechanical and unselective quality, and its pornographic or deviant nature. The fact that on this level of the psyche sexuality is inextricably connected with death, danger, anxiety, aggression, self-destructive impulses, physical pain, and various forms of biological material (blood, mucus, feces, urine) forms a natural basis for the development of the most important types of sexual dysfunctions, variations, deviations, and perversions. The connection between the sexual orgasm and the orgasm of birth makes it possible to add a deeper and highly relevant perinatal layer to the dynamic interpretations of Freudian analysis which have a superficial biographical and sexual emphasis. The implications of these interrelations for the understanding of various forms of sexual pathology is discussed in detail in my book Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death, and Transcendence in Psychotherapy (Grof 1985). The demonic element of this stage can present specific problems for the experiencers, as well as for the therapists and facilitators, since the uncanny quality of the material often leads to reluctance to face it. The most common themes observed in this context are scenes of the Sabbath of the Witches (Walpurgi's Night), satanic orgies and Black Mass rituals, and temptation by evil forces. The common denominator connecting this stage of childbirth with the themes of the Sabbath or with the Black Mass rituals is the peculiar experiential amalgam of death, deviant sexuality, fear, aggression, scatology, and distorted spiritual impulse that they share.
The scatological facet of the death-rebirth process has its natural biological basis in the fact that in the final phase of the delivery, the fetus can come into close contact with feces and other forms of biological material. However, these experiences by far exceed what the newborn might have actually experienced during birth. Experiences of this aspect of BPM III involve scenes of crawling in offal or through sewage systems, wallowing in piles of excrement, drinking blood or urine, or participating in revulsive images of putrefaction. It is an intimate and shattering encounter with the worst aspects of biological existence.
The element of fire is experienced either in its ordinary form (with the subjects witnessing scenes of conflagrations and identifying with the immolation victims) or in an archetypal form of purifying fire (pyrocatharsis) which seems to destroy whatever is corrupted and to prepare the individual for spiritual rebirth. This thematic motif is the least comprehensible aspect of the birth symbolism. Its biological counterpart might be the overstimulation of the fetus with indiscriminate "firing" of peripheral neurons. It is interesting that it has its experiential parallel in the delivering mother who often feels in this stage that her vagina is on fire.
The religious and mythological symbolism of this matrix focuses particularly on the themes that involve sacrifice and self-sacrifice or combine spiritual pursuit and sexuality. Quite frequent are scenes of Pre-Columbian sacrificial rituals, visions of crucifixion or identification with Christ, experiential connection with deities symbolizing death and rebirth, such as Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Persephone, Orpheus, Wotan, or Balder, and sequences involving worship of the terrible goddesses Kali, Coatlicue, Lilith, or Rangda. Sexual motifs are represented by episodes of phallic worship, temple prostitution, fertility rites, ritual rape, and various aboriginal tribal ceremonies involving rhythmic sensual dancing. A classical symbol of the transition from BPM III to BPM IV is the legendary bird Phoenix who dies in fire and rises resurrected from the ashes.
Several important characteristics of this experiential pattern distinguish it from the previously described no-exit constellation. The situation here does not seem hopeless and the subject is not helpless. He or she is actively involved and has the feeling that the suffering has a definite direction and goal. In religious terms, this situation relates to the concept of purgatory rather than hell.
In addition, the individuals involved do not play only the roles of helpless victims. They are observers and can at the same time identify with both the aggressor and the victim to the point of having difficulty separating the roles. Also, while the no-exit situation involves sheer suffering, the experience of the death-rebirth struggle represents the borderline between agony and ecstasy and the fusion of both. It seems appropriate to refer to this type of experience as Dionysian or volcanic ecstasy in contrast to the Apollonian or oceanic ecstasy of the cosmic union which is associated with the first perinatal matrix.
Specific experiential characteristics connect BPM III to COEX systems that include memories of intense sensual and sexual experiences in a dangerous and precarious context, such as parachuting, car racing, exciting but hazardous adventures, wrestling, boxing, fights, battles, conquests, red light districts, rape or sexual orgies, and amusement parks. A special group of memories related to BPM III involves intimate encounter with biological material, such as bedwetting, soiling, toilet training, exposure to blood, or witnessing dismemberment and putrefaction in war or in accidents. Memories of large fires tend to occur during the transition from BPM III to BPM IV.
With regard to the Freudian erogenous zones, the third matrix is related to those physiological activities which bring sudden relief and relaxation after a prolonged period of physiological tension. On the oral level, it is the act of chewing and swallowing of food or conversely vomiting; on the anal and urethral level, the process of defecation and urination; and on the genital level, the build-up to sexual orgasm and the feelings of delivering women in the second stage of labor.
I will use here the record from one of my high-dose LSD sessions (300 micrograms) to illustrate the phenomenology of BPM III that governed the first few hours of this experience. The continuation of the same psychedelic session and its resolution will be described later in the section on the fourth perinatal matrix (p. 35).
The session started with an incredible upsurge of instinctual forces. Waves of orgastic sexual feelings alternated or combined with aggressive outbursts of immense power. I felt trapped by steel-like machinery threatening to choke me to death, yet mesmerized and carried along by this irresistible outpouring of life energies. My visual field was glowing with a spectrum of red colors that had an awesome and numinous quality. I somehow sensed that it symbolized the mystical power of blood uniting humanity in strange ways throughout the ages. I felt connected with the metaphysical dimensions of cruelties of all kinds -- torture, rape, and murder -- but also to the mystery of the menstrual cycle, birth, delivery, death, ancestral bloodlines, and sacred bloodbonds of brotherhood, true friendship, and loyalty.
The underlying theme behind all this seemed to be a profound identification with an infant's struggle to free himself from the clutch of the birth canal. I felt that I was in touch with the strange force that connects mothers and children in a bond of life and death. I understood instinctively, on a gut level, both the symbiotic and uniting aspects of this relationship and its restricting and suffocating influence that can interfere with independence and autonomy. The strange bone of uterine connection between grandmother, mother, and daughter took on a special significance, as if it were a profound mystery of life from which males were excluded.
Against this background, I was identifying with masses of people connected by some higher cause -- revolutionaries and patriots of all ages fighting for freedom against any form of oppression, or pursuing some other collective goal. At one point, I strongly identified with Lenin and felt that I understood intimately the unquenchable thirst for liberation of the masses from oppression that he must have experienced and the fire of revolution that burned in his heart. Fratemite! Egalite! Liberte! Images of the French revolution and the opening of the gates c the Bastille flashed through my mind followed by memories of similar scenes from Beethoven's Fidelio. I felt moved to tears and sensed profound identification with freedom fighters of all times and all countries.
As I was moving into the second half of the session, the emphasis shifted from death to sex and violence. Colorful images and experiences of rapes, sadomasochistic practices of all kinds, obscene burlesque shows, red light districts, prostitutes, and pimps attacked all my sense with extraordinary power. I seemed to be deeply identified with all the persons involved in the most amazing variety of roles, and yet was also watching it all as an observer. And then picturesque visions, partly figurative, partly woven from the most intricate arabesques, created an irresistibly seductive atmosphere suggestive of oriental harems, Sheherazade, and the Thousand and One Nights. Gradually a strong spiritual element was added to this highly sensual experience. It seemed that I participated in hundreds of scenes depicting African tribal ceremonies, Babylonian temple prostitution, obscure ancient fertility rites, and some aboriginal ritual orgies involving group sex, which took place possibly in New Guinea or Australia.
And then, without a warning, came a sudden shift. I felt surrounded by some indescribably disgusting stuff, drowning in some kind of archetypal cesspool epitomizing biological garbage of all ages. Foul stench seemed to penetrate my whole being; my mouth was full of excrement that was robbing me of my breath. The experience opened repeatedly into scenes of complex labyrinths of the sewage systems of the world. I felt that I became intimately familiar with the biological fallout of all the metropolises of the world, with every manhole and every leachline there is. This seemed to be a shattering encounter with the worst that can come from biology -- excreta, offals, pus, decomposition, and putrefaction.
Amidst this appalling esthetic horror an interesting idea flashed through my mind: What I was experiencing was a typical response of a human adult. A child or a dog might have an entirely different reaction. And there are clearly many forms of life, such as bacteria, worms, or insect larvae, for whom this would be a highly desirable milieu in which they would thrive. I tried to tune into such an attitude and explore it from their perspective. Gradually, I was able to accept and even in a strange way enjoy where I was (see continuation under BPM IV).
Many important aspects of this complex experiential matrix can be understood from its association with the second clinical stage of biological delivery....This involves an enormous struggle for survival, crushing mechanical pressure, and often a high degree of anoxia and suffocation....[Themes of BPM III include the] titanic fight, sadomasochistic experiences, intense sexual arousal, demonic episodes, scatalogical involvement, and encounter with fire. All these occur in the context of a determined death-rebirth struggle....Related archetypal themes are images of the Last Judgement, the extraordinary feats of superheroes, and mythological battles of cosmic proportions involving demons and angels or gods and Titans....[BPM III experiences] combine sex with death, danger, biological material, aggression, self-destructive impulses, physical pain, and spirituality.
The Third Basic Perinatal Matrix (BPM 3): The Death-Rebirth Struggle
Even though the contractions are continuing, the cervix is now dilated and the there is now a way out of the entrapment that is characteristic in BPM II. This reminds me of the near death experiences where the individual who has just "died" is now going toward the light. Often in horror fiction where an incarnate entity is lost between the two worlds, they are instructed to go toward the light, allowing them to move on from one universe to the other.
Even though there is a way out, it is still a dangerous time for the fetus. It must move up the birth canal, (which is quite a bit smaller than she is). There is risk of suffocation and anoxia at this stage. While moving up the birth canal, the umbilical cord is further constricted. Also, the umbilical cord can become entangled around parts of the body, detaching it from the uterine wall, further causing separation from the fetus’s source of life. It is also noted in the text, that the fetus comes into contact, for the first time, with blood, urine and often times feces. The head of the uterus is forced into it’s new world for the first time because of the contractions of her mother.
The symbolic references that one may have during an experience with BPMIII include dangerous adventures, feelings of pulsating and explosive energy. The text includes identifications with volcanoes, tidal waves or earthquakes. Grof also mentions wars, revolutions, atomic bombs, scenes of gladiator struggles, or sadomasochistic experiences (having to do with both the painful and orgasmic experience of BPM III).
Experience with BPM III can be an important healing in accepting the inevitable and one’s ability to use her own resources in regards to solving problems. Also, this experiential level has many experiences that can heal the view of good and bad, light and dark, preferred and unpreferred etc. A healing in this area may help an individual become more empathetic to the attitudes and situations of those around her.
FOURTH BASIC PERINATAL MATRIX (BPM IV): THE DEATH-REBIRTH EXPERIENCE
This perinatal matrix is related to the third clinical stage of the delivery, the actual birth of the child. Here the agonizing process of the birth struggle comes to an end. The propulsion through the birth canal associated with an extreme build-up of anxiety, pain, pressure, and sexual tension is followed by a sudden release and relaxation. The child is born and after a long period of darkness faces for the first time the bright light of the day or the artificial illumination of the delivery room. After the umbilical cord is cut, the physical separation from the maternal organism has been completed. Far-reaching physiological changes have to be accomplished, so that the organism can begin its new existence as an anatomically independent individual providing its own supply of oxygen, digesting its food, and disposing of its waste products.
As in the case of the other matrices, the specific aspects of this stage of birth can be relived as concrete memories of the physiological events and also of the various obstetric interventions involved. Even subjects who do not know anything about the circumstances of their birth can through these experiences correctly identify in great detail the initial position, the mechanism of labor, the type of anesthesia used, the nature of the instrumental or manual intervention, as well as the specifics of postnatal care.
The symbolic counterpart of this final stage of childbirth is the death-rebirth experience; it represents the termination and resolution of the death-rebirth struggle. Paradoxically, while only a small step from an experience of phenomenal liberation, the individual has a feeling of impending catastrophe of enormous proportions. This frequently results in a desperate and determined struggle to stop the process. If allowed to happen, the transition from BPM III to BPM IV involves a sense of total annihilation on all imaginable levels - physical destruction, emotional disaster, intellectual and philosophical defeat, ultimate moral failure, and absolute damnation of transcendental proportions. This experience of ego death seems to entail an instant merciless destruction of all previous reference points in the life of the individual. The ego death and rebirth is not a one-time experience. During deep systematic self-exploration, the unconscious presents it repeatedly with varying emphasis and increasing proportions until the process is completed.
Under the influence of Freudian psychoanalysis, the concept of the ego is associated with one's ability to test reality and to function adequately in everyday life. Individuals who share this limited point of view see the perspective of the ego death with horror. However, what actually dies in this process is a basically paranoid attitude toward the world which reflects the negative experience of the subject during childbirth and later in life. It involves a sense of general inadequacy, a need to be prepared for all possible dangers, a compulsion to be in charge and in control, constant efforts to prove things to oneself and others, and similar elements of problematic value.
When experienced in its final and most complete form, the ego death means an irreversible end to one's philosophical identification with what Alan Watts called skin-encapsulated ego. When the experience is well integrated, it results not only in increased ability to enjoy existence, but also in better functioning in the world. The experience of total annihilation and of "hitting the cosmic bottom" that characterizes the ego death is immediately followed by visions of blinding white or golden light of supernatural radiance and beauty. It can be associated with astonishing displays of divine archetypal entities, rainbow spectra, intricate peacock designs, or pristine natural scenery. The subject experiences a deep sense of spiritual liberation, redemption, and salvation. He or she typically feels freed from anxiety, depression and guilt, purged and unburdened. This is associated with a flood of positive emotions toward oneself, other people, and existence in general. The world appears to be a beautiful and safe place and the zest for life is considerably increased. It should be emphasized, however, that this description reflects the situation of normal and uncomplicated birth. A prolonged and debilitating course of delivery, the use of forceps, the administration of general anesthesia, and other complications and interventions can introduce specific experiential distortions and abnormalities into the phenomenology of this matrix.
The specific archetypal symbolism of the death-rebirth experience can be drawn from many different realms of the collective unconscious, since every major culture has the appropriate mythical forms for this process. The ego death can be experienced in connection with various destructive deities, such as Shiva, Huitzilopochtli, Moloch, Kali, or Coatlicue, or in full identification with Christ, Osiris, Adonis, Dionysus, or other sacrificed mythical personages. The divine epiphany can involve an entirely abstract image of God as a radiant source of light, or more or less personified representations from different religions. Equally common are experiences of encounter or union with Great Mother Goddesses, as exemplified by the Virgin Mary, Isis, Lakshmi, Parvati, Hera, or Cybele.
Related biographical constellations involve memories of personal successes, fortuitous terminations of dangerous situations, ends of wars or revolutions, survivals of accidents, or recoveries from serious diseases. In relation to the Freudian erogenous zones, BPM IV is associated on all levels of libidinal development with the states of satisfaction immediately following the activities that released unpleasant tension - satiation of hunger by swallowing of food, relieving vomiting, defecation, urination, sexual orgasm, and delivery of a child.
The following is a continuation of an LSD session described earlier under BPM III. It focuses on the transition between BPM III and BPM IV and then specifically on experiential elements that belong to the fourth matrix.
I was quite pleased with myself, having achieved the demanding and difficult task of accepting an aspect of my biological nature that our culture abhors. However, the worst was yet to come. All of a sudden, I seemed to be losing all my connections to reality, as if some imaginary rug was pulled from under my feet. Everything was collapsing and I felt that my entire world was shattered to pieces. It was like puncturing a monstrous metaphysical abscess of my existence; a gigantic bubble of ludicrous self-deception had burst open and exposed the lie of my life.
Everything that I ever believed in, everything that I did or pursued, everything that seemed to give my life meaning suddenly appeared utterly false. These were all pitiful crutches without any substance with which I tried to patch up the intolerable reality of existence. They were now blasted and blown away like the frail feathered seeds of a dandelion, exposing a frightening abyss of ultimate truth - the meaningless chaos of the existential Void. Filled with indescribable horror, I saw a gigantic figure of a deity towering over me in a threatening pose. I somehow instinctively recognized that this was the Hindu god Shiva in his destructive aspect. I felt the thunderous impact of his enormous foot that crushed me, shattered me to smithereens, and smeared me like an insignificant piece of excrement all over what I felt was the bottom of the cosmos. In the next moment, I was facing a terrifying giant figure of a dark goddess whom I identified as the Indian Kali. My face was being pushed by an irresistible force toward her gaping vagina that was full of what seemed to be menstrual blood or repulsive afterbirth. I sensed that what was demanded of me was absolute surrender to the forces of existence and to the feminine principle represented by the goddess. I had no choice but to kiss and lick her vulva in utmost submission and humility. At this moment, which was the ultimate and final end of any feeling of male supremacy I had ever harbored, I connected with the memory of the moment of my biological birth. My head was emerging from the birth canal with my mouth in close contact with the bleeding maternal vagina.
I was flooded with the divine light of supernatural radiance and beauty whose rays were exploded into thousands of exquisite peacock designs. From this brilliant golden light emerged a figure of a Great Mother Goddess who seemed to embody love and protection of all ages. She spread her arms and reached toward me, enveloping me into her essence. I merged with this incredible energy field, feeling purged, healed, and nourished. What seemed to be ambrosia, some archetypal essence of milk and honey, was poured through me in absolute abundance.
Then the figure of the goddess gradually disappeared, absorbed by an even more brilliant light. It was abstract, yet endowed with definite personal characteristics and radiating infinite intelligence. It became clear to me that what I was experiencing was the merging with and absorption into the Universal Self, or Brahma, as I have read about it in books of Indian philosophy. This experience subsided after about ten minutes of clocktime; however, it transcended any concept of time and felt like eternity. The flow of the healing and nourishing energy and the visions of golden glow with peacock designs lasted the night. The resulting sense of wellbeing stayed with me for many days. The memory of the experience has remained vivid for years and has profoundly changed my entire life philosophy.
This perinatal matrix is meaningfully related to the third clinical stage of delivery, the actual birth of the child. In this final stage, the agonizing process of the birth struggle comes to an end....The symbolic counterpart of this final stage of delivery is the death-rebirth experience....The transition from BPM III to BPM IV involves a sense of annihilation on all imaginable levels--physical destruction, emotional debacle, intellectual defeat, ultimate moral failure, and absolute damnation of transcendental proportions.This experience of "ego death" seems to entail an instant merciless destruction all previous reference points in the life of the individual....[after which]The subject experiences a deep sense of spiritual liberation, redemption, and salvation.
The Fourth Basic Perinatal Matrix (BPM 4): The Death-Rebirth Experience
This is the actual birth experience of the child. The struggle is at an end. The suffering and pain of the struggle is followed by relaxation and release as the child is released from her captivity. The umbilical cord is cut and now the former fetus must adapt and change to be able to survive without her former intimate attachment to her mother. She must now find sources of food and oxygen and integrate them independently from her mother.
Many of the experiences at BPM IV can relive the actual circumstances around their birth, which may include instruments that were used in the birth or an incubation period that may have been required.
Symbolically, experiences in this matrix have to do with surrendering the struggle that was so dramatically described in BPM III. To lose in the struggle is inevitable for all living organisms. No one can stay in the womb. As a result, feelings of failure and despair can result. Since everything that was known is know at an end, there may also be feelings of impending disaster, physical destruction, intellectual and philosophical defeat, moral failure or damnation of transcendental proportions. (p.30) This is the stuff of ego or personality death and rebirth that is so common in experiences of this nature. This process of ego death begins with the experiences of our actual physical births blurring the lines between birth and death perhaps showing it to be one continuous cycle that we travel around the cosmic egg.
With this ego death, we stop identifying ourselves with our physicality and begin to see the world in more spiritual terms.