by David P. Armentrout, PhD
Meditative hypnosis is a technique which employs both the general methods of hypnosis, and also the general techniques of meditation. As an example, meditation in which a person focuses on the breath will, if one develops the meditative skill, lead to a profound trance in which it is possible to regress to
review of past lives. When used with traditional hypnotic suggestions to relax, the usual pranayama meditation leads to a state which is equally useful in general hypnotherapy applications. In the same way, prana control methods originally developed for kundalini yoga have been found to be effective in producing greater energy for those who complained of lassitudeand somnolence.
In this state of deep hypnosis a person is enabled to shut out immediate conflicting stimuli to the extent required to get in touch with memories of past lives. The usual benefits of past life therapy involve elimination of attachments from a prior life which have carried over into the present one. For example, lovers separated by an ancient accident and who bump into one another in today's world may feel a compulsion to be reunited which might not fit well into the practical details of life. By discovery of their history, it is possible to deal rationally with the problem.
Another issue past life therapy treats is pains which seem to have no origin, yet which limit activity. When medical techniques can do nothing, and the sufferer prefers to avoid taking drugs which dull the mind, regression often is a solution. Such pains frequently turn out to be wounds inflicted by an enemy to which the victim became attached through rage. After reviewing the scene, it is usually possible to forgive the enemy and go on with life. Forgiveness releases the rage which connects the body to the pain or disability, enabling healing to occur. Often the effects are dramatically rapid.
Other issues treated by this method include limitations which people impose upon themselves due to past experiences which they regret. As an example, a girl who drowned by accident was reborn
with a fear of water, which would obviously protect her. However, when it got to be a problem to take a shower, it was useful to go back and reconsider how much protection she really needed. A man who falsified his pilot credentials to take a dangerous flying job crashed an airliner, killing only himself
and his co-pilot. In his next life, he was afraid to fly. The cause was his fear that he would now have to be killed in a crash. Regression discovered the cause, and also that he was extremely remorseful about what he had done. There was no possibility that he would repeat any action of the sort. Thus,
there was no value in his being killed by an airplane crash. His change of heart had eliminated his karmic attachment. The next week he was on a flight to London.
Audio Recordings and Their Audiences
To popularize past life work, a set of audio tapes had been planned which were to provide experience with many of the principles of meditative hypnosis. During this development, some ad hoc research done by a number of young people in the Haight-Ashbury district in the 1960's came to light. In essence, hypnosis, meditation and drug experiences were found to be essentially similar in many ways. The recordings were intended for those who sought to develop their spiritual awareness in
areas opened by the experience of past life regression and yoga. The goal was to bring a number of experiences, usually available through more traditional meditative methods, to a listener who has little experience in meditation so that the listener might experience some of the phenomena associated with meditation and regression.
This turned out to be more than a trivial problem, but opened the possibility of another potential use for past life regression, treatment of drug abuse. As the material was initially being developed, it became clear that there was no way to repeat the conditions under which yoga had initially been created. One of the problems in developing simple audio programs for yoga and spiritual development is that yoga has traditionally been associated with use of drugs. The Vedas, dating back over five thousand years, mention a substance called Soma. This material altered the mind so as to produce a vision of the gods. Just what Soma was is unknown. There is speculation that it was a combination of materials involving hemp derivatives and perhaps mushroom extracts.
Without use of Soma, or some similar material, the initial conditions in which yoga was initially developed cannot be exactly replicated. Both social norms and availability have changed radically. This has led, in the past, to a division of spiritual seekers into two general camps.
In one camp are the purists who feel that the efforts of he mind alone should be used for spiritual development. As a result, these people spend a great deal of time and effort in their metaphysical development. They rely more upon intellect than direct awareness, and have a tendency to feel that experiences of a more dramatic nature are unusual. On the other hand, these yogis never are guilty of the excesses to which many others fall prey.
The other camp consists of those who feel that the use of drugs to mimic the previously divine Soma is a fully appropriate measure. They point to the quality of their experiences, as opposed to the means by which they arise. For example, they say, if a person has a transcendental experience through a severe fever it is generally accepted as valid. If the experience occurs through a near death event, that too is generally accepted as valid. Thus, they argue, there is no basis to reject
the use of drugs. Unfortunately, the social norms of the modern world tell us that drugs as inappropriate, which means that all drugs have been socially rejected. Not only has this eliminated
any possibility that drug use might be beneficial if the user is sincere, but it has eliminated all information about the appropriate types of drugs for any purpose.
Lack of information has encouraged many misguided young people to seek things which make them stupid, such as PCP, or which make them delirious, such as atropine or toluene vapors. There
are also those who desire to escape from the world, choosing opiates and barbiturates, and the other extreme, those who desire to become more aware of the world, choosing amphetamine or cocaine, mistaking manipulations of factual information about the physical world for enlightenment. The major danger, aside from spiritual damage, is that "speed kills", usually by either ruptured embolism or cardiac arhythmias.
This encouraged inclusion in the tapes of a strategy for drug abuse therapy called "harm avoidance", specifically aimed at young people who are drug users, with the intent of reducing and eliminating
their dangerous drug use.
For the remainder of the world, those who feel that drugs are inappropriate, a very different substitute had already been found. Experimenters from the 1960's Haight-Ashbury era had previously found that deep hypnosis can produce virtually every effect of drugs, and also that hypnosis can produce all the effects of meditation. In particular, it is possible for hypnosis to duplicate whatever the effects of Soma might have been. These effects can only be guessed at, so it is difficult to simple give suggestions for that purpose.
However, combined with pranayama for kundalini yoga, hypnosis produces an intense exhilaration and excitement of the same general type as is produced through psilcybin mushrooms, but without physiologicalside effects.
Drugs Get In The Way
The benefits of substituting hypnosis and kundalini yoga for psychedelic drugs are that the mind is used as the sole means of creating the trance state, so the use of drugs is no longer necessary. Second, a normal meditative trance is greatly enhanced by the combined yogic and hypnotic techniques used. This is quite similar to the imagery and pranayama methods used in drug free Tibetan practice. As a result, this is a technique available to everybody, regardless of their drug experiences. A third benefit is that kundalini, once fully aroused, provides a natural trance state which maintains contact with the interlife and Cosmic Consciousness.
In other words, the effects can be made permanent through these simple methods. Hypnotic methods, in conjunction with kundalini yoga, were incorporated into two tapes intended specifically for those who use drugs. Vague references to the value of meditative hypnosis as a drug replacement were also incorporated into other tapes which were intended for general release. The expectations for
those who initially use drugs are quite good due to the reinforcement quality of the experience. The same Haight-Ashbury informal study indicated that the pleasurable effects of all drugs can be equaled or exceeded by psychedelics. This is probably due to their hypnophilic quality. Maximization of pleasure through psychedelic drugs occurs through their use in conjunction with meditative methods. Because this seems to be equal or superior to the pleasurable effects of any other drug, the experience of meditation with psychedelics is more strongly reinforcing, and thus will tend to replace previous behaviors. Accordingly, the use of any drugs but psychedelics tends todecline.
An additional benefit is that hypnosis is capable of producing the same effects as the psychedelic drugs without any of the usual side effects, such as nervousness, dry mouth, mucous discharges etc, nor the rather discouraging appearance of iron bars and courtrooms. Further, as hypnotic skill increases, the desirable effects are progressively easier to attain. That means that as the skill of the meditator increases, the reinforcement value increases. With increasing meditative skills, the meditator gets "more bang for the buck":, so that the quantities of drugs required to produce the same level of bliss declines.
An impromptu follow up study found that many of the researchers from the Haight-Ashbury who experimented with these techniques now completely avoid drugs because they actually interfere with
higher levels of meditation. There is no need for drug use, which is potentially dangerous, always expensive and socially unacceptable, when they have already developed the ability to attain a trance which takes them to transcendental levels by sheer power of mind. Of the rest, most have limited themselves to rare use of marijuana, typically a few times per year. For them too, there is no need for anything else.
Utility Values and Cost Benefit Tradeoffs
Although this approach is not intended, nor was it developed as a clinically approved drug abuse therapy, there is good reason to view it as such. The underlying philosophy is that there are only three good reasons for drug use:
- drug use intended for therapeutic purposes, such as when medication is prescribed by a physician, or an aspirin is taken for a headache;
- drug use for research purposes, such as researchers developing a new antihistamine, or a superior antibiotic;
- drug use for religious purposes, such as Communion Wine, or Native American peyote use.
The claims that there is a justifiable use for drugs which is purely "recreational" would be acceptable if drug use truly "re-created" the individuals. However, most drug based recreation appears to be justified by the same logic as would be recreational masturbation. The same objections apply to use of drugs for recreation as would apply to any other dangerous substance, tobacco and alcohol being the major offenders in this category. Saint Paul suggested "a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thy many infirmities." Were people to have the good sense to limit themselves to moderate amounts of anything, there would be no tendency for restrictions of it. Until the society can limit its consumption to "a little" there is little point in liberalizing attitudes toward potentially deadly substances.
This entire issue becomes moot in the case of psychedelic use for meditation. Not only are psychedelics physiologically harmless, so that they provide a safer alternative to "speed", they provide a more useful experience. The end product of meditation is a better stabilized individual with more coping capabilities. When the meditation adds transcendental awareness, and the ability to discover therapeutically beneficial facts through which bad habits, anxieties and physical pain can be
ameliorated, it clearly is worthwhile. To this can now be added one more benefit, that meditation and past life regression are effective against chronic use of dangerous drugs.