G . O . R . I . L . L . A .

Facilitate the power of love - confront the love of power.

Co-operative Inquiry and the Transpersonal

John Heron

This paper gives a short account of some issues involved in using co-operative inquiry as a method of transpersonal research, outlines a relevant cartography, and presents a prospectus for future inquiries.


1. Co-operative inquiry and the transpersonal

    Co-operative inquiry

    The transpersonal

    Spiritual research

      The mystic as inquirer


      A balance of triads

      Bipolar and polymorphous theology

    Subtle research

      Presuppositions and guiding principles

      Initiation through imagined experience

      Shifts of mentation and declarative validity

    Transformative and informative inquiries

2. Cartography of transpersonal states

    Complementarity and bipolarity

    Cartography as warranted belief

    A bipolar map

    Bipolar distinctions

3. Self-transfiguration: a journey of initiation and inquiry




1. Co-operative inquiry and the transpersonal

Co-operative inquiry

This is a form of participative, person-centred, new paradigm inquiry which does research with people not on them. It breaks down the distinction between researcher and subject.The initiating researcher co-opts others to become full co-researchers who together, as an interacting group, do the thinking that defines, manages and draws conclusions from, the inquiry. They are also the co-subjects who undergo, and record data about, the experience and action that is the subject of the inquiry. They cycle several times between reflection and experience, using each to refine and deepen the other, adopting also various procedures to enhance the validity of the process and its outcomes.

Many people in different parts of the world are now starting to use this or related forms of participative inquiry. A convenient starting point for the beginner is to look at a collection of papers edited by Peter Reason (Reason, 1988).

I have set up and facilitated five co-operative inquiries in the transpersonal field between 1978 and 1994. The first was on spatio-temporal extensions of consciousness (Heron, 1984), the second on impressions of another reality (Heron, 1988), the third on the knacks involved in entering altered states, the fourth on ritual improvisation as a transpersonal doorway, the fifth on the application of transpersonal activities in everyday life. They were held in London, Cornwall, New Zealand, Tuscany and New Zealand respectively. The purpose of this paper is not to give a detailed report on these but in the light of them to set the scene for doing this kind of work.

The transpersonal

By the transpersonal, I mean the transformation of the human person by experience of the spiritual and the subtle. By the spiritual I mean that which has traditionally been designated as the divine. By the subtle I refer to extrasensory capacities in humans and to energies, domains and presences beyond, or immanent within, the physical, psychological and cultural spheres, to which those capacities may bear witness. The subtle has usually been called the psychical. The typology presented in the next main section, with its various bipolarities, elaborates this distinction between spirit and the subtle.

Spiritual research

There has been a long modern tradition of studies of spiritual experience, usually someone else's. It includes the philosophy of religion, comparative religion, the psychology of religion, studies of mysticism, natural history of religious experience, psychedelic research, studies of transpersonal therapy, studies based on running transpersonal workshops. Fruitful distinctions, typologies and practices have emerged from all this.

For many of these studies, the primary data on experience of the divine have been provided by the personal witness of mystics, ecstatics, religious experiencers themselves, through the written or spoken word, through their deeds or their presence.

The mystic as inquirer

Mystics engage in an experiential journey. Although it is often set within a given tradition and guided by a living teacher, the journey includes a necessary element of experiential inquiry, since subtle discrimination needs to be exercised at critical points. Usually this element of inquiry is limited, since it is subordinate to the claims, definitions and demands of the given tradition. Some mystics in their solitude, however, are genuine pioneers of spiritual research: they apply to the mystical quest something like Torbert's action science (Torbert, 1991), together with careful phenomenological reporting. They rise out of the constraints of tradition and originally define or redefine the territory of spiritual experience.

What appears to be relatively unused and unknown is co-operative, experiential, spiritual research, in which groups of spiritual inquirers enter mystical experience together and discriminate among themselves about it. They can thus elicit categories of understanding appropriate to it, without relapsing unawarely into values and beliefs of the prevailing culture. The can clarify issues about entering it and exiting from it; and winnow out criteria for distinguishing it from purely psychological or subtle states. In all these respects, the solitary mystic, however radical, is at a disadvantage without systematic peer review.


There have been some of these. The original group that met with Oscar Ichazo, prior to the founding of Arica Training, seemed to have hints of participative, co-operative inquiry. Grof's holotropic therapy is on the threshold of it (Grof, 1988). After an overview of a typology of altered states, people work in pairs, taking it in turns to hyperventilate for two or more hours to powerful music. People then share, and in their own terms make sense of, whatever altered states they entered. These states, however, may be spiritual or subtle.

A balance of triads

Spiritual research holds the tension between, on the one hand, aspiration, faith and surrender, and, on the other, alertness, discrimination and self-determination. The former triad - aspiration, faith and surrender - on its own leads to an excess of piety without inquiry. This in turn may breed any of the following: unctuousness of manner; self-righteousness; doctrines of the elect; dogmatism and authoritarianism; conflation of the spiritual with the subtle, the cultural or the psychological.

Conflation with the subtle means that religious experience gets confused with inflation by psychical energies; conflation with the cultural means that prevailing social beliefs and values may contaminate religious propositions and practices; conflation with the psychological means that religious attitudes and behaviour may become a defense against psychological integration.

The latter triad - alertness, discrimination and self-determination - on its own leads to an exess of hubris without piety. This may lead over into one or more of the following: arrogance of manner; self-justification; scientism, the insistence that analytic inquiry alone can yield true knowledge; scepticism and libertarianism; reduction of the spiritual to the cultural, the psychological or the physical.

Somewhere there is a balance between the two triads that honours both the holy and holistic inquiry into its credentials. Co-operation with those who are both co-subjects and co-researchers offers the chance to keep this balance under continuous peer review.

Bipolar and polymorphous theology

The traditional religions of west and east have been monopolar, with theory and practice directed toward one transcendent reality, whether the Christian Creator, or the Hindu supreme reality Brahman. Careful attention to the phenomenology of religious encounter, both personal and as recorded in the literature, calls for an experiential theology that is bipolar: the divine as transcendent, beyond ordinary experience; the divine as immanent, latent within ordinary experience; and whether beyond or within, the divine as including, ordinary experience.

We also need a polymorphous theology, for within each pole it seems that the divine has a distinctive no-form and different forms. Thus at the transcendent pole, the unmanifest divine is boundless ineffability, the Kabbalistic Ain Soph Aur, infinitude beyond all form and differentiation, beyond every circumference, every defining name. And at the same pole, the manifest divine has the complementary forms of generating creation and sustaining it: the divine as originating, creative overmind, demiurge, the Logos of Philo; and the divine as all-holding universal mind, cosmic store-consciousness, alaya-vijnana of Tibetan Buddhism.

At the immanent pole, the unmanifest divine is primordial emptiness, sunyata, the universal void in Mahayana Buddhism, the infinitude within all form, within every centre, the essential emptiness within all differentiation, the non-being womb of being. At the same pole, the manifest divine again has complementary forms, generating life and sustaining it: the divine as creative, primordial life, prompting living process from within; and the divine as interfused and pervasive inner presence, upholding life in spatiotemporal matrices.

This bipolar and polymorphous theology has been incorporated in the cartography presented in the next main section of this paper. While having significant phenomenological warrants, it is still conjectural and provisional. But as lived belief it makes for polyphrenic vigour and variety in the mystical quest, providing for movement between the heights and the depths, rather than simple linear ascent as in the old monopolar paradigm. It is fruitful in experiential work and is a powerful working hypothesis in co-operative inquiry.

Subtle research

The realm of the subtle is one of the new frontiers awaiting attention by contemporary participative researchers. It first burst into more recent culture as spiritualism, starting with the Fox sisters and the rappings in Hydesville, USA, in 1848. The heyday of spiritualism waned after the twentieth century opened. Its resurgence as 'chanelling' occurred in the 1960s and waxes strong today. This is largely an embarrassment to the serious inquirer because of its tendency to attract credulity and lack of discrimination among its followers.

Subtle research, more conventionally known as psychical research, has gone through two main phases. The first phase had four components: the accumulation and sifting, according to more or less stringent criteria, of anecdotal cases of psychical experience of various kinds; the attempt to apply fraud-eliminating controls to mediumship of different sorts; the attempt to find reliable corroboration for supposed mediumistic disclosures, as in the cross-correspondence studies of trance-mediumship; the attempt to validate the content of 'teachings' given through trance-mediumship by the evidence internal to them. The second phase was controlled research in the laboratory, testing for an ESP effect, such as telepathy, clairvoyance or psychokinesis, by experimental design and statistical analysis.

Both phases have had their strong and weak points. A weakness they shared in common was that the researchers did not themselves get involved in the states their subjects were in. This meant that the researchers (1) could not reliably devise categories of understanding appropriate to the states; (2) had no personal grasp of issues involved in how to enter or exit them; and (3) could not generate experiential criteria for distinguishing between valid and invalid forms of them.

What is now called for is a third phase in which the researchers are also those who participate in the subtle states being researched. This enables the researchers to have experiential access to suitable theoretical constructs, to entry and exit protocols, and to relevant criteria of validity. Hence the use of co-operative inquiry.

Presuppositions and guiding principles

There are certain obvious assumptions presupposed by any collaborative inquiry in this field, and it is important to make them explicit. My account of them is as follows:

1. The domain of the subtle is not reducible either to the physical, the psychological or the cultural. It involves a transaction with being that is sui generis.

2. The inquirers have the potential ability to access this domain.

These two articles of faith seem to be inalienable as presuppositions of any participative inquiry into the subtle getting itself off the ground. Of course, the negative outcomes of an inquiry may call them in question. But without entertaining both these beliefs, people are hardly going to find it plausible or have the motivation to start.

There are three more guiding principles, born out of early experience of working with the method, which I think are pertinent.

3. Initiation into the possibility of the subtle domain through imagined experience is a precondition of inquiring into it.

4. In the subtle domain, the distinction between mental process and experience breaks down because imaging and thinking can undergo transformation into psychic experience.

5. Validity is in part declarative in the subtle domain. That is to say, a subtle experience declares its validity through the transformations of imaging and thinking that beget it: how it emerges and declares itself in consciousness may be an important part of its validation.

Initiation through imagined experience

The initiation principle does not say that you must presuppose a positive outcome of the inquiry before you can begin it. It is only asking you to entertain certain experiences as if they were occurring: you are invited to imagine you are having them and leave entirely open the question of whether you are actually having them or not. So you don't presuppose an outcome: you open yourself to the possibility of moving toward an outcome. You enter and maintain states which are deliberately suspended in ontological ambiguity, and learn that art before inquiring into their ontological status.

In physical science, you design and build a piece of equipment as if it can detect something, and then set it going to see whether it really can. In subtle science, you arrange the mind as if it can detect the subtle, learn to hold it in this arrangement, and only then take this arrangement into the inquiry process to see whether it really can detect the subtle.

Jean Houston in her account of sacred psychology stresses the importance of imagistic thinking, of training the creative imagination as necessary condition of entering the subtle realms of the mundus imaginalis (Houston, 1987).

This imaging of altered states as if they are part of the total geography of being requires a provisional map, a comprehensive typology based on the best available data in the field. Once a person's imaginal mind is up and running, relating to this typology as imaginary artefact, the process of inquiry can begin, seeking to determine whether the typology and its component parts are well-founded in human experience or not. This applies both to the spiritual and to the subtle aspects of the inquiry.

Shifts of mentation and declarative validity

By mentation I mean the processes of imaging and thinking. In the subtle field, what starts out as an ordinary thought process can become a subtle experience: I may image, and think intently of, invisible presences and find that this mentation transforms itself into a strong felt sense of communion with them.

This in turn bears on the issue of declarative validity. The content of a subtle experience, the claim that it is an experience of this or that subtle entity or energy, involving this or that subtle perception, may in part validated by the way that content emerges within and impacts itself upon the experience of which it is a part. So some of the criteria for saying that a subtle experience is veridical, i.e. is not reducible to physical, psychological or cultural factors, may be to do with how mentation involuntarily shifts into an experiential content that transcends its initial voluntary subjectivity.

For example, one group explored clairvoyance of a physical object beyond visual range by starting with memory images of that object derived from when it had been looked at. Some people reported sudden and involuntary shifts from remembered views to views that were not remembered since they were from unfamiliar perspectives that had never been perceived. Another group explored out of the body experience by using a purely imaginal body to make short imagined journeys. Some people reported an unexpected problem of elasticity with an involuntarily imaged cord, which kept snapping them back into the physical body when they imagined they had got a little way out of it.

Transformative and informative inquiries

A final point is the creative tension between redemption and inquiry. Commitment to the spiritual and the subtle has always been associated with issues of redemption, rebirth, resurrection, regeneration, salvation, release. This is the deep eschatology of going from confused alienation to ecstatic integration, from darkness into light, from psychological death into spiritual life. This has not only been a personal matter for each individual soul, but even more so a collective business, in which each soul feels a call to co-operate with others similarly engaged, and to reach out to others still unaware of the choice.

This calling, this transformative obligation, on a confused planet, cannot wait upon elaborate informative transpersonal inquiry; just as the obligation to raise one's children cannot wait upon the findings of elaborate child-care research. One solution to this tension is that the practical calling itself becomes a vehicle for systematic action inquiry, in the way that Torbert writes of action science (Torbert, 1991). Thus a transformative obligation and, for example, a transformative ritual themselves can become inquiry vehicles. So it is not just that the inquiry is for action. The inquiry is in the action. Peter Reason has shown how all this can be an integral part of co-operative inquiry (Reason, 1992).

It looks, then, as though there is a basic bipolarity in the inquiry process. There are those inquiries which are rooted in the call to be transformative, to heal ourselves and our world; and there are those which based on the call to be informed, to know more about being, the universe and ourselves. It is in the nature of co-operative inquiry that the two poles are complementary, interdependent and interpenetrative. Transformative inquiries yield some information; informative inquiries yield some transformation. But exclusive use of transformative inquiry begs too many informative questions; and exclusive use of informative inquiry abandons too many transformative calls.

2. Cartography of transpersonal states

The following map, or typology, of transpersonal states builds upon that put forward in my book Cosmic Psychology (Heron, 1990). It derives from personal experience, intuitive vision and reflection, from running inquiries and workshops in the field, and from the literature of mysticism, psychical research and altered states of consciousness, including the work of Stanislav Grof (1976, 1988).

Complementarity and bipolarity

Grof presents a comprehensive cartography of altered states, based on psychedelic research, that stands on its own feet. His 1988 version simply expands the 1976 version. But in the 1988 account, in an introductory section (Grof, 1988: 39-40), he assimilates his wide-ranging scheme to another briefer one derived from Wilber (Wilber, 1980). This simply presents a down-hierarchy model of reality which proceeds as follows: higher causal, lower causal, higher subtle, lower subtle, gross experiential realm. For reasons which I have discussed in another work (Heron, 1992), I regard such a down-hierarchy account unduly restrictive. It needs complementing with an up-hierarchy account. Indeed, Grof's original scheme sits uneasily within it. My map is thus rather different from either model, although having obvious points of overlap.

In a down-hierarchy, what is below emanates from what is above; in an up-hierarchy what is above emerges from what is below. I believe these polar forms of cosmic process endlessly interweave. In the typology below, I make a critical distinction between transcendent 4 - 1, which are down-hierarchy states and immanent 4 - 1, which are up-hierarchy states. These transcendent and immanent states I see as a dynamic, interdependent bipolarity. Attunement to that which transcends ordinary experience is complemented by expressive manifestation of that which is immanent within, indwells, ordinary experience. And ordinary experience - the consensual reality of everyday - is the home base, the common ground, for this integration.

Cartography as warranted belief

The map given below is a conjectural model, a working hypothesis, a provisional set of beliefs, to launch and be taken into a systematic co-operative inquiry, which starts the task of seeing whether it is well-founded in experience, and if so, of converting it into agreed, though very relative, knowledge. And before that it serves as a purely mythic and imaginary map for the guided journey of initiation which precedes the inquiry process.

As a provisional set of beliefs, the map does have significant warrants. It is not mere arbitrary concoction. As I have said, it derives from personal experience, intuitive vision and reflection, from running inquiries and workshops in the field, and from the literature of mysticism, psychical research and altered states of consciousness. To these must be added dramatic paradigm shifts in the physical sciences, in scientific method and in general epistemology. Cumulatively this adds up to a vast weight of human testimony the very mass of which becomes evidential, legitimating initial cartography and calling for further inquiry.

A bipolar map

Transcendent 4 Experience of boundless ineffability. Not this, not that, beyond all differentiation, formless consciousness transcending all name and form. Ain Soph Aur in the Kabbalah. 'Pure act' (St John of the Cross). Sat-chit-ananda (Sanskrit), being-consciousness-bliss. Participative experience of the divine as transcendent and unmanifest. The infinitude beyond.

Practices here are: nirvikalpa samadhi (eastern mysticism), the beatific vision (western mysticism), mystical absorption in the One (Plotinus).

Transcendent 3 Opening to the transcendent Thou. Encounter with the first manifest emanation from the unmanifest divine beyond. Participation in the original outpouring of the creative process. Experience of the opening declaration from the height of being: 'Let there be light'. The divine as demiurge, as creator of the universe, the supreme force of existence, the logos. For Plotinus, nous, first emanation from the One.

Some of the practices involved are: adoration, praise, worship, high prayer; invocation of the logos, the creative word; meditation on the crown of the universe; opening of the crown chakra; visualization of an all-seeing eye; mentally intoning the first person 'I' and tracing it to its transcendental emanation; visualizing the 'I', the verymost self, as a ray of light streaming from the creative fiat of the divine I am.

Transcendent 2 Invocation of archetypal powers and presences. Powers as divine formative principles of creation: Fawcett's divine imaginals, the mundus imaginalis, the Arabic alam al-mithal, the powers of Philo, Plato's forms, the interpenetrating living archetypal intelligences of Plotinus's nous. Presences as the risen ancestors, high-raised persons in unseen dimensions of being. Presences as mediators and transmitters of powers, which proceed from the logos (transcendent 3) and permeate cosmic mind (transcendent 1).

Practices here include the use of meditation, ritual and invocation, including the fourfold divine name or tetragrammaton Yod-He-Vau-He, other geometric or vocal symbols of powers and presences, invocation of the archetypal self - the original form of the soul - and of its counterpartal soul as in Houston's search for the beloved, the use of active imagination and visualization, the reception and direction of subtle energies, communion and co-operative action with presences.

Transcendent 1 Turning about to universal consciousness. Attunement to cosmic mind pervasive throughout creation. Participation in the sustaining ectypal mind of creation, as distinct from opening to the originating archetypal word of the creator, the logos (transcendent 3). Alaya-vijnana in Tibetan Buddhism: universal mind, oceanic, cosmic store-consciousness, in which the primordial forms of all things are stored.

Practices here include turning about in the deepest seat of ordinary consciousness to notice that our imaginal-intuitive mind which is the foundation of everyday perception is continuous with universal mind, the oceanic, eternal, calm repository of the archetypes of everything we perceive. This great reversal of ordinary consciousness can be introvertive, with eyes closed and relative dissociation from the perceptual process, or ambivertive, with eyes open and involvement in perception, turning around in the middle of it to notice how its imaging process pours through our imaginal-intuitive mind from a cosmic source.

Another ambivertive version is to perceive the world as if seeing it in a reducing mirror, which presents a reduced image of the archetypal world of cosmic mind behind you. An extrovertive version of the practice is to attend fully to the content of perception, noticing its figure-ground nature, how one sound or sight is figure to some more inclusive sound or sight which is its ground. Then open awareness out to the non-perceptual universal ground of all perceptual grounds.

Consensual Self-and-social-transformation within consensual reality. Transforming the consensual experience - of self, others and the world - with which we emerge from our culture. Being inquiring, creative and expressive in or more domains of living; being a social change agent seeking to bring about a self-generating culture within human associations; aware and active loving. Being self-creating: undoing the restrictive conditioning of early life to enhance one's autonomy, capacity for co-operation and openness to being. Working on the foundations of self-transfiguration: restructuring belief-systems, redefining personal identity, cultivating participative perception, opening up the closed ego.

Practices here include personal and social change within everyday life; the use of co-operative inquiry; the use of co-counselling and other methods to dismantle negative early conditioning and restructure attitudes and behaviour. Transforming immediate experience: feeling participation in the interrelated unity of people, nature and the cosmos - no seeking, non-separate heart awareness, feeling unity-in-diversity through its originating focus in the heart. Paradox of identity of samsara and nirvana.

The consensual world is home base as the site of personal and social transformation, the starting point of transcendent and immanent explorations, and the fulcrum of bipolarity.

Immanent 1 Grounding in spatiotemporal presence. Space and time as matrices for the manifestation of embodied souls, who co-create them as gateways for the emergence of indwelling divine presence. Matrix space as volume known in all three dimensions simultaneously, the total gesture of the body or of any form in space felt all at once, from within it. Matrix time as a total sequence including past, present and future moments in one act of awareness, with a grasp of rhythmic processes, periodicities, cycles. Matrix space and time as living forms of creative divinity, of the dance of shakti, in which we participate. 'A presence...a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused, whose dwelling is the light of setting suns...' (Wordsworth).

Practices here include a wide range. There is conscious attunement to the rhythms of living: waking and sleeping, eating and defaecating, sexuality and celibacy, activity and relaxation, creativity and lying fallow, coming and going, togetherness and separation, communality and privacy; and to the physical, energy, social and psychic rhythms of the day, the week, the month, the year, and longer cycles.

There are various forms of conscious breathing or pranayama, such as aware breath, rebirth breath, soham breath, solar and lunar breath, energy breath, hyperventilation. There is intentional catharsis, rhythmic emotional cleansing and healing. There are holistic pulsing and other forms of rhythmic body work and energy work.

There is conscious use of the timing and toning of the voice: modulating speech between charismatic time and clock time; mantras and chanting; overtone chanting; singing; drumming and other kinds of percussion; music.

There is conscious movement and posture: Alexander techniqure and other forms of conscious postural and motor integration; charismatic stance and bearing, being present, charismatic gesture, movement and dance; mudras, asanas and sacred postures; various forms of conscious movement training such as Tai Chi and Aikido.

In general, there is attention to holistic spatiotemporal patterns - in the body, in the world, in behaviour, and in the relation between them all - known as the forms of our participation in immmanent spirit, including synchronicities, Tantric windows and doorways. They involve participative awareness, being here now in the fulness of their spatiotemporal matrices, which we help create in charismatic and spiritually expressive ways of being.

Immanent 2 Evocation of subtle energies within nature. Calling forth subtle energies dormant within, or coiled up with natural phenomena. This evocation of finer forces includes those of basic colours and sounds, of the four elements, of inorganic substances, of the plant and animal kingdoms, of the earth as a whole, and of its four quarters, and of its surface and special locations on its surface; and those of the moon and the sun and the planets and particular stars. It includes the evocation of finer forces within the human system, variously called kundalini, chi, prana, mana, odylitic force, bioenergy, psychic currents, psychic centres, chakras. Evocation of the living energies of shakti, the creatrix.

Practices here include evocative ritual, using sound, colour, the elements, various physical substances, plants, the earth, moon and sun, and so on, all of whose subtle energies are interwoven with the evoked mana, the aroused kundalini, of the human beings involved.

Practices that involve the evocation of subtle energies and capacities in humans include: spatiotemporal extensions of consciousness (variously combining here, there, now, then [past or future]) such as telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, precognition, retrocognition and transtemporal regresssion, out of the body experience, projection and identification. These extensions may apply within this reality and/or lead over into other realities.

There is intrasensory perception in which subtle perceptions transfigure ordinary experiences such as touching, gazing, retinal lights, listening, visualizing, dreaming.

There are the varieties of psychokinesis and psychoid events: the projection of subtle energy for healing and to produce other physical and behavioural effects; metal bending and movement of physical objects; impressions on photographic plates; levitation; bilocation; materialization and dematerialization, including ectoplasm and apports; firewalking; swords through flesh; psychic surgery; stigmata; body luminosity; invisibility; spontaneous combustion; supernormal athletic feats; physical mediumship generating raps, music, voices, touches, gusts, smells; poltergeists; UFOs; and so on.

Immanent 3 Opening to impulses of the immanent divine. The life divine as the first manifest emergent from the void. The divinized seed at the core of personhood: the divine as entelechy, a formative potential within the soul, prompting stages of personal growth, commitment to social change and transpersonal unfoldment. Periodic impulses from the indwelling life divine. Direct inspiration from the immanent ground, source of the soul.

Practices here include: evocation of entelechy; opening to, affirming and talking to the underlying source/wellspring/ground of lived experience; a felt sense of good/fitting/appropriate timing in personal and social behaviour, both secular and sacred; a felt sense of good/fitting/appropriate spatial patterns; Subud latihan; Kitselman's E-therapy; Gendlin's experiential focussing; Houston's work with entelechy (Houston, 1987).

Immanent 4 Experience of the void. Primordial emptiness and silence that is pregnant with all existence and contains all existence in potential form. Sunyata, the universal void in Mahayana Buddhism. Zero, non-being, the womb of being, all forms on any level of existence being essentially empty. The hollow, infinite centre from which all being emerges. The unmanifest infinitude within.

Practices here include: no-seeking noticing of the void; visualizing all existence as full disc with a hollow centre whence the disc continuously emerges; meditating on the infinitude within the hara, the abdominal life-centre, the total emptiness of its composite points of zero volume.

Bipolar distinctions

Several distinctions can be made within this overall model. I repeat here ones already stated and add some others.

Transcendent and immanent. Both spirit and the subtle are known either as beyond ordinary experience, transcending it; or as within ordinary experience, indwelling it, hidden in it, immanent.

Down-hierarchy and up-hierarchy. In a down-hierarchy, what is below emanates from what is above; in an up-hierarchy what is above emerges from what is below. As polar forms of cosmic process they endlessly interweave.

Spirit and the subtle. Spirit is the divine known directly in one or other of its modes: transcendent 4, 3 and 1; immanent 4, 3 and 1. The subtle is another aspect of creation, alongside the physical, in which the divine manifests and is known indirectly. It is either beyond the physical - transcendent 2, or within it - immanent 2.

The unmanifest and the manifest. Spirit is the divine known directly as unmanifest: transcendent 4 and immanent 4. Or spirit is the divine known directly as manifest: transcendent 3 and 1, immanent 3 and 1. The subtle is the divine known indirectly as manifest: transcendent 2 and immanent 2.

Mind and life. Spirit as the manifest divine is known directly as divine mind and divine life which are interdependent and without separation. Divine mind is to the fore in transcendent 3 and 1, and divine life to the fore in immanent 3 and 1.

The principle of complementarity and bipolarity means that, for example, when attending explicitly to immanent 3, transcendent 3 is always tacitly and implicitly involved, and vice versa; and so on throughout the model. It also means that complementary states can be entertained together in dynamic and explicit integration, in order to empower and enhance each other. And in principle, all nine states can be integrated in one orchestrated whole.

What now follows is a prospectus for future co-operative inquiries based on the above cartography.

3. Self-transfiguration: a journey of initiation and inquiry

A co-operative inquiry on transpersonal experience at Podere Gello, near Volterra, Italy, or in New Zealand, for six days between the new and the full moon, at the time of the summer solstice or the autumn equinox. Open to any experienced co-counsellor or person who has an equivalent personal growth background.

Please attend only if the following range of purposes and ground-rules make a strong, positive appeal to you, so that you truly feel you can adopt them as your own. They have been evolved from previous events in the UK, in New Zealand, and in Italy. After an opening journey of initiation, based on the cartography of altered states on pages 6 - 9 the group will evolve a programme of inquiry co-operatively, selecting and modifying items from among the purposes stated below. The initiation and the start of the inquiry will be facilitated by John Heron.


Purpose 1 To explore our spiritual selves as if they can manifest expressively through charismatic speech, bearing and movement, song, dance, music, percussion, procession and ritual; and by attunement through other immanent and transcendent approaches.

Purpose 2 To explore the other world and the subtle, psychic dimension of our experience through active imagination and intuitive impression, as if they can lead over into: reception and projection of subtle energies, clairaudience, clairvoyance, trance, out of the body travel, conscious refraction, channelling, direct voice, materialization, apports, psychokinesis, levitation, dual location, conscious dreaming.

Purpose 3 To explore entry knacks involved in moving into possible spiritual and subtle states. These knacks appear to be simple inner skills - an innate competence of soul.

Purpose 4 To explore the use of ritual as if it can effect some combination of: planetary and personal development; integrating the subtle energies of sun, moon and earth; making openings between this world and the unseen universe and communion with powers and presences in the unseen, using the methods given in purpose 2.

Purpose 5 To be aware of distortions of our possible psychic and spiritual expression by unresolved distress (see also ground-rule 3 below), and to have sessions to deal with it.

Purpose 6 To exercise psychic discrimination as if there are low level influences from the unseen, such as the very recently deceased, the earthbound, lost/mischievous/corrupted souls.

Purpose 7 To use co-operative inquiry, moving through collectively planned cycles of experience and reflection, using a variety of validity-enhancing procedures. The point of the inquiry is to determine what, if anything, entitles us to convert 'It is as if X' to 'It is X'.

Purpose 8 To use an opening initiation, a guided journey including ritual, invocation, evocation, meditation and expressive behaviour, in which we only imagine we are in various spiritual and subtle states. This is in order to enter the appropriate states of consciousness for the co-operative inquiry proper.


Ground rule 1 Each person takes full responsibility for their own experience - spiritual, psychical and emotional - entering or ending it according to their own lights, feeling free to leave the group if they need to dissociate from what is going on.

Ground rule 2 No-one takes responsibility for anyone else, seeking to help them to enter or end any experience, unless there is an explicit agreement that someone shall lead an activity taking people into and out of it.

Ground rule 3 No-one exercises psychical-psychological power indirectly seeking to manipulate or control other people by inducing unsolicited states and experiences in them, or by giving them unsolicited 'readings' and unsolicited 'treatments'. No-one uses anyone else as an unwitting psychic surrogate or scapegoat.


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Grof, S. The Adventure of Self-Discovery, New York, SUNY Press, 1988.

Heron, J. Co-operative Inquiry into Altered States of Consciousness, Human Potential Research Project, University of Surrey,1984.

Heron, J. 'Impressions of the Other Reality' in Reason, P. (ed)Human Inquiry in Action, London, Sage, 1988.

Heron, J. Cosmic Psychology, London, Endymion Press, 1990.

Heron, J. Feeling and Personhood, London, Sage, 1992.

Houston, J. The Search for the Beloved, Los Angeles, Tarcher, 1987.

Reason, P. (ed) Human Inquiry in Action, London, Sage, 1988.

Reason, P. 'Co-operative inquiry, participative action research and action inquiry: three approaches to participative inquiry', pre-publication draft, 1992.

Torbert, W. The Power of Balance, London, Sage, 1991.

Wilber, K. The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development, Wheaton, Ill, Theosophical Publishing House, 1980. 5988 15.8.93

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