Past Lives or Collective Unconscious?
Chris: So, do you mean that they were remembering former lives? Or were they tapping into a collective consciousness?
Tony: What is the difference, for to remember the long journey of our spirit we must go beyond the memory stored in our brain, that is simply the memory of this body, and we need to go deep into what is called the huge consciousness. It is called many names – the unconscious – the spiritual – the higher self.
But I am not sure that Grof tried to carefully define a philosophy around these experiences. I personally refer to it in a very open sense. I think we can make the mistake of very quickly saying it is a past life, or it is the connection with a collective consciousness. There are so many theories about what these things mean. We are a long way from being certain of where they arise from. One serious researcher, seeing the universe and the mind as holographic, believes that dreams themselves enter into other dimensions of reality. So we need to leave such questions open.
What we can say with some certainty is that we are capable of extending our awareness far beyond the limitations that are generally accepted. See Extending Your Awareness
Chris: Under what circumstances or conditions can we do those things?
Tony: Looking back at the information that past cultures left us, it seems likely that early human beings at first accidentally stumbled on the possibilities of extending their awareness. For instance we still have thousands of records of near death experiences occurring to people in the past, and still happening today. One of the common features of such experiences is the person witnessing verifiable events occurring at a distance from them, or at a time when they appeared to be in a coma with their eyes closed.
There are also many records collected by anthropologists and also verified, of tribal people dreaming of particular herbal remedies to cure ills. Some of these dreamt remedies have been taken into the modern pharmacopoeia. Namely such things as quinine. Also, in the past and in today’s world, sometimes dreams present information that the dreamer does not have, has not learned, has not heard, and has in no way taken into themselves from outside.
From such experiences older cultures gradually developed the concept of having a soul that could dissociates from or be independent of the body. Some cultures, especially those in India and the Far East, explored ways of purposefully bringing about such extended awareness. It seems as if at a certain period the human body and mind became a laboratory in which those cultures tried out all manner of things to see what the results would be.
Of course, some of the techniques used were quite crazy. This probably arose because the underlying principles were not really understood. For instance, fasting gradually reduces the physical and emotional energy to a point where the mind and emotions become very quiet. But the active principle, so to speak, is not the fasting, but the quietness of the mind and emotions.
It was also noticed that to really explore these further reaches of consciousness certain qualities were necessary. A certain amount of confidence and fearlessness were needed to meet the further reaches of mind. Some cultures, such as the native American Indians, also realised that if one could not meet a reasonable amount of pain, then you could not really dive very deeply into that wider awareness; if for no other reason than the wider awareness breaking through the narrow and limiting boundaries of the ego of personality can be felt as pain.