MY BOOK


After 20 years of research and writing, my book, In Their Right Minds: The Lives and Shared Practices of Poetic Geniuses (2015) Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, is available from the publisher in a very well-made paperback edition. Initially a #1 Hot New Release in Neuropsychology and Poetry/Literary Criticism on Amazon.com, it can also be acquired on Amazon in most countries, either in print, a Kindle edition, or both. If you are interested in consciousness, creativity, poetry, psychology, and/or the paranormal, I think you will find it an illuminating read. You can read the first chapter for free on Amazon!

The Man Who Could Fly: St. Joseph of Copertino and the Mystery of Levitation



Compensation
For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.
For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.

Emily Dickinson


Michael Grosso, a prodigious and excellent writer, has been studying the far side of consciousness for some time. His online article, “Inspiration, Mediumship, Surrealism: The Concept of Creative Dissociation,” excerpted from Broken Images, Broken Selves (1997), was the first meaningful treatment I encountered on puzzling phenomena of great interest to me both then and now.

Grosso’s The Man Who Could Fly is a full-length treatment of St. Joseph of Copertino, a 17th century priest with the uncanny ability to defy the law of gravity: he could levitate! Grosso has read all the sources pertaining to St. Joseph and goes much further and deeper to explain the saint’s “ecstatic dissociation.” As he says elsewhere, in a more global way, “For anyone interested in probing the mysteries of consciousness, it's the deviations from normal function that open things up. Sleep deprivation, fasting, fatigue, crisis, solitude, near-death, madness, terror, psychoactive drugs, and so on.”

In the case of St. Joseph, he suffered early childhood trauma with an “ungiving, unforgiving” mother; a long childhood illness living in unhygienic conditions; and a large, infected, foul-smelling growth on his backside. He found great consolation in being carried to church, leading to an outsized worship of the Madonna. He compensated further through bodily deprivations like fasting and wearing a hair shirt. His lack of maternal affection, self-mutilations, loneliness, avoidance of women, and all-encompassing devotion to the Madonna produced ecstatic states, telepathy, precognition and a life in the priesthood, where his levitations began.

I believe, along with Grosso, that St. Joseph had a mental organization differing from the norm.  As Grosso says, “a slight verbal or visual association might trigger an involuntary episode of ecstatic rapture.” An associative, rather than logical, linear, mind makes a case for the saint’s enhanced right dominance. He also suffered extreme, alternating emotional states. When he was depressed (right hemispheric), his ecstasies subsided. “Hideous dreams and diabolic imaginings assailed him.” On the other hand, almost anything could prompt an ecstatic reaction, suggesting mania. His eyes turned upward and he recited rap-like rhymes, both left-inspired tendencies. As he lay dying, he felt his heart burning in his chest from love and light, as he dissolved into God, a boundless selflessness, which I have suggested elsewhere, suggests the synchronization of the hemispheres.

Grosso says that Joseph’s ecstasies were sublimations of his “displaced sexual desire.” Suppressing the sexual urge and mortifying his body no doubt allowed a compensatory mechanism to bring immense pleasure of another sort into his life. Likewise, Kraft-Ebbing pronounced in his Psychopathia Sexualis: “Mystical ecstasy is a kind of over-compensation for physical pain.”

Ultimately, Grosso explains mystical experience as kind of stepping out of the body, which can include levitation, allowing pure, “irreducible” consciousness to sally forth unbridled. We will never know the bliss of supreme reality, as long as we “are ‘nailed’ to our bodies.”

Of course, all that I have said is just a bare outline of the depth of Grosso’s research. I highly suggest you engage with the book yourself. Be prepared to expand the borders of your mind for a deeper and wider appreciation of human potential.







The Nature of Consciousness

      
I recently ran across a video of Deepak Chopra interviewing Rupert Spira about the latter’s new book. As reported in my last blog post, I had seen Dr. Chopra, pacing back and forth alone on the stage, proclaiming, “There is only EVERYTHING” and “EVERYTHING is conscious” at the 2016 Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson, AZ. While I have heard him numerous times before, this earnest message really grabbed my attention. Not coincidentally, Chopra has also written the foreword for Spira’s book, and they are definitely on the same page. Here, Chopra quotes Max Planck, who coined the word “quantum,” saying, “Mind is the matrix of matter.” He also says, “Matter is a derivative from consciousness.” Spira too believes that “reality is pure consciousness.” I can imagine Jung jumping in posthumously to say, “It is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.” 

      Spira is telling a similar tale: “Time and space, are, in fact, dimensionless awareness refracted through the prism of the finite brain, that is, refracted through thought and perception (26)." But, the “essential nature of mind . . . remains continuously present throughout all its changing knowledge and experience . . . [t]hus, the ultimate science is the science of consciousness (27). But, consciousness is not a “property of the body (29),” it is a “seamless, indivisible, unified infinite whole.” More categorically, he says, “The universe is not conscious; consciousness is the universe (31).” That is, “The universe is consciousness itself: one seamless, indivisible, self-aware whole in which there are no parts, objects, entities or selves (33).”

Spira sets out to explain this conundrum through sheer tenacity, using one overarching example: the movies we watch, with, real, living actors, could not exist without the screen. Likewise, our thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, and memories are fleeting. Pure awareness (the screen), however, stands behind it all, unchanging and irreducible. The body is not aware; only awareness is aware. 
***
In my last post, I described my own experience of “pure” knowing, minus the fleeting sensations of the body. I’ll repeat it here, with a new understanding supplied by Spira:

As I stood still in the Spanish Market of San Antonio, TX, my family at a short distance, I was awash in foreign sounds, sights and smells, as music wafted out of brightly colored Mexican storefronts and restaurants. All of my senses were titillated, except taste. That was to change. At the precise moment when I licked a cold, blue water ice, I entered an altered state of consciousness, with no sensed boundary between my inner and the outer world. With an intensely blissful feeling pouring  from my heart, I saw tiny sparks of light, dotting out infinitely beyond me and time stood still. Light consciousness, indicating a different energetic presence, is regularly reported in altered states of consciousness.


The notion of overloaded senses reminded me of something I had read a long time ago when trying to understand my friend’s “angelic” encounters after her mother died. The book, Talking with Angels (1988 /1992), standing tall, white and wide, on a bookshelf at the Jung Center in Houston, drew me in. Translated from the Hungarian, the book was originally transcribed by Gitta Mallasz, the only survivor of a group of four young people who would later be sent to Nazi concentration camps. She wrote, based on the voices (always in caps, as in James Merrill's and David Jackson's Ouija board dialogues), that “THE HUMAN REJOICES WHEN THE SEVEN SENSES, THE SEVEN SOULS, ACT IN UNISON.” Along with this union of the senses, comes LIGHT-AWARENESS, which is “half-matter, half Glory (391).” How Spira-like! Further, rhythmic poetry became an engine of these voices! Even my friend reported that her voices started to speak in poetic form, even though she was not a fan. I have argued elsewhere that the poetic connection implicates an enhanced right hemisphere (Platt 2007).

In tandem with the angels’ voices, Spira’s theory could explain my pure, borderless, blissful sensation of infinite awareness, the true ground of being, brought about by the simultaneous titillation of all of my senses. Or, turning to neuroscientists, we might say that the sense overload created a momentary synchronization of my cerebral hemispheres, shutting down my body’s boundaries, thus opening me to Oneness with All that is (see Persinger, Ramachandran, Newberg, Conforti).

  
 Rejecting the idea that consciousness studies should be all about brain areas, Spira quotes poets instead, who seem to get it right naturally. Consider the following examples from Spira’s book:
     
 “The poet Tennyson suggested seeking the ultimate nature of the mind as one would follow a ‘sinking star, beyond the utmost reach of human thought (61).”

“Rumi said, ‘I searched for myself and found only God; I searched for God and found only myself (84).”

Spira confirms, “There is only God’s infinite being (90) . . . the only absolute knowledge there is (92)”; along with, “Each of our minds is like an opening through which infinite awareness knows itself in the form of the world (101).”


Wordsworth said, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting (122).”

Spira returns to Blake’s well-known formulation: “If the doors of perception were cleansed

everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite (112)” and affirms that: “At some point science 

will realize that the universe is not a universe, as such. It will recognize that unlimited 

consciousness is all there is (121).”

     

Spira further states that “Telepathy, synchronicity and intuition 

are all examples of the normal boundaries of the waking state

becoming relaxed and the boundaries between finite minds 

becoming correspondingly looser (139).” Jung’s “collective 

unconscious,” he says, should more properly be called a 

“collective field of consciousness . . . that makes itself known

. . .  through dreams, images, intuitions, and so on (144).”



      
Spira’s thoughts on the sleeping brain also spoke to me: “One could say that when the mind wakes, consciousness sleeps, and when the mind sleeps, consciousness wakes. Of course, consciousness never sleeps; to ‘fall asleep to’ in this context means to ignore its own infinite reality (115).” Several times, in a foreign countries, I have awakened from a deep sleep and experienced a deadly nothingness in my mind. Indeed, Spira later adds, “In deep sleep only a thin veil of nothingness obscures awareness’s knowing of its own unlimited being . . . (135).” Maybe I was a hair’s width away from feeling infinite awareness then.

      I can also relate to this notion from Spira: “In the dream state consciousness has access to a broader segment of its infinite possibilities than it does in the denser, more clearly defined waking state (125).” In 1996, when I was troubled by my friend’s experience, I read a book on dissociative identity disorder. After a brief sleep, I awoke, read some more, then went back to bed. I awoke with my heart palpitating wildly. In my frightening dream, a patient lay rigid on a psychiatrist’s couch. With his eyes rolling in his head and his mouth lit up like a neon “O,” he shouted in a Darth Vader -like voice: “Freud only got it half right; Read the two Hyperion poems.” This dual-pronged key led me to Jung and Keats and a nearly 20-year study of poets and neuroscience. Did infinite awareness bring that all-important message to me?


Furthermore, the cover for my resulting book came to me as a hypnopompic image as I awoke one morning.


***

      One last thing in Spira’s work especially spoke to me. He says that “in a relaxed waking state, an intuition or a deep sense of connection between people, animals and objects” can occur (126). Indeed, sitting quietly on a park bench at the University of Pennsylvania, I noticed a student  crossing my path nearby. I was jolted by an intuition that I would marry him. Much like Jung, who recognized Emma as the woman he would marry when she was only 13, I did the same at 18. I can only surmise that my momentarily relaxed, "infinitely aware" mind recognized my husband from the future. We have been happily married since we were 23!