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Where Psyche and Soma meet


He who dies before he dies, does not die when he dies
Abraham of Santa Clara

“Life is made meaningful by death.”


Daodejing

The Neoplatonist philosopher, Porphyry once wrote: ‘Every threshold is sacred.’ 1 Of these, death
is probably considered the most final, and therefore the most mysterious and worthy of
speculation. It is also a boundary that some claim to have crossed and returned from whilst still
alive.

Near Death Experiences have been recorded since ancient times, beginning with the Plato’s
myth of Er. 2 More recently, a number of studies have been published, beginning with Dr
Raymond Moody’s Life After Life in the 1970’s, which detail similar accounts amongst ordinary
people who claim to have died and later returned to their bodies to tell the tale.

In psychology, techniques known under the umbrella of past-life regression purport to use
trance states to enable clients to gain access to memories of former lives, including previous
experiences of death and the disembodied states in-between incarnations. Whilst most
practitioners employ hypnosis to achieve this, others use pain held within the physical body as
an ‘affect bridge’ 3 through which to reach these images and stories.

Aside from the obvious existential overlaps, both phenomena also raise important questions
about the nature of embodiment - the former implying that we may be capable of existing
separately from our bodies, and the latter suggesting that, during life we may be able to gain
access to knowledge of other orders of existence through the doorway of our physical bodies. In
this essay, I would like to explore these implications further, including their relationship to key
philosophical positions relating to embodiment. In doing so, I hope to answer the following
questions: Do Western esoteric traditions currently under-value the body and place too much
emphasis on transcendence of the material realm? And, more importantly, are there routes to
visionary states and divinatory experiences which are world-affirming and embrace our
embodied nature?

Near Death Experiences and Out of Body Experiences

Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) usually occur in subjects whose bodies appear to be dying.
Often this is corroborated by medical staff, based on vital sign measurements such as heartbeat
and brain activity, to determine whether or not the physical body appears to be alive. 4 Typically
subjects claim to be aware that their body is nearing death. Once their initial feelings of panic
and disorientation subside, a sense of calm and bliss descends, after which many report having
an Out of Body Experience (OBE).

During OBE’s, people describe observing their bodies from above, as well as being able to move
through material objects or to other places almost at will. Some claim to have participated in
events or seen objects at locations far removed from their physical body (and are sometimes
seen there by witnesses 5 ) whist others report experiences of improved perceptual and
intellectual abilities outside of their usual range of bodily senses and rational capabilities. 6

Even more compelling are the OBEs that occur in subjects who are either partially or completely
blind and yet claim to be able to see whilst out of their bodies. 7 Vicky Umipeg, a congenitally
blind patient, experienced an NDE twice over the course of two years during her twenties.
During the first NDE, which took place when she was rushed to hospital after a car accident, she
recalled seeing her bleeding body from above, and the doctors and nurses working on her. In a
transcript of her interview, she describes seeing her head cut open and a lot of blood, as well as
other details concerning what the nurse was wearing. 8 Not only do accounts such as hers force
us to revisit our assumptions about our true ontological nature, but they also lead us to speculate
about where the real centre of perception lies. 9
2
Although each NDE is unique in many respects, certain core features tend to recur. 10
These include: a period of floating through empty space or darkness, sometimes described as
travelling through a tunnel towards a growing light; entering a hyper-real landscape, often an
‘idyllic pastoral scene’ characterised by unearthly colours or music; meetings with light beings
(interpreted variously as angels, spirit guides, gods etc, depending on cultural context);
encounters with deceased loved ones; and a life review. 11

Towards the end of the NDE, the subject is either persuaded, or voluntarily decides to return to
earthly life, which means reuniting with their physical body. This is often described in fairly
violent terms such as ‘slamming into’ the body, or ‘like a rollercoaster going backwards’ 12 etc. It
is only after this that subjects describe becoming aware once more of the pain caused by their
injuries or illness, sensations they were aware of prior to the NDE event. Afterwards some feel
depressed at having had to return.

In Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Jung recounts a near death experience that he had after a
heart attack in 1944. After regaining consciousness, he describes his despair at being forced back
to earthly life, which he compares to an artificially-constructed “three-dimensional world...in
which every person sat by himself in a little box.” The ‘box’ appears to refer to his state of
embodiment:

Life on the whole struck me as a prison…I had been so glad to shed it all, and
now it had come about that I, along with everyone else – would again be hung up
in a box by a thread. While I floated in space, I had been weightless, and there
had been nothing tugging at me. And now all that was to be a thing of the past! 13

Whilst recuperating at home, Jung reported having ecstatic experiences of floating blissfully in
‘space’ and a series of visions which he would later interpret as inner alchemical processes of
transformation. He also claimed to see a “blue halo” of light around his nurse’s head. Of this
period, he wrote: ‘Everything around me seemed enchanted.’ 14

Such feelings are not untypical of those who have had NDE's. Most 15 reported that the
experience had fundamentally transformed them on some level. Many developed a strong
interest in metaphysical subjects 16 with some testifying to a heightened sensitivity towards
beauty and nature - one woman describing this as an exquisite emotional response that, at times
was ‘almost unbearable.’ 17 Significantly, nearly half in one study 18 claimed to return with
knowledge of the future or to go on to develop psychic abilities. 19 Similar occurrences have also
been reported amongst hypnotic regression patients. 20 Jung himself had a premonition of his
doctor’s death and tried to warn him, but to no avail. 21

The most striking change in NDE’rs is that many lose their fear of death and become convinced
that they consist of more than their physical bodies. After experiencing an OBE, one doctor came
to believe in the existence of a second self which he associated with a spiritual body:

[T]his other body is the real self, Spirit, God, or whatever you like to call it. It is
harnessed at birth, and released at death (and occasionally temporily) [sic]
released and returns, as in illness or accident…I feel that religion is merely an
attempt to discover this real self, and without the personal experience, it is
possibly not possible to find it. It is so completely divorced from any other
experience in living. 22

The idea of a subtle body was not foreign to the ancient world. Both Gnostic and Neoplatonic 23
documents refer to a pneumatikos - an etheric body or soul vehicle that mediated between the
physical body and the spirit, acting as an organ of sense-perception and imagination. 24 This
body was thought to take on additional layers or ‘envelopes’ 25 which were increasingly more
material in nature on its descent through the planetary spheres during incarnation, which it later
discarded on its re-ascent. The Moon appears to have been interpreted as responsible for the
most material of these - the physical body. 26

This ‘vehicle of the soul’ was based on metaphysical interpretations of the image of the soul’s
chariot in Plato’s Timaeus and the Phaedrus. 27
3
Finamore believes that these groups may also
have been influenced by contact with
Mesopotamian cultures, particularly that of the
Egyptians. 28 Egyptian texts mention the ka - a
winged vehicle that was said to carry the ba or
soul after death through the netherworld
(although of course, the mummified body was
preferred because this allowed more enjoyment of
sensual pleasures in the afterlife) although both
were considered inferior to the akh – a radiant
body of light which the soul could use to
commune with the sun god and traverse the starry
Figure 1. The ba bird hovering over its body heavens. 29
(From: Naydler, 1996, p. 206)

One could argue that this is paralleled in the tripartite soul of Plato’s Timaeus, which was
interpreted as being housed within certain parts of the body whilst the soul was embodied. 30

However, within ancient thinking there were many differing interpretations of the relationship
between soul, matter and embodiment. This ranged from Iamblichus’ view that bodies are
vessels for the soul which becomes mortal during incarnation (and which can be purified
through ritual to contain the gods) 31 , to Plotinus’ view that a part of the soul is immortal and
remains in the heavens, undescended and is therefore, superior to the body and matter; to the
Gnostics, who saw the soul as an originally pure but fallen spirit, polluted by an evil cosmos and
material demons through the medium of the body. 32

In modern metaphysics, it is often referred to as the aura 33 . Theosophist 34 and kabbalistic 35


literature abounds with references to it. Whilst theosophy seems to have been influenced by
Indian yoga and other eastern mystical practices 36 , Hermetic orders, such as the Golden Dawn
seem to have based many of their ideas and practices on Neoplatonic theurgy. 37 However,
opinion varies as to whether the subtle body is assumed to be inherently present or whether it
has be cultivated by the advanced mystic after years of meditation and disciplined spiritual
practice, such as with Taoist inner alchemy. 38

So how do modern diviners and healers conceive of this relationship?


Well-known bodywork healer and clairvoyant, Barbara Ann Brennan,
outlines a very complex model of the human being consisting of
various layers and dimensions of energy 39 which make up what
she calls The Human Energy Field (HEF).(See Figure 2.) 40 These
layers get progressively finer and more ethereal the further
away they are situated from the physical body. 41

She is very clear that the HEF ‘provides an immaterial matrix


upon which cells grow’ and that, like Rupert Sheldrake’s
morphogenic fields 42 , ‘the energy field exists before the
physical body.’ 43 She also describes a Universal Energy Field
(UEF), which like the World Soul in Platonism, ‘surrounds
and interpenetrates everything.’ 44 According to Brennan, we
interact and exchange energy with it through vortices similar
to the chakras of the Indian yogic system. Her scheme is
highly complex, so I will avoid going into too much detail here.
The important thing is that, like the Neoplatonists 45 , she
considers the physical body to be an emanation of
consciousness and not the other way around:

Mind gives rise to matter; therefore mind or


consciousness is the basic reality. 46

Figure 2. Brennan's model of the Human Energy


Field, incorporating the core star and hara line
dimensions.
(From Brennan, 1993, p. 213)
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Alternative Interpretations of the NDE

Sceptics disagree with the assumption that NDE'rs actually experience death. Susan Blackmore,
an atheist 47 working within the scientific-materialist parameters of neuroscience, suggests that
NDE’s are simply the hallucinations of an oxygen-starved brain 48 , and that the way in which the
mind builds up a picture of reality from a combination of memory, imagination and information
relayed to it by the sensory and kinaesthetic systems of the body, is much more complex than we
realise. 49 She is therefore convinced that, with regard to NDE’s, the issue lies, not around
whether we can exist outside of our bodies, but rather, in assumptions we make about the true
nature of the mind-body relationship.

Other critics point out that many of the characteristics of NDE’s have also been reported in other
circumstances. Christopher French, for example, claims that OBEs have been experienced by
patients when certain sections of their brain were stimulated electronically. 50 It is well-known in
the literature that that not all OBEs occur in states of distress – more often they happen when
people are in relaxed or hypnagogic states, such as those about to fall asleep or who are
meditating. 51

Corazza also rejects the survivalist model of interpreting NDE's. By comparing them to the ‘trips’
of drug users while under the influence of ketamine, a substance formerly used as an anesthetic,
she has shown remarkable similarities between the two phenomena. 52 However, she is not
willing to attribute these to neuro-biological causes, calling this reductionist. 53 Instead, Corazza
suggests that both experiences may be examples of what happens when we temporarily suspend
our usual concepts of embodied consciousness and open ourselves up to states that allow us to
perceive other types of embodied relationships to the world that we were previously unaware
of. 54

Metaphorically-speaking, we are ice-bergs floating in the deep sea, with one-fifth


above the surface and four-fifths below...NDE’s are a manifestation of the
remaining four-fifths. 55

Turning to a non-dualist model of embodiment based on the work of Japanese academic, Prof.
Yasuo Yuasa, she proposes that the mind-body is seen as layers of intelligence or consciousness
(‘information circuits.’ 56 )

[T]he human organism can be conceptualized as an energy system characterized


by multi-layered information circuits. His [Yuasa’s] theories reflect a holistic
view of the human body in terms of which the function of the mind is not only
related to the brain but also to the rest of the body. 57

Although similar to Brennan’s concept, Corazza argues that we should move beyond dualisms
such as spirit vs. matter, towards an integrated view of embodiment which situates the body
within the context of the world 58 . Within Corazza’s ‘extended body theory’, the mind-body is
seen as extending infinitely into its surroundings and cannot be removed from its position
within the cosmic web of life. 59 Here, there is no real border between where our bodies end and
the world begins, except our state of awareness.
The idea that we are extended in space beyond our
conventional boundaries has been little explored
in Western thought…

Fundamental to this new perspective is an


Asian view of embodiment according to which
the body cannot be considered apart from
place (Basho) which represents the ‘ground of
our being.’…Even more profoundly, the
experiences [NDE’s and ketamine trips]
suggest to us that what we label ‘I’ is only a
small part of a deeper intelligence that is
immanent within all creation. 60
Figure 2. Drawing of spider’s web - a symbolic way of describing
Corazza's concept (From: Wikipedia.org)
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Curry & Willis reach much the same conclusion, possibly because they are also heavily
influenced by eastern mysticism, and the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty. 61 Both feel that it is
important to reclaim an awareness of ourselves as ‘beings-in-a-world, a world of which, as
sentient, physical entities, we are inextricably a part.’ 62 In this sense, the body is seen as
relational 63 - far from being ‘isolated, bounded entities,’ human bodies are ‘open systems,’
always in dialogue and only complete when ‘in interchange with the immensely larger body of
the environing earth.’ 64 For Curry, then, the notion of souls transcending the earth for a
heavenly life after death, as found in philosophies such as Platonism, is anathema, because, this
denies the fundamental ‘earth rootedness’ of our being:

There is no wholly other paradise from which we are excluded; the only
transcendence that can be real to us is an immanent one. 65

Both subscribe to an animistic view of nature, seeing all of life as ensouled and filled with more-
than-human agency. 66 Despite the fact that one could argue for a type of animism in Plato’s
cosmos (the World Soul) Curry feels that it is very difficult to escape the notion that Platonism is
ontologically hierarchical and therefore tends to privilege the world of spirit and the higher
transcendent realms of the soul over embodied earthly life, which ultimately devalues nature
and the material. 67 He also eschews any monist philosophies that attempt to reduce all of reality
to one substance or orientation, be it material or spiritual. 68 Although he feels that it is
discursively useful to make distinctions between spirit and matter, following Taoist principles,
he asserts that:

There is no 'spirit' which is not also, to some degree and in some way, also
material; and no 'matter' which is not to some degree and in some way
spiritual. 69

Willis sees many similarities between the psychic ordeal of shamanic initiation and NDE’s. 70
However, he does not comment on the content of their visions and whether or not he believes
that the figures encountered here are real or illusory. Curry does not rule them out but admits a
personal discomfort with talk of subtle bodies. 71

What about apparently disembodied spirits? On two grounds, I am not prepared


to rule them out: a great deal of ethnographic and historical evidence, and an
awareness of my own metaphysical ignorance. And if there are such, it would
seem that not all subjectivity or agency need be embodied, or else we have an
unduly restricted understanding of ‘body’. However, this is of secondary
importance. The primary point is that for us human beings, subjectivity is
necessarily embodied; that is, we are all, qua human beings, embodied, and all
our experiences – whether ‘astral travel’, so-called out-of-body or near-death
experiences – are experienced and reported only by living and embodied human
beings. The immediate corollary is that embodiment is a fundamental
consideration that affects all the worlds we live in (i.e., both for and through us),
including whatever we know of them. 72

One of the major problems of introducing Eastern theories of embodiment into Western
paradigms is that the former lacks a cosmology in which to situate other orders or realms of
being outside of the mind. 73 This makes it difficult to know what Curry envisages when he talks
of our earth-rootedness 74 . Also, if he refuses to conceive of supernatural orders of existence
beyond that of the earth 75 , what alternative cosmology does he envisage? 76 And where do NDE
encounters with their more-than-human agents take place? If these are seen as purely internal
events, do these supernatural beings have autonomy or exist beyond our conceptions of them or
are they simply hallucinations of the mind? 77

Whilst this need for structure might be foolish to Taoists, for example, it is inherently Western to
think in this way and for Kirkmayer, is something that the body insists upon in order to make
meaning:

Ultimately, the body insists that we finalize our temporary mental constructions,
committing ourselves to some view of reality. 78
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Braude, who has investigated the evidence for life after death in his book, Immortal Remains,
has a similar problem. Although he can accept the existence of phenomena like telepathy, one of
the reasons why he could not accept the idea of OBEs and NDE’s as being real (i.e. externalist)
phenomena is that he did not understand why apparitions in veridical OBEs always appear
clothed to witnesses! 79 Although he concluded that the combined evidence of a range of
phenomena appears to provide a strong case for post-mortem survival, he felt that OBEs (he
considers NDE’s to be a type of OBE) are probably the result of bodily dissociation.

So, just as many people deal with trauma dissociatively by inducing amnesia or
anaesthesia, others might experience OBEs instead. In fact, it might be plausible
to interpret OBEs as forms of disassociation in which visual imagery typically
plays a vital role…From this internalist point of view, OBEs aren’t deranged or
aberrant responses to a situation. Instead, having on OBE would be a handy
adaptational strategy, and it would connect coherently with a substantial body of
research into hypnosis and disassociation generally, and traumatic stress in
particular. 80

Roger Woolger, a Jungian analyst and regression therapist, agrees that some form of bodily
dissociation may be involved in altered states of consciousness 81 , but does not consider any sort
of materialist hypothesis, such as Blackmore’s dying brain theory, to be adequate explanations
for NDE’s. He does, however, suggest an answer to Braude’s conundrum:

It is a travesty to claim that phenomena of spirit can be reduced to biological


components... But this is not to say that spirit cannot manifest in forms that can
be perceived in this way by visionary or clairvoyant consciousness. 82

In order to explore this idea further, let us consider hypnosis and past life regression.

Hypnosis and Past Life Regression Therapies

Hypnosis is certainly a fascinating area of study and has much to offer the researcher interested
in the psycho-somatic relationship. Both hypnotic past-life regression and traditional hypnosis
make use of trance states in order to dissociate the mind from its awareness of the body in order
to reach deeper levels of consciousness. Having undergone the process myself, I can attest first-
hand to the phenomenon of catalepsy – a dissociative condition characterised by feelings of
heaviness and paralysis in the limbs, as well as a lack of bodily response to external stimuli
whilst in trance. 83 This paralysis may be similar to that experienced during certain stages of
dream sleep in which the body becomes immobile to avoid it causing harm to itself. 84

Despite the fact that many patients experience strong somatic and emotional reactions while
‘under,’ the focus, in both clinical hypnosis and hypnotic past-life regression, tends to be on the
contents of patients’ so-called ‘memories’ and whether these contain epistemological truths
about life after death or offer proof of reincarnation. In the work of Dr Brian Weiss 85 and
Michael Newton 86 little is said about the role of the body in the overall process, probably because
of their assumptions about a Cartesian mind-body split. 87 Woolger thinks this is because they
characterise regression as a cognitive rather than a cathartic process. 88

Instead, he believes that it is crucial to engage the body in any form of regression work. 89 This is
because, like Corazza, he believes that the body, mind and spirit are deeply interconnected.
Acknowledging Brennan 90 , Woolger visualizes the body along yogic and theosophist lines 91
referring to a three-tiered subtle body (the etheric, emotional and mental bodies 92 ) that contain
each other ‘like Russian eggs’ which becomes entwined with the ‘gross body’ during physical
incarnation. 93 In his view, we can store traumatic memories from past lives (what he calls
samaskaras, using yogic terminology) as psychic energy, psychological complexes or physical
memories (pain), within these layers, which can then affect the functioning of the body and
manifest as unexplained illnesses, phobias etc. In his model, the concept of karma is therefore,
embodied. 94

Woolger’s therapeutic technique, known as Deep Memory Process, involves using triggers,
including physical aches and pains, bodily sensations etc as entry points into altered states of
consciousness from where clients are able to reach more deeply into their psyches (and subtle
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bodies) to find and purge ‘energetic’ memories that may be symbolically related to their current
ailments or psychopathologies. 95 His model of the psyche is much broader than most
psychologists which allows him to revision the human body as the site of ‘a multiplicity of
experiencing subjects’ - an ‘embodiment of the totality of our complexes.’ 96

The altered states of consciousness experienced by patients whilst in hypnagogic states Woolger
feels are therefore a ritualised form of disassociation to get the individual to let go of their
current ego identity (which may be wrapped up in a particular body image, such as the form it is
presently taking) and allow itself to open up to other identities, which may have had different
bodies. 97 Unlike mediumship, this involves a re-owning of discarnate, past-life entities - another
way of referring to memories when given some sort of embodied form. Shaw’s description of
divine possession during theurgy does not sound at all dissimilar. 98

Calling his work a type of active imagination or psycho-drama, he believes that what is
important is not whether these ‘memories’ can be verified historically 99 , but rather how these
narratives engage the client in an imaginal and cathartic process that, ultimately, brings about a
healing. 100

He therefore proposes that we move towards a view of embodiment which is less literal and
more imaginal. Such a view, however, can only be conceived of if one accepts matter as an
emanation of consciousness. 101 This allows for continuity between pains in the body and
emotional affects in the psyche, between memories and dreams and between spiritual and
material states. It is also means that there is very little difference between the visions of the
NDE'r and that of the regression patient when in trance.

Like Curry & Willis, Woolger has suggested that both regression and NDE’s can be compared to
shamanic journeying, saying that nearly all mystic and initiatic traditions involve ‘learning how
to die’ - developing techniques for making painless transitions from the physically embodied
state into other dimensions using the energies of the subtle body. 102 Angela Voss has also
proposed that hypnotic regression may be a type of imaginal initiation process 103 , a suggestion
which Fox does not rule out entirely in the case of NDE’s. He cites examples of shamanic
initiation in which the bodies of candidates sometimes go into catatonic states, appearing, for all
intents and purposes, as if dead. 104

Unlike Curry & Willis, Woolger finds it useful to draw up a cosmology in which he places these
hierarchies of worlds and orders of being. 105 However, whilst Woolger does consider
supernatural beings to be what Corbin describes as ‘autonomous forms and images’ 106 these are
ultimately seen as emanations of pure spirit, which in its purest form, does not have a form but
is what the Buddhists would term, ‘the pure light of the void.’ 107 Therefore, gods in their
embodied form are part of an inter-mediate world of images similar to Henry Corbin’s mundus
imaginalis. 108 For Woolger, this is the realm of the subtle bodies but also the realm in which
divination and healing takes place. 109

Hierarchical cosmologies such as that found in Platonism 110 , which outline the existence of
supernatural beings inhabiting interconnected but ontologically distinct worlds (including
supernatural orders outside the realm of the earthly) if seen in Woolger’s paradigm, could be
revisioned as metaphorical descriptions of imaginal worlds. 111

Therefore, in assessing the epistemology of NDE’s and ‘regressions’, we have to be wary of


literalism. As Gregory Shaw points out:

The Neoplatonists knew that no one has ever seen the gods—despite the
abundance of theophanies reported in the literature. The gods are entirely
ineffable and invisible, so if they are seen, even in visions or dreams, they are
clothed in the imagination of the dreamer. As Iamblichus puts it, the
appearance of the god “reveals the incorporeal as corporeal to the eyes of the soul
by means of the eyes of the body.” 112

This interpretation may explain why no two NDE visions or hypnotic ‘regression’ memories are
absolutely identical – they may have many similar themes but they also contain uniquely
idiosyncratic material as well as cultural overlay. 113 It also explains why some people have
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negative or hellish NDE experiences without having to resort to overly simplistic ideas and
moral judgements. 114

So where does this leave us in terms of the value of embodiment? Again Shaw seems to have an
answer. Immersing ourselves in matter – the densest form of spirit - is an act of separation
from pure spirit but the only way to discover who we truly are in essence. 115 In short, as
embodied beings:

‘Self-alienation’ (allotriôthen) constitutes our very essence. 116

This is because, as Curry has pointed out, we can only observe or know something if we are
separated from it – this is the basis of alterity. We can, therefore only know something by
experiencing its opposite state. 117

And so there appears to be a great paradox and mystery at the heart of the human condition, at
the centre of which, lies the body. Is there, then, a route to enlightenment that is inclusive of our
embodied state?

For human beings to truly immerse themselves in their body and the world, Curry and Willis
believe that we need to reclaim our proclivity towards so called ‘primitive mentality,’ to borrow a
phrase from Levy-Bruhl 118 – through the shamanic traditions of our aboriginal ancestors. 119
This, for Curry & Willis, is the key to understanding the unique relationship that early man had
with his environment - a type of collective ‘intersubjectivity’ 120 in which humans and nature are
seen as equal subjects - capable of mutual dialogue and inter-action. It also involves becoming
present to the ‘primacy of bodily perception’ 121 and the ‘necessarily embodied nature of human
consciousness’ which is perspectival, plural, metaphorical and liminal in nature, existing in a
halfway space of continual movement between tensive opposites – ‘we do not, cannot live in any
absolute place or state, but between them’. 122

Merkur speaks of an ‘Outward Way’ – a second, more extroverted type of unitive experience that
involves seeing the divine as immanent within the perceptible world 123 If such a definition were
to extend to the perception of patterns and correspondences within nature and the cosmos, then
perhaps this category could broaden to include most forms of divination (as opposed to
mysticism) especially those where ritual practices involve some form of interaction with other
entities or the world (as opposed to the sole practice of inward contemplation, which Merkur
terms the ‘Inward Way.’ 124 )

As has been mentioned earlier, shamanism could be construed as another. Having evolved out of
aboriginal cultures, it is usually very nature-based, with initiation rites that often involve great
ordeals of physical endurance that push neophytes to the very threshold of death. 125 It is also
very liminal - shamans consider it part of their calling to be able to shape-shift into different
bodies and journey to other dimensions, including that of the dead, from where they are able to
speak to ancestral spirits who offer advice and healing to living members of their tribe.

Shaw proposes the theurgy of Iamblichus, 126 pointing out that it involves ‘divine action (theion
ergon)’ - ‘ritualized moments of return’ - which he distinguishes from theologia (god talk.) 127
Shaw goes on to suggest that dreamwork and practices involving active imagination within
archetypal psychology could arguably be considered as modern day equivalents, although these
often lack metaphysical frameworks and cosmologies and so run the risk of being considered
purely internalist. 128

But, perhaps one of the least-studied and potentially fruitful areas for future research might be
an examination of whether physical activities such as extreme and adventure sports could be
used as a spiritual tool. Maria Coffey’s pioneering book, Explorers of the Infinite, which looks at
the paranormal and spiritual experiences of extreme adventurers, proposes that there are
parallels between their disciplined physical efforts and many spiritual practices. In addition, she
suggests that the intuitive abilities and animistic spiritual attitudes to nature 129 that they develop
as a result of fine-tuning their bodies and pitting themselves against the elements may be similar
to that of early hunter-gatherers who had to immerse themselves in their bodies and the natural
world in order to survive: ‘a close connection to the natural world is a vital part of how
adventurers access these realms.’ Further study of this area may yield important answers as well
as connections with the ecstatic dances of whirling dervishes, yogic practices and martial arts.
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In conclusion, it would seem as though NDE’s and ‘regression-type’ experiences might not offer
the ultimate proof of survival after death, but instead provide us with another way to view our
relationship with our bodies, other forms of intellignce and the world. If we allow ourselves to
see them in this light, we are also asked to revision our understanding of death as a transition or
threshold point between different continuums of embodied existence. We can then also reclaim
the value of embodiment and the imagination in our spiritual strivings and divinatory pursuits.

In closing, I would like to quote Coffey, whose book was prompted by her own near death
experience:

The hardest, most challenging experiences of our lives can enrich our existence,
revealing our true identity, awakening us to the greater awareness of our own
potential, and opening us to the infinite beauty of the universe. 130
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Bibliography
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Bailey, A. (1953) Esoteric Healing, Lucis Trust

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13

References
1 Curry, 2007, p. 15
2 Republic, X, 616B
3 Affect was, for Jung the key to knowing when a synchronicity had occurred. As I have mentioned elsewhere, it is this

affective or emotional charge, which notifies the experiencing subject that a significant connection has been made, which
Jung termed the ‘numinous’ aspect of the archetype. See Jung, CW8, para. 851. Occasionally, this charge can have almost
religious overtones and in divination, has come to be known by astrologers like Maggie Hyde as the ‘judder effect’. See Hyde,
2001. Naturally, since the feeling or charge is expressed through the body, it becomes implicated in the act of divination.
Here, though, Woolger uses it in the Jungian therapeutic sense, as a tool to amplify images or make situations more
psychologically ‘real’ for the client in order to perform catharsis. See Woolger, 2002, p.12
4 Kung, in Fox, 2003, pp.64-65 argues that we should distinguish between the loss of vital signs, on one hand, which are

indications of the process of dying, and irrevocable biological death, which is irreversible. In this way, Kung says that NDE
subjects may experience dying but not necessarily, death.
5 Braude, 2003, p. 245
6 See Fox, 2003, pp. 205-242 Often subjects report being able to see and hear in remarkable detail. See Fox, 2003, pp.177-8,

205-11 and Ring & Valarino, 1998, pp.57-71 in one man’s OBE, he claimed that: ‘I could see everything in the room – every
hair on every head, it seemed – all at the same time. I took it all in, in a single omnipresent glance.’
7 See Fox, 2003, pp. 205-242;Ring & Valarino, 1998, pp. 73 – 95 and Ring & Cooper, 1999.
8 Ring and Valarino, 1998, p. 77. Strangely, though, she could not tell what colour the blood was…she claims this is because

she has no mental concept of colour.


9 Braude has pointed out that many of our assumptions about the mind and memory are physicalist, such as the theory that

memory is contained in the brain. Braude, 2003, p.292 Sheldrake instead proposes an ‘extended mind theory’ which he says
stretches out beyond the brain through a system of mental fields linking us with our environment and each other. Coffey,
2008, pp.171-2. this has many overlaps with quantum non-location. See Goswami, 2001, pp. 111, 213
10 Some have suggested that this is down to our shared physiology, See Blackmore, 1993, pp.46-93
11 Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick have drawn up a list of the most common features of NDE’s as experienced by UK-based

subjects. See: Fenwick & Fenwick, 1996, pp. 133 - 153 However, Fox maintains that the list of common features diminishes
when cross-cultural studies are compared. See Fox, 2003, pp.99-108
12 This is how Vicky Umipeg describes re-entering her body. See Fox, 2003, p 220, quoting Ring and Valarino, 1998, p. 77. See

also Coffey, 2008, p. 252 where Hilary Rhodes describes re-entering her body after a skiing accident: ‘”Once they started to
get the weight of snow off my chest and I could breathe again, the pain was horrendous, “she says. “But I hadn’t been
physically injured. I think it was the pain of my spirit having to come back into my body.”’
13 Jung, 1995 [1961], pp. 320-4
14 Jung, 1995 [1961], pp. 324-5
15 72% in the Fenwick study – See Fenwick & Fenwick, 1996
16 See Fenwick & Fenwick, 1996, pp. 146-148; Fox, 2003, p. 39
17 Fenwick & Fenwick, 1995, pp. 141-2
18 47% in the Fenwick study. See Fenwick & Fenwick, 1996
19 See Fenwick & Fenwick, 1995, pp. 141-236. For a summary of their findings, see Fenwick & Fenwick, 1996, pp. 150-1 Their

study of NDE’rs revealed that 47% reported an increase in their psychic abilities afterwards. Many attributed the acquisition
of this precognitive ability with the life review, during which some were granted a preview of what lay ahead for them.
However, they also suggest that one can’t rule out the possibility that these gifts may have been latent in the subjects
previously and simply went unnoticed. They also point out that there appears to be a correlation between head injuries and
the development of psychic powers.
20 See the story of Catherine in Weiss, 1988, especially p.65
21 Jung, 1995 [1961], p. 324 He writes: ‘In actual fact, I was his last patient. On 4th April, 1944...Dr H. took to his bed and did

not leave it again...Soon afterwards, he died of septicaemia.’


22 Case study 3437 of the RERC study in Fox, 2003, p. 287
23 See Finamore, 1987 and Voss, 2007, p. 7
24 A term first introduced by Aristotle in De Caelo 270b 20-26 who compared it to ether – the same substance of which the

stars and planets were made. See Schibli, 1993, p.110 and Finamore, 1987, Introduction, p. 1. According to Finamore, this
later became merged with the notion of the soul’s chariot in Plato’s Phaedo (See: 113d - 114c) by Neoplatonists such as
Iamblichus. See also Plotinus, Enneads III, pp.231-233 in Armstrong translation. The term pneuma was later appropriated
by the Stoics, though their conception of its physical make-up was slightly different.
25 Finamore, 1987, p. 15 and De Anima 385 paras 5-10
26 See Finamore, 1987, p. 169, 15 ‘For Iamblichus, the vehicle itself is ethereal, it picks up it’s heavenly ‘envelopes’ from the

lives and powers in the universe, and finally attracts certain foreign pneumata from the sub-lunar region.’ This may refer to
the physical body itself.
27 See Finamore, 1987 for an extensive examination of the subject
28 Both Finamore and Fowden feel that there may be some substance to the idea that Plato got many of his ideas from

Pythagoras, who is said to have studied in Egypt at some in his lifetime. See Finamore, 1987, p. 164 and Morrison, 1956, p.
138 and Kingsley, 1994, pp. 1-4
29 Naydler, 1996, pp. 193-212. Here, it is interesting to note that the Egyptians also conceived of a higher portion of soul

similar to that of the Neoplatonists – the Akh – sometimes translated as “intelligence” or “the shining one” which is used for
14

traversing the realm of Ra, the sun god, the starry heavens (versus the ka, which was used for travelling within the realm of
Osiris – the Underworld.) Naydler says that this was used to connote a condition or level of psycho-spiritual existence that
was often combined with a sense of homecoming in many texts. “The condition of being an akh is one of spiritual radiance
only because one has contacted and become united with the source of spiritual light.”
30 Jowett, Section 5, Introduction to Timaeus, from: http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/p/plato/p71ti/introduction.html

[accessed Jan 2009] According to Jowett: The soul of man is divided by him into three parts, answering roughly to the
charioteer and steeds of the Phaedrus... First, there is the immortal nature of which the brain is the seat, and which is akin
to the soul of the universe. This alone thinks and knows and is the ruler of the whole. Secondly, there is the higher mortal
soul [the seat of which] is the heart, in which courage, anger, and all the nobler affections are supposed to reside...There is
also a third or appetitive soul, which…is seated in the belly, and there imprisoned like a wild beast, far away from the council
chamber, as Plato graphically calls the head, in order that the animal passions may not interfere with the deliberations of
reason. Naturally this does not take into account the Neoplatonic interpretation of the undescended soul by Plotinus but then
Jowett is not particularly flattering about them in his introduction.
31 Shaw, 2006 and Shaw, 2007
32 Shaw, 1995, pp. 10-11. However, here Shaw also makes the point that this may have been an unintentional consequence of

Plotinus’s theory, rather than a major focus, as with the Gnostics. See p. 12 where he says: ‘[D]espite Plotinus’s profound
testament to the divinity of the world in Against the Gnostics (Enn. II, 9), his doctrine of the undescended soul, in principle,
has already severed the body from the head.’
33 See Brennan, 1993
34 In particular see GRS Mead, 1919 and Alice Bailey, 1953
35 See Stavish, 1997 at: http://www.hermetic.com/stavish/essays/bodylight.html and Marlon, 2005, pp. 102-6
36 Woolger notes that Bailey’s treatise on the subtle body is based on yogic principles. Woolger, 2002, p.7
37 See Regardie, 1932 Israel Regardie spells out the practice of astral projection used developed within the Hermetic Order of

the Golden Dawn. His writings constantly refer to mystical theurgy See Regardie, 1932, note 21, p. 249. For the most
detailed description of theurgy, see Iamblichus De Mysteriis.
38 See Stavish, 1997 at: http://www.hermetic.com/stavish/essays/bodylight.html. On Taoist inner alchemy see Marlon, 2005,

pp. 109- 116


39 Brennan is very clear that this is not energy in the Newtonian sense, but energetic fields that can be seen only using

clairvoyance. She does, however suggest that the lower levels of energy, which she terms bioenergetic energy, can be
measured. These include heart-rate, brainwaves etc See Brennan, 1993, p. 15-17 Woolger objects to this, saying that it still
amounts to a form of materialist reductionism. See Woolger, 2001, p. 206-9
40 Brennan, 1987 and Brennan, 1993. Figure is taken from Brennan, 1993, p. 213
41 Woolger’s own work appears to back this up, though he has studied Brennan’s books quite closely: ‘The important principle

that may be gleaned from this highly condensed description is that there is a descending order of influence from higher to
lower among these...bodies.’ – Woolger, 2002, p. 8 It should be noted though that his model of the subtle energy bodies
consists of only three layers whereas Brennan’s has more. See Illustration.
42 Brennan, 1993, p.43 and Coffey, 2008, pp. 127-9, 172
43 Brennan, 1993, p.19
44 Brennan, 1993, p.3
45 It is sometimes forgotten that the Greeks may have had a very different definition of mind/consciousness to theorists who

are post-Cartesian. For the meaning of the Greek nous and logos in Neoplatonism, see Deck, 1967, pp.40-74 . Conversely,
their definition of matter/nature (physis) may have been equally ambiguous. See Curry, 2007, p. 4, quoting Ricoeur and
Appendix II of Deck, 1967, pp. 148-150 where he shows that etymologically it can means ‘grow’ and be linked with ‘being’ and
can be differentiated from matter.
46 Brennan, 1993, p.35 Curry, however, is suspicious of any form of monism i.e .the attempt to reduce all of reality to one

perspective was will be discussed further on. See Curry, 2004, p.80
47 See her Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Blackmore [accessed Feb 2009] and her attack on any form

of spiritual belief in her book as a delusion makes this very clear. See Blackmore, 2003, p.111-112
48 Blackmore, 1993 and Fox’s critique of her position Fox, 2003, 181-2, 341-2
49 See particularly, Blackmore, 1993, pp. 136-164
50 See the discussion on BBC Science & Nature (2008) God on the Brain.

from:http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2003/godonbrain.shtml (accessed 1 Dec 2008)


51 Fox , 2003, pp. 255-259, Blackmore, 2003, pp.41-45
52 Corazza, 2008, pp. 102 – 117. These include feelings of peace, encounters with others beings, feelings of cosmic unity;

enhanced sensory perception; psychic events associated with the experience, including instances of telepathy and
precognition and OBEs.
53 See Corazza, 2008, pp. 102 – 117
54 See Corazza, 2008, p. 4
55 Corazza, 2008, p.126 Corazza here assumes the point of view of the body as experienced from within. She says that when it

is considered in this way, ‘the body becomes an indefinite entity, which is always changing and has no physical boundaries or
delimitation such as skin’.
56 Yasua lists four circuits: 1) the sensory-motor level – skin, eyes etc – any organs which receive information from the outside

world; 2) the kinaesthetic body – the nervous system that builds up a picture of this information and turns it into sensations.
This includes memories and habits; 3) the autonomic nervous system – which monitors our internal state, including that of
our organs and immune system – this is the emotion-instinct circuit; and finally, 4)the unconscious quasi-body – the subtle
15

levels of our body and mind which extend beyond our skin and into space and does not conform to any body-image See
Corazza, pp. 129-136
57 Corazza, 2008, pp. 3-4
58 Is the idea of place really that different from the Platonic idea of cosmic order? I confess the need to do further research to

ascertain the answer.


59 Corazza, 2008, pp. 3-4 Here theories of ‘place’ are based on the Japanese concept of Basho. For a further explanation, see

pp. 70-72
60 Corazza, 2008, p. 139
61 See Curry, 2007, pp. 5-7 and Curry & Willis, 2004, pp. 2, 85, 127-130
62 Curry & Willis, 2004, pp. 127-133
63 See for example, Bruno Latour, 1993 and Curry, 2007, p.13
64 Curry & Willis, 2004, pp.79, 127-9
65 Curry, 2007, p. 15 quoting Ronald Hepburn
66 Curry & Willis, 2004, pp.15-16, 130 On more-than-human agency and the need for it to extend to nature, see Curry, 2006,

p.5 and Curry, 2007, pp. 11 - 14


67 For a more in-depth critique see Plumwood, 1993, pp. 88 – 103. In Feminism and the mastery of nature, she states that,

‘Plato’s views on the nature of the human self and of human identity and virtue illustrate many of the features of dualism
[including] radical exclusion or hyperseparation between the real self and the body, the senses and the emotions, and the
animal passions and appetites, all of which pertain to the realm of appearance. The soul is aligned with the immaterial and
divine order and the body with the inferior material order of nature.’
68 Deeply critical of Platonism and scientism, he sees in it’s universalism, an authoritarian and impoverishing project which

he feels threatens to disenchant the cosmos and turn it into a machine, and one that ‘grievously reduces the richness and
variety of lived and experienced (i.e. phenomenological) fact.’ For him, such philosophies are ultimately counter-intuitive:
‘The dualisms of mind-body, culture/nature, subjective/objective and so on – with the adherents of one side or the other
forever trying to reduce and absorb their opposites – are just what monist rationalization has bred, and to subscribe to one
side or the other is simply to sign up to the programme.’ See Curry & Willis, 2004, pp.78-81
69 Personal communication to author, 2 February 2009
70 Curry & Willis, 2004, p. 138
71 See Curry, 2007 note 73
72 Curry, 2007, pp. 13-14
73 See ‘Ames & Hall, 2003, pp. 13-14. ‘The Daoist understanding of ‘cosmos’ as the “ten thousand things” means that, in effect,

the Daoists have no concept of cosmos at all insofar as that notion entails a coherent, single-ordered world which is in any
sense enclosed or defined. The Daoists are, therefore, primarily ‘acosmotic’ thinkers.’ For the idea of the Buddhist
internalist/mind-dependent paradigm, see Fox, 2003, p. 79 and Woolger, 2001, p. 223
74 Does he imply, for instance, that one of the properties of living in the earth realm is that one must be embodied? If so, once

again we have the problem of explaining what sort of bodies spirits have (if as he says, he feels uncomfortable with the idea of
subtle bodies – see note 73 of Curry, 2007) And if they do not have bodies, this implies that they must be of another
supernatural order, which is something he seems to disagree with. See Hyde, 2005, pp.2-3
75 For a brief comparison of views between natural vs. supernatural orders in divination, see Hyde, 2005, pp. 2- 3 and note 10

and Curry & Willis, 2004, p. 81. An important distinction made between the two is that Hyde suggests that the meaning of a
symbol can only arise within a larger context i.e. a hierarchical structure such as that of the Platonic cosmology whereas
Curry suggests that meaning arises spontaneously within a particular situation or context and that this meaning is never
universal. From his post-modern perspective we MAKE meaning. For Curry, quoting Viveiros de Castro, ‘”all beings see
(‘represent’) the world in the same way – what changes is the world that they see.”’ This implies a plural and perspectival
approach to embodiment. See Curry, 2006, p.5
76 Where for example do the planets come into his schema, for he is an advocate of astrology? It could be that the Buddhist

(internalist, no theophanies or cosmologies) and the astrological positions are ultimately incompatible...
77 Willis suggests that we construct our cosmologies based on physiology – heaven is always up etc - but does not say whether

he believes whether these are simply explanations people make up to order their world or if they have some epistemological
substance. Given that Curry is a Buddhist and therefore does not have a theophany from which to draw from, once can only
assume that his notion of NDE’s would be similar to the imaginary ordeals that souls go through in the bardo states. The
‘hallucination’ then goes much deeper than the dying brain theory of someone like Susan Blackmore, for example. For the
idea of the Buddhist appreciation of the world of the other-world traveller as in some sense mind-dependent, see Fox, 2003, p.
79 and Woolger, 2001, p. 223
78 Kirkmayer, 1992, p. 325
79 Braude, 2003, 268 Braude does consider the possibility of the apparitions being mental constructs, however and puts

forward telepathy as a suggestion. But this does not adequately explain Maria’s case, for example.
80 Braude, 2003, pp.280-1
81 Woolger, 1987, p. 217
82 Woolger, 2001, p. 209
83 See entry in GP Notebook at: http://gpnotebook.co.uk/simplepage2.cfm?ID=1644560387
84 See entry on Sleep paralysis at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis [accessed Jan 2009]
85 Weiss, 1988
86 Newton, 1994
87 It is debatable which levels of the LeCron-Bordeaux hypnosis scales are at work for Dr Weiss as he does not go into detail.

He also does not make any definitive truth claims about whether his work ‘proves’ that reincarnation exists. See Weiss, 1988.
16

Newton calls his work Life-Between-Lives therapy, and focuses mainly on getting clients to remember themselves as
disembodied souls in the space between incarnations. He claims to take people past the usual alpha trance state into theta
brainwave states. For an outline of this process and the scales, see Tomlinson, 2006, p. 19. See also Newton, 1994, p. 3
88 Woolger, 2002, p.3 Here Woolger makes a distinction between cognitive and cathartic regression work. ‘One obvious

consequence of these differing views is that when we aim for cognitive understanding we tend to neglect the body.’
89 ‘Yet for many therapists now practicing past-life therapy strong physical as well as emotional release is not just a

commonplace of our work but in many cases an essential part of it. More and more therapists are finding that all kinds of
behavioural problems and complexes have traumatic underlays from past lives which are plainly physical as well as
emotional. As a result, we are naturally finding ourselves using cathartic methods to release the old trauma.’ See Woolger,
2002, p. 3
90 Woolger, 2002, p.7
91 As well as a good helping of the ideas of theosophist, Alice Bailey, who he says based her ideas on a reading of the

Upanishads. See Woolger, 2002, p.7 where he describes Alice Bailey’s version of the subtle body
92 Woolger, 2002, p. 7 and also Bailey’s Esoteric Healing (1953)
93 Woolger, 2002, p. 7
94 See Woolger, 2002, p. 5-8 and Woolger, 1987, p. 147-151
95 See Woolger, 2002
96 Woolger, 2002, p. 3
97 Woolger, 1987, pp. 216-7
98 See Shaw, 2006, p. 6-7
99 Often False Memory Syndrome is used to discredit the authenticity of so-called past life memories. Woolger says that this

is often because we fail to take into account the nature of recalling any memory, which often involves a degree of narrative
embellishment. Ultimately, though, he says that trying to prove such memories historically or otherwise is only to pander to
scientific materialism and to underestimate the value and power of the imagination and the imaginal. See Woolger, 1987, p.
40, Woolger, 2001, pp. 210 – 212, Woolger, 2002, p. 1-6
100 See Newton, 1994 where he describes one of his patient’s leg complaints healing after doing LBL work. See also Woolger,

2002
101 See Woolger, 2001, p. 207 which quotes Dr Amit Goswami who has written that ‘Consciousness is the basis of reality.’ For

Dr Goswami uses quantum physics to develop his model of the human organism, which he calls the quantum monad. For
Goswami, ‘The dualism problem is solved in quantum physics by realizing that both the non-material soul and the material
body are merely possibilities within consciousness and consciousness mediates their interaction and maintains their parallel
functioning.’ See Goswami, 2001., p. 142. Within Goswami’s model, the quantum monad, itself non-local and non-material,
manifests a portion of itself in time and space temporarily as a body, which is constructed out of a set of physical, emotional
and intellectual habits i.e. memory. Later, at death, these apparently solid components return to their original non-material
state. It is the memory only which survives and is passed onto into other future bodies. In this sense, Goswami’s monistic
idealism, differs little from Platonism in the sense that matter is considered to be an emanation of spirit. This has led to
criticisms from Curry who objects to any form of monistic ontology. See Curry & Willis, 2004, pp.78-81 Curry & Goswami do
share certain conceptions of embodiment, though – Curry describing the body as the site or habitus of a particular
perspective – a “point of view [which] is located in the body”, and the body as “an assemblage of affects or ways of being that
constitutes a habitus”. See Curry, 2007, p.7 and Curry, 2006, p. 5
102 Woolger, 2001, pp.213-215
103 See Voss, 2007
104 Fox, 2003, pp. 326-8 Fox writes that despite the many differences between otherworld journeyings and NDE’s which make

comparisons problematical, parallels nonetheless exist ‘between certain elements narrated by the NDE’rs and the
experiences reported from within at least some shamanic contexts [which] suggest that there may be some usefulness in
pursuing the comparison.
105 Woolger also makes it clear that in his writing that his work recognises certain hierarchic principles at work within the

energetic bodies. He also appears to have great respect for, and often refers to, the cosmologies of various religious and
philosophical traditions – a major difference to Curry. He gives a detailed explanation of how he thinks these dimensions
operate in terms of spacial arrangements, suggesting that ‘Spaces in heaven or the spiritual realm are nothing but external
states corresponding to internal ones.’ See Woolger, 2002, pp. 214-223 and Woolger, 1998 at:
http://www.rogerwoolger.com/pages/transitions.html
106 Woolger, 2001, p. 215
107 Woolger, 2001, p. 219
108 This world is considered by him to have a type of spiritual geography, knowledge of which is NECESSARY for healers and

shamans to navigate in order to accomplish their work:’ Because of their facility in travelling through and between these
‘otherworlds’, shamans describe quite sophisticated pictures of the spiritual geography they encounter; this is also true of
yogis and great spiritual masters like the Buddha with whom they share these powers. Such voyagers tell, when they move
between the various inner worlds or bardos, of dark and light forces, of hierarchies or different planes of heavens and hells. It
is, in fact, their job to navigate what Kahlweit calls ‘inner space’, so as to discriminate between hostile or malevolent ‘spirit’
beings and to bring back souls who have either become lost or captive to these destructive powers or more often just stuck in
their own negativity or despair.’ See Woolger, 1998 at: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/PDF/RWoolgerTransition.pdf
109 Woolger, 2001, p. 216 and Berger, 1986, p.146 For more on the role of the mundus imaginalis in divination, see Voss,

From Allegory to Anagogue: the Question of Symbolic Perception in a Literal World as e-text at:
http://www.skyscript.co.uk/allegory.html
17

110 Of these, one could argue that Christianity is the most literal, given that the doctrine of the resurrection body as a full
bodily one. On this point within the NDE context, see Fox, 2003, pp. 59-60
111 Woolger discusses the concept of travelling through space as metaphorical in some detail at Woolger, 2001, p. 222-3
112 Shaw, 2007, p. 12. See De Mysteriis 82.1-2 for Iamblichus quote.
113 See Fox, 2003, pp. 121 – 141 and 74-92 The overall suggestion is that the cultural overlap may occur during an

interpretation of the experience by the subject AFTER the event in order to make sense of it and narrate it to others. In this
way, NDE and hypnosis narratives are, to a certain extent, constructed. In this sense, though they are no different to
memories. On the similarities between memory recall and narrative, see Woolger, 1987, pp.30-34
114 See Fox, 2003, pp. 44-46 and Fenwick & Fenwick, 1996, pp.139-140
115 Shaw, 2006, p. 26 ‘Our divinity must be discovered through our mortality, not by escaping it.’
116 Shaw, 2006, p. 26 He is here paraphrasing Simplicius in his commentaries on the works of Aristotle in relation to the soul
117 Curry, 2007, pp. 3-4, 9-11
118 See Levy-Bruhl, 1926 and 1975
119 See Curry, 2007, p. 7, Curry & Willis, 2004, p.p. 137-9 Willis views of the similarities between cosmologies worldwide as

arising out of biology, suggesting that they are formulated from within the parameters of our ‘human physiology and ontology
as a bipedal species possessing bodies distinguished by bilateral symmetry and sexual duality.’ Burkert has recently proposed
a similar view although he refuses to concede any agency to the natural forces with which early man attempted to negotiate,
insisting that religion was simply an early way of surviving. See Burkert, 1996, pp. 177.Shaw argues that the Neoplatonist
Iamblichus also saw the value in these ‘old ways’ which were inherent in his native Syrian culture and it was on this basis,
that he had differences with Porphyry and the other Neoplatonists See Shaw, 2007, p.4
120 Curry & Willis, 2004 pp. 127 – 129 Here Willis is using the term in relation to Husserl
121 Curry & Willis, 2004, p. 127 This term is used in reference to Merleau-Ponty. Willis makes it clear that for him, conscious

perception is not other-worldly in nature but ‘a product of our sensory with Nature.’ This type of consciousness is ‘direct,
prereflective’ and ‘inherently synaesthetic, participatory and animistic’. See p. 129
122 Curry, 2007, pp. 15
123 Merkur, 1993, pp.16-17 here is appropriating the term from Stace
124 Merkur, 1993, p.16 where he quotes Rudolph Otto
125 Coffey, 2008, pp.76 – 77. See also Eliade, 1964 and Fox, 2003, p. 327-328. Woolger makes this point too in Woolger,2001, p.

Coffey mentions some shamanic initiation rites such as being sealed inside an igloo for a month with no light, clothes or food;
or being required to swim long distances under iced-over rivers where becoming disoriented or missing specially cut-out air-
holes would mean certain death.
126 Shaw, 2007, p. 4 ‘Theurgy was Iamblichus' answer both to the problem of embodiment and to the kind of Platonism that

claimed the soul returns to the gods through reflection and not through ritual.’ It should be noted, however, that Curry did
consider Iamblichus as an exception to his criticisms about Neo/Platonism but ultimately, found that he could not. See Curry,
2005, pp. 8-9
127 Shaw, 1995, p. 4 Shaw says that the soteriology of Iamblichus ‘was intimately tied up with the invocation of the natural

powers of the cosmos’ and that he rejected the overly rational focus of Neoplatonism which ‘denied the sanctity of the world
and elevated the human mind beyond its natural limits.’
128 Shaw, 2007, p. 15 He is careful to say that archetypal psychology as a discipline itself does not count for theurgy is

experiential and involves practice. He has also mentioned elsewhere that archetypal psychology lacks a metaphysics and in
this way. Elsewhere, the sympathetic magic advocated by Marsilio Ficino, which underlies astrology and many healing
traditions, including herbalism and crystal therapy, has been shown to have theurgic roots. See Voss, 2006, p.14
129 She cites stories of mountaineers communing or making offerings to the spirits of a mountain before attempting a climb,

as just one example of this type of orientation. See Coffey, 2008, pp. 115-118
130 Coffey, 2008, p. xiv