Posted: 15 Apr 2010 11:17 AM PDT
Generative trance is an experiential space from which fundamentally new dimensions of reality can be created. It is thus an especially helpful vehicle for navigating the journey of consciousness that is at the heart of a meaningful life. This journey is about going beyond where you’ve ever been by creating new positive realities, transforming consciousness, healing wounds, and evolving to higher states of consciousness. The result is membership in the “4-H club”—greater (1) happiness, (2) health, (3) helpfulness to others, and (4) healing of self, others, and the world. To understand how generative trance can activate these capacities, we can examine four basic premises in turn:
(2) Consciousness creates the quantum fields of the creative unconscious, which in turn create the classical world of the conscious mind.
(3) Mind creates and navigates representational maps through the world(s)
(4) Generative trance integrates the two words into a creative unity.
Life is a journey of consciousness
Generative trance work starts from the core premise that reality is created by consciousness itself. This view, long held in mystical approaches, has been slowly developing over the past century from findings in quantum physics. In contrast to the materialistic view that posits consciousness as an epiphenomena arising from brain states, it sees classical reality as being created by consciousness interacting with quantum wave fields. These wave fields are “virtual realities,” that is, they exist as infinite possibilities, not actualities. The “popping” of a virtual wave “field of infinite possibilities” into a specific reality occurs when an observing consciousness engages with the quantum field. This view basically says: no consciousness, no reality. And as we shall see, consciousness is each of us and all of us.
This view is, of course, radical in relation to our traditional Western thinking. As physicists such as David Bohm point out, it arose in part from astonishing experimental findings such as (1) electrons moving in a discontinuous way from one orbit to another, (2) an electron appearing as either a particle or wave, depending on the observing consciousness, and (3) non-local influence, i.e., that one particle can instantaneously (i.e., faster than the speed of light) influence a distant particle. More recent work shows that most of the universe—about 96%!!—consists of invisible “dark matter” and “dark energy.” Such findings indicate that the classical world of time/space is not primary.
Appreciating consciousness as primary, generative trance work sees each person as having infinite potential for creative action. Realizing this potential is no easy task, and so a core focus of the work is how to foster the states of higher consciousness necessary for this adventure. The assumption is that consciousness is evolving at many levels, albeit slowly and with many twists and turns; the challenge is how to align with it and allow it to unfold even further. In practical terms, the generative trance practitioner sitting with a client is “relationally meditating” with ideas like “something is waking up”, “I’m sure this makes sense”, and “something is trying to heal.” Much of the process is then about ensuring that both the client and the practitioner are in a generative state to realize these possibilities. This is the purpose of a hypnotic induction: to shift to a higher state of consciousness in which generative learning is possible.
To develop such a state, we become especially attentive to whenever a person’s energy swells or intensifies, their consciousness no longer bound to the “business as usual” state of the ego identity. This might be a positive event, as when someone is touched by love, opened by beauty, or lifted by aesthetic presence. But It can equally be negative events, such as the fears, addictions, and “out of control” experiences that constitute a common currency of therapeutic work. We see such experiences as the buds of “spontaneous naturalistic trances” by which the creative unconscious is attempting to let go of old “maps” in order to heal, transform, or create something new. Whether this attempt is successful depends on the quality of the human relationship with it; that is, the consciousness connecting to the experience creates it either as a positive or negative event. If an experiential event is held in a positive (“generative”) way, good things (e.g., transformation) happen; if it is held in a negative (“degenerative”) way, bad things (e.g., symptoms) will happen. To create a generative trance, we therefore start by positively sensing that something is trying to awaken, then look to create a generative state of consciousness that allows that to happen. In this way, generative trance is a way to midwife new consciousness into the world.
For example, a man’s elderly mother was dying a slow death from cancer, and the man found himself troubled and dismayed by his periodic angry outbursts while sitting with his mother. He was helped to welcome this “other than ego” pattern, which included developing a centered inner state where he could witness the experience. Sitting in a mindful trance, he noticed where in his body he felt the energy, and what earlier ages (“8”) were associated with it. Other associational experiences, both positive and negative, also arose within the “quantum soup” of the trance. Guided by positive intention for healing and grounded by mindbody centering, he was able to realize this old anger as representing one of the core pieces of his mosaic identity that was transforming in response to his mother’s passing.
Of course, major life changes—deaths of loved ones, births, illnesses, marriages, divorces, etc—will occur throughout a person’s life. We see such major life changes as natural and inevitable, like a river flowing through a person’s life, bringing many possibilities for growth and awakening. Again, generative trance is about organizing contexts so that these potentials can be received and positively realized.
Consciousness creates the quantum fields of the creative unconscious, which in turn create the classical realities of the conscious mind
The unfolding of consciousness takes us through two successive worlds. These two worlds go by many names—for example, imagination and reality, possibility and actuality, creatura and pleroma, primary and secondary, etc. In generative trance work we describe them as (1) the quantum reality of the creative unconscious and (2) the classical reality of the conscious mind.
The quantum world is the deeper order: It is the imaginary “field of infinite possibilities” from which realities are created. It is “before and beyond” time or space, empty of real (material) forms but pregnant with infinite potential forms. When you ask a person where a creative idea came from, a typical answer is “I don’t know” or “it just came.” We refer to that “mystery space from which all creative thought comes” as the quantum field of the creative unconscious.
When consciousness interacts with the quantum world, it “collapses” a wave field that contains many possibilities into the classical world of the conscious mind that holds a specific actuality. This classical world is the conventional reality of separate “things”: solid matter, space and time, Newtonian physics, stuff “really” there. It is the empirical world of single values: something is true or not; if you are here, you’re not there; what you see is what you get. Causal logic abides, time marches forward (and not backwards), that which is born must also die, things are as they are. The classical world includes what we’ve experienced before, the mainstream traditions and history of where we’ve been so far.
These two worlds complement each other in many ways, including the following:
Looking at these complementarities, we can see that creative consciousness needs both worlds. The quantum fields of the creative unconscious hold all possible forms or states of something. Applied to psychological identity, this means that the creative unconscious holds all “possible selves” of a given individual. So let’s say a fellow named Dave comes in complaining of depression. As he shows his state of “depression,” we appreciate that in his creative unconscious there are many other “Dave identities”—a playful Dave, a serious one, a young boy, an wise man, etc. So as Dave is collapsed into “depressed Dave,” we make room for that presence while also sensing the many other possible selves available in the “creative unconscious” of his quantum field. The task of generative trance, then, is to help a person relax the attachment to the specific state, and open up to the greater quantum field of additional possibilities. The ingredients of this “quantum soup” can then be stirred into a nourishing and transformative meal.
Of course, to experience new possibilities in trance is not enough: you need to actualize them in the classical world to make a real difference. Otherwise, you are left with mere “ghost fruit” rather than the nourishment of new realities. While the creative unconscious holds infinite possibilities, it is the conscious mind that makes them real. The conscious mind breaks the wholeness (what David Bohm calls the “implicate order”) of the creative unconscious into a field of many parts (what Bohm calls the “explicate order.”) The shifting relationships between the different parts of the whole is what allows time, space, self-awareness, and existence to emerge. (As Bateson would note, mind is based on “difference.”) Thus, it is the conscious mind of the classical world that allows the self-realization of consciousness.
It is important to remember that each mind completes the other, as all too often in trance work the unconscious is thought of as superior to the conscious mind. As we shall see, generative trance work looks to move in both worlds at the same time. To do this, we need to appreciate how the minds of each world can be generatively structured.
Mind is the medium for creating and navigating the two worlds.
We have thus far distinguished three different levels: consciousness itself, the quantum world of the creative unconscious, and the classical world of the conscious mind. The distinctions parallel what the mythologist Joseph Campbell (1949) described in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” in which he describes the monomyth of the “hero’s journey” of consciousness found across many cultures:
“We have come two stages: first, from the immediate emanations of the Uncreated Creating to the fluid yet timeless personages of the mythological age; second, from these Created Creating Ones to the sphere of human history. Where formerly causal bodies were visible, now only their secondary effects come to focus in the little hard-fact pupil of the human eye.” (p. 315)
“Briefly formulated, the universal doctrine teaches that all the visible structures of the world—all things and beings—are the effects of a ubiquitous power out of which they rise, which supports and fills them during the period of their manifestation, and back into which they must ultimately dissolve. This is the power known to science as energy, to the Melanesians as mana, to the Sioux Indians as wakonda, the Hindus as shakti, and the Christians as the power of God…it’s manifestation in the cosmos is the structure and flux of the universe itself.
The apprehension of the source of this undifferentiated yet everywhere particularized substratum of being is rendered frustrate by the very organs through which the apprehension must be accomplished. The forms of sensibility and the categories of human thought, which are themselves manifestations of this power, so confine the mind that it is normally impossible not only to see, but even to conceive, beyond the colorful, fluid, infinitely various and bewildering phenomenal spectacle. The function or ritual and myth (Gilligan: and generative trance) is to make possible, and then to facilitate, the jump—by analogy. Forms and conceptions that the minds and its senses comprehend are presented and arranged in such a way as to suggest a truth or openness beyond. (p. 258)”
In these brilliant passages, Campbell traces the progression through the three levels, emphasizing how we get caught in the content of the conscious world, creating an amnesia for, and negative hallucination of, the deeper levels from which they emerge. This imprisonment is especially revealed in those situations for which people seek therapeutic assistance; they are caught in a self-created world of great suffering, a sort of a limited hypnotic trance with little or no awareness of the greater possibilities beyond. The goal of generative trance, then, is to help a person become, in Campbell’s words, “transparent to the transcendent”, that is, to dissolve the opaque walls of their conscious world to illuminate a shimmering world of greater possibilities beyond.
To do this, we need to remember that both the creative unconscious and conscious worlds of experience are generated through filters. This is a main function of mind: it is the tool of consciousness that (1) creates an experiential world and then (2) navigates within it. We can now extend the idea that (1) there is no reality independent of an observing consciousness, to further emphasize that (2) the observing consciousness is using certain filters to create this reality. These filters operate at many levels—for example, a nervous system is a mental filter, as is a cultural identity, an individual self-identity, or even a single experiential memory. Each generative trance is an “experiment in consciousness” exploring how these filters (or at least the relationship to them) might change, thereby allowing the construction of a different reality. Again, this is no easy task; generally speaking, your level of awareness must be at least as deep as the level of the pattern you wish to change. But at the very least, the realization that you are actively participating in creating your reality allows you to deeply explore how you are doing that, and how you might do it differently. This curiosity is the essence of generative work.
The idea that consciousness-with-filters is creating reality means that there is no fixed structure to either the unconscious or conscious minds. Thus, Freud looked into the unconscious and saw a dark orgy of sex, drugs, rock n’ roll. Jung saw a pantheon of archetypal figures that evolved from centuries of core human experience. Erickson observed a vast storehouse of experiential learnings that could be used as resources for creating a happy, fulfilling life. When you look into the unconscious, what do you see/create?
Equally important, there is no fixed structure to the conscious mind. While the traditional Western conscious mind is too often constructed as a disembodied intellect bent on controlling or consuming whatever it encounters, there are many other possibilities. Milton Erickson modeled an exceptional example of a conscious mind that was curious, cooperative, relationally connected, and eminently creative. How would you like to organize your conscious mind filters?
To be sure, there may be long-held traditions—that is, deeply conditioned filters—for creating a reality in a certain way. These conditioned patterns exist at neurological, cultural, familial, social, and individual levels. Once a pattern is set, it will automatically function as the default value unless disrupted or transcended; and to transcend a default value is no small feat. Thus, this constructivist view is not some shallow solipsism that declares that positive thinking at the ego level will bring instantaneous and complete change. Rather, it is way of appreciating that what we are observer-participants in the creative process of life itself, and that it is possible to attune our consciousness to align with and transform some of the realities in play.
This is the main interest of generative trance work. We are working in those areas where new realities are needed. If reality is constructed by consciousness-with-filters, then by adjusting these filters we enable a new, more fulfilling reality to be created. Later blogs will explore some of the ways we do this in generative trance work. For example, generative trance work identifies three types of mind—Somatic, Cognitive, and Field—and looks to move each of them to a Generative Level where emergent properties of creative transformation appear. Some of the properties of this generative consciousness are mindfulness, flow of information and energy between states and levels, subtle awareness, and creative acceptance. Most important, this generative level allows us to move from experiencing ourselves as victims of a fixed external reality to creative participants in the great unfolding journey of consciousness and self-realization. And this, indeed, is a healing and transformative knowledge.
Stephen Gilligan, Ph.D.
April 2, 2010
 For example, see Fred Alan Wold, David Bohm, Gotswindy, and ??. also, karl pribram, and philosophers such as Berkeley, kant, see also recent work in biocentrism.
 Campbell credits the German psychiatrist Karl Durkheim as the source for this luminous quote.
 I knew Milton Erickson in the last 6 years of his life, from 1974-1980. I often witnessed students asking him just what the possibilities were of using hypnosis to change some particular condition. His typical answer was something to the effect of, “I don’t know! But I’m very curious is discovering just what is possible for you here today.” He would often add that the longer he worked, the less certain he was about the