To talk about interventions, we must come to an understanding of what it means to intervene in general before we progress to talking about interventions in the specific context of 5. Five facilitation, as with many modalities that induce or provoke expanded states of...
interventions: interference or assistance?
To talk about interventions, we must come to an understanding of what it means to intervene in general before we progress to talking about interventions in the specific context of 5. Five facilitation, as with many modalities that induce or provoke expanded states of consciousness, can be seen through the lens, or on a spectrum, of interventionism; one pole being interventionist, the other being non-interventionist (think “neutral container”).
First, some definitions:
1 come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events
2 extend or occur between events
1 interference by a country in another’s affairs
2 action taken to improve a situation, especially a medical disorder
1 take part or intervene in an activity without invitation or necessity
2 (interfere with) prevent (a process or activity) from continuing or being carried out properly
3 (interfere with) handle or adjust (something) without permission, especially so as to cause damage
1 the action of interfering or the process of being interfered with
2 from physics: the combination of two or more electromagnetic waveforms to form a resultant wave in which the displacement is either reinforced or canceled
Looking at the above definitions, interference and intervention both have aspects (perhaps most with the former) that suggest something may happen non-consensually. Building off of the definitions of the words, I consider the contexts and orientations in which we may use them. For example, a therapeutic intervention is an action taken by a therapist that is a part of the methodology of that therapist’s approach. A clinical intervention is a part of the clinician’s approach. A shamanic intervention may look very different, since the context is very different. Within a shamanic orientation, as within a therapeutic one, there are wildly different variations; perhaps less than within a clinical one. In any case, there are identifiable actions that a practitioner with a specific orientation use with their participants.
To be 5-specific, this text will explore considerations for interventions through the lens of different “stages” of the 5 “space”. To do so, I will use terminology that I establish in another piece that speaks of samadhi and other stages that are not samadhi but lead to or are arrived at from it. Even though I allude to specific interventions, rather than focus on the orientation of a practitioner (I.e., shamanic, therapeutic, psychonautic, clinical, ceremonial, etc.), I am focussing mostly on two stages (samadhi and peri-samadhi), and the appropriateness of interventions in either.
I am also offering here both a critique of certain practices as well as components of apprenticeship. The text will be more of interest to practitioners (established or noviciate), providers (as Martin Ball would put it), aspiring clinicians—and less so for psychonauts and prospective or practised participants. As I reveal my opinions here, I realise that I risk offending some of the former. I do so emboldened by a small amount of experience in the field. I also do this so as to engage my peers and colleagues by offering another voice to our vocation.
Samadhi and peri-samadhi: a plurality of stages
“Spirit is not an object; it is radical, ever-present Subject, and thus it is not something that is going to jump out in front of you like a rock, an image, an idea, a light, a feeling, an insight, a luminous cloud, an intense vision, or a sensation of great bliss. Those are all nice, but they are all objects, which is what Spirit is not.”
– Ken Wilber
Samadhic interventions are real-time engagements with divinely arising presentations (what I term the psycho-cosmic penetralia) from the broadest recesses of memory, as explored, for example, in Death. Just as when the life force can be felt under your finger tips when filleting a de-headed fish or that breathing continues when someone is in a coma, there is life force in the body when the sense of self is fully dissolved or, at least, not actively, functionally present. That life force engages memories; those memories, I argue, can be worked with—though they don’t need to be.
I don’t mean to suggest that a practitioner should be an interventionist. I support non-interventionist approaches as well and would consider my practice to lean generously on the non-interventionist end of the spectrum. What I see as pioneering, though, is the potential for successful resolution of incomplete experiences that can arise in the fully dissolved state. Furthermore, I prefer to see this pioneering work engaged with in a collegial environment.
Numerous methods may assist in the successful completion or resolution of the presentations in this stage: trauma-informed frameworks that are body-centred (proprioceptive, sensori-motor, etc.), mind-centred (psycho-drama, parts theory, etc.), energetic (psychic surgeries, sound, cosmic contact improvisation, etc.). Again, the application of established methods as well as novel ones to the transpiring penetralia is innovatory. A well-rounded practitioner brings to their private practice many tools that, in sum, amount to the scope of their practice.
Peri-samadhic interventions (in the context of 5 facilitation) may resemble those used with other substance-induced states, whether they be shamanic, clinical, and so on. However, I only consider them beneficial if they support the lens of the design of 5: the samadhi state/stage/point/event (beyond “I”) is likely its raison d’être (or its pièce de résistance, whichever you prefer). How one arrives at or dissolves into that state is a question of approach, a narrow spectrum I have introduced as having two main qualities, surrender and submission. The interventions used pre- and post- samadhi state will largely be congruent with where the practitioner is on that spectrum (or incongruent with where they think they are). The interventions will probably also be reflective of the practitioner’s orientation (psychotherapeutic, energetic, neo-shamanic, elemental, clinical, etc.).
Part of what indicates a peri-samadhic state is that there is a sense of self. “I” is present to some degree, whether it be in the I-I, I-AM, or I-AM-THIS phase. Because there is a self-experiencing aspect to these phases (pre- or post- samadhi), the practitioner offering an intervention will need to ascertain that the participant is indeed participating. I say participate even though the presence of an “I” has a very broad range since it is composed of many categories of memory, not to mention a range that includes passive observation and actively making choices. A simple but imprecise determinant may be: is “I” having an experience?
Pathways to apprenticeship
“Initiation met poorly can be trauma. Trauma met well can be initiation.”
– Sarah Kerr
I consider interventions in the samadhi stage to be advanced and pioneering work when approached diligently, humbly, and in apprenticeship. In my opinion, interventions in this stage are not pioneering or advancing anything in a collaborative manner if they are prescriptive, peremptory, templated, appropriations, or left unscrutinised. The samadhi stage is a precious, delicate state. The participant is perhaps at their most impressionable; the psyche completely exposed. Interventions here shouldn’t be used lightly or cavalierly. This is not to say that interventions by noviciates are ill-disposed. It is to say that they may be ill-suited.
When interventions here resemble those that would be common in peri-samadhic states (such as with most other substances) there may be a sort of “copycatism.” The application of interventions that were birthed within other substance work traditions, particularly of those encased in traditions and lineages (ayahuasca, peyote, mushrooms, iboga, etc.) is a poor substitute for learning about what is actually happening while there is a samadhi state—not to mention a process of continual colonisation. Applying interventions this way reveals a lack of a fuller understanding of the 5 as well as a lack of the will to let go of what we think we know. This is reflective of: a false sense of competency on the part of the practitioner; a sense that one has some sort of precocious talent or super power that comes from divine authority; or simply arrogance.
Furthermore, it is extremely difficult for anyone to act without a degree of projection. If there is an impulse for a practitioner to act/intervene at the samadhi stage, their genius aside, there is a strong element of that impulse being an egoic/personal one. A simple message to noviciates: when in doubt, lean towards refraining from offering an intervention. Then, find peers and/or mentors with whom you can shadow. This way, a trusted peer (one that can support and scrutinise you) can offer feedback around your decisions to act.
Supervision is one of the most valuable stages of apprenticeship and ought to be sought out. Avoiding aspects of apprenticeship (such as shadowing, supervision, case study, and experiential giving/receiving) is to avoid gaining know-how through the vulnerability of being seen by a mentor/peer. Care-full and supportive scrutiny from peers and/or mentors advances one’s practice toward excellence much faster than “re-inventing the wheel”—often a characteristic quality of the self-approved autodidact, lone wolf, and charlatan.
Shadowing is equally valuable and, ideally, would come before supervision. To simply be a fly on the wall within a mentor’s “container” exposes a learner to a lot of information. This can then be absorbed in post-session debriefing. Here the shadower can simply take in the information without having to be involved in decision-making processes. The teacher can then respond to questions regarding the decisions that were made. This is as close to explaining the nexus of intuitive and rational process as can be. It is also an opportunity for the teacher to be vulnerable, as the mentee has the capacity to reveal blind spots. Thus, everyone is our teacher and we can all continue to be students.
Spectrum of intervention
The spectrum of intervention styles or methods is broad. Often, the interventionist pole is marked with blatant interference. Contrasted with that, the non-interventionist pole can lack in “benefit optimisation.” Somewhere in this range, a practitioner will find themselves operating. If the practitioner is allowing it to evolve, their position on the spectrum will probably move throughout the duration of their practice. It won’t move much if the practitioner is encased in or committed to a particular or inflexible way, teaching, custom, or tradition. That there isn’t a universally practised way with 5 suggests that there is a high likelihood one will see signs of continual colonisation (a system of oppression) in an offering, such as appropriation and capitalisation—often a characteristic or unchecked quality of the neo-shaman.
On that note, where a practitioner finds themselves on this spectrum will also vary according to their orientation, such as shamanic, therapeutic, clinical, psychospiritual, ceremonial, etc. For instance, a shamanic approach may use interventions constantly and automatically, whereas a clinical approach may use none if they are not requested by the participant. The question of orientation, then, intersects with the question “Who is this for?” In other words, consent and interventions are inextricably linked.
1 help (someone), typically by doing a share of the work
2 help by providing information
– [no object ] be present as a helper or spectator
Assist (noun) mainly North American
1 an act of helping
Although I have used the word “intervention” here, I quite like the word “assist.” This word, for me, more squarely/adequately answers the question “who is this for?” with “the participant” being the response. As noted above, an intervention may be offered without the consent of the participant. This then opens the door to the possibility that the practitioner is not helping the participant, but perhaps helping themselves. Helping themselves to what? If there is a protocol that is being followed, such as within a shamanic tradition or a clinical framework, it is possible that the prescribed action taken is more about procedure rather than being completely attuned to the immediacy of the participants’ experience.
Perhaps this is why the Conclave’s Best Practices are a very broad and often non-specific set of guidelines: an expansive array of possible orientations and interventions may fall under the guise of what is considered good practice—if indeed many of the considerations in this text are contemplated and integrated. It is not a manual after all, but a broad pathway to integrity.
1 the giving of something to someone, especially as part of a formal ceremony
the manner or style in which something is given, offered, or displayed
Now, returning to the specific nature of the potential peak experience of 5, samadhi. When there are presentations in the samadhi stage (remember, the “life force” or “cosmic penetralia” that can be perceived despite there not being an “I” present), the practitioner doesn’t necessarily know “who” or “what” is presenting. The question “who is this for?” then becomes quite tricky. It would be a facile assumption to automatically determine that the life force that is activating the body and many of its faculties and motor functions is indeed conducted by the person(a) that ingested the substance. To be direct: if the “beyond-I” phase is arrived at, that “person” is most likely not directing a presentation (if there is one).
1 the outer or assumed aspect of character
If the “I” who imbibed is not present, but there is a presentation of some other persona or penetralia, how can we ask for consent? Any prior consent would be either moot or inapplicable—unless a “carte blanche” had been given to the practitioner. The non-interventionist practitioner would insist on doing nothing no matter what was happening (with the exception of keeping the body safe), thereby avoiding possible interference, yet foregoing offering an assist. The interventionist practitioner would not hesitate to offer an assist according to whatever they thought was appropriate.
What should a practitioner absolutely not do when someone is in a full-release [samadhi] state?
In other words, what is malpractice in regards to interventions? The strict answer is that the practitioner should not be assisting/intervening in any way that was not consented to prior. The exception to this would be the full discretionary power (carte blanche) given by the participant.
The loose answer is that intuitive responses to unpredictable presentations (remember, psycho-cosmic penetralia) may not have been consented to, yet there may be a magic component to how the genius of the practitioner manifests. The “genius” is the intuitive yet informed response to uncertain and/or volatile presentations. Informed by what? A combination of practical competency and a developed intuitive sense that serve immediate needs and potentials.
Practice makes perfect, so it is said. To deny genius—an exceptional yet innate creative power or natural ability—is not the suggestion here. To practise and develop genius is to be response-able with the participant. That practicing and development is probably best done, initially or even continually, with supervision or co-witnessing of some kind.
Best practice would see that the practitioner outlines the range of possible assists that they may use for the participant to consent to—especially those that would be deemed necessary to keep the body safe. The scope of the practitioner’s practice is implicitly revealed here. Even if the carte blanche is given, the practitioner can indicate what may occur and even what is not to occur.
There are many considerations and factors that determine intervention styles. Metaphysical sentiments, the vocational orientation, the degree of apprenticeship, the functional skillset, and consent all intersect to result in identifying how and why a practitioner would “come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events”. This nexus of factors alone could apply to any trade of the healing arts. However, seeing this intersection through the lens of the peak experience with 5 makes this body of work unique. The uniqueness merits special attention and ought to result in a niche expertise.
Proficiency in these matters is a part of what turns best practices into excellent practices. Excellent practice, in my opinion, is, in part, to empower the participant as much as possible. Developing excellence takes time, no matter the knack or personal will that a practitioner possesses. May all practitioners aspire to excellence and may excellence not be an end point but an ongoing process.
Let’s keep it simple: there is an essential quality to being human and working as a guide. The guide is also human. The guide is consciousness in human form, just like the participant. Both guide and participant are manifested godheads of quintessence. We are all finding our way. What is personal or ego-derived is also divine. Let’s not forget that. Let’s not forget that the potential for great integrity comes often through learning through degrees of our messy, human selves.
We may all be a divine intervention. So may we find grace in the movement of the genius into form. May this form be as in-formed as possible. We seem to be constant(ly) in-formation, anyway.
interventions: interference or assistance?
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