The Shadow of the Transpersonal

Sam Agnew

When I was 16 I had what I can now call a peak experience. Spontaneous, and life changing, it was ultimately inspiring in a way that I had never experienced before or since. It left me shocked, and confused amidst a total inner paradigm shift of my perspectives on reality.

Afterwards, I followed anything that I felt to resonate with the experience I had unwittingly found myself in. I worked hard to find these links and felt life affirmed through finding work of different fine artists, I found films, performance art, dance, and installations, and various kinds of artistic expressions to sometimes contain a snippet of familiar material. This lead me on to reading philosophy, religious writings, parapsychological and spiritual literature to keep researching what had become the most important focus in my life.

Years of frustration and depression ensued. I felt like I was living a double life. Doing the best I could to honour the magnificent energy of those non ordinary states experienced but never coming close to it. I couldn’t get myself back there by choice as it had not occurred through choice in the first place.

I felt like there was a part of myself locked off from me, shown and now unobtainable.

I felt like there was a part of myself locked off from me, shown and now unobtainable. No matter how had I tried, no matter how hard I worked, I was unable to be worthy of coming anywhere near its majesty. It was as if I was being mocked by the cosmos. I knew that I was always falling short of my own expectations in comparison to the state I had witnessed. As a consequence, I tried to catalyse the experience through my work and art but nothing came close to what I had been shown.


Years of research ensued looking for any snippets of valuable information to lift me out of my feelings of frustrations and worthlessness. I came in to contact with useful religious groups, Shamanic groups, New Age movements, and then some not so useful groups that saw me almost get swallowed up by a guru lead cult. I tried various approaches to meditations in the form of a variety of origins, names and techniques. But I found issues with some of these meditation modalities in that they were teaching us to disregard any material that came up during the experience. I was always under the impression that surely that was an important part of the experience and in my perspective at the time it was often the best bit!

I knew what I had experienced was right for me but as soon as I brought it in to the outside world it would be bastardised by those I told, ripped apart, judged,cut up and served in pieces to the nearest bidder. It became clear that following anything outside of myself would not work but I still harboured a deep interest for the various theories, and perspectives I had read that I knew to resonate with my own faithful experiences.

I was addicted to wishing my life away. I wished to return to the bliss I had inadvertently found myself in as a teenager

For another 15 years I felt as if I was unable to fully do the overwhelming experience any justice. No matter how hard I tried I could never reach the glimpses of those heady heights. I was addicted to wishing my life away. I wished to return to the bliss I had inadvertently found myself in as a teenager. I longed for the full timeless and transcendent all encompassing state that had proved to me the evidence of the soul. It had shown me how to live my life through the visions I received and it had shown me not to fear death. I had seen how wonderful it is to not have the clumsy rollercoaster emotional ride of inhabiting a body with its assorted intense experiences and also how freeing it was not to be in relationship in the physical realm. To experience boundless potential, knowledge and love in connection with everything that has lived in the past present and future. Why resign myself to this earthly realm, in the here and now?

Eventually this lead me to the area’s of the Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy. The Transpersonal, the fourth force of psychology. I was very much aware of the material it dealt with and that it might lead us into many more areas in the future. It addresses point blank the issues that ensure it will never become a cult – great! finally someone who understands my predicament! It was clear to me that I was looking for action in these areas, enthusiastic to develop the innate qualities cultivated in my previous life experiences and career of working with people, my intuition, compassion, an interest in humanity and courage to work hard and do the best I can for my clients and their stories; I joined the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education and began training to become a Transpersonal Psychotherapist.

It became clear through this realignment that what I was searching for was exactly the opposite that I had always focused on. It was staring me in the face all along. I was looking for Me, in this life, in this body: Myself.

I wasn’t looking to leave this life in search of wonder anymore. That very experience showed me what is within as well as what is without. The reason of all of this I believe is to fully embody myself in my own life and hope that by acting as a witness to my psychotherapy clients that they may too be able to become more embodied in their lives.

I understood that the connection I experienced to the cosmos and all potential life within it, can be unearthed within us. It can be found through socialisation, through community, through togetherness and asserting our own needs. By interacting with others we can then move toward a certain unified field of togetherness, mirroring that which lies within us all naturally but not often consciously. This is simply conceptual if it is not fully experienced in the body along with all of the trials and tribulations and pain that come with doing so in a real and dynamic way.

Without experiencing these various levels of wonder which had unfurled to me I would be at a loss to who I am. It paved the way for a feeling which I knew I must follow. A subtle roadmap in the dead of night which I have no choice but to heed, as it is my way and only my way.

The search continues to fully understand; to find out what the territory exemplifies in all its totality. But as a I grow as a person I am able to express myself better, hold more and deeper lasting relationships, and I am able to bear more of my self to be known as well as hold more of what others bring. Such depth of experience is able to show me that which seems impossible from one perspective may be fully possible from another and that subjective phenomenology is of utmost importance to fully meet another where they are as well as ourselves.

The very act of being in a human body is fear inducing, but this is a real gift and one that I no longer look to give up willingly by dissociating my way out of it.

I continue to try and asses my own needs whilst taking others viewpoints and input into account. I aim to set boundaries for myself where previously I was unable. I aim to increase my focus and attention to become a more functional person by completing with self compassion those tasks which set me in to a frenzy. I aim to be more fully in the moment and act in the moment instead of reading the scripts from previous introjected experiences that deem how I may act in a given situation. To be free is not what it previously looked like – but now it seems like so much more. The very act of being in a human body is fear inducing, but this is a real gift and one that I no longer look to give up willingly by dissociating my way out of it. I have a new found respect for this incarnation – one which I choose to cherish, support and parent through the ups and downs of life.

I was unable to say that I deserved to be here

I was always so inspired by those with a clear conviction of an idea and a plan to put it into action. Perhaps this is what I unconsciously knew I wanted but could not understand how that may become actualised. In the face of anyone with a sheer single-mindedness of an idea I was always left feeling inferior. I felt unable and incapable. It didn’t matter how hard I tried, nothing was ever good enough for me or my perceived understanding of what others thought of me. Its little wonder then that I was so eager to leave this sense of what we call life as I was not fully here anyway. I was unable to say that I deserved to be here or that I deserved anything at all. I felt bad and evil and to some extent I still do deep down. These toxic concerns held deeply as a ‘rotten core’ left to their own devices can impact on everything that I did and do. Without looking at the straight on and bringing air to their dense fiery rage there is little that can be done as one cannot simply sweep them under carpet. A parasite constantly hungry and looking to take control of the host.

By being in therapy and being frank with myself in the understanding me and my therapist share together of my innermost fears, I have been able to air them, bring light to the deepest recesses that I am aware of and slowly build a stronger foundation on which to stand. Previously I would get washed away by the tirade of energies, feelings and insights. I lacked the grounding on which the stand on and keep my objectivity. I aim now to grow it like a strong vine, one which can bear fruits to sustain and nourish me and keep me fed on empty and dark days.

I have been wondering a lot recently about emptiness. I have had differing experiences on experiencing emptiness as horrifying, lonely and a terrifying place of despair and a purgatory as referenced in the ‘Void’ article previously on Frontiers. But I also have various experiences of it as the ubiquitous opposite. A place of life, connection, bliss, potential, light, love and nourishment. Both have been experienced as transcendent realms that do not fall into the confines of time, space, matter and are experienced without the ‘Witness’or any Metacognition. They are both experienced as real in a psychoid sense and both feel more real than any day in my life.

As a therapist I have worked with clients who have explained a sense of these places. These realms are experienced and perhaps may be in keeping with Jungs theory of the collective unconscious. It is a Shamanic practise to map the various levels in the inner worlds and it seems this is something that can be experienced by all of us. I believe that due to our individual experiences, and personalities we may view and notice differences in these inner places but there appears to be various correlates between them.

Experiences of mine and others of non ordinary and altered states of consciousness continue to interest me greatly moving forward and I feel excited to seeing where my work will take me over the next years in these associated areas. I am enamoured by Perennial philosophy, accounts of NDEs, Lucid Dream experiences, Sleep Paralysis, Spiritual experiences, Apparitional Occurances’, Shamanic journeying and rituals, Symbology and Religious teachings, Astrology, Paganism, The Esoteric, the Occult, Active Imagination, Body Work, Gestalt Work and Meditational experiences and the experience of Premonitions and the experience of Visions.

I believe these rich experiences hold a many layered harvest of fruits; some ripe and ready to be picked and others still growing, ready to be picked years later only possible with a whole new perspective. One which the potentials were there all along for inside each of us, If only we knew where or how to look.

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