‘The subtle, yet pervasive, entrapment of man through the illusion-generating processes of sense perception has been a central theme of mystics, prophets, seers and teachers for as long as mankind has been inquiring into the nature of consciousness.’ Ralph Metzner
Psychotherapist Ralph Metzner, who died in 2019 at the age of 82, began his career working with Timothy Leary in the 1960s on controversial studies at Harvard University involving LSD and other psychedelics and then dedicated his life to exploring and writing prolifically about how human consciousness can be expanded in diverse settings and cultures.
Now, Metzner’s acclaimed landmark work of 1971, Maps of Consciousness, appears in an impressive new edition from Park Street Press (October, 2023) with a timely new sub-title: The classic text on exploring the mind and expanding awareness. It makes for a commendable tribute to this late pioneer in consciousness research.
Originally published as Maps of Consciousness: I Ching, Tantra. Tarot, Alchemy, Astrology, Actualism, Metzner, with keen insight and erudition, analyses these six ancient and venerable practices for achieving expanded awareness and freeing ones consciousness from outside limitations and cultural conditioning. He includes exercises relevant to each system which the reader can follow, if so inclined.
He writes: ‘The alternative path followed by Taoists, Tantrists, Sufis, alchemists and Actualists, is to remember that it is not the body or the organs of perception per se that are the trap, but rather the programs and imprints under which they are operating. And so, by means of transformation, by changing the form, they strive to make the body a living temple of the Higher Self instead of a prison, a responsive instrument instead of a cave of phantoms.’
With a new foreword by UC Berkeley professor of neurobiology David E Presti, and including all of its original illustrations, Maps of Consciousness remains essential today for the way in which it shows how the six traditions Metzner investigates open up profound pathways for the development of a person’s consciousness and spiritual evolution. Significantly, I found the book’s content to be informed substantially by the works of Jung and Gurdjieff, the most quoted figures therein.