All through our discussions in this tutorial, the notion of driver has popped up. I think it might be well to dwell on the concept for a while so that both its mechanism and its relevance to an anthropology of consciousness may become clear. The concept derives from Ernst Gellhorn's work and literally means any stimulus that produces a distinct and repeatable change of phase of consciousness. The driving stimulus may be external to the being, as with the flickering light of a camp fire or beat of a drum, or internal to the being, as with an eidetic image or shift in metabolic state (e.g., fasting).

When a driver is embedded in a ritual (like an initiation rite, an esoteric sacred ceremony, etc.), it is positioned in order to produce a predictable effect. It is called a ritual driver . The process of transforming consciousness by application of drivers is called driving . Thus we may speak of concentration upon the breath as "driving" the trophotropic nervous system into an enhanced state of calm or tranquillity. Or we may say that dancing to a particular rhythm may drive the system into simultaneous discharge of both sides of the autonomic system which would be experienced as ecstasy.

A point to keep in mind here is that the potential range of phases of consciousness that an individual may experience is always far greater than the range he or she actually experiences. Societies have a great stake in controlling the phases their members have access to. One mechanism societies exercise to select phases of consciousness is the orchestration of drivers embedded in rituals. This includes symbolic drivers of course.

A study of the entire repertoire of drivers in any society's ritual tool kit is quite revealing. Because they are specific in their effects, one should be able to predict the range of phases encouraged by a society by examining the set of drivers used and how they are deployed. Is a single psychotropic drug taken and the individual left alone to seek a vision, or is the drug combined with fasting and purification drivers like a sweat lodge?

Realizing that the system may be driven from the top down or from the bottom up, or both at the same time, it is important to look at the sequence of drivers in any elaborate ritual system. Days of fasting and purification rituals prior to a ceremony will indicate that the system is being driven into calm-clarity and loss of ego defences (mediated primarily via the ergotropic system) prior to, say, a more top down driven, highly symbolic ceremonial system designed to evoke experiences via symbolic penetration. The Sundance is a case in point. Dancers undergo purification and fasting prior to the dance, and then enter days of strenuous exertion (up to 18 hours a day of continuous dancing) while dancing to a fixed rhythm and concentrating upon a single symbol (say Buffalo) within the richly symbolic field of the dance ground. The practice leads to a sudden transpersonal experience that may include an ecstatic vision which is interpreted as relating to the symbol of concentration (Buffalo).


Here I should introduce one of the pivotal concepts we use in biogenetic structuralism to explain how symbolic material can both produce and be produced by non-symbolic events in the body. Although the systems and organs of the body intimately interpenetrate each other, the effects they produce upon each other vary with the particular functional organization of the systems involved. We can say, therefore, that a morphogenesis (a change in state, form or organization) occurring in one system in the body may produce a morphogenesis in other somatic systems, but that the various changes of state are only partially isomorphic with each other .

Interpenetration among the various organs and levels of organization of the body may therefore be said to result in homeomorphogenesis . The term combines the concept morphogenesis out of certain biological formulations with the root homeo- (as in the word "homeomorphic," meaning of similar structure) to denote causally linked transformations of a similar, but not identical kind in two or more structures. Lesions in one part of the body may produce dream imagery in the visual cortex via homeomorphogenic links. Meditation upon the good guys battling and defeating the bad guys at the sight of a lesion or disease may accentuate the activity of macrophages at the site of the injury.

Symbolic penetration is a common feature of healing systems cross-culturally, and where they are effective, we suggest that the healing operates in part by way of top down driving via homeomorphogenic links between the cortex of the brain and other parts of the body.

Drivers may be gross (as with drumming and dancing) or fairly subtle (as with small nuances like color of the deity being meditated upon). How effective penetration will be depends upon various factors influencing the efficacy of drivers, including extent of ego defenses, the state of ergotropic-trophotropic tuning, how well the individual visualizes symbolic materials, and how far the target neurognosis has developed in the individual. There is a developmental dimension to driving that should not be overlooked. Some drivers and combinations of drivers may effect individuals differently depending upon the level of neurocognitive development reached by each individual. Often there will be an extended period of preparatory enculturation carried out before an individual is deemed ready to undergo a particular ritual practice. For example, in days gone by young people were not allowed to participate in the Catholic Mass until they had received extensive indoctrination and preparation.

Drivers can become quite subtle. In the Tibetan tantric meditation system, body posture and movement are essential features of practice, and after extensive practice over years, the mindstates intended by practices may be accomplished by merely repeating a hand movement ( mudra ). The mindstate toward which the whirling dance of the Sufi initiate is intended may eventually be accessed by a simple shift in consciousness. There is the famous case, of course, in the Buddhist sutras where the Buddha begins a class by holding up a flower and one of his students came to sudden full awakening. The flower was the driver, but the consciousness of the student had been prepared for just that subtle push in order for his mind to reach another and more advanced understanding.

Drivers used in traditional circumstances are always lodged within a context. And the context is important. The Buddha's flower was presented before the student in the context of a class. The driver is always embedded in an environment, and control of the environment may be just as important as control of the driver. It is one thing to whirl in a Sufi temple, and another to whirl in a disco. As Timothy Leary used to teach, the "setting" is all important when taking LSD. The environment may well determine the kind of transpersonal experience, if any, that is accomplished.

As any advanced meditator knows, ones' entire state of mind may be expressed in a single eidetic image. Dreams, if they are of events occurring in the depths of the unconscious, may express in a simple play of imagery a vastly complex dimension of ones' being. Remember back in Day Five when I was discussing the expressive and fulfilling functions of symbols? The true importance of this bidirectionality of symbolic penetration may be appreciated now if you can come to see symbols as drivers when they are "coming in" and as expressers when they are, so to speak, "going out."

And in the social/communication context of symbolism, a phase of consciousness attained by you and spontaneously expressed and relevated in a symbol before your mind's eye, may, if communicated to me in the correct context, become a driver leading me to realize the phase of consciousness you experienced. There is a tremendous transposition of course, but the symbol may under the right circumstances drive my system via homeomorphogenesis into an organization equivalent to yours. This is the basis for many of the planet's esoteric teachings. The mindstate attained by the master is realized by the student by meditating upon the spontaneous symbolism communicated by the master. This is a predictable part-whole relation of the sort I discussed under "transposition" in Day Five of this tutorial.

The methodological implication here is profound. Do you see it? We came across it when we were discussing the training of transpersonal anthropologists in Day Seven. It is simply this: Until one realizes the phase of consciousness being indicated in the symbolic driver, one cannot know the real meaning of the symbol, even when there are exoteric meanings attributed to the symbol in texts. To say that you understand what the flower meant to the awakening student is hubris of a silly sort. To interpret the flower as represented unfolding, maturing consciousness says very little. To experience the awakening of consciousness to its essence says it all.

It is crucial to underscore the fact that drivers in traditional systems are never used out of context. Moreover, drivers and their effects upon consciousness are always part of the society's cycle of meaning. That is, there is always an interpretive phase connected with having experiences realized from driving techniques. And the interpretation is generally conservative of the society's cosmology. The interpretation will be in terms of the cosmology and the experience will be construed in such a way as to evidence or instantiate some aspect of the cosmology.


As I say, there are intrinsic drivers and extrinsic drivers. Here is a list of common ritual drivers of both kinds, along with examples:

Intrinsic Drivers:

breathing exercises (Buddhist meditation)
   *chanting (Hindu and Buddhist mantra)
   *vision quest
   *dream incubation (Tsimshian shamanism)
fever (Iroquois Handsome Lake movement, Tsimshian shamanism)
circadian rhythms
physical exertion (long distance running; Tibetan trance-running)
concentration (Navajo stargazing, Zen koan meditation)
directed intention
seclusion (Tsimshian shamans)
sensory deprivation (training of Kogi mamas )

Extrinsic Drivers:

   *dancing (Bushman n/um dance)
   *drumming (Tsimshian healing)
   *group chanting (Tsimshian healing)
   *flickering light
psychotropic drugs
   *art (Navajo sandpainting)
   *skrying (shaman's mirror)
   *meditation device (Buddhist kasinas )
   *mnemonics (Tsimshian power songs)
   *scary task (firewalking, snake handling, drinking poison)
   *pain (plains vision quest, Plains Indian Sundance sweat lodge)
performance (Bali masked dancing)
bloodletting (Maya ritual bloodletting)

Keep in mind that all of these drivers would be lodged within a greater ritual context, and the ritual within the grater context of the cycle of meaning that is enriched by myth and other mythopoeic materials. Within the traditional contexts, such drivers are extremely powerful factors in accounting for altered phases of consciousness.

We have reached the end of this tangent. You may either return to the Day Eight discussion of ergotropic-trophotropic tuning, or directly back to the tutorial index.