Chris Bache’s remarkable book, Dark Night, Early Dawn – steps to a deep ecology of mind, came out nearly 20 years ago in 2000 and already contained some of the extraordinary passages extracted from records of his 73 high-dose LSD trips into what he calls here the Mind of the Universe. The first of these sessions dates back exactly 40 years to November 1979, when he was 31. Only now, at 71, is he able to go fully public with these effectively gnostic revelations. Ervin Laszlo in his introduction points out that readers have to be willing to entertain three premises: ‘that there is an intelligence behind the things that exist in the universe, that there is purpose exhibited by this intelligence, and that it is humanly possible to access some elements of this intelligence and learn some aspects of its purpose.’ Although there has been a recent revival in interest in the therapeutic value of psychedelics, this book addresses their philosophical value in terms of what we can learn about the nature of consciousness and reality by accessing altered states that remove the everyday filters of the brain.

The resulting insights are literally mind-blowing in extending our narrow and limited human perspectives. At the outset, Chris explains his method and protocol involving systematically pushing the boundaries of experience in carefully structured psychedelic sessions, making a complete and accurate record following the session, then critically analysing the experience, bringing it into alignment with other findings and fields of knowledge. It is this integrity, precision and incisive commentary that make this text so remarkable. His records bear witness to the journeys of an intrepid psychonaut whose 20-year odyssey has yielded an extraordinary harvest of luminous insights into the deeper structure of reality and the underlying dynamics of human existence. Readers can only stand in awe of his courage and persistence in undertaking such a profound archetypal journey on our behalf, exposing himself in repeated processes of embracing pain and purgation, death and rebirth to an untold depth and intensity of collective human suffering as well as bathing in the compensating ecstasy of cosmic light and love. He discovers that death and rebirth operate at every level of reality and that what we call death really represents complete surrender.

The sessions are presented chronologically in the context of overarching themes, with individual titles for each session. Only gradually with practice and persistence was Chris able to refine his recall of experiences so far beyond our normal egoic range. The very nature of perception and identity is expanded almost infinitely and unimaginably through space and time as the realisation dawns of the insignificance of human lives within the vast evolutionary scheme, even while individual awakening and participation remain essential. The idea here is not to escape from physical reality but rather to awaken immanently within it. Chris finds himself in deep time and in an ocean of suffering, all of which he can only understand by becoming it. He gains a new understanding of the reincarnation process, realising that ‘we are self-generating fields of energy in a living universe. We generate energy by making choices and the universe responds to this energy.’

He experiences himself as the Cosmic Tree where ‘different lives around the globe were simply different experiences the tree was having’ with consciousness ‘manifesting itself in separate forms while remaining unified.’ This leads him to the understanding that the universe is ‘a single unified organism of extraordinary complexity and subtlety reflecting a vast Creative Intelligence’ (p. 123) – but also a Cosmic Love, which many others have also experienced. There is no outside to this Being, there are ‘precise patterns of connectivity that weave our minds and even our bodies into larger wholes’. On another occasion, ‘after hours of extremely high energy purification, I began to experience physical existence as a unified field, as an unbroken tissue or matrix. Individual life forms were crystallizations of this matrix. My very incarnation was a distillation of this living fabric.’ Later, he elaborates (p. 216) ‘At one point, my vision zeroed in on this process so deeply that the “units” of individual lives disappeared completely. At this level, human lives were simply crystallizations of patterns of a fluid energy that made up our species-being. Individuals were “forms” that drew together portions of this energy into somewhat fixed and firm configurations. In themselves these forms were not solid. They simply drew to a head energy existing in the species field.’ All this conveys a fundamentally expanded epistemological and ontological horizon of the relationship between the individual and the collective or species-mind.

Over the past year, there has been a growing worldwide realisation that we are heading into a global environmental emergency if we continue with business as usual. Only yesterday, Marilyn Monk sent me an article from Science entitled Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change. For Chris in his visionary state, the core scenario is of planetary breakdown and breakthrough: ‘while the threat of a global crisis has grown larger decade by decade, the vision of the future that consistently emerged in my sessions is that humanity is rapidly approaching a positive breakthrough of evolutionary proportions.’ However, consistently with the central theme of this book, the Great Awakening entails a Great Death, a planetary NDE: ‘we must be emptied of the old before the new can emerge. I have come to believe that the 21st century will be such a time.’

Here is where we are: ‘history is intensifying. Feedback loops are accelerating. Time is becoming concentrated. Developments are unfolding exponentially. The past is rapidly catching up with us; debts put off for generations are coming due; a new beginning approaches. The ecological crisis will precipitate a death-rebirth confrontation that will shatter our psycho-spiritual isolation both individually and societally and bring forward an awakening of common ground within us.’ Then the planetary NDE, or, as Bede Griffiths put it, ‘crucifixion on a worldwide scale’: ‘humanity’s transformation will come about through terrible suffering. This suffering will be triggered by a global wide systems crisis. Our species will change when our collective pain simply becomes unbearable any longer.’ The process is so severe that it impacts the collective unconscious, and since the outer reflects the inner: ‘the global systems crisis taking place in the world outside us is deeply connected to the evolutionary metamorphosis taking place inside us.’ Eventually, ‘everywhere new social institutions sprang into being that reflected our new reality – new ways of thinking, new values that we had discovered within ourselves during the crisis. Every aspect of our lives was marked by new priorities, new perceptions of the good, new truths.’ This is exactly what liberal progressives are calling for, even now, but it is fiercely resisted and ruthlessly overridden by global vested interests. Chris adds that ‘the speed with which new formations were emerging in the collective psyche reflected the superconductivity of nonlinear systems. These new forms were not just temporary fluctuations but became permanent psychological and social structures marking the next stage in humanity’s long journey of self-activated awareness.’

If this all sounds a truly daunting prospect, Chris reminds readers of the vastness of the evolutionary process across space and time and that we are here to experience this profound transition as souls. There is much more to add in terms of the incredible journey into the diamond light, which space does not allow, and where ‘the goal of deep work is to make ourselves transparent to this Infinity, to let as much of it into our earthly lives as we can skilfully manage, and be patient with the rest.’ Prepare to be entranced, amazed, energised, purged, shattered, illuminated, liberated and reborn by penetrating to the heart of this stunning revelation for our times.

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