Individual differences |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |
The Christos Experiment (or Christos Phenomenon) is an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) that can produce extraordinarily vivid and realistic Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE), Past-Life Experiences (PLE) and Other-Life Experiences (OLE).
There are four aspects to the Christos Experiment that make it a particularly interesting ASC.
- It can be an extremely convincing, powerful and very moving experience
- It is very easy to induce, and to learn how to induce. It takes perhaps ten minutes preparation with the subject, and seems to work on at least a slight majority of people. Prior belief by the subject that the technique will work is not necessary for it to be successful.
- The subject can answer questions about the experience, and follow direction, while it is still under way, and has an excellent recollection of the details afterwards.
- The experiences, while vivid and compelling enough to suggest to the subject that they have experienced something that must be real, appear to be non-veridical (i.e. not real)
The origins of the name and technique seem to be a matter of debate, although accounts centre on Australia. Certainly its most effective populariser was the Australian author Gerald Marcus Glaskin [1923 – 2000]. Use and investigation of the technique appears to be mostly confined to the New Age community – there is a dearth of references to serious investigations in the scientific community.
There are two problems normally associated with raising interest in the Christos Experiment among mainstream psychological researchers. The first appears to be that even sceptics, although they may accept the possibility of spontaneous OBEs, PLEs etc (while doubting their veridical nature), seem to believe that these cannot be easily induced. The second problem, assuming that they accept the phenomenon as possible, is a casual dismissal of the Christos Experiment as "nothing but". It must be nothing but "a form of hypnotism", "a type of lucid dream", or "an instance of a waking dream". It is perhaps telling that those who have undergone or witnessed a successful Christos Experiment tend not use the phrase "nothing but" to describe it subsequently.
The Christos experience has many similarities to dreaming, the most obvious external sign being Rapid Eye Movement (REM) that usually continues throughout the session (which will typically last half an hour or more). The subject may exhibit bodily movement consistent with the (concurrently described) content of their experience, Freudian puns are not unknown and there are indications that the subject is highly suggestible. The content of the experience is also consistent with dreaming: primarily visual, but with sounds an important component and other senses usually not contributing much data. The experience can be logically coherent, both internally and with the external world; it can be internally coherent, but not cohere with the external world; or it can exhibit the illogicality characteristic of many dreams. Some aspects of the experience can be influenced, but not necessarily controlled, by external direction from the experimenter. But it is most important to emphasise that, although the content of the Christos experience may be similar to dreaming, the experience itself is not.
The Christos ASC normally goes through three phases:
- PLE or OLE
(although these phases do not always follow – the OBE may continue) The experience is often very detailed and convincing (more than one subject has described it as “more real that reality”) and is likely to stay firmly in the memory for a very long time. A naïve subject, or one whose worldview contains the possibility of veridical OBEs, PLEs etc, may assume that a successful Christos Experiment is veridical without further investigation. However it would be relatively simple to demonstrate whether the OBE’s are veridical or not by (say) leaving objects lying around the house for the subject to identify during their OBE – a double-blind version of this is to be recommended. Alastair McIntosh (who spent some time working with Glaskin) reports in Worlds Within a few rather casually-designed experiments that indicate that some aspects of an OBE are veridical and some are not. This is an intriguing result. It implies that, at worst, experiences obtaining during the OBE phase cannot be relied upon but that the Christos Experiment has important implications for a materialistic view of the world. One could wish that the experiments had been better designed and witnessed. If there are veridical components to the OBE, it should be possible to create well-designed, witnessed and controlled experiments to demonstrate this clearly. The Christos Experiment is not shy of manifesting under laboratory conditions. But no such experimental reports appear to exist. In the absence of such replication one has to regard McIntosh’s work as not providing definitive results.
Determining the veridical (or otherwise) nature of a PLE (Reincarnation) has always been fraught with complication. The classic example of this is the Bridey Murphy case. However the Christos investigator may be assisted by the copious amounts of detail and good recall that the experiment provides. As noted above, some PLEs are extremely convincing and internally logical, but logical discrepancies with history or common sense can demonstrate their non-veridical nature. Once again, a defender of their veridical nature can claim a mixture of truth and falsehood for the experience, without being able to specify which will be which – an Unfalsifiable position. But the extraordinary implications of a veridical PLE means that claims of truth require extraordinary levels of proof, and so far none appear to have been forthcoming.
Other Life Experiences (OLE) are those where the subject becomes someone who is reasonably contemporaneous; either "existing" at more-or-less the same time as the experiment, or not sufficiently long ago to be a past life (previous incarnation) of the subject. In theory it should be very easy to determine the veridical nature of an OLE, especially if the target person supposedly is still alive. However, when a subject is convinced they have invaded a real person’s head without that person’s knowledge or consent, it is reasonable to avoid compounding the sin. Good manners might dictate not informing the target person about the invasion, and examples of this politeness can be found in blogs. But some discreet attempt to find out if the person actually exists (and has characteristics similar to those experienced) should not be too difficult and would not do any harm. So far there do not seem to be any examples of a successful and convincing search for people experienced during an OLE.
Some Christos experiences are so incoherent that even the most open-minded subject must have extreme difficulty in interpreting them as real. But because the experience itself can be so vivid there is great temptation to invest it with deep symbolic meaning. Other experiences, such as contact with other-world beings, do not fall easily into any of the above categories. But, given the evidence that the other Christos phases are at least mostly non-veridical, it seems the simplest and safest interpretation would be that the contents of all Christos ASC’s are to be treated with extreme caution and not a little scepticism. They are primarily the products of the subject’s own mind. No matter the power of the experiences, people should hesitate to read into them external validation of their own preconceptions, hopes and fears.
Glaskin’s books on the Christos Experiment document the usual method of inducing the Christos ASC (massage and mental exercise), but mention other methods, and other sources describe different techniques. Some of these can be self-induced. It is not recommended to try these alone as some of the Christos experiences can be very unpleasant indeed. It is useful to have a friend available to be able to terminate the experiment when it goes wrong; not something a subject can do themself.
On the basis of the many methods for inducing the Christos Experiment (particularly those that do not require the assistance of another person), and the ease with which it can be induced, it is tempting to speculate that it is possible to fall into a "Christos ASC" spontaneously. So many of the descriptions of Christos experiences are similar to descriptions in other circumstances of astral travel, channelling, contacts with disembodied wise beings or aliens, etc, that it is possible that these are Christos ASCs. This would provide a prosaic explanation of how otherwise apparently level-headed people can come to have strange, inspiring, numinous and life-changing internal experiences which do not cohere with everyday reality. Perhaps the boundaries of delusion are closer to us all than we might like to think.
- Blennerhassett, Alistair, The Christos Phenomenon, Amazon, 2012
- Glaskin, G. M. Windows of the Mind. Wildwood House, London, 1974
- Glaskin, G. M. Worlds Within, Wildwood House, London, 1976.
- Glaskin, G. M. A Door to Infinity: Proving the Christos Experience, Wildwood House, London, 1979