A deeply personal account of the scientific, shamanic, and metaphysical encounters that led to the development of Metzner’s psychological methods
• Recounts the author’s meetings and friendships with Albert Hofmann, Alexander Shulgin, the McKenna brothers, Wilson Van Dusen, Myron Stolaroff, and Leo Zeff
• Details his lucid dream encounters with G. I. Gurdjieff, profoundly healing sessions with Hawaiian healer Morrnah Simeona, experiences with plant teachers iboga and ayahuasca, and ecological and mystical lessons learned from animal teachers
• Shares his involvement in the beginnings of the therapeutic use of MDMA and how it safely and effectively supports the healing of trauma, PTSD, and interpersonal relationships
Just as the search for the philosopher’s stone is the core symbol of the alchemical tradition, Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., psychotherapist and one of the respected elders of the psychedelic research community, sees it as the central metaphor of his life-long quest to find methods of healing and insight through heightened states of consciousness.
Through captivating stories Metzner shares his encounters from the 1960s through the 1990s with genius scientists, shamanic healers, mystics, plant spirits, and animal guides that led to the development of his “alchemical divination” psychological methods, a structured intuitive process of accessing inner sources of healing and insight. He details lessons learned with psychedelic research legends Albert Hofmann, Alexander Shulgin, Terence McKenna, and Dennis McKenna. He reveals his deeply healing encounters with the Kahuna bodywork healer Morrnah Simeona, the first to introduce the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono healing method to the West, and his experiences with West African trance dancing and the psychoactive plant-drug iboga. Metzner recounts in vivid detail his unwelcome encounter with malignant sorcery during an ayahuasca experience in Ecuador and the lessons it taught him about connections with spirits, both harmful and beneficial. He tells of his involvement in the beginnings of the therapeutic use of MDMA and shows how it is an effective and safe substance to support psychotherapy for healing trauma, PTSD, and interpersonal relationships.
In sharing his remarkable encounters, Metzner shows how the most meaningful lessons in the alchemy of life come not only from the geniuses we meet but also from the spirits we encounter along the way.
In November 1974 I traveled to Honolulu to give some talks and an introductory Actualism meditation workshop. There is one additional fact about my existence in the year 1974, a synchronicity that I only registered, with surprise, as I began to write this account of my meeting with the Hawaian Kahuna Morrnah Simeona. In October 1974, one month before my visit to Hawaii, my 8-year-old son Ari had died in a bicycle accident--the most traumatic and devastating event of my life. I was in what I would now recognize as a post-traumatic stress reaction, which meant that I had developed a kind of protective dissociation from the traumatizing trigger event, enabling me to function normally without collapsing into grief and despair.
Such a sealing off of the traumatic event-memory enables a traumatized individual to function in ordinary life circumstances while appearing outwardly in a normal mode. At the time, however, I had no understanding of the nature of this kind of dissociative trauma reaction and no concept of myself being in that kind of altered state of consciousness. In fact the whole concept of PTSD didn’t really develop in the field of psychology until the later 1970s and 1980s - and is still not well understood. Dissociation is a very peculiar process - it is not at all like the Freudian concept of repression, in which primitive childish or animalistic impulses are supposedly being kept in check by the conscious ego. I had full recall of everything that had happened, but the painful emotions triggered by the event had been sealed off. The disconnect was so effective that I could function outwardly and not be overwhelmed by this devastating blow to my psychic equilibrium.
In retrospect I cannot help wondering whether my interactions with Morrna Simeona (1913-1992) were somehow related to that tragedy. Perhaps the unusual degree of empathic generosity that she seemed to display toward me was somehow related to that tragedy which had occurred only a month before.
I had made an appointment to meet with Morrnah Simeona sometime after I was finished with my public talks. Knowing of her work and reputation as a body-work healer, I had asked for a session with her--ostensibly to help me with some chronic muscular contractions in my hip and abdomen that dated to an appendix operation in my childhood. She picked me up at the hotel where I was staying and we drove to the place where she did her bodywork sessions. She was driving a white Mercedes sports convertible, with the top down. So here came an unexpected peak-experience for me--I was being driven through Honolulu in a white convertible on a sparkling sunny day, by a smiling Hawaiian woman in her late fifties.
She was telling me stories all the time--before, during and after my bodywork session. I do not remember talking much at all. I certainly did not relate to her anything about my son or his death. She told me that during the time she was working as a massage therapist at the Royal Hawaiian hotel, she treated many prominent people from the United States, the Far East, and from Europe--heads of state, royalty, business executives, and others. I had really no idea of the scope of the international spiritual healing work that she was beginning to develop--and that she herself only hinted at in the stories that she was telling me.
The lomilomi massage method, which I had not experienced before, includes, along with traditional strokes, a kind of gentle rocking motion of the limbs, which seem to shake out the pain-contracted tension patterns embedded in the long muscles of the limbs. I became immersed into a deeply peaceful healing trance. I do not even remember the passage of time--the treatment seemed to last for hours and transitioned into her telling me stories from Hawaiian history and from her practice.
She told me that after she retired from the massage therapy practice at the Royal Hawaiian, she focused her work more on consulting with other healers on difficult cases and also on exorcisms of destructive spirit entities. One story she told me concerned a couple whose one-year-old son was gradually dying, as he was losing his life-force due to some undiagnosed illness. Tuning in with the infant’s higher self, Morrnah saw that he needed something from the sea. She told the father to walk with his son into the ocean and let his son guide him. The father waded into the water up to his chest holding his son until the infant reached out for a particular kind of floating seaweed. The parents took the seaweed, cooked it, and gave it to the son, who was cured.
Morrnah also told me a story of being consulted by a Japanese family in Hawaii who had experienced a series of violent deaths by accident or crime. Tuning in to the ancestral lineage of this family with her clairvoyant perception, Morrnah saw that in this family two or three generations ago in Japan there was a samurai who had killed dozens of people. Because of the traditional reverence for their ancestors, the karma of this killer was being preserved unconsciously as a destructive presence in the life of the family. Morrnah contacted the soul of this long-deceased samurai and persuaded him to move upward, following the lines of light into the Spirit World. The family was counseled to distinguish familial respect for the ancestor from personal approval of his deeds. The family was therefore released from this lethal karmic possession that had been kept in place, inadvertently, because of their ancestor reverence.
Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., helped found the Harvard Psilocybin Project in 1960 and is now a psychotherapist and professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He is the author of many books, including The Psychedelic Experience (with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert), Maps of Consciousness, Opening to Inner Light, and The Well of Remembrance. He lives in Sonoma, California.
“Ralph Metzner is a great storyteller! These life tales overflow with amazing events, profound insights, sorrowful traumas, and madcap adventures. We share the times, places, and teachers--human, plants, fungi, and animals--that expanded his worldview from the narrow rational/material to the spiritual and beyond to the shamanistic.”
– James Fadiman, Ph.D., author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide
“A biographical journey of self-awareness through deep meditations, mind-transforming substances, and the spiritual embrace of humans, animals, and dreams. I recommend this work for the seeker in all of us.”
– Peter Phillips, Ph.D., professor of political sociology at Sonoma State University
“From the 1960s to the present, Metzner has occupied a central role as an experimental scientist, educator, and healer, leaving no philosophers’ stone unturned, mapping consciousness in both scholarly and personal ways in the enduring tradition of Jung and Campbell, Huxley and Watts.”
– Michael Horowitz, coeditor of Aldous Huxley’s Moksha and Sisters of the Extreme
“What a fascinating life Ralph Metzner has lived and what marvelous mentors he’s had along the way! The stories in Searching for the Philosophers’ Stone are filled with charm, wonder, surprise, warmth, and bold insights into consciousness. Metzner’s diverse human guides are astute and compassionate. Just as impressive are the spirit world teachers, who speak by way of animals, dreams, meditative states, and, of course, mind-altering plants and other entheogens.”
– Allen D. Kanner, Ph.D., coeditor of Ecopsychology and Psychology and Consumer Culture
“This beautiful chronicle of spiritual discovery, where each story is a jewel shining with truth and wisdom, documents a great and courageous journey into expanded consciousness.”
– Matthew McKay, Ph.D., author of Seeking Jordan
“Few people have written as many life-changing books as Ralph Metzner, and nobody has written about profound topics more eloquently. Searching for the Philosophers’ Stone is no exception, and his collection of conversations with remarkable men and women will give readers a glimpse of inner and outer worlds that they never knew existed.”
– Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., coauthor of Personal Mythology
“Metzner beautifully fulfills his role as wisdom carrier with Searching for the Philosophers’ Stone. His stories reveal an intuitive mind, an integrated psyche, and steadfast allegiance to his life mission: to cultivate approaches to healing our fractured psyches/bodies in this fractured world by drawing on time-honored mythology, expanded states of perception, and shamanistic practices of times past and present. The book is a tale of adventure well flavored by Metzner´s curiosity and humility.”
– Chellis Glendinning, Ph.D., psychologist
“Part memoir, part vision quest, Metzner shares his moving experiences of fatherhood and loss; meetings with masters, both human and other worldly; dream state and power animal transmissions; and more. He earns his place as a chief influencer in today’s positive resurgence of the psychedelic psychotherapy movement and also as a true scholar of human consciousness.”
– Jamy Faust, M.A. & Peter Faust, M.Ac., coauthors of The Constellation Approach
“Ralph Metzner is a brilliant psychologist and writer whose stellar consciousness research helped to shape the path of an entire generation of spiritual seekers, including my own. This is an amazing treatise on the remarkable, wild, and profound life and teachings of Ralph that led to the development of his alchemical divination, which has touched the hearts of countless souls searching for the meaning of life. Through fascinating stories and his pioneering research he has opened us up to amazing wisdom and cosmologies from multiple dimensions.”
– Sandra Ingerman, M.A., coauthor of Speaking with Nature
“This amazing autobiographical volume is overflowing with rare and unique information not found anywhere else. Beautifully recounting his transformative journey, with a global cast of notable mystics, scientists, and healers, Metzner describes how these encounters led him to insights that were far beyond what he was expecting.”
– David Jay Brown, author of Dreaming Wide Awake
“Searching for the Philosophers’ Stone is a cause for celebration that takes us on an enlivening, robust, eye-opening journey with the people and practices that have shaped Metzner’s thinking and vision of an awakened life. This personal account of his path as a legendary pioneer in the field of consciousness also reflects the broader history of this movement in America. This is a book that both skeptics and believers will find riveting and enlightening.”
– Richard Strozzi-Heckler, author of In Search of the Warrior Spirit
“Ralph Metzner is one of the legendary visionary pioneers of today’s consciousness movement. He records his experiences with both entheogens and mystical practices. This book provides psychological insights that are the result of many decades of deep inquiry. It is a treasure.”
– Jeffrey Mishlove, Ph.D., host of New Thinking Allowed
“As an educator there can be no greater journey of the self toward the Self. This book provides the catalyst one needs to explore the inner dimensions for coherence with our outer work.”
– Philip Snow Gang, Ph.D. master of education programs at Endicott College
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