Origin Press

The Unfolding Self:
Varieties of Transformative Experience

by Ralph Metzner

The Unfolding Self

Reviews    Endorsements
Table of Contents

Origin Press
320 pages, 40 illustrations
Trade paper 6" x 9"
ISBN 1-57983-000-5

"Revelatory...lucid...thorough...scholarly...harvests the riches from a lifetime of intrepid and discerning spiritual research." -- Publishers Weekly

"For years I've followed a principle: Read anything Ralph Metzner writes. The Unfolding Self confirms that I'm still correct." -- Larry Dossey, M.D., author of Healing Words

*A OneSpirit Book of the Month Club Selection

In The Unfolding Self Ralph Metzner identifies the universal structures that underlie the varieties of transformative experience, much as William James did a century ago in The Varieties of Religious Experience. Featuring dozens of illustrations, this book, now a “One Spirit” Book-of-the-Month-Club selection, is a brilliant cross-cultural examination of the power of archetypal metaphors to nurture profound experiences of transformation. Don’t miss Metzner’s masterwork; no comparable psychology of spirituality exists that draws from such a rich lifework of scholarship and spiritual practice.

"The reader of The Unfolding Self can benefit from wise guidance concerning the realms of non-ordinary consciousness based on Ralph Metzner's vast learning, purity of purpose, and more than thirty years of testing the many varieties of transformative experience."
-- Robert McDermott, Ph.D. Editor of The Essential Aurobindo and The Essential Steiner

Picture of Ralph Metzner Ralph Metzner is world-renowned as a pioneer in the study of consciousness and transformative experience. He worked with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert on psychedelic research at Harvard, where he received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He has since practiced psychotherapy and pursued research in consciousness studies in a variety of settings. Today he is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he was academic dean for ten years. His other books include The Psychedelic Experience, Maps of Consciousness, and The Well of Remembrance.


"In addition to the wonderful text, Metzner provides ample notes, a fabulous and diverse bibliography and a helpful index. By revealing some of the most powerful dynamics and archetypes of transformative experience, Metzner provides fellow seekers reliable guidance along their own spiritual paths. The inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural variety of experience is an amazing and insightful contribution to spiritual understanding. I highly (pun intended) recommend this book."
--Maerian Morris, Green Egg, Vol. 30, No. 124, 1998

"As the guru of consciousness and transformative experience, Ralph Metzner takes readers around the globe to dissect cross-cultural metaphors, religious archetypes and primordial images. Readers are asked to draw parallels to their own lives in order to better understand their personal journeys of self-discovery. In doing so, Metzner claims, one can examine "something of humanity's common language." The exploration of self begins with a thorough explanation of the naturalness of transformation, and how our sense of being is molded by our respective realities - including self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-love. World-renowned in his field, Metzner, an Oxford graduate with a Harvard Ph.D. in clinical psychology, has written several books and been published prolifically in various journals on consciousness studies and psycho-spiritual transformation. Over the course of several decades, he has earned great respect for his ambitious research and ability to inspire others to make connections between the whole of human evolution and their own spirituality."
--Today's Librarian, May 1999

"Symbols and metaphors are the connecting links between states and levels of consciousness bridging the different domains of reality. In this book, Metzner, a leading pioneer of transpersonal psychology and transformative experience, spreads out a lustrous 12-course banquet, drawing on the riches of many times and cultures to illuminate the 12 central metaphors that are found in most great spiritual and philosophical traditions. These are the universal structures of transformation, a rich heritage for contemporary study and practice.

"Awakening from the 'dream of reality,' moving from captivity to liberation, purification by inner fire, integrating the inner wild animal, journeying to the place of vision and power, prayers, myths, teachings, therapies, learnings from altered states of consciousness - all weave together seamlessly. Originally published in 1986, this completely reworked edition reflects the continuing richness of a long and distinguished career. It's a book to savor."
--NAPRA, Vol. 9, No. 3

"Ralph Metzner's well-written, beautifully organized book gathers a lifetime of academic research in clinical psychology and religion, while reflecting his deeply personal search into the depths of the human psyche. Drawing from multiple disciplines and ranging across the world's cultures, The Unfolding Self uncovers universal structures of spiritual transformation."
--Noetic Sciences, Spring 1998

"Genuine breadth of vision in this revelatory book restores magic and depth to a subject too often reduced to banality and unreality by self-improvement gurus. Psychotherapist Metzner (Well of Remembrance), who worked on psychedelic drug research with Timothy Leary at Harvard in the 1960s, harvests the riches from a lifetime of intrepid and discerning spiritual research. In this updated version of his Opening to the Inner Light (1986), Metzner focuses on the 'transformation of consciousness' from 12 clearly defined perspectives represented by metaphors frequently appearing in religious, mythological and psychological writings. Drawing upon an enormous store of works, including those of Freud, Jung, Huxley, Homer, William James, D.T. Suzuki, Mircea Eliade and many others, as well as on ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Christian texts, the author provides a thorough, scholarly and vivid description of images and experiences from literature, life and psychedelic 'trips.' While extensively documented and suitable for professional study, Metzner’s lucid, well-organized presentation makes this book attractive to anyone interested in cosmic consciousness or transformative human experience. Examining such compelling universal metaphors as awakening, the restoration of wholeness, death and rebirth, the hero’s journey and the return to the source, Metzner ultimately concludes with the classically Platonic notion that we are each individually, and all collectively, on 'a homeward journey' to 'the world of spirit and light from whence we came.' 40 b&w illustrations. (Apr.)"
--Publisher's Weekly, March 2, 1998

"Here’s a much-needed tonic for the intellectual anemia that too often afflicts contemporary spirituality. The author is a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and has been a pioneering scholar of consciousness since his days as a graduate student under the tutelage of the legendary Timothy Leary. In this fascinating study Metzner collects and describes some of the most compelling 'metaphors of transformation' throughout history, including the ideas of inner death and rebirth, piercing the veils of illusion, going through the fires of purification, reconciling with the shadow, and integrating our animal nature. For anyone who has unexpectedly entered into one of these daunting processes of inner change, this book could serve as a helpful road map to some challenging territory."
--D. Patrick Miller, FearlessBooks.com

Praise for The Unfolding Self:

The Unfolding Self describes the universal metaphors for transformation that one can encounter in a spiritual journey. This is an excellent book for any individual to see and understand which metaphors of transformation appear in their personal, professional, and inner lives.
--Angeles Arrien, author of The Four-Fold Way and Signs of Life

This book is a valuable guide to the farthest reaches of consciousness.
--Larry Dossey, author of Prayer is Good Medicine and Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine

In The Unfolding Self, Ralph Metzner offers evolutionary metaphors for the transformations that occur as the mind sinks into the heart. A book well worth reading on the journey toward oneself.
--Stephen Levine, author of A Year to Live

This book is a treasure house of ancient and modern wisdom offering a wealth of stories and metaphors that nourish the soul. It is essential reading for anyone exploring spiritual growth and transformation.
--Frances Vaughan, author of Shadows of the Sacred

Read this book if you want to wake up to your full ecstatic potential. It presents profound insights and new pathways that will empower you to live your life ecstatically.
--Margo Anand, author of The Art of Sexual Ecstasy and The Art of Sexual Magic

To hold images of transformation in one's mind is transformational in itself. Therefore, this book is magic and its author, with his depth of knowledge and wisdom, a high Magician! If studied and allowed to impress the mind, Metzner's work will quicken you into an acceleration of your unfolding. This book should be required reading for all seekers of Truth.
--Jacquelyn Small, author of Awakening in Time and Rising to the Call

The Unfolding Self offers a wonderful account of the timeless metaphors that guide and describe profound inner transformation.
--Roger Walsh, author of The Spirit of Shamanism and coeditor of Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision

Praise for the Previous Edition:

I read this book with real enthusiasm and appreciation.
--Joseph Campbell

Ralph Metzner, long a distinguished leader in the study of the transformation of consciousness, provides a brilliant cross-cultural exploration of the powers of metaphor for characterizing and stimulating psycho-spiritual transformative experiences.
--Michael Harner, author of The Way of the Shaman

Metzner has done a masterful job of unveiling an endless variety of symbols pointing toward humankind as universal desire for wisdom. With metaphor and image, he makes the transformation process come alive.
--June Singer, author of Boundaries of the Soul

A well-written, beautifully organized, and pioneering description of the primordial images that mediate spiritual transformation. Metzner as analysis of religious archetypes ranks with the best works of comparative symbolism in our time.
--Michael Murphy, author of The Future of the Body

Ralph Metzner explores the varieties of religious experience through psychodynamic investigation of imagery. I found his book intriguing, informative, and at times illuminating.
--Elaine Pagels, author of Gnostic Gospels


Metzner's "Summa" on Transformative Experience

When Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert launched the psychedelic revolution from Harvard in the early 1960s, few foresaw the explosion of interest in transformative experience so soon to follow. Like his colleagues Leary and Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), Ralph Metzner went on to become a key spokesperson for the consciousness movement. The collected wisdom of Metzner's thirty-five year journey since those legendary days is now available in The Unfolding Self: Varieties of Transformative Experience, a Spring 1998 release from Origin Press. This new edition of the original (Opening to Inner Light: Human Nature and Consciousness, Jeremy Tarcher/St. Martin's Press, 1986) is rewritten and enlarged, including two new chapters and 40 illustrations. Its reintroduction in the late 1990s reflects the continuing surge of interest in the spiritual revolution Metzner helped launch three decades ago.

In The Unfolding Self, Metzner draws from multiple disciplines and ranges across the world's cultures to uncover universal structures of spiritual transformation. As the "summa" of a long career of inquiry into the psychology of religion, it must be classed in the same lineage as William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience, the century's first comprehensive study of inner transformation. Also like James, Metzner's approach is both soulful and scholarly. The Unfolding Self gathers a lifetime of academic research in clinical and transpersonal psychology and comparative religion, yet reflects Metzner's own experimentation with transformative disciplines -- his own deeply personal search into the depths of the human psyche.

Much has been written in recent years by Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and others about the centrality of myths, dreams, and metaphors in the unfolding of the inner life. Metzner provides intellectual coherence to this discussion by identifying a dozen of the most salient images of inner transformation. This achievement led Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., anthropologist, educator, and author of The Four-Fold Way, to call Metzner's work "...a classic in understanding turning points in the spiritual journey."

In the years since his work with Leary and Alpert at Harvard, Metzner has published numerous groundbreaking works, while practicing psychotherapy and teaching consciousness studies. Says his academic colleague Robert McDermott, Ph.D., author of The Essential Aurobindo and president of the California Institute of Integral Studies, where Metzner is Distinguished Professor of Psychology: "The reader of The Unfolding Self can benefit from wise guidance concerning the realms of non-ordinary consciousness based on the author's vast learning, purity of purpose and more than thirty years of testing the many varieties of transformative experience."

February 10, 1998

"One Spirit" Book Club To Sign Unfolding Self

-- News Marks Growing Interest in Metzner's Masterwork

(Novato, CA) One Spirit -- a division of Book-of-the-Month-Club and the nation's largest book club for spiritual seekers -- has chosen Origin Press title The Unfolding Self: Varieties of Transformative Experience, by Ralph Metzner, for its highly selective book club list. The news was jointly announced today by Origin Press and its distributor, Associated Publishers’ Group (APG) of Nashville, TN.

"One Spirit chooses only about one of every 100 new titles submitted, and they recognized right away that this book belongs on their list," said Cary Johnson, vice president of trade sales for APG, who negotiated the book club rights with One Spirit. "What's best, One Spirit believes The Unfolding Self will remain in their catalogue for many months." Johnson also noted that One Spirit is one of the fastest-growing book clubs in the history of book clubs in America, with membership approaching an estimated one million members.

"We were pleased to learn that Ralph Metzner will join the elite of America's spiritual thinkers and writers on the One Spirit list," said Byron Belitsos, publisher of Origin Press. "This is due recognition for Metzner's leadership in consciousness studies and transpersonal psychology for almost four decades."

The book club news is just one indicator of the growing interest in Metzner's unique volume. Reviews are forthcoming in Yoga Journal, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Noetic Sciences Review, Small Press Magazine, Pangaia, Earth Light, and many other national periodicals. Leading bookstores throughout the San Francisco Bay Area have also requested that Metzner make a stop on his regional book-signing tour, including Cody's Bookstore and Gaia Books in Berkeley, Copperfield's in Santa Rosa, Borders Books in San Rafael, and New Leaf in Larkspur.

The release date for The Unfolding Self: Varieties of Transformative Experience is February 27, 1998. The book's distributor, APG, can be contacted at 800/327-5113.

Table of Contents

Introduction: From Caterpillar to Butterfly
Symbols and Metaphors of Transformation
Theories of Human Transformation
Variations on the Theme of Self-Transformation

1. Awakening from the Dream of Reality
Ordinary Awareness as Dreamlike
Dreaming, Sleeping, and Waking in Everyday Life
Transformation as an Awakening

2. Uncovering the Veils of Illusion
The World Perceived as Maya
The Transformation of Vision
Unmasking the Self

3. From Captivity to Liberation
Body and Form as Prison
Knots, Ties, Nets, and Bonds in Relationships
Strategies of Escape and Liberation

4. Purification by Inner Fire
Fire Deities and the Spirit of Fire
Hell, Purgatory, and the Fire of Purification
Kundalini and the Yoga of Fire
The Mystical Fire of Union

5. From Fragmentation to Wholeness
Psychic Fragmentation in Ordinary Awareness and in Madness
Shamanic Dismemberment: Osiris and Dionysus
Alchemical Separatio in Meditation and Psychotherapy
Approaches to Wholeness

6. Reconciling with the Inner Enemy
On Integrating the Shadow
Accepting the Unacceptable
From Denial to Affirmation
Purification and Elimination
From Inner Warfare to Inner Peace
On Facing One’s Demons

7. On Dying and Being Reborn
Conscious Death and Intentional “Dying”
Nearness to Death as Transformative Experience
Thanatos and Psychic Death
Alchemical Mortificatio
The New Birth and the Eternal Child

8. From Darkness to Light
Enlightenment of the Physical Body
The Illumination of the Mind
The Self as a Being of Light

9. Integrating the Inner Wild Animal
Remembering Our Evolutionary Ancestry
Animals in Folklore, Mythology and Religion
Tales of Animal Transformations

10. Unfolding the Tree of Our Life
The Tree as a Symbol of Self-Unfoldment
Climbing the Tree, Straightening the Pillar
The World Tree and the Inverted Tree
The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge

11. Journey to the Place of Vision and Power
The Myth of the Wanderer
Departure and Threshold Crossing
Descent into the Depths
“Flying” and the Upper Realms
Journeys into Nonordinary Reality
Returning Home

12. Returning to the Source
Man as Stranger, Life as Exile
The Outgoing Path and the Returning Path
The Homeward Journey

Copyright 1997, 1998
Origin Press
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