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Observations placeholder

Masters and Houston - The forest as a place of enchantment



Type of Spiritual Experience


The forest can indicate symbolically aspects of character, which are destructive in the long run.  In this example, the girl enters and enchanted forest. In effect, an enchanted forest shows immaturity, an unwillingness to 'grow up', and a character in search of security as opposed to adventure and learning............

The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience – Dr Robert Masters and Dr Jean Houston
…..the forest in drug state allegory can also be a place of childlike enchantment – a place where infantile wishes meet with immediate gratification, where pleasures have about them the soft moist quality of dreamy suckling and no intensity intrudes to awaken, even by the sharpness of rapture, the voluptuous passivity.  The security is of the womb or of a maturity-rejecting absorption in childish symbols having about them all the seriousness and substance of caramel coated red apples and pink cotton candy.  Here the forest is dotted with Hansel and Gretel cottages and liquorice trees, while Bambi like fawns frolic in the pale green glades and an occasional resident dwarf or goblin peeps innocuously out from between  bushes frosted with multi coloured icings.  Sometimes the eidetic images of the forest resemble those Disney cartoon films in which real persons move against the artificial backgrounds or conversely, comic strip persons and animals move against a 'real' background.  This last, of course, is an extreme form – indicating an extreme regression on the part of the subject.

A description of the experience

The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience – Dr Robert Masters and Dr Jean Houston

 The subject announced she was in an enchanted forest.  In this forest were all of the elements of the child's fantasy, although the fact escaped her at the time.  Hansel and Gretel houses, candy trees, pastel landscapes.  She had many innocuous adventures proclaiming that she felt 'like the protagonist of every myth that ever has been'.  One of these themes occurred repeatedly, as S began to sense that this soft dreamy world might trap her and prevent her from reaching her goals.  She spoke of Odysseus enchanted by Circe and unable to devise a way to escape the enchantment.  The forest now became 'a dangerous enchantment  …. this isn't life … this is like being in a beautiful quicksand.  I want to wake up!  I want to wake up!!
For many hours, almost the whole day, the subject wandered in the forest, repeatedly seduced by its beauty only to rediscover her danger and her need to awaken from this dream like enchantment

NOTE: In her descriptions, the same subject also described gingerbread houses, Cinderellas, Sleeping Beautys and Marys with their little lambs.  All of which she described as 'quite charming'.  She was unbothered by wolves or monsters and no witches and everything was pink and white.  But she was also she said, moving in a little circle of clarity within a  'perpetual fog' which surrounded her.  Once she went into the mist she found peace, blissful nothingness, swirling mist shutting her off from discord, strife and noise, but she also felt it to be a 'safety blanket' and gradually started to resent its staleness and sameness.  In a communication written several weeks after the lady's session above, she commented on her interpretation and feelings in the session

That 'Bambi, Cinderella et al' part of the enchanted forest was childhood, immaturity.  It was a world of superficial prettiness, of unreal values, of fairy tale rewards – a world, in short, that I suspect most of us inhabit........
I have since had a strange and lengthy dream and what I gleaned from it was this.  The Disneyland core of the forest, which was surrounded by the dense mist, was, in its own way, a land of enchantment.  But it was the land of childhood or immaturity in which the inhabitants still believe in fairy tale endings – 'they married and lived happily ever after'.
As long as these illusions last the forest is a lovely place to live and the air is good, and there are clear streams, and mushrooms and berries, and easy laws which everyone knows and obeys because those are the laws they want – the rules of the game.  But there comes a time for some of us when this changes, when the air becomes noxious, the mushrooms turn into toadstools, the berries are poisonous and the streams polluted.  Then one must move on.
Move on, if you like, on pure faith alone, leaving the core of enchantment and walking alone into the mist, seeking the Citadel.  It is a hard thing to do.  The forest's inhabitants are full of dire prophecies.
'You must not go' they say 'No one who left has ever come back.  There are monsters who live in the mist, and roots to trip you up and quicksand to swallow you.  If you go away from here, from us, you will die a horrible lonely death'
But what we know, we searchers, is that if we stay to eat the toadstools, to breathe the poisoned air, to drink the stale water, we will surely die.  The risks hidden in the mist are better than certain death, and clarity and love and purity lie at the end of the mist.
So we start our trip, armoured only in the hope that if we dash our foot against a stone, Someone will support us.
I think that those for whom the forest has become unlivable, but who, for lack of courage, or faith, or hope, stay behind, become our alcoholics, our drug addicts, our neurotics and our psychotics and obviously our suicides.

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps





Dreaming and lucid dreaming