In the context of this discussion about the ‘multiple personalities’ that manifested during K’s process, it may be worth looking at what K himself had to say about it.
In the series of conversations that K had with Bohm in 1975 he went into the topic quite a bit.
Bohm asks K about why he called out for his mother sometimes during the process - occasionally in the childlike voice that Pupul and Mary Lutyens and Zimbalist mention in their accounts - and K remarks that it is merely the body’s reaction to pain:
In 1977 K underwent a prostate operation in Los Angeles, and warned Mary Zimbalist that he might disassociate from the body and “go off”. In the Lutyens biography K’s account of what took place is recorded, and what followed was a “dialogue with death”, in which K was aware of death insisting that the body - which was in great pain - give itself up; and that another entity intervened to persuade death to leave the body alone.
So the body seems to have been an entity in itself that was aware in its own way of the responsibility it had to the entity of K (or sometimes ‘the other’). When the body was in great pain - as often happened during the process - the entity relating to K’s mind could disassociate and be quite separate for a time.
Could this dissociation be the consequence of mental disease or childhood trauma? In their 10th conversation K and Bohm explore this at length, in reply to a question from (the psychologist) David Shainberg, who had asked whether the process might not be a form of mental illness. I will quote a longish extract from the conversation, as they explore the whole question of whether K has mental illness, and mention some quite interesting things - including K mentioning that he once lost ordinary consciousness for 3 weeks (!) in Ojai, and that he has to be careful when going for long walks because he can very easily “go off” and lose consciousness when he is not involved in practical affairs (which keep him tethered to ordinary daily reality).
In short, neither K or Bohm feel that K was mentally ill, partly because mentally ill people do not usually sustain their insights into reality in the way that K was able to do, and partly because it is clear that K needed to be healthy and in a very quiet, undisturbed environment to undergo the process properly. K also mentions that the whole issue is tied in with other esoteric things like clairvoyance, telepathy, and healing that K was able to do.
K: I have really gone into this question whether I have imagined the whole thing, an illusion which I have perpetuated to give me importance, to give a feeling there is something abnormal – not only in the religious sense or in the abstract sense, something abnormal because I have had an odd life. I don’t know if I am making myself clear. So, I have gone into this. I don’t think it is imagination. And I don’t think it is a traditional acceptance of, you know, this whole question of Kundalini and all that. And I don’t think it is ill health, because I am very well when it happens.
DB: Yes, well let me comment on that because, you see, some people thought it could be a form of ill health, because they say some people in ill health report some similar happenings.
K: No, on the contrary. With me, it only begins when I am completely rested, when all the environment is right, when there is quietness, when my body is completely relaxed.
DB: Yes, well, this is for the sake of, you know, a complete account.
K: Go on, go on. Of course.
DB: I regard this partly as a good opportunity to make the thing entirely clear. Right?
K: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I would really like to discuss this with you and, say, like Shainberg, and go into it.
DB: Yes, now Shainberg has said that some of the patients he observes have to go through some sort of thing like what you describe, in being cured, you see. I mean, not exactly, perhaps, but… and then other people say that, you know, some of the things you describe might have been symptoms which mentally disturbed people have undergone.
DB: Well, Shainberg works with people who are somewhat disturbed.
K: Yes. I may be mentally deranged!
DB: No, I am not saying that. I am only saying that I think we should make it clear, you know, what the difference is.
K: Yes – quite, quite, quite
DB: Now, what I said about the difference was this, you see, when I was asked, was that there may be some similarity in some of the things that happen, but the mentally disturbed people do not come out with any perception of truth, you see. That difference is more important than the similarity. (Laughs)
K: Yes, quite! (Laughs) They end up in a hospital and I don’t.
DB: Yes, and they say things that are rather stupid, or else confused. They may get an occasional flash of insight but on the whole they are very confused, you see.
K: Yes, I understand that.
DB: And so I say that there must be a fundamental difference.
K: I think there is. From mentally sick people and from this person, I think there is a great deal of difference. Not difference – a totally different thing altogether.
DB: Yes, well that is what I meant, that it is fundamentally different.
K: Fundamentally different… Because it demands – sorry to go into all this – it can only happen when the body is perfectly relaxed, when it is in very good health, and when the environment is right, in the sense quiet, not disturbed; it must have a certain sense of beauty, and all the rest of it. So I have gone into this question whether I have imagined, whether it is a traditional acceptance of something I have been told in childhood – you follow? – all that, and whether it is illness, a form of mental illness or a disease…
DB: Let’s say it may turn out to be an inevitable by- product of a very intense perception.
K: It may be a by-product of… This is what happens – you want to know all about it?
DB: The point is to get… no, you see, since this is intended eventually for publication it should be clear so that people will not have questions left in their minds…
K: I never talked about all this.
DB: No. And does this state imply anything near a loss of consciousness or anything like that, would you say?
K: A little bit.
DB: A little bit. Not quite the ordinary kind. The ordinary consciousness is somewhat reduced.
K: Yes. Not quite, no. No.
DB: No. What would you say? It is not quite normal, is that what you mean?
K: It is not unconscious.
DB: No, but I meant that it is not as… in some way it is not quite the ordinary state of consciousness.
K: No, it is not.
DB: Maybe in some way a little less attention to all the things of reality, or something. Is that what I mean?
K: I don’t quite get your…
DB: Well, no. Perhaps I am putting it wrongly. But I am saying, would it be something that somebody could think of as in some way a tendency to loss of consciousness, or losing it?
K: I have lost consciousness.
DB: Yes, well that’s the sort of…
K: I was unconscious I believe for three weeks.
DB: When was that?
K: At Ojai, right at the beginning of… (inaudible, but likely during his process of awakening and “God-intoxication” in 1922)
DB: Yes, but after that you didn’t?
K: If, given the right environment and no work, no talks, no writing letters, perhaps it might happen again.
DB: Yes. In other words… what I was trying to get at is, being involved in what we call reality helps hold you into what we call consciousness.
K: Yes, that’s right, that’s right, that’s right.
DB: Therefore, not being involved in reality you might sort of drift away from this consciousness.
K: Drift away. That’s right. Oh, it happens. Another peculiar thing happens. Do you want to know?
DB: I don’t particularly want to know myself, it is just I think that if we have gone this far we should make it very clear.
K: I used to go for very long walks at Ojai, and I would go on. I had deliberately to make an effort to turn back and go home. I was completely lost with – you know. And it happens here, several times. I go for a walk and I have to be very careful.
DB: Yes, you might sort of lose track of some ordinary reality.
K: Yes, I have to be very careful to say, ‘I must go back home.’ Otherwise I would go on [i.e. lose ordinary consciousness].
DB: You see, I think we have to make this very clear, partly to see the nature of the thing and partly because some people may say that people whose minds are disturbed may do the same, you see. But that may be the difference.
K: It is quite different.
DB: It is quite different, still, because, as I said before, the disturbed mind does not produce anything interesting. But still, the point I wanted to make is that when a person is seriously disturbed psychologically, he may find the ordinary equilibrium of reality broken up.
K: Quite, quite.
DB: And going into this may also break it up, in a very different way.
K: In a different way – quite.
DB: And you may have to face something which people would superficially think is like a breakdown of the mind, but it is really not.
DB: I mean, that is the point I was trying to get at, really.
K: I understand.
DB: But it might be that people approaching this might have gotten a bit frightened, thinking that their mind is breaking down – do you see?
K: Quite. No, I have no fear.
DB: No, but it could very readily induce fear.
K: Yes, yes. After all these years, I am pretty sane, physically very normal. I have got plenty of energy, and so on. I think it is not… it’s something out of the ordinary, without being abnormal…
You see, also, if I allowed myself I can read people’s thoughts – which I don’t like to do because it’s like reading a private letter. And I can very easily become clairvoyant. And I have done a great deal of healing, you know, quietly, without telling anybody. So it is involved in all that. Which is not an abnormal state. I don’t know if I am putting…
DB: No, I don’t want to say… It is not an ordinary state.
K: Yes, it is not an ordinary state.
DB: It may be neither normal or abnormal, but it is not ordinary. (Dialogue 10, Truth does not belong to an individual)
Later in the discussion K suggests that the process may have something to do with the “manifestation of goodness” in the world. The whole conversation is available to listen to on YouTube.