Sunday, Jun 07th, 2020 - 12:39:54


Psychology of the Future - Stanislav Grof

'More than forty years ago, a powerful experience lasting only several hours of clock-time profoundly changed my personal and professional life. As a young psychiatric resident, only a few months after my graduation from medical school, I volunteered for an experiment with LSD, a substance with remarkable psychoactive properties that had been discovered by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz pharmaceutical laboratories in Basel. This session, particularly its culmination period during which I had an overwhelming and indescribable experience of cosmic consciousness, awakened in me an intense lifelong interest in nonordinary states of consciousness. Since that time, most of my clinical and research activities have consisted of systematic exploration of the therapeutic, transformative, and evolutionary potential of these states. The four decades that I have dedicated to consciousness research have been for me an extraordinary adventure of discovery and self-discovery. I spent approximately half of this time conducting therapy with psychedelic substances, first in Czechoslovakia in the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague and then in the United States, at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in Baltimore, where I participated in the last surviving American psychedelic research program. Since 1975, I have worked with holotropic breathwork, a powerful method of therapy and self-exploration that I have developed jointly with my wife Christina. Over the years, I have also supported many people undergoing psychospiritual crises, or “spiritual emergencies” as Christina and I call them. The common denominator of these three situations is that they involve nonordinary states of consciousness or, more specifically, an important subcategory of them that I call holotropic. In psychedelic therapy, these states are induced by administration of mind-altering substances, such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, ibogain, and tryptamine or amphetamine derivatives. In holotropic breathwork, consciousness is changed by a combination of faster breathing, evocative music, and energy-releasing body-work. In spiritual emergencies, holotropic states occur spontaneously, in the middle of everyday life, and their cause is usually unknown.

In addition, I have been more peripherally involved in many disciplines that are, more or less directly, related to nonordinary states of consciousness. I have participated in sacred ceremonies of native cultures in different parts of the world, had contact with North American, Mexican, and South American shamans, and exchanged information with many anthropologists. I have also had extensive contact with representatives of various spiritual disciplines, including Vipassana, Zen, and Vajrayana Buddhism, Siddha Yoga, Tantra, and the Christian Benedictine order. Another area that has received much of my attention has been thanatology, the young discipline studying near-death experiences and the psychological and spiritual aspects of death and dying. I participated in the late 1960s and early 1970s in a large research project studying the effects of psychedelic therapy in individuals dying of cancer. I should also add that I have had the privilege of personal acquaintance and experience with some of the great psychics and parapsychologists of our era, pioneers of laboratory consciousness research, and therapists who developed and practiced powerful forms of experiential therapy that induce nonordinary states of consciousness. My initial encounter with nonordinary states was very difficult and intellectually, as well as emotionally, challenging. In the early years of my laboratory and clinical research with psychedelics, I was daily bombarded with experiences and observations, for which my medical and psychiatric training had not prepared me. As a matter of fact, I was experiencing and seeing things which, in the context of the scientific worldview I was brought up with, were considered impossible and were not supposed to happen. And yet, those obviously impossible things were happening all the time.

After I had overcome my initial conceptual shock and doubts about my own sanity, I began to realize that the problem might not be in my capacity to observe, or in my critical judgment, but in the limitations of current psychological and psychiatric theory and of the monistic materialistic paradigm of Western science. Naturally, it was not easy for me to come to this realization, since I had to struggle with the awe and respect a medical student or a beginning psychiatrist feels toward the academic establishment, scientific authorities, and impressive credentials and titles. Over the years, my initial suspicion about the inadequacy of academic theories concerning consciousness and the human psyche has gradually turned into certainty, nourished and reinforced by thousands of clinical observations, as well as personal experiences. At this point, I have no doubts that the data from the research of nonordinary states of consciousness represent a critical conceptual challenge for the scientific paradigm that currently dominates psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and many other disciplines.'


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