Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Birthing the Transpersonal

Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Birthing the Transpersonal

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: A reflective interview with Stanslav Grof, M.D., a founder of transpersonal psychology, offers insight into his fifty plus years of research and writing, important professional relationships, and his legacies to the field: namely, an expanded cartography of consciousness, the development of holotropic breathwork, and the promotion of a new paradigm in science. His first LSD experience, as a research subject during the 1950s in his native Czechoslovakia, set the template for his subsequent life's work investigating "holotropic" non ordinary states of consciousness and their contribution to a deeper understanding of the human experience and the global crisis.Work with LSD psychotherapy led him to discover the importance of the birth trauma within the deep structures of the human psyche, and psychedelic drugs opened up the transpersonal vision for him, including their potential role in medicine and healing, for the study of creativity, and as preparation for death.

In recognition and celebration of this 40th Anniversary issue of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology Stanislav Grof, M.D., a founder of the modern transpersonal movement and an acknowledged key influential figure in the field, reflects upon his professional trajectory of 50+ years and looks likewise to the future of the field.

Originally oriented to psychoanalysis, after conducting hundreds of LSD psychotherapy sessions in his native Czechoslovakia, he revised his model of the psyche to include the collective unconscious, spiritual experience, and a vast array of other anomalous phenomena. In 1967 Grof moved to the United States, where at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center he was the principal investigator in research studies exploring the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs. From 1974 to 1987 he was Scholar-in-Residence at the Esalen Institute, where he exchanged ideas with the most prominent figures in humanistic and transpersonal psychology and his workshops fertilized the burgeoning transpersonal movement. There he and his wife Christina created "holotropic breathwork," a technique of hyperventilation, evocative music, and bodywork which transported subjects through extreme states of consciousness towards wholeness. They also developed the concept of "spiritual emergency," which explored the healing potential of spontaneously induced extreme states of mind, such as psychosis.

This interview with Stan Grof was conducted in his home on January 10, 2009.

What Would you Want to Tell Future Generations about the Significance of the Transpersonal Perspective?

As a culture, we are paying a great toll for having lost spirituality and oriented ourselves completely towards the external world. This has led to a destructive and self-destructive way of being in the world in which we are a threat to future life on the planet. So bringing in a psychology that not only recognizes spirituality, but one that also has technologies where people can actually have spiritual experiences, is extremely beneficial for people individually as well as for humanity collectively.

One of the Technologies that you've Found Useful for Allowing Access to Spiritual Experiences has been Psychedelics. Can you Describe the Circumstances and Impact of your First Psychedelic Experience?

Psychoanalysis was what initially inspired me to study medicine and psychiatry. But around that time (1956), I was experiencing some real disappointment with psychoanalysis. You have to meet very special criteria to be considered a good candidate for psychoanalysis, and it takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of money.

I began to realize that, even after a long time, the results were not exactly breathtaking. My own analysis lasted seven years, and I loved every minute of it: playing with my dreams, and finding that there was some deep meaning in every slip of my tongue. But if you had asked, "Did it change you?" I would have hesitated. …

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