Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology


Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology


Article excerpt

Christina Grof died quietly and unexpectedly June 15th, 2014 at her home in Mill Valley, CA, and the transpersonal community lost a splendid and sensitive soul. When I look back on the life of this intrepid experiential transpersonal pioneer, I am reminded of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke's quote from Letters to a Young Poet:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. (1993, p. 35)

Christina Grof did indeed bravely and fully live and love the questions, and more importantly she shared her profound life and struggles generously and publically with the world, in the hope of helping others.

Christina grew up in Hawaii, although she was born in Roanoke, Virginia. When Christina was 4 years old, her biological father left; Christina's mother remarried, and a couple of years later the family moved to Hawaii. But there was trouble in paradise-a dysfunctional family dynamic ensued, and Christina experienced physical and sexual abuse growing up at the hands of her stepfather.

For as long as she could remember, Christina had a longing for something larger than herself, and she found solace in nature and in the Episcopal Church. The church was a safe place for Christina; it had beautiful music, stained glass, and there was a wonderful Maori minister, Manu Bennett, from New Zealand. However, as Christina grew older, the dogma of the church held little appeal, and instead she focused on literature, mythology and art.

Christina attended Sarah Lawrence College and had the good fortune to have noted mythology teacher Joseph Campbell during her senior year. She became friends with Joseph and his wife Jean Erdman (another Hawaii native), and Campbell would later be instrumental in Christina's life trajectory. Christina was an extremely creative person and gifted artist and painter, who was also able to teach others.

After college, Christina returned to Hawaii, married a teacher and became an art teacher at a progressive elementary school. Christina got involved with yoga as a form of exercise and became interested in the Lamaze method of natural childbirth. During the delivery of both her son Than in 1968 and her daughter Sarah in 1970, she experienced intense physical symptoms-breathing and shaking uncontrollably, along with white light shooting up her spine and exploding in her head. Having no context for the experience, she thought she was crazy. This was the beginning of what would later be coined by Christina and Stan as a spiritual emergency. But Christina had no roadmap for her experience, and the doctors administered morphine and thorazine to calm down her symptoms.

Christina's interest in spirituality continued and she went to see Swami Muktananda of the Siddha Yoga tradition, which was then very new and not yet popular in the West. While attending a weekend course in July 1974, at which she received shaktipat, Christina's spontaneous spiritual emergence was reignited and she began experiencing visions along with the strange breathing and spontaneous movements. A car accident in May of 1975, which included a near death experience, exacerbated these kundalini type experiences further. Christina sought to keep her symptoms under control, but was experiencing many difficulties, and her marriage collapsed under the strain.

In the summer of 1975, Christina then went to the mainland to sort things out in her life, and, on a subsequent trip to New York, she told her friend and teacher Joseph Campbell about her experiences over dinner, recognizing elements of death, birth, rebirth and spirituality. Campbell then promptly told her about his friend Stan Grof at Esalen and made the introduction. …

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