What others have written about Dr. Grof's work
What others have written about Dr. Stanislav Grof's work
Dr. Grof's work has been cited by numerous authors. One of the earliest was Joseph Campbell who, in 'MYTHS TO LIVE BY' (Viking Penguin, 1972), wrote:
"Some weeks ago I recieved in the mail from the psychiatrist directing research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in Baltimore, Dr. Stanislav Grof, the manuscript of an impressive work interpreting the results of his practice during the past fourteen years... and I have found so much of my thinking about mythic forms freshly illuminated by the findings here reported, that I am going to try... to render a suggestion of the types and depths of consciousness that Dr. Grof has fathomed in his searching of our inward sea. He has found, (and I find this extremely interesting) that the differing imageries of the various world religions tend to appear and support his clients throughout the sucessive stages of their sessions."
Joseph Campbell and Stan Grof found great commonality in each other's work, resulting in many years of friendship and fruitful professional exchange.
Houston Smith is one of the worlds most respected and beloved authorities on world religions. In his 1976 book "Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition" he added an Appendix to summarize Grof's work. This was reprinted in his book "CLEANSING THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION", published in 2000, as the chapter "Contemporary Evidence: Psychiatry and the Work of Stanislav Grof." A passage from this chapter follows:
"Up to this point I have summarized Grof's empirical findings and pointed to how they can be explained by the traditional model of the human self as readily as by his psychiatric model. It remains to note how the findings of his seventeen years of research (in Prague and at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore) affected his own thinking.
Engaged as he was in "the first mapping of completely unknown territories, " he could not have foreseen where his inquiry would lead. What he found was that in "the most fascinating intellectual and spiritual adventure of my life, it opened up new fantastic areas and forced me to break with the old systems and frameworks."
The first change in his thinking has already been noted: the psycholytic sequences showed the birth trauma to have more dynamic consequences than Grof and his strictly Freudian associates had supposed. This change psychoanalysis could accommodate, but not the one that followed… basically, what proved to be untenable was "the present gloomy image of man, which is to a great extent influenced by psychoanalysis."
This picture of man, "that of a social animal basically governed by blind and irrational instinctual forces… appears…superficial and limited. Most of the instinctual tendencies described by psychoanalysis… can be transcended, whereupon we are confronted with an image of man that is diametrically opposed to the previous one. Man in his innermost nature appears then as a being that is fundamentally in harmony with his environment and is governed by intrinsically high and universal values."
This change in anthropology has been the solid effect of entheogenic evidence on Grof's thinking. In psychoanalytic terms, Freud discovered the importance of infantile experience on ontogenetic development, (Otto) Rank the importance of the experience of birth itself, and Grof's discoveries carry this search for ever earlier etiologies - in psychoanalytic terms earlier means stronger - to its logical limit: his optimistic view of man derives from discovering the influence and latent power of early-gestation memories of the way things were when the womb was still uncongested and all was well.
Beyond this revised anthropology, however, Grof has toyed with a changed ontology as well. Endowments that supplement his psychiatric competences have helped him here: he has a "musical ear," so to speak, for metaphysics, and an abiding interest in the subject. These caused him to listen attentively from the start to his subjects' reports on the nature of reality, and… he gives these reports full rein. Laying aside for the interval his role as research psychiatrist, which required his seeing his patients' experiences as shaped by (if not projected from) early formative experiences, (here)…Grof turns phenomenologist and allows their reports to stand in their own right…
In the early years of psychoanalysis, when hostility was shown to its theories on account of their astonishing novelty and they were dismissed as products of their authors perverted imaginations, Freud used to hold up against this objection the argument that no human brain could have invented such facts and connections had they not been persistently forced upon it by a series of converging and interlocking observations. Grof might argue in the same way: to wit, that the cosmology and ontology his patients came up with is as uninventable as Freud's own system. Actually, however, he does not do so. In the manner of a good phenomenologist, he lets the evidence speak for itself, neither undermining it by referencing it back to causes which (in purporting to explain it) would explain it away, nor arguing that it is true. As phenomenologists themselves would say, he "brackets" his own judgment regarding the truth question and contents himself with summarizing what his patients said."
In 'THE TURNING POINT', (Bantam, 1982), Fritjof Capra devotes the chapter 'Journeys Beyond Space and Time' to examining the transpersonal perspective and considering its incompatability with the prevailing Newtonian-Cartesian worldview.
"On the basis of many years of observations. . .[Stan] Grof has constructed what he calls a cartography of the unconscious, a map of mental phenomena, which shows great similarity with [Ken] Wilber's spectrum of consciousness. Grof's cartography encompasses three major domains: the domain of psychodynamic experiences, associated with events in a person's past and present life; the domain of perinatal experiences, related to the biological phenomena involved in the process of birth; and the domain of transpersonal experiences which go beyond individual boundaries."
Richard Tarnas, in the section entitled 'Knowledge and the Unconscious' from the Epilogue of his book 'THE PASSION OF THE WESTERN MIND', (Ballantine, 1991), writes:
"The most epistemologically significant development in the recent history of depth psychology, and indeed the most important advance in the field as a whole since Freud and Jung themselves, has been the work of Stanislav Grof, which over the past three decades has not only revolutionized psychodynamic theory but also brought forth major implications for other fields, including philosophy. I lived for over ten years at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, where I was the director of programs, and in the course of those years virtually every form of therapy and personal transformation, great and small, came through Esalen. In terms of therapeutic effectiveness, Grof's (Holotropic Breathwork) was by far the most powerful; there was no comparison."
Christopher Bache is Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Youngstown State University. He is the author of 'Lifecycles; Reincarnation and the Web of Life.' In the Preface to his most recent book, 'DARK NIGHT, EARLY DAWN', he acknowledges the influence Stanislav Grof has had upon his thinking:
"Shortly after beginning my teaching career, however, I encountered the work of Stanislav Grof. In 'The Realms of the Human Unconscious' Grof convinced me that the entire intellectual tradition I had absorbed was based upon a superficial experience of the human psyche. Through my earlier reading of Jung, I had already become convinced that depth psychology held the key to the modern mind's quest to know itself, and here was a deeper and more comprehensive psychology than any I had seen before. More importantly, Grof outlined a methodology through which one could actually extend one's experience of one's mind and come to have firsthand knowledge of these domains. I could not turn down the invitation."
And in the Acknowledgents section:
"What I owe Stanislav Grof is more than can be put into words. His powerful synthesis of clinical and spiritual psychology has defined the framework of much of my professional and personal life. I would not have had the courage to enter some of these interior regions had he not entered before me and survived. He gave me the means to see the hidden splendor of the universe from a unique perspective at a critical time in human history, and I am eternally grateful."
A man or woman with outward courage dares to die;
A man or woman with inward courage dares to live.