The Cosmic Game


The Cosmic GameExplorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness, New York: New York State University Press, 1998.

The Cosmic Game is perhaps Stanislav Grof’s best book. It is written in fluent style, summarizes the most important of his LSD research and his research with holotropic states, and is not grappling with conceptual issues as the ones reviewed before.

It is a book that every intelligent person can read, written in normal and descriptive language; it is clearly the book of an expert, a man who also has a clear literary talent and an incredible knowledge of mythology, besides his sharp scientific perception and reasoning that is always empirical first and conceptual second.

The book is clearly structured and an overview of the contents shows that it’s not a ‘research report’ of experiments but a sublimation of any such research, a retrospective that is contemplative and basically spiritual. I would even use the word ‘religious’ in the sense that the book talks about our true ‘religio’, the link with our source, our inner divinity.

1. Introduction

2. Cosmos, Consciousness, and Spirit

3. The Cosmic Creative Principle

4. The Process of Creation

5. The Ways to Reunion with the Cosmic Source

6. The Problem of Good and Evil

7. Birth, Sex and Death: The Cosmic Connection

8. The Mystery of Karma and Reincarnation

9. The Taboo against Knowing Who You Are

10. Playing the Cosmic Game

11. The Sacred and the Profane

Space allows me to only review parts of the book and sprinkle in some quotations. In the Introduction, Grof explains that holotropic states are not ‘delirant conditions’ (which are those in which perception is grossly impaired), but an interference with a realm that is outside of ordinary consciousness, a parallel reality.

Grof also writes that the content of holotropic states of consciousness is often philosophical and mystical, often focused on the ‘ground states’ of becoming and unbecoming, death, rebirth and feelings of oneness with all-that-is.

Stanislav Grof
Stanislav Grof

In the 2nd Chapter, Grof makes some interesting remarks regarding Carl Jung’s theory of the Universal Archetypes. He writes that these images do not have to be limited to our own racial and cultural heritage but are rather of a universal nature. He writes:

Particularly frequent in my work have been encounters or even identification with various deities from different cultures who were killed by others or sacrificed themselves and later came back to life. These figures representing death and resurrection tend to emerge spontaneously when the process of inner self-exploration reaches the perinatal level and takes the form of psychospiritual rebirth. (…) However, we have also seen many powerful experiences of identification with Jesus during our holotropic breathwork seminars in Japan and India. They occurred in individuals whose background was Buddhist, Shinto, or Hindu. Conversely, many Anglo-Saxons, Slavs, and Jews identified during their psychedelic or holotropic breathwork sessions with Shiva or Buddha, the Egyptian resurrected god Osiris, the Sumerian goddess Inanna, or the Greek deities Persephone, Dionysus, Attis, and Adonis./23

Mistaking a specific archetypal image for the ultimate source of creation leads to idolatry, a divisive and dangerous mistake widespread in the histories of religions and cultures. It might unite the people who share the same belief, but sets this group against others who have chosen a different representation of the divine. They might then try to convert others or conquer and eliminate them. By contrast, genuine religion is universal, all-inclusive, and all-encompassing./24

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