Stanislav Grof

Stanislav Grof
Stanislav Grof

Books Reviewed

Beyond the Brain (1985)

The Holotropic Mind (1993)

The Cosmic Game (1998)

Stanislav Grof was formerly Chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is currently Scholar-in-Residence at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

He is the author of Realms of the Human Unconscious, LSD Psychotherapy, and Beyond Death (with Christina Grof). His edited volume Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science is also published by SUNY Press.
—From: Beyond the Brain (Back Cover)

When I started reading Beyond the Brain, I was deeply touched by the drawings of LSD subjects, and their remembrance of the trauma of birth; further was I amazed about the parallels between these drawings and sadistic violence.

Grof explains sadism, cruelty and violence as consequences of the birth trauma. He argues that while birth is a natural process, it is in most cases a terrible trauma that leaves deep scars in the human psyche and emotions and that is responsible for most of the violence that mankind is suffering from. The book was written in 1985 and it goes back on 30 years of research.

Illustrations from one of Grof's Books
Illustrations from one of Grof’s Books

Grof first successfully experimented with LSD therapy. When LSD was forbidden, Grof and his wife developed holotropic breathing. I looked up all I could find about it, but was surprised to learn that it is simply hyperventilation.

Their claim it can bring you back into fetal memories is almost unbelievable. Generally, until I find convincing proof, I do not believe in Grof’s theory that birth is the culprit of all and everything, as he writes over hundreds of pages in Beyond the Brain.

First of all, I cannot believe that something created by nature, such as birth, should be traumatic per se. What Grof sees in his research, in my opinion, is cultural distortion of nature, but he generalizes and not with one word does he see his cultural bias. The counter-proof would be the Cesarean cases, and here he should have really insisted to bring forth his arguments.

Stan Grof Lecturing
Stan Grof Lecturing

That would have been logically and systemically sound. That thousands of LSD subjects had such terrible birth trauma memories proves only that our culture is a madhouse and that our birth methods are wrong.

But this, Frederick Leboyer, Michel Odent and others have said since long and there are changes on the way. Our birthing methods are wrong, the way mothers consider birth is wrong, the preparation of mothers for birth is wrong, the implications of the father in birthing, namely his total absence, is wrong —all is wrong.

In his discussion of The World of Psychotherapy that together with paradigmatic reasoning fills the first 197 pages of the book, Grof writes that LSD subjects have basically proven both the Freudian and Jungian theories as correct:

The psychosexual dynamics and the fundamental conflicts of the human psyche as described by Freud are manifested with unusual clarity and vividness even in sessions of naïve subjects who have never been analyzed, have not read psychoanalytic books, and have not been exposed to any other forms of explicit or implicit indoctrination.

Under the influence of LSD, such subjects experience regression to childhood and even early infancy, relive various psychosexual traumas and complex sensations related to infantile sexuality, and are confronted with conflicts involving activities in various libidinal zones. They have to face and work through the basic psychological problems described by psychoanalysis, such as the Oedipus or Electra complex, the trauma of weaning, castration anxiety, penis envy, and conflicts around toilet training./154

The observations from LSD psychotherapy have repeatedly confirmed most of Jung’s brilliant insights./190

As it’s notorious that Freud’s and Jung’s theories basically oppose one another, this observation seems to be of little value for supporting the thesis that LSD research by and large confirms psychoanalysis.

On the other hand, Grof lucidly analyzes how sexuality has become ‘contaminated’ by non-sexual concerns in our culture.

Another important insight involves the fact that our present definition of normal sex does not exclude even severe contamination of the sexual situation by preoccupation with dominance versus submission, use of sex for a variety of nonsexual goals, and maneuvers that have more relevance for self-esteem than for sexual gratification. In our culture, individuals of both sexes commonly use military concepts and terminology in referring to sexual activities. They interpret the sexual situation in terms of victory or defeat; conquering or penetrating the partner, and, conversely, being defeated and violated; and proving oneself or failure. Concerns about who seduced whom and who won, in this situation, can all but overshadow the question of sexual gratification. Similarly, material gains, or pursuit of a career, status, fame, or power can completely override more genuine erotic motives. When sex is subordinated to self-esteem, sexual interest in the partner may entirely disappear once the ‘conquest’ has been accomplished or the number of partners seduced becomes more important than the quality of interaction. Moreover, the fact that the partner is not approachable or is deeply committed to another person can become a decisive element of sexual attraction. /207

2 thoughts on “Stanislav Grof

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close