The reason I would like to talk about Stanislav Grof's work in transcendental psychotherapy might not be obvious at first. I wanted to look at his work, not only because of the fascinating revelations and discoveries he had while working with people from all walks of life-but also to see if any discoveries he made give us any clues of why there is so much evil in the world-why our world is "fallen" and disjointed. This isn't, of course, to say that there isn't any good in the world-there is-and there is good, truth and beauty in enormous amounts on our little planet. It is just that with me -not only looking over all of history- but the amount of blood spilled in the century we got "done" with a little over ten years ago -the "Century of the Sun" so to speak -that there MUST be something that explains those extra touches of evil embodied in the horrors that befell hundreds of millions of people during that time ( I sure hope this century is different!).
From pages 30-32, Stanislav Grof explains some "essentials" about his work in his Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death And Transcendence In Psychotherapy, published in 1985: "The most important and obvious reason for limiting this discussion to the field of psychedelic research is my long-term scientific interest in the subject. Having conducted several thousand sessions with LSD and other mind-altering substances, and having myself experienced many psychedelic states, I have a degree of expertise concerning drug-induced phenomena that I lack in regard to other types of related experiences (note again that Grof is probably writing this in 1984 and has accumulated much more knowledge in other areas since then) Since 1954, when I first became interested in and familiar with psychedelic drugs, I have personally guided more than 3,000 sessions with LSD and have access to more than 2,000 records of sessions conducted by my colleagues, in Czechoslovakia and the United States. The subjects in these experiments where "normal" volunteers, various groups of psychiatric patients, and individuals dying of cancer. The nonpatient population consisted of psychiatrists and psychologists, scientists from various other disciplines, artists, philosophers and theologians, students, and psychiatric nurses. The patients with emotional disorders belonged to a variety of diagnostic categories, among them individuals with various forms of depression, psychoneurotics, alcoholics, narcotic drug addicts, sexual deviants, persons with psychiatric disorders, borderline psychotics, and schizophrenics.
...During the years of my clinical work with psychedelics, it has become increasingly obvious that neither the nature of the LSD experience nor the numerous observations made in the course of psycedelic therapy can be adequately explained in terms of the Newtonian-Cartesian, mechanistic approach to the universe and, more specifically, in terms of existing neurophysiological models of the brain. After years of conceptual struggle with confusion, I have concluded that the data from LSD research indicate an urgent need for a drastic revision of the existing paradigms for psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and possibly science in general. There is at present little doubt in my mind that our current understanding of the universe, of the nature of reality, and particularly of human beings, is superficial, incorrect and incomplete.
In what follows, I will briefly describe the most important observations from LSD psychotherapy that I consider to be serious challenges to contemporary psychiatric theory, to present medical beliefs, and go to the mechanistic model of the universe based on the views of Isaac Newton and Rene Descartes. Some of these observations are related to certain formal charactertistics of the psychedelic states, others to their content, and yet others to some extraordinary connections that seem to exist between them and the fabric of external reality.(emphasis mine)
I emphasize again at this point that the following discussion applies not only to psychedelic states, but also to a variety of nonordinary states of consciousness, that occur spontaneously or are introduced by nondrug means. Thus, all the issues in question have general validity for the understanding of the human mind and disease.
Let me begin with a brief description of the formal characteristics of nonordinary states of consciousness. In psychedelic sessions and other types of unusual experiences, dramatic sequences of various kinds can be experienced with a sensory vividness, reality, and intensity that match or surpass the ordinary perception of the material world. Although the optical aspects of these sequences tend to be prominent for most people, quite realistic experiences can occur in all the other sensory areas. On occasion, powerful isolated sounds, human and animal voices, entire musical sequences, intense physical pain and other somatic sensations, as well as distinct tastes and smells can dominate the experience or play an important part in it.
Ideation can be influenced in the most profound way, and the intellect can create interpretations of reality quite different from the one that is characteristic of the individual in his or her ordinary state of consciousness. The description of the essential experiential elements of unusual states of consciousness would not be complete without mentioning an entire range of powerful emotions that are their standard components.
Many psychedelic experiences appear to have a general quality similar to those in everyday life, with the sequences occurring in three-dimensional space and unfolding along a linear time continuum. However, quite typically, additional dimensions and experiential alternatives are readily available. The psychedelic state has a multilevel and multidimensional quality, and the Newtonian-Cartesian sequences, if they occur, appear to be arbitarily teased out of a complex continuum of infinite possibilities.(emphasis mine)
At the same time, they have all the characteristics that we associate with the perception of the material world of "objective reality."There is more after this in the same section of Stan Grof's book that I want to put here next. I hope anyone stopping by will enjoy reading this, and once again appreciate the thoughtful and intelligent comments. All the best to anyone stopping by!