“Psychedelics are to the study of the mind what the microscope is to biology and the telescope is to astronomy.”
– Stanislav Grof
Stanislav Grof, is one of the world’s most radical psychiatrists. An expert on psychedelic therapy, in the 1950s and 60s, he conducted thousands of psychedelic sessions with patients. He became convinced that these experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness could create deep lasting transformations and also, that these non-ordinary states often happened naturally but Western medicine had no framework for understanding them.
A few years after psychedelics were made illegal in the 60s, he developed Holotropic Breathwork – a system of controlled breathing that creates similar experiences. Funga has written a separate article on this, as I believe breathwork to be the most important counterpart and friend of any psychedelic experience and a way to access deep, healing experiences daily. See article here.
“Grof believed that other branches of psychology didn’t focus enough on spirituality, which is why he thought we could better understand the human mind through patient-based research. This is how he proved that spirituality is a legitimate part of our psyche.
Thanks to his clinical practice, his transpersonal psychology research, and the contributions of other researchers, psychology is now much broader.” (read more here)
He is known as the godfather of psychedelic psychotherapy and one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and renowned researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness to gain insight into the human psyche.
Initially Stan was interested in art, drawing and animation and was just about to start a job in the film industry in Prague when a friend handed him “Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis” by Sigmund Freud. He started reading it in the evenings and within two days he decided it wasn’t going to be animated movies anymore but that he wanted to be a psychoanalyst. This led him to enrol to the medical school in Czechoslovakia at the time where Sandos was sending out LSD and trials were starting to be conducted utilising this new substance.
Grof volunteered to try it. He was injected with 100mg and later recalled, “I saw light as I had never seen it before. I could not believe it existed. My first thought was that I was looking at Hiroshima. I then saw myself above the clinic, Prague, the planet. Consciousness had no boundaries, I was beyond the planet. I had cosmic consciousness.” Stan was one of the first ever test subjects of LSD. The experience would guide Grof´s research for the next half century and he’d use it on many patients suffering from schizophrenia and addiction. By 1968, the US government had outlawed LSD, so Grof and his wife, Christina, were looking for a therapy with the same hallucinatory and healing effects that wouldn’t be illegal. This is how they discovered heavy breathing. (from Breath by James Nestor)
He shaped the culture at Esalen as one of its longtime leaders and through the popular workshops and month long programs he held there. He lived and taught at Esalen during the 1970s which is where he created the practice of Holotropic Breathwork. There Stan realised there was a connection between faster breathing and bringing something up from the unconscious. Christina and Stan Grof started experimenting with people at Esalen, laying them down and walking them through fast breathing exercises with music. Until today, many who try it have tremendously powerful experiences.
Stanislav Grof on The Healing Potential of Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness:
Currently, Stan is 91 years old and lives with his wife Brigitte in California.
You can watch Stanislav Grof´s documentary – The Way of the Psychonaut – here.
“The great irony of having psychedelics and heroin together on the same “Schedule” is that the former has the potential to reduce the harm done by the latter— not to mention its lower-scheduled cousins — in a way that criminalization never will.”