Tag Archives: Stanislav Grof

“He who is rich in virtue is like a newborn child…”

I left a remark insufficiently explained last post: “Your consciousness begins your physical life far less local to your body.” This is much more literally true than most people understand.

With Erickson it was a matter of observation — for example, he saw babies reaching out to touch their right hand with their right hand. You are not born knowing where “me” is, and you are not born physically coinciding with it. Your body begins as a marker — partly a cultural marker.

This is a good collection of papers by well-qualified individuals, although somewhat diffuse or even tentative. The history and literature of hypnosis and mesmerism is extraordinary…

But the modern perinatalist observations have confirmed this far more strongly. Grof has a lot, and another great resource is hypnotherapist David Chamberlain. See for example his paper in Leskowitz, ed. Transpersonal Hypnotherapy (2010). Here you find hypnotised clients seeing the moment of their birth and finding that they had great awareness of the surroundings, an awareness not completely local to the body. They describe “knowing I have to put myself in that baby body”. There can also be memories of full-blown OBE as a baby.

The mind at that stage seems very intelligent, as Erickson would predict of what will become the unconscious mind. One patient, Deborah, says for example: “I felt I knew a lot — I really did. I thought I was pretty intelligent. I never thought about being a person, just a mind… I saw all these people acting crazy [about her delivery as a baby]. That’s when I thought I had a more intelligent mind, because I knew what the situation was with me, and they didn’t seem to. They seemed to ignore me. They were doing things to me, to the outside of me. But they acted like that’s all there was.”

“Not a person, just a mind” — exactly what we mean by not being hooked in to the cultural and physical body. This mind knows a context culture does not. Hence the perceptiveness and objectivity. The baby is mind-aware but the adults are only personality-aware. Adults have gone through that twofold process of identifying with the body, then with the culture. The tiny infant has not. “They seemed to ignore me”, meaning, my real self, but also their real selves — this being equivalent as we’ve seen to being caught in a mask or “estrangement” from the underlying.

This underlying self really is a lot “smarter” which is why, if you can have a relationship with it and activate it, you become a much richer version of yourself.

Inner selves shouting for attention are related of course to younger subpersonalities and hence to parts of the mind shut out by the social realm. Clearing the walls that shut out those selves clears the tension and the blocks to those awarenesses, and that becomes a live relationship with the nonphysical. You interact with other forms of input. “Extra sensory perception” is a cliché, like all parapsychological terms once the public gets hold of them, but all it means is perception on the part of that aspect of you which is not directly hooked into the body. That turns out to be a lot.

The irony is that the hooking-in tends to leave a lot of energetic blockages, so a new and clearer relationship with the body is actually far better for the body itself as well. Normal egotistical relations with the body aren’t helpful to its health at all.

This goes all the way up to enlightenment which can create what some have called a “duplex personality”… more on that in the upcoming series.


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XIV

– An outgrowth of Rogers’ work is that of his student Eugene Gendlin, whose ideas involve working in a Rogerian manner with bodily sensations — noticing, describing, coming to terms with the feelings and stories they naturally communicate. This can be very useful for people who do energy work and often tends to be part of the wider process anyway, but his book Focusing (1978), again written to be used without prior experience, whether alone or with a partner, is full of helpful detail and has been widely appreciated. It appears on Kundalini lists regularly.

– In case of strong or difficult stress of the kind we now call “traumatic”, I recommend a look at the work of Babette Rothschild or other trauma therapists. Since the physiology is very helpful for understanding Kundalini arousal too, it may be worth a look under any circumstances. The Body Remembers (2000) and The Body Remembers Casebook (2003) I found particularly good in their loose, physiologically-sound approach. This way teaches instantly accessible calm states with a variety of psychologies to clear traumatic ones. Knowledge of the physiology of trauma can come in handy even for things that appear quite minor. Rothschild has emphasised people are quite capable of getting over trauma by themselves.

Traumas are inevitably moments of full focus and strong awareness in our lives; they are also close to the Kundalini mechanism and can actually initiate it (see Kason). Meditation gradually brings these moments and their energetic/emotional/physiological results under control by being equally aware. Rothschild emphasises the all-important openness to process and describes very well the keys in the body and mind to getting out-of-control states back into harmony. This requires more care than the normal Gendlin Focusing as it involves knowing how to defuse mines without triggering them. Knowing the signs within the body can be very useful and will get put together with images, feelings, concepts, events, naturally by spontaneous Rogerian relationship.

– Stanislav Grof is very useful if you want to understand the nature of strange cognitions you’ve had, including ones in childhood. This was big for me and many people have some such memories or find them surfacing in meditation or self-enquiry. Getting a psychological handle on them makes them easier to process. See Realms of the Human Unconscious for example. Grof’s use of LSD proved there’s at least some value in it — more on exactly how much value in the next series. His ideas on what he calls COEX systems, too, in the same book, were very interesting and gave me some a-ha’s, although when it comes to dealing with them and the mind generally he is less interesting, as he doesn’t understand spiritual training. But that’s why we have chi kung.

If childhood was difficult and some parts of you seem permanently weird or irrational, another useful resource is the blog of Rodger Garrett, which shows the biology of this is now being understood quite clearly (limbic system inflammation plays a large role). The practices I’m giving here can heal this — his can too, he says. A great key is to understand just how much of this is physiology that can be resolved with work on the chi.


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers VI

The extremely common estrangement of the human being from her directional organismic processes is not a necessary part of our nature. It is instead something learned, and learned to an especially high degree in our Western culture… The satisfaction or fulfillment of the actualizing tendency has become bifurcated into incompatible behavioral systems…

Carl Rogers on Personal Power (1977)

Both Maslow and Jung confirm these societal obstacles in the way of actualisation/individuation, which indeed are pretty self-evident. “Estrangement” (a cousin to “alienation” without the Marxist baggage) simply means being too occupied with the aforementioned social masks to be in contact with meaningful layers of oneself. This phenomenon was also noted by Wilhelm Reich.

Selves appear to be multifurcated and in fact shattered sometimes, in our current Western culture, rather than merely bifurcated. A great deal of psychology focuses on knitting together shattered selves into a new wholeness which is a definite achievement, existing in harmony with the underlying deeper consciousness. This process is described in subpersonality psychologies like Psychosynthesis, and also in the work of Grof. Via Rogerian processes it happens spontaneously, is noticed happening by itself, simply as a result of gentle congruous attention.

Since it also appears in shamanism, and in mythology in the stories of Osiris, Zagreus and Lemminkäinen for example, there must be a sense in which this shatteredness is age-old, probably a legacy of developments in human nervous system and culture. It may possibly be more widespread now that at previous times.


Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers V

The system of Rogers is about a natural spontaneous actualisation. This process he called organismic, because it is natural to the way organisms function:

Let me point to some of the work in biology that supports the concept of the actualizing tendency. One example, replicated with different species, is the work of Driesch with sea urchins many years ago. Driesch learned how to tease apart the two cells that are formed after the first division of the fertilized egg. Had they been left to develop normally, it is clear that each of these two cells would have grown into a portion of a sea urchin larva, the contributions of both being needed to form a whole creature. So it seems equally obvious that when the two cells are skillfully separated, each, if it grows, will simply develop into some portion of a sea urchin. But this is overlooking the directional and actualizing tendency characteristic of all organic growth. It is found that each cell, if it can be kept alive, now develops into a whole sea urchin larva — a bit smaller than usual, but normal and complete.

I choose this example because it seems so closely analogous to my experience in dealing with individuals in a therapeutic relationship, my experience in facilitating intensive groups, my experience of providing “freedom to learn” for students in classes. In these situations the most impressive fact about the individual human being seems to be the directional tendency towards wholeness, toward actualization of potentialities. I have not found psychotherapy or group experience effective when I have tried to create in another individual something that is not there, but I have found that if I can provide the conditions that make for growth, then this positive directional tendency brings about constructive results.

Carl Rogers on Personal Power (1977)

This “positive directional tendency” is referred to by Stanislav Grof as “holotropic”, meaning “wholeness-seeking”. Grof (like Maslow) found holotropic tendencies in his work on transpersonal experience too, indicating that the principle holds for spiritual development, to which a Rogerian beginning naturally leads later.


Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIII

5 Elemental Challenges — Water

The stability of post-counterculture pop SBNR is threatening to become a definite complacency as cultural fragmentation proceeds.

One marker is the end of Mishlove’s Thinking Allowed on PBS in America. The show had interviewed major SBNR thinkers like Terence McKenna, Colin Wilson, Michael Murphy, Stanislav Grof or John Lilly, dozens of them, at a depth that interviews themselves have mostly now lost. Those guys did not look out of place alongside an Albert Ellis, an Oliver Sacks or a Stephen Pinker. There were backward references to the rest of Western SBNR culture thrown in too.

“Thinking Allowed” is the opposite of ideocracy. The show presented an almost unlimited variety in one single format on a trusted TV source that has now given itself over far more to scientism. A decade after the show ended it seems almost impossible to imagine anything similar happening again. With the net it should be easy in principle, yet I haven’t found anything of this scope and gentility. Most net coverage of SBNR is far too specialised to want to look over the whole in this truly creative and exploratory way. (Meanwhile BBC news recently included an apology from Peter André for his early work! ^_^)

Shallow commercial agendas also prevent thought. I’ve mentioned names like Marsilio Ficino, Johann von Goethe, William Blake, Rudolf Steiner, William James, Jean Gebser, Carl Jung, Aldous Huxley, Stanislav Grof, Lawrence LeShan, Robert Monroe, William Irwin Thompson, and Glenn Morris.

But I find that such names are quite rarely mentioned in the general SBNR discourse, though I could add a hundred more. James Redfield, Eckhart Tolle, Paulo Coelho, Neale Donald Walsch, Oprah Winfrey, and Rhonda Byrne are by no means adequate substitutes.


Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – VII

The major contributors to SBNR are very numerous. No-one has yet identified them all. Summarising their contribution would be practically impossible.

And there is no definite “product” of their endeavours, no nice Nicene “result”. One could spend days trying to give the gist of Gebser, Yogananda, Jung, or Huxley. Their modern heirs Stanislav Grof, Lawrence LeShan, William Irwin Thompson, or Glenn Morris would require just as long.

Anyone can wander the SBNR canon and pull out a personal conversation, a particular mind. With no official version, no orthodoxy. With no orthodoxy, no borders. SBNR is what you make it, not what it makes you.

Still, SBNR is no longer as directly indebted to Romanticism. It is leaner, and it has learned the difference between posturing and effectiveness. It has passed through existential crises and been tempered by them. What we have now is a settled growth of many intertwining plants — and a definite opportunity.


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