Thursday, March 09, 2006

I Grok Grof

I like reading books about psychoanalytic theory. I also enjoy books about drugs and drug experiences. Further, I'm known to peruse on occasion books about the paranormal, so of course I enjoyed Stanislav Grof's The Adventure of Self-Discovery, which combines all of the above. Grof is a proponent of a sort of modern shamanism; instead of the laborious lingual give-and-take of traditional psychoanalysis, he proposes dosing patients up with hallucinogens like LSD or ketamine and supervising them as they trip their asses off. During these hallucinatory settings, sitters and therapists coax patients through their journeys and document their experiences. Grof claims his method can work out much more negative emotional baggage in three sessions than typical analysis can in years.

Because of drug war hysteria and consequent prohibition of lysergic acid and psilocybin derivatives, Grof and his crew at Johns Hopkins and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center have developed other, more legal means of altering consciousness (music, hyperventilation, meditation techniques), and his book is a catalog of recurring themes and images from these altered states and an attempt to classify them.

I'm sold--Grof comes out of the Jungian school by way of Wilhelm Reich and Paramahansa Yogananda, and documents a lot of extraordinary synchronistic and telepathic occurences. Particularly great are the paintings of patients as they work out traumatic birth canal memories and chakra blockages. A painter named Guenn Eona Nimue made spectacular drawings of archetypal entities she encountered during "a powerful spontaneous inner process." Whether or not you think these are transpersonal beings from another plane of existence, or merely the spontaneous creations of a disordered individual, reading about them is fascinating. Grof is mostly careful to temper his New-Aginess with Science; his book suffers during those few bits where he attempts to warn analysts about demonic possession and aliens and telekinesis--stuff he thinks might happen but which he's never witnessed personally in his practice. Stick to what you know, Stanislav--that shit's weird enough!

I like the way Grof grounds his theories in the old--shamanistic and esoteric practises and kundalini techniques--and the new, including quantum physics and the holographic model of the universe (he mentions Einstein's enthusiasm for Jung's ideas about consciousness underpinning all matter, for example). Grof is as learned as Ken Wilbur but far less demanding. Worth a read.


Guenn Eona Nimue said...

I know this is an old post, but just to set the record straight, I never took any drugs, nor was I ever a patient of Stan Grof. I met Stan through James Swan (Sacred Places-How The Living Earth Seeks Our Friendship, Bear and Company 1990) and was a paid contributor. The most notable aspect of the vast majority of your writing seems to be at the bottom of each post, 0 comments. I suspect this is indicative of the level of interest you are able to generate in people with respect to what you have to say. I am 84 now, have been a painter for sixty years and a psychic for forty years. You are a teacher? Since you cannot seem to even write a reasonably accurate book review, I am left to wonder what you teach. Finger Painting, perhaps?

Guenn Eona Nimue

Nyarlathotep said...

I am terribly sorry. I saw your post while in a remote location with urban sixth and seventh graders. I don't have access to my books up here but when I return home I will fix any mistaken info. All I recall about the book @ this time was your striking art work.

Alas I only blurb about books-I wouldn't call them reviews. Forgive me for misremembering or misconstruing the text.

And no, I don't teach finger painting. I'm woefully underqualified for that. I appreciate the feedback.

Amazing Bonobo Chocolate said...

I appreciate your grace under criticism and salute your response.
I like fingerpainting too.
Yoghurt and food coloring are a fantastic and yummy means of
colorful expression for all ages.
try it with a toddler sometime.