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Thursday, May 1, 2008

LSD Psychotherapy - Stanislav Grof

LSD Psychotherapy - Stanislav Grof

Stanislav Grof is possibly the greatest mind research pioneer in the Western tradition. In LSD Psychotherapy, Dr. Grof, a conventionally-trained MD, outlines a methodology for a process that serves as a paradigm for human transformation, as well as a basis for a radically revised understanding of reality.

This book is iconoclastic--all great breakthroughs in understanding are. Dr. Grof formulated his methods based on thousands of hours of first-hand clinical experience. He valiantly tries to dispel the sensationalism and misinformation about LSD, pointing out that the drug merely amplifies pre-existing mental processes, in much the same way that a microscope or telescope affords heightened glimpses of phenomena. Indeed LSD, he has said, responsibly administered in clinical settings, could be for the sciences of mind what the telescope is for astronomy, or the microscope for medicine and biology. The power and effectiveness of LSD-assisted therapy are unprecedented, yet the research is sadly truncated and unjustifiably ignored.

I wish this book were obsolete. Dr. Grof no doubt expected the process he pioneered to be developed further. Had responsible LSD research been allowed to continue through the present day, its methods and effectiveness might now be in advance of even those outlined herein. The occasional therapeutic failure, honestly referred to in the book, might be a success story today.

One would think that Dr. Grof's positing of experiential matrices, birth and pre-birth memories, and transpersonal aspects of reality would be a source of excitement to those with a genuine scientific spirit. LSD, however, is a topic that typically elicits hallmarks of non-critical thought from otherwise critical thinkers--distortion, hysteria, irrelevance, ridicule, and a reluctance to pursue inquiries that might overturn our most cherished assumptions. Our rational culture, it seems, is not so rational after all.

So LSD research gathers dust. Could this be partly because it might lead us back to a conception of the ultimate nature of reality that Western science for 400 years has been trying to eradicate?

The uphill battle for mainstream acceptance that Dr. Grof's research has faced is also partly due to our culture's stigmatizing of the therapeutic process itself. We value introspection lightly, and tend to characterize the need or desire for psychotherapy as evidence of weakness--something for people who are unable to work out their problems on their own.

However, what if our culture extolled the undertaking of the inner journey as highly as it does the quest for external and material achievement? People every day attempt to exorcise their demons--unsuccessfully--by building businesses or climbing mountains. If embarking on the process of inner healing and transformation that LSD-assisted therapy can facilitate were widely encouraged, our culture would be quite different--more joyous, more peaceful, perhaps even more scientific, and less abusive of the planet and each other.

If one wishes to learn to swim, at some point he has to stop reading books containing mathematical descriptions of human buoyancy and biomechanics in water. Ultimately he must take the plunge. Criticism of Dr. Grof's work rarely if ever comes from those who undertake the inner journey for themselves. No refutation of his "expanded cartography of the psyche" and speculations about the nature of reality is possible without incorporating the experiential aspect of the process. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this groundbreaking book.

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