Expanding and Reenchanting the Psyche: The Pioneering Thought of Stanislav Grof


Paul GrofFollow

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Throughout his lifetime Stanislav Grof has made radically new discoveries about non-ordinary states of consciousness and profoundly expanded the domain of transpersonal psychology. Central to his observations were non-ordinary states of consciousness that were induced, either physiologically (e.g. during Holotropic Breathwork) or pharmacologically (e.g. by psychedelics). In this presentation I offer findings from spontaneous, non-induced non-ordinary states of consciousness, in illness and health, which shed additional light on the genesis and timing of these states. My key thesis is a proposition that we are often prone to experiencing non-ordinary states when the oscillating brain activity exceeds its normal range and the filtering activity of the brain abates. My data come from prospective observations of spontaneously emerging non-ordinary states in a large cohort of patients with recurrent mood disorders (bipolar and unipolar) and healthy controls (experiencing falling in love or spiritual emergence). In the studied population the peaks of oscillation create a potential for non-ordinary states; the non-ordinary states were not happening without these activating peaks. Applied to practice, monitoring of the brain oscillatory activity has made it possible to help in a number of abnormal mood states effectively and with less intervention. The approach may also be applicable to a timing of more productive psychotherapeutic and holotropic sessions.

History shows that radically new discoveries such as Stan’s take ages to become generally accepted; inertia of old paradigms is enormous. One possible way of facilitating a faster acceptance of the radically new may be via a bridge to the conservatively old: linking new understanding of expanded and non-local consciousness to more traditional neurobiological concepts and offering plausible mechanisms.



Paul Grof, M.D., has been involved in research and treatment of mood disorders since 1959, and in transpersonal activities and movement since 1960s. He practiced psychiatry in Canada, the United States, and several European countries. He worked at the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland from 1977-1978, and served in the World Health Organization from 1985–2000. He is presently the director of the Mood Disorder Center in Ottawa, Ontario, and professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He has published 465 papers and three books.