“The psyche is not a product of the brain …it is the creative and generative principle of the cosmos.”
We are pleased to offer this series overviewing Stanislav Grof’s lecture, The Consciousness Revolution: New Perspectives in Psychiatry, Psychology, and Psychotherapy given at the XVII International Transpersonal Conference in Moscow on June 24, 2010. In this fifth post from our series, Grof acknowledges that although many methods of psychotherapy exist, the most effective are those that mediate contact between the conscious ego and spiritual consciousness.
If you missed them, read our previous posts, The Conscious Revolution: New Perspectives, The Nature of Consciousness and its Relationship to Matter, New Map of the Psyche, and New Methods for Psychotherapy. All text taken directly from the transcript is in italics. Click here for a free PDF of Grof’s lecture.
Working therapeutically with the human psyche is riddled with challenges. Clinicians study one or many methods and theories which they apply in a variety of therapeutic settings hoping to relieve the suffering of their clients. Results are generally unpredictable. Grof disputes method based orientation…
The most astonishing aspect of modern psychotherapy is the number of competing schools and the lack of agreement among them. They have vast differences of opinion concerning the most fundamental issues, such as: what are the dimensions of the human psyche and what are its most important motivating forces; why do symptoms develop and what they mean; which issues that the client brings into therapy are central and which are less relevant; and, finally, what technique and strategy should be used to correct or improve the emotional, psychosomatic, and interpersonal functioning of the clients.
To my knowledge, there are not any scientific studies showing clear superiority of some schools of psychotherapy over others… very likely, the therapeutic results have very little to do with what the therapists think they are doing – the accuracy and good timing of interpretations, correct analysis of transference, and other specific interventions.
Grof suspects that the personal qualities of the therapist has more to do with successful therapeutic outcomes than do methods, theories or brilliance.
Successful therapy probably depends on factors that do not have much to do with intellectual brilliance and are difficult to describe in scientific language, such as the “quality of the human encounter” between therapists and clients or the feeling of the clients that they are unconditionally accepted by another human being, frequently for the first time in their life.
Grof’s work with consciousness diverges from mainstream psychiatry and psychology and veers toward the spiritual. The psyche is not an object that can be viewed in purely mechanistic terms. Carl Jung’s work with dreams and active imagination and Grof’s work with holotropic states picks up where psychological understanding weakens and ultimately fails.
According to Jung, it is impossible to achieve intellectual understanding of the psyche and derive from it a technique that we can use in psychotherapy. As he saw it in his later years, the psyche is not a product of the brain and is not contained in the skull; it is the creative and generative principle of the cosmos (anima mundi). It permeates all of existence and the individual psyche of each of us is teased out of this unfathomable cosmic matrix. The intellect is a partial function of the psyche that can help us orient ourselves in everyday situations. However, it is not in a position to understand and manipulate the psyche.
What a psychotherapist can do, according to Jung, is to create a supportive environment, in which psychospiritual transformation can occur; this container can be compared to the hermetic vessel that makes alchemical processes possible… that mediates contact between the conscious ego and a higher aspect of the client, the Self.
The Self is the central organizing archetype, or energy that leads individuals (and collectives) toward order and unity.
Jung referred to this movement toward highest unity as the individuation process. The use of holotropic states for therapy and self-exploration essentially confirms Jung’s perspective and follows the same strategy, The facilitators create a protective and supportive environment and help the clients enter a holotropic state. Once that occurs, the healing process is guided from within by the clients’ own inner healing intelligence and the task of the facilitators is to support what is happening.
The holotropic state activates unconscious material, long buried memories or sensations which have a strong emotional change. The therapist’s job is not to interpret the material, rather, it is to allow the process to unfold without interference….They simply support whatever is spontaneously emerging and manifesting from moment to moment, trusting that the process is guided by intelligence that surpasses the intellectual understanding.
The next and final post in our series seeks to integrate higher consciousness with the material world. Stay tuned for the Role of Spirituality in Human Life.
Click here to download a free PDF of the transcript of Grof’s lecture. Visit Stan Grof’s Teacher Page for more information about Stan and his extensive research into the healing and transformative potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness. Additionally, he has had significant influence on the integration of science and transpersonal psychology.