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Excerpt from "The Holotropic Mind"
by Stanislav Grof, M.D.

During this phase of the experiment, I was hit by a radiance that seemed comparable to the light at the epicenter of an atomic explosion, or possibly the supernatural light described in Eastern scriptures that appears at the moment of death. This thunderbolt of light catapulted me from my body. I lost all awareness of the research assistant, the laboratory, and any detail of my life as a doctor in Prague.

There was no doubt in my mind that was I was experiencing was very close to experiences of “cosmic consciousness” I had read about in the great mystical scriptures of the world. In psychiatric handbooks, such states were defined as manifestations of severe pathology. In the midst of it I knew that the experience was not the result of a psychosis brought on by the substance, but a glimpse into a world beyond ordinary reality.

The Divine had manifested itself and had taken over my life in a modern laboratory in the middle of a serious scientific experiment in a Communist country with a substance produced in the test tube of a 20th century chemist!

During the early period of my research, I found my worldview undermined by daily exposure to experiences that could not be explained in terms of my old belief system. My clients experienced psychological death and rebirth, feelings of oneness with all humanity, nature, and the cosmos. Some reported “past-life” experiences whose historical accuracy could later be confirmed.

When the process moved beyond the biographical material from infancy and childhood and the experiences began to reveal the greater depths of the human psyche, with all its mystical overtones, the therapeutic results exceeded anything I had previously known. Symptoms that had resisted months or even years of other treatment often vanished after patients had these experiences of psychological death and rebirth, feelings of cosmic unity, archetypal visions, and sequences of what clients described as past-life memories.

I now firmly believe that consciousness is more than an accidental by-product of neurophysiological and biochemical processes taking place in the human brain. I see consciousness and the human psyche as expressions and reflections of a cosmic intelligence that permeates the entire universe and all of its existence. We are not just highly evolved animals with biological computers embedded inside our skulls; we are also fields of consciousness without limits, transcending time, space, matter, and linear causality.

As a result of observing literally thousands of people experiencing non-ordinary states of consciousness, I am now convinced that our individual consciousnesses connect us not only with our immediate environment and with various periods of our own past, but also with events that are far beyond the reach of our physical senses, extending into other historical times, into nature, and into the cosmos. I can no longer deny the evidence that we have the capacity to relive the emotions and physical sensations we had during our passage through the birth canal and that we can re-experience episodes that took place when we were fetuses in our mothers’ wombs. In non-ordinary states of consciousness, our psyches can reproduce these situations in vivid detail.

On occasion, we can reach far back in time and witness sequences from the lives of our human an animal ancestors, as well as events that involved people from other historical periods and cultures with whom we have no genetic connection whatsoever. Through our consciousnesses, we can transcend time and space, cross boundaries separating us from various animal species, experience processes in the botanical kingdom and in the inorganic world, and even explore mythological and other realities that we previously did not know existed. We might discover that experiences of this kind will profoundly influence our life philosophy and world view. We will likely find it increasingly difficult to share the belief system dominating the industrial cultures and the philosophical assumptions of traditional Western science.

Having started this research as a convinced materialist and atheist, I had to open myself to the fact that the spiritual dimension is a key factor in the human psyche and in the universal scheme of things. I feel strongly that becoming aware of this dimension in our lives and cultivating it as an essential and desirable part of our existence; it might even be a critical factor in our survival on this planet.

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