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LSD: Doorway to the Numinous

The Groundbreaking Psychedelic Research into Realms of the Human Unconscious

Published by Park Street Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A pioneering book that explores the unknown landscape of human consciousness induced by LSD and other psychedelics

• Shows the relationship between shamanism, near death experiences, and other mystical and altered states with those induced by psychedelics

• Lays the conceptual foundation for the creation of important new therapies in psychiatry and psychology

Stanislav Grof’s first 17 years of research into nonordinary states of consciousness induced by LSD and other psychedelics led to a revolutionary understanding of the human psyche. His research was the impetus behind a vastly expanded cartography of the unconscious, including two new realms still unacknowledged by official academic circles--the perinatal domain, which holds memories of the various stages of birth, and the transpersonal domain, which mediates experiential identification with other species and mythic figures, visits to archetypal realms, access to past life memories, and union with the cosmic creative principle.

The research presented in this book provides a map of the psyche that is essential for understanding such phenomena as shamanism and near death experiences as well as other nonordinary states of consciousness. This map has led to the development of important new therapies in psychiatry and psychology for treating mental conditions often seen as disease and therefore suppressed by medication. It also provides a new threshold to understanding and entering the numinous realm of spirit.



Transpersonal experiences occur only rarely in early sessions of psycholytic therapy; they become quite common in advanced sessions after the subject has worked through and integrated the material on the psychodynamic and perinatal levels. After the final experience of ego death and rebirth, transpersonal elements dominate all subsequent LSD sessions of the individual. Occasionally, transpersonal experiences can occur in the culmination periods of the first high-dose session of psychedelic treatment. The common denominator of this otherwise rich and ramified group of phenomena is the feeling of the individual that his consciousness expanded beyond the usual ego boundaries and limitations of time and space.

Collective and Racial Experiences

This category of transpersonal phenomena is related to C. G. Jung’s concept of the collective and racial unconscious. The spontaneous emergence of such experiences in unsophisticated subjects who have not been exposed to Jungian ideas can be considered important supportive evidence and experimental confirmation of one of the most controversial aspects of Jung’s analytical psychology. Subjects tuned in to these realms of the unconscious can go through brief episodes or long, elaborate sequences that take place in different countries and/or different centuries and depict various historical or contemporary cultures. These scenes can be experienced in the role of observer, but, more frequently, the subject identifies with one representative of the culture involved or with a greater number of them. This is typically associated with global as well as detailed insights concerning social structure, religious cosmology, forms of worship, moral code, specific characteristics of art, technological development, and many other aspects of these cultures.
Collective and racial experiences can be related to any country, historical period, and cultural tradition, although there seems to be a certain preference for ancient cultures and countries with highly developed religious, philosophical, and artistic traditions. Sequences related to Egypt, India, Tibet, China, Japan, Pre-Columbian Mexico and Peru, and ancient Greece tend to occur with surprising frequency. The choice of the cultures and their specific aspects seems to be quite independent of the subject’s ethnic background, country of origin, cultural tradition, and even previous training, education, and interests. An Anglo-Saxon can, therefore, experience full identification with various periods in the history of African Americans or North American Indians and develop, as a result, a new sensitivity to and awareness of racial problems. A person of Jewish heritage can tune in to the cultural areas of the Far East and relive sequences from early China or Japan that enhance his understanding and appreciation of Buddhist or Taoist philosophy, Japanese music, the martial arts, and other aspects of these Oriental traditions. Similarly, an individual of Slavic origin can participate in the Asian conquests of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian hordes, identify with African Bushmen or Australian Aborigines, and become a participant-observer in sacred ceremonies from those Central American Pre-Columbian cultures in whose religions bloody sacrifice and self-sacrifice were espoused.
The information communicated by these experiences is usually quite accurate and can be verified by consultation of archaeological and anthropological sources. It frequently encompasses specific esoteric details; in many instances, the degree of historical or ethnographic knowledge that emerges is clearly incongruent with the subject’s previous education and level of information in these areas. On occasion, unsophisticated individuals have described details of Egyptian funeral services, including the form and meaning of various amulets and sepulchral boxes, the colors of funeral cones, the technology of embalmment and mummification, and the sequence of ritual procedures followed. One subject who experienced himself in one of his LSD sessions as an embalmer in ancient Egypt was able to describe the size and quality of the mummy bandages, materials used in fixing the mummy cloth, and the shape and symbolism of the four canopic jars and the corresponding canopic chests. Other individuals gained an intuitive understanding of the functions of various Egyptian deities, the symbolism related to them, and the esoteric significance of the pyramids and the sphinx. In one instance, a subject who had experienced sequences from the life of old Parsees was able to describe not only the nature of their religion and their funeral practices but also specific technological details of the Zoroastrian dakhmas (towers of silence) in which the dead were devoured by vultures so that they would not contaminate the sacred elements of earth and fire. On other occasions, LSD subjects had interesting insights into Hinduism and Buddhism and manifested a deep understanding of their religious practices, as well as the symbolism of the painting and sculpture to be found in these religions. Many additional examples involving other cultures could be cited in this context.
Sometimes such experiences are accompanied by symbolic gestures or complex and elaborate sequences of motor activity that express or illustrate their content. It is not uncommon that in association with specific LSD experiences some subjects discover the meaning of various symbolic gestures (mudras) or spontaneously assume quite unusual postures (asanas) known from Hatha Yoga. In several instances, individuals enmeshed in elements of a certain culture felt a strong need to dance. Without any previous training or specific exposure to these cultures, they were able to perform complicated dance forms. Examples of such behavior observed in LSD sessions range from the !Kung Bushman trance dance and other African tribal rituals, Middle Eastern belly dancing, and whirling like the dervishes of the Sufi tradition to Indonesian art forms as practiced in Java or Bali and the symbolic dancing of the Indian Kathakali or Manipuri school.
Collective and racial experiences can be combined with other types of transpersonal phenomena described later in this chapter. As suggested in the above discussion, they often involve a full identification with individual representatives of various cultures or elements of group consciousness. In their extreme form, they can encompass the consciousness of entire racial groups or the totality of the human race. Such experiential expansion of the individual to the consciousness of all mankind can approximate the Jungian archetype of the Cosmic Man.

About The Author

Stanislav Grof, M.D., is a psychiatrist who has been principal investigator at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague, Chief of Psychedelic Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, and assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. He is now professor of psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His 20 books include Beyond the Brain, Psychology of the Future, The Cosmic Genius, and Spiritual Emergency. He lives in California. In 2019, Stanislav Grof was cited as one of the "100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in the World" according to Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Park Street Press (February 12, 2009)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594779930

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Raves and Reviews

“The most significant development in the recent history of depth psychology, and the most important advance in the field since Freud and Jung themselves, has been the work of Stanislav Grof.”

– Richard Tarnas, Ph.D., author of The Passion of the Western Mind

“A breakthrough work.”

– Jean Houston, Ph.D., coauthor of The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience

“Stanislav Grof is the undisputed world authority on LSD and the human psyche, and this book provides the best cartography of consciousness for understanding the profound impact of entheogens on the mind.”

– Alex Grey, artist and author of Sacred Mirrors and Transfigurations

“Dr. Stanislav Grof's LSD: Doorway to the Numinous is an extraordinary alchemical text that overturns many commonly held beliefs about the nature of individual identity and consciousness. Based on his 2,500 clinical sessions using LSD as a therapeutic tool before the substance was interdicted, Grof's book explores the vast dimensions of inner experience that have been ignored and marginalized by the mainstream. He also provides a theoretical framework for understanding these amazing experiences that synthesizes Freudian and Jungian insights into the dark matter of the unconscious and the primal drives that secretly impel us to act. A must-read for all serious students of consciousness.”

– Daniel Pinchbeck, author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and Breaking Open the Head

“I know of no work that so well incorporates the findings of Freud, Jung, and Rank, adding fresh insights that the methods of these psychotherapists could never have achieved. It certainly goes beyond Freud. It brings new clarification to Jung. It throws new light on the topic of death and resurrection symbolism, as well as on religious imagery. I do not doubt that others working in this field will find Dr. Grof's discoveries a basis for a whole new strategy of research.”

– Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, The Masks of God, and Myths to Live By

“Stanislav Grof ’s research is the most important contribution to personality theory in several decades.”

– Abraham Maslow, Ph.D., psychologist, cofounder of Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology, and autho

“An exceptionally clear and readable introduction to the evolving psychology of the spirit--transpersonal psychology--that is one of the most exciting developments of our times. Grof is far and away one of the leading scientists exploring this field.”

– Charles Tart, Ph.D., psychologist and author of States of Consciousness, PSI: Scientific Studies of

“Dr. Grof's studies of the mystical experience in LSD therapy represent an extremely valuable scientific approach to consciousness research from which many people can benefit.”

– Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Tibetan lama and author of Born in Tibet, Spiritual Materialism, and Medit

“Grof has had far and away more experience in psychedelic research than anyone else and has come up with the most comprehensive and helpful framework for interpreting the data in this bewildering area.”

– Huston Smith, Ph.D., author of The World’s Religions and Beyond the Post-Modern Mind

“Grof marshals an impressive array of data and speculation in support of the timely demand that Western science acknowledge consciousness and its many nonordinary states.”

– Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), Ph.D., psychologist, spiritual teacher, and author of Be Here Now, Grist

“A fascinating journey through previously uncharted realms of the psyche guided by one of the world’s foremost consciousness researchers. A remarkable account of the extraordinary depths of the human psyche.”

– Frances Vaughan, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Awakening Intuition and The Inward Arc

" . . . Grof's engrossing state-of-the-science overview argues convincingly that continued LSD reserach will help patients, parents, policymakers, and even spiritual seekers."

– Publishers Weekly, Feb 2009

"Dr. Grof's efforts should be lauded and highly commended in the scientific and medical community. His clinical research is courageous and luminous to anyone who is conscious of the body's metaphysiology and higher energy dynamics. This field of research is as important to the human animal as molecular scientific inquiry into the etiology of neoplasias."

– Dr. Ron Shane, reviewer, April 2009

"Dr. Grof has helped to give us new ways of seeing the world . . . He has opened a link between the psyche and the spirit."

– Nexus New Times Magazine, Sept/Oct 2009

"For any serious student of psychedelics or psychology, this is an important read that should not be ignored. In terms of building a foundation for the future of the psychedelic movement and finding a place for psychedelics in society, LSD:Doorway to the Numinous is without question the text. Authoritative, insightful, and self-aware."

– Psychedelic Press, UK, Feb 2010

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