The following three articles use concepts from the metaphysics of the mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead to develop a framework that illuminates extraordinary human experiences, especially those experiences Stanislav Grof calls “holotropic.” The articles:
provide a basic account of some of Whitehead’s central ideas,
explain holotropic and other extraordinary experience, taking advantage of the most important discoveries and concepts of modern science without creating a dichotomy between mind and body, matter and spirit,
suggest a description of the universe that seamlessly comprehends the spectrum from the simplest experience of the most tiny thing to the profound experience of the most complex consciousness.
The following paper is a relatively technical treatment of the LSD experience, using Whitehead’s terminology. It concerns mysticism, the nature of consciousness, Stanislav Grof’s cartography of the psyche, and other topics in transpersonal psychology. The paper was presented at The Center for Process Studies, Claremont,California, August 1998.
Science and modern culture have paradoxically absorbed both Hume’s stipulation of the priority of sensory experience and Kant’s assertion that mental and mathematical abstractions are fundamental and prior to sensory experience. Whitehead resolves the paradox by postulating a universe created out of occasions that exemplify William James’s drops of experience. Fully comprehending these occasions requires the same mystical understanding as Plato’s unwritten, fundamental doctrines. Spiritual practice is key to such comprehension.
The conjunction in ancient philosophy of intellect and practice was dissipated by medieval Scholasticism. Cultural differences mean that any modern practice which tries to regain the original function of practice in philosophy must necessarily differ from ancient practice.
James laid foundations of a transpersonal psychology that suggests means by which philosophical understanding might be facilitated so that it is a way of life, rather than simply an intellectual endeavor.
Western philosophy has a vital inheritance from mythological cults that emerged out of Shamanic mists and yielded both the great tragic plays and the power of mystery religions.
This legacy informed philosophy’s effort to understand the nature of things and provided ongoing inspiration for philosophy as a way of living. Over time, however, philosophy progressively inclined toward purely intellectual endeavor. Subordinated to theology during the Middle Ages, it lost the core experiential connection cultic ritual had evoked and developed toward its modern post Cartesian exercise.
The direct spiritual experience that inspired philosophy finally became shunned as primitive magic. Philosophy is now “haunted” by religion because it has distanced itself from direct experience of animate, divine nature (physis). To recover that distance, philosophy needs to be informed by ecstatic experience.
The following paper explores Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork as a process psychotherapy using a number of Whitehead’s technical concepts, including modes of perception and mental and physical polarity of experience. It was presented at the 6th International Whitehead Conference, Salzburg University, July 2006
Whitehead and Grof-Resolving Jung’s Ontological Ambiguity
The paper linked above avails both Alfred North Whitehead’s metaphysics and Stanislav Grof’s clinical insight to resolve the ontological status of Jung’s Shadow archetype. Tatva Journal of Philosophy, Bangalore, India, 2010, procedings from the 7th International Whitehead Conference.
Ontology of the Shadow
The paper linked above discusses Stanislav Grof’s stipulation of perinatal matrices, accompanied by illustrations, to provide an existential foundation for Jung’s concept of the Shadow. Presented at The Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies, VIIth Annual Conference, Burlington, VT, August 2008.
Wilhelm Reich — Depth Psychology and Bodywork
A brief review of the life and career of Wilhelm Reich with a special focus on his development of bodywork in psychotherapy and its significance for Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork. The Inner Door, 2012