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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2014
In this book, Stanislav Grof proposes that traditional science has neglected and dismissed the capabilities of the human mind beyond the understanding of the Newtonian paradigm (the philosophical and scientific world view that the impersonal, clock-like workings of atoms, as prescribed by natural laws, determine everything else). This is reflected in Psychology and Psychiatry as they limit the human experience to the phenomena we can perceive throughout our lifetimes with our (sober) senses.
He illustrates findings conveying the idea that consciousness is not a product of neurobiological processes in the brain, but the source of all existence. According to Grof, and in alignment with C G. Jung's ideas of the collective subconscious, our individual consciousness connects us with other human beings, but also all life forms, nature, history beyond our biographical experiences and the universe as a cosmic intelligence at large.
Non-ordinary states of consciousness allow us to gain access to these worlds and Grof argues that they connect recent scientific findings with the wisdom of ancient human societies, and further provide solutions to the most pressing problems of today's society.

In doing so, the book roughly consists of three parts:

1. Introduction to discoveries in Science leading to a new world view.

2. Extensive description of Grof's theory around peri-natal experiences (relating to the events in the womb before and around childbirth) and their effects on the psyche of adults, for example psychological disorders.

3. Descriptions of extraordinary phenomena accessed via non-ordinary states of consciousness, such as experiencing the consciousness of other people, life forms or spirits beyond space and time, past life and UFO encounters, shamanic healing, communication with the dead etc.

I have three points of criticism:

(1) It appears as if Grof intended to collect as many descriptions of extraordinary phenomena as possible to give weight to his message. However, they too often stay superficial and lack original sources.
(2) The different parts of the book are not sufficiently connected throughout the book: For example, the definition of a Holotropic Mind did not become entirely clear to me as he didn't connect the described phenomena with the discoveries of quantum physics (like holograms) in the first part of the book.
(3) Some of Grof's arguments I also found weak, for example pp. 185/186 "It is unthinkable that so many cultures would continue conducting rain ceremonies for centuries without some statistically significant success rate". It is a very well proven psychological phenomenon that people's tendency to repeat behaviour is higher when they reach what the want only some of the time (see intermittend reinforcement under [...]

Beause of the above, I only give three stars. Nevertheless, I found the book pleasant to read, very interesting, insightful and thought-provoking. Furthermore, it needs to be said that it lies in the nature of the topic that traditional descriptions and models fall short, and Grof deserves a lot of credit for his theoretical framework of pre- and perinatal psychology.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2009
If you are interested in the holographic model of the universe and consciousness, then you would like to read this book. The model is largely based on the work of physicist David Bohm and neurophysiologist Karl Pribram. The author, well known for his work in transpersonal psychology and many states of consciousness, describes many of his clinical cases in his investigation of various levels of consciousness to explain the physical reality. A brief summary is as follows: The author uses connected breathing, music, and artwork to alter consciousness and explore deep dimensions of the psyche called holotropic breathwork. He uses the non-ordinary states of consciousness and gain access to the unconscious and other super-conscious psyche with his psychoanalytical methods. The author argues that although the mental functions are linked to biological processes in the brain but consciousness does not originate in or produced by brain. The author gives an analogy; when a television repairman states that the TV set needs a spare part to fix it, we don't make the conclusion that TV set it self is responsible for the program we see on TV. Yet this is the kind of conclusion we make in neurobiological experiments that consciousness is seated in the brain apparatus. Experiences available to us through non-ordinary states of consciousness, particularly those of transpersonal nature offer evidence that consciousness is not confined to brain.

Exploration of non-ordinary states of consciousness has provided convincing evidence for perinatal experiences in our psyches, and the author describes this occurs in four distinct experiential patterns called Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPM). Each of it is closely related to the four stages of birth just prior to labor and delivery; the amniotic universe, the cosmic engulfment and no exit, death and rebirth struggle and death and rebirth phase. Each of these stages has biological, psychological, archetypal, and spiritual aspects. Carl Jung calls this area of perinatal matrices an interface between our individual psyches called collective unconscious experience. The functions of these different matrices combine memories of various biological births with sequences of human history or mythology. These elements belong to transpersonal domain, which challenge the belief that human consciousness is limited by the range of our senses and environment. This paradigm states that consciousness exists outside, independently, in essence not bound by matter. It is infinite stretching beyond the limits of space and time. The consciousness may also permeate all of nature existing in most elemental and most complex forms. The experiences in transpersonal consciousness can include the entire spectrum of existence. It includes; near death experience, communicating with dead, contacting with aliens, encounter with primordial emptiness, etc.

The archetypes of collective unconsciousness termed psychoid are trans-individual in nature, and not created by an individual's history or experience. Carl Jung proposed acausal connecting principle in which he tried to connect the inner world of visions and dreams with the outer world of objective reality. This principle broke the boundaries between; consciousness and matter; the objective-subjective; real-unreal; existent-nonexistent; and tangible-intangible states of reality.

Psychoid experiences are understood under three types: Synchronicities phenomenon, where an acausal link between inner experiences synchronous with external experiences exists. Secondly, events in the external world are linked to inner experiences, examples include, poltergeist phenomena, UFO encounters, etc. Thirdly, the psychoid experiences where mental activity manipulates conscious reality, example include; psychokinetic phenomenon, supernatural feats of yogis (called siddhies), etc.

The Jungian principle of acausal connecting principle stated that casualty is a statistical phenomenon, and in many instances the causal principle does not apply. For example, Swami Rama has shown incredible powers such as changing body temperature, blood flow and heart rate in matter of seconds without a rational medical explanation supporting the acausal principle, the control of mind over body.

The author concludes that human consciousness is an expression and reflections of cosmic intelligence that permeates the entire universe and all existence. We are fields of consciousness without limits transcending time, space, matter, and linear casualty.

1. Wholeness and the Implicate Order (Routledge Classics)
2. The Creative Cosmos: Towards a Unified Science of Matter, Life and Mind
3. Languages of the Brain: Experimental Paradoxes and Principles of Neuropsychology (Prentice-Hall series in experimental psychology)
4. The Holographic Universe
5. Mysticism and the New Physics (Arkana)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2011
I absolutely love this book. Cannot say enough good things about it. They manage to capture the complexity of the subject matter and explain it clearly, without too many diversions.
Based on Jungian Psychology, it takes Jung's theories to new depths.
I first bought this book 15 years ago, this is my third copy, the other two were never returned....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2013
Very eye opening with good evidence displayed without having to waffle as some do, anyone interested in the human Psyche and consciousness should read this book
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2011
This book was recommended to me but as I have read a lot of similar books it did not really say anything not in other books. Read it if you are relatively new to esoteric or spiritual things otherwise not recommended if already knowledgeable.
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on 25 February 2015
Brilliant and passionate reading.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2010
If you accept the scientific validity of Jungian psychology, the Findhorn Community, Medieval religious experience and possibly Astrology you'll find it easy to digest Stanislav Grof's offering.

Voyages into the consciousness of Other Beings are grist to the mill of this book and the sanctity of these experiences seems unquestioned.

Snippets from the world's religous dogmas, famous quotes and the experiences of a multitude of 'patients?' are all drawn together to support the hypothesis of the Holotropic Mind with its three levels of consciousness which 'shape our lives'. There's a chapter entitled 'The titanic dimension of the third matrix' and many others in the same vein.

There may be some truth in the hypothesis but it's presented in a subjective way that excludes real analysis. I call this the 'Did you know that animals have higher souls that we can communicate with?" approach. It's something that we can't really prove or disprove, but it is an appealing proposition and that's convincing enough for a lot of people.

Losing your job, breaking up with a loved one, or suffering other life changing traumas probably have more impact than the 'three levels' and need real help to overcome - not fantasy offerings like this.
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on 18 August 2015
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2014
as expected
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