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Text: Pavel Portnov
Photo: Roksolana Chernoba

Infamous for his experimental work with LSD and other hallucinogenics over the past 40 years to investigate the depths of the human consciousness, Stanislav Grof recently visited Moscow to receive an honourary degree and give a lecture based on his vision of the modern world entitled ‘Magnificent Journey: the secret and recognition of death.’
During his visit to Moscow, Stanislav Grof talked to DE I.

DE I: One of the central themes of your seminars is ‘The root of global crisis and how to resolve it’ which implies that the world is currently in a serious state right now. What is the cause of this crisis?

S.G.:  In a very specific way the saturation and over saturation of material concerns has sparked off a crisis of purpose and spirituality in society. For a long time we were the prisoners of illusions and false hopes built around the idea that the growth of a material society in itself was capable of fundamentally changing our quality of life and bringing us success, satisfaction and happiness. The wealth of the Western industrial nations right now is astonishing particularly within certain social groups. Many families enjoy a genuine abundance of wealth – a large home, two overflowing refrigerators, two or three cars in the garage, being able to go on holidays anywhere in the world. But none of this has brought people any joy. You can see instead an increase in emotional problems, alcoholism and drug addiction, crime, terrorism, and domestic abuse. All around we can witness a loss of purpose and meaning, values and prospects, and an increased isolation from Nature – all very self-destructive tendencies. A recognition of the failure of mainstream philosophy marked in the lives of many people a turning point. They started to be curious about the alternatives, finding answers in a spiritual search.

DE I: Can religion solve these problems?

S.G.:  At the moment we need more spirituality and not more religion. Organised religions in their current form are part of the problem, not the solution. In many parts of the world, the main source of violence is religious conflict.
As a rule, the role of organized religion is to unify people into a group focusing its attention on some archetypal figures and themes which they declare to be unique to that belief. That usually leads to conflict between that group and others which have chosen a different representation of God and a different method of worshiping him – Christians against Jews, Hindus against Muslims, Sikhs against Hindus. Organised religion doesn’t even deal particularly well with unifying its own followers. An obvious example of that is Christianity within which the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants has led to plenty of blood shed and suffering.
I have a genuine sense that the religion of the future will be of an imperial nature, accenting spiritual quest and respect for the specific form that quest takes, and how that quest differs on an individual basis from person to person. And I would like to hope that it would not turn into an organization promoting concrete dogmas and objects to be worshipped, but rather will be a community of people seeking answers, supporting each other in that spiritual search and recognizing that each and every one of us is responsible for our own individual piece of the great fabric that makes up the mystery of the Universe.

DE I: Is there any way of avoiding a bad-trip when entering an altered state of consciousness? Can someone experimenting with LSD expect a negative experience under certain circumstances?

S.G.:  Psychedelic substances in general, and in particular LSD, can affect the human psyche very deeply. They can be both positive and destructive depending on the individual taking them and what the surroundings are. For that reason, someone researching them tries to find a way of predicting the results and how they will affect the person taking them.
Depending on the circumstances, the person taking LSD can either experience intellectual ecstasy, or a depressive, manic, or paranoid state.
In any case, we are dealing with the freeing up of the subconscious. What might seem to be insignificant factors such as meditational music or the right environment can play an enormous role. It’s essential that at the time of a session, the person isn’t undergoing any spiritual problems, not to mention any difficulties with the external world. You mustn’t get entangled in your own ego and you should have an experienced ‘guide’ present – someone who can help deal with any negative aspects of the therapy.


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