Atheism in Psychology

psychoanalyst Stanislav Grof on true spirituality & atheism

Stanislav Grof is chief of psychiatric research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and scholar-in-residence at the Esalen Institute (1986).
Helena Norberg-Hodge has been working for the past 11 years in Ladakh (Little Tibet), introducing Green or new paradigm ideas and technologies as alternatives to conventional development. For six months of every year she lectures in Europe and America.

Stanislav Grof:
... I think the only possibility is to have a myth, but in combination with a technology of transformation that provides experiential validation. Otherwise the movement uses the power of the transcendental impulse but translates it into an atheistic program of bloody revolution or something similar, and it does not work in that form. We could have a myth that would include the importance of finding ourselves and supplement the activities of everyday life with some kind of determined inner quest.

Helena Norberg-Hodge:
... I want to understand better what you were saying about spiritual experience. You were talking about perinatal spiritual experiences. Is that correct? And then you made a reference to atheism; you said atheists are working on a very narrow part of their being. Where do you think spiritual experience begins?

Stanislav Grof:
True spirituality begins on the perinatal level. If you deal with religion on the biographical level, it is not genuine spirituality. It is what your parents told you, what you read, what you heard the minister talk about in church. To me that does not have very much to do with spirituality. ...
When you work through the perinatal area you are in the transpersonal realm and then beyond that point all your experiences in a nonordinary state of consciousness will be transcendental or transpersonal. When somebody is atheistic, this means that that person has not done enough in-depth self-exploration. He or she is operating primarily in the ordinary state of consciousness limited to a worldview based exclusively on observations of consensus reality. That person does not have any experiential reason to be spiritual. ..

"Over three decades of systematic studies of the human consciousness have led me to conclusions that many traditional psychiatrists and psychologists might find implausible if not downright incredible. I now firmly believe that consciousness is more than and accidental by-product of the 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 existence. We are not just highly evolved animals with biological computers embedded inside our skulls; we are also fields of consiousness without limits, transcending time, space, matter and linear causality.

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 of our lives and cultivation it is an essential and desirable part of our existence; it might even be a critical factor for our survival on the planet."

Stanislav Grof, interview with Helena Norberg-Hodge, "New paradigm thinking in the life sciences"
"Psychology and consciousness research," in ReVision, the journal of consciousness and change,
vol. 9, no. 1, summer/fall 1986 56-7

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