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Stanislav Grof

Frank Visser in Transition

By Adi Da Samraj, Integralism, Ken Wilber, Plotinus, Stanislav Grof, Theosophy
Frank Visser
The Dutch writer Frank Visser once figured as the major partisan exegete of Ken Wilber. His book Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (2003) was published by the State University of New York Press. Visser was here described as “an internet specialist who studied the psychology of religion at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.”
The publisher classified Visser’s book in terms of: “the definitive guide to the life and work of Ken Wilber, widely regarded as the most comprehensive and passionate philosopher of our times.”
Visser’s contribution was strongly in support of Wilber. At the end of nearly 300 pages, Visser offers a chapter entitled “Ken Wilber in Perspective.” This covers science, psychology, and religion. Visser here states that “Wilber counts as the leading theorist” in transpersonal psychology (page 267). That version of psychology “first emerged as an academic discipline at the end of the sixties” (ibid). Wilber himself was not an academic.
Visser dwells on the differences between Wilber and C. G. Jung. “Wilber is of the opinion that Jung has prompted an extremely regressive movement in psychology” (page 265). A basic contention here is that the Jungian stress upon the “collective” is a mistaken denominator for too many contrasting ingredients, including the spiritual, the prerational, and the regressive. One aspect of this drawback is seen by Visser in “writers inspired by Jung who interpret the wild or primitive aspect of our nature as spirituality” (page 265).
A well known rival of Wilber was Stanislav Grof, a psychiatrist who innovated the term transpersonal, being influential in the movement associated with that word. Grof gained a repute for therapy practices and the use of mind-altering drugs, including LSD. His perinatal theory has met with denial in some directions. Grof believed that his theory was based on clinical evidence, which he thought to be lacking in Wilber. “In many respects Wilber and Grof stand at opposite ends of the spectrum” (page 270). There are strong opponents of both Wilber and Grof (Ken Wilber and integralism). 
Ken Wilber
Visser expressed enthusiasm for the “perennial philosophy” aspect of Wilber’s conceptualism. The Dutch commentator tended to define this factor in terms of: “Each world religion has its own esoteric or mystical core, and, in addition to this, there are also schools of thought developed by individual philosophers who have attempted to formulate this esoteric core in a way that makes it more comprehensible” (page 276). According to Visser, “the esoteric aspects of Wilber’s model are based largely on the philosophy of Shri Aurobindo,” while “Wilber has also borrowed ideas from contemporary mystics, such as Adi Da Samraj” (page 276).
Some of the critics felt that this borrowing was getting into dangerous territory. The American guru Adi Da Samraj (d.2008) gained the reputation of an antinomian who was acutely unreliable in his behaviour.
Moving into less controversial topics, Visser stated that the “perennialists or traditionalists” included Ananda Coomaraswamy, Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, and Huston Smith. The first three names are landmarks in the traditional version of perennialism. Smith was a strong influence on Wilber. Visser informed: “Wilber has explored contemporary philosophy to a far greater extent than most of the traditionalists, who often abhor modern society” (page 276).
The commentator went on to compare the Theosophical tradition with Wilber themes. “Theosophy might be described as an early nineteenth century, Western attempt to reformulate the perennial philosophy in more contemporary language” (page 277). Visser here finds an affinity “with the Western neoplatonic tradition partly expounded by Plotinus  who is highly admired by Wilber” (ibid).
Views about Theosophy can  differ markedly; there is no obvious resemblance between Theosophy and Plotinus. Wilber’s version of Plotinus has met with disagreement. Visser moves on to discuss a Western Vedanta, here employing a phrase used by Wilber (who is also strongly associated with Mahayana Buddhism). Visser refers to the Dutch “philosopher and theosophist” Johannes J. Poortman (d.1970), a former professor of metaphysics at Leiden University, who “often described his system as a Western form of Vedanta” (page 282).
The information is supplied that Poortman, similar to Wilber, “was extremely sceptical about the kind of holism that is based on quantum physics, which seeks to suggest that modern physics had stumbled across the deepest Mystery” (page 283).
Visser asserted: “Plotinus, Poortman, and Wilber are all mystical philosophers who have a great deal of faith in the capacity of the intellect and who therefore attach a great deal of value to any form of scientific research. For this reason they oppose any movements which denounce rationalism under the guise of spirituality and seek salvation in the romanticism of holism” (page 284).
This perspective was later seen to have complications. Visser subsequently became a critic of Wilber, abandoning his partisan stance. The element of scientific research in Wilber’s output here became minimal. Although Ken Wilber did advocate a rational stance, Frank Visser arrived at the conclusion that this form of rationalism is limited. The question now also arises: what exactly is a mystical philosopher?
Visser’s tangent from Wilber emerged soon after the publication of his book (translated from Dutch). Rarely does any author transit so strongly and speedily from formerly held assessments. Visser became well known for his new attitude that Wilber’s version of “integralism” was a minefield rather than a solution to all problems (Reaching Out to the World).
A major drawback is that Ken Wilber tended to present his theories as all-embracing and comprehensive. He referred to his doctrines as AQAL, an abbreviation for “all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types” (ibid:xiii, foreword by Wilber). Quadrant theory could easily be accused of assuming a stance of quasi-omniscience.
The dissenting Frank Visser has maintained a website featuring criticism of Ken Wilber. This site is called Integral World. Visser has remained an integralist, but not a copyist of Wilber. There are different forms of integralism, including authors other than Visser and Wilber. A complexity is that certain authors do not call themselves integralists. Which is the most accurate and comprehensive form of “integralism”? This could easily become a major issue.
Observers noticed a commotion in the integralist camp, occurring at blog level. In 2006, Wilber attacked Visser and other critics in a blog featuring aspersive language deemed vulgar by some assessors. Wilber here also referred to himself in terms of the lawman resisting outlaws (Visser, The Wild West Wilber Report).
A decisive schism was in process. The dissenters and critics would not accept the blog bludgeoning and caricature expressed by Wilber. Visser hosted other critical writers (e.g., Jeff Meyerhoff) at his website. To be more precise, the growing number of contributors at Integral World included Wilber critics, Wilber supporters, and yet other categories.
Perhaps in response to some of the criticism, Wilber wrote a new book called Integral Spirituality (2006). Visser described this as “disappointing, both in style and content.” However, he did concede that Wilber had changed format. See the Visser review. The American writer claimed a relevant  assessment of modernity and postmodernity, also an ongoing knowledge of religious traditions. This new AQAL presentation amounted to “integral post-metaphysics.”
The founding of the Integral Institute, by Ken Wilber, was a focus for critical attention from Visser and others. The partisan description of a “visionary think-tank” was countered by allegations such as workshop entrepreneurialism, plus the drawback of allegiance with controversial figures, including the neo-Advaita guru Andrew Cohen.
Visser composed numerous web articles demonstrating his critical attitude to the man he had formerly promoted. It is difficult to find any trace of his former “theosophical” inclination. “I consider Ken Wilber’s view of evolutionary theory to be deeply flawed and disconnected from the scientific literature” (Spirit of Evolution Reconsidered). Visser here stresses: “A detailed engagement with Darwinism is virtually absent from his [Wilber’s] writings.”
Visser mentions the second Integral Theory Conference of 2010 in San Francisco, an  event which attempted to modify the Wilber-centric approach. He also refers to the third Integral Theory Conference of 2013 at San Francisco, featuring a confrontation of the Wilber model “with two other luminaries in the wider integral field: philosopher Roy Bhaskar and sociologist-philosopher Edgar Morin.” These entities are described as professional philosophers who share the “same multidisciplinary spirit.” See Integral Theory.
The crux for integralism would appear to be a multidisciplinary orientation, something which is not fundamental to professional philosophy and nor restricted to contemporary paradigms of spirituality.
Grof, Stanislav, Psychology of the Future (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000). 
Meyerhoff, Jeff, Bald Ambition: A Critique of Ken Wilber’s Theory of Everything (Inside the Curtain Press, 2010).
Shepherd, Kevin R. D., Pointed Observations (Dorchester: Citizen Initiative, 2005).
Visser, Frank, Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003).
Wilber, Ken, Integral Spirituality (Boston: Integral Books, 2007). 

Kevin R. D. Shepherd

ENTRY no. 55

Copyright © 2013 Kevin R. D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved.

David Lorimer and New World Values

By Andrew Cohen, Findhorn Foundation, Kate Thomas, Ken Wilber, Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), Stanislav Grof, Wrekin Trust
David  Lorimer
In 2005, I composed a letter of complaint to David Lorimer. The mailing list was extensive,  including over sixty members of the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), led by Lorimer. Only one of those recipients replied, and in a purely personal context. The key addressee, David Lorimer,  was notable for a total lack of response.
The contents of that letter included reference to various anomalies within “alternative” organisations influenced by Lorimer. Details were provided of the Findhorn Foundation, closely linked to SMN membership and subscriptions. Discrepant behaviour of authority figures was a primary feature of content. Evasion was preferred by SMN recipients (though other readers agreed that “new age” organisations require monitoring).
Lorimer is known for his activities as a writer and lecturer. His books include Radical Prince (2003), the subject here being the Prince of Wales. Lorimer was Programme Director for the SMN, and President of the closely associated Wrekin Trust, “a charity concerned with adult spiritual education,” to use one of the media descriptions. Lorimer’s blog emphasised “vision and values for a new world view.” So what are the royalist connotations of “spiritual education” and “new world”?
Lorimer had expressed estimation for both Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen, two controversial new age celebrities promoted by the Findhorn Foundation. His arguments were not convincing. In 2004, Lorimer even stated: “I have been impressed by the level of debate between Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber in What is Enlightenment?” This deference to a commercial magazine, the well known media of Cohen, tends to confirm “new world” drawbacks in spiritual education. The much advertised WIE dialogue between “the guru and the pundit” was a farce to readers other than Lorimer and the SMN.
Wilber and his “integral spirituality” are the subject of strong critical attention. Former enthusiasts like Frank Visser became committed sceptics. As for Cohen, he gained a very unenviable reputation as an American guru of extremist tendency, whose errors are well documented (Van der Braak 2003; Yenner 2009). Many of Cohen’s followers repudiated his aberrant guidance, resulting in his superficial apology prior to resuming a deceptive guru vocation.
Other entities were favoured in the SMN ratings. In 2011, Lorimer named “Jung, Maslow, Stanislav Grof, Charles Tart” as being “far more meaningful” than the psychology syllabus in British universities (article formerly online). In particular, the explicit deference to Grof merits close attention. Strong psychedelic promotion is not necessarily superior, instead comprising a pitfall to which Lorimer was blind.
In the same interview, Lorimer stated: “One of the assumptions I am making is that my mind is the Universal Mind.” Reminiscent of the Ken Wilber “Big Mind” lore promising enlightenment, this pretentious belief can cause acute confusion. We should be very careful before assuming that our very limited individual bundle of mental impressions has any relation to a “Universal Mind.” The neo-Advaita of Andrew Cohen is noted for a theme of cosmic identity, which is flippant to the point of absurdity, matching SMN cliche. 
The designation of Scientific and Medical Network is problematic. This organisation is not calling themselves, for example, the Alternative Scene for New Age Beliefs and Daring Theories. No, they are something far more reliable, far more ultimate, and indeed far more authoritarian. To the extent, indeed, that they can ignore complaint. The SMN are too scientific to be criticised. That is the implication. They are too medical to be taken to task for supporting the holotropic and psychedelic beliefs of Stanislav Grof. New world values mean, for instance, that hyperventilation (employed by Grof) is a deceptive avenue to cerebral hypoxia, denoting a decreased supply of oxygen to the brain (Castro 1996:45-6). The results are purely material, not spiritual, like the blatantly commercial motivations involved.
Holotropic Breathwork (HB) was a very lucrative exercise devised by Grof at the Esalen Institute in California, subsequently employed at the Findhorn Foundation to commercial advantage for several years until official intervention occurred. In this “new age workshop” sphere, everything is done for money. Grof resorted to HB because his LSD psychotherapy faced legal problems in the 1970s reaction to the hallucinogenic drug. He also employed “MDMA therapy” until the mid-1980s, his method being described as “drug-aided mind manipulation in order to create paranormal beliefs” (Shepherd 2005:126). Grof conveniently chose to gloss psychological problems as “spiritual emergencies.” Grof transpersonalism has enjoyed a big dollar turnover via Grof Transpersonal Training Inc.
In this suspect scenario of new world elite, wealthy academics and promoters can profitably ignore complaints. Entrepreneurs thrive on the absence of criticism, which is banished from the convenience of commerce and pseudo-meaning. On the basis of LSD experiences and holotropic sessions, Grof has devised a “cartography of the psyche,” which critics reject as spurious (cf. Grof 2000:20ff).
Alternative therapy became big business, for several decades, at places like Esalen and the Findhorn Foundation. I have related how a 1990s unfortunate lost his wife in this popular quicksand, after she had suffered most of the following drawbacks created by group sessions of “therapy”: nervous breakdown, suicidal tendencies, severe headaches, involuntary muscle spasms, memory failure, and lack of decision making ability. Despite realities, therapy deceptions have gained the status of “a unifying shift in our worldview,” to quote one of the ubiquitous celebrations on the new spirituality media.
In the direction of drug use, exhortations are widespread on the internet. Some channels are strongly associated with the Grof bandwagon. Even at relatively low volume pitch, one can find strident web voices urging that humanity has been taking drugs for thousands of years,  the police therefore being an obstruction to presumed benefits. More realistically, there are devastated LSD victims in wheelchairs, while the more recent craze for ketamine has involved extreme bladder problems and stomach operations for young victims. The new age now features teen sufferers with incontinence. Also in evidence are daily “recreational” users of skunk cannabis who favour the popular “shift in worldview.” They are unable to stop their drug habit, which can prove deadly, being only a step away from cocaine and heroin.
The main subject of the Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer was a former member of the SMN, with whose situation (as a relative of mine) I was closely familiar. Jean Shepherd (Kate Thomas) suffered discrimination because she was a critic of drug use. The agent of cordon here was Findhorn Foundation Trustee Janice Dolley, a close colleague of David Lorimer. The victim expressed an opposing view that drug experiences are counterfeit, comprising a delusion of “spirituality” for the partisans, and a misleading cue to addiction for the clientele. However, the critic was downgraded by the SMN in favour of Grof’s academic disciple Christopher Bache, an exponent of psychedelic neoshamanism. An American pro-LSD article by Bache was paraded on the SMN website for several years at the expense of British public health. There is no scruple in the new age, only bizarre “nonjudgmentalism” creating social problems.
The Bache encounter with LSD involved a major problem: “I interrupted my work [for seven years] because the extreme nature of the states I was entering became too stressful for my family to endure” (Bache 2000:311 note 10). Anomalously, the academic drug advocates deny causing any complication, talking of their “moderate” usage as distinct from street excesses. The pro-cannabis refrains of Tart, and the LSD lore of Grof and Bache, have been very influential, permeating counterculture with false concepts, thereby assisting drug-pushers on the street. An American academic publisher (State University of New York Press) proved partial to the Grof drug message, facilitating international casualties.
The academic drug advocates are viewed, by citizen philosophy, as “shallow mystics who invent a form of specious logic that misleads thousands and millions of people deceived by prestigious credentials” (Shepherd 2004:50).
The new age version of “Scientific and Medical” now signifies evasion, commercial “workshops,” Jung archetypal lore, and psychedelic theory. The “new world” orientation leads to a blind alley of “channelling” delusion, drug hallucination, emergency visits to real medics for assistance in survival, aversion to criticism in the interests of income and economic expansion, and a face-saving neglect of ethical considerations.

New Renaissance

David Lorimer edited A New Renaissance (published 2011), a book widely celebrated in the new age. Science and society would be transformed by the SMN heroes (even “Spirit” would be changed by their genius). The contributors included stock names in the “science and spirituality” front, such as Ervin Laszlo, the Grof supporter Richard Tarnas, Larry Dossey, Rupert Sheldrake, and Peter Russell. The Prince of Wales was also represented in this SMN volume. His royal entry was entitled “Restoring Harmony and Connection: Inner and Outer.”

An underdog wrote to the Office of the Prince of Wales concerning a relevant matter. My late mother (Jean Shepherd, or Kate Thomas) did not receive a suitable reply from royal aides. She had formerly thought highly of the Prince, believing that he would not ignore a discrepancy. Now came the reluctant admission: “I was wrong. He is unreliable, like the new age superstars.” Her friction with David Lorimer resulted in her total disillusionment with the “progressive” scene of “science and spirituality,” from which she completely withdrew in her last years.

The Prince of Wales had been sent data relating to SMN drawbacks. The data was disregarded. In 2011, Prince Charles supported the SMN, annulling any complaint of conscience. In 2011, A New Renaissance was advertised as an SMN production, being edited by two SMN members, with some other SMN members amongst the article contributors. The auspices are beyond dispute. The Prince of Wales effectively endorsed the SMN via his inclusion in the book at issue, thus proving compatible with Christopher Bache, and also the psychedelic exponent Richard Tarnas, a fellow contributor to the SMN manual.

Jean Shepherd had complained at the pro-LSD attitude of David Lorimer. The relevant episodes are documented (Shepherd 2005:405-410; Bache and the SMN website, 2007). The SMN website displayed a pro-LSD article, by a prominent American LSD enthusiast, for several years until 2010.  LSD usage in Britain had formerly decreased. However, from 2013, an increase occurred; a resort to MDMA and LSD spread amongst young people in the age group 16-24. MDMA was in the ascendant. The reason for the resurgence of LSD popularity remained officially obscure. “Fashion” is not a sufficient explanation.

In 2016, one commentator wrote: “Over the last few years the number of young people in Britain who are trying out acid [LSD] has skyrocketed” (Young People in Britain taking more LSD). This was the highest number in fifteen years. One of the reasons may be urged in terms of advocacy from academic LSD supporters like Christopher Bache, strongly favoured by David Lorimer. Bache is not commended by medical experts, who adopt a very different assessment of psychedelic factors.

Medical experts were alarmed to learn that a small percentage of British schoolchildren had resorted to LSD. At first, this was only about one in a hundred, between the ages of 11 and 15. However, that psychedelic usage increased during COVID lockdowns to one in five young people who microdosed.

Meanwhile, complaints and ethical factors meant nothing to the SMN or to royalty. Management errors in “alternative” organisations are condoned. Objectors to drug use can be ignored and squashed. The SMN maintained public access for six years (2004-2010), at their website, to an influential American pro-LSD article of Grof disciple Christopher Bache. My mother’s disputing anti-LSD article was not permitted on this media, the SMN online promotion being completely one-sided. Psychedelic perinatal fantasy and LSD high dosage are no recommendation for David Lorimer’s SMN “new world values,” which encompass cordon and ideological suppression.

Drugs are fashionable in a decadent society. Cocaine is the predominant middle class drug indulgence in England. In general, the number of deaths from drug use has increased across the UK. During 2019-20, an estimated one in eleven adults, in the age group 16-59, took recourse to a drug in England and Wales, many of these people needing medical treatment. Some medical experts say that my mother was correct to warn against LSD endorsement, especially when this occurred under the auspices of “scientific and medical.” Christopher Bache represents LSD high dosage of 300-500 micrograms. Again, new world values can be faulted.

The accumulating English complacency about “recreational” drug use is contradicted by the pervasive vogue for cocaine, which fuels an international criminal activity. By 2018, Britain suffered the highest number of young cocaine users in Europe. The death toll is no proof of health. Cocaine users, like LSD users, can jump from balconies to their death. Hospital admissions for mental health disorders increased. In England, films and television features have glamourised drug use, helping to make cocaine acceptable. The high demand for this drug has attracted overseas drug dealers, who came to view Britain as a very desirable market. Scotland has suffered more drug deaths than England, with many of these being in the 35-54 age bracket (reports refer to poly-drug use, including cocaine and heroin). Recreational drugs are a hazard, condoned by ignorance of consequences.

Rupert Sheldrake

Another celebrity name in A New Renaissance (2011) is English biochemist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, who has gained substantial fame as a critic of conventional science. “I want the sciences to be less dogmatic and more scientific” (Sheldrake 2012:7). Sheldrake’s book The Science Delusion gained both supporters and detractors. Others were more neutral, awaiting scientific or philosophical arguments to convince. One critic reacted to the Sheldrake opus in terms of: “disturbingly eccentric; fluently superficial, it combines a disorderly collage of scientific fact and opinion with an intrusive yet disjunctive metaphysical programme” (John Greenbank, The Science Delusion).

Several years later, the nature of “new spirituality” became evident in the “more scientific” agenda of Sheldrake. His book Ways To Go Beyond has a chapter highlighting the use of drugs and psychedelics, in a manner that is clearly approving and indulgent. He tells his reader that cannabis “can facilitate spiritual experiences.” Sheldrake describes psychedelics in terms of “visionary experience.” He says encouragingly: “At least as many people are taking psychedelics today as in the 1960s” (Sheldrake 2019, chap. 4). Psychedelics are here conflated with “spiritual openings,” in the deceptive manner of the American drugs lobby.

Sheldrake discloses that he first took MDMA in California during the early 1980s. Critics are not disposed to admire his feat of distraction. MDMA (Ecstasy) is a psychoactive drug, frequently used as a stimulant. The condoning approach of Sheldrake reveals the acute poverty of new spirituality, a form of  buzz talk reflecting popular trends. The dogmatic “Californian” paradigm should not be internationally imposed. Pseudoscientists who encourage drug usage are a primary hazard, perhaps far worse than the materialism they lament. Psychedelic (and stimulant) pills are very material chemical creations of profiteers. In 2021, MDMA pills found at a nightclub in Manchester were four or five times the usual strength, and capable of causing deaths.

The LSD lore of cosmic spirituality in a pill is a banal deceit. Some big talkers are known to derive psychobabble from their drug experiences. Serious medical problems, not merely panic attacks, are caused by numerous drug complications. The man and woman in the street have to survive the hazards created by academic drug enthusiasts and psychedelic superstars like Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Stanislav Grof, and Christopher Bache. Psychedelic advocates are not spiritually enlightened, as they often claim or suggest. They are instead deluded by hallucinations and Jungian archetypal lore which has saturated society. 

The hallucinogen LSD is often described as non-addictive; however, a form of addiction to “trips” can occur. “LSD is considered psychologically addictive” (LSD abuse treatment). A psychological dependence on LSD and other psychedelics is not healthy, though nevertheless typical of drugs lobby activity. There are “documented cases of prolonged intense [LSD] use causing negative side effects such as paranoia or psychosis” (LSD addiction). LSD can also cause the affliction known as HPPD (hallucinogen persisting perception disorder). This problem can cause acute visual disturbance undermining the ability to function normally; the very undesirable syndrome is potentially permanent. “LSD use may lead to temporary or long-term mental disorders” (Hallucinogens).

In California, drug yobs opted to spike drinks with LSD, MDMA, and Ketamine (plus other commodities). The vogue for spiking has become international, a symptom of the social malaise caused by recreational drug use. Spiking now often occurs with the intention of robbery or sexual assault, even kidnapping. Spiking can result in hospitalisation or even death. The “date rape drug” society spells disaster.

The American commercial craze for psychedelic therapy wants to invade psychiatry, which is stated to be ineffective by critics. Greedy investors are throwing millions of dollars into MDMA and psilocybin, ensuring that confusion will continue. The Grof supporter Rick Doblin, another psychedelic superstar, has accumulated over forty million dollars (via MAPS), a sum that could be better spent elsewhere than on the legalisation of psychedelics, which is the underlying objective of “psychedelic therapy.” America is governed by the Wall Street mentality, which will invest in almost anything unhealthy, such as the gun lobby, the fossil fuel industry, the plastics pollution. In dead end society, high status academics afflict and mislead the man in the street with psychedelic claims of “cosmic consciousness” and “spiritual rebirth.” Anything but due education, a factor obfuscated by markets like SUNY (State University of New York) Press.

SUNY advertised a book by Christopher Bache in terms of: “Bache argues that when the deep psyche is hyper-stimulated using Stanislav Grof’s powerful therapeutic methods, the healing that results sometimes extends beyond the individual to the collective unconscious of humanity.” This statement comes from the cover of Dark Night, Early Dawn (2000). The fantasies are never-ending. 

Jean Shepherd at Findhorn

Jean Shepherd (d.2017) had the misfortune to join the SMN, at first believing this to be a credible project of “scientific and medical” relevance. She found an almost complete ignorance of basic medical facts relating to drugs. Her objection to Grof doctrine resulted in the dubious SMN preference for online cordon against her complaint. Dr. Christopher Bache alone sufficed for representation, championing the Grof cause of LSD neoshamanism, abetted by Lorimer at the expense of all other factors. The marginalised objector resigned from the SMN in disgust at the pro-Grof policy of David Lorimer. She also declined to enroll in the SMN video circuit of persona and prestige, which effectively outweighed ethical priorities.

The senior female dissident, screened from the “scientific” SMN website, had vivid memories of the 1990s Findhorn Foundation, a close affiliate of the SMN. Jean Shepherd related how Dr. Stanislav Grof would not respond to her letter of complaint when both of them were in the Findhorn vicinity during the early 1990s. The commercial elite must not be criticised, even when these entrepreneurs charged £415 for hyperventilation (holotropic breathwork) sessions causing acute stress and shock symptoms in many women. Only the fee counts, not the aftermath of discomfort which can last for weeks and months.

The founder of Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. was notorious for dosing clients at Esalen with MDMA (LSD was also implicated). The psychedelic hierophant Stanislav Grof is a neo-Jungian archetype of deceptive self-discovery. Drug dosage in “therapy” was a means of controlling and hypnotising clients. Such projects thrive in the complete absence of critical ability.

Psychedelic hallucination was the ultimate reality for deceived and deluded clients who became converted to the drugs lobby. This scenario had economic dividends for the new age impresario David Lorimer. More audience for seminars, more subscriptions, more American donors. The Prince of Wales was a high status feature in New Renaissance publicity of 2011.

At the Findhorn Foundation, Jean Shepherd heard many declarations of environmental commitment. Unlike the confusing new age jet set, she had never been on an aeroplane. Moreover, she had never driven or owned a motor vehicle. In contrast, the giant carbon footprint of the Findhorn Foundation, SMN, and British Royalty is no remedy for climate change. Some urge that the psychedelic footprint of the SMN (and American affiliates) is more hazardous than the ecological factor.

Christopher Bache

Dr. Christopher Bache is a role model for the drugs lobby, in terms of  73 high dose LSD sessions he privately conducted over a twenty year period from 1979 to 1999. This project is reported in his own words (Bache 2019). He was strongly influenced by Dr. Grof in this personal venture, having read the misleading 1970s Grof book Realms of the Human Unconscious. Bache has claimed a self-transformation as a consequence of psychedelic experiences.

Jean Shepherd never ingested LSD, advocating independent mysticism as a safeguard. Her critique (though appearing in the SMN journal) was afterwards relegated by Lorimer, a noted fan of Bache. Lorimer has described Dr. Bache as an “intrepid psychonaut,” while referring to his LSD testimony as a “stunning revelation.” To an independent citizen, the partisan academic and SMN support for psychedelic experience is open to strong criticism. The chronic danger for Bache imitators should be cognised. A Bache high dose means 300-500 micrograms of LSD. Some medics wince at these excessive figures. Even the more diluted “full dose” of 100-200 mcg is considered very strong by clinical experts, indeed too strong to mitigate certain well known  problems discernible. Even an LSD  microdose of  20 mcg can trigger abnormal symptoms.

The reckless Bache was restrained by comparison with his inspirer. The psychedelic hero Stanislav Grof “took high doses of LSD – ranging from 300 to 1,200 micrograms – more than a hundred times, and supervised more than four thousand LSD sessions involving others” (Horgan 2003:163). Grof tried to convince journalist John Horgan that Hindu gurus, especially the controversial and promiscuous Swami Muktananda (d.1982), have psychic powers (siddhis). Horgan writes: “I now saw that he [Grof] was a hard core believer, a sheep” (ibid:166).

Grof was not a detached clinical observer. Instead, he innovated transpersonal psychology, a trend obsessed with therapeutic potential and the achievement of “transpersonal states.” Grof established an international “workshop” business to cater for the demand he created. The neo-Jungian “archetypal” talk was remunerative for Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. Dr. Grof flourished in a gullible milieu where many LSD experimenters believed they had gained paranormal powers such as telepathy. One of the major casualties of that era was retarded ex-Professor Richard Alpert, who opted for 2,400 micrograms of LSD daily at one period of his very confused existence. The overall damage caused Alpert (Baba Ram Dass) to believe he was a “spiritual teacher.” That dumbo phrase has no meaning. There were numerous psychedelic “spiritual teachers” seeking limelight in America during the 1970s and later.

The commercial Grof theme of  “death and rebirth” was endorsed by the SMN at an influential Cambridge seminar in 1995. The seminar was named Beyond the Brain, this being the title of a book by Grof. The exotic neo-Jungian perinatal mythology was treated as fact by victims of drug dosage and hyperventilation. They were “reborn” as client initiates of Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. The reckless Cambridge seminar, arranged and led by Lorimer in university precincts, created a wave of Grof archetypal speak amongst affluent English middle class subscribers to the confusing new age. These fans were now helplessly confused victims of LSD lore as mediated by Grof. The brain was effectively obscured by putative archetypes.

The beliefs of Lorimer were influential in Britain, assisting the Ken Wilber craze and the American drugs lobby.  At one period, Lorimer was blind to deceptions of neo-Advaita guru Andrew Cohen, though afterwards admitting that he had made a mistake.

Fans of Ken Wilber slavishly copied his eccentric colour code doctrine. This was not a psychedelic regimen, but nevertheless disconcerting. The American “integralist” Wilber particularly disliked green, meaning ecologists who lacked the transcendent spiritual heights which he claimed for himself. He was a turquoise enlightened integralist of epochal stature. The Dalai Lama was a midget by comparison, Wilber implied. Videos of Wilber integral discourse preached such altitude as “You are Big Mind.” There are still many confused victims of the Google video boom. Wilber regarded the exploitive guru Andrew Cohen as a facilitating authority for his own spiritual genius and integral vision. One of the punishments Cohen devised for dissidents was to have paint poured over the head in a gesture of contempt.

Stanislav Grof

Beyond the Brain transpired to be a long-term SMN seminar investment, completely ignoring sidelined issues. Dr. Grof was still appearing as an SMN-hosted speaker in 2018. His celebrity was revered, his victims consigned to oblivion. The SMN here glowingly advertised Grof as “a psychiatrist with more than sixty years of experience in research of non-ordinary states of consciousness.” No mention is made of relevant criticism. The victims of “non-ordinary states” included the experimenter’s own wife and many terminally ill patients whom he subjected to LSD terrors in the guise of “transformation.”

Grof describes how his patients, dosed with LSD, “spent hours in agonising pain, gasping for breath with the colour of their faces changing from dead pale to dark purple. They were rolling on the floor and discharging extreme tensions in muscular tremors, twitches and complex twisting movements…. there was often nausea with occasional vomiting and excessive sweating”…. Transpersonal torture was Grof’s obsession…. At Spring Grove Hospital [in Baltimore] a total of one hundred patients were pressed into the LSD torture programme which Grof called “research,” though criminal license  is probably a more scientific description…. Grof was enthusiastic about his patients having “vivid destructive and self-destructive experiences” which “involve bestial murders, tortures of all kinds, mutilations, executions, rapes, and bloody sacrifices.” These LSD experiences were interpreted by the Jungmaniac as life/death struggles on the way to spiritual peace. Grof should have been certified as a public menace, but was instead endorsed and glorified by both Esalen and SUNY [State University of New York Press]…. Grof’s wife was another casualty. Joan Halifax “had a major nervous breakdown due to LSD usage” while still married to Grof. Stories about safe dosages should be ignored, or rather castigated. (Shepherd 2005:13-14)

In New Renaissance medicine, LSD application may become compulsory at the command of transpersonal abusers. Hospitals might become playgrounds for psychedelic therapists keen to prove how much torture any one patient can endure before transformation at death, resulting in spiritual peace. Non-ordinary states of consciousness include agonies so intense that the afflicting subject would be deleted from any sober curriculum. “Beyond the brain” sadism is a shocking scenario.

In another direction, the Findhorn Foundation were primary subscribers to SMN agenda. An early instance of dysfunction at this location was child abuse; the strongly alleged culprit was an American practitioner of NeoReichian therapy. The Foundation management denied any problem; the “allegation” was suppressed (Castro 1996:53-54; Shepherd 2005:182). However, other persons were aware of what really happened. My mother was on the spot and heard details from those who feared the Foundation bullies. David Lorimer subsequently ignored the bullies in various reported situations, turning a blind eye to all discrepancies. Subscriptions were the priority; ethical concerns were adroitly disqualified as a nuisance. 

The Findhorn Foundation management were empowered by the condoning BBC publicity, and the mercenary SMN. However, they gained the reputation of tyrants amongst those more familiar with events. In the New Renaissance, “science and medicine” can be confused with auspices of “love myself,” “transformation,” “planetary healing,” and related contrivances of the commercial elite. Suicides of Findhorn Foundation subscribers might too easily be explained away as “transformational death.” Acute psychological problems, of hospitalised victims, could be sanitised in bully lore as a healing process for the purpose of “being already who you really are.” Another key phrase of casualty is “celebrate your individuality.”

The Findhorn Foundation was founded by Eileen Caddy (d.2006), whose behaviour caused disappointment, despite her claim “God Spoke to Me.” The ecovillage ideal amounts to an “eco-house” selling for £300,000. Ecobiz is justified by exaggerated therapy jargon. In more general new age terms, child abuse could too easily be explained away by archetypal theories of transpersonal dionysian energies amounting to Who You Really Are. Paedophiles might even be knighted by the New Renaissance, in the absence of any due agency to check upon dysfunction within charity status organisations. Critical assessors will merely be dismissed as  “judgmental,” of no relevance to funding, status credentials, and misinformation.


Bache, Christopher, Dark Night, Early Dawn (State University of New York Press, 2000).
——–LSD and the Mind of the Universe: Diamonds from Heaven (Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 2019).
Castro, Stephen J., Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (Forres: New Media, 1996).
Grof, Stanislav, Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research (New York: Dutton, 1976).
——–Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death, and Transcendence in Psychotherapy (State University of New York Press,  1985).
——–The Cosmic Game (State University of New York Press, 1998).
——–Psychology of the Future (State University of New York Press, 2000).
Horgan, John, Rational Mysticism (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003).
Lorimer, David, Radical Prince: The Practical Vision of the Prince of Wales (Edinburgh: Floris, 2003).
Lorimer, David, and Oliver Robinson, eds., A New Renaissance: Transforming Science, Spirit, and Society (Edinburgh: Floris, 2011).
Sheldrake, Rupert, The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2012).
——–Ways To Go Beyond and Why They Work: Seven Spiritual Practices in a Scientific Age (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2019).
Shepherd, Kevin R. D., Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer (printed booklet 2006, despatched to some 500 recipients, many of them academics and politicians).
——–Some Philosophical Critiques and Appraisals (Dorchester: Citizen Initiative, 2004).
——–Pointed Observations: Critical Reflections of a Citizen Philosopher on Contemporary Pseudomysticism, Alternative Therapy, David Hume, Spinoza, and other subjects (Dorchester: Citizen Initiative, 2005).
Van der Braak, Andre, Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru (New York: Monkfish, 2003).
Yenner, William, and contributors, American Guru – former students of Andrew Cohen speak out  (New York: Epigraph, 2009).

Kevin R. D. Shepherd

ENTRY no. 53

Copyright © 2021 Kevin R. D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved

Richard Tarnas and Stanislav Grof

By Astrology, CIIS, LSD Psychotherapy, Richard Tarnas, Stanislav Grof

Richard Tarnas

The philosopher Richard Tarnas is noted for an unorthodox approach. After graduating from Harvard, Tarnas opted to become Director of Programs at the Esalen Institute (California) for a decade. In that capacity he was closely associated with Dr. Stanislav Grof, an Esalen resident (from 1973) whose “cartography of the psyche” became fluently accepted in alternativist circles, though dismissed by the academic world in general.

The doctoral thesis of Tarnas elevated LSD psychotherapy, the speciality of Grof, whose extensive programme in this subject is elsewhere contested. The thesis was entitled LSD psychotherapy, theoretical implications for the study of psychology (1976). The mood of minority academic support for LSD “psychotherapy” was nevertheless very influential in America.

Stanislav Grof

During the 1970s, Tarnas was already a supporter of Grof. He gained repute as a vindicator of the controversial LSD psychotherapy. Perinatal theory was glorified as a testimony to spiritual transcendence. A resulting lore asserted that controlled users of LSD were advanced mystics. Their minds controlled by a powerful psychoactive chemical, they were the liberated drugs lobby, their tunnel vision camouflaged as cosmic profundity. The rash endorsement was also explicated in terms of “archetypal astrology,” a resort of Tarnas claiming to correlate the perinatal matrices of Grof transpersonal theory with an “archetypal” version of planetary influences. The planets Neptune, Saturn, Pluto, and Uranus were here major players. Esalen transpersonalism, dominated by Grof, favoured such innovations impossible to prove.

Tarnas became a professor of philosophy and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His version of those two subjects became influential in his widely read book The Passion of the Western Mind (1991). This offered a version of Western thought spanning from the classical Greek era to the modern and “postmodern” phases. Grof theory is elevated in the epilogue (Philosophy, Richard Tarnas, and Postmodernism).

Two subsequent books of Tarnas demonstrated his strong orientation in astrology. His Cosmos and Psyche (2006) is a sustained account of astrological complexities. A basic contention of Tarnas is that planetary configurations influence patterns in human events. Astrology does have adherents, and also many critics.

The Tarnas version of astrology exerted a strong influence on the Grof camp. The reciprocal interplay is a notable feature of the Integral Studies scenario. Well prior to publication of Cosmos and Psyche, Dr. Grof celebrated the convergence in such words as:

An important factor in the selection process might be the relationship between karmic patterns and the time and place of a particular incarnation with its specific astrological correlates. This notion is in general agreement with the observations from psychedelic sessions, holotropic breathwork, and spontaneous episodes of psychospiritual crises. They show that in all these situations the content and timing of holotropic states are closely correlated with planetary transits. (Grof 2000:242) 

A critical citizen stance in relation to holotropic matters can be found at Grof Therapy and MAPS. See also Contesting Grof Transpersonal Training. See also Castro 1996, chapter six, on Holotropic Breathwork commerce at the Findhorn Foundation. Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. was an enterprise charging high prices for the Grof trademark therapy Holotropic Breathwork. This novelty, administering hyperventilation, caused stress and dysfunction amongst a number of subscribers at the Findhorn Foundation. Edinburgh University complained at the clinical dangers represented by Holotropic Breathwork. The Scottish Charities Office recommended suspension of the controversial therapy. The afflicting “planetary transits” were not beneficial to sufferers. Cf. Grof 1988; Grof 2010.

The psychiatrist Franz Vollenweider, of Zurich University, investigated psychedelics and became a critic of Grof. 

Vollenweider, who has heard Grof lecture and has read his books, said that Grof struck him as someone “trapped within his own metaphysical system.” Vollenweider added that Grof’s decades-old research on the therapeutic potential of LSD was not carried out in the careful, controlled fashion that is necessary to demonstrate genuine benefits. (Horgan 2003:168)

Reports of fantastic American psychedelic visions have been critically received. One interpretation reflected that the average American is exposed, via a surfeit of newspapers, magazines, and television, “to enormous amounts of  exoteric and esoteric information.” This input conceivably emerges in LSD trips. The mythological, theological, and other dimensions of that process “may constitute subliminal triumphs of  Time, Life, Newsweek” (Horgan 2003:168).

The transcript of a radio interview with Richard Tarnas is of interest. There is reference to the ecological situation, along with the observation: “We cannot continue to live according to the same assumptions with which we have lived blithely for the past several hundred years.” The basic contention here is surely correct, a complication being that affluent America is boosting climate change and reaping both drought and floods. Even the wealthy high caste Californian drugs lobby will not survive unimpaired. 

Tarnas refers in his interview to the well known theme: “Modern science has essentially voided the cosmos of all intrinsic meaning and purpose.” He adds: “It is only, I think, through going through a profound inner transformation, and also an intellectual transformation, that one can see beyond that crisis.” There are so many people who claim transformation that the issue becomes one of authentic transformation. Indeed, this situation necessitates the urgent remedy of a basic sanity avoiding all claim to transformation of any kind.

There is further talk, in the Scott London-Richard Tarnas interview, of paradigm shift (a subject which has acquired varying preferential interpretations). Tarnas also refers to Grof’s theme of “the death-rebirth process,” meaning ego death and spiritual rebirth. That theme, based upon LSD experiences, is regarded as very misleading by some analysts of mystical literature. LSD experiences in “psychotherapy” were given an elevated mystical significance by Grof, who profited from the capitalist exercise in perinatal novelism. The scope for disagreement is extensive (Shepherd 1995:61-84; idem 2005:6-24, 142-148). See also David Lorimer and New World Values.

The Grof-derived viewpoint of Tarnas extends to pop music. The statement appears: “I feel that Madonna’s combination of these very different [‘perinatal’] impulses is reflective of the fact that our whole civilisation is going through the birth process, this initiatory transformation.” Critics urge that no transformation is in process. The world is in such a distressed state that different criteria are necessary. Vast numbers of humans will die in the climate change tragedy accelerated and maintained by America and China, the two leading carbon emitters. The supposed initiatory transformation of pop stars will not prevent the submergence of helpless island populations, and also many major coastal cities throughout the world indoctrinated with affluent creeds like capitalism, communism, and LSD psychotherapy. 

Some of the Tarnas references to Greek philosophy are in question. For instance, he says in the same interview: “I love Plato and I’m as much of a Platonist as anybody I know. But Plato’s Republic would only be truly utopian and livable if it could have the Rolling Stones in it!” The contemporary music utopia reflects American Republican commerce, a means through which entertainers earn fantastic dollar sums in the showbiz maintained by environmental death throes of capitalism. 

What is “utopian and livable” varies markedly according to temperament and appetite. A well known account of Rolling Stones anomalies, in the 1970s, describes a preoccupation with cocaine and heroin. The author, a close attendant of Keith Richards, relates how his girlfriend died after a bad reaction to the heroin substitute methadone. When the attendant tired of this confused lifestyle, he went into rehabilitation. He again encountered Richards in a hotel room at New York. The celebrity did not wish Sanchez to author a book about the past. Richards threatened Sanchez with a gun. There was no shooting, only the book that subsequently materialised. See Tony Sanchez, Up and Down with the Rolling Stones (1979; repr. 2010). Cf. Keith Richards, Life (2010).

Grofian confusions about death and rebirth are pervasive in “new spirituality,” also being associated with the controversial California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).  Tarnas discloses that he and Grof were teaching the same CIIS course in philosophy and religion at San Francisco. “It’s a great program where we offer doctorates and masters degrees.”

Some citizens do not believe in any necessity to obtain “integral studies” doctorates for the purpose of duly analysing the context of theories and statements.


Castro, Stephen J., Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (Forres: New Media, 1996).

Grof, Stanislav, The Adventure of Self-Discovery (State University of New York Press, 1988).

——–Psychology of the Future (State University of New York Press, 2000).

——–Holotropic Breathwork: A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy (State University of New York Press, 2010).

Horgan, John, Rational Mysticism (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003).

Shepherd, Kevin R. D., Minds and Sociocultures: Zoroastrianism and the Indian Religions (Cambridge: Philosophical Press, 1995).

——–Pointed Observations: Critical Reflections of a Citizen Philosopher on Contemporary Pseudomysticism, Alternative Therapy, David Hume, Spinoza, and other subjects (Dorchester: Citizen Initiative, 2005).

Tarnas, Richard, The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View (1991; Pimlico, 1996).

——–Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View (Viking Penguin, 2006).


Kevin R. D. Shepherd
April 27th 2011, later modified

ENTRY no. 39

Copyright © 2021 Kevin R. D. Shepherd. All Rights Reserved.