Here is a paper I wrote following the great teleseries that Wisdom Univeristy put on with Stan and Christine Grof, and their colleagues.
Pre-Ego, Trans-Ego and the Archetypal
The key insights that I gained from reading Stan Grof’s work and following the teleseries resonated strongly with a theme I am exploring at the moment. It seems to me that the power of the work is that it is working in the non-egoic realms. Part of it is in the pre-ego (the peri-natal and birth work) and part is in the trans-ego (transpersonal). When those two are combined they serve to create energetic conditions for healing in the physical, emotional and rational realms.
A Hypothesis on Where Grof’s Work Resides
When I use the term “ego” I use it to mean one’s sense of separate self. There is a moment in our development when we become aware of ourselves as being distinct from our environment, and the egoic sense of unique self emerges. The ego goes through a process of formation and we then transcend the ego to see ourselves as part of a bigger whole. This graphic best describes how I see the work of Stan Grof and colleagues and is one I will refer to throughout this piece.
This image comes from the work of Dylan Newcomb[i], and builds on some research that we did together. The vertical sequence of colours, reflected in the shaded semi-circles, represents the value systems as described in the evolutionary model of bio-psycho-social systems known as Spiral Dynamics[ii]. The first column to the left describes the nature of each of the eight value systems, but it is the column to the left of that that I want to draw our attention to.
What we notice is that the first two value systems (Beige and Purple) and the last two value systems (Yellow and Turquoise) are identified as being “Internal” while the central four value systems (Red, Blue, Orange and Green) are identified as being “External”. Internal could be seen as more yin-based and external as more yang-based. The internal systems are by their nature about creating wholeness, whereas the external systems are by their nature about creating distinction, differentiation and partness. The image points to a set of four central yang-driven value systems, through which our industrialised civilisation has taken form, bracketed by and held in four more subtle value systems that form the beginning and end of this sequence. Through the body energetics work with uzazu, we experienced how the most primary and archetypal energies exist in the outer-most yin-based value systems, whereas the more intricate, detailed and concrete energies exist in the central four value systems. The energy dynamics in Beige and Turquoise for example are composed of pure yin and pure yang, and then as one moves towards the center of the system (between Blue and Orange, where the heart chakra also resonates), we get increasing levels of refinement of the pure yin-yang dynamic.
Given what I understand of the work of Stan Grof and his colleagues, I believe that their work exists primarily in the archetypal, yin-based pre- and post-ego value systems, that in more general terms can be described as energy dynamics. I believe that what happens is that the energetic realities of those yin-based systems create the conditions for the manifestation of our yang-based four dimensional reality in time and space.
The reason that this is important at this time, is that I believe that the current planetary and civilizational transition that we are currently involved in is essentially about re-integrating the yin-based energy dynamics to balance out our centuries-long yang-based expression. That yang period has evolved into an unhealthy expression of separation, differentiation and exploitation of the other, having forgotten its roots and context in a field of unity that is both the earth and the universe that we are. The work of Grof helps to heal the splits and traumas of that experience, but what is particularly powerful is that it does so by accessing those very realms of pre- and post-ego that are themselves based in a yin unity field.
Backing up the Hypothesis from the Teleseries
In this section I will describe a number of elements of the work of the Grofs and their colleagues and show how they link to the hypothesis above.
The very word “holotropic” already holds a major clue as to the source and function of this work. “Holo” means “whole” and “tropic” means “moving in the direction of something”, so “holotropic” means “moving towards wholeness”. Stan Grof described “holotropic” work in the teleseries as being about accessing non-ordinary states with healing and evolutionary potential, as well as heuristic potential, as a source of new information about the nature of reality and consciousness. The fact that wholeness and healing is so central to this work, as well as the idea that one is accessing a field of information, points to the yin-based energy dynamics.
Grof made the point that this work differs significantly from currently mainstream practice of psychology and psychiatry in the industrialised world. That primarily looks at people’s post-natal biography and doesn’t tend to touch on the trans-personal domains. As such, they essentially focus on the central four value systems and energy dynamics, which are externally focused and geared to analysing sub-sections rather that looking at a person or system as whole. Grof’s work also focuses on the “inner healer”, creating the conditions for people to heal themselves. Once more, it is inward focused, rather than outward focused where one would look to another to solve the problem for you.
There is also the idea that when one creates the conditions for healing in this holotropic way, the system of the one being healed finds its own ways to solutions that can and do transcend the limits of a linear concept of time and space. So the inner healer may access an experience or energy from any time in the person’s life, and sometimes even past lives. It looks for a place of wholeness that can transcend the pain of a split. Grof framed it as going back and back in pain until you get to the joy, often accompanied by a sense of being blessed. As people go deeper, they often experience spiritual and philosophical discoveries. Removing trauma takes people into mystical realms. It is the positive experiences that are really healing such as meeting beautiful archetypes, and identifying with nature and the divine. All of these point to drawing energies from the yin-based pre- and post-ego energy dynamics.
Another clue is the idea in this work that although one is working with archetypes at energetic level, they way in which those archetypal energies manifest are multiple and relative to the context of the person involved (“multivalent” to use a term that Tarnas used). Again we see a reality where the central four yang-based energy dynamics, which separate and individuate into a multiplicity of forms, are held and shaped by archetypal templates in the surrounding yin-based energy dynamics.
This links to the session with Rick Tarnas on astrology. The key to this work was again the idea of archetypes. Tarnas was very clear in his description of astrology. He said that there is an archetypal realm, and that the movements of the planets (as celestial bodies) reflect the dynamics of the archetypal realm but do not cause them. In his words, “it is illuminating rather than deterministic”. So when we look at our astrology, it gives us information about the energies that are at work in our yin-based internal value systems, creating conditions for the central systems to manifest. The power of astrology, according to Tarnas, is that it links the unconscious and conscious realms, making us aware of the dynamics of the unconscious and therefore co-creators of that reality. We can replace the terms conscious with external and unconscious with internal, and we have a link to our model above. Given that the internal realms set the basic field of vibrational energy out of which our 4-D experience emerges, as we learn to interact with those realms, we shift from being passive consumers of our realities of co-creators of our lives and life around us.
I believe this is ultimately the power of the work of Grof and colleagues. I believe it is coherent with the current planetary transition we are in, and as such can be of great service to humanity at this time to become graceful and artistic co-creators of the next phase of our human civilization.