I recommend The Holotropic Mind to two audiences: the scientifically minded willing to follow solid research wherever it goes and the New Age enthusiast willing to explore a radical theory which seeks to explain a wide range of occult phenomenon, from pre-birth memories to ESP to life-after-death.
Dr. Grof is a skilled psychiatrist and researcher with solid academic credentials in the US and Europe. He was one of the first to experiment with LSD–experiment in the laboratory sense, not in the adolescent escapade sense. His decades of research with thousands of subjects, including himself, has convinced the doctor that altered states of consciousness are the gateway to understanding the nature of the human experience.
Page 133 neatly summarizes Dr. Grof’s approach, and his book’s challenge to the typical Western reader:
“The prevalent bias of the modern industrialized world is one of excluding all forms of spirituality as erroneous and misleading. … While the existence of the experiences is a fact that can be confirmed by any serious researcher familiar with non-ordinary states of consciousness, there are various ways to interpret the same data. This is not so different from any other scientific question. After all the theory of gravity is not the same as gravity itself. Similarly, while we might refuse to take seriously past life experiences because we do not like the theories of reincarnations, we would not think of applying the same thinking to gravity, that is, denying that objects are falling because we do not like the theories of gravity that explain it. There are observable facts about reincarnation. …
It is important to remind ourselves that science never ‘proves’ anything; it only ‘disproves’ or ‘improves’ existing theories.”
This book is an easy read because it is filled with compelling case histories and stays away from polemic or ‘newage’ (rhymes with ‘sewage’) cant. Grof presents his data, places it in the context of other’s theories, for example, Jung, William James and Maslow, then leaves the reader free for his own explorations and meaning-making. I wished for more details on his experimental methods, but perhaps that is better covered in one of his many other publications rather than in this slim and brisk volume.