Stanislav Grof (born July 1, 1931 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) is a psychiatrist, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and a pioneering researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche.

Grof is known for his early studies of LSD and its effects on the psyche—the field of psychedelic psychotherapy. Building on his observations while conducting LSD research and on Otto Rank’s theory of birth trauma, Grof constructed a theoretical framework for pre- and perinatal psychology and transpersonal psychology in which LSD trips and other powerfully emotional experiences were mapped onto a person’s early fetal and neonatal experiences. Over time, this theory developed into an in-depth “cartography” of the deep human psyche. Following the legal suppression of LSD use in the late 1960s, Grof went on to discover that many of these states of mind could be explored without drugs by using certain breathing techniques in a supportive environment. He continues this work today under the title “Holotropic Breathwork”.

Grof distinguishes between two modes of consciousness: the hylotropic and the holotropic. The hylotropic refers to “the normal, everyday experience of consensus reality.” The holotropicrefers to states which aim towards wholeness and the totality of existence. The holotropic is characteristic of non-ordinary states of consciousness such as meditative, mystical, or psychedelic experiences. According to Grof, these non-ordinary states are often categorized by contemporary psychiatry as psychotic. Grof connects the hylotropic to the Hindu conception of namarupa (“name and form”), the separate, individual, illusory self. He connects the holotropic to the Hindu conception of Atman-Brahman, the divine, true nature of the self. Grof believes that the holotropic mode has been uniquely de-emphasized in the modern West:

All the cultures in human history except the Western industrial civilization have held holotropic states of consciousness in great esteem. They induced them whenever they wanted to connect to their deities, other dimensions of reality, and with the forces of nature. They also used them for diagnosing and healing, cultivation of extrasensory perception, and artistic inspiration. They spent much time and energy to develop safe and effective ways of inducing them.