Dr. Stanislav Grof – The Cosmic Game

The Cosmic Game:
Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness

by Stanislav Grof

Reviewed by Stanley Krippner, Ph.D. and Christopher Ryan

Stanislav Grof is renowned as a pioneer in the world of psychedelic psychotherapy and research. During more than four decades of exploration in the field of consciousness studies, Grof has accumulated data on some six thousand psychedelic sessions, having conducted more than four thousand of these sessions himself. As Grof puts it in his introduction, “This book explores the extraordinary philosophical, metaphysical, and spiritual insights that have emerged in the course of this work” (pp. 2-3). He goes on to assert that these insights are “in radical conflict with the most fundamental assumptions of materialistic science concerning consciousness, human nature, and the nature of reality” (p. 3).

The Cosmic Game is an excellent introduction to Grof’s work and the conclusions to which this work has led him. Just as Memories, Dreams and Reflections provides a biographical context helpful in understanding the genesis of many of Jung’s most important ideas, The Cosmic Game is generously leavened with fascinating — and often touching — anecdotes from Grof’s, and his patients’ personal experience — drawing on both psychedelic sessions and day to day experience. These anecdotes are invaluable not only in providing background to Grof’s research, but also in helping the reader to understand why the study of consciousness is so meaningful, both to Grof and to the rest of us.

By placing his intellectual conclusions within a spiritual, historical, and personal framework, Grof has written a book that will be especially helpful to those who may be new to the field of consciousness studies, or whose experiences with psychedelics may have led to difficulties or doubts concerning their previous understanding of reality. His work provides a succinct and very well-informed critique of mainstream scientific thought without resorting to naïve new age thinking (e.g. you create your own universe and are totally responsible for all that happens therein). He offers fresh insights into the nature of reality vs. “virtual reality” (p. 76), the inescapability of evil in the universe (p. 132), the values and varieties of unitive experience (p. 79), and summarizes his original thoughts on the links between birth trauma and aggression (p. 204), which he discusses in The Holotropic Mind, and has termed perinatal matrices.

Along with The Holotropic Mind, The Cosmic Game offers several fascinating avenues for future research. For example, the link between birth trauma and aggression, mentioned above, could be explored. An investigator could check birth records of people who commit aggressive acts (clearly defined beforehand) to see if they had had more difficult (i.e. traumatic) births than people who do not exhibit such behavior.

The Cosmic Game is carefully written and edited — we noted very few errors: moral rather than morale on page 168, and, arguably, referring to shamanism as a religion on page 255 (we would contend that shamanism is a spiritual technology and practice that predates organized religion by tens of thousands of years).

Although The Cosmic Game is essentially an introduction to and summation of Grof’s unique perspective on human existence, we would not hesitate to use the word “classic” to describe it. We look forward to a future work in which Grof goes further in presenting his own paradigm, which may someday help to dislodge the current one, which The Cosmic Game so clearly and thoroughly exposes as being defunct.


“Mistaking a specific archetypal image for the ultimate source of creation leads to idolatry, a divisive and dangerous mistake widespread in the histories of religions and cultures. It might unite the people who share the same belief, but sets this group against others who have chosen a different representation of the divine. They might then try to convert others or conquer and eliminate them. By contrast, genuine religion is universal, all-inclusive, and all-encompassing. It has to transcend specific culture-bound archetypal images and focus on the ultimate source of all forms. The most important question in the world of religion is thus the nature of the supreme principle in the universe. “

 … excerpt from “The Cosmic Game: Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness” by Stanislav Grof


The Next Religion Is the Religion of Consciousness

Lumanity~ We are Becoming Homo Luminous Beings

Photonic Human ~ Iona Miller

3 thoughts on “Dr. Stanislav Grof – The Cosmic Game

  1. Wow. Thanks for that introduction, especially the concept of perinatal matrices. I “knew” it but hadn’t realised how well understood it is.

    • For further information concerning the perinatal and prenatal experiences obtained by some during a holotropic breathwork session, I strongly recommend reading: “Holotropic Breathwork: A New Approach to Self-Exploration and Therapy” by Stanislav and Christina Grof . Reviews available @ http://www.stanislavgrof.com/pressroom.htm
      Holotropic breathwork for the uninitiated, is a non-ordinary state of awareness obtained by rapid breathing without the use of any psychoactive substances. Ideal alternative for those that are reluctant to experience the expanded states of consciousness offered by teacher plants and shamanic journeys.

  2. The vagus nerve is the biggest parasympathetic nerve in the body. It is like the trunk of a tree upside down which branches down into two minor trunks from which they branch out into bushes enervating the respiratory system, digestive system, etc. These bushes of nerves are called “chakras” in India. Dr. Stanislav Grof, who came over here from Prague, Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, revealed how “Holotropic” breathing replaces LSD. Holotropic breathing is a safe form of vagal stimulation that wakes up the brain to more than its normal 10% brain use like LSD, and other seratonin blockers, like dimethyltryptamine. This vagal stimulation, and all kinds of vagal stimulation, wake up the brain to higher than normal percentages of brain use by its physical stimulation spreading to the brain where the inhibitory neurons are over ridden. This has been the biggest secret in the superstitious world. It was all out in the open for the first time in history behind the old Iron Curtain. It is a disgrace that there has been such secreted devastating suppression in “the Land of the Free”.

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