Critical Remarks on Holotropic Breathwork
and the MAPS Strategy

l to r: Stanislav  Grof,  Rick  Doblin

Guide to contents

An entrepreneurial therapy devised at Esalen – Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. should be viewed with caution – LSD and MDMA therapies of Grof are in strong contention – the underground movement in LSD therapy – MDMA is closely associated with MAPS, founded by Rick Doblin – Grof lore is not a convincing rationale for Holotropic Breathwork, which is noted for aftermath dysfunctions – the Grof theme of “spiritual emergency” is a red herring – the Findhorn Foundation support group for victims of Holotropic Breathwork – MAPS favours the use of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder – psychedelics and psychiatry is a hazardous theme – The Royal College of Psychiatrists is a danger zone due to an extremist wing – the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN) have acted as a sponsor of Chris Bache and his LSD therapy acquired from Grof – Bache a hero of MAPS – the Wikipedia entry on Holotropic Breathwork and the errors of Grof exponents – Kate Thomas misrepresented by Grof lore – Regius Professor Busuttil also misrepresented by Grof lore – Rick Doblin dosed with MDMA by Grof at Esalen – Grof’s failure to reply to the complaint of Kate Thomas – the “recreational and spiritual use of both LSD and Ecstasy” a very dubious theme associated with MAPS – Jablett favours the MAPS proposal for MDMA – parallel with the Sathya Sai Baba cult – Minehunter at a disadvantage with a groundless assumption – the MDMA proposal of MAPS in South Carolina, Europe, and Israel – the four strategies associated with MAPS – E. Patrick Curry exposes the unscientific nature of Grof lore – the LSD user Andrew Weil – the FDA approval of MAPS research countered by American scientists – significant press release from Professors Lilienfeld and Sampson – MDMA implicated in damage to dopamine receptors – the MDMA proposal of MAPS based upon Grof’s LSD therapy – the Secret Chief – hundreds of illegal practitioners in the underground LSD therapy – Grof resided at Esalen for fourteen years and invoked astral travel in an MDMA trip – drug-aided mind manipulation – many people were dosed with drugs at Esalen – the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN) is now strongly associated with LSD therapy due to the sustained presence of Bache on their website – Grof’s disappearance at the Findhorn Foundation in the early 90s – MDMA users are in danger – Dr. Maartje M. de Win and low dosage MDMA – the American NIDA survey of MDMA use – Grof’s hallucinatory visions induced by a 200 milligram intake – SUNY Press in contention


                                                            GROF  THERAPY  AND  MAPS


1.       Holotropic  Breathwork  and  LSD  Therapy

2.       MAPS  and  Royal  College  of  Psychiatrists  (RCP)

3.       Scientific  and  Medical  Network  (SMN)

4.       Wikipedia  Article  on  Holotropic  Breathwork

5.       The  MAPS  Website

6.       Critical  Research

7.       MDMA  Therapy

8.       Rick  Doblin

9.       Influence  of  Grof  at  Esalen  and  Findhorn  Foundation

10.     Dosages  of  MDMA



1.   Holotropic  Breathwork  and  LSD  Therapy

Some analysts conclude that the underlying reason for promotion of the controversial Holotropic Breathwork is the fees involved. Stanislav Grof’s "therapy" emerged as a trademark device, early appearing with the logo of Holotropic Breathwork™, and furthermore conducted under the auspices of Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. (Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, pp. 79ff.). Such factors arouse strong reserve about the nature of the activities involved, which are not philanthropic.

Grof’s operation at Esalen was commercially geared. He wanted a substitute for LSD therapy when the danger drug became illegal, and HB was improvised in the 1970s as a way out of the entrepreneurial dilemma. HB involves hyperventilation (abnormally increased speed and depth of breathing). Some critics now state that HB is one of the tools in the strategy of MAPS (Multidisciplinary Assn for Psychedelic Studies), founded by Rick Doblin. That Grof-related organisation has an underlying aim to spread the use of psychoactive drugs according to the Grof mandate, which connotes a psychedelic society.

HB practitioners endlessly repeat the mantras of Grofian Esalen. They so frequently state that critics do not understand the HB prowess in mysticism. An alternative angle is that the activities of HB partisans prove that they do not comprehend the obscured subject of mysticism, which they have replaced with Grof theory and Grof commerce.

The influence of Dr. Stanislav Grof is total amongst HB practitioners, many of them having been trained by him. Some of them state that they do not rely upon psychoactive drugs, and that HB is an independent subject. Yet this is a contradiction, because the underlying ideology involved in HB is inseparably related to Grof’s LSD and MDMA therapies, as attested by the books of Grof.

There is known to be an underground movement in LSD therapy, as attested by the report of E. P. Curry, an American consumer health advocate (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 17). MDMA therapy is strongly implied in this underground trend, which is closely associated with MAPS, founded by a well known disciple of Grof noted for his partiality to MDMA (Ecstasy), as dosed by Grof in the recreational activities of this sector. The underground movement is believed to be percolating various alternative organisations in different countries, bodies which are typically evasive about such matters.

HB workshops have relied upon hyperventilation, evocative music, and strenuous bodywork. This situation produces unpredictable emotional states, often extreme. A more relaxed preference for lying on mats is deceptive, in that hyperventilation can produce drawbacks in any bodily position, not to mention the continual delusions fostered in clients by the practitioners, who claim a healing process in HB. Some clients experience euphoria, while others find difficulty in regaining equilibrium. Acute traumas and hallucinations can occur, plus a variety of disruptive symptoms which can linger afterwards. Enthusiasts rely upon Grof lore for a rationale, but this is totally unconvincing to observers.

Some aftermath dysfunctions created by HB are mentioned in my Letter to BBC Radio (booklet version, pp. 3, 5). Yet such drawbacks are constantly camouflaged by the Grofian propaganda. Inadequate explanations are kept alive by Grof’s fantastic theme of HB being a spiritual technique with an ancient shamanistic lineage (Shepherd, Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer, booklet version, p. 17). Such unconvincing beliefs were promoted by the Findhorn Foundation during the early 90s, even while the many states of aftermath dysfunction were being witnessed by close observers in that sector.

An amusing accompaniment was in the form of constant references to Stanislav Grof’s theory of "spiritual emergency" by the Findhorn Foundation partisans of HB. Grof claimed to assist personal crises which he invariably deemed "spiritual." In actual fact, he continually created such crises by his recommendation of psychoactive drugs and HB.

The "spiritual emergencies" require a far more realistic description, which was not forthcoming from the indoctrinated HB practitioners at the Findhorn Foundation who imagined that the "spiritual technique" of HB was exercising constantly benevolent effects. In reality, a support group had to be created behind the scenes at the Foundation for victims of HB, and objectors to various casualties were ruthlessly suppressed (and even ejected). The theory of "spiritual emergency" is a drug-related fallacy indulged in by people who facilely accept Grofian misconceptions.

2.   MAPS  and  Royal  College  of  Psychiatrists  (RCP)

The exponents of HB constantly demonstrate a total ignorance of events occurring in various locales such as Findhorn and Charleston, events which are documented elsewhere, and in sources not favoured by HB enthusiasts. MDMA was the favoured tool of MAPS chosen by certain HB practitioners in America, and that trend is spreading due to the persistent strategy of MAPS to bypass legal constraints in lax bureaucratic milieux. The MAPS ideology is well known amongst critics (Pointed Observations, pp. 19ff.).

A recent article in a psychiatry journal sanctions MAPS for summarising experimentation with drugs like psilocybin, and takes at face value the talk about Grof-related projects in certain countries which investigate "MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder." This is a favoured theme of MAPS, who instigated the notorious event in Charleston a few years ago when two HB practitioners were funded by MAPS to reintroduce MDMA therapy. Scientists subsequently opposed the MAPS strategy (Pointed Observations, pp. 17–18).

The psychiatry journal fails to mention any of the details, and instead the deceptive article in question dwells upon a related MAPS theme about psychedelics reappearing in psychiatry. See B. Sessa, "Can psychedelics have a role in psychiatry again?", British Jnl of Psychiatry (2005), 186, 457–8. The MAPS infiltration of psychiatry is proceeding according to the Grofian plan, and the public can no longer trust that sector, in case the psychiatrist transpires to be dosing psychoactive drugs instead of due prescriptions.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) are one of the danger spots in contemporary psychology, recently becoming noted for an extremist wing associated with such trends as regression therapy. This branch has been responsible for entertaining on the RCP website a misleading paper about Grof’s "spiritual emergency" theory.

The extremists in RCP are known as the Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group, and in 2005 they hosted such talks as that given by a practitioner of HB who referred glowingly to Grof and such concepts as that of the "inner healer." There was no accompanying critical data about Grof’s very controversial activities or the many flaws in his doctrines. See N. Crowley, "Holotropic Breathwork™ – healing through a non-ordinary state of consciousness" (2005), which uses Grof’s diagram of the perinatal matrices and which states that the author has enrolled in the Grof Transpersonal Training Program in HB. The Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Section of the Royal Society of Medicine were also part of the gullible audience. Cf. Shepherd, Pointed Observations, pp. 6ff. The so-called "progressive" psychiatric sector may be held responsible for failure to diagnose social afflictions and public hazard.

3.   Scientific  and  Medical  Network  (SMN)

One of the organisations in league with the extremist wing of RCP is the so-called Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), whose website has been featuring for three years a misleading paper by Christopher Bache, a professor of religion and a disciple of Grof now famous for his explicit recommendations of LSD therapy in the book Dark Night, Early Dawn (2000). HB is closely identified with that book as an ingredient of Bache’s practice (which caused some severe discomforts). The SMN website has failed to incorporate the contesting articles by Kate Thomas, which likewise appeared in the SMN magazine but which have been ignored by the SMN and the suspect commercial policy of that "alternative" organisation (the suppressed argument is included at Against Grof Therapy).

The SMN policy is now in strong dispute. Bache is both a hero and supporter of MAPS. He has stated that he does not "encourage the hit-or-miss, open-and-close methods of workshop spirituality" (Bache, "Sacred Medicine," Network, No. 84, Spring 2004, p. 23). The theme of "workshop spirituality" is a misnomer for commercial operations involving fantasy and miseducation for gullible clients. Grof Transpersonal Training (Inc.) is an epic of misinformation that is very much a part of the workshop vogue associated with Esalen, whether or not Bache is an isolationist. Bache is certainly very explicit in his partisan description of experiences in LSD therapy and HB, a narration which is partner to the workshop sensations and delusions spread by Grof theories such as the "perinatal matrices" and "spiritual emergency."

[The controversial Bache article remained on public view at the SMN website for six years, despite complaints expressed elsewhere. The SMN are considered an alternative grouping by conventional scientists and medics.]

4.   Wikipedia  Article  on  Holotropic Breathwork

The Wikipedia entry on Holotropic Breathwork (HB) has been revealing [accessed January 2007]. The partisan version was supplemented by a critical extension, and this met with the typical attempts to re-edit for which Wikipedia (the internet encyclopaedia) is well known. The HB partisans have again demonstrated that they are not conversant with critical sources. They can be accused of a basic illiteracy in this respect, a feat attested by the anonymous writer of the partisan editing dated 20/10/06. The Wikipedia re-editing here states that Kate Thomas was "reacting (to HB) in support of the technique of kundalini yoga." In actual fact, Thomas is totally in opposition to the technique of kundalini yoga, as her book on the subject attests to the more literate readerships (see Thomas, The Kundalini Phenomenon, Forres 2000).

Nor is Thomas one of the supposedly ubiquitous parties attempting to prop up the status quo or the medical profession, which is a standard (and very tiresome) refrain of HB exponents deriving from Esalen simplicities (alternative therapists are too often the worst specimens of scholarship in the entire academic and quasi-academic scene). The partisan HB editing of 20/10/06 does not mention the known fact that Thomas was a close observer of the severe aftermath symptoms involved in many HB sessions that occurred in Findhorn and Forres during 1989–93. Unless or until HB exponents become capably versed in the sources they misdescribe or dismiss, there is additional reason to reject their inappropriate claims.

It is obvious that the anonymous writer abovementioned is unfamiliar with the critical report on HB written by Regius Professor Busuttil (of Edinburgh University), and which is described by the HB enthusiast as "reminiscent of the hysteria against the medical use of LSD in the 70s." There was no hysteria in Busuttil, either in his original report (of 1993) or in his later confirmations. HB partisans employ stock phrases deriving from the MAPS repertoire. There has been hysteria in many HB workshops, on the part of victims.

The anonymous editor (on the discussion page) also makes the accusation that certain of my own comments made in an Appendix about HB invoke a "standard medical claim," which is not in fact true. That Appendix in Minds and Sociocultures Vol. One (pp. 945ff.) is an independent statement convergent with medical cautions but possessing additional accents, e.g., "various ancient cults probably worked the same kind of unbalancing magic" (ibid., p. 946) as HB in relation to hallucination. It is evident that HB partisans have not read the Appendix specified, and are merely cribbing from the critical extension in the Wikipedia article.

There has never been any partisan HB acknowledgement of the critique of Grof in the introduction to Minds and Sociocultures Vol. One. It is not sufficient to describe an opposing argument that uses annotations in terms of "setting a moralistic tone about cathartic techniques," which was the recourse of the anonymous HB partisan. That soporific idiom again represents a standard emphasis of the drugs lobby, and is often interpreted as an excuse not to read the books being rejected as unprogressive by the contemporary exploiters in catharsis. Scruple is necessary where exploitation is concerned.

Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. was contrived in the acutely permissive atmosphere of the Esalen Institute in California, where affluent hedonists and drug users did more or less what they wanted. In this psychedelic bastion, MAPS President Rick Doblin was introduced to MDMA (Ecstasy) by Grof in the early 80s. MDMA soon after became illegal, but HB is a means of continued income for therapists.

The partisan HB argument that critics of HB are always trying to devalue mystical experience is a convenient myth for Grof doctrine and slang idiom. The Esalen pretensions to mysticism were rejuvenated at the Findhorn Foundation, which took many cues from the commercial programme of Esalen. The HB critic Kate Thomas was an exponent of a very different form of mysticism, and she was segregated as a threat by the Findhorn Foundation therapy corps led by Craig Gibsone, who was a convert to Grof doctrine and a practitioner of HB who unleashed that intemperate exercise (causing many casualties) upon the Foundation community. HB was the underlying cause of the process which resulted in the attempt of the Findhorn Foundation staff to place a legal interdict upon the (mystical) autobiography of Thomas in 1992, as is recorded in Castro’s relevant book (Hypocrisy and Dissent, pp. 15–16).

The suppression of Thomas has continued in other forms equally dogmatic and evasive. This matter is accentuated by the fact of Grof’s personal involvement in the promotion of HB at the Findhorn Foundation. In 1990 Grof failed to reply to the letter of Thomas which complained about problems evident in HB (Thomas, The Destiny Challenge, pp. 938–9). Real and drastic emergencies had occurred for victims of HB that were glossed by HB practitioners like Gibsone, who used clone jargon acquired from Grof. The failure of Grof to reply to Thomas (even while he was staying in the local Findhorn area at Minton House) occurred during a phase in which Grof himself conducted supposedly expert workshops in HB at the Findhorn Foundation. The admiring Gibsone was another of the great disciples like Doblin and Bache. Yet close analysts know what to expect in cases of "spiritual emergency," which is a flippant theme of the irresponsible commercial therapist (Grof) and his indoctrinated supporters.

The HB movement in therapy commerce, together with related trends, has still not caught up with such basic facts as the above. The milieu of that movement is one of fantasy, fees, sensation, and uncritically received Grof doctrine. There is at present no reason to believe that HB exponents will improve upon their current standard of assimilation by the year 2100.

Yet long before that time, certain vulnerable countries like Britain and America may well be incapacitated by the MAPS strategy, which is rumoured even now to be engineering a coup. Lax bureaucracies may slumber through crises, while greedy local Councils might decide to be funded by MAPS at the public expense. First will come the seemingly innocent elevation of HB and MDMA (the perfect marriage to reduce stress, or to increase it), and then the underground LSD therapy will emerge from cover. As the MAPS President is noted for being a long term advocate of the "recreational and spiritual use of both LSD and Ecstasy" (Pointed Observations, p. 18), one could expect that the recreational use of psychedelics will be high on the social agenda in such a new age. Anything could happen, because all crises will be deemed "spiritual emergency," as in HB.

Very significantly, the partisan HB editor (Jablett) in Wikipedia (01/11/06 edit) invokes the MAPS website for information on the MDMA protocol (launched by MAPS), and states that HB is indeed included in the proposal denoted. The presumed "scientific" status of MAPS, as credited by the drugs lobby, camouflages the underlying objectives of the MAPS organisation and affiliated groupings. Critics have been observing for years that MAPS is able to penetrate the defences of lax officialdom.

MAPS are noted for their persistent attempt to award MDMA (Ecstasy) the status of a research drug in relation to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Jablett triumphantly states that the MAPS proposal "has been fully approved and is currently underway." In America yes, but not in Britain, and nor the rest of Europe. Critics infer that the folly could easily render the fate of HB victims that much worse, as HB aftermath dysfunction could achieve further hazard through amphetamine stimulant if MDMA ramifies from the existing category of PTSD stated by MAPS.

The Wikipedia partisan entry on HB did not at first provide sources until countered by the critical extension. The sources then proffered were all in the Grofian domain. Medical convention was stigmatised in the accusing response to the critical extension. The partisan HB editor Jablett subsequently resorted to copying the example of Gerald Joe Moreno, a supporter of the Sathya Sai Baba Organisation, in voting that reference to myself should be removed (discussion page, November 21st edit, 2006). The parallel with the Sathya Sai Baba cult now becomes significant for the HB cult (especially as the latter here referred with evident approval to the Moreno cordon against myself which had recently appeared in Wikipedia). Cults feel the need to censor writers who are in disagreement. See Wikipedia Issues and Wikipedia, Moreno, Google.

This situation was so suspicious that the countering editor Jedermann stated: "Serious concerns about safety, efficacy, competence to practice, and commercial interests have been raised, and should remain till disproven. Interesting that (HB) proponents offer no evidence to counter the concerns, but just remove caveats and criticism. And now they are so desperate they are trying to personalise the issue, instead of debating the evidence" (Nov. 23rd edit, 2006).

Jablett also enlisted the support of an entity who called himself Minehunter, and who mistakenly believed that author Stephen Castro was the communicator in the critical extension. Minehunter even publicly addressed "Steve Castro, aka The Communicator," exhorting him in an accusing vein with such loaded phrases as: "make sure your material is relevant" and "be cautious about excessive citation of your own work" (Nov. 21st edit, 2006). Castro had nothing to do with the Wikipedia entry, and was unaware for some weeks that he had been cited in the critical extension. Unlike some of the internet presences, Castro has a full time job with the Inland Revenue in Britain. He first heard of the minehunt ten days after he had been addressed as the communicator.

Meanwhile, the real communicator had to patiently inform Minehunter that a mistaken identity had been assumed. The real communicator was a researcher in Australia who possessed a master’s degree in philosophy, and who furthermore had a valid link with the HB issue due to his correspondence in 1994–5 with medical authorities (including Regius Prof. Busuttil) and the Scottish Charities Office. The assumption of Minehunter was disproven [The Communicator was Simon Kidd, as that academic subsequently revealed].

In the view of some assessors, the HB contingent have demonstrated their role as internet yobs via their tactics on Wikipedia, and they are now identified as a backward trend converging with the apologetics of the Sathya Sai Baba Organisation. The flaws in some Wikipedia presentations are extensive to say the least, and quite sufficient to confuse the unsuspecting who fail to develop a critical acumen.

5.   The  MAPS  Website

Turning to the MAPS website [in 2007], this makes a short statement about the MDMA proposal, informing that the proposal was initially approved by the FDA in Nov. 2001, that a revised protocol was approved in June 2002, and subsequently approved by an IRB in September 2003. South Carolina DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is said to have recommended that Dr. Mithoefer (the key operator in the MDMA project) should receive his Schedule 1 license, which was issued by DEA h/q in Feb 2004. "MAPS has been working since it was founded in 1986 to initiate research into the therapeutic use of MDMA."

MAPS was founded by Rick Doblin, and has a Californian postal address. The MAPS website also mentions "a five year, five million dollar plan to develop MDMA into a prescription medicine for the treatment of PTSD." The website also states that MAPS has obtained approval for a study in Israel into the use of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with war and terrorism-related PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). MAPS is also attempting to mount a similar project in Switzerland which is currently under review. A related MAPS project in Spain "was halted due to political pressure from the Spanish Anti-Drug Authority." MAPS has also funded the MDMA project in relation to cancer patients (which is evocative of Grof’s early associations with terminal cancer patients).

The statement on the MAPS website omits numerous features of the overall situation. The underground movement in LSD therapy/recreation regards the MDMA proposal as the bridge to the awaited legal availability of LSD. Many of the partisans involved in Grof trends lament the laws against psychoactive drugs as being "draconian." Their attitude is pervasive in America and elsewhere. The MAPS website has featured details of partisan concepts, including an influential description of four strategies which can be adopted by psychedelic supporters (Pointed Observations, pp. 20–1). The four strategies are:

1)  the political legalisation debate.

2)  the underground strategy which ignores the law.

3)  the non-drug approach of HB.

4)  the MAPS strategy of gaining FDA-approved research with the aim of achieving prescription access to psychedelic drugs on the part of psychiatrists. The psychiatrists would obviously include Grof-related ministrants of the psychedelic cause.

6.   Critical  Research

A non-Grofian source gave relevant details about both Grof and the MAPS project in America. E. P. Curry, an American researcher, exposed the flaws in Grof’s early "research" with terminal cancer patients, whom Grof dosed with searingly painful intakes of LSD. One conclusion is that Grof should have been dismissed from his post (while there is also the stronger view that he should have been jailed). Curry states that all Grof’s cancer patients were deceased within months, and that no due study of the long-term consequences of his "therapy" was undertaken. See Curry, "Carl Jung, Stanislav Grof, and New Age Medical Mysticism," The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (2002) 6(2): 83–90, pp. 86–7.

Grof was able to boast that he could convert a Jewish rabbi into a Zen Buddhist using his LSD dosages; he had no concept of how Zen monks live and think, and himself was incapable of the traditional ideal. Grof’s wife Joan Halifax had a "major nervous breakdown due to LSD usage while still married to him" (ibid., p. 88). Yet Dr. Stanislav Grof emerged as a countercultural hero with the reputation of being a great scientist. In 1978 he and the two Esalen founders (Michael Murphy and Richard Price) launched the International Transpersonal Association. This gained the applause of many uncritical subscribers who were fed with alternative therapy and neo-Jungian mysticism.

Grof’s contribution basically amounted to Grof Transpersonal Training Inc., from which extended misleading books like Beyond the Brain (1985), which is based on LSD therapy. His very controversial LSD Psychotherapy (1980) is a neo-Jungian extreme, while his Spiritual Emergency (1989) is viewed with due reserve by critics, who point out that this theme is not transformative, despite the misleading sub-title of When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis.

One of the typical new age responses to commercial transpersonalism was that of Andrew Weil, an enthusiast of psychedelic drugs and Jung. At a 1990s conference in transpersonalism, Weil credited "the development of his own ‘natural mind’ to LSD," and stated that he "still occasionally uses LSD" (Curry, art. cit., p. 89). There are many others in that category who hold academic degrees, and whose strong incentive is to impose their lazy tastes and extensive delusions upon the public. Weil’s psychedelic orientation was approvingly broadcast on the MAPS website after being incorporated in the Bulletin of MAPS (1998), like other testimonies.

7.    MDMA  Therapy

The non-drug expedient of HB sits easily alongside the other three favoured strategies of the drugs lobby, and all four are strongly interlinked (section 5 above). HB is said to create some similar symptoms to drug experiences, or is interpreted in that light by Grof. HB was strongly implied in the MAPS programme to resuscitate MDMA therapy during the years 2001–2. Two HB practitioners were prominent in this programme.

One of these practitioners was Dr. Michael Mithoefer, a Grof-trained HB facilitator who was an assistant professor of psychiatry at a medical university in South Carolina. The proposal was to employ MDMA as a treatment for PTSD. Yet Mithoefer’s university showed scruple and refused to give sponsorship (Curry, art. cit., p. 88). MAPS funded this proposal and targeted lax bureaucracy, which succumbed. In Nov. 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the radical proposal for research. Very few persons were aware of what was happening (outside MAPS). A group of American scientists then opposed the bureaucratic blunder in Charleston, knowing what was actually at stake in the struggle between Grofian and non-Grofian ideologies (Pointed Observations, pp. 17–18).

As a consequence of MAPS ingenuity, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) succumbed to persuasion in July 2002, approving the MDMA proposal. Yet through intervention from non-Grofian academics, the IRB dramatically reversed their decision and refused support for the research proposal which had such connotations of a hidden agenda to informed parties. Professors Lilienfeld and Sampson were very disturbed by the bureaucratic vulnerability, which did not exhibit much (or any) critical ability or knowledge of medical processes.

The consumer health advocate E. P. Curry was also involved in the opposition, and he reported with alarm on the attitude of the American press, who were discovered to be in support of MAPS due to propaganda tactics of the drugs lobby. The scientific rejection of the MAPS strategy was ignored by the media, and the present writer accordingly noted that "the drastic social consequences of this neglect should not need underlining to serious thinkers" (Pointed Observations, p. 19). Yet serious thinkers are increasingly scarce, and lax bureaucracy subsequently demonstrated the worst fears of critical spectators when another IRB approved the MAPS proposal in September 2003. The vote had been reversed by media-influenced officials and Grof supporters in medical ranks.

MAPS state that a revised protocol for their proposal was approved by the FDA in June 2002. Yet they had to pass through an Institutional Review Board (IRB), and this was initially the Western IRB. In September 2002, the Western IRB rescinded their approval as stated above. This led to a vigorous attempt by MAPS for reinstatement. MAPS were again rebuffed in November 2002 by that alerted IRB. MAPS then began a search for "a more malleable IRB" according to the report by Curry dated December 2002. The Western IRB took due heed of a critical press release from Lilienfeld and Sampson that was actually ignored by the media. The critics emerged after the FDA approval had been given, and so they concentrated upon the IRB. The press release from the two distinguished scientific journal editors (Lilienfeld and Sampson) informed that:

" … the president of MAPS, Rick Doblin, is a long-time proponent of recreational and spiritual use of both LSD and Ecstasy. The protocol was developed in the Charleston, S. C. area with the assistance of MAPS. The proposed study subjects would be 20 victims of violent assault who have been given diagnoses of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. MDMA has recently received national attention because of research published in the journal Science, implicating MDMA in damage to dopamine receptors in mammalian brains.…

"The editors found the (MAPS) research to be potentially dangerous and possibly in violation of human subjects research ethical standard. They also note that evidence for effectiveness that would justify such research was lacking.… the (MAPS) study itself is scientifically questionable at best and meaningless at worst, because the treatment will not be compared with a meaningful and properly blinded control group consisting of either no therapy or a comparison treatment of known effectiveness.…

" MAPS President Doblin, whose organisation is funding the PTSD research, was first introduced to MDMA personally by Grof at Esalen in the early 1980s.…

" Both therapists involved in the (MDMA proposal) research, principal investigator Dr. Michael Mithoefer, and his wife Ann Mithoefer a psychiatric nurse, are trained practitioners of Grof’s Holotropic Breathwork. The investigators’ background, although not bearing directly on the methodological quality of the study, raises troubling questions concerning the capacity of the investigators to conduct the research and to evaluate the data impartially without strong a priori allegiances. Drs. Sampson and Lilienfeld question how such an experiment was approved by the FDA and an IRB."

(Prometheus Press release dated 08/11/02, edited by E. P. Curry in consultation with the two professors of Stanford University and Emory University, Sampson being a Prof. of Medicine and Lilienfeld being a Prof. of Psychology.)

Professor Wallace Sampson was a senior M.D. and was perturbed by the MAPS "research," which he correctly identified as "the exclusive project of believers in psychedelic mysticism." He and Lilienfeld despaired over what the press made of the "research," journalists having mistakenly associated this with the medical research into MDMA and assuming that it was a legitimate rival which might produce more evidence. The verdict of Sampson and Lilienfeld was that the MAPS research proposal was "scientifically flawed and potentially dangerous."

Sampson and Lilienfeld were both editors of reputable journals which specialised in scientific investigation of controversial and largely untested practices in alternative medicine. The critical article of E. Patrick Curry appeared in one of these journals (edited by Sampson), and that contribution was amplified in correspondence with a British contact known to the present writer.

Curry’s appended revisions to his journal article state that the MDMA proposal did not specify the use of HB, "though there is nothing in a Grofian protocol that would necessarily preclude the use of HB." Curry added that the MDMA proposal was based upon Grof’s LSD therapy. The identity of the two MAPS-funded researchers as HB practitioners has served to strengthen the association of the MDMA project with HB.

These important considerations were ignored by the media and forgotten by bureaucrats. MAPS now poses as an educational body (deemed scientific by the drugs lobby) with a pressingly valid research proposal. The consequences have already confused many onlookers. The way was open for Grof’s former research colleague Richard Yensen to seek FDA approval to resume the LSD research of the 60s. This was the tip of the iceberg. The Grofian drugs lobby are said to be saturated in the recreational use of illegal drugs, which goes somewhat further than the underground LSD therapy attested in some sources.

Curry drew attention to a web text entitled The Secret Chief which relates to this underground movement. That text contains a prologue by Grof, and is available on the MAPS website. Curry specified "hundreds of illegal practitioners" (art. cit., p. 89) in the underground, an estimate which may be conservative by now. The Secret Chief was authored by Myron Stolaroff and published by MAPS in 1997; this text glorifies the psychedelic "therapy" of an illegal practitioner. Informed commentators have no difficulty in decoding the underlying objectives of MAPS, which have long been reflected in the ideology of Rick Doblin as described above, and whose circles favour "recreational and spiritual use" of illegal drugs. See further Pointed Observations, pp. 6–24, 125–6.

8.   Rick  Doblin

Rick Doblin founded MAPS in 1986, soon after becoming a practitioner of Holotropic Breathwork as a consequence of studying at Esalen with Stanislav Grof, who (with his wife Christina) conducted what were known as certification training programmes in HB. During the 1970s, Doblin's LSD experiences caused him to drop out of college. In 2001, Doblin gained his Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and his dissertation is entitled Regulation of the Medical Use of Psychedelics and Marijuana. His commitment is to alteration of drug law, meaning the laws criminalising the use of drugs he advocates.

Details of Rick Doblin on the web have included the statement that "his professional goal is to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist," which strongly implies the LSD therapy of Grof. He has pursued the aim of gaining FDA approval for the use of MDMA as a prescription medicine. Psychedelic drugs and marijuana are also included in this MAPS objective. A web source informs:

"His [Doblin's] professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana, primarily as prescription medicines but also for personal growth for otherwise 'healthy' people, and to also become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist."

9.   Influence  of  Grof  at  Esalen  and  Findhorn  Foundation

Stanislav Grof taught hundreds of students at Esalen his pseudomystical ideology, which promoted LSD therapy and MDMA therapy, and also Holotropic Breathwork (HB) on a commercial scale. Grof spent fourteen years at Esalen (1973–87), becoming a Trustee; his influence upon the new age in California and elsewhere was acute and disastrous. Critics are not persuaded by a recent book in which an article by Grof argues that "hyperventilation can result in healing of emotional and psychosomatic problems." See K. Taylor, ed., Exploring Holotropic Breathwork: Selected Articles from a Decade of The Inner Door (2003). There are too many drawbacks when the "inner door" (or external safety mechanism) comes off the hinges. (The Inner Door is a partisan journal associated with HB and the Assn of HB International.)

During his Esalen phase, Grof is known to have invoked astral travel as an ingredient of an MDMA trip (Pointed Observations, p. 126). E. P. Curry deduced that Grof’s method was "drug-aided mind manipulation in order to create paranormal beliefs" (ibid.). Many people were dosed with drugs at that period, believing totally in the proclaimed safety of Grof therapy. Curry concluded "it is quite probable that hundreds of persons were injured – physically and/or psychologically – during Grof’s long tenure at Esalen" (ibid.). Grof could interpret an MDMA trip as an "out-of-body experience," and so the sober analyst is not obliged to concede the exotic transpersonal idioms which abet so many delusions in HB.

The American "alternative" scene is now strongly impregnated with Grofian ideas, and these have overspilled into British new age sectors. A major focus here is the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), which has been observed to incubate ideas from American counterculture amongst a large subscriber base of alternative therapists and related categories. The key SMN figure, David Lorimer, is not known as an HB or LSD exponent, but his partiality for promoting Bache on the SMN website is indication enough of SMN tastes and proclivities.

Critics say that the Grof therapy problem and MAPS ideology could easily infiltrate certain sectors of Britain such as the Findhorn Foundation in Moray, whose recent duplicit attitude to HB workshops occurring under their aegis (in defiance of medical warning) is another indication of what to expect from alternativism (see my First Letter to OSCR). The Findhorn Foundation have been condoned by the myopic UN branch known as UNITAR (based in Geneva, and who do not acknowledge complaints), just as MAPS was approved by the American FDA. Grof Transpersonal Training Inc. basically means that the public suffer from misinformation and obsessive practices while the entrepreneurs grow rich.

The HB entry in Wikipedia has grown much bigger due to the critical extension. Even one of the HB supporters, calling himself MAJ, has described the original partisan entry as an HB advert, though justifying his substitution of a rewritten entry, criticisms included. This suspect tactic met with due reaction from the critical communicator, who disputed the neutrality of both the MAJ version and the original partisan entry (discussion page, Jan. 1st edit, 2007).

MAJ describes himself as an HB practitioner who has had personal contact with Grof. Amongst other matters, MAJ states that he was present during the visit of Grof to the Findhorn Foundation in the early 1990s, and gives a very incomplete version of why the Findhorn Foundation withdrew further invitations to Grof. No mention is made of the SCO or Edinburgh University, which are still off the map in HB lore. One could not expect that such Grof partisanship would get to grips with realistic details of dissidents, eyewitnesses, victims, and official correspondence relating to HB. No, instead we are told by MAJ that the reason for Grof’s disappearance was "the continuing precarious relationship [of the Findhorn Foundation] with the local Findhorn population." The major disputants of HB actually lived in Forres and Edinburgh.

The real reason for Grof’s disappearance was the converging unison of the SCO (Scottish Charities Office), Edinburgh University, dissident reports, complaints of victims, and complaints of a local medic (living in Forres), plus the Findhorn Foundation fear of possible legalities ensuing in a fraught situation over which Grof had no control whatsoever in his unconvincing doctrines about the "safety" of HB. Grof failed to reply to a pressing letter that was sent to him by Kate Thomas in the early stages of this memorable episode, and HB lore has failed miserably to catch up with the facts [the partisan HB entry on Wikipedia has continued to contract the scope of criticism].

10.   Dosages  of  MDMA

Meanwhile, another hazard is evident enough to sober medics and other analysts. MAPS have been insisting that low dosages of MDMA are harmless in their programme. Yet Dr. Maartje M. de Win, a member of the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam, has recently (2006) warned of the danger to new MDMA users.

The warning was based upon a relevant study which specifically investigated the neurotoxic effects of low dosages of the recreational drug. There were discoveries of "decreased blood flow in some brain regions, suggesting prolonged effects from the drug, including some cell damage" [item formerly showing at RSNA]. A decrease in verbal memory performance was emphasised. The conclusion is pressing that the public should be warned of the risk involved even in small doses of Ecstasy. These details have been reported on the MAPS website, and contested by MAPS, along with an invitation to consult the MAPS Psychedelic Bibliography.

MDMA is an illegal drug which has been defined as both a stimulant and psychedelic. Former research has shown that long-term or heavy usage of MDMA can damage serotonin neurons and cause depression, anxiety, confusion, difficulty in sleeping, and decrease in memory. The recent low dosage probe used 188 volunteers, and the results were announced at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in November 2006. Dr. de Win stated that "recreational use and prescription of Ecstasy as adjuvant in psychotherapy should be discouraged." A protest was expressed (11/12/2006) in the letter of Rick Doblin to Dr. de Win.

A survey undertaken in America in 2004 by the NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) discovered that 450,000 Americans (aged 12 and over) had used Ecstasy in the past thirty days. Such large numbers are alarming, and very significant for the carefree approach to drug dangers. That indulgent and uninformed attitude is surely encouraged by such influential writings as those of Stanislav Grof, whose widely read The Adventure of Self-Discovery (1988) mixes drug experiences and HB theory.

Grof has explicitly favoured MDMA (and MDA), and his account of "visions" experienced during amphetamine indulgences has contributed to public susceptibility. Cf. Shepherd, Minds and Sociocultures Vol. One (1995), p. 99, which criticises Grof’s intake of 200 milligrams of MDMA with hallucinatory effects. If more people knew of the (potential and actual) cost of such indulgences, then SUNY Press (one of Grof’s publishers) might have received a comeback in terms of legalities, but the American alternative scene is too often one in which "psychotherapy" is elevated at the expense of consumer health.

Kevin  R. D. Shepherd

January  2007 (with section 8 added in November 2011).



Wikipedia Holotropic Breathwork

Wikipedia Stanislav Grof

Grof Transpersonalism (2008)

Findhorn Foundation Commercial Mysticism (2008)

Kate Thomas and the Findhorn Foundation (2009)

The Findhorn Foundation: Problems (2009)

David Lorimer, SMN, Findhorn Foundation (2013)



Bache, Christopher M., Dark Night, Early Dawn: Steps to a Deep Ecology of Mind (Albany: SUNY Press, 2000).

--- "Is the Sacred Medicine Path a Legitimate Spiritual Path?" Network: The Scientific and Medical Network Review No. 81 (April 2003), pp. 19-22.

Castro, Stephen J., “New Age Therapy – higher consciousness or delusion?” The Therapist, 1995, 2(4), pp. 14–16, and featured on this website.

Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation (Forres: New Media Books, 1996), chapter six.

Curry, E. Patrick, “Carl Jung, Stanislav Grof, and New Age Medical Mysticism,” The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine and Aberrant Medical Practices (Amherst: New York: Prometheus Books) Spring 2002, Vol. 6 no. 2, pp. 83–90.

Grof, Stanislav, Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research (New York: Viking Press, 1975).

The Human Encounter with Death (New York: Dutton, 1977).

LSD Psychotherapy (Pomona, California: Hunter House, 1980).

Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death, and Transcendence in Psychotherapy (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985).

The Adventure of Self-Discovery (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988).

— ed., Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis (Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, 1989).

The Stormy Search for the Self (Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, 1991).

The Holotropic Mind (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992).

The Cosmic Game: Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998).

Psychology of the Future (Albany: SUNY Press, 2000).

Shepherd, Kevin R. D., Meaning in Anthropos (Cambridge: Anthropographia, 1991), introduction.

Minds and Sociocultures Vol. One (Cambridge: Philosophical Press, 1995), introduction 1.7, pp. 61ff., and Appendix 5 “On Holotropic Breathwork,” pp. 945ff.

Pointed Observations (Dorchester, Dorset: Citizen Initiative, 2005).

Taylor, K., ed., Exploring Holotropic Breathwork: Selected Articles from a Decade of The Inner Door (Santa Cruz, California: Hanford Mead Publishers, 2003).

Thomas, Kate, The Destiny Challenge (Forres: New Frequency Press, 1992), chapter 14.

— “Transpersonal Experiences – a Need for Re-evaluation?” Network: The Scientific and Medical Network Review No. 81 (April 2003), pp. 15–18.

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