When the Impossible Happens ~ Stanislav Grof

Ancient Science, Books, Entheogens, Recommended / Saturday, March 16th, 2013


Descriptions of the 5-MeO-DMT experience increasingly report distinct parallels to the classical mystical experience. Of the notable attempts at describing the 5-MeO-DMT experience by these “front-line” investigators, none are more notable than the following account by the eminent transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof, taken from his recent autobiography, When the Impossible Happens. (2006).

The most remarkable contribution of the animal kingdom to the repertory of psychedelic users and spiritual seekers comes from the genus Bufo. The toad skin, which contains the psychoactive compound bufotenin, was a regular ingredient of the brews that the witches used in the Middle Ages for inducing the visions of the Sabbath. In the late 1960s, the psychedelic grapevine spread the news about a strange new way of achieving a psychedelic state—by licking the skin secretions of a giant Arizona desert toad, Bufo alvarius. This species can be found only in the Sonoran Desert, stretching over the southern half of Arizona and south to Sonora in Mexico.

Being semiaquatic, these toads must remain in the vicinity of dependable water sources in order to survive. For this reason, their principle habitat is within the drainage of permanent rivers and streams of the Sonoran Desert. Their lifestyle is also supported by the fact that more than one thousand years ago, the Hohokam Indians began diverting water from the Gila River and created a complex system of canals to irrigate the and soil. But even all that would not be sufficient. Bufo alvarius features specialized glands, located particularly on the neck and the limbs. They produce a viscous milky-white secretion that protects them against the heat of the Arizona desert, as well as against enemies.

This secretion contains a high concentration of 5-methoxydimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), a compound with extraordinary psychedelic properties. This substance was first synthetized in the chemical laboratory in 1936, more than twenty years before modern Americans discovered its psychedelic effects. However, Native Americans had known the mind-altering effects of the secretions for centuries and had used them in their shamanic practices. It turned out that the same active principle is also responsible for the effects of psychedelic snuffs of plant origin, such as virola or epená, used by the Tukano, Waika, and Araraibo Indians in Brazil and Venezuela.

The dry material produced by milking and vaporization of the skin secretions of Bufo alvarius by heat contains as much as 15 percent of the active principle. Smoking dried secretions induces within seconds a psychedelic state than can be very psychologically challenging because of the rapidity or snorting of 5 to 15 milligrams of pure 5-MeO-DMT has similar effects. The discovery of the psychedelic effects of the secretions of Bufo alvarius by the psychedelic generation was a sensation. It inspired the founding of the Church of the Toad of Light, the members of which smoke this material in their ceremonies as a sacrament. 

The beginning of the experience was very sudden and dramatic. I was hit by a thunderbolt of immense power that instantly shattered and dissolved my everyday reality. I lost all contact with the surrounding world, which completely disappeared as if by magic. In the past, whenever I had taken a high-dose of psychedelics, I liked to lie down and make myself comfortable. This time, any such concerns were irrelevant because I lost awareness of my body, as well as of the environment. After the session, I was told that after taking a couple of drags, I sat there for several minutes like a sculpture, holding the pipe near my mouth. Cristina and Paul had to take the pipe from my hand and put my body in a reclining position on the couch.

In all my previous sessions, I had always maintained basic orientation. I knew who I was, where I was, and why I was having unusual experiences. This time all this dissolved in a matter of seconds. The awareness of my everyday existence, my name, my whereabouts, and my life disappeared as if by magic. Stan Grof … California … United States … planet Earth … these concepts faintly echoed for a few moments like dreamlike images on the far periphery of my consciousness and then faded away altogether. I tried hard to remember myself of all the existence of the realities I used to know, but they suddenly did not make any sense.
In all my previous psychedelic sessions there always had been some rich specific content. The experiences related to my present lifetime – the story of my childhood, infancy, birth, and embryonal life – or to various themes from the transpersonal domain – my past life experiences, images from human history, archetypal visions of deities or demons, or visits to various mythological domains. This time, none of these dimensions seemed to exist, let alone manifest. My only reality was a mass of radiant swirling energy of immense proportions that seemed to contain all of existence in a condensed and entirely abstract form. I became Consciousness facing the Absolute.

It had the brightness of myriad suns, yet it was not the same continuum with any light I knew from everyday life. It seemed to be pure consciousness, intelligence, and creative energy transcending all polarities. It was infinite and finite, divine and demonic, terrifying and ecstatic, creative and destructive – all that and much more. I had no concept, no categories for what I was witnessing. I could not maintain a sense of separate existence in the face of such a force. My ordinary identity was shattered and dissolved; I became one with the Source. In retrospect, I believe I must have experienced the Dharmakaya, the Primary Clear Light, which according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thödol, appears at the moment of our death. It bore some resemblance to what I encountered in my first LSD session, but it was much more over whelming and completely extinguished any sense of my separate identity.

My encounter with the Absolute lasted approximately 20 minutes of clock time, as measured by external observers. As far as I was concerned, during the entire duration of my experience, time ceased to exist and lost any meaning whatsoever. After what seemed like an eternity, concrete dreamlike images and concepts began to form in my experiential field. I started intuiting fleeting images of a cosmos with galaxies, stars, and planets, Later, I gradually visualized a solar system, and within it the Earth, with large continents.

Initially, these images were very distant and unreal, but as the experience continued, I started to feel that these realities might actually have objective existence. Gradually, this crystallized further into the images of the United States and California. The last to emerge was the sense of my everyday identity and the awareness of my present life. At first, the contact with the ordinary reality was extremely faint. I recognized where I was and what the circumstances were. But I was sure that I had taken a dose that was excessive and that I was actually dying. For some time, I believed I was experiencing the bardo, the intermediate state between my present life and my birth in the next incarnation, as it is described in the Tibetan texts.
As I was regaining more solid contact with reality, I reached a point where I knew that I was coming down from a psychedelic session and that I would survive this experiment. I was lying there, still experiencing myself as dying, but now without the sense that my present life was threatened. My dying seemed to be related to scenes from my previous incarnations. I found myself in many dramatic situations happening in different parts of the world throughout the centuries, all of them dangerous and painful. Various groups of muscles in my body were twitching and shaking, as my body was hurting and dying in these different contexts. However, as my karmic history played out in my body, I was in a state of profound bliss, completely detached from all these dramas, which persisted even after all the specific content disappeared from my experience.

extracts from: ~ Stanislav Grof, “When the Impossible Happens: Adventures in Non-Ordinary Reality.” (2006).

Stanislav Grof (born July 1, 1931 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) is 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 analyzing, healing, and obtaining growth and insight into the human psyche. Between 1960 and 1967, he was Principal Investigator in a psychedelic research program at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague, Czechoslovakia, while after immigrating to the United States, Dr. Grof served as Chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. Until the time that research in LSD and other psychedelics became illegal in the United States (and virtually everywhere else), Dr Grof was considered probably the lead researcher in the field. After further research in psychedelics became impossible, Dr Grof became the Esalen Institute’s ‘Scholar-in-Residence’ from 1972 till 1987, where he developed his holotropic breathwork technique (with his wife Cristina) and numerous theories on the psychedelic (or transpersonal) state that he has expounded in a series of books including ‘The Cosmic Game: Explorations Of The Frontiers Of Human Consciousness’ (1998), ‘The Ultimate Journey: Consciousness And The Mystery Of Death’ (2006), and ‘LSD: Doorway to the Numinous: The Groundbreaking Psychedelic Research into Realms of the Human Unconscious’ (2009). He is the founder of the International Transpersonal Association, (and its past and current President), as well as a Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour – William Blake

.   ..   …   .:.   …   ..   .

The best verbal description (español) I know of for this truly ineffable, hyperluminal experience:

Me acuerdo de la primera vez que fumé 5 MeO DMT ( la Molécula de Dios )’


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