REVIEW: 
The Cosmic Game:
 Explorations in the Frontiers of Human Consciousness
 – Stanislav Grof

Published by New leaf: Dublin 1998


Stan Grof’s latest book is a thought-provoking summation of 40 years of 
research and practice in the field of non-ordinary states of consciousness. This is 
the work of an innovative philosophical mind at the full height of its powers and
 undoubtedly deserves to be read by anyone who seeks the meaning of existence.

In his hypothesis he proposes the idea of a life as a vast cosmic game, an
 experiment in virtual reality undertaken by Absolute Consciousness for its own
 self-knowledge, for its entertainment and manifestation. In similar fashion to Jung,
 Grof believes that God requires some tangible materialised experience of its
 opposite to relieve its boredom, to come to know itself.

“It wants to explore all the qualities that in its pristine nature it does not have and
 to become everything that it is not. Being eternal, infinite, unlimited and ethereal 
it longs for the ephemeral, impermanent, limited by time and space, solid and 
corporeal … the ultimate reason for creation of the material world might be the
 addiction of consciousness and spirit for the experience of matter. In everyday life, 
this craving of the spirit for matter may be the deepest root of all our human 
attachments and addictions.

“
Grof ranges over familiar territory in the chapters on karma and reincarnation 
which he supports with detailed case histories, eastern philosophy and modern 
research studies. The chapter on birth, sex and death expands on his previous work 
on thanaology and examines the fear of real or symbolic death.
”

The menacing spectre of death that we harbour in our unconscious interferes with 
our everyday existence and makes our life in many ways unauthentic. In
 technological societies the predominant reactions to the situation are massive 
denial and avoidance that are in their consequences destructive and self-destructive 
on an individual as well as a collective level. It is essential for the future of 
humanity that we break through this denial and come to terms with the problem of 
impermanence and of our mortality. There exists ancient and modern methods of
 self-exploration that can help us confront the fears of death, bringing it fully into 
consciousness and overcome it.”

Many of these “technologies of the sacred” are outlined in the chapter entitled 
”Ways to Reunion With The Cosmic Source”. In “The Process of Creation”, a wonderful study of mankind’s experiential knowledge of the transcendental source,
 he condenses much of the core wisdom of the various mystical traditions to lead
 the reader behind the veil of illusion we call reality, bringing one deeper and deeper 
into the meditative centre of existence in a few short pages. It is from this position
 that Grof challenges us to view creation and our 
role in it, to enter the cosmic game. The shift is achieved so deftly that one is
 unwittingly captivated by his argument.

“In essence we do not have a fixed identity and can experience ourselves as
 anything on the continuum between the embodied self and absolute consciousness
… Since by our true nature we are unlimited spiritual beings we enter the cosmic
 game on the basis of a free decision and get trapped by the perfection with which 
it is executed.”

Later, he devotes a chapter to the problem of good and evil and looks at the ethical
 implications for holotropic states which seek to contain the cosmic forces of
 violence and greed.

This scientific thesis is a direct and uncompromising challenge to the proponents
 of material science and religious fundamentalism who stubbornly reflise to 
acknowledge the existence and value of non-ordinary states of consciousness.

“What characterises true science is open-minded and open-ended application of the
 scientific method of inquiry to any domain of reality that allows it, no matter how 
absurd, this undertaking might appear from a traditional perspective. I believe that 
pioneers in various areas of modem consciousness research have done exactly that.
 They have studied with great courage a wide spectrum of holotropic experiences 
and amassed in the process vast amounts of fascinating data. Many of the
 phenomena they have observed represent a crucial challenge to deeply ingrained
 beliefs that have long been falsely considered to be established scientific facts.”

This book probes deeper than any other the great questions of the universe, its
 origins, its meaning, its interrelationships and shows a way forward for resolving
 many of our current difficulties and enses. It is a remarkable work and should not 
be missed.

Tim Hannan.