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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Animateur After All

Grof’s work points to an ensouled cosmos and in this he has indeed become an animateur, in more ways than one! I came across this term, animateur, while reading a book called The Hero’s Journey (Campbell, 1991), based on a film about Joseph Campbell’s life (Balnicke and Kennard, 1987), one of Grof’s friends. In the introduction, Cousineau describes Campbell as “what the French elegantly call an “animateur” the charismatic teacher who not only animates complex material for the average audience, but evokes what Vladimir Nabakov called the frisson, the telling shiver of truth about your own life.” (Campbell, 1991, p. xiii). I think that this description aptly fits Grof, too.

Grof’s work with nonordinary states of consciousness (NOSOCs) strongly supports “Jung’s belief that the archetypal world has an independent existence. This world is supraordinated to our everyday reality and represents its moving force” (Grof, 1993, p. 159). Grof’s own experience of the “Theatre Of the Cosmic Drama” described in The Cosmic Game (Grof, 1998a) is an example of this. Particularly frequent in Grof's experience have been encounters or even identification with various deities of different cultures representing death and rebirth. Working with NOSOCs allows us to experience these different dimensions of the psyche.

Van Eenwyk (1997) also reminds us, archetypes are the “animators behind the images” (p. 103). He talks about Jung’s constructivist approach, shared by both Grof and Hillman, which asks us to view symbols in as many of their manifestations as possible, and that the symbolism of a particular item “derives as much from that in which they participate as from any character inherent in their essence . . . and reflects a dynamic potential that brings the static entity alive. It animates it, thereby bestowing on it meaning” (pp. 104-105). Van Eenwyk advocates seeing “animation as the result of congruent patterns,” wherein activity and structure often have patterns, so “combining the pattern of a structure with the pattern of an activity results in animation” (p. 105). Grof is also an animator this way, too. Like Jung and Hillman, Grof's work has an archetypal focus and helps us to see where we are in the grand cosmos of things, to keep things in perspective, and to realize the importance of our participation in the world soul, the anima mundi.

Like Nietzsche, Grof’s work revolves around the eternal return. Grof’s work, like the eternal return, recognizes the importance of beginnings, not only our own personal beginnings with the birth process, but the ancient wisdom of primal peoples. Grof came upon the eternal return experientially, and his work allows us to go there, too. Grof's cartography is inclusive of other ideas from different depth psychology schools and enables us to know where we are while we are on the journey. To this end, let us take a quick look at maps and then further discuss Grof’s cartography, so that we can orient ourselves during the rest of the dissertation.


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