Psychedelic Birth: Bodies, Boundaries, and the Perception of Pain in the 1970s

Thursday, October 13, 2022
Event Location: 
Lower West Oval Room, Rotunda

Psychedelic Birth: Bodies, Boundaries, and the Perception of Pain in the 1970s, 
Thursday, Oct 13, 2022
12:00 – 1:00 PM, Lower West Oval Room, Rotunda

Wendy Kline, PhD Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine Department of History, Purdue University

Lecture co-sponsored by the UVA Center for Health Humanities & Ethics; the Eleanor Crowder Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry; the Department of History; the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality; and the Health, Ethics, and Society Minor

On November 13, 1956, recently certified Czech psychiatrist Stan Grof swallowed 150 micrograms of LSD as one of the earliest Czech volunteers for a research study. Within a few hours, his entire conception about the human psyche and the role of psychoanalysis was turned upside down. He described being hit by a radiance comparable to a “nuclear explosion” which catapulted him out of his body, expanding his consciousness to “cosmic dimensions.”
The timing was fortuitous, for Grof was in the midst of an existential crisis. Like many psychiatrists in Europe and the U.S. in the 1950s, he was inspired by Freudian analysis. Psychoanalysis was brilliant in theory, he believed, but abysmal in practice. It lacked visible proof of efficacy, a reminder of the profession’s struggle for legitimacy. Over the next fifteen years, Grof set out to provide that proof. He established himself as the world’s foremost researcher of psychedelics, conducting over 2000 psychedelic sessions first at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Institute and then at the Esalen Institute in CA.

In this talk, Professor Kline will draw on the records of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center LSD Training Program Study and the papers of Grof to explore the unexpected entanglements between psychiatry, midwifery, and psychedelics.

A light lunch will be available