The Way of the Psychonaut explores the life and work of Stanislav Grof, Czech-born psychiatrist and psychedelic psychotherapy pioneer. Stan’s quest for knowledge and insights into the healing power of non-ordinary states of consciousness, influenced the discipline of psychology and profoundly changed many individual lives. One of those transformed by Stan is filmmaker Susan Hess Logeais. The documentary utilizes Susan’s personal existential crisis as a gateway to Grof’s impact, from the micro to the macro.
Susan and Stan begin with a series of interviews that reveal his journey from material scientist to a spiritually aware explorer of the deep psyche. Interviews combined with re-enactments of Stan’s most remarkable therapeutic sessions bring to life the development of his theories. Additionally, a multi-layered visual story provides a framework of meaning to Susan’s personal exploration of Stan’s techniques and discoveries. The result is a powerful glimpse of what is possible for all of us.
Through his experiences, Stan gained a profound trust in the wisdom of the higher self, and discovered the lasting impact of unconscious memories from the birth process to influence a person’s life. In the process, Stan unlocked a way for renegotiating these experiences and liberating people from their traumas.
As the story expands, interviews with luminaries create a conversation between Stan and those most pivotal in his life; Michael Murphy, who invited him to Esalen as Scholar in Residence; Fritjof Capra, who introduced Stan to Quantum Mechanics and recognizes him as the only one to offer an experiential approach to understanding those concepts; Richard Tarnas who co-founded archetypal astrology with Stan during his ten years at Esalen; And Rupert Sheldrake, who remembers how Stan introduced him to a world where he could freely explore ideas without fear of retribution.
But when the focus turns to the present moment, Stan laments society’s desire to shun the shadow and embrace the positive. Only when we learn to work out our conflicts within, will we co-exist peacefully with each other and the planet. The film ends with Stan’s rebirth after the death of his wife Christina. After her death, Stan wonders if his time has come as well. But instead, he reconnects with Brigitte – a former student - revealing their deep love and the joy they have experienced together since.