Renn Butler – Holotropic Breathwork and Archetypal Astrology

January 1, 2019
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In this episode, Joe and Kyle sit down with Renn Butler, who graduated from the second ever class of Holotropic Breathwork in 1989. During the show, they discuss topics on Breathwork, Stan Grof practices, archetypal astrology and the astrological landscape we are entering in 2019.

3 Key Points:

  1. Renn Butler is an Archetypal and Holotropic Astrologer since the 70’s who uses astrology in his Breathwork practice.
  2. Stan Grof’s Internalized Protocol includes lying down with eye shades and headphones with a sober sitter. A sober sitter is more common in therapeutic settings versus the shamanistic group settings, and Renn believes there is more benefit to a sober sitter in a personal session than a group session.
  3. We are moving into a Jupiter square Neptune for all of 2019. Neptune represents our soul’s yearning to reawaken to the universal field of consciousness and Jupiter amplifies whatever it touches, so we are entering into a time of opportunity for self exploration and awakening.

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Show Notes

About Renn

  • Renn became interested in Stan Grof’s work through many conversations with Richard Tarnas in 1980, and then participated in a Grof month long session with guests like Gwen Frishkoff
    • He spent much time in Esalon
    • He remembers walking through the hallways where the mandalas from breathwork sessions were hung
  • He has been an Archetypal/Holotropic Astrologer since the 70’s

Archetypal Astrology

  • Stan Grof looked at ways to determine the content of people’s experiences in assisted psychotherapy
    • Through his friendship with Richard Tarnas, he found that people’s planetary alignments or ‘transits’ corresponded in a remarkable way with their experience in a session
  • “The purpose of astrology is to predict the meaning behind events rather than trying to determine the specific concrete forms they take.” – Renn
    • Carl Jung coined the term archetype based on the Greek word “arche”, which means ‘the forms’
    • It’s the psychological meaning behind events
  • Richard learned astrology by looking at his sessions and the content of the sessions and their correlation with astrological transits
    • Based on his findings, he was able to predict the best days to do sessions

A Powerful Breathwork Session

  • Renn had Kundalini Experiences happening for 4 years
  • Transiting Pluto was conjoining his natal Neptune
    • Pluto compels into being whatever archetypes it aligns with
    • Neptune represents divine consciousness
  • He did a 5 hour breathwork session that caused him to re-live aspects of toxic womb (disturbances of intrauterine life)
    • Pluto can help clear out disturbances of the psyche
  • At the end of the session, he felt way more cleared out than he did before
    It resolved his Kundalini episode that he was in for the last few years

Kundalini Awakenings

  • Some describe it as energy moving up the spine or chakra
    • It means to clear out leftover traumatic baggage in the psyche
  • People can have emotional outbursts and start crying or screaming as they discharge the energy
    • Afterward, they will care what happens to the ecosystem and around them and want to be a part of the solution

Spiritual Emergence and Psychosis

  • Joe asks when to tell the difference between knowing if someone is going through a Spiritual Emergence or needs hospitalization
  • Renn responds saying you need to look for if the person is taking responsibility for their healing versus projecting.
  • Renn mentions a woman who did 90 LSD sessions with Stan Grof
  • “The greatest therapeutic outcomes exist with intelligent well established individuals whose lives become boring and rigid in routine” – Stan Grof

Current Astrological Alignments

  • The Astrological Alignments for the next few years are supercharged
    • Uranus square Pluto – a powerful set of archetypes
    • The last time this happened was the end of the 60’s
    • Richard Tarnas calls it the ‘sunset effect’, colors will saturate the sky in the archetypal realm
  • Many people are going to have dramatic healing breakthroughs and openings until 2020
  • For those who are a bit skeptical about astrology, Renn suggest reading newer texts;

Astrological Transits in Relation to Breathwork

  • Richard’s correlation of the outer planets Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto with Grof’s 4 perinatal matrices shows the process of revolutionizing astrology
  • Carl Jung would do chart work before seeing all of his patients
    • He would try to find transits with Jupiter, Uranus, Venus, etc
  • There are no astrological alignments that would be too dangerous to do journey-work during
    • But Renn says it’s like putting up the lightning rod during certain transits during breathwork
  • “Lie back and let the mother give birth to you” – Renn
    • Renn says it’s safer if you are on your back during journey work versus walking around and facing gravity and falling or hurting yourself

Grof Internalized Protocol

  • One patient at a time (sitter, breather team) to lie down, wear eye shades, and listen to music through headphones
    • The sitter agrees not to judge or direct the process or abandon the process
  • You can expect miracles with this type of protocol
  • You can’t face this material by yourself, you really need people you trust, who are sober and not doing a substance, one person at a time
    • Renn says the ayahuasca revolution has brought a lot of greatness to the western world, but the shamanic traditions usually meant that the shaman drinks with the clients to have a magical insight into the users psyche

Sitter Role

  • In a therapeutic framework, the sitter is sober and lets the client do all of the work, and the sitter is there to assist, but not to interfere with the process
  • Stan describes it as a way to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks
  • Renn brings up an example of 3 people doing mushrooms together
    • One person might be feeling aggressive, and another person might feel like a baby wanting to be held
    • The aggressive person won’t want to be doing any cuddling
    • One person does the catalyst, and the other 2 support them, and then the next time they rotate
  • Renn thinks one deep session is more beneficial than 3 ‘half-assed’ sessions

Interruptions During Sessions

  • Some people have a fear that their experience may interrupt another person’s experience
    • Renn says that if someone is laughing or screaming or crying that he understands it is just a part of the universe of the way things just are
  • He is shocked to hear stories about people having a loud experience getting taken out away from the rest of the group and told to contain themselves
  • Kyle mentions that sounds usually aren’t a bother, and the loud music helps
    • But it’s talking, English words that bring people out of a session
  • People can have great ayahuasca ceremonies, and then they think that ayahuasca is the best psychedelic out there
    • Renn says that all psychedelics are great tools
    • But he encourages people to try breathwork and this solo session style healing
  • Joe says he dreams of a place where shamanism takes a look at the solo process and maybe not always the group process, that all cultures can combine our knowledge for the best result


    • We are moving into a Jupiter square Neptune for all of 2019, 90 degrees between Jupiter and Neptune
      • Neptune represents our soul’s yearning to reawaken to the larger world’s soul, to the universal field of consciousness
      • Jupiter amplifies whatever it touches
      • This presents a large opportunity for self exploration, with a feeling of deeper cosmic safety
    • “It seems like our psyche’s wait until things are safe for the deepest material to surface.” – Renn
    • Renn says it’s good to focus on death so that we can constantly keep our priorities straight


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About Renn

Following a B.A. in English and Religious Studies from the University of Alberta, Renn Butler lived at the Esalen Institute in California for 2½ years where he became deeply immersed in the transpersonal psychology of Stanislav Grof and the emerging archetypal astrology of Richard Tarnas. He completed training as a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator with Stan and Christina Grof in 1989 and has facilitated many workshops in Victoria, Canada. His research includes over three decades of archetypal-astrology consultations and Holotropic Breathwork workshops, and thirty-five years of Jungian-Grofian dreamwork.