Transpersonal psychology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search

Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology. It is also possible to define it as a "spiritual psychology". The Transpersonal has been defined as "experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos".[1]

Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance, spiritual crises, spiritual evolution, religious conversion, altered states of consciousness, spiritual practices, and other sublime and/or unusually expanded experiences of living.The discipline attempts to describe and integrate spiritual experience within modern psychological theory and to formulate new theory to encompass such experience.


A short definition from the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology suggests that transpersonal psychology "is concerned with the study of humanity's highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness".[2] Lajoie and Shapiro [2] reviewed forty definitions of transpersonal psychology that had appeared in literature over the period from 1969 to 1991. They found that five key themes in particular featured prominently in these definitions: states of consciousness, higher or ultimate potential, beyond the ego or personal self, transcendence, and the spiritual. The perspectives of holism and unity is central to the worldview of Transpersonal psychology.[3]

In a review of previous definitions Walsh and Vaughan suggested that Transpersonal psychology is an "area of psychology that focuses on the study of transpersonal experiences and related phenomena. These phenomena include the causes, effects and correlates of transpersonal experiences and development, as well as the disciplines and practices inspired by them".[1] They have also criticised many definitions of transpersonal psychology for carrying implicit ontological or methodological assumptions, and they challenge definitions that link transpersonal psychology to healthy states only, or to the "Perennial Philosophy". Note a

Hartelius, Caplan and Rardin conducted a retrospective analysis of definitions of Transpersonal Psychology. They found three dominant themes that defines the field: beyond-ego psychology, integrative/holistic psychology, and psychology of transformation. Analysis suggested that the field has moved from an early emphasis on alternative states of consciousness to a more expanded view of human wholeness and transformation. This development has, according to the authors, moved the field closer to the integral approaches of Ken Wilber and Post-Aurobindonian theorists.[4]

Caplan (2009: p. 231) conveys the genesis of the discipline, states its mandate and ventures a definition:

Although transpersonal psychology is relatively new as a formal discipline, beginning with the publication of The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology in 1969 and the founding of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology in 1971, it draws upon ancient mystical knowledge that comes from multiple traditions. Transpersonal psychologists attempt to integrate timeless wisdom with modern Western psychology and translate spiritual principles into scientifically grounded, contemporary language. Transpersonal psychology addresses the full spectrum of human psychospiritual development – from our deepest wounds and needs, to the existential crisis of the human being, to the most transcendent capacities of our consciousness.[5]


Transpersonal psychology developed from earlier schools of psychology including psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology.Transpersonal psychology is many times regarded as the fourth wave force of psychology which, according to Maslow, even transcends the self-actualization of Humanistic psychology (1968).[6][7] Commentators [8] also mention the psychedelic movement, the psychological study of religion, parapsychology, and the interest in Eastern spiritual systems and practices, as influences that shaped the early field of transpersonal psychology. Although Carl Jung, Otto Rank and others explored aspects of the spiritual and transpersonal in their work, Miller [9] notes that Western psychology has had a tendency to ignore the spiritual dimension of the human psyche.

Amongst the thinkers who are held to have set the stage for transpersonal studies are William James, Carl Jung, Otto Rank, Abraham Maslow, and Roberto Assagioli.[9] Research by Vich [10] suggests that the earliest usage of the term "transpersonal" can be found in lecture notes which William James had prepared for a semester at Harvard University in 1905-6. The meaning then, different from today's usage, was in the context of James’ radical empiricism in which there exists an intimate relation between a perceiving subject and a perceived object, recognizing that all objects are dependent on being perceived by someone.[11] Another important figure in the establishment of transpersonal psychology was Abraham Maslow. Maslow had already published work regarding human peak experiences, and was one of the people, together with Stanislav Grof and Viktor Frankl, who suggested the term "transpersonal" for the emerging field.

Development of the academic field[edit]


Gradually, during the 1960s, the term "transpersonal" was associated with a distinct school of psychology within the humanistic psychology movement.[12] In 1969, Abraham Maslow, Stanislav Grof and Anthony Sutich were among the initiators behind the publication of the first issue of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, the leading academic journal in the field.[12]

During the next decade significant establishments took place under the banner of Transpersonal Psychology. The association for Transpersonal Psychology was established in 1972, followed by the founding of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, a graduate training center.[7] In the early 1980s a group within APA division 32 (Humanistic Psychology) argued in favor of establishing Transpersonal Psychology as a separate division within the framework of the American Psychological Association. A petition was presented to the APA Council in 1984, but was turned down. A new initiative was made in 1985, but it failed to win the majority of votes in the council. In 1986 the petition was presented for a third and final time, but was withdrawn by the executive board of Division 32.[4][7] The interest group later re-formed as the Transpersonal Psychology Interest Group (TPIG), and continued to promote transpersonal issues in collaboration with Division 32.[7]

In the 1980s and 1990s the field developed through the works of such authors as Jean Houston, Stanislav Grof, Ken Wilber, Michael Washburn, Frances Vaughan, Roger Walsh, Stanley Krippner, Michael Murphy, Charles Tart, David Lukoff, Vasily Nalimov, Margret Rueffler and Stuart Sovatsky. While Wilber has been considered an influential writer and theoretician in the field, he has since personally dissociated himself from the movement in favor of what he calls an integral approach.[4]

Although the perspectives of Transpersonal Psychology has spread to a number of interest groups across the USA and Europe, its origins was in California, and the field has always been strongly associated with academic institutions on the west coast of the U.S.A.[4] Both the Association for Transpersonal Psychology and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology were founded in the state of California, and a number of the fields leading theorists come from this area of the USA.[4]

Increasing recognition[edit]

Robert Frager and James Fadiman of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology provide an account of the contributions of many of the key historic figures who have shaped and developed transpersonal psychology (in addition to discussing and explaining important concepts and theories germane to it) in a textbook on personality theories[13] which serves to promote an understanding of the discipline in classroom settings.

Growing awareness of Transpersonal Psychology is reflected in modern academic culture. Transpersonal Psychology is discussed in academic articles,[14] [15] psychology books,[16] and academic book reviews.[9][17] Recently there has also been an inclusion of a section on transpersonal psychology in a standard college textbook,[18] marking the entrance of transpersonal themes into mainstream academic settings. In this book author Barbara Engler [18] asks the question, "Is spirituality an appropriate topic for psychological study?" She offers a brief account of the history of transpersonal psychology and a peek into its possible future. In her discussion of the topic Engler relays the idea of psychologist George-Harold Jennings [19] who has suggested that "transpersonal psychology, using Jung's typology, expresses the neglected inferior function in American psychology, needs to be incorporated into it, and offers great potential and promise for the development of psychology in the third millennium".[20]

Admitting that the majority of mainstream psychology departments rarely offer training programs in transpersonal issues and practices as part of their curriculum,[14] transpersonal perspectives are starting to be applied to such diverse fields as psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, sociology, pharmacology,[21] and social work theory.[15] Transpersonal therapies are also included in many therapeutic practices. Currently, transpersonal psychology, especially the schools of Jungian and Archetypal psychology, is integrated, at least to some extent, into many psychology departments in American and European Universities. Graduate programs in Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology have been made available at several North-American Universities.[4][22] Note b In 2012 the New York Times reported that Columbia University were integrating spiritual psychology, similar to the perspectives taught at Sofia University (California) (formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology), into their clinical psychology program.[23]

In 1996 the British Psychological Society (the UK professional body equivalent to the APA) established a Transpersonal Psychology Section. It was co-founded by David Fontana, Ingrid Slack and Martin Treacy and was, according to Fontana, "the first Section of its kind in a Western scientific society".[18][24][25]

Branches and related fields[edit]

By common consent, the following branches are considered to be transpersonal psychological schools: various depth psychology approaches including Analytical psychology, based on Carl Jung, and the Archetypal psychology of James Hillman; the spiritual psychology of Robert Sardello;[26] psychosynthesis founded by Roberto Assagioli; Zen Transactional Psychotherapy created by Robert M. Anthony; and the theories of Otto Rank, Abraham Maslow, Stanislav Grof, Timothy Leary, Ken Wilber, Michael Washburn and Charles Tart.

Related academic fields include Near-death studies and Humanistic psychology. The field of Near-death studies is considered to be a transpersonal research field, and shares many of the same research goals as the field of Transpersonal Psychology. The findings of Near-death Studies is represented in the Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology,[21] and the near-death experience is discussed in relation to other transpersonal and spiritual categories.[27] Both Kenneth Ring and Bruce Greyson, who are well-known authors in the field of Near-death Studies, have published articles in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology.

There is also a strong connection between the transpersonal and the humanistic approaches to psychology. Although Transpersonal Psychology is considered to have started off within,[7] or developed from humanistic psychology, many of its interests, such as spirituality and modes of consciousness, extend beyond the areas of interest discussed by humanistic theory.[8] According to writers in the field [8] transpersonal psychology advocates for an expanded, spiritual, view of physical and mental health that is not necessarily addressed by humanistic psychology.


Transpersonal psychology can be confused with Parapsychology. This may sometimes happen due to the overlapping and unconventional research interests of both fields. In short; parapsychology tends to focus more in its subject matter on the "psychic", while transpersonal psychology tends to focus on the "spiritual" (relatively crude though these categorizations are, it is still a useful distinction in this context). While parapsychology leans more towards traditional scientific epistemology (laboratory experiments, statistics, research on cognitive states), transpersonal psychology tends to be more closely related to the epistemology of the humanities and the hermeneutic disciplines (humanism, existentialism, phenomenology, anthropology), although it has always included contributions involving experimental and statistical research.

Transpersonal psychology may also, sometimes, be associated with New Age beliefs.[28] Although the transpersonal perspective has many overlapping interests with theories and thinkers associated with the term "New Age", it is still problematic to place transpersonal psychology within such a framework. Transpersonal psychology is an academic discipline,[29] not a religious or spiritual movement, and some of the field's leading authors, among those Sovatsky,[30] have criticized the nature of New Age discourse. Associations between transpersonal psychology and the New Age have probably contributed to the failures in the United States of America to get transpersonal psychology more formally recognised within the professional body, the American Psychological Association (APA).

Although some consider that the distinction between transpersonal psychology and the psychology of religion, is fading (e.g. The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality), there is still generally considered to be a clear distinction between the two. Much of the focus of psychology of religion is concerned with issues that wouldn't be considered 'transcendent' within transpersonal psychology, so the two disciplines do have quite a distinct focus.[31]

Research interests[edit]

The transpersonal perspective spans many research interests. The following list is adapted from the Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology[21] and includes: the contributions of spiritual traditions such as Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, Nonduality, Yoga, Buddhism, Vajrayana, Zen, Taoism, Tantra, Shamanism, Kabbalah, Sufism, Spiritism and Christian mysticism to psychiatry and psychology,; Native American healing; Aging and adult spiritual development; Meditation research and clinical aspects of meditation; Consciousness studies and research; Transpersonal-based approach to educational action research; Psychedelics, Ethnopharmacology, and Psychopharmacology; Parapsychology; Cross-cultural studies and Anthropology; Diagnosis of Religious and Spiritual Problems; Offensive spirituality and spiritual defenses; The treatment of former members of cults; Transpersonal Psychotherapy;Music therapy; Addiction and recovery; Guided-Imagery and Visualization Therapy; Guided Imagery and Music; Breathwork; Dying and near-death experience (NDE); Past life therapy; Ecological survival; Social change; Out-of-body experience.

Contributions to the academic field[edit]

Transpersonal Psychology has made several contributions to the academic field, and the studies of human development, consciousness and spirituality. Transpersonal Psychology has also made contributions to the field of psychiatry.

Theories on human development[edit]

One of the demarcations in transpersonal theory is between authors who are associated with hierarchical/holarchical, sequential, or stage-like models of human development, such as Ken Wilber and John Battista, and authors who are associated with Jungian perspectives, or models that include the principle of regression, such as Michael Washburn and Stanislav Grof.

Ken Wilber and John Battista[edit]

Ken Wilber's primary contribution to the field of Transpersonal Psychology is a grand-scale theory about the evolution of consciousness through a hierarchy of levels. Wilber has later distanced himself from the transpersonal field in favour of a new model that he calls Integral, but his psychological model still remains central to the practice and development of Transpersonal Psychology. The titles of his first two books, «The spectrum of consciousness» (1977) [32] and «The Atman Project - A transpersonal view of human development» (1980),[33] reflect the basic idea in his early approach to psychology. They might superficially be described as a synthesis of east and west, an integration of the spiritual philosophies of Hindu-buddhist traditions with the developmental and spiritual psychologies of western academia. In simplified terms his evolutionary sequence has been described as a development from matter, to body, to mind, to soul, to spirit.

Wilbers spectrum of consciousness consists of three broad categories: the prepersonal or pre-egoic, the personal or egoic, and the transpersonal or trans-egoic.[9] A more detailed version of this spectrum theory includes nine different levels of human development, in which levels 1-3 are pre-personal levels, levels 4-6 are personal levels and levels 7-9 are transpersonal levels.[15] Later versions also include a tenth level.[34][35] The framework proposed by Wilber suggests that human development is a progressive, or evolutionary sequence, within this hierarchy of levels, and that each new level marks an expansion, and a refinement, in the quality of human psychology and consciousness. According to the hierarchical aspect of his model different schools of psychology address different levels of the spectrum of consciousness. Also, each level of organization, or self-development, includes a vulnerability to certain pathologies associated with that particular level.[15][36] Thus, developmental tasks must be properly met or they might lead to developmental arrest.[14] Wilber also describes a situation called the "pre/trans fallacy". Western schools of psychology have, according to Transpersonal theorists,[36] had a tendency to dismiss or pathologize transpersonal levels, equating them with regressive pathological conditions belonging to a lower level. The pre/trans fallacy describes a lack of differentiation between pre-rational psychiatric problems and valid transpersonal problems.

The 1990s marked a move into the world of integral ideas for Wilber, and it shifted the weight of his academic project from the domain of psychology to the domain of philosophy. Psychology is still a major force in his project, but it is now informed by a wider background of integral ideas. The integral phase of his philosophy also introduces the idea of a holarchy of human development. Not just a simple hierarchy, but a kind of nested hierarchy.[34]

Later versions of Wilber's psychological model, in its integral phase, sees human development in the context of waves of consciousness (developmental levels), streams of consciousness (developmental lines), states of consciousness, and the self-system. This new approach, which might be interpreted as a sophisticated expansion and re-conceptualization of his earlier model, might also be characterized as more flexible compared to his earlier model. The idea of a stage-like unfolding of human development is still central to his thinking, but he also presents the idea that development is a "fluid" and "flowing" affair, which includes overlapping features. In his later writing Wilber has expressed reservations towards the concept of linearity that commentators often apply to his model, and has sugggested that overall development might be both uneven and non-linear, or partial and fractured.[37]

Similar to the model presented by Wilber is the information theory of consciousness presented by John Battista. Battista suggests that the development of the self-system, and of human psychology, consists of a series of transitions in the direction of enhanced maturity and psychological stability, and in the direction of transpersonal and spiritual categories. His model presents a series of developmental tasks with corresponding levels of consciousness, and levels of psychopathology, and discusses therapeutic interventions in relation to the different levels and transitions.[38]

Washburn, Grof and Sovatsky[edit]

In contrast to Wilber and Battista, Michael Washburn[39][40] and Stanislav Grof[41][42][43] present models of human development that are not hierarchical/holarchical or stage-like. Washburn presents a model that is informed by the Jungian perspective, and brings forth the notion of a U-turn.[36] In other words, he introduces the idea of "integration through regression". That is, regression in the service of transcendence.[14] Central to this model is the idea that the ego initially arose out of a "source" or "ground". Therefore, transpersonal development requires a return to these origins, before it can move on.[36] Or, as formulated by Sharma, Charak and Sharma:[14] ego revisits its nascent pre-ego origins in the unconscious in order to become integrated with its source and thereby transcend.

Stanislav Grof, on the other hand, operates with a cartography consisting of three kinds of territories: the realm of the sensory barrier and the personal unconscious (described by psychoanalysis), the perinatal or birth-related realm (organizing principles for the psyche), and the transpersonal realm. According to this view proper engagement with the first two realms sets the stage for an ascent to the third, transpersonal, realm.[14] Grof applies regressional modes of therapy in order to seek greater psychological integration. Originally with the use of psychedelic substances,[44] but later with the use of other methods, such as holotropic breathwork.[45] The models of Washburn and Grof have led to the confrontation between constructive and deconstructive models of the process leading to genuine mental health: what Wilber sees as a pre/trans fallacy does not exist for Washburn and Grof, for pre-rational states may be genuinely transpersonal, and re-living them may be essential in the process of achieving genuine sanity.[46]

The idea of development is also featured in the spiritual psychotherapy and psychology of Stuart Sovatsky. His understanding of human development, which is largely informed by east/west perspectives and the tradition and hermeneutics of Yoga, places the human being in the midst of spiritual energies and processes outlined in yogic philosophy. According to Sovatsky these are maturational processes, affecting body and soul, indicating a «maturation of the ensouled body».[30][47]

Transpersonal theory of Jorge Ferrer[edit]

As an alternative to many of the major epistemological and philosophical trends in the field, such as the focus upon experientialism (inner spiritual states) and perennialism (the legacy of the perennial philosophy), Jorge Ferrer [48] has suggested a revision of Transpersonal theory that focuses more upon the great variety, or pluralism, of spiritual insights and spiritual worlds that can be disclosed by transpersonal inquiry. He calls this revision a "participatory turn".

Transpersonal psychotherapy[edit]

Several authors in the field have presented an integration of western psychotherapy with spiritual psychology, among these Stuart Sovatsky and Brant Cortright. In his reformulation of western psychotherapy Sovatsky addresses the questions of time, temporality and soteriology from the perspectives of east/west psychology and spirituality. Besides drawing on the insights of post-freudians, such as D.W. Winnicott, Sovatsky integrates his approach to psychotherapy with an expanded understanding of body and mind, informed by the philosophy of Yoga.[30][47] Cortright, on the other hand, has reviewed the field of transpersonal psychotherapy and the major transpersonal models of psychotherapy, including Wilber, Jung, Washburn, Grof and Ali, as well as existential, psychoanalytic, and body-centered approaches. He also presents a presents a unifying theoretical framework for the field of Transpersonal Psychotherapy.[49]

Spiritual crisis[edit]

Transpersonal psychology has also brought clinical attention to the topic of spiritual crisis. Note c A spiritual crisis has to do with a person's relationship to existential issues, or issues that transcend the mundane issues of ordinary life. Many of the psychological difficulties associated with a spiritual crisis are not ordinarily discussed by mainstream psychology. Among these problems are psychiatric complications related to mystical experience, near-death experience, Kundalini awakening, shamanic crisis (also called shamanic illness), psychic opening, intensive meditation, and medical or terminal illness.[50]

The terms "spiritual emergence" and "spiritual emergency" were coined by Stanislav and Christina Grof[51] in order to describe a spiritual crisis in a person's life. Note d The term "spiritual emergence" describes a "gradual unfoldment of spiritual potential with no disruption in psychological-social-occupational functioning".[50] In cases where the spiritual unfoldment is intensified beyond the control of the individual it may lead to a state of "spiritual emergency". A spiritual emergency may cause significant disruption in psychological, social and occupational functioning. Many of the psychological difficulties described above can, according to Transpersonal theory, lead to episodes of spiritual emergency.[14][27][50]Note e

Because of the overlap of spiritual crisis and mental health problems, Transpersonal psychologists[27] made a proposal for a new diagnostic category entitled "Psychoreligious or Psychospiritual Problem" at the beginning of the 1990s. The category was approved by the DSM-IV Task Force in 1993, after changing the title to "Religious or Spiritual Problem".[27][52] It is included in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM-IV).Note f According to Chinen[12] the inclusion marks "increasing professional acceptance of transpersonal issues". Besides signifying a greater sensitivity towards spiritual issues, and spiritually oriented narratives,[30] the new V-Code may also contribute to the greater cultural sensitivity of the manual and could help promote enhanced understanding between the fields of psychiatry and religion/spirituality.[27]Note g

According to commentators [8] Transpersonal Psychology recognizes that transcendent psychological states, and spirituality, might have both negative and positive effects on human functioning. Health-promoting expressions of spirituality include development and growth, but there also exist health-compromising expressions of spirituality.


One of the earliest criticisms of the field was issued by the Humanistic psychologist Rollo May, who disputed the conceptual foundations of Transpersonal psychology.[7] According to commentators[4] May also criticized the field for neglecting the personal dimension of the psyche by elevating the pursuit of the transcendental. Commentators[4] note that these reservations, expressed by May, might reflect what later theorists have referred to as “spiritual bypassing”.

Later criticism includes the observations of philosopher Ken Wilber, one of the early profiles within the Transpersonal field, who has repeatedly announced the demise of Transpersonal psychology.[53][54] Wilber has distanced himself from the transpersonal field in favour of a new model that he calls Integral.[4]

Failure to meet scientific criteria[edit]

The field of Transpersonal psychology has also been criticized for lacking conceptual, evidentiary, and scientific rigor. In a review of criticisms of the field, Cunningham writes, "philosophers have criticized transpersonal psychology because its metaphysics is naive and epistemology is undeveloped. Multiplicity of definitions and lack of operationalization of many of its concepts has led to a conceptual confusion about the nature of transpersonal psychology itself (i.e., the concept is used differently by different theorists and means different things to different people). Biologists have criticized transpersonal psychology for its lack of attention to biological foundations of behavior and experience. Physicists have criticized transpersonal psychology for inappropriately accommodating physic concepts as explanations of consciousness."[55]

Others, such as Friedman,[28] have criticized the field for being underdeveloped as a field of science, placing it at the intersection between a broader domain of transpersonal inquiry, which includes some unscientific approaches, and the scientific discipline of psychology. Transpersonal psychology has been criticized for undervaluing quantitative methods as a tool for improving our knowledge of spiritual and transpersonal categories. This is, according to commentators,[8] a consequence of a general orientation within the field that regards spiritual and transpersonal experience to be categories that defy conceptualization and quantification, and thereby not well suited for conventional scientific inquiry.

Albert Ellis, a cognitive psychologist and humanist, has questioned more forcefully the results of transpersonal psychotherapy,[56] the scientific status of transpersonal psychology, and its relationship to religion and mysticism.[57] Note h However, Ellis (2000) later modified his understanding of religious/spiritual/transpersonal experiences, and has recently even seen some value in exploring, rather than merely debunking, these experiences in psychotherapy.[58]

Ontology and philosophical worldview[edit]

Ferrer[48] has criticized transpersonal psychology for being too loyal to the perennial philosophy, for introducing a subtle Cartesianism, and for being too preoccupied with intrasubjective spiritual states (inner empiricism). As an alternative to these trends he suggests a revision of transpersonal theory. That is, a participatory vision of human spirituality that honors a wide assortment of spiritual insights, spiritual worlds and places. According to Davis [3] Transpersonal psychology has been criticized for emphasizing oneness and holism at the expense of diversity.

Influence of William James' philosophy[edit]

Gary T. Alexander has criticized the relationship between transpersonal psychology and the ideas of William James. Although the ideas of James are considered central to the transpersonal field, Alexander[59] thought that transpersonal psychology did not have a clear understanding of the negative dimensions of consciousness (such as evil) expressed in James' philosophy. This serious criticism has been absorbed by later transpersonal theory, which has been more willing to reflect on these important dimensions of human existence.[60]

Use of Buddhist concepts[edit]

From the standpoint of Buddhism and Dzogchen, Elías Capriles [61] [62][63] has objected that transpersonal psychology fails to distinguish between the transpersonal condition of nirvana, which is inherently liberating, those transpersonal conditions which are within samsara and which as such are new forms of bondage (such as the four realms of the arupyadhatu or four arupa lokas of Buddhism, in which the figure-ground division dissolves but there is still a subject-object duality), and the neutral condition in which neither nirvana nor samsara are active that the Dzogchen teachings call kun gzhi, in which there is no subject-object duality but the true condition of all phenomena (dharmata) is not patent (and which includes all conditions involving nirodh or cessation, including nirodh samapatti, nirvikalpa samadhis and the samadhi or turiya that is the supreme realization of Patañjali's Yoga darshana). In the process of elaborating what he calls a meta-transpersonal psychology, Capriles has carried out conscientious refutations of Wilber, Grof and Washburn, which according to Macdonald & Friedman[64] will have important repercussions on the future of transpersonal psychology.

Relationship to religion and New Age movements[edit]

According to Cunningham, transpersonal psychology has been criticized by some Christian authors as being "a mishmash of 'New Age' ideas that offer an alternative faith system to vulnerable youths who turn their backs on organized religion (Adeney, 1988)."[55] Commentators also mention that Transpersonal Psychologys association with the ideas of religion was one of the concerns that prohibited it from becoming a separate division of the American Psychological Association at the time of the petition in 1984.[7]

Doubts regarding TP's needfulness[edit]

It could also be argued that most psychologists do not hold strictly to traditional schools of psychology — most psychologists take an eclectic approach. This could mean that some of the transpersonal categories listed above are considered by standard subdisciplines of psychology; religious conversion falling within the ambit of social psychology, altered states of consciousness within physiological psychology, and spiritual life within the psychology of religion. Transpersonal psychologists, however, disagree with the approach to such phenomena taken by traditional psychology, and claim that transpersonal categories have typically been dismissed either as signs of various kinds of mental illnesses, or as a regression to infantile stages of psychosomatic development. Thus, as illustrated by the pre/trans fallacy, religious and spiritual experiences have in the past been seen as either regressive or pathological and treated as such.

Important organizations and publications[edit]

A leading institution within the field of Transpersonal Psychology is the Association for Transpersonal Psychology, which was founded in 1972.[65] Past presidents of the association include Alyce Green, James Fadiman, Frances Vaughan, Arthur Hastings, Daniel Goleman, Robert Frager, Ronald Jue, Jeanne Achterberg and Dwight Judy. The leading graduate school is Sofia University, formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.[23] In a press-release in July 2012 the school announced the change of name and its new profile in the academic landscape.[66]

Leading academic publications within the field include the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology and the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. Smaller publications include the Transpersonal Psychology Review, the journal of the Transpersonal Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. In 1996 Basic Books published the Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, a standard text that included a thorough overview of the field.[9][21] A recent pulication, The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Transpersonal Psychology,[65] is one of the latest, and most updated, introductions to the field of Transpersonal Psychology.

Applications and related disciplines[edit]

Transpersonal psychology has been applied to areas such as counselling, health, spiritual development, mind expansion, and to provide psychological security for self growth. Dr. William J. Barry established transpersonal psychology as a valid action research method in the field of education through his Ph.D. thesis and development of Transformational Quality (TQ) Theory.[67] Applications to the areas of business studies and management have been developed. Other transpersonal disciplines, such as transpersonal anthropology and transpersonal business studies, are listed in transpersonal disciplines.

Transpersonal art is one of the disciplines considered by Boucovolas,[68] in listing how transpersonal psychology may relate to other areas of transpersonal study. In writing about transpersonal art, Boucovolas begins by noting how, according to Breccia and also to the definitions employed by the International Transpersonal Association in 1971, transpersonal art may be understood as art work which draws upon important themes beyond the individual self, such as the transpersonal consciousness. This makes transpersonal art criticism germane to mystical approaches to creativity. Transpersonal art criticism, as Boucovolas notes, can be considered that which claims conventional art criticism has been too committed to stressing rational dimensions of art and has subsequently said little on art's spiritual dimensions, or as that which holds art work has a meaning beyond the individual person. Certain aspects of the psychology of Carl Jung, as well as movements such as music therapy and art therapy, may also relate to the field. Boucovolas' paper cites Breccia (1971) as an early example of transpersonal art, and claims that at the time his article appeared, integral theorist Ken Wilber had made recent contributions to the field. More recently, the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, in 2005, Volume 37, launched a special edition devoted to the media, which contained articles on film criticism that can be related to this field.

See also[edit]


a.^ Walsh & Vaughan (1993: 202), trying to improve on other definitions, have proposed a definition which, in their view, entail fewer presuppositions, is less theoryladen, and more closely tied to experience.
b.^ Among the universities and colleges that are associated with transpersonal theory, as part of their research or curriculum, we find: The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (US), California Institute of Integral Studies (US), Saybrook University (US), Liverpool John Moores University (UK), Naropa University (US), John F. Kennedy University (US), University of West Georgia (US), Atlantic University (US), Burlington College (US), Essex University (UK), the University of Northampton (UK), Leeds Metropolitan University (UK), Pacifica Graduate Institute (US), and Southwestern College (NM)
c.^ Cowley & Derezotes (1994) note that transpersonal theory has an understanding of spirituality that is somewhat different from the popular understanding of spirituality as a statement of belief, or as a measure of church attendance; features that could rather be seen as indications of the religious dimension. Religious problems, that is problems associated with the religious dimension, have to do with possible psychological conflict resulting from a person's involvement with the beliefs and practices of an organized religious institution. Among these problems are experiences related to changing denomination, conversion to a new religion, intensification of religious belief or practice, loss or questioning of faith, and joining or leaving a new religious movement or cult (Lukoff, Lu & Turner, 1996)
d.^ Precedents of Grof's approach in this regard are found in Jung, Perry, Dabrowski, Bateson, Laing, Cooper and antipsychiatry in the widest sense of the term.
e.^ In addition to this, Whitney (1998) has also made an argument in favor of understanding mania as a form of spiritual emergency.[69]
f.^ See "Other Conditions That May Be a Focus of Clinical Attention", Religious or Spiritual Problem, Code V62.89.[70]
g.^ The construct validity of the new category has been assessed by Milstein et al. (2000).[71]
h.^ Both Wilber (1989) and Walsh (1989) have replied to this criticism. See Journal of Counseling & Development, Feb. 89.[72]


  1. ^ a b Walsh, R. & Vaughan, F. "On transpersonal definitions". Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 25 (2) 125-182, 1993
  2. ^ a b Lajoie, D. H. & Shapiro, S. I. "Definitions of transpersonal psychology: The first twenty-three years". Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 24, 1992
  3. ^ a b Davis, John. "An overview of transpersonal psychology." The Humanistic Psychologist, 31:2-3, 6-21, 2003
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hartelius, Glenn; Caplan, Mariana; Rardin, Mary Anne. "Transpersonal Psychology: Defining the Past, Divining the Future". The Humanistic Psychologist, 35(2), 1–26, 2007
  5. ^ Caplan, Mariana (2009). Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path. Sounds True. p. 231. ISBN 978-1591797326. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "Transpersonal Psychology". 2008-03-26. Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Aanstoos, C. Serlin, I., & Greening, T. (2000). History of Division 32 (Humanistic Psychology) of the American Psychological Association. In D. Dewsbury (Ed.), "Unification through Division: Histories of the divisions of the American Psychological Association", Vol. V. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
  8. ^ a b c d e Elmer, Lori D. , MacDonald, Douglas A. & Friedman , Harris L. "Transpersonal psychology, physical health, and mental health: Theory, research, and practice". The Humanistic Psychologist, 31:2-3, 159-181, 2003
  9. ^ a b c d e Miller, John J. Book Review: Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. Psychiatric Services 49:541-542, April 1998. American Psychiatric Association
  10. ^ Vich, M.A. (1988) "Some historical sources of the term "transpersonal". Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2) 107-110
  11. ^ Taylor, E. (May 1996) [1996]. "William James and transpersonal psychiatry". In Scotton, B.W.; Chinen, A.B.; Battista, J.R. Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology (1 ed.). New York: Basic Books. p. 26. ISBN 978-0465095308. 
  12. ^ a b c Chinen, Allan B. The emergence of Transpersonal psychiatry. In Scotton, Bruce W., Chinen, Allan B. and Battista, John R., Eds. (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books
  13. ^ Frager, Robert, & Fadiman, James (2005) Personality and Personal Growth, 6th ed., Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-144451-4 ISBN 978-0-13-144451-5
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Sharma, Pulkit; Charak, Ruby & Sharma, Vibha. "Contemporary Perspectives on Spirituality and Mental Health". Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. 2009 Jan-Jun; 31(1): 16–23.
  15. ^ a b c d Cowley, Au-Deane S. & Derezotes, David (1994) Transpersonal Psychology and Social Work Education. Journal of Social Work Education, 10437797, Winter, Vol. 30, Issue 1
  16. ^ Brinich, Paul & Shelley, Christopher (2002) The Self and Personality Structure. Buckingham: Open University Press
  17. ^ Travis, Terry A. Book Forum: Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology: A Historical and Biographical Sourcebook. Am J Psychiatry 2001;158:667-a-668.
  18. ^ a b c Engler, Barbara (2009) Personality Theories: An Introduction, 8th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-547-14834-8 | ISBN 978-0-547-14834-2
  19. ^ Jennings, George-Harold (1999) Passages Beyond the Gate: A Jungian Approach to Understanding the Nature of American Psychology at the Dawn of the New Millennium. 2nd ed. Ginn/Pearson. ISBN 0-536-01874-X, ISBN 978-0-536-01874-8
  20. ^ Jennings, 2009, p. 377
  21. ^ a b c d Scotton, Bruce W, Chinen, Allan B. and John R. Battista, Eds. (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books
  22. ^ Arons, M. (1996). Directory of graduate programs in humanistic andtranspersonal Psychology in North America. Catalogue sponsored by Division 32 of the American Psychological Association, published and distributed by the Psychology Department at State University of West Georgia.
  23. ^ a b Otterman, Sharon. "Merging Spirituality and Clinical Psychology at Columbia". New York Times, published online August 9, 2012
  24. ^ Fontana, David; Slack, Ingrid & Treacy, Martin, Eds. (2005) Transpersonal Psychology: Meaning and Developments. Transpersonal Psychology Review Special Issue. Leicester: British Psychological Society
  25. ^ Daniels, Michael & McNutt, Brendan. "Questioning the Role of Transpersonal Psychology". Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 1, No. 4, 4-9. (1997) [Preprint Version]
  26. ^ Sardello, Robert J. (2001) Love and the World: A Guide to Conscious Soul Practice. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Lindisfarne Books.
  27. ^ a b c d e Turner, Robert P.; Lukoff, David; Barnhouse, Ruth Tiffany & Lu Francis G. (1995) Religious or spiritual problem. A culturally sensitive diagnostic category in the DSM-IV. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Jul;183(7):435-44.
  28. ^ a b Friedman, Harris (2000) Toward Developing Transpersonal Psychology as a Scientific Field. Paper presented at Old Saybrook 2 conference, May 11–14, 2000, State University of West Georgia
  29. ^ "Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  30. ^ a b c d Sovatsky, Stuart (1998) Words from the Soul : Time, East/West Spirituality, and Psychotherapeutic Narrative. New York: State University of New York Press (SUNY Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology)
  31. ^ Miller, L. J., ed. (2012) [2012]. "Models of Spiritual Development". The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality (1 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-19-972992-0. 
  32. ^ Wilber, Ken. The spectrum of consciousness. Wheaton, Ill.:Theosophical Pub. House, 1977
  33. ^ Wilber, Ken. The atman project: a transpersonal view of human development. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Pub. House, c1980.
  34. ^ a b Wilber, Ken (1995). Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. Boston, Massachusetts & London: Shambhala
  35. ^ Wilber, Ken (1996). Brief History of Everything. Boston, Massachusetts & London: Shambhala
  36. ^ a b c d Walsh, R. & Vaughan, F. The worldview of Ken Wilber. In Scotton, Bruce W., Chinen, Allan B. and Battista, John R., Eds. (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books
  37. ^ Wilber, Ken. "Waves, Streams, States, and Self. An outline of Integral Psychology". The Humanistic Psychologist, 31, Spring and Summer, 2003
  38. ^ Battista, John. A Transpersonal View of Human Development, Psychopathology and Psychotherapy. Journal of Transpersonal Research, 2011, Vol. 3 (2), 85-96
  39. ^ Washburn, Michael (1994). Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
  40. ^ Washburn, Michael (1995). The Ego and the Dynamic Ground (2d Ed.). Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
  41. ^ Grof, Stanislav (1975). Realms of the Human Unconscious. New York: Viking.
  42. ^ Grof, Stanislav (1985). Beyond the Brain. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press.
  43. ^ Grof, Stanislav (1998). The Cosmic Game: Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness. Albany, New York: State University of New York (SUNY) Press.
  44. ^ McConnell, James V. "Special Section: The Rediscovery of Human Nature". TIME magazine, Monday, Apr. 02, 1973
  45. ^ Taylor, Eugene. "Desperately seeking spirituality". Psychology Today, Nov/Dec 94 (Document ID: 1413)
  46. ^ Rothberg, D. & Kelly, S. (Eds.) (1998) Ken Wilber in Dialogue. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books.
  47. ^ a b Gaur, Sunil D. Review of Words from the soul: Time, east/west spirituality, and psychotherapeutic narrative. Psychological Studies, Vol 50(1), Jan 2005, 101.
  48. ^ a b Ferrer, Jorge N. (2001) Revisioning Transpersonal Theory. A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality. New York: State University of New York Press (SUNY Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology)
  49. ^ Cortright, Brant. (1997) Psychotherapy and spirit: Theory and practice in transpersonal psychotherapy. Albany, NY, US: State University of New York Press. xii 257 pp. (SUNY series in the philosophy of psychology.)
  50. ^ a b c Lukoff, David, Lu, Francis G. & Turner, Robert P. Diagnosis. A clinical approach to religious and spiritual problems. In Scotton, Bruce W., Chinen, Allan B. and Battista, John R., Eds. (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books
  51. ^ Grof, Stanislav & Grof, Christina (eds) (1989) Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis (New Consciousness Reader) Los Angeles : J.P Tarcher
  52. ^ Lu FG, Lukoff D, Turner R (1997) Religious or Spiritual Problems. In: DSM-IV Sourcebook, Vol. 3. Widiger TA, Frances AJ, Pincus HA et al., eds. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, pp1001–1016.
  53. ^ "On Critics, Integral Institute, My Recent Writing, and Other Matters of Little Consequence: A Shambhala Interview with Ken Wilber". Part I: The Demise of Transpersonal Psychology. 
  54. ^ Wilber, Ken. A sociable God: toward a new understanding of religion. Shambala Publications. p. 51. ISBN 978-1590302248. 
  55. ^ a b Cunningham, Paul F. (2011). A Primer on Transpersonal Psychology. Nashua NH 03060-5086: Rivier College. p. 53. 
  56. ^ Ellis, Albert; Yeager, Raymond J. (1989) Why some therapies don't work: The dangers of transpersonal psychology. Amherst, NY, US: Prometheus Books.
  57. ^ Ellis, Albert (1989) Dangers of Transpersonal Psychology: A Reply To Ken Wilber. Journal of Counseling & Development, Feb89, Vol. 67 Issue 6, p336, 2p;
  58. ^
  59. ^ Alexander, Gary T. (1980) William James, the Sick Soul, and the Negative Dimensions of Consciousness: A Partial Critique of Transpersonal Psychology. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, XLVIII(2):191-206
  60. ^ Daniels, M. (2005). Shadow, Self, Spirit: Essays in Transpersonal Psychology. Exeter: Imprint Academic. ISBN 1-84540-022-4.
  61. ^ Capriles, E. (2000). Beyond Mind: Steps to a Metatranspersonal Psychology. Honolulu, HI: The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 19:163-184.
  62. ^ Capriles, E. (2006). Beyond Mind II: Further Steps to a Metatranspersonal Philosophy and Psychology. San Francisco, California: The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies[2], 24:5-44.
  63. ^ Capriles, E. (in press). Beyond Mind III: Further Steps to a Metatranspersonal Philosophy and Psychology. Miami, Florida: The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, special issue following vol. 25.
  64. ^ "Macdonald & Friedman". 2006. p. ii. 
  65. ^ a b Friedman, Harris L. (Editor); Hartelius, Glenn (Editor) (2013) The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Transpersonal Psychology, 738 pages, Wiley-Blackwell
  66. ^ Press release: "Institute of Transpersonal Psychology Becomes Sofia University. New Name Brings Broader Mission, Expanded Campus and New Programs". Palo Alto, CA (PRWEB), published online July 16, 2012
  67. ^ Barry, W. J. (2012). Challenging the Status Quo Meaning of Educational Quality: Introducing Transformational Quality (TQ) Theory©. Educational Journal of Living Theories. 5, 1-26
  68. ^ Boucovolas, M. (1999). Following the movement: from transpersonal psychology to a multidisciplinary transpersonal orientation. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 31 (1) 27-39
  69. ^ Whitney, Edward (1998) "Personal Accounts : Mania as Spiritual Emergency". Psychiatric Services 49:1547-1548, December. American Psychiatric Association.
  70. ^ American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  71. ^ Milstein, Glen; Midlarsky, Elizabeth; Link, Bruce G.; Raue, Patrick J. & Bruce, Martha (2000) "Assessing Problems with Religious Content: A Comparison of Rabbis and Psychologists". Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease. 188(9):608-615, September.
  72. ^ Journal of Counseling & Development; Feb89, Vol. 67 Issue 6, p332 and p338.

Related reading[edit]

External links[edit]