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Questions of Consciouness with Charles T. Tart: Part 6 Transpersonal Psychology

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Back in the early 1970's, I had become both personally and professionally interested in a lot of different spiritual systems. And by spiritual systems, I mean systems of thought and action that were based on the fact that somebody had had a spiritual experience, a transcendent experience of one sort or another and had also come up with some techniques so that others could try to have a similar experience, so that any kind of knowledge they had gained would not be book knowledge or just intellectual knowledge. It's supposed to be like so-and-so but based on actual personal experience. In the fourth video in this series, I gave a reading of Richard M. Buck's cosmic consciousness experience where he was suddenly swept up, immersed in living flames, as it were, and knew beyond a doubt, for instance, that everything is going to work out perfectly for everyone. That love is the basic principle of the universe and the like. That's a mystical experience, a transcendent, a transpersonal kind of experience. Religions usually start because someone has an experience like that and as they tell others about it, hearing about it inspires people, and you start getting a social movement and a few generations later, you've got committees deciding what is and what isn't true and adaptations to make it fit in with the ongoing social and the like and you get religions which may become just matters of belief you're supposed to believe so-and-so and there is an official priest to tell you what to believe or may retain an experiential quality a set methods and practices to try to let you have direct spiritual experience. Well, as I said, I was looking into a lot of these different systems trying to practice some of them and as a result I learned that among other things among the various spiritual systems there were a lot of psychologies, that is there were coherent extensive bodies of knowledge on the way the human mind works, what our motivations were, what was healthy, what was pathological, how things developed, and the like. The kinds of things we expect psychology to deal with. And, I also realized that these psychologies were quite different from Western psychology is in many ways but they were inaccessible to most Westerners because they appeared under the term "religion" and so we simply didn't think of them in the same categories as psychology. Well, I got a bunch of people who were experts in particular spiritual systems to write about those systems as psychologies rather than as spiritual systems or religious systems per say. I came up with an extremely interesting book that I named naturally, "Spiritual Psychologies." It was accepted by a major publisher, Harper and Row. It was off in press and then I got a phone call from the editor before it was actually published saying that he had good news and bad news for me. The good news was that the major psychology book club in America wanted to use it as one of their monthly selections. Well, that was great news for me. That would get the word out that these psychologies were available. The bad news was that he was told that psychologists could not deal with the word "spiritual." It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. This was back in the mid 1970's. And so, could we name the book something else instead of "Spiritual Psychologies." Well, I gave it the title, "Transpersonal Psychologies." I didn't make up the word "transpersonal." It comes from either Jung or William James depending on how you want to look at it. And, by this time there was a small group of us in California who had started a movement we called "Transpersonal Psychologists." But, by and large, no one had ever heard of us so it couldn't offend psychologists who were very prejudice in a materialistic world view because they had never heard of it. So, there is how the book "Transpersonal Psychologies" came about. It was published back in 1975. This is the original hardback edition and it stayed in print for quite a few times eventually coming out as a paperback edition of "Transpersonal Psychologies" and it's still available today. I regard it as one of my best books because it made me think about the way the human mind works in ways I would never have thought of if I'd just stuck with Western ideas. Well, the reason I'm giving you this background is that my colleagues and I at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology have been having a lot of discussions lately on what is Transpersonal Psychology and some of this is very complex and sophisticated discussion of exactly what areas does it include the methodologies and so forth, but part of it that I think is more important in a way, since the word "Transpersonal" is still not widely recognized, is, what's the elevator definition? If somebody said, "What do you do?" what can you tell them in one or two sentences the time it takes an elevator ride between floors and you can tell them that "trans" means "beyond" so transpersonal is about experiences and ideas beyond our ordinary, personal, biologically bound self but that doesn't quite convey the essence of it. The essence of it is that it is still pretty much the only branch of Western psychology that takes our spiritual nature seriously Now, Transpersonal Psychology is not a religion There's no doctrine, but on the other hand we don't automatically dismiss all spiritual experiences nonsense. If you go back to Richard Buck's experience of cosmic consciousness described in that previous video tape, When he was having that feeling that love is the basis of all and everything is taken care of for everybody's good in the long run, and the like he must have been having some kind of brain seizure of some sort, some sort of malfunctioning because in a materialistic universe ideas like that are nonsense. The world was made up of objects that go bump with material forces and that's the end of the story. The spiritual is all--nonsense. It's what I talk about as dismissive materialism in my book "The End of Materialism." Transpersonal Psychology doesn't simply say write everything that's ever been labeled "Spiritual" or "Religious" is true there's a lot of nonsense there, of course, as in any area of human life, but there seems to be enough of a core of genuine transcendent, transpersonal spiritual experiences there that they should be taken seriously and looked at and investigated. with the methods of scholarship and science not simply dismissed as you can't have anything spiritual. That's simply not the way the world is. So, transpersonal psychology could be called "Spiritual Pscyhology" if we wanted to give it a very short definition. except that the word "Spiritual" has been so associated with particular religions and claims that most of us are not very comfortable with. So, calling it "Spiritual Psychology" is not very helpful. But, these long definitions of, you know, scholarly and scientific, open-minded investigation of our possible spiritual potentials. That's a little awkward so we still haven't come up with a very good way to describe it. But, the basic idea is this. We can start separating out in a relatively objective way what is genuine and what is indeed superstition or brain malfunctioning and use that to refine and clarify and hopefully make more effective various spiritual systems that are designed to make people have direct spiritual experience. So, for instance, if meditation is associated with certain kinds of brain wave activity and we can train that kind of brain wave activity more directly maybe we could combine those two things and come up with a way of teaching meditation more effectively. than it's done traditionally. So that's Transpersonal Psychology. The hope that using our intelligence we'll come up with a spiritual approach to life that is more true and more effective. It's a very noble goal. It's very much in its infancy, but it sure excites me.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 1 second
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 172
Posted by: jphaas on Jan 20, 2011

Transpersonal Psychology

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