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Transpersonal Psychology

The Subtle Body 





Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human 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". Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other sublime and/or unusually expanded experiences of living.

Transpersonal psychology developed from earlier schools of psychology including psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology.

Transpersonal psychology attempts to describe and integrate spiritual experience within modern psychological theory and to formulate new theory to encompass such experience. Types of spiritual experience examined vary greatly but include mysticism, religious conversion, altered states of consciousness, trance and spiritual practices.

Although Carl Jung, Otto Rank and others explored aspects of the spiritual and transpersonal in their work, Miller notes that Western psychology has had a tendency to ignore the spiritual dimension of the human psyche.

Transpersonal psychology emerged as an area of focus in the last 25 yrs as an extension of psychological studies into consciousness, spiritual growth, body-mind therapies and personal transformation. The study and integration of the transpersonal acknowledges that spiritual levels and awareness are essential levels of development, and if nurtured and developed can transform an individuals life leading to a deeper self-understanding, fulfillment, and greater health of the body-mind. The transpersonal takes into account the whole person; all aspects of the self. There is a connecting with the whole person, and the whole of the person's life. A main thrust in the therapeutic process is to bridge the various parts of self and establish a healthy connection to these aspects inherent.

Transpersonal therapy uses many modalities and blends and bridges many disciplines and schools of thought.  The thrust and direction will depend upon the therapist and his or her training, orientation, gifts and proclivity.

Transpersonal therapy engages the 'personal' of an individual and bridges as well as  integrates the  levels and states of consciousness to create and instill the awareness and utilization of the transpersonal. There is a focus  on self development and attention directed towards the needs and the wants of the personal to foster growth, healing, awareness and empowerment.

This self development  and growth naturally lends itself to the bridging to the transpersonal. When one is truly empowered one begins to seek and then see what is below the surface and perhaps not readily seen.

The question "There must be something more " is answered for the individual in a framework that speaks to their life focus and beliefs. In this way transpersonal therapy weaves through the multitude of beliefs and seeks to affirm individuality and uniqueness; yet confirm the unity of all life.

We all come from and are made from the same source.  In this deep understanding, belief and feeling of this awareness there is an immense level of healing, growth, inspiration, upliftment, sense of universal solidarity and peace that is experienced.

The transpersonal is ego inclusive. This is very important. The inclusion of the ego means there is nothing to fix or get rid of in the psyche. The key is to align the ego functioning to the blueprint and reign of the higher self (soul self) The ego's needs and wants are taken into account and harnessed for the benefit of the whole psyche. The desires of the  human ego mind are allowed to be defined and refined for the growth, health and total wellness  of the person.

There are processes that facilitate this process.  In this way the ego is seen as a functioning part of a being; however not the total part of a being. I say being here, because an individual is looked upon as a spirit with a soul contained within the very fabric of being a soul purpose and an essential reason for being and living.  

So the fact that one is born, alive here; that one exists or is "being" here on this planet, at this exact time and place is not an accident and has a purpose.  I also say being and living, because one is being just by being here. The next step is the living. The living is up to you, and how you live your life. Your unfoldment is in your hands and awareness. Your life and how you live it has a purpose whether you are conscious of this or not.  

The conscious awareness and unfolding of this blueprint leads to your reason for being  and is seen as being integral to the universe, world, society and universal/divine plan. In this way there are no mistakes, just the possibility of the realization of ones wholeness and perfection.  With this self realization then comes the self actualizing of this awareness of being into the world creating a sense of purpose and deeper sense of  peace and fulfillment in one' life.

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.

One must not confuse Transpersonal psychology 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. 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, not a religious or spiritual movement, and some of the field's leading authors, among those Sovatsky, 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).



Transpersonal Pioneers


Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley, one of the great modern thinkers, philosophers, and social commentators of the 20th century, is often hailed as an inspirational figure of the Human Potential Movement and the subsequent development of transpersonal psychology.

William James

William James
For William James, psychology was bounded by biology on one side and philosophy on the other; it addressed all areas of human experience. James helped introduce psychology to the United States, teaching the first course and establishing the first laboratory.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung
Carl Jung is one of the most important, most complex, and most controversial psychological theorists. Jungian psychology focuses on establishing and fostering the relationship between conscious and unconscious processes.

Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow
Abraham Maslow is one of the founders of humanistic psychology and transpersonal psychology. He believed that an accurate and viable theory of personality must include not only the depths but also the heights that each individual is capable of attaining.

Carl Rogers Carl Rogers
Carl Rogers was a founder of humanistic psychology whose contributions continue to resonate throughout the field. His theory and practice shifted the authoritarian paradigm of therapist-led psychotherapy toward a client-centered practice



The transpersonal perspective spans many research interests. The following list is adapted from the Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology  and includes:

  • The contributions of spiritual traditions - Hinduism, 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
  • Psychedelics, Ethnopharmacology, and Psychopharmacology
  • Parapsychology
  • Cross-cultural studies and Anthropology
  • Diagnosis of Religious and Spiritual Problems
  • Offensive spirituality and spiritual defenses
  • Transpersonal Psychotherapy
  • Music therapy
  • Addiction and recovery
  • Guided-Imagery and Visualization Therapy
  • Guided Imagery and Music
  • Breath work
  • Dying and near death experience (NDE)
  • Past-Life therapy
  • Ecological survival
  • Social change
  • out-of-body experience