Transpersonal Psychology - Development of The Academic Field

Development of The Academic Field

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. Research by Vich 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 perceived object, and all objects are dependent on being perceived by someone. 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. Gradually, during the 1960s, the term "transpersonal" was associated with a distinct school of psychology within the humanistic psychology movement.

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. This was soon to be followed by the founding of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology (ATP) in 1972. 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. 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.

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; 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.

Although the majority of mainstream psychology departments, as part of their curriculum, rarely offer training programs in transpersonal issues and practices, Transpersonal perspectives are starting to be applied to such diverse fields as psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, sociology, pharmacology, and social work theory. 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. Institutions of higher learning that have adopted insights from transpersonal psychology include The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (US), California Institute of Integral Studies (US), John F. Kennedy University (US), Saybrook University (US), University of West Georgia (US), Atlantic University (US), Burlington College (US), Essex University (UK), Liverpool John Moores University (UK), the University of Northampton (UK), Leeds Metropolitan University (UK), Naropa University (Colorado), Pacifica Graduate Institute (CA), and Southwestern College (NM). There is also a strong connection between the transpersonal and the humanistic approaches to psychology. This is not surprising since transpersonal psychology started off within humanistic psychology. 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".

Robert Frager, of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 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 transpersonal psychology) in a textbook on personality theories which serves to promote an understanding of the discipline in classroom settings. An example which points to the possibility that awareness and discussion of transpersonal psychology in mainstream classroom settings may be on the rise can be seen by the inclusion of a section on transpersonal psychology for the first time in a textbook by Barbara Engler in which she asks the question, "Is spirituality an appropriate topic for psychological study?" Engler offers a brief account of the history of transpersonal psychology and a peek into its possible future in noting that G-H Jennings (1999) "suggests 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".

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). Unlike the other first three schools of psychology i.e. psychoanalysis, behaviorism and humanistic psychology which more or less deny the transcended part of soul, transpersonal psychology integrates the whole spectrum of human development from prepersonality to transpersonality. Hence transpersonal psychology can be considered the most integrated complete psychology, a positive psychology par excellence. From personality to transpersonality, mind to meditation, neuroscience to Nirvana it is a complete wholesome science for all round development and treatment.

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