The emergence of the transpersonal soul
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Transpersonal psychology is the living heartbeat of modern Western spirituality. It is the pulse which is energising New Age Christianity to leave church behind, to move forwards and become free.
It all started for Dr Stanislav Grof, a young Czechoslovak psychiatrist, when he volunteered for an academic LSD experiment in Prague.
Sandoz, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, sent a supply of LSD-25 to the psychiatric department in which he was working. Under carefully controlled scientific conditions, Grof took some of the drug. Something life-changing happened. In his own words, he "had a very profound confrontation with his own unconscious psyche."
The result of the experience was that with Abraham Maslow, he co-founded a new field of scientific research called transpersonal psychology or transpersonal science.
It is important to understand the difference between transpersonal psychology and mainstream fundamentalist psychiatry. Transpersonal psychology understands spirituality to be a healthy and evolutionary manifestation. Mainstream psychiatry argues that spirituality is an indication of psychopathology, religiosity or a lack of education.
The problem of spirituality and mystical experience has always been a challenge for the western psychiatric establishment. Grof comments: "This is an issue, which represents the core difference between traditional psychiatry and transpersonal psychology. Mainstream psychiatry is based upon the Cartesian-Newtonian materialistic world view. This maintains that the history of the universe is basically the history of developing matter. The only thing that really exists is matter and life. Consciousness and intelligence are its accidental and insignificant side-products."
"In this kind of a world view, there is no place for spirituality. To be spiritual means to be uneducated and unacquainted with modern scientific discoveries about the nature of the Universe. It means to be involved in superstition, in primitive or magical thinking. Traditional psychoanalysis explains spirituality as a regression, as a fixation on the infantile stage - a step backwards in development rather than a step forwards."
"In this context, the concept of God is interpreted as a projection of your infantile image of your father to the sky. Interest in religious ritual is seen as analogous to the obsessive-compulsive behavior of a neurotic. It is explained as a regression to the anal stage of libidinal development."
"Here lies the fundamental difference between traditional psychiatry and transpersonal psychology. The latter considers spirituality to be an intrinsic dimension of the human psyche and a critical factor in the universal scheme of things. This conclusion is not some kind of irrational belief or a speculative metaphysical assumption. It is based on systematic study of non-ordinary states of consciousness in which we can have direct experiences of the spiritual dimensions."
"These experiences fall into two distinct categories. In the first one are experiences of the Immanent Divine; they involve direct perception of the unity underlying the world of separation, and a realization that what we experience as material reality is actually a manifestation of creative cosmic energy."
"The second category includes experiences of the Transcendental Divine; here we perceive dimensions of reality that are normally hidden to our senses, such as visions of deities, or archetypal figures (as C.G.Jung would call them), and of various mythological domains."
These views of Dr Stanislav Grof appeared in print in 1996 in the book "Towards A New World View: Conversations at the Leading Edge" by Russell DiCarlo.
The full text of the conversation between Grof and DiCarlo can be found online under the title "The Multidimensional Psyche" here.
A useful introduction to Transpersonal Psychology can be found here.
And The Association for Transpersonal Psychology's website can be accessed here.