Brief notes about transpersonal psychology origins

Among the thinkers and authors who are held to have set the stages for transpersonal studies are : William James, Carl Gustav Jung, Roberto Assagioli and Abram Maslow.


Abram Maslow had already published a very interesting book regarding human peak experience. In 1968 Maslow was among the people who announced transpersonal psychology as a Fourth Force in psychology, in order to distinguish it from the three other forces of psychology: psychoanalysis, behaviourism, and humanistic psychology. Earlier uses of the term ‘transpersonal’ can also be credited to Stanislav Grof and Anthony Sutich. At this time, in 1967-68, Maslow was also in close contact with Grof and Sutich regarding the name and the orientation of the new field.


Both humanistic and transpersonal psychology have been associated with the Human Potential Movement and Psychedelic Experiences, which were first studied by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and others. In the 1980, transpersonal psychology developed also through the works of such authors as Ken Wilber, Roger Walsh, Charles Tart and others researchers In this field. As mentioned above, the insights of Jungian depth psychology with theories of Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious are also important.


Transpersonal psychology, according to ancient spiritual traditions, of both the East and West, observes that human perception of the world is relative and fragmented because all our experience and our perception of reality is influenced by our personal impact with behaviour and external culture. As Wilber says “To want my life to have meaning is to want my experience and my reality to be profoundly fragmented” (Wilber, 1977). In this perspective the real world is point-less value-less. It is an end in itself without purpose or goal, future or result, meaning or value – a dance with no destination other than the present. This is precisely the insight the Buddhists express with the term tathata, the world as it is in its “suchness” or “thusness”, which Eckhart called “isness”, the Taoists called “tzu jan”, the Hindu “sahaja” and Korzybskj more to the point called “unspeakable”. For the real world the world of the Tao because it is Void of concepts, symbols, and maps, is necessarily Void of meaning, value and significance (Wilber, 1977).


The same concepts were elaborated by Stanislav and Christina Grof in a new vision, featuring a new attention on the body and the experiential transpersonal dimensions. These authors introduced their concept of spiritual emergence and spiritual emergencies. (Grof 1989). In this context the clinical research that Grof did during his extensive LSD sessions that provided a new insight into the structure and experiences of the prenatal are very important. In particular, Grof, had a lot to say about the traumas that often occur as a result of physical, chemical, or emotional assault on the fetus during its time in womb or its passage and emergence (i.e. birth) through the mother’s birth canal (Grof, 1985, 1993). Also important is Grof’s theory of COEX. The term refers to deep exploration of consciousness and of its memories of our perinatal experience. “COEX means that our psyche contains emotionally charged memories from different periods of life united by the common denominator of sharing the same emotional quality or the same physical sensation. Each COEX contains numerous strata, but all refer to themes, feelings and very concrete emotional qualities” (Grof, Beyond the brain, 1985).