Editor’s Introduction—Glenn Hartelius

Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Incarcerated Youth:
A Mixed-Method Pilot Study—Sam Himelstein
Te Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness, Mysticism and Psi—Les Lancaster
Rethinking Prayer and Health Research: An Exploratory Inquiry on Prayer’s
Psychological Dimension—Adrian Andreescu
Te Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
Stanley Krippner, Michael Bova, Ashwin Budden, & Roberto Gallante
Why Altered States Are Not Enough: A Perspective from Buddhism—Igor Berkhin & Glenn Hartelius
On a Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal Psychology—Alan Haas
SPECIAL TOPIC: Ecopsychology

Introduction to Special Topic Section—Mark A. Schroll & Glenn Hartelius
Connectedness and Environmental Behavior: Sense of Interconnectedness and
Pro-Environmental Behavior—Robert E. Hoot & Harris Friedman
Te Deep Ecology Movement: Origins, Development, and Future Prospects
(Toward a Transpersonal Ecosophy)—Alan Drengson, Bill Devall, & Mark A. Schroll
RESPONSE: Refections on the Need for a More Complete History
of the Deep Ecology Movement and Related Disciplines—Michael E. Zimmerman
Clearing Up Rollo May’s Views of Transpersonal Psychology and Acknowledging May
as an Early Supporter of Ecopsychology—Mark A. Schroll, John Rowan, & Oliver Robinson

Ecopsychology, Transpersonal Psychology, and Nonduality—John V. Davis

Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash: A Transpersonal Synthesis of Depth Psychology,
Tibetan Tantra, and the Sacred Mythic Imagery of East and West—Judson Davis

Yamato Kotoba: Te Language of the Flesh—Yukari Kunisue & Judy Schavrien

Modern Materialism Trough the Lens of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism—Alan Pope

Book Review: Singing to the Plants—John Harrison


Volume 30(1-2), 2011
ranspersonal Studies T

he International Journal of
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies
Table of Contents
Editors’ Introduction—Glenn Hartelius iii
Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Incarcerated Youth:
A Mixed-Method Pilot Study—Sam Himelstein 1
Te Cognitive Neuroscience of Consciousness, Mysticism and Psi—Les Lancaster 11
Rethinking Prayer and Health Research: An Exploratory Inquiry on Prayer’s
Psychological Dimension—Adrian Andreescu 23
Te Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
Stanley Krippner, Michael Bova, Ashwin Budden, Roberto Gallante 48
Why Altered States Are Not Enough: A Perspective from Buddhism
Igor Berkhin & Glenn Hartelius 63
On a Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal Psychology—Alan Haas 69
SPECIAL TOPIC: Ecopsychology
Introduction to Special Topic Section—Mark A. Schroll & Glenn Hartelius 82
Connectedness and Environmental Behavior: Sense of Interconnectedness and
Pro-Environmental Behavior—Robert E. Hoot & Harris Friedman 89

Te Deep Ecology Movement: Origins, Development, and Future Prospects
(Toward a Transpersonal Ecosophy)—Alan Drengson, Bill Devall, & Mark A. Schroll 101
RESPONSE: Refections on the Need for a More Complete History
of the Deep Ecology Movement and Related Disciplines—Michael E. Zimmerman 118
Clearing Up Rollo May’s Views of Transpersonal Psychology and
Acknowledging May as an Early Supporter of Ecopsychology
Mark A. Schroll, John Rowan, & Oliver Robinson 120

Ecopsychology, Transpersonal Psychology, and Nonduality—John V. Davis 137

Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash: A Transpersonal Synthesis of Depth Psychology,
Tibetan Tantra, and the Sacred Mythic Imagery of East and West—Judson Davis 148

Yamato Kotoba: Te Language of the Flesh—Yukari Kunisue & Judy Schavrien 165

Modern Materialism Trough the Lens of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism—Alan Pope 171

Book Review: Singing to the Plants—John Harrison 178
T

he International Journal of
ranspersonal Studies
Volume 30(1-2), 2011
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies
The Internatonal Journal of Transpersonal Studes
Volume 30, Issues 1-2, 2011
Editor
Glenn Hartelius
Senior Editor
Harris Friedman
Coordinating Editor
Les Lancaster
Assistant Editors
Maureen Harrahy
Courtenay Crouch
Honorary Editor
Stanley Krippner
Editors Emeriti
Don Diespecker
Philippe Gross
Douglas A. MacDonald
Sam Shapiro
Guest Special Topic Editor
Mark A. Schroll
Associate Managing Editors
Jessica Bockler
Charles Flores
Cheryl Fracasso
Adam Rock
Rochelle Suri
Associate Circulation Editor
Adrian Andreescu
Editorial Assistant
Lila Hartelius
Student Interns
Dini Bintari
Gonzalo Brito
Liz Caine
Rashmi Chidanand
Timothy Edwards
Daniel Pinedo
Nadia Santiago
Sergei Slavoutski
Publisher
Floraglades Foundation, Incorporated
1270 Tom Coker Road
LaBelle, FL 33935
© 2010 by Floraglades Foundation, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
ISSN (Print) 1321-0122
ISSN (Electronic) 1942-3241
Board of Editors
Manuel Almendro (Spain)
Rosemarie Anderson (USA)
Liora Birnbaum (Israel)
Laura Boggio Gilot (Italy)
Jacek Brewczynski (USA)
Søren Brier (Denmark)
Elias Capriles (Venezuela)
Michael Daniels (UK)
John Davis (USA)
Wlodzislaw Duch (Poland)
James Fadiman (USA)
Jorge N. Ferrer (Spain/USA)
Joachim Galuska (Germany)
David Y. F. Ho (Hong Kong, China)
Daniel Holland (USA)
Chad Johnson (USA)
Bruno G. Just (Australia)
Sean Kelly (USA)
Jefrey Kuentzel (USA)
S. K. Kiran Kumar (India)
Charles Laughlin (Canada/USA)
Olga Louchakova (USA)
Vladimir Maykov (Russia)
Axel A. Randrup (Denmark)
Vitor Rodriguez (Portugal)
Brent Dean Robbins (USA)
Mario Simöes (Portugal)
Charles Tart (USA)
Rosanna Vitale (Canada)
John Welwood (USA)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies


Editors’ Introduction
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. iii-iv
T
his special double-issue on ecopsychology
falls on the 30th anniversary issue of the
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies. Te
journal, which was founded as the Australian Journal of
Transpersonal Psychology in 1981 by Don Diespecker, has
developed from a typewritten collection of inspirational
articles, poetry, and bibliographical summaries to a peer-
reviewed journal with an online circulation of more
than 15,000 unique visitors per year (also distributed
on-demand in hard copy). Tis is cause for celebration,
as it is further evidence of the growing success of the
transpersonal feld.
Te frst general article, entitled Mindfulness-
Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Incarcerated Youth,
reports on a mixed-method pilot study conducted by Sam
Himelstein. Although it is preliminary, the importance of
this work is that it is one of the few pieces of empirical
evidence that mindfulness-based interventions can be
efective with adolescents, and may be the frst paper
demonstrating meaningful beneft of such treatment
approaches with youth who have substance abuse issues.
Tis is part of a trend toward research on therapeutic
applications of mindfulness with specifc populations—
one that begins to provide empirical evidence for
transpersonal psychology’s position that certain time-
honored alternate states of consciousness can be of great
beneft.
Les Lancaster, an outstanding transpersonal
scholar who also has strong backgrounds in neuroscience,
consciousness studies, and the Jewish mystical writings
of the Kabbalah, follows with a paper on Te Cognitive
Neuroscience of Consciousness, Mysticism and Psi.
Lancaster delves into the heart of the hard problem
of consciousness (Chalmers, 1996): phenomenality.
Explaining the computational processes of the brain is
relatively easy. Te harder task is to explain why these
processes lead to qualities of experience. Tis is another
way of saying, How is it that there “someone” who
experiences brain states as “their” experience? A computer
can run by itself for weeks on end, but so far as anyone
knows, there is no phenomenality involved: there is no
someone who is having an experience. Experience only
happens if someone comes along to engage with the
computer through the screen and keyboard. Te brain
may be much more than a computer, but even if one
only considers its computational functions, who is the
one reading the screen and having an experience? How is
this someone related to the neural circuitry of the brain?
For Lancaster, the answer to this question is not going to
be found in neuroscience. He turns instead to mysticism,
and specifcally to the ideas of the Kabbalah. Ten
he weaves neuroscientifc fact together with mystical
thought, suggesting that kabbalistic ideas are not only
compatible with neuroscience, but that they can extend
understanding beyond empirical science into the domain
of consciousness itself.
Te next two papers deal with ways in which
work in the domain of consciousness can afect physical
health. Adrian Andreescu, Associate Circulation Editor
of this journal, ofers a beginning sketch of how profound
healing may happen. Healing is not mere clinical recovery
from symptoms, but the experience of regaining health.
He draws on copious amounts of research to suggest that
three factors that may be of key importance in eliciting
healing: worldview, intentional normative dissociation
(IND) and psychosomatic plasticity-proneness (PPP).
Worldview represent’s a patient’s concepts of reality—
ideas that may enhance or limit his or her ability to
participate in a healing process. For example, patients
who believe in divine healing are at times able to
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies v
experience otherwise inexplicable, seemingly miraculous
recoveries; such an experience would likely not be
available to a person who rejects the possibility of divine
healing. Because worldview has such power, and because
severe illness often challenges a person’s worldview, the
narrative that one creates for themself around illness may
have an impact on their chances of fnding healing.
A second factor, IND, refers to intentional use
of normative dissociation: the ability to enter a state of
total attention and become fully absorbed in an object of
attention. If a person who has cultivated IND, consciously
or unconsciously, sets healing as their object, this capacity
to set aside sense data and focus completely on such a goal
might be a valuable asset. Similarly, some individuals are
better than others at expressing psychoemotional content
in bodily ways (PPP). Again, high PPP might correlate
with the ability to turn envisioned health into bodily
health. Andreescu then suggests that prayer is a modality
in which all three of these factors are brought together.
Tis inquiry ofers a view of healing that might be used
to inform future empirical research.
Te topic of healing continues in the next paper,
which is an exploration of traditional healing practices
in Calabria, Italy. Authors Stanley Krippner, Michael
Bova, Ashwin Budden, and Roberto Gallante spent time
travelling through this region interviewing individuals
and collecting stories and information regarding the pre-
scientifc healing practices still practiced by some in this
region.
After this comes a paper by Igor Berkhin and
Glenn Hartelius, entitled, Altered States Are Not Enough.
Tis paper grew from a response to Judson Davis’ paper,
presented at the International Transpersonal Association
conference in Moscow, Russia, in 2009. Berkhin delivered
a strong rebuttal to Davis, representing the way in which
tradition-based spirituality often receives attempts at
integral scholarship. While this journal welcomes integral
work, Berkhin raised some points that should be given
serious consideration within transpersonal scholarship. In
this paper, he collaborates with the editor in contrasting
traditional Buddhist thought with what are sometimes
superfcial assumptions within transpersonal psychology.
Te fnal paper, by Alan Haas, ofers a strikingly
diferent, pragmatic approach to transpersonal psychology:
a physical scientifc approach. For Haas, simple principles
of physics, chemistry, and electromagnetism may be as
useful or even more helpful than esoteric theories in
working to understand transpersonal phenomena. Haas
ofers an original and unusual approach to transpersonal
psychology, one that challenges the assumptions of
much of its scholarship. If for no other reason, this fresh
perspective is good reason to consider his suggestions
carefully.
Glenn Hartelius
Editor
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 1 Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment
Te current study investigated the efects of an 8-week mindfulness-based substance use intervention
on self-reported impulsiveness, perceived drug risk, and healthy self-regulation in a sample of 60
incarcerated youth. Forty-eight participants completed questionnaires pre and post intervention.
Additionally, 16 participants from two of the fnal 8-week cohorts were interviewed in focus groups
about their experience of the program immediately following its completion. A mixed-method
embedded model was used, in which qualitative data was used in support of quantitative data. Paired
t-tests revealed a signifcant decrease (p < .01) in impulsiveness and a signifcant increase (p < .05)
in perceived risk of drug use from pretest to posttest. No signifcant diferences were found on self-
reported self-regulation. Focus group interviews conducted immediately following the intervention
revealed three major themes: receptivity to the program in general, appreciation of the facilitator
teaching style, and learning about drugs. Clinical implications and directions for future research are
discussed.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 1-10
O
ver the last thirty years research on mindfulness-
based interventions have shown promising
results for diverse populations including chronic
pain patients (Kabat-Zinn, 1982), adolescent psychiatric
outpatients (Biegel, Brown, Shapiro, & Schubert, 2009),
and correctional populations (Himelstein, Hastings,
Shapiro, & Heery, in press; Samuelson, Carmody, Kabat-
Zinn, & Bratt, 2007). One population that may beneft
from the increased self-management abilities acquired
through mindfulness practice (Baer, 2003) is incarcerated
adolescents who struggle with issues of substance use.
In 2008, there were over 340,000 juvenile
arrests for drug abuse violations, violation of liquor
laws, drunkenness, and driving under the infuence in
the United States (Puzzanchera, 2009). Te problem
of incarceration among youth is indeed signifcant.
Approximately 96,000 juvenile ofenders in the United
States were incarcerated in 2003 (Snyder & Sickmund,
2006). Williams, Tuthill, and Lio (2008) suggested that
approximately 10-12% of youth ofenders re-ofend into
adulthood and other researchers have suggested this
percentage to be upwards of 25% (Snyder & Sickmund,
2006). Nonetheless, juvenile ofending seems to fuel the
broader issue of crime and delinquency and therefore
merits further attention.
Mindfulness meditation practices emphasize
nonjudgmental awareness and acceptance of present moment
experience (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; 2003). Medi-tation-based
programs have been shown to improve psychological well-
being and reduce recidivism (for a review see Hawkins, 2003;
Himelstein, 2011). Given mindfulness-based interventions’
initial, albeit pilot efcacy with correctional populations
and because research suggests that impulsivity—an
inversely correlated construct to mindfulness (Baer, 2003;
Kabat-Zinn, 1990)—is associated with higher recidivism
and delinquency rates within incarcerated youth
populations (Vitacco, Nuemann, Robertson, & Durrant,
2002), a mindfulness-based substance abuse intervention
was chosen as the focus of this pilot study. Furthermore,
mindfulness-based intervention research is beginning to
burgeon with adolescent psychiatric (e.g., Biegel et al.,
2009) and youth correctional populations (Himelstein
et al., in press), however none emphasize the treatment of
substance use disorders. Terefore, there is a relevant need
for contributing such new and innovative research to the
literature.
Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment
for Incarcerated Youth: A Mixed Method Pilot Study
Sam Himelstein
Engaging the Moment, LLC
Te Mind Body Awareness Program
Oakland, CA, USA
Keywords: mindfulness-based intervention, MBSR, substance abuse, juvenile
ofenders, incarcerated youth, self-regulation, transpersonal psychology
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 2 Himelstein
A fnal intention in publishing this pilot study is
to contribute to the feld of transformative justice-based
transpersonal psychology. Hartelius, Caplan, and Rardin
(2007) suggested that transformative transpersonal
psychology is the application of aspects of transpersonal
psychology (e.g., spiritual practices, meditative practices)
to pragmatic and socially aware causes. It was necessary
to position the intervention understudy here as a
contribution to the feld of transformative transpersonal
psychology and not simply another manualized
intervention just using cognitive mindfulness practices
isolated from a larger context. A goal of this treatment
is to emphasize holistic treatment practices, which
include, alongside competent curriculum content, an
advanced training and knowledge of creating authentic
relationships with the target population.
Below is a brief review of the state of the research
on mindfulness in adult correctional and substance
abuse populations, along with fndings from the
current research on mindfulness with correctional and
psychiatric youth populations. Next, an overview of the
mindfulness-based substance use treatment intervention
is presented. Finally, pilot data from an initial study of the
current mindfulness-based substance use intervention is
presented and discussed.
Literature Review:
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
in Relevant Applications
T
he majority of the empirical research on mindfulness
in diferent populations has used mindfulness-
based stress reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990).
Briefy, MBSR is an 8-week intervention where
participants meet once a week for approximately two
and a half hours and one day-long retreat. Skills taught
include focusing on the breath in sitting meditation,
the body scan meditation while lying down, and Hatha
yoga postures. Mindfulness-based stress reduction has
a long history of research and has shown consistency
in reductions of stress and increased psychological well-
being in diferent populations for the last 30 years.
Although documented research is not plentiful, there is
also literature dedicated to both correctional (Samuelson
et al., 2007) and adolescent populations (Biegel et al.,
2009).
MBSR in corrections. Samuelson et al. (2007)
implemented the MBSR program in six Massachusetts
prisons from 1992 to 1996. Te MBSR program was
administered to 1, 350 inmates in one women’s prison and
fve men’s prisons. Results showed statistically signifcant
reductions (p = .0001), 9.2% for women and 7% for
men, on Cook and Medley Hostility scales at all prison
sites. Increased scores from pretest to posttest (p = .006),
8.3% for women and 3.8% for men, on the Rosenberg
Self-esteem Scales were found at all program sites. Te
most dramatic reduction was found on the Profle of
Mood States Scale, which dropped approximately 38%
for women and 29% in men (p = .0001).
Samuelson et al. (2007) reported several
modifcations of the program that allowed it to be
implemented in a correctional setting. For example, some
prisons allotted a private room designated for MBSR
practice alone, while others designated large open spaces
concurrently being used by other inmates. Courses were
sometimes compressed from the original 8-week length,
to 6-week programs with shorter sessions. Te intensive
retreat was never allowed at any prison site. Still, the
MBSR intervention proved to have a high completion
rate of 69%, suggesting feasibility within correctional
populations.
MBSR with adolescents. To date, very few
empirical studies have investigated the efect of MBSR
with adolescent populations. Two feasibility studies were
found assessing the impact of MBSR with adolescent
populations (Sibinga et al., 2008; Wall, 2005). Sibinga
et al. (2008) explored the feasibility of the MBSR
intervention with 11 HIV-infected African American
adolescents. Given the pilot nature of the study, only
brief interviews were conducted. Results showed that the
MBSR intervention was feasible with HIV-infected youth
given positive participant feedback after the completion
of the course (Sibinga et al., 2008). In another pilot study
investigating an MBSR-like intervention with adolescents,
Wall (2005) combined Tai Chi practices and MBSR with
middle school aged adolescents in a Boston area public
school. Qualitative feedback from participants suggested
improved sleep, well-being, relaxation, and reduced
reactivity, even though participants were not committed
to continuing mindfulness classes. Regardless, the results
further support preliminary evidence that MBSR and
other mindfulness-based interventions may be feasible
treatments for adolescent populations.
In contrast to the two pilot studies above, one
randomized clinical trial was found that employed
MBSR with adolescent psychiatric outpatients (Biegel
et al., 2009). Biegel et al. randomly assigned 102
adolescent psychiatric outpatients to either MBSR or a
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 3 Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment
waitlist-controlled group. Te MBSR intervention was
modifed to ft adolescent needs in two ways. First, at
home mindfulness practice time was reduced from 45
minutes to 20-35 minutes, and, second, presentations
and discussion topics during classes focused primarily on
issues related to adolescence. Participants ranged in age
from 14-18 and were primarily female. Study measures
were obtained at pretest, posttest, and 3-month follow-
up. Te 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10), the
State and Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the 10-item
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (SES), and six of the nine
subscales of the Hopkins Symptom Checklist 90 Revised
(SCL-90-R) served as self-report measures at all three
assessment points.
Approximately 60% of the participants from
the intent to treat sample completed pretest and posttest
assessment points. Results revealed that, relative to
controls, MBSR participants showed signifcant decreases
over time in state and trait anxiety (p < .05), perceived
stress (p < .05), and four of the six psychopathology
indicators assessed by the SCL-90-R (p < .05). Self-esteem
also signifcantly increased within participants receiving
the MBSR intervention (p < .05). Relative to controls,
MBSR participants showed signifcant improvements
in Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores over
time from pretest to posttest and pretest to follow-up (p
< .0001).
Mindfulness-Based Interventions
for Specifc Populations
Mindfulness-based relapse prevention. As a
result of research efcacy with the MBSR program, other
similar and innovative mindfulness-based interventions
have been created and researched. Mindfulness-based
relapse prevention (MBRP; Bowen, Chawla, & Marlatt,
2011) is an 8-week mindfulness program incorporating
elements of MBSR and relapse prevention. It is similar
to MBSR in that formal meditation, yoga, and informal
mindfulness are practiced in a group setting, and difers
in that it was specifcally developed for people sufering
from addiction. In their primary pilot randomized clinical
trial, Bowen et al. (2009) found that participants in the
MBRP group had signifcantly less days of alcohol use
throughout the intervention than those in the treatment-
as-usual control condition. Furthermore, MBRP had a
65% attendance rate throughout its program suggesting
its feasibility.
Te mind body awareness project. Alongside
new and innovative approaches such as MBRP, other
approaches for incorporating mindfulness with diverse
and specifc populations have also arisen. Te Mind Body
Awareness (MBA) Project, a non-proft based in the San
Francisco Bay Area that teaches mindfulness practices to
incarcerated youth, developed a 10-module mindfulness
intervention tailored specifcally to the needs of extremely
high-risk and incarcerated adolescents. Tis intervention,
like MBSR, incorporates formal mindfulness meditation
and informal mindfulness exercises, didactic training,
and group process. It difers from MBSR in that group
discussions and exercises are specifc to the issues that
incarcerated youth consistently face, such as poverty,
substance use and abuse, and community violence,
and that much more emphasis is place on the group
facilitator to therapeutically engage and create authentic
relationships with the participants (for an in-depth review
of the curriculum, see Himelstein, 2009).
Preliminary research suggests that the MBA
program can be feasibly implemented with high-risk and
incarcerated youth. Himelstein et al. (in press) found
that 60% of participants completed the MBA program
and that self-reported stress reduced while self-reported
self-regulation increased from pretest to posttest.
Furthermore, in a qualitative study investigating the
MBA Project, Himelstein, Hastings, Shapiro, & Heery,
(in press) found that most youth who participated in the
program were open and accepting of its mission and the
techniques they learned. After being semi-structurally
interviewed about their personal experience of the
program, participants discussed feeling an increase in
the ability to self-regulate. For example one participant
stated:
I don’t know if you remember when I frst came
here, I was hella hot [angry], and umm, we did the
breathing, and I still felt mad, but then as I started
doing more breathing, I started breathing in my
room, just a lot of breathing, and the exercises you
taught me with the stomach, the chest, those really
helped…I still would have it [anger] but it wouldn’t
be as strong…Like if it was a 10, it would go down
to a solid fve or four. (Himelstein et al., in press)
A Mindfulness-Based Substance Use Intervention
for Incarcerated Youth: A New Paradigm
Because of the accruing evidence that
mindfulness-based interventions can be helpful to both
substance abuse and incarcerated adolescent populations,
the intention was to develop a specifc program targeting
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 4 Himelstein
substance abusing incarcerated and high-risk adolescents.
Working in support from organizations such as the MBA
Project and reviewing the curriculum and literature from
other programs like MBRP, a curriculum was developed
with the goal of implementing a mindfulness-based
substance use intervention for high-risk and incarcerated
adolescents that was culturally sensitive, relevant to their
experience, and that retained their interest (Himelstein &
Saul, 2011). Briefy, this mindfulness-based substance use
intervention is a group-based therapeutic treatment that
incorporates formal and informal mindfulness practices,
didactic drug education, experiential exercises, and group
discussions into each module. Given the sensitivity and
advanced training needed to provide therapeutic services
to high-risk and incarcerated adolescents, the role of the
group facilitator is of utmost importance in delivering this
curriculum. Tis role includes specifc qualities that must
be present within each facilitator to ensure feasibility.
Qualities of group facilitators. Tree major
qualities must be explicitly practiced and brought
forth into awareness by facilitators of this mindfulness-
based substance use intervention. First, each facilitator
must be committed to authenticity. Tat is, facilitators
must be committed to honesty while working with this
population. Tis includes being comfortable with oneself
and not attempting to behave or speak in such a way
that is not their natural method. Inauthenticity will only
hinder rapport with group participants.
Second, facilitators must have an intention to
create an authentic relationship with group participants.
Tis is an intervention in which the level of depth and
group cohesion will directly depend on the participants’
trust of the group facilitator. Curiosity of participants’
personal lives and skillful self-disclosure are used to
develop authentic relationships.
Tird, facilitators should not hold a stance of
trying to “change” participants. Tat is, this intervention
holds true to the existential truth (Bugental, 1965, 1987,
1990) that change is a choice of the client and that
attempting to force a client to change only backfres and
hinders rapport. Tus, the major intention is to provide
a safe therapeutic environment where authenticity and
human connections can occur.
Te curriculum. Te mindfulness-based
substance use intervention of this study (Himelstein &
Saul, 2011) is an 8-week, one session per week, program
in which sessions last for 1.5 hours. Each session includes
a mindful check-in (i.e., centering oneself, then discussing
present moment experience), experiential group activities
(including mindfulness practice), group discussion, and
didactic training. An emphasis is placed on new and
diverse learning modalities. Terefore, the agenda of the
major elements of each group follows a diferent format
in each session (i.e., the mindful check-in is presented
at the start of the group in one group and at other time
points in other groups).
Two major components encapsulate this
curriculum: drug education and the development of self-
awareness. Drug education activities include learning
drug categories and the impact of mixing certain drugs,
debating about the positive and negative aspects of drug
use, and how drugs impact the brain and body. Tese
activities and didactic trainings are always used as a
platform to unpack personal experience and develop self-
awareness.
Self-awareness activities include role-playing,
emotional awareness and regulation, empathy building,
and informal and formal mindfulness practice. Informal
mindfulness practice is infused throughout the inter-
vention through brief, guided moments of awareness
(e.g., the mindful check-in) and cognitive techniques
that produce meta-cognitive states. Formal mindfulness
practices include mindfulness meditations in each of the
eight groups.
Methods
T
his study investigated the feasibility and preliminary
efects of a mindfulness-based substance use
intervention with incarcerated adolescents. Tree central
research questions guided this pilot study:
1) Can a mindfulness-based substance use inter-
vention feasibly be implemented with incar-
cerated adolescents?
2) What is the efect of a mindfulness-based
substance use intervention on impulsiveness,
self-regulation, and perceived risk of illegal
substances with a group of incarcerated youth?
3) How was the program viewed and received by
participating youth?
Tese central research questions infuenced an
embedded mixed methods (Creswell & Plano-Clark,
2011) research design, in which quantitative pretest
and posttest data were collected from a treatment group
only and supplemented with qualitative focus groups to
examine trends that might be related to participation
in the treatment intervention. Creswell and Plano-
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 5 Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment
Clark suggested that supplemental, embedded data can
be collected and analyzed at any point throughout the
research process and that such data is weighted secondary
to the primary data. In this study, primary importance
was placed upon program completion rate and self-report
dependent measures of impulsiveness, self-regulation, and
perceived risk of drug use, while secondary importance
was placed upon focus group interviews with participants
about their view of the program.
Te following directional hypotheses were
undertaken for this study:
1) A mindfulness-based substance use intervention
would be feasibly implemented with incarcerated
adolescents.
2) Impulsiveness, as measured by the Teen Confict
Survey Impulsiveness scale (Bosworth &
Espelage, 1995) will signifcantly decrease from
pretest to posttest.
3) Perceived health risk of using substances, as
measured by the Monitoring the Future
questionnaire (Johnston, O’Malley, & Bachman,
1991) will signifcantly increase from pretest to
posttest.
4) Self-regulation, as measured by the Healthy Self-
Regulation questionnaire (West, 2008) will
signifcantly increase from pretest to posttest.
Participants
Juvenile male inmates incarcerated in a
juvenile detention camp in Northern California
were eligible to participate in this study. Participants
were referred to the mindfulness-based substance use
intervention by order from the courts and probation
camp staf. Tis study underwent a full review in the
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology’s research ethics
committee. Informed consent was obtained from the
presiding juvenile court judge and assent by each of
the participants themselves. At the start of each 8-
week cycle, demographic data was obtained within
each self-report questionnaire packet. Age, ethnicity,
and gender, among other demographic variables, were
assessed. Participants ranged in age from 15-18 (M
= 16.3) and identifed ethnically as Latino (n = 32),
African-American (n = 6), Mixed-Ethnicity (n = 4),
Filipino (n = 3), Tongan (n = 2), and Indian (n = 1).
Procedure
Mindfulness-based substance use intervention groups
were conducted in the program room at the juvenile
detention camp, a detention camp housing youth
for a period of 6-9 months. Because of institutional
limitations, a more advanced research design involving
a control group and random assignment were not set
up. Groups were conducted once a week for 1.5 hours’
duration, with groups being facilitated on Tuesdays and
Wednesdays of each week. For each 8-week treatment
group, 8-12 participants were recruited. Two treatment
groups were concurrently facilitated (one on Tuesday
and the other on Wednesday of each week) in an efort
to serve more youth at the juvenile detention camp. Six
cohorts received the treatment intervention over a period
of approximately 7 months. Two of the fnal cohorts
volunteered to be semi-structurally interviewed in a
focus group format immediately following completion
of the program.
Quantitative Data Collection
Tree pencil and paper self-report measures were
administered to participants before and after completion
of each 8-week cycle. Te entire self-report measure
packet took approximately 15 minutes to complete.
Perceived risk of drug use. Perceived risk of
drug use was measured by the Monitoring the Future
questionnaire (MTF) (Johnston et al., 1991). Te
Monitoring the Future questionnaire is a four-item
scale ranging from 1-4 (1 = no risk; 4 = great risk). A
score of “99” is given if youth are unfamiliar with the
inquired upon substance. Te Monitoring the Future
questionnaire was validated with 12-16 year-olds and
inquires about alcohol, cigarette, marijuana, and cocaine
use.
Impulsiveness. Impulsiveness was measured
by the Teen Confict Survey Impulsiveness scale (TCS)
(Bosworth & Espelage, 1995). Tis is a four-item scale
ranging from 1-5 (1 = never; 5 = always). Tis scale was
validated with middle school students and inquires about
personal self-control.
Self-regulation. Self-regulation was measured by
the Healthy Self-Regulation (HSR) scale (West, 2008).
Tis is a 12-item scale with three reversed score items.
Each item ranges on a 6-point likert scale from 1 (almost
always) to 6 (almost never). Te Healthy Self-Regulation
scale was validated in a sample of high-school youth and
inquires about pro-social self-regulatory capacity.
Qualitative Data Collection
D
uring the last two 8-week periods of data collection,
two cohorts (one from each 8-week cycle)
volunteered to be interviewed about their experience
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 6 Himelstein
with the program in a focus group format. Following the
eighth and fnal class, participants were semi-structurally
interviewed for approximately 20 minutes. Questions
that guided the semi-structured interviews included:
What was your overall experience of this program?
What made this program diferent, if anything, from
other programs at this camp?
Was this program helpful or not helpful in any way?
Why?
What was your favorite class and why?
What was your least favorite class and why?
Is there anything else you might like to add about
your experience? If so, what?
Participants were encouraged to answer every question
but not mandated. Te microphone was passed around
the circle and if anyone wished to not answer, they would
be passed over with a chance to answer the question later
if they changed their mind.
Results
Quantitative Results
Of the intent-to-treat sample of N = 60, 12
participants dropped out of the study due to getting
released from the juvenile detention camp. Tus, the
fnal sample was N = 48, with an 80% completion rate.
Given the pilot nature of this study, results from all
cohorts were collapsed into one large data set for each
dependent measure and paired t-tests were conducted to
measure any signifcant diferences in mean scores from
pretest to posttest.
Tere was a signifcant decrease in impulsiveness
at t(47) = 2.849, p < .01 (one-tailed) and a signifcant
increase in perceived drug risk at t(47) = -1.746, p > .05
(one-tailed). Despite trends in psychologically enhancing
directions, there were no signifcant diferences between
pretest and posttest self-regulation scores, t(47) = -1.090,
p > .05 (one-tailed). Table 1 summarizes these results.
Qualitative Results
Qualitative data analysis consisted of thematic
content analysis as outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006).
In this six-step method, each focus group was frst
transcribed verbatim in order to enhance familiarity with
the data. Second, initial codes were designated across both
focus groups. Tird, codes were collated into potential
themes. Fourth, the themes were reviewed to check if
they were in conjunction with their coded extracts and
the entire data set. Fifth, a thematic map was generated,
and sixth, the themes were named and written.
As a result of the thematic content analysis,
three themes were identifed that were associated with
the personal experience of participants of the focus
groups. Tese included: receptivity to the program in
general, appreciation of facilitation style, and learning
about drugs.
Receptivity to the program in general.
Tis theme was defned by a general receptiveness to
the program. Participants discussed having a positive
experience with specifc aspects of the program and being
open to learning course content. When asked about what
stood out in the program most, one participant stated:
I liked the mindfulness emotional activity where we
shared about ourselves. Tat helped a lot, like, get an
understanding of what people go through. It could
be a problem with drugs, it could be reasons for
their actions. Te expression of feelings, emotions,
Table 1. Diferences in Mean Scores Pre- and Post-Intervention
Pre-Intervention Post-Intervention

Measure M SD M SD t(47)

Teen Confict Survey
(TCS) 9.93 2.83 8.72 2.44 2.849**
Monitoring the Future
(MTF) 13.10 2.89 14.02 2.84 -1.746*
Healthy Self-Regulation
(HSR) 46.66 8.28 48.70 7.86 -1.090

*p. < .05 **p. < .01
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 7 Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment
could help. [Deep emotions] could be behind
[psychologically, the use of ] drugs and alcohol. And
that’s why that was my favorite activity.
Another participant discussed his receptivity to the group
discussions undertaken in each class:
I like this program because a lot of the times when
we’re having conversations, it’s better than in section
time [down time in their dorms] when we’re by
ourselves or like not in a program and having a
conversation. Like, in here, it’s just way better. We
have conversations and it’s hella fun, but, in other
programs we don’t get a chance to do that. I like this
program a lot. We get a lot of time to conversate and
express ourselves.
Appreciation of facilitation style. Many of the
participants expressed some form of appreciation for the
methods in which the groups were facilitated. Tey often
commented on the styles of the facilitators directly or in
relation to how the participants related to the class. One
participant stated, when asked if he would like to add
anything else to the end of the focus group:
I think this is a good program. We learn a lot about
drugs and you guys ain’t telling us, “don’t go drink
or don’t go smoke,” you feel me? We can express
ourselves and not get a consequence because it’s
confdential in here.
Another participant discussed this intervention in relation
to other programs at the camp:
I think this program stands out more than other
programs because we just keep it real [honest] in
here. Te other programs, it’s just basically showing
up…in other programs, it’s just showing up and I
just want to get it over with. But here we get to keep
it real.
Another participant discussed appreciating how the
content and activities were aligned with his interests:
Te fun part about it is that we’re doing things that
we like to do. It’s not only just you guys coming in
here [and forcing an activity]. You guys want to know
what’s interesting to us, you guys want the program
to be interesting to us, so I like coming.
Learning about drugs. Learning about drugs
was defned as participants discussing their learning
experiences in a positive manner. Participants discussed
being interested in learning about drugs and appreciating
the diferent multi-media through which course content
was taught. One participant stated:
My view of this class was, learning. It was a learning
experience. I learned new things. Like, we learned
about how the nerve cells, how they don’t connect
and all that, how all that pleasure gets transported.
Basically I just learned. I soaked a lot of stuf you had
to teach us.
Another participant, when asked about what aspects of
the course, if any, he liked, disclosed:
What was that one slide show? Te one about the
brain and all that? I liked that one because, umm,
I don’t know. For some reason, I got to focus really
hard when we were doing that class. Tere was
something about it, I think it’s the way you taught
it, I can’t really explain it. Te way you ran it was…
interesting. I liked it a lot.
Discussion
T
his study supports previous research (e.g., Biegel et al.,
2009; Bowen et al., 2009; Himelstein et al., in press)
demonstrating that mindfulness-based interventions are
feasible treatments for adolescent and substance using
populations. Results confrmed the frst hypothesis that
the mindfulness-based substance use intervention would
be feasible with a group of incarcerated adolescents. Only
12 participants could not complete the intervention due
to being released from the juvenile detention camp,
leaving 80% of our intent to treat group completing the
program. Tis rate is comparable and extends beyond to
the retention rate of Biegel et al. (2009; approximately
60%), Samuelson et al. (2007; 69%), and Bowen et al.
(2009; 65%). Furthermore, the qualitative data suggests
that participants were receptive to the course content
in general. Tis reveals additional evidence toward the
feasibility of this intervention.
Te results also confrmed the second and
third hypotheses: that impulsiveness would signifcantly
decrease from pretest to posttest and that perceived
risk of drug use would signifcantly increase from
pretest to posttest. Te qualitative data also revealed
a theme entitled “learning about drugs.” Tis theme
was described as participants having positive learning
experiences about drugs. It could be that the positive
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 8 Himelstein
learning environments (i.e., in which therapists were
not trying to coerce adolescents into stopping substance
using behaviors, but rather focusing on creating a safe,
therapeutic, and receptive learning environment) left
the participants of this study more open to the idea
that drugs can be harmful, and thus, perceived risk of
drug used signifcantly increased. Te fourth hypothesis
was not confrmed: self-regulation did not signifcantly
change from pretest to posttest, although trends were in
a psychologically enhancing direction.
Te feasibility of the intervention understudy
should be considered within the context of the juvenile
detention camp setting. As noted above, an initial intent-
to-treat sample of 60 participants were recruited, but 12
were not able to complete the intervention. Although
this represents an attrition rate of 20%, this should not
undermine the feasibility of the intervention. Oftentimes,
participants would get released from the juvenile detention
camp part-way through the program. Requesting that
such participants complete the intervention for the
sake of research would be inappropriate and inhumane.
Nevertheless, the mindfulness-based substance use
intervention understudy here is indicated to be a positive
program that high-risk and incarcerated adolescents may
be open to and can learn from. Tis suggests feasibility
given that literature on therapies with high-risk and
incarcerated adolescents highlights this population’s
overt resistance to treatment (Baer & Peterson, 2002;
Ginsburg, Mann, Rotgers, & Weekes, 2002).
Transformative Transpersonal Psychology
One of the goals for this study was to explicitly position
this research and intervention within the framework of
transformative-based transpersonal psychology. Given
that mindfulness is derived from spiritual traditions
(most notably Buddhism), it is important for readers to
understand that mindfulness interventions stripped of
dogma and spiritual doctrine (such as the intervention
in this study) are not facilitated in isolation from the
context of the intervention facilitators. Te training
and qualities of the facilitators is of utmost importance
in helping incarcerated adolescents (e.g., Himelstein
& Saul, 2011) derive meaning and impact from their
experiences. Pioneers in the felds of humanistic and
transpersonal psychology have always emphasized
therapist qualities that include authenticity and positive
regard (e.g., Carl Rogers), present moment self-awareness
(e.g., Fritz Pearls), and love (e.g., Abraham Maslow),
and it is essential to understand that with the rise of the
evidence-based “epidemic” (i.e., the push to attribute
manualized interventions’ efcacy on the content of the
manual alone with no regard to the facilitators), some
important training qualities can be lost. Tis is why
advanced training and supervision is needed in order to
efectively implement the mindfulness-based substance
use intervention studied in this article.
Limitations and Future Research
Although this study shows promising results,
some limitations are worth consideration. First, no
control group was used to validate the results from the
treatment group. Given the pilot nature of the study
(i.e., limited resources) and institutional limitations (i.e.,
gatekeepers in the juvenile detention facility did not deem
a control group feasible because of the nature of how the
camp is governed), a control group could not be set up.
Because of this, the signifcant diferences that did occur
might be due to some factor other than participating in
the treatment intervention. Future research should aim
to conduct randomized clinical trials in order to decrease
threats to internal validity.
Second, only two focus groups assented to being
interviewed about their experience with the treatment
intervention. If for example, all six cohorts were
interviewed, there would have been more data and the
themes that were identifed might have varied more.
Finally, it is unclear which aspect of the
treatment intervention was most helpful in this research.
Tat is, the mechanisms of change in the intervention
are not clear and should be isolated and studied in future
research. For example, was it the mindfulness meditation
training that was most helpful? Or was it the group
context? Or the group facilitator? Future research should
aim to investigate such mechanisms of change. Tis
was a motivation for pushing another study (currently
in the data collection phase) through the institutional
review board that is investigating the isolated efects
of mindfulness meditation in incarcerated adolescent
substance users.
Conclusion
A
lthough there are limitations to this study, the results
suggest that the mindfulness-based substance use
intervention understudy is a promising intervention for
incarcerated substance using adolescents. Importantly,
decreased impulsiveness that can result from such a
program might enable higher psychological functioning
in incarcerated youth. Tus, staf at juvenile detention
facilities, policy makers, and mindfulness intervention
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 9 Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment
experts may consider mindfulness interventions as
another possibility for primary or adjunctive treatment
with incarcerated and high-risk adolescents dealing with
issues of substance abuse and dependence. Randomized
clinical designs may assist in establishing mindfulness
interventions as empirically validated treatments for
juvenile substance users. Continued research in the feld
of mindfulness may reveal the operative mechanisms that
facilitate change within mindfulness-based interventions.
Despite that much research remains to be conducted, it
is exciting that four decades of empirical research with
mindfulness programs suggest that they are feasible
treatment approaches in such diverse populations and for
numerous issues.
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About the Author
Sam Himelstein, PhD, is director of Engaging Te
Moment, LLC, and research director of the Mind
Body Awareness Project. He works with high-risk and
incarcerated adolescents in individual, family, and
group psychotherapy in the San Francisco Bay Area. He
would like to thank Stephen Saul, M.A., for his eforts
in helping to prepare this manuscript. Tis research
was in part supported by a grant from the Homestead
Foundation. All correspondence should be made directly
to the author at: sam@engagingthemoment.com
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 11 Cognitive Neuroscience of Mysticism
Te Cognitive Neuroscience
of Consciousness, Mysticism and Psi

Les Lancaster
Liverpool John Moores University
Liverpool, UK
Te greatest contemporary challenge in the arena of cognitive neuroscience concerns the
relation between consciousness and the brain. Over recent years the focus of work in this
area has switched from the analysis of diverse spatial regions of the brain to that of the
timing of neural events. It appears that two conditions are necessary in order for neural
events to become correlated with conscious experience. First, the fring of assemblies of
neurones must achieve a degree of coherence, and, second, refexive (i.e. top-down, or re-
entrant) neural pathways must be activated. It does not, of course, follow that such neural
activity causes consciousness; it may be, for example, that the neural activity formats the
brain to interact with consciousness. Te latter possibility is suggested by analysis of mystical
texts suggesting that coherence and refexivity constitute the conditions for the infux of
“spirit.” Kabbalistic sources, for example, describe a hierarchy of “brains” in the human and
divine realms through which the principles of coherence and refexivity operate. Whilst the
ontological assumptions of such a scheme place it beyond the realm of psychology, parallels
with the picture deriving from the contemporary cognitive neuroscience of consciousness
are striking.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30, 2011, pp. 11-22
Te Principle of Isomorphism
T
wo principles that are central to the Neo-
Platonism that became incorporated in the
teachings of the Kabbalah
1
—emanation and
isomorphism
2
—are treated somewhat cryptically in the
following passages:
Te highest wisdom that is concealed in the head of
the Holy Ancient One is called the supernal brain,
the hidden brain, the brain that is tranquil and silent;
and no-one knows it other than He Himself…. When
the white brilliance is formed in the light, it distils its
essence into this brain, which is illumined; and there
emanates from this precious infuence another brain
which expands and shines into 32 paths.
Te light of wisdom expands in its 32 directions
emanating from the light that is in the concealed
brain. Tere is hewn from wisdom a light that streams
forth and proceeds to water the garden. It enters into
the head of the “Small Face,” and forms a certain
other brain. And from there it is extended and fows
into the whole body, and waters all those plants, as
it is written: “And a river went out of Eden to water
the garden….” (Genesis 2:10). (Zohar 3:288a, 289b;
extracts from Idra Zuta Kadisha)
Emanation is the modus of creation whereby the
unknowable essence of God becomes expressed through
a series of stages, like light poured into a succession
of containers. Isomorphism is the doctrine that lower
structures in the emanative hierarchy correspond to
higher ones. In the above extract, the “brain” of the
“Small Face” is isomorphic with the “brain” of the
“Holy Ancient One” (elsewhere referred to as the “Large
Face”), both “brains” being symbolic components of
the Godhead. Furthermore, in this kabbalistic scheme,
both of these “brains” are, in turn, isomorphic with
the human brain, which may be understood as a lower
emanation of the higher brains. As Shokek (2001) put
it, God and man are isomorphic in that they “share the
same structure and are logically equivalent” (p. 6). Te
isomorphism here becomes evident in the notion of the
Keywords: Kabbalah, Zohar, mysticism, emanation, isomorphism, cognitive
neuroscience, refexivity, binding mechanisms, feed-forward, re-entrant connections,
recurrent processing, phenomenality, consciousness
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 12 Lancaster
“32 paths,” which may be identifed with the spinal cord
and its associated 31 pairs of spinal nerves “emanating,”
as it were, from the brain (Lancaster, 2005).
Te anthropomorphism in the extract is
clearly not to be taken literally; the core injunction
against images of God is paramount for the author of
the Zohar and other works of Jewish mysticism that
explore concepts portrayed as anatomical features of the
divine. Nevertheless, the isomorphism is critical for both
speculative and practical aspects of Kabbalah. Speculation
about higher things is centered on understanding of the
correspondence with ontologically lower things: “From
the “I” of fesh and blood you may learn about the “I” of
the Holy One, blessed be He,” runs a Jewish midrashic
text.
3
As Wolfson (2005) poetically put it, “God, world,
and human are intertwined in a reciprocal mirroring”
(p. 32). Being “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27) is,
for the kabbalist, not merely a statement of the dignity
of being human, but becomes a key to knowing God
through grasping the essence of one’s being. And this
same correspondence underpins practices whereby
mystics aspire both to receive an infux from higher
regions and to ascend to those regions. Central to these
approaches is the Torah, understood in Judaism not as
simply a book, but as the organic axis of communion
between God and man. Hence, there are three parties to
this isomorphic chain: “God, Torah and man share the
same structure, and this is the reason why the scholar
is able to ascend on high” (Idel, 2005, p. 141). As Idel
continued, this “chain of anthropomorphic entities…
descends from the divine and enables return there.”
Of what relevance might such mystical musings
be to the more scientifc quest to understand the brain’s
role in relation to anomalous experience? One school
of thought would have matters religious or mystical in
one domain and matters physical in another; religion
and science as two nonoverlapping magisteria (Gould,
2001). I do not share this view, and it is the principle of
isomorphism that leads me to open a diferent perspective
here. Let me clarify at the outset that I am aware of the
difculties; the kind of mysticism with which I have
opened posits ontologically separate domains. At best,
one might regard its notion of “higher” brains as quaint,
poetic, or even as having some meaning psychologically
—symbolising diferent levels of the psyche, for example.
However, the seemingly dualist worldview that it purveys
cannot, by defnition, sit easily with the worldview
of science.
4
Moreover, even if one deems it useful to
recognize a higher ontological realm, why should it be
isomorphic with the lower, physical domain?
Leaving aside the ontological question, there
are grounds for recognizing a basis for isomorphism
in the natural realm. Noting that there are signifcant
parallels between quantum phenomena and the nature
of consciousness, Hunt (2001) argued that this refects
the “parsimony of nature”: “the most parsimonious
way forward here is to posit an emergentist solution, in
which consciousness appears in the universe as the most
hierarchically complex system we know, or possibly could
know, and which re-creates, on its new emergent level,
principles frst manifested on quantum and nonlinear
systems levels” (p. 36).
Consciousness is the central enigma here. In
my view, the parsimony to which Hunt referred may
extend beyond this parallel with quantum systems to
embrace phenomena associated with mysticism and
parapsychology. Kelly (2007) has emphasised that an
understanding of psi phenomena depends on a broad
sweep over areas including mysticism, dreaming, and
genius. Te core psychology of anomalous experience
may be one and the same across these varied expressions
of consciousness. And, critically, these expressions are by
no means the trivia of human life; they represent the very
dignity of being human. Ignoring the deep question that
unifes them on the grounds that science is not yet able
to accommodate it is not only to make a false god of
science but also to turn one’s back on the most inspiring
and transformative aspects of human experience.
As the next section should demonstrate, the
understanding of consciousness that comes from
contemporary cognitive neuroscience reveals signifcant
parallels with ideas found in spiritual and mystical
traditions. For cognitive neuroscience the concepts
that fnd parallels in mystical writings, namely
refexivity and binding, indicate something about the
mechanisms involved in neural systems correlating with
consciousness, but fail to answer fundamental questions
about the essence of consciousness (i.e., phenomenality).
Tere is simply an act of faith which assumes that
advancing the understanding of mechanism will bring
insight into the question as to why any neural activity
should relate to phenomenality. Te mystical approach
extends the principles of refexivity and binding through
the additional notion of isomorphism. My argument is
simply that the parallels to be examined suggest a rationale
for further examining the principle of isomorphism for
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 13 Cognitive Neuroscience of Mysticism
the insight it may bring to fundamental questions as yet
unanswered in discussions of consciousness. Perhaps
this exploration may ofer a model of the mind that can
efectively incorporate data from parapsychology.
So… how does the light get in?
5
Contemporary
Neuroscience of Consciousness
G
iven the putative relations between areas such as
consciousness, mysticism, and psi phenomena, it
follows that the understanding of any one of these areas
may be advanced through scholarship and research in the
other areas. Each area is associated with certain strengths
and weaknesses: Te study of psi is strong on data but,
for many, somewhat weak on theory. Mysticism brings
rich formulations of the nature of mind and of reality,
predicated not only on core texts and/or experiences but
also on a strong commentarial tradition. Te key claims
associated with mysticism may, however, be weak in
terms of empirical assessment. Te area best captured in
the term “consciousness studies” is strong in its empirical
approach but weak in its philosophical coherence. Tis
weakness concerns not only its invariable adherence to
a neuro-physicalist (Lancaster, 2004) worldview, which
can be challenging to many, but also its commitment
to representationalism, which has all the hallmarks of
a dogma devoid of real support (see recent discussion
in Gauld, 2007). My claim is that integrating these
areas broadly allows one to cancel out some of the more
extreme of the weaknesses associated with each, and
to build new explanatory models through a kind of
triangulation process (see especially Lancaster, 2004, for
a fuller treatment of the issues).
Let me assert my bias at the outset: Te domain
of neuroscience is not going to reveal how the light gets
in! Of course, many would immediately deny any such
notion as a need for “the light to get in,”holding instead
that the activity of certain brain structures or temporal
patterns of neural activity simply is consciousness, or that
such activity gives rise to consciousness as an emergent
property. Here is not the place to debate the alternatives;
I simply want to explore the core brain processes that
have been well documented as critical correlates of
consciousness. As mentioned above, there are two such
core processes: neural refexivity and binding.
Refexivitiy
Te immense complexity in the brain’s systems
may be simplifed by recognizing three forms of
connection:
1. Feed-forward connections bring information from
the sensory receptors into the brain and through
a hierarchical system that functions primarily to
detect the presence of feature elements in the sensory
array. In the case of vision, for example, nerve fbers
originating in the retina, travel via the thalamus
into the visual regions of the cerebral cortex. Te
feed-forward system continues from the frst visual
area of the cortex (V1) through a succession of areas
(V2, V3, V4, etc), each specialized for detection
of difering aspects of the input. Te feed-forward
system runs via two streams towards ‘higher’ regions
of the cortex. Te term ‘higher’ in this context is
applied to a region that includes considerable non-
sensory activity. ‘Lower’ regions are driven mainly by
sensory input; whereas the activity of ‘higher’ areas
involves memory and other cognitive functions.
2. Horizontal connections are found between neurons
at the same level in the hierarchy. Tey function to
sharpen responses via inhibitory interconnections. In
the visual system, for example, such lateral inhibition
can increase levels of contrast, thereby facilitating
object recognition at higher levels in the system.
3. Re-entrant connections consist of fbers originating
in higher areas that project back onto the feed-
forward activity at lower regions. Te term recurrent
processing refers to the infuence of re-entrant
pathways on the feed-forward system. Te presence
of re-entrant pathways enables the brain to operate as
a dynamic, interactive system. Re-entrant pathways
are extensive, with, for example, a larger number
of fbers heading from the cortex to the thalamus
than in the opposite (feed-forward) direction. Re-
entrant fbers are found down to the level of receptor
neurones. It has been demonstrated that recurrent
processing functions to modulate the responses of
the feed-forward system.
A growing body of evidence suggests that
consciousness is dependent on recurrent processing
(Dehaene, Changeaux, Naccache, Sackur, & Sergent,
2006; Edelman & Tononi, 2000; Lamme, 2003, 2004,
2006). Te evidence largely comes from studies of the
timing of events in the brain’s perceptual systems,
using, for example, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation
to interfere with neural activity in discrete brain areas
at specifc times (Pascual-Leone & Walsh, 2001), and
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 14 Lancaster
from studying paradigms such as backward masking (e.g.,
Supèr, Spekreijse, & Lamme, 2001) and the attentional
blink (e.g., Sergent, Baillet, & Dehaene, 2005). Tus,
for example, it is not possible to diferentiate between
masked (i.e., not consciously perceived), and unmasked
(consciously perceived) stimuli in terms of the specifc
brain regions that are activated (Dehaene et al., 2001).
Rather, the explanation of masking is to be found in
terms of a mismatch between feed-forward and re-
entrant data. According to this explanation, by the time
re-entrant activity related to the original stimulus reaches
V1, the activity in V1 is being driven by the mask and
is no longer related to the original stimulus. Dehaene et
al. concluded that the data “are consistent with theories
that relate conscious perception to the top-down [i.e.,
recurrent] amplifcation of sensory information through
synchronous co-activation of distant regions” (p. 757).
Tese conclusions about the role of recurrent
activity are further supported by research into
neurological conditions in which residual cognitive
functioning can be sustained in the absence of conscious
awareness. One such condition, blindsight, describes a
condition in patients following extensive damage to V1
over one half of the brain. In brief, these patients have
no visual awareness of material presented in the afected
areas of the visual feld, but are nevertheless able to make
successful guesses about a number of features of the visual
content (Weiskrantz, 1986). Available evidence suggests
that this defcit in access consciousness (Block, 1995, 2005)
in blindsight is due to the failure of recurrent processing
(Gonzalez Andino, Menendez, Khateb, Landis, & Pegna,
2009; Lamme, 2001). Te condition would seem to be
caused by the failure of the re-entrant pathway to V1 to
intersect with the feed-forward stream. Tere can be no
interaction in V1 on account of the simple fact that V1 is
not functioning.
Lamme (2006) succinctly captured the
essence of this principle of refexivity in his assertion
that, “RP [recurrent processing] is the key neural
ingredient of consciousness. We could even defne
consciousness as recurrent processing” (p. 499). While
agreeing that recurrent processing is the key neural
ingredient that correlates with the immediate sense of
access consciousness, I would refrain from defning
consciousness in this way. As argued more fully elsewhere
(Lancaster, 2004), a defnition of consciousness requires
a recognition of diferent dimensions of consciousness.
Recurrent processing appears to be the key ingredient
in the brain mechanisms involved with the dimensions
of intentionality and accessibility. Tis form of processing
does not, however, account for the fundamental
dimension of phenomenality.
Binding Mechanisms
Many have stressed the importance for
understanding the neural correlate of consciousness of
the binding problem (Crick & Koch, 1990; Treisman &
Schmidt, 1982; Treisman, 1996). Te problem concerns
how the brain registers that certain neural responses
should be linked with others in order to establish the
presence of whole objects in the world. If I am looking
at a pen lying on my desk, the feed-forward visual sweep
will detect a host of features in the sensory array. Te
question is, on what basis can the brain determine that
a subset of these features (e.g., those relating to the pen)
belong together?
Te emphasis on recurrent processing leads to
a straightforward answer, namely that the feed-forward
sweep does not itself establish the presence of objects.
Recognition of objects requires the contribution of
recurrent processing. It is likely that the feed-forward
system simply detects the presence of basic features in
the visual input. On the basis of these features, higher
cortical regions connected with the memory store
become activated, with those structures (memory traces,
or schemata) sharing the greatest number of features with
the sensory analysis becoming the most highly activated.
Te re-entrant system then modulates the responses
of the feed-forward system in an attempt to establish
whether or not the most activated schemata can match
the current input. Again, considerable research underpins
the summary view of Enns and di Lollo (2000) that the
perceptual system, ‘actively searches for a match between
a descending code, representing a perceptual hypothesis,
and an ongoing pattern of low-level activity. When such
a match occurs, the neural ensemble is ‘“locked’ onto
the stimulus” (p. 348). Te stages hypothesized as being
involved in the perceptual process are represented in
Figure 1.
Models of this kind have replaced those favored
some 30 years ago that stressed only the spatial aspects
of brain organization. Previously, the search was for
increasing evidence of localization of function, with
consciousness being seen as merely the most complex
in a hierarchy of functions. Over recent years, however,
there has been a major shift towards greater emphasis on
the temporal dimension of cerebral processing.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 15 Cognitive Neuroscience of Mysticism
As frst proposed by von der Malsburg (1981),
it is the temporal dimension of neural signals that
underpins the binding of neurons into functional
groups. Much research has demonstrated that phase
synchrony in the gamma band (40Hz approx) is
established between neurons, and groups of neurons that
are functioning together at a given time (for reviews and
overviews, see Engel & Singer, 2001; Revonsuo, 1999;
Singer, 1999, 2000). Such neural phase synchrony, or
coherence, is viewed by many as a necessary condition for
consciousness.
Te relation between neural coherence and
consciousness is unlikely to be monolithic, however.
It has been demonstrated, for example, that levels of
coherence in neural fring actually increase during
anaesthesia (Vanderwolf, 2000). It is necessary to
distinguish binding in the feedforward pathway alone,
which is unlikely to be the correlate of consciousness,
from binding which unifes feedforward and recurrent
processing. It is this latter which appears to underlie the
brain’s relation to consciousness. It is this form of binding
which, for example, would be involved in the unifcation
across diferent orders of cognitive representation that
has been proposed as the basis of consciousness (see, for
example, Kriegel, 2007).
6
Introspectively, one of the hallmarks of
consciousness seems to be its unity; there is a oneness across
all the diverse features of awareness at any given time.
It should come as no surprise, then, to fnd unifcation,
signalled by neural coherence, as the brain feature most
related to consciousness. As von der Malsburg (1997)
put it,
we experience mind states of diferent degrees
of consciousness, and … the diference is made
by the diference in the degree of coherence, or
order … between diferent parts of the brain. Let
us, then, describe a state of highest consciousness
as one characterized by global order among all the
diferent active processes… . A globally coupled
state could be one in which all the diferent [parts]
are phase-locked to each other. (pp. 196-197)
Bearing in mind the earlier discussion of the key
role of neural ref lexivity in relation to consciousness,
von der Malsburg’s assertion must be qualified
with the proviso that the global coupling entails
e.g.
MEMORY
yes no
3. Compare schemata
accessed with input model
1 Analysis of input by
sensory analyzers
(feature detectors)
Figure 1. A psycho-physiological model of stages in perception (based on Lancaster, 2004)
go to 1
Does schema match input?
4. perceive input-schema
match
sensory input (e.g.,
slightly obscured pen)
“pen” “spoon”
schemata accessed from
memory (maybe several
alternatives)
2. Activate memory
schemata sharing specific
features with input
neuronal input model
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5. Mismatch from phase 1
derives modulation of sensory
analyzers in attempt to fit
accessed schema
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 16 Lancaster
interactions between feedforward and re-entrant
neural pathways.
Refexivity and binding in mystical language
I
n this section I shall explore some parallels between
the above key principles of brain function related
to consciousness and ideas central to various mystical
systems. I shall draw specifcally on the Kabbalah,
but, as I have indicated elsewhere (Lancaster, 2004),
the key ideas have found expression in diverse mystical
traditions. I believe a strong case can be made that
the two core principles of brain function related to
consciousness have been anticipated in the mystical
traditions. Te question is: What inferences does
one draw from the parallels? Putting it simply, if the
parallels are accepted as in some sense signifcant, then
there would seem to be three alternative ways to explain
them: (1) Tey may be attributable to chance (which I
doubt); (2) to the mystics having uncannily accurate
insight into brain function (which I also doubt); or (3)
to the mystics’ grasp of principles fnding expression
at diferent levels in the “created” hierarchy—due to
the isomorphism I discussed earlier. It is this latter
alternative which will be further explored in the fnal
section of the chapter.
As Scholem (1941/1961) noted, the essential
idea of the impulse from below stimulating that from
above—as portrayed in the following excerpt—is central
to the Zohar’s narrative:
Come and see. Trough the impulse from below
is awakened an impulse above, and through the
impulse from above there is awakened a yet higher
impulse, until the impulse reaches the place where
the lamp is to be lit and it is lit ... and all the worlds
receive blessing from it. (Zohar 1:244a)
Activity at the lower ontic level is “magically refected” at
the higher level (Scholem, 1941/1961, p. 233). If the lower
impulse is acceptable, then the response is “blessing,”
that is, “light from the supernal lamp,” or “oil emerging
from Te Holy Ancient One” (p. 233). Tere are many
metaphors to describe this infux from the higher level.
All of them may be best understood in modern terms as
concerned with the arising and fow of consciousness.
7
Te picture emerging from cognitive neuro-
science parallels this more cosmic picture. As discussed
above, intentionality and access consciousness seems
to be dependent on recurrent processing. Te impulse
from below (detection of elemental features in sensory
activity and their integration in a neuronal input model)
brings about “higher” activity (memory readout), which
acts back on the “lower” activity, bringing consciousness
of the perceptual object. Stated in this crude form,
however, the analogy may be less than convincing. A
deeper analysis is required to support the substance of
the analogy.
One may start by noting that the parallel
extends into the means whereby recurrent processing is
efected. As discussed above, this seems to depend on the
binding mechanisms achieving phase synchrony among
neurons. Analogously, at the cosmic level, awakening of
the higher infux depends upon unifcation of the lower
“limbs”: “Whenever all the parts of the body are brought
together in a single bond enjoying pleasure and delight
from the head, above and below…, then he becomes a
fowing river going out of the real Eden” (Zohar I:247b).
Te “fowing river” from “Eden” is another symbol of
the infux from the higher level.
8
Indeed, the theme of
sexual intercourse, whereby the disparate parts are bound
together par excellence, is a favored image in the Zohar’s
discourse. Unifcation below brings about a celestial
uniting that eventuates in an outpouring that nourishes
those “below.”
Indeed, practices directed at unifcation are
central to the goals of Kabbalah. A description of one of
these practices in the Zohar strikes a resonant chord with
von der Malsburg’s reference to “globally coupled” states
quoted above:
“One”—to unify everything from there upwards as
one; to raise the will to bind everything in a single
bond; to raise the will in fear and love higher and
higher as far as En-Sof [the limitless essence of God].
And not to let the will stray from all the levels and
limbs but let it ascend with them all to make them
adhere to each other, so that all shall be one bond
with En-Sof. Tis is the practice of unifcation of
Rab Hamnuna the Venerable, who learnt it from
his father, who had it from his master, and so on,
till it came from the mouth of Elijah. (Zohar 2:
216b)
Further examination of the concepts of “lower” and
“higher” in the respective contexts will inform the
comparison. Superfcially, of course, the neuroscientifc
and the kabbalistic versions appear highly disparate. What
can brain regions and functions possibly have in common
with supposed mystical planes of reality? However, a
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 17 Cognitive Neuroscience of Mysticism
deeper grasp of the kabbalistic symbolism indicates that
the “earthly” (lower) and “heavenly’”(higher) spheres
include features that do bring them into alignment with
their proposed neurocognitive counterparts.
Te lower level is in touch with the earth—it
is the level of human worldly activity. Tis parallels
the “lower” brain regions whose activity is driven by
the “impulse from below,” that is, from the energy of
the physical world impinging on sensory receptors.
Te “higher” regions, in neurocognitive terms, are
those areas responsible for the memory readout which
guides the perceptual process. Te parallel here is to the
psychological role assigned in kabbalistic thought to the
sphere of Hokhmah (Wisdom), the highest emanation
in the kabbalistic hierarchy attainable by the human
mind. Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezeritch (1704–1742),
applied the term kadmut ha-sekhel (variously translated
as “preconscious” or “unconscious”) to this sphere
(see Hurwitz, 1968; Matt, 1995; Scholem, 1975). Te
Maggid is alluding to the higher level of (preconscious)
thought that functions to format (conscious) thoughts
in the human mind:
In the vessel which a craftsman makes, you fnd
that wisdom exists in a concealed fashion. So too
with thought, for thought requires a preconscious
[kadmut ha-sekhel] which is above the thought
that thinks…. Hence we fnd it written (Job 28:12)
that “Wisdom comes from nothing”
9
(Maggid of
Mezeritch, Or ha-Emet 15b, as cited in Scholem,
1975, p. 355).
Te higher level in both the neurocognitive model and
in kabbalistic thought depicts the preconscious as the
“concealed” inner process of thought.
10
In Zoharic
symbolism, this level is that of the thought that precedes
expansion into articulation.
11
Similarly, in the neuro-
cognitive model, the preconscious activation of matching
memory schemata is clearly a kind of thinking that
occurs prior to the meaning which accompanies a match
between sensory input and memory readout. Indeed,
the linguistic analogy—illustrated in the footnote—is
apt, for the match of memory readout to sensory input
involves one’s repertoire of language. Te structuring of
the memory schemata accessed during the preconscious
search is essentially linguistic.
12
For the adult at least,
knowing depends on the ability to name, and the
meaning of the match achieved is bound up with the
potential to name the object perceived.
So Where Exactly is the Top?
K
elly (2007) raised this question in his discussion
of interactive models of processing of the kind
considered here. In his terminology, “recurrent activity”
is replaced by “top-down interactions” which generate
“projective activity”; but the principles are the same as
those in the model of perception I described earlier. “So
far so good,” he remarked, “but where exactly is the ‘top,’
the ultimate source of this projective activity?” (p. 41).
Te “top” for the kabbalistic tradition is clearly
beyond the “top” as conceived by cognitive neuroscience,
principally because the former imputes ontological
status to that which is “higher”: “For kabbalists, the
mirror is a medium that renders appearances real and
reality apparent, and hence the likeness between image
and what is imaged is a matter of ontic resemblance
and not simply optic refexivity” (Wolfson, 2005, p.
33).
13
Te above quote from the Zohar concerning the
“impulse from below” and that from above assumes a
hierarchical series of refexive levels, with the “light”
(which I conceive of as phenomenality, the essence of
consciousness) emerging only from the highest level.
Tese levels are further conceptualized in terms of the
anthropomorphic images of “brains” within the “Small”
and “Large Faces” of the Godhead, mentioned earlier.
Tus, Moses de León, reputed to be the editor of the
Zohar, wrote that, “the worlds… exist in gradations, one
atop the other… until they all ascend to the secret of
the awesome faces whence the light emerges” (cited in
Wolfson, 2005, p. 34).
Tis refexive scheme is illustrated in Figure
2, in which I concatenate the material deriving
from cognitive neuroscience and Kabbalah. What is
known of the workings of the physical brain regarding
consciousness occupies the two lower levels of the fgure;
the kabbalistic teachings regarding the “brains” in the
Godhead, the upper two levels. Between these I have
included the Active Intellect, the term employed by the
medieval kabbalists (following the lead of Maimonides,
foremost of the Jewish philosophers) to depict the level
of mind intermediary between God and human. Te
fgure intentionally depicts the isomorphism between
brain mechanisms related to consciousness and the
kabbalistic scheme whereby the “highest” levels in the
created hierarchy are activated. As stated in the Zohar
(1:70b) in the name of Rabbi Hizkiyah: “Te upper
world depends upon the lower, and the lower upon the
upper.”
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 18 Lancaster
In the fgure I have designated the Active Intellect
as the “higher unconscious,” the term Assagioli used to
depict that sphere from whence the highest intuitions
and inspirations derive (Firman & Gila, 2002). Te
higher unconscious is also active in relation to psychic
experience. Tat some such sphere of mind may be the
realm through which psychic phenomena operate is not a
new insight. Te critical considerations concern, frst, the
evidence upon which one may assert the existence of such
a sphere, and, second, the extent to which operational
dynamics can be grasped. Te claim I am making here is
that these considerations are met, to at least a level that
bears further exploration, by the isomorphic principles
depicted in Figure 2. In other words, given the two
observations that neuroscience has not as yet found any
solution to the hard problem of consciousness, and that
known features of brain processes related to consciousness
accord with the functional principles conveyed in the
relevant mystical literature, then serious consideration
of the approach to consciousness found in the mystical
tradition may be warranted.
Tis is not to imply that all details of the
mystical scheme should be treated at face value. As
mentioned earlier, the notion of “higher brains” is at
best only a metaphorical designation. Te principles
that escape the trappings of medieval imagery may be
succinctly stated as:
1. Te essence of consciousness (phenomenality) is
drawn from the top of a hierarchy of isomorphic,
resonant processes; and
2. While successive levels in the hierarchy, that
is, levels of mind, interact with their neighbors
above and below, they also operate in ways that
are distinctive.
In relation to point 2, the Active Intellect, or higher
unconscious, may be viewed as interacting with the
human brain in the same refexive way as operates
within the brain’s perceptual systems. At the same
time, it has its own, distinctive sphere of operation
which includes archetypal complexes, inspiration, and psi
phenomena. Its status in the medieval scheme as part-
divine and part-human carried the implication that it
partakes of sensibilities not carried through the bodily
senses. In kabbalistic thinking, for example, the Active
Intellect is identifed as the collective mind through such
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Input from world
“Brains” of Godhead
Higher unconscious
Human brain
Figure 2. An extended view of refexivity and consciousness
“Higher” processing areas
“Lower” processing areas
“Active Intellect”
Wisdom / “Source of
blessing”
“Brain” of the “Large Face”
“Brain” of the “Small Face”
CONSCIOUSNESS
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 19 Cognitive Neuroscience of Mysticism
designations as the “Assembly of Israel,” the “Torah,” the
“Holy Spirit,” and so on.
In the previous section I emphasized the
preconsciousness of “higher” activity, in both cognitive,
and kabbalistic, schemes. Just as upward activation in the
brain preconsciously activates memories and associations
pertaining to the individual’s prior experience relating to
the current sensory array, so the feedforward system may
be viewed as activating collective resonances in the higher
unconscious/Active Intellect. Yet higher feedforward
resonances open the portal of phenomenality. Te fnal
efect is that personal and collective projections enter
the narrative mind of mundane consciousness via the
downward re-entry system. Evidence suggesting that
psi phenomena depend on preconscious processing (e.g.,
precognitive habituation, ganzfeld studies, etc.) imply
that psi arises through stimuli primarily activating higher
levels in the hierarchy, with lower levels becoming active
only through subsequent recurrent processing.
14
In closing, I will emphasize the issue of the
scale brought to bear when attempting to understand psi
phenomena. Whatever the details of the systems through
which psi phenomena may become incorporated into
interactions with the world, that these systems relate
to humanity’s highest aspirations, as well as the root of
consciousness, seems correct to me. Te scheme I have
presented here has the merit of integrating all levels from
that of the discrete elements of concrete perception to that
of the human role in sustaining the divine (Lancaster,
2008). While Occam’s razor might compel one to eschew
“higher brains” and the like, the parsimony in having
a single, twin-pronged principle of operation—that of
refexivity / binding—does pass muster.
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International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 21 Cognitive Neuroscience of Mysticism
Notes
1. Te Zohar is universally recognized as the most
infuential text of Jewish mysticism. It frst circulated
in the 13th century, leading most scholars to date
its authorship to this period. Within the orthodox
Jewish tradition it is generally seen as recording
mystical speculations from an earlier period, and is
ascribed to a second-century author, Rabbi Shimon
bar Yochai.
2. As the previous note indicates, dating the origins
of kabbalistic teachings is controversial. Many
would hold that core ideas such as emanation
and isomorphism are intrinsic to the biblical text,
and that Kabbalah is some kind of ur-tradition.
Whatever the truth of such claims may be, there can
be no doubt that the medieval authors who shaped
the mainstream kabbalistic framework which is
prevalent to this day were infuenced by Greek ideas,
especially as formulated by Islamic philosophers.
3. Genesis Rabbah 90:1; Leviticus Rabbah 24:9. Te quote
is given in the name of Rabbi Levi. Te term Midrash
refers to a corpus of Jewish literature, dating from
the second to the twelfth centuries C.E., and still
of the utmost importance to the practice of Judaism
today. Te style of Midrash is largely homiletical, and
frequently draws on word play to derive a teaching
from a scriptural passage.
4. I say “seemingly” since Kabbalah holds that all such
“levels” are ultimately expressions of the one true
reality, that of the divine. Its worldview is thus that
of idealism or neutral monism, not dualism.
5. Te reference is, of course, to Leonard Cohen’s An-
them from his 1992 Album, Te Future (“Tere is a
crack, a crack in everything/Tat’s how the light gets
in”). I hesitate to corrupt the poetry by spelling out a
meaning in the context of my chapter. Sufce it to say
that physicalism has, to my mind, not satisfactorily
bridged the explanatory gap (Levine, 1983). As
I argue in Lancaster (2004), the core dimension
of consciousness, namely that of phenomenality,
has not been satisfactorily explained in any
contemporary physicalist treatment of consciousness.
An extra something—a “More,” as the later James
(1902/1960) would have put it—is needed for a
complete understanding of consciousness.
6. “Conscious states arise from the integration, or
unifcation, of what are initially two distinct
representations, a frst-order representation
of an external stimulus and a higher-order
representation of that frst-order representation;
once the two representations are unifed, they form
a single representational state with two parts, one
directed at the other and the other directed at the
stimulus” (Kriegel, 2007, p. 899). I would accord
the “neuronal input model” in Figure 1 the status
of frst-order representation, and the schemata
accessed from memory, the status of second-order
representation.
7. A number of modern scholars use the term
“consciousness” or “awareness” in attempting to
render into contemporary language the Zohar’s
symbolic language. See, for example, Giller (2001),
Magid (2002), Matt (1995).
8. It is difcult in a short treatment of kabbalistic
imagery to substantiate fully my claims about the
intended meanings in passages such as this. Indeed,
concealment of meaning is one of the hallmarks of
the medieval Kabbalah. I have explored this issue at
greater length in Lancaster (2005).
9. Tis verse from the book of Job is often translated as
“From where may wisdom be found?” Te Hebrew
translated as “from where,” if taken more literally,
means “from nothingness.” Te mystics emphasized
this latter meaning since it accords with their
understanding that the sphere of Wisdom may be
accessed only through annulment of the everyday
sense of “I”; “Transformation comes about only by
passing through nothingness,” wrote Te Maggid
(as cited in Matt, 1995, p. 87).
10. Te point may be misunderstood on account of
confusion over the appropriate direction in the spatial
metaphor applied to notions of consciousness. Freud
famously viewed the unconscious as “lower”—the
portion of an iceberg under water, the basement
of a house, and so on. However, as Whyte (1962)
pointed out, the unconscious might be thought of
as “higher” than the conscious sphere on account
of its importance for “higher” creative and spiritual
abilities. It is unfortunate that one is compelled
to understand these psychic ideas through spatial
metaphor, since it is easy to confuse the metaphor
with the meaning. Tere is no spatiality in the
psyche.
Kabbalistically, “higher” means closer to
the divine. But the parallel with neuro-cognitive
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 22 Lancaster
terminology arises by virtue of the critical idea that
the terms “higher” and “closer to the divine” mean
that the process comes earlier in the generation of
mental content. Tis is essentially the meaning of
Dov Baer’s term kadmut ha-sekhel, which is why
it should be translated as preconscious rather than
unconscious.
11. Language lies at the core of kabbalistic speculation.
Te dynamic relationship between God and man is
largely understood in linguistic terms. Te Zohar
frequently illustrates its paradigm of emanation
by using the image of an initial spark of a thought
progressing through stages until it is fnally expressed
in speech. Te following is a typical example:
Come and see! Tought is the beginning of all.
It is within, secret and unknowable. When it
extends, it reaches the place where spirit dwells
and is then called Understanding, which is not
so concealed as the preceding even though it is
still secret. Tis spirit expands and produces a
Voice comprising fre, water, and air, namely
north, south, and east…. When you examine the
levels, you fnd that Tought, Understanding,
Voice, and speech are all one, and that thought
is the beginning of all—there is no separation.
Rather all is one and connected as a unity, for
it is actualized thought united with its source
in nothingness. And will never be disunited.
(Zohar I: 246b)
12. Te central insight of Lacan (e.g., 1977) that the
Unconscious is structured like a language, applies
here.
13. It is worth noting in passing that isomorphism as
presented in Kabbalah is conceptually distinct
from cognitivism’s representationalism, inasmuch
as the latter entails an arbitrary relation between
the representation and that represented. Kabbalah
asserts that the “mirror” that relates two entities
(such as God and human) entails an identity of
substance. Indeed, it is axiomatic that such identity
is critical for any knowledge; man can know God
and God can know man only because they share an
essential nature. As Wolfson (2005) remarked, this
axiom implies ultimately that there is no non-divine
reality
14. Te situation would be analogous to that in blind-
sight, except that in the case of psi (i.e., in non-brain-
damaged individuals), V1 sustains the re-entrant
activity. Conscious perception would incorporate
the psi activity arriving through re-entrance, but
the percipient would have limited ability to refect
on the source of the activity.
About the Author
Les Lancaster, PhD, is Professor of Transpersonal
Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University,
Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Jewish
Studies at Manchester University, and part of
the Adjunct Research Faculty at the Institute of
Transpersonal Psychology, California. He is a past
Chair of the Transpersonal Psychology Section of the
British Psychological Society, and currently President of
the International Transpersonal Association. At LJMU
he co-founded the Consciousness and Transpersonal
Psychology Research Unit, through which postgraduate
programmes in these areas ran for some 15 years. In
addition to various journal articles, Les’ published works
include Mind Brain and Human Potential, winner of a
Science and Medical Network Best Book Award, Te
Essence of Kabbalah, and Approaches to Consciousness:
the Marriage of Science and Mysticism. In addition to his
work in cognitive neuroscience, Les has made extensive
studies of religious mysticism, focusing for over thirty
years on the Kabbalah, and runs international workshops
and courses on Kabbalistic Psychology.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 23 Rethinking Prayer and Health Research
Rethinking Prayer and Health Research:
An Exploratory Inquiry on Prayer’s Psychological Dimension

Adrian Andreescu
Independent Researcher
Pucioasa, Romania
A brief literature review of cancer survival trials is employed by the author to raise questions
on their design and to bring speculatively into discussion concepts such as “worldview”,
“intentional normative dissociation”, and “psychosomatic plasticity-proneness”. Using prayer’s
psychological dimension as a way to unite such elements opens new fertile perspectives on
the academic study of prayer and health. In this context, it is suggested that a consistent
interdisciplinary research agenda is required in order to understand those biopsychosocial
factors interconnected within the process and outcome of prayer before attempting to
decipher the big answers laying dormant probably within the transpersonal and spiritual
layers of human experience.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 23-47
T
he last 20 years have been challenging for
those researchers asking the question, “Can
psychological interventions promote survival
in cancer?” Starting with two promising experiments
(Fawzy et al., 1993; Spiegel et al., 1989) interpreted
widely as encouraging the possibility that psychological
intervention might promote cancer survival, today
the academic literature presents a diferent picture.
A collection of recent studies failed to replicate earlier
positive results (Cunningham et al., 1998; Edelman et al.,
1999; Goodwin et al., 2001, Kissane et al., 2007), while
meta-analyses and associated commentaries (e.g., Chida
et al., 2008; Coyne, Stefanek, & Palmer, 2007; Coyne et
al., 2009; Kraemer, Kuchler, & Spiegel, 2009) signaled
the need for more rigorous methodological standards
in this research area. Tough some published papers
outline promising avenues of research (e.g., Andersen et
al., 2008; Cunningham et al., 2000; Cunningham &
Watson, 2004; Kissane, 2009; Lengacher et al., 2008;
Lutgendorf, Sood & Antoni, 2010), from a physiological
standpoint, Greer (1999) has drawn attention to the
claim that it is highly improbable for psychological
processes to play a signifcant role in the course of
most cancers. Still, psychological interventions might
contribute theoretically to homeostatic control in those
cancers where hormonal and immunological factors may
be important (e.g., in breast, gynecological, and prostate,
renal cell, melanoma, and similar cancers). Due to the
complexity of processes and cascading events that take
place in the lives of cancer patients, it is currently very
difcult to attribute causal infuence in medical outcomes
to any specifc psychological intervention when so many
variables are implicated. Until consistent progress will
be made in this regard (e.g., Gorin, 2010), some of the
claims linking psychological states and health outcomes
might be critically labeled as “Unproven Medicine”
(Coyne & Tennen, 2010; Coyne, Tennen, & Ranchor,
2010).
Te above-mentioned situation encourages
attention to the methods used to investigate such an
intricate subject (Cunningham, 2005; Stephen et
al., 2007), especially the reasons why psychological
therapies have not robustly addressed the potential
“psychogenicity” of some cancer types; this notion
refers to the ability of a psychological intervention
to elicit signifcant and permanent changes on key
psychosocial factors that are demonstrably linked with
biological variables known to determine favorable
biomedical outcomes (Temoshok, 2002). Assuming
that one’s psycho-emotional life could often play a
consistent role in the regulation of many hormonal and
neurological events in the body, a major difculty—one
that particularly concerns psychoneuroimmunology
researchers—is the identifcation of the key ingredients
Keywords: prayer, worldview, intentional normative dissociation, psychosomatic
plasticity-proneness, cancer survival, spirituality and health, subjectivity,
embodiment, biopsychosocial, spiritual capital, transpersonal capital
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 24 Andreescu
and conditions that activate those pathways related to
health-disease outcomes (Kiecolt-Glaser, 2009; Miller,
Chen, & Cole, 2009; Walker et al., 2005). For example,
in order to exceed the medical prognosis regarding one’s
cancer survival expectations, that patient would need to
change by psycho-emotional means his or her current
homeostatic equilibrium, equilibrium already corrupted
by the advanced cancer which has by that time adapted
successfully to the internal milieu of its host (Cunning-
ham, 1999). Tis complex but presumably achievable task
might require some fundamentally diferent approaches
than those employed by conventional psychotherapeutic
interventions. It should be taken into account that self-
preservation of humans as a species could be a major
reason for which in daily life an individual cannot
usually infuence, signifcantly and with ease, his or her
own physiology to the point of radically altering the
existing homeostatic equilibrium (as in that stance, even
a short lasting inability from one’s part to consciously
control this process would induce instantly severe health
problems upon one’s body).
Changing Magnifcation and Perspective
I
n order to fnd relevant answers to key questions
pertaining to cancer survival, it is necessary to take
into consideration the degree of detail and complexity
required by this particular topic of inquiry within the
general context of cancer research (Mukherjee, 2010), an
operation corresponding metaphorically to a signifcant
change of a microscope’s magnifcation factor. Changing
magnifcation and perspective could reveal a diferent
level of detail that implicitly will ask for customized
approaches and adequate research tools. Hypothetically,
there might be some discrete and insufciently
understood factors that, within specifc individual and
social constraints, could interact synergically in order to
activate or accelerate some body healing processes.
To take a relevant analogy (Reich, 2009), the
situation of the person seeking healing from cancer
might be comparable to that of that of a professional
basketball player, whose success depends on both “nature
and nurture”: as much on natural endowment (e.g.,
height, efcient use of oxygen) as on abilities developed
during years of training (e.g., speed of running, precision
of throws). Recovering from such a serious illness is a feat
that requires maximizing all resources, and that tests the
limits of human capabilities, just as world-class sports
events do. Research in this area thus needs to do more than
simply look for norms within health-care-as-usual. As
Abraham Maslow once stated, “If we want to know how
fast a human being can run, then it is of no use to average
out the speed of the population; it is far better to collect
Olympic gold medal winners and see how well they can
do” (as cited in Hofman, 1988, p. 185). Healing cancer is
a matter of the extraordinary. If psychological and social
life is viewed as a sort of “game” within a Bourdieusian
framework of athletic competitions (Calhoun, 2003, p.
275), then taking on the work of attempting to positively
infuence cancer survival expectations with the assistance
of certain psychological interventions implies an
Olympic-level efort: putting oneself on the line, being
passionately engaged in a struggle with one’s own limits,
and being aware of the larger picture while remaining
deeply committed to valuable personal goals.
If this sports parallel remains credible, some
questions will need to be debated in the academic forum.
Among them:
Would it be possible to consider as a suitable
trial-participant any cancer patient that has been
immersed most of his or her life in a variety of
mundane activities, rarely related to systematic
culture-bound rituals of healing?
Would it be ethical to provide specifc and intensive
training only to some cancer patients?
Would it be in any way acceptable to put implicit
pressure on the trial participants, as improvements
in their long-term health status would depend
presumably on their personal implication in the
training process (though such a supposition has not
been previously clinically validated)?
After taking these aspects into consideration, a
potential clinically signifcant result that might emerge
following a specifc training program should deserve
to be considered as comparable with the performance
of breaking a world sports record, with the time and
efort dedicated to achieving such a goal playing a
large contribution in the outcome. Such an approach
to cancer survival research shares not only similarities
with sports (e.g., it might be hard but not impossible to
duplicate high levels of performance) but also signifcant
diferences. For example, there is the challenge of
assessing participants’ ability to follow successfully
an intensive training program within a very limited
timeframe (added to the general challenging context
of one’s health status) and the problematic matter (not
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 25 Rethinking Prayer and Health Research
detailed in this article) of designing and validating what
is “adequate” content for such training activity.
Hypothesis and Terminology
I
n light of the perspective described above, I suggest
that it is improbable for current trials designed to
examine the efects of psychotherapeutic interventions
on cancer survival to fully succeed or to go beyond
statistically signifcant results. I recognize that any type
of intensive training might be a very challenging or even
an almost impossible task for those patients with a low
level of stamina due to the progression of cancer. Still,
assuming that some patients would be willing to join
such a training program, I propose three key elements
that should be relevant to the health progress of any
participant to psycho-oncology trials or possible even
to other trials exploring mind-body connection: one’s
worldview, intentional normative dissociation (IND),
and psychosomatic plasticity-proneness (PPP).
I hypothesize that these factors might signif-
cantly impact the fnal results of such a trial especially
if they operate together in using Christian prayer as a
vehicle of the intervention. Although such an approach
appears to be accessible only to patients acknowledging
their Christian beliefs, future research could probably
fnd constructive ways to incorporate its core content
into those trials designed to explore the potential health
benefts associated with a variety of spiritual paths (e.g.,
Carlson & Speca, 2011; Didonna, 2009).
Te concepts detailed to some extent in the
present paper will certainly have diminished relevance
if they are not related to a larger theoretical framework
(e.g., Atkinson, 2010; Bottero, 2010; Burkitt, 2002;
Dillon, 2001; Gerrans, 2005; Harvey, 2010; Hilgers,
2009; Ignatow, 2009; Kontos & Naglie, 2009; Lizardo,
2004; Lo & Stacey, 2008; Pickel, 2005; Vaisey, 2009)
that explores from diferent angles notions such as
habitus (i.e., the social world incarnated in individuals
through a set of internalized structures or assumptions,
often taken for granted and engaged upon without any
great deal of prior refection) and tacit knowledge (i.e.,
knowledge not consciously articulated by a person but
which signifcantly regulates one’s activities).
In the context of this article, while acknowledging
that the defnition of terms such as “illness” and
“disease” is rather fuid (e.g., Crafert, 2011), illness
refers to the way in which people experience a disease
or any biophysiological state that is an object of inquiry
for the current medical science (e.g., Kleinman, 1988;
Vellenga, 2008). Also, curing (clinical recovery from
disease) is not considered a synonym for healing (how
regained health is subjectively experienced by the former
patient). As objective measures alone often cannot record
adequately the emotional and social costs of a disease, the
ruptured lives unable to cope with the pain and with the
memories of a possibly forever lost health, healing should
be seen as a fundamental aspect of human well-being
and a necessary part of an authentic state of health. So,
“healing” is here preferred to “curing” because no curing
is complete without healing, and healing might precede
curing.
It is also important to note that three terms
repeatedly mentioned in this paper (religion, spirituality
and transpersonal) have diferent meanings despite their
signifcant overlaps. Tough it would be acceptable to
conceptualize religion at the level of an organized socio-
cultural system and spirituality at the level of individuals’
personal quests for meaning and fulfllment (Koenig,
McCullough, & Larson, 2001), the examination of
these terms within a transpersonal framework might be
relevant (Hartelius, Caplan, & Rardin, 2007; Pappas &
Friedman, 2007) if salient questions pertaining to the
transpersonal experiences in which the sense of identity
extends beyond the individual to encompass wider
aspects of life and cosmos are to be addressed (e.g., how
can we bridge the divide between the consensual world of
religiosity and the uniquely private world of spirituality
that relates to what might be viewed as the sacred?).
While the analysis of these broader concepts and their
substantive and functional distinctions is beyond the
purpose of this article, the extensive academic literature
provided at references may ofer readers various defnitions
and details suitable for their particular interests (e.g.,
psychology, sociology, anthropology, theology).
Worldview
A
patient’s worldview could be loosely defned as a
set of beliefs and assumptions that describe reality
and defne the boundaries of what possibly can be done
towards healing by the patient himself or herself with
and without additional support (medical, spiritual, etc.).
Underused until now as a construct within the mainstream
psychological literature (Johnson, Hill, & Cohen 2011;
Koltko-Rivera, 2004), worldview encourages attention
towards the way patients perceive disease and healing,
according to their cultural and social frameworks
(Good, 1994; Hughner & Kleine, 2004). Taking into
consideration the recent academic literature exploring
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 26 Andreescu
from diferent perspectives the placebo phenomena (e.g.,
Ader et al., 2010; Benedetti, 2008; Benedetti, Carlino, &
Pollo, 2011; Colloca & Miller, 2011a, 2011b; Enck et al.,
2011; Finniss et al., 2010; Flaten et al., 2011; Harrington,
2008, 2011; Hyland, 2011; Jonas, 2011; Kaptchuk,
2011; Kihlstrom, 2008; Kirsch, 2008; Kohls et al., 2011;
Linde, Fässler, & Meissner, 2011; Meissner, 2011; Miller
& Brody, 2011; Moerman, 2002; Mora, Nestoriuc, &
Rief, 2011; Myers, 2010; Price et al., 2008; Raz, 2008;
Tompson et al., 2009; Vase et al., 2011; Vits et al., 2011;
Walach, 2011), it appears that the culture-constructed
lenses through which one learns how to interpret the
world often infuences to various extents many medical
conditions otherwise rooted in objective reality.
Tough patients are free-willed and autonomous
persons, their attribute as relational beings (Gergen,
2000) could shape their personal convictions about
healing to such a point that they essentially could be
viewed as mere outgrowths of social processes. However,
culture seems to be embodied by human beings in ways
that are distinct from those encountered in everyday
experience as objectifed cultural forms (Lizardo, in
press) and narrative remains the conventional form of
organizing experience and defning identity through the
interpretation and reinterpretation of life events (e.g.,
Bruner, 1987, 2008; Hyvärinen et al., 2010; McAdams,
Josselson & Lieblich, 2006; McLean, Pasupathi, & Pals,
2007; Ochs, 2009; Sirota, 2010; Swinton et al., 2011;
Whitsitt, 2010). It could be said that as humans, we
live in and we are shaped by the stories of our culture
or, as one researcher noted, “we lead our lives as stories,
and our identity is constructed both by stories we tell
ourselves and others about ourselves and the master
narratives that consciously or unconsciously serve as
models to us” (Rimmon-Kenan, 2002, p. 11). Te stories
that are told in being lived and lived in being told (Carr,
1986) contribute to the way a person comes to defne the
limits and possibilities of the world “as it is,” including
one’s potential ability to infuence psychologically the
evolution of a disease such as cancer.
Stories do not appear in a vacuum but within
the framework of a culture that is dynamic and never
still, and that represents “what we make of the world,
materially, intellectually and spiritually” (Gorringe,
2004, p. 3). An interdisciplinary examination is thus
required for an authentic understanding of the extent to
which meaning is shaped by the nature of our individual
human bodies (e.g., Johnson, 2007), of the interaction
between personality traits and culture in shaping
human lives (e.g., Hofstede & McCrae, 2004), and of
the processes through which the dominant cultural mo
dels have instilled to varying degrees in humans many
implicit assumptions regarding healing and illness (e.g.,
Achterberg, Dombrowe, & Krippner, 2007; Garro,
2003; Koss-Chioino, 2006). As illness experience is
mapped onto a symbolic space created by the models
and metaphors of the medical system (Kirmayer,
2004), the patient’s perceptions and representations
give rise to multiple levels of interpretations that may
reinforce each other, giving experience profound depth,
or may contradict each other, leading the patient into
ambivalence (e.g., Watson-Gegeo & Gegeo, 2011),
illuminating often the workings of the everyday
symbolic violence (Bourdieu, 2002) embedded in the
modes of action and structures of cognition belonging
to dominant social agents.
Sick people often became patients with terrible
suddenness, so personal narratives of illness experience
are ways of linking body, self, and society (e.g., Bury,
2001; Feder-Alford, 2006; van de Berg & Trujillo, 2009).
It might be that these narratives represent one’s eforts to
regain the ability to respond efectively to given challenges
gaining increased self-efcacy (Bandura, 1994) by
understanding and modifying some of the perceived toxic
beliefs. Still, due to the convergent pressure of external
and internal forces that can make the patient reluctant
to engage confdently with the outside world, questions
should be raised on how these narratives are impacted
by the cultural customs in oncology wards (e.g., Broom
& Adams, 2010; Carr, 2010; Mulcahy, Parry, & Glover,
2010; Speraw, 2009), by the religious function of modern
medicine (Wardlaw, 2011), by the inadequate theorizing
of health and illness (e.g., Conrad & Barker, 2010;
Murray, 2004; Stam, 2000), by the moral dimensions of
stigma (e.g., Jackson, 2005; Yang et al., 2007), or by the
extent to which health professionals consciously provide
“narrative care” to their patients (e.g., Coulehan, 2003;
Frank, 2007; Henoch & Danielson, 2009; Kirmayer,
2003; Löyttyniemi, 2005; Mattingly & Lawlor, 2001).
As both literature and psychology involve not only a
conception of language and what it does (Jones, 2007;
Wear & Jones, 2010), but also adopt as one of their
goals the better understanding of individual and social
behavior (e.g., Contarello, 2008; Moghaddam, 2004,
2006), realist fctional works about illness (e.g., Moore,
1998) are often able to provide imaginative access to
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 27 Rethinking Prayer and Health Research
lived events, deserving to be explored in depth within a
suitable academic context (e.g., Ratekin, 2007; Schaf &
Shapiro, 2006).
Maintaining psychological well-being during
serious illness is both challenging and difcult for the
patient (Folkman & Greer, 2000; Lepore & Revenson,
2007), so the illness narratives of cancer survivors should
stimulate further exploration of their worldview and of
the related inner resources one could use to create order
and coherence in the face of a threatening disease (e.g.,
Broom, 2009; Cantrell & Conte, 2009; Coulehan, 2011;
Drew, 2007; Frank, 1995, 2003; Killoran, Schlitz, &
Lewis, 2002; Little et al., 1998; Radley, 2002; Richins,
1994; Röing et al., 2009; Sarenmalm et al., 2009;
Schilder et al., 2004; Willig, 2009). It would not be
unreasonable to hypothesize that, most often unspoken
and taken for granted, one’s worldview might be shaped
by key factors such as subjectivity (e.g., Biehl, Good, &
Kleinman, 2007; Crapanzano, 2006; Csordas, 2008;
Jahn & Dunne, 1997; Layton, 2008; Ortner, 2005;
Willig, 2000; Zahavi, 2005) and self identity (e.g., Hall,
2007; Manzi, Vignoles, & Regalia, 2010; Maslow, 1976;
Quinn, 2006; Schwartz, Luyckx, & Vignoles, 2011; van
Huyssteen & Wiebe, 2011; Vignoles, Chryssochoou, &
Breakwell, 2000; Zahavi, 2009), themselves embedded
in a silent web of social constraints and inter-subjective
creation (e.g., Baerveldt & Voestermans, 2005; Cohen
& Barrett, 2008; Csordas, 2004; Gillespie & Cornish,
2009; Hollan, 2000; Jenkins, 2001; Kabele, 2010;
Laughlin & Troop, 2009; Martin, 2000; Moore &
Kosut, 2010; Nolan et al., 2008; Pachucki, Pendergrass,
& Lamont, 2007; Slocum-Bradley, 2009; Strauss, 2006;
Vaisey & Lizardo, 2010).
Intentional Normative Dissociation
A
second possible factor in healing is what I will refer
to as intentional normative disociation (IND).
As dissociation theorists have noted (Bernstein &
Putnam, 1986; Ludwig, 1983; Putnam, 1989), disso-
ciative experiences fall along a continuum ranging from
everyday events involving absorption—especially in daily
recreational activities (e.g., listening to music, reading
novels, watching movies, daydreaming)—to the extreme
and relatively rare conditions belonging to pathology
(e.g., disorders of memory and identity). Current
academic literature (e.g., Butler, 2004) considers that
non-pathological dissociation known also as normative
dissociation (both terms indicating the presence of
normal dissociative processes) implies a change in the
state of consciousness that is not induced organically,
does not occur as part of a psychiatric disorder, and
involves the alteration or separation of what are usually
experienced as integrated mental processes lasting a
limited amount of time. Most dissociative experiences
are not pathological and allow the individual to
disengage from the tension of their present situation, the
key ingredient being absorption (Tellengen & Atkinson,
1974); this construct is seen as involving a state of “total
attention,” of complete engagement in experiencing and
modeling the attentional object. Considered as positive
dissociative experiences (Pica & Beere, 1995), they
occur during a non-traumatic event when perception
of an individual narrows during an intense situation of
personal relevance and blocks out the background.
While the ubiquity of non-pathological
dissociation in the life of human beings seems to be
an accepted fact (e.g., Alvarado, 2005; Budden, 2003;
Butler, 2004; de Ruiter, Elzinga, & Phaf, 2006; Hunt et
al., 2002; Krippner, 1999; Seligman & Kirmayer, 2008;
Somer, 2006), the mechanisms and functions hidden
behind the surface of this phenomenon are not clearly
identifed. Keeping in mind normative dissociation’s
complexity and its underestimated importance for one’s
daily life—even when it is just about the pursuit of
recreational enjoyment (Butler, 2006), it seems possible
to suggest (without clinical evidence) the existence of a
normative dissociative experience that is intentionally, if
often unconsciously, cultivated: IND.
If ordinary, normative dissociative events that
most people experience could be defned as brief, usually
uncontrolled, and superfcial (in terms of the depth and
stability of attention focus), the participants in search
of deeper personal transformation deliberately train
themselves to partake in IND activities that eventually
lead to signifcant identity transformations, refected also
into one’s experience of the external world. Although I
am aware of the ‘‘Singlestate Fallacy,” briefy defned as
“the erroneous assumption that all worthwhile abilities
reside in our normal, awake mindbody state’’ (Roberts,
2006, p. 105), IND may be relatively unrelated to the
known spectrum of altered states of consciousness. Te
IND process shares similarities with the institutionalized
forms of trance (Bartocci & Dein, 2005; Castillo, 1995;
Krippner, 2009; Vaitl et al., 2005) only to the extent that
it requires a conscious practice of controlling attention in
order to disengage oneself to the desired degree from the
surrounding environment.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 28 Andreescu
As here defned, IND is usually accompanied by
an increase in the cognitive and emotional functioning,
inducing positive consequences on one’s consensus
consciousness—a general label for the state in which
one spends most of the time, an active, semi-arbitrary
construction shaped fundamentally by the culture
one is raised in (Tart, 2001). One’s habitual state of
consciousness might be consistently infuenced by the
collective assumptions and cultural values of the society
ones lives in, thus allowing the dissociation to become
a central element in some types of healing processes
performed mostly in certain areas of the world (Cardeña
& Cousins, 2010; Cardeña & Krippner, 2010; Chapin,
2008; Schumaker, 1995; Seligman, 2010; Winkelman,
2004). Such a concept, if empirically verifable, might be
of help in clarifying the relation between dissociation,
cultural variability, and religion (e.g., Dorahy & Lewis,
2001).
Psychosomatic Plasticity Proneness
A
third dimension related to healing process,
psychosomatic plasticity proneness (PPP),
is proposed here as a way to conceptualize the
psychosomatic potential possessed to various degrees
by each human being and used, often in an implicit
manner, to turn personal psycho-emotional content
into a bodily reality. Psychosomatic is, of course, a term
widely accepted as referring to the inseparability and
interdependence of psychosocial and biologic aspects
of human beings (Engel, 1977; Lipowski, 1984). If this
proposed construct is in some measure valid, it would
then follow that without the discrete mediation of PPP,
psychosocial factors cannot contribute signifcantly
to the progression of a disease or to the regaining of
health.
If PPP’s existence as a catalyst can be validated
empirically, future research may well show that it has
a strong connection with transliminality, a perceptual-
personality construct referring to a hypersensitivity to
psychological material originating in the unconscious,
and/or the external environment (Talbourne & Maltby,
2008). As with dissociation, PPP falls presumably along
a continuum, its impact ranging from discrete subjective
and physiological changes (visible as the mild forms of
placebo and nocebo efects) to extreme physiological
manifestations (e.g., Jawer, 2006; Seligman, 2005). I
suggest that PPP can perhaps be stimulated or inhibited
to a large extent by the complex and multi-layered
interaction between one’s identity and social forces,
thus playing a signifcant role in the incorporation of
the social body into the physical body (Kleinman &
Kleinman, 1994).
Prayer Brings Together
Worldview, IND, and PPP in Promoting Health
T
he act of prayer is usually understood as one’s way of
communicating with a divine power and, while the
activities involved in it vary widely, it can be considered as
perhaps one of the most remarkable culturally-mediated
forms of normative dissociation and a ubiquitous
religious phenomenon. Due to its intentional dimension
and its large acceptance in various cultures as part of
social narratives across an extended period of time
(Crook, 2007; Geertz, 2008; Janssen & Bänziger, 2003;
Levine, 2008; McCullough & Larson, 1999; Neyrey,
2001), the sustained practice of prayer might be able to
piece into a single whole the three previously discussed
elements pertaining to healing: worldview, IND,
and PPP. Often used by Christians as a way to build
a personal relationship with God (Luhrmann, 2005),
investigating prayer’s place within the process through
which supernatural order is known and experienced by
believers could ofer a glimpse into the trained absorption
skills shared by those lay people manifesting signifcant
spiritual and transpersonal experiences (Luhrmann,
2004). A recent hypothesis (Luhrmann, Nusbaum,
& Tisted, 2010, p. 67) proposed that “learning to
experience God depends on interpretation (the socially
taught and culturally variable cognitive categories that
identify the presence of God), practice (the subjective
and psychological consequences of the specifc training
specifed by the religion: e.g., prayer), and proclivity (a
talent for and willingness to respond to practice).”
In Christian scripture, the intentional practice
of dissociation as a learned behavior is stated explicitly:
“Terefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”
(Mark 11:24). Framing this verse in relation to the
previously presented psychological elements might
mean, for example, that for a meaningful prayer, one
should dissociate oneself from the present condition
of illness by seeing it as fragile and volatile against the
general cultural conditioning and often against objective
medical proofs. Simultaneously, one should live in the
grateful habitual assumption of the wish fulflled until
relief is felt and a deep conviction in an active healing
process is installed, as one cannot longer yearn for
something that has been already granted. It thus appears
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 29 Rethinking Prayer and Health Research
that prayer, in order to be efective to a greater degree,
requires a devoted believer. In this context, religious
devotion might be understood as representing a believer
who is psychologically endowed with a high ability to
become absorbed, to reach a fow state of energized and
habitual focus, being able to direct with ease its stream
of attention towards internal, mental stimuli (making
more lively and natural the representation of fulfllment)
while simultaneously disconnecting themselves from
those palpable evidences that at least temporarily deny
the possibility of one’s predictable healing.
As one acts everyday according to a complex
system of references and justifcations, each human
being could be considered, psychologically speaking, a
believer in his or her own worldview. Within a cultural
perspective (Ward, 2005), what might separate a devoted
believer from an individual without a strong religious
and spiritual credo is whether his or her worldview is
fundamentally shaped and reinforced both by a religious
tradition and personal spiritual experience. In the case
of Christianity, this might require a familiarity with
relevant Christian scripture and the conviction that God
is permanently present in his or her life, thus providing
a sense of existential security. If a devoted Christian
believer accepts as truth the above mentioned scriptural
verse and decides to act according to it, then it might
entail embodying the desired wellness by assumption,
suspending disbelief to such extent that he or she is able
to “imagine” his or her own health or, according to this
word’s Latin roots, to “conceive” it within, to become
pregnant with it. At a cognitive and emotional level,
this embodiment might happen through a sequence
of epiphanies (McDonald, 2008) culminating with a
radical ontological shift towards a spiritual identity. As
such identity is often defned by how the individual ego
relates to and incorporates spirituality into its personal
sense of self (MacDonald, 2009, p. 90), in the devoted
believer’s case a spiritual identity should fundamentally
rewrite one’s illness narrative and ofer a release from
psycho-emotional, internalized constraints that are non-
conducive to healing.
Te psychological act of conceiving the desired
state of health is neither superfcial nor easily duplicated.
Still, it is an act as essential to a prayer for health as
physical conception is for giving birth to a child. Tough
locus of control is external in a God-centered worldview,
following the metaphor of the sailboat aligning itself
with the wind (Ellens, 2010), such alignment may
involve a great deal of activity by the sailor; the task of
habitual dissociation from one’s illness while gratefully
assuming the sensory vividness of the desired health
state is a challenging task that may require an extensive
adjustment of one’s identity and lifestyle. According to
this perspective, God is not factored out of the healing,
nor is God manipulated to do one’s will (e.g., Pretorius,
2007; Pretorius, 2009). While it is not the purpose of
this paper to engage in theological debates regarding
the relationship between human beings and a Christian
God, or any kind of divine power, it must be stated
that a prayer-based approach is necessarily based on the
presumption that God, however understood, will always
grant some form of healing to any believer who expresses
in his or her identity and spiritual practice a stable
constellation of elements (some of which are tentatively
explored in this article).
Various hypothesis involving God are for
obvious reasons often impossible to test empirically;
however, for experimental purposes it could be suggested
that a devoted believer is better at praying than a non-
devoted believer, to the extent that one deliberately
uses the available personal freedom in order to choose
not just to believe in a Divine Power but to transform
that decision into a starting point for a profound and
long-term engagement in the delicate construction of
a healing-prone spiritual identity. Following this path,
one might be more likely to beneft from whatever as-
yet scientifcally unknown healing mechanism that
may have given rise to traditional beliefs in divine
healing (e.g., Breslin & Lewis, 2008; Levin, 1996).
Anchored in the general assumption—with signifcant
moral ramifcations—that health is a desirable state of
being for any individual, prayer for health might have
a higher level of congruence with one’s worldview and
with the general support that a family or a community
could provide to a patient, in contrast with prayers for
attaining other goals that might be more or less ethically
and socially acceptable.
All Prayers Are Not Equal in Faith
B
eyond understanding prayer as a way of fostering
connectivity with the self, with others, and with the
Divine (e.g., Ladd et al., 2007), at its very core it remains
a petition (Capps, 1982) structured according to one’s
worldview (Cadge & Daglian, 2008; Levine et al., 2009;
Ridge et al., 2008). From a psychological perspective,
for the devoted believer, prayer might be a meaningful
path that will help reincorporate health into one’s life.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 30 Andreescu
Still, to various degrees, prior to actually performing the
embodiment of health, the inner transformations related
to the healing outcome could be cognitively processed by
any believer as an alien, inaccessible experience of radical
otherness.
Te Christian Bible can be seen as the most
important religious book for a Christian believer, a
book whose words are intended presumably to form
and shape that person’s life. A Christian re-appropriates
the biblical text by engaging its testimony and probably
by including those passages that they fnd relevant and
resonant with prior life experience into a very personal
and profound psychological drama, eventually changing
their identity to various extents in the pursuit of healing
and fulfllment. Its statements and transformation stories
repeatedly underline the idea that prayer is meaningless
and inefective without faith (e.g., Mark 11:24, “Terefore
I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for,
believe that you have received them, and you shall have
them”; Mark 9:23, “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe,
all things are possible to him who believes.’”). Besides
the various interpretations that one might give to these
verses, faith could psychologically be assimilated with a
vividly-experienced, healing-conducive worldview.
To a certain extent, faith is “hermeneutical”
(Brümmer, 2010; Schutte, 2011) and could be viewed as a
specifc adjusted flter, performing a radical interpretation
of one’s human experience. Tis means much more than
just accepting at the cognitive level some type of religious
convictions while at a closer look signifcant emotional
ambivalences might await to surface. Religious faith
appears to be for Fowler (1981) an “orientation of the
total person” involving an “alignment of the will” and
“a resting of the heart” compatible with “a vision of
transcendent value and power, one ’s ultimate concern,”
faith serving “to give purpose and goal to one ’s hopes
and strivings, thoughts and actions” (p. 14). Tough
such process of interpretation takes place according to a
heritage of religious metaphors and often activates even
some desirable role-taking conduct (e.g., Capps, 1982;
Kuchan, 2011), one’s personal way of responding to
“transcendent value and power as perceived and grasped
through the forms of the cumulative tradition” (Fowler,
1981, p. 9) could go deeper into the cultural reality of
some specifc state of consciousness resonant with biblical
phenomena (Pilch, 2004; Crafert, 2010; Bowie, 2011).
Te power of one’s prayer-ritual language needs
to reverberate and evoke one’s faith, thus granting an
essential performative dimension to any prayer act, but
especially to one’s prayers for health. Praying implies a
relationship of trust and dependency with a Divine power
(Levin, 2009), a relationship manifested through the
absence of anxiety, so that faith seen as worldview should
be a deeply inhabited aspect of one’s life. If this very
difcult step that requires a trained ability to habitually
dissociate in a normative way from the sensorial aspects
of a disease is successfully accomplished, then from the
psychological point of view it will make redundant any
expectation of gratifcation; in the assumed identity
of the devoted believer, emotionally saturated with
devotion and gratitude, health has already been restored
at a subjective level and with persistent confdence will
grow objectively visible according to the strength of one’s
faith and the discretion of divine grace.
It might not be an exaggeration to claim that any
paradigmatic worldview of the 21st century is, globally
speaking, a scientifc-prone one, the hegemonic infuence
of the media shaping even the ambiguities of one’s
narrative. Implicitly, for research purposes, faith cannot
be conceived as being a standardized and identically
shared component of most believers’ life. Beneath the
seemingly naturalness of any type of worldview, be it
religious, spiritual, or secular, lies an intricate web of
constructed meanings, individual-specifc elements
blending fuidly with those that are socially-enforced
and perpetuated (Csordas & Lewton, 1998). While the
rationalization of sufering has radically increased in
the last decades (Davies, 2011; Youll & Meekosha, in
press), the threat of a disease such as cancer could still
restructure one’s worldview in a short period of time and
to a signifcant extent, for better or for worse. For this
reason, some consideration should be given to the idea
(Cavanagh, 1994) that the cancer counterpart to the
dictum “there are no atheists in foxholes” might be, “there
are no atheists in oncology and bone-marrow transplant
units.” In this context, if suitable help is given to patients
who are open to new therapeutic approaches, the radical
inner transformations required for health embodiment
might be achieved in cases where worldview, IND, and
PPP are blended adequately.
Te Production of Healing Requires Capital
I
n the last decade, a large number of researchers (e.g.,
Berry, 2005; Chiu et al., 2004; de Jager Meezenbroek
et al., in press; King & Koenig, 2009; Zwingmann,
Klein, & Büssing, 2011; see also the feld analysis on
www.metanexus.net/tarp) advocated that a sustained
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 31 Rethinking Prayer and Health Research
interdisciplinary efort must be made in order to
identify and clarify the ambiguity of defnitions and
the inadequacy of measurements that make problematic
many discussions on spirituality. For example, according
to a general sociological perspective on spirituality (e.g.,
Flanagan, 2008; Knoblauch, 2008), this concept is
related to spiritual capital, a type of capital embodied in
the knowledge, abilities, and dispositions an individual
has amassed in the feld of spirituality (Verter, 2003;
Guest, 2007). Within this framework, it could be said
that in the childhood period, the complex acquisition
of spiritual capital is probably infuenced by the child-
rearing process through which culture gets internalized
(Bloom, 2004; Quinn, 2005, 2010; Seymour, 2010;
Sirota, 2010) and implicitly by the availability of
emotional capital, a resource essential for the adequate
psycho-social development of any individual (e.g., Reay,
2004; Turner, 2010).
Later in life, depending on the development
taking place in adolescence and emerging adulthood
(Barry et al., 2010; Dean, 2010; King & Roeser, 2009),
the initial stock of tacit knowledge one possesses could
sufer a complex process of cultural disempowerment
(Büssing et al., 2010), reducing one’s capacities to cope
meaningfully with illness, sufering, and death (Oman
& Toresen, 2003). Such depreciation, related probably
to individual secularization (Spickard, 2007; Wood,
2009) and to the hidden expressions of the secular
body (Asad, 2011; Hirschkind, 2011), is a consequence
of various complex processes, a highly signifcant one
being the extent to which postmodern subjectivity is
shaped by media consumption (e.g., Marsh, 2006, 2007;
Meyer, 2009; Milford, 2010; Scharen, 2006; Turner,
2008) more visibly through the particular relationship
developed in recent times between the viewer and the
TV (e.g., Winston, 2009; Ott, 2007a, 2007b). Tough
religious involvement appears to be the product of both
genetic and social-environmental infuences (Bradshaw
& Ellison, 2008), it may be that transliminality is more
related to genetic factors while, especially in secular
societies, a child inherits religious and spiritual capital
mainly from family.
Researching transpersonal and spiritual aspects
of human existence involves not just abstract theoretical
endeavors but practical matters also, some of them related
to health issues (e.g., Ellens, 2009; Elmer, MacDonald,
& Friedman, 2003; Louchakova & Warner, 2003). Te
speculative perspectives on prayer for health proposed in
this article sometimes share similarities with mystical
practices (e.g., Hunt, 2006; Daniels, 2003; Ellens, 2009),
making challenging the process of testing them within
a secular setting. In this fuid context, what could be
seen as a “production of healing” through the mediation
of prayer may be fundamentally dependent upon and
enhanced by one’s ability to transcend the dense rational
and emotional ceiling derived from and enforced by the
normative cultural patterns of secular societies.
Tough the concept of transpersonal capital is
not novel within the academic literature and it relates
to the connection between the corporeal and the social
(Kleinman & Kleinman, 1994), I choose to loosely
redefne it in a diferent manner and within a specifc
psychological framework, hoping to make more clear
the speculative network of arguments presented in
the paper. Assuming that one’s spiritual worldview
is constructed with the help of brief but profound
transpersonal experiences which provide penetrating,
transforming insights into one’s identity, I suggest that
acquiring transpersonal capital requires at a primary
level a conscious individual efort to inhabit and
maintain a credible spiritual worldview, found to be
largely congruent with the person’s own mediated and
unmediated life experiences.
Building such congruence while living mostly in
a secular environment could be compared to some extent
with the acquisition of a muscular physique (which
cannot be done at second-hand, but entailing personal
costs and life choices). Te formative transpersonal
experiences resulting from daily spiritual practice
are difcult to generate at will and although in many
cases such life events are rare and eventually turn into
background memories, it might not be unusual for
the people who have them to consider themselves as
belonging to a so-called cognitive minority, defned
as “a group of people whose view of the world difers
signifcantly from the one generally taken for granted in
their society … a group formed around a body of deviant
knowledge.” (Berger, 1963, p. 18). Te upgrading of
brief transpersonal insights and peak experiences into
enduring understandings and stable plateau experiences
(Walsh, 2011, p. 121) is probably mediated to a large
extent by IND and it represents a fundamental part of
the embodiment process through which transpersonal
capital is gained.
Such a challenging endeavor of self-fashioning
leading to a robust spiritual worldview ofers a new
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 32 Andreescu
relevance to one’s level of committed implication in
its own governance through the selection and usage of
appropriate technologies of the self, technologies seen
as forms of knowledge and strategies that make possible
the construction of one’s identity (e.g., Nielsen, in press),
allowing “individuals to efect by their own means or
with the help of others a certain number of operations on
their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way
of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain
a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection,
or immortality” (Foucault, 1988, p. 18).
As contemporary miraculous healings seem to
imply enormously accelerated natural healing processes
(Nichols, 2002), a spiritual worldview might stimulate
not just existential and psychological wellbeing (Ellison,
1983; Ryf, 1995) but also those practices dependent of
specifc states of consciousness (Tart, 2001) and probably
involved in gaining access to exceptional inner resources.
Deepening the supposition, these resources might
become physiologically active following transformations
in the mechanisms of human plasticity, recent research
on epigenesis suggesting that sustained experiences
could be able to afect both brain structure and function
(e.g., Belsky & Pluess, 2009; Cole, 2009; Kitayama &
Uskul, 2011; van IJzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg,
& Ebstein, 2011; Masterpasqua, 2009; Park & Huang,
2010; Roberts & Jackson, 2008; Wessel, 2009).
Conclusion
T
his speculative article should be viewed more like
a minoritarian manifesto calling for increased
communication within and across diverse research
felds, a gentle provocation for a conceptual boldness
derived from cross fertilization of ideas and sources of
empirical evidence with the aim of nurturing theoretical
integration and tangible applications. As such, exploring
the psychological dimension of prayer in health research
is not an attempt to fnd support for some kind of
religious ideological agenda. Tough prayer should
not be crippled by the daunting task of exploring the
inefable in a positivistic manner (Ellens, 2009), it also
should not be conceptualized a priori as just a one-way
transmission (a form of monologue with oneself ) or as
a communication without a verifable closure (missing
some sort of evidence that God heard one’s prayer).
In order to gain a more elaborate understanding
of the prayer phenomenon, exploring in depth its role
in one’s healing process requires constructive scholarly
conversations particularly within the boundaries of social
science. A coordinated academic efort to identify and
conceptualize the key psychosocial factors involved in
the human healing process might provide in a decade a
refned perspective and even some encouraging empirical
results (Ellens, 2009). Te designs used in the various
empirical experiments of the last decades on prayer and
health (most recently reviewed in ap Siôn & Francis,
2009) might need substantial refnement, at least with
regard to the “prayer” and “faith” concepts. Keeping
in mind that prayer practices might difer signifcantly
within Christian communities, researchers involved
in the academic study of such complex subject should
create new interdisciplinary methodologies, sensitive to
the intricate facets that prayer entails before claiming a
defnitive answer regarding its impact on health and well-
being. As diferent forms of religious praying are defned
also by diverse cognitive features (e.g., Schjoedt et al.,
2009), a more accurate conceptual understanding of what
prayer is and how it might work within a biopsychosocial
framework should be developed. Renewed sociological
interest in prayer research (Mason, 2011; Giordan, 2011)
suggests that prayer might be re-theorized as the most
fundamental religious act and conceived as a profoundly
social activity (even the so-called “private prayer”).
Tough the research on the formation of
identity and subjectivity in relation to health (e.g.,
Whyte, 2009) should be integrated into the larger
framework of individual and collective worldviews,
the researchers should not chase for an ever-increasing
complexity that will inevitably lead to the entrapment
within specifcation, in a futile efort to record the
fuid territory of human experience. Te parallel with
sports intensive training suggested in the cancer survival
section of this article should be considered as useful
also in the empirical research on prayer and health. As
humans, we enculture ourselves through the formative
aspect of training and this deliberate and performative
practice will not only recontextualize implicitly prior
experiences but it might also ofer in time an accurate
feedback on how to design suitable trial experiments. At
a time when secular societies are diving into a new age of
acute anxiety and “ecstasy deprivation” (Bourguignon,
2003), inner authenticity appears to become an essential
part of a postsecular spirituality (van Aarde, 2009). For
a potentially successful health embodiment, faith as
worldview—that sharp and habitual awareness of the
“nearness” which empowers—would defnitely require a
lot of intense and persistent preparation, probably close
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 33 Rethinking Prayer and Health Research
to the extent of those rites of passage explored usually in
ethnographies on spirituality (e.g., Turner, 2006).
It is beyond the purpose of this paper to correlate
in detail its content to related areas of inquiry such as:
religion, spirituality and health (e.g., Hefti, 2011; Hill
et al., 2000; Koenig, 2010; Koenig, McCullough, &
Larson, 2001; Levin, 2010; Levin, Chatters, & Taylor,
2011; McCullough & Willoughby, 2009; Miller &
Toresen, 2003; Lee & Newberg, 2005; Oman &
Toresen, 2002; Park, 2007; Stefanek, McDonald &
Hess, 2005; Toresen & Harris, 2002)

gratitude (e.g., Emmons & McCullough, 2003;
Lambert et al., 2009; McCullough, Kilpatrick,
Emmons, & Larson, 2001; McCullough, Kimeldorf,
& Cohen, 2008; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky,
2007; Wood, Joseph, & Maltby, 2008; Polak &
McCullough, 2006)
intercessory prayer (e.g., Cadge, 2009; Dossey &
Huford, 2005; Hodge, 2007; Masters & Spielmans,
2007; Schjoedt et al., 2011; Schlitz & Radin, 2007).

To minimize such limitations, the references
provided by this article may help interested readers grasp
the current state of research in these promising areas.
While the psychological process of praying for
one’s health considered here lacks detailed explanations
based on experimental data and thus might be
controversial in the larger communities, I hope that
the present article will at least increase awareness not
only of the immense potential that lies ahead, as yet
unexplored, but also to the difculties implied by a
rigorous interdisciplinary research on human nature
and experience (e.g., Ammerman, 2006; Belzen, 2009;
Belzen & Hood, 2006; Bender, 2010; Cadge, Levitt, &
Smilde, 2011; Chamberlain, 2000; Chibeni & Moreira-
Almeida, 2007; Cromby, 2011; Crammer et al., 2011;
Cunningham, 2007; Davis, 2003; Edgell, in press;
Gergen, 2010; Goertzen, 2008; Henrich, Heine, &
Norenzayan, 2010; Hickey, 2010; Horneber et al., in press;
Jones et al., 2009; Lengacher et al., 2003; Louchakova &
Lucas, 2007; Newberg & Lee, 2005; Notterman, 2004;
Ray, 2004; Salsman et al., in press; Schroll, 2010; Slife
& Richardson, 2008; Stenner et al., 2011; Taves, 2009;
Walach, 2007a, 2007b; Walach & Reich, 2005; Walsh
& Vaughan, 1993; Valsiner, 2009).
It should be generally recognized that past
and present endeavors in the feld of prayer and health
have only marginally explored the complex aspects
involved in those intensely intricate phenomena
associated with the feld, so it will take some time to
crawl before walking. From such perspective, more
substantial attention should be given to understanding
those biopsychosocial factors interconnected within
the process and outcome of prayer before attempting
to decipher the big questions lying dormant within
transpersonal and spiritual layers of human experience.
In other words, extending the sailing metaphor, social
science researchers should pay special attention to the
way lived socio-cultural meanings are shaping the sailor’s
human development. Under the pressure of a persistent
and implicit enculturation process, previously learned
and often unchallenged meanings are binding the
sailor frmly to the collectively sedimented assumptions
about the sailing experience. Inevitably, these meanings
will end up shrinking the sailor’s independent choices,
leading to a predictable but possibly unsatisfactory
chance of reaching the desired spiritual horizon and/or
health outcome (Ellens, 2010).
Past medical and social science research has
failed to ofer to the academic community the clinically
signifcant results that would have supported beyond
doubt the idea that prayer can improve to a large extent, in
a relatively predictable manner, one’s physical and mental
health. In such context, concluding that further trials of
this type of intervention should not be undertaken (using
the resources available for the investigation of other
questions pertaining to health care) might seem like a
reasonable idea to many researchers. Contrary to this
line of thought, the present article claims that stopping
the research on prayer and health or even continuing it
while using conceptually unsuitable designs could delay
valuable academic progress.
Pursuing emergent paths to new knowledge
on prayer and health issues should imply trying frst to
describe accurately one’s individual experiences confned
within the margins of an apparently mundane consensual
trance and latter carefully identifying the possible
healing-prone patterns. Such a complex task would
probably require a persistent, stimulating and unsettling
search for new forms of theorizing about lived experience
(Good, 2010), but in time some of the laws that govern
the inefable will eventually become clearer and arguably
easier to integrate into the mainstream paradigms of the
future academic endeavors (as they might be currently
beyond scientifc understanding not by defnition, but by
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 34 Andreescu
virtue of remaining at the frontier of that understanding).
In the end, the study of prayer-mediated healing should
become an opportunity towards a deeper refection on
what it means to be human, a chance for the academic
community to explore respectfully but inquisitively the
deep Inner Space, the ultimate Final Frontier.
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Acknowledgments
I wish to thank Harris Friedman, Glenn Hartelius,
and J. Harold Ellens for their generous support. Also,
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 47 Rethinking Prayer and Health Research
I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer and to those
researchers that ofered constructive criticism on earlier
drafts of this paper. All responsibility for the article’s
shortcomings belongs to me.
About the Author
Adrian Andreescu is a Romanian independent
researcher, his primary academic interest focusing on
the complex relationship between culture, subjectivity
and health. Currently, Adrian is searching for suitable
postgraduate opportunities that will allow him to study
in interdisciplinary terms the issue of prayer and health.
He serves as Associate Circulation Editor of IJTS and
can be contacted at Adrian.research@yahoo.com.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 48 Krippner, Bova, Budden, & Gallante
In 2003, the four of us spent several weeks in Calabria, Italy. We interviewed local people about folk
healing remedies, attended a Feast Day honoring St. Cosma and St. Damian, and paid two visits
to the Shrine of Madonna dello Scoglio, where we interviewed its founder, Fratel Cosimo. In this
essay, we have provided our impressions of Calabria and the ways in which its native people have
developed indigenous practices and beliefs around medicine and healing. Although it is one of the
poorest areas in Italy, Calabria is one of the richest in its folk traditions and alternative modes of
healing. Combining personal experiences and theoretical knowledge, this paper aims at illuminating
how these practices, though indigenous and primal, still continue to serve a meaningful and powerful
purpose for the inhabitants of Calabria.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 48-62
I
n April 1995, before it became the Center for
Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, the
Ofce of Alternative Medicine (OAM) of the United
States National Institutes of Health held a conference on
research methodology. Te objective of the conference
was to evaluate the need for research in the feld of
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which
they designed several working groups to address with
consensus statements on a variety of essential topics. Given
that most of the world’s population uses and spends 60
billion dollars a year on CAM, the OAM recognized the
demand for its study. Americans spend approximately 17
billion dollars per year on CAM practices, many of which
can be classifed as traditional medicine, or ethnomedicine
(Freeman, 2004; World Health Organization, 2003).
Te OAM panel on defnition and description
accepted a dual charge: To establish a defnition of the feld
of complementary and alternative medicine for the purposes
of identifcation and research, and to identify factors critical
to a thorough and unbiased description of CAM systems;
one that would support both quantitative and qualitative
research. Te panel defned CAM as follows:
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a
broad domain of healing resources that encompasses
all health systems, modalities, and practices and
their accompanying theories and beliefs, other than
those intrinsic to the politically dominant health
system of a particular society or culture in a given
historical period. CAM includes all such practices
and ideas self-defned by their users as preventing or
treating illness or promoting health and well being.
Boundaries within CAM and between the CAM
domain and the domain of the dominant system are
not always sharp or fxed. (O’Connor et al., 1997)
Te panel’s second goal was to establish a list
of parameters for obtaining thorough descriptions of
CAM systems. Te list consisted of 13 categories frst
conceptualized by Huford (1995):
1. Lexicon: What are the specialized terms in the system?
2. Taxonomy: What classes of health and sickness
does the system recognize and address?
3. Epistemology: How was the body of knowledge
derived?
Roberto Gallante
Documentary Filmmaker
Rome, Italy
Te Indigenous Healing Tradition
in Calabria, Italy
1

Stanley Krippner
Saybrook University
San Francisco, CA, USA
Michael Bova
Consciousness Research
and Training Project, Inc.
Cortlandt Manor, NY, USA
Ashwin Budden
University of California
San Diego, CA, USA
Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), ethnomedicine,
traditional medicine, folk medicine, evil eye, witchcraft, magic, Calabria
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 49 Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
4. Teories: What are the key mechanisms understood
to be?
5. Goals for Interventions: What are the primary goals
of the system?
6. Outcome Measures: What constitutes a successful
intervention?
7. Social Organization: Who uses and who practices
the system?
8. Specifc Activities: What do the practitioners do?
What do they use?
9. Responsibilities: What are the responsibilities of the
practitioners, patients, families, and community
members?
10. Scope: How extensive are the system’s applications?
11. Analysis of Benefts and Barriers: What are the risks
and costs of the system?
12. Views of Sufering and Death: How does the system
view sufering and death?
13. Comparison and Interaction with Dominant System:
What does this system provide that the dominant
system does not? How does this system interact with
the dominant system?
A 14
th
category was provided for researchers,
listing critical procedures for formal investigations of
CAM systems. As this article is a descriptive account of
Calabrian healers and healing practices, and not a formal
assessment of their efcacy, we omit consideration of this
fnal guideline.
A Brief History of Calabria
C
alabria is renowned for its Mediterranean climate
and history of conquest and settlement, reaching
back to antiquity. Tis narrow strip of land in Southern
Italy is located between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas,
or the “toe” of Italy’s “boot.” Human presence in the
area dates back to the Paleolithic Age (as determined by
the grafto in Cosenza), and artifacts of Homo erectus
from about 700,000 years BCE. have been recovered
in coastal areas. Researchers have discovered remnants
of the Copper Age and Bronze Age, often in caves, as
well as from the Iron Age (e.g., tombs in Cassano Ionio).
When the Neolithic replaced the Paleolithic age, hunters
converted to farming and founded the frst villages
roughly 3500 BCE (Douglas, 1915/2001).
Calabria prehistory ended with colonization
about 2000 BCE Te term “Italy” was derived from King
Italo of the Enotrians or Arcadians, the frst colonizers,
and the name eventually spread to the entire peninsula.
Beginning about 720 BCE, various city-states from
Greece established rich and colorful colonies meriting
the name Magna Graecia (i.e., “Greater Greece,” a name
that conveyed the comparatively small size of the mother
country). Magna Graecia was well reputed for the health
of its people, which was the result of proper territorial
management and ecological balance. In those days,
Calabria was known for its fertile farmlands, as well as
its precious minerals and silks. Bronze tablets, unearthed
in 1732, described how the Greek colonists were obliged
to replace wind-swept or dead trees, and initiate land
reclamation works.
Roman occupation brought with it a disregard
for traditional ways of life, tilled felds instead pastures,
and a diminishing population. Malaria casualties took
farmers away from their plots, and the uncultivated
land produced marshes that compounded the spread of
malaria (Danubio, Piro, & Tagarelli, 1999). In time, Italy
became the center of the Roman Empire, which began
its conquest of Calabria in about 275 BCE, defeating
most of the Calabrian tribes within a few years. Many
of these tribes supported Hannibal during the Second
Punic War, but when Hannibal withdrew from Italy, he
murdered his Calabrian allies to protect himself against
facing them in battle should they defect to Rome. When
the threat of Hannibal and Carthage ended, the Roman
conquest of Calabria was completed in 211 BCE. Te
mass deforestation initiated by the Romans marked the
frst serious environmental challenge to the area. Such
deforestation practices expanded marshy areas ideal for
mosquitoes, and consequently malaria.
Goths and Visigoths invaded the area, sacked
towns, and destroyed much of Calabria’s Greek and
Roman legacy. After the fall of Rome in the 4
th
century
CE, Byzantines dominated the area and named it
“Calabria” in the 7
th
century CE. Eastern Orthodox
monks came with the Byzantine rulers, establishing
monasteries and building shrines in the secluded
mountains. Teir rule lasted until the 11
th
century
CE and was followed by the Normans, who arrived
about 1050 CE, creating the Kingdom of the South.
Te Swabians conquered the Normans in 1194 and
cultivated one of the most civilized nations in that part
of the world, the so-called “Kingdom of the Sun,” in
which people of diferent religious persuasions (e.g.,
Islamic, Greek Orthodox) lived as peaceful neighbors.
Tis kingdom was followed by others, specifcally Anjou
in 1266 and Aragon in 1435, whose rulers created a
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 50 Krippner, Bova, Budden, & Gallante
system of feudalism in Spain, which conquered the area
in 1503. Austrian domination began in 1707, followed
by Bourbon rule in 1734. Under the title, “Te Kingdom
of the Two Sicilies,” the Bourbons exploited local natural
resources, especially what was left of the forests.
Even though they had lived in Italy for 12
centuries, probably longer than in any other place in
Europe, Jews sufered persecution at the hands of the
Catholic Church. Te move dated back to 1290 when a
Dominican friar accused the Jews of Apulia of putting a
Christian child to death in mockery of the crucifxion of
Jesus Christ. Calabrian Jews put up strong resistance to
maltreatment, but organized Jewry virtually disappeared
from southern Italy for several centuries after being
expelled from Calabria in 1541. Frederick II and his
immediate line protected the Jews of Sicily from the
Crusaders and fanatical church authorities. However,
Spain controlled Sicily during the years when Ferdinand
and Isabella began the expulsion movement. Half of the
Jewish population converted to Catholicism to prevent
the loss of their property. Jewish communities slowly
regained equality and emancipation only to be persecuted
again during the Fascist era in the 20
th
century.
Another instance of gross intolerance occurred
under Spanish rule in 1571, whereby the Waldenses were
massacred for their allegiance to the Protestant movement
in Europe. During the era of Islamic expansion, there
were periodic forays by Muslims. Bourbon rule was
interrupted by French domination from 1805 to 1816,
and then resumed until Garibaldi unifed Italy in the
middle of the 19
th
century.
In the meantime, disastrous agricultural
practices had transformed the pristine coastlands into
marshy and malarial swamps. Much of the population
withdrew inland to avoid both malaria and pirate raids,
primarily by the Saracens and the Turks from 1100 to
1800. Chapels and churches constructed by Roman
Catholic monks helped preserve Calabria’s culture.
However, a major earthquake in 1783 destroyed many of
those buildings and cultural artifacts.
In the early 19
th
century secret societies abound-
ed, working to help Garibaldi unify what is now Italy.
Te eforts of Garibaldi and supporting subversive
groups were confrmed by a plebiscite on October 21,
1860 (Crawford, 1901).
Te term “traditional southern Italy” refers to the
provinces of Calabria, Abruzzi, Basilicata, Campagna,
Molise, Puglia, and Sicily before World War II. After
the war, and the downfall of Fascism, Italy underwent a
dramatic transformation that erased many folk traditions
or modifed them beyond recognition. Tis process was
not as noticeable in Calabria as it was elsewhere due to
both internal and external isolation (Orlando, 1998). Tis
is one reason why folk healing traditions have survived
over the millennia.
Calabria represents what Keates (1915/2001) has
called a “savage Europe” that existed alongside its more
“civilized” equivalent, a place where the Renaissance and the
Enlightenment were unknown. It has always been among
the regions of Europe most resistant to the Europeanizing
process (p. 7) and, later, to industrialization. Without the
production base that accompanies industrialization, many
of the local agrarian based customs remained, including
folk health practices.
Keates (1915/2001) continued, “Lonely, intract-
able, often impenetrably strange, sheltering the oddest
of paradoxes, the weirdest of survivals and the darkest of
secrets, Calabria endures, sullenly defant of our modern
manias of system, connection, and universal openness” (p.
8). However, it was not so much that Calabria waged an
open or even covert revolution against Rome and its more
contemporary rulers; its remoteness was responsible for
neglect by the forces of modernization.
We encountered a somewhat diferent Calabria,
as we stayed in the populated areas of the Locride (the
topographical area that is claimed to have been infuenced
by the Greek city of Locroi Epizhyroi). Young adults
and families with children are leaving their ancestral
mountain villages for the coastal towns and cities to seek
job opportunities and a modern lifestyle. Te Calabria
that was once resistant to change now ensures that all of
its children learn foreign languages in school, and many
of the children we met spoke or understood at least basic
English. Computers are part of many households, and
thus the world beyond the historical isolation is at their
fngertips. Indeed, we suspect that the “savage culture”
described by Keates (1915/2001) is misleading, perhaps
held over from colonialist attitudes.
Calabrian institutions and culture have been
deeply infuenced by Roman Catholic traditions. For
example, the 12
th
century Calabrian abbot Joachim of
Fiore frst introduced the distinction between the Holy
Spirit and Divine entity into Catholic theology (McGinn,
1985) and several folk healers in the area continue to
evoke the Holy Spirit. Te alleged conversation between
St. Peter and Jesus Christ in the olive grove is salient
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 51 Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
evidence for the commingling infuences of native
belief and Catholicism, in which Christian fgures are
substituted for folk characters.
St. Peter: It takes too much time to collect all these
small olives. Let’s make them the size of melons.
Jesus Christ: Very well. But something awkward is
bound to happen when you suggest improvements.
After the olives were enlarged one of them fell
on top of St. Peter’s head, ruining his new hat, provoking
laughter on the part of Jesus Christ.
Tis story is typical of “folk Catholicism,”
practiced in mountainous and rural areas; a syncretic
mixture of some pre-Christian elements with a dose of
Roman Catholicism, still relatively resistant to much of
the ofcial church doctrine. Te church traditionally
allied with the elite political and economic classes,
causing it to be viewed as a conspirator in the cultural
and economic oppression of Calabrian peasants. Italy
has been rife with anti-clericalism, in part because
priests disapprove of such folk activities as non-religious
festivals, birth control, and premarital sex. Nevertheless,
Calabrian folk healing has a Roman Catholic veneer
(Ramage & Clay, 1987).
Folk Healing Practices in Calabria
I
n 1898, A. D. White wrote that medical science has
frequently been blocked by belief in “supernatural
agencies,” but that folk traditions have gradually given
way to Western biomedical science. However, there are
exceptions in remote locations such as the mountains of
Calabria. One can fnd, in this area and even in some
nearby urban settings, a mosaic of rituals and remedies
that fall into the category of Calabrian “popular
medicine” (or “folk medicine”). It survived, at least in
part, because biomedical practitioners were rare and
costly. However, in 1866 the government began to
fund physicians, sending one to every small town in the
newly unifed nation. As a result, many popular medical
practices have disappeared; those that have survived can
be described using the OAM framework (O’Connor et al.,
1997). We have used the “ethnographic present” in these
descriptions; some of them do not refect contemporary
beliefs and practices while others survive, primarily in
isolated areas. Knowledge about folk medicine circulated
without written texts, and therefore contains regional
variations. Nevertheless, this account refects Calabria
as a whole, with a particular emphasis on the areas we
visited.
Te OAM Framework
1. Lexicon: What are the specialized terms in the system?
Te key term in Calabrian popular medicine is
malocchio, the “evil eye,” an illness brought about
either unintentionally or by malice (Simorto, 1990).
In the former instance, it can result from simple envy
or jealousy. In the latter instance, it can be evoked by
attaccatura (attachment), fascino or legatura (binding), or
fattura (fxing). Te perpetrator of malocchio dominates
the victim’s body by one of these three mechanisms,
producing such maladies as “dryness,” which might
take the form of barrenness, the inability to have or
bear children. Especially vulnerable to malocchio are
“wet youth” (because “wetness” represents fertility,
and therefore opposes “dryness”), new brides, pregnant
women, and even livestock, if they are the objects of
envy for someone who knows how to cast the “evil eye.”
It is believed that hunchbacks know how to cast
malocchio. Priests also posses this ability and may practice
it upon losing their moral bearings. One practitioner of
malocchio confessed, “Every good thing I ever had was
gained at the expense of a neighbor.”
Another term dates back to ancient times. Pliny
the Elder wrote about women who could transform
themselves into birds of prey, fying by night, looking
for babies to slaughter. Te Inquisitors, who prosecuted
women suspected of practicing witchcraft, promulgated
belief in this folkloric witch, and these women still
appear in local folktales, referred to as streghe. Tese
women have the power to give people malocchio, and
are in turn highly feared. Tere are a few male streghe,
though either gender can transform themselves into
animals rather than birds.
Tere are a number of traditional folk terms for
special conditions. Il mal caduco, or the “falling sickness,”
is dreaded but can be prevented by charms. Il male di
San Donato or epilepsy is felt to be due to supernatural
causes, and can be controlled if the aficted person
carries iron nails or keys, or pictures of lunar crescents
and frogs—practices that date back to pagan times.
2. Taxonomy: What classes of health and sickness does
the system recognize and address?
In Calabrian popular medicine, folk healing, sorcery,
witchcraft, magical spells, and religious causation overlap.
Not only did we derive this information from our review
of the literature, but from conversations with local inhabi-
tants, and personal observation. Indeed these were the
three sources from which all of our data was obtained.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 52 Krippner, Bova, Budden, & Gallante
3. Epistemology: How was the body of knowledge
derived?
Popular medicine in Calabria can be miraculous,
medical, or magical. Miraculous healing defes natural
law; its efects are attributed to divine intervention, often
mediated through the panoply of Roman Catholic saints
who have appeared over the centuries. Knowledge of
magical practices has been disseminated throughout the
rural population rather than being limited to a secret
group of practitioners. Our conversations with local
informants suggested that self-medication is common,
both for oneself and one’s family.
Folk practices in Calabria, and elsewhere, are
derived from local economies as well as from local modes
of subsistence and production. Folk medicine relies on
herbal and animal substances, some of which date back
to Greek colonization. Tey are believed to work because
of the intrinsic power of the substance; no special rituals
are required to summon these qualities.
On the other hand, magical medicine is a
collection of rituals, spells, elixirs, and potions that
resemble cookbook recipes. Teir purported efectiveness
results from an established and sequential methodology
that activates their latent properties. Both benevolent and
malevolent practitioners employ magic, but in Calabria it
is also the province of ordinary people. For the inhabitants
of Calabria, until fairly recently, life was a precarious
enterprise, full of dangers at every turn. Magic was one
of many protective strategies people relied upon to ensure
the survival of themselves and their family. Calabrian
magical practices are a pastiche of Egyptian, Greek, and
Roman infuences, and even contain a Roman Catholic
component; some of them (such as malocchio) survive in
Calabria today.
4. Teories: What are the key mechanisms?
Te Calabrian universe is an interconnected whole;
tweaking one part of the fabric is likely to bring about
changes in another part. For example, peasants often
plant according to the phases of the moon. Calabrians
believe that the world is inhabited by a variety of local
spirits as well as by angels, demons, and saints. Tese
beings can be invoked to aid survival, but may also be
hazardous. Appeasing them with prayer and magic is
not seen as sorcery or witchcraft, but as common sense,
or protection. Tese practices are not limited to a small
group of esoteric practitioners but are widely practiced.
Recipes for protective formulae are typically passed on
to younger family members on Christmas Eve or St.
John’s Eve (January 23
rd
), after which time the previous
practitioner stops using the procedure.
Before the arrival of Western biomedicine, a
number of causal mechanisms were advanced for common
ailments. For example, malaria was attributed to sorcery,
the evil eye, evil spirits, eating putrefed vegetables,
consuming too many blackberries, or drinking stagnant
water (Danubio, Piro, & Tagarelli, 1999).
Te use of wire netting, beginning in 1899,
was thought to be an efective mode for preventing
malaria. Calabrians, even physicians, initially suspected
that quinine was addictive (Douglas, 1915/2001). Such
practices are no longer used, and we found no evidence
for their presence in contemporary Calabria.
Although some illnesses, such as malocchio, are
still treated by magical procedures, Calabrians now rely
on the modern medical model to explain the success of
most herbal and animal substances. However, God, Jesus
Christ, the Holy Spirit, Mary, and the saints are given
credit for ostensibly miraculous recoveries. Intercessory
prayer by the aficted person, a friend, or family member
initiates these healings.
Undergirding all of these conditions and practices
is the notion of a “vital force,” resident to all Calabrian and
southern Italian belief systems. Tey claim that this force
can be strengthened or restored in miraculous healings.
It resides in medicinal plants and foods, and is available
through magical rituals. It can also occur naturally, for
example they believe that the vital force is transferred
from a mother to her child during nursing (Binde, 1999).
5. Goals for Interventions: What are the primary goals
of the system?
Te goal of interventions, whether by prayer or the
administration of herbal remedies, is to restore the vital
force of the person who has fallen ill.
6. Outcome Measures: What constitutes a successful
intervention?
An intervention is considered successful if the vital force
has been restored completely or partially. Restoration of
this force allows someone to return to work, participate in
family life, or rejoin community activities.
7. Social Organization: Who uses and who practices
the system?
Calabrian popular medicine is not a unifed set of beliefs
and practices. It has deep roots in the past, but is not a
systematized extension of an ancient religion. Rather, it
is an integral part of a rural peasant economic and social
way of life, highly syncretized with folk Catholicism.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 53 Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
In addition, there are some practitioners of
popular medicine, usually female, who have extensive
knowledge of herbs and are able to treat minor illnesses
(with the exceptions of tuberculosis and malaria). Teir
knowledge is frequently combined with popular magic
and Roman Catholicism. Tese female folk healers are
referred to as maghe while male practitioners are called
maghi. Te “fxers,” or practitioners of magic, are referred
to as fattuchhiere. Many of these practitioners are felt to
have inherited their gifts from their ancestors. Genetics
aside, it is a common practice for mothers to pass on
herbal recipes and other folkloric knowledge to their
daughters.
Some of the maghe, maghi, and fattucchiere
work in altered states of consciousness. Tis may involve
“merging” with their patient’s condition. Practitioners
may involve spirits, especially if they dabble in sorcery.
While in an altered state, a folk healer may be asked to
fnd lost objects, stolen livestock, or determine if a client
has been “bewitched.” However, there is a considerable
overlap of folk healing, sorcery, witchcraft, and religious
ritual.
8. Specifc Activities: What do the practitioners do?
What do they use?
Popular medicine is extremely dependent on herbal
preparations. Its advocates hold that “only death can not
be cured by plants.” Especially popular are plants with
an “anti-thermic” or diuretic efect, such as “embittering
plants” (e.g., bitter pomegranate roots, male fern, wild
olive, oak and willow bark, lupine seeds, sea onions,
ergot of rye, sabina, mustard, and Cajenna (Cayenne)
pepper; De Giacomo, 1899). Popular medicine also
utilizes animal parts; they believe that “nearly every
animal has been discovered to possess some medicinal
property” (Douglas, 1915/2001, p. 71).
Te most popular herbal and animal medicinal
substances include chamomile tea (prescribed for cases
of anxiety), swallows’ hearts, tortoise blood (believed to
strengthen people’s spines) puppy dogs’ hearts (thought
to be especially efective for scrofula), undigested fsh
taken from the stomachs of larger fsh (used for “sea
fever,” sicknesses felt to be due to exposure to the sea),
chamois blood (given to shepherds’ children to enable
them to function at high altitudes), and snake blood
(thought to enhance glandular functioning; Douglas,
1915/2001, pp. 70-71).
Over the years, the treatment of malaria by
popular medicine has included a variety of practices. Tey
ranged from applying witchcraft to overturn a sorcerer’s
spell to such practices as drinking wine infused with the
embers dug out of a fre on St. Lorenzo’s night, using
herbal preparations (e.g., juice from bergamot oranges),
eating a preparation of viper’s head and wormwood,
and tying a variety of supposed curative agents (e.g.,
toads, lizards, nuts) to the area around a patients’ spleen.
Historically, there were regional diferences in popular
practices; in the city of Reggio Calabria, it was common
to have sick people swallow three living bedbugs wrapped
in tissue paper. In Cassano allo Ionio and Bisignano,
folk practitioners had their patients eat cobwebs, drink
their own urine, swallow pulverized insects, or ingest a
preparation made from wine and baked rabbit’s blood.
People living in other areas took great stock in drinking
their own saliva or masticating chunks of tobacco.
Prayers were also used to counter malaria. In Consenza,
for example, Madonna della Febbre (i.e., “Mary of the
Fever”) was frequently petitioned (Genovese, 1924).
Treatment of malocchio runs a wide gamut.
People who accidentally feel resentment or jealousy can
prevent the other person from succumbing to malocchio
by immediately blessing him or her. Another remedy is
to apply a mixture of water, salt, oil, wheat seeds, and
molten lead to a victim. Vulnerable people can take
preventative measures by wearing amulets, such as horns
made of red coral, phallic symbols (e.g., keys, roosters,
snakes, daggers, fsh), a mano fca (a fst), or a mano
cornuta (a horned hand). Some of the amulets thought
to be most efective, are made from silver or tin, and
contain cimaruta, the top of the rye plant. Some large
amulets are shaped as trees with various other symbols
(e.g., horns, suns, moons, fsh, keys, Sacred Hearts) at
the tips of each branch.
Te use of amulets can be attributed to Roman
times, in which women often wore bullae (small bags
flled with phallic-shaped objects) around their necks.
Tese evolved into brevi, small bags flled with rue and
lavender, semi-precious stones, ashes taken from sacred
fres, fowers grown near churches, or images of saints.
Especially valuable components of brevi are stones flled
with iron-rich clay that rattle when shaken. Special brevi
are flled with pietre della gravidanza (pregnancy stones),
pietre del sangre (red-spotted jasper that will stop a wound
from bleeding), and, for protection against sorcery and
witchcraft, brevi flled with pietre stellar (star stones—
polyporic pebbles dotted with tiny star-like spots that
are sometimes carved into crosses and carried with the
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 54 Krippner, Bova, Budden, & Gallante
image of a saint) or legno stregonia (holly twigs carved
into crosses).
Rue is a popular medicinal herb, especially for
the treatment of colic, digestive problems, skin eruptions,
and even sorcery or witchcraft.
9. Responsibilities: What are the responsibilities of the
practitioners, patients, families, and community members?
Even though a sizable proportion of the community may
practice popular medicine, there is a responsibility to
perform it in a skilled manner. Family and community
solidarity is an important value, and this balance must
not be put at risk by an intervention.
10. Scope: How extensive are the system’s applications?
Calabrian popular medicine is still practiced by people
living in rural areas, in the mountains, and by gypsies.
However, it generally focuses on health problems that are
transitory. During our stay in the small town of Roccella
Ionica, we conducted interviews with several of its
inhabitants, inquiring about the “home remedies” they
employ. Te resulting list provided us with contemporary
examples of popular Calabrian medicine.
a. If someone is the victim of malocchio, friends and
family members can address the condition with prayer.
Specialists are needed for more specifc treatment.
Not much can be done to prevent malocchio, but its
diagnosis can be made with a special preparation:
Start with a cup of water. Add fve pinches of salt, and
fve grains of incense. Add pieces of fve palm leaves
that have been blessed by a priest, fve leafs from an
olive tree, and a few embers obtained by burning
twigs from an ash tree. Drop fve pinches of salt into
this concoction; if the salt turns black, the person in
question is the victim of the “evil eye.” An alternative
is to let three drops of olive oil fall into a cup of water;
if the drops separate, the person in question has
malocchio. In both cases, the liquid solution must be
thrown away at a crossroads.
b. To treat small cuts in the skin, boil water, add salt,
wait until the water is tepid, and then apply it to
the skin. If possible, soak the aficted body part in
the salty water for half an hour. Another treatment
is to substitute the section dividers from the reed
plant for the salt. If the cut occurred far from one’s
home while working or playing, urine can be applied
immediately.
c. To treat a recurring cough, put sugar into a foot-
warmer or a similar receptacle. Ask the person with
cough to breathe the fumes, and place a blanket
over his or her head so that the fumes do not escape.
Another remedy is to drink vino cotto (wine that has
not yet fermented). Vino cotto is commonly used in
cooking.
d. For stomach aches, dry the stems of several cherries,
boil them in water, and drink the brew once it cools
down.
e. For the treatment of bronchitis, saturate waxed paper
with olive oil, warm it by placing it near a fre, then
apply the paper to one’s chest. Another treatment is
to boil linen seeds and place them on one’s chest.
f. For second-degree burns, mix olive oil and plaster;
apply it to the burned area of the skin. Later, once
the burned area scabs, substitute strono leaves for
the olive oil and apply.
g. For treating high blood pressure, olive leaves can be
crushed and mixed with water, then imbibed.
h. In the case of a headache, sliced potatoes can be
applied to one’s head and held in place by a headband.
If the headband is soaked in vinegar beforehand,
the treatment is thought to be even more efective.
Linen seeds can be substituted for potatoes.
i. Chamomile tea is frequently used to calm someone
having an anxiety attack.
j. If a baby is constipated, the tip of an oregano stick
coated with human hair or parsley can be carefully
inserted into his or her anus.
k. In the case of recurring dandruf, use soap made
from pig fat, soda, olive oil, and lemon skin.
l. If a mother cannot nurse a baby, and if a substitute
is not available, almond milk is better than cow’s
milk for the baby’s milk bottle. If the baby develops
an intestinal disorder, a solution of water and leaves
from a ruta plant is an efective remedy.
m. When washing clothes, add embers from an ash tree
to the water, even if the clothes are washed in the
river. Tis serves as a disinfectant.
We were told that these remedies are passed
down from person to person, usually from mother to
daughter, as most home practitioners are women. One
informant remarked, “Everybody knows about these
treatments.”
11. Analysis of Benefts and Barriers: What are the risks
and costs of the system?
Prior to Italy’s introduction of free public medicine in
the 1970s, folk medicine was the treatment of choice for
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 55 Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
those who could not aford Western biomedicine, or who
lived in areas where physicians were rarely seen. Since
that time Western biomedicine has become the keystone
of healthcare, though Calabrese maintain their cultural
afnity for folk medicine, prayer, and the enactment of
religious rituals for health and betterment. Older adults
still possess knowledge of folk remedies, and seem to be
willing to use both traditional and Western modalities.
Of course, with respect to malocchio and
witchcraft, there are social risks and costs. As with many
societies, people are often reluctant to address such issues
in the open, even though they may be commonly and
deeply believed. Suspicion of witchcraft or giving evil
eye can carry the price of social stigmatization or even
ostracism. Given increasingly modern and “rational”
attitudes toward these matters, dabbling in these arts
may subject one to epithets like crazy, superstitious,
or backward. Nevertheless, belief in malocchio and
witchcraft are still a powerful undercurrent, even in the
cities. Some will turn to the latter to solve various social
and health related problems, but most tend to keep a
respectful distance.
12. Views of Sufering and Death: How does the system
view sufering and death?
An omnipresent “vital force” is felt to be a substance that
can be lost or gained. Losses lead to illness, weakness,
or death. Gains can be evoked from external sources
that reinvigorate the body. When death occurs, there
is a “transcendence” in which a new body is created,
manifesting itself in a diferent type of “vital force.”
From the perspective of folk magic, sufering
often results from sorcery or witchcraft. From the Roman
Catholic perspective, sufering is part of the human
condition, often representing God’s “test” of one’s faith.
13. Comparison and Interaction with Dominant
System: What does this system provide that the dominant
system does not provide? How does this system interact
with the dominant system?
Tere are several “dominant systems” in Calabria.
Tere is Western biomedicine, the Roman Catholic
Church, and such familial organizations as Mafa and
Camorra (known in Calabria as ‘ndrangheta). Te latter
organizations originated to protect households against
greedy landlords.
Te Feast Day of Saints Cosma and Damian
W
e visited the town of Riace on September 25
to participate in a three-day feast honoring the
Saints Cosma and Damian (Cosimo and Damiano in
Italian). It was also our intention to document gatherings
of Rom (also Roma or Romani) who participate in the
festivities. Te two holy physicians lived in the region of
Cilicia, Turkey in the 4th century CE, and some of their
followers, most of them Byzantine monks, arrived in
Calabria around 1000 CE. According to legend, however,
Cosma and Damian themselves once sailed to an area
near present-day Riace, coming ashore and instructing
a local shepherd to build a church. Another tells of how
the physicians converted to Christianity, much to the
consternation of the Romans who depended upon their
healing ministrations. Te physicians were urged to
drop a few seeds before the statues of the Roman deities,
promising them that this would save them from the
wrath of temple authorities. Cosma and Damian refused
and, as a result, were secretly beheaded in a distant feld.
According to the legend, their faith was so strong that
they picked up their heads with their hands, and walked
several meters singing Christian hymns before they
expired. Tanks to stories of this nature, and subsequent
claims of miraculous healings, they were canonized by
the Vatican.
Te central ritual of the feast is the journey of the
statues of the physician saints, along with a procession
of devotees, from Riace’s Church of San Nicola di
Bari to a smaller church (the Sanctuary of Cosma and
Damian approximately a quarter of a mile away). Te
Church of San Nicola di Bari, where the statues of the
doctor saints Cosma and Damian are housed, is ornately
festooned with vibrantly colored paper called paratu, on
the church’s walls, arches, and ceiling. Parishioners and
devotees enter the church and approach the statues for
blessings. Some brought their children whom they lifted
to touch the base adjoining the efgies. Others came
with ex votos, special devotional replicas of body parts,
made from wax or bread. Tese devotions represent the
parts of the body either healed by the saints, or about
which those believers had prayed to them.
A vendor told us that people requesting a healing
often purchased a replica of the ailing body part. Te
wax efgy would be placed at the feet of the statue as
an ofering. When we asked if there were any wax ex
votos of phalluses, the salesman explained that they were
only made for witchcraft, primarily in coastal cities in
the Locride, and that he did not have any. He did not
remember seeing them, though in his youth, he knew of
witchcraft practices. Te lack of contact with witchcraft
or magical practices was typical in the area, although
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 56 Krippner, Bova, Budden, & Gallante
a member of our group’s family also recalled hearing
about this practice. Someone in our group commented
that perhaps there were no phalluses, because curing
sexual dysfunctions is beyond the purview of the saints.
In any event, the man selling ex votos lamented that too
few people were buying them and that it would likely be
his last year selling them at this feast.
Te statues remain in the Church of San Nicola
di Bari all year, except when they are transported to the
Sanctuary of Saints Cosma and Damian for the duration
of the feast. Te Church of San Nicola di Bari is also
known as Riace’s Matrix church or the Mother church.
Te route between the church and the sanctuary was lined
with booths selling ex votos and other religious items.
During the closing ceremony they are returned
to San Nicola di Bari. While attending a service at the
church, several people placed ex voto oferings at the base
of the statues, and children were positioned at their feet,
or touched them, presumably for blessings or good luck.
A hand carried caravan later took the statues
through the town to their ordained sanctuary, a
smaller church built and named in honor of the saints.
Te procession of the statues through Riace involved
dynamic participation by several thousand parishioners,
devotees of the cult of the saints from other towns, and
Rom who played a visibly distinct and traditionally
separate role in the feast. Parish priests, followed by
church members and volunteers, carried the caravan and
led the procession, which was accompanied by a choir,
brass band, and police. People attending the feast, but
not formal participants in the ceremony,
Rom primarily convened near the sanctuary of
the saints. Since most of the Rom were already assembled
closer to the destination point, they preceded the
assembled procession. One of our photographs clearly
shows a group of Rom at the very head of the procession,
followed by a line of police that separated them from the
other members of the procession (priests, a choral group,
non-Romani community members, and visitors joining
the procession).
Scattered throughout the procession were men
with large wooden stafs, or paranze (singular is paranza).
Te paranza was used in a popular martial art of southern
Italy, especially in Sicily and Calabria, frst seen in the
Middle Ages. Te ancient name for the stick is paranza,
but has evolved to become a sign of command, called
capo bastone, which can be roughly translated as “chief
cane” or “chief stick.” Tis name was transmitted to the
‘Ndrangheta, or Calabrese mafa, in which the holder
of the stick is the capo, or mafa boss (English, 1993). In
the setting of this feast, however, each man holding a
paranza was simply the head of his Rom clan.
One of the Rom explained that his clan
was from Gioia Tauro, a city on the western coast of
Calabria. He mentioned that there would normally be
many more participants from his group, but that many
of his compatriots stayed behind to mourn the death of
a clan elder. Tose that did come to Riace were festively
engaged in the feast. Some were dressed in colorful
costumes, and many danced tarantellas and played
tarantella music on traditional instruments.
Tree instruments that we identifed were the
tamburrello (a type of tambourine), the organetto (a
traditional accordion), and the zampogna (an instrument
very much like a bagpipe, with fve pipes of uneven
length and a double reed).
Te tarantella has Greek origins, apparently
being related to the orgiastic rituals of Dionysus, the god
of wine. Tarantella was also a type of trance performance
used by women as an idiom of psychosocial distress. A
common folk belief about the tarantella is that it was
induced by the bite of the spider Lycosa tarantual. More
recently, it has evolved into a folkloric dance. Te
musicians are known to adapt to the dancers, adjusting the
tempo as it seemed appropriate. Most of the performers
are women, who dance ecstatically until, exhausted,
they collapse (supposedly cured). Tis behavior could be
interpreted as a socially approved outlet for women whose
self-expression and emotional expression is often muted
by local customs. Te dance is also popular among Rom,
whether or not it is attributed to a spider bite (English,
2000). Customs related to this dance must have changed
throughout the course of history, as we saw as many men
dancing as women.
One of the authors (RG) returned to the Riace
feast the following year to further document the role and
customs of Rom at the Riace feast. He interviewed church
and community leaders as well as Roma participants and
flmed the feast procession. Special attention was paid
to the Rom and Sinti (two divisions of the Romani)
dancing the tarantella.
Don Pino Strangio, a priest and church leader
in the province stated, “Te spirituality of the Rom and
the Sinti is simple, immediate as well as very intense. It is
intense in the expression of the various languages and it
is particularly expressed in some moments, among which
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 57 Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
dance is one of the most important. Trough dance they
express the desire to unite with the divinity with their
own body, with their own feelings, with their own being.
Here in Riace the Rom and the Sinti dance in front of
the statues of Cosimo and Damiano to symbolize their
union with the divinity.
In Galante’s short flm, A Devotion with a Dance
Step / Una devozione a passo di danza (Galante, 2007) he
summarized, “the remnants of two ancient cultures, one
farming and one gypsy, once again meet in the sacred
space of devotion. Te spirituality of the Roma people
is simple, immediate and very intense in the expression
of the various languages among which dance and music
are the most important. Trough dance they express the
desire to unite with the divinity, with their own bodies,
their feelings, their own beings. . . . Dance in front of
Saints Cosimo and Damiano is to symbolize their union
with the divinity. Teir language is symbolic, made up
of gestures where the body language prevails over the
verbalism of the prayers.”
Don Pino described some features of Rom and
Sinti devotion including the ofering of their children
to Cosimo and Damiano by raising them as an ofering
to the statues of the saints. Te children are dressed
with the colors used to represent the Saints; blue is the
color representing devotion to Saint Damiano, who was
a chemist, and green is the devotional color for Saint
Cosimo, who was a doctor. Tose who get dressed in
the Saints’ colors want either to release themselves from
a vow or to ask Cosimo and Damiano for a blessing
(Galante, 2007).
Another feature of the Rom spirituality is
expressed through the ofering of locks of hair, especially
for grace and the blessing for marriage or engagement
(Galante, 2007). One Romani’s (Rom’s) invocation
revealed the emotional tensions and hope for her home’s
safety that she brought to her prayer during the feast,
“Oh St. Cosimo that I be able to pay you a visit every
year… frst of all let my daughter walk…secondly, I ask
that you grant me a great favour, you who have already
granted me a great one… Oh St. Cosimo, it is a year that
I do not place a pan on the burner (a custom of the Rom
when there is a death in the family)…To whomever is
responsible for the misfortune of my son, that within the
year they may pay the same price…Remember what they
did to my house…that they never enjoy grandchildren,
that they never enjoy children, that they never enjoy any
of their family ” (Galante, 2007).
Jacopo Arrigotti, an Italian musicologist,
described Riace’s feast of Saints Cosimo and Damiano
as a rite divided into three phases: 1) waiting for the
procession, 2) outgoing procession, and 3) returning
procession. Tree main social groups take part at the rite:
1) the local community, under the guide of the Church;
2) pilgrims coming from the mountains of the hinterland;
and 3) Roma communities, coming from all Calabrian
provinces. Te unique symbol of the saints is then the
pivot for at least three main ritual structures, which are
expressed in a variety of performative activities. Singing
is a priority in pilgrims’ ritual. Te pilgrimage ends in
the main church, in front of the statues. Music-based
performances are the very fnal act of the pilgrimage.
Te Roma community is characterized by
tarantella dancing. Secular dancing is viewed as a vehicle
for social meanings, but also as sacred dance in front of
the saints, which involves altered states of consciousness
(Arrigotti, 2003).
As well, members of the local community of
ethnic Italian Calabrese take on an ancient tradition
using altered states of consciousness. Members of this
group use prayer and dream incubation (in Italian,
l’ incubazio) to commune and communicate with the
saints for healing in the Matrix church the night before
their statues are removed for the procession to the chapel
where they will stay for three days. Tis follows a tradition
“in ancient Rome, at the temple dedicated to Castor and
Pollux, the spot where physicians swore their ethical oath
to Aesculapius, the sick often slept on the foor of the
sanctuary. Te divinity would appear to them in a dream,
either granting them a cure or indicating a healing path.
With the afrmation of Christianity, in place of the
pagan temple, a basilica was erected, dedicated to the
thaumaturgic Saints Cosma and Damiano; in turn, the
ancient cult and its rites became somehow Christianized”
(informant, Galante, 2007).
Te doctor saints Cosma and Damian are
considered to be protectors of the Rom community.
Hence, Romani maintain profound reverence for them,
and passionately participate in the feast. On a wall of
the sanctuary is a beautiful fresco of Zeferino, beatifed
by the Roman Catholic Church to someday be the only
canonized and sainted Rom. Tis permanent image of
a holy Romani added fervor to their activities in the
celebration.
On the day of the procession to the sanctuary,
two members of our group had video cameras. We
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 58 Krippner, Bova, Budden, & Gallante
separated several times, but always found each other.
Going of the main road we went up the side of a hill
where several Rom were waiting. We followed an elderly
woman who spoke of a “short cut” to a local cemetery.
One member of our group spoke in Italian to this Roma
woman, noting that she “crossed” herself whenever our
colleague mentioned the saints. Despite the merchant’s
earlier lamentation about poor sales that year, we observed
numerous ex votos being placed at the feet of the statues
of the saints both while in the church and during the
procession. Te ex votos were removed after just minutes
to accommodate more ex votos.
As the statues in the procession approached their
destination, rambling past the multitude of ex voto booths
on their way to the Sanctuary of Cosma and Damian,
the crowd appeared to be in a frenzy of excitation. Many
Rom played and danced tarantella in the piazza in front
of the sanctuary. We worked our way into the crowded
church while the statues were still in front of the piazza.
At last the statues entered the sanctuary
backwards, allowing Cosma and Damian to face the
processional crowd that accompanied them to it. Te
crowd pulsed with elation in a courtship of the sacred
and the profane, whereby tarantella music and dance
welcomed the statues of the saints to the church. Ex votos
continued to be placed on the statues and were taken of
just as quickly. People continued to lift children up to
the statues while several priests received confessions in as
much “privacy” as a flled sanctuary can ofer.
While this is an ancient rite of a Calabrese
village, there was certainly an international favor to
the day. We met several African priests who were part
of the Church of Nicola di Bari, and who took part in
the procession. Tere were also a number of African
vendors selling wares along the procession route, as well
as many Afghans, some of whom we met, living in the
town sanctuary.
In his book, Old Calabria, generally regarded as
one of the fnest travel books in the English language,
Norman Douglas (1915/2001) commented that “A
foreigner is at an unfortunate disadvantage; if he asks
questions, he will only get answers dictated by suspicion
or a deliberate desire to mislead” (p. 72). At the same
time, Douglas felt that Calabrians were the “ideal prey
for the quack physician; they will believe anything so
long as it is strange and complicated” (p. 73). Insofar
as the clergy are concerned, Douglas added, “they can
keep people at a consistently low level of intelligence” (p.
73), and “the intense realism of their religion is what still
keeps it alive for the poor in spirit” (p. 74). Nevertheless,
Douglas felt that the land itself had healing properties.
He wrote, “A landscape so luminous, so resolutely
scornful of accessories hints at brave and simple forms of
expression; it brings us to the ground where we belong; it
medicines to the disease of introspection” (p. 333).
Our experiences in Calabria, these many
decades since Douglas’ writing, indicate that the same
quaint picture of the land and its people cannot be
painted. We found that Calabrians embraced ancient
rites and traditions but also were adaptive to embrace
the infux of modernization and social change. Locals
we met were extremely hospitable and keen to inform
us about the more obscured aspects of their surviving
traditions, and as well, many were informed about issues
of their country and world.
Te Shrine of Madonna dello Scoglio
D
uring our 2003 sojourn through southern Italy,
we paid two visits to the Madonna dello Scoglio
shrine at Santa Domenica di Placanica in the hilly coastal
region of Eastern Calabria. We had heard of Fratel
Cosimo, who leads a grass-roots spiritual community in
the area, and who has gained an international reputation
as a devout visionary. During our visits, we attended two
evening worship sessions and were able to meet Cosimo
and interview several members of his volunteer staf and
congregation.
Cosimo Fragomeni was born in 1950. From
an early age, he was a dedicated Roman Catholic. As a
boy, he was frail and sufered frequent bouts of illness.
Nevertheless, his faith endured as he continued a pious
life, punctuated with hermitic periods in the nearby hills.
At the age of 18, Cosimo reported four visions in which
the Virgin Mary, standing on a rock or scoglio, appeared
to him. During the frst of these visions, in 1968, the
Madonna instructed him to build a shrine at its current
location “to bring people closer to God.”
Fratel Cosimo is thought by local informants to
be spiritual heir of San (Saint) Pio as Fratel Cosimo’s
Marian visions started in 1968, only months before Padre
Pio died. Saint Pio, was a priest popularly known as Padre
Pio from Campagna, another region of southern Italy
who was acclaimed for his spiritual gifts that included
stigmata, healings, prophecy, and bilocation. He died in
1968 and was canonized in 2002 by the Vatican.
Several informants showed their afnity with
Saint Pio to members of our group when we were
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 59 Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
invited into their homes. One elderly woman wore a
gold pendant of Saint Pio; another elderly woman had
a needlework portrait (approximately 4’ by 4’) of Saint
Pio which she proudly hung over her bed. A woman in
her 30’s had an altar in her house devoted to Saint Pio.
Shortly thereafter, Cosimo began building this shrine,
which he named Madonna dello Scoglio (Madonna of
the Rock), using funds from local donations. Cosimo also
began to lead prayer and devotional sessions for pilgrims
who placed their faith in his visionary experiences and
messages. Cosimo had little formal education and no
seminary training or even Bible study; however, he was
admitted to the lay order of the Franciscan brothers and
was given the title of “Fratel.”
In the following years, the shrine grounds and
facilities have been expanded to accommodate increasing
numbers of pilgrims. A foundation has been established
to channel donations into projects to expand the shrine.
Most saliently we noticed the simplicity of the shrine’s
angular construction (made from concrete and sheet
metal), and the spartan nature of the pews, which were
plastic chairs arranged into linear rows, with gravel aisles.
Te focal point of the shrine is the Madonna dello Scoglio
itself: a life-sized white marble statue of Mary set within
a rock that is roughly 12 feet (about 3.6 meters) high.
Here, supplicants come to pray and touch the sacred rock
through the metal fencing in which it is immured.
A small chapel with a slender spire sits just to the
side of the shrine. A highlight of this chapel is a stunning
painting of the Madonna that follows Fratel Cosimo’s
description. Apparently, the artist had painted the body
of the Madonna according to the suggestions given him
by Fratel Cosimo and was about to begin with the face,
but he found himself unable to paint it. He claimed that
he was blocked from further work. He put the painting
aside, but when he re-embarked with a new canvas he
still could not depict the face. Discouraged after a third
attempt, he consulted Fratel Cosimo who replied, “Don’t
worry, the Madonna will think of it.” Te following
morning Cosimo came back and found the painting
completed. However, the artist denied having worked
on it during the previous evening, concluding that it was
Heaven’s work. In any event, the resulting painting is
regarded as an object of special devotion.
We were told that Fratel Cosimo and a
community of about 60 volunteers preside over bi-
weekly devotional services that attract anywhere from
several hundred to over one thousand pilgrims. Special
Masses are held from June to October, and we were
informed that nearly 50,000 people attended a special
Mass in May 2003. During the winter months, services
at the shrine begin at 3:00pm, and during the summer at
4:30pm. Te average service lasts about four hours and
involves singing, praying, recitation of the rosary, and
testimonies, and concludes with a sermon and prayer
from Cosimo.
During the early part of the service, Cosimo
holds private meetings with 100 individuals, 90 of
whom have scheduled an appointment by phone, and
the remaining 10 of whom are chosen by lottery at the
shrine. An ecclesiastical visitor attended during one of
our visits, whom we were told came for another religious
ceremony in the neighborhood. By chance, we found
out that the honored ecclesiastical guest was staying
at our hotel, which gave us an opportunity to tell him
about Fratel Cosimo. Tey had a personal meeting the
day before the service, after which the guest expressed
his conviction that Fratel Cosimo did indeed lead a
mystical life, which is why he came to the following
day’s service. Fratel Cosimo’s superiors in the Roman
Catholic Church have forbidden him from conducting
formal “healing” sessions, but he is allowed to pray with
aficted individuals.
Indeed, Fratel Cosimo does not claim to be a
“healer,” nor is healing the focus of his work. Rather, the
core of his message, as relayed to us by several members
of his congregation, is that one must “open one’s heart
to Christ,” which is best done through prayer. Of central
importance is the belief that spiritual growth is more
important than physical healing; if physical healing
follows, it is a sign of the deeper “miracle” in one’s
heart. Regardless, many people come to Madonna dello
Scoglio to seek help for physical ailments and relief from
emotional distress.
Sufering seems to be a prominent theme in
Cosimo’s sermons as he contends that it is an important
part of spiritual growth. He points out the sufering of
Jesus and the sorrow of Mary, both of which brought
light to the world. He asks his followers to make changes
in their hearts through the endurance of their own
sufering. Often, he alludes to his own trials in God’s
work, such as spending time with distressed pilgrims.
We noticed that Cosimo often shed tears as he led the
congregation in prayer and reciting the rosary.
Another feature of this community is its un-
dogmatic approach to belief and practice, a factor that
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 60 Krippner, Bova, Budden, & Gallante
attracted criticism from Roman Catholic ofcials. Fratel
Cosimo’s “doctrine” does attend to the conventional
roles of Mary, Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
However, as described by a member of the community,
Mary is seen as an intermediary “who takes you by the
hand to God.” Another depiction of Mary was as the
“temple of God.” Congregants pointed out that Cosimo
is not dogmatic in his approach. Rather, he emphasizes
prayer as the primary vehicle for opening oneself to God
beyond ritual prescriptions. Although the ritual activities
at Madonna dello Scoglio are in accord with Roman
Catholic practice, they are much less formal.
2
Some of our informants expressed their
attraction to Cosimo and to his brand of simplicity. Teir
enthusiasm bespoke a kind of “getting down to the basics”
devotion, something they found liberating. For example,
we chatted with a couple from Switzerland, “Hans” and
“Bertha,” who frequently visited Madonna dello Scoglio.
Hans expressed his enthusiasm for worshipping at the
shrine because in his daily life as a corporate executive,
he could not discuss his spiritual feelings and beliefs with
his colleagues. For him, coming to the shine was like
“breaking out of the cage of mundane everyday life.”
Moreover, his wife professed that she was a “tried and
true Protestant,” yet, for her, Fratel Cosimo’s message
transcended the division between denominations despite
a Catholic bias. As a result, she now prefers to simply
refer to herself as “a Christian.”
Following Cosimo’s sermons, congregants
typically lined up in procession, often with their children,
to receive his blessings. At these times we noticed that
many congregants, mainly women, would beckon
aloud for his attention, excitedly calling his name,
and sometimes waving their hands or scarves, eager to
make eye contact with him or receive some gesture of
acknowledgment.
Occasionally, we witnessed individuals collapse
on the ground, mildly convulsing. According to René
Laurentin (1988), the French theologian well known for
his expertise of visionary and supernatural phenomenon,
these collapses are probably a sign of the “Holy Spirit’s”
work in those people, some of whom attest to experiences
of deep liberation. Te phenomenon difers from mere
hysterical collapse, which can also occur. It was apparent
that the majority of congregants adored Fratel Cosimo
and that many of them were deeply moved by this
physical presence and proximity as well as by his public
messages. Cosimo, however, eschewed any sense of
celebrity, instead projecting pronounced meekness and
piety, one of sincerity of purpose in his dedication to the
Divine.
Tis type of relationship is suggestive of
Cosimo’s public role as a charismatic leader. Charles
Lindholm (1992) has described charisma simply as “a
certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of
which he or she is considered extraordinary and treated
as endowed with special power or at least specifcally
exceptional powers or qualities” (p. 289). Te notion of
charisma also embodies a sense of intensifed emotion
and excitement, the extreme case evidenced in the
euphoric episodes we witnessed. Cosimo did not engage
in any ecstatic or overtly manipulative behavior that we
noticed; however, he was certainly viewed by congregants
as a truly exemplary person, blessed with divine powers.
In this regard, Cosimo does not resemble the
stereotypical charismatic leader. Rather, his charismatic
properties emanate, arguably, from his embodiment
of central Catholic values and imagery. His personage
also encompasses the metaphorical image of Mary
“the nurturing mother,” with whom he has a history of
visionary experiences. Some congregants told us about
Cosimo’s reputed ability to bi-locate. Tese rumors, as
well as the many reported healings associated with the
shrine, add to his reputation as a vessel for the Divine.
Although we found no adequate scientifc or
clinical data supporting the healing phenomena, these
stories are prevalent in the lore surrounding Fratel Cosimo
and Madonna dello Scoglio. Many people that pray and
consult privately with Cosimo appear to achieve some
degree of emotional comfort and alleviation of distress.
Because psychological dispositions are concomitant in
somatic states, the “lifting” of distress can have positive
physical afects, and vise versa.
Bertha told us that she has collected several cases
of healings attributed to the Madonna. Two of these
involved severe medically diagnosed heart disease. One
case was a boy with a deformed spinal column. Another
was a woman whose mental condition had not responded
to 13 years of psychotherapy. One was a woman with
multiple sclerosis who is now able to walk.
3
Te fnal case
was a personal friend of Bertha’s, a man who had been
injured in a ftness center. Allegedly, he made a complete
recovery following a visit to the shrine.
During the frst of our two visits to the shrine,
a member of our group “won” the lottery and was able
to meet privately with Fratel Cosimo. He talked with
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 61 Indigenous Healing Tradition in Calabria, Italy
Cosimo about his daughter who was sufering from a
congenital disease, and also asked Cosimo to bless a
medal of St. Christopher. Our colleague was dealing
with his own health problems at the time and when he
mentioned this, Cosimo gave him a personal blessing.
After the meeting, our colleague was tearful but
expressed a sentiment of deep relief. Six months later, his
health problem had become more severe but eventually
stabilized. His daughter’s condition steadily improved
and she became pregnant after being told by her medical
specialists she would not be able to have children of her
own because of ovarian failure due to chemotherapy. He
also related that his niece had taken the St. Christopher’s
medal to her boyfriend’s father who was hospitalized for
a terminal disease. Apparently, he began to feel better
after receiving the medal, and the nurses were surprised
by his rebound. However, this improvement was only
temporary.
Te growing visibility and popularity of Fratel
Cosimo and his work at Madonna dello Scoglio can
be examined with respect to the broader issues of
modernization and social change in Calabria. Te region
is one of the poorest in Italy, and has only recently
embraced modernization. We often heard complaints
from adults and elderly people in the small villages of
the Calabrian interior, that young people were moving
to coastal towns and cities marked by better jobs and
“more action.” We also learned that new immigrants were
arriving illegally in Calabria from Eastern Europe, Africa,
and South Asia. Tese changes, among others, contribute
to the escalating uncertainties and anxieties about life,
family, and community, and about the changing ideas
and practices that new populations entail.
New religious movements often play a signifcant
role in allowing people to fnd ways to cope with the
changes that immigration catalyzes. Te Madonna dello
Scoglio is not a new religious movement, but may be best
seen as a Christian renewal, deeply rooted in traditional
Catholic faith. On the one hand, it ofers a strong
and growing spiritual following that is reinvigorating
community and communal networks in the face of the
fragmentation of traditional communal life. On the other
hand, belief, practice, and faith alone remain familiarly
and intelligibly Catholic, yet also have been disassembled
and recreated into a more simplifed system in a resonant
and relevant form.
One possible interpretation points to the
emphasis that Cosimo places on sufering, devotion,
and transformation. Cosimo and his message exemplify
these pillars of the human experience: that sufering is
important for spiritual growth, prayer is the vehicle for
opening one’s heart, and transformation and healing are
the potential results of prayer. Tese are basic themes
in the lives of people amidst change, and Cosimo
embodies them, possibly in ways not articulated in
mainstream venues of religious practice. Te fact that
Roman Catholic authorities in the Vatican do not
recognize Cosimo as a visionary has not impeded the
growth of the community. Rather, we got the sense that
the immediacy and relevance of interacting with Fratel
Cosimo was a signifcant attraction for the congregants
at the shrine.
After both of our visits to Madonna dello Scoglio,
we were fortunate to be included in a small group of
people who were invited to have a private audience with
Cosimo. On one occasion, he blessed a crucifx worn
by a member of our group. He began to weep, saying
that he was aware that the owner of the crucifx endured
considerable sufering. On the other occasion, he was
told that a member of our group visited and wrote about
folk healers and visionaries in various parts of the world.
He asked, “Did you fnd that these people had anything
in common?” Our colleague responded, “Tey all spoke
of the common bonds that unite humanity, despite their
diferent worship practices.” Fratel Cosimo immediately
replied, “Tat is my belief as well.”
Edward Lear, the humorist, was a notable
visitor who adored Calabria. He wrote, “No sooner is the
word uttered than a new world arises before the mind’s
eye—torrents, fastness, all the prodigality of mountain
scenery—caves, brigands..., horrors and magnifcence
without end” (in Noland, 2001, p. 69). Our group found
communion with Lear’s comments, especially after
interviewing townspeople who still practice folkloric
healing, participating in the Feast Day of Cosimo and
Damian, and spending two evenings with Fratel Cosimo.
Perhaps the land itself is the origin of the healing for
which the folkloric remedies and religious rituals are
credited.
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World Health Organiation. (2003). Traditional medicine
fact sheet updated by WHO. Alternative Terapies in
Health and Medicine, 9(5), 21.
Notes
1. Tis investigation was supported by the Chair for
the Study of Consciousness, Saybrook Graduate
School and Research Center, San Francisco, CA.
2. Upon our return to the United States, a member of
our group found Fratel Cosimo listed on a website
titled, “Dangers of False Apparitions,” apparently
put together by a devoted but conservative Roman
Catholic “defender of the faith.”
3. Te woman left her wheelchair in a special room at
the shrine that houses reminders of the previously
disabling conditions of worshippers.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 63 Why Altered States Are Not Enough
Why Altered States Are Not Enough:
A Perspective from Buddhism

Transpersonal psychology has at times employed Buddhist terminology in ways that do not
refect distinctions that underlie these tightly defned terms. From a Buddhist perspective,
attempts to equate Buddhist terms with language from other traditions are misdirected, and
produce results that no longer represent Buddhism. For example, it is an error to translate
certain Buddhist terms as referring to a shared universal consciousness; Buddhism explicitly
rejects this idea. Nor is it appropriate to assume that the generic, cross-traditional altered
state of nondual awareness postulated in some transpersonally-related circles is in any way
related to nirvana or other advanced states described within Buddhism. Buddhist practices
are focused on the achievement of particular knowledge and capacities, not the attainment
of altered states.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 63-68
Igor Berkhin
International Dzogchen Community
Donetsk, Ukraine
Glenn Hartelius
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Palo Alto, CA, USA
Transpersonal psychology draws on many
Buddhist ideas, but it is troubling to note that many of
these references represented as authentically Buddhist are
in fact superfcial or distorted representations of Buddhist
theory. As a Buddhist practitioner of more than 20 years,
and now also a teacher of Buddhist methods within the
International Dzogchen Community, the frst author
respectfully ofers that if the transpersonal feld wishes
to present ancient knowledge in a modern context, it
needs to take more care than it currently does in order
not to misrepresent that knowledge. Tis paper will
outline some of the misconceptions of Buddhist thought
within transpersonalism, a concern that has already been
raised within the feld itself (Friedman, 2009, 2010).
In addition, it will ofer some traditionally informed
comments about several Buddhist concepts.
A frequently-encountered misconception with-
in transpersonalism, one that is common to most of the
critiques ofered here, is that Buddhism is a single, uniform
tradition that can be grasped and defned from outside.
Another related error is that its terms have simple, singular
defnitions that can be equated with concepts from other
very diferent traditions or with ideas propounded within
transpersonal psychology itself. In contrast with this
tendency to homogenize and universalize, this paper
presents the Buddhist views of a single practitioner and
teacher located within a particular school of Buddhist
teaching and practice. Even though this discourse is
traditionally informed, its perspectives would likely meet
with debate rather than consensus if presented within any
given Buddhist sangha, or community.
Speaking from this very particular standpoint,
then, it is possible to say that one profound diference
between Buddhism and transpersonal psychology is
that the latter seems to have a strong emphasis on non-
ordinary states of consciousness and their transformative
efect on the psyche (e.g., Garcia-Romeau, 2010; Grof,
Grob, Bravo, & Walsh, 2008; Maslow, 1969; Tart, 2008).
By contrast, in all Buddhist traditions of which I have
any knowledge, the cognitive aspect of mind is of utmost
importance. A state of consciousness, whether ordinary
or non-ordinary, can have a completely diferent value
depending on what is cognized while one is in that state.
Because of its emphasis on altered states rather than
cognitive content, transpersonal psychology frequently
misinterprets Buddhist concepts and methods.
Because Buddhism focuses on the importance of
precise and accurate cognitive content, Buddhist teachings
are replete with distinctions, large and small. Important
teachers such as Nagarjuna or Padmasambhava paid great
attention to explaining the errors in diferent categories
of Buddhist thought because correct understanding is
Keywords: transpersonalism, altered states, Buddhism, Dzogchen, nonduality
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 64 Berkhin & Hartelius
extremely subtle and intangible, and it is only through
gaining a deep understanding of the teachings that these
difculties become clear. Yet this exposition of wrong
views is not carried out in order to denigrate the ideas of
others, but in order to discover one’s own mistakes—errors
that tend to be typical for all humans regardless of whether
or not they claim to follow Buddhadharma (Namkhai
Norbu, 1998; Namkhai Norbu & Clemente, 1999).
Much of transpersonalism—like theosophy
before it, and very unlike Buddhism—apparently wishes
to imagine that all great spiritual traditions lead to the
same attainment (Wilber, 1975, 2000). Scholars within
this community seem to feel free to make comparisons
between diverse traditions after simply reading some
papers and texts pertaining to those traditions and
perhaps practicing a few meditative techniques, without
having a thorough lineage-based training and grounding
in any of the paths that are considered. Evident diferences
are apparently ignored or explained as insignifcant or
as artifacts of cultural conditioning. Wisdom that has
been culturally conditioned may have value within the
transpersonal world, but not so within Buddhism.
From within Buddhism, it is the frst author’s
view that traditions cannot be reconciled, and that
attempts to do so create results that can no longer be
considered traditional. Such eforts at homogenizing
spiritual paths must be clearly distinguished from
what His Holiness the Dalai Lama is doing: he is not
working to reconcile diferent traditions, but to turn
the followers of diferent religions toward the common
human experience of compassion, thus pacifying the
aggressive tendencies of human minds. Nor can diferent
spiritual traditions be equated. Starting with Buddha
Shakyamuni himself, most important Buddhist teachers
have said that Buddhadharma has very special and highly
important wisdom that other traditions do not have (a
number of Buddhist teachers have also acknowledged
that some realizations in other traditions are not that
radically diferent).
One of the most distinctive errors within the
transpersonal world is the efort to interpret the idea of
universal consciousness in Buddhist terms. Te idea that
there is some subconscious or unconscious mind or spirit
common to all beings, or at least all humans, is never
found in Buddhist texts of any tradition, except in the
context where such an idea is explicitly refuted. Such a
concept contradicts the Buddhist principle of karma,
because if humans all share the same consciousness then
each time any individual performed an action, every
person in the world would experience the exact same
results from that action, just as if they themselves had
acted in that way.
Within Buddhism, that which is common or
shared among humans is not consciousness or mind or
spirit, but what is called karmic vision, which refers to
the fact that despite having individual minds, humans
have shared perceptions of the sun, of mountains, music,
voices, smells, and so on. It is true that within Buddhism
there is a meditative experience referred to as all is
consciousness. Tis does not constitute an awakening to
some universal mind, but instead represents a transient
state of a deluded mind. Even though some Buddhist
teachers use terms such as single mind or unique mind,
these refer to the fact that all phenomena manifesting
to our perceptions are contained within our own mind:
there is no separation between the observing mind and
the mind that is observed. Not even buddhas share
the same mind. Although dharmakaya is explained as
an enlightened mind that is the same for all buddhas,
sameness here means that its potential qualifcations are
equal for all buddhas; it does not mean that there is one
single dharmakaya that all buddhas share.
In transpersonal circles the Buddhist term
alaya-vijnana (Sanskrit) is at times translated in a way
that suggests a universal mind; however, this term
means ground-consciousness, and does not refer to
universal consciousness at all, but to a strictly individual
consciousness that stores all impressions and karmic
traces. Similarly, when a Dzogchen practitioner speaks
about discovering the alaya (Tibetan, kun-gzhi), the
all-ground of all dharmas, dharmas should not be
understood as objectively existing phenomena of the
outer world, but as qualia, as events within individual
experience.
As an example of the diference between (some)
transpersonal and Buddhist notions of mind, consider
the Christian and Vedic concepts of scripture. In these
cultures there is the idea that all knowledge is contained
in certain written texts. Tese texts are available to
everyone, so that anyone can extract reliable knowledge
from this single common source. Te transpersonal idea
of a shared subconscious or unconscious follows very
much along this model, and can be used to explain why
a person in a transpersonal state can discover knowledge
that has no obvious physical source, or seems to come
from someone else’s mind even if that person is separated
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 65 Why Altered States Are Not Enough
in both space and time. Te Buddhist concept of mind is
more consistent with the structure of the internet. While
at a superfcial glance the worldwide web appears to be a
single database accessible to all, it is in fact a network of
separate data storage systems, and every single datum is
store not on the internet as a whole but on some individual
server or computer. Each datum can be transferred from
one storage site to another only if there is a specifc
connection between those two discrete sites that includes
both a physical link and compatible software. In a
quite similar way, for Buddhism minds are individual;
karmic connections can be established through certain
coincidences, and without such a connection no transfer
of knowledge between persons is possible, whether
conscious, subconscious, or unconscious.
Along the same line of thought is the recently-
fourishing transpersonal term nonduality (Blackstone,
2006, 2007; Prendergast, Fenner, & Krystal, 2003).
However, here again Buddhist thought demands careful
distinctions that appear to be largely absent from
transpersonal thought. Tere are many diferent kinds
of meditative and cognitive non-dual experiences—that
is, experiences that do not explicitly involve feeling that
subject and object are separate entities—and in Buddhism
these various kinds of experience are delineated in
careful and articulate terms. Some of these are no more
than transient states of what Buddhism would classify as
a deluded mind. Others, though of value, are far from
the realization of nirvana. For example, an emptiness
where the separation between subject and object is
neither felt nor thought is not yet the non-duality of
dharmakaya. Similarly, the non-duality of absolute truth
and relative truth as explained in sutras must be wholly
distinguished from the non-duality of fve wisdoms and
eight consciousnesses that is explained in higher tantras,
and both of these are distinct from the non-duality of
calm state and movement taught in Dzogchen. Light
for the Eyes of Contemplation (Tibetan, bSam-gtan
Mig-sgron) is an encyclopedic work from the 9
th
century
CE by Sangye Yeshi that presented the major Buddhist
traditions practiced in Tibet at that time; within this work
is a profound treatise on diferent kinds of non-duality in
both Indian and Chinese mahayana, in vajrayana higher
tantras, and in Dzogchen atiyoga.
Tus, for Buddhism, the term non-duality is
used in a considerable number of discrete and precise
ways, each of which must be understood within its
own context. By contrast, some transpersonal uses of
the term seem to take the concept of non-duality as
license to eschew careful distinctions, to uncritically
meld together concepts that deserve precise defnition
and diferentiation, and to confate within a single
theoretical ultimate a variety of states that may well
include certain transitory experiences of a deluded mind
(e.g., Blackstone, 2006, 2007; Krystal, 2003; Wilber,
2000).
Tis latter point represents a foundational
contrast between Buddhism and transpersonal thought
mentioned earlier, namely a diference in attitude toward
extra-ordinary states of mind. When an individual takes
LSD or goes into a fotation tank, it is quite possible
to experience states of mind that are hardly accessible
in normal life. It is tempting and attractive to suggest
that these states are the same as those experienced by
adept practitioners of Indian yoga, Tibetan vajrayana, or
Chinese Taoism. Such claims seem reasonable in that the
basic potentiality of all humans ought to be more or less
the same. Yet even if one were to grant equivalency to
these drug- or deprivation-induced non-ordinary states—
unlikely if only because the number of possible states
understood and described within Buddhism makes the
chances of such equivalency quite small—the meaning
of these induced states, in terms of the knowledge or
capacity obtained, can be completely diferent.
For Buddhist thought, states of mind are not
objective realms that exist independently of an individual,
to be entered and accessed like some scriptural repository
of knowledge. Rather, states of mind are events that
are inseparable from their meanings, their results. So,
if two instances of the same state of mind have two
very diferent results, then saying that they were really
the same state of mind is pointless. To illustrate this
diference, consider that from ancient times thousands
of individuals watched an apple fall from a tree, but only
Newton discovered gravity. Because of its result, this
event was profoundly diferent in meaning from any
watching of falling apples that came before. In Buddhist
terms, it is meaningless to equate Newton’s experience
with those of his predecessors. Te event cannot somehow
be abstracted from its result, and then categorized with
other events that had superfcial similarities, but very
diferent results. An ecstatic drug-induced state of mind
devoid of any increased knowledge or capacity has more
in common with getting drunk and having sex with a
stranger than it does with the attainments of spiritual
practitioners.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 66 Berkhin & Hartelius
Even within spiritual practice, a particular event
can result in diferent meanings. In Tibetan Buddhism
there is an important training that enables the practitioner
to understand how one event can give rise to completely
diferent meanings. It refers, for example, to studying
diferent kinds of so called “phylosophycal views” related
to various Buddhist systems (Namkhai Norbu 1998;
Namkhai Norbu & Clemente, 1999; see especially his
quotations from the above-referenced 9
th
century work
by Sangye Yeshi). Te purpose of this training is to
teach discernment, to recognize that all the diferent
possible meanings that arise from an event are limited,
and how adherence to a particular meaning can block
a practitioner from moving forward on the path to real
knowledge that will result in liberation from sufering.
In general, Buddhism does not value special
states of mind as having transformative functions. Unlike
transpersonal psychology, Buddhism does not believe
that deep meditative experiences as such can make people
into better, kinder, more tolerant humans. Tey can shift
the focus of attention and change the circumstances of
one’s life, just as any other everyday event, but profound
changes come about through meanings, not through
events. An extra-ordinary state can bring attention to
the fact that the world is not limited to material things,
and thus prompt a re-evaluation of one’s life, but it can
as easily go by and leave no trace.
Buddhist practice is thus designed to cultivate
meanings rather than events. Tese are facilitated by
factors such as moment-by-moment awareness of one’s
condition, maintaining hold on particular knowledge,
controlling intentions, and the impact from teachers or
supportive friends who are also on the path. Moreover,
Buddhist practice is designed to cultivate very particular
meanings. Buddhist meditative techniques alone can
be used in the service of quite diferent meanings.
For example, taken out of the context of compassion
(meaning), techniques that lead to deep levels of
consciousness (events) can be applied in the context of
military training (new meaning) and serve in the creation
of highly efcient soldiers capable of setting aside their
normal human feelings and acting ruthlessly—a result
wholly at odds with the Buddhist meaning.
To the degree that transpersonal psychology
trusts in the defnitively transformative function of
transformative experiences per se, this seems a course
fraught with risk. Te numerous fnancial and sexual
scandals and instances of abuse of power associated with
leaders of communities that cultivate powerful state-
shifting practices serve as a sobering challenge to the
position that extra-ordinary experiences are sufcient
to produce positive transformation. Separated from the
Buddha, no Buddhist meditative technique leads to the
state of a Buddha.
Te diference between a Buddhist and a
transpersonal attitude toward non-ordinary states can
perhaps be illustrated with a consideration of how
each relates to the phenomenon of dreaming. For
transpersonalists, as for Jungians, the dream state seems
to be understood as one in which some deeper mind
is communicating in a coded way with the rational
mind, revealing truths that might otherwise never
be uncovered. Here again is a belief that information
arising from some alternate state of mind is somehow
superior to that which is available to cultivated waking
awareness.
To the Buddhist, the standard psychological
process of dream interpretation perpetuates unhelpful
patterns of the mind, a problem that no insight thus
gleaned is likely to outweigh. Dream interpretation
takes place in waking consciousness, after the dream
has ended, in a dialectical process that mirrors the
uncultivated waking mind. As soon as the mind has
experienced something, it begins to tell itself what it
has just experienced. For example, as soon as I taste
something very pleasant, I immediately start to explain
to myself that what I feel is pleasant. But this action
of thinking is also an event, so now my mind has two
events to respond to, and so on in ever more complicated
rhythms that draw me farther and farther from the
meaning that was embodied within the actual event.
It is in just this way that dream interpretation,
rather than illuminating messages from a deep inner
wisdom, actually draws the individual farther and
farther from the meaning that lived within the dream as
the dream. For the dream consists of meanings the mind
already has, meanings that are immediately projected as
visible dream events. If I can bring this understanding
into the dream state, I can notice that all appearances
within the dream are not diferent from my thought of
them. Te meaning and the dream event are two aspects
of one and the same phenomenon, rather than an event
that then has to be be given meaning by thinking about
it and explaining it within the waking mind.
Lucid dreamers work to stabilize dreams by
transferring the analytical mind into the dream state,
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 67 Why Altered States Are Not Enough
and thus enjoying all the illusory possibilities of the
dream state and the strong sensations that go with them.
However entertaining this may be, from a Buddhist
perspective such an approach is not fruitful, and such
a process is not what is meant by suggesting that the
understanding of the nature of dreaming be brought
into the dream state. Te goal of dream-yoga in Tibetan
vajrayana, for example, is quite diferent than either lucid
dreaming or dream interpretation: through discovering
the illusory nature of dreams, one obtains experiential
knowledge that there is no diference between mind and
appearances (Namkhai Norbu, 2002). Appearances are
themselves mind. Tis knowledge is then transferred
to the wakeful state, so that through the experiences
of perception, the processes of the mind itself can be
carefully observed. It is through this attentive waking
practice, and not through the power of any sort of non-
ordinary states, that transformation occurs.
If an individual has at least a minimal capacity
to notice the arising of thoughts and emotions in the
mind, then change can begin. It is possible to notice, for
example, that if attention is kept continuously on any
emotion that arises, that emotion will quickly disappear.
Te emotion may appear again, but through direct
observation it will disappear again. If the emotional
background is very strong, then the emotion may appear
frequently—but with diligent application of observation,
this background will subside and fnally disappear.
Te typical challenges to be overcome in applying this
method are: inability to directly notice one’s emotions,
being instead distracted by the fow of mental images
or bodily sensations produced by the emotion, and
inability to maintain attention directly on the emotion.
Every aspect of this process requires focus, attention,
discernment, and wakefulness, and is not in any way
reliant on extra-ordinary states of mind. From the
perspective of Buddhism, it is this sort of keen-minded
process, carried out in the context of compassion that
a Buddhist teacher and/or community holds, that leads
toward the extinction of sufering.
It is gratifying to see the transpersonal
community’s healthy interest in spirituality in general,
and in Buddhism in particular. No doubt many
transpersonalists have had very real and meaningful
experiences. However, the ways in which certain
Buddhist terminology has been misappropriated leads
to the suggestion that the feld needs to follow up its
enthusiasm with more careful and detailed study of the
distinctions made within Buddhist teachings. It would
be unfortunate if the movement became associated with
superfcial understandings of the traditions that it seeks
to emulate: if transpersonal Buddhism or yoga or Taoism
or shamanism came to signify shallow and popularized
reductions of those traditions, versions which allowed
would-be students of spiritual work to have various sorts
of transient experiences which were then infated to
equality with the attainments of long-term, traditionally
trained spiritual practitioners.
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About the Authors
Igor Berkhin studied linguistics at Moscow State
University, and holds the equivalent of a Master’s degree
from Donetsk State University, where he also served on
the faculty of mathematics specializing in mathematical
analysis and theory of functions. When the Soviet Union
came to an end in 1991, he served as an English-Russian
translator for teachers of various Buddhist traditions who
were entering the former USSR, traditions that included
seon (zen), gelug, karma and shangpa kagyu, nyingma,
bon, and others. In the 1990s he studied Ch’an-Mi
Ch’i-kung both in Ukraine and China and taught at the
college of religious studies of Donetsk Open University.
Starting in 1996 he undertook studies with Chogyal
Namkhai Norbu within the International Dzogchen
Community (www.dzogchen.it), whose work he has
been translating into Russian. He is now authorized by
Chogyal Namkhai Norbu to be an instructor of Santi
Maha Sangha, a global program for preserving Dzogchen
teaching. Since 2002 he has taught more than 100
seminars on Buddhist teaching and practice in Ukraine,
Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech, Slovakia, Hungary,
Italy, Venezuela, and Bulgaria. He may be contacted at
igor.berkhin-at-gmail.com.
Te fve short papers that informed this article
are available in their original form online:
http://igorberkhin.org/eng/congress2010_1.pdf
http://igorberkhin.org/eng/congress2010_2.pdf
http://igorberkhin.org/eng/congress2010_3.pdf
http://igorberkhin.org/eng/ijts_1.pdf
http://igorberkhin.org/eng/ijts_2.pdf
Glenn Hartelius, PhD, is Assistant Professor at the
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto,
CA, and secretary of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te focus of his research is in the areas
of transpersonal theory, somatic phenomenology,
participatory philosophy, and consciousness studies. He
teaches seminars internationally in Attention Dynamics®,
an attentional training program for the development
of focused and empathic meditative states. He may be
reached at ghartelius@itp.edu.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 69 Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal
On a Physical Scientifc Approach
to Transpersonal Psychology

Alan Haas
Psychobiophysics Research Organization
Waltham, MA, USA
Transpersonal psychology involves an approach to behavior and the self that transcends
ordinary states of mind as well as extends to the larger environment as a whole. Treating
the individual, their mind, and behavior in relation to others and the larger natural system
utilizing properly developed and practically applicable concepts from physics, chemistry, and
biology may provide a successful interpretation that may be more powerful than the standard
views of psychology. For instance, basic concepts such as charge pair attraction‑repulsion,
bonding, and synchronous behavior may be transformed into highly efective and even
“spiritual” concepts that can add sophistication to human action, thought, and emotion in a
way that is both more naturalistic and transcendent than current defnitions in psychology.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1‑2), 2011, pp. 69 ‑81
T
he purpose of this article is to suggest a
practicable way in which taking a physical
science approach to psychology and behavior
can prove to be successful. Tis methodology might
perhaps be considered as efective or potentially more so
than ordinary psychological and spiritual perspectives,
perhaps imbuing the mind with an additional sense of
personal transcendence. But the idea of building a model
of psychology or spirituality in a reductionistic way from
technical subjects like physics and chemistry is often
frowned upon. Such physicalistic approaches are often
thought of as being overly mechanical, too simplistic, and
entirely inapplicable to complex human beings (Furedy,
2004; Zentall, 2008; Hunt, 2005; Barnes‑Gutteridge,
1985). Yet physically derived concepts and terminology
are increasingly used by psychologists and behavioral
scientists, and by the general public as well. For example,
it is quite common to refer to human behavior using
physically based terminology regarding “positive” and
“negative” actions and experiences, or as involving
“momentum.” Tese are terms with clear origins and
references in physics. Further, an increasing number of
appealing theories are now being published on the topic
of a special relation between physics and psychology
(Radin, 2006; McTaggart, 2007), although many of
these interpretations must be considered hypothetical.
Many of the most popular recent ideas
surrounding psychology and physics seem to focus on
the idea of special physical efects being enacted through
quantum entanglement (Radin, 2006). Quantum
entanglement is a relatively recently demonstrated
so‑called “spooky” phenomenon in physics, one with a
long history of skepticism and debate beginning with
Einstein’s doubts (Einstein et al., 1935). Its application
to psychology would presumably be, like the microscopic
quantum mechanical phenomenon itself, in the form of
a simultaneous‑like transmission of knowledge and other
nonlocal “action‑at‑a‑distance” efects between brains
and minds (Leder, 2005).
But these new ideas, while representing distinct
possibilities, may not always be fully realistic and viable,
and there may be more potentially feasible approaches.
For instance, the contemporary belief in entanglement
of minds may be considered highly analogous to the
way many thinkers believed thoughts could be directly
transmitted through the ether by electromagnetic
waves toward the end of the nineteenth century. Tose
interpretations, while certainly important and useful
attempts to apply physical principles to psychology,
eventually proved untenable. Other approaches proved
to be more practical and immediately employable, for
example Freud’s (1949) psychoanalytic theory. Given a
history of difculties and limitations when attempting
to apply efects directly from physics to psychology,
it is therefore an important caveat that it is necessary
to be careful when seeking to extrapolate laws from
developments in physics or other branches of science to
relatively unrelated ones.
Keywords: transpersonal, physicalist, quantum, synchronicity, electromagnetism
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 70 Haas
Nevertheless, new ideas and concepts in the
behavioral and social sciences have often been successfully
derived with some help from developments in the physical
sciences. At the period during the turn of the twentieth
century, Freud (1949) did in fact develop psychoanalysis
and his concept of quantities of libidinal “energy” using
principles borrowed directly from the newly developed
thermodynamics (Lashley, 1924). His ideas included
application of conservation of energy principles, cathexis
and decathexis as a charge/discharge, and the requirement
for a healthy balancing of conscious and unconscious
psychological forces. His model strongly meshed with
new advances in the physical sciences. In that case, the
physical sciences provided invaluable new concepts that
led to conceptual insights into the underlying principles
and “mechanics” of psychological processes. It is therefore
true that in many instances concepts from physics and
chemistry proper have been helpful in developing better
models of psychology. But there have also been many
complications in eforts to apply physics to the complex
aspects of psychology, where the two scientifc domains
and their principles are often not fully commensurable.
The most recent quantum entanglement
approach to psychology has probably been spurred due to
full experimental validation of the new phenomenon in
quantum physics as well as an increasing growing number
of experiences of synchronistic efects (Jung, 1955) and
related phenomena reported in everyday life and clinical
practice (Main 2007; Totton, 2007). Such strange efects
in psychology are now typically called “synchronicities”
(Jung, 1955) and meaningful coincidences because they
seem to reveal an underlying special physical order and
simultaneity in the universe, or even an elusive mysterious
physical force behind the psyche (Lazar, 2001). For
instance, a common example of such an experience
might be witnessed during a simultaneous or congruent
thought or emotion with another person (Hogenson,
2009) or at a moment of an unusual sense of cognitive
alignment with an external set of circumstances. Tis
may sometimes occur when an individual and another
person, object, or event are separated by a signifcant
distance and apparently seem to be causally unrelated
to each other, establishing what was originally called an
“acausal connection” by Carl Jung (1955). Te seeming
improbability of this type of event combined with its de
facto emergence (Cambray, 2002) often leads to a state of
surprise or awe and a consequent seeking of alternative
explanations regarding its meaning.
For the present, it will be assumed that
the source of many such psychological experiences
cannot be attributed entirely to psychopathology or
other misinterpretations of simultaneous events and
meaningful “coincidences,” because certainly in many
cases they can (Williams, 2010; Reiner, 2006; Krysnki
& Tenenbaum, 2007). Yet it can be posited that it is
also quite possible that in many cases there is some
form of a real physical connection and relation between
these ostensibly “acausal” events, revealing itself in what
may be a physical ordering in interactive psychology
and behavior. Tese unusual psychological experiences
might possibly be better explained in many cases by
using a model that is dependent upon physical aspects of
a coherent biological and psychological reality that may
underlie human behavior.
Such an interpretation would be in contrast to
attributing subjective personal synchronistic experiences to
seductive ideas of special kinds of “telepathic” transmission
of thoughts through an ether or via quantum entanglement
or other unobservable forces. Elaborate “intelligently
designed” and precisely engineered mechanisms and
pathways in biology cannot usually be expected due
to the considerable bluntness of evolutionary biology
(Gould, 2006; Page, Moser, & Dutton, 2003). Moreover,
it is usually not possible to directly apply quantum
phenomenon to macroscopic objects, specifcally a large
biological entity such as the human brain. Tis is due to
the well‑known “correspondence principle” introduced by
the early quantum mechanical thinkers (Bohr, 1920) that
limits the extent of application of microscopic principles
as the size scale increases. It may therefore be necessary to
look for the origin of actual forces in the more “mundane”
physical‑chemical properties of nature, and these may be
ones that rely heavily upon traditional classical scientifc
principles.
If a physically based interpretation of psych‑
ology is to be used to explain synchronistic efects in
the macroscopic realm, then precisely how is it that
physical and chemical forces might play their role?
Can physical concepts be pragmatically applied to
human beings in a relevant and viable way to explain
experiences that seem to reveal a unique type of order
between individuals and their milieu, and in their
relation to the larger “universe”? If so, such an approach
would be required to provide some explanation of the
correlation between the microscopic and macroscopic
worlds, in a way that the efects can be considered both
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 71 Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal
commensurable and corresponding. Evaluation of the
macroscopic forms and functions of biological systems
is therefore likely to involve an approach that takes into
account larger statistical sums of quantities of mass and
energy. Tis must be the case due to the collections
of atoms, chemical structures, and charge states that
are required to create active biological organisms. Te
approach would also be required to describe some sort
of a general alignment and coherence between the parts
constituting the complex and multifaceted macroscopic
system. Te latter may be proposed to be caused by the
natural physical coordination and synchronization of
the behavior of large numbers of atoms and molecules in
the microscopic realm, and by the macroscopic coherent
behavior of biological beings themselves in relation to
each other and their larger environment.
Such a possibility must also be described in a way
that is not merely metaphorical, and that is dependent
upon the real chemical and biological properties of
the substances and modules that create human beings
(Gholson & Barker, 1986). It must rely on factors that
defne the true biological and psychological characteristics
of human beings and their natural environment— ones
that are functional, observable, and measurable. Such
a method would also represent a genuine physical
relation to the surrounding environment supporting
human existence. Currently, quantum mechanically
based descriptions are not applicable in such a way to
the macroscopic domain, and have not led to successful
working scientifc models for psychology. Te only
exceptions in biology are the small number of examples of
specifc quantum mechanical behavior at the molecular
level of biology, such as in biological electron transfer
tunneling and photosynthesis (Moser, 1992; Collini et al.,
2010; Arndt et al., 2009). It would therefore be helpful to
consider other realistic possibilities for the ways in which
the principles and laws of physics and chemistry might
be applied to the macroscopic mechanics of psychology
(Kim, 2005).
It is a rapidly burgeoning trend to use terminology
and concepts derived from the physical sciences in
psychology, but the concepts are typically used in a largely
“nominal” or loosely descriptive way (Smith, 2006).
Tis may be understandable because rarely, if ever, are
psychological concepts identical to the physical ones they
are hoped to be modeled with. Additionally, the actual
physical underpinnings of the mind may not be obvious
to subjective human perception, and represent only one
aspect or quality of the many infuential parameters
involved in interdependent psychology. For instance, it
may often be true that two people will change mental
state approximately simultaneously, and this is likely to a
considerable extent to be due to physical processes from
the basic biochemistry of the human brain and body.
But these processes may in many ways be subliminal and
ancillary to the critically important personal and social
decisions that an individual must make, hidden deep
beneath the external surface.
Nevertheless, perhaps to a greater extent than
ever before, the use of concepts from the physical
sciences has moved researchers closer to describing
an underlying physical reality and mechanics behind
human thought and action. As will be suggested in this
paper, the use of basic physical principles, particularly
from electromagnetism and chemistry in combination
with synchronistic principles, is likely to represent one of
the best methods to do this properly.
Historical and Contemporary Development
of the Relation Between
Electromagnetism and Psychology
T
here is a long history of both psychologists and
physicists who have attempted to apply principles
from physics directly to psychological experiences. Tese
eforts have probably gone on throughout human history
in various forms, including in the earliest interpretations
of “psychic” phenomena and most recently in the form
of “psi” and entanglement (Alvarado, 2006; Radin,
2006). However, the most notable landmark studies
regarding specifc electromagnetic physics principles
began after the discovery of electricity and magnetic
principles themselves. Perhaps we have all at one time or
another heard someone described as “mesmerizing” or
having a “magnetic” personality. Tis is a reference going
all the way back to Franz Mesmer’s original studies on
animal magnetism in the eighteen hundreds, in which
he believed strong magnetic felds fowed throughout the
body. While his belief in such strong forces did not prove
to be fully correct, his ideas did help lead to the eventual
development of hypnotism, and in current times it is
now commonly understood that small electromagnetic
felds do in fact exist around the body (Burr, 1939).
Later, at the turn of the twentieth century, the
notable physicist Oliver Lodge also made an admirable
attempt to apply the physics principles and technologies
he was developing to the mind. He believed that
thoughts could be transmitted directly between humans
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 72 Haas
via electromagnetic waves through the ether, much like
they did in the radio telegraphy he helped to pioneer
(Raia, 2007). Of course it is now known that an ether
propagating electromagnetic waves probably does not
exist, unless one chooses to defne other kinds of “fabrics”
of the universe (Greene, 2004; Wilczek, 2008). But in
part due to these past eforts, it has become very clear
that certain types of directly transmitted “telepathy” are
unlikely to be tenable.
While neither Lodge’s nor Mesmer’s ideas turned
out to be entirely correct, they were certainly admirable
and valuable scientifc eforts. Tey led to useful
insights into potential human psychological capacities,
and suggested new possibilities pertaining to human
interaction between dyadic partners and with the larger
universe. For instance, Lodge’s idea of a kind of resonance
or tuning between individuals’ brains (Raia, 2007) is an
idea that has been investigated and pursued by many
others since his time, and is still being actively pursued
today. A testament to the legitimacy of his early work,
it is now standard practice for researchers to use terms
like “social tuning” to describe attempts at matching and
creating a shared reality between individuals, whether
by ordinary perception or implicitly activated processes
(Lun, Sinclair, & Witchurch, 2007).
Te eforts to apply physical science principles
to psychology continued throughout the twentieth
century, of course in Sigmund Freud’s own eforts to
make psychoanalysis much like thermodynamics, but
also very signifcantly in Carl Jung’s idea of synchronicity
(Jung, 1955). Jung worked on his ideas about “acausal”
synchronous events with the eminent physicist Wolfgang
Pauli (Zabriskie, 1995; Pauli & Jung, 2001; Main,
2007). But Pauli concluded the events could not have a
direct physically mediated source, and Jung was obliged
to agree (Cambray, 2009). Failing to fnd a specifc
direct linking physical mechanism, they eventually
interpreted the phenomenon mainly in an analogous and
metaphorical way to probabilistic and indeterministic
quantum mechanical events. Tey ultimately resorted
to an explanation of strange “acausal” synchronistic
coincidences, simultaneous thoughts, and precognitions
based on a principle of a kind of unknowable alignment
with surrounding events and the universe through
“constellated” archetypal structures (an “acausal
connecting principle”; Jung, 1955).
Like previous researchers, Jung and Pauli
could not fnd and apply a satisfactory specifc physical
mechanism. Tey ended up only borrowing the new
concept of indeterminism from quantum mechanics
rather than developing what might have been a more
convincing extensive and rigorous scientifc model
(Zabriskie, 1995). But new approaches have now greatly
improved upon Jung’s original ideas. For instance, the
aspect of “emergence” of such synchronistic efects
has been clarifed as due to moments of mental and
physical order that emanate from a seemingly chaotic
underpinning of unconscious factors (Cambray, 2002).
Tis has been compared to the way functional vesicles
or cells emerge in a chemically stable way from a sea
of component parts in a previous state of disorder and
chaos (Cambray, 2009).
Most of the past historical attempts to apply
concepts from physics directly to psychology can
certainly be considered heuristically and conceptually
helpful. But they have usually been met with a limited
amount of success. Most of the ideas were only partially
applicable in how they pertain to actual psychological
mental mechanisms and behavior (perhaps the
possible exception is Freud, who primarily sought to
make psychoanalysis only more rigorously physical
scientifc‑like rather than identical to physics). Yet the
analogies and comparisons have certainly been helpful
in developing better psychological theories and for
modeling human thought and behavior more efectively.
Tey have also consistently hinted at and suggested
some form of an underlying physical order and unseen
forces at work. Te attempts seemed to especially take
advantage of new physical concepts and ideas from
electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and quantum
mechanics. In most cases, however, the physical forces
usually required substantial modifcation when applying
them to macroscopic biological and psychological
behavior.
Currently, there are many new examples similar
these historical eforts involving application of the
principles of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics.
A new class of “metaphors” has found its way into the
research lexicon. For instance, it is now a common
practice for behavioral scientists to describe emotions
as containing a “valence,” which refers to emotional
states such as happiness or sadness. Te term has almost
certainly been derived from the description of atomic
and chemical valence states, for which the valence would
defne a formal charge state (+1, ‑1, +2, etc.). Te idea of
such states might even be considered to directly correlate
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 73 Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal
with an actual kind of positive or negative emotional
“charge state,” as suggested in this paper.
Te use of concepts derived from general physics
and chemistry, especially regarding electromagnetism and
quantum mechanics, is already on its way to becoming a
conventional way of describing psychological phenomena.
Te value of such concepts and their meanings are clear.
When referring to an emotion, action, or state of mind
as positive or negative, it can more easily be understood
as either benefcial or detrimental. Similarly, considering
being “on the same wavelength” or “in sync” with another
person are highly physical analogies that help individuals
to relate to each other. Tese physical analogies cannot
be casually dismissed as merely useless descriptions of
reality based on inapplicable physical scientifc concepts.
Rather, they can be extremely efectual when carefully
applied and utilized in proper ways.
As many of these electromagnetic analogies often
do fall short in some way, it cannot be overemphasized
how important it is to properly tailor and design them for
human behavior. Tis is in a way that most optimally fts
the complex factors and specifc “mechanics” that defne
any particular given individual psychological or social
event. For instance, describing a candidate in a political
election or a team in a sporting event as containing
momentum would certainly be a valid way of describing
those particular types of activities (Nevin & Grace,
2000). But it is also clear that the concept of behavioral
momentum can only be applied to those specifc types
of events showing a clear kind of “vectorial” trend of
either winning or losing. Not all human activities will
contain those particular elements of physics, nor is
it immediately obvious how to defne momentum in
psychological terms (in physics it is defned by a mass “m”
times velocity, but in psychology the velocity component
is not as clear). Tus, for the purposes of the remainder
of this article, it will be useful to consider how some of
the most basic and important electromagnetic physical
principles, in conjunction with synchronistic efects, may
be accurately and productively applied to psychology.
Further advanced principles may eventually follow from
this initial description.
A New Hypothesis:
Electromagnetic and Chemical Psychology
I
n Te Interconnectedness of Reality (Haas, 2010)
I introduce a new way of considering ordinary
physical sciences principles (as opposed to strange
quantum mechanical ones) that is directly applicable
to psychology. I describe how humans and their brains
may be accurately described as charged objects obeying
the laws of electromagnetism and chemistry. Tese
brains and the body’s behavior may act in a substantially
synchronous and aligned way with other individuals
and the environment. Coordinated and coherent brains
may operate much like synchronized clocks separated in
space, resulting in what sometimes appear to be special
physical efects of simultaneous thought and behavior.
Approximately simultaneous changes in mental
charge states may result in what are often perceived as
synchronicities or “entanglement.” For instance, when a
pair of individuals simultaneously think of each other (in
what might be revealed in the form of an aptly timed e‑
mail or phone call (Brown & Sheldrake, 2001), coherent
internal biological and electrochemical processes may
determine the timing. Te partners or “halves” of the
pair may experience a simultaneity in their thoughts
and actions, but do not need to be present in the same
physical location for there to be efects of a signifcant
coherence between them. Figure 1 overviews the most
basic version of this electrodynamic model.
Te charge states responsible for this characteristic
of the mind and behavior are proposed to reside in the
neurochemistry of the brain, and in conjunction with
other systems of the body (e.g., hormonal and other
regulatory processes). Te states may primarily be
created and guided by collections of charge and the
electric potential states established by neurons (Haas,
2010). Tis can be considered in a similar manner as
to how currents from groups of neurons are established
and measured using EEG when they create a potential
at the surface of the brain. However, in this case the
charges may represent a more “static” (i.e., electrostatic)
net charge or potential state of neurons and collections
thereof that change over longer periods of time.
As in classical physics and chemistry, most
objects and events, and human beings themselves, may
in some way be considered paired and to involve balanced
forms of energy. Units of these charge and energy, like
in physical chemistry and quantum mechanics, must
usually move from one occupied space to another available
location. Tese entities exist in what are typically called
“orbitals,” or structurally defned spaces and locations.
Further, a collection of these complementary constituent
parts can be treated as parts of a larger whole integral
system, and this system can be treated to a considerable
extent as equilibrated but also in an “open” state of
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 74 Haas
growth or evolution. All of the parts may therefore be
considered bound or related in some generally balanced
and continually changing space‑occupying way within
a larger system, and the extent of any given particular
individual connection will tend to vary in strength.
Te pieces of such an interdependent system,
particularly as pertains to a social one, are not necessarily
“glued” together in so strong way as to be extremely
tightly attached and dependent on a given fxed opposite
at all times. A perfect relation of that nature might be
the case for strong chemical bonding or the precisely
correlated entanglement of the quantum states of particles
(Bell, 1964). Rather, as regards relatively fexible and
approximating human interactions, there may be a more
general and exchangeable pairing relationship between
individuals, and between them and their environment.
Te decisions and qualities of interpersonal relationships
will defne the preferred and allowed shared behaviors
between pairs and groups of people, yet the relations
might always be considered paired as equal and
opposite charges and forces, perhaps much like partners
contributing equally within a “couple.” Gravity itself
might be said to exhibit just such a pairing efect on the
human body, because to the extent a body is attracted to
the earth there will always be an equal opposite relation
or repulsion of the earth pushing back up. Tis might
conceivably occur in a very specifc local pairing way
and over longer distances as well (Haas, 2010).
It may be hypothesized that mental states are
generally positively, negatively, or neutrally charged, and
the idea of attraction and repulsion logically follows as a
central physical mental principle. “Bonding” may occur
through the mental bonding of charges and energies
that are stored within the compartment of the human
brain due to its molecular activities. Tis will correspond
directly with the decisions an individual makes, for
example whether to be near or far from someone else,
and it could not occur through a direct chemical bond
as in a covalent attachment and tethering. As common
sense would seem to dictate, individuals are generally
attracted to people and objects they like and avoid those
they dislike. Tese states of mind and preferences can
almost certainly be considered more “electrical.”
Te molecular activities responsible for these
charge states are likely to be created by enzymes such as
ion channels and pumps, neurotransmitters, and other
chemically charged and polarized molecules within
neurons. Charged and polar molecules are ubiquitous
+
+
+
+
+
_
_
_
_
_

I
II
III
IV-A
IV-B
Figure 1. Human Brains as Charged States of
Interaction
I. Two individuals become involved through an
ordinary interaction due to a paired charged state
of their brains (circles represent brains). One per‑
son may usually be considered more “positive”
and another more “negative” (there is no pejora‑
tive connotation implied for the latter). II. After
sharing/exchanging their initial charge states,
the qualities of their mental states may reverse
(perhaps creating a temporary “repulsion”). III.
Te the individuals become physically separated
again, and proceed with their respective though/
decision processes. IV. Another transition may
then occur roughly simultaneously either (A) in
isolation, or (B) when they return to meet again.
Tis sequence is hypothesized to occur through
ordinary biological processes and psychology via
a subconscious synchronization and coordina‑
tion. It is proposed that electrochemical mo‑
lecular activity is fundamentally responsible, as
opposed to quantum entanglement.
E
l
a
p
s
e
d

T
i
m
e
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 75 Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal
in cells, and are constantly added to or removed from
enzymes as modifcations to regulate their activity. For
example, inorganic phosphate is net negatively charged,
and may be added or removed from ion channel proteins
to regulate their activity through phosphorylation
(Kandel, 2006). Tus, the forces between brains over
signifcant distances can perhaps be treated as akin to
ionic bonds, or capacitor‑like storages of charge, for which
two interacting compartmentalized halves are generally
attracted or repelled from each other and accordingly
transported by movement of the body.
Te factors that go into human choices and
decisions, all the parameters that infuence a person’s
actions, are obviously complex and numerous. However,
a person will usually end up at one particular place, doing
one particular thing at one particular time, either with
one or more other people or alone. Te decisions leading
to the resulting event, based on a weight between all
the factors involved in an array of possible choices, will
inevitably lead to a particular outcome that is a largely
digital conclusion. Assuming at any given time a single
particular choice must be made and that a person will
prefer to make the most favorable one, to some extent
that choice can be seen as somewhat determined or even
predetermined. It will either occur or it will not at a
given time and spatial location, and it may also depend
on an obligatory aligned or “coherent” relation between
two parties.
In a very important sense, people may therefore
be considered strongly physically connected and “bonded”
with their environment and others. Te idea of social
“pair bonding” is already an extremely important in
concept psychology. It has recently been experimentally
shown to occur in a coordinated way through space
and in simultaneous time due to prior intervals of
synchronization, persisting for a period of time after
partners are separated (Oullier, Guzman, Jantzen, Lagarde,
& Kelso, 2008; Valdesolo, Ouyang, & DeSteno, 2010).
From a physical perspective, the importance of this kind
of an interconnectedness of psychological reality cannot
be ignored, as it creates a lasting connection that persists
through both time and space. Further, “felds” establishing,
linking, and “conducting” these efects might very well be
considered to be constructed like classical felds of charges.
In a sense, individuals must make choices from within a
preexistent “feld” of possibilities, as they move from one
location to another. Regarding conscious thought and
action, the brains constituting such a feld are likely to
vary in their charge magnitudes and strength, or their
total potential/kinetic energy states.
Te idea of a conscious or empathetic feld
has been proposed by many others before in a variety
of ways (Mansfeld, 1996; Brown & Sheldrake, 2001;
Tubert‑Oklander, 2007; McTaggart, 2007). But a
conscious feld is likely not to be a “quantum feld”
that takes advantage of mysterious acausal “entangled”
mechanisms or an actual manifestation of the brain
outside the body, except perhaps as it exists in culture
and other impacts on the surrounding environment. Te
processes of the brain and body are extremely macroscopic
relative to hypothesized quantum felds speculated to
support it. Consequently, a psychologically charged feld
is more likely to be of the same nature as the same sort
of ionic “soup” and water‑based medium sustaining the
molecules and charges that generate molecular biological
processes. Tis soup (even if it is “uncanny”) is directly
descended from and like that out of which life originally
arose in the primordial ocean. Whatever chemical laws
have always applied to that original aqueous solution are
very likely to be the most relevant to the human brain
and body which is made up mostly of water and other
chemical components.
Te neurobiology and neurochemistry of
the brain largely works by the movement of charged
molecules and the binding and releasing of chemical
and electrochemical energy. Te action potentials,
neurotransmitters, and ionic gates that determine brain
activity act very much like electromagnetic waves and
switches. As collective statistical groups, on the whole
these biochemical changes probably always represent
some specifc overall charged state of mind as the mental
and emotional state of a brain changes. Additionally,
the cognition and emotional processing involved in
psychology probably occurs in a highly synchronous
and coherent way between individuals and their groups,
and between individuals and the natural environment
itself. Tis description of a charge paired physical and
mental reality leads to the model presented in Figure
1, which may represent the most basic way to begin
analyzing a unit of human psychological interaction
using electromagnetic principles.
Discussion and Relation to
Transpersonal Psychology
I
deas of a universal kind of attraction have been described
in various forms of “spiritual laws” and the like, and may
therefore directly relate to transpersonal psychology. But
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 76 Haas
it is important not to exaggerate the idea of an unrealistic
unity or interconnectedness of all matter, for example by
postulating a grand sort of overarching “conscious feld”
(McTaggart, 2007). What is implied here is simply that
brains may be charged and that these charge states lead
to a general kind of attraction and repulsion between
conscious organisms. Collections of such charges might be
considered to constitute a “feld”; and a change to one any
one individualized part will usually require a concomitant
change with another part. Tese changes occur only at
certain allowable times and locations, during “windows of
opportunity.” In explicit psychological terms these events
occur frst and foremost through the decisions and actions
of individuals, but they are also constrained within some
range of allowable personal and social limitations and
permissions. Tis may even be considered conceptually
analogous to the properties of quantum mechanical
orbitals which allow only specifc quantized discrete units
of change, spin, and so on.
Such a physically based interpretation of reality is
neither banal, too simplistic, nor impractical. As regards
a transpersonal perspective, the extent of an individual’s
appreciation and experience of these efects will depend
upon their comprehension and understanding of it. Like
any transcendent type of philosophy, much depends on
the knowledge and skill of the practitioner and thinker
(see Figure 2). Tis approach may represent exactly the
kind of vision sought by inspiring early transcendentalist
thinkers, like Emerson and Toreau, who sought a union
or relation with nature and her laws in the most intimate
way (Toreau, 1992). Emerson’s writings clearly express
his opinion of prevalent electric‑like forces within the
psyche and nature, and this is particularly noteworthy in
his aptly entitled essay Compensation (Emerson, 1992).
Te desire for an electrical interpretation of human
nature has been noted in Goethe’s writing as well
(Cambray, 2009), and there are certainly many other
thinkers who have made similar allusions.
Gross
Error
making
something
out of nothing
Superstition
attributing order to
unlikely causes
Psycho-
pathology
becoming aware
of order from
chaotic mental state
Normal Behavior
unaware of order
but following it
Personal
Creativity/
Growth
creating order
out of nothing
Traditional
Spiritual Experience
perceive/create order
Peak Experience/
Transpersonal
Psychology
understand all
factors scientifically
Minimum
Understanding
more chaos perceived
Maximum
Understanding
more control,
efficiency, and
coherence perceived
Figure 2. Levels of Physical Scientifc Understanding of Psychology and Synchronistic Experience: From
Chaos to Scientifc Order and Transpersonal Psychology
Continuum of levels of scientifc understanding of physical order in psychology and behavior (originally pre‑
sented at the Synchro Summit, Yale University, 2010). Te scale represents the degree to which the modes of
understanding take advantage of a physical scientifc perspective. It does not imply a value judgment about
the diferent modes of understanding. Ideally, utilizing a physical scientifc model would represent an optimal
method for achieving a higher awareness in psychological experience and nature. It would transcend a normal
habituated consciousness or primitive state of mind. It requires a fully active understanding of the electro‑
magnetic aspects of psychological interaction and charge related activities. Full awareness and control of such
aspects might be considered akin to an optimal “peak experience.”
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 77 Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal
Te sentiment regarding central balanced
physical forces in nature is perhaps most strongly
expressed in Eastern philosophies, particularly Buddhism
and Taoism, which seek a sort of merging with the natural
forces of the universe and liberation from the idea of a
separate self. A parallel between Eastern perspectives and
Western scientifc ideas of forces in physics has long been
noted (Capra, 1975). Tis is particularly exemplifed in
the concept of yin and yang as active and receptive forms.
But the spiritual experience and perception of these often
subtle physical efects may require a level awareness
beyond gross reality that involves some increased
knowledge of both one’s own psychology as well as basic
scientifc principles. Encouragingly, perhaps more than at
any time before in history, the layperson him and herself
are now beginning to speak in physicalized terms, for
example in the polarities of “positive” and “negative.” It
is now more generally appreciated that for every action
there must be some sort of a reaction, in accordance with
Newton’s Tird Law. Tus, physical science concepts
are already more appreciated and utilized in everyday life
and spirituality, if not in precisely rigorously scientifc
ways. Nevertheless, the ideas are well on their way to
fnding a proper place in scientifc research, colloquial
language, and spirituality.
But it is important to be careful regarding
currently fashionable trends borrowing concepts from
the intriguing and tantalizing features of quantum
entanglement. Te entanglement phenomenon pertains
to the physics of the smallest quantum particles such
as photons and electrons— it is not necessarily directly
applicable to psychology using an identical physical
mechanism. An increase in psychologically analogous
“synchronistic” phenomena has probably increased
interest and made the new interpretation more appealing.
However, as explained in this paper, it is evident from
historical examples that it is often very difcult to
make microscopic phenomena correspond directly with
macroscopic ones. Jung himself, failing to achieve a
quantum mechanical explanation for his synchronicity,
concluded that it was far more likely that the powerful
forces of the unconscious were dominating through
archetypal constellations and alignments of the psyche
with the external world. It was not necessarily that there
were “spooky” factors at work, only that humans were
incapable of perceiving the causes related to their own
complicated unconscious processes (Williams, 2010). G.
Williams has recently described how this may occur due
to the creative growth of the unconscious self at “stuck”
moments, as it breaks through and begins to perceive
and understand the natural order in the psyche and its
relationships with others.
It seems unlikely that brains change state
simultaneously with other individuals because they are
perfectly coupled like the quantum states of paired photons
or electrons in ideally correlated quantum entanglement
experiments. It seems far more probable that individuals
are emotionally and interpersonally connected with
others and that they can often be “in synch” (Haas,
2010; Haas, work in progress). Te diferent physical
interpretation expressed here is that at a fundamental
level individuals can be electromagnetically charged due
to the forms of energy stored in the neurochemistry of the
brain. Tey can also be highly synchronized with each
other due to the basic biochemical processes of the brain
and body that are often attuned with their experienceable
“universe.” On the rarer occasions when individuals
experience a heightened sense of “resonance” (Mishlove
& Engen, 2007) or a special simultaneous thought
matching in other ways, it is perhaps best explained as
a natural “spike” in biological timing or a sophisticated
entrainment and coordination with others (Semin &
Cacioppo, 2008). Further, it may even be considered to
resemble a peak experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).
While the model may also in some ways resemble the
phenomenon of quantum entanglement, it is not likely
to be identical in its physical mechanism. Like previous
attempts to model psychology using the physical sciences,
it is probably necessary to specifcally and precisely tailor
the concept for the psychological events it describes.
Quantum coherence decreases dramatically
when approaching macroscopic scales. Te decrease in
correlation between the two originally perfectly coupled
halves is now well‑established and experimentally
proven by the “decoherence principle” (Yu & Eberly,
2009). While in principle macroscopic objects such as
humans do retain some quantum mechanical wave‑like
properties, these features become far less relevant and
vanishingly small when using macroscopic masses and
“mass‑energies.” Te de Broglie wavelength becomes
extremely small and essentially unobservable. Tis is not
to say some sort of actual quantum entanglement between
minds is impossible, but rather, at the present time it seems
exceedingly unlikely. So far, the only long range quantum
coherence efect that has been shown in a biological
system is in photosynthetic light harvesting centers over a
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 78 Haas
distance of ~20‑25 angstroms (10
‑10
meters) (Collini et al.,
2010). Tis distance is relatively miniscule when compared
to the distance between humans, which is generally on the
order of meters. Occurrence of the efect over a distance
of 20 angstroms might even be considered similar to
“traditional” biological electron quantum tunneling
features that occur at a maximum range of 14 angstroms
(when the distance is measured from edge‑to‑edge of the
partnered moieties; Page, Moser, Chen, & Dutton, 1999).
Terefore, at the present time, it is very difcult to see how
a biological mechanism for a direct mental entanglement
link would work (Arndt et al., 2009).
Lastly, it is important to note that experimental
confrmation of the model presented here is in principle
relatively simple and straightforward. Te net charge
of the brain should be refected in its total activity, or
the sum activity of key parts relative to others. Indeed,
increases or decreases in brain activity are routinely
measured using fMRI and EEG. It may remain
primarily a matter of properly comparing the diference
between cognitively active and receptive states to reveal
a net charge or potential diference between a pair of
states, either intra‑individual or between partners. Such
diferences in mental and behavioral state may also be
directly correlated to the small bioelectric potentials at
the functional areas and surfaces of the body. While
those polarizations might more feasibly be detectable
through close interpersonal human interaction, they will
decay rapidly due to the inverse‑square law of electric
felds.
Summary of Principles
P
hysical scientifc principles hypothesized to be the
most applicable to psychology and behavior:
1) Biological organisms, in this case humans, are
constructed from microscopic physical and chemical
and parts within the natural environment that
creates, supports, and contains them. Terefore, at
the macroscopic level of behavior and interaction,
some of the basic laws must be applicable because
of the processes occurring in brains and bodies and
the environment on the microscopic level. But this is
only to the extent that microscopic events correspond
to macroscopic ones and where the physical laws are
commensurable and specifcally applicable.
2) At the microscopic level, the constituent parts
obey the laws of physics, chemistry, and molecular
biology. Te most fundamental of these chemical
rules for atomic and molecular components is that
they generally exist in paired forms that are charged
and related in a way based on a balancing of such
charges and structures. Terefore, like the most
fundamental of its components, the human brain
itself may be hypothesized to be charged and is
expected to obey a similar kind of balancing of
forces.
3) A central physical principle follows as a general kind
of attraction and repulsion and “bonding,” although
many other physically derived principles are likely
to apply (but cannot all be discussed here). As
pertains to human psychology, the most important
fundamental physical characteristics and properties
are suggested to be: the nature of conscious brains
being charged, interpersonal attraction/repulsion,
human bonding, optimal occupancy of spaces
and locations, and forms of synchronization and
coordination in time and through space.
4) Te forces felt by biological organisms in
relationship with others and their environment are
very real and inescapable, but are often obscured
from perception. A kind of equilibrium may exist,
which requires a continual expenditure of energy
for action and growth to both maintain and move
beyond a static equilibrium. Like “equilibrium” or
slightly out of equilibrium systems in chemistry and
biology, the ongoing processes of life usually require
transfers, exchanges, and substitutions at the atomic
and molecular level which generally involve either
moving up or down a chemical or potential gradient.
Analogously and correspondingly, humans may
therefore be attracted to those interactions that are
the most favorable for them and avoid those which
are more unfavorable or painful. Tis is congruent
with both Freud’s pleasure principle and Darwin’s
concept of the struggle for existence. In short,
human interactions and decision processes may be
analogous to and based upon the concept of “free
energy” (∆G) and products/reactant reactions in
thermodynamics.
5) Individuals will usually or always be paired with each
other or some aspect of the natural environment.
Terefore, when two such halves become separated
from each other, they may still exhibit a strong sign
of bonding and residues with their partner. Tese
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 79 Physical Scientifc Approach to Transpersonal
may often reveal themselves in proxy substitute
interactions. But it is important to note that a
solipsistically biased perception may sometimes lead
to an over or underestimation of the importance of
other individuals who are no longer momentarily
present. In extreme interpretations, particularly
as regards ideas of versions of “telepathy,” it might
perhaps be believed that others are communicating
with an individual directly. However, instead, it may
be that both of the individuals change their “charge
state” approximately simultaneously in time while
separated in location, resulting in what is often
believed to be a special synchronicity or quantum
entanglement.
Concluding Remarks
T
his article presents an overview of some of the many
attempts to apply concepts from the physical sciences
to psychology, especially electromagnetic and quantum
mechanical ones. It also briefy introduces a very basic
and simple realistic model that may represent a feasible
and proper way to begin describing and analyzing human
behavior directly with such physical principles. One
might wonder whether this is at too basic and simplistic a
level when compared to other humanistic theories. At the
very least, it may represent a scientifcally viable method
that is a good starting point for the development of a
more comprehensive and complex theory. For instance,
behavioral scientists might begin by interpreting the
labels and qualities of “positive” and “negative” thought,
behavior and reinforcements as precisely that—mental
charge states acting within a feld of objects interrelated
in an attractive‑repulsive way.
Tis approach may be treated as transpersonal
because it describes an extraordinary state of the human
mind, as well as one that extends to others and the
larger environment and nature as a whole. Not only
might one’s own psychology and social interactions
with others be considered more sophisticated through
its comprehension, but the individual’s relationship with
nature and reality may become very direct and highly
attuned. It may be possible for individuals to become
highly aware of and adept at controlling the physical and
spiritual forces within themselves and in their relation to
nature through a more “enlightened” intuitive process.
Tis would not necessarily be through ESP‑like powers
or precognitive abilities involving a special type of
psi‑like force, but rather through a heightened ability to
be more aware of and tuned to their own and others’
cognitive and emotional states. Tis might even be
enhanced through practices such as mindfulness which
enhance the perception and interpretation of internal
and interpersonal cues (Langer, 2009). It may therefore
be possible to be conscious of real states of positivity and
negativity, and to conceivably gain new abilities to guide
and predict behavior based on an understanding of the
natural fuctuations and balancing of such forces.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Harris Friedman and
Glenn Hartelius for inviting me to submit an article
to this journal. I would also like to thank participants
of the recent frst Synchro Summit at Yale University
(Toward a Science of Synchronicity) who encouraged
further development of these ideas.

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About the Author
Dr. Haas earned his Ph.D. in biophysics from the
University of Pennsylvania and completed postdoctoral
training in molecular biology at Harvard School of
Public Health. He received additional postgraduate
training in psychology from Harvard University where
he performed a study on the efects of mindfulness
on interpersonal synchronization and attraction. He
continues to advance his research in the Department
of Psychology at Harvard and is the founder of the
Psychobiophysics Research Organization.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer‑reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 82 Schroll & Hartelius
Introduction to Special Topic Section:
Ecopsychology’s Roots
in Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology,
the Deep Ecology Movement, and Ecocriticism
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 82-88
E
copsychology’s roots are deeply entwined with
those of transpersonal and humanistic psychology,
as well as the deep ecology movement and related
impulses toward positive social change. Tis Special
Topic section presents both contemporary work in this
arena and historically-oriented papers that help to clarify
where and how ecopsychology is situated relative to its
near academic neighbors. It also provides support for the
development of closer ties between ecopsychology and
transpersonal and humanistic approaches.
1
Due to the need for more empirical work in
all transpersonally-related areas of study, the journal
gives precedence to articles reporting on research. Te
frst paper in this section, entitled, Connectedness and
Environmental Behavior, by Robert Hoot and Harris
Friedman, reports that a sense of interconnectedness
with nature and consideration of future consequences,
as measured by relevant scales, predicted self-reported
pro-environmental beliefs and behavior. Tis suggests
that interconnectedness, a central tenet of transpersonal
views, may be quite relevant to the environmental crises
facing humanity. In this context, transpersonal is not
merely “beyond the ego” in some transcendent, other-
worldly manner, but also in a way that is immanently
interconnected with this-worldly community and
environment (Friedman & Pappas, 2006; Hartelius,
Caplan, & Rardin, 2007). An immanent more-than-
ego view of self calls the individual to both social and
environmental engagement as a natural course of self-
expression. In harmony with this, Friedman (1983) has
long argued that transpersonal psychology understands
the self in a way that is “inextricably embedded in
the universe” so that “ultimately, self and non-self are
equivalent” (p. 38)—a concept that he has called self-
expansiveness. Personal transformation, a process close
to the heart of transpersonal approches, can arguably be
understood as a process in which the self expands from
its identifcation with a limited personal ego into a lived
understanding of its interconnectedness with the larger
world.
While current research by Hoot and Friedman
helps to validate the contemporary relevance of self-
expansiveness as a construct, their work ofers one
particularly noteworthy result. Tey report that the
Connection to Nature Scale (Mayer & Frantz, 2004),
representing an immanently-oriented self-expansiveness,
predicted pro-environmental behavior, while a scale
measuring expanded self-identifcation with somewhat
remote elements such as “atoms in their body or future
descendents who may not even have human form” (SELF-
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 83 Special Topic Introduction: Ecopsychology
TS; Pappas & Friedman, 2007, p. 331) did not predict
such behavior. Tis latter scale arguably represents a
more transcendent view of self-expansiveness, which
tends to emphasize hard-to-defne ultimates rather than
practical engagement in tangible relationships. Given
that communities focused on transformation through
transcendence have been criticized for tending toward
insular elitism (Goldman, 2012) rather than involvement
in practical transformational causes such as social and
environmental justice, Hoot and Friedman’s results
point to a need for additional research that discriminates
more fnely between the impact of immanently- and
transcendently-oriented self-expansiveness.
Te next set of papers grew out of conversations
over the past 25 years between guest Special Topic Editor
Mark Schroll and Miles A. Vich, Ralph Metzner, Stanley
Krippner, Robert Greenway, Kathleen Damiani, Kevin J.
Sharpe, James Fadiman, Jan Lee Ande, John Tallmadge,
Katherine MacDowell, Alan Drengson, among others.
Several of these continuing conversations are represented
in this section as a means of articulating its core message
that is summed up in the question: How, and in what
directions, can humanity move beyond simply treating
the symptoms of the world’s growing number of social and
environmental crises? For Schroll, the motivation to ask
this question was the result of reading Roger Walsh’s
(1984) book Staying Alive: Te Psychology of Human
Survival. Pondering this question represented a real
turning point in his thinking:
It allowed me to realize that healing the world’s
social and environmental crises was not going to
come about simply by creating new technologies and
discontinuing the use of fossil fuels, nor by rejecting
the development of new technologies and trying to
live more simply. It is not a matter of philosophers
envisioning a better environmental ethic to guide
the practice of conservation biologists and urban
planners, allowing us to serve as better stewards of
the land. Nor would a concentrated efort of protest
by eco-activists employing guilt, fear, and letter
writing campaigns, urging politicians to enact stifer
environmental laws, create the kinds of changes
needed in our behavior. Necessary as all these
approaches might be, I believe that the real starting
point toward healing the social and environmental
crises begins with self-confrontation and self-
examination. We need to examine the worldview
infuencing our attitudes and our behavior (Schroll,
2007, p. 30).
Some mainstream environmentalists may
take ofense with this turning point in his thinking,
believing that he no longer supports the work of
environmental activists, or those involved in resource
management, conservation biology, environmental
psychology and conservation psychology. But this is not
correct. Schroll continues to actively support the work
of environmental activists; and the research contributing
to resource management, conservation biology (France,
2008), environmental and conservation psychology.
Nevertheless, he remains unconvinced that these
(including APA Division 34) go far enough (MacDowell
& Schroll, 2009/2010). His assessment of this problem
continues to be confrmed in the American Psychologist
perspective toward addressing these concerns (Swim et
al., 2011). Te consequences of this focus on treating
or healing the symptoms, as Ralph Nader (1990) has
pointed out, result in the tremendously high burnout
rate among environmental activists. Why? Because:
[T]he motivation that ignites most environmental
activists are simply reactionary and symptom
focused. Trying to heal each one of these separate
symptoms is a never-ending task because the system
keeps breaking down amidst our eforts to heal it;
meaning, absent from such a focus is a coherent
philosophy of life that enables people to sustain and
nurture themselves. Tis symptom-oriented approach
can be compared to a feld surgeon trying to mend
all of the wounded in an ongoing war without end.
Tankfully we are able to save some of the wounded,
but many others die. With each new day greeting
us there is the need to care for more wounded, and
that eventually results in burnout. Similarly, we as
surgeons trying to heal the wounds of our culture
will never see an end to our labors merely by trying
to heal all of its symptoms of decay. Instead, the only
way to truly heal the wounds of our culture will be
to fnd a way to stop all of the fghting and end our
war with nature. (Schroll, 2007, p. 31)
But how do we as humans end this war? How
do we move beyond simply treating symptoms? How do
we shift the focus of the problem and move toward its
solution? Asking himself similar questions, Edgar D.
Mitchell concluded that what we need to solve the eco-
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 84 Schroll & Hartelius
crisis “is a transformation of consciousness” (Roberts,
2011, p. 6). In other words we need a positive vision of
the future and ourselves as inhabitants of this future
based on a cultural (anthropological) and personal
(existential) understanding of what it means to be
human. Only the most skeptical continue to deny that
we are now in the midst of the eco-crisis that Rachel
Carson (1962) predicted nearly 50 years ago. Skeptics and
believers arguing for and against the reality of the eco-
crisis have nevertheless missed a more essential point—
Carson warned against relying on a “technological fx”
as a solution to the eco-crisis, yet this does not mean
that technological innovation is not important; it is.
What Carson meant was that by itself new technologies
will not be enough to solve the eco-crisis (Drengson,
1995). Schroll is therefore in complete agreement with
Mitchell that what is needed to solve the eco-crisis is a
transformation of consciousness, and, furthermore, he
has argued:
Tis begs the question as to how we will be able to
motivate ourselves to initiate this transformation
of consciousness. Indeed the criticism many have
had regarding the hypothesis that “we need a
transformation of consciousness” is we lack a specifc
operational defnition of what this actually means.
Here too is where the importance of humanistic
and transpersonal psychology come into play in this
conversation, because it is these schools of psychology
that have focused on motivational techniques and
methods to change consciousness more than others.
In his flm MindWalk (Capra, 1991), Fritjof Capra
echoed this concern, suggesting that we are sufering
from a “crisis of perception.” MindWalk is Capra’s
vision of an alternative paradigm; moreover this flm
itself is a demonstration of how the motivation to
initiate a transformation of consciousness is possible
through dialogue. I examine both of these perspectives
in my review of Capra’s flm [Schroll, 2011c]. Capra’s
vision in MindWalk represents a precursor to what
many are now referring to as ecopsychology (Roszak,
1992; Schroll, 2008/2009), that I have suggested
can be more accurately called transpersonal ecosophy
(Schroll, 2009, 2009/2010, 2011a).
Still, in conversations I have had with
ecopsychologists who support the hypothesis that
a transformation of consciousness is needed, many
have asked if it will take some serious apocalyptic
environmental catastrophe to motivate most of us.
Ram Dass raised this same concern in his interview
with John Seed . . . (Ram Dass & Seed, 1991).
Ram Dass asked: “Will it take incredible trauma
to trigger this transformation of consciousness?”
To which Seed replied (paraphrasing): “We have
already had so much trauma this does not seem
to be a sufcient means to trigger a change in our
awareness. In fact trauma often has the opposite
nullifying infuence on us.”
2
Instead Seed suggested
that what we needed was some sort of miracle that
would allow us to “wake up one day diferent.”
Tis brings us back to my previous comment that
humanistic and transpersonal psychology have
contributed to methods and techniques associated
with consciousness transformation. (Schroll, 2011b,
pp. 1-2)
All of this leads back to the current issue of IJTS,
and the paper entitled, Te Deep Ecology Movement:
Origins, Development, and Future Prospects (Toward a
Transpersonal Ecosophy), which clarifes ecopsychology’s
origins in humanistic and transpersonal psychology.
It also connects ecopsychology with the historical
development of the deep ecology movement, identifes
its relationship with literary ecology (otherwise known as
ecocriticism), and suggests that all this has evolved into
something that could be called transpersonal ecosophy.
Te paper was originally written by Alan Drengson and
(the late) Bill Devall, and to which Schroll later added.
In the short response that follows this paper,
entitled, Refections on the Need for a More Complete
History of the Deep Ecology Movement and Related
Disciplines, philosopher Michael Zimmerman discusses
its signifcance toward aiding understanding of the
engagement of various disparate ideas, and how their
continuing process of reconciliation has contributed
to current understanding. Zimmerman also suggests
that a more comprehensive history needs to be written,
and has in his own work put forth a means of mapping
these multiple perspectives to foster an Integral Ecology
(Hargens & Zimmerman, 2009).
Further advancing transpersonal ecosophy’s
clarifcation is the paper, Clearing Up Rollo May’s Views
of Transpersonal Psychology, and Acknowledging May
as an Early Supporter of Ecopsychology, that Schroll
authored with John Rowan and Oliver Robinson—with
comments by others. Tis paper explores Rollo May’s
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 85 Special Topic Introduction: Ecopsychology
1986 and 1989 rejection of transpersonal psychology—
and his 1992 reversal of this position. Te paper also
shows that May was supportive of the concerns that led
to the emergence of ecopsychology and transpersonal
ecosophy.
Tis latter paper also explores how transpersonal
ecosophy has encountered and embraced Kaisa Puhakka’s
(2008) antidote to the postmodern malaise of experiential
deconstruction, and Jorge N. Ferrer’s (2002) participatory
turn toward “coevolutionary perspectives” that embody
“pluralistic approaches to spirituality” (Ferrer, 2009,
p. 142) to help assist in recognizing the “web of life as
primary” (Puhakka, 2008, p. 16). Puhakka’s and Ferrer’s
papers resonate with the ecosophies of communication and
ecology of mind that were the concern of Arne Naess and
Gregory Bateson
3
(Bateson, 2010; Drengson, Devall,
& Schroll, 2011); Ecosophies are the wisdom of place
and the person’s unique relationship to it, and ecology
of mind refects modes of knowing the co-evolutionary
experience of Being.
John Davis, a long-time leading scholar in the
area of transpersonal ecopsychology, picks up the thread
of theory in the next paper, entitled Ecopsychology,
Transpersonal Psychology, and Nonduality. Davis, who
also brings a clinical background in wilderness therapy,
suggests that the transpersonal concept of nonduality
is key to understanding the self ’s interconnectedness
with the world, a point that further reveals the deep
connection between transpersonal psychology and
ecopsychology. Yet it is important to recognize that
Davis’ use of nonduality is diferent than, say, the way
this term is used in a nondual tradition such as Advaita
Vedanta.
For Davis, nonduality is an understanding of
reality based on states of consciousness in which a person
feels immersed in a world that is dynamic process created
anew each moment, one in which they themselves are an
unfolding embedded within that fow. Here the self is
experienced as distinct but not separate from the living
whole. Relative to Western dualistic philosophies that
hold mind and matter as distinct, this understanding of
self and world as radically intertwined is decidedly non-
dualistic.
However, this position is signifcantly
diferent from the Advaitin teaching of nonduality. In
Advaita Vedanta reality is not interconnected, because
ultimate reality is radically one: it has no parts to be
interconnected, and it has no spatial domain within
which such connections could exist (Whitfeld, 2009).
Reality is one thing, with no parts, and no extension in
space or time. From an Advaitin view, the appearance of
interconnectedness described by Davis is a phenomenon
that takes place within the samsaric, or illusory, realm
of time and space: a dimension in which the oneness
of reality seems to be separated into various distinct
aspects.
Tis does not in any way lessen the import or
accuracy of Davis’ position; in fact, Davis employs the
nonduality term in a way that is constent with its use in
the contemporary nondual movement (e.g., Prendergast,
Fenner, & Krystal, 2003). Rather, it is an opportunity
to clarify the fact that the term nonduality can be and
is used in a variety of ways within spiritual traditions
and even within transpersonal psychology. Te construct
that Davos ofers here is nondual relative to Western
philosophical dualism, but less radically nondual
than the teachings of Advaita Vedanta. It might be
useful to term this intermediate position “nondualistic
interconnectedness,” or simply, “interconnectedness,” so
as to distinguish it from strong Advaitin nonduality.
Te interconnectedness that ecopsychology
holds is not simply an abstract realization, but an
opportunity for relationship with a living world. Tis
is illustrated in Judson Davis’ paper, Jung at the Foot of
Mount Kailash, in which he shares a personal experience
of an unexpected personal encounter with a vast feminine
presence while traveling through the Himalayas. Only
later did he come to associate this presence with Tara,
the goddess of compassion. Yet this encounter suggests
that divinities of the great spiritual traditions might be
more than mere theoretical constructs refering to a single
ultimate creative power of the universe; if the world is an
interconnected living process, then some of these deities
might be living presences within that domain just as
surely as human beings are. In the spirit of East-West
scholarship, Davis situates this experience within the
context of both Jungian thought and the narratives of
Tibetan Tantra.
Turning to a far-eastern culture, authors Yukari
Kunisue and Judy Schavrien ofer a glimpse into Yamato
Kotoba, the deeply embodied poetic language of ancient
Japan. Drawing on language developed prior to the
introduction of written language by the Chinese in the
5th-6th centuries CE, and the vocabulary that came
with this shift, Yamato Kotoba conveys an intimacy with
the natural world—an immediacy of interpenetrating
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 86 Schroll & Hartelius
presence that holds human and landscape in intimate
communion. Tis theme of inquiry is developed in
conversation with the philosophy of Western writers such
as David Abrams and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
Te cost of abandoning this intimacy with life
is explored in Alan Pope’s piece, Modern Materialism
through the Lens of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. Here Pope
deftly applies the ancient concept of “hungry ghost” to
the modern materialist consumer. Te hungry ghost, in
Indo-Tibetan tradition, is a being with a huge empty
stomach and a tiny mouth, one who is always ravenously
hungry, and who is incapable of eating enough to be
satisfed. Tis image is remarkably apt as a metaphor
for contemporary consumerist cultures, whose very
economies rely on the fact that its members are never
satiated. Te answer, for Pope, is mental training in
meditative practices that restore mental health by
providing satisfaction from within, rather than through
the acquisition of material goods.
While it falls in the Book Review section rather
than the Special Topic section, a related ofering is
John Harrison’s review of Stephan Beyer’s (2009) book
Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in
the Upper Amazon. Shamans, of course, live within an
interconnected world rather than the separate material
world of Western culture. Among the signifcant
contributions Beyer’s book ofers, two stand out: 1)
Shamans are frequently portrayed as benign spiritual
leaders, whereas Beyer reveals shamans make a decision
whether to be evil sorcerers or healers; and 2) Beyer ofers
an insightful discussion of gender inequality within
Amazonian shamanism and how an increasing interest
among women in its practices are infuencing a shift
in its traditional views. In his review, Harrison aptly
summarizes these contributions.
Mark A. Schroll, Special Topic Editor
Rhine Research Center
Glenn Hartelius, Editor
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Notes
1. In AHP-Perspective Dec 2009/Jan 2010 (p. 6), Schroll
called for the merger of transpersonal ecosophy
with Division 32 of the American Psychological
Association, inviting people to join a growing
coalition that promotes experiential transformation:
awakening awareness and empathy of universal
sufering that internalizes a felt self sense of ethics.
Tis code of ethics is also guided by an intellectual
understanding of humankind’s role in cosmic
evolution. Healing inner and outer confict is
therefore the means of healing the person/planet
that fosters peace (Metzner, 1998). Harris Friedman,
chair of the APA Division 32 Transpersonal Interest
Group, has voiced support for these eforts, saying
that he “would be glad to try to awaken it [sic,
this group] by incorporating ‘ecosophy’ somehow”
(personal communication, June 12, 2011). Tus
several of the papers in this Special Topics section
represent a frst step toward a new era that will
make humanistic and transpersonal psychology
especially relevant toward answering the question of
how its knowledge of motivation and consciousness
transformation can be applied to assist humankind
toward living more sustainably.
2. Schroll has referred to this opposite nullifying
infuence of trauma as the reliance on the fear approach
or the rhetoric of catastrophe; the guilt approach or the
rhetoric of shame; and the self-sacrifcing/voluntary
simplicity approach or the rhetoric of redemption as
negative motivating techniques (Schroll, Krippner,
Vich, Fadiman, & Mojeiko, 2009).
3. Some readers may have known Naess or Bateson.
Schroll has written a “Call for Papers” as Co-Editor
of a special issue of Te Trumpeter to explore the
work of Naess and Bateson. Contributors are sought
who will explore the merged conceptual spaces
of these two outstanding philosophers and their
boundary-dissolving investigations of the landscape
of consciousness. Personal insights are welcomed,
and readers are encouraged to breathe life into their
memories.
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About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 89 Connectedness and Environmental Behavior
Connectedness and Environmental Behavior:
Sense of Interconnectedness and Pro-Environmental Behavior
Robert E. Hoot
1
& Harris Friedman
Walden University
Minneapolis, MN, USA
Te expansion of one’s sense of identity to include various aspects of the world, both human
and non-human, may relate to how one treats the world. Tis sense of interconnectedness
can be domain specifc, as through identifcation with nature and the future, or very
general, as through an expanded transpersonal identifcation with all of reality unlimited
by time and space. Tis study explored the relationship between these two specifc and
the more general type of interconnectedness on environmental beliefs and behavior. A
sample of 210 participants completed a battery of interconnectedness measures, including
two specifc measures, the Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS) and Consideration of
Future Consequences Scale (CFC), and a transpersonal measure, the Self-Expansiveness
Level Form Transpersonal Scale (SELF-TS). Participants also completed a measure of
environmental beliefs, the New Ecological Paradigm Scale (NEP), and a self-report measure
of their environmental behavior. Te CNS, CFC, and SELF-TS signifcantly intercorrelated,
supporting that they measure a common underlying construct: interconnectedness. In
addition, the CNS and CFC correlated signifcantly with both the NEP and environmental
behavior, but the SELF-TS did not. Furthermore, the CNS and the CFC, as well as their
interaction, predicted environmental behavior in a regression model, while the SELF-TS
did not. Tese results suggest that specifc indicators of feeling interconnected with nature
and the future are relevant to environmental beliefs and behavior, whereas a broader sense of
transpersonal interconnectedness may not relate as well in this specifc domain.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 89-100
A
nthropogenic environmental changes pose great
challenges for humanity’s continued adaptation
and perhaps even its survival. Most immediately
daunting are threats related to climate change,
presumably from releases of greenhouse gases and widely
expected to result in widespread catastrophic outcomes
as from rising sea levels inundating low-lying coastal
habitats (Meehl et al., 2007) and degrading coastal
ecosystems (United Nations Environment Programme,
2006). Many other environmental challenges are nearly
as pressing, such as proliferating carcinogenic pesticides
now found in 85% of U.S. freshwater streams (Gilliom
et al., 2007), to name just one. Often these threats are
seen merely as requiring technological solutions, despite
that they are human-caused and rapidly worsening
due to human-related factors (e.g., population growth
and modernization). Instead, Speth (1992) made
recommendations to change how the environment is
approached. One of his suggestions is to solve structural
problems that afect the environment, such as addressing
family planning, the status of women, and care for
older citizens as a means of decreasing birth rates. He
also emphasized the need to make the environment a
personal issue instead of someone else’s problem.
Schwartz’s (1977) theory of norm-activation
provides a possible basis for understanding how pro-
environmental behavior can be fostered. It suggested
that moral obligations are more readily translated into
altruistic behavior, including toward the environment,
when a sense of personal involvement is activated
(Coke, Batson, & McDavis, 1978). Constructs such
as sympathy (Allen & Ferrand, 1999), distress (Carlo,
Keywords: transpersonal; self-expansiveness; interconnectedness; future orientation;
environmental behavior
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 90 Hoot & Friedman
Allen, & Buhman, 1999), sadness (Maner et al., 2002),
and empathy (Archer, Diaz-Loving, Gollwitzer, Davis,
& Foushee, 1981) all seem related to increasing personal
involvement and might relate to facilitating pro-
environmental behavior (e.g., enhanced perspective-
taking, as one type of empathy activation, was found
to correlate with environmentally-responsible behavior;
Coke et al., 1978).
Included among many constructs related
to activating personal involvement is a sense of
interconnectedness, including with others, nature, and
even the entire universe (Davis, Conklin, Smith, & Luce,
1996; Batson et al., 1997; Cialdini, Brown, Lewis, Luce,
& Neuberg, 1997; Maner et al., 2002; Schultz, 2000).
A sense of social interconnectedness has been used to
explain various forms of altruism (e.g., the willingness of
research participants to allocate more money to friends
and relatives than to more distantly-related people; Aron,
Aron, Tudor, & Nelson, 1991). Research participants
were also found more willing to give money in response
to an appeal for help when a feeling of interconnectedness
was manipulated by falsely informing participants that
the proposed recipient had brain waves similar to theirs
(Maner et al., 2002). Interconnectedness constructs
have also been found related to environmental concerns
(Schultz, Shriver, Tabanico, & Khazian, 2004), and
interventions have been shown to increase participants’
sense of interconnectedness to nature (Frantz, Mayer,
Norton, & Rock, 2005).
Among the many interconnectedness constructs
now emerging is self-expansiveness (Friedman, 1983),
which refers to how individuals construct their self-
concept through identifying with varying aspects of
reality. In this regard, the process of identifcation
relates to activating personal involvement by seeing
some aspect of reality as intimately relevant to oneself
and even a part of oneself, thus presumably worth
protecting. Friedman proposed that the self-concept
is inherently malleable, being essentially a social-
psychological, rather than physical, fact. Self-concept,
from this perspective, could include any aspect of reality
that exists in time (including not just the present, but
also the past and future), establishing a conceptual
basis for an all-inclusive sense of interconnectedness.
Friedman also proposed the possibility of a transpersonal
level of self-expansiveness, intended to refect the
broadest type of identifcation: an interconnectedness
that radically transcends the conventional sense of the
isolated individual, namely a sense of oneness with the
universe across space and time. We theorized that such
a transpersonal sense of interconnectedness, as well as
more specifc senses of interconnectedness, activates
personal involvement with the world and can serve
as a basis for promoting environmentally-responsible
behavior.
However, there has also been criticism of the
usefulness of interconnectedness as a construct related
to environmentally-responsible behavior. Batson et
al. (1997) found that measures of oneness, a form
of interconnectedness similar to Friedman’s (1983)
construct of transpersonal self-expansiveness, had no
signifcant explanatory efects on altruism beyond that
ofered by the more conventional notion of empathy.
However, their methods were later criticized by Neuberg
et al. (1997), who supported the greater usefulness of
interconnectedness constructs as compared to empathy.
Cialdini et al. (1997) further supported the value of
interconnectedness constructs for understanding
altruism by fnding that empathy infuenced helping
behavior by afecting the sense of oneness with a
recipient, while attachment to others increased helping
behavior due to a sense of oneness as opposed to a
sense of empathy. Tis debate continues (e.g., Batson,
1997), but another line of evidence supports a possible
resolution, which is that feelings of distress from
perspective-taking afects helping behavior only among
people with lower dispositional levels of personal
distress (Carlo et al., 1999). To make matters more
complex, Schultz and Zelezny (1998) conducted a fve-
nation study and found that a nature-specifc measure
of interconnectedness (i.e., self-transcendence) was
a good predictor of environmental behavior in every
country, but a general measure of self-transcendence
was not. It appears that the possible role between a
sense of connectedness, including a transpersonal or
transcendent sense of oneness, and environmental
behavior requires further scrutiny. Conceptually,
however, we fnd it very appealing to speculate that
individuals, both the source of so many environmental
challenges as well as of possible solutions to these
challenges, might be more environmentally responsible
in their behavior if they felt more interconnectedness
with the environment and the universe as a whole.
Another potentially germane variable related to
environmental behavior is future orientation, which can
also be seen as a form of interconnectedness across time
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 91 Connectedness and Environmental Behavior
(Friedman, 1983). Schwartz (1968) hypothesized that
awareness of consequences moderates the relationship
between moral norms and behavior; this theory was
supported by showing that willingness to help others
was infuenced by awareness of consequences and a
disposition to consider consequences that afect others
(Schwartz, 1974). As an alternative to measuring
awareness of specifc consequences, Strathman,
Gleicher, Boninger, and Edwards (1994) proposed the
Consideration of Future Consequences (CFC) scale as
a dispositional measure of the degree to which people
emphasize future versus immediate consequences
of actions. Whereas Schwartz’s model incorporates
awareness of consequences, the CFC incorporates a
weighting of one set of consequences over another
(i.e., future versus immediate consequences), which
seems pertinent to the exchange between immediate
beneft of consumerism and long-term protection of the
environment.
Te CFC has been associated with pro-
environmental behavior (Joireman, Van Lange, & Van
Vugt, 2004) and has also been found to interact with
value orientations (Joireman, Lasane, Bennett, Richards,
& Solaimani, 2001). Te relationship between future
orientation and environmental behavior suggests that the
CFC’s function fts within the norm-activation model.
Joireman et al. (2004) found that research participants
with high scores on the CFC were more likely to use
public transportation and were more likely to believe
that cars harmed the environment. Tey also found that
modeling the interaction of perceived environmental
impact with both social value orientation and CFC
increased the predictive value of their model, although
the efect size was small. Joireman et al. (2001) studied
the CFC in relation to Social Value Orientation (SVO;
Messick & McClintock, 1968) and found that there was
a statistically signifcant interaction between SVO and
CFC in predicting environmental behavior. Congruent
with Friedman’s (1983) model of self-expansiveness that
focuses on the potential of the self-concept to expand
both temporally and spatially, the CFC is also seen as a
measure related to temporal self-expansiveness into the
future and, in that sense, a measure of interconnectedness.
Conceptually, we theorize that individuals might be
more environmentally responsible if they felt more
connected with the future.
Consequently, this main focus of our study is
on the relationship between interconnectedness, both
broadly in a transpersonal way and more specifcally to
nature and the future, and environmental behavior. We
hypothesized that these forms of interconnectedness are
related to each other and to environmental behavior, but
we also hypothesized that the transpersonal measure, as
a more general approach to interconnectedness, would
not relate to environmental behavior as well as a nature-
specifc measure, in accord with Schultz and Zelezny’s
(1998) fndings.
In addition to a sense of interconnectedness
being possibly salient to environmental behaviors,
there is a growing research literature related to
environmental worldview using Dunlap and Van Liere’s
(1978) New Environmental Paradigm scale, which has
been found to predict environmentally-responsible
behavior, such as lower use of phosphate detergents,
recycling, and reducing resource utilization. However,
some researchers have critiqued the original NEP (see
Tarrant & Cordell, 1997) and, to address more current
environmental issues and psychometric problems in
the original NEP, Dunlap, Van Liere, Mertig, and
Jones (2000) revised the instrument, which is now
called the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP). Both
the original NEP scale and its revised version have
been widely used in research. Rauwald and Moore
(2002) used a subset of the original and found that
it predicted support for protective environmental
policies, but it was not as efective in the samples from
Trinidad and the Dominican Republic. Schultz and
Zelezny (1998) used the revised NEP as a measure
of awareness of environmental consequences and
found that it was a good predictor of a measure of
environmental behavior in the United States and in
Nicaragua, but not in Mexico, Peru, or Spain. Tey
also found that the internal consistency was high in
their sample from the US, but varied in samples from
the other countries.
Mayer and Frantz (2004) hypothesized that
the NEP would not predict behavior as accurately as
their CNS and provided some evidence that the CNS
predicts behavior after controlling for the NEP, while
the NEP does not predict environmental behavior after
controlling for the CNS. Consequently, as a secondary
purpose of our study, we explored this conjecture.
Last, we compared the relationship between a sense of
interconnectedness and environmental behavior after
controlling for environmental worldview as a possible
confounding variable.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 92 Hoot & Friedman
Method
Participants
Participants were drawn from a convenience
sample of patrons at a farmer’s market in a northern
Florida college town. A non-student sample was chosen
because previous studies using non-students as research
participants obtained stronger relationships between
relevant attitudes and behaviors (e.g. Kraus, 1995).
Patrons were approached if they appeared to be over 18
years of age and if they responded to an initial question
in English. Tose over 18 and willing were asked to
participate. Te survey results include data from 97
women, 82 men, and 31 who did not specify their gender;
their average age was 33.8 years, ranging from 18 to 68.
Measures
Self-Expansiveness Level Form. Te Self
Expansiveness Level Form (SELF; Friedman, 1983)
defnes a cartography of time and space constituting all
with which an individual could identify. Te SELF asks
respondents to rate their willingness to identify with
items using a 5-point Likert-scale. Tis study focuses on
items in the SELF Transpersonal Scale (SELF-TS), seen
as the broadest measure of interconnectivity. Examples
of transpersonal items include: “Experiences of all life
forms of which I am one” (Friedman, 1983, p. 42),
“Future happenings which I will experience” (p. 42), and
“Te beings who might descend from me in the distant
future who may not have human form” (p. 43). In initial
research by Friedman (1983), reliability of the SELF-TS
was supported by a test-retest correlation of .83 and
by a Spearman-Brown Prophecy Formula calculation
of internal reliability of .66. In that same research,
construct validity was supported by diferentiating a
known group involving yoga students and members of
a transpersonal society from controls, as well as by its
correlation with the Mystical Experiences Scale (Hood,
1975) and a factor analysis suggesting three factors,
one of which was a transpersonal factor. A number of
additional validation studies have been conducted on
the SELF-TS, including a recent study providing a
comprehensive review of previous validation studies
(Pappas & Friedman, 2007). In this research, the SELF-
TS is used as a general model for the widest type of
interconnectedness, but it should be noted that a more
recent variant of this approach, the Nature Inclusive
Measure (NIM; St. John & MacDonald, 2007), was
developed from the SELF to more specifcally measure
environmental identifcation.
Connectedness to Nature Scale. Another
recent measure, the Connectedness to Nature Scale
(CNS; Mayer & Frantz, 2004), also is closely related
conceptually to the construct of self-expansiveness and
was found to correlate with environmental behavior
(Mayer & Frantz, 2004; Frantz et al., 2005). Te 14-
item CNS was used as a nature-specifc measure of
connectedness, but it is also seen as a limited type of the
overall construct of self-expansiveness (i.e., this is one
domain of self-expansiveness). It contains items about the
respondent’s feelings of connectedness to nature, which
are rated on a 5-point Likert scale from strongly agree
to strongly disagree. Example questions include “I often
feel a sense of oneness with the natural world around
me,” and “I think of the natural world as a community
to which I belong” (Mayer & Frantz, 2004, p. 513).
Mayer and Frantz (2004) found the internal reliability
of the CNS to be adequate (r = .84, n = 60). Tey
also found evidence for construct validity by fnding
statistically signifcant correlations between CNS scores
and lifestyle scores that measured the amount of contact
with nature. Tey then tested convergent validity and
found a moderate correlation with the revised NEP (r =
.35, p < .01).
Future orientation. Future orientation was
measured with the Consideration of Future Consequences
Scale (CFC; Strathman et al., 1994). Te CFC is a 12-item
scale that measures a dispositional trait for the degree to
which the respondent considers future versus immediate
consequences of actions (Strathman et al., 1994). It is
scored on a 5-point scale with 1 representing extremely
uncharacteristic (of the respondent) and 5 representing
extremely characteristic. Data from four samples suggested
adequate internal reliability (alpha scores of .800, .816,
.860, and .805 from samples of n = 323, n = 379, n =
153, and n = 138), and two samples suggest that test-retest
reliability is also adequate (r(166) = .76, after 2 weeks
and r(322) = .72, after 5 weeks; Strathman et al., 1994).
Strathman et al. (1994) supported the convergent validity
of the CFC by showing that it was correlated with delay
of gratifcation (see Klineberg, 1968), locus of control
(see Rotter, 1966), and the Stanford Time Perspective by
Zimbardo (1990). Strathman et al. (1994) also supported
the predictive ability of the CFC by showing that it
predicted environmental behavior, health concern, and
health behavior. Future consequences also is seen as closely
related conceptually to the construct of self-expansiveness,
relating to identifcation with the future.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 93 Connectedness and Environmental Behavior
Environmental beliefs. Environmental beliefs
were assessed using the revised NEP by Dunlap et
al. (2000). Tey described the NEP as a measure of
ecological worldview, attitudes, beliefs, and values,
but Stern, Dietz, and Guagnano (1995) found that
the NEP was indistinguishable from a measure of
awareness of environmental consequences (as opposed
to consideration of consequences). Te NEP contains
15 items about beliefs related to the environment.
Agreement with the odd-numbered items was coded
with a 5 and disagreement was coded with a 1. Te
even numbered items were reverse scored (see Dunlap
et al., 2000). Although the scoring used in this study
corresponds to that used in the original NEP, the
instructions in the current study were modifed to say
“please indicate whether you STRONGLY DISAGREE,
MILDLY DISAGREE, are UNSURE, MILDLY
AGREE or STRONGLY AGREE with it” [upper case
used in the original], which is in the reverse order from
the original so that the order of the number scale in the
current study would correspond with the order used in
the other instruments.
Dunlap et al. (2000) relied on the validity
of the earlier version of the NEP by Dunlap and Van
Liere (1978), but also found that the revised NEP was
correlated with a 10-item measure of self-reported
environmental behavior. Dunlap and Van Liere (1978)
conducted a known-group test of the validity of the
original NEP. Te higher scores from the environmental
group versus the general sample provided support for
the NEP’s construct validity. Research has supported
the predictive validity of the NEP by using it to predict
recycling, avoiding environmentally damaging products,
and other such behaviors (Dunlap & Van Liere, 1978;
Tarrant & Cordell, 1997).
Environmental behavior. Te measure of
environmental behavior used in this study was a 6-item
measure previously used by Joireman et al. (2001). Tey
found that it had adequate internal reliability (alpha =
.65). Te dichotomously scored questions on the survey
pertained to signing petitions for or contributing to
environmental causes, product selection based on
environmental attributes, voting for political candidates
for environmental reasons, membership in environmental
groups, and reading publications by environmental
groups. One version of the questionnaire includes the 6-
item environmental behavior measure frst and the other
version includes it after the CNS and CFC.
Procedure
A survey approach was used to explore
the relationships among environmental behavior,
connectedness, future orientation, and environmental
beliefs. Participants were asked to complete a
questionnaire containing demographic background
information and several measures. Two versions of the
survey were used to counter-balance for the possibility
that there might be efects from asking environmental
behavior questions on the measures, and vice versa. One
version presented the environmental behavior questions
frst, while the other presented them later.
Hypotheses
Hypothesis 1: Tere will be a signifcant
correlation between the SELF-TS and both the
CNS and CFC as measures of more specifc types of
interconnectivity, as well as between the CNS and CFC.
Hypothesis 2: Tere will be a signifcant
correlation between all 3 measures of connectivity and
a measure of environmental behavior.
Hypothesis 3: Tere will be a signifcant
diference in the ability to predict environmental
behavior between an environment-specifc measure of
connectedness (the CNS) and the broader measure of
self-expansiveness (SELF-TS).
Hypothesis 4: Tere will be a signifcant
correlation between the CNS and environmental
behavior after controlling for environmental beliefs.
Hypothesis 5: Future orientation will interact
with the CNS in the prediction of environmental
behavior.
Results
A
lthough 210 people participated in the survey,
some of their responses were incomplete and four
participants coded non-standard answers to the behavior
questions (those responses were coded as missing values).
Consequently, the number of observations varied with
each analysis. Tere were 195 valid observations used for
a regression that included environmental behavior, CFC,
and CNS; and 157 observations for a regression that
added the NEP to the analysis. Of the 210 participants
who completed at least one survey page, 165 completed
the NEP, which was on the last page of the survey.
Tere were no statistically signifcant or any
other diference found in the mean of any variable based
on survey-question order or for those who completed the
entire survey, as compared to only part of it. See Table 1
for a summary of the main fndings. Although the exact
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 94 Hoot & Friedman
participation rate of those approached was not recorded,
it is estimated that approximately one third of those
solicited completed at least part of the survey form.
Gender Efects
Tere were notable gender efects for only
two variables. Te mean environmental behavior
score for female participants (M = 4.13, n = 97, SD =
1.692) was higher than that for male participants (M
= 3.78, n = 76, SD = 1.738), but the diference was not
statistically signifcant. Te mean untransformed CFC
score for female participants (M = 49.34, n = 97, SD
= 5.885, mean per item = 4.11) was higher than that
for male participants (M = 46.60, n = 82, SD = 5.813,
mean per item = 3.84) and was statistically signifcant
(t(172) = 3.664, p < .001). Te gender diference for
CFC is consistent with the results of Petrocelli (2003)
whose study of 664 college students found a statistically
signifcant diference between the scores on the CFC for
female versus male participants, with female participants
scoring higher.
Data Transformations
Te distribution of environmental behavior
scores exhibited a ceiling efect with the most frequent
score being the maximum value of 6 (see Table 2). Tis
distribution was irreparably nonnormal and was not
transformed.
Table 1. Correlations
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

EB — .374*** .415*** .484*** .114 .124 .421*** .262*** –.069** .099
CNS-T — .387** .395*** .336*** .466*** .865*** .170* –.058 –.129
CFC-T — .360*** .259*** .285*** .749*** .081 –.194** .036
NEP-T — .073 .220** .416*** .008 .044 –.040
SELF — .723*** .343*** –.012 –.136 –.231**
SELF-TS — .446*** –.006 –.006 –.235**
CFC x
CNS-T — .167* –.123 –.034
Age — –.022 .218**
Gender — –.048
Education —

EB = environmental behavior; CNS = Connectedness to Nature Scale; CFC = Consideration of Future Consequences; NEP = New Eco-
logical Paradigm; SELF = Self-Expansiveness Level Form; SELF-TS = the Transpersonal Subscale of the SElF; Variable names ending with
–T have been transformed to reduce skewness and improve normality.
*p. < .05 **p. < .01 *** p. < .001
Table 2. Frequency Table
Environmental Behavior
Score Frequency

0 7
1 9
2 35
3 26
4 37
5 43
6 49
Te CNS, CFC, and NEP distributions exhibited
statistically signifcant skewness, kurtosis, and lack of
normality. Hartwig and Dearing (1979) recommended
the use of transfor-
mations when the
inter val s bet ween
items on a scale lack
lack objective signif-
cance. In this study,
skewness was not in-
terpreted to mean
that the underlying
populations were
skewed, but that the
scales used to tap
normally distributed
populations did not
maintain consistent
intervals. Researchers
have used transformations, including an x
2
trans-
formation, to correct skewness in the CFC (see
Joireman, Anderson, & Strathman, 2003; Joireman et
al., 2004). Tis type of ordinary transformation did not
adequately correct the skewness and normality problems
in this study, but a power transformation proved
efective. Te form of the transformation used was
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 95 Connectedness and Environmental Behavior
Tis form was inspired by Box and Cox
(1964), but the lambda values were set to minimize
skewness. Te transformations improved skewness,
kurtosis, and normality for the CNS and NEP, but did
not produce normality in the CFC. Transformation
constants (lambda) for the CNS, CFC, and NEP were
3.1, 2.4, and 2.8 respectively. Transformed values for
these three variables were used in each analysis unless
noted otherwise. Te transformed CFC variable lacked
normality because of the spikes in the distribution of the
original variable, but the overall shape of the transformed
distribution appeared normal. Last, although the SELF-
TS did not exhibit statistically signifcant skewness or
kurtosis, it did fail tests of normality, but this variable
was not transformed because the lack of normality was
caused by spikes that were not correctable.
Hypotheses
1. Te Pearson correlation between the SELF-
TS and the CNS was .466, while for the CFC it was .285
(p < .001 for both). Te Pearson correlation between the
CNS and the CFC was .387 (p < .001). Tese support
the hypothesis that these measures are all tapping into
similar aspects of interconnectivity.
2. Te Pearson correlation between CNS and
environmental behavior was statistically signifcant
(r(202) = .374, p < .01), as was the Pearson correlation
between CFC and environmental behavior (r(195) =
.415, p < .01), but the correlation between the SELF-TS
and environmental behavior was not (r(178) = .124, ns).
3. Te diference in correlative strength between
the correlations using the CNS and the SELF-TS was
tested using Fisher’s r to Z transformation (see Blalock,
1979) and found to be statistically signifcant (t(381) =
2.604, p < .01).
4. Te partial correlation between the CNS
and environmental behavior while controlling for the
NEP was statistically signifcant (r(154) = .228, p < .01)
as was the partial correlation between the NEP and
environmental behavior while controlling for the CNS
(r(154) = .391, p < .001). Although the NEP partial
correlation appeared to be somewhat stronger than that
of the CNS, the diference between the two correlations
was not statistically signifcant (t(309) = 1.59, ns) at an
alpha level of .05.
Because Mayer and Frantz (2004) made claims
about partial correlations that corresponded to Baron
and Kenny’s (1986) description of mediation, results
from both studies were examined for mediator status.
Although the key criteria for mediation is when a
previously signifcant correlation is no longer signifcant
after controlling for a mediator variable, Baron and
Kenny (1986) provided a less formal suggestion for
cases in which the partial correlation does not reduce
the independent-dependent correlation to zero. Tat
suggestion is that “a signifcant reduction demonstrates
that a given mediator is indeed potent” (Baron & Kenny,
1986, p. 1176). A strict interpretation of this would be
that the correlation between independent and dependent
variable would drop by a statistically signifcant amount
when the mediator is added to a partial correlation. To
test if either the CNS or NEP acted as a mediator for the
other variable, the drops in correlation were tested. Table
3 shows that none of the drops in correlation reached
statistical signifcance.

x
T
=
x
λ
−1
λ
λ ≠ 0 ( )
Table 3. Tests of Diferences Between Correlations and Partial Correlations
a


CNS CNS
b
t NEP NEP
c
t

Ecological behavior
d
(n) .44** .42** 0.14 .20* .15 0.29
(65) (65) (65) (65)

Environmental behavior (n) .374*** .228** 1.41 .484*** .391*** 1.01
(204) (156) (160) (156)

CNS = Connectedness to Nature Scale; NEP = New Ecological Paradigm
*p. < .05 **p. < .01 *** p. < .001
a Tests were conducted using Fisher’s r to Z transfomation
b Controlling for NEP
c Controlling for CNS
d Ecological behavior from Mayer and Frantz (2004)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 96 Hoot & Friedman
5. Te Pearson correlation between
environmental behavior and the interaction between
CFC and CNS was statistically signifcant (r(194) = .421,
p < .001), but a better measure of the predictive value of
the interaction term is how it contributes to a multiple
regression that contains the other two variables. Te
coefcient of the interaction term in such a regression
was statistically signifcant (beta = –.585, p < .05), but its
sign was opposite of expectations (see Table 4).
Regression Models
A planned regression of environmental behavior
on CNS, CFC, and the interaction of the two variables
was statistically signifcant (F(3, 192) = 20.147, p <
.001, adjusted R
2
= .228) as were the coefcients for
CNS (beta = .635, p < .001), CFC (beta = .609, p <
.001), and the interaction of the two (beta = –.585, p <
.001). Because there was a statistically signifcant gender
efect for CFC, the frst regression was run for male and
female participants separately. Separate regressions were
used instead of a dummy variable to account for the
possibility there were nonlinear relationships between
gender and the other variables (e.g., a possible gender
diference in the interaction term). Te coefcient for
CFC was statistically signifcant for both male and
female participants. Although the coefcients for
CNS and the interaction between CNS and CFC were
statistically signifcant for female participants only, the
diferences in coefcient values between the male and
female participants were not statistically signifcant. See
Table 4 for a summary of regression analyses.
An unplanned regression of CNS, CFC, and
NEP on environmental behavior showed that all three
variables were statistically signifcant with NEP being the
strongest predictor. Te results are displayed in Table 4.
Discussion
U
sing a convenience sample of patrons of a farmer’s
market, our results evidence that two specifc
measures of interconnectedness, which relate to the
Table 4. Regression Analysis for Dependent Variable: Environmental Behavior
Coefcients Model Attributes

beta t Adj R
2
df F

Model 1 .239 195 20.147***
Constant –.442
CNS-T .635 3.169***
CFC-T .609 3.960***
CFC x CNS-T –.585 -2.087
Model 2 (female) .230 92 10.154***
Constant –1.112
CNS-T 1.205 3.681***
CFC-T .650 3.090***
CFC x CNS-T –1.207 –2.756
Model 3 (male) .227 75 8.322***
Constant –.704
CNS-T .621 1.952
CFC-T .690 2.904
CFC x CNS-T –.583 –1.384
Model 4 .274 157 20.710***
Constant 1.093
CNS-T .158 2.028*
CFC-T .199 2.604**
NEP-T .332 4.380***

CNS = Connectedness to Nature Scale; CFC = Consideration of Future Consequences; NEP = New Ecological Paradigm; Variable names
ending with –T have been transformed to reduce skewness and improve normality.
*p. < .05 **p. < .01 *** p. < .001
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 97 Connectedness and Environmental Behavior
larger construct of self-expansiveness, can predict
environmental behavior. Tis understanding flls a gap
in the current body of research by providing preliminary
evidence that interconnectedness (both with nature and
the future) contribute to the prediction of environmental
behavior both directly and through their interaction. Te
fnding that a nature-specifc measure of connectedness
(the CNS) has a stronger correlation with environmental
behavior than does a broader measure of connectedness
(the SELF-TS) is consistent with the research of Ajzen
and Fishbein (1977) who suggested that more specifc
measures of attitudes would yield higher correlations
with behavior than would less specifc measures. Our
results are also a reminder that improved prediction of
environmental behavior might require refnement of
other general predictors of environmental behavior, such
as a nature-specifc measure of future orientation.
Contrary to the past fndings of Mayer and
Frantz (2004), the CNS was not found to be a better
predictor of environmental behavior after controlling
for the NEP than the NEP was after controlling for the
CNS. Mayer and Frantz (2004) made explicit claims
that the CNS would predict behavior better than the
NEP and also noted that the correlation between the
CNS and environmental behavior while controlling for
the NEP was better than the other partial correlation.
Te data in Table 3 does not provide support of any
statistically signifcant mediator efects of the CNS or
NEP in correlations with environmental behavior.
Te nominal diferences in correlations between
the two studies among CNS, NEP, and environmental
behavior might be a result of the smaller sample size
in the Mayer and Frantz (2004) study or the diferent
measures of environmental behavior. Some items in the
current study might have refected mere support for
environmental principles, whereas Mayer and Frantz
(2004) measured specifc behaviors that might involve
some degree of personal sacrifce.
Support was found for the interaction between
future orientation and connectedness, but the sign of
the coefcient was negative when it was expected to be
positive. Te coefcient for this variable was expected to
be positive based on the theory that people with high
connectedness to nature and high future orientation
would be strongly motivated to minimize long-term
adverse impact on nature. A possible ceiling efect in
the environmental behavior data might have afected
the results for participants who had very high CNS and
very high CFC and did not have the possibility to score
a higher environmental behavior score because they
already reached the maximum score. If future studies
replicate the negative coefcient for the interaction
term, it might suggest the counterintuitive condition
in which people with very high future orientation and
connectedness to nature become concerned about
many topics, such that dedication to the environment
becomes difuse and actually decreases. Such a fnding
would be consistent with the work of Carlo et al. (1999)
who found that manipulated levels of oneness increased
helping behavior only in those with lower dispositional
levels of personal distress. Tey suggested that high levels
of personal distress disrupt the activation of empathy.
Future research could be used to explore the interaction
of the CNS and CFC while using a more comprehensive
measure of environmental behavior and perhaps a
measure of dispositional level of personal distress to
explore the relationships suggested by Carlo et al. (1999).
Future research could also expand on the current study
by using a more representative sample of participants.
Te diference between a nature-specifc
measure of connectedness and a broader measure of
self-expansiveness in the prediction of environmental
behavior was notable and in the predicted direction
but was not statistically signifcant. Te results add to
the work of Ajzen and Fishbein (1977) whose review
of research suggested that measures of attitudes and
behaviors that closely correspond to each other are more
predictive than measures that are more distantly related.
Te results are also consistent with Schultz and Zelezny
(1998), who found that a nature-specifc measure of self-
transcendence predicted environmental behavior better
than a general measure did.
As humanity faces the onset of likely
environmental crises, technological advances and
macrosocial interventions can undoubtedly be of great
beneft. But increased understanding of how people might
experience an increased sense of interconnectedness,
such as with both nature and the future, could also
facilitate the selection of workable pathways toward
environmental sustainability. We believe these types
of interconnectedness can be best understood from a
transpersonal perspective, congruent with Friedman’s
(1983) model of self-expansiveness, and that encouraging
this perspective could provide an important avenue for
not only environmental sustainability but also for the
very survival of humanity.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 98 Hoot & Friedman
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International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 100 Hoot & Friedman
Note
1. Tis paper is partially based on Hoot’s (2009) master’s
thesis.
About the Authors
Harris Friedman, PhD, is a consulting and clinical
psychologist. He has taught and held leadership
positions at several universities, and recently retired
as Research Professor of Psychology at University of
Florida and Professor Emeritus at Saybrook University.
He continues to supervise dissertations at a number of
schools, including Walden and Northcentral, as well
as Saybrook Universities. He has over 100 professional
publications, mainly in the area of transpersonal
psychology and spirituality. He is a Fellow of the
American Psychological Association, and serves as Senior
Editor of the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies
and Associate Editor of Te Humanistic Psychologist. His
most recent books, both co-edited with Stanley Krippner
in 2010 and published by Praeger, are Mysterious Minds
and Debating Psychic Experiences.
Robert Hoot is a PhD student in Psychology at Walden
University, currently studying the perceived moral
permissibility of actions that harm nature and how those
conceptions of morality relate to connectedness to nature.
He can be contacted at robert.hoot@waldenu.edu
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 101 Te Deep Ecology Movement
Te Deep Ecology Movement:
Origins, Development, and Future Prospects
(Toward a Transpersonal Ecosophy)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 101-117
T
he emergence of myriad grass-roots organizations
working for positive social change is one of the
most signifcant developments in the 20th century.
Tese often began as local initiatives, but spread to become
national and in some cases even international as is true for
the three great movements. Te three great movements
for global responsibility during the 20th century were
the peace, social justice, and environmental movements.
(For more on these three movements see Naess’ essay “Te
Tree Great Movements” reprinted in Naess, 2008e.) It
is true that the roots of these three movements predate
the 20th century, but it was only in the last century that
they became global. Tey have attracted a wide variety of
people with diferent worldviews, religions, cultures, and
nationalities. Each can be seen as having interconnections
with the others. For example, violence and war are
incompatible with environmental responsibility, and
environmental destruction and degradation raise issues
of social justice. Liberty and equality cannot be secured
in conditions of war and violence, but require mutual
respect and civil relationships best realized through peace.
All three movements assume individual maturity and
responsibility. Hence, people refer to active concern for
all three areas as exemplifying high social responsibility.
An example of this is in the growing form of investing
called “Socially Responsible Investment” (SRI), in which
investments are screened using criteria of social justice,
peace, and environmental responsibility. Tis is one of the
many ways these three movements infuence each other
in our society. Shallow, proft-only-oriented investment
is short-term and focused on narrow values. SRI is a
deeper, longer term approach that cares for the present
and future. Tus, all three movements can be supported,
but an individual might focus their actions mostly on one
of them, recognizing their complementary nature and a
person’s limited energy (Chernushenko, 2008).
Te environmental movement was at frst
difuse, but in time it became more focused. Within
Te deep ecology movement, which began with Arne Naess’ introduction of the term in
1972, is compared with other movements for social responsibility that developed in the
20th century. Te paper discusses Naess’ cross-cultural approach to characterizing grass-
roots movements via platform principles that can be supported from a diversity of cultures,
worldviews, and personal philosophies, and explains his use of “ecosophy.” Te deep ecology
movement’s relationship with ecopsychology, ecocriticism, and humanistic and transpersonal
psychology is described as part of an emerging synthesis referred to as transpersonal ecosophy.
Te inquiry concludes with a technical discussion of Naess’ Apron Diagram and refections
on the future of the movement in light of widespread concerns about global warming and
destruction of cultural and biological diversity.
Keywords: deep ecology, long-range deep ecology movement, ecosophy, platform principles,
Apron Diagram and levels of discourse, nonviolent direct action, ecological responsibility
and sustainability, deep questioning, ultimate norms, Ecosophy T, Self-Realization,
ecopsychology, ecocriticism, humanistic and transpersonal ecosophy.
Alan Drengson
1

University of Victoria
Victoria, BC, Canada
Bill Devall
Humboldt State University
Arcata, CA, USA
Mark A Schroll
2

Co-Editor, Restoration Earth
New York, NY, USA
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 102 Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
in local and global systems. Te environmental
movement, then, is a call to ecological responsibility.
Te better we understand ecosystem processes and
functions, the better able we are to connect our whole
lives with them. Carson suggested that honoring this
responsibility requires a basic shift in the way we see,
feel, and value the world. Tis deep change is often
described as a shift in paradigms, values, and basic
relationships. We cannot continue to do the same
things in the same way for the same reasons, with only
modest modifcations. We cannot go on with business
as usual, if we are going to solve these problems. (For
more on shifting paradigms see Drengson, 1980, 2011;
Caley, 2011; MacDowell, 2011; Fox, 2011; Schroll &
Walker, 2011; Schroll & Greenwood, 2011.)
Carson showed the need for deep changes
in human practices and ways of living. Mainstream
politicians and other people have acknowledged that
there are problems, but they typically believe that mild
reforms and improved technology will solve them.
Economic growth and increased consumption are still
considered central values of the society and so the
status quo economy is placed before the environment.
Arne Naess called this approach the shallow ecology
movement. Carson’s book and the writings of other
ecology researchers related to it, all implied that a
comprehensive and deep change in basic values and
patterns of action is needed. In our complex social systems
it is basic values, choices, and priorities that determine
how the whole system develops and what its efects are.
Tus, those calling for basic changes challenged the rest
of us to ask deep questions about why and how we act as
we do. What are our ultimate values? What do we live
for? How do we realize our highest ends? What means
shall we adopt to realize these aims?
Te 1960s was a decade of vigorous social
activism in the United States, Canada, Western
Europe, and Australia. Some activism focused on
war and peace and the issue of nuclear weapons. A
well-known early environmental organization started
with a focus on nuclear tests and their environmental
hazards. Some people in British Columbia, Canada,
were opposed to the test of a nuclear weapon by the
US government on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians
of of Alaska. Tey hired a fshing vessel and sailed
towards the nuclear test site in protest. Tis action led
to the founding of Greenpeace, which became more
identifed with environmental issues as time went by.
these socially responsible movements, there is a short-
term shallow focus on investing energies in responsible
education and business, and a deeper, longer term
approach that uses deep questioning to get to ultimate
values and the roots of the problems, which lie deep
within ourselves as individuals and as societies. Te
shallow approach to environmental action is piecemeal
in caring for the natural world and its life-support
systems. Te environmental movement was deepened
and strengthened by the more widespread social justice
and peace movements in the 1960s. Martin Luther
King, Jr. was a leader in these movements. He and
many others realized that a basic human right is to be
safe in your person. Living and working in hazardous
conditions violates human rights, and people who are
less well of usually bear more negative consequences
from pollution in their home and workplace.
Origins of the Deep Ecology Movement
S
ome consider the publication of Rachel Carson’s
book Silent Spring (1962) as the beginning of the
contemporary, long-range deep ecology movement.
When her book appeared there was a long-standing
movement for conservation of land and resources,
as well as support for creating parks and other areas
devoted to preserving wilderness and spectacular
nature. Carson’s writings were especially infuential
because they clearly showed how human well-being
depends on the condition of whole biotic communities.
She explained in practical terms how living beings are
interrelated within ecosystems. She explained how
pesticides used to control mosquitoes and other insects
led to declines in some bird populations. Silent Spring
helped show how complex food webs and networks
of biotic relationships function. Since humans are at
the top of many food chains, exposure to chemicals
becomes more concentrated as these move up the
chains. Te chemicals also can be stored in human
tissues and gradually accumulate over time, adversely
afecting health.
Carson helped a generation to grasp that caring
for some animal populations, such as birds, requires care
for the health of the whole system they live in. Because
of interrelatedness, humans need to respect all forms of
life as part of our whole biotic community. In societal
communities every person counts; so too in natural
communities, all beings contribute and participate.
As humans with forethought and self refection, we
are responsible for what we do and how we participate
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 103 Te Deep Ecology Movement
Te name Greenpeace, then, is associated with two of
the three great social movements, the conservation (or
environmental) movement and the peace or antiwar
movement.
Many environmental organizations, such as the
Sierra Club in California, were originally more local in
focus. Tey concentrated mainly on preserving special
spectacular scenic areas, but shifted and widened their
focus in the 1960s and 1970s. Additional research and
knowledge eventually led to a deeper, more comprehensive
approach to environmental problems. Te U.S. Wilder-
ness Act was passed in 1964, as well as many other
conservation measures. By the early 1970s the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed. Tis act
created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in
the US. Similar eforts were going on in other countries
such as Canada and in Western Europe. Te frst Earth
Day was held in 1970. Te environmental movement was
strengthened by the more widespread social responsibility
movement; it worked cooperatively with the peace and
social justice movements. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil
rights message was embraced as an essential human right,
and led to the implementation of policy that living and
working in hazardous conditions violates these rights.
Moreover, those with fnancial means can avoid being
subjected to the worst environmental pollution, which
raises questions of fairness.
Tese three great movements were further
catalyzed by the now iconic images of the whole Earth
foating in space taken during the return of the Apollo
space missions from their journey to the moon. Among
the astronauts that witnessed seeing the whole Earth
frsthand was Edgar D. Mitchell, who in 1971, during
the return mission of Apollo 14, had an epiphany that
what is needed to solve the eco-crisis “is a transformation
of consciousness” (Roberts, 2011). In response, the
criticism many have had regarding the hypothesis “we
need a transformation of consciousness” is that a specifc
operational defnition of what this actually means is
lacking (Schroll, 2011b). Humanistic and transpersonal
psychology have an important role to play in ofering
support to this hypothesis, because these schools of
psychology have focused more than others on motivational
techniques and methods to change consciousness.
Shallow-Deep Distinction
N
orwegian philosopher Arne Naess frst used the
shallow-deep distinction in a talk at the World
Future Research Conference in Bucharest in 1972. Naess
regarded his presentation as a preliminary account of the
environmental movement. It was based on empirical
studies, questionnaires, and an examination of texts
and documents. During the 1980s and 1990s, Naess
continued to revise the points of characterization that he
had introduced in his talk and its published summary.
Tus, he coined the terms deep ecology movement and
ecosophy in, Te Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range
Ecology Movement: A Summary (frst published as
Naess, 1973, now reprinted in Naess, 2005, Vol. 10, and
online as Naess, 2008d). He contrasted the mainstream
shallow ecology movement with the deep ecology
movement, which stresses the need for extensive changes
in values and practices, especially in industrial nations.
Naess said that supporters of the deep ecology
movement embrace its principles as a result of a deep
questioning of mainstream values, beliefs, and practices to
arrive at intuitions that are at the level of ultimate norms
and hypotheses. By comparison, the shallow movement
does not go to the ultimate level in values and conceptions
of the world. It is concerned primarily with pollution and
resource depletion in industrialized nations, and only
with minor reform of the system without fundamental
changes in values and practices. It is concerned with
the health and afuence of industrial nations. Of the
deep approach Naess wrote, “Ecologically responsible
policies are concerned only in part with pollution and
resource depletion. Tere are deeper concerns which
touch upon principles of diversity, complexity, autonomy,
decentralization, symbiosis, egalitarianism, and class-
lessness” (Drengson & Inoue, 1995, p. 3; Naess, 2008a).
In his detailed discussion, Naess used terms
such as “biocentric egalitarianism in principle” to try
to articulate the underlying intuitions that supporters
of deep changes felt are needed in industrial societies,
in relation to the way natural and built environments
are treated. Later, for a variety of reasons, he dropped
this egalitarian terminology when he articulated the
Platform Principles for the deep ecology movement. As
will be seen, the frst two principles approach the essence
of some of these intuitions, since they recognize the
intrinsic worth of all living beings (Platform Principle
No. 1) and the intrinsic worth of diversity and richness
(Platform Principle No. 2).
Joseph Meeker’s Role
in the Development of the Deep Ecology Movement
J
oseph Meeker’s role in the development of the deep
ecology movement is important because it was he, in
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 104 Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
1973, who told George Sessions “about the Norwegian
philosopher Arne Naess, whom Meeker knew personally”
(Fox, 1990, p. 63). As Warwick Fox related:
One of the things that initially interested Sessions
about Naess was Naess’s strong interest in, and
innovative approach to, the work of Spinoza.
Sessions says that he had himself “arrived at Spinoza
as the answer to the process of teaching history of
philosophy by about 1972 and independently of
being in contact with Naess.” Sessions therefore
wrote to Naess at this time, and their association has
continued ever since. (p. 63)
Meeker’s (1972, 1997) book, Te Comedy
of Survival,
3
emerged through the work of scholars
seeking an environmental ethic. Te Comedy of Survival
represents Meeker’s founding work in literary ecology
and ecocriticism, which demonstrates the relationship
between the literary arts and scientifc ecology, especially
humankind’s consideration of comedy and tragedy. It
reminds that adaptive behaviors (comedy) promote
survival, whereas tragedy estranges from other life
forms. Tis thesis rests on Meeker’s study of comparative
literature, his work with biologist Konrad Lorenz, and
his work as a feld ecologist in the National Park service
in Alaska, Oregon, and California.
Similar to Meeker, John Tallmadge is another
representative of ecocriticism. While serving as president
of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Envi-
ronment (ASLE) in 1997, he shared this accout:
In the early 1990s a group of scholars began to
address this necessary relationship and promoted
the inclusion of environmental perspectives in
literary studies. Te movement grew and developed
in a new area of study: ecocriticism (Tallmadge,
1999, pp. 15-16).
In the years leading up to the formation of ASLE and
ecocriticism, Tallmadge’s personal journey was guided
by the question: “how should human beings relate
to the world?” (p. 15). Tallmadge came to a deeper
understanding of this question through his realization
that wilderness is actually a state of consciousness
(Tallmadge, 1981, 1987). Drengson has referred to this
as the human need for the Way of Wild Journeying, or
simply the Wild Way, pointing out that an example of
the Wild Way is expressed in Toreau’s (1862) essay,
Walking. It is Drengson’s discussion of the Wild Way
orientation in the work of Toreau where it is possible
to see a further connection between the deep ecology
movement and ecocriticism:
Toreau appreciated Emerson’s work, but felt
it stopped short. He recognized that Emerson’s
spiritual culture was still European in some respects.
Tere remains a sense of separation from Nature
with a nostalgic longing for something beyond this
continent. Toreau seemed to feel that Emerson’s
transcendentalism welled up from a lack of literary,
experiential and physical grounding in wild places
in North America. To see nature as it is depends
on access to wilderness and to our own inner wild
nature. Identity, awareness and place are network webs
of reciprocal relationships. When we are ecologically
aware, we know that we need wild places in Nature
to help us realize our wholesome wild energies.
Tis is what completes us as human Earth dwellers.
When we are aware beings, we are self realizing
and creatively changing within a home space. . . .
Toreau’s way to wholeness—his prescription—was
to walk at least four hours [in wild nature] every day.
(Drengson, 2010, p. 2010, emphasis supplied)
Tis helps to raise an interesting question: in
order to maintain a healthy psyche, what is the minimum
time of nature exposure that a person needs each day? (See
Drengson’s [2010] Wild Way Home for outlines of such
eforts.) To the authors’ knowledge, this is a question that
still needs investigation as we are unaware of any specifc
data to answer it. A related question would be: does
exposure to nature expand one’s sense of self identity and
how one treats the world? Tis is the focus of Robert E.
Hoot and Harris Friedman’s (2011; this volume) article,
Sense of Interconnectedness and Pro-Environmental
Behavior. Similarly, one might ask if all places in nature
are equivalent, or if it might be that certain places tend
to be more infuential? Jim Swan has been collecting
data on what he has called the study of place, or, more
specifcally, sacred places in nature as triggers that produce
transpersonal states (Swan, 1988, 1990, 2010; Schroll,
2011b). Tis discussion, however, exceeds the limits of the
present article. Finally, Toreau’s method to wholeness
brings to mind a walk with Meeker, David Spangler (a
major theoretician of the New Age Movement), and others
through his private forest (his backyard; Meeker, 1997a).
Tose close to arboretums at university campuses or a
public park also have a way of practicing the Wild Way.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 105 Te Deep Ecology Movement
Toward a Vision of Sustainable Agriculture
R
eturning to Mitchell’s hypothesis that what is
needed to solve the eco-crisis is a transformation of
consciousness, Meeker has summarized this suggestion
as:
An image of human adaptation to the world and [an]
acceptance of [its] given conditions without escape,
rebellion, or egotistical insistence upon human
centrality. (Meeker, 1972, p. 182)
In other words, those urging a transformation of
consciousness do not support the belief that humanity will
be saved by supernatural forces from the consequences of
mistreating nature. Tis is not to suggest that those urging
a transformation of consciousness are in favor of totally
abandoning humankind’s relationship with the sacred, or
a total and complete overthrow of the status quo. What
is being suggested is the need to transcend the narrow
piety of the established social order, whose governance is
predicated on idealistic platitudes far beyond the reach
of the common citizen. Humankind is being invited
to participate in the fullness of nature as a wilderness,
not a well-manicured garden that is dominated and
controlled for human use. Tis does not require giving
up gardening and agriculture in the practical sense, but
an end to the treatment of nature as an object that exists
only for instrumental use: an idea whose goal, according
to Wes Jackson (1992), is to “seriously begin to build a
science of agricultural sustainability, where nature is the
measure” (p. 92). Te goal of sustainable agriculture is to
move away from monocultural farming techniques and
seasonal reliance on herbicides and pesticides to control
weeds and insects.
Jackson (1992) and his colleagues at the
Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, have already begun
developing perennial strains of grasses, legumes (peas,
beans, clover, alfalfa, etc.), sunfower family members
and miscellaneous others that not only imitate nature’s
structure, but are bred “for high seed-yield and resistance
to seed shatter and pests” (p. 93). Speaking about his
work at the Land Institute, Jackson stated:
Tough some of the work features diversity over
time (crop rotation, in order words), it is not
necessarily succession. Nevertheless, by featuring
diversity, maintaining ground cover, and relying
on internal sources of nutrients, better control of
weeds, diseases, and insects is possible. Nearly all
of the good examples of traditional agriculture have
employed what we now recognize as sound ecological
principles (p. 93).
Still, new methods of plant breeding and the
reinstatement of traditional farming methods will not,
by themselves, create the means to develop sustainable
agriculture. In addition, Jackson (1992) suggested the
need “for a less extractive and polluting economic order,”
based on what he referred to as “sustainable human
communities” (p. 93). Jackson (2009) clarifed what
he meant by sustainable human communities, pointing
out:
Our greatest achievement is not being able to say
“we saved this place,” but being able to say, instead,
“you belong here. You are home.” Land conservation
can become the story of how the soul of the land
became the soul of our culture, signaling over and
over our place in the world. (p. 262)
Te achievement of this goal is the most radical suggestion
that Jackson (1992) proposed:
If we are to look at nature to inform us about
sustainable structures and functions in a human
community, we must have the courage to shift our
attention back to the Paleolithic and even earlier in
order to help defne what the human being is as a
social creature. (p. 94)
Evolution as a Comedy of Survival:
Remembering Right Relationship with Nature
J
ackson’s suggestion that modern humans shift their
attention back to the Paleolithic will truly require a
transformation of consciousness. Meeker (1972) has
suggested one way humankind could begin to transcend
its present worldview is for us to see evolution as a comedy
of survival. Why comedy? Because, as he explained,
comedy “is a celebration, a ritual renewal of biological
welfare as it persists in spite of any reasons there may
be for feeling metaphysical despair (p. 24). Moreover,
Meeker suggested that “evolution itself is a gigantic
comic drama, not the bloody tragic spectacle imagined
by the sentimental humanists of early Darwinism. . . . Like
comedy, evolution itself is a matter of muddling through”
(p. 33). “In modern terms, comedy is systemic rather
than hierarchical (Meeker, 1995, p. 22). Still—with the
possible exception of socially and politically conscious
satire—it is hard to shake the image of comedians as
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 106 Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
people who earn their living making light-hearted jokes.
How would comparing life to a comedy help anyone care
more about the world in which they live?
Unlike the heroic warrior image found in tragic
literature, the comic perspective is non-confrontational.
Tus, instead of fghting nature, the comic perspective
attempts to establish a right relationship with nature.
Te phrase “right relationship” may suggest to those
unfamiliar with the terminology of Eastern and trans-
personal psychology, an ideological creed similar to “my
country right or wrong!” Additional reasoning along
this line might lead one to assume it means a political
mandate for correct behavioral conduct. In actuality
right relationship refers to humankind’s coherent, co-
evolutionary, sustainable orientation with nature. Right
relationship suggests the need for a psychic reorientation
with the personal and collective unconscious that,
according to Metzner (1992), will require “re-thinking
the relationship of humankind with the animal kingdom,
the plant kingdom and the elemental realms of air, water
and earth/land” (p. 1). Drengson (2010) referred to right
relationship or “right actions with integrity and honesty,
honoring others” (p. 244) as an essential value in the
Wild Way.
Deep Ecology Movement Platform Principles
S
upporters of the long-range deep ecology movement
mostly agree on the general Platform Principles of the
movement. Tis is true for supporters of other movements
as well. Social-political movements often unite people
with diferent religions and personal philosophies.
Such movements cannot be precisely defned, but are
often characterized by fairly general goals and aims
that are stated in something like a platform. Tere
will be variations in applying such principles within a
broad movement, since in specifc places diferent direct
actions might be required; people live in quite diferent
ecosystems and cultures, and they have diferent personal
philosophies (Devall, 2006).
While there have been several articulations of
the deep platform by diferent philosophers and activists,
this paper will focus on Naess’ version. His articulation
of these principles distills what seem to be the shared
principles in the movement from a wide, cross-cultural
literature, and also as gleaned from activists’ statements.
Te gist of the original principles is now incorporated in
many documents and agreements. Similar distillations
of platform principles have been done within the social
justice and peace movements. Naess and others see the
three great movements as compatible and complementary.
Each does important work and should remain focused
on its own platform. Te front of all these movements is
very long and deep. Tere is something each individual
can do in their own place to support all three.
Te frst complete articulation of the Platform
Principles of the deep ecology movement was by Naess
and Sessions in 1984, developed while hiking in Death
Valley, and published in Deep Ecology (Devall & Sessions,
1985). A more recent and elegant version of this Platform
was published by Devall (2002).
Platform Principles
of the Deep Ecology Movement
1. All living beings have intrinsic value.
2. Te diversity and richness of life has intrinsic
value.
3. Except to satisfy vital human needs, humankind
does not have a right to reduce this diversity and
richness.
4. It would be better for human beings if there
were fewer of them, and much better for other
living creatures.
5. Today the extent and nature of human interfer-
ence in the various ecosystems is not sustainable,
and lack of sustainability is rising.
6. Decisive improvement requires considerable
change: social, economic, technological and
ideological.
7. An ideological change would essentially entail
seeking a better quality of life rather than a
raised standard of living.
8. Tose who accept the aforementioned points
are responsible for trying to contribute directly
or indirectly to the realization of the necessary
changes.
From Naess with Haukeland, 2002, pp. 108-109; an
expanded version of the Platform has been proposed
by Bender (2003, pp. 448-449).
Te application of the principles articulated in the
Platform occurs at the levels of local households and
communities, nation states, and global agreements.
It involves actions, policies, laws, and other forms of
agreement.
It should be stressed that those who follow
Naess’ lead welcome a great diversity of personal views
and cultures that support the local and global movement
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 107 Te Deep Ecology Movement
for ecological responsibility. Similarly, Naess and other
supporters of the deep ecology movement, have avoided
using divisive terms words such as “shallow ecologist” and
“deep ecologist.” Instead, “supporter of deep ecology” is
shorthand for “supporter of the deep ecology movement.”
In this way it is recognized that one can be a supporter
of social justice, world peace, and the deep ecology
movement, as well as of many other movements. A person
who supports the social justice and peace movements
is not thereby called a “social justicist” or “peaceist,”
since their reasons for supporting these movements are
based on their own philosophy of life or on a spiritual
tradition such as Buddhism or Christianity. As is made
clear by Naess’ Apron Diagram, social justice, peace, and
ecological responsibility are not by themselves complete
philosophies, but are supported by a great diversity of
people having diferent philosophies.
Te terms “intrinsic value, inherent worth,
biocentric equality, egalitarianism, ecocentrism, and non-
anthropocentrism” have been used widely in the literature
to distinguish deep ecology movement principles from
humanism and other forms of narrow anthropocentrism;
these philosophies emphasize humans frst over all other
beings, an attitude characteristic of shallow approaches.
Many shallow ecology supporters also place economic
values over environmental ones. However, both the
Shallow and Deep Movements acknowledge that humans
are having a negative impact on the natural world, and
that this impact should be minimized for a variety of
somewhat diferent reasons.
Ecosophies in Abundance
I
n describing the main features of the deep ecology
movement in his earliest writings, Naess explained how
personal philosophies of life, or what he also called total
and complete views, could be consciously articulated to
aim for ecological harmony and wisdom. He called such
ecocentric personal philosophies ecosophies, combining
the root words from ancient Greek ecos (household
place) and sophia (wisdom), to mean ecological wisdom
or wisdom of place. Naess thought that mature persons
know what their life philosophy is, what they stand for,
and what their priorities are. Here is his original account
of ecosophy (Drengson, 2005):
By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological
harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of
sofa (or) wisdom, is openly normative, it contains
both norms, rules, postulates, value priority
announcements and hypotheses concerning the
states of afairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy
wisdom, prescription, not only scientifc description
and prediction. Te details of an ecosophy will
show many variations due to signifcant diferences
concerning not only the “facts” of pollution,
resources, population, etc., but also value priorities.
(Naess, 1973, as reprinted in Drengson & Inoue,
1995, p. 8)
Each person’s ecosophy can be given a unique name,
possibly for the place they live, or for something to
which they feel strongly connected. For example, John
Muir might have called his ecosophy “Ecosophy M,”
where “M” stands for mountains, but also for Muir
(Bresnahan, 2007). Tere can be indefnitely many
ecosophies as articulated personal life philosophies that
are lived with a variety of diferent actions appropriate to
their unique places.
To simplify the articulation of an ecosophy as
a whole personal view, Naess suggested distilling it into
two kinds of statements. Tese consist of (a) ultimate
hypotheses (H) about the nature of the world, and (b)
ultimate values he called norms (N). Naess used an
exclamation point to identify norms in his writing.
Since there is an abundance of individuals, languages,
cultures, and religions, there will be an abundance of
ecosophies in support of the deep ecology movement all
over the world, such as Ecosophy Ann, Ecosophy Bob,
Ecosophy Chan, Ecosophy Ishu, and so on. Naess used
his Ecosophy T to exemplify how one can articulate a
unique personal philosophy that aims for ecological
harmony.
Here are a couple of examples of Naess’ (1990)
use of norms and hypotheses to articulate Ecosophy T
(the “T” refers to his hut Tvergastein, a place of arctic
extremes, high in the mountains of Norway). His
ecosophy’s ultimate norm is “Self-realization!” He stated
this frst and then organized the subsequent norms
and hypotheses in chains of derivation. Here is how he
presented these in Ecology, Community and Lifestyle:
Formulation of the Most Basic Norms (N)
and Hypotheses (H)
N1: Self-realization!
H1: Te higher the Self-realization attained by
anyone, the broader and deeper the identi-
fcation with others.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 108 Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
H2: Te higher the level of Self-realization attained
by anyone, the more its further increase
depends upon the Self-realization of others.
H3: Complete Self-realization of anyone depends
on that of all.
N2: Self-realization for all living beings!
(Naess, 1990, p. 197; see also Naess, 1992; 2005,
Vol. X).
Later in the same chapter (p. 199) he ofered the following:
Norms and Hypotheses Originating in Ecology
H4: Diversity of life increases Self-realization
potentials.
N3: Diversity of Life!
H5: Complexity of life increases Self-realization
potentials.
N4: Complexity!
H6: Life resources of the Earth are limited.
H7: Symbiosis maximizes Self-realization
potentials under conditions of limited
resources.
N5: Symbiosis!
As noted, Naess used the exclamation point to emphasize
and mark that a statement is a value norm. As a norm
it entails that he ought to do something. Te ultimate
norm “Self-realization!” implies that he ought to strive to
realize himself and to help others to realize themselves.
In the case of “Diversity!” he ought to honor and support
diversity on every level (biological, individual, cultural,
etc.) in any way he can. Interweaving norms and
hypotheses, Naess articulated a systematic outline of the
basic elements in his ecosophy. Note that ecosophies are
not just theories; they are ways of life actively engaged
on a daily basis.
Naess explained what he means by Self-
realization in many places, but especially in his infuential
paper, Self-Realization: An Ecological Approach to
Being in the World (Naess, 1987; this was frst a lecture
delivered in Australia). In this paper, and in his daily
life, Naess explored the ecology of the self in a world of
deep ecological relationships, not just to other humans,
but also to other living beings. He noted that selves relate
to others on many levels, from physical and emotional, to
psychological and spiritual. He also observed that there
are many kinds of selves, human and nonhuman.
As an individual matures they go through
diferent developmental stages that have been described
by Abraham Maslow and other humanistic and
transpersonal psychologists in their accounts of stages of
growth and self actualization. In various ways, the ego
self (with a small s) grows to realize a more concerned
social self, and then perhaps an ontological self that
Naess called Self using a capital “S.” Tis type of self-
Self distinction is made in Hinduism and in some
forms of Zen Buddhism. Whereas Maslow wrote of
self-actualization, Naess used the more Gandhian and
Spinozan terminology of Self-realization. Tis ecology
of self-Self is not part of the deep ecology movement;
instead, it is part of Naess’s theoretical support for his
social activism, and his support for the peace, social
justice, and ecology movements. Tis distinction is
made at the level of an ultimate philosophy of life; it is
not made in all worldviews and ecosophies.
A Misunderstanding to Avoid
S
ome writers have misunderstood Naess, taking
his Ecosophy T, with its Self-realization norm,
as something meant to characterize the whole deep
ecology movement as part of a single philosophy called
“deep ecology.” Naess was not doing either of these.
He emphasized that movements cannot be precisely
defned, but only roughly characterized by very general
statements. Tey are often united internationally by
means of such principles as found in the United Nations
(UN) Earth Charter (1980), and in UN documents
about basic human rights.
Tus, Naess was doing something more subtle
than many thought. He was not putting forth a single
worldview and philosophy of life that everyone should
adhere to in support of the international ecology movement.
Instead, he was making an empirical claim based on
overwhelming evidence that global social movements,
from the grass roots up, consist of people with very diverse
religious, philosophical, cultural, and personal orientations.
Nonetheless, they can agree on certain courses of action
and certain broad principles, especially at the international
level. As supporters of a given movement, they can treat
one another with mutual respect.
Because of these misunderstandings Naess
introduced an Apron Diagram to clearly illustrate his
subtle distinctions. Tere is collective cooperation on
global concerns, and yet a great variety of ultimate
premises from which each person or group acts locally.
Within global movements there is diversity at the local
level because each place and community is diferent and
must adapt to its unique setting.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 109 Te Deep Ecology Movement
Ecosophy T, Tailor-Made for Naess
T
hus, Naess stressed that his Ecosophy T is not meant
to hold for everyone, since it is tailored to his very
modest lifestyle suitable to a place such as Tvergastein.
Te ultimate premises for his whole view might be
conceptually incompatible with those in someone else’s
whole views. But even if this is true, they could both
support the Platform Principles of the deep ecology
movement and other social-political global movements,
such as for peace and social justice. In recognizing the
principle that all living beings have intrinsic worth, one
acknowledges they are good for their own sake. Tis does
not commit one to biocentric equality or egalitarianism
between species. Within the vast diversity of living
beings, there are complex relationships the range of which
is predation, competition, cooperation, and symbiosis.
Many think that symbiosis and complementarity are
important values to embrace as they are consistent with
global cooperation, community life, and support for the
deep ecology movement Platform.
When one considers what Naess has said about
Ecosophy T and the Self-realization! Norm, it becomes
possible to better appreciate what he means by asking
others to consider how they feel and what they think they
should do. In striving for Self-realization one might see how
their sense of self develops through time and experience.
As a person matures, they become concerned with their
relationships to other people, and to other beings with
whom they are interconnected. Tey come to identify with a
larger community, and so the sense of who they are becomes
more expansive (cf. Friedman, 1983). Naess thought that
one can actually increase their feelings for those around
them by extending care, but not by expanding egotistical
control. To be nonviolent in relationships, one must
practice nonviolent communication. Tis is a systematic
practice that is learned with efort through direct action.
One avoids making negative judgments about others, and
tries to appreciate where each person is coming from. An
assumed enemy can become a friend and ally. For Gandhi
and Naess this related to the ecology of self-Self, that is, the
particular self in its relations to a universal Self or Atman.
As humans mature, each person has unique
feelings for the world and how they relate to it. Tese
personal lifestyles represent a somewhat complete, whole
view—that is, a way of being in the world. We realize that
we come from a certain milieu, worldview, and a cultural
background with familial and personal elements. Tere
are local and ecosystem factors that are part of who we
are. Once a person reaches a certain level of maturity,
they are usually secure enough in their own philosophy
and spiritual way that they are not frightened or angered
by others whose views are diferent from their own. Tey
are not reluctant to discuss or share their views. Tey
do not want everyone to agree with them or hold the
same views as they do. Even within specifc religions and
traditions, there is considerable variety. Tis is a great
beneft, as Naess observed. Te integrity of each person,
and of each being, should be respected as having its
own way and story. So, supporters of the deep ecology
movement welcome a great pluralism of ultimate views,
along with cultural, biological, and individual diversity.
Indeed, this is the way of the wild Earth, the source of
creativity. (On whole or total views see Naess’ insightful
paper, Refections on Total Views, in Naess, 2008c.)
Te Deep Ecology Movement’s Relationship to
Ecopsychology, and Ecopsychology’s Roots in
Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology
W
hat is the deep ecology movement’s relationship to
ecopsychology? Tis important question has not
been fully addressed in existing literature; partial eforts
include, Te Relevance of Humanistic Psychology, by
Christopher M. Aanstoos (2003), who pointed out that:
A “deep ecology” movement (e.g., Naess, 1986) has
recently been coalescing around the basic vision of
radical inter-connectedness. Te utter compatibility
of this movement with the humanistic vision is just
now being comprehended, and an emerging subfeld
of ecopsychology is being born. Metzner (1999)
urges psychology to undergo a “fundamental . . .
revision that would take the ecological context of
human life into account” (p. 2). (p. 129)
Likewise James L. Kuhn (2001) discussed the importance
of Naess’ work in his article, Toward an Ecological
Humanistic Psychology, endorsing the importance
of our developing an ecological self, pointing out that
“humanistic psychology can bridge the gap between
humanity and nature, between psychology and ecology,
to learn to see the needs of the person and the needs
of the Earth as interrelated and interdependent” (p. 22).
Taking Aanstoos and Kuhn’s work a step further, Schroll’s
eforts to date have focused on investigating the history
of ecopsychology (Schroll, 2007, 2009, 2010a) and
ecopsychology’s roots in humanistic and transpersonal
psychology (Schroll, 2004, 2008/2009, 2010b; Schroll,
Krippner, Vich, Fadiman, & Mojeiko, 2009).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 110 Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
Ecopsychology is a movement that emerged
from Teodore Roszak’s (1992) book, Te Voice of the
Earth. Despite its innovation and ability to catalyze a
popular movement, since its inception ecopsychology
has failed to be integrated with environmental ethics, the
deep ecology movement, and various other movements
that led to its birth. Te remaining discussion in this
section seeks to clarify the contributions of humanistic
and transpersonal psychology that helped to produce
what is now referred to as ecopsychology.
Ecopsychology has its origins in humanistic
and transpersonal psychology, as Robert Greenway
recalled that one rainy afternoon in late Fall 1962
Maslow was looking out the window, saying, “It’s
not enough, humanistic psychology is not enough.”
Tis initiated Maslow’s thinking about the limits of
humanistic psychology and it was during this time he
became infuenced by Aldous Huxley’s view of trans-
humanism. Greenway later suggested creating what
he called a psychoecology (Schroll, 2007). Stanley
Krippner recalled in his last conversation with Maslow
that Abe spoke of founding a new psychology he was
calling trans-human psychology. Krippner added that,
“as we talked about it, in retrospect, I now realize he
was talking about what we now call ecopsychology”
(Schroll, 2008/2009, p. 16). In Krippner’s words,
this was something that “stemmed from the deep
ecology movement. . . . We should therefore extend
our concerns—go trans-human—and not make this
a human-centered psychology. Unfortunately Maslow
never had this dream realized” (Schroll et al., 2009, p.
40); Kripner added the opinion “that ecopsychology is
absolutely critical” (p. 46). Greenway’s research later
rose to national attention through the eforts of Elan
Shapiro, a graduate student of Greenway’s. In 1989
Shapiro (responding to the frst Gulf War) formed an
anti-war group at University of California Berkeley
whose discussion included psychoecology, later
morphing into ecopsychology (Schroll, 2007). In this
vision, healing inner and outer confict becomes the
means of healing the person/planet that fosters peace
(Metzner, 1997). “Unfortunately few picked up on this
thread of the conversation when ecopsychology began
to catch on” (Schroll, 2009/2010, p. 6).
Levels of Discourse in the Apron Diagram
A
s noted above, in later writings Naess used an
Apron Diagram to explain how people who hold
very diferent religious and philosophical views can
support and be activists in the long-range deep ecology
movement, because they support its Platform Principles
from their deep personal views and feelings. Te
Platform enables them to see how to apply movement
principles to design active solutions in their home place,
from formulation of local policies to specifc actions.
Te Apron Diagram underscores that in international
discussions, it is necessary to recognize four levels of
discourse in articulating views and their implications, as
in questioning and deriving ultimate hypotheses about
the world and ultimate norms (see below and Fig. 1).
Tus, it is possible to see how there can be great cultural,
religious, philosophical, and personal diversity, while at
the same time developing consensus and coordinated
actions at the level of cross-cultural and international
cooperation, so as to address shared problems and aims.
Te planet has a unifed ecosystem made up
of vast numbers of regional and local systems down to
the level of individual beings. Te existence of many
languages and cultural diversity is a refection of this
ecological and biological diversity. Naess, and others
supporting the deep ecology movement, have expressed
the belief that this diversity is a great treasure of the
Earth. Hence, one of the Platform Principles (No. 2)
recognizes support for the intrinsic value of diversity.
Diversity and complexity support resilience and also
enrich human lives. Global monoculture impoverishes
humanity by destroying diversity and places.
Naess’ Apron Diagram
T
he four levels of discourse that, according to Naess,
need to be taken into account, are: (1) verbalized
fundamental or ultimate philosophical and religious
ideas and intuitions; (2) the Platform of the long-range
deep ecology (or other social) movement; (3) more or
less general consequences derived from the Platform that
involve formulation of policies and (4) concrete situations
and practical decisions made to act in them (Fig. 1).
Supporters of the deep ecology movement
have ultimate views (Level 1) from which they derive
their acceptance of the Platform. Tese views can be
very diferent from person to person, and from group
to group. Likewise, supporters may disagree about what
follows from the Platform (Level 3), partly because they
interpret the principles diferently, partly because what
follows does not follow from the Platform alone, but
from a wider set of premises that difer from those of
other people. Tis does not prevent cooperative action
on a regional, national or international level.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 111 Te Deep Ecology Movement
Te Apron Diagram is meant to illustrate
logical, as distinct from genetic, relations between views
and their connection with social movements, policies
and practical actions. By “logical relations” this means
verbally articulated relations between the premises and
conclusions. Tey move down the diagram in stages:
some conclusions become premises for deriving new
conclusions. “Genetic relations” refers to infuences,
motivations, inspirations, and cause and efect relations.
Tey are not indicated in the Apron Diagram. Tey may
move up and down, or anywhere, and they involve time,
specifc places, and agents. Naess described the diagram
C’ might be inspired by a sort of Christianity, and B’
by a sort of Buddhism: or, again, P’ may be Spinozan.
(Drengson & Inoue, 1995, p. 12)
Te long-range deep ecology movement thus
manifests both plurality and unity. Tere is unity at Level
2, as is true for many global grass-roots movements, and
plurality at other levels. Individuals and communities
can articulate diverse ecosophies based on their deep
thinking about the principles of the Platform. Hence, a
community of monks might have their own unique blend
of Buddhist practice, that they view as their ecosophy
in a passage quoted and to some extent paraphrased in
the book, Te Deep Ecology Movement:
Te possibility of the Platform Principles being
derived from a plurality of mutually inconsistent
premises, for example—a B-set and a C-set—is
in the upper part of the Apron Diagram at level
1. Let us say that the B set is Buddhism, and C is
Christianity, and a P set is Spinoza’s philosophy, or
it could be Ecosophy T. Similarly, the lower part of
the diagram illustrates how, with one or more of the
eight principles as part of a set of premises, mutually
inconsistent conclusions may be logically derived,
leading to the C’-set or B’-set of concrete decisions.
Level 4: Particular
C’ policies
P’ policies B’ policies
P’ acts B’ acts C’
Deep Ecology Platform
C
P B
Level 1: Ultimate
Premises of Worldviews
Level 2: Deep Ecology
Level 3: Normative
or Factual Hypotheses
Q
u
e
s
t
i
o
n
i
n
g
L
o
g
i
c
a
l
Fig. 1. Naess’ Apron Diagram
for the place they live and their tradition. Teir place
becomes an ecostery, a place where ecosophies are lived
(see www.ecostery.org website for details). Teir practices
(Levels 3 & 4) are in a sense continually adapting to
the world as it changes; at the same time they preserve
abiding values and bring new values (Level 1) to the
fore. Tese traditions of ecosophic practices are self-
learning, self-correcting systems that aim for sustainable
dynamic harmony. Tey are recursive learning systems
that continue to grow in positive qualities. Teir aim
is to create personal, communal and spiritual traditions
that are ecosophies with high life quality.
Each person can contribute to improving the
quality of life (Platform Principle No. 7) on all levels
Te deep ecology movement can bring together diverse groups and individuals situated within diferent philosophical, cul-
tural, and religious contexts who share common platform principles and coordinate to act in response to local instances of
global problems. B = Buddhist, C = Christian, P = Personal Philosophy (after Drengson & Devall, 2010, p. 61)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 112 Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
all at once, since once a person shifts to quality of life,
rather than mere quantities (e.g., no longer thinking
“bigger is better”), universes of possibilities are opened. It
is possible in principle to have endless growth in quality
of life without increasing consumption above a certain
life-support level. Tere are many values related to
quality of life that can increase indefnitely. For example,
wisdom, love, courage, beauty, harmony and so on can
be manifested and appreciated in all degrees. Tus, a
very high quality of life is possible even with a low level
of material and energy consumption. A large population
is not necessary for high levels of cultural diversity and
richness of life (Naess, 2008b).
Importance of Levels of Discourse
to Depth and Diversity
F
rom what has been said above, and by looking at
the Apron, the long-range deep ecology movement
can be seen as an example of a grass-roots movement
with many variations and local applications, plus some
broad points of general agreement nationally and
internationally. Tere are many diferent social political
movements on the Earth. Some have mainly local focus,
some have regional concerns, and some include whole
Earth problems and needs in their aims. Naess, and
other scholars who support the deep ecology movement,
have tried to appreciate and understand the diversity
of cultures and languages that make up human life on
the planet. Tere is in-depth and large-scale study of
languages, cultures, religions, worldviews, and personal
philosophies that use comparative systems of typology
based on naturalist and ecological concepts. (For some
examples see the journal Human Ecology Review of the
Society for Human Ecology (SHE) and their website.)
For practical purposes, in the Western context, it
is possible to appreciate that people in our societies come
from a wide variety of backgrounds and have diferent
views about the nature of the world and what is of ultimate
value. Naess and others in the deep ecology movement
have suggested that each person can have a complete view
that comprises many levels of articulation, application of
language, and practical action. Global movements, such
as the peace, social justice, and ecology movements are
supported by a wide variety of people with a diversity
of ultimate philosophies and diversity of local practices.
Each movement has its own platform principles, so, for
example, the principles of other movements such as for
social justice or for world peace might appear on Level 2
in the Apron Diagram, and so on.
Te Platform Principles of the long-range deep
ecology movement can be grounded for supporters in a
religious tradition, or in an ultimate personal philosophy
such as Spinoza’s. Tere is a great diversity of religions
and philosophies from which people can support these
and other social movement principles. In a loose sense,
the Platform Principles can be derived from these kinds
of ultimate fundamentals—a reminder that a set of
very similar or even identical conclusions may be drawn
from divergent premises. Te Platform can be the same,
even though the ultimate premises can difer. One must
avoid looking for one defnite philosophy or religion
among all the supporters of the deep ecology movement.
Fortunately, there is a manifold richness of fundamental
views compatible with the Platform of the movement.
Supporters live in diferent cultures and have diferent
religions. Furthermore, there are manifold kinds of
consequences derived from the Platform because of these
diferences in history, culture, local conditions, and so
on (on this diversity and richness see Naess, 1992).
Continuing Importance
of the Deep Ecology Movement
T
he conditions of global warming and its regional
impacts are a reality of the environmental situation
in which all of humanity dwells. Te Fourth Assessment
Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
2007) surveyed a range of possible alternatives within
which humans and other sentient beings will live during
the 21st century (Sessions, 1995).
Some analysts think that the tipping point
of global warming and catastrophic weather change is
already occurring. Drastic changes in social organization
will occur because of the already major changes in these
natural processes, as these become manifest in daily life.
Even without a pandemic of bird fu or other strain of
virus, minor and major disruptions of oil and gas supplies
to the United States and Europe due to hurricanes, low-
level warfare, or acts of terrorism will disrupt social order
and could imperil the survival of millions of people. Global
warming will intensify the need for rapid social change.
On a global level, social change is especially
urgent in North America, Europe, Japan, China, India,
Indonesia, and Brazil because these combined regions
have the largest human populations, the largest impact
on the planet, and the largest arsenals of weapons of
mass destruction. In Indonesia and Brazil the weapons
are fres and chainsaws, as the carbon-sequestering
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 113 Te Deep Ecology Movement
tropical rainforests are destroyed to make way for human
settlement. In other industrial nations, damaging impacts
include burning coal and other fossil fuels, along with
weapons of war (McLaughlin, 1993).
One responsible adaptation to global warming
could be a return to bioregional practices. Communities of
people living in life regions with arable land could locally
produce most of their own food and energy resources.
Although these bioregional communities might remain
in contact with each via mail, phone, and the Internet,
travel between bioregions could be more limited. (On the
shortcomings of globalization and the promise of local
adaptations see Mander, 2007; Mander & Goldsmith,
1996; McKibben, 2008. For deep design see McDonough
& Braungart, 2002, www.mcdonough.com; see also
Weston, 2012.)
While bioregional communities might be one
form of adaptation to rapid changes in the natural
environment, the framework discussed in this article
ofers readers a way to develop their own ecosophies and
worldviews that can lead to diferent kinds of highly
responsible local communities. To have nonviolent
communication and collective efort requires cooperation
and mutual respect. Te less one identifes their personal
worth with their views and culture, the more they can
appreciate others and the diversity found all around. To
allow all beings and humans to fourish is to honor and
care for diversity, which supports the second Platform
Principle of the deep ecology movement. Te deep
movement fnds depth in all dimensions and directions,
in nature, in ourselves as human persons, in our texts,
in our practices, and in our inquiring spiritual nature as
self-transforming, creative processes and activities.
Toward a Transpersonal Ecosophy
A
t the 2009 Society for the Anthropology of
Consciousness conference, Alan Drengson noted
a signifcant comment by Arne Naess. Speaking of
Warwick Fox’s (1990) book, Toward a Transpersonal
Ecology, Naess noted that a better title would have been,
Toward a Transpersonal Ecosophy.
Tis is because Naess’ view of self-realization
embodies a transpersonal perspective that derives
from his personal philosophical approach that
he called Ecosophy-T. Transpersonal ecosophy
also embodies experiential insight derived from
techniques of consciousness expansion that liberate
us from the “human superiority complex . . . (Metzner
1999) . . . Transpersonal ecosophy represents liberation
from the paradigmatic restrictions that . . . perceive
any state of consciousness that is not within the
normal range of consciousness as abnormal (Tart
1975). (Schroll, 2011a, p. 4)
Elaborating further:
Many environmental activists have reduced
this inspiring vision of wholeness to symptoms
(deforestation, acid rain, overpopulation, etc.)
whose treatment is now the focus of ecotherapy. But
transpersonal ecosophy is more than mere therapy,
more than blindly driven social action inspired by
frustration and anger. Transpersonal ecosophy is
more than a response to the rhetoric of catastrophe,
and it seeks to ofer more than a rhetoric of shame
as a solution, nor is it simply a pedantic list of b-
attitudes, or a rhetoric of self-sacrifce [Schroll et al.,
2009, pp. 47-48, 2009]. Tis is not to suggest that
Naess’ deep ecology movement platform is wrong;
I am suggesting that people have gotten stuck on
this platform as a moral catechism or a diagnosis
of symptoms (Schroll: 6, 2009/2010). . . . Granted,
Naess’ platform is a good beginning toward framing
the problems we are seeking to consider. However,
Naess’ ultimate vision was about awakening self-
realization and ecosophy, which he recognized
was the same as Maslow’s self-actualization and
transcendence. (Schroll, 2009/2010, p. 6)
In sum, transpersonal ecosophy (which includes
ecocriticism, ecopsychology, the deep ecology movement,
the anthropology of consciousness, humanistic and
transpersonal psychology) is a growing coalition that:
promotes experiential transformation: awakening
our awareness of empathy of universal sufering that
internalizes a felt self sense of ethics. Tis code of
ethics is also guided by an intellectual understanding
of humankind’s role in cosmic evolution. (Schroll,
2009/2010, p. 6)
Mark Schroll is therefore calling for the creation of
transpersonal ecosophy as special interest group, and
once established to merge this group with Division 32
(Society for Humanistic Psychology) of the American
Psychology Association.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 114 Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
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Notes
1. Alan Drengson: At the end of the original article I
had a brief remark saying this was the last essay Bill
and I wrote together before his death. Our aim was
not to revisit all the twists and turns of discussions of
the deep ecology movement or deep ecology, but to
focus mainly on Arne’s account of it as we learned it
from him, from his writings, from working on the 10
volumes of SWAN (Naess, 2005) plus the Trumpeter
Series on his work. Tis also includes our anthology
drawn from all of these other sources, Te Ecology
of Wisdom (Naess 2008c). Neither of us felt at the
time we wrote this article that we could undertake a
larger project to discuss all of these other details and
the various mistakes in interpreting Naess’ work,
which we only touched on in the original Trumpeter
article (Drenson & Devall, 2010).
Te current version of the article does bring in
other important dimensions and also begins to explore
transpersonal ecosophies and this is very important.
Bill would have enjoyed reading this version.
2. Mark A. Schroll: Tis paper was fnished in late
November of 2008, as a collaboration between Alan
Drengson and Bill Devall. Since it was written both
Arne Naess and Bill Devall have died. Arne died
in January of 2009 and Bill died 6 months later in
June. I have not changed the tense or discussions
in this paper to refect their deaths. Only minor
corrections have been made since Bill died. We
discussed its details before their deaths.
In editing the paper, I added some sections, with
the agreement of the authors, which were initially
identifed as editorial changes. Since these were
substantial enough that the journal has opted to list
me as an author, I wish to identify those sections so
that the work of these pioneers stands on its own.
My additions to the paper are as follows: (1) the
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 117 Te Deep Ecology Movement
fnal paragraph of the section entitled, Origins of the
Deep Ecology Movement, (2) the section, Toward
a Vision of Sustainable Agriculture, (3) the section,
Evolution as a Comedy of Survival: Remembering
Right Relationship with Nature, (4) the section
Te Deep Ecology Movement’s Relationship to
Ecopsychology, and Ecopsychology’s Roots in
Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology, and (5)
the fnal section, Toward a Transpersonal ecosophy.
3. During a conversation I had with Meeker at his
home on December 14, 1997, he acknowledged that
I had correctly articulated the central theses in his
book; adding that a new edition of Te Comedy of
Survival had been published (Meeker, 1997).
About the Authors
Alan Drengson, PhD, is Emeritus Professor of Phil-osophy
and Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at the
University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. He is
currently serving as an adjunct professor in Environmental
Studies and also Grad Studies. His books include Beyond
Environmental Crisis, Te Practice of Technology and Wild
Way Home. He published an ecotopian novel Doc Forest
and Blue Mt. Ecostery, and three poetry books called the
Sacred Journey series. He is the Associate Editor for the
10 Volume Selected Works of Arne Naess published by
Springer in 2005. He is the coeditor of fve anthologies:
Te Philosophy of Society, Te Deep Ecology Movement,
Ecoforestry: Te Art and Science of Sustainable Forest
Use, Te Ecology of Wisdom: Writings by Arne Naess, and
Wild Foresting: Practicing Nature’s Wisdom. He is the
founding editor of Te Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy and
Ecoforestry. In Winter 2008 he was a Visiting Professor
at Simon Fraser University in Canadian Studies. He has
recently fnished two book manuscripts called Caring for
Home Places and Being at Home with One’s Self. His email
is alandren@uvic.ca. For samples of his work visit: www.
ecostery.org and http://trumpeter.athabascau.ca
Bill Devall, PhD, died in June, 2010. His bio would
have said that he is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at
Humboldt State University, Arcata, California. He is the
author of numerous books on deep ecology, including
Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered and Simple
in Means, Rich in Ends: Practicing Deep Ecology. He
is also the editor-in-chief of Clearcut: Te Tragedy of
Industrial Forestry. He has written numerous articles on
the long-range, deep ecology movement and has been
a conservation activist in many wilderness issues. He
also was an assistant editor of Deep Ecology of Wisdom,
Volume X in the Selected Works of Arne Naess published
in 2005 by Springer, and coeditor of Ecology of Wisdom,
Counterpoint 2008.
Mark A. Schroll, PhD, Research Adjunct Faculty,
Institute of Transpersonl Psychology, Palo Alto,
California. He is Co-Editor-In-Chief, Restoration Earth:
An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Nature and
Civilization. He is Founding Editor of Rhine Online: Psi-
News Magazine; in 2011 he Edited Rhine Online 3(1), the
special 2
nd
anniversary issue, Sacred Sites, Consciousness,
and the Eco-Crisis. He served as Guest Managing Editor
of the special Anthropology of Consciousness, 22(1), 2011
issue, From Primordial Anthropology to a Transpersonal
Ecosophy, and Anthropology of Consciousness, 16(1), 2005
issue, Primordial Visions in an Age of Technology. He
served as the 2009 Co-Chair for Bridging Nature and
Human Nature, the annual Society for the Anthropology
of Consciousness conference co-sponsored by the
Association for Transpersonal Psychology. He serves
on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Ecopsychology,
and was invited to serve as Co-Editor of the forthcoming
special issue, Te Ecosophies of Communication:
Exploring the Worldview of Gregory Bateson and
Arne Naess, with Michael Caley, Editor In Chief, Te
Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy (due out Fall/Winter
2012). He served as Editorial Assistant on the 1
st
issue
of Goddess Tealogy with Patricia ‘Iolana (due out in the
Fall of 2011). He serves on the Windbridge Institute
Scientifc Advisory Board, and the Advisory Board of
Alternative Terapies in Health and Medicine. Schroll is a
transpersonal cultural theorist and conference organizer
with multi-disciplinary interests ranging from philosophy
of science to ecopsychology/transpersonal ecosophy. He
may be contacted at rockphd4@yahoo.com.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 118 Zimmerman
RESPONSE:
Refections on the Need for a More Complete History of
Te Deep Ecology Movement and Related Disciplines
Michael E. Zimmerman
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO, USA
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 118-119
A
lan Drengson and the late Bill Devall have written
an interesting article with Mark A. Schroll about
the Deep Ecology Movement. Teir article
discusses some of the movement’s history, but focuses
primarily on its major tenets, such as the Deep Ecology
Platform, and on how Deep Ecology meshes with other
contemporary concerns, especially social justice.
Despite these merits, the article omits a lot
of the movement’s history, especially its feisty anti-
anthropocentrism and its opposition to Green social justice
issues that a number of deep ecologists displayed during
at least the frst two decades of the movement. Perhaps the
key American Deep Ecologist is George Sessions, whom
I met in 1976 when I was presenting an eco-philosophy
paper at the American Philosophical Association
Meeting in Berkeley, California. We both rejoiced to
discover another philosopher with similar interests. For
more than 20 years, Sessions and I corresponded, worked
together, and spent time together on camping trips, with
the aim of articulating various aspects of Deep Ecology.
An indication of my respect for Sessions’ work is that
I invited him to edit the Deep Ecology section of my
anthology, Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights
to Radical Environmentalism. A senior editor at Prentice
Hall was puzzled by the proposal, which included a
section on Ecofeminism as well, but ultimately he agreed
to publish the anthology, with Sessions editing his section
of the frst three editions.
A tireless promoter of the Deep Ecology
Movement, Sessions was also a ferce critic of
anthropocentrism, as were Devall and I at the time.
Te idea of biocentric egalitarianism was a constructive
expression of anti-anthropocentrism, although as
Drengson and Devall point out, many Deep Ecologists
moved away from this perspective, with the possible
exception of Sessions and some others.
In August 1981, Sessions, Devall, Steve Meyers,
and I accepted the invitation of the late Deep Ecologist
Dolores LaChapelle to take part in a “Heidegger in
the Mountains” symposium at her home in Silverton,
Colorado. Tis symposium revealed tensions at play
between my Heideggerian form of anti-anthropocentrism
and the anti-anthropocentrism favored by Sessions and
Devall. Eventually, my concerns about the philosophical
dimension of Heidegger’s involvement with National
Socialism led me to urge Deep Ecologists to explore
whether their frequent expressions of anti-modernism
could lead to support for a version of eco-fascism. I
concluded that Heidegger should not be promoted as
a forerunner of Deep Ecology. Tis fact may help to
explain why Sessions chose not to include any of my
publications on Deep Ecology in his anthology, Deep
Ecology for the 21
st
Century.
Despite the importance of Sessions’ views and
contributions to the Deep Ecology movement, the article
under consideration makes scant reference to him, a fact that
may stem in part from the falling out that occurred between
Devall and Sessions many years ago. Another reason for
downplaying Sessions’ contributions is that doing so would
have made the historical overview of Deep Ecology much
less politically correct. In efect, the history ofered here
bowdlerizes the Deep Ecology Movement, perhaps to make it
appear more acceptable to other environmental movements,
including Ecofeminism and the Green Movement. In fact,
however, several leading Deep Ecologists were at odds
with these movements. Although in the mid-1980s I wrote
articles trying to discover common ground between Deep
Ecology and Ecofeminism, many ecofeminists regarded
Deep Ecology as hopelessly androcentric and incapable of
understanding how misogyny has contributed to ecological
problems. Sessions and Devall were not exactly light on
their feet in regard to this confict.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 119 Response to Drengson, Devall, & Schroll
Something similar is true as well in regard to the
Deep Ecology-social justice relationship. Although the
current article depicts this relationship as healthy, almost
to the point that Deep Ecology is depicted as equivalent
to the social justice movement(s), Deep Ecologists such
as Sessions, Devall, and Arne Naess insisted for many
years that Deep Ecology was primarily concerned not
with social justice, but rather with wilderness protection.
Tis stance helps to explain why so many Earth First!ers
adopted some version of Deep Ecology.
About twenty years ago, I was invited to be a
panelist at the “Human in Nature” conference at what
is now Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Alan
Drengson and Bill Devall were panelists as well. I
distinctly recall Bill Devall taking a position about social
justice issues and Deep Ecology that dismayed many
people in the room, a position that seemed incapable of
being reconciled with his background as a sociologist.
People change, fortunately, and Devall—as evidenced
by the present article—evolved to hold a much more
constructive view of the Deep Ecology-social justice
relationship. Te complete history of the Deep Ecology
Movement remains to be written.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 120 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
Clearing Up Rollo May’s Views of Transpersonal Psychology
and Acknowledging May as an Early Supporter of Ecopsychology

Tis paper explores Rollo May’s 1992 reassessment of transpersonal psychology, in which he reverses
his 1986 and 1989 arguments against transpersonal psychology. Equally relevant, this paper shows
that May was actually interested in supporting what is now called ecopsychology. Schroll (following
Alan Drengson and Arne Naess) now refers to ecopsychology as transpersonal ecosophy. Tis paper
ofers a thorough examination of several key concerns that May had regarding his reservations
toward accepting transpersonal psychology’s legitimacy, and includes May’s vigorous discussion with
Ken Wilber. Wilber’s discussion with Kirk Schneider’s 1987 and 1989 critique of transpersonal
psychology is also examined. Likewise Albert Ellis’ 1986 and 1989 rejection and misunderstanding
of transpersonal psychology is discussed.
Keywords: ecopsychology, transpersonal ecosophy, Ken Wilber, humanistic psychology.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1), 2011, pp. 120-136
M
any have been confused as to why Rollo May
rejected transpersonal psychology, a question
that is addressed and answered in this
paper. In early March 2010, Oliver Robinson initiated
a conversation asking (1) “what is spirituality” on the
Facebook group “Cosmos and Consciousness.” It was
agreed that spirituality does represent a more general and
less ideologically focused inquiry into religious concerns.
It was for this reason John Rowan said that references
to spirituality are often so general as to be confusing
as to what is actually meant by it. (2) Tis led Rowan
to suggest that references to transpersonal psychology
are more precise. Agreeing with Rowan, I added some
additional background information on transpersonal
psychology and related felds of inquiry. (3) Tis inquiry
led Rowan to bring up May’s misunderstanding and
rejection of transpersonal psychology, adding that toward
the end of his life, May had reversed his position on
transpersonal psychology to one of acceptance. Tis in
itself is very encouraging. (4) Amidst this inquiry, Albert
Ellis’ rejection and misunderstanding of transpersonal
psychology is also discussed. (5) Finally, equally
encouraging and relevant to this issue’s Special Topics
theme, this paper will show that May was a supporter of
what is here called transpersonal ecosophy.
What is Spirituality?
In a recent article by Aryeh Lazar (2009), he asked
“what is spirituality?” He concluded that “there is little
agreement in the literature as to what spirituality actually
is. However, almost all researchers appear to agree that
spirituality is a multi-dimensional construct” (p. 4).
Mark A. Schroll: Before we begin our inquiry into the
question, what is spirituality, let me hark back to the
Editor’s Introduction to this section, in which I expressed
support for the work of:
Kaisa Puhakka’s antidote to the postmodern malaise
of experiential deconstruction (Puhakka, 2008,
p. 12), and Jorge N. Ferrer’s participatory turn
toward “coevolutionary perspectives” that embody
“pluralistic approaches to spirituality” (Ferrer, 2009,
p. 142) to help assist in recognizing the “web of life
as primary” (Puhakka, 2008, p. 16). Puhakka and
Ferrer’s papers do not explore the concept of ecosophies
of communication and ecology of mind based on the
legacy of Arne Naess and Gregory Bateson (Bateson,
2010; Drengson, Devall & Schroll, 2011); Bateson
and Naess were both addressing these concerns.
Ecosophies (the wisdom of place and the person’s
unique relationship to it) and ecology of mind (modes
Mark A Schroll
Co-Editor, Restoration Earth
New York, NY, USA
John Rowan
Independent Consultant
London, UK
Oliver Robinson
University of Greenwich
London, UK
with comments by Angela Voss and Brad Adams
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 121 Rollo May’s Views on Transpersonal & Ecosophy
of knowing the co-evolutionary experience of Being).
(Schroll & Hartelius, 2011, p. 85 [this volume]).
Transpersonal theory owes a great debt to Ferrer’s
clarifcation of the limitations inherent within a diverse
“family of interpretive models” associated with the
perennial philosophy (models that agree a single universal
truth exists “at the heart of the mystical teachings of
the world[’s] religious traditions” for all cultures and all
religions). Ferrer juxtaposed this view and the postmodern
critique of contextualism, which leads to his conclusion
that both are fawed, “whereas perennialism leans back
to Cartesianism, contextualism subscribes to Neo-
Kantian epistemological assumptions about the nature of
knowledge and reality” (Ferrer, 2000, p. 23). Following
Tarnas, Ferrer agreed their mutual faw is dualism,
and echoed the assessment: “Tus the cosmological
estrangement of modern consciousness initiated by
Copernicus and the ontological estrangement initiated
by Descartes were completed by the epistemological
estrangement initiated by Kant: a threefold mutually
enforced prison of modern alienation” (Tarnas, 1991, p.
419, as quoted in Ferrer, 2000, p. 24).
Ferrer’s (2000, 2009) search to move beyond
both of these viewpoints led to his participatory turn
and his embrace of co-evolutionary perspectives. Others
support this participatory turn, such as Jeremy D. Yunt
(2001), who has argued that “conscious participation in
relations with others and the world predominates over
detachment and calculation—primarily characteristics
of technical reasoning. By stressing the inextricable and
potentially empathetic link between psyche and nature,
ecopsychology makes development of this participatory
reason its primary goal” (p. 109). I, too, have supported
this coevolutionary participatory turn (Schroll, 1997),
and the need to apply this perspective to methodological
inquiry (Schroll, 2010a). I will say more about this
methodological inquiry in a moment.
Oliver Robinson: A common conversation in the
Scientifc and Medical Network is, What do we actually
mean by the term “spirituality”? It is certainly a slippery
concept. Here is a short passage from a chapter of mine
that gives one angle on the issue:
Te secular worldview is being challenged by a
renewed engagement with the notion of spirituality,
beyond the traditional confnes of religion and
theology. Tis new spirituality is evidenced in the
diverse literature and organizations that consider
ways of reintroducing spiritual practice into life in a
manner that complements rational endeavor rather
than compromising it, and that is not confned to
a particular religion or book. Te mystical impulse
has survived through modernity in many guises,
but it has been inevitably squeezed towards the
periphery as rationality has attempted to clear the
world of unquantifable or subjective concerns,
while giving the object ontological dominance.
Modern science posits observable objects and their
quantifable properties as ultimately real, and the
world is viewed through the prism of science as a
collection of objects governed by laws. However,
despite the best eforts of scientists to remove the
subject from the world, even going so far as to make
the word “I” taboo in scientifc articles, it just will
not go away. “I” and the “you” remain central to
our vocabulary and our interactions despite the
best attempts of materialist philosophers to reduce
the world to a collection of “it”s. Te “I” cannot be
observed, for it is always the observer—it is therefore
outside of the province of science, which deals only
with observable phenomena.
Tis simple fact has been highlighted by many
thinkers including Kant (who referred to the I as
the transcendental ego), William James (1890/1950;
who referred to the I as the self-as-subject) and
contemporary thinkers such as Peter Russell (2005)
and Ken Wilber (2006). Here we fnd ourselves in the
territory of spirituality, for the subject can be explored
through contemplative or refective practice. Te
subject is spirit. In the process of acknowledging one’s
nature as irreducible subject, a person moves beyond
a purely material conception of themselves and the
world, not through faith, myth, or superstition, but
through a realization of their inherent nature. From
the exploration of the subject, questions emerge such
as: Are subject and object necessarily inseparably and
permanently linked? Could the universe itself be
both subject and object? Am I just my body? Could
I have a “relationship” with the universe, or with
nature, in the way I have a relationship with human
subjects? Such a “bottom up” approach to spirituality,
starting with an exploration of self and other, is not
an alternative to grand theological or cosmological
conceptions of Spirit, but is a complementary process
that is available to all and highly congruent with the
inquiring modern mindset (Robinson, 2010).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 122 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
Schroll: I found the way you wrestled with EuroAmerican
science’s eforts to reconcile subjectivity, objectivity, and
how this concern relates to the larger issue of spirituality,
cosmos, and consciousness has much in common with
my own inquiry. You mentioned several people that have
addressed these concerns, one of which was Peter Russell.
I lectured with Russell in 2004 at the International
Transpersonal Association conference; my discussion
with Russell on the issue of science and spirituality is
included in my paper “Toward a New Kind of Science
and its Methods of Inquiry” (Schroll, 2010a). In response
to my views on methodology, Peter N. Jones compared it
to the jazz style of Miles Davis:
Schroll argues that our present methods fail to
provide the means to fully comprehend aspects of
consciousness, simply because we are always trapped
within our own metanarrative. His suggestion is that
we fnd ethnographic methods that include within
their approaches an understanding of methods and
techniques that allow us to experientially encounter
them. Our becoming transformed and then
recollecting our ethnobiographical experiences is the
means, he argues, toward a new kind of anthropology.
In this sense, Schroll is arguing for the same thing
that Miles Davis played so well—we must not only
study the physical characteristics of space but also
the nonphysical characteristics. We must not only
play the notes, or experientially encounter aspects of
space, but we must also play the space around the
notes, allowing ourselves to become transformed by
the physical and nonphysical characteristics of space
(Jones, 2010, pp. 43-44).
Hillary S. Webb (Managing Editor of Anthropology of
Consciousness) has included additional commentary on
this paper and subtitled these comments, Te Future of a
Discipline: Considering the Ontological/Methodological
Future of the Anthropology of Consciousness, Part 1. I
specifcally discuss my views on science and religion on
pp. 4-7. Tis paper, and my paper “Te Physics of Psi:
An Interview with Stanley Krippner” (Schroll, 2010b),
provide a platform with which to fnally go forward with
my most extensive research area from my dissertation:
the legacy of David Bohm and its relationship to
transpersonal psychology. My continuing goal is to
ofer a theory of psi, cosmos, and consciousness that is
consistent with Bohm’s transpersonal physics, which
may take a few more years to complete.
John Rowan: Perhaps the most productive way to look
at spirituality is to divide it into levels. At one level
spirituality is superstitious, observing rituals to keep away
evil spirits. At another level spirituality is something to be
regulated by experts and ofcials, not to be approached
individually, but possibly inspiring and useful. At another
level spirituality is what is central to me: I am skeptical
of ofcial defnitions and feel rather alone with my real
self. At another level I am a spiritual being, I am a soul,
I can be inspired by deities, angels, nature spirits, I can
see the divine everywhere. At another level I have seen
through all illusions and question the value of names like
spirituality. None of these levels is THE TRUTH.
Schroll: Finding “a truth” or fnal stage of
“enlightenment” is one of the points that you sought
to clarify in your paper “Maslow Amended” (Rowan,
1998). Too often, as you suggest (and as I have come
to agree), Maslow’s hierarchy of needs views personality
development leading toward transcendence as having an
end point—hence your suggestion to do away with the
triangle (let us save the discussion of Wilber and his “all
quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types”
AQAL model for a future discussion). In your paper
“Maslow Amended,” you suggested substituting a ladder
for the triangle. It was 1998 when you wrote this so maybe
you have improved on this idea, and I would like to hear
what your latest thoughts are. Regarding the “ladder”
alternative, in his book From Science to an Adequate
Mythology (Sharpe, 1984), (the late) Kevin J. Sharpe
proposed a ladder model of cosmos and consciousness
in chapter fve (Sharpe was one of my former professors).
I rejected this ladder model in my early correspondence
and conversations with Sharpe. I ended up leaving
these conversations out of my dissertation because I
never fnished working out a complete ontology and
epistemology of the transpersonal. I am continuing to
work out these ideas.
One alternative I have considered is to view
personality/cosmos and consciousness as having no
absolute end-point, represented visually as a double helix,
Mobius band, light cone, infnity symbol, two inverted
triangles, etc. But the map is not the territory as you
know, which is why Rowan divides spirituality into two
levels. To some extent Rowan’s division reminded me of
what Maslow (1971) spoke of in Te Farther Reaches of
Human Nature as organized religion on the one hand and
the mystical/individual experience on the other hand (see
pp. 343-344). Like Rowan, I see organized religion as
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 123 Rollo May’s Views on Transpersonal & Ecosophy
“ritualistic symbolism without somatic understanding”
that operates at the physical or behavioral level of
belief systems, which often excludes an experiential
aspect where the person can ground theory in somatic
transcendental awareness.
Still (as Rowan’s comments elude) there continues
to be the question does the mystical experience allow us
to cut through illusion (maya) and bear witness to the Tao
or truth in itself? No; or to clarify, I do not view mystical
experience as a singular experience of visionary insight.
Tis is not because I fail to believe in transcendence or
transpersonal domains of awareness. Instead personality
development, cosmos, and consciousness are evolving
infnitely, and at the personal level we all need each
other to continue on our path. By this I mean a collective
process of shared visionary experience whereby multiple
stories are woven together in order to tell the story of the
universe (Schroll & Greenwood, 2011). Transcendence
then is not a fnal state or location or quantitative neural-
chemical analog, it is the personal and collective journey
that all of us are on. Tank you for helping me remember
this John.
Rowan: I still think the ladder is a useful model, and
there is a nice version of it in Figure 2.4 and 2.5 in
Wilber’s Integral Spirituality (Wilber 2006). I also go
along with Wilber in saying that the Nondual is not an
item on this model, but rather can be represented by the
paper on which it is printed.
1
Schroll: Te ladder is a useful model, and does (as you
have pointed out in “Maslow Amended”) move us away
from viewing transcendence as an end point. I will
take a look at Wilber’s Integral Spirituality fgure’s 2.4
and 2.5 again, and get back to you on this. Regarding
“nondual” as not an item on the model but the paper on
which it is printed seems in a way to be suggesting, as I
have also said, “transcendence/nondual” is not a place
or location; it is life itself or our journey through life
(Schroll, 2009a). Rowan and I agree on this. (I ofer a
general discussion of this elsewhere, in Schroll, 2010a,
which is primarily a philosophical view of methodology.
More could be added to this view of methodology; for
example, I did not specifcally discuss Clark Moustakes’
heuristic inquiry or other specifc qualitative or
phenomenological approaches. I did briefy touch on
personality development, cultural development, cosmos,
and consciousness.)
Robinson: For me, to justify using a term and a concept
like “spirituality,” one has to make sure that it is not:
(1) Redundant by being so difuse as to be
essentially meaningless, and
( 2) Redundant by having no unique domain of
reference.
Countering the frst problem requires fnding a
common denominator or core that runs through
all the manifestations of the idea, or to reject some
manifestations and fnd a common denominator in
those that are considered valid. If there is a core to the
concept, then we can be sure it is not a “disjunctive
category” (i.e., a catch-all). Te second issue requires
an assurance that spirituality has its own “turf ” beyond
empirical science, rational philosophy and religion. All
claim access to Truth, after all. Te search for Truth is a
crowded marketplace these days!
Schroll: Tis is a good point you raise Oliver, that so far
in this conversation we have 1) not clearly defned the
domain of “spirituality/transcendence,” nor 2) have we
yet given a clear operational defnition of spirituality or
transcendence. Rowan rightly suggested that in talking
about spirituality we need to defne levels, or stages, or
states. Tis assists in our diferentiation between mere
“belief systems” that operate as a “social fact.” People
can believe in things that are not real (like the Easter
Bunny) which are useful in creating folk beliefs that can
become part of a larger explanatory system. It may seem
harmless for us to indulge ourselves in folk beliefs as part
of holiday celebrations, yet this is why Maslow held (and
I think this was also Rowan’s point) that organized/
legalistic religion has the same tendency to create rituals
that operate as social facts.
One example is baptism, which can amount to
nothing more than slight immersion in water or a mere
sprinkling of water on our head, which has now become
a ritual that symbolically represents transcendence or
transpersonal awareness, whereas holding someone
underwater until they are very close to death represents a
“thanto-mimetic” method potentially capable of inducing
a mystical, or transpersonal state of consciousness. But the
technique is difcult because the person could potentially
drown (Pelletier, 1978). Here even before we have an
operational defnition of spirituality or transcendence is
the need to clearly diferentiate organized religion from
mystical traditions that have specifc methods or techniques
for inducing transpersonal states of consciousness. Te
Suf story, Te Man Who Walked on Water ofers one
way of making this distinction (Shah, 1967).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 124 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
Demarcating organized religion from the
core religious experience (or transpersonal states
of consciousness vs. the more general reference to
spirituality) became an exercise in proving its cross-
cultural or perennial philosophical signifcance. I sought
to clarify this point in a conversation on September 29,
1999 in Lincoln, Nebraska with Anizah A. Bakar, a
friend visiting from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I realized
that besides my discussion of Maslow’s (1971) distinction
between legalistic and core religion, and my previous
comments on the discussion “What is Spirituality,” an
additional means of getting this idea across to people was
needed. Refecting on this problem reminded me of the
Suf story:
Te Man Who Walked on Water
A conventionally-minded dervish, from an austerely
pious school, was walking one day along a riverbank.
He was absorbed in concentration upon moralistic
and scholastic problems, for this was the form which
Suf teaching had taken in the community, which
he belonged. He equated emotional religion with the
search for ultimate truth. Suddenly his thoughts were
interrupted by a loud shout: someone was repeating
the dervish call. “Tere is no point in that,” he said
to himself, “because the man is mispronouncing the
syllables. Instead of intoning Ya Hu, he is saying ‘U
Ya Hu.’”
Ten he realized that he had a duty, as a more
careful student, to correct this unfortunate person,
who might have had no opportunity of being rightly
guided, and was therefore probably only doing his best
to attune himself with the idea behind the sounds.
So he hired a boat and made his way to the island in
midstream from which the sound appeared to come.
Sitting in a reed hut he found a man, dressed in a
dervish robe, moving in time to his own repetition
of the initiatory phrase. “My friend,” said the frst
dervish, “you are mispronouncing the phrase. It is
incumbent upon me to tell you this, because there is
merit for him who gives and him who takes advice.
Tis is the way in which you speak it.” And he told
him. “Tank you,” said the other dervish humbly.
Te frst dervish entered his boat again, full of
satisfaction at having done a good deed. After all,
it was said that a man who could repeat the sacred
formula correctly could even walk upon the waves:
something that he had never seen, but always
hoped—for some reason—to be able to achieve.
Now he could hear nothing from the reed hut, but
he was sure that his lesson had been well taken.
Ten he heard a faltering U Ya as the second dervish
started to repeat the phrase in his old way.
While the frst dervish was thinking about
this, refecting upon the perversity of humanity and
its persistence in error, he suddenly saw a strange
sight. From the island the other dervish was coming
toward him, walking on the surface of the water . . . .
Amazed, he stopped rowing. Te second dervish
walked up to him and said: “Brother, I am sorry to
trouble you, but I have come out to ask you again the
standard method of making the repetition you were
telling me, because I fnd it difcult to remember it”
(Shah, 1967, pp. 84-85).
Telling Bakar this story provided her with the
means to understand the point being made in this essay
regarding the core religious experience and organized
religion. On the one hand, the humble dervish sitting
in the reed hut represents someone whose purity of
intention has allowed his consciousness to resonate
with the source of religion or [David Bohm’s] holofux,
giving him the ability to “walk on water.” On the
other hand, the conventionally minded dervish
knows the proper pronunciation of the chant, yet his
trappings of legalistic and/or organizational religious
methodology are nothing more than “ritualistic
symbolism without somatic understanding.”
Demonstrating and understanding this demarcation
between a [soma-signifcant] tradition of mystical
experience and ritualistic symbolism without somatic
understanding is the key to understanding the
transpersonal perspective—our ability to resonate
with holofux—[the fundamental unifying principle,
or] the source of religion. (Schroll, 2005, p. 65)
I hope this helps us to clarify our conversation and
speaks to both Ferrer’s embrace of the participatory
turn, avoiding dualism, while preserving a fundamental
unifying principle that I (following Bohm) refer to as the
holofux. Still the question remains what is our operational
defnition of “spirituality” or “transcendence,” and what
is its corresponding domain? Tis is the real question
when we are talking about cosmos and consciousness.
Rowan: It is because of the various meanings and uses
of the term spirituality that I prefer to use the term
transpersonal.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 125 Rollo May’s Views on Transpersonal & Ecosophy
Schroll: Yes John, I too prefer using the term
transpersonal instead of the term spirituality. One of the
best examples I can give of how (even at its best) the word
spirituality remains unclear is the 1988 paper, Toward a
Humanistic-Phenomenological Spirituality: Defnition,
Description, and Measurement, by David N. Elkins, L.
James Hedstrom, Lori L. Hughes, J. Andrew Leaf, and
Cheryl Saunders. Tey defned it this way:
Spirituality, which comes from the Latin, spiritus,
meaning “breath of life,” is a way of being and
experiencing that comes about through awareness of
a transcendent dimension and that is characterized
by certain identifable values in regard to self, others,
nature, life, and whatever one considers to be the
Ultimate. (p. 10)
In this defnition of spirituality the question
that Robinson raised about having an operational
defnition is somewhat satisfed. Still, the bigger question
regarding its corresponding domain is still ambiguous.
Vague references to the “transcendent dimension” do
not tell us much, nor does a reference to “whatever one
considers to be the Ultimate.” Raising this concern prior
to reading Lazar (2009), I was therefore surprised when I
discovered it was the Elkins et al. defnition of spirituality
that contributed to Lazar’s operational defnition for his
investigation of spirituality and measures of psychological
functioning among Israeli Jews (Lazar, 2009). I am not
criticizing the fndings of Lazar’s inquiry, yet based
on his operational defnition this was a study of belief
systems (or what I might suggest could be referred to as
a cultural placebo), and not an inquiry of transpersonal
experience.
Tis is why I agree with Rowan’s preference for
using the term transpersonal which has a variety of
definitions. Transpersonal psychology recognizes
that “humanity has both drives toward sex and
aggression and drives toward wholeness, toward
connecting with and experiencing the divine” (R.
Hutchins, as quoted in Lajoie & Shapiro, 1992, p. 87,
emphasis supplied). I like this definition of the person
because it suggests that personality development has
a dynamic quality, instead of placing an emphasis
on the object permanence of any particular state of
consciousness we might experience, demonstrate,
or actualize within our self-awareness. The
transpersonal is equally present in states of ecstasy,
sensuality, and somatic experiences that are capable
of just shaking you to your roots and really waking
you up: life encounters that make you come alive
and experience the kinesthetic, the tactile, and the
erotic. Each of these human drives (and their various
nuances) is equally important toward the creation and
maintenance of a healthy personality. Nevertheless,
no definition of transpersonal psychology should
be viewed as a description of some finished or final
product of enlightenment. Rather, transpersonal
psychology’s emphasis is on the continuous process of
transcendence and transformation within the realms
of the personal, the planetary, and the cosmological.
Here we are on the verge of having an operational
defnition of transpersonal psychology. Te question that
continues to remain is what or where “ontologically” is the
source of the transpersonal located? Tis is a question that
transpersonal psychology continues to be vague about, in
spite of the work of people such as Stanislav Grof (1998,
2000). Tis vagueness regarding the ontological domain
of the transpersonal is, I believe, because the full meaning
and understanding of the philosophical legacy of Bohm and
its implications for transpersonal psychology continues to
remain an unfnished conversation.
Rowan: Te main advantage of using the term
transpersonal is that it places the feld. It places it as
following after the prepersonal and the personal in the
process of psychospiritual development. Terefore it is
clearly not to be confused with the prepersonal and the
personal. Not so with spirituality, which roams all over
the place.
Schroll: Exactly, John; hopefully our conversation thus
far has helped people to see that the term spirituality does
roam all over the place, and that the term transpersonal
clarifes this frequently ambiguous discussion. Moreover,
this distinction and discussion regarding spirituality and
the term transpersonal provides a reply to the criticisms
raised by Albert Ellis and Raymond J. Yeager in their
1989 book Why Some Terapies Don’t Work: Te Dangers
of Transpersonal Psychology. We will take up Ellis’
criticisms of transpersonal psychology in greater detail
later in this conversation.
Tangential to these concerns, the British
Psychological Society’s recognition of a transpersonal
psychology section and corresponding journal Trans-
personal Psychology Review ofers a forum to advance
this discussion. Still I continue to encounter many
psychologists in the UK who are unfamiliar with
transpersonal psychology. Awareness of transpersonal
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 126 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
psychology is not much better in the USA in spite of its
now 40-year history. Indeed the American Psychological
Association does not even recognize an independent
division of transpersonal psychology, as its APA
afliation comes through its organizational connection
with Division 32: Society for Humanistic Psychology
of the APA. Moreover it has only been since August
of 2007 that humanistic and transpersonal psychology
fnally ofcially reconciled their diferences.
Likewise, with regard to psychospiritual
development, the term transpersonal does place itself
after the prepersonal and personal, yet Rollo May never
accepted this, as you know, John. After you published the
paper, “Two Humanistic Psychologies or One” (Rowan,
1989), May (1989) responded with his paper, “Answers
to Ken Wilber and John Rowan,” which told us that
May not only believes there are at least two humanistic
psychologies (one focused on the existential and one on
the transpersonal), but that May believed:
in parapsychology and William James’s studies
concerning the fringes of consciousness. I am very
much interested in the sacraments of the primitive
sects of Brazil, for example, and have experienced
them personally. When I was ill with tuberculosis I
had two experiences with faith healers. All of these I
choose to call religion. I am in favor of experiments
on the interface between religion and psychology.
My objection to transpersonal psychology is that it
blurs the distinction between the two (p. 244).
We are left to wonder how May was able to hold such
seemingly contradictory positions. How was May able
to believe in parapsychology, which kept the APA
Council of Representatives from endorsing transpersonal
psychology as a separate division within the APA, while
simultaneously continuing to endorse and participate
in the investigation of shamanism until his death in
1994? Tese are unanswered questions that continue to
plague the acceptance and development of transpersonal
psychology. Tere are, of course, other concerns and
interests of mine that I have raised throughout this
conversation regarding the continued development of
transpersonal psychology; yet as we have been doing thus
far it is essential to clarify these basic issues—answering
the critics—and establishing a solid foundation from
which to proceed.
Rowan: Tere is a very interesting dialogue between
Jackie Doyle and Rollo May, and a couple of other
people, where they argued with him that his rejection
of transpersonal psychology was ill-advised, and May
eventually agreed; but I cannot seem to lay my hands
on it now. Does anyone remember that? I think it was
published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, but I
am not sure.
2
Angela Voss: Tis is a very interesting discussion.
To distinguish scientifc from spiritual inquiry, the
neoplatonic=theological model of levels of cognition is
very helpful. Tere are literal modes of understanding,
allegorical, moral, and fnally mystical. Te important
thing is not to apply one mode to try to understand
another, such as a literal, empirical mode applied
to the apprehension of the sacred, or revelation. We
tend to stay with the literal and allegorical in most
forms of knowing, particularly in the discussion of
‘transpersonal’ experience. Tis model suggests deeper,
more contemplative and intuitive forms of apprehension
that eventually culminate in a union of the knower with
what is known.
Schroll: Tanks for your comment Angela. I can see
how you might have viewed this conversation John and I
have been having as a means of “distinguishing scientifc
from spiritual inquiry.” But it is a bit more subtle than
this. Maslow actually spoke to a similar concern in his
hopes to prove the relationship between science and
religion. Specifcally Maslow (1964) sought to establish
transpersonal psychology as a discipline that would
enable EuroAmerican science to: “examine religion in all
its facets and all its meanings in a way that makes it part
of science rather than something outside and exclusive
of it” (p. 20).
Maslow later expanded on this discussion in
his posthumously edited book (that Bertha Maslow
commissioned Miles A. Vich to do) Te Farther Reaches
of Human Nature (1971). Vich pointed out that there is
a very important diference between organized religion
and transpersonal psychology: there is no catechism
associated with transpersonal psychology; it: “is not a
religion; it has no dogma, no list of precepts, no theology,
and no church” (Vich, 1986, p. 2). As important as
this distinction of “scientifc” and “spiritual inquiry”
is, let alone the need to clarify what it is we mean by
“scientifc” or “genuine science and essential science”
(which Charles T. Tart has taken up in his recent book,
Te End of Materialism, 2009) versus “spiritual inquiry”:
all of which I have tried to do my best in sorting out
(Schroll, 2010a).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 127 Rollo May’s Views on Transpersonal & Ecosophy
Later in our discussion (as I said before) we will
need to be more clear how scholars such as Ellis have
misunderstood “spirituality” in all of its diverse meanings
that we have talked about here, and what is meant by
transpersonal psychology. May made this same error, which
we will also attempt to clear up later in this discussion.
Likewise, the best way I know to clearly make a distinction
between organized religion and mysticism/transpersonal
psychology is the example I provide with the Suf story, Te
Man Who Walked On Water. I hope this helps to clarify
this particular point. Te rest of Voss’ comments are also
important, in which Voss has condensed several very
difcult ontological and epistemological problems related
to “stage theories of consciousness” and/or the “great chain
of being.” Clearing up these concerns, however, exceeds
the limits of our current conversation. Still, it is important
here to point out, regarding Ken Wilber (as well as Voss’
questions about ontological and epistemological problems
related to stage theories of consciousness), that some of this
is cleared up in Schroll (2010b) and MacDowell (2010).
Brad Adams: I have been reading everything said and
most of the conversation has been psychologically based.
I have no college degrees so I will stick to what I know as
I cannot quote the many minds that are represented here.
So what is spirituality? First, I am not going to debate the
term. I am a mystic. Tis is my perspective. Spirituality
is the seeking of the state of being in spirit. As was said,
the defnition of spirit can be translated as the “breath of
life.” So what is the breath of life? Who gives life? God.
So spiritual pursuits are ways to be in the knowing of the
presence of God. What is a spiritual pursuit? It can be said
that it is a way to set aside our self, our ego, our physical
constraints; to be open to the presence of God, to be open
to receive the spirit, the breath of life. In so doing you fnd
that you are at peace, you are in balance, you fnd that
there is healing here. Tis state of awareness that I speak
of is what the spiritual person is in pursuit of: to be in the
constant state of being in spirit or the knowing presence of
God. Tis would be what some would call enlightenment,
or to transcend our physical limitations. Tis is something
I think all humans want. Whether they realize it or would
admit it is another topic. I can tell you that it is possible
to reach the highest states of human awareness; but the
only being who has reached true enlightenment and truly
transcended this physical world is the son of God.
Schroll: Tonight while I was eating, I was watching
the television program Supernatural that I watch for
entertainment. Sometimes Hollywood and pop culture
surprises us. In tonight’s episode, the protagonists of
Supernatural were confronted with all of the world’s
“mythical” religious gods and goddesses that are major
players in Armageddon. Te character playing Kali,
the Hindu goddess of time and change (sometimes
associated with anihilation, sometimes as redeemer of
the universe) said to the characters associated with the
Christian myths of Armageddon: “You Westerners are
so arrogant, always believing that your world myths
trump all others, which you use to justify your wars and
your desires for power.”
Tis brings us back to our discussion of “spiritual-
ity.” As Rowan has pointed out, the use of the term
spirituality is imprecise and that the more operationally
precise term is “transpersonal.” One of the things we have
not discussed in our rejection of the word spirituality is if
we were to use this term, we would have to ask ourselves,
“whose spirituality?” Or what state of consciousness is
this spirituality we are talking about coming from, and
what tradition does it represent? Tis is why the word
“transpersonal” is more precise, because it does not
presuppose any arrogance for one spiritual tradition or
another. Its formulation draws equally from all spiritual
traditions and recognizes the value of their teaching
stories, in addition to their value toward our understanding
the human condition. But even more precisely, the
word transpersonal seeks to ground the discussion in
an operational defnition by which we can attempt to
investigate states of consciousness that have throughout
the world been associated with transcendence.
Clarifying Rollo May’s Misunderstanding
of Transpersonal Psychology
Tis brings us to the discussion of May’s views of the
transpersonal and the paper, Te Role of Transpersonal
Psychology in Psychology as a Whole (May, Krippner,
& Doyle, 1992), which was a conversation between
Rollo May, Stanley Krippner, and Jacqueline Doyle. In
summing up May’s views, Doyle stated:
Rollo said that his reading of William James
(1905/19[61]) had reafrmed his conviction about
the importance of spiritual life, and that he wanted
to correct the misunderstanding of his previous
criticisms of transpersonal psychology. It is of the
utmost importance at this time, Rollo conveyed,
that transpersonal psychology be viewed in the
proper perspective, within the context of the whole
of psychology (p. 307).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 128 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
Tis echo’s May’s views previously cited in this paper
(May, 1989), whereas the book that infuenced May was
James’ (1905/1961) Te Varieties of Religious Experience.
Krippner then ofered another operational defnition of
transpersonal psychology:
For me, Transpersonal Psychology is a psychological
perspective or framework which assigns primary
importance to experiential reports of concern or
contact with entities, beliefs or realms greater than
oneself using them as a basis for conducting and
interpreting psychological theories, intervention and
research. When I say theory I mean development[al]
theory, motivational theory, personality theory.
When I say interventions I mean psychotherapy,
counseling, and education (May, Krippner, & Doyle,
1992, p. 308).
Rowan: I have a very simple account of the transpersonal,
which takes less than fve minutes to explain. It follows
Wilber’s (1980) useful map, given in the early book Te
Atman Project. 1. We start our psychospiritual journey in
the prepersonal realm—that is, the whole area of child
development, extending up into adolescence. 2. We then
move on into the personal realm, where we learn about
control, and logic, and role-playing, and the self-image,
getting social rewards at each stage. We end up with a
mature ego. At this point society stops rewarding us, and
we are on our own. If we proceed, it is often as a result
of a crisis. 3. Ten comes the realm of the transpersonal,
frst of all consolidating our achievement of an authentic
self, an existential self, secure in a sense of bodymind
unity. If we then proceed further, we enter the realm
of the Subtle, where we encounter a rich and colorful
realm of concrete representations of the divine: gods
and goddesses, archetypes, symbols and images, visions,
the whole imaginal realm. We may get very interested
in mythology, dreams, and spiritual experiences of one
kind and another. If we then proceed further, we move
into the Causal realm, where there are no landmarks, no
handrails, no defnitions—the deep ocean of mysticism.
We may then start to be seriously interested in the
Nondual.
Schroll: Tis is a very succinct and accurate summary of
Wilber’s developmental model from the prepersonal to the
transpersonal, and Nondual domains of consciousness,
John. I, too, read Te Atman Project (Wilber, 1980), and
its companion volume, Up From Eden (Wilber, 1981).
But it is no longer clear to me where Wilber includes
his concept of “involution” that he spoke of in Up
From Eden (pp. 299-309). Bohm’s “implicate” and
“super implicate” orders bore (for me) a resemblance
with Wilber’s discussion of involution, whereas Bohm’s
“explicate order” corresponded to Wilber’s discussion (as
Rowan has summarized it) of his developmental model.
I make a brief reference to this in my review of Integral
Ecology (Schroll, 2010c). Still this topic deserves much
greater attention than we can give it in this paper.
Returning to our discussion of May’s rejection of
transpersonal psychology and domains of consciousness
associated with the Nondual, May’s (1986) criticism was:
Te problem with the term “transpersonal” in
practice is its implication that we can “leap across”
the negative aspects of human behavior, the
expressions of the “ego” as they are often called. We
would then “leap across,” for example, the cruelty
shown in Zimbardo’s “nice” Stanford students in
his famous prison experiment. Or the “Eichmann”
studies in which Stanley Milgram demonstrated that
average people, when ordered to do so by scientifc
authority, would turn up the electricity high enough
to kill the “sufering” person on the other side of
the glass. Tese experiments show that such cruelty
and obedience to an authoritarian command are
nascent in all of us, German, Russian, Nicaraguan,
or American, though covered over with a veneer of
civilization. (p. 2)
Tis statement is greatly puzzling to many of us
that are now (and were then) familiar with the history
and development of transpersonal psychology. In fact,
Doyle’s summary of this criticism by May was not
cleared up in the 1992 dialogue between May, Krippner,
and Doyle. Specifcally, Doyle said that May’s 1986 APA
Monitor comments were:
attacking the use, which sometimes occurs, of
transpersonal themes and transpersonal psychology
as a way to avoid tangling with the real issues of
psychology and our day, problems of value such as
peace and war and so forth. He said at times these
themes are being thrown aside in what becomes an
escape into the higher realms. He has always objected
to the use of psychology, not just transpersonal
psychology as in this case, as a method of avoiding the
problems of being human and of living in the world
(May, Krippner, & Doyle, 1992, pp. 308-309).

International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 129 Rollo May’s Views on Transpersonal & Ecosophy
Tis point was never fully explored in the 1992
dialogue because this point was raised before May showed
up, and then the conversation shifted. What needs to be
said in reply to May’s critique is that, on the one hand, this
is a legitimate concern and a tendency of some afuent
supporters of transpersonal psychology to have this kind of
disconnect. Teodore Roszak noticed this and mentioned
it to me in 1993 when he presented at the annual
Association for Transpersonal Psychology conference
(which was while Wilber was working on his (1995) book
Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: Te Spirit of Evolution (Schroll,
2010c). Nevertheless, aside from the misunderstanding of
some afuent ATP members in the 1990s, what theory
or practice of transpersonal psychology is May referring
to that encourages “leaping across” the pathologies of
the ego? I can only hope historians can one day tell us
that Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, and Lao Tsu
were all ordinary men, people like you and me capable
of making mistakes and fnding ways of correcting them,
people whose earthy existential encounters provided them
with life-altering experiences that opened their eyes up to
the miraculous, experiences (if we can somehow become
open to them) that are our birthright as we muddle
through life’s developmental stages.
But where do these developmental stages of
personality end? We have touched on this before in this
conversation, and it is another issue that needs to be
cleared up. May (1969; if I understand him correctly)
believed the psychological growth of the person
ends in becoming self-actualized or achieving one’s
individuality:
In my judgment, the existential approach is the
achieving of individuality (including subjective
individuality) not by by-passing or avoiding
confictual realities of the world in which we
immediately fnd ourselves—for us, in the Western
world—but by confronting these conficts directly
and, through the meeting of them, achieving one’s
individuality (pp. 47-48).
Honing this argument even more sharply in his
1986 letter to the APA (May, 1986), May argued that
Maslow’s evolving vision of personality development
was nothing more than contagious enthusiasm when he
pointed beyond humanistic psychology to:
a still “higher” Fourth Psychology, transpersonal,
transhuman, centered in the cosmos rather than
in human needs and interests, going beyond
humanness, identity, self-actualization and the like
(Maslow, 1968, pp. iii-iv).
Now, on the issue of “higher” or Nondual consciousness,
plus May’s support of shamanism and psi phenomenon, I
do think this was cleared up in the 1992 May, Krippner,
and Doyle dialogue (which is a point I will return to in
a moment). First, however, it is important to point out
that right up to the very end of this dialogue between
Krippner, May, and Doyle, Doyle continued to focus on
the problem of leaping “over the present complexity and
jump[ing] to spirituality because development includes
and proceeds hand in hand with the all the experiences
clients wrestle with in real life” (p. 316). Kirk Schneider
(1987, 1989), now editor of Journal of Humanistic
Psychology and former student of May, repeated this
same criticism in an exchange with Wilber.
Summary Intermission
Schroll: To recap, this discussion thread started out
with the question “what is spirituality?” Tis led Rowan
and Schroll to conclude that references to “spirituality”
are imprecise, and that it is preferred when having these
discussions to use the term “transpersonal.” Second, there
has been the lingering question as to why May rejected
transpersonal psychology (which will be the focus of our
next section). Tird, I will ofer a reply to May’s 1986
criticism that Kirk Schneider (1987, 1989) and Doyle
(May, Krippner, & Doyle, 1992) have repeated. Clearing
this up will leave us with two questions: 1) Where in
Wilber’s latest models does he include “involution” (that
relates to the work of Bohm, and big questions about
physics, mysticism, consciousness, etc.)? 2) How today
is transpersonal psychology addressing the existential
ego consciousness concerns of May, and how are
these concerns informed by transcendent or Nondual
awareness?
Kirt Schneider’s Existentially-Oriented Critique
of Transpersonal Psychology
Schroll: Te paradigm clash with existential
psychology has been lead by Schneider (1987, 1989).
To be fair, these ideas were expressed by Schneider
over 20 years ago, so his views may have considerably
evolved. I would welcome his feedback and those who
know his work that can assist in ofering amendments
to the views expressed here. Te essence of Schneider’s
critique is frst that he doubts that anyone is capable of
attaining true transpersonal awareness, that is: “divine
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 130 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
consciousness—a totally unrestricted, transcendent
oneness with all time and space” (Schneider, 1987, p.
197). Much to the contrary, Schneider contended that
humanistic psychology and self-actualization—or, using
Wilber’s [1980, 1981] terminology, the centaur mode of
consciousness lying halfway between the personal and
transpersonal bands—is the farthest level of personality
development possible. Schneider has admitted he is
unfamiliar with the disciplines and practices necessary
to achieve ultimate transpersonal consciousness. But
then Schneider tried to cover up this lack of experience,
saying that he doubts anyone who possesses frst-hand
experience of transpersonal awareness would also be
unable to verify the authentic attainment of this state of
consciousness in themselves or others.
Second, Schneider argued that even if groups
of people could somehow develop past the centaur
mode of consciousness, such personality development
would be irrelevant and unnecessary. Finally, his third
criticism is that a society of transpersonally enlightened
individuals would be boring. Moreover, he contends that
his argument is supported by recent developments in the
philosophy of science; yet, Schneider failed to provide
any documented evidence that supports this criticism.
Ken Wilber’s Response
to Kurt Schneider’s Critique
of Transpersonal Psychology
Schroll: In reply, Wilber (1989a, 1989b) chose to
respond to Schneider’s criticisms point by point. Wilber
began his rebuttal by frst questioning if Schneider has
truly understood his defnition of ultimate transpersonal
consciousness, pointing out that most humanistic
psychologists, including Schneider, have failed to
understand that transpersonal psychology stresses both
a negation or a going beyond former levels of personality
development, but also preserving and including “all the
basic concerns and needs and joys and pains of the lower
levels” (Wilber, 1989a, p. 460). Tus Wilber contended
that humanistic psychologists such as May and Schneider
have missed the essence of this important point, because
they have mistakenly focused their attention on the
“negation” or “leaping beyond” previous levels. John
Welwood (1984) has also warned about this danger,
urging the need for transpersonal psychologists to
establish a well grounded personality before embarking
upon a path “to help liberate us from an imprisoning self
structure” (p. 65), lest the would-be mystic become the
victim of spiritual bypassing. In defning what he means
by spiritual bypassing, Welwood went on to suggest that
within contemporary society it may:
be particularly tempting for individuals who are
having difculty making their way through life’s
basic developmental stages, especially at a time
when what were once ordinary developmental
landmarks—earning a livelihood through
dignifed work, raising a family, keeping a marriage
together—have become increasingly difcult and
elusive for large segments of the population. While
struggling with becoming autonomous individuals,
many people are introduced to spiritual teachings
and practices which come from cultures that assume
a person having already passed through the basic
developmental stages. Te result is that many people
wind up trying to use spiritual practice to meet their
personal needs or establish their identity, and this
just doesn’t work. (pp. 64-65)
In addition, Welwood pointed out that:
Many of the so-called “perils of the path”—such as
spiritual materialism, narcissism, infation, group
think—result from trying to use spirituality to make
up for the developmental defciencies in an urban-
technological culture (p. 65).
Seymour Boorstein agreed with both May and Welwood:
Transpersonal psychology embraces the traditional
psychological systems for the understanding and
treatment of emotional problems, and within a
spiritual context (for the therapist, and the patient,
when possible), seeks simultaneously to honor
humanity’s highest potentials. Tirty years ago I
had hoped that the actual experiences of the spiritual
dimension would “undo” traditional emotional
problems. Sadly, this has not turned out to be. Te
spiritual path usually cannot undo problems in the
“basement” of our minds, and, in fact, we need
to be cautious that the spiritual path not enhance
“basement” narcissism. (Caplan, Hartelius, &
Rardin, 2003, p. 145).
Schneider, and other critics of transpersonal psychology,
would greatly beneft from reading Welwood’s article.
Moreover, is it just a linguistic similarity, or is May really
saying the same thing as Welwood on the issue of spiritual
by-passing? Welwood certainly seems to be clear enough
about the need to frst confront life’s basic developmental
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 131 Rollo May’s Views on Transpersonal & Ecosophy
landmarks, and work through them, before attempting
to move beyond these needs into the transpersonal. Tis,
however, is May’s position also. Why then is May so
critical of transpersonal psychology? It can only be as
Vich (1986) has pointed out:

May seems to be confused about what transpersonal
psychology is, and at the same time he is concerned
that transpersonal psychology confuses religion and
psychology. (p. 2)
Tis leads me to conclude that if someone like May
is confused about transpersonal psychology, one can
begin to appreciate the enormous difculty in clearing
up this confusion within the entire feld of mainstream
psychology.
Meanwhile, within the broader scheme of things,
modernity continues to routinely neglect its nourishment
of the human psyche’s developmental needs. It was
this issue of neglect that was the focus of a workshop
presented by Daniel Goleman, Huston Smith, and Ram
Dass at the New York Open Center on September 21,
1985. Speaking to this concern, Ram Dass reminded the
listeners that the goal of the spiritual path (at least from
his own personal perspective):
is to work on myself, to become an environment
in which other people can see their clearest truth.
I don’t feel I have to teach them in the sense of push
them to fnd the truth, I merely have to create an
environment where they can feel safe enough and
open enough to explore that truth. I treat other
people’s attitudes as the work. . . . I don’t focus on
their predicament, I focus on my reactions to their
attitudes. (Goleman, Smith, & Ram Dass, 1985, p.
209)

Second, addressing the charge that ultimate
transpersonal consciousness is irrelevant and unnecessary,
Wilber replied that Schneider is again mistaken about
his understanding of what ultimate transpersonal
consciousness refers to. Wilber (1989a) explained that
even though transpersonally enlightened individuals
have transcended previous levels of personality
development, they still contain all those previous levels
within themselves as persons. “Terefore, they are often
predominantly moved . . . by a profound compassion
for literally all of the world and all of its sufering,
precisely because they have been through it all ” (p. 464,
emphasis supplied). Tis too seems to be what May
(1969) referred to in his emphasis on confronting the
existential conficts of life, “and, through the meeting
of them, achieving one’s individuality” (pp. 47-48).
Wilber’s (1989a) third rebuttal addressed
Schneider’s charge that a society of enlightened beings
would be boring. Wilber countered this accusation frst
by pointing out that Schneider only thinks ultimate
transpersonal experience would be dull, because
Schneider has admitted that he has never experienced
it. Additionally, Wilber demonstrated Schneider’s ill-
conceived “outside looking in” view of transpersonal
experience, pointing out that mystics do not spend
their entire day in blissed out euphoria. Rather, because
transpersonal consciousness is a composite, albeit
transcendent, aspect of all previous levels of human
personality structure, they are capable of more, not
less motivation. Consequently Wilber went on to point
out that Schneider has overlooked even the most basic
defnition of transpersonal consciousness (stemming
from the Zen tradition), which is: “How wonderful, how
mystical this! I chop wood, I carry water” (p. 466).
Tus, I hope with this summary the motivation
to create a transpersonal psychology was not, as May,
Schneider, and Doyle have argued, inspired by “leaping
across” the concerns of the existential journey to
understand the self. Its creation was instead prompted
by humanistic psychology’s limited view of personality
development, beginning with Maslow’s study of peak and
plateau experiences. It is this investigation of the farther
reaches of human nature by Maslow and others (such
as Wilber) who have followed similar lines of research
beyond the boundaries of their “skin encapsulated
egos” that has expanded their feld of awareness beyond
the immediate concerns of humanistic psychology.
Humanistic psychology has continued to evolve its
perspective.
Albert Ellis’ Warning About the Dangers
of Transpersonal Psychology
Schroll: Next to May, (the late) Albert Ellis was the most
well-known psychologist to directly challenge the views
of transpersonal psychology. Indeed, with his powers of
persuasion, if the only book I ever read on transpersonal
psychology was Why Some Terapies Don’t Work: Te
Dangers of Transpersonal Psychology, written by Ellis and
Raymond J. Yeager (1989), my view would be that it is
dangerous; it is for this reason that I felt motivated to
briefy respond to Ellis’ criticisms. Overall, I agree with
the concerns Ellis raises throughout his book; where
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 132 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
I disagree is the dangers that Ellis warns about do not
represent the views of transpersonal psychology as I
understand it. I would have welcomed Ellis’ reply (and I
invite others to comment who share his views) so that I
might better understand how and/or why our views are
in disagreement. Similar to May, Ellis’ primary criticism
is with Wilber’s polemical style of communication.
Wilber’s work has the ability to speak to many people,
but not to everyone. Nor does Wilber’s work speak for
everyone in transpersonal psychology.
Ellis’ initial misunderstanding of transpersonal
psychology began in his paper “Fanaticism Tat May
Lead to a Nuclear Holocaust: Te Contributions of
Scientifc Counseling and Psychotherapy” (1986). In
response, instead of helping Ellis to understand that he
misrepresented transpersonal psychology as a euphemism
for cult phenomenon, guru worship, the new age
movement, and the paranormal borderlands of science in
this paper, the critics merely attacked Ellis.
3
Among the
critics of Ellis’ paper was Roger Walsh, who summed it
up by saying:
Ellis’ article is fawed fourfold: (1) It does not deal
with the central, practical issues facing therapists
working to prevent nuclear war; (2) it makes
grossly inaccurate criticisms of diverse non-RET
psychotherapies; (3) the author makes logically and
philosophically impossible knowledge claims; and
(4) the author falls into the very trap of fanaticism
that he warns against. (Walsh, 1989, p. 338)

Ellis did not, as far as I know, reply to Walsh.
Granted, Walsh made valid criticisms of Ellis’ 1989
paper, yet what was lacking was a positive portrayal of
transpersonal psychology in a language that Ellis could
identify. Ten the conversation went horribly wrong when
Wilber (1989c) used satire to bolster Walsh’s arguments
and his disapproval of Ellis’ 1986 paper, a tactic that
evoked Ellis’ ire and served as a catalyst to launch
Ellis’ crusade to liberate the world from Te Dangers of
Transpersonal Psychology (Ellis & Yeager, 1989).
Te question I wish to raise is this: is there another
approach to this discussion that would have resonated
with Ellis, and have shifted his thoughts to reconsider
if there might actually be some value in transpersonal
psychology? Tis is because I too share Ellis’ concern
about the potential danger of a nuclear holocaust. It is
for this reason that I fnd it curious that Ellis would state
so boldly:
I am not particularly worried about our leaders
or the Russian leaders, nor about the great mass
of our people or the Russian people. Virtually all
these leaders and citizens are sensible and sane
enough about the possibility of atomic reprisal to
strongly oppose starting almost any kind of nuclear
confagration. (Ellis, 1986, p. 146)

Tis comment suggests that Ellis did not share
President Reagan’s views of Russia as an untrustworthy
political adversary. And yet, Ellis (who wrote this paper
during the Reagan administration) believed in Reagan’s
leadership abilities enough to state unequivocally that
Reagan’s political views on nuclear war did not worry
him. Tus it would have been helpful from the very
beginning to point out to Ellis that his views were also at
odds with humanistic psychologists like Carl R. Rogers.
In particular, the question critics should have asked
Ellis is: how could he be so confdent in his total trust
of President Reagan’s nuclear policy? Because during
the time Ellis expressed these sentiments, Reagan was
considering “the possibility of a nuclear war limited to
Europe, and Secretary Haig’s plan to fre of a nuclear
weapon in Europe simply to demonstrate our capability
to the Russians” (Rogers, 1989, p. 446). How it is rational
for Ellis to ignore George Bush, Sr.’s maniacal belief that a
winner could actually be possible in a nuclear war (Rogers,
1980, pp. 341-342)? Are these not the belief of fanatics?
Ellis and Yeager even cited Rogers’ 1980 publication yet
failed to discuss Robert Scheer’s interview with Bush,
Sr. More conversation on all of these concerns is needed
to sort all of this out. Tis would be a timely endeavor
considering the world’s current state of social and political
upheaval, and a welcome opportunity toward clearing up
these many misunderstandings.
Conclusion:
May’s Support for Environmentalism or
Transpersonal Ecosophy
Schroll: Returning to this paper’s central question,
“what is spirituality,” Rowan and I have pointed out
throughout this paper that “spirituality” is a less
precise reference to transpersonal psychology. Te
question then arose as to May’s misunderstanding
about the relationship between humanistic and
transpersonal psychology. Reading the paper, Te
Role of Transpersonal Psychology in Psychology as a
Whole (May, Krippner, & Doyle, 1992), I discovered
that May’s attack on transpersonal psychology was
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 133 Rollo May’s Views on Transpersonal & Ecosophy
more precisely an attack on the work of Wilber. May
also pointed out that it was his meeting with Wilber
prior to writing his comments in the APA Monitor in
1986 that sparked his thoughts regarding transpersonal
psychology. Tus it has been appropriate to discuss the
work of Wilber throughout this paper.
In taking issue with Wilber, May pointed out:
Ken Wilber (1981) says we are all growing toward
Eden. We will be happier and happier. We will be
freed from our problems. Tis is impossible and
undesirable. We would cease to be human. Tis is
what I fght against. . . . Te idea was that we were
growing towards increasing perfection. So all a
person had to do was sit tight, and these good things
will automatically come about. Well I don’t believe it
at all! (May, Krippner, & Doyle, 1992, p. 310).

Tese misunderstandings with both Wilber’s
work in particular and transpersonal psychology in
general have been discussed throughout this paper.
Tus it is my understanding that May and his students
have been confused about the respective focus of both
humanistic and transpersonal psychology. May went on
to say that:
It [consciousness expansion] would happen by virtue
of our devotion or hard work, . . . [You] see what I am
against is the belief that this comes automatically.
Higher states are not achieved automatically. And
the way that America is efecting the world seems
to me to be tremendously signifcant. For instance,
in ten, twenty years, the Amazon will have been
gutted. Now I see that as a threat to all of us. Te
taking of this view, that psychological evolution is
going to occur if we simply sit tight, concerns me.
Te Amazon’s being destroyed very quickly. Progress
is not automatic; we do not become better every day
without efort. (1992, p. 311)
Here again, perhaps afuent members of the Association
for Transpersonal Psychology (especially those in
California) in the beginning of this movement, had their
heads only in the clouds, without having their feet on
the ground. But within the literature as I have pointed
out in this paper, Welwood warned about “spiritual by-
passing;” Wilber and Ram Dass also clarifed their own
views that higher consciousness is not merely automatic.
Moreover, today May’s concerns with the destruction
of the Amazon, and so on, is what many are referring
to as “ecopsychology,” which I have pointed out has
its roots in humanistic and transpersonal psychology
(Schroll, 2008/2009; Schroll, Krippner, Vich, Fadiman,
& Mojeiko, 2009). Furthermore, I have clarifed that
I want a more precise term than ecopsychology, and
have instead suggested referring to it as “transpersonal
ecosophy” (Schroll, 2009b, 2011). I hope this paper was
helpful in clearing up these concerns.
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Notes
1. Schroll: Since this conversation took place, Rowan
(2010) has compared Wilber’s stage theory of
consciousness to levels of psychological maturity
and/or our process of transpersonal growth, whose
various stages are refected in answers to koans.
2. Schroll: Tis sounds like an excellent paper and
it is very hopeful to hear that Rollo May reversed
his views on transpersonal psychology. I will see if
I can track this down and will let you know when
I fnd it. Rowan: I have tracked down the Rollo
May conversation to 1992, but still no source! It was
Rollo May, Jacqueline Larcombe Doyle and Stanley
Krippner. Following this information exchange, I
wrote to Stanley Krippner and found out that the
reference we were seeking was May, R., Krippner,
S., & Doyle, J.L. (1992). “Te role of transpersonal
psychology in psychology as a whole: A discussion.”
Schroll: I heard back again from Stanley Krippner.
Due the kindness and generosity of Stanley, and his
brilliant research assistant Steve Hart, they are going
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 136 Schroll, Rowan, & Robinson
to mail a copy to me. Rowan: Good progress Mark!
3. Ellis and Yeager (1989) do provide a more
extensive discussion of these various euphemism’s
of transpersonal psychology. Still, the distinctive
vision of transpersonal psychology remains
misunderstood.
About the Authors
Mark A. Schroll, Ph.D., is Research Adjunct Faculty,
Institute of Transpersonl Psychology, Palo Alto,
California, an Co-Editor-in-Chief, Restoration Earth:
An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Nature and
Civilization. He is Founding Editor of Rhine Online: Psi-
News Magazine; in 2011 he Edited Rhine Online 3(1), the
special 2
nd
anniversary issue “Sacred Sites, Consciousness,
and the Eco-Crisis.” He served as Guest Managing Editor
of the special Anthropology of Consciousness, 22 (1), 2011
issue “From Primordial Anthropology to a Transpersonal
Ecosophy,” and Anthropology of Consciousness, 16 (1), 2005
issue “Primordial Visions in an Age of Technology.” He
served as the 2009 Co-Chair for Bridging Nature and
Human Nature, the annual Society for the Anthropology
of Consciousness conference co-sponsored by the
Association for Transpersonal Psychology. He serves on
the Editorial Board Journal of Ecopsychology, and was
invited to serve as Co-Editor of the forthcoming special
issue, Te Ecosophies of Communication: Exploring the
Worldview of Gregory Bateson and Arne Naess, with
Michael Caley, Editor-in-Chief, Te Trumpeter: Journal
of Ecosophy (due out fall/winter 2012). He served as
Editorial Assistant on the frst issue of Goddess Tealogy
with Patricia ‘Iolana (due out in the Fall of 2011). He
serves on the Windbridge Institute Scientifc Advisory
Board, and the Advisory Board of Alternative Terapies
in Health and Medicine. Schroll is a transpersonal
cultural theorist and conference organizer with multi-
disciplinary interests ranging from philosophy of science
to ecopsychology/transpersonal ecosophy. He can be
reached at rockphd4@yahoo.com.
John Rowan, Ph.D., has been studying the transpersonal
and meditating since 1982, and has published papers,
chapters and books on this subject a number of times
since then. His “training manual”on the ten ox-herding
pictures was published in 1993. He is a Fellow of the
British Psychological Society.
Oliver C. Robinson, Ph.D., University of Greenwich,
senior lecturer in psychology (September 2006 to present),
London, United Kingdom. He is the author (with D.
Lorimer, Eds), of A new Renaissance: Transforming science,
spirit and society (Floris Books, November 2010).
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 137 Ecopsychology, Transpersonal, and Nonduality
Ecopsychology, Transpersonal Psychology, and Nonduality
Nonduality is at the core of both transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology and provides a
means of fnding common ground between these approaches. However, misunderstandings
and the lack of an adequate conceptual language for nonduality have limited the value
of this concept for ecopsychology. Nonduality is presented as a range of experiences and
stages of development in which particulars are perceived and understood as part of an all-
encompassing totality. Specifcally, nonduality is understood in terms of a self-identity
in which separating boundaries no longer isolate one from other expressions of Being. A
description of nondual dimensions of Being based on the Diamond Approach of A. H.
Almaas provides ways of articulating the transpersonal dimensions of ecopsychology.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 137-147
M
any have recognized transpersonal experiences
in natural settings and found qualities of
peace, joy, love, guidance, and inspiration
that are exemplars of the spiritual quest. Similarly, some
people in both the psychological and the environmental
action communities sense that ecopsychology can be
a path to the spiritual as well as a powerful element in
promoting sustainable lifestyles, efective environmental
work, and optimal mental health. Spirituality has been
part of the ecopsychology literature, though not without
ambivalence or disagreement. For the most part, however,
the transpersonal elements of ecopsychology have not
been clearly articulated. In this article, I explore the
connection between ecopsychology and transpersonal
psychology. Since the central issue for this connection is
the notion of nonduality, I ofer a discussion of nonduality
and its relation to ecopsychology. I do not intend this to be
a thorough review of either transpersonal psychology or
ecopsychology but rather a contribution to a continuing
dialogue on psyche, nature, and spirit.
Research on Nature-Based
Transpersonal Experiences
A
substantial and rapidly-growing body of
psychological research points to the mental health
benefts of nature experiences. Research settings include
a broad range of encounters with nature including
extended wilderness trips, nearby nature (such as city
parks and gardens), built environments, and immersion
into nature images. Most of the research has focused on
relaxation, a sense of restoration, and cognitive benefts
(Hartig, Mang, & Evans, 1991; Ulrich et al., 1991;
Kaplan, 1995; Chalquist, 2009). More recently, research
on nature experiences has demonstrated increases in
prosocial behavior (Weinstein, Przybylski, & Ryan,
2009) and a sense of vitality (Ryan et al., 2010).
An important subset of this research identifes
transpersonal aspects of nature experiences. Wuthnow
(1978) used three defnitions of peak experiences in a
large representative survey: “feeling that you were in
close contact with something holy or sacred,” “feeling
that you were in harmony with the universe,” and
“experiencing the beauty of nature in a deeply moving
way.” Eighty-two percent of his sample reported being
deeply moved by the beauty of nature, the most common
of the three defnitions, and forty-nine percent felt this
experience had a lasting infuence. Greeley (1974) and
Keutzer (1978) asked large samples whether they had
had what they called an ecstatic experience or an intense
spiritual experience. Tirty-fve percent of the U.S.
population and sixty-fve percent of a college population
(respectively) responded afrmatively. In these studies,
the “beauties of nature such as the sunset” was ranked as
the most common trigger by the students and the third
most common trigger by the general population. In a
cross-cultural confrmation of these fndings, Hofman
(2007) found that a sample of Japanese college students
John V. Davis
Naropa University
Boulder, CO, USA
Keywords: ecopsychology, transpersonal psychology, nonduality, spirituality and
nature, Almaas, Diamond Approach
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 138 Davis
reported nature experiences as the frst or second most
common trigger for their peak experiences.
Several empirical studies have examined spiritual
experiences in the context of wilderness adventure
activities. Overall, it seems that both the adventure
element and the wilderness setting play a role in evoking
transpersonal experiences and that one of the primary
reasons people engage in wilderness experiences is to seek
transpersonal experiences (Brown, 1989). For instance,
Stringer and McAvoy (1992), using naturalistic inquiry
methods, found that spiritual experiences are common in
wilderness adventure activities. Beck (1988) studied river
rafters and showed that intensive recreational encounters
with wild rivers often led to transpersonal experiences
“expressed in terms of humility and spirituality....[and]
a sense of oneness” (p. 133-135; emphasis in original).
Kaplan and Talbot (1983) and Talbot and Kaplan (1986)
reported extensive research on wilderness experiences.
Teir Outdoor Challenge Program took inner city
children, teachers, and others on week-long wilderness
trips and analyzed the contents of participants’ journals.
Although this program did not have an explicit
psychological orientation, they found spiritual and
transpersonal qualities to be the strongest theme.
For many participants [during the backpacking trips]
there is eventually a surprising sense of revelation, as
both the environment and the self are newly perceived
and seem newly wondrous. Te wilderness inspires
feelings of awe and wonder, and one’s intimate
contact with this environment leads to thoughts
about spiritual meanings and eternal processes.
Individuals feel better acquainted with their own
thoughts and feelings, and they feel “diferent” in
some way—calmer, at peace with themselves, “more
beautiful on the inside and unstifed.” . . .
[After the trips] there is a growing sense of wonder
and a complex awareness of spiritual meanings as
individuals feel at one with nature, yet they are aware
of the transience of individual concerns when seen
against the background of enduring natural rhythms.
(Kaplan & Talbot, 1983, p. 178-180)

Transpersonal Psychology and Ecopsychology
I
n transpersonal psychology, as well as many other
psychological approaches, the sense of separate self is seen
as a product of one’s personal history and is characterized
by a sense of autonomy, independent agency, and separation
from surroundings. Te transpersonal approach difers
from other approaches, however, by valuing and describing
states in which the self transcends a narrow identifcation
(e.g., Wilber, 2000). Self-transcendence refers to states
of consciousness and stages of development in which the
sense of self is expanded beyond the ordinary boundaries,
identifcations, and self-images of the individual personality
and refects a fundamental connection, harmony, or
unity with others and the world (Caplan, Hartelius, &
Rardin, 2003; Davis, 2003; Friedman, 1983; Walsh &
Vaughan, 1993). Bynum (1997), consistent with many
others describing transpersonal psychology, places “unitive
conscious experiences” at the center of the feld (p. 301).
Based on a longer list of 202 defnitions, Lajoie and Shapiro
(1992) ofered this integration:
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. (p. 91)
Ecopsychology argues that the deep and
enduring psychological questions—who we are as human
beings, how we grow, why we sufer, how we heal—are
intimately connected to our relationships with the natural
world, and similarly, that the overriding environmental
questions of our time—the sources of, consequences
of, and solutions to environmental destruction—are
deeply rooted in the psyche, our images of self and
nature, and our behaviors. Among ecopsychology’s
potential contributions are bringing more sophisticated
psychological principles and practices to environmental
education and action; bringing the contributions of
ecological thinking, the values of the natural world, and
responses to environmental destruction to psychotherapy
and personal growth; and fostering lifestyles that are both
ecologically and psychologically healthy (Doherty, 2009;
Esbjörn-Hargens & Zimmerman, 2009; Roszak, 1992;
Roszak, Gomes, & Kanner, 1995; Winter, 1996).
Ecopsychologists view the relationship between
humans and nature as a deeply bonded and reciprocal
communion or union between humans and nature. Te
denial of this bond is a source of sufering both for the
physical environment and for the human psyche, and the
realization of the connection between humans and nature
is healing for both. Tis reconnection includes the healing
potential of contact with nature, work on grief and despair
about environmental destruction, psychoemotional
bonding with nature as a source of environmental action,
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 139 Ecopsychology, Transpersonal, and Nonduality
and the cultivation of environmentally-responsible
lifestyles. A number of methods have been used by
ecopsychologists to awaken and develop this connection,
including sensory-based educational and counseling
techniques (Cohen, 1993), wilderness passage rites (Foster
& Little, 1988, 1997; Davis, 2005) and other wilderness-
based work (Greenway, 1995; Harper, 1995), shamanism
(Gray, 1995), and psychotherapeutic practices (Cahalan,
1995; Swanson, 1995; Buzzell & Chalquist, 2009).
For the most part, ecopsychology presents two
images for the relationship between humans and nature:
(a) nature as home and its inhabitants as family (e.g.,
siblings or Mother Earth) and (b) nature as self, in which
self-identifcations are broadened and deepened to include
the non-human world. Tese views stand in contrast to
views that nature is dangerous and needs to be controlled
and dominated or that nature is (merely) a useful resource
which needs to be protected, conserved, and stewarded
for ourselves and future generations. Fox (1995) provided
a useful outline of various positions on human-nature
relationships. A transpersonal view of human-nature
relationships can include these two images, and it will
transcend them. Conceiving of nature as an expanded and
more-inclusive self may be a necessary step in developing a
more transpersonal view of the human-nature relationship.
However, this broader self is not a fnal understanding.
What is needed is an articulation of a transpersonal
view that goes beyond the nature-as-self view without
invalidating it. Such a transpersonal view recognizes
that both human and nature are expressions of the same
ground of Being. An understanding of unitive, nondual
states, and practices for developing this understanding is
the foundation for an efective integration of transpersonal
psychology and ecopsychology.
Integrations of Ecopsychology
and Transpersonal Psychology
R
eferences to spirituality, sacredness, and the
transpersonal (though generally without using that
term) can be found in much of ecopsychology. Teodore
Roszak’s (1992) Te Voice of the Earth, the seminal
book in ecopsychology, includes positive references to
“nature mysticism,” “Feminist Spirituality,” and in his
conclusion, “the interplay between planetary and personal
well-being, [phrasing which] is deliberately chosen for
its traditional theological connotation” (p. 321). Snell,
Simmonds, and Webster (2011) reviewed Roszak’s work
on ecopsychology and concluded that spiritual experience
(though he tends to avoid that term) is an important
theme in his presentation of ecopsychology. Whether or
not ecopsychology continues along the lines proposed by
Roszak, they argued “it would be prudent to account for
Roszak’s contribution and the signifcance of spiritual
experience in his representation of ecopsychology”
(p. 112). Warwick Fox’s (1995) Transpersonal Ecology
bears directly on the intersection of transpersonal
psychology and ecopsychology. Although the original
1990 publication of this book predates Roszak’s (1992)
major presentation of ecopsychology, Fox mentioned
Roszak’s earlier work at several points. Importantly for
this discussion, Fox included Roszak in a list of writers
who “see the cultivation of ecological consciousness in
‘spiritual’ or ‘quasi-religious’ terms” (Fox, 1995, p. 52).
Andy Fisher’s Radical Ecopsychology (2002) is
another formative work for the feld of ecopsychology,
and he also included multiple positive references to
spirituality in ecopsychology. He considered spirituality
in some instances to be virtually synonymous with the
reunion of humans and the rest of nature (p. 97) and
a necessary foundation for encountering the depths of
environmental sufering in order to engage in efective
environmental action (pp. 190-191). Deborah Winter’s
Ecological Psychology (1996) included a major section
on transpersonal psychology with a discussion of deep
ecology, transpersonal ecology, and ecopsychology. She
concluded that “with so much common conceptual
ground, it is not surprising that theories are beginning to
synthesize transpersonal psychology and deep ecology”
(p. 249). She cited Roszak’s ecopsychology and Fox’s
transpersonal ecology as examples of this synthesis. Te
subtitle of her book, Healing the Split between Planet and
Self, clearly expresses her view of a unity that transcends
the illusion of a human-nature split. Winter summarized
a discussion of these felds this way:
Te basic principle to be drawn from both gestalt and
transpersonal psychology (and their recent forms of
ecopsychology and transpersonal ecology) is that our
ordinary experience of ourselves as separate autonomous
beings is incomplete and inaccurate. [Recognizing
this] will require . . . a shift in consciousness (the
transpersonal emphasis) from the smaller, autonomous,
ego-oriented self to the wider and deeper ecological self.
Transpersonal psychologists, ecopsychologists, and
transpersonal ecologists argue that such a shift is more
than a cognitive event—it is also a directly perceptual
and/or spiritual event. (p. 264, emphasis supplied)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 140 Davis
Doherty (2009) suggested that as ecopsychology
moves into a “second generation” of research, theory,
and application, it is becoming less defned by its
countercultural, holistic, and romantic stance and more
self-refective, pluralistic, and pragmatic. Doherty called
for an expansion from those early tenets of ecopsychology
but not a rejection of them. For others, this movement
within ecopsychology may refect concerns about the
explicit spiritual and mystical favor of early presentations
of ecopsychology by Roszak and others. For example,
Reser (1995) found cause for concern with the “quasi-
religious—and often explicitly religious—character
of the discourse” (p. 241). “Te rhetoric is of spiritual
connecting and transformation, there is a clear quest for
the sacred and use of ritual, frequent reference to earth
magic and animism/transcendentalism, [and so forth]”
(p. 242). While Reser and others are skeptical about the
value of an ongoing infuence of transpersonalism in
ecopsychology, I feel its intersection with transpersonal
psychology is one important aspect of ecopsychology’s
pluralism. While ecopsychology fnds useful common
ground with environmental psychology, conservation
psychology, and other environmentally-focused psych-
ologies, it will also be fruitful to develop its common
ground with transpersonal psychology.
Nonduality
I
am using the term nonduality to capture the
understanding of unitive states, an expanded and deeper
sense of self, and self-transcendence. In transcending a
sense of separate self, one realizes a nondual relationship
with Being. It is not awareness or consciousness which is
transcended, only the sense of a self which is grounded
in separation, narcissism, and defenses (the so-called
ego in many spiritual traditions). Nonduality does not
mean a loss of consciousness but rather a heightened
consciousness in which particulars (objects, persons, and
relationships) can be perceived with greater clarity as the
conditioning and cognitive limitations of the ego-based
separate self are dissolved, integrated, and transcended.
Tis view of nonduality is at the core of the relationship
between transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology.
Ecopsychology is based on the recognition of a
fundamental nonduality between humans and nature
and on the insight that the failure to experience, value,
and act from this nonduality creates sufering for both
humans and the environment. Nonduality and unitive
states of consciousness are also at the foundation of trans-
personal psychology. Demonstrating this close connection
between nature, nonduality, and transpersonal states,
Wilber (1996) illustrated the frst of the transpersonal
stages of development as “nature-mysticism,” defned by
“an awareness that is no longer confned exclusively to
the individual ego” (p. 202). I would argue that this is
one description of nonduality. At this level, “there is no
separation between subject and object, between you and
the entire natural world ‘out there.’ Inside and outside—
they don’t have any meaning anymore. You can still tell
perfectly well where you body stops and the environment
begins—this is not psychotic adualism. ... It is your own
higher self ” (Wilber, 1996, p. 202, emphasis in original).
From an ecopsychological perspective, Greenway
(1995) pointed to dualism as “perhaps the source of our
pervasive sense of being disconnected” from the natural
world (p. 131). He suggested that such dualism is also at
the root of our culture’s domination, exploitation, and
destruction of our habitat, “the very basis of our survival
as a species” (p. 131). He suggested that an important
step in redressing these problems is a better language
for ecopsychology and for understanding nonduality. I
agree.
Nonduality refers to the locus, structure, and
nature of self-identity, encompassing those states of
Being and consciousness in which the sense of separate
individuality and autonomy has been metabolized or
dissolved into the fow of experience. Self-identity becomes
integrated into a qualitatively higher (or deeper) perspective
in which individual identity and the contents of experience
are diferentiated but not split or separated. Te world
does not melt away, perception gains greater clarity and
richness, and actions fow more harmoniously. At the
same time, the self is no longer experienced as separate or
ultimately autonomous. Instead, an expanded, more open,
and more inclusive view of the world becomes foreground.
As Zimmerman wrote, “In the moment of releasement,
enlightenment, or authenticity, things do not dissolve
into an undiferentiated mass. Instead, they stand out or
reveal themselves in their own unique mode of Being”
(as quoted in Fox, 1995, p. 239). Similarly, Fox wrote,
“Te realization that we and all other entities are aspects
of a single unfolding reality—that ‘life is fundamentally
one’—does not mean that all multiplicity and diversity
is reduced to homogeneous mush” (p. 232). Indeed, all
spiritual traditions that have described nonduality have
pointed out that the world becomes more real, beautiful,
alive, and whole when one steps outside the confnement
of duality. When the separate identity, with its flters and
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 141 Ecopsychology, Transpersonal, and Nonduality
expectations based on personal needs, history, cognitive
schemata, and the like, is not reifed or identifed with, the
world appears to us as more vivid and vital.
A central difculty in understanding the role of
nonduality in ecopsychology is the misconception that
nonduality is undiferentiated (the descriptions by Fox
and Zimmerman notwithstanding). In that view, the
nondual state, a merged union without any diferences or
discriminations, would preclude perception and action.
For example, Naess (1989) spoke of two ways to go wrong:
“Here is a difcult ridge to walk: to the left we have the
ocean of organic and mystic views, to the right the abyss
of atomic individualism” (p. 165). Yet, these are not
opposite sides of the same ridge. Te issue of nonduality is
somewhat complicated by the fact that there are nondual
states in which perception does disappear into a complete
and absolute cessation. However, this is not the only state
in which the self is in a union with the world. Te more-
inclusive defnition I am using here is more consistent
with reports of nonduality in relation to nature. I suggest
that “the ocean of organic and mystic views” is precisely
the way out of “the abyss of atomic individualism.”
Finding ourselves to be this ocean, nothing more than
identifcation with a separate self is lost. Duality is a
product of identifcation, not diferentiation.
Dimensions of Nonduality
M
ost spiritual wisdom traditions have described
this terrain and developed specifc methods
for experiencing, understanding, and integrating
nonduality. A. H. Almaas, in what he calls the Diamond
Approach, articulates a richly detailed and systematic
approach to clarifying personality, experiencing essence,
and realizing spiritual maturity (Davis, 1999). His
descriptions of nondual states (which he has also called
boundless or formless) states are particularly relevant
here. Almaas has described fve boundless or nondual
dimensions, each with distinctive characteristics, and he
has related each dimension to descriptions of these states
from traditional spiritual systems, including Sufsm,
Buddhism, Christianity, Kabbalah, and Shaivism (e.g.,
1986, p. 419-484; 2000b, p. 397-441). Each dimension
has a sense of freedom, clarity, and authenticity which
transcends ordinary identity without denying or
rejecting a sense of individual consciousness. A precise
understanding of the psychological issues that arise in
each of these advanced stages of spiritual work provides
foundations for self-realization through the method of
inquiry and other practices. He has further described
the integration of these nondual dimensions into the
personal life and functioning of individuals (Almaas,
2000a, 2000b). I will give brief descriptions of each to
help clarify this discussion of nonduality in the context
of ecopsychology.
In one of these dimensions the world is
experienced as a fowing, dynamic unfoldment in each
moment. Tis dimension leads to an awareness that the
world is born anew each moment. Tis dynamism reveals
the world’s aliveness, its multiplicity, and its constant
unfolding.
Te fact that presence includes the various
manifestations of the self in a nondual way indicates
that presence is not a static reality. Seeing that it
is always transforming its appearance, we become
aware that presence is dynamic. It is not only
thereness, but also a fow. (Almaas, 2000b, p. 33)
From this dimension, nature is seen in its eternal and
timeless unfolding expression and change. Tis expression
is not haphazard but self-organizing. Inner experience,
the physical world, conceptualizations, and actions all
arise, discriminable but not divided. One might use a
metaphor of waves on an ocean which can be identifed
as unique but never separate from the ocean. Self and
nature are manifestations of this fow; neither is more
or less central or fundamental. Tis dimension reveals
that discrimination, change, and unfolding can happen
without a separate self.
Without equating Almaas’s description to others,
this dimension compares to Fox’s (1995) cosmologically
based identifcation and the focus by Roszak and others
on “the world as a single unfolding process—as a ‘unity
in process,’ to employ Teodore Roszak’s splendid
phrase” (p. 252). Tis concept of dynamic, nondual fow
is also similar to Roszak’s (1992) use of the concepts
of anima mundi, World Soul, and Gaia. He described
these related concepts as the view “that the whole of the
cosmos is a single great organism” (p. 139) referring to its
vitality, aliveness, and unfolding. Almaas gave a similar
description of this dimension:
Te world is perceived, in some sense, as alive and
living, as one infnite and boundless organism
of consciousness. It is not merely the presence of
Being or consciousness; this dimension of Being
is experienced as a living organism, boundless and
infnite.” (Almaas, 2000a, p. 475)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 142 Davis
Almaas has also referred to this dimension as the
“Universal Soul” or the soul of the universe, similar
to Roszak’s use of the term World Soul (personal
communication, July 28, 1997). Both Roszak and
Almaas use soul in the sense of its original meaning as
individual consciousness or the medium of experience.
All of these ideas, taken together, point to existence
as a single unfolding reality, in constant renewal and
originality, fowing, and undivided.
A second boundless dimension focuses on the
richness and beauty of existence and the origin of the
limitless aesthetic qualities of the world. It is referred
to often in nature writing and descriptions of nature-
oriented mystical experiences. With this dimension
comes an unconditional love for the world. Te fow of the
phenomena (both as inner experience and outer world)
may be seen as a surface quality whose depth is this beauty,
or the fow may be co-emergent with this beauty, and
what is fowing is beauty and love. Experiencing this fow
deeply reveals that its nature is beauty and love. Almaas
described it as being held in the arms of a boundless loving
light. Without the veils of dualistic identity, the world
emerges in ever more exquisite ways, revealing its intrinsic
glory and richness. Everything—including ego, spirit,
sufering, attachment, environmental destruction, toxic
dumps, the outrageous beauty of a sunrise, and the grace
of a bird rising from a pond—is seen as an expression and
manifestation of unconditional love. Tis is not a logical
conclusion or solely an intellectual insight but rather a
direct, transrational knowing of the nature of reality.
Penetrating or transcending the boundless, nonegoic,
nondual sense of fow does not halt or disappear nature;
it reveals a deeper characteristic of nature, its loveliness,
in a way that ego-based experience does not.
Te unfolding of nondual consciousness does
not stop with this beauty and love, despite our tendency
to want to hold on to it and reside in it. When this
dimension of beauty and love is experienced deeply
enough, its nature is revealed as a deeper dimension
of nonduality, a fullness of presence. Beauty is now
seen as a surface quality, and within the loveliness and
lovableness of the world lies the fact of its presence. If,
as Emerson wrote, “beauty is God’s handwriting,” this
dimension corresponds to God, the source of that beauty
(though nontheistic traditions have also recognized this
dimension of pure presence without invoking a singular
deity). Patterns in the world are revealed as expressions
of noetic forms. Te world (inner and outer) has a
quality of presence, purity, signifcance, profundity, and
realness that was masked, as it were, by its beauty. All is
experienced as pure presence without any diferentiated
characteristics beyond the experience of its existence.
At this level of realization, we come also to perceive
the unity of all manifestation. Since Being is an
indivisible medium (not composed of parts), it
follows that everything makes up a unity, a oneness.
Tere is one existence, as opposed to two or many. It
is merely an infnite presence that possesses a pattern.
Tis pattern is everything we perceive, including all
persons and objects. So everything is connected to
everything; there exist no separate and autonomous
objects or persons. (Almaas, 2000b, p. 406)
Tere is discriminating awareness, but this awareness is
not separate from the knowledge of it. Tis dimension
reveals in a deeper way that consciousness and the world
are nondual. Nature is revealed in its profound, palpable
and precious existence.
Tis nondual presence resembles what Fox
(1995) called ontologically based identifcation.
Te basic idea that I am attempting to communicate
by referring to ontologically based identifcation is
that the fact—the utterly astonishing fact—that
things are impresses itself upon some people in such
a profound way that all that exists seems to stand out
as foreground from a background of nonexistence,
voidness or emptiness—a background from which
this foreground arises moment by moment. . . . “Te
environment” or “the world at large” is experienced
not as a mere backdrop against which our privileged
egos and those entities with which they are most
concerned play themselves out, but rather as just
as much an expression of the manifesting of Being
(i.e., of existence per se) as we ourselves are. (p. 251,
emphasis in original)
Fox related this awareness to the insights of the Zen
Buddhists, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein and suggested
that people experiencing “the world in this way on a
regular or semi-regular basis (typically as a result of
arduous spiritual discipline) fnd themselves tending to
experience a deep but impartial sense of identifcation
with all existents” (p. 251, emphasis in original). I would
extend this to say that all existents are experienced
as a unity, and the unity of Being is the source of this
identifcation.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 143 Ecopsychology, Transpersonal, and Nonduality
Te ground and inner nature of the awareness
of pure presence is the realm of nonconceptual
awareness and pure perception. It is what Fox called “the
background of nonexistence, voidness, or emptiness”
from which arises existence and presence. Penetrating
the pure presence and unity of the world, one discovers
its ground to be awareness without content or concepts.
It has a quality of emptiness that is more fundamental
than form. Upon realizing the pure presence and fullness
of Being, one
begins to experience the totality of the world—
which forms a oneness—as external to himself [sic
1
],
as if his identity now is deeper than this unity of
experience. . . . He realizes that he still adheres to
the concepts of world, oneness, existence, and so
on, or more precisely, that these things are actually
concepts. He penetrates his reifcation of Being,
unity, and oneness. Tis precipitates the movement
of the student’s identity into a subtler manifestation
of Being, a totally nonconceptual realization of true
nature. He experiences himself now as nonconceptual
reality, beyond all mind and concepts, beyond all
specifcations and recognitions. . . . He is both self
and not self. Tis is a very paradoxical manifestation
of Being, beyond any conceptualization. . . . Tere is
a stunning sense of awakeness, intensely fresh and
new. When there are no concepts in our recognition
of ourselves, nothing is old; everything is the pure
freshness of suchness, the intensity of eternity that
has no concept of time. (Almaas, 2000b, pp. 411-
412)
Note that while there is no conceptual content
in this state, there is awareness and that awareness has
noticeable qualities: freshness, intensity, timelessness,
and transparency. Indeed, nature is revealed in a fully
transparent way. One sees the world, but it is as if each
perception is empty of diferentiated content beyond
pure awareness, brand new, and undistorted by past
memories, expectations, and labels. Te dynamic fow
described above is co-emergent with this dimension.
However, rather than the fow of beauty and love or
the fow of noetic forms, here it is experienced as pure
fow without content. Zen Buddhism, among other
contemplative and mystical traditions, has dealt with
this dimension. Perhaps this is what Gary Snyder
pointed to when he titled his collection of his poetry
No Nature.
But we do not easily know nature, or even know
ourselves. Whatever it actually is, it will not fulfll
our conceptions or assumptions. It will dodge our
expectations and theoretical models. Tere is no
single or set “nature” either as “the natural world” or
“the nature of things.” Te greatest respect we can
pay to nature is not to trap it, but to acknowledge
that it eludes us and that our own nature is also
fuid, open, and conditional.
Hakuin Zenji put it “self-nature that is no
nature/ . . . far beyond mere doctrine.” An open space
to move in, with the whole body, the whole mind.
(Snyder, 1992, p. v., emphasis in original)
Almaas also described a nondual dimension
fundamental to each of these. He called this the Absolute,
a dimension beyond presence and emptiness. Te
Absolute is the unknowable origin and ultimate nature
of Being. At this level, all paradoxes dissolve, including
the paradox that existence is both full and empty, present
and absent. Tis absolute mystery is beyond all qualities
of Being. It is a cessation and an absence: no perception,
no awareness that there is no perception, no movement.
He compared it to the state of consciousness in deep
sleep or to the state of universe before the Big Bang. Te
Absolute is revealed only in its absence. Te state of the
Absolute shows all that is seen—nature, self, culture,
sacred, profane—is a thin bubble over this complete
mystery. Tis is the source of the experience of complete
liberation and complete nonduality. Although it is its
nature to be indescribable and unknowable, various
spiritual traditions have acknowledged this mystery
and recognized it as the ultimate source of freedom and
liberation.
A Nonhierarchical View
T
he dimensions of nondual Being are usually presented
as a linear unfolding or development according
to a “journey of ascent.” Tis progression describes the
development of consciousness from the perspective of the
individual. Consciousness, as it develops and becomes
more refned, reveals increasingly deeper and more subtle
levels of Being. On the other hand, Being can be described
as unfolding and manifesting in an orderly way from
the Absolute mystery into the multitude of forms and
qualities of the phenomenal world. As it unfolds, it fows
through these various dimensions in a progression from
the Absolute mystery to those more diferentiated as the
phenomenal world, a “journey of descent.” Te mystery
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 144 Davis
unfolds and manifests frst as non-conceptual awareness
which diferentiates into presence itself and then into
forms, patterns, and qualities, giving rise to experiences of
ourselves as humans, and the world. Te journey of ascent is
a process of understanding the inner nature of phenomena,
including the physical and the experiential realms, as a
progression to more and more subtle forms of nonduality.
Te journey of descent is a process of nonduality expressing
itself in more and more diferentiated manifestations
without losing its inherent unity.
Both of these “journeys” and each of these
dimensions can also be viewed as co-existent and co-
emergent. Tese dimensions are complementary and
equally valid. Immanence, fullness, and the myriad
forms of the world are one side of a coin (the result of
the journey of descent); transcendence, emptiness, and
the mystery of union are the other (the fruition of the
journey of ascent). Tus, the richness and beauty of the
world are no more or less privileged than its emptiness.
Tis view contrasts with those spiritual systems which
hold that one of these dimensions is real and the others
are illusory. Tis is a particularly important point for
ecopsychologists. Tis understanding of nonduality does
not devalue or reject the natural world or human culture.
From this view, spiritual realization does not need to
isolate nature from humans. To the extent that one does
want to distinguish these (and there are times this is a
useful distinction), they can still be seen as manifestations
of the same absolutely mysterious ground of Being.
None of the dimensions of nonduality means leaving
the world. Te physical world as less than the spiritual is
rejected, as is as the natural world as the source of Being.
Regardless of whether the physical world (including the
natural world) or spirit is privileged, both of these views
continue a pernicious duality. With the understanding of
nonduality presented here, one can embrace both nature
and human as manifestations of Being.
Nonduality and Functioning
T
he consciousness of nonduality is closely related
to the action that emerges in nondual states.
Just as nonduality is not “undiferentiated mass” or
“homogeneous mush,” non-doing is not merely quietude
or passivity (although it may be when appropriate). In
virtually all the descriptions of nonduality throughout
the world’s spiritual wisdom traditions, nonduality has
been seen not as an end to action, but as the beginning
of a new source of action that does not place self-interest
at the center.
Some ecopsychologists and deep ecologists have
pointed to this as a source of environmental action. Fox
(1995), summarizing a vast amount of writing in this
area, concluded, “For transpersonal ecologists, given a
deep enough understanding of the way things are, the
response of being inclined to care for the unfolding
of the world in all its aspects follows ‘naturally’” (p.
247). Wilber (1996) claimed that in nature mysticism,
“a spontaneous environmental ethics surges from your
heart” (p. 204). Such engaged spirituality can be seen
in the activism of Gandhi, Tich Nhat Hanh, and the
Dalai Lama, for example. One who understands and has
integrated the teachings of nonduality has no resistance
to acting on behalf of all of existence and its parts.
Conficts between one’s own interests and the interests
of the whole are transcended. Te wisdom of the whole
guides one’s actions in a way that is optimal for the
whole. Nonduality prompts compassionate and skillful
action in the service of the environment. To the extent
that these propositions need empirical testing, this
understanding of nonduality could help operationalize
such research.
Conclusions
T
his understanding of nonduality has radical
consequences for views of nature and psyche. When
nature is seen as a family or larger self, it is a projection
of our human selves, and an eventual split is inevitable.
When we conceive of the world, we impregnate it with
our concepts, so to speak, and birth it through our own
images. We do not encounter nature on its own, but
through our flters. With the concept of the world as
a larger self comes the possibility judgments, grasping,
rejection, and constriction—all the characteristics of a
“smaller,” egoic, and dualistic self. Tis is the origin of
the splits that lead to alienation and sufering. A nondual
view of ecopsychology goes beyond anthropocentrism
and ecocentrism. One could say that Being or the
totality of existence is the center and equally, that there
is no center, just fow, beauty, presence, emptiness, and
mystery.
A transpersonal understanding that is sensitive
to the Earth recognizes that direct contact with nature,
wherever it is encountered—in the backyard, garden,
wilderness, or one’s body—expands and develops
one’s maturity beyond the personal and supports self-
transcendence. It also recognizes spirit in all forms,
including the natural, the built, the wounded, the
sublime, and the toxic. Environmental problems become
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 145 Ecopsychology, Transpersonal, and Nonduality
an arena for selfess service, and the phenomenal world
becomes an arena for transpersonal insights and nondual
awareness.
Ecopsychologists and transpersonal psychologists
have made connections with each other, though not
without some ambivalence. Here and elsewhere, I have
proposed that an integration of ecopsychology and
transpersonal psychology is needed and potentially fruitful
and that its success depends on a clearer understanding
of nondual states of consciousness (Davis, 1998). Tis
clarity can remove some of the reluctance to accept a
transpersonal view within ecopsychology (though for
some, it will no doubt add fuel to this reluctance). It can
also contribute to a nature-oriented transpersonal path.
Tis integration must be inclusive and not discount the
value of what has already been promoted in ecopsychology,
including ecotherapy, ecological lifestyles, and efective,
sustainable environmental action. It must also require
a contemplative wisdom regarding nonduality that
goes beyond intellectual understanding and emotional
appreciation. Tis wisdom entails both the discovery
of deeper dimensions of Being and the development of
the capacity to integrate these dimensions into everyday
experience and action. Tis is not easy, but there is ample
evidence from many spiritual traditions that it is possible,
that it is worthwhile, and that there are methods for
doing it.
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Note
1. Almaas uses both the masculine and the feminine in
his examples. In this passage, he uses the masculine,
but the feminine is implied as well.
About the Author
John Davis, PhD, is Adjunct Professor in the Graduate
School of Psychology, Naropa University, Boulder,
CO. A former department chair at Naropa University,
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 147 Ecopsychology, Transpersonal, and Nonduality
he also directed the low-residency Ecopsychology and
Transpersonal Psychology MA programs there. As a
staf member with the School of Lost Borders, he leads
wilderness retreats and trains wilderness rites of passage
guides, and he is an ordained teacher of the Diamond
Approach. Parts of this article are based on Davis (1998).
Correspondence concerning this article may be directed
to jdavis@naropa.edu or John Davis, Graduate School of
Psychology, Naropa University, 2130 Arapahoe Avenue,
Boulder, CO 80302 USA.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 148 Davis
Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash:
A Transpersonal Synthesis of Depth Psychology,
Tibetan Tantra, and the Sacred Mythic Imagery of East and West

Judson Davis
California Institute of Integral Studies
San Francisco, CA, USA
Tibetan Buddhist Tantra and Jungian depth psychology represent two of the world’s more
dynamic psycho-spiritual traditions. Tis comparative study explores their respective
insights, cosmologies, and often striking similarities, with particular emphasis on the
manner in which mythic imagery is employed in both disciplines as a powerful agent
of healing and transformation. Te ontological status of Tibetan deities and archetypal
entities is also given careful consideration, especially in relation to the phenomena of
psychic projection and autonomous spiritual dimensions.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 148-164
J
ungian psychology and Tibetan Tantra share a
number of characteristics and methodologies that
have as their primary focus the treatment of human
sufering and the elicitation of spiritual awakening.
Each tradition arose in a very diferent historical period
and socio-cultural context, which makes these various
overlapping aspects all the more compelling.
Tese two transformative disciplines—one
revealing the wisdom of an ancient Eastern spiritual
tradition and the other the insights of a contemporary
Western psychological framework—are linked most
readily through their shared emphasis on the creative
use of mythic imagery as a dynamic means of efecting
spiritual development. With transcendence acting as their
primary focus, both traditions emphasize the mind, or
psyche, as the foundational basis of existence and the
primary means through which liberation (in the tantric
tradition) and psychic wholeness (in Jungian psychology)
is pursued. Each emphasizes the realm of dreams (e.g.,
dream analysis in depth psychology and dream yoga in
Tibetan Tantra), meditative visualizations (such as the
focus on wisdom fgures in both disciplines), and an
assortment of other practices that, at their very essence,
are designed to efect a reconciliation of opposites and the
attendant union of masculine and feminine elements.
It should be noted that both of these disciplines
represent complex psychological systems that possess their
own distinctive characteristics and include sometimes
widely varying notions of a higher spiritual order or
ultimate reality (the apparent incongruity between the
Jungian Self and the Buddhist “no-Self ” being a primary
example), but an in-depth explication concerning their
respective metaphysical postulations is not the purpose
of this study. Rather, it is my intention to examine how
mythic imagery is used in both traditions as a means
of inducing transpersonal experience, and how such
experiences afect and transform human consciousness.
In this sense, regardless of the diferences in ontological
or epistemological pronouncements, it can be said that
both systems are committed to the treating and healing
of human sufering as well as the inducement of spiritual
awakening through transformative methodologies that
share a number of intriguing characteristics. In addition,
each discipline emphasizes a radical shift away from the
ego as the center of one‘s identity toward the realization of
an inseparable interrelationship with a boundless and all-
encompassing psychic matrix. And within this context,
it is essential to understand that in each tradition “the
psyche or mind of the individual—the only instrument
through which one experiences reality—is the sole
authority” (Moacanin, 2003, pp. 102-103).
In the spirit of integral scholarship, Western and
Eastern accounts of numinous states of consciousness,
fndings from modern transpersonal research, and
Keywords: Jungian psychology, Tibetan Tantra, integral scholarship, transpersonal,
archetypal dimension, dream yoga, participatory event
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 149 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
elements of my own personal, therapeutic, and mystical
experience are integrated in this study, especially when
these aspects serve to enhance a given example or
theoretical component. Tis is done in recognition of
the need for
a scholarship that realizes that these religious worlds
are not dead corpses that we can dissect and analyze
from a safe distance, but rather are vital, living bodies
of knowledge and practice that have the potential to
change completely our taken-for-granted notions of
who we are, why we are here and what we could or
should become. (Gunnlaugson, 2005, pp. 333-334)
Te importance of integrating one’s own
deeply transformative experiences into any related
course of study is highlighted in Jefrey Kripal’s
(2001) emphasis upon a mystical hermeneutic, as “the
modern, and now post-modern, study of mysticism . . .
has been largely inspired, sustained, and rhetorically
formed by the unitive, ecstatic, visionary, and mystico-
hermeneutical experiences of the scholars themselves”
(p. 3). Accordingly, in this study, for example, one of
my own highly transformative mystical experiences
serves as the starting point for an exploration of the
ontological status of autonomous dimensions and
psychic projections.
Te integration of such material presents both
potential benefts (e.g., the elucidation of theory through
direct experience) and pitfalls (e.g., the potential for
personal projection and cultural appropriation), and
these important considerations can be approached
with greater clarity when considered through Hans-
Georg Gadamer’s (1989) notion of a horizon, which
he described as “the range of vision that includes
everything that can be seen from a particular vantage
point” (p. 271). Te spiritual and theoretical horizons
of both disciplines are thus explored in relation to their
respective vantage points, a process that inevitably
unfolds within the context of one’s own particular
insights and experience. In this sense, understanding
is not conceived as a fnal or fxed truth, but rather
as an enhanced, deepened, and fuid perspective that
refects the fruits of such a dialogical inquiry—and its
fusion of horizons—between observer, lens, and texts.
Tis is precisely the spirit in which this comparative
study unfolds, and as such it is intended as a concerted
form of cross-fertilization, or creative dialogical
hermeneutics.
Jungian Depth Psychology
J
ungian psychology grew out of the depth psychological
movement that was initiated by Sigmund Freud in
late nineteenth-century Europe. In contrast to Freud’s
spiritually reductionist psychoanalysis, Jung (1963) came
to understand the human psyche as possessing a religious
function whereby archetypal symbols—as revealed
through the unconscious and as manifested through
dreams, myth, and creative expression—inform and
guide human spiritual development on both a personal
and collective level.
Jung was also fascinated by and readily
acknowledged what he viewed as the superior develop-
ment of various ancient Eastern spiritual traditions, and
was especially intrigued with what he described as “the
self-liberating power of the introverted mind” (1992a,
p. 56). He wrote a number of essays on various aspects
of Asian esotericism, including Te Psychology of Eastern
Meditation, psychological commentaries on Te Tibetan
Book of Great Liberation and Te Tibetan Book of the
Dead, and a foreword to D. T. Suzuki’s Introduction
to Zen Buddhism. Jung was particularly drawn to the
manner in which certain Eastern disciplines emphasize
the reconciliation of opposites and the union of male
and female aspects. He also saw in these traditions a
direct link to a primary component in his own evolving
psychological theory—the notion of unus mundus.
Tis term, which derives from his studies of medieval
philosophy, translates as “one unitary world” and
represents the original, inseparable union of all things,
the non-diferentiated essence out of which all things
arise and are given individual form (Jung, 1963).
Te nature of unus mundus was conceived as
manifesting into separate parts such as subject and object
in order to bring forth a condition of actuality from the
potentiality inherent in the original, non-diferentiated
essence. Jung (1963) applied this concept to his study of
the human psyche, and conceived that the diferentiation
of the conscious and unconscious contents of the psyche
(i.e., separate parts or opposites) is necessary for the sake
of growth and adaptation, but ultimately these aspects
must be reunited in order to achieve a state of psychic
wholeness. Central to this course of development (i.e.,
the individuation process) and its circuitous return to
the origin of one’s being (i.e., the Self ) is the concept of
archetypes, the primordial psychic structures that guide
human development and serve as the basis of humanity’s
inherent religious instinct.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 150 Davis
Tibetan Buddhist Tantra
B
uddhism, with its origins in the Indian
subcontinent, arrived in Tibet in the seventh
century C.E. during the reign of King Songsten Gampo
(Pal, 1990). Tere it merged, sometimes contentiously,
with the native animistic and shamanistic tradition
(later known as Bon), which it would eventually
supersede as the primary religious discipline. Te new
religion would retain, however, many of the existing
indigenous beliefs and practices, and through this
integration and development “all native gods already
inhabiting the local mountains, the forests, the lakes
and rivers, the sky, and the underworld were adopted
into the pantheon and made protectors of the Buddhist
religion” (pp. 42-43).
Te renowned mystic Padmasambhava and the
great monk Santarakshita made signifcant contributions
toward the acceptance and expansion of this new
religious system, and in about the year 779 it became
ofcially indoctrinated through the founding of the frst
great monastery at Samye. Te tantric form of Indian
Buddhism that developed in Tibet is known in Sanskrit
as Vajrayana, the Tunderbolt or Diamond Vehicle,
and involves the use of such contemplative practices as
meditation, creative visualization, artistic expression,
mantra recitation, and the enactment of mudras (ritual
poses) as a means of facilitating spiritual development and
ultimate liberation. Te body is regarded as an essential
component in this process, and through the activation
of the vital energies of the chakras, plays a central role as
a kind of alchemical container of inner transformation.
Tese various methods, practices, and rituals all share
one ultimate aim—the awakening to dharmakaya, the
ultimate nature of the fully enlightened mind.
Each of Tibetan Buddhism’s four primary schools
(Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelugpa) is aligned with
specifc lineages, tantras (texts), doctrines, and practices
that are designed to correspond to the particular needs
and circumstances of its respective practitioners (Powers,
1995/2007). Although diferences exist concerning each
order’s tantric practices, these four schools naturally
share many common Buddhist precepts, including an
adherence to the teachings of the Middle Way School
of Nagarjuna and devotion to the bodhisattva ideal
of Mahayana Buddhism, with its emphasis on the
treatment and cessation of human sufering. Each also
aligns itself with the precept of reincarnation as well as
the cosmological notion of autonomous spiritual realms,
for which the three primary realms of desire, form, and
formlessness constitute the most basic structure (there
are other more thorough distinctions, such as the six
or thirty-one realms of the Kalacakra system; human
beings inhabit the desire realm, which involves existence
in a state of samsara). According to the present Dalai
Lama, these various dimensions are inhabited by other
conscious entities of widely varying characteristics:
Basically we can say there are diferent worlds,
diferent experiences; human life is just one of
them. What we usually call spirits are some
diferent form of life, beings who have a diferent
body and mentality. Within the desire realm, and
more specifcally within the environment inhabited
by human beings, there is quite a variety of other
entities . . . . And they’re all cohabitating with us right
here. (Varela, 1997, p. 141)
Te various Tibetan sects also share the notion
that emptiness (Skt., shunyata) is the essential truth of all
existence, and within this context “all four orders agree
that the mind is of the nature of clear light . . . and all
agree that the most subtle and basic level of mind is of
the nature of pure luminosity and emptiness” (Powers,
1995/2007, p. 358). Tis state of blissful, nondual
emptiness is the ultimate goal of tantric practice, and
concurrent with an awakening into shunyata arise
two vital manifestations, wisdom (Skt., prajna) and
compassion (Skt., karuna), which are considered the two
most essential qualities resulting from the attainment
of this fully liberated state. Humility and simplicity are
also highly valued, and in this sense “being a Buddha
is not being some omnipotent spiritual superman, but
becoming at last a true human being” (Sogyal, 1994, p.
54).
Comparative Analysis
Jungian psychology and Tibetan Tantra both employ
a variety of dynamic methodologies that foster healing
and accentuate spiritual development and awakening.
As previously stated, both disciplines emphasize the
transformative power of mythic imagery and the
reconciliation of opposites as a means of facilitating
human development, and in each discipline these
processes are understood as vital catalysts for the
inducement of numinous and mystical experience
(Moacanin, 2003). Each also places crucial emphasis
on the union of feminine and masculine elements, as
revealed in the following passage:
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 151 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
Te union of masculine and feminine is central to
much of life, both inwardly and outwardly. Te
conjunctio, as Jung called this union, is equally
important to the completion stage of tantra, where
male and female aspects of the meditator are brought
into union on an inner level. (Preece, 2006, p. 215)
Tis emphasis on the union of opposites also
applies directly to the light and dark aspects of human
nature, and in Tibetan Tantra, as in certain primary
practices in depth psychotherapy, visualization plays a
primary role in this process:
In Jungian analysis one must deal with one’s
shadow, the dark rejected part of the psyche; one
must detect projections and egocentric aims . . . . For
that reason the total psyche must be approached,
its dark as well as its light aspects, personifed in
tantra by peaceful and wrathful deities repeatedly
constructed and dissolved in one’s visualization. One
is continually facing the confict of opposites in an
efort to transcend them. Tis is the purpose of the
sadhanas (meditation exercises), which are based on
a profound understanding of what Jung would call
depth psychology. (Moacanin, 2003, pp. 88-89)
Regarding this integration of opposing psychic forces,
Jung (1963) believed that the image of the Buddha was a
more complete representation of the total human being
because it integrated both the light and dark aspects of
human nature, whereas in the Christian tradition the
image of Christ was depicted in purely benign form,
with the dark aspects being split of and assigned to the
fgure of the Devil.
Te creative engagement of god-images and
other sacred symbols (e.g., the mandala) holds special
signifcance in each tradition, both as a means of facilitat-
ing spiritual development and as a process that points
directly to an essential precept that lies at the foundation
of each system—the primacy of psychic reality. Both
the Buddhist and Jungian disciplines variously stress an
empirical approach in their understanding of the human
mind, and each emphasizes the importance of a direct
experiential comprehension of spiritual processes while
avoiding defnitive metaphysical postulations (Clarke,
1994). At the same time, each system posits the intimate
interrelationship of all phenomena, and this notion of
inseparable union, of the ultimate interconnectedness
between all things and processes, is especially relevant
as it pertains to the psychic relationship between subject
and object, observer and observed. Tis is particularly
well demonstrated in the texts of the Tibetan tradition,
as Clarke astutely observed regarding Te Tibetan Book
of the Dead:
the emphasis throughout the treatise is on the
doctrine that the only reality is mind or consciousness,
and that all things, including material reality, are
mind-made. Furthermore, all minds, and hence all
existing things, are manifestations of the Absolute
or One Mind. (p. 127)
Te reading of this enigmatic Buddhist text provided
Jung (1992b) with what he felt was signifcant validation
for his own theories of psychic reality:
Te whole book is created out the archetypal contents
of the unconscious. Behind these there lie—and in
this our Western reason is quite right—no physical
or metaphysical realities, but “merely” the reality of
psychic facts, the data of psychic experience. . . . Te
Bardo Todol says no more than this, for its fve
Dhyani-Buddhas are no more than psychic data. . . .
Te world of gods and spirits is truly “nothing but”
the collective unconscious inside me. (p. 96)
Lama Yeshe, in referring to the process of
tantric meditation, expressed a similar perspective
when he stated that “such a deity is an archetype of
our own deepest nature, our most profound level of
consciousness” (1987/2001, p. 30). In Te Psychology of
Eastern Meditation, Jung (1936/1958) again emphasized
this shared principle when he expressed the following:
In the meditation it is realized that the Buddha
is really nothing other than the activating psyche
of the yogi—the meditator himself. It is not only
that the image of the Buddha is produced out of
“one’s own mind and thought,” but that the psyche
which produces these thought-forms is the Buddha
himself. (p. 567)
Clarke (1994) further observed that Jung’s
exposure to Eastern spiritual traditions helped him
to more fully develop his theory of introversion and
extroversion, and it was through such exposures that
Jung (1992a) came to understand the Asian disciplines
as possessing “a typically introverted point of view,
contrasted with the equally typical extraverted point
of view of the West” (p. 53). In Jung’s thinking,
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 152 Davis
the extroverted tendency of the West is most readily
exemplifed by its exaggerated emphasis upon
rationalism and scientifc materialism (at the expense of
contact with the archetypal unconscious), and he was
greatly concerned that this imbalance had substantially
diminished contemporary Western humanity’s sense of
inner meaning, resulting in a deeply engrained spiritual
malaise. Tis pervasive disconnection from the core of
one’s inner world is a primary theme of many Tibetan
masters as well, including Sogyal Rinpoche (1994), who
described this condition as “perhaps the darkest and most
disturbing aspect of modern civilization—its ignorance
and repression of who we really are” (p. 52).
Both traditions are primarily concerned, then,
with a proper understanding of the nature and workings
of the human mind, and the depth and clarity of this
understanding is thought to have a direct correlation with
both spiritual development and the cessation of psychic
sufering. It warrants mention, however, that whereas in
the Tibetan tradition the achievement of enlightenment
is accompanied by an end to sufering, for Jung (1963)
the process of individuation involves an endless course of
development of which sufering remains an unceasing—
and even necessary—component. In this sense he could not
conceive of a state of complete liberation, and concurrently
could not accept the Eastern notion of an egoless, non-
dual, unitary state of heightened consciousness:
Consciousness is inconceivable without an ego; it
is equated with the relation of contents to an ego.
If there is no ego there is nobody to be conscious
of anything. . . . Te Eastern mind, however, has no
difculty in conceiving of a consciousness without an
ego. Consciousness is deemed capable of transcending
its ego condition; indeed, in its “higher” forms, the
ego disappears altogether. Such an egoless mental
condition can only be unconscious to us, for the
simple reason that there would be nobody to witness
it. . . . I cannot imagine a conscious mental state that
does not relate to a subject, that is, to an ego. (Jung,
1992a, p. 56)
Despite this incongruity with the Eastern view, Jung
aligned his concept of the Self with Buddhism’s Universal
Mind, and stated that “the unconscious is the root of all
experience of oneness . . . dharmakaya” (p. 66).
Finally, no comparative study of these two
disciplines would be complete without some mention of
their mutual association with the esoteric phenomena
of chakras. Jung had received an initial exposure to
this fundamental tenet of Hindu and Buddhist tantric
practice through J. G. Woodrofe’s Te Serpent Power, and
it was through tantric yoga that “Jung discovered certain
symbolic parallels with his own conception of psychic
libido and with the general goal of psychic integration”
(Clarke, 1994, p. 75). Tis discipline, which is especially
prominent in the Tibetan tradition, appealed to Jung
because it represented a system that integrated psychic and
somatic factors, involved the manifestation of symbolic
material indicative of the stages of spiritual development
(as variously arising in the seven vital energy centers), and
was holistic in that it ofered a “positive, life-afrming
view of the body, the passions, and the shadowy regions of
the psyche” (p. 111). In the activation of the chakras one
again fnds precepts common to both disciplines, for the
attendant meditative techniques are designed to stimulate
the female principle, or kundalini, and “to raise it from
the lowest to the highest chakra, there to be united with
the male principle, a union which brings about a state of
supreme bliss beyond all dualities” (pp. 110-111).
Jung, Dreams, and
Archetypes of the Numinous
H
aving established a basic framework of overlapping
similarities between the two traditions, the focus
now turns to an outline of pertinent Jungian psychological
perspectives and their emphasis upon the healing and
transformative aspects of the human psyche, a process that
ultimately leads to a greater elucidation of Tibetan Tantra
as well. Here the relationship of numinous experience
becomes especially relevant, as such experiences represent
breakthroughs into considerably broader, unfathomable
psychic realms that serve to greatly infuence and instruct
human spiritual development:
Numinous experience is . . . the feeling that one is
in the grip something greater than oneself, the
impossibility of exercising criticism, and the paralysis
of the will. Under the impact of the experience reason
evaporates and another power simultaneously takes
control—a most singular feeling which one willy-
nilly hoards up as a secret treasure no matter how
much one’s reason may protest. Tat, indeed, is the
uncomprehended purpose of the experience—to
make us feel the overpowering presence of a mystery.
(Jung, 1977, pp. 154-155)
An in-depth attunement to the mythic images
that arise through dreams, visions, and other psychic
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 153 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
phenomena represents an essential component in this
process, as such archetypal forms often evoke (or are
used to induce) the experience of numinosity (Jung,
1974). Te phenomena of dreams are of particular
importance in depth psychology “because dreams are
the most common and most normal expression of the
unconscious psyche . . . they provide the bulk of the
material for its investigation” (p. 73). Jung also made an
important distinction “between ‘little’ and ‘big’ dreams,
or as we might say, ‘insignifcant’ and ‘signifcant’
dreams” (p. 76). One such dream that is of particular
relevance came to Jung in his middle years and proved to
be instrumental in the creation of an expanded dialogical
relationship with the Self:
I had dreamed once before of the problem of the
self and the ego. . . . I was walking along a little road
through a hilly landscape; the sun was shining and
I had a wide view in all directions. Ten I came to
a small wayside chapel. Te door was ajar, and I
went in. To my surprise there was no image of the
virgin on the alter, and no crucifx either, but only a
wonderful fower arrangement. But then I saw that
on the foor in front of the alter, facing me, sat a
yogi—in lotus posture, in deep meditation. When I
looked at him more closely, I realized that he had my
face. I started in profound fright, and awoke with
the thought: ‘Aha, so he is the one who is meditating
me. He has a dream, and I am it.’ I knew that when
he awakened, I would no longer be. (1963, p. 323).
Jung (1963) stressed that the purpose of
such dreams is “to efect a reversal of the relationship
between ego-consciousness and the unconscious, and
to represent the unconscious as the generator of the
empirical personality” (p. 324). He chose to experiment
with various techniques designed to help manifest the
interplay between consciousness and the unconscious,
and he viewed creative expression as an especially efective
means of facilitating this process. In conjunction with his
discoveries, Jung developed the process of amplifcation,
a method by which the deeper spiritual meanings of
psychic images, symbols, and dream-fgures are expanded
through their association with mythological, cultural,
and religious metaphors—a process that has particular
application within a therapeutic and developmental
context.
Te psyche’s direct engagement with mythic
imagery thus represents one of the most essential
features of this alchemical healing process, as it signals
“a movement out of the suspension between opposites,
a living birth that leads to a new level of being, a new
situation . . . a quality of conjoined opposites” (Jung,
1960, p. 90). Tis phenomenon is well represented
through the following dream (one of my own) and the
process of psychic amplifcation that followed:
I am standing in a room and am engaged in a
conversation that reveals with great certainty that at
a later date I will be involved in the dissemination of
Jung’s theories to a wider audience. Tis realization
is accompanied by a strong sense of personal pride
at the prospect of personal accomplishment and
recognition in the outer world. Ten I suddenly pass
through a curtain and fnd myself on a football feld
preparing to kick a feld goal that will signify my
success in this endeavor, but when I kick the ball, it
hits the goal post, and falls short. Ten I wake up.
I was left with the undeniable sense that this
dream had special signifcance, and at the same time
was confused by the seemingly contradictory messages
that it provided. So, intent upon uncovering its deeper
meaning, I chose to engage in the practice of active
imagination, an imaginal exercise created by Jung in
which one reenters the dream in a conscious state by
focusing upon a primary image and then allowing the
inner drama to unfold of its own accord. In this case,
the goal post was clearly the most prominent fgure, and
so, with this image frmly in mind, I proceeded to close
my eyes, concentrate my focus, and then experienced the
following:
In a short time I found myself again on the football
feld, this time playing quarterback. Each time I
tried to pass the ball, I was quickly tackled. Finally,
I decided to keep the ball and attempt to cross the
goal line by my own volition, and was then able to
maneuver my way through the defense, ultimately
being brought down as I successfully crossed the
goal line. As the football I was carrying touched
the ground, it suddenly turned into an enlarged,
glowing blue diamond, and this was accompanied
by a wordless, telepathic communication that can
only be described as a numinous revelation, one that
arose from a deeper part of myself that I rarely have
direct access to, and yet somehow instinctively know
to be my true self. And what this communication
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 154 Davis
revealed to me was that the goal in life is not about
achieving success or status in the outer world, but
rather, the true meaning of this life is to reconnect,
to return home, to the very source of one’s being.
Tis experience clearly delineates Jung’s (1960)
notion of the dynamic interplay between consciousness
and the unconscious. It also appears to be highly suggestive
of the existence of numinous universal archetypes, as the
diamond exists as one of the primary representations of
the Self (Jung, 1964), and has manifested as a sacred
symbol of spiritual radiance, purity, and indestructibility
in an array of diverse cultural traditions, including
Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, or Vajrayana—the Diamond
Vehicle.
Tese psychic processes also serve to exemplify
the means by which the unconscious acts in a regulatory
capacity, compensating for the misguided direction
of the ego through the spontaneous manifestation of
psychic imagery, a process that combines aspects of one’s
contemporary personal existence (i.e., the goal post)
with the universal symbolic imagery of the collective
unconsciousness (i.e., the blue diamond), resulting in
an experience of deep personal meaning and psychic
wholeness (Jung, 1960).
Jung (1963) stated that specifc archetypal
symbols manifest in direct correlation with one’s spiritual
development, and observed that as the Self increasingly
assumes a central position within consciousness, the
mandala becomes the most prominent and consistent
symbol. An important bridge is thus established here
between the Western and Eastern traditions in question,
especially as it pertains to the arising and manifestation
of mythic imagery in a broader universal context:
Te mandala is an archetypal image whose
occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It
signifes the wholeness of the self. Te circular image
represents the wholeness of the psychic ground or,
to put it in mythic terms, the divinity incarnate in
man. . . . which spontaneously arises in the mind as a
representation of the struggle and reconciliation of
opposites. (pp. 334-335)
Jung (1974) further enunciated this theme as follows:
It seems to me beyond question that these Eastern
symbols originated in dreams and visions, and were
not invented by some Mahayana church father. On
the contrary, they are among the oldest religious
symbols of humanity . . . and may even have existed in
Paleolithic times. . . . Te mandalas used in ceremonial
are of great signifcance because their centers usually
contain one of the highest religious fgures: either
Shiva himself—often in the embrace of Shakti—or
the Buddha, Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, or one of
the great Mahayana teachers, or simply the dorje,
symbol of all the divine forces together, whether
creative or destructive. (pp. 170-172)
Te above passages clearly exemplify the central
themes mentioned previously, namely the essential
importance of the reconciliation of opposites and the
attendant union of male/female aspects, a process
that is accompanied by the manifestation of various
forms of universal mythic imagery that appear both in
individual spiritual development and in broader cultural
and religious contexts. Tis notion is echoed by Tenzin
Wangyal Rinpoche (1998), who touched upon this
phenomenon as follows:
Te underlying truth is that these teaching arise
spontaneously from humans when they reach a
certain point in their individual development. Te
teachings are inherent in the foundational wisdom
that any culture can eventually access. Tey are not
only Buddhist or Bon teachings; they are teachings
for all humans. (p. 71)
Tibetan Tantra:
Dreams, Sacred Imagery, and Mythic Realms
B
oth Jungian psychology and Tibetan Tantra
emphasize spiritual transformation, and both
engage in imaginal practices that are intended to
directly infuence this process. Dream yoga represents
one of the primary practices in the Tibetan tradition,
and refects “how greatly dream is valued in Tibetan
culture . . . and how information from the unconscious is
often of greater value than the information the conscious
mind can provide. (Wangyal, 1998, p. 12) However, in
considering the manner in which the tantric tradition
employs such practices, an important distinction must
be made:
Tere is nothing more real than dream. Tis statement
only makes sense once it is understood that normal
waking life is as unreal as dream, and in exactly the
same way. Ten it can be understood that dream
yoga applies to all experience, to the dreams of the
day as well as the dreams of the night. (p. 23)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 155 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
Te above passage relates to the Tibetan
Buddhist view (and broader Indian notion) of maya,
which refers to the illusory nature of ordinary dualistic
perception. Genuine clarity of mind, on the other
hand, involves the immediate, penetrating, nondual
comprehension that “the very ground of our being is
pervasive, self-existing, empty, primordial awareness. . . .
Bon-Buddhism places a great emphasis on the doctrine
of no-self or emptiness (sunyata), which is the ultimate
truth of all phenomena” (Wangyal, 1998, p. 200).
Within this mode of perception, all phenomena, both
in the waking and dream state, are understood to be
lacking in any inherent existence, and as such the
conventional self, the separate “me” that one normally
identifes with, is understood to be a projection of the
mind that is not abiding in its true nature, known
in Tibetan Buddhism as the “clear light of bliss,”
and in the Tibetan language as rigpa. Learning not
to falsely identify with illusory projections, which in
Buddhism are seen as arising from one’s karmic traces
and perpetuating the cycle of rebirth in samsara, is a
fundamental aspect of this discipline. Accordingly,
such methods as deity visualizations, dream yoga, and
other meditative practices are intended to dissolve the
dualistic mind into
the clear light and abide in it through all the
moments of life: waking, meditating, dreaming,
sleeping, and death. Essentially, the teaching are
designed to help us recognize the nature of mind,
to understand and overcome the obstacles in our
practice, and to abide fully in rigpa. We can utilize
the same methods to remain in joy, to fnd peace in
the midst of the turmoil of the world, to live well
and to appreciate each vivid moment of our human
existence. (p. 208)
To abide in the clear light, then, in the waking
state, during meditation, in the bardo (which is given
particular emphasis in dream yoga), and during
dreaming itself, and to approach the phenomena that
one encounters in all of these states as projections of
the mind while sustaining a state of calm abiding in
nondual awareness—this is the essential purpose of
tantric practice (Wangyal, 1998).
And so, despite the fact that in Buddhism one’s
essential nature is understood as lacking any inherent
existence, mythic imagery and entities (e.g., Buddha
Sakyamuni, Avalokitesvara, and Tara) are employed
in various tantric methodologies as a creative means
of furthering one’s spiritual development. Tis is done
with the understanding that
the deity we choose to identify with represents the
essential qualities of the fully awakened experience
latent within us. To use the language of psychology,
such a deity is an archetype of our own deepest
nature, our most profound level of consciousness.
In tantra we focus our attention upon such an
archetypal image and identify with it in order to
arouse the deepest, most profound aspects of our
being and bring them into our present reality.
(Yeshe, 1987/2001, p. 30)
Rob Preece (2006) also emphasized this important
distinction when he stated that
even though the notion of no-Self (Skt., anatma) is
a central tenet of Buddhism, the Buddhist tantric
path conceives that our potential for wholeness is
personifed in the symbolic form of a deity. . . . Te
deity in Tantra is understood as a gateway or bridge
between two aspects of reality. . . . In Buddhism we
speak of ‘relative truth,’ the world of appearances
and forms, and ‘ultimate truth,’ the empty, spacious,
nondual nature of reality. . . . Te deity stands on the
threshold as the potential for creative manifestation.
(pp. 38-39)
At the same time it is important to note that
Tibetan Buddhist cosmology posits the existence of
various spiritual dimensions and ethereal entities that
are considered to be more than mere psychic projections.
Tey are thought to possess their own autonomous
nature and to exist in innumerable planes and universes,
as Tulku Tongdup wrote:
Buddhist cosmology encompasses an unimaginably
vast number of world systems beyond our earthly
home. Outside of the mundane world, the six realms
of samsara, there exist innumerable pure lands
extending in all ten directions of the universe. . . .
Tese purifed paradises are the dwelling places of
advanced beings, including celestial buddhas and
great bodhisattvas. (2005, p. 284)
Tis perspective is given further support through
the pioneering transpersonal fndings of Stanislav Grof
(1998), whose more than forty years of research into
non-ordinary states of consciousness have suggested the
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 156 Davis
existence of an immense array of spiritual realms and
experiential dimensions that lie beyond the perception
of ordinary waking consciousness. His fndings also
suggest the existence of two forms of ultimate reality,
which are referred to as Absolute Consciousness and
Cosmic Emptiness, or the Void. Absolute Consciousness
represents the supreme creative principle (which is
responsible for the creation of manifest existence), and
this creative principle is thought to co-exist with, and
emanate from, the great Void, as outlined below:
When we encounter the Void, we feel that it is
primordial emptiness of cosmic proportions and
relevance. We become pure consciousness aware of
this absolute nothingness; however, at the same time,
we have a strange paradoxical sense of its essential
fullness. . . . While it does not contain anything in a
concrete manifest form, it seems to comprise all of
existence in potential form. . . . Te Void transcends
the usual categories of space and time, and lies
beyond all dichotomies and polarities, such as light
and darkness, good and evil . . . agony and ecstasy,
singularity and plurality, form and emptiness, and
even existence and nonexistence. . . . Tis metaphysical
vacuum, pregnant with potential for everything there
is, appears to be the cradle of all being, the ultimate
source of existence. Te creation of all phenomenal
worlds is then the realization and concretization of its
pre-existing potentialities. (p. 30)
Te above passage addresses a number of
primary themes in Buddhist cosmology, including the
Void as primordial emptiness, the reconciliation and
union of all opposites (one is immediately reminded here
of the famous Buddhist adage, form is emptiness, and
emptiness is form), the existence of a timeless dimension,
and the presence of countless world systems. It also
touches upon the theme of manifest existence arising
out of this Void, and Grof (1998) stated that some of
these various realms and the entities that inhabit them
are understood to interact with and inform our earthly
dimension in ways that are consistent with aspects of
Jungian psychology:
Te material realm that we inhabit and with which
we are intimately familiar seems to be just one of
these worlds. . . . Of special interest is a domain
that lies between our everyday reality and the
undiferentiated Absolute Consciousness. It is
a mythological realm that has been extensively
studied by C. G. Jung and his followers. . . . Jung
referred to it as the archetypal realm of the collective
unconscious. Te beings inhabiting these realms
seem to be endowed with extraordinary energy and
have an aura of sacredness or numinosity. For this
reason they are usually perceived and described as
deities. . . . Te encounters with mythological beings
and visits to mythic landscapes . . . can be in every
respect as real as events in our everyday life, or more
so. Te archetypal realm is not a fgment of human
fantasy and imagination; it has an independent
existence of its own and a high degree of autonomy.
At the same time, its dynamics seem to be intimately
connected with material reality and with human
life. (pp. 69-70)
It is these advanced spiritual dimensions that
are sometimes accessed through the creative, meditative
and dream practices emphasized in both Junigan
psychotherapy and Tibetan Tantra. Tere exist many
stories in Tibetan Buddhist literature, for example, that
tell of “meditators who leave their bodies for days at a
time to travel through the invisible world” (Tongdup,
2005, p. 6). Tese practitioners, who are known as
delogs, then “come back to their bodies to record their
extraordinary journeys, which could span the lowest
rungs of hell and the sublime pure lands” (p. 6). One
captivating account of just such a journey—replete with
sacred mythic entities and imagery—is revealed in the
following experience of a young Tibetan woman:
Dawa Drolma felt that she moved through the
sky, soaring like a vulture. She found herself in the
manifested pure land of Guru Rimpoche, the buddha
in the form a realized master. Tere was a boundlessly
vast feld. In the center she saw a giant red rock
mountain in the shape of a heart. Te mountain was
surrounded by many sharp, sword-like mountains,
all shining with a reddish color. Te sky was adorned
with a canopy of fve colored rainbow light. All kinds
of beautiful birds were singing and playing joyfully.
Te ground was covered with fowers of all kinds
and colors. Te whole atmosphere was flled with an
amazing sweet fragrance that overwhelmed all her
senses. Tere was also a blue mountain, as if made
of sapphire. Tese were not vague appearances, but
vivid images with real presence. . . . In the middle
of the mountain, she saw the inconceivable palace
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 157 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
of Guru Rimpoche called the Lotus of Light.
Te palace was the enlightened wisdom of Guru
Rimpoche himself, spontaneously appearing in the
form of a luminous mansion of light. . . . Tis pure
land was flled with masters, dakas, and dakinis. . . .
Accompanied by White Tara, Dawa Drolma entered
into another inconceivably beautiful palace, made as
if of red crystal. . . . In the middle of a great hall, Dawa
Drolma saw an enormous throne—higher, it seemed
to her, than a three-story building. . . . On that throne
she beheld the amazing presence of Guru Rimpoche,
Padmasambhava, the embodiment of the wisdom,
compassion, and power of the enlightened ones. . . .
Dawa Drolma drew closer to the throne and touched
her forehead to the feet of Guru Rimpoche. . . . Guru
Rimpoche bestowed upon her empowerments and
blessings. With great compassion, he said . . . “Tell
people what you saw and entreat them to pursue
virtue”. . . . Ten White Tara led Dawa Drolma to the
hell realms. Dawa Drolma journeyed through the
experiences of the bardo. She saw the Dharma King
of the Lords of the Dead in wrathful and terrifying
form in his Court of Judgment. . . . She also saw the
results of karmic efects and the severity of suferings
of the hell realms with her naked eyes, so she would
be able to teach more efectively on her return to the
world of the living. . . . White.
Tara then took Dawa Drolma to visit Potala, the
pure land of Avalokiteshvara, and Yulo Kopa, the
pure land of Tara, before returning to the human
world. . . . Dawa Drolma spent the rest of her life
teaching Dharma based on her delog experiences and
totally devoting her life to the service of others. . . .
In 1941, at the age of thirty-two, she died. . . . People
witnessed many miracles at the time of her death
and cremation. She and her delog accounts inspired
the hearts of many people in many parts of Eastern
Tibet to believe in the law of karma and rebirth.
Tat in turn awakened a kinder nature in many.
(Tongdup, 2005, pp. 151-155)
Tis portrayal reveals an array of mythic
entities and imagery that appear to represent aspects of
the practitioner’s own inner spiritual processes while at
the same time revealing greatly advanced experiential
dimensions. In light of the rather fantastic nature (at least
in modern Western terms) of this other-worldly depiction,
and in consideration of the sometimes widely difering
perspectives (i.e., psychic projection vs. autonomous
dimensions) presented above concerning the phenomena
of archetypal imagery and mythic realms, how is one
to arrive at a distinction between where an individual’s
mythic projections end and these autonomous and often
greatly heightened realities begin? Tis question lies at
the heart of a tremendous enigma, especially in relation
to the many diferent psychic contexts (e.g., dreams, the
bardo, near-death experience, and other non-ordinary
states of consciousness) in which these realms and
entities manifest.
Tankas and other forms of sacred art that are
used in Tibetan meditative practices depict such deities,
paradises, and dimensions, but in referring to these
divine entities Lama Yeshe (1987) was careful to clarify
that
tantric meditational deities should not be confused
with what diferent mythologies and religions might
mean when they speak of gods and goddesses. . . .
Te deity we choose to identify with represents the
essential qualities of the fully awakened experience
latent within us. (p. 30)
Echoing the same perspective, Pal (1990) stated that “on
a more metaphysical level, the divine images are simply
symbols of the Buddha. . . . Tey are not themselves real
but help to defne reality, and are dispensed with by the
enlightened mind and by the true yogi” (1990, p. 36).
Further, Padmasambhava’s (2005) famous instruction
manual for liberation in the bardo state, Te Tibetan
Book of the Dead, clearly delineates the forms and entities
encountered in this intermediate state as projections of
one’s mind. And, as previously cited, Jung (1992b), in
his commentary on the same text, asserted that “the
whole book is created out of the archetypal contents of
the unconscious. . . . Te world of gods and spirits is truly
‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me” (p.
96).
And yet, as previously revealed both the Dalai
Lama and Grof (in an expansion upon Jung’s initial
fndings) havee afrmed the autonomous existence of
other entities and dimensions, and Tulku Tongdup
(2005) emphasized that in the Tibetan tradition rebirth
into one of these paradisiacal, non-samsaric pure lands
(as part of one’s spiritual evolution toward ultimate
liberation) stands as a principal aim of tantric practice.
Further, Jamgon Kongtrul’s (1995/2003) Te Treasury
of Knowledge: Myriad Worlds presented a comprehensive
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 158 Davis
overview of world-systems and the various beings who
inhabit them. In the latter years of his life even Jung,
who in adherence to Kantian epistemology was always
careful not to draw absolute metaphysical conclusions,
nonetheless considered archetypal forms and other
such numinous phenomena to be strongly suggestive
of an autonomous and unfathomable force possessing a
profoundly multi-dimensional nature (Edinger, 1996). It
is also fascinating to note that Lama Govinda (1960),
in his foreword to Te Tibetan Book of the Dead that
accompanies Jung’s own commentary on the same text,
made a point to emphasize that
animism permeates all Buddhist texts, wherein every
tree and grove, and every locality, is held to have its
own peculiar deities; and the Buddha is represented
as discoursing with gods and other spiritual beings,
inhabiting the Earth and the realms beyond, as if it
were a most natural procedure. Only a completely
intellectualized and Westernized Buddhism,
which attempts to separate the thought-content of
Buddhism from its equally profound mythological
elements, can deny this animistic background and
with it the metaphysical foundations of Buddhism.
(p. lvii)
At frst glance, then, one appears to be left with
a somewhat beguiling predicament. Although I cannot
claim to ofer any defnitive explanations regarding
the apparent disparities in the above examples, an in-
depth exploration of the following experience—a very
mysterious encounter with a vast ethereal feminine
presence many years ago at the base of Mt. Everest—may
help to further clarify a distinction between personal
mythic projection and the presence of autonomous
archetypal realms and beings.
Mystical Encounter at Mt. Everest
T
he experience in question took place in the summer
of 1996 and involved an overland expedition from
the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to the enigmatic city of
Kathmandu, Nepal. Te journey was scheduled to take
about a week, and would extend along what is known
as the Friendship Highway, a rough, unpaved road that
links these two ancient trading partners. Tis route
took us through an array of small villages as well as a
number of important religious settlements, including
the monastic centers of Gyantse and Shigatse, before
arriving at Rongbuk Monastery near the base camp of
Mt. Everest. Troughout this passing kaleidoscope of
ancient towns and medieval villages we encountered a
vast, ever-changing landscape of immeasurable mountain
ranges and open, desolate plains that exuded a stark,
ominous beauty. In this environment human beings fnd
themselves in the presence of immense natural forces
that dwarf the human condition. In the midst of this
seemingly endless expanse of open, untamed wilderness,
one’s usual sense of position and importance in the
world is greatly diminished and one stands humbled in
the presence of an environment whose indelible scope
remains an unquenchable mystery.
Our evening at the monastery was spent
attending to the practical aims of food and shelter, as we
had arrived well after dark and were tired and hungry
after a long arduous ascent over hard and unforgiving
terrain. Te guest quarters were cold, sparse, and dimly
lit, as were the kitchen conditions where we consumed
in silence a simple bowl of buckwheat noodles while
surrounded by a retinue of subdued young novice monks.
Immediately after dinner I retired to my humble cot,
and was soon fast asleep. Ten, sometime in the middle
of the night I awoke and was instinctively drawn outside
and up a neighboring hillside where, upon reaching the
top, I suddenly encountered the undeniable presence of
an utterly vast feminine energy that seemed to blanket
the sky above. I was awestruck by its combination of
depth, power, and immensity, and at that moment I felt
that perhaps my mother had died and that her expanded
spirit was somehow visiting me. But when I expressed this
thought to the sky, this notion was in no way confrmed,
and later I would discover that my mother was indeed
still alive, which draped this profound experience in
mystery.
A few days later we arrived in the city of
Kathmandu, and the next day, while strolling through the
colorful, crowded side streets of this medieval metropolis,
I came upon an image that immediately captured my
attention and held it in a state of great attraction and
curiosity. Te image was of an ethereal female fgure,
clearly presented in the context of veneration and
surrounded by a host of exotic and esoteric fgures. At
the time I was not well versed in the pantheon of Tibetan
Buddhist deities and religious iconography, and as such
I was not immediately well attuned to the fact that
this enigmatic and alluring female presence, with her
undeniable air of serenity and deep green coloring, was
in fact the Goddess Tara, accompanied by her cohorts
and astral attendants. Tis specifc identifcation would
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 159 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
come to me at a later date; all I knew then, after frst
setting my eyes on her, was that she must return home
with me. Upon my return to California she was carefully
framed and subsequently began to assume a distinct
visual presence in my living space. However, a deeper
appreciation of her underlying meaning—in a broader
religious context and in my own personal experience—
remained largely beyond my conscious awareness until
I began to encounter writings on the sacred feminine
through my studies in depth psychology and Tibetan
Buddhism.
Trough this process I began to more fully
appreciate that within the context of the archetypal
feminine, one of the most prominent fgures is the
Goddess Tara, who, as the mother of all buddhas,
exemplifes compassion, enlightened activity, and “the
totally developed wisdom that transcends reason”
(Moacanin, 2003, p. 63). In Jungian terms, she “represents
the mother archetype. . . . she is the image of the mother
who has integrated in herself all the opposites, positive
and negative” (p. 63).
Tara can be viewed as belonging to a broader
group of female embodiments of wisdom and divine
power that include the dakini, which has on occasion
been associated by Western scholars with one of Jung’s
key archetypes, the anima (Moacanin, 2003). Jung
(1963) placed great emphasis on the integration of the
feminine aspect as well as the importance of actively
embracing the natural world in a deeply spiritual and
mythological framework, and in this context he viewed
Nature as the supreme manifestation of the archetypal
Goddess. One of Jung’s most prominent contemporaries,
Erich Neumann, outlined the signifcance of the sacred
feminine and its direct correlation to the Goddess Tara
as follows:
Te archetypal feminine in man unfolds like
mankind itself. At the beginning stands the primeval
goddess, resting in the materiality of her elementary
character, knowing nothing but the secret of her
womb; at the end is Tara, in her left hand the opening
lotus blossom of psychic fowering, her right hand
held out toward the world in a gesture of giving. Her
eyes are half closed and in her meditation she turns
toward the outward as well as the inner world: an
eternal image of the redeeming female spirit. Both
together form the unity of the Great Goddess, who,
in the totality of her unfolding, flls the world from
its lowest elementary phase to its supreme spiritual
transformation. (1955/1983, pp. 334-335)
And the vital role that the sacred feminine plays in the
process of spiritual development was revealed by Nathan
Katz in the following perspective:
Te inspiration of the anima or the dakini is a call for
one to look inward. As such, she is the link between
the conscious and unconscious. In appearing to
consciousness, the anima calls its attention to
what has remained hidden; she is the door to the
unconscious. (1992, p. 322)
Terefore, what appears to have remained hidden
and unconscious in my own experience was a deep and
abiding realization of the archetypal feminine, which
was brought into direct conscious awareness through my
encounter with the Goddess entity at the base of Everest.
Te vital link that then resulted in the all-important
amplifcation of the above experience came through
my subsequent encounter with Tara’s mythic image,
as encountered in the shop in Kathmandu. Tis image
carried tremendous power and attraction (as a personal
mythic projection/association), and consequently lead
to a much deeper attunement to my own unfolding
spiritual processes. It also profoundly evoked the
undeniable presence of a vast and autonomous spiritual
entity, an utterly immense and numinous mystery that
is symbolized by—and transcendent of—the image of
Tara itself.
If one thus understands the deities depicted in
mythic imagery as essentially symbolic representations of
transcendent forces, it must also be acknowledged that
these symbols nonetheless possess a potent numinous
quality by virtue of their archetypal nature. In Tibetan
Tantra they also denote—like the progressively advanced
stages of the chakras—heightened levels of spiritual
development to which inhabitants of this earthly
dimension aspire. As previously noted, the Buddha is
said to have interacted with otherworldly entities, and
indeed the very basis of the bodhisattva ideal involves
the instruction and guidance of all sentient beings in this
earthly realm—and in innumerable other dimensions as
well.
In his book Te Sacred Place, Paul Devereux
(2000) observed that the interaction of cosmic and
earthly forces appears to be highly concentrated in certain
physical environments, and it is especially pertinent
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 160 Davis
to note that throughout human history mountains in
particular have been known to exist as the sacred refuge
of the Goddess. Tis is precisely the belief that is held
by the native Tibetan and Nepalese inhabitants who
occupy both sides of Mt. Everest. Tis mountain has
long been considered a sanctifed entity because an array
of mystical experiences and encounters with various
disincarnate beings have been reported in its immediate
vicinity for millennia. With this understanding in mind,
the potential connection between Mt. Everest and the
Goddess in my own experience deserves further in-depth
consideration.
Mountains hold a special place in the religious
thinking and creative iconography of the Himalayas,
and Mt. Kailash in particular (located in Western Tibet)
ubiquitously appears on thankas and in other forms of
Buddhist and Hindu art. Like Everest, Kailash represents
the archetype of the World Mountain, and in its various
manifestations “this cosmic mountain may be identifed
with a real mountain, or it can be mythic, but it is
always placed at the center of the world” (Eliade, 1992,
p. 110). Tis sacred mountain, as a form of axis mundi,
represents both a physical and spiritual entity, and, as the
outer form serves to activate the inner archetype in the
human psyche, it is also directly linked with the union
of opposites and the psycho-somatic dynamics of the
chakra system:
To Hindus and Buddhists alike Kailas is the center of
the universe. It is called Meru or Sumeru, according
to the oldest Sanskrit tradition, and is regarded to
be not only the physical but metaphysical center
of the world. And as our psychological organism
is a microcosmic replica of the universe, Meru
is represented by the spinal cord in our nervous
system; and just as the various centers (Skt.: cakra) of
consciousness are supported by and connected with
the spinal cord (Skt.: meru-danda) . . . in the same way
Mount Meru forms the axis of the various planes of
supramundane worlds. (Govinda, 1966, p. 273)
Tis structural cosmology serves as the very
basis of the all-important Buddhist stupa, and in depth
psychology the World Mountain is one of the foremost
archetypes of the Self and a most powerful and evocative
symbol of spiritual ascendance. It warrants repeating
that “as Kailas corresponds to the spinal column, it
represents the axis of the spiritual universe, rising
through innumerable world planes” (Govinda, 1966, p.
276). Here one fnds a direct correspondence between the
presence of the axial mountain, the human chakras, and
the simultaneous access to other dimensions of reality.
In Tibetan Buddhism one such reality is
Khacho Shing, the Pure Land of the Dakinis, “a realm
closely related to our own, yet more subtle and more
intimately connected to the elemental forces of nature”
(Preece, 2006, p. 248). In considering this relationship
between sanctifed realms and the natural world, Mircea
Eliade observed that “where the sacred manifests itself in
space, the real unveils itself. . . . It opens communication
between the cosmic planes (between earth and heaven)
and makes possible ontological passage from one mode
of being to another” (1957/1987, p. 63). From this
perspective it seems quite probable that my experience
of the Goddess was facilitated through the spiritual axis
of Mt. Everest, and whether she derived from the realm
of Kacho Shing, Yulo Kopa (the Pure Land of Tara), or
one of the many other exalted paradises, there can be no
question in my experience of her utterly advanced spiritual
nature and development. In this way her emergence
served to activate a deep, on-going archetypal process
while simultaneously revealing a wholly expanded sense
of divine potential, one that points to the existence of
greatly heightened celestial or psychic realms that are,
in the Buddhist tradition, major steps forward along the
path to fnal liberation.
Te multidimensional nature of this enigmatic
experience presents an intriguing parallel to Jorge Ferrer’s
(2002) view of transpersonal phenomena as “multilocal
participatory events” (p. 117), which he conceived as
containing the following principal components:
(1) events, in contrast to intrasubjective experiences;
(2) multilocal, in that they can arise in diferent loci,
such as an individual, a relationship, a community,
a collective identity, or a place; and (3) participatory,
in that they can invite the generative power and
dynamism of all dimensions of human nature to
interact with a spiritual power in the co-creation of
spiritual worlds. (p. 117)
Tis framework has a direct application to my encounter
with the Goddess entity beneath Mt. Everest, as this
experience involved a sacred entity (i.e., the Goddess),
sacred place (i.e., Mt. Everest), and a co-creative element
(i.e., one’s shared participation/interaction). As a multi-
local, multi-dimensional event, it is clearly indicative of
the participatory vision.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 161 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
Te participatory perspective suggests that
human consciousness acts as “the agent of religious
knowing” (Ferrer & Sherman, 2008, p. 38), a process
in which all aspects of perception—imaginal, somatic,
intuitive, aesthetic, and rational—can potentially
participate in unison with the Mystery in the unfolding
and bringing forth of spiritual realities. One is thus
encouraged to “recognize the ontologically creative role
of spiritual cognition,” and to carefully consider the
notion that “these worlds are not statically closed but
fundamentally dynamic and open to the continued
transformation resulting (at least in part) from the
creative impact of human visionary imagination” (p. 32).
In this sense, both psychic projections and autonomous
dimensions, along with a array of other mysterious
spiritual phenomena, can be understood as representing
varying manifestations of this co-creative process. And
the participatory perspective accordingly suggests that
indeed these various phenomena are each valid and
ontologically real in their own right.
Jung at the Foot of Mt. Kailash
C
o-creative, participatory aspects are prominent in
both Jungian psychology and Tibetan Tantra. In
the Jungian tradition, practices such as active imagination
(as previously discussed) can serve to profoundly amplify
primary dream images from the unconscious. In
Tibetan Tantra, meditations upon deities such as Tara
similarly act as a kind of psychic bridge to the threshold
of expanded dimensions. But the spiritual heights to
which each discipline aspires vary in signifcant ways,
and it is through a more thorough consideration of
the chakras that further distinctions between the two
systems emerge.
Jung felt that the extroverted nature of
contemporary Westerners, with its focus on the primacy
of exterior existence, had caused the broader culture to
remain at the levels of the second and third chakras. Tese
levels emphasize respectively the sexual nature of existence
(in its procreative as opposed to its transformational
potentiality), and competition and conquest, especially
in the fnancial, military and erotic spheres (Campbell,
1986). And though all of the chakras play an important
role in the process of human development, the last three
levels are especially relevant to spiritual awakening in
that “the uppermost three centers are of increasingly
sublimated spiritual realizations” (p. 37).
Campbell (2003) suggested that the ffth center
“is the cakra of ascetic, monkish disciplines. . . . Tose
who reach this level focus their energy into . . . work on
one’s self, conquering one’s outward-going tendencies,
turning all inward” (p. 35). Jung himself described this
level as involving “a full recognition of the psychical
essences of substances as the fundamental essences
of the world, and not by virtue of speculation but by
virtue of experience” (quoted in Clarke, 1994, p. 115).
Tis perspective exemplifes the core of Jung’s notion
of the primacy of psychic reality, but he had little to
say in relation to the two remaining levels. A number
of contemporary scholars, including Alan Watts,
Ken Wilber, and Harold Coward, have speculated
that Jung’s own experiential horizon, while revealing
tremendous insights in its own right, did not allow him
to adequately comprehend the Eastern principle of non-
dual awareness. Tis is due to the fact that he could
not conceive of a conscious state independent of the
ego and its dualistic subject-object relationship. Indeed,
Jung considered the psychic stages represented by the
last two chakras—especially the awakened non-dual
state of the seventh chakra—to be levels that existed
beyond any notion of human consciousness. In this
sense he referred to chakra six as a state in which “the
ego disappears completely,” and he considered chakra
seven to be “beyond possible experience” (p. 115).
Tus, from a Tibetan Buddhist standpoint, Jung’s own
spiritual path never lead him to the unconquerable view
of the Mountaintop. Although his journey took him to
considerable heights, he never did make the fnal ascent
of the World Mountain (the Self ), but instead came to
rest at the foot of Mt. Kailash, where he stood gazing at
its objectifed, mythic proportions, rather than merging
with its unifed, defnitive totality.
Of course the most fundamental teachings
of Tibetan Buddhism assert that not only are these
two upper levels of the chakras attainable, but that
the seventh chakra, as the very mode of dharmakaya
itself, represents one’s true nature as all-encompassing,
undiferentiated, non-dual awareness. Tis signifes an
ecstatic, unitary, timeless state that defes all rational
conception, “representing a rapture beyond any god
known as of a name or form” (Campbell, 1986, p.
37). For it is at the level of chakra seven that “both the
beheld image and the beholding mind dissolve together
in a blaze that is at once of nonbeing and of being” (p.
39). Tis is the unrivaled, incomparable vision from the
summit of the highest peak, the ultimate horizon from
which all is one and where the “I” vanishes, not into the
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 162 Davis
oblivion of the unconscious as Jung believed, but into the
eternal light of supreme spiritual realization.
Te meditative practices of Tibetan Tantra are, as
previous noted, designed to induce psychic development
toward this indomitable state, and the mythic image itself
stands “at the threshold of passage from time to eternity,
which is in fact the plane of reference of the metaphors
of myth” (Campbell, 1986, p. 40). Concurrent with this
perspective is the understanding that
this threshold is . . . the place of the sacred in its
archetypal and symbolic manifestations. On this
threshold we come into relationship with the power
of archetypal intent, the forces that can shape our
lives. Te tantric deity occupies a central place on
this threshold as a personifcation of that intent . . .
Awakening our relationship to the sacred on this level
has a profound infuence upon our lives, because the
deity is the vehicle or channel through which the
power of dharmakaya manifests. (Preece, 2006, p.
137)
Tis threshold can be seen as the boundary
between temporal, dualistic, manifest existence and the
eternal, nondual, formless nature of dharmakaya, and it
is the various practices of tantra, and more specifcally
tantric meditation, or mahamudra, that “enable a
meditator to cultivate a quality of emptiness with
appearance” (Preece, 2006, pp. 132-133). Tese exercises
are intended to soften our psychosomatic boundaries,
thus gradually diminishing the sense of separation
between one’s solidifed sense of identity and the outer
environment. Ultimately this transformation reveals a
dynamic alchemical process, one that serves to “make
a crystal of our minds, so that there is no separation
between inner and outer” (Tarthang Tulku, 1978/1990,
p. 30). Liberation is thus achieved through the dissolution
of a separate ego and the luminous union of observer and
observed, a process that in Highest Yoga Tantra (as the
fnal stage of practice) reveals itself as follows:
Te meditator experiences the frst taste of dharmakaya
as clear light awareness dissolves into nonduality like a
clear sky, or a drop of water dissolving into the ocean.
Once this experience arises, buddhahood, it is said, is
possible within this lifetime, and practitioners with
this quality of awareness can, within their present
bodies, complete the fnal stages of unifcation.
(Preece, 2006, p. 230)
Tarthang Tulku, founder of the Nyingma Institute in
Berkeley, California, described this vital process of
unifcation as one that involves
meaning which reveals itself not in words or concepts,
but in the quality of our lives, in the intrinsic beauty
and value of all things. When our actions arise
naturally from a celebration of living, all concepts
drop away. We become meaning itself, enlightened
by all existence. (1978/1990, p. 116)
Conclusion
T
ibetan Buddhist Tantra and Jungian depth
psychology each represent a complex system of
psycho-spiritual transformation. In addition, each views
the human mind, or psyche, as the primary instrument
through which the transcendence of duality is achieved.
And it is precisely this experience of transcendence that
is variously facilitated in both methodologies through the
creative use of mythic imagery. Spiritual awakening thus
exists as the ultimate aim in both disciplines, a process
that is intended, in Jungian terms, to lead the individual
“from the ego to the Self, from the unconscious to
consciousness, from the personal to the transpersonal, the
holy, the realization that the macrocosm is being mirrored
in the microcosm of the human psyche” (Moacanin, 2003,
p. 67). In the Tibetan tradition, the path of liberation
is understood as leading to an awakening to one’s true
nature—the primordial, all-pervasive, inherently empty,
non-dual, clear light of bliss.
Further, although it appears that Jung’s
understanding of ultimate spiritual potential did not rise
to the same level as revealed in Tibetan Buddhism, he
nonetheless made a profound and lasting contribution
to the East-West dialogue while addressing many of
contemporary culture’s most pressing issues. Foremost
among these in his mind was the need for humanity to
return to it inner roots, to reconnect with the powerful
and ever present psychic structures that guide the process
of human development. Tese archetypal structures
reveal an inscrutable variety of deities and dimensions,
the ultimate nature of which remains a profound mystery
and an important subject for further inquiry. But whether
they manifest as autonomous realms, psychic projections,
or some other form of esoteric phenomena, the precepts
and experiential fndings of these two vibrant disciplines
clearly suggest that psychic engagement with the sacred
mythic imagery of the mind remains an essential part
of psycho-spiritual growth and transcendence. In
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 163 Jung at the Foot of Mount Kailash
deeply considering this profound inner process, one is
reminded of the judicious counsel of Lama Govinda,
who stressed that “such penetration and transformation
is only possible through the compelling power of inner
vision, whose primordial images or ‘archetypes’ are the
formative principles of our mind” (1969, p. 91).
Jungian depth psychology and Tibetan
Buddhist Tantra present an array of fascinating parallels,
especially in relation to the creative and meditative use
of mythic imagery as a powerful means of efecting
spiritual transformation. Teir respective methodologies
thus represent valuable avenues through which to deepen
the course of human development, ultimately laying the
foundation for genuine personal and collective growth,
psychic reconciliation, and further exploration within
the ever mysterious process of spiritual awakening.
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About the Author
Judson Davis is a doctoral candidate in East-West
Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies
in San Francisco, California. His present work involves a
synthesis of Tibetan Buddhist Tantra and Jungian depth
psychology, with particular emphasis on the healing and
transformative power of mythic imagery and archetypal
forms.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 165 Yamato Kotoba: Te Language of the Flesh
Yamato Kotoba:
Te Language of the Flesh

Yukari Kunisue & Judy Schavrien
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Palo Alto, CA, USA
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1), 2011, pp. 165-170
I
n this article, the authors examine a world in which
a human being is so completely embedded in her
or his “life-world,” as Husserl would have it, that
psyche can, in the end, sustain no life apart from its
surroundings. Tere is a Japanese brand of language,
an early language but still preserved, that produces and
inheres in images in which subject and object, human
and landscape, conjoin rather than separate.
Some of this conjoining would match
Merleau-Ponty’s description of a world in which
humans are “fesh of the world’s fesh”:
When I fnd again the actual world such as it is,
under my hands, under my eyes, up against my
body, I fnd much more than an object: a Being
of which my vision is a part, a visibility older
than my operations or my acts. But this does not
mean that there was a fusion or coinciding of
me with it: on the contrary, this occurs because
a sort of dehiscence opens my body in two, and
because between my body looked at and my
body looking, my body touched and my body
touching, there is overlapping or encroachment,
so that we must say that the things pass into us
as well as we into the things. (Merleau-Ponty,
Lefort, & Lingis, 1969, p. 123)
Merleau-Ponty et al. pictured here an interlacing of
subject and object: I both see and am seen, touch
and am touched, and this constitutes the subject and
the outer world as “passing into each other”—in that
sense, inseparable (p. 123; Abram, 1997, p. 66).
On the other hand, some work to be
examined in this inquiry, such as Basho’s work,
expresses an intimacy greater than the one described
by the Western philosopher. Tere is a Buddhist
experiencing which would invalidate the quote from
Merleau-Ponty: “Tis does not mean that there was
a fusion.” On the contrary, when NoSelf is in full
presence, when I am my Face before I was born,
then there is truly no distinction between subjective
and objective world.
Both versions of experiencing, the pheno-
menological one that is closer to the Western
predilection, and the Buddhist version of complete
Presence, ofer people far greater intimacy with
their natural setting than most get to enjoy at
present, since the subject-object split in our human
Tis inquiry builds on the work of such thinkers as David Abram and Maurice Merleau-
Ponty; like their work, it addresses the fact that people in the Western developed world,
through their acculturations, sacrifce intimacy with the natural world. Te article explores
one remedial measure: the Yamato Kotoba language of the Japanese. Tis is a language
before the Chinese injection of spoken and written words, one that preserves the earlier
words better suited, the authors propose, to expressing the interpenetrating experience of
the person with—in this case the Japanese—natural setting. Such an intimacy appears, for
instance, in Basho’s Haiku. In the same vein, Japanese Koto Dama deploys the spiritual power
that resides in words—as they are both spoken and unspoken. Tese linguistic phenomena
are explored and explained insofar as they preserve, capture, and celebrate human intimacy
with nature. In the words of Merleau-Ponty, they re-member humans as “fesh of the world’s
fesh.”
Keywords: haiku, Yamato Kotoba, Furuike, Koto Dama, phenomenology,
Merleau-Ponty, lifeworld, lebenswelt
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 166 Kunisue & Schavrien
conceptual system tends to function as a self-
fulflling prophecy. We (which will here refer to
the authors) will investigate the manner in which
this greater intimacy is accomplished by virtue of
a particular form of the Japanese language, Yamato
Kotoba. Before doing so, we will give an example of
a somewhat parallel Western version of a language
of immediacy, hoping to bring the point home to
English readers frst in their own language.
Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs
Trough It, began his teaching of English poetry
with a favorite exercise (personal communication,
ca. 1971). He would quote this anonymous verse
from circa 1500 CE:
O Western wind, when wilt thou blow
Tat the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!
(Anonymous)
Ten he would challenge the students to fnd a
better description of rain than “small.” Te authors
of this article improvise, at this point, how the
class might proceed to meet the challenge: With
much license, disregarding rhythmic requirements,
students might try out “tropical rain” or “sudden
rain”—“that the sudden rain down can rain”— and
discard them immediately. Tese obviously fall
short. How instead could students anticipate, with a
single word, the tender embracing of what was most
likely a small beloved? How could they improve
upon “that the small rain down can rain”? Students
might try out the word “petite.” Te problem with
such a word is that it is borrowed from the French;
it puts someone reading or better yet hearing the
poem at one remove from the immediacy of sensual
and therefore emotional feeling. Te French word is
an import that cannot accomplish the immediacy,
the bodily “feel,” of the Anglo-Saxon word “small.”
Worse would be the use of anything Latinate: If one
were to try “localized rain;” the head takes over,
pushing the body out of the way. And so it must
be:
O Western wind, when wilt thou blow
Tat the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!
It is not only poets who care about
grounding—poets, with their particular feeling for
good old Anglo-Saxon words that keep one literally
“grounded” in earth and fesh, that in some sense
enact what they mean by way of a concrete “feel” or
picture, words such as “small” and “fsh” and “hook.”
Perhaps the intense interest in Buddhism in the late
‘60s and ‘70s indicated how much need there was,
not just for ideas from the East, but also the bodily
feelings aforded by Eastern arts and practices. Zen
and Tibetan Buddhism, for instance, had and still
have nature-ensconced verbal and visual arts to ofer
as part of an education that likewise includes the
theory and practice of meditation.
Tis prologue, then, has attempted merely
to act as a reminder of how much the West can
beneft from its contact with the East, from, in the
case of this inquiry, the indigenous East; we seek not
only high and abstract learnings but also Eastern
grounding in the body and in nature. Westerners,
in sum, might appreciate Eastern poetry in the spirit
of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, embracing
one’s own becoming as “fesh of the world’s fesh”;
or Westerners might seek the more challenging
experience of NoSelf—utterly simple but not always
easy. In any case, one has access, enriching one’s
own poetic and visual tradition, to the wisdom of
grounding in the body and in the natural setting by
coming into contact with Eastern art. Te particular
art examined here is that of Japanese poetry;
one’s experience of it is much enhanced through
acquaintance with Yamato Kotoba.
Yamato Kotoba
U
ntil Chinese characters were introduced by
Buddhist scholars around the 5
th
or 6
th
century
CE, the Japanese maintained an oral culture to
express their thoughts and emotions. Not having a
written language, however, did not hinder ancient
Japanese from creating and enjoying vivid and
poignant poems connecting their internal world to
the natural world. Manyo-shu, the oldest remaining
anthology of over 4,500 poems was complied
in late 700 BCE (Haitani, 2005). Te Manyo
poets—ranging from emperors and aristocracy
to low-ranking soldiers and court clerks—lived,
understood, and created poems in a language which
portrayed people as “fesh of the world’s fesh.”
Te Japanese equivalent of this language
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 167 Yamato Kotoba: Te Language of the Flesh
of the fesh is Yamato Kotoba (Yamato, old name of
Japan, Kotoba, words and language). Dale ofered
Shoichi Watanabe’s explanation of Yamato Kotoba
as words “which have their roots set down in the
well-springs of the soul of our [the Japanese] race”
(Watanabe, 1974, as cited in Dale, 1986, p. 84). It
is the pristine form of the language deeply rooted
in the primordial Japanese psyche. Later transcribed
and recorded in the borrowed Chinese characters,
Manyo poets used Yamato Kotoba in poems that
refected and represented all the human senses as
they operated in an animate landscape. Tese poets
were also an integral part of the very landscape which
they described. In this article we explore Yamato
Kotoba, expressed in various forms such as waka
and Haiku. Even the modern-day Japanese, after
almost 1000 years since the importation of written
characters from China, intuitively distinguish
between sinicized words which are, therefore, loan
words as they contrast with words from the native
Yamato Kotoba. Te authors will also examine how
Yamato Kotoba is related to the indigenous concept
of Koto Dama, or the spirit of the words.
Te Flesh of Language
S
ince ancient times humans have experienced and
understood their existence in terms of relationship
to the natural world. As an ardent advocate of
Husserl’s and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological
views of the world, David Abram (1997), in his book
Te Spell of the Sensuous, walked readers through
the intertwined wonder-world of subjectivity and
objectivity (see esp. p. 36). For these thinkers, while
the exterior world looks “remarkably solid and stable”
(p. 39), the “real world” is a collection of experiences
by multitudes of subjective perceivers.
Languages in oral societies are inseparable
from the surrounding land, and they can be said, to
the best of researched knowledge, to be perceived as
connected with natural phenomena such as changing
weather and seasons, water, sky, plants, and animals.
As Abram (1997) described it, oral cultures “preserve
active participation of the objects in the subjective
consciousness” (p. 162) in the form of language. Te
old form of the Japanese language, Yamato Kotoba,
provides an excellent example of this.
When famous Haiku master Matsuo
Basho (1644-1694) created his poems in the 17
th

century, which he imbued, as he composed them,
with a rationalized discipline of Buddhist process
and content, he nevertheless used Yamato Kotoba
to convey the felt sense of his experiences, beyond
anything reason could grasp or express (and this
conveys the ultimate beyond-reason Buddhist
sensibility). Expressing symbolism in nature through
using the words of silence was his way of capturing
connection with the world. Such connection he
conveyed much more efectively through his native
Yamato Kotoba than had he attempted to do so using
the sinicized imports that had produced, in efect, a
revised and compounded Japanese language.
One of Basho’s most famous Haiku both
expresses, and, more than expresses, enacts the world
of a landscape:
Te ancaient pond
A frog leaps in
Te sound of the water
(Furuike ya Kawazu tobi
komu Mizu no oto)
(Ueda, 1982, p. 53)
Japanese Haiku poets often sought (and
seek) vocabulary in Yamato Kotoba language
expressive of the emotional realm, while minimizing
or limiting usage of loan words from Chinese.
Basho did precisely that in this poem. “Te sound
of the water” in a quiet old temple garden resonates
in the perceiver as it does in Basho’s bodily senses.
His visual and aural perceptions, expressed in words
furu ike (“old pond”) and tobi komu (“jumping
in”), were attuned with the new and instantaneous
sound of a frog’s splashing, and with the quietude
of the otherwise tranquil ancient pond and desolate
garden. As Basho stops being the observer of the
limited scene of the exterior, instead becoming the
sound of the water, the smell of the pond, and the
tactile sense of water encompassing the jumping
frog itself, Haiku readers experience with him his
union with the scenery. In fact as the Haiku has
brought the reader beyond the “passing into each
other” of subject and object, the distinction really
does disappear.
Te Shakkei school of garden design
similarly contained the Japanese poets’ integration of
perceiving self and perceived exterior. Characterized
by its indispensable inclusion of natural scenery,
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 168 Kunisue & Schavrien
Shakkei as used by Japanese landscape designers
would integrate surrounding nature with the rest of
their design.
In the present day, one can relate to
intertwined perception by way of the experience of
looking out an airplane window to gain a bird’s eye
view of mountain and valley. While one experiences
a surrealistic closeness to clouds, sky, and the distant
ocean now seen as a whole, and all seen from above
the usual human altitude, all as a new gestalt that
wakes one with its diferentness, one nevertheless
remains sardined in the aircraft: one may be feeling
into and out of a range of bodily experiences. One’s
body is a part of the fying airplane which is also a
part of the local portion of the vast landscape of the
earth. It is not unlike the perception that Abram
(1997) described as “the ongoing interchange be-
tween my body and the entities that surround it”;
at least one may be more awake to such interchange
(p. 52).
For older Manyo poets, as one can see in
the following poem by Prince Nakano Oe, written
in approximately the 7
th
century, human existence
in the context of natural beauty was enchanted,
infuenced, and expanded through this relation with
a larger sense of natural context:
On the banner-shaped clouds over the sea,
the setting sun is glowing.
May the moonlight of this evening be serene
and bright.
(Watatsumi no Toyohatakumo ni Irihi sashi
Koyoi no Tsukuyo sayakekari koso)
(Haitani, 2005, n.p.)
Prince Oe’s famous tanka (short poem) which
followed the 31 syllable form (5-7-5-7-7 syllables)
was a rhetorical form of waka that consisted entirely
of Yamato Kotoba.
Te rule of waka requires pillow words,
traditionally-formulated fgures of speech (e.g.,
Watatsumi no) that are not explicitly translated in
English; through them the poem shows yearning,
respect, and awe to the god or the spirit of the ocean.
At frst glance the poem is simply about celebrating
the splendor of nature as the sun sets over the ocean
and as one welcomes the moon emerging in the clear
evening sky. When one follows the poet’s visual sense,
however, departing from the setting sun toward
the darkening sky during the magical hours of the
day, one starts to sense the embodied anticipation,
yearning, and anxiety regarding the uncertainties
in his life. Prince Nakano Oe later became the
38
th
emperor after many years of political turmoil.
His use of Yamato Kotoba softened the disquiet
captured in the scenery; yet readers, knowing what
they had come to know, could empathically recreate
that moment of disquiet as they resonated, many
centuries later, with the same natural landscape.
Koto Dama: Te Spirit of the Language
J
apanese children grow up believing in the
miraculous power of words, known as Koto
Dama. When a word comes out of one’s mouth
or even emerges in one’s thoughts, it carries at
that moment the power or the spirit of the word
itself. Tis is what children are told. Such a notion
parallels, in other societies, the notion that taboo
words carry dangerous powers. Examples of Koto
Dama are these: Te Japanese avoid at a wedding
words relating to cut (“kiru”) or to number four
(“shi”) or nine (“ku”); these words have the same
sound as death (“shi”) and pain or sufering (“ku”
or “kuro”; Pei, 1965, p. 270). However, Koto Dama
holds a still more primordial position in the Japanese
psychic structure.
Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido,
has said in his teaching that Aikido is based on the
spiritual teaching of Koto Dama (Stevens, 1993, p.
12). According to Ueshiba, Aikido, a newer form of
traditional Japanese martial arts, is rather “the study
of the spirit” (p. 12). Practicing Aikido requires
understanding and following the spirit of Koto
Dama which leads to the “unifcation of heaven,
earth, gods and humankind” (p. 12). Te founder of
Aikido was inspired by the spiritual tradition of the
ancient Japanese teaching and very aware of Koto
Dama as the basis of and gateway to the spiritual
origin of the country.
Etymologically, Koto in Koto Dama came
from the word kotoba, koto meaning word, speech,
or language, and ba being one of the words for leaf.
Like a single leaf falling out of its mother tree, when
a word comes out of thoughts, each leaf of thought
brings out the power of the spirit that originated
in the deep roots of the tree. Te tree breathing
the spirit of the forest as well as regenerating itself
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 169 Yamato Kotoba: Te Language of the Flesh
from the power of the soil lets go its integral power
through each fare of a seemingly innocent leaf. In
short, glancing at a word, or, more so, uttering it,
inspires in the Japanese a memory of the “life-world”
(Abram, 1997, p. 40; Husserl, 1938/1970, p. 111).
Te tree also holds a spirit called Ko Dama (echo)
that relates to the spirit of the mountains.
Abram (1997) reminded readers that lan-
guage in indigenous oral cultures such as Japanese
Yamato Kotoba is experienced “not as the exclusive
property of humankind,” but “as a property of the
sensuous life-world” (p. 154). Koto Dama is closely
related to the name, the person, and the intention as
they all participate in the formulating of the words.
It also relates humans to the space and the particular
landscape of the earth where the word came to be.
Because of the connection of the word to the wider
world, it is important for a person to be extremely
careful about provoking such miraculous power.
Tus, even after the written form of language had
been introduced through Chinese infuence, the
Japanese people preserved the opinion that in native
words a silent spiritual power resided, and that by
preserving both the belief and the knowledge of
those words, the people could preserve the actual
power itself.
Modern children’s manga or anime, which
are animations or graphic novels (English versions
are also very popular among American children),
use Koto Dama as a powerful theme. Some heroes in
these manga (e.g., Kotodama User, not translated in
English) discover and/or tap a secret power by citing
the name of the place, person, or object. In other
anime, a person loses spiritual power by being told
repeatedly that s/he lacks such power.
Onomatopoeia directly and sensually
conveys certain sounds, movement, and actions
in a language. Onomatopoetic language grounds
image in the sensual qualities of the language
itself. Examples of onomatopoeia that convey
aural qualities enhancing the image’s aural and
pictorial qualities would be these: “batter” for beat
up or “splutter” or “shh!” as a silencing word. Te
frequency of onomatopoetic usage in the Japanese
language, as well as the richness of such usage, is
an example of “synaesthetic participation from
the animate surroundings” (Abram, 1997, p. 162;
Fukuda, 2003; Shibatani, 1990) stated that the
role onomatopoetic phrases play in the Japanese
language is too often overlooked and greater than
imagined. Japanese people have an abundance of
descriptive sound words for water, rain, snow, and
ocean (Shogaku Kan, 2009). Some claim there are
more than 270 words to describe clouds (Yasuno
& Fujiwara, 2009). Te many sounds of water in
ocean, rain, and mountain streams evince a deep
yearning for connection with nature.
Conclusion
T
he Japanese language has kept an embedded
connectivity with its land, preserving the
spiritual legacy of the land, the people, and the
culture. Yamato Kotoba, deeply intertwined with
the spiritual power in words as recognized in Koto
Dama, ofers fruits from the earthy Koto Dama root,
ripe for the crafting of Haiku and waka. Authors
like Abram (1997) may be correct to lament the
way in which civilized humans have sacrifced their
deep interconnectedness with the natural world;
and Merleau-Ponty may do a service, especially in
the West, by perceiving afresh a world in which
subject and object, rather than fatally split apart,
meet inextricably in the world as embodied fesh.
Likewise, the West and the East can also beneft
by what remains to testify of an earlier intimacy
amongst all that composes the interconnected texture
of creatures and natural context. Te Japanese still
possess—have artfully preserved—a treasure to
enjoy and to share in their Yamato Kotoba. In it,
subject and object, word and reality, conjoin; the
poetry that grows from it embodies and exudes a
living and a sacred power. To this very day, Yamato
Kotoba, both ancient and yet new in this very
instant, both sustains an embedded sensibility and
rebirths it with each utterance of Furuike ya Kawazu
tobi komu Mizu no oto:
Te ancient pond
A frog leaps in
Te sound of the water
(Ueda, 1982, p. 53)
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 170 Kunisue & Schavrien
References
Abram, D. (1997). Te spell of the sensuous. New
York, NY: Vintage Books.
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www.pinkmonkey.com/dl/library1/west_w.pdf
Dale, P. (1986). Te myth of Japanese uniqueness (7
th

ed.). London, UK: Broom Helm.
Fukuda, H. (2003). Jazz up your Japanese with
onomatopoeia. New York, NY: Kodansha Inter-
national.
Haitani, K. (2005-2007). Man’yo-shu best 100. Seattle,
WA: Kanji Haitani. Retrieved from http://home.
earthlink.net/~khaitani1/manyoshu.htm
Husserl, E. (1970). Te crisis of European sciences and
transcendental phenomenology: An introduction to
phenomenological philosophy. (D. Carr, Trans.).
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
(Original work published 1938)
Merleau-Ponty, M., Lefort, C. & Lingis, A. (1969).
Te visible and the invisible. Evanston, IL:
Northwestern University Press.
Pei, M. (1965). Te story of language. New York, NY:
Penguin Group.
Shibatani, M. (1990). Te languages of Japan.
Cambridge, UK: University Press.
Shogaku Kan. (2009). Utukushii Nihongo no jiten
(“Dictionary of beautiful Japanese words”).
Tokyo, Japan: author.
Stevens, J. (1993). Te essence of Aikido: Spiritual
teachings of Morihei Ueshiba. Tokyo, Japan:
Kodansha International.
Ueda, M. (1982). Te master haiku poet: Matsuo
Basho. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International.
Watanabe, S. (1974). Nihongo no kokoro (Te spirit of
the Japanese). Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha Gendai
Shinsho.
Yasuno, M., & Fujiwara, M. (2009). Yonimo
utsukushii Nihongo nyuumon (“Primer to the
most beautiful Japanese”). Tokyo, Japan:
Chikuma Primar Shinsho.
About the Authors
Yukari Kunisue, PhD, is a lecturer in Japanese at
the University of Hawai’i in Hilo. She does research
in the feld of death and dying, including on the
subject of the spiritual aspects of the listening
communication between dying patients and
hospice workers. She also researches cross-cultural
issues. She holds a Master’s and Doctorate from
the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, having
pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology
as an undergraduate; she also holds a Master’s from
the University of Hawai’i in East Asian Studie, and
a Master’s in Education from the Teacher’s College
at New York’s Columbia University.
Judy Schavrien, PhD, MFT, is core faculty and
former Chair of the Global Online Doctoral
Program at Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.
She received, for early curricular and teaching
innovations, the feminist Pioneer Award from the
Association of Women in Psychology, along with a
Founding Mothers award for helping to establish
the world’s frst two graduate degrees in Women’s
Spirituality. In addition, she was an early innovator
in transpersonal psychology, in 1991, through her
groundbreaking course in Feminist Transpersonal
Psychology. She publishes (in JTP, IJTS, and
elsewhere) on late vision, which views life in the
light of death—whether of an individual or an era
past its apogee. She analyzes renewal—including the
role played by natural cycle and feminine energies—
in the late visions of Shakespeare, Sophocles, and
Ingmar Bergman, both as individuals and poets
of their age. New Rivers Press published her book
What Rhymes with Cancer?; and she is anthologized
as a poet and scholar, with 16 awards, from local to
international, for her work. http://judys.imagekind.
com
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 171 Modern Materialism
Modern Materialism
Trough the Lens of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

Alan Pope
University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA, USA
Te sufering that gives rise to and is perpetuated by contemporary culture’s addiction to
materialistic consumption is described surprisingly well by the ancient tradition of Indo-
Tibetan Buddhism. From this perspective, modern human beings exemplify hungry ghosts
trapped in a state of incessant greed and insatiability, which at its core refects a desperate
attempt to maintain a sense of self that is out of accord with basic reality. Te rich Tibetan
Buddhist understanding of the unfolding process by which the hungry ghost negotiates its
project, including its attempts to avoid greater sufering and to seek bliss, serves to elucidate
our contemporary psychological dynamic. Tis analysis points to what is needed in order to
extract ourselves from a consumerist mentality and fnd genuine fulfllment.
I
n Indo-Tibetan Buddhist iconography, the hungry
ghost is a being whose massive, protruding belly is
paired with a tiny pinhole mouth. Because it is able
to consume but small bits of food at any one time, its
huge stomach remains ever empty, and its limbs and
torso scrawny. Although the Tibetan tradition speaks
of hungry ghosts as denizens of a realm into which
beings may incarnate, modern teachers emphasize that
such realms are not places, but rather primordial states
of mind familiar to us all (e.g., Trungpa, 1973, 1992).
As such, the hungry ghost symbolizes addictive greed
and insatiability. In this paper, I use this image and the
philosophy of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism to shed light
on the state of mind made presently manifest through
contemporary consumerist culture.
1
In so doing, I
look beyond materialism as simply a historical-cultural
phenomenon, situating it as the outward expression
of a mental state endemic to the human condition,
one described with extraordinary detail by a spiritual
tradition whose roots are more than 2500 years old.
Modern Materialism
T
he difculties inherent in modern materialism
have been well documented and empirically
demonstrated (e.g., see Kasser, 2002; Kasser & Kanner,
2004). Csikszentmihalyi (2004) defned materialism as
“the tendency to allocate excessive attention to goals
that involve material objects: wanting to own them,
consume them, or faunt possession of them” (p. 92).
In this instance, excessive means exceeding survival
and encroaching on other important areas of a person’s
development and enjoyment. Kasser, Ryan, Couchman,
and Sheldon (2004) described contemporary America’s
culture of consumption as having a materialistic value
orientation (MVO). Copious research suggests that an
MVO develops both as compensation for an insecure
self-image and through social exposure to materialistic
models and values. Tese studies also demonstrate that
this approach leads to lower subjective well-being and
diminished concern for the welfare of others and the
environment. Tis latter aspect is not surprising given
that overconsumption—through its exploitation of
natural resources and polluting of the environment—is
the driving force behind the accelerating ecological crisis
(Starke & Mastny, 2010).
Te MVO operates under the premise that by
consuming more and more goods, we can be happy
(throughout this article, all uses of “we” and “our”
refer to human beings in the collective sense, while
acknowledging that the author writes from his own
specifc location in Western culture). But does this
strategy work? When I buy that new 46-inch fat screen
TV, I may enjoy it for some time, taking pride in my
possession, displaying it for others to see. I enjoy the
crisp, clean images of my favorite programs. I might
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 171-177
Keywords: hungry ghost, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, materialistic value orientation,
consumerism, neuromarketing, addiction, meditation
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 172 Pope
spend countless hours watching it, freed momentarily
from the other concerns and worries of my life. However,
there remains a deep longing that in fact the TV does
not fulfll. Te TV becomes another fxture to fade
into the background of my life. My unfulflled desire
turns its attention to new objects that might satisfy
it. I return to the shopping mall, looking for my next
conquest, which I make, and then the cycle repeats. In
Buddhist parlance, I am caught in the cycle of samsara,
a compulsive repetition of sufering that thrives on my
failure to recognize the source of my sufering and of my
happiness (Ray, 2000).
Te Six Realms
I
n Buddhist theory, samsara is depicted by six realms,
known as that of the gods, jealous gods, humans,
animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings (see Patrul
Rinpoche, 1994, for vivid descriptions). Tese realms
represent diferent states of mind through which we
cycle in the course of a human lifetime. Tey are inter-
dependently connected, and so we cannot understand
one without the other. For instance, the insatiability and
addictive tendencies of the hungry ghost are strategies
for avoiding the rage and depression of the hell realms,
where beings are depicted as sufering inconceivable
torments—such as the repeated severing of limbs and
gouging of eyeballs in settings of either extreme heat
or cold, depending on the nature of the anger in whose
grip one is held. Tis extreme aggression is, as Freud
(1917/1957) suggested of depression, directed toward
one’s own identifcations of self, and the pain of the hell
realms thereby conveys the intensity of sufering that can
arise when self-hatred and rage become extreme.
Te desperate grasping of the hungry ghost
helps it avoid falling into the terror of the hell realms
and expresses its longing for the bliss of the god realm,
where beings are endowed with beauty and wealth, and
enjoy every conceivable pleasure (Trungpa, 1973). In
contemporary Western culture, this desire to be a god is
made visible in voyeuristic fascination with celebrities and
their lives. However, we also exhibit the characteristics
of the jealous gods—those who envy the gods and are
paranoid about losing their own favorable position—
whenever we wallow in a celebrity’s fall from grace.
When we let go of such envy we can truly be human,
meaning that while we live in desire, we are able to
balance sufering with compassion. When our sufering
becomes too difcult to bear, however, we sink into the
ignorance of the animal realm, whereupon we may, for
example, space out in front of our 46-inch fat screen TV.
When that pleasure wears out, we are caught once again
in the mindset of the hungry ghost, desperately afraid of
the hell realms, and longing for the pleasures of the god
realm. We return to the mall, opting for consumerism as
our best chance at a stable state of being, albeit one that
lives in fantasy and sacrifces compassion.
Neuroscientifc Materialism
and the Hungry Ghost
T
he underlying basis of the hungry ghost, and of the
MVO, can be found in the philosophical doctrine
of dualism, the position that mind and body are two
completely diferent substances (Karr, 2007). Tis view
is ultimately untenable, leading to two predominant
solutions: (1) reducing everything to material reality, or
materialism, and (2) reducing everything to mind, or
idealism. Contemporary traditional neuroscience adopts
the materialist view in its assumption that mind is an
emergent property of underlying neurological structure
and function. Given that this approach frames most
conversations about addiction, it is worth considering
briefy what light it might shed on the hungry ghost.
In this view, the subjective mental experience of
hunger arises from the complex interplay of numerous
physical elements, including a variety of brain structures,
blood sugar levels, and hormones (Le Magnen, 1985).
Normally, this system maintains homeostasis, alternating
between experiences of hunger and, upon eating, satiety.
However, what makes food potentially addictive is that
eating also provides a jolt of dopamine, the same pleasure-
inducing neurotransmitter that is implicated in drugs of
abuse (Avena, Rada, & Hoebel, 2008; Stoehr, 2006). If
our baseline dopamine levels are depressed, we might
consume food beyond the point of physical satiety, or
take drugs purely to get high, both of which provide
short-term relief with negative long-term consequences.
Hence, even at the neurobiological level, the essential root
cause of the hungry ghost’s insatiable hunger is likewise
the basis for substance addiction more generally.
However, this same physical root cause can lead
to all manner of craving. For example, even the sight
or smell of food in the absence of actual consumption
induces the release of dopamine levels (Zurawicki, 2010).
Further, it has been shown that processing novel visual or
cognitive information also elevates dopamine (in addition
to activating opioid receptors in association areas of the
cerebral cortex; Biederman & Vessel, 2006; Bromberg-
Martin & Hikosaka, 2009). Tus, seeing food, smelling
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 173 Modern Materialism
food, consuming drugs, viewing novel displays, thinking
about interesting new things—all have the capacity to
induce a chemical experience of pleasure and the craving
that comes with it.
A new discipline calling itself neuromarketing is
exploiting these fndings and applying them to the task
of developing ways to maximize potential customers’
dopamine surges and other consumption-friendly
biological processes (Zurawicki, 2010; Lindstrom, 2010).
For example, if a product is displayed strategically, a
dopamine rush will induce a purchase, even as the
ensuing “crash” leaves us wondering what we were
thinking (Lindstrom, 2010). Neurologically speaking,
humans are wired for all manner of consumption, and
advertisers—just as they have done in the past with
behaviorism and psychoanalysis—are exploiting the
latest trends in psychology in order to stimulate desire,
increase proft, and populate the world with ever more
hungry ghosts. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of
evidence that this wiring can be changed.
Neuroplasticity and Meditation
J
ust as physics has advanced to the point that it has
overthrown its earlier limiting assumptions, the
work of Richard Davidson and other neuroscientists
is challenging the presuppositions of traditional
neuroscience. In particular, they have demonstrated that
the adult brain can change in response to experience, a
phenomenon termed neuroplasticity (Lutz, Dunne, &
Davidson, 2007). Tis view is largely based on studies
with highly experienced meditators in the Tibetan
Buddhist tradition. Using brain imaging equipment,
Davidson and colleagues found that in meditation
these individuals could easily slip into a pronounced
pattern of asymmetrical fring in the prefrontal cortex
(Begley, 2007). Tis pattern, in which the left cortex is
extremely active relative to the right, signals the inner
subjective experience of energized happiness, joy, and
well-being. Te extreme degree to which this pattern
was demonstrated—far beyond what non-meditators
exhibit—suggests the potential to rewire the brain
through mental training.
Whereas it used to be thought that the prefrontal
cortex only pertains to the highest levels of abstract
reasoning, and that the limbic system was the seat of
emotions, it is now known that the prefrontal cortex is
neurologically connected with and mediates the centers
of emotional processing (Begley, 2007). As such, cutting
edge neuroscience is suggesting that mental training
can change our relationship to our emotions, and that
we can come to naturally have greater control over our
urges and cravings. Actually, this is precisely what the
Buddhist tradition teaches (Tsering, 2005). It stands
to reason that studies of lower animals—generally the
basis of addiction studies—will uncover the neurology
of unmediated craving; however, investigations of
highly conscious human beings show that neurological
determinism is an inaccurate model. Human cognitive
capacities can modulate emotional ones, and as such we
need not be the puppet of advertisers and profteers. Te
hungry ghost can be transformed.
Beyond Materialism
T
he studies by Davidson and his colleagues open
onto even larger implications. Tey challenge the
very assumptions of standard neurobiology—namely,
that the mind is an emergent property of matter. If
training the mind can afect neurology, then one must
perhaps take seriously the suggestion made by the Dalai
Lama (2005) that thoughts may give rise to chemical
events. In that event, the brain should be viewed not as
the origin of mind, but rather as mind’s executive ofcer.
Te philosophical doctrine of materialism itself is thrown
into question, and in turn it is necessary to question the
cost of continuing to adopt it. In the words of Buddhist
writer Andy Karr (2007), “these materialistic views can
prevent us from understanding the causal relationships
that are more important to us: the determinants of
happiness and sorrow, bondage and liberation” (p. 79).
In holding to a materialistic view, we look to the outer
world for happiness, rather than looking within.
Indo-Tibetan Buddhism regards idealism—
besides materialism, the other proposed solution to
the problem of dualism—as the superior position,
recognizing that all experience is mental, meaning that
it frst registers in the mind (Karr, 2007). Although
this view is developed in great detail in the Cittamatra,
or Mind Only School of Mahayana Buddhism, it is
ultimately recognized as only partially correct, for the
One Mind is itself a concept that is superimposed on
reality (Gyamtso, 1994). Te Madhyamaka, or Middle-
Way, teachings of Mahayana Buddhism assert that
everything is ultimately neither mind nor matter,
because neither ultimately exists. Rather, they both arise
together, interdependently. It is only when we appeal to
concepts that we see either mind or matter as prior.
When we realize the middle way position,
placing primacy on neither the mind nor material
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 174 Pope
reality, we see vividly that the ego, or sense of “I,” is
an illusion. It neither exists in a solid way (the doctrine
of eternalism), nor does it not exist altogether (the
doctrine of nihilism). In order to escape the endless
cycling through the six realms, we must see through
our habituated patterns and realize the true nature of
the self. When we closely examine the body, we see that
it is composed of a collection of parts, such as blood,
skin, sensory organs, internal organs, nerves, and so
forth. Tese parts are composed of ever-smaller particles,
none of which has an intrinsic, separate existence. If we
examine the mind, we fnd an overlapping stream of
thoughts, feelings, impressions, and sensations, none of
which exists independently. What we call a self is really
a succession of experiences onto which we have imputed
various concepts, the most central one being “I.” Tat
is, our sense of self is a fction, a story we tell ourselves
to give coherency to our experience. It exists not as a
solid entity, but rather as a character in a social fabric of
conceptual understanding and storytelling.
Interdependent Existence
T
he MVO is an integral part of the contemporary
social fabric that gives defnition and shape to
our sense of self. In its part, the ego is not interested
in consuming materials goods in an authentic sense;
rather, what the ego consumes is symbols. It is what
things represent, what they tell about us—whether we
are successful, afuent, desirable, or superior—that
establishes their worth. In the meantime, we are actually
covering over a tremendous sense of lack, hiding from the
fact that we do not exist in the ways we conventionally
think that we do. As David Loy (1996) has suggested,
this lack is the deepest source of our anxiety, more
fundamental even than the fear of death.
In order to comfort ourselves in the face of
this lack, we bow to what Chögyam Trungpa (1973)
characterized as Te Tree Lords of Materialism:
those of Form, Speech, and Mind. Of the frst one, he
explained:
Te Lord of Form refers to the neurotic pursuit
of physical comfort, security, and pleasure. Our
highly organized and technological society refects
our preoccupation with manipulating physical
surroundings so as to shield ourselves from the
irritations of the raw, rugged, unpredictable aspects of
life…Te Lord of Form does not signify the physically
rich and secure life-situations we create per se. Rather
it refers to the neurotic preoccupation that drives us
to create them, to try to control nature. (pp. 5-6)
Te deep source of our consumerist mentality can be
seen in this neurotic pursuit of comfort, security and
pleasure, the compulsion to control the seeming chaos of
life. Tis approach to life refects a basic confusion about
ourselves and our actions.
When we recognize that mind and matter
arise together, and that we do not exist in an intrinsic
and separate way, we realize that no one phenomenon
can appear except in interdependent relationship with
all other phenomena. Tis realization invites a deeper
understanding of the consequences of our consumerist
actions. We recognize not only that habitual consumption
is not in the service of our own happiness—it is as well
deeply unethical, for its far-ranging impact places our
collective survival in jeopardy.
Genuine Happiness
I
n the most basic sense, the MVO cannot promote
true happiness because it is based on a principle of
satisfaction rather than fulfllment. When we seek
satisfaction, we seek the external conditions whereby
we can feel temporarily sated. Inevitably, however, as
conditions change, these states of satiation fade and new
hunger arises.
Even so, the ancient philosophical doctrine of
hedonism regarded the pursuit of pleasure as the highest
good (Kashdan, Biswas-Diener, & King, 2008). In its
subtler versions, such as that expressed by Epicurus, a
greater happiness necessitates that we use moderation in
order that excessive indulgence not lead to excessive pain
(De Lacy, 1967). Nevertheless, in this view happiness
depends on the manipulation of external circumstances
in the pursuit of more rather than less (pleasure). Given
that pleasure can only be defned in contrast to pain,
happiness is necessarily relative and feeting. Insofar
as Freud’s economic model considered the pursuit of
pleasure to be the ultimate motivating force of psyche, we
can understand how it is that a successful psychoanalytic
treatment aims merely to bring ordinary unhappiness to
its patients (Freud, 1895/1955).
It is laudable that the hedonistic view values
immediate experience, for otherwise we would live in
our thoughts about the past or the future, separated from
reality as it is. However, that which is revealed in our
immediate experience varies depending on the state of
our mind. For example, we can be immediately present
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 175 Modern Materialism
to feelings of greed or hatred without recognizing that
such feelings are transitory and ultimately empty of any
substantial reality. Immediacy without genuine presence
leaves us vulnerable to surfng a series of ever-pressing
desires and aversions. Instead, we must train our minds
to rest in a panoramic awareness that sees mental states
such as greed and hatred as adventitious phenomena that
cannot touch the deep sense of our true nature. From
this perspective, genuine fulfllment or happiness, rather
than being the accumulation of pleasures, is “a deep sense
of fourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy
mind” (Ricard, 2003, p. 19).
From a Buddhist perspective, such mental health
is gained through disciplined mental training of no less
efort than that used to maintain our physical bodies in
peak condition. Trough the practices of contemplation
and meditation we can face our fears and discomforts
in a disciplined way. When we confront them directly,
their force is diminished, for it is what we do not see
that unnerves us. A mind that is consequently calm
and balanced can withstand any external circumstance.
While such happiness can be regarded as an objective
state relating to the condition of one’s awareness, it has
subjective correlates. When times are prosperous, the
fulflled mind experiences joy; when times are difcult,
it responds with courage (DeWit, 2001, March). Rather
than being passive to events in the world, we choose the
ways we interpret and respond to them. Rather than
being a temporary experience, genuine happiness is an
optimal state of being (Ricard, 2003).
Tis form of happiness resembles the Hellenic
concept of eudaimonia, which for Aristotle was an
objective condition associated with living a life of
contemplation and virtue (Waterman, 2008). Drawing
upon the work of contemporary philosopher David
Norton, Waterman (2008) explained: “Eudaimonia
was seen as a consequence of ‘living in truth to one’s
daimon’ or ‘true self,’ when an individual strives toward
excellence in fulflling his or her personal potentials”
(pp. 235-236). At this level, we can see Buddhist
happiness as a strong form of eudaimonia in which the
true self to be realized is the no-self, the self that exists
beyond all concepts. However, the Greek conception
of eudaimonia, particularly in its contemporary
interpretation, preserves the sense of the self as intrinsic
and separate. Waterman goes on to observe that whereas
daimon originally meant guiding spirit, contemporary
theorists regard it as a constellation of interrelated
psychological processes. Although this description
resonates with the Buddhist notion of the ego as a
continuum of psychophysical events, it does not accord
with Buddhism’s understanding of our deepest nature.
Tat is, it does not explicitly account for realizing our
transpersonal potentials, those that enable us to let go
of even the subtlest traces of greed and protective self-
cherishing.
Regaining the Natural State
A
ccording to the Madhyamaka Shentong teachings of
Tibetan Buddhism, all humans have the same basic
nature at the core of their Being (Maitraya, 2000). Tis
so-called buddha-nature is naturally and spontaneously
wise, loving, and compassionate. However, it is obscured
to the extent that we cling to ego identifcations that
keep the natural qualities of ourselves and our experience
cloaked by layers of conceptual artifce. When that
conceptual artifce, erected and maintained with the
support of consumerist culture, tells us to seek pleasure
and avoid pain—and not only sanctions shopping, but
regards it as a nationalistic duty—then we are kept in a
state of alienation from ourselves and from one another.
We live as hungry ghosts, unable to really touch the
material world, unable to touch each other, and unable
to be sated in any meaningful way. We are removed from
the possibility of genuine fulfllment.
Genuine fulfllment arises to the extent that
we can put the needs of others before our own. Such
altruism is not simply a “random act of kindness”; rather,
in Tibetan Buddhist thought it is a pervasive modality of
being that we must cultivate in order to recover our true
nature. Given that we are interdependent rather than
independent beings, to think only of ourselves is to live
out of accord with reality and to create the conditions
for sufering. Te material sensibilities of the modern age
inculcate this deluded perception in us, imprisoning us
in a vicious circle of heightened pleasure and subsequent
pain. Te way to overcome this state of afairs is to
confront the fear and grief from which we are hiding,
whereupon shopping will lose its appeal in favor
of human connection and caring.
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Notes
1. Te term Indo-Tibetan Buddhism acknowledges that
the rich philosophical tradition of Tibetan Buddhism
has deep roots in Indian culture, from whence Buddhism
migrated to Tibet.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 177 Modern Materialism
About the Author
Alan Pope, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology
at the University of West Georgia. Following advanced
graduate studies in computer science and artifcial
intelligence (Ph.D./ABD), he received his doctorate
in clinical existential-phenomenological psychology
at Duquesne University (2000). In addition, for the
past 20 years he has studied and practiced within the
Vajrayana Buddhist tradition. His research generally
seeks to elucidate the processes of psycho-spiritual
transformation resulting from involuntary sufering
and through disciplined spiritual and creative practice.
His recent work examines various aspects of Western
psychology and culture through the lens of Indo-Tibetan
Buddhism. He is the author of From Child to Elder:
Personal Transformation in Becoming an Orphan at
Midlife (2006, Peter Lang). He was the 2009 recipient
of Division 32 (APA)’s Carmi Harari Early/Mid Career
Award for Outstanding Contribution to Inquiry in
Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology.
About the Journal
Te International Journal of Transpersonal Studies is a
peer-reviewed academic journal in print since 1981. It is
published by Floraglades Foundation, and serves as the
ofcial publication of the International Transpersonal
Association. Te journal is available online at www.
transpersonalstudies.org, and in print through www.
lulu.com (search for IJTS).
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 178 Harrison
BOOK REVIEW
Singing to the Plants:
A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon
by Stephan V. Beyer
John Harrison
California Institute of Integral Studies
San Francisco, CA, USA
The plant comes and talks to you, it teaches you to sing.
—Don Solon Tello Lozano
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 30(1-2), 2011, pp. 178-181
What would you say to the possibility of a riveting,
yet thoroughly academic, nonfction page-turner? Stephan
V. Beyer’s tour de force, Singing to the Plants: A Guide
to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon, is nothing
less! Building an inclusive bridge between a layman’s
accessibility and comprehensive scholarly research, Beyer
has efectively embodied and integrated his intellectual
understanding and knowledge with years of frst-hand
experiential encounters with Ayahuasca and other plant
medicines of Upper Amazonia. Dr. Beyer holds a degree
in law and doctorates in both psychology and religious
studies, but these are obviously only some of his interests
and talents. His eclectic background has led to stints as
a university professor, trial lawyer, community builder,
and wilderness guide, and it was his interest in wilderness
survival that initially brought him into contact with
medicinal plants and their potential. His skillful, often
poetical word-phrasing lends such depth and artistry to
his research results that a reader hardly knows where to
look to be most impressed.
As he studied and learned more about the survival
skills of indigenous people, it became apparent to Beyer
that “wilderness survival includes a signifcant spiritual
component—the maintenance of right relationships both
with human persons and with the other-than-human
persons who fll the indigenous world.” In addition,
Beyer’s spiritual background and interest in Buddhism
and Tibetan language shapes his connection to the
transcendent and also establishes a deep recognition of
the unifying bond between all sentient beings.
Beyer states that his intention in writing the
monumental Singing to the Plants (400 pages of well-
researched information and knowledge gained from years
of actual time in the Amazon Jungle), “is a result of my
own need to make sense of the mestizo shamanism of the
Upper Amazon, to place it in context, to understand why
and how it works, to think through what it means, and
what it has meant for me.” So, this seminal work springs
(as all good work does) from Beyer’s own hunger to put
together the many threads of his own story.
As the book unfolds Beyer’s own tale is presented
in the context of his relationship with two remarkable
teacher-healers of the Upper Amazon: Dona Maria Luisa
Tuesta Flores and Don Roberto Acho Jurama. Beyer stated
that the purpose of this volume “is to try and understand
who they are and what they do—as healers, as shamans,
as dwellers in the spiritual world of the Upper Amazon, as
traditional practitioners in a modern world, as innovators,
as cultural syncretists, and as individuals.”
It is when talking about his teachers that Beyer
is most revealed as a humble and thoughtful human
being. He does not engage in excessive fawning or
synchophantish pedestalization, but presents them as
real people with faws and foibles, as well as remarkable
reservoirs of knowledge.
Troughout the narrative Beyer informs and
educates, opening doors to another world, a world he
clearly respects, embraces, and even loves. He escorts us
up the threshold and through this doorway describing
in detail such subjects as: (1) the ayahuasca ceremony,
(2) shamanic performance, (3) the shamanic landscape,
(4) learning the plants, sounds, 5) phlegm and darts, (6)
initiation, (7) spirits, (8) sex, (9) harming, (10) healing,
and (11) vomiting, among 35 total chapters.
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 179 Review of Beyer, Singing to the Plants
Beyer begins with an appreciative and loving
description of his two teachers. In a particularly
beautiful passage he describes the dream of Dona Maria
that led to her coronacion, her crowning or initiation. In
one illuminating and enlightening sidebar (which are
liberally included throughout the book) he also explores
the topic of ayahuasqueras (women shamans), their
relative rarity, and the occasional chauvinistic reaction
of some shamans who said Dona Maria should not be a
healer. Dona Maria in her whimsical way dismisses these
naysayers “as stupid people with no fuerza, or shamanic
power, anyway.”
Beyer continues by looking at the interface of old
superstitions regarding women during their menstrual
cycle and their contact with Ayahuasca. Among some
indigenous tribes a menstruating woman—or one who
has recently had sex—should not participate in an
Ayahuasca ceremony. Dr. Beyer quotes a Cocama shaman
who says, “that for the Ayahuasca vine to grow properly,
it must not be seen by a woman, especially a woman
who is menstruating, or who has not slept well because
she was drunk.” If these women see the Ayahuasca he
says, “the plant becomes resentful and neither grows nor
twines upright. It folds over and is damaged.” Tanks
to the upsurge in Ayahuasca tourism, Beyer tells us that
these attitudes may be slowly changing. “Female tourists
who have come great distances at considerable expense to
attend an Ayahuasca ceremony object strongly to being
excluded because they are menstruating. Tere are also
an increasing number of Ayahuasca retreats for women-
only tourist groups, and an increasing demand for female
ayahuasqueras to accommodate female tourists.” Tis
helps to explain the relative paucity of curanderas (female
healers); Beyer reports that he knows of only two.
Beyer’s encyclopedic masterpiece includes a
detailed description of the the ayahuasca ceremony, where
he describes point by point the essential components of
the healing practices of the curandero (male healer) as
the ingestion of ayahuasca to diagnose illness, the focus
on soplar (breath), chupar (sucking), and the use of icaros
(sacred songs) and the invocation of the spirits of the
plants themselves during the healing ceremonies.
In the chapter titled, Learning the Plants
Stephan Beyer goes into elegant detail, as he sensitively
describes the intimate relationship required to “win their
[the plants] love.” Tis thorough attention to detail is a
consistent trait of his writing style. Beyer deconstructs the
process of developing this relationship by emphasizing
the importance of la dieta (the restricted diet) as the key
to a relationship with the plants.
To learn the plants--termed dominar, or
mastery—means to create a relationship with the plant
spirits. Tis is accomplished by, “taking them into the
body, listening to them speak in the language of plants,
and receiving their gifts of power and song.”
To win their love, to learn to sing to them in
their own language, shamans must frst show that they
are strong and faithful and worthy of trust. To do this,
they must go into the monte (the wilderness), away from
other people, and follow la dieta, the restricted diet. After
ingesting and studying their efects, apprentice shamans
await “the appearance of the plant spirit in a vision or
dream to be taught their uses and their songs.”
Beyer illustrates clearly that shamans have a real
interactive intimacy with the plants of the jungle and this
is a process of deep learning which can be instantaneous
or it may be gradual, “the plants become your body and
give you the power to heal; they become—through this
lengthy, dreamlike, silent, sacred process—your allies.
You learn the plants in plant time, not human time.”
Beyer joyfully discusses the nature of the icaros
(the magic songs of the plants) and explains that it is
only through learning the songs of the plants (taught
by the plants) that the shaman can communicate and
learn the spirits of the plants from the songs. Te song
may be whispered, whistled, or sung and the icaro is a
gift from the plants to the shaman who uses the songs
for healing, protection and to completely and intimately
enter the world of spirits. Beyer quotes the poet Gary
Snyder, saying that the “shaman gives songs to dreams,
he speaks for the green of the leaf, the soil, for wild
animals, and the spirits of plants and mountains.” Te
shaman is indeed the healer who sings.
Certainly there are a number of compelling
traditions where sound (instruments, drums, humming,
chanting, and singing) is the connective link between
this and other realms. However, no other culture, either
related or unrelated to the subject at hand, ever diverts
the attention of the writer, or reader of this volume. It is
Stephan Beyer’s breadth of knowledge with salient and
compelling references to anthropology, ethnobotany,
pharmacology, psychology, law, sociology, and various
forms of magic that make this book a scintillating read.
Yet, with his prodigious intellectual prowess Beyer
never gets too top-heavy with empty philosophical or
pretentiously lofty discourses. He returns again and
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 180 Harrison
again to the body, the gritty, purging/vomiting, sucking/
blowing, sometimes nasty, but down-to-earth, back to the
roots of revelations (as it were) of the plant and animal
spirits of the Upper Amazon. Tese powerful plant
medicines can be messy with a myriad of unpredictable
outcomes. He is not talking ecstasy-at-a-rave time here.
Tis is not Amazonian amateur hour or psychedelic
karaoke; this is balls-to-the-wall commitment. Te
author does not whitewash or sugarcoat the sometimes
enigmatic and dulcet dirge of the jungle, or the occasional
shaman with less that heroic intent. He acknowledges
that as every plant has a particular energy or use, so do
shamans come in many psychological shades, sometimes
dark, sometimes light, but mostly gray; that is where the
truth can often be found, in the ambiguous nature of
humans.
As a psychologist I found Beyer’s discussion of
the Social Ambiguity of the Shaman a fascinating and
honest, yet arcane revelation that shamanic powers can
be used for healing and for harming. “People see that
the shaman can heal, which means that the shaman can
also kill,” Beyer exclaims! In this context the shaman is
neither hero nor villain, but set apart, as someone not to be
humbling experience of having his psychic and physical
butt kicked good, and hard, and often!
Beyer’s gift is conveying this far ranging and
voluminous material while walking a fnely nuanced
line between personal memoir and scholarly discourse
(this line has been crossed by other authors, often with
poor results). Neither a dry ethnography nor a subjective
platform for Beyer, he has gone into the wilderness and
returned to tell tall tales of the jungle. It could have been
tempting for Beyer to make the story about himself and
his exploits. However, in my view his objectivity serves
both him and the reader quite well. I appreciate that Beyer
did not over-personalize this work. Clearly transformed
by his experiences, he modestly maintains a keen
objectivity laced with an unmistakable understanding
(from the inside out) of his subject. Tis understanding
is best exemplifed by Beyer’s apparent disinterest in
standing out front and center as the main protagonist in
this treatise. In my view this is deliberate and refects the
deeper lessons Beyer has learned from his experiences.
He also does not answer all the questions nor
attempt to spell out or overly defne the Ayahuasca
experience. In contrast, by opening this space Stephan is
encouraging others to embark upon their own journeys,
to seek their own answers, and ultimately to ask
better questions. Beyer states that, “Ayahuasca teaches
many things—what is wrong or broken in a life, what
medicine to take for healing. It teaches us to see through
the everyday, to see that the world is meaningful and
magical; it opens the door to wonder and surprise.”
As a researcher and psychologist investigating
the efcacy of ibogaine in the treatment of opiate
addiction, I recognize that the wisdom and mysteries of
indigenous and centuries old shamanic plant medicines
deserve respect. Admiration is best served by not
imposing Western and hyper-linear models on these
tools to make Westerners more comfortable. Beyer seems
to understand on both a cellular and on a soulular level,
that these non-Western ways of seeing, healing and being
have so much to teach.
Tis book is about as perfect as any book (fction
or non fction) has a right to be. Standing far above all
other investigations on ayahuasca in its scope and depth, I
found myself irresistibly engaged and frankly enchanted
by Steve Beyer’s labor of love brimming with obvious
afection and respect for these plant spirits as teachers
who actually seem to care for humans in return. Tough
verifably academic, each page reads like a novel—with
trusted though someone who is needed. Beyer states, “In
the Amazon, the dark and the light, killing and curing,
are at once antagonistic and complementary, shamanic
healers and shamanic killers represent interlocking
cultural tendencies, and their battleground is the fesh
of the sick, the ambiguous heart of the shaman, the
valley of the soul. Tus the shaman’s power is granted
grudgingly by a society that both needs and fears it.” As
ethno-botanist Terence McKenna said, “Only psychos
and shamans create their own reality!”
Beyer appears to have been wise (or lucky
enough) to let the plants come into him, and though a
consummate scholar and thinker, he balances this with
gentle kindness and a receptive heart. His great lesson,
in my view, is to stay true to his teachers Dona Maria
and Don Roberto, the plants and the entire gestalt of the
Upper Amazon.
My own experience as both subjective participant
and relatively objective researcher with a panoply of
psychedelic plant medicines from psilocybin to ibogaine
to DMT has taught me that these teachers reveal multiple
versions of reality: vivid, intense, paradigm-shifting,
sometimes terrifying, and producing an occasional
epiphany. Stephan Beyer seems to genuinely understand
this and his true reverence appears to spring from the
International Journal of Transpersonal Studies 181 Review of Beyer, Singing to the Plants
layers upon layers of intrigue and information, and with
the plants, the animals, and the teachers as fnely drawn
characters imbued with complexity, mystery, and wisdom.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who seeks not
only a thoroughly researched fount of information, but
also a deep and rich source of inspiration.