Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transpersonal, the transcendent, or spiritual aspects of the human experience. Transpersonal psychology was first announced and defined with the publication of The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, in 1969. Guided by the work of psychologists like Abraham Maslow, S. Groff, Anthony Sutich and others, this new perspective was, according to the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology website, "founded on a commitment to open-ended inquiry, experiential and empirical validation, and a values-oriented approach to human experience." Lajore and Shapiro (1992: 91) describe transpersonal psychology as "the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness" (Lajore and Shapiro, 1992:91). Transpersonal psychologists are interested in “spiritual experiences, mystical states of consciousness, mindfulness and meditative practices, shamanic states, ritual, the overlap of spiritual experiences with disturbed states such as psychosis and depression… the transpersonal dimensions of interpersonal relationships” (David, 2000), spiritual self-development, Peak Experiences (Maslow, 1971), entheogen usage (Grof, 1973), and mystical experiences of living. Abraham Maslow’s work on
Perhaps more than any other area of psychology, Transpersonal psychology is culturally and theoretically diverse. Practitioners (David, 2000) cite influences ranging from western and eastern mystical systems, to shamanic systems and practice to the use of Entheogens as a significant precursor and aid to the development of their insight and practice.
Transpersonal Psychology and Entheogens
In 1973 Stanislav Grof (1973) cited the therapeutic application of entheogens as a theoretical and experimental precursor to Transpersonal psychology. His entire paper, entitled Theoretical and Empirical Basis of Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Observations from LSD Research used his extensive clinical and therapeutic research with entheogens to provide theoretical and empirical support for transpersonal psychology. As Grof himself notes, such luminaries as Abraham Maslow, Anthony Sutich, Jim Fadiman, and Victor Frankl “all agreed that observations related to the use of psychedelic substances in psychotheraphy (and to a certain degree those related to their abuse by the general population) are of utmost relevance for personality theory and clearly demonstrate the need for a new discipline.” (Groft, 1973: 16).
The term Spiritual Emergence was coined by Stanislav and Christina Grof (1989) in order to describe a gradual unfoldment of spirituality in a person's life. In cases where this spiritual unfoldment is intensified, uncontrolled, rapid, and unguided emergence may lead to a state of emergency. Spiritual emergencies, which are caused by spontaneous Crown Activation, and which can be elicited using various technologies of activation, will occur with increasing frequency in the decades ahead. Spiritual emergencies can cause significant disruptions in psychological, social and occupational functioning. Current psychological approaches are ill-equipped to understand and handle these emergencies. Spiritual emergencies are often misdiagnosed as neurotic or psychotic episodes, and Crown Stupification is often the only way traditional psychology, psychiatry, and medicine can control and treat the problem.
David, John ( (2000, Spring). We Keep Asking Ourselves, What is Transpersonal Psychology. Guidance and Counselling. 5 (3), 3-8.
Grof, Stanislav & Grof, Christina (eds) (1989). Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis (New Consciousness Reader) . Los Angeles : J.P Tarcher
Lajore, D. H. & Shapiro, S. I. (1992). Definitions of transpersonal psychology: The first twenty-three years. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 24(1); 79-98.
Lukoff, David, Lu, Francis G. & Turner, Robert P. (1998) From Spiritual Emergency to Spiritual Problem - The Transpersonal Roots of the New DSM-IV Category. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 38(2), pp. 21-50
Scotton, Bruce W, Chinen, Allan B. and John R. Battista, Eds. (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books
Whitney, Edward (1998) Personal Accounts : Mania as Spiritual Emergency. Psychiatric Services. 49:1547-1548, December. American Psychiatric Association