This is my response to reading the article: Transpersonal Psychology: Defining the Past, Divining the Future by Glenn Hartelius, Mariana Caplan, and Mary Anne Rardin/California Institute of Integral Studies — as always comments are welcome!
Hartelius, G., Caplan, M., Rardin, M. A. (2007). Transpersonal psychology: Defining the past, divining the future. The Humanistic Psychologist, 35(2), 1-26.
In this article Hartelius, Caplan and Rardin conduct a retrospective analysis of definitions published doing the 35 years history of transpersonal psychology. Their research suggests the major subject areas of the field can be summed up in three themes: beyond-ego psychology, integrative/holistic psychology, and psychology of transformation.
Excerpts and Comments:
“While transpersonal psychology still needs to embody the inclusiveness and diversity that it represents, its vision is one of great relevance to the contemporary human condition.” (p. 1)
I continue to be both surprised and pleased with the acknowledgment of the need for more voices to be heard in the field of transpersonal psychology. I was hopeful that this would be the case. It’s one of the reasons I choose this area of focus; it seemed to me that because of the openness to other ways of knowing, that it would be a space that would offer me an opportunity to bring my full self to my scholarship.
“transpersonal as context covers more than the beliefs, attitudes, and intentions (and, we would add, the somatic presence) of the therapist in relationship to a client. It refers also to the recognition that ego is not separate from its many contexts, that it must be seen within the larger fabric of the embodied mind, the community, the social history, the environment, and the transpersonal ultimate. In addition,Western psychology lives and breathes within a global net of culture-specific psychologies, some of which take
forms unfamiliar to this society, but all of which inform an inclusive human psychology.” (p. 10)
I completed my Bachelor’s degree at the California Institute of Integral Studies (2010), one of the features of the program was learning how to have an integral approach to education – and by extension psychology and other fields. Similar to ITP, CIIS is rooted in a East/West construct. At CIIS I found this to very limiting. Fortunately, ITP seems to a bit more open to the “global net of culture-specific psychologies”. Of the three themes presented in this article, the one that most closely aligns with African-centered theory, is TP-II – the integrative psychology of the whole person/transpersonal as context. For the same reason, I’m also interested in TP-III – catalyst for human transformation, as this one suggests that is has some similar objectives of Ifa. In this African-rooted tradition, it is through each person fulfilling there personal destiny (orì) and alignment with their soul (emi); thereby developing good character (iwà-pelé) that humanity (ènìyàn) will be able to obtain a “good position” including freedom of fear and death.
“Wilber’s critique of transpersonal psychology is not so much a comment on
its popularity as an assessment of its relevance… has transpersonal psychology become
the truly inclusive human psychology that its definition implies?” (p. 17)
During the retreat I was asking myself if I’d made the right decision in choosing ITP and more specifically transpersonal psychology. My concern was how can I use what I’m learning at ITP in service of my community; a community of Black people, living in America – specifically women. Is transpersonal psychology only for upper -and middle- class white folks trying to find themselves through transcendent experiences by way of the appropriation of indigenous practices? To be honest, I’m not sure yet; it’s only week 2 and so far I’m feeling that transpersonal psychology is indeed more than a “cultural artifact from the psychedelic sixties” (p. 17)
“There is as yet only minor participation from Asia, Africa, or South America; even when such voices exist, they have at times been overlooked (see, for example, an Afro-centric approach to multicultural psychology: Bame, 1997; Mphande & Myers, 1993; Myers, 1985, 1994, 2005;Myers, Kindaichi, & Moore, 2004, Spight, Myers, Cox, & Highlen, 1991). If transpersonal psychology aspires to be a fully integrative human psychology, a psychology that is not only East-West but also North-South, it will need to invite voices from the rest of the world.” (p. 17)
I could not have said it better. I’ve met Dr. Linda J Myers, she is an Elder in the Association of Black Psychologist, and along with Stan Grof; she will be a keynote speaker at next years’ Regional Student Circle Conference (which is being sponsored in part by ITP). I referenced her article (Myers, 1985) in my application letter. I think that one of the reasons other voices have not been welcomed is because it would require a sort of ‘come to Jesus’ moment. The ‘west’ will no longer be able to hide behind liberal rhetoric and claims of color-blindness with declarations of openness because of their embrace of the ‘east’. Additionally, the ‘north-south’ peoples have learned that by raising their voices they may and have loss (or never offered) tenure, face being labeled radical, racist, and/or irrational.
“The West cannot do this for the world; it can only do it with the world. The growing transpersonal community could benefit greatly from transpersonal associations throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America—not so Westerners might come as missionaries and teach the transpersonal, but because the Western community needs the participation of these communities if there is to be a larger conversation. This means doing more than inviting others to add their voices to an agenda that has been written in the West. Transpersonal psychology itself may grow and shift, perhaps in profound ways, as other members of the human community bring their gifts and contributions.” (p. 17/18)
Often people think that to find non-western worldviews one must leave the borders of the US and travel across land and sea. This simply is not true. In the case of Asian and Latin cultures all one must do is visit the local “Chinatown” or “Barrio” to witness not only the symbolic attributes like food and music, but if you are a close observer, you may also see their spiritual and psychological worldview through traditional celebrations and family values. For African descended people, on the surface it may seem a bit more challenging. However, every Sunday morning you can find African-rooted transcendent experiences at just about any Black church. In fact, just this past weekend I participated in an African-rooted transpersonal practice at public park in West Oakland. Additionally, I have a library full of books that chronicle the long history of African psychology – most of which have written by African American scholars. One of my favorites is by Dr. Wade Nobles, African Psychology: Toward Its Reclamation, Reascension and Revitalization. (Nobles, 1986). And, although I’ve not it yet finished it, would also recommend the book Ethnicity and Psychology: African-,Asian-, Latino-, and Native-American Psychologies by Professor Kenneth P. Monteiro, San Francisco State University. (Monteiro, 1995,1996)