Dr. Charles T. Tart on March 16th, 2009

My wonderful webmaster tells me to complete the About Dr. Tart section of this blog so she can make it “official.” OK. The problem is that I’ve already spent decades being Dr. Tart, and while that’s pleasant and useful in many ways I’m also a fairly informal person, so I’ve decided to do this in two parts. The first is a brief, “official” bio note on Dr. Professor Tart, very respectable and impressive by those kind of standards. Indeed I often wonder how I can hold on to my self-concept of “young rebel” when I’ve had so much acceptance in the mainstream.

Not to mention that at 71 it’s harder than it used to be to think of myself as young… <g>

This blog is intended as a much more personal document than Dr. Tart’s formal writings, though, so after the official bio note I’m adding a second “about me” note, something I just came across looking through my bio info files – some reflections I had on my 60th birthday, which gives the flavor of Charley….

Here’s the official bio note:

Charles T. Tart, Ph.D., is internationally known for his psychological work on the nature of consciousness, particularly altered states of consciousness, as one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology, and for his research in parapsychology. His two classic books, Altered States of Consciousness (1969) and Transpersonal Psychologies (1975), were widely used texts that were instrumental in allowing these areas to become part of modern psychology.

Dr. Tart was born in 1937 and grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. He was active in ham radio (K2CFP), worked as a radio engineer (First Class Radiotelephone License) while still a teenager, and studied electrical engineering at MIT before deciding to become a psychologist. He received his Ph.D. in psychology, with research on influencing night time dreams by posthypnotic suggestions, from the Universi­ty of North Carolina in 1963, and then received postdoctoral training in hypnosis research at Stanford University.

He is a Core Faculty Member at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (Palo Alto, California)(a unique Ph.D. granting institution that believes you should educate a person’s body, spirit and emotions as well as their talking mind!) and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Davis campus of the University of California. He consulted on the original remote viewing research at SRI, where some of his work was important in influencing government policy makers against the deployment of the multi-billion dollar MX missile system.

In addition to Altered States of Consciousness (1969) and Transpersonal Psychologies (1975), Dr. Tart’s other books are

On Being Stoned: A Psychological Study of Marijuana Intoxication (1971),

States of Consciousness (1975), S

Symposium on Consciousness (1975, with co-authors),

Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception (1976),

Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm (1977),

Mind at Large: Institute of Electrical and Elec­tronic Engineers Symposia on the Nature of Extrasensory Perception (1979, with H. Puthoff & R. Targ),

Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential (1986),

Open Mind, Discrim­inating Mind: Reflections on Human Possibilities (1989),

Living the Mindful Life (1994) and

Body Mind Spirit: Exploring the Parapsychology of Spirituality (1997), which looks at the implications of hard scientific data on psychic abilities as a foundation for believing we have a real spiritual nature.

A recent book, Mind Science: Meditation Training for Practical People (2001) presents mindfulness training in a way that makes sense for science professionals. He has had more than 250 articles published in professional journals and books, including lead articles in such prestigious scientific journals as Science and Nature.

His latest book is The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together (2009).

Not just a laboratory researcher, Dr. Tart has been a student of Aikido (in which he holds a black belt), of meditation, of Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way work, and of Buddhism. His primary goal is to build bridges between the scientific and spiritual communities and to help bring about a refinement and integration of Western and Eastern approaches for knowing the world and for personal and social growth.

Now for a bit “about Charley”

Random thoughts on turning 60:

Tomorrow I will be 60. How odd! Where did all the time go?

So much of me is still a 14 year old boy, wide eyed, wondering what will happen next in this interesting world. Another part of me knows my life has been filled with interesting experiences, and it’s obvious where the time went, and I should be grateful for all the interesting experiences. Another part of me is a little weary of it all and looks forward to diversion from thinking about it. And another part and another part….

I am nowhere near as introspective about my life as I used to be. I used to always be analyzing where I was going, how I was, where I’d been. I seldom do that now – there are a lot of satisfying things in my life and I like to get on with them. Part of this attitude is mature realism, part is an avoidance of thinking about how I may have missed the mark.

Missed the mark? What exactly was the mark? Some kind of hoped for, fantasized about, not quite understood mystical revelation/initiation that would have changed me into…..what? Someone who was never unsure about the right thing to do, never afraid (or at least never held back by fear) of doing the right thing, someone who had a personal guarantee from God as to how to live and a certainty that I was doing the right thing.

I remember what a difficult time my 35th birthday was, having read Maurice Bucke’s study of cosmic consciousness and his conclusion that the few people in the history of the world who had made it (or been granted it by grace) to that degree of certainty had all attained it by age 35, and there I was, turning 36 with no cosmic consciousness.

Fifty was easier. I spent the evening of my 50th birthday on the mat at Aikido, throwing the 20 year olds around, thinking “What’s the big deal about 50?” And getting a funny story to tell when the American Association of Retired Persons invited me to join them a few days later…..Officially defined as old!

Now here I am in our wonderful little fifth wheel trailer at Zion National Park, having a relaxing pre-dinner drink (who would have ever thought I would look forward to the little mild spaciness and relaxation of a drink?), getting ready to activate my cellular phone connection to the Internet to check on the start of my on-line altered states class for ITP (isn’t technology incredible?), having had a nice hike with my wife Judy this afternoon to Emerald Pools, being a finalist for the Bigelow Visiting Professorship in Consciousness Studies at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, having a good wife and good children and good grandchildren….. Wow! It’s very good by all ordinary and my own standards! So what do I have to introspect about? Just old superego pressure that I ought to introspect about how my life is going?

Well it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place to turn 60 than Zion. I’ve always loved camping, and to have such a comfortable, cushy place for it to happen like our little Nash trailer…..pretty neat! And while my superego is complaining that I’m not getting a proper emotional thrill out of being in such a lovely place, I know it’s getting to me at a deep level and in a few more days I’ll probably be in a really open place to appreciate all this natural beauty we’ll be seeing for the next several weeks.

Sixty. Close to a fateful age? My father died when he was 63 (I was a callow 22), after years of debilitating and terrible cancer, my mother, suddenly from heart failure, when she was 73. My maternal grandfather PopPop died when he was 79 of heart failure, still quite vigorous as I recall him. My maternal grandmother, Nana, died suddenly of heart failure at 63, when I was not quite 8. My father’s father, Samuel Tart, died in the influenza epidemic long before I was born, so I don’t count that in estimating genetic potential, and my paternal grandmother, who I don’t really remember at all, died at age 73, when I was 7. In spite of these statistics, I think I am in good health and have the genetic potential to live to my 80s certainly, maybe my 90s with modern medical care.

My greatest regret in life is that my father died before I became anywhere near mature enough to see him as a fellow human being that I loved deeply, so that I could treat him with proper love and respect. I am so glad that my son David and I have been starting to relate to each other as adults in a way that lets the basic love come through – a much better situation than I had with my father.

I used to have very strong feelings about having THE right answers. Now I seldom feel that strongly about it. It’s a complex universe. I’ve found a way to live that has some value to others as well as myself, with a minimum of harm to others, and that’s pretty satisfying. I can put that in a more “sophisticated” way by saying I see how I see the probabilities of things and avoid the intellectual and emotional traps of grasping for absolutes that are probably beyond us. Which is true, but also serves a defensive function of minimizing disappointment that I haven’t found the absolutes….

So some part of me still craves the absolute certainty of mystical revelation, but this part doesn’t drive my life very strongly. I am pretty sure that love and integrity and being of some help to others are essential and important, and I want to be more loving, honest, and of help, so that’s a good recipe for living. Absolutes? Well, I don’t know. Maybe that’s a gift of Grace that might come, maybe it’s more mature to not be attached to this longing for absolutes and get on with trying to be helpful…..

May 4, 1997, Five Days Later:

Reflecting back a few days later, I’m amazed at what I’ve left out of this reflection. My very happy marriage with Judy, e.g.: I think I’m a very lucky man to have such a long term relationship with a woman I love, who shares so many of my interests – to go on enumerating the many good qualities she has that I like would just embarrass her, so I remain silent, but happy.

Turning 60 made me feel like I should introspect, and introspection is associated with looking at my shortcomings to me, so I overlooked most of the happy parts. I am a happy man! I have good health, a wife I love, children I love and am proud of, a career that I enjoy and that is helpful to people, and enough ordinary type security to not worry about most ordinary life problems that stress people. I have my moments of feeling shallow, but basically I’m a happy person. Whether it’s my personality, my karma, or my natural endorphin levels – who knows? But I’m not complaining about it!

Some notes from the birthday card Judy got me, that starts with “1937 was a very good year….” … the year I was born…

25th million Ford driven off the assembly line.

Dirigible Hindenburg blew up.

Golden Gate Bridge opened, 200,000 pedestrians crossed on the first day.

Dupont patented Nylon.

Pituitary hormone was isolated.

Roosevelt was president.

Whistle while you work” song written.

There you have (a bit of) it….

13 Responses to “About”

  1. Darius Hober says:

    Dear Dr. Tart,
    I am working on my degree in Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia and have a question that maybe you can help or guide me with in relation to the human experience.
    The human body is roughly composed of 100 trillion cells, with 90% of these cells being Non-Human (bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites)!!(See Buckman’s “Human Wildlife”) With 90% of the organic matrix composing a human body consisting of non-human lifeforms and consciousness-where is this factored into the human experience? There are current studies demonstrating intestinal flora affecting moods and brain parasites from cats (t.ghondi) affecting thinking for example. Has anyone to your knowledge factored this into what it means to be human?
    This could easily result in a major shift in understanding and explain more of why we (ego) do not seem to be in control of ship! Quick analogy; Imagine someone being on a diet and having a craving for donuts. Most psychological considerations would position this as “personal sabotage” or possibly see this desire as a comfort food if the dieter was having a rough day. Never is it offered that the bacteria in the gut need the yeast that is in the donut and put forth the “desire” for donut into the field.
    If possible, I would like some guidance or discourse concering this proposition.
    With Love
    Darius

    • I’ve long been aware how much of our bodies (and minds?) is “colonists,” whose ancestors moved in long ago. I sometimes think of myself as an empire, filled with many different cultures, races, entities, etc. The “soldiers” at my frontiers, e.g., are constantly fighting off raids by the barbarian in order to preserve the smooth functioning of the empire.

      What I have to be careful of in this analogy is getting too caught up in my nominal position as Emperor. Many of my subjects humor me in this, some probably see it as a necessary role for somebody, others as a harmless lunatic – who can be harmful if not controlled.

      Meanwhile “I” do what I can to be a good person and make the world a little better place, and try to remember that most of the empire (and other empires) functions in ways that have little to do with my hopes and fears and ambitions….

  2. Jose says:

    Integral research about the rhythm of evolution: a hidden spiral pattern in universal dynamics!

    Hi, Charles!

    I’m Jose Diez Faixat. I don’t know you personally, but I syntonize with your interesting research.

    In 1993, the journal of general evolution World Futures —Vol. 36, pp. 31-56—, edited by Ervin Laszlo, published my article entitled A hypothesis on the rhythm of becoming. Since then, I’ve continued this research about the rhythm of macro and microcosmical evolution, and I’ve found spectacular confirmations. This work discovers, with surprising accuracy, a hidden spiral pattern of change in the universal dynamics, what confirms and fixes the great intuitions of Sri Aurobindo, Teilhard de Chardin, Jean Gebser, Ken Wilber…

    I dare to send you an actual resume of my research of more than 30 years. You can also find it in: “byebyedarwin.blogspot.com”, in English and Spanish versions, with optional pdf. I’m sure that, if you read it, you’ll be surprised by its results.

    Warmest regards

    Jose

    • > if you read it, you’ll be surprised by its results.< That's very interesting, and I'd like to read it, but my problem is too many interests, too little time! I receive dozens of books and articles every year from people who would like me to read them and comment, they look interesting, .....and eventually my wife makes me donate them to a library because I'll never catch up. Also, too many of them require knowledge of physics and math that I simply don't have. At any rate, good luck on your work!

  3. Gabriel says:

    Hi Dr. Tart. I have been reading your book the End of Materialism. I find your conclusions interesting. and you state that you dont think that reincarnation is proven through Dr Ian Stevenson’s work. I would like to know why you do not believe so. What aspects of it leave room for doubt in your mind. Is it because it is difficult to assess whether a child having certain memories guessed things higher than chance probability? Or is it for other reasons?

    Thank You.

    • > why you do not believe so< A general scientific conservatism, reincarnation is a radically different view of the world and so I want a lot of proof for it. That's my scientific function. Personally, while I don't KNOW whether reincarnation is real I live my life as it it probably is, as it makes a lot of sense to me as a way to design a universe. All those years in a lifetime slowly getting wiser, I'd like them to be saved in some fashion, not just thrown away....

  4. Gonçalo Moreira says:

    Hi Charles

    I just wanted to tell you that I watched you gave about evidence-based spirituality and I loved it. I heard Gary Schwartz talk about that concept and I found it really interesting. I really do hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you write a book about it. I think it can be very very important. You knowledge of the Big Five, OBE, NDE and so on is very much needed to begin this enterprise. So I ask you. Please write a book about evidence-based spirituality.

    Thanks
    Best wishes

    • Ah, that’s a book I’d really like to write. My End of Materialism book made the general case that there’s evidence supporting taking spirituality seriously, but how much do we know about specific spiritual claims? How apply what knowledge we have to questions like the likelihood of “karma” being real, e.g.?

      And the likelihood of my having the time to do this? That’s a tough question!

      I would particularly like to do something like this for Buddhism. I don’t consider myself a “Buddhist,” I don’t accept any spiritual system as gospel truth, but the psychological aspects of Buddhism make a lot of sense to me. In seeing how Buddhism is evolving in the West, though, it’s becoming “Buddhism Lite,” because it’s confusing science (with which any spiritual system must interact with and adapt to) with scientism, an a priori commitment to materialism (see the End of Materialism book) which throws out all that is central to spirituality. From the point of view of scientism, the Buddha was a nice guy who found some tricks to reduce your psychological suffering, even while caught up in the superstitions of his age, and someday we’ll have some drugs to affect the brain directly and accomplish that much quicker…..

  5. Paul Chadwick says:

    what about beelzebub’s tales i really would appreciate your opinions about the book.

  6. Good day Dr. Tart,
    I am starting a blog to track technological trends and came across an article you published in Complete Well-being. The article mentioned the difference between humans and robots with an image of a robot watching a sunset. This image captures of the intents of my blog which is where technology meets (and ideally enhances) human life. Can you provide permission for the use of this image at: http://completewellbeing.com/a.....en-1-a.jpg
    I found your article here http://completewellbeing.com/a.....-practice/
    It is a few years old so you may not recall but I’m wondering why you chose to open with the Robot since the ability to enjoy a moment could be exclusive to humans.

    Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

  7. Jason Van Horne says:

    Dr. Tart,

    Are you still available for public speaking, or at the very least ‘private’ speaking?

    I am following through with over twenty years of personal research and growth, to which you have been pioneering the same research for quite some time and with the added ability to do so within a scientific environment.

    If I may, I would like to ask a few questions to receive your educated opinion, as well as experience, which could be beneficial to my personal research and growth.

    I appreciate your time and consideration – should you accept or decline. Thank you for providing a scientific and researched look into topics often disavowed by the traditional scientific community.

    Warm Regards,

    Jason

  8. Kaiser says:

    Hello Dr. Tart,

    I wanted to express my thanks for all the work you have done in bridging the gap between science and spirituality, and your vision of an evidence-based spirituality for the 21st Century. As you have pointed out, the lack of a truly systematic approach thus far has led to ridiculous situations like the extraordinary failure rate of meditators being tolerated in a way that no Western institution would allow – what kind of university would survive if 95% of its students dropped out? Or if we had no idea how many students would actually graduate, or get stuck halfway through their degree indefinitely, but get told that was no problem, they could finish their degree in their next life? Lol

    Thankfully, I see all of this changing before my eyes, and I know that you have had no insignificant part in getting us to this place at last. Not a week goes by when I don’t read some new study about meditation and the brain, or an essay about mindfulness in daily life, or advancements in the field of neurotechnology. I am not a ‘neuroglamorizer’ but there is no doubt that a greater understanding of the brain will yield enormous dividends in the spiritual arena. Most of all I see people asking the questions that are the final arbiter in any domain – does this actually work? Why? How can it be improved?

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