SOME REFLECTIONS ON MY — Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper & Row, 1975 (Editor and Contributor).
I’ve always tried to experience some of the altered states that I studied in a more than intellectual fashion, feeling that an “inside” view as well as an “outside” view combined are more comprehensive and correct than either one alone. Thus I’ve spent a lot of my time involved in various spiritual movements, practicing various psychological techniques. Not that I’m personally good at them: I long ago, for example, gave up the idea that I would ever be a “meditator,” as I had no success at all with attempts to meditate. Fortunately this changed a lot in a workshop with meditation teacher Shinzen Young once. In retrospect, I realized that all the ways I’d been taught to meditate began with instructions on the order of “Please quiet your mind and then…” Well my mind is so active, I could never get to the and then part… 🙂
Not that I’m an “accomplished” meditator, but I have experiential tastes of some aspects of meditation and, indeed, I occasionally teach a webinar on it.
One of the things working with various spiritual systems did was show me that all of them were actually psychologies. They had theories and observations about how the mind works, how consciousness is developed, what its potentialities are, what are some of the ways it can go wrong, etc. Thus there was not only the formal Western psychology I was educated in, there were several other psychologies, but because of our own cultural prejudices, they were largely invisible to us, being dismissed as “religious beliefs” or something like that. Yet here were quite intelligent people seeing the world in different ways from me and other Westerners: could we be missing something?
Transpersonal Psychologies resulted from my asking a number of people who were experts in particular spiritual disciplines to write descriptions of these disciplines not as religions or spiritual paths, but as psychologies, dealing with many of the basic issues in contemporary psychology. The result was a whole, fascinating series of psychologies, many of which revealed the narrowness of our own thinking. Not that I think any particular spiritual system has it all right. Indeed, like any organized body of human knowledge, I think lots of them have it wrong in many ways – we need progress in spirituality, not just respect. But if you can be made aware that what you think is an obvious truth is based on certain assumptions which are questionable, you have a chance to take a broader view and learn something new.
Transpersonal Psychologies has chapters on the psychologies in Buddhism, Christianity, Yoga, Sufism, Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way, and the Western Magical Tradition, as well as several of my overviews on spiritual traditions in general, as well as empirical parapsychological findings that suggest there are realities in spiritual traditions, not just imaginary experiences.
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