Ideal science and Real Science: Don’t You Dare Question My Objectivity!

I’ve recently been in correspondence with a young graduate student who has been dismayed to find out how much subjectivity can occur in her life when she is supposed to be a scientist, training in a hard, respected physical science.  I think many people in general, who are overly impressed by science, as well as other people training in any sciences, will be interested in what I wrote to her.  I noted:

It strikes me you’re getting a lot of advanced tutoring in real science.  Ideal science is done by completely rational people, nobly searching for the truth, with no biases of any sort, and certainly no “lower emotional processes” affecting the quality of their reasoning.  This makes being a scientist an extremely high prestige position, so naturally, since we are attached to our high prestige social positions, no one would want to admit that their practice of science is anything but that.

Then we come to real science, which is done by actual human beings.  Real human beings have emotional brains that operate faster than their rational brains, have needs to succeed and be accepted, fears that they won’t succeed or be accepted, etc.  To varying degrees real scientists work to overcome their emotional problems (with various degrees of success) and biases, and, in the long run, the need for replication and reproducibility in science tends to filter out results which really are due to the bias of particular individual investigators.  But the “long run” can sometimes be generations or longer, not one journal issue to the next.

So yes, doing something parapsychological like ESP or PK involves using very delicate psychological faculties, and we don’t know anywhere near enough to control all the angles.  Recognizing this is a step in maturity, knowing your own human qualities.

To give you an example of the human factor in science, one of my friends about 30 years ago was a graduate student in geology in a leading department.  Now you don’t get a much “harder” science than geology, do you, all those hard, solid rocks?  But he and I had some discussions about the psychological phenomenon of projection, the very powerful human ability to see what you believe, with no idea that you’re actually projecting your beliefs into something.  So I mentioned that my wife, who loves geology, would often, on our hikes, say that we were looking at such and such a formation – and I couldn’t see it.  What was apparently clear to her was a lot of lines running every which-a-way to me.  She would regard me as ignorant, and I would tease her that maybe geologists were making all these things up.  So my friend mentioned to his geology professors that perhaps they should do some studies to see just how objective and reliable geological classifications were — and they practically threw him out of the department!  He learned to keep his mouth shut after that.

So, we tend to talk about the “hard” and “soft” sciences, physics versus sociology, e.g., but I prefer to talk about the hard and the easy sciences.  Things like physics, chemistry, etc. are the easy sciences.  It doesn’t matter what you had for breakfast the morning before you come into the lab, your relationship with your partner, etc., the same old things reliably happen in your experiments.  Sciences like psychology or parapsychology are the really hard, difficult sciences because all these subtle things do matter, and, not only do we not know much about the specifics of that, we don’t want to know because we still cling to our feeling that we are superior, objective beings, scientists!

Welcome to reality.  Tread carefully, especially around other human beings who are too invested in their objectivity.


  1. Thank you for that letter Dr Tart. I’m still not sure if what I’m doing with PK is hard science or just plain hard. But I’m doing the best I can with it.

    I’m actually on a break from graduate school. I would like to return and finish the doctorate at some point, but I have a lot of stuff to sort through first. Part of what I need to sort through is exactly what kind of scientist I want to be when I grow up. Thanks for providing me with some food for thought in that regard. 🙂

  2. helo Dr.Tart
    I not find your email,your contact link on your homepage not work.
    after all, can I ask you here :blush:

    My name is Szes Istvan from Hungary(EU).

    Please help me.
    My english is bad,sorry,i use english translator software.
    I had a spontaneous near death experience in 1995.
    I do not use drugs ..full spontaneus
    Himself competent person in REAL OBE experiment theme.
    My experience is Not hallucination ,100% REAL experience(s) with typical near death experience “effects”.

    Were more since then but not full(i frightened and not allow),only full in 1995 dec.
    The “main” NDE happened in 1995 with typical effects,like in Dr.Moody books.
    But the first “NDE approach” happened to 3 weeks before it(only feeling and sound effects) but i frightened.

    The MAIN experience in 1995 december:
    I not sleep,see my wall of room and possible closed my eyes for a moments but not sleep.
    and from the first sounds i will immediately alert and i watch the procedure.

    1.Noises (in my head) come from “far”

    2.Then easy wight feeling with vibrant energybody feeling 0,5m from the body with strengthening rumbling

    3.Big explosion from the body(tunnel effected sound,i create hobby time musics,i tried the channel effect)

    4.I am an exterior observer,my psysical body under me on the bed 3,5 -4-5m from me and everything shows in beautiful unspeacable color ,possible blue with green and little smoke or clouds float under me,possible these clouds refract the light what is light from my back, because of this so indescribable his colour.I swim in a spacious maximal dark emptiness above my bed in silence.

    5.I frightened and rehearse to look at around and somebody does not allow it that let me look up or i frightened maximal.

    6.My frightened attains the maximum and i “say” in my head(soulhead) “go back” “go back” and i down exploded back to my body

    All in morning awake state in bed,i feel(and hear), if the NDE/OBE/ is “present”, depends on me allow or not the begin of “typical NDE sequence with all sound effects”.
    I did not want it for a long time but now in 2011nov24 i allowed and occurred again but was not “full”
    (i not go out to “out of body” perspective to “tunnel”/dark place/)But i was able to observe (FEEL) my astralbody(“I the thinker” like in the MAIN NDE,in second point:FEEL vibrant enerybody)HOW RECURS TO MY BODY from 0,5m.The astralbody(or “I the thinker” the soul …..) is BLIND in this state.
    I see after the full separation only,3-4-5-6 metre from the body.

    I am thinking about him 16 of his years,and nowi have found the ketamine and other drug “theory”.
    I read and disturbs me the communicated hallucinogene experiences.This teory confuses many men than me.

    My question not REAL or nor REAL.
    The NDE 100% real NO DOUBT.

    But why?

    A have a theory(99%).(I am afraid to say it incredible)

    Questions come out,possible anybody smoking Ketamine or other drugs in my enviroment in early day?

    Perhaps in the first time my brother also was sleeping in the room.

    -I do not know in those years he used it the drugs(marihuana) or in a next year started it?

    -Possible he smoked marihuana beside me in room when i slept /in the first NDE happening/???
    I questioned it and said it: not

    -I do not know this people smoked clear marihuana or PCP Ketamine mixture?
    I questioned it “what kind of “smoke type” drugs used” and not said it:only marihuana

    I started reading in the ketamine or another drug theme and I was looking for someone to say:”real adventure happened to him from drugs”

    But i not find.

    And i got to your studies projects/homepge/blog.(Mis Z? and the sucessfull spontaneus OBE test,an i read your “marihuana” studies,but the subjects reports is inconclusive,nowhere in the internet information or report real OBE from marihuana,like wikipedia etc…would be a big world sensation)

    You in whole life researching from REAL OBE.
    You’re certainly looking for any solution to prove that the phenomenon.And you know the all informations(studies,tests,projects) in this theme.

    My questions:

    -The ketamine or other drug consequence is real out of body experience?

    -Why there are no studies?,you know similar experiments,like your precise OBE experiments,but with DRUGS?

    Like this:
    I thought up a precise test:

    a/.The patient lies down onto the bed
    b/.His eye is tied up
    c/.A figure or an object are placed near(outside his visual field)
    d/.Takes the ketamine or any drug
    e/.If real the drug experince then the patient see the figure or object from out of body perspective

    This it’s very simple experiment and explains everything
    the drugs gives a real experience this or hallucination.

    I do not find a source in the internet from a real test like this.

    I know(i read from information) from work of Dr Rick Strassman,Ronald K.Siegel,Stanislav Grof,Karl Jensen…..

    But so far have not found information from REAL DRUG OBE tests.

    Thank you from your time.

    Best regards

    1. The English translation software is very interesting, but I may not fully understand all you said.
      But going to the final question, people, including scientists committed to Materialism, want very much to explain OBEs and NDEs “away,” that is be able to say they are not what they seem, there is no “soul” that leaves the body and looks at things from outside.
      So in general I find the comparisons of OBEs and NDEs to ketamine experiences interesting, but the similarity is very rough, far too inconclusive to call it a good explanation. Also you would have to take ketamine or marijuana directly yourself for it to produce an OBE-like experience in you, unless you are extraordinarily sensitive to extremely tiny amounts of these drugs which might reach you through the air. So I don’t know why this happened to you, but that’s generally true about these phenomena, we don’t know a particular cause.
      Being frightened while they happen is also natural, it’s startingly different, but just because you feel afraid of something does not necessarily mean it’s actually dangerous. So you might relax. Chances are it will never happen again, but if it does, stay calm and observe what happens. The beauty might be worth a little fear…..

  3. Hi Dr. Tart,

    After hearing you on the Buddhist Geeks podcast, Evidence based spirituality for the 21st Century, I become and instant fan of your work. Unfortunately I have been unable to get a copy of your book as yet. I’m living in Shanghai and have no credit card right now.

    I wanted to get in touch, but the email link on your other site isn’t working so I’m writing you here, and will try to express myself in brief. I have practised meditation for 16 years, including many retreats and teaching around the world. In that time I have had experiences of a Transcendental nature. A couple of times the state of consciousness took months to fade, and left my inner-life and sense of self changed in too many ways to recount here; when Time is suddenly completely removed and one beholds Eternity, the mind, its personal structure collapses. There is the terror of death, experience of causeless being… I could go on…

    Anyway, I was trained in a very ‘scientific’ approach, in the sense that oneself is the lab, beliefs and assumptions are suspended and experience is the evidence etc.

    I have so many things to say about the impact of materialism, the many unseen assumptions we carry as a result, its effect on our inner-faculties and its possible future consequences, and have a lot of things to say about the debate on Buddhist Geeks about rebirth. From an experiential perspective.

    I recently started a blog to express some of my experience and develop in writing the ‘ideas’ (if that’s the right word) inspired by it.

    It’s at I humbly hope you have the time to take a look, and also hope that the thrust of it strikes a chord.

    I’m writing you, mainly for advice as to how I can continue to develop this work, in some kind of academic setting, and proper academic supervision and resources. Right now, I’m about as far from being able to do so. I don’t have the money, I don’t have an undergrad degree (I was a young rebel that left my Psychology degree to go and meditate non-stop for a year… after that, it was hard to go back), and I’m not living in the US, where the best opportunities for this work are.

    I was thinking of taking Classics, perhaps, with Open Uni. To delve into ancient mythology and philosophy, make a comparative study of western and eastern in the light of the ‘insight’ that my practices have afforded me. But also to apply such research to the understanding of spiritual issues, integration, and synthesis for today and the future, plus an exposition of a new kind of experiential approach, one that may be able to experientially break through some of the new challenges that the materialist mind poses to our current well-known approaches (developed at a time when the effects of such materialism wasn’t the same kind of issue it is now).

    If this is something that you are interested in corresponding about, or you have ideas, suggestions, or contacts, I would dearly love to take it further.

    Best regards,


    PS. Love this post, and the perspective you gave to the grad. student by the way.

    1. Dear Ashok,
      I’m very frustrated in trying to figure out the best way to respond to you. When I was a student, I wasn’t tempted to go off and meditate for a year, as nobody at that time, in the culture I knew, even knew such a thing was possible, much less did it. And when you have a wife and children it really isn’t much of an option. So I stayed in the academic world, even though there’s a lot of pressures, prejudices, and other drawbacks there, but also a decent enough salary to keep my family from need. Although I never thought of it as “playing the game,” I published a lot of articles and books and got promoted (more slowly than was fair, but that’s another story) through the ranks. Paid my dues, as it were, and ended up semi-retired with enough to live on. But there were many days when I would sit at my desk and think “What do I like to do? I like to read and learn things, I love to do experiments, I love to share what I’ve learned, teach people – and, incredibly, they pay me to do this!”
      But you never finished your undergraduate degree and don’t have the money to go back to school to get an advanced degree – that’s the usual and almost absolutely necessary credential to hope to get supported for researching and writing. You could probably gradually finish at least an undergraduate and eventually a graduate degree over the web – and I’ll certainly put in a good word for ITP’s Global Program that does this – but I don’t know if you’d want to do this. If you are credentialed, though, you have an advantage in sharing what you know with people – they immediately give you more respect (whether you actually deserve it or not). I sometimes kid our graduate students, “Right now you’re just Mr. Smith, a student, with a lot of opinions of no great value, but someday you’ll be Dr. Smith, an Authority with considered evaluations and knowledge instead of mere opinions.” 😉
      So if you want to reach people and share what you’ve learned with them, and don’t do the academic route, you’re going to have to become a skilled writer who can charm your readers into paying serious attention. And this could work out very well! I’ve been more personally moved and inspired by some writings by “lay” people than I have been by learned professors, who have grand words but whose writings don’t feel like they are backed by real experience.
      How do you become a great writer? I wish I knew! All I can say about my writing is that I try to be completely honest, discriminating between what I think or hope is true but don’t really know versus what I have a good experiential feeling for. Putting it another way, I know people are likely to project too much wisdom on to my writings because I am a Professor and an Authority, so I try to not let that go to my head and write plainly and clearly. You’re already starting down that path with your blog. I started to say I hope it leads to some wonderful books some day, but the future of old-fashioned book publishing is very murky now, but internet fame is possible.
      Speaking of “fame,” I would love, of course, for all my books to be best-sellers, but I know that’s fantasy. But when I get one letter or email from someone whose life is a little clearer because of something I’ve written, that makes all the work worthwhile.
      If you do decide to do the academic route, I’ll add a writing of mine on career choices here. I used to refer people to it on my main archival web site, but somebody hacked the server it was hosted on and my webmaster hasn’t had the time to put stuff back together.
      Good luck!

      Careers in Consciousness Research, Parapsychology and/or Transpersonal Psychology
      Charles T. Tart
      (revision of November 2009)

      The contents of this document are Copyright © 2009 by Charles T. Tart.

      I get many letters from prospective graduate students who want to study human consciousness, parapsychology, transpersonal psychology, or some combination of these fields, either with me or somewhere: thus this brief note, trying to condense decades of experience into a few pages.

      Because these areas are so important for a real understanding of human nature, and have so much to potentially contribute to making our world a better place, I am inspired by students’ interest in working in these areas! I want to encourage your interests, but also give practical advice about studying these areas in order to make a career in them.

      Note that I give this “practical” advice with ambivalence. I feel an obligation to give realistic assessments to young people who will have to make a living in the modern world, even though the “practical” side will often mean having to suppress or deny the idealism that you still have. In my own case, I followed my own ideals in making career choices because I believed, and still believe, that the application of real science (as opposed to scientism) to understand the spiritual and make it more effective in our time is so vital. So I really appreciate the students who say “Yes, I may not make a good material living and have good job security if I follow my heart, but I will follow it anyway!”

      As Tom Potterfield, a former President of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology nicely put it, when we were discussing students with spiritual interests who go to conventional graduate schools and find, unfortunately, that they have to hide their deep interests because of widespread prejudice in such schools, “It would seem unhealthy for someone to go a place where that they had to hide or stuff their deepest desires just to fit in better. Life is too short to live under false pretenses.”

      To start: because I am well known in these fields, people often believe there is an active, graduate level program in one or all of those fields at the University of California at Davis where I taught for 28 years, but, unfortunately, the truth is that I was rather alone at UCD in being interested in consciousness, parapsychology and transpersonal psychology, and UCD had hardly any course work at all in them, much less a real program. Further, I retired from the UCD in 1993 in order to devote my time to more focused teaching in transpersonal psychology and to writing, so I no longer teach there at all, and there are no courses at UCD in these areas, to my knowledge.

      If your interest in consciousness research can be focused on a relatively accepted aspect of it (cognitive psychology or biofeedback, e.g., or some area that is “legitimatized” in terms of current fashion, such as by appearing to have some neurological basis), you may be able to find professors at some mainstream universities doing research in areas that you could work with. Check reference sources like Psychological Abstracts, Psych Lit, MedLine and do internet searches to see who is doing work in these areas and what institutions they are at, then write them directly. In the last few years the study of consciousness, long considered taboo and unscientific, has gained a fair amount of legitimacy in various mainstream fields of science (although a main thrust tends to be explaining consciousness “away” in terms of brain functioning). The University of Arizona has also started programs and occasional on-line courses in consciousness research: you can write Jim Laukes at the University of Arizona Extended University, PO Box 210158, 888 North Euclid Avenue, Tucson AZ 85721-1058, phone: 520-626-9061; Fax: 520-621-3269, email jlaukes@U.Arizona.EDU, web site at ( (You may need to search the web for a more current address for this program, things can change fast) This web site will also keep you informed about the biannual Tucson “Toward a Science of Consciousness” conferences, which are a must for the serious consciousness researcher. Seeing who is presenting what at the Tucson conferences is also one of the best and most current ways to see what is happening in relatively mainstream consciousness research.

      If your primary interest is in transpersonal psychology or parapsychology, things get much tougher. You can forget mainstream academic institutions if you really want to get involved during graduate school. A further complication arises from whether your interest originates primarily from your head or your heart.


      First let me define some terms: When I say “parapsychology,” I mean the field of scientific research carried out by people trained in some recognized scientific discipline (almost none are trained in parapsychology per se, due to lack of specialized programs, but come from biology, physics, psychology, etc.), research focused on understanding the nature of phenomena like telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis (PK), psychic healing, etc. The emphasis here is on high quality, controlled laboratory experiments that produce experiments up to or (typically) exceeding the methodological standards in other recognized fields of scientific inquiry, as well as a willingness to accept negative results (psychic functioning often fails to manifest in real life!), because the search for truth is far more important than one’s own beliefs.

      Almost all investigators working in scientific parapsychology are members of the international Parapsychological Association , with full membership usually requiring a Ph.D. degree in some recognized field and evidence of published contributions to the field in refereed (meaning competent colleagues have judged the work to meet basic scientific standards), scientific journals. Fairly detailed information about scientific parapsychology and generally agreed on findings to date can be found via links from my web archives or from my most recent book, The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together.” Other important sources are the guides to parapsychology on the internet at , from the Parapsychological Association , and from the Parapsychology Foundation .

      In an ideal world (at least by my and most of my colleagues’ preferences), anyone identified as a “parapsychologist” would meet these scientific standards, but the reality is that some people popularly identified as “parapsychologists” do not have graduate degrees in the sciences, often do not understand what the discipline of science is about, and, if they have any publications, they are not in refereed journals but in popular books and magazines where some of the few truths we know about parapsychological phenomena are too often indiscriminately mixed up with personal beliefs, careless and sometimes incorrect reporting of events, and sometimes just plain fantasy or fraud. There is no legal restriction on who can call themselves parapsychologists. Because of this, the few of us who have tried to do quality scientific research on the field get considerable extra rejection from mainstream science because we are ignorantly lumped in with these others. In spite of all the work I’ve done in parapsychology, for example, work I’m scientifically proud of, when I’m introduced as a parapsychologist I almost always try to correct this to my identity as a psychologist (where there are some legal standards), part of whose research has been in parapsychology.

      I am not saying that only someone with a Ph.D. should be allowed to be interested in parapsychological phenomena: that would be silly. Many interested people are operating more from their feelings rather than from the intellectual discipline of science. As in any area of life, such feelings may be mature sensitivities of the heart, or may be neurotic distortions of reality in the service of personal needs. Some of these people are very intelligent and discriminating in spite of lack of formal scientific training, others believe and promulgate any sort of dubious reports and ideas if they’re called “psychic.” I just wish people working primarily from feelings or some spiritual belief system would clearly identify themselves as such, not act as if they were scientists, and so not make it so much harder for those of us trying to do scientific work. By analogy, I am all for people who are unconventional healers (if they get results that physicians can’t get), but I’m also all for putting such people in jail if they falsely call themselves physicians. “Physician” is well understood by people to mean many years of intense training in conventional medical disciplines, and those who aren’t so trained shouldn’t mislead others.

      I’ve gone on this long to make it clear that my advice about careers in parapsychology is primarily for those who want to do scientific research. If this isn’t your primary interest, that’s OK, let’s just not be confused about it. Perhaps transpersonal psychology (which is also one of my careers) is a more appropriate professional interest for you, for while much scientific research needs to be done in it, most of its current practitioners are working as therapists and counselors, helping people with emotional and spiritual problems, a necessary and noble undertaking. Of course it would be better if we had much more scientific knowledge in transpersonal psychology, but meanwhile real people have psychological and spiritual needs that they can use assistance with! And I have a heart too, as well as a head…

      Transpersonal Psychology:

      To partly define transpersonal psychology, here are parts of the definition from an earlier catalog of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology (ITP):

      Transpersonal psychology is a fundamental area of research, scholarship and application based on people’s experiences of temporarily transcending our usual identification with our limited biological, historical, cultural and personal self and, at the deepest and most profound levels of experience possible, recognizing/being “something” of vast intelligence and compassion that encompasses/is the entire universe. From this perspective our ordinary, “normal” biological, historical, cultural and personal self is seen as an important, but quite partial (and often pathologically distorted) manifestation or expression of this much greater “something” that is our deeper origin and destination………Transpersonal experiences generally have a profoundly transforming effect on the lives of those who experience them, both inspiring those experiencers with an understanding of great love, compassion and non-ordinary kinds of intelligence, and also making them more aware of the distorting and pathological limitations of their ordinary selves that must be worked with and transformed for full psychological and spiritual maturity…….

      Transpersonal psychology is now my primary vocation, and I see my scientific parapsychology work as a subset of the transpersonal field. Since retiring from UCD, I have been teaching part time at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (ITP) (1069 East Meadow Circle, Palo Alto CA 94303, 650 493-4430. This fully accredited (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), independent graduate school offers MA and Ph.D. degrees in transpersonal psychology, as well as distant learning, our Global Ph.D., and MA programs) programs, with a far broader range of subjects taught than in conventional psychology programs. We are working on modifying our residential PhD program to make it more feasible for part-time students who need to keep earning a living. We also offer a PsyD program in clinical psychology with a transpersonal emphasis. One cost of emphasis in transpersonal psychology is less depth in conventional psychology, of course. ITP is supported almost exclusively from student tuition fees (if you know any wealthy philanthropists, endowments are badly needed, especially to allow more research!), so it cannot provide all the luxuries of mainstream institutions, which have considerable taxpayer pr endowment support. In spite of being “poor” in terms of finances, though, a number of ITP students have won national awards for outstanding dissertations.

      (I also taught for a year in the transpersonally oriented East West Studies program of the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) (9 Peter Yorke Way, San Francisco, CA 94109, 415 674-5500, web site at, although I no longer work there.)

      Careers in Transpersonal Psychology:

      In terms of realistic career advice, I should note that transpersonal psychology is a relatively new area and still considered “marginal” (at best) or “pseudo science” (at worst) by many in (biased) mainstream psychology. If your goal is a tenured faculty position at a major university, with the ample time for research that the low teaching loads in these institutions allow, please understand that a degree from a transpersonal school will not be looked upon with favor, indeed will probably give you much less chance of being hired than a degree from most mainstream institutions. Being new and poor, transpersonal psychologists usually make a living teaching (often part-time, due to lack of positions) or doing clinical-like counseling practice or leading growth oriented work. (A fair number of our graduate students already have a career that they go back to, adding a transpersonal touch to it.) Of course if your interests in parapsychology and/or transpersonal psychology arise primarily from your heart, this is no disadvantage at all! If you can work well from both heart and head, wonderful! Importantly, ITP tries to educate its students’ emotions, body, social skills, spiritual life and creativity as well as their intellectual sides, which is unique in higher education, where putting clever words in one’s head is the main and usually the exclusive program.

      (If this sometimes sounds like a commercial for ITP, sorry, but I am enthusiastic about this marvelous experiment in education, even if we lack perfection!)
      If you are primarily interested in doing research, realize that very few transpersonal psychologists can afford to devote more than a small part of their time to research (even though it’s desperately needed). I was luckily able to do a lot of research in my career because I taught at a mainstream school like UCD where faculty teaching loads are light, so faculty have time for research. ITP gives a basic, graduate level education in research methods, including exposure to many methods more suitable for transpersonal and consciousness research, but it is sometimes not up to the level of methodological sophistication found in specialized mainstream schools: there’s only so much time in a program.

      I recently gave an hour’s informal talk about ITP and you can access that at ****URL.
      I am fairly passionate about what kind of students I want to come to ITP also. If job security and mainstream acceptance are your primary goals, it’s not the place for you. If you are sincerely dedicated to advancing and applying our growing scientific and psychological knowledge of the genuinely spiritual to helping the world, ITP is one of the very, very few places that will not only support your ideals, but give you tools for doing this!

      Some people solve the problem of wanting the advantages of a mainstream position (they are real, even if the costs are high) versus the greater importance of the depths of transpersonal psychology by going to a mainstream school (where they are wisely discrete about their deeper interests – many prejudiced mainstream professors will write you off as crazy if you let them know of all your interests – it shouldn’t be this way, but it is), but keep up with transpersonal psychology or parapsychology by joining the Association for Transpersonal Psychology (address below), which holds an annual meeting and publishes the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, and/or reading the parapsychological journals (see ASPR address below, e.g., and other listing on my website). Membership in the Institute of Noetic Sciences is also very helpful for keeping up via their annual meetings and publications.

      In terms of other possibilities (few, unfortunately), especially in parapsychology, you might write the American Society for Psychical Research at 5 West 73rd St., New York, NY 10023, 212-799-5050, for their current list of schools offering some (usually one) parapsychology courses or programs, and the Association for Transpersonal Psychology, Box 3049, Stanford, CA 94305, 650 327-2066, for schools offering courses or programs in transpersonal psychology. But please note that scientific parapsychology is a minuscule field, with only a few dozen people in the entire world working in it, most only part time. Unless there is an unexpected change that infuses a lot of money into the field, I must warn you that chances of a decent job, if you can find training, are small indeed. If you are so dedicated that this news won’t stop you, that’s wonderful! But be realistic.

      The Rhine Institute (formerly the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man), the successor of J. B. Rhine’s parapsychology lab at Duke University, used to offer an 8-week summer training program each year that was very good (and usually the only thing available) for getting a solid introduction to scientific parapsychology. It may or may still be available. You can write them at 2741 Campus Walk Ave, Durham, NC 27705 (phone 919 688-8241. They are also a good source of advice about training and careers in parapsychology.

      [Note added 2003: a graduate program in parapsychology which looks like it will be excellent has just started in Britain at University College Northmapton, write the Director, Professor Deborah Delanoy at for information] [The outstanding parapsychology program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland may still be functioning – check – Europe may become the leader in parapsychological research.] There was briefly a graduate level parapsychology training program from 1994 at the Rosebridge School of Integrative Psychology, but it has been discontinued. A successor, on-line program has recently started: contact is Professor Jon Klimo ( to see how this will develop.

      In terms of keeping up with my work in consciousness, parapsychology and transpersonal psychology, you can go to my web site ( where reprints of many of my articles are available, as well as instructions on mail ordering (and, hopefully, eventual online download purchase) some of my books that are otherwise listed as out of print. The site also list my speaking and media appearances. I have a blog accessible from that site discussing parapsychology, consciousness and transpersonal psychology.

      There are so many other things I could say, but I’m sure you’re overwhelmed by now, so I’ll stop. Again, I really appreciate your ambition and idealism in wanting to work in these fields! We need you, but the opportunities are, as I’ve sadly said, more limited than is needed.

      Parapsychology, transpersonal psychology and consciousness research in general are vitally important fields for understanding our nature and possibilities. It’s too bad there’s so much prejudice to fight in scientists who should know better.

      Whatever you do, good luck!

      Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you think may be interested.

      With best wishes for your career,

      Charles T. Tart, Ph.D.

      [Please note that things can change faster than I can keep this letter up to date, so check out the links to various parapsychology sites in the links section as several of them also have career advice and up to date information on course offerings, etc., that may not appear in this letter.]

      1. Thank you so much for your reply!

        Right now, I feel being credentialed is the way to go. It’s not just reaching people to share what’s there to give, it’s also making a significant contribution to research and understanding in some kind of legitimised way.

        After having a look at the ITP website, it actually looks like I have a lot to contribute from experience, not only to learn! Like you, my sphere of interest fits best within the Transpersonal Psychology milieu more than Parapsychology. In pondering study I had been leaning towards Philosophy and Classics (Open Uni online), chiefly because I find most (not all) of mainstream Psychology empty and disappointing, or at best mildly interesting. But on the whole still deeply confused and groping.

        We tend to be more than a little arrogant in our materialist assumptions when attempting to understand the rich and alive consciousness of antiquity. In that regard, I highly highly recommend Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Secret of the Vedas’. He is the modern epitome of Scholar-Saint, and revolutionary before his time. I feel that these most ancient records (and not just Indian) will have modern relevance to us again as we face a future made confused and divided by post-modern relativity and materialistic hijacking of Reason.

        Also, I’m not terribly interested in becoming a therapist, having worked (and taught) in that direction before (in an unaccredited but extremely profound alternative way – something I’d love to expand on with you but not on a public forum, if you are interested). I feel I have something to contribute and give on a wider scale.

        So… having said all that, doing the Masters or Ph.D program through the Global online courses could really be a great option for me if it was at all possible. I feel like I have Thesis brewing inside me already! Just need the right supervision and access to books, research, resources etc. to bring it out.

        Any help in that direction would be more than amazing. I would be deeply indebted!

        Many thanks again and best regards,


  4. Dr. Tart, thank you for this and all your writings (how do you manage to be so prolific?).

    I started reading Richard Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, and upon reading the following in his introduction, was immediately reminded of your “Ideal Science…” article. In any case, I thought I’d share it with you and your readers.

    pax, amor et lux,
    John Lolis

    Each piece, or part, of the whole of nature is always merely an approximation to the complete truth, or the complete truth so far as we know it. In fact, everything we know is only some kind of approximation, because we know that we do not know all the laws as yet. Therefore, things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected.

    The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific “truth.” But what is the source of knowledge? Where do the laws that are to be tested come from? Experiment, itself, helps to produce these laws, in the sense that it gives us hints. But also needed is imagination to create from these hints the great generalizations—to guess at the wonderful, simple, but very strange patterns beneath them all, and then to experiment to check again whether we have made the right guess. This imagining process is so difficult that there is a division of labor in physics: there are theoretical physicists who imagine, deduce, and guess at new laws, but do not experiment; and then there are experimental physicists who experiment, imagine, deduce, and guess.

    1. A nice reminder of the value of, on the one hand, daring and, on the other hand, humility. Dare to imagine how things might be, get clear enough on that so it’s a theory with observable consequences. But be humble enough to not get carried away by the feeling of being smart, go out and test that theory. A good rule for life, not just science. Try to figure things out, but don’t get too attached, intellectually or emotionally, to any ideas, keep checking back with what actually happens in life……

  5. “But be humble enough to not get carried away by the feeling of being smart, go out and test that theory. A good rule for life, not just science.”
    Well said.

    1. And it needs to be said over and over and over! It feels SO GOOD to feel smart! So let’s be smart, but be even smarter by not being caught at an intermediate stage of better understanding of just feeling smart…

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