From Moses and Monotheism to Buddha and Behaviorism: Cognitive Behavior Therapy's Transpersonal Crisis

By Seiden, Douglas Y.; Lam, KaNei | Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

From Moses and Monotheism to Buddha and Behaviorism: Cognitive Behavior Therapy's Transpersonal Crisis


Seiden, Douglas Y., Lam, KaNei, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology


ABSTRACT: Philosophers of science in psychology have traditionally defined the field in such a way as to keep it distinct from inquiry into external referents of transpersonal experience. The cognitive behavioral mindfulness therapies (MTs) provide a forum for increased assimilation by the mainstream discipline of knowledge and skills drawn from the perennial psychologies and technologies of transcendence, and for accommodation of psychology's own world hypotheses, root metaphors and truth criteria. The science-metaphysics debate in psychology is presented, including the pragmatism of William James, the radical behaviorism of B.F. Skinner, and the functional contextualism of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Classical and operant behavioral approaches to mysticism are explored, with a proposal for an integral behaviorism incorporating ''putative events'' associated with anomalous states. The authors recommend a Transpersonal Cognitive Behavior Therapy drawing from the full range of wisdom tradition teachings in a manner that is entheo-syntonic with a given client's world view.

Reality may be merely an inference and, according to some authorities, a bad one. What is important may not be the physical world on the far side of the skin but what that world means to us on this side.

-B. F. Skinner (The steep and thorny way to a science of behavior, 1975, p. 43)

With our thoughts we make the world.

-S.G. Buddha (Byrom,Dhammapada:The sayings of theBuddha, 1976, p. 1)

In 1939, the reigning psychological explanatory model of the day, psychoanalysis, ventured into scientifically uncharted territory to investigate the ''true'' relationship between Moses and Monotheism (Freud, 1939/1967). In 1984, behaviorism employed its own investigatory method, behavioral analysis, for a similar feat. Here, the quest was nothing short of scientifically explaining mystical experiences such as nothingness, immortality, unity and omnipresence (Hayes, 1984). In both cases, a prevailing scientific theory was used as an alternative to unfavored truth criteria (i.e., the Bible, mystics and the man in the street) to arrive at a scientifically palatable conclusion (in the former, that Moses learned monotheism from Akhenaten, and not from God; in the latter, that metaphysics, for the game of science, is overvalued linguistics).

In a recent survey of historians of American psychology and founders of transpersonal psychology, it was suggested that '' ... the emergence of mindfulness practice and Buddhist psychology as flourishing domains in mainstream academic and clinical psychology'' may be a sign that ''Perhaps American psychology is just now, 40 years following Maslow's declaration of a fourth force, ready to embrace a transpersonal perspective on psychology'' (Ruzek, 2007, p. 173). The integration of historically esoteric spiritual techniques such as meditation and mindfulness into mainstream scientific psychotherapy has been a welcome development in the evolving field. As to be expected, the theoretical and technical implications of the endeavor have provoked both controversy and cautions (Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Moran, 2008; Styron, 2005). We might even consider the discipline's rising tide of existential self-inquiry, provoked by the ''Third Wave'' cognitive behavior therapies, as indicative of a crisis of spiritual emergence (Grof & Grof, 1986/1993) for a nascent ''transpersonal behaviorism'' (Tart, 1979). There is nothing better for science than some healthy disagreement and finger pointing (at the moon or otherwise), and the advent of the cognitive behavioral mindfulness therapies (MTs, or ''empties'') promises to provide both.

THE JAMESIAN PARADOX: HOW PSYCHOLOGY LOST ITS SOUL AND BECAME TRANSPERSONAL

In a historical sense, ''transpersonal psychology,'' far from being oxymoronically neologistic, as some would have us believe, is redundantly archaic. Until the mid- to late 19th century, psychology was the doctrine of the soul and an ally of religion (Reed, 1997).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

From Moses and Monotheism to Buddha and Behaviorism: Cognitive Behavior Therapy's Transpersonal Crisis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?