On the Scientific Foundations of Transpersonal Psychology: Contributions from Parapsychology

By Tart, Charles T. | Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

On the Scientific Foundations of Transpersonal Psychology: Contributions from Parapsychology


Tart, Charles T., Journal of Transpersonal Psychology


ABSTRACT: As a field, transpersonal psychology is largely ignored, and at best marginal from the perspective of mainstream science, which is dominated by scientistic materialism. Its prime subject matter, transpersonal experience, is held to be inherently illusory and frequently pathological. From a scientistic perspective, mind is considered to be only the operation of the brain and nervous system. Experiences which appear to transcend these physical limits are illusions. The author argues that essential science (the basic scientific method), as it has been applied in the similarly criticized field of parapsychology, demonstrates with high scientific rigor that the mind is more than the brain and so provides an empirical basis for considering many transpersonal phenomena as having reality. While there are political costs in allying with another controversial field, in the long run the case for transpersonal psychology can be based on a rigorous scientific base such as parapsychology provides.

At the first all-professional transpersonal psychology conference, sponsored by the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and the Association for Transpersonal Psychology in February, 2004,1 presented a lecture with the deliberately provocative title, Flakey California nonsense in a scientific age? Is there any scientific support for transpersonal psychology? This paper will explore those questions in three major sections. The first will address the scientific, scholarly, and practical status of transpersonal psychology as a discipline, a focus on what we might call the "politics" of the field. Are we going to continue to be thought of as those folks from California and their New Age sympathizers who are a bunch of flakes? Or are we going to be considered as reputable professionals with something of value to contribute in this modern age? In the second section I will talk about reality rather than politics, the scientific and ontological foundations of transpersonal psychology. In the third section I return to the questions of politics: what is liable to advance or hinder our field, given current social reality, and conclude by considering the question of what we should do. We will begin by looking at another field, parapsychology, which is in a similar situation to transpersonal psychology. The central theme of this article focuses on the potential contribution of scientific parapsychology to transpersonal psychology.

POLITICS-SOLID FIELD OR FLAKEY FIELD?

I have raised similar kinds of questions for the field of parapsychology (Tart, 2001b), as a substantial part of my career has been spent functioning as a parapsychologist. I have been disappointed in many of my colleagues in parapsychology because they want mainstream scientific acceptance so badly that they tend to downplay or ignore the really important and interesting aspects of the findings of parapsychological studies-as if mainstream scientists won't notice the revolutionary, and hence threatening, aspects of parapsychological findings if they are not reminded of them. Too many of my parapsychological colleagues tend to act as if our findings have no human significance, talking frequently about "anomalies," for example, or statistical fluctuations, and hiding behind really fine methodology. But somehow in the emphasis on the rigor of the methodology, they've lost touch with what's really important. Yet I have found that this is not the way it all started. A surprising number of parapsychologists came into the field as a result of spiritual interests (Tart, 2003), just as in transpersonal psychology, and while, at this point in time, a majority say they are in the field mainly out of disinterested scientific curiosity, still over a third of them came from primarily spiritual/transpersonal interests to work in the field. This reality can be acknowledged as a legitimate motivation for scientific research.

At this point an important distinction must be made between popular parapsychology and scientific parapsychology. …

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.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
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.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On the Scientific Foundations of Transpersonal Psychology: Contributions from Parapsychology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

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.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

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.