In the mid -90s, together with ITP student Arvin Paul, I conducted a survey of trends and tendencies in transpersonal psychology in different countries. This survey showed that transpersonal psychology means different things in different countries. It was a time when subterranean currents of transpersonal consciousness reached people of different walks of life and began transforming their vacations and professional identities. From this, a variety of definitions sprang forth, and a multitude of approaches in the movement; however, the term “psychology” kept a strong grip on the movement and encouraged a certain self-formation within which two tendencies can be identified.
First, it was an impulse to give transpersonal psychology a stronger presence in the clinical field, alongside with other psychologies in the American Psychological Association. In Europe, an analogous tendency took a longer time to develop. Now we see the fructification of this tendency in the further development of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology into a “university”; and in Europe (and perhaps in the world in general), transpersonal psychological associations are following this model and gaining officially accredited status as the training institutions for psychologists.
Second, and also dependent on the formation of the field as an academic discipline of “psychology”, is a tendency to inter-disciplinarily. Insofar as the “human factor” by default is present in all areas of life, psychology sifts through the cracks in other disciplines. Transpersonal psychology tends to do the same. To account for this, a term was suggested “transpersonal studies”.
I think that both “psychology” and “studies” succeeded in their identity building, — a process which started rendering a relative economic sustainability to the field in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. What is it that for me, personally, makes it worth the fight for this movement? To defend it against a prospect, to serve as a snack for power-money-hungry entities out there who would like to swallow one more “hippy school” or “ cult”, as we are sometimes labeled in the negative media? Guess what folks, it is all about the LIFESTYLE!
One area in which we definitely succeeded is the friendships, the community, the international outreach. I believe that this is so because we all like and value similar things in life. Let me list them using the “transpersonal” language: we like, and we understand, the subtle energies. We like self-monitoring and self-regulation, and we do not shy off changing our own negative habits. We like a clean, green, sustainable lifestyle. We think that earth has consciousness, and that we can feel it’s alive presence. We are not environmentalists per se, but we care for the preservation of natural environments. It’s not theoretical; for the most of us, hiking is vitally important; we may even, God forbid, hug the trees. We are not luddites, but we understand that too much of a cell phone against one’s head and too much of a computer hours per day will do something irreparable to human beings as a species. We are not historians, but we live off the wisdom traditions, and therefore, we want to preserve the legacy of the cultures of the past. We are often viscerally plugged into consciousness of others, and therefore, we try to curb our own narcissism. We are not ascetics, but we do not engage in extremes. We like conscious, healthy, intelligent, emotionally positive, holistic, self-cultivating , community-shaping, transformation –welcoming, beauty-savoring lifestyle which features subtlety, balance, harmony and creative expression. And we know how to make this lifestyle a reality.
There is a certain quality of life that transpersonal psychology is about. A lifestyle can be an expensive choice. Transpersonal psychology as a lifestyle hardly costs any extra money; however, it requires a whole person commitment, and a sacrifice of nagging habits and little addictions that shape life for many averagely wealthy and educated people. It’s not about being an academic discipline, folks! It’s a lifestyle which creates a visceral difference between us and the mundane, and which makes our identity. I sincerely think that acknowledging this lifestyle aspect of transpersonal psychology is the next step for our movement. Without such acknowledgement, and therefore an acknowledgement of the radical quality of change that we bring with us whenever we go, we cannot serve as the effective agents of social change, and cannot be of much further use to our students or clients. Most importantly now, we cannot effectively stand our newly acquired ground in the society, and protect what we are.
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