15 Questions about Transpersonal

1. Has it got clearly defined areas of enquiry, application, research, and practice?

In order to help understanding transpersonal psychotherapy we will use some metaphors, starting with the metaphor of the square and the circle.


Willing to present the enquiry, application, research and practice areas of transpersonal psychotherapy, we can use the metaphor of the square and the circle. The square represents the phenomenon, the behavior, in one word the contents of Psyche; the circle represents the noumenon, the essence of Psyche, the container.

Transpersonal psychotherapy aims to deal with the contents, that is to say the expression (square), and with the container, which is the essence (circle). Therefore, the Object of Transpersonal Psychology is the participative dialogue Subject/Object. The various traditions of wisdom of humanity gave different names to this Unity (square/circle), which are all ascribable to one: Psychè.[1]

Therefore, Psychè understood at the same time as Object and Subject of the experience that we can identify with the concept of the Self.

As a matter of fact, Jung, Assagioli and Wilber, among others, conceive the Self as the unifying archetype, metaphor of the totality of Psychè, which, mentioning Aristotle is, actually, everything.

According to transpersonal psychology, perennial philosophy and the holistic-systematic vision from Bateson onwards, Psychè does not coincide with the mind that in turn isn’t confined to the brain.

Panikkar (Panikkar, 1992, p.6) masterfully shows us how Psychè includes the totality of the human being on an individual level, that is to say bios, pneuma, logos, autos and Zoe.[2]

This vision leads to some consequences that define the identity of Transpersonal Psychotherapy and allow us to deduce what Wilber (Wilber, 1995, p.8) calls orienting generalizations, that is to say common constants within differentiated models:

Ø  Separation between subject and object doesn’t exist, if not in a fictitious way.

Ø  The Self or Psychè is the Subject, space and timeless.

Ø  Everything is an incessant, participative, unifying, dynamic and interconnected dialogue between the expressed content, explicated in the square (stage) and the essential aspect implicated in the circle (backstage).

Ø  Therefore, the area of application is extended to include the four quadrants described by Wilber, that is to say the psychic field made by the individual, related to him/herself, his/her environment and others.

Ø  This field is not linear and static, but rather circular and dynamic, systemic; this implicates the introduction of the concept of states of consciousness.

Ø  In order to operate in a complex, dynamic, interconnected and multidimensional territory, adequate tools are necessary, based on the mastery of inner experience such as observation, listening, imagination, creativity, felt sense, concentration, attention, contact, responsibility, acceptance, compassion, trust, meditation and awareness.

Ø  The mastery of inner experience opens ineffable dimensions, dimensions where angels exist, mentioning Bateson. As we will see, transpersonal psychology extends its fields of intervention to these areas defined as transpersonal.

Ø  The evolutionary journey of human beings within their participative dialogue with the field delineates a stepwise process.

Ø  Actually, the square expresses many squares, each one transcended and included by the following one, and all of them transcended and included by the circle, which is the unifying archetype of the Self.

Ø  The Self expresses an organizing principle, healthy by definition and able to organize the process towards wellbeing, unity, harmony, integration and realization.

Ø  Every intervention tool in transpersonal psychotherapy joins forces with this process and tries to create the conditions for its completion and to learn how not to obstruct the process itself.

Ø  Maps, models and tools operate for an experiential integral practice.

Ø  This form of psychotherapy acknowledges the full spectrum of human experience, dealing with most of the topics traditionally considered important in Western psychology.[3]

And goes beyond.[4] (Tart 1997)


To avoid any misunderstanding it’s important to know:

Ø  The transpersonal is not the pre-personal

Ken Wilber (Wilber,1995) paid constant attention on distinguishing between transpersonal and pre-personal, the last being the result of the infancy of conscience.

In his turn, Grof (Grof 2000) distinguishes between a lower subtle level and a higher subtle level. In his articulate discussion about what he calls ‘the pre/trans mistake’, Wilber (Wilber,1995) refers to Hegel and Aurobindo, to Aristotle and Teillhard de Chardin to define the evolutional direction of the world, along a line that goes from the lower to the higher levels of organization, characterized by an increasing degree of complexity and awareness.

According to Hegel and more in general to perennial philosophy, the history of evolution is that of the spirit self-realization, “the process through which the Spirit knows itself in the form of Spirit.”(5) Hegel describes it in a sequence of three stages of development, unwinding through the levels of nature, humanity and divine. These three stages overlap with those that Wilber defines from a psychological point of view: pre-personal, personal and transpersonal. The pre-personal or unconscious is what Hegel defines as the nature stage, in which the Spirit self denies the level of the physical sensations and perceptions in matter. The personal is the phase in which the spirit goes back to the spirit, overcoming self-denial through self-awareness. It is the place of the “I”, of the mental, rational conscience. The transpersonal is, in Hegel’s model, the level in which the spirit discovers itself to be spirit, the place of the divinity, the super-conscious.

As the pre-personal and transpersonal are both not personal, their manifestations can be easily mistaken, being similar.

Wilber describes two kinds of mistakes frequently made: reducing the transpersonal to the pre-personal, and elevating the pre-personal to the transpersonal. The first one derives from the mechanistic vision of science, the second from the description of the world made by the orthodox religions.

Ø  The transpersonal is not the extra personal

Investigating the difference between transpersonal contents and extra personal contents the borderline seems to locate on the edge of the sacred. This means that different phenomena, apparently similar, are expressions of different levels of conscience.

Phenomena such as telekinesis, levitation, radioestesis, radionic, fakirism, work with crystals, extra sensorial perceptions, walking on fire, the action of the mind on the body and so on are utterly extra-personal. While the experience of the self, of the super-conscious, the contact with superior archetypes, as well as intuition, creativity, mystic experiences, spiritual healings, the experience of subtle energies and certain phenomena of trans-identification, of embodiment and of “past lives” are transpersonal.

Ø  The Transpersonal is not New Age

The last decades of the twentieth century have been characterized by the outburst of the New Age phenomenon, particularly in music, in literature and in healing methods with an esoteric or spiritual bend.

The culture of which all this is expression of is often superficial, irrational and fideistic (believing unquestioningly). It is usually directed at a mass consumer market, in which people do not really want to know who they are and are simply looking for easy and effortless solutions.

Healing or spiritual achievements are often offered in the same simple way used to achieve success and riches, while emphasis is put on the positive aspects and a guaranteed result. Sacrifice, care and a critical mind are usually left aside.

The transpersonal vision does not contrast reason but transcends it with the intuition that includes it. It does not exclude the shadow, but rather gives suggestions on how to contact and know it; it does not ask for a blind acceptance but offers models of validation of the inner experience. It is not looking for proselytes and neither does it promise shortcuts to heaven; it is not for everybody, but only for those who are willing to take a long and difficult journey towards their own true nature. It does not have an antiscientific, fideistic attitude; it rather works in favor of the widening of scientific methods and their fields of action.

Ø  The Transpersonal is not a religion 

The transpersonal movement does not view itself as a religious movement or as an alternative to the religious doctrines and the organized spiritual traditions. Rather, it studies and tries to favor the religious experience, that is, the inner experience of the Self. Its fields of interest are not dogmas, beliefs or revealed truths, but are the more truly human qualities and the instruments used to awaken them.

In other words, it deals with the ways through which each one can achieve a personal religiosity and with the related problems.


2. Has it demonstrated its claim to knowledge and competence within its field tradition of diagnosis / assessment and of treatment / intervention?

Coherently with the vision presented above, diagnosis and treatment in transpersonal psychotherapy are affected by the fact that the nature of the Object/Subject of investigation moves in a dynamic, unifying and multidimensional territory in constant participative dialogue with the environment and oriented towards complete fulfillment.

In order to understand better, we consider again the metaphor of the square and the circle.

The square represents, in this case, the phenomenological world of objects and events, reality and matter, behavior and conscious personality, expressed symptoms and we could say the place of the I and of its identifications.

The circle represents the place of the Self, of the essence, consciousness, of that ineffable backstage where true nature lives, of the most genuinely human qualities and of the super-conscious and transpersonal dimensions.

Transpersonal psychotherapy tries to take into consideration both the square and the circle, aware that they represent two different levels and that they deserve a different approach and different tools; it operates within the square for its integration in the circle, or better said, for the acknowledgement of their true nature, already integrated.

Therefore, the place of transpersonal psychotherapy is the place of the participative dialogue between square and circle; a place that requires its own models and methods.

When dealing with the square, Transpersonal Psychotherapy accepts the typical diagnosis criteria of the DSM-V-TR or the ICD-10, the main international transpersonal psychology association respect deontological superimposable codes and the general ethical standards established by the EAP for the practice of psychotherapy.[5]

Plus, the DSM-V-TR has special categories for Religious and Spiritual Problems, due to the work of David Lukoff, a Transpersonal Psychotherapist and theoretician.

When dealing with the circle, transpersonal psychotherapy expands, as we will see, the cartography of Psychè by developing maps, models and metaphors, creating its own diagnostic and therapeutic tools in order to operate on the afore-mentioned spectrum in an integral way.

As it is a newborn in the psychotherapeutic world, transpersonal psychology uses contributions of previous approaches when dealing with the square. Transpersonal psychotherapy is an inclusive therapeutic approach which adds to the inquiry, knowledge base, research, and practices of psychoanalytic, behavioral, and humanistic schools of psychotherapy that were established before it.

When dealing with the circle, transpersonal psychotherapy introduces clinical methodologies that draw from integral and psycho-spiritual experiences that use meditation, breathing, psycho-corporal and imaginative practices, music and art, integrating them, this way widening the spectrum of intervention to the totality of the Self.

In constant dialogue with ancient spiritual traditions, transpersonal psychotherapy on one hand uses models and tools borrowed from ancient traditions of wisdom of humanity, and on the other hand elaborates new maps, models and tools, able to include ancient pre-scientific wisdom in the psychological field and in psychotherapeutic practice, giving to it a language able to dialogue with the scientific world and a methodological strictness subject to verification or disproval.

There are various transpersonal psychologies that present transpersonal psychotherapeutic models attributable to common matrices that respect the full spectrum of human experience,dealing both with most of the topics traditionally considered important in Western psychology and with specific topics of the transpersonal approach, as demonstrated in the attached wide bibliography.[6]

 3. Has it got a clear and self-consistent theory of the human being, of the therapeutic relationship, and of health and illness?

Regarding the metaphor of the square and the circle, we can consider the square as a building: the building of personality.

Transpersonal psychotherapy shares the Freudian psychodynamic vision, as well as Reich’s one and the archetypical vision of Jung. As a newcomer, transpersonal psychotherapy integrates the previous visions amplifying them without denying them. By exploring the building (square), in tune with ancient traditions of wisdom, transpersonal psychotherapy has found new rooms, basements and lofts and acknowledges a living, dynamic and interconnected space around the building: the circle.

While wondering around the building, transpersonal psychotherapy chooses to disregard certain rooms that it considers no longer functional, and, on the contrary, emphasizes the use of other areas more coherent with its purpose.

In order to understand the concept of circle we can consider the Jungian model of the collective Unconscious, originally called transpersonal unconscious, populated by archetypes organized by a central archetype, the archetype of the Self. 

Therefore, Transpersonal Psychotherapy elaborated coherent maps and models describing a self-consistent theory of the human being, of the therapeutic relationship and of health and illness.

Thinkers like Maslow, Assagioli, Weil, Walsh and Vaughan, Grof and Wilber, among others, traced with clarity the guidelines of a transpersonal vision of the development of human beings; maps that allow to photograph the process and maintain a dynamic interpretation without having to necessarily frame it in rigorous nosographic categories.

Considering Jung (Jung 1971) and the model of the four functions and the eight psychological types, we can easily embrace the model of Assagioli, (Asagioli 1965): who was the first to conceive the existence of a super-conscious, container of the most elevated and still unexpressed potentialities of human beings and of a transpersonal Self, precise metaphor of that ineffable circle.

We can then continue with the afore-mentioned model by Grof, which expands the cartography of psyche and through the four perinatal matrices conceives an evolutionary psychodynamic model that includes the pre and perinatal experiences as well as the transpersonal ones.

We can find more important transpersonal models in Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs, where tertiary needs coincide with transpersonal needs; Maslow himself is one of the founders of transpersonal psychology, which, in his last years, he defined as the fourth force of psychology.

We can also mention Campbell’s  (Campbell 1948) evolutionary models, focused on the journey of the hero, around which the universal adventure of human psyche spins; moreover, we can mention Lattuada’s  (Lattuada 2013) model of Psychodynamics of the Process that describes the unfolding of the evolutionary process and the correspondent psychopathological phases along a seven step process described by seven fundamental dualisms characterized by seven specific matrices, which in turn characterize seven psychodynamic positions.[7]  

More importantly we must consider Wilber’s (Wilber 1980): integral model, which he called AQAL, all the levels, all the quadrants or Atman Project, probably the most complete and articulated model of Psychè ever produced, in which different transpersonal models are transcended and included.

According to this model, the realization of the Self occurs through an evolutionary time span characterized by stages of development connected to different states of consciousness that unfold along a process from the pre-personal, to the personal and transpersonal, and in a participative dialogue with the environment that occurs on four quadrants.

The model allows recognizing phases of standstill and development, or evolutionary phases, on each level and in each quadrant.

The standstill phases are characterized by chronic mechanisms and identifications, responsible for pathological processes. The awakening of qualities and creative potentialities that lead to wellbeing and complete fulfillment produce the evolutionary leaps.

Wilber, with a transcending and inclusive view, suggests the most functional therapeutic approach for each level.

Wilber’s model includes many references to different psychological and sociological traditions discussed by authors such as: Piaget, Erikson, Assagioli, Loevinger, Kohlberg, Ferenczi, Sullivan, Grant and Grant, Maslow, Broughton, Arieti, Tiller, Welwood and Smith, Fromm, Riesman, Ausubel, Grof. Moreover, we must consider various wisdom traditions of humanity: Vedanta, Buddhism, Tantrism, Cabala, etc.


4. Has it got methods specific to the approach which generate developments in the theory of psychotherapy, demonstrate new aspects in the understanding of human nature, and lead to ways of treatment / intervention?

The specificity and the innovation of the psychotherapeutic approach can be summarized in the following way:

Ø  Integration: the approach is integral and unitary, and it involves all the levels of the human being, from the physical, emotional and mental ones, to the transpersonal one.[8]

Ø  Independently from the level of access or the practice used, the transpersonal psychotherapist will always try to accompany the process on all the levels.

Ø  Expansion: the approach is not limited to the rational state of consciousness or to the investigation of the unconscious, but rather it draws from wider states of consciousness, transpersonal ones, typical of super-conscious dimensions.[9]  The aim of treatment in transpersonal psychotherapy is to help the person to master his/her own inner experience learning to manage his/her own states of consciousness.

Ø  Connection: it works for the recovery of the shadow, the integration of unconscious sub personalities and their connection with the super-conscious dimensions of the Self, the unifying archetype and the organizing principle of Psychè.

Ø  Circularity:  the fourth aspect of the innovation is to overcome the linear logic of Cronos, the linear time, in order to move within the dimension of Kayros, the opportunity here and now, aware that the time for change is always now.

Ø  Insight: David Bohm (Bohm 1985)invites the man of science to be able to observe in a wide and open way, to feel the important features to access the insight, the immediate perception out of time that Krishnamurti  (Krishnamurti believes to be the essential condition in order to grasp the phenomenon how it really is. This condition works for the establishment of the “comprehension of new order that unfolds in a natural way” in every field of culture, science and therapy.

Transpersonal psychotherapy has no projects or protocols for patients; it participates to the field of relationship empty and awake in aware contact with the Self.

It aims to the creation of the conditions necessary for the awakening, aware that insight is the master path of every transformation.[10]

Ø  Wisdom: as Panikkar (Panikkar 2005 p.13). reminds us, wisdom “is an experience in which there is no division between knowledge and love, soul and body, spirit and matter, time and eternity, divine and human, masculine and feminine, an experience obtained through love, patience, tolerance and observation rather than will, through trust rather than research, a cosmic trust in life rather than in a specific object…” “Wisdom available for the research of the holistic consciousness and of the “new order comprehension that, as David Bohm states, proceeds from the overcoming of the attachment to those needs that promise security and from the “courage to choose love” (Bohm 1985).

Ø  The transpersonal psychotherapist tries to recognize at all times and to maintain an aware integral approach. When an individual lives in an integral way, he/she seems to be more able to draw from wisdom, which blossoms from the experience of emptiness, essence, unity, interconnection, of the highest qualities and the sacredness of existence, which some define as spiritual.

Ø  Disidentification: think about the Hindu Mayan veil or the Buddhist samsara, about movies like Matrix or Truman show, metaphors of the awakening from the illusory world of senses. Think about Saint Exupery who reminds us how the essential is invisible to the eye. Transpersonal psychotherapy operates in favour of the awakening of the awareness of the Self (circle) and of the liberation from the identification with the contents of the square, the I.


5. Does it Include processes of verbal exchange, alongside an awareness of non-verbal  sources of information and communication?

The metaphor of the square and circle is also applicable to the concepts of map and territory. In this case the square, the map, can represent the theory, the verbal; whereas the circle, the territory, is represented by experience, action. Transpersonal psychotherapists believe that map and territory, experience and its elaboration are one thing.

Therefore, even if favoring inner experience through the afore-mentioned non-verbal practices, it gives importance to the elaboration of experience on a cognitive level. Within the maieutic dialogue with the client the psychotherapist helps recognizing obsolete maps, myths, conditionings and acquired scripts, and he/she helps fulfilling cognitive restructuration for the acquisition of maps and mental models more functional to the territory. Through non-verbal practices the profound contents of psychic processes are reached, and through mental re-elaboration their structures and context are recognized.

The psychotherapist, through investigation practices of the profound and through maps and psychodynamic models of the Self, can lead the client to recognize, within the phenomenology of the contents of his/her own psyche, structures of processes amenable to sub personalities, that is to say stereotypes, aspects of shadow non integrated in the Self; in the same way, the therapist can help recognizing expressions of elevated qualities, which are expressions of archetypical super-conscious emergencies, transpersonal. Awareness and maieutic dialogue allow the integration of different parts within the unifying archetype of the Self. Lattuada (Lattuada 2013) proposes a combination of verbal and non-verbal methods, through what he calls the four dialogic phases and the five maieutic categories.[11]

The various ternary, quaternary and septenary models, which we will see in detail hereafter, orientate the participative dialogue towards therapeutic relationship and offer precise maps to decode both verbal and non-verbal messages that come from the entire complexity of the organism, in order to photograph the process and its structures.


6. Does it offer a clear rationale for treatment / interventions facilitating constructive change of the factors provoking or maintaining illness or suffering?

The transpersonal psychotherapist recognizes that everything alive is authentic, unrepeatable, ineffable and incommensurable.

Everything is a process that through its contents reveals a structure.

In this case the square is represented by the structure, whereas the circle by the process, which reveals itself through the structure. The square represents what is measurable and repeatable, whereas the circle what is incommensurable and unique.

The integral approach of transpersonal psychotherapy tries not to forget about this and to operate so that both dimensions are considered within clinical practice. Aware that what appears is not what it is, it tries to favor awareness here and now within the unity of the circle and square, structure and process, experienced and context.

In this case, the square can be seen as an expression of discomfort, conflict and disease, interpreted as an identification of the I, interference in the natural healing process, interruption of one’s own journey towards the realization of one’s potentialities, a detachment from the connection with one’s own Self, a chronic mechanism of behavior and of the related elaboration processes, a failed resonance with the circle.

The square represents the mind, the past and future; the circle represents the here and now, the only place where change can occur.

Transpersonal psychotherapy operates to favor the client’s ability to listen and observe, to create the conditions to live here and now, this way accessing the resources and qualities of the Self as well as the intuitive dimensions of consciousness, able to recognize attachments to one’s personal history and the identifications of the I. It also operates for the emerging of new images of the Self, able to receive, integrate and manage the transformations occurred during the therapeutic process of individualization; process that proceeds along the evolutionary scale traced by maps and the afore-mentioned models.


7.  Has it got clearly defined strategies enabling clients to develop a new organization of experience and behavior?

We are all prisoners of our mind and the first step is to become aware of it.

At the same time ancient wisdom teaches us that: the best way to realize your dreams is to wake up.

In tune with the traditional wisdom of perennial philosophy, transpersonal psychotherapy investigates the true nature of a recognizable problem, be it trauma, conflict, a behavioral or personality related disorder, keeping a distance from one’s Self, true nature and own inner master or daimon. The therapeutic process, whether carried out through talking or listening, psycho-corporal or meditative practices, working on the dream or through breathing, aims to recognize pathogenic and pathological ways of organizing one’s own experience and behavior. It operates towards awareness or insight and the consequent cognitive restructuring, able to give back to the individual a connection with his/her own Self and his/her most genuinely human qualities.

The afore-mentioned maps and models, Grof, Wilber, Maslow, Campbell, Anderson and Lattuada, offer general directions of holotropic order, oriented to the Unity of consciousness and integration of the Self, and act as a secure guide for the transpersonal psychotherapist so that he/she can accompany the therapeutic process towards the evolutionary transformation of the Self on an integral level.

Therefore, we could say that the aim of transpersonal psychotherapy is to favor in the client the gradual emerging of the archetype (circle) that includes a richness of organized meanings, qualities and resources, able to “suck in” organization from the environment and to accompany the client through an elaboration process of experience and integration of the contents within conscious personality (square).


8.    Is it open to dialogue with other psychotherapy modalities about its fields of theory and practice?

Wilber’s work provides the basis for the dialogue between different forms of psychotherapy. His theory on the spectrum of consciousness supplies the world of psychotherapy with a model for dialogue and reciprocal synergy.

As mentioned before and as we will see in detail further on, in The Atman Project and The Spectrum of Consciousness, Wilber (Wilber 1977):  describes an evolutionary model of personality that emerges from an in-depth discussion with many authors who in turn had proposed models of development of the Self. Wilber suggests that in every phase of development of the personality, of the cycle of life and the relative state of consciousness, it is possible to find a specific indication of a certain psychotherapeutic profile along a scale that goes from the cognitive-behavioral approaches to the psychodynamic, humanistic and transpersonal ones.

Walsh and Vaughan (Walsh, Vaughan 1993) describe in detail the transpersonal context, that is to say the frame into which the transpersonal vision interprets events. For instance, a state of depression, in psychoanalysis may be connected to a fixation on the oral phase of personality development, but from the transpersonal perspective it will be seen as a separation from the sacral dimension of existence. Anxiety for life will not be read as a substitute for castration anguish, but rather as the emergence of an archetype asking to be recognised and honoured.

 Recognising the transpersonal context means recognising the true nature of the subject. The Daimon, or true nature, is always independent from personality. It is not conditioned by personal biography: it is transpersonal. According to Hillman, (Hilman 1997) it is related to the descent of the spirit to the level of material reality, or according to Jung, to the emergence of an archetype of the collective unconscious in the individual psyche.

At this stage, it can be understood that what characterises transpersonal psychology is the recognition of the context more than the methodology used.

It is true that the privileged way to accede to the transpersonal dimension is a meditative conscience state, but it is also true that it is possible to create the conditions to achieve meditation with very different methods, such as interpretation, a change in behaviour, a cognitive restructuring and so on.

Overall, it is possible to use typical transpersonal methods, such as meditation, dance or visualisations without working in a transpersonal context, as it is also possible to have a transpersonal approach using behaviouristic or psychoanalytical methods.


9. Has it got a way of methodically describing the chosen fields of study and the methods of treatment / intervention which can be used by other colleagues?

In terms of square, treatment methods and the relative results, in transpersonal psychotherapy, can be evaluated both through specific instruments for measurement and diagnosis of relevant constructs in the field, as well as trough high quality diagnostic instruments like the DSM-IVTR classification and psychometric instruments like the MMPI, Beck scales, and Hamilton. Measurement instruments specific to the transpersonal field have been developed and are being used for research purposes as MacDonald, Kuentzel, and Friedman have shown from the review of 26 different instruments.

In terms of circle, transpersonal psychotherapy suggests transcending and including measurements and falsification within the quality of the investigation and description, and within attention and awareness. Many researches within the transpersonal field propose and use innovative epistemological and research approaches, as describe by Anderson and Braud. We refer to the Intuitive Inquiry by Anderson, the Integral Inquiry by Braud, the Organic Inquiry By Clements, the Essential Science by Tart, the First Person Science by Varela, (Varela 1999): the Integral Science by Wilber (Wilber,2011)  and the Second Attention Epistemology by Lattuada. (Lattuada 2010).

Walsh and Vaughan (Walsh, Vaughan1993) state that Transpersonal Psychology is a discipline that uses ‘scientific’ methods, that is, offers guarantees of validity, the transcending of boundaries and the achievement of the Conscience of the Unity or the Supreme Identity.

The psychotherapeutic approach derived from these premises is oriented towards awareness, the instrument to transcend the boundaries of the dual mind.

Consequently the content, the chosen field of studies, in the case of the transpersonal refers to what goes beyond the individual. Talking in psychodynamic terms, this means that inside the subject, a process is taking place that transcends him/her. When we use the terms ‘transpersonal contents’, we refer to the various experiences with a transpersonal quality such as peak experiences, mystic and ecstatic experiences, non ordinary conscience states, near death experiences, archetypical visions, mythological dreams, revelations, insights, the opening of the heart, transcendent experiences, meditative states and so on.

Stan Grof (Grof 1985) suggests the word ‘holotropic’: totality oriented, moving towards the whole, to indicate these types of experiences (from the Greek holòs, everything and trépein, moving towards something).

Walsh and Vaughan (Walsh, Vaughan1993) studied some of the most significant categories of experiences examined by transpersonal psychology, the ones we could define in the transpersonal dimension of the conscience.

Here are some of them:

Ø  Peak Experiences

This is the term Maslow (Maslow 1968): used for mystic and ecstatic experiences, as well as for the healthiest psychological states. They seem to have the following traits:

       Very deep intense and positive emotions, similar to ecstasy

       Deep feeling of peace and calm

       A feeling of being in harmony with the universe

       A feeling of deep knowledge and comprehension

       The sensation of experiencing something unique, difficult to express in words.

Ø  Plateau Experiences

Towards the end of his life, Maslow coined this definition applied to the series of positive experiences characterised by a lesser intensity and a longer duration compared to the peak experiences. We are talking about, for instance, meditative states, deep interior peace, or feelings of complete fulfilment and so on.

Ø  Nadir Experiences

Using Maslow’s term again, we describe the opposite of the peak experiences. They are characterised by strong feelings of unease, typical of moments of great interior change, the ‘transpersonal crisis’, as defined by Grof (Grof, S. and Grof, C. 1989):

Ø  Transcendence of the Self

They are the conscience states in which the feeling of the Self has expanded beyond the images and concepts of the individual personality. Maslow (Maslow 1968): describes the meta-needs of self-transcendence as a sixth level of needs that reaches beyond the gap not covered by self-realisation.

Ø  Optimum wellness states

The peak and plateau experiences are states of being that, when cultivated, can last for a long time. Transpersonal psychology works towards such achievements. They are characterised by full awareness, self-understanding, fulfilment, freedom from inner conflicts, expansion of conscience, ecstasy, sympathy and service to others.

Ø  Spiritual emergency

Transpersonal psychology believes that a great number of upsetting experiences are not pathological, but rather the expression of spiritual transformation. Psychological crises are often hints of spiritual awakening characterised by the emergence of the healthy core living inside each human being. The works of Christina and Stan Grof (Grof, S. and Grof, C. 1989) have been of primary importance in this field of research, along with those of Bragdon  and Lukoff (Grof, S. and Grof, C. 1989). Thanks to them, the category of Psycho-spiritual problems has been added in the last version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) IV.

Ø  Personality development spectrum

As previously recalled, Ken Wilber worked out an evolutional model for personality in which he distinguished between the pre-personal phases, preceding the stable sense of ego, the personal phases in which the development of the I reaches its fulfillment, and the transpersonal phases, based on the transcendence of the Ego and the identification with the totality.

Ø  Meditation

Meditation is a key method for the transpersonal psychology in the same way as conditioning is the key of behaviorism and interpretation in psychoanalysis. Different meditative practices have been taken from the ancient traditions. Some are based on concentration on an object, whereas others are based on observation of the contents of the consciousness. Both are oriented towards the comprehension of the real nature of the mind, towards transcendence and expansion of the sense of self.

In the last decades, as we are shortly about to see, new disciplines and psycho-spiritual techniques have been devised in transpersonal research in order to widen the use of meditation towards relaxing psychotherapy.

Ø  The Transpersonal Experience

In the transpersonal or holotropic states it seems that a deep transformation takes place in the consciousness. It is characterized by a change of every area of perception. They are connected with intense and unusual emotions, strong vegetative and psychosomatic responses, often with ineffable modification of thinking processes. We can frequently reach surprising levels of introspective perspicacity and intuitive comprehension during transpersonal experiences. Confusion vanishes and truth seems to be undoubtedly evident. Conflicts seem to settle and problems fade away as if they have never existed.

According to Grof (Grof 1985) during transpersonal states, consciousness changes in a deep and substantial way but, differently from delirium, its functioning is not altered. It works in a wider and more open way so that we realize the limits of the cognitive, intellectual experience, the insufficiency of rational explanation and of words.

Ø  Integration

In the transpersonal consciousness dimension, our inner sight opens up on worlds otherwise unattainable; for instance, we can perceive the level of vital energy and the network of vital interconnections running through our body, see the colors of organs or the shape of an emotion. We can follow the movement of our focused attention inside. We realize that each inner sensation produces an emotion and an image simultaneously.

Images, in their turn, are always connected to sensations and emotions, and may derive from the most different consciousness places; they can belong to our personal story or to nature, its becoming and forces, can deliver immanent or transcendent contents; cosmological, mythological, science fictional. The key trait of transpersonal visions that distinguishes them from mental images produced by ‘daytime remains’ is that they are self-generated images: they seem to spring from a source hidden in the depth of our being and do not belong simply to the mind but involve all the levels of our body thanks to the state of fluidity and interconnectedness typical of the transpersonal experience.

Ø  Emotions

Another typical aspect of holotropic states is that the transpersonal experience has a numinous character to it that gives an indubitable sacred quality and a meaning that goes beyond the single egoistic purposes. To integrate the insights we reach during these experiences, we need to operate radical cognitive reorganizations and deep personality changes, since they foster the surfacing of fulfillment, and transpersonal phases, based of the transcendence of the Ego and the identification with the totality

Ø  Intellect

Intellect works according to criteria very different from the usual ones. Analytical judgment is flooded by such a huge and overwhelming amount of information that it is silenced, to the advantage of an immediate and intuitive comprehension of our daily problems, our personal story, our personality and our interpersonal behavior.

We are easily hit by a flow of connected intuitions that reveal philosophical or metaphysical knowledge about human nature and the universe and that go far beyond those related to our level of education.

Ø  Space and time

The landscape of transpersonal contents would not be complete without mentioning the modifications on the ordinary perceptions of time and space produced by the holotropic conscience states. It is evident that, being mental categories of time and space, the way we perceive them changes with a change in our conscience state.

In the widened consciousness states, typical of transpersonal experiences, time often slows down or reverses. Memory may go beyond the boundaries of our present existence to expand towards the lands of humanity’s journey of evolution. It may meet powerful archetypical characters of an archaic past; multiform mythological, or future hypothetical territories. It can go back to intra-uterine life, at the moment of conception or even before, towards experiences that seem to come from what two thirds of humanity would define as other incarnations.


10. Is it associated with information, which is the result of conscious self-reflection, and critical reflection by other professionals within the approach?

Several transpersonal professionals have provided various publications of conscious self-reflection and critical reflection of the transpersonal approach. In the book, Psychotherapy and spirit: Theory and practice in transpersonal psychotherapy (Cortright, 1997), the major transpersonal approaches to psychotherapy are reviewed, the strengths and limitations of each are described, and key clinical issues are reflected upon. Transpersonal research methods for the social sciences: Honoring human experience (Braud & Anderson, 1998) provides the synopses of five transpersonal oriented approaches to research and offers a critical view of the strengths and weaknesses of each method. The book, Revisioning transpersonal theory: A participatory vision of human spirituality (Ferrer, 2002) looks at the problem areas of transpersonal psychology, deconstructs and reconstructs transpersonal psychology theory, points out several practical and conceptual limitations, and offers a new vision that is pluralistic and spiritually grounded. In Shadow, self, spirit: Essays in transpersonal psychology (Daniels, 2005) the author identifies the past struggles and main issues currently facing the transpersonal field and writes about ways to support a more integrative approach. In an article in the Humanistic Psychologist titled, Transpersonal psychology: Defining the past, diving the future (Hartelius, Caplan, & Rardin, 2007) the authors have conducted a retrospective analysis of how the transpersonal field has presented itself through publications in its first 35 years. They reflect on its character, how themes have unfolded, its potential value, and where it may be going.

11. Does it offer new knowledge, which is differentiated and distinctive, in the domain of psychotherapy?

Before analyzing in detail the specific contributions of Transpersonal Psychology, we would like to highlight an additional distinctive trait of its approach.

Authors like Hartelius, Caplan, and Rardin (Hartelius, Caplan, & Rardin, 2007) assert, after a review of the transpersonal literature that “the transpersonal model is not only about new knowledge, but about new contexts for knowledge and new ways of knowing.

The Transpersonal approach does not substitute a square with another, that is to say it does not deny the acquisitions of previous psychotherapeutic approaches, but rather it recognizes the value and the specific contribution of each approach, but at the same time it suggests general orientations and new meta-models for a common square.

The Transpersonal approach also proposes a series of orienting generalizations, namely some acquisitions, for instance in the field of morality or of evolutionary psychology, which even if not in detail, share common grounds. It is the case of the distinction between pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional thought or between pre-personal, personal and transpersonal development. The pre-personal and personal dimensions, as well as the pre-conventional and conventional thought, belong to the square; the post-conventional thought and the transpersonal dimension offer maps and tools to master the experience of the circle.

Think about Grof’s (Grof 1985) pre-natal, perinatal and transpersonal contents, or Wilber’s (Wilber 1995) four quadrants, or Anderson’s five modalities of intuition.

The Transpersonal approach also proposes new ways of knowledge, that is to say a wider look able to perceive the circle and to dialogue with it. Think about Tart’s states of consciousness or the importance of the vacuum, listening, observation, or about the meditative states, or the new afore-mentioned epistemologies.

Willing to briefly run over the contributions of specific authors, we will mention the following ones, among others:

Ø  William James[12]: (James 1961).

-Views mystic experiences as a healthy and natural yearning

Ø  Carl Gustav Jung[13]: (Jung 1989):

-Transpersonal Consciousness;

-Spiritual, that is transpersonal experience, as the best way out of neurosis

Ø  Abraham Maslow[14](Maslow 1968):

-Goes to further concepts like humanity, identity, personal self-realization, towards a consciousness of the Self.

Ø  Roberto Assagioli:[15] (Assagioli 1965):

-To widen the personal boundaries towards the accomplishment of a transpersonal Self

Ø  Pierre Weil:[16] (Weil 1992)

-Consciousness is an infinite and boundless flow. Limits only exist in the human mind.

-Memory goes beyond phylogeny and can be tracked back through the evolution of the living being up to the very source of the vital energy.

-Human evolution does not end in intellect but moves towards higher qualities such as wisdom, love, humbleness, sympathy, awareness, etc.

As if, death were just a passage, an opportunity to reach new dimensions of being.

Ø  Stanislav Grof: [17] (Grof 1985)

-New cartography of Psyche

-New Methodology

Ø  Ken Wilber[18] (Wilber 1995)

Consciousness development model that enables us integrating the different psychological models:

Ø  Other authors

Among the heterogeneous authors who contribute to the main stream of transpersonal studies we must also mention Karen Horney, (Horney 1950) with her concept of “true Self”; Victor Frankl, (Frankl 1967) who based his work on the research of meaning and the notion of “self-transcendence”; Carl Rogers (Rogers, 1951) who included the concept of “transcendent spiritual power” among the characteristics of a perfectly healthy person, and Fritz Perls, (Perls, F., Hefferline, R., & Goodman, P., 1951) who was deeply influenced by Zen in his formulation of the Gestalt therapy.


12.  Is capable of being integrated with other approaches considered to be part of scientific psychotherapy so that it can be seen to share with them areas of common ground?

The scientific method studies reality through experimentation and widens its knowledge through the elaboration of new theories and models. If we consider the example of archeology, we can easily understand that archeologists, after investigating on a first evident level, will have the chance to discover unexplored areas by walking through caverns and tunnels; similarly, an astronomer can discover new universes, galaxies and solar systems by improving the investigation technology; the “discovery of the circle” doesn’t imply the denial of the square but rather its transcendence and inclusion.[19]

  We are living in a transitional period; a very special one. A period in which the mechanistic paradigm, that characterized the path of science till now, is giving way to the holistic paradigm. And what is more important, for the first time in human history, a vision that can unify polarities, transcending them, that have been crossing millenniums with hostile and sometimes violent dynamics, is coming to light. The Transpersonal perspective embodies the holistic paradigm and “aims to the development of wise and mature people, who are aware of solidarity for humanity and of respect of nature, who contribute to the human life well-being.”

The transpersonal movement was born in the United States in the 60s, in the last century. This movement finds its place within psychological disciplines, and has developed thanks to the work of some psychologist who, recognizing the limits of previous approaches mostly used in those years, impress an evolution to humanistic psychology newly conceived including in their spectrum of survey the spiritual dimension, the respect for the whole human experience, including non ordinary states of consciousness.

Thanks to the contribution of scholars that had come in contact with wisdom traditions outside the dominant Occidental culture, the necessity to weaken and correct the ethnocentric and cognicentric polarization of the Newtonian- Cartesian paradigm was acknowledged. Not with standing the suspects and the accusations with which Transpersonal psychology was received in the academic world in the first years of her life, the accusations were of “irrationalism” and of “non scientific”, new revolutionary concepts and new discoveries in different scientific disciplines supported the Transpersonal assumptions, giving a contribute to confute the dominant materialistic Newtonian- Cartesian paradigm. The Transpersonal view acts as a reconciling element between science and spirituality, (square and circle) based on experience, as a synthesis between modern science and ancient wisdom.

So, transpersonal psychotherapy proceeds along the tracks of the psychodynamic, behavioral and humanistic approaches, and as in the afore-mentioned examples introduces the discoveries of the most hidden caverns such as pre-natal and perinatal experiences and matrices, and/or the farther universes, that is to say super-conscious dimensions and Transpersonal experiences connected to amplified states of consciousness.


13. Does it describe and display a coherent strategy to understanding human problems, and an explicit relation between methods of treatment / intervention and results?

The afore-mentioned maps and methods intend orientating towards the comprehension and the solution of human problems, but also and especially aim to guide human beings in their journey towards fulfillment and realization.

Among many proposals, it is possible to recognize that some, more than others, provide orienting generalizations, that is to say they supply common denominators for the psychological structure of human beings and the psychodynamic process of the Self.

We can describe orienting generalizations following a structure of three, four or seven main layers and read them both ontologically and filo-genetically

Ø  Wilber: Three layers (Wilber 1995)

1. Pre-Personal and pre-conventional[20]

2. Personal or conventional[21]

3. Transpersonal or post conventional[22]

Ø  Grof: Four layers (Grof 1985)

To understand what transpersonal process means, we refer to what we call the dynamic structure of the inner experience, masterfully described by Grof.

The transpersonal psychotherapist accompanies the patient through transpersonal practices or others derived from spiritual disciplines such as meditations, channelling, chants, dances, the psychophysical and breathing exercises, shamanic practices, rituals, visualisations and so on. The interior journey of the patient starts with a first exploration of the sensations, emotions, and perceptions with no apparent meaning. Then the patient is led to gradual liberation from personal history through investigation, and then, going through radical transformation experiences, the patient is led to the access to the transpersonal dimension, the place of spiritual qualities and of ‘true nature.’

Dynamic structure of the inner experience:

Grof’s (Grof 1985) research on extraordinary consciousness states offers a firm guide to the transpersonal psychotherapist, providing a well constructed map that gives an orientation of the development of a clinical methodology towards the transformation of conscience and the achievement of what Assagioli (Assagioli 1965) calls “the development of the transpersonal self.”

Grof’s (Grof 1985) conclusions are also easily confirmed by careful observation of the consciousness transformation process that seems to occur in any person who goes through a personal growth mediated by inner experience.

This seems to unfurl itself along an evolutionary path in which, at a certain point, the self seems to go towards a spiritual or transpersonal development in which a force aiming to the aggregation around a superior centre of conscience, overcoming the conflicts related to the dual mind, opens its way into a unifying vision, unidentified from simply personal interests.

It is possible to determine the flow of events in this process through structures, which we can group into four main categories of experience:[23]

1. Abstract and aesthetic experiences[24]

2. Biographic or psychodynamic experiences[25]

3. Death-rebirth experiences[26]

4. Transpersonal experiences[27]

Ø  Wilber: Seven layers (Wilber 1980)

1. Pleromatic Self,

2. Uroboric Self,

3. Thyfonic Self,

4. Membership Self, Mental Egoic Self, Centauric Self,

5. Subtle self

6. Casual self,

7. Ultimate Self

Which correspond to the respective states of consciousness,

1. Archaic,

2. Magical,

3. Mythological,

4. Rational,

5. Psychic,

6. Casual,

7. Non-dual.

Each one of the described phases and states shows (in the square) a constellation of contents (shadows, behaviors, experiences, thoughts, qualities etc.) that allow recognizing the problem and consequently the kind of intervention to be carried out in order to draw from specific resources.

The psychopathology, the problem, coincides with the identification in restricted areas of the square, isolated sub-personalities that live in the shadows of psyche, developing in chronic behaviors, limited to one phase or to a specific state.

The resource, wellbeing, coincides with a gradual achievement of more elevated phases and wider and unifying states of consciousness, able to integrate those areas in conscious personality. This integration coincides with a gradual dis-identification from those contents, a widening of the areas of awareness and of one’s own archetypical qualities, which lead to a connection with one’s true nature and consequently to the realization of the Self (circle).


14. Has it got theories of normal and problematic human behavior, which are explicitly related to effective methods of diagnosis / assessment and treatment / intervention?

As said earlier, the absence of disease, normality, the condition of rationality, aren’t considered by Maslow, From, Weil, Grof or Wilber, as the final condition of human development, but rather they represent a limitation to complete fulfillment, to the realization of the Self.

In a dynamic, participative and interconnected picture, on the back of the described models, the concepts of normality and pathology are modified. The first is reduced to a statistic concept and the second is amplified to include normality as it’s commonly understood, the small man of Reichian memory, who abdicates to its own higher qualities and creative resources remaining confined in the cages of his identifications, cultural conditionings and induced needs.

The models afore-mentioned have in common a wider cartography of Psyche, a step by step description of the ontogenetic processes that allow reading human behavior through grids, able to “diagnose” using definition, “photographing” the clinical picture with a psychodynamic view, without confining the individual in nosographic cages.

The described models allow giving to the clinical pictures, which on the level of the square are attributable to the ones described in the DSM V, a dynamic and evolutionary dignity.

Character, personality traits and psychopathological categories, since they are blockages in the evolutionary development, descriptions of specific modalities of denial of one’s own Self and distance from one’s true nature, define positions that contain the seed of transformation, the indications for the evolutionary process, a process sustained and promoted by the deepest and highest instances, by the unifying archetype of the Self.

Grof described Transformations as world visions, following the overcoming of spiritual emergencies.

Transpersonal researchers and ancient traditions agree that access to the dimensions of conscience, typical of transpersonal experience, seems to produce a deep reorganization of the self, as well as a radical change in one’s vision of the world.  Such a change seems to be characterized by what is defined by Kohlberg as post-conventional moral thought, or in Wilber’s terms as post-formal operational cognition. These changes could be determined by connections with ‘intrinsic spiritual sources’, as Grof (Grof 1985) calls them, or following Capra, (Capra 1983)the interconnected flow’, or as we call them, ‘the flow of elemental and archetypical forces’.

In this way, the subject can understand that the materialistic vision of the world, its controlling and conservative structures, are rooted in a fear of birth and death; their unsatisfied needs are linked to their disconnection from the flow of the forces, and from the subsequent failed attempts to receive energy from others.

After having transcended the instance of the “I”, the lack of authenticity of one’s own answer about oneself and the reality of the world become evident. The past and future become less important than the present. The enthusiasm for the process of life tends to substitute the craving to achieve specific objectives, and one is keener to think of the world in terms of energy rather than in material ones.

The huge expansion of consciousness that is achieved through transpersonal experiences allows one to overcome the concept of linear time and three-dimensional space. Matter is revealed as a new form of energy, form and emptiness become relative concepts.

The philosophical idea of existence comes closer to the great mystic traditions by which the universe is seen as an infinite continuum of adventures of the conscience, and the spiritual, human, animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms are considered as living one for the other and one inside the other.

Jonas’s complex: the repression of the sublime 

As has been stated before, acceding and sailing through transpersonal dimensions is all but easy: it requires courage, accepting challenges, renunciations, responsibility, acceptance of death and detachment from all personal needs.

Grof’s (Grof 1985) in-depth study of the dynamic of the evolutionary process confirms the transpersonal researchers’ opinion that indicates the way of accessing the transpersonal dimension, the experiences of death and rebirth in their different forms.

It is therefore easy to understand the need to consider what Maslow (Maslow 1968) calls “Jonas‘s complex”, that is, the fear of growing that drives us to avoid our ‘divine mission’. We become deaf to the call of our ‘daimon’.

Transpersonal psychology offers instruments to reveal the dynamics that lead us to deny and prevent ourselves from reaching our higher potentials.

Erich Fromm (Fromm 1993) calls these “escape mechanisms” that actively operate against our Self and are supported mainly by social and cultural forces as well as by psychological instances.

In fact, the dominant culture has the function of educating us as well as of restricting social norms that limit individual potentials.

According to John Mack, it is possible to explain why quite a number of saints and wise men of ancient times ended up being poisoned, burned or crucified.

To society, it is more important to have control over the individual rather than the expression of his/her unique latent potentials.

Transpersonal psychology offers individual and social answers to individuals and social instances, tending to limit the realization of the Self.

It works on the subject through psychotherapy and meditation and on the society through education.

It aims at a transpersonal upbringing that improves human potentials transcending what John Mack calls ‘the material triumvirate’:  money, sex and power.

Therefore, there will be attention to creating an environment, called by Maslow (Maslow 1968):eupsychic environment”, a social sphere that lends importance to transpersonal growth, using practices to feed it and create healthy and open relationships, favoring confidence, openness, and experimentation.  Overall, it is the environment that was offered by religious communities, and that is now created during seminars and workshops, or else in structured communities that allow social rituals, life models and systems of upbringing that foster spiritual growth.

Consequently, the transpersonal approach considers a healthy human being, who coincides with the most elevated states of development, with positions free from identifications with his/her own personal history. A human being who is open to change, self reliant, focused, socially constructive, loving and resilient, with a sense of purpose in life. A healthy human being is integrated and lives life with a certain degree of conscious unity; he/she is able to resort to humor and to distance him/herself from life situations when needed. This healthy human being accepts that others can behave differently and have different views, live in the present, enjoy life’s diverse experiences, and freely allow moments of consciousness expansion during ethical, aesthetic, and generally pleasurable experiences.

On the contrary, problematic human behavior coincides with the lowest levels of the evolutionary scale of the described models and a greater distance from one’s authentic Self.

This human being tends to be on the side of dissociation, disintegration, lack of resonance with others, identification with pathology and pathological states. There is a feeling of alienation, loss of purpose, and intense suffering without the skills to endure and manage it. There is also a defensive shrinking of the field of consciousness (as in phobias). We believe that a major part of human suffering comes from rigid identification with disturbed patterns of behavior and emotion, identification with very fragile personality structures and self-concepts, and maladaptive attachments to self-concepts that are defensive social facades or pessimistic views of oneself based on traumatic experiences, physical and emotional deprivations.

The afore-mentioned methodological models provide operational tools to facilitate healing/awakening/realization processes, and offer a “royal road” towards healing, which implies deep changes in identity structure through transformative experiences of healthy, expansive and modified states of consciousness, and the relative cognitive restructuration according to a richer and integrated self-image.


15.Has investigative procedures, which are defined well enough to indicate

              possibilities of research.

Transpersonal psychotherapists welcome research and acknowledge that quantitative methods and standard psychometric tests have a relevant role in all schools of psychology. However, we prefer case studies and also qualitative research methodologies, which are now widely accepted and used in psychotherapy research, because of their capacity to deepen our understanding of the investigated phenomenon. Five research methods designed specifically for transpersonal research are integral inquiry, intuitive inquiry, organic research, transpersonal-phenomenological inquiry, and inquiry informed by exceptional human experiences (Braud & Anderson, 1998). Several measurement tools specific to transpersonal research have also been developed, such as the Spiritual Well-being Scale (SWBS) and the Spiritual Orientation Inventory (SOI), among others.

      The specifics of our area are not so much about the way we do research (an emphasis on phenomenology and first hand reports about ongoing experiences from research subjects) but about concepts such as, “peak experiences”, “spirituality,” “spiritual well-being,” “paranormal beliefs,” “transpersonal orientation,” “self-expansion,” “mystical experiences,” “spiritual beliefs,” and “mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.” For such concepts, some psychometric instruments are already available (see MacDonald, Kuentzel and Friedman, 1999a and 1999b). On the other hand, we do resort to first person phenomenological accounts of ongoing experiences during psychotherapy that can be correlated in real-time with brain activity, electro dermal response, general bodily feelings, and measures of immune response.

They also develop research methodologies able to use three eyes, as Wilber (Wilber, 2011) suggests, the eyes of the flesh, of the mind and of the soul, in order to investigate the participative dialogue of human beings with their environment on an integral level, able to include, as Wilber would say, all the levels and all the quadrants, and able to deal with the square and the circle.

We would like to finish with a sentence by Charles Tart: (Tart 1997 p.7 )

“I attempt to start this kind of bridging by looking at the nature of science, arguing that we have unnecessarily confused the powerful tool of scientific method with a philosophy of physicalism that keeps our science from adequately dealing with spiritual experiences and altered states of consciousness. If we return to practicing the essentials of scientific method, we may, in the best sort of scientific way, develop state-specific sciences. The kinds of human experiences dealt with in the spiritual psychologies are not incompatible with the essence of science. Indeed the spiritual psychologies presented later may be state-specific sciences themselves. Even if they are not what we Westerners would call sciences, they have an immense amount to teach us.”

P. L .Lattuada MD, Ph.D




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[1] Psychè, Atman, Supreme Consciousness, Essence, Nous, Nagual, all terms that religion could identify.
[2] Bios is not understood as something different and extraneous to psyche but rather as something that represents the physical, natural, vital, biological and material aspects of it.
Pneuma represents the emotional dimension of psyche, the vital breath, feeling; its ineffable aspect that religion identifies with the soul.
Logos is the thinking function, the cognitive dimension, which a certain rational vision identifies with the mind.
Autos is the sense of identity; it could be identified with the I, personality.

Zoe expresses that clearly transpersonal dimension that aims to describe the true nature, the essence, and the interconnected flow of existence that pervades everything, here and now.

[3] The topics shared with other western Psychologies are: basic philosophy and assumptions about the nature of the universe, the nature of mankind, mankind’s place and function in the universe, their relationship with higher and lower entities, and the basic nature of human consciousness; the path’s teaching on personality, emotion, motivation, memory, learning, mind-body relationship, psychopathology, perception, social relationships, cognitive processes, Research Methodology for the Social Sciences, and Evaluation tests.

[4]  New specific topics are: Human potential, new faculties, altered states of consciousness, death and rebirth, pre natal, perinatal and near death experiences, transpersonal experiences, spiritual emergences, relationship with spiritual path, its methods, way of contacting the living tradition, pitfalls, shadows and dangers of each path, Self-realization and consciousness of unity.


[5] Training in transpersonal psychotherapy contemplates the knowledge of the full spectrum of human experience, mentioned above.

On an academic level, training in Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy is currently active in various universities such as the Sofia University, the CIIS, the JFK and the University of Georgia. In Europe there are seven training institutes recognized by EUROTAS. In Italy, at ITI in Milan, there is an active four year course of Specialization in Psychotherapy recognized by MIUR; transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy are also taught at “Università Bicocca” in Milan and at Università Salesiana in Udine.


[6] Think about the perinatal matrices and Grof’s Holotropic Breathing, Wilber’s integral approach named AQAL, Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis, Pierrakos’ Corenergetics, Mandel’s Process Work, Weil’s Cosmogram, Mendes’ Psychotranstherapy, Lattuada’s Biotransenergetics and the psychotherapeutic models still explicitly deriving from ancient wisdom traditions. It is the case of the Zen Psychology proposed by Claire Myers Owens, or of the Buddhist Psychology described by Daniel Goleman, the Yoga Psychology by Haridas Chaudhuri, the Gurdjeff Psychology, or the Arica System by Oscar Ichazo, the Christian Psychology presented by William McNamara and the Sufi Psychology by Robert E.Ornstein. 

[7] The Seven dualisms: I am – It’s me, I observe – I judge, I leave – I hold, I love – I hate, I win – I lose, Pleasure – Pain, I live – I die

[8] In order to do so it offers a second aspect of innovation by proposing integral approaches. This means that the transpersonal psychotherapist can use corporal practices in order to act on the muscular armor, energetic practices in order to act on vital energy blockages, cathartic practices based on the abreaction of the trauma, breathing, sight, voice and touch in order to favor emotional mastery and the resolution of conflicts; it can act on a verbal level through the explanation of the question, focusing on the intent, sharing and empathic listening and cognitive restructuration; it can use meditative practices based on movement, dance, music, and on aware observation, mental presence, creative imagination, hypnotic regression or recapitulation to access the transpersonal dimensions of the Self based on insight, new order comprehensions, visions or intuitions about one’s self, one’s life and the world around us and on the development of spiritual qualities such as love, compassion, sharing, trust, responsibility and awareness. 

[9] In order to simplify under a “generalized orientation” view we can synthetize a map that defines pre personal states of consciousness characterized by instinctive consciousness, personal states characterized by rational and ordinary consciousness, and transpersonal states characterized by intuitive consciousness. 

[10] According to Anderson there are five ways through which insight be achieved in the lived experience:

·       Unconscious, symbolic and immaginal process

·       Psychic or parapsychological experiences

·       Sensory modes of intuition

·       Empathic identification

·       Through the wounds of the personal history

Anderson, Braud 22-26


[11] Four dialogic phases: Clarifying the context; Developing of the text, Revealing the pretext, Reorganizing the text.

The five maieutic categories: To Dissolve, To navigate, To expand, To prolong, To become.

[12] A pioneer in psychology; he was the first to study mystic experiences, considering them both psychic and religious events. In “The Varieties of Religious Experiences,” James as the Transpersonal Psychotherapy does views mystic experiences as a healthy and natural yearning, resting at the basis of every religion.


[13] First of all, we must remember Carl Gustav Jung who postulated the existence of the “Collective Unconscious,” originally defined as the Überpersönliche (transpersonal). This unconscious stands at the basis of the fundamental interconnection of any individual psyche and is inhabited by archetypes that constitute the very basis of any transpersonal experience.

He even pointed to spiritual experience as the best way out of neurosis


[14] He was the father of humanistic psychology and he, more than anyone else, laid the foundations for the birth of transpersonal psychology as an organized corpus among psychological theories. He viewed humanistic psychology, which is defined as the “third strength” of psychology, after psychoanalysis and behaviorism, as a transitory one in preparation for a “fourth,” even higher type of psychology: the transpersonal, trans-human, centered on Cosmos more than on human needs, and that could go to further concepts like humanity, identity, personal self-realization, towards a consciousness of the Self.


[15] He is credited as the first to transcend the limits of psychoanalysis, offering a psycho-synthesis that enabled the subject to widen the personal boundaries towards the accomplishment of a transpersonal Self. He was also the first to use the term “transpersonal psychology.”(7)


[16] Exploring the dimensions of interior experience, as referred to in his work “L’uomo senza frontiere,”(8) he pointed out the various boundaries that limit the scope of human vision of the world. In doing so, he masterfully defined the sphere of action of transpersonal psychology: consciousness, memory, development and death. Knowledge and transcendence of such boundaries are, in fact, the main characteristics of the transpersonal movement, which scientifically operates to develop the following thesis:


[17] Stan Grof (9), was the first one to elaborate a transpersonal psychodynamic model, along with a map of interior experience and a psychotherapeutic methodology with a transpersonal approach.


[18] Can be considered to be the most prolific living author. He elaborated a consciousness development model that enables us to integrate the different psychological models: cognitive, moral, psychodynamic and spiritual.


[19] The dispute we face is: what kind of guarantees should this knowledge, not willing to accept measurement and symbolic representation of the dual mind as foundations, provide?

What should be the basis of a science willing to proceed over its own strict limits?

As we keep looking for further information, we will consider the contribution that old and new members of  “perennial philosophy and perennial psychology” have given to us in the course of time.

Feeding from the researches of Einstein, Schroedinger and Heisenberg, that support the inseparability of subject and object, knower and known, Alan Watts says:

“ …In order to profoundly comprehend reality, a modality of knowledge compatible with reality is needed”[19], namely a knowledge that does not separate the subject that knows from what is known[19].

Eddington confirms:

“ … two kinds of knowledge exist, I name them symbolic knowledge and intimate knowledge. The traditional forms of thought were developed only around the symbolic knowledge. The profound knowledge does not allow codification or analysis.”

And he hopes for:

“ … an intimate knowledge of reality that goes beyond the symbols of science.”

Alfred North Whitehead[19], the modern philosopher that more than any other focused on the two different modalities of consciousness, opposes the “prehension”, meaning “to feel” reality in a direct way rather that in a dual one, to the “symbolic modality” of knowledge.

Whitehead’s “master”, William James, distinguishes between “immediate knowledge” and “conceptual or representative knowledge”[19].

Likewise, Spinoza[19] and Henri Bergson[19], distinguish between intellect and intuition, whereas Abraham Maslow[19] opposes a “fusional knowledge” to an “intellectual knowledge”, Andrew Weil[19] a direct knowledge to an indirect knowledge and Norman O. Brown[19] a “carnal” knowledge to a dualistic knowledge.

Regarding spiritual traditions, Taoism talks about a “conventional knowledge” opposed to a  “natural knowledge”, the Tao, that allows a direct comprehension of reality; Hinduism opposes a superior knowledge that can be reached directly through intuition to an inferior, conceptual and comparative knowledge.

The Christian mysticism, as Ken Wilber[19] reminds us, through Meister Eckhart, talks about a “twilight of the knowledge” to indicate the symbolic knowledge through which ideas are perceived in a different way, and a “sunrise of the knowledge” where “creatures are perceived with no difference, every idea is refused, and all the comparisons dissolve in the One, God Himself”.

Even the Mahayana Buddhism considers two modalities of knowledge: vijnana and prajna, the first characterized by dualism typical of the senses and of the intellect, and the second by the identity between observer and what is observed.


[20] The unconscious layer formed in the past according to our experiences of satisfaction, deprivation, trauma, well-being, expansion, and contraction. Humans develop along biographical lines that we call pre-personal levels.

[21] The second level is the level of conscious personality, of the I and its identifications on the personal level.


[22] The third is the layer that points towards the future, human potential and creativity, which are connected to a deep “higher self,” and that tend to promote growth and well being.,

The post-personal levels of a deeper self that goes beyond what is usually called a “personality.” Maslow called the human need that pushes towards this further development “needs for transcendence.

This refers to a need to go beyond oneself or the usual concepts of oneself. The level which  bring each person back into forms of deep integration, unification, or wholeness, both within his or her personal structures and core, central, “higher” self.


[24] They are connected to the anatomy and physiology of sense organs and do not seem to offer symbolic meanings linked to the personal story of the subject. They are colours and geometrical perceptions both proprioceptive and exteroceptive, flows of thoughts particularly intense and apparently meaningless and so on. In general, they are experiences related to the perception of oneself on the level of the energetic process. We could link these experiences to states in which new perceptive ways are opening to subsequently become an instrument and a vehicle for deeper contents of consciousness.

[25] On proceeding in the interior journey, the enhanced sensitivity and awareness tend to lead along perceptive paths that open onto experiences tightly related to one’s personal story and to the emotional world.

It is possible to get in touch with childhood emotional traumas, conflicts connected with the structure of the character subsequently produced, affective needs, desires, fears, and hindrances. That is, with all the removed contents which tend to dominate the subject.

[26] While the inner experience gets more and more intense, it is possible to face experiences in which one relives the phases of his/her biological birth, or is deeply confronted with death.

The actualisation, once again, of the birth-death process enables the subject to vividly experience psychophysical symptoms. This process is often so intense it reaches the level of tissues and cells. Such experiences go together with symbolic and mythological themes derived from different cultures. They seem to be the way towards the spiritual or transpersonal dimension in which it will be asked to transcend the ego.

[27] We are dealing here with a wide range of non-ordinary experiences previously described. They have in common the sensation of conscience expansion beyond ego borders, of transcending time and space.

Many of them may be recognised as a regression through the personal, biological, cultural or spiritual story. It is possible to reach the point of experiencing one’s foetal life again, or even the embryonic or cellular state by getting to the informational field of the ovum or sperm at the conception time. It is possible to pass the threshold of present life and widen the conscience towards ancestral, racial, and animal past dimensions. Such a widening can reach passed spatial barriers and draw from other people’s consciousness, or animals, plants or inanimate objects. Other groups of important transpersonal experiences comprise telepathy, clairvoyance, premonition, psychic diagnosis, medianity, contact with entities or spiritual guides, out-of-body experiences and synchronism.

Though the most significant aspect of the transpersonal experiences may be that of the emergence of archetypical themes, mythological or fairy sequences from the unconscious, which connect the subject to the elemental forces of the origins, enabling him/her to reorganise in them the dimensions of consciousness that directly emanated from the transpersonal Self.

 By Pier Luigi Lattuada M.D., Psy.D, Ph.D.

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