One of the reasons for the slow growth and inadequacies of our psychology is that it is culture bound; it is linked to and frequently limited by the multitudes of (implicit) assumptions that create the consensus reality of the Western world in the twentieth century.
Rationality is not some absolute, universally valid way of thinking, as we generally believe. Rational means “according to the rules”; but where do the rules come from? We now understand that there are many logics, many ways of being rational. Each logic has different assumptions behind its rules, and assumptions are arbitrary. You can assume whatever you wish. What kind of logic will enable you to survive in your particular society is a different matter: you must share most of the assumptions common in your society to fit in.
Charles T. Tart
It is said that in the Sixties a German blue-eyed missionary visited an indigenous tribe in Mato Grosso that had just experienced the first contact with a white man. A few days later, he was found tied to a pole without eyes. Evidently, the Indios liked his blue eyes and took them.
At the basis of this story are the assumptions of the missionary and the Indios.
Probably, one of the assumptions of the missionary was: salvation can only be found within Christ, we have to spread the good news to primitive people.
The assumptions of the Indios were probably of a different kind: if we take those eyes we will gain their power.
To this day, every Hindu ritual is based on offering milk to fire. According to the Veda, Prajapati, the Predecessor, generated his son Agni (fire) from the mouth. Not having any material gift to offer, in order to prevent Agni from devouring him Prajapati offered him drops of a liquid that was similar to milk, made of the secretion of his skin.
Any story that can be told has some premises: they are in fact, the founding element of every thought and human action.
Assumptions are also found at the basis of every scientific theory or discipline. Those assumptions not only determine the theoretical and methodological features of all knowledge, but, according to significant researches (Robert Roshental 1966), also influence the result of scientific experiments.
The problem is that after acknowledging and assuming those implicit assumptions, we stop paying conscious attention to them.
For example, as I get in my car I assume that when I turn the key it will start the engine and that I will be able to drive. In the same way, I assume that when I look west at sunset on a cloudless day I’ll see the sun going down below the horizon.
Taking all these assumptions for granted is such an intrinsic a procedure of our psychic functioning that we couldn’t live differently.
However, when willing to create systems of knowledge able to provide guarantees of validity, we must be aware of the assumptions on which our work is based.
In his work Transpersonal Psychologies, Tart, who is an outstanding researcher of states of consciousness, mentioned hundreds of implicit assumptions on which western psychology is based on (2000).
He suggests that every researcher should have the courage to explicate assumptions (exposure) in order to evaluate and discuss them, if needed.
Just like Tart, we believe that in order to give “epistemological guarantee” to knowledge, an essential procedure is to profoundly reflect about the assumptions at the basis of our work and theories, in order to explicate through awareness what usually is implicit.
Once our thought is clear, it becomes possible to realize that first of all our idea represents our own belief and therefore it is bearer of relative values.
Consequently, we can behave “as if” it was true and constantly test our thought and, if proven wrong, we can choose to take responsibility and modify it, or not.
After our personal journey so far, our clinical and cognitive experience and the necessary considerations and tests, we feel it is time to enunciate some of the assumptions of which we are aware and on which the theory and practice of BTE are based.
The majority of these assumptions have been shared for millennia by various spiritual traditions and other main transpersonal psychologies, giving strength and a feeling of truth to BTE. We are aware of the difficulty of seeing the “beam in one’s own eye”, but we are committed to monitoring it in order to free it from our implicit projections and desires.
The Wiseman says: “if you don’t know the assumptions on which your actions are based, you will act following assumptions you don’t know.
That is to say, the assumptions will act on your behalf”.
We have organized our assumptions in a document that we named Transpersonal Manifesto.
The Manifesto was presented to the scientific community during the 11th EUROTAS conference in Milan, in October 2009, and published here in its integral version for the first time. The first draft of the document was elaborated by the author and presented in 1999, during the International Conference “The Inheritance of the Tribe”, in Milan.
This integral version includes contributions and comments sent to the EUROTAS website during the year 2009, or directly to the author via e-mail, by: Regina Beller, Dan Winter, Marie Noelle Urech, Marco Avena, Rosemarie Anderson, Edmunds Jakovels, Ravi Gangadharaiah Nayaka, Juan Jose Diaz, Marion Hubbard, Marco Bertali, Fausto Sergej Sommer, Vitor Rodrigues, Ana Prodanovic, Davide Innocente, Francesco Pivato, Patrizia Rita Pinoli and Ingo Benjamin Jahrsetz.
The aim of the Manifesto is to gather in a simple text the common assumptions, shared and sharable with those who work in the transpersonal field. Once again, it is important to remember that we are not talking about truth or acquired information, but rather about points of view, ways of seeing the world and dreams from which maybe one day we will wake up.
In its actual draft, the Transpersonal Manifest is composed of the following sections:
– Meaning of the word Transpersonal.
– Brief overview of the Transpersonal Movement.
– Common assumptions:
a) About the Universe
b) About Human Nature
c) About Consciousness
d) About Personality
e) About the Body-Mind
f) About Civilization
g) About Society
h) About Illness and Healing
i) About the Sacred
j) About contemporary Culture
k) About Science
With the term Transpersonal we want to indicate what goes beyond personality, interpreted as a “mask”, as a level of existence of the human being that obscures its essence and its highest potentialities.
The Transpersonal approach aims to reveal these intimate potentialities, towards contact with the true nature of human beings, which lives in the integration of the levels of existence of a person: physical, emotional, energetic, mental and spiritual.
By doing this, the transpersonal approach recalls ancient knowledge and mystic traditions, from which it acquires its own baggage of practical and theoretical knowledge that can be found in the statements of “perennial philosophy”.
The Transpersonal vision presents itself as a “vehicle of mediation between the methods of research of certainty and the ways of accessing the truth”; it encourages the recovery and evaluation of intuition, through a transcendent kind of inner experience that becomes a tool for the research on reality.
1.4. Brief overview of Transpersonal Movement
We are living in an era of transition: a very special one. In this era, the mechanistic paradigm, that characterized the path of science so far, is giving way to a new integral paradigm.
More importantly, for the first time in history a new vision is emerging. By transcending them, this vision is capable of unifying polarities that for millennia existed within conflictive and often violent dynamics.
The transpersonal perspective embodies the assumptions of the integral paradigm and “aims to the development of wise and mature individuals who support humanity, respect nature and can contribute to the health of human life”.
The transpersonal movement was born in the United States of America during the sixties of the past century.
This movement, which flows along the same riverbed of other psychological disciplines, grew thanks to the work of certain psychologists, who, by recognizing the limits of the most popular analytic approaches at that time – the Freudian approach and behaviorism – helped the evolution of the new humanistic psychology by recognizing the fact that even this ideology was incomplete as it left the spiritual dimension out of the spectrum of observation.
Transpersonal psychology wanted to be a discipline able to honor the whole range of human experiences, including non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Thanks to the contribution of certain researchers who had had the chance to come into contact with traditions of knowledge that were different than the dominant western culture, the necessity to moderate and correct the domination of rationalistic mentality was recognized. This mentality had been introduced by the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm. Traditional psychiatry has always considered transpersonal experiences as pathological and has never taken into consideration nor respected transpersonal experiences that reveal ontologically real levels of existence, nor many ancient rituals through which Spirituality (interpreted as a special kind of relationship between individuals and cosmos, different from religion) has expressed itself during the evolution of mankind.
In spite of the suspicion and accusations (of being “irrational” and “nonscientific”) that transpersonal psychology suffered in its early years of life within the academic world, the new concepts and revolutionary discoveries in various scientific disciplines went alongside with the statements of transpersonal psychology, contributing to undermine the dominant materialistic paradigm.
The transpersonal vision acts as an element of reconciliation between science and spirituality based on experience, and as a synthesis between modern science and ancient wisdom.
1.5. About Universe
Ø We are all brothers and sisters. The Universe is an interconnected stream of events crossed by consciousness, which is an endless and unlimited flow. Limits only exist in human minds.
Ø The mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms, as well as the subtle worlds of the spirit, exist one in the other and one for the other.
Ø Materialistic science and the five senses only know the physical universe, but actually there are different universes and different kinds of consciousness.
Ø There are spiritual events that transcend sensorial perception and they are as real as measurable physical events.
Ø Besides physical energy, which we introduce in our organism through food and breathing, there are other sources of energy we can draw from. Think about the force that pushes trees upwards, the fervor of springtime, the freshness of a young girl in bloom, the power of faith or spiritual yearning, maternal love, a night in the forest or a sunrise on the Himalaya.
Ø Love is the source of life that feeds and sustains all levels of being.
1.6. About Human Nature
Ø Each one of us has an “intimate nature” that is essential, biologically founded, natural and innate.
Ø This intimate nature is “intrinsically good”. It contains fundamental needs, emotions, human abilities, potentials, talents, physiological and behavioral balance, anatomic structure etc.
Ø The existence of each individual is a process of self-realization of his own “true nature” or spiritual essence.
Ø The process of self-realization is not limited to rational faculties and it proceeds towards higher qualities, such as: love, wisdom, humbleness, trustfulness, awareness, patience, sharing, solidarity, respect and so on.
Ø As a bio-psycho-spiritual being, an individual is not only made of physical parts but also of a series of interconnected levels that include the physical, emotional and mental ones.
Ø An individual’s life might not begin with birth nor end with death; it could represent a moment in the evolutionary day of “universal consciousness”.
Ø The spermatozoon and the ovum that generated me were alive before I was born and the memory of me will continue to act in the world even after my death. When did I begin? When will I end? Defining it is arbitrary.
Ø Through inner experience, individuals can gradually free themselves from their personal history and psychophysical attachments, develop their more genuine human qualities, achieve their “true nature” and reconnect with the eternal and sacred dimension of the spiritual world. Inner experience resembles a sculptor’s chisel, which day after day models rough marble and by eliminating what is superfluous reveals the beauty hidden inside it.
Ø A creative process is the result of an archetypical flow that accesses the field of consciousness of the individual who is creating.
1.7. About Consciousness
Ø All life forms – mineral, vegetable, animal, human and spiritual – are pervaded by a flow of consciousness and deserve love and respect.
Ø There are various forms of consciousness at different levels of evolution and complexity. There might be individual and collective forms of consciousness: forms of “superior” consciousness that help and guide us, as well as “inferior” and /or suffering forms of consciousness.
Ø The brain and the neural system are not the headquarters of consciousness, but rather tools for it. Consciousness is as real as the brain itself.
Ø No sane grown-up person would be so foolish to think that the television itself is where the broadcasted performance is taking place. Similarly, it seems a rather senseless inference to think that consciousness is exclusively a product of brain activity.
Ø There are different states of consciousness; each one is the expression of the specific level of consciousness that is operating in that particular context. Each radio station operates on its own wave frequency and broadcasts a specific show; similarly, each state of consciousness is the expression of a specific vibration and produces specific feelings, thoughts, memories, behaviors etc.
Ø When working in a “dual” and rational way, the mind is responsible for “ordinary” states of consciousness. Through inner practice, it becomes possible to reach the “unitive” condition of the mind, the ecstatic one, transcend the ordinary state of consciousness and access “non-ordinary states of consciousness”.
Ø Rational consciousness is limited. Insight, or intuitive comprehension, can be reached through instances of the ecstatic mind and makes it possible to access the true nature of things.
Ø Our comprehension of the universe is directly influenced by our way of being and knowing.
Ø My vision of the world depends on the position from which I look at it, that is to say my state of consciousness.
Ø There is a “non-ordinary condition of consciousness” through which it is possible to access extra-sensorial realities, connect with the entire universe and draw from the truth that has always been within our being. One can be trained in order to experience this truth. This process produces important consequences on the physical and psychic health of an individual.
4.8. About Personality
Ø By Personality we mean a dynamic and organized set of psychic characteristics and modalities of behavior that define the nucleus of individual differences, within the variety of contexts in which human conduct is developed.
Ø A kind of personality that is well adapted to the values of its culture might be the result of identification with illusory schemes, which, from an evolutionary perspective, need to be transcended in order to access a true comprehension of oneself and the world.
Ø In order to access the spiritual dimension, it is essential to “deidentify” from the traits of one’s own personality.
1.9. About the Body-Mind
Ø Body-mind means the integration of the different levels that constitute a human being.
Ø Emotional states are directly connected with states of consciousness. As a result of repression or strict control over emotions, consciousness can become chronic and interfere with the process of realization. Emotions are a manifestation of the expressive biological motion, which is the essence of life.
Ø Managing emotions is fundamental in order to pass from the ordinary level of consciousness to superior ones.
Ø Managing one’s own emotions means being in contact with them, transforming and expressing them through conscious observation and disidentification.
Ø Sexuality expresses the true creative force of life. Taking it into consideration means drawing from the primary source of our being in the world.
Ø The imaginary world, the worlds of symbols and inner archetypes, as well as contact with elemental forces and spiritual beings, can be a source of profound comprehension.
Ø Faith does not mean adhering to dogmas in an uncritical way; it is rather something that grows from the inner experience of spiritual reality.
4.10. About Civilization
Ø Civilization grew together with competition, fed by individualism. This growth led to brand new social, environmental and psychological conditions, which demand new ways of thinking. This transformation in the collective consciousness pushes us to increasingly consider values such as solidarity and sharing.
4.11. About Society
Ø The true nature of human beings consists of relationships.
Ø In relationships human beings can experience the unity from which they come.
Ø By recognizing relationships as an encounter between brothers and sisters, natural ethics and the spontaneous expression of human qualities are developed. Qualities such as: trust, sharing, wisdom, humbleness, courage, respect, compassion, etc.
Ø With a spiritual vision at the basis of a new economy, the individualistic mentality can be surpassed and integrated with the idea of common wellbeing and cooperation.
4.12. About Illness and Healing
Ø Pain, social and emotional conflicts and illness are not just enemies to fight, but also allies that carry a creative potential, source of meaning, teaching and strength.
Ø By mastering listening and self-observation, we can make it possible for the creative potential of the symptom or conflict to express itself through images, emotions, sensations, needs, desires, memories, sounds, actions, intuitions etc.
Ø Impeding access to non-ordinary states of consciousness might hinder true healing and spiritual fulfillment.
Ø The most genuine human qualities that we are able to offer to the world such as love, compassion, solidarity, patience, humility and sharing, represent a first-choice healing for every illness.
4.13. About the Sacred
Ø Besides the dimension we can access through ordinary consciousness, there is a superior and founding reality and its nature is spiritual.
Ø Each spiritual tradition has experienced, described and interpreted this dimension in a particular way. Different forms of religion were born from these experiences.
Ø Besides the specific ways of experiencing and understanding this dimension, there is a recognizable universal mold shared by different traditions.
Ø The common elements that constitute the truest and most essential aspect of all forms of spirituality can be identified.
4.14. About Contemporary Culture
Ø It is important to know the topicality of the philosophical interpretations developed by traditional cultures and understand the experiential matrix.
Ø The millenary experience of traditional cultures demands particular attention as it carries a very rich knowledge concerning the spiritual world.
Ø The transpersonal movement feels the need to go beyond some tendencies of contemporary culture such as relativism, materialism, scientism, reductionism and hedonism.
Ø Many limits of contemporary culture are to be found within the unawareness that a real experience of the spiritual world is possible.
Ø We have the chance to treat and study spiritual experience respecting its specific features without having to enter into confessional or theological considerations.
4.15. About Science
Ø States of consciousness that are different than the ordinary ones extend the range of experiences to a point that the classic scientific elaboration, which is based only on ordinary experience, can be surpassed.
Ø Actually, scientific results are giving plausibility to interpretations that integrate phenomena of the natural world within a spiritual context.
Ø There is a need to bridge over the abyss that has been separating scientific and spiritual culture for the last two centuries and proceed towards their integration.
Ø Many known phenomena haven’t received enough attention, because they are considered outsiders and not integrated in the various categories of materialistic science. These phenomena can be correctly understood within a spiritual horizon.