Inclusive Psychology - Short Essays
This webpage contains short essays and additional material devoted to the topics mentioned on the site's Home page .
Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940), Fellow of the Royal Society, was a prominent English physicist, mathematician, researcher, theorist, teacher, and writer. He made important scientific contributions in areas of electromagnetic waves, wireless telegraphy, lightning research, voltaic cells, electrolysis, electric smoke and fog dispersal, and the possibility of radio waves from the sun. He developed the coherer radio detector, the variable tuner, the moving coil loudspeaker, and the electric spark plug (igniter) for the internal combustion engine. Lodge was one of the earliest pioneers in the development of radio, conducting wireless experiments in 1888 and making one of the first public demonstrations of wireless transmission—over a distance of 55 meters—in 1894, predating Guglielmo Marconi's work by a year (but following Nicola Tesla's work by a year).

Lodge was a contemporary of philosopher-psychologist William James (1842-1910). Like James, he had a keen interest in psychical research and served as President of the [British] Society for Psychical Research. Lodge wrote over 30 books on scientific, philosophical, and popular topics. In many of these, he argued convincingly for the importance of extending the range of sources that can inform us about our nature and the nature of the physical world, expanding these beyond the views of a narrowly conceived version of science.

Well-aligned with the spirit of Inclusive Psychology, the following excerpt presents Lodge's views on the values of literature and the humanities as complements to science, and as ways of expanding the scientist's range of what can be known and appreciated. This excerpt is from the public domain source: Lodge, Oliver. (1910). The appeal to literature. In Reason and belief (pp. 152-155). New York: George H. Doran Company.

Part III—The Scope of Science: Chapter III—The Appeal to Literature

REVIEWERS may admit the right of a student of Science to survey the facts which have come under his scrutiny, and from their contemplation to formulate a theory which to him appears most likely to be true; they may also allow him the right to state it in such a way that it can be understood, without at the same time constantly protruding technical details,— which are best left to be studied in the publications of scientific societies. All this they might admit, and yet contend that he had no right to quote poets or men of letters in support of his hypothesis.
'You may hold an atomic theory '— such critics might be supposed to say—' but you must not quote Lucretius. You may hold a view concerning Oracles, but must not quote Virgil. Or an opinion about Immortality, but must not quote Tennyson or Wordsworth.'
If that contention is ever urged, I demur to the conclusion, though not to the spirit in which it is conceived.
What is true is that the utterances of poets are not part of the facts that can be appealed to in support of a thesis,— except in so far as their evident reasonableness carries with them a conviction of truth. Nevertheless the intuitions of genius must not be ignored. There are facts relating to human nature, and to the relation between man and the rest of the Universe, concerning which poets and prophets — humanists, in fact, in the widest sense — are the best and indeed almost the only guides. To them seem to come whisperings which have been likened to the murmur of a shell held to the ear of a child,— reverberations and intensifications of sounds too faint for the unaided ear.
                                                               'Even such a shell the universe itself
                                                                Is to the ear of faith; and there are times
                                                               I doubt not, when to you it doth impart
                                                                Authentic tidings of invisible things.'   [Wordsworth, Excursion IV]
       The sanction for their statements and deductions is to be found in the hearer's own experience and consciousness; and the perfect form in which their utterances are enshrined is of the utmost value in securing or arousing general attention.
Moreover, however much or little intrinsic value their opinions may possess, they at least represent the views of previous explorers in the domain of humanity. And, surely, if it be found that previous workers were on the right track, and have given utterance to statements which you subsequently find to be confirmed by your own quite different and independent investigations, it is only seemly to call attention to their rightness and inspiration. Indeed, it would be less than moral to refrain from doing so.
If it be urged that seers are not scientific workers,— that they employ alien methods,— I agree that their methods are different, but not that they are alien. Science, in a narrow sense, is by no means the only way of arriving at truth — especially not at truth concerning human nature. To decline to be informed by the great seers and prophets of the past, and to depend solely on a limited class of workers such as have been bred chiefly within the last century or two, would savour of a pitiful narrowness, and would be truly and in the largest sense unscientific.
       The insight of great men is of the highest value; and though selection must undoubtedly be made, and though only those are quoted which agree with the thoughts of the quoter, yet that is exactly what is done with the work of all pioneers. Those who are supposed to have gone wrong are eliminated and ignored;those who appear to have gone right are selected and acclaimed. Little merit there is in that procedure, nor any shame. Truth is large, and can be explored by many avenues. All honour to those who, with insufficient experience but with the inspiration of genius, caught glimpses of a larger and higher truth than was known to the age in which they lived, and who had the felicity of recording their inspirations in musical and immortal words; — words such as the worker in science has not at his command — words at which he rejoices when he encounters them, and which he quotes because they have given him pleasure.
       Let this serve as excuse and sufficient justification for the large number of quotations already utilized.
Science and the Humanities: The Views of Sir Oliver Lodge
For this is characteristic of truth, that it may be reached by many diverse routes; and although its ultimate peaks are inaccessible, yet its strenuous disciples, however far apart they are at the start, and however roundabout their journey, may hope to meet on such intermediate and temporary summits as can be attained at the present stage of earthly existence.

                                                               ~ Sir Oliver Lodge

Transpersonal psychology takes an expanded view of personality, human development, and identity, and focuses on the nature and integration of experiences such as mystical and unitive awareness, personal transformation, higher values, alternative and expanded consciousness, non-ordinary perception, and transcendence.

Transpersonal psychology assumes that these aspects of human experience are natural and healthy (they need not be pathological nor fantasy), and they can be conceptualized and researched scientifically with both conventional methods and innovative approaches. Transpersonal psychology studies these topics with open minded inquiry and with critical thinking. The field uses both quantitative and qualitative methods of research. Five peer reviewed journals are oriented toward transpersonal articles and research, and publications also appear in mainstream journals.

Transpersonal psychology accepts subjective awareness as an integral part of human reality, and subjective ways of knowing as including valid epistemologies. Transpersonal psychology is teleological, and less reductionistic compared to most psychologies. In its world view, transpersonal psychology is more organic and context oriented than most schools of psychology. It provides a bridge between psychology and spiritual traditions.

Several advantages can emerge from a conceptual conversation between parapsychologists and transpersonal psychologists. The transpersonal side can provide insights from theories and data about states of consciousness (e.g. James, Wilber, LeShan, Tart, Baruss), and qualitative methods for researching subjective states, which can inform correlations and dynamics of psi. It can inform about processes developed in spiritual psychologies for altering and deploying attention.

Transpersonal psychology suggests a wider context for psi phenomena in spiritual traditions and in some indigenous cultures.

The parapsychological side contributes objective research methods which investigate transpersonal phenomena such as direct knowing, consciousness alterations, kriyas, subtle energy, OBEs, experiential transcendence of time, and trans-sensory modes of knowing. These methods can establish the empirical reality of phenomena found in transpersonal psychology. Clinically, the two fields together offer ways to address emotional and disturbed reactions from apparent psychic phenomena, and conditions in which there are mixtures of psychotic and psychic experience. Both can bring critical thinking to these areas of human experience which are reported in science and in the popular media.

Some concerns about transpersonal psychology that may come from parapsychologists are dangers of religious true belief about spiritual claims, the ambiguities of subjective data, and the open value orientation of transpersonal perspectives. The paradigm of transpersonal psychology may appear ungrounded. From the transpersonal side, the objective methods of parapsychologists may appear to open doors of ability without values to guide them. Parapsychologists may be seen as avoiding paradigms that accept apparent spiritual experiences (however they may be interpreted) with some claim to reality. There are also differences of temperament; inevitably some individuals prefer to engage in the study of parapsychological phenomena per se, and others are drawn equally to transpersonal interests. Some professionals have found both fields to be of value in their work, and perhaps we can learn from their approaches. The goal is to enable conversation between the two fields where there can be mutual benefit.


This is an Abstract of a paper by Arthur Hastings, presented as part of a Panel on Parapsychology and Transpersonal Psychology, at the 48th Annual Parapsychological Association Convention, Petaluma, CA, 2005. Retrieved March 3, 2010, from . Used with permission.
The cause of evils begins with putting yourself before other people.
                                                   ~ Huston Smith

The world is everything that is the case, but also everything that may be the case.
                                                             ~ Anton Zeilinger
Conceptual and Evidential Convergence of Parapsychology and Transpersonal Psychology

Arthur Hastings

Institute of Transpersonal Psychology

The first story, "The Other Side of the Hedge," was written by E. M. Forster and was published in his first collection of short stories, The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories, in 1911. The straight, dry, and dusty road on one side of the hedge, and the bucolic garden-like other side of the hedge provide effective metaphors for growth, progress, advancement, achievement, development, productivity, striving, purpose, competition, extrinsic values, ceaseless activity . . . and the complements of each of these.

The second story, "The Door in the Wall," was written in 1906 by H. G. Wells and was published in The Door in the Wall and Other Stories in 1911. The story contrasts the aesthetic and imaginal with the practical and logical, and describes what might be sacrificed in the pursuit of worldly affairs and success.

The third story, "A Stop in Willoughby," was written by Rod Serling and aired as an episode of his Twilight Zone TV series on May 6, 1960. Here, as in the H. G. Wells story, one finds a contrast between the hectic workaday world and a simpler, more innocent, more bucolic existence and way of being.

They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their grey visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, on awaking, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. They penetrate, however rudderless or compassless, into the vast ocean of the "light ineffable" . . . .
 ~Edgar Allan Poe
Escapes From the Everyday: Three Short Stories

This item provides access to three short stories that have certain aspects in common. The stories address escapes from the everyday, from the ordinary. They address longings for simpler times and simpler ways of being, for other possibilities . . . and suggest how the habits and demands of our workaday lives limit access to those possibilities.

In the second and third stories, and perhaps even in the first (according to some interpretations), the "seeker" dies. One might wonder, however, whether another kind of death might be involved—the death of ego and of the usual way of being and doing.

These three stories can be accessed via the following links:

Link to E. M. Forster's "The Other Side of the Hedge" (1911)

Links to H. G. Wells' "The Door in the Wall" (1906),%20The%20Door%20in%20the%20Wall%20by%20HG%20Wells (audio version)

Link to Rod Serling's "A Stop at Willoughby" (1960)
A Stop At Willoughby video (full program)
On Silence . . . and Monkeys

I've heard that there is, in Africa, a belief that monkeys can speak; they refrain from speaking, however, to avoid having to work.

Silent monkeys are found in Japan, in the tradition of the San-en or Three Monkeys. We are familiar with the set of three joined monkeys—one covering its eyes, one covering its ears, one covering its mouth. We affectionately call these three characters
See-No-Evil, Hear-No-Evil, and Speak-No-Evil. These are worthy moral injunctions. But there is more to this tradition. In the Japanese language, "saru" or "zaru" means both "don't" and "monkey." So, what is normally rendered as monkeys that see, hear, and speak no evil could be rendered, more directly and accurately, as "don't see, don't hear, don't speak"—reminders to occasionally close or shut the doors of the conventional senses and of the conventional (verbal) mode of expression.* When we follow this more esoteric injunction, what do we encounter?

In Egypt, one sees statues of Horus in the form of an infant standing beside or seated in the lap of his mother, Isis. This form of the child Horus was known to the late Egyptians as Harpa-khruti and to the Greeks and Romans as Harpocrates. Harpocrates is invariably represented in statues with a finger of one hand on his mouth. Overtly, this gesture of a finger to the lips may signify Harpocrates' infancy. ("Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"—William Wordsworth) Covertly, this same gesture may be an injunction to silence, for those who understand. Interestingly, in these same statues, Harpocrates holds in his other arm a cornucopia. Could the latter be symbolic of the rewards in store for one who follows the admonition to silence?

Another silent one was "Harpo" of the Marx Brothers, the madcap comedy team famous for their vaudeville and feature film monkeyshines in the 1920s and 30s.One of their earliest movies was called Monkey Business (1931). It is of interest that it was Harpo who was a silent, never-speaking brother. Surely this is merely a curious coincidence; who would ever accuse the Marx Brothers of possessing esoteric knowledge?

Harpo was a mime. Monkeys, too, pantomime, mime, mimic. "Monkey see, monkey do." Via the Japanese equivalency mentioned above, this familiar phrase can become "Don't see; don't do." Could the latter be a veiled injunction to close and shut down the familiar avenues of perception and expression, opening the way for new possibilities?

Monkeys are mischievous; monkeys are fools; monkeys do not speak. "Silence is the virtue of fools," wrote Francis Bacon, and "Silence is the understanding of fools and one of the virtues of the wise," wrote Chevalier Bernard de Bonnard. There are persons who spend much of their lives in silence; they are called monks.

Monkeys are clowns. There is a pronounced clownish element in many of the wisdom traditions, especially in the art and literature of Zen. In other traditions as well, we find crazy wisdom and holy fools. The wise never take themselves too seriously; they monkey around a lot.

Don't see, don't hear, don't speak, don't do—to follow these injunctions is to enter the realm of Harpocrates, the realm of silence, the realm of the mystical. The very word "mystical" is associated with Greek words that echo these meanings—mystes (one who is close-mouthed or initiated in the mysteries), and myein (to shut the eyes). The wisdom traditions are rich in suggestions to enter fully into the realm of silence in order to encounter new ways of knowing and being:

"Darkness within darkness. The gate-way to all understanding."—Lao-tzu

"Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place."—Lao-tzu

"Lovers put out the candles and draw the curtains when they wish to see the god and the goddess; and in the higher communion the night of thought is the light of perception."—Coventry Patmore

"Leave off doing, that you may be. Leave off analysis, that you may know."—Anonymous

"So the soul, if she would work inwardly ... must hide . . . from all images and forms . . . . [One] must be in a stillness and silence, where the Word may be heard. One cannot draw near to this Word better than by stillness and silence: then it is heard and understood in utter ignorance. When one knows nothing, it is opened and revealed."—Meister Eckhart

* "Mi-zaru" ("don't see") suggests "don't see monkey" or, if "evil" (that which is not to be seen) is implicit or understood, "don't-see-evil monkey." Similarly, "Kika-zaru" ("don't hear") becomes "don't hear monkey" or "don't-hear-evil monkey," and "Iwa-zaru" ("don't speak") becomes "don't speak monkey" or "don't-speak-evil monkey."

Three Monkeys artwork, above, © 1995 by Winona Schroeter. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Theoretically there is a perfect possibility of happiness: believing in the indestructible element in oneself and not striving towards it.

The indestructible is one: it is each individual human being and, at the same time, it is common to all, hence the incomparably indivisible union that exists between human beings.
                                                                               ~Franz Kafka

                                    On Some Curious Reversals of Word Meanings

More or less intense stimulation of one idea leads to its inhibition and, by means of the same mechanism, induces the opposite idea. 
~ Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

Hidden things become manifest through opposites. But since God has no opposite, He remains hidden. Opposites are made manifest through opposites, like white and black. So you have come to know light through light's opposite: Opposites display opposites within the breast. So the locus of manifestation for a thing is the opposite, and each opposite aids its own opposite. If you write upon a black page, your script will be hidden, since both are the color of tar. No opposite can be known without its opposite: Having suffered a blow, you will know a caress. You will not know evil until you know the good: You can discern an opposite through its opposite. Every light has a fire, every rose a thorn; a serpent watches over every treasure hidden in the ruins. Look at the abasement of the earth and the exaltation of the heavens: Without these two Attributes, the heavens could not revolve, oh friend! The spirit cannot act without the body. Without the spirit, the body is withered and cold. Your body is manifest and your spirit hidden: These two put all the business of the world in order. Life is peace among opposites, death the appearance of strife among them. 
~ Jelaluddin

Everything tends sooner or later to go over into its opposite. 
~ Carl Gustav Jung


Today, "empirical" is used synonymously with experimental, objective; it is often contrasted with subjective. Once, empirical meant experiential (from the Greek, empeirikos, empeiria). Note how it's been turned on its head.

Today, "intellect" is used synonymously with head-oriented thinking, with cognition; it is often contrasted with heart. Once, intellect had a much larger meaning—more like heart than head. In fact, intellect was the largest manifestation of mind, and was used synonymously with heart, as in the most complete, deepest core of one's mind and being. What we now call "intellect" (i.e., rational thinking) was, to the early Greeks, merely dianoia, which was but one part of the much larger nous. To appreciate how this word has been turned on its head, consider these definitions of terms that are significant within The Philokalia (from the Greek, love of the good, love of beauty), an important and influential collection of writings within Eastern esoteric Christianity:

"Intellect (nous): The highest faculty in humanity, through which—provided it is purified—one knows the divine or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or 'simple cognition.' The intellect dwells in the 'depths of the soul'; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart. The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the 'eye of the heart.' "

"Heart (kardia): Not simply the physical organ but the spiritual center of one's being, as made in the image of the divine; one's deepest and truest self or inner shrine . . . ." 
~ from The Philokalia

Today, we use the term "contemplation" in the sense of just thinking about something, often contrasting it with "meditation," which we use to indicate a more profound experience. Once, the meanings of the two terms were exactly reversed. In the times of the ancient Greeks and of the medieval mystics, contemplation (theoria) was a more advanced state in which one merged with the object of one's consciousness (although "object" no longer applied, since both subject and object disappeared, replaced by another form of being). Meditation was thought to be a mere prelude to contemplation (see Plato, Bonaventure, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, among many, many others).

The words "consciousness" and "awareness" suggest a host of considerations. One set of these may be found in An Echo in Search of a Mountain, a wonderful collection of 1974 essays by the late Robert Ashby (edited in 1995 by Frank Tribbe and available from Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship International). The following excerpt is from Ashby's first essay, which is about the nature of awareness:

" 'Awareness' is a multi-faceted word which derives from the Anglo-Saxon meaning 'to be wary,' that is, cautious, alert, with one's senses aquiver. Webster defines 'aware' as 'apprised, cognizant, informed, or conscious,' and notes that 'aware' and all of its synonyms mean having knowledge of something that is not obvious or apparent. Self -evident sensory perception or straightforward logical deduction would not warrant 'aware' or its synonyms, therefore. Rather the term refers to disparate, oblique, even hidden aspects of reality of which one gains some consciousness and thereby some information. . . . We see, therefore, that, rather than the word 'awareness' being the apogee, the acme of sensitivity, it occupies the lowest rung upon the perceptual ladder. It is at the very bottom of the spectrum, not the top; because one goes from 'awareness,' the drawing of inferences about something which is not obvious, to 'consciousness,' attentiveness and focusing within the mind, to 'cognizance,' firsthand, specific, certain knowledge, to 'sensibility,' a psi (ESP) function, to 'aliveness,' or heightened ESP, and finally, to 'awakeness,' which is acute 'sensibility,' i.e., psi 'aliveness' aquiver to all possible impressions. What we seek, therefore, is not 'awareness' but 'awakeness.' By attaining such awakeness with reference to the non-self-evident aspects of reality, one can make these aspects evident through one's self." (Ashby, 1995, pp. 11-13)

The term yoga suggests uniting, joining, bonding, binding, linking, harnessing, yoking together; this conveys one of the two important aims of Yoga: the union of the conditioned and limited self with the true Self, of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, the identification with purusha (pure consciousness). Curiously, the term yoga also suggests the contrary meaning of separating. For example, the commentator Bhoja described Patanjali’s yoga as “an effort to separate the Atman (the Reality) from the non-Atman (the apparent)”, and Bhoja also wrote, “Yoga is separation”. Eliade pointed out that the union that is the aim of Yoga presupposes a prior “severance of the bonds that join the spirit and the world . . . [and] . . . detachment from the material, emancipation with respect to the world”. These dual meanings of yoga as both union and separation very closely resemble the dual meanings of the English word cleave, with meanings of both clinging, sticking, firmly adhering and splitting. The double meanings of yoga are evident in the bivalent aim of Yoga: to achieve separation, independence, isolation, liberation (from the conditioned, from prakriti) in order to achieve oneness, union (with the unconditioned, with purusha).

Animals (and our animal nature) are often belittled, even in some spiritual traditions, and their actions misunderstood and misinterpreted. Overlaying these actions with human projections and distortions, we sometimes characterize animals (and our own animal nature) as dumb, brutish, and cruel. In view of this bias, it is interesting to note the meanings of words related to "animal"—words such as animate, and anima (which has to do with soul) and animus (which itself has curious double meanings of spirit, mind, and courage, but also anger, enmity, malice, and hatred). Yet, we belittle plants even more than we do animals—so much so that "vegetate" has acquired negative connotations. We tend to contrast vegetables, which just sit there, with lively animals that are always moving about. We even call humans with severely impaired mental or physical functioning "vegetables"; and consider our references to "couch potatoes." One would think that the word origins of "vegetate" would suggest these "inert" qualities. But, lo and behold, "vegetable" derives from the Latin vegetare (to animate), from vegetus (lively), from vegere (to enliven); the dictionary even suggests consulting "wake" to learn more. Another word seems to have been turned on its head. 

The word upset, until the 17th Century, meant to set something up, that is, to erect something, rather than its present, opposite meaning of capsize. With, in Old English, meant against (e.g., to fight with), rather than its present meaning.

Speaking of English, in England and in Australia, when the term “to table” something is used at a meeting or conference, this means to put it on the agenda for immediate discussion or handling. In the U.S., “to table” something means just the opposite; it means to put it aside, to delay its handling until later.

For a few days, I played the game of looking up various words that came my way, and in every case, each word once meant its opposite! Thus, theory had to do with receiving direct knowledge through contemplation, rather than abstraction. But then, abstracted also had to do with being absent-minded. Speculate had to do with looking carefully at something, rather than making wild guesses. I began to entertain the hypothesis that every word we use today might, at one time, have meant its opposite.
The nature of the mind when understood,
No human speech can compass or disclose.
Enlightenment is naught to be attained,
And he that gains it does not say he knows.

                                    ~ Huang Po (Hsi Yun)
                                       [quoting Bodhidharma]


One of several degree options at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, in Palo Alto, CA, is a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology. A consideration of the original meanings of all of the terms in that degree designation is revealing.
The original meaning of doctor is teacher, and the meaning of philosophy is love of wisdom. Psychology’s original meaning is study of the soul, and transpersonal literally means beyond the mask. So, if we substitute the original meanings of these terms, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Transpersonal Psychology becomes Teacher of the Love of Wisdom in the Study of the Soul Beyond the Mask.
                                                             Little Psyches: A Song Parody

When I was an undergraduate psychology major, back in 1964, I wrote the following song--a parody of Malvina Reynolds' song, Little Boxes. Back then, behaviorism was the reigning paradigm within psychology. Today, cognitive psychology and neuropsychology have dethroned behaviorism and taken its place. Perhaps a new parody is in order !



Little boxes in the psych lab,
Little rats inside of Skinner boxes,
Little men inside of lab coats,
Dressed in lab coats all the same.

They're from Yale and Minnesota,
And Stanford and Iowa,
And they all had learned teachers,
And the teachers thought the same.

There were Hullians and Guthrieans,
Tolmanians and Skinnerians,
And they all could count responses,
They could count them just the same.

They were all taught of the science
Of human be-hav-i-or,
Everyone is quite determined,
And they all work just the same.

Some believed and others doubted,
But the teachers reinforced them all,
And put them all in boxes,
With the levers all the same.

Now they all have nice assistantships,
And work at the University,
Where they all live in their boxes,
Insulated all the same.

Copyright © 1964 by William Braud. All rights reserved.


The original song, Little Boxes, was written in 1961 by Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978) and was popularized by Pete Seeger. The song was inspired by the look-alike houses populating the hillside of Daly City, California.

To hear Malvina Reynolds singing Little Boxes, click here.
To hear Pete Seeger's rendition, click here.
To learn more about Malvina Reynolds, click here.
To learn more about Little Boxes, click here.

May God us keep
From Single vision and Newton's sleep.
                                            ~ William Blake
A tree lives on its roots. If you change the root, you change the tree. Culture lives in human beings. If you change the human heart, the culture will follow.

                                           ~ Jane Hirshfield

                                                               Some Thoughts About "Otherness"

One of the major aims of the movement of ecopsychology (a blend of ecology, psychology, and earth-based spirituality that has been growing over the past several decades) has been to encourage us to more fully appreciate our human relationship with all aspects of the environment and to identify more closely with the rocks, water, air, plants, and animals around us. In doing so, we might treat these beings better—because they are interconnected with us, like us, or indeed are us. This is not unrelated to certain interpretations of the dictum "Tat Tvam Asi" ("That Thou Art") of Hindu philosophy and cosmology. The idea seems to be that if we identify with the environment, we will treat it as we treat ourselves, because it really is "us."

I often have had the heretical thought that such a way of thinking actually promotes not altruism and a greater love of the other, but rather, a greater degree of selfishness: Have we not simply enlarged our "self" and now love and care for these new others not because of their uniqueness and otherness, but because they are really "me" in disguise? On this view of The Greater Selfishness, an appreciation of our human interconnectedness with all of Nature (Taoism's "Ten Thousand Things") may indeed foster greater feelings of responsibility and, perhaps, greater feelings of empathy and compassion—but for whom or for what would these latter feelings be directed? For that which is other (which, for me, would be the true object of an authentic altruism) or simply for myself ? In mentioning this heretical thought, I am viewing altruism (a term coined by Auguste Comte) as a selfless concern for the welfare of others and the opposite of selfishness.

It is important to note that what I mentioned above has to do with the possible motive or attitude behind a certain way of thinking about our interconnectedness with others and with all things. Our beliefs about interconnectedness and the reality of interconnectedness is another matter, which I am not questioning here.

Another dictum that does not seem to be entirely free of selfishness is the well-known "Golden Rule," which appears in various forms in many if not all cultures: the idea that one should treat others as one would wish oneself to be treated.

The gist of the above is that I do not think we honor the other as other (whether this other be another person or type of person, another way of being or thinking, or another type of entity) sufficiently. In our usual and usually extreme busyness, we have little time to entertain others or to let them into our lives. Instead, we tend to focus on the sames, which are familiar, unthreatening, and comfortable. (Regarding busyness, it is of interest to note that the Chinese character for busy or busyness consists of two parts: One part means heart or spirit, one part means death or destruction. So, a meaning of busyness is death of the heart.) One of the important practices and values that we emphasize at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology is appreciation of differences (along with other practices and values of mindfulness, compassion, and discernment). There is no need to additionally emphasize sameness or similarities, because this tends to take care of itself.

Indeed, this insufficient honoring or attention to an other can be extended to another realm of being. Just as we are often too busy to consider or entertain others of a more usual nature, we tend to have even less time to devote to more unusual others—such as other modes of knowing, being, and doing; other conditions of consciousness; other stages of development; other realms of being; other types of entities; other realities. (One of the rationales for transpersonal psychology is to consider more fully and more deeply these very types of otherness, these types of "something More.") To give just one example of how busyness can prevent access to otherness, consider the issues of the possible survival of discarnates, after the death of the physical body, and consider, also, the possibilities of spiritual beings and mystical experiences. If discarnates do exist and do attempt to communicate their existence to us, rarely if ever are we sufficiently unbusy, quiet, and attentive enough to notice such communications. The same applies to our access to spiritual beings or to the qualities of what has been called the mystical experience. Access to these others requires special forms of attentiveness, sensitivity, and deep listening—qualities that we rarely display. Access would require that we unbusy ourselves, reduce distractions, empty ourselves, and free ourselves from (too much) business as usual. Only then might more subtle forms of others visit and make themselves known to us.

 When we look at the glory of stars and galaxies in the sky and the glory of forests and flowers in the living world around us, it is evident that God loves diversity. Perhaps the universe is constructed according to a principle of maximum diversity. The principle of maximum diversity says that the laws of nature, and the initial conditions at the beginning of time, are such as to make the universe as interesting as possible. As a result, life is possible but not too easy. Maximum diversity often leads to maximum stress. In the end we survive, but only by the skin of our teeth. This is the confession of faith of a scientific heretic.

~  Freeman Dyson  


Like the unseen roots of adjoining trees,
We and others are interconnected and one.
Like the visible individual leaves,
We and others are distinctive and separate.
Each is essential:
     Roots and leaves
     Oneness and separateness
Each to be honored for what it is:
     Same and Other.

What we misname as "waking consciousness" is the deepest sleep of all because in it we are most stuck in the illusions of separation from God, self, other, and nature.

~ Seán ÓLaoire

Ontogenetic Influences: The KAGE Into Which We Are Born

When we enter into this world, we are born into a cage—but a cage spelled with a K rather than a C. The four letters of KAGE stand for karma, archai, genetics, and environment. The initial (at the time and place of our birth) and subsequent conditions of each of these four factors appear to be the major influences on the origin and development of our individual natures. Of these, genetics and environment are quite familiar and usually are considered sufficient to exhaust the possibilities of influence. Karma and (especially) archai are much less familiar principles and processes, but it is important to add these if one is to gain a more complete understanding of the determinants of our being and actions.


Genetics, of course, refers to characteristics and predispositions that we inherit from our parents and ancestors. Today, our understanding of genetics tends to be limited to considerations of our genes and of DNA, which carries the blueprint or code of our individual nature and development. Little need be said here about this very familiar factor. It is noteworthy that just as conventional scientific knowledge attributes the working of our universe to the interaction of four forces (gravitation, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force), the nature and working of the genetic coding of information in DNA is considered to be determined by the sequence of four bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine) along the backbone of the molecule.


The environment consists of all of the objects, conditions, and circumstances that surround us and act upon us. Environment, conceived most inclusively, is extremely rich and complex. It consists not only of our physical surroundings (objects and fields), but also of the nature of our family (nuclear, extended, and global), our local and nonlocal neighbors, the groups to which we belong, our society, our culture, and the ecological, planetary, solar, and galactic conditions in which we are situated. Environment might be expanded to include the world of thoughts, ideas, and images of others that influence us. An adequate understanding of environment also should consider the history of each of these factors. Indeed, we can argue that concept of instinct (nature, innate) has to do with the history of our genetic influences, and the concept of learning (nurture, acquired) has to do with the history of our experiential exposure to various environment contingencies.
       In some systems of thought, our overall environment has been subdivided into various categories, realms, or worlds. For example, Hinduism treats three worlds of existence. The First World (Bhuloka, the earth world) is the gross realm of the physical universe. The Second World (Antarloka, the inner or in-between world) is the subtle, astral, emotional, or mental plane or realm, occupied by devas, spirits, angels, and other subtle entities. The Third World (Brahmaloka, the world of Brahma the creator) is the causal or spiritual plane, inhabited by the gods and highly evolved beings. An alternative Hindu version describes the three worlds as Heaven (Svarga), Earth (Bhumi), and The Underworld (Patala).
       Philosopher of science Karl Popper (1978, pp. 143-144, 166-167) has his own version of three worlds, three different but interacting sub-universes. World One is the physical universe of inanimate and animate matter and energy. World Two is the world of subjective experience, the world of mental or psychological states or processes. World Three is the world of the products of the human mind, such as languages; tales, stories, and myths; scientific conjectures or theories, and mathematical constructions; songs and symphonies; paintings and sculptures; and products of engineering. Popper suggests that each world emerges as an evolutionary product from an "earlier" world, and then begins to exert great influence upon the earlier world or worlds.
       Sociologist and kabbalist George Zollschan (1989) has argued for the existence of four worlds:

Atziluth (literally, "nearness"). This is the world of divine emanation which may be experienced by some select persons as an ethereal feeling.
Beriah (literally, "creation"). It would be mistaken to take this world as the source of human creativity. Various commentaries about the content of this world describe it in terms consistent with calling it the world of symbols.
Yetzirah (literally, "formation"). This is often described by medieval kabbalists as the world inhabited by angels. Since angels are the carriers of divine intentions (one per specific intention) it is safe to treat this world also as the world of human intentions.
Assiyah (literally, "making"). Is generally accepted as the world of nature and, in humans, of natural impulses.
. . . The worlds of Assiyah, Yetzirah, and Beriah respectively correspond closely to an interpretation of Popper's Worlds 1 – 3.Atziluth . . . can surely also be described as the world which harbours, or generates, divine inspiration. Both the outstandingly creative and the paranormal can be interpreted as divinely inspired without much difficulty. . . .The World of Inspiration . . . is a separate autonomous world in which possibilities are unbounded. (pp. 49, 68)

       Philosopher and psychologist William James (1890/1950) had proposed his own version of the many worlds, listing seven of these—sensory qualities, physical things, abstract truths, widespread illusions or prejudices, supernatural and mythological worlds, worlds of individual opinion, and those of sheer madness and vagary. He suggested that "propositions concerning the different worlds are made from 'different points of view'; and . . . each world whilst it is attended to is real after its own fashion; only the reality lapses with the attention" (pp. 292-293)

Source: Popper, Karl. (1978). Three worlds. Paper delivered as The Tanner Lecture on Human Values, University of Michigan, April 7, 1978. See also:

Source: Zollschan, George. (1989). Varieties of experienced "reality" as reverberations from four worlds. In G. K. Zollschan, J. F. Schumaker, & D. F. Walsh (Eds.), Exploring the paranormal: Perspectives on belief and experience (pp. 48-76). Dorset, UK: Prism Press.

Source: James, William. (1950). The principles of psychology (vol. 2) (pp. 292-293). New York: Dover. (Original work published in 1890)


The notion of karma is more familiar in the East than in the West and is especially prominent within the wisdom traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The term karma has to do with actions, deeds, and cause and effect. Stated most directly, the law of karma simply recognizes that actions have consequences. Our present actions (both behavioral and mental; i.e. thoughts, words, or deeds) are like seeds that can unfold and develop into particular fruits, in this same present time frame or in the future. In the Eastern traditions, which acknowledge the reality of reincarnation, these resultant outcomes or fruits can occur in one's present life or in a possible future life.
       Basically, there are three major kinds of karma: wholesome, intelligent, skillful karma; unwholesome, unintelligent, unskillful karma; and neutral, ineffective karma. The first two forms involve actions (including thoughts and words) that are voluntary and intentional and that have moral consequences—tending to be pleasant, beneficial, and diminish suffering (in the first case) or tending to be unpleasant, harmful, and foster suffering (in the second case). Crudely stated, the first two forms could be described as involving "positive," "good," or moral actions or "negative," "bad," or immoral actions, respectively. Such actions are believed to yield consequences having the same moral valences as the actions themselves. Neutral or ineffective karma involves actions that are involuntary or unintentional; such actions do not have moral consequences.


In my initial thinking about being born into a KAGE, I did not yet have a good term for "A," which I wanted to represent the largest and most inclusive conditions of the cosmos—including matter, energy, forces, and fields—as those existed at the time of birth. I tentatively chose astronomical as a term for this. Since then, I discovered another term, archai, which seems a much better choice. A shorthand summary of the meaning of archai, a plural Greek noun (and its close equivalents arche, archon, archaeus, and even archetypes) might be overall and most inclusive original cosmic conditions and their laws and interactions. Because archai is an unfamiliar term, here are some meanings that have been offered:

Archai (ἀρχή) Greek transliteration: archē
Major meanings: beginning, origin, first; ruler, power, authority; position of authority, domain, a beginning
Additional meanings (in New Testament Greek): an extremity, corner, or, an attached cord, Acts 10:11; 11:5; first place, headship; high estate, eminence, Jude 6; authority, Lk. 20:20; an authority, magistrate, Lk. 12:11; a principality, prince, of spiritual existence, Eph. 3:10; 6:12; ajp= ajrch:V, ejx ajrch:V, from the first, originally, Mt. 19:4, 8; Lk. 1:2; Jn. 6:64; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Jn. 1:1; 2:7; ejn ajrch:/, kat= ajrcavV, in the beginning of things, Jn. 1:1, 2; Heb. 1:10; ejn ajrch:/, at the first, Acts 11:15; th;n ajrchvn, used adverbially, wholly, altogether, Jn. 8:25


Universal principle, original forms, the fundamental essences and primordial forces that animate the cosmos.

The term Archaeus was used for the first time by Paracelsus in his earliest work, the "Paramirum Primum," to refer to the soul-like or psychoid ordering principle of life. This idea harks back to Aristotle's term entelecheia, defined in Webster's Second as "the realization of form-giving cause or energy … ." The Archaeus Project uses the term archaeus in the sense used by Johann Baptiste van Helmont to refer to that immaterial organ of the Self that directs the forms that living things take, and in which disease conditions both arise and find their cure.

beginning, origin, first; ruler, power, authority; position of authority, domain

Supernatural force or power, whether good or evil, which has some control over the activities and destiny of human beings (Eph 6:12).
Source: Van der Toorn, Becking, Bob, & van der Horst, Pieter Willem. (1999). Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (p. 77). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Has to do with a "sphere of authority." Its Latin equivalent is Principium, which has to do with primacy in time or rank. It turns out that this term (arche) is mentioned several times in the New Testament (by Paul) as referring to the angel class of Principalities.
Source: Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 6:12

The word archetype itself derives from the Latin archetypum, which in turn was derived from the Greeknoun ἀρχέτυπον (archetupon) and adjective ἀρχέτυπος (archetupos), meaning "first-moulded" (ἀρχή, archē, "beginning, origin" + τύπος , tupos, "pattern, model, type").

       An archetype, therefore, refers to an original pattern or form from which subsequent copies are made. As extremely important constructs in Carl Gustav Jung's theorizing about human functioning and personality, archetypes might be concisely described as primordial, pervasive, persisting, innate, universal prototypes for images and ideas, which are operative in the collective unconscious, and which account for our individually unlearned tendency to experience things in certain ways.
       Jung himself recognized that the archetype—either the word itself or its equivalent idea or understanding—appeared in many earlier contexts. Instances include Plato's forms or ideas (εἶδος, eidos), treatments by Philo Judaeus, Irenaeus, the Corpus Hermeticum, Dionysius the Areopagite, and St. Augustine, and—much more recently—by anthropologists Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (collective representations) and Adolf Bastian (elementary or primordial thoughts).
       A satisfying summary of Jung's own thinking about archetypes has been provided by Keiron Le Grice (2009):

These were conceived by Jung as innate structuring principles and dynamic psychic forms behind human life, principles that are both instinctual and spiritual, both natural and transcendent. Indeed, such is the complex character of the archetypes that Jung felt it necessary to employ a wide variety of terms to describe them: "formative principle[s] of instinctual power," "conditioning factors," "ruling powers," "gods," "universal images," "unconscious dominants," "patterns of behavior," "primordial ideas," "a priori ideational pattern[s]," "transcendentally conditioned dynamisms," "organizing forms,"—to give but a few examples.* He suggested, furthermore, that the archetypes are "active, living dispositions, ideas in the Platonic sense, that preform and continually influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions." Jung therefore situated his theory of archetypes firmly in the mythic-Platonic tradition. Like the mythological gods, the archetypes are the formative principles, supraordinate to human consciousness and will, that structure, order, and animate our life experience. (pp. 12-13)

* These descriptions are taken from various volumes of The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX, trans. R. F. C. Hull (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953–1979).

       Keiron Le Grice (2009) also has nicely described the nature and role of archai themselves, in the following passage:

And so, having been rediscovered first as psychological factors in the human psyche, the archetypes, through this new approach to astrology [archetypal cosmology], are recovering their cosmological status as something like the archai—the cosmological archetypal forms—of the Greek philosophical vision. As what appear to be both the ground principles of the psyche and the formative cosmological processes in the universe at large, the archai represent fundamental mythic-archetypal forms, styles, and dynamisms informing all experience, shaping both the world and human consciousness. And the human unconscious, having been conceived first as a layer within the encapsulated individual psyche, now, on the evidence of astrology and synchronicity, seems to be embedded in something like an anima mundi or cosmic psyche—the interiority of the cosmos itself. It is these two concepts—cosmological archetypes and the anima mundi—that are the primary focus of archetypal cosmology. (p. 18)

Source: Le Grice, Keiron. (2009). The birth of a new discipline: Archetypal cosmology in historical perspective. Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, 1(1). 2-22. See also:

NOTE:  Those wishing to learn more about the new discipline, theories, and findings of archetypal astrology and archetypal cosmology can consult the following sources:

Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology

LeGrice, Keiron. (2010). The archetypal cosmos: Rediscovering the gods in myth, science, and astrology. Edinburgh: Floris Books.

Tarnas, Richard. (2006). Cosmos and psyche: Intimations of a new world view. New York: Viking Penguin.

Interactions of KAGE Components

Within each category (K, A, G, and E), although the respective contents themselves might remain constant over great spans of time, the relationships and mutual interactions of these contents or components may differ—sometimes drastically—at different times and places. Likewise, the interactions of the components of one category with those of another category can differ with changes of time and place. The nature and particular interactions of the various components—within and between categories—can not only influence but also are mirrored in our lives. This mirroring may have been recognized at quite an early stage of our human development and may have been codified in the motto "as above, so below," which features so prominently in various esoteric and wisdom systems.
       Separately and together, the components of the four categories and their interactions influence our predispositions, differential sensitivities, and preferences, as well as those things to which we are exposed, the nature of our attention and its dominant foci, what we find rewarding or not rewarding, our skills and aptitudes, our personality and character, our aims, intentions, and achievements. In short, they influence our ways of being, knowing, and doing.
       It is possible for us to become aware of—to see and understand—these powerful influencing factors. But to do so requires the use of different "eyes," different forms of perception and knowing. Some can be known through the eye of the flesh, our physical senses. Others require the eye of the mind, our ability to think, to reason, to use induction and deduction. Still others—especially the K and A categories—demand the opening of the eye of heart or spirit, to know directly and immediately, through feelings, love, compassion, intuition, inspiration, revelation, and becoming or being what is to be known. Some knowings can be deliberately invited and engaged; others can only be awaited and spontaneously received as gifts or grace.

Living in the KAGE: Three Possibilities

Chance and necessity—including the actions of others—may have conspired to have one arrive in this world, in this KAGE, at a certain time and place, and under certain conditions and circumstances. Having thus arrived, one can treat one's time and experience in the KAGE in three possible ways:
       · as Chance, in which case one might bare and grin it (or cry and complain);
       · as Choice, in which one's arrival may be understood as the result of a kind of contract in which one has agreed to this particular type of incarnation, as this particular way of participating in the cosmic game of Lila, of divine play, of cosmic hide-and-seek. Some have suggested that one may enter the KAGE as a member of a cohort or group, which has "contracted" to incarnate into the KAGE for similar purposes and whose members interrelate importantly while in the KAGE, awaiting excarnation. These cohorts call to mind novelist Kurt Vonnegut's notion of a karass--a group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God's will.
       · as Challenge, in which one might attempt to escape the KAGE in some way—attempting to alter genetics or environment in more conventional ways and attempting to alter karma or archai in more unusual ways, perhaps via certain esoteric or spiritual practices or via extraordinary exertions of one's free will (if there be such a thing).

Hindu and Buddhist sages spoke of the KAGE; they called it avidya (ignorance) and samsara (perpetual flux). The same sages spoke of ways to escape the KAGE; they called this moksha (liberation) and nirvana (extinguishing). Other sages have called the KAGE sleeping, and escaping it awakening.

May we all awaken!

This essay copyright © 2011 by William Braud. All rights reserved.

What do you fear my lady?
A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept
and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.
                                                               ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating
the cage in which man is kept imprisoned.
                                                        ~ Swami Nirmalananda

He who is conceived in a cage yearns for the cage. 
                                                     ~ Yevgeny Yevtushenko

                        Some KAGEs are filled with felicity—bright and airy;
                           Others dimmed by depression—dark, and scary.

                              To move from one KAGE to another?
                                        Or to fly forever free?

God has only one will for this extraordinary experiment of the manifest realms. It is to bring to full self-awareness everything that is.

~  Seán ÓLaoire

                                                        On the Maturity and Uniqueness of the Field 
                                                                     of Transpersonal Psychology

Occasionally, I have been asked about the maturity and uniqueness of the field of transpersonal psychology. To me, an accurate answer to both of these questions is "Yes and no." The yes and no responses depend upon the contexts in which maturity and uniqueness are considered—specifically, whether we are addressing the field in an at-large or general manner or addressing it within the narrower context of psychology.

Is the Field Mature?

Considered in an at-large context, and considered in terms of the field's content, the answer clearly is yes. As a way of understanding ourselves and the Universe at large—that is, as a philosophy and as a tradition of wisdom and spiritual teachings—the transpersonal approach and orientation (with its experiential base and its assumptions, findings, concepts, and conclusions) has a long, rich, and venerable history. Its content is very closely aligned with the perennial wisdom, with the worldviews of many indigenous peoples, and with the accumulated but often tacit knowledge of many individuals and of the human species.

On the other hand, considered within the context of psychology, the social sciences, and the human sciences, the answer must be no. In terms of its organization, its infrastructure, general agreement within the field, its impacts, distinctive methods, and the results of disciplined inquiry into its subject matter and topics, the field is far from mature. It is a young and still-growing discipline. Indeed, it would not be unfair to characterize its methods and findings, and the field itself, using terms such as bricolage, poetics, and poesis. These terms suggest a kind of puttering about, a gathering or heaping together, a way of constructing using whatever is at hand, a way of creating by using a wide range of things that happen to be available, regardless of their original sources or purposes.

Is the Field Unique or Distinctive?

Interestingly, the yes and no answers to this second (uniqueness) question, dependent upon contexts, is exactly the opposite of the yes and no answers to the first (maturity) question.

Considered in an at-large context, the answer is no. The content of transpersonal psychology is shared with many, many other disciplines and approaches. It shares content (relevant subject matter and topics) with the various wisdom traditions, with mystical studies, esoteric studies, philosophy, religion, spirituality, parapsychology and psychical research, and other psychologies. Its methods also are shared with many other scholarly disciplines, and the above comments about bricolage, poetics, and poesis apply here as well.

However, considered within psychology, the answer is yes—or, perhaps, yes, relatively. Transpersonal psychology's strong emphasis on certain types of content is definitely unique or distinctive, when compared to the emphasized content in other areas of psychology. These distinctive emphases include certain (chiefly qualitative and transpersonally relevant) approaches and methods of scholarship and investigation, the field's strong emphasis on transformation, holism, and transcendence, and the field's overall stance or orientation regarding the essential nature of humanity and of the Universe at large.

Three Possible Time Courses for the Accumulation of Knowledge

A bit more can be said about the maturity of the field of transpersonal psychology, in the context of three possible time courses for the accumulation of knowledge. It is likely that the knowledge base of transpersonal psychology, as well as that of certain other areas, increased rapidly and at a very early stage of human development because of the nature of its subject matter—specifically, its interest in both ordinary and unusual human experiences, both of which were very accessible to investigation.

It is generally assumed that the growth curve for the accumulation of knowledge is exponential—i.e., early increments in knowledge are relatively small, but later become larger and larger (see the Figure below). This is undoubtedly true in cases involving technology and in knowledge involving phenomena that depend upon recent technology for their detection and study (e.g., studies of the very small, very large, and very fast, in physics, astrophysics, biology, and medicine). However, there are two other kinds of growth curves that may characterize knowledge accumulation in other areas. One of these is a linear curve, in which the increasing growth of knowledge over time is fairly consistent, neither speeding up nor slowing down in later periods, compared with earlier periods. Another is a logarithmic curve, in which knowledge growth is very rapid in its early phases, quickly reaching a high point, and then growing only very slowly thereafter.

It may well be that the growth curve for the most important and meaningful knowledge within transpersonal psychology as well as within philosophy and other areas of psychology, is logarithmic in nature—largely acquired very early and incremented only slightly thereafter. This is because the subject matter in these disciplines—our own behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and images—were readily available for our observation and conceptualization at very early stages of our development. These processes and observations were parts of everyday life, even during our very earliest days as a species and as individuals. The same conclusion also may be true for knowledge gains involving naked-eye astronomy and for observations of the natural world of plants and animals. In these cases, the subject matter was generally available and accessible to all at very early dates. This perspective on knowledge accumulation is consistent with the well-known comment of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1929) that "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato" (p. 63). I mention these considerations to indicate that we need not neglect or devalue early knowledge claims simply because they are old or even ancient.

Knowing More Than Can Be Said

Tacit knowing was mentioned above, in connection with the maturity of the field of transpersonal psychology. An example of tacit (silent) knowing is a young child's knowledge of trajectories of moving objects. Young children are able to predict the paths of thrown balls with great accuracy, enabling them to catch these almost unerringly. Yet, they are not able to express, verbally, how they know so much about trajectories. It has taken scientists centuries to formally express some of this trajectory knowledge, by way of equations that now allow placements of projectiles, even into deep space, with amazing precision. Another instance of tacit knowing is one's ability to recognize faces, albeit without being able to say just how one does this. These are only a few of the many instances in which we know more than we can say. One of the most dramatic forms of tacit knowing occurs in mystical and unitive experiences, which are noted for being ineffable (indescribable, inexpressible; Braud, 2002). These examples should not obscure the fact that a very great number (perhaps most?) of our common, familiar experiences and action skills are ineffable, in both their subjective quality and how they are accomplished.


Braud, W. (2002). Thoughts on the ineffability of the mystical experience. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 12(3), 141-160. (A .pdf version of this article is available on the Archived Papers page of this website.)

Whitehead, A. N. (1929). Process and reality. New York: Macmillan.

Traditional learning is basically qualitative and synthetic, concerned with essences, principles and realities behind phenomena; its fruits are integration, composition and unity. Profane academic learning - whether in the arts or sciences - is quantitative and analytical by tendency, concerned with appearances, forces and material properties; its nature is to criticize and to decompose; it works by fragmentation.

~ Whitall Perry

Orpheus covered the mysteries of his doctrines with the wrappings of fables, and disguised them with a poetic garment, so that whoever reads his hymns may believe there is nothing underneath but tales and the purest nonsense.

~ Pico della Mirandola

Seeing With Different Eyes: On the Varieties of Ways of Knowing

The fatherland to us is there whence we have come, and there is the father. What then is our course, what the manner of our flight? This is not a journey for the feet; the feet bring us only from land to land; nor need you think of coach or ship to carry you away; all this order of things you must set aside and refuse to see: You must close the eyes and call instead on another vision which is to be waked within you, a vision, the birth-right of all, which few turn to use.

~ Plotinus, Enneads I.6.8

One often hears the claim that we use only about 10 percent of our brain. If this is to be understood literally, there is no validity to such a claim. In fact, it is likely that all of us use 100 percent of our brain, or close to this, all or most of the time.

The claim makes more sense if it is understood figuratively or if the wording is changed somewhat to suggest what really is meant. For example, in a 1906 address and in a number of 1907 articles based on this address, William James included the following statements: "As a rule men habitually use only a small part of the powers which they actually possess and which they might use under appropriate conditions," and "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources" (James, 1917, p. 237). He concluded his address and articles by mentioning two problems that would fruitfully repay investigation: the nature of these powers or resources, and our means of unlocking or actualizing these: "We need a topography of the limits of human power in every conceivable direction . . . [and] we need also a study of the various types of human being with reference to the different ways in which [these powers] may be appealed to and set loose" (pp. 263-264).

The Seven Percent Solution

In The Sign of Four, the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes makes this memorable utterance to his colleague, John Watson: "It is cocaine," he said, "a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?" (Doyle, 1930, p. 89). Like Sigmund Freud (see Jones, 1953), Sherlock Holmes had a habit of using cocaine injections to counter depression and to increase his energy level. Both Freud and Holmes later lost their enthusiasm for the drug and eventually weaned themselves from its use.

I mention this cocaine use by Freud (usually a five percent solution) and by Holmes (a seven percent solution) for two reasons. First, in these two cases, as in many, many others, the drug was used in an attempt to access and facilitate "powers" and resources otherwise not available or readily tapped. Second, I find the two percentages—five and seven percent—of interest. It has often been remarked that only a small proportion of the general population—perhaps five or seven percent?—are in touch with and can access and make important use of immense powers, resources, energies, and human potentials that ordinarily are unknown and untapped by the rest of us. To return to the "ten percent of our brain" claim, it may not be unreasonable to suggest that, ordinarily, we use only seven percent of our available but usually latent powers and resources for knowing, being, and doing. This suggestion might, alternatively, be phrased as perhaps only five to seven percent of us are able to access and make good use of the full range of our human potentials. If this is so, then for us to access the kinds of powers and resources mentioned by James would require two things: that a greater number of us begin to attempt accessing these, and that each of us might attempt to realize a much greater percentage of our own potentials.

Accessing our greater potentials sometimes happens spontaneously, in crisis situations. But when the crisis is over, when the energizing danger has been averted, we tend to return to business as usual, ignoring the transient actualization of potentials that we just experienced. Or, as in the case of Holmes and Freud, we may seek energizing drugs or other kinds of stimulants as a way of accessing these usually hidden resources. A third option is to work within the more familiar resources that we already access, attempting to quantitatively increase what can be accomplished by these through use of magnified attention, intention, practice, and will. The amazing accomplishments of prodigies and savants point to what might be possible if even our most familiar skills were to be suitably extended or expanded. The main purpose of this essay, however, is to suggest a fourth option. This is to recognize that we ordinarily function with and within a relatively narrow range of capabilities—ways of knowing, being, and doing—which have definite limitations, and that an effective way of expanding these capabilities is to begin to explore and access other, qualitatively different potentials, as a way of supplementing our usual ways of knowing, being, and doing. This could provide a different kind of "seven percent solution"—i.e., a solution to the seven percent utilization problem. It would involve more than increasing our ability to see by means of our present eye. Rather, it would involve learning to see with entirely different eyes.

Ten Modes of Seeing

The ten stones in the spiraling stones image below are meant to represent ten different modes of learning about and interacting with the world at large. These ten processes are analogous to ways of seeing with different eyes. Each mode has its range (what it can reveal) and its limits and constraints (what it conceals).

The series begins with the smallest, innermost stone (Number 1) and moves clockwise from there to the largest, outermost stone (Number 10). The ten modes identified here and represented by the stones include the following:

1.The use of our conventional senses [smallest, innermost stone]
2.The use of reason
3.Bodily reactions, behavior, affect (feelings and emotions)
4.Intuition and related processes
5.Different conditions of consciousness
6.Unconscious materials and processes
7.Psi (psychic functioning)
8.Intimations of survival of bodily death
9.Imaginal processes and imaginal realms
10.Mystical/unitive experiences [largest, outermost stone]

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Unknowing, or agnosia, is not ignorance or nescience as ordinarily understood, but rather the realization that no finite knowledge can fully know the infinite One, and that therefore it is only truly to be approached by agnosia, or by that which is beyond and above knowledge. There are two main kinds of darkness: the subdarkness and the super-darkness, between which lies, as it were, an octave of light. But the nether-darkness and the Divine Darkness are not the same darkness, for the former is absence of light, while the latter is excess of light. The one symbolizes mere ignorance, and the other a transcendent unknowing - a superknowledge not obtained by means of the discursive reason.

~Arthur Versluis

An Expanded Form of Research and Disciplined Inquiry

Education is meant to open many doors, leading to many rooms.

Imagination thrives when sensual experience joins with reason, when Illusions link to Reality, when intuition couples with intellect, when the passions of the heart unite with those of the mind, when knowledge gained in one discipline opens doors to all the rest.

The point of education must be to create whole people who, through their wholeness, can focus the accumulated wisdom of human experience into illuminated patches of splendor.

~Robert and Michèle Root-Bernstein
(1999, pp. 325, 326)

In 2001, Rosemarie Anderson, my colleague at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and I prepared a new research course for our graduate psychology students. It was called Integral Research Skills, and it was intended to do two things: serve as a very accessible introduction to research, and acquaint students with research tools that are more fitting for studying transpersonal topics and that are above and beyond the familiar quantitative and qualitative research methods. It was accessible because it involved forms of knowing that are highly experiential and likely to be familiar to the students in the context of their everyday life and in their clinical and spiritual practices. The tools were more appropriate for transpersonal studies in that they involved more inclusive, holistic forms of knowing and were likely to tap aspects of themselves, their research participants, and the world at large that would not be as readily accessible to established research methods.

The contents of that course were informed by our recently published research book, Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences: Honoring Human Experience (Sage, 1998).In turn, the course inspired our second research book, Transforming Self and Others Through Research: Transpersonal Research Methods and Skills for the Human Sciences and Humanities (State University of New York Press, 2011).

The Integral Research Skills course introduced students to 10 research tools—working with intentions, quieting and slowing, playing, focusing attention, auditory skills, visual skills (including imagery, visualization, imagination), kinesthetic skills, proprioceptive skills, direct knowing and intuition (and empathic identification), and accessing unconscious (chthonic) processes and materials—and suggested ways of applying these tools to the three major phrases of research (planning a study and collecting data, analyzing and interpreting data, and communicating one's findings to one's reading or listening audience). The course also urged students to consider deeply how four major qualities or characteristics of functioning, of great transpersonal relevance—mindfulness, discernment, compassion, and appreciation of differences—could be accessed and used in transpersonal psychological research. Finally, students were asked to apply these various tools and skills to four possible application areas or contexts in which they worked or planned to work (individuals, dyads and small groups, larger groups and organizations, and global community and the more-than-human world at large).

The 10 integral research skills mentioned above are described in great detail in our Transforming Self and Others Through Research: Transpersonal Research Methods and Skills for the Human Sciences and Humanities research book. My purpose, in this present essay, is to mention still other research tools or skills, above and beyond those already indicated. Adding these to the more familiar tools used in any research project has the potential of greatly increasing the yield of any research endeavor. In addition to this, the use of these tools and skills can help the researcher expand one's understanding of oneself, achieve access to previously unrecognized capabilities and potentials, and favor transformative changes in the researcher and in others involved in the research project, including readers of eventual research reports.

Here, I present succinct descriptions of a dozen of these additional skills and tools and how they can be used in research projects as well as in our ongoing applied work, spiritual practices, and as possible aids in furthering our psychospiritual growth and development. The brief descriptions sometimes include names of writers. Representative treatments of the ideas of these writers can be found in the References section at the end of this essay.

Additional Skill Number 1: Working with Assumptions

Identifying, recognizing, articulating, and working with assumptions can be revealing and useful. Creative research and practice can be enhanced through such work with our assumptions—especially assumptions that usually are hidden, unrecognized. Consider assumptions that might supplement the ones you already have. Consider contrary assumptions—turn typical assumptions 180 degrees (stand them on their heads): Where might this lead? How might those reversed assumptions impact our research, our practices, our worldview? Having identified assumptions, what do we do with these? Do we then forget about them? Do we attempt to keep them out of our work? Do we "bracket" them (set them aside), not to get rid of them, but to remain aware of them throughout an investigation—being mindful of our assumptions or biases, at each and every stage of a study, in order to help us discern whether or not the processes and outcomes of each stage are being influenced by these assumptions or biases? Do we use them as lenses for studying our topics? Can we track if and how our assumptions change, during the course of an investigation? How can we evaluate which assumptions are useful and which not? We can become aware of hidden assumptions by noticing and exploring our judgments and opinions, and by inquiring why we hold such judgments and opinions—asking ourselves this question, over and over, in order to uncover ever-deeper layers of their underlying presuppositions or assumptions. Sharing and witnessing our views, in a witnessing, nonjudgmental manner—as in Bohmian dialog—may allow assumptions to surface and be examined, later.

Additional Skill Number 2: Balancing Different Qualities

Holding or working with what seem to be opposite findings, knowledge, assumptions, or stances in special ways can sometimes favor breakthroughs in understanding and an expansion of consciousness. These opposites are sometimes known as contraries (William Blake) or complements (from Taoistic traditions and, from there, into quantum physics). A typical Western tendency is to treat these contraries in an either/or fashion, in service to the Aristotelian notion of the excluded middle, according to which something cannot be other than A or not-A. It is possible, however, to balance seemingly incompatible qualities in a both/and manner that does not reject one at the expense of the other. It is possible to hold or balance these contraries in paradox or in synergy, appreciating both, simultaneously, and allowing a third thing or something larger (which contains both) to emerge. Such balancing of complements can occur with respect to the following pairs: theory and practice, idiographic and nomothetic aims of knowing, quantitative and qualitative approaches, objective and subjective aspects, depth and breadth, experience and conceptualization, and information and transformation. Balancing and a special holding of the tension of "opposites" can be practiced with respect to any seemingly disparate modes of knowing, being, or doing; and to extremes or contraries of any type. Related to balancing is the framing of conflict in terms of creative tension (Senge).

Additional Skill Number 3: Accessing Nonordinary States of Consciousness

Different states of consciousness can involve different ways of knowing, working with knowledge, and expressing knowing than those that are readily available in our ordinary state of consciousness. These different states are most often called altered states of consciousness or nonordinary states of consciousness. The ways of knowing, being, and doing occurring in various states may or may not transfer readily to other states; those that do not transfer readily are called state dependent processes. Learnings and memories acquired in one state may be forgotten or relatively unavailable in very dissimilar states. Therefore, one can best partake of a variety of forms of knowing, being, and doing by entering a great variety of states of consciousness. Some of these states include: spontaneous nocturnal dreams, incubated dreams, lucid dreams, hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, reverie, various shamanic states, entering into imaginal realms, various meditative and contemplative states, mystical and unitive states, and conditions of consciousness without an object (Robert Forman calls these pure consciousness events). Transitions from state to state may occur spontaneously or may be deliberately induced.

Additional Skill Number 4: Nonordinary and Transcendent Experiences (NOTES)

Exceptional human experiences (EHEs) is a term coined by Rhea White as a general rubric for a class of spontaneously occurring, unusual experiences that previously had been treated separately by investigators and practitioners in different disciplines and subdisciplines. Such experiences have tended to be ignored or de-emphasized in many areas of Western culture because of their anomalous nature. Indeed, many of these experiences may remain merely anomalous—and, hence, devalued—if they are treated as curious, transient experiences or flukes of functioning to be explained away. Alternatively, if these experiences are attended to more fully, honored, treasured, encouraged, and worked with—deeply and intensively—they can help bring about transformative changes in the experiencer. As this process develops, the experiences cease being merely anomalous or exceptional and become fully exceptional human experiences that reveal and can help us manifest our true human potentials. The changes that can result from working with these experiences can be both extensive and profound. They can help us evolve in our awareness, our worldview, our sense of the meaning of life, and our appreciation of our very nature, and they can do this through fostering less identification (dissociation) with our "skin encapsulated ego" (Watts) and greater identification (association) with the "All-Self"—White's (1997, p. 89) shorthand term for our oneness with all things—and through encouraging a shift in the narratives we use to describe ourselves and our world. These experiences can also serve us in our research enterprises—allowing us to know in ways that otherwise may not be possible.

Initially, White identified 5 major classes of EHEs, which she called mystical/unitive, psychic, encounter, unusual death-related, and exceptional normal experiences, and she identified and categorized approximately 100 categories of these experiences among the five major classes; more recently, the classes have expanded to 9, and the categories have expanded to approximately 200.

Experiences similar to EHEs have been described previously and under a rich variety of names. Perhaps the most frequently used names for such experiences are supernatural or paranormal. The 18th century scientist-turned-mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg described experiences similar to EHEs when he coined the term remains, which Swedenborg scholar Wilson Van Dusen paraphrased as "our inner memory of everything sacred . . . [our] personal treasure of spiritual understanding . . . [our] sacred personal collection of little realizations of heaven" William James referred to similar exceptional experiences as white crows, reminding us that "if you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you must not seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white." Journalist Charles Fort used an equally picturesque phrase, damned facts, to describe similar recalcitrant exceptions and embarrassments to the received science of his day. Other names for these and similar experiences have included peak experiences (Maslow), Minerva experiences (Otto), transpersonal experiences (Grof), extraordinary phenomena (Masters), transcendental experiences (Neher), extraordinary experiences (Helminiak), praeternatural experiences (Nelson), wondrous events (McClenon), and high holy moments (Van Dusen). Often—and, we believe, unfortunately, because the term suggests that these are not normal or natural—these are called anomalous experiences (e.g., Cardena, Lynn, & Krippner; Reed; Zusne & Jones). Here, we prefer to call these nonordinary and transcendent experiences (NOTEs)—nonordinary because of their relative rarity and unfamiliarity, and transcendent because they go beyond our conventional understanding of ourselves and of the world and because, under special circumstances, such experiences can trigger transformative changes in us, and working with such experiences can allow us to transcend what we were before these experiences visited us.

Additional Skill Number 5: Novel Interview Techniques

Conventional interviewing techniques may be extended and expanded to provide increased knowledge and understanding. Interviewing may be augmented by psychodrama and reliving techniques, as in Nancy Drew's re-enactment interviewing procedure (no, not that Nancy Drew!). Interviews can be carried out with either the interviewer or the interviewee or both in various states of consciousness; various induction techniques and rituals might be used for such purposes. One might even attempt to use direct knowing techniques in order to interview inarticulate interviewees. Interviews might be done remotely, using tape recorders or online procedures. Various ways of asking for information and various ways of collecting information—other than conventional linear prose—might be used. For example, one might ask questions via subtle suggestions, rather than via very explicit means. An interview might respond using stories, poetry, movement, artwork. One might provide answers and ask the interviewee to supply appropriate questions for those answers—as a novel way of approaching the construction of meanings and interpretations.

Additional Skill Number 6: Contributions of Art

Artwork can be used in each of the major phases of any research project—in collecting data, in working with or interpreting data, and in expressing one's findings. The artwork can be done by the research participants, by the investigator, or by both (either together or separately). Artwork provides a nonverbal, more "right hemispheric" mode of acquiring, working with, and expressing knowledge, and serves as a useful complement to the usual verbal, "left-hemispheric" modes of research. Artwork can allow forms of creative expression that would not be possible, otherwise. See the writings of Arnheim and McNiff.

Additional Skill Number 7: Contributions of Poetry

Poetry can play useful roles in research in terms of its sometimes powerful effects upon the listener or reader and its ability to carry meanings effectively and efficiently. Because of its use of concrete and, sometimes, universal imagery, poetry may allow transmissions and resonances of knowledge and experience in ways that are more direct and complete than would be possible through the use of discursive prose. Poetry may express or trigger emotional and bodily aspects of knowing more easily than can linear, rational prose (which speaks, usually, more to the intellect and cognition). As many have noted, poetry is an exceptionally effective vehicle for expressing imagination and the imaginal. Hints on how poetry might be relevant to both the content of transpersonal topics and research praxis can be found in the writings of Barfield, Bickman, Bodkin, Burnshaw, Cardinal, Durr, Frye, and Richardson.

Additional Skill Number 8: Mimesis and Participation

Mimesis is a form of knowing epitomized by the mode of education in pre-Homeric Greece. It is an active, emotional identification, by the audience, with the experiences of a speaker or chorus It is imitation through participation in the experience of another. One loses one's own identity and surrenders to the spell of a dramatic performance. It is a merging with the experience being portrayed by an actor, facilitated by emotional and bodily involvement. The process resembles sympathetic resonance; it also is akin to empathic identification and direct knowing. Mimesis has much in common with participation (see Barfield). The interested reader may learn more about mimesis in the writings of Barfield, Berman, Finley, Havelock, and Simon.

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Today the voice of one crying in the wilderness must necessarily strike a scientific tone if the ear of the multitude is to be reached.

~ Carl Gustav Jung

    Ladders, Wheels, and Pancakes: Alternative Metaphors for Appreciating Differences

All around us are things and circumstances that differ qualitatively and quantitatively. Some of these seem very organized and orderly . . . others, less so. How do we best treat these? For the entities and events that appear interrelated and connected in some way, an extremely common and preferred approach has been to treat them hierarchically.

The Ubiquity of Hierarchy

Hierarchies are everywhere! To paraphrase a saying I recently came across: "One cannot swing around a dead possum by the tail in the marketplace without hitting one." Hierarchies abound in all areas of human experience and endeavor. To illustrate their ubiquity, here follows a listing of a few areas, chosen almost at random, in which hierarchies are found.

Epistemology and Ontology
Knowledge (the sciences: mathematics, physics, physical chemistry, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, neurobiology, sociology, psychology)
Evidence (types of research: systematic reviews and meta-analysis, randomized controlled trials, observational studies, expert opinion, anecdotes; quantitative vs. qualitative)
Levels of being (Great Chain of Being, scala naturae, "ladder or stairway of nature": God, angelic beings, humanity, animals, plants, minerals)

Physical realm
Hardness of minerals (Mohs scale: 1 through 10)
Hurricane intensity (Categories 1 through 5)
Earthquake intensity (Richter magnitude scale: less than 2 to 10 plus)

Biological realm
Taxonomic ranks (kingdom, phylum/division, class, order, family, genus, species)
Dominance (pecking order; alpha to omega mammals)

Psychological realm
Needs (Maslow's pyramid of needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, self-actualization, self-transcendence)
Developmental stages (Piaget's stages of cognitive development)
Developmental stages (Erikson's stages of psychosocial development)
Developmental stages (Loevinger's stages of ego development)
Developmental stages (Kohlberg's stages of moral development)
Developmental stages (Gilligan's Stages of the Ethic of Care)
Developmental stages (Fowler's stages of faith development)
Developmental stages (Gebser's structures of consciousness: archaic, magic, mythical, mental, integral)

Medals (bronze, silver, gold)
Academic (levels of Latin honors: cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude)
Academic (graduates ranks: valedictorian, salutatorian)
Academic (faculty ranks: Assistant, Associate, Full Professor)

Organizational charts
Chain of command
Ecclesiastical (Catholic: laity, religious, clergy; within clergy: pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests)
Ecclesiastical (Dionysius' eight ranks: hierarchs or bishops, priests, deacons, monks, laity, catechumens, penitents, and the demon-possessed)
Governmental (U.S. presidential line of succession: President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, President pro tempore of the Senate, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, etc.)

Classes (Indian caste system; socioeconomic classes)
Inheritance (succession and heirship)
Ancestry and relationships

Angels (Dionysius: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, powers, authorities, principalities, archangels, angels)
Realms of existence (Kabbalistic Four Worlds: Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah [Emanation, Creation, Formation, Action]
Levels of selfhood (body, psyche, soul, Spirit)
Bodies/sheaths (etheric, astral, mental, causal)
Spiritual development (Underhill's five stages: awakening, purgation, illumination, dark night, union)

The Term and Its Origin and Meaning

Apparently, the English word hierarchy first was used in 1880 in referring to the 5th – 6th Century mystical writer Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite's use of the Latin hierarchia in two of his major works, The Celestial Hierarchy and The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. Etymologically, the term has to do with "the rule of priests," "president of sacred rites," "sacred order," and "holiness and power." In his Celestial Hierarchy, Dionysius described nine rank-ordered categories of angelic beings (seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, powers, authorities, principalities, archangels, angels), and in his Ecclesiastical Hierarchy he described eight rank-ordered types of persons responsible for the transmission and reception of sacred symbols and forms (the hierarchs or bishops, priests, deacons, monks, laity, catechumens, penitents, and the demon-possessed).

Pros and Cons of Hierarchy

Treating things and circumstances in a hierarchical fashion can be quite useful. Indeed, it is likely that such treatments have been serving some important functions and it is because of their usefulness that they exist so extensively. In the area of transpersonal psychology, hierarchies may be especially useful in our considerations of ontology (different realms and levels of being) and development (especially spiritual development, growth, and transformation). Many hierarchical schemas are quite benign (e.g., hardness of minerals, hurricane and earthquake intensities). A hierarchy can serve us well when we treat it as a reminder of the importance of the particular sequence of things (e.g., that it is necessary to put on one's socks before putting on one's shoes, and not the reverse), rather than treating it as a way that endorses the relative worth, merit, value, or importance of certain aspects over others.

However, treating things, events, and even people hierarchically and linearly also can have a downside, especially in instances in which certain parts of a hierarchy—usually its "upper" range(s)—are considered to have greater intrinsic importance or worth, compared to other parts of the hierarchy. Here, some troubling influences of power, privilege, oppression, and unfair treatment can come into play. Such risks are especially likely in psychological, sociological, "class"-related, organizational, developmental, and spiritual hierarchical contexts. In the case of the knowledge-related and evidence-related hierarchies, there are risks of excessive reductionism and scientism if certain parts of these hierarchies are valued much more than, or even to the exclusion of, others. Scientism, of course, is the belief that natural science is the most authoritative and most correct—perhaps the only authoritative and accurate—way to understand the world. It is to hold the view that science is capable of describing all of reality and is the only true way of acquiring knowledge about reality.

In some cases, we may be better served by abandoning the usual hierarchical, linear, "vertical" ladder-like conception of things and considering other ways of appreciating these. So, in the interest of greater possibilities, I present three alternative metaphors that might be used in treating differences—especially differences involving forms of knowing, being, and doing; developmental stages; values; and motives.

Three Metaphors

Perhaps the most appropriate metaphor for hierarchy itself is the ladder.

This suggests an approach in which differences are treated in an orderly, linear fashion, emphasizing a vertical dimension. This metaphor also would seem to suggest the notion of greater than and lesser than, as well as levels, some of which may be more or less important than others. What is of interest about the individual rungs or steps of a ladder is that each one has direct links or connections only with the rungs immediately above or below it. A ladder suggests the importance of sequencing—and a rather narrow, limited, invariable sequence at that. Obviously, it suggests the idea of movement—from what is below to what is above or vice versa.

For our second metaphor, we change the orientation of the ladder from vertical to horizontal, and transform its rungs into the spokes of a wheel.

The wheel, if placed on its side, emphasizes the horizontal dimension, it now includes circularity, and its various parts now are at the same level and there is the possibility of treating them more equally, without some being greater or higher than others. The wheel's segments would seem to emphasize qualitative aspects, in opposition to the ladder's more quantitative emphasis. Interestingly, all of the spokes of a wheel can intercommunicate; they all come together and touch one another at the wheel's hub. Compared with what is possible in a ladder, one can move more directly and more easily from one part to another. The wheel, of course, has a much more egalitarian flavor than does the ladder. Here, the phrase other than can be substituted for the ladder's greater than or less than.
The various parts of the wheel—its segments or differences—can be characterized as qualitative, rather than quantitative (as in the case of the ladder). Instead of hierarchy the term varieties seems very appropriate for describing the nature of differences in the case of a wheel.

For our third metaphor, we transform the wheel into a flat, floppy pancake.

I suggest a pancake because of its flexibility and floppiness. Unlike a rigid wheel, part of a horizontal pancake can be lifted up slightly, without the rest of the pancake moving. This can add a bit of a vertical dimension to the pancake's usual horizontal dimension. In effect, this adds a bit of the ladder's character to the character of the wheel. This flexibility and floppiness is important because this allows one to momentarily elevate certain parts of the field of differences represented by the pancake. Ordinarily, all parts of the pancake are "equal." However, under certain circumstances, lifting up a given part of the pancake makes that part—as well as neighboring areas—momentarily more important and of greater value or worth than other parts. This provides a very simple way of illustrating that situations and contexts can play important roles in how one values and behaves on the basis of certain differences. So, the pancake metaphor has features of both wheel and ladder, but it is variable, situational, not fixed. It may be characterized as a way of indicating graded varieties of things. It has both qualitative and quantitative aspects. It can have levels that are momentarily—but only momentarily and not everpresently—greater or lesser and more or less important than other levels.

Additional Alternatives

In addition to the ladder, wheel, and floppy pancake metaphors, two additional metaphors can be considered in connection with ways of thinking about differences. The first of these, very closely related to the ladder, is the holon conceptualization. An effective metaphor for this is the Russian nested dolls (matryoshkas). This image replaces the one-above-or-below-the-other aspect of the ladder with the one-inside-or-outside-of aspect of the nested dolls of different sizes. Each part (each doll)--with the important exceptions of the largest and smallest extremes--both contains and is contained by another part (another doll). The holon model (originally suggested by Arthur Koestler) is one recently favored by writer Ken Wilber.

The second of these additional alternatives is the spiral or, even better, the helix.

Both of these have a dynamic quality missing in the ladder, wheel, and pancake metaphors. Both have a circling-with-a-difference aspect: One "revisits" a place one occupied before, but—unlike what is possible with a true circle—not in exactly the same way. There is always an "offset" of one's later position compared to one's earlier position; one that is more inward or outward or higher or lower than before. The helix adds an important vertical dimension to the horizontal circling dimension of the spiral. These spiral and helical models remove the purely linear aspect of the ladder model, substituting a more complex and "messier" path—one that is truer to lived experience. A useful form of a helical model, applied to human psychospiritual growth, is one developed by transpersonal psychologist Hillevi Ruumet (see her book, Pathways Of The Soul: Exploring The Human Journey; Trafford Publishing, 2006). Pictured below is a graphical representation of Ruumet's model. The drawing indicates a typical path of psychospiritual development. Note that the path has both linear and spiraling aspects.


I hope this presentation of various metaphors and images will enhance our ability to appreciate differences in new and creative ways and prompt new thoughts about ways of depicting and interpreting the great variety of The Ten Thousand Things and events that populate and enrich this manifest realm of ours.

This essay Copyright © 2011 by William Braud. All rights reserved.
Ultimate truths require . . . some measure of earthly dilution to be of much help to provincials and fallen angels like us.

~ Ed Mendelowitz and Chae Young Kim

In the United States, the history of mainstream psychology can be summarized as the persistent effort to increase the role of science in human research and treatment while minimizing the importance of the philosophical foundation on which all psychology methods and techniques rest. . . . In the end, science without philosophy and metaphysical critique is often little more than rhetoric.

Louis Hoffman and Matt Thelen

From Whence They Came: Psychological Contributions
 of Nonpsychologists

                                                                                                                                                 The Child is father of the Man
                                                                                                                                                             ~  William Wordsworth

Psychology is a hybrid discipline. This was true even in its early, simpler stages, before its largely unplanned growth. Its content, approaches, development—and, especially, its interpretations and theories—have been informed by a broad range of sources. Recognizing these many sources can help one's understanding of the nature of this curious field of study. Or, perhaps "fields" is a more appropriate term, for psychology itself is so heterogeneous that it seems incongruous to call it a single field or single discipline. One need only note the vast number—54 at latest count—of "divisions" within the American Psychological Association (or the 10 divisions and 13 sections of the British Psychological Society), and their striking differences in subject matter and emphasis, in order to realize psychology's great diversity. Historically, as psychology progressively lost its soul, its mind, and its consciousness, it has gained and multiplied its topics and methods of study almost as compensation for these losses.

The contributions to psychology by particular individuals have been influenced by their distinctive backgrounds, interests, and issues as well as by the disciplines with which they were familiar. So, it is not at all surprising that what Abraham Maslow called psychology's "second force"—psychoanalysis—so greatly emphasized pathology, given that its founders (Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler) were all medical doctors whose days were spent dealing with persons experiencing psychoses, neuroses, and various types of maladjustment. And the nature of the "first force"—behaviorism—is understandable given that it was heavily influenced by the methods, findings, and conceptualizations of researchers within Russian objectivism, physiology, and reflexology (Ivan Sechenov, Ivan Pavlov, and Vladimir Bekhterev).

A sampling of sources that have informed various aspects of psychology is provided below. Some of these influences were direct, some indirect. Some are well-known; others are hardly known and are rarely or never mentioned.

Spiritual and Wisdom Traditions

These traditions (including Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Sufism, various indigenous and earth-based traditions) are themselves world psychologies. They have contributed important views concerning consciousness, the self, and means of personal and spiritual development.


These contributions tend to abstract, intellectual, conceptual, and theoretical. Of many that could be mentioned, a few specific contributions include
  • Contributions made by the British empiricists (Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume) and others relevant to the associationist principles of behaviorism
  • Thomas Hobbes' (1651) concept of endeavor, anticipating the behavioristic (Hull-Spence) construct of anticipatory goal response
  • Herbert Spencer's (1870, 1881) idea that, within an individual organism, movements followed by success will be strengthened and their probability of occurrence increased, anticipating Edward Thorndike's law of effect and Spencer's hedonistic principle, anticipating the behavioristic idea that drive reduction strengthens stimulus-response associations (i.e., a kind of natural selection or survival of the fittest responses)
  • Anticipations of the unconscious by Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann, and others
  • Contributions of phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism to humanistic psychology

Natural Sciences
  • From the natural sciences, especially from physics, psychology inherited the general scientific method that emphasizes empiricism, theory construction, and hypothesis testing.
  • From astronomy came the contribution toward the study of systematic error (individual differences in reaction time) by the Konigsberg astronomer Friedrich Bessel who carefully studied, in the early 1820s, the personal equation, brought to his attention by the 1796 incident of Nevil Maskelyne, the astronomer royal at the Greenwich Observatory, firing his assistant David Kinnebrook for making timing "errors" in the tracking of stellar transits.
  • From biology came the evolutionary and developmental emphasis pioneered by Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Francis Galton, and others, which pervades much of psychology.

  • As mentioned earlier, physicians such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler contributed important clinical findings and theories relevant to the unconscious and to the treatment of psychological disorders. Other early physicians worthy of note in this context include Eugen Bleuler (on schizophrenia), Jean-Martin Charcot and Pierre Janet (on dissociation, hysteria, hypnosis), and Josef Breuer (early work on hysteria and "the talking cure").
  • From medicine also came discoveries involving mesmerism and hypnosis, by physicians such as Franz Anton Mesmer, John Elliotson, James Esdaile, and others.
  • Medicine also contributed various physiological measuring techniques and equipment that later became widely used in psychological research and clinical practice.

  • Much of the early research and theorizing in experimental psychology was done by physiologists.
  • As mentioned earlier, the research of Russian physiologists—Ivan Sechenov, Ivan Pavlov, Vladimir Bekhterev—had an immense impact upon behaviorism, especially upon learning theory.

Religious Studies
  • Of greatest relevance to psychology, and especially to transpersonal psychology, are observations of those within the major religious and spiritual traditions regarding such topics as ethics, values and meaning, psychospiritual development and tranformation, and mystical experience.
  • A specific example, from within Christianity, is the work of Evelyn Underhill on mysticism and her model of spiritual growth and development.
  • Another specific example is the teachings within Greek and Russian Orthodox Christianity regarding prayer, meditation, contemplation, and spiritual development—especially within Hesychasm (an eremitical tradition of stillness, rest, quiet, silence, and solitude) and within the teachings of the Philokalia and experience with the Jesus Prayer.
  • Again, within Christianity, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas made important contributions to psychology.


The study of the behaviors of animals in their natural environments contributed important findings and theories to the fields of behaviorism and comparative psychology.

  • Poet and painter William Blake anticipated some of the later concepts of Sigmund Freud (the unconscious, motivational ideas) and of Carl Jung (the four functions).
  • Poet, critic, and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge contributed early thoughts about the unconscious, about individuation, and the relevance of alchemy-related ideas, anticipating some of the later thoughts of Carl Jung.
  • Classical scholar, poet, and essayist F. W. H. Myers contributed extremely important ideas in the 1880s and 1890s regarding the unconscious (the subliminal self), the spectrum of consciousness, and psychical experiences and phenomena, anticipating later work in these areas.
  • Writer and political journalist Jean-Paul Sartre and novelist and essayist Albert Camus made early contributions to existentialism, which in turn became one of the influences of humanistic psychology.
  • Author Colin Wilson has contributed ideas in areas of alienation, creativity, metaphysics, the occult, criminality, psychical research, human potential, consciousness, and the importance of meaning; all of these have important implications for general psychology and, especially, for humanistic and transpersonal psychology.
  • Author Kenneth Earl Wilber II (Ken Wilber) has made important theoretical contributions to transpersonal psychology and integral psychology.
  • Other early writers of prose and poetry who have made useful psychological contributions include William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot—to name but a few.

  • Inputs into psychology from the realm of music include observations by musical composers and performers about the creative process of making music and observations by anyone hearing music about its effects and about what music might convey that cannot be conveyed in other ways.
  • Inputs into psychology from the visual arts include ways in which art can express what words cannot and how drawing, painting, collage work, mandala creation, and other forms of artwork can be used for diagnostic and treatment purposes and for complementing verbal reports in research studies.
  • One specific function of music is described in Karen Rossie's study of songs on the mind as messages of the unconscious ( ).

Library Science

Rhea White, as a researcher, author, journal editor, and theorist, contributed importantly to the fields of parapsychology and transpersonal psychology, especially in the context of her work with exceptional human experiences (EHEs). Her background was in the area of library science.

I have included the above source sampling for two reasons. The first already has been mentioned: We can understand the discipline and subdisciplines of psychology better if we know more about who and what informed these, and which kinds of things were most important to the informants. The second reason is to suggest that two important sources have been tapped formally by psychologists hardly at all: the thoughts of creative writers and the thoughts and experiences of peakers. By peakers I mean persons who have had numerous peak experiences, especially individuals that Abraham Maslow would consider self actualized or self transcending

I mention these two sources because these are likely to be persons who are the complements of those whose views and ways of being tend to inform psychoanalysis and medical practice (individuals who are experiencing deficits, who are less than they can be). Creative writers and peakers, rather than emphasizing deficit motivations, can teach us about growth motivation, about our greater human potentials, about "all that we can be." They are likely to be familiar with the heights of knowing, being, and doing, as well as the depths, and likely to spend more time in the bright and airy balconies of their personalities rather than in the dark and damp basements. 

It is true that these healthier and more complete and integrated persons have begun to be explored by researchers and theorists in areas of humanistic, transpersonal, positive, and integral psychology. However, much more can be done. What seems most needed are not thoughts about these more fully realized, whole, and integrated persons, but the thoughts and experiences of these people: It will be useful to learn as much as possible about them, to understand their stories as told in their own words. Qualitative and transpersonal research approaches would be most appropriate in this endeavor. Additional sources that might be investigated in this way could include artists, musical composers and performers, and persons who are experienced in exploring imaginal realms.

This essay Copyright © 2011 by William Braud. All rights reserved.
I thus learnt my first great lesson in the inquiry into these obscure fields of knowledge, never to accept the disbelief of great men or their accusations of imposture or of imbecility, as of any weight when opposed to the repeated observation of facts by other men, admittedly sane and honest. The whole history of science shows us that whenever the educated and scientific men of any age have denied the facts of other investigators on a priori grounds of absurdity or impossibility, the deniers have always been wrong.

~  Alfred Russel Wallace

​                                                   Brain and Consciousness: Three Models
                    Production vs. Transmission vs. Transduction/Transformation

The relationship of brain to consciousness has been a topic of perennial debate. In this brief essay, I address three ways in which brain and consciousness might be related.

Model 1: Brain as Producer of Consciousness

Earlier, it was the heart that was intimately related to consciousness. Today, it is the brain. Recently, some have suggested that the heart, the gut, the immune system, and perhaps even cells in general may play some role in consciousness, but these definitely are minority views. Most scientists and academicians currently assume that the human brain originates or produces consciousness, much as the liver secretes bile or as clouds generate rain. Consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the activity of the brain. This default position is taken because (a) it is easy to observe the physical brain and its electrical, magnetic, and chemical activities, (b) consciousness itself cannot be directly observed by anyone other than a first-person experiencer, (c) there are many empirical findings that indicate that the fostering, inhibition, or modulation of brain structures or functions are closely associated with similar fosterings, inhibitions, or modulations of consciousness. On this view, without a brain there can be no consciousness and certainly no persistence of consciousness after the death of the physical body.

If we think a bit more deeply about this production model, we can see that nothing in the human body “produces” anything completely on its own. All of our cells, tissues, and organs make use of something that already exists (various preexisting chemicals, nutrients, oxygen, and so on) in order to generate its own output “products.” So, the brain, also, must rely on something else in order to generate consciousness. What is that something?

It remains difficult to imagine how something physical/material (the brain) might be able to generate something that seems nonphysical/nonmaterial (consciousness). However, it would appear equally difficult to imagine how something nonphysical/nonmaterial might be able to generate something physical/material.

Model 2: Brain as Transmitter of Consciousness

An alternative to the dominant productive view of consciousness is what has been called the transmissive view. According to this second model, the brain does not generate or produce consciousness. Rather, it allows the transmission of a consciousness that already exists. This position may be stated in various ways: The brain may perform functions of filtering, limiting, inhibiting, channeling, or allowing the manifestation of certain forms of consciousness, but the latter already exists in some ready-made form.

To convey the meaning of this transmissive brain function, several analogies have been offered:
• William James suggested the analogy of white light being transmitted through a prism and yielding a color spectrum and the analogy of the keys of an organ opening the organ’s pipes and letting the air escape in various ways to produce sounds.
• Huston Smith frequently mentioned the transmission of light through the film of a movie projector, yielding the images that appear on the screen.
• Many have mentioned a radio or television set as the transmitter but not the source of its programs.
• I suggest imagining water moving from a cistern or water tank through its associated equipment to a house; if there is no tank or a malfunction of the tank or equipment, the house gets no water; the tank and its equipment do not create the water, but merely convey, channel, or transmit it to the house.

In all of these analogies, something modifies something else, so that something new is allowed or manifested. I’ll treat this important consideration below, in the section on Model 3.

One of the earliest and best treatments of the transmission model may be found in William James’ 1897 Harvard University Ingersoll Lectures, later published as his Human Immortality essay (James, 1956/1887). In that presentation, James mentions at least four possible functions that the brain might serve, in relation to consciousness: productive, releasing, inhibiting or filtering, and transmissive or permissive functions. He devotes the bulk of his presentation to the transmissive function and the several advantages of this view over the dominant productive function view (see below).

An alternative description of this view is that the brain serves as a kind of reducing valve or filter for a much larger, fuller consciousness, allowing only a narrow aspect of that whole to be experienced here on this earth plane of time, space, energy, mass, causality, and apparently individual egos.

Others had described the transmissive/permissive/filtration view of the brain-consciousness relationship—although without necessarily using those very terms—prior to James. Here is a sampling of relevant earlier statements.

If, therefore (for any not speculative reason), you have admitted the immaterial nature of the soul, which is not subject to any corporeal changes, and you are met by the difficulty that nevertheless experience seems to prove both the elevation and the decay of our mental faculties as different modifications of our organs, you can weaken the force of this objection by saying that you look upon the body as a fundamental phenomenon only, which, in our present state (in this life), forms the condition of all the faculties of our sensibility, and hence of our thought. In that case the separation from the body would be the end of the sensuous employment and the beginning of the intelligible employment of our faculty of knowledge. The body would thus have to be considered, not as the cause of our thinking, but only as a restrictive condition of it, and, therefore, if on one side as a support of our sensuous and animal life, on the other, all the more, as an impediment of our pure and spiritual life, so that the dependence of the animal life on the constitution of the body would in no wise prove the dependence of our whole life on the state of our organs. (Immanuel Kant, 1781/1922, pp. 778-779)

The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly; Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity (Percy Bysshe Shelley, 2010/1821, Adonaïs, Stanza 52, Lines 460-463)

We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1987/1841, p. 37)

Matter is not that which produces consciousness, but that which limits it and confines it s intensity within certain limits: material organization does not construct consciousness out of arrangements of atoms, but contracts its manifestation within the sphere which it permits. . . .For if, e.g., a man loses consciousness as soon as his brain is injured, it is clearly as good an explanation to say the injury to the brain destroyed the mechanism by which the manifestation of consciousness was rendered possible, as to say that it destroyed the seat of consciousness. (F. C. S. Schiller, 1894, pp. 295-296)

Each of us is in reality an abiding psychical entity far more extensive than he knows--an individuality which can never express itself completely through any corporeal manifestation. The Self manifests through the organism; but there is always some part of the Self unmanifested; and always, as it seems, some power of organic expression in abeyance or reserve. (Myers, 1892,p. 305)
     There exists a more comprehensive consciousness, a profounder faculty, which for the most part remains potential only . . . but from which the consciousness and faculty of earth-life are mere selections. . . . No Self of which we can here have cognizance is in reality more than a fragment of a larger Self,--revealed in a fashion at once shifting and limited through an organism not so framed as to afford it full manifestation. (F. W. H. Myers, 1903, vol. 2, pp, 12, 15)

The following five excerpts are from slightly later statements of Henri Bergson (1913/1920):

The brain is the organ of attention to life. (p. 59)
     The brain is what secures to us this advantage. It keeps our attention fixed on life; and life looks forward; it looks back only in the degree to which the past can aid it to illumine and prepare the future. To live is, for the mind, essentially to concentrate itself on the action to be accomplished. To live is to be inserted in things by means of a mechanism which draws from consciousness all that is utilizable in action, all that can be acted on the stage, and darkens the greater part of the rest. Such is the brain’s part in the work of memory: it does not serve to preserve the past, but primarily to mask it, then to allow only what is practically useful to emerge through the mask. Such, too, is the part the brain plays in regard to the mind generally. Extracting from the mind what is externalizable in movement, inserting the mind into this motor frame, it causes it to limit its vision, but also it makes its action efficacious. This means that the mind overflows the brain on all sides, and that cerebral activity responds only to a very small part of mental activity. (pp. 70-71)
     To direct our thought towards action, to bring it to prepare the act that the circumstances call for, — it is for this that our brain is formed. But in doing this it canalizes, and also it limits, the mental life. (p. 93)
     The business of the brain, so far as it is the organ of memory, has been to keep the attention fixed on life by usefully contracting the field of consciousness. (p. 95)
     The part that our body plays is that of shutting out from consciousness all that is of no practical interest to us, all that does not lend itself to our action. The sense organs, the sensory nerves, the cerebral centres canalize, then, the influences from without, and thus mark the various directions in which our own influence can be exercised. But in doing so they narrow our vision of the present, just as the cerebral mechanisms of memory shut out our vision of the past. Now, just as certain useless memories, or “dream" memories, may slip into the field of consciousness, availing themselves of a moment of inattention to life, may there not be around our normal perception a fringe of perceptions, most often unconscious, but all ready to enter into consciousness, and which do in fact enter in exceptional cases or in predisposed subjects? If there are perceptions of this kind, it is not only psychology in the strict meaning of the term that they concern; they are facts with which “psychical research" can and should concern itself. (p. 96)

Closely related to the transmission/permission/filtration model are Emanuel Swedenborg’s (1688-1772) thoughts about what he called influxes (knowings that rush into human consciousness from other sources; see Wilson Van Dusen, 1996, for a general treatment of these) and Gustav Fechner’s (1801-1887) notions of a threshold separating what is and what is not yet available to individual awareness or individual consciousness (see William James’ treatment of Fechner’s threshold of consciousness in James, 1897/1956).

And here are samples of more modern treatments of this filtering or transmissive idea:

We should do well to consider much more seriously than we have hitherto been inclined to do the type of theory which Bergson put forward in connection with normal memory and sense-perception. The suggestion is that the function of the brain and nervous system and sense organs is in the main eliminative and not productive. Each person is at each moment capable of remembering all that has ever happened to him and of perceiving everything that is happening everywhere in the universe. The function of the brain and nervous system is to protect us from being overwhelmed and confused by this mass of largely useless and irrelevant knowledge, by shutting out most of what we should otherwise perceive or remember at any moment, and leaving only that very small and special selection which is likely to be practically useful.” (C. D. Broad, 1953, pp. 22–23)

Each one of us is potentially Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. . . . That which . . . is called “this world” is the universe of reduced awareness . . . . The various “other worlds,” with which human being erratically make contact are so many elements in the totality of the awareness belonging to Mind at Large. Most people, most of the time, know only what comes through the reducing valve . . . . Through . . . permanent or temporary by-passes [of the reducing valve] there flows . . . something more than, and above all something different from the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality. (Aldous Huxley, 1954/1963, pp. 23-24)

I find such bizarre talents [Swedenborg’s experiences, near-death experiences, psychedelic/entheogenic experiences] lending credence to James’s hypothesis, echoed by Bergson and Aldous Huxley, that the human mind is more like a reducing valve than a generator, one through which Mind-at-Large lets trickle only the kind of information that is necessary for us to survive on the material plane. Approaching the mind from that side enlarges our whole notion of what it is to be human and makes it easier for us to give credence to extraordinary phenomena such as Swedenborg presents us with. (Huston Smith, 2001-2002, p. 13)

More generally, we wish now to argue that by thinking of the brain as an organ which somehow constrains, regulates, restricts, limits, and enables or permits expression of the mind in its full generality, we can obtain an account of mind-brain relations which potentially reconciles Myers’s theory of the Subliminal Self with the observed correlations between mind and brain . . . . (Edward Kelly, 2007, p. 607)

The major advantage of the transmissive model over the productive model of the brain-mind relationship is that the former is able to handle quite a number of experiences and phenomena that are difficult or impossible to handle within the latter model:

The transmission-theory also puts itself in touch with a whole class of experiences that are with difficulty explained by the production-theory. I refer to those obscure and exceptional phenomena reported at all times throughout human history, which the 'psychical - researchers,' with Mr. Frederic Myers at their head, are doing so much to rehabilitate; such phenomena, namely, as religious conversions, providential leadings in answer to prayer, instantaneous healings, premonitions, apparitions at time of death, clairvoyant visions or impressions, and the whole range of mediumistic capacities, to say nothing of still more exceptional and incomprehensible things. . . . On the production-theory one does not see from what sensations such odd bits of knowledge are produced. On the transmission-theory, they don't have to be 'produced,' -- they exist ready-made in the transcendental world, and all that is needed is an abnormal lowering of the brain-threshold to let them through. In cases of conversion, in providential leadings, sudden mental healings, etc., it seems to the subjects themselves of the experience as if a power from without, quite different from the ordinary action of the senses or of the sense-led mind, came into their life, as if the latter suddenly opened into that greater life in which it has its source. . . . All such experiences, quite paradoxical and meaningless on the production-theory, fall very naturally into place on the other theory. We need only suppose the continuity of our consciousness with a mother sea, to allow for exceptional waves occasionally pouring over the dam. Of course the causes of these odd lowerings of the brain's threshold still remain a mystery on any terms. (James, 1897/1956, pp. 24-27)

These considerations are just as valid today as they were when William James proposed them in 1897.

Model 3: Brain as Transducer or Transformer of Consciousness

The terms transmission, permission, and filtration in Model 3 imply that whatever is “transmitted” already exists in that form or in a similar form. However, this does not appear to be precisely the case in the various analogous processes that have been proposed or in the brain and consciousness relationship itself. Indeed, closer consideration reveals that rather than transmission, transduction or transformation is a more apt description of what actually occurs in these situations. In the radio-television analogy, the receiver acts upon electromagnetic waves to produce sounds and pictures that were not present in those forms in the waves themselves. Something novel was created. Similarly, the film and projector mechanisms act upon the pure white light to create novel colors and images that were not previously present in explicit form in the original light. This applies also in the color spectrum from white light prism analogy. The organ keys and pipes act upon the original air to produce novel tones.

To better convey this meaning, another analogy is appropriate: the transformation of two gases, hydrogen and oxygen, into water, which is quite different from the two original gases. Even more apt is the quantum physical process by which the state vector is collapsed—converting a potential, probabilistic wave function that is everywhere and everywhen into an actual, observable particle with a definite location in space and time.

As is the case in these various physical analogies, it can be seen that the brain and body structures and mechanisms may transduce or transform a wide, rich, and pure form of consciousness into the more restricted, limited form of individual awareness (i.e., the sensations, perceptions, thoughts, images, and feelings) with which we are so familiar. Something novel—something not quite the same as the original—is created by the interaction of the original, fuller consciousness with the brain and body. It would seem to follow, therefore, that without the presence of the brain and body, the narrower, familiar form of consciousness and individuality would not be manifested and sustained, although, of course, the original, fuller form of consciousness--without its individual awareness (specific experiences, memories, etc.) content would continue to exist. This argument has important implications for our understanding of the nature of individual consciousness and for the possibility of the survival, after death, of individual consciousness.

Others have made similar suggestions: that our brains and bodies not only transmit or filter consciousness, but importantly and fundamentally shape (i.e., transduce and transform) the very nature of what we can consciously experience. For example:

Pure mind is something fundamentally different from the nature of the body and other physical things. What we ordinarily experience . . . is not mind by itself, “pure mind,” or the body itself, but mind embodied. (Charles Tart, 1993, p. 126)

Most people (including most philosophers) assume that substance dualism entails survival, and that survival entails immortality. However, the situation is not so simple. It might be the case that the mind depends for its existence as a structured whole on the body existing as a structured whole, in which case it will not last much past the irreversible death of the body. Nature provides us with many examples of compound systems that have such dependencies, e.g., parasites and symbiotes. And just as there is a world of difference between consciousness surviving for minutes and surviving for years or centuries, there is a world of difference between something that is contingently enduring and something that is in principle everlasting. (David Rousseau, 2012, p.64)

In the various physical analogies and in the case of the brain and consciousness situation if it is argued that the “output” content (sounds, images, subjective experiences) still is somehow already present in the input (electromagnetic waves, pure light, pure consciousness), it can only be present in some potential or enfolded form. A transduction or transformation process remains necessary for the actualization, manifestation, or unfolding of specific content.

On a cosmic scale, there are certain similarities of this transduction/transformation model of brain and consciousness with aspects of the interrelationships of Brahman, Atman, Purusha, and Prakriti in Hindu philosophy and psychology and with Isaac Luria’s Kabbalistic treatment of the Divine’s tzimtzum (self-contraction or concealment) in the creation of the world.

All of the advantages of the transmission model over the production model also are present in the transduction/transformation model. However, the latter seems to provide a more nuanced and more accurate account of the processes involved.


Bergson, H. (1920). Mind-energy: Lectures and essays (H. W. Carr, Trans.). New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. (Most excerpts quoted here are from a 1913 lecture to the Society for Psychical Research)

Broad, C.D. (1953). Religion, philosophy and psychical research. New York: Harcourt Brace.

Emerson, R. W. (1987). The essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. (Original work published 1841)

Huxley, A. (1963). The doors of perception. In A. Huxley, The doors of perception and heaven and hell (pp. 9–79). New York, NY: Harper and Row. (Original work published 1954)

James, W. (1956). Human immortality: Two supposed objections to the doctrine. In The will to believe, human immortality, and other essays on popular philosophy (pp. 1-70). New York, NY: Dover. (Original work published 1897)

Kant, I. (1922). Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. In Commemoration of the Centenary of its First Publication. Translated into English by F. Max Mueller (2nd revised ed.) New York, NY: Macmillan). (Original translation 1881, original work in German 1781)

Kelly, E. F. (2007 ). Toward a psychology for the 21st Century. In E. F. Kelly, E. W. Kelly, A. Crabtree, A. Gauld, M. Grosso, & B. Greyson, Irreducible mind (pp. 577-643). New York, NY: Rowman and Littlefield.

Myers, F. W. H. (1892). The subliminal consciousness: Chapter 1: General characteristics and subliminal messages. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 7, 298-327.

Myers, F. W. H. (1903). Human personality and its survival of bodily death (2 vols.). London: Longmans, Green.

Rousseau, D. (2012). The implications of near-death experiences for research into the survival of consciousness. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26(1), 43–80.

Schiller, F. C. S. (1894). Riddles of the sphinx: A study in the philosophy of evolution (2nd ed). London, U.K: Swan Sonnenschein & Co.

Shelley, P. B. (2010). Adonaïs: An elegy on the death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc. (1821). Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. (Facsimile reprint of a work originally published 1821)

Smith, Huston. (Winter, 2001-2002). Intimations of mortality: Three case studies. Harvard Divinity Bulletin, 30(3), 12-15. [From Huston Smith’s 2001 Harvard Ingersoll Lecture on the Immortality of Man]

Tart, C. T. (1993). Mind embodied: Computer-generated virtual reality as a new dualistic-model for transpersonal psychology. In K. R. Rao (Ed.), Cultivating consciousness (pp. 123–138). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Van Dusen, W. (1996). Returning to the source. Moab, UT: Real People Press.


This essay Copyright ​​© 2012 by William Braud. All rights reserved.
Whenever you learn something, it seems at first as though you've lost something.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Perhaps the only possible answer to our question is: Whatever we said the mind is, it is not. It may be that we’ve been trying to capture something which is scientifically premature.
~ Charly Gordon
(From Sterling Silliphant’s 1968 screenplay “Charly,”
​based on Daniel Keyes’ novel, Flowers for Algernon)


                Further Thoughts About Spirituality and About Transpersonal Education

I included an article called Views on “Spirituality” on the Related Materials page of this website. This present essay is a small supplement to that article. It contains a few additional thoughts about spirituality as well as some comments about transpersonal education and how this relates to spirituality.

A Bit More About Spirituality

Both religion and spirituality involve themselves with what is considered to be the ultimate ground of being and meaning—what theologian Paul Tillich (1951) referred to as "matters of unconditional or ultimate concern" (p. 12). Most generally, we can use the terms spiritual and spirituality to refer to one's highest or ultimate values and reality and to one's relationship with those values and that reality. The two terms address the existence and importance of something larger than ourselves.

In his classic The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James (1902/1985) suggested that the essence of the religious (today, we could say spiritual) sentiment involved a consciousness that

[one's] higher part is conterminous and continuous with a More of the same quality, which is operative in the universe outside of [one], and which [one] can keep in working touch with, and in a fashion get on board of and save [one]self when all [one's] lower being has gone to pieces in the wreck. (p. 508)

Philosopher Walter Stace suggested that religion (but we can here generalize this to spirituality) may essentially involve “feelings of the holy, the sacred, and the divine” (1960, p. 341). Earlier, and more satisfyingly, he had characterized religion (but, again, we can substitute spirituality) by paraphrasing a passage from T. S. Eliot’s play The Cocktail Party, but using his own words, as “a ‘way’ or path, followed by the ‘saints’ [of every religion, and by the religious and nonreligious mystics], which leads to an ‘experience’ and a ‘destination’ which ‘cannot be known’ except through ‘myths and images’” (Stace, 1952, p. 240). I would agree that linear prose is a poor way to communicate the nature of spiritual experiences. Much better are music, the visual arts, poetry, and—as Stace maintains—myths and images.

Seán ÓLaoire has offered what is perhaps the most succinct definition of spirituality: “Spirituality is the individual encounter with the numinous ground of our being” (2003, p. 179).

Transpersonal Education

I have previously defined the transpersonal as

Ways in which individuals, societies, and disciplines might increase their ambit and become more inclusive and expansive in areas of sense of identity (including ways of being and ways of functioning beyond the typical egocentric mode), development and transformation, conditions of consciousness, ways of knowing, values, and service. The transpersonal also involves recognizing and honoring the spiritual aspects of our being, actions, and ways of thinking. (Braud, 2006, p. 135)

And, more recently, Rosemarie Anderson and I offered this characterization of transpersonal psychology:

Transpersonal psychology is the study and cultivation of the highest and most transformative human values and potentials—individual, communal, and global—that reflect the mystery and interconnectedness of life, including our human journey within the cosmos. (Anderson & Braud, 2011, p. 9)

Transpersonal psychologist Martin Treachy has provided the simplest and most direct description of transpersonal psychology: “Transpersonal psychology . . . is, very roughly, the psychology of spiritual experience” (Treachy, n.d.).

Transpersonal education, therefore, could be viewed as a way of communicating these understandings of the transpersonal and of transpersonal psychology to others in an effective and embodied manner. It also is a way in which such understandings might be gained on one’s own, in a self-education manner.

With spirituality, transpersonal education shares a concern with and emphasis on the highest, most meaningful, and most transcendent values, realities, and potentials of humanity. Also common to both is the importance of transformative changes in their practitioners.

Persons outside of the field of transpersonal psychology have suggested ways to improve education that are closely aligned with the values and aims of transpersonal education and transformative education. Space allows mention of only two of these.

Writer, lecturer, editor, and educator David Lorimer (1990) suggested 11 approaches that might be added to those currently existing in our educational systems in order to help foster greater emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth and development in students:

1. The need to place human beings in a system context of interconnectedness and responsibility at the biological, ecological, social, psychological and spiritual levels.
2. The need for children to see themselves primarily as citizens of the Earth and only secondarily as members of separate nationalities.
3. The need for a course in comparative world-views, both historical and contemporary, in order to foster mutual tolerance and understanding.
4. The need to understand a minimum of modern psychology, especially in the areas of masculine and feminine qualities within each person, and of the hazards of projecting enemy-images on to each other.
5. The need for each of us to learn ways of acquiring inner peace as a result of silence and meditation.
6. The need to cultivate a sense of beauty which stimulates the imagination and sympathies.
7. The need to understand the nature of physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual health and the ways in which we can contribute responsibly to the maintenance of the requisite dynamic balance within our physical systems.
8. The need to learn of the power as well as the hazards of practical idealism in order to avoid on the one hand self-defeating fanaticism and on the other sinking into helpless apathy. The power of an ideal lies in its ability to co-ordinate our energies.
9. The need to study in depth the nature of love in its widest sense, and to work out how kindness, trust and co-operation can best be fostered in the attempt to create a maximum of synergy within the world system.
10. The need to recognize the crucial importance of individual contributions through the study of the lives of remarkable men and women who continue to inspire us.
11. The need to develop a personal sense of moral responsibility within the context of our interconnectedness and interdependence, extending this on the principle of reverence for life. (pp. 282-283)

Catholic priest, cultural historian, and “Earth scholar” Thomas Berry once suggested five “core courses” that might be taught to future college students, in order to help them better understand the immense story of the Universe and our profound interconnections with all things, times, and places: A first course on “the sequence of evolutionary phases of this functional cosmology [treating galaxies, the solar system, the Earth, live, and consciousness]”; a second course on “the various phases of human cultural development”; a third course on “the period of the great classical cultures that has dominated human development [and its many contributions to present human thought, actions, and disciplines]”; a fourth course treating “the study of the scientific-technological phase of human development”; and a fifth course dealing with “the emerging ecological age, the age of the growing intercommunion among all living and nonliving systems of the planet, and even of the universe entire.” (Berry, 1990, pp. 99-104)

Within transpersonal psychology, there have been many treatments of the nature of transpersonal education. Three of the most inclusive of these are articles by Donald Rothberg (1999), William Braud (2006), and Paul Cunningham (2006). In addressing transpersonal issues at the millennium, transpersonal psychologist and teacher of engaged spirituality Donald Rothberg suggested seven possible future directions that transpersonal education might take:

1. There will be more focus on the linkage between study and action in the world, between reflection and action . . . between theory and practice.
2. Education will increasingly be guided by a sense of "practice" (or praxis), and the conscious sense that all experience in a given setting is relevant and is related to learning and transformation.
3. There will continue to be a development of methodologies that bring out a dynamic relationship of theory and practice, such as we find, for example, in critical theory, action research, participant observation, collaborative and cooperative inquiry, and some interpretations of feminist epistemology and hermeneutics. Transpersonal educators can add significantly to this repertoire by articulating various modes of disciplined spiritual inquiry and integrating such modes with other types of inquiry . . . [taking] inquiry aiming at spiritual insight and wisdom as seriously as we take the established modes of inquiry in the empirical [and human] sciences.
4. The connections between different "levels" of development—intrapsychic, interpersonal, group and organizational, community, social, ecological, and global—will be increasingly a focus of education, as will the links between different disciplines.
5. New educational forms need to be developed that help bring out these new models of teaching and learning, that bring together experiential, practical, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions.
6. We can also anticipate the development in our educational systems of what we might call a secularized and scientific spirituality . . . [along with] the potential of bringing the riches from spiritual traditions more easily into the contemporary world, and the danger of fitting traditional practices into containers in which much is necessarily lost or truncated.
7. For ultimately the intention of transpersonal education is no less than spiritual transformation, the cultivation of wisdom and love, the opening of heart and mind, the deep communion with life. (Rothberg, 1999, pp. 54-56)

​Possible Resistances

Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1927) once remarked:

It is the first step in sociological wisdom, to recognize that the major advances in civilization are processes which all but wreck the societies in which they occur . . . Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows. (p. 88)

Because of its novelty and its differences from familiar forms of conventional educational practices, it can be expected that the introduction of transpersonal education will be met by several possible resistances. These resistances could be pedagogical, personal, or political.

Political challenges may come from six major sources. Those with strong investments in certain more limited forms of education may be threatened by what they consider risks or disadvantages of a novel transpersonal approach and therefore oppose its introduction. Those firmly wedded to a positivistic, materialistic, scientistic viewpoint may actively oppose a form of education based on principles and understandings that are inconsistent with that viewpoint. Those espousing narrow and fixed organized religious views may feel threatened by the more inclusive and integrated experiential spirituality that is aligned with transpersonal education and therefore oppose the latter. Transpersonal educators also can expect challenges from educators who subscribe to a training or trade school approach to education as well as from those in public education arenas who feel that religion or spirituality have no place in such contexts. Finally, one may expect a confrontation of one’s transpersonal views with the emphasis on ego and individuality that permeates current Western culture.

Being aware of these resistances, in advance. will be helpful in effectively countering them.

A Vision

It is appropriate to close this brief essay with Martin Treachy’s vision of a possible future form of transpersonal education:

I once invented the term ‘holiversity’ to refer to this idea – an alternative to the modern concept of the university (which belies its name in ignoring most dimensions of the universe, and largely focuses on just the academic, and a fairly narrow conception of it at that). Maybe the spirit of Pythagoras, Socrates and Lao Tzu can be reincarnated in a new form, in a school which can develop academic rigour, yes, but which also nurtures a fully integral development of the highest human potential. Towards a fruitful marriage between intellect and intuition, mind and body, science and spirituality. (Treachy, 2010, p. 45)

Anderson, R., & Braud, W. (2011). Transforming self and others through research: Transpersonal research methods and skills for the human sciences and humanities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Berry, T. (1990). The American college in the ecological age. In The dream of the earth (pp. 89-108). San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.

Braud, W. (2006). Educating the “more” in holistic transpersonal higher education: A 30+ year perspective on the approach of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 38(2), 133-158.

Cunningham, P. F. (2006). Transpersonal Education: Problems, Prospects and Challenges. The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 25, 62-68.

James, W. (1985). The varieties of religious experience. New York: Penguin. (Original work published 1902)

Lorimer, D. (1990). Whole in one: The near-death experience and the ethic of interconnectedness. London, England: Penguin/Arkana.

ÓLaoire, S. (2003). Spirits in spacesuits: A manual for everyday mystics. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: Trafford.

Rothberg, D. (1999). Transpersonal issues at the millennium. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 31(1), 41-67.

Stace, W. T. (1952). Religion and the modern mind. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.

Stace, W. T. (1960). Mysticism and philosophy. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.

Tillich, P. (1951). Systematic theology, Vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Treachy, M. (2010). The Holiversity – a radical alternative to the university. Transpersonal Psychology Review, 14(1), 45.

Treachy, M. (n.d.). Website. Retrieved May 5, 2012, from

​​Whitehead, A. N. (1927). Symbolism: Its meaning and effect. New York: Macmillan.


This essay Copyright ​​​​​​© 2012 by William Braud. All rights reserved.

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I have been and still am a seeker, but I no longer seek in stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.
~ Hermann Hesse (Prologue to Demian)

There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson