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TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGY

  THE SCIENCE OF SPIRITUALITY 

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Transpersonal Psychology as a discipline, is validated by the British Psychological Society.

From their website:

Human beings frequently have ‘transpersonal’ experiences in which our awareness expands and intensifies.

Sometimes these occur spontaneously, in the midst of every activities and situations, and outside the context of religion or spirituality.

Transpersonal Psychology investigates spiritual practices and experiences, researching their value and their relationship to the models and concepts of psychology.

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  The Science of Spirituality 

Transpersonal Psychology is a field of psychology that integrates spiritual and transcendent aspects of human experience into the traditional study of psychological phenomena. It goes beyond the individual and personal aspects of the mind to explore and understand dimensions of consciousness that are beyond the ordinary or egoic sense of self.

The foundation of Transpersonal Psychology is based upon the Science of Spirituality. Unlike traditional psychology, Transpersonal Psychology recognises the significance of spirituality and numinous experiences as the potential for individuals to shift their attention beyond their ordinary, practical every-day sense of self to an expanded state of awareness. This shift is the basis of the Science of Spirituality. 

There is now scientific research to show that people who feel themselves to be spiritual are less likely to feel depressed, and more likely to find a sense of meaning in their lives. Dr Lisa Miller from Columbia University reports that their research shows that "a spiritual life is neuroprotective against depression", (see the Neuroscience of Spirituality video below).

Dr Lisa Miller and her team looked at the architecture of the brain through MRI’s, and tells  us, “What we see in people with a sustained spiritual life, is broad and pervasive regions of cortical thickness represented in red. These are regions of perception, reflection and orientation…these regions are not thick but thin in people with recurrent major depression”.

But what is spirituality and how do we strive to be more spiritual? Dr Miller says that spirituality “is not a life hack” but “a deep reorientation”, when we are able to, “see into the truer more foundational nature of reality”. This reality has two realms, which she believes that we are "able to 'toggle' between".

This toggling between two realities displays itself in the structure of the human brain, in fact our brain is literally separated in two halves and is connected by a thin band of nerves. The research of Dr Iain McGilchrist shows that because the brain is separated, it allow us to have two different types of attention or consciousness, a practical, narrow, rational and analytical focus and an expanded, broader, imaginative and contemplative focus. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Expanded Conscious state allows for the sense of there being 'something' beyond us, not material, but spiritual. Spirituality is a deeply personal and subjective concept that involves a sense of connection to something greater than oneself. While it can have different meanings for different people, spirituality often involves the following elements:

  • Connection to a Higher Power: Many people associate spirituality with a belief in a higher power, whether that be a traditional deity, a universal energy, or a divine presence. This belief in a higher power often provides individuals with a sense of purpose, meaning, and guidance in their lives.

  • Inner Peace and Harmony: Spirituality often involves seeking inner peace, harmony, and balance within oneself. This may be achieved through practices such as meditation, prayer, mindfulness, or other contemplative activities that promote self-awareness and self-reflection.

  • Values and Ethics: Spirituality often encompasses a set of values, principles, and ethics that guide an individual's behavior and decision-making. These values may be rooted in religious teachings, philosophical beliefs, or personal experiences, and they often emphasise concepts such as compassion, love, forgiveness, and empathy.

  • Connection to Others and the World: Spirituality often involves a sense of connection to others, to nature, and to the world at large. This interconnectedness fosters a sense of empathy, compassion, and stewardship for the well-being of all living beings and the planet.

  • Meaning and Purpose: Spirituality provides individuals with a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction in life. It helps them make sense of their experiences, find fulfilment in their relationships and endeavors, and navigate life's challenges with resilience and hope.

  • Transcendence and Transformation: Spirituality often involves experiences of transcendence – moments of profound awe, wonder, or insight that go beyond the ordinary sense of self and connect individuals to something greater. These experiences can lead to personal growth, transformation, and a deepening sense of connection to the universe.

 

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  Numinous Experiences 

The Difference between Mainstream Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology

Mainstream psychology works only

with a person's relationships and their connection

to the world around them.

Transpersonal Psychology looks to include a

person's spiritual exploration, belief system

and their numinous experience/s.

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Spiritual or mystical experiences are also known as 'numinous experiences'. The term numinous was coined by the German theologian and philosopher Rudolf Otto to explain a non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self (Transpersonal). 

The numinous is a personal and often ineffable encounter with the transcendent, and people from different cultural and religious backgrounds may interpret and describe these experiences in unique ways.

 

Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung emphasised the importance of integrating numinous experiences into conscious awareness. He believed that denying or repressing these experiences could lead to psychological imbalance, while acknowledging and understanding them could contribute to personal growth and individuation. Numinous experiences can be felt as a move beyond our everyday selves, 'something' beyond ourselves which we find hard to explain. They can take various forms, such as dreams, visions, or moments of intense emotional or spiritual significance. They include:

 

  • Religious experiences or rituals: Participating in religious ceremonies, rituals, or worship services that evoke a strong sense of the divine or the sacred.

  • Nature and the cosmos: Being in awe of the natural world, such as witnessing a breathtaking sunset, gazing at the night sky, or being surrounded by majestic landscapes.

  • Art and music: Experiencing a deep emotional or spiritual response to a piece of art, music, or literature that transcends ordinary aesthetic appreciation.

  • Dreams: Sometimes dreams seem as if they are attempting to bring you information. Recurring dreams also seem to have some significance.  There are instances of people who are emotionally close experiencing shared dreams whereby their dreams contain the same or similar content. Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon in which the dreamer becomes aware that they are dreaming while still in the dream state. 

  • Mystical Experiences (spontaneous or intentional): Encountering moments of transcendence, unity, or connection with a higher power or the cosmos, often described in mystical or spiritual traditions. Modalities for these experiences are spontaneous (such as a Near-Death Experience, or a Shared-Death Experience) or intentional such as breathwork, sensory deprivation, or the use of plant medicines. 

  • Near-Death Experiences: These are rare experiences which sees a person who has been close to death, or has even clinically died move into a realm of peace and joy (for more information: https://www.brucegreyson.com or https://iands.org/).

  • Shared Death Experiences: a shared death experience occurs when somebody is close to death and a caregiver, family member, friend or even just a bystander reports that they sense certain phenomena which is outside of our daily understanding, such as sensing a different energy in the room, visions of deceased people coming to collect the dying person, or even angels or cosmic beings, come to escort the dying person as they transition beyond this life (for more information: https://www.sharedcrossing.com).

  • Birth and Death: Witnessing the birth of a child or being present at the moment of someone's passing can evoke a profound sense of the sacred and the mysterious nature of life.

  • Acts of Compassion: Experiencing or witnessing acts of profound kindness, selflessness, or compassion that touch the soul and inspire a sense of the sacred.

 

Psychological and Spiritual Development: Jung saw the exploration of the numinous as integral to the process of individuation—the development of an individual's unique and authentic self. Numinous experiences when integrated into consciousness, could contribute to a person's psychological and spiritual growth. Jung's ideas on the numinous have influenced fields of psychology, theology, and philosophy, and they continue to be studied and discussed in various contexts. 

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Books:

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