Transpersonal Anthropology
Apr 12, 2021

Reading time 3 min.

TRANSPERSONAL ANTHROPOLOGY-a trend that emerged in the United States in the late 60s of the 20th century. He defines himself as “the fourth force in psychology and anthropology”, which makes up for the one-sidedness of the previous three projects: psychoanalysis, behaviorism and humanistic psychology. The founders of transpersonal psychology were well-known psychologists and psychotherapists: A. Maslow, S. Grof, A. Watts, M. Murphy, etc. Among their predecessors, they call U.James, the author of the encyclopedic work “The Diversity of religious Experience”, C. G. Jung, who enriched psychology with mythological, general cultural and mystical dimensions, the Italian R. Assagioli, a former psychoanalyst, who in the psychosynthesis created by him relied on theosophical, anthroposophical and Buddhist teachings, overcoming with their help the limitations of European anthropology, as well as American transcendentalists-Emerson and Thoreau. The leaders of modern transpersonal anthropology are S. Grof, C. Wilber, C. Tart, A. Mindell, S. Kripner, R. Walsh, M. Murphy, and C. Castaneda, each of whom develops their own methods and direction of research.

Transpersonal anthropology studies consciousness in a wide range of its manifestations: the multiplicity of states of consciousness, spiritual crisis, near-death experiences, the development of intuition, creativity, higher states of consciousness, personal resources, parapsychological phenomena. It is based on a holistic vision of a person in the perspective of his spiritual growth, classical and non-classical philosophical anthropology, world spiritual traditions, various methods of self-knowledge and psychotherapy, such as meditation, holotropic breathwork, body-oriented psychotherapy, art therapy, working with dreams, active imagination, self-hypnosis, etc. There is a personal continuity and a semantic connection between humanistic and transpersonal projects in psychology and anthropology. Their founders were the same people – A. Maslow, E. Sutich, A. Watts, M. Murphy. Since the mid-60s, they began to treat humanistic psychology as an orientation that needs to be expanded. For example, Maslow, who justified the idea of non-utilitarian “values of being”, “peak experiences”, “self-actualization”, which became the foundation and core of the program of humanistic psychology, later introduced the idea of meta – needs, superpersonal values-an open spiritual horizon of a person, to which he always aspires, and only in this passionate aspiration does he realize his destiny. It is in this overcoming, transcending, and opening of historical, cultural, and individual boundaries that the very concept of man becomes meaningful, and humanistic psychology, and, more broadly, all anthropological problems, are grounded.

The transpersonal orientation differed from the humanistic one by its emphasis on meta-needs and meta-values, and its desire to overcome the boundaries of the former field of research set by the problems of self-actualization, creativity, humanistic psychotherapy, and pedagogy. It has made the psychological dimensions of religious and mystical experiences, ecstatic states, and the experiences of death, dying, and birth the subject of science. The new subject field, no longer limited to Western Christian culture, has absorbed such spiritual phenomena as Sufism, Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, yoga, the traditions of North American Indians, native and ancient civilizations.

The transpersonal movement includes scientists from various fields of knowledge – not only psychologists, ethnologists, cultural scientists, or, say, thanatologists, but also physicists, biologists, and cyberneticists. A new scientific paradigm is needed to understand the anthropological vision that has unfolded in transpersonal anthropology. We can note the new cartography of the human psyche by S. Grof, his ideas about the spiritual crisis, in which he showed that most of the diseases classified by traditional psychiatry as neuroses and psychoses are essentially growth crises that occur in certain conditions in all people. Traditional psychiatry, insensitive to this process, in its classifications freezes its individual phases as different types of pathology, considering them as abnormalities, and not as stages of the evolutionary process. Those who are enrolled by psychiatry in neurotics and psychotics are most often people who spontaneously experienced a powerful spiritual experience and failed to cope with it. To help such people, the Grofs created the international program “Spiritual emergency”. K. Wilber integrated psychotherapeutic and psychological approaches based on the theory of the spectrum of consciousness. The study of meditation by such scientists as R. Walsh, D. Shapiro and M. Murphy became widely known.

Published in 1980 under the editorship of S. Boorstein, the book “Transpersonal Psychotherapy” (Transpersonal Psychotherapy) provides a transpersonal view of such psychotherapeutic approaches as gestalt therapy, psychosynthesis, transactional analysis, analytical psychology, psychoanalysis, as well as a number of approaches of humanistic or existential-phenomenological psychology. In anthologies on transpersonal psychology, we find the names of J. Boehme, E. Swedenborg, Meister Eckhart, Church fathers, and hesychasts of the Orthodox tradition. Transpersonal psychiatry, ecology, and sociology are emerging. Transpersonal experiences have a special therapeutic potential, are of great importance for creativity, aesthetic and ethical development. The transpersonal approach in the treatment of drug addiction and alcoholism, psychotherapy of neuroses and psychoses is of particular relevance.

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