Transpersonal Psychology

 Most psychologies and psychotherapies are interested just in the personality. It is only in recent years that a variety is known as “transpersonal psychology” has emerged, which combines, or perhaps re-integrates, psychology and the personality with theology and the soul – two disciplines and two concepts that have been firmly separated in our materialistic Western world, but which used to go hand in hand. For instance, in early Christianity there was a collection of books by different authors under the general name of Philokalia, describing the psychology of mystical enlightenment, and this knowledge was the basis of Gnosis, itself the source of many of Gurdjieff’s ideas. (Freud himself actually wrote about the psyche in terms of the “soul”, but his German was misguidedly translated into medical “scientific” terms for the Anglo-American audience).

In “Psychosynthesis”, which Assagioli developed in the 1930s, it is said that a person has a personality and is a soul. However, personalities in the world are obvious to us all; souls are only present for those with eyes to see. Assagioli’s view of synthesis is of becoming more and more aware of the soul, not only in oneself but also in others. His view, and the view of most spiritual disciplines, is that soul is basic and enduring, and that personality, though necessary for being in the world, is relatively superficial and changeable.

The soul is the context, the home, the “unmoved mover”, the uncreated source of life; the personality is full of content, learned responses, and is dynamic. The soul may in many people never be recognized in any explicit way, and the nature of this barrier and how to remove it, to become “enlightened” or to “awaken”, is the area which we are examining here, and ultimately resolving on Meta-Programming.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before Freud, and with the values of the Enlightenment and the idea of progress, it was assumed that the human being was becoming more and more rational and fully civilized. It was this assumption that Freud questioned, with his ability to discern the unconscious processes in people. He saw the significance of dreams as a communication of the unconscious to the conscious; slips of the tongue, mistakes, painful emotions, irrational behavior, and illnesses manifested in ordinary living began to be acknowledged as effects of processes going on beyond our consciousness. Many hitherto unexplained phenomena came to be seen as symptoms of the conflict between the strong “libido” (sexual) forces of the “id” (the drive or life force of the core Self) and the “super-ego” (the acquired conscience), as perceived by the “ego” ( that part of the id that detaches early in development to form an independent personality – the “face to the world”).

There are five main parts of our total psyche: Higher consciousness – that which is aware of being aware; Normal consciousness – awareness in the everyday world – being, perceiving, relating; and of the inner world – of thoughts, concepts, attitudes, decisions, images, memories emotions, sensations, and feelings. And the domains which lie below normal consciousness: the Pre-conscious – an interface of the conscious mind which, when it is evoked by interest and emotional commitment, goes searching for relevant data in the sub-conscious; the Sub-conscious – contains the powerful drives of love and fear and the programs by which motives are decided and actions are carried out; and the Unconscious – the core Self which contains a record of everything one has felt and sensed since conception and of the evolutionary genetic-line before that. It also consists of genetic programming, which empowers the deepest drives for survival, attachment, and expression common to mankind, which transmits the energy of emotions, which controls the stream of libido energies and the efforts involved in moving and perceiving with the physical body.

Higher consciousness is the essential self, the Higher Self. It is our personal center of awareness, which is developed through self-knowledge. The Higher Self is the “awareness of awareness” of which the mental (ego) “I” is a pale reflection. There has been an acknowledgment throughout human history that higher awareness, beyond the normal conscious experience, is possible for the individual, recognized through dreams, religious and psychic experience, insights, and creativity of every kind. It is usually frustratingly brief and infrequent but it is clear that with appropriate efforts and study, people can change and grow in awareness, whereby the field of consciousness becomes more and more observed by the Higher Self who is no longer asleep; then the behavior is no longer determined only by conditioning. The Being is aware of the difference between his own motivation and that which is learned, acquired, or installed in him, genetically or by conditioning; he knows what he is doing as he does it. The energy and attention tied up in the knots of unconsciousness become conscious and freely available, as truth is validated and the false discarded.

The second aspect of the psyche, Normal consciousness, is our everyday reality, internally and externally – the incessant flow of sensations, images, thoughts, feelings, desires, and impulses which we can observe, analyze and judge. The less aware a person is, the smaller this field of awareness will be and the more automatic his functioning. The majority of people drift on the surface of this “mindstream” and identify themselves with its successive waves, with the changing contents of their consciousness. So consciousness is often unreflective, not consciously noticed, determined by the many personal and social forces which have formed us, the cultural programming that molds us into a “consensus trance” of automatic, robotized behavior. In this hypnotized, half-asleep state, possessed by the conditioning of our background, we seem almost entirely the product of our genetic heritage, our personal environment, and the society we live in – in the grip of forces stronger than ourselves and which we don’t understand, be they biological, psychological or social.

The conscious mind contains all that one knows that is readily accessible. This information is well organized and interconnected on a logical basis. The characteristics of this “analytical” mind are invaluable for learning, putting things in order, and testing ideas. On the other hand, the conscious mind tends to be inhibited by the very quality that makes it so powerfully useful: it seeks to be right.

This part of the personality, the subject of cognitive and behavioral psychology, could easily, without reflection, be regarded as the whole, but the development of depth-psychology and the rediscovery of transpersonal psychology in this century has made it clear that this level of consciousness is only a part of the whole.

The third part, the Pre-conscious, is the ante-room of consciousness, where our various experiences are assimilated, our mental and imaginative activities are elaborated and developed in a sort of psychological gestation and interaction, before their birth into the light of consciousness. If consciousness is likened to a spotlight, the pre-conscious is everything within its range, but not illuminated at this moment. It is real to the person and accessible. It includes material from the subconscious that has been restimulated (made active due to a similarity or relevance of present circumstances or thoughts). The pre-conscious mind is like a problem-oriented and independent file clerk. It looks over the shoulder of the conscious mind: when a problem is being considered, it conducts a search into the subconscious mind for clues that it considers relevant.

Its criteria for relevance do not always seem logical to the conscious mind, and therefore the ego learns to censor certain kinds of information from the subconscious, preventing them from rising higher into full consciousness. This is the mechanism of repression and the “censor” then functions below consciousness; consequently, you cannot open up your mind to the sub-conscious simply by resolving not to block its signals; the defenses have first to be recognized, the reasons for them discovered and the pre-conscious censor re-programmed, before this is possible. This requires a procedure of concentrated introspection.

Interest, emotional commitment, and the desire to solve a problem cause the pre-conscious to work with the contents of the sub-conscious (and also through the sub-conscious to the unconscious) and the results eventually filter back into consciousness if they are not censored. Intuition is early recognition, below the conscious level, that one is on the right track – this causes a felt signal or increase of arousal which causes the conscious mind to pay attention to its periphery of consciousness, to dig a little, and pull out the information. Because of the energy of this signal, it may also be registered on biofeedback devices such as a held pendulum or skin resistance galvanometer, which can be used to help the person recognize his intuition. (See the article Biofeedback Monitor.)

The subconscious is that part of his mind a person is unaware of, or which is out of his control – what Jung called the Shadow. The subconscious functions include vital background psychological activities such as the integration of new data and re-programming where necessary – a function which dreaming reflects – and this co-ordinates the carrying out of setting patterns of behavior which can be safely left “on automatic” by the conscious mind, freeing it to concentrate on the task in hand.

The subconscious contains all of the emotional and cognitive experiences of a lifetime, whether pleasurable, ordinary, or traumatic. Its contents are drawn upon by the pre-conscious when they seem relevant. It is a reservoir of information so vast and rich that it seems quite incredible to the conscious mind. Its contents are nevertheless consciously reachable by methods of psychological analysis (especially with the aid of biofeedback devices) which serves to resolve the defensive censorship of the preconscious.

The “Shadow” aspect of the sub-conscious mind includes the roots of phobias, obsessions, compulsions, delusions, and many complexes charged with intense emotion. These are developed in response to circumstances in the past and used in present time when re-stimulated by the similarity of circumstances; this occurs without conscious control, irrationally and without inspection – a “reactive” mental process. The memory of the original, often dramatic circumstance and the accompanying fears and decisions is normally repressed, as it is unconfrontable and too painful to re-examine.

The Unconscious contains the fundamental survival drives and primitive urges (including genetic and race memories) that empower the functioning of the mind as a whole. It contains the entire kinaesthetic recordings of the body (all of its feelings, sensations, and pains) and is integrally linked with the body (which it coordinates and controls) – it is the “body-mind”. It also contains the deepest level of Self: the fundamental (primal) experiences, imprints, and decisions of this lifetime, from the womb onwards. These only normally surface consciously in symbolic form, in the context of dreams and behavior patterns recognized in retrospect. The deepest forms of psycho-analytic work aim to uncover their content in the light of consciousness. Jung’s work on dreams and mythological symbology was instrumental in opening up the incredible world of the unconscious, and the existence of “archetypes” – ways of being that are inherently programmed in the unconscious, making up the substance of the core Self – all the aspects of living that the individual works throughout his life to “actualize,” or bring into existence at their fullest potential. His work also exposed the transpersonal dimension which lies beyond the racial stereotypes, but also the necessity of working through the primal and archetypal material, to differentiate and individuate the Higher Self – the spiritual, non-genetic, meta-self.

Both the primary trauma of the unconscious and the secondary trauma of the subconscious are connected with the “body-mind”, whereby defensive “armor” in the form of chronic muscular tension, holds the bodily stress-reaction of “fight or flight”, continually in place. This occurs when an experience becomes too painful to view or is too uncomfortably repeated and then awareness of it is repressed – thoughts, emotions, and bodily tensions. Unviewed, it then festers and persists. Though the tension may once have been appropriate, it is now a hindrance, and its perpetual nature holds the original trauma in re-stimulation (though the feeling or awareness of it may be repressed).

And though the repressed cognitive and emotional reactions may have been rational in the past circumstance (in the effort to survive or overcome), if they are reactively dramatized in the present situation, and if they are not accompanied by a fresh appraisal of the current reality, they are the underlying cause of irrational or aberrated behavior, negative emotion, and illness, and therefore have been a primary target of psychotherapy.

Because the body-mind functions inter-actively, work in Transformational Psychology may sometimes require a range of techniques to handle the problems. Physical symptoms (high blood pressure, ulcers, lack of energy, etc.) arise from stress, muscular tension, restimulated trauma, over-work, anxiety about social competence, threat or insecurity at work, rigid attitudes of perfectionism, and fears of failure – based on low self-esteem, due to not having been “good enough” for parents and other dominant figures. Such neurotic dependencies on others conflict with the drive for independence and self-fulfillment. Psychotherapeutic massage may be prescribed, to develop an awareness of faulty attitudes 
and repressed feelings, and to help relax and de-traumatize the body.


The following illustrates the structure of the mind in terms of levels of consciousness:

Help directed at one level will affect the other levels of functioning – the powerful fears and drives of the subconscious affect physical health, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors – a holistic approach is, therefore, most effective. The Transformational Psychology procedures take account of this structure; the techniques progressively cut deeper and deeper both through to the core Self and into the Transpersonal realm, which is the essence of Mankind.

The gradient of approach has to be right in order to ensure a secure and effective route. Like the layers of an onion, the appropriate charged material becomes exposed and may be viewed and confronted. This approach, of handling the area of highest restimulation in the present time, is fundamental to Transformational Psychology analysis. However, there is no benefit to “digging up” the unconscious. Only as it appears on the surface, when it is restimulated in the present time and is accessible in the pre-conscious, is when it should be handled.

Many currently widespread techniques, eg Primal Therapy and Rebirthing, dig up-traumatic material at random, unfortunately leaving much of it incompletely handled and bypassing the charge thus restimulated, which builds up and tends to destabilize the individual. The warmth of group support may temporarily alleviate this destabilization, but the bypassed charge tends to resurface under the pressures of everyday life.

Following the lead of Bruer and Freud in their psycho-analytic practice, it has been found that the conscious re-experiencing and confronting of a painful experience, if done thoroughly enough to a full acceptance of the reality of the experience, serves to drain it of aberrative power: The energy used to repress the pain is released and the person is able to re-evaluate the past decisions surrounding the experience, to expose the lies which he has been living. Of course, this is not possible without a gradient approach; if this was not the case the person would already have been able to deal with the material and it would have been part of his experience which he could view and analyze in full consciousness.

Freud recognized that such traumatic incidents (times of emotional and physical pain) tend to run in sequences – the initial traumatic experience empowers or “charges up” later similar experiences. The earliest experience in such a sequence is termed an “engram” (a long-standing psychiatric term for “memory trace”), since it is a perception impregnated into the cells of the body-mind, during an experience of pain and unconsciousness.

To be able to erase the power of the engram, the later incidents that are restimulations of the initial experience, have to be looked at first. So working from the most recent incident – the memory most restimulated and therefore available to view in the present moment – back through earlier similar incidents in sequence, gradually removes the charge built upon the earliest experience, so it too can be re-examined in full, and most importantly, the decisions accompanying it exposed to view and changed to a more rational, self-determined viewpoint, appropriate to the present time and circumstances.

The energy or “charge” that had been used to repress such unconfrontable material and hold it away from consciousness can be detected as it affects the body’s skin resistance (through arousal, of the autonomic nervous system – a stress response), and this may be read on a skin resistance galvanometer. Therefore a biofeedback monitoring device is invaluable in psychotherapy to help detect emotionally charged but repressed material that has been restimulated into the pre-conscious.

Jung first used the method in analyzing responses to word lists, to help clarify the unconscious processes of thought, enabling an otherwise unobtainable accuracy and penetration to his analysis. Using a Biofeedback Monitor for analysis is much more effective than the traditional psychoanalytical techniques of in-depth questioning and free association. Only if it is the largest responding item (on the Monitor), meaning it is the most accessible and handleable, is something examined further. The analyst does not have to spend years of blind probing to find out the root of a problem. Whatever the Monitor might reveal is coming from the knowingness of the person on the meter, the Higher Self, about the contents of his subconscious mind, although this may be slightly outside his conscious awareness. (The Monitor measures his energetic reactions – it cannot of itself make judgments or tell right from wrong).

A basic tenet of psychoanalysis as originated by Freud is that we are restricted from realizing more than a fraction of our true potential because of the repressed, negative, “reactive” contents of the mind: negative fears, resentments, motivations, and dislikes. Although much of this content may have been appropriate at the time it was formed, during childhood, it is often no longer valid from the point of view of an adult. When the content is confronted (faced up to complete and with equanimity) and made conscious by the adult mind, it dissolves and loses its power to restrain thought and action, and there is a release of positive creative energy, the energy that had been used to repress the material. 


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