One of the most unique aspects of psychology as a scientific discipline has been its ability to nab concepts from non-scientific fields. This goes all the way back to Freud with his Oedipus Complex, taken from Sophocles’ play and which he himself linked to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Freud also disdained religion, a position not shared by Carl Jung, the Aristotle to Freud’s Plato. Jung saw religion – true or otherwise – as a useful phenomenon for analyzing human relationships, and such is the case with transpersonal psychology as well.
- Not Specific
Everyone is different, and so too is everyone’s approach to transpersonal relationships. Unlike Freudian or Jungian psychology, which has more set tenants and variations, transpersonal psychology is less a methodology than a means by which to feel out and work with individuals on an individualized basis in accordance with their spiritual beliefs.
- All about Relationships
Speaking of which, what matters in transpersonal psychology isn’t so much the beliefs as much as how it connects patients to other people. For example, creating a sense of “sacredness” between the patient and therapist can increase the trust and value between them.
- An Even Playing Field
The “Expert” is overrated – just ask “experts” on that topic like Roland Barthes and Orson Welles. The former’s “Death of the Author” and the latter’s F for Fake challenge the notion of elevating “experts” and “authors” to positions of authority. The same thinking is at play in transpersonal psychology. Instead of the therapist being treated as the “expert,” a level playing field exists between the therapist and the patient. This is supposed to facilitate free, therapeutic exchange between the two equal parties.
- A Product of Its Time
Those Barthes/Welles references are also fitting timewise. They, like transpersonal psychology, arose in the intellectual zeitgeist of the anti-authoritarian 1960s and 70s.
- William James
In addition to Jung, other big thinkers left their mark on transpersonal psychology. William James, brother of novelist Henry James, emphasized positivity and pragmatism in his philosophy, utilizing religion-centric precursors to transpersonal psychology in the process.
- Non-Judgmental Psychology
A major conundrum for psychology has always been in defining what’s “normal.” Transpersonal psychology sidesteps that issue, understanding that different people have different “norms” and adopting a non-judgmental stance.
A diverse psychological discipline, transpersonal psychology evokes the spirit of Jungian beliefs in a modern context.