It’s the middle of the afternoon, and you are in a large hotel in Prague, Czech Republic. Guided by the stimulating aroma of freshly brewed coffee, you follow your nose past reception down the long, windowed hallway that leads you to the conference wing of the sprawling building. The area just outside the doors to the main hall is bustling with the sounds of clanking coffee cups and the chit-chat of hundreds of international attendees swapping business cards as they network with each other in various tongues.
At first glance, this appears much like any other academic conference, with scholars, scientists, renowned authors slated as speakers, and teams of researchers perusing the poster presentations that line the hallway. Yet, if you allow yourself to move in just a little closer, you will find that the conversations may easily draw you out of your isolated self into an unlikely trip of connection through the cosmos. Within this Eastern European event space, beyond the professional goals that many, including myself, have come to pursue, the common goal of the approximately 1,000 people gathered here today is to explore, in a real way, an awakened model for a new culture.
Day One of The International Transpersonal Conference: Beyond Materialism towards Wholeness
Entering through one of the large sets of double doors with the intention of settling in for an academic lecture, you may be surprised to see a well-respected academic, and self-proclaimed novice singer, leading a group of several hundred other well-dressed professionals in activating the vibratory energy of their voices, by singing “I love you … I love you … I love you …” over and over again as Canon in D is played over the sound system.
Although science has caught up to demonstrating the efficacy of transpersonal approaches, the transpersonal field continues to exist today along the same fringes of mainstream Western psychology that it did 50 years ago when it was first founded. Birthed out of the humanistic movement of the 1960s, transpersonal psychology was unique in that it established a framework for exploring human behavior that transcended the material boundaries of the individual self.
It is for this very reason I believe transpersonal psychology is increasingly relevant as we consider how we, as a collective, might begin to tackle the incredible amount of healing our human race and our ecosystem will need to survive in the years to come. Stanislav Grof, a founder of the transpersonal movement who organized and served as a keynote speaker of this event, said during his address, “Today we are experiencing a global crisis with one common denominator, which is the state of consciousness evolution of the human species” (Grof, 2017).
The transpersonal lens includes an expansive view of consciousness that invites and respects experiential ways of knowing, and the field has developed research methods that reflect this through scientific inquiry. Thematic tracks present at the International Transpersonal Conference provide an overview of the breadth of approaches and applications for the transpersonal model.
These tracks include:
- Inner ecology, collective psyche, and social transformation
- Science, spirituality, and therapeutic potential of psychedelics
- New horizons in science and cosmology
- Shamanism and its potential for modern man
- Mystical spirituality as a link between world religions
- Holotropic art as an expression of inner process
The underlying message of the transpersonal field, as highlighted in this conference, is that we are ailing as a human society through illness, violence, and destruction of our natural world because of our separation from the collective whole. This has come about because we have been reared within and helped to sustain a culture that upholds individualism and competition over collective well-being and cooperation.
To heal our fragmented condition we must come to recognize the nature of reality as an inter-connected, inter-related whole.
While many in this field are comfortable using language that refers to spirituality and mystical elements inherent within us, others prefer to explore and explain the same phenomena through language that is less supernatural, offering instead an scientific exploration of consciousness and energy.
Whether you choose to identify more with one over the other usually comes down to the personal experiences that have brought you into the field, but it certainly does not seem to be an argument anyone at the conference has any interest in taking up. The larger goal of this conference includes a critical review of the current stage of human development centered around creating a platform for global cooperation and move humanity forward.
To heal our fragmented condition we must come to recognize the nature of reality as an inter-connected, inter-related whole. This is a recognition found within spiritual texts as well as scientific ones. To look at it most simply, one need not commit to any dogma or particular school of thought. The beauty of this approach is in its inclusion and its simplicity.
Consider reading more about transpersonal psychology or, if you are seeking help, working with a transpersonally-oriented therapist. Healing the collective begins with healing the individual.
Grof, S. (2017, September). Plaidoyer for transpersonal psychology: Theoretical and practical importance of its discoveries. Keynote presented at The International Transpersonal Conference, Prague.
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