Spiritual Transformation and Transpersonal Psychology
Transpersonal psychology is a school of psychology that studies the transpersonal, the transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology describes transpersonal psychology as "the study of humanity’s highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness" (Lajoie and Shapiro, 1992:91). Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other metaphysical experiences of living.

Transpersonal psychologists see the school as a companion to other schools of psychology that include psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology. Transpersonal psychology attempts to unify modern psychology theory with frameworks from different forms of mysticism. These vary greatly depending on the origin but include religious conversion, altered states of consciousness, trance and other spiritual practices. Although Carl Jung and others have explored aspects of the spiritual and transpersonal in their work, transpersonal psychology for the most part has been overlooked by psychologists who are focused on the personal and developmental aspects of the human psyche.


Lajoie and Shapiro reviewed forty definitions of transpersonal psychology that had appeared in literature over the period 1969 to 1991. They found that five key themes in particular featured prominently in these definitions: states of consciousness, higher or ultimate potential, beyond the ego or personal self, transcendence and the spiritual. Walsh and Vaughan (1993) have criticised many definitions of transpersonal psychology, for carrying implicit ontological or methodological assumptions. They also challenge definitions that link transpersonal psychology to healthy states only, or to the Perennial Philosophy. These authors define transpersonal psychology as being the branch of psychology that is concerned with transpersonal experiences and related phenomena, noting that "These phenomena include the causes, effects and correlates of transpersonal experiences, as well as the disciplines and practices inspired by them".

Research interests in Spiritual Transformation

The transpersonal perspective spans many research interests. The following list is adapted from Scotton, Chinen and Battista (1996) and includes:

* The contributions of spiritual traditions - Hinduism, Yoga, Buddhism, Vajrayana, Zen, Taoism, Tantra, Shamanism, Kabbalah, Sufism and Christian mysticism - to psychiatry and psychology
* Native American healing
* Aging and adult spiritual development
* Meditation research and clinical aspects of meditation
* Consciousness studies and research
* Psychedelics, Ethnopharmacology and Psychopharmacology
* Parapsychology
* Cross-cultural studies and Anthropology
* Diagnosis of Religious and Spiritual Challenges
* Offensive spirituality, spiritual defenses, psychic defence
* The treatment of former members of cults
* Transpersonal Psychotherapy
* Addiction and recovery
* Guided-Imagery and Visualization Therapy
* Breathwork
* Dying and near death experience (NDE)
* Past-Life therapy
* Ecological survival
* Leadership and Succession Studies
* Social Change

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Transformation. The Official Guide to Transformation is Christopher Carrick. Christopher Carrick works with people who are undergoing spiritual transformation. Sometimes this shows up as a life crisis, such as the breakup of a relationship, struggles in their work or dealing with the dying process.

Additional Resources covering Transformation can be found at:

Website Directory for Transformation
Articles on Transformation
Products for Transformation
Discussion Board
Christopher Carrick, the Official Guide To Transformation