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The transpersonal is a term used by different schools of philosophy and psychology in order to describe experiences and worldviews that extend beyond the personal level of the psyche, and beyond mundane worldly events. It has been defined as experiences "in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos".[1] The field of Transpersonal Psychiatry has defined the term as "development beyond conventional, personal or individual levels."[2] It is related to the terminology of peak experience, altered states of consciousness, and spiritual experiences [3][4]Note a

The term has an early precedent in the writing of philosopher William James,[5][6] but the origin of the term is mostly associated with the human potential movement of the 1960s, and the founders of the field of Transpersonal Psychology: Anthony Sutich, Abraham Maslow and Stanislav Grof.Note b In 1968 the term was selected by the founding editors of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Abraham Maslow and Anthony Sutich, in order to represent a new area of psychological inquiry.[5] According to Powers[7] the term “transpersonal” starts to show up in academic journals from 1970 and onwards.

Stanislav Grof has defined transpersonal states of awareness as such: "The common denominator of this otherwise rich and ramified group of phenomena is the feeling of the individual that his consciousness expanded beyond the usual ego boundaries and the limitations of time and space."[8]

The term is also associated with psychedelic work, and psychotechnologies, that includes research with psychedelic plants and chemicals such as LSD, ibogaine, ketamine, peyote, ayahuasca and the vast variety of substances available to all human cultures throughout history.[9]Note c

The philosophy of William James, the school of Psychosynthesis (founded by Roberto Assagioli), and the Analytical school of C.G Jung are often considered to be forerunners to the establishment of transpersonal theory.[3] Academic schools that are associated with a transpersonal perspective include Humanistic psychology,[10] Transpersonal psychology, Transpersonal anthropology and Near-Death Studies.

See also[edit]


a. Grabovac & Ganesan, 2003: Table 3.
b. According to Vich [5] both Maslow and Grof had used the term as early as 1967, in order to describe new ideas in the field of Psychology.
c. See Winkelman & Roberts, 2007: "Part III. Transpersonal Dimensions of Healing with Psychedelic States"


  1. ^ Walsh, R. and F. Vaughan. "On transpersonal definitions". Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. Vol. 25, No2, pp. 199-207, 1993.
  2. ^ Scotton, Bruce W. "Introduction and Definition of Transpersonal Psychiatry". In Scotton, Bruce W., Chinen, Allan B. and Battista, John R., Eds. (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books
  3. ^ a b Miller, John J. "Book Review: Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology". Psychiatric Services 49:541-542, April 1998. American Psychiatric Association
  4. ^ Grabovac, Andrea D. & Ganesan, Soma. "Spirituality and Religion in Canadian Psychiatric Residency Training". Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 48, No 3, April 2003
  5. ^ a b c Vich, M.A. (1988) "Some historical sources of the term 'Transpersonal' ". Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2) 107-110
  6. ^ Freeman, Anthony. "A Daniel Come To Judgement? Dennett and the Revisioning of Transpersonal Theory". Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13, No. 3, 2006, pp. 95–109
  7. ^ Powers, Robin. Counseling and Spirituality: A Historical Review. Counseling and Values, Apr 2005, Vol.49(3), pp.217-225
  8. ^ Grof, Stanislav. (1975, 1993). Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research. New York: Viking, London: Souvenir Press.
  9. ^ Winkelman, Michael J, and Roberts, Thomas B. (editors) (2007). Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogens as Treatments. Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood. Vol. 2.
  10. ^ Aanstoos, C. Serlin, I., & Greening, T. (2000). History of Division 32 (Humanistic Psychology) of the American Psychological Association. In D. Dewsbury (Ed.), "Unification through Division: Histories of the divisions of the American Psychological Association", Vol. V. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association