Heritage and Development

Heritage and Development of Transpersonal Psychology:

The roots of Transpersonal Psychology lie in the ancient past. The religions of the world with their systems of spiritual training; mystery schools and esoteric movements; symbolic systems such as alchemy, tarot and the I Ching: all have been custodians of the approach to the self.

Transpersonal Psychology has been considered as the fourth force in psychology complementing the first three forces of Behaviourism, Classical Psychoanalysis and Humanistic Psychology.

Abraham Maslow and Anthony Sutich were deeply interested in the spiritual dimensions of the human psyche and had hoped that humanistic psychology would provide a channel through which this could be expressed and integrated. Finding this not to be the case they created the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 1969 as a vehicle for topics including ultimate values, unitive consciousness, self actualisation, mystical and peak experiences, awe, bliss, transcendence of self…. . And so Transpersonal Psychology was formally established and led to the defining of the transpersonal orientation as a fourth force. A marriage between ancient wisdom and modern psychologies. (The term Transpersonal was first coined by Carl Jung in 1917).

In the UK the Centre for Transpersonal Psychology was founded in 1973 in London by Ian Gordon Brown and Barbara Somers.. It started with a series of workshops open to anyone interested. By 1977 demand was such that a training was created for those who wished to work from a transpersonal orientation.

Ian Gordon-Brown (1925-1996) was born in Quetta (now in Pakistan) and educated at Cambridge, he worked for the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, became director of the Lucis Trust and later director of the Industrial Participation Association. Ian was a consultant psychologist and psychotherapist and workshop leader.

Barbara Somers (1929- 2013) was born in London and was a literary editor for Amalgamated Press. She originated and ran the Freelance Group of the Society of Authors for ten years and co-edited their journal, dealing daily with the creative and emotional problems of authors, poets and artists. Barbara was a psychotherapist, workshop leader, and supervisor.

The warp and weft of their creation came from Ian’s special interests in ways of expanding individual and group consciousness, esoteric movements and social networks and Barbara’s skills with dreamwork, symbolism and mythology: the interaction of psyche and soma: and eastern systems of spiritual development, especially Tibetan and Zen.

Ian and Barbara were always keen to emphasise that Transpersonal Psychology is a perspective, not a system or doctrine.

The real dividing line between what is transpersonal and what is not, to be an acceptance of the reality of self. In the beginning was the self, in potentia.