I was lucky enough to attend a historic meeting San Francisco last weekend at CIIS, where the Association for Humanistic Pychology and the Association for Transpersonal Psychology formally held hands and promised to play nice in the sandbox again. Even though these two associations (representing the third and forth forces in American psychology) have a lot in common, it’s been dicey ever since the humanists were invited over to play at the Academy back in the 1970s. Why the split? It’s more about personalities than values. But that’s water under the bridge, and the organizations promise an enthusiastic renewal of joint research ventures.
Psychiatrist Eugene Taylor gave an amusing presentation about the history of psychology in America, focusing on how experiental psychology has continued to operate under the radar all these years, despite the Academy’s love affair with torturing rats. The future, as Taylor sees it, includes a further cross-pollination of existential and transpersonal depth psychology, a renewed neurophenomenology, and a movement towards intersubjectivity as the foundation of a person-centered science.
That’s a mouthful, but what does it mean for consciousness studies? It means it’s gonna get interesting again at the white coat conventions. Objectivity is under scrutiny in an unprecedented way. Introspectionism is making a comeback (although few would dare use the “I” word). Technology and meditation are becoming closely linked tools. As Andrew Weil would say, this is a marriage between the sun and the moon. Truthfully, the union of these two sister organizations is a small step towards a unified field of knowledge, that holy grail of Western thinkers, but it does mean we”re a little closer to bridge that gap between the sciences and humanities.
I”m most excited about the potentials for neurophenomenology, especially for dream studies. Lucid dreaming research, my first love, is one field of study that is poised to cross the divide between third-person science and first-person data collection methods. At the end of the day, our technology is only as useful as our ability to describe what is happening on the inside.
So let’s hear it for laying down arms and working together! Now on to the hard problem.