Interview with Robert Frager, PhD
Interviewed by John Elfers, May 12, 2023
John Elfers (00:00:00):
Welcome Dr. Bob Frager, and thank you for agreeing to share with us your historical perspective on the evolution of transpersonal psychology. So I'm going to turn it over to you to really reflect on what was it like in the beginning? How did all this emerge?
Robert Frager (00:00:30):
Well, I remember years ago hearing Ma Ramdas who was a brilliant lecturer. And he said, I'll tell you my story. And that I think most teaching is telling our stories anyhow.
Robert Frager (00:00:46):
And my story is, I started thinking about transpersonal psychology when I was in Japan, you know, 5,000 miles away. And I met the founder of Aikido. Well, in fact, I read a book, one of the very first books in English on Aikido, and it had poetry. He wrote about Aikido, and it had several pictures of him. And there was something powerful that I felt. And in fact, I was in Hawaii studying Japanese at the East West Center. I had a two year fellowship. And I said, wow, I need to study Aikido. This is what I've been looking for without knowing it. And then I went to Japan. And the first, I mean my very first day that I got in at night, the next day I took a bus and found my way to the international Aikido headquarters. And he was there sitting with his son in a small room in the back of the office.
Robert Frager (00:01:54):
And I had had a year of full-time Japanese. It was like six days a week. But still, as with anything, you know, speaking was slower than reading and writing. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So I stumbled a lot and they were patient with me, but I first said, I'm so honored to be here and able to study Aikido and to meet you. And, you know, I felt like I was in kindergarten or something, <laugh>. But he was wonderful and he was very patient. And the more I met him, he would be O Sensei, which is what we called him, which in the best translation in English would be master.
Robert Frager (00:02:40):
Sensei is the normal term for teacher. And it would be sort of honorable teacher or great teacher. And the more I met him, the more I was convinced that there was something extraordinary about him. And, you know, I remember reading, what is it? The there were those books of story. There were books of stories taken from other places. It was a, a reader that was out there, I can't remember the name, and almost every issue had the most extraordinary person I've ever met. Hmm. And I said to myself, my God, I've met one of those in O Sensei. I never thought I would. And what I realized was he was an extraordinary martial artist. He was, acknowledged by many as the greatest martial artist in the 20th century in Japan. But I felt that wasn't it, you know, that was just something he did.
Robert Frager (00:03:46):
But who he was, was what was important. There was something about his character, something about the deep-rooted spirituality that you could take his martial skills away, he'd still be a master, he'd still be the essence of him would stand. And then I said to myself, of all the psychologists I've read and met, the only one that even had an idea and inkling of this was Abe Maslow. Cause I had met Maslow. In fact, I was the chair of the visiting lecture committee for the department of Social Relations at Harvard, which included sociology, anthropology, psychology. And I introduced him, you know, who me-- graduate student, no, PhD, nothing. And I got to introduce some very famous people. And I listened to him, and he sounded like sort of an old wise uncle, not a famous professor. And I thought, no wonder he's, not as famous as he should be, because when you talk like an old wise uncle, it doesn't fit with the academic sort of way of being and way of talking.
Robert Frager (00:05:19):
But I really said, no, his ideas were extraordinary and nobody's taken them seriously. I mean, you could have a whole career on self-actualization. This, by the way, was back in 1964. Okay, great. Thanks. I went to Japan in 64, and so I was in Japan for two years, every day. I trained for an hour or more, seven days a week. And it just became part of my life. And, I paid extra for Sundays <laugh>, which in those days, the exchange rate was so good. It was like $3 for a month <laugh>. And another thing I felt, and this was just from even reading the first Ito book, was it had a better picture of masculinity than I'd heard before. I remember seeing there were ads for some bodybuilder, I forget who it was. And, you know, he had huge biceps. And it was a little cartoon and a skinny, skinny guy with a pretty girl on his arm goes to the beach and a bully who had big biceps kicked stand at him. And his enlightened response was to go get the biceps and follow this guy's muscle building system. So he comes back to the beach and beats up the bully.
Robert Frager (00:07:02):
And I thought, that's the American model of being a man. You know, you either get beaten up or you become a bully yourself. And there wasn't a lot of space for anything else. And then, years later I read the Gillette and somebody help
John Elfers (00:07:27):
Moore & Gillette and more the
Robert Frager (00:07:29):
Right. So I read More and Gillette, and they had a single book called King,
John Elfers (00:07:36):
King Warrior, Magician, Lover, <inaudible>.
Robert Frager (00:07:39):
That's the one. And then they had separate books on each of those. And they said we couldn't find a model for mature masculinity. So it was struggle that we all if we all have to deal with this struggle in the West. And I felt like Aikido taught me. I said, my God, there's another option, <laugh>. You don't have to be a bully or be a victim. You can handle violence and conflict without descending to that level. And so I vowed to sort of study those sorts of people. And two years later, over two years later, I returned to the States and spent an academic year writing my dissertation and sort of got in under the deadline by the skin of my teeth. And my dissertation was about conformity in Japan. Because I was a social psychologist. That was my training.
Robert Frager (00:08:46):
Yes. And I used the Ash study, which is not, it's not relevant to transpersonal psychology particularly. But and then I taught for a year at Berkeley as a visiting lecturer. And I started meeting with people in the Bay Area who were interested in this field, for which we didn't have a name. And there was Joe Camilla who was at UC San Francisco, had a very sophisticated for those days lab that could measure brainwave changes. And there was Eleanor Chriswell who taught at Sonoma State University, and she also taught yoga. And since I started teaching Aikido, I started the Aikido Club at Berkeley. I started the Aikido Club at Santa Cruz. Wherever I went, I started an Aikido club. And as you know, I made Aikido required at Sophia. Yes. A certain amount of resistance until people got that it was actually more valuable than most other courses.
Robert Frager (00:10:01):
And there was a guy named Bob Ornstein who wrote the book, Psychology of Consciousness which was an interesting and very respectful of quantitative measurement. So there were a whole group of us interested in something, you know, interested in studying self-actualizing people. Some came in through meditation. I mean, Joe Camilla really wanted to measure the effects of meditation on the brain. others came in through a discipline like Eleanor Chriswell with yoga and me with Aikido. And then there were some people came in through drugs, you know, that the experience that they had under one sort of drug or another, let them see the world in such a powerfully different way. Yeah. That they need, they wanted a psychology that talked about altered states of consciousness. And of course, that was our dear friend, Charlie Tart who was a brilliant researcher, a very, very smart guy.
Robert Frager (00:11:09):
But his way in was, was through marijuana and using other drugs. So we were a group of people in search of a title <laugh>, you know, it sounds like a Broadway play. And eventually we found out that there were people in Palo Alto who decided on the term transpersonal. And there was a whole discussion about that. How can you be beyond the personal et cetera. But it stuck. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And so we are left with an around our neck in some ways, because my experience was, ever since I founded ITP Sophia nobody understood what we were doing unless they enrolled, or there were faculty who were really pursuing in depth this field. And I remember we had a wonderful president Tom Potterfield. Yes. and, he'd been president of Velcro, he was a professor of marketing at the university, and he got a first rate marketing firm.
Robert Frager (00:12:28):
He hired them to develop PR for us and set us up for interviews, et cetera. And after some months they fired us. <Laugh>. I mean, they said, we can't do it. You change your name or we can't, we won't handle you. Ah, interesting. It's like, because it's as though you say, well, this is the Institute of Uru psychology. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, what is it? You know, it makes as much sense as a woo woo woo psychology as it does transpersonal for most people. So it's a huge problem. And we still haven't solved the elevator speech question. You know, how do you define the field in five minutes? I think we can, I think we're just, we have not put the hard intellectual work that we need to. Yes. And maybe here or somewhere else, I really want to talk about marketing because we could do it. It's just we haven't, and part of that is people still have those fundamentally different approaches to the field. You have people that think drugs are important still, you have people who feel it's all about meditation and the states and meditation. You have other people who are deeply involved with some spiritual practice mm-hmm. <Affirmative> some life transforming practice, including Jungian analysis and other things. And we don't agree in, in some ways. And I don't know that we've ever had that conversation to get to the bottom of those disagreements.
Robert Frager (00:14:08):
But what's fascinating was once I started in 1975, I started the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology over and over again. Students said, this is the most profound two years I've ever spent in my life. This has transformed my life. And they say it every year with their graduation talks. And every year I say, well, why the hell don't you listen to it and get the best parts and make PR for the school? Because it still goes on. And nobody, because you need those nuggets in perspective. You can't just say, this is transpersonal psychology. You have to set up an orientation that the person can, in a way learn to listen to what you have to say. Because when you talk from another perspective, generally people can't hear it. Hmm. That's the famous talk about paradigm change, about paradigm shift. The, you know, conclusion was you don't ever change anybody's mind. You just wait till the old paradigm folks die off.
John Elfers (00:15:26):
Ah, yes. <Laugh>.
Robert Frager (00:15:27):
You know, and I think that's the problem we have. There's a fundamental difference between transpersonal psychology and the other schools of psychology. And so
John Elfers (00:15:40):
Do you think, we're still kind of waiting for the rest of psychology to catch up and, so that we're kind of on the same page essentially?
Robert Frager (00:15:53):
Well, I think much of the rest of psychology has, and I would argue that humanistic psychology has broadened and has for years included the transpersonal for many mm-hmm. that simply call themselves humanistic. I think positive psychology covers much of the same field except they're so addicted to quantitative, you know, methodology that they dismiss qualitative, which is amazingly primitive of them. I mean, we've known for years qualitative methodology is necessary to make sense out of numbers.
John Elfers (00:16:31):
Robert Frager (00:16:33):
And, you know, I think every dissertation includes interviews with subjects. You don't just take, have people fill out forms and take the numbers but no, we need to do more. I've, one of my attempts at defining transpersonal psychology has been, it's the only psychology. And this, of course is a little too dismissive of the rest of the field. That's the only psychology that covers all of human experience.
John Elfers (00:17:06):
Robert Frager (00:17:08):
Behaviorism covers the experience of animals, <laugh> and what can be measured very precisely in you know, starting with learning theory. The clinical psychology looks primarily at what doesn't work. And again, positive psychology was really a reaction to that limited point of view. And my argument would be we deal with, on the one hand, trauma's pain, PTSD, and you know, how do you deal with the pain in life? How do you help heal people? and on the other end is genius creativity, spiritual experience. Why do people go to church every week for the all their lives? And if you look at Freud, you'd never find an answer, or the answer is they're neurotic
John Elfers (00:18:05):
Robert Frager (00:18:06):
Whereas you, you read Jung and Jung said, that's part of life. Jung said, we need something to believe in. I mean, Maslow said, we need something to believe in that's greater than we are otherwise. It's like vitamin deficiency, you know, we become ill, you know, we don't attain full psychological health with something greater than, unless we have something greater than we are.
John Elfers (00:18:30):
Robert Frager (00:18:31):
And we include all of it, which is quite extraordinary. I mean, somehow we've not, you know, if we just looked at peak experiences and drug highs and what's beyond the ego, which was a big part of transpersonal at the beginning, well then it's another small field, then it's another field with a small focus. Whereas we're trying to look at all of human experience. And, once you take the point of view that you need to be cognizant of the profound spiritual experiences that people have that they don't always realize that they have. And even when people are suffering, there is still a soul. There is still what Jung called a higher self, a self with a capital S. And there's that core of health within every person. Now, people may be presenting, as you say, in clinical psychology, they may be presenting as in great pain
John Elfers (00:19:34):
Robert Frager (00:19:35):
As traumatizes. But that within all that, there's, there's a core of health.
John Elfers (00:19:40):
You know, I've often heard you in, in, in this distinction about transpersonal from, mainstream psychology, often heard you make the reference to the fact that transpersonal psychology makes different assumptions about human nature. Can you elaborate on that a little bit? It's always, stuck with me.
Robert Frager (00:20:02):
Yeah. I think you're absolutely right. And that's, I think if we're going to communicate, we have to talk about the assumptions. We can't just say it's a psychology that's bigger than everybody else because people will dismiss it or won't get it. So some of the assumptions are, and I generally go to Jung for this, that they're in every psyche there's an ego, which is the sort of archetype, the core of conscious experience. It has to do with the will, it has to do with immediate consciousness of the world around us, of the world inside us. But there's also the self, which is the archetype of the whole psyche and goes beyond the individual psyche that in some real way there's a part of us that's greater than we are that's in touch with the universe. And every mystic talks about it. Even half mystics talk about it, <laugh>. That's how powerful it's <laugh>. I mean, what's extra ordinary is how often people in their journals, in their writings and in their speech talk about these extraordinary experiences. And yet there's a resistance because the culture doesn't admit them as being normal.
Robert Frager (00:21:35):
I'll give you a quick example. My Zen Buddhist teacher, who was a wonderful British lady who trained in a Chinese Zen temple in Malaysia, and then spent years in Japan. And she gave me the reference to a book called God Gets in the Way of a Sailor <laugh>. It's an amazing title. And it's about a young man. He was in his twenties and he was on night watch on the ship he was on. And nobody was up, you know, just the night watch and probably people in the engine room. And he had this experience of being surrounded by the ocean, being surrounded by the night sky and darkness all around. And, he dropped into this very powerful state. And he got off the ship at the end of this cruise and he went to the Navy chaplain, unfortunately for him, the chaplain was Catholic.
Robert Frager (00:22:55):
Hmm. And he said, look, I need to talk to you. I talked to God, you know, I talked to God, I was alone on watch. And he explained >, he didn't say God talked to me, even he just said, I talked to God, I felt God's presence. The next thing he knew, he was in a VA hospital. Wow. And he spent several years in a VA hospital for the mentally unfit, whatever you want to call it. And he said, you know, I'm the on the doctors and the nurses had no idea what was going on with me. But the patients all loved me. And they all realized I was the only sane patient in the hospital, that I was fine. And they started coming to me with questions, <laugh>, and I started helping them solve problems for their lives. They didn't go to the doctors because doctors were on a tight time schedule. And he said, I began to get courses in ministry, you know, online
Robert Frager (00:24:05):
<Affirmative>. And when I got out of the hospital, finally I became a minister and I now have a congregation. I've spent the rest of my life working as a minister now. So I think we can underestimate this fear of extraordinary, powerful spiritual experience. I mean, I think that's a, a very powerful anecdote that our culture is so afraid of having experiences that are not logical and linear and
John Elfers (00:24:42):
Yeah. And, and regrettably that man's story, is an exception in a way because so many people get trapped in that system and are convinced that their experience is psychotic and that they're disordered. And they internalize that. And that's, the psychology, a lot of the mainstream psychology that's still present, I think. And we're, trying, are we trying to convert them? What are we trying to do? I dunno, <laugh>, but, but it is, you know, regrettable the amount of suffering that comes from not acknowledging the whole person. Is that not true? Yes.
Robert Frager (00:25:27):
And, there's no, there's also a lack of growth that happens when you don't even think about working with those inner resources. Profound sources of health and wisdom and understanding. So I mean, I think our culture in many ways is spiritually sick.
ohn Elfers (00:25:50):
Robert Frager (00:25:52):
Not in every way, but I think that's one anecdote. I'm sure there are many more that point out how profound that inner part of us is. And Jungian in psychology is one of the only ones that just puts it right out there.
John Elfers (00:26:14):
Robert Frager (00:26:15):
And you know, June Singer, who is one of our old faculty members, wrote a wonderful book called The Psychology With a Soul. And we could steal that. Yeah. She passed away some years ago, <laugh>. And if we're not publishing it, I think it's fine. But that, I think something around that would be a way of opening a conversation.
John Elfers (00:26:40):
Robert Frager (00:26:41):
And then what do you, what happens to you? You hear soul.
John Elfers (00:26:45):
Yeah. And isn't it true that even Jung is still not considered mainstream? You know, he is still a little marginalized. He's of course taken up in depth psychology and others. So yeah. We still have, some redeeming to do there. I'm wondering, so Maslow was a key influence on you and Jung. Are there any others you can identify? Like who were some of the, standouts who you know, helped you along your journey of understanding?
Robert Frager (00:27:22):
Well when I was still a graduate student at Harvard working on my dissertation I was teaching assistant for Eric Erickson for one quarter. I was teaching assistant for the Introduction to Social Relations with Roger Brown, who's a brilliant psychologist and psycho linguist. And a whole teaching staff that worked with Roger. And it was, I offered a course called, I forget what was the title, but, you know, I was, I had this idea for the transpersonal, but I did, I knew I didn't have the language yet. So it was something about ways of thinking of Eastern peoples or something. I focused on the east because I, in a way, it's from cultures that aren't afraid of spirituality. And I had a wonderful time. The students, I had mostly seniors, undergraduates at Harvard, and we fasted together. I brought in some outside teachers and I continued that course when I taught at Berkeley. And then I continued the same course when I taught at UC Santa Cruz. And at UC Santa Cruz, it was the most popular course on campus. There was no room big enough. So they had to use a dining room for my class.
John Elfers (00:28:55):
Robert Frager (00:28:57):
So it was fascinating because the faculty were scared of it. The students loved it. And guess who won? Guess who's not a tenured professor at UC Santa Cruz? Faculty
John Elfers (00:29:08):
Robert Frager (00:29:10):
Yes. And I had a colleague who was, I mean, he was very friendly. He was a very sweet man. He was a chair of the economics department and he was interested in these things somewhat. And he said to me, well, I understand you're having people chant and bringing in a Buddhist nun. And he said, you have to understand that that's beyond what we should be doing in class. Wow. You know, and that he used a particular term that'll come to me in a minute. Well I think it may have been something like inspiration. And he said, you know, you don't want that. And you know, it turns out, if you look at the roots of that, it was to, to breathe in that the divine. Yes. You know, but that was bad.
John Elfers (00:31:02 ):
Robert Frager (00:31:03):
And when I brought in my Zen master to do a weekend workshop, and that was okay, and I knew how to fill out the papers, but then I got a letter from the sort of central administration building that said, you know, your Zen teacher cannot teach Zen. She can only teach about Zen. And God forbid they should have an inspired experience that would violate the state the, you know, the whole separation of church and state, which America is built on.
John Elfers (00:31:45):
Robert Frager (00:31:46):
And, my friend, my Zen master friend said, please, can you give that to me so I can take it home? <Laugh>. I mean that, it's such an obvious, again, it's a fear response. And you know, I was at Harvard when Leary and Alpert were there. I knew them both, not really well. And Harvard had this insane reaction, the same thing. It was the culture. how dare you have people have experience beyond what is quote normal. And they say, well, you're endangering people. You're endangering undergraduates. And I thought, wait a minute, anthropologists bring students into the, the jungle. Nobody says Don't do that.
John Elfers (00:32:29):
Robert Frager (00:32:30):
It's fine if you're going to do field work. That's part of it. But it's not like they're so consistent about wanting to have safe experience for undergraduates. But this was absolutely, forbidden. And Leary who was out of it a lot, somehow didn't file his grades on time. And I think the day after grades were due, they fired him because that was part of the contract. So as soon as they do that, boom, similar to Alpert he had an undergraduate take Psilocybin or LSD before they'd done it with students at Harvard Divinity School, who said they'd finally had a real religious experience, which they've never had before. They gave it to prisoners in the local prison. The recidivism rate was down by a huge percentage but they Albert included one undergraduate in an LSD session.
Robert Frager (00:33:40):
And that was it. They, because our business is to protect undergraduates, especially because their daddies have money. Yes. So but I think there is this, and it's an unconscious backlash. It's not like people are saying, well, this is, you know, beyond our assumptions about what people should be. Our assumption is that we have a huge range of possible human experiences. And I remember, and in the psychology of consciousness, Bob Ornstein talked about human experience in a way, like an electromagnetic scale or the scale that includes goes from infrared to all violet, you know, much of which is beyond our conscious perception, what's beyond our, our eye’s ability to see without instruments. And he says exactly like that. We have other experiences beyond what, we normally can see or feel or whatever.
Robert Frager (00:34:47):
And that's part of being human. So that would be a major assumption that we make in transpersonal.
John Elfers (00:37:00):
I'm wondering if, if I could get you to reflect a little bit on the initial origins or origins of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. So you've talked about the origins of the discipline, but could you reflect on \ what went into your understanding that this required a different way of teaching and education? And I know in transpersonal, in ITP and Sophia, we pride ourselves on, you know, we talk about teaching for transformation, the whole person. We talk about multiple ways of knowing. How did all that come about <laugh>? Cause you intuited something and, and really started something new. Can you reflect on that a little bit? Sure.
Robert Frager (00:37:48):
Well, intuitive, hell, I practiced something <laugh>. It wasn't intuition in a way. Several things happened. One is, I, as I said, I trained in Aikido seven days a week. And the training was so intense in the early months. I would want to quit after 15 or 20 minutes. And I said, well, I put this much pain and agony in, I'm going to stay <laugh>. I'm going to stay with it until the end of class. And finally I got in good enough shape that I could train full out for an hour.
Robert Frager (00:38:25):
But training that hard meant sensing and actually taking falls for Sensei serving as his training partner were all part of my understanding the power of the body. And I continued, I mean, Aikido was just part of my life and part of it wasn't seven days a week because I wasn't living close to the international headquarters in Tokyo, but it was three to five days a week minimum. And I hate to say this, but I'm going to say it anyhow. Before, everything looked normal at Harvard, professors were walking around carrying their briefcases and pontificating about whatever they wanted to pontificate about. And I came back from Japan and I noticed they were heads carried by bodies. The way the body was like a donkey that carried around, you know, somebody too poor to have a horse. <Laugh>, <laugh>, you know, that this is what counts. This is my thinking head, this is where I write books from. This is where I lecture from and I don't care about this. And I said, there's something so imbalanced about this's so wrong that I started studying Reichian psychology actually was in reiki in therapy, focused on breathing in my body for two years.
Robert Frager (00:40:01):
I was in Jungian therapy for a couple of years, maybe three years. And again, I got this sense of looking at dreams from this very powerful archetypal perspective that a symbol can really mean the world, not just some tiny little something to play with intellectually. And I started meditating in Japan. One of my friends, American friends who was training in Aikido with me, said, you loan me his copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda. And I was blown away because this was a brilliant introduction to the life of spirit. And they started sending me lessons. Then the funny thing is, and this is I think how this business works, and I can easily switch hats and put on my Sufi teacher hat, but I'll, you need to ask for that. So every week I was getting a little package of mimeographed excerpts from Yogananda’s lecturing and writing.
Robert Frager (00:41:11):
That in also introduced me to meditation, which I started practicing again every day. And that became a critical part of my life. So there was meditation, the life of spirit. There was the life of the body in Aikido. And there was this whole integration in some sense that Jung brought in and he actually, Jung had more interest in the body, I found out years later, than most people knew, that he worked with deep relaxation therapists and body therapists. And it wasn't only the head for Jung. So I had these things going.
Robert Frager (00:42:05):
And as I said, I taught for seven years at UC. First a year at Berkeley, and then six years at Santa Cruz. And in my course on psychology of religion I brought in spiritual teachers. I brought in my Zen Buddhist friend. I brought in a wonderful yoga guru. I brought in Christian mystics. I kept finding fascinating people. I brought in a wonderful man named Brother Antonina, who was a lay brother in the Dominican order and who was also a very famous beat poet before that. And he wrote as only a poet can about what it's like to experience God, you know, and he was using a phrase like I was as a woman before God and God penetrated me. And he is really sort of on the edge, but I mean, in a way he's echoing in this incredibly powerful way what the mystics have Yes.
Robert Frager (00:43:12):
Written about for years. So I had these, I learned from these wonderful teachers as well. And I noticed in myself how these different things impacted me in different ways. But there was also a synergy among them that meditation really made my aAkido better. And Aikido made my meditation better. And, you know, understanding the writings about spirit and Jung and others, enhanced my understanding. And I had this funny notion that we all resist growth in different ways. So let's hit 'em at, hit 'em at different points. Let's hit 'em physically, let's hit 'em spiritually, let's hit 'em intellectually. And there was a point in which I made a list of the things that we were doing in the human potential movement. Because I began to go to conferences as well. And so there were people doing courses on somatics in various ways.
Robert Frager (00:44:18):
There were people doing group process, which again, was life-changing, the emotional work. There was brilliant theorizing you know, there were people about meditation and different kinds of meditation. And so I said, yeah, it's got to be holistic, partly because if you do, you know, because I'd read Gurdjieff and others who said the resistance piles up if you just push in one direction, <laugh>. So you've got to get at people from different directions. And I found it was very true that you know, they would, they would get all uptight in resistance and bam, I had, I brought in a teacher or reading or something that got past that. And that's why I think all these years the school has been that transformative.
John Elfers (00:45:15):
Yeah. Well, you really hit on a lot of those I ideas early. And I think that was you know, we're still, maybe kind of validating those. I'm wondering, I hear so many people talk about, one of the things about transpersonal or their experience at ITP is the sense of community. And I'm wondering how much of that was really deliberate? Did, did you really try to foster community or was it a byproduct? Or did it happen organically? How, how did that evolve? I'm curious.
Robert Frager (00:45:47):
Well I started as I was making a list of disciplines. First and I said, God, this is like body, mind and spirit. You know, this is the roots of western education from the Greeks.
Robert Frager (00:46:00):
And then my, the students started adding things. I resisted a little, but they outvoted me, <laugh>,
Robert Frager (00:46:09):
So somebody mentioned community. I said, you're absolutely right. We haven't dealt with that. Someone said, you've got to split intellectual and emotional
Robert Frager (00:46:21):
So now we have body, intellectual, emotional, community and spirit five. And then some years later we had an incredible faculty member Jill Mellick, who you, you knew I'm sure. And she started teaching the dissertation phase. And she would say to students out of her Jungian orientation, of course you're struggling because this is the hero's journey for you writing your dissertation and look on it as you're going to face a series of obstacles and guardians at each stage as in a myth. And they went, Wow, I'm not neurotic. I'm on a hero's journey. <Laugh>. And I mean, Jill was wonderful. I mean, she had a wonderful Jungian orientation. She had been ordained as a swami in India. And she said to us, that's all, that's also gone dead for me. It's not working for me. And what I found at this point works is art. She was a pianist, she was an artist. nd she said, we need creative expression. That's the thing we've left out. And we all went, whoa. And she later said, I thought people were going to argue. Yeah. I thought they would just throw me out of the room. Everybody agreed. <Laugh>. So we added creative expression.
John Elfers (00:47:55):
Yeah. And then, so that's the six, the six domains and then all the multiple ways of knowing which of course was part of the curriculum.
Robert Frager (01:08:00):
Let me mention before I forget. Transpersonal really started at Esalen, interestingly enough. Hmm. Nobody knows this, so, okay. Everybody <laugh> Esalen invited Maslow and a series of humanistic psychologists, who had powerful workshops and it was sort of a very, the in-force in psychology. And they invited him to Esalen to meet with a group of ministers and priests who did spiritual guidance. And these were people who spent years guiding people in meditation retreats in which they would meet with a guide every day of a five-day meditation retreat and talk about what they experienced and what was exciting and what was frustrating, et cetera. And the psychologist said at the end of it, they know more about the human psyche than we do. Wow.
John Elfers (01:09:04):
Robert Frager (01:09:05):
Wait a minute. There's something here. We had the humanistic, this is the transhumanistic. You know, this is really looking at a larger perspective of human nature. So it really, strangely enough, and it's interesting that we don't refer to this as, as part of our roots. It was the very real knowing and understanding that came from people who a good part of their lives were working as spiritual therapists, if you will, working as spiritual guides.
John Elfers (01:09:35):
And they were outside the mainstream discipline. And yeah. Maybe there's kind of that message there to Yeah, that's an interesting story. I had not heard that. Yeah, it's very telling.
Robert Frager (01:09:48):
Well, I studied formally, I studied spiritual guidance. It was a three year program and I got out of one year, cause I said, I know psychology. Forget it. <Laugh>. And so it was a two year program mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And they were wonderful people. I mean, and they most of our faculty were priests and nuns or ex priests or whatever. And I ended up taking as my spiritual guide sister Maryanne Scofield, who is like an 85 year old Catholic nun
Robert Frager (01:10:23):
And talk about different life experience than mine. But she was incredible. Sometimes I walked out of her office as though I was walking on clouds. Wow. You know, I would say something about a spiritual experience since you'd lean in and say, tell me about it. Where was it in your body? How did, what did it feel like? I mean, it was she was so activated by any hint of the experience of God in my life, <laugh>.
Well I want to acknowledge the time I have. We just have another minute or two. Is there, is there anything by way of reflection you want to say that we haven't discussed or you'd like to add here and Sure.
Robert Frager (01:11:59):
Well, I think one of the thoughts I had at the beginning, and this came from immersing myself in Aikido for years, was the difference between the workshops, the humanistic workshops in which people, you know, take their clothes off going to the hot baths at Esalen, you know, do all kinds of things that are very exciting is they're a high, you know, it's what Maslow talked about. It's like a peak experience and then you go down and later Maslow talked about plateau experiences where you stay at a certain level. And I said the difference between the model out there from the growth centers and what we're talking about in the transpersonal is discipline. You need to spend years at meditation or, you know, any kind of transformative discipline. It's not a big wow weekend.
Robert Frager (01:12:59):
And I think that's, again, one of the presumptions of our field is that it's long-term work.
Robert Frager (01:13:09):
And it's not, it wasn't in that version of humanistic psychology.
John Elfers (01:13:15):
Robert Frager (01:13:17):
So I think that's, you know, that's one of our paradigmatic assumptions that, you know, it's not fast. In fact, there's a wonderful saying in the Sufi tradition that practicing Sufism is like chewing an iron peanut
Robert Frager (01:13:38):
You know, it's like your teeth will go before the peanut goes <laugh> anyway that's how long it feels to take. Yeah. So, I think that's really important. And we're in a culture that likes quick fixes. You know, somebody gave, there was, somebody gave an enlightenment workshop, which was two weekends at least it was better than one
Robert Frager (01:14:02):
But was sort of guaranteed enlightenment, two weekends your money back, guaranteed. It's like we, do that, we commodify things and I Yeah. To say, you know, that real growth takes long-term. Well it always does. I mean, you don't expect a nuclear scientist to be produced overnight.
Robert Frager (01:14:30):
Years of study. You don't even expect an athlete suddenly you suddenly jump out of the stands and say, let me be your quarterback. You know, it's at a high school level, college level, pro level, and they're all really very different. But it's incredible amount of work. And I've seen how high school kids every day they're doing practice and they're doing weights or>, you know, it is long-term discipline and that's the only way I think that you get real growth in some areas.
John Elfers (01:15:09):
Yeah. Thank you. That's a great reminder, <laugh>.
Thanks Bob. I mean this was amazing. I learned so much and I thank you.
John Elfers (01:18:57):
Well thank you so much.
Robert Frager (01:18:58):
Thank you. Appreciate