The Future of Transpersonal Psychology
Interview with Dr. Rosemarie Anderson
John Elfers (00:03):
Welcome Dr. Rosemarie Anderson. And thank you for being here today to share your wealth of experience with our listeners. I wanted to begin with a bit of reflection about your past contributions. You were a key figure in helping to shape the development and expansion of transpersonal psychology. I'm really curious about what was it that drew you to the discipline?
Rosemarie Anderson (00:30):
Well, thank you. It's a really good question. My career, if that's what one can call it, has been various, and I'll be talking about that a little bit more later when I come to suggesting what new transpersonalists might do in their professional life. But what happened is just prior to joining ITP, now Sofia university, in 1992, I was the Episcopal chaplain at UC Santa Cruz. And I did that for about two years, and then the diocese lost its funding, or it withdrew its funding for budgetary reasons. So I thought to myself, well, what am I gonna do now? And so what happened is I was teaching as an adjunct at ITP already. And Dwight Judy, then the chair of the Global Program, announced a new position. The Global Program had grown considerably and he needed some help. And so I applied. I thought, boy, that would be the greatest combination because then I get to combine my interests in spirituality and psychology. I had been a professor of psychology for about 20 years at that time before I went to seminary. And so <laugh>, it was just a great opportunity from my point of view to join my two professional interests. And I've had a great time for 22 years at Sophia University.
John Elfers (02:20):
It sounds like when that one door closed another amazing door opened for you; another great opportunity. So that was 1992. What changes you have noticed over time, from your beginning, those seminal beginnings? What changes have you noticed since that time?
Rosemarie Anderson (02:46):
Well, certainly transpersonal psychology started before 1992. It started on actually in 1969 as the official date when Tony Sudich the editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology founded the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology and in collaboration with Abraham Maslow the field began. Then ITP began in the early 1970s. And so certainly there's at least a 16 - 18 year gap between when the school began and the field began and when I was at ITP. But just the, the feeling at that time in 1992 was very innovative and sort of exciting. Everything was new and different. And everybody was willing to try things that had never been tried before. And that was the feeling in 1992. And I'm sure it was even more so earlier.
Rosemarie Anderson (04:04):
So when I started at ITP, I started working with the late William Braud who was also there. He came in 1992. So we were, the new faculty at that time, and we started working together and started teaching research courses and realized that our training in experimental psychology, (both of us were trained in experimental psychology) was not gonna meet the needs of our students, particularly in doing their dissertations. So we started innovating and creating new research methods. And from there, two books developed over time which a lot of you may have read at this point.
John Elfers (04:58):
I would think many of our students here at Sophia (formerly ITP) would have that familiarity. And to your point, I sense a lot of excitement in students coming in. They have a big vision, they're excited, they're passionate. And so I think transpersonal psychology has always maybe been in its own little niche there, because of that. Do you see transpersonal psychology becoming more mainstream down the road or is it maybe better that we maintain our little status over here?
Rosemarie Anderson (05:44):
Well, maybe it'd be better if we stay, we continue on our own, because we do have a quality of innovation and excitement in the field and students and faculty alike. But if we go mainstream you know, in many ways, if the field moves into mainstream psychology the thing is that we're not necessarily going to get credit for what we have done. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> and that's not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of people don't get credit for the great things they do. But the truth is that transpersonal psychology has already made a tremendous difference. Even though we are rarely acknowledged. If I look at what is happening in humanistic psychology or sociology and anthropology, even environmental studies and fields like that we were often the first on the scene with these things. And I hope that the excitement will move into mainstream if indeed transpersonal becomes a formal part of say the American Psychological Association and other worldwide associations. I hope they excitement stays and the innovation.
John Elfers (07:21):
Yeah, I do too. And I would say the excitement around the topic area that we focus on, but also our research methods, of which you have been one of the prime pioneers in that respect. As you see changes say over the last 30 years, do you see more acceptance in relation to some of the more innovative or novel approaches to conducting research?
Rosemarie Anderson (07:58):
Yeah there are. Yes, there is. There is an openness towards innovative procedures and methods. I get a lot of emails about intuitive inquiry, which is my research method. And I get a lot of questions, in general, either email or at conferences and so on. The field is opening up even phenomenology which was extremely innovative in its own area in its own time, is using or blending with transpersonal methods or intuitive ways of approaching research. So, yes. Yeah. People are, things are changing.
John Elfers (08:44):
Good. And I think one of the challenges for our students is that we want them to have a grounding in very traditional methods, but also the more innovative methods. So in a sense, we're asking a little more of them to think very broadly about that. I'm curious about what suggestions you have for our new transpersonal students coming into the field. What advice would you give them?
Rosemarie Anderson (09:16):
Yeah, thank you for asking. You know, because I think there's a lot of research and certainly, I'm a good example, I have changed careers at least six times. And so in a way, the first thing I would say is that don't worry about your career because you'll change it and you'll change it again. And you'll probably change it again. Most people, it's between three and seven times is the research on how many times people change their careers. And in my particular case, for instance, I have said in a number of contexts that all my careers are about one thing. It's about yakety yak! It's about talking <laugh> whether I'm teaching or I'm in the pulpit preaching, or I'm writing or talking to students and a supervisor, it's all about talking. So there is a thread, but still there are, in my case, several distinct careers from being an experimental psychologist, to being an Episcopal priest, to being an experimental psychologist, and then a trade author and poet, which is what I am now.
Rosemarie Anderson (10:36):
So the first thing is not to worry about what your career is going to be because it'll change. And I took some notes, about this related topic, because I think this is really important that I share some of my experience. What I also suggest is that you really cultivate your intuition. And often in my case, it's often been through travel that I, you know, I lived in Asia years. I lived in Europe for four. To find ways to develop your intuition, to develop basically your right hemisphere, the qualities that make you innovative, creative and interesting, actually <laugh> to other people. And so travel. And the other thing is that when you decide on a dissertation topic make sure your dissertation topic is fascinating to you at this point in your life, to choose something to study, because it'll take you at least a year to do your dissertation. Choose something that's exciting for you. And that really allows you to cultivate some new areas and contribute significantly to the world. These are really important things. So travel, don't worry about your career, and choose a dissertation topic that will lead toward a career in some specific way.
John Elfers (12:22):
Yeah. Thank you. I love the reference to the yakety yak and it almost seems like there are different languages and different careers. There's a different medium of expression and the different careers you have from experimental psychologists to chaplain. But there's something that's consistent there too. It seems like you're just finding new ways to do the yakety yak and put that out there. There are new languages, new mediums.
Rosemarie Anderson (12:57):
And you know, I also really love ancient languages. So I learned a lot of Chinese when I live in Asia and I love new Testament Greek. So again, it's all about words, more words.
John Elfers (13:17):
And then with your other suggestion about really staying in tune with your intuition. I hear this as a challenge for us as an institution to find and foster more and more ways to develop that in our students and put it front and center and really helping to develop that. So I think that's a challenge for us that I'm hearing in that. And I would like to think we're taking that on and, and doing a good job.
Rosemarie Anderson (13:47):
John Elfers (13:48):
Yeah, and we can do better. So thank you for that. I did want to get your thoughts too about transpersonal psychology. We talked a little bit about going mainstream, but transpersonal psychology has always been very interdisciplinary. And with the emergence of so many new fields in psychology, such as somatic psychology, positive psychology, eco, and environmental psychology. I'm wondering about your thoughts about first of all, what other fields might we identify? Disciplines emerging? But also what is the relationship of transpersonal to these different fields?
Rosemarie Anderson (14:42):
Yeah, I think it's to stay true to our spiritual aegis, our central mode of being transformation from a spiritual perspective. It's not transformation necessarily, in terms of making more money necessarily or something like that, but transformation as an inner growth issue. And if we can keep that focus both at the university and other places where transpersonal psychology is being developed, if we can keep that innovative focus and the focus on spirituality and transformation, then I think we will be doing our job, whether we technically get credit for it or not. Because what we do is often to offer creativity and that comes from a transformative process typically.
John Elfers (15:46):
Yeah. So sometimes I frame transpersonal as like this really nice big umbrella and a lot of other things might fall under that, but maybe that's really not the right metaphor. If we were to take somatic psychology, for instance, that's one that's really popular and emerging and very important, the focus on the body. And I know you've been really big on this with your Body Intelligence Scale. You've really focused a lot on somatic understanding and expression. So from a transpersonal perspective, within somatic psychology, is it that what we bring to that is this emphasis on transforming into the higher reaches or bringing spirituality into the somatic? How would you frame that?
Rosemarie Anderson (16:45):
Yeah, my intuition is primarily somatic and that's why I literally absorb cultures and information through my feet, by what it's really it's through. I really often feel like it's through my feet. You know, I can have a sympathetic resonance or with it. And you know, I developed embodied writing, which is one of the techniques that is systematic and it's already, and that was done in collaboration with my students at Sophia in the mid 1990s and late 1990s. So what we can bring, I think is a fresh approach which focuses on transforming ourselves and transforming the world in positive ways. And somatics is one way in which we understand our relationship to the world. And, of course, it's very important right now with climate change and all the things that are so challenging in a certain way. We human beings are killing ourselves. And we need to find a way out of that. And I'm hoping that transpersonal psychology can make a contribution in a positive way.
John Elfers (18:10):
Yeah. That's another area -- environmental or ecopsychology. I would like to think that we have a lot to bring to that and hopefully those can be developed while that's happening though. Is there any danger in transpersonal losing its uniqueness? I know you've already said--maybe we won't get credit; we'll be doing this work and maybe we won't get credit.
Rosemarie Anderson (18:36):
I think that's the worst. The only thing we really, if we're gonna worry about that, you know, that's what we can worry about if we want. But I don't worry about that. You know, I don't think we're going to lose our uniqueness. I don't see that in the people I meet who are new into the field and I don't see it in somebody like Bob Frager, who's always doing something new who founded the school or Jim Fadiman. I was on email with Jim Fadiman yesterday and he's always doing new things. So I think the people who are attracted to the field are going to be inherently concerned about transformation, personal growth, and how they can contribute to the world at large.
John Elfers (19:28):
It seems like with all these disciplines now that maybe it's just more doors opening, there's more opportunity for those principles of transformation and the higher reaches of consciousness, all those things to find their way in. Maybe it's just that there's more doors opening up.
Rosemarie Anderson (19:46):
That's an interesting thing. I thank you for mentioning that. I think that's true. I think there are more doors opening. I saw the other day and it was for one of my former ITP students. Actually, she put me onto a marketing platform called Conscious Marketing. <Laugh> Conscious Marketing and I don't know how spiritual it is. I really don't know, but the name certainly suggests that the doors are opening. <Laugh> it feels, I wouldn't expect <laugh>.
John Elfers (20:24):
Yeah. That's very encouraging. That's good to hear.
Rosemarie Anderson (20:28):
John Elfers (20:28):
Well, that leads it really into some other questions I have. I'm curious about where you see transpersonal psychology moving in the future. And I asked this because I would hope that maybe we can be there to help facilitate the trends or help usher them in so that we really do stay on the cutting edge in emerging issues. So I'm just curious, what are some of the ways you see the discipline evolving?
Rosemarie Anderson (21:04):
Well marketing <laugh>, you know, I hope it is really Conscious Marketing and not just somebody trying to make more, more, more, more money. So not that money is bad, but you know, it shouldn't be the primary goal. Right. And well, where do I think it's going? I think the first 50 years, if you will, of transpersonal psychology was primarily focused on interpersonal growth, me and you and everyone. It is about developing techniques that allowed us to expand personally. Now I think it's more about social justice making a difference in the world, Conscious Marketing <laugh>, you know and trying to resolve issues. Like at this point, for instance, I'm writing a book on creation goddesses and mother goddesses, and the focus of the book is really to help women in particular understand how they can contribute uniquely as women in the world,
Rosemarie Anderson (22:28):
And how they can cultivate these inner qualities by relationship to say, a goddess or a figure they admire and/or a person they admire--a woman. And then through a certain resonance with those images and symbols and people then develop ways that they can truly change the world in ways that are important. So the feminist revolution, if you will, is nowhere near over, and we've only begun. So this book is really focused on trying to cultivate women's fierce feminine. I call it sometimes the fierce feminine, those ways in which we contribute to the world in unique ways that are unique to women or the feminine in a man which is also applicable.
John Elfers (23:31):
Yeah. And would you not agree that your book on the Divine Feminine Tao Te Ching is also part of that that same focus? And that of course speaks to your interest in other languages and the yakety yak, of bringing through a nice message for women. I would agree there's still so much work to be done. And so it sounds like what you're really doing is maybe giving women another way to think about their gifts and encouraging that kind of voice to come into the world where it has to manifest. If we're talking social justice, it has to manifest in the world. And so thank you for making those contributions.
Rosemarie Anderson (24:24):
Yeah, I enjoy writing and I probably enjoy the research even more than the writing, frankly, because that's what gives me new ideas is doing the research. And sometimes I get new ideas when I write to, you know. I guess it's part of the yakety yak tradition! When I talk and answer questions just like right now, I think of new things. Or when I talk to myself, I think of things I hadn't thought before. So I think it's important that we cultivate the unique gifts that each one of us has. And I've often said in the context of intuitive inquiry that there may be as many ways to be intuitive as there are people
John Elfers (25:12):
Yeah. That’s an important thing to keep in mind as we try to cultivate that and nurture that in our students. I wanted to ask about your thoughts about given focus towards the future, Is there anything we should be paying attention to in terms of the academic world and our relationship to that? You know, scholarly tradition?
Rosemarie Anderson (25:43):
Well, I think what I would advise students and new transpersonalists to focus on what they fall in love with. I mean, if you're writing a dissertation or later in your life, like I'm falling in love with all these goddesses that I'm studying. And you know, some I like better than others. Okay. But I fall in love with them and then that allows, that brings out equality in me, and then it brings out equality in the reader eventually. And so I can't say where the field is going and maybe I shouldn't even hypothesize about it because transpersonal psychologists always likely to surprise me <laugh> so I'll be wrong. <Laugh>
John Elfers (26:44):
Yeah, well that's a good point. And maybe it's the falling in love part that if we stay true to that, it will guide us in the right direction. Again, that's your intuition really staying true to that. And maybe it's really about us staying true to those basic principles. And if we hold them, then whatever comes down the road in the future we'll be there to make that contribution.
Rosemarie Anderson (27:11):
Yeah. Well, I'm sure you're all doing a great job.
John Elfers (27:19):
Those, are all the formal questions I had, but I wanted to open up to what other thoughts, any general thoughts you have for our students and those coming into the field of transpersonal psychology that you'd like to pass on to them?
Rosemarie Anderson (27:36):
Well, I think I've pretty much said it all one way or another. I think the most important thing is that I've been very fortunate and I give this blessing to all of you that you will always love your work and that the work that one is given to do can be something that inspires you, that you love. I mean I've had one job that I didn't really love at all that much, but I loved my colleagues. So I focused on my colleagues. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so, you know, it depends on where you want to go, but that the focus being that you do something that inspires you and that you love. And the easiest way to say that is to do what you love. And hopefully somebody will know that that's a good thing to hire you to do too, or you develop your own entrepreneurship, your own career. And I know a lot of my former students have done that. They went to ITP/Sofia and they learned to be a coach, for example. And then they went into corporate life and worked with executive officers of large corporations. And certainly they never learned anything at ITP/Sophia about working in corporations, but they were able to adapt and create a job for themselves that they probably didn't even know about or think about while they were actually pursuing their degrees. So thank you, John. Yeah. Wonderful.
John Elfers (29:28):
Yes, thank you. And I want to thank you for you offering your wisdom and experience with us and thank you for being that guiding light. And I wish you well, and I'm sure we'll have a chance to catch up again soon.
Rosemarie Anderson (29:43):
Okay. Well, everybody, thank you. You know, thank you for your attention and I wish you all. Well, bye-bye!