Les Lancaster

Title of UFCSH talk: “Transpersonal Psychology: Towards a Science of the Sacred”
Monday, March 27th, 2006
Dr. Lancaster argues that transpersonal psychology is heir to the traditions of ‘sacred science’ associated with Kabbalah, mystical Christianity and Islam, which were the precursors to the rise of modern science in Europe. Just as these ‘sacred sciences’ integrated the fruits of disciplined empirical enquiry with a ‘higher’ wisdom, understood as deriving from revelation, so transpersonal psychology draws on the empirical sciences of consciousness and seeks to contextualize their data within the overarching quest to understand personal transformation. At the core of the idea of the ‘sacred’ is the view that higher states are attainable, and that all things are interrelated within an ultimate unity. I explore the extent to which these, and other, key principles of Islamic and Kabbalistic ‘science’ are viable within the contemporary framework of the science of consciousness.

Many psychologists challenge the integrity of transpersonal psychology in view of its undue emphasis on experience and its seeming inability to integrate recent data from neuroscience and cognitive psychology. My approach demonstrates the value of these data in forging a ‘science of the sacred’. As such, the lecture is of value to those who seek an intellectually-rigorous approach to unifying psychological science and mysticism. At the same time, the lecture provides a practical overview of the ways in which transpersonal psychology can guide individuals’ own paths of exploration.