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BACKGROUND

Although transpersonal approaches have only recently gained widespread acknowledgment and discussion, William James first introduced the subjects of consciousness, spiritualism, and psychical research into the mental health fields more than 90 years ago (Grof, 2008; Leahey, 1994). Much is also owed to such well-known contributors as Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow (Davis, 2000; Grof, 2008; Vich, 1988). Jung (1912/1967) was the first clinician to attempt to legitimize a spiritual approach to counseling, and Maslow (1968), in addition to his central role in forming humanistic approaches, lent many of these ideas to the transpersonal movement. It was Maslow (1968) who labeled transpersonal theory the "fourth force" among major counseling theories. Maslow's conceptualization of self- actualization and peak experiences, during which an individual experiences a spontaneous, ecstatic, and unifying state of consciousness, became a catalyzing force to the budding transpersonal movement (Grof, 2008).

It was from these early humanistic tenets of self-actualization and the belief in tremendous human spiritual potential that transpersonalism was bom. After the inception and acceptance of humanistic approaches, leaders of the field such as Maslow, Anthony Sutich, and Stanislav Grof expanded the concept of self-actualization to include the more spiritual, extraordinary, and transcendent capacities of humankind (Grof, 2008; Peterson & Nisen- holz, 1995). Thus, transpersonal theories arose to explore that the possibilities for greater mental health and human psychological experience may be incredibly farther reaching than mainstream science or psychological practice could or would allow for.

Although the theoretical underpinnings of transpersonal theory can be credited to a number of individuals, theories, and philosophical approaches to mental health and spiritual experience, Ken Wilber (1977,1980, 1981,1983a, 1983b, 1984a, 1984b, 1995,1997, 2000) has emerged as the primary leader of this burgeoning field. No serious discussion on transpersonal theory can take place without mention of Wilber and his wealth of knowledge and published material on the subject. Transpersonal theories have become somewhat varied throughout its evolution, and currently there are as many as five major approaches to its practice: transpersonal systems theory, altered states of consciousness, Grof's holotropic model, some types of Jungian theory, and Wilber's spectrum or integral approach (Bidwell, 1999; Bimbaum, Birnbaum, & Mayseless, 2008). Because Wilber is the primary founder of transpersonal theory as it exists today, and because his approach is arguably the most inclusive and transcendent of the major transpersonal theories, his conceptualization will be largely used as we delve into transpersonal theory and its views on human development, psychopathology, and counseling.

 
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