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MAJOR CONSTRUCTS

Throughout its history, transpersonal theory has evolved into a number of similar but unique forms of practice and theory, making a discussion of the major constructs of the approach somewhat complicated. Lajoie and Shapiro (1992) sought to remedy this through an examination of the transpersonal literature to elucidate the root themes of the theory. Their research uncovered 30 distinct themes across the varied theories, among which 5 occurred most frequently: states of consciousness, highest or ultimate potential, beyond ego or personal self, transcendence, and spiritual. From this, Lajoie and Shapiro (1992) devised the following definition of transpersonal theory: "Transpersonal (theory) is concerned with the study of humanity's highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness" (p. 91).

According to Davis (2000), the core concept of this definition and transpersonal theory is nonduality, or that it is unitive: the recognition that each part (each person) is fundamentally and ultimately a part of the whole (the cosmos). Within this are two central tenets: the intrinsic health and basic goodness of the whole and each of its parts, and the validity of self-transcendence from the personal identity to a sense of identity that is deeper, broader, and more unified with the whole (Grof, 2008, Lajoie & Shapiro, 1992; Scotton, Chinen, & Battista, 1996; Walsh & Vaughan, 1993). It is important to understand, however, that in the process of fostering transcendence and unity, transpersonal counseling does not annihilate the individual but seeks to integrate psychological as well as spiritual development, the personal in addition to the transpersonal, and exceptional mental health and higher states of consciousness along with ordinary experience (Sperry & Shanfranske, 2005).

It is perhaps as easy to describe transpersonalism by how it differs from other theories of counseling and development than by its similarities. Transpersonalism's distinction from the major models of human functioning rests largely on its radically different philosophical worldview (Elkins, 2005). Transpersonal psychotherapies generally do not seek to challenge or supplant other models but instead consider an expanded view of human nature while incorporating elements of behaviorism, psychoanalysis, humanism, Jungian analysis, and Eastern philosophy (Strohl, 1998). However, it is this very expanded view of human nature that diverges transpersonalism from the mainstream. According to Ajaya (1997), there are four distinct philosophical paradigms that the major theories of counseling and development draw from:

Reductionistic: understands existence by breaking down a phenomenon, tenet, or behavior into its smallest parts. Reductionism views consciousness as the result of the interaction between these smallest parts.

Humanistic: emphasizes the value and dignity of each individual and refutes the reductionistic premise that human experience can be broken down into its primitive component parts. The humanistic paradigm does not, however, allow for higher states of human consciousness.

Dualistic: accepts that consciousness can transcend human experience. Dualism considers experience to be the result of a complementary interaction of the two primary principles of material phenomena and consciousness. It believes that a material-bound being can never comprehend the scope and transcendent nature of consciousness.

Monistic: sees all phenomena as creative, illusory expressions of a primary and unified field of consciousness. This "pure" consciousness is the fundamental source of all that exists, including human experience itself. Monisticism believes that human experience can attain an awaked state of consciousness in which the traditional concepts of space and time and cause and effect all lose their meaning.

Transpersonal theorists generally view mainstream mental health theory and practice as being largely reductionistic and generally oblivious to the greater scope of human experience and potential (Boggio Gilot, 2008; Dossey, 1999; Grof, 1985; Small, 2000; Weil, 1996). Humanistic theories, like reductionism, do not account for higher states of being but are more amenable to the transpersonal approach and serve as a bridge between reduction- ism and the tenets of dualism and monisticism (Strohl, 1998). Of the four paradigms, transpersonalism primarily encompasses both the dualistic and monistic approaches in an effort to reconcile the divine and human qualities of humankind (dualistic) as well as uncovering one's true source of being and the underlying unity of all existence (monistic; Strohl, 1998).

According to Wilber (1997), although it differs fundamentally from most of reduction- ism and some aspects of humanism, transpersonalism acknowledges reductionistic (psychodynamic, behaviorism, and cognitive-behaviorism) and humanistic (humanism and person-centered) approaches as legitimate theories that emphasize important areas of human development and experience. In essence, according to transpersonalists, the theories of psychoanalysis, behaviorism, humanism, and all their derivatives are effective niche approaches but do not account for the majority of human experience and existence. By contrast, transpersonal theory is viewed by its followers to be truly eclectic and more encompassing because it incorporates many viewpoints from adjacent and even opposing theories, while also focusing on expanded human qualities largely ignored by other theories (Bidwell, 1999; Grof, 2008; Kasprow & Scotton, 1999; Strohl, 1998).

 
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