One of the most frequent questions I´m asked in relation to the Institute of Transpersonal Development where I teach is: But what does the word "Transpersonal" really mean? My answer usually begins with the explanation that, just as we use the word Transatlantic when we refer to something that "goes beyond" the Atlantic, Transpersonal refers to that which "goes beyond" the personal level. In this context, the word personal refers to the mask our personality wears in the world or to everyday, ordinary I am-ness.
Just as we have developed the capacity to create maps of any territory, over time Humanity´s mystical contemplators have created maps of the many different states of human consciousness. These states begin at the level of the pre-conscious child and reach their zenith at the level of the supra-conscious Buddha. This final stage is characterized by the experience of Lucidity and Oneness that transcend the dualistic nature of the thinking mind. This is an evolutionary process in which each new level that is reached is broader and deeper than the previous one, including it and transcending it.
Really, it´s as if someone were to ask us what an apple tastes like. It´s impossible to answer this kind of a question. So, we end up saying: "Eat one and then we´ll talk." The same is true about the question "What is Transpersonal?" It´s practically impossible to answer that question because, unless a person has directly experienced the Transpersonal, the answer will end up being a handful of ungraspable theories. Have you ever felt an indescribable sensation of infinitude, or timelessness? Or have you ever felt how, out of the nothing, a feeling of unconditional and unlimited love emerged from within you? Have you ever felt a feeling of such deep peace, that didn´t come from anywhere, but gave you such a profound sensation of tranquility that it seemed as if you had reached heaven? Perhaps you might recognize having experienced one, several or all of these states. even if only for a fleeting second. Those are the kinds of states we refer to as Transpersonal.
The personal level has to do with the realms of the ego and the thinking mind. whereas the Transpersonal level has to do with the trans-rational state we can recognize when we go beyond the limited and rational person that we usually identify with and are trapped in. In a way, the realm of the Transpersonal is nothing other than pure Consciousness, an intimate space of pure witnessing that allows the neutral and detached Observer to unfold within it. This Observer is a "witness" that helps us to "become aware" of the flow of our own mental, emotional and physical states and it also allows us to "become aware" that we are becoming aware.
Like the flower when it blooms at precisely the right moment, so the access to the Transpersonal level will open up for us. From then on, life, as it is lived on the personal level, will seem much more relative and flexible. So much so that it will remind us of Plato´s famous allegory which compares common consciousness to life in a cave; a cave in which the fire of the hearth projects shadows on the walls and which we relate to, considering them real beings and things. But they are nothing more than the reflection of our own movements; they are the shadows from which we create our definition of the world, an illusory world based on projections. In the end, we can only become fully conscious and awaken if we go outside of the cave and live in what is Real.
Really, the word Transpersonal refers to that which is spiritual. Thanks to the fact that at this stage in human evolution certain terms have been rescued from the clutches of religions, words like spirit and God are now pronounced with more freedom. These are words that go beyond theory, beliefs and theological doctrine; they are terms that go beyond morality and judgment. God is really a state of consciousness and spirit is an experience- an ineffable experience that mystics of all times have directly felt in their interior as unity, deep peace and unconditional love, without rules, pledges or oaths. These experiences are also called "peak" experiences in Transpersonal Psychology; this school of psychological thought not only investigates them, it also claims that they "happen" only when they are meant to happen. In other words, they cannot be forced or fabricated. They also entail experiences of totality, infinitude and certainty in the everyday life of the ego.
Consciousness speaks to us about increasing awareness in our everyday lives. An awareness that will nurture the progressive awakening of conscious, a kind of attentiveness that generates a sustained "becoming aware" of our body posture, where we speak from, the intention behind each of our words and acts, the quality of our thoughts, of our intimate processes, of our shadows, our fears, our yearnings, our resources, our awakenings, our feelings, how we interpret what happens. about becoming aware that we are aware.
And so, it turns out that along the process of evolving from the personal to the transpersonal level, what used happen in an automatic way on the personal level, as we progress, becomes conscious, of our own free will and observed.
Isn´t this good news?