Get a Taste of Atlantic University!
By Mark Thurston, Ph.D.
Atlantic University's courses are in the interdisciplinary field of transpersonal studies.
This two-page lesson-with optional references to Internet Web sites-is a sample
of the kind of work you could be doing with one of our distance-learning courses.
Try this sample mini-lesson about "The Inside and Outside of Transpersonal"
Part 1: Defining the Transpersonal
"Transpersonal" is an unusual word-not something you are
likely to use in everyday conversation. It was coined about forty years ago
in an attempt to define something that is probably beyond definition: a dimension
of human experience that differs dramatically from the familiar way we live.
Transpersonal means that there's more to you than meets the eye. Your "personal"
sense of who you are-e.g., your name, your likes and dislikes, your opinions-is
just the tip of the iceberg.
The "trans" part of "transpersonal" is
the key to understanding what transpersonal studies are all about. Consider
these three meanings for "trans":
- Beyond, as in the word "transcendent."
The transpersonal self goes beyond the individualistic sense
of identity that is most familiar to your daily living.
- Across, as in the word "transcontinental."
The transpersonal self has connections and links (sometime
invisible) to other people and everything else in the world.
- Through, as in the word "transparent."
The transpersonal self is made up of higher dimensions that
can operate in and through your three-dimensional, personal
self-that is, the experience of the infinite working in and
through the finite.
To read more about the meaning of "transpersonal," go to
these two Web site resources:
To see how the Edgar Cayce readings make reference to the transpersonal challenge
of bringing the infinite into the finite, go to the Web site resource at:
So, to what extent have your own previous life experiences given you a hint
of the transpersonal side of life? Just how aware are you already of this dimension
Try this ten-item personal inventory, each item of which asks you to give yourself
a score that can range from as low as 1 to as high as 5.
A score of 1 will mean "not at all true of me."
On the other hand, a 5 means "very much true of me."
Choosing 3 is right in the middle, "about as true of me as
it is untrue of me."
Choosing 3 can also mean simply, "I don't know" or "I
cannot answer right now."
Choices of 2 and 4 give you a way to indicate answers that are
somewhat untrue or somewhat true, respectively.
I have had many profound experiences of the fundamental
oneness and interconnectedness of life
I know very clearly that my most essential nature is
Even when everything is going well in my life, I still
have the feeling that there must be something more.
I know very clearly from personal experience that ordinary,
daily consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg and
that there are many dimensions or levels of consciousness.
I have a very deep sense of spiritual seeking or the
desire to experience a transcendent wholeness.
I have had many experiences of connecting with a deep
source of wisdom and guidance.
I know from direct personal experience what it means
to feel an alignment of my personal will with a Higher
I feel very deeply that life is fundamentally meaningful.
When I learn something new, it is often accompanied
by the sense that I am simply awakening preexistent knowledge
that already lived within me.
I have had multiple experiences in my dreams in which
I feel connected to a spiritual power or wisdom greater
than what I know in waking life.
Your Total Score
Add up your points to the ten items. If your total is 40 or more, then you've
already experienced a deep encounter with the transpersonal dimension of life.
A score between 30 and 39 suggests you already have a flavor of the transpersonal
dimensions of life.
Below 30 suggests you are probably still in the awakening and opening-up phase
of your encounter with the transpersonal dimensions of life.
Part 2: The Transcendent
Remember that one aspect of our definition of "transpersonal" relates
to "beyond the personal."
Meditation is the most powerful and direct way to experience the transcendent
element of transpersonal.
In the Cayce readings about meditation, the practice is defined as an activity
that partakes not of the personality but of the individuality.
This sense of transcending the familiar feeling of personal identity is right
at the heart of meditation.
Whether we call it the "individuality"-or, as it is called
in the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, the "essence"-the
human soul has the potential for a sense of self that is connected to rather
than separate from everything else.
To read more about Cayce's definitions of meditation, go to this Web site resource:
To read more about Gurdjieff on the "essence" of who we
are, go to this Web site resource:
What allows us to experience this transcendent aspect of our consciousness-to
make a transpersonal connection through meditation?
One powerful way starts with recognizing exactly how the mind of the "personality"
operates minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day.
We are continually occupied (or "pre-occupied") with lists,
agendas, demands, expectation, anxieties, and doubts.
We fill up our lives-and hence our minds-with issues that keep us from remembering
the transpersonal connections that are always there, even if not seen or felt.
One way to make a movement to transpersonal consciousness is to cease being
occupied-to "empty ourselves of all that hinders," as Cayce
Or, put another way, meditation is nothing but creating a situation where the
mind has less and less to do!
Some meditation teachers have suggested that the process is a four-stage movement,
1) "normal," personality mind with all its distractions
and preoccupations, to
2) concentrating mind, that has a focal point but still has to work to keep
attention from being pulled away by distractions, to
3) meditating mind, which is able to stay attentive to a focal point (e.g.,
an affirmation or mantra), to
4) contemplating mind that is able to drop even the focal point and "just
be"-that is, to experience purely the transpersonal connection with
all that is.
For more about this four-stage model and some helpful diagrams,
go to the Web site resource at:
See also Chapter 3 of The Inner Power of Silence, which provides an
overview of the practical steps for meditating.
The chapter is reproduced electronically at:
Part 3: What Science Knows about Meditation and the Transpersonal Self
It's not just philosophy, psychology, and religion that are interested in the
transpersonal dimension of life.
Modern medical science has also shown a big interest, especially in terms of
how the transpersonal discipline of meditation translates into physiological
In Creative Meditation by Richard Peterson, a summary is presented
of Daniel Goleman's review of the research findings on the remarkable physical
effects of consistent meditation:
"Probably the single most reported physiological benefit of meditation-indeed,
of systematic relaxation techniques generally-is the drop in blood pressure.
Even the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have recommended meditation
(along with salt and dietary restrictions) above prescription drugs as the first
treatment for mild hypertension.
"Relaxation through meditation relieves suffering from angina and
arrhythmia, lowers blood cholesterol levels, and can enhance blood flow to the
"Although changes taking place through the endocrine system are still
not well understood, some research results are startling.
For example, the deep relaxation of meditation may enhance the immune function
of the body, with research showing increased defense against tumors, viruses,
colds, flu, and other infectious diseases.
"Other meditation research has demonstrated this wide range of psychological
- Improvement in measurements of personality
- Decrease in neurotic tendencies
- Increase in psychic sensitivity
- Improvement in study efficiency and exam performance
- Increase in efficiency of problem solving
- Improvement in creativity in the visual arts
- Decrease in drug and alcohol abuse
"Of special interest is Daniel Goleman's own research demonstrating
the greater tolerance for stress by those who meditate.
He gives us some insight into how meditation accomplishes this:
"People who are chronically anxious or who have a psychosomatic disorder
share a specific pattern of reaction to stress; their bodies mobilize to meet
the challenge, then fail to stop reacting when the problem is over.
Their bodies stay aroused for danger when they should be relaxed, recouping
spent energies and gathering resources for the next brush with stress.
"A mediator handles stress in a way that breaks up the threat-arousal-threat
spiral. The mediator relaxes after a challenge passes, more often than the non-mediator.
This makes him unlikely to see innocent occurrences as harmful. He perceives
threat more accurately, and reacts with arousal only when necessary.
Once aroused, his rapid recovery makes him less likely than the anxious
person to see the next deadline as a threat."
(From The Meditative Mind, by Daniel Goleman, pp. 164-165)
For more about what science is learning about meditation and the transpersonal,
go to the Web site resource at:
If this mini-lesson about the transpersonal side of life appeals to you, consider
enrolling in Atlantic University course TS 501, Introduction to Transpersonal
You may sign up to get started with the distance-learning materials at any
time. A faculty member will be assigned to you for mentoring, guidance, and
evaluation of your course work.
For most people, this is the best course to choose in getting started with
You may take the course for credit (with the possibility of enrolling in the
master's degree program) or take it as a noncredit course for a lower tuition
and less academic rigor.
Call the registrar for more information (1-800-428-1512)
or visit the Web site www.atlanticuniv.edu