Psychologies – East and West Seminar: November 1975


November 15-16, 1975

Presented by
The University of Massachusetts, Division of Continuing Education
in cooperation with
The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge

the psychology of consciousness poster

A new science of human consciousness is developing a new synthesis of the perspectives of esoteric traditions with the theory and technology of contemporary science.

Subjects like the mystic experience or altered states of consciousness are no longer suspect; indeed, they can be studied within the mainstream of modern psychology—in perception, cognition, and personality theory.

As a result, a second mode of consciousness is open to us; a more intuitive, holistic mode which is the specialty of one of the cerebral hemispheres. The “mysterious” exercises and methods of the esoteric traditions can be viewed, in part, as a means of stimulating this “other side” of the brain.

This symposium provides an integrated, coherent approach to these new concepts, presenting speakers who are principals in this emerging psychology of consciousness and different “ways of knowing.”

Ample time is allowed for questions and discussion.

The Faculty

Herbert Benson, M.D., is Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He is program director of the Clinical Research Center and of the hypertension section at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He is also the author of The Relaxation Response.

David Galin, M.D., is an Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Psychiatry, Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute, and teaches at the University of California, San Francisco. His major interests concern the relationship of brain states to consciousness. He is the author of research papers on the modes of conscious functioning of the two hemispheres of the human brain.

Richard L. Grossman, Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities, and coordinator of the Humanistic Psychology Program, Hunter College; formerly on the faculty of the School of Continuing Education, New York University, and the College of New Rochelle. He currently serves as a director of the Family Center for Holistic Health.

Robert E. Ornstein, Ph.D., is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medical Psychology at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco and does research at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute. His current research interests are the psychology of meditation, biofeedback and the conscious functions of the two hemispheres of the brain. He is the author of The Psychology of Consciousness and the editor of The Nature of Human Consciousness.

Charles T. Tart, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis. He is a regular research contributor to a wide variety of fields, among them hypnosis, sleep and dreams, drug effects on consciousness, and the scientific study of “paranormal” phenomena. He is the editor of Altered States of Consciousness, Transpersonal Psychologies, and author of States of Consciousness.

The Program

Saturday, November 15 Morning Session

9:00–10:30 Introduction: Awareness-For What?
Richard L. Grossman

Expanding human consciousness means unfolding the potentialities of the mind, the body, and the soul. The parallels and connections between the ancient philosophies of Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as Western psychologies are presented in an exploration of what is universal and timeless about the need to become fully human, fully functioning.

10:45–12:15 The Psychology of Consciousness
Robert E. Ornstein

How we perceive “reality” depends upon the nature of our sensory systems, past experiences, moods, and training. If our ordinary consciousness, therefore, is a personal construction and only one of many possible ways of organizing “reality,” then consciousness can be changed by changing the way we construct it.

Afternoon Session

2:00–3:30 Two Modes of Consciousness: The Left and Right Hemispheres
David Galin

The cortex of the human brain is divided into two halves, each with its own specialty. The left hemisphere in most people underlies analytic, sequential, and rational thought—particularly language. The right half seems to work holistically; it handles complex patterns in which the various parts are taken as one—the kind of thought which characterizes the dreamer, artist, craftsman, or the mystic. Implications of this biological duality for education and creativity are discussed.

3:45–5:15 Hypnosis, Meditation, Dreams and Drugs: Altered States of Consciousness
Charles T. Tart

In addition to the two modes of consciousness associated with left and right hemisphere functioning, there are multiple ways of organizing the many components of consciousness into a system for dealing with ordinary reality or non-ordinary realities. A systems approach to understanding altered states of consciousness is presented with examples drawn from such altered states as hypnosis, meditation, dreaming, and drug-induced states.

Sunday, November 16 Morning Session

9:00–10:30 The Implications of Two Modes of Consciousness for Psychiatry
David Galin

The specialization of the two cerebral hemispheres and their potential to be independently conscious leads to new ways of thinking about unconscious mental processes and repression. The two hemispheres may play different roles in the expression of unconscious ideation through dreaming and psychosomatic representations. Some aspects of the mechanisms of defense may be understood in terms of hemispheric interaction.

10:45–12:15 The Relaxation Response
Herbert Benson

An examination of the commonalities underlying the various meditation and relaxation techniques reveals a basic psychophysiological pattern—the relaxation response which is the counterpart to the fight-or-flight response. Since the fight-or-flight response is frequently and inappropriately elicited in our society, leading to and making worse a variety of prevalent diseases, the regular elicitation of the relaxation response could counteract these undesirable effects. The physiology, history, and usefulness of the relaxation response will be discussed and its elicitation demonstrated.

Afternoon Session

2:00–3:30 The Paranormal: Scientific Evidence
Charles T. Tart

Is the “spiritual” only an electrochemical pattern in the brain? Do the age-old claims for mind-to-mind communication and other paranormal phenomena have any scientific validity? The principle findings of modern parapsychology, including such phenomena as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis are outlined and their implications for a more expanded view of man and the universe are discussed.

3:45–5:15 The Traditional Esoteric Psychologies
Robert E. Ornstein

While Western culture has cultivated a rational, verbal, analytic mode of consciousness, the Eastern traditions like Yoga, Zen, and Sufism have specialized in the education of intuition. As a result, many esoteric practices like meditation, body movement, story telling, and crafts can be understood as well-developed techniques for turning off analytic modes of consciousness and shifting consciousness into more intuitive modes.