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Scientists’ Transcendent Experiences

by Charles Tart, PhD

Over the years many scientists, once they've realized I'm a safe person to talk to, have told me about unusual and transcendent experiences they've had. Too often I'm the first and only person they've ever spoken to about their experiences, for fear of ridicule from their colleagues and adverse, prejudicial effects on their career. Such fears have, unfortunately, too much of a basis in fact. It's not that there are a lot of scientists with nasty intentions deliberately trying to suppress their colleagues, it's just the social conditioning of our times. I want to change that, and I ask your help in doing so.

Scientists today often occupy a social role like that of "high priests," telling laypeople and each other what is and isn't "real," and consequently what is and isn't valuable and sane. Unfortunately, the dominant materialistic and reductionistic psychosocial climate of contemporary science (what sociologists long ago named scientism, an attitude different from the essential process of science), rejects and suppresses a priori both having and sharing transcendent, transpersonal and altered states (or "spiritual" and "psychic," to use common words, in spite of their too vague connotations) experiences.

From my perspective as a psychologist, though, this prejudicial suppression and rejection psychologically harms and distorts both scientists' and laypersons' transcendent (and other) potentials, and also inhibits the development of a genuine scientific understanding of the full spectrum of consciousness. Denial of any aspects of our nature, whatever their ultimate ontological status, is never psychologically or socially healthy.

The Archives of Scientists’ Transcendent Experiences (TASTE), that I have just opened, is intended to help change this restricted and pathological climate through the operation of a World Wide Web site in a journal form which will allow scientists from all fieldsfrom anthropology through botany through mathematics through physics through psychology through zoology, to name just a fewto share their personal transcendent experiences in a safe, anonymous, but quality controlled space that almost all scientists and the general public have ready access to.

Specifically TASTE will, to various degrees:

  • allow individual psychological growth in the contributing scientists by providing a safe means of expression of vital experiences
  • lead toward a more receptive climate to the full range of our humanity in the scientific professions which, in turn, would benefit our world culture at large
  • provide research data on transcendent experiences in a highly articulate and conscientious population, scientists
  • facilitate the development of a full spectrum science of consciousness by providing both data and psychological support for the study of transcendent experiences
  • help bridge the unfortunate gaps between science and the rest of the culture by illustrating the humanity of scientists.

Please take a look at the TASTE site, whose URL is http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/tart/taste (if the Psychology server is off line you can use www.issc-taste.org). If you find it valuable, please pass this information on to friends and colleagues.


Charles Tart is the author of Altered States of Consciousness, Transpersonal Psychologies and Body Mind Spirit, and serves as Professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto California. He is a researcher on the psychological nature of consciousness. Email: cttart@ucdavis.edu Fax: 630-604-3279 Website: http://www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ Editor, The Archives of Scientists' Transcendent Experiences

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