About East-West Psychology
A Brief Biography
As an academic field, East-West Psychology (EWP) constitutes a larger context for many disciplines that explore the interface of psychology and spirituality, including:
Approaching the encounter among Eastern, Western, and indigenous worldviews in the spirit of pluralism, dialogue, and open inquiry, we actively explore the implications of this convergence for our diverse and multicultural world.
Our unique integration of knowledge sources, research methods, and skill sets prepare our graduates for current career opportunities and for bringing forth ideas for new ways of engaging the world. Possibilities for new careers combine the program's offerings with what students envision as most deeply fulfilling. Creative applications of psychology outside academia and state licensure include spiritual mentoring and leadership, integral coaching, inter-religious activism, earth-based research and practice, organizational consulting, and many other opportunities.
The EWP program offers tools for those wishing to create new opportunities and pathways. Our graduates have founded schools and programs, embarked on new areas of research, integrated disciplines into the creation of new fields, and have designed and launched trainings and workshops to offer unique combinations of transformative approaches.
All career paths taken by our graduates emphasize conscious service to self, spirit, culture, community, world, and era. EWP encourages students to creatively answer the vital question, "To what transformative work am I now being called?"
Learn more about some of our students' and graduates' career successes, teaching appointments, and publications.
The department provides students with a list of associated organizations in which professional internships are available (ask for the "East-West Psychology Department Internship Opportunities" list). Internships are a means for students to gain practical experience in their chosen field in a supervised professional work environment and can be carried out as fieldwork in both the M.A. and PhD degrees.
The department of East-West Psychology (EWP) is guided by and dedicated to the following educational ideals:
The integration of knowledge concerns itself with building bridges between different fields of research (e.g., psychoanalysis and Buddhism). At the doctoral level, EWP encourages the integration of various research methodologies (e.g., theoretical, phenomenological, narrative, and/or heuristic), standpoints (e.g., first-, second-, and third-person approaches to knowledge), and epistemologies (e.g., Eastern contemplative and Western scientific).
With the integration of multiple ways of knowing, students develop inquiry skills that engage a wide range of human faculties and experiences (e.g., somatic, emotional, vital, imaginal, intellectual, intuitive, contemplative).The acquisition of these skills is not only a catalyst for meaningful personal transformation but also the foundation for both the elaboration of more holistic knowledge and the design of integral transformative approaches relevant to the needs of individuals and collectives in the contemporary world.
Engaged psychology refers to psychological theory, research, and practice that moves beyond laboratories, classrooms, consulting rooms and licensing requirements, to active engagement with the intersecting structures of consciousness, culture, and planet.
Examples of engaged psychology include:
Engaged psychologies address issues of psychospiritual practice, embodied self-actualization, social justice, and ecological awareness. These stand in sharp contrast to psychologies of disengagement and departure, which adjust the individual to unhealthy and unjust social, financial, and political realities while ignoring declining social systems and deteriorating ecosystems. Practitioners of engaged psychology are attentive to what has been relegated to the margins and edges of collective consciousness, to recover personal, social, somatic, ecological, and spiritual voices and meanings in search of fuller articulation.
Collaborative learning is central to the pedagogical experience in EWP. Depending on particular course objectives, this may include the appropriate use of dialogical inquiry, class presentations, small-group discussions, web-based learning and networking tools, group assignments and cooperative inquiry, as well as group work in daylong retreats. Collaborative learning trains students in the shared construction of human knowledge, fosters emotional and interpersonal competence, and teaches how to enter into fruitful exchange with people holding different views. These skills translate into multiple professional settings.
The roots of East-West psychology go back to 1968, when CIIS was founded. Originally called the California Institute of Asian Studies, students earned degrees in East-West comparative studies focusing on philosophy, psychology, religion and other fields. Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri, founder of the institute, had emphasized the need for connecting psychology and spirituality based on his own experiences, observations. He also derived inspiration from Sri Aurobindo, a modern Indian philosopher-mystic, who had said that "yoga is nothing but practical psychology". He understood that spiritual and psychological development were inextricably interconnected and that Western psychology could benefit from studying sacred psychologies embedded in Eastern spiritual traditions.
In 1975 East-West Psychology became a separate department, co-directed by Mary Oliver Tasch and Hilary Anderson. In the mid-to-late 1970s various courses were taught in the areas such as Asian psychology, yoga psychology, Buddhist psychology, integral psychology, archetypal psychology, parapsychology, humanistic and transpersonal psychologies. Meditation, tantra, mysticism, and altered states of consciousness were introduced by various faculty including Haridas Chaudhuri, Kimberly Mckell, Mary Tasch, Hilary Anderson, Rammurti Mishra, Ralph Metzner and others. From the start Dr. Chaudhuri intended East-West Psychology as an experiment. He was interested in what transformative alchemies of learning and practice might emerge in studies bridging East and West. Dr. Chaudhuri taught that transformation is essentially experimental, an ongoing work of becoming. To remain viable, to grow to its full stature, every living being must adapt to the demands of its time while remaining true to its origins, values, and identity.
Pictured: L to R: Kim McKell, Haridas Chaudhuri, Hilary Anderson