Our program actively explores the convergence Eastern, Western, and indigenous psychologies and spiritualities in the spirit of pluralism, dialogue, and integral inquiry. We are eager to explore the meaning of this convergence for our diverse and multicultural world.

Our program is guided by and dedicated to the following educational ideals:

  • To offer an integral education that honors intellectual excellence and the voice and wisdom of the somatic, vital, emotional, imaginal, and spiritual dimensions of our students.
  • To create a learning community that fosters the psycho-spiritual development of our students and supports their individual gifts and potentials.
  • To bring spirituality into academia and to explore transformative elements of inquiry, learning, and writing.

Transformative Education

Our program encourages students to build bridges between fields of research (for example, psychoanalysis and Buddhim), research methodologies (for example, theoretical, phenomenological, narrative, and heuristic), approaches to knowledge (for example, a first-, second-, and third-person standpoints), and epistemologies (for example, 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 (somatic, emotional, vital, imaginal, intellectual, intuitive, and/or contemplative). Acquiring these skills is not only a catalyst for meaningful personal transformation, but also a foundation for 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

Engaged psychologies address issues of psycho-spiritual 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.

  • We explore inner conflict as a barometer of collective consciousness.
  • We extend spirituality to the work place and personal relationships.
  • Our research employs multiple angles of experience.
  • We analyze life situations in terms of mythological structures.
  • We apply spiritual practices as a response to cultural or ecological trauma.
  • We interpret images or motifs in life though the lens of dream theory.

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

Our program's coursework may include 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 allows our students to share in the construction of human knowledge, to create emotional and interpersonal competence, and to learn how to enter into fruitful exchange with people holding different views.

Community building is also central to our pedagogical approach. In addition to the retreat that all new students attend, our program offers a fall social gathering and a spring end-of-year celebration. All students are invited to the MA presentations and to dissertation defenses. Students may also use various platforms to connect with each other for housing opportunities, academic discussion, and activities like student-led retreats. Faculty teach students and graduates to present at professional conferences and to publish work in scholarly journals. Students leave our program with personal and professional connections that enhance their research and practice.

Professional Development

Students in our program have in recent years presented at professional conferences such as the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, the American Psychological Association (APA) Annual Convention, the Society of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology Meeting (APA Division 24), ITP Conference on Spirituality and Psychology, International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology, the International Conference on Expressive Arts (Lima, Peru), The International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology, The International Conference on Learning, and the Daimonic Imagination Conference (University of Kent, UK).

Students and graduates of our program have published articles in journals such as Asian Philosophy, Journal of Analytical Psychology, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Psychosis, ReVision, Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Journal of East-West Psychology, Journal of Child and Family Studies, and Somatics.

Graduates work as associate managing editors and book review editors with the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies.

In recent years, our students have won numerous scholarships in support of their research, including the Cultural Integration Fellowship's Integral scholarship, the Esalen scholarship, the Kranske scholarship, the Student Alliance Scholarship for Social Justice Research, and the Baumann scholarship. For more information about our community's professional achievements, please read our student and graduate bios and our news.

Program History

The roots of our program go back to 1968, when CIIS was founded. Originally, our school was called the California Institute of Asian Studies, and students there earned degrees in East-West comparative studies, focusing on philosophy, psychology, religion, and other fields. Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri, founder of the Institute, emphasized the need for connecting psychology and spirituality, based on his own experiences and observations. He also derived inspiration from Sri Aurobindo, a modern Indian philosopher-mystic, who said that "yoga is nothing but practical psychology." Dr. Chaudhuri understood that spiritual and psychological development were inextricably connected and that Western psychology could benefit from studying sacred psychologies embedded in Eastern spiritual traditions.

Dr. Chaudhuri intended East-West psychology as an experiment. He was interested in what transformative alchemies of learning and practice might emerge in studies that bridged 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.

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 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 Dr. Chaudhuri, Kimberly Mckell, Mary Tasch, Hilary Anderson, Rammurti Mishra, Ralph Metzner, and others.

Pattern of triangles Group Work: A Transformative Dialogue Retrospective, with Caudio Naranjo Play Video
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Photo of a mushroom and fallen leaves Women Researchers Speak About Entheogens: Aspects of Community, Ceremony, and Ritual Play Video
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Questions about admissions or our program?

Admissions Counselor:
Richard Wormstall
(415) 575-6156| rwormstall@ciis.edu

Program Manager:
Stephen Julich, PhD
(415) 575-6189| ewp@ciis.edu

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