By Andrea Lynn November 6, 2017

This is a first in a series of posts from the POV of an MFA student. I used poetic license and turned sage into a verb; my intention is playful, and maybe I aim to make this a little thought-provoking.


I recently embarked on a treasure hunt to find some sage. Not the aromatic salvia (the healing plant) I often use for cleansing, and in my culinary creations--I wanted information about our University's profoundly low-profile Council of Sages.

I came to appreciate CIIS even more as I was browsing the University's history one foggy morning in the glow of my laptop's screen when my fingers refused to help me write...anything.

There they were, in our University's history profile: The CIIS Council of Sages. I spent my morning looking up the individuals whose names I didn't recognize. Many of the individuals already resided on my list of revered artists, activists, and thought leaders: Alice Walker, Mayumi Oda, Coleman Barks. It's a hefty list.

Since my arrival to CIIS in 2016 to earn my MFA, I have been casually asking around about the council. I checked in with peers in my cohort, "Do you know anything about our Council of Sages?" I couldn't believe authors like Alice Walker (one of my writing heroines!) were listed within this amazing body. How were they linked to the University? Could I, just a student, potentially tap into this venerable group?

I asked around--all over the University. It seemed no one knew much about the council. Talk about luminaries who know how to keep to the shadows. Finally, I was lucky to receive an introduction to Anne Teich, executive assistant to CIIS President Judie Wexler, through my wonderful department chair, Cindy Shearer.

Anne guided me to President Emeritus Robert McDermott who is the individual to thank for creating the Council; it was his brainchild. He kindly shared the Council's history with me. Robert said the individuals he appointed to the Council were almost all prominent thinkers and authors who attended the International Transpersonal Association (ITA), founded and directed by Stanislav Grof.

I knew that name! Stanislav Grof is a distinguished professor at CIIS, one of the founders and chief theoreticians of transpersonal psychology, and founding president of the ITA. As a student in the MFA Writing and Consciousness program, I couldn't wait to learn more about the association.

According to its website, ITA was first established in 1978 for the purposes of promoting education and research in transpersonal subjects, as well as sponsoring global conferences for the international transpersonal community. The next global symposium on the association's calendar is scheduled for January 27-28, 2018, in Veracruz, Mexico.

Robert said the intention for the Council was to publicize respected, influential individuals who shared the CIIS worldview and values, and were willing to be identified with the University.

Some of the sages have been speakers at CIIS commencements. I will be updating this post with audio if I can locate any of those speeches in our archives. If you happen to have a recording or know where one lives, please get in touch.

I will be seeking out information regarding the University's plans for the Council, especially as related to whether students may have opportunity for audiences. I'll share all I learn here, including the formal, required communication protocol students should follow.


Photo of Andrea LynnAndrea Lynn is a CIIS MFA student in the Writing and Consciousness program. When she's not writing, she is running with her dog, Tumble, or making photos to chronicle a disappearing nature. Like all those involved in climate activism, she's extremely worried, she says.

Stay Connected