By Heather Fester June 16, 2015

With all of the first-floor renovations and celebrations going on lately at CIIS, it might be easy to miss something else just one floor down in the Mission Street campus lower level.

In Fall 2015, backed by a generous BIAL Foundation grant of $50,000, research will begin in earnest on parapsychology related to consciousness in a new research lab. The grant that funds the first lab project was awarded to Glenn Hartelius, Associate Professor in East-West Psychology (EWP), who was hired in Fall 2014, 12 years after he started coursework in the program as a student.

This coming Fall, Hartelius will also be Director of the newly formed Integral and Transpersonal Psychology doctoral program, an online degree with three focus areas that he proposed and built. While the program will initially be housed in EWP, CIIS faculty and administration expect that down the road it will evolve into its own program.

EWP Program Chair Craig Chalquist says the program “will offer transpersonal coursework to students who are unable to physically visit our campus. The program will highlight the best capacities of human consciousness."

The newly formed degree, approved by the CIIS Board of Directors at its Spring meeting, will be linked to the research lab, which will offer students a place to explore and develop holistic currents in transpersonal neuroscience, parapsychology, phenomenology, and consciousness through their own research.

Behind this online doctoral program, the holistic neuroscience research being planned for the new lab, and the recently affiliated International Journal for Transpersonal Studies at CIIS is Hartelius. How has he brought together so much in such a short time at CIIS?

Unearthing the Bones of Transpersonal Psychology

If you ask Hartelius whether he envisioned a future as a psychology professor when he was young, the answer is a simple no. “When I was six years old, I heard a lecture by an archaeologist, and at that point, I was no longer interested in being a policeman or a fireman or anything that little kids want to do. I just wanted to be whatever that guy was.” He had a chance to go on his first dig in Israel when he was just 17, and this precocious interest was followed by 20 years in the field, digging and doing scholarship.

Hartelius reached a turning point midcareer, however. “I needed something that would help relieve the suffering, difficulties, and challenges that people go through in their everyday lives.” That quest for meaningful work led him to enroll in the EWP program in 2002.

In 2007, Harris Friedman invited Hartelius to take over most of the operations of the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies.

When he graduated in 2009, Hartelius applied for a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now Sofia University), a position that evolved into a full-time faculty position. He taught at Sofia for six years before he received the offer to work at CIIS. During that time, he also coedited with Friedman The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Transpersonal Psychology.

Transpersonal Neuroscience

“The other day, I was listening to the radio, and there was this NPR segment on mirror-touch synesthesia. That’s when someone sees another person being touched, and they feel it. ... They were talking about it as a neurological defect, and I thought, ‘No, they’ve got it wrong—this is a human capacity.’” In his own work, Hartelius relies on his access to the emotional field experiences of those he is working with, an experience similar to mirror-touch synesthesia. “This is an ability that many experienced therapists have,” he says, and viewed holistically, “it’s a gift, not a defect.

“Neuroscience is a great way to measure things, we should be using that technology in transpersonal approaches, too. But we need to connect what the nervous system is doing with the human experience. Reality isn’t just what’s in the synapses and neurochemicals. Reality is what’s on both sides—it’s the whole package. We can do neuroscience in a way that is more about the whole person.”

Three Degrees of Success

Beyond new research, Hartelius is also passionate about ways in which the field can organize and disseminate its knowledge more widely. This effort has shaped the new PhD program, which will open with three focus areas: Integral and Transpersonal Psychology, Consciousness Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience, and Somatic Studies. Students will include mid-career professionals—such as psychotherapists, counselors and consultants—who want to contribute to their fields through doctoral-level work, or develop areas of expertise.

Body Maps of Consciousness

Over the past 20 years, Hartelius has cultivated his own area of expertise. “We’ve developed a whole new way of describing how the mind works—based on presence, attention, and embodiment. This makes it much easier to find states of quiet, productive focus or meditation.”

He offers these presence-based skills with his partner and co-developer, Michaela Aizer, as Attention Dynamics®. “I think presence may be what consciousness is made of. The secrets of consciousness aren’t in tiny particles, or in some transcendent dimension. It’s all right here in the present moment of experience—this is where the magic happens.”  

East-West Psychology, Alumni, Student News

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