Normalising the transpersonal

My feeling is that if it were never to happen again, the power of the experience could permanently affect the attitude toward life.  A single glimpse of heaven is enough to confirm its existence even if it is never experienced again.

Abram Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences 1964, p.75.


How are we to understand the ‘transpersonal’ and how are we to normalise that which is considered transpersonal?  What does this mean, what does it require from us, and why might we consider ‘normalising’ it?

The transpersonal realm refers to those experiences which are defined as transcendental, spiritual  or non-ordinary states of consciousness or awareness.  When they occur, the individual experiences a different kind of reality, an alternate non-material reality which exists beyond space and linear time as we know it.  Such experiences can be very powerful because they can introduce into the mind  different ways of thinking about the self, about life, and about the afterlife.  They can make us question what is real and what is not, what is important, or what is not important.  Sometimes, they can even make us question our sanity because they are so unfamiliar.

Then again, sometimes such experiences are actively sought by an individual, while for others they can occur randomly or spontaneously at particular moments when they might for example be feeling intense emotional states, engaged in contemplation or in prayer or meditation or in moments of solitude.  Irrespective of the nature of the manifestations or when or how often they may occur, they invariably have a profound impact on the mind, body and spirit of the individual … it’s almost as though a veil is removed from the eyes and ‘reality’ is experienced for the first time.

This can be very challenging, especially for first time experiencers who may feel the need to explore and further understand what has happened, and finding someone to speak with about such phenomena can be difficult.  There are organisations and practitioners who can help, and who do provide relevant information online via their websites and social media platforms, such as IANDS, the International Association for Near-Death Studies, and ACISTE, the American Centre for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences.

However, none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the contributing work toward this field of enquiry by Rhea White, a prominent American parapsychologist who was instrumental in founding the Exceptional Human Experience (EHE) Network.  The EHE, like IANDS and ACISTE, provides a wealth of information about transpersonal or exceptional experiences, including links to relevant books, websites and for those who wish to record their own account, a guide to writing your own EHE autobiography.

Even though the transpersonal has become a rather large money-making industry, what we can never lose sight of is the opportunity such profound experiences provide to everyone.  They are vital teaching moments which open our eyes and shock us out of the complacency of our day-to-day lives.  They offer us the invitation to ask questions about ourselves, about God, about the way we’ve lived our life, and about what we are and where we are going, both in this life and in the next.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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