I started reading Dr. Charles T. Tart from my early days as a psychology student in the early 1970s. I still remember the excitement I felt when I read his anthology Altered States of Consciousness, in its 1972 Anchor books edition. Later on I acquired his other publications and, eventually, got to see him at the 1979 convention of the Parapsychological Association. Over the years I have had more contact and correspondence with him, and it gives me great pleasure that he accepted my invitation to be interviewed for my blog.
Charley has a Ph.D. in psychology (1963), and an Aikido Shodan (black belt, 1987). Among his many awards he has been the recipient of the Parapsychological Associationâs Outstanding Career Award (1999) and Division 30 of the American Psychological Associationâs Distinguished Contributions to Scientific Hypnosis Award (2000). He has had many academic appointments, among them Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis (1966-1994), from which he was awarded Professor Emeritus. He was also Professor of Psychology at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology (1994-2012, now Sofia University).
As seen in the bibliography below, Charley has published many other influential works related to states of consciousness. This includes his paper âStates of Consciousness and State-Specific Sciencesâ(Science, 176, 1203-1210), and his States of Consciousness (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975; not to be confused with the previously mentioned anthology, Altered States of Consciousness). He also has had a long and eminent career in parapsychology, as seen by the bibliography below. Charley has published research about the relationship of ESP to learning theory, electrical shielding, geomagnetism, and the psychophysiology of out-of-body experiences, and discussions of the relationship between altered states of consciousness and ESP, and other topics such as auras, and our sometimes not so conscious resistances to the occurrence of psi. But this only scratches the surface of his many contributions.
How did you get interested in parapsychology?
I was raised to be conventionally religious, a Lutheran. My parents werenât religious, but we lived in an apartment upstairs from my grandparents, and my grandmother was devout. She was the one who took me to Sunday school and eventually to church. She was also a major source of unconditional love in my life, so what was good enough for her was good enough for me!
Then as I grew older, became an adolescent, I became an expert on noticing hypocrisy in adults. Not my grandmother, but many adults who went to church didnât seem to show by the way they lived that they took their religion too seriously. They were basically good people, but something was lacking. Of course, like many teenagers, I was unrealistically idealistic in making my judgments. I also became fascinated by science and by the time I was a teenager I was reading several science books a week, often adult books that I got out of the city library. Thus I became aware that while some scientists had been deeply religious or spiritual themselves, many questioned it and pointed out nonsensical aspects of religion. I could see their points.
I think many people went through this kind of conflict between religion and science in their teenage years, and several patterns developed. One way of coping was to get somewhat fanatical in your belief about religion and just ignore the ways science conflicted with it. The opposite was to say science was completely right, religion was all nonsense. A third was a kind of compartmentalization, religion was important on Saturdays or Sundays, it could be pretty much ignored the rest of the week. In my extensive reading I came across the old books on psychical research as well as more contemporary, for that time (late 1940s and early 1950s), books on parapsychology. I was relieved to see that well educated men and women, particularly members of the SPR in England, had gone through a similar kind of conflict, and had come to the idea that we could apply the methods of science to try to figure out what was indeed true in religion and what was, as critics claimed, superstition and nonsense. You could say my whole career since then has been following that calling, in various ways investigating phenomena that might have spiritual import, seeing what was true and what wasnât.
I also discovered enormous amounts about the psychology of belief, the politics of belief, etc., so there was no easy simple answer, but, as I concluded in my last book, The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together, after more than half a century of researching parapsychology, psychical research, altered states of consciousness, spirituality, and the like, it is reasonable to be both scientific and spiritual in oneâs approach to life, science has not somehow categorically disproven spirituality.
Of course there is a lot of nonsense under the heading of spirituality, but thereâs nonsense in all areas of life, and discrimination is very much needed. One practical outcome of deciding there is good scientific evidence to take spirituality seriously is that in the several spiritual paths I have practiced in life, trying to get a direct, experiential feel for what all that is about, while Iâve known they are culturally biased and contain mistakes, Iâve also been confident that these various paths are on to something real and it was worth putting in that effort.
What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?
Iâve worked all over the field, from psychological speculation on spontaneous cases too much more technical experimental work like seeing how immediate feedback can help train people to use ESP more consistently, how a certain kind of electrical shielding may amplify ESP ability, measuring brain wave changes in a young woman who had out of the body experiences, etc. Iâve also tried to act as a gadfly to colleagues, constantly pointing out that once you allow for ESP the question of experimenter bias becomes enormously important, as well as experimenter characteristics in general, so pretending that we are just objective scientists whose individual characteristics donât matter is a losing approach. Because of my interest in altered states of consciousness and spirituality, I also became one of the founders of transpersonal psychology, a small specialty area of psychology that takes the spiritual seriously, and Iâm more willing than most of my colleagues to think about the meaning of parapsychological phenomena, rather than focus on technically sophisticated experiments as if they were just anomalies.
Why do you think that parapsychology is important?
A total materialism is the dominant philosophical view in contemporary science, mind is nothing but electrochemical patterns in your brain, âspiritâ is a totally nonsensical concept. Iâve been one of the few to think about the psychological import of such a view of reality. It means, for instance, that your desire to do good is no different from any desires you have to do evil or to just watch TV for the evening, there is no inherent meaning in reality, itâs just how things happen to turn out after molecules randomly bumped into each other for several zillion years. As a psychologist and from personal experience I know how much we humans need to have a feeling of meaning in life, though, so this kind of attitude is very depressing, and pretending the meaninglessness implied in total materialism isnât there doesnât make its negative effects on us go away. Because parapsychological phenomena suggest some kinds of reality to the spiritual, and spiritual systems give us a function in a universe thatâs inherently meaningful, thatâs much bigger than random interactions of electricity and chemistry, that can help people live a better life, both in terms of their own satisfaction and developing wisdom and compassion in interacting with others. But Iâm not interested in just promoting fantasies that make people feel good, so the degree to which parapsychological phenomena suggest a reality to the spiritual is a vitally important human question. My last book, The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together, summing up half a century of my and othersâ research in this area, is about beginning to look at those kinds of meanings.
In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?
I think the deep causes of many of our problems in parapsychology today are (a) deep-seated fears of psychic abilities (it hasnât been very long since we burned witches at the stake, even in Western society), these fears are held both by the scientific community in general and by we parapsychologists, and (b) failure to recognize the importance of the psychological characteristics of experimenters, which leads to great variability and poor replicability of parapsychological experiments.
Can you mention some of your current projects?
Iâm semi-retired now, but I participate extensively in discussion groups among parapsychologists, particularly those involving experimental work in general and involving the question of possible survival of bodily death. Iâm also working with some of my former students on the possible facilitation of ESP by electrical shielding, and have dozens of theoretical ideas about psi, altered states, spirituality, etc., that I try to find time to at least write preliminary essays about. A number of people have told me I should write an autobiography, since Iâve had an unusual life working with parapsychology, and I think that would be interesting to do if it could give encouragement to others to follow whatâs important to them, but I donât know whether Iâll do that or not.
(with emphasis on parapsychology and transpersonal psychology)
Altered States of Consciousness: A Book of Readings. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1969 (Editor and Contributor).
[Altered States of Consciousness: A Book of Readings. New York: Doubleday, 1972. Second Edition, revised.]
[Altered States of Consciousness. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1990. Third edition, revised.]
On Being Stoned: A Psychological Study of Marijuana Intoxication. Palo Alto, California: Science and Behavior Books, 1971. Print-on-demand edition from Authors Guild back-in-print editions, http://www.iUniverse.com, 2001.
Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper & Row, 1975 (Editor and Contributor).
[Transpersonal Psychologie. Berlin: Walter-Verlag, 1978 (German translation).]
[Transpersonal Psychologies. Buenos Aires: Editorial Paidos, 1979 (Spanish translation).]
[Transpersonal Psychologies. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992, second, revised edition (Editor and Contributor).]
States of Consciousness. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975. Print-on-demand edition from Authors Guild back-in-print editions, http://www.iUniverse.com, 2001.
[Stati di Coscienza. Roma: Astrolabio, 1977.]
[States of Consciousness. El Cerrito, California: Psychological Processes, 1983.]
[Teaduse seisundid. Finnish translation, 2008]
The Application of Learning Theory to ESP Performance. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., 1975.
Symposium on Consciousness. New York: Viking Press, 1975 (With Lee, P., Ornstein, R., Galin, D., & Deikman, A.).
Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976. Print-on-demand edition from Authors Guild back-in-print editions, http://www.iUniverse.com, 2001.
Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977. Print-on-demand edition from Authors Guild back-in-print editions, http://www.iUniverse.com, 2001.
Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm. Tokyo: Kowsakusha, 1982 (Japanese translation).]
[Das Ãbersinnliche: Forschunger Ã¼ber einen Grenzbereich psychischen Erlebens. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta., 1986]
Mind at Large: Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Symposia on the Nature of Extrasensory Perception. New York: Praeger, 1979 (Tart, C., Puthoff, H., & Targ, R., Editors and Contributors). Second and revised edition, Charlottesville, Virginia: Hampton Roads, 2002.
Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential. Boston: New Science Library, 1986. Print-on-demand edition from Authors Guild back-in-print editions, http://www.iUniverse.com, 2001.
[Hellwach und BewuÃt Leben: Wege zur Enfaltung des Menschlichen Potentials – die Anleitung zum BewuÃten Sein. Munchen: Scherz Verlag, 1988.]
[Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential. LongÂmead, England: Element Books, 1988.]
[El Despertar del “Self”. Barcelona: Editorial Kairos, 1990.]
[Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential. Moscow, Russia. 1997. (Russian translation)]
[Japanese translation] 2001.
Ebook version available from Amazon.com.
Open Mind, Discriminating Mind: Reflections on Human PossibiliÂties. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. Print-on-demand edition from Authors Guild back-in-print editions, http://www.iUniverse.com, 2000.
Living the Mindful Life. Boston: Shambhala, 1994.
[Die innere Kunst der Achtsamkeit: Ein Praxisbuch fÃ¼r das Leben im gegenwÃ¤rtigen Moment. Freiamt, Germany: Arbor Verlag, 1996.]
[Russian translation, 1996; new edition 2005]
Body Mind and Spirit: Exploring the Parapsychology of Spirituality. Charlottesville, Virginia: Hampton Roads, 1997. (Editor and Contributor).
Mind Science: Meditation Training for Practical People. Novato, California: Wisdom Editions, 2001. Second print edition, Fearless Books, Napa CA 2013. Ebook available thru Amazon.
The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together. Oakland, California: New Harbinger, 2009.
Le spiritual est-il reel? Paris, Intereditions, 2010.
Le Psychologue, la Science et lâ Extraordinaire. Paris, InterEditions, 2012.
El Fin del Materialismo: Parapsicologia, Ciencia y Espiritualidad. Barcelona, Editorial Kairos, 2013.
Ebook available thru Amazon.
Physiological correlates of psi cognition. International Journal of Parapsychology, 5, 375-386.
A possible “psychic” dream, with some speculations on the nature of such dreams. Journal of the Society for Psychical ReÂsearch, 42, 283-298.
A comparison of suggested dreams occurring in hypnosis and sleep. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 12, 263-289.
The hypnotic dream: Methodological problems and a review of the literature. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 87-99.
Applications of instrumentation to the investigation of “hauntÂing” and “poltergeist” cases. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 59, 190-201.
Exploratory ESP matching tests with a “sensitive.” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 59, 226-236. (Roll, W. & Tart, C.)
Models for explanation of extrasensory perception. International Journal of Neuropsychiatry, 2, 488-504.
Card guessing tests: Learning paradigm or extinction paradigm. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 60, 46-55.
Some effects of posthypnotic suggestion on the process of dreamÂing. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 14, 30-46.
ESPATESTER: An automatic testing device for parapsychological research. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 60, 256-269.
A second psychophysiological study of out-of-the-body experiences in a gifted subject. International Journal of Parapsychology, 9, 251-258.
A psychophysiological study of out-of-the-body experiences in a selected subject. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 62, 3-27.
Hypnosis, psychedelics, and psi: Conceptual models. In R. Cavanna & M. Ullman (Eds.), Psi and Altered States of ConÂsciousness. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, pp. 24-41.
Two token object studies with Peter Hurkos. JourÂnal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 62, 143-157. (Tart, C., & Smith, J.)
A further psychophysiological study of out-of-the-body experiencÂes in a gifted subject. Proceedings of the Parapsychology Association, 6, 43-44.
Did I really fly? Some methodological notes on the investigation of altered states of consciousness and psi phenomena. In R. Cavanna (Ed.), Psi Favorable States of Consciousness: Proceedings of an International Conference on Methodology in Psi Research. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, pp. 3-10.
Scientific foundations for the study of altered states of conÂsciousness. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 3, 93-124.
Concerning the scientific study of the human aura. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 46, 1-21.
States of consciousness and state-specific sciences. Science, 176, 1203-1210.
Some studies of psychokinesis with a spinning silver coin. JourÂnal of the Society for Psychical Research, 46, 143-153. (Tart, C., Boisen, M., Lopez, V., & Maddock, R.)
Preliminary notes on the nature of psi processes. In R. Ornstein (Ed.), The Psychology of Consciousness: A Book of Readings. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, pp. 468-492.
On the nature of altered states of consciousness, with special reference to parapsychological phenomena. In W. Roll, R. Morris, & J. Morris (Eds.), Research in Parapsychology, 1973. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, pp. 163-218.
Some methodological problems in out-of-the-body experiences reÂsearch. In W. Roll, R. Morris, & J. Morris (Eds.), Research in Parapsychology, 1973. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, pp. 116-120.
Out-of-the-body experiences. In E. Mitchell, & J. White (Eds.), Psychic Exploration. New York: Putnam’s, pp. 349-374.
The basic nature of altered states of consciousness: A systems approach. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 8(1), 45-64.
Studying out-of-the-body experiences. In T. X. Barber (Ed.), Advances in Altered States of Consciousness and Human PotenÂtialities, Vol. 1. New York: Psychological Dimensions Press, pp. 579-585.
A large-sample classroom ESP card-guessing experiment. European Journal of Parapsychology, 1(3), 40-56. (Palmer, J., Tart, C., & Redington, D.)
Toward humanistic experimentation in parapsychology: A reply to Dr. Stanford’s review. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71, 81-102.
Putting the pieces together: A conceptual framework for underÂstanding discrete states of consciousness. In N. Zinberg (Ed.), Alternate States of Consciousness. New York: Free Press, pp. 158-219.
Toward conscious control of psi through immediate feedback trainÂing: Some considerations of internal processes. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71, 375-408.
Scoring patterns in an ESP Ganzfeld experiment. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71, 121-145. (Palmer, J., Bogart, D., Jones, S. & Tart, C.)
Psi functioning and altered states of consciousness: A perspecÂtive. In B. Shapin & L. Coly (Eds.), Psi and States of Awareness. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, pp. 180-210.
Space, time, and mind. In W. Roll (Ed.), Research in ParapsyÂchology 1977. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, pp. 197-250.
Effects of immediate feedback on ESP performance: A second study. Journal of the American Society for Psychical ReÂsearch, 73, 151-165. (Tart, C., Palmer, J., & Redington, D.)
Improving real-time ESP by suppressing the future: Trans-tempoÂral inhibition. In C. Tart, H. Puthoff, & R. Targ (Eds.), Mind at Large: Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Symposia on the Nature of Extrasensory Perception. New York: Praeger, pp. 137-174.
A survey of expert opinion on potentially negative uses of psi, United States government interest in psi, and the level of research funding of the field. In W. Roll (Ed.), Research in Parapsychology 1978. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, pp. 54-55.
An emergent-interactionist understanding of human consciousness. In B. Shapin & L. Coly (Eds.), Brain/Mind and ParapsycholoÂgy. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, pp. 177-200.
Delayed PK with Matthew Manning: Preliminary indications and failure to confirm. European Journal of Parapsychology, 2, 396-407. (Palmer, J., Tart, C., & Redington, D.)
Effects of immediate feedback on ESP performance over short time periods. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 73, 291-301. (Tart, C., Palmer, J., & Redington, D.)
Some psi experiments with Matthew Manning. Journal of the SocieÂty for Psychical Research, 50, 224-228. (Tart, C., & PalmÂer, J.)
Information transmission in remote viewing experiments. Nature, 284, 13 March, 191. (Tart, C., Puthoff, H., & Targ, R.)
The possible nature of post-mortem states: A discussion, Part II. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 74, 418-424.
Causality and synchronicity: Steps toward clarification. JourÂnal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 75, 121-141.
Extrasensory perception (ESP). McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of SciÂence and Technology, fifth edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 282-283.
Mathematical inference strategies versus psi: Initial exploraÂtions with the Probabilistic Predictor Program. European Journal of Parapsychology, 4, 325-356. (Tart, C., & Dronek, E.)
The controversy about psi: Two psychological theories. Journal of Parapsychology, 46, 313-320.
Improving psychokinesis performance: Theoretical and methodologÂical notes. European Journal of Parapsychology, 4, 475-481.
Information acquisition rates in forced-choice ESP experiments: Precognition does not work as well as present-time ESP. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 77, 293-310.
Acknowledging and dealing with the fear of psi. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 78, 133-143.
Pure clairvoyance and the necessity of feedback. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 79, 485-492. (Targ, R. & Tart, C.)
Stopping on a hit: Preliminary studies of a method for producing positive experiences in the parapsychology laboratory. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 80, 31-48.
Attitudes toward strongly functioning psi: A preliminary study. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 80, 163-173. (Tart, C. T. & LaBore, K.)
Psychics’ fears of psychic powers. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 80, 279-292.
Altered states of consciousness and the possibility of survival of death. In J. Spong (Ed.), Consciousness and Survival: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry into the Possibility of Life Beyond Biological Death. Sausalito, CA: Institute of Noetic Sciences, pp. 27-56.
Effects of electrical shielding on GESP performance. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 82, 129-146.
Geomagnetic effects of GESP: Two studies. Journal of the AmeriÂcan Society for Psychical Research, 82, 193-216.
Enlightenment, altered states of consciousness and parapsycholoÂgy. In B. Shapin & L. Coly (Eds.), Parapsychology and Human Nature. New York: Parapsychology Foundation. Pp. 150-169.
A case of predictive psi, with comments on analytical, associative and theoretical overlay. Journal of the Society for PsychiÂcal Research, 55, 263-270.
Psi-mediated emergent interactionism and the nature of consciousÂness. In R. Kunzendorf & A. Sheikh (Eds.), The PsychophyÂsiology of Mental Imagery: Theory, Research and ApplicaÂtion. Amityville, New York: Baywood, 1990. Pp. 37-63.
Perspectives on scientism, religion, and philosophy provided by parapsychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 32, No. 2, 70-100.
Marijuana intoxication, psi, and spiritual experiences. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 87, 149-170.
Fears of the paranormal in ourselves and our colleagues: RecogÂnizing them, dealing with them. Subtle Energies, 5, No. 1, 35-67.
Toward the objective exploration of non-ordinary reality. JourÂnal of Transpersonal Psychology, 27, No. 1, 57-67.
Science, compassion and the possible survival of death. In S. Boorstein (Ed.), Transpersonal Psychotherapy (second ed). Albany: State University of New York Press. Pp. 531-544.
Parapsychology and transpersonal psychology. In B. Scotton, A. Chinen & J. Battista (Eds.), Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books. Pp. 186-194.
Parapsychology as calling and science. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 91, 77-81.
Six studies of out-of-the-body experiences. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 17, 73-99.
Fear of psychic phenomena. In E. Leskowitz (Ed.), Transpersonal Hypnosis: Gateway to Body, Mind and Spirit. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Pp. 1-12.
What is parapsychology? In R. Kuhn (Ed.), Closer to Truth: Challenging Current Belief. New York: McGraw-Hill. Pp. 65-80. (Beyerstein, B., Kuhn, R., Radin, D., Schlitz, M., Tart, C. & Trefil, J.)
Can ESP affect your life? In R. Kuhn (Ed.), Closer to Truth: Challenging Current Belief. New York: McGraw-Hill. Pp. 81-94. (Beyerstein, B., Kuhn, R., Schlitz, M., Tart, C. & Trefil, J.)
Prelude to Investigating altered states of consciousness on their own terms: A proposal for the creation of state-specific sciences. International Journal of Parapsychology, 11, No. 1, 3-5.
Investigating altered states of consciousness on their own terms: State-specific sciences. In M. Velmans (Ed.), Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness: New Methodologies and Maps. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing. Pp. 255-278.
Parapsychology & transpersonal psychology: “Anomalies” to be explained away or spirit to manifest? Journal of Parapsychology, 66, 31-47.
Spiritual motivations of parapsychologists? Empirical data. Journal of Parapsychology, 67, 181-184.
On the scientific foundations of Transpersonal Psychology: Contributions from Parapsychology. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 36, No. 1, 66-90.
Altered states of consciousness and the spiritual traditions: The proposal for the creation of state-specific sciences. In Rao, K. R., Paranjpe, A. C. & Dalal, A. K. (Eds.) (2008). Handbook of Indian Psychology.Â Â New Delhi: Cambridge University Press India Pvt. Ltd. Pp. 577-607.
Reflections on the experimenter problem in parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 74, 3-13.
Toward evidence-based spirituality. Journal of Parapsychology, 74, No. 1, 31-60.
Fifty-five years in parapsychology: frustrations, advances, directions, meaning, and an interesting life. In Millay, J. (Ed.), Radiant Minds: Scientists Explore the Dimensions of Consciousness. Doyle, CA: Millay. Pp. 564-587.
The parapsychological side of my career. In R. Pilkington (Ed.), Men and Women of Parapsychology, Personal Reflections. Esprit, Volume 2. San Antonio: Anomalist Books. Pp. 385-406.
Investigating altered states of consciousness on their own terms: A proposal for the creation of state-specific sciences. In D. Eigner & J. Kremer (Eds.), Transformation of Consciousness: Potentials for our Future. Kathmandu: Vajra Books, pp. 67-98.
People in Parapsychology: XXII: Charles T. Tart
People in Parapsychology: XXII: Charles T. Tart
Parapsychology News, History, Research