What do you say to scientists who explain mystical or spiritual experiences by activating an area of our brain ??
They did not say that "neurons of spirituality" were responsible for the experience. To assert this is to ignore a considerable body of research that demonstrates - and today, it is certain - that consciousness is not made by the brain like bile through the liver. but that it is "elsewhere". The image that I often give is that of the television set: you can disassemble it, study it, understand why there are color images and different channels, it will not tell you anything about how are manufactured programs, or where they come from. To say that consciousness is only a matter of brains is like saying that a program is made by the television set! A few years ago, we were still very cautious about our claims, but today we have no doubt about it.
When did you meet Abraham Maslow, with whom you founded transpersonal psychology?
Upon my arrival in the United States. I had sent him my reports, which represented a few thousand pages, because he had already started his research on spontaneous mystical experiences - which he called "paroxysmal experiences". He had just completed his theory of human needs by adding to it the need for spirituality, after having worked in an exhaustive and meticulous way to show that the people who live from such experiences derive a considerable personal benefit, and that our spiritual dimensions are an essential aspect of the personality structure. He was literally fascinated by my work and conclusions about the transcendent nature of the human spirit, and invited me to attend meetings of his humanistic psychology group. One day, I suggested that to better understand why our psyche is able to transcend the limits of space and time, we must also consider research in neurophysiology, biology, or quantum physics. It was then that I suggested starting a new school, the "transpersonal psychology" - that is, going "beyond the staff".
How was this movement welcomed in the American psychiatric community?
In official institutions, by total ignorance. But we have been supported by countless leading researchers in all disciplines, including Nobel physics prizes.With time, things have changed a lot, because more and more professionals think that orthodox psychology, based on Freudian theory, which reduces the mind to a derivative of fundamental instincts, gives a limited and distorted image of the human nature. To think that any spiritual impulse is a primitive superstition or a psychopathology whose origins lie in the unresolved conflicts of early childhood is to be at least thirty years behind our actual knowledge of consciousness.