Inside the Mind of Charles T. Tart
By Greg Taylor of The Daily Grail
GT: That's quite an incredible list of influential contacts so early in your career, and I didn't know that you worked with Andrija Puharich. Do you think that the revolutionary work undertaken by individuals and groups in the 1950's (such as the Round Table Foundation) had an influence on the rise of the experimental "counter-culture" of the 1960's and 70's...or were they simply parts of a larger trend in the way humans thought about themselves?
CT: No, I'm sorry to say that Puharich's research has been almost totally ignored by scientific parapsychologists at the time and since then. I fear this has been a big loss. Puharich had a lot of influence in more fringy, "New Agey" circles, but that has not resulted, to my knowledge, in any solid scientific discoveries. As to the counter-culture, that was created by a combination of existential discontent with a shallow, materialistic culture, plus a desire for actual spiritual experience, not just being told what to believe, plus the introduction of oriental meditation techniques - something you could actually *do* instead of just believe - plus psychedelic drugs, which showed many, many people that there were more profound experiences possible than consumerism - to vastly oversimplify a complex historical phenomena, of course.
GT: In your work you seem to have covered basically the whole range of subjects that come under the banner 'ASC', from remote viewing, to OBEs, Psi and hallucinogens. Amongst these, do you have a favourite area of study?
CT: First an important correction. Psi, the study of telepathy, clairvoyance, etc. does not normally come under the ASC banner. You can study consciousness and ASCs without knowing anything about psi, and it's a lot "safer" careerwise because ASCs are fairly accepted in science while parapsychology, the study of psi, is strongly rejected. When I created my ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS book (1969), e.g., I deliberately avoided psi as much as possible as I knew I was pushing the prejudices of the establishment back then to think about ASCs, and if I'd done more than mention psi in passing, the automatic rejection of psi would have resulted in the ASC material being rejected, instead of it being accepted so widely. Now personally and scientifically, I know psi is an important aspect of consciousness, but I still generally keep them distinct for tactical reasons - I want to be effective in communicating, not uselessly rouse people's prejudices.
Within the ASC field, my initial research for a number of years was with hypnosis and dreams, then psychedelics, then meditation, to oversimplify a complex career. But the interesting thing is that I'm now much less interested in "exotic" altered states than in ordinary consciousness! This is because we spend most of our time in ordinary consciousness (consensus consciousness is the technical name I coined for it) and so it has enormous importance - that's usually where we mess up! - and because our understanding of ASCs implicitly assumes we already understand ordinary consciousness, which is not at all the case! My most recent book, MIND SCIENCE: MEDITATION TRAINING FOR PRACTICAL PEOPLE, teaches people the classical concentrative and insight meditation practices, but then mainly goes into how to be more mindful in the course of everyday life. I've seldom heard of anyone getting in trouble because their thoughts on the meditation cushion weren't mindful, but we sure get in trouble through mindlessness in everyday life!