I have evolved the following set of criteria for
evaluating contemporary growth-movements. It may be of some interest to
readers in the field of humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Taken
as a whole the set of criteria is an outline of a meta-growth-movement
or, more generally, a blueprint for the values of a new type of society.
By a growth-movement I mean a more-or-less identifiable
school of thought and practice offering a particular approach to human
growth. Sometimes such a school is clearly definable in terms of a name,
a theory, a range of techniques and an organizational structure. In
other cases there is just a number of people adopting a roughly similar
approach who are not in any formal association with each other as, for
example, many leaders of eclectic encounter groups working through
There is no expectation underlying the list of criteria
given below that any given contemporary growth-movement should meet all
or even most of these criteria. That would be quite unrealistic and
unreasonable. The exigencies of life being what they are, it is only
possible for a movement to meet a relatively small number of these
criteria. But the list may help to prevent myopia through
over-identification with an approach which, thought worthwhile, can be
seen from a wider perspective to be restricted.
The growth-movement offers a rich field for what I call
experiential research - testing out a theory about human nature and its
capacity for change by applying its associated techniques to oneself, in
association with others who are doing the same. But one of the problems
of such experiential inquiry is that of consensus collusion among those
who subscribe to a particular school of theory and practice. Since any
really thoroughgoing experiential exploration of a growth method
involves a substantial investment of the total personality over a
significant period of time, there is the danger that the inquirer will
find it convenient not to notice the respects in which the methods he
has practised fail to deliver the goods the theory anticipates or, more
probably, will fail to notice the respects in which the theory, the
method and their effects simply leave out of account certain valuable
possibilities for individual and social fulfilment.
Dogmatic certainty in varying degrees of intensity is
one of the prevailing diseases of the spirit among some contemporary
growth movements, including those with both an oriental and an
occidental origin. Building internal brotherhood, purifying and
redeeming the self, reaching out to help the rest of afflicted humanity
- as soon as these things lead to rigidity of doctrine and inability to
undertake discriminating appraisal of the fundamental assumptions of the
school, they become in part at any rate insidious moral delusions whose
very force of apparent righteousness blinds their adherents to their
Dogmatic certainty is simply a defense against deeper,
wider and as yet unacknowledged forms of individual and social growth.
It goes hand in hand with a righteous proselytising tendency: the more
people we can persuade to join us in organizing their lives according to
our dogma, the more powerful our collective defense against the
unacknowledged elements of life.
John C Lilly, in the Epilogue to his book The Centre
of the Cyclone, London, Paladin, 1973, gives an excellent brief
seven-point programme for the experiential researcher. See also Charles
T Tart on "state-specific sciences" in Journal of Transpersonal
Psychology, Volume 3 No. 2, 1971; my paper "Experience and Method",
Human Potential Research Project, Centre for Adult Education, University
of Surrey, 1972; Joseph T Hart, "Beyond Psychotherapy - a Programmatic
Essay on the Applied Psychology of the Future" in Biofeedback and
Self-Control 1970, New York, Aldine Atherton, 1971.
These four contributions, among others, all give
overlapping accounts of the concept of experiential research. And it is
the progressive creation of the field of experiential research which
will I believe expose the combined naivetes of dogmatic experientialism
and dogmatic intuitionism - a combination which may be caricatured in
the formula "We know from experience that method X has made new people
of us, so we just know for certain that method X is the only effective
way of changing people".
Of course many people do explore growth-movements in the
spirit of experiential research. Here, then, is the set of criteria
given in more-or-less random order. It is offered as one possible guide
to enable the experiential researcher to examine the comprehensiveness
of the range of assumptions in terms of which the school he is currently
exploring operates. Individual criteria are posed in the form of
questions and are grouped under five basic assumptions about the
conditions under which human beings grow as persons.
By "growth" I mean movement towards a state of
individual and collective human flourishing in which a wide range of
polar values are dynamically related: autonomy and mutual aid, hierarchy
and democracy, self-transcendence and self-expression, conservation and
innovation, and so on.
1 Social Change
Assumption: people grow by commitment to
theoretical and practical activity in creating, changing and maintaining
social forms and structures.
- Alternative institutions: Is there any planning and
setting up of new social structures - alternative
family/marital/sexual forms, alternative educational and mental
welfare programmes, alternative recreational programmes, communes of
various kinds, industrial participation, new financial/commercial/
trading systems and so on? Is the growth-movement itself internally
organized in new, participative and non-alienating ways?
- Internal organizational development: Is there any
explicit practical commitment to ways of changing existing
institutions from positions within or as consultants to those
institutions - from the family to the state?
- Challenging oppression: Is there any explicit commitment
to ways of confronting and interrupting oppressive social structures
- Social conservation: Is there any concern to take steps
to identify and maintain those established social structures and
practices which are life-enhancing?
- Macro-analysis: Is there any theoretical address to a
social, political and economic analysis of the large structures and
processes of society to determine the wider constraints within which
individual growth is set?
- Sociodynamics: Is there any opportunity for the
systematic theoretical and experiential study of group processes,
intragroup and intergroup, both in pure process groups and in
institutionally embedded task groups?
- Psychosocial analysis: Is theoretical attention paid to
the way in which psychodynamic blockages and distortions sustain
rigid and oppressive social structures and practices?
2 Face-to-face change
Assumption: people grow by developing their
capacity for immediate interpersonal transactions.
3 Environmental Change
Assumption: people grow by caring for, subsisting
from and creatively transforming their physical environment, organic and
- Planetary resources: Is there any explicit concern for
the conservation of planetary resources, the diminution of
pollution, a rational agricultural policy, the reduction of
profligate use of raw materials, population control, the development
of new forms of energy and technology?
- Architectural, urban and landscape planning: Is there any
address to the forms of building, town, city, landscape appropriate
to provide a setting for new styles of individual and social
- Local beauty and order: Is there any practical commitment
to transform and reshape aesthetically and functionally persons'
immediate domestic and occupational surroundings - buildings,
equipment, decor, furnishings, gardens?
- Cooperative subsistence: Is there any concern to build up
subsistence skills in horticulture and farming, building, technology
and applied science and so on.
4 Intrapsychic Change
Assumption: people grow by working directly on
their intrapsychic life in its manifold aspects and on the blockages and
distortions that restrict that life.
- Catharsis: Is there adequate provision for the cathartic
release of blockages, distortions and rigidities of energy, attitude
and behaviour due to unresolved emotional trauma? Are nonverbal body
methods used as well as verbal ones?
- Psychodynamic analysis: Is there a coherent and
comprehensive theory of the structure and processes of the human
psyche-soma in all its aspects?
- Transpersonal change: Is there a theory and a method for
the expansion of awareness, changing levels of consciousness,
entering "inner spaces", cultivating unitive states of being?
- Extrasensory capacity: Is any attention paid to the
relevance of, or to methods for cultivating, telepathy,
clairvoyance, telekinesis, out-of-the-body experiences and so on,
whether in relation to the physical realm or any other realm?
- Bodily arts: Are there methods available for systematic
bodily relaxation on the one hand and for the dynamic, effective use
and exercise of the body on the other?
Diet: Is there any theory and practice
relating to food and drink?
Active imagination: Are the powers of
phantasy used in increasing self-awareness and intrapsychic growth?
Is imagination harnessed to envision new possibilities for living
and to influence the course of inner and outer events?
Art: Is attention paid to the symbolic
expression of human experience through all the arts - in creative,
interpretive and spectator roles?
Sexual change: Is there a satisfactory sex
positive theory and practice about the life-enhancing expression of
human sexuality? Is there a persuasive account of, and method for
overcoming, the blockage to and distortions of sexual expression?
Intelligence: Is appropriate attention paid
to the cultivation of intellectual competence, the exercise of
rational judgment, the application of appropriate canons of
validity? To the role of divergent or lateral thinking in learning,
creativity and problem-solving? To action-planning in the long and
short term? To self-analysis? To the emergence of spontaneous
insight into intrapsychic processes and their relation to personal
Special skills: Is any attention paid to the
high-level cultivation of special abilities in art, science,
technology, medicine, crafts, organization, education and so on?
Breathing: Is any attention paid to the
conscious use of breathing as a means of regulating intrapsychic
5 Authority Change
Assumption: people grow through becoming more and
more self-directing in cooperation with other self-directing people and
less and less other-directed by authority figures.
Movement leader status: Does the leader or
founder (i) retain power indefinitely (ii) claim divine (or
corresponding secular) sanctions in favour of his status (iii) issue
teachings and organizational policies that are not open, either
tacitly or explicitly, to review, comment, evaluation, critical
appraisal and discriminating judgment by experienced members of the
school in question? If so, beware, however impressive the
- Group leader practice: Does the group leader deploying a
particular growth technique, practice exclusively one-way therapy on
members of the group, retaining exclusive hold upon his special
skills, and thereby in some measure creating dependency, or does he
also train group members to use these skills on a cooperative
self-help basis with each other?
- Peer self-help: Does the school encourage its members to
combine self-direction and mutual aid in pairs and/or in groups in
the absence of appointed and directive authority figures?
- Consultation: If the movement is hierarchical in
structure, is genuine consultation practiced by those
higher in the hierarchy before they make significant
decisions affecting other people? How adequate and extensive is the
consultation? To what extent is there arbitrary and unjustifiable
exercise of power through unilateral, non-consultative
- Consensus: To what extent does the movement have space
for grass-roots participative decision-making on a consensus model?
- Openness: Is the movement open to theoretical,
methodological and organizational change and innovation from within
its own ranks? Is it truly a forum for experiential research, for
technical and organizational development?
I espouse in principle all the five main assumptions
given above. I see them as irreducible to each other yet also mutually
enhancing and involved in each other. Again, I consider all the
individual criteria to be, ideally, necessary: no one of them wholly
includes or renders unnecessary any other.
The criteria can be used as a questionnaire for
evaluating the growth movement with which you are currently involved. I
suggest that if it meets to some really significant degree at least 10
of the 35 criteria and that if of these ten or more at least two fall
under each of the five main assumptions, then the movement in question
will already be impressive.
If there is a low or zero score under any one of the
five basic assumptions, then it is reasonable to look for rigidity or
dogmatism under one or more of the other assumptions where there are
higher scores. To any individual or group starting a growth-movement, my
recommendation is that a conscious attempt is made to build in some kind
of explicit commitment to each of the five assumptions.
I would be glad to receive any critical comments on this
paper and any suggested additions or modifications.