The meeting of East and West:The fusion of Vedanta and Western psychology in Integral psychology

Brant Cortright
California Institute of Integral Studies
San Francisco

A meta-issue of two different strategies in the dialogue between Indian and western approaches to psychology: One strategy prominent in psychological and transpersonal literature claims the superiority of eastern views of self and consciousness over western psychology. The second strategy seeks to integrate Indian and western psychology into a coherent whole. The problem with the first strategy of either/or is that in seeking to supplant rather than engage contemporary psychological discourse, this approach has resulted in a further marginalizing Indian psychology. It has allowed the field of psychology to define Indian psychology as philosophy and so to dismiss it, effectively keeping Indian wisdom out of the field of psychological discourse. The problem with the second strategy of both/and has been the difficulty of relating western to Indian psychology in a way that honors both. Integral psychology is an approach that takes Sri Aurobindo's integral philosophy as an integrating framework for unifying western and Indian psychology. Beginning with the ancient vedantic conception of the koshas, or body, heart, and mind that make up our outer being, integral yoga charts three other levels of consciousness: the inner being, the true being, and the spiritual being. Western science and psychology have studied the outer body, heart, and mind in great detail, but they have only begun to admit the possibility of something more. The main elements of western psychology that must be accounted for in order to develop a comprehensive model of psychology are: academic and scientific psychology, behaviorism and cognitive-behavioral approaches, and the schools of depth psychology, especially contemporary psychoanalysis and humanistic-existential approaches. Like the blind men describing the elephant, each area of psychology specializes in a particular domain of human consciousness. How integral psychology integrates all the different schools of western psychology into a coherent view of the outer being, and how this relates to our deeper being. Implications for psychotherapy and research.


Email the author: "Prof. Brant Cortright" <bcortright@ciis.edu>



This paper was presented at the
National Conference on
Yoga and Indian Approaches to Psychology

Pondicherry, India, September 29 - October 1, 2002