Friday, December 6, 2013

The New Age Movement and Gestalt Psychology

The New Age Movement and Gestalt Psychology

November 29, 2012

An Updated version of this article is available at:

At the beginning of November I embarked on a journey down to North Carolina to attend a ‘consciousness festival’ called 3 Days of Light (3DL). The festival lasted for three days of insightful learning. This camp’s focus was the evolution of consciousness through various ‘new age’ topics such as energy healing (reiki), yoga, and sacred geometry. Noticing the group dynamics, I took note of the many different types of personalities that were there to enjoy the full spectrum of seminars, meditation sessions, hula hoop and poi workshops, and let’s not forget, dancing. I also noticed that there were many philosophical and psychological discussions taking place. While those speaking may not have known the original theorists or text book names of the concepts, they held a deep understanding for how it applied to their lives. I will describe my experience at 3DL in relation to Gestalt principles.

The event revolved around the idea of consciousness. Those at 3DL held a dominant belief in collective consciousness and that, through this notion, we all have co-creative powers. In other words, our behavioral environment or individual subjective realities work together to create outcomes in the geographical environment. One of the guest speakers, Jordan of Spirit Science, said “...consciousness expansion, what does that mean? We are going to do work... going with in and looking at yourself” (Culliton, 2012). He was urging everyone to do introspection; to observe mental events as they occurred naturally in consciousness. This was accompanied with encouragement to “move from the heart space”. The heart space is a reference to the heart chakra located in the center of the chest at the heart level. The heart space can be compared to Lewin’s life space. Moving from this space would mean understanding the “totality of psychological facts that exist in one’s awareness at [that] given moment” and using this knowledge to operate for the good of all (Hergenhahn, p.485). To do introspection on mental events, in order to better understand one’s life space, and adjust behavior to perpetuate the meritorious nature of human kind is a motivation for meditation. The goal of the event was to “root love and light on the planet”, therefore all behavior at the event was extremely purposeful.

To spread this idea, a show called Paradigm Shift Radio was broadcasting live coverage of the event. On Saturday night, a panel of 11 young adults voiced their take on 3DL and the direction of human society. I was on this panel, and what we did was very similar to productive thinking. Productive thinking is “a type of thinking that ponders principles rather than isolated facts” in order to understand the solutions to problems instead of “memorizing a certain problem solving strategy or logical rules” (Hergenhahn, p.485). We discussed topics in relation to sensation and perception, eluding to the fact that the current reality we see is far more complex than we are lead to believe. We talked about the scientific extension of that statement, but also the perceptual aspect; that everyone sees the world from their own unique conscious experience, and this is significant. Like Kant’s faculties of mind states “consciousness is more than just sensory stimulation...[there] is a difference between perception and sensation...the world we perceive is different than the world we sense” (Hergenhahn, p.457). A consensus was reached that if everyone could comprehend, in some small way, how each other perceived the world around them, then a deeper discussion could take place about problems and, as a result, solutions could be found.

The world we sense is made up of colors and shapes, and how we perceive this world can be translated through art. Another guest speaker was Charles Gilchrist, an artist and philosopher who specializes in sacred geometry. He says that “the understanding of sacred geometry can be applied to anything in life [and] the root of sacred geometry is holistic...that’s the whole root, oneness” (Culliton, 2012). This statement is full of Gestalt ideology. First off, Mr. Gilchrist is a Holist, a person who believes that complex processes should be analyzed as a whole and not divided into parts. He expressed a belief that it is beneficial to look at how things interact as a whole. Second, his statement about oneness referrers to the belief that all things are connected or interrelated. This can be related to Mach’s space form concept where we experience ‘circleness’ no matter what conditions are present. At 3DL, people experienced ‘oneness’ in all events and people. In addition, his art uses many different shape forms. It causes the viewer, as Mach would say to recognize “the pattern not the individual dots” and that the “form is something that emerges from the elements of sensation” (Hergenhahn, p.459, p.458). Mr. Gilchrist’s artwork uses the principle of continuity (to perceive objects as following a predictable pattern) and the principle of inclusiveness (to perceive a larger figure when a smaller figure is embedded in it) to express this idea of oneness. He also made a statement in reference to perceptual constancy (the response to forms is the same even when experienced different ways), saying “shape, form is one of the sacred languages of the universe. [They] are omnipresent” (Culliton, 2012).

While at 3DL I learned many things about my self and others. The experience at the festival offered intrinsic reinforcement. Satisfaction was found in the various discussions and seminars that took place which helped to solve personal problems and reestablish a stable center of being. Put another way, quasi needs, as Lewin discusses, are those psychological needs which once taken care of reduce psychological tension (Hergenhahn, p.484). An example of a quasi need that was satisfied was the feeling of belonging or the desire for familial love. This was satisfied by copious amounts of hugs and small good deeds. This behavior had the purpose of rooting love in the human cognitive configuration. In conclusion, the Paradigm Shift Radio co-host, Brendon Culliton, gave a short speech in the trailer for his documentary about the event that ties in Gestalt principles. He says “As we move into our heart space, of being our authentic self. I think that’s the moment when we really realize that this is why we came here, this is why we are in this reality, this is why we chose to be here. Who we think we are is only a fragment of who we really are. Community, people coming together returning to that space of unity and truly understanding that we are not alone, and in fact, each one of us is a reflection of the whole” (Culliton, 2012). Showing that each human being has something valuable to offer as a fragment of this larger whole. This event left me feeling that when we focus on this larger whole we are able to work more diligently with each other, and on our inner-selves.


 Culliton, B. R. (Director). (2012). Journey to Rockmont: 3 Days of Light [Online video]. World Wide: YouTube. Retrieved November 17, 2012, from

Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An Introduction to the History of Psychology (Sixth ed., pp. 457-485). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


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